NorCal Wine Trip: Day 1 Sonoma

It’s been two months, but I’m finally getting some time to write about our wine trip to northern California at the end of April. We spent three sun-filled days sipping wine in Sonoma, Santa Rosa, Napa, and Livermore. Here’s a summary of Day 1 and a map of our route from Oakland Airport to downtown Santa Rosa.


We took a late evening flight out of Milwaukee, which landed us in Oakland around midnight local time. Originally, we planned to head north and stay in Novato, but it turns out the OAK rental car center closes at 10pm. We ended up changing our hotel last minute to stay close to the airport so that we could pick up the rental car in the morning. This worked out better for two reasons:

  1. Safety! We didn’t have to drive 45+ minutes north while exhausted after a long flight.
  2. We had the opportunity to check out a couple places and visit some people in Berkeley the next morning before heading to the first winery.

But First Coffee

After picking up our rental car, we stopped at Artis Coffee in Berkeley for a couple lattes. It was a nice spot and fairly crowded as all the tables inside and in the covered outdoor sitting area were full. We ended up getting a standing spot at the outdoor high-top bar. The ambiance was good, and the lattes were delicious – served in large ceramic mugs. I recommend trying this place when in Berkeley.

Viansa Winery

After enjoying our lattes and a quick test drive of the VinFast electric SUV (located just down the street from Artis), we headed north to our first winery of the day Viansa, a large estate on a hilltop overlooking a wetland habitat. We were lucky to have friends who are wine club members at Viansa and recommended it to us. We enjoyed a free tasting in the tasting room by referencing our friend’s phone number…Shhh! The wines are Italian-style. We really enjoyed the 2021 Altura Collection Pinot Noir and ended up buying a bottle. Overall, the tasting room was nothing special, but our wine server was very knowledgeable and personable. We would have enjoyed sitting outside to enjoy the view while wine tasting, but all the tables were reserved. We did walk around the estate after the tasting to get some pictures. It’s very large and would be a lovely wedding venue.

Three Fat Guys Winery

Our plan after leaving Viansa was to go to downtown Sonoma to get a late lunch and visit a winery in Sonoma Plaza. However, on our drive, we passed a sign for Three Fat Guys wine, and I was so intrigued by the name that we stopped to check it out. Little did I know at the time that the “three fat guys” were actually former Green Bay Packers. As Wisconsinites in NorCal, we had to do a wine tasting after we learned that significant fact!

Compared to Viansa, Three Fat Guys was a hole-in-the-wall place; a tiny bar inside with no A/C and a patio outside wrapped in plastic. The ceiling inside was covered with notes and signatures from visitors, including former Packers. Next door there was a small home goods store that offered packaged cheese, meat, and snacks for purchase. We grabbed a few items to pair with our wine since we opted to skip lunch. Sonoma is great because you can bring food to most of the wineries and “picnic”; Napa has laws against that.

At Three Fat Guys, we chose to sit outside and do the standard tasting, which included 5 pours for $35/person. Each tasting fee was complimentary with a $50 wine purchase ($100 total for two tastings). We ended up walking away with three bottles of wine: 2021 Carneros Rose, 2019 Sonoma Cabernet, and 2019 Carneros Pinot Noir, which was not part of the standard tasting. In summary, Three Fat Guys was a very chill winery serving good wines. Based on the atmosphere, I bet they throw some fun wine release parties, among other events!

Downtown Santa Rosa

We booked an Airbnb that was close to downtown Santa Rosa for one night. It was not within walking distance, but plenty of street parking was available. We met some friends at 4th Street Cellars, which was a great experience! The wine bar offered a nice selection of reasonably priced wines and live music.

Then we had dinner at The Spinster Sisters, which was not in the heart of downtown Santa Rosa, but it was very close. Again, we drove and could find street parking easily. I made a reservation at the restaurant, and the only availability on a Friday night was 7:30pm in the outdoor courtyard, which was quite cool once the sun went down. They did offer ponchos and heat lamps, though! The experience was overall good, but it’s a tapas restaurant. After a long day of wine tasting, we could have used a more substantial meal. I think we ordered one of everything on the menu! The restaurant offered a large wine selection, but several wines were sold out. We ended up settling for our 4th or 5th choice. In my opinion, there are better options close to 4th Street Cellars. And that’s a wrap on day 1!

Wine at 4th Street Cellars
Dinner at The Spinster Sisters

Coffee in Cabo

Earlier this year, we took our annual trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Located at the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula, Cabo is a second home for us, and we’ve been going there for the last 10 years (less the Covid years). This year was special because we brought our kids (5 and almost 3 years old). While we often get our morning lattes from the resort coffee shop, we enjoy going off the resort in search of the best coffee in Cabo.

Land’s End Coffee Roaster

We found Land’s End a couple years ago. The “croffle” sign out front caught our attention. Since we enjoy basic lattes without sugar-filled syrups covering up the taste, we tend to be more critical about the milk-to-espresso ratio and the temperature of the milk. Both these factors have a dramatic impact on the taste of the latte. When a coffee shop’s “small” latte size is 12oz (which usually comes with 1 shot of espresso), we order a second shot to balance the milk-to-espresso ratio. At Land’s End, we added that extra shot, and the final result was quite enjoyable.

Now onto the “croffle.” Think croissant + waffle because that’s exactly what it is, and it’s delicious. They slice open a large croissant, spread Nutella on the inside, and warm it for 90 seconds in a waffle iron. It’s so simple and even the kids loved it! We brought this idea back home with us and now enjoy “croffles” as a special treat.

Baja Coffee Company

Located in the Marina, this tiny (and I mean tiny) coffee shop served up a decent latte. I believe this location is new because I don’t recall it from past years; however, they may have other locations. I ordered this 12oz small latte with an extra shot of espresso to balance the taste. January mornings in Cabo are cool (50s-60s Fahrenheit), so a warm latte is still appropriate before the temps rise. If you find yourself in Cabo wanting a latte, you can find this place near the Cabo sign and Tequila Lighthouse gift shop in the Marina. There is no sitting area, so just grab your coffee and keep walking.

A Simple Charcuterie Board

I love charcuterie boards! Maybe it’s because I’m from Wisconsin, and my love for cheese was ingrained in me from a young age. Regardless, as an adult, I have a true appreciation for both the art and science involved in creating a charcuterie board. They exude beauty through different colors, textures, and arrangements. They’re simple in nature, but the potential for variety makes them complex. In fact, this is one of the reasons I decided to post about my simple charcuterie board. It’s a good mix that pairs well with a variety of wines. Serve with crackers if desired.

3 Cheeses

  • Sharp Cheddar
  • Brie
  • Manchego or Aged Gouda

2 Meats

  • Hard Salami
  • Prosciutto

2 Fruit

  • Strawberries
  • Grapes

When making a charcuterie board, the possibilities are endless. It’s easy to get overwhelmed or carried away. I like my simple charcuterie board because it covers most wine pairings:

  • Sharp Cheddar pairs well with full-bodied wines, like Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah. It can also go well with a Sparkling Wine or Champagne because the bubbles and acidity clear the palate and balance the strong cheese.
  • Brie pairs well with an oaky Chardonnay because creamy matches creamy. It also pairs well with crisp white wines like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris.
  • Manchego or Aged Gouda are great because they are versatile cheeses and pair with many different wines, including an earthy Pinot Noir.
  • Any meat will pair well with red wines – I like hard salami and prosciutto because they are not gamey and balance the cheese varieties.
  • Fruits pair well with Sparkling Wine and sweet to semi-sweet wines, like Moscato or Riesling. Fruit also adds color to the board.

Keep in mind that charcuterie boards are mostly subjective, so pick what you like and be creative with how you arrange it on the board. You can cut cheese in different shapes (cubes vs. sliced) to add visual interest.

In summary, when hosting a wine tasting event or preparing a light dinner to go with your wine, a charcuterie board can be the perfect option.

Starting in the Middle

As I write the first blog post for Roast & Oak, I want to acknowledge that I’m in the middle of a journey that started 10+ years ago. From not being able to stomach a sip of coffee to being a latte-in-the-morning and an espresso-in-the-afternoon kind of person. From being a weekend beer drinker to a wine aficionado. This blog is a tribute to the maturity of taste and the appreciation for the art and history of coffee and wine.

While I’ve missed out on documenting tasting notes for hundreds of bottles of wine I’ve tried and sharing wine experiences from across the United States, Spain, Italy, Hungary, and beyond, I’ll use this blog as an avenue to share wine experiences both for others and for my own recollection. I hope to dig up some of the pictures and memories from the past and share them here as well.

As for the coffee side of Roast & Oak, that’s really more my husband’s interest, but as frequent travelers, we both value finding a good coffee shop in airports. We’ll share the local coffee shops we stumble upon and often visit both in our state of Wisconsin and across the US.

The first post for Roast & Oak is nearly complete. I look forward to sharing and connecting as the journey continues. It’s all for the love of coffee and wine!