So off we went through Calistoga towards Santa Rosa, studiously ignoring GPS Woman and following the directions to the neareset Starbucks on my iPhone app. Lesson learned. Apps are not always accurate. The 10.2 miles between points may have been accurate if you are a crow, but if you are driving through the Mayacamas Mountains, you have to negotiate a lot of switchbacks and effectively drive at least twice that distance!
Finally, however, Starbucks was relieved of a latte, a tea, a croissant and some oatmeal and I was relieved of eight bucks before we headed north on Route 101 to a destination as yet unknown.
As Santa Rosa and Sonoma County gave way to Mendocino County, the landscape changed again. Rolling hills, more rugged and rustic than Napa, some with vines, others tilled for fruit and vegetables. Always beautiful. Mendocino, like Lake County to the northeast of Napa, is another one of those areas that is often overlooked by Wine Country visitors. That is a shame as it has so much to offer and it is so easy to get there up 101.
After a mini-detour to purchase freshly picked strawberries, we stopped at Jaxon Keys Winery and Distillery. This is a fascinating place. The tasting room is an old farmhouse, perched on a hill with a wraparound deck. Apparently there is a guesthouse there too and they often have bands playing on the deck. God how I love Wine Country! Interesting too are not only the wines which are made predominantly from the 125 acres of ranch land surrounding the tasting room, but for the fact that they are the only place in the USA making brandy according to Cognac traditions. The brandy is bottled under the name of the original winery, Jepson and made with Colombard grapes, just like Cognac. Equally it is distilled in a real Cognac still that was brought over from France. The Signature Reserve won a golf medal in the 2011 American Distilling Institute Competition. American brandy gets a bad press, mainly because so much of it is dreadful stuff that is artificially colored and flavored and mainly used for cocktails such as the one ubiquitous in Wisconsin, The Old Fashioned. This Jepson brandy is a different thing altogether. Of course it cannot be called Cognac because it is not made in the designated area of France, however, to all intents and purposes, it is American Cognac. It is available in very small quantities and I wish I had known of its existence when I was at Kohler. It would have been a perfect addition to the bar of The American Club.
In addition to the brandy, the winemaker, Fred Nickel, make some interesting varietal wines including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier, Grenache, Primitivo (a clone of Zinfandel, or some claim that it IS Zinfandel), Syrah and Petite Syrah. There are a couple of blends too, a red and white “Farmhouse” wine, and even a port style wine made from Petite Syrah. All are priced very reasonably and they have a wine club (as do pretty much all wineries now) that offers discounts on not only the wines but also accommodations at the vineyard guesthouse. The winery is associated with several others in Sonoma too, under the name of Wilson Artisan Wineries.
Our journey continued in bright sunshine and temperatures that fluctuated between low 50s and upper 70s. We passed a herd of wild elk and eventually crossed the state border into Oregon where we are staying at a Best Western in Brookings, right on the beach. We happened upon a great little place for a light dinner, quite by chance, that was an art gallery with a jazz trio. We left Hopi in the car (he was exhausted from running up and down the beach), had a glass of Oregon Pinot Gris and enjoyed clam chowder and antipasti while listening to the jazz.
We thought there may not be much to blog about today. We sure were wrong!