Sonoma + Occidental

TL;DR | The vineyard passport is an awesome deal, and great hospitality makes the wine taste that much better.

We were both anxious to get to Sonoma, for obvious reasons; neither of us had been wine tasting before (not counting the Connecticut Wine Festival, of which the highlight was definitely the apple cider doughnuts and not the wine), and the B&B where we stayed the first night had a hot tub. Sonoma knows what its visitors want to do, which is to eat food labeled “organic, “local,” and “free-range,” and drink lots of wine. We lucked out in our B&B choice, as we were provided with a passport allowing us to taste for free at over 100 wineries in the area. This wine passport, along with the gorgeous grounds, generous hospitality, and luxurious accommodations, made this spot an unexpected winner. We also met a very friendly couple from Santa Barbara at breakfast who sincerely invited us to stay with them as we passed through on our way to Los Angeles. Overall, it was a very warm welcome to the valley.

Needless to say, we took full advantage of the wine passport. We hit Benzinger, Buena Vista (oldest in the area), and Ravens Wood wineries in the Sonoma Valley before the early afternoon, and fortunately don’t know enough about wine to scoff at any of the offerings. We did learn a little something about grape varietals, but most of it was forgotten since we continued to drink. After a round of Frisbee to sober up a bit, we drove an hour to Occidental, where our hosts for the next two nights lived.

Delia and her husband JB have built an oasis for themselves and guests; we were given our own bungalow with a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and living room, all decorated in the most welcoming of ways. They have a pool, numerous seating areas, garden, hot tub, and beautifully designed home. They introduced us to the only known authentic NY pizza in northern California (Mambo’s!) and brought us to some lesser known wineries in the Russian River Valley that are Delia and JB’s personal favorites. Merry Edwards (awesome!), Fog Crest (beautiful view, okay wine), and Dutton Goldfield (also awesome!) – where our gracious hosts got us into a member’s only all-you-can-drink-and-eat event. We enjoyed a meal picked from the garden (well, accompanied by Costco steaks), including tomatoes, basil, blackberries, and plums and a soak in the hot tub with a view of the stars. To say this visit was relaxing would be an understatement; we are so thankful for Delia and JB’s hospitality and the chance to taste some of California’s iconic wines.