Tuesday, November 13, 2007

VIDEO: What we do in wine country for fun

For me, a messy highlight of SLO Vintners' annual harvest festival was the inaugural grape stomping contest at Per Bacco Cellars.

My fellow competitor, Tribune reporter Sarah Arnquist, and I did terribly -- we had filled only half a bottle when the winners completed their two -- but had a great time.

We learned that strategy and technique (plus a little cheating) are key, so start working on yours for next fall. I'm sure the event will back and even more poplar.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Sycamore Springs is a treat -- Discover for yourself Sunday

Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort is a treat and a retreat for the mind, body and soul.

And to spread that message to the community, the resort is holding an open house of its spa and wellness center -- the heart of that retreat -- from 1-4 Sunday. There will be plenty of activities to indulge in, all free or discounted.

I recently enjoyed my own version of the open house, starting with a light lunch in the gazebo courtyard before stripping down for a 30-minute soak in an open air tub with a view of the surrounding hillside foliage.

My state of relaxation was only furthered by a 30-minute massage of long, flowing strokes that nearly induced a catatonic state. I was a bit worried about the energy needed for a yoga class to follow, but the gentle class kept us close to the ground, focused on nice, restorative stretches and breathing. The hardest part was the climb up the hill to get there.

A mind-clearing walk through the labyrinth and the meditative gardens was followed by a flavorful and fresh four-course dinner and wine. It was one of the most relaxing escapes of my whole life.

And you can experience your own mini-escape at the open house Sunday.

There are free classes in the Healing Arts Institute, the "yoga dome" a brisk walk up a hill.
* 1:15-1:45: Pilates
* 2-2:30: Hatha yoga
* 2:45-3:15: Tai Chi
* 3:30-4: Restorative yoga

There are discounted spa treatments -- a deal at $35 for a 30-minute massage or facial plus a 30-minute soak in a mineral spring tub (must be pre-booked). There also will be 10-minute garden massages for $10.

Complimentary refreshments -- light fare and beverages -- will be served in the gazebo courtyard from 1-3:30, to the tunes of guitarist Mark Owens, who will play again in the bar from 5-7 for a happy hour with drink specials and appetizers.

The gift store will offer coupons for a 20 percent discount good through Dec. 24. And anyone who signs up for the resort newsletter is eligible to win half-hourly giveaways, including a grand prize of an overnight suite stay.

Wrapping up the day, the purchase of two dinner entrees gets you a free 60-minute hot tub soak.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Tops in port wines and historical colors

Well it was a fun weekend of wine and food sampling -- as well as grape stomping -- at the SLO harvest festival. I'm hoping to have a video of my sad attempt at the grape stomp contest at Per Bacco Cellars with reporter Sarah Arnquist later this week.

In the meantime, a few tidbits from Sunset magazine.

With an article on dessert wines, Sunset highlights EOS 2003 Zinfandel Port and Robert Hall 2003 Vintage Port as its picks for port-style wines. "Plush, textured palate of chocolate, coffee, licorice and blackberries," is the description of the EOS offering. Robert Hall's port is described as "made from traditional port grapes, with an interesting mix of anise, herbs, dried cherries and chocolate." Yum.

The same November issue features a curb-appeal makeover of a Ventura bungalow with a big plug for San Luis Paints. "After spending a lot of time agonizing over house paint," the couple who owns the home selected on two shades from San Luis Paints' historical color series.
"If we'd known to start there, we could have saved ourselves a lot of time," one of two said. Now that's a compliment indeed.