Too Much Wine Too Little Time

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Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail…..

The next day we decided to visit some of the local tasting rooms located on Santa Barbara’s urban wine trail and headed over to Anacapa Street where there are several tasting rooms, all within walking distance. Our first stop was Oreana Winery, which is probably one of the most unique tasting rooms we visited with on our trip.

Originally founded as Cellar 205 by winemaker Christian Garver, Oreana specializes in Pinot Noir, Syrah and small micro batches of sparkling wine. The winery is located in an old tire shop and it has become synonymous with great wine and even better parties. The tasting room exudes fun and good times and provides a great start or end to tasting in downtown Santa Barbara. A tasting at Oreana will cost you $10, below you will find a partial list of the wine we tasted:

2009 Oreana Chardonnay-Santa Barbara

“Very ripe, rich and smooth, velvety as can be.
Tastes like a terrific grand cru white Burgundy, showing supple character,
with toasted hazelnut, spicy, smokey, grilled meat and pear-tart notes.
A great, full-bodied wine with rich intense flavors of pear, peach, and violets”.

2008 Oreana Pinot Noir- Central Coast

“A stunning array of blue and black fruit–blackberry, boysenberry,
blueberry and currant–that is pure, driven and refined, with licorice,
sweet spice, vanilla, mineral and sanguine notes flittering throughout.
Despite its concentration, it`s remarkably elegant, with superb length
and a seamless finish.”

We purchased this Pinot Noir, it was one of our favorites.

2008 Oreana Syrah- Central Coast

“The Bacon Reserve is from Oreana’s northern vineyards,
which produce a rich, robust, velvety wine with a slight hint of bacon.
We swear, no swine was harmed in the making of this wine,
but there is an unmistakeable hint of bacon, followed by a
solid backbone of black cherry and anise.
While it’s not necessary to serve at the breakfast table,
there’s no denying that this wine will get your day started right…”

If you’d like to visit Oreana Winery, it is located at 205 Anacapa Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101; you can also visit their website at http://oreanawinery.com/index.html

Our next stop was Corks n’Crowns which specializes in wine and beer tasting. Although we are all about wine on this site, I do manage to find time for indulging in other libations, so I was excited to taste both fine wine and beer. For those interested solely in wine, Corks n’ Crowns offers a wide variety of small production wines from all over the world. The wines change on a monthly basis and the options are endless. For those who like beer, they offer small batch micro brews from independent brewers. The beer is also changed on a monthly basis. Cork n’ Crowns is also where I picked up our Wine Check, which you can read about in the previous post “To Ship or Check…Wine Check!” The cost for a tasting varies from $5-$15 depending on which flight you choose and a beer tasting is $6.

If you’d like to visit Corks n’ Crowns, they are located at 32 Anacapa Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101; you can also visit their website at http://corksandcrowns.com/

Our final tasting was the Deep Sea tasting room located on Stearns Wharf. This tasting room provides the most breath taking views of downtown Santa Barbara, the Channel Islands and the Pacific Ocean. It’s a great place to end the day with a glass of wine while enjoying the view. The tasting room is owned by Conway Family Wines, which also produces Racho Arroyo Wines. A tasting a Deep Sea is $10, below you will find a partial list of the wines we tasted:

2008 Deep Sea Pinot Noir- Sta. Rita Hills
“The wine is delicate and expressive with fine, soft tannins, and explosive red fruit flavors, including strawberries and blackberries. Delicate aromas of dark berries and smoked cedar wood fill the glass.”

2008 Deep Sea Chardonnay-Santa Barbra County
“The 2008 Deep Sea Chardonnay from Santa Barbara County opens with intense aromas of apricot, honey, toffee, and a brush of vanilla. Crisp and fresh notes of citrus and white flowers are followed with hints of flint stone. Complex flavors linger on a polished and creamy finish.”
If you’d like to visit the Deep Sea tasting room, it is located on Stearns Wharf in Downtown Santa Barbara. You can also visit their website at http://www.deepseawines.com/
After our visit to Deep Sea, we walked across the Wharf to the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company for Rock Crab and Clam Chowder.

If you’d like to find out more about the other tasting rooms on the Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail visit http://www.urbanwinetrailsb.com/

Check back soon as we head back to Santa Ynez.

Until next time Salude!!

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Return to Santa Barbara- 2011

Unfortunately, a 3:30am wakeup call has become synonymous with my travel experiences.  When travelling from the most consistently delayed airport in the United States, you tend to adjust your departure time to get out as early as possible to avoid the ever present delays.  However, when returning from the West Coast you have no ability to avoid Newark Liberty International Airport’s delays, as you are already 3 hours behind the East Coast. Being that I had control over my “delay destiny” on the departure end of the trip; a 6:30 am flight would ensure no delay in our escape. 

 So, by 4:00 am we were off to Newark Airport for a week of wine tasting in California. The previous year, we had flown direct from Newark, NJ to Los Angeles and then drove to Santa Barbara.  This time, we decided to avoid LAX and try to fly into the Santa Barbara airport. While normally a Continental Airlines aka “The new United Airlines,” traveler, on this trip we would be flying US Airways to Santa Barbara via Phoenix.  There are currently no direct flights from Newark Airport to Santa Barbara, so a stop over in Phoenix was the next best option.  Arriving at the airport early made check in and security easy and by 6:45 we were airborne and on our way to Phoenix.  Following a short layover and a quick 1 hour flight, we were touching down in Santa Barbara. We spent the rest of the afternoon visiting with family, unpacking and then finished a busy travel day watching the sun set from the Beachside Bar Café on the Goleta Beach while enjoying margaritas.

 The next morning, we left Santa Barbara around 9:15 to head up to the Santa Ynez Valley.  We again travelled the North San Marcus Pass road, which has some of the most amazing views of the Santa Barbara Coast.  You can see more about accessing the Santa Ynez Valley in my previous post “Early to Rise…Santa Barbara Part 1.”  We had 3 separate visits to the valley spread out in our week long trip.  Our plan of attack for the first day was to visit wineries we had never been to before and then mix old and new over the next few visits.

Our first stop of day was Rusack Vineyards, which is located in the Ballard Canyon.  As discussed on the Rusack website, it is a small boutique winery that was founded in 1995 by Geoff Rusack and Alison Wrigley.  In 2001, John and Helen Falcone joined Rusack and are one of the few husband and wife winemaking teams in California.  The winery is also about to launch the first ever wines grown on Santa Catalina Island.  You can read more about their Santa Catalina Island venture here: http://www.rusackvineyards.com/about/catalina.html

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The tasting room and Vineyard is located on the Ballard Canyon Road almost halfway between Solvang and Los Olivos.  The Tasting room also offers one of the most beautiful picnic areas you will find anywhere in the valley.  It is a great place to enjoy a picnic lunch while out tasting. A tasting at Rusack is $10, you can split it if you choose and you are allowed to keep your glass.

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Below is a partial list of wines we tasted while visiting Rusack:

Chardonnay, Santa Barbara County, 2009

“The truly distinctive flavors from the cool Northern and Western
extremes of Santa Barbara County come together in this bottle.
Here, our love of blending has resulted in a marriage of exceptional
fruit aromas with carefully balanced acidity, capturing the
best qualities of the area. Honeydew melon, Asian pear, orange
blossom, as well as citrus notes are highlighted in this appealingly
crisp white wine.”

Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley, 2009

“From one of Santa Barbara County’s great growing regions. The Rusack Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir captures some of this region’s classic characters of strawberry and cherry, with a hint of mesquite, which are followed by flavors of rhubarb and cranberry. The soft, silky tannins make for an approachable young wine that is also age worthy.”

We purchased this Pinot Noir, it was excellent.

Syrah, Ballard Canyon Estate, 2009

“The grapes for our Ballard Canyon Estate Syrah release are from the estate vineyards around the winery, located in the beautiful Ballard Canyon. Located in the larger Santa Ynez Valley appellation, Ballard Canyon has its own nuances and micro-climates that make it a near-perfect place for grape varietals such as Syrah. This very small bottling contains classic Ballard Canyon Syrah aromas of cassis and blackberry, with hints of licorice. Concentrated flavors of dried cherries, blackberries and cocoa mix with velvety tannins that linger on the palate.”

Of all the new wineries that we visited on our trip, this was one of our favorites.  The scenery is amazing and it will definitely become a regular stop on our future visits. If you’d like to visit the Rusack Winery, it is located at 1819 Ballard Canyon Rd, Solvang, CA 93463; you can also visit their website at http://www.rusackvineyards.com/

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Our next stop was Mosby Winery, which is located off the Santa Rosa Road in Buellton.  Specializing in Italian Varietals, Mosby provides a unique break from the selections you will find at other wineries in the Valley.  Aside from Italian wines, Mosby also specializes in Plum Brandy and Grappa. You will also find some of the most amazing wine labels on the Mosby bottles.

Wine maker Bill Mosby and his wife Jill purchased their de la Vega property in the early 1970’s.   Shortly thereafter, they started a commercial wine making business bottling under the Vega label, which was named after their land.  In 1986, the Vega label was changed to Mosby to better reflect the family name and philosophy of wine making.

A tasting at Mosby is $10; you can split it if you like and are allowed to keep your glass.

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Below is a partial list of the wines we tasted while visiting Mosby:

Pinot Grigio

“Light and refreshing, the Mosby Pinot Grigio delights with aromas of ripe pear, apple, and vanilla bean. The crisp, citrusy taste is followed by a dry, clean finish with an element of wet stone. Historically, Pinot Grigio originates from the Fruili-Venezia Guilia of Italy. Said to be a mutation of the Pinot Noir grape, the Pinot Grigio seems unsure whether it is a red or white wine grape. Hence, grigio, meaning gray.”

Sagrantino

“The Mosby Sagrantino is the first domestically-produced Sagrantino available for sale. Sagrantino is an Italian grape varietal that grows around the hilltop town of Montefalco in Umbria. Bill imported the cuttings and tended them in his estate vineyard for four years before his first Californian Sagrantino harvest in 2006. The wine is true to its Italian heritage; dark garnet-red in the glass, this wine offers up exotic fragrances including rose petal and horehound. The flavor combines brooding elements of tobacco, “sotto di bosco” (fruit of the forest floor) abd sassafras bark intertwined with bold dark fruit and a chewy, mouth-filling texture. The firm tannins complement these rich flavors and create a pleasantly-defined finish. This release is still a youngster so we recommend opening the wine to breathe for about a half hour, then serving it with full-flavored foods. We enjoy our Sagrantino with cheeses such as Manchego, Cabrales or Parmesan; red meats including bison, lamb, game or pepper steak; poultry such as squab or duck and any dish flavored with truffles, mint or rosemary. This wine will cellar well for 5 to 7 years.”

Sofia 

“A dessert wine made from raspberries. Jammy, raspberry fruit with a bright finish. Dessert in a glass!”

We purchased this dessert wine; it was one of our favorite dessert wines of the trip.

If you’d like to visit the Mosby Winery, it is located at 9496 Santa Rosa Rd, Buellton, CA 93427; you can also visit their website at http://mosbywines.com/index.html

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Following Mosby, we were off to Alma Rosa Winery which is also located on the Santa Rosa Rd.  Founders Richard and Thekla Sanford, have founded multiple successful winegrowing enterprises over the last 40 years, most recently Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards.  Alma Rosa operates two vineyards in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA and both have been organically certified.  They have a beautifully rustic tasting room and many may recognize the Tasting room manager, Chris Burroughs from the movie Sideways.  A tasting at Alma Rosa is $10, and you can split it if you like.

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Below is a partial list of the wines we tasted while visiting Alma Rosa:

2008 Pinot Noir- Sta. Rita Hills

“Text book old-world varietal character, showing the brilliant, fresh, flashy side of Pinot Noir. Bright raspberry and bing cherry notes are enhanced by a sassy, spicy element and refreshing acidity.”

2007 Pinot Noir- Sta. Rita Hills

“Positively brimming with fruity aromatics and flavors (made with grapes from our certified organic estate vineyards) dominated by a mix of fresh crushed berries and dark cherries, shot through with a floral-spice element and a beet-root-meets-cola essence. The wine showcases the dark rich side of Pinot Noir and already has a supple smooth texture with clean acidity.”

2009 Chardonnay- El Jabali Vineyard- Sta. Rita Hills

“As vibrant and luminous as watching the sun rise over the Sea of Cortez, sitting on a pristine beach among seashells and sand-dollars, tropical clouds above radiating their skyblue pinkness, the air still cool from the night and the water surface mirror-smooth. Apple-y, citrus-y, minerally pure classic Chardonnay, a little bit bread-y, like a fresh bolillo from the panaderia… this is another offering out of the heritage vines here at Rancho El Jabalí.”

If you’d like to visit the Alma Rosa Winery, it is located at 7250 Santa Rosa Road, Buellton CA 93427; you can also visit their website at http://www.almarosawinery.com/index.html

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Our final stop of the day was Kalyra Winery located in Santa Ynez.  The land that Kalyra is currently located on has a long history in the Santa Ynez valley.  Originally planted in 1968, as part of the Vina de Santa Ynez, it is considered one of the inaugural vineyards in the region.  The current owner Mike Brown grew up in Australia and relocated the valley in the late 1980’s.  Kalyra offers two tasting rooms, the Kalyra Winery in Santa Ynzez and Kalyra by the Sea in downtown Santa Barbara. 

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As is true with many of the wineries in the Santa Ynez, fans of Sidways will recognize the tasting room. This is the winery that Sandra Oh aka “Stephanie” worked at. The view from the Kaylra Winery tasting room in Santa Ynez is amazing and they offer a large covered porch to enjoy lunch or a glass on wine. A tasting at Alma Rosa is $10, and you can split it if you like.

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Below is a partial list of the wines we tasted while visiting Kalyra:

2009 Gewurztraminer

“This California Gewurztraminer from Santa Ynez Valley’s Kalyra is a great choice for anyone looking for a dry white wine. Kalyra is one of the best Santa Ynez wineries with a popularity and reputation that goes back to the younger years of the grand Santa Ynez Valley wine region. Winemaker Mike Brown has over twenty years of experience in winemaking, spanning two continents. He is well versed in the wines of Australia and California and this white wine made from the Gewurztraminer grape is not outside his comfort zone. This wine is possibly the most fragrant white wine you may ever find. With its distinctively floral nose and spicy finish, this refreshing off-dry favorite from just across the street is like a cool breeze on a hot summer’s day. Buy a bottle and you might just be naming it the ‘best white wine’ you have ever tasted.”

We purchased two bottles of the Gewurztraminer; it had a very nice taste and was very reasonably priced.

2010 Sauvignon Blanc

“The fruit for this California Sauvignon Blanc was sourced from Vina De Santa Inez – in Santa Ynez Valley, one of the great appellations of California, let alone all of the world. This California white wine is created in the New World style of stainless steel fermentation with no oak barrel aging, made in a style that truly reflects the bright nature of the varietal. This light wine is crisp and has a classic floral flavor with gooseberry and grapefruit overtones. Another good white wine from Kalyra Winery, the 2009 Sauvignon Blanc pairs nicely with many summer dishes like seafood and salads.”

2008 MC² Blend

“Showing off rich, dark berry flavors and a smoky, chocolaty finish, the wine is superbly structured. This California red wine is a delicious food and wine pairing, especially with rugged Italian dishes and rich meats. MC² is just one more reason why Kalyra is one of the good red wine brands from California – with some of the best red wines.”

If you’d like to visit the Kalyra Winery, it is located at 343 N.Refugio Rd., Santa Ynez CA 93460; you can also visit their website at http://www.kalyrawinery.com/index.php

Following Kalyra it was back to Santa Barbara after a quick stop at Cold Springs Tavern for tri-tip sandwiches.  Check back next month as we continue our week long visit to Santa Barbara and the Santa Ynez Valley.

 Until next time Salude!!

 

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If Wine had a cousin…would it be Rum?

With the second month of 2011 upon us, I finally find myself with 5 free minutes to post on the site.  January has been a weather nightmare and at this point there looks to be no end in sight for February.  However, that’s not what Punxsutawney Phil thinks. I really believe the “powers” that be in little Gobblers Knob, PA, didn’t have it in them to tell us we actually have another full 6 weeks of winter.  I think they’re just as sick of snow as we are! So here we are coming off a major 2 day snow/sleet/ice storm, looking down the barrel of another snow/sleet/ice storm Saturday, followed by another snow “event” next Tuesday. As I stated previously…no end in sight.  The good news is…well at this point there is none, but I digress.

 

Like years past, this one looks to be another busy one travel wise.  I have at least 1 trip scheduled each month for the next 3…a break over the summer and then in October it’s back to Santa Barbara.  I think I am most looking forward to that trip, I really enjoy the area and the wineries are great.  I am excited about hitting some old favorites and finding some new ones also.  By that time my “California” stock of wines from the last trip will be perilously close to empty, so it will be a great time to stock up again.  I was fortunate enough this past Christmas to receive the Blackjack Vineyard 2006 Pinot Noir.  I really enjoyed the 2005 vintage and I am excited about the 2006.  I will definitely be picking up some extras when we travel out west.

 

We recently escaped, all be it briefly, from the frozen tundra of New Jersey for a 4 day trip to sunny Costa Rica.  Located in Central America and nestled between Nicaragua and Panama, Costa Rica offers some amazing experiences that cannot be missed.  The country prides itself on ecotourism and is a leader in that area and it has also become one of the most visited countries in Central America.

 

While not at the top of the Wine producing countries, or really even on the list at all, Costa Rice does offer another type of libation, Rum. And if you are so inclined to put the wine glass down for a little while, there are some amazing Rum offerings to be found. While not the world’s foremost expert on anything including Rum, I will try to provide some minor insight into the drink of Pirates.  Rum is the drink of the Caribbean, as that is where the majority of it is produced. 

 

It is made utilizing molasses or sugarcane juice which is often a by product of sugarcane. 

In order to create rum, you need distillation and fermentation. During distillation, the molasses is heated in either a pot still or column still. As the molasses heats up, the sugars react and alcohol is released in a gaseous form, it travels up through the top of the pot, through a system of pipes, cools and comes out as a clear liquid which is then fermented. (Remember no expert on the process of making Rum.) 

 

Not unlike wine, this clear liquid is then placed in a barrel or cask to be aged most times at a minimum of at least one year. Aging of the rum generally takes place in bourbon casks but can also be in a steel tank. The age of rum and how it was stored will determine the color of the final product. Once rum has been aged, it is often blended and may be filtered or caramel added to adjust the color as needed.

 

Centenario Internacional is one of the main distilleries in Costa Rica. They offer 5 separate products, the Centenario which is offered in 5, 7, 9, and 12 year aged and the Ron Centenario Fundacion XX Aňos. For more information you can visit their website at http://www.roncentenario.com/

You can also get more information about Rum at: http://www.ministryofrum.com/index.php

Next trip is Denver, Colorado in late February, we’ll see what type of excitement I can get into.

Until next time Salude!!

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Part 2 Along the California Coast

Following our stop at Orfila, we decided to drive out to Carlsbad and follow the coast back down to San Diego.  If you only follow the coastal roads and stay off I-5, this trip will take you about 2 hours or a little more if you stop to check out the view.  Our trip took us through Encinitas, Cardiff-By-The-Sea, Del Mar, Torrey Pines, La Jolla, Mission Beach, Mission Bay and back into San Diego.  Torrey Pines two of the most beautiful golf courses in the country.  If you follow the coast road you will end up right outside the gates of Torrey Pines Golf Course.  From there it’s approximately a 25 minute ride to La Jolla. Following the coastal roads is a great way to see the southern coast of California and the views are some of the most amazing in the country. 

 Sunset cliffs

We arrived back in the San Diego area just in time to see the sunset.  We headed up Sunset Cliffs Blvd, which runs along the Pacific Ocean and ends at Sunset Cliffs Park.  Located adjacent to Point Loma, the park offers an amazing view of the Pacific Ocean.  Sunset Cliffs Blvd can take you right to the park but also offers plenty of pull offs you can stop at to enjoy the view and are popular gathering spots for locals. 

 Sun small

The next morning we got up early and headed out to Point Loma before our flight.  The Point Loma Naval base is located on the southern end of Point Loma peninsula and at its southernmost point is the Cabrillo National Monument.  To access the monument you have to go through the Naval base, access is granted daily from 8:00am to 4:00pm. Entry to the park costs $5.00 and it offers the best views of the San Diego Bay area.  Unfortunately, the day we were there a thick sea fog shrouded the land so we only saw glimpses of Coronado and downtown San Diego.  Cabrillo also offers tidal basins which have a wide variety of wildlife in them during certain tides and times of the year.  You may also sea whales or sea lions depending on the time of year that you visit the monument. After a stop at the tidal basins it was off to the airport for the flight home. 

 Ship fog

There’s nothing like air travel to ruin your day.  While the flight was mostly uneventful, the joys of late night baggage retrieval that greeted us were not so uneventful.  Some 50 minutes, 4 stoppages and one major breakdown after our 20 minute early arrival, we were finally reunited with our bags and on the way home.  Our 11:00 pm home arrival time ended up being 1:00am. Finally at home there was only one final step to complete the vacation, upon opening the suitcase we were reunited with the Orfila wines we had purchased.  After placing them in the racks for safe keeping, it was off to bed after the end of another successful trip.  Until next time Salude!!

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San Diego Sunshine

I always enjoy flying to the west coast, not the actual 6 hour flight, but the fact that we can depart the east coast early in the morning and still arrive with a full day to enjoy.  Such was the case this past week when we headed out to San Diego.  After an 8:30am EST. flight we were on the ground by 11:00 am PST.  Following the obligatory stops at the baggage carousel and the rental car office, we were off to the Gaslamp Quarter for lunch.  After a quick lunch at Los Panchos de Charly, an excellent Mexican restaurant, we decided to tour all the Gaslamp Quarter had to offer.  The Gaslamp Quarter is located in the heart of downtown San Diego and it is an area that has gone through a major renaissance and now boasts many restaurants and shops that cater to tourists and the convention center crowds.

 One of the first shops we came too was the Wine Bank.  Located at 363 Fifth Ave, the Wine Bank offers thousands of different labels from Silver Oak to a 1978 Robert Mondavi Magnum Cabernet Sauvignon.  There are plenty of offerings to tempt the palate.  Originally opened in the 1960’s, the Wine Bank has recently gone through a major renovation and visitors are sure to enjoy walking through the large climate controlled wine cellar in the basement.  They also offer wine tastings on Fridays and Saturdays or by group reservation.  For more information you can check out their website at http://www.sdwinebank.com/index.html

 The following day it was off to the USS Midway museumThe USS Midway is a retired aircraft carrier that is docked near downtown San Diego and is open for tours.  During the self guided tour you will see approximately 60 different exhibits and 25 aircraft.  The tour takes you from the engine room up to the bridge and everywhere in between.  If you are visiting San Diego and have the time, I would definitely recommend the tour. At $18.00 per person it’s not overly expensive but be sure to plan on spending at least 2 hours on the ship.  If you plan on visiting the USS Midway you can find more information on their website at http://www.midway.org/

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After the USS Midway tour we headed out to the Hotel del Coronado.  Built in 1888, the Hotel del Coronado or “Del”, is one of the most unique and beautiful hotels in the country.  While the nightly rate can be a little more than some would like to spend, a walk through of the hotel and beach is free and a great way to spend the afternoon.  The Del offers 12 different restaurants including the ENO wine bar.  The ENO wine bar offers guests the best in wines, rare cheeses and gourmet chocolates.  They also offer special events including Tasting Tuesdays, “Say Cheese” Wednesdays, Bubbly Thursdays, and $5 dollar Fridays. For more information on the Del and ENO visit their website at http://www.hoteldel.com/

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That night we visited Little Italy for dinner.  I have to admit that I am very wary when I eat Italian food anywhere other than home.  Every region has its specialty when it comes to food and I believe that the New York metro area has some of the best Italian restaurants in the country.  That being said, we did have a good meal at Filippi’s Pizza Grotto.  Filippi’s is a very old school Italian restaurant.  You enter through a store front and make your way to the back where there are red checkered table cloths and a very basic atmosphere.  Of all the restaurants we walked by, this was the only one that had a line out the door.  Throughout our whole visit, the line never got shorter!  While the food is not New York Italian, it is very good, the sauce, meatballs and sausage are all homemade and the portions are huge.  A dinner for four including a bottle of wine is very reasonable, anywhere from $80-110 depending on what you order.  They have several locations throughout California, including Napa Valley.  For more information visit their website at http://www.realcheesepizza.com/web/home/index.html

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The next morning we were off to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park which is located approximately 45 minutes northwest of downtown San Diego in Escondido.  The Safari Park is a breeding facility for the San Diego Zoo.  A basic ticket to enter costs $37.00 and includes access to all the shows and a 30 minute tram tour called the Journey into Africa.  This tour takes you through an area that houses many different types of African plains wildlife.  There are also many exhibits that you can walk to throughout the park. The area is very large and it can take several hours to see everything.  For more information you can visit their website at:  http://www.sandiegozoo.org/park/index2010

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Our next stop was the Orfila Winery which is located 5 minutes from the Safari Park.  The Orfila Winery is a great way to end your visit to the park.  Opened in 1994, the Orfila Winery produces award winning Rhone-style wines from grapes grown at their vineyard and estate which is located 15 miles from the Pacific Ocean. Wine tastings are $10 per person and include the glasses.

 Below is a partial list of the wines we tasted while visiting Orfila Winery:

 

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2007 Estate Sangiovese

“These grapes are grown on the gently sloping hillsides of the Estate Vineyard, are a stellar example of this famous Italian varietal. Ripe cherry & strawberry fruit with subtle cedar and spice notes coat the palate, with fragrant vanilla and maple on the finish. Enjoy now or cellar three to five years.

We purchased the Sangiovese, it was one of our favorites and had a very reasonable price.

 2007 Estate Ambassadors Reserve Merlot

“The Ambassador’s Reserve is the flagship Merlot, rich and refined with flavors of cherry, mocha, and blueberry with hints of violet. Aged in French oak barrels for two years. Enjoy now or cellar three to five years.”

2008 Ambassador’s Reserve Chardonnay

“This Chardonnay is a rich and creamy wine which was barrel fermented in 100% French oak. Beginning with ripe green apple in the nose, followed by luscious tropical fruit and pineapple on the palate, and finishes with toasted French oak and vanilla flavors. Enjoy this Chardonnay well chilled!”

This enjoyed the Chardonnay and purchased it.

 

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If you’d like to visit the Orfila Winery, they are located at 13455 San Pasqual Road, Escondido, CA92025. You can also visit their website at http://www.orfila.com/main.html

After the winery it was off to our next adventure, be sure to check back next month for part 2.  Until next time Salude!!

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Summer staycation leads to rough waters…

This was one of the hottest summers we have had in a very long time, which was supposed to mean lots of time to spend out on the boat.  We had decided early on in the summer that we would be putting off the vacation until September and instead would stay around the house for a week in August.   The plan was perfect, weekends and long summer evenings sipping wine on the lake, the reality….not so perfect.

 I love to boat from early April through the end of November.  A few times I have even de-winterized the boat and still had a few snow storms to deal with before the weather finally turned better.  Often, I am one of the last boats on the lake, last year we finished boating the weekend of Thanksgiving.  I like the early and late seasons because there is a lot less commotion on the water and the fall foliage is beautiful from the lake.

Somewhere between last December and early April the head on my 4 cylinder I/O (inboard/outboard) decided that it had met its useful life and would no longer provide a barrier between water and oil.  Unfortunately, that memo was never passed on to me, so I was unaware of the nightmare that awaited me in the spring.  After my first boating trip in April, I realized that something was not quite right.  The engine seemed to have less power and the oil had turned an unnatural shade of white.

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After some investigation I decided that the flapper valve in the exhaust was the culprit and proceeded to take apart the exhaust manifold to remove the offender. I thought that it was allowing water to pass through and dump directly into the engine. After a few hours of work and an oil change it was off to the lake to test the theory.

 No luck, after a short drive around the lake I had the same milky oil problem.  The next plan was to check compression in the head unit to see if there was a blown gasket.  After checking compression which turned out okay and changing the oil, I ran the boat on a hose.  In the 4 cylinder I/O that I have, water is forced up through a water jacket and pipes through the head for cooling purposes and there is also a pressurized water cooling system. So theoretically, if the problem was still present, the water would show in the oil from the hose. After 30 minutes the oil was perfectly fine. 

 I thought that maybe I had just left some residual water in the oil tank and if I changed it a few more times everything would be ok.  After a few more hours it was back to the lake.  After a short loop I checked the oil again, it was completely white!  Now I was faced with the dreaded decision of taking the boat to the marina.  I dropped the boat off the week before Memorial Day….

Two months and $2,000 dollars later it was August 1st and I was finally picking up the boat for my week vacation.  Many boaters will tell you that B.O.A.T. really means break out another thousand.  Well, in my case it was two!  A hairline crack in the head had caused water to leak into the 3 and 4 cylinders which is located in the back of the engine.  It didn’t take a lot of water to cause the oil to change and but because the crack was so small it took forever to figure out what was causing the problem.

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Once the boat was repaired, we immediately got back to our regularly scheduled boating activity and enjoyed many wine cruises as the summer came to an end.  We even managed to drag Mr. Wine Babble himself away from the site for more than 5 minutes and he enjoyed a wine cruise with us.  Now that the fall is upon us, boating will slow down as the weekdays get shorter and the weekends are filled with football. Although, I am sure I will make it out a few more times as I have a couple more bottles of Santa Barbara wine to consume!  Until next time Salude!

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Dog Days of Summer…

The dog days of summer are officially upon us.  Graduations have come and gone, Memorial Day weekend parades and the fireworks of the 4th are a distant memory.  Now the hot humid weather settles upon us for at least the next two months.  The time has arrived for vacations, staycations, and daycations or whatever else they call time off these days.  I always feel that the month of June goes by in a flash, it seems like every weekend something is going on and they fly by in no time. Before you know it, July is here.  As I had written in the Wisconsin posting, this summer I will be spending most of my time close to home.  We have a few daytrips… I apologize, daycations, planned and maybe an overnight here or there.  But no major trips until San Diego in September. 

 With the lack of travel planning required for this summer, I have begun to focus on our September trip.  I am excited to get back out to San Diego; it’s a beautiful city and one of my favorite places to visit.  Our trip includes a 4 night stay at the Hyatt in the Gaslight district and then a two night stay at Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn on Shelter Island in San Diego bay.  Being the winos that we are, we have already begun to research the local wineries.  I have never had an opportunity to visit a winery in San Diego County, so this will be a first. 

After doing some research I came across http://www.sandiegowineries.org/ which has provided a wealth of information about local wineries in San Diego County.  We have used the site to begin to compile a list of wineries we would like to visit on our trip.  Many are located to the north and west of the downtown district, but not too far for a daytrip…I guess it would be a daytrip as opposed to a daycation, because we would already be on a vacation…

I know that soon enough it will be time to head off on our trip, but I don’t want to rush it too much. The summer goes too quickly as it is.  So while I still have plenty of time, I am going to sit back with a bottle of wine and enjoy these lazy, hazy days of summer. Until next time salude!

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A trip to the Badger State, food, family, fun and wine….

We had been gearing up for our Memorial Day weekend trip to Wisconsin through the last few weeks of May.  Being graduation season, we like many others were on our way to celebrate a college and high school graduation.  The last thing on our mind as we touched down in Minneapolis was wine. Well, let me correct that, the last thing on our mind was wineries.  We were definitely thinking about wine, we were trying to figure out where we would find a good wine in the land of bratwurst, cheese and miller beer. 

Our trip involved a 4 hour drive from Minneapolis through Duluth and on to Ashland, Wisconsin. Ashland is a beautiful lakeside town located along Route 2 halfway from Duluth, Minnesota and halfway to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, otherwise known as the U.P., which houses “Yuppers”…who I was completely unaware even existed…and I am still not quite certain what makes one a “Yupper” (other than the fact that they live in the U.P.) but I digress.

After driving 2 ½ hours north on I-35, we passed through Duluth and stopped in the town of Superior, Wisconsin to pick up some much needed libations.  Following the stop at the liquor store it was back to the highway.  As we were leaving the town of Superior, I noticed a huge sign advertising a winery.  Of course our curiosity was peaked and we decided to take a diversion to the White Winter Winery.  Located in the Town of Iron River, the White Winter Winery specializes in Mead.  We decided to try a tasting to see what mead was all about.  For those who don’t know, mead is an alcoholic drink made from honey, water and yeast. 

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The White Winter Winery creates its meads from local fruits and honey.  I was very impressed by the variety of meads that were available, but having never tried mead before I was not sure what to expect.  The flavors were very different from what you would expect from a normal wine, but they were very good.  One of our favorites was the Black Harbor which is a Black Currant Honey Wine with Grape neutral spirits added (21% ABV). It is made with black currants and honey. Well balanced with the residual sweetness of honey and toasted vanilla from French oak.  If you are interested in visiting the White Winter Winery, they are located at White Winter Winery 68323 Lea St, Iron River, WI 54847 Phone 1-800-697-2006.  You can also visit their website at http://whitewinter.com

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Wisconsin has 5 separate wine regions, the Northwoods, located in the northern part of the state.  The Driftless, which is located in the western portion of the state and borders Minnesota.  The Fox Valley and Glacial Hills regions, which border Lake Michigan and the Door County region, which is located on a peninsula that sticks out into Lake Michigan.  The state boasts some 36 different wineries, which specialize in all different types of wines. If you are headed to Wisconsin and are interested in taking a wine tour check out the Wisconsin Wine site at http://www.wiswine.org/

The rest of the weekend was a blur, two graduations, parties, food, beer and wine.  Too soon we were headed back to the airport to catch our flight home.  As I sat on the plane waiting to depart I couldn’t help but think back to the previous few days. Call me naive, but I was completely unaware that Wisconsin had any type of wine making industry.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that the art of making wine is alive and well in the badger state, just as it was when I visited Fredericksburg, Texas a few months back. 

When we got back to New Jersey that night, we raided the wine cellar and sat by the fire enjoying a bottle of Forefront.  It was a great way to wind down a busy Memorial Day weekend. As I look ahead to the summer, there is not much on the horizon in the way of travel.  The last few summers I have traveled quite a bit, so in some respects I am thankful to spend time at home.  The next big trip is San Diego in September, so we’ll be planning for that over the next few months.  It’s been a while since we discussed the world of wine and food on commercial airlines.  Maybe we’ll get back to that next month, unless something more interesting comes along.  Until next time salude!!

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Back to Santa Barbara Wine Country

Following our trip to Cambria, it was time to get back to business and the business at hand was wine.  The first winery opened at 10 and we had a whole day of wine tasting ahead of us, so it was off again over the San Marcos Pass Rd and on into the Santa Ynez Valley.  Our first stop of the day was the Bridlewood Estate Winery.  Once the home of an Arabian horse farm, today Bridlewood boasts on of the most beautiful estate winery properties in the Santa Ynez Valley.  The buildings are designed to be reminiscent of the Santa Ynez Mission, with a large bell tower over looking the front lawn.  To taste at Bridlewood Winery, the cost is $10.00 with a glass to keep or $5.00 without.

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Below is partial list of wines we tasted while visiting Bridlewood Winery:

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 Bridlewood Monterey County Chardonnay ( 2007)

“This aromatic Chardonnay displays ripe aromas and pure flavors of nectarine and golden apples; time in the bottle will allow tropical flavors to develop.”

 We purchased the Chardonnay, it has an excellent taste and a very reasonable price.

 Bridlewood Viognier (2008)

The 2008 Central Coast Reserve Viognier expresses an aromatic bouquet of white nectarines, honeysuckle, tangerines and rich tropical fruits. Flavors of tart guava, nectarines and grapefruit unfold on the palate, culminating in a bright, clean finish. The wine is well-balanced with a crisp acidity and moderate alcohol. Its lush, creamy texture showcases how Viognier can be big and rich, yet soft and supple. The moderate acidity and full fruit flavors make this wine a perfect complement for rich foods such as lobster, crab and abalone, or more casual fare such as pâté, fresh fruit and a variety of hard and soft cheeses.”

 Bridelwood Pinot Noir (2007)

“The 2007 Winner’s Circle Pinot Noir is a blend of some of the Central Coast’s finest vineyards: Santa Rita Hills in Santa Barbara County, the Cal Poly Ranch in San Luis Obispo County, and the Olson Ranch in Monterey County’s Santa Lucia Highlands. Each lot imparts its own unique flavors, creating a synergistic, well-balanced and complex wine. Layers of complementary fruit and earthy aromas give this wine a nice structure, while the silky tannins create a rich mid-palate and a clean finish. The wine was aged for about 10 months in a mix or new and old French oak barrels from the Troncais region.”

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If you’d like to visit Bridlewood Estate Winery, it is located at 3555 Roblar Avenue, Santa Ynez, CA 93460; you can also visit their website at http://www.bridlewoodwinery.com/

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Or next stop was Roblar Winery which is located less than a mile from Bridlewood.  As their website states, Roblar is more then just a winery. The winery not only promotes its wine, but also showcases they many different foods raised in the area. They also promote sustainable agriculture practices and even use babydoll sheep to “mow” the weeds in their vineyards.  Roblar takes the extra step to combine great fresh food with great wine. They also offer cooking classes and a Sunday brunch at the winery.  To taste at Roblar, the cost is $12 which includes a glass you can take or $7 without the glass.

Below is partial list of wines we tasted while visiting Bridlewood Winery:

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Roblar Syrah (2006)

“Showing true Syrah characteristics of tart cherry, tobacco, subtle spice and chocolate on the finish.”

Roblar Riesling (2008)

“Strong citrus-green apple nose with hints of tart quince, lemon blossom and apricot.
Pair with Roblar’s Chicken Galantine Caesar Salad, Margherita Pizza or Turkey Burger.”

Roblar Barrel Select Cabernet Sauvignon (2008)

“A rich velvety mid-palate segues into a finish layered with black currant and pomegranate. Pair with Roblar’s Barbaresco Panini or Roblar’s Sirloin Burger.”

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If you’d like to visit Roblar Winery, it is located at 3010 Roblar Avenue, Santa Ynez, CA 93460; you can also visit their website at http://www.roblarwinery.com/

After visiting Roblar winery, it was off to lunch at Patrick’s Side Street Café.  Located in downtown Los Olivos, Patrick’s is a quaint gourmet restaurant offering award winning selections to please the palate.  If you’d like to visit Patrick’s Side Street Cafe, it is located at 2375 Alamo Pintado Ave, Los Olivos, CA; you can also visit their website at http://www.patrickssidestreetcafe.com/

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Following Lunch at Patrick’s, it was off to our next winery Riverbench Vineyard & Winery in Santa Maria. As stated on their website, Riverbench was founded in 1973 when the first Pinot Noir and Chardonney grapes were planted on the property. The vineyards provided grapes to many local winemakers over the next few decades. In 2004 a group of local families purchased the property and in 2006 began releasing wine under their own label, Riverbench.  To taste at Riverbench, the cost is $10.

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Below is partial list of wines we tasted while visiting Riverbench Vineyard & Winery:

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Estate Pinot Noir (2008)

“The vivid burgundy color is slightly darker than 2006, thanks to an almost textbook perfect harvest in 2007. The wine is commanding and ripe but not over extracted. Sumptuous favors of strawberries and cherries coat the tongue, but the finish still holds our signature smoke and clove; it perfectly complements grilled cornmeal crusted quail or a wild mushroom pizza.”

Estate Chardonney (2007)

“There’s something enviable about a Chardonnay that is able to show balance between rich fruit flavors and a delicate buttery note; an oaked Chardonnay isn’t hard to find, and there certainly exists a fine line between luscious and overdone. When you find a wine this well-adjusted, you won’t want to let it go. Our Chardonnay is truly luscious, showing tropical fruit flavors typical of our vineyard while being luxurious and substantial enough to boast a lasting finish with lingering hints of honey and apple. Perhaps you’ll enjoy this one evening with grilled halibut, or as the perfect accompaniment to she-crab soup. Either way, keep a bottle in the closet for those important dinners- you’re sure to win over the boss’s wife.”

We purchased the Chardonney, it had a very nice flavor and reasonable price.

Mesa Pinot Noir (2007)

“There’s a special section, deep in the vineyard, that’s been affectionately termed “The Mesa” for many years now. The fruit from these vines is remarkably different Pinot Noir; there is a liveliness that refreshes the palate and stirs the senses. One taste of these grapes and it was obvious that we needed to try this section on its own.

In the summer of 2008, the barrel samples revealed we had something special on our hands, and now that it’s had some time to age in the bottle, we’ve decided to introduce it to you.

This wine is surprisingly soft and feminine on the palate, yet its elegance and brightness are balanced by a lift on the palate and a more assertive finish. In other words, this is no wimpy wine. Earth tones match the red fruit flavors, and the oak plays subtly in the background. Try this one of a kind representation of Riverbench with cranberry glazed Cornish game hens or beef Wellington.”

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If you’d like to visit Riverbench Vineyard & Winery, it is located at 6020 Foxen Canyon Road Santa Maria, CA 93454, you can also visit their website at http://www.riverbench.com/index.php

Our next stop was Kenneth Volk Vineyards.  Kenneth Volk is conveniently located approximately 5 minutes from Riverbench.  The website states that the winery property was the original Byron Winery which was established in 1981.  In 1994, the property was acquired by the Robert Mondavi Winery Corporation and in 2004 it was purchased by Ken Volk. Unfortunately what Ken Volk got was a winery in need of some major TLC.  The Mondavi Corporation had not spent any money on the site during the period that they owned it.  Following repairs, it was time to start making wine and today creates some of the top wines in the Santa Maria Valley.  To taste at Kenneth Volk, the cost is $5 they will add it to your purchase if you decide to buy.

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Below is partial list of wines we tasted while visiting Kenneth Volk:

 Claret, Carmody, McKnight Vineyard (2004)

“Our 2004 Carmody McKnight Vineyard Claret is a vineyard designated blend of 39% Cabernet Franc, 33% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon. The Carmody Mcknight Vineyard is located in western Paso Robles on Chinney Rock Road in the rain shadow of the Santa Lucia Coastal mountain range. This dark purple wine had aromas of ripe cherry, blackberries and clove. Rich fruit flavors of cherry and plum are followed by tannins and a long finish. The bright fruit, low pH, and excellent structure of this wine make it a candidate for extended cellaring. This wine can be served with rich cuts of meat, poultry or with pasta.”

 We purchased the Claret, it had a great flavor and was priced very reasonably.

 Cabernet Franc Paso Robles (2005)

“Rich, luscious dark cherry aromas intertwined with smoke, leather, earth and truffles with hints of fresh herbs.  Flavors are full bodied red cherries, leather, bramble berries and a plush mouth feel that lingers into an elegant finish with polished tannins.  Really very approachable with fresh, clean berry flavors tightly bound with hearty earth and oak nuances. Great aromatics with an elegant mouth feel with great structure and depth.”

 Chardonnay, Sierra Madre Vineyard (2006)

“Made in styles that range from steely, mineral laced wines with crisp green apple fruit to wines that are buttery, rich, and laden with tropical fruits, there is a Chardonnay that will appeal to every palate. Chardonnay is most closely associated with France’s Burgundy region and California’s Northern valleys though it has proven successful around the globe.”

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If you’d like to visit Kenneth Volk, it is located at 5230 Tepusquet Road, Santa Maria, CA, 93454; you can also visit their website at http://www.volkwines.com/

Following Kenneth Volk, it was off to our final stop of the day Foxen Winery.  Foxen was founded in 1985, by Bill Wathen and Dick Dore.  It is named after William Benjamin Foxen who was and English sea Captain and Bill’s Great Great Grandfather.  Foxen adopted his signature Anchor cattle brand and it has become trademark for the winery.  In 2009, they built a new tasting room oxen which is solar powered, but also still operate the older tasting room further up the Foxen Canyon Road. To taste at Foxen the cost is $10 for one building, $12 if you’d like to visit both sites.  Wine glasses are included in that price.

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Below is partial list of wines we tasted while visiting Foxen:

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Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Ynez Valley 2006

“Aromoas of Cola, Cherry, spice, cigar box and cedar. Not an extreme heavyweight so you can enjoy it with a wide variety of foods.”

Sauvignon Blanc, Vogelzang Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley 2008

“A gorgeous, elegant Sauvignon Blanc, dry and complex and ideal for drinking with sophisticated fare. Grown in the warmer Happy Canyon region, it avoids the green pyrazines that can mark Sauvignon Blanc, yielding intricate flavors of lemons, limes, pineapples, green melons, honey and peppery spices, gently touched with smoky oak.”

Chardonnay, Bien Nacido Vineyard Block UU, Santa Maria Valley 2008

“Tangy citrus, pink grapefruit and green apple flavors give this is mouthwatering sensation, with floral aromas.  Full-bodied, rich and layered, ending with a long, persistent finish. Drink now through 2014.”

The Chardonnay was our favorite tasting of the day and we purchased it.

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If you’d like to visit Foxen, it is located at 7600 Foxen Canyon Road, Santa Maria, CA 93454 Telephone: 805 937-4251 Fax: 805 937-0415; you can also visit their website at http://www.foxenvineyard.com/

 The next day was our last full vacation day in Santa Barbara and headed downtown to see the sights. The first stop was the Old Mission Santa Barbara.  Founded in 1786, the mission was the tenth of twenty one missions founded in California.  The site offers visitors a glimpse of what life was like for the Franciscan monks who lived there in the 17 and 1800’s.  Tours run from 9-5pm daily and cost $5.00.

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If you’d like to visit Old Mission Santa Barbara, it is located at 2201 Laguna St
Santa Barbara, CA 93105; you can also visit their website at http://santabarbaramission.org/

Next stop was lunch at Brophy Brothers Seafood Restaurant.  Located in Santa Barbara Harbor, Brophy Brothers offers the freshest seafood around, with great views. We dined on the deck while watching sailboats being lowered into the harbor. 

If you’d like to visit Brophy Brothers, it is located at 119 Harbor Way, Santa Barbara, CA 93109; You can also visit their website at http://www.brophybros.com/

The following day it was off to the airport for the 4 ½ hour flight home.   During the flight we began to plan our return trip to Santa Barbara wine country.  There are so many more wineries to visit and some great places that we can’t wait to get back too.  Until next time Salude!!

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Santa Barbara to Cambria, CA…Part 2

Day 2 found us on our way to Cambria, California.  We hopped on the 101 and headed north up the coast. Our first stop on the way to Cambria was the Laetitia Winery which was located right off the freeway between San Luis Obispo and Santa Maria.  The Laetitia website states that planting on the land began in 1982 by French viticulturists from the champagne house, Champagne Deutz.  The winery was named Maison Deutz and operated until 1997 when Jean-Claude Tardivat purchased the property and named it Laetitia after his daughter.  In 2001, Selim Zilkha, who had previously been a partner of Tardivat, assumed leadership of the winery and brand. Laetitia has a reputation in the area for sparking wines and exceptional Pinot Noirs.  A tasting at Laetitia will cost you $10, but if you purchase 1 or more bottles your tasting fee will be returned to you.

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Below is a partial list of wines we tasted while visiting Laetitia Winery:

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Laetitia Non-Vintage XD

“Aromas of fresh apple, lemon zest, meringue and light toastiness greet the nose, while on the palate the brisk impression is balanced with delicious sweetness.  This wine will pair beautifully with orange, apple, or light fruit driven desserts.”

We purchased the Non-Vintage XD; it was a great price and great taste.

Laetitia Estate Chardonnay

“Mineral and fruity with delicate aromas of jasmine, lychee and tea rose that transition into lemon drop, ripe pear and green apple flavors.  A smoky, spicy anise character that weaves through the honeyed finish.”

We also purchased this wine which had a great price and excellent taste.

Nadia Red 2005

“A Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. The Nadia Red wine embodies the potential of the Santa Barbara highlands Vineyard.  The wine releases generous blue and red fruit notes.”

If you’d like to visit the Laetitia Vineyard, it is located at 453 Laetitia Dr., Arroyo Grande, CA 93420; you can also visit their website at http://laetitiawine.com/index.php

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From Laetitia, we jumped back on the 101 and headed to Morro Bay, California which is located in San Luis Obispo County. Morro Bay is known for the giant Morro rock that sits in the entrance of the harbor.  It is one of 9 volcanic plugs also known as the “Nine Sisters,” that stretch in a line up the coast. Besides being a tourist attraction, the city of Morro Bay also operates a working fishing port.  If you are interested visiting in Morro Bay, take a look at the sites below.

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Morro Bay Chamber of Commerce http://www.morrobay.org/cm/Home.html

City of Morro Bay http://www.morro-bay.ca.us/

After stopping in Morro bay we were off again to Harmony, CA to visit the Harmony Cellars.  Harmony is also located in San Luis Obispo County.  It is a quaint town that was founded in 1869 around several dairy ranches and today boasts a population of 18.  Besides a few retail shops selling pottery and hand blown glass, Harmony Cellars is the largest retail operation. If you are interested in visiting Harmony, take a look at the site below.

http://www.harmonyca.com/

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Harmony Cellars is set up on a hill over looking the small town of Harmony.  The Harmony Cellars website states that the winery was founded in 1989 and has since grown from a 2,000 case micro winery to and 5,500 case boutique winery.  Owners Chuck and Kim Mulligan built the Harmony Cellars on land that had been in Kim’s family for over 100 years.  A tasting at Harmony will cost you $3 or $7 with a logo glass that you can keep.

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Below is a partial list of wines we tasted while visiting Harmony Cellars:

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Diamond Reserve Pinot Gris 2008

“This wine is made in the Burgundian style by aging a portion of the juice in new French oak. Although bone dry, the flavors are reminiscent of tropical fruits and juicy pears.”

Diamond Reserve Pinot Noir 2006

“A classic medium bodied wine with strawberry and caramel aromas and a velvety finish.”

Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

“Dramatic aromas of dried cherry and plum are complemented by notes of butterscotch, toasty oak & subtle leather. The palate is flooded with flavors of sour cherry, cassis and vanilla spice.”

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If you’d like to visit the Harmony Cellars, it is located at 3255 Harmony Valley Road
Harmony, California 93435; you can also visit their website at http://www.harmonycellars.com/

Following our visit to Harmony, we headed to Cambria.  Cambria is located on the coast and its primary economic activity is tourism.  Moonstone beach offers a wide variety of hotels and bed and breakfasts.  Aside from the town, other attractions include Nit Witt Ridge which is a California historical landmark, Hearst castle, the Elephant seal rookery area located off the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) and the Piedras Blancas Light Station.  If you are interested in visiting Cambria take a look at the site below.

Chamber of commerce http://www.cambriachamber.org/

Our first stop in Cambria was Fermentations a tasting room and wine specialty shop.  If you stop in Cambria and love wine, you can’t miss heading to Fermentations.  A tasting at Fermentations will cost you $3 or $7 with a logo glass. 

Below is a partial list of wines we tasted while visiting Fermentations:

Tolosa Chardonnay 2006

“A pale gold color is as usual the harbinger of quality. The aroma is warm and evokes honey on toast. The fruit character is towards lemon with a hint of minerality.  The textures in the mouth are more like Chablis than California with a pleasant grippiness. There is the classic note of roasted hazelnut in the background.”

Brucher Pinot Noir 2007

“A beautifully layered and flavorful Pinot Noir. The typical Pinot nose leads to a fabulous mouth feel and a long finish. This Pinot will stand up to almost any entree.”

Koda Premium Dessert Wine

“Premium chocolate infused dessert wine is produced from blending award-winning port made from Paso Robles grown Syrah grapes with the finest natural chocolate essences. The result, a decadent, memorable dessert wine offering the best of both worlds: wine and chocolate. A delightful finish to the perfect meal.”

We purchased the Koda Dessert wine; it was the best dessert wine was tasted on the trip.

If you’d like to visit the Fermentations, it is located at 4056 Burton Drive
Cambria, CA 93428; you can also visit their website at http://www.fermentations.com/

After we finished some shopping in Cambria, we headed off to our hotel on Moonstone Beach.  Moonstone Landing is located directly across the street from Moonstone Beach.  The front rooms offer a perfect view of the Ocean and there are several other rooms that offer partial views.  In the morning they offer a free continental breakfast and in the evening they offer free refreshments. After checking in, we grabbed some refreshments and watched the sun set while enjoying some margaritas on the deck.

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If you’d like to stay at Moonstone Landing, it is located at 6420 Moonstone Beach Drive, Cambria, CA 93428; you can also visit their website at http://www.moonstonelanding.com/

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Dinner that evening was at The Sea Chest Restaurant.  The Sea Chest is located right next door to the hotel, so it is very convenient for anyone staying in that area.  The restaurant offers a wide variety of excellent seafood.  Our group had the Cioppino, Seafood Marinara, and Oysters Rockefeller. The Cioppino was hands down the best I have had, it offered a good mix of seafood and included very good homemade sourdough bread.  I would recommend it to anyone who visits the Sea Chest.  If you go remember that the restaurant does not accept credit cards or reservations.

If you’d like to stay at The Sea Chest Restaurant, it is located at 6216 Moonstone Beach Drive Cambria, CA 93428. You can also visit their website at http://www.seachestrestaurant.com/main.htm

The next morning we awoke and took a leisurely drive up the PCH to see the elephant seals in San Simeon.  The area is known as the Piadres Blancas rookery and it is where the elephant seals breed, molt and rest.  There can be upwards of 15,000 animals at the highpoint of the season.  A rest area located along the PCH gives you a great vantage point of the seals and there are volunteers available most days to answer any questions you may have.

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If you’d like more information take a look at this site: http://www.elephantseal.org/

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Following a visit with the elephant seals it was off to Hearst Castle. Originally built by media mogul William Randolph Hearst, today Hearst Castle is operated by the California Parks Department and offers several different tours.  There are 6 tours offered of the caste and the prices are $24.00 for adults and $12.00 for kids.  We decided to take tour 1 which is recommended for first time visitors.  Tour 1 includes the pool area, Casa Del Sol guest house, Esplanade and gardens and 5 rooms in the main house.  The other tours include everything from additional rooms of the house, to a walk through the gardens. 

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If you would like to visit Hearst Castle take a look at the following site: http://www.hearstcastle.com/

After our tour of Hearst Castle it was time to head back to Santa Barbara, but along the way we stopped at Pismo beach to drive on the sand dunes.  If you have a 4×4 vehicle, I would definitely recommend driving on the sand dunes at Pismo Beach. The cost is $5.00 and you can even spend the night on the beach if you have a camper.  If you’d like some more info about Pismo Beach take a look at the following site: http://www.pismobeach.org/index.aspx?NID=9

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Once we were done on the sand dunes we headed off to dinner at the Cracked Crab.  Located in downtown Pismo Beach, the Cracked Crab is an excellent restaurant offering a wide variety of fresh seafood.  Their house specialty is the bucket of seafood that they dump on the table.  Buckets can be ordered for one or two people and have several different types of shellfish.  Take a look below at the selection choices:

Big Bucket For Two $68
Create your own bucket! Your choice of three items listed below.
Your shellfish choices are steamed with spicy Cajun sausage, red skin potatoes and corn cobetts. Casually served; dumped on your table! Accompanied with drawn butter, homemade cocktail sauce, homemade triple mustard sauce, warm sourdough rolls, and tools for pickin’ and crackin’.
Please select three items
Alaskan King Crab $10,  Dungeness Crab,  Opilio (Snow) Crab,  Domestic Gulf Shrimp,  Jonah Crab Claws,  Mussels  Clams,  Alaskan Bairdi Crab $3,  Slipper Lobster $5,  Whole Dungeness Crab $11

Single Bucket (for one person) $48
Please select two items
Slipper Lobster $5, Alaskan King Crab $10, Opilio (Snow) Crab, Dungeness Crab, Domestic Gulf Shrimp, Jonah Crab Claws, Clams, Mussels, Alaskan Bairdi Crab, $3, Whole Dungeness Crab $11

If you are interested in visiting the Cracked Crab, it is located at 751 Price Street Pismo Beach, CA 93449; you can also visit their website at http://www.crackedcrab.com/

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From Pismo Beach it was only an hour back to Santa Barbara.  The next day would be filled with Winery stops, so we headed off to bed so we could get an early start in wine country.  Check back soon for Part 3! Until next time Salude!!