Heads rolled and blood paved the way when warriors like Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan ruled Commagene in the province of Adiyaman. “I had no idea that all these civilizations had passed through Turkey,” exclaims Orinda’s Chris McLain. Recently retired, McLain, wife Barbara and son, Brian, toured the southern region for 19 days. McLain noted that Mount Nemrut and Ephesus, a well preserved Roman seaport from 100-300 AD, located on the West Coast near Izmir, were personal favorites. “The people respect their history. They know that they are at a crossroads between Asia and Europe,” adds McLain.
McLain selected Kommegene Travel and opted for a driver and guide this trip due to the proximity to Iraq and some of the locations, such as Nemrut, were very difficult to reach. They enjoyed the people and learning about the Islamic religion. The family also visited Istanbul and said they would return in a heartbeat as it was very unique. “We like to focus on relatively small areas,” reflects McLain.
Beautiful Places in Sonoma, California
Speaking of unique places, Lafayette’s Nancy and Mike Scribner have their Sonoma property available to rent through Beautiful Places. The company provides lavish estate accommodations. “I like Villa Carneros because it’s close to the square and easily accessible to both Sonoma and Napa,” notes Nancy. Beautiful Places Lorna Taylor says the property is ideal for families or couples traveling together.
For a beautiful property with concierge service, visit 1801 First, Napa’s luxury Inn. Former Danville resident Darcy Tunt dreamed of creating a specialized experience for her guests. “We’re all about the couple, romance and privacy,” adds Tunt. “We offer individual breakfast times so guests don’t have to mingle.”
Enjoy a glass of bubbly upon arrival and housemade truffles. Evening wine and hors d’oeuvres are served in the parlor. The culinary tour continues with a stop at the relatively new 40,000 square foot Oxbow Public Market. Save room for dinner at Chef Greg Cole’s Celadon at 500 Main Street. For a continued sugar high, visit Anette’s Chocolate Factory in downtown Napa.
The White House Inn and Spa in Napa, California
June unveils Tunt’s latest project, The White House Inn and Spa; Napa’s first hip, “green” hotel. With cork flooring and recycled paint, the 17 rooms and suites are environmentally friendly. The mansion also offers a 1,300 square foot cottage, ideal for weddings and special events.
Road Trip to Jacksonville, Oregon
In keeping with our wine country and unique inn theme, I want to mention a romantic Inn that I visited during a southern Oregon road trip. The Jacksonville Inn in the historic town of Jacksonville Oregon, is beyond charming. The Inn offers eight rooms and four guest suites, with a full course breakfast included with lodging. A former gold-mining town, Jacksonville is a food and wine lover’s paradise. The town is home to the Britt Festival, the oldest outdoor summer music festival in the Northwest. It’s also home to many ex-Californians.
Oregon’s Valley View Winery
Every winery I visited had a California connection. Valley View’s founder, Frank Wisnovsky, was an engineer who worked on the Transbay BART tube before retiring and purchasing 76 acres in the Applegate Valley. Tragically, he drown in nearby Lost Creek Lake in 1980 leaving sons Mike and Mark to run the winery, along with UC Davis Winemaker John Guerrero, now in his 22nd year with Valley View. Troon Vineyard Winemaker Herb Quady grew up on his family’s vineyard property in Madera. Finally, Wooldridge Creek Vineyard & Winery co-owners Kara Olmo and husband Greg Paneitz met while studying Enology at Fresno State University. All of these wineries are a short, scenic drive from Jacksonville.
The Country Cottage of Jacksonville is a cozy café offering a Brown Sugar Shortbread that would win any bakeoff contest. School teacher Susanne Glass moonlights as the Cottage baker by night churning out such treasures as the Nanaimo Bar, a closely guarded recipe discovered in British Columbia. Located steps away from the Jacksonville Inn on West California Street, Farmhouse Treasures Owner and Candymaker, Kelly Cason turns out delicious fudge. “This is the real deal with butter and sugar,” says Cason. Across the street Constance Jesser of the Jacksonville Mercantile introduced me to Lillie Belle chocolates. Owner and Chocolatier Jeff Shepherd reminds me of renegade Rhone Ranger Winemaker Randall Graham of Bonny Doon Winery. The tie-dyed, free spirited Shepherd operates an organic berry farm in Jacksonville and hand paints the world’s most expensive chocolate bars at his Central Point factory. While some of his high-end chocolates are only available at the store, Andronico’s carries his groovy Hippie Crunch.
Lillie Belle Farms Chocolatier Jeff Shepherd
Next door to Lillie Belle is the Rogue Creamery, home to the award winning Crater Lake Blue Cheese and a most unusual Smokey Blue Cheese truffle developed especially for Rogue Creamery by Shepherd. I caught up with Lead Cheesemaker and Plant Manager Craig Nelson for a little background on the creamery. Started by Thomas Vella in 1935, cheese production was ramped up during the war years to support nearby Camp White. Vella’s son, Ignazio, often referred to as “The Godfather of American Artisan Cheese,” took over the business, eventually selling it in 2002 to David Gremmels and Cary Bryant.
Nelson says that the creamery makes three types of cheese, good, very good and excellent cheeses. “We know our cows and we know our dairymen,” prides Nelson and adds that they offer a quality, handmade, sustainable product.