TRIP REPORT: Getaway to California Wine Country

In Alaska Travelgram by scott

Looking over Gracianna’s “Mercedes Riverblock” vineyard in the early morning sun.

We took a quick getaway to California’s Sonoma County, in the heart of the region’s wine country. YES, there was wine. Also some food…and we got the recipe.

Getting there. Our first choice was to fly in/out of Oakland. Alaska Air’s schedules are good, but it’s still at least a one-hour drive up to Santa Rosa.  So we traded those tickets in and opted to burn some miles to fly in to Charles Schultz Airport (STS)…just 10 miles from our destination. 

COST: 35,000 miles each (x2) Below: we arrived in STS on a E-175 RJ operated by Skywest, flying Alaska’s colors.

Getting around. Rental cars are still expensive.  We trimmed $100 off the cost of a car by renting from

A Place to Stay. We spent most of our time at Gracianna Winery. Trini and Lisa Amador are longtime friends. They have a wonderful loft above the tasting room that looks over the vineyard. Did I mention that it’s right above the tasting room? Where you can….wait for it….buy some of Gracianna’s award-winning Pinot Noir? Mm-hmm. From $235 per night on Air BnB.

Gracianna. Wine for people with something to be thankful for. #Gratitude

The wine. Part of my job is to check out the wine, as well as Lisa’s new cookbook “Basquo”. This is a Basque-inspired cookbook that’s now in its third printing.

Lisa’s new cookbook!

Good Pinot Noir goes with everything. The 2019  “Resilience” Pinot Noir is no exception. Lovely wine. Lisa also was pouring some other wines, including some tasty Pinot Noir from their neighbors at Arista Winery and Desmond Vineyards.

Lisa prepares a Classic Basque Seafood Piperade (recipe from her cookbook).

For dinner, Lisa chose two recipes. The first was our main course, a Classic Basque Seafood Piperade. Lisa made this right in front of us….chopping those peppers, tomatoes and onions. I got to chop up some of the fish. DEE-LISH.

For dessert, Lisa uncovered a delicious Lemon Blueberry Tart that she’d prepared earlier.  It’s also in the cookbook (altho’ a super-sized chunk is in my belly).

The next day…more eating, drinking and exploring.

We slept in after our big travel day…but got back in the saddle for a journey across the mountains to Napa County. Our destination: the Napa Valley Olive Oil Company .

Folks, this place is the real deal. There is all manner of Italian fancy foods in the old barn that is their HQ. 

Family owned-and-operated since 1931,this place is one-of-a-kind.

We went STRAIGHT for the olive oil. though. You can buy the olive oil by the jug (a growler, really)…or in smaller bottles that will fit in your checked luggage (that’s what we did).

In St. Helena, we stopped to visit friends at the Farmstead Restaurant. Christy got the grits (v-e-r-y different from the grits down south, tho’). I opted for the BBQ plate with brisket, ribs, cole slaw and mac-n-cheese. **urp**

We took so long to catch up w/our friends that we ended up ordering dessert + coffee! The “Big Easy” beignets were a hit…because of the bourbon caramel sauce. YUM. But the coup de grâce = Scharffen Berger Chocolate Cream Pie. Whoa.

We had to cut our journey to Napa short and head back to Sonoma. We freshened up at the house and met Trini and Lisa at “Guiso”, a “Latin Fusion” restaurant in beautiful downtown Healdsburg, CA.

Trini is passing out the Cubano Sliders from Guiso!

The forward to Lisa’s cookbook is by Guiso’s Chef, Carlos Mojica. He also contributed a special lamb-and-squash recipe. YUMM.

There were five of us at dinner, including Trini’s dad who lives nearby. Trini asked if he could order….and we all said “YES”…and we had a delicious family-style meal, including:

Camote Endulzado— oven-roasted sweet and savory butternut squash. 

Pupusa —Homemade Yellow corn dough, curtido slaw,Guiso tomato sauce + pork revuelitas

Media Noche Cubanitos— Cuban sliders (pictured, above). homemade sweet rolls, mojo marinated pork shoulder, roasted ham, swiss cheese and some kinda secret sauce!

Plus SHRIMP (yum!), enchiladas de hongos (dee-lish!) and some other goodies.

VINO: Gracianna 2019 Resilience Pinot Noir.

Honestly, I barely got my seatbelt back on. 

Slept like a rock.

Trini and Lisa Amador

We got up the next morning to pack…headed off to Healdsburg to see it in the light…lovely town. 

Then, back to the airport and home to shovel some snow in ANC!

Make plans to visit Sonoma County and discover some restaurants and wineries of your own. FYI, Gracianna’s tasting room opens in April!  

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