Itâ€™s no secret that travel has been a balm to my soul since losing my mom. (In fact, I even wrote an article on grief travel, or a griefcation, as I call it.)
But Californiaâ€™s been particularly good to my soul.
So, facing both my 35th birthday and my first birthday without my mom all in oneâ€¦I got the hell out of NYC and flew to California with friends.
I love wine (and lamp), so we started the trip in Sonoma. Iâ€™d been there for a friendâ€™s weddingÂ almost five years ago now (time is weird, guys, I donâ€™t get how that was five years ago), and I fell in love. Off to wine country it was!
There were four of us, and we stayed in this cute little Airbnb. ($20 off your first Airbnb stay withÂ this link.) It was a few miles out of town, so it was spacious but a relatively reasonable price.
We didnâ€™t get up to wine country until after 1, and so we went straight for a lovely lunch at Farmstead in St. Helena…
Before the big event of the day: a tasting at Domaine Carneros, thanks to my dear friend Blake who knows everyone and got us hooked up!
Itâ€™s a shame itâ€™s not prettier there.
And that the wine isnâ€™t better. Ugh.
Dinner was at Girl and the Fig, which came highly recommended. It wasâ€¦fine? Maybe I was just exhausted, but I thought it was a little overrated.
Other than the birthday treat.
Thankfully (?), I never adjusted to the time change and was up super early the next day, the first one in the houseâ€¦as per usual.
The last time I went to Sonoma, we went to the Sunflower Caffe, and I, no joke, have been dreaming about this place for five years. Everything was just so fresh and good, ESPECIALLY the avocados and sourdough toast. There I go, salivating again…
Is it not adorable, though?
Unfortunately, the service was a bit slow, so we had to take the food in the car with us. I like my Sunflower here or there, I like it anywhere.
We ended up hiring a driver for the day so that none of us had to be DD, and it was a worthy investment. (About $100/person.)
Our first tasting of the day was at Iron Horse.Â Theyâ€™re known for their sparkling, and my favorite was their Wedding Cuvee, which was originally made for a family wedding but has now become their signature wine.
And then it was off to the mother ship, La Crema!!!!Â Their chardonnay is what turned me from a chardonnay hater to a chardonnay lover! I have a friend who works for them, and she hooked us up with a tasting, too.
I felt super special that they printed menus up for usâ€¦at my favorite place!
Iâ€™d already bought two bottles at Domaine Carneros so at this point I was thinking about my little carryon and getting wine homeâ€¦ I bought the Saraleeâ€™s Vineyard Chadonnay, which was rich and delicious.
I was in heaven.
I also have no idea how I managed to restrain myself to not buy out the whole gift shop…
Our last vineyard of the day was Hook and Ladder. Canâ€™t say I was crazy about that oneâ€¦will just leave it at that.
Weâ€™d had several fancy dinner reservations for that nightâ€¦but after a day of wine tastings in the sunshine…
We stopped for a pizza snack in the Sonoma square, and decided to bring pizza back to the house and drink wine there in our PJs. Zero regrets, and truly #thisis35.
There was also sabering and prosecco pongâ€¦
The next day I woke upâ€¦and was 35! Again guys, time is weird. I snuggled up with my friends on the comfy couches before going for a short birthday â€œrun.â€ Emphasis on the quotes â€” there was a good amount of walking on these steep hills.
Brunch was at Fremont Diner, a super hipstery roadside dinerâ€¦that also serves delicious Gloria Ferrer mimosas. The hour was a wait, but whatâ€™s an hour when you have mimosas and biscuits? (The biscuits were CLUTCH.)
Fuck yes. (Also that Cheers, Darling is my friend Leahâ€™s bag. [similar] She has one of the best wardrobes of anyone I know.)
I decided life is short, wear the Lilly, even if youâ€™re totally overdressed at a diner.
To the bubbles!!
Our last winery was Gloria Ferrer, another one of my favorites. Iâ€™ve been dreaming of their Blanc de Noir since the last time I was there.
From there, it was back to San Francisco for half of the ladies to get back to SFO to fly home that nightâ€¦ (and a little time to play tourist!)
It would have been all too easy to focus on what I donâ€™t have, on this birthday that ends in a 5, on this first birthday without my mom.
Of course I missed her, and I choked back tears talking to my aunt, who sounds JUST like my mom, but I kept thinking all day how GRATEFUL I was â€” to be surrounded all day by three wonderful friends who love me (or wine? unclearâ€¦) enough to fly cross-country for my birthday. How lucky I am to be able to travel.
Thereâ€™s a lot I donâ€™t have, or have figured out that I thought I would by 35. The only things that look like I hoped are that I live in NYC and I have amazing people in my life.
But having amazing people in my life is the foundation that will help me figure out the rest of it, and for that, I am incredibly lucky.
Next up: part II of the trip, LA!