After Santa Barbara, we drove the long and winding Route 1 along side the Pacific Ocean stopping at Arroyo Grande in an amazing water tower (which I highly recommend, link here ) and then up to Monterey. I have to admit in these few days my Mum and I’s focus was mainly tequila. At every liqour store we went to, the bright colours of Jose Cuervo and it’s oh so easy pre-made Margarita mix were too alluring to pass up. Couple this with the fact that American motels have very exciting free ice machines, we were golden.
We arrived in Santa Cruz in the glorious sun and much to my disappointment, the famous Big Dipper roller coaster was closed. Apparently I went on it when I was five but my normally very reliable memory couldn’t remember. Determined to experience the Boardwalk à la Michael and the Lost Boys, we drank beer and played arcade games. Despite having nothing to do with wine, my Mum picked up tickets to see a local band that night, the California Honeydrops. Seeing gigs in the States always fascinates me because it’s just like in the movies; waitresses walking round with trays filled with drinks, confidently carried over everyones heads and most importantly, plenty of room to dance about. No sweaty mosh pits in sight. The band were awesome, funk, R&B and Southern Soul. We drank. We danced. We somehow made it home.
We made it to San Francisco and in a bid to quash our hangovers we went out in search of steak. Having walked up and down the steepest hills known to man we stumbled across Izzy’s Steak and Chop House which was exactly what we were after. It was far more New York than San Francisco but after a dirty martini and a glance at the menu I didn’t care.
You would think that Californian wine on a wine list in California would be at a reasonable price. Wrong. Wine, in general, is really quite pricey in the States.This continues to baffle me because transport costs are practically zero and there’s no export taxes. With this in mind there’s no point trying to be frugal if you want wine with your dinner. Since it was a Saturday night and two rare steaks were on their way to our table we decided to go big. Stag’s Leap are a powerhouse winery in Napa that I am forever lusting after but never actually get a bottle purely because it’s always out of my budget. When I saw a bottle of their 2012 Merlot for a mere $60 I was sold. It did not disappoint. My excitement over this Merlot confused my Mother somewhat; “but in Sideways that guy says he doesn’t want any fucking Merlot?” She exclaimed. Firstly, don’t believe everything you see on TV and secondly, I very much doubt he was talking about Stags Leap when he uttered the infamous line. Of course, once she’d had a sip she totally got it. Rich and earthy, with dark plums and sweet red cherries, much, much more than your average Merlot from the supermarket. You can bag yourself a bottle from Majestic Wine for around £28.
Sadly, our brief visit to San Francisco was over, with huge amounts of excitement and expectation we drove over the spectacular Golden Gate Bridge north to Wine Country.