For my birthday, John and I took a wine tasting tour up in the Napa/ Sonoma area of Northern California. It's an absolutely gorgeous place with lush green rolling hills full of grape vines and picturesque wineries. We started the tour at the Ravenswood Winery in Sonoma (www.ravenswood-wine.com). The theme of this trendy hip winery is "No Wimpy Wine" and let me tell you they have some of the most delicious and robust reds around. They make 47 different types of wine with Zinfandel being the most popular and the specialty of the house. We arrived at Ravenswood at noon and the place was already hopping. We were quickly greeted by an employee who gave us a quick rundown of the wine tasting choices. Another option was to actually be your own winemaker and "blend a Zin" for $50 per person, fun but we passed. We happily chose the Zin flight. Our hostess was quite nice and joined us in random chit chat. She also provided us with two-for-one coupons for some other local wineries without us even having to ask. She was just that nice. After finishing our tastings we checked out the "gift shop" side of the winery and sadly I couldn't find anything to buy. We bought a bottle of the zin for around $35 and we were off to the next location.
On Ravenswood's recommendation and with our two-for-one coupon in hand we headed to The Buena Vista Winery (www.buenavistawinery.com), one of the oldest wineries in Sonoma established in 1857. It's located down Old Winery Road which is fun in itself with a stream, big old red wood trees and some random picture opts along the way. On our walk up to the winery, we stopped over to the side to take some action photos and out of no where John popped the big question "will you marry me?." Of course I said "yes", adding to the excitement of the day, not only is it my birthday but now I have a ring to prove I am no harlot. Although the winery was lovely, the service was not as stellar as Ravenswood. I felt we approached the wrong host at the wine bar because the younger guy kept looking at us like "why did you choose her, someone talk to me." The older woman was very nice but she really didn't talk to much to us beside giving us the basic run down of the wines and a bit of history on the winery. She really never tried to engage us even when we tried to start up a Napa/Sonoma/wine-related conversation. The wines were good, a bit expensive but we still ended up buying the Pinot Noir. Sadly this winery left a bit more to be desired. The grounds are absolutely gorgeous and lush, and the tasting room is large and has a ton of history but I never really felt welcome. I think this winery would be better for older groups who are looking for a quiet experience, one couple actually didn't stay for the tastings because the place was so quiet. We will keep this winery on our list to visit next time we are in Sonoma, only because we got engaged there, not because of a stellar experience.
For the grand finale, we went to the Del Dotto Caves and Winery Tasting Room(www.deldottovineyards.com) in Napa. This fun but mildly pretentious winery charges $40 per person for a 1 1/2 hour tasting and tour of their caves. It's a heck of a good time and quite educational, but bring a sweater as it gets cold. We had a group of 8 who were all casual wine connoisseurs. Our guide, the "Jesse James" guy was very friendly but kept making reference to "those people" who buy grocery store wine. Sadly he was speaking to the chorus and after the fifth time of him speaking down, on what I believe is the general population, I started to get a bit annoyed and I could tell a few others did too. Although, this one little quirk was annoying, the guy gave us one heck of an entertaining tour through the candle lit dark caves. We tasted some amazing wines and were a bit shocked at the high price tags, on average a bottle was $75-100. The tour ended with the group sharing a platter of cheese and meats and truffles and a glass of delicious port. We ended up buying a bottle for nostalgic purposes and are letting it age so we can enjoy it just as Jesse James told us to. He did let us in on a little trick, drink wine when tailgating at football games so you won't have to wait in lines at the restroom like the beer drinking schmucks. This by far was the most entertaining winery I have ever been too and I would definitely recommend it to friends.
Out of the three, Ravenswood was by far my favorite because the wine and service were excellent, Del Dotto was a close second because of the wonderful cave tour and guide but sadly Buena Vista ranks third because it just didn't have any zip.