Monthly Archives: February 2012

Taking the leap!

It only happens every four years.  No, we’re not talking about presidential elections or the Summer Olympics.  We’re talking LEAP YEAR.
 
 
It seems a strange tradition that leap years consist of 366 days rather than the typical 365 until you learn that it actually takes 365.242 days for the earth to orbit around the sun.  That additional 0.242 days every year has to be reconciled somehow to keep the calendar on track, so in 45 BC, Julius Caesar’s astronomer, Sosigenes, calculated that the best way to do so would be to add one day to every four years.  The chosen day, for whatever reason, was Februarius the 29th.
 
There is one exception to the leap year rule, however.  (Trivia buffs, listen up!)  To keep things exact, only one out of every four century years (e.g. 1900, 1800, etc.) is considered a leap year.  Century years are only considered as leap years if they are evenly divisible by 400.
 
Now, the math is interesting enough, but the truly fascinating bit is the set of folk traditions that accompany leap years.  The most well-known is that of the British Isles, where women have traditionally been allowed to propose marriage to men during a leap year or on the actual leap day, February 29.
 
Allegedly, it all started with St. Bridget of 5th-century Ireland.  The story goes that she complained to St. Patrick that women had to wait too long for a man to propose marriage.  As an answer, good St. Patrick proclaimed that women could propose to men on February 29th…the day which only comes every four years.
 
Feminist reservations with this outdated custom aside, the historical images of women preparing to “trap” or “catch” a man on leap years are simply adorable.
 
 
 Thankfully, today’s women don’t need to wait until February 29 to propose to the man of their dreams.  But in case you’re looking for a little inspiration to take the leap, ladies, you’ll be in good company with the women of the ages on February 29th!
 

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All Aboard the Green Train!

For Central Coast Winery Pomar Junction, Sustainability Is A Way of Life

At Pomar Junction Vineyard & Winery in the heart of Central Coast Wine Country, sustainability is more than just a passing trend – it’s a way of life.

In fact, when the Central Coast Vineyard Team set out to establish a comprehensive set of standards by which vineyard operators could measure and model their commitment to environmental stewardship, equitable treatment of employees and economic stability, Pomar Junction Owner Dana Merrill was invited to help design them.  Recognizing that Merrill’s 30-year history of vineyard management had been marked by a constant pursuit of the most ecologically-responsible and humanitarian methods for raising high-quality grapes, the Vineyard Team counted his input as critical. Unveiled in 2004, the Sustainability In Practice (SIP) Certification Standards have quickly become a benchmark of accountability to both producers and consumers alike.

“As one of the founding members of the Central Coast Vineyard Team, and the founding President for many years, Dana and I often reflect on how proud we are of our grower-based non-profit that administers the SIP Program,” said Central Coast Vineyard Team Executive Director, Kris Beal. “Even in our wildest dreams, I don’t think we could have imagined how well the industry and community would respond to our programs.”  In fact, last year the Central Coast Vineyard Team held its wildly popular Earth Day Food & Wine Festival Main Event at Pomar Junction Vineyard & Winery for the first time to rave reviews.  With picturesque views of sustainably-farmed vines as far as the eye can see, an olive grove and ancient oak trees over a generous central lawn, Pomar Junction proved an ideal venue for visitors to sample over 200 purveyors of sustainably-produced foods and wine. The Main Event will once again be held at Pomar Junction on April 21 from 1:00 P.M. to 5:00 P.M.

Unlike organic or biodynamic certifications which address a discreet set of growing practices, the SIP standards look at the interrelated elements of the whole farm system, including habitat conservation, energy efficiency, pest management, water conservation, economic stability, and human resources.  In order to qualify for certification, growers must have their practices verified through in-depth records and on-site audits by accredited independent inspectors. A separate Certification Advisory Committee then determines eligibility based on reports from auditors.

Given Merrill’s integral relationship with the Vineyard Team, his Pomar Junction Vineyard became a sort of model for defining the SIP Certification Standards, and thus, became the first SIP-Certified vineyard.  Today, over 100 vineyards are either certified or in-process to becoming so, from Napa to Santa Barbara County.

On the environmental side, specific sustainable farming practices at Pomar Junction include:

  • Soil Fertility Preservation: Cover crops between vineyard rows help control erosion and overall soil health.  A wildflower mix is also critical for producing pollen and nectar that attracts beneficial insects and maintains insect equilibrium in the vineyard.  Pomar Junction has not had to spray for insects for over two years as a result.
  • Water Preservation: When irrigation is necessary, Pomar Junction uses drip irrigation to deliver water directly to the vine.  Flow meter equipment measures precisely how much water is used, and pump efficiency tests ensure against waste.  Pomar Junction also collects all wastewater from the winery and re-uses it to put on the dirt roads.  This helps keep the dust down so that mites do not become a problem.
  • Biologically Integrated Farming System: Holistic preparations such as an orange extract oil helps in desiccating, drying and loosening of certain molds in the vineyard.  While it knocks down mite webbing and dissolves unwanted bug excretions, it also improves the effectiveness of the winery’s fungicide treatments.
  • Social Responsibility: Taking care of its employees is fundamental to Pomar Junction’s sustainable business model. “I can proudly say that we are one of the few companies around that provides health insurance and a 401k plan to all of our employees including seasonal hires,” said Merrill. “We use a system to bring back our experience employees and we try to promote from within. Our retained employee percentage has always been high as both employer and employee value the relationship on a multi-year basis.”  Pomar Junction also offers a very strong employee safety program that includes monthly management meetings and trainings throughout the year.

As consumers become savvier about sustainable wines, Pomar Junction has incorporated educational ag tours on their estate vineyard in Templeton to demonstrate the benefits of environmentally-conscious farming first-hand.  Visits include a ride through the vines on a tractor-pulled gondola that seats up to 20 passengers, a discussion led by Owner Dana Merrill himself, and a sumptuous picnic lunch.  For more information or to book a tour, visit http://www.PomarJunction.com or email Info@PomarJunction.com.

For more information and tickets to the Earth Day Food & Wine Festival at Pomar Junction Vineyard & Winery, visit www.EarthDayFoodAndWine.com.

Owned and operated by the Merrill Family in the Paso Robles AVA, Pomar Junction Vineyard & Winery showcases eight generations of Central Coast farming through deeply characterful estate wines.  With a rich heritage of sustainable practices in the vineyard and minimal intervention in the cellar, Pomar Junction guides estate fruit from vine to glass with a narrow focus on purity of flavor and varietal integrity.  The winery name refers to the Merrill Family’s concurrent lineage of railroad engineers as well as to bygone days when the Southern Pacific Railroad was responsible for the development of the picturesque Central Coast.  For more information about Pomar Junction Vineyard & Winery, call (805) 238-9944, or visit www.PomarJunction.com.  The Pomar Junction vineyard and tasting room are located at 5036 S. El Pomar Road in Templeton, CA 93465.

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Three Delicious Days by the Monterey Bay

Wine tasting at Manzoni Winery on the River Road Wine Trail

With the advent of the Monterey Wine Country app for smartphones, it’s easier than ever to experience authentic wine country, get close to the producers and indulge in some of the finest wines made in the world.  The Monterey mobile app acts as a private tour guide, with tasting room profiles and maps, wines, tours, and amenities. The perfect long weekend in scenic Monterey County could include three of the app’s most comprehensive itineraries: The River Road Wine Trail, Carmel Valley Wine Trail, and Monterey/Carmel-By-The-Sea Wine Trail.

Day 1: River Road Wine Trail

At the mid-point of Monterey Wine Country’s 90-mile valley, this wine trail follows a parallel path to Highway 101 at the foot of the gorgeous Santa Lucia Mountains.  Morning fog and comfortable daytime temperatures are the setting for friendly, easygoing tasting rooms that welcome guests.  With the first tasting room less than an hour from Silicon Valley, guests can pack a picnic and camera as they make memories of a journey through relaxed, hassle-free wine country with stops at Talbott Vineyards, Pessagno Winery, Manzoni Estate Vineyard, Ray Franscioni Wines, Boekenoogen Vineyards & Winery, Hahn Winery, Wrath Wines, Paraiso Vineyards, Ventana Vineyards, Sycamore Cellars, Scheid Vineyards, and Marin’s Vineyard.  Wine trail signs easily guide visitors along the way through this picturesque trail.

Don’t miss the River Road’s Valentine’s Day Passport on Saturday, February 11th, where visitors traveling to River Road will receive a souvenir glass for tasting at each of the wineries, entry into a grand drawing, special discounts, fun, food, and a celebration of all things amour. Each winery will be hosting their own wine and food pairing, specifically to suit the love surrounding Valentine’s Day. Tickets are $20 before February 1st and $30 thereafter. (info@riverroadwinetrail.com / www.riverroadwinetrail.com)

For luxurious and out-of-the-ordinary overnight accommodations, the nearby Vision Quest Ranch (http://www.VisionQuestRanch.com) is a B&B situated on an exotic animal sanctuary that offers safari tent-style bungalows – chic canvas-walled hotel suites complete with bathroom facilities – as well as morning breakfast delivered to the veranda by an African elephant.

Day 2: Carmel Valley Wine Trail

Chateau Julien in the Carmel Valley

“Country elegance” defines this well-marked wine trail, which runs east-to-west along the famously charming Carmel Valley Road.  Wineries to visit include Chateau Julien Wine Estate, Boekenoogen, Chateau Sinnet, Heller Estate Organic Vineyards, Talbott Vineyards, Joyce Vineyards, Carmel Hills Winery, Holman Ranch, and Bernardus Winery.  Nearby, it’s easy to find bistros serving sumptuous fare, art galleries, one-of-a-kind boutiques, hiking trails, equestrian trails and world-class golf to round out the perfect Carmel Valley experience.

After a full day of indulgence, the accommodations at Carmel Valley’s Bernardus Lodge (http://www.bernardus.com) are sure to rejuvenate and relax.  Nestled among the oaks and vineyards of scenic Carmel Valley, savor the gracious intimacy of a resort with epicurean flair, feather beds, cozy fireplaces and oversized bathtubs for two. The spa’s meditation garden, warming room and soaking pool along with dining at Marinus restaurant welcome you.

Day 3: Monterey and Carmel-By-The-Sea

For the last delicious day, re-energize in the buzz of Wine Country’s downtown tasting rooms in Carmel-by-the-Sea, Monterey, and on historic Cannery Row.  Conveniently located amid art galleries, fine dining, shopping, pristine beaches and tourist attractions like the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium, tasting opportunities in this area include Morgan Winery, Caraccioli Cellars, Figge Cellars, Scheid Vineyards Tasting Room, Galante Vineyards, Cima Collina, Coastview Vineyards, Wrath, Otter Cove Wines, Bountiful Basket, Pepe’s Vino Napoli Wine Bar, Tudor, McIntyre Tasting Studio, Bargetto Winery, Pierce Ranch Vineyards and Ventana Vineyards.

For a true “Monterey” experience, indulge in a night’s stay at the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa (http://www.MontereyPlazaHotel.com) located on Cannery Row.  Dramatically perched over

Monterey Plaza Hotel in downtown Monterey

the Monterey Bay, the Plaza is a Forbes four-star-rated hotel in the heart of the city that begs guests to enjoy the sounds of the surf, the fresh scent of sea air, and all the activities that the Monterey Peninsula has to offer.  The Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa was recently awarded the Trip Advisor Reader’s Choice Award, highlighted as one of the top 25 hotels in the United States.

For more information on these three delicious days by the Bay, please visit www.MontereyWines.org  To download the Monterey Wine Country app, please visit iTunes or www.MontereyWines.org

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Three blogs to help plan your next getaway.

It’s the dead of winter and we at Parker Sanpei & Associates have wanderlust.  But in the midst of fantasizing our next trip, we’ve discovered that vacations are like jeans: definitely not one-size-fits-all.

For some of us, a vacation means total luxury, sparing no expense, wanting for nothing.  To others, it means family reunions, where the food, lodging and activity options are broad enough to please everyone.  And for the rest of us, vacation means traveling on a shoestring to get the most bang for our buck.

With these three travel styles in mind, we’ve compiled a trio of our favorite travel blogs to help you plan your next vacation.  Bon voyage!

Where bliss and comfort are king: Authentic Luxury Travel

We love award-winning travel writer Elizabeth Hansen’s manifesto on her Authentic Luxury Travel site:

I’m a strong believer in the value of authentic travel experiences. It doesn’t matter if you are traveling to another country or visiting a nearby city. What’s important is to connect with local people and experience their culture. I think that authentic travel can be life changing and may even help build a safer, more peaceful global community.

In other words, just because you want to be luxuriously comfortable on your trip doesn’t mean you can’t immerse yourself completely in a place’s culture.  Some of our favorite posts include insider tips on visits to MyanmarPeru, and Napa Valley.

With many generations to please: Adventures for Families

According to travel industry website HotelInteractive.com, multi-generational family travel has exploded over the past several years.  If you’re one of the thousands of people out there looking for a different way to connect with family, the Adventures for Families blog is for you.  Author Suzette Mack is a Family Travel Advisor whose specialty is “creating memorable vacations for families with children of all ages. My goal is to ensure my clients have a stress and hassle-free vacation.”  Favorite posts include how to take a family cruise, “The Best of Paris (As Per My Kids),” and what to pack – and not pack – for family travel.

When every penny counts: Hostel Bloggers

Even if your hosteling days are long gone, this blog is a fantastic guide to finding the most unique, authentic, and adventurous goings-on without breaking the bank.  Written by HostelBookers.com, the blog won fifth place in the Tripbase Budget Travel Blog Awards for its fun writing, take-no-prisoners approach, and diversity of suggestions.  Posts we love include “Cheap Cinemas in London,” “Best Meat Pies in Australia,” and “Amsterdam Bars: 4 Fab & Frugal Places to Drink.”

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