Tag Archives: napa valley

7 Places You May Want to See in Northern California

If you’ve wanted to visit Northern California, here are 7 spots you may want to visit:

  1. Sonoma and Napa Valley
  2. Bodega Bay
  3. Fort Ross
  4. Armstrong Redwoods
  5. Mount Shasta
  6. Muir Woods Redwoods
  7. Stinson Beach

Sonoma and Napa Valley

If you’re in the mood for wine tasting, consider making Sonoma your hub. Cheaper than staying in Napa, it has amazing wineries and is a short 25 minute drive to Napa. A couple of our favorite wineries in Sonoma were Jacuzzi and B. R. Cohen.

Jacuzzi Winery in Sonoma
B. R. Cohn — Owned by legendary manager of the Doobie Brothers band

Since we were staying 3 weeks, we rented a beautifully appointed rental home situated on a couple of acres surrounded by vineyards. We would wake up each morning to hot air balloons and jack rabbits scouting food among the vineyards.

This was the view we woke up to each day:

Notice the hot air balloon in the horizon

We also visited Napa. One of our favorite spots to visit is Frog’s Leap. Not for the wine so much, but for the farm surrounding the winery — it is beautifully done.

It also has some reasonably priced golfing — some built around vineyards. I golfed Eagle Vines Golf Course and the 2 pm tee time cost less than $30. Most tee boxes had views of vineyards that can be reached with your drive if not careful.

Bodega Bay

Just an hour drive from Sonoma is Bodega Bay — the iconic beach town where Alfred Hitchcock shot the 1963 movie “The Birds”. A coastal town, we rented a beach front house with amazing views.

Although it is about 20 degrees colder than Sonoma (in the 60’s), it was nice to wake up with these views.

The Links at Bodega Harbour offers spectacular views of the bay — this was a really fun golf course to play and if you play after noon, it’s not very expensive.

There are ample hiking opportunities in Bodega Bay, here was our view from one of our hikes.

Fort Ross

We decided to drive north along the coast from Bodega Bay and we stumbled on Fort Ross. This was a great find, an old fort built my the Russians who occupied this land from 1812 to 1841. If you are in this area, it is certainly worth a stop.

Armstrong Redwoods

In less than 45 minutes, you can drive from Bodega Bay to the Armstrong Redwoods. This impressive park has lots of huge redwoods and fun hikes.

Mount Shasta

If you’re feeling adventurous, take a 5 hour ride north to Mount Shasta. We dedicated a weekend to it. It is a beautiful mountain with great hiking but it also is a sacred site because it is a Chakra Center of Gaia. Just like our bodies, Earth reportedly has seven chakras, or energy processing centers and Mount Shasta is one.

While we were there, I was practicing creating long exposure shots with my iPhone and I took this picture on one of the hikes. Long exposure gives water a silky look. If you want to learn how to do this — shoot me an email.

Muir Woods Redwoods

Even more impressive than Armstrong Redwoods is Muir Woods Redwoods. This park is much bigger and you must purchase a ticket before you get there (you can do this online). It has miles of trails via boardwalk — if you are in the area, this is a must!

Stinson Beach

A short distance from Muir Woods is Stinson Beach — a beach with a bohemian vibe. If you are in the area, it’s worth hanging out here for a few days.

A couple of days in Napa Valley

We spent the past 2 days in Napa Valley seeing the awesome landscapes and visiting the wineries.  Anyone that knows me knows that I like wine but I am not a sophisticated wine drinker.  But I did learn more about wine during this trip.

We made it to Napa!

We made it to Napa!

First of all, I learned that when you go to dinner and order wine and they allow you to taste it before pouring a full glass that it has a reason.  I always thought it was to determine if the wine tasted good.  Nope.  Wine that has a cork can actually have a fouled cork which causes the wine to go bad.  If that happens, it tastes like wet cardboard or wet dog.  Yep, I said wet dog.  So the small pour is to allow you to detect if the cork was fouled and if so, you can send it back.

Robert Mondavi Winery

Our first tour was the Robert Mondavi Winery.  Here we learned how making red wines are vastly different than white wines.  With red wines, they ferment with the grape skins which gives them the red color.  They normally ferment twice in oak barrels for a time span of about 18 months.  With white wines, they press the juice out of the skins and they are also fermented twice, once in oak barrels and again in steel canisters.

Mandovi Winery

Mondavi Winery

Red wines fermenting

Red wines fermenting

After visiting Mondavi, we were famished. We had lunch at the iconic Mustards, the food was incredible.

Mustards

Mustards

Inglenook Winery

Our next stop was the Inglenook Winery.  It is owned by Francis Ford Coppola, the creator of the movie “The Godfather”.  The winery has a museum that is free to visit but the wine tasting was spendy — $50 per person.  We decided to just visit the museum, but the grounds were incredible.

Inglenook Winery

Inglenook Winery

Inglenook Winery

Inglenook Winery

Sterling Winery

We were told that Sterling was the Disney World winery because it sits atop a mountain and you must take a gondola to visit.  It met that criteria and also had incredible architecture.  It has a very Mediterranean look, you feel as if you are in Greece. Their tour is self guided and really well done.  Because it is audio/video, it puts images to the stories told by other tours.

Sterling Winery

Sterling Winery

Sterling Winery

Sterling Winery

Sterling Winery

Sterling Winery – shot from the gondola

Beaulieu Vineyard

This was probably our favorite winery in terms of taste, their reds really have a nice flavor.

BV Winery

BV Winery

BV Winery

BV Winery

Domaine Chandon

We started day 2 with a champagne tasting.  This was our first taste of bubbly and was a good place to start.

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Domaine Chandon – The Bubbly

Rutherford Hill Winery

Our next stop was at Rutherford Hill.  They store their wine in a cave for fermenting so it was really fun to visit.  They also have a link with the show The TopChef, so it was interesting to hear that they shot some episodes there.

Rutherford Hill Winery

Rutherford Hill Winery

Rutherford Hill Winery

Rutherford Hill Winery – The Caves

Rutherford Hill Winery

Rutherford Hill Winery – The Caves

They had a special class of wine called Episodes.  The cost is $200 a bottle, but you could taste it for $10.

Rutherford Hill Winery

Rutherford Hill Winery

Frogs Leap

Our final wine tasting for the day was Frogs Leap.  It had the best tour, as it is an organic winery where they don’t use pesticides or irrigation.  Everything is done naturally and very methodically.

Frogs Leap Winery

Frogs Leap Winery

The grounds were incredible, they keep their fermenting barrels in a barn.

Frogs Leap Winery

Frogs Leap Winery

Frogs Leap Winery

Frogs Leap Winery

Frogs Leap Winery

Frogs Leap Winery

Frogs Leap Winery

Frogs Leap Winery

The wine maker’s dog went along with the tour, she was very sweet!

Castello di Amorosa

Our final stop for the day (no wine tasting) was at a castle. It was really beautiful, we just visited the grounds.

Castello di Amorosa

Castello di Amorosa

Castello di Amorosa

Castello di Amorosa

Castello di Amorosa

Castello di Amorosa