What's great in wine, beer, fine dining,
places to stay, & places to visit
in California State

PBFW 2015 Lyon MentOr PicmonkeyTeam USA Coach Gavin Kaysen, Chef Skylar Stover, Chef Philip Tessier, David A. Bernahl II, Thomas Keller, Daniel Bouloud, Jérôme Bocuse and Executive Director Young Yun at the 2015 Bocuse d'Or in Lyon, France. photo: BKB FoundationTASTE News Service March 6, 2015 - Pebble Beach Food & Wine,  now in its 8th year, brings some of the world’s most revered culinary talent to the Monterey Peninsula. This year’s edition, held April 9-12, will feature more than 100 celebrity chefs and 250 wineries, who will come together to showcase a weekend of dinners and chef collaborations, tastings and cooking demonstrations.

Coastal Luxury Management, organizer of the annual festival, has announced the inaugural partnership with the ment’or BKB Foundation (formerly Bocuse d’Or Foundation), founded in 2008 by Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud and Jérôme Bocuse. The organization is devoted to inspiring culinary excellence in young professionals and preserving the traditions and quality of cuisine. Among ment’or’s many unique initiatives is the organization’s responsibility for selecting, training, and sending Team USA to compete in Bocuse d’Or, the biennial event in Lyon, France that took place January 27-28, 2015.  Team USA made history by placing second and receiving the Bocuse d’Argent award for the first time ever.  Considered one of the most rigorous culinary competitions in the world, 24 countries competed on the world stage during this year’s Bocuse d’Or competition.

“Team USA’s podium placement at the 2015 Bocuse d’Or competition is an extraordinary example of where the United States stands in a global conversation about cuisine and culture,” said Chef Thomas Keller, president of ment’or. “We’re looking forward to continue representing the great strides that American chefs are making at this years’ Pebble Beach Food & Wine festival.”

“Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival is continuously striving to bring attention to the level of excellence in our culinary community,” commented David Bernahl of Coastal Luxury Management. “We couldn’t be more thrilled to raise much needed funds for this great culinary program on the heels of our first ever win with Team USA!”

"It's an honor to be selected to participate in the 8th annual Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival," said, Young Yun, Executive Director of ment’or.  "We are always looking for different ways to introduce our Foundation to a wider audience and this unique partnership allows us to showcase our mission for inspiring culinary excellence and promoting the high caliber of cuisine and talent we have in America."

At Pebble Beach Food & Wine, ment’or will present Team USA for an evening of intimate dinners and culinary demonstrations as inspired by the prestigious biennial competition. Team USA’s Chef Philip Tessier of the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group and his Commis Skylar Stover of The French Laundry in Yountville, CA will design a menu inspired by the “Culinary Olympics” at The Imperial Dinner, the pinnacle of the four-day festival, curating a menu that will highlight what helped the Team win the silver prize at the Bocuse d’Or competition. 

Other Pebble Beach Food & Wine event highlights include “An Evening at Maude” as celebrated chef and culinary personality Curtis Stone transports the flavors, aromas, and essence of his first-ever Los Angeles restaurant to Pebble Beach; join Master Sommeliers and winemakers for unprecedented wine tastings with Chateau Margaux, Domaine Faiveley, Kosta Browne, and Penfolds Grange.  Meat purists will enjoy a whole-animal “Meatopia” marquee event co-produced by Esquire Magazine’s Josh Ozersky while others will get ready for cooking demonstrations with the likes of Iron Chef Jose Garces, Dana Cowin, or Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto as he pays homage to the quintessential comfort food--Ramen 101. Additionally, the Lexus Grand Tasting, an annual favorite, will host one of the greatest lineups of wine and culinary talent since its inception in 2008.

Further information about details of Pebble Beach Food & Wine can be accessed at http://www.pbfw.com/.

Gary Eberle photo Picmonkey

TASTE News Service March 5, 2015 – The California State Fair has announced that Gary Eberle,  founder of Eberle Winery, is being honored with the 2015 Wine Lifetime Achievement Award. Each year the California State Fair Winery Advisory Task Force puts forth recommendations and selects an honoree through an open meeting process. Gary Eberle joins the ranks of industry legends Robert Mondavi, Jerry Lohr, Mike Grgich, and Dr. Richard Peterson in receiving this prestigious honor.

“I’m honored to receive this recognition. I pursued wine enology because it fascinated me – the vineyard aspect of growing grapes and the technical art of making age-worthy wines. It’s taken me on a journey that I’m still enjoying today,” said Eberle.

Gary Eberle, who has worked for 42 years building the acclaim of the Paso Robles region through his brand, is affectionately known as the “Godfather” of the Paso Robles wine industry. He is the chief promoter for the winery and works with customers, distributors and restaurateurs to tout the virtues of the Paso Robles American Viticulture Area (AVA), which he help co-found in 1983.

Gary began his academic studies at Penn State College where he played football and earned a Bachelor’s of Science in biology. He then attended Louisiana State University before heading west to California. Gary received a degree in enology from U.C. Davis in 1971. “I chose Paso Robles based on Dr. Olmo’s recommendation that Paso Robles was the place to grow world-class Cabernet Sauvignon,” said Eberle, “And I think we’ve achieved that.”

Once in Paso Robles, the former Nittany Lion launched his career as partner and winemaker with Estrella River Winery & Vineyards. In the late 70s, he decided to pursue his own project and acquired nearly 64 acres just down the road from Estrella River Winery. Shortly thereafter, Gary released his first Eberle wine, the 1979 Cabernet Sauvignon and opened the winery and tasting room in 1983.

His contributions to the California wine trade are significant. Eberle Winery’s Cabernet Sauvignon was the first wine to place the Paso Robles AVA designation on its label. Gary Eberle was also the first to plant Syrah on the Central Coast and make a 100 percent Syrah varietal wine in the United States. These milestones have proven to be important, as both Syrah and Paso Robles have become significant forces in California’s wine industry.

The State Fair awards, which also include Winery of the Year, Vineyard of the Year and Agriculturalist of the Year, will be formally awarded at the State Fair Gala on June 25 at Cal Expo in Sacramento. The California State Fair takes place July 10 – 26, 2015 in Sacramento.


Editor’s note: If you’re planning to visit Eberle of any of the wineries in the Paso Robles AVA, first check out the Central Coast listings in Taste California Travel’s Resource Directory. There you will find links to websites of all the Wineries, as well as links to hundreds of nearby Lodging and Dining options.

paso TTBsubavas 100914B Picmonkey

TASTE News Service October 10, 2014 - The United States Department of the Treasury has approved the establishment of 11 new viticultural areas (AVAs) within the greater Paso Robles AVA. The announcement concludes a seven-year process by a group of Paso Robles vintners and winegrape growers who created a unified approach to develop a comprehensive master plan for the greater Paso Robles American Viticultural Area .

These new AVAs are based on meso-climactic, geological, and historical information which highlight each individual district to be unique as a winegrape growing area. The 11 AVAs are as follows: Adelaida District, Creston District, El Pomar District, Paso Robles Estrella District, Paso Robles Geneseo District, Paso Robles Highlands District, Paso Robles Willow Creek District, San Juan Creek, San Miguel District, Santa Margarita Ranch, and the Templeton Gap District.

“These new AVAs will be a powerful tool for wineries to explain why certain grapes are particularly well suited to certain parts of the appellation, and why some wines show the characteristics they do while other wines, from the same or similar grapes, show differently,” said Jason Haas, general manager of Tablas Creek Vineyard. “Ultimately, the new AVAs will allow these newly created sub-regions to develop identities for themselves with a clarity impossible in a single large AVA.”

Jason and Robert Haas of Tablas Creek PicmonkeyJason and Robert Haas AVA labeling provides information to consumers and trade about what is in the bottle, helping them make a better informed buying decision based on expectations of the region. Thanks to a conjunctive labeling law spearheaded by the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance in 2007, the Paso Robles AVA retains top billing on a wine label with the individual districts serving as a way to fine-tune location and potential character of wines. While Paso Robles wineries are not required to use the sub-region on the label, when they do, Paso Robles will be printed with equal or more significance.

"Our AVA is an incredibly diverse region that has taken its rightful place on the world wine stage,” said Steve Lohr, chairman and CEO of J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, and former chairman of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance. “These sub appellations will allow growers and vintners to tell their stories more clearly, which in turn will give consumers and the trade a much greater understanding of Paso’s diversity and complexity. Prior to this, Paso Robles was the largest non-county California AVA not currently subdivided. It is also an area with more diversity of rainfall, soils and climate than almost any other comparably sized region. We have been a great believer in this initiative since the beginning, and are proud that it has been accomplished in a way that will strengthen the Paso Robles brand with conjunctive labeling."

Editor's note: If you're thinking of a visit to this beautiful wine region on California's Central Coast, we suggest you check out Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. There you will find links to Winery  websites, as well as links to websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options. There's even a section of listings for craft Beer purveyors in the region.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014 19:52

Barnstorming the Back Country

Mark Curtsinger and Range Rover PicmonkeyMark will guide us through the woods

by Dan Clarke

We meet Mark Curtsinger in front of a restaurant on Dolores Street in Carmel. He will be driving us to our Land Rover Experience, where he will also be our instructor.

His first request is that we sign papers releasing his company from liability if something bad happens to us. I've just finished a nice lunch in the sunny courtyard of Le St. Tropez and am feeling quite relaxed . . . right up to this moment at least. Driving on cliffside roads in California and on the Amalfi Coast has caused me some trepidation in the past. The release is just a formality, Mark assures us and, as it turns out, we'll pursuing an inland course.

The press trip agenda has offered our group a choice this afternoon. We can visit a spa or opt for something called the Land Rover Experience. Just two of us intrepid souls take the latter route. Janet Fullwood, a freelance travel writer, will be joining me.

Mark drives us over to the Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley, which is home to the Land Rover facility. We're in a 2014 Range Rover Sport, which will be the vehicle we use for our introduction to off-roading. It has a 340 horsepower six-cylinder engine, which is sufficient to propel it from 0 to 60 in just under seven seconds—very quick for a vehicle this size. But as we get into the hilly roads just south of the Lodge, it's apparent that speed isn't the game here.

We're at one of four venues in North America that host the Land Rover Experience. In Quebec, there is the Fairmont Le Château Montebello. In Manchester Village, Vermont, it's the Equinox Resort and in Asheville, North Carolina the site is the Biltmore Estate. The Quail Lodge is well known for its restaurant and golf course and the atmosphere is a sort of laid-back elegance. Right next to this gentility is some rugged back country.

We climb into the hills just south of the Quail Lodge parking lot and after driving about 10 minutes Mark finds a fairly level place to stop. We get out and familiarize ourselves with our vehicle from the outside while he explains our pending adventure. There are some similarities between downhill skiing and what we're about to do, he explains. I wonder if taking a sports car quickly down a winding road is also similar. Apparently it is. Mark has made analogies that his tyros understand. But knowing a little theory doesn't assure success, I think as I slide behind the wheel for my part of the driving experience.

Range Rover coming down hill PicmonkeySome of our wheels were touching the ground

Our instructor explains each section of the course as we approach it. The roads, if you can call them that, are dirt. They wind. They go up and down. The surfaces are extremely uneven. There are dips and holes. Little rocks and big rocks. And trees. I'm no longer worried about plunging off a cliff and into the Pacific, but I am thinking that I don't want to damage this expensive carriage. Mark has the poise of a good leader or a good teacher. His instructions come across as suggestions, rather than commands. He obviously knows what he's talking about and doesn't seem at all stressed. At least a little of his confidence rubs off on me.

The Range Rover offers tools both mechanical and electronic to help us deal with the terrain. Braking and accelerating are aided by multiple options of our automatic transmission. A screen on our dashboard gives graphic information about things like whether all our wheels are in contact with the ground. This seems like wonderful technology that must make operating a vehicle in these circumstances much easier—for someone who's had more time to familiarize himself with it. I'm experiencing some sensory overload and decide to rely on a combination of natural intuition and Mark's good advice.

Range Rover dash display PicmonkeyDash display gives visual clues

While we never attain much speed, power is important. There are sections of our path filled with potential hazards. Once we decide on the line we want to take to deal with them, the judicious application of power and braking seems to be the key. There are no four-wheel drifts to get quickly through a corner on pavement, but even going very slowly our big and solid vehicle will slide a bit on these roads that seem to slant in all directions.

I've been reasonably successful in negotiating some of these obstacles without getting us stuck or damaging the Range Rover, so Mark poses another challenge. A recent group of drivers has participated in a team-building exercise which left residual slalom gates. Competing teams had points taken away when they failed to negotiate these gates flawlessly. Can I drive between the poles without touching them? Well, the road here slopes gently downward and it doesn't look too tough. However, as we get closer the gate seems only a few inches wider than we are, so it's going to be tight. I get the front end past these two poles unscathed, but we touch one of them before we've passed entirely though. How did that happen? Since it doesn't seem likely that the back half of the Range Rover is wider than its front, I figure that our road slanted in ways I hadn't realized and that we drifted just a bit on the loose road surface as we were passing though the gate. A few more of these slalom gates appear before I relinquish the the reins to my colleague, Janet. I get through one or two ok, but not all of them. No formal scorekeeping is taking place, but it's obvious this exercise could get intense in a competition.

Range Rover drivers view PicmonkeyDon't clip that tree while focusing on the gate

We haven't seen all of the property, Mark tells us as we are concluding our visit. Today the weather has been pleasant and we've had a fairly dry track. On another occasion it might be different. Rain could mean slippery conditions necessitating our choosing different routes through these hills.

All my prior experiences in four wheel drive vehicles were a while ago and none was in a Land Rover. Most of the time back roads meant back aches. Not so today, as our ride has been cushy on both paved and very unpaved roads. I've had fun and I've learned lessons about driving in rugged conditions that would apply to any vehicle.

Editor's note: The Land Rover Experience at Quail Lodge accommodates both individual participants and corporate groups. Further information can be found at www.quaillodge.com. This is the third in a series of articles on Carmel. If you're planning a visit, you should check out the Monterey County listings in Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. There you will find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as links to the sites of wineries and craft beer specialists in the area.   

Monday, 21 April 2014 11:05

Look All Around in Carmel

Carmel courtyard Look Up Look Down Picmonkey"Look up. Look down. Look all around."

by Dan Clarke

Think you know a lot about Carmel? After a walk with Gael Gallagher, you'll know a whole lot more.

A transplanted Bostonian, she has been leading tours on the Monterey Peninsula since 1984. Tuesdays through Saturdays she meets with visitors in the courtyard of the Pine Inn before leading them on a two-hour tour of Carmel-by-the-Sea. It's beautiful here. Anybody can see that. But even a frequent visitor will appreciate the area so much more after getting the stories and back stories from Gallagher. Part historical, part architectural, her tour also finds time to discuss the artists and celebrities drawn to the area over the years. The tour is a good stretch of the legs, too.

Ocean Avenue is Carmel's main street. It is avoided when my small group of travel writers accompanies Gael Gallagher on a typical walk through town. Nothing wrong with Ocean, but visitors will find that on their own, she explains. She'll take us to places we might not have seen otherwise. “Look up. Look down. Look all around you,” she tells us. Sometimes she has a story about some little thing we mightn't have noticed. Sometimes not. Maybe there is no story associated with some of what we're seeing, but we writers are having a richer experience after we take our blinders off.

Carmel tile PicmonkeyTile worthy of Spain or Portugal

We find that the Pine Inn, from whose courtyard we embark, was once called the Carmelo Hotel. In itself, this fact is not so surprising, as hotels often change names with different ownerships. However, the Carmelo was located at the corner of Ocean and the street that is now Junipero. Partially dismantled, the main building was rolled on pine logs down the dirt road that was Ocean Ave in 1906 to the corner of Monte Verde. There it became a part of the Pine Inn, several blocks to the west of its original location.

We learn that early residents opted to have all mail deliveries go to the Post Office, rather than to individual addresses. In fact, there really are no street addresses, at least not with traditional numbers. A business or residence, for instance, might be identified as being “on Seventh between Dolores and Lincoln,” sometimes with additional help such as “third house from the corner.” It's a literate little city, too. Over 3,000 of the 3,722 residents possess a library card. They read, but they also visit with their neighbors at the library, too. This sounds much more appealing than meeting your friends at a Starbuck's in the mall (There are no Starbucks or other chains outlets here, by the way, though there are plenty of spots to get a cup of coffee).

There are many art galleries and our tour guide tells that community really does have a history of being a community of artists. There were—and still are—painters, sculptors and writers, too. Jack London and John Steinbeck are just a couple in that latter category who didn't just visit, but lived in the area—at least for a while. We're led into Dawson Cole Fine Art, where we're encouraged to touch the Richard MacDonald sculptures, even spin them around on their swivel bases to appreciate all their angles. Later we visit Lulu's Silk Art Gallery, where we see an exquisite piece of silk embroidered on both sides—apparently, a couple of years work for two artists in China.

Carmel old couple in bronze PicmonkeyAn older couple we met in the park

Currently Clint Eastwood might be the most notable celebrity and Gallagher fills us in on his term as Carmel's Mayor, then walks us by the courtyard of the Hog's Breath Inn, the San Carlos Street restaurant and bar he used to own. Doris Day lives in retirement in nearby Carmel Valley, but is a part owner of the Cypress Inn at Lincoln and Seventh. Though Vincent van Gogh did not live in Carmel, a connection resides here. A table purported to be the one on which he took his meals when painting in Provence is in Casanova Restaurant at Mission and Fifth, one of the many businesses Gallagher introduces us to.

There is so much to see and so many stories to hear. There are times we pause for reflection and maybe an anecdote or two from our leader, but for the most part we are on the go. In two hours time Gael Gallagher relates an amazing amount of Carmel lore. She doesn't lack for energy and generally is in the lead as our little troupe steps briskly from location to location. But it's not just her physical vibrancy that impresses. She has the passion of someone who loves her community and enjoys telling us everything about it. Details about her tours can be found at www.CarmelWalks.com.

Editor's note: This is the second in our April series of Carmel articles. A Visit to Carmel appeared earlier in the month and several other pieces will follow. If you're thinking of visiting the area, you may want to first check out the Monterey County listings in the Central Coast section of Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. There you will find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as links to websites of area wineries and craft beer specialists.

Monday, 07 April 2014 02:33

A Visit to Carmel


Cottage in  Carmel PicmonkeyOriginal cottages are well maintainedby Dan Clarke


Never before have I written the word charming and won't now. A visit to Roget's Thesaurus may now be necessary, however, because Carmel is special.

Situated on the Monterey Peninsula, about 120 miles south of San Francisco, Carmel is actually more than one place. Carmel-by-the-Sea, the original settlement developed by James Devendorf and Frank Powers lies just west of Highway One. Carmel Valley is accessed from just a bit south on Highway One. It, too, is beautiful, but in a different way.

Like avocados, foie gras and cigars, Carmel may be a good thing that's an acquired taste. With no flashing lights and no obvious bells and whistles, it might be too subtle for some. I liked it when visiting with my parents long ago. Maybe I was a prodigy. Years later when my Rugby teams were playing in the Monterey Invitational Tournament on the nearby Polo Fields at Pebble Beach, I'd be sure the weekend included visits to Carmel for tea and scones at the Tuck Box on Dolores, a beer or two at a pub called the Red Lion and maybe a glass of wine at La Playa or the Pine Inn. These were genteel offsets to the rigorous competition of the weekend.

More recently I've covered the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, where some of the world's most gorgeous automobiles are displayed one Sunday each August on the 18th fairway of that storied golf course. Afterward, I would swing over to Carmel for dinner where cars good enough to be entered in lesser competitions might be parked right on the streets next to my own more modest transportation.

When a recent invitation came to join a few fellow journalists in further investigation of Carmel, I didn't hesitate. There are more stories from that visit than can be told in just one article. Today begins a series of them.

fountain at The Vagabonds Inn Picmonkey Courtyard fountain at Vagabond's House

The vibe in Carmel is more old money than new. There's a lot of tweed and cashmere worn here and both locals and visitors seem relaxed and comfortable. They're friendly, too. Trudging back up Ocean Avenue from a morning walk to the beach (“six blocks down the hill, twenty blocks back,” as one of the locals explained it), I glance into the open door of the realty office of Alain Pinel as I turn at the Dolores intersection. “Nice day, isn't it?” a man at a desk says to me. Indeed it is. There's a little overcast, but we both know the sun will likely burn through in an hour or so. Having noticed the property listings in the windows of this and other real estate offices, I half-jokingly ask the fellow if the sweet spot for residences is between $2 and 2.5 million. There are some nice ones at that price, he responds, but also some closer to a million. We share five or ten minutes of cordial conversation. I learn that Jack Gelke came to the area quite a while ago when attending the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey. He met his wife-to-be here and returned to stay. Jack seems a friendly and easy-going guy—the kind of realtor I'd want to do business with if only I could afford a home here.

Jim at Greens Camera in Carmel PicmonkeyJim at Green's Camera CenterOn this visit I stayed at The Vagabond's House at Dolores and Fourth, which is just a couple of blocks off Ocean Ave. A small, two-story property, it's obvious that the place was built in another era. It's also obvious that it has undergone restoration and substantial upgrading. The front office staff all seem very competent, but relaxed in a friendly sort of way. Room Twelve has a fireplace, separate tub and shower and radiantly-heated tile floor in the bathroom. The towels are longer and thicker than most. A light breakfast and pot of tea or coffee is delivered each morning.

On the second day in Carmel my new Olympus locks up and I'm reduced to taking pictures with my iPhone. Figuring the larger neighboring city of Monterey will have a camera shop that can help me, I return to Vagabond's House and ask the desk clerk if he knows such a place. He replies that I needn't drive over to Monterey, as there is a camera shop just two blocks away. At Green's Carmel Camera Center at Fifth and San Carlos I meet Jim. I discover he's originally from King City and, while new to Green's, worked with cameras for 20 years in Monterey. We shoot the breeze while he takes a look. I notice boxes of film—artifacts of another era—on shelves behind him. This is a serious camera shop; one I surmise that can serve needs of photographers more sophisticated than I. Jim fiddles with the Olympus a bit and shoots my picture. Voilà! It seems to work now. He can't exactly explain what he did, but tells me—and not in an immodest way—that people frequently hand him broken equipment that will work in his hands. He's a healer and he refuses payment for his labor. I shoot his picture before departing with my reborn camera.

Brophys Tavern logoWe visitors have been seeing the sights each day and enjoying the hospitality arranged by our hosts, but on the way home from dinner each evening I stop for a nightcap at Brophy's Tavern, which is just a block up the hill from my digs. It's a comfortable spot and, but for the five or six tv screens showing sports, seems to have a traditional pub atmosphere. Audio for all those screens is mercifully turned off, so conversation for those at the bar and at the tables is possible. My drink the first evening is a craft beer at $6 for a pint. The second night I'm in the mood for maybe one glass of good whiskey. The barman is wearing a Cali baseball cap in a style that covers the top of his ears. He doesn't look like any of the guys who poured for me in Edinburgh, but he's pleasant and seems to understand single malts. He has several options in the category, and holds up a couple of esoteric bottles he assumes I might recognize. His trump card is a Glenfiddich, a label with which I am familiar. But this is the 18-year old Glenfiddich and better, in his opinion, than a couple of the other more-exotic options.

It is splendid. I am getting down to the last couple of sips when Cali pours a substantial refresher of the 18-year old into the glass. That's happened to me with beer, but never before with a call whiskey—at least not in a house where I'm a stranger. Our group of writers has been walking the streets and lanes of Carmel all day and into the evening. I'm getting tired, but Vagabond's House is just a block away—and downhill. The tab for my drink is $19 and I add a decent tip before heading for home. All's right with the world.

Editor's note: This is the first in a series of articles about Carmel. The second of these is Look All Around in Carmel. Others will run later in April. If you're planning a visit to this area, check out the Monterey County listings in the Central Coast section of Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. There you will find links to the websites of Lodging and Dining options in Carmel, as well as other communities on the Monterey Peninsula. Also in the directory are links to the sites of area wineries and craft beer specialists.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014 12:09

Goleta, a Good Land for Family Fun

Goleta, Santa Barbara’s neighbor to the north is a respite for families, offering countless activities for those who want to explore more of Santa Barbara County. From the undiscovered treasure of the Goleta Butterfly Grove to Goodland Organics, the continental United States’ only coffee plantation, there is something for every family.Goleta Sandpiper GC PicmonkeyApproach to bunkered green at Sandpiper is scenic, but formidable. Photo: Aidan Bradley

Families that don’t mind getting a little dirty will appreciate Goleta’s outdoor offerings. Hike the bluffs in the Ellwood Mesa with amazing views of the Pacific Ocean en route to the Goleta Butterfly Grove. Every winter (mid-November to mid-February) thousands of Monarch butterflies migrate to their winter home in the hidden eucalyptus groves along the interior of the Ellwood Mesa. The area is never crowded with people, so you can sit back and enjoy watching these beautiful creatures as they flutter overhead, and if you are lucky enough, a butterfly may land on your shoulder. Prefer to be more active? Take advantage of the free parking at Goleta Beach, one of three beaches where Channel Island Outfitters rents equipment such as stand-up paddle boards, kayaks and surfboards. For those who prefer to stay on land, there are volleyball nets and a fishing pier to keep busy.

The ocean and mountain views at the Sandpiper and Glen Annie Golf Clubs are so spectacular as to sometimes make it hard to concentrate on one’s golf swing. Both these courses offer discounted rates for junior golfers.. Later in the day you can cheer on the UCSB Gauchos as they take on their rivals in soccer, basketball and other sports.

Goleta RR Museum PicmonkeyKids visiting the South Coast Railroad Museum may experience trains for first time. Photo: Jay Sinclair

Ride Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner throughout Santa Barbara County and then learn about the history, technology and adventure of railroading at the South Coast Railroad Museum. While there, be sure to check out the historic Goleta Depot. This Victorian-styled country railroad stationhouse was built over 100 years ago (1901) by the Southern Pacific Railroad during completion of the Coast Route, which joined San Francisco and Los Angeles. Parents will want their camera handy to capture their child’s smiling face aboard a train ride on the Goleta Short Line miniature train. Model train aficionados will appreciate the model railroad exhibit “Railroading on the South Coast,” which depicts the railroad areas of Santa Barbara and Goleta during the late-steam/early-diesel era.

No smart phone? No television? No problem. Show your children what life was like in the 19th century by taking a tour of the Stow House. Adjacent to the South Coast Railroad Museum is Rancho La Patera and Stow House, historic for its role in the Goleta lemon trade. Today, children can learn how people used to live (without Wi-Fi!) on a tour of the Stow House - a museum displaying the family’s photographs and furniture from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.Family picking lemons in Goleta PicmonkeyThis family enjoyed picking lemons in a Goleta grove. Photo: Visit Santa Barbara

With so many activities to fill the day, a caffeine jumpstart for the parents and a snack for the kids may be required. If so, the Coffee Educational Tour (offered seasonally) at Goodland Organics is in order; tour the continental United States’ only coffee farm with a cup of Joe in hand. Situated in the coastal foothills of Santa Barbara, this certified organic farm also cultivates exotic crops such as cherimoyas, lychee, dragon fruit and finger limes. Continue exploring the culinary side of Goleta with a trip to Fairview Garden Farms and Goodland Kitchen & Market. For a healthy snack, you can purchase organic fruits and vegetables grown at Fairview Garden Farms own farm stand. Producing over 100 different fruits and vegetables on its 12.5 acres of land, children will love seeing the goats and chickens during a docent or self-guided tour of this non-profit educational farm. Not sure what to do with all of the great food products purchased in Goleta? Take a culinary class at the Goodland Kitchen & Market. Classes are periodic at this Old Town Goleta establishment, but year-round it is a grab-and-go eatery specializing in delicious, locally-sourced, and affordable meals. The food is prepared in small batches and comes from local farmers to provide an exceptional culinary experience.

For family friendly nightlife, go back in time to a different era with Goleta’s West Wind Drive-in movie theater. Showing first run movies nightly, movie-goers can stick around for the double-feature for the same price. Pajamas welcome. Zodo’s Bowling & Beyond is another popular family activity, and one of only two bowling alleys in Santa Barbara County. Families of all ages and skill levels can bowl together – ramps and bumpers are available for the little ones, and teenagers will love Glow Bowling with a live DJ on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

About Goleta

Less than 10 miles north of Santa Barbara, Goleta was incorporated as a city in 2002. Initially named “The Good Land” by the Spaniards, the official name changed to Goleta after a schooner with the same name arrived in the area in 1822. A prominent lemon growing region during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, today Goleta is a family-friendly community honoring its roots with the annual California Lemon Festival every fall. The climate is mild and sunny all year, with an average daytime temperature between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit (16 and 21 degrees Celsius). Goleta attire is generally California casual, and transportation and sightseeing services are abundant.

Editor's note: If you're planning a visit to this beautiful part of California, first visit the Central Coast listings in Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. There you will find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as links to area wineries and craft beer specialists.

Thursday, 16 January 2014 11:09

Andrew Murray Vineyards Finds New Home


AdamFirestone Left AndrewMurray Right PicmonkeyOld pals Adam Firestone and Andrew MurraySanta Barbara, CA January 16, 2013 – “My life has been a series of fortunate events,” says winemaker Andrew Murray, who recently announced that he will be leasing the former Curtis Winery estate vineyard and winery, including the production facility and tasting room, from long-time friends, the Firestone family. Located near the crossroads of the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail and Zaca Station Road, the former Curtis Winery facility will be Murray’s new winemaking home, where he will remain focused primarily on the production of small-lot Syrahs and Rhone-inspired blends.

Murray, who started his winemaking career further up the Foxen Canyon road nearly twenty-four years ago, struck out on his own and moved into a warehouse-style production facility known to locals as Area 51; the former Firestone Walker brewery, located far back into the canyon lands behind Firestone Vineyard.

While at his Area 51 production facility, Murray evolved as both a farmer and winemaker over the years, maturing into one of America’s most respected Rhone Rangers. As much as Murray flourished on his own, he says, “We’ve never been right where we wanted to be.” Not until now, that is.

Murray became intrigued when long-time friend and confidante, Adam Firestone, asked him, “How are you doing at Area 51? Have you outgrown it yet?” This question led Murray to ruminate on the trajectory of his career and winery, and where both might be headed.

At the time that Firestone posed this question, Murray was, he says “in the unfortunate position where we were selling out of our wines too soon; three, four, six months after releasing them. Pure economics says there’s two things you can do. You can raise prices, and slow distribution down. It may be a more profitable way, but I think that’s the safe way to grow.”

He continues, “The less safe way, the one that gets all of the butterflies going again—the one that feels like I’m starting in the wine business again, like I’m  falling in love again, is to say: ‘Okay, grow. Reach more people. Reach more states.’ And that’s what we decided to do with this opportunity.”

Says Firestone, “Andrew has been a longtime family friend, and an incredible partner and tenant for the past 10 years. We view this as a new branch of our family’s winemaking tradition, and as a continuation of the estate’s reputation for producing remarkable Rhône-style wines. We are excited to further expand our relationship with Andrew.”

The Firestone family will continue to farm the estate’s 200 vineyard acres. Murray’s focus will remain on Rhone varieties, with an emphasis on syrah, mourvèdre, viognier, grenache blanc and roussanne. Other estate varieties will be used for making Jarhead and Curtis wines, and additional fruit will be sold to local wineries.Andrew Murray Syrah bottle Picmonkey

Perhaps one of Murray’s best known wines is his Tous les Jours, a new world rendition of a Crozes-Hermitage, made to be enjoyed as an everyday wine. Available nation-wide on the broad market, Murray says, “I am calling it my homecoming wine now, because the fruit for this wine is coming from within a three-mile radius from where I sit now. I’m getting fruit from focused and dedicated farmers that are a stone’s throw from where I started my career, because for me, that represents the quintessential Santa Ynez Valley Syrah. I am so proud to have released our 2012 vintage of Tous les Jours, because it’s 100% Santa Ynez Valley fruit, and 99% of that is grown within this narrow band where we started our life in wine. I get goose bumps just thinking about it.”

By finding a new home within the former Curtis Winery, Murray adds, “We have this great opportunity to serve our existing customers in this great new environment, and to capture the people who’ve fallen in love with Curtis wines over the years; a new audience that will stumble upon us. We want to be able to say, “Come see what we can do in this new home with expanded winemaking capacity, and access to additional estate grown vineyards."

The Curtis label will continue in the form of limited-production bottlings made by Andrew Murray Vineyards in arrangement with the Firestone family. Andrew Murray Vineyards will also produce the family’s Jarhead line of wines, which continues to grow in acclaim and popularity.

Editor's note: Planning a visit to Santa Barbara's wine country? Check out the Resource Directory of Taste California Travel. In it you will find links to the website of Andrew Murray Vineyards and other area wineries, as well as links to the sites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options. There's even a new section devoted to craft beer purveyors.

Santa Barbara, CA January 15, 2013 – The Terlato family has announced the opening of the Sanford Winery tasting room in downtown Santa Barbara. The facility is expected to attract tourists and locals, who are increasingly frequenting and following Santa Barbara’s celebrated Urban Wine Trail, which includes a wide array of wine tasting rooms situated in the very active downtown area of Santa Barbara. Sanford tastingroom LaArcada PicmonkeyEvening view of La Arcada tasting room captured by Barron Spafford

“Since 2005, our family has been leading the efforts at Sanford Winery and its historic vineyards—we set down roots in the Sta. Rita Hills appellation and Santa Barbara County,”said John Terlato. “In 2007, my family and I acquired the historic Sanford and Benedict vineyard and added it to the estate. We made this additional commitment to the Santa Barbara area through the purchase of this historic vineyard because we love the Santa Rita Hills and the wines capable of being crafted in this area. Building this tasting room in Santa Barbara only deepens and furthers our commitment to the region and the community. Our goal is to put the beautiful and amazing wines of the region into the mouths of wine lovers so that they can enjoy and experience, firsthand, the quality wines coming from Santa Rita Hills AVA”

Within walking distance from theaters, Santa Barbara Museum of Art and the Alma Del Pueblo Public Market, the new tasting room is intended for locals as much as visitors to Santa Barbara’s celebrated coastal shopping district. “We chose La Arcada because we like the feel and accessibility of this section of State Street and La Arcada – this coupled with the old world feel of La Arcada made for an easy decision,” commented Terlato. “This is a place where locals and visitors alike will be able to enjoy a glass or bottle of Sanford Chardonnay or Pinot Noir before they head off to the theater, shopping, dinner with family or a night out with friends.” .

Sanford winery is the pioneering California wine producer that first established the Santa Rita Hills of Santa Barbara County as one of the world's great regions for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Winemaker and General Manager Steve Fennell is excited to share the Sanford wines with a new audience, noting, “We are so pleased with the warm reception we’ve received so far from local businesses and residents. We are looking forward to settling in and becoming a part of the vibrant State Street community here in Santa Barbara.”

Editor's Note: Those planning a visit to Santa Barbara will want to check out the Central Coast sections of Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. There you will find links to the websites of Sanford and other area wineries, as well as links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options. There's even a new guide to craft beer specialists on the coast, as well as around the state.

Sunday, 24 November 2013 20:08

Il Cortile Debuts Fall Menu in Paso Robles


Il Cortile Carole and Santos MacDonal PicmonkeyCarole and Santos MacDonal of Il Cortile

November 25, 2013 (Paso Robles, CA) - Il Cortile’s Chef Santos MacDonal is highlighting fall flavors with his new menu, including those of white truffles.

The Paso Robles restaurant's new seasonal menu was created to emphasize locally and regionally-sourced ingredients for their homemade pastas, seafood and meats. Gnocchi and risottos are made from scratch daily. These can include Kabocha squash gnocchi (homemade kabocha squash gnocchi on a bead of parmesan fonduta with a brown butter sage sauce), Fettuccine di coniglio (fettuccine with slow roasted rabbit in a white wine herb sauce), Cervo e cotogna (pan-seared venison medallions with a red wine sauce and quince) and Vitello ai funghi porcini (veal chop with porcini mushroom sauce, finished with truffle oil).

White Truffles de Alba PicmonkeyItalian white truffles from Alba Il Cortile is highlighting truffle season with three dishes. Their Carpaccio, made of thinly sliced sirloin, is complemented with truffle cream sauce and shaved black or white truffles over the top; the homemade fettuccine dish is made with a parmesan fonduta, a drizzle of white truffle oil and white or black shaved truffles on top; the risotto also features a parmesan fonduta, a drizzle of white truffle oil and white or black shaved truffles over the top.

" I love the white truffle season because we get the white truffles from Alba in Piedmont, Italy and you can just taste the old world influence,” said Chef MacDonal. “They are fragrant and delicate at the same time. The flavor is so unique. I like to express them in many ways, with a traditional dish like White Truffle Risotto or make them with our homemade Fettuccine. Our carpaccio dish is a different way to use the truffles and makes that dish so rich. It is real comfort food! "

Located in downtown Paso Robles, the restaurant pairs its Italian cuisine with wines from a substantial list including selections from Central Coast wineries, along with Italian, Spanish and South American varietals.

Editor's note: Before starting your trip to the Paso Robles area, or anywhere on California's Central Coast, it's a good idea to visit Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. In it you will find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as links to wineries and craft beer emporiums.

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