Sunday, March 2, 2008

VW bus as the perfect wine country cruiser... Day One in Russian River area

This past weekend, we took Big Blue to the 30th Annual Barrel Tasting Weekend in Russian River. That area of wine country, specifically Dry Creek Road area, is an spot that EP has explored a few times but I had yet to see.

We headed up on Saturday afternoon. On the way, we stopped at Willi's Wine Bar. Don't be fooled by the Santa Rosa address, Willi's wine bar was awesome. Great food that they serve on "small plates" that you can share with your co-pilot.

EP brought us to one of her favorite food spots in Sonoma County, Willi's.

After lunch, we hightailed it north on the 101, cut over to Dry Creek Road north of Healdsburg and secured a spot at Lake Sonoma's Liberty Glen Campground. We have camped all over northern California, but had somehow missed this camp area until now. I had no idea how great it would be. The sites are on the top of the mountains between Alexander Valley and the coast, giving you a great view of the mountains surrounding you. It was quite a climb up for Big Blue, involving 2nd gear a few times, but he made it just fine.

Liberty Glen at Lake Sonoma, which is currently first come, first served because the campground has no water.

Big Blue resting at Liberty Glen Campground, above Lake Sonoma.

Once a camping spot was established, we turned around and headed back south on Dry Creek road stopping at Dutcher Crossing. After meeting both the wine maker and the owner, we tried some fine Zin from the barrel and a Cabernet Sauvignon / Syrah that was from the barrel, and also mixed at a 75/25 ratio to give you an idea of the future wine it will be once combined. It was a very interesting tasting.

First stop: Dutcher Crossing.

Big Blue among the vineyard at Dutcher Crossing.

The barrels at Dutcher Crossing.

After that, a quick stop at Pedroncelli Winery on Canyon Road. Here, we were able to taste Syrah and Petite Sirah (that spelling is not a typo, they are spelled differently) side by side. What's the difference, you ask? Sort of obvious, Petite Sirah is a smaller grape. What is not obvious is that it is actually a stronger wine on the palate, as more sugar is concentrated in the smaller grape. Their wines weren't fantastic, but it was a great little stop.

That sign says, "Pedroncelli Tasting Room. Their wine wasn't bad, but wasn't great.

After a quick stop for provisions, we hit our last winery of the day, Fritz Winery. Fritz is a place EP has been tasting the day before, but wanted me to try as the Chardonnay was great. We also tasted some Zin and Pinot Noir from the barrel which was excellent. If you go to Fritz, take a moment to try to understand the building you are in - the pictures behind the tasting room's bar will help. Built into the hillside in 1979, the building itself was built and then covered in dirt (like making a cave the easy way). It's a pretty cool place that served excellent wine.

A small one-lane bridge just beyond this sign keeps the buses out of Fritz.

Then, it was back to the campsite, where Big Blue, EP and I hung out, had an oddball 2006 Syrah from Broc Cellars, which seems to be located in San Francisco, but this Syrah used grapes from the Paso Robles region. When I say oddball, it was because the wine was strong but has tons of flavor all the way through. At $50 a bottle, it is hard to make it a common purchase, but we always save our good wine for camping anyway, and this was a great call.

EP getting ready for relaxing in Big Blue.

Me, watching the sun set outside Blue's port side.

Dinner was Annie's Mac & Cheese, with tuna mixed in and a dash of Sriracha.

At some point (all time gets lost when the sun sets and cell phones are off) we made some awesome mac & cheese and played Phase 10. Because of the cold, we left the top of Big Blue down and slept on the Z bed in the back.

All in all, a great "day one" of cruising wine country. More to come...

3 comments:

Ander

hey what up. i was wondering if you could tell me a good spot to camp near lake sonoma. i want to be able to be a little bit loud at night and maybe rent some jet skis and fish somewhere. Thanks!!

Ander

(Just reply to this post and it'll email me)

Big Blue's Driver

Ander-

I know there is camping right on the lake - some boat-in spots that you can reserve, but I haven't done it. I know some people who have and they are the loud type - they had alot of people with them. I think you can find out info here:

http://www.reserveamerica.com/campgroundDetails.do?subTabIndex=0&&contractCode=nrso&parkCode=bois

Liberty Glen was where we were but you'd have to be quiet there, I'm guessing.

Other than that, there's no other place really close to Lake Sonoma to camp that I know of...

Good luck.

=Brett

Ander

Awesome. We're looking at the boat-in sites, trying to figure out the best way to get a motor boat for cheap. We have a couple one man canoes but i think we'll need something bigger than that.

Gonna be up there this weekend. Can't wait.

Thanks!

Andrew

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