Wanderlust: California Dreaming

On chilly January days, it’s easy for me to recall the warm days of California that I experienced this summer. I’m lucky enough to have a grandmother who lives in “the golden state”, and even luckier to have visited her this past year. Before I started my job, my mom decided to whisk me away on a mini-vacation filled with sunshine, Sonoma, and reading Steinbeck.

We decided the big highlight of the trip would be traveling to Sonoma for a few days. I was so excited to spend time with my mother and grandmother on this trip. It’s very unique to go wine tasting and exploring with three generations! My mother arranged the day with a guide that would take us to four various wineries, each known for something different. I really want to share my experiences at two with you.

The first was called Petroni Vineyards, nestled into mountains right outside Sonoma. We sat outside and sampled different wines, all while taking in the gorgeous scenery of vineyards within their valleys. They also mentioned they are currently developing storing their wines within caves, relying on the landscape even further. Petroni was unique because the views, but I loved the experience of relaxing outdoors and trying new things. I would highly recommend checking this Vineyard out, despite the two mile drive to the top on very narrow roads!

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A view from our tasting spot.

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When I started this trip I was purely a fan of white wines, but then our host poured a Petroni’s Cabernet Sauvignon. Thus began my love affair with red wine.

The other winery I really want to talk about is called Benziger Family Winery, a vineyard known for their techniques in organic farming. For some of you, I can guess exactly what you’re thinking. (Isn’t this the girl who boycotted Chipotle for six months because of their anti-agriculture campaigns? Why are you talking about organic wine making?) Here’s the thing; Benziger was a great experience because I learned more about organic agriculture from the standpoint of a guide who understands that green farming is not applicable for everyone. I repeat—this guide knew that going organic doesn’t work in all places for all people! My mother’s ears perked up as soon as she heard the mention of “biodynamic”, and fired off tons of agriculture related questions. Our guide here was fantastic. He informed us that Benziger was located on a site unique even to the Sonoma region. Their farm sat in a round valley formed by a volcanic explosion that occurred millions of years ago, and as result, had high deposits of nutrients in the soil. In short, the guide told us that the soil, formation of the land, and even the drainage specific to this vineyard made it possible to have a business rooted in organic farming.

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A photo from our tour at Benziger.

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His small farm was only two miles away, yet he couldn’t grow grapes without relying on some of the same practices that my family, too, must use in the middle of Western Kansas. There has been such a negative view of production agriculture lately due to the media and a lack of education in the general public. It was such a pleasure to hear about wine-making from the standpoint of someone who is pro-organic and, for lack of a better term, pro-GMO. I think both practices can work hand-in-hand, and I hope that more of society learns to adopt this ideology.

Other highlights of our trip to Sonoma included lots of tasting adventures such as checking out the gorgeous Sunflower Café, enjoying crepes in the town square one evening, and a delicious dinner featuring lamb!

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After a few days of wine-tasting and relaxing by the pool, one of my most memorable experiences was checking out The Fremont Diner. We had heard raving reviews in Sonoma about this place, and as we pulled up to the small, white-washed building with a tin-roof, my mother remembered seeing it featured on the Food Network. Bordering notoriously high-end Napa, it was a breath of fresh air to walk into a small diner with a tin roof and a rusted pick-up out front. I ordered the Chicken & Waffles, and adored the classic mason jars! If you have the chance to check out this little place, it is well worth the wait!

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So, here you have my trip to Sonoma (and a lesson in my beliefs on agriculture practices to accompany it). Hope you all are finding a way to stay warm, even if you’re not California Dreaming like me.

Cheers!

Taylor

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