July 28, 2011

California Vacation 2011 - Part Five

Day six of the trip began with breakfast in our room.  Yes, blue skies again greeted us for our morning departure.  We ran by Starbucks to snag some drinks and then hit the road.  The leisurely drive lead us back to Napa Valley, as it offered many more enticing destinations yet to behold.  This would be our last full day so we planned to drive to the furthest winery away first thing in the morning and then spend the day working our way back toward Sonoma.

On the highway between Sonoma and Napa you can't help but see Domaine Carneros dominating the hillside.  It was early in the morning so they were not open yet but the French style architecture begged to be photographed.

Domaine Carneros

After a quick stop at Domaine Carneros, our next destination for the day would be Mumm Napa.  They are a sparkling wine producer and offer tastings out on a picturesque veranda.  The Ansel Adams photo gallery was another highlight to this unique place.

Mumm Napa

The town of Yountville looked to be a fun stop for lunch and more sightseeing.  There is free public parking right in the heart of town and there are shops and restaurants within a short walking distance.  The well known restaurant The French Laundry (owned by Thomas Keller) is located in Yountville.  Just a few doors down we found lunch at his Bouchon Bakery.  We sat on a shaded bench outside the bakery and enjoyed our sandwiches while shooing off the hungry birds.  A large marketplace offered fun shopping from local artists and featured the signature store of Napa Style.


The French Laundry restaurant
Yountville Marketplace
The next two wineries we visited were just walk through and photographic visits.  Clos Du Val and Andretti have really unique buildings as seen in the pictures below.  Walking out of Andretti I heard the distinctive sound of radial engines and caught a glimpse of two Stearman's flying over head.  A few moments later a Howard DGA roared by.  I bet they all had the best view of the valley that day!
Courtyard at Andretti

Candice and I both agreed that our favorite winery was Coppola's near Geyserville.  My second favorite was Jacuzzi in Sonoma.  We stopped in at Jacuzzi on our way back into Sonoma towards the end of the day.  Being that I am such an aviation enthusiast you think I would have spotted the propeller art work on the Jacuzzi sign out in front of the winery.  No, it was my wife.  She pointed it out and said we HAD to stop in.  Well, of course we did!

The Jacuzzi family is best known for their whirlpools and spas, but they have also built a magnificent winery.  The stone building has a two room tasting area, one for wine tasting and the other for olive oil tasting.  We spent equal time in both.  The propeller on the sign?  In reading a history of the Jacuzzi family I learned a piece of history I had never heard.  Before whirlpools the family made irrigation water pumps and before that they made propellers.  Cool.  An aviation link to a common name!  Check out their web site - Jacuzzi

The Jacuzzi winery is right next to the Sonoma Valley airport so I drove us by to see if there was any airplanes we hadn't seen before on the ramp.  A T-6 and Stearman were taxing out for rides as we pulled up.  I was taking pictures when Walt, the owner of the Ryan ST we saw earlier in the week stopped to visit with me.  We talked vintage airplanes for a few minutes before he went on his way.  It is always good to meet the owners of the airplanes featured on my web site face to face.
Walt Bowe's Ryan ST
With some daylight and energy left we made another swing through the Sonoma square.  A little shopping to find something to take home to remind us of the Sonoma area.  Is this weather for sale in one of these shops?  We want to by some of that!  Oh look, ice cream!  Just the treat to finish off the day!

Once back at the Fairmont we saw that the pool side seating was quiet and fairly empty so we snagged our books and a notepad to go sit by the pool.  There was a light breeze and the temperatures were coming down.  We found some seats in the shade to enjoy being outside knowing that the Texas summer heat wouldn't allow much of this when we get home!  Candice did some reading while I jotted down my notes to write up this trip blog.  The sun light faded after about an hour so we turned in for the night.  Our last night before returning home.

On the last morning we took things slow and made a gradual departure from the Fairmont to enjoy our final few hours in Sonoma.  There is so much to see and do in the area that we knew we would have to plan another trip!  Our conversations for the day were full of what to see NEXT time.  The last lunch stop for the trip was at Sunflower Cafe, a place we had read about before we arrived.  It was worth the stop.  The servings were large enough to pack up a snack for later.  Those would come in handy later in the day as we hurried towards the San Francisco airport.

Our final stop on this California trip was the Livermore airport to see a gorgeous Spartan Executive.  The connections I have made through my web page featuring Spartan Executives lead to a meeting being set to see Spartan Executive serial number 11.  Steve Marini was gracious enough to take time out of his day to open the hangar for us to see his beautiful ship.  He shared his story of seeing a Spartan at a young age and how he came to own a Spartan of his own.  To say he is enthusiastic about owning a Spartan is an understatement!  He gave us the full walk around tour and let me sit in the cockpit.  Our visit was too short as I could have listened to Steve's stories all day!  Take a look at the pictures below of his magnificent ship.  Thank you, Steve, for your time.  You have an amazing piece of aerial art!  (Look for Steve and his Spartan on display at the Reno Air Races this September.)

Steve and Dan

The clock was ticking and now we needed to race towards SFO.  It took awhile but our Prius finally got up to highway speed.  We made it across the San Mateo bridge and slid right into the rental car return at SFO.  Candice and I both let out a big sigh and breethed in our last deep breath of cool California air.  Time to go home.

It has been about two weeks since we returned from our vacation.  Texas has been on a hot streak with over 20 straight days with temperatures over 100 degrees.  You can imagine that my wife and I have mentioned almost every day that we wished we were back in northern California where it is about 20 degrees cooler!  Maybe next summer we can stay longer.

Links - see our Ryan and Spartan web pages at Another Time

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