words that begin with w. (part 2)

In case you’re headed to wine country at some point, here are some of my thoughts on the places we visited Sunday through Tuesday. Wednesday through Friday will be in part 3.


O’Brien Estate – We went here with our good friends, Tim, Kathryn, Brian, Nick and Jess. This was probably my favorite winery on the trip!
Go here if you:

  • like healthy pours of wine
  • are entertained by a drunk wine tasting leader (what is their title? this will have to do)
  • don’t care about the particulars of each wine… because your wine leader won’t go into this
  • like hanging out in people’s backyards that happen to have vineyards
  • like romance… their wines here are built around the stages of a relationship

{ That’s Richard, our wine tasting leader, in the white. He drives home through the vines after work when he’s had too much. }

Trafalgar… Treffeffn… Trethethen? Winery – this was our second winery with our friends. I don’t remember too much about it, because I was chatting with everyone so much… but I do know there was wine. … yep.
Go here if you:

  • like sitting down for your tasting… our big sturdy table was gigantic and awesome. I had table envy.

Napa Police – very friendly, not shy!
Hang with them if you:

  • like to be pulled over for stuffing 7 people in one car (6 wine-os and 1 DD)
  • enjoy getting nervous about how much more expensive your vacation may have just become
  • like comfortable rides back to your hotel


Go here if you:

  • get a kick out of paying $43 for burgers, shakes, and fries.

{ that’ll be 2 arms and a leg, please. }

Budge Brown’s Cleavage Creek Winery – We picked this winery because it was way out on the border of wine country and …definitely not because of the name. ::giggle::
Go here if you like:

  • free, private tastings
  • low-key winerys
  • pretty gardens
  • friendly dogs
  • to support research for breast cancer (get it? cleavage?)

However, unfortunately, their website says that their winery and tasting room are now closed. I know they were facing financial issues because Budge Brown died in a plane crash in May. He had started the winery after his wife passed away from breast cancer & the proceeds funded breast cancer education.

{ the winery dog }

{ wandering around in cleavage creek }

Gogi Kitchen (Santa Rosa) – known by really cool people as “Gogi Chicken.”
Go here if you like:

  • cheap, delicious chinese food
  • great service


Muir Woods National Monument – not a national park, because in order to protect the redwoods from getting chopped down by money-hungry businesspeople, getting it approved as a national monument was quicker. Thank you, Teddy Roosevelt, ya big tree-hugger.

Go here if you:

  • want to see trees that were already over a thousand years old when Christopher Columbus came to the U.S.
  • like peacefulness
  • don’t mind a pretty good workout
  • want to see the ocean from a mountaintop
  • want to cool down from wine country – it was a good 35 degrees cooler here than Napa. Michael and I were confused when we pulled into the parking lot as to why everyone was wearing pants and jackets… suffice to say, I now have a Muir Woods long-sleeved t-shirt.

{ 2,000 years old, nbd. }

{ that is actually the ocean… the fog is just hovering over it }

{ on the hiking path }

Pearl’s Phat Burgers (Mill Valley) – much better than Gott’s!
Go here if you:

  • love sweet potato fries. Theirs were crinkle-cut.
  • don’t mind a no-nonsense, very casual place to eat

Muir Beach
Go here if you:

  • enjoy taking naps & listening to the rhythmic rush of the ocean
  • like dogs. Almost everyone had one. The dog near us was trying to play fetch with his sleeping owner, and it was the pretty funny.

Lococo’s (restaurant in Santa Rosa)
Go here if you:

  • like low-key Italian (we thought it was fancy, so we’re looking pretty swank when we walked in. We got some weird looks from people in shorts. Please people, it’s after six. What are you, farmers?).
  • love homemade Italian. …and someone at your table needs to order the veal with fontina and prosciutto so you can have at least one bite.
  • like great serice. I don’t like too much in-your-face service, and this was perfect. However, I think we had the had the same waiter as my parents did when they went… and he sang to my mom then. Just a warning.

weddings, wine, woods … and other words that begin with w. (part 1)

Our friends’ wedding was in San Jose, CA, the weekend after Michael came home from the deployment. We decided to extend the trip a few extra days, since Michael had some time off, and because we had spent a couple of days in wine country before and loved it.

I now think of this trip as a personal financial victory (except for the money we spent on food, because that doesn’t count).

Let’s break this down.

$210 // 2 nights at a boutique hotel, The Sainte Claire in San Jose, for the wedding. This included valet, breakfast, and a bottle of wine each night. I have to give credit here to Jess, who made me aware of this deal on Living Social Escapes.

{the hottie escort was free}

$468 // 7-day standard car (Chevy Malibu) rental from National, using  my AAA discount. For some reason, the standard car rental, only at National, was about $200 cheaper than any other week-long rental.  ::high five::

$25 // 1 night at the Napa Mariott. We used our points +$25 to get this night. It included access to the VIP concierge lounge. Yeah, so only rollers like us got to indulge in free brownies, lemon bars, bottled water, and breakfast. We felt pretty good about ourselves. Now that I think about it, anyone could have gone into the concierge lounge by going in after someone who had just swiped their card. But still. It was really exclusive.

$0 // 4 nights at the Hilton Sonoma Wine Country. Michael’s a Hilton Diamond member (again, no big deal). It was a really big deal. Free upgrade to a 1st floor pool-side room with a porch. Free breakfast. Free bottled waters (limit 2). 50% off our first glass of wine at the bar (for which Michael haggled). Respect from all.

{50% the cost. 100% the pleasure.}

$0 // 1-13oz frozen yogurt from Screamin’ Yogurt. This could have been the highlight of the trip. I guessed the weight of my frozen yogurt correctly and I got it free. Michael hugged me. It was an emotional moment.

$195 // 2 round-trip tickets: into SJC and out of SFO. The $195 was for one return ticket. Outbound tickets & other return ticket were purchased solely with points. 75,000 points. I can attribute these points to:

(1) my Singapore trip in 2010 for work

where I worked really hard to earn 25,000 miles,

(2) and shamelessly opening a United Mileage Plus credit card to get 50,000 points.

Because I had so many points (Premier level; again, no big deal), I was able to check 2 bags for free (Michael checked another for free because of his military status) and got an upgrade for both of us on our way home. As you can imagine, I felt really bad about being in first class when so many were in coach. Thankfully, we had our own first class walkway to our seats. Otherwise I probably wouldn’t have been able to sleep after facing all of the… normal people.

{trying not to feel bad}

$50.76 // 7-day car parking at Westwind Airport Valet. This factors out to $7.25/day including tax, which is better than the economy lot. I had bought a Groupon ($16) for $32 worth of services, and then paid $34.76 on top of that for the week. This is a great company. They’re very close to the airport and they drive you to the airport in a limo. Then, when you get home after your trip at 8:00 in the morning on a Saturday, they pick you up in a limo. Of course, by this time, Michael and are used to this first class treatment… but not so used to it that we didn’t get a little giddy.

{tired and stinky, but feeling very important}

$89,490 // food and wine. But of course, I said that didn’t count.

So, folks, that adds up to $948.76 for the trip, plus food/wine/entertainment. For two people living large in California, that’s nothing to shake a first class ticket at! (as I always like to say.)