CALIFORNIA: FUSION OF CULTURES
California is a state where major metropolises, trendsetters, captains of industry, and fashion icons all blend together amidst a pristine backdrop of cliff-lined beaches, winding Pacific Coast highways, and expansive blankets of redwood forests.
When staying at Chaminade Resort & Spa, one can’t help but look out, thanks to the spine-tingling views of the Santa Cruz Mountains. But giving guests even more goose bumps is the chance to look inward, at the bones of this historic property. That’s because Chaminade has a much deeper past than its 1985 opening as a Santa Cruz spa resort. It’s actually played a 113-year role in the history of Santa Cruz.
The Early 1900s: A Summer Home
Take a hike among the 300 acres of Redwood forest that surround Chaminade, and you’ll discover the first key to unlocking its past: a summer home built between 1904 and 1909 by Judge Curtis Lindley at the peak of his career. The Red and Blue hiking trails lead to the wraparound porch of this red-shingled summer home, which was known as “The Villa” and “Linwood Lodge” and was later renamed Villa Saint Joseph.
The Roaring Twenties: A Farming Retreat
The people who renamed it Villa Saint Joseph? That would be the Brothers of the Society of Mary, who bought the property from the Blakes, a couple that had begun living in Linwood Lodge after Lindley’s death in 1920. Originally a summer retreat for the 27 brothers, the Santa Cruz spot provided the fertile soil and water spring for farming corn for the monks’ meals. Tackle the Executive Ropes Course today to channel the spirit of this era – a barn converted into a chapel for the brothers once stood in this area, but was torn down in 1952.
The 1930s, ’50s, and ’60s: A Boys High School
Sniff the fried buttermilk chicken emerging from the kitchen at Linwood’s Bar & Grill and imagine instead the smells of chalk and pencils – the Brothers of the Society of Mary built the resort’s main building in 1930 to house the Chaminade Boys High School for a decade and later returned to open a second iteration of the high school. The boys took P.E. classes and practiced basketball in the space that now houses the Executive Fitness Center and Spa. Note that the views from the building would be even better had the brothers’ vision completely come to fruition as they had planned for a third floor.
The 1940s: A Respite for the Disenfranchised
From 1941 to 1949, Mary Burke, a philanthropist who used a wheelchair, took over Chaminade to teach needy and developmentally disabled kids. The program drained Burke of her savings, however, and she handed the property back to the brothers before moving to San Diego. The Spanish-style architecture of Chaminade, meanwhile, has remained in place, framing suites that reflect more than a century of evolution.
When it comes to wine tasting in Santa Barbara, there’s only one route to go: the Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail. Centered around the ever-expanding 10-block “Funk Zone” neighborhood, the trail lets you experience the best wineries to come out of the county’s five AVAs, all without having to leave the downtown area.
What began as an informal grassroots alliance between a few regional wineries in 2006 has now evolved to feature roughly 30 wineries, which range from the Deep Sea Tasting Room on Stearns Wharf to the Funk Zone to the six premium tasting rooms in the historic Presidio neighborhood. So where to start? With a map and this list of top winery experiences.
Fox Wine Co.
This huge tasting room based in the Funk Zone neighborhood evokes a vibe akin to what you’d find in a brewpub with lots of concrete, edgy wall art, and long wooden tables and benches. Which makes sense; set in a warehouse, it shares space with a brewpub, as well as a few art galleries (you can sip while perusing the surrounding shops). Three different tasting lists offer samples of elegant pinot noirs and chardonnays and bold flavorful syrahs, which can be enjoyed over games of cornhole or while perusing the old Model T car on display.
Tucked away in an industrial-looking area east of Santa Barbara’s downtown cluster of urban wineries, this small winery and tasting room may not be fabulously decorated, but that’s because it’s really all about the unique and flavorful syrahs, pinot noirs, and cabernet francs. Winemaker Benjamin Silver, who personally stomps the grapes for his small-batch wines, is usually the one pouring and is a true connoisseur and expert, known to regale customers for hours about the process and nuances. You may even be lucky enough to get a personal tour of the winery and taste right from some of the aging barrels.
You feel a bit like you’re in an episode of The Office in this Funk Zone tasting room, where tasting flights of five small-lot, high-quality wines are printed on index cards and all glasses are located in stacked colorful filing cabinets behind the reclaimed-wood tasting bar. The most photographed statement piece, however, seems to be the giant chandelier constructed entirely of glass bottles that hangs overhead. Settle in at one of the communal tables or other random piece of old office furniture with a glass of one of their popular picks: the called Bright Red (a Grenache blend) or the Dark Red (an earthy syrah and cabernet blend).
The Valley Project
The first thing you see when you walk into Funk Zone’s best-kept secret on East Yanonali Street is the giant chalk-drawn map of Santa Barbara County, pointing out all the different places across the region’s five AVAs where they grow grapes. Following that, jarred soils are displayed next to different wine bottles and other visual guides that give insight into the different AVAs. So when you come to this modern tasting room, you’re not just sitting and sampling the diverse range of small-batch red and whites, but you’re also getting an interactive demonstration of the winery’s ongoing exploration of the county’s terroirs, from unique micro climates to niche soil profiles.
Area 5.1 Winery
As you may have guessed by the name, there’s an undeniable alien theme to this Anacapa Street tasting room: the tasting list comes in a manila folder stamped “top secret,” intergalactic art pays homage to the early days of America’s space program, and the wines feature names like Clouse Encounter, Conspiracy Red, and Declassified. It’s all a play on the fact that the owners are resident aliens from Australia who specialize in unusual blends of grapes that are bolding going where no winery has gone before.
What is just a pile of sticks and downed limbs to you is a soon-to-be fairly comfortable bed to Cliff Hodges. Sure, it’s lacking the 1,000-thread-count sheets, but you’re not here not to be pampered. You’re here to start seeing wilderness the way Hodges does: not to be feared sans cell phone but rather an environment you can take charge of to survive and thrive.
During his five-hour Wilderness Skills & Survival Clinic – based just north of Chaminade Resort & Spa in the redwoods of Santa Cruz – Hodges, a 10-year primitive-living expert, teaches everyone from seasoned backpackers to soccer moms how to make sleep shelters, differentiate between safe vegetation and their poisonous doppelgangers, trap squirrels and rabbits with rope lures, and even fashion bow drills. While nothing summons your inner Jane or Tarzan like hunting your own food, Hodges finds the skill that elicits the most chest-pounding cheers from participants is starting a fire – without matches, just friction.For the untrained, a matchless fire can take days or weeks to build. In his clinic – with assistance and patience – students have a flame within an hour. “We’re the only animals that control fire. There’s something so primal there that people are fascinated with creating it all on their own.”
Three edible plants found almost everywhere in North America that you can forage:
Oak Trees: When you see these trees, look for acorns scattered along the forest floor. Crack them open with a rock, soak them in water, and roast them over a fire; they can be toxic otherwise
Clovers: These easily identifiable plants usually known for their alleged good luck are actually in the same family as peas and can be eaten raw for some much-needed protein.
Cattails: Survivalists get a hearty serving of vitamins A, B, and C from the white bottom stalks of these plants that are plentiful in muddy wetlands.