Van Life 2022, From Olympia to Napa

It’s been just over a month since Frank and I set out on our California-Arizona wine tour, and it’s hard to believe that such an exciting trip is already over.

As much fun as we had, my liver is probably crying with relief to be home. I’m one week into Sober October, but I’m already dreaming about opening our first bottle of California wine from our trip!

Bare with me as I shamelessly reminisce over where we spent three weeks, where we biked, where we slept, where we ate – and most importantly – where we drank. 

Day One: Olympia to the Redwoods

Girl biking on the road surrounded by redwood trees

Distance Traveled: 473 mi.
Destination: California Redwoods
What we did: Biked this route
Where we ate: The van, baby!
Where we slept:
Prairie Creek State Park

In preparation for our trip, Frank spent every ounce of free time this summer updating our van. Since our last van life adventure, where we worked harvest in the Willamette Valley, there have been a ton of improvements.

If you’re curious, be sure to check out this reel to see the evolution!

We technically started our trip on a Sunday evening, where we drove from Olympia to Salem. We boondocked in a Walmart parking lot, and the next morning we headed to the Prairie Creek Campground.

Shout out to iOverlander for delivering us to this awesome campsite and to giving us all the boondocking info we could ever want. This whole trip Frank and I only paid for two campsites!

Here is the route we found via RideGPS. Unfortunately, the trail was pretty heavily overgrown, so we ended up spending almost twice as long on the trip. That being said, the view was incredible, and we definitely got a good workout in.

Tip: If you stay at this campground, keep an eye out around sunset for the elk in the grazing field. Definitely worth it!

Day Two: Redwoods to Santa Rosa

Distance Traveled: 266 mi.
Destination: Santa Rosa
What we did: Walked around Eureka, tasted wine at Rivino
Where we ate: Breakfast at the Green Lily, Dinner at Geyserville Gun Club, and late-night bites at Russian River Brewing
Where we slept:
Next to a multi-million dollar house in Santa Rosa… for free… in our van

The next day we went to Eureka for breakfast and to walk around the local shops. We bought a couple of postcards and headed straight for Santa Rosa.

Well, we stopped for some wine first. I regret nothing!

Winery #1: Rivino Winery

Rivino Winery is located in Mendocino county and is an entirely estate-grown winery with 250 acres along the Russian River. They currently offer 7 varietals, including sparkling wine (their Boujee Bubbly) as well as a Chablis-style Chardonnay, Viognier, Sangiovese, plus many more. 

plate of roasted potatoes with veggies on a bar with an aperol spritz in the background

I particularly enjoyed their Tiger Juice, a Syrah-Viognier co-ferment. I also grabbed a bottle of their Chardonnay and their White Port. The service was excellent, and the dinner recommendation was a 10/10!  

After dinner at the Geyserville Gun Club, we actually headed to Santa Rosa. According to iOverlander, the nationally famous brewery, Russian River Brewing, had a parking lot that was boondocker-friendly. But after chatting with our server, we learned that wasn’t really the case.

He recommended we drive up a couple of blocks and park in a residential neighborhood. We obliged and drove up several blocks until we found a quiet-looking street.

Day Three: Sonoma and Bodega Bay

Distance Traveled: 63 mi.
Destination: Sonoma, Bodega Bay
What we did: Wine tasting at St. Francis and Martin Ray Winery
Where we ate: Breakfast at the Barlow District, dinner at The Birds Cafe
Where we slept:
Boondocked at Bodega Bay

A grey van parked on the water next to a large tree.

The next day, we did a bit of research and decided to check out the Barlow District for breakfast. The Barlow District is a 12-acre-old warehouse district that has been converted into an open outdoor market. It’s now jam-packed with restaurants, wineries, breweries, shops, and even a cheesemonger!

After coffee and croissants from Taylor Lane Cafe, we putzed around the market and made a wine-tasting reservation for St. Francis Winery.

Winery #2: St. Francis Winery & Vineyards

Saint Francis is located in Sonoma and is a 100% Certified Sustainable Winery. In total, it encompasses 3 estate vineyards located all around the Sonoma area.

St. Francis features a wide array of award-winning, 90+ point wines, including exceptional Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Old Vine Zinfandel.

Winery #3: Martin Ray Winery

Hands holding a bottle of red wine from Martin Ray Winery

A friend of Frank’s told us we had to check this place out, so before we headed to Bodega Bay, we snagged the final reservation for the evening.

Martin Ray Winery is located in the heart of the Russian River Valley and features wines made from numerous locations, including Napa, Sonoma, Santa Cruz, and Dry Creek Valley, to name a few.

For our tasting, we got a heavy dose of Russian River Pinot, and it did not disappoint! I reveled in the opportunity to compare Russian River Pinot to the Pinots I enjoyed in the Willamette Valley. I found them to be more masculine, more fruit-forward, and far less polite than the Willamette Pinots. 

I can’t say I prefer one over the other, but I will continue to enjoy the struggle of trying to decide.

Following our tasting, we headed west to Bodega Bay, where we had a dinner of Hog Island oysters and fresh lobster rolls. All of the camping spots were booked, so we did some research on iOverlander and found a couple of pull-off spots that were deemed “safe” to boondock.

We picked a pull-off right on the water and were able to sleep soundly without even a trace of noise.

Day Four: Final Day in Napa & Sonoma

Distance Traveled: 119 mi.
Destination: Napa, Sonoma, Winters
What we did: Wine tasting at Saintsbury and Gloria Ferrer
Where we ate: Oxbow Public Market
Where we slept:
Behind our friend’s brewery in Winters

After waking up in Bodega Bay and grabbing a couple of coffees, we headed back to Napa. A friend of ours was born and raised there, and she had recommended a couple of wineries to us. We made these reservations the day before.

Winery #4: Saintsbury Winery

a glass of chardonnay next to its bottle, Saintsbury Winery

Saintsbury Winery is located in the Napa-Carneros area, featuring wines made from vineyards in the Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast, and Carneros. 

The diversity from the various growing regions allows the wines (Chardonnay and Pinot noir) to fully express the nature of each vineyard. All the while showcasing with ease some of the best Pinot California has to offer.

Following our tasting at Saintsbury, we had just enough time for a quick lunch. Our friend told us to check out the Oxbow Market in Napa, and I’m so glad we did. We hurriedly ate more Hog Island oysters, grabbed a couple locally made olive oils for gifts, and headed out to our final tasting of the day.

Winery #5: Gloria Ferrer

Gloria Ferrer, located in the Los Carneros region, is an entirely estate-grown sparkling wine house featuring a wide selection of sparkling wine made in the Champagne method. We apparently had such a good time that we were even persuaded to have half a case of Blanc de Blanc shipped home to us!

Speaking of which, it arrived a few days ago. I almost wonder why I agreed to do Sober October, but by the end of next Friday’s post, I think we’ll all know why.

Up Next

Frank and I ended the day driving east towards Winters, where he has an old friend that owns Berryessa Brewing. After sipping some beers and getting to reconnect, we slept soundly behind the brewery.

The following day, we headed south to the L.A. area to visit Frank’s family. You and I will touch base a little after that as we move onto the next leg of our trip… Arizona baby!

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