Buena Vista Winery 18000 Old Winery Rd., (800) 926-1266, (707) 938-1266. Tasting daily 10-5, $15 fee; tours $20-$35.
Founded in 1857, this is California's first commercial winery. Visitors park on the outskirts, and after a short, pleasant walk in can taste wines in the welcoming old Press House or at an outside bar (don't miss sampling the nutty cream sherry, available only at the winery). I recommend making reservations for a tour with The Count. You’ll get a chance to see the newly reopened Champagne Cellars building--so called because the first méthode champenoise in California was made in these deliciously cool caves in 1862 (they are always 57 degrees)--that holds California’s original wine cave. You’ll also learn the winery’s interesting history from The Count, a talented storyteller. Other tours include a barrel tasting, and a blending seminar lets you leave with your own unique blend and label.
After tasting, select a favorite bottle to purchase and enjoy with a picnic at one of the tables shaded by maple trees. You will be serenaded by tiny Arroyo Seco brook, which is Spanish for “dry creek” even though it runs all year. Currently my favorites are a buttery-smooth 2012 Private Reserve Selection Chardonnay with all the bells and whistle,s and a delicious, earthy 2011Bela’s Selection Pinot Noir. The winery shop sells a few picnic supplies as well as chilled non-alcoholic grape juice. With 24 hours advance reservation, you can order up a pre-packed picnic hamper. It is an interesting tidbit to know that current owner, Jean-Charles Boisset, is married to Gina Gallo; yes, that Gallo.
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images and video ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers
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