Wine & Travel

Snooth User: Richard Foxall

Amador County 101--See November 28 update at end

Posted by Richard Foxall, May 18, 2015.

"When the moon hits your eye/like a big pizza pie/that's amore."

As we ate our breakfast on Sunday morning at the Imperial Hotel in Amador City, the soundtrack subtly changed.  Last night at dinner and halfway through breakfast, the soundtrack was from the same era, but Sam Cooke sent us, and Ray Charles warned us about women.  This morning, with our strada, Dino laid on an extra layer of cheese.  Catchy, sure, but if you are going to be in a car driving to wineries all day, does your partner need you humming this novelty song?

It turned out to be prophetic.  We would soon be in love with things Italian, all over again.

After walking through Amador City for a second time (all 0.3 sq miles of it) and hitting Andrae's Bakery for a loaf of bread like the one we had with dinner the night before, there was nothing left to do at 9:30 in the morning but head for the wineries.  We drove north on State Route 49 to Plymouth, turned on Shenandoah Road, and started reading the signs.  Our can't-miss destination was Domaine Terre Rouge/Easton, of which more later, but they were not open that early.

We found ourselves on Shenandoah School Road, and there was Terra d'Oro/Montevina, and they open bright and early at 10 a.m.  We pulled up in the parking lot and walked in, where we were greeted by Sandy Schwing, nee Marchetti.  She works the tasting room, and is married to the longtime assistant winemaker, and now general manager.  Lucky us, she also follows all their social media and knows about Snooth.  She took us to a tasting counter and we started in.  Turns out she's first generation of Italian stock, and has her MA in ancient history, specialty in Rome and Italy.

I'm no stranger to Montevina's Barbera.  At under $10 a bottle, I think it's a fantastic bargain and a great daily drinker with all your tomato based sauces and pizza.  But I didn't really plan to visit the winery because it's a big commercial operation, albeit family owned, and has wide distribution.  Drive all this way for something I can get in any decent shop?  Well, wrong.  Fitting with the "that's amore" theme, Terra d'Oro is owned by the Trinchero family, second generation Italian Americans, and they have lots of interesting Italian grape varieties. 

That's the beauty of Amador County:  Land is still plentiful and cheap enough that the growers don't feel compelled to graft everything over to Cabernet and charge $150 a bottle.  Sandy started us with a chenin blanc/viognier blend that was very nice, and a rich, slightly honeyed alternative to chardonnay.  I like my chenin on its own, but my wife thought this was really nice and would be perfect for her meeting tonight with the distaff movers and shakers of Oakland.  Elected officials are giving this wine a thumbs up as I write.  The Chenin comes from Clarksburg, the Viognier from the estate.

Next up was a pinot grigio, a wine that can be insipid in California and plenty of other places.  Not the case here.  This variant was crisp, acidic, refreshing, mineral, and had hints of lemon pith and grapefruit.  Sign me up with shellfish, chicken, even stronger fish flavors.  Not your pallid PG at all. 

Apparently, only viognier among white wine grapes will grow on their properties in the Sierra Foothills, so it was on to the reds.  Next up was a Sangiovese, blended with a little Freisa and Viognier.  Not a traditional combination, to say the least. Strangely, the tannins tasted much more like Freisa (and Nebbiolo) tannins than the sometimes tannic Sangio.  California has trouble elsewhere, including the Napa Valley, developing tannins and acids in its Sangiovese, so maybe this was an attempt to fix that.  Nice, but it didn't really hit my Sangio sweet spot.

Next up was a Barbera under the Terra d'Oro label.  Grapes can be from the same lot as the Montevina, but it's free run juice, and where the Montevina is bladder pressed then run into stainless with a less expensive yeast, this gets the oak treatment and more expensive yeast.  While I often find that oak gets overdone in Barbera, wiping out what's good, like freshness, this hit the mark.  More depth, more complexity, the oak just added something synergistic.  While this didn't compare to Cogno's Pre-Phylloxera Barbera or Giacomo Conterno's Cascina Francia Barbera, it reminded me quite a bit of another good, rich Barbera that I bought in Stresa a couple years back on vacation.

We moved on to Aglianico.  Turned out Sandy had done quite a bit of research into this and even wrote a nice article on the history of Aglianico.  This was really pleasantly tannic, reminded me of Xynomavro from Greece.  Who knows, since it was brought from Greece so long ago.  Stunning wine. 

Next up was a Teroldego.  Sadly, Teroldego is being uprooted in Italy in favor of international varieties.  A less challenging wine, this could also pair well with a variety of meat based dishes and pastas.  I could drink this several times a week.

We moved to the Home Estate Zin.  While this was pleasant, I was far more impressed with the Italian varieties, and I admit that I am already pretty loyal to Dry Creek and Rockpile Zins. 

We purchased a mixed lot of Barbera, Aglianico, Teroldego, and the two whites.  Apparently there is no tasting fee, although that was never discussed.  Plan to visit in any case, as the staff are really knowledgeable and the tasting experience is first-rate.

Terra d'Oro grows nebbiolo, and would seem to have the ability to grow it well, but they do not bottle it as a varietal wine, as they don't think it has performed up to their standard.  Their standards are plainly high, even if their prices are not.  Their calling card is terrific values in wines that aren't the most common in California. 

Next up was Charles Spinetta Winery, on Steiner Road, which is really an extension of Shenandoah School Road on the other side of Shenandoah Road.  (Really, it's not as confusing as it sounds, and there's a map available at all the wineries and hotels that makes it easy.)  I was attracted by the winery because all the wines are made from estate fruit and it's pretty small.  We started with a field blend white. It's mostly Chenin, with a little Orange Muscat.  The perfumey Muscat is apparent.  It's the only dry white they make.  Next was the Heritage Red.  At $15, this could be a good daily wine, really similar to dolcetto.  The tasting room attendant didn't lay out the blend--I think he didn't know--and Charles was busy with some other customers.  This place is very hands on, I'm telling you.  We also tasted the Barbera, which was a notch below the Terra d'Oro; the Zinfandel, which confirmed my bias towards Dry Creek zins; and a Petite Sirah, which was dark as night but definitely a Petite Sirah for folks who can find it too tannic.  Spinetta has a rural feel, down to the wildlife paintings on the wall and on the labels, and the hunting lodge feel of the tasting room.  The staff couldn't be more pleasant, and, again, the tasting was free. Prices are reasonable, ranging from $15 to the low $20s.

Finally, because I can only handle about three wineries in a day, we headed to Domaine Terre Rouge, which is also Easton.  DTR is the Rhone side of things, Easton the mostly-zin side.  Bill Easton staked his career on Amador County in 1986, and unlike many of the growers and makers, he was not already a farmer or son of a farmer in the area.  I've been a fan of his GSM blends for a half-dozen years.  I emailed ahead and was greeted warmly by Sergio, the tasting room manager.  We started with a rich Roussane, with pineapple and honey flavors as advertised.  Next was a Roussane/Marsanne/Viognier blend.  Terre Rouge bills itself as "where the Rhone meets the Sierra foothills." Interrupting that theme was a sidetrip of an unexpected grape, Pinot Noir.  Not grown on their estate, closer to I-80 on the way to Tahoe (near another mining area), the Pinot was pretty rich and extracted.  Definitely Pinot, but both earthier and fruitier than the mostly-RRV pinots I drink.  Wife liked it more than I did, but I think it has a market.  We moved on to the top of their GSM range, a 2009 L'Autre.  I have had the earlier incarnation of this wine many times and call it the "Chateauneuf killer," because it outperforms CdP costing quite a bit more.  But this was a little flat for their efforts, perhaps because, for DTR, this is relatively young.  I have had their GSM blends at 12 years old, and they are just hitting stride.  Bill Easton makes his wine for the long run.

We moved to an Easton Home Ranch zin.  Easton gets great press for his Zin, but, again, my bias is for the DCV area.  This is 100% Zin, and I think it could use an admixture of carignan and petite sirah as they do in DCV, but that seems less common up here. I love Zin, but it's a flawed grape in some ways, with large berries and a tendency to go pale and lack tannin.  Tasty, clearly Zin, the Easton was the best of the Amador Zins I had, but I think my takeaway so far is that Amador should do what others don't, whatever that is that works best.  For DTR/Easton, it's probably Rhones.

Next up was the 2005 High Slopes Syrah.  Who pours a 2005 wine in their tasting room?  Who even keeps wine in stock that long in California?  DTR, that's who.  This was still young, and it will probably start to shine in another five to ten years.  Seriously, these wines will age very well.  It's fine now, but it needs time to unwind. They had a terrific case special going on, too, but I'm space constrained, so I passed. 

We had reached the end of a standard tasting, but the room was pretty empty, so Sergio asked me if there was something in particular I might want to try.  I gave him a challenge:  What DTR Syrah would most closely mimic the best attributes of the Northern Rhone, particularly Hermitage or Cote-Rotie, with the savory bacon and olive, the rocky minerals and the tannic spine of those great wines?  After some thought, he took out a 2008 DTR Ranch Syrah.  To his credit, this is not the most expensive wine they make.  (That's the Ascent, a "reserve" wine that gets lots of new oak and lots of points.) Sergio nailed it:  Olives, smoked meats, really fine tannins and a dash of wet rock.  This is grown at 2500 feet, which is probably quite a bit higher than any place in the Rhone, but it gets the wind, the depleted soils, and the cool temperatures that Syrah thrives on.  This was clearly the wine of the day, and worth a case purchase if I didn't have storage issues.  I settled for two bottles. 

Tasting is $5 at DTR/Easton, although no one actually brought it up with me.  (Again, I had emailed ahead and they know I like their wines.)  Refunded with purchase and, honestly, if you don't walk out of there with at least their basic GSM, I'd be surprised. 

Three wineries in one day are plainly not enough to tell you very much about a region.  This was a survey course, hence the  "101" designation. But we did manage to get a running start the night before by ordering glasses of local wines with dinner at the Imperial Hotel's restaurant.  We shared orders of rack of lamb and polenta, paired with one glass of Wine Tree Farms Corinne Mourvedre, which seems like a screaming bargain at the WineClub price of $14, and an Uphill Tempranillo.  I had some question about whether they were switched at the bar, since the alleged Mourvedre tasted more like a crianza Tempranillo--bright and young, and far less herby and raspy--but both were very good with the meal.  Nearly all the wines on the menu at the Imperial (save for the Gruet sparkling) were from the area and all were at very fair prices. 

So as we headed home, it was hard not to feel a little "amore" for Amador County and its wineries. 

Replies

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Reply by dmcker, May 18, 2015.

Very good report, Fox. Added to my 'need to try' list...

Have to admit if I was running around in that part of the Central Valley (yes the Sierrra Foothils would be an ameliorating influence though perhaps not quite enough) all day with Dino's 'Amore' in my mind I'm not sure what method I'd choose, but all lethal items might need to be kept from my reach. Perhaps I'd find a chopper I could slam into a Semi. At least the background music would be better...

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Reply by outthere, May 18, 2015.

Dayum! Hell of a write-up Richard. Now I have this darn Dean Martin song in my head, but. I did make Pizza for dinner last night so it seems fit. I would have dropped in at Turley. It's not your Father's Turley any more.

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Reply by Richard Foxall, May 18, 2015.

Misery loves company.  But it was fitting to go from Dino to the pan-Ital wines of Amador County.  (I've got a theory about how "Italian Americans" came to be viewed as folks you want to socialize with instead of suspicious foreigners with individual regional identities, and Dino fits into it.)

OT, the Turley room was still showing on the map as Karly, the winery they bought.  We passed it on the way out.  Turley has moderated their style and it's good stuff, but I wasn't really on the prowl for Zin producers, especially ones I know.  I'm going to say that, unless it's a major deal like those 3Wines Live Oaks, I am probably going to limit my purchases to Rockpile, Talty, Carlisle (when I can get it), W-S (when I can afford it), and a couple scattered SVDs.

There were quite a few wineries I would have visited and will probably go back to.  Wilderotter, for one, got dropped because they opened at 10:30 and we had already passed them.  They also weren't all that welcoming when we stopped in twenty minutes before official opening as they set up for some event, although it's hard to blame them.  CG di Arie got skipped because the owner pours at WineMine a couple times a year.  I might have enjoyed Cooper, known for Barbera, as well. 

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Reply by JonDerry, May 18, 2015.

Real nice report and read Fox. We could use more of this around here, no doubt.

Some of those DTR's sound very worthy indeed.

The new Turley sounds worth a try with Teagan there breathing new life. Always good to try and stay current with other producers once in a while, even if you have your reliable regulars.

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Reply by EMark, May 18, 2015.

Very excellent essay, Fox.  Thank you, very much.

Can you explain the diferentiation in the Terra d'Oro/Montevina labels?  At first I was going to guess that theTerra d'Oro label was used for wines made from "Italian" grapes, and Montevina was used on wines made from "California grapes that everybody else uses,"  but it is not that simple.  It appears that the Terra d'Oro wines are slightly, but not significantly, more expensive.  So, I am wondering of the different labels are used for either different vineyard sources or for different winemaking styles.

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Reply by Richard Foxall, May 19, 2015.

Terra d'Oro wines are the more expensive, but their wines are generally really reasonable. 

The story behind the winery is that Walter Field's daughter married Cary Gott (the father of Joel Gott and the son of a winemaker himself), so Walter Field moved to the mountains to be near his daughter.  He bought the land, and Cary Gott started making the wine.  A few years after Gott and Field's daughter divorced, Field sold to the Trinchero family of Sutter Home fame.  They are one of the largest family-owned wine companies in the world.  Sutter Home can sell through the three tier system profitably with their size, so you add in the lower costs of producing in Amador County, and the TdO and Montevina wines can be very well priced.  Because they are both well priced, it can be a little hard to differentiate, but here's an article about the brand differentiation.  Not all the Montevina wines are California appellated (the Barbera was Amador County last time I bought it).

Cary Gott continues to consult with wineries up in Amador, especially growers who want to put out their own wine, it seems.  And his own website insists that the Zin he made in Amador was the best Zin ever made. 

Next time I go up that way--and there will be a next time--I'll hit another couple of places making either Italian or Rhone styled wines.  I think that's where the interesting action is, so I'd probably disagree with Mr. Gott.

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Reply by Really Big Al, May 19, 2015.

Very interesting assessment, RF.  I didn't think any wineries would open before 11 AM, but I was wrong. 

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Reply by napagirl68, May 19, 2015.

Nice report!   When I was last up that way, I enjoyed Wilderotter very much, so if you get back up there, give them a try.   And yes, not much to do in Amador City.  When up that way,  I enjoy staying in Sutter Creek.

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Reply by dmcker, May 20, 2015.

I remember when I met Steven Spurrier, back in the early-mid-80s, he insisted that the best time to taste wines in terms of body clock and sensory sharpness was around 10 in the morning...

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Reply by JonDerry, May 20, 2015.

I suppose it depends what time one wakes up. With an early start to the day and a nice healthy breakfast, I have no issue tasting in the morning. Might agree with Spurrier in that case, as mental awakeness and attention figure to be highest in the morning, as there hasn't been anything prior to absorb much bandwith.

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Reply by Richard Foxall, May 21, 2015.

In Italy last year, we started tasting every day at about 10 a.m.  Sometimes we started at 9:30, but never later than 10. One visit in the morning, two most afternoons.  Running joke in the group was, "Dolcetto, it's what's for breakfast."  In fact, the Piemontese did used to drink it after working in the fields first thing in the morning. 

I think we were generally less sharp in the afternoons, and the third stop always was one where we were running late, or had to get to a dinner, or it was getting dark.  I wouldn't have missed skipped anything we did, but I certainly felt fresher and more acute in the morning. 

I'm a morning person in any case, used to take the 8 a.m. courses in college and usually had been up for a while beforehand--unfortunately, often rushing through physics problem sets before my first class.

In this case, it was just nicer to get out before things were crowded and the late-sleeping hangover servicing crowd was starting to pack the places. When it comes to tasting experiences, I don't like big groups that are out to get loaded.  If you aren't spitting, I probably want to be far away from you.  Sadly, I haven't got OT's connections to avoid the public experience entirely, although I can pull it off here and there. 

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Nov 28, 2016.

November 28 update:

We were back in Amador County for Thanksgiving.  (Puppy bonding took precedence over family this year, so we left the Bay Area to get away from everyone.)  While there we stayed at Rest, A Boutique Hotel. Rest is owned by Tracey and Mark Berkner, who met while working for Marriott.  He's a chef, but moved to the operational side, and she was involved in many ventures with Marriott's partners before they opted to return to Amador County, where her family lives.  The doors opened in February; at the time of my original post, they were in early phase construction. The hotel is dog friendly--all first floor rooms allow dogs. 

They own Taste, a restaurant two doors down from the hotel. We decided to leave the car parked and have dinner there the night of our arrival.  The menu is inventive and sophisticated, befitting an upmarket crowd on a wine tasting holiday; execution was spot on.  The service was extremely professional.  But this is a wine website, right? 

So we asked about two local wines on tap, because I love to support the idea of it.  Our server told us she would bring us samples of all four of the red wines on tap.  Thanks for that, Courtney:  None of them would have been ideal with the food.  The bottle menu and the BTG glass from bottle list are very heavy on local wines, of course, including quite a few I know and like.  But I kept noticing that the one non-local winery represented in every category was our old Snooth favorite Scherrer.  Finally, I mentioned to the server that I couldn't help noticing, and that I had gone to the open house at Scherrer 10 days before and, after years of emailing, finally met Fred and Judi.  If you look at the ABC license for Scherrer's winery, you'll notice that Judi's full name is Judith Berkner.  Turns out that Judi and Mark are brother and sister, and Mark has worked at Scherrer during crush on occasion.  And it turns out that Tracey is from Western Sonoma. 

The food was great, the hotel was lovely.  Give these guys your business when you are up that way.  They have a real commitment to revitalizing Plymouth, too--turns out the wineries, which are right across SR 49, are in the county but not the city, so the city only collects taxes for roads, etc, from the restaurant sales, hotel taxes, and the like.  Mark and I had a great discussion of his plans and hopes for the area--there's a need for a more casual restaurant as well, for one thing--and the raised profile of the area.  It's like Sonoma County was twenty or so years ago--lower prices, slower pace, friendly people, beautiful area--but it needs a kick start.  I think that their plans and the makeover of Karli to Turley's complete control are promising signs.

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Reply by JonDerry, Nov 28, 2016.

Sounds like a good time in an under appreciated town. That restaurant sounds like my ticket to Scherrer wines.

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Reply by dmcker, Nov 29, 2016.

Another good report, Fox.

Don't hesitate to go into detail on the food, though. What's wine without food? The idea that there is some Platonic ideal of wine without its context is kinda silly...

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Nov 29, 2016.

D, just didn't want the post to go overly long, and with the rhinovirus, I couldn't be completely fair.  But here's a thumbnail:

Wife and I split an app and a main.  App was an octopus dish, which is one of those things I can't really do at home well, so I look for it when out.  If octopus is done well, it's amazing, but badly done it's rubbery and awful.  This was the best preparation of octopus I have probably ever had.  It was firm, but tender, not at all rubbery, with that sweet, mild flavor offset by a Spanish preparation, my favorite. Our main was a duck breast, with just enough fat and cooked just enough--possibly it could have been a little more rare for me, but not for wife.  The kids split a filet mignon, which was plenty big for two.  The older one wanted hers rare and the younger medium rare, and they came out exactly as ordered.  Which actually convince the older one that maybe medium rare is okay; most places are cooking their rare closer to medium rare, but not Taste.  The younger one had a mild freakout that it looked so fresh--she may flirt with vegetarianism.  It would have  been great to go with another adult couple so we could sample more of the dishes.  The menu is end to end with good stuff. 

I omitted to say that the wine we ordered BTG was the Scherrer Platt Vineyard PN, which probably won't be made much longer, as the vineyard was sold and prices went up to a point where Fred can't justify it.  It was $12 a glass, $48 a bottle.  This is insanely good pricing.  (I won't tell you how good, but I am going to say you cannot get it for less anywhere, and I'm not limiting it to restaurants.) The wines of Domaine Terre Rouge are also very well represented.  In general markups are low here and throughout the county, although I would guess the pricing of the Scherrers is exceptional because of the relationship.  Making it, yes, the ticket to Scherrer wines.  If you want back vintages, write or call ahead, as I bet they have them.  Or go to OT's place--I'm sure he still has some rattling around.

JD, it's not at all unreasonable for you to go there.  It's about the same as driving to the Bay Area.  You go past the turnoff for the Bay on I-5, then get on SR 88 and follow that.  It's a country road, but very few lights or interruptions.  Google says about a 6 hour drive right now.  That's 25 minutes more than to my house. Your biggest concerns are, as always, getting out of the basin, and problems on I-5.  I hate driving, but I find driving up there pretty relaxing.

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Reply by dmcker, Nov 30, 2016.

How do you stay conscious during the drive up I-5 before that turnoff?

Coming from SoCal, would tend to want to view it as a side trip during a few days where other purposes were the reason for the trip. Is it really worth it as an entire trip's destination?

One station on a road trip, sure. Sign me up.  ;-)

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Nov 30, 2016.

Actually, there's some other cool things you can do on that trip:  It is the spine of the gold country, with old mines you can view and tour, you can go through Lodi's wine country, there's at least three major underground caverns (one with rappelling and an outdoor zipline), the town of Murphys is cute and has lots of tasting rooms.  If one has business in Sacramento, it's not far.  (Not sure anyone will ever have business in Stockton...)  South Lake Tahoe is also something you can put in the mix.

But c'mon, you'd go to Lyon or San Sebastian just to eat at one of those 3-stars. 

I-5 is one of my least favorite drives, boring when it's not frustrating.  You don't go far past the turnoff for Altamont Pass before you get off on SR88, so it's not much worse than any LA/SF drive.  But, yeah, you could get sleepy.  Driverless cars will be the answer, especially if they mandate them in particular lanes.  Until they have consciousness to lose and are too much like human drivers.

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Reply by JonDerry, Nov 30, 2016.

Yeah I stubbornly drove up I5 on a Bay Area trip a year or two ago. Was pretty well drained the same night. My wife and kid flew up though and it was nice to wheel us all around the bay on our own time/speed in the comfort of our own car.

Tend to agree with D though on a stop amid a trip.

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Dec 1, 2016.

When you get to two kids and some gear, side trips to Joshua or whatever going our way to yours, then I-5 is a necessary evil.  Recently friends have done LA from SF by flying and using Uber and some light rail.  Doing it the other way--flying to SF or Oakland and using BART, Uber, and the like is easier still. It's those Napa/Sonoma/Marin jaunts that require a car. 

In any case, I wouldn't go even from here to Amador if all I was doing was eating at Taste, but it's a very reasonable wine country weekend plan in comparison to H'burg for anyone in the East Bay.  Easy to toss in Lodi and some hiking or other sightseeing.  Friday traffic would be bad until you got through the Altamont, but nowhere near as bad as 101 N to Sonoma or Mendo.  And leaving Saturday morning and just staying one night is quite feasible. (I haven't seen the creeping two night minimum yet, but it's pretty standard in H'burg now. I should check, though, since that wasn't our concern last week.)

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Reply by dmcker, Dec 1, 2016.

Growing up in Ventura/Ojai/Santa Barbara then later visiting family there during whatever kind of trip I never wanted to do I-5 if it was avoidable. Flying from Santa Barbara was an option but only in a big rush and when the limited flight schedule there warranted. Driving down to LAX or any of the other LA airports saved only an hour or two compared to driving, all-in. I-5 is one of the boring-est roads I've ever driven on. Soul killing, especially if done often. So I usually figured ways to work in a break if possible but even if not still chose 101 even if slower. Often went off track at Hunter Liggett for a little road-testing of my vehicle. Etc.

If could confidently add an extra day then would chose PCH with a stopover. The time 'lost' wasn't really lost in my calculation compared to the I-5 drive because I-5 was five or six hours of soul death while 101 or 1 would provide some form of spiritual sustenance during the drive. I'm all about what an old Japanese poet described as 'michikusa', or smelling the flowers along the path, and not rushing through with blinders on. So if I've driven between the Bay Area and SoCal somewhere in the mid 3 figures, less than 10% of that has been on I-5. Ventura via Santa Clarita to Castaic and the Grapevine just starts a welling of dread for me. ;-(

If I were living or visiting frequently there now it'd be worth considering flying my own plane, of course. My grandfather used to do that when Ventura still had an airport, and before my grandmother forced him to sell it because of all the grandchildren he had and that would be wanting to see him safe (she was effectively manipulative). 

Always wanted a vehicle in the Bay Area, too, so driving was it unless I was flying into SFO from overseas. Then I'd rent.

I've been through Amador a lot in the past because I used to do a bit of mountaineering in various parts of the Sierras, then later snowboarding all around Tahoe. Your trip recommendations sound useful, Fox, just that when you were suggesting to JD, or whomever, to just hop up I-5 to there it seemed a bit much for a restaurant. If we were in the Lyon area we'd be doing more than just a single restaurant, too, of course.

And yeah, if you ever have to have a connection with Stockton it's best to have been a town you're coming 'from' rather than going to.   ;-)


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