Tag Archives: Salinas

Road Trip: Wine Tasting at Bargetto Winery

20 Nov

 

 

 

Nearly 90% of American wines come from California.  While Napa and Sonoma Valley are the most recognizable names associated with California wine production, there are many other fertile regions for grape growing and winemaking throughout California.  While I was in Monterey, I stopped by the Bargetto Winery shop for a little lesson on winemaking in the Santa Cruz Mountains and, of course, some wine tasting!

Visiting the Bargetto Winery was one of the highlights of my road trip to Monterey.  It was also one of the most unique wine-tasting experiences I’ve had.  I’ve gone wine tasting in Tuscany, Long Island, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Vermont, as well as sampled wines in Oregon.  Along the way I’ve encountered some exquisite wines.  What made the tasting at Bargetto Winery stand out was the diversification of wines I samples.

The standout wine at Bargetto Winery, for me, was the the Chaucer’s Cellars apricot wine.  I was at first hesitant to try this fresh fruit wine.  Although I was intrigued, I imagined it would taste like marmalade.  What I discovered, though, was a refreshing dessert wine bursting with flavor.  It’s sweet but also light.  It’s certainly not a wine you’d want to drink glass after glass of, but it is the perfect ending to a meal.  The expert who was helping me suggested it also went well with spicy chicken cashew dishes; the website also offers recipe ideas.  As the website says:

CHAUCER’S CELLARS, produced by BARGETTO WINERY, has won gold medal winning dessert-style wines for decades. These elegant wines are produced from 100% pure fruit or natural honey without the addition of artificial flavors. The distinct taste of these wines can be enjoyed in the tradition of Medieval England. In the spirit of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, experience these unique wines as a pilgrimage in sensory delight.

“A pilgrimage in sensory delight”!

The other dessert wine I tried was definitely my least favorite of all the wines and that was Chaucer’s Mead:

Take a step back in time and enjoy the flavors of this popular Elixir. Our Mead is made with similar recipes used in Medieval Times.

The honey for this specialty dessert-style wine is produced in hives throughout Northern California. It is composed of a blend of three types of honey: alfalfa, sage and orange blossom. Each type brings a unique quality to the blend and contributes to the overall complexity of the Mead. Alfalfa is neutral in flavor but yields a dark, amber color. The orange blossom brings a floral bouquet to the nose of the wine. Sage brings subtle nuances into the blend.

I’m a big fan of all things honey, and I appreciate the blend of three different types of honey produced in California.  I’m not a huge fan of mead in general, and the particular mead I was served contained a spice packet of cinnamon and cloves.  It tasted like Christmas tea.  Not necessarily a bad thing.  I would certainly enjoy a hot cup of spiced mead on a snowy winter’s night — but no more than once a year.

I also tried a pinot grigio and a pinot noir, both of which were delicious.  The pinot noir had a sexy spiciness to it that made it perfect for drinking on its own or with a strong, peppery cheese.

Two brothers in the Bargetto family emigrated from Italy and started a winery in San Francisco that was shut down during Prohibition.  The Bargetto Winery was then established in 1933, meaning it was around during the time Jack Kerouac and his friends were road tripping along the California coastline.

Today, the Bargetto Winery practices sustainability in their winemaking:

There are three aspects to winegrowing sustainability as it applies to our winemaking operations:

  • The first is Environmentally Sound , in which we strive to produce wines in a green manner. Each month herein we post one of our winery practices like insulation of cooling pipes for energy conservation
  • The second is Economically Feasible , in which we maintain practices that will allow our winery to continue our long family tradition. Producing consistently quality wines that retain devoted customers and efficient business practices are two examples
  • The third component is Socially Equitable , in which we strive to provide a healthy and dignified work environment for our employees. Our giving back to the community , especially our LA VITA Fund is another example of this aspect to sustainable winegrowing.

The Santa Cruz Mountains is a beautiful area, which overlooks the ecologically diverse Monterey Bay Sanctuary. We believe we have a duty to do our part in maintaining and improving this natural beauty while being good business citizens of our community.

The Santa Cruz Mountains pass through San Francisco and head all the way down to Monterey Bay and the Salinas Valley.  It’s worth noting that the agricultural towns of Salinas and Gilroy, which I also passed through on my road trip, are also known for their wine.  The Santa Cruz Mountains is an American Viticultural Area (AVA) that consists of Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and San Mateo Counties.  There are more than 200 vineyards in this area.

You can visit tasting rooms of the Bargetto Winery in Soquel or Monterey (which is where I went).

Speaking of Chaucer, you may also be interested in my earlier post:

Road Trip Writing: On the Road and The Canterbury Tales

Road Trip: The Salad Bowl of the World

15 Nov

One of the reasons I was excited to travel the California coast from San Francisco to Monterey was because we’d pass Salinas.  John Steinbeck and Jack Kerouac wrote about Salinas Valley.  Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men was set in Salinas.  In 1960, Kerouac published a piece called “The Vanishing American Hobo” in Holiday magazine, which in part said:

I myself was a hobo but only of sorts, as you see, because I knew some day my literary efforts would be rewarded by social protection — I was not a real hobo with no hope ever except that secret eternal hope you get sleeping in empty boxcars flying up the Salinas Valley in hot January sunshine full of Golden Eternity towards San Jose where mean-looking old bo’s ‘ll look at you from surly lips and offer you something to eat and a drink too — down by the tracks or in the Guadaloupe Creek bottom.  

Kerouac also wrote about Salinas in Big Sur.  Even though it was in Selma, California (called Sabinal in the novel) — the Raisin Capital of the World — that Kerouac wrote about picking crops with “the Mexican girl,” Terry, in On the Road, I imagine it to be very much like Salinas.

The Salinas Valley, which begins south of San Ardo, and runs all the way to Monterey Bay, is known as “the Salad Bowl of the World.”  Most of the green salad produce you eat in the US comes from the Salinas Valley.  Named during California’s Spanish colonial period, Salinas means a salty lake or marsh.  The climate and growing conditions make the valley particularly fertile.

I saw signs promising 7 avocados for $1.  Do you know how much I pay for an avocado here in New York City?  $2 for a single avocado!  I was super excited — “stoked” to use the lingo I picked up while living in Cali (yes, people really talk like that there).  However, in keeping with the everything-going-awry theme of the trip, we did not get to make the stop because our bus had broken down earlier on the trip and we were already two hours behind schedule.  I took these photos from the window of the bus.

Big Sur and the Best Laid Plans….

15 Oct

I just got back from a trip where everything seemed to go awry.

On my recent trip to San Francisco for a friend’s wedding, I had big plans to visit John Steinbeck’s Monterey, where Cannery Row is set, and Jack Kerouac’s Big Sur, where he spent time in his friend poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s cabin and the title of one of his books.  This idea, mind you, came after plans had already gone awry when I discovered none of my other friends were able to make it to the wedding or were flying in just in time for the wedding, leaving me with a few days to myself.  I’d been to San Francisco a few times and already done the big touristy things and the Beat literary things in the city (minus the Beat Museum, which wasn’t around the last time I was there–and which will have its own post coming up soon!), so I figured I’d take my literary wanderings a bit further south.

Steinbeck’s Cannery Row came out in 1945, two years before Kerouac made that first big trip out West.  Post-World War II, both Steinbeck and Kerouac spent time in the same area of California—Monterey, Big Sur, Salinas—and wrote about migrant workers, the working class, the down and out, absurd heroes.  Steinbeck writes of Cannery Row:

Its inhabitants are, as the man once said, “whores, pimps, gamblers and sons of bitches,” by which he meant Everybody. Had the man looked through another peephole he might have said, “Saints and angels and martyrs and holy men,” and he would have meant the same thing.

Steinbeck’s message is very much Kerouac’s as well.  Kerouac writes about “the holy con-man with the shining mind” and other Beat characters whom society might consider derelicts but whom he considers saint-like.

I planned to do a close study of Steinbeck’s Cannery Row and to reread Kerouac’s Big Sur to compare and contrast the places, characters, themes, and language.  Visiting a place can sometimes be the best form of research.  You see and hear things that aren’t in books, get a sense of proportion and distance, and see how the landscape has changed.  I wanted to see the land, to feel the sand between my toes, to have the salty ocean breeze whip through my hair, to smell the sardines.  I wanted to experience the rough terrain that so embodied Kerouac’s mind frame in Big Sur.

Unfortunately, a trip to Big Sur would not happen for me.  My plans went awry when I discovered that after Labor Day public transportation to Big Sur stopped running during the week and that the only tour that stops at Big Sur was sold out before I got to book it.  Discovering this two days before I was supposed to leave—okay, so they weren’t exactly “the best-laid plans…”—put a wrench in my itinerary.

Well, here’s my Pinterest inspiration board for Big Sur.

Here’s an article called “Steinbeck vs. Kerouac: Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!” from Big Think.

And here’s an article from Monterey County Weekly on the film adaptation of Kerouac’s Big Sur.

I was, however, able to book a different tour that at least went to Monterey.  I had to get up super early–did I mention there were several conferences going on in San Francisco so the only hotel I could find within my budget was an hour away?–to get to the 9am bus.  I got there right on time, getting one of the few remaining seats in the very back of the bus, on the side that wouldn’t have a good view.  …Two hours later, we were still in San Francisco.  The bus was blowing hot air through the vents and overheating–not great for all the senior citizens on the trip (oh, did I not mention the demographic was ever-so-slightly older?).  They brought in mechanics, and when they failed to fix it, we eventually got a new bus.  About half the people on the tour were so mad that their precious vacation time was wasted that they refused to get on and left the tour completely.  The good news: I got a better seat.

Here are a few pictures from Salinas and Monterey.

John Steinbeck references the aphorism “the best-laid plans of mice and men often goes awry” in the title of one of his other books, Of Mice and Men.  The phrase can be traced back to Robert Burns’ poem “To a Mouse”:

The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley

Don’t you love that eighteenth-century Scottish English?  (One day I will have to describe my misadventures in Scotland too….)

One of the things I love best about On the Road is Jack Kerouac’s candor that trips often do go awry.  When Sal Paradise, the narrator based on Kerouac, starts his first big road trip from the East Coast to the West, he has grand plans of traveling one great highway all the way there.  That doesn’t work out—nor does he even get out of state before having to turn back and come home again.  He’d been trying to hitchhike his way out of New York City and ended up stranded in a torrential downpour in Bear Mountain, one of the places my own family frequented when I was growing up.  Not one to let problems rain on his parade, Paradise/Kerouac heads back to New York City and buys fare for public transportation that will take him to the first leg of his destination.

Sometimes you just gotta keep on truckin’!  It’s a good lesson for traveling and for life.

What’s the worst that has ever happened to you on your vacation?

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I’m reading tonight at 7pm at  The Penny Farthing (103 3rd Ave., downstairs in the speakeasy) here in New York City! This is a Storytellers event, hosted by C3.  I’ll be reading from Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s On the Roadcoauthored with Paul Maher Jr.