San Francisco Day Five: Throwing Expensive Wine on the Ground in the Valley of the Moon

Birds sighted: House Finch, Anna’s hummingbirds, Hooded Oriole, green heron, lesser goldfinch, Black phoebe, turkey vultures, hawks
Dragonfly: Flame Skimmer
Fish: Steelheads (Rainbow Trout)

Entrance to Viansa

This day Traveler Five and I headed out to Napa and Sonoma valleys (Sonoma is also called the Valley of the Moon). These twin valleys are most famous for their wines, of course, but there is plenty else to see. Home to nearly 400 wineries, obviously, you can’t see most of those in one day. We went to Viansa, Cline and Domaine Chandon.

Looking over the vines at Viansa


Sculpture of Mallards (and if you know my history with Mallards you know why I need to include this...)

It began foggy as usual, saw egrets in the fields as we passed by. Our first stop was Viansa winery in Sonoma. This place has amazing views, and would have been even more amazing had the fog cleared. But it’s a great place to explore and they have protected wetlands on right on the property. Saw my first Anna’s hummingbird here.

Cline Cellars

Our second stop was Cline Cellars, also in Sonoma. The grounds are fabulous for birdwatching as you wander by man-made ponds and gardens. Here is where I saw my first hooded oriole, lesser goldfinch, and black phoebe. Anna’s hummingbirds zoomed around leaves and blooms. And the wine was pretty damned good too. I really like their 2010 Four Whites. I have an obsession with anything made from the Palomino grape.

Female Anna's Hummingbird

Red-eared turtle

House finches bathing

Black Phoebe

We then stopped in the center of Sonoma for lunch. I can’t remember the name of the place where we ate lunch but down the alley next to it is the most fabulous chocolate maker on the planet. I don’t say that lightly seeing as I am the world's biggest chocolate addict. Go to Wine Country Chocolates. Do the tasting. Then eat one of the honey cinnamon truffles. Your life won’t be the same. I swear.

Also on the same street is the Lisa Kristine photography gallery. Go there. She’s amazing.

Back of Domaine Chandon

After lunch and the major photography and chocolate fix, we headed to Domaine Chandon in Napa. Again, the grounds are an amazing place to see wildlife. From steelheads (rainbow trout) in the ponds and streams to Flame Skimmer dragonflies zipping like fire about the water, to green herons lurking in the shallows, this place is great. And you don’t even have to go any farther than the parking lot to see all that.

View from parking lot at Domaine Chandon

Magnificent oaks on the grounds of Domaine Chandon

You can’t see most of the Domaine Chandon’s vineyards from its well manicured grounds. You can see some interesting sculptures and learn about how they use owls and dogs to protect the vines. I so wish we’d been able to see the vine mealybug sniffing dogs. Or an owl. Instead we had a tour guide who kept me transfixed by the amount of plastic surgery and injections she’d had. Our guide then introduced me to the the best fun I’d had all day. I’m not a huge champagne/sparkling wine fan and that’s what Domaine Chandon is known for. Our extremely medically modified tour guide poured very generously I must say. She told us that if we didn’t finish each glass we could just throw it on the lawn because, well, the lawn liked it. So I did. Oh did I have fun chucking sparkling wine that had been aged for 10 years on the lawn at regular intervals. Everyone should throw extremely expensive champagne on the ground regularly. It’s extremely frivolous and oh so freeing.

Where wine ferments

Wine bottle sculpture

The sun finally comes out and, if you look closely, the moon as well

Finally, a sunny view of the valley

Happy California Cows...

This night we went to Taverna at Beldan Place for dinner. If you are in the Union Square area of San Francisco this is a wonderful place to find dinner. There are several very good restaurants down this alley where you can sit and dine al fresco. Taverna was excellent. We had the best truffled mac & cheese and beef stroganoff ever.

A view down Beldan Place

Chinatown at night

Dragon Lamp at night