When It Rains, We Pour !

By Kate Riley January 2, 2010

In Wine Country, winter is certainly the slowest season.  After all, we get our fair share of rain around here in January.  To some, it can be dreary, but we never let that get us down.  On the contrary, when it rains in Wine Country, we pour a lot of great wine.   Sssh, don’t tell anyone, but it’s really rather nice.  The crowds are gone and it’s just us locals. 

One of our two favorite places to spend a rainy afternoon is the Sonoma Wine Shop, run by our friends Ken and Bryan. The Sonoma Wine Shop is located in the heart of the square on the west side of the Historic Sonoma Plaza.

sws front

At SWS, you can taste rare vintages from boutique wineries (producers who make only a few hundred cases or less).  Mr. CG is a member here and often pops in to sample the latest arrivals.  SWS is a place where we take all of our out of town guests. 

mr cg at sws


We often end up in the back room, on the long trestle wood table, polishing off a bottle or two with friends as the rain falls down in the courtyard outside.

glasses on table


Another great place to stay dry and sample great local food and wine is at the Oxbow Public Market in downtown Napa.  This indoor bazaar is filled with several dozen local vendors featuring all of the bounty of food and wine offered by this region. Oxbow is the creation of Steve Carlin, who also planned and implemented San Francisco’s Ferry Building Marketplace .

 wine bar


Stop in at The Olive Press to sample and purchase the finest  olive oils in the region.

 olive oils


Hog Island Oysters serves freshly shucked oysters on the half shell at the bar, with wine and a light menu to accompany.


oxbow hog island

  oxbow hog island 2

Chefs will love the scrumptious spice and salt selections at Whole Spice, displayed so artfully in hundreds of large glass containers. 

oxbow whole spice


oxbow whole spice 2


oxbow whole spice 3


My favorite vendor is the local artisan cheese dealer featuring the best cheeses from all over the world.   They’re simply amazing !

 blue cheeses

I refuse to leave without trying just a few in a sampler platter, accompanied by fruits, nuts and a fine white wine.  This is my definition of a perfect meal !

oxbow cheese platter


It’s winter in Wine Country.

Yet the dormant vines have a beauty all their own as they soak up the January rains.


winter vines


It won’t be long until the mustard flowers bloom in February when the sun shines again. 

acorn mustard

Meanwhile, we’ll continue to pour when it pours.


  1. Another fabulous tour with fabulous photos. :) Knowing which wines to pair with certain foods is something I’d like to learn. And the cheese platter?? Yum! I am hungry now, and it’s only 8:45 am. And I just had breakfast. ;) Thanks, Kate. ;)

  2. You are so lucky to live in such a beautiful place. We loved Sonoma when we visited there even though we don’t drink wine. The countryside was beautiful and I would move there in a minute. I love California.

  3. I miss living in California soooo much! We used to live in the San Fransisco bay area. What beautiful photos, I hope to get back soon!! We only lived there for a year and were not able to make it up to wine country. I’m thinking a vacation is in order really soon!

  4. I’ve been by there many times although I live out of state, My family lives down that way I have seen most of the places you mention but have never gone inside I think its time to make a family visit I’d love to go to nearly all the places you talk about.

  5. I can’t wait to visit wine coutry, really no excuses, I’ve lived in San Diego my whole life. Maybe when the kids are older My hubby and I can get away for a super long weekend. You truely have a little slice of heaven!!!! Happy New Year!

  6. Thank you for the tour! It brings back many memories. I lived in Napa many years ago and it is where I developed my love of wine. I now live on the other side of the country in Georgia but would love to visit Napa again….Happy New Year!

  7. Thanks for the tour! Looks like a great place to vacation. Everything looks yummy, except the oysters. I have tried – just not something I want, and I am not a picky eater.
    Happy New Year!

  8. Living in the wine country really is heaven. Some of the fields near us already have mustard in bloom, but not the huge, take-your-breath-away drifts yet. That cheese sampler platter looks pretty good. Great photos, by the way! Happy Twenty-Ten!

  9. It’s so beautiful up there! The cheese I could go nuts for…but the wine…I don’t know Caymus from Boone’s Farm! My sister, Bee is the winey…wine fridge and all…so, I make sure to buy her a nice bottle of Walmart’s $1.97 wine whenever I go…to keep her grounded! ;}

    m ^..^

  10. The all sound like great places to spend any afternoon! Thanks for sharing, I would love to spend a weekend up that way to enjoy all it has to offer.

  11. I am so missing the days we lived in Walnut Creek, when Wine Country was just a short drive away! I love downtown Sonoma, that’s my favorite of all the wine towns although St. Helena is a close second. I just love saying the name, always wanted to say, “I live in St. Helena,” because it sounds so pretty:) Is the French bakery still open in downtown Sonoma? I always loved their lemon squares, that was a nice and inexpensive place to stop in for something sweet before heading home. We enjoyed going year round and winter/spring was always a favorite time just to see the unending rolling hills of green.

  12. Oh my! My ideal day and lunch too! In fact, I am growing my own grapes, but mine are covered in the winter snow right now. ( I guess you could call that pretty dorment as well!?) lol

    What a beautiful day you had. We have traveled to Napa and Sonoma a few times as well. Always a great trip!

  13. My BFF is in Sonoma this weekend with her hubby – we will def be making a trip this year…I love ANY place tat has Great wine, good food and stinky cheese!!!

  14. I’ve never been to California but your posts always make me want to swap one of our tropical vacations for a visit to CA.

  15. Love your blog and today’s entry makes me miss N. California so much more. Oh well, I am drooling at the thought of that cheese shop and the spice shop . . . . my dream. I have to go there.

  16. Thanks for all the great suggestions. We honeymooned in Napa & Sonoma, and have been back at least 3 more times. We love it! I can’t wait to head back and visit some of your recommendations!

  17. It is -18 on my thermometer here……this looks lovely to me. Why do I live in Minnesota?

  18. We have friends that live in your area and I can’t wait to visit them…hopefully later this year! Would love to stop by the shops you just introduced us to and maybe have a bite at that oyster bar! Would love to see all of it! Great post.

  19. I so wish I had all your Sonoma County knowledge when we went there last year…actually its 2 years ago now!

  20. All the more reason to move from 20 degrees (real feel 8 degrees).Thanks for the tour and allowing us to see the importance of a good camera.

  21. I was raised in northern California and miss it although I also love WA. The wine country was one of our favorite places. Thanks for the pictures. Linda

  22. Neat story! It’s interesting to see what different communites have to offer. We get a ton of rain in our region too (actually, year around) so we also have to find ways to not worry, and be happy. I think blogging so far is my #1 thing to do. ;)


  23. Wow, this really makes me want to travel to your part of the country! Thanks for giving us a peek into this area and some wonderful places to visit. And now I’m off to look for cheeses in the fridge to start my supper!

  24. Oh what a great way to spend a rainy day… Your friends Wine Shop looks so lovely.. and your photos are so beautiful to look at…. Have a great week.



  25. Love this tour. We go to the WC all the time and one of our favorite destinations, when we’re not wine tasting at the vineyards, is Historic Sonoma Plaza. We’ve even seen movies being filmed there.

    Thanks for sharing this tour.

  26. Gah, wine country is my favorite place on earth! Sonoma especially. I saw you were drinking the Earthquake… have you tried the Earthquake Zin? So yummy, very chocolaty and rich. Happy drinking! :)

  27. I’m oh so jealous you live in California wine country! It’s on my list of places to visit ASAP, but I don’t know that we’ll get there this year. I work in the corporate meetings/incentives industry, so I’m familiar with the area and some of the great hotel properties you guys have in your back yard. I dream about staying in one of the lovely cottages at The Carneros Inn… siiiighh….

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