Last week, I wrote a bit about my time in Santa Rosa and Dry Creek Valley, but there is so much more to tell, we are barely getting started.
Last week, I left off talking about the fantastic ride that I had on a Bike Friday with Geoffrey Smith of BikePartners.net. Our ride of close to 20 miles ended at Corks Restaurant at Russian River Vineyards where we were to meet Brad Calkins, the Executive Director of the Santa Rosa Convention & Visitors Bureau (otherwise known as “Visit Santa Rosa“). Before we met up with Brad, we got a quick tour of the restaurant, which is the only winery-based restaurant in the Russian River Valley (and only one of five in the entire state). It was a near perfect day, and the host led us out to the just remodeled patio area where Brad was waiting for us. The patio is bordered on one side by the iconic original 1969 winery building that was built to resemble the numerous hop kilns that dotted the county at the time. Although it no longer serves as the winery, it remains a powerful symbol of both the winery and the restaurant.
As the host led us over to Brad’s table, which was awash in the soothing sun (can you tell it has been a long winter in Philly?). After some introductions and a bit of chat about the ride, we moved on to a much more serious topic: wine selection. Both Brad and Geoffrey deferred to me to choose, a task that I normally embrace. This time, however, I was at a bit of a loss: Geoffrey had already intimated to me that he was not much of a wine drinker (he was more of a beer guy), and I had just met Brad. The only clue that I had about Brad’s wine leanings was his license plate–“Cab Fan”.
Even in ideal circumstances (think steak dinner), I am not that much of a Cabernet guy, but here it was 80 degrees and we were about to have lunch outside in the sun. Luckily, as I fumbled about, worried that if I did not make a decision soon, the two of them would certainly start to question my bona fides as a wine blogger, Brad graciously stepped in and ordered a bottle of the Russian River Rosé of Pinot Noir. Excellent choice on so many levels, not the least of which was the quality of the wine: light and refreshing, with some restrained fruit, but packing a punch with its acidity on the backend. I ordered a reuben for lunch, which is pretty much my go to sandwich, and this one was fantastic. The winemaker and part owner, Giovanni Balistreri, stopped by the table to fill us in a little about the winery, the restaurant, and the renovations.
After lunch, I pondered a quick wine tasting, which was occurring under a large redwood about 20 feet from our table, but we were already a bit late for our next stop, the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center.
When I first heard that I was going to visit the museum, I honestly had no idea what do expect: a whole museum about a comic strip? Don’t get me wrong, I was always a huge Peanuts fan, but a museum?
From the moment that I got out of Brad’s car in the museum’s parking lot, however, it was very clear that this was going to be a very cool visit. The grounds were dotted with huge members of the peanuts gang, and there was a serenity that was unexpected. Granted, we were there on a school-day morning, but I have little doubt that the placidity of the grounds would exist even among the shouts and screams of dozens of children.
Shortly after entering the Great Hall, Brad and I were greeted by Gina Huntsinger, the Marketing Director for the museum. Gina then led us on a guided tour: the museum’s courtyard, a 100 seat theater that is continually running features and interviews, the permanent and changing collections, and the education room. Gina was a wealth of knowledge, recounting numerous facts and stories about Mr. Schulz (or “Sparky”) and the strip. Perhaps the most memorable was that Charles Schulz died in 2000 the night before the last of the 17,897 Peanuts (Mr. Schulz never liked the name of the strip) strips was published.
Adjacent to the museum, is an oddity in this part of the world: an ice skating rink. Charles Schulz was originally from Minnesota and grew up an avid hockey player and opened Snoopy’s Home Ice Arena in 1969, which is open to the public (don’t worry–they rent skates!).
The building also houses the Warm Puppy Café where Mr. Schulz ate lunch just about every day. A few paces away from the rink, there is a large gift shop, which has just about every Peanuts inspired item imaginable (my problem was that I bought a Snoopy and a Woodstock for my boys–they are still fighting over who should get what).
As we wandered through the museum’s exhibits, and across the Schulz Campus, I realized the museum is very much like the comic strip–your first impression is that it is entirely for kids, but you quickly realize that there is just as much (if not more) for adults. I will certainly be back with my two boys in tow.
Our last stop for the day was Belly Restaurant in downtown Santa Rosa. The chef, Gray Rollin, has been a celebrity tour chef for a number of performers, including Linkin Park exclusively since 2011. The restaurant has an eclectic menu ranging from pork belly to pizza (I opted for the pork belly, which was fantastic) and has dozens of beer on tap and by the bottle. While there is also an impressive wine list, I followed Brad’s lead and had one of the local microbrews (yes, Virginia, I had a beer). I highly recommend the restaurant–a great choice while visiting Santa Rosa.
At the end of an incredible day I was ready for my bed at the Fountain Grove Inn. Many thanks to Geoffrey Smith of BikePartners.net, Brad Calkins of Visit Santa Rosa, Gina Huntsinger of the Charles M. Schulz Museum, the Fountain Grove Inn, and Corks and Belly restaurants.