Trip date: January 2016
A few years ago my friend Lorraine invited me to sit in as a guest at her Cellar Dwellers wine tasting. They were a group of 12 who got together regularly to eat, drink, and discuss delicious things. I knew most of the people in the group, though not well, and also had the pleasure of meeting some new friends; John, Amanda, Benson & Kel. That was June 19th, 2013.
I got to keep my seat and over the last 4 years these friends have been there for me in so many ways. And so many times. They are full of love, laughter, amazing taste, extraordinary skills, and are just all-around-great people that I feel so lucky to know. This week Kel passed away unexpectedly and now I am reeling from the sudden void he's left. I know the others are feeling it as well.
I only knew Kel a short while but I had so many awesome times with him both as part of the group and separately. Last January Cellar Dwellers (missing Sandra & Travis who were on a round-the-world-trip) decided to take our wine tasting on the road to the Napa area; I started this post before Kel left us, it seems fitting to finish it now.
Our flight was delayed out of SeaTac so it was later than we planned when 6 of us finally touched down in Santa Rosa, got our rental van, and drove to The Retreat where we were meeting 4 other Cellar Dwellers and Sarah's parents, who were all cooking a gorgeous dinner for us. Each of us had our own bottle of the olive oil that the Lawers produce at our table setting.
Sarah's parents, David and Betsy, own Lawer Estates winery and vacation rentals in Calistoga where the 10 of us would be staying. After dinner we split up with 6 of us going to The Lodge, and the other 4 staying at The Farmhouse in the Vineyards. All of these properties are absolutely wonderful and I couldn't recommend them more!
The next morning was cool and drizzly, but we weren't too bothered as we were heading to the Culinary Institute of America to take a wine class called "Tasting Like a Pro". The 2 1/2 hour class was super fun and our group will forever disagree over the flavor charactistics of oak.
All that wine drinking, I mean tasting, had us ready for an afternoon cocktail and some lunch. We chose nearby Goose & Gander. There were many orders of Fried Chicken Sandwiches and the house burger outfitted with gruyere and bacon.
Model Bakery English muffins for the house, and doing a little wine tasting at Orin Swift before hitting the grocery store and heading back to The Lodge.
Lioco, Kai Kliegl. Pretty much everything here was fantastic including the Pinot Noirs. I think Lioco has become a CD fave and I know a few of us get very excited when we see their rosés in our shops in the summer.
Mayacama Country Club in nearby Santa Rosa. And because David is super generous, he brought both a 1999 and a 2003 Silver Oak for us to enjoy with lunch. Those Cabs definitely called for a burger!
Bottle Barn, which has great prices on booze and some things you can't get in Seattle. The back of our van continued to fill as we went to our afternoon tasting at Two Shepherds Wines. Our group was very divided on the wines here, they're pretty high acid, even for this girl. But they did have this super cute dog!
Our final wine appointment was an over-the-top private tour and tasting at Ridge Vineyards. Ridge is one of the oldest vineyards in the Sonoma Valley and is very famous for coming in 5th at the Judgement of Paris.
Kel I love you and will miss you so damn much. I'm so lucky to know this group of wonderful people and I look forward to recounting many memories of you, continuing to learn about you, and hopefully coming to terms with the loss of you. But I'll never forget you. xoxo
All trip photos here.