Wine Country / by Michael Durr

Everett Ridge was our first stop of the trip. We rented bikes in Healdsburg and climbed the winding driveway up to this quaint little winery. The views from the tasting room & deck were stunning, you could see all of the Dry Creek Valley. The winery was very relaxed and we met some locals who raved about the wine. They definitely weren't lying!  

After being on our bikes for a bit, we decided to stop at Lambert Bridge. As we were walking up, we got to see the winemakers crushing the harvest grapes. When we walked in, we were greeted by one of the winery dogs, a St. Bernard, sleeping soundly on the floor. They had such beautiful grounds and they even let us taste freshly picked cabernet grapes.

A friend of ours recommended lunch at the Francis Ford Coppola winery. People had warned that Coppola was the "Las Vegas of wineries" in Napa, but after a long bike trek over a mountain, food was definitely a requirement. We snagged a great seat on the patio and ordered a few glasses of wine. We ended up each getting pizza and had plenty left over! It was one of the best pizzas we've had outside of New York. After lunch we toured the movie museum where a lot of Coppola's Oscars, props and memorabilia are on display.

After we got rained out from Mike's Surprise Hot Air Balloon Ride, we had a tasting at Goosecross. A co-worker had highly recommended stopping here and I'm glad we did. The staff was super relaxed and very accommodating. We ended up talking with a Florida couple on their honeymoon for a bit before leaving with our bottle of wine.

Lindsay's boss has been to wine country numerous times. The one thing she said we had to do was visit the Kuleto Winery. It was the most expensive tasting of our trip, but it was worth it! After driving around a lake and halfway up a mountain, we buzzed the winery to let them know we had arrived. They opened the gates and said to take our time getting to the top. The road to the winery was one lane and laced up and down the mountain. We were greeted by the winery dog - Pilot. The tasting included a tour of the estate. The views from the top of the mountain make you feel like you've been transported to Italy - it is truly breath-taking. Pilot joined us for the tour and showed off his grape picking skills in the process. The tour ends in their tasting room overlooking the wine bins where we realized one of the couples on the tour lives in Arlington Heights. We headed down the scary mountain road with two bottles of wine, a ton of stunning photographs and one incredible memory.

Bella was Mike's personal favorite. When we arrived we read a sign that said "Welcome to Bella. Tasting begins in the CAVE." We walked down a long dark cave to find a dude that looked like he did not sleep. He even mentioned that he was not suppose to work that morning, but despite his state he still chatted with us and gave us a few extra pours of some delicious wine. After the tasting we spent a few minutes touring the grounds, watching the winemakers and setting up timer shots with the camera.

We walked up to Iron Horse Winery about 30 minutes before it was due to close. Fortunately, our pourer was incredible and allowed us to taste multiple sparkling wines from their many collections. They supply their sparkling wines not only to the White House, but also to the Queen for special occasions. It was the only sparkling wine tasting we did, but it was so nice to have a break from “regular wine.” The view was absolutely stunning and we left with a bottle of sparkling wine & a delicious Pinot Noir to ship home.

A few of the other notable wineries consisted of Benzinger, where Lindsay knew one of the event managers, and we were taken on a private tour of the grounds which consisted of an awesome meeting space and a very cool cave that you could reserve for events. Preston was a little place with great people. It was like walking into a small town shop. We enjoyed some wine and fresh baked bread and hung out with some of their cats. Silverado had cool decor, but the the pourers seemed a little pretentious for our taste so we did not spend much time there. Ferrari-Carano was beautiful, but we were getting wined out by the time we got there and decided to skip the tasting. They did have an awesome garden with cork trees and statues that were cool to see.

Overall, wine country is an amazing place. I think we were there at the perfect time of year and can not say one bad thing about the trip.

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