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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Places to visit in Healdsburg, CA

One of our favorite drives is scenic West Side Road leading into the town of Healdsburg, 45 minutes away from "Artist's View" vacation rental in Jenner. There are many world class wineries to visit along the way and the mellow laid back feel of the area is a wonderful way to relax.

And what better way to finish your day in Russian River wine country, than to settle in to Bergamot Alley Wine bar in Healdsburg and taste a bit of Europe in our own backyard. Proprietors Kevin Wardell and Sarah Johnson are on a mission to expand the palate of California wine and beer drinkers through unique and exciting selection of old world European wine varietals and quality hand crafted brews. They have succeeded not only in their carefully selected menu, but also in creating an environment that is seductive to the senses.

Imagine transporting an uber-hip East Village loft smack in the middle of Healdsburg square with your own private DJ spinning vinyl records on a vintage turntable and stereo gear and that’s what Bergamot has created for their local following. The first thing I noticed when I dropped by for a beer with my wife was the modern mix of metal and wood in their furniture d├ęcor. The tables and modified “elementary school” chairs were beautifully crafted for both intimate and large groups of people. You felt at home when you walked in, the high ceilings inviting you to stick around and the brick walls and wood beams throwing off the vibe of a modern/medieval wine cave experience.

The rare wine room locker in the back of the tasting room captured my attention right away. I found out that it was a vintage barn door equipped with it’s own pulley system to open and close it, adding to the highly creative impulses of Bergamot’s owners. The walls are covered with modern artwork, thanks to owner/artist Sarah Johnson and Nathan Covey Singleton Frerichs who hails from Telluride, Colordado.

The crowd was in a festive mood lit up by the sounds of a modern African funk record spinning on the turntable. We introduced ourselves to owner, Kevin Wardell and he was very friendly and accommodating, offering advise to his patrons and making sure everyone’s glass was full. The crowd there is mostly locals and it had a laid back vibe that you get with people familiar with each other in a small town like Healdsburg. We studied the wine menu and saw many of our favorite varietals from Spain, France and Italy on the list. The unique blends added to our curiosity and we made a promise to go back for a tasting and to pick up a bottle, or two to share with friends.

I give the Berg 5 stars out of 5 for hospitality, fun and vibe. An edgy NY artist loft in the middle of Healdsburg wine country is a nice change of pace.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Places to visit in Graton, CA

Graton is a jewel in the heart of the Russian River wine country. A quaint town with a handful of restaurants, boutique shops and art studios, it is a must place to visit while vacationing in Northern California.

The Underwood Cafe is one of my favorite restaurants near Jenner and Artist's View vacation rental. It has a fantastic bar that many of the local wine industry people patronize. Their wine list is quite extensive and their menu superb. I recently ate lunch with friends visiting from the East Bay and their specialty Moroccan lamb burger sandwich with tzatziki, tomatoes and arugula is one of the best I have tasted. They also have a great beer list, which can't be beat on a hot summer day on their patio deck!

This quote from their website pretty much sums it up: "Celebrity-winemaker sightings happen almost daily at this Sonoma County spot. To sip Merry Edwards's extraordinary Pinot Noir while sitting next to Merry Edwards is a rare experience. Underwood is also popular for chef and co-owner Matthew Greenbaum's bistro dishes, like Hereford Ranch burgers.”

I recommend making reservations for dinner, for it can get crowded during the evening. However, the Underwood Cafe is a great place to pop in and eat at the bar if their dining area is packed.

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