Thursday, October 17, 2013

Packing for Panama

  • Linen, linen and more linen
  • Insect repellent and sunscreen
  • Binoculars and bird guide
  • Imodium
  • Swimsuit and snorkel
  • Sunhat
  • Umbrella
  • Lightweight sweater
See you in November!


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Tres Hermanas Winery

100 California Wineries

It's happening up and down California.   Pastures once used by grazing cattle are now covered with grape vines.  California is becoming one long strip of vineyards.  I'm not complaining.  I love wine and the vineyards are beautiful, especially in the summer when they are lush and green and bursting with juice.  My blog within a blog covers only one hundred of them.  At Tres Hermanas Winery on Foxen Canyon Road,  I learned there were one hundred wineries in Santa Barbara County alone!

I chose this particular winery because it is still a working family-owned ranch.  The two can co-exist!  The JT on the wine bottles and glasses is the brand used on the cattle.  Tres Hermanas, which means "three sisters" in Spanish, was named after Marvin and Paulette Teixeira's three daughters.  One of them poured wine for us the day we were there.  She was delightful (and diplomatic).  I always walk away from these wine tasting expeditions with a little more knowledge about the industry.   We ended up buying a couple of bottles of the smooth, full-bodied reds:  A 2010 Cabernet Franc and a 2011 Pinot Noir.  We are going to try our hardest to store these bottles for a few more years.  This is one of the reasons we go wine tasting--to build up a respectable wine cellar and to educate our palate.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

San Ramon Chapel

As we turned to go up the road to Rancho  Sisquoc Winery on Foxen Canyon Road, we passed this beautiful little church and noticed the sign:  Santa Barbary County's First Historic Landmark.  How could we not stop?  We walked through the tiny graveyard behind the church first and noticed all the Foxen gravestones.   Roads are always named after someone or something, but rarely do I think about it.  Foxen Canyon Road always meant "wine" in my vocabulary.  Turns out the Foxen family were early pioneers of the Santa Maria Valley.

Benjamin Foxen ended up settling in California after being a captain on a merchant ship.  He married Eduarda de Carmen Osuna in 1831 and their daughter Ramona married another Englishman, Frederick Wickendon.  Frederick and Ramona had this chapel built in 1875 for the families who were settling in the area to ranch and farm.  The nearest church was the mission in Santa Inez.  Not only was it a welcome addition to the community, but it was built with redwood, rather than adobe bricks.  This transition from Spanish adobe architecture to a simpler wooden structure, is the reason San Ramon Chapel is now a California Registered Historical Landmark.

The chapel was restored in 2012 and now holds services every Sunday.   If I had a religious bent, I would be tempted to make the drive, it is on such a beautiful site.  The fact that it's surrounded by vineyards makes it even more tempting.  Church, followed by wine tasting?

Hmm.  I'll think about it.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Rancho Sisquoc Winery

100 California Wineries

Our exploration of the wineries in California continued with a visit to Rancho Sisquoc in the Santa Maria Valley.  Although it is located on Foxen Canyon Road, a famous road along the wine tasting circuit, it is a little off the beaten track.  About 60 miles north of Santa Barbara, off the 101, the ranch road leading to the winery passes the San Ramon Chapel and curves up and around to a lovely, peaceful setting.  Just follow the signs.  It is one of my favorite wineries in the area.  Sisquoc means "gathering place" in the Chumash language, and I guarantee that the ambiance will make you stop and smell the roses.  Or should I say, stop and smell the wine.

James Flood of San Francisco planted vines here in 1968.  The 310 acres of vineyards supply many of the top California wineries with grapes.  We were fortunate to hit the winery when there were only three other couples at the counter.  When it's slow like this, you often get a "bonus" round.  It always pays off (for them and us).  We ended up buying a whole case of Sylvaner for 50% off.  It is a light white wine, which we were unfamiliar with.  It will be perfect for the holidays and will appeal to the younger members of our extended family.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Quiet Streets of Guadalupe

There's something about Guadalupe.  The mix of Chinese, Mexican and Greek restaurants.  The old brick buildings.  The auto supply store that is more museum than car parts.  The friendly people.  The murals.  The Dunes Center.  But most of all, the quiet, relaxing atmosphere, so foreign to those of us who live in larger cities where noise is inescapable and a 24-hour phenomenon.

Guadalupe is a small town with only a population of 7,000.  It is located in Northern Santa Barbara County and is the gateway to anyone exploring the dunes.  Its history is multi-ethnic and its streets reflect that--even today.  Rancho de Guadalupe was established in the 1840's after the demise of the Spanish mission system as part of a Mexican land grant which carved Alta California up into ranches.  When a severe drought hit in the 1860's the land was sold to a group of farmers who planted wheat, barley, corn and beans.  Swiss-Italian and Portuguese dairy farmers settled nearby and the little town of Guadalupe was born.

Like so many California towns, the Southern Pacific Railroad brought in a wave of Chinese laborers.  After the railroads were built, they stayed and started to open up businesses.  In Guadalupe, another wave of immigrants settled here from Japan.  They arrived around 1900, hired on as laborers in the sugar beet fields.  It is the Japanese farmers who introduced green vegetables to this area, launching a whole new agricultural industry.  Today, the field hands arrive from Mexico and Central America.  It is a true American melting pot and absolutely charming because of it.

We asked for a restaurant recommendation at the Dunes Center, and the young woman steered us toward El Tapatio.  My travel buddy had a plate of chicken soft tacos and I had a crispy taco with shredded beef and a cheese enchilada with the best green sauce I have ever tasted.  Spicy.  Rich and full of flavor.  This little restaurant may very well become a favorite pit stop.

  On the way back to the van, we stopped by the Napa Auto Supply Store and chatted with the owner.  I was mesmerized by the things he had collected over the years and had displayed in his store.  I could kick myself for not asking if the items were for sale, but they had no price tags.   Movie props.  Folk art.  Old highway signs.  He told us a lot about the history of the region and the movies that were made here like G.I Jane and Pirates of the Caribbean.  Of course, we talked about the excavation of the movie set from The Ten Commandments, which is bringing tourists into town.   A welcome boost to the economy.

Guess I'll have to go back.  Want to try El Tapatio's pozole and guacamole.  Want to ask the Napa guy if that sphinx paw he has under glass is actually for sale.  Can't stop thinking about it.   It would make a great garden ornament, don't you think?