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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Before the Wine Harvest in Sonoma's Dry Creek Valley

On our recent trip to Sonoma Wine Country Hubby and I spent three days there, one each in the Dry Creek, Russian River, and Alexander Valleys. Following our early morning visit to Hawley Winery in the Dry Creek Valley our next stop was to go back to Quivira a biodynamic winery I visited back in May while on the Wine Road's press tour for bloggers.

Though they have beautiful vineyards I came back to see something else. Following Quivira's Tasitng Room Manager's instructions, we walked out to find. . .

Ruby, the winery's pet pig! Found as an injured feral piglet on their property years ago, after nursing her back to health she's become a bit of a mascot for the winery.

Because it was a Labor Day the vineyards farm manager was very busy and wasn't able to meet us out by Ruby's pen so I could have a meet and greet with her. We found her no problem and just as we were told, she and her piggy buddy were sound asleep in their shed. Their paddock was very clean with a little mud hole just right of center. So cute!

So how was it seeing Ruby? First of all, I was picturing the baby piglet Ruby in my head so I was shocked when I saw she is quite large. I read online that wild pigs can reach weights in excess of 200 lbs. I'm pretty sure Ruby is more than 200 pounds. She looked to be about three times the size of me. We were told she loves to have her ears scratched just like a dog. Perhaps I'll be able to scratch them for her on a future visit.

The scent of peaches wafted on the breeze.

I also admired nature's bounty growing all over the property. Near Ruby's house we spotted some young fig trees waiting to be planted and in the culinary garden the peaches are ripening. Quivira uses their fruits both to make preserves they sell in their tasting room and for the menus when they host farm-to-table dinners. Their next one in October is already sold out so if you want to go check their online events page for updates.

The lighting wasn't ideal close to noon, note the deep shadows on the grape clusters, but for scale, I did think to take a picture of my hand grasping one of the decades old vines growing along the dry creek bed running behind the tasting room.

Adjacent to the tasting room there are a lot of things to see. One of my favorites is a shallow koi pond. It's a little fishy paradise. The water is so clear! I wondered how they keep it so clear. I counted three varieties of waterlilies blooming and three fish. In the picture to the right you can see an out of focus honeybee taking a drink from a lily pad.

Buzz Buzz

Wandering through the culinary gardens I think I found where that little bee lives. There's an apiary (bee hive/box) right beneath the peach tree! If you look closely you can see two bees coming in for landings.

The gardens at Quivira are inspiring. Seriously. They inspired me to plant vegetables in my own garden this year. I've been harvesting plenty of Swiss Chard which I love because I can pick two or three leaves and go make a nice pasta dish. There's no waste like when you buy a huge bunch at the store.

And see that sunflower to the far right in the center row above? I bet you'll never guess what they do with the sunflowers at Quivira.

I'll give you a clue, it has something to do with the chickens they keep. . . Pok pok.

They feed them to the chickens! We watched as they came by and pecked the seeds right off the flower then pecked them open to eat them. So cool!

This was one of those times when I had to switch from using auto focus to manual. In auto mode the camera focuses on the whatever is closest to the lens, in this case it was the chicken wire. To force it to move beyond the wire I switched to manual mode and the second picture is what I got. If you never use your manual focus you should try it sometime. I find I need it most often when I'm trying to shoot through fencing or branches.

Soon it was lunch time and I wanted to visit the Dry Creek General Store. Established in 1881 it has always been a general store. But when you arrive and walk up onto the porch you feel as if you're on a railway platform.

Everywhere you go in the Dry Creek Valley you'll see grapes! Even at the store.

And judging by the no spitting sign above perhaps it is a platform though at this point I'm guessing it was a loading platform. I'll have to ask my friend Tracy Logan at the Wine Road for more details about this quintessential picnic supply stop.

We stepped inside and ordered sandwiches for lunch at the deli counter.

It was  94Âș that day so we opted to sit inside where it was air conditioned even though EVERYONE else was going outside. In the seating section you'll find home decorating items, a variety of gift items and wines from growers in the Dry Creek Valley.

I ordered the Veggie Veggie sandwich. It was good and fresh and so big I couldn't finish the whole thing. The only bummer was I forgot to order it without black olives and it was full of black olives. I left behind a small mountain of olives in my wrapper which was a shame because they were perfectly good olives that were wasted on me.

After lunch we hopped back in the car to revisit Truett Hurst. While we went to Quivira to meet Ruby the pig, we went back to Truett Hurst to meet a different kind of animal.

The tasting room and back porch which is adjacent to the first of two picnic areas.

I'd arranged ahead to be able to visit to take some pictures of, not the owl box, not the brown goat or the Truett Hurst sheep but of. . .

Luci the goat! I first heard about Luci back in May because the winery named one of their Zinfandels after her. On my visit I didn't spot her anywhere. This time she was there but hiding. A little coaxing (me talking and singing to her) and she came out from around the shed.

Funnily enough Luci was the exact opposite of Ruby. I'd seen a photo of Luci before and thought she was a large goat. Turns out she's a petite little thing who, after peeking at me from behind the shed, decided to stroll right past me, tuck her legs beneath her and chew her cud for a bit.

She was adorable and I'm so glad I got to see her!

You can purchase the Luci Zin on Truett Hurst's Buy Wine page on their website:

2010 Truett Hurst / Luci Zinfandel / Dry Creek Valley Pomegranate. Red licorice. Black cherry. Spicy overtones. Cases produced 335.

After meeting Luci hubby needed a break from the sun and heat. He's no sunflower. LOL. He wanted shade.

So we headed down to the creek because it's surrounded by tall trees with several picnic areas comprised of bright red adirondack chairs.

Don't blink or you'll miss it! It was that fast!

We found one small spot that wasn't impacted by the current. Hubby spotted two things, neither of which we were able to photograph. The first was a tiny baby turtle.

I made you an animated GIF to show you what it looked like. It popped out along the shore, ran across the algae and dove into the water. I was so bummed to miss that shot but my camera was off and by the time I powered it on the turtle was gone :( Then hubby spotted a teeny tiny black toad. I'm pretty sure it was a toad because its skin looked dry and bumpy, not smooth and shiny like a frog. Than again, it was hard to tell because the entire toad from end to end was about the size of a dime. No kidding.

The creek is always beautiful and I could easily spend a day sitting on its shores.

Hubby was fading fast as 3:00 was approaching which meant it was time for his afternoon mocha.

 I'd already done the research ahead of time so we headed in to Downtown Healdsburg to the Flying Goat Coffee shop which only had pictures of flying ducks and running horses adorning it's walls. This little detail didn't bother hubby at all because he doesn't notice little details like that and because he was happy as a clam with his mocha.

After coffee we headed to the Haydon Street Inn to check in and, as it turned out, so that I could take a nap. I was exhausted from the long hot day. I actually haven't felt myself since returning from NYC, which I still need to blog about. So, even though we hadn't done anything too strenuous I was exhausted nonetheless. My next wine country post will be all about the room we stayed in at the Haydon Street Inn and the yummy food we I had for breakfast X 2.

Campo Fina

After I woke up we went to Campo Fina for dinner. Located just off the plaza it's an intimate restaurant with both indoor and outdoor seating. Again, because it was so hot out we opted to sit inside. What I didn't realize at the time was that outside there is a bocce court. Had I known I would have, at the very least, stepped out the backdoor to take a picture for you.

Originally hubby had planned to eat over at the Healdsburg Bar and Grill because we thought the food was going to be "too fancy" for him at Campo Fina because he only likes "regular" food. But Keren at the Haydon Street Inn told him to try the meatball sandwich. He did and liked it. But he couldn't get over that there was no Coca Cola®, Pepsi®, or any other kind of cola on the menu. It threw him a lot bit but after interrogating questioning and berating expressing his displeasure to our waitress about how wrong he thought it was, his shock and disbelief subsided and he opted for a San Pellegrino grapefruit soda. I felt bad for both the waitress and hubby as she was very patient explaining to him that there were no colas and his enjoyment of an entire meal goes down a notch when he can't have a "regular" cola soda with dinner.

The next morning at the B&B breakfast it was suggested to John that perhaps if he returns in the future he can bring his own Coca Cola® and be charged a cappage fee, kind of like a corkage fee like when people bring their own wines to restaurants :P

Seared Rock Cod Gnocchi

For dinner I had water and fish and fish. I think part of my exhaustion relapse had been caused by my lack of eating on a regular schedule, lack of sleep and lack of eating enough protein and iron so I ordered two small plates: the Rock Cod Gnocchi and the Panelle.

The plates are meant to be shared but hubby won't share dishes. Oddly enough he'll let me eat off his plate but he won't eat anything off of mine and forget family style restaurants. Though I must confess, I won't share my desserts but only because I'm greedy that way, not because I have peculiar dining tendencies.

The gnocchi was definitely a winner. Everything about the dish was perfect except for I wish I'd ordered two servings. LOL. The seared fish was browned beautifully, crisp on the outside, tender and flakey on the inside, it was fresh and oh so flavorful. The gnocchi was tender and perfectly prepared and the bits of fresh corn and veggies blended together to create a very tasty and satisfying dish.

The Panelle

The Panelle turned out to be not what I'd imagined. Each element on its own was good. I particularly enjoyed the flavor of the chickpea fritters and marinated anchovies and the thin shavings of celery were a nice touch. (The dish calls for black olives but I passed on them as I'd wasted enough olives for one day.) But despite enjoying each element on its own the Panelle somehow didn't come together for me. Even though nothing was overcooked I found it to be a rather dry dish. So, I began dabbing each forkful in the juices in the rock cod bowl which may have been gauche but it sure did taste good.

The  next time I visit Campo Fina I'm going to try their pizza, which I've heard is fantastic and I'm going to sit outside if the weather is good :) And I'm not bringing hubby with me :D

After dinner we walked around the plaza for awhile, window shopped and got candy bars at Powell's candy shop for dessert.

It was a great first day and even though hubby doesn't drink wine (or any other alcohol for that matter) he was a trooper and we had a lot of fun.

A special thanks to Tracy Logan, Guest Concierge at the WIne Road, who helped arrange my visits to Quivira and Truett Hurst and suggested Campo Fina as a restaurant she though I'd enjoy. I still have two more days, two more valleys, a glass of wine, three desserts, bats, some neat recipes and more to share with you in my upcoming posts about this trip so stay tuned :) If you're planning a visit to Sonoma be sure to ask Tracy for suggestions of places to go wine tasting, where to stay, where to eat, and things to do. The Wine Road is an invaluable resource for anyone planning to explore Sonoma's Wine Country.

To recreate our day in the Dry Creek Valley here's all you need to know:

Quivira Vineyards and WInery - Website
4900 West Dry Creek Road
Healdsburg, CA 95448 - Map

Dry Creek General Store - Website
3495 Dry Creek Road
Healdsburg, CA 95448 - Map

Truett Hurst Winery - Website
5610 Dry Creek Road
Healdsburg, CA 95448 - Map

Flying Goat Coffee - Website
324 Center Street
Healdsburg, CA 95448 - Map

Campo Fina - Website
330 Healdsburg Ave
Healdsburg, CA - Map
(707) 395-4640

Wine Road - Website

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