Monday morning Daughter and I cross the Golden Gate Bridge in our rented Chevy and head north on 101 to Geyserville, an unincorporated town on the Alexander River, midway between Cloverdale and Healdsburg, population somewhere between 862 and 1600, with one “downtown” block consisting of: three tasting rooms, two restaurants, two markets, a general merchandise store and a coffee café. My kind of town. There’s an inn or bed and breakfast or two but we’re staying at Isis Oasis Retreat Center. And it doesn’t get any better, or more ironic than these digs.
Described online as: Animal Sanctuary, 501(c)3 Non-Profit Temple, and Community Event Center guided by the Divine Feminine, I just couldn’t resist the mother-daughter opportunity here. (You know, Divine Feminine and all…) And lovely Isis Oasis is, a few steps from town and a short drive to Healdsburg, via wineries and panoramic vineyard stops. The Egyptian-themed rooms and grounds replete with world-religious statuary, including a pool, spa, sauna (for a hobbit, I think), “hello!”-ing parrots, endangered cats, three stately but stoned looking llamas, plus a 400+ year old fir tree, under which a circle of chairs await worshipers. Not us, we’re on wine…and hula hoops, Daughter and I hoop away under the fir tree, happy on sauvignon blanc.
Lunch at Diavola Pizzeria and Salumeria the first day. Perfect wood-fired pizza Daughter says, as good as she had in Italy. I have a luscious chopped radicchio salad. So good, we return the following night for pizza at the bar, now two full days of wine country under our belts, feeling sassy and all, then Daughter points out that the two guys next to us swirling their rose are wearing Camo. I’m looking right past them of course, to the pizza operation because I like to watch. Mom. They. Are. Wearing. Camo.
Well, why? So I nose in to a conversation. Find out they are eating sweetbreads. Find out they live in Santa Rosa and are on their way home from a day of boar hunting. Find out they like that bottle of Sonoma rose they share and swirl. And I know, from my two days in wine country, rose here is not your high school sweet buzz-juice, but sparkling-white-purely-quaffable stuff with the grape skins left on a spell for a touch of color. The men are crusty and humorous, like they are straight from Myakka, Florida. Irony of a different edge than that of our beloved Isis Oasis Retreat.
Healdsburg, a short drive out of Geyserville, is a larger and more serious Tasting Room town, surrounded by so many wineries, we cannot possibly visit them all! We dine at the Spoon Bar the first night, which is lovely and sorta cheeky and the food is good but all bites do fit into a spoon. Don’t they realize nouvelle cuisine went out of vogue years ago? The wine is good. The company, perfect.
After romping through the vineyard and wildflower garden (and tasting room) at Quivira Winery on day two, we happen across Bergamot Alley in Healdsburg for lunch. What a Yelp find. We’re the only ones at the wine bar at two in the afternoon, agonizing over which of their nine grilled-cheese sandwiches to order. Me: “TANZBODELI: taleggio and fontina cheese, roasted mushroom, fresh thyme, lemon rub/sourdough/ wild, earthy and herbaceous.” (I’m so glad these reminders are online because my menu-stealing days are long over.) Daughter orders: “SALAMI GET THIS STRAIGHT: provolone, salami, olive spread, mustard fennel/sourdough/don’t you love olive these food puns…” The words “delicious” and “satisfying” are too trite to describe the sensation of our lunch. Let it be known that the divine bitches are very quiet as they eat and sip.
After our two days luxuriating at Isis and surrounding wine enclaves, we leave our beloved divine accommodation and head via meandering vineyard roads to Sebastopol, to explore Sonoma’s central valley. Daughter drives and provides soundtrack (Avett Brothers, Old Crow Medicine Show, other folk/alt artists I learn about), I provide mom-mapping via Google and two actual paper maps. The scenery, the sunny 75 degree weather, the hills, the grapes, the redwoods, the vineyards… we are agape. Or maybe we’re a-grape? (Sorry…)
Sebastopol is more a fully fleshed-out town, like people actually live here NOT having to do with wine. I cruise Main Street as Daughter naps, and feel the retro-hippie-ness of the area. Bookstore, Indian clothing store, metaphysical shop (I eavesdrop on two meta-ladies here and takeaway this saying, “The world cracks open at night…that’s when conception happens,” which I like, very much.) This first night in Sebastopol we break from the tasting room world and venture to the local “dive bar,” The Lucky Star, after sumptuous grilled artichoke at Hopmunk Tavern. Dive bar, yes! We decide it’s time to divert from the Sonoma way to be with “our people.”
I ask the youngster behind the bar what’s on tap.
“We have this –––––––– cider, it’s got a fruity nose and an earthy finish…”
I really am a nice gal but in my mind I’m saying. “Shut the fuck up! I‘m here to drink BEER, not to hear more shit about fruit-forward wine.” But I politely wave my hand and say, “Beer, Beer, Beer please!”
I get a bottle of beer.
Turns out he’s the owner.
A dive bar in wine country. . . .
Our last day in wine country we go on a formal tour at Sonoma-Catrer Winery. I love knowledge and information and I’m in HEAVEN. We learn about the grapes, the vines, the vineyards, the Harvest, the sorting machine, the tanks, the oak barrels from France, the Wine. From grape to glass, we are now privy to it all. I feel so ALIVE, I am ready to drink more wine. And they comply!
After our tour with the magnificent Alison, we sit at a teak table overlooking the Sonoma-Catrer croquet field, sipping various chardonnays, the Northern California sun on our faces, listening to the excitement of Spanish-speaking workers gearing up for next week’s harvest. Sonoma Catrer is putting on an ice cream social for their returning harvesters, a nice offset to those snotty looking croquet fields stretched out before us like a fake green blanket. Daughter and I sip and grin for the last time before we return to our cottage in Sebastopol, to drink that bottle of sauvignon blanc I bought at Locals in Geyserville, and pack, and get ready for reentry into the real world.
P.S. I am wine-spoiled now, I can barely slurp down the ten dollar bottles of wine in my wine refrigerator at home. That last night in Sebastopol, giddy on sauvignon blanc, on my smart phone I joined three wine clubs of the wineries we visited. I am so looking forward to my first shipment in September. And when I get frustrated with the swampy-wet-mulchy-south-Florida-summer-sloppy-bug-filled-air and back to work-work-work, I cut through it all with the ultimate whine, “I want my wine!”