The next day of our trip will find us in Carmel-by-the-Sea. We are hikers so we will spend the day at Point Lobos, weather permitting. I know we will hit the Cypress Grove trail. The Monterey Cypress is only found here and on the 17 mile drive at Pebble beach. With lots of short trails, we will hit as many as we can! We will pack a lunch and take our backpacks and Camelbacks and get some exercise while communing with nature. When we are tired we will head back into Carmel so stroll the village and do some additional tastings and then on this night we will wonder to find dinner, maybe by a recommendation or perhaps just someplace that catches our eye. This will a very low key day. I predict many pictures to share from great scenery to the charming village of Carmel-by-the-Sea to great wines!
So our travel plans will next take us to Monterey. It will be an early morning out of Paso and then we will head up Hwy 101 to Salinas to Monterey. Now it will be early morning, so we won’t be doing any tastings but we will be passing through lots of wine country. Monterey wineries begin in Greenfield with Scheid winery and go north through Soledad and Salinas with wineries such as Wrath, and Talbott. We will enjoy the view and probably take some photos, but sadly on this trip we will not be stopping in. We will continue to Monterey and there head to A Taste of Monterey to sample a little from many of the different wineries, before heading to lunch and the aquarium. The drive from Paso to Monterey is about 2 1/4 hours. We plan to have breakfast before leaving and we will have snacks packed.
A Taste of Monterey is a tasting room on Cannery Row Monterey with a great view of Monterey Bay. They feature the wines from over 90 local wineries. We figured a tasting here, might decide what other wineries to add to our list in this area. The location is only a block from the Monterey Aquarium so we will park once and then enjoy the day. After the tasting we will head to lunch possibly at the Sea Harvest Market & Restaurant. This place is slightly off the beaten path, not down in the touristy part of Cannery row and has great reviews for hearty seafood meals. If you want the best view the restaurants on Cannery row may be for you. But we will be looking for good seafood at a reasonable price for lunch. Although….we could change our minds so keep posted!
After lunch it’s off to the Aquarium. Michael and I love aquariums and the Monterey Bay Aquarium is one of the best. Their new Open Sea exhibit is open and there is the kelp forest, the giant octopus, a sea otter exhibit and a sea horse exhibit. Check out the website, they have webcams were you can enjoy the aquarium from home! Tickets at $30 per person for the day.
After the afternoon at the aquarium we will head out onto the Monterey peninsula stopping by Lovers Point and heading on to the Monarch Grove Sanctuary. In the autumn thousands of Monarch Butterflies decend on the Monterey pines and Eucalyptus trees in Pacific Grove. They winter there from October to February.
This drive is considered one of the most beautiful scenic drives in the world. Located in Pebble beach the drive has $10 per vehicle fee. Along the way you will see The Lone Cypress, Fanshell Overlook, Spanish Bay, Point Joe and the Lodge at Pebble Beach. We will enter on the Monterey side at the Pacific Grove gate and will drive around to exit at the Carmel Gate.
Now it’s off to the Normandy Inn. After quite a bit of searching I came across this hotel in a Sunset Magazine article. The hotel is meant to transport you to the French countryside. It is within walking distance of all the shops and restaurants in Carmel-by-the-sea. So we will check in and wonder out for dinner and perhaps a wine tasting!
With full tummies it will be time to curl up and have a good sleep before we are out for a big day of hiking.
Day 3 of our California trip will be spent on the East side of Paso Robles.
The day will start at J. Lohr. Much like Castoro, you can readily find J. Lohr wines in any local city and in many grocery stores. I have a nice bottle of their Cabernet that was given to me by a friend in my cellar. It’s a Cab, so I am afraid to drink it! Yeah I have cabaphobia, fear of drinking a cab too young. I hate abusive tannins. This winery will start our day on the East side of Paso. J. Lohr is located on Airport Road North of 46 East.
Our second stop of the day is at Le Vigne. Just south of J. Lohr off of Bueno Vista Drive, this winery has a beautiful tasting room with cheese or chocolate pairings available. They also have foods available for picnics and…Pullman train cars to enjoy your picnic in! I expect to enjoy at least the cheese pairings here and then I won’t be able to pass up a picnic in the pullman cars!
Next our tastings will take us back to 46 East to Branch Road South to Bianchi. Situated on waterfall fed lake this is a great place to relax and enjoy their Italian varietals! Michael really loves the Italian varietals and in addition to Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah and Zin they also produce Sangiovese, Barbera and Refosco!
Back to 46 to Meridian. Another winery that has widely available wines. They are only open on Weekends, so today was the only day we could catch then. They do cheese & chocolate pairings here, which I expect we will take part in at least one of those. They also do catered picnic lunches if you call ahead.
One last winery for the day….Vina Robles. Known for “European Inspiration- Californian Character”. They have cheese pairings here also. In addition they have a Gallery here. While we are there the exhibit will be presented by the Central Coast chapter of the Silk Painters International.
So after a little wine, cheese and art. We will head back to the Adelaide Inn for a nap. Tonight’s dinner will be pizza from locally owned Pizza Planet that we can enjoy in the room and then pack some for tomorrow’s lunch!
Yes, tomorrow’s itinerary takes us out of Paso Robles and up to Monterrey!
Continuing with the travel plans for our upcoming trip, here’s the plan for day 2!
After arriving the night before in Paso Robles and doing tastings at Cass Winery & Wild Horse, soaking in a hot spring spa at River Oaks Hot Springs and falling over for the night at the Adelaide Inn, we should be well rested and set for a day of West side tastings!
Paso is divided in large part as West 46 and East 46. The East side being further inland is flatter, the West side is tucked into the mountains with winding back roads and lots of trees. On this day we will be visiting some terrific wineries that we have been to before as well as a couple new ones.
We will begin our day at Tablas Creek with a winery tour and tasting. We visited Tablas Creek the last time we were here, but I am anxious to see their new tasting room and to tour the winery. The winemaker here is Neil Collins and the winery itself is a sister property to the Perrin Family’s Chateau Beaucastle in France. They specialize in Rhone style wines here (like Cass) and are one of the founders of Paso Robles “Rhone Rangers”. A friend gave me a bottle of their Vermentino and I fell in love. It, unfortunately is made in small quantities and is typically only available to wine club members.
After Tablas Creek, we will head around to Adelaida Cellars. They were recommended by a friend who is a sommelier and frequents Paso Robles. They are in the North Western part of Paso near Tablas Creek.
From there, we will take a break from wine and do a little Olive Oil tasting at Pasolivio. They have been producing world class olive oil here in Paso for the past 10 years.
We will continue down Vineyard Drive back to Route 46 to have some lunch at the incredible Farmstand 46! When I say I love this place, it’s an understatement. They have gardens to the side of the restaurant where they grow fresh produce and they make some of the best sandwiches and salads I have ever tasted.
After filling ourselves up, we will head across Route 46 to the old Bonny Doon property which now houses Lone Madrone and Kenneth Volktasting rooms. From our previous trip, this was my favorite stop. Lone Madrone is Neil Collins winery (he is also the winemaker at Tablas Creek). Here he makes what he wants. He sources from vineyards in the area working with them to create just the right grapes for the wines he will produce. Some of the vineyards work biodynamically. Typically his sister is running the tasting room. When last we were here we loved “The Will”, the “Barfandel” and “Sweet Cheeks”. I can’t wait to see what new wines they have this year. Kenneth Volk’s tasting room is attached. You will remember he had founded Wild Horse. He is constantly experimenting with new varietals, searching for the next amazing grape.
Also on the property is Fat Cat Farm where you can pick up fresh herbs and garden plants. I think they have a petting zoo also.
One last vineyard stop for the day at Castoro, which is off of Route 46 heading back into Paso. Castoro is a brand you will find on the shelves in the grocery store. While I love tasting wines at small vineyards, where it feels really special to just have a bottle of their wine, I often find myself needing to pick up a bottle of wine at the store, just to enjoy a glass after work. When I do this, I don’t want to dip into the cellar. Those bottles are to open with Michael and spend time to enjoy. If I know more about Castoro and the people there, I can run to Vons grab a bottle and create a better experience for my glass of wine after work, without breaking the bank or having to have wine shipped. It’s a bottle I can open at Midnight for a single glass without guilt. And despite the fact that Castoro wines are readily available everywhere, the tasting room itself is said to be unpretentious. They are known for making “dam fine wines” with a picture of a beaver on the label.
Well, that’s a day! Depending on the hour and how we feel, we will either head back to the hotel, or straight out to dinner. I am waffling between the Artisan and Thomas Hill Organics. We will see! Stay tuned for details on our day 3 itinerary!
I’m a planner. No really! Michael and I are planning a trip on the Pacific Coast Highway and of course I am finding as much wine country as possible to cover on the trip. I started with my typical excel spreadsheet to layout the days, the gas, the cost, hotels, restaurants, wineries and state parks. Yes we will toss in a little hiking so we don’t get too fat and sassy. It’s a 9 day trip we are planning and as I gathered information it started to get a little unwieldy. I had links to sites and history for each location…etc, etc. As I started thinking of accessing this information on the iPad on the trip I opted to change formats and create my own guidebook with itinerary. Sometimes I think I enjoy the research and planning almost as much as the vacation.
Well my guidebook is closing in on complete, but I thought I would share with you a little of what our trip will entail. We will leave early to drive to Paso Robles, beginning with some inland wine tasting before heading to the coast. We have been to Paso once before and loved it. There are a few places I want to revisit and then some new spots to try. I will admit, that you will have to wait for trip details later to see if we really make it to all these spots. As much as I am a planner, I often enjoy tossing the plan to the wind and seeing where the wind takes us! But for now, after the 6-7 hour drive to Paso we will head directly to Cass for lunch and a tasting. Cass is on the South East side of Paso and we have never been to that area before. They have a cafe where a tasting flight or a glass of wine are included with lunch. Hungry as we will be after the drive, food with the tasting will be important. They specialize in Rhone varietals here. www.casswines.com
After the tasting there we will head to Wildhorse, also on the East side. I have been wanted to stop here ever since we missed getting here on our last trip. Wildhorse was founded by Kenneth Volk. I find him an incredibly innovative winemaker and love the wines under his Kenneth Volk label. During our trip they will be accepting donations for tastings to benefit the SLO food bank. wildhorsewinery.com
As it will then be late in the day, the plan is to check into the Adelaide Inn. I have seen nothing but great reviews for this hotel. It’s not luxury, but comfort and with coffee and tea service in the room and a microwave, breakfast is easy! adelaideinn.com
With body aches from the drive we will head to River Oaks Hot Springs Spa for soak. $16 per hour for the private spas outside or $12 inside and add $8 for each additional person. These naturally heated mineral springs are one of the added attractions to Paso Robles. riveroakshotsprings.com
After a relaxing soak, it will be a simple dinner, perhaps at Margie’s Diner near the hotel. Then some sleep to be ready for our first full day of wine tasting on Paso’s West side….more on that tomorrow!
When Michael and I were in Sonoma last December, we stopped by Hartford Family Wineries and had a great conversation with one of the guys in the tasting room. After chatting with him for a while we realized that a wine that he suggested was very likely to be one we would like so we asked for recommendations for wineries to visit. He recommended Deerfield Ranch. So we squeezed it in before heading to a scheduled tasting/pairing at the Mayo Reserve room.
Deerfield is in The Sonoma Valley near Kenwood. As you drive in you pass through the Kenwood Marsh, 14 acres of the last remaining wetlands ecosystem that once covered the entire Sonoma Valley. After purchasing the property PJ and Robert Rex spent 6 years restoring the wetlands after 30 years of them being grazed by cattle. They established the Kenwood Marsh Checkerbloom society and were granted a conservation easement for the land. The Kenwood Marsh is one of only two places on earth where the Kenwood Marsh Checkerbloom grows.
The Kenwood Marsh is home to Checkers and Checkmate, two 16 foot giraffe sculptures. You can join the adopt a giraffe program adopting a 5 ft baby giraffe sculpture to take home or allow to roam the marsh and support the Kenwood Marsh restoration project.
Once you arrive at the winery you enter the cave for the tasting. They have a tasting bar, a few table and a very comfortable leather couch seating area. Ben was there to do our tasting and took great care of us pouring a glass of the Sav Blanc for us to enjoy while he finished up with another tasting. There are times when the passion of the person pouring really comes through and this is definitely the case with Ben. We didn’t find anything that we didn’t like. The Red Rex was a fantastic blend. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the opportunity to linger long because we had an appointment at the Mayo Reserve room.
Recently, Khoury’s here in Las Vegas did a Friday night tasting with Robert the owner. Michael and I were not able to attend and were pretty bummed. But….Sarah Rex (sister in law and national sales rep) was at Khoury’s doing another tasting and we were able to go.
Realizing that time, place, what you had for breakfast, the weather…..can all influence your reaction to a wine, I was excited to see if these wines would live up to what I remembered. They did! Across the board we enjoyed everything. We also sampled their new label @ which made from surplus grape juice that they purchase and tweek and make available at very reasonable price points. We tasted the 2009 Alexander Valley (always single appellation wines) Cabernet Sauvignon. At $12.99 this is a great easy drinking wine. It is a Cabernet that you can drink now, it is not too bold or tannic so it goes down smooth. Perfect for a glass in the evening after work. The Red Rex was as good as we remembered. Although the Syrah seemed lighter and fruitier than I had remembered. We had a wonderful time chatting with Sarah and are thrilled to have a local wine shop carrying their wines.
This was the weekend to update our cellar data. It’s not that the wine cellar is large, it’s just a bookcase and not completely full, but we don’t update the data on it often enough. We use Vinocella http://www.vinocella.net/. I like it. We did a little comparison shopping before buying it, but not alot, so I won’t say it’s the best thing on the market, because I’m not familiar enough with what else is out there. I know people who swear by Cellar Tracker. For me this works for now.
So we needed to rearrange the wine cellar and I had added the iPhone ap to my phone, which we could now sync with Michael’s iPad ap. So we spent time recording the things we drank and adding the new stuff that we had never recorded. Somehow it just feels better having it organized. Now we just have to go back and add all the tasting notes on things that are not in the cellar. We used the iPad program on our trip to the Dundee Hills, but I have my notebook from all the tastings in Sonoma from last month to add. And I think we have a bunch of tasting notes that we just took in the notepad ap on the iPad from Temecula.
It might be an exhausting process for some people, but I love it. For me it means that I will have a relatively complete list of wines I’ve tasted and what I liked or didn’t like about them, right in the palm of my hand. Over the next week as I try to add in all the tasting notes, it will allow me to remember which wines I really enjoyed. It’s kind of like watching home movies and reliving the vacation! You can expect to see more blog posts on wineries as I refresh my memory.
Keeping up with these notes can be as simple as a notebook, which sometimes as I’ve mentioned, I prefer. But with the great aps available out there, you have the ability to add a wine you enjoy at a restaurant right to your database, and for wine geeks that rocks. New programs even have bar code scanners so if the information has been added before it will pull it from the data base, saving you from having to type in the details. And having a label shot comes in handy when you are trying to find something again at the wine store. I’m working to find the balance between using this technology and obsessing about it. Wine is meant to be enjoyed, to slow life down a little…but the details on wines are so fascinating that I really enjoy the research also. I guess it’s a great balance. Do your notes your way, or don’t take notes, just drink and enjoy. So many wines and so many ways to enjoy them. Salute!
I am a self proclaimed “wine geek”. I’m still early on my learning curve and I have a need to document as I learn. So I have investigated wine applications for wine storage and for tasting notes.
After looking around for something that would work for both storage and tasting notes we came across Vinocella. This iPad application seemed perfect! We laid out our cellar and added our notes and then took it with us to wine country to add tasting notes as we went along. The difficulty was in adding the wineries ahead of time so as to maximize discussion time with the person in the tasting room as opposed to standing in a corner typing the entire time. Poor Michael ended up doing most of the typing and I did most of the talking. And we found that we couldn’t get the details in on aromas and tastes as quickly as we would like. Don’t get me wrong, I love this ap for holding my information, but…just before our last wine trip, my dear friend RuBen gave me a wine journal. Now people get these and use them over the course of a year to put labels in and take notes….I however was taking mine into tasting rooms, so one trip almost filled the book. The benefits: I would right the vineyard name on the first page and then I knew it was the same until I wrote a new name; I can take notes with one hand and hold a wine glass with the other (no two hands needed as in texting); and this type of writing allows for conversation while you are doing it, as opposed to typing something in. The negatives….without my full vocabulary in front of me (even though I had the Vinography wallet card handy) I didn’t get the kind of detail that I otherwise might have. I hope as I move forward I will get better at this. Now it is just a matter of taking that information and inputting it into the Vinocella ap at home.
Call me crazy, but I can’t bear to taste a wine and not have it documented anywhere! In my new geekdom I need to have it written down so I don’t forget. I have not begun to really start to photograph wine labels, but that is coming. And this morning I downloaded a new iPhone ap that allows me to scan wine barcodes and get info that way. We will see…there are lots of aps out there and like wine, you just have to find one to suit your palette.
When you think of wine country often it is a French or Tuscan image that comes to mind. Preston of Dry Creek takes you back to simple Americana. It’s located in Dry Creek at the far north end of the Sonoma Valley. It’s way out and then out a little further. The entrance takes you down a country road through the vineyards and into the property. When you arrive you wonder into the courtyard between the farmhouse style buildings.
There are picnic tables and porches and cats (careful not to let them in the tasting room). Wine is just one of the things they do here. This is a diversified farm and they grow plenty besides grapes. In the tasting room you can sample Lou’s breads as well as olives and olive oil. Across the courtyard you can visit the farm store and find fresh organic produce, artisanal cheeses, sauerkraut, salami, fruit and nuts. It’s on the honor system, so you weigh the produce and put the money in the jar.
In the tasting room you the atmosphere was like an old time small town general store. In that I mean, that people knew each other and you were welcomed like a new neighbor. We heard stories about Lou, the owner and the bread baker, who is always trying something new with his breads which he also takes to the farmers market in Healdsburg. His big white loaves are popular, but he is always trying to push the new stuff that he likes better.
We tasted the 2010 Madame Preston which is 58% Rousanne, 21% Viognier, 12% Grenache Blanc and 9% Marsanne. It had apple pie spice to it with a warm nose. It was a little dry with a thicker mouth feel. It felt sweet, without being sweet. Really interesting and nice!
We moved on to the 2009 Barbera which is 100% Barbera. It was warm and rich, bold and bright with great acid. It had a very big mouth feel.
The 2009 Zin has 15% Petite Sirah added. It was peppery on the nose with a long finish and bold fruit.
The 2009 L. Preston is a blend of 55% Syrah, 20% Cinsault, 15% Mourvedre, 5% Carignane & 5% Grenache. This Rhone blend has a long finish on the bottom of my tongue and with it’s tannins they expect it to age beautifully.
The last thing we tasted was the Syrah-Sirah. 88% Syrah and 12% Petite Sirah. I loved this wine. I got herbs on the nose and dark fruit. Lovely balance. I am a sucker for a Syrah. You can drink it now (it’s delicious) or age it for 5-10 because of the Petite Sirah in it!
We visited quite a few wineries in Sonoma and while they were all great, this one felt like it transported me. Driving back out the long drive I heaved a heavy sigh, like at the end of a great vacation.
Their website is stunning and will have you spell bound https://www.prestonvineyards.com and when you get to the winery you won’t want to leave. I would say it is a simpler life there, except they are so busy with picking and baking and making wine, that that doesn’t seem the right term. I guess it’s just prioritizing. They have it right and I secretly want to move there and work for them.
Michael and I have been to Temecula several times. Always on my list were some downtown tasting rooms, but somehow, as with all our wine country trips, we don’t make it. We get wrapped up in the vineyards and never find the time for those conveniently located downtown rooms. This was the case on our last trip to Temecula. When we finally made it downtown we had time for lunch and then the drive back to Vegas, so we couldn’t really do another tasting. None the less I had read about Villa di Calabro and was determined to at least stop by. They are located on a corner across from City Hall in Temecula’s old town in a charming house with gardens in front and back. They have two tasting bars, one for their wines and one for their olive oils and balsamic vinegars. Mike Calabro did our tasting, you can find either him or his wife running the tasting room every day. The variety of olive oils and balsamics is amazing! We left with a bottle of lime olive oil (the limes are crushed with the olives not infused into the oil later) and a bottle of the Peach Melba balsamic reduction. This is addictive. I drizzle it on everything. It is one of those things that I find difficult to taste with my eyes open. I close them and savor the flavor. My bottle is empty and they do not have a web site that I can find, so I guess we will be making another Temecula trip soon! I look forward to tasting their wines! When you visit you are welcome to bring a picnic and sit in the garden with a glass of wine and enjoy the fountain. It really is magical. Find them at 41955 Main Street in Temecula. Call ahead to check the tasting room times at (951)695-4525.
I have a new favorite summer salad. Michael came across this recipe online from Food Network(Giada De Laurentiis Recipe) and we made a few adjustments for what we had handy. We had picked up a small watermelon at the farmers market and were looking for something more than just eating it plain. This recipe is quick and adjustable. Cut 2 lbs of watermelon into cubes add 4 oz of cubed (or crumbled) feta, the zest and juice of one lemon 2 tbls of olive oil 1 cup of packed arugula (or watercress, but we used arugula and sunflower sprouts) salt and pepper. Toss and serve immediately. Michael was so so on it but I thought it complimented the grill tuna beautifully. We had a Riesling with dinner, but I think that a Sav blanc would go very nicely with this.
Since I have come to enjoy Riesling so much, I decided to do a little research on it. Riesling is considered by many wine experts to be one of the most noble and unique white grapes in the world. Great Riesling can have a soaring acidity and considerable extract( non soluble substances in wine that add to it’s flavor). The wine is often low in alcohol and light in body. Alcohol levels can be as low as 8 percent. Depending on soil content and wine maker’s touches the high acid, high extract and low alcohol can lead to intensely flavorful wines with transparency, and lightness. A Riesling’s refined structure is complemented by mouth watering delicate flavors of fresh ripe peaches, apricots, and melons, some times with a taste of mineral. Riesling does not seem to like warm climates. Most well know Rieslings are from Germany, the Alsace region of France, northern Austria, and upstate New York, Washington State and California.
Rieslings can be dry or have various levels of sweetness.