Sunday, April 20, 2008

Central Coast Wine Tour-Day 8 Fond Goodbyes

We knew when we started the tour that this day would come. It was a wonderful week, because of the great fellowship with our friends from the Monaco Northwest group. And as they prepared to leave this morning, we were already missing them. They were heading back to the Northwest to their homes while we were heading to our old hometown of Turlock to visit friends and see our Doctors. After many hugs and tears they were off and Linda & I were alone. It was very sad.

Rather than head over to Turlock right away, we choose to stay an additional day at the campground. We caught up on the wash, cleaned the motorhome, and did some shopping. Not very exciting after the week we had. But normal days for any couple.

Tomorrow, we'll take the short drive over to Turlock.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Central Coast Wine Tour-Day 7 Monterey Drive

On Saturday we car pooled to the Monterey area. We decided to do a driving tour because the weather had turned windy and cold. We had 2-way radios with us so that we could talk to each other between the cars as we toured.

We enjoyed the scenery on the drive down to the ocean. We pasted a lot of artichoke plants, as this area produces about 70% of the artichokes consumed in the US. Finally there was the ocean, more gray than blue and very choppy. We were glad we weren't out fishing this day. We drove through the downtown area just as it was starting to wake up. Not many people were out because of the weather, but there was a group of SCUBA divers getting ready to go for a dive off of the pier. Hopefully the water wasn't to cloudy in the bay. There were many beautiful inns on the ocean for the well heeled vacationers to stay at.

We finally came to the famous 17 mile drive. This is a must do when you're in the area. It costs $9.00 per car and is well worth it. It takes you along the coast, through the forest area, pass the famous golf courses, and of course past the multi-million dollar homes. This is the view as we entered past the toll booth.

We decided to go towards Pebble Beach golf links both to view the course and resort, and also to pick up some refreshments. What used to be called the Del Monte Lodge is now the Pebble Beach Resort. But it's still the historic lodge with the views of the golf course. The current fees for Pebble Beach is $495 and there is very limited availability of tee times. So much for the recession. Here's the view of the 18th green from the lodge:

I still remember when Arnold Palmer was coming home on the last day of the Crosby and he put his drive into the ocean and climbed down onto the rocks to salvage his score.

The lodge and course was pretty accessible to visit. Here we are in the dining room overlooking the 18th hole.

We continued on the 17 mile drive admiring the houses and the views. Here's a picture of the famous lone cypress that has withstood all of the storms and surf.

We left the 17 mile drive at the Carmel exit and headed in the little village of Carmel. It is a shopper's paradise. There are over 90 art galleries, hundreds of shops, and many restaurants. There's also a lot of Bed & Breakfast inns, including the Cypress Inn owned by Doris Day. Because of her influence, most of the inns allow pets to stay in the rooms. In fact while we were walking around the town there were numerous dogs walking their owners. And of course Carmel is famous for it's former mayor, Clint Eastwood.

The first order of business was lunch. We found an interesting Italian restaurant, Cantinetta Luca. Some of us had pasta dishes, and some had paini type sandwiches. The service and bread were very good. We all would recommend this restaurant when you're in the area. The rest of the afternoon was taken up with the women shopping and the men people watching. It was very enjoyable because the weather had cleared up a little bit. We took a different route back to the campground that brought us past the Laguna Seca Raceway and through Salinas.

When we got back to the motorhomes we had one last Happy Hour, this time in Ron & Dona's coach due to the weather. We all agreed that the snacks with the drinks were more than enough for dinner. Phyllis made a special dip that everyone enjoyed. We all a little subdued as we realized our tour was over and we were back on the road tomorrow.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Central Coast Wine Tour-Day 6-Move to Monterey

We started the day with a great breakfast prepared by Dona & Shari. It was their famous omelet in a bag. Ron set up a outdoor burner with a big pot of boiling water. Dona & Shari put out all of the fixins for a great omelet, then everyone put the ingredients they liked into a ziploc bag. Into the water the bags went, 10 minutes later we had great omelets. The ladies also fixed bacon, sausage, and pancakes. What a great way to start a travel day. Thanks ladies.
It's only a 2 hour drive up to San Juan Bautista and our next RV park, Betabel Resort. It was a great location right off Hwy 101, and a short drive to the Monterey area. On the drive up we were amazed at many fields where they were growing all kind of lettuce & vegetables. Oh, and a few vineyards.
After we checked in and got everything setup, we drove to the town of San Juan Bautista to visit the mission.

We took the tour of the old mission. It was established in 1797. It was pretty basic, but they're trying to restore it. It's named after John the Baptist, and the main church is very historic. They are continuing to restore as funds are available. Mass is still conducted every Sunday.

We also walked around the historic town and the restored plaza which is a California State Park. It included a barn with interesting historic carriages including a horse drawn Hearst.

We went back to the motorhomes for Happy Hour, but we were to tired to cook. So we asked at the resort for a good Mexican Restaurant and they recommended Jardines de San Juan.
It was started in 1977 by Manual & Alice Santana. Manual was a gardener, artist, and a great cook. Many of his original recipes are still used today. It was to cold to sit outside but they had a very nice garden room with views of the patio. We all ordered different entrees, but they were brought at the same time hot and delicious. It was a great way to end the day.
Tomorrow we're off to Monterey and the 17 mile drive.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Central Coast Wine Tour-Day 5-Paso Wineries

On Thursday we toured some more wineries, this time in the Paso Robles area. Our first winery was the Eberle Winery. John had setup a tour of the facilities because they have caves to age their wines that are unique.

After some initial tasting, which is always a great way to start the day, our tour guide took us down the stairs into the caves. The caves were drilled into the hillside and then reinforced with concrete. There are many corridors which lead to other corridors, with barrels lining each side of the wall.
The caves are very narrow so that all of the movement of the barrels is by hand. Since the caves are located under the fermentation area, they are all filled using gravity which has less impact on the wine.

There are 16,000 sq. ft. of caves under the winery. The winery and tasting room were built with recycled redwood to create a beautiful setting in the midst of the vineyards. Here we are relaxing after the tour and enjoying the ambiance of the tasting room.
Eberle is known for great red wines. They make a very good Zinfandel, a full bodied Cabernet, and a unique Rhone blend called Cotes-du-Robles. We enjoyed all of the wine we tasted. And many bottles of wine were purchased.

After leaving Eberle, John took outlying country roads. Our first stop was for an olive/olive oil tasting facility. There were many different and unique products to taste including salad dressings, olive dips, and many different types of olive oil.

Our next winery was Adelaida Cellars. This was just a tasting event and we enjoyed the different wines. John was a little disappointed in the quality of the white wines, but the setting on top of the mountain was great and the tasting room is done is the Craftsman Style which John loves.

Down the road was a little piece of France in California. The Tablas Creek Winery is owned by the famous Perrins family who own the famous Chateau du Beaucastel estate in France. They brought their own grape cuttings over to plant in their vineyards which added new varieties to the area. In fact, they started a nursery and are selling their cuttings.

Most of their signature wines are blends in the french style. Their hallmark red wine is Espirit du Beaucastel, a richly dense wine based on the Mourvedre grape. They also produce some unique varietal wines. John bought a bottle of Tannat wine which was rich and ripe with plum overtones. It was a truly different wine tasting experience.
Our last winery was the Justin Vineyards & Winery. Justin is more than just a winery, it's also an inn and restaurant. John knew that Linda would like this winery because of the gardens and the winery dogs.

We tasted some fantastic wines including their signature red wine blend, Isosceles. It's named after the triangle and produced from three different grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. This wine is consistently rated in the Wine Spectator's Top 100 Wine List.
However, the hit of the tasting for our friends was the port like wine, Obtuse. It's made in the traditional style, but made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. We were lucky to be able to buy it as it was almost sold out.
Here's a view of the vineyards surrounding the winery and inn.

For more pictures of the day click on this link:
After we left Justin, we stopped a the grocery store and bought some steaks which we proceeded to BBQ back at the motorhomes. It was another great Happy Hour, with great conversations and fellowship.
Tomorrow we move North again to the Monterey area.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Central Coast Wine Tour-Day 4-Freelance

This is a day we set aside for everyone to do whatever they wanted to do. That's we called it a freelance day.

Joe & Phyllis have relatives in the area that they planned to visit, and Joe hoped to rest to get over his cold. Allen & Shari, and Ron & Dona decided to visit Hearst San Simeon Castle. Linda thought that was a good idea, but dense John didn't pickup on it as he thought it would be fun to explore the coast looking for wildlife. John paid for that mistake all day.

If you have never visited Hearst Castle, it's a must see. It is just amazing. It's huge, ornate, loaded with antiques, and everything money can buy. In fact, when William Hearst died, the family couldn't afford to keep it so they gave it to the state. There's four different tours ranging from the general overview, to expanded tours that visit seldom scene areas, to a garden tour. If you're going to visit during the summer, make sure you get your tickets early so you won't be disappointed. But if you're within 200 miles of San Simeon, go to the castle.

Linda & John visited the beach city of Cambria. It's an artist colony with lots of good restaurants, shops, and galleries. We had a great lunch at a little deli, bought a new candle for the motorhome, and a new flag to display on our camp site.

After we left Cambria, we proceeded North along Hwy. 1. John had heard of an area North of the castle that supported a large colony of sea lions. The views up the coast were outstanding, like this one of the lighthouse.

At last we found the sea lions. They were stretched out along about 2 miles of coves among the rocks and on the sand. There were some docents in the area to answer questions. The sea lions stop in this area to rest up before they continue up to the Alaskan waters for the summer. The strange fact is that they don't eat during this time. Some of the sea lions were year old pups on their first trip North. In the fall they return to this area and further South to have their new pups. Click here to find out more about the sea lions:
To see more pictures of the coast, click here:

After everyone got back to the motorhomes John & Linda treated everyone to grilled hamburgers. Everyone brought some delicious sides and we feasted again. We all decided to go on a diet when this tour is over!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Central Coast Wine Tour-Day 3-We Move North

On Tuesday we started our move North to the Wine Country RV Park in Paso Robles. On the way North we are going to stop in Santa Maria to visit our new friends, Steve & Jayne Newman. John & Linda were their mentors at the Monaco Rally in Lancaster, and when they found out we were going to be on the Central Coast they invited us to stop for lunch. Here's a picture of Steve as we drove up. Unfortunately John didn't get a picture of Jayne.

Steve & Jayne own 400 acres that are planted in strawberries. The season in Santa Maria is April to August. They have leased out the land to Dole so that they can concentrate on their other business, Mid Coast Cooling. These are huge refrigerated warehouses that are used to cool down the strawberries when they come from the field, and then hold them for shipping. Steve stated that they can hold the strawberries for a whole week without damaging the berries. Here's a look at the fields surrounding the warehouses.

We watched some of the pickers and they were moving fast, but placing the berries carefully into the boxes. They get paid $1.50 a flat for picking, which can translate into a lot money quickly.

After the tour, Steve led us over to their beautiful house where Jayne had prepared a fantastic Mexican lunch. There was homemade carnitas, soft tacos, crisp tacos, a fantastic homemade dip and chips, and additional sides. We all ate way too much, but we had room for desert. Guess what we had? Strawberry shortcake of course, with cake, bananas, strawberries, ice cream, and whipped cream. Needless to say we waddled back to the motorhomes. Steve & Jayne, thanks so much for an interesting tour and the best lunch we had on our whole trip!

The rest of the trip was anticlimactic. We got to the park, setup, and of course had a Happy Hour. We were all so full from lunch that we just had potluck appetizers for dinner. Tomorrow is a freelance day to allow everyone to do something on their own.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Central Coast Wine Tour-Day 2-Wineries

On Monday we spent the day visiting wineries in the Santa Barbara area. Our first stop was the Sanford Winery, which was one of the highlights of the day. We were originally scheduled for a tasting, but after our arrival the sales manager gave us a personal tour! The tour started in the vineyard where we learned all about the cultivation of the Pinot Noir grape which is famous in the Santa Rita Hills area we were exploring. Then we moved on to the production facilities which included a very beautiful barrel aging barn which was built from old growth fir recycled from a lumber mill in WA.

They had a unique fermentation area which was outside, but under cover. All of the tanks are open top, with chilling jackets to control the temperature. All of the racking and movement of wine is by gravity flow.

We then tasted some delicious Pinot Noirs. It was a great start to a wonderful day.

Our next stop was the Bridlewood Winery. It is further inland and therefore has a warmer climate which favors Syrah. The style of the winery hearkens to it's earlier role as a rehabilitation hospital for Thoroughbred horses. We tasted some different Syrahs and a nice Viognier. We were disappointed in the reception we received from the tasting hosts, but the tasting room and grounds were beautiful.

Our next stop was the Beckmen Winery. This is a small winery off the beaten path, down a dirt road. They also produce a Syrah, but also have some nice whites, a great Cabernet Sauvignon, and a lot of different variations of Grenache. The vines are originally from the Rhone area of France. Another nice feature of the winery is a pretty pond with picnic tables around. We used the area for a nice picnic and a break from tasting all of the wine.
After the lunch break we made a quick stop at the Roblar Winery. It has a timber frame tasting room that includes a restaurant, deli and cooking school. Unfortunately, only the tasting room is open on Mondays. The wines here included a very good Semillon and a limited production Zinfandel.

Next up was the Firestone Vineyards. Yes, this is the same Firestone from the famous tire company. It was one of the first wineries built in the area, in 1972, and it was started by the father-son team of Leonard & Brooks Firestone. In September of 2007 the family sold the winery to Bill Foley, another area pioneer and owner of Foley Vineyards. Bill promises to keep the Firestone tradition intact and he adds his personal touch to the wines.

One of the reasons we chose this winery is the excellent tour they offer. We started in the vineyards, moved on to the bottling line, one of the few in the area, and then into the barrel room. It was interesting to contrast the smaller Sanford Winery to the larger Firestone Vineyards. It added a lot of information to compare and contrast. As you can tell from the picture, we had a really good time.

The wines at Firestone were interesting, good values, and they are generally available in many states. Their Cabernet Franc was the highlight of the tasting for John.

Our last stop was one of nostalgia. It was the Fess Parker Winery. Fess is the Davy Crockett of the wine industry. And you can buy a coonskin cap for your wine bottle!

Fess Parker and his family are a major factor in the Santa Barbara area, with many ranches, the hotel, a restaurant, and the winery. The winery features a large number of wines, including many different estate Pinot Noirs and Syrahs. By far their number one selling wine, though, is Frontier Red, and NV blend. It was interesting to view all of the pictures of the famous proprietor.

Click here to see more of the pictures of the wineries:

We completed the day with a light dinner at the famous Pea Soup Andersens Restaurant. Most of us had the soup, and it was as good as John remembered it. The restaurant started in Buellton in 1924, and it's been serving the soup ever since. It fun to find a piece of history as we travel.

It was a long day, but everyone enjoyed it and learned a lot.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Central Coast Wine Tour-Day 1-Santa Barbara

Everyone got to the Flying Flags RV Resort on Saturday, 4-12. It's a nice park located in Buellton just north of Santa Barbara. We were parked next to each other which made it very convenient. They had a nice area with tables and chairs next to the pool that we used for dinner that night. It was great to see everyone again and catch up on all of the activities.

The next day, Sunday, we planned a day in Santa Barbara, which is known as America's Rivera. We started with brunch at the Fess Parker Doubletree Resort. It's located across from the beach with a beautiful view. We ate on the patio and the food was very good. The only downer was one of our members, Joe, was under the weather and stayed back at the coach to rest. Here's a picture of the group minus Joe:

That's Ron & Dona Davis on the left, with John & Linda next, then Joe's wife Phyllis partially hidden, then Shari & Allen Kainu on the right. Sorry that the picture's not that good, but it nice to put faces with every ones name(except of Phyllis & Joe). There's a better picture coming later.

After brunch we went for a walk on the sidewalk in front of the beach where there was an Art & Craft show in progress. Here's a view of the Doubletree looking back from the wharf.

As you can tell, the weather was fantastic. In fact it was darn hot, with a high of 90. While we were walking we spotted a new prototype motorhome from Monaco. It looks like they're going for the lower end market with this model. But it does get your attention.

The ladies had a good time shopping the different vendors at the craft sale. Then we walked out on the wharf to see the views of the marina and beach area. By this time it started to get real warm, so we took the trolley back to the cars and did a tour of all the beautiful homes in the area. Of course nothing in the area is under a million dollars.

We took the inland route back to the coaches past Cachuma Lake. We stopped at Solvang for more shopping. Solvang is a small town that has a Danish theme. In fact, the ladies stayed in Solvang while the men headed back to the coaches to walk the dogs and wet their whistles. We ended the day with a light dinner and good fellowship.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Back in SoCal

We moved back to Southern California to visit our family and prepare for our Central Coast Wine Tour. We are meeting our friends on 4/12 at Flying Flags RV Resort in Buellton, CA. Our friends are 3 couples from the Monaco Northwest group that we meant at rallies last summer. Two of the couples spent the winter in AZ, and one spent the winter in Indio, CA. Of course, being active RVers, they moved around the southern areas exploring different areas. The last place we saw them was in Quartzite, AZ, in January.

The first few days we were back we stayed with Linda's Mom, Lois, in her driveway. We also saw John's mother, Linda's sister Donna, and our niece Valerie and her little girl Iris. There's a lot of excitement in the air as Michael & Kathie are expecting their first boy in April, and Rick & Valerie are expecting their second girl in May.

On Sunday we moved close to Santa Barbara to complete the plans for the tour and get the agenda finished. We stay at a Thousand Trails park, Rancho Oso. It's a beautiful park, but it's located over a high steep pass, down a forest service road, and finally a one way road into the park. We were worried when we got there because it was windy and the daily high was in the 50s. At the end of the week it started warming up, and the forecast is for nice weather for the week.

John visited some wineries and setup the tours and tastings. Linda made reservations and planned meals. It's the first time we've done this type of tour, so we want it to go well. We'll give you a daily update after the tour's over to let you know what we planned.

So everyone gets here tomorrow. Wish us luck on this new adventure.