Adventures in the Villa


Los Olivos

2021-04-23 – Scouting The California Architecture Food and Wine caravan…

Los Olivos to Bakersfield

It was 43 degrees at sunrise in the vineyard. As the light hit the solar panels I switched on the furnace to warm up the place. We treated ourselves to bacon and eggs for breakfast, along with coffee. After a relaxing while we hitched up, locked the vineyard gates behind us, and aimed the rig towards Bakersfield! Bakersfield? Yes. In Bakersfield there is a very large house by Frank Lloyd Wright and two smaller houses by Richard Neutra. In addition, there is some celebrated ecclesiastical architecture, the last operating Woolworth’s lunch counter, and several fine dining restaurants. Bakersfield is not to be missed!

To get to Bakersfield from Santa Maria is a 100 mile long lonely road, through the towns of New Cuyama and Cuyama. Finally we arrived at the town of Maricopa, population 1,229. This fine church stands at the center of town:

This church was built in 1908 by C.H. Hoogenboom, my grandfather. I have a snapshot of the church taken by my grandmother in 1908. It has not changed one bit!

We pulled into the River Run RV Resort, right alongside the Kern River. The Kern River has not one drop of water in it… But there is a nice pool and lots of shade. It is 80 degrees this afternoon…

We had lunch, a short dip in the pool, and a quiet dinner in the Villa. An enjoyable time was had by all…

2021-04-22 – Scouting The California Architecture Food and Wine caravan…

Monterey to Los Olivos

We pulled out of Marina Dunes RV Resort a little after 10:00am, headed back to the 101, and drove south for many hours. Traffic was light, scenery was beautiful, with the hills still showing green, but not for long. We stopped of the side of the road, made a quick lunch, and ate in the car as we drove…

At a little after 1:00 we arrived at the El Camino Vineyard, owned by Saarloos and Sons Vineyards. We pulled in and parked next to a giant oak tree. This will be our home for the night…

We were amazed by our surroundings… We thank the Saarloos family for letting us camp here…

We drove the 3 miles into Los Olivos and stopped in at Saarloos and Sons and at Wayland to buy a few bottles. You can never have too many bottles of wine… We walked around the block a few times to get some steps in, then returned to the Villa to prepare for dinner.

Dinner tonight is at Bell’s, in Los Alamos, CA. Bell’s used to be a quaint little French bistro until the recent unpleasantries. When indoor dining was banned, they cleaned up their patio, and now serve just a few tables per night; reservations only, prepaid deposit with reservation, 5 course prix Fixe dinner, and mandatory 20% gratuity. We had been here last August, and we were so impressed that we had to go again tonight. Our dinner consisted of:


Santa Barbara Sea Urchin

mille crepe


Salad of Finley Farms Lettuces

shallot & medjool date vinaigrette


Vitello Tonnato

crispy veal sweetbreads, caper berries



asparagus, truffle noire hollandaise


Croustillant of Bar Raye’

charred fennel puree, beurre noisette


Steak au Poivre

5 oz. coulette, Steve’s peppercorn sauce and frites


Lemon Custard

creme chantilly, pistachio crumble

We enjoyed a bottle of 2016 Land of Promise Terra de Promisio Pinot Noir and 2017 Kosta Browne Pinot Noir, both from Sonoma Coast. Service was top notch, the patio was delightful, sitting under the evening sky. A perfect evening.

Then back to the Villa. An enjoyable time was had by all…

2018-07-10 – WBCCI 2018 Wine Tasting Caravan – Day 9 – Santa Ynez

An exciting day for the caravan today – a rare opportunity to do a wine tasting at the home of the owner of the winery!  Definitely, not your ordinary tasting room!


Just outside the town of Los Olivos, we approached the gates and pressed the call button. The gates opened and we proceeded down the driveway:


As fun as this is, the main event was on the backyard patio:


The view was lovely:


This is Tantara.  The owner, Carlos Coelho, bought Tantara from Bill Cates a few years ago.  Carlos is an Argentine, married to a Hungarian, with a large winery in Hungary.  He was not at home here today, but he does spend time here in the Santa Ynez valley from time to time…

Our tasting was lovely, with great wines accompanied by several very nice cheeses.

Each year Tantara selects the best barrel of wine from their best vineyards and calls the wine “Evelyn”.  We’ve enjoyed several bottles of Evelyn over the past few years and it always has been spectacular.  Given our Blessed Event this past March, we could not resist stocking up on several bottles of Evelyn, and when the 2018 vintage is released we will need to buy many more…

After our leisurely tasting here at Tantara we once again headed out, this time up to the top of the San Marcos Pass, to an ancient Stage Coach Stop and Tavern, on Cold Springs Road…


This was the stage coach stop between Santa Barbara and Los Olivos, where Mattei’s Tavern is also still operating.  An enjoyable lunch was had in the rustic dining room:


After lunch we walked down the road a bit to see the underside of the Cold Springs Bridge.  Today drivers on Hwy 154 pass over the bridge without even noticing that it was the longest steel arch bridge in the world when it was built…


After seeing the bridge, we had to walk up the hill again; we returned to the Airstreams for an afternoon rest…


We enjoyed a quiet dinner around the corner at Rudy’s Mexican Restaurant in Buellton, and turned in for the night;  The caravan is over and we head for home tomorrow…

I  believe an enjoyable time was had by all the folks on the Wine Tasting Caravan… One Caravanner said it best:  “It wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be!”  That seems to sum it up…













2018-07-09 – WBCCI 2018 Wine Tasting Caravan – Day 8 – Santa Maria and Ballard Canyon

We had a leisurely morning parked in the vineyard… At about 10:00 am we headed north to Santa Maria for a different type of wine tasting experience:


This is a tiny warehouse space in a nondescript industrial area of Santa Maria.  There are three wineries in this one building, each with about 1,100 sq. ft.  They all share spaces and equipment, as is common in the wine-making business.  Each of these three wineries makes between 2,000 and 4,000 cases per year.


The first place we visited, where we had our tasting, was Challen Winery.  Challen does not own any vineyards – she buys her grapes each year on long term contracts.  Challen is the daughter of the late Bill Cates, founder of Tantara Winery, also in this complex.  A few years ago, Bill Cates sold Tantara to Carlos Coelho.  After the sale, Challen missed having a connection to the wine industry, so she started her own label.  Also in this building is Cotiere Winery, owned by Kevin Law.  Kevin has been winemaker for Tantara in the past, and is now winemaker for Challen… Small world!


We started to learn about Challen from Julie, Challen’s assistant.  After a few wines were tasted, Kevin Law came in and we mixed in Cotiere wines.  Finally, Rick Hill, current winemaker for Tantara, came in and shared his wine under his own label: Labyrinth.  We had a lovely, exuberant, and somewhat confusing hour and a half, tasting wines from three different wineries.  (We tasted no Tantara wines here – that will be tomorrow…)

After order forms were filled out and our farewells were said, we returned south again for a tasting at Rusack Vineyards, in Ballard Canyon, between Los Olivos and Solvang.  We first visited here in 1989, when it was called Ballard Canyon Winery.  It was a ramshackle winery, and we sat at an old picnic table under the oak trees; we remarked on the fabulous views.  Today the winery is in beautiful condition, having been rebuilt over the years by the Rusack family.  The views from the deck are still beautiful!


We did some tasting.  Rusack is unique in that they grow some of their grapes on Catalina Island!  (Mrs. Rusack is a Wrigley…)

After our tastings, we bought several bottles of wine and sat on the deck enjoying our lunch of sandwiches, bought from Panino in Los Olivos…


Once our lunches were finished and our naps complete, we packed up and headed back to the Airstreams…


We moved the Airstreams 15 minutes down the road to Flying Flags RV Resort, and parked in some much-appreciated shade…


Happy hours ensued…


And an enjoyable time was had by all…






















2018-07-08 – WBCCI 2018 Wine Tasting Caravan – Day 7 – Los Olivos

We bid farewell to Wine Country RV Resort this morning and once again pointed the Airstreams south.  Today we park at El Camino Real Vineyard, owned by Saarloos and Sons, just outside of Los Olivos…


After a quick set up, we went into Los Olivos and visited the two Saarloos family tasting rooms:  Saarloos and Sons, and Waylan:



Some of the group went in search of (and found) cold beer, and others had lunch at Sides Hardware… Los Olivos is a delightful little town consisting of two restaurants, one sandwich shop, one market, one coffee house, 2 beer places and 54 wine tasting rooms…


We returned to the Airstreams and Happy Hours ensued…


And an enjoyable time was had by all…






















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