Santa Rosa, California: We had planned to drive into The City (aka, San Francisco) and eat Peking Duck at the R&G Lounge. That was our plan, but when we checked the traffic, we realized sitting in stop-and-go bumper-to-bumper cars was not our idea of a fun time. With the sun beginning to shine, we decided to make a circular route through wine country, which would provide an opportunity for me to visit a few of my favorite shops to stock-up on groceries and pantry staples… and dine well.
Our first stop was to the cute little town of Healdsburg. We had a walk around the town square and split a sandwich… so we could continue grazing the rest of the day.
DT poses with a millstone from 1847
Another nice stroll after lunch – up and down the streets of Healdsburg. This town seems to have an over-abundance of women’s clothing boutiques. Window shopping only today!
Our next stop was to another adorable town, Calistoga. We had camped in Calistoga Fairgrounds about 100 years ago, so we went to see the RV park again. It isn’t exactly the Motorcoach Country Club, but it is certainly a lot nicer than the joint we have been parked in the past five days.
Calistoga Water (Get it? I’m so funny.)
Roses in bloom
Every time we come to Calistoga, we visit the local grocer, CalMart. It is a super-small place, but has the most amazing variety of fresh foods, meats, fancy groceries, and absolutely one of the finest local (and international) selection of cheeses in wine country.
About half of the cheese selection at the CalMart in Calistoga.
We bought fresh veggies and a local goat cheese with figs – doesn’t that sound wonderful?
(PS: We had a cooler + ice packs in the Jeep.)
Next stop: St. Helena, where we visited the Model Bakery to purchase their famous English muffins, before traipsing up and down the main street – more window shopping.
English muffins from Model Bakery in St. Helena (they are also in Napa).
If you have time to shop/walk around only one adorable little village in California wine country, go to St. Helena. Really quaint. The shops are local. You could spend two hours in the hardware store.
By now, we were ready for a little rest and realized we had been in the Napa area for five days, but had yet to visit a vineyard. Is this even legal? Of course we stopped at Chandon. We did not do a tasting. We simply bought two flutes of bubbly and sat outside in the sunshine, enjoying the day. It was 67° this afternoon.
We keep returning again and again to the same restaurants, vineyards and shops. I know many people would think we are in a rut, but we like what we like and feel our old haunts are good ruts.
Chandon Brut – $10
After our refreshment, we took a stroll around the gardens and, of course, My Driver wanted to take photos of me:
Next stops were in Napa – Rancho Gordo for dried beans, and then on to Les Schwab to have the Jeep tires topped-off and replacement wiper blades installed. Apparently wiper blades do not do well without use for weeks at a time in hot sun (i.e. Indio). No kidding, we were not at the tire shop 10 minutes and both chores were accomplished. We always highly recommend Les Schwab (we even bought our bus tires at Les Schwab in Junction City, Oregon).
Grapes, as far as the eye can see.
Since we are in wine country, what is going on with the local grapes in May? Most of the vines have leafing-out well and grape clusters (called berries) have appeared:
Another interesting thing a tourist will notice in wine country are all the beautiful rose bushes planted at the end of the rows of grapes. People mistakenly assume they are to attract bees to pollinate the grapes. Wrong! From my vast knowledge of
viticulture botany wine making… oh, heck, I just remember this random stuff from the food & wine tour I took in 2008… roses are planted near grapes vines because both plants thrive in the same type of soil, and if the rose bush begins to look unhealthy, it is an instant signal to the grape growers that something – like a fungus – is present and could harm the vines/grapes. Anyway, grape berries are hermaphroditic, so can pollinate themownselves. Mother Nature wouldn’t leave something as important as wine grapes to bees!
It was now getting close to 6p and we were getting hungry (after our early lunch, and window-shop-walking around several towns). I called another of our favorite restaurants and booked a last-minute table at one of the hottest spots in Sonoma – The Girl & The Fig. Only our fifth time here, but every meal has been memorable. We were seated at the exact same table for the third time! (Maybe it is the table reserved for appropriately-attired middle-aged couples?)
We shared an appetizer of breakfast radishes, served with an anchovy-butter dip, then shared the salad special – grilled peaches with endive and burrata and walnuts:
I had the appetizer portion of duck confit – served with potatoes and fava beans
My Driver had risotto with spring peas – and pea sprout garnish.
After dinner? Yet another stroll around yet another adorable town square, and we returned to our motorcoach for the night.
Only one more dinner reservation in our future, so our fridge is now well-stocked for
an apocalypse our continued journey north.
Until my next update, I remain, your whirlwind correspondent.
RV PARK: Sonoma County Fair RV Park. It is a gravel parking lot with not even one single pull-through site. Full-service 50 amp. We are paying $40.50 per night, after Good Sam discount.