The next day of our wine tour we decided to go to the Sonoma Valley, which is just southwest of Napa Valley. Napa focuses on Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, where Sonoma focuses more on Pinot Noir and Zinfandel. We decided to make our first stop Cline Cellars. We tried a Cline Syrah from the grocery store on our first night, and we were so impressed that we had to make a visit. They have very reasonably priced wines, starting at $11 a bottle. We stopped by at 10:30 on a Tuesday morning, and this place was hopping! There were already almost a dozen people tasting, including a local character who had the whole tasting room laughing. Our server, Rene, was excellent – personable, down to earth and he knew a lot of the wines. I did stump him though, when I asked questions about one of the rare varietals. I liked that he admitted he didn’t know the answer, instead of trying to pretend. And then he pulled out an awesome book with every grape varietal known to man! Their Syrahs were good, their Zinfandels were very good, and Jon and I both enjoyed their Mourvedre and Carignan (a varietal that I have not heard of before).
After our tasting, we enjoyed a picnic lunch at their picnic table with wine, cheese and pepperoni that they also sell onsite. We toured the grounds, which included a fishpond complete with turtles and frogs, and two mini-donkeys that the kids can feed carrots. And to top it all off, they own replica models of the 21 California missions. These models were made for the 1939 World’s Fair using the original blueprints for the missions. It seems that when they were going to be auctioned off piecemeal, Cline’s owner bought them all, and then built a museum on the grounds to display them. They were very cool – an unexpected treat. We will certainly be back again!
After Cline, we went across the street to Jacuzzi Winery. They are owned by the same family, but while Cline focuses on Zins and Syrahs, Jacuzzi focuses on the Italian varietals, some of which I had never even heard of. They did have some good wines, but unfortunately, the experience we had there didn’t make their wines worth it. Our server barely looked at us, and when I asked him which he thought were the best wines to taste (you get to choose 5 from the list), he informed me, “I can’t tell you what you’ll like.” Well, duh, but surely you can tell us which ones are your best wines. It irked me, because any winery that doesn’t specialize is going to have some that are better than others. The snooty server also said, “I won’t tell you that our wines are better than Cline wines, but they are.” Wow, selling out your own partner winery just isn’t cool. That said, we liked their Pinot Noir, and their Dolcetto, but left without buying anything. We tried to taste their olive oils, but it was so busy and crowded there, we gave up. All in all, I thought Jacuzzi was a dud.
After Jacuzzi, we went into Sonoma’s downtown for a bit, and toured the Sonoma Mission. It was the last mission built in the string of 21 California missions, founded in 1823. It was only a religious mission for 11 years. In 1834, the Mexican government secularized the missions and put General Vallejo in charge of Sonoma. He founded the town on Sonoma around the mission, and they used the mission as a parish church for a time while the mission started to fall into disrepair. It was mostly crumbled after the 1906 earthquake. Fortunately, they started restoration in 1909, and the mission became a museum in 1913. It is one of two missions that are part of the California Park System. It is a neat mission and well worth the $3 fee, and is easily toured in about 20 minutes, unless you want to watch the 20 minute video. You can also see the Barracks, and General Vallejo’s home.
It is certainly worth the visit – it is interesting to imagine what life was like during the period.