The last stop on the Highway 116 tour, for a little bit at least, is a true standout. Tucked behind the trees just outside of Forestville is Russian River Vineyards, a lovely spot to watch the sunset, enjoy a taste or three of wine, and perhaps get a bite to eat.
RRV is unique in the area in that it is open until 8pm each day! This came in handy recently as we were heading home from our cabin, not quite ready to end the weekend. Lucky for us, not only was RRV still open, and serving dinner, but it is dog-friendly as well. The tasting “room” is an outdoor hidden forest, surrounded by redwoods and overlooking a (currently unplanted) vineyard. You can sip in comfort on one of the couches, around an outdoor fire pit, or while playing cornhole.
While you cannot do a tasting in the restaurant, you can order a full meal in the tasting area — a win win! We had never had their wines, so were happy we could get the full experience.
We had a wonderful pourer for the day who took us through a full flight, plus a few extras while we ate. All the while a live musician played in the background, adding to the ambiance. Continue reading
This week we’re taking a break from the West Sonoma/Gravenstein Highway wineries, and heading a bit up north, to the Dry Creek Valley. Specifically, a wonderful place on Lytton Springs Road called Mazzocco Winery.
This is probably the winery we visit most in the area, and that they haven’t gotten tired of us and our friends is a real testament to how fun a place this is. It’s also special enough to us that we served several varieties at our wedding, and sent our guests to stop by on their wine tours!
Of course — there is a backstory! Annie first heard of this winery when her friend won a weekend stay at their guest house, and decided to take her (and the DogBird) along. It happened to be bottling weekend so perhaps a little noisy, so the winemaker stopped by to give us a few freshly-filled bottles as an apology gift. The winery treated them all so well, that on the next trip, Annie joined the club. Later, on one of their early dates, Jonathan mentioned that he, too, loved Mazzocco, and that he, too, was a member. The fates had aligned.
Highway 116 from Sebastopol to Guerneville is full of treasures, some hidden and some only accessible via a rough, unpaved road. Iron Horse Vineyards is one of the latter.
Let me set the scene…approximately two years ago, a newly engaged couple decided to spend Valentine’s Day on the River, tasting wine along the way. This was a small break from the intense wedding planning that had been happening, and also a way for them to, ummm….find some wine for the wedding. Yes, that’s it.
This couple left their little DogBird at home and headed to the house of bubbles they’d passed often, but never visited. Down windy 116 they went, then up the rough, gravelly road and were met with a vista that seemed to go on forever, accented by a casual, outside bar that was dotted with glasses of bubbles, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay.
Recently, we made our first visit to Horse & Plow, a new winery right on the edge of Sebastopol in the Russian River AVA. This was a place I had noticed on one of our trips up north, but never had the opportunity to try out. We tend to visit the same places repeatedly; we made the decision on that particular day everywhere we went should be new to us.
The winery has a small tasting room and a large outdoor area, complete with big trees, a few picnic tables, and lovely chairs where you can sit back and enjoy the wine (and cider!). You will likely be greeted by the winery dog Pepita — she came met us at the parking lot and immediately started flirting with the DogBird…who was not really having it. Nevertheless, she escorted us into the tasting room then out to the chairs, and visited with us until DogBird hid under the chair. Silly guy!
We tried two flights — a flight of Horse and Plow’s “Gardener” series of wines and the Cider flight to mix things up. These cost 15$ and 12$ respectively; the tasting cost is waived with a two bottle purchase. With each wine and cider, our server brought the taste to us, along with an explanation of what we were tasting. Pours were generous — there was definitely enough to have a taste, swirl around, then taste the new nuances. The bottles are moderately priced, both for wine & cider.
The winery welcomes dogs & kids, and offers ample space for both to roam (under supervision, of course).
What to try:
LordBird’s Fave: Gardener Series Pinots
LadyBird’s Fave: Farmhouse Cider
Horse & Plow
1272 Gravenstein Hwy N
Sebastopol, CA 95472
(Originally published by Annie at HeadinKnots)
One of the main purposes of our trip was to discover the world of Sicilian wine — specifically around the Etna area. The morning after we arrived, we were excited to get going on our adventures…but Mother Nature had other plans.
The rain we had encountered upon our arrival had not left us yet — we had a slight reprieve on our first evening, but it came back with a roar our first morning. Luckily the scenery was worth staring at for a while.
After the torrential downpour in Taormina that confined us to our hotel, it was time to head out to the Sicilian countryside to sip some vino and watch the volcano. After a harrowing journey back down Taormina’s windy roads, we were soon en route!
Outside of our room — vines creeping over the wall
Unlike most places in the wine country here in northern California, most of the wineries in Sicily require reservations.
Unfortunately, thanks to the storms, we were running terribly behind. We decided to swing by one place, any way, in hopes that they still might entertain our visit.