Thursday, December 9, 2010

Lamp Lighter Inn in Carmel-by-the-Sea offers a unique way to experince Carmel for every member of the family

Our recent stay in Carmel California brought us to the delightful Lamplighter Inn. Located just minutes from one of the country’s most picturesque beaches, with amenities for your pet companion, these pleasing rooms and cottages are to be considered when looking for accommodations for your stay in Carmel California.

These cottages are especially nice for those traveling with young children and dogs. There is an outdoor shower to wash off the sand after a busy day at the beach with your family and your pet. All the rooms have a unique charm and quaintness that will appeal to any traveler and many of the rooms have fireplaces to keep you cozy and warm from any fog shrouded evening.



This lovely quaint hotel also features an attractive courtyard bordered by flowers and handmade bird feeders decorate each room and cottage, accenting the appeal of this landmark property that has been around since the 1930’s. For guests that love the wine culture of Monterey County , the Lamplighter Inn features a Wine and cheese reception  on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday between 5-6 PM. You can sample many of the great wines from the nearby vineyards while enjoying the company of fellow travelers.


Many hotels today feature complimentary breakfast buffets but the Lamplighter Inn does it one better . All stays include a complimentary breakfast basket. served to the room between 8.30 – 10.00 AM. Now THAT is service.



Carmel is known all over the world for its famous beach , Pebble Beach golf course , shopping and historic hotels with some world class dining. The lovely city was created to be a walking city and it still is today. The Lamplighter Inn is within walking distance of the best Carmel has to offer.




During our visit we took a few minutes to sit down with general manager, Bobby Richards and he described the Lampligher and its long history. Staying at a boutique hotel is always enlightening but when visiting Carmel-by-the-Sea we could not think of a better place to enjoy Carmel in a way it should be . For more information about the Lamplighter Inn please visit http://www.carmellamplighter.com/index.html

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The 14th Annual Monterey County Great Wine Escape Weekend takes guests all over the county to experice world class food and wine


Monterey County California is almost half way between Santa Barbara and San Francisco and has some of the most fertile Vineyard and Agricultural land in the United Sates.










The history from Monterey’s Cannery Row to the fertile Salinas Valley was made known to the world when famed author and resident John Steinbeck wrote extensively about the people and the area is his well known novels “The Grapes of Wrath “ and “ Of Mine and Men” just to name a few. The “upside down , backward river “ is what Steinbeck himself called the north flowing Salinas River that carved out the Salinas Valley which today feeds 80% of our country’s ’vegetable needs.


Approximately 85 vintners and growers call Monterey Wine Country "home" which has been overlooked for some time. Monterey County’s lifestyle and wines are defined by the influence of the ocean and especially of Monterey Bay .






 The region is a unique place to visit as many enjoy all of the aspects of food , wine , history and entertainment the area has to offer. Many of the Monterey County wineries now have tasting rooms open to the public and provide a relaxed atmosphere where guests receive personal attention while tasting wines and learning about the winery.













emier Food   Monterey Wine Country Great Escape Weekend is held in November,  which is probably the best weather of the year in Monterey. The Great Wine Escape celebrates Monterey Wine Country’s world class wines and gastronomic delights crafted by nationally recognized chefs during a weekend of wine and culinary events. More than fifty award-winning wineries showcase their wines, reflecting the quality of the region’s nine distinct American Viticultural Areas.

John Steinbeck's Castle Rock

Once again we headed to Monterey to experience this great event. On this visit we based out of the very beautiful and quirky town of Carmel-by-the-Sea.







Our drive on day one of our journey started with a spiritual look at the area as we visited Castle Rock. The area made famous by John Steinbeck in his book “Pastures in Heaven “.

We could not have thought of a better way to start than than with Evan Oaks, owner of AG Venture Tours and Steinbeck expert. As Evan read passages from “Pastures in Heaven”, in a pasture with Castle Rock behind him , you could almost feel John Steinbeck’s presence with every word .




Rhonda Motil , Executive Director of the Monterey County Vintners and Growers Association joined us at this literary landmark as well.  She explained how “ The Thermal Rainbow of Monterey “ is a visual representation of Monterey Bay’s influence creating micro climates throughout Monterey County.



The coolest areas are to the north and closest to the ocean , while the warmest areas are to the south and more inland. She also added that 42 different varietals are planted in the county with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay doing well in the north;   Cabernet  Sauvignon  , Zinfandel and other Rhone varietals feel at home in the warmer south parts of the county.  Forty thousand planted acres make Monterey County their home and have been farmed sustanablity for quite some time.



On Friday  the Wine Experience guests could experience a multitude of winery open houses all over the county from Monterey, Carmel valley and Salinas . This unique opportunity gave the guests a chance to experience first hand the quality of Monterey Wines from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Rhone Varietals as well.



Talbott Wine Maker Dan Karlsen




Talbott Winery was our first stop and visited with the legendary winemaker Dan Karlsen .  As Dan spoke to us on subjects ranging from his wines, background  and winemaking philosophy we walked with him and sampled lovely Talbott Chardonnays  and Pinot Noir.




Andy Mitchell @ Hahn



We worked up quite an appetite after an ATV ride to a hill overlooking the Hahn Vineyard and the Salinas Valley. We were joined at the top by Philip Woodrow of Hahn and Vineyard Manager Andy Mitchell. From our vantage point we enjoyed barrel samples of some lovely Pinot Noir as Andy gave us a geography lesson on the valley and the very near by San Andreas Fault and its influence on the terrior





Andy Boy Colorful Cauliflower

With Lunch time upon us , how could we refuse a lunch at Hahn Winery prepared by Chef Brain Overhauser and lovely fresh  Andy Boy vegetables, joined by Margaret D’Arrigo her self.








If walking around the aquarium was not “your thing “there was also the Wine Enthusiast Signature Winemaker Dinner  at the InterContinental, The Clement Monterey on Cannery Row.


This lovely dinner showed off one of Monterey Wine Country’s signature varietals, Pinot Noir.  Wine lovers with a passion for Pinot Noir enjoyed   this exclusive opportunity to taste through an exclusive varietal tasting, paired with a five course meal under the direction of Executive Chef Jerry Regester of the InterContinental, The Clement Monterey.


Perhaps for many , this would have been a pretty full day of activities, but the Great Wine Escape Weekend had one more treat  and that was for the guests to end their day at the world famous Monterey Bay Aquarium.



Everywhere you look on the famed Cannery Row you can feel history.  The sun setting  over the Monterey Bay , sounds of the seals barking and the smell of the ocean spray on the rocks  below provided  guests a picturesque walk to a Barrel tasting of new and unique wines at the Aquarium.


Visiting the Aquarium at night is always a very special treat. And what a better way to see it than sipping unreleased wines as you stroll through what seems endless displays of colorful fish , seahorses , otters and so much more. 





Many legendary wineries and winemakers were present  to give the guests a pre-view of upcoming vintages.  Michael Michaud  himself was pouring guests a pre-view of his very nice Pinot Noirs. Other big names such as Ventana , Hahn , Estancia and J.Lohr were also there showing what we can expect in the years to come.

  The great thing about this whole region is that there are very fine smaller wineries that produce outstanding  wines from Chardonnays to Pinot Noirs.  McIntyre Vineyards impressed many with their Pinot Noirs . Wrath is known for some pretty high scoring wines and they did not disappoint anyone on this night with some of the best Pinot Noirs we have tasted. Scheid Vineyards, Manzoni Estates, Lockwood Vineyards and Pierce Ranch Vineyards all showed some very fine wines from different areas of the county showing off the county’s diversity.



The Second day of this great event focused guests on a series of Wine County Boot Camps that provided a hands on experience blending and sweating like a winemaker .








 The Carmel Valley Boot Camp / Wine 101—Château Julien Wine Estate featured a wine sensory seminar and barrel education and vineyard walk. The Salinas Valley Boot Camp / Vineyard to Table— Scheid Vineyards shared what it takes to farm and grow grapes in Monterey Wine Country and teamed up with Paraiso Vineyards for a hands-on Wine Blending Seminar.

On Cannery Row the Great Wine Escape Weekend provided guests a variety of choices to enjoy Monterey County. The Oenophile’s Delight at  the  InterContinental, The Clement Monterey offered a cheese  and chocolate pairing with the wines of Monterey County, A guided tasting through Monterey’s 9 AVAs or a Riedel wine glass demonstration.

John Ratto @ IL Fornaio









Having been in the vineyards the previous day we decided to spend some time in the very quaint city of  Carmel-by-the-Sea.  The IL Fornaio at The Pine Inn was the first stop of the day. General Manager John Ratto and his staff provided us with mimosas and breakfast as we were joined by Kris O’Conner  from the Central Coast Vineyard Team .
She was very informative as she discussed their acclaimed SIP (Sustainability in Practice) certification program that certify sustainable and organic Vineyards.
Kris O'Conner, CCVT















Carmel –by-the-Sea was designed from the very beginning to be a “walking town”.  Who better than to join us for a walk  was Monta Potter , Executive Director of the Carmel Chamber of Commerce.




As we walked the cobble stone streets and enjoyed Carmel’s unique character , Monta pointed out highlights and history that has made Carmel one of the leading travel destinations in the world.





Jack Galante


Carmel is also home to some lovely tasting rooms as well.  It did not take much prodding to make a stop at the Galante Vineyard tasting room where we were joined by Jack and Dawn Galante.  In addition to growing and producing wine, Jacks Great Grandfather J.F Devendorf was the founder of Carmel !  .





The Galante 2009 Sauvignon Blanc  with only a 580 case production provided a refreshing break from our walk around Carmel.  Jack was more than gracious and tasted us on his Pinot Noir , several very nice  Cabernet Sauvignons , Syrah and his very special 2007 Grand Champion  blend of Malbec, Petit Syrah  and Cabernet Sauvignon that he only produces 378 ( 6 pack ) cases.

Cannery Row was calling us again as we made our way back to Monterey to join the many attendees for the main event of the weekend , Taste the County in 175 Sips  at InterContinental, The Clement Monterey.   All of the events during the weekend pointed to this fabulous event where guests could enjoy wines from over 30 wineries from every corner of the county.

The ballroom at the InterContinental was buzzing with excitement as the guests entered the room with great anticipation of tasting outstanding wines and enjoying some signature dishes and Executive Chef Demonstrations.









Many of Monterey county’s  hidden gems were on hand right next to legends like Phil Woodward  ( Chalone Judgment of Paris 1976 fame ) of Graff Family Vineyards and  and  Michael Michaud from his namesake vineyard Michaud . We made a stops at Wrath ,  Otter Cove , McIntyre , Delicato and Estancia as well. Having all of these wonderful wineries in one place really showed off the diversity of the county and the wines they produce. 

Chef Todd Fisher


 When you have great wines you have to know that there would be some great food as well.   Many of the area best Chefs were in the house and made sure we did not go hungry.








Chef Tim Wood



Local favorite Chef Todd Fisher  was one of our first stops as we worked our way through the tasting. IL Fornio’s Executive Chef Gabriel Rodriguez and Carmel Valley Ranch Executive Chef Tim Wood both kept the guests coming back for more.







Winemaker Richard Oh













The sun was beginning to set once more over beautiful Monterey Bay , but just like the day before , There was more to come. Guests had a choice of over a dozen Winemaker dinners held all over the county to tantalize their wine and culinary palates.


For us , it was a very special invite only dinner at the Pacific’s Edge Restaurant at The Highlands Inn on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. When invited by Estancia Winery and Host , Winemaker Scott Kelley  to attend a winemaker  dinner at one of the Top 100 Zagat Rated restaurants and USA Today’s Top 10 Restaurants with a view in the country, we did not hesitate.



The five course winemaker dinner created by Executive Chef Matt Bolton set the stage for a memorable evening with a wonderful pairing of exceptional food and wine.





The final day of The Great Wine Escape weekend focused on the Culinary Skills  of very talented Executive Chefs.  A Culinary Showcase and Lunch provided   intimate cooking  demonstrations presented by The Food Network’s Executive Chef, Robert Bleifer and Jerry Regester, Executive Chef, InterContinental, The Clement Monterey  and was wonderful way to end the  14th Annual Great Wine Escape Weekend and send guests home happy and content.


Monterey County ,  from the history of Cannery Row to Steinbeck’s Salinas Valley ,world class wines and award winning Chefs is now being recognized world wide  for the special region that it has become. The  14th Great Wine Escape Weekend was a great way to explore the entire county and we have already marked our calendar  for November 11-13th 2011 for the 15th Annual event.

Join Elaine Harris Editor-In-Chief of The Cuisineist  as she takes you on 4 day journey through the Food and Wine of Monterey County and see you next year !

Elaine and Scott

Elaine and Scott
Elaine and Scott