Jody Robinson

Jody Robinson

Colonel Gregory G. Raths Reports for Congressional Duty

McDonnell’s “masterpiece fighting jet,” the F-4 Phantom, rolled off the production line in December 1960, as a fleet defender built to intercept nuclear foes. Delivered to Miramar Naval Air Station, the jet was eventually bound for nearly four decades of service in the U.S. military.

For a rookie pilot, the F-4 could be a little hard to handle, its two-seater capacity requiring a little more of a team effort than fighter pilots were used to; and a nose that rose notoriously slowly off the deck of an aircraft carrier. For those of us who know nothing about planes, let alone what Mach 1 or 2 mean, a slow-going-nose doesn’t sound like much. But for Colonel Gregory G. Raths, USMC (RET) it was as much of a trial as any: with a bit of speed, that slow nose could over rotate to a stall. A rather rude initiation to the Marine Corps, if you ask me.

Luckily, meeting Col. Raths is nothing like stalling out over the deck of a 45,000 ton aircraft carrier, even though his sights are currently set on becoming a U.S. Congressman this year - perhaps a task equal to lifting off the deck in a multi-million dollar war machine.

greg headshot 2A charming, well-spoken man, the Colonel speaks lovingly of his parents, and the four brothers and three sisters he grew up with in Phoenix, Arizona. The fifth of eight children, Col. Raths had an early view into the life of a serviceman. His father served in the Army Air Corps from 1941-1945, as a bomber pilot during WWII, and flew combat in the European theatre in the A-20, a night fighter and adaptable light bomber mostly used by the Allied forces in World War II. His mother stayed home full time with the family, keeping the household running.

“As a kid, I mowed lawns, delivered handbills, went door to door selling anything from light bulbs to Christmas lights,” he says. Each step around the neighborhood was a step towards a life of service: to his community first as an Eagle Scout, class president, and multi-sport athlete, and eventually to his country - joining the Marine Corps Officer Candidate Program in 1972 after his freshman year at Arizona State University (ASU).

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Enduring summer training at Quantico during the summers of 1973 and 1974, Col. Raths also received his Bachelor’s Degree in Business in 1975. By the time he graduated flight school in Pensacola, FL, “Vietnam was over, and the military began drawing down its forces, and reducing its budgets. My first assignment was in Orange County, CA - at El Toro Marine Corps Air Station.”

Why am I running for Congress? The answer is quite simple … We have a Congress with a 6% approval rating from the American people. Congress members even now are receiving pay raises and huge benefits when Social Security recipients are only receiving a 1.6 percent increase in 2020. Hospital bills are rising. We need to make a decisive move. - Col. Gregory G. Raths

5738Closed now, El Toro was long part of the vision of a developing community - a vision that Col. Raths would like to see brought back to American towns. Dwight Whiting, Boston-born founder of the town of El Toro, helped establish the first church, negotiated the arrival of the Santa Fe railroad through the valley, and saw the future of the community in its gentleman farmers: working hard and living off the wealth and proceeds of their walnut and apricot groves. Replaced now by shopping malls and a new town moniker, the vision Whiting and Col. Raths share for the country is fading, and Col. Raths believes it is time for a change.

“The American people have had enough,” he says. “We have been deceived, betrayed by our elected officials. We need new leaders with honesty and integrity” - two traits Col. Raths learned en force through his tours aboard the USS Midway, and later as squadron commander off the carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. “Washington D.C. has proven its ineptitude, and we must not allow this dreadful sequence to continue.”

His new assignment is a personal one: One he believes must be based on solutions, not politics as usual. Courage, rather than the opinion of a special interest group, or the hope of reelection.

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Col. Raths has no aspirations to become a career politician - he’s already completed a 30 year military career and spent the past fifteen years in the private sector as a commercial airline pilot, president of an automobile parts distribution firm, and is currently an author and publisher. He is the current Mayor of Mission Viejo and volunteers within his community as a member of the Elks Lodge, president of the Mission Viejo Rotary Club, American Legion, VFW, St. Kilian Knights of Columbus and Vice-Chairman of the OC Board of Supervisors Veterans Advisory Council.

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He is running for office because he simply believes that “a drastically new course for this nation must be drafted” and is committed to leading that charge on behalf of his friends, neighbors and fellow citizens in California’s 45th Congressional District.


When asked what types of current policy he sees as going in the wrong direction that he would correct if elected to office, Col. Raths points to the “fiscal mismanagement of programs such as Medicare and Social Security.”

“Why are members of Congress receiving pay raises and huge benefits when Social Security recipients are only receiving a 1.6 percent cost-of-living adjustment in 2020?” he asks. “Medicare co-payments, prescriptions and hospital bills are skyrocketing. I will focus on our seniors and see that they are taken care of.

“Why am I running for Congress? The answer is quite simple. We have a Congress with a 6% approval rating from the American people. Six percent. We need new leaders who are not worried about the next election or pleasing special interests groups. We can’t count on the same politicians who got us into this mess to get us out. There is only one special interest group I am interested in serving: the people of the 45th Congressional District.”


Col. Raths brings a unique experience and perspective to negotiating Washington’s political scene. Previously having served as Chief of Staff of the White House Military Office taught Raths much about how career politicians function, and he’d like to be a force that changes those functions.

At Mach speeds, most modern aircraft must compromise in order to maintain handling ability. Supersonic speeds create shock waves, and the stronger the shock wave is, the greater the pressure difference, which causes a sonic boom. While those outside the cockpit are witness to the boom, those inside the aircraft cannot hear it. America is at the edge of Mach speed right now, cruising into the path of governmental dependence and the “damaging impact of complacency and apathy.” Col. Raths would like to take back the controls.

Overseeing military support from the White House is no small task, especially after serving in the military at such a volatile and unpopular time, and Raths is all too familiar with the stresses and victories surrounding military legislation coming from Congress. He would like to make it clear that his next battle is back in Washington, fighting for the people of the 45th Congressional District where he’d like to “fix the mess that has been created by politicians invested in maintaining their power, rather than doing what they know is right based on the principles that made this nation great to begin with.”

For our future and that of our children and grandchildren: the time to survey the scene has passed. Start those engines, ladies and gentlemen.

For more information on Col. Gregory Raths’ campaign or to contact him directly, visit, call (949) 292-2468 or write to: Col. Gregory G. Raths, 26551 Maside , Mission Viejo, CA. 92692.

Content approved by Supporters for Gregory G. Raths for Congress.

Studies have shown in recent years that multitasking, once held to be the epitome of a refined work ethic, may actually be detrimental to one’s productivity.

Apparently, trying to complete more than one task at one time interferes with specific forms of brain activity, mussing things up, instead of straightening them out. Dr. James Vartanian is in the business of straightening things out. Instead of multitasking, he much prefers being multi-specialty.

Convenience comes with efficiency, and at the Vartanian Dental Group, that means offering a full-team approach. Each member working within his or her own area of specialization, from start to finish. Oral examinations, teeth whitening, crowns and bridges, porcelain veneers, bonding, dental emergencies. The team offers full spectrum, comprehensive dentistry services that also includes sleep apnea, TMJ disorders, root canals and extractions and implants.

Convenience comes with efficiency, and at the Vartanian Dental Group, that means offering a full-team approach.

“I come from a family of physicians, and wanted that balance of healthcare and hands-on customer service,” says Dr. Vartanian. "I am able to offer that philosophy and culture here with quality dental care at affordable pricing. You don’t have to be referred out, you won’t feel as though we’re juggling a multitude of tasks behind the scenes. We’re here to help you create a beautiful smile - and that’s our entire focus.”

Having been in practice for over twenty years, Dr. Vartanian and his team provide the whole experience. State-of-the-art facilities, filled with welcoming and engaged staff. Ready to help dental professionals with financing options and easy-to-make appointment platforms. Multitasking might not be the key to feeling great at the end of the day. But a beautiful, healthy smile just might be.

imageVartanian Dental Group accepts Medicare Advantage Dental HMO Plans. The office is located at 26302 La Paz Road, Suite 203 in Mission Viejo. For more information, call (949) 586-5669 or visit

The Wine Spectator “Best of Award of Excellence” is bestowed upon restaurants that take its commitment to its wine program “a step further,” displaying excellent breadth across multiple regions and/or significant depth of top wines, along with superior presentation. As an aspiring oenophile, I learned the above while swimming around online in search of a special “date night” dining destination.

My husband has a deeper knowledge and appreciation for fine wine, so I was determined to find an establishment that would provide the “wow” factor - in its wine selection, culinary offerings, ambiance and service. Housed in a gorgeous, historic 1934 home along the Pacific Coast Highway, Selanne Steak Tavern delivered on all counts.

SST Wagyu Beef Tartare

The award, I learned, is typically given to restaurants that offer upwards of 350 wine selections, and exude a deep commitment to the craft behind a good pairing, or a vintage itself. Selanne Steak Tavern received the honor based on its intensely impressive selection of 2,750-bottle wine list, with origins spanning the planet. Designed to appeal to locals and visitors alike, the cellar boasts flavors from all over our fair state - including California cult wines - as well as other highly rated, world class wines from 435 additional worldwide locales stretching from New Zealand to Spain, Portugal to Peru.

SST Filet Mignon

Brick pathways and wooden doors open to an ambiance that successfully transports the spirit of classic American steakhouses and taverns to Southern California’s iconic Laguna Beach. With a robust menu of succulent steaks and chops, superb poultry, game and seafood straight from the inspiration of its co-owners: Six-time Olympian Teemu Selanne and local businessman Kevin Pratt, the steakhouse features a comfortable and classic environment for all. Enjoy any of the five distinct dining settings on site: bistro-style Wine Library, the handsome Tavern, outdoor, relaxing Veranda or Sunset Terrace, or the elegant upstairs Loft.

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“Food should support the community it comes from and tempt the palate of those around it,” and tempt it does. Tender prime meats and Chef Vincent Terusa’s favorite farm-to-table ingredients and creative presentations are showcased in a warm, inviting ambiance characterized by wide planked oak floors, a whitewashed fireplace original to the building, and abstract pieces by local Laguna Beach artist Nick Gaetano.

SST Scarlet Beet Ravioli

Popular starters include the Pacific Diver Scallops (enhanced with cauliflower and pickled shimeji mushroom) and the the Wagyu beef tartare (paired with fingerling chips, wild rocket and quail egg). Although I’m generally more of a seafood aficionado while my husband is the resident meat-and-potato man, I changed my mind three times as I watched as aromatic dishes were delivered to guests around us. I finally settled on the abundantly flavorful grilled-to-perfection ribeye served with Chef’s truffle butter and bordelaise. The broccolini (with garlic chili oil/lemon) and butternut squash (maple bourbon tonic/sage) were the ideal accompaniments both in flavor and texture to the melt-in-your-mouth prime meat.

Earlier this fall, Selanne and Pratt opened their latest collaboration: The Penalty Box - a counter service casual eatery - in Garden Grove. “A salute to creative casual food and, of course, hockey,” the original, all-American comfort menu cleverly and whimsically refers to Selanne’s love of the NHL. PUCKS are burgers made with the eatery’s signature blend of sirloin, short rib and wagyu beef; STICKS are four different temptations of hot dogs; WHIPPED ICE are tantalizing ice cream shakes.

Selanne Steak Tavern
1464 South Coast Highway
Laguna Beach
(949) 715-9881

There’s a real sweet spot when it comes to dinner. Full and fed, of course. More than that however: a parent’s dream exists somewhere in the time it takes to get the kids to calm down and actually eat the meal you spent time precious time preparing for them. 15 years in the making, Dream Dinners has been helping people solve the “what’s for dinner” question.

Easy, family friendly meals put you at the table sooner. Sandy Ransom (who co-owns Dream Dinners in Lake Forest with her husband Richard) and her team know their customers by name.

“We take pride in making our business a place that is comfortable and inviting to use.” Not a buffet, or a meal in a box that shows up on your doorstep, Dream Dinners is an easy meal assembly “store.” Coming from over 30 years in the food service industry, Sandy wanted something different, “something purposeful.” Since 2002, Dream Dinners has helped American families sit down to 100 million meals. For a busy mom, it can be a lifesaver. I know firsthand.

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Between work, school pickup and drop offs, homework and shuttling two kiddos to their respective after school activities, it’s often a challenge to figure out what to make for dinner, never mind finding the time (or energy) to prep the meal in advance each day - all in an oftentimes futile effort to cut down on time spent cooking and more time actually enjoying the dish as a family. Add to that a desire for healthy, home cooked meals vs. pizza delivery, takeout, fast food on the run or the standby chicken nuggets that I cringe to admit are too often a staple. But that was before I discovered Dream Dinners.

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The entire process simply couldn’t be easier or frankly, more fun. My 11-year-old daughter accompanied me on my first foray into the Dream Dinners experience last month. I viewed the monthly menu online, picked the entrees and selected my session time. My daughter thoroughly enjoyed everything about the process - following the easy directions to assemble a month of meals for our family. Simply keep the meals you want to eat the next few days in the fridge and put the rest in the freezer. Cook as directed and enjoy. Easy peasy.

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As a huge bonus, we are able to enjoy flavors and recipes that I wouldn’t otherwise have any exposure too. Or rather, as a result of my less-than-inventive recipe repertoire, my family would still be rotating through my limited culinary offerings. This particular month, we dined on delicious dishes including Chateau Chicken with Almond Butter Sauce, Fully Loaded Chicken and Potato Soup with breadsticks, Garlic and Balsamic Marinated Flank Steak, Chicken Yakitori over Jasmine Rice and the kids’ new favorite - Pizza Burger Sliders on Pretzel Buns.

I’m going to change lives with my newfound knowledge. Well, at the very least, I’m going to share my culinary discovery of Dream Dinners with my mom friends. It isn’t even that we collectively mind the time in the kitchen. But the time in the kitchen is time away from our kids, time away from playing games, or helping with homework. Time spent in disconnect. As Sandy says … “We’re looking to grow, looking to reconnect and build strong relationships. Where else can you do that but over the dinner table?” A sweet spot indeed.

rich and me 1Dream Dinners is located at 22369 El Toro Road in Lake Forest. To connect with Sandy directly, call (949) 583-2800.

Just across the big blue bay from Southern California’s most laid back city, Coronado Island is San Diego’s best kept secret. Fun for family outings, or a mid-week escape from busy Los Angeles or Orange Counties, the island boasts a rich, romantic history and charming small town atmosphere that I’m certain proves to be a particularly welcome respite for those looking for a relaxing retreat from their work-a-day worlds. Such was the case for my husband and I on a recent weekend getaway, but that isn’t to imply there is any shortage of activities. We brought the kids along and discovered that there is truly something for everyone, at every speed.

Although locals refer to it as “the island,” Coronado is really a peninsula connected to the mainland by a finger of land called the Silver Strand. With wide leafy streets lined with Victorian homes and Southern California beach bungalows, the island is small enough to walk almost anywhere (it’s only a mile from the San Diego Bay side of the peninsula to the Pacific Ocean). Once we parked the car at our “home base” upon arrival at the ideally situated and idyllic Glorietta Bay Inn (more on that in a minute), we literally left it in the lot the entire stay and tooled around town on foot or on two wheels.

Our weekend away was defined by unparalleled accommodation, scenic splendor, family bonding and even a bit of history. A visit to the Coronado Museum offers a glimpse into the life on the island dating back to the 1880s. For an active afternoon endeavor, there are plenty of places to rent a kayak or paddleboard to cruise under the bay bridge. For our part, we opted to take a two-wheeled tour to explore the environs at a leisurely pace.

We rented bicycles from Wheel Fun Rentals ( and started off along Coronado Beach before spending the better part of the afternoon tooling around town, along the Bayshore Bikeway, past Glorietta Bay and the Coronado Golf Course and under the Coronado Bridge (if you continue following the well-marked bike path, you’ll end up at the Coronado Ferry Landing, where a ten-minute ride would bring you to downtown San Diego.) Fans of author L. Frank Baum’s iconic classic “The Wizard of Oz” will enjoy pedaling past the quaint yellow Cape Cod-style home (located right across from Star Park) that he rented during his stays and the place where he penned three of the books in the Oz series.

Family on Surrey Near Beach SideFamily on Surrey Near Beach Side

When we travel with the kids, we always try to incorporate an activity or educational opportunity to learn something “remarkable” or interesting about each locale. Sometimes we happen to stumble upon a unique aspect of the area and other times, it’s an endeavor best left in the hands of the professionals - in this case, local knowledge in the form of Nancy Cobb, Coronado Island resident and owner of the Coronado Walking Tour ( The 90-minute guided stroll starts in the Music Room of the The Glorietta Bay Inn and offers walk-bys of castles and cottages, along with a legendary tale or two about movie stars who’ve spent time basking and relaxing on the eternally sunny Coronado Island. I have to say, our family learned everything we now know about the Spreckels Mansion and Coronado Island from Nancy, who provided a thorough and entertaining accounting of the island’s history and famous (and infamous) highlights.

If all you want to do is sit back and let someone else play tour guide, the Old Town Trolley is just the fit. Looking for an even more tranquil experience? Sit back and take in the surf, sand and spectacular sunsets at any of Coronado’s five gorgeous, rarely crowded white sand beaches. At dusk both days during our weekend stay, my husband and I strolled the picturesque stretch of sand and surf that meanders for over a mile along Ocean Boulevard in front of historic and glamorous houses. Voted among the top 10 beaches in the USA by the Travel Channel, this long and wide coastline is great for walks, runs, beach volleyball or sandcastle building. If you’re traveling with a furry friend, there’s even a leash-free dog zone at the far end of the beach where pups can frolic in the waves.

Heavenly retreat

Situated across the street from Coronado Beach, the Glorietta Bay Inn ( leans into the legendary reputation of island relaxation.

Originally built as the private residence of sugar baron John D. Spreckels, this beautiful boutique hotel features 11 mansion rooms (in the original building circa 1908) and 89 contemporary rooms and suites added in later years. Easy strolling distance from an array restaurants and retail shops, this landmark attraction famous for its grandeur architecture combines Old World charm with incredible California comfort. The Inn showcases a scenic outdoor verandah, a storied music room complete with a baby grand piano and a sun-warmed lobby that once served as the grand foyer to Spreckels’ home.

Parents and Young Children on Cruiser Bikes in Park

The structure was originally designed with the simple, classic lines of Italian Renaissance to showcase its six bedrooms, three baths, a parlor, dining room and library. At that time, Spreckels’ Mansion featured a brass cage elevator, a marble staircase with leather-padded handrails, skylights, marble floors and some of the Island’s most spectacular gardens. The home was built with reinforced steel and concrete, an earthquake precaution Spreckels insisted upon after living through the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

Glorietta Bay Inn Photo credit: Brett Shoaf Glorietta Bay Inn Photo credit: Brett Shoaf

In 1913, Spreckels, a dedicated musician and pipe organist, added a spectacular 800-square-foot Music Room with an enormous 41-rank Aeolian Pipe Organ. The horseshoe-shaped Music Room, which can be enjoyed today with its player piano and as the starting point of the aforementioned historic tour of Coronado, boasts nine French doors which lead out to the breakfast patio overlooking Glorietta Bay and the Hotel del Coronado.

Music Room at Glorietta Bay InnMusic Room at Glorietta Bay Inn

Each of the historic mansion rooms are uniquely styled: the Sugar Baron Room, originally the private bedroom of Mrs. Spreckels, features a king-bedded room with a large balcony and a spectacular view of Glorietta Bay; the Spreckels Suite (once the private bedroom of John D. Spreckels), this beautiful room has a living room area with a convenient kitchenette, and a separate bedroom with a king size bed. French doors off the living room open up to a spacious balcony with an equally gorgeous view of Glorietta Bay. Amenities for all accommodations include access to a heated pool, complimentary continental breakfast and daily afternoon refreshments. And bonus! Glorietta Bay Inn offers its guests complimentary beach chairs, towels, and toys - so there’s no excuse not to stake out your own spot to soak up the sun. And with year round Vitamin D, you’ll never run out of reasons to visit.

Oct 31, 2019

Salon Capistrano

A Talented Group of Professionals & A Throwback to Exceptional Service

Beauty has certainly changed a lot over the years. At the risk of dating myself, I’ve lived through trends like mini-buns, barrettes, chunky highlights in non-traditional hair colors. Blue eyeshadow. Half-hair up with cornrows. Thankfully, I’ve moved on (even though I was sadly unable to ever achieve “the Rachel”). I’m grateful for cutting-edge salons (pun intended) like Salon Capistrano where seasoned professionals keep up with the rapidly evolving trends to deliver world-class service to their customers.

Voted “Best of San Juan Capistrano” seven years in a row, Salon Capistrano is a full service salon that offers hair services, facials, chemical peels, waxing, nails and makeup/airbrush application. Since the salon opened its doors in 2012, Owner Paula Guerena and her team have strived to ensure that each of their clients “shine.”

“We want to make the special events of your lives even better - from weddings and proms to class reunions, galas and teens/ladies/men’s night out,” says Paula, whose personal area of expertise since 1994 has been in anti-aging facials and chemical peels to help keep her clients’ skin youthful and healthy.

Paula and her team pride themselves on keeping up with the latest techniques and products in the industry through continuing education classes, and never let their standard of service falter. “Our clients continue to tell us how warmly received they feel the moment they walk in the door, and that the salon has a ‘great vibe.’” A fact that can surely be directly attributed to the kind and considerate group of independent contractors who truly work together here in harmony as a team.

“We all come from different backgrounds, but our passion for making people look and feel their best is what led each of us to the beauty and customer service industry,” says Paula. No egos ... just exceptional service.

IMG 0778Connect with Paula directly by calling (949) 212-6262. Salon Capistrano is located at 32241 Camino Capistrano, Suite A103 in San Juan Capistrano.

If you’re in the mood for delicious, authentic Italian fare served in a romantic atmosphere where the owners and staff make you feel like a personal guest in their homes, look no further than Casanova Ristorante in Dana Point.

I can happily attest that literally everything my husband and I have tried on the menu here has been nothing short of superb. The service is alway excellent – attentive and unobtrusive – the ambiance is warm and friendly and its popular cocktail lounge featuring specially selected wine list (and full bar) has a loyal following among locals and visitors alike.

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Start with the Mozzarella Caprese, which arrives with slices of fresh tomato topped with creamy buffalo mozzarella cheese and basil and served with virgin olive oil. Another popular pick is the antipasto misto made up of a selection of cured meats and complementary cheeses and my personal fave: the Carpaccio al Salmone defined by crisp romaine, capers, radicchio topped with smoked salmon, lemon and olive oil.

For the main course, Tim’s favorite dishes include the “Pink Lady Fettuccine” made with chicken and sundried tomatoes tossed in a creamy Alfredo sauce and a flavorful Rigatoni Mamma Rosa with Italian sausage and mushrooms in a tomato sauce with a touch of cream. My favorites include the Lasagne al Forno which arrives with layers of perfectly al dente pasta, ricotta cheese and meat sauce baked with mozzarella cheese.

A seafood aficionado? Options abound – ranging from the Linguini Vongole Veraci (long, flat pasta with baby Manila clams sautéed in a white wine sauce) and Farfalle al Salmone (bowtie pasta with smoked salmon tossed in a cream and tomato sauce with a touch of vodka) to the Linguini alla Pescatora (long, flat pasta with fresh fish of the day, shrimp, calamari, mussels and clams in a light tomato sauce.

Portions are generous, but if you’ve saved room for a little something sweet … try the crème brulee with its perfectly carmelized top or the homemade tiramisu, a traditional favorite or an equally delicious warm chocolate cake accompanied by vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and drizzled with a rich chocolate sauce.

Casanova Ristorante is located at 33585 Del Obispo St. in Dana Point (at the corner of Stonehill).

For information or reservations, call 949.496.0992 or visit

I was at a bookstore the other day, best sellers dotting the front shelves. In the back, over by the kids books were a series of board games, dolls, and puzzles. A surprising number of the puzzles depicted scenes from California: cities and beaches, redwoods and wineries. A great many I recognized were from Napa Valley, famous for its picturesque wineries (grand scale, boutique and everything in between) and renowned varietals, and yet equally famous for its dramatic views, world-class resorts and restaurants.

Italics Wine GrowersItalics Wine Growers

My husband and I are lucky to have family who live in the region so weekend getaways are super easy and require little excuse or forward planning. About an hour from the Sacramento Airport, the end of August and into September is a ideal time to visit - when the summer heat tapers into fall, and the sun’s latitude slants just so across the rolling hills of fertile soil. Like many visitors and locals alike, we love to explore the offerings of both well-established and up-and-coming wineries; some to drink, some just to stroll the grounds. Understated and unbelievable, Napa Valley a must-experience destination for any and all.

Napa Valley Wine Train

If you’re looking for a way back to a simpler and more elegant frame of mind while on vacation, step onto the platform of the Napa Valley Wine Train, and come aboard for a trip to the past, through the present’s most “expensive and famous farm real estate in the country.” Built in 1864 to take travelers to Calistoga, the Napa Valley Wine Train ( is a three-hour tour from downtown Napa to St. Helena and back traveling along 36 miles of track to roll by 26 different wineries at about 10 miles an hour.

Napa Valley Wine TrainNapa Valley Wine Train

Traveling through nothing but incredible scenery, the train features a Gourmet Express multi-course meal on board, with car service in either the lounge or dining car. Meals are served at tables laid out with white linen, beautiful china and silverware. Our culinary adventure began with a selection of artisan cheeses and finely cut meats, followed by a choice of grilled and roasted beef tenderloin and the Chef’s fresh selection of seafood. Departing mid-morning or early evening, the trail rocks and rails from Oak Knoll to Rutherford. Four kitchens and local produce combine to a decadent conclusion. Every dish is made to order; and the ambience is certainly served up with each course.

Wine Train Exterior

Italics Wine Growers

My mom used to tell me “God made dirt, and dirt don’t hurt.” I’m sure it was within the context of some scrape or road rash I had as a kid, but as an adult, finding that the most intriguing part of my wine habit is the soil that the grapes came from definitely reminds me of my mother. At Italics Wine Growers (italics, they’re approaching grapes from the ground up. “Soil is what it is, and there’s not a lot you can do about it. Here in Coombsville, the soils are a result of volcanic eruptions that occurred some three to five million years ago.” And we’re drinking to that today!

Italics Wine GrowersItalics Wine Growers

A lot of factors influence the taste and body of that lovely libation, but the parent material is all the minerals, plants, and microorganisms you walk on. Those who walk the walk at Italics came down a long road to get here - all the way from the American Southeast. Texas to be exact. Taylor Martin, his wife, their 2 year-old, (and one to come soon!) live on the property and along with their carefully cultivated team of fellow oenophiles, and can’t get enough of the winery where Taylor will be the first to tell guests that “a tasting room is a place to sip and swirl, meet new people and make new friends, but there’s no reason it has to be a room. Not when you can walk among the vines … to learn firsthand about vine spacing, trellising and pruning - things that affect vigor, yield and quality. Or if you prefer, you can take a “behind-the-scenes” tour of the 16,000 square-foot cave. Nothing illuminates a winegrower’s art more than a cave tour and tasting where our party savored current releases and library wines accompanied with seasonal pairings of local cheese and charcuterie.

Taylor and his team have extended their enthusiasm to everyone who has experienced Italics since its inception in 2014. It may be one of the newer wineries on the map in Napa, but the flavor delivers about a million years of history, down to the last drop.

When I picture a rest stop, I imagine 18-wheel trucks, a grimy bathroom, and the last of a bag of road-trip snacks. Not the rolling hills of Paso Robles. Green like Ireland in the spring, and tawny golden in the summer months, the pass of the oaks, as it was named by natives who settled the area before the Spanish ever set foot upon the Camino Real, offered rest for travelers of the historic trail. Franciscan priests from the neighboring mission in San Miguel were responsible for the first mineral baths in the area, and so it became a lush respite on a dusty trail.

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Located on the Salinas River north of San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles hosts the California Mid-State Fair, and is known widely for its ranches, vineyards, and orchards. Today, it produces some of the finest wines and olive oils in the state and is home to more than 200 wineries and fine restaurants making it an exciting destination for any oenophile. Just over three hours from Los Angeles, and three more to San Francisco, there’s very little reason to stay away. From hop-on-hop-off wine tasting tours to Hearst Castle to the Studios on the Park gift shops and more. Beautiful city parks (and waterparks!) await if you’re visiting with the whole family. If it’s a quiet weekend away that you’re looking for, search no further than the Allegretto Vineyard Resort (

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A drone is the only way to capture the full scope of this pristine gem, tucked into the heart of wine country on 20 sprawling acres of vineyards and olive and fruit orchards on Paso Robles’ idyllic east side. From the ground, walk through a peaceful sanctuary inspired by Mediterranean architecture and the Italian “dolce vita.” Drawing from wine country’s original heritage in the rolling splendor of Tuscany and the south of France, the resort feels like a sweet plunge into refreshing waters. Lovely gardens, a gorgeous Tuscan-style courtyard, beautifully appointed rooms, relaxing cabanas at sparkling outdoor pools, a French-inspired Abbey and labyrinth sound garden are among the many amenities designed to give each guest a luxury experience they’ll never forget.

Relax in the Spa as you rejuvenate body and mind, take a walk around the vineyard and celebrate in the event spaces; including but not limited to the Veneto Ballroom. If you’re a foodie, walk through the organic gardens with Chef Justin, or simply indulge at Cello Ristorante and Bar. The local bounty lands fresh upon your table in a celebration of every farmer, rancher, chef, and server that makes each dish possible. Combining both domestic and international flavors, Chef Picard marries only the freshest ingredients with artisan cookery. Hop on a tandem bike and ride off into the sunset: at a rest stop you’re not likely going to want to leave behind.

All Roads Lead

Sip, savor, celebrate DAOU Vineyards

My husband and I initially discovered DAOU wine when a friend brought over a bottle for a gathering at our home several months ago. Over the years, this friend has introduced us to several pretty spectacular varietals and DAOU’s 2016 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon was no exception. So when we realized that DAOU Vineyards and Winery ( was located in Paso Robles, we were excited to indulge in its offerings firsthand.

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Standing alone at an elevation of 2,200 feet in the heart of the breathtaking Adelaide District (10 minutes from downtown), DAOU’s Wine Tasting experience more than delivered. The reserve and estate-tier vintages (our favorite was the 2017 DAOU Unbound, which the web site describes as “Petite SIrah, Tannat and Tempranillo Blend shows an inky, violet, aubergine color with a warm, rich nose of blueberry pie, boysenberry jam and crushed mulberries. Cedar shavings with graphite and dried flowers are accentuated by vanilla creme highlights and a subtle hint of mint.” As a novice aficionado, I just know it was lovely and further enhanced by the beautiful mountain overlook terrace, cozy fireside, European-inspired furnishings and impeccable grounds with sweeping panoramic vineyard views.

We tend to be a bit spoiled when it comes to weather in California, especially the southern residents. Year-round, it typically doesn’t drop below 50, hovering even in December in the high 60’s or low 70’s.

Which means we can do more outside when we aren’t stuck in the snow. Which means we’re more fun. Objectively. Harrah’s has just taken it one step further. Already the home of a world-class resort and casino, the #1 spot to indulge is Funner than ever. Officially.

California’s most exciting new city, Funner (, is on the map and ready to greet you with its award winning selection of restaurants, the first swim-up bar in SoCal, and even a 400-foot lazy river. Funner even has a mayor: Hollywood’s recently inaugurated Rob Riggle. Now, fun literally is a destination, and it isn’t that far off. Tucked between San Diego and Los Angeles, you can indulge onsite or head out for adventure. Only 4 miles from Hill Top Winery and just down the road from La Jolla Zip Zoom, you can get from pampered to Palomar Mountain in a jiffy.

Lazy river water fallThere’s only one hotel in this quirky concept destination and it’s a doozy. Harrah’s Resort SoCal boasts 1,087 luxury rooms, 22 wellness rooms and suites, eight restaurants, a trio of pools (and 23 poolside cabanas), eight hot tubs, the aforementioned 400-foot lazy river, fully equipped fitness center AND 1,700 slot machines and 60 table games. Seriously, this resort means it when it advertises that it "isn’t your ordinary escape” whether its guests prefer to pull up a lounge chair, a bar stool or an inner tube - there’s literally something for everyone.

What’s your idea of a poolside paradise? I think it just might look like a trifecta of crystal clear pools, lazy river that “plays on repeat,” a range of sunning options and SoCal’s first swim-up bar - replete with live entertainment poolside nightly Thursdays - Sundays.

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A foodie? Grab-and-go delicacies or the delightful elegance of linen tablecloths - with bountiful options designed to please event the pickiest eaters. For the former - Earl of Sandwich, Robeks Fresh Juices & Smoothies, Smash Burger and Starbucks - and for the latter Fiore Steak + Seafood (winner of Wine Spectator’s “Award of Excellence” 10 years running) and everything in between. KJ Chinese Restaurant, ‘ritas cantina brings Baja to you “one bite at a time,” Cafe serves up casual fare and Buffet is spelled like it sounds: a world tour for your taste buds.

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The bar scene is not to be trifled with - Spiked’s mixologists blend classic recipes with a signature twist and Corked offer a craft beer list ensured to impress any hop head. Did I mention live entertainment? Aside from poolside pursuits, Harrah’s Resort SoCal showcases a monthly event calendar packed with comedy and concerts that will surely pack the house. Upcoming performances include The Wallflowers, Experience Hendrix, Chicago, Don’t Look Back (Boston Tribute) and the Eddie B: I’m Already Professionally Developed Tour.

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Add to all this the newly renovated Spa at Harrah’s, on-site barber shop, and SR76 Beerworks, home of the original Native American owned brewery that offers a little history with every taste. Named after the original trail the tribe migrated on, the beers cultivated within showcase the history and agriculture of the region. What could be funner? Come see for yourself.

Zenfully Suite