Some will be disappointed that we only visited one winery in the Napa Valley. However, the experience we had, we feel, could not be topped! We stopped at Robert Mondavi but it was expensive.
Larry had sent out a bunch of e-mails the week before to see if anyone had RV parking at their winery. Several replied that they did not, and others did not reply at all. Frog's Leap Winery replied that they did not but would be happy to arrange an appointment for a tour. Our appointment was for 12:30. It was a lovely place. We started the tour in the garden and an explanation of the organic nature of their winery. They only use what water comes from rainfall - called dry farming. They have no drip system on their vines. The garden attracts many butterflies and hummingbirds. They have a vegetable garden which the sole purpose is for the staff to share. We met the chickens, the rooster and the cat, and were told they would be getting a "happy California" cow soon. We toured the barrel room (3000 barrels each containing 300 bottles of wine); bottling space and the solar panels (they generate all their own electricity). Now for the tasting - we started indoors with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc then our guide Erin brought two bottles of chilled Chardonnay wine with her and we carried our glasses, drinking the whole time! Near the bottling space she had two bottles of red Merlot ready for us. The vineyard/winery is staffed by about 45 Hispanics, all full-time employees with full benefits.
We ended up upstairs in the old original barn which now houses the fermenting tanks. We (there were eight of us) sat around the big table and talked about wine as she poured us yet another glass of there Reserve Rutherford wine which is $75 a bottle. The tour ended about 2:00pm. We went to the wine shop and bought two merlot, two sauvignon blanc and a $75 bottle of their specialty Rutherford wine.
By this time, the whole group was a little tipsy, not having had any lunch. So we all headed out looking for someplace to eat!
On October 30 we headed for Paso Robles. We'd never heard of it before but there are about 100 wineries around it as well. As you can see from the photo, directly in front of our motor home was the path to the Firestone winery. We walked through the vines to the tasting room and bought some wine there as well. Halloween was uneventful. We were prepared for about a dozen kids but had none. Americans go a bit crazy with their Halloween decorations and have them up for weeks ahead of time. One photo shows an extreme example near Napa.
We stayed in Paso Robles for three nights. The first day we drove out to the coast to Hearst Castle. What an amazing place! You have to reserve space of one of five tours. Everyone piles on a bus and the bus takes you up a steep 5 mile winding road to the top. You can only walk of the carpeted areas of the interior. The guides are very strict about where you can walk or sit. The photos don't really do justice to the massiveness of the Castle. The Castle itself has 12,000 square feet of closet space and 61,000 square feet of living space. This does not include the two guest cottages. The sitting room where everyone met for drinks before dinner is 80' x 30' x 23' high. The indoor pool was amazing and built under the tennis court. There are 1 million tiles of which many are 22 karat gold inlaid in glass. Since 1957 the Castle has been a California State Park. Most of the funds required to maintain it come from ticket sales.
Further up the road from the Castle were stretches of beach where elephant seals (all males) were pulled out of the water. We also saw turkey vultures flying everywhere.
The next day we toured the Estrella Warbirds Flight Museum and the San Miguel mission. The mission, also part of the California State Park system, is in dire need of funds to bring it up to seismic standards and the church and cemetery were closed but it was very interesting. It was built in 1797. Today the mission serves as a local parish, a novitiate for training young Franciscan monks, and a centre for retreats and meetings. Much of it is as it was originally. Very different from Hearst Castle!
As of November 2, we are in Anaheim. We plan to stay a week or two here and then probably move on to San Diego. There's a lot to do here - and that doesn't include Disneyland (we had enough of that at New Year's). The park is nice. It's not very full because the former owners let it run down and the word isn't out yet about the new owners. Suits us fine. It has the best seat in the house for the fireworks from Disneyland every night. We have tickets to the Jimmy Kimmel show on Monday November 5th and one of his guests is William Shatner.
Bye for now.
Maureen and Larry