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February 11, 2011
Valentine's Day - Let's keep it Simple and Get Away, Sweetheart!
The world of expectations of having twelve roses delivered by people driving vans to more people than Santa Claus delivers to in an eight-hour work day brings fear to me.

I remember waiting until late at night, once at 9:30PM, for the love of my life to call saying "They are beautiful" and wondering what went wrong as the flowers arrived later than expected. How do I get in queue on the morning end of this equation instead of wondering if they still count 11:59PM as fulfilling their obligation? Sure, the expectations can be met, but only if you can control the various parts of the equations, like get the flowers yourself, and get reservations at a time and place that knows how to handle Valentine's Day traffic. For me, what's important is to keep it fun and light, not like twenty folks trying to get into a Volkswagen.

The Gift of a Wine Weekend Getaway. Having spent time in Paso Robles, Napa/ Sonoma, Oregon and Washington, I think going to Wine Country makes for a great getaway. You see, in wine country, they not only 'get' wine, but they 'get' food and B&B's as well. To me, to wake up in wine country is the start of a perfect day. It's probably the expanse of land and not feeling crowded that matters to me the most. In Santa Barbara, a wine experience can be mixed with one of my favorite past times, horseback riding with an ocean view. Here are my top wine destinations...

St. Helena, California. Truly the cat's meow here. Stay at the Inn at Southbridge and get a massage, walk to Merryvale preferably when the wisteria is in bloom in all its beauty (early April), or a short drive to the historic Beaulieu Vineyards. Dine either at Tra Vigne restaurant or alternately the Napa Valley Wine Train with the dinner option. Or
if you have enough lead time and extra coin, try French Laundry as the restaurant and stay at the Auberge du Soleil, but book well ahead.

Santa Barbara, California. Stay at The Eagle Inn, which is within walking distance of the shore side open air shops and winery tasting rooms. Go horseback riding at Raintree Ranch Equestrian Center in the UCSB college town of Goleta. Dine on great seafood at the Beachside Bar and Café for the most incredible food and it's on the beach, where I gave some great gal an engagement ring a few moons ago. Truly it's an experience for the senses. Yes, I still have the gal!

Walla Walla, Washington. Like a step back in time, Walla Walla reminds me of the 1950's Back to the Future scenes. Stay at the Marcus Whitman Hotel, dine at either the Marcus Whitman or T Maccarone's Italian cuisine. Wineries to visit are Dunham Cellars which is in a renovated WWII-era airplane hangar, or L'Ecole No 41, a beautifully refurbished schoolhouse.

Paso Robles, California. Stay at the historic Paso Robles Inn and eat at Villa Creek to enjoy the best boeuf bourguinon around - bar none. It would make Julia Child proud! While in the town square (both the Paso Robles Inn and the Villa Creek restaurant are both a stone's throw apart), and if you still have room in your tummy, Powell's gelatos are right there and you can cap it all off with a movie in an older theatre that is right next door. Important wine stops here would be the Arroyo Robles tasting room (also on the square), and just down the road are Eagle Castle Winery and Justin Vineyards.

Here's another suggestion for you Midwesterners. Use Sweetest Day as well as an excuse for a wine getaway, which this year falls on October 15th. The origins here are from Cleveland confectioners, who started this annual observation in 1921.

Face it folks, things aren't moving slower, they continue to move faster. To be able to slow down periodically enhances our ability to deal with the day-to day items, a recalibration of what is truly important.

Enjoy the time with your loved ones!



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