Saturday, September 29, 2012

Day 25 - Would You Like A Little Wine With That?

25 days in and nobody seems worse for wear yet.  We are still loving it.  The Petaluma KOA is a very organized campground and very popular on the weekends with families.  The staff has several self-guided wine tour leaflets published for the adventurous wine seeker.  We decided to undertake the Valley of the Moon tour. According to Jack London, the Native American word Sonoma means Valley of the Moon.  He used it for his book of the same name.  So we go to the Sonoma Valley.  There are 254 wineries in the valley and 65,000 acres under vine.  It could be a long day...
But no.  We decided to pick one winery, do a tasting and spend some time there.  It seemed wiser than doing some serious drinking and driving.  We did see a lot of "Wine Country Tours" so perhaps some of the wine lovers are smartening up.  We have been to Napa Valley several times before so it wasn't important to us to check out every last Mom & Pop vineyard.  We headed for CA-12 to see what we could see.

And we found this.  It is Ledson Winery & Vineyards.  You might well think that possibly vampires live here or that this place has been around forever.  It was actually built about 15 years ago.  But it looked ostentatious enough to make us want to go have a look. 
You start by walking from the parking area through the private reserve vineyard.  These rows may be personally reserved by you for a minimum of 3 years (for a hefty fee) and you will have your name placed on a marker and then you will have the opportunity to purchase wine that is blended from your very own rented grapes.  These are somebody's next bottle of Merlot.

Wine grapes (these are merlot) are much smaller than table grapes.  They do look very pretty hanging from their vines.  They are very dark and I think they look velvety.  The name Merlot is thought to have been derived from the Old French word for blackbird (merlot). 

We continued along the path which led to a nice view of the front of the castle and the ornately landscaped grounds. 

Once inside we were greeted by a hostess (these people are all so cute!) who asked if we wanted to do a tasting.  Of course!  She took us to one of the three tasting rooms where we stood at a pretty wooden bar and met our "pourer".  

The way the tastings work here is that you get to choose how many wines you want to taste and then the pourer will help you narrow those down from the list of tasting wines depending upon what kinds of wine interest you.  We wanted to try some white, some red and some sweet and we opted for one 6 wine tasting for $15.  Some years ago, these tastings were all free.  I've noticed over the span of our visits here that the price has been going up pretty quickly.  I suppose it is a good way to bring in some more income.  We were told that Ledson only sells their wine at the winery.  That is probably why we had never heard of it before today. 
Our pourer guy was named Guy.  After the requisite "You're a long way from home" we settled in to see what we could taste.  We tried 2009 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, 2011 Russian River Valley Chardonnay, 2007 Russian River Valley "Old Vine" Zinfandel "Jolene's Vineyard" (bought one), 2008 California "Gunsight" Red Wine (bought one), 2009 Russian River Valley Riesling Demi Sec (bought three), 2010 Mendocino County Orange Muscat (bought one).  What can I say?  We knew we were going to buy wine, we didn't want to drink our way around the Sonoma Valley and this tasted very good to us.  Guy was very nice to us.  We didn't pretend that we were any good at wine talk and he was patient while we explained (in Maine tourist terms) what kind of wine we thought we liked to drink.

I am glad that we didn't do the tasting with this fellow.  He was dealing with a couple of "serious" wine lovers from Missouri and they were using all the wine terms (probably correctly).  He seemed to be doing the smooth sell and I just felt a lot more comfortable with Guy who was probably only hoping that these dorks would buy at least one bottle. 

Brett is not what we would call the marathon drinker in the family but he was the driver.  That is another reason that we wanted to limit the tastings.  Here he is enjoying a nice Chardonnay that was priced at $36 a bottle.  And he is smiling!  Note the breadstick in his hand.  The man cannot resist a snack.

Once you decide what to buy, you can go through to the shop and a nice lady will pull the bottles for you.  Then you can spend some more of your money on other stuff.  We also came home with some curry flavored mustard and a rosemary infused olive oil.  Since it was lunch time and they also sold sandwiches, we got a couple and sat outside at a picnic table enjoying the scenery as well as the food. 

Brett enjoyed his panini sandwich.  We saw a couple of really cute little girls bouncing around.  One of them was wearing a dress whose hem she kept pulling up around her ears.  Our girls used to do this when they were little and Brett was going to take a picture to remind them of this.  I felt pretty certain that it wasn't a good idea and dissuaded him before some irate mother started to beat upon him.

After lunch we gave the GPS his head and let him lead us back to Petaluma.  This involved driving through downtown Sonoma on a Saturday afternoon when the Valley of the Moon Vintage Festival was happening.  Sonoma looks to be full of a mix of interesting older buildings and more modern ones.  The streets are narrow and at least on the weekend they are full of cars and people.  Even if we had wanted to spend some time walking around there was nary a parking place to be had.  That's okay. 

Afternoon at the KOA featured a nice nap and then a walk. 

It is great to have a friend who likes to garden and who grows much more than she can eat.  These tomatoes are just a portion of the bounty that she sent us home with yesterday. 
They are lovely to look at and even better to eat.

It is appropriate to have a burger once in a while when camping.  Tonight was the night. 

We are going to stay another night in Petaluma though this will involve moving to another campsite in the morning.  Then on Monday we are moving to a spot east of Roseville so that we can visit with my sister Louise for a few days.  Tomorrow will involve errands and a look around historic Petaluma.

The adventure continues!


  1. Did you buy the Riesling X 3 due to your tasting or prior knowledge?

  2. The Riesling was purchased due to the tasting. Brett especially likes slightly sweet wine and this one was lovely.

  3. Thanks for the props. You guys were a fun group. Good to see some "Mainuhs!"