July 16, 2012 |
Wine Country Travel |
Traveling Sonoma County
Before Google Maps and GPS, it was difficult to find the coastal town of Bolinas. No signposts marked the turn off Highway 1 to the tiny coastal town because its reclusive--and often famous--residents tore down any signs as soon as they were installed. Home to dozens of low-key celebrities known for a range of accomplishments from art, literature and music to science and cuisine, the community includes the legendary locavore and proponent of organic produce Alice Waters, along with singer Grace Slick, actress Frances McDormand, and writer Richard Brautigan. On our family trip, we drove the 2 hours along Highway 1 from San Francisco to Bodega Bay on a gorgeous sunny day, passing Bolinas, the expansive crescent of sand of Stinson Beach and the 15 mile long Tomales Bay known for its oysters. Sadly, our kids are not fans of the mollusks, so we had to pass the Tomales Bay Oyster Company and Hogg Island Oyster Farm where one can bring a picnic and indulge in buckets of fresh or barbecued oysters.
This was our third time staying at the lovely Bodega Bay Lodge which occupies an enviable piece of real estate--being right on the estuary that fronts the beach. A grove of Monterey cypress shields the property from the road and all other development, so it is serene and quiet, with just the sound of songbirds and occasionally, the faraway sound of the Point Arenas lighthouse fog horn. Fortunately, what fog there was stayed north and the sun beamed on our stay. The kids loved the pool and I loved the hammocks at the edge of the estuary and the wonderful meals at The Duck Club Restaurant where one can watch the orange rays of sunset move across the ocean at dinner and see the morning light brightening the view at breakfast.
Sonoma County is an excellent destination for a family vacation--there is so much to do! In Sebastapol, the sustainable Full House Farm gives tours of their horses, goats, chickens and gardens. We got to help collect eggs and learned some interesting things about chickens. The eggs need to be collected continuously during the day, otherwise if an egg breaks, the hens will eat it, realize it is tasty, then start breaking eggs intentionally. Also, they come in the barn to roost every night, crowding together on horizontal poles strung along one wall. They can easily be moved when asleep, but don't wake one up! Its instinctual response to a threat of a predator will startle it into a a panic, waking the other chickens into a frenzy of flapping and screeching.
Christine, who runs the Full House Farm with her husband, David, milks one of their two goats, getting a gallon to a gallon and a half a day which she uses to make creamy goat cheese. Christine served samples at the end of the tour along with fabulous Pinot Noir and Tangerine Chardonnay jellies. We stopped by the nearby Wildlflour Bakery for their brick-oven baked bread for a picnic in Armstrong Woods State Park in Guerneville. Towering redwood shade an easy walk to the picnic area and admission is free.
Next door to the Wildflour Bakery, Freestone Winery pours their estate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and the wines of parent company Joseph Phelps. A couple of years ago, I had a wonderful Freestone Chardonnay redolent of pear, peach and wet stone. I bought a couple of bottles of it -- the 2010 Fogdog Chardonnay which I love for its clean, fresh flavor. Joseph Phelps is known world-wide for his Rhone and Bordeaux style blends, particularly the highly-rated Insignia.
We intended to take the kids kayaking on the Russian River--several companies will outfit you at the top of the river and shuttle you back at the end of the 3 - 4 hour experience, but our leisurely walk in the woods squeezed out the trip. Instead, we went on the Flamingo Conference Resort and Spa in Santa Rosa and sunned and swam in the large pool that is in the center of the updated mid-century modern hotel. The hotel grounds are lushly planted and a nice place to unwind. Santa Rosa is conveniently located to visit the 250 wineries of Sonoma County.