Tag Archive for visitor guide

Wine Tasting in the Santa Cruz Mountains

View from Loma Prieta Winery. Click twice to magnify.

View from Loma Prieta Winery. Click twice to magnify.

For Christmas, the darling husband bought us Santa Cruz Mountains wine passports, an excellent gift. I wasn’t a wine drinker when I lived in Santa Cruz, so now that I’m in the Bay, I’ve wanted to try what that designation has to offer. Plus, any excuse for a weekend in Santa Cruz is a good one for me.

The passports are $45 each and entitle you to one tasting at each of the participating wineries over a 2-year period. The passports themselves have detailed information on the wineries, their locations, and their hours, and they are intended for use on the quarterly Passport Days, during which some wineries normally closed to the public open their doors. But they are also valid any day of the year during regular operating hours—or at least they are supposed to be. We encountered resistance to that at one winery, which only honors it on Passport Days. Everywhere else let us in no problem.

And the wine passport is a great deal. We plotted a course essentially following Soquel-San Jose Road through the mountains, planning to hit up however many wineries we could handle in an afternoon. There are roughly eight participating wineries in reasonable distances from the main road.

We started at Bargetto, right outside of Santa Cruz on North Main Street in Soquel.

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This winery has a gorgeous creekside location, with a large deck under the trees.

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Santa_Cruz_Wine_Tasting_02The tasting room is really nice as well, though under construction against the back wall when we were there.

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Our wine pourer, a retired police officer, was pleasant and laid back. I fell a bit in love with their 2011 Chardonnay, which I’ll review on its own once I get to drinking it.

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A Foodie Day Trip to Sonoma

A view from Homewood Winery.

A view from Homewood Winery.

My first visit to Sonoma took place a few days before Thanksgiving 2013. It was a quick jaunt into the winery-laden countryside not so far from San Francisco. The downtown area is very cute, full of alleyways and courtyards that hide a range of stores and tasting rooms.

Entering one such alleyway

Entering one such alleyway

And exiting another.

Of course, I managed to eat and wine-taste the afternoon away quite easily. The Highway 12 Winery Tasting Room is a great place to start due to its central location at the corner of 1st Street and Highway 12.

On the corner!

On the corner!

The tasting was free, possibly because it was a lazy Monday. Highway 12 features wines from a variety of Sonoma-area vineyards, and the wine pourer was happy to guide my friend, who was on her first wine-tasting experience, toward the sweeter wines that she preferred.

Walking up First Street afterward, we found ourselves passing by the beautiful old Sebastiani Theatre–

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–and stumbling across the San Francisco Solano mission up the next block.

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We didn’t linger on sightseeing, however. Wine and food was our game plan. So I focused in on the Chocolate Cow (452 1st St. E #F) down this row of storefronts.

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Their Thanksgiving pumpkin and turkey chocolates were beautiful.

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Bennett Place Visit

One of my goals before we move is to hit up a few North Carolina heritage sights I’ve wanted to explore but have never gotten around to before now. One was checked off the list on Memorial Day when my friend Ellen invited us to join her at Bennett Place in Durham.

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What’s Bennett Place? Only where the largest surrender of troops took place at the end of the Civil War! The peace was signed in Hillsborough, but the troop surrender happened at a farmhouse in Durham about halfway between General Sherman’s and General Grant’s headquarters in Greensboro and Raleigh, respectively. The actual farmhouse was a victim of fire, as is often the case. Its chimney survives today.

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The rest of the restored home was moved from up the road and decorated to reflect to the time period of the troop surrender.

One of two bedrooms in the farmhouse.

One of two bedrooms in the farmhouse.

There is also a smokehouse and kitchen on site, in addition to trails, a large meadow,

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and the Unity Memorial.

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Bennett Place is located in western Durham (4401 Bennett Memorial Drive) and is easily accessible. It is free, though donations are accepted. On a normal day, I’d say 90 minutes would be enough to tour the grounds and the museum in the visitors’ center. But on Memorial Day, they hosted a weekend of events, complete with reenactors from many different US wars, so more time was needed, and I’d imagine that’s the case with any special event. Especially if one of those reenactors whisks you away to teach you Southern dances and games.

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