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We take our favorite people – Sacramentans – seriously, so when writing up a field trip to Sonoma, we couldn’t very well send you away willy-nilly. Naturally, we had to road-test the itinerary for you, so on an early summer Saturday, the City Scout crew & Co. hit the road to Scout out a new adventure for you and yours.
Because we’re either we’ll-cross-that-bridge-when-we-come-to-it people, or tell-me-everything-about-this-bridge-and-brace-yourself-for-my-twenty-questions people (or some combination therein), we’ve returned from our journey with some highlights and insider tips so you feel prepped and pepped for your day. Rev your engines, people; it’s day trip time.
So as not to overwhelm, we focused on three stops to highlight what this beautiful, and all-too-often-overlooked locale has to offer:
Stop #0: But first, coffee…and gas. Fuel up your think tank and gas tank, and get out of dodge. We chose The Mill at 1827 I Street chiefly because owners Nick and Ilah serve up killer coffee in a killer space, but also because if you’re carpooling, you can park your car on I all day on the weekends.Stop #1:
Scribe Winery, 2300 Napa Road, Sonoma
Drive time from midtown: 1 hour, 15 minutes
Why We Love It:
- Because the tasting room is set so far back on the palm-tree-lined property, you can soak in the one-of-a-kind views from the hilltop tasting space.
- Scribe uses both familiar and unique varieties to create balanced, food-friendly wines that evoke a sense of place, all in the style of The New California Wine.
- Home-grown produce graces the tasting plates.
- Owners Adam and Andrew Mariani hail from the Mariani Nut family, which translates to family history in every almond bite.
- Grabbing a seat on the swing hanging from a large oak tree means you can feel the breeze whirring past as you soar over the vines below.
- You can walk around the grounds a bit to check out the vegetable garden, and see the historic hacienda – which served as a hub during Prohibition – in the process of being renovated.
- No outside food. This is actually a good rule because the Scribe kitchen creates beautiful trays of artisanal cheese, crackers and produce – much of which is grown on the property or comes from nearby friends.
- You can join SVS, Scribe Viticultural Society, which you can read about here. Some highlights:
- You get to go to the allocation pick-up party four times a year (in February, May, August, and November) where Scribe brings in a local chef and throws one heck of a party.
- You get discounted bottle pricing.
- A choice of the four-, six-, or twelve-bottle plan allows you to opt in at the level that best fits your spending and imbibing habits.
- You can call to make a bottle-and-blanket reservation to enjoy your wine while sitting on the grassy knoll.
- You can make a reservation for a complimentary tasting for you and five friends.
- You get to drink Scribe wines, period.
- If you’re a member of SVS, you can taste for free (with an appointment). If you’re not (yet) a member, you need to make an appointment (via email or phone at (707) 939-1858). If the idea that you have an appointment seems off-putting, it’s silver lining time: 1) it will take you less than five minutes to make the reservation 2) most importantly, because Scribe operates on a by-appointment-only basis, you avoid that cattle-call, elbow-people-to-get-to-the-counter feel that limo-infested wineries tend to have.
The Fremont Diner, 2698 Fremont Dr., Sonoma
Drive time from Scribe: less than 10 minutes
Why We Love It:
- Yes, this is diner food, but if you’re picturing greasy spoon food that will leave you feeling icky, you’re picturing it wrong. With a focus on local, seasonal, quality ingredients, it’s homestyle cooking done right. Here’s the lunch menu for your perusing, but if you happen to be in the neighborhood at breakfast time, the chilaquiles are incredible.
- You can sit inside in an incredibly charming, country-but-not-too-country, electric mint green setting (including kitchen bar seating where you can watch the chefs at work) or outside on a styled out patio (with your pup!)
- The host will text you when your table is ready (how thoughtful is that?). While you wait for your table, you can:
- shop around for playful, intentional products – including colorful blankets like those at Scribe, coffee thermoses, produce maps, and hats.
- buy a beer, a glass of wine, or a milkshake from the Airstream bar out on the back patio. There’s even a lounge-y area for you to sit while you sip and wait. Note: Some of these beers are only available from the Airstream, so be sure to check out their thoughtful selection.
- take photos in the photo booth. If you feel so inclined, you could add one of your photo strips to the growing collection posted in the bathrooms (and tag your photos with #cityscoutdaytrip on Instagram)!
- Tables are limited to 6 and you can’t move tables around, so as a group of ten, we sat at two side-by-side tables. It worked just fine.
- Some food highlights and tips:
- Our server Bridget asked to start working at Fremont Diner halfway through eating her first pastrami sandwich there. Having ordered one, we understand why. Bridget also added, “I’m from Iowa and I lived in Kansas City for ten years. The pork butt here is legit; it is Midwest approved.”
- Bridget – a wealth of knowledge, that woman – also let us in on a little secret: though both the horchata and salty caramel milkshake flavors are divine on their own, “The Salty Whore” combines the two. Order two; call us in the morning.
- As a card-carrying member from Nashville, one of our group members, MJ gushed, “This cornbread is authentic Nashville cornbread. If you want to have a taste of Nashville, 2000 miles away, this is it.”
- About the Oyster Po’boy Sandwich, City Scouters – mouths full – said, “that’s official,” (Tyler) followed by “This is the best sandwich I’ve ever had” (Nycala).
Varies from snacks like the cornbread starting at $3 to some of the sandwiches at $14, with lots of options and prices in-between.Stop #3:
The Carneros Inn is just outside of Sonoma, at 4048 Sonoma Highway, Napa, but it’s worth a little cheat
Drive time from The Fremont Diner: less than ten minutes; on the way home
Drive time back to midtown: 1 hour, 5 minutes
Why We Love It:
- The impressive grounds – a compound, of sorts – are made up of clean lines and neutral tones, punctuated by drought-resistant plants.
- You can play bocce ball under the California sun while drinking California wine – a great way to end the trip.
- Here are the rules for how to play (and score) bocce, in case you want some guidelines.
- In theory, you won’t be too hungry after you get down at Fremont Diner, but in case you get after-school snack pangs, The Market is a few steps away from the bocce court, where you can buy deli salads, chips, ice cream, or made-to-order sandwiches.
Cost(s): $0 to play bocce. The only costs you’ll incur are those spent on bottles of wine (let’s face it, rosé; it’s summer), cold drinks from the case at The Market, or glasses of beer or wine bought from The Farm, the restaurant also adjacent to the courts. Note: If you buy a bottle of wine at The Market, they give you clear plastic cups, so no need to bring your own.Some general tips from our crew to yours:What to bring:
- Your friendly dog – all three locations allow you to bring your best friend!
- Hand wipes for when you want to put down that dusty bocce ball and grab a chip without making a trip to the bathroom sink.
- No need to pack a blanket to sit on, as Scribe provides you one, if needed.
- Cash for the charming photo booth at Fremont Diner ($5 for 2 strips). Otherwise, everything else is card-friendly.
- Water (all three places sell or offer water, but it’s always important to stay hydrated).
What to wear:
- While Sonoma is a bit cooler than Sacramento in the evenings, it’s still pretty sunny and warm, so we found ourselves in shorts and short-sleeved shirts in linen or breezy fabrics. A light outer layer is great if you plan to stay later in the day, or if – like one of our staffers – you want to prevent further sunburn.
- Sandals or closed-toed shoes would work for all three places, though all three have some dusty patches. If you drop a bocce ball on a sandaled foot, it probably won’t feel great, but you’re too much of a pro for that. Wedges or chunky heels work just fine, though pointy heels might be problematic on the grass of Scribe’s tasting space. Depending on where you park, you may have to walk up a hill to get to Scribe’s tasting room, so take note of that in the footwear department as well.
- Sunscreen, and sunglasses and/or a hat. The entire itinerary – the Scribe tasting space, most of the seating at Fremont Diner, and the bocce ball courts – is outdoors so protect that pretty face of yours. Scribe has big trees and patio umbrellas, Fremont Diner has big umbrellas in its outdoor space, and The Carneros Inn has a large shaded seating area, lest you now think the whole itinerary takes place on the sun.
- Ladies will want to avoid wearing short skirts because whether sitting on a picnic bench or a blanket at Scribe, or at an outdoor picnic table at Fremont Diner, getting up and out might prove challenging.
We’ve taught you everything we know. Now, it’s time to turn you loose. You’re ready. Enjoy the journey and the destination; we can’t wait to hear about it.
Photos | Susan Yee
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