After an uneventful 22 hours on a train (activities include writing up the blog, finishing my book, looking out the window lots, eating a lukewarm dinner and getting some sleep!) I arrived in California and was met by my cousin Krissie & her partner Jim. Krissie lives and works in wine country and I was very much looking forward to spending some time with her.
We started off by visiting her sister & family in a small town called Winters. Jill, Eric & their son Evan cooked a delicious breakfast after which we went for a walk around the walnut trees and a small creek that they back on to. It was then onto to the town of Sonoma where we got to wander round and look at the quaint arts & crafts shops and had a late lunch/early dinner before an early evening as trains aren't the most ideal places to sleep.
The next morning after a delicious breakfast we hit the road with the roof down on Krissie's car! It was a balmy 28C and we were heading for the coast. As we were driving however it got colder and colder and colder - during the summer San Francisco and the surrounding area get a lot of fog due to colliding of high & low pressures making it significantly cooler. We visited Dhillon Beach where I got to meet up with Krissie Mum Pat again (and see some deer!) and Point Reyes Station where we got to wander round the shops, visit the Cowgirl Creamery (a cheese shop!) and hang out. That evening we met up with Jim and went to have a Burger at Mike's - a proper American Diner.
The following day Krissie again cooked breakfast before we hit the wineries in Sonoma county. This is less well known than Napa but has some excellent wines! We stopped at 5 different wineries finishing at one where Krissie used to work. They supply wine to the owners of the San Francisco 49ers American Football Team who had been in for a visit. This meant that as well as delicious wine we got to eat their left over cheese, prosciutto & crackers! We finished off the day with a visit to Healdsburg which had an evening of music in the plaza where we got to drink more wine and eat more cheese whilst chatting to some of Krissie's friends! From the wine tasting I did learn that I'm definitely a Sauv Blanc girl although there are some decent Chardonnay's out there and I did have some nice reds although my preference is still white!
I was being "handed over" the next day so it was up early to drive to Fairfield - home of the Jelly Belly factory. They have a free tour of the factory where you can watch the Jelly Belly's being made, learn about the history of the company as well as getting free samples! It's a four stage process consisting of 1. Combining the ingredients including flavouring, 2. Shaping the inner part of the bean, 3. Coating the bean and 4. Polishing the bean. Those that don't make the grade (too big, too small or get stuck together!) get sold as Belly Flops and I can confirm they taste just as good!!!
Thank you Krissie for you hospitality - I had such fun with you!!! Looking forward to when you've saved up your pennies so I can return the favour!