Page 1







Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015 1

15 20




2 Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015


COVER PHOTO: Cover photo of a vineyard in Walla Walla, Washington, is provided courtesy of the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance and photographer Richard Duval. Photographer, writer, musician, Richard Duval travels the Northwest capturing its unique blend of wine, scenic and landscape images. His photographs can be found on note cards, in galleries, and bookstores as well as at various art fairs and shows, and several stock sites. He lives near Mill Creek, WA.



Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015 3




4 Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015


publisher/executive editor



s you read the stories in WDT, you’ll discover certain common threads expressed by our writers. All have to do with a passion for living – a thirst for adventure, beauty, friendship and discovery. Travel takes us out of our comfort zone thrusting us into strange and sometimes risky situations – situations that can be very uncomfortable even painful at the time -- but once survived provide memories that put a smile on your face the rest of your life. Travel can certainly be dangerous -- especially for thrill seekers who search out adrenalin-laden activities like cliff diving, rock climbing or running with bulls. But most folks who read this magazine like their adventures in less aggressive forms. But, regardless of how and where you travel, misadventures will occur - it’s a law of the travel universe. Getting sick from food, drink or a fellow traveler is one of travel’s most common downsides. We actually expect to get some kind of bug at least once on every long trip. It’s happened to us everywhere in the world. As much as we try to play it safe, we love to sample local cuisine and drink and that regularly challenges of digestive systems with unfamiliar food and the bugs that sometimes tag along.

Ron James is the "wine, food and travel guy." He is a nationally award-winning print and online journalist, graphic designer., television producer and radio personality. The native Californian's nationally syndicated wine and food columns have appeared in newspapers and magazines around the world. He is passionate about great wine and food and enthusiastically enjoys them every day!

MARY JAMES publisher/editor

Some misadventures come out of nowhere. On a business trip to Fiji to cover a surfing tournament, Ron landed in the middle of a military coup. Things actually got worse, when he found himself wading a quarter mile through coral reefs crawling with poisonous sea snakes. And who can forget crazy taxi drivers encountered on every continent. In our experience speeding cabbies in New York can be just as reckless as India’s notorious tuk tuk drivers or China’s full-throttle fearless van operators. No matter how adventure-proof you try to make a trip, the mundane can easily become a hair-raising experience, even on a luxury cruise liner in the Baltic or a private food tour in Istanbul. It’s this possibility of adventure, even if we’re not looking for it or frankly trying to avoid it - is, for us, one of the reasons that makes travel addicting.

Mary Hellman James is an award-winning San Diego journalist and editor. After a 29-year-career with the San Diego Union-Tribune, she currently is a freelance garden writer and a columnist for San Diego Home-Garden/Lifestyles magazine. Mary and her husband, Ron James, travel extensively. Upcoming next month is a six week journey beginning in Israel and cruising to Turkey, Malta, Greece, Italy, France, Spain, the Canary Islands and across the Atlantic.

In this issue, two of our writers come down with a bug that colors their journeys, making them more memorable than if they had stayed well. Maribeth Mellin shares the silver lining she found when got sick in Machu Picchu and Jody Jaffe, felled by a bug in the Yucatan, uses the day to luxuriate in a lovely inn. “If I had to be sick,” Jody said, “I can’t think of a better place.” Since getting sick or hurt is sometimes part of travel, it pays to be prepared. Veteran traveler Amy Laughinghouse offers some funny, but sage advice about preparing for those moments in her “Disaster Planning” column in this issue. So take heed and enjoy the adventure. It’s why you left home in the first place. Wishing you safe and exciting travels.

~ Ron & Mary James Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015 5


Alison DaRosa Alison DaRosa is a six-time winner of the Lowell Thomas Gold Award for travel writing, the most prestigious prize in travel journalism. She served 15 years as Travel Editor of the San Diego Union-Tribune and was the award-winning editor of the San Diego News Network Travel Page. She created San Diego Essential Guide, a highly rated travel app for mobile devices. Alison writes a monthly Travel Deals column for the San Diego Union-Tribune and is a regular freelance contributor to the travel sections of the Los Angeles Times, USA Today and AOL Travel.

Sharon Whitley Larsen

Sharon Whitley Larsen’s work has appeared in numerous publications, including Los Angeles Times Magazine, U-T San Diego, Reader’s Digest (and 19 international editions), Creators Syndicate, and several “Chicken Soup for the Soul” editions. Although she enjoys writing essays, op-ed, and people features, her favorite topic is travel (favorite destination London). She’s been lucky to attend a private evening champagne reception in Buckingham Palace to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee, to dine with best-selling author Diana Gabaldon in the Scottish Highlands, and hike with a barefoot Aborigine in the Australian Outback. Exploring sites from exotic travels in the Arctic Circle to ritzy Rio, with passport in hand, she’s always ready for the next adventure!

Carl H. Larsen Carl H. Larsen is a veteran journalist based in San Diego. He now focuses on travel writing, and is summoned to pull out his notebook whenever there’s the plaintive cry of a steam locomotive nearby. In San Diego, he is a collegeextension instructor who has led courses on the Titanic and the popular TV series “Downton Abbey.”

Maribeth Mellin Maribeth Mellin is an award-winning journalist whose travel articles have appeared in Endless Vacation Magazine, U-T San Diego and Dallas Morning News among others. She also travels and writes for several websites including CNN Travel, and Zagat, and has authored travel books on Peru, Argentina, Costa Rica, Mexico, Hawaii and California. Though known as a Mexico pro, Maribeth has written about every continent and was especially thrilled by the ice, air and penguins in Antarctica.

Susan McBeth

Susan McBeth is the founder and owner of Adventures by the Book ( ) which brings literature to life for readers through events and travels with authors. She is the founder of the SoCal Author Academy, providing workshops and training to help authors better connect with readers. She is a current member of the One Book One San Diego committee, and a former board member with the Southern California Booksellers Association.

Priscilla Lister Priscilla Lister is a longtime journalist in her native San Diego. She has covered a many subjects over the years, but travel is her favorite. Her work, including photography, has appeared in the U-T San Diego, Los Angeles Times, Alaska Airlines magazine and numerous other publications throughout the U.S. and Canada. She currently writes a weekly hiking column for the U-T, photographing every trail and its many wonders. But when the distant road beckons, she can’t wait to pack her bags.

Robert Whitley Robert Whitley writes the syndicated “Wine Talk” column for Creators Syndicate and is publisher of the online wine magazine, Wine Review Online. Whitley frequently serves as a judge at wine competitions around the world, including Concours Mondial de Bruxelles, Sunset Magazine International and the Dallas Morning News TexSom wine competitions. Robert also operates four major international wine competitions in San Diego: Critics Challenge, Winemaker Challenge, Sommelier Challenge and the San Diego International.

Jody Jaffe & John Muncie Jody and John are the co-authors of the novels, “Thief of Words,” and “Shenandoah Summer,” published by Warner Books. John was feature editor of the San Diego Union-Tribune, arts editor of The Baltimore Sun and writer-editor-columnist for the travel department of The Los Angeles Times. His travel articles have been published in many major newspapers; he's a Lowell Thomas award-winner. Jody is the author of "Horse of a Different Killer,"'Chestnut Mare, Beware," and "In Colt Blood,” As a journalist at the Charlotte Observer, she was on a team that won the Pulitzer Prize. Her articles have been published in many newspapers and magazines including The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times. They live on a farm in Lexington, Va., with eleven horses, three cats and an explosion of stink bugs.

6 Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015


PUBLISHERS Ron & Mary James EXECUTIVE EDITOR /LAYOUT & DESIGN Ron James EDITOR Mary James STAFF WRITERS Alison DaRosa Priscilla Lister John Muncie Jody Jaffe

COLUMNISTS Amy Laughinghouse Robert Whitley Susan McBeth

FEATURE WRITERS Sharon Whitley Larsen Carl Larsen Maribeth Mellin Photo by Ron James

Amy Laughinghouse

WINEDINEANDTRAVEL.COM CONTACT WDT respects the intellectual property rights of others, and we ask that our readers do the same. We have adopted a policy in accordance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) and other applicable laws.

Wine Dine & Travel Magazine is a Wine Country Interactive Inc. publication @ 2015

WDT ran into Henry VIII at Hampton Court near London recently. When asked if he read Wine Dine and Travel Magazine, he held up his hand indicating he had the last five issues and said it was his favorite travel magazine. Notice he sports a small replica of Anne Boleyn’s head on his left shoulder.

Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015 7



12 36 42


Washington State produces some of the best wines in the world. Their wine county may not be as pretty as some, but the people, food and wine here are second to none. Join us as we visit three wine country destinations, Walla Walla, Woodinville and Red Mountain.


FLOATING THROUGH EUROPE Join Alison DaRosa as she boards Scenic Cruises’ Scenic Jade for an unforgettable voyage from Amsterdam to Budapest, along the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers.

VIBRANT LIVERPOOL I had imagined Liverpool to be a tough, brawling city, once a major port but now left to nurture memories of better days. What I learned was that the Liverpool of today is a world-class destination.

8 Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015


48 54 62

ASTRID LINDGREN’S WORLD Sweden’s version of a literary Disneyland features 12 of Lindgren’s books that are depicted by 60 different characters starring Pippi Longstocking.

FINDING A SILVER LINING IN PERU Join Maribeth Mellin for a week-long Peruvian misadventure through Lima, Machu Picchu, Cusco and the Amazon.

LIVING THE SOUND OF MUSIC If “The Sound of Music” is one of your favourite things, it’s time to head for the hills of Salzburg, Austria. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the iconic musical, which was filmed in this beautifully preserved baroque city.


LEXINGTON LURES | PAGE 70 It’s the perfect mix of fast-paced lifestyle and a slow and steady mindset. Part of that mindset, of course, is bourbon making. In a day, you can tour several bourbon distilleries and then get back in town for a fine meal. You can’t do that anywhere else.

IN SEARCH OF GREYFRAIRS BOBBY | PAGE 78 Travel to Scotland in search of the place made famous by a little dog. For 14 years, Greyfrairs Bobby became a beloved canine figure around Edinburgh. The devoted little dog who kept a daily vigil atop his master’s grave was made famous in books and movies.


LIVING THE LIFE IN YUCATAN | PAGE 82 They lived like rock stars the Hacienda Petac, a refurbished sisal plantation 30 miles south of the Yucatan capital city of Merida, where Peter Gabriel once stayed.

DISASTER PACKING | PAGE 88 Amy Laughinghouse is the “disaster packer.” Her suitcase overflows with obscure items meant to slap a Band-Aid (metaphorically and otherwise) on any problem that she might encounter on the road.

POSTCARDS FROM YUCATAN | PAGE 90 After three hours schlepping on buses, we arrived at the Calvin Klein photo shoot -- also known as Tulum. Along the narrow strip between beach and jungle strutted a parade of The Tall, The Slim, The Beautiful, The Young, and The Fashionable.

90 Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015 9

10 Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015

Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015 11




ine country escapes are one of our favorite travel adventures. We’ve tasted wine – great, good, bad and ugly -- at wine tasting rooms around the world, from the sprawling Hunter Valley in Australia to the Waschau Valley of Austria; from the rolling green hills of Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia

12 Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015


to the volcanic moonscaped vineyards of Lanzarote in the Canary Islands. Recently we decided it was time to explore closer to home, taking short jaunt from San Diego to the Great Pacific Northwest via Alaskan Airlines to Sea-Tac airport just outside Seattle. This week-long expedition took us back to one of our favorite places in America.

Golden hills covered with green rows of vines are a stark but beautiful contrast to the clear blue sky in this Walla Walla wine country scene. Photo Courtesy Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance/Richard Duval Images We have wined and dined in Seattle numerous times but never explored the state’s wine countries which began with grapes planted at Fort Vancouver by the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1825. Second in American wine production only to California, Washington State offers an eclectic collection of 13 wine districts or AVAs. Each has a wide range of soil and mi-

cro climates that produce some seriously fine wines. Our focus on this visit was three wine regions: Red Mountain, Walla Walla and an unlikely place for wine tasting called Woodinville. These three wine countries are not the prototypical Napa-Sonoma wine country experience – but all offer some surprisingly tasty wines and welcoming hospitality. Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015 13



oodinville is nestled in the Sammamish River valley, and on a very good day is only 30 minutes from downtown Seattle. Thirty minutes is pretty optimistic given Seattle’s horribly congested traffic and limited bridge options. Driving to or from Woodinville during rush hour it will drive you to drink – more wine. Woodinville is quirky wine country – you won’t find picturesque rows of vines here, but you will find strip malls and industrial parks brimming with wine tasting opportunities. Within the boundaries of this affluent town

14 Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015

are a handful of very large wineries and wine tasting rooms, like Columbia, the first winery in the area, and imposing Chateau Ste. Michelle, but most are

tasting rooms with wines produced from wineries throughout Washington State. There many tasting rooms and small production facilities owned and operated by locals who still hold high tech jobs to pay for their wine making passions. Visiting these boutique operations, the pourer likely will be the winemaker or a family member. Most of the 100plus wineries here, and in much of Washington State for that matter, do not grow their own grapes. Instead they buy them from growers in the Columbia Valley, about three-hours east of Seattle.

Within Woodinville are two distinct wine tasting areas to experience: The Hollywood Winery District, and the Warehouse District just a few miles out of town. The Warehouse District sounds pretty cool but for the casual wine-tasting visitor it is somewhat of a letdown. Here dozens of small and medium-sized wine making operations are spread throughout an industrial park - drab concrete buildings surrounded by asphalt parking lots like those in any city USA. Driving around the maze of buildings, you wouldn’t know this was a hive of enology except for an occasional wine barrel parked in front of a garage door, or a simple sign with hopeful label names like Chateau Rollat, Five Star Cellars and Flying Dreams Winery. When we visited on a weekday, not much was open, but many are open on special days and weekends. The bulk of the other wine tasting rooms in Woodinville are scattered throughout the Hollywood area, with most strip malls sporting several wine tasting rooms and eateries targeted at upscale tasters. It must be great to be a commercial landlord here since I’m sure there’s a waiting list for any vacancy. Many of the wine tasting rooms here are large and stunningly designed, with wine prices to match the rent. Large signs plastered on the windows and sandwich boards outside of tasting rooms tout 90-plus point wines in an attempt to lure wine enthusiasts looking the next big thing. Most are probably legit – and most folks don’t ask where the scores came from. Wine point scoring is an iffy affair at best anyway. One person’s 90 pointer can be another’s candidate for the spit bucket. Considering that wines in the tasting rooms come from all over the state, it’s not surprising to find wide diversity in varietals and styles of both whites

and reds. Cab, merlot, syrah, blends and some pinot noir are the most common reds found here alongside some very nice whites including chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, viognier, and pinot gris.

Opposite: Columbia winery and tasting room. Top: Hollywood Vineyard shopping center, housing tasting rooms and restaurants. Above: The odd wine country of Woodinville where an industrial park has been taken over by winemakers big and small.

Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015 15

Wine snobs might pass up the two oldest and largest wineries in Woodinville, Chateau Ste. Michelle and Columbia, but that would be a mistake. Although you’ll see their very drinkable mass produced wine in drugstores and supermarkets almost everywhere, they also make some absolutely gorgeous reds and whites and limited-edition wines are never seen or tasted outside of the tasting room and wine clubs. Both tasting rooms are large and nicely designed and would not be out of place among the best of Napa. Chateau Ste. Michelle’s property is much like a romantic old college campus and offers an all-star line-up of jazz concerts throughout the spring and summer. Woodinville may not be California wine country pretty, but it does offer an opportunity to taste and buy some of Washington States great wines and maybe even discover the next celebrity winemaker in a garage in an industrial park. It’s a grand way to spend a day while visiting Seattle – when you get tired of fish-tossing at Pike Place Market.

Top right: Chateau Ste Michelle campus-like grounds where wine and music is served. Right: Tasting room at Chateau Ste. Michelle and wine display. Top left: Patterson Cellars’ wnemaker and Owner, John Patterson, creates approachable wines that constantly receive 90-plus scores from Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast and Wine Advocate. Bottom left: Patterson Cellars’s tasting room located in a small strip mall. Bottom center: Brick oven flat bread and fine wine served at the modern Novelty Hill/Januik winery. Opposite bottom right. Tasting menu at Delille Winery tasting room.

16 Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015

Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015 17


Photo Courtesy Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance/Richard Duval Images


he drive from Seattle to Walla Walla can be an interesting one. We did a brief detour to Snoqualmie Falls for a short hike to breathtaking viewpoints of the misty falls. It’s only a few miles off the highway and well worth the stop. Then it’s on through the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest down into 18 Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015

the Yakima Valley where the landscape turns brown and interesting if you’re a geology buff. We stopped in the farm/college town of Ellensburg, which is worth a drive through down the vintage main street. If you have a burger craving, as I did, drop into the Campus Burger drive

Walla Walla vineyard landscape with yellow grasses, purple salvia and blue sky. Opposite: A great burger stop on the way to Walla Walla. Right: Main street downtown Walla Walla, an old fashion urban core with a touch of wine country gentrification.

Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015 19 Photo Courtesy Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance/Richard Duval Images

in. (There’s nothing better than a great hamburger on a road trip.) From there on, you breeze through farm towns, high desert and the Tri-Cities area into Walla Walla. A word to the wise – It’s easy to speed down the wide-open ribbons of highway in these parts. Keep in mind that state and local police armed with radar guns love to lurk in hard to spot places and welcome you to Washington State with a speeding ticket. “Real People Making Great Wine” is the slogan of the Walla Walla Wine Alliance. And it’s true; we tasted some very fine wine here, and most of the people we met here were absolutely real, as far as I could tell. This wine country really feels like traditional farm country, think Kansas with grapevines. The pace of life is relaxed, even slow, and the locals are friendly salt-of-the-earth types. Walla Walla was first explored by Lewis and Clark in 1806 and populated by fur traders and then farmers who arrived in wagon trains in 1840s. The downtown core is edging toward wine-country gentrified with refurbished historic hotels, trendy wine tasting rooms and surprisingly good eateries. But it still feels like a farm town - and that’s kind of refreshing. Although wine was produced by Italian immigrants from the early 1950s, the area was mostly known for its rich farm land producing wheat, asparagus, strawberries and especially Walla Walla Sweet Onions. It wasn’t until the 1970s that modern varietals were planted and by 1978 Leonetti’s Cabernet got national recognition. Wine making really got serious here and by 2012 five of the top 100 wineries of the world were in Walla Walla according to Wine & Spirits Magazine.

20 Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015

Opposite counter clockwise: Tamarack Cellars owner Ron Colemant; The front of Tamarack winery and tasting room located at the local airport in an old World War II Fire Station; Great lunchs at Graze in downtown Walla Walla; Buty wine tasting room and building also located at the municpal airport. Right: Snoqualmie Falls is one of Washington state’s most popular scenic attractions. The falls are a great place to stop when driving from Seattle.

Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015 21

The Best Wine in the World? The 2011 Estate Ferguson from Walla Walla Valley won the International Trophy: Bordeaux Varietals over £15 - Decanter World Wine Awards, June 2014. “Harmonious and dark-fruited, this shows the great brightness of the 2011 vintage, with a lifted, tangy, coppery element and greatunderpinning from herbal aloe characters. Appealing aromas of fineoak, pepper, earth and dark fruit lead to candied violet, bell pepperand sweet spice flavors, with a dry and savory finish.”

22 Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015

Located in the historic old Walla Walla school house, L’Ecole winery offerst tastings of some of the best of Washington State wines including the Ferguson Vinyard blend which was named the best Bordeaux varietal in its price class. Opposite top: Harvest time is in full swing as workers load grapes into the crusher. Right: Vineyards showing a range of soil condiditons including those covered with river rock and stone.

Photos On This Page Courtesy Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance/Richard Duval Images

Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015 23

24 Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015

Walla Walla, like other out-of-the-way wine destinations, will probably never become a big tourist destination, although it does get a lot of love from weekender wine enthusiasts from the Seattle area, about a five-hour drive away. And there’s also a decent sized pilgrimage of hardcore wine enthusiasts who want to see where some of their favorite wines were born. It’s very pretty here, in a stark, no nonsense way, with countless dusty rows of vines surrounded by a sage brush valley stretching to the mountains. Finding tasting rooms here really requires a GPS with tasting rooms tucked away down dirt roads or winding down narrow asphalt driveways into someone’s yard. Even with a GPS, selecting the best wine tasting is difficult here, because there are so many bests to find in Walla Walla. One of the favorite wine stops was at L’Ecole ( housed in a wonderfully restored 1915 Schoolhouse. Thier 2011 Estate Ferguson Bordeaux blend was selected as the best in the world in its price category. It’ is a must for wine lovers seeking the very best from Washington State. Tiny Bunch Grass Winery is big on tasting; the winery and tasting room are housed in a quaint cinder block building that once served as a family dairy, (www. and if you visit, it’s likely that you’ll find winemaker Tom Olander pouring his favorites. The larger Saviah Cellars winery and tasting room offers winemaker Rich Funks, award-winning wine that is truly reflective of the rocky soils in the area. In a short time his efforts have gained world-wide acclaim, in 2009 the winery was named one of the ‘Top 100 WinerClockwise from top left: Bunchgrass Winemaker Tom Olander, Barb Commare, and doggy greeters; Guests dig into a gourmet breakfast cooked by inn keeper Edward Soochi at Girasol Bed and Breakfast; Mary James in the common patio area at Girasol; Coinn keeper Michele Soochi enjoys the sun with everyone’s favorite vineyard dog.

Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015 25

ies’ by Wine & Spirits Magazine, in 2010 Saviah Cellars was called “One of the Rising Stars in Washington,” by Wine Spectator and in 2013 The Jack brand was named one of the Top Value Brands of the Year by Wine & Spirits Magazine. If you’re downtown and you love rock and roll as much as good unpretentious wine then a visit to the Charles Smith tasting room can’t be missed. Smith, the aging counter-culture hipster converted old auto-repair warehouse into a lively tasting room where visitors sample award-winning wines and listen to great rock and roll – and that can be a very inspiring combination. Our favorite wine experience on the entire trip was the wine blending experience at Northstar Winery (www. After a brief presentation on the state’s wine-growing regions, we were guided through a tasting of four distinct Merlots from four different regions of Washington, along with a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Petit Verdot, all right from the barrel in the room. Then like mad scientists (or inspired winemakers) we used beakers, graduated cylinders and other winemaking equipment, to compose our own one-of-a-kind bottle of Northstar, complete with a custom label. For our first visit, we skipped downtown in favor of accommodations that reflected this wine area. Girasol Bed and Breakfast Inn delivered a great experience in a setting smack in the middle of vineyards. We’re generally not big fans of B&BS, mostly because we don’t fancy thin walls and country-quilt décor. The wine-loving innkeepers opted for spacious, modern and extremely comfortable rooms and beautiful landscaping. Breakfasts and evening wine times were fun and friendly too. Clockwise from top left: Walla Walla farm land stretching to the mountains; Ron and Mary continue their education at the Northstar Blending Experience; The Northstar Winery and tasting room; The Charles White tasting room in Downtown Walla Walla. Rich Funk, owner/winemaker at Saviah Cellars vineyard. The blending table is set as Lindsey Dean gets ready to lead the Northstar Blending Experience.

26 Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015

Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015 27



ur dining experiences in Four of us were ensconced in a small The wine and food was impressive – creWalla Walla, although few in dining room located in the kitchen that ative and expertly prepared using lonumber, certainly met the serves a maximum of 12. We munched cally sourced produce and meats. The high standards of our previ- and quaffed as we watched the team of pastry chef offered us a number of ous best wine country dining experi- young chefs prepare culinary treasures beautiful desserts and the ice cream ences. The Chef’s Table experience at not only for us but, for diners in the made tableside using liquid nitrogen the venerable Marcus Whitman hotel Marcus dining room. The room at times by restaurant manager and sommelier. kitchen in downtown Walla Walla defi- got a bit hot as servers scurried around Dan McCaffrey If you’re in Walla Walla nitely was an event that will not be for- placing orders and grabbing steaming make reservations for this dinner show plates from the stainless steel counter. – fun, delicious and unforgettable. gotten.

28 Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015

Top: A perfectly prepared rack of lamb on top of a bed of whipped polenta. Right: Restaurant manager Dan McCaffrey works his magic making ice cream tableside. Center: The wizards of the kitchen. Above: Seared sea base on a bed of rissoto. Left: Servers rushing by our chefs table serving the guests in the main dining room. Opposite: A sumptuous gathering of flavors work in this creative mango panacotta. Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015 29


I ain’t got no worries I ain’t got no home I ain’t got nobody to call on my own But I’m satisfied with nothing to do but bum for a dime for some Red Mountain wine. ~ unknown 70s song writer

30 Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015


or two or three generations of Americans knew of very flat Central Valley of California, where distant mountains Red Mountain wine either by experience or repu- at best could only be seen on the clearest of days. Wine-maker tation. So when I first heard that these wines were Carlo Rossi touted the wine on television to millions and evengetting rave reviews in the national press, I was a tually Red Mountain jug wine was renamed Carlo Rossi. little confused. The wine we knew - the wine made by E&J Gallo that fueled much of counterculture in the 1960s Today’s Red Mountain wine is not related in any way. - was made from flabby grapes grown under the hot sun of the

Red Mountain pioneer Jim Holmes in front of his winery and famous Ciel du Cheval vineyards.

Winecourtesy Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015 31 Photo courtesy of Washington State Wine of AndrĂŠa Johnson Photography

Red Mountain’s not much of a moun- ican Viticulture Area) can be somewhat their first vines in Red Mountain and tain in the pantheon of mountains confusing. The Red Mountain AVA lies called their vineyard Kiona. Not long af(1,410 feet) or for that matter very red, within the Yakima Valley AVA, which is ter, they planted a vineyard they called Ciel du Cheval. In 1980, they launched but it is a real mountain that has all the part of the Columbia Valley AVA. a winery in Williams’ basement (where makings for some of the best wines on the planet – mostly Cabernet sauvignon, Red Mountain’s most prominent pio- the tasting room remained until a new merlot, syrah, Cabernet franc, malbec, neers are Jim Holmes and John Wil- winery was built in 2007). and petit verdot. liams, wine hobbyists who were influenced by the early wine grape research Red Mountain may not be much to look The red in Red Mountain comes from conducted by Dr. Walter Clore at Wash- at to the casual visitor, but for the wine the cheat grass that turns red in the ington State University agricultural sta- maker the 4,040 acres of vineyards on its spring. Washington State AVAs (Amer- tion in Prosser. In 1975 they planted slopes offers all the essential elements to 32 Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015

Red Mountain vineyards stretch up to the mountain, but few vineyards thrive near the top the mountain. Top right: Tim and Kelly Hightower of Hightower Cellars inspect their vineyard. Right: The contemporary and elegant Col Solare winery and tasting room.

make beautiful wines. So beautiful that Robert Parker, awarded a Red Mountain Cabernet sauvignon by Quilceda Creek Winery 100 points in 2002 and 2003.

Montana deserves a lot of credit for great wine growing conditions as well. You’ll hear a lot about the Missoula floods in the Columbia Valley. Over 10,000 years ago a giant glacial ice dam Most of the vineyards are southwest burst sending an enormous wall of water facing planted from the Yakima River from Lake Missoula all the way through up the slope of the mountain, which eastern Washington into Oregon. The gives it nearly two more hours of sun- Montana sand, silt and loam dumped by light than Napa Valley. The days are the flood provided lots of calcium and warm and the evenings and nights cool alkalinity that encouraged deep root which brings out the best in the grape. systems, but inhibited vigorous grape

growth. The result is smaller grapes with concentrated flavors and tannins. Like the nondescript mountain, wine country ambiance is equally low key. It’s a no-nonsense growing ground now attracting major players like Duckhorn Vineyards. Wine tasting rooms scattered around Red Mountain run from small garage types to big and stylish. It’s pretty easy to navigate the dusty roads from one tasting room to another. Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015 33

Many are open during weekends and a few every day. When planning your visit, it worth the effort to make tasting appointments so you won’t be disappointed.

It’s a joint venture between Washington’s Chateau Ste. Michelle and Marchesi Antinori of Italy blending their wine-making cultures to produce a very nice Cabernet Sauvignon blend.

from tasting room to tasting exhibited that same passion. These people knew that they were more than wine-makers; they were the caretakers of one of the most exclusive wine growing areas in the world and cared deeply about creating the best wines possible.

Considering that this is young wine country, it’s not surprising that many Less imposing is Hightower Cellars, of the pioneer wine makers and grape where wine-makers Tim and Kelly High- I would adapt one of the memorable growers are still around and there’s a tower’s mantra for their vineyard and lines in Carlo Rossi’s vintage commergood chance you will bump into them as winery is “Handpicked - Hand-sorted cials. He said “I like to talk about wine, you explore the wine tasting rooms. We – Handmade. “ The attractive, but inti- but I’d rather drink it.” I would say: “I had a delightful visit with Jim Holmes. mate wine tasting room sits on a rise like to write about Washington State’s His enthusiasm and passion for Red with great views of the vineyards. www. Red Mountain wine, but I’d rather drink Mountain was still apparent as we . it.” walked the vineyards of Ciel du Cheval. And don’t miss visiting Kiona Winery, Some or our favorite wine visits here The tasting room offers sweeping panwere to Col Solare, perched on the high- oramic views and is located across the er reaches of Red Mountain is an impos- road from the now famous Ciel du Che- Top: Pioneer Red Mountain winemaker Jim Holmes ing, sophisticated, and contemporary val Vineyard. . shows the current plot map of the AVA’s vineyards. winery and tasting room. Each wine-maker we met as we moved Right: Vineyard views from Col Solare Winery.

34 Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015

Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015 35


36 Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015


uropean river cruising is booming. Nine companies launched 26 new river ships in Europe this year. At least that many were launched last year – and more are under construction and scheduled to begin cruising Europe’s rivers in 2016. Even with all the new builds, most European river cruises are sailing full – and many are already filling cabins for summer 2016. My husband and I decided to find out what all the fuss is about.

Photo courtesey of Wikimedia Commons

Last summer, we joined Scenic Cruises’ Jewels of Europe voyage from Amsterdam to Budapest, along the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers. Our days became a mind-bending blend of fairytale castles, half-timbered villages and luxe treatment onboard. It didn’t take long for us to understand why so many are smitten by this hassle-free, more intimate and relaxing, all-inclusive cousin of ocean cruising. Instead of jostling with thousands aboard a mega cruise ship, we sailed with 167 other passengers aboard our “Space Ship,” the Scenic Jade. Scenic is owned by an Australian – and most fellow cruisers were fun-loving Aussies or New Zealanders. Most were well-traveled, well-educated and at least 65 years old – but very active: “We’re refurbished – with lots of new parts: new knees, new hips,” said Faye Partridge from Melbourne, Australia.

Left: Majestic Budapest on the banks of the river Danube with Buda and Óbuda on the west bank, with Pest on the east bank. Top: The Scenic Jade cruising through Europe. Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015 37

We had a crew of 60, mostly Eastern Europeans, catering to our every whim.

same size; they have to be squat enough windows. Passengers congregate in the to clear European bridges and narrow Panorama Lounge or the dining room to enough to get through locks. At its wid- enjoy lavish multi-course meals as pasThe Scenic Jade was launched two years est point, the Jade measures 11.54 me- toral scenes glide by. The ship’s chef and ago – and served as a model for its two ters; locks are 12 meters wide. galley crew present international dishes, new sister ships: Scenic Jasper and Scewith daily themes – but focus on regionnic Opal, which launched this spring. Public areas aboard Scenic ships feature ally sourced ingredients: Dutch cheeses, Eighty-five percent of cabins have bal- contemporary décor and large picture Norwegian salmon, French foie gras. conies – and their design is terrific: A floor-to-ceiling fold-away glass door The Jade has a small spa/salon and fitopened our cabin to the balcony and ness area, but neither got much use outdoors – making everything more during our cruise. The new ships have spacious. We could flip a switch to raise two pools: a splash pool and a resistance or lower a window on the outside of the swimming pool. On all ships, dress is cabalcony; it enabled us to inhale the scent sual – no need for a tie. of fresh-mowed hay in the mornings, and keep out bugs at night. Our balcony As we floated through the heart of hisbecame the perfect private spot for lazy toric Europe, a few feet from land, we room-service breakfasts, post-shore-exdiscovered surprises around every rivcursion cocktails or for savoring sunset, er bend: too many medieval castles to around 10 each evening. count along bluffs of the Rhine Gorge; an old-fashioned traveling circus on a Another cabin highlight: the river cruise bank of the Main, a pair of gleeful young world's most amazing shower – three boys skinny dipping in the Danube. heads, assorted pressures and a light Our days were as busy – or languid – as show. we chose. There were daily choices of Most river cruise ships are about the shore excursions – all for free. The ship

38 Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015

carried electric-power-assisted bicycles for those who wanted to pedal off and explore on their own. Additionally, each passenger got a wearable “Tailormade” device that offered 600 recorded, GPS-sensitive blurbs detailing sites and attractions we passed along our route. Each cabin also received a 430-page beautifully illustrated paperback guidebook, produced by Scenic. Most mornings, I scurried off the ship to explore; I raced back in late afternoon just as the gangplank was being raised for departure. I’d find my husband where I’d left him – lying with a book facedown on his lap in a chaise lounge on the top deck. “It’s been a perfect day,” he’d say. “I feel like I’m on my own yacht. Every half hour or so someone from the crew comes up to check if I want anything. A glass of wine? A snack? I read, sleep, sip – and study the sun as it slips behind a cloud and comes out again.“

I’d tell him about our adventures: about dining on roast pig and celebrating medieval comedy at Marksburg Castle, about the wild collection of self-playing pianos and violins at Siegfried’s Mechanical Musical Instrument Museum in Rudesheim, about sitting under an

acacia in the town square at Miltenberg, sampling local ice creams, as our guide boasted that locals have “always been gentle and friendly. They did not burn witches alive here; they drowned them first.” The Tailormade devices provided by Scenic are hard acts to follow – and a few guides didn’t measure up, especially when excursions included lengthy bus rides. A cooking class in Marktheidenfeld, billed as an afternoon “with local house wives in a 300-year-old cellar,” turned out to be a one-woman show in a hotel conference room: “German women don’t take cooking classes,” our instructor said, with a chuckle. “I cook only for tourists.” (Guests’ feedback prompted Clockwise from top left: A couple aboard the Scenic Jade enjoys viewing picturesque villages along the Rhine. At dusk, somewhere along the Main (pronounced MINE) River, a bicyclist pedals the tow path. Scenic passengers enjoy exquisite meals with fresh, regionally sourced ingredients. Shore excursions include an afternoon at the Deppisch Family winery in Bavaria. Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015 39

Scenic to add 35 new excursions to its current lineup.) Most cruise ships claim their fares are “all inclusive” – but don’t believe it. Especially not on mega cruise liners, where passengers are dinged for everything from shore excursions to WiFi, from cocktails (or bottled water) to hefty per-diem gratuities. It’s different on river cruises. Most ships provide free excursions. Many include at least wine with dinner. Some cover gratuities. “Our travel agent told us we could actually go and take no money,” said Carol Conaghan from Whangarei, New Zealand. “She was right. The only money we’ve spent is for little things for our grandchild – and the odd ice cream cone when we’re ashore.” Said another cruiser: “Take money out of the day-to-day equation and traveling Europe’s rivers is pretty much bliss.” All onboard beverages aboard Scenic ships are free – from frothy coffee drinks to high-end nightcaps (think Remy Marin VSOP cognac). There are 17 choices on the house wine list – all for free and available anytime. Everything in the cabin’s stocked mini-bar is replenished daily, from booze to premium chocolate – all gratis. Add to that, Scenic’s no-tipping policy and free WiFi throughout the ship. When we checked out, we experienced true cruise “sticker shock”: Our bill was less than 3 Euros, for laundering a nightgown.

IF YOU GO Scenic Cruises has 12 ships in its European riverboat fleet. The 15-day Jewels of Europe (Amsterdam/Budapest) cruise starts at $5,095 per person, based on double occupancy. Learn more at www. Clockwise from top left: Miltenberg is a historic village on the left bank of Main River. Pastoral scenes bank every curve in the Main. River cruise ships dock in Miltenberg. A waiter welcomes guests aboard the Scenic Jade. Cruisers enjoy a brisk walk along a woodsy path near Rudesheim. 40 Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015

Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015 41



here to, mate?" the cab driver asked as I rolled my suitcase out of Paddington Station after a long transatlantic flight and then a ride into London on the Heathrow Express.

"Euston Station, please," I said. "I'm taking the train to Liverpool." "Liverpool? You better practice up on your Scouse," he said disapprovingly. "That's 42 Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015

what they call the way they talk up there. No one can understand them." Indeed, anyone who hails from Liverpool is a Scouser, but there's really no language barrier today. I had imagined Liverpool to be a tough, brawling city, once a major port but now left to nurture memories of better days. What I learned was that the Liverpool of

today is a world-class destination. A pulsating musical scene has evolved from the early days of skiffle music and the Mersey Beat, and there are compelling museums and shopping, lodging and dining choices, including a restaurant perched atop one of Britain’s highest skyscrapers. Start your visit at the recently built Museum of Liverpool on the wide River

Photos courtesey of Wikimedia Commons

Mersey. Other main attractions general- ONE center downtown is one of the bigly are walkable from the waterfront while gest retail malls in Europe — a $1.5 bilthe clean and efficient Merseyrail transit lion redevelopment with 160 shops, bars system provides access to sites farther and restaurants over 42 acres. away with an economical day pass. The best place to get one's bearings in The pass allows visitors to explore sev- this city of about 450,000 is just before eral other nearby British standouts, in- sunset from a window-side perch in the cluding the historic city of Chester, only bar of the Panoramic 34 Restaurant, 34 15 miles to the south. A short ride on floors up in the West Tower on Brook Merseyrail to the north is the seaside Street. resort of Southport and Britain’s “Golf Coast,” home of the Royal Birkdale Golf Out the windows to the north, the River Club. Also close are the fascinating town Mersey spills into the Irish Sea beyond of Port Sunlight, built for workers of the the golfers' mecca of Royal Birkdale and Lever Bros. soap factory that is an early Southport. Ferries still cross the Mersey example of urban planning, and Britain’s near remnants of 12 miles of docks that National Waterways Museum in Elles- once gave Liverpool the title of world's mere Port. biggest port and the center of European emigration to North America. For shoppers, the open-air Liverpool

Just below on the waterfront are the Three Graces — three signature buildings designated in 2004 as part of the city's United Nations World Heritage. Farther south is the redeveloped Albert Dock — with its many museums, restaurants and bars housed in a historic waterfront complex. It is home to The Beatles Story exhibition; the Merseyside Maritime Museum, revealing the city's ties to the Titanic and shipping; and the International Slavery Museum. Also on Albert Dock is the Tate Liverpool, displaying modern and contemporary art. Near Lime Street Station is the influential Walker Art Gallery. Clockwise from top left: The buildings of Pier Head from the Albert Dock. Early photo of The Beatles. Night skyline of the Pier Head.

Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015 43

It had taken just two hours for me to trade in the 18th century. From street reach Liverpool aboard one of the fre- names to architecture, so much of the quent London departures offered by city's history is tied to human bondage Virgin Trains. That makes it possible to that putting it in the past is not an opvisit Liverpool as a day trip from London, tion. although anyone who does that will be missing a lot. "The whole town was built on slavery," said my cabbie, Trevor. "Right on the Pier My knowledge of Liverpool had been Head, there's a place called the Goree. formed by the early Beatles of the 1960s That's the last bit of land the slaves saw and "Ferry Cross the Mersey," the song when they left Africa." (Goree is an island that is an ode to this city, sung by Gerry off the coast of Senegal.) and the Pacemakers. It is still played today aboard the three famous ferryboats Indeed, if you look closely at the friezes that continue to make the short crossing on the exterior of Liverpool’s Town Hall, across the Mersey from the central city built in 1795, you’ll see friezes of Afrito the Wirral Peninsula. can faces, crocodiles, lions and elephants that symbolize Liverpool’s ties to the AfLiverpool carries a disturbing burden rican trade. as the financial hub of the African slave 44 Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015

The city recognizes this stained past at the International Slavery Museum, where the theme is "setting the truth free." Over a period of 400 years, until slavery was abolished, at least 12 million Africans were put to work on plantations in the Americas. Liverpool's role in the slave trade was at its height in the mid-1700s, with ships from the port transporting 1.5 million Africans into slavery until the practice was abolished in Britain in 1807. Although few slaves actually saw Liverpool, the wealth brought from slavery through shipping, textiles and agricultural products played a huge role in shaping today's city. Each year the museum sponsors a Slavery Remembrance Day

Photo courtesey of Wikimedia Commons

Festival, where the voices of lost genera- Liverpool’s prominence as a major port tions come alive in the words "Remember also gives the city a diversity unique in not that we were sold, but that we were Europe. It has the oldest black African strong." community in the United Kingdom, and Europe's oldest Chinese population. In a city known today for its music, it should first be remembered that the I stayed in the city's Commercial District hymn “Amazing Grace” was written by at the modern Atlantic Tower Thistle former Liverpool slave ship captain John Hotel, which offers commanding views Newton. He composed the stirring song of the nearby waterfront, the Mersey ferafter his career at sea when he became a ry dock and of the Three Graces — the minister and anti-slavery campaigner. Royal Liver Building; the Cunard Building, former headquarters of the shipping Recognizing this past, the Liverpool City line; and the Port of Liverpool building. Council in 1999 passed a motion apolo- The Liver Building is "the nest" for the gizing for the city’s role in the slave trade city's symbol, two Liver (pronounced leeover three centuries and acknowledged ver) birds sculpted in metal that perch on the continuing impact of slavery on Liv- separate clock towers. erpool’s black community. Nearby is Albion House, the former head-

quarters of the White Star Line, operator of the Titanic. Albion House recently was refurbished to become a smart, boutique hotel. Called 30 James Street, it features 64 Titanic-themed rooms. A block from the Atlantic Tower Hotel is one of Britain's best-kept secrets from World War II, a museum simply called Western Approaches. From an underground warren deep in the bowels of a block of offices the Allies conducted the Battle of the Atlantic. The top-secret command post directed the tenuous sea link that kept Britain supplied during the war. A huge map room shows in detail where the cat-and-mouse game pitting naval convoys and their escorts against Nazi U-boats, warships and aircraft was played out in a prolonged batWine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015 45

Photos by Carl H. Larsen

tle that claimed 120,000 lives. Many of The city's signature musical events are the Albion House – 30 James Street Hotel, Home these convoys were headed for Liverpool, annual International Beatle Week Fes- of the Titanic: where during the war three or four flotil- tival at the end of August. It is coupled las would arrive each week. with the two-day Mathew Street Festival, Atlantic Tower Thistle Hotel. Splurge for a room with a magnificent view overlooking a free musical extravaganza. the city's Pier Head: A short ferry ride away is The U-Boat Story. The exhibit is built around the U-534, My short visit was not nearly enough Beatles Story: one of only four German submarines time to explore what is an energetic, enfrom World War II surviving in preserved gaging and historic city — or to make it Visiting the Beatles' childhood homes: condition. The 240-ton boat is cut into to the British Lawnmower Museum in four sections, allowing visitors to see nearby Southport. the tight crew quarters, command cenInternational Slavery Museum: www.liverter and torpedo bays. It was sunk off the But that's for next time. Danish coast by RAF aircraft at the end of the war and was not discovered until Panoramic 34 Restaurant and Bar: www. 1986. In 1993, the intact sub was brought to the surface by a team led by a Danish adventurer. The U-Boat Story: These days, the Beatles' legacy is kept alive at crowded clubs that include venues once frequented by the four mop top lads, such as the Jacaranda pub on Slater Street and the renovated Cavern Club and other haunts on Mathew Street in the Cavern Quarter, around the corner from the Hard Days Night Hotel. At Albert Dock, the Beatles Story museum presents the full history of the four local boys whose music changed the world. Tour buses and taxis take fans from downtown to John's and Paul's childhood homes, Strawberry Field, Penny Lane and the churchyard grave where Eleanor Rigby is buried. In conjunction with his 70th birthday in 2010, an 18-foot-high memorial to John Lennon by American artist Lauren Voiers was unveiled in Chavasse Park.

46 Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015

Western Approaches Museum: For information on rail passes and train travel throughout Great Britain: www.britrail. com

Top: The Royal Iris of the Mersey is one of three ferries connecting Liverpool with the Wirral Peninsula. The boats are Liverpool’s most popular fee-based attraction and today carry a mix of tourists as well as commuters. Then known as the Mountwood, this boat was used in the 1965 musical film “Ferry Cross the Mersey” featuring Gerry & The Pacemakers.

IF YOU GO For general information: www.visitliverpool. com

Center: Across the River Mersey from central Liverpool is a popular attraction, “The U-Boat Story.” Recovered from a watery grave off Denmark, the German submarine U-534 from World War II is one of only four that is in preserved condition.




alk into any wine shop with a significant inventory and most likely the selection will skew toward wines made from the world’s two most popular red and white grape varieties, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.

Gruner in the $15­$20 price range. Gruner is crisp and firm, with lip­smacking acidity and inviting minerality. Of these three graoe varieties, Pinot Gris would come closest to Chardonnay in texture. Unlike its more austere cousin, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Gris offers an oily texture and ripe aromas of tropical fruits and stone fruits. They are often referred to as “international” grapes be- J Vineyards Pinot Gris is a regular on my table at about cause both are versatile andadapt easily to different soils $15 a bottle. and climates throughout the world, even though historically Cabernet Sauvignon is most closely associated with Reds: Barbera is a high­acid red Italy’s Piedmont region. the Bordeaux region It is brilliant with and Chardonnay the tapas and tomato­ Burgundy region – based sauces. Two of both in France. my favorite Italian Barberas are made by There is a sentiment, Michele Chiarlo and however, among Vietti. Both typically many wine enthuretail for less than siasts to take the $20. Eberle Winery road less traveled in Paso Robles makes and challenge the a splendid domestic taste buds with othBarbera for about er flavors. Those who $22. choose this path are commonly known as Negroamaro is an the ABC crowd. ABC earthy red from as in anything but the Puglia region Cabernet or anything in southern Italy. It but Chardonnay. produces a rich, bold, That may seem like satisfying red that a diss, but in reality retails in the $10­$15 it is a noble quest to range. Li Veli and expand the palate horizon and appreciate wines made Tormaresca are both top­notch. These wines represent from less familiar grape varieties. tremendous value, too.

There are so many possibilities, but for this thought ex- Rioja, despite considerable worldwide fame and acclaim, periment I have narrowed the potential options to three remains one of the great values in red wine today. A Riwhite grapes and three red, all of which produce wines oja crianza (meaning it is aged one year in barrel) might that are increasingly prominent and available in wine fetch $12 to $15 yet deliver the satisfaction you might bars and wine shops throughout America. expect from a wine at twice the price. Marques de Caceres and Montecillo are two of my current favorites, but Whites: Verdejo is a white grape primarily grown in there are so many to choose from. Spain’s Rueda region. It is typically lush but with firm acid structure. Good Verdejo from Rueda can be had in Rioja is typically a blend of Tempranillo and Garnathe $15­$25 price range. cha, but Tempranillo is the money grape. Rioja is ultra smooth on the palate, with complex red and black fruit Gruner Veltliner is one of the flagship white wines of aromas. Ausrtria, but two U.S. producers, Zocker in California and Dr. Konstantin Frank in New York, make superb Email Robert at

Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015 47

ASTRID LINDGREN'S WORLD 70 Years Later, The Adventures of Pippi Longstocking Live On | BY SHARON WHITLEY LARSEN |

Photo courtesy of Vimmerby Tourist office


nyone with the name "Pippi Longstocking" has to be an interesting character!

defies convention, to put it mildly, has red pigtails that stick straight out, wears a dress she made (that looks like it), sports one brown stocking, one black, and black shoes twice as long as her feet. And she's strong as a horse, and can even lift one.

"With such an unusual name, she became an unusual girl," noted the late Swedish author Astrid Lindgren, whose story about the freckle-faced, pigtailed nineyear-old has been loved by children for 70 years.

Pippi lives by herself in a messy, yellow house called Villa Villekulla. She doesn't have parents telling her what to do (she believes her ship captain father, lost at sea, is a cannibal king, and that her mother's in Heaven). She doesn't go to school, has a pet monkey named Mr. Nilsson, and a horse who lives on the front porch. And she wants to be a pirate when she grows up!

Since Pippi Longstocking was first published in 1945 (in the U.S. in 1950), it has sold over 60 million copies worldwide, translated into some 70 languages. What child hasn't fallen in love with this spunky, fun-loving, independent character (whose official name is Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Efraim's Daughter Longstocking)? She

Oh, and Pippi walks backwards now and then, climbs the big oak tree, rolls cookPhoto by Sharon Whitley Larsen

48 Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015

Photo courtesy of Vimmerby Tourist office

ie dough on the kitchen floor (where Lindgren's books (including Karlssonthere's more room, of course), and has on-the-Roof; The Children of Noisy Vilcrazy adventures with Tommy and An- lage; Ronia, the Robber's Daughter) that nika, the perfect children who live next are depicted by 60 different characters door. And her motto--whether it's cre- amidst story backdrops and recreations atively dealing with school authorities, of this area's rural towns. But Pippi is policemen, or bumbling burglars--is, "I'll the most well known, especially in the always come out on top!" U.S., where it has sold over five million copies. Vimmerby (pop. 15,000)--one of Sweden's oldest towns, dating to the 12th Although my husband and I didn't undercentury—is in the Småland region about stand the Swedish spoken by the actors, four hours south of Stockholm. It's we got caught up in the exciting dramawhere Lindgren grew up—and where the tization of the stories, musical perforstory of zany Pippi comes alive during mances and puppet shows. (We had earthe summer months at Astrid Lindgren's lier visited Junibacken--the Children's World, Sweden's largest open-air theme Museum--in Stockholm, which also has park set on 180,000 square metres. a replica of Pippi's house, the Vimmerby train station, and brings stories by LindFounded in 1981, Sweden's version gren and other Scandinavian authors of a literary Disneyland features 12 of alive for kids of all ages.)

"There are no rides here, no long lines," pointed out Nils-Magnus Angantyr, spokesman for Astrid Lindgren's World. "People can see chapters of her books being performed, can meet the characters and play with them; there's a lot of improvisation between performances." In 2014, nearly a half million visited the popular attraction, named The Nordic Region's Best Theme Park. Some 30 percent of visitors are from other countries, mostly Denmark, Germany, Norway, Holland and Finland. Top: Pippi and friends on stage. Opposite bottom: Children play at Villa Villekulla at Astrid Lindgren’s World--the house where Pippi lived with her monkey, Mr. Nilsson--and her horse on the front porch!

Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015 49

On the warm, sunny day that we vis- "They don't speak each other's language, ited Astrid Lindgren's World, children but they all know the stories and characswarmed about the costumed characters ters." Thorstensson once met Lindgren from the books, watched performanc- (who had lived her adult years in Stockes with their parents, climbed through holm, but is buried in the local churchPippi's house, strolled the tiny streets, yard), recalling her as "a very nice, ordiplayed on swing sets, slides, and in favor- nary, simple person, humble, very kind ite replica storybook scenes. One small girl intently read one of Lindgren's books as she sat in a wagon, pulled by her mom and dad. Another girl, about 3, was dressed like Pippi, red braided wig and all, as she walked hand-in-hand with her mother. When the "real" Pippi appeared, children immediately flocked around her. One little girl stepped up to hand her a drawing she had done. Parents--many who had come here themselves as youngsters--clamored to take photos to the kids. She was a humanitarian and of their children with Pippi. Even grand- ahead of her time." parents toured the area with their grandchildren, as Lindgren's children's stories Astrid Lindgren's Nas—a nearby culture cross several generations of book lovers. centre, which includes her childhood home and exhibit hall with historic ex"It's interesting to see German and Swed- hibits related to her life and work, was ish children playing here together," ob- opened by Swedish Crown Princess Vicserved our guide Christina Thorstensson. toria in 2007. 50 Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015

One of Sweden's most beloved, prolific authors, Lindgren, who died in Stockholm at age 94 in 2002, was born in an 18th-century red farmhouse and spent happy childhood years in the yellow house next door (and which resembles Pippi's Villa Villekulla). There's also the huge elm tree that Lindgren climbed as a child, immortalized as Pippi's lemonade tree. Lindgren based many of her stories on her loving, carefree upbringing. In a short film she talks about the "magical, sensual nature, the security and freedom of childhood" and notes that "children can work miracles when they read." Including the Pippi series, Lindgren's books have sold a Top: Astrid Lindgren’s World, opened in 1981, is Sweden’s largest open-air theme park. Nearly half a million visitors toured it in 2014. Bottom: Every little girl who visits Astrid Lindgren’s World wants to buy a Pippi doll--or a red pigtailed wig! Opposite: Photo of Astrid Lindgren. Above photos by Sharon Whitley Larsen

Photo Š Jacob Forsell

Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015 51

staggering 150 million worldwide, trans- life, which involved working as a secretary, lated into 96 languages--even Zulu! Re- journalist, book editor, and on passiongarded as Sweden's best-selling author, ate crusades for political issues, including she wrote several dozen children's books, children's and animal rights. novels, short stories, poetry volumes, and plays. "I grew up with Astrid Lindgren and her stories," noted Anne-Charlotte Harvey, ProThe exhibit's tour includes family photos, fessor Emeritus of Theatre at San Diego newspaper clippings, manuscripts, and State University, and a native of Sweden. "I letters. There are audios of Astrid singing remember well when 'Pippi' came out. We with her mother (she also composed mu- thought she was super, witty, and crazy! sic lyrics), and interesting aspects of her "Astrid Lindgren's other books were also 52 Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015

very popular; she captured the spirit of childhood for us and subsequent generations: camaraderie, inventiveness, discovery, adventurousness, tolerance of adults, kindness, simple toys and homemade clever games. All of Sweden looks to Vimmerby and Astrid Lindgren's memory for guidance, sanity and humanity. She was truly loved by the entire country, regardless of political color, and was a wise woman with a sense of humor."

Photo courtesy of Vimmerby Tourist office

Lindgren was the recipient of many are nearby. It's easy to take the train prestigious awards (including the covet- here (Vimmerby Station), and from mided Hans Christian Andersen Medal and June to mid-August the train stops right UNESCO'S International Book Award) at the Astrid Lindgren's World Station: and honors (including three honorary doctorate degrees); many of her books have been made into plays, TV shows For more information (and to tour nearand films. by sites of Astrid Lindgren's other book adventures), contact the Vimmerby "It's too bad she never won the Nobel Tourist Office: http://www.vimmerby. Prize for Literature," lamented fan Lollo com/en/startpage/; and also www.visEriksson of Stockholm. "I am writing in order to amuse the child within myself," Lindgren once said, "and I hope that by doing so other children will have some fun. If I have been able to bring some sunshine into a single child's life, then I am satisfied."

Photo courtesy of Vimmerby Tourist office

Top: Visitors explore Swedish sailboat at Astrid Lindgren’s World. Right: Pippi Longstocking posing with her trademark red pigtails.

Astrid Lindgren's Nas (culture centre, museum, exhibition hall and childhood home): en/culture-centre

Junibacken (Children's Museum), Stockholm: english. Opened since 1996, this is one IF YOU GO of Sweden's popular children's sites, with over 400,000 annual visitors. In the Astrid Lindgren's World: heart of Stockholm: it features the works Open from mid-May to August; week- of popular Scandinavian authors, espeends in Sept., with an Autumn Crafts cially Astrid Lindgren: There's a replica Market for several days in October and of Villa Villekulla and Vimmerby Station, November. Gift shops sell Lindgren's where the Disneyland-type "Story Train" books (some in English) and souvenirs, (with headsets available in English and including children's clothing, Pippi dolls, other languages) departs, taking riders and the must-have red wigs! on a journey that dramatizes her wellknown books. Indoors and open yearCandy stores carry the distinctive red round. and white peppermint rock sticks called polkagrisar. Cafes serve traditional Swedish food, and visitors may also picnic under the trees. Camping, chalets, cottages, and hotel accommodations

Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015 53

54 Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015

Finding a Silver Lining in Peru | STORY AND PHOTOS BY MARIBETH MELLIN |


ravel is my passion. Like all great loves, it messes with my mind and heart at times. But vale la pena, as we say in Spanish. It's definitely worth the effort.

azon's spooky gloom. An extra bag was on hand for alpaca sweaters, woven textiles and precious folk art. My taste buds tingled at the thought of Peru's endless versions of ceviche, the unique flavor of aji chilies and delicate pink trucha (trout) from Andean streams—but not Take my recent weeklong Peruvian mis- for cuy, the cooked version of Peru's kitadventure. The ambitious itinerary in- ten-sized, cuddly guinea pigs. cluded a writer's conference and a dash through Lima, Machu Picchu, Cusco and Catastrophe struck two days into the the Amazon, all places I'd grown to love trip, however, during my one precious while writing the Traveler's Peru Com- night at the lovely, historic Inkaterpanion in the 1990s. ra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel. Any thought of food made me woozy; my My must-do list included meditating body refused to carry on. Travel tummy with alpacas on a hilltop overlooking seemed the obvious culprit, but I later Machu Picchu and reveling in the Am- learned I'd picked up two stubborn bac-

terial infections in California that decided to emerge most inconveniently. They could have destroyed everything, but serendipitous moments created heartfelt memories that left me longing to return to Peru ASAP. A Promising Beginning The week's highlights began with a chance sighting of folk dancers parading in front of the cathedral overshadowing Lima's Plaza de Armas. Children perched on their dads' shoulders and Top: Cusco’s narrow streets are lined with intriguing shops. Opposite: Shaman in the Sacred Valley. Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015 55

tiny grandmothers squeezed to the front of the crowd to watch elaborately costumed teenage dancers preen and parade around the square, occasionally glancing at their phones like teens everywhere. The following morning, dawn tinted clouds pink and lavender as we flew toward the Andes and Cusco, 11,000 feet above sea level. Vans awaited our group

56 Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015

for the mesmerizing drive past humble Misfortune Strikes villages beneath velvet green mountains in the fertile, spiritual Sacred Val- We arrived too late for a further expeley. During a brief stop at the handsome dition up another mountain trail to the new Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba, a archeological site, but found plenty to shaman blessed our journey through admire within the nature reserve at the holy Inca lands. Wine, delicate ceviche Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, and camera-worthy views of foamy riv- where I'd stayed on my first expedition. ers slicing mountain peaks kept us en- After searching in vain for the rare cocktertained on a posh Inca Rail train ride of-the-rock (Peru's national bird) on a to Machu Picchu. short nature hike followed by a dinner

of delicate, delicious trucha, I prepared for a morning trek among pyramids and alpacas as a gentle rain whispered through giant ferns outside my window.

dancing a throbbing beat from my toes to my skull.

I finally called the doctor with only two hours left in my Machu Picchu stay. AfTwo hours later, I felt a fiesta kick into ter receiving a shot, a swig of some mirgear in my gut. Pure misery settled in acle potion and enough pills to kill Ebola, for an extended stay as I shivered and I fought self-pity while stumbling down shuffled between bed and bath, con- the hotel's verdant paths to another elvinced I could banish all intruders by egant Inca Rail train for the trip back to morning. But the partygoers held firm, Cusco.

Above: Courtyard at Cusco’s Palacio del Inka hotel Left: Rural farm in the Sacred Valley. Below: Dancers at Lima’s Plaza de Armas.

Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015 57

Top: Inca fountain at Cusco’s Plaza de Armas . Opposite middle: Trout carpaccio at Inkaterra Machu Picchu Puebla Hotel. Opposite bottom: Carver and painter Maestro Maximo at his Cusco shop. 58 Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015

Good Fortune Takes Charge I must have looked beyond pitiful as I slunk into the grand lobby at Cusco's Palacio Del Inka hotel that night. I vaguely remember Roger, the kind concierge who led me through an enormous formal suite to a cloud-soft bed. As I tried to sleep, visions of the next morning's planned flight and boat ride to the Amazon brought on the vapors, though that spooky old river is one of my favorite places on the planet. The promise of two days in Cusco, navel of the Inca world, tempered disappointment as I cancelled all further excursions.

an Inca warrior. Thoroughly defeated, I followed a circuitous downhill route until spotting the hotel's cheery blue and white facade.

Determined to enjoy Cusco—Peru's best shopping and cultural center—I wandered away from the hotel in mid-after- The following morning brought rain and noon for a short walk to the main Plaza gloomy clouds over distant mountain de Armas. After hiking up a couple of peaks, but nothing could destroy my steep streets I collapsed on a park bench, final 24 hours in Peru. After chugging studied my map and wondered how I the doctor's mysterious brew and pills, I could possibly have missed my destina- boldly ventured forth and hailed a cab tion. The next day I realized I'd been in to San Blas, an artsy neighborhood on the plaza all along, but was too dazed a hill above by the Plaza de Armas. In and exhausted to notice the baroque a spirited, energetic shopping frenzy, I cathedral overlooking the plaza's multi- managed to hand over hundreds of soles tiered fountain topped with a statue of in a mere two hours. My usual tendency

to dither over purchases evaporated as I darted through narrow doorways into treasure-box shops where owners and clerks were as fascinating as their wares. I did manage to resist the gorgeous alpaca sweaters and capes displayed in chic boutiques. Instead, I found two silky soft rose and violet scarves at Pure Alpaca, which carries alpaca weavings from an Andean women's collective. Next came retablos, colorful houseshaped boxes holding tiny dioramas. Several friends already have nativity retablos from my last trip. They're always in high demand. One multi-level shop packed with collector-quality folk art carried wildly intricate two-foot tall versions worth thousands of dollars. Mine came from a wizened, hard-bargaining lady in a souvenir shop. Fanciful ceramic bulls, called toritos de Pucará, also came from modest shops. These caramel-colored figurines perch on rooftops all around the Andes bring good fortune, prosperity and fertility to households. They're the perfect gift for young friends in starter houses. I had stricter requirements for replacing my

Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015 59

View from my room at the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Hotel. original torito, which had faced my of- in years past. The motif was immedi- "You mean Maestro Maximo!" while fice from the garden until cats, possums ately recognizable as the work of in- beaming sideways. I glanced over and and raccoons knocked it over once too digenous Shipibo women from remote felt no sense of recognition, though often. The fancier version, with a lad- Amazonian villages who draw sophis- his gentle expression fit my recollecder leading to heaven, a rooster (which ticated, intricate geometric patterns tion. His wife talked of his prominence might keep me alert) and a teensy pot inspired by cosmological visions on in Cusco's art scene and his many stuto hold my riches, now watches over my pottery and cloth. Tall piles of textiles dents as he stood silently by, until I desk from a ceiling-high shelf. covered a backroom table in this small asked if I could take his photo. I started Cusco shop. I found their very presence to hand him one of my simple frames, San Blas looked absolutely magical that puzzling, until the proprietor explained but he studied the religious paintings evening with the lingering sunlight il- that her husband traveled the Amazon, until he found a favorite Madonna and luminating terra cotta roofs tumbling collecting Shipibo art to help support child. As we laughed and chatted I realdown Andean mountainsides. One the tribe’s traditions. Choosing just one ized it didn't matter if Maximo was the memory kept pushing me forward, past piece from the wealth of designs was man I remembered. I'd found a talentthe desire to enter a cozy cafe for wine the hardest decision of my day. ed, warm-hearted artist whose simple and ceviche. On my first visit to Cusco, frames would inspire dreams of my next 15 years past, I climbed the hills of San Streetlights glistened against the sap- Peruvian odyssey. Blas early one morning, testing my al- phire sky as I cautiously minced my titude adjustment. Spotting an open way down slippery, skeletal sidewalks door, I watched a serious man studi- toward the Plaza de Armas. Glancing IF YOU GO ously carving picture frames. Enchant- side to side, I nearly caused a pedestrian ed, I asked him to make one for me and pileup when I spotted a shop's windows Inkaterra promotes sustainable tourism with hotels, guides and a dedication to prewatched as he sculpted rows of perfect and walls filled with paintings of virgins serving Peruvian nature and culture. The half-moons in cedar before fitting a and saints in gilded frames. Though the company's itineraries hit all the major highrectangle together. That simple frame crowded space was nothing like the lights and its hotels are among the counnow hangs in my living room as a work dusty workshop of the past, the frames try's finest. of art on its own. There's no need to fill were the exact same design. I explained Inca Rail offers luxurious first-class train it with a painting or photo; it represents my quest to a woman brushing gold transport to Machu Picchu. precious memories of Peru. paint on wooden trim as I burrowed through stacks to find perfect, un- For information about travel in Peru check out I wanted to stumble upon that work- adorned copies of my Peruvian totem. shop once again, but kept getting disCaution: If you’re sick, try to stay away from tracted. I spotted a​cloth painting hang- As we chatted, a man I assumed was her antibiotics or keep the dosage low. In my ing outside a shop that looked almost husband entered quietly and stood to case, they exacerbated the infections I’d exactly like one I’d purchased in the the side while I haltingly described my carried from the States and helped them steamy Amazonian port city of Iquitos memory. Translated loosely, she said linger for many months. 60 Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015

CELEBRATE WITH AN EXCLAMATION POINT! For a party as bright, bold, and colorful as you’ve ever seen, come to Tri-Cities and celebrate at a multitude of vibrant festivals and events. Revel in the brilliant colors of our world and the bold colors of our lives. Thrill your senses with exceptional entertainment and world-class food and wine. We don’t do anything halfway. Add an exclamation point to your life’s biography. To learn more, visit

Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015 61

Salzburg Celebrates 50 Years of The Sound of Music | BY AMY LAUGHINGHOUSE |

Sound of Music Movi


f The Sound of Music is one of your favourite things, it’s time to head for the hills of Salzburg, Austria. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the iconic musical, which was filmed in this beautifully preserved baroque city.

Admittedly, on the day I arrive, Salzburg 62 Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015

looks more like the set of Waterworld than a sunny ode to Austria’s Alps. The sky is an ominous gray, and rain lashes against the windows. It’s not quite the welcome I’d hoped for, but somehow, it seems appropriate. This is exactly the sort of inclement greeting Julie Andrews, as Maria, re-

ceived on her first night with the Von Trapp family in the film. As thunder crashes and lightening flashes, she comforts the kiddies by singing about raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. Well, big glasses of wheat beer and plates full of schnitzel are all it takes to put a song in my heart. So, after my husband

ie Promotional Photo Š Twenteith Century Fox

Photo by Amy Laughinghouse

Julie Andrews brings the hills to life in the classic Sound of Music. Top right: The real Villa Trapp, which the family left in 1938, now offers daily tours. Right: In The Sound of Music, a guitar-toting Maria splashes in the fountain at Residenzplatz on the way to her first day at the Villa Trapp.

The 25,000 square foot Mid-Century Modern residence was designed by the late Los Angeles architect A. Quincy Jones.

Photo Š Tourismus Salzburg.

Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015 63

The hills are alive with The Sound of Music in Salzburg, Austria, the city where many scenes from the movie were filmed. This year, the iconic musical celebrates 50 years since it was first released.

and I deposit our suitcases at the newly refurbished Hotel Goldgasse, chosen for its superb location in Old Town and its contemporary, music-themed décor, we seek solace in Salzburg’s equivalent of a pub.

Mozart, Salzburg’s other famous musical export, drank here? I choose to believe.)

Speakers broadcast an eclectic selection of tunes as we sip our brews, but there’s not a whisper from Julie Andrews. It’s a Soon, we’re bellied up to the bar at shame, as I’d love to hear a roomful of Zwettler’s, a friendly local hangout beer-swigging Salzburgers belting out where all manner of detritus adorns “Edelweiss.” the walls: skis, ice skates, deer antlers, and plaques bearing the names of loyal With year-round Sound of Music tours boozers, including “Wolfgang.” (Maybe and a SOM gala on October 17, you’d 64 Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015

think the film's soundtrack would be on everyone’s lips. Yet many Austrians aren’t that hip to the Hollywood hype, says local guide Michaela Muhr, who takes us on a walking tour the next day. They tend to prefer an earlier German-language film. And “Edelweiss?” It’s not even a real Austrian folksong. Rodgers and Hammerstein, who wrote the original Broadway musical, made it up. That’s the first of many epiphanies re-

Photo © Tourismus Salzburg.

vealed by Muhr, who tells us the real— second headquarters! So the filmmakers from SOM productions at the Marioas well as the “reel”—story of the Von changed the map of Europe.” nette Theatre across the river. Trapps. There was indeed a young woman named Maria who became a govern- Up a hill lies Nonnberg Abbey, where In Residenzplatz, beside the catheess, married the dashing Captain Von Maria and her cinematic alter ego stud- dral where Mozart was baptised, Muhr Trapp, and fled Austria with the family ied to become a nun, and where the points out the Italianate fountain where to avoid the Nazis. actual Maria and Captain married. It Julie Andrews splashes while singing “I hunkers beneath the Hohensalzburg Have Confidence.” She shows us a photo They didn’t hike to freedom, though. Fortress, occasionally glimpsed in the of Maria Von Trapp, clad in a traditional They took a train. “The scene where they film. Today, this mountaintop fort is dirndl, chatting with Andrews here bewalk over the mountains to escape into filled with exhibits of military weap- tween takes. Apparently, when Maria Switzerland? Not possible,” Muhr says. ons, instruments of torture and some first met Christopher Plummer, who “They would have ended up at Hitler’s spooky looking puppets, including a few played the Captain, she nearly swooned, Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015 65

Leopoldskron Palace stood in for the Villa Trapp in several scenes in The Sound of Music. Opposite right: Maria passes the horse wash, one of many water features around Salzburg, while singing “I Have Confidence.” Opposite bottom: Guild signs advertise the shops along Salzburg’s Getreidegasse.

saying “I wish my husband could’ve been so handsome.”

serves as a museum. It’s been Salzburg’s romantic gazebo from the movie, and busiest commercial street since the 12th Leopoldskron Castle, which served as century, and old wrought iron signs bear the lakeside exterior of the Von Trapp We stroll through St. Peter’s Cemetery, symbols of the shops. Even the tiny M home. which inspired the set where the Von of McDonald’s is encircled by a wreath Trapps hide from Nazi soldiers, towards clutched in a bird’s beak, in lieu of gold- To see the real Villa Trapp, take a taxi the Rock Riding School, the outdoor en arches. or a train about 15 minutes outside the theater where they sang at the Salzburg heart of the city. The mansion where Festival before escaping in the film. The Afterwards, we head to the river, where they lived from 1923 until 1938 is filled family really did perform at the festi- the Von Trapp children run along the with touching mementos, including val, which is still staged over six weeks banks in the picnic scene. Traipsing over family photos and the boatswain whisin July and August, and just like in the a bridge into New Town, our tour culmi- tle that the Captain used to call his chilmovie, they won. nates at Mirabell Gardens, where Maria dren. But he wasn’t the control-freak and her charges dance around the Pega- portrayed in the film, insists ChristoWe make a detour through the Univer- sus fountain singing “Do-Re-Mi.” pher Unterkofler, who runs the house as sity Square market, filled with the scent a bed and breakfast with his wife, Marof cheese, fresh bread and sausages, and For fitter fans, Muhr also offers a bike ianne Dorfer. down Getreidegasse, where Mozart was tour that includes Hellbrunn, a 17th born in a big yellow house that now century palace that is now home to the “He was such a nice and gentle char66 Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015

Photo © Tourismus Salzburg.

Photo © Tourismus Salzburg.

Photo © Tourismus Salzburg.

acter, like a mother hen,” says Unterkofler, who heard stories from a Von Trapp daughter. In fact, it was Maria who was the taskmaster, perhaps even more zealous about music than Julie Andrews. “It’s a language everyone can understand, and she wanted to spread peace,” Unterkofler explains. But there are two inspiring messages that hold true in both film and life. “If you stick together, you can manage almost anything—and if God closes a door, he opens a window,” Unterkofler smiles. That’s why the movie remains a legend even today. Well, that, and the soundtrack. “The melodies go in your ear,” Unterkofler says, “and they never go out again.” Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015 67

Photo credit © Amy Laughinghouse.

Photo © Tourismus Salzburg.

Photo credit © Amy Laughinghouse.

Photo credit © Amy Laughinghouse.

IF YOU GO Photo Credit © Janos Grapow/Hotel Goldgasse Top: Mirabell Palace and Gardens in Salzburg’s New Town feature prominently in the “Do-Re-Mi” scene. Above: The newly renovated rooms and suites at Hotel Goldgasse in Salzburg’s Old Town are adorned with images of famous operas. Guests booked into the Jedermann suite enjoy exclusive access to a roof terrace with views of Hohensalzburg Fortress, Salzburg Cathedral and the Austrian Alps. Center: The Sound of Music marionettes from the Salzburg Marionette Theatre are on display at Salzburg’s Hohensalzburg Fortress. Opposite: Maria Kutschera, who later became Maria von Trapp, lived at Nonnberg Abbey in Salzburg, Austria (pictured) before becoming a governess. She married Captain Von Trapp at the abbey, although in The Sound of Music movie, the wedding was filmed at Mondsee Cathedral, Mondsee, Austria 68 Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015

Stay: The recently remodeled Hotel Goldgasse offers contemporary accommodation in a 13th century building, with photographic murals of opera scenes in each of the 16 rooms and suites and a cosy pine-paneled restaurant serving Austrian cuisine. It’s located in Old Town near key attractions and can arrange private Sound of Music tours. Doubles from 122 Euro. www. Guided tour: Michaela Muhr, Villa Trapp: Book ahead for daily tour, www.villa-trapp. com/1/home/ Tourism info:, Salzburg Festival: whitsun

Photo © Tourismus Salzburg.


Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015 69


Seth, bartender at The Blue Heron, will make you a bourbon cocktail that will make you glad you came here. Opposite: Rachel Alexandra, 9, is retired on Stonestreet Farm outside Lexington. The farm is owned by the late wine maker Jess Jackson’s family and will be among the new farms open for tours when Horse Country Inc. gets up and running

70 Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015

The allure of Lexington has long been legendary e felt ourselves as pas- that mindset, of course, is the bourbon sengers through a wil- making… In a day, you can tour several derness just arrived at bourbon distilleries and then get back a garden where there in town for a fine meal. You can’t do that was no forbidden fruit,” wrote Daniel anywhere else.” Boone’s companion, Felix Walker, when they found Kentucky’s Bluegrass region We did several things here you can’t do in the late 1700s. anywhere else. We also dined exceptionally well, visited America’s first commerThis area was the first to be settled in cial vineyard, and toured fascinating Kentucky and was very early declared historic homes. “The Athens of the West.” Transylvania University, the first college west of the Two of those things you can’t do anyAllegheny Mountains, was founded here where else center on that very special in 1780. Today it is also home to the blue grass. University of Kentucky. The fertile soil of the legendary BlueProminent leaders of the 18th and 19th grass Region lies on a massive limestone centuries had connections to Lexington, shelf that has been the bedrock of two including Abraremarkable purham Lincoln, suits here: thorHenry Clay and oughbred horses John C. Breckinand bourbon. ridge, at 36 the The limestone youngest-ever adds calcium to Vice President that gorgeous of the U.S. under green grass to James Buchanan. promote strong bones in those George Clooney horses, while was born here. that same limeJohnny Depp, stone acts as a filborn nearby in Owensboro, bought a tration system to purify the water that home for his mother in Lexington. And makes the best bourbon in the world. Jon Carloftis, Kentucky native and award-winning garden designer, recent- Lexington calls itself “The Horse Caply sold his homes in Manhattan and ital of the World.” Historic Keeneland Bucks County, PA, to return to Lexing- Race Course, one of the most beautiful ton where he and his partner, Dale Fish- race tracks in the world, hosts live race er, have restored the 1851 home known meets every spring and fall. You can go as Botherum in the historic Woodward there any morning, however, and watch Heights neighborhood. those magnificent beauties train on the dirt track; be sure to have breakfast at “The Lexington area has such a rich his- the Keeneland Track Kitchen, a local tory nestled amongst the modern city tradition. October 30- 31, 2015, will that it has grown into; I think that’s find Keeneland hosting The Breeder’s why it’s so appealing,” said Carloftis, Cup, “the richest two days in horse racwho graduated from UK in 1986. “It’s ing.” Keeneland’s annual sales auctions the perfect mix of fast-paced lifestyle for thoroughbreds are the most prestiand a slow and steady mindset. Part of gious in the world.


Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015 71

Woodford Reserve Distillery is the only national historic distillery surrounded by beautiful horse farms. Its tours are quite interesting and its tastings are even better. Opposite top: Watch thoroughbred horses train almost every morning at Keeneland, one of the country’s most beautiful race tracks that hasn’t changed much since its opening in 1936. Opposite bottom: First Vineyard outside Lexington is the site of America’s first commercial vineyard. Thomas Jefferson loved these wines, and in another few years, the old grapes will bring forth wines again.

The horse farms surrounding Lexington private guides to take them to about the Kentucky Oaks by 21 lengths, both are simply gorgeous. The royal family of five famous horse farms. But a new in 2009. She is retired at Stonestreet, Dubai owns four of them. Those rolling plan is in the works to open more than where you might be lucky enough to green pastures of that fabled blue grass 30 farms to visitors through a central feed her a peppermint candy. are home to about 450 horse farms, in- booking location. Called Horse Country, cluding many of the most famous in this program should be up and running Drive out Old Frankfort Pike to see the world: Calumet, whose history of soon and will offer fans inside looks at many of these historic horse farms, Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown win- such fabled farms as Gainesway, Ash- complete with miles of white plank and ners still holds the record; 1973 Triple ford, Lanes End, Stonestreet and more. stone fences; it’s considered one of the Crown record-setting winner Secremost beautiful drives in America. tariat is buried at Claiborne Farm; and At Stonestreet, the late wine maker American Pharaoh, 2015 Triple Crown Jess Jackson’s family’s horse farm, you It can lead you down McCracken Pike to winner, will stand at Ashford Stud. could see 9-year-old Rachel Alexandra, a Woodford Reserve Distillery, a stunning phenomenal horse, the first filly to win historic property that’s one of three naCurrently, visitors to Lexington can hire the Preakness in 85 years who also won tional historic landmark bourbon distill72 Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015

ers, the other two being Makers Mark and Buffalo Trace.

told us. “It’s in the water. On limestone Here’s just a taste: bedrock, there is no iron in our water; it is a flavor source perfect for crafting *Shakespeare & Co., which is actually Woodford is “the only distillery com- bourbon,” America’s only native spirit. headquartered in Dubai, opened its first pletely surrounded by horse farms,” U.S. location in Lexington; it features a Beth Pritchett, our tour guide, told us. Bourbon lovers will surely want to travel sumptuous 18th-century atmosphere Its maturation house was built from the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, a self-guid- evocative of a Parisian salon with a 28that limestone in 1890 and “is the old- ed tour of nine distilleries complete page menu of classic dishes from the est and only stone aging warehouse in with a “passport” for collecting all nine world’s favorite cuisines. use; there’s a lot of magic and science in stamps. that building,” she said. * Stella’s Kentucky Deli is a homegrown You’ll also be able to enjoy that bourbon favorite for fried green tomatoes and pi“There’s a big reason bourbon is made at virtually every fine-dining restaurant mento cheese sandwiches. here for the world — most bourbon is in Lexington, and we found many. made within 100 miles from here,” she * The Blue Heron is an updated steakWine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015 73

house that joins an upscale throng of places along Jefferson Street, including Nick Ryan’s and Enoteca. Historic homes filled with locavore specialties keep this area jumping.

the best shrimp po’boys anywhere at Smithtown Seafoods next door in The Bread Box complex.

Beall bought 174 acres here in 1994 but it took him nearly 20 years to discover that his land was site of a vineyard started by the Swiss Dufour family in 1799. Seek the First Vineyard in neighboring Lexingtonian Henry Clay took bottles of Jessamine County where bucolic land- Dufour’s wine to Congress where Thom* At Coles 735 Main, every dish rein- scapes seem like live paintings. Tom as Jefferson became a fan. “Jefferson vents an American classic, like boursaid, ‘It has excellent flavor and I would bon-maple glazed salmon or shrimp and store it,’ “ Beall told us. “It became his grits with truffle-infused lobster cream, favorite.” served in a perfect setting for romance. Grape vines had long been gone from * At Dudley’s on Short, go from oysters this property but after copious research, and crispy cauliflower to tournedos Beall found cuttings in a seed warewith crab or seared tuna with black rice. house and has planted the original Alexander grapes that Dufour used. “AlexanOf course, they all serve crafted cockder will come out under First Vineyards tails made with bourbon. Or you could label in a few more years,” Beall said. find yourself at Belle’s Cocktail House, Meanwhile, go to First Vineyard to taste served up by the boys who produce The some of Kentucky’s own wines today Bourbon Review, for a Gatewood’s Manand gaze over that glorious landscape. hattan that elevates that tradition with a twist or two. Henry Clay’s homesite called Ashland is one of four fascinating historic homes Beer lovers will like to know that Lexto tour in Lexington. At Visit Lexingington is enjoying a craft beer renaiston’s downtown headquarters, buy a sance with more than 20 breweries on ticket for $20 to tour all four.. the scene today. At West Sixth Brewing, we loved its Punchestown Irish Red LaClay, known as “The Great Comproger, especially accompanied by one of miser,” was a U.S. Senator, Speaker of 74 Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015

the House, Secretary of State and three- dent but I could marry a man who could time presidential candidate. When Clay be,’ ” Miller told us. Many furnishings died in 1852, Lincoln called him “the in the home are from Mary Todd’s time beau ideal of a statesman,” in his very here, so imagine Abraham Lincoln sitpoignant eulogy. Though Ashland was ting around that card table. built in 1857 for Clay’s son since the original home had been torn down, a A client of lawyer Clay, Joseph Bryan, lot of family memorabilia relating to the historic statesman is on view in this wondrous Italianate home. The Mary Todd Lincoln House is the country’s first museum to honor a first lady. This 1803 home served as an inn for 20 years before Mary’s father, Robert Todd, bought it to house his family of 16 children. Todd was a very influential Lexingtonian: he co-founded Transylvania University, was an owner of a cotton manufacturing plant, and president of Bank of Kentucky. Our tour guide, Michael Miller, pointed out in the parlor that “Lincoln’s log cabin birthplace would have fit in this room.” Mary Todd came from a very wealthy family who exposed her to education and politics. “She knows she can’t run for office, but tells her sister, ‘I could never be presi-

a great-nephew of Daniel Boone, built Waveland, a Greek Revival beauty, in 1847. Our tour with Ron Bryant, “a descendant 17 ways from the family,” was a highlight. Bryan’s youngest son, Joseph Henry, “was not what he wanted,” Bryant told Top: The craft brewing game is on tap in Lexington, including here at West Sixth Brewing in The Bread Box complex. Bottom: The Hunt-Morgan House on historic Gratz Park in Lexington began the city’s historic preservation movement. The tour here is another fascinating glimpse into 19th century life in this storied city. Opposite top:The shrimp po’boy at Smithtown Seafoods in Lexington is as good as it looks. Opposite bottom: Take a class in traditional Kentucky cuisine from chef Phil Dunn. He gives great tips on making fried green tomatoes, as well as mini Hot Browns (Kentucky’s fabled sandwich) and beer cheese, another locals’ favorite. Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015 75

us. When the spoiled younger Joseph marches to war as a Confederate, “they sent him back!”

Among Hunt’s descendants was John Hunt Morgan, called “the Thunderbolt of the Confederacy.” This flamboyant leader of Confederate guerrilla fighters He set up two horse-racing tracks on the known as “Morgan’s Raiders” would do hemp plantation that were its — and his anything they could to disrupt — or rob — undoing. “Joseph Henry was so profli- — Union soldiers. gate with money, within three years he had lost $2 million; in 1894 the place was sold out from under him,” Bryant told us. Joseph Henry’s children bought most of the home’s furnishings back from auction so the home today displays mostly original pieces.

er, so imagine the charged atmosphere in this bucolic neighborhood during the Civil War. “This was never a crude frontier town,” said Jason Sloan, director of preservation of the Blue Grass Trust, which owns the Hunt-Morgan House. “It was always wealthy and cultured.” He added that Lexington had an opera house before Chicago and some of the first Beethoven symphonies were played here. “There was a lot of opportunity and commerce here.”

The push to save the Hunt-MorWaveland’s slave quarters have gan House from demolition in also been restored. It’s worth 1955 formed the beginning of noting that after the Civil War the Blue Grass Trust, the city’s and abolishment of slavery, preservation organization. “the slaves all stayed here; they Stroll down 2nd and 3rd avewere treated well here,” said nues right outside downtown Bryant. where splendid old homes are restored or undergoing restoThe Civil War deeply divided Kentucky. The Hunt-Morgan House is located on ration. The Hunt-Morgan House really show- a corner of Gratz Park, a lovely historcases that division. ic neighborhood where virtually every This city’s devotion to its historic past home is on the historic register. Right has resulted in many magnificent neighIt was built in 1814 for the first mil- across the park from the Hunt-Morgan borhoods that make architecture devolionaire west of the Alleghenies, a hemp House was the home of General Thom- tees swoon around every corner. Drive merchant named John Wesley Hunt. as Bodley, a staunch Union sympathiz- yourself around the areas of Ashland 76 Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015

Park (near Clay’s home), Aylesford, Bell Court, and Mulberry Hilll, among several historic districts, for a look at some of the loveliest historic homes in the land. Check for maps of these districts. Lexington still lures us like no place else.

IF YOU GO Fly into Lexington’s Blue Grass Airport. Or drive; Lexington is at the junction of Interstate 75 and Interstate 64, within a day’s drive of two-thirds of the population of the U.S. STAYING THERE: We stayed at the Hilton Lexington/Downtown, an excellent central location on Triangle Park; www. Gratz Park Inn is on the National Register of Historic Hotels; FOR MORE INFORMATION: Go to www. Stop by the Lexington Visitors Center at 401 West Main Street downtown to buy those historic home tickets and for all kinds of information. The visitors center should also be able to tell you when Horse Country Inc. is up and running with its new expanded horse farm tours.

Right: Waveland is one of four historic homes in Lexington that offer fascinating tours that bring the past to life. Opposite top: Lexington is surrounded by thoroughbred and saddlebred horse farms that are among the finest in the world. Just driving through its countryside is a splendid way to spend time Opposite bottom: Shakespeare & Co. in Lexington is the first U.S. location for a restaurant operation based in Dubai. Its sumptuous decor accompanies a 28-page menu of classics from around the world.

Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015 77



here are you taking me?" I whined to my husband Carl, as I limped behind him. Normally I'm not a whiner when I travel, but a month-old sprained ankle did not fare well on this historic, cosmopolitan city's steep, cobblestone streets and, after a long day of walking, I was feeling the pain with each step.

"I'm going to show you a dog's grave!" Carl shouted to me in the cool air. "Come on! You'll really like it!" Of course, I thought he had lost it. Perhaps he'd had too much whisky or the cholesterol-inducing haggis and mash, which had constricted the blood flow to the brain, affecting his thinking. But gradually, as I limped along, trying to keep up with him, Carl told me the charming, century-old story of Greyfriars Bobby, which has touched the hearts of millions of children around the world, ages 3 to 103. Bobby has been the subject of several books, as well as a 1961 Disney movie.

78 Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015

Scenes from the Walt Disney Movie “Greyfriars Bobby� and statue of Bobby below.


n 1853, during an unusually cold winter, a gardener named John Gray moved to Edinburgh with his wife and son, 13. After several weeks of unemployment, Gray (nicknamed "Auld Jock") got a job with the police department--even though he was 40 years old, considered a senior citizen in those days.

gate, Grassmarket, Greyfriars Kirkyard (the church cemetery), Candlemaker Row, Heriot's Hospital grounds, and the Cattle Market. He faithfully patrolled the area by foot on his 8-hour shift, six days a week. Since the police were assigned dogs to accompany them, Gray was reportedly first given a collie, followed two years later by a Skye Terrier puppy named "Bobby" in honor of being a British police dog. Devoted partners Gray and Bobby would stroll the grimy, smoky streets of Victorian Edinburgh.

His salary was a modest 13 shillings a week, which included humble housing in the Hall's Court area, dubbed "Hell's Kitchen" by the poor folks who had to live in the rat-infested slum that had poor sanitation and little drinking water.

In a patient manner that earned respect of the townsfolk, Gray dealt with the criminals and drunks (whisky was real cheap then) on

Gray's beat was the densely crowded, crime-ridden area that included Upper CowPhoto by Sharon Whitley Larsen

Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015 79

Photo by Sharon Whitley Larsen

bitterly cold, windy nights. After his (he wasn't picky, and ate everything shift he and Bobby would stop for a bite from bread to porridge). Now and then, to eat by the warm fireplace at The Cof- when it was unbearably cold at night, a fee House on Candlemaker Row. (Today sympathetic, nearby resident would let it's Greyfriars Bobby Bar). him sleep indoors. When Gray was only 45, he died of tu- Bobby never had another master, just berculosis--just two years after Bob- friends who would pet and feed him. by had come into his life. During the All was going fine until the day the City funeral procession, Bobby, perplexed, of Edinburgh decreed that all dogs must scampered along as Gray's fellow police officers carried his coffin to the church cemetery. In those days women weren't allowed at the graveside service, and stayed behind to prepare drinks and food at the family home. Not long after, Gray's widow and son moved from the area. But Bobby stayed behind. Over the next 14 years, Bobby became a beloved canine figure around Edinburgh as word spread of the devoted little dog who kept a daily vigil atop his master's grave. Each day, at the sound of the 1 p.m. cannon fire at nearby Edinburgh Castle (which to him signaled meal time), Bobby would scamper into a favorite diner for a bite to eat from the kind owner

80 Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015

be licensed or risk death. What would happen to Bobby? townsfolk wanted to know. Then Lord Provost of Edinburgh, William Chambers, a dog lover himself, stepped forward to pay for Bobby's license. He also bought him a collar with a brass plate, inscribed, "Greyfriars Bobby from the Lord Provost, 1867, licensed." Because of his charm and devotion of sleeping on his master's grave--and heading daily at 1 p.m. for his meal--Bobby was written about in the Inverness Courier on May 10, 1864, launching his fame. As noted in Forbes Macgregor's 1990 book “Greyfriars Bobby: The Real Story At Last,� on August 2, 1934, Andrew Hislop of Edinburgh wrote a letter to The Scotsman: "In 1868 and 1869 I often had the pleasure of seeing Bobby leaving the churchyard to get his dinner...Towards one o'clock people would gather just outside the large entrance gates... so widespread was the interest that every class of society was represented, from the well-to-do and fashion-

Photo by Sharon Whitley Larsen

ably dressed to the artisan and the humble message boy. "As the hour drew near, there was a hush of expectation. Then bang went the gun in the Castle, and every head turned to the gate, knowing that at the signal Bobby would break his lonely vigil and set off on the way out. Soon there was a hushed whisper, 'Here he comes!' and the grey, shaggy little figure appeared. “Bobby hurried round the corner to his right, and disappeared into Mr. Traill's Dining Rooms for the meal he never failed to get for many years. His dinner finished in reasonable time, the devoted dog returned once more to the grave of his master." In fact, when beloved Bobby died on January 14, 1872, it was noted in The Scotsman newspaper. But that wasn't the end of the story.

Dr. Sharon Vanderlip, a veterinarian IF YOU GO practicing in San Diego, Calif., and author of numerous animal books, points For more information, visit www.visout that the Skye Terrier "is a very intel- and www.visitbritain. ligent and devoted companion, a stur- com dy, robust little dog, but they are not numerous or easy to find. Terriers love Greyfriars Bobby Fountain Statue is dirt! (Terrier is derived from 'terre,' the located at the corner of CandlemakFrench word for earth or dirt). And they er Row and King George IV Bridge--in love to dig! The graveyard, with all its front of the Greyfriars Bobby Bar, 34 dirt, would be an ideal spot for a terrier!" Candlemaker Row.

British Baroness Angela Georgina Burdett-Coutts, who had heard about Bobby shortly before he died, commissioned a special red granite water fountain (for humans to partake on top, dogs at the bottom) erected in Bobby's memory, unveiled on November 15, 1873. Atop the fountain is a life-size bronze bust of Bobby by the sculptor William Brodie. Today tourists from all over come to pose for photos in front of the fountain, which has a plaque inscribed: Today Bobby fans visiting Edinburgh can Greyfriars Kirkyard, where John Gray's "A tribute to the affectionate fidelity not only see photos of him, but also his and Bobby's gravestone memorials are metal dinner dish and collar in The Mu- located, is behind Greyfriars Bobby Bar. of Greyfriars Bobby. . . ." seum of Edinburgh. The Museum of Edinburgh, which In 1912, American author Eleanor Atkinson wrote a book about Bobby that As Fiona McCarroll, an elementary houses Bobby's metal dinner dish, colbecame a best-seller. And she had nev- school Media Specialist in Indiana notes, lar, and photos is at 142 Canongate, er visited Edinburgh! Since then Bobby "Greyfriars Bobby is a tale from my home- Royal Mile. has gained more notoriety from books town of Edinburgh, so I honestly cannot remember a time when I was not familiar For more information, please visit and films. with it. The Museum of Edinburgh is just (click on The Museum Those visiting the churchyard cemetery down the road from the statue of Bobby of Edinburgh). today can see the red granite gravestone and I remember as a child getting off the for John Gray, purchased by American bus to go see it. My own children know We stayed at the Apex Waterloo Place fans. Nearby, in front of the church (not the story very well and have to have their Hotel: consecrated ground), on a triangular photograph taken next to this bronze tels/edinburgh/ grass plot--usually covered with flowers memorial when we go back home to EdWe enjoyed dining at Field Restaurant of tribute--is the red granite stone for inburgh." and at the Bobby. It reads: "Greyfriars Bobby, Died As she sums up: "I think the legend of Witchery: 14th January 1872, Aged 16 Years. Let His Loyalty & Devotion Be A Lesson To Greyfriars Bobby is a wonderful tale (Reservations highly recommended for about the loyalty and companionship both). Us All." that we would all like to have in this hecIt was given by the Dog Aid Society of tic world, albeit from a pet or even a dear Opposite: Bronze statue of Bobby in front of the Scotland and unveiled in 1981 by the friend. He is a testament to the hard pub named after him and his grave marker. Top: work, tenacity and loyalty so familiar to Original poster for the Walt Disney movie about Duke of Gloucester. the Scots as a nation and a race." Bobby. Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015 81


82 Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015

We can die happy For the last three days, we’ve been living not so easy being a rock star. like rock stars. Literally. We’re at Hacienda Petac, a refurbished sisal plantation This is life at Hacienda Petac. Once a 30 miles south of the Yucatan capital Mayan settlement, then a 17th century city of Merida, where Peter Gabriel once cattle ranch, then a sisal plantation, then stayed. a crumbling wreck, it’s now a restored full-service getaway for the rich and Tomorrow we’re headed to reality via a famous or, in our case, the grateful-forbus to the Cancun airport and a flight the-kindness-of-strangers-and-schedulhome. But right now, we’re lying on ing-fluke. chaise lounges by the pool, sipping jamaica lemonade, listening to the birds Petac can accommodate up to 14 and we call, and writing the lead to this story. piggy-backed onto a group of 10 who came for cooking lessons and relaxation. The pool is made to look like a limestone We arrived via a 40 minute cab-ride from pit, if limestone pits were designed by Merida on an afternoon in late February. Ralph Lauren. It’s surrounded by palm We were greeted by manager Colleen trees and flowers and artfully crumbling Leonard at the central fountain with walls from the glory days of Mexico’s si- the aforementioned jamaica lemonade sal empire. It’s 85 degrees, there’s a soft (made with hibiscus flowers). Before us breeze blowing and we’re posting pic- were the hacienda’s magical Scheherazatures on Facebook of us lounging in ham- de arches and colorful walls; all around mocks to torment our friends back home were carefully groomed, palm-accented battling the blizzards of 2015 in Virginia. grounds with meandering stone paths. We glance toward the white Moorish And it only got better from there. Colarches framing the main house of the leen, who was as welcoming as a longhacienda where we will soon be eating lost friend, showed us to the Casa Raanother delicious meal on a table paint- mon building and our flower-strewn ed in intricate designs bedroom (then with flower petals. Not tried to explain the that we’ve been hunhigh-tech walk-in gry since we arrived. shower, which had Just a few hours ago so many options we feasted on poblano it took us a day to chili soup, shrimp tafigure out the hot cos, fried plantains and water). "Bedroom" mango sorbet for lunch. doesn’t begin to do justice to where we A young woman in a slept for two nights. beautiful embroidered How about: Sumpblouse is about to break tuous master suite our reverie. She’s carrywith soaring 30ing a tray of margaritas. foot ceilings, inlaid Margarita or more jatile floors edged in maica lemonade? Dewood, a massive cisions, decisions. It’s hand-crafted HaciAuthor Jody Jaffe living the life at the Hacienda Petac. Right:”Flower-strewn bed that greeted us in the Casa Ramon guest quarters.

Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015 83

Photos Courtesy of Dev and Chuck Stern

84 Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015

enda-style bed in commanding dark mahogany, with 12-foot high windows letting in jungle sounds to lull you to sleep. Get the idea of how rock stars live now?

to Spanish nobles. These tracts, organized around haciendas, became centers of farming and manufacturing and the basis of a far-flung feudal system.

We unpacked and finished our drinks on From the late 1600s to the mid 1900s, our veranda serenaded by water splash- Petac and the other haciendas were ing into pools and hidden fishponds. symbols of wealth and status. Mexico’s Beyond, one of the hacienda’s many version of southern plantations. And, stone paths disappeared into a carefully like plantations, in the early days haattended jungle of native trees. ciendas adhered to a strict racial caste system. The “haciendados,” or landownWe didn’t leave the grounds for three ers, were the masters, the “indigenos,” days and two nights. The hacienda of- mostly Maya, were the workers. fers various excursions for its guests. But when the epicures went off on an The economics of the hacienda system exploratory day trip to the markets of changed in the 19th century and Petac Merida, we stayed behind. We weren’t changed with it. Originally designed going anywhere How many chances do for cattle ranching and farming, Petac, you get to live like a rock star? like many Yucatacan haciendas, began producing henequen -- later called sisal The Hacienda Petac story began long be- because it was shipped from the colonial fore the rock star era. After the conquest port of Sisal. Shredding the pulpy leaves of Mexico, Spain needed a way to con- of the henequen, a type of agave plant, trol and exploit the vast new territories. creates fibers for rope and twine. So the crown granted huge tracts of land

Mechanized shredders, introduced in the late 19th century, created an unprecedented boom. Sisal was “green gold.” Haciendas maintained huge fields of agave and hundreds of workers. Along with its “casa de maquinas” (machinery house) and 50-foot chimney for its power plant, haciendas often included a school, a church, stables, an infirmary, servants’ quarters, a granary, and a company store. The boom didn’t last. New processes for making rope and twine appeared after World War II. Eventually the sisal industry collapsed and, one by one, most of the haciendas were abandoned. But there’s a happy ending. In the 1990s, Mexican banker Robert Hernandez began restoring the derelict haciendas to Opposite: The Hacienda Petac before and after restoration. Above :The hacienda main building veranda and kitchen.

Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015 85

their former grandeur and turning them into luxury hotels. The haciendas began to boom again, this time through tourism.

tifully up-dated, the past is still present. Not just in the 17th century arches, but in the chimney and machinery of the former sisal factory and in the stone foundation blocks that once graced Mayan buildings. “We’re just sort of a place holder,” Dev told us. “It has such a history and the history continues.”

Today there are hacienda hotels scattered all over the Yucatan. Including Hacienda Petac, there are at least a dozen with within an hour’s drive of Merida. They attract the glitterati as well as less Originally meant as a second home, the splashy tourists. Petac is coy about past Sterns began to rent it out “just to keep guest lists but did say it has welcomed it occupied.” Then they realized the reNobel laureates, fashion models, soap vived hacienda, with its staff of some 25 opera stars, four Michelin chefs in a group of 12, and at least one rock star: Peter Gabriel, who signed their guest book. Petac’s saviors were Americans Dev and Chuck Stern. Long-time Mexico travellers, they were looking for a vacation getaway when they got hacienda fever. “We looked into a dozen haciendas,” Dev told us over the phone from her home in Houston. “We would see a chimney and we would stop.” Finally, after several years of hunting, they spotted Petac. “Two things inspired us,” Dev said, “the fact that all existing buildings were in close proximity to each other – many of the haciendas are spread across roads, too spread out – and the arches were stunning. The potential was obvious.” Or maybe not. There was little grandeur left when the Sterns bought Petac in 2000. The buildings had crumbled; there was no plumbing. “It was a moonscape,” Dev told us. “Not a blade of grass. We had to bring in dirt bag by bag to plant grass. One room had a tree growing through it. A tree had fallen across one room in a hurricane. “Thank heavens we didn’t realize what a nightmare it was going to be to fix up,” she said. But by 2002, with the help of Mexico City architect Salvador Reyes, Hacienda Petac was once again a home. And since then the updating and renovation has continued. (“It’s never complete to me,” Dev said.”) Today the 250-acre hacienda includes six buildings with seven guest suites, a library, bar, chapel, game room, pool, fountains, gardens, spa and exercise center and a new separate kitchen building for cooking classes. Best of all, even though it’s been beau86 Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015

locals, had become an economic engine for the area’s three small villages. “We consider it somewhat philanthropic,” Dev said. So they turned Petac into a vacation rental getaway. Now the Sterns just make short visits and never in winter, the height of the tourist season. “It’s a vacation spot for us,” Dev said. “We restored it with family and friends in mind. It’s a nice place to reconnect. We spend a lot of time by the pool and around the dining room table

talking about everything from comedy to politics.”

had to make corn tortillas from little balls of masa flour.

guacamole, salsas, and panuchos, a kind of Yucatacan tostada. Though a close second was the drink lesson. We now know how to make an “El Haciendado” from lime, chili-infused syrup, gin and watermelon juice.

Which is pretty much all we did during The key to good tortillas, Colleen told us, our stay. Though we did manage to at- is speed. If you’re too slow, “the heat of tend a couple of classes with the epi- your hand makes the masa stick.” For us, each tortilla was a five-minute job. cures in Petac’s new cooking center. For our instructor, rolling a ball of masa, Otherwise our stay at Hacienda Petac Under the guidance of Colleen and Petac patting it into tortilla shape and slap- was a series of convivial meals punctucook Socorro Najara, we learned the art ping it onto the griddle took 25 seconds. ated by mid-day swims and afternoons lolling in various verandas. of “frijol con puerco,” a bean-and-pork dish that’s a traditional Monday eve- The best part of the cooking lessons was ning meal in the Yucatan. But first we getting to eat the results: pico de gallo, By our second night we had turned off the air conditioning and opened our bedroom windows. We awakened to the sound of doves and other early birds. The grounds crew would soon follow, skimming leaves out of the ponds, trimming brush and picking flowers. One morning a worker walked by our verandah carrying a machete in one hand and a cell phone in the other. The daily communal breakfast was at a long outdoor table near the pool and featured eggy things and a lot of nostalgia -- like us, the epicures were of a certain age. (“Alice Cooper said what to you?” “When?”)

Dinners were served under the arches of the main hacienda building, formerly the administrative center for the ranch-then-sisal-plantation. Each meal came with a little eggcup of habanera salsa. “Yucatacan food is not so spicy,” Colleen said, “but you have the option of spicing it up.” The dinner aromas were accentuated by the smell of nearby night blooming jasmine. While we ate, bats flitted in and out of the Moorish arches looking for bugs. Over a discrete sound system, balladeers sang to soft guitars. When the last after-dinner-drink glasses were taken away we walked back to Casa Ramon on a pathway lit with votive candles. A few days after our initial conversation, Dev Stern sent us a picture of the crumbled Hacienda Petac when they had just bought it. “We were young and adventurous and people thought we had lost our minds,” she said. “Now the naysayers have been won over.” We were won over in the first five minutes. Left: The Hacienda Petac garden and main building.

Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015 87



Tearing it up--literally--in Tenerife


eing a travel writer, you might in Tenerife (though, to be fair, it was tion for my most intimate accessories. expect that I’d be an aficionado a particularly menacing curb). Clearly, of efficient packing, able to cram I’m a danger to myself and should nev- I also broke a pair once on a train to enough gear for a trek to Mt. Ev- er be without the most basic medical Edinburgh, where I arrived in Novemerest in a bag no bigger than a lunchbox. supplies--and, quite possibly, a copy of ber to blazing sun (you read that right) “Just the essentials,” you might sup- Gray’s Anatomy. and temperatures upwards of 70 depose—a camera, a spare pair of socks, grees Fahrenheit. I combed the stores in and a handful of breath mints to stave search of shades to no avail, garnering off Donner party hunger pains and simodd looks from friendly shopkeepers. ple chronic halitosis. “You might try again in March,” they suggested helpfully. “The sun someIn fact, over the years, I’ve become what times comes out again then.” you might call a “disaster packer.” My suitcase overflows with obscure items Blue skies over Edinburgh. Don’t panic; meant to slap a Band-Aid (metaphorit’s not a sign of the Apocalypse...apparically and otherwise) on any problem, ently. however improbable, that I might encounter on the road. - A bikini. I might be headed to the Arctic Circle on an ice-breaker, but by golly, A few examples: - Shampoo, conditioner and soap. Af- you never know where you might find a ter staying in a hotel that offered a sin- heated swimming pool or hot tub. - A nose hair trimmer. There, I’ve said gle tiny sachet of “hair and body shamit. I’m beyond embarrassment, ever poo” that wasn’t even sufficient to bathe Admittedly, I envy those folks who resince my suitcase began spontaneous- a hamster, I’ve brought the salon and quire nothing more than a gym bag for ly buzzing at a most inconvenient mo- soap with me. an around-the-world cruise. I have the ment. I wasn’t sure which was worse— greatest admiration for my friend Steconfessing that it was a personal - Silicone ear plugs. Airplanes. Scream- phen, who is so devoted to paring down grooming device, or letting my snigger- ing babies. Need I say more? his travel kit that he actually takes a ing companions assume it was, shall we toothbrush (just the one) with the hansay, a very personal “massager.” I opted - Sudafed decongestant. My allergies dle broken off, to cut down on space. for the latter. can kick up at the most inconvenient This is a man who can pack for a month moments, and for me, there’s nothing in his back pocket. - Various ointments for bug bites, better than non-drowsy sudaphedrine rashes, and wounds. I wish I could to plug the nasal faucet. Unfortunately for me, I think I’m wedclaim the Neosporin came in handy ded now to the “kitchen sink” approach. when I was bitten by a koala in an Aus- In Ibiza one October, I rocked up to a But if you find yourself camping in the tralian zoo; this actually happened to a pharmacy feeling like death on a cracker remote Himalayas in need of toothfriend of mine. and tried, in my non-existent Spanish, brush or a nose hair trimmer, I’m the to describe what I wanted. “You know, girl you’ll hope to find in the tent next Sad to say, my own injuries have been far that stuff they put in methamphet- door. more mundane. Once, I nearly sliced off amine? Don’t you ever watch ‘Breaka fingertip with my razor when rifling ing Bad?’” didn’t seem like the proper through my toiletry kit during a stay approach. Although, come to think of at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park in it, if that was going to work anywhere, London. “Worse things have happened it probably would’ve been in the party at sea,” a hotel employee observed with rockin’ capital of the world. typical British stoicism, glancing nonchalantly at a blood-splattered marble - Two toothbrushes. Yep, two. If you’ve bathroom that looked like a crime scene. ever dropped your toothbrush in a hotel (“It’s only a flesh wound,” as Monty Py- toilet a million miles from the nearest thon’s limbless knight might have ob- drug store, you’ll understand. You can find Amy at WWW.AMserved.) - Two pairs of sunglasses. See toothYLAUGHINGHOUSE.COM and on Then there was the time I gashed my brush explanation above. Yes, the toilet Twitter @A_LAUGHINGHOUSE. knee open simply stepping off a curb seems to wield an odd magnetic attrac-

88 Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015




hich cities are on your summer travel list? If She plays the dutiful wife role well and, although you are an art aficionado, perhaps you will annoyed at first, Lisette tolerates Pascal as he share seek out the superb new architecture in Ber- stories of his former life working in the nearby red, lin, the sculptural masterpieces housed in Florence, orange, and golden-hued ochre mines that Vreeland London’s multiple antiquities collections, the “Mu- so deliciously describes, and she is fascinated to learn seum Mile” in New York City, or even San Miguel that it is these very mines that provided paint pigde Allende’s colony of art and artists. Of course, no ments used by impressionist painters. list of this sort would be complete without Paris and Provence, birthplace of impressionism and talent- Her begrudging spirit subsides, and Lisette forges a ed nineteenth century painters like Camille Pissarro, bond with the old man, entranced each time he rePierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul counts his interactions with Cézanne, and Claude Monet. famous artists like Chagall and Pisarro. She is also stunned And if the latter are your desto learn that the mesmerizing tinations of choice, don’t forget paintings she had daily adto compile a complementary mired in his quaint home (until reading list that includes New he and his grandson hid them York Times bestselling author from the Nazis before André Susan Vreeland’s newest hiswent off to war) are actually torical novel, “Lisette’s List.” those he acquired in his younger days as a framemaker, when Bringing to life the beauty, he traded frames for paintings charm, and art of provincial from artists who had insuffiFrance, this richly imagined cient monetary means. love story follows young newlywed wife Lisette as she is torn If you are not familiar with the from her sophisticated world as novel’s central works of art, a Parisian art gallery apprentice and even if you are, close your to the small Provençal village eyes and allow Vreeland to of Roussillon , where husband bring them to life with her rich André has agreed to move to visual feast of pictorialization care for his ailing grandfather, that connect the paintings to Pascal, in the years leading up the surrounding ochre-imbued to World War II. hillsides. It is here where Vreeland shines best, delving into As the lovers arrive in Roussilthe mission common to all of lon, Vreeland simultaneously charms a reluctant Li- her multiple bestselling novels to acutely depict the sette, as well as the reader, with a sumptuous feast of relationship between art and personal connection. the sensorial kind. Her tantalizing descriptions of the local landscape provide a hint of the inspiration that While the novel would have been better served to drove the great impressionist painters to create such omit certain unnecessary connections, like jilted lovmasterpieces as Cézanne’s Quarry of Bebémus, Pis- er Maxime, it is easy to forgive minor authorial transsarro’s Red Roofs, Corner of a Village, Summer, and gressions when the multi-sensorial banquet provided Marc Chagall’s Promenade, by Vreeland, from the “raucous cackle” of roosters, to the sweet almond confectionery of marzipan, to the The beauty of art is soon replaced by the ugliness ambrosial terrain of Cezanne’s landscapes, sates so of war when the Nazis threaten their little vil- delectably. Bon appetit, reader! lage, and André is called away to the front, leaving Lisette to care for Pascal. ~By Susan McBeth

Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015 89


m o r f s d r a c t Pos

n a t a c Yu

This is a series of “postcards” sent to WDT Magazine publisher, Ron James, from veteran journalists and friends Jody Jaffe and John Muncie as they travel the globe.

Dear Ron After three hours schlepping on buses, we arrived at the Calvin Klein photo shoot -- also known as Tulum. Along the narrow strip between beach and jungle strutted a parade of The Tall, The Slim, The Beautiful, The Young, and The Fashionable. But the folks at Hotel El Pez let us book a room anyway. They even greeted us with complementary margaritas, which we sipped under the soaring thatched palapa that doubled as their open-air dining room just 30 yards from the placid waters of Turtle Cove. Tulum is really three separate places: the “Playa,” the beach-side strip of expensive resorts, funky hotels, spas, yoga retreats, and bike rental shops, accessed by a single road (Hwy. 109); the “Ciudad,” a scrappy town three miles inland, featuring sombrero shops and taco joints; and the spectacular Mayan ruins on a cliff edge looking back six centuries and overlooking the postcard blue Caribbean. Big money is changing the Playa but, unlike Cancun, the buildings are low slung and thatched roofs are everywhere, along with the occasional hippie bus. Still the backpackers look like movie stars, the ATM’s spew out dollars, and the people at the next table are as likely to speak Italian or French as Spanish. El Pez fits right in. The style is upscale patchwork, like some rich guy’s family compound. Each guest building – made of wood and concrete and topped, of course, with thatch – has its own tropical fruit color scheme: papaya, kiwi, kumquat, avocado and dragon fruit. Our building was papaya. Big sliding doors separated our bedroom from the porch. At the bottom of the porch steps, a tiny fish-shaped wash pool awaited sandy feet and sandals.

90 Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015

On our first morning we watched fishermen netting sardines for that night’s restaurant menu while pelicans dive-bombed the waters of the little bay fishing for breakfast. Our own breakfast included watermelon, pineapple, papaya, yogurt and an impromptu lessen in Mayan from our waiter Gregorio. We’re pretty sure “kium bo-otic” means “thank you” and “mishba” means “you’re welcome.” The next day we rented bikes and pedaled to the famous ruins, about three miles north of the Playa. We got there early enough to cut in front of a massive Chinese tour group, but the grounds were already packed. We hopped from the Temple of the Diving God to the Temple of the Frescoes to the Castillo pyramid catching historic tidbits from English-speaking tour guides.

Sunrise at Turtle Bay in Tulum, just a few yards from the Hotel El Pez. Opposite: Some of the guest quarters at the Hotel El Pez in Tulum. Bottom: Art work at Casa de los Venados in Valladolid. After taking photos of sunbathing iguanas amid the ruins, we biked to town for lunch then back to the Playa. During some serious idling that afternoon by Turtle Cove we chatted a bit with Julia Bitton, one of the El Pez managers. When she walked off, we noticed she was barefoot and her toenails were painted the red of the dragon fruit cottage. Oh, and yes, she was Lithe, Beautiful and Young. Straight out of a Calvin Klein shoot. Love, John and Jody

Open to the public every day for a 10 a.m. tour, the Casa is a phantasmagoria of fantastical pieces in riotous Technicolor. Not just Day-of-theDead skulls and the familiar “alebrijes” (carved animals) from Oaxaca, but floor-to-ceiling bas reliefs, twisted iron sculptures, paintings, pottery, crucifixes, candelabras, portraits on dining chairs, laughing skeletons, terra cotta market ladies, and Frieda Kahlo’s face on tile, canvas, paper mache, and on the back of a bench with Diego Rivera. Every wall is adorned, every shelf is crammed. Some 3,000 pieces from all over Mexico. Around 40 percent of them, John Venator told us, were personally commissioned. Few of the artists were academically trained. “Just folk art made by simple people,” John said.

Dear Ron, Valladolid has grown up. Once just a bus stop between Tulum and Merida, it’s now a Destination. It always had a lively central square punctuated by the S-shaped benches called “confidentes” and it own civic “cenote” – one of the Yucatan’s magical, mystical sink holes that may hold Mayan treasure or the bones of sacrificial virgins. Now they‘ve added restaurants with cuisine instead of food and a string of upscale businesses along Calle 41that includes the Chocolate Maya factory and museum, the perfumery Coqui Coqui, and Ariane Dutzi’s shop featuring handbags-for-the-stars made from feed-grain sacks and Rodeo Drive prices.But the town’s newest main attraction is 400 years old: the Casa de los Venados. Just a block off the central square, the Casa had been an abandoned wreck until 2000 when Chicagoans John and Dorianne Venator bought it and spent the next eight years renovating. They turned rubble into an Architectural Digest-worthy showplace with 18 bathrooms, 22 air conditioning systems, five guest suites, and a pool with a glass bridge. And the country’s largest collection of privately held Mexican folk art.

“Collecting is an incurable disease,” he said. “Either you’re a collector or you’re not. As a kid, I started collecting baseball cards and tin soldiers.” When we asked him why he chose to focus on folk art, he just shrugged. “Why do you like poached eggs and I like fried eggs?” he answered. “I can’t say. It just spoke to us.” Love, John and Jody

Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015 91

Dear Ron, It seems flamingos share at least one trait with humans. They, too, grow more colorful with age. But they do it literally. Flamingo chicks start out drab grey then blossom to flamboyant pink by the time they might be receiving AARP solicitations. The color changes comes from their diet of shrimp and algae. Also, flamingos are monogamous and a flock is aptly called a flamboyance. Those were just a few of the flamingo facts we learned on a day-trip to the seaside town of Celestun, about 60 miles from Merida. Here’s another: At one time the Yucatan’s flamingo population had shrunk to 1,000 but conservation efforts created a flamingo boom. Now there are some 35,000 along the Gulf Coast from Celestun to Rio Legartos.

Restaurare (Tulum) – One night we walked a few blocks south of our hotel to this intimate, open-air vegan restaurant embraced by palm trees on the jungle side of the Playa strip. When we asked waiter/manager Roberto Terrazas where to sit he said, “It doesn’t matter. The mosquitoes are the same everywhere.” Later he hung bowls of smoking copal on trees by the tables explaining, “Bad vibe for mosquitoes.” But no bad vibes for dinner. The tropical evening was soft; dining was by candle light. We ordered the Restaurare’s mole and some kind of tofu dish stuffed with veggies and wrapped in leaves. Dessert was a baked cupcake of dark chocolate from Tabasco. All delicious.

Celestun is flamingo central. The docks are lined with flat-bottom power boats to take tourists through the area’s lagoons and mangrove swamps. We were the only gringos in our group of nine. We boarded two boats — the “Marilu” and “Alexander” — and sped toward what, at a distance, looked like long floating ribbons of pink. Turns out the flamboyances were walking, not floating. Their stilted legs lifting them above the shallow lagoon waters, which range from just 8 inches to 5 feet deep. Oh, one more flamingo fact: those backwards knees are really their ankles. The boats had to keep at least 20 yards from the nearest flamingo. “They’re very nervous,” said our guide, “We’re not allowed to get too close.” Still, we were close enough to be awed by their clacking, clicking, stalking, and flapping; their take-offs and splash-downs. But flamingoes weren’t the only stars of the boat ride. After slipping deep into a shadowy tunnel of mangroves, we pulled up to a dilapidated boardwalk that creaked through a pristine freshwater spring (“ojo de agua”) filled with tiny fish and overseen by a couple of crocodiles. Apparently there are no ecological limits for croc viewing. The nine of us edged across the beat-up, broken boards, closer and closer. Ten yards, five yards. Then, on cue, one of the crocs smiled. We’re happy to report, we saw no pink — or grey — feathers between his teeth. Love, John and Jody Dear Ron, We were looking for restaurant El Camello Jr. We’d heard it was the best down-scale place in the city of Tulum. Not certain of our directions we asked a local cop. He smiled and pointed north. “Dos cuadras (two blocks),” he said. Then he added, “ceviche,” and made a lip-smacking motion with his mouth and fingers.

Afterwards we talked to Roberto about his meatless menu. He claimed that the Restaurare recipe for mole included 52 ingredients, including six kinds of nuts and six kinds of chilies. Basically, he said, “It’s whatever grandmother has in the house.” Chocolate Maya (Valladolid) -- After finishing our tour of this mini-chocolate factory/museum we began tasting their chocolate varieties: chili and honey, ginger, tequila. All made with 100 percent Mexican cacao.

The cop was right about El Camello’s ceviche – a heaping bowl of shrimp, octopus, clams, white fish, cilantro, tomatoes and onion – and his critique could have doubled for our food adventures in the Yucatan. All in all, lip-smacking good.

Co-owner Astrid Laurent was particularly proud of the cacao/anise-liqueur/honey variety. “It’s like Yucatan: an explosion of sensation, an explosion of flavors,” she said.

Here are some culinary highlights of our two-week trip:

Afterwards we ordered more cacao-based goodies in Chocolate Ma-

92 Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015

ya’s tiny open-air café next door. There was some gooey, fudgey thing that made Nutella taste like spinach and a “choco-café” served in a gourd shell. Astrid said the “chococafé” came from an ancestral Mayan recipe that included cacao beans and sweet peppers. When we finished Astrid pointed to her head. “The cacao effect is now here,” she said. “And in your stomach and in your heart” El Gallo (Valladolid) – A three-table, zero-frills cubby-hole near the end of tony Calle 41 street. They have a cooler with soft drinks and one thing on the menu: cochinita pibil. Slow roasted pork and warm corn tortillas. Maybe our best single bite in the Yucatan. Loncheria Aguacate (Tulum). A “loncheria” is basically a diner. Aguacate caters to locals and canny travelers who leave the tacky main street fare for Angel Crespo’s Oaxacan-tinged lunches including our dark, rich chicken mole. Yerba Buena del Sisal (Valladolid). A tree-covered patio restaurant with a varied menu that includes smoked pork tacos, cazuelas (eggs cooked in clay pots), and zizilpak, a Yucatan pumpkin seed dip. But the drinks steal the show. Their “Tonico Referrante” (“refreshing tonic”) is made with ginger, lemon, honey and mineral water. “Limonada y Chaya” is lemonade and chaya, a kind of leafy green – what our waitress called “Mayan spinach.” Botella Verde (Merida) -- Santa Lucia Park has been reborn. Once a neglected trash-strewn corner, it now hosts an art market, Friday night folk dancing and a ring of new restaurants, all with outdoor seating. This is where we ate our best meal in the Yucatan. Botella Verde, tucked in a corner behind the portable stage/dance floor, features an adventurous menu of “botanas” (snacks) and main courses that change weekly. While manager Luis Velasquez loves Mexican food, he wanted to make it healthier. So the result is lighter, but complex and intriguing like the.filo-wrapped herbed chicken with tomato, avocado, peppered bacon and a sweet red pepper sauce, or the a “ropa vieja” mini sandwich of pulled beef roasted with tomato, achiote, grilled onions, and peppers. We ended our meal with a slice of their key lime pie with mango. Creamy, tangy, tart and floral. A dessert worth a special trip to Mexico. Love, John and Jody

Opposite: “Confidente” seat in the central square in Valladolid. Right: One of the beautiful people taking a picture of the Mayan ruins at Tulum.

Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015 93

Dear Ron, Jody got felled by a bug in Merida, but we didn’t complain. Perfect excuse to spend an entire day luxuriating on the gracious patio at Villa Verde, the loveliest inn we’ve ever stayed at. “If I had to be sick,” Jody said, “I can’t think of a better place.” When the bug passed, we explored the Yucatan’s capital and biggest city. On either side of mid-day siesta, much of the Merida’s life is lived in the open. Shops spill over into sidewalks, markets occupy plazas. At night downtown streets close to traffic and open for restaurant seating and neighborhood squares host folkloric dancing. On Sunday, bicycles rule the elegant, historic Paseo Montejo, the Champs-Elysees of Merida. But Villa Verde introduced us to the city’s hidden, private side. Many of the city’s residential blocks present a single, long, monotonous façade punctuated with doors and windows. In the middle of such a block Villa Verde announced itself so modestly – a refinished front door and two potted plants -- a taxi driver could easily miss it. Then we walked inside. Before us, like an oasis in an architectural desert, arched a 30-foot-high, columned walkway lain with exquisite Spanish tile that connected to a handful of guest rooms, the kitchen, two mini lawns planted with graceful palms, a pool, a reading nook, and an open-air dining area and its accompanying bar. Outside: noisy, hot, bustling. Inside: calm, cool and restorative. Later we learned that Merida is filled with these hidden courtyard haciendas. Once the home to the city’s wealthy, they were abandoned in the ‘80s and ‘90s in favor of American-style suburbs. But recently, they’ve been rediscovered and restored, usually by gringos looking for affordable city living with style, even grandeur. We became so infatuated with these walled palazzos, we started asking about prices, peering in windows, nosing around in remodeling sites and wondering: “Can those columns be saved?” “Do you think those tiles are original?” Our hosts at Villa Verde, Robert Klie and Michael Berton, two ex-pats from Columbus, Ohio, bought their courtyard property 3 1/2 years ago, spent a year renovating, and opened it as an inn in February 2013. “Merida and Yucatan have a magical essence that sort of grabs you right away,” said Michael. “The people, the culture, the architecture, the cuisine are all fabulous but it is something more. After visiting here for over 10 years before the move, we still feel it.” And so did we. Love, John and Jody

Top: Cathedral of San Gervasio opposite the central square in downtown Valladolid. Right: Tourists photographing the Mayan ruins at Tulum.

94 Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015

Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015 95


I would totally recommend Sabu and his Icon India tour company. We had the experience of a lifetime. ~ Ron James, publisher WDT. 96 Wine Dine & Travel Summer/Fall 2015




CONTACT: SABU RAM +91 855 984 54 40