Wandering Wednesday … A Trip to California Wine Country

My nephew got married a few weekends ago in a beautiful ceremony atop a mountain with a stunning view in Oakville, California. The anticipation of the fun I would have with friends and family was palpible, so I decided to make a week-long vacation out of it to prolong the fun and savor every moment. I got on the home-exchange website and found the most adorable cottage in Kenwood (about a 1/2 hour from Napa) that was surrounded by a gorgeous, rose-filled, yard.

My best friend since first grade, Mary Kay, lives just outside of SF with her wife, Laura, and I haven’t been there in awhile (before covid), so I thought it would be fun to make an overnight pit-stop to visit them. We had a fun time catching up, enjoying some Rombauer chardonnay (my favorite!) that they bought for my visit, and ordered food from my favorite restaurant near them, Burma Superstar. If you’re ever in SF or the East bay I’d highly recommend getting a meal here, especially the Rainbow Salad, which I’ve made a couple of times here at home (lots of ingredients, but soooo delish!). MK had an early morning meeting, so I was up and out around 10ish to continue my journey up to wine country. I made another pit-stop in Petaluma because I remembered how quaint and fun the downtown area was from my time living in SF back in college. Well, a word of advice, don’t go to Petaluma on a Monday because nothing is open. I found one store and actually thanked them for being open and the sales girl said, “Oh, yeah, I always feel bad for tourists that come on Mondays. Everything is closed, literally!” So, it wasn’t a long stop, before continuing on my way. I arrived in Kenwood around noon, met the home’s lovely owner, and then they were on their way to SF for a little staycation. Home exchanging is the best!

I spent the afternoon in the backyard enjoying our book club choice, The Covenant of Water, before heading out to dinner. It was Monday, so I had done some research before the trip to find the perfect place for Pizza Monday. I found a spot right around the corner, Red Rooster Pizza, that was affiliated with VJB cellars. They close at 4, so I ordered a pizza-to-go at 3:30 (too early for dinner.) The cashier asked if I wanted to do a wine tasting in the adjacent room while I waited, which I declined and told her I’m pretty much just a chardonnay gal. She gave me a taste of their chardonnay and I loved it. I got a glass while I waited in their lovely courtyard, and ended up enjoying it so much that I became a member of their wine club! You can only get VJB at their tasting room or as a wine club member, so why not! I went back to my little cottage and had a lovely Pizza Monday in the peaceful backyard.

artichoke heart, fresh mozzarella & prosciutto!

I did two more tastings while I was in Kenwood, one on Tuesday and one on Thursday. On Tuesday I took a short drive to Matanzas Creek, where I was hoping to see their blooming lavender fields, but, alas, due to the May gray & June gloom, they hadn’t flowered yet. I did have another lovely chard though, enjoyed the views of Bennett Valley and brought home some delicious lavender honey. It’s a cool venue where you can bring a picnic and also has bocce ball courts.

the view
the, not-so-blooming, lavender fields

Wednesday morning I took a drive over to Sebastopol to The Barlow Market because MK had recommended it. It looked cool and the pics on their website really reminded me of ROW DTLA (if you haven’t been it’s also a fun place to shop/eat too in the downtown LA arts district). I wandered around there a bit, popping in to the cute shops, grabbed a coffee at Taylor Lane and a baguette at Red Bird Bakery before making my way to Sonoma for a tasty Mexican lunch at El Molino Central in Sonoma with my sister, brother-in-law and their daughter-in-law to be and her dad … then back to the cottage for a quiet evening.

So many of the wine tastings in Napa, Sonoma and the surrounding areas, have gotten so expensive. I called one place that was recommended to me and the tasting was $75! No thanks! Instead, for my Thursday wine event, I found a place, again right around the corner from the cottage, at Mayo Family Winery Reserve Room, that had an $80 tasting & food pairing menu. It was DElish! I’ve really come to enjoy the food pairings that accompany wine tastings because the difference from the first taste, without food, to the second and subsequent ones with food are so interesting. The last tasting is at 4:30 … something about a deal with all the local restaurants that the wineries will stop serving food before 6, so as not to compete … which made it feel like happy hour, but it was really tasty (…and thankfully they also give you a spittoon to use, so you’re not totally hammered from drinking 7 generous pours of wine.) As I said, I’m a Chard girl, but I loved the Sauv Blanc at Mayo and brought home a bottle to share with my “wine friday” friends.

L-R … Sauvignon blanc/Vietnamese spring roll, Chardonnay/housemade ravioli, Pinot Noir/Ahi poke
Zinfandel/shrimp & andouille gumbo, Merlot/quesa birria, Cabernet/bistro steak salad
Zinfandel Port/flourless chocolate cake with port soaked cherries

Friday I made my way over to The Harvest Inn in St. Helena where I was staying, along with many of the wedding guests, who were arriving for the big weekend! I’m not sharing wedding pics, but here are a few from the magical weekend.

the amazing wedding venue before it was transformed
Gott’s for the welcome party … you MUST go here … great food & such a fun way to kick off the weekend!
the festive, fun set-up at Gott’s
time spent with these amazing people made me so happy
a stunning evening
Sunday brunch in the vineyard for my brother-in-law’s BIG birthday

I think it’s safe to say that an AMAZING time was had by all! My feet are still recovering from the dancing.

You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails!


  1. Hi Jeanine, I enjoyed your tour of the wine country! Dan and I like to go to the Fern Bar in the Barlow. You are right about the price of wine tasting, plus you have to make reservations. So much for wandering the countryside until you feel like stopping at an intriguing venue. I do my wine tasting on the back porch. Poor me, right?

    Such a fun weekend we spent at Poppy Hill. Now I’m watching kids climb apple trees, helping them plant pumpkins and getting out of the way of the squirt guns.
    Happy first day of summer! 🌻 Dennie

    1. Hi Dennie! Thanks for reading…and loved hearing you’ve been to The Barlow. I have fond memories of Poppy Hill and love that you get to share it with the next generation. xoxo

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