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  • Irvine’s Great Outdoors

    Irvine Great Outdoors photo PicmonkeyPastoral scene at Irvine RanchTASTE News Service, August 27, 2015 - Irvine boasts the most open space in all of Orange County with 16,000 acres offering 54 miles of off-street bikeways, along with hiking trails.

    Irvine boasts the most open space in all of Orange County with 16,000 acres offering 54 miles of off-street bikeways, along with hiking and horseback riding trails.

    Much of Irvine's open space is part of the Irvine Ranch which encompasses 50,000 acres and has been named a Natural Landmark by both the U.S. Department of the Interior and State of California. The area, deemed by scientists as one of the world's biodiversity "hot spots," features hundreds of different species of plants and animals, including eagles, badgers, mountain lions, Tecate cypress trees, and many rare species of birds, reptiles and amphibians.

    The Mountains to Sea Trail takes you on 22-mile journey starting in rugged, oak-filled Weir Canyon. The trail then takes you south toward the coast through five different cities and a portion of unincorporated Orange County – virtually guaranteeing that the only constant on this trek is an exhilarating change of scenery and topography.

    Editor’s note:  It’s nice to find open spaces in otherwise populous Southern California. Unless you’re planning on camping out with the wild animals when you visit Orange County, you may want to consult Taste California Travel’s Resource Directory before leaving. In it are links to websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as links to Wineries and sellers of Craft Beer.

  • Step Back in Time: Northern California's Gold Rush town of Columbia

    Columbia Candy Kirtchen PicmonkeyIt's still hand-made at Columbia Candy KirtchenTASTE News Service, August 26, 2015 – Inside Columbia State Park in the heart of Northern California's Yosemite Gold Country business is conducted almost exactly the way it was in the gold rush era.

    The Columbia Candy Kitchen has been the home of handmade confections in Columbia, California since the late 1800's, when a Danish confectioner settled in this gold rush town. A fellow miner, C. Rex Nelson, became the confectioner in the 1930's. After four generations, the Nelson family still produces the finest candies from original recipes, cooked in bright copper kettles, using original molds and cooled on marble tables that are more than 100 years old.

    Candy canes are still made the old-fashioned way at Nelson's Candy Kitchen in Columbia. Visitors can watch through windows of the exhibition kitchen every Saturday and Sunday at noon and 1 p.m. from the end of November through the weekend before Christmas.

    USA Today included Nelson's Columbia Candy Kitchen in their “top 10 sweet shops across America article”, calling the business “the type of place I go way out of my way to visit.”

    Now there are three locations; the original kitchen in Columbia State Park, an additional location in Sonora, both in Tuolumne County, and another one in nearby Murphys, which is in neighboring Calaveras County. The flagship store produces 85% of all of their confections sold.

    About the Area

    Stage Coach in Coldumbia CA PicmonkeyThere's an occasional traffic jam in downtown ColumbiaTuolumne (rhymes with “follow me”) County, home to Yosemite Gold Country, located 133 miles east of San Francisco, is a pristine, scenic expanse reaching into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  

    Gold was discovered in Tuolumne County in 1848, the same year as the find at Sutter's Mill in El Dorado County. These events helped to set off the gold rush of 1849.

    The main highways leading to the picturesque drive from the San Francisco and East Bay Area are Highways 108 and 120 from the west and Highway 49 from the north. The State Highway 120 entrance to Yosemite National Park is considered the “front door” of the park for the San Francisco Greater Bay Area.

    The Stanislaus National Forest, Yosemite National Park, and other surrounding areas provide natural vistas and settings for hiking, water skiing, horseback riding, rafting, camping, snowmobiling, boating, snow skiing, fishing and other outdoor activities. Seven restored historic hotels, four golf courses, numerous and varied dining establishments, historic saloons, five wineries and hard cider distillery, train rides, casino, seven museums, two state historic parks, five live theaters and many bed-and-breakfast inns are among the many other attributes that make the county a year round vacation destination.

    Editor’s Note: If you’re thinking of visiting this part of the old west, consider first visiting Taste California Travel’s Resource Directory. In the Gold Country section you will find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as links to Sierra Foothill Wineries and Craft Beer purveyors.

  • Margrit Mondavi Honored by State Legislature

    Dodd Margrit Mondavi 121 08 24 15 PicmonkeyMargrit Mondavi's daughters Annie Roberts and Phoebe Holbrook joined her at presentation by Assemblymember Bill Dodd and Senator Lois Wolk.TASTE News Service, August 26, 2015 – Margrit Biever Mondavi was honored at the state Capitol on Monday for her contributions to our region and the state of California. She was joined at the Capitol by friends and family, including her daughters Phoebe Holbrook and Annie Roberts. To mark the occasion Assemblymember Bill Dodd and Senator Lois Wolk presented her a resolution on the floor of the state Assembly.

    “I’d like to thank Assemblymember Dodd for this great honor. While I’m a Swiss immigrant, I’m a Californian by choice, and the well-being of my state is always very close to me.” Margrit Mondavi said.

    Margrit is a longtime champion of the arts and local charitable causes. Born and raised in Switzerland, her parents nurtured her passions for art, music, good food, and fine wine. Margrit began working at the Robert Mondavi Winery in 1967. After years of successful collaboration she married the love of her life, Robert Mondavi, in 1980.

    “Margrit has had a singular impact on the history, culture and philanthropic spirit of our region. Her passion has created an indelible legacy, both in Napa Valley and beyond,” said Assemblymember Bill Dodd. “We are very fortunate to have caring, hard-working people like Margrit in our community and our state.”

    Margrit, who celebrated her 90th birthday earlier this month, is credited with helping build Napa Valley into art and wine destination it is today. These efforts started modestly, as a simple Sunday art show over 40 years ago. In 1969 she founded the Summer Music Festival at the winery, which has become a major benefit for the Napa Valley Symphony. She also helped create the Festival of Winter Classical Concert Series with the proceeds benefiting local musical organizations like the Napa Valley Opera.

    As a longtime supporter of arts education, Margrit’s impact can also be felt in Davis, where the Robert & Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts provides a venue for students and the community to learn and explore the arts. In 2011, Margrit was honored as by the Napa Valley Chamber of Commerce “Citizen of the Year” in recognition of her ceaseless support of the arts, philanthropy and the Napa Valley community.

    The 4th Assembly District is represented by Assemblymember Bill Dodd and includes all or portions of Napa, Yolo, Lake, Sonoma, Solano, and Colusa Counties. Lois Wolk represents the 3rd Senate District, which includes the Robert & Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts at the University of California, Davis.

  • Pebble Beach Resort Expands Wine Offerings at Spanish Bay

    Pebble Beach Stave Wine Cellar PicmonkeyA comfortable addition to Inn at Spanish Bay

    TASTE News Service, August 25, 2015 – Pebble Beach Resorts has further expanded its offering for wine aficionados with the introduction of Stave Wine Cellar at Spanish Bay. The facility, which takes its name from a stave (one of the individual strips of wood that form the sides of a wine barrel), invites visitors to indulge in wines by the glass, small bites and a selection of hard-to-find bottles for purchase.

    “When we were designing Stave Wine Cellar, our vision was for it to be a place that reflects the charm and casual character of The Inn at Spanish Bay, but with a contemporary style all its own,” said Wendy Heilmann, Director of Wine and Spirits for Pebble Beach Resorts. “Stave Wine Cellar is all about exploration and the experience of different varietals, and this is a place for anyone and everyone curious about the world of wine. We are excited to share the passion we have for wine with our visitors.”

    Anchored by a double-sided stone fireplace that is the centerpiece to the room, the space is appointed with a cozy leather couch and chairs, dark wood tables, a communal high-top table and a wine bar.

    In addition to more than 30 wines and eight craft beers by the glass, the room features more than 250 wines for purchase by the bottle. To expose visitors to new and unique tastes outside of Monterey County, wines by the glass include regional and international wines that hail from countries like Spain, France, Germany, Italy and Argentina, and California regions including Sonoma, Mendocino County, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz. A menu of cheese and charcuterie plates to complement the varietals is offered and winemaker tastings, wine walks and monthly events are planned.

    Editor’s note: Readers considering a visit to Pebble Beach—or any of the Monterey Peninsula—may want to consult Taste California Travel’s Resource Directory. In the Central Coast section there are links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as links to Monterey and Santa Cruz Wineries and Craft Beer specialists.