Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Best Wine Country Restaurants

The latest edition of "Rick's Tips" is available.  Check it out to find the best restaurants in the Napa Valley, Sonoma County wine country, the Anderson Valley and Mendocino coast, Amador County wine country, Paso Robles, and Cambria.  To see how the reviewers at the Michelin Guide, San Francisco Chronicle, Zagat, TripAdvisor, and Yelp ranked the best restaurants, click here.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

This past weekend, we drove through the Anderson Valley on our way to the spectacular Mendocino County coast.  We stopped at three wineries to taste, Foursight, Witching Stick, and Lula.  At Foursight and Witching Stick, the owners were behind the bar in the tasting rooms.  At Lula, we talked with the owner while he was punching down his fermenting grapes from his Mystery Block.  This is an experience that one seldom gets in Napa and Sonoma Counties these days.  Tasting fees were $10 or less at each winery and were refunded with a purchase of a bottle of wine.  This is the way tastings used to work in Napa and Sonoma before so many visitors started to descend upon the Valleys.

The Anderson Valley is best known for Pinot Noir and Alsatian varietals, e.g., Riesling and Gewurztraminer.  If you like these types of wine and small, unpretentious wineries, check out this beautiful part of Northern California.  There is limited lodging in the Valley but plenty of places to stay our on the coast in the towns of Elk, Albion, Little River, Mendocino, and Fort Bragg.

Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel offers a two-day, one-night tour of the Anderson Valley and the Mendocino County coast.  This can be extended if so desired.  For more information call (415) 337-1874 or email

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

2016 TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence

Once again, Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel was awarded TripAdvisor's Certificate of Excellence. Thanks to our many guests for posting reviews. 

Saturday, April 02, 2016

April 2016 "Rick's Tips" - "Spring Flowers"

The latest edition of "Rick's Tips," Blue Heron's free newsletter is available.  This issue covers good places to see "Spring Flowers."  Check it out by clicking here.  You will learn about beautiful gardens at wineries in Sonoma County, a botanical garden not far from the Anderson Valley wineries in Mendocino County, and spectacular daffodils near the Shenandoah Valley wineries in Amador County.  Also featured are gardens in San Francisco and elsewhere in the Bay Area.

If you would like to take a private wine country tour that includes some of the gardens mention in the newsletter, contact Blue Heron Custom Tours & Travel at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Return to Paso Robles

After more than a year, we returned to Paso Robles for a couple of days. Having tasted on the west side of US-101 a few times, we decided to visit the East Side on this trip. 

We tasted at Robert Hall, Cass, Still Waters, and August Ridge wineries. As in the past, tasting room staff were friendly and attentive. Like the West Side, you'll find a lot of Zinfandel (red, not pink), Cabernet Sauvignon, and Rhone varietals such as Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Viognier, Marsanne, and Rousanne. A few wineries, such as August Ridge, specialize in Italian varietals, e.g., Nebbiola, Sangiovese, Barbera, and Dolcetto. 

Many wineries welcome picnickers. Cass has a cafe with very good food. The staff pour your wines as you wait for your food to come from the kitchen. You can then get a glass to accompany your meal. We had the burger and short rib chili, both of which were delicious. 

The East Side is less visited than the West Side, so you might want to head here if you visit Paso Robles on a Saturday to avoid some of the crowds. 

If you want to visit Paso Robles from San Francisco, Blue Heron offers private tours that can also include Monterey, Carmel, Big Sur, and the Hearst Castle. For more information, call (866) 326-4237 or e-mail

Edna Valley Winetasting

I recently visited the Edna Valley for the first time. This wine region is located about 15 minutes east of Pismo Beach and 15 minutes south of the city of San Luis Obispo, about halfway between San Francisco and Los Angles, near US-101. 

Being close to the Pacific, the Edna Valley is best known for cool-climate grapes such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. We also tasted some good wine made with Alsatian varietals, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Blanc, as well as Syrah. 

We visited four wineries:  Claiborne and Churchill, Kynsi, Chamisal, and Wulff. At all of the wineries, staff were friendly and helpful. Visiting on a Wednesday in early January meant that we often had the tasting rooms to ourselves. Tasting fees ran between $10 and $15 per person and were usually refundable with the purchase of a bottle or two. 

The only downside to visiting the Edna Valley is the lack of places to eat. Sexton winery has a deli, but it was closed when we visited. Many wineries will let you bring food and picnic. It's also easy to head into one of the towns for lunch and then continue winetasting after eating. 

Being just off US-101 makes the Edna Valley a good place to stop if you are driving from San Francisco to Santa Barbara.  It's also not too far from the Hearst Castle in San Simeon; although the Paso Robles region is closer. If you like good Pinot Noir, check out the Edna Valley when you visit San Luis Obispo County.