When it comes to year-round activity, Calaveras County, a 2.5-hour drive from anywhere in the San Francisco Bay Area, has it all. Truly a place for all seasons, this is where outdoor activities, wine tasting, fine dining and just plain “fun in the sun” thrive. Here in the Sierra Nevada Foothills, you’ll find more ways to unwind than you can shake your bathing suit at. And to unwind any time of day, the county’s prize-winning wineries beckon. One thriving community with the unique moniker of Murphys boasts more than two dozen wine tasting venues along its downtown promenade. Take in its art galleries. Attend live theater events. Or stroll through its green community park with its bridge-covered creek and shaded picnic tables. Add in free summertime concerts in the park. Calaveras County beckons.
“For me, people come first. I have tried to assert the dignity and eternal importance of the human being.” – Alice Neel. Throughout “People Come First”, Alice Neel’s paintings reflect both her radical personal ideology and her quest to capture the dignity and importance of her subjects. Neel (1900-1984) spent most of her adult life in New York City where, beginning in the 1930s, she lived through the rise of communism, the ensuing Great Depression, and the eventual civil rights and feminist movements. Deeply immersed in the society around her, she described her artistry as a form of history painting in which she portrayed fellow activists, artists, and neighbors as fellow human beings struggling to navigate political change and unrest.
San Francisco’s Top of the Mark is now celebrating its reopening with new tasting experiences. The iconic 19th-floor penthouse lounge atop the Mark Hopkins Hotel has added a new “Vodka Expressions” curated tasting menu. New too is the Friday evening live DJ music session from 4:30 to 9:30 PM. What hasn’t changed are the 360-degree views of the San Francisco skyline seen from every window. Returning patrons and new guests can still unwind in the elegant ambiance of the 19th-floor penthouse lounge.
Update: Date night Winemaker Dinner to go: Executive Chef, Joseph Paire of Berkeley’s Limewood Restaurant, in partnership with leading winemakers, will present a series of unmatched 4-course wine-paired dinners for two to-go. Get your Valentine’s groove going on this Friday, February 12, 2021 when the perfect pre-Valentine’s date-night evening will begin with a 30-minute Zoom session featuring the dynamic duo, Chef Paire and Winemaker Ryan Zopaltas of Copain Wines. These Limewood Restaurant chef-designed date nights have been so successful, two more will follow. Details of two more dates to follow.
Sonoma County is known for its excellent Chardonnay wines and those produced at Sonoma Cutrer Winery are no exception. Tucked away on a lush hillside in Windsor, Sonoma Cutrer may be one of the few places in Sonoma where you can play croquet and indulge in a picnic on beautifully manicured tree-shaded grounds all in the same day
Reviews by Carol Canter and Lee Daley. (Review by Carol Canter) “Curtains up, light the lights, you got nothing to hit but the heights!” Well, everything did come up roses opening night for Bay Area Musicals’ fabulous production of Gypsy, which director and choreographer Mathew McCoy calls “the ultimate showbiz fable.” And that it is — a fable bursting with all the glitz and glitter, hilarious humor and heart-wrenching pathos of the ultimate show biz mother, Rose Hovick, as she pushes her two daughters — hard, very hard — to live out her own dreams. This 1959 fable of the last days of vaudeville is based loosely on the 1957 memoirs of Louise, the overlooked daughter who seizes the spotlight as Gypsy Rose Lee, the famous striptease artist. (Review by Lee Daley) Coming out of the Alcazar Theater after the performance, the lyrics and musical score of GYPSY resonated repeatedly in my head. It was a heady performance. Drama, humor, anguish and victory all play their part in this roller-coaster ride through the metamorphosis of meek little Louise’s transformation into the legendary striptease artist Gypsy Rose Lee. The musical score with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim brings the performances alive as the characters, especially Rose, embody the lyrics.
Story and Photos by Lee Daley Drive a few hours north of downtown San Francisco and a different world awaits. On a recent weekend getaway, my city stress lessened and lessened, almost in layers, and finally just plain disappeared once my ramble north landed in the land of lakes, aptly named Lake County. With dormant winter chill now giving way to warmer, sunnier days, I found a haven of rolling hillsides and emerald green valleys nestled in the grandeur of mountainsides. Grape vines and trees are just starting to open their buds, lake fishing looks good and goats in the valleys are having their kids.
Story and Photos by Lee Daley “Come. Taste my wines and experience the glory of Greece.” So said Georgós Zanganas, company founder of Georgós Nu Wines. And so our small group of wine lovers gathered in San Francisco to listen to the myths and taste the wines made from grapes organically grown and fermented in Greece on family land. We dined on complimentary bites accompanied by tastings of his five premium varietals, each symbolically named for iconic Greek islands and gods. I was fascinated with the homage given to the gods of Georgós homeland as much as I savored the uniquely palatable tastings.
Story and Photos by Lee Daley Approaching Palm Springs, that desert oasis nestled between two mountains–the Santa Rosa to the south and the San Jacinto to the west—I knew a treat was in store. The scent of sagebrush carried on the wings of clean desert air stimulated my senses. Feeling calm and rejuvenated, I soon realized this destination deserved many more returns. Whether in search of sybaritic spas, outdoor adventure, night life, art and culture, fine dining or a resort pool, Palm Springs seems to cover it all. After spending a day in the desert and another at the magnificent Palm Springs Art Museum, I explored the lively dining scene in town.
Story and Photos by John Sundsmo. Symbolic of new beginnings and new life, wild flowers are just beginning to be seen in the deserts of California. While experts don’t expect another super-bloom like 2016, the heavy winter rains will undoubtedly bring abundance of color late into April. No place is more emblematic of life resurrected than Death Valley where blooms are already showing in the southern regions of the national park. To dodge the wild flower traffic, my wife and I visited the park in December and collected some tips.
Story and Photos by Lee Daley It’s early morning and I have spent the last 10 minutes admiring the light and shadows on a small brave bush somewhere alongside the road to Furnace Creek in Death Valley, a place my husband and I have come to de-stress and transition into the new year. This is a mystical place that has long inspired artists and awe. Driving through the valley’s lunar landscape, we find ourselves slowly banishing thoughts of schedules, appointments and deadlines. What seemed like an impending crisis back home now feels like a ridiculously insignificant issue in the grandness of this other-worldly moonscape. “Oh goody,” I say, as I send one more of these annoyances out into the universe.
Story and Photos by Lee Daley I’ve always known Pacifica’s coastline boasts just about the best and most diverse five-mile span of beaches in Northern California. I thought I knew it well. Until I extended my usual day-trip to two nights and three days in this quintessential surfer haven beach town, I had no idea how much I was missing. I soon discovered the beaches are only the beginning.
Story and Photos by Lee Daley If you haven’t checked into Downtown Napa’s vibe for some time, you’re in for quite a treat. The city is experiencing a thriving renaissance with an explosion of new restaurants, wine tasting rooms, nightlife and trendy shops. For good measure, add in the Napa River walk, outdoor sculptures, expanded walking and biking paths and you’re spoiled for choice.