Mendocino & Sonoma Wine Tour | 2011

June 12-15, 2011
June 26-29, 2011

$1,350 per person based on double occupancy.  $285 single occupancy up-charge.

After several “research” trips we are happy to report that we’ve put together a fantastic tour with insider visits to some great wineries and vineyards in the Mendocino, Anderson Valley, Hopland and Sonoma wine regions.  We’ll meet at Lindbergh Field Sunday morning and fly up to Oakland where our favorite bus driver Eric will be waiting for us in his half million dollar luxury motor coach.  We’ll spend the next four days tooling through some of the most beautiful scenery California has to offer (culminating with lunch at Paul Hobbs!) before Eric drops us off again in Oakland for the flight back to San Diego Wednesday evening.  It’ll be a jam packed yet relaxing trip (with lots of optional “down time” scheduled in) that will include winemaker lunches in the vineyards, sunset cocktails on the ocean, winemaker dinners at the hotels and a leisurely Champagne brunch while traveling through the ancient redwoods on a vintage parlor car drawn by a 1924 steam locomotive.  Each trip will be strictly limited to a maximum of 52 people.

After landing in Oakland (those of you not flying out of San Diego can meet us there) we’ll hop on the bus and head for Anderson Valley.  (Naturally we’ll have our legendary Bloody Mediterraneans waiting for you on board.)  We’ll make a quick pit stop at Anderson Valley Brewing Company to slam back a couple of cold ones or just to stretch your legs before making the 2,500 foot ascent to Mariah Vineyards above the fog line in the Mendocino Ridge AVA.

We’ll have lunch at Mariah, after which we’ll trek through their mountaintop vineyards where winemakers from several different wineries who source grapes there will pour samples of their wines right in front of the blocks where they’re picked.  It should be an amazing experience in terroir.  The view ain’t bad either; we should be able to see all the way to the Pacific Ocean from the mountaintop if the weather’s clear.

Then we’ll head back down the opposite side of the mountain towards the coast where we’ll stop off for appetizers and sunset cocktails at Ledford House, an isolated restaurant perched on the cliffs overlooking the rugged Mendocino coast.

Next we’ll head to Little River, a quaint town about two miles south of the town of Mendocino, where we’ll spend the night right on the ocean at the Little River Inn.  The hotel has a restaurant and bar if you’re interested in a nightcap or a late night snack, but I suspect most folks will be full from the sunset appetizers and ready to relax and call it an early night.

The next morning, after breakfast on your own at either the hotel or the deli across the street, we’ll head into Anderson Valley.  First stop will be at the famous Toulouse Vineyards where we’ll trek through the vineyards, taste wines paired with small bites, and learn to pick out specific aromas and flavors in wine using the “spice box” approach.

Next we’ll stop at Goldeneye, Duckhorn’s sister winery in the heart of Anderson Valley.  We’ll enjoy a casual picnic lunch in the picturesque outdoor area paired with their premium Pinot Noirs.

After lunch we’ll head back toward the coast with a final stop at Lazy Creek Vineyards, a picturesque winery up in the hills that uses sheep as “lawnmowers” between the rows of vines.  We’ll have a cave and winery tour plus taste their wines and enjoy some small bites under the trees next to their serene, turtle-filled pond.

We’ll then check back into our rooms at Little River Inn.  From here you can just relax at the hotel until dinner or, for those or you who want to explore the town of Mendocino after coming this far, Eric will shuttle anyone who wants to go there on the less than five minute drive north.  Mendocino has lots of quaint shops, galleries and the historic Mendocino Hotel bar, and is also the site where “Murder She Wrote” was filmed from 1984 to 1996.

After relaxing at the hotel or coming back from exploring Mendocino we’ll have a winemaker dinner at the hotel.  Phil Baxter of Baxter Winery will be our host for the evening and will pour an extensive selection of his limited production wines.

The next morning we’ll check out of the hotel before breakfast and head fifteen minutes north to Fort Bragg.  All aboard!  Here we’ll board our own private parlor railcar drawn by a vintage 1924 steam locomotive for a Roederer Champagne brunch.  We’ll travel though the ancient redwood forests sipping Champagne and eating quiche until we arrive at North Spur about 20 miles east.  There we’ll transfer to a 1935 vintage rail bus for the final 20 mile ascent criss-crossing up the mountains to Willits where Eric will be waiting for us once again.

In Willits we’ll get back on the bus and head to Hopland for lunch at Brutacao Cellars where we’ll enjoy their wines paired with some small bites to tide us over until dinner.  And for anyone interested we’ll get a quick lesson in bocce before splitting up into teams to play on their tournament courts.

After a tranquil couple of hours at Brutacao we’ll head south to Healdsburg where we’ll check in to H2, Hotel Healdsburg’s new “green” hotel located one block off the square.  After relaxing and cleaning up we’ll go downstairs where we’ll have a winemaker dinner in the hotel’s new “Spoonbar” restaurant.  Adam Lee of Siduri Winery will be our host for the evening and will pour an extensive selection of his amazing Pinots plus several of his other wines.

After breakfast at the hotel, you’ll have two options: If you want to relax in Healdsburg for a couple more hours exploring the square or just kicking back in your room or having a spa treatment, you’re welcome to do just that.  Or, if you’re a wine geek you can hop back on the bus for the fifteen minute ride south to Santa Rosa where we’ll meet up at Siduri again for a Pinot clonal blending exercise.  Adam will have a selection of several different Pinot clones from the same vintage and same vineyard, and teach us about blending the different clones.  This is definitely a hands-on winemaking exercise that very, very few people have ever been able to experience but will leave you with a new appreciation for the subtleties of the most finicky grape in the world.

In the meantime, Eric will head back to H2 after an hour or so to pick up those who wanted to stay behind.  Everyone will then meet up at Siduri before heading out again.

Next stop will be Paul Hobbs Winery a few minutes south in Sebastopol where we’ll have a tour of his meticulously detailed new facility along with a lunch of baked to order artisan pizzas from their outdoor, wood-burning oven plus an extensive tasting of reserve wines.  Should be a pretty cool way to end the trip.

After lunch at Paul Hobbs we’ll head back to Oakland for the flight back to San Diego.