Sunday, May 22, 2011

Saturday Night Date at the Monastery??

Finally, a date night!! This doesn't happen often for us so it's always a treat. This one was fairly impromptu but all the stars aligned to make it happen. Granted, we tried to include friends but, since it was such a late plan, of course none could make it. So hubs and I had a glorious  catching up, laughing, relaxing, debating serious issues, romantic time while Nana watched Bella for the evening.
First a quick drive out in the country in the Mini (Cooper, that is) to a little gem of a stop. A winery at a monastery!

Photo courtesy of the New Clairvaux Monks

Yes, true, the New Clairvaux Winery in Vina, Ca. Which might seem very intimidating or perhaps, even wrong, but is really pretty delightful. There is a beautiful brick, arched-ceiling tasting room and the Cistercian-Trappist monks who poured our wine were very approchable, talkative and interesting. They were releasing their 2010 St. James Syrah Rose', which will make a very nice sipping wine when the weather finally warms up a bit, and pouring a few other fine choices as well. My favorite was the 2008 Tempranillo.
Normal enough, right? But here's where the story gets interesting....

Photo courtesy of the New Clairvaux Monks

The history of the Monastery is quite interesting. In 1890, the land belonged to Leland Stanford (of Stanford University) and was the location of the world's largest vineyard, winery, and distellery. It didn't last long, however, since the temperance movement and Prohibition hit soon after. In 1955, it was purchased by the New Clairvaux monks and then in 2000, they opened up the winery again.

Leland Stanford

In 1994, the monks were given  stones purchased by William Randolph Hearst in 1931  from the 12th century Chapter House of the Santa Maria de Ovila Monastery in Spain and brought over by ship to San Francisco. When the Depression started, Hearst abandoned his plans to build it into a castle for himself and left the stones there. Now, the monks are rebuilding that structure in Vina. It is quite breathtaking and it should be done in one and a half years. I can't wait to see it then! Here's what they have done so far...

Photo courtesy of the New Clairvaux Monks

Interestingly enough, these monks are not afraid of alcohol one bit! They are raising money to fund this project by teaming up with my favorite brewery, Sierra Nevada, in Chico, to brew and sell Ovila Ale. Apparently it is quite delicious and is selling off the shelves. What a fun way to support a good cause! Even though I am more of a wine connoseur than a beer drinker, I have it on my to-do list for this month. What should I eat it with though? Hmmm...

When we had soaked in enough happiness at the winery, we headed off for a bite to eat at a Chico favorite, The Red Tavern. Granted I haven't eaten there in over 10 years because it's generally not the kind of food that floats Hubs boat, but tonight, I got lucky!!

It was an uncharacteristically cool night for mid-May in Chico but we ate outside anyway. They were nice enough to roll up our very own outdoor heater and we were very comfortable. The garden is very well manicured and the ornamental trees all appeared to be citrus. How clever!

The Bocce Ball court was occupied, apparently, practice for an upcoming tournament, but it was fun to watch and learn anyway. I want one of these in my backyard, don't you?

We started with baguette and butter, a glass of cab for me and a beer for hubs, then my main course came (actually an appetizer, French Skinny portions, you know) and it was to die for!

Hot-Smoked Oregon King Salmon
spring garlic blini, creme fraiche, lemon vinaigrette  9.5

Hubs had a pizza,

which he was very happy with, and then came coffee and dessert.

You're right, there's no picture of dessert but that's because I couldn't get one before we started in on it. Homemade ice cream sandwiches made with sugar cookies, vanilla ice cream and mangoes! Yummy!!!
And a good time was had by all. Now, do you think I can convince him to do it again?

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