Napa and Sonoma Valley and Sunnyvale

The third day of our California trip was NOT planned for what we actually ended up doing. We were originally supposed to leave San Francisco area and start our drive towards San Diego on Pacific Coast Highway (highway 1) but Manjiri suggested that we should tour the wine country while we are still here. Of course, I am all for country sights, and since I had never been there to Napa and Sonoma, we immediately signed up for it with Tower Tours. The bus driver was the same from our San Francisco tour yesterday and she was very informative. This time we drove to the east of the city crossing the bay on the lower level of the Bay Bridge landing onto the east bay city of emeryville. The drive to Napa was about 1 hour and the country sights were very pleasing to the eye. Greenery was all over the rollign hills and pretty soon we started seeing the vineyards.

The tour took us to three different wineries during the entire day and all of them offered us unique experiences. The Madonna Estate Winery, The Viansa Winery and The Cline Cellars, all have been making specialty wines and they shared their history and wine making techniques with us tourints. They also offered us wine testing and free tips on how to do it. I learnt a few tricks as well. For example, to really get to know the wine, you must try and use all your senses: first see it, making sure its clear; then smell it thoroughly; then take it in your mouth and chew on it, before gulping it down. And most importantly, after you have swallowed it, breathe with your mouth and exhale with your nose; what that does is brings the smells back to your nostrils from inside and that really was a trick I liked a lot. Oh boy, i loved the wine testing when I started using that last trick.

But after a while, I got bored with the wines. Besides, all these winery people were really talking a lot and trying to sell their wines via these gimmicks of wine tasting. So I focussed more on enjoying the vineyards. At Clines' the flowers were beautiful and they had huge Eucalyptus trees which added to the ambience. At Viansa, the hilltop location offered spectacular views of the Napa-sonoma valley and the wine country. Viansa also offered a lot of farm related food producs for our taste buds, specially for those of us who were tired of wine tasting. We learend a lot about basics of wine making at Madonna Estate. All in all, we had a good time tasting various wines and we took home a couple of bottles for ourselves.

For the lunch, we were dropped at Sonoma City Plaza, which offered many historic places to see and curious places to eat. We had soup and sandwich as The Red Grape, a fancy italian/Californian place. Manjiri ordered a flat bread topped with jack cheese and onions on it and I had the simplest salad. we toured around and likes the plaza atmosphere.

After the wine country tour was finished, the tour bus brought us back via the golden gate bridge and dropepd us off at our hotel. we had already checked out but had left our car there. we left it there and left our belongings (except for jacket and purses) and left to go back to the Fishermans' Wharf for one last stop for shopping for souvenirs. We walked about 10-15 blocks, almost all the way to the Pier 39. Got some nice memorabilia and then caught a taxi (the walk back would have been uphill and cold/windy) to our car. We then set out to leave the city.

We were supposed to leave the city at 6pm, but it was close to 7pm now and John, my long time buddy, who lives in Sunnyvale was waiting for us to go to dinner somewhere. We took 101 south and after tackling some minor traffic snags, reached his place at about 8 pm. The drive down this road was bringing a lot of memories back to my mind as I had spent some time living and working here back in 1997. I shared those memories with Manjiri as I passed each exit. It was very interesting.

When we reached sunnyale, John immediately took us to Sweet Tomatoes, a delightful place for vegeterians. It offered us a nice atmosphere for conversation and plenty of variety for a simple buffet price. John was happy and positive as usual, and he was happy to see Manjiri for the first time. Both of them talked a lot while I simply enjoyed the food and john's positivity. He works as a roofer in bay area and is an avid golfer. After the dinner, we dropped him off at his residence and checked ourselves in at the Quality Inn on El Camino Real near Mathilda Ave in Sunnyvale. Glad to know that they had fast internet access and decent accomodation. We were both very tired and fell asleep very quickly. The wine must have had an effect on us after all :-)