Sunday, December 29, 2013

The clarinet at fancy panties

Kimmie is only here for a few short days, and of course I want to go wine tasting with her again!  
She has good taste.  

We started at Leonesse and ended at Fancy Panties (Frangipani winery), per my suggestions.  I love Leonesse because their vineyard and structures are gorgeous, and of course their wine is tasty.  We ended at Fancy Panties because the wine is great, but it has low crowds and is very homey.  I love that you can sit outside and order at an outside window just a few steps away.  

They even have a cat that you can taunt.  

Kimmie, her dad, and Nuno all liked Fancy Panties better than Leonesse, because of the reasons mentioned.  Kimmie's dad said he will not drink if he is standing up at a bar (and he did not drink at Leonesse at all). Nuno felt like a bottle of wine should not ever be sold for 55$.  
There are no arguments that fancy panties are/is great.  
 The best wine we tasted was the estate claret, which I liked to refer to as clarinet.  (I am fancy.)
You know how drinking makes you funnier... and funnier?  Well, I told the bartender I was going to order a drink via pantomime.  I played the clarinet.  He guessed zinfandel.  How does that make any sense?  After I explained my hilarious joke the bartender would not let us order the estate claret without playing the clarinet.  Nuno really needs to practice the fake clarinet.  Ummm, Nuno, are you playing the kazzoo while tickling a kitten?
Just kidding.
This was a much better way to say farewell until summer.  

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Baja Missions

Kimmie and Nuno are visiting from Switzerland.  When Kimmie told me she wanted me to take her to Mexico I was nothing but elated.  I have two willing Baja guests!?  I am like a painter with a blank canvas.  It is Nuno's first trip to Mexico.  I planned on taking them down the coast to Ensenada and then back through the wine country, ending up in Tecate for the return.  My plan was foiled because the highway was closed after reaching Puerto Nuevo and all of the traffic was rerouted inland.  Although it took longer to get to Ensenada we ended up on El Camino Real, and drove past a mission (my first mission in Baja) so we stopped to check it out.  La misión San Miguel Arcángel de la Frontera is now nothing but a small pile of ruins but its history cannot be weathered. It was founded in 1787 by Dominican missionary Luis Sales to serve the Kumiai population.  It was very successful in its time due to the proximity of the sea and the fertile lands (which is why the area was successful for the Kumiai for 15,000 years pre-colonization).  It was abandoned in 1833 due to political reasons.  

I have driven by this marisco cart in Ensenada numerous times, it is hard to miss as it is always packed with locals (today was mild).  This was our first stop.  We got ceviche with mixed seafood.  I don't usually like octopus but it was my favorite item in the mix.  It was so fresh and tender.  I couldn't finish my large order but I tried.  It was incredible.  

We then walked to the Santo Tomas bodega in Ensenada.  It was nothing like how it was described online.  First of all there are no tours, just tastings.  And the tasting was 18.50 US dollars.  We left because I knew there were better deals along with return.  This was just one stop on our tour.  Santo Tomas is the oldest winery in Baja.  They grow the wine about 30 km south of Ensenada and tours are by appointment only.  They do the manufacturing portion of the process here.  I still would like to go to the original winery but as far as the bodega it seems like a tourist trap for cruise ship customers.  

This is more like it.  
Viñedos Malagón is a 400 acre ranch found on the El Porvenir route that runs parallel to the 3 highway.  The tasting room is located in an old Russian settler home, who originally purchased the land in the early 1900s.  The Russian immigrant history in northern Baja is fascinating and something I am still discovering.  
The wine is the best wine that I have had in Baja so far.   

Our time was running out.  The sun was beginning to set and most places close by 5.  

We next tried Monte Xanic.  The olive oil they make is divine, as is the local bread and cheese.  Pero el vino es muy mal.  

We didn't want to leave Mexico with a terrible taste in our mouths so we found another winery that was open.  Vinos Fuentes no era mejor.  It is difficult to admit but it went straight into the trash, every one we tried.  Qué terrible.

We were in the same position we were in before, we needed a good glass of wine.  Unfortunately by this point everything was closed except for the very reliable, very LA, very expensive, Encuentro.  I had to take them.   

We enjoyed a glass of their house red on the patio while looking at constellations sitting next to a fire pit.  

It wouldn't be a trip to Mexico without taking my guests to El Mejor Pan y Los Panchos.  


Kimmie and Nuno enjoyed their Mexico experience.  The line at the border took us two hours (but I can guarantee it would have been longer elsewhere).  Since the border at Tecate closes from 11pm-5am we were just 20 minutes away from having a gate closed in front of us and rerouting to Otay.  There were many people behind us who drove away very disappointed.  
Sucks for them!  
As for me, I have some serious Baja wine tasting to do.  I am discovering that the quality of Baja wine varies greatly and I do not want to take people to Mexico to drink mediocre wine.  Mexico's reputation has been tainted with drug cartels, fraud, crooked cops, beheadings... the last thing it needs is to further tarnish its reputation with bad wine.  

The missionaries brought wine to Baja during colonization.  Where there are missions there is wine, and where there is wine there am I.  

Friday, December 27, 2013

The dolphin whisperer

Marla was keeping a close eye on the weather.  Since it was supposed to be 76 at the beach we made a quick plan to meet up. 

 Lather on the sunblock girls!

Sandmen are a lot more difficult to make than snowmen.  

The girls make it seem like the water was bearable.  It was 61 but it felt like ice water.  

Marla spotted dolphins!  (She thinks she is the dolphin whisperer.)

Jessica met up with us for a few hours before work.

After Jessica left Kathy and Steve arrived.  
It is difficult to believe that it is December but I am not complaining.  

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Cross Country Ski at Obsidian Dome

Obsidian Dome is one of those many signs off of the 395 that is always on the list to check out with more time permitting.  What better way to see it than on cross country skis.  The entire area is part of the winter recreation trail system in the Inyo National Forest.  Nobody we talked to thought there would be enough snow on the Obsidian Dome trail, which is why it was virtually empty.    

Cross country skiing is new to us.  Some of us got it easier than others.  Some of us were not very happy. 

It could not have been more rewarding.  It was absolutely gorgeous.  

When we first started out we met a nice man, Bruce, and his dog, Bailey.  I explained to him where we were planning on skiing to and since he was alone he told us he would lead.  He has been cross country skiing "since before I was born".  Having him in front of us to check out the steepness of the downhill slopes definitely alleviated some apprehension.  

This was our first cross country ski trek and it will not be our last.  We love to hike so hiking in the snow on skis seems like a natural sport progression.  The Obsidian Dome trail system was the perfect place to start as the slopes are mild and we had the place to ourselves.  

Monday, December 23, 2013

Minaret Vista snow shoe

Since there was no new snow Fred and I went old snow shoeing.  Heeding the advice from the Mammoth Lakes visitor center we parked at the Main Lodge of the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area and stayed to the right, on the road leading to Minaret Vista.  

The vista at Minaret Vista is of, completely unsurprisingly, the minarets (the jagged peaks) within the Ansel Adams Wilderness.