In addition to spending time in Napa, we also explored its less glamorous neighbor Sonoma. There are decidedly fewer people, lower wine-tasting expenses (including a couple of places that offer complimentary tastings), but also more muted scenery. The latter was not aided by the fact that the weather turned drab on the day we drove to Sonoma Valley.
Nonetheless, we visited some fantastic properties, starting with the gorgeous Chateau St-Jean.
Halloween was approaching and the decorations were fitting.
The grounds of the winery incorporate all elements of the gardens of European royal palaces.
There is also a mini-vineyard right in the center of the gardens, with different varietals signposted.
The wine tasting here was fine – but it was hard to leave the place without one more last look. And then another one.
VJB Cellars offered a different experience – that of having a lunch on a small Italian piazza.
By the time we reached Imagery Estates, the rain was making everything look dull. I took a dozen different pictures of this weathervane that was the liveliest part of the scenery, but none came out too well.
And by the time we reached Buena Vista Winery, the rain completely chased everybody from quite remarkable grounds to the interior of the tasting room.
Here is the view of the room from its upper level.
There is quite an exhuberance and Wild West decadence in the decorations of the upper floor.
Buena Vista holds the distinction of being the oldest California wine estate. Here is another room in its tasting center, reserved for special groups.
In yet another room, the table is set for a more in-depth sit-down affair.
This vintage vehicle marks the parking lot of the Fremont Diner, a fantastic small eatery that brings out nostalgia for all things 20th-century.
The second oldest winery in California is Gundlach Bundschu. Try pronouncing that! In fact, they offer a souvenir that suggests a way of proving one’s sobriety.
This estate is in the running for the most colorful wine labels (Imagery is another contender, but I did not take a good picture there).
Another vintage vehicle, on the grounds of Gundlach Bundschu.
An Italianate fountains and suitable landscape at Jacuzzi Estates.
Sonoma Valley can surely hold its own in comparison with Napa.