Monday, May 23, 2011

Leaving California for a Celebrity Sail

It’s hard to complain when everything has been going so well with my travels, but I was very disappointed to get the phone call that Up & Away had cancelled our Hot Air Balloon ride.  I had really been looking forward to it. Safety comes first, though, and the wind was not cooperating.

No balloon ride meant that we had a bit of extra time in our apartment at Camellia Inn in Healdsburg. I had remembered a great coffee shop down the block and we enjoyed some lattes and pastries from Flying Goat Coffee before the driver picked us up for our final Sonoma wine stop.

D’Argenzio Fine Wines was nothing like I expected and nothing like I had seen before. At first I thought we were just going to a boutique winery, but I soon learned that the D’Argenzio family had much bigger plans for this facility, which also has a tasting room in Burbank.  The place looks like it belongs in an Italian village and that’s just what they are helping build around them – in the middle of Santa Rosa, a Sonoma community that currently doesn’t have tasting rooms the way Geyserville and Healdsburg do. It is called “Santa Rosa Vintners Square” and in addition to D’Argenzio (which will be adding a pizza oven this summer), three other tasting rooms call this home, along with Squires Cigars. They will be joined by eight more small wineries and a Culinary Center. It looks to be a full experience of wine and food as an option to the spread apart wineries in this area.

As for D’Argenzio itself, this is strictly a family affair and I met with the owner/winemaker Ray D’Argenzio and his daughter Breanna, who just made her first wine, a tasty 2008 Sant’Angelo Sangiovese with cinnamon notes. Also worth checking out here was the very fruity 2007 King Ridge Pinot Noir and the 2006 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, a totally different taste, with a spicy front and a lot of tobacco on the back.  I really enjoyed their 2009 Tocai Fiulano, made from grapes from Fox Hill Vineyards of Mendocino County.  It’s light and citrusy, a bit like a Pinot Grigio, as well as the dessert wine D’Amarone, a sweet mix of petite syrah and cabernet that’s only available to wine club members.

We left D’Argenzio and made a stop in Marin County to visit the family before heading back to the ship on the San Francisco pier.  It was a nice break to be on land, but we still had more wine regions to get to and a cruise ship is a great way to do it. We made it just in time for a delicious dinner in the Celebrity Millennium’s dining room: cold Black Cherry Soup and  tender and flavorful Short Ribs with Polenta.  I made my nightly trip to the casino and still managed to walk away with a bit more than I went in with.  The ship was rocking a little for the first time, but it seemed to rock me right into eight hours of sleep before our next day at sea.

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