In 2021 travel took on both a virtual and live role. Although travel was primarily within California, I also traveled to Oregon and Washington, but the bulk of my traveling took place virtually. Enjoy my travel 2021 year in review as I discovered many places in person and more that I hope to visit in the near future when travel is safer.
Travel 2021 Year in Review – In-Person Travel
Traveling by car, I visited Palm Springs twice, Paso Robles, Santa Ynez, Santa Barbara Wine Country. Flying for the first time since COVID began, I traveled to Eugene, Oregon, the Columbia River Gorge, and Walla Walla. The sense of place is based on the wow moments that occurred at each location as I discovered new places and revisited friendly places in my travel 2021 year in review.
The highlight of visiting Palm Springs is I discovered the architecture. The mid-century modern influence in the area intrigues me. From the architectural homes to the environs of Sunnylands, I am drawn to this period of architecture and how it showcases the magnificent backdrop of the San Jacinto Mountains.
My second visit showed me the Pet-Friendly side of Palm Springs and the boutique hotels of Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels.
Of course, the draw to Paso Robles is wine, and one cannot visit without visiting a winery. One must take in Sensorio, the field of light, extended to March 22, 2022. This inspirational installation of lights takes in the vistas of Paso Robles. It gives one a glimpse of the serene beauty one can find as you wander the paths of this exhibit.
For ice cream lovers, one must try Negranti Creamery. With two locations, one in downtown Paso and one in Tin City, the unusual flavors of sheep’s milk ice cream are to die for.
As an allocation member of Sea Smoke Estate Vineyards, I got to visit the vineyards while sipping sparkling wine. Taken by the breathtaking views of the vineyard and those along Santa Rosa Road, it made for an extraordinary day.
Santa Ynez and Ballard
Stay tuned for my upcoming article about Ballard and the Ballard Canyon AVA in April. Visiting two wineries, Piazza and Larner Vineyards, in the AVA and tasting the bread at Bob’s Well Bread, a local favorite in Los Alamos and Ballard is the perfect start to one’s day.
From Portland to Eugene to Ribbon Ridge
Landing in Portland for the Wine Media Conference, I made a stop at two of my favorite Willamette Valley wineries. The first Alloro Vineyard, where I got to see their new tasting room. The new facility is beautiful, set against the backdrop of the Alloro vineyards, and the timing with Alloro being a part of one of the Tualatin Valley’s newest AVAs, the Laurelwood District, was apropos.
The other winery Beckham has always intrigued me. Andrew Beckham creates his wine in Amphorae that he produces. I try to visit the winery on every visit to Portland. This trip after visiting, I had to bring a colleague back to explore Andrew’s unique approach to making wine.
Fast forward to three days in Eugene for the wine media conference, my first time at the conference. On this trip to Eugene, I got to explore a view of the wineries in Lane Country and the recently established Lower Long Tom AVA, in addition to learning about the Italian wine region of Abruzzo.
I ventured to the Ribbon Ridge AVA from Eugene for a stay at Utopia Vineyards.
Walla Walla and Mount Hood
If you have never driven down the Columbia Gorge, it is well worth the experience to observe the beauty of the scenery as it changes from the lush green treelined landscape with Mount Hood as the backdrop to the desert-like of Eastern Washington. Think of the rock formations along the Colorado river only in browns and mustard color. This scenic drive sets the pace that brings you into the quaint small-town atmosphere of Walla Walla, where wine, food, and culture mesh together.
An hour from Portland, discover Hood River, a town that centers around the Columbia Gorge AVA. This town takes you back in time with charm. Think the late 1800s meets the age of Aquarius.
Travel 2021 Year In Review – Virtual Travel
Through webinars and wine tastings, I ventured to destinations around the world. In the United States, I visited Mendocino, Napa Valley, and Russian River Valley through several different wine tastings. The tastings took me to Sardinia, Alentejo, Montalcino, and Hungary.
As mentioned last year, I co-host Virtual webinars for IFWTWA. I discovered many places I might not have considered visiting through those webinars. So join me as I highlight what I found through virtual travel.
My virtual travel began with a trip to the Texas Wine Country to discover the wines of the Texas High Plains and the Texas Hill Country. Did you know that Texas is the fifth largest producer of wines in the United States? If you love Tannat, there are some excellent examples of this variety produced in Texas.
My next stop virtually took me to Hungary to discover Budapest and the wines of Hungary. Hungary has 22 wine appellations, with the Tokai region being the largest and the most well-known. Hungary’s history of winemaking goes back 1000 years. Hungary produces about 1% of the world’s wine; 70% is white wine.
Whidbey and Camano Islands
Whidbey and Camano Islands have a diverse microclimate, and the land consists of glacial deposits and volcanic soils. Like wine, where we talk about terroir and place, this is true of food. Does one type of soil affect our sense of taste? The slow food movement established in Italy allows people to appreciate the taste, smell, and beauty of the food we eat. Today the slow food movement has two chapters in the US, one on Whidbey Island.
Like animals threatened by extinction, industrial standardization threatens our food. The Slow Food movement developed an Art of Taste, which catalogs exceptional foods from various areas that are endangered. The Whidbey Islands has two such foods, the Rockwell bean and the Sugar Hubbard Squash. The slow food movement makes Whidbey Island a unique foodie destination.
Albuquerque is one of the oldest cities in the United States and the largest in New Mexico. The defining food ingredient is Chile and the three sisters, corn, beans, and squash. Viva Vino, the New Mexico wine industry, is centered around Albuquerque, with one of the top sparkling wine producers in the country, Gruet, located there.
Claremont, a quaint suburban college town east of Los Angeles, is a delightful place to enjoy art, see early California architecture, and enjoy the many shops and restaurants. Over the years, I participated as a vendor at their Village Venture Arts and Craft Show but have never stayed or taken in the sites. After this webinar, it is time for me to take in more.
China Via Wine
In China, Chinese wine goes back to 4600 BC. Bordeaux. China’s first modern winery was founded in 1892 in Shandong. Today several regions produce wine, including the largest producing region of Yantai-Penglai, which produces approximately 40% of China’s wine and is home to 140 wineries. One of the oldest is Xinjiang. Ningxia is one of the newer regions known for its red wines. Ningxia has ties with many French producers because many Chinese winemakers are trained in Bordeaux. Wines from the Ningxia region have also claimed international recognition.
St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches
Not only do you find the most pristine beaches in St. Augustine Ponte Vedra, but the area also has 450 years of history, blending many cultures as America’s oldest settlement. A visit combine history with relaxation.
Livermore Valley Wine Country
Livermore is often thought of as one of five sleepy bedroom communities outside San Francisco, but it is not. It is the home of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. On the wine side, most people do not know the importance this AVA played in the history of California wine. Without Livermore’s Wente and Concannon, both established in the 1800s; many California wineries would not have the vines planted today. They are the backbone of two varieties, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. During prohibition, both Wente and Concannon made sacramental wine. Following prohibition, many wineries came to both these establishments for cuttings.
Today, Livermore is home to over 50 wineries ranging from large format to boutique and urban wineries. I discovered Omega Road Winery, a family-owned winery that started as a hobby for Ken Henkelman. Ken’s daughter got the wine bug and is now an integral force in the winemaking process. I recommend the Petit Verdot.
Over the years, another winery, urban-style Longevity Wines, grew to become the 3rd largest winery in Livermore. It, too, started as a hobby until it grew too large to manage in a garage. The winery brings forth the love and passion of Debra and Phil Long. The name is a play on their name and their love, but to me also stands for the longevity a good bottle of wine can have if you put wines away to drink at a later date.
The beauty of Washington’s peninsula is best seen visiting Kitsap. Exploring Kitsap, with a side trip to Gig Harbor and Bainbridge, will engulf one with its beauty, food, and wine, from outdoor recreation to natural habitats and the area’s national maritime heritage.
Travel 2021 Year In Review – The Future
I look forward to a more accessible year of travel in 2022, hopefully to places at a greater distance than I was willing to travel in 2021. So far, next year will transport me to Cognac, the Tualatin Valley, and the Willamette Valley via zoom webinars.
I wish everyone a Happy New Year as we welcome in 2022.
Travel 2021 year in review feature photo courtesy of Spicewood Vineyards.