Last year it was my goal to get us out of the house for a day of fun once a month. I don’t know about you, but our weekends are easily eaten up with a list of chores and obligations that never ends and before you know it six months have gone by full of all work and little play, making us a cranky couple of yahoos. And that’s saying something because Jack’s general disposition tends to lean a little towards cranky, so you can see where I’m going here. It is essential that we go out and have a little fun on a regular basis.
Because we live on a budget I am constantly looking for good deals for our getaways. At some point in the Summer, I saw an offer on TravelZoo that was crazy good: a tour, a tasting, a bottle of wine … all for some ridiculously low price. So, I snapped it up and tucked it away in our “getaways” file.
Months later when my birthday rolled around we grabbed that TravelZoo deal and headed off to Sonoma to visit Iron Horse Vineyards. And it was a treat!
It’s a small family-run operation that specializes in sparkling wine. The location is incomparably beautiful tucked up in the hills at the end of a long country drive. The owners still live on the property. The tasting room is tiny, outdoors and informal. The staff is knowledgeable and down to earth. Pretension has no home here. It’s a refreshing departure from the touristy operations littering Napa. If you haven’t been, I encourage you to put it on your places to visit.
A couple tips:
- Pseudo-dog friendly. Iron Horse Vineyards is technically not dog-friendly, but we brought the Poops anyway hoping that we’d find a nice little hike sometime during the day. Because it was December we felt totally comfortable leaving her in the car with the windows open. (I definitely wouldn’t do it in hot weather.) Just outside the Iron Horse property there’s a public trail with a little parking lot (you’ll cross it going up to the vineyard) that ended up being a great place to walk the dog.
- Give yourself an extra 10 minutes to get there. Some of the country roads require that you go slow, so the timing won’t exactly match a GPS or GoogleMaps itinerary if that’s what you’re using to navigate yourself there.
- Plan a small picnic. The property is too beautiful, and the sparkling wine too yummy, to not linger a little and soak in the views. There are no official picnic tables to sit at, however, there are plenty of benches adjacent the tasting area and facing the views. Food is not offered at the winery, so if you need a little something in the stomach to accompany your tasting (as I do) pack a little snack: chocolate covered strawberries or truffles, some smoked salmon or a light cheese with crackers.
- Go in the off season. We went in December and loved it. It’s uncrowded—you get a staffer practically to yourself—and relaxed. And the views are just as spectacular.
- Ask the staff for a recommendation. If you’re looking for another winery to visit while you’re in the area ask the staff where THEY go in their time off, you might be turned on to a new-to-you gem. It’s how we discovered Lynmar Estate, just five minutes away.