Although adults don’t heed an official spring break, we often need a glorified one. Especially one that restores and repairs our bodies after long weeks hustling on the job. Here, we’ve rounded up five adult spring break destinations that may lend you some solace and relaxation, even if it’s just for a weekend. And no frets, all these spots are within a five-hour driving radius of Dallas. So gas up the whip and head out of town. It’s time for spring break.
You always wanted to camp out overnight outside in your makeshift treehouse as a kiddo. Now you can — just in the lap of luxury. At River Road Treehouses, a handful of modern treehouses are accessed by way of a 100-foot long pedestrian bridge, attached to centuries old cypress trees. And let’s talk about the view. Each little abode is nestled in the trees and overhangs a wet-weather creek that feeds into the Guadalupe River. Guests may access an exclusive 1.5-acre Guadalupe River frontage park before tubing down the river.
A mental health weekend, combined with detoxing of the body, can serve as the perfect reboot to help you get back to reality and feel refreshed. Deer Lake Lodge Resort & Health Spa can serve as a respite for you to relax and let your health stay in the forefront of your mind all weekend. The resort offers all your desirable spa services, as well as daily yoga classes, nutritional classes, cleansing therapies and life enhancement classes. You can even select the type of weekend you really want to enjoy and cater it to your wellness needs.
Love yoga? Love wine? Well you’ll be in Namaste heaven with this spring break outing. Retreat in the Pines, located in the woods of East Texas offers many getaways through out the year, the most popular one being Yoga, Wine, Laughter. The retreats are women-only so this is ideal for a girls’ trip. In addition to multiple yoga and meditation classes during each retreat, wine is offered at dinner. And there are many wineries close by to visit in allotted free time during the retreat. Just like yoga, life is all about balance. This spring break getaway is a perfect blend of splurging and discipline.
Okay, so you do have to head north of the Texas border for this one, but it’s worth it for the mecca of adventure in Oklahoma City. The Boathouse District is home to an urban whitewater rafting experience. OKC also offers a six-strong Skytrail that allows you to free fall jump 80-feet and then zip line across the Oklahoma River. If you fancy more water activities, wind surfing is a popular pastime at Lake Hefner. You could also explore Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge via kayak. Feeling tuckered out from all the thrill seeking, Udander is the city’s Scandinavian Spa located in downtown OKC. Facials, massages and relaxation are the perfect way to unwind after a day full of adrenaline-inducing activities.
Paragliding is a bold move, but not nearly as daunting as jumping out of an airplane and free falling. With paragliding, you’re simply floating on air via a foot-launched parachute wing. You’re clipped into a harness and have a motorized backpack unit with a propeller to give thrust allowing you to climb and fly at your own will. Here’s the catch. Although paragliding is a self-regulated sport, you need a few days of proper training. To learn more Austin Paramotor certification and classes, visit here.
On the season opener of Vanderpump Rules, Scheana showed off her new master-bedroom-turned-closet to the camera, exclaiming “So much room for activities!” to her new boyfriend. I rolled my eyes, mainly because that decade-old quote is so played out, and also because, ugh, Scheana. But then I laid eyes on this insane, rentable property just outside of Dallas and had to bite my tongue, dear readers, because there truly is so much room for activities.
Not boring closet activities though, like having room to topple over while trying to lace up boots. The 10-acre Red Oak property has enough space for zip lining, go cart racing, and paddle boats. There’s a massive pool slide, tennis and basketball courts, a game room, an outdoor bar and barbecue area, and a “twenty-person hot tub.” That’s some Floribama Shore stuff right there.
The home has seven bedrooms (with 16 beds), making it ideal for family reunions, bachelor or bachelorette parties, or hosting your family during the holidays. Bookings for 2018 and 2019 are opening up this week, so act fast if you’d like to zip line over a 90,000-gallon pool.
I’m standing on a bright, sunny hillside overlooking an expanse of the Carmel Valley with Nick Elliott, whose family owns the 400-acre Holman Ranch located about 13 miles inland from the Pacific coast. In front of us, a sweep of gently rolling hills are topped with little rectangular vineyards, each situated to the advantage of particularities in the local climate – Chardonnay on the east bank receive the brunt of the early morning sun, Pinot Noir on the ridgeline take the cool afternoon breeze from the sea. The entire scene, Elliott explains, is watched over by hawks, owls, and ladybugs introduced on the property as part of an organic pest control regimen.
A moment later we’re back in the truck making our way past a 1920s hacienda that once-sheltered a Charlie Chaplin fleeing the din of early Hollywood, and now hosts weddings for the daughters of Silicon Valley executives. Elliot leads us underground, into a cellar carved out of a hillside, where he uses a wine thief to steal sips of a new cask of chardonnay and tells a story about the surprising success of a recent vintage of Pinot Noir that was tainted by terrible wildfires that had marched up nearly to the vineyard’s property line.
It is a perfect Californian moment, and yet what I can’t shake is the fact that just a couple of hours ago I was in a kayak, navigating the chilly Monterey Bay past pods of bathing sea otters and sunning sea lions. Southern California typically sops up the reputation for sun and surf, while Northern Californian is a well-trodden destination for culinary epicures. But here, in the sometimes-overlooked Central Coast, was the best of both worlds.
WHERE TO STAY
The pastoral Bernardus Lodge and Spa is the prefect vantage point to experience the Monterey Peninsula. Located about 10 miles inland from the coast, the lodge is a luxurious retreat nestled in between the hills of the Carmel Valley. Suites and cabins overlook a putting green and fire pits. A fantastic restaurant and a full-service spa are on the grounds. It’s easy to slip into one of the lodge’s spacious suites, replete with fireplace, and disappear from the world, which makes the spot a popular destination for corporate retreats and honeymoons alike.
If you’re looking for lodging that captures that classic feel of Carmel, then it is difficult to match the class and style of La Playa Carmel. Perhaps the most famous hotel on the peninsula, La Playa Carmel is a hundred-year-old mansion that was converted to a hotel in 1915, and is perfectly situated a quick walk to the beach and the shops of historic Carmel. Lush grounds, historic architecture, a comfortable dining patio, and old world service all contribute to the creaky romantic charm.
Located right in the heart of historic Monterey, the Portola Hotel and Spa offers a comfortable base for exploring some of the more popular tourist attractions on the peninsula, including the Monterey’s famous aquarium and wharf. While the Portola can feel a little too mall-like, the hotel’s location, recent renovations, reconsidered restaurant (Jacks Monterey), and spa make it a wonderful base for exploring the historic port city.
WHAT TO DO
You could easily lose yourself for days in Central California’s world-renowned golf courses, luxuriant spas, and top-notch dining. But to swing through the Central Coast and not get outdoors would be a crime. The area offers a dramatic contrast between mountains and sea, and plenty of opportunities to hike, paddle, sail, and explore one of the most spectacular natural settings in the U.S.
Get on the Water
My girlfriend and I arrived at Adventures by the Sea on a wet Thursday morning and were equipped with weather-appropriate coveralls, life vests, paddles and a kayak and led down to the water’s edge. Operating for more than 25 years, think of Adventures By the Sea as your headquarters for exploring Monterey Bay. The company offers bike, paddle board, and kayak tours and rentals, as well as team building outings for corporate groups. We pushed out into the blue bay, paddled out past a bed of kelp, where sea otters clung to their babies, and headed up the coast towards an outcropping of rocks crammed with sea lions. Sitting there and looking back at the coast, ships heading out of the harbor, the sound of the crowing sea lions breaking the cool morning quiet, is to truly appreciate the way the constant conversation between land and sea shapes the look, feel, and culture of the peninsula.
If you want to get a little more out to sea than what a paddleboard or kayak will take you, Monterey Bay Whale Watch offers cruses that depart twice daily from the Monterey Wharf. Working in consort with local conservation efforts, the cruise travels out into the bay where whale-seekers can spot migratory orcas, grey whales, dolphins, humpback whales, and more. After a particularly active 2017 season, the Monterey whale watch was recently named one of the five best places to see blue whales in the world. And even if you don’t spot a whale, the trip will deepen your appreciation of the bay’s unique aquatic ecosystem. Just be sure to bring medicine for a queasy stomach if you tend to get sea sick.
Historic Monterey and Carmel-By-The-Sea
The two main towns on the peninsula offer two entirely different experiences. Monterey is a relatively larger, more bustling town. Begin your exploration near the wharf, where you can peruse the working fishing dock and grab a bite at the handful of casual seafood grills that lie within a short walk to the historic center. The Monterey State Historical Park offers free guided walking tours of the Monterey Old Town Historic District, once the capital of Alta California and now a National Historic Landmark. The area boasts some of the oldest structures in the state, including exquisite adobe buildings from the 18th-19th centuries.
About a mile north is historic Cannery Row, a hub of the fishing industry at the turn of the 20th century that has been immortalized by writers like John Steinbeck. Now a tourist district with plenty of restaurants and souvenir shops, the highlight is the Monterey Bay Aquarium, one of the largest and best in the world, which specializes in education and conservation efforts focused on the diverse aquatic life of the Monterey Bay.
A 15-minute drive down California Route 1, Carmel-By-The-Sea, is offers a decidedly different feel than the bustling Monterey. The town is a cozy mish-mash of distinctive architectural styles – revival Mission, Tudor, and Spanish Romantic, alongside quirky storybook homes from the 1920s and 1930s. Long a haven for artists and creatives, Carmel is now a shopping and dining destination, which boasts plenty of specialty shops and galleries. Don’t miss The Cheese Shop, which carries between 200 to 300 varieties of cheese; Bittner, a specialist in rare and old-fashioned pens from all over the world; and Weston Gallery, which carries prints by Ansel Adams, among other artists. Carmel Beach is one of the area’s pretties – a half-moon of white sand that wraps along the edge of town, and, even in colder weather, is perfect for meditative walks and romantic strolls.
The Carmel Valley and Monterey County have long produced quality grapes, though most have been shipped north for production in Napa Valley. In recent years, however, the region’s wines have been receiving their own attention and acclaim. Thanks to its location in the balance between cool and wet coastal and warmer hilly climates, the area produces a variety of outstanding varietals (particularly Bordeaux, Merlot, and Pinot Noir). While the road through the Carmel Valley is dotted with places to sip local vintages, don’t miss the historic Holman Ranch and its early 20th century hacienda that sits on a sunning strip of hills that run parallel to the coast, offering micro climatic conditions ideal for a variety of quality wines.
Monterey Peninsula is located near some of the most stunning natural scenery on the planet. Big Sur is just a short jaunt down California Route 1, and Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is one of a handful of entry points, offering trails, camping, and some unparalleled views from the edge of the continent. Be sure to check ahead before visiting, though, since wildfires and landslides have had an impact on some of the Big Sur parks in recent year. Closer to town, Point Lobos State Reserve allows hikers to experience the subline ruggedness of the central California coast. Trails wind through forests and up over the coast. Certified scuba divers can also explore the Point Lobos State Marine Reserve, which is one of the richest marine habitats in California.
But after sitting out on the balcony of the Bernardus Lodge for a few days, watching the sunset against the golden peaks of an unfamiliar ridge just on the other side of the road, I was dying to get into the backcountry that lay only a stone’s throw away. Down the road, I found the trailhead at Garland Ranch Regional Park. A handful of trails that range in difficulty and length take you up above the Carmel Valley and offer stunning vistas, inviting canopied forests, and even an ancient Native American site. The best part: after a long hike, cocktail hour lay just on the other side of the road back at Bernardus.
WHERE TO EAT
With the twin influences of sea and wine, and plenty of local agriculture, the Central Coast is an embarrassment of culinary riches. Start with Chef Cal Stamenov’s Lucia Restaurant and Bar, located at Bernardus Hotel and Spa. Stamenov’s menu offers a twist on classic Californian cuisine heavily influenced by locally sourced ingredients – some from the chef’s garden, which sits steps away from the cozy, glassed-in dining room. For dinner, you can’t go wrong with the generous selection of Pacific oysters followed by smoked Sonoma duck breast or the exquisite local artichoke basil ravioli. Locals also swear by the Bernardus burger, however, which is only available at lunch.
For a view that fully embraces the Central Californian experience, it is difficult to top California Market Grill at Pacific Edge, Chef Chad Minton’s cliff-tottering restaurant, which looks out through huge floor to ceiling windows on the ragged Californian coast. As waves crashed over rocks down below, and a fog moved in to cover the redwoods, Minton served an extended multi-course tour of his acclaimed American-French menu, highlighted by grilled octopus, abalone, and an impeccable wine list.
For a more casual setting and a different view of the peninsula, head to Pacific Grove and try Jeninni Kitchen + Wine Bar. A relative newcomer on the scene that serves a Californian take on a blur of North African, Turkish, and Middle Eastern cuisine, Jeninni is the brain child of former figure skater and James Beard winner Chef Jeffry Weiss and Owner-General Manager Thamin Saleh, a sommelier and seasoned Monterey-area manager. Their eclectic menu – including the succulent sliced rotating “ham of the month” – blends locally attuned ingredients with a broad range of international inspirations. The pairing is something of a metaphor for the peninsula as a whole: unique, confident, regionally distinctive, and yet crisscrossed with sophistication and a sense of adventure.
On this week’s episode of Real Housewives of Dallas (don’t judge), D’Andra missed Brandi’s All-White Brandi Land (Brandiland?) party because she and her husband were about to embark on their yearly getaway before the holidays. And though we all may not be able to plan a last minute trip to Croatia like D’Andra and Co., we can certainly mimic the concept of a pre-holiday retreat to unplug and unwind — just with the least amount of travel time possible.
Here, we’ve gathered a few options near and far (with “far” being Waco or Canton) that can help you achieve that transported feel without a trip to the airport.
North Texas’ relationship with the onset of fall weather is an often-tumultuous back and forth of misunderstanding and impatience. Can I wear a sweater or not? When is it ok to drink a pumpkin latte? Such riddles may plague us, but need not hinder our coming holiday travel plans. Stay focused. According to HomeAway, the world’s leading online vacation rental marketplace, ski houses and condos start disappearing from booking sites like HomeAway.com and VRBO.com before the first heavy snowfall in the mountains. More than 50 percent of ski rental bookings for the entire season, which stretches all the way to March, are already made by December.
For North Texans, our favorite and most frequented destinations are Breckenridge, Lake Tahoe and Winter Park. But fear not, dear reader. Whether you’re looking for a weeklong home rental or even just a fun-loving weekend jaunt to the slopes, your options are still plentiful and within your grasp. We have eight great options from HomeAway right here that are still available for this winter’s excursion.
An image of Dallas model Lisa Bull in a leather dress, rowing a canoe down a floral-carpeted hallway in the Adolphus Hotel—that’s hard to forget. So it’s not surprising that was the first thing Jamie Laubhan-Oliver, D Home‘s creative director, brought up when we talked about the hotel’s recent remodel. Back in 2013, Jamie had been the art director of “A Night at the Adolphus,” a Through the Looking Glass-inspired shoot of a mother and daughter’s trippy storybook staycation for D Moms. Jamie took full advantage of the 1980s excess, staging shots of Bull and her daughter in full glamour mode against wall-to-wall patterned carpeting, pastoral murals, trompe l’oeil Greek columns, and the French Room’s candy cane painted ceilings.
The carpet and murals are no more. Swoon, the Dallas design firm helming the hotel’s remodel, has gone back to the basics, restoring the original marble floors and the French Room’s wedding-cake-white ceilings. But they left a number of Easter eggs along the way, hinting at the hotel’s storied past, from the chandelier that twins the one hanging in the Anheuser-Busch stables to the piano that avoided a trip on the Titanic. You’ll find a number of them identified in the September feature, “Staying Power.” But we left at least one out. Hanging above the concierge desk, you’ll find a photo of a bedazzled rabbit mask by Thom Jackson. The photo, specifically requested by Joslyn Taylor at Swoon for the remodel, is from Jamie’s 2013 shoot. It serves as an eye-catching reminder of what once covered the hotel’s well-traveled floors.
June is here. Which means summer vacation is here too. All those squats, planks, pliés burpees and lunges have brought you to this moment. You are ready to embark on your summer getaway feeling fit and accomplished. But you’ve worked too hard to leap into a spiral of fitness negligence for an entire week.
To help, we’ve called upon trainer and owner of Fit180, Julie Hoang, for tips on ways to battle that stubborn vacation weight gain. Hoang keeps her students accountable on vacation by assigning them “workout homework,” and makes them check in with her upon completion. Things may not be that intimate with your fitness instructor or trainer, but here are some useful tips to help you from falling off the workout wagon completely.
Tip 1:Preemptive planning. Pack in extra workouts prior to your vacation. It’s also important to clean up your food a week or two before you leave for your trip. While on your trip, you can engage in modified mini-workouts to keep up the healthy habit, and avoid completely falling off the wagon.
Tip 2:Create a plan. Just as you plan your excursions, activities, and outfits before you travel, plan your workouts into the daily schedule. It can be as simple as 20 minutes in the hotel room every other day.
Tip 3: Take a gratitude walk. Even if you don’t feel like working out. Have a mindset that you’re just taking some time to reflect and rejuvenate. The walk serves a purpose beyond just working out.
Tip 4: There’s an app for that. There are actually countless apps for that, from Sweat with Kayla to 5 Minute Ab Workouts. Dallas fitness instructor and studio owner, Brit Rettig, has even developed her own app that makes you feel like you’re at a Grit by Brit class. The 25-minute workouts can easily be done anywhere, at any time of day. Look our for the app when it debuts this July.
Top 5:Integrate fitness into your trip. Many cities have free running tours. You can experience all the sites while getting your workout in simultaneously. Or take advantage of what new landscape you have at your fingertips. If you’re visiting the mountains, see if the city has mountaintop yoga. If you’re visiting the lake, consider some paddle boarding.
Tip 6:Three easy moves to do in your hotel room. Hoang even shares three of her go-to moves she offers clients to stay in shape while they are out of their weekly routines. And no fitness trainer supervision required!
Go-To Move #1
Air squats with arms put in front of you and pausing at the bottom for two to five seconds. Make sure you keep most of the weight on the heels to activate the glutes.
Go-To Move #2
Push-up with hands on the edge of the bed with a two-second hold at the bottom. Remember to relax your shoulders while doing the push-up so you avoid using your neck.
Go-To Move #3
Grab a lightweight resistance band and step on it to do bicep curls or upright rows to keep the arms toned while on vacation. Remember to keep your chest up and neck and shoulders relaxed while doing this exercise.
It’s important for your mental health to unplug, refresh and enjoy your vacation. You may not be busting your rear in the gym like you do at home and that’s okay. Setting yourself up for success by scattering in workouts while you’re away makes for a seamless transition when you return home to your daily gym grind.
When trying wine from one region compared to another, it is easy to taste the differences. However, there is something remarkable when differences are discovered in the same vineyard. In considering some of the most revered California vineyards, like Sangiacomo, Hyde, Durell, Gary’s, and Stagecoach, subtle characteristic differences are tasted, thanks to the respect winemakers give the land, highlighting the personality of each block of vines.
I recently attended the inaugural Signature Sonoma Valley, a two-day celebration of the 160-year-old wine region, toasting its historic wineries, iconic winemakers, and some of the most exemplary vineyards of California. I attended as a guest of the Sonoma Valley Vintners.
A portion of the event was an immersion experience into Bill Price’s Durell Vineyard, with key winemakers inviting guests to taste their Durell Vineyard Chardonnay wines.
The tasting also revealed the importance of time, and temperature of wine. Giving the wine time to breathe in your glass will open the delicate aromas and flavors. These may otherwise be lost if the wine is too cold or consumed too quickly. All of the Durell Chardonnay wines noted are available via the winery, priced from $40-$75.
In 1979 San Francisco businessman Ed Durell purchased the property that straddles three different Sonoma AVAs, Carneros, Sonoma Coast, and Sonoma Valley, with a much warmer microclimate to the north and cooler to the south. He teamed up with vineyard manager, Steve Hill, and the two converted the former cow pasture into one of California’s most prestigious vineyards today.
Bill Price purchased the vineyard in 1997. Steve Hill farmed the land for over 35 years, just recently handing the property over to current vineyard manager, Rob Harris.
Always with the goal to grow and sell fruit, one of Durell’s first clients was Kistler Vineyards. Kistler, known for producing Grand Cru quality California Chardonnay, began purchasing Durell fruit in 1986. Their current release highlights tropical and orchard fruit, with acidity at its core, adding freshness to its textured refinement.
Sojourn Cellars began buying fruit in 2012, one of most recent new clients for Durell. Sojourn’s Chardonnay has an earthiness and mineral note throughout the wine, melding with stone fruit, for a food-friendly expression.
Bill Price’s Three Sticks Winery blends from three different blocks of vines for their Chardonnay. Utilizing different vine-blocks allows for a textured, rich wine with a luscious palate, creating an overall balanced wine.
Kenneth Juhasz of Auteur Wines, is a self-admitted lover of acidity in his wines, keeping them bright, clean and crisp. Auteur Durell Chardonnay is filled with aromatic lime leaf, green apple, and racy citrus. The wine finishes elegantly with a creamy custard note.
After a little bit of a hiatus, BraBurner is back this week at El Bolero restaurant on Oak Lawn to chat with Regina Merson, founder of the Reina Rebelde makeup line. Before she got into makeup, Merson was a bankruptcy attorney with Weil Gotshal & Manges in Dallas. Before that, she was escaping kidnappers in Bangkok. Before that, she was developing her obsession with the power of beauty while watching her mom get dressed for the disco. We talked with Merson about her taste for tequila, heading into the jungles of Mexico for eyeliner inspiration, and how to know when the time is right for a new Plan A, no matter what your friends say.
As always, you can listen through the player below or you can download the episode with your favorite podcatcher. On with the show notes:
1. For information on how to avoid being kidnapped in a taxicab in Bangkok, read this.
2. The Zapatistas, or Zapatista Army of National Liberation, is a predominantly indigenous leftist revolutionary group based in Chiapas, one of the poorest states in southern Mexico. The group takes its name from Emiliano Zapata, the commander of the Liberation Army of the South during the Mexican Revolution. In 1993, the Zapatistas passed the Women’s Revolutionary Law, which sets forth basic rights for women, including the right to political participation, the right to be free from violence, the right to choose your own romantic partner, and the right to wear eyeliner with your face mask.
5. The floral Moooi Eden Queen rug used as the backdrop for Regina’s photo shoot is available through Scott + Cooner for $4,995.
6. In the early 2000s, the Hispanic advertising agency Bromley Communications conducted the Charmin case study on behalf of their client, Proctor & Gamble. They determined that Hispanic women are avid “scent seekers” who enjoy making their homes smell good and are willing to pay more for products that offer aesthetic benefits in addition to functional ones. Meaning, Hispanic women will pay more for scented toilet paper.
7. The Oilman is a jet black margarita made from Código 1530 tequila, lime juice, blackberry juice, agave, and Cointreau Noir that is garnished with gold stars, gold kosher salt, and house-made rock candy. Feel free to eat the rock candy or use it to “twirly twirl” your blush-worthy, aesthetically spectacular drink.
A women’s soccer team from Tibet has been forced to pull out of this spring’s Dallas Cup international youth tournament after the players were denied visas by the U.S. embassy in India, according to The Guardian. It would have been the first team to officially represent Tibet, an autonomous region in China whose sovereignty is a perennial point of contention in international relations, on American soil.
Players told the British newspaper their applications for a 10-day visit to Dallas, which cost about half of the team’s yearly budget, were refused because of fears the team would stay in the U.S., possibly claiming refugee status:
“What they said is we don’t have strong reasons to go to Dallas,” said Jamyang Chotso, a team captain. “But I think this is not the reason for them to reject us. [We] think the reason is they think we might run away when we reach there.”
“For a footballer, football is not just a game,” she added. “Through football I can represent my country and through football I can inspire our girls.”
Tibet remains an especially touchy subject between the U.S. and China. Human Rights Watch and other nongovernmental organizations routinely call attention to gross abuses by Chinese authorities in the region. The U.S. officially recognizes Tibet as a part of China, although former President Barack Obama’s meeting with the Dalai Lama last year ruffled the feathers of Chinese leaders. How Donald Trump feels about the issue of Tibetan independence is an open question, as the current president has shown both antipathy toward foreign visitors and an affinity for upsetting China.
The Dallas Cup, deprived of the chance to become a focal point in the debate over Tibetan independence, is set for April 9-16 at the Cotton Bowl. It will continue with international youth team competitors from slightly less controversial parts of the world.
The holiday season is truly magical. Festive decorations, rich smells from the kitchen and family gatherings make these end-of- the-year months special. The holidays are known to bring families together, and everyone has their own unique traditions to uphold. Whether celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or any other observance, it’s truly a time to commemorate.
The season can also be trying. Gift buying, long travel lines, and countless holiday obligations only just begin to sum up the added duties during this time of year. Cancelled flights and last minute work obligations can really throw a wrench into the most carefully planned family gatherings. The biggest stressor is being thousands of miles away from family and friends who you wish were just a little closer.
Nucleus is a home intercom system that was built for the complexities and challenges that today’s families face. The sleek, full touchscreen intercom device connects instantly to other rooms in the home, between homes, or while on-the- go with its companion smartphone apps. You can use it to call the kids down for dinner or check on
Grandma from across the country, while still feeling like you’re in the same room as her. Nucleus makes communication accessible and straightforward by allowing families to spend quality time together through the push of a button, regardless of where they are. With minimal setup time, the user interface is easy to understand – even for grandma.
For those with their hands tied preparing for the holiday get together, Nucleus brings even more ease and convenience with its Alexa Voice Service capabilities. Families can take advantage of a number of voice-enabled features – including streaming holiday music, adding items to the grocery list, looking up recipes for cooking together, and an ever-growing assortment of other Alexa Skills.
The device’s setup takes mere minutes, and once activated, grandparents can watch their grandchildren running down the hall to check for presents, or military families can keep traditions alive through a high-quality video chat.
For those with large, extended families, in-laws, or small children, this is a must-have this holiday season. The big buttons and clear instructions make installation a breeze and the 120-degree HD camera lets you see the whole room and everyone in it. Also at one pound, the device weighs less than the batch of cookies we’re about to make.
The holidays only come once a year, and there’s no need to spend them without everyone you love. Bring everyone closer together this year by adding Nucleus to your home. Nucleus can be purchased online at nucleuslife.com. Use the discount code DMag15 to get 15% off your order.
Texas is big, no news there, but it’s so big that two of our American Viticulture Areas (AVA) in the state are actually two of the largest in the country, encompassing both currently planted vineyards and overall space. Of the eight federally approved AVAs in the state, the Texas Hill Country AVA covers 15,000-square-miles in 22 different counties, created in 1991. Not long after that the Texas High Plains AVA was approved, covering 12,000-square-miles in the area in and around the Panhandle of Texas, Lubbock and Amarillo. When we think about a large portion of the wine made in the state, the grapes are coming from these two areas, with the region noted on the label, as long as 85-percent of the juice in the bottle is coming from there.
However, these weren’t the first regions designated in the state. Though quite a bit smaller, the Bell Mountain AVA, is only five square miles on the south and southwestern slopes of Bell Mountain in northeast Gillespie County, not far from Austin.
It is important to distinguish this tiny AVA in the midst of a larger counterpart of Texas Hill Country. To establish an individual AVA, as we have seen in other regions like Napa Valley, the characteristics and terroir must be noticeably different than that of the region directly next to or around it. It is how you can have AVAs within AVAs, as we see also in Washington State, for instance, with Walla Walla and Horse Heaven Hills actually sitting within Columbia Valley.
We see this in Texas, as the Fredericksburg AVA, within the Texas Hill Country is similar to the whole region, but comprised completely within Gillespie County filled with peaks and valleys of dominated by peaks and valleys with the elevation from 447m to 578m, distinguishing it as its own AVA. Bell Mountain, also within the Texas Hill Country AVA, sees elevations ranging from 505 meters to approximately 596 meters with only two key soil types, Luckenbach-Pedernales-Heaton and Nebgen-Campair-Hye which are composed of clay and sandy loam.
Soils for the region, of which there are 58 different soil compositions, are filled with clay loam, clay, and sandy clay loam which favor the varieties that vintners have finally found do well in the state, mainly Spanish, Italian, Rhone and some Bordeaux varieties. Somewhat similar to the Languedoc in France, that can grow a wide range of varieties but do few very well, vintners have found that hearty red varieties like Grenache, Carignan, Syrah and Mourvedre, originally from the Rhone Valley in France, are thriving in our soils, along with Italian Sangiovese and Spanish Tempranillo. White grapes like Vermentino, or Rhone’s Rolle, Viognier and some Muscat or its hybrid, Blanc du Bois.
When we think of Texas and as hot as we get with long summers of little to no rainfall in various parts of the state, it may be hard to believe so many different grape varieties can thrive here, however a lack of rain is actually not the biggest issue for the Texas Hill Country as hot summers are actually good for grapes, especially as the region’s normal rainfall amount is about 34 inches with the national average at about 38 inches. However, the Texas Hill Country AVA as a whole, including both of the smaller AVAs noted above, has its biggest issues coming from late spring frost and temperature drops that can harm early spring bud break, flash flooding when the rains do come, and hail storms. Frost during the spring can have such a harmful affect the actual crop yield for the entire year can be cut from one storm by a third, or even a half, something many vintners have experienced the past few years. Summer hail storms can also destroy grapes not long before harvest, or natural humidity and dampness from storms can cause mold and mildew to form on delicate vines. And, if mother nature wasn’t enough to deal with, birds, pests and rodents are always on the hunt for sweet, ripe fruit.
Wedding Oak Winery in San Saba, a part of the Texas Hill Country AVA, has seen a bit of a mix bag of both positive and negative effects this year, with spring rains bringing mold and mildew issues in the vineyards, along with early season hail, hurt the overall size of this year’s crop. Winemaker Penny Adams noted on this year’s harvest that “heavy rain, hail, searing arid heat, followed by more sustained heavy rain. That sounds like a recipe for disaster for a farmer. That’s what we faced this year. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: growing grapes in Texas ain’t for the faint of heart. To be able to successfully harvest a high-quality crop takes vigilant vineyard management and a healthy dose of luck.” Thankfully, Adams also notes that this year’s harvest, though smaller than may have hoped for, looks beautiful and quite exceptional.
Additionally, as we continue to notice the affects of climate change, harvest dates continue to change and move up, this year moving up in the Hill Country about a week to 10 days, with some, like Spicewood Vineyards harvesting their white grapes as early as mid-July and completing all of harvest by the beginning of August. This was most likely due to the warm winter the state experienced last year, resulting in an earlier than normal bud break. That being said though, many are expecting fantastic vintages for 2016. Other parts of the state, like the High Plains, were a little bit more normal with a mid-August start. As Sergio Caudra, Director of Winemaking for Fall Creek Vineyards noted at the end of their harvest this year, seeing spring and summer rain, as well as frost during bud break in mid-spring, “Mother Nature takes and gives, I guess, and we need to be thankful of the good quality which in the end is what contributes to the prestige of Fall Creek Vineyards Texas wines.”
Of the 350 or so wineries now bonded in the state, 51 of them are within the Texas Hill Country, which makes traveling to visit them very fun. Most are open to the public either daily or by making an appointment through their websites or with a phone call. I continue to learn of new ones that are producing special 100% Texas wines, often from both Hill Country and High Plains fruit, along with a touch of this or that from other AVAs in the state, like Lewis Wines,C.L. Butaud, and William Chris. In addition to enjoying these new finds, I will always jump at the chance to enjoy a glass of Duchman Family Winerycrisp and lively Vermentino or earthy Montepulciano, or a black and red fruit filled Pedernales Tempranillo, or an spicy, juicy and slightly smoky Fall Creek Vineyards Terroir Selection GSMfrom Salt Lick Vineyard across the street from their recently opened Driftwood tasting room.
Theoretically, autumn is approaching. Most Texans know the state has trouble adhering to traditional seasonal temperature changes, but we also know how to take advantage of it. Texas offers many unique options for a weekend getaway, including live-in treehouses. You can make the most out of the last remnants of summer weather with a treehouse adventure or make an October reservation to watch the leaves change among the treetops.
Texas, ever expansive, is home to many accessible outdoor activities that evoke a sense of adventure that’s perfect for couples. Incorporating romantic dinners and a flirty dip in a sparkling infinity pool along with some adventure can create the perfect concoction for a romantic getaway. These weekend retreats are foundation building for couples looking to know one another better or infuse their relationship with a jolt of romance. From car-ride conversations to adrenaline-pumping excursions, we’ve gathered five Texas resorts for active couples in need of a quick retreat.
This resort and spa offers a restful stay as well as a range of outdoor activities ideal for flirtation. The setting is peaceful, as every aspect of Travaasa is saturated with nature. Perched on the hills of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve, the resort overlooks Lake Travis. “Experiential” is the mantra for this destination, and many of the experiences are done in tandem. Bust out of your comfort zones together.
From archery classes to launching yourselves 45 feet in the Giant Swing, there is no shortage of adventure. And if obstacle courses and hatchet throwing are a little too valiant for a weekend getaway, Travaasa offers a plethora of yoga options, meditation classes, a spa, and a tranquil infinity pool overlooking the lake. Re-fuel at a romantic, candle-lit dinner with farm-to-table fare in The Preserve Kitchen + Bar, where most of the food is produced by the resort’s on-site farm.
Perched 200 feet above Possum Kingdom Lake, this resort capitalizes on its natural surroundings. (It’s also the perfect backdrop for a couple selfie.) From fishing and water skiing to sailing and scuba diving, Dallas couples need not venture far for an aquatic escape. Engaging in something together that isn’t part of your everyday routine will spark some excitement in the relationship. In addition to the resort’s private marina, the 1,090-acre resort has a pool if you’re looking to soak up the sun with your love. There’s a good balance for couples to share edgier activities as well as softer, pampering ones. End your day at The Cliffs’ The Chaparral Grille offers southwest-inspired cuisine with indoor and outdoor seating options. The patio’s fire pit sets the stage for a serene, romantic evening, with a colorful sunset serving as the backdrop. There’s nothing like a kiss underneath a Texas sunset.
This retreat, nestled among the rolling meadows of the eastern foothills of Texas Hill Country, blends sumptuousness with rustic appeal. (Perhaps you’ll want to bring your matching cowboy and cowgirl boots to fit the part.) The 313-acre resort offers an adrenaline-packed jaunt or a peaceful, soothing escape. The five-star dining options and wine cellar are included in the main attractions, supplied by the inn’s own organic gardens and greenhouse. The dining room is intimate, creating the perfect scene for that delicious getaway dinner.
To make this intimate date night even more out-of-the-ordinary, the resort has its own mixology classes, crafting cocktails from scratch with organic herbs and veggies. Many couples seek cooking classes for a playful date night, but add in beverages and you’ve got yourself a quality time. Equestrian lovers will be right at home as the inn has the second-largest privately owned indoor riding arena in Texas. Fly-fishing is also another popular option for this getaway, and being out on the water together can create many opportunities for intimate chats. Perhaps a celebratory kiss will take place if either of you are lucky enough to have the fish bite.
Fredericksburg Brewery Tour
Travel Time: 4 hours, 15 minutes
Often times when we think of Fredericksburg, we think wine and vineyards. But brew tours are prevalent and offered on the weekends. Sipping beer and having a leisurely afternoon has the potential to foster good conversations for couples on this getaway. Being in a laidback, casual atmosphere like breweries helps inspire that carefree vacation feel and the excitement of exploring a new city together. Fredericksburg Uncorked offers a brew tour that visits several local brewing companies and lasts for four hours. Beer tasting is included, as well as bottled water and snacks to accompany the brewery sips. Breweries you’ll check out on the tour include Double Horn Brewing Co., Pecan Street Brewing Co., Real Ale Brewing Co., Pedernales Brewing Co., and Fredericksburg Brewing Co. Foregoing the traditional hotel room with this getaway, couples can enjoy a cozy cottage to mix it up. The private cottages each have their own character and give couples the privacy they need for a romantic hideaway. In between the cottage stay and brewery tours, couples can enjoy a hand-in-hand walk down Main Street, one of Fredericksburg’s main attractions. From the shops and restaurants, couples find solace in the quaint, old-fashioned street. Plus, some portions of the street allow folks to carry open wine and beer containers, as they are enjoying their stroll.
Just 35 miles south of Fort Worth, this 800-acre ranch offers a stereotypical Texas experience complete with activities such as cattle driving and herding. (They’ll even teach you how to rope.) Perhaps you can wager a bet with your partner. Nothing strikes the love chord like some friendly competition. If you’re seeking a thrill ride together that may get a little bumpy, an ATV expedition might be for the two of you. The ATV takes you along the most challenging terrain of the ranch property. And, of course, the ranch experience wouldn’t be complete without shooting activities. If you decide you want to make an entire couples weekend of it, Beaumont Ranch also offers overnight accommodations. This quick getaway is just far enough outside of Dallas to give you some time away together as a couple for a quick, overnight escape.
In some ways, Oklahoma City is exactly what you suspect: a sleepy, reactionary oil town lodged in the lower gut of the Great Plains—but Thursday through Sunday, during the enamel-liquefying screech of the destination punk fest Everything Is Not OK, the “Big Town” earns the mantle scrawled across the top of this year’s crudely-drawn show flyer: Freak City, USA.
The copy goes on: A weekend for the weirdos, the freaks, the real rockers, the punks, the punx, the mods, the electro-hippies, the skins, the rejects, the losers, the dropouts, the ‘kids,’ etc. For the last three years, this has been the soul of OKC’s fiercest counter-cultural expression and one of the most formidable festivals of its kind in the country.
In addition to bringing DFW-connected institutions like Wiccans and defunct Denton destroyers Elix-r in past years, Everything Is Not OK (EINOK) has also featured marquee national barnburners like Sheer Mag and Downtown Boys during this four-day ruckus that obliterates OKC each Spring.
Out-of-control punk shows happen all day long in outdoor DIY art spaces, smokey dive bars, historic farmers markets and vegetarian cafes throughout town. It’s a stunning show of strength for what might seem to be the least-punk city in the United States.
“It really surprises people that we do this here,” EINOK founder and organizer Roz Adams says. “It’s like something you might expect in Chicago or New York or LA—but with a more low-key feel, because obviously Oklahoma City just isn’t a city like those cities. That’s why it’s cool.”
Like Dallas gems, OKC’s best qualities aren’t obvious. You have to do some digging, and find your people, to really get a sense of what’s special here—and, if you care about DIY music and culture, EINOK is the best way to get a taste of DFW’s oddball neighbor to the north.
Breakfast Punks in Little Saigon
Oklahoma City’s vibrant Asian District always surprises first-time visitors. This area near 23rd St. and Classen Blvd. was a relocation point for many South Vietnamese refugees after the fall of Saigon in 1975, and today most of the businesses in this colorful, walkable district are Vietnamese-owned. This part of town is a good first stop, as it’s the quickest way to shake off any preconceptions you might have about the city.
Drop by pan-Asian superstore Super Cao Ngyuen to fill your basket with trinkets and candies for sustenance between sets over the next four days. Take note of Pho Cuong down the street and plan on nursing tomorrow’s hangover with a bowl of the best pho in a pho-obsessed city. (Others might point you to rival Pho Lien Hoa—also excellent—but be sure to bring cash.)
“There’s always a lot of good hanging out,” Adams says. “I book the fest so you have time to wake up and get food or whatever. Then you just go to shows all day—and they’re all kinda spread out across town, so you really get a chance to see a big chunk of the city.”
Those twin pillars of leisure and chaos will support Dallas band Pink Thing during a free “breakfast show” with Brainsmasher and Natural Man on Saturday morning while regulars enjoy their vegetarian breakfast burritos at the Asian District’s beloved crunchy institution, The Red Cup. Of all EINOK’s weird and wonderful show setups, this one stands alone in its delightfulness and potential for unhinged, buck wild A.M. ass-kicking. Don’t sleep in.
Braum’s Country Blitzkrieg
Oklahoma has more drivable miles of Route 66 than any other state in the country, and part of the historic highway forms the southern border of the Asian District on 23rd St. See goofy, ‘gramworthy Mother Road landmarks like the giant Braum’s milk bottle perched across the street from a 27,000 square-foot golden geodesic dome that was one of the first of its kind in the world. (This architectural gem, which has survived multiple demolition attempts from reptilian developers since its construction in 1958, will be the site of an under-30 art show called Momentum OKC on Saturday night.)
From there, it’s a quick drive up Western Ave. to the 89th Street, OKC’s version of Denton’s bygone Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios. They’ll be hosting Little D’s Razorbumps—whose vicious and playful debut, Hellrazors, has been gaining national attention since its release earlier this year via Pop Wig—on the first night with Lumpy & the Dumpers and Royal Brat. Kansas City’s Warm Bodies, who channel the frantic no-wave howl of James Chance & the Contortions, will also be on the bill. A song from the band’s 2017 tour tape, Eat Snot and Rot, seems especially appropriate in the context of EINOK: “We Don’t Care How They Do It In New York (Cuz We’re Good Old-Fashioned Crazy!)”
“I try to bring a group of bands from each city,” Adams says. “If I get one from Kansas City, like Warm Bodies, then I’ll try to get three or four bands from there. So they have some of their friends around, and maybe they’re more comfortable making new ones. They might be playing for 200 people, but the 20 kids up front are from their hometown and they’re just going off.”
Adams has been booking shows in his hometown for more than 20 years, and the runaway success of his one-of-a-kind festival—which he “can neither confirm nor deny” will end its run after this year—is a testament to his dedication to a scene that has a lot more heart than resources. “Growing up, it was like, whatever band would come here—we love ‘em. So punk to me was always this insane spectrum of music ranging from bubblegum pop to the craziest heaviest music you could imagine,” he says.
That spirit animates this festival whose audacity and improbability are baked into the DNA of the town it calls home. There’s an unexpected charm here that’s easier to love than you might think. But make no mistake: it’s a weird place—and not in the Austin marketing campaign sort of way. It’s a strain more akin to the “prairie madness” that gripped white settlers who lost their minds on these lonely, wind-battered plains.
“That’s why we call it Freak City,” Adams shrugs. “It’s true freaks here, man.”
Jezy J. Gray writes for TravelOK.com. As well as he knows the city, he’s been unable to share the secrets of its freak side at his day job.
If we are to fully believe in the validity of Nancy Meyer’s movie The Holiday (why shouldn’t we?), then it’s safe to assume there are two kinds of airplane travelers: Kate Winslet wedged between two older gal pals in coach, and a silk-eye-mask-wearing, cashmere-clad Cameron Diaz in first class. Winslet’s flight setup is less than desirable of course (why wouldn’t one of these ladies offer to switch seats with her so they could chat?), whereas Diaz, apart from a weird and pesky voiceover which sadly dates this nearly impenetrable rom com, is in for the Ambien-fueled ride of her life.
And though we may not all be able to afford a first class seat large enough to fit a massive stack of books that we will absolutely not be reading due to the above-mentioned Ambien, we can certainly aspire to Diaz’s ensemble and all-around baller travel vibe. Here, we gathered a few locally-sourced items that are first class all the way.
I was so delighted to nab the assignment of writing this month’s cover story, which hit the web this morning. Like many of you, I love to travel. As D Magazine’s travel editor, I have flown all over the world and driven across Texas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma in search of places to share with our readers. What I hadn’t done was to study the small towns that lie within an hour’s drive of Dallas.
It would have been easy to phone in Granbury and Fort Worth. Those towns are two of the most popular drives for Dallasites. Instead I added 1,484 miles to my car’s odometer.
My method was loose. I had a list of 21 towns. Some days I just got in the car and headed in the general direction of one of them. I took backroads, stopped at mom-and-pop diners, bought way too many items that will end up in a garage sale, and talked to folks at almost every stop.
My first draft of the story was more than 10,000 words. I had fallen in love with North Texas all over again. I marveled at the glorious courthouses and well-preserved architecture of our region. I learned how the area was settled and the importance of the railroads.
My biggest surprise was Corsicana. I’ve driven past it my whole life. Once I stopped and spent some time there I learned about the transition taking place there. The power of the railroads and oil barons built a remarkable town center filled with beautiful buildings. Today they are filled with vibrant shops, restaurants, and independently owned businesses.
I was most impressed by SMU art school graduate Kyle Hobratschk’s 100 West project. Hobratschk took over The State National Bank Building, a three-story IOOF Italianate-revival red brick building built in 1898 and converted into an 11,000-square-foot living and working space for artists and writers. The project has sparked the opening of several other unique galleries. As a result, young craftsmen and artists are moving to Corsicana where they thrive in affordable living space just an hour south of Dallas.
Some of the towns in North Texas are up and coming. Others, such as Pilot Point, are striving for some energy. I urge you to take a couple hours out of a day and visit these towns. There are people waiting to tell you stories about what took place in their backyards. I promise you will go home full of enrichment.
The beautiful thing about being a Dallasite is that we give generously. We open our hearts to those in need, hosting hundreds of charity events annually to give to one cause or another.
With this comes one constant, especially for an evening celebration, wine. And often that wine is from California. Though our Texas wines are flourishing, and we love to drink and support our vintners and wineries, Dallas loves California wine. Every bar and restaurant menu in the city lists premium Napa Valley Cabernet and Sonoma Pinot Noir.
In the late night hours of last Sunday, these beloved regions, along with Mendocino, Lake, and Solano Counties, went up in a raging flame of uncontrollable fire, devastating vineyards and wineries, but also the neighborhoods and communities of the people who have made Sonoma and Napa their home.
The fires ravaged the landscapes so fast that residents were barely able to escape, and if they did, it was with the shirt they were wearing and not much else. Some didn’t even have time to put shoes on. Many left everything behind, running for safety as there wasn’t even time to find the car keys.
The fires are still raging. The wine country we love so much will never be the same. Tens of thousands of acres of land have burned, thousands of homes and buildings have been lost, like Signorello Estate Vineyards and White Rock Vineyards in Napa, Paradise Ridge Winery in Sonoma and Frey Vineyards in Mendocino. Darioush, Chateau St. Jean, Stags’ Leap Winery, Robert Sinskey, Nicholson Ranch and others were damaged, but not completely lost.
The homes of many of the people who make these wineries and vineyards run are gone. There is so much destruction. But there is also resilience, as these communities will rise again, they will rebuild, but they will need help.
We have experienced the wrath of Mother Nature’s quite a bit lately. Our state came together to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey, helping our neighbors as if they were family. Followed by Irma, Marie, earthquakes in Mexico, and so much more. And we continue to give, we continue to open our hearts with love and kindness for those in need. This is what makes Texas great.
There are many ways to spend a long weekend in Las Vegas. The obvious being behind the Roulette wheel at a flashy casino, the not-so obvious, a stroll through the National Atomic Testing Museum. Regardless of your preferred method of cutting loose, this city has something to whet your appetite.
I, for one, spent my time eating and drinking until I was so full I had to surrender to my suite. Maybe not the most debaucherous spin around Sin City, but it was hedonistic in its own right. And absolutely wonderful.
I was invited to spend a long weekend at The Venetian. The hotel and resort exudes luxury, using Venice, Italy as its design inspiration. Hand-painted ceilings and extravagant recreations of historic architectural monuments adorn the 120,000-square-foot casino. It’s stunning.
The first thing I noticed when rolling up to the resort was the wall of chefs; massive photos of the culinary luminaries who work in The Venetian’s many restaurants. It’s an impressive lineup to say the least: Emeril Lagasse, Wolfgang Puck, Mario Batali, Buddy Valastro, Buddy Valastro, and Lorena Garcia.
The resort offers a smorgasbord of dining options, with more than 30 restaurant and bars to choose from. Breakfast at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon was a feast for the senses. The lavished bistro, tucked away in the Venezia tower, offers a menu filled with modern takes on French cuisines. The Croque Madame is a must; toasted ham and cheese on brioche with a fried egg and sauce Mornay served with French fries or chips. As is the smoked salmon with petite baguette.
For a heavier take on brunch, head to Yardbird Southern Table & Bar. The restaurant offers a wide range of Southern staples as well as modern twists on comfort food. Must-try dishes include the fried green tomato BLT with house-smoked pork belly, pimento cheese, smoky tomato jam, and frisée lemon vinaigrette; deviled eggs with dill, chives, and smoked trout roe; and smoked brisket sandwich loaded with Swiss cheese, smoky tomato jam, mayonnaise, and house-pickles.
Executive chef Timon Balloo’s Sugarcane is an ideal happy hour spot. Slurp raw oysters, much on succulent bacon-wrapped dates, and sip the best mojito on the property.
And for an extravagant meal, make your way to B&B Ristorante, chef Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich’s award-winning New York City-based Italian restaurant. The dark and moody dining room, adorned in plush leather banquets, and Italian marble, lends itself to intimate conversations. “Mario’s Classics” pasta tasting menu with the sommelier’s wine pairing is the way to go. Just make sure you’re prepared. It’s a decadent meal, filled with signature dishes, that will leave you full and, if you’re anything like me, sleepy.
Not far from Guadalajara, Mexico, in the Highlands of Jalisco, Patrón Tequila is producing artisanal spirits with traditional style and ultra-premium quality. Traveling as their guest, I had a chance to visit the heart of the luxury brand, Hacienda Patrón, their modern Jalisco distillery built with Spanish influence.
Crafted by hand from the field to the bottle, Patrón’s tequilas are produced from hand-harvested, dry-farmed, 100 percent Weber Blue Agave plants grown at high elevations (6,000-8,000 feet above sea level). Temperatures here remain cooler than the Lowlands, the other common area for agave growth, allowing for long, slow ripening in iron-rich, sandy soils.
Only when plant sugars reach 28 Brix, or 21 percent sugar, will the agave plants be harvested, which usually occurs after seven years of growth. The natural climate of Jalisco, with consistent sunshine, allows year-round harvesting of ripe piña, the heart of the agave plant.
After harvest, fresh piña, many weighing between 80 and 180 pounds, are chopped and slow roasted for 79 hours, intensifying the sweet characteristics in the fruit, highlighting caramel and maple, along with floral and citrus notes. One piña can produce juice for one case of tequila.
After slowly-roasting, the fruit is fermented. Patrón uses the modern-day roller-mill processing and the traditional “Tahona,” a two-ton volcanic stone that crushes roasted piña, releasing the juices from the fibrous agave. Patrón blends both styles for their classic Silver, Reposado, and Anejo tequilas.
With a focus on consistency, quality, and accountability, no fewer than 60 hands touch each bottle of Patrón, ensuring every bottle meets the standards set forth by owners John Paul DeJoria and Martin Crowley, and master distiller Francisco Alcaraz. Each bottle of Patrón Tequila is closed by hand with a cork, hand labeled, numbered, and inspected. More than 400 people work the bottling line of Patrón, many in jobs for which other distilleries may use machines. This commitment to community is also highlighted in Patrón’s environmental responsibility efforts, combatting climate change by reducing harmful emissions and finding ways to utilize production by-products.
A few ways include composting pressed piña to nourish agave fields and sending stillage (leftover liquid produced from crushing agave) through a reverse osmosis system creating water used for cleaning and gardening. The Hacienda’s impressive garden is used for daily meals for distillery workers and guests, or gifted to the local village.
Though premium-quality shines through all Patrón products, small-batch Roca Patrón is produced exclusively from the ancient Tahano method, pressing roasted agave with a volcanic stone, fermenting in open-top pine-wood fermenters and double distilling the spirit in small copper tanks to create a highly aromatic, flavorful spirit.
Roca Patrón Silver is then bottled to capture the agave’s floral, citrus and black pepper notes. Roca Patrón Reposado is aged in former American bourbon barrels for a minimum of three months, adding notes of vanilla, spicy ginger, and caramel. Roca Patrón Anejo is aged for 14 months in bourbon barrels, adding toffee, spice, orange peel, and vanilla with beautiful texture. Each representative of Patrón’s dedication to artisan craftsmanship.
Off the northern coast of Belize sits the island of Ambergris Caye. A quick boat ride leads you to Las Terrazas Resort & Residences, located 3.5 miles north of San Pedro on the southern part of the island.
Here, you can choose your own adventure—one of the most alluring characteristics of this island. Once you’re settled within one of Las Terrrazas’ condo-style spaces, there’s no reason to leave the 4.8-acre property—if that’s your desire. The boutique, beachfront resort has a luxurious feel, with high-speed Internet, stainless steel appliances, and breathtaking balcony and patio views.
Savor the seclusion of the resort with an afternoon by the 70-foot infinity pool situated in the middle of the grounds. Order a refreshing cocktail from the well-stocked poolside bar. Schedule a massage at Serenity Spa and Wellness Center. If you’ve had too much sun, consider the Belizean Sun Soother treatment. With fresh ingredients such as aloe and natural yogurt, it’ll help soothe your overexposed, dry skin.
End your first night at the resort with dinner at O Restaurant’s rooftop sky lounge. The vantage point from the top of the restaurant gives a stunning view of the sun setting across the Caribbean Sea. There’s also an opportunity for private, custom-catered beachside dining. O Restaurant’s dinner menu offers a melding of American and Belizean cuisines, with seafood a prominent fixture. The signature seafood risotto, a menu highlight, features saffron infused with white wine, fresh shrimp, snapper, and parmesan. End the evening with a glass of white wine and a walk along the beach.
After a day of relaxing on the resort’s beach, head into the emerald water. White Sands Dive Shop, next door to the resort, specializes in diving and snorkeling excursions, and Ambergris Caye is the perfect place to do it. Half a mile off the inward side of the island, you’ll find the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, the longest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere and the second longest in the world.
This sanctuary gives way to a myriad of colorful fish in a huge underwater coral garden, making it one of the world’s top destinations for snorkeling. The experts with White Sands will guide you along Hol Chan (Mayan for “little channel”) and Shark Ray Alley, where you can share the water with nurse sharks (they’re harmless), southern stingrays, and—sometimes—turtles.
Get out of the water and into the jungle for an afternoon of zip lining and exploring Mayan caves. Getting to this tour is memorable, as you leave the island and explore Belize City before arriving at Jaguar Paw Adventure Outpost in western Belize. (I was lucky enough to have a talkative, native Belizean driver. As we drove throughout the city, Jimmy shared anecdotes about the area, its people, and history. He also accommodated Spanish-speaking guests, alternating between English and Spanish.)
On the banks of the Cave’s Branch River, the outpost sits on 200 acres of Belizean rainforest. After a safety briefing and short hike through the winding jungle, fly 700 feet across the jungle. Make sure to look down at the canopy below. In the second half of this experience, you’ll float through crystal caves. An underground waterfall is the highlight of this excursion.
After experiencing the resort and exploring Belizean jungles, spend some time in the colorful, friendly town of San Pedro. You won’t find many cars on the island, a charming attribute. But Las Terrazas has several golf carts guests can rent to explore the area. Many of the town’s stores are managed by locals, who are eager to share information about the area. Don’t take home a basic t-shirt or magnet. There’s a large and accessible selection of Belizean-made and -inspired art and jewelry. Bring an extra bag for your finds; you will probably need it.
Ambergris Caye is ideal for a quick getaway, but there’s so much to experience and explore. Whether it’s the alluring, clear waters or the warmth of the people, you’ll find yourself back again.
Winds off the Atlantic sweep through the flowering grapevines to Alejandro Bulgheroni’s Southern Uruguayan estate, Bodega Garzón. The winery adds to Bulgheroni’s expanding wine portfolio that also includes Tomero in Argentina,Château Suau in Bordeaux, and Bulgheroni Estate in Napa. (I visited Bodega Garzon recently as Bodega Garzon’s guest.)
Bulgheroni made billions in the family energy business, Bridas Corporation, with his late brother. His Bodega Garzón love affair started in 1999 when he and his wife, Bettina, were vacationing at their Uruguayan home in Punta del Estate. Bulgheroni saw the property north of the resort town and it reminded him of the rolling hillsides of Tuscany. He envisioned making wine there.
He started Agroland S.A. on a 10,000-acre site and focused on premium fine-foods, forestry, vineyards, almond and olive trees, cattle, and wind energy.
Though Bulgheroni owns Argentina’s largest oil company, eco-sustainability is a fundamental part of his business, remarking “we have to pollute less.”
Though an emerging international wine region, Uruguay produces over 120 million bottles of wine annually.
Over the past ten years, over 1,000 blocks of vines have been planted on 500 acres at Bodega Garzón. Today their wines are showing impressive promise. Part of the success comes from consulting enologist, Alberto Antonini. The Italian winemaker is renowned for celebrating the purity and vitality of the fruit.
Here, rocky hillsides with mineral-intense, well-draining soils create high-quality fruit that are highlighted in their signature varieties, Albarino and Tannat.
Aromatic, briny Albarino displays the oceanic influence of the Atlantic just eleven miles away. Typically robust Tannat reveals freshness that melds with inherent power, thanks again to the vineyard terroir and the restraint Antonini brings to his wines.
Additional varieties produced here include Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot.
Bodega Garzón opened to guests one year ago. It become a wine and food destination for travelers. Today the property includes a luxurious tasting salon, traditional open-fire restaurant, and exclusive golf club. An eco-luxury hotel is in the works.
For their open-fire restaurant, Bodega Garzón enlisted the help of Celebrity Chef Francis Mallmann.Though his Netflix “ChefsTable“ episode portrayed the Argentine as a bit of a bon-vivant, Mallmann is quite introspective. His spirituality shines through the rustic, authentic dishes.
Grilling meat creates alluring aromas. Our brain’s savory senses react to the hypnotic aromas and succulent flavors. We associate these flavors with Texas steakhouses. And, they are South American staples.
Asado outdoor-barbecues have fed and entertained South Americans for generations. Family and friends gather over fire-roasted lamb, beef, and fish with charred onions, pumpkin, and potatoes, dressed with chimichurri and olive oil.
In working with the winery, Mallmann creates a restaurant destination for visitors coming from Punta del Este, or the beach town of Jose Ignacio.
Guests can enjoy a winery tour and tasting, then a meal influenced by Mallmann’s Patagonian roots. Each flavor enhanced by Bodega Garzón wines, and extra virgin olive oils from Bulgheroni’s Colinas de Garzón.
Mallmann has also created an oasis in the nearby town of Garzón. At his Garzón Hotel and Restaurant,Mallmann creates lavish dinners with his team of apprentices. He spends considerable time here, finding quiet inspiration at his mountain cabin not far from town. A lover of all things beautiful, every surface of his home, the restaurant, and hotel are filled with bowls of fragrant lemons and hydrangeas.
The winery welcomes guests year round. In addition to the noted opportunities, visitors may enjoy a full suite of Garzon Experiences.
Bodega Garzón Albarino ($18), Tannat ($20), Sauvignon Blanc ($18), and Colinas de Garzón extra virgin olive oils are available at Spec’s.
Imagine, if you will, a lodge that perfectly captures the essence of Round Top. Is it colorful? Yes. Is it heavily layered? Obviously. Is there something that could be considered a treasure at almost every turn? You bet. Lucky for you, a talented Texan named Sheila Youngblood created such a place in the pastoral city of Round Top, and during prime antiquing season, she’s offering a unique dining experience at the ranch-cum-lodging destination, Rancho Pillow.
To sweeten the pot, Youngblood has invited a variety of chefs to take part in Feast in the Field, a week-long series beginning today that combines starlit, family-style dinners with a curated pop-up in a handmade, Kenyan safari tent. We may not know everything, but we can say with utmost certainty that the experience will be cool, and, like, really pretty.
View the slideshow to tour the property for yourself. So, you agree? Then get to booking.
At Passport you’ll enjoy elaborate themed parties with exquisite food and wine pairings at more than 45 winery locations. Guests can meet Sonoma County’s most renowned chefs, including Michelin-starred Chef Charlie Palmer, Diavola Chef/Owner Dino Bugica, and other culinary stars, savoring their inspired creations alongside newly released and limited edition wines. Wineries taking part range from the internationally-acclaimed Ridge Vineyards and Ferrari-Carano, to boutique wineries like Nalle and Talty, which produce fewer than 2,000 cases per year.
Music includes a Beatles cover band, bluegrass, Hawaiian music, funk from The Jacktones and more. Winery themes range from the glamorous (think Prohibition-era speakeasy) to the goofy (think Caddyshack), with unforgettable food and wine at each stop.
First place winner will be given two 2-Day Passports with VIP First Class Upgrades and a voucher for your flight* out to the 28th Annual event.
Second place winner will have the Dry Creek Valley experience brought to them. Let us treat you to dinner* at The Capital Grille with personally selected Dry Creek Valley wine.
We’ll also be giving out pairs of weekend passes to 3 more lucky winners to be used either for the 2017 or 2018 event!
Winners will be selected on March 15th. Enter today and keep your eyes on your inboxes. // www.drycreekvalley.org
*Flight Voucher for up to $400. Not redeemable for cash.
*Dinner voucher for $200; not redeemable for cash.
Winners must prove valid identification and be 21+.
Dry Creek Valley is located in the heart of Sonoma County, just 15-minutes from Sonoma County Airport (STS) and 1-hour north of San Francisco and Bay Area international airports.
It’s time for you to start the convention revolution. Make lackluster Power Point presentations in a drab ballroom a thing of the past; Instead—take your company’s event to the next level at the newly opened WinStar Convention Center.
Conveniently located less than two hours from Dallas (and right off Interstate 35), this is the kind of place where your employees can have a work hard, play hard experience—and one that they’ll never forget.
Here are five ways hosting your next professional event at the WinStar World Casino and Resort’s Convention Center will transform it from dull to dynamic.
Get Out of Town
Other companies throw events in that uninspiring event space everybody uses. But you like to treat your employees—which means a destination event. Traveling to WinStar won’t take you long, but stepping on property will instantly transport you to a new space—and bring along with it a new, exciting energy.
With more than 1,400 luxurious rooms on property, WinStar’s resort-style accommodations are the perfect place to retire to after a long day of work and play. Modern facilities and personal touches like customizable pillow options (and let’s not forget room service) will keep your squad comfortable—and more importantly, well rested and ready to keep going.
Make It Fun
We’ve already established this isn’t going to be your every day, boring work party. Take it to the next level by focusing on some fun. Center the party around a theme, then add in a photo booth to commemorate the occasion properly.
Add In Some Perks
A 27-hole golf course. Two pools. The Spa at WinStar. And of course, Oklahoma’s largest casino. There are plenty of other ways to stay entertained at WinStar, whether your employees are the pampering or poker face type. After a long weekend of working, go ahead—you deserve it!
Yes, this is work. But show your employees you really care about them by inviting their families along for the fun. From live music to themed events, they’ll get into it—making the party a better experience for everybody.
Situated on the bluffs of Punta Bellena on the Baja Peninsula, just four miles outside of Cabo San Lucas, sits Esperanza, an Auberge Resort. The ultra-chic, five-star, oceanfront property is one of the most stunning of its kind with spacious private terraces, infinity hot tubs, handcrafted furnishings, six on-site restaurants, two private beaches, a full-service spa, four swimming pools, and a roster of exclusive culinary events.
Overnight accommodations include 57 casitas and suites, 60 privately owned villas, and 36 private residences, all of which range from 925 to 4,000 square feet. Relax into a plush and luxurious Stearns & Foster mattress, pull the cushy duvet over you head, and sleep until the sun rises over Baja’s Sea of Cortez. Don’t feel like putting on pants or slipping into a sundress? Reach for the iPad on your nightstand and scroll through a variety of breakfast dishes that can be ordered straight to you bed.
Nosh on an abundance of fresh fruit, fluffy squash blossom egg white frittatas, over-the-top huevos rancheros, and Mexican sweet rolls. Those looking for a lighter option can sip fresh squeezed juices such as beet, carrot, and pineapple; strawberry, watermelon, chia, and ginger; and honeydew, pear, spinach, celery, and kale.
Dine at Cocina del Mar, known for its unique variety of fresh fish and seafood; PESCA Ceviche Bar, boasting made-to-order delicacies; La Terraza Americana, offering burgers and sandwiches; The Lounge Bar which has one of the best views on the property; La Palapa, a casual outdoor dining experience; and Las Estrellas, the resort’s family-friendly Italian eatery.
Those heading to Esperanza during the holidays can feast on specialty menus to fit the season. Slow roasted turkey and caramel pumpkin pecan pie for Thanksgiving; rosemary oven-baked shoulder of lamb and cranberry relish for Christmas; and local oysters for New Year’s Eve.
Resort amenities include private poolside cabanas, a luxury boutique, fitness classes, and beachside palapa-style cabanas. Feel the outside world fade away you dig your toes into the sand. While this part of the Sea of Cortez isn’t ideal for swimming, wade up to your ankles and catch a glimpse of shimmery schools of fish as they cascade through the water. Those who prefer to swim can splash in one of the resort’s four pools. The swim-up bar is ideal for those who prefer to float in the cool water with a drink in their hand. This is a vacation, after all.
The full-service spa offers therapeutic massages, soaking tubs, a steam cave, outdoor showers, a hair and nail salon, and a fitness center with state-of-the-art equipment. It’s no wonder a laundry list of celebrities have paid a visit to the five-star luxury resort including Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Jennifer Aniston, Cindy Crawford, Fergie, Debra Messing, Sheryl Crow, Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, Leann Rimes, Eddie Cibrian, Chelsea Handler, and Peyton Manning to name a few.
Guests who stroll the resort can delight their senses by way of lush greenery, and fragrant blossoms. There are more than 50 varieties of exotic plants and flowers on Esperanza’s property including Obelisco, Ave del Paraiso Gigante, Red Yucca, Mandevilla Amarilla, and Philodendron Xanadu.
No matter the season or occasion, Esperanza is sure way to delight the senses while escaping the hustle and bustle of the everyday.
Scottish novelist and poet, Robert Louis Stevenson noted the phrase “wine is bottled poetry” in his tale, Silverado Squatters. And though he took the reader to Napa Valley in post-Gold Rush days, the thought can easily be carried over the mountains from Napa to Sonoma where some of the finest poets in the world came together under the grand tent at Chateau St. Jean winery in Sonoma to sip and toast.
An annual event, typically taking place over the Labor Day holiday each year, the Sonoma Wine Country Weekend features three days of tasting, including the elaborate Taste of Sonoma at MacMurray Estate Vineyards, Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction at Chateau St. Jean, Sonoma Starlight at Francis Ford Coppola Winery, and an assortment of intimate and exclusive winery lunch and dinner parties at multiple locations throughout Sonoma County. A grand celebration, bringing together many of the 400+ wineries in the region, all for good. Over than $24 million has been invested in Sonoma County’s future from proceeds from the events since the inception of the celebration.
Though multiple charitable organizations throughout the region benefit from the event, there is a particular focus on literacy of children within Sonoma.
Over half of the kids in school in Sonoma County are not able to read at their grade level, particularly some of the youngest. From the studies conducted, the region has realized that if you can’t read at your grade level by 3rd grade you will have a very difficult time ever catching up.
In speaking with Honorary Wine Chair for this year’s event, Dan Kosta of Kosta Browne Winery, he noted that the inability of kids in Sonoma to read will hurt the entire region, as the kids of Sonoma are the future and, “if you can’t read you can’t succeed.”
The great thing though, as the focus on literacy has been in place for the region the past few years, is today the region is seeing change. Kids are learning to read through special in-school and after-school programs, parents are participating in the development and growth of their children, and progress is being made. With this year’s record breaking attendance and funds raised, the work to help will progress exponentially.
And, it is a great party. Attending the whole weekend festivities would be ideal, but if you have limited time and only one day to play in Sonoma, the annual Taste of Sonoma event is worth the flight out to the region. Over 200 wineries attend, along with 60 chefs from the region, toasting and tasting together under grand white tents at MacMurray Estate Vineyards.
When you arrive guests are greeted with bubbly made in the traditional method from Sonoma’s Gloria Ferrer, followed by a warm and loving hug from brand ambassador of MacMurray Estate, Actress/Activist and Screenwriter, Kate MacMurray, daughter of Actor/Rancher Fred MacMurray who had originally purchased the expansive 1500 acre property in the early 1940’s. Joyful, knowledgeable and gracious, Kate stayed on to help share the story of the ranch and winery after her family sold the property to Gallo Family Wines in the 1990’s. The love and passion Kate has the wine, the estate and her father, will make you a lover of MacMurray wine within the first sip.
Add in a slew of local chefs offering tasting plates; demonstrations and discussions from top Sonoma Chefs, like Honorary Chef Chair, Mark Stark and his wife Terri, owners of Stark Reality Restaurantsincluding their newest concept, Bird and The Bottle and Healdsburg favorite, Willie’s Seafood Bar; a farm to table culinary experience from Jackson Family Wines featuring produce from their expansive Kendall-Jackson Estate Garden, that supplies not only the winery with tasting plates for pairing lunches and dinners, but also restaurants throughout the region, with fresh produce from their sustainably farmed 2.5 acre garden, including 3500 different heirloom tomato plants, the star of their annual Heirloom Tomato Festival, and my personal mecca.
This is how to truly get a feel for Sonoma and everything it has to offer. Keep in mind, Sonoma is three times as large as Napa Valley and so trying to drive from one end of the other in one day, like you can do in Napa, would be almost impossible, especially if you then wanted to also stop and tasting, have a bite, enjoy a glass.
To be able to taste a sparkler from Carneros, then a Pinot Noir from Petaluma Gap, then a Pinotage from Fort Ross and Cab from Alexander Valley, all within steps of each other with the winemakers pouring was a treat, to say the least. The lovely backdrop of the historic ranch estate completed the experience.
The culmination of the Sonoma Wine Country Weekend was the Sunday Harvest Wine Auction event, taking place at Chateau St. Jean under (thankfully air conditioned) tents, but the kick off to Sunday happened Saturday night after “Taste of Sonoma” with an auction preview party at Ram’s Gate Winery in Carneros.
This is the first year the ultra-premium winery has hosted the preview, but for each enthusiastic attendee, we are hoping it won’t be the last as it was one of the most beautiful backdrops for the night. The winery, built at the entrance to the Carneros AVA was designed by award-winning architect Howard Backen, with the goal to bring the outside in showcasing the beautiful natural elements of the landscapes.
Add in the high quality, single vineyard, tiny production Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines from Sonoma, including their Ram’s Gate Carneros Estate vineyard, and you have the perfect recipe for enjoyment.
I have been a fan of their wines for some time, and now after visiting the gorgeous winery, it will be at the top of my list for repeat visits when traveling to the region as it embodies the quality, luxury and passion you expect from a premium wine region, with a welcoming, comfortable spirit.
Though it was difficult not to just enjoy the magnums of vintage library wines that Ram’s Gate was pouring throughout the event, there were a few other stand outs of the night, most notably from Pierre Seillan and his lovely wife, Monique, pouring their 2005 vintage Sonoma CountyVerite La Joie. I am a fan of Pierre and his quality wines from Bordeaux, Italy and Sonoma, and recently traveled to Chianti Classico to visit him at Tenuta de Arceno, home of his Arcanum and Valadorna wines.
Of everything poured at on this night, and throughout the entire weekend event, this was by far the standout. And, even with 10 years on it now, it could easily age another 10. Beautiful, elegant and balanced Cabernet Sauvignon wine from Sonoma County, filled with layers of black fruit, smoked herbs, pencil lead and tobacco with structure, texture and great character. The wine is available through allocation via their website.
Sunday’s Sonoma Harvest Auction Event at Chateau St. Jean transformed the region into Marrakesh, with a plethora of belly dancers, a live camel, music and merriment, all with the goal to do good. We had the pleasure of joining our charming friend, Jean Charles Boisset, of Boisset Collection and Co-Chair of last year’s event, at his Buena Vista Winery table near the front. And from the start the JCB No. 69 Sparkling Wine was flowing, along with a sparkler from Buena Vista. Agoston Haraszthy, founder of Buena Vista in 1857 in Sonoma, and recognized as being the Father of California viticulture, and six children. His third son, Arpad, spent over two years in France learning sparkling wine production, later becoming the first to introduce Méthode Traditionelle sparkling wine into California winemaking with his Eclipse Sparkling Wine.
Today’s Buena Vista La Victoire Brut Champagne pays tribute to his legacy. Crafted in Champagne the lively sparkler is filled with lemon-lime citrus notes, toasted cream and brioche notes, available via their website.
Jean Charles was also debuting a new wine to the Boisset portfolio, “The Revenge,” adorned with a golden alligator with red eyes. This small production premium Cabernet Sauvignon wine should be available via their websites by the holidays.
As the auction got into full swing, and bids were rising higher and higher, the key lot for the day came up for bid, the “Fund the Future” lot to help raise money directly to help the kids of Sonoma read. Most of us have been to some sort of auction or another, and the fun part of an auction, live or silent, is bidding with the chance to win a prize and enjoy some sort of experience. This auction lot wasn’t that, instead it was simply asking the people of Sonoma, winemakers, vintners and guests, to raise their paddle to help their community.
And, Sonoma did not disappoint. From high bids given by Dan Kosta on behalf of Kosta Browne Winery and Friends and Supporters of Kosta Browne Winery, Joe Anderson and Mary Dewane of Benovia Winery, Gina Gallo & Jean Charles Boisset, Gallo Family Wines & Boisset Collection in honor of Margrit Mondavi, and The Jackson Banke Family, Jackson Family Wines, each donating $250,000.
Their generous donation, along with dozens of other enthusiastic supporters, made the final tally for the “Fund The Future” lot was $2.7 million, up significantly from the previous year’s bid of $1.9 million, and making up over half of the total amount raised for the auction and weekend events, which came in right around $4.6 million. To see so many people, generously giving to their community, not for a prize or an experience, but truly to help each other warmed the hearts and minds of all in the room, and made for one incredible celebration.
The Sonoma Wine County Weekend event will change some venues and dates next year, so bookmark their website now and sign up for the newsletter to get information on when the weekend will take place in 2017. And, bravo to all involved on showcasing the beauty and hospitality of the region, the wine and food, and people. Can’t wait for next year.
Summer is winding down, but there’s still time for a last-minute getaway. There’s nothing like a good vacation, but packing can feel like work. We enlisted some of Dallas’ most fashionably notable to give us their secrets to looking and feeling great—no matter where they are.
Watters has learned a thing or two about traveling over the years. “I never leave without a curious mind, so when I return home and get back to the office, I’m not stuck in a creative rut,” Watters says. Her travel essentials include summery cover-ups that, when paired with a slip, double as a chic dinner dress; Oribe sun protection moisturizer (available at l.a.r.c. Salon); and a white Goyard tote, which is a perfect carry-on that seamlessly goes from work to the beach.
Lerma has a solid piece of advice before you hit the beach: “I just recently gained the confidence enough to wear a speedo on vacation, and it was incredibly liberating. I would encourage … everyone to love themselves and try stepping out of their usual swimsuit comfort zone.” For Lerma, travel style is all about ease, comfort, and having fun. But no matter what he packs, he never travels without his Louis Vuitton Bandouliere 55 (available at NorthPark Center, Neiman Marcus).“It’s a classic, and if I pack just right, I can fit almost a week’s worth of clothes and essentials in there,” he says. “Plus, it’s the largest size that can still be used as a carry-on bag.”
It’s easy to see that Miller (@theMillerAffect) is on the go. While her Instagram style has a five-outfits-a-day-and-64-thousand-followers feel to it, her travel style sounds surprisingly attainable. “On my last trip, I packed a white maxi cover up that I wore with my suits every single day.” While her travel style is pretty minimal, there are a few things she can’t live without: “My waterproof mascara (available atBenefit, The Plaza at Preston Center). It is by Benefit,and it will make me look like I have a complete face full of makeup when I put it on. It doesn’t smudge at all either, so I can sweat or jump in the water and it won’t run.”
As a global skincare advisor for La Mer and an esthetician whose client list includes Anna Wintour and Sting, Czech is a frequent globe-trotter. When it comes to packing, whether it’s for work or vacation, Czech stays true to her usual glamorous self. “I don’t typically change my style for traveling,” she says. “If I want to bring 20 shoes, I bring them.” Her must-haves are Eres swimwear and coverups, not to mention “an abundance of sunglasses.” To maintain flawless skin throughout her travels, she tries to keep things as balanced as possible, using her No. 1 daily product pH controlling lotion by Biologique Recherche (available at Joanna Czech’s Spa). And she always travels with a hydrating mask – “The Hydrating Facial” by La Mer is a favorite.
Rolling hills of sun-soaked vines interspersed with fragrant honeysuckle, fig and citrus trees, surrounding grove after grove of olive trees. This is Chianti Classico, the celebrated region of Italy known for their mouthwatering Sangiovese wines and powerful Super Tuscan options.
Walking along cypress tree lined paths flanked by vines, looking out over small red tiled roofed villages, you truly feel like you are inside the film “Under the Tuscan Sun.,” however no film or camera can truly show the beauty of the picturesque region. I recently returned from a trip to Tuscany, traveling as a guest of Jackson Family Wines, specifically to visit their Tenuta di Arceno estate and vineyards outside of the ancient, walled village of San Gusmé, in the commune of Castelnuovo Berardenga.
Not far from Siena, in the southeast corner of Chianti Classico, the 200+ acres of planted vineyards rise from 1000 feet to 1500 feet elevation, with 10 different mesoclimates and 12 different soil types. This combination allows celebrated, international winemaker, Pierre Seillan and on-site winemaker, Lawrence Cronin, the ability to produced authentic, expressive, powerful wines, melding with elegance, refinement and character.
Perhaps best known for his Sonoma wine, Verite, and St. Emillion, Bordeaux wine, Chateau Lassègue, Seillan is regarded as one of the most gifted winemakers in the world, filled with unwavering enthusiasm, authenticity and passion for his craft. Celebrating his 50th vintage this year, the charming Seillan has the energy and excitement of a child with a new toy, as every vintage of Arcanum and Valadorna, his two Right Bank, Bordeaux style wines, continue to exceed expectations.
The 2,500 acre Tenuta di Arceno estate was purchased by the late Jess Jackson and his wife & partner, Barbara Banke, in 1994, with Seillan joining to start Arcanum in 2002. Today these young vines, as many were planted in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, have begun to show the finesse and elegance Seillan strives for in all of his Merlot and beloved Cabernet Franc based wines.
However, though the varieties are international, the wines are very much Italian, as these terroir driven wines shine due to the diversity of the soils and the distinct climate they grow in. Vines for both of these wines, and their third more introductory wine, Il Fauno di Arcanum, average in age from 10-15 years with well draining soils filled with river rocks, basalt, sand, granite, schist, blue and red clay.
Block by block, the diversity of the estate allows each grape variety the ability to shine in the best soil for its type. This is why the wines of Tuscany are so unique and special, it is in this diversity that the beauty lies. The estate is broken up into 63 different blocks, each planted to the variety perfect for that terroir. Seillan calls it a vigneron style of making wine, as each wine is truly made in the vineyard.
When Seillan joined Jackson in the venture, the Cabernet Franc loving winemaker saw the potential of the estate for growing the variety. Born and raised in Armagnac, in the home of a cork maker who had family vines on his home estate, Seillan had always had a love of wine, first learning about Cabernet Franc at his home vineyard. His passion for Cabernet Franc came when he moved to Loire as winemaker for Château de Targé in the Saumur-Champigny AOC, learning the nuances of the cool climate on the grape and the influence of the Loire soils.
He later moved to Bordeaux as winemaker and technical director for seven different Chateau, spending over 20 years there. When he met Jackson the two formed a quick bond and friendship, believing in the same vision of crafting premium wines from international varieties, particularly Cabernet Franc, from hillside and mountain vineyards with varying soil types to highlight the true personality of the vineyard and character of the land. Seillan bases each wine produced on a philosophy to let the vineyard shine, creating wines without compromise.
He moved to Sonoma to start Verite in the mid-1990’s, followed shortly thereafter with Arcanum in 2002 and Lassègue in 2003. Each wine displays the uniqueness of terroir, while reflecting an elegance and style Seillan brings to each wine.
With the help of New York raised, California trained winemaker, Lawrence Cronin, winemaker for Tenuta di Arceno, the duo are creating wines that continue to define quality in the region. Cronin arrived at the estate 16 years ago with Seillan, thinking he would stay a few months then move on to his next phase of his career. He had previously been Assistant Winemaker for Edmeades Winery in the Anderson Valley since 1995, and had worked in Sicily, New Zealand, Australia and Chile before that. Seillan asked him to stay on, overseeing the day to day operations of the winery along with vineyard manager, Michele Pezzicoli, and leading the production of the Chianti Classico Riserva wines.
In speaking with Cronin he mentioned that he didn’t know if the move would be permanent, but his Italian roots, with his family still owning an estate in Sicily, drove him to accept. And then, as every good story of love and passion goes, he met his now wife, who was visiting her mother in the village of San Gusmé. The two fell in love, and today have a young son and run a local B&B in Castelnuovo Berardenga.
And, now 16 years after his move to the region, he and Seillan have successfully elevated this historic estate into the premium tier of producers in Tuscany.
Arcanum is the premier wine of the estate, crafted from predominantly Cabernet Franc. Early ripening, ensuring the fruit, which grows at some of the highest elevations on the estate, reaches the desired level of ripeness, without green tannins from under-ripe fruit, before autumn rains and destructive hail set in, something the region is constantly fighting.
Instead, earthy notes of wild herb, ripe berry, violets and lilac fill the palate of the Arcanum wines. The wines are big, so will always benefit from a period of bottle aging, beyond the year or so the winery does before each vintage release. But, even upon their traditional release, they are complex, sophisticated, concentrated and elegant.
Il Fauno di Acanum is meant to be a lighter, more approachable wine, blending the international varieties from some of the youngest vines on the estate, to make an easy drinking, food friendly wine perfect for any time of year, or day.
Though Arcanum is the pinnacle of Seillan’s vision for Tuscany, celebrating great Cabernet Franc, the Right Bank, Bordeaux lover also holds a special place in his heart for Merlot.
Especially when the variety is crafted with care, dedication and produces the highest quality wine. Yes, Merlot got a bad wrap in the past, thanks to over-production of the variety and films like “Sideways.” However, when managed with care and a delicate touch the variety is easily one of the most luscious, delicious and refined in the world.
Merlot is often added to a blend to round out the palate and add finesse to a wine. However, when it is allowed to be a star, Merlot can often shine brighter, longer. Sometimes longer than many Cabernet Sauvignon counterparts. Where Cabernet Sauvignon leaps out of the gate running, with big fruit and big tannin, Merlot is softer, more subtle, more approachable upon release and will be very good for 3-5 years. But, it is also delicious 10-15 years later, as bottle age helps the wine exceed expectations, filling the palate with earthy espresso, mushroom and tobacco notes, layered with dark plum and cherry.
At this 10-15 year old stage, Merlot shines, as is evident in some older vintages of Seillan’s Merlot based wine, Valadorna. And, the older Valadorna wines have been produced, at the time, with some of the youngest vines on the property. Just another element of why the estate is so exciting for Seillan, because as these vines continue to age and develop the resulting wines will become more concentrated, textured and refined.
Merlot for Valadorna is grown in 3 vineyards on the estate, each protected from some of the hottest temperatures and sunlight of the warm Tuscan days, sitting at lower elevations in soils filled with clay to trap moisture, and each surrounded by forest land, adding an additional herbal and floral element to the wine. As with the Arcanum and Il Fauno di Arcanum, a small percentage of other varieties, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot or Sangiovese are added in to the Valadorna wine to create a harmonious palate with expressive, balanced flavors. This may not always be the case though.
As vineyards develop, there may be a time that the Arcanum is 100% Cabernet Fran and the Valadorna becomes 100% Merlot. We tasted the current 2015 vintage of Cabernet Franc from 5 different vineyard blocks of fruit, varying in elevations, soils types, root stocks, clones and microclimates. Though an overall similarity consisted through each wine, the young fruit showed various layers of concentration, texture and flavor, that when blended together created a harmonious, although very young wine.
The earliest blends of Arcanum consisted of predominantly Cabernet Franc (as did Seillan’s first, highly prized vintage of Verite in Sonoma.) The current release 2011 blends 77% Cabernet Franc with 14% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Petit Verdot to produce a wine with violet and wild rose notes, red cherry, berry and spice with a line of earthy graphite and pencil lead.
Tasting the first vintage, 2002, the wine from young vines still had great fruit and acidity, though moving more towards the dried cherry, stewed prune and toasted spice. These are definitely wines that will age beautifully.
There is a softness and delicate touch to these wines that shines, especially when tasting them side by side in comparison to some of the other noteworthy wines of the region. In comparison to the highly famed Sassicaia, a blend of predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon with just 15% Cabernet Franc with bracing, intense aromas of dusty tobacco, earthy forest floor, toasted oak and dominant smoke notes, the Arcanum is soft, lively and fresh, highlighting subtly and refinement.
The estate is located near the fork of two rivers: the Ambra, which flows to Florence, and the Ombrone, which flows to the Mediterranean. In honor of its history, the name Arceno comes from the Etruscan word Archè, meaning “point of origin.” Wines have been made in this vineyard, rising between 1000-1750 feet above sea level, between Florence and Siena for nearly 3000 years.
Just two families had owned the land prior to Jackson Family’s purchase in the 1990’s. In 1504 the Del Taja family began purchasing the land, block by block, expanding the estate. In 1829 the Piccolominis family from Siena acquired the property, adding in various architectural and aesthetic elements that still stand today.
The inspiration for the Arcanum label, and that of Il Fauno came from an ancient statue located not far from San Gusme. In Roman mythology Il Fauno is the Roman God of nature, the countryside and the woods, which this sprawling estate has in abundance. Il Fauno watches over the estate and acts as its protector.
The week of our visit a new piece of property had just been acquired, and the enthusiasm and anticipation was easy to see from all as the property vineyards sit at one of the highest elevations in the region, upwards of 2000 feet above sea level. Though the vineyard is in a bit of disarray now, once restored, these vines will be able to add a new character to the thoughtful story of these wines.
In addition to their Bordeaux varieties, the winery produces their Strada Al Sasso Chianti Classico Riserva single vineyard 100% Sangiovese and their Tenuta di Arceno Chianti Classico Riserva, which since Jackson Family purchased the property, has continued to gain recognition and respect.
Mouthwatering, juicy and luscious, these are wines that are meant to be enjoyed with food, highlighting simple ingredients that produce flavors that make this region so iconic, like simple platters of olives, artichokes, prosciutto & pecorino, or a Bistecca alla Fiorentina (steak Florentine,) Pici con Ragù di Cinghiale, the local, hand rolled, thick flour and water pasta layered with a ragu of wild boar (often caught from the vineyards that morning as the destructive boar have become a huge problem plaguing vintners by destroying their vines.)
The acidity and freshness of the wine cut through the richness of the simple grilled steak and hearty cinghiale creating a harmonious balance of flavor.
The dish and pairing that I am still dreaming about is the Strada Al Sasso Chianti Classico Riserva with Pici Cacio e Pepe, an incredibly simple, heavenly pile of fresh Pici pasta with pecorino cheese (a lot of pecorino cheese,) black pepper, salt and a little of the pasta water. Melding the creamy richness of the dish with the juicy, red cherry, candied raspberry, orange peel and spice filled wine with vibrant acidity and well integrated tannin couldn’t have been more complete or more delicious.
The belief that you should eat at the food of the region with the wines of the region couldn’t have been more true. Enjoying them in the company of these passionate artisans, both from the winery and the kitchens is truly what the Tuscan lifestyle is all about, and why the region is so beloved by anyone who has the ability to experience it. It is obvious, after both seeing the pristine vineyards and enjoying a few days in and around San Gusmé, why Jackson Family chose this spot to create their signature Italian winery, and why Seillan joined them.
Beautiful vines are important, but so are beautiful people, and Tuscany delivers on both.
A gem in the hills of Villa a Sesta, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Siena is L’Assencio Ristorantewhere Chef/Owner Senio Venturi crafts local Italian (both Tuscan and Piemontese) into works of delicious art with his plates as a canvas and seasonal ingredients painting each picture. From a simple beef tartare, to rabbit and artichoke with braised escarole, to a heaven scented plate of spring beans, avocado, scamorza and poached egg slathered with shavings of black summer truffle, flake salt and very grassy, fresh olive oil from the olive trees at Tenuta di Arceno.
After working is kitchens throughout Northern Italy and Tuscany, Venturi and partner, Elisa Bianchini, opened L’Assencio in 2011. With a focus on seasonal ingredients and hospitality, melding delicious flavors and Italian affordability (with the 5 course tasting menu costing 50 Euro,) this newly Michelin Guide recommended restaurant is worth the trip to the countryside.
Arcanum ($100,) Valadorna ($80) and Il Fauno ($30) wines are available through the winery websites, including the new releases and a few older vintages, as well as by special order through Spec’s locally.
If visiting Tuscany, the Tenuta di Arceno tasting room is open outside of San Gusmé by appointment throughout the week, nestled about 45 minutes from Florence and 25 minutes from Siena.