California's Best Tasting Experiences
Legendary Cabernet Sauvignon, Charles Krug, St. Helena, Napa
Charles Krug’s 153-year-old winery is a California Historic Landmark. At its Redwood Cellar tasting room, we shared a “family reserve” flight and loved the 2010 Vintage Selection Cab, an Old World–influenced New World wine with restraint in the rich fruit. http://charleskrug.com
Sour Beer, Woodfour Brewing Company, Sebastopol, Sonoma
After a day in wine country, we inevitably crave a beer like the Sour Farmhouse Ale, a mild introduction to the sour beer category (wild yeast makes them funky). Woodfour’s restaurant has some gorgeous salads, too, like Little Gem lettuce with nori and sesame ranch dressing. woodfourbrewing.com.
Rosé on Tap, Shed, Healdsburg, Sonoma
The HomeFarm rosé on tap—a zippy Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre blend from the owners’ vineyards—oddly tasted great with an egg sandwich, the yolk oozing all over charred greens and prosciutto. healdsburgshed.com.
Big Red Zinfandel, Bump Wine Cellars, Sonoma
This small tasting room is set up as a midcentury modern living room. The 2009 Zinfandel from the HB Family Vineyard is a great example of what the grape should be: bold, sweet and spicy. bumpwine.com.
SoCal Sauvignon Blanc, Les Marchands, Santa Barbara
This wine shop and bar reminds us of a bistro on a Paris side street, but with a California touch—bunches of local wildflowers and people wearing flip-flops. The owner’s 2011 Lieu Dit Sauvignon Blanc walks the line between French and superfruity California styles. lesmarchandswine.com.
White Pinot Noir, Lichen Estate, Boonville, Mendocino
The new tasting room is in a little bungalow with an adorable front porch—and a hammock! Doug Stewart’s white Pinot Noir (made by immediately pressing the juice off its grape skins) is all white peach and acid. lichenestate.com.
Affordable Sparkling Wine, Sweet T’s, Santa Rosa, Sonoma
The fried chicken here nails that crunchy outside/juicy inside thing. On Sundays, it comes with waffles, making it Champagne-brunch territory. The Roederer Estate sparkling has a hint of nuttiness and is just $24 a bottle. sweettssr.com.
Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc, Torc, Napa
Chef Sean O’Toole took over the old Ubuntu restaurant and yoga space, replacing the vegetarian menu with a lot of meat and seafood. We tried Benjamin Dagueneau’s Silex, a superminerally Loire wine, with a crab salad. Perfect pairing. torcnapa.com.
Spiked Snow Cone, Industrial Eats, Buellton
When we heard this restaurant/butcher shop made snow cones with Cleto Chiarli Lambrusco, Josiah insisted we get one. The blueberries in the syrup on top come from Forbidden Fruit Orchards. industrialeats.com.
SoCal Pinot Noir, Public Market, Santa Barbara
We could stash a little cot in a closet in this market hall and live very happily. It’s an oasis of everything sustainable and artisanal; they host winemaker dinners and cooking classes, plus there’s the Wine + Beer bar. We get a Santa Barbara County Pinot; the 2011 Three Sticks Head High shows the bright and sunny, fruity pop of flavor we love from the local wines. sbpublicmarket.com.