Sunday, October 30, 2016

The recent Simply Italian Great Wines Tour proved to be a day long event at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
Included were seminars, guided tastings and in the afternoon a walk around tasting with seventy Italian wineries participating.
We leaned long ago that at such large tastings it is best to center on some special regions to learn more about the wines and geography.
Increasingly popular in the Prosecco,  Italian sparkling wine.  We visited the Zago Agricola booth and tasted three Prosecco, all from Friuli Venezia Giulia region which lies in the far northeast corner of Italy, close to the Adriatic sea.
We were interested in the wines of Tuscany principally since we had been there in the past.  Here we tasted the wines of Tenuta Tondaia  including Montecusso Rosso once again.
Besides individual wineries many consortiiums were present as well including Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico and Consorzio Vini di Romagna.
Sangiovese has always been one of my favorite wines so I met with Paolo Orioli of Tenuta Amalia who showed four Romagna  Sangiovese Superiore and Riserva D.O.C. wines.
The Simply Italian event, which was also held in New York, pointed to the fact that the U.S. is Italy's largest export market and that sales have continued to grow in recent years thanks to increased quality and value.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

An event sponsored by the Greater Palm Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau allowed us to learn about the many activities available in the Coachella Valley.
The Bureau represents all the communities including Palm Springs, Desert Hot Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, Indian Wells, La Quinta and Indio.
Explaining some of the Desert wonders and beauty were Joyce Kiehl, director of communications, as well as Greg Purdy, public affairs manager, for the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway..
Joyce Kiehl pointed to the 2017 Visitors Guide which can now be found online at which provides most up to date  information on events, dining, shopping, attractions and accommodations.
It also offers a calendar of special events that will take place in 2017.  Theme is "Welcome to the Oasis".
The evening presentation for media  took place at the new, showplace Paley Restaurant located in the heart of Hollywood at the Columbia Center.
Paley shows a large bar lounge and both inside and patio dining with  an exciting California contemporary cuisine.
Paley is located at 6115 Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles.  Telephone 323 544-9430.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

 During our stay at Inn of Newport Ranch we did some exploring around Fort Bragg including a visit to the Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden.  The Gardens include 47 acres with trails that reach to the nearby Pacific Ocean.   Thanks to its rugged, rocky shore line ocean side trails are especially dramatic and scenic here.
With names like Mediterranean and Big Leaf Rhododendrons, Heritage Rose, Heaths and Heather, the Gardens present an idyllic scene of beauty and serenity.
We thought it a wonderful place to sit awhile and enjoy the scene on what was a beautiful Fall afternoon, the air fresh after a recent rain.
Another day we took Highway 128 to the Anderson Valley and visited Lula Cellars.  Here we met Winemaker Jeff Hansen and discovered that he had spent some years in the San Fernando Valley, where we live.  While attending college in the Valley he worked at one of the most prestigious wine stores and so we had a good deal to talk about.
Lula was founded in 2010 after Jeff had spent many years in vineyards and winemaking, mostly in the Napa Valley.
The Anderson Valley Appellation is best known for its Pinot Noir and Jeff had made some that have captured Gold Medals at competitions.  He also produces two white wines, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewurztraniner.
Lula has 22 acres of vineyards and most of the wines are estate grown.
Lula Cellars had a comfortable  Tasting Room located at 2800 Guntley Road just off Highway 128.  It is pet friendly and open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.  Adjacent is a large area for picnic, weddings and group gatherings.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Our ten mile ATV trip on  trails of Inn of Newport Ranch was both a scenic and learning experience.  Guide Evan Manley first took us along the coast  to show us where the early loggers loaded the harvested timber aboard schooners.  With no harbor the ships hovered near shore to a cable supported  chute where the logs were loaded.
In the late 1800 the Fort Bragg area experienced a boom with the demand for timber in San Francisco and elsewhere, especially the prized redwood.  The result was communities that prospered for a time and now have disappeared completely.
Leaving the coast our route took us to the timbered mountains where the logging took place.  Roads and trails made by the loggers now are the track we followed in the ATV.   These timbered slopes had been harvested for timber twice in the last 150 years but now, left undisturbed, show new growth and new groves of redwood trees.
Evan is very knowledgeable as  he explained how redwood trees regenerate themselves through their root system and even from fallen trees.
We also visited an old cemetery where many of the pioneers of the region are buried.  Also sites that are now just pasture where bustling communities once stood.
The mountains behind the Inn rise to 1000 feet and on our tour offered wonderful views of long stretches of the wild coast line and ocean.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Our first look at the Inn at Newport Ranch proved that we had made a wonderful choice as headquarters for an exploration of California's scenic north coast area.
The Inn sits in solitary splendor on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean on one side and lofty timbered mountains on the other.
We were met at the Lodge entrance by Manager Evan Manly and what followed was a quick tour of a wonderful carefully crafted wooden building with an interior artfully designed with a large lounge, a library, and dining room with massive fireplace.  Windows all around to view the surrounding countryside and ocean.
Then handed the key to our room which turned out to be a suite in a separate building. Our suite, named 'The Grove' included an entry cloak room, then a large lounge with fireplace, artful furniture that matched the surroundings, two bedrooms, each with bath, a fully equipped kitchen, an intimate dining area adjacent to the lounge and  an outdoor deck dining area as well.
Historically the Ranch is located in an area that in the logging boom of the 1800s included two towns and an ocean point that was used to load ships with the harvested timber.  But that is all gone now leaving the Inn situated on 2000 acres of pasture for its herd of 250 cows as well as miles of timber in the mountains that dominate the interior.
The Inn at Newport Ranch is new, open just one year, but already attracting national attention.  It is located just a few miles north of Fort Bragg on North Highway One.
The rooms and suites have all amenities including television and Wi Fi.  For us it prove the perfect place to explore Fort Bragg and the surrounding redwood groves.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

During our weekend stay at Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel our day at the Monterey Aquarium proved to be a special delight.    We alternated between looking at exhibits like  the three story living Kelp Forest to wandering on the open decks that front on the waters of Monterey Bay.  It was an overcast day  and the whole expanse of the Bay from Monterey to Santa Cruz offered a marvelous view with the added drama of darkening clouds.
The exhibit of  'Jellies: Living Art'  is a place to watch with fascination the grace of these creatures.  This exhibit has become so popular that the Aquarium  extended it.   Viewing these most unusual life forms is a special treat.
The Aquarium  is a great place for children with the walk through wave crash and hands on exhibits in the family activity room.  There is also the Ocean's Edge galleries that not only feature the ocean life of Monterey Bay but also the human connection and the need to preserve this unique world for future generations.  Here on view are varieties of sharks, rays and schooling fishes including the famed Monterey sardine which for a time made Monterey the nation's top fishing port.  Then overfishing changed Cannery Row  into  the tourist attraction it is today.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium is world famous and is acclaimed as the best in the U.S.  Since opening in 1984 millions of visitors have enjoyed its exhibitions and educational message. It is located on famed Cannery Row in Monterey, California's most historic city. And indeed the original building for the Aquarium was once a cannery.
The Aquarium is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and in summer and major holiday periods from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closed on Christmas Day.  For more information call 831 648-4888 or on online at  The Aquarium website is full of interesting information, not only on the events being held but also on the studies and research that is continually being done.
We returned to the Hyatt Regency for lunch  to try its oven toasted pizza in the lounge bar area overlooking the golf course.
Then spent some time on Cannery Row and  revisited Carmel Valley resisting, for at least one day, stops at winery tasting rooms.

Friday, October 21, 2016

We were off for another discovery trip to Northern California with our first objective a weekend in Monterey.  The Monterey Peninsula is a most popular destination with legendary places like Carmel and Cannery Row.
Our weekend destination was the Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa.
One evening we attended a winemaker dinner which Executive Chef Steve Johnson preparing an exciting menu paired with Twisted Roots wines.
Owners Josh and Julie Ruiz were there to tell us about the Twisted Roots wines.  Josh explained that he is a Lodi farmer who developed a love for wines and so, nine years ago, started making wines from vineyards on the family land.
Chef Johnson started us with Tempura Miataki mushrooms with a soy-mirin dipping sauce. Our wine a 2015 Twisted Roots Chardonnay.
Next seared diver scallops,carrot pudding, Chanterelle mushrooms and shaved asparagus.  The wine a 2012 Petite Sirah.
Next was dry aged Niman Ranch New New York steak, duck fat cooked heirloom potatoes, and demi glace roasted blue lake beans. Perfectly matched was Twisted Roots 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon.
Attending the dinner as hosts were Steve McNally, general manager, and David Lambert, director of sales and marketing of the Hyatt Regency Hotel
Our dessert was salted caramel, pot de creme, caramelized cocoa nibs and sea salt.
 The Hyatt Regency in Monterey includes an 18 hole adjacent golf course and many of the  500 rooms overlook the course.  The lounge, dining room,patio and sports bar  are all situated to overlook the course as well..
 The Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa is located at 1 Old Golf Course Road in Monterey with valet parking available. Telephone 831 372-1234.

Monday, October 3, 2016

One evening last week we attended  the 2016 Visit California Media Reception which  presented us with the opportunity to experience the seventy story U S Bank building.  Since its completion it now dominates the Los Angeles sky line and most exciting is the top floor OUE Skyspace.
This is where the Media Reception took place.  Also on this top floor,  almost 1,000 feet above the streets below, is an outside observation deck as well as the Skyslide.  This is located outside the building and offers, those brave enough,  the opportunity to take the all glass slide from the 70th to the 69th floor.
We contented ourselves with staying inside the all glass enclosed observation deck to enjoy California wines and craft beers while talking to some of the forty plus destination partners.  These represented cities and regions throughout California.
We also watched the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean and then brilliant redden clouds that continued to glow long after.   The view here extends 360 degrees  from the San Gabriel Mountains to the sea and much of the city is stretched out below ones feet.  The look straight down to tiny cars is most impressive.
Skyspace LA is located at 635 W 5th Street in Los Angeles.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Our attendance at the presentation of the Mexican city of Queretaro, which took place in downtown Los Angeles, proved to be an educational experience on many subjects.  For us perhaps most interesting was our introduction to Mexico's second most important wine producing region.
Today every wine region in the world has its very own wine road and yes there is one in the State of Queretaro as well.  Here, since the region is also famous for its cheeses, the route takes the name of the Queretaro Art, Cheese and Wine Route, in Spanish "Tour Ruta Del Queso Y Vino".
Two neighboring cities are included in this tour, Tequisquiapan and Bernal.  These wineries and vineyards are billed as the mostly southerly in the Northern Hemisphere.  And with the adjacent cheese production the region combines both.
 The Don Chente Bar and Grill, where it all took place, was perfect for tasting some of the wines produced there.  We instantly recognized the name Freixenet, which has Finca Sala Vive brand there,  but the other wineries were all new to us.  The colorful label on Bodegas De Cote attracted the eye and the wines we tasted justified our attention.  Its own vineyards produce varietals like Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Tempanillo and Malbec.  We found the Tempanillo to be dark, bold and an excellent glass of wine. 
White wines are not neglected  either.  We tasted a Vina Dona Dolores Viognier that was very true to the varietal.  A cabernet sauvignon from Deloiy Catguete was flavorful and tannins well controlled
The tourist attractions of the State of Queretaro are varied with World Heritage sites like the Franciscan Missions in the Sierra Gorda and the Inland Royal Road.  The region has many small picturesque towns and villages like Jalpan, Cadereyta, San Sebastian Bernal and Tequisquiapan.  Besides the Queretaro wines we tasted, the event also showed some of the foods of the region which were served that evening along with the music of three guitars.
Our hosts included Jorge Gemboa Patron, director in Los Angeles for The Mexico Tourist Board and Adolfo Barron Romero, director for Tourism in Queretano.
The event took place at Don Chente Bar, Grill and lounge located at 1248 South Figueroa Street in Los Angeles.  Telephone 213 814-4865, web.