A Southern Mama’s Guide to Wine Country Living
I know from my limited experience in the tasting room that Southerners LOVE Wine Country, and we love them right back. From time to time, a Southern family may make the big decision to move from the comforts of home to the west coast. We know this is a HUGE change, and well, where do you even start when moving a family across the country? You start here. We have several members on our team who hail from various southern states, and they are excited to share with you all they learned.
About our Southern Team Contributors:
- Jessica was born and raised in Georgia, and now lives in Napa with her daughter
- Ashley was hails from Nashville where she met her husband. She now lives in Petaluma with him and their two sons.
- Rachelle recently moved from Houston to Santa Rosa with her husband and son.
- Chris originally hails from Santa Rosa, but has spent the last five years living the military-spouse lifestyle, living in many great cities like Charleston.
Lifestyle, Laws, and Housing in Wine Country
Rachelle (Houston): I never remember to bring my bags to the store! My husband got pulled over the other day for talking on his phone because he didn’t realize it was against the law here. Texas doesn’t have state income tax so we had to factor that into our cost of living planning as we prepared to move. Obviously rent/mortgage is a lot more expensive but we were surprised to find that everything else has been about the same. There are no blue laws here (restrictions on businesses operating on Sunday) and I love that many places here are open on Sunday so you can still go out and do things! I think a LOT of places here are dog friendly which isn’t a law, just an interesting thing (great if you like taking your dog places!).
Ashley (Nashville): My biggest hang up living here would be the housing costs. Right now, rent is close to 50% of our monthly income! That’s insane. If I’m being honest, if things don’t change, that will be what drives us out of the area. Also in the Nashville area there is rent control and you don’t pay almost 4 grand for a security deposit.
California Laws new-to-the-area moms should know:
- It’s illegal to drive with your under 2 year old forward facing.
- No talking on your phone while driving (unless you want a big fine).
- If you’re using your wind-shield wipers turn your lights on (it’s the law). It’s also a good practice to leave your lights on during foggy days, as it will increase your visibility.
- Buy reusable shopping bags! California stores cannot legally provide plastic bags for free to their customers. If you request a bag, the store will charge you.
- Youth sports organizations will be required to notify the parents or guardians of athletes younger than 17 years old who have been removed from activity because of a suspected concussion.
Weather in Wine Country
Chris (Charleston): In August and September, it’s pretty much guaranteed that in the South, you’ll look at your phone’s weather app and see the thunderstorm cloud every day with at least a 60% chance of rain each day. That was really rare in NorCal, except it sounds like you guys have had way more thunderstorms this past summer. Also, California has truly clear skies in the summer, whereas in the South, there are clouds in the sky 99% of the time during summer. My husband called it a “California sky” if there wasn’t a cloud to be seen.
Jessica (Georgia): If you hail from the Southeast, you will likely fall in love with wine country weather. Humidity? Yeah, let’s just say the natives start seriously whining when humidity rises to the rare 60%. Between us, I’m pretty sure they’d have a hard time surviving a true 100% humidity, 100 degree day But be prepared for fog and bring the layers! The temperature swings here can be pretty dramatic. Enjoy those afternoon thunderstorms, because you’ll find yourself actually MISSING weather.
Rachelle (Houston): It actually cools off at night here! AC is not common in many homes, so you get a new experience of it being hotter inside than it is outside, which is really bizarre to me. Fall is a thing that actually exists. Apparently thunderstorms are rare here?? I didn’t know they were rare anywhere! No humidity = my hair looks amazing here.
Driving in Wine Country
Jessica (Georgia): Well, maybe it was the recklessness of youth, but I feel like there were some pretty crazy drivers down South! The real difference you’ll find “getting” to Wine Country is the sheer mass of traffic. However, if you hail from say Atlanta, this is par for the course. – Jessica (Georgia)
Rachelle (Houston): Compared to Houston, it’s really crazy that I can look up something in my city and it’s always less than 15 minutes away and I almost never get on the freeway. When I do drive longer distances it is actually pleasant because everything is pretty! Driving through forests, vineyards and around mountains is a nice change!
Chris (Charleston): It wasn’t until I moved away from California that I really learned the rules about driving in the fast lane. In the South, people know (and usually abide by) the rule that if someone comes up behind you in the fast lane and you’re going slower, you move over and let them pass. People were also really good about only using the fast lane as a passing lane (when traffic warranted this, of course). As soon as you were past the slow person, you got back into the slower lane until you needed to pass someone again. In NorCal, if you’re going the speed limit in the fast lane and someone comes up behind you – well, they need to calm down and stop riding your you-know-what.
People + Culture in Wine Country
Ashley (Nashville): People in the South seem to open up a lot faster where as people here are harder to get to know. I don’t know how to explain it…they are just more guarded? When we first moved out here, a woman got mad at my husband because he called her ma’am. I explained to her that he was born and raised in the south, but she couldn’t comprehend how that language is commonplace.
Jessica (Georgia): I think a big shocker is just the societal difference. There’s little pretension (like, people aren’t as pretentious). You won’t see people dressed up to go shopping or meet you for lunch. Kids run around in Target gear, not applique, smocked, monogrammed creations.
My go-to comparison from where I grew up to where I now reside is this: In the South, people you meet embrace you and befriend you until you prove them unworthy. In Northern CA, people aren’t UNFRIENDLY- but you’re not really embraced until you prove you’ve got the goods. Different mentality, however, you’ll meet some amazing people both ways. You don’t use ma’am unless you want to possibly offend someone, everyone will fall in love with your accent (and probably comment on it), and religious conversations will happen at church (not with strangers).
Jessica’s Tips on meeting people: Put yourself out there. If someone is coming off as rude, they probably don’t mean to. They’re just showing you their REAL self. Embrace that. It can very much be a welcome change.
Editors Note: The one thing I love about moms in Wine Country is that (for the most part) we are not all up in your business. If however, you come from a place where that is the norm, you may feel that we are stand-offish. We are very live-and-let-live here. Sometimes that means we are tough nuts to crack. We aren’t going to become best friends in the Target check-out line. But join some online Facebook groups, introduce yourself, and attend events, because you can definitely find lifelong friends here.
Food in Wine Country
Rachelle (Houston): I’m amazed by how much local food you can get here, especially the prices. And all the farmers markets all the time! We’ve been trying out local cheeses, meats, and produce over generic stuff, which is really easy to do here.
Ashley (Nashvillle): Yes! I wouldn’t say the food is new or unique, but the local companies rock! Cowgirl Creamery and Revive Kombucha are some of my favorites. Also, I don’t eat meat but there is a local sausage that Safeway sells called Caggiano! Crazy! I’ve never seen my maiden name out of the northeast, but here it is.
Chris (Charleston): In my years living in the South, I NEVER found a Mexican restaurant as good as the ones in Wine Country (and most other cities in California, for that matter). It wasn’t bad, but it was just never quite as good as the Mexican food I get when I visit home. That being said, there is AMAZING food in the South that made up for their Mexican food. Charleston is definitely a gem in the Southern food scene, so if you ever get a chance to visit solely for a restaurant tour, it is 100% worth it!!!
Jessica (Georgia): I live within a stone’s throw of some of the best and most renowned restaurants in the world. Let me tell you something – NOTHING has yet to compare to the deliciousness that comes from a true Southern kitchen. Can someone bring me a biscuit next time they come out? Please?? Be grateful there is Chick-Fil-A, and taco trucks show up on Yelp as restaurants and you should probably try ’em out.
Rachelle (Houston): No kolaches here! I have been too scared to try the BBQ yet so the verdict is still out there. The Mexican food in California is definitely different in some ways from Tex-Mex but I still really enjoy it! Everywhere that you go here serves wine! But I live in fear of having to talk to anyone about wine and expose my complete newbie status (though everyone has been really nice about it!) It feels like every restaurant here has local/free range/organic/vegetarian options or everything just is by default.
Editors note on food: I’m sorry we don’t have any Waffle Houses or Whataburger, guys. 😫
But we do take A LOT of pride in our cuisine and produce; wine country is such an agricultural zone in itself, is the home of the slow food movement, and California sustains most of the country with produce. Raw milk? We got it. Cage free eggs? Yes, it’s actually a ballot issue in 2018. Ice cream from the cows you drive by on the way to the beach? Strauss it is!
California utilizes super fresh locally sourced ingredients and less cheesy, buttery, fried comfort food. So it’s a totally different food culture. We want our spicy carne asada with fresh pico de gallo, a sprinkling of Cotija cheese and a squirt of lime, not queso. What we lack in those national chains we more than make up for in tons of great local restaurants, some that may give you a small taste of home:
For fried chicken and waffles: Backyard in Forestville
For BBQ: Cochon Volant BBQ Smokehouse in Sonoma
Things to do
Ashley (Nashville): I love shopping in downtown Petaluma. There are so many cute and local (and affordable) boutiques, and it reminds me of downtown Franklin (just south of Nashville). One of my favorite coffee places in Nashville was Bongo Java. They had several places across the city and roasted their beans in east Nashville. Acre Coffee is very similar. The coffee is amazing (maybe even better), and while they don’t have a huge food selection like Bongo, their homemade organic donuts are killer!
Jessica (Georgia): There is SO MUCH TO DO in Wine Country! I grew up in a SMALL southern town, where a trip to the “City” took at least three hours. Here you have one of the most unique and expressive cities just a hop away. Want the ocean? We’ve got that, too. Lake more your thing? Check. Seriously, from hiking to shopping to exploring to wine tasting to checking out a local farm- there are endless things to do.
Rachelle (Houston): Personally I have found Santa Rosa to be very family-friendly, especially free and cheap things. There are so many parks and you can actually be outside so you can enjoy them. Every day I’m amazed by all of the nature here – mountains, huge trees, so much greenery everywhere!
We’ve been doing the Regional Parks trails challenge to try to visit at least 5 parks this summer. Its been a great way to explore the outdoors and also see some of the other towns nearby.