A wave of calm descended as my first round of hyper fresh briny oysters slid down. I was sitting at the Saltwater Oyster Bar in Inverness, a white clapboard ode to local ingredients with gastro-nautical chops, on a stretch of sleepy road in Marin County, California. Across the mists of Tomales Bay, past the siren curves of the McLaren GT calling me from the carpark, were my next pit stops, the more famous Hog Island Oysters and The Marshall Store.
My Mission Impossible for the weekend: escape from New York to indulge in an oenological expedition to Sonoma County, seeking out the finest wines known to humanity. All while piloting a grand tourer of the first order on the incomparable roads of the raggedy Marin coast, laying down a roadmap for eats, drives and drinks à la Sideways. It was to be a blast from San Francisco up through Mill Valley, Stimpson Beach, Inverness, Marshall, and Nick’s Cove to Bodega Bay. Following Route 1 as it twisted and turned along misty bays and ocean whitecaps, past multimillion-dollar oceanfront shacks on stilts.
I’ve often driven the Pacific Coast Highway from L.A. to San Francisco. It can be glorious from Hearst Castle to Pebble Beach, but is often intractable unless attacked at the crack of dawn, or on a superbike capable of overtaking a snake of RVs with one flick of the wrist. The route up from San Francisco into Marin is just as beautiful, less populated, and more to the point, leads into wine country I had long been itching to attack. Napa’s rendition of old world Bordeaux and its blends of cabernet sauvignon and merlot are more accessible and perhaps more broadly known and understood, appearing on every wine list in the country. But the wilds of Sonoma are home to the grapes that make true gems.
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