Bellies full of delicious Thai food, we headed North for a little over an hour into Sonoma County. The drive through Sonoma was gorgeous, just acres and acres of lush green vineyards on both sides of the road. It was such a stark contrast to the dry, yellow drought-ridden farms you pass on the way up. Wine-tasting had been on the to-do list since we started planning the trip, but it turned out one of Alan’s coworkers family actually owned a winery. So we lucked out and got a private tour of Robert E. Young’ s Estate Winery.
We met David and Kelly outside of their public tasting room. They poured us a couple of glasses and showed us some of the barrels they had adjacent to the tasting room. Kelly explained bits of their family history, gave us quick lessons on wine making and answered all our newbie questions about the process. Then they took us into the tunnels where all the wine barrels are stored and aged in pitch-dark, perfect temperature caves. They told us the story of they had strung up lights and had held some part of their wedding there in the tunnels. We snapped a quick picture with all the barrels before we left (top).
We went back to the tasting room and refilled our glasses with another red wine and took a short walk up through the vineyards. It turns out the estate was founded on a spring, which allows them to keep the vineyards so well kept even with California’s drought. They also had a llama. Say what? He followed us for a bit and then decided to ignore us for grass. Anyway, we walked to the peak of the vineyards and could look over the entire estate and a few of the surrounding wineries as well. Not a bad view, not bad at all.
The estate was a small one compared to the others, but it was homey and beautiful all the same. And I’m not huge on wine, trust, I’m very much so a beer girl. But the wine was delicious. I was especially a fan of the first merlot we had. I’ll try and scrounge up the actual name somewhere. Anyway, before we left, they took us into their private wine cellar and pulled out a white wine for us to take home. It was actually one of the wines from their wedding years ago.
We ended going to the Coppola Winery afterwards, which was much bigger and definitely had more eye-catching structures. But to be honest, I felt like it was a little too touristy. It felt almost gimmicky. There was an open public pool, a museum of Coppola artifacts and our entire wine tasting, our bartender just kept spouting facts about Coppola and his films. The focus was really not on the wine or the grapes. Our visit at Robert E. Young felt personal, cozy. There was a strong family presence and an emphasis on making great wine. Coppola’s was equal parts restaurant, hotel, day-club and museum. Maybe if you’re a die hard Coppola fan, this is the place for you. But my second wine-tasting trip? I would stick to small private family estates. Good wine, good people, good stories.