Several months ago on a chilly night in February, we were enjoying dinner and drinks with our friends Jason & Erin at a downtown eatery when I received an e-mail from JetBlue.
They were starting direct flights to Anchorage for the summer, and as a kick-off promotion you could get round trip flights from Anchorage to Long Beach, CA for only $256 a person on the weekend of May 16-18! This is honestly a huge steal…when Matt & I flew to LAX for our China vacation last month the tickets were $400 per person roundtrip, with incredibly annoying layovers.
Immediately we were all in agreement that YES! WE SHOULD ABSOLUTELY HOP A PLANE TO WARMER WEATHER! So we immediately purchased the tickets from our smartphones and talked dreamily of warm weather.
Well wouldn’t you know it, Anchorage started warming up and California started being attacked by droughts and wildfires. We didn’t care. We were still so excited! And this past weekend the weekend finally came: THE SO CAL GETAWAY!!!
Erin & I had been planning out our itinerary, and couldn’t wait to get started (and work on our tans!)
We left Anchorage on Thursday night on a 1:40am flight out of Anchorage (there really are no good flight times out of Alaska) with a direct flight to Long Beach, CA arriving at 7am. I passed out on the flight, not to be woken by anything except the jolt of plane wheels touching down on a different tarmac.
We made it! Yay, we were in California!!!
Immediately our first stop in California was at a Chik-Fil-A. All four of us are from the Carolina’s (me being the odd-man out and representing NORTH Carolina as opposed to SOUTH, but regardless….) and have been tormented by Saturday morning cravings for chicken biscuits and sweet tea’s.
First stop on our trip was a full day in wine country: Temecula Wine Country. I’d been here before when I traveled to San Diego & Los Angeles for my previous job and really loved it. I was so excited to share some of my favorite vineyards with Matt, and am so glad that Jason & Erin also have a love of wine.
Prior to coming on the trip, I had done my research and found 16 vineyards with Buy One Get One Tasting Free coupons. I printed them out and we used them to formulate a game plan – it was nice immediately being able to narrow the selection of vineyards in the area – there are 35 to chose from!
Out of those 16, we ended up hitting six, which I consider a huge achievement.
First up (at 10am) we started with champagne at Thornton Vineyard.
This was one that I had fallen in love with the first time I was here, and we all felt champagne was a great way to begin a Friday off work. Erin, Matt, and I did champagne flights, while Jason did an Old World Red’s flight. They were all quite tasty, and we were provided a view of a neighboring vineyard that just couldn’t be beat.
Our second stop was right across the street: Callaway Vineyards.
Aside from having great wine and wine dispensing machines, they also had Les, one of the most personable pourers who wanted to make sure we had a great time in wine country and told us places he liked that we could make sure we hit.
Winery No. 3 was Miramonte Winery. This was my absolute favorite the first time I came here, and luckily everyone else loved it too. We actually loved it so much, we ended up coming back at the end of the trip.
I really loved their ’12 Roussanne and ’09 Opulente, but the best thing was the Sangria. Hands down the best Sangria in the area.
The neatest thing happened while we were at this vineyard: we saw a truck with South Carolina plates and a Clemson sticker. Since all four of us are Clemson alum’s, we obviously got super excited. Turns out one of the girls working at the vineyards husband is a marine who graduated from Clemson a few years ago! It’s always such an awesome experience to meet fellow Clemson people in the most random of places, and I always get overly excited at the reminder of home.
Following Miramonte, we were getting starved for lunch. We headed over to Maurice Car’rie Vineyard for lunch. Their Sourdough bread with Brie cheese was absolutely amazing and so filling we really could have done without the overpriced sandwiches and burgers we got there as well.
By this time it was 2:15 in the afternoon, and we had 2:30 reservations at the Briar Rose winery: the only one in the wine country that only does tastings by reservation. It was a small, quaint place that was a bit overpriced for my liking ($54 for 4 people to taste, with $20 off via coupons). I also wasn’t the biggest fan of their wine style, but Erin liked it so they had that.
The tasting was also in a small room that felt like a wooden cellar, which had a cool painting of a vineyard on the wall.
After we emerged from Briar Rose, we headed over to Robert Renzoni which I thought had an AMAZING tasting room and beautiful views outside.
They give poker chips to use to redeem for tastes, so we were able to take our time here and do our tastings on the outdoor patio and go in to try something new.
We liked this vineyard a lot and as a group we ended up buying a bottle of Pinot Grigio (so crisp!) and Chardonnay (so buttery!) that we drank before we even made it back on the plane to Alaska. (whoops!)
It was 6pm by this time and most of the winery tasting rooms were closing, so we headed back to Miramonte to enjoy two pitchers of Sangria and enjoy the sunset through the haziness of the wildfires that were ravaging the area.
When we got back to our hotel in wine country that evening, we resigned the idea of dinner and instead spent some time hanging out in the hot tub as Erin & I ate some fro-yo. We also called it an early night and went to bed at an astounding 9pm (gettin’ crazy on vacation y’all!).
It was an amazing first day to vacation: super relaxing and so nice to get away from home for a little bit. For the remainder of the trip, we drove a little further south the San Diego & La Jolla for some true SoCal activities!