The girls on “The Rock”–minus Sean Connery
If you have one lifelong friend you can count on, you’re a lucky person. I am blessed to have five great girlfriends. We’ve all known each other since at least seventh grade at Bay Point Junior High in St. Petersburg, FL. Two of us have known each other since kindergarten. But we are scattered all over the globe these days. Only one of us still lives in our hometown. One friend lives in Fort Lauderdale, another lives in Ohio, another lives in St. Croix, and one, Debra, lives in Paris. As in France. We’ve been through some “stuff” together. Fifteen years ago, we decided to celebrate a big birthday by taking a trip to Cozumel. Halfway through the trip we named each other “malas chicas” after a run-in with a silver merchant. We had such fun on that trip that we decided to do it again for another big birthday–that time we took a cruise. In the years since, we’ve been to too many funerals of parents and siblings. So after the last funeral, it was decreed. We would not wait for yet another funeral, or another “big” birthday. We would take a “double nickel” trip. You do the math. After an avalanche of emails, it was decided that San Francisco and the Sonoma Valley wine country would be our destination. Sue, who is our logistics expert, spent untold hours researching and planning. And so the adventure began. Last Saturday, we met up in San Francisco. Sue found us a great deal at a nifty hotel–the Park Galleria, only a short distance from Union Square. Our favorite thing about the hotel: winey happy hour every afternoon from 5:30-6:30 p.m. On Sunday, some of us took the ferry over to Alcatraz and took the guided tour, which was fascinating. On Monday, we took a great (free) guided tour of Chinatown which was offered by the library. During the tour, we saw several places that offered Chinese reflexology, so we tried that too. Very relaxing!
Tuesday morning, several of us took the cable car down to Fisherman’s Wharf. Then we loaded up our rental van and headed to Sonoma County and Healdsburg, where we’d rented a house on the Russian River. For our first wine tasting of the week, we went to Domaine Carneros for a tasting that had been arranged by Nancy’s wine club friend. We tasted several yummy champagnes and pinots, and flirted outrageously with Jean Claude, our sexy French wine guy. Highly recommend Carneros champagne, and not just because of Jean Claude, either. While at Carneros, we met several women who talked us into joining them for a tasting at Artessa, which was just across the road. Good times! Finally, we toddled over to our house on the river and fixed a gourmet dinner of grilled salmon and roasted veggies.
On Wednesday, we travelled over to the Martinelli Vineyard. Debra, the Parisian member of our posse, had a connection who lined us up with a very very special tasting with Julianna Martinelli, who is the fifth generation of this wine-making family. For two hours we tasted the luscious wines of Martinelli, and Julianna told us the history and philosophy of each one. Afterwards, Julie’s dad and brothers dropped by the winery as we were leaving, so we were able to snap a family photo with them. That’s Julie on the right back row, standing next to her unbelievably youthful Paul Newman look-alike dad. From Martinelli, we went to Iron Horse, which has an outside tasting room, so we were able to enjoy another gorgeous crisp California afternoon while we tasted that winery’s pinots, zinfandels and sparkling wines. We had dinner in Healdsburg that evening, then went back to our house for a dip in the hot tub.
Thursday we designated as spa day. But of course we had to detour to the Montelena Winery in Calistoga to taste their famous chardonnay and other goodies. The winery is set in an 1800s chateau and sits amidst beautiful Japanese tea gardens, as well as the vineyards themselves. If you’re a movie buff, maybe you remember that Montalena’s founder Jim Barrett and his son Bo were portrayed in the movie BOTTLE SHOCK, part of which was filmed at Montalena and in and around Calistoga. We actually bought the movie–and some very nice wine. Then it was off to the Golden Haven spa in Calistoga for our mud baths and massages. We were fascinated with the number of spas in and around Calistoga, many of which are located in little old-timey motels. My friend Linda and I used a discount “couples” coupon we found in a magazine, which lead the spa people to conclude that we were an actual couple. Which lead to some funny moments. After our soaks and massages, we paddled around in the hot mineral pools to unwind for an hour or so. Heavenly!
Thursday night, we cooked a lovely dinner of grilled ahi tuna, steaks, salad and sweet potatoes. Afterwards, we screened BOTTLE SHOCK, which is the true story of how, in 1976, at a blind Paris taste-testing, Napa Valley wines outscored the snooty French wines. Fun movie. And did I mention that the six of us managed to kill five and a half bottles of wine–including two bottles of bubbly? Today we’ll try some more wines, check out the redwoods and spend our last night in Sonoma before heading back to San Francisco for our Saturday red-eye flights home. It’ll be tough getting back to normalcy after such a great week. But we’re already planning our next chick trip. Tuscany? St. Croix?