Winery Weekends

My apologies for being absent for so long! I could blame it on a busy end-of-MFA degree spring, the weather, my own inadequacies, the cat peeing on my bed, or any number of excuses, but regardless of why I’ve been gone, I promise you that now I’m back! It is my goal to spend the next few weeks addressing the backlog of updates I’ve been meaning to post. Get ready for some virtual travel as near as Los Angeles and as far as Australia and Bali! Yes, more to come soon…

The Barn House, Healdsburg (more beautiful in the sun, for sure)

Apologies and sniveling aside, I was fortunate enough to recently travel to Northern California’s famed wine country with some of my favorite female friends. A weekend in wine country is always a treat and as such, here are a few of my faves from the weekend (we were only in town for 48 hours so I’ve only included the highlights):

1) The Barn House, Healdsburg: This was our home away from home—and what a home it was! An architectural masterpiece, The Barn House, which I found via my trusted home rental searching site, VRBO.com, was worth the trip. Entering

The view from the Barn House (note the beautiful pool) on a dreary day

the home, we were immediately struck by the open and sunny floor plan (despite a very rainy and cloudy weekend!). The home is tastefully decorated by an artist and her husband. If you share the owners’ modern, clean aesthetic, this is the place for you. The lovely, chic outdoor space and pool frame the unmatched view into Sonoma Valley; unfortunately for us, it was too chilly to take a dip but a summer visit would surely make use of the amenities. I also didn’t get a chance to relax in the beautiful master bath. I’ll definitely be returning soon.

Barndiva is a barn. It is also a restaurant. It is also home to Kato's favorite carrot soup.

2) Barndiva Restaurant: Yeah, it sounds like ‘Bar AND Diva’ when you say it quickly, and that is indeed what I thought this restaurant was called when locals referred us there (I wondered who the ‘diva’ was). We visited TWICE during our brief stay because I quickly became addicted to their refreshingly smooth and delicious carrot soup (seriously: who knew carrot soup could be so tasty?). The bartender insisted that the soup was made with simply carrots and carrot juice, but I didn’t believe him (read on to learn the TRUTH). There’s, of course, a lot more on the menu and, true to Nor Cal form, all ingredients are sourced locally. Some favorites of the night included the Stinging Nettle and

Carrot soup = orange-red heaven

Bellwether Ricotta Agnolotti and Goat Cheese Croquettes. If I had a larger appetite, I would’ve tried the Seared Pacific Halibut. Also be sure to check out their inventive cocktail menu including the ‘Strange Land’  which features an Earl Grey tea-infused rum. Yep, you heard me right. Also, if you do dine at Barndiva, can you please ask them for their carrot soup recipe and send it to me? 😉 **

3) Iron Horse Vineyards: One of my girls suggested this

A wino's dreamland - the view from Iron Horse Vineyards

local winery and it was worth the drive through the rain into the Russian River Valley. With a gorgeous view (perfect for a picnic), a rustic outdoor tasting room (it has an overhang for rainy days – don’t worry!) and some tasty pinot noirs (if a bit pricey), this winery is worth a stop. Not to mention that the tasting room attendants have a flair for the poetic—our attendant pointed out that one of the wines we tasted was ‘stylistic’ (in other words, he said, ‘like that girl who walks into a room and you immediately notice has style’) and another was ‘extracted’ (extracted from what exactly, he didn’t divulge). Poetics aside, the wine’s not too shabby.

Which one is most 'stylistic'? I'll let you guess...

4) In case you’re wondering, the sandwiches at Big John’s Market make for the perfect picnic lunch at the wineries. While we heard that the deli food at Oakville Grocery is also quite good, we opted for the less-expensive of the two options (per a local bartender’s recommendation) and were not let down.

All in all, a fabulous jaunt to one of America’s most prized wine regions. Despite the dreary weather, we made the best of it (the architecturally-stunning house, great wine, and even better company didn’t hurt).

** The Barndiva Gods must have been listening—after I drafted this post, I scoured the internet for some good images of Barndiva and guess what I found…. the carrot soup recipe! No joke. You all know what I’ll be doing all weekend – making myself a giant batch of carrot soup! I also felt vindicated that the soup is indeed NOT just purely carrots but includes spring onion, fennel, turmeric and 5 spice… Dare I call the bartender just to say ‘I told you so’?

**An update: On Monday, June 20, I achieved nirvana (and if you cannot locate me for a while, look on Cloud 9)—I successfully matched the carrot soup at Barn Diva with a fresh stock of carrots from my local farmer’s market, some fennel and spring onion, and a little bit of old fashioned ingenuity. Unbelievable.**

(Photos courtesy of the brilliant, gorgeous, and talented Jessica Cohen.)

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About Kaitlin Solimine

Kaitlin Solimine was raised in New Hampshire but has considered China a second home for the past two decades. She is the author of the award-winning forthcoming novel Empire of Glass and co-founder of Hippo Reads, a media start-up connecting academic insights with real world issues. She lives in Singapore.
This entry was posted in Eat, Indulge, North America, Sleep, Smile. Bookmark the permalink.

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