Friday, May 24, 2013

A Weekend Visiting Sonoma & Alcatraz

Happy Friday everyone! 

I'm so looking forward to this long weekend. Normally with an extra day off work, we'd be headed out to town to travel somewhere. However, we've got a really busy month of June coming up, so decided we just wanted to stay home and relax. After all, we do live in a place where people come for vacation so we figured that we should enjoy it! 

But this past weekend, we did go out of town and had a great time! Cameron's parents flew down from Portland to the Bay Area last week, and so we drove down to meet them just outside of Napa on Friday night. Saturday morning, we headed to adorable downtown Sonoma for breakfast. We've driven through Sonoma a few times before, but this was really our first time to stop and check it out. It's such a charming town full of adorable shops and restaurants, we easily could have spent the whole weekend here!

 
 

We ate breakfast at El Dorado Kitchen, which is located right on the main square (thanks for the recommendation Natasha!) and everything we had was really delicious. (Especially my duck confit hash!) After breakfast, we spent some time walking around the charming downtown area. The weather was amazing and everything was in bloom! 

This mission is the northernmost Franciscan mission in California, really neat to see!
Nothing like cacti and a lemon tree to let you know you're in California!
Beautiful flowers on a giant cactus in front of the mission
Cameron and his dad in downtown Sonoma
There are lots of cute shops in town and since wine is such a big part of the culture in Sonoma, quite a few stores/galleries have wine tasting bars inside them!
Cute little French-inspired flea market
I was adding this picture to the post and Cameron goes "Wow, you are such a blogger"--I guess taking pictures of vintage mason jars will do that to you--LOL!

 After exploring downtown Sonoma for awhile, we were ready for a little snack. We stopped at the Sunflower Caffe, another cute spot located right on the town square! This seems to be a popular spot, and it would be a great choice for breakfast or lunch!

Cam and I split a Nutella milkshake--SO GOOD.
Although we could have stayed in downtown Sonoma all day exploring, we decided to head out to the wineries! Our (tentative) original plan was to stop in a winery or two in Sonoma and then head over to Napa, but we just decided to go with the flow. Our first stop was Chateau St. Jean, located on the north end of the Sonoma Valley. This was actually a winery we went to with our friends last spring, but Cam's parents are wine club members here so we figured that it was probably worth stopping--and it ended up being an excellent choice! Chateau St. Jean has absolutely gorgeous grounds and really gives you that quintessential winery experience. We started out in the main tasting room and did the standard tasting, but then because of Cam's parents' wine club membership we were able to head over to a different building to do a special reserve wine tasting out on their patio with a beautiful view of the vineyard. It was a really incredible experience and we probably got to taste at around 15 different wines! Here are some pictures from the afternoon...

Heading out to do the Reserve Tasting :)
Amazing view of the vineyards from the patio during our tasting--we had such gorgeous weather!
 

Although our original plan was to try to hit a few different wineries over the course of the day, we had a such a great time at Chateau St. Jean that we just decided to go with it and enjoy the afternoon there. I'm so glad we did, it was an absolutely perfect day!

One thing to keep in mind if you do venture to Napa or Sonoma is that the wineries close pretty early, typically by 4:30 or 5pm. After our afternoon at Chateau St. Jean, it was fairly late in the day but we still decided to head over to Napa Valley. 


 There are a handful of wineries that stay open a little later, so at the recommendation of one of the guys at Chateau St. Jean we decided to check out Merryvale in St. Helena. This tasting room is one of the few open late (until 6:30pm) so it was fairly busy when we got there. The wine and the service were definitely not as good as at Chateau St. Jean, but it was still fun to stop. My favorite thing about the winery is that they had this incredible historic cask room that you can rent out for events, and overall, it wasn't a bad little winery to check out! 

Seriously, how incredible is this room?! It would be so amazing for a party :)
 After finishing our tasting at Merryvale, we had a little time to kill before our dinner reservation so we headed to downtown Napa to check out the Oxbow Public Market! This is definitely a foodie haven with lots of gourmet food stands, and it was fun to explore and get a little snack to tide us over until dinner...after all, wine tasting makes you hungry! It would be an excellent place to get breakfast or lunch if you're in Napa.

Gott's Roadside is apparently a pretty famous Napa Valley place to eat; they have a location in St. Helena (right across from Merryvale actually!) and then this location next to the Oxbow Market. We didn't try it, but I'd love to next time we're in town!
Couldn't resist getting a few Kara's Cupcakes (they have some other locations in the Bay Area as well), the bigger one is a S'mores cupcake with toasted marshmallow frosting--delish!
 For dinner, we ate at Mustards Grill in Yountville, which is somewhat of a Napa institution. We first heard about it on Food Network's show The Best Thing I Ever Ate where Bobby Flay was talking about their famous Mongolian pork chop, and so Cam was really excited to try it out. It's definitely very meat-based cuisine, and I probably wouldn't suggest it if you're a vegetarian! I ended up ordering the lamb special which was served with a goat cheese risotto--IT WAS AWESOME. I didn't get any pictures of the dish itself, but seriously it was so good. I'm honestly getting hungry just thinking about it.


Sunday morning, the weather was beautiful once again so we got on the road and headed to San Francisco! I completely forgot that the big Bay to Breakers run was the same day, but luckily we didn't hit too much traffic and it was actually pretty fun to see lots of people dressed up in their crazy costumes. We actually took Cam's parents to a few places we visited in Hayes Valley last month, and it was fun to get to visit them again. Then Sunday afternoon it was time for something that Cam and I have been meaning to since our first trip to SF since moving to Tahoe last year--visit Alcatraz! It's a super touristy thing to do, but it's also pretty cool. I actually went when I was a kid, but Cam hadn't been so we thought that it would be really fun thing to do with his parents. We took one of the afternoon boats over the island, a very quick ride that offers some great views of the city! 


Once on the island, I was really impressed by all the gorgeous plants in bloom! The weather was beautiful, perfect for walking around and exploring the island. We did the audio tour of the prison, which has a pretty interesting history. The audio tour features commentary from former prisoners and guards and really helps to give you insight to what life must have been like for inmates on the Rock! 

This was the view out one of the windows in the prison; on the audio commentary, one of the prisoners said that one of the toughest things about Alcatraz was the fact that you were acutely aware of just what you were missing on the outside world. I'm sure that constantly having to stare out at those beautiful views of the Bay definitely made people regret what they'd done to go to Alcatraz in the first place!
I loved all the gorgeous succulents!

After heading back to the city, we had an excellent dinner in the North Beach/Little Italy area. Vicoletto was a place we picked out simply due to positive Yelp reviews, but it was very authentic Italian food and we all really enjoyed it. I just love this area of San Francisco!
 
 
Even though Cameron and I have been to SF quite a few times now, I fall in love with the city a little more each time I visit. There's always new things to discover and there's just something so captivating about being there. I can't wait to go back soon! 

Well, that's another great weekend on the books (err, blog) and now it's time to get started on another! Have a fantastic (and safe!) Memorial Day everyone! Xoxo

9 comments:

  1. Oh my gosh...what beautiful pictures! And what a fun trip! You are right...you know you're a blogger when you post photos of mason jars!

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  2. Love your blog, girl! These photos captured such a fun time!!

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  3. Looks like such a fun trip! Glad you loved El Dorado Kitchen and I swear Brix is right down the road from Mustards. You MUST go there next time! Also so happy you'll be here this weekend! YAY!

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  4. What a fabulous weekend!! Your pictures are gorgeous. We are going to a wedding in Napa in September, but will be staying in Sonoma. I'm so excited as we've never been! I will have to reference back to this post right before we go.

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  5. Napa and Alcatraz are high on my list! Looks like a great weekend!

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  6. What a fun weekend! Vicoletto is one of my all time favorite restaurants in the city. Those mason jars! I wouldn't have been able to resist buying some.. our poor husbands.

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  7. I love wine tasting! Looks like such a fun weekend! Gorgeous pics...mason jars and all! :)

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Your sweet words make my day! :)

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