Gary Farrell Vineyard

Long weekends are the best, especially when you’re exploring a place that’s so in tune with your own philosophy. I’m visiting a good friend from NYU that recently moved to Oakland, CA from NYC. My friend is a true New Yorker, she’s complained of the bagels, pizza, no smoking policies, and the suburban sprawl. But, together we’re exploring the good things this area has to offer…wine, fresh produce, and a slower pace. A much slower pace. Here’s a recap of our first day:

We headed up to northern part of Sonoma and started our wine tasting at Gary Farrell. Like I said, the pace is a bit slow, so we ended up staying there for over an hour. The winery doesn’t own their own land, rather they purchase grapes from various vineyards so we were able to go through 6 varietals (including chardonnay, 3 pinot noirs, merlot, and a zin). Since we were there on a Thursday, the crowds were non-existent and the ambiance was calm. The decor reminds me of a nice ski lodge with huge windows overlooking the vineyard.

merlot_gary farrell

After the 9 different tastes, our stomachs got the best of us and we headed South for the downtown Healdsburg area. At this point it was raining pretty hard, but Healdsburg is adorable. Its a quaint little town, no chains, and lots of open kitchens and tasting rooms. We had been hoping to lunch at Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen but to our surprise its only open Fri-Sun. We settled on Zin, a restaurant that describes itself as:

American Cuisine with a fresh approach to classic dishes and a comforting home-cooked appeal. By taking the best local ingredients, some of which are grown on our own Eastside Farm, and supplementing them with Artisan products from other parts of the country, such as stone ground grits from Falls Mill in Tennessee, we have crafted a unique version of American Home Cooking.

Starter– Heirloom Apple Salad with Radicchio & Romaine, Pt. Reyes Blue Cheese and Spicy Toasted Walnuts in Lemon-Thyme Vinaigrette


Main: Split the Slow Smoked BBQ Beef Brisket with Spicy Texas Sauce, Rancho Beans, Cucumber & Red Onion Salad, Pickles and Pickled Peppers


The restaurant was freezing and the salad did nothing to warm me up. The apples were overpowering, and it felt like it would be a more appropriate dessert for a hot summer day than a starter on a rainy fall day. The slow smoked BBQ beef was good, but nothing jaw dropping. It was warm and filled my belly. Oh, and we did a zinfandel flight with lunch…

After lunch, we headed South and stopped at the Gloria Ferrer sparking wine house. At this point we were pretty tasted-out, so each ordered a glass of sparkling and perched outside. The rain finally stopped and we saw an impressive, full rainbow. The view from Gloria Ferrer was beautiful in general; it captured all the stereotypical elements of rolling hills, vineyards, wild flowers, into one panoramic shot.


After Gloria Ferrer, we negotiated through a lot of traffic, stopped at the Whole Foods in Berkeley, and made dinner with our purchases. The Whole Foods was like any other, but I loved how many bulk bins they had…this picture only captures about half of them!


For dinner we made a pecan and panko crusted halibut with a sweet potato mash and spinach. I ate every last bite and fell asleep by 9pm.


Its Friday morning now and we are heading for our next adventure: see the Redwoods, beach, Golden Gate Bridge.

Is there anything I shouldn’t miss while I’m out here?