Starting Your Dreams Later In Life and Embracing the Detour

Jenee Darden speaking at Creative Mornings I know it's been a while since I've posted anything but that's because of my job. I'm working as a reporter covering Oakland and I host an arts segment on the radio where I get to interview amazing artists from around the Bay Area. Plus I'm publicizing my book  and building my speaking career!  You know what's funny? I thought this would all happen by the time I was 27-30.  Nope. That wasn't God's plan for me. I'm finally beginning to do the things I've wanted to do and I'm almost 40 years old. Some people reading this who are 40 will say 40 is still young. But some younger people reading may think 40 is nearly ancient. But I'm writing this post for those who like me, thought their career and personal dreams would come true much early in life. I'm here to tell you not to give up.  You know, death inspires life. A number of my relatives and friends have passed away, ranging in

Cheers! My Birthday Celebration with the Napa Valley Wine Country Tours

Jenee Darden at the Golden Gate Bridge
Jenee Darden at the Golden Gate Bridge

After losing my grandmother a few weeks before my birthday, I really needed to celebrate life. I know she would want me to do that. This year, I decided to ring in a new year of life in wine country. My soror traveled up from So Cal to visit. This would be her first time in Napa. I didn’t want to drive so instead, we bought bus tickets for the Napa Valley Wine Country Tours.

Let me tell you something, going on this bus tour was one of the BEST decisions I made. The Napa Valley Wine Country Tours bus isn’t just any bus. It’s a limo bus that looks like a VIP club lounge on wheels. We paid $119 for an 8-hour trip, visit to 4 wineries in Sonoma and Napa counties, continental breakfast and lunch. It was worth every penny. The tastings aren't covered in the bus fare, but they ran about $10-$25. Wineries won't charge you for tastings if you buy a bottle. I recommend this for tourists and any Bay Area locals who have folks visiting from out of town and want a short excursion to Napa.


My soror and I took BART from Oakland to San Francisco and were picked up in Union Square. Then our cheesy, funny driver Adam took us to the Golden Gate Bridge. We admired the beauty of the bridge hugged by a layer of fog. After a few photos we were back on the bus, sipping mimosas until we stopped at our first winery. 

The Jacuzzi Family Vineyards (yes like the hot water Jacuzzi) in Sonoma was my favorite. The owner is part of the innovative, hot tub Jacuzzi family. The vineyard is GORGEOUS. They offer wine and olive oil tasting. I left with a bottle of their sparkling wine and another white wine. I could’ve stayed there for a few hours. The winery has an amazing family history and so much to offer. The olive oil tasting was really cool. You dip bits of bread into small samples of olive oil. You can use the oils to make your own salad dressings. 

Next we stopped at the Larsen Family Winery in Sonoma. It’s a smaller, family-owned winery. We were all seated at picnic tables and tasting together at once. It felt like lunchtime at the high school cafeteria. The host of the winery was yelling the history of their winery during the tasting. This went on for at least 30 minutes. He needed a microphone. The winery has a cute dog and the people who worked there are nice. I’m glad we stopped at a smaller winery to support smaller businesses. However, shouting, instead of using a microphone turned me off. 

The Madonna Estate winery in Napa was another favorite. The pourers made us feel so welcome. They made it clear that wine drinking is not for the elite and that we should all enjoy it. They gave us great lessons on wine. Their wine is good, especially their dessert wines. Our group bought a lot of wine from Madonna Estate. And we enjoyed a nice lunch with wine of course, on their grounds.

The last stop was Kieu Hoang. That winery is very modern and chic. The grounds are beautiful. I’m a lightweight when it comes to drinking, so by the time I got there, I was tapped out. I love Hoang’s outdoor seating areas. Their vineyards and hillsides are beautiful. I spent the remainder of the afternoon under a shaded seating area, with my feet kicked up admiring the beauty of wine country at Kieu Hoang. 

 The limo bus is stocked with water and crackers so no one should be getting sick or wasted. I still brought my own snacks because I’m a lightweight and wanted heavier food to absorb the alcohol. Make sure to bring a tote bag or backpack to carry your wine bottles back to your hotel or home. 

This was a nice way to turn 38. Great wine, great company and no driving. I’m doing this tour again next time I have visitors. I better get started on drinking my wine before the next trip. Cheers! 

**Napa Valley Wine Country Tours did not pay me for this review. I had such a great time I wanted to write a review.