The plan was beautiful in its simplicity. Drive out to Guerneville, then drive back, stopping at a few wineries we’d spot along the way. What could go wrong? Well, first the day got off to a slow start – somehow, I slept in until 8:30, which is super-rare. Then Terri took the time to make us a fabulous breakfast of Avocado Toast with a fruit salad, which was really tasty and filling, but more time-consuming than our typical granola and yogurt. Oh well, both are great, let’s head out!
Oops, then there’s the whole WiFi/cell phone coverage issue. The good news is that we get free WiFi here, but only for two devices. We chose Terri’s iPad, and the laptop so we can connect to the TV and stream shows instead of the usual garbage, plus I can work on my blog. The downside is that the cell coverage here looks good on paper, but connecting to the internet on the phones ranges between sluggish and nearly non-existent. I could NOT pull up the route to Guerneville at all. No worries, I had a basic idea of how to get there, so we headed out.
And within a few minutes were completely distracted by a flock of Turkey Vultures on a wide shoulder of the road holding a conclave. We had to pull over! They didn’t budge, even though we were pretty close. Terri took a video, then I had to get out, change the lens on my camera for a nice close-up shot, and then take my own video. We walked a few steps the other way towards a creek where we’d seen another vulture, and discovered another carcass, cleaned up to the bones. Several minutes later, we drove away, and came to an intersection.
And turned the wrong way, waiting for the route to load on the phone. And discovered Sebastapol. Did I mention all the wineries we passed on the way? But I was on a mission to get to Guerneville, maybe because it was such a cool name, or because on a map it looked to be in the Russian River area, which is widely known for their great grapes. Only a half an hour away (which is how long it should have taken us in the first place).
The roads out here are very narrow, generally with zero shoulders, overhung with oak trees, and twisty as a corkscrew. With someone behind you who typically drives them 10-20 mph over the limit. Hidden driveways abound, making me wonder how many times residents have been hit trying to get on the road. Suddenly I see a sign that says “Russian River Winery” as I fly past. I want to stop! Luckily, there is a small junction, a dirt road to a local cemetery, so I pull in and turn around.
As we drive down the winery driveway, we spot what looks to be a building built 150 years ago, but then we see other rustic, but newer ones as well. We enter the main building … but no one is there. There is a sign that points to Wine Tasting, which ends up in an odd place. A woman appears “Can I help you?” “Wine tasting?” I ask with lifted eyebrows. “Over there” across a courtyard, and a completely separate area. Nick comes out to show us to a table; we find one out of a cool breeze that even has a heater, and settle in.
We are happy to see they have an onsite restaurant, as it is now past lunchtime. We order a Focaccia Bread; they customize the toppings to our preferences, and we dig in, accompanied by tastes of their wines. Oh, and I HAD to wander around the grounds, taking photos of several vintage vehicles and the huge trees (Redwoods?) that dotted their grounds. Their wines were interesting. The first Pinot Noir I tried had a distinct taste of dill pickle, not exactly pleasing to my palate. The next one was much better, but then Nick brought out the Petite Sirah, and it knocked my socks off, and I had to get a bottle. Somehow we learned that they had also made a sparkling wine from Pinot Noir and Zinfandel. What? That’s crazy – but it was only $20, so we took a flier, buying it taste untested.
Okay, on to Guerneville! The roads now became overhung with coastal Redwoods, up and down, narrower and even twistier. When we finally pulled into Guerneville, we were agape. It was as if we had passed through a portal, and been transported into the late 1950’s. And it started raining. We took off, and soon came to Korbel Winery, established in 1862. Full of anticipation we entered. A staff person eventually approached, only to inform us we were 20 minutes too late to try any of their wines, as they were closing soon. We did stop at their deli, and picked up some sweet treats, as well as two micro bottles of their champagne-style wine. That was the last winery we saw on our way home, except for the ones we hunted down in Windsor that were closed.
Well, we had wanted to explore, and explore we did! The day ended up nothing like we had planned or anticipated, but it was full of opportunities to let ourselves absorb what life offered on that one unique day. Maybe we didn’t get want we wanted, but we got what we needed.