Travel Temptations / SIP: California: Delicious Destinations, Secret Hideaways, Expert Sources

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Shh . . .
One of America’s leading travel savants has some sizzling secrets to share.

 

Wine, dine, and live it up like the locals do! Travel Temptations / SIP California is an exclusive information source like no other for the Golden State’s top vineyards, tasting rooms, related epicurean haunts, and other attractions. From legendary Napa to Sonoma and six other regions, Lena Katz and more than fifty ...

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Overview

Shh . . .
One of America’s leading travel savants has some sizzling secrets to share.

 

Wine, dine, and live it up like the locals do! Travel Temptations / SIP California is an exclusive information source like no other for the Golden State’s top vineyards, tasting rooms, related epicurean haunts, and other attractions. From legendary Napa to Sonoma and six other regions, Lena Katz and more than fifty expert sources—including winemakers, chefs, and sommeliers—give up the inside dish.

This book gives you the kind of information only (lots of) money or celebrity can buy. Katz’s expert sources share their best insider knowledge with you—tips on getting the most out of the best venues and activities, highlighting the must-sees, and finding the spectacular splurges.

 

Napa • Sonoma • Mendocino • Livermore, Lodi, and the Sierra Foothills

Monterey • Paso Robles • Santa Barbara • Temecula

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780762750764
  • Publisher: GPP Travel
  • Publication date: 7/15/2009
  • Pages: 96
  • Product dimensions: 5.56 (w) x 8.02 (h) x 0.65 (d)

Meet the Author

Lena Katz is the California, Hawaii, and Mexico travel blogger for Orbitz; creator of the Playboy Scout; and founding editor of LAX Magazine, the in-terminal publication of Los Angeles International Airport. She has been quoted as a travel expert by the Wall Street Journal and Entertainment Tonight, and regularly contributes to Brides, MSNBC, AOL, and the Los Angeles Times. She lives in Hermosa Beach, California. 

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Read an Excerpt

SAMPLE INTERVIEW

Excerpt from Sonoma/Napa/Mendocino Wine Country

 

Name: Chris Benziger

Game: Benziger Family Winery’s youngest sibling, National Sales Manager and self-proclaimed “wine geek.”

 

Why You Should Know Benziger: The Benziger Family Winery is one of the oldest, largest and best-known independent wineries in Sonoma County. They are on the forefront of the biodynamic farming movement in California. Across all five estate vineyards and more than forty partner growers, the Benzigers are striving to set the standard for “green,” “sustainable” business.

 

Why You Should Know Chris: He is the kind of guy who calls you up on Friday afternoon after two glasses of wine, and gives you an in-depth tutorial on what the heck “green” and all those other words actually mean.

 

Why You Should Care: You’re seeing these buzzwords all over the place lately, especially if you’re visiting Northern Cal wine country—don’t you want to know what you’re buying?

 

Green is when you think of a product’s true cost on the environment and society—over the long term, instead of the short-term dollar savings it allows you.

“Green wraps up a whole philosophy. If you’re green, you’re thinking about what kind of water your employees are drinking, your corporate philosophy, whether your consumption of a product is cutting down trees, etc.”

 

Unfortunately, since there’s no governmental or third-party standard for “green,” just about anyone can slap a “green” sticker on their product. That’s why really eco-savvy people look for the labels below:

 

Organic wine is a label that came from the government. It means the winemaker hasn’t added sulfites. “The first year that organic wine was released, it was inconsistent and often spoiled--because you need sulfites if you’re going to transport or store it,” he explains.

                                        

Organically grown means there’s been no chemical input. The real benefit to growing organically is that the crops evoke the flavor of the place. When you use synthetic fertilizers, the roots are fed at the surface of the soil. If you don’t, they have to reach further, prompting deep root growth.  Grapes grown organically reflect the terroir much more distinctly, and that carries over into the wine. “It’s amazing: we can make a wine that tastes exactly like Sonoma Mountain is,” Chris tells me. “The earthiness, the chocolate, the red fruit, coming down to the black fruit . . . It tastes like Sonoma.”

 

Biodynamic encompasses organic farming’s chemical-free principals, and also dictates that the entire eco-system of a farm (or vineyard) be self-sustaining and a “closed circle.” In a biodynamic vineyard, every shrub, plant and animal is there for a reason.  All four of the Benziger’s specialty estates are biodynamic, and large chunks of the Benziger Family estate in Glen Ellen are as well.

 

“We’ve been around for 28 years, and for 15 years we made wines that were correct,” remembers Chris. “They were always good, fun--always what they were supposed to be--but not interesting. But since we started farming these ways we make wines with personality and character. If these wines were people, you’d want to hang out with them.”

 

Sustainability (in any business) hinges on three principles. It’s actually a pyramid.

The bottom of the pyramid is that you try to do the most environmentally sensitive thing you can. Everyone’s vineyard is different, so what applies for one doesn’t apply for another. Products that are sustainably grown won’t necessarily be organic, and vice-versa.

 

“It’s basically being a smart person, and minimizing chemical input.”

 

The middle bit is, you have to be socially responsible. It’s not just the way you treat your employees  and resources. You have to travel up the supply chain and make sure your suppliers also treat their people and resources correctly.

The top of the pyramid is economic viability.

 

“You do no good if you go out of business. You have to stay in business, and be as good as you can.”

 

Three biodynamic Benziger Family wines you must buy while in Sonoma:

2004 Sunny Slope Cabernet. “It’s killer. Grapes grown on the slopes of the Mayacamas mountain range.”

 

2006 Sauvignon Blanc Estate Paraiso de Maria “I absolutely love it. A wine we made to emulate a Sancerre. I’d drink it on my Coco Puffs. Well, no, that wouldn’t work… I’d make a bellini out of it from the white peaches I wish I grew.”

 

2004 Tribute (named in honor of the Benzigers’ parents). “I’d put that wine up to anybody, and even the most jaded freakin’ Frenchman would go, WOW.”

 

Chris’ Pick List – The Best Sonoma/Glen Ellen Venues Not Found in Other Guidebooks

 

Tour:  Benziger Family Estate, or Imagery

 

Okay, those are both in guidebooks. But they’re the two Benziger estates open to the public, and you can’t get a better up-close look at biodynamic farming.

 

At Benziger, you ride a tram powered by French fry oil all around the hilly vineyards, herb gardens and insectories. At Imagery, sample reserve Cabs not available at any retailer.

 

Make-Out Spot:  “The Acropolis,” a Greek-style gazebo built on the Benziger ranch by the hippies who owned the property before them.

 

“Pull in at 4:30. The tours shut down, but the winery doesn’t shut down for another hour. Take your girl and walk up to the Acropolis. Nobody’s up there, and we don’t bother anybody. Just you, your girlfriend and a bottle of wine…. It’s the most romantic spot in wine country.  During that one hour, people propose, have impromptu weddings, do the dirty… It’s awesome.”

 

Power Lunch: Kenwood Restaurant. “Where all the winemakers hold court.”

 

Kick-Back Dinner:  Vineyard’s Inn.  “A good piece of fish, but the best margaritas.”

 

Best Dive Bar in Town: The London Lodge. “Drunks are at the bar doing shooters, kids are playing pool. Great jukebox. A good piece of wood, as my father used to say.”

 

Chips n’ Salsa Hangout: Hacienda. “A fair combination of gringos and Mexicans, but great food. It’s where the locals hang. You’ll have a great time.”

 

Highway 101 Stopover:  Ernie’s Tin Barn. “If you’re driving to Sonoma from the SF airport, there’s this little roadside stop in Lakeville. It’s a garage, but it serves Eye of the Hawk beer (really strong!) and pistachio nuts in a bowl. AND they have a CSA organic farm on-property, so you can pick up your vegetables too. It’s a treasure, and nobody knows about it.”

 

Hangover Breakfast: Garden Court. “Best eggs Benny in the world.”

 

To-Die-For Brunch: The Fig Café. “Bryan is the chef. Killer fries, breakfast pizza, French toast. They have bellinis, mimosas… and for two months at harvest, they blend champagne with fresh grape juice, and it’s amazing.”

 

Skip: Steiners. “It’s redneck locals and tourists—there are fights all the time. You will see local color. And the color is red, as in, they’re bleeding.”

 

Stay:  A winery guesthouse. “Here’s the insider thing. Almost every winery has a guesthouse. If you know somebody in the wine business, that’s where you stay. Now that the whole experiential travel thing is taking off, winemakers are having dinner with VIP guests, letting them stay on the property. Money can’t exactly buy it, but . . .

 

“Go to your local wine club, meet the distributor. Make friends, and say, ‘Hey can you set me up?’ Or go to your local wine retailer—NOT Safeway—and say, ‘I’m going to Sonoma, do you have any contacts?’ Somebody’s got the connections. Somebody’s getting the guest house. It happens every single day.”

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Table of Contents

 

REGION 1: Sonoma

 

Overview + Intro

Logistics – Airport info, weather, population

Food/Wine 101

--Views (3)

Gloria Ferrer

Nick Frey, Sonoma Wine Grape Commission

Mark Caldwell, Exec Chef at J Winery’s Bubble Lounge (food & wine pairings)

--Picks

Homegrown, Old School, Funky

--Views (3)

--Chris Benziger

--Gina Gallo

--Picks

As Seen on TV

--Views (3)

Kate MacMurray – MacMurray Ranch

Christopher Sawyer -- “Film Sommelier” SF sommelier and wine critic

--Picks

RESOURCES – calendars, community sites, trusted tour companies

MAP

 

REGION 2: Napa

Overview & Intro

Logistics

Snuggle & Canoodle

--Views (3)

Connie, GM, Milliken Creek

Sam Baxter, Winemaker/GM Terra Valentine

Liza Graves of Beautiful Places

--Picks

Legendary Napa

--Views (3)

Garry McGuire, CEO COPIA

Thomas Keller French Laundry

Violet Grgich, Grgich

--Picks

Cab Hunters

--Views (3)

David Rasmussen Eclectic Tours

Kevin Toomajian Wine Educator COPIA

--Picks

RESOURCES – calendars, community sites, trusted tour companies

MAP

 

REGION 3: Mendocino

Overview + Intro

Logistics – Airport info, weather, population

Down in the (Anderson) Valley

--Views (3)

board member Anderson Valley Winegrowers

--Picks

Find the Lost Coast

--Views (3)

Scott Schneider, Exec Director of Mendo Count Lodging Association

Jeff Stanford, Owner Stanford Inn & Raven’s Restaurant

Richard Strom – Head of Mendocino County Promotional Alliance

--Picks

RESOURCES – calendars, community sites, trusted tour companies

MAP

 

REGION 4: Monterey

Overview & Intro

Logistics

Getting Past ‘Wrath’

--Views

Rhonda Motil, Executive Director Monterey County Vintner’s & Growers

--Picks

Chi Chi & Pricey

--Views

Charyn Pfeuffer – travel columnist SF Chron, Sunset. Carmel resident

Michel Richard, Citronelle

--Picks

RESOURCES – calendars, community sites, trusted tour companies

MAP

 

REGION 5: Paso Robles

Overview & Intro

Logistics

Wild West Wine Tasting

--Views

--Picks

American Rhone Redux

--Views

Stacie Jacob director. Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance

Caitlin Stansbury, Sommelier Bastide, the Lodge. Owner Wineocology

--Picks

RESOURCES – calendars, community sites, trusted tour companies

MAP

 

REGION 6: Santa Barbara/Santa Ynez

Overview & Intro

Logistics

Photo Ops & Famous Names

--Views

Women & Wine founder

--Picks

The Tipsy Pedestrian

--Views

David Yates, organizer of SB Urban Wine Trail. Works at Jafford

805-962-7003

--Picks

Spurs & Syrah

--Views

David Hopkins, Winemaker Bridlewood

 Rod, owner The Victorian (brand-new luxury inn)

--Picks

RESOURCES – calendars, community sites, trusted tour companies

MAP

 

REGION 7: Central Valley

Overview & Intro

Logistics

Edible, Potable, Pickable

--Views

--Picks

Sacto’s Backyard Vine Surprise (Auburn  Grass Valley)

--Views

--Picks

RESOURCES – calendars, community sites, trusted tour companies

MAP

 

REGION 8: Temecula

Overview & Intro

Logistics

De-Geekified & Kicked Back

--Views

Todd Boorman – winemaker La Cresta, manages vineyards

--Picks

Wine and _____ (Pick Your Pleasure)

--Views

Jennifer Wilson – Wilson Creek Winery. Organizer Wilson Jazz Series

John Kelliher proprietor of Grape Line

--Picks

RESOURCES – calendars, community sites, trusted tour companies

MAP

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