California California Hotels Canada personal reflections photography wine and wineries

Canadian Woman, this note’s for you (California wine country)

“What are you photographing?”

I turned to see a young woman with long black hair.

“The sign.”

She tersely replied, “You should photograph nature.” and continued walking north on the sidewalk of Toronto’s Spadina Street.


Travel College Canada sign beside the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto sign.

I pondered her words briefly and thought to myself that maybe I should have engaged her in a deeper conversation.

She looked like she could have been a First Peoples’ tribal member and I wondered if her words were spoken out of ancient wisdom.

Or maybe she was just another urban city street nut tossing out her inner circle sage advice to anyone she encountered in public.

Our ten second encounter has repeatedly played back in my mind over the past two weeks.

My thought at the time was to say to her, “I have been photographing Toronto for several days now and my readers are going to think Toronto is a city in the wilderness with more forests than buildings.”

There is plenty of urban Toronto without woods.


Toronto City Hall

So, Canadian woman, this note is for you.

And it is not imagery of natural Toronto.

California wine country 

California grows the grapes for 90% of the wine produced in the United States.

Last week I attended a rock concert event at a California winery about 50 miles north of Monterey in  Santa Clara County (San Jose-Silicon Valley). Santa Clara County, south of San Francisco, was the major wine producer in California in the 1850s, before the era when Napa County, north of San Francisco, gained worldwide recognition.

The old Almaden Winery was established in 1852 and is registered as a California Historic Landmark. The growth of the computer industry throughout Santa Clara Valley, aka Silicon Valley, meant most of the fruit orchards and vineyards were developed into housing areas over the past sixty years. Since 1950 San Francisco County increased its population from 775,000 to 808,000. During the same time period Santa Clara County grew from 300,000 in 1950 to 1.8 million residents in 2010.

Santa Clara Valley wineries are now concentrated in the southern region of the county near the cities of Gilroy and Morgan Hill along the eastern edge of the Santa Cruz Mountains and the western slopes of the Diablo Range, the low mountains and hills that form the eastern boundary of Santa Clara Valley.


Google Maps satellite image of Southern Santa Clara County with Morgan Hill, San Martin and Gilroy. This region has about 20 wineries.

Clos LaChance Winery

Clos LaChance Winery is where I was hanging out last week after returning home to California after the Travel Blog Exchange conference in Toronto and U.S. Travel Association IPW travel conference in Las Vegas.

My blogger vérité writing style means I frequently write about my work life and experiences as a travel blogger attending conferences, having the occasional sponsored travel experience and going to parties with free beer and wine. This side of travel blogging is in contrast to the majority of my blogger life writing at home alone while here in Monterey, California only accompanied by my cats and sometimes my wife when she is not busy with her job and friends.

Wake Up! Today you have a real job.

I arrived home a week ago last Wednesday after a 540-mile drive from Las Vegas to Monterey that took 11 hours, including a 40-minute traffic stoppage sitting on Highway 58 just after the summit at Tehachapi Pass while emergency crews put out a fire in a freight truck that had burnt to a crispy black shell by the time I passed.


Joshua Tree is an indicator species of the Mojave Desert, just east of Tehachapi Pass, California.

My wife had come home from her job as a kindergarten school teacher at 4pm and called me when she saw I was not home yet. I returned her call and had to confess. I was near Monterey, but somewhere deep in the Santa Lucia Mountains of Carmel Valley Road trying to photograph  beautiful turkey vultures flying overhead. I estimated I’d be home in another hour.


I call this work to be driving the back roads of California and photographing beautiful images of the Golden State.

My wife, a public school teacher with two days left before the end of the school year, was quick to share her opinion on my working day.

Besides spending last Thursday and Friday helping her finish off the school year, my Thursday evening was booked for a social gathering of school teachers at a Santa Clara winery to celebrate the retirement of one of the teachers.

After a day with the noise of 27 six-year old kids celebrating becoming first graders, I was ready for some drinking time outdoors in a mixed-use landscaped and natural setting.


CordeValle Golf Course sits adjacent to the 150 acres of vineyards at Clos LaChance Winery. CordeValle hosts Fry’s Golf Tournament October 7-13, 2013.

CordeValle is also the San Martin location for a luxury resort hotel in the Rosewood Collection. And I mean a luxury hotel with room rates in the $400-$500 per night range to prove it.

The Thursday night concert series at Clos LaChance allows guests to bring their own food and buy wine, beer and food during the show.


Rockin’ the vineyards and the crowd which had not started dancing yet.

You can sleep when you are dead is a photograph of a sign I took in the Village of New York City last September. After a week in Las Vegas where I barely slept five hours per night, I crowdsourced sufficient energy to make it through a four hour winery experience.

The natural California setting helped.


Landscaping at the winery blends with the CordeValle golf course and live oak covered hills of natural central coast California.


Clos LaChance Winery vineyards, San Martin-Morgan Hill, California.


Rolling golden hills of California with Diablo Range near Hollister, California seen in the distance to the east.

Drinking California wine is an enjoyment many people experience around the US and the globe.

Hanging out at California wineries drinking wine and socializing is an experience many of us in California are able to enjoy regularly at some of the most gorgeously landscaped settings in the state surrounded by vineyards and the golden hills of California.


Lizard clinging to the California wine vine at Clos LaChance.

Canadian woman, I hope to get away to the outdoors of Canada some time in the future and photograph more of the fascinating nature of the vast north.

In the meantime, California sits outside my door and there is plenty of nature to photograph in this populous state.


Ric Garrido, writer and content owner of Loyalty Traveler, shares news and views on hotels, hotel loyalty programs and vacation destinations for frequent guests.

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  • Steve June 20, 2013

    Love Clos la Chance winery and Cordevalle. I work a few miles down the road from the winery, and my wife used to meet me there every Thursday night for the “Time for Wine” events. Alas, now we have a toddler and those times are gone 🙁

    Side note on Cordevalle: it’s a great course but a members only spot and the only way to play is if you stay at the resort. They have an awesome charity golf tournament they do multiple times a year to support local youth golfers, where anyone can play for $150 which includes cart, lunch, caddy, and dinner afterwords. A great deal compared to what you’d normally have to pay to get on there. Downside is that it’s on a Monday (several times throughout the year). You can look up Cordevalle Youth Golf Foundation to get info on it.

  • Stefan June 20, 2013

    Lot’s of weirdos in YYZ!:-)

  • Jeff June 20, 2013


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