Fanagoria Winery

In the beginning—

There was rain, cold, and even bits of snow- but that was February in Moscow. Then onto St. Petersburg, and the weather was slightly milder but still cold.

We’re standing before the ship that with one shot ended the revolution. Smiling but freezing, when the cannon turned our way we were out of there!

The best part was yet to come.

Our final destination was, Anapa, on the Dead Sea and encountered 65 degrees and sunshine.

Mike had contacted Charles Borden, an American who lived in Russia and who is a food and wine writer. After reading his 2014 book, “Russia Wine Country- Sleeping Beauty Awakens.” There was no going back!

And this is where we stayed for four days, in the red roofed white building on the right. In front you will see the Black Sea which is a resort area- and beautiful.

This is the North Eastern shore of the Black Sea, some 60 miles from the crossing of the Crimean Peninsula and about 200 miles North of Sochi. It was founded in the 2nd Century BC as a Greek trading Port. The Black Sea provides a great moderating influence. Rainfall is sufficient so that the fruit and vegetable growing regions near the shore survive well. The terrain is rather flat with deep rich soils. And nearby are the Caucasus Mountains, which are also good for cooling.

In 1985, president Gorbachev, initiated an anti-alcohol program targeting not only vodka, but wine. This resulted in a two thirds reduction in the vineyard acreage. Until the collapse of the USSR the states farm system was privatize. Today the Anapa region has in the order of forty, “serious” wineries.

And they treasure their older methods of grape processing.

Fanagoria Estate Winery

The Fanagoria Estate winery lies about 20 miles North of Anapa and very close to Crimea. The original 1950s state farm buildings belie the most up-to-date stainless-tanks, and other equipment within. They produce an amazing array of beverages from a Supermarket bag in the box series, to excellent high-end varietals. Plus a display of very impressive wines from reginal varieties.

The hospitality here, lead by the Russian speaking Vladmir Pukish, was outstanding.

Russias primer sparkling wine house, Abro Dorso is situated in an idyllic setting surrounded by mountain forest and overlooking a beautiful lake. The handsome main building, constructed from local stone that dates to the wineries founding in 1860 by Russian Royalty.

Since its privatization in the 1990’s the faculty has seen a major production modernization program. Their top end can hold its own with the worlds best.

Next week we will take you walking through the vineyard and barrel making… and a bit more.

Starting with this picture.

Posted in Russia | Leave a comment

An unusual “Birthday Holiday” in Pacific Grove, California.

Our daughter Bronwyn and her daughter Edie were both born on January 27th. We arranged to stay for several days at the Lighthouse Hotel.

They arrived from Sacramento while we drove up from San Luis Obispo- missing most of the Holiday traffic. Our rooms, were on the second floor and had a balcony. You overlook the cemetery, deer, golf course, and see, hear and smell the ocean. You can walk most everywhere and we did.

Steve took this picture and in the distance you can see the ocean. It was roaring and very hard to talk over the grumbling… but make sure you’re safe from the wildly hit golf balls!

Steve asked a trail walker to take our pictures and she arranged us so that we could move around and she could get the trail and the ocean within the sight lines.

There were many honking “Seals” on the rocks below. The white blobs were also seals- I thought at first they were mushrooms or whipped cream- but I was wrong. Turns out that baby Harp Seals are born with a white or yellowish color and stay that way for a couple months. Guess why Dana, their dog, was pulling on the leash…


Bronwyn and Steve were getting closer to the edge of the sea, but Mike yelled out, “Watch it! We didn’t bother to bring towels!”

We went to Fandangos for dinner and here is the view of the restaurant from the parking lot.

This was the entrance, it has been here over 50 years and has a wonderful reputation.

Edie and her friend, Eleanor, decided to stay at the hotel with the dog and order in.

This is the four of us at the dinner table celebrating a family dinner and birthday, with the kids doing their thing. I look sad because the holiday music was very loud in my ears and it made me frown. But it doesn’t show me smiling afterward when the waiter gallantly came over and turned it down.

After this meal we walked around a bit of downtown and loved the trees wrapped with Christmas lights.

A fitting end to lovely birthdays and Christmas.

Posted in California | Leave a comment

Suzdal, Russia and The Golden Ring

This is the picture of our lodging at the Art Hotel Nikolaevsky, Posad. Looking closely on the left the building with three green roof tops is where we stayed in a lovely suite. The red roofed building with the blue roof was reception-dining-bars- and hotel rooms.

Never leaving the grounds, a guest would have swimming pools, three different restaurants, a church, and sports fields.

This picture of the Kuysechesky offers traditional cuisine in an aged but beautiful surroundings. It was difficult for me to walk to the main restaurant and this one was nearby. The weather was cold and raining (Mid October) so not surprising that we were the only dinners there. The food was prepared in a Russian coal stove and wonderful!

The next night, the same weather, we hit the tavern, “Opokhmelachnay”. Located in the former house of gardener Sheryshev, built in 1760. No picture for this restaurant.



“The Winter Garden” This building was right across from our balcony but it was not open to the public, most likely due to the weather. Otherwise, it would have been delightful to see the sun set and have an overview of the moon and the stars and the Suzdal fields called, “Opolie”.

Each day our driver, Vitaly, came to pick us up in the morning. The first stop was a castle and completely walled in, “The Savor Monastery of Saint Euthymius”

Suzdal served as a royal capital when Moscow was a cluster of cow sheds. The monastery was founded in the 14th century and grew mighty in the 1600th through the 1700th century. While Mike went to see the inside, I remained in the car, safe from the rain and the cold, and just read about it.

Following that, we went to see the museum of wooden architecture and peasant life.

This picture shows the rural outdoor living of the people. The large first structure on the right was a necessity for the water wheel. The two buildings behind are used to give tours to show the lifestyle and building types of that era.

In 1864 the Trans-Siberian-railway went through Vladimir 35 kilometers away and Suzdal was by-passed not only by trains but by the 20th century.

Thus it remains the same today as it was 200 years ago. If you want to walk back in time this would be the place to go!


The next blog will be dealing with the first wine tasting festival in this area of Russia, our (Mike’s) main reason for visiting!




Posted in Russia | Leave a comment

This is a continuation from the first blog about Russia


The Aurora Ship, which was used to counter attack the Bolsheviks in Saint Petersburg as they attacked the parliament while it was in session at the Winter Palace. This revolution was in October 1917.

The Aurora revolutionary ship. It fired its gun, one shot, to provoke the Revolutionaries to storm the Winter Palace. Here was the seat of the provisional government that the Bolsheviks planned to over throw- and did.

We did move on because it felt that the gun was aimed at us- along with the frosty air, and also it might be the fact that we are from California. The ship was preserved as a, “Historical Reminder”.

Mike and I are smiling because we’re about to go board our enclosed canal boat but had time to get a cup of hot coffee. And left the horses on either end of the bridge to stand guard.

The horse behind.

This horse was guarding the Anichkow’s Bridge along with the Fontanara, Moika, Neva Rivers.

Looking out over the green hedges we were surprised to see the Peter and Paul fortress along with church shadowing it.

Still on the canal boat- the heat is on! We could have gone out to the back deck for better viewing of what we were passing- but then we would have to come back and defrost again.

Figured that with all the sideshow on the river boats and with the Aurora that you might be interested in seeing some of the elegance distributed by the wealthy. This one is Catherine’s Palace and the entrance way to the same.

The leaves are falling, time to go in.          What can one say about such elegance and beauty? This was only one of the three Catherines’ Palaces.


Posted in Russia | Leave a comment

Saint Petersburg

Saturday October 7th, we took two trains to Saint Petersburg and arrived at 7 PM: A mob of train people- including, “Taxi hunters” hustling at exorbitant prices. If you were dragging luggage you were a victim. Mike kept saying, “Too much.” Until he got a reasonable price.

Our destination was the Helvetia Hotel, and what a very good choice

It is comprised of an early 9th century converted mansion with a gated and guarded entrance. It opened into a lovely courtyard covered by an awning for the occasional rain. An oasis of chairs and tables outside- with lovely greenery abounding. The Helvetia Hotel is located in the city center and is in the immediate vicinity of the main artery of foot traffic. Only 5 minutes away from the Moscow train station.

The next morning our guide, Natalia, took us to see the infamous Aurora ship that is revered as a symbol of the 1917 Revolution in Russia. The cruiser fired one shot to prod the revolutionists into storming the Winter Palace, seat of the provisional government that the Bolsheviks planned to overthrow.

We were cold so we will put this off till next week!

Posted in Russia | Leave a comment

Moscow Russia

Arrived around 1:00 PM and checked into our hotel Pushkin. And proudly shown into our split-level suite. She said welcome to our best room in the hotel and stopped. Looks at my cane. I look at her, and at the stairs, and at the cane and I said, “Do you have an elevator?”

And we were changed to a nice first floor room.

But there was an elevator anyway.

Met our guide Natalia the next morning who led us to the Kremlin and Red Square. Cold and drizzly but walking was good, but not for all of us.

This is the Kremlin. It was a fortress of old, and now is the present seat of government. Sunk 49 feet into the ground so as not to dwarf the other surround buildings, the State Kremlin Palace is the Kremlins only modern building. Built in 1961 to host the Communist Party conferences.

The Cathedral of the Arch Angel. Commissioned by Ivan the Great shortly before his death in 1505 this was the last one of the Great Cathedrals to be built in the Kremlin.

The Cathedral served as a burial place for Moscow tsars whose white stone sarcophagi with bronze covers were no longer buried here after the capital was moved to Saint Petersburg.

Lovely building but not allowed in because of a service going on.




Ignore the truck in the driveway- another old church but lived in by one of the tsars, and so preserved.





Mike only in front of the Kremlin walls- Saint Basil Church. I had to go back and rest up to continue walking. (And maybe a glass of wine too.)

And look at this picture, boy I am sorry I couldn’t make that walk.

This is the Arbat district. An artist community where we had lunch and happily it was in a very warm and dry and served wine restaurant to rest up after this remarkable day.

To be continued, but only if you want to read it. We will go to Saint Petersburg for our next stop.


Posted in Russia | 1 Comment

Recent overview of Russia

Ship 1

This is the Aurora Ship, which was used to counter attack the Bolsheviks in Saint Petersburg as they attacked the parliament while it was in session at the Winter Palace. This revolution was in October 1917.

Ship 2

Posted in Russia | Leave a comment


The culmination of our parador trip ended (May, 20th 2017) in the principality of Andorra as we crossed the French Alps.

The population of this whole country is 80,000 although not seen in this picture. Then as we drove through this breath taking beauty we arrived at an entrance way to the City.

Shortly thereafter we stopped for an overview for as much of the country as we could see, what with the Alps all hanging around.



This country became independent in 1993 and had its first democratic elections. This country became independent in 1993 and had its first democratic elections. Before that time it was the autonomous state of both the French and the Spanish since 1278.


For many years now Andorra has been the tax free paradise for shoppers and changed from the Peseta to the Euro in 2002.


As fascinating as the country is- we were on our way to a wine tasting area near by- and what a trip that was.

This was the overview of our room, looking up, down, and around at the magnificent Pyrenees. With all the tree coverage and homes we wondered where the Devil the wine growing was going on???


Although this Patio is not overwhelming, it made up for it as night with the sound of the river cascading down the hill side behind it… and lulled us to sleep.


The next morning the hotel owner and vintner told us that we would be going up to his winery driven by his second in command.

It started off basically at ground level and transitioned immediately to steep curves, and suicide curves, every time we went around a corner I almost fell off the back of the truck. But the driver just kept laughing and said, “It gets better.” “Better than dying?!” I asked.

When we stopped at the top my legs had to quit jittering before I could get out of the truck. But the magic words, “Come, let’s taste this wine.” Looking around and down, and down, and down. God knows how they grew grapes on this magnificent mountain.

These giant distillers were shiney, modern, and clean— and loaded with wine. We drank, smiled and drank some more. I asked out driver how we would get down, would we be going down the same way as we went up? I’d rather walk… He laughed and said, No, we have an easier way down. And I asked why he didn’t do the easier way up? He responded, “More fun this way.” Mike chimmed in, “Yeah, but I need another drink before I get on any winding road again.”

Posted in Andorra | Leave a comment

Parador de Baiona: Part 2 of Series


A fantastic location over looking the Atlantic, with rolling Pine Hills off to the left! On the right and straight  ahead, the small orange roofed  building is the Bar and Grill  with an outside patio right on the water.  In the evening it is lit with fairy lights that extend over the white path that outlines the Atlantic. Notice the circular front entrance on the road to the left.

parador-de-baiona-entranceAnd this Regal  Entrance  leads us to the Parador…guarded by ancient walls on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on  the  other….also well protected by the animals within, and currents.


Having the opportunity to walk, we took the path on the right and headed uphill into town. Small city (at that time) but packed with fetching shops and a beautiful  Church.


Coming back from the upper town, we were amazed with this wonderful distant view of “our” island! Limping down to the Bar and Grill, we chilled out with a local wine.



Still tired from the long walk, we naturally headed for the heated swimming pool with the soft Atlantic breeze as a bonus.  We decided to eat in one of Baiona’s restaurants  that eve.





Not our bedroom…although ours was lovely…and less expense.  I figured in another 5 years, and with  the Senior Savings, the 40% reduction would certainly be a benefit.





We could see why Christopher Columbus wanted to retire here.


That evening we walked over to the Bar & Grill, sat under the fairy-lights and toasted  the fantastic view. And this was a “keeper”!

November, 20, 2016


Posted in Spain | Leave a comment

Footsteps of the Templars- Aveyron, France. Part 1

Footsteps of the Templars- Aveyron, France.

This is a location map for the sites visited.

8-1-12 Averyon, France

We left Montpellier, France on the A-75 highway to Paris. It was heavily packed with Sunday traffic and impacted with roadwork repairs. We exited for the first stop in tracking the Footsteps of the Knights Templar at the 11th century site of Covertairade.


This beautiful walled city is set in the middle of pastoral farmlands with distant rolling hills. The entrance to the village is through huge doors that were barred from the inside during attacks. Then crossing a tiny plaza in front of a museum, we continued walking past both ancient and some refurbished houses and shops. The streets were narrow and graveled. We came to a lovely 12th century church adjacent to the castle/armory built on top of a ridge. This height gave oversight of the stream and farmlands below…a very important factor when you live on a road that leads to the ports of the Mediterranean Sea. Although these local Templars were originally concerned with teaching farming techniques and improving the livestock of the farmers, but roving bands of attackers forced them to also become protectors. Since those mercenaries, whether attacking or not all needed water, the Templars devised means for accessibility without their entering the village. Just right of the entrance gates was a single, narrow passage up a rocky hill where only ONE person could climb and fill his container from a cistern.

Randomly scattered throughout the village were small stone barns for the animals that area farmers wanted to secure during attempted seizures. Other stone structures were used for sheep shearing and butchering cattle, pigs and chickens. Both the single and double floored buildings have deep basements for storing food and animals.

Some houses have already been rehabbed for cafes and artisan shops, and when we were there, one restaurant. The wares of a weaver were advertized on the flag above his shop and below were vibrant blankets, throws and scarves draped over tables and chairs. He said the government was selling these rustic structures cheaply and in particular wanted artisans, -restaurateurs, writers and the like to buy. There were two stipulations: the owner would remodel (plumbing, electricity et al) and would live there. The benefit being one could freely sell his or her wares. Since tourism was just beginning in this area, the weaver hoped it would become quite profitable. At a nearby jewelry and trinket shop, I bought a number of items for my granddaughter…who loved them!

Hot and overwhelmed by our surroundings, we stopped for a glass of wine. The bar was in the basement of a small house and the owner motioned for inside or out. Cooler inside but more entertaining people-watching out…and soaking up the atmosphere. The quality of the merchandise we saw (and drank) would definitely be a draw.

The walled village had the typically rough rock and loose stone passage ways—definitely for rubber soled shoes only. We ended our tour at the beginning, in the information booth just across from the entrance. The agent recommended the Hotel Midi-Papillon in Saint Jean-du-Brul AND SHE CALLED AHEAD for us. What a wonderful recommendation it was!

Forty-five minutes of driving through lush green hills brought us to an old mill town and farming community of Saint-Jean-du-Brul. The lovely old Hotel Midi-Papillon was built next to a deep gorge. High wooded hills surrounded the village with a rough 13th century bridge crossing the river and a 15th century church at the end.

The Hotel fronted a small patio beside the gorge where we could partake of drinks, cigarettes, and coffee—but not much conversation due to the roaring water. The 18 room hotel was full but the attached medieval building offered the “Marquis Suite” for slightly more money. Being antiquity loving Americans, we jumped on it. Our suite was on the second floor (no elevators in 14th century houses) and the original, broad curving stone stair steps were hollowed in the middle. We didn’t need to worry about damage from dragging the suitcases up—quite the reverse. The front rustic but classic bedroom had a small balcony over-looking the street and, to the left, the 15th century Church. The bathroom had been modernized and was exquisite!


After an excellent breakfast finished with coffee overlooking the misty gorge, we continued our Circuit du Larzac.


This site was developed in the middle of the ancient north-south route connecting with the Mediterranean ports. Established for the cavalry and, most importantly, shelter for the horses; It became a commercial center supplying both accommodations and safety for travelers.

Within the original fortified walls with its enormous gate, 15th through 17th century houses were added. The structure was established by the Templars and completed by the Hospitallers. The large parking lot behind the compound conveniently has the information booth attached and offered site maps. We walked around the structure and entered by a side gate. On the inside, and attached to the front wall of the fortress, were the original 12th century single room houses. Practical people building their homes above the stables: cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter…if you could survive the barnyard odors. A large double gate at the end of the stables permitted multiple horses to both enter or exit simultaneously. Small groups of workmen were leveling the rough sod of the central plaza; covering the ground with handsome pavers and setting guidelines for sidewalks. (The tourists were coming!)

Most buildings were 2 floors including the first lower level basement where animals and farm equipment had been stored. We saw a few nicely finished structures with attractive small porches and single flight staircases. Some ground level places were setting up as stores or shops and one as a far. Several of the rooms above were already inhabited.

Walking toward a garden area we saw a tiny 12th century church at the end. The front doors were open and several candles lit the alter with the only other light coming from a small barred window just above. A narrow control aisle and maybe room for 20 persons on the skinny wooden side benches. The atmosphere in here was conducive to silent prayer. No one was around.

It was wonderful to visit these sites before they had been converted for mass tourism…now I would like to revisit in a few years to see their progression.

After visiting La Cavalerie, we drove to the nearby area where the “Commanders” lived, now a small farm village inside the walled old fortress. The large parking lot had only one car in it although just beyond we saw a small herd of grazing sheep being shepherded by a young boy.


Posted in France | 3 Comments