Winter Ideas

Summer is ending. Leaves are beginning to turn color or have already fallen…depending where you live. The pool is a little too cool. Days can still be warm here in northern California.

Maybe it’s time to think about a winter getaway.

If so…now is the time to book that airfare and decide on those accommodations.

Yes, now is a good time to get serious about booking your airfare. Especially if it is an international trip you’re planning. I’ve found that international airfare starts rising about 90 days out. Domestic fares are supposedly at their best 54 days out, unless you find a fantastic fare.

Also, where do you want to stay? Is it an all-inclusive, a vacation rental, hotel, or resort? Are you flexible or do you need a specific time and location? Look at Internet specials. Sometimes you can get lucky and find deals at the last minute as resorts like to have all their facilities booked, but don’t count on that.

If you’re traveling internationally, be sure to check your passport. Make sure it doesn’t expire in the next six months. If it’s close to expiring, apply for a renewal immediately. Right now, the passport offices tell me there could be a three month wait. After all, it will be January in two months!

Do you have a house sitter or pet sitter? If so, check their availability. You wouldn’t want to find out at the last minute they are already booked with someone else.

Do your plans include a special type of getaway where you need a guide? If you’re thinking of diving in the Caribbean, exploring Antarctica, checking out all the Christmas markets in Germany, or hiking in the Andes…regardless of the time of year, you’ll need some type of guide. Start looking now at who offers what packages and what appeals to you and your budget.

If you’re planning weekend getaways instead of a longer stay, start looking at where you want to go and what’s going on that weekend. Maybe there are festivals, wine harvest events, concerts, sporting events, or performances which would be fun to attend. Accommodations might already be booking or booked. Check the calendar for events in the area where you want to go.

Regardless of when or where you are thinking of going…a little advance planning now will help you have a wonderful time on your winter getaway. Let me know where you went…

 

The Old Sugar Mill

Mention wine tasting in northern California, and the obvious destinations come to mind. Napa, Sonoma, Lodi, Livermore Valley, Mendocino…just to name a few. Ask about Clarksburg and you might get some puzzling looks. Others realize the area as a great place to grow Chenin Blanc grapes. But, they don’t really know much else. And, they might not realize it’s also a great place to taste wines.

Locals knew the area before grapes were the main crop.

Sugar beets used to be harvested on the same area where rows and rows of grapes now sit. The Old Sugar Mill was constructed in 1934 by the Amalgamated Sugar Company, and was an operating sugar mill until 1993. At its peak, they processed 900,000 tons of sugar beets into 100,000,000 pounds of sugar.

That’s a whole lot of sweet.

Fast forward to today. The beautifully restored, red brick buildings sit surrounded by perfect rows of grapes…not fields of sugar beets. It took some work. Transformation from the Old Sugar Mill and its processing of sugar beets to what we see today began in 2000. With new owners and investment partners, the property has been transformed into a showplace wine facility.

It’s like the transition to wine tasting was a natural progression.

Currently, the Clarksburg vineyard appellation encompasses almost 60,000 acres in a 16-mile long, eight-mile wide area. This appellation is home to over a dozen wineries, 13 of which call the Old Sugar Mill home…Clarksburg Wine Company, Heringer Family Estates and Vineyard, Todd Taylor, Three Wine Company, Carvalho Family Winery, Elevation Ten, Rendez-Vous Winery, Due Vigne Di Famiglia, Draconis by Matt Powell, Perry Creek Winery, Bump City, Batia Vineyards, and Seka Hills Winery.

Wine varietals from all over northern California, some of which include Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Barbera, Tempranillo, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, and Sangiovese. In fact, there are ovver 35 different varietals grown here. Wineries from other parts of California buy grapes from here to bottle wines under their own labels.

Tasting the wines…I can see why.

The climate for the Clarksburg AVA creates a moderately long growing season with plenty of airflow and light. Located on the Sacramento River, this maritime influence of the Delta offers cool evenings, warm days, limited summer fog, and a significantly less probability of spring frost. Less rainfall is a good thing as well. Not having rain during critical growing stages, like late spring, depletes the ground water faster.

Good? You bet. The vines become stressed sooner and the flavors increase. Try it for yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Napa Valley

Perhaps you’ve read about or watched the news regarding the devastating fires in northern California over the past weeks.

So, what’s going on with wineries? Are they open, should you go, what do you need to know?

Yesterday, we toured though the areas of Napa Valley, the town of Napa, the town of St. Helena, and just north of there. We have not seen Sonoma, Santa Rosa, Glen Ellen, or other parts of the fire damaged areas.

Damage is real in the Napa area. Much of the fire damage is in the hills, on the hillsides, and above the valley floor…especially in the southern area of the Silverado Trail. Signorello Winery is completely gone and many others have damage, some extensive, all important. There is other damage to homes and areas we didn’t see.

But, Napa and St. Helena wineries and businesses are open for business. In fact, we were told they welcome visitors.

Some things we discovered:

Smoke still lingers in many areas. If you’re going to be outside for any length of time, wear a mask. But, it’s not solid smoke. You can still see the vineyards and hills. Also, if you have trouble breathing, a mask is a good idea. We didn’t have any problems breathing.

When the wind shifts, the smoke clears in one area and drifts to another area.

The hills are blackened in many areas. You can see where the fires burned the hillsides and stopped a few feet or less from a vineyard.

For the most part, the vines are not burned. There are some areas where they are singed, but not destroyed. Most of the harvesting of grapes was finished, with some crushing finished as well. We were told it’s a ‘wait and see’ about this year’s vintage.

Dozens of signs, if not more, thanking fire fighters and first responders line the streets and highways. Every business, every home, every corner has a sign. The work of the fire fighters and first responders is not taken lightly. It is all appreciated.

There are thousands of folks working to get these fires under control.

Restaurants and cafes offer free meals to fire fighters, first responders, and those who have lost their homes. In some cases, those restaurants deliver to fire camps or individuals. Everyone is pitching in.

Wineries and restaurants are open. If you plan to go, you’ll probably have your choice of appointment to taste wine and your choice of seating in most restaurants.

We had a fantastic tasting at Stony Hill Winery north of St. Helena. Sitting outside, enjoying the view was not much different than other times we’ve been there. Off in the distance wisps of smoke could be seen, but nothing that bothered us or hindered our tasting.

Lunch at the Goose & Gander in St. Helena was terrific, if not a little quiet. They thanked us for coming in and appreciated our business.

Tasting wine at The Terraces, along the Silverado Trail, we saw smoke in the distance. Business must go on. These people are all working hard to reestablish their livelihood.

Everyone is still vigilant. Fire is not something to ignore, even when it appears to be out. The winds can change, sparks can fly. But, Napa Valley is surviving this and wanting to get back on the road to recovery.

Bottom Line: Take a trip to Napa Valley and see for yourself.

 

One Time in Monterey

One time in Monterey

Regardless of whether you stay at the Asilomar Conference Center facility or not, you need to take some time to explore Asilomar State Beach.

Asilomar State Beach is a narrow, one-mile strip of sandy beach and rocky coves, with a coastal walking trail. Meander along 24 acres of restored sand dune ecosystem and discover over 450,000 plants, representing 25 species. Located within Asilomar Marine Reserve, all marine resources, animals, rocks, and shells are protected. No collecting or fishing is allowed.

Monterey cypress, Monterey pine, and coast live oak trees make up the surrounding forest. Living here are 90 species of birds…so get out your birding list and find some new ones.

Asilomar’s rich history dates back to its origins as a YWCA Leadership Camp built in 1913. Known as Monterey Peninsula’s “Refuge by the Sea,” the state park is located on 107 acres of state beach and conference grounds, within the quaint and scenic town of Pacific Grove. Asilomar is celebrated for its restored dune ecosystem and architectural significance, with cozy, historic structures designed by renowned architect Julia Morgan between 1913 and 1928.

After exploring the dunes, dust the sand off your feet and hit the road.Thirteen of Morgan’s original structures remain today and constitute her largest collection of Arts & Crafts style architecture in one location. Thirty years later, John Carl Warnecke (best known for John F. Kennedy’s gravesite memorial), created seven more complexes that make up the conference grounds. In 1987, the original Morgan buildings were listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the Warnecke buildings will likely follow. While updates have been made throughout the decades, the tranquility and harmony found at Asilomar have been preserved.

It’s worth the time to take the 17-Mile Drive through Pebble Beach. One of the most famous scenic drives in the world winds you through the impressive Del Monte Forest and along the mesmerizing coastline. Homes, mansions, golf courses, horses, and again that fantastic Pacific Ocean coast…it doesn’t get much better.

Back toward Monterey, stop at the Fishwife Seafood Restaurant in Pacific Grove for dinner. Local seafood served with a Caribbean accent…it’s all good.

Then, back to the beach to watch the sun set…the perfect way to end One Time in Monterey.