San Antonio Winery by Megan Telles

Welcome to Destination California where we start things off with something special for wine lovers everywhere. Let’s take a road trip to one of the best known wineries in Los Angeles, the San Antonio Winery.

South of the oldest freeway in the western U.S. sits San Antonio Winery, the oldest operating winery in Los Angeles.

“We’ve been here on Lamar Street for 105 years,” said Cathy Riboli, Chief Financial Officer of San Antonio Winery. “We go back to 1917 when great uncle Santo came from Verigmo, Italy and came with his brothers and worked on the railroad.”

Riboli described how her father went into business with great uncle Santo and the two never looked back.

“When my father Steve Riboli came from Italy to help him at 14, that’s when things really was very focused,” said Cathy. “They worked together very hard.”

In the winery’s infancy, prohibition hit. Selling alcohol to consumers became illegal unless produced for sacramental purposes. So Santo, a devout catholic, collaborated with the Archdioceses of Los Angeles to produce its altar wine.

“After that it was hard work, keep going, we’re able to bottle and sell and do home deliveries,” said Cathy.

After surviving the Great Depression, Steve married Maddalena and it was her passion for the business helped elevate it. Four generations later, “I have two brothers, my husband helps, my sister in law helps, my children, our grandchildren. There’s always someone of the family on premise greeting,” said Cathy. “Mom is almost 100, dad just passed away recently but his legacy moves on.”

“In this area are the vineyards that we do own in Paso Robles and Monterey and Rutherford and we do have a state of the art winemaking facility.”

As for the late great uncle Santo, “he’d say ‘Appete pato vete” you’ve done well, keep going, don’t stop 
I love me some champagne! Come on! Let’s pour it!”

C. G. Di Arie Winery by Melanie Townsend

When it comes to the wine scene in Northern California, people often think of Napa Valley but the owners of a hidden gem thirty miles east of Sacramento are out to change all that.

Green vines, scenic rolling hills and miles and miles of vineyards, this is what wine country looks like in Amador County. Fifty wineries cover thousands of acres in Amador, each one with a unique story and a special way of making their signature wines. But there’s only one that spreads across both El Dorado and Amador Counties with a sprightly 87-year-old at the helm.

Meet Chiam Gur-Arieh, winemaker and proprietor of C. G. Di Arie vineyard and winery. “I make a whole bunch of wines, I make about 20 different wines in a year,” says Gur-Arieh. He’s also a flavor genius, helping create some of America’s favorite snacks most of us can’t imagine growing up without. 

“In my career, I was with the Quaker Oats company in Chicago and I worked on a breakfast cereal, Captain Crunch, that became an icon.”

Chaim also played a major role in growing little ol’ brands like Hidden Valley ranch dressing, Power Bar and wine coolers. When it comes to great taste, he knows what he’s talking about.

“I want this enegery to be spent on making fruit, making good fruit, ripe fruit, that I can make good wine.”

Through hard work and a little serendipity, Chaim and his wife Elicheva built this winery together more than two decades ago after immigrating from Israel.

“As soon as I came through, as you enter the Shenandoah Valley, I said to Chaim, oh my gosh this is exactly the place that I was born. This is where I lived, this is how I grew up, this is the place” said Elicheva. “I felt like the angels were calling me.”

“We wanted to get into the wine business,” said Chaim. “We were looking in Napa, we were looking elsewhere and other wine regions. But it didn’t ​occur to us to look in the Sierra foothills and this was an opportunity and we opened our eyes and said wow, this is a fantastic place.”

Chaim and Elicheva are big advocates for winemakers in a region they believe many people tend to overlook. “I mean they’re missing a big opportunity; they’re not being open minded,” said Chaim.

“We’re family-owned wineries, all of us, there isn’t a corporation here, you get to meet the owners,” said Elicheva. “I think the ​prices for the wines are very affordable, and the experience is very close.”

It wasn’t the warmth of the wine or the warmth of the great outdoors where this vineyard is located here in amador county but it was the warmth of the hospitality and just the love that you felt from these owners that really makes this place a great destination in California.

Madera Wine Trail by Reuben Contreras

No need for wine lovers to travel to the coast or desert for some great vino. Signs are pointing people to the Madera Wine Trail. 

“What’s cool is they take their twist on it and do the best they can to showcase the vineyard where the grapes come from, and make wines that are unique and representative of the area,” said Shayne Vetter with Toca Madera Winery.

Toca Madera is just one of nine wineries on the trail with more experimental and truer wines to the central valley. Toca’s 2018 Tempranillo is creating a buzz in wine industry. One sip from Papagni’s wines and you’ll think their red is imported from Italy. Their Alicante Bouschet is made from grapes specific to Madera County. 

“It is a big, bold, dark fruit. It is one of the only grapes that have red meat and red juice. So, it is very hard to make a rosé out of it. It is really fun,” said Melissa Smith with Papagni Wines. “Plus, its ages for a very long time.”

One path of the Madera Wine Trail will take you up into the hills of Oakhurst. The owners of Idle Hour call their winery a one-stop shop. They also have a hotel, the Queen’s Inn, by the river. 

“We have five acres where they can just relax and be a bit more isolated,” said Anna Marie Dos Remedios with Idle Hour. “We have now a restaurant, eating, entertainment, and our wine bar. We offer yoga on site weekly.”

If your palate still craves wines made outside of central California, San Joaquin Winery will save you the three-hour drive out of the valley. In addition to their gold medal winning sparkling Moscato, they have wines from all over the Golden State. 

“We bring in wines from Sonoma, Monterey, Paso Robles, and Madera,” said Miguel Sanchez with San Joaquin Winery. “So, we have a little bit of everything from northern California down to the central coast.”

Fossil Discovery Center by Emily Erwin

For our next destination, take a short drive minutes north of Fresno but hundreds of thousands of years back in time at the Fossil Discovery Center in Chowchilla.

When you think fossils you probably don’t think of the Fairmead Landfill in Madera County but in 1993 sanitation workers uncovered a Columbian mammoth tusk thought to be hundreds of thousands of years old.  

“It’s just fascinating to see that and to know that they were real creatures walking around in the valley’s backyard,” said Michele Pecina, director of the Fossil Discovery Center.

Pecina is the director of the fossil discover center located right across the street from the Fairmead Landfill. To date, the landfill has produced more than 15 thousand large fossils and five thousand micro fossils from 36 ice age species. It’s now one of the biggest fossil beds in North America.

Brooke Smith is with the Madera County Tourism Bureau. They’re proud to include the Fossil Discovery Center on the bureau’s Fossils To Falls road trip.  

“Yeah, it’s unique to the central valley, it’s unique to the state of California and the whole western United States. It’s a pretty cool place,” said Smith.

Visitors exploring the gateway to Yosemite can start their trip with some to history from thousands of years ago. Kids can try their hand at uncovering fossils in the dig pit. Pretty soon, people will get a taste of historic Americana. The center recently started a project to restore the Mammoth Orange, once a popular pit stop off Highway 99. 

“The concept there is the Columbian Mammoth tusk was discovered off of 99 in the landfill and we’re rescuing the Mammoth Orange.”

Everyone will leave with a little perspective about our place in time on planet Earth.

Jelly Belly Factory by Melanie Townsend

Our next destination has something for the kid in all of us. The Jelly Belly factory is a must-see destination in Fairfield and there’s much more there than just candy.

Smack dab between Sacramento and the Bay Area is the Jelly Belly factory and visitor center in Fairfield and if it’s beans you want, it’s beans you’ll get. 

“We’ve had almost 8 million people come visit us since we opened back in 1999,” said John Jameson, VP of Retail Operations at Jelly Belly.

Before you fill up a bag of beans or get a hot and cheesy bean-shaped pizza downstairs, you should definitely take this self-guided tour where you can stop and smell the beans, play fun interactive games, and watch how factory workers crank out 40 million jelly beans every day.

“We think you’re going to learn a lot about how we put a lot of care and effort into making a very high-quality candy,” said Jameson.

While most people will get to tour from above, 29-year Jelly Belly veteran Jeff Brown is spilling the beans with us on the factory floor. 

“You’ll see how the beans are built from beginning to end and how we package it,” said Brown.

You’ll also see a brand-new museum, showcasing 100 years of company history, its original candy-making machines, and close ties to important historical figures.

“Ronald Reagan’s favorite flavor was licorice,” said Brown.

Around every corner, there’s something sweet for everyone to discover.

“We see groups comes out. School aged groups to senior citizen groups and everything in between, I just think it’s a really neat experience to see how candy is made today,” said Brown.

The Great Wolf Lodge by Melanie Townsend

Ready for a great family vacation that won’t break the bank? Jump on the 99 and head north, make a stop in Manteca, and get ready to make family memories that will last a lifetime.

Flying high over Manteca is the best way to show the enormity of the fun-tastic 500 bedroom resort and waterpark called the Great Wolf Lodge. 

Leader of the “wolf pack” Keith Furnas says this is a very exciting year for the GWL.

“The Great Wolf is celebrating its 25th birthday and we’re just lucky enough here in Northern California that here in another month we’ll be celebrating our 1st birthday,” said Furnas. “Right now we’re kicking off our summer camp-in celebration which is our way of kind of bringing that nostalgic feel of summer camp into great wolf. A lot of fun things happen throughout the day and certainly in the summer.”

Pool parties, arts and crafts, and complimentary wolf ears. I’m liking this already. But before we see more of what the lodge has to offer, let’s check out where we’ll be staying. 

“We’re walking into one of our themed suites. This is a kids cabin. Definitely a fun room for the families and for the the kids,” said Furnas. “We offer a bunk bed along with a day bed in this room for the kids to enjoy in their own private, special area. The room comes with a queen bed along as well as a queen-sized sofa sleeper. A few of those rooms can be used as connectors to create more like deluxe wolf den or kids cabin. At that point you can sleep up to 12 or 13 folks depending on the room type you get.”

Okay so these might be bunk beds for the kids, but lets be honest, most of us are kids at heart. Its time to get out of this comfy bunk bed and head to the adventure park. And with so much to choose from from in this 45-thousand square foot jungle gym, I don’t even know where to start.

“Right behind me is the Halers Peak ropes course. Two levels of climbing and interactive fun,” said Furnas. “We have mini golf, there’s bowling happening right next to us here as well as our Northern Lights arcade and magic quest.”

When you’re part of the wolfpack here, you forget you’re 27 and go back to the 7 year old you miss being. 

“Its about having fun and bringing joy to families and creating memories together,” said Furnas. “Its good to have a little bit of fun. Putting on the ears coming out seeing families having a good time together, that’s really what makes the Great Wolf so special.”

Meux Home Museum by Reuben Contreras

Right in the middle of downtown Fresno is a house that pays tribute to the Victorian era. The moment you take one step inside the Meux Home Museum you’ll travel back over 100 years to the Victorian era. This is the house Dr. Thomas Richard Meux built.

“We’re excited for them to see what life was like back in the 1800s. It wasn’t like what we have today,” said Quintin Hoskins with the Meux Home Museum.

Meux made this Victorian mansion a home for his family in 1888 when they moved to Fresno from Tennessee. For 80 years the home was occupied by a member of the family. Dr. Meux’s daughter Anne lived in the house until her death in 1970. A few years later the home was gifted to the city of Fresno, preserved and restored, then turned into a museum. 

“As the homes and the styles feel out of favor by people, people wanted more modern, ranch homes, things of that nature. They started dwindling down,” said Hoskins.

But the Meux Home Museum kept up the true style of the Victorian era in each of the 16 rooms. No part of a wall or ceiling is left undecorated, especially in the dining room. Dinner was the most elaborate meal during that era. It would take three hours to complete.

“They ate in courses. Everything had its separate thing. You had separate dishes for each courses. You had separate flatware for each course. You had separate glassware.”

Proper etiquette was a must in the dining room and the bathroom. Guests were encouraged to use only a square at a time in the water closet and the toilet paper must hang in the “over” position.

The Meux family enjoyed some of the greatest technology of the Victorian era. There’s an Edison phonograph, an early 1900s version of an iPod. Clothing in the 19th century was not purchased on Amazon. Each of the 300 dresses and 75 suits on display in the Meux home were carefully crafted.

“Back then you were learning how to make things. If you had lace or trim on your dresses or suits or anything, that all had to be handmade.”

Even playing the piano was hard labor. Your knees and feet instead of your fingers do most of the work. After touring the Meux Home you’ll appreciate how most things are easier today.

That does it for this edition of Destination California. For more fun California adventures, check out Kevin Charette’s Sunrise Adventures.

Until next time, we hope all your destinations are full of summer fun.