Traveling Eats–Sonoma, California

Ahhh. Wine Country! California wine country might be one of my favorite places on planet earth. The scenery, the food, the wine–everything makes you feel decadent.

We stayed in a lovely bed and breakfast called The Vintage Towers in Cloverdale, which is at the northern end of Sonoma County. It was beautiful, quaint, ornate, and in the perfect place you could imagine staying if you had your heart set on doing some wine touring! They also led us to some of the most amazing food of the trip. And to top it off, I can’t forget to mention waking up to breakfasts like this stuffed french toast!

The first evening we were in Sonoma, we went into Scopa, in downtown Healdsburg–which is a lovely town full of great wine stores, shops, and eateries. Scopa was possibly one of the best places I have ever eaten. We lucked out and they had exactly ONE table left for the evening, and aparently, it can be difficult to dine at Scopa unless you have reservations. However, the food Gods were on our side…and we got a small but sturdy table near the entrance. We ordered the Prima Voce Merlot-Cabernet ($19) in a split that was served in a lovely decanter. You know a restaurant knows their wine when you are drinking it from a decanter that is specific to that blend of wine. Primo!

For the antipasti of the meal, we went with two selections, which I highly recommend: Polpette Calabrese–Spicy Meatballs with Smoked Mozzarella in Tomato Sauce ($10.50) and Italian Bread with Fresh Mozzarella, Arugula and Olive Oli ($8.50). The mozzarella in both of these dishes was so amazingly fresh it was unbelievable. The olive oil on the bread and arugula was the food that dreams are made of–and the combination of the flavors together was to die for. But let’s talk about the meatballs for a moment: they were served on a hot plate and I am pretty sure these meatballs had been mixed with the highest quality meat and spices–the sauce was spicy but flavorful and this dish melted in my mouth in a way that is near indescribable. Everyone should experience these meatballs in their lifetime–it was truly a dish that is unforgettable!

For our main dishes, we knew that pasta was going to be the selection, since the pasta was all fresh and hand made. Something about being in Sonoma and indulging in perfect wine just makes you crave a homemade pasta dish in a very calculating way. I ordered the House Made Ravioli with Stuffed Ricotta Cheese in a Tomato Basil Sauce Topped with Parmigiano ($16.50) and my boyfriend ordered the House-made Rigatoni and Sausage ($19). The noodles in both of these dishes were so perfect–you can really tell a difference from a pasta that is made that day–the texture is totally different and it holds onto so much flavor. The ricotta was top notch and the sausage in the rigatoni was smokey and rich. Both amazing dishes.

Lastly, we finished with homemade vanilla bean ice cream with a shot of espresso which was poured over the top. Add a lovely piece of hazelnut biscotti, and you have a dessert made in wine country heaven!

The next day was full of touring the rolling hills of Sonoma and visiting some beautiful wineries. We started at the north end and worked our way down. Some of our favorites were the Fritz Underground Winery–which is an organic winery that sustains itself by using the power of gravity to automatically crush the grapes…which is pretty cool. The flavors of the wines at Fritz were very earthy and understated, but completely delicious. Their Zinfandel and dessert Zin were some of our favorites of the entire day.

Our favorite winery of the trip, however, was the Ferrari-Carano winery. It was one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen–complete with amazing gardens, grounds, and buildings. The wine was fabulous and I could have stayed in that beautiful place all day.

The Viognier was by far my favorite wine at Ferrari-Carano–so make sure you pick some up if you are ever in wine country.

These were just a few of my favorite wineries that we visited. The Francis Ford Coppola Winery was also wonderful as well as the Quivira winery. But I really don’t think you can go wrong in Sonoma County…every second a new winery shows itself and we could have stopped at 30 other ones that we passed along the way. It is truly a magical place full of beauty and bounty.

After a long day of tasting wine, we finished our day at the restaurant up the street from our B & B called Piacere. Piacere was no where near as modern or hip as Scopa, and the food wasn’t as great–however, there was a down-home Italian feel to this place that was very much appreciated after a day of galavanting around wine country. We ordered the lasagna (on special) and the eggplant parmesan ($13.95) with a side of fettucini alfredo–and ate every last bite! Sometimes all you need are the basics to end a lovely day.

Sonoma was really such a highlight of our vacation–everything was brilliantly delicious and heavenly. The flavors of Sonoma are my favorite and hopefully someday I will be able to follow the fresh Italian flavors of Sonoma with an actual trip to the wine country of Italy!

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