Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Desert, Wines, and Hot Air Balloons

While in California, we stayed with my husband’s brother Tom and his wife Donna. Tom and Donna live on a hilltop overlooking Lake Skinner in Temecula. It is a beautiful area. Their property abuts conservation land so they have an unobstructed view of the lake and Batchelor Mountain across the way. If you visit this link you can see an aerial view of the lake. Tom and Donna’s place is to the right of this photo just out of view. From their back patio, we can look left to see the edge of the dam, and across to Batchelor Mountain which is to the right in the photo at the link above.

Once acclimated to the desert terrain, one can begin to appreciate the beauty of the area. There are no green lawns here, as well water is the main source of supply, and a precious resource. Instead, Tom landscapes with plants native to the natural habitat. We also had a taste of the local wildlife. I awoke late one night, to the sounds of yelping coyotes traveling through the back conservation land. The eerie high-pitched yapping of the pack caused goosebumps along my flesh. We also saw rabbits, birds and even a crane that possibly stopped by while migrating. Although I didn’t see any myself, Donna had photos of roadrunners she has had visit the property. I was pleased not to stumble across any snakes. Tom, however, killed a rattlesnake recently and was showing off the rattle end of the tail that he had saved. There were eleven segments, which rattled nicely when shaken.

Tom and Donna’s beautiful home sits up on a hill right smack in the middle of wine country. This is also home to the Temecula Valley Balloon and Wine Festival. .They have some great photographs of a recent festival, and told how several of the balloons came to land on their property. We had the pleasure one morning of watching two balloons overhead while sipping our morning coffee. They came to rest across the way on the next hill. Check out some of the photos in the slideshow below.

Speaking of wine country, one of our nieces has membership at two local wineries. She, along with another niece and nephew, took me off for a few hours of wine tasting and winery tour. We stopped first at Wilson Creek Winery and Vineyards. . My favorites here were the Almond Champagne and the Angelica Cream Sherry. My niece, Christina tells me you can purchase the Almond Champagne at Costco. If you can’t find it, you can of course purchase on-line.

Our second winery was the Ponte Family Estate Winery. You can only purchase their wines at the vineyard or on-line. I enjoyed the 2003 Zinfandel Port, which has a rich chocolate flavor. If you have $46.00 plus shipping to spare, order a bottle here .
There was a wedding being held the Sunday we visited. I took a few photos of the horse drawn carriage being driving by a stately looking gentleman in tails and top hat.

Each of the vineyards give you a crystal glass, etched with the name of the winery, for sipping the samples during your visit. You can purchase the glass as a souvenir, but my niece Monica had us casually walk outside while sipping and eventually “forget” to go back in and return them. I am now the guilty owner of three souvenir crystal glasses from Wilson and Ponte.

My only regret is that Jeremy "Twitch" Stenberg was not at home while we visited. Twitch is a gold medal winning motocross stunt rider. His home is just below Tom and Donna’s. His practice ramp is clearly visible from Tom and Donna’s front yard. At a distance from the end of the ramp is an enclosure filled with spongy looking foam cubes on which to land during practice. Donna seems to like this “nice young man” and tells us not to be fooled by the tats. Read more about Twitch and the X Games Best Trick competition here.,13190,1156543,00.html. Although Jeremy wasn’t at home, I got my fill of motorcycles at the annual California Bike Week held at the Fairplex in Pomona. . Yes, we had to “cage” it, but you can’t have everything you want in life. I’ll talk more about Bike Week tomorrow.

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