Rock Canyon Vineyards

A winery tour and tasting is always a great way to spend an afternoon. However, it’s hard to top a tour and tasting shared with loved ones in a beautiful, rustic setting. Add to that some remarkable wines, rescued animals and a skinny-dipping three year old, and you have a perfect afternoon! That is exactly how we spent last Monday afternoon in Alpine, CA to celebrate our dear sister’s birthday. The winery is Rock Canyon Vineyards and Tim, owner and winemaker, was our host.

When we arrived, we were greeted by an enthusiastic chorus of dogs who escorted us through our tour and tasting. Our first stop was the barrel room where we sampled the delicious wines. Winemaker Tim makes red wines, we learned that it is too hot in that area to grow white wine grapes. First we tasted the Dos En Uno, a delicious, full bodied red blend that goes down way too easy. We also tasted a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Merlot and an amazing Zinfandel that is jammy and full of fruit. The final flourish was a rich port that would pair perfectly with dark chocolate. Tim is generous with the pours and offers seconds and thirds if needed to be sure you get the full effect.

Our next stop was where the newly picked grapes were placed in large vats to begin their journey into wine. Tim had been up at 4 am that morning picking grapes, and he gave us a taste of the juice from the fresh harvest. It was a hit with everyone including the kids in our group.

Our next stop was to visit the rescued animals. Glasses in hand, we met donkeys, Brutus the pig, and three beautiful horses.

Tim also has an eclectic collection of interesting items including a London taxi cab, an old west style wagon, many signs and plaques, a horseshoe coat hanger and much more.

At this point he and the dogs escorted us to a covered area by the pool where we spent the rest of the afternoon with some more wine and a delicious picnic.

Tours at Rock Canyon are by appointment only, the link at the beginning of this blog has the information for scheduling a tour.

I think it’s safe for me to say that everyone in my family would recommend a visit to this winery, including the youngest member of our group, who immensely enjoyed skinny-dipping in the pool.

Sonoma County Wine Tasting

Every few years my husband and I take a trip to Sonoma County to collect wine. We do quite a lot of entertaining and enjoy finding new and interesting wines to share with our guests. And Sonoma County is a great place to do just that. Over the years we have found many lovely wines there that you will not find in your local grocery or liquor store.

We start our trip by flying to San Francisco or Oakland, renting a car and heading straight to Healdsburg. This small, quaint town has, on multiple occasions, won the award for one of the top ten best towns in America. The town square with a park in the center will make you feel like you’re stepping back in time. There are shops, tasting rooms, art galleries, and restaurants all around and off the square.

One of our favorite restaurants is Dry Creek Kitchen. Chef Charlie Palmer offers innovative, creative and delicious items in an elegant, yet comfortable setting. The menu includes a wide variety of items, including some plant based options.

Another one of our other favorite restaurants in Healdsburg is Bravas Tapas, also located right on the square. This is a fun and lively place for tapas and paella. Barndiva, located just off the square, also has delicious fare from their family farm, and other local producers. This farm to table restaurant is in a picturesque setting with indoor and outdoor seating.

Soda Rock is one of our favorite wineries in the county, and one of the oldest wineries in the area. The historic building was the site of the original Alexander Valley general store and post office.

My husband likes to find what he calls “dirt road wineries.” As the name implies, we find them at the end of dirt roads and off the beaten path. One such winery is Martorana Family Winery. They have been making wines for many years, starting in Italy, before settling in Dry Creek Valley. They have a California organic certification, and in addition to delicious wines, they also make olive oil.

Tough decision!

Bella Winery another small, family run winery is located off the beaten path and offers delicious zinfandels in a rural setting.

We visited the Toad Hallow tasting room just off the square in Healdsburg. Toad Hallow was founded by Todd Williams, the brother of Robin Williams. The story told to us by the tasting room employee is this; apparently when Robin was young he called his brother “Toad” rather then “Todd,” thus the name of the winery. However, that is not confirmed on the website. Hmm, anyway, their wines are delicious and incredibly affordable. Sadly, both Todd and Robin have passed away. The winery is run now by Todd’s wife, Frankie Williams.

The Sonoma county area is a gorgeous place to visit, I want to stop at every bend and turn in the road to take photos.

When visiting wineries, be sure to have a designated driver, or take a tour. Better to be safe than have any problems. There are many companies that offer tours, vans, etc, so you don’t have to drive.

Have you visited Sonoma County? If so, please leave a comment below with your favorite wineries.