Saturday, July 22, 2017

Flying Down to California Wine Country

Flyout number two for the summer was last weekend.  We flew down to Healdsburg, California.  That is a little outside of my comfortable flight time.  Two hours and under are what I like with being stuck sitting in a seat for so long and the absence of bathroom facilities but with proper dehydration, I made it okay both ways.  Flying down there we had a little bit of a headwind so it took just short of four hours.  Coming back we made a little bit better time and got home in about 3 and a half hours.

Healdburg is a cute little town north of Santa Rosa.  There are some neat 18th century buildings there and a nice walking trail that Bill and I took advantage of to get some exercise.

We stayed at the Dry Creek Best Western.  It is an older motel but they have done a really nice job remodeling the rooms to be updated.  My only complaint was that they didn't have a microwave in the rooms or in any centralized location for guests to use.  We were hoping to eat some of our HMR diet meals on the trip but it was too much of a hassle.  The only microwave available was to have the front desk staff take it back to their break room to heat anything up.  It was also a mile from downtown so it was a little bit of a hike to get to any of the restaurants or shopping.  In the heat of the afternoon, that wasn't any fun.  I had a much more enjoyable hike early in the morning while it was still quite cool.  It definitely isn't inexpensive to stay there but compared to the hotels downtown, it was relatively reasonable.

Our first full day there, we signed up to do a safari tour at Safari West.  I was kind of excited about it because I had never been to a place like that.  Three other people from our CAA group signed up for the same tour so we spent the day with them.  We really enjoyed going there.  They have 900 animals from 69 species.  Lots of birds and animals.  The majority of the animals and birds were from Africa but there were some from India and other continents as well.

The tour is a combination of an hour walking around the grounds where they have animals and birds in more contained settings.  Then a two hour tour on their 400 acre wildlife preserve.  Bill and I got to sit on the top of the truck for about half the tour which was fun.  There were a lot of different kinds of antelope.  I think that is what they probably had the most of.  I took about 100 photos and I didn't scrapbook nearly all of the animals I took photos of but figured devoting four pages to the safari was probably a sufficient documentation of our day there.

My favorite part of the tour was seeing the giraffes.  This baby giraffe really stole my heart.  He was two and a half months old and so cute.  He kept trying to communicate with some birds which was really interesting.

My second favorite group of animals to see were the zebras.  We stayed to watch them for quite awhile.

After the tour, we had a nice buffet lunch at the restaurant at Safari West and then our friends wanted to do some wine tasting at Frank Family Vineyards near Calistoga in Napa Valley.  We didn't have any other plans so we were game for it.  We all were used to wine tasting in Washington and California where typically it only costs $10-$20 to do wine tasting and they usually waive the tasting fee if you buy bottles.  I guess that isn't the case in California wine country.  We were a little taken aback when they told us it was $40 per person and when our friends bought some bottles, there was no credit back for the tasting.  But we were there and decided to stay and do the tasting.

The tasting room and grounds at Frank Family Vineyards are beautiful.  The current winery is set on the former Larkmead Winery property which was built in 1884 so many of the buildings are from the old winery.  We didn't go into the building where they make the wine but it looked very cool from what we saw from the outside and is on the National Register of Historical Places.

Friday night we had a fabulous Portuguese dinner at Cafe Lucia with the whole group from CAA.

I scrapped most of my wine tasting photos in my journaling album so you get to see another page from my journal for this posting.

Saturday was spent going to the Alexander Valley near Healdsburg to do some wine tasting there.  Our first stop was Hawkes Winery which is a newer winery compared to a lot of California wineries but were one of the first wineries to plant grapes in the Alexander Valley in 1972 when the valley was mostly planted with prunes, apples and hops.  They had a really cute garden and pleasant patio to enjoy a little of their wines and a lunch from the Jimtown Store which was right next door.

The next stop was the main event of the day--a wine tasting tour at the Jordan Winery.  It was interesting that when I told one of my doctors that I was going there, she was so excited since she had just gotten back from a visit there the week before and said I should make sure to go to the Jordan Winery.  The chateau and the grounds were absolutely spectacular.  Normally the tasting would occur in their cellar room after the tour but they setup tables outside for us to do our food pairing with the wine.  This was my view of their gorgeous chateau from my tasting spot.  This was another $40 wine tasting but with the tour and food pairings, it was fairly reasonable by California standards I would guess.  And a lovely elegant table setting and view to boot.  The only thing that made it a little less than enjoyable was that it was 100 degrees so I was really hot.  I was so glad when we got inside the air conditioned barrel and tank rooms.  What a relief that was to escape the heat for a little while anyway.

They have a longer three hour tour including seeing more of the property including the vineyards, lakes, apiary, etc. which you can take for $120 per person.  Not sure if that would be worth it or not.  This particular winery has a few guest rooms for their rewards customers.  I wonder how much wine you have to buy to score a night in the chateau.

We didn't have great sightseeing conditions for our flight down to California but it was better on the way back.  I just took a few photos of the mountains and Trinity Lake but we saw at least six or seven volcanoes all at the same time which was really fun to see.

Flying to California requires getting to elevations of at least 11,500 feet to clear the Siskiyou Mountains.  Bill had ordered an oxygen tank and pulse oximeter last year in the hopes of using them on his flight down to see Chuck and Suzanne but it was on back order and didn't come in time so this trip was the first time we used oxygen on one of our flights.  We look a little geeky but here is a photo of us with our oxygen cannulae.  We look quite fashionable, don't we?

We had a great time.  Two flyouts down and one to go next month.  That one will be filled with more adventures to share so stay tuned for when we get back from McCall, Idaho.

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