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California Wine Country

In November 2007 we had an outstanding tour through California wine country. It was a neighbor reunion, with us joining our friends Chris and Mary who used to live next door, as well as their friends Roxanne and Greg, who used to be their neighbors in Wisconsin, as well as Roxanne and Greg's friends Claire & Dean who live next door to them now in Georgia.

Chris was the ultimate trip planner and tour guide. He set up and reserved all of our hotels, restaurants, and wine tours. I didn't even know what towns we were going to be in from day to day, let alone how to get from place to place. It was ultimately relaxing and allowed me to spend all of my time enjoying the experience and taking pictures.

We spent our first night in Healdsburg which was wonderful. It had a beautiful central square, cute shops, and the incredible Hotel Healdsburg. I can't say enough good things about the Hotel Healdsburg ( The rooms were beautiful, huge tile bathroom with soaking tub and a big open glass shower, beautiful pool area, incredibly helpful and courteous staff, and even a full complimentary breakfast. I could go on and on, but we will definitely go back.

The next day we visited incredible wineries and spent the night in Calistoga, and the following day even more wonderful wineries and we spent the night in Sonoma.

This was my first chance to really get some work done with my new Canon 40D and I love it to death!


Our Route

Here's the route we took on our trip

Wine tasting at check in

How cool is this!?! A local winery was set up in the lobby of the Hotel Healdsburg doing wine tastings

Window shopping

A little window shopping as we wander around Healdsburg

The lift

This was right after we first ran into Greg (we all met in Healdsburg)

Tasting room

This cool tasting room was right on the square in Healdsburg

Cool lights

I loved these lights in the tasting room. I'm kicking myself for not doing a series where the focus changes to subsequent fixtures


Chris got this shot of Christi and me on a bench in Healdsburg


Greg and Dean hanging out while we shopped

Ray Manzarek

We walked around a corner and saw that Ray Manzarek (formerly of the Doors) was actually in town

Strike a pose

Greg does a little vogueing after dinner

Flower power

Chris looking adorable with a flower behind his ear

The pool

We didn't get a chance to use it, but the pool and spa at Hotel Healdsburg looked beautiful


The pool was surrounded by fruit and olive trees


I played with some new focusing techniques on this trip and got some great flower shots

Love this sign

We found this great little dog shop called Fideux in Healdsburg and could not stop cracking up about this sign

Roxanne & Mary

Here we are at our first winery (Dry Creek)

The Bar

A fun shot of the bar at the Dry Creek winery

Neat plant

I love this plan. No idea what it is, but it's neat

Beautiful grapes

I love how the light hit this bunch of grapes

More grapes

This little bunch of grapes was adorable

Grape seeds

They take the grape seeds and other grape leftovers and use them as nutrients for the grape vines

Christi & Claire

Christi and Claire listening intently to our wine tour


Dean paying close attention

Our Guide

Our tour guide at Dry Creek was awesome


A cool shot of Greg listening in on the wine tour


Chris with his funny glasses that attach to his nose

The vines

I love this shot of one of the rows of vines


Christi, adorable as usual

More vines

The view at the Dry Creek winery was gorgeous

Change in focus

A similar shot, with a different focus point

Of course, more grapes

I couldn't stop taking pictures of grapes


A neat shot of Roxanne whith the vinyards behind


A cool shot of Mary

David Stare

How classic is this shot of the founder of the Dry Creek winery from back in the 80s

The History of Labels

These bottles showed the progression of the label design

Cool boat

The Dry Creek winery had a sailboat theme, and this model was cool

Consulting the plan

Here's Chris consulting the plan

Your photographer

Christi caught this picture of me as I wandered around taking pictures

The Cellar

The cellar at Dry Creek was beautiful

Huge Barrels

The giant barrels were custom made for them, and beautiful


Chris's dream come true


I had no idea that barrels were made entirely without glue or nails, just held together with the metal bands around them


The Ferrari-Carano winery was stunning!

The Tour

The tour of Ferrari-Carano was fun

More view

This view reminded me of a scene from the movie Gladiator where he's walking down the road toward his home

A cork tree

Check out the sign on this cork tree. I was shocked at how difficult it is to get cork from a cork tree

Wood wrapping

I love how their barrels are wrapped with wood to protect tem as they roll them


When the grapes are brought in from the field they're fed into the system using this huge auger


This cage is usually mounted in a unit at the end of the auger and lets the grapes drop through while it keeps the stems inside

Pokey things

This big pokey thing is usually inside the cage thingy and gently removes the grapes from their stems

Wine Cellar

The wine cellar at Ferrari-Carano was quite fancy

Neat Barrels

Quite the wine collection

Great bar

The bar at Ferrari-Carano had a stunning view

Why yes, I will have a drink

The crew enjoying some wine at Ferrari-Carano

Nice view

Christi in front of the vinyards


The vinyards at Ferrari-Carano made for a great photo backdrop

Me and Chris

We're so adorable!

Mary, Chris, Christi, and me

Mary & Chris

Rox & Mary

The sun was driving Mary nuts

Claire & Rox


Roxanne pointed out this cool photo opportunity

Different focal point

Here's a similar shot, but with the background in focus

Greg & Roxanne

Greg did the most hilarious poses

Chris, Mary, Rox & Greg

Dean, Claire, Rox & Greg

The whole crew

Here we all are with the vinyards in the background

Clos Du Bois

Thes guys make some incredible wine. It's one of Chris's favorites

On the sign

Rox & Mary on the Clos Du Bois sign

The wine cave

Even better than the bat cave

Olive Tree

The olive trees were beautiful, but the olives were yukky

Christi in black & white

I was playing around with the black & white setting

Neat barn

The color of the barn is cool

More olives

but still yukky

Alexander Valley Vinyards

Wine barrels can cost $800-$1200 each! They've gotten even more expensive as the dollar has gone down vs. the Euro


Adorable little flowers

The Zinful 3-pack

Temptation, Sin, and Redemption

The look

Mary is the master of "the look". It makes you feel like a 5-year old caught with your and in the cookie jar

Rock wall

This view of the vinyards at Alexander Valley was beautiful

Long shadows

We stopped along the roadside to take this picture of the shadows extending from the vinyards

Ready for dinner

The gang gets ready to head to dinner


Of course, Lambkin came along

Hydro Grill

A cool night shot of a bar across from where we had dinner


I got some cool shots of grapes in the morning dew

And more grapes

I like the depth of field on this


Greg, Chris, and Dean in the window of the inn

Roses in the morning light

The sun had just come over the roof and hit the roses


These flowers the Chandon winery were adorable


A cute little bee

Bottle art

This wall of bottles at Chandon was neat


We had a great private tour of Chandon


The fall colors on the grape leaves were cool

More leaves

Wine tanks

Now that's a lot of wine!

Our guide

Our guide explaining how sparkling wine is made

More Barrels

This was one huge cellar

And more barrels

Ignoring the cost of the wine, just imagine the investment in barrels at around $1,000 per barrel, and they can only use them a few times

The thingamajigger racks

Can't remember what these are called, but essentially they used to use these racks to turn each bottle by hand to stir up the yeast (was it yeast? hmm, can't remember for sure)

The new way

Now, instead of doing it by hand they use these huge machines to stir the bottles, and this is a baby version, the big ones are like six times as big

Cool art

I love this series of backlit bottles


Other way


More Lambkin

Lambkin's such a trooper!


A cool reflection in a puddle


Quite the cool set up on the lawn

Close up

A closer view of the table on the lawn


Our private tasting was next to a cool little waterfall

A little wine

How incredible is this set up they had for us at the wine tasting

The glasses

The sparkling wine was outstanding! We ordered 18 bottles

The menu

We each had a menu explaining the different wines we were tasting


Rox, Greg, Dean & Claire enjoying the tasting

More bubbly!

Rox getting more bubbly as we had more bubbly

Slower shot

here's a slower shot of the waterfall that flattens out the water a bit

Rox & Mary

Hanging out at the tasting

All gone!

Claire showing off her empties

Incredible lunch

At the Chandon winery we were treated to an incredible lunch. The scallops were unbelievable


Christi with the wall of vines in the background

The Leap

Greg performing a little gymnastics

Joseph Phelps

The beautiful vinyards at Joseph Phelps

More Vinyards

more beautiful vinyard views

Christi at Joseph Phelps

Beautiful girl, beautiful background

Little tree

An adorable little tree in the vinyard

More vinyard

and more


We got the most incredible private tasting at Joseph Phelps. Claude was outstanding

A 1980 Cab

Claude shared a 1980 Cab with us and it was outstanding. He taught us all about how to look at, smell, and taste wine

More vinyards

they were just stunning


I love the framing on this shot, with the little out of focus flowers in the foreground

The Lake

Joseph Phelps had a beautiful lake in the vinyards


A cool reflection in Christi's glasses

More view

Just a couple more

More framing

A guy at the winery turned me on to this view. He said he frequently takes his lunch up to this view

Even more view

The mirror

Greg and Dean taking a few shots, as seen through our rearview mirror

Afternoon sun

I shot this from the car on the way to dinner


We got the most incredible private tour of the Hess art collection, with a wine tasting, and dinner by their executive chef

The path

The path into Hess was beautiful


A cool reflection in the pool in front of Hess


Grapes in a vat in the Hess winery

More vats

Another view of the vats they put the grapes in


A cool collection of corks

More reflection

More shots of the reflections in the pool

Heading out

Greg and Dean heading down the path

Self portrait

Couldn't help it


Beautiful flowers in front of a little breakfast place we went to in Sonoma

More flowers


Saying goodbye as we all headed off to the airport

Golden Gate

We stopped by a scenic overlook on the way to the airport

Chris & Mary

With the bridge in the background

Us with the bridge

More bridge

Mt. St. Helens

We had a great view of Mt. St. Helens on the flight back

Another shot

Another view of Mt. St. Helens with another mountain in the background. Hood maybe?