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Aaron N. Tubbs

Dragon chaser.

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It’s been a while since we’ve been on a vacation. Sarah and Anthony got married a week ago, and that was as good an excuse as any to spend some time taking it easy in California. We did the wedding, went up to wine country, spent some time near the city, and finished with a day on the coast. Not a bad trip!

The wedding was in Oakland. I’ve never visited Oakland. It’s an interesting city. Staying downtown, there were a lot of nice things within walking distance. Some of the winners were Cock-a-Doodle Cafe (featuring a marvelous fried chicken and french toast breakfast plate), Umami Burger (a chain, but my first visit, I enjoyed it), and of course Blue Bottle Coffee.

We had some time to kill before the ceremony, so we headed over to St. George Spirits, distillers of all sorts of intoxicating things. They provide a tasting and 30-minute tour for $15 a person (IIRC). Honestly, it’s a pretty incredible value, even if you’re not a huge fan of their spirits. If you are (and I am), it’s fantastic. It’s on an old Navy base, which at first looks pretty sketchy, but it worked out.

navy base!

the truck

Here’s a lot more pictures. I’ll let them speak for me.

tour guide

you may die


some bottles in boxes

tasting vodka

Anyway, then we went to the wedding, which was lovely, and headed up to wine country. I lost track of where all we tasted, honestly. There was a lot of tasting. A lot of spitting. I drank virtually no wine again, which is always weird, and all I wanted at the end of the day were a few beers.

There were a few standouts. Continuum was lovely as always. The 2010 is showing a lot more fruit now and the winery is still under construction. Production will be there, even though the building isn’t complete yet. When we visited they were in the process of relocating barrels.

Littorai was really interesting. Their wines are certainly fascinating to taste, but visiting the vineyard was something else. Ted Lemon’s a bit of a legend and this is my first experience with a deeply biodynamic producer. Say what you will, there’s a fanatical attention to detail and thought on the property. Whether or not having five women and five men to build the compost pile matters, however, I’ll never know. But yeah, some delicious wines.

gnarly, eh?

Probably our favorite tour was at Ridge Lytton Springs. Our guide was just fantastic. We got a private tour of the vineyards and facility and all questions were answered. At the end we tasted a bunch of things, culminating in the Monte Bello (from Santa Cruz). Remarkable opportunity and highly recommended.

bottling top-off area

zin grapes? maybe.

Let’s see. Ate at some favorites, including Gott’s Roadside, Bouchon, La Salette, and Girl an the Fig. All were great. Tried a few new places, including El Dorado Kitchen, Farmstead, and Barndiva. All are worth a revisit. The fresh produce in California kills me. It’s so good.

Did some touristy things thereafter. Went into the city, ate at a personal favorite, House of Nanking. Been going on and off for a decade, and it’s been fantastic every visit. Sushi Sam’s in San Mateo was excellent as always, with absurdly good Toro. Will miss visiting San Mateo for work to be sure!

Our last day, we drove down the pacific coast highway for a while, taking a few side journeys. We didn’t get too far, ending up in Monterrey, visiting the aquarium and eating at a relatively forgettable restaurant. The aquarium remains very clean and well-maintained. Unfortunately, I’d forgotten how short the exhibits were on information. It seems like they’re striving to keep it simple and straightforward, with little more than the colloquial name and perhaps some flavor text for an animal. Sort of depressing.

But it’s alright, as we got some In-N-Out on the way back to finish the trip out right.

the shore off the pacific coast highway