Kels and Kenz Take on the Bay Part 2: Wine Country!

Happy Sunday! I’m actually writing this late Saturday night, but let’s be real, this will not be published till Sunday (or Monday) by the time I write, re-read, edit, re-re-read, edit edit, re-re-re-read, then publish (and still find countless errors after the publication-tehe).

In Part One, we left off ending Friday night on the Row with one of my best friend’s, Kelsey from Illinois. On July 28th, I woke up at the wee hours to squeeze in a run, then at 730 am we left the apartment, drove an hour into the city, lucked out with some great parking in Union Square, walked about a mile to the Ferry Building, and arrived right on time to start the journey to wine country!!!

Upon walking to the Embarcadero, we saw this fun little massive waterfall art piece that I’ve never noticed before. I’ve been to the city probably at least fifteen times, but how have I missed this giant thing?

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We signed up for a trip through wine country via Platypus Tours. For those deciding how to visit Napa/Sonoma I want to give great detail about this tour so you can decide if this is a way you would like to tackle wine country! When I found this tour I happily astounded by the price. It was only $110 per person for the entire day, including four wineries, lunch, and discounted tastings and wine tours. (Each winery tasting ended up being about $15 including the winery tour at the first winery, and Kels and I split a couple tastings which also cut down on the cost). The reviews were terrific so we decided to give it a go! This tour required us to be in front of the Ferry Building at 8:45 am to jump on the tour bus that would take us to the wineries.

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The morning went seamlessly- no traffic, easy parking, and it was a breeze finding our tour bus for the day.

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Before getting on the bus, we went to the guest services area in the Ferry Building to grab our tickets to take the Ferry back from Vallejo after our tastings (only $14 per person).

We then walked around enjoying the Ferry Market with a few minutes to spare (yes – minutes to spare in the morning! Can ya believe it?!)

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We were the first to arrive, so we tested out the seats. The bus was comfortable, a good size for the number of people, and stocked with plenty of water.

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I had read online that you can request which wineries to visit or make a request to try different wineries than you have already visited. Our wine tour guide, Bob, already had a set agenda for the day- but it worked out because the wineries were VERY unique and none of us had been to any of them before. Bob was knowledgable and worked hard to make sure we had a great day.

Our first stop was Nicholson Ranch.  This is one of the first wineries you encounter when driving into the southern foothills of Sonoma. I remembered passing it when going to wine country for the first time in March with my Mom & Pete!

We all shuffled into the tasting room, and had a glass awaiting us of their Chardonnay.

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I usually do not like Chardonnays (it’s the oaky finish that I tend to have an aversion to I’ve discovered), but every time I have sampled one in wine country, I have enjoyed them!

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I love watching their beautiful pours!

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This is the winery we were given a full tour of the winery… it’s originally $40 a person, but with our tour, it was included in the tasting price of $15. We initially went up a mountain along their vineyard and were greeted with tremendous views and a pretty awesome dumpster. (Never thought I’d ever say that sentence).

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We then walked down into the actual factory and saw the wine vat. We were given a fantastic educational session that blew our minds with how wine is actually made. I guess you will have to go yourself to find out 😉 Ok, or google. I guess google would work too. But this is way more fun! Lol.

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We then all took the elevator into the basement. We walked around in the surprisingly humid cellar. I was amazed by the number of barrels. But I was even more shocked by the price of each barrel. Anyone have any guesses?

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Answer: Each barrel costs $2000, and must be replaced every 5 years. Can you imagine?!?! Sheesh!

After our fabulous cellar session, we went to another hidden cellar room containing the oldest wines in the winery. The wine in the forefront of the photo is the VERY first wine ever made by the owner of Nicholson ranch (which was originally started in a garage).

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And finally, we moved into a gorgeous dining room for our final tasting.

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Kels and I pulled out our vegan cheese, crackers, sun-dried tomatoes, and hummus that we had packed for the day (it was about 11:30 am at this point and the hunger was starting to kick in!). I love packing cheese and crackers for winery tours, it enhances the experience and helps bring out flavors in the wines (especially the heavier ones). We shared our grub with our new friends we had made on the tour, and they couldn’t believe the cheese was vegan (I’ll share it in a Friday Favorites!).

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How freaking beautiful is she?!!

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After Nicholson ranch, we headed to Kieu Hoang winery. This is actually a winery that was originally a Mondavi winery (which is a pretty popular wine you may recognize in your local grocery store). I love the Robert Mondavi Cabernet you can just buy at Target!

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This winery was absolutely the most contemporary designed winery I have ever seen. Everything was immaculate and punctiliously designed. Yet, it clings onto the traditional Napa ambiance when you step onto their quaint porch.

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And these were the views..

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The woman serving was slow & less than knowledgable about the wine, but when we tried the zin we knew we had stumbled upon something special. Goodness. It was soooo good- the only Zin I have had that maybe is better is the one from Rombauer (to this day, I am still convinced Rombauer has the best wines!). Anyways, if you buy a bottle, they waive the tasting fee, so this bottle was essentially $10. How can you pass that up?! We grabbed a bottle to take home and enjoyed a small tasting with our lunch!

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This was one of the first wineries we have been able to actually go the actual vineyards. It was charming, delightful, scenic and all things “vineyard”. We decided to do a little photo shoot because wine not?!

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Winery numero tres, Bouchaine Vineyards! This one probably left the least impression of all four, but was wonderful nonetheless.

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This winery was much tinier than the other two we had visited, but was quiet, relaxing, and had phenomenal wines.

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Surrounded by their gorgeous gardens (Somewhat reminding me of Frog’s Leap) we enjoyed perhaps the best Chardonnary we have ever had- although I did LOVE the one we tried at Ledson. It left a  buttery note. I finally understood what people meant by “buttery” by trying this wine. I should have taken a picture of the list so I could tell you which it was, but I failed! I should know butter by now! 😉

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anddd maybe the most FUN of the whole trip- we ventured to our fourth winery… The Runway- Trending Wine Bar.

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Initially when they said our fourth winery was at an airport I was skeptical. An airport? Really? That doesn’t exactly scream “Wine Country” to me. Did another winery fall through? I was soooo cynical going into it, but not rightly so. Ohhh so not rightly so! It may have been our favorite part of the day.

We arrived at the winery and were greeted by Jason, the ultimate wine entrepreneur. He created a brand of wine around the hashtag, and actually owns the #besties, #bromance, and #selfie. (yes, the actual #). All millennials are #impressed right now.

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Everything is centered around the #… down to the logo on the wine glasses! Tell me you have never seen a more brilliant marketing idea!

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Every single wine was delicious, and Jason had us rolling- the whole time we were laughing and enjoying the very Grammy-esque backdrop for a photo shoot!

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I was flattered when this was posted on Trending Wine’s Instagram! Taking a selfie with the #selfie wine.

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Never have I ever been more basic, errrr, I mean awesome, right?

After, we went our to the tarmac to witness the planes taking off & coming in, waiting for a celebrity to disembark one. Celebrities frequent this airport, and we were keeping our eyes peeled for Matthew McConaughey sightings. (no such luck, but regardless we had a great time).

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We ended the fab trip by getting a photo all together.

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Time for the Ferry ride back!!

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Just keeping baby Zin nice and safe <3

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And we back!!! The ride back was about 45 minutes. It was so relaxing, but unfortunately the fog was so thick (dangit, Karl!) that we didn’t get the best of views.

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Annnnd that caps our day until about 6 pm. I will pick up in our next post to recap our evening. It will definitely require a post of it’s own!

And to quickly give a synopsis on pros/cons for those that are considering this tour!

Pros: This was a very friendly & accommodating company- immediately when I booked they called us to clarify our dietary preferences to make sure lunch had options for both of us. Price is phenomenal for included transportation, four wineries, a delicious lunch included. You get to see & do wineries you may not venture out to do on your own. Water bottles are included. You make friends and meet people from all over the world. It’s stress free, ya just show up and have a great time!

Cons: Limited flexibility in choosing of the wineries. If you are a newbie, this is a great way to do it because you have no expectations of what to expect/nothing to compare it to. We did feel rushed at times because we were on a specific time schedule to catch the Ferry back. When you go on your own, you can take your good ole’ time at each winery as you please. There is a $15/$20 tasting fee at each winery if you choose to do that (but with the tour we were given the lowest possible price).

Let me know if you have any questions or need recommendations for wine country! I have a bunch.

Questions for you!

  • Have you ever been to Wine Country? Any all time favorites or must do wineries?
  • If you like wine, which type is your favorite?

xo <3

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71 thoughts on “Kels and Kenz Take on the Bay Part 2: Wine Country!

  1. Wow what a great time, Mack! Great photos too as always! I remember going to Embarcadero. We didn’t get on a ferry but we chilled and ate some gourmet food. It wasn’t great but it wasn’t bad either. We didn’t have enough time to go to the wineries. My favorite wine is Riesling. I’m not really able to drink it now on keto 🙁 I can have red wines since they aren’t as sweet.

    1. Hi Lisa!! Thank you so much. Honestly- I don’t think there is ever enough time at the wineries! Hehe. I wonder which restaurant you went to on the Embarcadero! I wish it was remembered as great food- usually the food is pretty spectacular around there. BUT that means you will have to visit again to give it a second chance 🙂 DJ loves Riesling too! I am the red wine fan for sure! Have a great week, m’friend <3

      1. No kidding! Lol. We have some close by too. We also have wine festivals. It wasn’t a restaurant. It was more like a stand. I would love to visit again! Hopefully one of these days. ❤

      2. Ooooo I see!!! I bet it was near Fisherman’s Grotto then too ! Yes I really hope you can- if you do let me know so I can give you tons of great suggestions 🙂

      3. Yes yes! I would love to get coffee or something if you do make it out! Have such a great week 🙂

  2. This looks wonderful, Mack! Those photos are awesome. You’re a really good photographer! I appreciate you so much ❤️ Blessings to you and Kelsey. She looks like such a sweetie. So glad you did this trip. I enjoyed reading about it! Love, Debbie

    1. Aw Debbie, thank you for sharing in this fun journey with us!!! Blessings to you too. You brought a smile to my face this morning. Have a beautiful week!

  3. Since going to my first winery two weeks ago, I want to go to all of the wineries!! I really hope Alex and I can do a Napa trip at some point soon…maybe next fall for our anniversary! The tour seems like a good idea for your first visit to the wineries. You and Kels are seriously the cutest friends!

    1. Isn’t it a fun thing to do?! The whole experience is just such a blast. Yes- an anniversary trip to Napa is perfection!! I will totally give you some great suggestions of wineries when that time comes if you want 🙂

  4. “Punctiliously” – I had to look that one up.

    I think in those awesome pics where you catch your hair swinging we’re also supposed to be able to see your face. 😉

    1. Lol!- it’s all about the “art form” ya know?!? Watch out, my blog is gonna all just be abstract before too long. haha

      1. Hahah! I run almost every day, but I don’t really know what else to say about it! Lol. I am signed up for a marathon in January, so maybe I’ll start to incorporate more !

      2. The San Diego Carlsbad one! (It’s not for sure that I’m doing it yet- I signed up but also bought insurance because I may have to be in NC for school, so we will see!).

      3. You could always run one on the east coast instead. The Charleston Marathon is in January. You’d hate to let all of that training go to waste. 🤔

  5. HER.JUMPSUIT. Ohmygoshohmygoshohmygosh how flippin CUTE! She looks super fab!

    What a fun trip!! I also loveeee all the puns. so so good, especially on a Monday

    Happy start to a new week! xo

    1. Isn’t she just the most fabulous?!? I used to steal her clothes all the time in college, lol. Sad I can’t anymore!

      Thanks, girl!!! XO Happy new week to you too 🙂

    2. I’m piggybacking here to say the same. You both have killer style, and I want her jumpsuit so bad!! Also, I adore red hair and would love her color as my own. 🙂 Love love the puns, and the succulents are so darn pretty! I’m not a wine drinker, but your post is so well-written and very informative!

      1. Aww- I know isn’t it so cute?! I need to ask her where it is from.

        I could totallllly see you with a fun read! Ooo have you ever considered going auburn?!

        Thanks for reading, gf! I am gonna pass on all the sweet words to Kels 🙂

      2. Maybe one day! I have actually thought auburn, no lie! I’m just a wimp & nervous about dyeing it because then the maintenance would be required. Haha. But it sure would be fun!

      3. You would seriously be gorgeous no matter what- but maybe just once, at some point, you’ll have to give it a go! If you don’t like it you can pin it on me, lol.

      4. For sure- you can’t go wrong, your natural is gorgeous and if you went auburn I know it’d be striking too! Win win 🙂

    1. Hehe- thank you, Aunt Jean! I sometimes use a word that seems to work, but then am not 100% sure I’m using it correctly, lol!

  6. I love how you walk us through your tour Mackenzie and we feel like we are right there with you. I’ve never been on a wine-tasting tour but my boss is big on then. He loves Cabernet Sauvignon and has been on several of the multiple winery tours. He went the first time back in the 90s with a client and they had a driver to take them to various wineries and made a picnic lunch at a few of them. It was an all-day affairs … oh my, I’d be sleeping in the back of the car by then. He orders his wine from a Napa Valley store … his regular wine guy. So he has gone back a few times with other clients and made a short vacation trip of it. As you said “Wine not?” 🙂

    1. Aww thank you for sharing in this fun experience with us 🙂 It is the highest compliment when someone says they feel like they are there with me. I aim to do that through my writing, so thank you for telling me that! <3

      I know northern Michigan has some absolutely wonderful vineyards as well- are the tours there that your boss goes on?! That sounds like such a wonderful time you described. We could have probably taken a nap too, especially on the Ferry I think a closed my eyes for a few moments!

      Cabernet is also my favorite! I bet your boss has some fantastic recommendations. I'd be curious what his favorite winery is!

      1. Yes, you do write like that Mackenzie and the pictures help as well – it is like tagging along with you.

        I have not worked on site since 2009 and work from home now, so I don’t see the crates of wine coming in like I used to. He orders from a guy who owns a wine shop in Healdsburg … some of the wines I remember him ordering from from his “wine guy” are Oakville, Silver Oak, Plump Jack, Schrader, Caymus, and Tor. I remembered the first three but hopped on and Googled Napa Valley wines and remembered the other three.

        Whenever clients came into the office, he’d open a bottle so I’d see the labels there as well. He’d usually pour me a glass as well. He has the same limo guy he has used for tours and has recommended this guy with his limo to others who go to Napa Valley. They book him and he drives from winery to winery and then have a picnic lunch.

        I don’t think my boss goes to any wineries up north unless he has changed his ways since I stopped working on site. He is all about the Napa cabs. 🙂

      2. Aw thank you so much, Linda!!

        Oh oh oh I recognize one of those wineries! = Camus!!! It is on my list. Thank you for sharing, and even doing research to share these awesome wineries 🙂 I cannot wait to check out the others. This is so exciting for me ! I have family coming in town in a couple weeks and are planning on going to wine country, so I will pass along the list!

        I am bias too- but I think Napa Cabs are truly the best 🙂

      3. That’s what my boss says as well – he only drinks the Napa Cabs. You should think of the limo tour and picnic lunch to visit more wineries when your family is there. I could not remember all the vineyards – he had his favorites back then when I was on site and probably still does.

      4. Ooo good point! Luckily I only have a couple family members coming so it should be a-ok 🙂

      5. My boss is on vacation and I searched in his contacts today – I know he has given the guy’s name out countless times. I was thinking Tom Churillo, something like that and couldn’t find it in his contacts, but when I’ve seen him give the info out, he usually scans in a PDF of the info, so maybe never wrote him. I Googled around for Napa Valley limo tours and no luck there either. I can ask him next week when he returns to the office if you’d like.

      6. AW oh my goodness- no worries, Linda!!! I have already found a few, but I may just end up driving them anyways and be DD for the day. You are TOOO sweet to even take the time. Thank you so much <3 You have already been SO helpful!

      7. No problem Mackenzie – I think you’ll be a good “tour director” as the DD and next time the family can take the wheel and you can taste away. 🙂

  7. Glorious travel post. I felt exhausted drinking in the delights of your trip. I need to book a holiday to the USA.

    1. Thank you SO much, Jessie. We felt exhausted too 😉 I hope you make it to the USA asap- where are you from may I ask?!

  8. I love your friends outfit and hairstyle. You are both so pretty!
    I see what you did there with the ‘wine not’ pun hahaha, love it! Those vineyards remind me so much of Italy 😍this whole day sounds like something out of Letters To Juliet!
    I’m not a wine drinker at all but if I do drink it, it will normally be a flavoured wine like summer fruits!

    1. I know!! I was obsessed with her onesie! SO cute.

      It felt like Italy!! I can’t wait till another opportunity to go back.

      Oooo do you like Rose?! Rose is usually a good go to, or moscato if you like fruity flavors!

      1. So cute!
        It reminds me so much of Italy, so lush 😍
        No I don’t like Rose however I haven’t tried Moscato… so I will definitely check that out! Thanks so much for the rec hun!

      2. Oo I bet you’d like it! It’s a bit sweet though, so be aware of that. More like a dessert wine, but still refreshing!!

      3. I’m not sure if my reply went through! But yes, it so reminds me of Italy, so lush 😀 I don’t like Rose however I haven’t tried Moscato, so I will definitely be checking that out! Thanks so much for the rec hun x

  9. Okay first off that cover photo is stunning! It belongs in a magazine!
    Ahhhh girl I am so jealous! How I miss the Ferry building! Did you stop at Peet’s? That Peet’s has such special memories ;p
    That sounds like such an amazing deal! My friends and I usually make up our own tours, but it is cool you had such a knowledgable guide!
    Side note: Bwahahaha I am in my coffee shop in NH and it is super quiet and I am catching up on your blog and girl dying at your commentary. “A pretty awesome dumpster” Dead!
    Okay to continue: Girl your pics are stunning!
    AND your outfits! You ladies are gorgeous! You look like models!
    In Europe and certain wineries they won’t let you drink with out eating because as you said it enhances the flavor and in some cases completely changes how the wine tastes. I LOVE that you packed your own food!
    That second winery is so different! I have never seen anything like it!
    Again models! LOVE your photo shoots! You ladies are gorgeous!!!!
    That picture of those grapes! Oh my vino! <3
    This millennial mind is blown! That is pretty crazy and cool! Also interesting that he owns those rights to it.
    Girl basic? You are a flipping model! Go you! <3
    Bwahaha girl you protect that zin! It is the holy grail!
    I am glad you had so much fun! And thanks for the ins and outs! When I go, I think I will definitely do a tour! 🙂 <3

    1. Thanks so much!!! Wine is so darn photogenic. * I say as I take a sip of my cab* tehe. It was the same Peet’s!! And I think of you every single time I pass it by!

      You have no idea how much I appreciate that youuu appreciate my jokes. Like it really brings the biggest smile to my face!

      That is SO fascinating about Europe! And I agree 100%….. we always pack cheese and crackers because the wine flavor totally changes and is enhanced with food.

      You are TOOO sweet. I’m gonna screenshot this and send to Kels.

      AWwww thanks for loving me in my most basic millennial state <3 <3

      It truly is !!! I guarded that baby with my lifeee. When you return, I'm coming with youuuu! XOXO

  10. Thanks for another tour of wine country Mackenzie!!!! This was a great way to see it on the tour bus. It is a great price for the day. I am reading this during coffee time so I dont have much of a hankering for a glass of wine , I say MUCH! Nicholson ranch seems a cool place and the whole tour is very interesting. Wow $2000 each barrel!! Kelsey is really beautiful but there is a pair of you who are! Tell her I love her jumpsuit and tell you your dress is gorgeous for a day in wine country! Kieu Hoang looks so pretty and I love your pics with a glass of red out by the vineyard. The airport looks such a cool one to visit # lol. Congrats on getting on their instagram . I have not been to wine country but if you keep posting about it I might be sooner than i thought!! I do like pinot noir. Thanks Mackenzie, hugs, Terri xo.

    1. Of course!! It is always my pleasure. And hahah- yesss, I understand! Coffee time until wine time 😉 I will pass on the sweet words- she nailed it with that outfit, so stinking cute!!! Terri, you would love wine country. If you ever visit I will give you the grand tour. XO

      1. yayyy!! I joke that I’d love to start my own SF touring company!! I enjoy nothing more than giving um’. 🙂

  11. This actually looks pretty fun and incredible. I feel like I keep saying incredible to you, it’s so early I don’t have a huge vocab this early lmao, but I digress…
    It looks AMAZING! I’ve never been to wineries, and I think I’ve only taste wine once or twice, don’t remember if I liked it or not, but this totally looks fun. I’ve been thinking I want to go to a winery sometime because we have plenty of those here. It might have to be a girls day or something with one of my friends if they’re willing to go, but I’d say $110 for a whole tour is not that bad at all and it’s an all day thing 🙂

    1. Hahha I honestly didn’t notice, and am sooo flattered you think so :)!

      I think everyone should try to go to wine country or a fun little winery at least once! It makes a difference when trying really good wine, when someone is explaining all the history of it, and the general atmosphere. It is just such a fun experience! When I was there this past weekend with my mom and step dad there were a bunch of large girl groups- definitely a fun thing to do with a group!! I HIGHLY recommend ya try them out- The Portland wine is probably amazing!!! mmmm mm!

      And $110 is even better than I realized!! When I went this past weekend, some of the individual tastings cost $45! I was shocked. But when you do the tour, the tastings are knocked down to $15 per person. You save sooo much!

      1. I’ll have to convince him, he’s not really a beer guy or a wine guy haha. But $45 for a tasting is insane! I didn’t know they charged that much.
        I’ll be sure to keep that in mind, I bet going with a group is much funnier as you’ll be with people you know lol

      2. Most wineries are not that expensive!! Most are around $20… that one was just insane. And it totally is! And that way you can split tastings too which helps cut down on cost- kels and I did that with a few of them!

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