After spending some time in San Francisco, the Trafalgar team rounded everyone up onto one of their lovely coaches and we headed out of town towards the wine country. We made a quick stop to check out the Golden Gate Bridge which, as usual, was being coy as she hid behind late morning fog. No matter, our enthusiasm could not be dampened, we had some very special activities on the agenda for the day.
As part of the sampling of highlights from one their Northern California guided vacations, we headed off to enjoy a ‘Local Specialty,’ an activity which “allows you to experience local industries first hand, so you can truly appreciate the culture of the destinations you visit.” In our case it was getting to blend our own wine at a private seminar at Ravenswood Winery in Sonoma.
I have not visited too many wineries in my neighboring wine country because I don’t like the snootiness you find in a lot of the places. Wine tasting can be very intimidating if you don’t know the rules and when you add a snobby attitude, I am just completely turned off. It’s one of the reasons I love Preston Vineyards in Healdsburg, they are totally laid back and easy to talk too, and they have organic wine, which I am all for.
I can’t tell you how delighted I was when we arrived at Ravenswood. The staff there are so friendly and low-key that it was an absolute pleasure to meet and interact with them. They told us about the vineyards, about the history, and they took the time to let us appreciate their product (and we sampled nearly all of them!) without rushing us or selling too hard. You could tell they really enjoyed teaching us about their wines. I mean how can you not love a place that has the credo, “No wimpy wines….embrace the bold, abhor the bland.”
But the real highlight was learning how to blend our own personal bottle of wine. We were met by Peter Griffith, host of Blending Seminars at Ravenswood, in one of their barrel storing areas (I loved the smell of the wood from the barrels and they make for great photos too!)
Peter explained that the blending was a process of finding a balance of acid and tannins and finding a “mouth feel,” a concept I had never heard of before! By combining the characteristics of the wines we would be blending with, acid from the Carignan, tannins and structure from the Petite Sirah, fruit from the Zinfadel in various percentages and trying them out, we would eventually find a blend that we personally preferred.
Our task was to play around with the different percentages of our three different wines using our pipettes and datasheet. Here was our mini-lab and instruments to work with (and the beautiful Marie Ann of Trafalgar, Andi Perullo of My Beautiful Adventures and Abby Tegnelia of The Neon Jungle Princess in the fuzzy background!).
And here it was 30 seconds after I started blending….always the klutz! I swear I wasn’t even drunk (I spit out everything…it was 10:30 in the morning!).
That pipette was pretty long, but I did the best I could and after about 10 tries I found something I liked (okay stolen from our Tour Director JP).
Next, we headed out to a tented area overlooking the beautiful vineyards to do some sampling of their wines. It was a glorious morning, sunny and crisp, a perfect Northern California autumn day and the winery is a beautiful location to just relax and enjoy some time with friends. Of course, these lovely ladies look a bit dangerous, I think they are conspiring to take over the world…or at least discussing lunch plans! Just look at the exploding yellow behind them.
Once again I have to thank Trafalgar for leading me to this gem in my own backyard. They source really exceptional experiences to ensure that all their guided vacations or guided holidays exceed your wildest expectations!
There were several of Ravenswood’s wines that I would definitely pick up again and I plan on bringing Mr. Misadventures back to Ravenswood to do some more exploring. And you can too. If you are coming to visit San Francisco, Napa and Sonoma are just a short drive away. Come to visit Ravenswood Winery and try out their wine-blending for even more fun.
Disclosure: I was a guest of Trafalgar for a tour in San Francisco and Napa. I was not required to write this post, nor am I being compensated for doing so. All opinions are 100% my own.