Central coast sojourn
by Roberto Friedman
Sometimes it's important just to get away for a bit. The destination doesn't have to be to a foreign place or another time zone, it only has to be a break from the usual routine. It's good to give yourself time off from the usual suspects, and give them time off from you! In that spirit, Out There took off for a few days, bombing down the California coast highway with Pepi at the wheel. Destination: charming Carmel-by-the-Sea. Only two hours' drive time from the Bay Area, the small resort town could as well be on the other side of the moon.
We stayed at the quaint and quiet Hofsas House Hotel, which ties into the town's history in deep-rooted ways. Hotelier Donna Hofsas founded the inn in the late 1940s and commissioned her friend, the artist Maxine Albro, to paint the Bavarian-themed welcome mural. Albro was one of the WPA artists commissioned to paint frescoes for San Francisco's Coit Tower in the 1930s. Donna's husband Fred designed the hotel's mosaic coat of arms, whose Latin motto translates as, "Leisure with dignity." Seems like good words to live by.
Donna's granddaughter Carrie Theis , the inn's general manager, gave us a tour of the place. Theis lives in an unusual midcentury modern home just down the hill. We enjoyed our cozy Euro-style room, with a Dutch door, a gas fireplace, and a balcony overlooking the pines to the sea beyond. We sun-basked on the patio, swam in the heated outdoor pool, and dried off in the men's sauna. Best of all, we could leave our car parked at the hotel and walk to everything we wanted to do in pedestrian-friendly Carmel-by-the-Sea.
This included the Carmel Wine Walk, a self-guided tour of seven tasting rooms in town, quite a good sampling of local, estate-grown still and sparkling wines. We strolled down to the beach and wandered among the town's luxe residences, including a Frank Lloyd Wright -designed house. One night we dined on tapas at the appealing Mundaka restaurant in town; another night we ventured out to the famous Fandango restaurant in neighboring Pacific Grove. Everywhere we went, we were charmed by our hosts' warmth and hospitality. Although we found no public gay life to speak of, little gay us were accepted and embraced as guests. Not a bad alternative universe. More info at hofsashouse.com and mundakacarmel.com.
Last week Out There was in the house when the Gott, Smith & Bieler World Tour 2013 touched down in San Francisco. That would be winemakers Joel Gott, Charles Smith and Charles Bieler, and the occasion was a kicky little press lunch at Salt House. Now, OT has attended many a wine-tasting extravaganza, complete with fine vintages and house rarities. But what we liked about these guys was how they are producing wines at populist prices ($12 retail!) that are well worth drinking. We sipped Smith's 2012 Kung Fu Riesling (name inspired by Tarantino 's Kill Bill Vol. 1), Gott's 2012 Sauvignon Blanc and Bieler's 2012 Rose, and found them all refreshing. They're structured, well-balanced wines, worth drinking, and the same can't be said for most bottles at that price. And life is too short to drink plonk.
In keeping with the trio's unconventional ethos, for their promotional "world tour" they hosted a string of parties at such unlikely venues as bowling alleys, music events and BBQs in Minneapolis, Austin, and Tulsa. They were preparing to party down SF-style in a warehouse bash complete with burlesque troupe. OT had our own plans. But we loved what they do with the grapes.
Finally, Pepi & OT were pleased as punch to be invited on a California Sunset Cruise by the Red & White Fleet , which departs daily (through Sept. 2) from Pier 43 1/2 in SF. We enjoyed hearty appetizers, wine, and live guitar music while scoping a kick-ass view of the SF skyline. Sailed past Alcatraz Island, the Golden Gate Bridge, Angel Island, Tiburon, Sausalito and Belvedere, enjoying the company of a boatload of concierges and travel-industry pros. As the sun set and we were treated to yet another perspective of the Bay Lights on the Bay Bridge, we realized that OT & The Pep do find ourselves in some pretty romantic situations – and even if for only that evening, nobody wanted anything from us. Pure bliss.
Correction: Handsome movie star Ryan Gosling was not Oscar-nominated for his role in The Notebook, as the B.A.R. reported two weeks ago. It was for his leading role in Half Nelson. We regret the error, and if you've never seen Half Nelson, you should.