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July 2016
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September 2016

Great lattes, scones, and budget lodging at Yosemite gateway

Two hours from Yosemite Valley, Lee Vining provides seasonal alternatives for Yosemite lodging by Barbara L. Steinberg

P1230202I love, love, love El Mono Motel & Latte Da Coffee Cafe in Lee Vining, California.  Last year after meeting the owner, Kelly, I was determined to stay at this quintessential California motel. On a recent visit, I did just that!

The cafe is fabulous--cheerful, welcoming, and great place to hang out. Clearly, the garden courtyard, front porch with willow chairs and views of the Eastern Sierra sky keep guests coming back and happy!  Wish they'd spend less time online and more time taking in the ambiance. Some of the best coffee on the "East Side". Made with love, homemade baked goods ATDF! 

The motel is another on of those places I adore. If you want the Ritz....don't stay here. For me, this is as good as it gets when it comes to customer service, prices, location, and the garden is enough of a reason to stay. Just ask all the birds. I opted El Mono Motel Gardenfor a room with shared bath. The rates are great. The room with queen bed and sink was just perfect and included that spectacular garden view. Yes, there is some Hwy 395 noise, but I was content. This place is hugely popular with Europeans...especially Germans and most people heading to or from Yosemite and hikes in nearby high country wilderness. 

For me, this is as good as it gets. The Mono  Lake Committee bookstore and visitor center is literally across the street. The right turn up Highway 120/Tioga Pass to Yosemite (closed in the winter) is a mile south on Hwy 395. El Mono -- close to all of the splendor and great outdoors that is the Eastern Sierra -- just miles away from the Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve and the Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area Visitor Center.


Solano Land Trust hike “Where the Wild Things Are" - Free!

Praying Mantis at the King-Swett Ranches_By Al Mendle
Get a great workout and search for wildlife on this hike through the hills between Fairfield, Benicia and Vallejo. Solano Land Trust docents will guide you on an up to six-mile hike through this area, known as the King-Swett Ranches. Explore these lands that are both natural areas and working cattle ranches, learn about the plants and animals that call these lands home, and see sweeping views of Solano County and beyond.  Participants will get a great workout while looking for birds and other wildlife that call this area home. Residents and visitors are encouraged to take advantage of this special opportunity if they can because these ranches in the hills between are otherwise closed.

When: Saturday, September 3, 2016 
Time: 9am-1pm
Where: King-Swett Ranches
What to bring: Hiking boots or trail running shoes with good grip, water, and snacks.
Register: Space is limited and pre-registration is recommended at Important details, including the meeting location, directions and registration information are available at the registration link above, and on the events calendar at

Solano Land Trust protects land to ensure a healthy environment, keep ranching and farming families on their properties, and inspire a love of the land. For more information about Solano Land Trust, its upcoming events and to make a donation, visit

For more information on wildlife and nature tourism locations, visit California Watchable Wildlife.

Juneau Food Tours are food fantasy

Rating:  Star*Star*Star*Star*Star*

Tracy's King Crab Shack and here's the proof Credit The 5-star Excellence rating for Juneau Food Tours says it all. What a day! What a feast! Just a few small, delicious bites and my tummy was doing a crazy, happy dance. coma! Chowing my way through Juneau's burgeoning food scene. Local crab, local brews, local salmon, local food artisans! Yep, I was a gleeful locavore. Crab bisque from those king crab legs had me weeping tears of joy.

Tracy's King Crab Shack, Panhandle Provisions, Alaska Knifeworks, V's Cellar Door and Alaskan Hotel and Bar - some of Travel Juneau's best. Wow! Did someone really tell me there's no good food here? Insanity! Great history and background of the city. I won't soon forget. A truly authentic experience. Midgi is energetic and enthusiastic. And why not? Beautiful scenery, delicious food, and Alaska!

Midgi's an outstanding storyteller and shared an insider tip about the local Commercial Fisherman's Memorial. Shhh, the secret's safe with me. Rain or shine, you'll be smiling!

Sacramento Urban Flights of Wine & Dine

Frasinetti Winery 2016 Barbara Steinberg103In the late 1800s, Sacramento’s viticulture commerce was booming. With thousands of acres of grapes and an urban winery producing 500,000 gallons of wine, it already had an oenophile reputation. President Teddy Roosevelt was served Sacramento wine in 1903 and said he would “drink them as long as he lived”! Small wineries flourished in the region until Prohibition and then survived by selling table grapes or producing sacramental or medicinal wines, but eventually urban vineyards and wineries declined. Today, four urban wineries continue Sacramento’s proud wine tradition. The vineyards are gone, but regionally sourced grapes are fermented, blended, and bottled within our urban borders and provide contemporary wine and dine experiences. Wine bars and tasting rooms offer more options to explore vintages both locally and worldwide.

My Sacramento  - Kate’s path to Downtown & Vine
Kate Downtown & Vine Credit Larry Dalton 2016
Surrounded by wine appellations, Sacramento urbanites have countless offerings to sample a bit of the grape but with busy schedules those scenic drives are often bucket-listed. Sacramento’s urban wine bars and wineries provide a quick escape via bike, Uber, taxi or designated driver to hundreds of wine selections.

Kate Chomko made a circuitous route to Sacramento by way of Europe and Napa. Honing culinary skills at the Cordon Bleu and Culinary Institute of America – her credentials are rock solid. A friend and I dreamed about opening a tasting room. Sacramento made sense – it’s the center of California with millions of visitors, but no one was really telling the story about the regional wines. I moved here from Napa to open Downtown & Vine. This was the tasting room for 12 regional wineries!  We do wines from other places, but try to focus on local, small producers and family-owned wineries. Our wine flights are themed – Highway 101 Flight – or winery or region specific – to make it an experience so someone can really learn something and have fun.  Visitors who can’t get away to taste wine, can come here or take local home – we ship to 48 states. Our new Harvest Room features live entertainment to pair with local wine, cuisine and desserts.

Wine & Dine Urban Wineries

Frasinetti’s Winery & Restaurant – Sacramento Valley’s oldest family-owned and operated winery hasFrasinetti Winery 2016 Barbara Steinberg124
produced classic Italian wines since 1897. Once surrounded by 480 acres of grapes, the winery and restaurant are secluded in an industrial corner of Old Florin.  The restaurant features traditional Italian fare including Grandma’s pot roast and a scrumptious meatball sandwich – mangia, mangia! Traditional wines such as Chianti, Burgundy and a signature Port are available only at the restaurant and tasting room. The restaurant was carved out of old fermentation tanks surrounded by redwood barrels. Old world charm, but Frasinetti is absolutely in vogue!   
7385 Frasinetti Road; 916-383-2444

Revolution Wines – From crush to bottle, the first full-production winery to operate in the city of Sacramento
Revolution Wines 2016 Barbara STeinberg7since Prohibition
.  Take your time with urban wines and seasonal menus. Local ingredients are sourced for small, shared, and large plates. Build your own Burger Thursday and seasonal Friday Night Specials paired with vino just $15. Think green! Award-winning Revolution Wines available on tap and one-liter refillable growlers. Or get educated at a Tasting Sensory Class.

2831 S Street; 916-444-7711

RailBridge Cellars & Company
– A dozen varietals are blended and bottled at North 16th urban winery and retailed at eatery and Penthouse Lounge in historic Elk’s Tower.   Railbridge cellars kitchen 2016 Barbara Steinberg3Overlooking the Underground Lounge (aka old swimming pool), the dining room is très cool. A very personal endeavor for owners Michael Gelber and Michael Chandler naming three wines – Sienna, Ella and Nathan Michael –for their children. By the glass prices are extremely reasonable. The Levine – house pastrami sandwich on double-baked rye – is Sacramento’s best – yummy paired with the 2013  ‘3 Strands’ Pinot Noir. Monthly tastings five wines for $10; 1st and 3rd Thursday, 4pm-6pm.

921 – 11th Street; 916-476-5225

Cabana Winery Courtesy of CabanaCabana Winery Wine Bar & Kitchen –Robert Smerling, winemaker and owner, traded his wine country roots for this urban winery. On the edge of East Sacramento, this diminutive winery has a huge neighborhood following.  Educating customers about Wines of Cabana is the name of the game. Their Sauvignon Blanc and Boston-style Pizza are both “double-gold”.  Wine flights and elegant charcuteries are a perfect pair on the dog-friendly patio. 
5610 Elvas Avenue; 916-476-5492

A Taste of Urban Wine Bars

Award-winning farm-to-glass ports from America’s oldest port winery at Midtown’s Ficklin-Wilcox.
920-20th Street; 916-341-0240 

Underground Tasting Room features Twisted Twig and Rendez-vous wine tastings at their subterranean wine bar in Old Sacramento. 900 – 2nd Street; 916-444-2349

Relish seasonal red and white wine flights at 58 Degrees & Holding Co. wine bar where imported and local wines are artfully curated. 1217 -18th Street; 916-442-5858

French wine spoken at The Grand. Don’t blink, you just might miss this comfy and cozy wine bar near Capitol Park. 1600 L Street; 916-444-0472

WHIRED Wine Sacramento’s newest wine bar scene. Flights and bites plus Golden 1 Center half-court an easy one-block away. 410 L Street, 916-823-5008

Juneau Whale Watch

Lauren Laurel and ChloeYou'll never notice the overcast, chill and drizzle on this amazing whale watching adventure in Juneau -- the heart of southeast Alaska. Juneau Whale Watch delivered on the promise to get up-close and personal with some humpback whales. Well, as up-close as law allows. However, if the whales come to you -- that's your lucky day. Even from a distance, these sea mammals put on a stellar performance. Multiple blow holes and whale tails were a thrill. On the chase and in look of that next sighting, the crew -- Captain Dirk, Emily and Emma -- were the perfect hosts and interpreters Whale tailproviding insight and lots of smiles. Less than 24 hours in Juneau Alaska this outing out of Auke Bay and up the Inland Passage was over the top. Oh, lets not forget all the bald eagles and spectacular Alaska scenery along the way. Thank you Juneau Whale Watch for being part of the bucket-list trip north!

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