I love to vacation with my wife’s family. Apart from being great people, they are world class when it comes to food and drink. We always have great meals and drink too much, but hey, that’s what vacation is for.
For my wife’s 50th birthday, we rented a couple of houses along the Russian River is Northern California wine country. One of the things my wife really wanted to do is to go on a tour of the wineries, so we set up a day-long trip to three places, Sonoma-Cutrer, Martin Ray, and Hook & Ladder. A small bus from Beau Wine Tours showed up at 10 AM to pick us up, and drive us to the wineries. So no worries about drinking and driving.
So our driver, Eric, knew what side the bread was buttered on, ten of us well-heeled middle-agers, with a bunch of our barely legal-aged kids. So the music selection was all 1970s and 1980s classic rock. The sing-along level went up considerable as we ticked off the wineries. The bus was first class.
First a word about Rick’s expertise where wine is concerned. “None”.
I can hold my own with single-malt scotch, and various craft beers, but that’s about it, so I looked upon this for what it was, a learning experience. Most of my in-laws are pretty wine-savvy, but they didn’t care a fig that some of us weren’t. They were also going to buy a LOT more wine than me, so there you go.
Off to the first vineyard
1. Sonoma-Cutrer, 4401 Slusser Road, Windsor, CA 95492
We drove past miles and miles of grapes before turning into a small paved road.Now this was a classy establishment. The first thing you see are huge croquet courts. I’m waiting for the Queen of Hearts to yell, “Off with their heads!”. We were led into a tasting room overlooking the courts with a huge table laiden with cheese, bread, figs, and all manner of wine-tasting foodstuffs.
So we bought my daughter a pinot as she is a big fan (or at least she says she used to be a fan) and got back on the bus. This place was a bit hoity-toity for my likes, but the next place was great.
2. Martin Ray Winery, 2191 Laguna Road, Santa Rosa, CA 95401
Now this place was a bit more down to earth. Nice shaded picnic tables where we had an excellent lunch, along with a lot of good wine. This time, we got the whole spectrum from the whites, to the roses to the reds. The grapes grew right up to the tasting room, so we walked through the vines seeing the grapes in flower. We spent an enjoyable hour or two and bought a bunch more wine.
Feeling a bit mellow now after a big lunch and several glasses of wine, we bused away to our third and final stop with the out-of-tune strains of Bon Jovi’s Livin’ on a Prayer blasting from the bus to the dismay of the barely-legal children.
3. Hook & Ladder Winery, 2134 Olivet Road, Santa Rosa, CA 95401
Jesus did it all wrong at Cana. The Beau Wine Tour driver did it the right way. You give your guests the good wine first, then when they get good and drunk, you break out “the lesser vintage”. That may be true, but I really loved the Hook & Ladder Winery. It was my kind of place. First, it was all decorated with fire-fighting stuff. Then, they poured us like 100 wines. Anything we wanted, they poured and poured. And the wine was cheaper, too. With my unsophisticated palate, it made no difference to me. So this is the place I bought the most wine.
So off we went home after a long, fun day. My easy-to-please in-laws had a blast, unsophisticated Rick had fun, and the birthday girl could not have had a better time. By the way they give you a steel can to spit out the wine so you don’t get too wasted. I’m proud to say that with my family, these are not needed.
Eric dropped us off, a little wobbly, but none-the-worse for wear. He then was able to take his earplugs out for the ride back to the bus garage.
If you’re in the market for a guided winery tour, consider using Beau Wine Tours. And ask for Eric.