GaiChuck & Gail in the Netherlands - 2004l and I met through our friend Viviane in Beverly Hills.   Viviane and I met in 1999 on a cruise from Chile to Argentina through the Magellan Straits at the tip of South America.   Viviane, at that time, was working at Uniworld Travels and was friends with Gail.

Viviane introduced me to Gail and in 2004 Gail and I took a cruise to the Netherlands.  Here we are having our favorite drink, champagne on a Uniworld cruise.  We also were fortunate to have dinner at the Captains table!

In 2006 we decided to take a trip to Zambia and see Victoria Falls and then we flew on to South Africa.  There we stayed at Leopard Hill, a private reserve in the jungle and then drove along the Indian Ocean on the East coast of South Africa and eventually ended up in Cape Town and on to the tip of Africa.

So I have been on the tip of South America and the tip of Africa.  Gail and I hadn't been any place in a long time and thought a quick trip to the wine country would be just the thing to do in a San Francisco Bay Area summer of 2009!    Check out the history of Napa and Sonoma below this link to the photos. 


Click on the Napa-Sonoma link to access the photos taken on our trip!

Napa County

This county is located north of the San Francisco Bay Area in the U.S. state of California.  As of 2000 the population is 124,279.  The county seat is Napa.  Napa County was one of the original counties of California, created in 1850 at the time of statehood. Parts of the county's territory were given to Lake County in 1861. The word napa is of Native America derivation and has been variously translated as "grizzly bear", "house", "motherland", pr "fish". Of the many explanations of the name's origin, the most plausible seems to be that it is derived from the Patwin word napo meaning house, although local residents will often cite an urban legend that gives the translation as "you will Map of California - Napa & Sonoma Countyalways return".

Napa County, once the producer of many different crops, is known today for its wine industry, rising in the 1960s to the first rank of wine regions with France, Italy and Spain.

Sonoma County

This county is also located on the northern coast of California, is one of the northernmost counties of the nine county Greater San Francisco Greater Bay Area Its population at the 2000 census was 458,614. Its largest city and county seat is Santa Rosa.

Sonoma is the southwestern county of California's Wine Country region, which also includes Napa, Mendocino and Lake  counties. It has thirteen approved American Viticultural Areas and over 250 wineries. In 2002 Sonoma County ranked as the thirty-second county in the United States in agricultural production. As early as 1920 Sonoma County was ranked as the eighth most agriculturally productive U. S. county and a leading producer of poultry products, hops, grapes, prunes, apples, and dairy products, largely due to the abundance of high quality irrigation water. More than 7.4 million tourists visit each year, spending more than $1 billion in 2006. Sonoma County is the home of Sonoma State University and Santa Rosa Junior College.

Sonoma County was once home to several Native American tribes, who lived within the carrying capacity of the land; by 1850, European settlement had set a new direction that would prove to radically alter the course of  land use and resource management of this region. As of 2007, Sonoma County has rich agricultural land, albeit now largely divided between two nearly monoculture uses: grapes and pasturage. The voters have twice approved open space initiatives that have provided funding for public acquisition of natural areas, preserving forested areas and coastal habitat and other open space.


July 13th, 2009

Gail drove up from Los Angeles and it took longer than she thought and made it to San Francisco around 6:00 p.m.  I had a bottle of champagne on ice and some cheese for her to relax with.   Gail then said she wanted to take me out for a nice dinner.  I decided to go to the Larkscreek Steak House in downtown San Francisco.  Gail had heard the White House served Iron Horse Champagne so she ordered a bottle to go with our dinner.  We decided we would also go to the Iron Horse winery in Napa as we toured the wine counties of Napa and Sonoma!


July 14th, 2009

So we drove from the City to Napa and first stopped by the Viansa winery but they didn't have sparkling wines that we were looking for.  So off to the Gloria Ferrer winery and found out it now is the biggest producer of sparkling wines in the world.  Here we are on the deck enjoying the champagne, one of our favorites.  Next we went to Domaine  Carneros, a fantastic chateau in the Louis 14th style and had a snack and champagne overlooking the gardens and vineyards. 

We finally booked in the Hilton Garden Inn and had a nap, a swim and finally a nice dinner with a bottle of Gloria Ferrer champagne.  All in all, a good day and time to get a good nights sleep for the Napa Valley Wine Train on Wednesday!


July 15th, 2009

We first went to the waiting room and there were about 200 people there.  The table next to us had six people from Napa of all places, taking the train just to get away.   A woman gave a talk about wines and then we tasted two, chardonnay and a red wine.  They both were horrible.  The presenter said, "Isn't this wine wonderful!"  I said "Yuck!"  and Gail agreed.  The Napa group laughed and agreed with us.  The 'tourists' of course, thought the wine was fine.

Well we got on the train and settled in the lounge with snacks and Champagne and off we went.  We traveled about half an hour and suddenly we stopped.  Why?  Well a huge tree in the center of the freeway had suddenly decided to tall over.   It covered one half of the freeway and went across a grassy area and ended up with the top on the tracks.  The engine of the train did hit a few small branches.  (You can see the tree in the photo taken from our car next to the engine!)

We were there for over half an hour as Cal-Trans cut the tree up and moved the branches.  So off we went and stopped again.  Some fool had hit the arm that had come down on the crossing.  That was taken care of and off we went again.  As we were traveling along the tracks we saw a big truck that had jackknifed on the freeway and ended up with the front bumper on one side of a ditch and the back bumper on the other side of the ditch with the California Highway Patrol checking out the damage.

We then went to the dining car for lunch and ended up in St. Helena.  We sat there for a while and wondered what was going on.  We were suppose to get back to Napa by two p.m.  Suddenly there was an announcement, the brakes were damaged from hitting one of the branches on the downed tree!  I guess the branch cut into one of the oil lines and the oil leaked out. 

So they then said one good thing was the fact they had one other engine to pull the train back and then it passed us to lock onto the other end of the train.   We sat there for another 20 minutes and then another announcement, "This engine is having mechanical problems so we are calling for busses to take us back to the train station!

Well instead of two p.m. we got back at 4:30 p.m. and Gail and I had a good laugh, no problems about what to do in the afternoon.  Just go to the hotel, have a nap, go swimming and then have a bottle of champagne and a nice dinner!

We had paid $170.00 for the train and lunch (for the two of us) but were happy to find out they gave us the money back for the train ride, $90.00.  Just enough for us to have a bottle or two of champagne!


July 16th, 2009

This morning we drove to the city of Santa Rosa and the Valley of the Moon winery.   Then off to the small winery called Mayo.  It was the first time they did champagne and we were not too impressed.  Next we visited the Iron Horse winery.  We tasted the wines they serve in the White house.  Then off to the beautiful grounds of the Korbel winery.

Then back to the Hilton and a swim and dinner with another bottle of Gloria Ferrer Brut, $50.00 my dears!


July 17th, 2009

We decided to drive back on Friday and since we arrived in San Francisco by 11:00 a.m. Gail decided to drive home instead of staying another day and driving back on Saturday.  We both had enough champagne for a while so Gail left with some plants I gave her and I worked on my web site and photos I took along the way!

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Created by Charles W. Buntjer  

Published on:  2009 .07.17

San Francisco California  

Updated on:  2016 .04.09