A few of my vacation days last week were spent rambling around Sonoma, passing from the beer world to the wine world and back again. The difference between the connoisseur cultures always cracks me up: the Springsteen-playing, clutter-filled brewpubs, heavily populated with goateed dudes, and the romantically bucolic vibe of winery tasting rooms packed with grapevine tchotchkes and upper-middle-class aspirations.
The difference in vibes was striking because it had nothing to do with the quality of what I tasted. Most of the Sauvignon blancs and Rhone blends I tasted were clumsy compared to the lineup of Belgian-style ales at Russian River Brewing Company (725 Fourth St., Santa Rosa). I've slowly been sampling my way through the lineup at the Haight Street Whole Foods, so getting to taste the beers side by side -- moving from the wispy bite of the Redemption to the ripe, wood-tinged, piquantly sour Condemnation -- was a real pleasure.
My favorite winery stop was Quivira, on Dry Creek Road outside Healdsburg, where I picked up a bottle of berry-bright rosé and remembered how much I used to love brambly, peppery Zinfandels when I first moved to California. However, on our way back to S.F., we drove past Iron Horse Vineyards outside Sebastopol and decided to stop in for a sparkling wine flight.
At the end of a rutted, half-mile expanse of country road we were surprised to find a mobile pizza oven. Turns out the winery is organizing street-food Fridays through the summer, coaxing North Bay food trucks and the peripatetic Kara's Cupcakes out to Sebastopol so its customers can eat while they drink a glass of wine and look out over the rolling vineyards. (Above is the June lineup; if you're considering future trips, follow Iron Horse on Twitter.) Now if that isn't a more appealing version of wine country living than faux-Tuscan hotels and Provencal placemats, I'll name my first child Sauvignon.