Eight marvelous days in the Golden State. In early May my classes ended, my grades were turned in, and it was time to escape. Aaron flew up to San Francisco to meet up with me there, and we spent time in the Bay Area (3 days), Paso Robles wine country (3 days), and south through the Central Coast and Santa Barbara, and then Santa Monica (2 days). Along the way we ate amazing meals, tasted some stunning wines, visited some old friends from long ago, and had a great mini vacation.
I can’t replay the whole story, but here is an outline:
- May 7 – SFO – checked into the apartment I rented in Pacific Heights (on VRBO), went immediately to the Ferry Terminal Farmer’s Market after landing at 11:30 AM. Bought a couple of bunches of baby beets, garnet-colored carrots, fresh asparagus, etc. cooked some for a snack before dinner, saved the rest for the next day. Aaron and friend Ben arrived that evening, and we had dinner at A16 — food and wine of Campania in a hip setting.
- May 8 – SFO – walked to lunch to meet Price for lunch; great to see him again, having worked together over 30 years. Dinner at Millennium, an outstanding vegan restaurant in the lobby of a funky hotel.
- May 9 – SFO and Berkeley – rented Mini from Zipcar, went across the bay for a day in Berkeley. Got the complete tour at Kermit Lynch’s excellent wine store, had a tasty lunch at the cafe next door, went to a full-service cheese counter at a nearby market. Back into SFO for the evening and dinner with Rachel at a very good (and inexpensive) Japanese vegan sushi restaurant — ChaYa in the Mission district.
- May 10 – SFO-Gilroy-Paso Robles – returned the ZipCar, picked up a Hertz rental for the rest of the trip. Drove south through Gilroy (garlic capital). Unfortunately, Francis was ill, so we could not visit. Lunch at the local tacqueria, then on to Paso for the weekend.
- We stayed the weekend at the Hotel Cheval in downtown Paso — first-rate hotel. Dinner was terrific Friday night at Villa Creek Restaurant, a few blocks away, and Aaron, Ben, Lizzy and I all enjoyed it on the terrace that evening.
And my vegan pasta dish of Torchia with wild mushrooms was perfect with a bottle of Mas de Maha. Aaron had the pan-roasted rabbit.
- May 11 – Paso Robles and environs – the four of us had some very special visits to the wineries. We started at Linne Calodo, where Erica gave us a great tour and tasting, as well as provided introductions to other wineries for us to see. Then to Villa Creek Winery, where owner/grower/winemaker Cris Cherry gave generously of his time and knowledge, including some barrel tastings of various grapes and vineyards prior to blending.
Dinner Saturday night was very good, too — at a Sicilian restaurant, Il Cortile.
- May 12 – The first stop was also in downtown Paso, at the Herman Story winery. Previously unknown to me, these wines were all delicious, and the guys in the tasting room were having lots of fun at the same time. Ben and Lizzy had to leave to drive back to the Bay Area (and for her to fly to Vancouver). After that, Aaron and I proceeded to Denner, Turley, Rangeland and Epoch, as the temperatures climbed up near 100 degrees. We finished the day by driving over the mountain to Cambria, where the temperatures dropped 35 degrees along the Pacific coast. We had a light supper at the well-regarded Black Cat Bistro to cap the day.
- May 13 – Paso – Pismo Beach – Santa Barbara – Santa Monica – Lots of driving on Monday, but we had time to stop at two more wineries on the way toward LA. Both Sans Liege (in Pismo Beach) and Jaffurs (in downtown Santa Barbara) were pleasant surprises, and we found wines we like at each. Pismo also provided an excellent coffee and breakfast place: The Central Roast. Good food and coffee plus delightful people.
Monday night we pulled into a lovely 2 BR apartment (via airbnb) five blocks from the beach in Santa Monica, then we went to visit my brother’s friend, Michael and his lovely wife and daughter for dinner in Venice, nearby. Besides the fact that he is a great host and always lots of fun, Michael and I hadn’t talked in about 40 years, but we picked up right where we left off that day in Basalt, Colorado.
- May 14 – Santa Monica – We explored the town in the morning, then joined Don for lunch near the beach. A college classmate of mine, he and Mary were planning on coming East for our 50th reunion but were unable to make the trip due to the strain of the long flights, so we were able to catch up on some of the past 40 years since we were last together over a fine lunch. That evening, more old friends and food; we met Pam and her daughter Cherise at Rustic Canyon Wine Bar, and were starting to feel like real Southern Californians by that night.
- May 15 – Homeward Bound – Aaron dropped me off at LAX and proceeded to drive home to northern Arizona, arriving about the same time I got back to Boston. I gained a whole pound from all the good things I ate and drank, but it was well worth it. And it was a great way to be together and do things we love to do.