A great day for wine!

Our recent little wander through the Anderson Valley

We love it when friends come to town, because they give us an excuse to try new things. So when an old college roommate came for a visit this last week, we had a whole list of great adventures ready and waiting to tackle. The highlight of the trip though was the long, leisurely day that we spent meandering down the Anderson Valley.

quiet seat in hendy woods

We started with a stroll through Hendy Woods, that magnificent stand of old growth redwoods just west of the hamlet of Philo. It was cool and quiet under the trees, hushed and still – the perfect antidote to busy life. We wandered about, gaping up in child-like wonder at those stately giants and peeking down at the tiny plants that nestle at their feet. It was so relaxing out there in the woods that we actually found ourselves slipping into an inadvertent yawning contest. We felt like we were indulging in our own little version of shinrin yoku, soaking up the goodness of the forest around us.

Tips: Bring a sweater, as it can be chilly under the trees. If it’s hot outside, take the river path from the parking lot and refresh your feet in the Navarro River, which is very gentle at this point.

 Once back at the car, we started the next part of our day – wine tasting!

First stop, Brutocao Cellars. We’ve poured some really tasty wines from Brutocao at the inn in the past, so we were excited to get better acquainted with this winery. The tasting room was a bright, happy space with high ceilings and plenty of filtered sunlight, and the hostess greeted us with a friendly welcome. We thoroughly enjoyed each of the tastes off their complimentary testing menu, savoring and swirling each sip that they poured. After trying several different and delightful new-to-us wines, our favorite was still the luscious Quadriga blend that we fell in love with while pouring it at the inn during our Wine Hour a while back – we definitely left with at least one bottle of that!

Tips: For a small fee, savor your way through their special Reserve tasting list. Port lovers, try their port and chocolate pairing! Sweet little spot for a picnic.

Happy bubbles

Next up, Scharfenberger Cellars for some bubbles! We were already familiar with their Brut Rose, which has garnered a lot of attention at the Crab Cake Cookoff several years in a row recently – it goes REALLY well with crab – but we hadn’t had too many of their other sparkling wines yet. Suffice to say, they were all delicious. It was hard to decide which bottle to buy to go with our picnic lunch, but we finally settled on the Cremant. Why? It just made us happy; plus, you can only get it at the tasting room! It was the perfect thing to sip on as we munched through our feast and laughingly reminisced over bygone adventures. Even more perfect, they had a corn hole game set up in the garden – nothing better than a bit of friendly competition on a gloriously sunny day.

Tips: Buy a bottle or two (or more!) and get your tasting fee waived. Lovely, lovely gardens with plenty of tables for a picnic. If you start a bottle with your food but can’t finish, they’ll cap it for you for the road.

Our third and final tasting stop of the day was Maple Creek Winery. After winding our way up and around the little dirt road that turns off from Highway 128, we at last rounded a corner and found ourselves in front of the tasting room, which was tucked in amongst the oak trees that thrive in the eastern end of the Anderson Valley. One of the resident Australian Shepherds greeted us at the entrance, waggling what would have been his tail if he had one and affably sidling in for a bit of petting. The wines were pretty much all outstanding, and there seemed to be a story to go with each one. Our favorite was the Symphony, a little-known hybrid varietal that came out of UC Davis in the 40s but wasn’t commercially available until the 80s. It was unlike any wine we’ve had before… it totally blew our minds.

Tips: Go during the week for a better chance to chat with owner Tom Rodrigues, who always enjoys a good laugh. Finish your day with a taste of their two luscious dessert wines.

After a wonderful day full of fresh memories, we drove our friend down to the airport in Santa Rosa and said goodbye, always a bittersweet moment. And as we took the long and winding road home, we started planning our next wine tasting adventure…

Tips: Check your case of newly-purchased wine for free when flying Alaska Airlines out of the Santa Rosa airport!

Corn Hole at Scharfenberger

Written by Laura Hockett