Sonoma County diet – sweat and drink

Sonoma County Illustration by Jon Stich

Sweet & Sweaty in Sonoma County

Sonoma County, California is a perfect long weekend getaway providing ample opportunity to get active year round while offering sumptuous food and wine to scintillate your senses.  My mission was simple – sweat and drink. 

Spring had officially donned her bedazzled Easter bonnet and shoved Old Man Winter down a steep flight of stairs.  With this turn of seasons came one of my favorite pastimes – patio drinks and dinners. 

As the sun coaxed me out of my jacket I’d suddenly been hit with a horrific realization.  Canadian swimsuit season was in sight.  Now where could I shed some Polar Bear poundage and still indulge sipping on the fruits of someone else’s labor?      

Sonoma County wine tasting.
A wine picnic in Sonoma County

Though tempted to skip the sweat on arrival in Sonoma County, I summoned my inner drill sergeant and rented a bike to peddle out to Francis Ford Coppola’s winery.  Being a film buff I considered it the perfect place to begin.  With more than forty wines produced on site and situated on a stunning property surrounded by sustainably farmed vineyards I got it right.  I soon had a stemmed glass of the Director’s Cut varietal in my paw as I perused the display cases with Academy Awards, Golden Globes and memorabilia from Apocalypse Now to The Godfather

Catching a glimpse of the Russian River I decided it was time to get wet and jumped in a kayak for workout number two.  The sandy banks beckoned after a few kilometers paddle and thankfully I had brought a bottle of bubbles on board. 

Many, including myself, are surprised to learn that a few vineyards outside the Champagne region of France have been Grandfathered and approved to use the name.  Such is the case with Korbel Champagne Cellars in the town of Guerneville in Sonoma County.  Over one hundred and fifty years ago the Korbel brothers immigrated to the U.S.A. and continued the tradition of Champagne.  And I’m so glad they did.  Bubbles can be a boy’s best friend. 

Sonoma County - Armstrong Woods Guerneville

The Armstrong Redwood Grove is really not to be missed once you’ve sunned yourself on the banks of the river.  Though I began running I was soon slowed to a contemplative stroll as I took in the serene, majestic beauty of the Grove and how it stands as a living reminder of the magnificent primeval redwood forest that covered much of this area before logging operations began during the 19th Century. 

Sonoma County coastline

While whale watching was not likely to drop any pounds I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get out on the open water and view the rugged Northern California coastline.  At any rate the thought of one of the whales in an Aussie Bum Speedo allowed a smug smile to creep across my face as I made my way to the bow of the fishing boat.

Sonoma-County-Wine-Grapes

Pinot painted my pallet as I reflected on this quintessential California retreat offering sun, sand, surf and serenity.  Sonoma County is a perfect place for romance and a favorite denning area for the bears of our community.  Glancing down at my cubbish figure I realized maybe I just found myself a new sweet spot.  Seawater splashed up and beaded like sweat on my forehead.  Vacation accomplished.  Drink and sweat.  Or at least fake it ‘til you make it. 

Catch me if you can! 

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Enjoy Travel?  Watch the video on the history of gay Tango dancing I made while in Buenos Aires, Argentina. 

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Gay Tango in Argentina

Mendoza Rafting - gay tango

Gay Tango may not be at the top of the list for most tourists to visit Argentina but when I learned that the seductive dance was first practiced and perfected by men dancing together in the streets of Buenos Aires, it was reason enough for me to go.

I can speak-sing out the praises of Argentina with the best of them but unlike Madge my love doesn’t stop in Buenos Aires.  Exploring outside the ‘Paris of South America’ has proved very fruitful, like my trip to Mendoza.  (As a disclaimer I’d like to mention that no sensuous meal, breathtaking view or exhilarating experience described in this article will rival the pure bliss of simply men-watching in Argentina.)

Unfortunately I did not arrive and simply stumble into men dancing the gay tango on every corner under a street lamp as I would have hoped.  I had to go searching for a partner to practice with and find out if the gay tango was a myth or real!

gay tango

First things first – I met a tall, dark and devastatingly handsome guy and we hit it off immediately with so much to say to each other we couldn’t express it.  Marcello spoke no English and I managed to croak out, “no hablo español.” 

Armed with the fanciful ideas of all the innuendo we would be serving each other if our tongues permitted we took off on bicycles for an afternoon of wine tasting.  Two of the main industries of Mendoza are olive oil production and wine making.  Greater Mendoza is the largest wine producing area in Latin America and one of nine cities worldwide named the Great Capitals of Wine, providing honeymooners, I mean interlopers like Marcello and I hundreds of wineries in the region to explore. 

Our day didn’t end getting drunk but it certainly started that way.  Marcello suggested detox was in order and he knew just the spot – Cacheuta Hot Water Spring Spa.  The spa has a beautifully appointed view of the surrounding riverbed canyon and the mud from its banks has healing properties for the skin.  What are two dudes to do?  We slathered each other up of course like dirty little piggies and then sun baked on lounge chairs until we were hard as clay pots.  Marcello coaxed me with his midnight eyes to lift my palms to the sun and receive its energy, “like the ancients.”  It felt amazing to bask in the heat of my new Latin lover.  Sun power.  Man Power.  I’ll take both please. 

Dining out is a major part of Mendoza’s nightlife and I do mean nightlife.  No one breaks bread before ten pm.  Los Chocos proved to be the most unique experience.  It’s a gay-owned and operated restaurant serving a gourmet eight course dinner in a private home similar to the Paladares in Havana, Cuba. 

Special local Mendoza cuisine was complemented with perfect Malbec wines, wonderful company and amazingly creative food with mouthwatering flavors.  After dinner a leisurely stroll, perhaps some refreshingly cool crema helada –ice cream- and a visit to a local gay bar will be the perfect end to a fun-filled day.  Either Queen or La Reserva Pub – the major LGBT bars in town – located in the heart of downtown Mendoza will be open and waiting to entertain you until dawn, or perhaps even later. 

Join Marcello and me on a zip line over a canyon and some white water rafting in this video.

No visit to Mendoza would be complete without my elusive Gay Tango.  Marcello pulled me into his arms and I began to understand why South Americans think Argentines are stuck up… it’s easy for a cock to crow when there’s so much to be proud of. 

Want to learn more about the history of gay tango?  Well, wouldn’t you know, I made a little video for you!

Okay, you guessed it.  Although Marcello was an awesome sport and willing to practice the gay tango with me, he is actually… straight.  Yeah, I can’t help but get along with straight dudes and have the occasional bromance.  You can explore more bromance stories in Forces, the October 13th story in Shadowlands, and Mulligans.

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