10 Things We Didn’t Know (Before Visiting Sonoma Wine Country)

On May 23, 2014, we were excited to welcome Tarah Fenn and her guest, Cristal Spencer, to Sonoma Wine Country. If you weren’t able to follow their #KJExperience, the lovely ladies (and best friends) won our “Friends are Like Family” holiday sweepstakes. They were so much fun and we were thrilled to share some of what make Kendall-Jackson so special with them – they even wrote a blog post about their experience and the top 10 things they learned about wine country on their visit! We’ll let them take it from here:

We couldn’t believe it. We won!!! And the prize, a couple of days in Sonoma Wine Country to enjoy the sun, delicious food and wine, of course. As the date approached, we could hardly wait to see what Kendall-Jackson had in store for us!

We flew from Minnesota to San Francisco, and a short drive later, we arrived at the Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate & Gardens. The scenery was beautiful during our drive. It was an experience just to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge –not to mention the rolling hills and vineyards as we entered into wine country! Upon arrival, we were warmly welcomed by the K-J crew and a glass of their new K-J AVANT Sauvignon Blanc (one of our new faves). From there, we met, Tucker Taylor, K-J’s Master Culinary Gardner, for a private “Sensory Tour” through his beautiful gardens. It’s really there that we began to uncover some of the treasures Sonoma Wine Country has to offer.

10. Culinary Gardens – Before our trip, we had a much different idea of what a garden looked like (after all, we are Minnesota girls and only plant ice). We had NO idea that K-J had such an exquisite and extensive offering of herbs, fruits, vegetables and edible flowers, which they grow at the Wine Estate & Gardens and are turned into delicious food and wine pairings. It’s the ultimate farm-to-table experience, and an ABSOLUTE MUST when you visit Sonoma Wine Country!

9. Food & Wine Pairings – Both of us love to eat and drink! Neither of us had participated in a complete food and wine pairing and we were in awe of the flavors our taste buds discovered. Every flavor in the food and wine was magnified, delicious and perfected —like receiving roses, chocolates and that pair of shoes you’ve been dreaming about from your Valentine all in one L-O-V-E filled bite. Execute Chef Justin Wangler and Chef Robert Nieto (Chef Buttercup), as well as the entire team at Partake by K-J, truly made this experience something that we will never forget!

8. In Other Bottles…. – When visiting the K-J Wine Estate, we were completely prepared for all the varietals of wine. That’s what they do of course! What we didn’t know is they turn the lemons grown on the property into infused Olive Oil to create Meyer Lemon Olive Oil. This is an amazing addition to all of our favorite breads, and can be substituted for butter in numerous recipes. We were also pleasantly surprised with the White and Red Verjus options. It is a juice pressed from grapes that is used in salad dressing and less intense than vinegar, it just makes everything pop!

7. Wine Clubs – Who would have known that a piece of Sonoma Wine Country can be delivered to your front door when you get home? Well you can. And it’s your ticket into having free tastings too! As you visit the different wineries and tasting rooms throughout Sonoma Wine Country, pick a few of your favorites and sign up as a Wine Club member. Depending on the membership, you will have access to limited-released wines and many varietals that are not released to the public (or even sold in your city at all, for that matter). For more information on K-J’s Wine Club, click here.

6. Murphy-GoodeIt just wouldn’t be right if we didn’t give a shout out to the Sonoma-based wine with Minnesotan roots … A K-J sister wine, Murphy-Goode isn’t just Good…It’s Goode! We got the chance to visit their viking-inspired tasting room, just off the Healdsburg Square and even met with Winemaker David Ready, who is really making Minnesota proud! If you don’t try the “Liar’s Dice and Minnesota Cuvee” and enjoy it, then you could have a larger issue!

5. Truffles – Our first ever experience with a truffle (mushroom, not chocolate folks). Delivered directly to the K-J kitchen, where the culinary team informed us we should be prepared for heaven! They were right. Along with so many other flavors, the truffles just melted into our mouth. While out exploring, we found an amazing “truffle salt” and might have left with a jar or two. It tastes glorious on just about anything!

4. The Taste of Grapes – We learned more than a glassful regarding grapes. It’s very interesting to taste and compare a varietal of wine made from grapes grown in Monterrey County vs. Sonoma County – or other appellations; the soil, elements and winemaking-style create wonderful differentiators in taste. We would also love to point out that because of this, there is a wine for everyone! Don’t be intimidated by wine or talking to professionals at wineries and tasting rooms. People in northern California are friendly and will help guide you through the process to find your new favorite – red or white, dry or sweet.

3. The Taste of Hops – We would also like to note that Sonoma County and “Wine Country” is not just known for its wine. There are over 23 breweries within Sonoma County as well. You know what that means ladies? Much easier to get your guys to head for a brewery tour while you and the girls enjoy what wine country has to offer!

2. Sonoma Wine Country is really Welcoming & Proud – Every place we visited felt exciting, and you could tell the locals wanted you to feel welcomed. The pride everyone had regarding wine, food, education, even at the Saturday morning Art Fair in Healdsburg, was tangible. They were excited to have us there, showcase their wonderful foods and wines and help to make our day a great one. Sonoma Wine Country “pours” pride, with 400+ wineries, just as much as Minnesota beams for our 10,000+ lakes.

1. Kendall-Jackson has such Masters & Professionals running their establishments – K-J far exceeded what we could have imagined for our trip. Award winning Chefs, Culinary Garden Masters and Wine Experts! We started the trip as two contest winners and left as lifelong Kendall-Jackson enthusiasts and Sonoma Wine County lovers! We can’t wait to plan our next trip out for the 18th Annual Heirloom Tomato Festival in September (consider yourself officially warned)!