42/43: Sonoma and Napa Valley, The Speed Dating of Wine Country

It took me nearly two years but I’d finally convinced my favorite human to take a weekend getaway with me to Santa Rosa and Sonoma/Napa Valley. My mother is many things, one being a people pleaser, and though I could spend half this post talking about how awesome she is, you’re here to hear about the wine and that’s what I’ll skip to.

We landed at San Fransisco airport, picked up our car, and hot tailed it to Santa Rosa where our home for the weekend awaited. After spending half the morning flying we decide that wine, Italian food, and Yelp review stalking would be what our evening consisted of as we planned our Saturday tour of as much wine as we could handle. I woke up in the morning to my mother telling me she’d actually been up for a couple hours and found the perfect brunch spot for us to go to. This woman.


We showered and got ready wearing our best “not over, but definitely not under” dressed attire before hitting up The Spinster Sisters, this adorable small café that sat right in the middle of a Santa Rosa neighborhood. The bar was centrally located as most of the table seating bordered the restaurant leaving plenty of room for light to leak in through the roof to floor windows. I had potentially one of the best eggs Benedict to date as we discussed our plans.


Half of the really nice wineries required reservations and though we had time to, we thought just winging it speed dating style was for the best. It was at that time we mapped out our final four: Ancient Oak Cellars, Matanzas Creek Winery, Hanna Winery, and Balleto Vinyards. We checked to see when the further one opened and to our early bird luck, we were right on time.

Ancient Oak Cellars
Located on the edge of downtown Santa Rosa right between a coffee shop and antique store, this winery, or cellar rather, was just well enough hidden to pass if you didn’t know what you were looking for. Downtown Santa Rosa, not being a particularly large area, consisted of a handful of blocks, all with small stores and restaurants that were intimately placed one on top of the other on a very walkable two lane road. Ancient Oak Cellars was nearly empty when we arrived with the exception of two people checking out with two bottles of wine. The bartender, or connoisseur, was this young fresh faced (and pretty cute) 22 year old that happened to know as much about wine as I did Harry Potter.

Fun fact: I know a LOT about Harry Potter.

He poured generously as he spoke to us about how certain reds made in 2012 tend to taste better than those made in 2010 due to the drought and the way that the soil was doing at that time. Interesting. He gave us more samples than we paid for and if you bought a bottle of wine, all samples were complimentary.


Luckily, this was something we did well. We bought two bottles, mom talked up my blog to the guy as an attempt to get him to ask for my number considering she knows my type, and we left. Thanks mom. We walked next door into a gallery trying to let the glass and a half we had settle before getting in the car driving further outside the city into the rolling hills and longing mountains of relaxing California.

Matanzas Creek Winery

After driving through the countryside for nearly 15minutes, we arrived at our second destination. This place is hands down the prettiest we went to. We parked on the dirt in a makeshift parking lot and walked up the stone path to this large house that was a short walk up the steps in the center of the property.


The building had a large deck that overlooked the hills and mountains and just below was a pergola that consisted of picnic tables, a fountain, and hanging bulb lights of different shades of green. This place had plenty more people than the other and was a little less personal.


This allowed us to get our wine tasting and explore the grounds while relaxing that Saturday after noon. The building had several rooms, a store that sold fresh lavender flavored items and a tucked away fire place. I could have easily stayed there all day but considering the amount of people there were we decided an hour was more than enough time, and ventured back to our car to go to place number three.

Hanna Winery

It was actually supposed to be our fourth stop but as we were passing we noticed they closed sooner, so we turned around and decided to make it our third. Hanna Winery was a cute, little, all white fenced in cottage style house with a parking lot that fit maybe ten cars. When you walk in the wine connoisseur was this jolly faced, big smiled man who welcomed us with the warmest of greetings. We chatted not only with him but our neighboring wine tasters about different kinds of wines, how theirs are made there, and where Two Buck Chuck comes from.

Lesson 77: The guy who sells those lovely Two Buck Chuck bottles to Trader Joes happens to live near the owner of Hanna. When companies like Hanna produce their wine sometimes certain blends or certain wines don’t mix together quite up to par of what the company is used to. Sometimes the taste is off. When this happens they sell all their “low par” barrels to the Two Buck Chuck guy and he then passes them off to Trader Joes so that cheap skates like me can have a wine party without going completely broke. Thanks Two Buck Chuck guy, semi-basic bitches and starving artists everywhere appreciate you and what you do.

We talked with our new friends, bought three (yes, three) bottles of wine and skipped our way less than a half a mile down the street to our final stop.

Balleto Vineyards
This. Place. Rocked. If this were actually speed dating, I’d ask them on a date myself. The inside resembled more of a rustic bar than a winery and the atmosphere of dim lights and dark wood went great with the crowd. Our little helper was this absolutely adorable woman who kind of reminded me of Linda Cardellini, with this combination high pitch but mildly raspy voice and refreshing attitude. Turned out it was her first week back from maternity leave and me and my mom actually talked and laughed with her more than we learned about wine. Don’t get me wrong, we still had our tastes worth but it was more of her pouring us drinks based on conversation than it was a learning experience. By the end we were more than full on good company (our friends from Hanna showed up soon after we did) and to top it off her husband brought by her newborn. We got to see the cute family interact, bought two more bottles and decided it was time to call it a night.


Considering we went to dinner the night before and bought our fair share of wine we settled for an evening of In N Out Burger and saw a movie to wind down.

This was one of my favorite trips but that could easily have been because I was in the company of my favorite person. Nothing went wrong and we made all our stand by flights. The morning of we drove back to San Fransisco and walked the beach and part of the bridge before we took our flight back home. Wine country was a lot like speed dating in the sense you’re not entirely sure what your walking into but you go into it with an open mind and moderate expectations.

Ancient Oak Cellars was the cute one that made good conversation. Matanzas Creek Winery was the polite hot one that you don’t really click with. Hanna Winery was very much the cool smart one that you’d probably try and set up with your friend or at least keep in contact with, and then there’s Balleto Vineyards, which was very much the all around good time that you’d actually give your number to. Either way, all of them were special in their own right and I hope this could be a tradition for years to come.


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