Category Archives: Places to Stay

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.

 


Bernardus

If you think you’re too cool to stay at a Holiday Inn or Hilton Garden, Bernardus Lodge is the place for you in Carmel Valley Village. Lux dining on site and a relaxing spa may make you never want to leave. But head to their tasting room in the village a few blocks away for a sampling of their estate wines and others grown in the Santa Lucia Highlands.

In Carmel and even Carmel Valley, Bernardus is like the old school high-end leader in wine. They are to Carmel Valley what a staple like Sterling is to Napa. But they actually have good wine. Their Sauvignon Blanc was blended with Semillon for body but it also mellows out the harsh grapefruit and minerality leaving a slight grassy aroma. Their Chardonnay has red apple and pear flavors with nice crisp acidity and an aftertaste of buttered popcorn. Their Pinot Noir from the famed Pizoni vineyard is full of earth and dirty berry with tart strawberry that is nicely balanced with a bit of spice on the finish. But their Marinus from the warmer and less coastal Cachagua Valley blends Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc to make a winning Bordeaux. Lovely cherry, oak, and cedar with spice dance in your mouth as you sip your first taste. Then, the long finish brings out eucalyptus, a hint of bell pepper, and tart plum, making you wish you had a big steak to go with this wine. Well done!


Visiting Lake County

A winemaker put it best: Lake County is a blossoming appellation. Whether that means it was once a thriving resort that is suffering from temporary economic decline or it is in its emerging growth phase is unclear. But you can tell just driving around that locals do not have a passion for keeping their homes and business updated. Another thing that holds the community back is that the toughest criminals get paroled to Clearlake (one word is the name of the town at the southern tip of Clear Lake). This explains why you see lots of loitering in fast food parking lots, strung out people hitchhiking on the highway, and middle-aged tattooed smokers hanging out in parks in the middle of the workday.

But that means Lake County has a lot of potential. Kelseyville, for example, has a few good eateries, wine tasting rooms, and antique stores all in a few strollable blocks. Lakeport and Upper Lake have the same as well as one or two beautiful hotels. Check out the Clear Lake Bed and Breakfast in Lakeport or the Tallman Hotel in Upper Lake with its festive Blue Wing Saloon restaurant hosting many community events. Take a leisurely drive around the lake to envision its potential and visit while prices are lower than most other blossoming wine regions.


Ghost Stories

No town can wow you with ghost stories quite like Placerville. Sure, ghosts are everywhere. And I’ve stayed in my share of hotels in this beautiful state that admitted to being haunted. But none has been studied by experts as much as the Cary House. No ghosts have proven their existence to me personally as the Cary House former hotel clerk named Stan.

Stan was a flirt by nature. So running the front desk at the Cary House was a terrific job for him, meeting all the visitors from exotic places, hearing their gold rush stories, and feeling the tingling excitement for success. Unfortunately, Stan flirted with the fiancé of a guest who stabbed him to death on the stairs.

Stan still hangs out in this place he loved, admiring the beautiful women who travel here and occasionally acting a little mischievous.  For example, one women checked into her room, locked the door to the hallway, stepped out onto the balcony, and heard the door behind her shut and lock from the inside of the room. She turned around and saw a figure dressed in a clerk’s uniform inside the room waving at her. To get off the balcony, she had to call down to people walking on the sidewalk below to get hotel management to enter the room and unlock the balcony door.

Another time, Stan turned up the volume on the stereo every time the chorus of Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman” played for a cute girl at the wine bar. The bartender went to the office to turn the stereo volume down several times. But the volume returned to full blast when the chorus played again. Finally, the bartender yelled, “knock if off, Stan” and the stereo shut off completely and refused to function for several days.

He’s certainly not a mean ghost but likes to make his presence known. As the bartender told me these stories, the dishwasher suddenly started to run. This made the hair on my arms stand to attention! As he continued to tell me other ghost stories, the volume on the stereo went up a bit playing an Irish song. The bartender asked if I had any Irish heritage. I said, “yes” and he shook his head as though it made sense that was all Stan was trying to say.

Other ghost stories are a bit darker but still worth telling for their history. Visitors often request to stay in the most haunted room, 212. Hotel management does not rent that particular room unless requested and the patrons are aware of its dark story. During the gold rush, it became home to a man who traveled from the east coast in search of the common dream to find gold. When he acquired a stash of gold, he sent for his wife and 4 kids who lived with him in room 212 while looking for a home. Unfortunately, the family contracted influenza and the man rushed to Sacramento in search of a doctor who would return with him to treat his family. When he returned unsuccessful, he found his wife and three kids dead while his only remaining child appeared to be struggling to survive. He nursed the child but was unable to work a miracle and the child also passed away. What was all this gold worth without them! The man became so distraught, he hung himself in the room.

Proof that money doesn’t buy happiness, the family is often heard in the room, children chatting, a mother desperately trying to keep her family alive, and wondering if anything can help them. Years later the hotel underwent renovations. To keep up with the times, the owners converted something like 77 rooms that shared a single bathroom per floor to something like 33 rooms that each had a private bathroom. They also renovated the foundation and added a 4th floor. During these renovations they found a cache of gold nuggets and gold dust hidden aside the foundation. They have no idea who it belonged to but it paid for all the renovations.


Placerville

A little bit north of all the other Sierra Foothill wine regions (Amador and Calaveras) lies El Dorado County where the Shenandoah, Fair Play, El Dorado, and Sierra Foothills AVAs show off their juice.  The county’s biggest city for restaurants and places to stay is Placerville, which has the best of both worlds. One side of town has newer modern conveniences like quick food options, gourmet grocery, and, of course, Starbucks. The other side of town, probably known as “Old Town” has adorable western style buildings and structures, hotels, taverns, and saloons. Some of these beautiful historical structures have been converted into upscale restaurants serving delicious cuisines all in an easily strollable (about a dozen) block strip.

Placerville is nothing if not bursting with history and a sense of its past. In the gold rush days, law enforcement had not yet established in these towns and many people migrated to the area in search of wealth. Some newcomers were not interested in the labor involved in mining gold or working for their fair share. Many hard working miners lost their gold at knife point and murders became too common. So, the locals gathered to form a lynch mob and would reprimand shysters or newcomers with unscrupulous or unethical behavior. Because of these practices, Placerville became known as “Hangtown” back then, which may sound severe but was a way of life and, as you can guess, prevented criminals from trying anything crooked or visiting at all.

Today, Placerville is a kind, warm friendly place to stop for delicious wines and food. The only thing that may make you feel a bit out of place is how many gun, ammunition, body piercing and tattoo storefronts are smack dab in the middle of town. You’ll pass about a dozen walking about a dozen downtown blocks. But that’s probably just because it was once the badass of the mother lode.


Back to Paso

I know I’m supposed to be ramblin through new undiscovered country. But there’s just so much to cover here! I think El Paso De Robles has more wineries than Napa. Also, I just love how the food landscape of downtown of Paso Robles has changed even since my last stay here back in October. You gotta return when you get a SWEET deal on such a cute cottage like this:

StairwayToHeaven

So, I’m back for a few weeks and to celebrate our independence.


Table 128

Special occasion meals at the Boonville Hotel are always at this roadhouse restaurant. This month, it is only open on weekends for a prix fixe dinner but every course served would make Julia proud. Farm-to-table fresh ingredients inspire the cooking staff based on the season. So, check the latest menu upon arrival. Their wine list also changes weekly but always has a wide assortment of local juice and bubbles.