Sonoma - Best traveled in a pickup truck [Pt 2]

If you recall from my last post, I was wrapping up my visit with Dylan at Pine Ridge. After sampling some amazing wine, I headed off on the next leg of the journey. 

By now it was nearing 4:30-5pm and I was finished with official business for the day. I hopped in the pickup and continued north crossing over to 29 via Yountville Cross Rd, then hanging a right on St. Helena Hwy. I traveled through St. Helena, arm hanging out the window and making sure I got a good look at every winery and vineyard I pass by until I reached Calistoga.

This was where traffic was backing up. I made a pit stop for some fuel, hung a left on Petrified Forest Rd and later split off on Porter Creek. I am SO GLAD I did! The geography and topography along Porter Creek was amazing. What a view chillin’ and cruising in the pickup! 


I decided it was time to find a place to eat and since I was nearing Healdsburg I took Old Redwood Hwy through Windsor and into Healdsburg proper. I am not just a wino; I love craft beer as well. So I set my sights (and stomach) on Bear Republic Brewery for some Racer 5 right from the tap, however, they wouldn’t let me behind the bar… It paired well with the Jalepeno Tower Burger (a burger with jalepeno poppers and onion rings!). It was sooo good. 

Beers Tasted:

Racer 5 American IPA, 7 ABV

Hop Rod Rye IPA, 8 ABV


I had two great beers, an amazing burger and a chance to sit, relax and reflect on the amazing day I just had. Not a bad way to wind down; I think I sat at bear Republic for nearly 2 hours, walked around town for a few minutes then made my way to the pickup to head back to Gracianna on Westside Road (the Amadors invited me to use this awesome apartment above their tasting room while Trini’s dad was out of town).


Upon returning I checked some email and because it was too late to call home to PA, I decided to call it a day. Man, what an awesome day. 

Sonoma - Best traveled in a pickup truck [Pt 1]

I’ve been to Sonoma on three separate occasions since 2009. During my most recent trip in May my dear friends the Amadors, generous owners of Gracianna Winery, not only provided me with accommodations overlooking their vineyards but also a pickup truck to get me to and from meetings I had planned throughout Sonoma and Napa. My advice? Everyone should see Sonoma from behind the wheel of a pickup truck.

Hop in, roll down the window, turn on the radio - country or classic rock feels like the right thing to do - and cruise, arm hanging out the window, head on a swivel taking in views from each side of the road. Make sure you had a few cups of coffee; you’ll want to be alert as the bumpy and winding roads are full of surprises - and bikers. No speeding necessary, leave a little early so you can get into a wine country rhythm. 

First destination on meeting day #1: Rocca Family Vineyards. I was in Healdsburg at the southern portion of Westside Road in the Russian River Valley and needed to head over to the southern tip of Napa Valley (in the area of Carneros). River Road to 101; head east on 116 to 12, eventually you come to Rocca tucked away off the right side of the road. I gave myself about an hour and 30 minute head-start, arrived on time - was greeted by John Taylor, Sales Director. After a brief tour we did some tasting - outstanding wines, awesome new-ish diggs and great conversation!

Wines Tasted - All Outstanding

2008 Grigsby Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

2008 Vespera Proprietary Red Blend (purchased)

2007 Grigsby Vineyard Syrah


Destination #2: Lunch Meeting at Zuzu w/ James Jory of VinTank

From Rocca, it was about a ten minute drive up 221 to Main St. in Napa. This was a beautiful, sunny Monday in Napa and the 10 minutes in the truck was enough to reflect on my visit to Rocca but also relax a few minutes before geeking out with James.

I met James at Zuzu, which is a tapas style restaurant with a great menu and atmosphere for such a lunch meeting. We shared a few plates, had a few glasses of wine - seems the VinTankers enjoy Albarino - I tend to stick to reds, in this case Tempranillo. Plates were awesome but the dialog was better. Talking wine and tech with James was a highlight of my trip. This was a priority for this trip so I am happy James was able to meet with me.


Destination #3: Pine Ridge Vineyards to meet with Dylan Elliott, Coordinator of social media, e-commerce and more. Located in the Stags Leap District, Pine Ridge is stunning both inside and out. Got the grand tour from Dylan including a trip through the caves and a look at the David Chihuly glass sculpture.

Another great conversation over some incredible Cab’s, including 2009 Fortis and other Cabernet’s from Stags Leap, Howell Mtn, Rutherford, Oakville and more. We wrapped up about 4 or so, which concluded my official meetings for the day though, I did have an unofficial visit scheduled for Bear Republic Brewing Company, more about this in Part 2!

Wines Tasted - A Partial List

2009 Fortis Cabernet Sauvignon

2009 Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon

2007 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon

2009 Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon



At Dirty & Rowdy, California Wines Made Simple

This story was co-published in partnership with Bon Appetit.

One late, breezy Southern evening in 2009, Hardy Wallace — a Massachusetts-born oenophile, working in marketing at Kodak — was sitting at his desk when the phone rang. It was his boss, who was deeply sorry to inform Hardy that times were tough and — like most of his marketing pals at an already troubled Georgia company — he was going to be let go. Hardy vividly remembers the call — his manager’s sympathetic tone, his own ‘thank you’ back to a company he’d been a part of for years. “And then I told him, this was the best day of my life.”

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