{oh} sonoma

Sonoma Valley Travel Guide
California’s wine country has been on our bucket list for as long as we’ve loved wine (that’s a very long time, for those of you keeping track). When we started planning the big California road trip Napa was an itinerary must, but after doing a little research (and budget planning) we thought the smaller, more laid-back Sonoma might be a better fit. Like all important decisions, this one was made over a bottle of wine – and boy were we right.

We loved Sonoma as soon as we saw it. We arrived mid-afternoon with just enough time to explore the tiny (but charming) town square before dinner. The streets are lined with galleries, shops and, of course, wine tasting rooms. Many wineries have storefronts in town to catch the wandering tourist – our favourite was the Roche Winery Tasting Room located just off the square. The wine at Roche is delicious and, as with everyone we met in Sonoma, the people are positively delightful. Seasoned wine drinkers at the relaxed outdoor bar welcomed us warmly and fed us with the kind of tips only locals can give, between glasses of crisp white wine.
Sonoma Valley Travel Guide
Our only full day in Sonoma started at Wine Country Cyclery where we rented bikes and picked up a map for a self-guided wine tour. We rode down country roads past incredible farm houses, beautiful barns, and wide open fields and stopped at a handful of wineries along the way. The highlight was Scribe Winery, a turkey farm-turned-winery perched on the top of a hill. It was also the only place we pulled out the camera, so all the pictures featured here were taken at Scribe! Unlike most wineries, Scribe doesn’t just line you up at bar for a 10-minute tasting, and for that reason they require appointments – we found this out the hard way, but they let us in anyway. Their tasting room is their yard, scattered with picnic tables and roamed by farm dogs, and the tasting experience is extremely intimate. We were surprised at how much time our sommelier spent sitting with us, explaining not only the wine but the history of the vineyards and the valley. We must have spent over an hour tasting and talking, soaking up the California sun – it was well-worth the higher-than-average tasting fee.
Sonoma Valley Travel Guide

Sonoma Valley Travel Guide
There’s no better way to end a perfect day than with a perfect meal. When in Sonoma go to Sondra Bernstein’s restaurant the girl & the fig for a dinner you won’t forget. Be sure to make a reservation – the inventive cocktails and plats du jour attract locals and tourists by the truck load. We won’t dare suggest what to order because the seasonal menu frequently changes, but we will confess that we still think about the chicken. And the steak. And the mussels…

The Sonoma Creek Inn was the perfect place to stay for our short two-night stay. The cute boutique hotel has comfortable rooms and accommodating staff, and it’s just a short drive from town. We can’t wait to check in again for another weekend in Sonoma.

ten cheap (and delicious) wines

It’s the time of year we love for its glittering parties and warm evenings by the fire, and hate for its gluttony and over indulgence. ‘Tis the season of consuming – whether it be food, drink or gifts. The gifts can go, but in our circle of friends and family Christmas is built on eating and drinking.  Help the booze budget this year with these 10 affordable (and tasty) reds – your guests will never know you didn’t break the bank.

JP Chanet                 

From left to right, JP Chanet Merlot Cabernet, France $11.99; Saint & Sinner Shiraz Cabernet, Canada – $11.99; La Vieille Ferme Red, France – $12.99; Santa Rita 120 Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile – $12.99; Wine Men of Gotham Cabernet, Australia – $12.99; Finca Los Primos Syrah, Argentina – $11.98; Bear Flag Smooth Red Blend, USA – $11.99; Painted Turtle Merlot, Canada – $8.29; Copper Moon Malbec, Canada – $8.69; Cupcake Cabernet Sauvignon, USA – $14.99.

our favourite (farm) things

A few days ago we found ourselves in the country with little to do when a member of our long weekend crew recommended a visit to Morningstar Farm, home to Little Qualicum Cheeseworks and MooBerry Winery.  Goats, cheese, and wine?  What’s not to love?

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After a walk around the 68 acre dairy farm (there were many cow sightings and blackberry breaks) we stopped in at the barns for a chat with the goats, a llama, some very tiny cattle.  A three month old calf is about the cutest thing you’ve ever seen, and at two days old they’re even cuter.

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When they’re old enough these little guys will be the cows behind our favourite Little Qualicum Cheeseworks creations.  The local cheese makers offer over a dozen artisan cheeses, including firm, soft, and fresh options.  We tasted all of them (yes, all of them) at the farm store and narrowed down our favourites to the Rathtrevor Cheese (inspired by Swiss Gruyere and named after a local park), Montery Jill Cheese (a softer Jack), and the Island Brie Cheese (creamy texture, velvet white rind, and mushroomy overtones).

Any seasoned cheese lover knows that where there is cheese there is wine, and Morningstar Farm is no exception.  Within the farm store is the well-stocked tasting bar of MooBerry Winery.  This was our first venture into the world of BC berry wine, and it won’t be our last.  The Gooseberry Wine is crisp and light with a surprising smoky aroma while the Cranberry Wine is tart and finishes off with crisp, dry tones.  The berry (and apple and pear) wines are perfect for spritzers and cocktails, or lovely just on their own.

Little Qualicum Cheeseworks cheese can be purchased here in Victoria at most grocery stores, and MooBerry Wine is available at Cascadia Liquor Store.  Better yet, Morningstar Farm is only a short road trip away.  What’s more lovely than a farm stroll and a picnic of your favourite wine & cheese?  Did we mention they have sausage, too?

Find Morningstar Farm at 403 Lowry’s Rd., Parksville, BC