Patrick Hoy here – Sometimes You Just Have To Wine! And as you all know, I LOVE to travel! I also LOVE my family and friends. And I especially LOVE wine! So you can only imagine how excited I was last month in July to be combining all 3 of those things!
I hadn’t spent a 4th of July weekend in America since I moved to London 15 years ago – so I thought it was about time to plan a vacation where I could celebrate the 4th of July with friends & family in the good old US of A! And what better of a place to do so then in the sunshine of California – especially since my aunt and my cousin live in the Santa Maria area – and I hadn’t seen them in over 20 years!
Now you’ve heard me talk about Betty Rose on TV because she’s been a Quacker for years and years – she even knew who Jeanne Bice was before I did! And the last time I saw her daughter – my cousin Elizabeth – she was in college – and NOW she’s married and has 2 beautiful daughters. I had never met Elizabeth’s husband or her daughters – so this was my excuse to see them all – and what a wonderful reunion it was! Elizabeth works for Foxen Vineyards in the Santa Ynez area of California – so it only made sense (because of my love of wine!) to plan my visit touring some vineyards.
My best friend James lives in Los Angeles. He’s a TV Director and directs the courtroom show called Judge Faith, so I called him up and asked him if he wanted to head to wine country – and he said YES! He picked me up at the airport in his convertible – which is the PERFECT way to enjoy the California sunshine!
We spent a couple of nights in Los Angeles before we headed up to the wine country. I had never been to the Santa Barbara & Santa Maria area vineyards before. This is the wine country in California that was made famous in the movie ‘Sideways’ staring Paul Giamatti in 2004 – and it’s officially called the Santa Ynez Valley. James was fantastic and did all of the travel arrangements for our trip up there since he had been there before. Because there were 4 of us going, it was more cost-efficient to rent a house through Airbnb – which I had never done before. All I can say is that if you’re going anywhere with a group of people, it really IS the way to do it! Here are some pictures of the house we rented in the beautiful little town of Santa Ynez. I think James did an outstanding job finding this place!
It had 4 bedrooms, a beautiful kitchen AND a piano!! We had so much fun sitting out in the back garden around the fire pit drinking wine at night under the clearest sky’s I’ve ever seen!
As soon as everyone arrived, we didn’t waste any time and we headed out to do some wine tasting at a few vineyards my cousin Elizabeth had recommended. 1st stop was at Sunstone Vineyards. Sunstone had 3 different ‘tasting menus’ – and the four of us really couldn’t decide on which one we wanted to try – so to our surprise and delight, the Sunstone team member leading our tasting gave us ALL 3 tastings – and he only charged us for 1 – how Quack-Tastic is that?!? Here I am with Todd, James & Matt – I think you can tell from our big smiles that we were VERY happy! My friend Matt on the far right of this picture ended up buying SEVERAL bottles of wine! (I guess the vineyard knew what they were doing when they let us try all three tasting menus!)
Next up was a great vineyard called Gainey. I loved the fact that the tasting we had was in one of the vaults right next to the barrels of wine!
After our tastings, we headed over to an adorable and quirky town called Solvang. If you have never been to Solvang, you MUST put it on your list! ‘Solvang’ is Danish for ‘sunny field’ – and the sun was definitely shining when we were there. The population is only about 6,000 people and some settled Danes in America established the town in 1911. According to Wikipedia – ‘the city is home to a number of bakeries, restaurants and merchants offering a taste of Denmark in California.’ The architecture is traditional Danish. Here’s a picture of one of the bakeries:
They even had a store that only sold things ‘As Seen On TV’ – like Ginsu Knives, BeDazzlers, etc. (I told you this town was quirky!) Here I am in front of the store:
But my FAVORITE thing in all of Solvang was the BIG clog! Yes, you read that right, they have a BIG clog shoe – so you know I just HAD to get a picture with it! (I wonder if Jane Treacy will let me model it on her next shoe show on QVC?!)
Cheese & ‘Quackers’!
After our tour around Solvang, it was time to head back to the Airbnb house in the town of Santa Ynez for a little post-wine nap – and then a freshen up before heading out to dinner. My cousin had recommended that we stop by another tasting room, called Carr, in the actual town of Santa Ynez before going to dinner. The reason she recommended it is because they had a really good band playing IN the tasting room in front of the barrels of wine! I’m so glad she did because the band was GREAT and it was fun to have some cheese & ‘quackers’ – and more wine – before heading to dinner!
We then went to dinner at an amazing restaurant called SY Kitchen. If you’re ever in Santa Ynez, you MUST go to this restaurant for a special meal – the food was Quack-A-Licious – and so was the service! Here we all are – I think we clean up rather nicely! It’s such fun spending a weekend with your best friends!
It’s All In The Family!
After all that wine, you can imagine that we slept like rocks that night! And then it was up nice and early on Saturday morning to head further north to try another vineyard before we met my aunt and my cousin & her family for lunch. The short drive was beautiful – especially in the convertible! Our first stop was one of the most beautiful vineyards I’ve ever seen called Zaca Mesa.
Since this was the 4th of July weekend, everyone was in the mood to celebrate the 4th – even these dogs at Zaca Mesa were dressed up for the holiday with their red, white and blue bowties!
It was then a few more miles north to Foxen Vineyards, where my cousin works, to FINALLY see my aunt and cousin who I hadn’t seen in over 20 years!! To say I was excited would be an understatement – I was jumping out of my skin with glee!!
Here I am with my beautiful aunt Betty Rose. Not only is her name beautiful, but I think you’ll agree with me that she is gorgeous! How about that smile – you can tell she definitely has the Quacker Spirit in her!
She was dressed in her stars and stripes – and her hat had red, white & blue flowers in it. I wish I had taken a picture of her shoes – because they were red, white & blue sequined tennis shoes! As I wrote earlier, Betty Rose knew who Jeanne Bice was before I did. Many years ago she needed a Christmas sweater for a party she was going to – and one of her friends told her to watch Quacker Factory on QVC to get one. The minute Betty Rose saw Jeanne on QVC, she was an instant fan – and the minute she received the sweater at home and saw the quality of it, she was hooked on Quacker Factory clothing – and she rarely misses a show. She couldn’t believe it one day when she turned on QVC and there I was working for Jeanne and the Quacker team!
When Betty Rose and Elizabeth found out I was going to be in the Santa Ynez area, they were so kind and invited me, and my friends, to Foxen Vineyard for a pre-4th of July lunch. Elizabeth set up a wine tasting of all of Foxen’s famous Pinot Noirs for us so that we could pick out our favorite to have with lunch. Let me tell you, it was a VERY difficult choice because they were ALL so good! As soon as we were done with the tasting, they whisked us to a private part of the vineyard and had prepared an incredible lunch for us – complete with decorations!
Here I am with my beautiful cousin Elizabeth drinking that amazing Pinot Noir! And just look at the scenery we were so blessed to have surrounding us as we had an amazing lunch that they had made with love!
But I have to say the highlight of the day was meeting my cousin Elizabeth’s daughters for the first time!!! I knew that the girls LOVED bling – so I brought them some presents with me – including feathered tiaras, princess wands, beaded bracelets, unicorn necklaces, temporary glitter tattoos – and of course Quacker Duck Whistles – just about everything little girls would love! Here I am with Ella & Evelyn all dressed up – I think these girls are Quackers-In-Training – they LOVE their bling!!
And it was wonderful to finally meet Elizabeth’s husband Daniel for the first time – he’s a super guy and great father! Here’s a picture of the whole family together. How lucky am I to have these wonderful people as part of my family?!
Love The Wine You’re With!
What a GREAT trip it was to California & the Santa Ynez Valley! And how wonderful to reconnect with Aunt Betty Rose, Elizabeth and her beautiful family over the 4th of July weekend! Thank you to my friends James, Todd & Matt for a wonderful trip – and a BIG thanks to Betty Rose & Elizabeth for treating us all so well – and for an AMAZING and yummy lunch – I love you all so much! Now, let’s just promise that it WON’T be another 20 years until we all see each other again!!!
Quacker Hugs & Love From Across the Duck Pond!
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