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2021-04-29 – 05-03: Airstream Club Rally – Newport Dunes RV Resort…

Thursday: Newport Dunes is a beautiful resort on the Back Bay of Newport Beach. We arrived a little before 1:00pm and we were quickly in our site. I did all the set-up, then I left to visit my optometrist in Irvine. I was picking up a new set of glasses and having my sun glasses clips adjusted to the new frames (which are identical to my old frames…). It was a quick errand, and I was back in the resort well before happy hours…

There are about 10 Airstreams here today, with 10-15 more coming on Friday, the official start of the rally. Tonight we have reservations at Bayside, one of my favorite Newport Beach restaurants. Back in the olden days (2002-2009) I came to Bayside for lunch 2-3 days per week, always bringing an employee. I sat at the same table with the same waiter… It is the kind of restaurant I would come to every day if I lived in the neighborhood. (And, if I lived in the neighborhood, obviously, I would be able to afford it…) We are able to walk from the resort…

We had a great dinner with another Airstream couple that we did not know well. It was a great way to make new friends.

Friday dawned bright and sunny and warm – unusually warm for Newport Beach… Lynda went window shopping on Balboa Island with an Airstream friend. She found a cute sundress for our upcoming vacation in the desert…! I, in the mean time, strolled the park and walked around the back bay. Happy Hours were at another Airstream across the way, where we were able to catch up with friends we had not seen in over a year!

Saturday: We had an easy morning… at about noon, we walked the mile or so to Fashion Island, a giant shopping center catering to the Newport Beach crowd. We didn’t see anything we had to have, so we returned empty handed. But we got in a great walk. Saturday evening we shared some happy hours and great wines (Ridge MonteBello and Aubert) with Airstream friends. The club provided a great Cinco de Mayo dinner of tacos, rice, beans, and churros – perfect!

Sunday was overcast, windy and cool. We walked over to Balboa Island and circumnavigated it. It is always a very pleasant walk! Happy Hours were at our Airstream, sharing with Airstream friends old and new.

Monday was our last day. We hitched up and headed for home, arriving about 12:30. And 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:

1

Santa Barbara Sea Urchin

mille crepe

2

Salad of Finley Farms Lettuces

shallot & medjool date vinaigrette

3

Vitello Tonnato

crispy veal sweetbreads, caper berries

and

Omelette

asparagus, truffle noire hollandaise

4

Croustillant of Bar Raye’

charred fennel puree, beurre noisette

and

Steak au Poivre

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

5

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…

2021-04-19 – Scouting The California Architecture Food and Wine caravan…

Wine tasting in Sonoma County

More research today! In case you missed it, this trip is all about research. We are planning to lead an Airstream caravan, next year, in 2022. It is called California Architecture, Food, and Wine. I think the title is pretty self-explanatory!

Since, shockingly, I don’t know everything about California, Architecture, Food, or Wine, we need to do this research. A tough job, but somebody has to do it!

So we have explored the Point Reyes National Seashore, sampled restaurants, visited RV Parks, and driven the proposed route; today we are wine tasting, and researching more restaurants.

First on our list today is Kosta Browne, in Sebastopol. No rolling hills covered with vineyards here; just an industrial complex full of wine-making equipment. We met our host, who knew who we were, knew what we typically bought, and made us feel like honored guests. He led us on a brief tour of the facility. (We had been here in 2018…). As we tasted the recent vintages we discussed the possibility of bringing 20 people in for a tasting. Many wineries will not or can not handle groups of this size, but K-B was happy to accommodate us. We exchanged contact information and we were on our way.

Next up was Rochiolli Vineyards, in the Russian River Valley. We have been buying wine here for over 20 years. HERE are the hills and vineyards…

However, he tasting was fairly perfunctory… We tasted a sampling of their cheapest, most common wines, and there was no personal touch. Great wines, but not much more.

We moved on to MacRostie Vineyards. Again, a beautiful view and a beautiful building.

We enjoyed a fun tasting, exploring some wine we had not yet tasted. (We left with a case…) We discussed the caravan and we look forward to bring the caravan here next year.

Our final tasting was at Williams Selyem. Again, a beautiful place; in the past we had done the tasting in their extravagant “Tasting Palace”; today we were escorted to the owner’s house! It is a spectacular, simple two bedroom house overlooking the property. (Sorry – no pictures!) We sat at the dining table, with the retracting glass wall open to the view. Our host, again, knew everything about our wine preferences, and he knew that we starting buying W-S wines in 1999 (after being on the waiting list for almost 5 years…). We discussed the caravan and I’m sure we can work out a tasting for the group here.

By now we were ready for dinner. We drove to Petaluma and looked at a few places. We settled on Speakeasy, which is exactly what a speakeasy generally is not… We sat outdoors on their patio; in the adjacent courtyard there was a local band that played covers from Crosby Stills and Nash, Credence Clearwater Revival, and others.

Music was great and food was traditional (she had a burger and fries, I had braised short-ribs in blue cheese risotto). We’re not sure we will take 20 people here, but there are other options in the neighborhood.

We walked back to the truck, stopped off for gas, and headed back to the Villa. An enjoyable time was had by all…

2021-04-18 – Scouting The California Architecture Food and Wine caravan…

Lodi to Forestville and Beyond

Sunday morning we left the Van Ruiten Winery as the sun was rising. Again, we drove east for about two hours to finally reach Forestville, a very small town along the Russian River in Sonoma County. The countryside is beautiful at this time of day. We easily found the Riverbend RV Resort. We had arranged early check-in, so we were in our spot, unhitched, and set up in no time.

We then headed back south to Petaluma, where we looked at the Petaluma KOA to see if it was a better fit for the caravan than Riverbend. It is a very large KOA, with varied sites and many amenities.

Then we were off again, setting the GPS to the town of Olema. Olema is in the heart of the Point Reyes National Seashore and Tomales Bay State Park. Point Reyes National Seashore is a vast expanse of protected coastline in Marin County. Beaches here include Wildcat Beach, with the cliffside Alamere Falls. On a rocky headland, the 1870 Point Reyes Lighthouse is a viewpoint for migrating gray whales. The Phillip Burton Wilderness features extensive trails through grassland, firs and pine forest, and up to the peak of Mount Wittenberg.

Tomales Bay State Park is approximately 2,000 acres, divided between two areas, one on the west side of Tomales Bay and the other on the east side. The main area, on the west, is part of the Point Reyes peninsula, and is adjacent to Point Reyes National Seashore. 

Tule elk once inhabited the grasslands of the Point Reyes peninsula and the Olema Valley, as well as other grasslands within Marin County. They were the dominant grazers on these lands until their local extirpation (local extinction) in the 1850s. State and Federal legislation in the early 1970s authorized the California Department of Fish and Game, in cooperation with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service, to reintroduce the extirpated Tule elk to Tomales Point.

Eleven tan-colored male elk standing with the ocean in the background.

Point Reyes National Seashore remains the only National Park unit where Tule elk can be found. The majestic animals you see as you travel through the park embody the restoration of the dominant native herbivore to the California coastal ecosystem. They shape the landscape around them as they did for centuries before they were extirpated by humans. They symbolize the conservation of native species and ecosystem processes, one of the primary missions of the National Park Service.

We didn’t see any elk today, but we remember seeing them when we passed through here in 1977. Today we proceeded north along Highway 1, which hugs the eastern shore of the bay. The shoreline is dotted with a few small ramshackle houses and restaurants, located at the water’s edge. Thanks to the California Coastal Commission, enacted in 1972, this shoreline has remained virtually unchanged and undeveloped. Without the Coastal Commission we suppose this area would be lined with hotels and McMansions, and the bay itself would be totally obstructed, much like we see in places in Florida today…

We stopped at Tony’s Seafood for a light lunch. Oysters are a specialty all along the bay.

We continues north, enjoying the scenic drive. We passed through the tiny hamlets of Marshall, Nick’s Cove, and, well, Hamlet.

We returned to the Villa for a brief break, then we drove north to the town of Healdsburg.

We checked out a few restaurants, settling on Rooftop. There was a short wait, so we walked around the delightful downtown area. After receiving a test message that our table was ready we quickly returned.

Rooftop is located atop a small hotel. The exterior deck is wonderful…

The food was great. The menu is short, but it listed very innovative and creative food. After a leisurely meal we returned to the Villa; an enjoyable time was had by all.

2021-04-17 – Scouting the California AFW Caravan…

Saturday, April 17: Redlands to Lodi

We left Redlands at the crack of dawn. We have a long day of driving ahead of us We are driving to Lodi….

Update: We last posted in July of 2019; we had returned home from our 2019 caravans and were spending the week at San Clemente State Beach with family and friends, many of whom we had not seen in many months. But as we anticipated staying close to home we were less energized to be blogging every little local trip we were taking. We were scheduled for four caravans in 2020, and we were saving our blogging energy until then. And Covid happened…

We were camping with the Airstream Club at Pechanga in Temecula on my birthday weekend of March 8, 2020, when news of widespread Covid hit. On March 11 I did my stint as a docent at the Hollyhock House, traveling back and forth via train. I saw one person wearing a mask – about average. That night the NBA cancelled its season, and things were beginning to be shutdown left and right. On Friday, March 13, we had invited new friends from the neighborhood to dinner. They were all still working as school administrators; 15 minutes before dinner was to start they called to cancel, saying that they were being required to work all night to figure out what to do about schools being closed. Luckily we had other friends nearby who had not started dinner who agreed to come by and help us eat all the food that Lynda had already prepared… Tuesday, March17, I did my last session volunteering at a homeless shelter; it, too, was closing. And the rest is history…

All four of our 2020 caravans were cancelled. We didn’t take out the Airstream for over three months – a record! We hunkered down, spending our stimulus checks on ordering food for take out and delivery to keep our local restaurants afloat. Finally, in June, with all the state parks still closed, we spent 4 days in Temecula, at the Pechanga RV Resort. (Indians don’t have to listen to Governor Newsom…) The park was nearly empty and we had a lovely time just relaxing and walking on different streets for a change. We did this two more times before the state parks re-opened. We spent a week at San Clemente in August. And so the year dragged on. The Airstream Club had a few camp-outs as usual, but different because lack of potlucks and group dinners.

With the surge in Covid in December we forwent our annual New Years trip to Palm Desert. The winter progressed much the same.

So today we start a one week “scouting” trip in preparation of the caravan we will be leading next year. More on that later…

We left at about 5:15, as the sun was breaking in the east. Luckily, we drove west, towards Los Angeles and north over “The Grapevine”. After a brief breakfast stop outside Arvin, we continued north up the 5. Long boring drive; but it was fun to be on the road again after so long. We refueled in Lodi and easily found out campsite for the night – Van Ruiten Family Wines, vineyards, an outdoor tasting area, and “free” overnight parking…

We found a table in the tasting area and enjoyed sample of 10 wines, plus cheese and crackers.

After a lovely time here, much of it spent talking to a couple from Ventura who were also camping overnight, we retired to the Villa. An enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-05-21 to 2019-05–25 – The Desert Trip – Indian Wells, CA

Our annual trip to Indian Wells, CA, near Palm Springs, began on Tuesday morning… Indian Wells is a one hour drive from Redlands.  For 5 days we sat by the pools, walked through the resort, and had breakfast, lunch, happy hours, and dinner in all the hotel’s dining venues…

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It was freezing cold all week, until Friday.  Most days were in the high 60s.  On Friday it reached the high 80s, so we could finally enjoy happy hours and dinner outdoors…

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After dinner we enjoyed a nice stroll around the resort…

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Saturday morning, as the resort filled up with families for the holiday weekend, we headed back to Redlands…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-05-17 to 2019-05-20 – The Wedding Trip – Healdsburg, CA

We rose at 4:30 am, locked up the Villa, and we drove the rental car to Nashville…

We had an effortless check-in; 6 hours later, or so, we were in another rented car and we were driving north from Oakland to Healdsburg, CA…

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California hills are a different color of green than Kentucky… in another two weeks or so this green grass will be golden brown, setting off even more the beauty of the oak trees…

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We stopped for lunch at the Wild Goat Bistro in Petaluma…

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Then we put down the top and cruised back roads into Healdsburg…

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Vineyards are always so picturesque…

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The back roads are delightful!

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The town of Healdsburg is dripping with charm…

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We checked in to our B&B, walked the neighborhood for a while, and met old California friends for dinner…

On Saturday we joined 10 other California friends for a day of wine tasting… The top was definitely up as we drove through the rain to Williams Selyem Winery for our first stop…

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We hurried in to the “Tasting Palace”… We waited for our tour to begin…

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Out tasting was in this private room atop the winery…

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We enjoyed the hospitality of the winery staff, tasted many wines, bought a few bottles, and we drove again, in the rain, to Land of Promise…

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Land of Promise doesn’t have a tasting palace, or a winery, or a tasting room.  We were invited into the owners’ house, and we sat at their dining room table while they poured glasses of wine for us… The hosts were delightful and charming, and they shared their story about their journey to this Promised Land…

They showed us into their wine cellar, and we tripped over each other trying to get photos…

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We drove again in the rain to Wilson Artisan Wines…

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We enjoyed a semi-private tasting area and enjoyed a variety of wines.

Saturday evening the parents of the bride hosted dinner for the Like-minded Friends at a local gourmet burger joint… A lovely time was had by all…

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Sunday morning Lynda and I headed out for a drive to Anderson Valley, hoping to find a little dry spell where we could put down the top.  No luck.  The rain continued…

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We returned to the B&B and prepared for the wedding, held at the MacRostie Winery.  The rain was beginning to stop…

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The wedding went off without a hitch, at least after the bride and her father got untangled from her dress…

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Before the reception I was able to catch Lynda in her wedding finery…

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The rain stopped and the setting sun lit up the eastern side of the valley…

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The reception was in the large tasting area of the winery…

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The hills continued being beautiful…

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And the sun finally set…

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The reception moved to a cocktail lounge in Healdsburg, then we walked back to the B&B…

Monday morning we flew from Oakland to Ontario, and we Ubered home to Redlands.  The trip was uneventful, except that the TSA in Oakland confiscated our lovely parting gifts from the wedding – very nice cork screws.  I hadn’t even taken them out of the goody bag… The good news?  I have others…

On returning home I found out what had been delivered to the house and placed in the wine room during the past 2 months that we have been gone…

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I had my work cut out for me today…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-05-05 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Springtime in Kentucky; Cinco de Mayo! – Day #11

We had a busy day today, but everything was easy-going and enjoyable.  We began by driving 20 minutes into downtown Lexington;  we attended services at the 2nd Presbyterian Church…

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The 8:45 am service was very sparsely attended; maybe 60-70 people.  I trust the 11:00 am service would be better…  It was a very traditional service; it was a little odd that their hymns had familiar tunes, but totally different words.

We returned to the Villa, and then we walked over to the Horse Park.

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We saw horses.

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The big barn houses the draft horses – Clydesdales and similar hard working horses…

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The Big Barn is supposedly the largest horse barn in the USA…

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There was an interesting display showing the earliest and biggest horse farms and estates.  There was no mention that the horse farms, dating to the early 19th century, used slaves to work the horses.  In fact, all the early jockeys were slaves, and later, former slaves, until the Jim Crow laws and attitudes eliminated blacks from horse racing tracks altogether; this changed finally in the late 20th century…

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We watched a potion of the “Showcase of Breeds”, where we saw four different saddle horses on display…

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We walked through the “Hall of Champions”; this is where former winners are spending their twilight years living in the lap of luxury…

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And we walked back to the Villa…

We drove to the tiny town of Midway, so named because it was at the halfway point of the Ohio and Lexington Railroad; it was the first town in Kentucky founded by the railroad.  It was a delightful town, with railroad tracks running down the center of Main Street… Did I mention that it was laid out by the Railroad?

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This corner building used to house the local IOOF lodge – Oldfellows.  If I ever wanted to move to a small town I would find a building like this to convert to living quarters… What could be better than living in a place like this?

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The former train depot is now a bank…

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We had lunch at the Brown Barrel.  Good burgers (a blend of ground brisket, short rib, and chuck – just like I use at home…), and The Best French Fries Ever!

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The building is a former distillery, but I suspect the roof had caved in, because this roof  structure looks pretty new and pristine to me…

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After lunch we drove to do another bourbon tasting.  We are in the heart of the Bluegrass country – green pastures and horse barns as far as you can see…

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We arrived at our destination:

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Woodford Reserve is a very pretty place!  The distillery was built in 1812, and is on the National Registry of Historic Places.  But Woodford Reserve was founded here in 1996…

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They have a nice deck area where you can enjoy a cocktail or a light lunch…

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We started the tour overlooking the 1812 stone buildings…

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You know the song, “Roll Out the Barrel”?  This is where the barrels are rolled out from the distillery to the Barrel House…

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The traditional cypress wood fermenting tanks…

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The pot stills…

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Woodford Reserve is unique in that they use ONLY pot stills; there are no column stills here.  The fermented mash is distilled three times to get the whiskey to about 168 proof…

The barrel house…

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The tour guide talked about the historic stone barrel house… However, when questioned, he told us that it only holds 5,000 barrels.  They have five other modern barrel houses over the hill, which each contain over 50,000 barrels each…

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Another thing we heard for the first time is that they use steam heat in the barrel houses during cold winter months; they add heat, then turn it off; the result is that the temperature changes from high to low many times throughout the winter.  I was shocked!  This would kill any fine wine; wine needs a constant temperature to mature in the bottle.  But bourbon ages in wooden barrels, and the hot-cold cycle allows the wood to expand, sucking whiskey into the wood, then contract, pushing the whiskey back out of the wood.  This is what provides the flavor to bourbon, and it seems like they know what they are doing…

We tasted the Woodford Reserve and the Woodford Reserve Double Oaked.  The regular WR was good, the WR Double Oaked was better.  The Double Oaked is aged in the regular way for 4-5-6 years, then the bourbon is poured into another new oak barrel that has been heavily toasted and charred; the bourbon is aged for another 9-12 months…

Driving back to the Villa we saw even more beautiful vista across the Bluegrass countryside.

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We enjoyed Happy Hours (6:00 – 9:00 pm) with another couple that we had not met at the various GAMs… And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-04-22 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Traveling from Chattanooga, TN to Lynchburg TN, and Jack Daniels, and on to Huntsville, AL…

We prepared to leave for traveling to Lynchburg, TN, this morning.  Then we realized that Lynchburg is in the Central Time Zone and we were still in Eastern time in Chattanooga.  So we had an extra hour to kill.  But we left relatively early, and had a nice drive across Tennessee.  (The highway even dipped south for a few miles into Georgia before it turned slightly north back into Tennessee…)

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We soon arrived in Lynchburg, and …

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This is their fully restored antique truck, from all the way back in 1980…

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Signage on this truck shows Jack Daniel’s motto:  “All Goods Worth Price Charged.”

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The tour began by hearing an explanation of what Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey is:

The law defines Tennessee Whiskey as: a spirit manufactured in Tennessee; made from grain that consists of at least 51% corn; distilled to no more than 160 proof (80% abv); filtered through maple charcoal prior to aging; aged in new charred oak barrels; placed in the barrel at no more than 125 proof (62.5% abv); and, bottled at not less than 80 proof (40% abv).

Except for the filtering through maple charcoal, this defines Bourbon.  In other words, Tennessee Whiskey is Bourbon filtered through maple charcoal.  Jack Daniels calls this process “Mellowing”.

We started at the Rick House, where they burn the sugar maple; we moved on to the water source, deep inside this cave:

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Here is a statue of Jack Daniel standing on a granite boulder; you know, Jack on the Rocks…

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This building was the headquarters office used by Jack Daniel’s up until 1958; it was here, in about 1905, that Jack kicked the company safe one morning, broke his toe, and died a few years later from gangrene, at the age of 61.

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The owners of the company in 1958 (four brothers who had inherited the business) sold the business to Brown-Foreman for $20,000,000.  It is still owned by Brown-Foreman today.  Brown-Foreman also owns Early Times, Old Forester, Woodford Reserve, Canadian Mist, GlenDronach, BenRiach, Glenglassaugh, Finlandia, Herradura, Korbel, and Chambord.

This is the Still House; it contains four giant 90′ tall stills, which produce the clear corn whiskey:

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The sour mash waste, after it is distilled, is piped over to this facility, where it is sold to local farmers as cattle feed; it still contains 6-8% alcohol.  Talk about contented cows!

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This is the Mellowing House, where the clear whiskey is dripped, drop by drop, over a 10′ tall stack of charcoal, a process called mellowing…

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The bottling lines are always my favorite part of these tours… This is a small line dedicated to their Single Barrel Whiskeys.  It dates from 1970 and seemed to me to be very non-automated – there is a lot of work done manually, like putting on labels, hanging tags around the neck, and putting the bottles into the cardboard boxes…

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Finally, the tour over, we head to the educational part of the tour:  the tasting.  This is strictly for educational purposes only, since drinking whiskey in this county is forbidden…

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We were given five sample with which to get educated.  It totaled about one ounce; we were told about how each type is made and what the differences are.  The funny thing was that both Lynda and I found the Rye to be terribly sweet, yet the “honey” version had very little taste at all.  Our guide checked it out and found that the two samples were switched!  It mattered little – we didn’t like either of them… I found that I liked Gentleman Jack, while Lynda preferred the original…

After the educational portion of the tour we walked through one of the old barrel rooms…

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After the tour we could return to the Visitor Center.  While you cannot buy whiskey in this county, you can buy souvenir bottles here.  The bottles were filled with some sort of brown liquid…

We walked 1/2 mile into downtown Lynchburg, and enjoyed lunch at Bottle House BBQ:

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We returned to the Villa and drove to Huntsville, Alabama…

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They are building McMansions here, too…

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We parked at an RV park at NASA’s Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville…

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The RV park is very nice.  And cheap!  I wish we had RV parks in California like this for $20 per night…

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For dinner this night we met up with friends we met on the Nor’ by Nor’ East Caravan; they will also be joining us on the Kentucky caravan in a few days…

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Dinner was great!  Pork Belly appetizer and Crawfish Fritters, with a nice bottle of an Oregon Pinot Noir!

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

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