A Night at Hearst Castle

The Great Hall During the Holiday SeasonMost of you have been to Hearst Castle and know of  the grandeur Hearst gave to the family camping grounds.  Not too many know about the evening tours.  Some time ago, the lights were restored to the grounds and a tour established to give you the feel of what it was like to attend the evening festivities.  Although Hearst wanted his guests to have all possible distractions during the day,  the payback was that they had to attend the dinner party every night.  This consisted of dressing to the max and beginning the evening in the main room at 7 PM.  After socializing and  allegedly alcohol stingy drinks( beer was OK as is) , the party moved to the dinning hall for dinner.  After dinner, some more games and socializing, the formal scripted part of the evening would assemble in the movie theatre.  Once the movies were done, Hearst would retire for the evening (usually to do a few hours of work) and the guests had the run of the place.  The tour is set to give you the feeling of the evening.  Docents, dressed as they did in the period, are along the tour route and the tour guides are a little more abstract about the history and ongoings during this time.  The Pool at NightDuring the holidays, they decorate the castle as Hearst did.  He was very big on Christmas and it shows.  The tour also takes you for a walk along the gardens at night. There the ambiance of the lights, the quietness and the beauty of a star filled night take you back to what it must have been like.  A walk through the kitchen gives you a feel for the level of entertaining that occurred regularly.  Even before you get there you begin to travel back in time while driving up highway 1.  The area is pitch black except for the glow of the light on the hill and the outline of the castle waiting for you.  Now I know why it was on the map for mariners.  This is a must tour for those who have been to Hearst Castle and have seen at least one day tour.  The night tour is entirely different and gives a very realistic feel for this magical place.  Check it out at the Hearst website.

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Greek Wines on a come back

Greek wine waiting to be tastedThe Greeks were one of the first to commerically export wines around the civilized world.  However, history was not kind to the Greek wine makers with occupations from civilizations not favorable to the art of wine making.  It was not until the 1960’s that the art returned to this ancient country.  Embracing the uniqueness of the land and weather, this new generation has reacquainted with the historic Greek vines such as Moschofilero, Roditis, Asyrtiko, Agiorgitiko, Xinomavro, Kotsifali and Mandilaria as well as adding more internationally recognized vines such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and even Semillon.  On Sunday, I had the opportunity to attend a food and wine pairng of Greek wines by Tom Martin.  Tom gives an excellent history and accounting of these historic wines and brings you up-to-date with some excellent wines.  If you can find one of his seminars, it is worth attending.  Greek wines are characteristically high acid and low fruit making them excellent for food pairing.  Initially, white wines dominated with 65% of the production but now there is a rough 50/50 split with the reds.  My own personal favorite?  I have discovered Agiorgitiko.  This is perhaps the Beaujolais of the Greek red wines.   Mild, low fruit, easy to drink, mild tannin, just a great wine to drink with mild to low intensity foods.  If you have not experienced Greek wines due to their rightly deserved history, then now is the time to give them a new chance.  You will be surprised.  They have come that far and are worthy of sharing a meal with you…OPAH!

The Monarch Butterflys of Pismo Beach

Monarch Butterflys are everywhere in the grove

Mary finally convinced me to go see the butterfly grove in Pismo Beach.  What a great place!   The Monarch’s winter here from their summer sites in the Sierra’s.  Tens of thousands of these Monarchs winter in this grove.  These butterflies live up to six months while wintering but the rest of the year they survive only weeks.  This means that the ones who spend the winter are not the ones who leave to return to the summer sites and the ones who arrive at the summer sites are not the ones who come back to Pismo.  Yet, somehow the descendants find their way back.  Absolutely fascinating.  The grove is easy to find and the tour is short.  But, it is something to add to your list of things to do if you have never been there.  Great information is available at the Pismo Grove Website.  I was pleasently surprised and had a good time.