Friday, July 29, 2011

Highway 49--Gold Rush Country: Plymouth, Sobon Estate Winery & Vineyards

Sobon Estate Winery & Vineyards 14430 Shenandoah Rd., (209) 245-6554. Tasting daily 9:30-5. This winery began back in 1856—before the Civil War--as the D’Agostini Winery and stayed open during Prohibition by producing sacramental wine. It is the oldest continuously producing winery in the state. Now, using its own sustainably farmed, estate-grown grapes, Sobon makes a range of distinctive varietals, including some delicious old-vine Zinfandels as well as the colorful Vicious Red line of red wines. Stand-out Zins to sample in the woodsy, award-laden tasting room, which was formerly a bottling room, include Rocky Top (grown in decomposed granite), Cougar Hill (grown in volcanic ash), and Fiddletown (from a 101-year-old vineyard). Plenty of picnic tables are positioned around the scenic surrounding grounds, through which meanders a nice little “crick” that originates from an old mine across the street.
On site, the Shenandoah Valley Museum displays a well-marked collection of dusty old wine-making artifacts, farm tools, and household items in the cellar of the original 1856 winery house built from wood cut right on the property.

More things to see and do in Plymouth.  

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video c2011 Carole Terwilliger Meyers




Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Highway 49--Gold Rush Country: Plymouth, Cooper Vineyards

Cooper Vineyards 21365 Shenandoah School Rd., (209) 245-6181. Tasting F-Sun 11-5. Plenty of old-time bouncer chairs invite lingering a while on the front porch of the tasting room here. Inside, owner Dick Cooper’s fully-restored 1937 Junior Scout red Indian motorcycle adds some pizzazz. Sampling at the polished granite counter includes the range of the house gems—a classic, smooth Barbera, a Zinfandel made from 25-year-old vines, a Spanish-style Tempranillo, a delightful Primitivo (Zin’s genetic twin), a crisp Pino Grigio, and a Port-style dessert Zinfandel. Once planted with French prunes, the property now has rows of vines that are on their way to becoming biodynamic with the help of 42 free-range chickens and three roosters. The motto here is “We are grape growers first, wine makers second.” Since owner Dick Cooper is referred to as the Godfather of Barbera, it is appropriate that the first-ever Barbera Festival was held here in June 2011.

More things to see and do in Plymouth.  

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image c2011 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Greater East Bay: Danville, Sideboard

Sideboard 411 Hartz Ave., (925) 984-2713. B-L-D daily; $-$$. No reservations. Situated on the town’s main street, in a historic building that was once part of the Danville Hotel, this ultra-casual, cheery spot is especially perfect for a relaxing breakfast (served until 11 a.m. on weekdays, to noon on weekends). Order at the counter, then choose from an array of tables inside or outside and settle in. Everything is organic and made on site. French morning buns are among the goodies in the drool-provoking pastry case, and eggs Benedict is available Friday through Sunday. More items include beignets with housemade preserves, breakfast puddingwith asparagus and goat cheese, and poached farmhouse eggs on levain toast. This is the only restaurant in Contra Costa County to serve Blue Bottle coffee, and most of the many coffee drinks are served French-style in big bowls. At lunch, the #12 is most popular—a chicken breast salad with avocado, applewood-smoked bacon, Point Reyes Blue Cheese, and balsamic vinaigrette.

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image c2011 Carole Terwilliger Meyers  

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

101 North: Forestville, Case Ranch Inn

Case Ranch Inn 7446 Poplar Dr., (877) 887-8711, (707) 887-8711. 3 rooms, 1 cottage. 1 kitchen. Afternoon snack; full organic breakfast. No pets. Located on a spacious 2-acre plot in a quiet rural residential area, this robin’s-egg-blue 1894 Victorian farmhouse boasts a wrap-around sitting porch, a front yard with fountain, and plenty of places in the gardens to relax a spell. Beds are fluffy and white, and it has WiFi plus a guest computer is provided in the parlor near the fireplace. Owner Diana says, “We think of our inn as the geographic center of the earth.” An all-organic breakfast using many items grown in the inn’s garden is served to all guests at the same time in the dining room. Homemade cookies are always available. Owner Allan makes the bed frames and night stands. The property is certified green and uses all-cotton sheets and towels. Cooling is by ceiling fan, with an AC option. Cozy attic rooms have angled ceilings and mix clean lines with some antiques. Jam made from the property’s concord grapes and fresh-pressed apple juice from the orchard’s trees are sometimes served at breakfast, and wine made from the property’s grapes is sometimes an afternoon treat. The cottage has a private hot tub. This just in: The Case Ranch Inn is the only B&B to have completed Sonoma County's rigorous Green Business Program and has now added the ultimate in "green" amenities--an electric vehicle charging station. Guests can plug in their vehicle to recharge . . . while they recharge on a comfortable, pillow-top mattress.

image c2011 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Sunday, July 17, 2011

880 South: Livermore, Underdog Wine Bar

Underdog Wine Bar  At Concannon Vineyard, (925) 583-1581. L-D daily.  This small-plates lounge has more than 50 local and international wines available by the glass. Foods are locally sourced, and veggies are grown on site. What’s not to like about a cheese board with dates paired with a glass of Cabernet? This new venue is built with redwood reclaimed from the winery’s original buildings. Decor is modern, with plush furniture and a shaded outdoor terrace featuring drapes as moveable walls. Live music is sometimes scheduled.

At left, Jim Concannon, age 81 and grandson of the winery's founder, autographs his new book, “Concannon: The First One Hundred and Twenty-Five Years.”

image c2011 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Highway 49--Gold Rush Country: Volcano, Volcano Union Pub and Inn

Volcano Union Pub and Inn 21375 Consolation St., (209) 296-7711. 4 rooms. Afternoon snack; continental breakfast. Built in 1880 for $400, this newly restored vintage building known locally as “The Union” was originally a boarding house for hard-working miners. Rooms are dubbed Lemon, Mocha, Daffodil, and Terracotta, and one has a big tub that accommodates two. A long second-floor front porch beckons to come sit a while and watch the street action. Perhaps it is time to accept the invitation to “come to Volcano, where the stars are your nightlight and the crickets lull you to sleep.”
Downstairs, the Union Pub (L Sat-Sun,D F-M; $$.) serves seasonal comfort food plus burgers, soups, and great fried chicken. Ribs are house smoked, and the butterscotch pot of creme is to-die for. Diners can indulge in complimentary shuffle board and darts on Friday afternoons. Though there are plenty of local wines by the glass, including a Sobon Estate Old Vines Zin, draft beers include a crisp Konig Pils and a smooth Boont Amber Ale.

More things to do in Gold Rush Country.

image c2011 Carole Terwilliger Meyers  

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Greater East Bay: Pleasanton, Ruby Hill Winery

Ruby Hill Winery 400 Vineyard Ave., (925) 931-WINE (9463). Tasting daily 11-5; tour by reservation. Established in 1887, this winery is perfect for a picnic and has a small deli case stocked with some provisions. Do take their 2-hour Mello Cielo bus tour, which seats tasters in comfy swiveling wine-barrel seats inside a refurbished old school bus and transports them, lurching and bouncing through the vineyards, while sipping sparkling wine. Tour guide Norm, who doubles as the winery’s enologist, warns that “it won’t be the smoothesst ride you’ve ever had,” but it might be the most fun. You’ll see peacocks, tour the production facility, do a barrel tasting, and do a tasting with food pairing inside a cozy water tower. The owner is a big Grateful Dead fan, which explains the Grateful Red blend with tie-dye label.

Travel articles to inspire and help you plan some spectacular getaways. 

image c2011 Carole Terwilliger Meyers