Central Coast California- Party and Wine Tasting

The weekend after an East Coast family trip, SMS and I made our way from Silicon Valley to the Central Coast.  First stop?  Great-Uncle Al’s 90th birthday party in Arroyo Grande!

Before we went to the party, we stopped at our favorite taco place in nearby Pismo Beach, Papi’s Grill.  We ordered a few tacos and they were delicious.  The potato taco is always a hit and a few of the meat ones were also very tasty.  Then we checked into the SeaCrest OceanFront Hotel and went to the beach for a bit.

Uncle Al is SMS’ grandfather’s younger brother.  The brothers are both very active and live life to the fullest.  Although there was no formal toast, Uncle Al got up at one point to tell us “terrible news:” “I just went to DMV and they renewed my license…for five more years!”  It was very funny.  Although as I type it, it sounds worrisome- I promise, it was light-hearted!

It was fun to see family members, including SMS’ aunt and uncle whom we don’t see as often.  We had tri-tip for dinner, which was pretty delicious.  Afterwards, we went back to the hotel and watched the sunset.  It was a pretty great day.

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World Cup viewing

The next day, SMS and I went to a local bar to watch the World Cup final.  I am an unabashed follower of sports when it comes to championship games.  The road to the championship?  Not so much but when it’s time for the finals, I’m usually there.  It was a good game and both teams played with gusto. I was rooting for Croatia as the underdog but France winning was also ok.

After the game, we checked out of the hotel and headed for Paso Robles.  We had decided to take a couple days off and go wine-tasting with SMS’ parents.  Since we were early for check-in, we headed out to do what we do best- drink wine!  Our first stop was at Eos winery, where Rip had a complimentary tasting due to reciprocity from another wine club he belongs to.  Our pourer was really nice but the wines were…ok.  We enjoyed talking to her and she gave us a tip that was AWESOME (more later) so it wasn’t a bust but we definitely didn’t buy any of the wines.

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Heart Hill, Niner Winery

Rip wanted to try Niner winery so off we went for a tasting and possibly lunch.  There, by total chance, we ran into his sister and brother-in-law.  We enjoyed a tasting and decided to eat lunch at the on-site restaurant.  It was really good and the outdoor seating even better.  It was a really nice lunch setting and it was very enjoyable.

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Lunch table at Niner

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Although we had gotten the message that our hotel rooms were ready, we decided to keep going with wine tastings (yay!).  Since Justin is an old favorite and a little out of the way from the places we were planning on for the next day, we headed there.  We split wine tastings there and I bought a few bottles.  We ambitiously thought we’d drink them while we ate S’mores later at the Hotel Cheval but that ended up not happening.  So SMS and I still have them.  Darn.

We headed back to town to check in and then go to dinner.  We went to Thomas Hill Organics, which has excellent food and a beautiful indoor/outdoor covered patio.  Afterwards, we went to Hotel Cheval’s famed evening S’mores which ended up driving me crazy.  Let me say, SMS thinks I shouldn’t write about this because it does make me look slightly insane.  He is probably right but I press on, regardless.

So, first, you cannot make your own S’more.  There is a s’more concierge/waiter who takes your S’more order and then makes them for you.   He is taking orders from many people who would like s’mores and yet, he can only make two at a time.  Not the best system in the world but this is not the part where I lost my mind.  What was driving me crazy was his insane level of inefficiency and resulting level of stress.  It’s like the scene in August: Osage County when Abigail Breslin’s character states she doesn’t eat meat because she’s ingesting an animal’s fear.  Well, I was eating a person’s stress while eating a s’more, which is antithetical to the s’more experience.  Also, why could he not move his s’more ingredient wagon next to the fireplace where he was actually making the s’mores rather than running back and forth.  Wwhhhhhhyyyy?!?!? Argh, just let me make my own s’more!  Except I couldn’t.  And the whole experience made me weirdly grouchy because I am crazy.  The end.

So, if you’re still with me rather than reporting my fragile mental status to concerned authorities, we had another day of wine tasting the next day!  After a delicious breakfast, which featured a buffet and, thankfully, not a breakfast s’more waiter, we headed out to Villa San Juliette, which had been recommended the previous day at Eos.

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Villa San Juliette
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Happy couple at Villa San Juliette

It was amazing!  The wines were really good- I ended up becoming a member!  Also, the tasting was $10 and a lot of wines were served.  SMS ordered a pizza because his hunger levels were reaching imminent crisis levels and it looked delicious.  We spoke to the chef for a bit and he really knew his stuff.  I sort of wanted to eat there because everything he described sounded amazing, but we had already made plans for Daou which is another great experience.  But before I move on to Daou, if you are in Paso Robles, I give Villa San Juliette my highest recommendation!

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Daou lunch crowd!
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Daou vineyards

Rip has been a member of Daou for a long time and loves their wines.  It also sits on top of the largest hill around for miles so the view is spectacular.  There is an outside sitting area that is covered so, although it is quite hot, it’s comfortable in the shade as there’s often a gentle breeze as well.  We had a great tasting there and lunch.

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Our lunch was rather late so we decided to head back into town for happy hour rather than try and squeeze in another winery.  We got some so-so ice cream but later, went out for a really nice dinner at La Cosecha.  I ordered the seafood stew that was delicious but I wasn’t quite hungry enough for.  Still, I ate all the good stuff and tried not to waste any food!  Afterwards, SMS and I headed to an outdoor spa at River Oaks Hot Spring & Spa.  He made the reservation and it was really a good idea!  Afterwards, we still had room for a s’more so we hung out by the fire again.  This time, I was more chill.  Not uncoincidentally, there was a different s’more guy.

The next day, it was time to go.  We ate breakfast and then packed up the car.  It was a great mini-vacation and a fun way to celebrate family.

Family Weekend Road Trip

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Scary but delicious in Santa Barbara!

After a busy start to the month, SMS and I decided to continue the trend by taking a road trip to Newport Beach to visit his grandfathers and show off SMS’ new car.  It turned into even more of a family affair because we were also able to visit our newest nephew who is, of course, super cute!!!

On Saturday, we headed to a coffee shop that SMS wanted to show me: Companion Bakeshop in Santa Cruz.  He had been there as a pre-mountain biking meeting spot and thought it was delicious.  It was!  We ordered coffee, toast, a pastry, a baguette and a strawberry pie, which had rave reviews on Yelp.  [Aside: Yes, I use Yelp.  It’s actually pretty helpful.  I don’t get too in the weeds but glancing at the reviews helps get a feel for the place.  It’s even useful for overseas travel.]

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LOOK HOW CUTE HE IS!!!!!!!!
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Ok, at first I thought this picture was cute but now I am transfixed by the sight of my giant hand!

Then we went to Monterey to visit my newest nephew.  Ghah!  He is so cute!  I was glad we could visit because there was definitely a lot going on for my brother’s family.  It was a quick visit but I got to hold a teeny-weeny baby and pose for some pictures.

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It is a little rude of Matteo to pose as if I am letting his head fall off.

Then we were off to Newport Beach.  The drive was quick and painless.  We stopped in Paso Robles at the cutest lunch spot owned by a few really friendly locals.  It’s called Galley Bite and the staff, including the cook/owner, were really nice!  I highly recommend it- delicious food without getting caught up in a fancier downtown “Wine Country” place.  In fact, I stopped typing for a bit so I could write a quick TripAdvisor recommendation- small businesses need support!

Then we arrive in Newport.  We hung out with SMS’ parents and his grandfather that night.  We had a delicious dinner.  It had been awhile since we had seen them so it was a really nice time.  The next morning, we shared breakfast before SMS’ parents took off.  Then we headed over to visit SMS’ other grandfather.  We took pictures with the car and just really had a nice time with family.

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A Neptune Feast!

On Sunday, we headed back and stopped in the Santa Barbara Funk Zone.  It is super cool and although we were thinking of eating at Lark, we passed a food tent with Poseidon incarnate inside.  He was selling oysters, lobster rolls, and uni.  Yes, yes, and yes!  The tent was outside a little winery so we had some wine tasters to go along with our lunch.  It was an excellent stop.

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Near Handle Bar Coffee

We walked to Handle Bar Coffee shop and ordered a nitro coffee (me) and decaf espresso (SMS).  We also inhaled an adffogato.  Seriously, it’s like we hadn’t eaten all day.  After that interlude of pig-a-liciousness, we got back into the car and drove back to Mountain View.  Google maps sent us on a backroad adventure near Gilroy, which was really beautiful in the twilight.  Even though it was a lot of driving, it was an awesome weekend!

Sonoma Birthday Monday

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Small study/dining room at Singlethread.

I woke up and it was my birthday!  Yay, the capstone day of our long weekend!  We were still in the dreamy Singlethread hotel and looking forward to our Japanese breakfast.  Part of what drew me to Singlethread was the incredible amenities and special touches throughout the stay.  Breakfast had been highly praised.  SMS and I wanted a throwback to our ryokan days in Japan so we ordered the Japanese set.

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Exquisite fruit cup!

There was so much food!  Little dishes abounded, including rolled up egg (tomago), several sashimi, rice, fruit, pickled veggies, and yuba.  Yuba is Japanese for “tofu skin,” which sounds way worse I think!

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Pliny the Elder and me, reflected in SMS’ lovestruck eyes 🙂

After breakfast, we hung out on the rooftop and sealed our Northern California-ness by splitting a bottle of Pliny the Elder.  It’s a double/imperial IPA beer made in limited batches with stern admonitions to drink it fresh!  We had heard of people lining up for it so we decided to sample it since it was so easily available to us.  It was quite hoppy with a slight juniper taste.  I would drink it again if I ever saw it again on a beer menu, but I wouldn’t stand in line for hours for it.

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Single thread rooftop on a spectacular day!

After checkout at 11 a.m. (we stayed as long as we could!), we drove to Calistoga to pass some time before our appointment at Medlock-Ames.  Spoiler alert: Medlock-Ames is my new favorite winery!

It was a gorgeous day and a fun day for a drive.  We passed the largest fire damage that we saw on our trip just North of Calistoga.  The fire had burned both sides of the roads, although it looked like the vineyard on one side had been spared.  We grabbed a panini in Calistoga before heading over to the vineyard.

Audra gave us a fantastic tour and I can’t wait to go back.  While the wines are delicious and the tasting pours quite generous, I mainly want to go back so I can pick some vegetables in their organic garden later this Summer!

After wine tasting, we drove to Napa and had dinner in Oxbow Market.  We wanted to stop by the CIA but it was closed.  We headed home, where I had a near panic-moment when I thought I had left my purse at the restaurant.  Fortunately, it was hidden in the car.  Phew!

And that was my birthday weekend!  It was an incredible trip and very special.  No particular reason why this birthday was such a blow-out, but it was so much fun!

Sonoma Sunday

Sunday was my birthday…April Fool’s!  Ok, ok it wasn’t but the whole weekend felt like such a treat!  On Sunday, we woke up and went to Shed for Americano and pastries.  We shared two of the breakfast toasts.  The more impressive one, to me, was the ricotta, marmalade and pistachio duqqa.  It was on a crusty piece of toast- quite delicious.  The other toast was a very grainy, thinner piece of bread with egg salad.

So, our lodging and dinner for Sunday night was a super-extravagant splurge at Singlethread.  As a result, we wanted to check-in exactly at 3 so that we could maximize our time there.  So, we decided to stay local and skip any wine tasting that day.  Instead, we headed to Foothill Regional Park for a hike.  There was a small day-fee parking lot but there is a ton of free street parking.

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We did an approximately 3 mile loop consisting of the Westside, Oakwood, Alta Vista and Three Lakes Trail.  The views were really pretty and it was another gorgeous day.  One of the pourers at Preston said he wasn’t impressed with the views since it essentially just overlooks the town of Windor but I thought it was really pretty!

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Our sunhats are not helping our noses!

On the way down from Alta Vista, I took my third slip of the day.  Despite the fact that we usually like to hike, I had only packed flat-bottom, no-traction sneakers.  Unfortunately, my iPhone was in my hand and I ever-so-gently smashed the face of it into a rock.  Le boo.  It still works but it there are several impressive stellate cracks on the face.

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After our hike, we stopped for lunch at Estrella’s market/taqueria because I saw an outside grilling station.  We both ordered the pollo asada and it was an excellent choice!

SMS and I went back into town and tasted wine at the Meuller tasting room to pass some time before check-in.  The owner’s name is actually Robert Mueller but woman working there did not pick up my lame political reference jokes or maybe she’s bored of hearing it.

I’m putting my Singlethread thoughts in another post because the place deserves it!  We checked in as early as we could (3!).  Our dinner reservations were at 6.  The dinner was about 2 and 1/2 hours.  It was completely fantastic.  I wish I could go back every week!

After dinner, we headed straight to bed.  I probably could have used a little walk to help digest after such a meal but sleeping in the comfy bed was the second-best idea!

Catch-up: Fall 2017

Alright, whoever guessed that I wouldn’t keep up with the European vacation posts gets their money back and more.  Forward this post to seven friends and in 30 days, a check from a very legitimate source will appear.

I kid, I kid.  Although I will finish the posts, I’m afraid I’m going to have to do a linkback similar to the Switzerland trip from last year.  A lot has gone on this Fall and I’ve done myself a disservice in not keeping up with my blog in real time since the main purpose of this thing is to serve as an e-diary for the places I go.

So.  After an amazing September vacation, it was a bit of an adjustment to realize that the vacation we had been planning for almost a year had come and gone.  It was so awesome and we had the best time.  SMS and I had a wonderful time with his family in Italy, which was sandwiched between a road trip encompassing Germany, Lichtenstein and Switzerland before and Slovenia & Germany after.  Things that happened in October and November include…

Continue reading “Catch-up: Fall 2017”