{Travel} Wine Country Part 2

Yesterday I shared the first half of our trip in various parts of the Napa Valley (catch up here.)  These two posts were challenging to write given the current state of Northern California.  The fires have been devastating to watch unfold & it's going to be a long time until the valley can restore & regrow. Unfortunately, one of the wineries I'm sharing about today was completely destroyed by the fires. My heart breaks for the family that owns Paradise Ridge &  all those that have been affected.  Please consider donating to one of the following organizations during this extremely tough time.  I cannot express enough how wonderfully kind & accommodating everyone was to us no matter where we went; it truthfully felt like we were in another country. The people who live & work in the affected areas deserve a gushing post about how amazing our experience was because they are all amazing.

Ok last day of our trip...

Every time I told someone we were taking a trip to Napa we were met with "Oh, you HAVE to go to Sonoma."  So on our last day, we went to Sonoma!  Since we didn't have as much time as I would have liked to really explore, I took the advice of a family friend & booked the Sonoma Valley Wine Trolley to take us around to their favorite spots.
The trolley took us to 4 different wineries & included a picnic lunch at one of our stops.  We got lucky & had some awesome people touring with us!  First stop of the day was at Imagery Estate Winery.
Imagery Winery is really unique in that every varietal has a different label designed by an artist. Artists from all over can submit samples of their work & if Imagery feels like they're a good fit, then they work together to create a design. Each bottle was so different & unique!
Let us not discuss the color difference between my legs & J's...
From Imagery, we headed on to their sister winery, Benzinger Family Winery. First, we took a little tram around the property & stopped various times throughout the winery.  We ate grapes straight off the vine & drank Chardonnay smack in the middle of the vineyard ...oh & did I mention the viewers were STUNNING??
Benzinger stores their wine in caves too!
We continued the tasting inside their tasting room & after purchasing a few bottles, we had a nice picnic lunch.  
After lunch we headed on to the Paradise Ridge Tasting Room where we did a chocolate pairing with our wine tasting. Yes, you read that right. CHOCOLATE PAIRING.  AND this was no ordinary chocolate. Each piece was crafted with unique herbs & salts to help bring out the flavors of each wine.  The program was initiated by the best friend of the daughter of the owner of the winery, Annette. She was SO warm & welcoming & even gave us all a complimentary glass of sparkling wine before we started.
A closer look at those chocolates...
This was such a unique experience & it breaks my heart to know that the winery is gone.  But based off their social media, they will rebuild & will be better than ever. 
After Paradise Ridge, we headed to our final tasting at the small family owned winery, Mayo Family Wines
There may have been some rowdy non sober ladies who were encouraging us to take kissing pictures...which we never do because who wants to see that? This one is much prettier.
The trolley dropped us back in the Historic Sonoma Plaza around 4pm. Given that it was our first time in Sonoma, we decided to explore a bit. It is SUCH a cute town with tons of fun little shops...I could have spent an entire day just wandering around!
Of course I had to pop into this little indie bookstore where I walked out with 4 books totaling less than $25 thank you very much.
So it's pretty safe to say J & I fell completely in love with Napa Valley. So much that I've been figuring out how I quit my job, move up there & just drink wine all day.  We were both so sad to leave but cannot wait to plan our next trip there!
Driving to the airport on our way home :(

Overall Tips!
-Do your research!  There are over 400 wineries in the Napa Valley so it can be a bit overwhelming.  We chose to hit some of the larger wineries since this was our first trip & we got to go on some really great tours & learn a ton about wine.  On our next trip, I definitely want to hit some of the smaller wineries & skip the tours. 
-So many places offered multiple tasting & tour options, but things book up quickly.  So make sure if there are specific things you want to do, PLAN AHEAD
-Restaurants book up too! If there are specific spots you've heard of or want to go to, make a reservation & make it early.
-When booking your trip, make sure you plan according to the seasons.  The best time to travel to the wine country is September - November during harvesting season, though beware, this is when prices rise just a bit! 

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