A week ago, I remembered Frank and I have Southwest credits from an Austin flight we cancelled last fall. It was a good thing I checked on it, because my credit was due to expire on March 4. I purchased the tickets with my credit card in June, but because I also used $20 travel fund my credits expired the date of travel funds not the day of my purchase. That was a detail I never realized before. I'll be more cautious in the future. I didn't want to risk losing the full credit so I searched for airfare for the weekend. Much to my surprise, I found $98 round trip airfare to San Francisco. I booked it. Then, sent a text to Frank: Can you take off Saturday? "If you need me to." I booked airfare to SFO, lol. Hotwire came through for me again, we secured a good rate at the Sheraton, which is our preferred hotel in the Wharf. I also reserved a car for Sunday, picking up at the Sheraton returning at SFO so we could go to Napa Valley for the day.
The next few days went in a hurry and we were on a plane to San Francisco in no time. Leaving McCarran at 9:50pm flight was a breeze; though, we did have a short delay. Frank and I were the only ones at the C-Gates security check point. I think there was only 25 people on our flight. Rather than taking Bart to the city we opted to rideshare on Uber. It was cheaper and faster than Bart, why weren't we doing this before? Check in was easy, we dropped our bags in the room and then used Uber to take us to Golden Boy Pizza. We hoped to make last call, but we missed it by ten minutes. They shut down their taps at one o'clock. No worries, we came for the slices. They did not disappoint. We walked back to the Sheraton eager to get an early start in the morning.
Saturday morning we used Uber to and from the Ferry Building, which is where we collected our usual goodies for a picnic lunch. We snacked on treats from Acme, Cowgirl Creamery and Boccolone. Afterwards, we walked to North Beach to visit Young at Petite Deli. One of her sandwiches and a side of pasta salad is a must. Truffles next door for dessert is always routine. Then, we strolled down to our favorite spot near the Maritime Museum. We soaked up the sun on this lovely day while Frank enjoyed a cigar.
Right before our trip, a friend introduced us to Pliny the Elder. He had went to SF Beer Fest, while we were in Mexico, and he brought us a bottle back. It's a superb Double IPA, smooth and well balanced. It's brewed by Russian River Brewing and it is not distributed in Nevada. We made it a point to check out Toronado, a dive bar in Lower Haight. It's rough around the edges, a bit smelly, but they have a stellar draft selection, and Pliny to go (limit 4 per person). We used Lyft there and back.
After a siesta, we walked over to Pier 39 for an early dinner at the Crabhouse. Lotsa Crab later, we were full and happy as clams. We relaxed by the hotel's firepit with beers and cigar while we contemplated what to do next. We took Lyft to Hopwater Distribution, with the intent to barhop to other bars in the neighborhood. Hopwater was a cool place that's been open about a year. The have 31 taps reserved for California Breweries, which offer a bit of everything. From there, we walked over to the White Horse Tavern. For a bar in Union Square, I was shocked how laid back this place was... I almost wrote it off, figuring it would be way too crowded, but I was pleasantly surprised. The bar area is small, but there's a large dining room in back with shuffleboard. My favorite! I beat Frank at a game, then we were off to the next place, but we realized the time and thought it was better to return to Golden Boy Pizza before alcohol sales were done for the night. We used Lyft line, which is a reduced fare with the possibility of sharing the ride (each party is limited to two riders) The car that pulled up had three riders - they misused the line and had to exit the vehicle. Their fare was cancelled and we continued on our way without delay. Round two at Golden Boy hit the spot, just like the night before we walked back to the hotel.
Sunday, we packed up and headed out in the rental car. I reserved an economy vehicle, we received a Nissan Versa. It was a terribly uncomfortable ride. I'll upgrade in the future if need be. Our first stop was Saigon Sandwich. The Banh Mi was great as always. The characters in the Tenderloin were more colorful than ever. A man stumbled over to the car, realized I was inside and took a couple paces backward and whipped out his johnson. I looked once and saw penis and avoided a second glance. Frank, however, kept and eye on him and it seems he never peed, just displayed his boner. We may have been victim to a sex crime?! What a way to start the day! Next, we headed out of the city via the Golden Gate bridge to embark on our adventures in Santa Rosa and Napa Valley.
We were so close to Graton Resort & Casino, we made a pit stop to see what the latest & greatest casino in California had to offer. It is an Indian casino operated by Station Casinos. It feels very much like Red Rock only more feminine with a flower motif. It treated us just the same as Station Casinos in LV, we parted with our money in seconds and we were out in no time.
A stop in Santa Rosa was a must to check out Russian River Brewing Co. Not only is it home to Pliny the Elder, but they also brew a vast collection of award-winning beers. When we arrived at 10:30 a line had already begun to form. This place is no joke.
We started with the sampler which provides 2 ounces of 19 beers. We had clear favorites, but we both agreed that the Dribble Belt was a new found favorite. It had all the flavor of a great IPA with the ABV of a regular beer.
We snacked on the Pliny Bites and shared a meatball sandwich. Both were quite good. We stopped in the store, we were after the Dribble Belt to go, but they don't bottle it. We took home a 6 pack of Pliny the Elder and Damnation instead.
Leaving Santa Rosa, I called Vincent Arroyo Winery to schedule a tasting. I secured a spot 1.5 hours later. We had plenty of time to get to Calistoga. We ended up checking out the Old Faithful Geyser, CA. We learned there are three in the world. Yellowstone, of course, being most famous and the third is in New Zealand. This geyser erupts every ten minutes or so. In between displays you can feed the goats. Goats & Geyser, why? I have no idea. It is a total tourist trap at $14pp, plus the cost of goat food. I've never seen a geyser before so it was a good time waster, a pricey one at about $1 per minute (you are welcome to stay all day). No flushing toilets, either which is odd, but at least they rigged a sink.
Vincent Arroyo Winery is small and family run. We've never been to a winery before, Yelp and Tripadvisor sing it's praises so it seemed like a nice way to begin. They do not charge for tastings, but offer generous pours. They started us with their Chardonnay which we enjoyed and then we moved on to reds, lots and lots of reds. I'm not fond of reds and going straight to the source didn't change things. I simply have not acquired the taste for red wine, it gives me cotton mouth. There have been very few I've tried and liked. At Arroyo, I did find the Zin and the Tamparinllo more enjoyable than others. Frank was even less enthused than I. We still had a port to try, but we opted to buy a bottle of Chardonnay and carry on our way.
We intended to check out additional wineries in Rutherford and Napa, but we were done. The interest was lost. We drove up to see Hennessey Lake, which was scenic.
We figure wine & cheese are well matched, we weren't enjoying the wine, so maybe seeking out cheese would be time better spent. Yelp didn't turn up any stand alone cheese shops but I did find great reviews for Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch. I made a reservation and we stopped for a bite. The grounds are lovely and the restaurant is inside a large farmhouse. I had a nice Savignon Blanc by Long Meadow Ranch. We started with cheddar biscuits which were quickly devoured. We also enjoyed the cheese plate and "surryano" ham. The ham was outstanding. We should have left it at that, but we also tried the grassfed burger with white cheddar and arugula. The first burger was well done, and we had requested medium rare. It was terrible. We mentioned it to our waitress and she had the kitchen prepare another. In the meantime, we snacked on the crispy potatoes and mustard potato salad. The next burger was the proper temperature, it was better, but we were still underwhelmed.
We drove through Rutherford, Yountville and Napa during golden hour. It should have been an opportune time for photos, but the road was lined with cars and buildings named with various wineries. In the distance you could see the rows of vineyards, but they appeared dry and dead. I anticipated lush vines on rolling hills with mountains as a back drop more like Tuscany. However, Napa Valley is very much a valley, flat as can be, flanked by mountains on either side. I did not spot the beauty I expected to find. It was rather disappointing. At least, we only wasted an afternoon and not a full weekend. We drove back to the city, and straight to the airport. The return of the rental could not have been easier. Unfortunately, our flight was delayed and didn't depart until long after we were due to arrive at home. Inclement weather in Vegas was cause for the delay. We must have a hundred McCarran flights under our belt without issue, I suppose we were due. Thankfully, we were reunited with our bags and I'm happy to report all 14 beer bottles and the wine arrived safe and sound. It was after 2am when I crawled into bed. I knew morning would come much too soon. And it most definitely did.