In and Out of Gloria’s Cave (a.k.a Wine Tasting in Sonoma).
Ahhh… wine tasting. Nature’s way of letting a cheapskate get blasted guilt free in a room full of dressed up strangers. Is there really anything better? Throw on some nice clothes and get trashed – pretty much for free or almost free. It’s a darn good way to spend a weekend if you ask me. Fortunately for us here in San Diego, Napa & Sonoma are just a 1.5 hr, $39 flight away.
We left for the airport at 5am and had our feet on Oakland soil by 8:10am. Sarah, Bridgette & Mike picked us up at the airport and we hightailed it up to Sonoma. Our first stop was Sugarloaf State Park where we pitched our tent and changed into our wine tasting clothes. Most people will say that spending a weekend in Napa Valley is expensive but I will tell you right now it definitely is not. We camped at Sugarloaf State Park for $26. There was 5 of us splitting the bill – you can do the math. It was a beautiful campground, situated between three mountains. We also opted for Sonoma instead of Napa mainly because we a). heard it was cheaper and b). heard it was a lot less snooty. Because we did not venture into the Napa-land, I cannot say how accruate those statements are but what I can say is that we had a jolly good time in Sonoma.
Our first stop was Ravenswood. I know a lot of people who love Ravenswood wine so we figured it would be a good starting point. It turned out to be a good idea since because, although it was the only place we paid for tastes ($10 for 5 tastes), the bartender was super friendly and gave us the names of several other stops he thought would be interesting to us. As for the wine, it didn’t really blow any of us away but it was tasty.
Next stop, thanks to the helpful bartender, was Cline Cellars. This place is beautiful! The scenery is absolutely gorgeous with tons of beautiful plants and trees. There were even some roosters on the scene, which scored a ton of points with me. The place was packed! Everyone and their brother was tasting wine here and with good reason – the wine was amazing! I have never liked white wine before but now thanks to Cline, I know that’s simply because I’ve had never had a good white wine before. We had several tastes at Cline, got nice and toasted and interrupted a wedding about to take place. Good times! I would highly recommend trying Cline out if you are in the area. The wines are amazing, the people are friendly and the tastings are free!
We were fortunate on this trip in that my good cousin Sarah decided to be our designated driver. It was her birthday gift to Bridgette, which was very generous. All in all though we didn’t drive too far. Our next stop was Jacuzzi Family Vineyard (yes they make the whirlpools), which was right across the street from Cline and is actually their sister winery. The whole deal with Jacuzzi is that they want you to feel that you are in Italy. They did a great job with the Tuscan villa they built that houses the wine and (the other big highlight of the day) the olive oil tastings! Yum, Yum! Olive oils of every type – lime, garlic, pepper, orange, lemon, rosemary, etc., etc. They were amazing! Since there were no limits, we all semi sobered up while eating bread dipped in olive oil. Then we moved over to the other room for the wine tasting. It was there I discovered my favorite wine to date – Rosso Di Sette Fratelli Merlot (Red Wine of the Seven Brothers). I downed way too many samples and bought a bottle for later and a bottle of olive oil for Bridge. Beware that as the day goes on and you sample more wines you are likely to start buying things. I ended up buying a small olive oil bowl, bottle of 7 Brothers and a bottle of gourmet olive oil but could feel myself on the edge of getting carried away. If I wasn’t broke who knows what I might have walked away with. Luckily I stopped myself as I was about to sign up for the Jacuzzi Propeller Club, which would’ve sent me 4 of their glorious wines 4 times a year but also would’ve left a $250 hole in my pocket. Phew! We chomped on some more breadsticks, hopped back in the car and wandered up to the winery that would provide us with jokes for the rest of the trip.
Gloria, oh Gloria. Gloria Ferrer Winery – the home of the sparkling wines a.k.a champagne. Sarah had done some research and discovered this would be a great place to end the birthday wine tasting excursion. She was right. We got up there just in time to catch the sunset as we drank some amazing bubbly. It was there I learned that you can tell the quality of a sparkling wine by how many bubbles are in the glass and how long they last. More to our surprise we also learned that Gloria steeps her sparklers in caves. It was only inevitable after all the wine and champagne that someone in our party would want to see if we, like her champagnes, could also hang in Gloria’s cave. This time the dirty mind belonged to Mike. After an endless amount of dirty cave jokes we discovered that yes, you can go in Gloria’s cave.
Shucks for us, we missed the tour by an hour.