I just returned from a trip to Sonoma, CA. While I knew that the trip would be a blast because we were going with great friends and there was wine involved, I didn’t know how much I would take away from this trip. There are 6 things that I learned while in Sonoma wine country that I’d like to share with you. Because I think we all need a little reminder about what’s important. And I’m pretty excited to say that I learned a few things about life while drinking wine with friends.
We stayed at the most amazing Air BNB. It looked like an English estate with the tudor style of the house but it had the most eclectic interior. The garden is what did it. The garden was the most amazing sight! And it was full of vegetables. We picked tomatoes and peppers, eggplant, all the fresh herbs you could think of. Even a pumpkin! There were lemon and lime trees and fava beans hanging from the pergola. I couldn’t believe all of the things that were planted there. The tomatoes were so sweet it was like eating candy. We made breakfast every day with the items planted in the garden. And fresh eggs from the farm down the street.
Then we would head out to dinner, where James Beard winning and Michelin rated chefs cooked up the most amazing farm to table spreads. Everything was locally sourced and grown. Nothing was pumped full of hormones or antibiotics or pesticides. And when it was out, it was out, because nothing was frozen or preserved. Absolutely all of it was amazing. So the fresher the food, the better. It’s better for you, it tastes better and it is better for the environment. Needless to say, I am planning my garden now. It’s time for me to turn this brown thumb green!
It goes back to the fresher, the better principle. When food is fresh and clean, you don’t need lots of seasoning and sauces to jazz it up. The chefs mentioned above knew what to do with all of their ingredients and they let the ingredients speak for themselves. You could taste the meats and the produce in all their glory. Every seasoning just enhanced the natural flavor.
Then for the wine…. Because the natural flavors of the food were allowed to shine through they didn’t overload your palette. They enhanced the flavor of the wine. They made you appreciate each sip. And the wine, in turn, allowed you to appreciate each bite. When we did cheese pairings, the fresh cheeses were practically melting in your mouth and mixed with the wine. Can you tell this was amazing?
We have all heard that we should focus on plating when serving food. But now I really get it. When you over sauce, over season, and over cook food, everything looks like it’s the same color when you serve it. And that kind of stinks! Because when you have a plate of gloriously colorful food in front of you, you want to eat it. When the wine sparkles and is the deep red of a Pinot Noir or the pale yellow of a Chardonnay (the 2 most grown grapes in Sonoma) then you know it’s going to be good.
So, one of the things I learned while in Sonoma is that the most flavorful grapes are a little stressed. They need to go without a little water in order to grow deeper roots, they can’t have sun all the time. Sometimes grapes need to endure some heat and humidity. And some times they just don’t hack it and those grapes will never get turned in to wine. But if you can handle the stress and grow stronger, then you will make a fine wine. This holds true for both people and grapes. Sometimes it is tough out there in the real world, but if you hang in there, deal with the stress and come through the other end, you will be stronger, bolder and able to become the finest wine there is!
As I was sitting outside at our sweet Air BnB taking in all of the sights, I took a deep breath. As I was sitting at the top of a hill overlooking a vineyard with wine in my hand, I took a deep breath. As I was savoring the flavors of a food and wine pairing, I took a deep breath. You know what I never do at home? Take a deep breath….. Why? Because I don’t allow myself to just relax and take in the moment. When we are in our every day activities, we forget to breathe. We forget to be in the moment and thankful for exactly where we are at and what we are doing. But taking in those moments allow you to relax a little, to enjoy what you are doing, to be grateful for the life you have. I tried it just last night as I was sitting there watching my daughter with her pony at the barn. I plan on doing it during a baseball tournament this weekend. Because I have healthy kids and am able to attend their events. And that is pretty amazing. So just breathe, wherever you are, and take it all in.
We tried wines ranging in price from $30 a bottle to $450 a bottle. Seriously. And while that $450 a bottle wine was AMAZING, every bottle was wonderful. Because I was there with great friends. There were lots of laughs and jokes, great stories and time to get to know each other even better than we already did. We danced and ate and played. We were never bored, and we were incredibly happy, each one of us thankful to be in the company of the others.
This trip to Sonoma wine country was one of the best experiences I have ever had. And I can’t say that it was all based on just one thing. Every aspect of this trip was wonderful and I highly recommend taking one yourself. The sights are fantastic and of course, the food and wine are out of this world!