July 18, 2011

California Vacation 2011 - Part Three

We awoke to another cool, sunny California day so we walked to the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn diner called Big 3 for breakfast.  True diner feel and true diner food.  With the two hour time difference from Texas we were trying to get on schedule when our bodies needed food!  Over breakfast we planned our days route up towards Geyserville.

Highway 12, that goes right by our hotel, took us northeast along the edge of the hills toward Santa Rosa.  There are large estate homes, ranches and wineries all along 12.  A white and red trimmed Cessna 170 caught our eye sitting at the edge of a field nestled against the trees.  It didn't appear to be much of a runway.  Just a field that was big enough for a local to slide in and out in his own personal airplane.
170 in a field
Back on track we continued on to the north.  Some traffic slowed us down as we worked our way through Santa Rosa to catch the 101 North.

Our first stop of the day was the Clos Du Bois winery.  It was a short walk through to take a few pictures and move on.  The architecture of the buildings in this area had us taking pictures at every stop.
Clos Du Bois
Just across the 101 was one of Francis Ford Coppola's wineries.  Formally the Chateau Souverain winery, it has been remodeled and looks like a 1930's resort!  Walking up the entry stairs the building captures your attention.  The pool area, vintage cabines and pool cafe take you back in time.  The building is magnificent inside with its soaring wood beamed ceilings and dark wood features.  Movie memorabilia fills a large round showroom and featured center in the room is a Tucker car.  (Coppola made the movie Tucker, staring Jeff Bridges.)

Coppola entrance

Dan and the Tucker

View from inside Coppola

Pool Side

After the self guided tour we made our way to Rustic the on site restaurant for lunch.  The hostess took our name then noticed my Cessna t-shirt that I was wearing and asked if I was an aviation enthusiast.  Why, yes!  She asked if I knew the name Will Whiteside.  I remembered the name and knew of his racing at the Reno Air Races in his Yak-3 and the Mustang called Voodoo.  She was a friend of his.  Small world these aviation circles.

We were enjoying our lunch and about half way through the lunch the hostess returned to our table to give me a phone number.  She had called Will Whiteside, told him about my aviation interest and he mentioned we should give him a call.  OK, twist my arm!  Now armed with his phone number we discussed visiting him at the Sonoma County airport.  Well, we ARE close by!  We finished up lunch and stepped up to the wine tasting bar.  We made notes of our favorites before heading back towards Santa Rosa.

Next stop was the Kenndal-Jackson winery.  It was a brief stop as I made a call to Will Whiteside to see if he would show us his Yak-3.  He said he was expecting my call and invited us to meet him at the airport!  Visiting wineries and touring airports!?  THIS is a great vacation!

We followed Will in the gate and he lead us to his hangar.  For about 45 minutes he showed us his restored Warbird and told us stories of how his aviation interest began.  From flying with friends to transitioning up through various aircraft types to racing powerful, vintage Warbirds around the pylons at Reno.  Nice guy, cool airplane.  Great side trip.  Thanks again for the tour, Will!
Yak-3 "Steadfast"

Dan trying on the Yak

Dan and Will Whiteside
By now it was late afternoon so we headed back towards Sonoma.  A quick swing through the Ledson winery for pictures and then on to Chateau St. Jean winery.  Chateau St. Jean is another architectural gem.  Are we in Italy or still in northern California?  At least a small piece of Italy and its architecture.

Chateau St. Jean

Candice and Dan in the gardens of Chateau St. Jean

Now that we had a fun, full day behind us we slid back to our inn and ate a light dinner in our room.  Feeling like it was Texas time we turned the lights out at 8:30pm local time.  Two full days still ahead!  We need the rest!  Part four to come.

Links - Clos Du Bois - Coppola - The Tucker - Will Whiteside - P-51 "Voodoo" - Ledson - Chateau St. Jean

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