Monthly Archives: June 2014

Don’t just make a wish

Make it happen!

Walking through the streets of Paso not only takes you back to a different time, it also makes you wish you could live in one of them. If you’ve dreamed of owning a cute little cottage in Paso but could never get a home loan because banks think “self-employed” equals “unemployed,” look into alternatives. Banks are small minded because they only loan to those with a consistent income and cannot see the potential of loaning to an indie writer or someone whose income is more like a roller coaster.

Realizing that stuffy banks are not your only option is unbelievably liberating. Consider buying a vacation rental that could practically pay for itself because it allows you to live in a portion of the property. If it’s too painful to buy an entire house, you can buy into one. Miracle of miracles, you can become part owner of a vacation rental without a home loan and a much smaller down with benefits or revenue well worth the long term investment. Another equally liberating discovery about shirking the bank shackles is that the seller can finance you. You may actually win a bidding war with another party offering all cash because the seller makes another 5% in interest from a buyer who has the seller carry papers.  Really, I’ve seen it happen!

Chicken & Waffle Sliders

Yes, the people at The Independent finally did it all in one appetizer. Sweet maple waffles form the buns for buttermilk fried chicken sliders with salty crisp bacon and caramelized onion, drizzled with Chipotle aioli. The slightly sweet maple waffle loves the smoky spicy aioli while the salty bacon matches the textured fried chicken bringing all four fab flavors together. This is worth the road trip to Hangtown alone!


Coloma Springs

The road less traveled with all its benefits makes you get a bit more creative and resourceful with lodging. A town like Placerville simply does not have as many hotel or bed and breakfast options as other well know destinations. But that doesn’t mean you have to settle for musty moldy bug-infested accommodations or overspend at a zillion star hotel. Your best bet is a vacation rental even if you are traveling alone. One might think you don’t need a full kitchen during your stay here and, with so many delicious restaurants in walking distance, you may not. But you will always use a kitchen even just for coffee, tea, wine, sparkling wine, port, or more wine.

You may also assume a vacation rental is further away from all the action downtown. But the Daffodil Suite at Coloma Springs Apartment has the best of both aspirations with all the plush comforts of home within walking distance to shops and restaurants in a quiet safe neighborhood. It is priced at the sweet spot between solid and lux hotel accommodations. But what makes it a place you want to return to is its breathtaking treetop views and romantic earth friendly fireplace mantelpiece. Next time you’re in Hangtown munching at CascadAH or dining fancy at Smith Flat, taste and drink responsibly and stay the night at Coloma Springs instead.


Dawn’s Dream Winery

Admit that you’re sometimes drawn into a tasting room by the way it looks. When the wine doesn’t live up to those expectations, chalk it up to a life lesson and quit letting your eyes judge.

Dawn’s Dream Winery delivers on both beauty and quality. A fabulously decorated and newly appointed tasting room in Carmel-by-the-Sea serves the tender wines styled like those in Burgundy. A Chardonnay has the green apple you’d expect but nice tart crisp key lime that is a bit of a surprise. Its plush body has a hint of pepper that feels more like olive oil than butter, leading to a long finish. Three Pinot Noirs follow each with a different personality. The first starts off really floral with flavors of pink grapefruit and pomegranate or red apple. The next is less similar yet has the bright raspberry and strawberry common in Burgundians. Then, cedar and sandalwood round out its tart red flavors and a bit of cinnamon, nutmeg, and sage give it additional layers for pairing. The last Pinot holds back its punch like most from Burgundy. Tight and gripping, the subtle fruit takes a while to emerge and the spice is hard to get but present. This wine takes a while to open but Burgundy wine lovers would appreciate all of them.


Bet you thought those vineyards and wineries on the 101 in Greenfield are pretty new. But Scheid Vineyards has been growing grapes there since 1972. That corridor that parallels the 101 has unique weather patterns with ocean air flowing from the Northwest to Southeast, providing such a variety of micro climates that Scheid can grow over 38 grape varieties. Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Merlot thrive near the northern part of the corridor while thicker skinned grapes like Bordeaux varietals prefer the warmer pockets to the south.

A trip to the Scheid tasting room in Carmel-by-the-Sea shows you just how different juice can be from these different micro climates. Their Chardonnay grown on this region’s riverbed soil has more melon and other tropical fruit flavors. With less tart citrus than most Chardonnays, a hint of olive emerges probably due to the mellow acids. Two Pinot Noirs are showcased for their unique characteristics. The first is traditionally lean, styled like a Burgundy while another was not traditional at all with big fruit and dank ash flavors from charred barrels. Two Bordeaux blends are also very different but still illustrate the variety and complexity from the terroir. Both have lots of cherry flavor but the blend where Cabernet Sauvignon dominates has more eucalyptus and cocoa while the blend with more Petite Verdot is full of spice and herbs like sage, cinnamon, anise, and fennel. There’s definitely something for just about any palate here.


The maverick of wine producers in Carmel-by-the-Sea is no doubt Galante Vineyards because it was not only the first tasting room to open here, it remains one of the few to pour different varietals. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay naturally thrive in any coastal region and Carmel is no exception. But just a few miles east is Carmel Valley where the Galante wine gang grows Rhone varietals like Viognier and Bordeaux varietals like Sauvignon Blanc, Malbec, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Their Sauvignon Blanc has a whisper of Viognier, making it a big bold white wine with crisp acidity. Its tropical apricot and lemon meringue bring both acids and sweetness while the long finish brings you back for another glass. Their Viognier has a white floral nose that leads right to Hawaii when you taste its tropical mango, banana, and nectarines body. A slight minerality lends itself to its tropical feel but it remains sweet yet tart.

Their 100% estate and 100% Cabernet Sauvignon shows just how much true grit you can get from this region. This cool climate cab is like a meal in a glass. Just enough bell pepper, eucalyptus, and fireside smoke make the brighter red fruit harmonize with the plum and berry. The cassis is just like sauce that makes the meat succulent. This meaty wine gives you a reason to order a spicy sausage pizza with peppers or bring it to a spicy chipotle barbecue rib party to be the main event.


The people at Figge have vineyard experience all over yet they chose Monterey County to make their boutique hand-crafted wines. They’re also proud to explain why they choose this coastal climate. You may think Pinot Noir and Chardonnay thrive on the Sonoma Coast or other coastal areas in this beautiful state like the Santa Rita Hills, Edna Valley, or Mendocino. But you can taste the difference in Monterey County.

Carmel Valley gets a bit more fog than most coastal regions. This brings out Chardonnay’s citrus grassy qualities yet Figge’s also has a creamy body with a long finish. Another Chardonnay they pour has nice crisp citrus with a banana thickness and the armoa of biscuits baking. Their Pinot Noir from Paraiso has the nice plump red fruit we love from this grape with a hint of green herb and earth. But a much more full bodied Pinot comes from Pelio that has a slight floral aroma with nutty spice and even a brambly flavor.  This is a great place to stop for a tour of the county and learn about why grapes adore it.