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Posted in California, United States

California is such a beautiful and diverse state and we spent our Christmas break first in Napa Valley and then in Monterey. Napa Valley was very quiet over the Christmas holiday and thankfully there were some wineries open Christmas Eve day. Although this time of year the wineries aren’t as pretty as in the summer because the vines are in their dormant state, so there are no leaves on the vines, it was nice that there were fewer people visiting. Our first stop was the Beringer Winery which was amazing! We went on the Taste of Beringer Tour which included a tour of the property and gardens as well as a pairing of food and wine tasting. The tour is limited to 16 people which was so nice. We learned our food can affect the taste of wine and while I normally don’t like dessert wine, my opinion changed after pairing it with a sweet desert which changed the way the palette reacted to the wine.

Our next stop was the Castello di Amorosa winery and wow, what a difference between the Beringer Winery! If you like crowds and chaos this is the winery for you. I think it is so popular because first it is a castle and second you can only buy their wine at the winery.

We took a nice walk on the Vine Trail on Christmas Day and walked around Yountville, which is a really cute town. The hardest part about traveling on Christmas is finding a place open for dinner. We ended up eating at our hotel, the Doubletree, which thankfully had a nice restaurant. The hotel was really nice and in a good location, but could use some updating, it seemed a little old and tired.

We had a great time in Monterey, enjoying the wildlife and beautiful coastal scenery. Highlights of our stay were

  • 17 mile drive – We actually did the drive twice, the second time to avoid a huge backup on the highway!
  • Monterey Bay Coastal Trail – A beautiful scenic walk with excellent spots to see sea lions, seals and sea otters.
  • Monarch Grove Butterfly Sanctuary – We were here at the perfect time to see the monarch butterflies that migrate here every year, who knew! Although we didn’t see a lot of butterflies, it was well worth the visit. It’s a very small sanctuary and you can easily visit it even if you are short on time.
  • Big Sur Coastal Drive – This is a must see and I would plan a full day for this as it is a slow drive and you will constantly be pulling over to take in the incredible views. Make sure to stop and see McWay Falls. We did not make it all the way down to Hearst Castle, but if you have time, I would definitely include this in your itinerary (we had both been before).
  • Point Lobos State Natural Reserve – This is a must see! The park limits the number of vehicles per day, so be sure to go early in the day. There is plenty of parking on the road outside of the park so even if you can’t drive in you can walk. It has a beautiful coastal trail with incredible views!

We also took a day to visit our newest National Park, Pinnacles.  It’s a small park with only a few trails, but it was beautiful and well worth the visit.  There are two entrances, one on the east and one on the west, but there is no way to drive through the park.

We had a much needed relaxing trip and loved spending time in the outdoors!

Jen & Brendan {December 2016}