Holiday Getaways Near & Far

A growing number of people I know have had it with the “rush hour” mentality of the days leading up to Christmas and extending into the New Years holiday. Those intrepid individuals tend to park their cars in the driveways of out-of-the-way resorts with quiet ambience that signal a meditative, relaxed way to celebrate.But first they promise themselves no more shopping malls and supermarkets for their wine and other personal gifts to family and friends that count. “Cyber Monday” on Nov. 26 was Exhibit A that consumers are flocking to the Internet for their special gifts. Sales were up 30 percent over last year, while “Black Friday” on Nov. 23 sales were up just 4 percent. If you were one of those that already did your shopping on the “net” you now have time to plan a getaway to the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe.Anytime is a lovely time to stroll the greenbelts and soak in the sunshine in the areas of rest and relaxation at the Inn.This time of year, you can enjoy the seasonal fantasy of Christmas décor, and the food, wine and fun of New Year’s Eve. In researching this article I discovered that décor changes are in progress both in and out of the rooms and cottages, at all times respecting the heritage of its tradition.The spa will be upgraded to bring it up to date and some cottages will offer “country elegance,” on this serene property, just minutes from downtown San Diego. A portion of the great lawn will be enhanced to include community events.The Inn’s restaurant is already showing personality changes with a menu profile that is being crafted by Executive Chef Todd Allison who has been creating dishes since July when he came over from Anthology in the Gaslamp of San Diego. “I am emphasizing French dishes within the classic Mediterranean style. I pick up fresh vegetables daily, along with fresh fish like prawns, mussels, rockfish, scallops and trout,” he revealed. His earlier work was with the legendary San Francisco Chef Michael Mina when he ran Aqua, at the St. Regis Monarch Beach, in Orange County.

I also can recommend meeting the wine sommelier Sean Dawson who is a big backer of California wines. He advised me on the Napa Valley Hall Cabernet with a 2008 vintage, the top Napa Valley wine from Wine Spectator last year.

It was magnificent with a New York Strip Steak. “This is a small production, very well balanced, organically grown Cabernet,” he pointed out. Dawson expects to be introducing a “Wines of the Pacific Coast” monthly series of events.

If you stay away from the shopping centers, you can watch the waves crash just moments away at nearby Del Mar or Encinitas or walk the coastline and breathe in the Pacific. Catch a room reservation or a dinner by visiting

My “far” recommendations include the Vintage Inn/Villagio Inn & Spa, both linked at Oakville in the Napa Valley. Both are running a Great Escape promotion that you can check out at (800) 351-1133.

The other I have, if price is no object, is Meadowood in St. Helena, a quiet and cushy Napa Valley gem that features daily wine tastings, golf, tennis and croquet, and of course a full-service spa. See more at

Wine Bytes

TOAST Enoteca in the Gaslamp downtown San Diego has Tijuana’s most acclaimed chef, Miguel Angel Guerrera, presenting a “Baja Med” Argentinian four-course wine paired dinner, Dec. 14 from 7 to 10 p.m. Cost is $50. RSVP at (619) 269-4267.

North County Wine Company in San Marcos brings in a “Bubbly Tasting” Dec. 19 from 4 to 9 p.m. Call (760) 744-2119.

Meritage Wine Market in Encinitas is pouring the Wines of Napa Valley, Dec. 21 from 6 to 8 p.m. Cost is $20. Call (760) 479-2500.



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