A friend of ours is traveling to California later this week and staying in the area we visited last month. She was asking for recommendations of places to see and do. Naturally I'm heading to the central coast region of California for this week's travel Tuesday post.
On the Saturday of the SlowBowl Shannon had arranged wine tastings at the Lompoc Wine Ghetto. The Wine Ghetto is a unique collection of wineries, tasting rooms, and production facilities located off Pacific Coast Highway 1 and 12th Street. The Wine Ghetto has about 20 boutique tasting rooms to choose from all arranged in an industrial mall type setting. It is pretty cool - you just park your car and go from tasting room to tasting room.
A Filipino food truck arrived at noon so you could order some delicious treats to fill your stomach as you tasted all of that wonderful wine.
After about 4 hours we went back to the house and napped before the Saturday night party.
Mom was over for dinner last night and she reminded me that I haven't really said much about the last weekend we spent in California. Our friend Shannon organizes an 'anti-superbowl party called the SlowBowl in an area of California wine country. This year's get together was in Santa Barbara Counbty in the town of Lompoc.
Shannon rented a huge house where people got together for food and drink on Friday and Saturday. She also organized activities on Friday and Saturday. This year there were more than 70 people from around North America.
People usually all stay in the same hotel. We try to NOT do this because we like a bit of space. I rented a house on the hills overlooking Lompoc and our friend Sandi joined us.
The ranch house was at the end of a long and winding road. it came complete with a set of goats.
We are always trying to find unique and fun spots to explore when we travel in California. We had read about this winery and sculpture garden and decided to visit it on Wednesday before the expected rain arrived. This full winery has many varietals of wine, pistachios grown on the property you can taste and tons of crazy metal sculptures, what more could you want?
World renowned sculptor John Jagger was commissioned by owner Dr. Warren Frankel for a five year period, and his works can be viewed while strolling through the gardens. These magnificent sculptures in bronze and granite are one man’s life work and are sure to inspire any visitor. From the beautiful 10 foot bronze “Mermaid” rising from the fountain, to the 20,000 Lb. granite “Puma” and the 16 ft. tall bronze “Dancing Horse”, Jagger’s passion for the underwater world, cats – from domestic to wild, and horses are evident. Upon entering the tasting room you are greeted by Jagger’s miniature series of sculptures displayed throughout. Mr. Jagger left this world on June 6, 2013 and with his passing, local sculptor Dale Evers has taken over the reins as the sculptor in residence, and will continue to push the creative envelope.
They also have an area which shows you what the different varietals of wine look like, with a row of each type planted and named. I found this fascinating as I had never compared them like this before.
Not to be outdone by the sculptures themselves, the tasting room is really unique and beautiful as well. The wrought iron chandeliers hang down in a inviting fashion, the soda machine in the back has been completely redone, and the chairs even have a unique look.
The winery also serves their own, grown on the property pistachios right there in the tasting room as well and you can eat them in-between tastes of wine.
This all comes together in an unique and interesting wine country experience.
Tuesday was a beautiful morning - so beautiful that I sat on the front porch and listened to the birds as I drank my morning coffee. One of the nicest things about this house is that it is out in the country - you really have an opportunity to unwind when you are here.
We didn't get going until close to 11. Ahhh, the joys of vacation.
Our first stop was one of Paul's favourite wineries Eberle. A pioneer of Paso Robles, Gary Eberle founded Eberle Winery more than 35 years ago. Eberle is one of the highest award-winning wineries in the U.S. and ranks in the top 10 of gold medal award-winning wineries in the country.
Today, Eberle Winery has reached a case production of 30,000. The Eberle name, which means “wild boar” in German, has earned a reputation as one of the highest award-winning wineries in the United States. In 2012, Eberle received acclaim from Wine Spectator, earning 93 points for its 2010 Steinbeck Vineyard Syrah; and last year, Eberle was voted Winery of the Year at the 2013 Central Coast Wine Competition. Nearly four decades of wine awards are on display in the Eberle tasting room. Once they taste the wines, visitors understand why Gary Eberle has been called the “Godfather of the Paso Robles wine appellation.”
Eberle Winery is a welcoming place. Guests arriving at the tasting room are first greeted by a famous bronze Porcellino (wild boar) statue. It is the 93rd replica of he original bronze Porcellino cast by Tacca in 1620, and now found in Florence, Italy. Italians consider it good luck to rub the boar’s nose and toss a coin in the water below. Visitors to Eberle are fortunate as well; they can taste the wines that have won so many high accolades and tour the caves for free.
Eberle’s 17,000 square feet of underground caves provide a captivating environment for exclusive par ties. The intimate VIP Room inside the caves seats ten for private wine tours, lunch, dinner, or other events. In addition, the 100-seat Wild Boar Room serves as a romantic and beautiful backdrop for the winery’s monthly Guest Chef Dinner Series (featuring renowned chefs from around the world), as well as other private events. A comfortable picnic deck overlooking the estate vineyard can also be reserved for weddings or groups of up to 100.
Leaving Eberle we headed back into town for lunch at the Thai restaurant.
The afternoon was spent wandering around the Paso square, shopping a bit, and resting on the park benches, when we felt like watching the world wander by. . . the perfect way to spend a vacation afternoon IMHO.
We wanted to visit the Tuesday afternoon farmer's market - although after having done so we should have spent our time doing something else. LOL It was VERY off season and our only purchase was a baguette . . . but it was a very yummy baguette. :-)
As we headed back to the house we decided to visit Brecon winery. We think it is the one located on the other side of the hill behind the house. Brecon Estate opened their doors four years ago and has amassed over 40 Golds/Double Golds and Platinum medals, not including four 90+ scores from eRobertParker.com. These stellar reviews are no surprise from Welsh Winemaker Damian Grindley, who as a long track record of producing international, award-winning wines. Current varietal releases include 2013 - Cabernet Franc, “Conviction” (White Rhone Blend), Petit Verdot, Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and newly released 2013 Meritage and a 2014 Viognier/Grenache Blanc blend. The many microclimates of the Central Coast region allow for this wide range of varietals and each wine is a true representation of the soil and climate of its vineyard site. Brecon Estate produces these varietals with fruit grown in the larger Central Coast appellation as well as the appellations of Paso Robles and Monterey.
Production at Brecon Estate is sold exclusively on site through their tasting room. Each wine is fermented in small batches after being selected from their own vineyards as well other high-end parcels on the Central Coast. Brecon’s vineyards are home to some of the first plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc vines in the original Adelaida district of Paso Robles. The roots of the Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards are old enough to have reached deep into the ground and as a result, the vines have been dry-farmed for the past four years. It is amongst these vineyards that Brecon’s newly designed, contemporary winery sits along the stunning Vineyard Drive.
The tasting bar attendant asked us if we wanted to taste inside or outside. It was 70 + degrees so we decided to enjoy the sunshine as much as possible. The outside area was lovely - this would be a great spot for a group tasting.
It was a wonderful experience. We sipped, the winery animals paid a visit, another couple joined us and we chatted. The attendant kept pouring more wines. He brought snacks. It was so lovely that we did not want to leave!
As they say, all good things must come to an end. We packed our purchases away in the car and made the short drive back to the house.
After a nap we sat outside and watched the sun set.
Dinner was tempura shrimp, salad,and tortellini . . . and lost of wine. :-)
Monday seemed to be a sleepy day in Carmel . . . actually I have the sense that every day is a sleepy day in the off season. After breakfast in the hotel we wandered the town a bit - everything except for the market and a few restaurants was shut up tight.
Given that the shops weren't looking for our dollars we packed up and headed south.
Our original plan was to have a scenic drive down the coastal highway but the combination of fires last summer and the rains this spring have produced a series of landslides that have the highway blocked. Plan B involved heading over the hills east of Carmel and linking up with the highway through the Central Valley. It was a dull drive through the flat fields, made a bit more exciting by me forgetting to get gas and the struggle to find an open gas station in the wee communities we passed.
Finally we arrived in Paso at 11:30. Early to settle into our rental but just in time for lunch. We parked downtown. Paul wanted to go to his favourite Mexican restaurant . . . which was closed on Mondays. Instead we went to a new spot for us and had a BIG beer and a BIG plate of Mexican food - carnitas for me.
Once we were finished, we made our way to the rental. The house is a restored 1890 schoolhouse along the rambling country roads west of the city. We stayed here in 2014 and fell in love. We were curious to see if everything was as wonderful as it was previously - it was!
After settling in we headed to the nearest ship to gather some supplies.
It helps that the nearest shop is a Trader Joes. :-)
We also stopped at a butcher which sells local, naturally raised meats for some dinner supplies. Our normal routine is to eat lunches while we are out and about and have a nice dinner at the house.
Given how gorgeous the kitchen is how could I NOT cook here??????
On the way back we popped into a winery located around the corner form our house. We had visited Jada not long after it opened years ago and were happy to return to see what was happening. Jada has gained a reputation for both Rhône and Bordeaux-style wines. Wine critics have assigned scores as high as 95 points to the limited production, stand-alone varietals and blends.
Winemaker, David Galzignato, crafts the wine from the estate vineyards surrounding the tasting room and winery. Following 100% biodynamic practices in all of the vineyard blocks, the winery is in the second year of a six year certification program. Biodynamic farming often uses organic farming techniques that many of the great, first-grown wineries in France follow to produce their wine. Working with biodynamic consultant Philippe Armenier, the team at Jada is striving to improve upon the fruit that is already producing high quality wine.
We decided to do a wine and cheese pairing which proved to be a fabulous decision! It is amazing how the two bring out so much in one another . . . a sip of wine, a nibble of cheese, more wine, more cheese. MMMMM Happy Jerry and Paul.
When we got back to the house and the groceries were out away it was formally nap time. I love slow vacations with plenty of time for naps.
Later we had some charcuterie and vino at the big dinging table - not sure we ate here at all when we were last here - it was summer then so our of our meals were outside.
Dinner was steak (unfortunately the grill ran out of gas mid-grill so I had to finish it off on the stove), gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce, and salad.
Later we sat outside, sipping wine, and looked up at the stars. . . a great finish to the day.
Saturday was a bit of a write off - we arrived in Carmel EXHAUSTED so essentially we just napped, grabbed some dinner, and slept some more!
We woke up on Sunday determined to do better.
Paul decided on a restaurant for breakfast - Katy's Place - which has been a Carmel institution for more than 40 years. The food was awesome. The only drawback was that the tables were so close to one another you were practically sitting in the laps of the people next to you. I hate restaurants like that - happily we were done before it got to be too busy.
My corned beef hash was beyond amazing - made with house cured brisket.
After breakfast we walked back to the hotel.
We hopped in the car and drove to the beach. It was a beautiful day. We enjoyed walking along the shore where people were out jogging, dogs playing, and everyone generally having a grand time next to the surf. I couldn't help be amazed at the locals - often wearing winter coats and woolly hats - back home we'd be in shorts and a t-shirt in weather like this!
Later we made our way to the Carmel Mission. A service was taking place so there was to charge to enter. We wandered around and when the service was over were able to tour the Basilica. The Basilica of San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission (Carmel Mission) was founded by Fr. Junipero Serra in 1770, making it the second of the 21 California missions. Though San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission was founded in Monterey, it was quickly decided that Carmel-by-the-Sea was a more appropriate location for its purpose. The fledgling establishment was moved to the Rio Road site in 1771 and the Carmel mission was dedicated in 1797. Fr. Serra was buried within its grounds. San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission is considered the most authentically restored Franciscan mission.
We were meeting our friends Wendy and Rob for lunch at Rocky Coast restaurant. We decided to head down the coast, stopping at all of the scenic look outs - a nice, relaxing drive. Highway 1 (the coastal highway) was still closed due to landslides so the traffic was far lighter than normal. The weather was amazing so amazing that it was not long before we were regretting our lack of hats and sunscreen!
We were early for the reservation when we got to the restaurant. We decided to wander around the rocks - the restaurant is aptly named.
Wendy and Rob are regulars at the restaurant. The hostess had a special table set aside for our party. It was a beautiful spot to hang our, enjoy some great food, and get caught up. It is hard to believe that it has been four years since we have seen one another in person!
After a relaxing lunch we went back to Wendy and Rob's 'weekend house' for dessert. Located high on the hills overlooking Rocky Point, we drove up a precarious, single lane road with no guardrails to get there. Paul was a bit nervous that I'd miss a turn and go hurtling into space!
The house was built by Rob's parents in the 70s and Rob inherited it after his mother died. Rob's father was in the industry so the house was beautifully constructed. It was clearly designed to get the maximum benefit from the amazing view.
We sat on the patio for dessert - Wendy's famous cheesecake.
It was one of those fabulous afternoon's where you completely lost track of time. Eventually we were watching the sun set over the Pacific.
After goodbye hugs we headed back down the hill (even more precarious in the dark. LOL) and made our way to Carmel and a good night's sleep.
We left the snow behind and headed to California for a long weekend of fun. We shoppedm toured wineries, tasted olive oil, met up with good friends, and ate some wonderful food. I can't wait for slow bowl 2009.