Date of Trip: July 2007
We write these little trip reports to help folks with suggested routes and stops for their travel to or from Groveland and Yosemite. I have a little file here at my desk and when ever I see a place I might want to go to, I cut it out and put it in the folder. Once we settled on the dates, Victor was suggesting Death Valley. I thought not. Not in July. Just too hot, and out came my little folder. Right on top was a great picture of the Sonoma Coast and a full page advert for the Timber Cove Inn in Jenner. Stunning! So we agreed to go and I booked the nights. Until this trip, I had almost thought the Sonoma Coast was too far for an interesting one day drive to or from Groveland, but we had a fantastic tour in both directions and neither was too long.
We headed out Monday morning, July 2nd, just before 10 am with no holiday traffic in sight and followed 120 through Escalon where we turn off to cut through the cow fields to Stockton and then took Highway 4 west across the Central Valley and to Highway 680, over the Suisun Bay through Benicia to 780 and west to Highway 80 and north to Highway 37. We followed 37 to a little short-cut road called Lakeview, with no lake to view, into Petaluma. Turn left on Washington Street and this becomes Bodega Road which in turn takes you out to Bodega Bay. With one stop for breakfast, this was a 4 hour trip. Very doable. I would choose to stay in Bodega Bay area as traversing the coast, while stunningly beautiful, becomes tediously slow with curves twists and turns and is not necessarily more beautiful as you head north.
Take time to enjoy Bodega Bay, there are oodles of restaurants and things to do here including a calm-water protected beach. We continued north to Jenner, again quite awesome. This is where the Russian River spills into the ocean. We were there as the tide was turning and it was turbulent and neat! We went even further, they say only 13 miles but it seemed to take forever and the road was far more curvacious than our own Priest Grade!
We finally reached Timber Cove Inn and it is perched on the edge of the cliff and again, dramatic. After check-in we sat at the bar for a bit and nursed a glass of wine as we relaxed from our trip and took in the ocean views. I soon felt some discomfort as I realized the room had several cats roaming about and I am sadly allergic to these lofty creatures. We headed back to the room and all was swell again, but dinner is in the same area as the lounge and while I was able to make it through dinner, by the end, it was difficult breathing. We moved back to our guest room before dessert and checked out the next day. The cats and place were clean, I simply have an allergic reaction that forced us to cut our stay here short by one night.
Our room, #37 was a corner room with extra windows and appeared to be recently remodeled. The spa tub and shower were actually in the bedroom and not the bathroom, which for tubbing was nice as it had an expansive window looking out to the ocean. Everything was clean and seemed new.
We drove up to Sea Ranch enjoying more curves and views and then headed back inland via Jenner, the Russian River and Guerneville where we had a great breakfast at Pat’s in downtown. We toured Rio Nido where we once considered an inn for purchase and then headed towards the West Side highway for some wine tasting.
Our first stop is Korbel, you can’t miss this flowered palace—huge as wineries go and just a bit outside Guerneville. We arrived just in time to jump into an already-started tour and learned a bit about the Champagne process of “fermented in this bottle” and a lot about the Korbel family history. The tour completed with a tasting on one of many patios and we thought the pricing very good at under $10 a bottle with more than half dozen choices.
We found the West Side road and followed it up to Davis Bynum. Here we tasted the best Chardonnay of the day and will look to adding it to our own wine list for the restaurant.
Our next stop was Hop Kiln, a favorite of mine since my Karen Brown days. This is my 4th visit and each time improvements in the winery, surroundings and the wine itself are notable. We buy the 1000 Flowers, a chardonnay based blend. We served this wine last spring, but were then unable to get it again. I think we must!
We continue down the road to B.R. Cohn, a popular stop noted by the many vehicles in the parking lot. The grounds look lovely enough to host wedding receptions, concerts and the like. We enjoy a tasting and buy a pair of flip-flops from their gourmet and gift shop. These kooky “shoes” have a bunch of grapes across the flip part of the flop and called out to me.
This was our last stop in the wine country and we head across the central valley on Highway 12 towards Lodi where we had heard they had a cute downtown with a central square. We are slowly driving now in what must be holiday traffic through the Delta region. When we get to Lodi, we see lots of signs for wineries, but when we follow the roads, we never find the actual winery and figure they must not really welcome visitors or they would be far better marked.
We enter the town of Lodi in search of a square, often dominated by an old steepled church. Following signs such as Central Street and Downtown did not end in the discovery of a cute square and we were never sure if we even found downtown. So, with the swiftness of two freebirds on a road trip we decide to head into Jamestown and see if our friend Stephen at the National Hotel had a room available for the night. Either way, we are assured a great dinner and conversation. After dinner we roamed the cute downtown, doing a little window shopping and stopped at the new Azzo’s restaurant, oft recommended to us by friends. We found we had a lot in common with Azzo and his wife in the love of vintage rock & roll. Their menu looks tasty and we promise to return to test that theory out.
The return trip from the coast on this route did take us all day, but for most of it, we were “touring” and not really just driving. With a handful of winery stops, this is a very pleasurable route to take from the coast to Groveland, Yosemite & beyond.
* Remember to do this type of “touring” with a designated driver, who either doesn’t participate in the tastings or is a light taster. Eight tastings and drinking the full pours will equal one standard 6 oz glass of wine.