A Weekend In Wine Country

tl;dr: Abby and I visit Sonoma, CA and had a wonderful time!

Abby and I wanted to get away for a weekend, originally to Santa Barbara. After I realized Santa Barbara is a 4 hour car ride, I proposed a few alternatives, and Abby was excited about Sonoma and Napa. We settled on Sonoma and planned our trip!

Day 1 - Friday, March 26 2021

Buena Vista Winery - Sonoma, CA

We arrived at our first wine tasting reservation at the Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma. We were greeted by Brandon, a tall blonde man with short hair and tattoos on his arms. He seated us and shared the history of the Buena Vista Winery with us. I was startled to learn that we had selected the oldest winery in California, entirely by accident!

We started off with a sparking white wine, tried some white wines, and moved onto reds. Abby and I had a great time trying to discern the flavors in each wine. Some whites were described as "buttery on the finish", whereas some reds were described to have a "rich flavor with essence of cherry, raspberry, and pepper". Neither of us have particularly sophisticated palates. We were just happy to be outdoors tasting wines while having each wine's description kindly explained to us, as if we did in fact know what to taste.

Unfortunately, that morning I had not had breakfast, and went straight into drinking wine and eating charcuterie around noon. We were also sitting in the sun for almost two hours, and I felt uneasy and had a minor headache. Fortunately, Brandon generously offered a generic Excedrin (acetaminophen/aspirin/caffeine) and I started to feel a little better.

Rancho Maria Wines

Our next stop was Rancho Maria, a comparatively smaller storefront in the downtown of Sonoma. We were seated in a cozily furnished backyard and served whites, reds, and a rosé.

A Night on the Town

We stayed at the Cinnamon Bear Creekside Inn, in Sonoma, CA. It is a wonderful 7 bedroom inn run by a couple experienced in hospitality. After we checked in we walked to town and had dinner at the B&V Whiskey Bar and Grill. We got the Poke Martini and the Codi Burger. I have to say though, I probably have never had a burger with so much smokey, beefy flavor before. It was amazing and something I hope I get to experience again.

Afterwards, we went next door to Sweet Scoops ice cream for desert and made our way back to our hotel to retire for the night.

Day 2 - Saturday, March 27 2021


We started off our day with breakfast at the Cinnamon Bear Creekside Inn. We were served a Belgian waffle with eggs and sausage, as well as lots of coffee. Abby excitedly rifled through her purse and proudly pulled out a packet of Tapatio that I had made fun of her for earlier for having in her purse. She opened it up and we split it on our eggs. I should start carrying hot sauce! No more making fun of her for that from now on. Lesson learned!

Jack London State Park

We headed to Jack London State Park for a hike. We paid the $10 use fee and walked up to the map at the trail head. A man was volunteering and told us all about where we could go to suit our ~6 mile hike we were looking for.

On our hike, we saw sprawling vineyards and a forest of Eucalyptus trees grown in rows. We were enveloped in a forest with both evergreen and deciduous trees, which is something neither of us has experienced. Usually it was one type or the other. Some sections were very steep, and some narrow, but the views of the Sonoma Valley were beautiful. At the top of the hill, there were some cows on a large pasture hanging out under a tree for shade. The meadows at the top of the hill were particularly pleasant, and made for a good rest stop while we appreciated the views. On our way down we stopped at the Ancient Redwood, which was the first large redwood I've seen in my life. It is apparently 1800-2000 years old and 14 feet in diameter, and tall but does not tower over the canopy.

Our hike came out to 9 miles, more than I bargained for. Nonetheless, I was proud of myself for being able to handle a hike of such length when even 6 miles seemed like a lot to me.

Afterwards we went down to the town at the foot of Jack London State Park, Glen Ellen. We looked for restaurants but settled on the Glen Ellen Village Market, a local grocery store. It was arguably the nicest grocery store we've been in. They offered wines, with lots of cheese and crackers and other foods that would pair well on a charcuterie board. I was also surprised to see that in their liquor section the shelving was made out of a dark wood and there were two rolling ladders to reach further up on the shelves. We got paninis from the deli, a red velvet cupcake, two plums, La Croixs, and a single canned champagne. We went out back and enjoyed our post hike feast while I occasionally threatened to scoop up one of the lizards in the garden into my pocket.

Pangloss Cellars

After we cleaned up from our hike, we biked to downtown Sonoma for a tasting at Pangloss Cellars. I was resigned to the fact that I couldn't enjoy red wines for their bitterness, so I opted to do an all white wine tasting and Abby opted for 2 whites and 3 reds. Our server would pour us a round of wines, and would ask us "what does this remind you of?" So Abby and I sniffed and tasted our wine desperately trying to come up with the correct answer, with so-so success.

Our server educated us about the different use of wider and narrower wine glasses, so that the richer wines can be more fully expressed in the goblet like glasses. He has us try the same wine out of the different glasses, to see if there was any difference.

We complied assuming this was some sort of ruse but I was blown away to find that the shape of the wine glass actually significantly changed the bitterness of the wines. Maybe I was just getting more drunk and my palate was acclimating to the bitterness of the wines, but I still ended up sipping wines out of the narrower glass for the rest of our tasting.

We ended our wine tasting at Pangloss with our server telling us about how he is also a beekeeper, and earlier in the day he was "smashing bees into a box" to transfer bees into a new home, and showed us a video. It was crazy, and really cool!

Ceviche @ Maya

While we were wine tasting at Pangloss Cellars, we saw people enjoying margaritas in the sun across the street at Maya. This seemed like a fun place, so we walked across the street to Maya, and were seated indoors. We ordered their ceviche, which was very good, and tried to make sense of a large mural they had by their entrance.

Starling Bar

After our light dinner, we walked around town and then biked back to our hotel. From there we walked only a few hundred feet to the Starling Bar. They had gourmet cocktails, of which I enjoyed their House Gin and Tonic, and Abby had their Manhattan. We then walked to the patio and were able to catch a final song from a talented and rowdy guitarist covering Hey Jude by the Beatles. Abby and I lounged outside for a while, and munched on their homemade bacon beef jerky and pimento cheese, both of which were amazing.

Day 3 - Sunday, March 28 2021


Abby and enjoyed yet another great breakfast at the Cinnamon Bear Creekside Inn. This morning we were served eggs benedict with a side of diced fried potatoes. We thoroughly enjoyed our meal, cleaned up our room, and checked out.

We then headed to the Sonoma Bike Path for a laid back bike ride through Sonoma. The trail took us across town, and we biked past vineyards, houses, and mansions. We also saw a vineyard that grew cactus on the periphery as a form of natural barbed wire! It was a great way to see town in a non-commercial way, at a slower pace than in a car.

We also witnessed some extreme road rage where a man in a truck got out of his truck and threw down a motorcyclist and starting wailing on him. I caught some of what happened on video, but it seemed like the motorcyclist was ok because the man was punching him in the helmet. The police arrived and went after the man in the truck, and we later saw the motorcyclist drive away and he seemed ok.

We made our way back to Buena Vista Winery to purchase some wine and to run through their maze. We ran into Brandon again and he asked us about our stay while he checked us out.

Lagunitas Brewery

Our final stop was in Petaluma, CA, at the Lagunitas brewery. We waited in line for about 30 minutes, but it was well worth the wait. I had a flight of beers, and sampled the following:

  • Hazy Wonder - a great hazy IPA that was my favorite of the flight. Citrusy, juicy and easy to drink!
  • Disorderly Teahouse - a unique raspberry tea flavored beer. Very light and fruity.
  • Nectaron - a light IPA made with plum, although I didn't taste it too much.
  • Tasty Lager - a fairly traditional lager.

We enjoyed our food, as well as the ambiance of the Lagunitas "beer sanctuary".

Last Notes

Our Wine Haul

For the wines we took home, we purchased 2 of each of our favorites from each winery:

  • Buena Vista Winery - 2016 Sparkling Brut Blanc de Blancs - a wonderful sparkling wine
  • Rancho Maria - 2019 Rosé of Petite Sirah - a flavorful yet gentle rosé
  • Pangloss Cellars - 2019 White Wine - a mild blend and easy to drink blend of many white wines

Impact of COVID on Sonoma Businesses

The innkeepers, bartenders, and wine servers all said it seems like a floodgate has been opened for business, as COVID cases decline from the winter peak(s) and vaccines continue to be distributed. All of the businesses we patronized took COVID protocols seriously and I hope things can continue to steadily reopen.

Gratefulness and Privelege

Overall, Abby and I had a wonderful time getting out of the bay area to tour Sonoma, California. We are both very grateful that we are able to afford such a luxury as wine tasting in Sonoma, and its significance is not lost on us.

Zach Bellay published on

11 min, 2035 words