Willamette Valley – The Majestic Oregon Wine Trail

Willamette Valley – The Majestic Oregon Wine Trail

Penner-Ash Wine Cellars

Vintners Rich with Napa Valley Roots Stake their Acclaim in the Willamette Valley

Sip, Explore and Stay

Up until 1979, which is not so long ago, the Willamette Valley and the presence of vineyards and winemaking in Oregon were somewhat of a fledgling undertaking. The tides turned shortly after Oregon vintner David Lett returned from a blind tasting in France where he was invited to submit a red wine to go up against the haughty, aristocratic French, German and Italian vintages, including the illustrious French Burgundies and similar European varietals.

David Lett

This came only three short years after the California wine industry put their name on the map at a similar competition in France creating the “French Paradox” with an award-winning Chardonnay. Lett stunned the judges in the Gault-Millau French Wine Olympiades in 1979 finishing among the top 10 out of over 330 entrants. It was a mere year later that renowned French Burgundian winemaker, Robert Drouhin, stepped up and instigated a re-match. To even greater acclaim, Lett’s Pinot finished second to Drouhin’s Chambolle-Mussigny, by only two-tenths. Not a surprise that Drouhin, then himself crossed the pond to the open his Oregon Domaine Drouhin in the stunning town of Dayton in the Willamette Valley.

Thus the “Oregon Story” was created which put an impressive stake on the map for the Oregon-made French-Style Pinot Noirs. Lett had left the Napa Valley only 10 years prior, shortly after studying at UC Davis. Despite the advice against it from his viticulture colleagues, Lett left his native California to put his own stake in the terroirs of the Pacific Northwest. His hunches proved him right.

Lett’s success from the competition fueled his notoriety stemming from the accolades he gained as a result of the infamous competition with his Eyrie Vineyards South Block Pinot Noir. A short 15 years down the road from the renowned competition in France; Oregon exploded on the wine scene bringing some of his doubtful colleagues from the UC Davis and other eager winemaking pioneers, many from the Napa Valley, to jump on the bandwagon to lay their roots in the rich Oregon soils.

Domaine Drouhin

The richness of the valley’s soils can be attributed to the Missoula Floods from the Glacial Lake Missoula which impacted the region more than 40 times at the end of the ice age over 13,000 years ago. Floodwaters swept into the region bringing rich volcanic and glacier soil. You will find that a good majority of the wineries in the area are perched on knolls or hillside vineyards where the most optimum soils for grape growing are found.

Soter Vineyards

The Willamette Valley has over two-thirds of Oregon’s Vineyards and is now home to over 700 wineries and vineyards, with many vintners who found their way there from the Napa Valley. The region known initially for their outstanding Pinot Noir production has brought in many notable varietals to great success, such as Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc and in addition, further expanding is the burgeoning sparkling wine production with the méthode champenoise. Some of the lesser produced varietals in the region are Syrah, Cabernet, and Merlot. There are 6 sub-appellations in the Willamette Valley – Chehalem Mountains, Dundee Hills, Eola-Amity Hills, McMinnville, Ribbon Ridge, and Yamhill-Carlton.

Where to Sip:

Soter Vineyards

Well-known Napa Valley Vintner creator of Etude Wines, Tony Soter, who was a 30 plus year veteran in winemaking in the Napa Valley, left the Valley in 2007. Much to the surprise of his colleagues, he took off for Oregon to go full time at the winery he owned since the mid-1990s with his wife Michelle, Soter Vineyards. He was an applauded consulting winemaker for Napa Valley well-known wineries, such as Stags Leap Wine Cellars, Shafer, Sequoia Grove, Viader, Robert Pepi, Etude, Chappellet, Spottswoode, Dalle Valle, Spring Mountain, Niebaum Coppola, and Stonegate.

Tony Soter

Michelle and Tony working together formed a dynamic team to follow in their own philosophy to consistently produce the highest caliber of wines that treads softly on the earth utilizing his over 4-decades of expertise and dedication to allow the character of the land to resonate in wines.

Soter Vineyards

Their stunning winery is in an architecturally re-crafted 1943 barn where open spaces abound, and views of the surrounding hills resonate with every turn. They also have a state-of-the-art kitchen for wine events on the property. They are located in the Yamhill-Carton AVA on a 240-acre bio-dynamic farm planted to 32 acres of vines including 30 acres of Pinot and 2 acres of Chardonnay which they use for their award-winning Brut Rose. In addition to their Mineral Springs location, they also have a second property which showcases their North Valley Vineyards Label and their Planet Oregon wines where $1 from the proceeds of every bottle sold is donated to the Oregon Environmental Council.

: Tastings by Reservation: Mineral Springs Ranch 10880 NE Mineral Springs Road, Carlton 97111 www.sotervineyards.com503-662-5600

Monks Gate

Monks Gate

The Moore family originally from the Napa Valley also migrated to the Yamhill Carlton AVA several decades ago. Ronald Moore was a cargo pilot and his wife, Linda was a software consultant. They were in search of a retirement venture with the mission of getting back to the land. The Willamette Valley drew them in with Its rolling hills and cool climates and the region’s notoriety for growing outstanding Pinots. Their 50-acre family farm is adjacent to the land owned by Trappist Abbey who helped the Moore’s clear their land for planting in 2000. The creation for the winery name was inspired by the actual gate entering to the Trappist Abbey estate, which was actually built to allow the monks to access the land over the years. Today sits a statue near the gateway of Saint Francis of Assisi commemorating their frequent passages across the lands.

Monks Gate

The vineyard is dry-farmed and also sustainably farmed to ensure that it will be environmentally and economically viable for generations to come. It is a two-generation operation, as their daughter Rebecca Moore also transplanted to the family compound from the Bay area and is the overall hands-on chief for every aspect for the winery from driving the tractor to pouring in the tasting room. Of the 50 acres, twenty are planted to Pinot Noir and Riesling.

: Carlton: Tastings by appointment: Open Thursday to Monday 12-5: www.monksgate.com503-852-6521

Alexana Winery

Dr. Madaiah Revana who is the proprietor of Napa Valley’s Revana Family Vineyards in Saint Helena had a love of the great wines of Burgundy and in 2005 began a search for the ideal location for his winery in Oregon. In addition to seeking out the perfect parcel of land for his winery and vineyards, he was also in search for a premier winemaker of Burgundian-style wines in the Willamette Valley. His quest led him to Lynn Penner-Ash, who had transplanted years before to this Pinot Noir abundant region from the Napa Valley.

Dr. Revana

Both Lynn and Dr. Revana were of the same philosophy with a commitment to producing world-class wines. Lynn’s vivid descriptions of the soils, the micro-climates, and elevations that would create the ultimate growing environment, presented them with a specific focus. They came upon the perfect location in the Dundee Hills, which offered 80-acres of which coincidentally sixteen acres had already been meticulously planted to Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris and the next year the launched Alexana Winery with their first estate 2006 vintages of Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. Today in addition to their stunning Pinot Noir Collection, they also offer Pinot Gris, Riesling, Chardonnay, a Bordeaux Blend, and a Rhone Blend. Keep an eye out for the touring helicopters which frequently bring in guests for a wine tasting experience at Alexana.

: Newberg: Reservations Preferred and a must for parties of 6 or more: www.alexanawinery.com503-537-3100

Penner-Ash Wine Cellars

After getting her kick-start in the wine business at Domaine Chandon and Stags Leap in Napa, Lynn Penner-Ash decided to leave for Oregon in 1988 to work at Rex Hill Winery as one of Oregon’s first female winemakers. Thirty years later as a renowned veteran winemaker, she and her husband Ron Penner-Ash celebrate the success of their mutually collaborated Penner-Ash brand which they founded in 1998.

Lynn and Ron Penner-Ash

In 2005, they designed and built their sustainable, gravity-flow estate winery in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, though their portfolio of wines also includes varietals from 7 major AVA’s of the Willamette Valley. Their winery, tasting room, and perfectly landscaped grounds offer majestic 360-degree views from their hillside perch overlooking the stunning vineyards of surrounding Newberg area.

In addition to their award-winning Pinot Noirs, they also produce Viognier, Roseo, Riesling, and Syrah.

: Newberg: Open 7 Days 11am to 5pm: Reservations Preferred and a must for parties of 6 or more: www.pennerash.com503-554-5545

Gran Moraine

Gran Moraine

Eugenia Keegan, Estate Manager and Winemaker at Gran Moraine, part of the Jackson Family Wines, continued her wine career in the 80’s in Napa Valley after working in Burgundy for several years honing her skills in Burgundian style wines. Upon arriving back in Napa, she took on the post as Bouchaine’s business manager at their Carneros location during their start-up days, and then later being promoted to President and CEO. In the late 90’s she moved over to Vine Cliff Winery in Oakville as president. In 2003, she took the plunge and moved on to the Henry Wine Group in Oregon until 2009. Prior to taking over at Gran Moraine in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, Eugenia managed her own wine brand on two different continents, Keegan Cellars in Russian River and Roussillon, France.

Eugenia Keegan

Gran Moraine, founded in 2014, is located in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA on 220 acres planted to the classic Burgundian varietals of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay on the hillsides behind the winery. Teaming up with Shane Moore – Winemaker and Ken Kupperman – Vineyard Director, they have certainly created the trifecta for success at Gran Moraine. She is indeed a grand dame of Pinot Noir the Willamette Valley and continues to be committed to sustainable practices and creating elegance and finesse in a glass.

: Yamhill: Open Daily: 11am to 5pm: www.granmoraine.com855-831-6631

Archery Summit

Archery Summit

Gary and Nancy Andrus founders of Napa Valley’s Pine Ridge Winery expanded their wine world and opened Archery Summit in 1993. Now owned by the Crimson Wine Group, Archery Summit now lays claim to an expanding vineyard portfolio which includes 6 vineyards across 120 estate acres in Dayton in the Dundee Hills. They are known for producing some of the most luxurious New World Pinot Noirs.

They celebrate over two decades of crafting their estate-grown pinots and have just introduced their newest estate vineyard, Archer’s Edge. Winemaker, Ian Burch, has worked harvests across Sonoma County, Barossa Valley, New Zealand, and South Africa before settling in the Willamette Valley in 2008. Many of their Pinots have received outstanding marks from both Wine Spectator and Robert Parker.

: Dayton: Open Daily except Holidays: 10am to 4pm: Please call Tasting Room for Appointments or Availability: 503-714-2030: www.archerysummit.com

Domaine Drouhin

Domaine Drouhin

A visit to Domaine Drouhin is also a must to put on your list when visiting the Willamette Valley as its roots take you back to wine country in Burgundy where it all started 130 years ago when Maison Joseph Drouhin introduced their outstanding Pinot Noirs to the world. Run now by fourth-generation Drouhin’s at the helm, Veronique Boss-Drouhin, and Philippe Drouhin. Domaine Drouhin Oregon was built in 1988 for $10,000,000 in the Dundee Hills by then patriarch Robert Drouhin.

Domaine Drouhin

Their Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays continue the family legacy and tradition of fine winemaking in France and now in Oregon with finesse and elegance. As the saying goes, “French Soul, Oregon Soil.”

: Dayton: Open Daily 11am to 4pm: For larger groups, please call Tasting Room for Appointments and Tours: www.domainedrouhin.com: 503-864-2700

(Please note that when visiting many of the Wineries in Willamette Valley, picnicking and outside food may not be permitted)

Where to Stay

The Allison Inn and Spa

Allison Inn and Spa

Celebrating their 10thAnniversary, The Allison Inn and Spa offers guests a casually elegant and luxurious experience in the heart of the Willamette Valley. No attention to detail has been overlooked at this stunning spa resort hosting 77 luxury guest rooms and 8 suites all with gas fireplaces, a terrace or balcony, and spa-like bathrooms with outstanding views of the luscious landscape of the surrounding rolling hills and vineyards. No other place in the Willamette Valley offers this kind of unique guest experience. Whether you are taking off right from the property on a helicopter tour, a luxury private car, a hot air balloon, or even by horseback, the Allison can personalize your visit and choose from more than 200 area wineries. They will also prepare a customized picnic basket to take along with you.

Allison Inn and Spa

Upon your return from tasting some of the best Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays in the world, take time to chill a little in their award-winning spa offering an extensive spa menu utilizing the energies, and ecological elements stemmed from the fertile soils of the Willamette Valley.

Dining at the Jory Restaurant at the Allison provides yet another memorable sensory experience. This one is offering a journey that accentuates the native flavors of the region sourcing seasonal and farm to table products in every dish specially prepared to create your culinary memory of the Willamette Valley.

Brunch on the deck at The Allison Inn and Spa

: 2525 Allison Lane, Newberg, OR: www.theallison.com: 877-294-2525

Black Walnut Inn and Vineyards

Black Walnut Inn

If it is a luxury bed and breakfast you are in search of, then look no further than the exquisite Black Walnut Inn and Vineyards in the Dundee Hills. This majestic Inn is nestled on a knoll surrounded by rolling vineyards on their 42 acres. Each of the nine guest rooms all with private baths are uniquely adorned with their individual designer décor, many with balconies or private patios. These inviting rooms offer guests a relaxing retreat where you will enjoy spectacular evening sunsets and vistas on your patio with an afternoon glass of wine from their expansive wine cellar along with a Charcuterie and Cheeseboard.

Black Walnut Inn

You can expect your stay to be absolutely memorable as this dynamic property sets the stage for the perfect romantic getaway. Before rushing out to a full day of visiting the region’s wineries, you will indulge in Black Walnuts Inn’s signature breakfast where each dish is made to order with the freshest of local ingredients. What a perfect way to start your perfect day! Owners Rick and Erika Miller are hands-on hosts who look after your every need.

Guest Suite at the Black Walnut Inn

: 9600 NE Worden Hill Road, Dundee, OR: www.blackwalnutvineyard.com503-538-8663

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exploring Baja California Sur with Un-Cruise Adventures

Exploring Baja California Sur with Un-Cruise Adventures

Safari Endeavor In Baja California Sur

Our Quintessential Warm Winter Getaway to Mexico’s Magical Sea of Cortes

When it’s snowing and cold during the long winter months, it’s the perfect time to plan a mid-winter escape. It was our mission to find a lesser-known paradise where you can endlessly cruise through inviting turquoise seas from cove to cove from island to island from port to port.

We were in search of authentic native culture, kayaking in glassy coves, and hiking the uninhabited brass colored desert mountains. Seeking out white sandy beaches, snorkeling with sea lions, and experience wildlife from both sea, land, and sky. The whales and a plethora of birdlife will be awaiting our arrival.

It was time to plan our warm-weather excursion down to Baja California Sur. We wanted to do a small ship adventure eco-cruise somewhere south of the border. We were looking for a winter escape to parts of the world lesser known.

Here is the video created by UnCruise on the Sea of Cortes Exploration on the Safari Endeavor!

Off we went in search of a journey that offered unique destinations harboring us in someplace warm and sunny, that is a bit away from the winter snowbird crowds. We were referred to Un-Cruise Adventures by several friends who happened to be repeat passengers and raved about it with huge accolades. We were intrigued and excited about their enthusiasm from their memorable experiences with Un-Cruise. We realized we had found the perfect choice as it offered just what we were in search of – “Small ships and BIG Adventures.”

Un-Cruise Adventures offers many select destinations around the world at different times of the year for their guests to discover a variety of untouched locales with off the beaten path explorations. They provide their adventurous passengers a journey over oceans, seas, bays, and rivers as a way to change the way you see the world.

In the winter months, Un-Cruise offers four different warm-weather destinations.  The Hawaiian Islands, Central America – Costa Rica & Panama, the Galapagos and Mexico’s Sea of Cortes, which was our number one choice taking us to Mexico’s inland sea, also known as the Gulf of California in Baja California Sur.

With every Un-Cruise experience, one can expect to receive unparalleled service and impeccable attention to details.  Each cruise offers relaxed and cozy accommodations, adventure and shore excursions, and an abundance of amazing food and beverages along the way.

Map of the Route of the Safari Endeavor through the Sea of Cortez

Once we made our decision to book in this adventure to Mexico’s Sea of Cortes with Un-Cruise, the rest of the planning was plug-and-play! Their team of travel experts was on top of everything from the moment we arrived at Los Cabos International Airport to the day we flew back home.

When we left the chilly snow-capped mountains and arrived in warm Baja California Sur, we peeled off our winter layers of clothes into sunny warm weather attire. Our first “Ah-Ha” moment. Upon arriving, we were graciously escorted to one of their partner hotels in San Jose del Cabo, the Barcelo Grand Faro Los Cabos.

That evening we dined on local seafood, fresh salsa, and guacamole and toasted to margaritas overlooking the sunset from the hotel’s outdoor restaurant. We also had the opportunity to meet many of our future shipmates who were just as thrilled as we were to embark on our upcoming small ship adventure cruise.

Welcome Introduction to our weeklong adventure by Ellie

The next day our 8-Day/7-Night sojourn with the Un-Cruise Sea of Cortes Exploration began. In the afternoon, we boarded a bus to the docks in La Paz, where we boarded the 42-Cabin, 232-foot Safari Endeavor with our binoculars, cameras, and journals in tow. Upon stepping aboard, the week’s guests were shown to our cabins and given a tour around the different decks, the lounge salon, and the dining room. Early that evening over cocktails, and after introductions and an informative orientation by their experienced crew, our expedition set sail with the glowing sunset on our tail.

The Admiral Cabin – One of Five Different Types of Staterooms

View off of the Deck the First Evening

Just before dinner, we embarked from the port, as we gently cruised out of the harbor onto the sparkling moonlit Sea of Cortes for our week-long Island-hopping Un-Cruise Adventure. The numerous bays and islands along Mexico’s Eastern shores was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005 and also a Biosphere Reserve. We will be following the great John Steinbeck’s path into the protected waters of Cousteau’s “world aquarium.” At this moment, we knew for sure we were in store for a memorable experience and an adventure for the books!

Searching for Marine Life

Let the adventures begin!

View off the top deck of the Safari Endeavor

Daily Activities

  • Every day you can watch the sunrise as you begin your adventure-packed day with wellness and Yoga on the 400 Sundeck at 6:45 where all levels of flexibility and experience are welcome.
  • The sumptuous breakfasts are always the perfect way to start your day at 7:30 am in the ship’s spacious dining room.
  • 9:45 am after the daily activity orientations; you can sign up for your “Fun Day” of choice from the ship, whether it be a snorkel, a ride on the skiff’s, a hike, a guided paddle on the kayaks. There are two days with off-ship excursions, whether you are visiting the historic town of Loreto or off to Magdalena Bay in search of Gray Whales.
  • Lunch on the ship is in Endeavor’s Dining room at 12:30, unless ashore on an adventure excursion.
  • Happy Hour is Daily in the Salon at 5:30, where the guests mingle and share stories about their day’s adventures at sea or on land.

    Happy Hour

  • Dinner is at 6:30 every evening in the ship’s dining room. Each evening presents delicious, specially crafted dishes created with locally sourced produce, seafood, and meats by the onboard chef. There are selections to delight in for every palate, and they can also cater to your dietary needs and food restrictions too.

    Safari Endeavor Dining Room

    One of our Evening Meals Aboard the Safari Endeavor

Our Daily Itinerary for the Week at Sea

Snorkeling Adventure UnCruise Baja California Sur

Happy Snorkeler

Sunday – Day 2 Adventures

  • Daily Activity Presentations – Route Talk with Mark
  • Cruising and Los Islotes
  • “Cruising for Critters,” as they call it on board, through the rolling seas such as blue whales and pods of dolphins

    Sea Lions Galore

  • Skiff Tours to the Surrounding Islands

    Skiff Tours of the Islas

  • Snorkeling with the California Sea Lions, with a focus on interactions with juveniles, graceful, agile, playful, or known as “puppies of the sea.” All snorkel gear, wetsuits, and fins are provided onboard by Un-Cruise. Select your set-up for the week and get ready to explore a variety of marine life below the surface. There were many different schools of fish and plentiful underwater creatures.

    Snorkeling with the Sea Lions

  • The birding is sensational – We set our eyes on Blue-footed boobies, Brown Pelicans, Frigate birds, shorebirds, and Cormorants.

    Shorebirds

  • After our snorkeling expedition, upon return to the ship, we warmed up on the deck in one of the inviting hot tubs with a hot beverage.

    Time to Relax

  • In the late afternoon, we went up to the bridge with Captain Bernadette to search for marine life in the waters ahead.

Monday – Day 3 Adventures

Coming Ashore for our Burro Ride on the Arroyo

  • Daily Activity Presentation – Treasure with Ellie
  • We met on deck three at 8:30 am for the shore excursion to Agua Verde – we experienced the real Baja on burro rides with the Romero family from San Cosme. This family is one of the last remaining strongholds of the Vaquero/Ranchero culture of Baja. They are horse-mounted livestock herders of tradition that originated on the Iberian Peninsula. They are traditional horseman cowboy ranchers.

    Saddling up the Burros for our Ride

  • We cruised to shore across the brilliant blue-green waters of this Bahia Agua Verde on the skiffs from the ship to the sprawling shores of the Romero property. We were saddled up with our own burro and then headed up the trails where we experienced a gentle meandering ride up and down the rolling hills and untouched shoreline.

    At the Shore from the Endeavor for our Burro Adventure

  • Along the Trails on the Burro Ride

    One of the picturesque views from the burro trail ride

    Our friendly burros had minds of their own when it came to which order they wanted to follow in along the uninhabited trails. Though when the guide stopped, we stopped, and when the guide started moving along the path again, our burros followed suit, keeping an even pace with their leader. Along the top of the ridge, we overlooked breathtaking views of the bay and learned much about the Romero family’s deep history ranching in this stunning remote desert terrain.

    Burro Ride

  • We rode our mules through the arroyos of native cactus and an oasis of palms through the sand dunes and occasional streams. Sixteen of us from the ship went on the first round of trail rides. It was a good thing I had my waterproof windbreaker as we ran into an unexpected but short shower.

    My Burro

  • After lunch, we took another cruise to other islands on the skiffs. We ran into a bit of unexpected wind as the seas pick up a bit. One of the other skiffs came out to the deserted island we had landed on to escort us back to the ship.

    Cruising the Islas in the Skiffs

 Tuesday – Day 4 Adventures

  • Daily Activity Presentation – Creatures of Culture with Lindsey
  • Isla Danzante Snorkel and Honeymoon Cove. A stroll through Steinbeck Canyon and then off to the charming historic town of Loretto for lunch.

    The Snorkel at Isla Danzante

  • Danzante means dancer because the high mountain peaks from the peninsula look like women dancing. This part of Isla Danzante is part of the Bahia de Loreto de Parque Nacional and is home to dolphins, whales, and pelicans. The city of Loreto is backed by the Sierra de la Giganta mountain range, where trails lead to prehistoric cave paintings.

    Our Walking Tour Around Loreto

  • What a great afternoon, we had to explore the town of Loreto on our walking tour. We toured the colonial buildings and the Mision de Nuestra Senora de Loreto, a 17th-century church in the heart of town.

    Mision de Nuestra Señora de Loreto

  • Before heading back to the Safari Endeavor, we stopped for a tasty bite of regional cuisine and few yummy margaritas at one of Loreto’s favorite dining spots – Orlando’s Restaurante.

    Orlando’s Restaurante in Loreto

Wednesday – Day 5 Adventures

Magdalena Bay Gray Whale Excursion

  • Daily Activity Presentation – Gray Whales with Mark
  • Magdalena Bay Day – Our Gray Whale Adventure – After an early breakfast, we boarded the waiting Lopez Mateos vans for our ride across the peninsula to the Pacific side to Puerto Adolfo Lopez Mateos, a municipality of Comondu in Baja California Sur. It is a small fishing town located on the Magdalena Bay coast, mainly known for its whale watching operations. We boarded several waiting white panga boats and headed out to the nearby lagoon, which has calm, warm waters perfect for Gray Whale calving. The bay is protected from the Pacific Ocean by the sandy barrier islands of Isla Magdalena and Isla Santa Margarita.

    Mother and Baby Gray Whale

  • The Gray Whales are sometimes known as the “friendlies” due to their tolerance and curiosity of the cruising small panga boats with people such as us. As it was our own friendly mission to get up close and personal with these charming and docile migrating creatures of the sea.

    Baby Gray Whale coming to Say Hello

  • We had only 5 or 6 passengers and a guide in our 20-person panga for our 2-hour whale watching adventure. It was absolutely exhilarating getting so close to these fascinating and grand gray whales. We had a mother and her calf spend almost an hour flirting with all of us between the surrounding pangas. They seemed to love the attention as they came close to our boats to say hello. We all kept in observance the guidelines of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

    The Gray Whales Love to Visit

  • Our lunch after the whale watch adventure was quite fantastic. We noshed on regional langoustine, prawns, fresh-caught fish with tortillas beans and rice at one of the local outdoor restaurants, and of course, a fresh cold Cerveza.

 Thursday – Day 6 Adventures

Kayak Launch off of the Safari Endeavor

  • Daily Activity Presentation – Trivia with Marika

    Searching for Underwater Marine Life

  • Today’s excursion took us to San Evaristo and Isla California, where it is protected from the Northerlies. The water seemed a bit colder that day, so I went for extra warm with a shorty wetsuit over my long one. We had excellent fish sightings of Needlefish, Sea Cucumber, Puffer Fish, King Angelfish, colorful coral, and seastars. The visibility was excellent, around 50 feet, so we see could see an abundance of underwater marine activity.

    The Onboard Wetsuits and Underwater Gear

  • We also did a hill hike referred to as our “Bushwhack Hike,” 4.6 miles up into the arroyo through the chaparral and coastal hills. We had a fantastic view of the old salt flats, and the Safari Endeavor moored in the distance out in the bay. We passed through a tiny village of a few homes where only about 40 families still. Many of the area’s buildings appeared to be abandoned and falling down due to the hurricane damage from several years before.

    Hiking Isla California

    Hiking Isla California

    Our Expedition Guide for the Day

 Friday – Day 6 Adventures

Arriving on Shore for the Beach Party

  • Daily Activity Presentation
  • It was Beach Party day in the protective cove of Ensenada Grande, which is part of Espirito Santo National Park. At 9 am, we boarded the skiffs on a short ride from the ship where we landed on a secluded, pristine white sand beach and where the staff had set up absolutely everything for us.

    Kayaks along the Beach at Espirto Santo National Park

    Food and Beverages – The Picnic

  • They had brought food and beverages, and they even set up a beach picnic and beach bar for us. Also waiting for us was the fleet of yellow kayaks to take out with one of the expedition guides or on our own at our leisure in the calm waters of the aquamarine bay. We paddled about the rim of the island and the dynamic shoreline amidst sheltering rocky walls, volcanic ridges, and abundant birdlife.

    Kayaking around the Protective Cove of Ensenada Grande

    The Beach Party Farwell

  • As a wrap up for the week, we all assembled in the ship’s dining room for our exquisitely prepared farewell dinner with our many new-found friends.
  • After dinner, they followed with a fantastic slideshow of memorable photos taken by the expedition team during our weeklong journey cruising Baja California Sur.
  • As our finale, we did some post-dinner stargazing on the top deck as we bid a melancholy farewell to the glimmering luminescence of the waters surrounding the Safari Endeavor. At the end of the evening, we all settled in with our journey’s home beginning the next morning, leaving with great experiences and memories.

THE FOOD

The cuisine on board was an absolute delight. All of the meals presented to us were handcrafted and prepared by their experienced executive chefs. These innovative dishes are all created with local fresh, sustainable products. Their culinary program thrives upon the relationships they have built with the local farmers, local fishermen, and regional vendors. You can always expect field-to-table produce and ocean-friendly seafood direct from the waters where the Un-Cruise ships go.

Produce from Local Farmer

Un-Cruise Adventures is committed to sustainability, and they are proud to be the first cruise partner of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program.

Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch

Other than the days where there is a unique excursion away from the ship or a picnic on the beach, all three meals are prepared and served in the ships stunning dining room. And you don’t even have to dress up for dining as it is always a casual and relaxed dining experience.

What to expect with your Dining Experience

The Dining Experience of Un-Cruises

  • Early-riser breakfasts of fresh fruit and baked-on-board pastries
  • Full breakfasts with hot and cold options
  • Lunches featuring salads, sandwiches, homemade soups, and regionally influenced dishes
  • Varied hors d’oeuvres during cocktail hour
  • Dinners come with a choice of entrees including fresh, local seafood, meats, and vegetarian dishes
  • Made from scratch desserts like tiramisu and lavender panna cotta
  • Chef selected wine pairings that complement your meal

Sample Menus

  • Breakfast
    • Smoked Marlin Frittata, portabella mushrooms, spinach, dried tomatoes
    • Omelet of the Day – Mushroom Cheese Omelet
    • Berry Pancakes with Maple Syrup
    • Breakfast Potatoes Choice of Bacon or Sausage
  • Dinner
    • Field Greens with fresh raspberries, caramelized chevre & champagne roasted shallot vinaigrette
    • Fresh -baked rosemary focaccia finished with apricot and sweet onion glaze
    • Roasted Beef Tenderloin with Beef Demi-Glace
    • Baja Lobster with Lemon Butter
    • Squash Napoleon layered with crumbled Boursin & pomegranate balsamic
    • Cinnamon poached pear with buttery puff pastry and salted caramel

Happy Crew Eager to Serve the Passengers at Happy Hour

The bar in the salon area is open for your enjoyment. There is always one of the ship’s friendly staff members waiting to pour you a glass of wine, beer, or create your favorite libation from scratch. Whatever your fancy, you will find premium and small-batch craft spirits. Their cocktails are mixed with seasonal local ingredients like a house-infused cucumber vodka. The infamous Un-Cruise Bloody Mary is a must-try and when cruising through Mexico’s Sea of Cortes, don’t miss their Margaritas, they are sensational. We can vouch for that.

Cocktails at the Bar Every Evening Aboard the Safari Endeavor

I forgot to mention that one of the other perks is that every passenger guest received a complimentary massage! That was a special unexpected treat especially after the long hike in the arroyo.

Weather in Baja California Sur

What’s the weather like in November through March when the Safari Endeavor takes to the waters of the Sea of Cortes?

Air temperatures are moderate and can vary from 74F to 83F degrees. Evenings can get slightly chilly with the off-shore winds.

Water temperatures vary from 66F to 77F.

What to Bring for your Adventure Cruise on the Safari Endeavor

  • Don’t forget your passport
  • Reef-safe Bio-degradable sunscreen and hats for shade
  • Mobile phones or iPad for photos and photo sharing, though there is limited or no Internet onboard
  • Cameras, Binoculars, chargers/power cords, memory card, extra batteries
  • Collapsible Suitcase to fit under your bed
  • Dress in layers throughout the day – sun protective fabric is suggested
  • Hiking attire – hiking poles, hiking shoes, daypack
  • Dry Bag for camera, binoculars, or anything that you don’t want to get wet.
  • Comfortable clothes, casual attire, beach clothes
  • Windbreaker, fleece or light jacket
  • Any medications you may need during the week

 Un-Cruise Adventures tagline “Unrushed. Uncrowded and Unbelievable”.  And you can count on that!

Goodbye for now! Can’t wait until the next time! Cheers Un-Cruise! You are the Best!

Visit their website for more details on this cruise and their other destinations.

www.uncruise.com

Photo credits: Dynie Sanderson; the expedition crew aboard the Safari Endeavor; Uncruise Adventures; Jean Cusick.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marvelous Mendoza Malbecs – Visit Mendoza Argentina

Marvelous Mendoza Malbecs – Visit Mendoza Argentina

The Vines Resort & Spa – Photo by Dynie Sanderson

Time for Wine – Visit Mendoza Argentina

Argentina’s Explosion onto the International Wine Scene in Picturesque Mendoza

A Visit to Mendoza, Argentina. The Mendoza wine region in Argentina is the fifth largest producer of wine in the world. Mendoza is the most significant wine region in Argentina with over two-thirds of the country’s wines coming from this area. Malbec is the most prominent varietal being produced in Mendoza, though award-winning Cabernets, Tempranillo’s and Chardonnays have quickly followed suit. This magnificent wine region of Mendoza adjoins the panoramic Andean foothills spanning over 75 miles from Mendoza City to the south into Uco Valley.

Winegrowing is not new to the Mendoza region, in fact by 1910 there were over 45,000 vines planted mostly with the French rootstock – Malbec. The vineyards and wineries near Mendoza city are more traditional with some dating back well over 100 years, such as Bodegas Lopez in Maipu, which has been producing wines since 1898.

Heading further south through Maipu, onto the region of Lujan de Cuyo, and then into the newest region of Uco Valley, you will find very modernistic wineries with high-tech production facilities. The terrain throughout the Mendoza region is high-desert like, with some of the vineyards planted in the highest elevations in the world, with average elevations of 2,000 to 3,500 feet. The higher the elevation, the more intense the sunlight.

The diversity of the Mendoza terroir spans over three major wine regions encompassing over almost 100 miles of lush vineyards. The furthest north in the Mendoza region is Maipu which is just southeast of Mendoza city. Another forty miles south is the southern part of the Lujan de Cuyo region.

Uco Valley, the newest and most revered region lays 75 miles south of Mendoza City and has received much acclaim as one of the most picturesque of the areas, producing world-renowned award-winning Malbecs as well as other popular varietals are grown in Mendoza.

Mendoza’s three distinct wine regions are much like the designated appellations of Napa Valley’s wine country, giving each of the regions their own unique offerings. The terroir varies from region to region throughout the winegrowing corridor of Mendoza. Though one characteristic that they all share is the lush blankets of emerald vineyards painted up against the scenic backdrop of the majestic snow-capped peaks of Chile’s towering Andes mountains.

In the Uco Valley, a vast selection of international wine investors has influenced the development of this sprawling Malbec producing area. These renowned international investors having had a significant impact on the region’s expansion which includes the Kendall Jackson Group, well-known California vintner Paul Hobbs, a group of Walt Disney Investors, as well as famed French Vintner Michel Roland who created the Clos de Siete group in Uco Valley. Also, other Napa wineries have impacted the expansion of the region, including Revana of Saint Helena, who opened Bodega Corazon Del Sol in 2015 in the Uco Valley.

A few years ago, the Napa Valley Wine Auction presented an Argentine theme to its attending guests. Celebrated Argentine Chef, Francis Mallmann, known for his famed cookbook Seven Fires and his famous collection of restaurants, was brought in to create an exceptional experience for the hungry bidders.

The dining event came with great applause as Mallmann’s dramatic display of his unique wood fire style presented a once in a lifetime experience. The proprietor of Quintessa, Agustin Huneeus, stated, “Our shared love for South America will shine through Francis’s food and innovative presentations.”

There are several other Napa Valley Vintners with distinct Argentine roots. Delia Viader of Viader was born and raised in Argentina, and as a young woman and pioneer in Napa Valley winemaking, against many odds, she created her thriving Howell mountain vineyard and winery. Another well-known Napa Valley vintner of Palmaz Vineyard, born in Buenos Aires, is Julio Palmaz, well known for inventing the Palmaz Coronary Stent.

Getting There:

Getting to the Mendoza wine region offers major two routes which you can fly in from. If you choose to fly into Buenos Aires, it is a 1 hour 55-minute flight into the Aeropuerto Mendoza, their international airport. Another option is to fly into Santiago, Chile, where the flight is just a short 55-minutes.

Or if you have extra time to explore, driving from Santiago to Mendoza is exceptional, as you will experience a breathtaking drive over the monumental Andes Mountains over the border into Argentina, well worth the 226-mile drive along Ruta Nacional 7. Most major airlines offer flights into both Buenos Aires or Santiago.

 

Visit Mendoza Choices:

The various Mendoza wine regions and nearby mountains present many opportunities to explore beyond wine tasting. Though it is most definitely a mecca for wine lovers and foodies, particularly carnivores, there are adventures galore to behold. The area is host to an abundance of hiking trails from novice to advanced, bicycling, river-rafting, horseback riding and fly fishing for those seeking a bit of adventure to pair along with their wines.

Horseback Riding through the Vineyards of the Uco Valley

Let’s Go Visit Mendoza

Before you hop in your car to go tasting, keep in mind that wine-tasting in Argentina is a bit different than you are used to in the Napa Valley. If you don’t utilize a hired service to take you from winery to winery, driving to each winery does take a bit of time as the region and the wineries are very spread out. Don’t try to see all three regions in one day. Split them up over 3 or 4 days, as there is a lot to experience, to taste, and to view. If this is your first time in Mendoza, definitely look into a private wine tour service.

There are many of them, and they will give you wonderful options and suggestions on where to taste, how to taste, and which wineries to eat at. Almost all of the wineries in Uco Valley and in Lujan de Cujo are by appointment only, so just popping into a winery unannounced is not a good suggestion.

If you are used to more of a Napa Valley style of wine tasting, the northern party of the Lujan de Cuyo region is approximately 20 miles from the town of Mendoza, where you will find larger production wineries and some that you can actually go to without an appointment. One of my favorite parts of wine tasting in all of the regions in Mendoza is the wineries’ specialty luncheons. The majority of the Bodegas (wineries) offer a paired lunch, usually 4-6 courses. And to our surprise and amazement, these delicious culinary presentations average around $40 per person, including wine.

The best way to set your day up is to set up a morning tasting, a paired lunch, and then an afternoon tasting. More than three per day can be a bit much, being that your luncheon experience can last three hours. Also, keep in mind, sometimes contacting the wineries to set up appointment or lunch reservations can be tedious and time-consuming. All the more reason to set up your day with a customized wine touring service or a hired car. Plus you will enjoy it more as they will be your designated driver. Mendoza Wine Camp set us up perfectly. www.mendozawinecamp.com

Wine and Food Pairings Visit Mendoza

Most of the luncheons at wineries have highly experienced in-house chefs, some with international training from world-renowned restaurants. Expect a Napa Valley quality dining experience for far less than what it would cost to dine in the Napa Valley. Each of the wineries presents beautifully designed dining areas serving guests in an inviting indoor or outdoor setting, with most overlooking the vineyards or the winery estate.

The daily menus are very diverse, utilizing only the freshest of regional ingredients. Much of the time you will find their own variations of Empanadas, No lunch would be complete without being presented freshly baked traditional Argentine Empanadas. A treat indeed!

Chimichurri Sauces and the highest grades of Argentine beef. Each course delivers a unique artistic presentation on a plate, all creating a memorable gastronomic experience paired with some of Argentina’s finest wines. Get ready for some outrageous Malbecs, after all, that’s what we came here, but then there’s so more in Mendoza to explore!

 

Here are a few highlights from one of the winery lunches we delighted in during our four days in Mendoza.

Ruca Malen in Lujan de Cuyo– Chef Juan Ventureyra, created some of the most innovative and spectacular dishes we experienced during our visit to Mendoza. Not surprising his creativity was off the charts and his dishes were out of this world, as he trained under 2 Michelin Star Chef Jacque Chibois at Las Bastide Sainte Antoine in France for 7 years. The menu of “seven steps” (courses) is paired with “seven tags” (wines) of the winery. All of the produce from his abundant extensive gardens are utilized in his remarkable dishes.

Several of chef’s highlights included – Beef Carpaccio with mashed beetroot, raspberries, toasted almonds and Salicornia (regional salad herb) paired with Yauquen Bonarda 2015. Egg at 145 Degrees served with pumpkin and carob bread paired with Ruca Malen Malbec 2014 (90 Points James Suckling). Milcao (potato bread) served in the “curanto-style” with gnocchi alla Romana paired with Ruca Malen Petit Verdot 2014. Filet Mignon with chili peppers, bean chimichurri and fresh tomato salad paired with Kinien Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (Bronze Medal Decanter).

Other exceptional wine lunch locations we experienced around the Mendoza regions include: Susana Balbo in Lujan de Cujo; Casarena Bodega y Restaurante in Lujan de Cuyo; Gimenez Riili Bodega & Vinedos in Uco Valley; Casa Azul in Uco Valley; Piedra Infinita Cocina at Bodega Zuccardi in Uco Valley; Clos de Los Siete at Bodega Monteviejo in Uco Valley.

Lunch Ruca Malen

 

Where to Stay When You Visit Mendoza

When traveling in Mendoza, there are a variety of options for accommodations ranging from a 4 room B&B style inn to significant hotels within Mendoza City, luxury wine lodges offering 5-star amenities and everything else in between. If you are staying in Mendoza City, particularly during their annual renowned wine festival, “Vendimia,” which is usually held the first weekend in March, you will want to stay close to town and close to the square for the festivities.

Most of the parade and festival activities are right in front of the Park Hyatt Mendoza, which presents the optimum place to be a participant and a spectator. They have a variety of Vendimia events at the hotel or very near the hotel.

I would recommend staying in Mendoza City for at least one night as the town offers many great restaurants, places to see and things to do. Then it will be time to head a bit off of the beaten path into wine country where you will discover places you never dreamed existed.

Park Hyatt Mendoza in Mendoza City: Is set in a beautifully restored 19-century Spanish colonial castle-like building on the main square, Plaza Indepencia in the heart of Mendoza. This 5-star luxury hotel offers all of the amenities to pamper you during your stay, including a state of the art spa and a variety of dining options. You are walking distance to wine tasting bars and many amazing regional cuisine inspired restaurants.

Pod on Stilts presented By Glamping Hub – Lujan de CuyoA unique one-of-a-kind individual getaway amidst the vineyards is a pod built on stilts. Glampers can experience a stay like no other at this stilted pod near Mendoza. It floats in the air above the vines of the on-site winery producing exquisite Argentine Malbecs, offering a cocoon nestling guests between land and sky. There is a bathtub on the terrace with views of the Andes, and a window in the roof promising guests stargazing in the clear skies of Argentina’s west. There is also a private jacuzzi hot tub.

A queen bed provides comfort and tranquility for two, with a private bathroom ensuring seclusion.

Auberge du Vin – A Tribute Portfolio Hotel in Tupungato: Part of the Marriott Bonvoy Hotel Group – You can even use your loyalty points to stay here. This stunning Mendoza getaway is a bit off the beaten path from Mendoza City hustle and bustle. When you arrive at Auberge du Vin, you will find yourself in a sophisticated rustic oasis in Tupungato and close to many of the most famous Bodegas in the Uco Valley.

The beautifully appointed guest rooms offer views overlooking the sprawling vineyards and the snow-capped Andes. Many rooms have kitchenettes, and there is an onsite fitness center as well as a tranquil outdoor pool and lounging area. Their signature restaurant and lounge presents regional cuisine and innovative libations along with an extensive wine list.

The Vines Resort and Spa in Uco Valley: If you are planning on heading down to Uco Valley and you seek a 5-star pamper yourself experience, then look no further than The Vines Resort & Spa. The Vine’s cuisine and Restaurant, Siete Fuegos (Seven Fires – also the name of Mallmann’s award-winning cookbook) was inspired by legendary Argentine Chef, Francis Mallmann. The property was developed across 650 acres of land in 2005 by Pablo Gimenez Riili and Michael Evans, who had a vision and a dream to create and luxury oasis at the base of the Andes Mountains.

This expansive wine destination resort offers rustic elegance and with the utmost of amenities. The Vines is beyond extraordinary, it immerses you in the sheer indulgence of the senses, of beauty, tastes, sights, and sounds. The sophisticated private villas that surround the hotel property allow guests to escape while providing the ultimate retreat for food and wine lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. It is no surprise that Conde Nast’s and Travel and Leisure have named it one of the top hotels in the world.

 

Gimenez Riili Posada

Gimenez RilliLos Sauces – The winery was founded in 1945, by Pablo Rilli – Co-founder of The Vines Resort and is located adjacent to the Vines Resort in Winemakers Village. The Casa de Huespedes is on the grounds of the Bodega Gimenez Riili and vineyards. It is a charming, intimate posada amid the vineyards with spectacular views of the Andes. This 4-room boutique inn also offers spacious rooms with luxury amenities and a cook to order breakfasts.

Dining at Gimenez Riili

Federico, the owner, and charming host provides an onsite restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating along with wine paired lunches and dinners. Our 5-course dining experience was absolutely divine. You can dine on their Argentine Asado specialties and other regional specialties while enjoying a selection of their wines. A great value too. Be sure and try the Gran Reserva Malbec. Rent horse or bicycles and watch the sunrise in the vineyards. You can reserve directly through them or book through one of the booking sites like Booking.com or TripAdvisor.

During your visit to Mendoza, Argentina – Here are a few suggested Bodegas for your Mendoza wine tasting adventures:

Maipu

  • Bodega Lopez
  • Trapiche

Lujan de Cujo

  • Archaval Ferrer
  • Ruca Malen
  • Bodega Matervini
  • Clos de Chacras
  • Catena Zapata
  • Casarena
  • Susana Balbo
  • Bressia
  • Vino Cobos – Paul Hobbs

Uco Valley

  • Salentein
  • The Vines
  • Gimenez Riili
  • Clos de los Siete
  • Monteviejo
  • Corazon del Sol
  • Zuccardi
  • Archaval Ferrer
  • Super Uco

 

Two Delicious Days Aboard Rocky Mountaineer!

Two Delicious Days Aboard Rocky Mountaineer!

Join Me for Two Delicious Days Across the Stunning Canadian Rockies Aboard Rocky Mountaineer

Food Glorious Food Aboard the Rocky Mountaineer

Traveling across the Canadian Rockies from Vancouver to Banff is a breathtaking sight to behold with brilliant terrain changes and blanketed snowcapped rocky peaks all along the way, and of course, view an expansive variety wildlife viewing along the way. The drive there is certainly spectacular, however, imagine if you left the driving to the train conductor and food preparation to a skilled French chef and his team, and you could just sit back in comfy recliner seats with a clear dome above your head to view the majesty of the Canadian Rockies every minute of the journey – What a journey it would be and what a memorable journey it truly is. And for foodies, it makes it all the more special!!

This past year, I had the opportunity to join in on this renowned train excursion aboard Rocky Mountaineer’s “First Passage to the West” route, one of four routes which starts from the Rocky Mountaineer exclusive state-of-the-art train station just outside Vancouver. We were welcomed by the entire crew to piano music and an introduction to our rail journey by the conductor and the team, followed by an inviting Bagpipe serenade. Upon boarding these beautifully appointed train cars we were immediately immersed into two full days of luxury rail travel through Canada’s West and on through the impressive Canadian Rockies with an evening stay in Kamloops, ending up after our 2nd day of the sojourn in breathtaking Banff and Lake Louise.

Our voyage aboard the Rocky Mountaineer, which is the only passenger rail service on this historic route passes through lush Fraser Valley, spiraling tunnels, seven mountain ranges and a pass by Craigellachie, which is the spot where the last spike on the Canadian Pacific Railway was driven. From the outdoor viewing platform and the unparalleled panoramic views from our seats, we all had the opportunity to our set eyes on a large grizzly bear fishing for dinner along the river right next to the train tracks and the grand Eagle’s nest perched high upon one of the train towers passing by. A true highlight!

There isn’t a moment you aren’t in complete awe of the ever-changing vistas constantly emerging all along this spectacular historic route. Sit back relax, indulge and let yourself be ultimately pampered in first-class style by the top-notch team aboard Rocky Mountaineer whose sole mission is to do nothing more than to provide you with the best experience and service possible. Our group traveling was seated in Gold Leaf Service, one of two classes of services offered, though you can’t go wrong with either as both are exquisite. As they say – you choose from “Perfect” & “More Perfect”.

The Rocky Mountaineer experience is like taking the National Geographic Channel and melding it with the Food Channel giving you a delicious blend of spectacular photographic nature vistas along with amazing Five-Star Dining spiced with a flare of the luxury of the Orient Express. It doesn’t get much better than this.

As a part of our daily journey, we started the day’s excursion with a refreshing “Welcome Aboard” toast along with introductions of the crew and beautiful descriptions of our upcoming experiences for the day. In addition, to add to the exhilaration of the exploration, we were enticed by the food offerings for the day’s journey. We knew right then, we would certainly not go hungry or thirsty either.

For dining, there were two seating’s each day for breakfast and lunch. We had the first seating on day one in the beautifully appointed plush dining car booths along the along with the expansive picture windows overlooking the beauty of Western Canada as we cruised along, noshed and talked about the amazing day to come. When we were seated in the second seating the next day, we certainly didn’t get peckish, as we nibbled on freshly baked scones with fresh berries, hot out of the trains’ on-board ovens to keep us going to our breakfast seating.

The Rocky Mountaineer Welcome to Breakfast: Welcome to the GoldLeaf Service dining room! From the Coastal Waters of BC to the wide pastures of the prairies, the breakfast you are about to enjoy is a culinary tour of Canada. As you enjoy your meal, please look up and take in the beauty of your First Passage to the West journey. We promise, no one will take your plate away. Cheers, RM

The Rocky Mountaineer cuisine is orchestrated under the helm of their award-winning Executive Chef Jean Pierre Guerin and his talented culinary team in the galley aboard the train. There are several galleys on board for both the Gold Leaf and Silver Leaf services. Jean Pierre is absolutely charming and is not shy about spending time chatting it up with the guests onboard, except when he is hands-on at the helm of orchestrating the daily culinary presentations. He has been with the Rocky Mountaineer for over ten years and is known for his talents creating mouthwatering fusion cuisine. During his impressive career as a well-known chef, he has created meals for Princess Diana, Meryl Streep, and former President Clinton.

Chef Guerin explained, “Cooking on board is not difficult, however, we have to take everything, including the kitchen sink. We don’t have the luxury of stopping for anything. We have to take 2-3 days of supplies. And when I say supplies that’s not just the food but the expertise – the chefs have to travel with us. Everything has to be super well organized aboard the train. You have to know where everything is. Each season we do a brand-new menu depending on fresh seasonal offerings.”

Breakfast always begins with coffee, juice and Chef’s seasonal fruit creation with a freshly baked treat. The delightful menu includes their ever-popular and absolutely delicious Eggs Benedict with two poached eggs and Montreal style smoked beef on a toasted English Muffin, topped with tarragon hollandaise. I’d go back just for that!!

Another breakfast treat was the Spinach, Feta and Egg Soufflé with roasted Yukon Gold potatoes, and smoked farmers sausages. The Blueberry Pancakes were out of this world with traditional Canadian Maple syrup. Then, of course, there is the Smoked Salmon Scramble – a scene-stealer with roasted Yukon Gold Potatoes, crème Fraiche, smoked salmon, and a crispy tortilla. So many lovely choices. And that is just to name a few of the delicious delights on the morning menu. Be sure to save room for lunch…

There is always a mid-morning munch in between breakfast and lunch along with a selection of hot and cold beverages, perhaps a mimosa is on your agenda or try out one of their “Caesars” – a traditional Canadian version of the Bloody Mary.

For lunch, we headed back down from our domed vista car to the dining room where it was beautifully set in white linen adorned with decorative flower arrangements. The aromas floating out of the galley kitchen sent a mouthwatering invitation to yet another amazing meal created by Chef Jean Pierre Guerin.

Being a Napa Valley Foodie and Wine Lover, the luncheon presentation yet again did not disappoint! Their wine selections offered varietals from the Okanagan wine region in British Columbia and were delightfully paired to perfection with the afternoon’s luncheon selections. Any Napa Valley wine enthusiast would certainly concur. They were pouring two varietals from Sumac Ridge Estate from their Vineyard Collection, an unoaked Chardonnay and a Merlot. Also from Jackson-Triggs Reserve Selection, we were offered a lovely Sauvignon Blanc and a luscious Cabernet Sauvignon.

Lunch began with a Forest-Fresh Mushroom soup, followed by a Baked Cherry Tomato Salad. The “Alberta Short Ribs” is a popular favorite on the lunch menu. The Smokey Mushroom Burger made with AAA Alberta beef on the pretzel roll is another popular item on the menu. There are 6 delightful entrees to choose from each day. And lunch is always followed up with a delightful dessert. The Decadent Dark Chocolate Pistachio Brownie is absolutely heavenly.

For 2018, there is something new on the Rocky Mountaineer travel menu which is a 10-day package for foodies, The First Passage to the West Culinary Exploration. You will feast on wine-paired gourmet meals every day while touring Rocky Mountain Peaks. There is even a Panoramic Helicopter Flightseeing excursion.

 

Rocky Mountaineers Famous Short Ribs

Rocky Mountaineer offers something for everyone from 2 days to 10 days. Check them out at www.rockymountaineer.com

 

Face to Face with Polar Bears on a Photographic Safari  in the Panoramic Tundra of Churchill Wild

Face to Face with Polar Bears on a Photographic Safari in the Panoramic Tundra of Churchill Wild

“The World’s Next Great Safari”

Photo Courtesy of Churchill Wild

Welcome to the heart of polar bear country at Churchill Wild where they specialize in ground-level walking tours through the polar bear inhabited regions of Arctic Canada. Churchill Wild owns and operates the only remote lodges on Canada’s Hudson Bay coast, which is home to the largest and most accessible polar bear population on the planet.

It is just a few weeks away before I embark on an adventure of a lifetime through Arctic Canada exploring white polar bears and Nordic wildlife, glistening Northern Lights and the spectacular painted autumn landscape of the Churchill Wild wilderness and tundra.

Photo Courtesy of Churchill Wild

I will be heading off to the Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge via a scenic flight from Churchill to this remote, spectacular lodge along Canada’s Hudson Bay coast. There is a good chance I will be spotting roaming polar bears, black bears, wolves, along with many species of shorebirds and possibly a moose or two along the way. They have even spotted caribou on their daily hikes and ATV excursions. The Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge is one of four unique specialty lodges offered through Churchill Wild. They are recognized as a proud member of National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World.

Photo Courtesy of Churchill Wild

The “Hudson Bay Odyssey” will take me and a handful of other eager Arctic adventurists (max 16 explorers) to the remote Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge deep in the heart of polar bear denning territory, where the boreal forest ends and the Subarctic begins. It is quite ironic that my journey takes me to the Nanuk Lodge as in college, I was nicknamed “Nanuk of the North.” It seems I was destined to explore this vast and impressive landscape in the Canadian Arctic tundra.

Photo Courtesy of Churchill Wild

I can expect to see and experience much of what I would have ever imagined seeing ever in my lifetime. “Touch the Arctic. Change your life.” I will be taking a walk on the wild side where I will have the chance to meet polar bears up close and personal, along with world-class service, accommodations and cuisine at the only fly-in Polar Bear Eco-Lodges on the planet – Churchill Wild.

Photo Courtesy of Churchill Wild

These unique lodges and polar bear safaris are offered July through November. The emphasis of their daily treks is on their walking safari’s, viewing a diverse array of wildlife and birds, open-air cruising on one their custom-made large ATV’s perfect for cruising the vast tundras nourished by the Hudson Bay coastal waters and indulging in impressive tundra-inspired cuisine.

Photo Courtesy of Churchill Wild

Being the foodie that I am, I will be in for a real treat after my mesmerizing day out exploring the breathtaking boreal bounty of the wilderness. The bounty of Churchill Wild’s cuisine sets them apart as their culinary history takes them back over 50 years where it all started with Helen Webber (mother to Jeanne Reimer, co-founder of Churchill Wild and her friend Marie Woolsey.) Their legendary series of best-selling cookbooks offer up innovative regional tundra cuisine filled with wild game and delicious dessert recipes. Blueberries and Polar Bears cookbooks – www.BlueBerriesAndPolarBears.com

In fact, Jeanne has developed a signature style of her own, which coined as “tundra-inspired gourmet food.” Twenty-five years ago, they took their vision and created this destination adventure. Churchill Wild has transformed to become so much more than a polar bear safari at their elegantly rustic remote lodges in the tundra. They have melded in the element of rustically sophisticated savory creations on your plate into the perfect destination Canadian Arctic Safari.

Crusted Caribou Tenderloin
Photo Courtesy of Churchill Wild

After visiting the recipes and photos on their cookbook website – Blueberries and Polar Bears, and the Churchill Wild website, my mouth is watering already. Their bountiful breakfasts are fit for a king and will surely set us right for our day exploring along this Hudson Bay retreat. Always included is their own inspired version of Red River Cereal. Lunch is often enjoyed in the wild outdoors with gourmet sandwiches and homemade cookies. Yum. It doesn’t look like I am going to go hungry one bit. Crusted Caribou Tenderloin and Cranberry Cake with Butter Sauce are two of their popular creations for the evening’s fare.

 

Upon our return from the day’s exhilarating journey, a little chill time by the fire and visiting with newfound friends will be in order before we embark on our evening journey of culinary treats. Another unique, memorable evening treat will be the possible viewing of the Aurora Borealis. I am keeping my fingers crossed for that one!!

As they say at the lodge, “Your sustenance is our mission.”

Packing for my upcoming adventure – Remember Dynie, you won’t be in warm Napa, Dress for the Canadian Arctic!

  • A must! Cameras and Chargers, Binoculars. Don’t forget the extra memory cards
  • Dress in layers – also a warm spring and fall jacket
    • Thin mitts, warm sweater or heavy fleece, warm parka, hiking socks, winter hat, long underwear
  • Notebook for jotting down memories of each day
  • Day pack, dry bag, sunscreen and rubber boot insoles, sunglasses, slippers and comfortable shoes for the relaxing evenings

What to expect!

  • Meet and Share Many Experiences with new Friends
  • Lots of photo opportunities and there are even professional photos leaders to guide us
  • Get up close and personal with polar bears and wildlife beyond my imagination
  • Experience the Aurora Borealis
  • Indulge in Tundra-inspired cuisine with recipes created by Co-Founder and Best-selling cookbook author – Jeanne Reimer
  • Create memories to last a lifetime!

Churchill Wild Check them out, request, brochure, reserve your adventure, sign up for their newsletters, check out their photos, see what it’s all about! www.churchillwild.com

A Few of Their Partners

Blueberries & Polar Bears

Travel Manitoba

National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World

Calm Air

Calistoga’s Lincoln Avenue Downtown Eateries

Calistoga’s Lincoln Avenue Downtown Eateries

Photo Courtesy of Visit Calistoga – Downtown Calistoga’s Historic Lincoln Avenue

It’s natural to think of the Napa Valley as one ‘place.’ But the 30 north to south miles that comprise this verdant valley feature distinct towns, each with individual personalities. There’s Yountville with its chic tasting rooms and Michelin-starred cuisine, Rutherford with its concentration of Cabernet producers, and St. Helena with its quaint downtown shopping district. And to the north, Calistoga encourages its guests to slow down a bit and unwind. The small town’s official motto is ‘Relax, you’re in Calistoga,’ a directive easily followed, thanks to its famous mud baths, gracious inns and resorts, and variety of restaurants that promote a laidback vibe.

During the late 1700’s, the sole inhabitants of the area of Calistoga were populated by a large group of indigenous people called the Wappo Tribe during the Spanish colonial era. They were part of the now extinct Yukian language group who were the earlier settlers of this region. The Napa Valley name was actually derived from the word Napa meaning “plenty” in their native language.

California’s first Millionaire, Sam Brannan purchased 2000 acres in the Calistoga area in 1885 with plans to create a spa resort for the rich and famous, similar to the health and hot spring inspired retreats in Saratoga Springs, New York.

The main street in Calistoga premiered Brannan’s Hot Spring Resort which opened in 1862 and is now the current location of the Indian Springs Resort along Lincoln Avenue. In 1876 the Magnolia Hotel building burnt down and was later rebuilt as the Calistoga Hotel in 1902. In 1907, the Europa Hotel was built and then sold to Johnny Ghisolfo in 1912 which later became the Mount View Hotel. The Lincoln Avenue boom was followed by the opening of the Calistoga Inn, constructed originally in 1920 about the time when Lincoln Avenue was first paved, and more power lines were added to illuminate the bustling downtown. Brannan’s inspiration paved of the way for the growth of Calistoga to its popularity and charm today.

Many of the original buildings along historic Lincoln Avenue are now home to many of these popular downtown eateries along Calistoga’s food row.

All Season Restaurant

All Seasons

For the past 35 years, this favorite up valley restaurant has been offering creative seasonal dishes to their new and dedicated patrons both local and visitor alike. This charming bistro serves inspired food and wine, classic to contemporary. Their relaxed atmosphere, excellent service, and outstanding cuisine have made this iconic restaurant a mainstay to dine along Lincoln Avenue. Must try menu items: Ahi Tuna Carpaccio, Mary’s Organic Chicken Breast, Angus Rib Eye Steak, Seared Duck Breast.

Tuna Carpaccio

Butternut Squash Soup

1400 Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga www.allseasonsnapavalley.com 707-942-9111 Open for lunch and dinner daily except Tuesdays.

Boskos Trattoria

Boskos Dining

Bosko’s Trattoria

Calistoga’s longest running restaurant for 36 years, continues to serve quality made fresh daily authentic Italian Cuisine offering house-made Pasta and wood-fired pizzas. Step into the old country of Italy with cuisine that brings you home-style Italian foods along with a generous selection of moderately priced California and Italian wines. Their sumptuous pastas are made from scratch daily offering you a wide variety to choose from. They also offer Antipasti, soups, and salads. Don’t miss out on their happy hour every day from 4:40 to 6:30 where all wines listed are $8 and all appetizers are half off.

Boskos Pizza

1364 Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga www.boskos.com 707-942-9088 Open 11:30am to 9:30pm

Busters Barbecue

Busters Original Southern BBQ

Busters, showcased in National Geographic, has been referred to as the “Best BBQ West of the Mississippi” and voted “Best Barbeque” by the Bohemian year after year. Busters patio is the perfect stop for authentic Southern BBQ dishes with recipes from the heart of Louisiana with pork ribs, beef ribs, pulled pork, tri-tip, BBQ chicken, savory baked beans and corn of the cob. Be sure to stop in for great jazz and blues on Sunday afternoons,

Busters BBQ

1207 Foothill Blvd., Calistoga www.busterssouthernbbq.com 707-942-6505 Dine in or take out. Open for Lunch or dinner 7 days a week.

Cafe Sarafornia

Café Sarafornia

The name of this restaurant was named after California’s first Millionaire Sam Brannan who claimed he was going to make the town the Calistoga of Sarafornia when he meant to say the Saratoga of California, hence the name of the town and the name of the diner. The owners, the Dierkhising family, have been in Napa Valley since 1976 and have owned the restaurant for nearly that long. This is a wonderful place for breakfast to start your day, offering dishes like their famed braised pork tostada, the Brannan Benedict, and the best in the valley – Huevos Rancheros. Lunch is impressive as well with classic burgers, sandwiches, and salads. Their popularity it tremendous, they serve over 91,000 people per year, that’s 250 per day. The line is worth the wait!

Cafe Sarafornia

1413 Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga www.cafesarafornia.com 707-942-0555 Open Daily from 7am – 2:30pm

Calistoga Inn, Restaurant and Brewery

Calistoga Inn Restaurant & Brewery

It’s a brewery, hotel, and restaurant on this stately historic property in the middle of downtown Calistoga. The restaurant has been one of the most popular outdoor dining venues in the Napa Valley with its patio stretching along the Napa River, and in the adjacent historic water tower, you will find their award winning micro-brewery, The Napa Valley Brewing company. It has become a popular place for sports enthusiasts as it boasts 5 large flat screen TV’s making it also the sports bar to hang out at in Calistoga during big sporting events. The weekend Brunch on their spacious patio is a must. Two lunch favorites are the Shrimp Louie Salad, the Heirloom Tomato, and Fig Salad and their Best Burger. Dinner highlights are the Country Paella or choose from one of their prime cut steaks.

Calistoga Inn Patio

Calistoga Inn

1250 Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga www.calistogainn.com 707-942-4101 Open 11:30am to 9:30pm

Checkers

Checkers Interiors

Checkers Restaurant

This simple, understated café has been serving Italian classics and pizzas to Calistogan’s for several decades as an unpretentious neighborhood meeting place for a quick lunch, family dinner or a festive happy hour. The cuisine is Mediterranean inspired which includes a variety of pastas, pizzas, calzones as well as Chicken Marsala, Pan Seared Salmon and Braised Lamb Shank on their extensive menu. Don’t miss the House-Made Cheesecake with Chocolate Sauce for dessert.

1414 Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga 707-942-9300 11:30am to 9:30pm

Evangeline

Evangeline

Evangeline Patio Dining

This now locally owned French Bistro with Creole Soul invites you to join them for dinner at Evangeline.  This popular eatery in Calistoga offers you fun versions of French bistro favorites such as Coq au Vin, Croque Madame Beef Tartare and Shrimp Etouffee. Their intimate polished interior and inviting patio dining on their charming covered terrace delivers a memorable dining experience. This Solbar spinoff offers an impressive menu of New Orleans style dishes to the table along with inventive cocktails, craft beers, and an extensive wine list. They are primarily an outdoor restaurant with limited indoor seating. Reservations are not available for inside seating.

1226 Washington Street, Calistoga www.evangelinenapa.com 707-341-3131 Dinner Daily from 5:30pm to 10pm Brunch on Saturday and Sunday 9am – 2pm

Hydro Bar and Grill

Hydro Bar & Grill

Located in downtown Calistoga, the restaurant’s building dates back to 1906, just after the 1901 fire which destroyed most of the original town of Calistoga. This historic building, originally a carriage house and stable, has been home to Hydro at this location since 1996. Their sister business, All Season’s Bistro has been a Calistoga favorite since 1983. Alex and Gayle and their two dining establishments have been serving quality food, inspired drinks, and great local hospitality for almost 40 years. It is the spot as they often refer to pop in grab a bite, share a drink and have a little HYDROTHERAPY!

Hydro Bar and Grill

1403 Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga www.hydrogrillnapavalley.com 707-942-9777 8:30am – 11pm Open Every day except Thursday morning until noon for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Chef James of Johnny’s

Johnny’s in Calistoga

Johnny’s Restaurant & Bar

Johnny’s initially opened in the Mount View Hotel in 1933 by Johnny Ghisolfo who served on the Calistoga city council and later became known as “Mr. Calistoga.” The original Johnny’s closed in 1984 and then in 2016 reopened in honor of former owner John Ghisolfo. This resurrected pub and bistro offers the perfect place to enjoy good times with friends and family whether it be breakfast, lunch, dinner or happy hour (which they claim to be one of the best in town.) Their house Mud City Brews are worth stopping in for a bit of Cheers.

For breakfast try the Huevos Montelenos, for Lunch the local Fish and Chips and for Dinner Oysters on the half shell and the Jagerschnitzel. Sunday special is always a hit with their Slow Roasted Prime Rib.

Johnny’s Egg Benedict

Johnny’s Cobb Salad

1457 Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga www.johnnyscalistoga.com 707-942-5938 Brunch Daily 7:30a to 2pm; Dinner opens up at 4pm; Happy Hour 4pm to 6:30pm

Sam’s Social Club at Indian Springs

Sam’s Social Club

Sam’s named after famed resort founder Sam Brannan at the Indian Springs Resort offers a vibrant and inviting atmosphere. This new American Eatery & Bar is the place to meet for food that is seasonal, creative and thoughtfully prepared. Open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and cocktails at their stylish bar a spacious dining areas with both inside and outdoor seating. Sam’s has become a significant hangout in Calistoga offering innovative, delicious menus that are reasonably priced. Their unpretentious vibe extends to the plates such as grilled octopus endowed with a peppy Romesco sauce or a pan-seared duck. Their burgers on the homemade buns are a must try. Kids love it too, especially the mac & cheese!

Sam’s Social Club

Sam’s Social Club Specialty Drinks

1712 Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga www.samssocialclub.com 707-942-4969 7:30am – 9pm

Veraison in Calistoga

Veraison

A relatively new addition to the Calistoga dining scene in late 2016, Veraison delivers French-inspired farm to table cuisine at this intimate dining establishment. As a recent recipient of the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for 2018, you can be assured that this is one to put on your list when visiting the Napa Valley. Owner Dan Kaiser and Executive Chef James Richmond took Calistoga by storm with the opening of Johnny’s in March 2016 and later transitioned Johnny’s Tableside to its own entity as Veraison. Both of Kaiser’s restaurants are a huge success.

Oysters at Veraison

Veraison Charcutterie

Must try menu items: Oysters from their Raw Bar, House-made Charcuterie & Artisan Cheeses, Chef’s Tasting Menu which changes daily with all freshly sourced ingredients.

French, Small Plates, Upscale, Cozy 1457 Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga www.veraisoncalistoga.com  707-942-5938 Opens 5pm Every Day