Wine Travel Adventure

Bay Area & California travel blog

Tag: travel

How to Travel With Your Bike

Learn how to travel with your bike, and you can ride carefree in bucolic scenes like this.

By Paul Devault, guest post

One of the biggest concerns for cyclists travelling with their bikes is damage. You worry that your bike will be mishandled by check-in attendants, luggage carriers or even the rough terrains. The big question is, how do you protect your bike from any damages?

While choosing the right packaging equipment is half the battle, you have to pack the bike well to optimize its safety. Pack in a way that leaves no part of the bike safety to chance. Consider the likelihood that your bike package will be tossed haphazardly. Other heavy luggage may be tossed on top of yours. Pack to mitigate damage from such mishandling.

Packing tips to optimize safety when you travel with your bike Continue reading

Share the fantasy adventure at Castello di Amorosa


Here we are, in a darkened dungeon deep underground, watching as our tour guide shines a flashlight on various torture devices and explains how they were used to spike, stretch, suffocate and inflict pain on sufferers in the Middle Ages. Not your typical Napa Valley winery tour, I’ll say.

Then again there is nothing typical or ho-hum about Castello di Amorosa, a spectacular $40 million Calistoga winery built in the style of a medieval Tuscan castle. Besides the dungeon it has 106 other rooms, a chapel, church, farmhouse, dry moat, drawbridge, hidden passageways, courtyards, massive stone walls and towers that rise in the center of picturesque hills and acres of grapevines.

It is not mandatory to take a tour of the castle when you go, if you go, although there are so many wonders and curiosities about the place you really don’t want to miss any of them. We are there as part of the Napa Valley Wine Train’s “Castle Winery Tour,” and our guide greets us in the chapel with an introduction you don’t hear every day.

“Hi,” he says. “I’m Mark. I’ll be your tour guide and bartender.” Continue reading

Adventures in California and Canada—and another on the way

By Kevin Nelson

My editors at reminded me the other day that I had been writing for the site for two years, and during that time I’ve met some wonderful people and gone on some extraordinary adventures. Here are a few of those adventures, all recommended:

A bagpipes player at the start of the Rockies trip.

A bagpipes player at the start of the Rockies trip.

Rocky Mountaineer train trip across the Canadian Rockies. Starting in the wonderful British Columbia city of Vancouver and ending in the spectacular mountain village of Banff, this was a two-day ride through ridiculously beautiful scenery with tasty food and wine included. Those Canadians are nice people, too. Continue reading

Eat chocolate and save the world

Chocolate 2“Eat more,” bestselling food writer Simran Sethi told the Wall Street Journal. “Eat better chocolate. This is the path to saving the planet.”

In the interests of saving the planet, or at least having a really good time, we recently sampled an assortment of tinyB Chocolates, which are handmade by a Brazilian chocolatier named Renata. The box they came in was an attractive turquoise, similar to a Tiffany box, and when we popped the lid we found 15 chocolate “brigadeiros,” as they are called. The six flavors were spicy dark chocolate, milk chocolate, almond, pistachio, coconut and cream, and passion fruit with white chocolate curls. Continue reading

Banff Hot Springs, and the lasting appeal of Marilyn Monroe

By Kevin Nelson

Today is the birthday of the world’s greatest movie star. She would have been 89 had she lived.

Now, one could reasonably argue that Marilyn Monroe is not the world’s greatest movie star, given the fact that she has been dead for more than five decades. Nevertheless I feel fairly confident about the truth of this assertion, based on two separate incidents that occurred on a recent trip to Banff Hot Springs, Canada.Marilyn Monroe 1

Banff is a mountain resort town high in the Canadian Rockies, a destination for travelers around the world. In 1954 Marilyn, at the height of her stardom, came to Banff to film “River of No Return” with Robert Mitchum. Everywhere she went people asked for autographs and took pictures of her.

At a souvenir shop in town she posed for a publicity photo with a stuffed grizzly bear. With her beautifully styled blonde hair and in a form-fitting white turtleneck sweater, she tucked herself inside the arms of the bear as if she was about to be embraced or ravaged or both by its claws.

The bear stands to this day in a corner of the Indian Trading Post next to a framed photo of Marilyn with the bear. When I was there a handsome and vivacious Latin American couple in their early thirties were there too, apparently on holiday. The woman mimicked Marilyn’s pose with the bear while her husband or boyfriend snapped pictures of her.

They did not speak English and I speak only a little Spanish but I gladly took the camera and shot both of them with the bear. Marilyn was not identified in the picture but no ID was necessary. We all knew her. We all were fans.

Sixty years from now, will Jennifer Lawrence or Scarlett Johansson be instantly recognizable internationally? I don’t know, maybe. Continue reading

Aw, shucks: 12 things to know about oysters before eating one

George Curth at Hog Island Oyster Farm, Tomales Bay.

George Curth at Hog Island Oyster Farm, Tomales Bay.

1. Oysters are, of course, legendary aphrodisiacs. So if you’re out on a date with your spouse or partner or some enchanting stranger you just met at the bar, by all means, order up.

2. Oysters go very, very well with wine, beer, champagne and other spirits. Champagne is known to have many aphrodisiacal qualities as well, so if the oysters don’t work, the champagne might.

3. That fresh oyster you are about to pop into your mouth  is…alive! Accordingly regard it with respect, for it is about to give the last full measure of devotion for your dining pleasure.

4. Some people are not into oysters or shellfish. They’re allergic to them or don’t like their consistency or whatever. Oh well, more for the rest of us. Continue reading

Jack Kerouac Alley and its many surrounding pleasures

Jack Kerouac Alley is a charming, nostalgic tribute to the beatnik era of San Francisco and the handsome, charismatic free spirit who wrote one of the best books of that era, On The Road.Jack Kerouac Alley

The alley is between Columbus and Stockton, just off Broadway in North Beach, the city’s Italian district. It’s worth a visit, beginning with City Lights Bookstore, which borders the alley on the north side. City Lights is itself a beatnik era landmark, still vibrant today, which was founded by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, a free spirit himself who was a friend of Kerouac’s and a fine poet.

The bookstore holds readings and publishes books, something it has been doing since 1955, when it published Ferlinghetti’s poetry collection, Pictures of the Gone World. A special 60th anniversary edition of Pictures will come out in the fall. (Another Ferlinghetti collection worth exploring: the wondrous Coney Island of the Mind.) Be sure to go downstairs in the shop where the likes of Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, William Burroughs and other poets hung out, and where their books are displayed for sale. Continue reading

Despite drought, river rafting alive and well in California

By Teena Moore

Say hello to summer! It is that time of year again when you can enjoy the outdoors and revel in the sunny weather. One of the most exciting summer activities is river rafting with families and friends.River rafting

Continue reading

The place to ‘Say cheese!’ in Point Reyes Station

By Jennifer Kaiser

No visit to the Point Reyes Peninsula is complete without a quick stop at Cowgirl Creamery, located inside a renovated hay barn one block off Point Reyes Station’s main street. This is where the Creamery originated 20 years ago, the brainchild of co-founders Sue Conley and Peggy Smith.

Cowgirl Creamery 1While Cowgirl Creamery cheeses are now available throughout the country at Whole Foods Markets, grocery stores, and farmers markets—and their delicious outpost in San Francisco’s Ferry Building—it’s worth it to go back to the start of this now-famous cheesemaker and importer. They make cheese right on the spot in Point Reyes, and you can watch them do it.

Both sites have prepared food available at their companion take-out counters: the Ferry Building’s Sidekick and Pt. Reyes Cantina. The restaurants offer daily specials and standard favorites, including a truly inspired tomato soup ($4.50 small, $5.95 large). Redolent of rosemary and with a nice kick of heat, the rustic soup is topped with Cowgirl Creamery crème fraiche.

Cowgirl Creamery 3

On the day we visited, we enjoyed a Cabot Cheddar Toastie, a kind of open-face grilled cheese sandwich with caramelized onions and maple-honey mustard ($5.95) and Cantina Mac and Cheese, made with Wagon Wheel and Red Hawk cheeses ($8.95). The acidic tang of the soup balanced the cheesy richness perfectly.Cowgirl Creamery 4

There are a few tables inside the building but if the weather is grand, there are outside picnic tables on both sides of the building and in the nearby town commons. If you’re heading for the coast, you can pick up cold sandwiches and salads, charcuterie and other treats. To complete the meal, a little container of Chocolate Espresso Mousse ($2.95) works beautifully. It’s more of a ganache than a mousse, so sharing the richness is a must.

Below are the details on the Cowgirl Creamery and Sidekick Cafe locations in Point Reyes and San Francisco, and for a fun video peek at the Point Reyes cheesemaking shop, click here.

Cowgirl Creamery Cheese Shop & Cantina, 80 Fourth Street, Point Reyes Station. Wednesday-Sunday: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. 415.663.9335

Cowgirl Creamery Cheese Shop at the Ferry Building, 1 Ferry Building, No. 17, San Francisco. Monday-Friday: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 415.362.9354

 Sidekick Café & Milk Bar, 1 Ferry Building, No. 19, San Francisco. Monday-Saturday: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. 415.392.4000

The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver: 50 shades of luxury

The stylish Notch 8 bar at the Hotel Vancouver.

The scoop: The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver is one of Canada’s oldest and grandest hotels, known as “the Grand Dame” for its combination of stylish luxury and history. Some also call it the “Castle in the City,” a nod to its commanding architecture and central downtown location. The first Hotel Vancouver opened in 1887, and the one that stands today on West Georgia Street took more than a decade to build. When it finally opened, in May 1939, two of its first guests were royalty: King George VI and Queen Elizabeth on their first tour of Canada. Continue reading