“But in every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir
No number of trips to Muir Woods will ever change the way those humongous, ancient trees make me feel. Awed. Reverent.
Once you make it past all the tourists with their backpacks, strollers, loud talking, and contraband food and drinks, that’s when the magic happens. The old forest is all around you. Hardly a sound, except for the chatter of tourists down the boardwalk behind you.
Once I make it to Cathedral Grove and stand underneath the trunks of the gentle, oldest giants, in the footsteps of the first United Nations and hundreds of visitors before me, that’s when the peaceful feeling starts.
We made it to Muir Woods after our Tomales Bay adventure before the sun set. Most of the tourists had gone for the day, although the park was still open for an hour or two more. We snagged a parking spot right near the entrance and headed in; entrance was free after a certain time. It was an accidental discovery — that Muir Woods is best seen in the early or late hours of the day. When it’s quieter, softer, and twilight is falling in the valley.
We took our time. Said hello to all the old trees. Took photos. Walked a short trail off the main path. Climbed into the hollowed areas of the trees. Laughed at Pa taking videos of everything.
It felt like ours… that forest. Just for a few moments. My soul felt a little lighter, more connected, and freer after our visit to Muir Woods.
It’s worth the visit, and I hope you get more than you thought you would when you go.
“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.” – John Muir
The third day of Mama and Papa’s time in San Francisco was a Sunday and since we’d had so much fun the day before at Long Meadow Ranch and Farmstead in St. Helena, we figured we might as well enjoy another day out of the city. Sunday, it seems, is the perfect day to go to Tomales Bay for lunch and then visit Muir Woods in the afternoon.
We’d been to Tomales Bay before with Jesse and Brad in March and we’d been itching to go back and get our hands on some oysters. This time, though, our road trip was a little more eventful.
3/4 of the way, I realized our gas was getting pretty low and we needed to stop somewhere. The thing is, once you get off the highway and take the back roads over to Tomales, there’s pretty much nothing. Anish, techie that he is, said “I’ll map us to a gas station!” Trusty Google Maps came out and off we went, taking a detour, heading to a gas station. Upon arrival at the rusty old SHUT DOWN station, I started to panic. Tempers were flaring a bit (ahem, mine…), the gas light had been on for 10ish minutes, and Tomales was still 20+ miles away.
Before things got too dicey, Anish suggested we stop at a random cafe for directions. The advice we got? “Well it’s too far to get to Fairfax or any other place if you’re that low, but you can go over to the fire station and ask the firefighters for a gallon to get you there.” WHAT? I was skeptical, Pa was laughing, and Anish was adamant that we go try our luck with the local firefighters.
Luckily, despite the fact that I was mortified and refused to get out of the car, the firefighters were incredibly sweet and no-questions-asked gave us a quick gallon before sending us off with real directions to a gas station. Thank you, Marin County firefighters, for the gas. And a big thanks to Anish for always finding solutions when I may or may not be too stubborn to ask for help.
An hour later, we made it to Tomales Bay and by that time, we didn’t want to do all the oyster shucking work ourselves, so we decided to Yelp it and find a local place to eat some oysters pre-shucked and fixed up just right. And that’s how we found: The Marshall Store.
It’s a small shop (shack?) right on the side of the bay. You order your food, grab your drinks and clam chowder, and then choose a seat either at the small oyster bar on the porch, on the deck by the water, or outside at the long wooden table right on the water. You’re surrounded by locals and folks who are lucky enough to know about the place.
It’s the sweetest spot on Tomales Bay and everything we ate was delicious, fresh, and perfectly prepared. One Coca-Cola for me, a few beers, and several oysters later, we were all feeling happy as clams (or oysters?).
Thoroughly stuffed, we headed back down the road to hit the 1 and take the Pacific Coast Highway all the way to Muir Woods.
Oyster bar and smokehouse – yes please!
I love these people. :)
The view from our seats – not too shabby!
I’m lucky that this guy puts up with me.
BBQ Oysters with Garlic Butter and House Sauce! Garlic Bread to dip into the juices…
Smoked Fish Plate, side 1: Smoked salmon and cream cheese.
Smoked Fish Plate, side 2: Smoked oysters over cream cheese with a special sauce. These were INCREDIBLE.
Headed south on the PCH – on the Stinson Beach lookout. This view never gets old.
After a few hours of wine and sun that morning in St. Helena at Long Meadow Ranch, we arrived back at the tasting room and
ran headed straight to the restaurant, Farmstead, for lunch. We were feeling nice and happy after the wine tasting, but we were starving. I’d made reservations, so we slipped right in to a table.
I’d heard amazing things about the place, and it certainly lived up to the hype. Remember all the grass-fed beef, olive oil, and organic farm stuff I talked about? The restaurants uses all of that stuff directly from the farm. During the summer, the majority of the food (over 80%!) served in the restaurant comes from Long Meadow’s Rutherford Estate organic farm. I love that kind of thing!
Here’s what we ordered:
- For the table Cheddar biscuits with honey butter: to die for, melt-in-your-mouth heavenly things!
- Potato salad with bacon and whole grain mustard: the BEST potato salad I’ve EVER had. Put all Southern potato salad to shame. We were surprised at how much we loved this.
- (2) Long Meadow Ranch cheeseburgers on a potato bun with cheddar, arugula, and crispy potatoes: Pa added an egg to his. Both were delicious and juicy and the meat… ya couldn’t beat it.
- Heritage St. Louis ribs with green apple coleslaw: ribs never, ever disappoint.
- Salmon over seasonal vegetables: this isn’t on the menu anymore, but Mama got it and it was heaven! Haven’t tasted salmon that good outside of Elephant Sushi.
- Side of Crispy potatoes with spicy mayo: Spicy mayo wins all the contests for dipping sauces. Couldn’t stop eating these things.
- For dessert Strawberry shortcake made with sugar biscuits, local strawberries, and fresh whipped cream: You guys, I can’t even explain how good this was. It tasted like the best parts of summer in one dessert.
We ate and we ate and we ate some more until we reluctantly let the server pack up the rest of the food. Afterwards, we lounged in the Adirondacks outside in the sun, listening to the clinking of glasses as more wine tastings were being poured nearby.
It was the perfect ending to a day in wine country.
Let’s jump backwards to May again for a while, shall we? I’d just gotten back to San Francisco after my big trip to Georgia. Anish had just flown in from a business trip to New York. Four days later, his parents arrived from Dubai for a weeklong visit before we all headed to Montreal. The summer of family trips and visits had begun!
Because we are obsessive type A ninnies, we had everything planned to a T when they got here. One huge thing on our list — wine country! After our first visit together to Napa in April, I’d been dying to go back to Long Meadow Ranch. It had been our first stop last time and I loved the locally owned, homegrown feel to it. Remember that they produced wine, olive oil, AND grass-fed beef? Can it get any better?!
Mama and Papa were thrilled to be in California with us, but I really think Napa sealed the deal for them. They LOVED it. There’s no better way to experience California and all its glory than to visit wine country!
I wanted to get back to Long Meadow, so I booked the four of us on their Winery & Cave Experience tour. We were scheduled to do a full tour of their 650-acre Estate, including their winery and caves, while tasting their best wines and olive oils. Exciting, no? Luckily for us, we were the only four people scheduled for the morning tour, so our guide Candice (LMR’s Director of Hospitality) treated us to an extra stop – their 90-acre organic farm!
We spent three hours with Candice, listening to her describe the history of the wine and olive oil estate, the way they make their wine, and the farm-to-table model they follow for their organic farm and restaurant. She was incredibly knowledgeable and endearing — we all immediately loved her! The wine was flowing, every face was smiling, and it was the perfect start to Anish’s parent’s California trip.
It only got better when we finished the tour and headed to Long Meadow’s restaurant Farmstead for lunch… A meal worthy of its own blog post.
I highly recommend a visit to Long Meadow Ranch if you’re in wine country for a weekend — or even just the day! Sign up for the Winery & Cave Experience tour if you can. If you want to splurge, go for the Full Circle Experience to see the farm too, and then end the tour with an al fresco, family style meal prepared by one of their expert chefs. I want to do that next time!
At the very least, stop in to their farmhouse in St. Helena for a wine and olive oil tasting, wander around their gorgeous property, bask in the sun in one of their Adirondacks, and then head over to their restaurant Farmstead for lunch.
Thanks Candice and LMR for an amazing experience! We’ll be back.
Had to do it! “…and the wine is bottled poetry…” Yes indeed!
Long Meadow’s Logan-Ives House is their gorgeous wine tasting room in St. Helena.
On the LMR 90-acre organic farm. We were picking veggies and fruits straight from the ground and nibbling as we walked!
Anish and Pa taste-testing some microgreens.
See those tiny green bulbs? Those will be grapes!
Overlooking the 650-acre LMR Estate on their new veranda, sipping their signature Sauvignon Blanc (my favorite!). Look at that view!
Mama, Papa, and Candice! Loved her!
Anish testing out the wine processing facilities. People have to GET IN those things to clean out all the grape skins, etc. once the wine has been taken out.
Olive oil being poured for a proper tasting — that means no bread or anything to dip it in. Just the oil!
One of the many, many perks of living in the Bay Area is the amazingly close proximity to Napa, Sonoma, St. Helena, and so many other hidden spots that produce California wine. I honestly can’t describe how picturesque and beautiful it is in Napa Valley. Vines in every direction. Wineries lining the main road, one after another. The two times I’ve been, the weather has been clear and beautiful. Sipping wine straight from the vineyard with the sun shining on my face… it’s heavenly. It’s a must visit place. I’m already planning all the trips for my parents to visit, Anish’s parents, and my siblings (once Jesse turns 21!).
I visited last month with a couple of girlfriends and we had a lovely afternoon at two wineries tasting their wines. I’ve been itching to go back with Anish since he had never been. So naturally, in the normal Anish fashion, he set up a surprise full day trip to Napa a couple weekends ago for us.
We left from the Ferry Building with a group in a huge (nice) tour bus. That way we could enjoy ourselves, taste all the wines we wanted, and not worry about driving ourselves home. Smart, responsible thinking! Highly recommend trying to do that if you’re visiting the valley, or else, try to stay in a hotel nearby and take cabs! We visited three wineries:
- Long Meadow Ranch
- Pine Ridge Vineyards
- Domaine Carneros
Long Meadow Ranch – the first stop. We started there with a smooth Sauvignon Blanc tasting outside the sweet little winery shop, under shady trees by the tasting bar. Our gracious hosts gave us the rundown on the history of the vineyard, their olive groves, and their farm. Not only do they make fantastic wine, they also produce olive oil, grassfed beef, and have a farm that provides almost all the ingredients for their restaurant. My kind of place! I was in heaven. We tasted two olive oils and got the lowdown about the issue with EVOO these days and what the real thing should taste like. This place was hands down my favorite. I want to go back to visit their restaurant and take a tour of the 650 acre farm / olive groves in the hills of Napa. Some of their olive trees were planted by a Civil War soldier and still produce olives!
Pine Ridge Vineyards – our second stop. While the first place had a local, down-to-earth comfort and style, Pine Ridge had elegance, sophistication, and WINE CAVES going for it. We split up immediately into small groups to take the official tour around the grounds. Our guide told us about their wines and what they love producing / what they do best. She walked us around through the vineyard, past gorgeous verandas and seating areas, and then into the caves. Yes, I said caves. We were incredibly excited about this. It felt like we were in The Hobbit. The caves were gorgeous and snug and lined with barrels as far as the eye could see. Our guide encouraged us to keep together; she didn’t even know where all the tunnels would lead (I love that!). We ended up in a gorgeous area in the back of the caves for another wine tasting (4 different Cabernet Sauvignons!). Wine tastes very good in a cave, I tell you. After that, we went out into the vineyards for a picnic lunch from a nearby cafe before heading out to our last stop.
Domaine Carneros – the last stop. We definitely went in order of my preferences during the day (1, 2, 3). Our last stop was famous for their champagnes, and while I like champagne, I prefer other wines. The feeling of ‘home’ and comfort definitely wasn’t at this place. It was a big, gorgeous chateau overlooking perfectly manicured vineyards. It felt fancy and sophisticated and a tiny bit snooty, and really, that’s not my thing. Despite that, we enjoyed sipping three different champagnes on the terrace while chatting with friends we’d made in the group. It was a sweet ending to a long, sunny day in Napa.
Someone remarked to me while on the trip, “If you love Napa, you have to get to France. It’s a 100x time better than this.” I believe that, certainly–just the age of everything wine-related in France is decades, no centuries, older than California wine. Despite that, that wasn’t the point of our trip — to think of somewhere else.
I smiled, nodded, and made the conscious choice to tuck that knowledge away and sip the wine I was holding and just enjoy the place I was in now.
Arriving in Napa – the views are stunning.
A very happy Anish outside Long Meadow Ranch with his first wine of the day!
Olive oil to taste at Long Meadow. It should have a peppery aftertaste in the back of your throat — that means it’s fresh!
Wine tasting #1 a success!
The gardens and vineyards of Pine Ridge (with our bus in the background).
A nice place to have lunch, eh?
The production room at Pine Ridge! Fascinating stuff.
Loved this tasting room in the back of the caves. There was Chihuly glass on exhibit too. (For my video game fellows: Felt a bit like Oblivion from Elder Scrolls… Yeah?)
Happy to be together in Napa!