Our Engagement

The Story

As written by Lyz

Our second anniversary was July 3, 2011 and MJ told me we'd be going on a trip but didn't tell me any of the details aside from "we won't be going on a plane" so I could pack accordingly.

On the evening of Friday, July 1st, MJ came home early and we dressed up for a nice dinner out. We left the condo around 4:30 for my first surprise — we weren't going down to the garage where the car is usually parked, we were headed out front where a stretch limousine was waiting to whisk us away!

Our destination was still a mystery as we headed north out of the city. We watched a couple shows he had queued up on his laptop as I frequently glanced out the window to guess at a destination. Presently we passed Jack London State Historic Park and toward the entrance to Benziger Family Winery.

We had been to Benziger just over 3 years earlier on a Sonoma Valley wine tour when MJ and I had our first romantic weekend together in San Francisco. It is a beautiful winery and their wine cave is exquisite, absolutely one of the highlights of that day. A visit there was a wonderful way to celebrate our anniversary! And it was a beautiful evening for a private tour.

We were greeted by Felicia, an event coordinator for the winery, and she gave us a tour of their biodynamic garden trail and told us about the history of the winery. A jackrabbit joined us for a few minutes on our tour, but unfortunately I had left my camera in the limo. We were treated to some delicious hors d'oeuvres as the tour continued. From there we met Linda who took us on a ride up to the vineyard where their mini Parthenon stands and we had a stunning view of the estate. Our tour guide excused herself for a few minutes to make some calls and left us to enjoy the view.

Now at this point you may be thinking that I had some idea what was coming. I didn't. The first trip we took to Sonoma was chauffeured so while a limo ride was exceptional, it wasn't completely unheard of for a romantic get-away for us. It wasn't until MJ offered to take my wine glass to put it down that I realized something was up and within moments he had the beautiful engagement ring out! I was so excited that I nearly cried as I answered his proposal with a "yes!"


It was then that I saw a photographer who had been in the vineyard above us and was taking pictures! The photographer, Melissa, quickly offered congratulations and we spent the next 45 minutes or so walking through the vineyard having photos taken.

Toward the end of our outdoor walk we were greeted by another employee of the winery who gave us a bottle of their Signaterra Benziger Three Blocks 2007 (a Bordeaux Blend) and offered more congratulations.

The tour led us into the familiar wine caves that we'd been in 3 years before, which were a wonderful respite from the warm weather outside in the vineyards. At the beginning of this walk through the caves I was under the impression that we'd be having dinner elsewhere.

Our walk through the wine caves ended in a long corridor dining area which I'd never seen before. We had some more photos taken and were finally led to a little table set for two. MJ had rented out the whole winery for the evening and we'd be having dinner there right in the cave!

The dinner was catered by the girl + the fig and had the following:


Mache Salad
Shaved Asparagus, Goat Cheese Crostini
Roasted Beet Vinaigrette

2009 Signaterra West Rows Chardonnay


Seared Scallop
Leek & Fennel Ravioli
Saffron Lobster Cream
Crispy Leek, Tarragon

2008 Signaterra San Remo Pinot Noir


Vanilla Cheesecake
Macerated Strawberries
Strawberry Coulis
Whipped Crème Fraiche

Benziger Family Winery Muscat Canelli

(See scan of menu here)

The venue was perfect, our server, Gaia, did an amazing job throughout the evening, the food was exquisite and Linda made sure we had our fill of the choice selection of their amazing wines.

It was around 9:30 when we finished dinner and met up with the limo to take us home as I was led to believe that the "trip" was a ruse, but after a short ride we arrived at The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa. We weren't going directly home after all! MJ had booked us a long weekend stay at the Inn.

Not only that, but earlier in the day when I thought he was going to work, he had actually driven up to Sonoma to get the hotel room ready, complete with rose petals! The room smelled and looked beautiful when we arrived. What a night!

He also booked a couples massage at their spa for Saturday afternoon, so Saturday began with breakfast in bed and then a day at the spa pools and bath house.

We spent two more days in Sonoma exploring the red woods, dining at the acclaimed Santé Restaurant and indulging in cheese, wine, olive oil and chocolate tastings throughout the region. It was a truly amazing weekend.

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The Ring

As written by MJ

I spent several weeks visiting jewelers and scouring the Internet for ideas for the engagement ring. I knew I wanted to make something unique, yet traditional. Ultimately, I settled on an interlocking engagement & wedding ring set concept. I decided to go with local San Francisco jeweler, Chabo's Jewelry, to make the ring. Starting from some example designs, and I worked with their CAD designer through several iterations over a few weeks to come up with the final design for the ring.

CAD renderings of the engagement & wedding rings

The design utilizes 3 small pink side stones in both the engagement and wedding rings, with a large white diamond in the engagement ring. My local jeweler helped me to select the diamonds for the ring. The three side stones in each ring are are natural, Fancy Intense Pink color diamonds, with a round-brilliant cut, and were procured through the local jeweler.

The center stone is an Octavia™ Asscher cut patented by Karl K. This particular stone is the second production sample ever made of this cut. The stone was purchased through Good Old Gold, the exclusive dealer for Octavia™ Asschers, and thanks to their very friendly return policies, I was able to order in two different stones and select my preferred stone from the two.

The metal used for the ring is Pt950/Ru, a mixture of 95% Platinum and 5% Ruthenium. It is one of the strongest platinum alloys available, with a hardness of 135 HV and durability of 66,000 PSI. After producing wax molds of the final design, they cast the ring using the special alloy that I requested and set the diamonds.

Though the process took several months and a lot of effort, I think it was well worth it. The ring looks amazing on Lyz and, most importantly, she seems to be very happy with it! I also would not have been able to pull this design (or even the proposal) off without all of the help and advice from some amazing friends.

We'll have the matching wedding band made soon, and I am looking forward to the day that I can put both rings on her finger.

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