Our Wine Country Anniversary
As of October 24th, my husband and I celebrated our 20th anniversary with a rather large to-do…
We flew to San Francisco.
We stayed in the city two nights, although the first night really shouldn’t count since it was around 2 AM Ohio time and we were like 🙃 after a long evening of travel. But they did leave us a bucket of ice and a bottle of champagne to celebrate, and even though I only drank one glass, it was totally amazing to be treated and welcomed that way.
The Proper recommendations:
Villon, their lobby restaurant - try the overnight oats (AMAZING), and if they still have it, the house made English Muffin. it’s served with salted butter and jam, and at the time we ate there was made using a 7 month starter dough giving it the yummiest, chewiest texture.
The room we stayed in was on the corner of a block so the view was of both sides of the street. Pretty cool if you’re a city lover!
Charmaine’s rooftop bar is open to the city, not just those of us staying at the Proper, but if you do stay there, they take you up via a private elevator and you don’t have to wait in line.
Then we drove to wine country.
From city life in SF, we departed after breakfast on Monday morning to drive to Sonoma Valley and visit wine country. Wine country has long been on my list of must-visit places and I was not disappointed! In fact, I was enthralled. Absolutely gorgeous scenery surrounded us, even though the somewhat charred hillsides were a reminder of the fires in 2017. I guess those reminders were bittersweet. Even though most of the trees were gone and the hills were patchy with bald spots, the vineyards were untouched as were the winery’s buildings themselves.
Our absolute favorite winery to visit was Kunde Family Winery. Mostly because of the vast history they have there - five generations! - and because of the massive amount of land they were sitting on. I believe our guide said two and a half miles, but don’t quote me on that. I was having a lot of wine. 🍷 Speaking of tours, if you have a chance to go to Kunde I can’t recommend the mountaintop tasting enough. Wade was our tour guide and he was great! The epitome of California cool.
Favorite wine: Moon Mountain, a red that will delight your palate, and even though pretty much the most expensive, was worth every last sip.
We also visited Ledson winery, where Stacey who is head hospitality hauncho made us feel welcomed and special. We purchased a few bottles of Old Vines Zinfandel, a rich red, and their most expensive bottle of cabernet that I fell in love with and couldn’t help myself from buying. (Probably that was all the wine, too.) 🍷🤪
Kunde Family Winery’s mountaintop tour is absolutely worth it for the view. Splurge and enjoy yourself. There’s a cave tour, but sadly we missed it since it was closed when we were there.
The movie Bottle Shock was filmed at Kunde (Chris Pine, Alan Rickman, Bill Pullman - need I say more?), and watching it after our visit was surreal! They even kept the boxing ring from the movie which was a set piece.
We found Ledson a little more stuffy than Kunde, but they have amazing wine and an absolutely beautiful “castle” that is worth the trip.
Since vacationing is largely about finding new fun places to have local cuisine, I couldn’t miss a chance to share our outings while we were there. Here are the places we ate and recommended lemons. My scale is 1 lemon through 5, 5 being MUST GO.
Bird and Bottle 🍋🍋🍋🍋
This place was so fantastic! They have small plates, which is always our favorite because then you can try a little of everything and not leave feeling overly stuffed.
Worth trying: Thrice fried potatoes. Crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside and served with french onion dip, these are way better than a plain old French fry!
Skip it: Drinks. We only had still water choosing to save our drink appetites for Russian River Brewery immediately following, but if you have something good from there, I’d love to hear about it!
Russian River Brewery 🍋🍋🍋
From Bird and Bottle we walked the two big blocks to Russian River Brewery which was a nice walk and not bad at all! We were full by then so we didn’t eat, but we did sample every beer they had on tap at the time.
Worth trying: Blind Pig and Pliney the Elder. They are mostly known for Pliney the Elder (and his counterpart, February brew Pliney the Younger) and we were not disappointed! Blind Pig ran a close second to my favorite beer there. If you’re an IPA fan, you can’t go wrong with either.
Skip it: The big sampler. We tried all the beers, leaving the sours undrank - neither of us are fans! But honestly out of the 22 beers we did try we only really loved 5-6. Tell the bartender your favorite type of brew and choose 5 or so to sample and then settle on a pint of your favorite after.
Glen Ellen Star 🍋🍋🍋🍋🍋
The tiny kitchen boasts a wood fire oven and the chefs packing the small space are in full view of the patrons. Reservations are recommended as this place is itty bitty! The food is phenomenal, and the vibe is cozy. Since it was our anniversary we dressed to the nines, but didn’t feel out of place even though guests were wearing more casual wear.
Worth trying: order the vegetables! They’re known for their wood fired veggies and our squash carbonera was superb.
Skip it: the house-made ice cream was just “meh” for us, as good as it was, but if you’re an ice cream junkie maybe you’ll like it more than we did!
Wine Country Chocolates 🍋🍋🍋
An older guy with a lovely accent educated us about chocolate in his tiny shop in Jack London village. When I asked how long he’d been a chocolatier, he told me just 15 years! He purchased the equipment to slow make the chocolate the way the French do, spending 30 HOURS crushing the cocoa nibs into dust instead of the way commercial chocolate makers do, which only takes a matter of minutes. The result is a smooth velvety chocolate and a pretty cool tale of passion. When I asked him what he used to do for a living before he made chocolate, he chuckled and then answered that he used to sell recycled antifreeze, admitting this was a much more fun vocation.
Worth trying: We asked Desmond his favorite and he led us to a Boysenberry honey chocolate that melted in our mouths. I wished I would have let him pick all 7 chocolates, because after we enjoyed that one, we wished we’d have gotten more than one honey!
Skip it: Jack London Village itself consisted of the chocolatier and an Indian restaurant and not much else. I wouldn’t have walked around there if I’d known that, but the chocolate place is worth ducking into.
Salt and Stone 🍋🍋🍋
Since we were mostly full of wine and cheese from a tasting, we didn’t eat much off the Salt and Stone menu even though the list of eats were a gorgeous variety. We sat out on the patio with no waiting at all since it’s October in California and most locals don’t like the nip in the air. Being from the Midwest we found 70-something degrees downright tropical. We had a pretty view of the vines on the hillside and Salt and Stone has a small pond and trees surrounding the outdoor covered patio. We were there for lunch.
Worth trying: The only thing we ate here were the mussels, but they were amazing. Better yet, they brought plenty of crusty bread to dip into the broth.
Skip it: Maybe our palates were ruined, but my Syrah was not worth the cost after the lovely Ledson wines!
Palooza Gastropub 🍋🍋
A basic eatery with basic prices, there really wasn’t anything overly memorable about Palooza. The outdoor seating was nice, and the service superb but the food was good, not great.
Worth trying: The deviled eggs with smoked salmon. A unique treat!
Skip it: The truffle fries were standard and unremarkable.
The Kenwood Inn & Spa gets its own section because of the five-star treatment, gorgeous rooms and second-to-none service, and amazing grounds that made us feel right at home. It helped that my husband upgraded our room when he booked—it was more like an apartment! We spent a lot of time lounging in the garden tub or on the bed with the fireplace lit, which made it the perfect anniversary (or second honeymoon as we called it) getaway.
Also helping: we are not city people! While visiting San Francisco was fun and interesting, we didn't take our first full breath until greeted by California nature.
Included with the room stay was a breakfast that was cooked by a chef and changed every day. This is not your standard buffet! It was also nice not to have to worry about where to eat in the morning.
Also included with the stay was “Magic Hour.” Hosted by a local winery, we could go down to the tasting room onsite and try 2-3 wines from a local winery and chat with the representative from that winery. It’s how we found out about Ledson, mentioned above, and Wellington, which sadly we didn’t get a chance to visit!
At Kenwood, they also have port and sherry in the lobby to enjoy in the evening. Complementary, of course.
The hot tub was sizable and we really liked the view from here as well. It was too cold for the pool, even heated at 86º F, but we did dip our feet in for a while and enjoyed some wine poolside.
The outdoor patio area had fireplaces and a fountain and we made use of the market in Glen Ellen, bringing back a salad and enjoying a relaxing lunch outside. With wine, of course.
Thank you for being here to share my scrapbook! It was an amazing trip for lots of reasons—including the part where I had my first anxiety-free flight EVER. Click here to read about how I overcame the fear of being 35,000 feet in the air and going 600 mph.
xo, Jessica 🍋
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