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Holman Ranch in Carmel Valley and Highway 1

Last month I was part of a group that got to visit Holman Ranch in Carmel Valley in California. Located at the northern end of the Pacific Coast Highway Scenic Drive, and just 12 miles inland, it’s a combination of rolling hills and vineyards, estate wines, wedding-perfect landscaping, and architectural history.

statue at Holman Ranch, Carmel ValleyHistory
Back when California was still part of Mexico, the ranch lands were bestowed to the Mission San Carlos Borromeo del Rio Carmel. By 1928 it had changed hands several times, and a hacienda was constructed. Nicknamed “Hidden House,” it was a hideaway for Hollywood celebrities. You can see many pictures of them on the walls of the still-standing building.
In the 1940’s it was expanded to include guest rooms and one of the first swimming pools in Carmel Valley. Fast forward to 2006, and the current owners brought it back to its original splendor, while adding vineyards, olive groves and wine caves.

wine cave, Holman RanchWine and Food
On our tour we got to taste a number of their estate wines, which have been rightly listed by National Geographic as one of the “world’s 10 best wines.” What appealed to me was their organic, high end Jarman varietals because they were created to honor co-owner Hunter Lowder’s mother, with a portion of proceeds going to the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation.

Listed by Nat'l Geographic as having 1 of the “world’s 10 best wines,” Holman Ranch has that… Click To Tweet

wine barrel, Holman RanchMy dad, a former wine connoisseur, would love their estate wine club. Besides getting exclusive access to some of their limited-production wines (which I found out means you cannot buy them elsewhere), club membership is also one of the ways to gain access to the ranch grounds, events and guest cottages. My dad also would have loved the offsite Will’s Fargo restaurant (which is owned by the same family) where we got to have dinner as their special guests. I had a favorite waiter. He noticed I was a bit cold on the outdoor patio and brought me a folded up tablecloth to put around my shoulders. I think he liked me best!

guest cottage, Holman RanchThe Buildings
Even if you care nothing for wine, you’ll still want to stay on the property. Weddings, retreats, special events, (we were a group of 14 bloggers, though the property can accommodate 38 overnight guests), or corporate dinners are all options for staying overnight in one of the 10 “cabins.” I have it in quotation marks because my so-called cabin had a kitchen, living room, and two separate bedrooms, each with their own bathroom. It was divine, actually.

tall poppies at Holman RanchAfter touring the wine caves, we got a thorough tour of the – are you ready for this – game room, carriage house, great room, conference room, chapel, lawn and veranda, garden courtyard, rose patio, and stone terrace. We were also given complete access to the swimming pool.

bespoke cushion at Holman RanchWe had spent the previous night in Carmel-by-the-Sea, which was a few miles away, yet completely different. I was trying to decide which place I preferred, and came to the conclusion that they were tied for first because both places were amazing in their own right. The main thing they had in common was superior hospitality.

bay at Point LobosHighway 1
If you want scenery, take Highway 1 along the California coast instead of the inland freeway choices. After leaving Holman Ranch, I wasn’t in a hurry to get home, so I took this route for the first time in quite a few years. Even though it was foggy for much of the drive, I managed to get some great photos, and go on a few hikes. One warning – your nose will let you know when you’re at the elephant seal rookery just north of Hearst Castle.

lighthouse on PCH

Bixby Bridge, Highway 1

Pfeiffer State Park

Tunnel on Highway 1

elephant seals, Cambria

Text and photos: Alexandra Williams, MA


I Went to Italy and Fell in Love

I fell in love in Italy. Not with a gondolier or pastry chef, but with architecture, history, new friends, art, the streets and canals of Venice, good design, and a refrigerator.

gondolier in Venice

Can you tell he’s waving directly at me? Yeah, me neither.

Along with a group of designers, I was part of a group that traveled to Venice and Milan. Just to be clear, I’m not an interior designer in any sense. I decorate my home in Early Dust Kitty. But I do know a lot about bribing the organizers wellness, leading an active, healthy life, and travel.

This is my second trip to Europe as the oddball blogger in a group of designers organized by Veronika Miller of Modenus / DesignHounds, and it’s fantastic to see through the designers’ eyes. Our trip was organized around a visit to the Salone del Mobile Milan, probably the world’s biggest kitchen, bath and furniture show. But of course, we spent a few days in Venice, which I’m highlighting here. Stay tuned for an upcoming post with pictures of Milan.

Venice Italy

My first view of Venice from my private water taxi

As you vicariously travel to Venice by scrolling through my pictures, I’ll share some information about Liebherr, one of our trip’s sponsors, plus tell you a story about my attack freezer.

Venice, Italy fire station

This is a fire station in Venice. Look for the red boats.

Canal in Venice, Italy

Sunlight reflected on a canal in Venice.

My younger son and I moved into a rental home that we own a few months ago. As part of our move we said goodbye to our fancy, new refrigerator and hello to a fridge that has only wire shelves that don’t do a great job holding food in place. And anything put in the back of the fridge freezes. Not a winning plan for my Dutch cheese or the celery. But the fridge is still better than the freezer, which has NO shelves at all. This means everything is sort of stuffed in. Every time one of us opens up the freezer door, the contents fling themselves at us and onto the floor. Every. Damn. Time. I hate the freezer with a passion. The freezer reciprocates.

Liebherr wine cooler

The one-touch wine cooler from Liebherr. Waiting patiently for the sommelier.

Liebherr is a German company that makes refrigerators (I should mention the wine coolers too, knowing how much you all like wine). Roughly translated, Liebherr means “Love the Man,” so you KNOW I’m all over that.

Liebherr fridge

Come to mama. Glass shelves and BioFresh drawers. I hope it fits in my carry on.

dinner with Liebherr

Josef is head of sales for Liebherr in North America. You should insist on smoking a bread stick with him every time a fridge or wine cooler gets it wings. Photo credit: Veronika Miller

I found my next refrigerator. It has glass shelves (ooh, aah), is Energy Star rated, and (drumroll please) has BioFresh compartments that keep my fruits, veggies, cheese and fish fresh for days longer than a standard crisper. This last feature had me at “hello.” I’ve even downloaded the free Liebherr BioFresh app in anticipation of receiving this fridge for my birthday (hey, Liebherr, it’s in August). The app tells you how long something would stay fresh in a standard fridge, how long it stays fresh in either the BioFresh or BioFresh-Plus drawer, and how to store it. For example, I picked the Zander fish from the app because it’s similar to my family nickname – Alex-ZANDER-a – get it? The app recommends the DrySafe (low humidity) over the HydroSafe (high humidity) compartment. When it’s wrapped and stored in the DrySafe BioFresh-Plus drawer, the fish stays fresh four times longer than it would in the pitiful excuse of a fridge in my house (and probably yours). I also learned that Zander fish has Vitamins A, B2, D & E, and Minerals Flourine, Iodine and Zinc.

bridge of sighs, Venice, Italy

The bridge in the background is the Bridge of Sighs, as it’s the last bridge prisoners saw on their way to jail

Venice, Italy

This plaza (also known as a campo) was 2 doors from our Venice apartment. And your eyes are correct – the tower leans.

laundry in Venice, Italy

Venetians seem to do their laundry in color categories. Obviously, it was blue day.

Details abound in Venice, Italy

Every square inch of this building and bridge is covered in details.

head detail in Venice, Italy

Close-up of a head over the door in Venice

limoncello in many colors

Limoncello comes in many flavors and colors. Try them all! Not that I did. cough cough

Now I just have to figure out if limoncello counts as a fruit. If so, I can store it in the HydroSafe drawer. Or the wine cooler. Or, you know, drink it immediately. I hereby raise a glass to toast my happy memories of Venice and Milan, and to Liebherr for helping make my dreams come true (both the travel AND the plan to oust my attack fridge).

sunset in Venice

Watching the sun set in Venice, Italy

by Alexandra Williams, MA

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Earth Day Food and Wine Weekend: Sustainability in Practice

Alexandra Williams, MA

Wine glass at Earth Day Food & Wine eventRaise your hand (and glass) if you like wine. Now keep your hands and value system up, as you are about to discover a wine event that celebrates sustainability in food AND wine – Earth Day Food and Wine Weekend in Paso Robles, California.

Pssst – if you don’t live in California, read this anyway, as you can probably buy one of the 1.5 millions cases of Sustainability in Practice (SIP) wines near you, which might cheer you up about missing the event.

What is SIP?
When a winery achieves this certification, it means they are committed to practices that support workers and the environment, as well as contributing to cleaner processes. As we’re in a major drought in California, these vintners, ranchers and farmers are leading the way in trying to work with, not against, the land and weather, as no crops will be sustainable if we don’t do something now.
cheers to SIP wines - Sustainability in Practice
Every time you buy a SIP-certified bottle of wine, you are putting your money toward growers who share your (and my) preferences for sustainable practices. You are casting a vote to keep these vintners in business. By drinking wine! Can you say “win win?” If you’re into social media, you can even use the hashtag #ispySIP. And if you have no idea what a hashtag is, and wonder why I’m co-opting the pound sign, no worries – just ask your local shop if they carry SIP certified wines.

Besides me, who now wants to say, “I spy with my little eye…. wine?”

eat locally grown food at Earth Day Food & WineEarth Day Food & Wine Weekend
Let’s say you are somewhat close to Paso Robles in Central California and want to come to the event April 18th. Held at Castoro Cellars, it’s a food and wine experience that’s high class and low key. Heck, you can wear your flip flops and “I Love California” t-shirt while dancing to the Cali Funk tunes of Proxima Parada if you want. Guess where much of your admission money goes? To educational scholarships for relatives of farmworkers and Spanish education programs. Drink Well and Do Good should be their motto. But it’s not, because I just made it up.

Learn more at the Earth Day Food and Wine site
Register at this link (prices range from $75 to $800 for a table for 8)
Get general information here

dessert sorbet at Earth Day Food and WineIf you are social media savvy, you can find them on Facebook , Twitter, and Instagram.

For the record, this is not a sponsored post. They are giving me free admission, but I’m writing about this because one of the organizers is my friend and I know what a fun event it will be. For example, on their Facebook page, I just saw reference to locally grown onion, Gruyere, bacon quiches that will be at the event. Besides, they know the difference between “borne” and “born.” The editor in me is savoring this grammatical knowledge. You know, like a good glass of wine.

Photo credits: Earth Day Food and Wine


Wine, Aston Martins and Beaches: A Santa Barbara Weekend

Alexandra Williams, MA
Driving an Aston Martin in Santa Barbara

Pick a car, any car

Santa Barbara, the land of wine, women, and Sean – Connery, that is. In an Aston Martin. Driving through wine country. Ahhhh, such is the life I lead. Well, sort of.business of blogging session with Alexandra Williams and Kymberly Williams-Evans

The Wine Bloggers Conference was held here in S.B. County over the weekend. As presenters, Kymberly and I were invited to participate in the events. The first weekend highlight was visiting five Solvang tasting rooms, followed by dinner at Cecco Ristorante and gelato at Café Dolce. I’m going to list the 5 tasting rooms so that you can visit them when you come to SolvangIMG_8319

Solvang Wineries

The Good Life
Carivintâs Winery
Lucas & Lewellen
Sevtap winery in Solvang

picture at Carivintas Winery, Solvang

Living Well is not a Sin; Not Appreciating it Is

Every single one of them had very outgoing, personable owners. The fact that I know very little about wine was not a deterrent to my experience. I just tuned out the wine talk (you need a translator if you’re not a wine person) and focused on the taste. Turns out I’m a Gewürztraminer and port person (I discovered this at Presidio).

The second highlight was driving an Aston Martin. I had planned to drive the DB9 (seen just below), but got distracted by the blue color of the Vanquish. photo 4-7IMG_8379My son got to go in the Rapide.

picture of Aston Martin Vanquish

This is not the Rapide, as they went so rapidly I couldn’t get a photo!

We found out that Aston Martin does tour events too. They have a Pebble Beach – Lake Tahoe – Yosemite event coming up in August. Fast cars and mountain roads. I’ll wait for James Bond Daniel Craig to pick me up.

picture of Bacara Resort

Bacara Resort – From Pool to Ocean

The event was based at Bacara Resort, so we took a walk along the beach afterward. No matter what car you drive, or whether you do or don’t stay at the resort, the beach is open to the public. People think it’s private, but locals know it’s not, so you might like to add Haskell’s Beach to your visit.

Haskell's Beach near Bacara Resort

Haskell’s Beach by the Bacara Resort

The third highlight was a tour of some of the wine rooms in Santa Barbara – first in El Paseo downtown, followed by the funk zone. We got around the funk zone via surreys. Did you know you can rent surreys, Segways, scooters, skates and bikes (of course) down by the beach?

Surrey rentals in Santa Barbara

Pedaling our Surrey

And pedaling the surrey counts as exercise. I’ll link to the places that hosted us, and let you decide for yourself which of their wines you prefer.

El Paseo Downtown S.B.

picture of El Paseo in Santa Barbara

El Paseo – Tucked Away in the Heart of Santa Barbara… Seriously. It’s Tucked Away Right in Front of You

Au Bon Climat 
Grassini Family Vineyards
Margerum Wine Co. & MWC32
Jamie Slone Wines (opening next month, but we got a sneak peek)
C’est Cheese (they sell a huge variety of world cheeses and wine, so get a sandwich to complement your tasting adventures)

pic of Grassini tasting room in Santa Barbara

G for Grassini; 5 for 5 Grassini daughters

pic from C'est Cheese

C’est Cheese (and wine and pastries and fruit and sandwiches)

Funk Zone

Fox Wine Co. (lots of art too)

Fox Wine & Art Foundry in Santa Barbara

Art at Fox Wine

Municipal Winemakers (my favorite for the vibe – they are in a former scuba shop, complete with swimming pool behind the wall)

picture of chandelier at Municipal Winery in Santa Barbara

Muni’s Chandelier – Look Closely


Municipal Winery in the Funk Zone, Santa Barbara

Join Club Awesome at Municipal Winery

Santa Barbara Winery

S.B. Winery in the Funk Zone

The back room at Santa Barbara Winery

Deep Sea (which is over the water on Stearns Wharf)
If beautiful cars, beaches, and people (that’s me, in case you’re confused), plus wineries galore don’t tempt you to come visit Santa Barbara, then you are jaded I tell you, jaded. FYI, Santa Barbara isn’t known for jade, unless it’s the color of the sea. While you’re here, come take our exercise classes so you can speed along during your surrey ride.

Did I mention I won a bottle of wine during the conference? Yeah, I win good stuff. Oh, and standing by an Aston Martin makes you look like a model. See what it did for me?

picture of Alexandra Williams at Bacara Resort

Who’s that behind those shades?


5 Things Wine and Exercise Have in Common

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

How would you respond if you were asked to speak at a big wine event yet rarely drank wine? Of course, we raised our hands (if not our wine glasses).  Hey, wine has legs; so do we.  Some wines get better with age; so do we …. uh, whatever. Wine drinkers swirl; we twirl!

Therefore this weekend finds us presenting at the Wine Bloggers Conference.  And just to show how much we know about wine as it relates to exercise, we created this handy dandy infographic for you to pin, read, share, and toast!

5 things wine and exercise have in common

Wine is not the only thing that gets better with age. You can too when you :

1) Follow us on Google +Alexandra and +Kymberly, on Twitter: AlexandraFunFit and KymberlyFunFit and Instagram: AlexandraFunFit and KymberlyFunFit.

2) Pick up the phone or email us to book us to speak at your next meeting or conference. Call (805) 403-4338 or email info@funandfit.org.

3) Add to our list in the comments below. What else do wine and exercise have in common?


One Wine with Whole Foods: My First Wine-Tasting in 20 Years

Alexandra Williams, MA
This is a sponsored post for Whole Foods Market Santa Barbara. The opinions (and some of the wine) are my own, though I’d love to share with you!

 picture of the welcome table at the One Wine event Whole Foods here in Santa Barbara held a One Wine Spring Release 2014 event about a week ago, and I was invited.

As I haven’t gone to a wine-tasting in at least 20 years, and when I did it was as the designated driver, I was hopeful that I would blend in (haha, see that little joke there – One Wine is all about wine blends). Just in case my lack of knowledge was embarrassingly apparent, I brought along a ringer to help me. Turns out, the winemakers were quite friendly; not at all snooty or over my head.

picture at One Wine event in Santa Barbara

A pink shirt for the Rosé Revolution


I happen to live in Southern California’s wine country. As I live at the top of a mountain pass that leads from S.B. to Santa Ynez, I see the tour jeeps and buses loaded with visitors headed to the wineries every weekend. I mention this in case you decide to come to S.B., stop at Whole Foods for picnic items, then come up and over the Pass for a tour.

Weekend travel aside, I was a bit trepidatious when I walked into the wine section at Whole Foods for the event, as I actually felt a bit of an imposter. What if someone asked me about “legs” or “nose” or any other body part associated with wine knowledge? So I did what I do at fancy restaurants when there are too many fork choices – I watched what other people did and copied them. First thing learned: the mason jars were for pouring out any extra wine in your glass when you’re done tasting. Second thing learned; lots of snacks available!!!snacks at One Wine Santa Barbara

Actually, I learned a lot. One Wine is a collaborative effort between the So. Cal. Whole Foods markets and specific Central California winemakers. The wines selected to be part of the One Wine label are not only affordable, but also produced locally, by hand, in small batches, and support the local economy and land stewardship. For this event, Margerum Wine Company, Ampelos Cellars, Hearst Ranch Winery, and Sextant Wines were on hand.

drinking wine at Whole Foods Santa Barbara

The wine matches my jeans

I tried the 2013 Margerum Rosé (Grenache, Counoise, Cinsault), the 2013 Margerum White Blend (Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc), the 2012 Sextant Zinfandel (Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Syrah), and the 2013 Ampelos Rosé) Syrah, Riesling, Grenache), in that order. If that’s the wrong tasting order, oh well. I kind of did a circle around the room. And I asked why Petite Sirah has an “I,” while Syrah has a “Y,” and learned it has something to do with them being completely different, yet somehow related way back when. Hmm, might have to do some follow-up work on that explanation.

When I confessed my lack of wine knowledge, Rebecca Work, co-owner of Ampelos Cellars advised me to only concern myself with three questions: 1 – Is it yummy; 2 – Do I lick my lips; and 3 – Do I want more? If that’s all it takes, I’m now a connoisseur! As part of my extensive wine knowledge, I’ll share an interesting tidbit. Ampelos Cellars is the first vineyard (2009) in the U.S. to be certified in all three categories: biodynamic, sustainable, and organic.

Ampelos Cellars Wines at One Wine event Santa Barbara

I can’t say which of these wines you’ll like, but I ended up buying some of the Margerum Rosé.

Sextant One Wine Santa BarbaraAnd right on the label it says only 224 cases were produced. So if you want some of this year’s One Wine blends, you should probably hurry to one of the So. Cal. Whole Foods markets for these Spring 2014 releases. I left a few cases for you.


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