Monday, March 23, 2015

Our California Trip to Wine Country and a Lavender Farm

 We couldn't wait to get away from the record breaking brutality
of Boston's non-stop winter weather.  How could we say no to an 
invitation by friends to join them at a vacation home in the Santa Ynez Valley?
I am not familiar with California, so after the invitation I boned up
on the different counties.  We were headed to Santa Barbara County
which is North of Los Angeles, but South of San Fran.  Got the general idea
of our location?  In Santa Barbara we would be holed up in a wonderful
rental property that sat high on a hill in the heart of wine and horse country.
It was time for sandals and sundresses and hats and sunglasses!!
Unpack the car and lets get our vacay started already!
The weather was between 70 and 90 almost every day, with temps dipping a 
bit cooler at night.  We were in heaven as soon as our feet hit the ground.
 Our house came with a pool and hot tub and a million dollar view.  
We couldn't stop smiling.  Our hosts, Jim and Patti, 
were in Santa Ynez to take part in a 100 mile bike race (yikes).   
Except for that day, we spent the days wine tastings, visiting wineries 
and took tours through the amazing countryside,
 ending our evenings at terrific restaurants.  
 Here we are taking a wine picnic lunch in the middle of the 
Los Padres National Forest.  It was breath taking and so relaxing.  
I was struck by how beautiful our country don't do it justice.
So many hills, mountains and valleys dotted with farmlands, and vineyards.
Horse farms and quaint towns were what we found in the Santa Ynez region.
 And of course, we did our fair share of tasting!
 Its what the valley is known for and 
in particular it makes great Syrahs and Pinot Noirs.  
So taste after taste I tried to refine my palette.
It was a difficult way to spend the afternoons (lol), 
but that is what you do out here.
 Unless you are my hubby....he is NOT a wine drinker, 
so while he was game to test out a few wines he mostly stuck 
to reading about what we were tasting.  
He made a fabulous designated driver. 
 He here is testing out a red wine at the
 Dragonette Cellars in Los Olivos.
However, this was more his speed, a frosty beer.  On this particularly hot day
while Jim and Patti were doing the 100 mile bike race (UGH)
we decided to cruise into the city of Santa Barbara and check it out.
But before we hit the main drag we wanted to see what the buzz was
all about at this famous Mexican eatery.  It is called Super-Rica 
and years ago Julia Childs said it was the best Mexican food she had ever had.  
Since then everybody from Oprah to Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton, 
Tom Cruise and now us have tried this place out and we all agree, its FABULOUS!
 We headed back into Santa Ynez and passed along 
the vineyards on our way home to the ranch.
 It is kind of amazing how many fields are covered in 
rows and rows of grapes that will be made into wine.  
 Beautiful estates with fancy gates and landscaping set 
off many of the private and public vineyards.
 Its a rustic area with a European country vibe
 with a simplicity about it that we just loved.  
 This was at the bottom of our hill, and a familiar sight. 
 Horses were everywhere here.
 Looks like Dave is trying another glass of wine around the pool
 while he sits out there with Patti. I will have to finish it for him 
before we head out to dinner. 
This shot shows our bedroom, which was in its own little attached
 area outside the pool.  Every morning we woke up to amazing sunrises. 
 Just incredible!  I highly recommend renting homes instead of staying in
 hotels when you travel for more than just a day or two.  
 Melville was a gorgeous vineyard.  We took a picnic there one day.  Jim and Patti 
are members of this wine club so they could  get a bottle of wine inside and then
 bring it outside to enjoy with our lunch.
 The wisteria was in full bloom and it cascaded all around the entrance 
of the Italianate style structure.  This day was the only day 
that was a bit cooler and windy so we had on long sleeves.
 Photo op by the palazzo.
 Melville had rows of lavender planted at the beginning of the 
rows of grapes.  The poles all had numbers to indicate the grapes
when they would harvest them.  See our picnic cooler bag?
 This is the view looking back to the building.
 This was really yummy I have to say.
So you can see that our days were kind of relaxing, right?
 One day Patti and I took a girl trip to a lovely lavender farm nearby.  
Its early spring out in Santa Ynez, and so the grapes and the lavender 
really haven't started flowering yet, but you can see the sheared lavender bushes above.
 Clairmont Lavender Farm was such a sweet spot!  
It is run by a very cool lady, Meryl Tanz.
Clairmont is an actual working lavender farm.  As Meryl mentioned many lavender
 companies sell by a PO Box address.  But here at Clairmont you
 can come see the entire operation and even enjoy a picnic at one
 of her umbrella tables on the side garden.  
She showed us how she created this distillery based on a Moroccan Hookah pipe
to get the essential oil out of the lavender buds.  It was pretty fascinating.
I bought essential oil and some other goodies including a spray for Dillon's dry skin.
You can visit her website here for more information or to purchase lavender in 
its many forms, both culinary and therapeutic. 
I plan to blog more about this particular visit as I found it fascinating.
I will also share a video of Meryl showing how the distillery works. Very cool.
So we had a few more nights out eating and 
days tasting delicious wines but the week had finally come to an end.  
We finished off our week on the Central Coast with a drive
4 hours down to LA, in that infamous LA traffic to visit my son Brandon
and his girl friend Mimi.  They moved out here two years ago this July.
 They love the weather and they live in this pretty neighborhood.
We took them out for dinner to the oldest restaurant in Hollywood!
It was called Musso and Franks Grill and was established in 1919.
It is old school Rat Pack style dining, with big leather booths
and waiters in red coats and black ties.  Fancy shmancy!
They serve old fashioned cocktails like side cars and martinis.
 It was right on the Hollywood walk of fame!
 We were so lucky we got a parking spot right at the front door! 
Brandon and Mimi said it was unheard took all 
four of us to figure out how to get the money in the meter.
It chewed up my quarters with no apparent hubs had
to use his credit card to get the thing to work.
 Mr. Maison Decor shows off Buck Owens, 
and Harrison Ford was right behind Buck.
 This was our last posed photo in California...we took the red eye home
and heard that another snowfall was coming our way.  UGH!!
 These lucky guys get to stay out there living the dream!!
 But as for us, I was headed into work and had to brush the snow off my car. 
What a fine welcome back.  We have really been put to the test this year.
This was one vacation that was well earned and will not soon be forgotten.
A big thanks to Jim and Patti for the invite!! 

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  1. What an amazing trip! I bet you will spend many days ahead thinking about this wonderful adventure....since you are now back to reality....UGH! It's spring and we too are getting snow! It's been a long winter!

  2. Just wanted to say hi, since you drove past me on the way to see your son. :) I enjoy your posts so much, and am glad you had a good time in this neck of the woods. I've been to some of the places you've mentioned, but not all, so thanks for the suggestions/recommendations!

  3. Dear Amy, I've been following your blog a long time, I live near where you were visiting (about 90 miles), its beautiful there have been to that area many times and it looks like you and hubby and friends enjoyed every minute. Glad you enjoyed our weather here in sunny California, you'll have to come back this week-end, its supposed to be 92 on Sunday, yikes! its toooooo hot here.

  4. So, when are you moving out here?

  5. And that, my dear, is why so many Easterners move WEST! Glad you had fun in this beautiful state. Kathryn in Southern California

  6. Oh Amy your vacation looks just heavenly. You and your hubby make a beautiful couple. My best friend moved out to San Diego and is begging us to come visit. I'm hoping we can get out there this year. Glad you were able to get away from the cold for a bit.

  7. Oh that house and the views were breathtaking...We traveled to Santa Barbara and then to the wine country around Los Olivos..doing the Sideways tour....the country out there is so beautiful....Hope to get back there one day and travel further north...
    Glad you had a great time enjoying the gorgeous weather while you could....


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