Forget the wine. Well, I guess you can’t do that. Even though the rambling roads and the quaint towns of that luminous valley possess a modest beauty, it’s undeniably considered a mecca of the drink. But I’m the kind of wine devotee that makes her choices, sometimes a little desperate, sometimes a little thoughtless, at the local market, with mostly the direction of signs marked “Reds,” and “Whites.” Then I start at the bottom and move up the shelves and never make it to the lofty heights of the top. I’m not versed in the nuances and full virtuosity of wines, or grapes or regions. What I know is what I like. But going to the wine country was my husband’s idea, and it was his birthday, and it was California, which is always fine with me.
Don’t get me wrong, I have a developing palate, and more than a Real Housewives knowledge of wine. But still, after traveling to that talked about place, and sampling a smoky Syrah sipped in a luxurious hobbit hole, lined with barrels of wine, or shamelessly slurping a pinkish-gold North Coast Brut in a private winery parlor, it is for so many reasons, past the intoxicating liquid, that I love Sonoma.
Begin with the fact that I can blow a kiss to one of my favorite cities as I fly past it on 580W. Then, in the easy streets of Sonoma itself there is the happy surprise of the food. Because almost any place I truly yearn for must have good food. And the food of Sonoma I pronounced one night as being the best I’d ever eaten. (Well, maybe that was because of the wine). It’s the thought, though, of tender crepes and crusty tarts prepared by Alice, our hostess at An Inn 2 Remember, and shared with friendly, thirsty travelers who lamented hangovers or relished ones to come. It’s the still fresh recall of sitting at Harvest Moon Cafe and watching the chefs as they fussed over my Chardonnay Roasted Pork, and feeling the same kind of warm expectation as when my mother cooked for me. Of course, it wasn’t anything like what my mother made for me, but it was cozy and personal, and I could almost forget there were other people there. It’s because of the Eric K James tasting room in town that felt more like a back ally speakeasy, where a blues combo played and where the liquor was not hard but smooth and red, like velvet.
It’s the memory of more food and more wine, painstakingly paired, at Ram’s Gate Winery that I barely remember, because we began with the North Coast Brut, that I will never forget. It’s because of the deserted beauty of the Sonoma Coast and Shell Beach, where we spent the next day embracing sobriety. It’s the fairy nymph magic and the hushing majesty of the redwood forest. I mean, really, how many heart stopping places can one go in just one day? But also, I know the fresh crab at Bodega Bay will keep Sonoma forever in my mind. It was in season.
I’ve waited a while to write about this as we took this trip right before Thanksgiving. But, now when I look at the pictures I think to myself, Of all of it, was there anything more magnificent than the coral glow of that persimmon tree? Possibly the necklace Michael bought for me in Healdsburg.