A Tale of Two Valleys

Gosh, I’ve been back at work three days, and it’s hard to remember that I was ever gone! Perhaps my memory was erased last night at our company holiday party…but for the record, I was home by 12:30, unlike those who opted for a 3 a.m. exit. And they weren’t the usual suspects, either.

But, after seeing my photos, my memory is refreshed, and I can almost feel the salty mist coming off the bay.

We landed in San Francisco around 1:00 on Sunday, and as we were crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, my creative director called and asked if we were going to jump. Later I learned that there’s an entire documentary about people who have killed themselves that way. Delightful.

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After a quick stop at the scenic lookout, we headed a few miles up the road to Tiburon for lunch at a great little Mexican place that overlooked the bay. As we were leaving, a frantic couple was screaming at the ferry as it pulled away — it was the last one of the day.

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We arrived in Sonoma around 5:30 and decided to upgrade to a room with a fireplace.

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We bummed around and watched TV that evening, glad to be in cushy beds.

The next day we easily fell into our routine:

  • Jenn gets up and goes for a 350 mile run
  • She gets back, and I get out of bed to go to gym
  • I pretend I’m dying after 25 minutes on elliptical machine
  • I robe myself and head to “Bathing Ritual” at the spa, followed by a ridiculous massage
  • Jenn gets to spa for her treatment
  • I sit around in front of fire in spa lounge reading Wine Spectator and Forbes while drinking hot tea and eating sugary almonds and grapefruit slices
  • Jenn gets done with spa treatment and we swap notes on way back to room
  • We gussy up and head for the wineries

My spa treatment the first day was the Harvest Kur:

Embrace the healing of the ‘Valley of the Moon’. This fabulously regenerative treatment, using local products, begins with exfoliation to naturally stimulate the body’s immune system. Relax with a warm, fragrant grape seed oil infused bubble bath followed by a warm, nurturing grape seed mud body wrap concluding in total bliss with a full body massage using grape seed body oil. This treatment uses products that are high in antioxidants, vitamins C and E, which enhance well being throughout your body, mental relaxation and spiritual balance.  

The first afternoon we took the recommendation of my spa therapist and went to Benziger. Their claim to fame is that they’re “biodynamic” — i.e. organic. Pretty interesting tour by tram through their 85 acres, their processing area, the caves and their tasting room. We spent a good two hours there.

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I had no idea about all the crazy toasting and specifications for oak in the barrels. And I learned that I don’t like oakey Chardonnay.

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That night we had dinner in Sonoma at a local Italian place, run by none other than an extended family of Mexicans. Who were fond of us. And gave us champagne and desserts.

The next day we repeated our routine, except I didn’t have a spa treatment. That afternoon our first stop was Ledson. This place was super nice — the owner decided his mansion was too big for him, so he made it into a tasting room for his wines.

We were starving, so we started with yummy ham and cheese croissants from the gourmet deli, which we ate by the fireplace.

There was no one else there, so the assistant to the winemaker poured us at least 9 different wines. And the eight bottles we bought between the two of us arrived to my office today — yea! Ledson was one of our favorites.

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Then it was on to Chateau St. Jean. Beautiful place. And we had the cutest old man pouring for us.

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That evening, after a final stop at St. Francis winery, we ventured into Santa Rosa for dinner at a fantastic place called Syrah. We had the four course tasting menu — specially selected for us by the chef. We started with beet salad with goat cheese and balsamic, followed by a scallop and piece of pork belly on lentils, then duck breast on a butternut squash ragu, then beef short ribs topped with foie gras on mashed potatoes and sauteed spinach, finished off with a dessert platter of sorbet, coconut rice pudding and chocolate mousse cake. Each course was paired with a different wine, most of which were from a winery called J (which I highly recommend).

Needless to say, I couldn’t move for a good five hours, then passed out after visiting the trough with my feather.

The next morning Jenn and I both had pedicures, during which my technician (a cute gay Mexican guy) revelaed this his relatives channel dead people.

That afternoon we headed for Napa and swung by the Artesa winery to get a glimpse of the view:

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Then we motored our low-bloodsugar-crabby-butts to Oakville Grocery for some gourmet sammies. Mmmm.

We were having a difficult time picking among the many wineries, but just as we had about given up, we discovered that we were right next to Cakebread! We’d both had Cakebread wines before and were very excited that this “by appointment only” had a slot for us just as we were driving by.

Jenn joined the wine club.

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Our final stop was Domaine Chandon, which is a sister company to the well-known champagne house Moet. This place felt a lot like a nightclub — and the fashion of the ladies in there reflected that idea, too. Our 28-year-old-wanna-be-a-cop pourer wasn’t quite sure what to make of the two of us at first, but he ultimately discovered that we had more brains than 10 of him put together.

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By that time we were pooped. So we headed back to the hotel and hopped in our cozy beds for the night.

The next morning we had our final visit to the spa, and I got a barefoot shiatsu massage. Yes, it makes you want to say “Oh, Shiatsu!” while it’s happening, but afterwards you feel like you’re not in your body.

So, there you have it. Our experience in wine country. Cheers!

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