Friday, September 25, 2015



There once was a beautiful maiden named Linda who lived in a sleepy little hamlet called Danielson in the land called Connecticut.  After graduating high school Linda moved into my house in the not very sleepy town of Bayside, Queens, NY to study design and work in retail on the magical isle of Manhattan.  I was eleven or twelve and while she was courted by many handsome knights, some in suits and ties, others in sports cars, I would go thru her closet trying on her prom queen gowns and high heels and looking thru her sketch book at the clothes she designed for classes at Traphagen School of Design.  She eventually moved into her own place, but on a trip back home, the Lovely Linda found John, her prince charming, married and had three beautiful maidens of her own.

OK - why am I spinning this tale?  The Lovely Linda is my cousin (though more like a sister) and I watched her daughters (I consider them my "nieces") grow into terrific women and mothers whom I don't see often enough.  Two of these sisters, Michele and Monique (and Monique's daughter, Tarah), decided to take a pilgrimage from the Kingdoms of Sonoma and Walnut Creek, California to the far off land of San Diego with a sleepover in the fairy tale town of Solvang in mystical Santa Ynez wine country.  So, when the eldest sister (Michele) invited Richard and me to join them, we hopped into our carriage and headed northwest.

The sisters (Michele & Monique) & me

Solvang, though built to mimic a quaint Danish town, complete with a museum honoring Hans Christian Anderson, looks more like a town out of my childhood Cinderella or Hansel & Gretel Golden Books.  But there's nothing fairy tale about the wineries.

Our first stop, the Toccata tasting room part of the Lucas & Lewellen vineyards specializing in some delicious, Italian-style wines.  Mark Liddi was our barista.

Of the wines he poured, these were my favorites.

2013 Viognier ($22) with grapes grown at the winery's Los Alamos Vineyard, this wine had aromas of honey and apricot with citrus and nectar tastes.

2011 Sangiovese ($26) - Aged in French oak, this lovely wine had scents of strawberries, tea and leather and flavors of berries and anise.  Great with Mediterranean dishes.

2011 Toccata Barbera ($21) - rich, full-bodied, lovely ruby color.  Bring on some red meat.

2011 Toccata Riserva ($32) -  cabernet sauvignon, cab franc blended with Los Alamos Merlot Freisa and Sangiovese and aged in oak, this spicy, dark fruit and tobacco with hints of vanilla was my favorite of this family owned winery.

Down the street from the musical Toccata was its "sister" tasting room, Lucas & Lewellen which specializes in more traditional French style wines.  

Mary Evans was our barista...

...who offered a fugue of flavors to try, thought again, I had my favorites...

2012 Syrah ($26) with a little Viognier mixed in for flavor and body, I could taste the rich fruits, herbs and spices.

2012 Malbec ($28) - dense flavors, creamy texture, you can easily taste the blackberries and cassis.

2012 "Clone 6:" Cabernet Sauvignon ($48) - deep rich flavors with silky tannins.  Hints of chocolate and caramel apples.  Just delicious!

We had time for one more tasting before we needed to go back to our rooms and get ready for dinner.  We chose Lions Peak and were happy we did. The standouts for me were:

2014 Viognier ($28) - ripe apricots, peaches and melons filled my nose as I sipped this luscious white wine.

2014 The Sisters  - ($35) - a blend of Marsanne, Rouanne and Viognier that makes a delicate, yet complex white Rhone wine.

2012 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($45) - with flavors layered with black cherry, currant and plums.  A rich bowl of fruit in every sip.

BFF (Best Friends Forever) ($38) - indeed a very friendly wine.  Rich with multiple fruit flavors and smooth as silk, I would drink this wine with anything.

Of the three ports we tasted, the 2002 Augustus XIX Cabernet Port stood out ($20) - aged in French Oak, this wine has wonderful silky tannins that age gracefully.  The perfect way to end a meal.

But then again, there was the Octavian Zinfandel Port fortified with brandy!!  Oh, my!!!  ($38 or $28 for a smaller bottle.)

Tasting done, we were all off for some fine dining at Root 246 (and it was fine) family talk and a lot of laughs.

The Lovely Linda and her Prince John, (along with their beautiful daughters and grandchildren) all live in California but, having to travel over long-trod roads (none with yellow bricks), a woods or two, and one Magic Mountain, we don't get the chance to get together that often, so meeting the "nieces" in the enchanted village of Solvang made this sleepover fairy tale all the more memorable...

1665 Copenhagen Drive
Solvang, Calif. 93463

Lucas & LewellenVineyards
1645 Copenhagen Drive
Solvang, Calif.  93463

Lions Peak Vineyards
1659 Copenhagen Drive
Solvang, Calif. 93463