Everyone has a favorite, and my favorite winery in Temecula is Doffo Winery.
Yes, there are a few wineries in Temecula that produce excellent wines, but I believe Doffo’s great quality is simply apart from the rest.
I don’t know if they have a secret or not when making wine, but I am convinced their success is mainly due to their traditional way of making wine combined with the love and passion they put into the art of winemaking.
When you visit Doffo Winery don’t expect a souvenir shop, a Spa, or a restaurant attached to their business.
Doffo is all about wine and as a wine lover, that’s all I care. Since it is a small family owned winery, you will be welcomed by family members.
That to me is one of the most valuable aspects at Doffo Winery, the fact that you can actually have a great conversation with the family about their wines. You’ll soon feel like you’re talking to an old friend.
But let’s talk about their wines because this summer they released a few gems worth noting.
Let’s start with the 2009 Sauvignon Blanc.
This is the second year they’ve produce this white and if last year’s vintage was excellent, this year promises to be even better!
The nose is bright and fruity with hints of peaches. However, on the palate it delivers an unexpected but delicious taste of roasted almonds.
It is elegant and very smooth with tones of fresh grapefruit.
Let’s move on to the 2008 Syrah.
Ever since their 2005 Syrah, I have fallen in love with this fine wine from Doffo. Their Syrah was a huge success in 2006 and 2007 because of its superb quality and taste.
The 2008 vintage is no exception. Despite being young (just bottled in June), it is a very developed wine with a respectful character; the sign of a great winemaker. Nonetheless, it will improve considerably if stored for a few years.
This Syrah has vibrant tones of currants and berries. It is not heavy on the tannins, but silky and so smooth to drink, with a nice oaky finish.
Another great wine that is becoming a classic at Doffo is their 2008 Mistura, Portuguese for blend. This wine is 60% Cabernet and 40% Syrah.
The Mistura is a big medium-bodied wine with nice tones of blackberries and delightfully peppery. In a year or two you can better enjoy the wine as it will have developed its character.
The newest wine varietal at Doffo is their 2008 Zinfandel.
I can already foresee this wine becoming one of the stars at Doffo (see photo).
With peppery traits and fruity, this Zinfandel is well balanced. Interestingly, this Zinfandel is a bit sweet but without sacrificing the integrity of its zippy personality.
On the contrary, this quality makes it a bit more flexible allowing you to enjoy it with a meal or on its own.
Among Doffo’s repertoire, don’t miss their Malbec and their Cabernet Sauvignon Private Reserve. And for those who love dessert wines, try their Late-Harvest Syrah and Port.
If you’re visiting Temecula wine country, make sure you stop at Doffo Winery. They are definitely putting Temecula on the world map of wines.
PS: Once there, ask Don Marcelo or Damian to show you their impressive Ducati motorcycle collection. It will blow you away!
Have you been to Temecula? Tell about your experience and favorite winery.
In just a few months, when you’re wearing jackets and scarves, the summer will be sizzlin’ in the Land Down Under!
This year, beat the winter blues with a trip to Australia. Here, you’ll find it all: wine country, beaches, and scenic trains.
Australian Wine Country
If your only Australian wine drinking experience is YellowTail, it’s time to broaden your horizons with a visit to Australian wine country. Make it your mission to taste wine you can’t find at home!
The Barossa Valley, perhaps Australia’s most well-known wine region, is located in South Australia, just an hour from Adelaide. While the valley is home to well over a hundred wineries, only about 70 have tasting rooms and are open to the public.
You’ll need a few days in the region to really do it justice. Carefully plan the wineries you’ll want to visit or simply wait until you’re there for local recommendations.
If you love to walk, be sure to spend an afternoon on one of the many walking trails through wine country, hills, or forest. Don’t feel like hiking in the middle of the summer? No problem, the driving tours are scenic, historical, and overall spectacular.
The Beaches Down Under
Australia has some of the finest beaches in the world and Queensland, in particular, offers out-of-this-world beach adventure.
Sail over to the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef for sun-soaked days of diving, kayaking, or relaxing on pristine beach.
With a large number of islands to choose from, do your research before you go and decide on an island as well as accommodations that fit your budget and sense of adventure.
Scenic Train Travel
A great way to passively see Australia without having to drive is to discover the country by rail on one of the many scenic train routes.
There are a number of routes to choose from, each spectacular, ranging from several hours to several days. One of the most popular routes, The Ghan, takes tourists from Adelaide to Darwin traveling through the Outback with a stop in Alice Springs.
Overnight trains offer varying levels of privacy from Platinum Service to Red Sleeper Service Cabins and Daynighter Seats. Onboard chefs prepare fine food and the restaurant offers a selection of wines to pair with scenic views.
Take advantage of the amazing destinations and arrange for a Whistle Stop Tour when the train stops. Scheduled to fit with the train timetable, you can do anything from wine tours, camel treks, hiking, helicopter tours, canoeing, and boat cruises.
What do you do when you open a bottle of wine and the wine isn’t bad (as in corked), yet not so good you actually want to sip it?
White — Make Wine Spritzers!
This works really well with any type of wine. The cheaper, the better!
It’s simple: In a wine glass, combine white wine, ice, club soda, and a twist of lemon or lime.
Red — Make Sangria!
Sangria is delicious, but who wants to spend money on good tasting wine for this drink? The fruity flavors will quickly overpower the wine, so keep it cheap!
It’s simple: In a wine glass, combine red wine, ice, a splash of orange juice, club soda or sprite, and citrus slices such as orange or lime. Feel free to add other berries or apples.
Hey, even crappy wine deserves a good home!
Puerto Rico … it’s called the Island of Enchantment for a reason.
Make that many reasons.
The number of enchanting places and things to see and experience on this mountainous 3500 square mile island is practically endless, but here are a few of the best.
If you’re staying in Condado (and if you are, the Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino is a good place to stay, right on the beach with excellent restaurants and shops within walking distance), a little jewel of a bar/restaurant called Jam Rum Bar & Bistro Moderne is a fun place to stop for a drink.
It’s a few blocks of a walk down from the Marriott – the cross street is Manuel Rodriguez Serra.
Your senses will be charmed by the comfortable yet elegant old-world exterior, and brightened by the funky yet tasteful decor of its interior.
Order the Acerola Rum Iced Tea to start and your tastebuds will turn somersaults in delight. It’s the perfect combination of sweet, sour and … rum!
The staff is laid back and friendly.
Their menu looks tempting, but I only tried the Tiramisu, which was small but rich, and satisfied my sweet tooth nicely.
Historical Old San Juan…
About a ten minute drive from the Marriott, you’ll find historical Old San Juan. The streets of Viejo San Juan are lined with brightly colored establishments bursting with character and individuality: restaurants, coffee shops, art galleries, clothing stores, jewelry stores, touristic, artisanal shops and more.
It’s a pleasant experience just to walk the streets, admiring the Spanish Colonial architecture and ornate balconies overflowing with flowers, especially on a sunny day when it’s not too hot and ocean breezes waft through the streets.
In Old San Juan you’ll also find a national historic site comprised of 4 fortifications constructed over a 250-year period, beginning in the 16th century. La Fortaleza is the oldest and most well-known of the four. Open for guided tours, it is also the official residence of the governor of Puerto Rico.
My favorite daytime stopping point in Old San Juan is the coffee shop Caficultura (Calle San Francisco, 401, San Juan.)
Housed in the corner of a lovely pastel-blue building where Fortaleza and San Francisco streets intersect, its tall, wood-framed glass windows, high ceilings and the feel of old world charm blended with a modern vibe that emanates from the cyber-savvy patrons surfing the internet while sipping iced café con leche give the impression that it’s a classic Old San Juan staple.
That’s not the case actually: Caficultura has only been open since April 2009, but I predict it will be around for many years to come.
The iced café con leche served here is perfect – strong, refreshing, great earthy coffee flavor. The menu also offers a wide variety of coffee choices, including a few liquor-enhanced options, along with fresh juices, beer and wine.
Their light food menu includes sandwiches, salads and dessert pastries. Try the Chicken Breast Tower with avocado, pico de gallo and sour cream. It’s served with tostones and it’s wonderful.
By night, don’t miss Nono’s Bar & Restaurant in Old San Juan, where the best mojitos on the island can be found.
Sip one at the bar under the serene gaze of a bull’s head, mounted above the bar, then move upstairs to shoot a game of pool, look out the balcony at passersby meandering down the cobblestone street below and if you’re lucky, after exchanging a few pleasantries with the man behind the upstairs bar, he may offer you a complimentary shot one of his mysterious but delicious concoctions.
If you have your dancing shoes on, when you leave Nono’s, you won’t have to walk far to find a bar to dance salsa, merengue, or reggaeton.
Once you’re ready to return to the beach, you may want to make your way to Café La Plage (at the Beach House Hotel) in Isla Verde, a beach bar worth visiting just for the view of the white-fabric-draped four-poster beds situated under tall palm trees 50 yards away from the sparkling turquoise Atlantic waters.
The place is about rustic, South Beachy charm so don’t come expecting luxury and you’ll have a great time.
During the day, the music is chill yet upeat and not too loud, the cocktails are cold, the food is good and the staff are pleasant. During the night, the outdoor bar is equally charming: a very romantic place to go if you have your sweetheart with you.
By the way, as all hidden treasures are, Café La Plage is hard to find – I drove past it about 3 times before I spotted the tiny little sign on the white wall bordering its parking lot. It’s right across from the Howard Johnson hotel. (4851 Ave Isla Verde, Carolina 00979)
More of the Outdoors
Looking for ways to experience the Puerto Rico’s natural beauty?
You can’t be bored here … you can go horseback riding on the beach, hiking through El Yunque, snorkeling, paddle surfing, body surfing, regular surfing … but in my opinion, hands down the most spectacular thing you can do is to discover one of the island’s three bioluminescent bays.
In these seemingly magical bays, after nightfall, the water glows when disturbed by movement.
It may look like magic, but the glowing water is really due to tiny bioluminescent microorganisms (called dinoflagellates) in the water.
There are very few places in the world where this phenomenon exists, and Puerto Rico is home to the three brightest.
At Las Croabas in Fajardo, the brightest of all the bays, many tour operators offer kayak expeditions.
Swimming in the bay at Las Croabas is not allowed, to protect the dinoflagellates from potential extinction, since some of them die upon human contact, but at the Vieques bay, you are allowed to swim – an unforgettable experience!
The best time to go is when there is not much light – the smaller the moon, the better. No moon? Perfect. Many websites, including Biobay, publish a moon calendar to help you strategically plan your visit.
Another plus (for some travelers) although Puerto Rico feels like another country, you don’t need a passport to get there. But be forewarned before you go … visiting Puerto Rico may be addictive!
(Photos by: Sonya Stoa. Vieques Bay photo via Concierge.com.)
We’re always on the lookout for travel gadgets to make your vacation easier… or to ease the transition back home.
The Epson PictureMate® Show printer and digital frame is one of those devices that’ll make being home again, not so bad. While many rush to dowload pictures to Facebook, photo printing is another story. It tends to get put off until tomorrow, or the next day, or when you have nothing else to do. As if that ever happens…
Let’s face it: printing photos is a pain.
Unless you can do it from the comfort of your own home!
The Epson PictureMate® Show printer is ideal for those who want to print high quality photos in the comfort of their own home. It’s easy to setup and very intuitive to use. The screen will walk you through the steps needed to easy print your photos.
It’s easy to use and while I recommend you follow the basic setup directions, you can pretty much throw them away after your first use. The screen does a great job of walking you through the simple steps.
To see the printer in action and view the quality, take a look at our Epson PictureMate® Show video review:
A few TravelPlusWine notes:
- While this printer might not be cheaper than going to the print shop, it certainly makes up for it in convenience and gas (after the initial investment for the machine, of course!). The PictureMate® Show costs about 26 cents/photo vs. 15 cents at a photo printing shop.
- Hopefully Epson will develop a touch screen very soon. A couple of times I forgot I had to use a remote and my fingers went directly to the screen! They assert the remote helps keep the screen “free of fingerprints.”
- No computer or software is needed to print the photos, just plug it into a wall.
- The Digital Photo Frame is a really nice addition to the printer. If it’s sitting around your office or home, you might as well show off your photos.
- The photo resolution on “Standard” is great and at first glance, you really can’t see any huge improvement by choosing “Best” quality. I had a photographer compare the two and he was able to pick out the “Best” and said the colors and edges were a bit sharper. However, I’ll personally continue to use “Standard.”
- After printing, the photos dry really fast, so no worrying about smudges.
- Photos can be printed in color, black & white, or sepia.
- The photo cropping and red eye reduction features are nice additions to the printer.
For a full and official list of Epson PictureMate® Show features and specs, visit the Epson website.
$229.99 on Amazon.