Tuesday, July 21, 2009
tape from california 9: wine and peanuts
Once across the Golden Gate Bridge, I had a decision to make: head west to return to the Pacific Coast, or head inland and take a leisurely drive through Sonoma County? Figuring I had enough time to dawdle before spending the night in Ukiah, I took the wine country option, via the Valley of the Moon scenic route.
The town hall in Sonoma. One of the most postcard-worthy shots from the entire trip.
I decided to limit myself to one round of wine tasting, so that I could continue to operate a boat-sized motor vehicle the rest of the day. Having done little background reading, and faced with no shortage of choices, I decided I would stop at the first winery with a significant number of cars in its parking lot.
The winner: B.R. Cohn.
Sampling was straightforward—$10 for any four wines, with the price waived if you bought a bottle. After trying both ends of the price scale, I settled upon a chardonnay.
Since there were as many olive oils, vinegars, and other food products for sampling and sale as grape-based beverages, I decided I could stop at other wineries to pick up tasty treats for the family without sampling any more vino.
Next stop was Chateau St. Jean. Walked out with a bottle of blood orange wine vinegar.
By this point, all the sampling had built up my appetite. I had noticed several wineries included delis and picnic areas for visitors, so eating at one seemed a reasonable option. I ate at Ledson Winery, who offered a variety of giant sandwiches. I went with the build-your-own option, piling on ingredient after ingredient. Dagwood Bumstead would have been proud of my creation—turkey, salami, pastrami, provolone, pesto, lettuce, tomato, pepperoncini, roasted red peppers and pickles. One oddity: San Pellegrino sodas were significantly cheaper than a can of Diet Pepsi. I felt slightly alone in the picnic area, as every other table held families, friends out on a daytrip or loving couples.
From one interest (food) to another (comics)...I stopped by the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center in Santa Rosa. One of the few exhibits that could be photographed was a mural composed of nearly 3,600 daily Peanuts panels.
Outside the museum was a sculpture garden that included birds working on a Charlie Brown statue and a Linus with a crossword puzzle on his belly.
Across the road was one of Schulz's proudest accomplishments, an ice arena he built in 1969. The front area includes statues of Peanuts characters in hockey gear.
Roaming on back roads between Santa Rosa and Ukiah, I accidentally wound up at Lake Sonoma, where I came upon this spectacular view...
...and advice from Smokey the Bear on the odds of running into a wildfire.
Dinner was at Oco Time, a "California Japanese" spot in Ukiah. The hosue specialty were ocos, a variation on Japanese okonomiyaki. I downed an Earthy Oco, which contained sliced cabbage, bean sprouts, green onion, organic egg, Japanese ramen noodles, mushroom, sesame seed and the mysterious-yet-tasty "vegetable-based Oco Sauce." I watched as it was assembled layer by layer on the grill in front of me (and drooled over some of the sushi prepared for others). Unlike okonomiyaki I've had in Toronto, in this version the pancake batter was a thin layer on the bottom, with the other ingredients layered on top. I was given a chisel-like instrument to cut the oco, which made the meal that much more fun.
After waddling out, I wandered around downtown Ukiah. I resisted the temptation to wander into the fully-open community radio station and hijack the airwaves. Another time...
Full set of pictures. All photos taken May 23, 2009. - JB