Error message

Lingotek profile ID 4 not found.
THE CALIFORNIA QUESTIONNAIRE: Natalie Cilurzo VC_Questionnaire_NatalieCilurzo_RussianRiverBrewingCompany_NC5-060117_1280x640
Russian River Brewing Company


The co-owner of the wildly popular Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa shares her story, along with a few Golden State favorites

Natalie Cilurzo will never forget the day everything changed for the Russian River Brewing Company. It was February 5, 2010—the first Friday in February—and as she and her husband Vinnie walked up to their cosy brewpub in downtown Santa Rosa they noticed a long line of people waiting to get in. Bewildered, they approached the crowd.

“Vinnie asked them, ‘What are you here for? What are you waiting for?’ Natalie recalls. “And they said, ‘For your beer.’”

“Vinnie said, ‘We don’t open for four hours.’

“And they said, ‘Don’t you know that Pliny the Younger has been rated the best beer in the world?’”

Unbeknownst to the Cilurzos, 100-point scores from and had transformed their limited-release triple IPA, Pliny the Younger, into a craft beer phenomenon. The lines have only grown since that day, and now thousands of people line up to sample Pliny the Younger during a two-week window each February. The couples’ flagship double IPA, Pliny the Elder, has received similarly exalted reviews and draws visitors to the pub year-round.

“We got schooled pretty quickly at how to manage large crowds at our pub and we’ve been refining it every year,” Natalie says. “We’ve become a destination”.

This year alone the Cilurzos have poured Pliny for patrons from 48 states and more than 40 different countries, including China, Guam, India, Japan, Norway, Panama, Peru, the Philippines, Thailand and Venezuela.

Plans are underway to open a second pub in Sonoma County, where the couple has lived for more than 20 years, but until then the long lines are likely to remain. (Pro tip: Go on Valentine’s Day or during the Super Bowl, when many beer fans have other obligations). We asked Natalie to take the California Questionnaire and she gladly obliged.

Where do you live?  Santa Rosa

Why there? Sonoma County has everything anyone could ask for! We moved here 20 years ago from Southern California and never looked back. It’s beautiful, has great weather, world-class wine and beer, dozens of local producers of dairy, meat and produce, and the people are fun and interesting. I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

Who or what is your greatest California love? I love the fall in Northern California. The sun is lower in the sky casting a warm light on the vineyards and trees turning autumn colours. The coast is often warm and clear with sightings of grey whales migrating south for the winter. It’s the most beautiful time of year.

What is the biggest misperception about Californians? That we all eat granola, smell like patchouli and smoke pot! And if you are from California you must live in L.A.—I never understood that one.

What is the stereotype that most holds true? Californians are generally easy-going, casual and friendly. We went to a beach wedding last summer in San Diego. The groom’s family was from New York and the bride’s family from California. The New Yorkers wore suits and cocktail dresses; the Californians wore shorts and sandals. A great time was had by all, but it was a very typical California wedding.  What is your favourite Golden State splurge? Long weekend getaways with my husband at some charming inn on the California coast with no computer or cell reception.

Time for a road trip—where are you going? I would start at the coast here in Sonoma County and head up to the Eastern Sierra by way of the Yosemite Valley. One of the most amazing things about California is the proximity of the Pacific Ocean to the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains. And I would do this trip in middle-to-late spring when the mountain passes are open. It is the best time of year to catch all the beautiful wildflowers and flowing waterfalls. I have always appreciated the almost desolate beauty on the eastern side of the Sierras where the mountains and the high desert collide. It’s such a magical place and well worth the eight-hour drive.

If you could decree an official state culinary experience, what would it be? Lightly battered, pan-fried abalone caught fresh that day off the coast of Mendocino, served by the campfire on a paper plate at Van Damme State Park with a tasty California craft brewed IPA. And we must start with a small wheel of Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog cheese and a delicious sour beer.

Best California song? California Dreamin’ by The Mamas and The Papas. This song truly captures a moment in history and a growing vibe in California leading up to the Summer of Love.

How would your California dream day unfold? When my husband and I have a rare day off, we like to start our day at Willie Bird’s restaurant with a late brunch. Then we head toward the coast. Our drive takes us through Sebastopol, then to the tiny historic hamlet of Freestone and a stop for a treat at Wild Flour Bakery.

Back on the road, we drive down Bohemian Highway and finally reach the charming town of Occidental. At the stop sign in town we hang a left onto a very narrow and windy road through beautiful redwoods and farm pastures. A hand-painted sign on a fence says “Ocean” with an arrow pointing west. When we crest the top of the hill, the grand Pacific Ocean floods our view from north to south. We make our way down the very steep and curvy road and finally hit Highway 1 and the ocean. We turn south toward Bodega Bay, made famous by filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock with his movie The Birds. Our journey ends at Bodega Head, a huge bluff that juts out into the ocean and a perfect spot for whale-watching.

THE CALIFORNIA QUESTIONNAIRE: Natalie Cilurzo VCW_TI_5_BayLoop_Hero_Manley_1280x642_sized
Harriot Manley/ Sunset Publishing

Northern California

Discover the San Francisco Bay Area

THE CALIFORNIA QUESTIONNAIRE: Natalie Cilurzo vca_maps_sfbayarea
Average (°C)
Dec - Feb
Mar - May
June - Aug
Sept - Nov

A crimson bridge, cable carriages, a sparkling bay and streets lined with elegant Victorian homes, San Francisco is undeniably one of the world’s great

"I left my heart in San Francisco. High on a hill, it calls to me." - Singer Tony Bennett

cities. Located in Northern California at the state’s distinctive bend in the coast, the region has an alluring magic that stretches beyond the bay to diverse cities with nightlife and trend-setting cuisine. The Bay Area is also home to some of the world’s finest wine country, including Napa Valley and Sonoma, plus waterfront towns, dramatic beaches and the tech-savvy southern end of the Bay known as the Silicon Valley, where lunchtime ideas at Google, Facebook and Apple, turn into the next brilliant innovation.

THE CALIFORNIA QUESTIONNAIRE: Natalie Cilurzo vc_portchicagonavalmagazinenationalmemorial_su_nps_7970f8ed_1280x640
Courtesy of NPS Photo

Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial

Tour this military memorial that honours soldiers killed on the World War II home front and pays tribute to Concord’s role in civil rights history

California’s smallest national park service outlet covers a mere half-acre in Concord on San Francisco Bay’s east shore—but it tells a very big...


Rock rolls into the wine country with this three-day event in Napa that features 2019 headliners Imagine Dragons, Neil Young, and Mumford & Sons. With more than 80 performers in the May 24–26...

THE CALIFORNIA QUESTIONNAIRE: Natalie Cilurzo BottleRock_JessicaS_Flickr_preview_686x885_sized
Jessica S./Flickr
THE CALIFORNIA QUESTIONNAIRE: Natalie Cilurzo vca_maps_sfbayarea
San Francisco has only one drawback - 'tis hard to leave.
Rudyard Kipling
Taste the delicious dishes from these amazing California chefs

From a pastel coloured pastry shop to Michelin-starred dining rooms, top restaurants run by celebrity chefs dot the Golden State. And even if you don’t know these chefs from the TV...

THE CALIFORNIA QUESTIONNAIRE: Natalie Cilurzo VCW_SI_T10_Milliken&Feniger_Portrait_preview_686x885
Kid-friendly fun zones, special kids' menus & amazing wine for the grownups

Sure wine country is romantic, but now it’s a surprisingly great destination for families too, with a growing number of vineyards trading in elegant tasting rooms for child-friendly fun zones that...

THE CALIFORNIA QUESTIONNAIRE: Natalie Cilurzo VCW_SI_T5_John_preview_686x885
John/ Flickr

Get the Spanish spirit at this colourful event. Stroll the grounds of Gloria Ferrer Caves and Vineyards with a glass of bubbly, and take in a whirl of passionate music, flamenco dancing and food....

THE CALIFORNIA QUESTIONNAIRE: Natalie Cilurzo VCW_Events_GloriaFerrer_Photography_Catalan_preview_686x885
Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards
THE CALIFORNIA QUESTIONNAIRE: Natalie Cilurzo vca_maps_sfbayarea
World-class accommodations in world-class locations

Head to the heart of California’s cities for luxurious stays at world-class hotels and resorts. From San Francisco’s historic hotels to celebrity hot spots in Hollywood and Beverly Hills,...

THE CALIFORNIA QUESTIONNAIRE: Natalie Cilurzo PalaceHotel_LynGateley_preview_686x885
Lynn Gately/Flickr
San Francisco itself is art, above all literary art. Every block is a short story, every hill a novel. Every home a poem, every dweller within immortal. That is the whole truth.
William Saroyan
Farm-fresh produce, culinary adventures

Juicy heirloom tomatoes and just-picked strawberries. Super-sweet peaches shaped like mini UFOs. Artisan cheeses, emerald-green olive oils, local wildflower honey—California’s farmers’ markets are...

THE CALIFORNIA QUESTIONNAIRE: Natalie Cilurzo VCW_SI_FarmersMarket_T4_CV_DavisFrmMkt1_Flippen_preview_686x885
Laura Flippen
From Gold Rush history to 8th wonders of the world, visit these favorites

If there was ever a box of chocolates—and all of them delicious—it’s the rich collection of natural treasures, fascinating...

THE CALIFORNIA QUESTIONNAIRE: Natalie Cilurzo McWayFalls_JPB_SP_preview_686x885
Amy Meredith/Flickr
Make memories at some of California's family-favourite beaches

Sand, water, and children-it’s a natural combination for easy family fun. These sandy beaches offer appealing, family friendly features, such as calm water for new swimmers, tide pools for...

THE CALIFORNIA QUESTIONNAIRE: Natalie Cilurzo Carmel_BeachDog_Farnum_preview_686x885
Alex Farnum
It's simply a very romantic place. Just one look at any of those streets, and you couldn't be anywhere else -- it's so beautiful, and there's that location, and the sense of the free spirit. ... Who couldn't become ravenous in such a place?
Julia Child
Sample ultra-fresh, hyper-local, and downright amazing

When you come to California, come hungry. This is a state that really knows how to cook. Amazing and innovative chefs sprinkled with Michelin stars work with local farms and artisanal food...

THE CALIFORNIA QUESTIONNAIRE: Natalie Cilurzo Preview_GeorgesCove_FishTaco_686x885_2
George's at the Cove
Old-fashioned fun in the Golden State

Historic oceanfront playgrounds, classic city park charmers and boisterous adventures - smaller theme parks and attractions offer an array of ways to play. These smaller parks offer...

Safari West
Tai Power Seeff
According to legend, Winchester Mystery House's maze of passages and building oddities were designed to confuse the ghosts of those killed by Winchester rifles.
Kids get an inside look at wildlife, space, and more

From cool ways for your children to learn about wildlife, to an insider’s look at a space station, to a chance to walk through a rain forest or learn about the night sky, there’s a...

THE CALIFORNIA QUESTIONNAIRE: Natalie Cilurzo T8_TurtleBay_PeterAlfredHess_preview_686x885
Peter Alfred Hess/Flickr
Check these amazing experiences off your bucket list

Kiss a beluga, see cool movie props, and learn about Walt’s secret hideaway on exclusive and behind the scenes tours at California’s theme parks and attractions. Here’s a roundup of actvities...

THE CALIFORNIA QUESTIONNAIRE: Natalie Cilurzo VCW_SI_VIP_T1_MichaelSaechang_preview_686x885
Photo by Michael Saechang/Flickr
THE CALIFORNIA QUESTIONNAIRE: Natalie Cilurzo SF_GGB_TS_1280x642_sized
Thomas H. Story/ Sunset Publishing

Golden Gate Bridge

THE CALIFORNIA QUESTIONNAIRE: Natalie Cilurzo vca_maps_sfbayarea
See one of the world’s most famous landmarks, spanning an elegant bay

With towers soaring 227 metres into the sky, its span arcing across the mouth of San Francisco Bay and all of it painted bright red-orange, the...

Where to release your inner fashionista

Shopping is an art form in California. Whether you are in search of the perfect cocktail dress or an authentic Mexican piñata, you will find it here. Want to sample fresh fruits and...

THE CALIFORNIA QUESTIONNAIRE: Natalie Cilurzo Shopping_SpecialFeature_preview_686x885_0
THE CALIFORNIA QUESTIONNAIRE: Natalie Cilurzo Livermore_TaiPowerSeeff_1280x642_sized
Tai Power Seeff


Ranches, vineyards, and relaxed appeal east of San Francisco

With warm sun and wide open spaces cradling vineyards, ranches, and wine country estates, the Livermore Valley makes an appealing destination just...

THE CALIFORNIA QUESTIONNAIRE: Natalie Cilurzo VC_Sausalito_Hero_Stock_RF_508260845_1280x640
Eiojo Torpe/Getty Images


Explore this quaint town that’s just over the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco

Just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, a steep hillside covered in brushwood and eucalyptus drops from Highway 101 to a flat, sunny shoreline, two...

THE CALIFORNIA QUESTIONNAIRE: Natalie Cilurzo VC_SpotlightBerkeley_Hero_Stock_RF_149303390_1280x640
Chao Kusollerscharlya/Shutterstock

Spotlight: Berkeley

THE CALIFORNIA QUESTIONNAIRE: Natalie Cilurzo vca_maps_sfbayarea_2
See a stunning museum, shop, and feast in the Bay Area’s most outspoken city

A haven for backyard artists and coffee-shop philosophers, Berkeley has deep roots in the Flower Power movement of the 1960s and ’70s. But...

THE CALIFORNIA QUESTIONNAIRE: Natalie Cilurzo VCW_D_SFcity_CableCarWharf_1280x642_0
San Francisco's cable cars are the only mobile National Monuments.