If there is one California bias I would admit to, it’s that my home state makes the best wine in the world. Yes, the French make a great product…so do the Italians, Australians, South Americans, and even a few other states…but the grapes of this state just taste so much better to me. If you doubt this, try a glass of J. Phelps Insignia - especially if you can get someone else to pay for it - and let me know.
The wine terrain of California ranges from cool to blisteringly hot, extremely well developed to almost non-existent, from a Disney-like atmosphere to a shack in some guy’s backyard but the vintners here almost all have a lot of passion for their work and put it all on the line and in the bottle.
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Grazing around the wine chatter online and in print, a lot of talk about the next big “thing” in California wine is the Paso Robles area, sitting south of the Monterey wine country and just north of the San Luis Obispo area. Mornings here are cool, with clouds and fog wandering over from the nearby Cayucos coast, turning hot and sunny in the afternoon.
The two main growing areas here are pretty neatly cleaved by the 101 freeway between the cooler west side vineyards and the sun drenched east side wineries.
With Tim away for another session at camp, Letty and I decide to head up here for a few days of wining, dining, hiking, and beaching.
The afternoon is aging fast as we cross the hills from McFarland, through the James Dean Memorial Junction, and then right to our hotel. This time, we’re staying at the Best Western Black Oak, just on the other side of the 101.
The hotel has a few accessible rooms with king or queen sized beds and your choice of roll-in or bathtub bathrooms. We’re here without Tim and the wheelchair, so we opt for a deluxe king size room on the second floor. This room is different from the standard king room mainly because there is a recliner in the room.
It’s a nice room with a comfortable bed and includes such amenities as a refrigerator, coffee maker, microwave, hair dryer, flat-screen TV, wireless or hard-wired Internet, and a nice selection of toiletries.
Outside is a nice pool area with a lot of plants and shady areas, a kids playground, a picnic area with barbecues, and a diner attached to the hotel. Guests can get a $5 coupon for Margie’s Diner at the front desk.
Since we’re celebrating my birthday also, the management thoughtfully left a bottle of champagne and a couple of glasses in the fridge.
In the morning, a drive over to Spring Street takes us to Springside Restaurant. In this converted old house, we sight by a bright window overlooking their flower garden. Breakfast is omelets and pancakes…Letty had spinach and cheese while I had linguisa and cheese. The pancakes were a perfect mix of slightly crunchy outer layer with a fluffy interior, covered with melted butter. It was delectable.
Tummies full, loaded with protein and carbs, we head over to Larry Moore Park. From here, trails wind over to the Salinas River in the shadow of the freeway. Today, the river is more of a creek with most of its water flowing underground. We hike across two dry channels before reaching the water where dozens of small frogs hop around.
We spend a few minutes playing catch and release with the amphibians before moving on. Back on the bank of the channel, we turn to bird watching and catch sight of a thrasher and a flycatcher. A few more trails lead into shady groves of trees with loads of wild anise growing underneath.
A few hundred calories and a couple of miles later, we’re back in the car heading off to the hotel.
Be sure to stay around for part two of our time in Paso Robles coming very soon.
Copyright 2011 – Darryl Musick
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Today is supposed to reach 90 degrees so we'll keep it light with a bottle of wine. This afternoon, we'll be enjoying a 2008 Redwood Vineyards Pinot Noir. Redwood is a Sonoma winery but the grapes are from Lodi and the Sacramento River Delta. Rated 88 points, it has hints of rasberries, cherry, and a nice oak finish. Click on the picture above to see it large and the clarity of this wine.
Not that we've had a lot of Pinot Noir the last year, maybe a half dozen bottles total, but this is the best we've had recently. It's delicious and can be had for around $12. Paul's Wine of the Month Club has it for $6.99 for members.
You wouldn't think so, but there's a hotel in Nashville that is a tourist destination unto itself. Really.
It's so popular that other hotels in the area run shuttles to it just so their guests can go and see it for themselves.
The Gaylord Opryland sits on 40 acres of land. Almost 30 of those are covered by the massive building itself. It is the largest non-casino hotel in America outside of Las Vegas. There are just under 3,000 rooms, a navigable indoor river, three massive atriums, the studios of one of the most powerful radio stations in the country (WSM), 17 restaurants and bars, a golf course, and 600,000 square feet of meeting space.
The Musick family decided to tackle the Gaylord one day and, it might not have quite been "a three hour cruise...," it did turn into a three hour adventure just to make it through the incredible amount of lobby and atrium space here during the frigid Thanksgiving week while getting lost at seemingly every turn.
Did they ever make it back out alive? (SPOILER HINT: I am typing this...)
Watch our last Tennessee video as we hunt for food, hack through jungle, brave the frigid wilds of the Cumberland valley, all while trying to find our way through...it's "The Gaylord Expedition."
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After you've watched that, you may want to browse through the collection of reports and videos that make up our complete, Grand Tennessee Tour, by clicking on the links below...
On the Elvis Trail - Day Trip to Tupelo
Dining and Drinking in Memphis
Memphis - Martin and Elvis
On the Elvis Trail - From End to The End
Welcome to Nashville
Daytrip to Franklin
Nashville - The One With The Music...
Nashville - The Hall of Fame and Studio B
The Cocktail Hour: Beale Street Pub Crawl
...and that's a wrap for the Grand Tennessee Tour. Hope to see you back for our next new adventure soon.
Copyright 2014 - Darryl Musick
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We love to travel and you probably do, too, or otherwise why would you be here? It broadens the mind, breaks down prejudices and bigotry, and promotes learning about other cultures. Besides, it's a lot of fun.
It does take a bit of mechanical energy and carbon releasing to get to our destinations, however, so it's a good idea to incorporate some environmentally friendly habits to help mitigate that along the way.
Fly direct when possible - Take offs are the biggest fuel burners in airplanes. With today's airline schedules, it's harder to secure that nonstop flight but take one if you can. It's also a lot easier on you if you don't have to change planes, especially if you're a wheelchair traveler.
Travel close to home - Great treasures lie within 500 miles of just about everybody. Take some time to enjoy them and burn less fuel than you would on that overseas journey. Plus, when you take your car, you don't have to pack quite as light as you do on a plane...and you don't have to go through the TSA grope to get in the passenger seat.
Recycle those towels - Hang up your shower towel to dry after your shower if it's not too grungy. A lot of hotels these days will only change what you leave on the floor. Save some water and energy.
Live in a destination - Instead of seeing 8 European capitals in 7 days, try living in the South of France for a week or rent an apartment in New York...become a temporary resident. It's what we try to do and makes for our best vacations when we get to know the neighbors and the city.
Go off the beaten track - We've all seen those destinations called paradise that end up being miles of endless hotel towers. Find a nice place where the tourists aren't flocking too and don't contribute to the 'let's build another hotel' mentality.
Use public transportation - Much friendlier on the environment that renting a car or taking a taxi. Plus, you get the added benefit of seeing the locals behaving like locals do and will save a lot of money.
Walk - Many cities and towns are more inviting when you see them on foot.
Eat fewer meals - In addition to helping to eliminate indigestion, it keeps you more energetic and helps your stamina for all that siteseeing you're doing. We eat one good meal in the morning and a nice dinner while skipping lunch. It saves us money, keeps us going, gives us more time, and we don't miss that midday meal at all.
Eat local - Eat the local cuisine when you can. Skip the imported food, made to give you the same option you can get at home, and try what the local farmers make. It's different and delicious.
Turn off your A/C and electronics - Why cool an empty house? Turn off and unplug things like TVs and chargers but leave a radio and some lights on to make the house look like it's inhabited (no need to give up security to be a little more green).
Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
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