To Russian River with Love

I’m glowing as I write this.  We have a new Daughter.

Peter and Sarah’s wedding was beautiful.  I cried as I watched my children Peter, Joel, then Joy walk down the aisle.  By the time Sarah got to the altar, I was a sweet happy mama mess….


I didn’t take any pictures.  Sometimes you just have to savor the moment and concentrate on what’s happening RIGHT NOW.  I learned that at my older son Joel’s wedding…and that’s what I did.

The wedding was held at the Sonoma, CA home of Sarah’s parents, Gloria Crow and David Lewis.  Gloria is an incredible gardener, and her organic fruit trees, vegetables and flowers created a stunning backdrop to a lovely wedding.  Peter and Sarah planned the wedding themselves and you could feel the love and care that went into the event.  A large contingent of Peter and Sarah’s friends came from Ann Arbor, and I enjoyed getting caught up with Peter’s high school buddies.  Meeting Sarah’s extended family was a joy, as was visiting with Rob’s family and my brother and his wife, who made the trip from Florida.

Joel’s wedding in December created two ‘Wilke Wedding Traditions’ that Peter and Sarah continued.

The first tradition is a family race, which we held on the paths around the lake at Spring Lake Park, a Sonoma County park.  We needed to pull in frontwards at this camp and carefully unhook the truck, as the sites were all backwards!  Our site didn’t have hook ups, but it was shaded by oaks and over an acre in size, so we had lots of space.  Best of all there are miles of biking and walking trails!


Before the race–Look at all those smiling (competitive) faces!

Here’s the catch:  You can only get married if you win the race.  Joel won the 5K on Jekyll Island in December, so he could marry later that day.  Peter won the Wilke 10K last Thursday, so he could marry on Saturday.  Peter has been training hard.  He placed third in a large 5K in Sacramento last week (his ‘training run’) and finished 8 minutes earlier than anyone else in our race.

I guess he really wanted to marry Sarah!


The second tradition is a family-organized rehearsal reception.

We’ve had two weddings in 8 months in far-away places.  Joel’s wedding was in coastal Georgia and Peter’s was in Sonoma (just about as far away from each other in the continental US as can be!). Because so many people attend from distant places, we decided to hold a rehearsal reception the evening before the wedding, inviting all who are in town rather than just the wedding party. We make the food for this event, which gives whoever wants to cook an excuse to spend the day visiting as we make our favorite recipes.

It’s been a busy week.

Between the family dinners and cookouts, the race, reception and the wedding, some of us squeezed some time to do some wine tasting. My brother in law is a wine distributor in Colorado, so he arranged special visits to three wineries in the Russian River Valley on the Wednesday before the wedding.


The VML Vineyard under a beautiful sky

Our first stop was to VML Winery in Healdsburg, famous for its elaborate and beautiful wine bottle labels and great wines.


Some VML labels

We drank wine and wandered through their beautiful gardens, filled with flowers, herbs and fruit trees.


Even the stairs had flowers!

VML had a great chardonnay and also a Pinot Noir called Stars that was outstanding.


Getting the tanks ready for tomorrow’s harvest at Quivira

We ate lunch, tasted more wine and had a tour of the facilities and gardens at Quivira Winery, a ‘Biodynamic’ vineyard. Biodynamics is a wholistic approach to gardening that stresses self-sustaining balance:  For healthy plants, you return to the soil what you take out of it.  The winery maintains extensive gardens and chickens and other livestock help create the fertilizer that replenishes the soil.


The gardens at Quivira were a feast for the eyes


Our lovebirds at our lunch stop



Our third stop was Fritz Underground Winery, a two-generation vineyard that uses the natural elements of the land to create its wine.  Owner Clayton Fritz walked us through the vineyard along a peaceful trail to a natural spring surrounded by redwoods.


The winery and vineyard is on a hill, and the winemakers have used gravity to their benefit, placing the de-stemming and crushing machinery at the top,


tanks in a cool room in the middle….


and barrels for aging at the bottom of the hill. We also saw the dark and cool cave at the lowest level of the winery where reserve barrels are aged.


Wine cave at Quivira Underground Winery

Such great fun!

Many, many thanks to my brother in law, Bob Cohen of Veraison Distributors, for arranging our day!

Onward and upward….

Peter starts a new job at J Winery on Wednesday, so it was time for us to skedaddle.

We’ve left Sonoma and are camped at the Sonora Fairgrounds this evening.  Sonora’s 3 hours east of Sonoma, on the west side of the Sierra Mountains, near Yosemite National Park, our next stop.

The sun is setting and Rob is working away at his desk.   We’re using the air conditioner, water and have two lights on. Most of the summer, we’ve been without hookups and have become pretty good at conserving resources, so this seems like a big luxury.

Tomorrow, we’ll head east to Yosemite, where we’ll camp for 3 nights, then continue heading east.

Congratulations, Sarah and Peter!


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