Tag Archives: Carneros

The Honeymooners – Flanagan, then Begin Again

21 Jul

This is the day that we had been waiting for, the day for our big wine tour. I had scheduled a driver to take us to different wineries in the area. This way we could taste all we wanted. The plan was for the driver to pick out some places for us, but the first one was somewhere we had discovered through some friends.

When we were planning our honeymoon into wine country, some people in town said that we had to check out Flanagan Wines, a small vineyard that required a recommendation to visit. A few weeks earlier, I contacted the winery and received permission to visit. We fooled the driver on this one. She had never heard of it and, honestly, had a hard time finding it. However, we made it to the gate, of which I had the security code, and we drove up the hill to our destination. This is the view from the front door.Honeymoon 025

During the tour, we saw the wine-producing area and walked through the caves filled with barrels. It was a true learning experience because we had the place to ourselves and could ask any question. To me, the most fascinating information was how the weather changes from valley to valley. This means that each valley is better at producing a different wine. After the tour, we had a tasting while we looked out toward the rolling hills.

From this point, the tour belonged to our driver, and her best destination was a small market that made fresh sandwiches. Her winery choices left something to be desired. Laxton was the first. It was in a metal building and not as picturesque as the ones we had already seen. Flanagan had a modern feel while Inglenook was historically beautiful.Honeymoon 022

Laxton had a warehouse feel. By this time, we were pretty well buzzed, and that means my wallet will loosen up. I bought a t-shirt, and Necole bought a couple of bottles of wine. The wine maker, who used to work at the national laboratory in Oak Ridge, signed the bottles. It was later when we realized that they had twist off tops instead of corks.

We went to a couple of more, but I don’t remember their names. I remember that they were very touristy and that I felt bad for people who went to these and thought they were getting the wine country experience. I know that there are others, but nothing we saw could compare to Inglenook and Flanagan.

Upon our return to the hotel, Necole and I went to the pool. I chose the shady nap, and she chose the sun. At one point, we had a very deep discussion about human behavior. While people watching, I wondered out loud why women wear cover ups at the pool but tan in their bikinis. I thought about this as I watched several men walk by a young woman on a deck chair. Each one of them stared at her as he walked by. What’s the point in the cover up if it is going to be taken off?

Necole said that the men shouldn’t have been staring at the woman. I replied that she didn’t know men very well, then. Since men are going to stare at a woman who is asleep on a deck chair, then she may as well leave the cover up at home.

Eventually, we got up and readied ourselves for dinner at Carneros. The dessert was so good the night before that we decided to try the other food. It was great, too.

The Honeymooners – An Offer We Couldn’t Refuse

20 Jul

Day 4 of the honeymoon was supposed to be a day of rest. I promised Necole that we would have some pool time, and this seemed like the right place. The weather was warm and the pool chairs looked comfortable. However, plans changed when one of Necole’s friends suggested a winery for us to visit. Luckily, we were able to get a midday tour and tasting.

We drove to the Inglenook Chateau, owned by Francis Ford Coppola, and it was what one would imagine when they think about a winery. Of course, our idea of a California winery comes from Falcon Crest, the old television series. Walking up, I expected to see Jane Wyman at any moment.Honeymoon 017

The tour guide took us through the wine making process at Inglenook. He also took us through its history as one of the area’s great vineyards until it fell into decay under corporate ownership. Coppola saved it with money from The Godfather and has spent decades bringing the estate and wine to its former glory.

After the tour, we tasted fantastic wines and spent a few dollars shipping some of it home. The tour and tasting whetted our appetites, and the guide suggested the Rutherford Grill, which sat across the street. When Necole and I sat down, we both commented that the restaurant reminded us of Houston’s, a place that used to be in Nashville.

Later, I found out that the Rutherford Grill and a lot of other restaurants in California are owned by the Houston’s corporation. It began and was headquartered in Nashville until the owners decided that they were too good for us. They would probably find it interesting that Nashville has one of the nation’s best food scenes and has dozens of restaurants better than the ones they own.

Anyway, I am getting off track. We returned to the hotel and made it to the pool. I got under a cabana and took a nap while Necole got some sun. It was late in the afternoon, and we learned from experience that the Sonoma temperature changed quickly as the sun goes down.

Soon, it was time to eat again. As you can tell, we did a lot of eating on this honeymoon. This time we wanted some casual and laid back, so we went to Mary’s Pizza Shack on the plaza. It was as good as any other pizza, but my focus wasn’t on the food. My mind kept going over the history that was around me.

I had read that this plaza was an important part of the Bear Flag Rebellion, when California declared its independence from Mexico and asked to become part of the United States. That’s the simple version. Like all things, reality is a bit more complicated. I won’t use this post to provide a history lesson because that’s not what I was thinking about while eating pizza.

I was thinking that President James K. Polk, from Columbia, Tennessee, wanted to bring California into the fold and used every means necessary to get that done. I was also thinking about Peter Burnett, native Tennessean and California’s first governor. I was wondering if the people of California realize the role Tennesseans played in the history of their state.

After dinner, we went back to the hotel and found ourselves wanting more. With this in mind, we went to Carneros, a place that was recommended by one of my Twitter friends. We sat at the chef’s bar and watched them work in the open kitchen. Necole had an awesome creme brulee, and I had a so-so cookie concoction.

The day was great, and I realized that the Tennessee guys who moved Houston’s could not have gone to California if some other Tennessee guys had not gotten it in the first place.