Land of Tall Trees and Wine
I'm still a newbie in a lot of ways to San Francisco and the bay area. I've only been living here a little over a year, and I still feel there is much I haven't seen or experienced. For example, up until recently I had still never been to Sonoma or Napa for wine tasting. I love wine, so I don't know why it has taken so long. As I was looking for something fun to do for Harper's Bday, I came across a guided bus tour that offered wine tasting trips to Napa. I wasn't sure what to expect, but it sounded fun and so I booked two tickets. The first red flag was when the booking agent asked which hotel we were staying in while in SF. We soon learned the experience was not necessarily catered for locals, but decided it would be fun to pretend to be tourists anyways.
We could choose to be picked up from a hotel downtown or Pier 39. The easy answer was the hotel downtown, as we always make a conscious effort to avoid Pier 39 at all costs. at around 8am we got into a small mini shuttle with 25 other tourists from all around the world. Our bus driver was charismatic and witty with a strong british accent. He was full of one-liners and dad jokes. His comedic timing was brilliant, which made it easy to laugh along as he told joke after and joke over the intercom speaker system. He was also a wealth of knowledge, as he shared historical facts about the architecture and earthquakes and all the hot spots we needed to see while we were in the city. At one point we drove by the Palace of Fine Arts, in which he asked the bus,
"Do you know why all the statues of women at the Palace are crying?"
No one knew the answer, so he explained,
"Because they have just discovered that all the men in San Francisco are gay".
It was hard not to laugh.The first stop on the trip was to Muir Woods, about 20-30 minutes outside the city. Our guide was very excited we were making good time, as he shared the park service did not start charging the $5 admission until 9am. We therefore walked quickly to the entrance, as it was only five till 9am. The redwoods were incredible, especially the area called the Cathedral Grove, which was a large cluster of the old growth trees. We only had about 40 minutes in the forest, and we definitely did not want to be late, as the driver told us repeatedly the bus would not wait for us. It was a short hike, but beautiful nonetheless. I would love to go back and spend an entire day hiking the trails.
The trees were incredibly tall and beautiful. I'm still blown away they are so close to urban center of San Francisco. Such a contrast.
As we were leaving we were very happy to have arrived at the park early, as more and more tourist buses were filling the parking lot. We had the forest to ourselves and it was perfect...and free!
Back on the road, it was only an hour or so longer before we arrived at Sonoma, our first stop on our wine tasting tour. Altogether we visited three vineyards. The first was very small, and we learned all about the process and art of making wine. She shared with us the the 4 S's of Wine Tasting:
S- Sip (my favorite of the S's)
I also remember learning it takes 3-4 sips to get the full taste of the wine. Needless to say, I was already feeling a bit tipsy after the first vineyard. It definitely sneaks up on you when you are taking a bunch of little sips. Luckily we had our lunch break soon after, where we were dropped off at the old town square in downtown Sonoma. We found some good cheeseburgers, of course, and then wandered around the adorable town square. It felt straight out of the Gold Rush. We lost track of time a bit, and actually almost missed our bus. Luckily the driver spotted us from a distance and drove over to pick us up.
The next two vineyards were both very lovely. They were both larger than the first, and offered two very different experiences. The second location was very picturesque, and offered the scenic views of the rolling hills you'd expect while visiting Napa. The third was the largest, and felt more like a scene, with lots of people socializing and networking throughout the large manicured property. We were quite tipsy near the end and we were more than ready to get back on the bus for the ride home. It was so nice to not have to worry about how much to drink, as we knew we had our driver ready to take us home.
The ride back home was peaceful, as we listened to a playlist the driver had curated featuring every classic song that mentions San Francisco. It was fun to hear, even though we were both half asleep. Our driver of course pulled over near the Golden Gate, in order to offer us all a chance to get that classic postcard photo. We played along.
All in all, the experience was so much fun! Although we probably wouldn't do it that way again, it was a a blast exploring the area from a different perspective and pretending to be tourists. It made me fall in love with the city even more! It was also a great first taste of wine country. We definitely want to plan some new trips out that way soon.
Anyone have any good vineyard recommendations??