Wine & Travel

Snooth User: book cellar

Coming to California!

Posted by book cellar, Aug 18, 2010.

Hey everyone!

I am heading to Foster City in late October or early November for work, I'm asking to extend my return ticket from friday to sunday, and only have a little time to play.  I want to be able to go to wineries, do a public and guided tour, and just be able to enjoy myself for the litte time that I get to myself there. I will be most likely renting a car so am willing to travel up to about an hour and a half sooooo, what MUST I do and where do i HAVE to go?

Any and all suggestions are welcome, preferably nothing too extravagant, I'm on a budget!!!



Reply by dmcker, Aug 18, 2010.

The Santa Cruz Mountains or the Livermore areas are basically within your time limits. Parts of Sonoma and *maybe* even Napa, but it all depends on traffic getting there. Plan on leaving early in the morning for best results. Going and coming back, at least you'll be moving against traffic for the most part. Aim for the latest flight possible out of SFO on Sunday, and you'll basically have two days to work with. Friday night warmup at a winebar in the City?

Reply by napagirl68, Aug 18, 2010.

Dmcker is correct, and I live in Livermore and would be happy to show you some wineries if you are interested.  Santa cruz mtns great too.. can list wineries for you.  But tell me, what are your tastes??  What do you really enjoy, and/or what have you been looking to experience?  CA is SO diverse- many say there is France and there is California. That's it!   Anyway, tell me more about what you like/want to see, there are SOOOOO many choices.  And I would also second the Sonoma suggestion, especially the coastal area, for chardonnay and pinot noir.  Send me a private message, and I will send you my personal email.



Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Aug 19, 2010.

The Snooth Connection- Fabulous to see!

I would be going to the Santa Cruz mtns, but napagirl's question really trumps anyone elses opinions. What do you like?


Reply by book cellar, Aug 19, 2010.

Thanks guys, I appreciate the feedback!

Ahh, my tastes.

Red. I like them full bodied and spicy. I just had a wonderful Argentina Cab last night, Nahuel Black Lable, I think it's my new favorite!

I'm not a big fan of whites however once in a while I do enjoy a good, dry Reisling.  My favorite actually is RELAX reisling, pretty simple.

What I'm looking to experience.... No high traffic/touristy places.  I'm really wanting to do a public type tour. Little things make me happy so that's what I'm looking for, somehwere simple, beautiful, peaceful... I'm a single mom of 2 boys so I don't get away much and this is just a chance for me to be by myself, but meet people with my same passion and enjoy California and of course it's fine wine! so... I'm not looking for high dollar entertainment or anything, just simple places.  Not sure when I'll be able to get back to California so I want to make the best out of my 2 days. 

Oh and a Friday night wine bar is now a MUST for me! Reccommendations?

Reply by outthere, Aug 19, 2010.

The ultimate in intimate is about 1:40 hours north at Tara Bella. They do a Russian River Cab. Mom and Pop operation with consistently top notch wines. They will do a one on one tour of their modest operation and treat you like royalty. Advance notice is needed.

An idea anyhow. Map it out here. Once in the RR Valley you have loads of options for the remainder of your day(s). Like Dmcker mentioned. Leave early AM to avoid traffic.

Reply by dmcker, Aug 20, 2010.

As a starting place for the Friday night winebar discussion, here's a list of the 'top 5' winebars as voted by the readers of SFGate. No. 1's in Napa, so scratch it, but the other four are in the City, and no. 5 (bin38) is where one of the Snooth Forum regulars, Steven Babb is working. There are other alternatives, too, if you want crazier action....

Reply by dynowine, Aug 21, 2010.


Can I come too?

Reply by napagirl68, Aug 22, 2010.

Sure dynowine!  We should get a tour together!!

Livermore is great for the rhones... lots of grenache, mourvedre, syrahs and petite syrahs here.   Also some good Tempranillo here.

Santa cruz mountains are awesome as well!  And, there are local tour groups that will take you around.  I can look into this for you, since I know one of the winery owners up there.  Many of the wineries in SC mts are small, family owned and picturesque.  I will get back to you on public tours up there, and the best wineries.  Two not to miss that I do know are Big Basin Vineyards (they are not open all the time) and Roudon Smith. 

I think you'd be happy touring both locations, and they are close to where you will be.  Russian River area and Sonoma are great, but that is a longer drive for you..   why not just hit the two areas closest to you that are also fabulous? 

As far as winebars, there is one in Livermore called Swirl.. it is ok.  They serve local wines only and I wish they would branch out.  But not a bad place.  In Santa cruz, downtown there is Soif winebar

and on the wharf is is Vino Prima.  I like both of these, but my fav is a bit south of SC in Capitola...  Cava wine bar.


Reply by dmcker, Aug 22, 2010.

Spending a day in the Santa Cruz Mtns. area (just a little ways down the peninsula from where you're staying), and a day in Livermore (just across the Bay to the east) sounds like a lot less driving and a lot more tasting considering your logistical constraints. The Santa Cruz area is also a nice lifestyle, as are parts of the East Bay (not just Livermore, but Oakland and Berkeley either going or coming). And if Napagirl can be of direct help it sounds like a no-brainer. Best to save the bigger, further-away, more trafficky Sonoma and Napa for a trip where you have more time.

A lot of people, to their loss, miss out on the Santa Cruz Mtns due to lack of knowledge, and its position just on the verge of general radar. Be sure to visit Ridge (Monte Bello) as well as the places Napagirl mentions. Kalin Cellars in Livermore, as well. A search of past threads in the Snooth Forum, like this one, for info on Santa Cruz (Livermore gets discussed even less) will pay off, too. Finally, if you have some spare moments in your time before these day trips, visit K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City and talk to the sales staff about their recommendations in the two areas. They're usually very helpful, knowledgeable and professional--huge selections of wines from all over the place in their store to tempt you, too. When back home you can use them for mailorder (and no, I have no affilliation with them other than as a satisfied customer).

Reply by dmcker, Aug 22, 2010.

To clarify, Kalin is not really in Livermore but rather in Novato, just north of the area. It could be included on the way (more or less) to or from Livermore. I'm not sure if they normally accommodate visits and tastings, but it would be well worth the trouble to try and arrange one. Their wines are often very good, with a unique expression. More French in style, though with California soil. And definitely meant to be drunk with food. They don't release the wines to market until they've had several years of bottle age. Unusual (an understatement) to find white in California that aren't even released until nearly 10 years after their grapes were harvested.

As far as I know they don't have their own vineyards, but source grapes from a number of locations, including Livermore. To broaden your white horizons, try their semillon (from Livermore), chardonnay (Livermore, etc.) and sauvigon blanc (Potter Valley). Good pinot noir (from Sonoma), too. Their rose sparkling (from Marin) is a real treat.

Reply by dmcker, Aug 22, 2010.

One of the other big, historical names in Sta. Cruz wine (besides Ridge) is Mt. Eden Vineyards. It's well worth checking out. So with the two I mention, and the two Napagirl mentions, your dance card could be pleasantly full.

I started drinking California wine seriously at the end of the '70s. At the time, I drank a lot of wine from late '60s and early '70s vintages from the Martin Ray vineyard. This is the same vineyard a couple of thousand feet above Saratoga that is now called Mt. Eden, since Ray was forced out by his shareholders early in that decade. Great grapes, great chardonnay, pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon. Some of their wine is made for early consumption, and some for aging. If you visit and can buy some of their 'Estate' pinot noir from their library of past vintages, that would be a treat to take home and drink later. Their chards also age well.

You'll need to make a reservation to visit. They don't offer tastings with their tours, but the tour's still worth it. You can taste their wines ahead of time at the Press Club in San Francisco.

Reply by napagirl68, Aug 23, 2010.

Hi Dmcker!

Just wanted to say that the last time I was at KL wines (which I love), I was NOT happy with the staff recommendations.  They have a great selection, and I enjoy coming there to pick up wine, but the staff ratings don't quite agree with my tastes... :-(   Not to give them a bad rating, cause they have GREAT wines.  Just my own observation..

Reply by dmcker, Aug 23, 2010.

Which KL site, Napagirl?

Reply by napagirl68, Aug 23, 2010.

Redwood city.

Reply by StevenBabb, Aug 23, 2010.

i think hitting novato is a bit out of the way for a trip between livermore and the santa cruz mountains, Dm....

but if anyone is planning on being in the city and want to visit an awesome wine bar, just let me know... bin 38 is the perfect place... and we have had a new chef for about 8 or 9 months now, and our food ALMOST outshines our 55 wines by the glass!... just send me an email through snooth, and i can make sure they know you are heading in, and hopefully i'll be behind the bar when you do...  : )

i tasted mt eden yesterday at the CA family winery owners tasting here in SF.... wonderful wine, great mountain fruit.... there were a lot of great wines being poured....

Reply by dmcker, Aug 23, 2010.

That's why I said 'more or less'! ;-)   I just think that Kalin is that worth a visit, if one can somehow be wrangled. They have far-and-away the best wines from Livermore fruit I've had in many a year. He, Edmunds whom I mention in another thread, and Sean Thackrey are some of the most interesting winemakers working in Northern California today, IMHO. Strangely enough, none of them are in Napa or Sonoma (rather Marin and Alameda), nor did they go to UC Davis, either. How to avoid groupthink....

Reply by Richard Foxall, Aug 24, 2010.

napagirl has just convinced me to give Livermore wines another chance. But I think it's not unreasonable to go to Napa or even Sonoma with the time BookCellar has.  Leaving early in the morning is key.  But you can't do it all on any trip.  (That's why so many of us live here!) Of course, Santa Cruz mountains are a little closer, but not the same concentration of wineries.  But why go for volume?  Here's another recommendation:  Cross the Hayward-San Mateo bridge, drive up 880 and go to Rosenblum in Alameda (Rhones and Zins) and JC/Dashe across the channel in Oakland. They are acolytes of Rosenblum's and do Rhones and Zins also, including L'Enfant Terrible, the unsulfited Zin.  Of course, they don't have the vines there, but it's a short drive. Sounds like you'll have some company wherever you go.

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