March 27, 2009

Club 30 - Trading Wine for Beer

For my 30th birthday (yes, I'm 30 and I'm not going to lie about it), I wanted to do something "different." I had thought about throwing a big party (you know how I love to plan those) with a "Club 30" theme, but I was feeling a little birthday-ed out. We had celebrated one or more friend's birthdays every weekend since the beginning of the year, and had not had one weekend "off."

Because we haven't had much luck in the house searching department, I decided to splurge while I still could. Because I needed a vacation, I planned a day trip to Santa Ynez Valley. I reserved a Hummer limo to take us there and back so no one had to pay for a hotel or be a designated driver.

I called several wineries after doing a lot of research, but many of them did not want to accept our large party. I was, however, able to secure two wineries.

When the day finally came, we boarded the limo, and headed to our destination. Since it was morning (10 am), I served bagels and cream cheese and orange juice and mimosas after we settled in our seats. Although I am not usually a fan of paper plates, it was nice to be able to toss the plates and plastic knives away in the same bags we brought the plates and bagels in.

We hit some traffic on the way up, so we did make a brief stop for anyone who had to use the restroom. After everyone boarded the limo, we passed around trail mix and fruit leather strips to keep everyone full (we didn't want anyone getting sick from drinking all day).

We really enjoyed the breathtaking views as we headed north. The highlight was the 154. I have driven up this road several times, but it was amazing to be able to watch it with a front facing view to the windows.

Finally, we had arrived (although somewhat late) at our first stop - Bridlewood Winery.

We enjoyed a picnic on the beautiful grounds, and then took turns wine tasting. There was also plenty of time to take romantic strolls around the grounds. The property even offered a horse and carriage ride (although we didn't take advantage).

For the picnic, I placed tablecloths on each table (which I highly recommend). Then we spread out the food on a separate table, buffet style. The Picnic consisted of:

  • Mandarin Spinach Salad
  • Corn Salad (with avocado and mango)
  • Pesto Pasta Salad
  • Italian Pasta Salad
  • Potato Salad (mayo free)
  • Baguettes from Bay Cities
  • Assorted Cold Cuts
  • Assorted Condiments and Toppings (avocado, tomatoes, shredded lettuce, different kinds of mustards, etc.)
  • Potato Chips (assorted flavors)
  • Cheese Puffs
  • Pickles
I was having so much fun that I forgot to take pictures of all the food, so you will have to take my word for it that it was amazing. The best part was the bread. At first my friends teased me for making my husband drive all the way to Bay Cities for the bread, but once they tasted it, they all agreed that it was worth the drive.
The wine tasting was fun, but not at all what I expected. I had never gone wine tasting with a large group before, and I didn't realize that Bridlewood does private tastings for large groups. I was hoping the tasting would be casual, and that we could grab a glass of wine, head outside, and go back in for the next wine when we felt like it. That way, we could picnic and wine taste all at the same time. Apparently, you can ask to have the tasting outside, but I didn't know to ask for this option. In the end, Bridelwood was very patient with us and they let us do the tasting in 2 groups, so that half of us could watch the food and enjoy the scenery, and the other half could wine taste. The only problem was that they told us that a tasting would take 20 minutes. It didn't, and although we had a great time, we didn't have much time left to visit other wineries.
We called the next winery we planned to go to concerned that it might be too late, but they were really nice, and told us to come on over.

So, we packed everything up and headed over to Foley in the Santa Rita hills, enjoying the scenic drive.
When we arrived, everyone headed into the tasting room. I ordered my first wine, and then headed outside to set up the picnic area. I put out a cheese and crackers spread with muscat grapes and various fruit. I also sliced the extra bread we had left over from our picnic. Then everyone slowly gathered around the table, and enjoyed the beautiful views with wine and snacks.

We wandered a bit around the grounds, and I couldn't believe I was still in California. Some claimed we were in Tuscany, others in Ireland, but wherever it was, it was breathtaking.

We took a bunch of group pictures (which I wish I could post, but that would ruin the whole anonymous thing) and then headed back to the limo for our journey home.

On the way home I passed around plates, and then I served dessert. I bought various ready made cookies, mini cakes, and chocolates from Trader Joes and Wholefoods, and it was a real hit.

When we finally made it back home, some people stuck around and had leftovers from the picnic, and others headed home.

All and all it was the best way I could have spent my 30th birthday. Although it was a bit pricey (and we probably could have gone away for the weekend for the same amount), I figured that I would rather go on vacation for one day . . . and bring all my friends.

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