A trip into wine country

Monday 28th – Tuesday 29th November

Drinkers of Californian wines will have heard of Napa Valley, an area about five hundred miles north of Cal Son’s home. Nearer is Temecula, an inland valley about thirty miles north and a bit east of San Marcos.  Last visited about seven years ago the idea of a drive up there took hold.

The route (US pronunciation “rout”) was via Freeway 78 heading east, then Interstate 15 heading north into Riverside County. The four-lane Interstate 15 cuts through what looks like back country. Fewer trees, great sandstone boulders littering the sharp hillsides, just the very occasional house perched on a terraced piece of ground.  There were signs for the Pechanga Indian Reservation (Pechanga meaning place where the water drips); now, though not seen, the Reservation has a casino resort.  The road trip took under an hour and soon we were back at Calloway Winery. Overlooking valley slopes and distant hills it is one of about twenty wineries, many of which offer tours, tastings and events various. (The term wineries is far more common then vineyards here). Memories had stirred of a long ago super-couth lunch at Calloway.  There is construction going on currently but the restaurant is as glorious as remembered. Large tables; a constant supply of iced water; fans overhead; shades at the windows when needed – and a menu which suggests a recommended wine for each dish. Lunch is served between 11am and 4pm so our arrival early afternoon caused no difficulty. The meal: delicious; the waiter: attentive; the wine: divine.

We returned to the freeway via the Old Town. It has that onetime Gold Rush / is it Disney? /we love tourists” look about it. Parking was easy – but as we opened the car doors we were hit by two blasts, one of the mid-eighties temperature (local women in strappy tops and shorts), the other of sound. From lamp-post mounted speakers came Jingle Bells, then Rudolph, then Silent Night. Shoppers can buy “outrageously feminine attire”, gifts, Temecula olive oil, model trains, antiques, collectables… And it was in the Antiques Faire (think the large antique place in Olney or the one in Hungerford) that I spotted the only remotely boat-related item for this blog – an ornamental “litehouse”, priced $9.95.

We drove out of town, the Mexicans swinging “CASH 4 GOLD” placards by the roadside gone now. The sun was lowering, the hills and ridges seemed even more stark. You realise how very developed the coastal areas are, how built up are the immediate inland valleys – but that undeveloped country is largely uncultivated, untamed, just wild. 

* Boatwif glanced at her watch at one point: 2.40pm. Back in the UK in pre-retirement days this would have been ten minutes into lesson 5. Glee – or guilt – as she gazed out over the huge expanse of vines and the surrounding hillsides…

Postscript from Cal Guy Jnr

It is noisy on Tuesday mornings. I like it. The garbage trucks come. They go down the street and then back up on my side. The first truck has a big arm. It picks up the grey bin and empties it. That is the trash. Then the next truck comes. The man gets out to lift the black bin up. That bin has garden stuff. Then the next truck comes. It has an arm and it lifts the blue bin. That bin has recyclables in it. We could still hear the trucks today so I made Granny look for them lower down in the neighbourhood. We went in my red push car. We saw the last truck. It was hot so I wore Granny’s white hat. Then we went to the park again.

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