Highlights: Big Sur, Nepenthe, Phil's Fish Market, Moss Landing
Campground: 30/50A; Slightly tight 46 back-in sites in a good location for exploring from San Francisco to Monterey and Big Sur.
This was a quick stop at the best reviewed campground we could find near San Jose because we had scheduled a flight to Mass. to visit family and prepare our house for sale. We had explored this area in 2011 on a vacation in San Fransisco. There is a lot more to do and see than I'll post here including San Fransisco, Monterey, Pebble Beach, Point Lobos and more. For people back east we found this to be as good a vacation destination as anywhere. Take 1 to 2 weeks!
We only had time to return to a couple favorite spots including Nepenthe - my favorite setting in the whole country for a view and a glass of wine - high on the coast of Big Sur.
The campground is on the inside of this tiny working man's harbor. One could easily walk or drive across a bridge to the other side of harbor.
View from the bridge. Campground to the right. Phil's to the left
Taking a right across the bridge brings you to the waterfront businesses including Phil's Fish Market.
The line outside Phil's around 4:30PM - and it keeps going past the sign.
Their claim to fame is beating chef Bobby Flay on his TV show with their cioppino. We got there before 5PM and still stood in line for most of an hour. Once ordering at the counter you try to find you'r own picnic table inside or out. There is a nice patio area on the beach. The Cioppino was delicious and impossible to finish.
The back of Phil's
The beach behind Phil's
Taking a left across the bridge, will bring you to a small parking lot with access to Salinas River State Beach and a trail that runs between the Old Salinas River and the sand dunes to Moss Landing State beach.
On leaving the campground to go to Big Sur, I started reminiscing about a really great Mexican restaurant we found when we visited San Fransisco last time. All I could remember was that it it was surrounded by artichoke farms. I no sooner had the words out of my mouth, because I was only at the end Moss Landing Road, I shouted out “THERE IT IS!”. Low and behold The Whole Enchilada was at the end of the road we were camping on. We continued on our day trip to Big Sur and our lunch plans at Nepenthe, but came back for another great meal. This place rivals that of any int the southwest.
You walk past the palms and kitsch outside into a funky courtyard before entering the restaurant. Nice for a warmer day.
Chile Releno of course. One of our standbys.
We originally visited Nepenthe after reading about it in a travel guide. You wind down the amazing coast line that is Big Sur. When you park, your view of the Pacific is mostly blocked by thick vegetation, but after walking up an incline to the restaurant the view opens up to an amazing vista.
There is a huge open patio with seats facing the coastline views. Some game tables keep kids occupied while waiting for tables or while parents enjoy a glass of wine. At the opposite side of the patio are stadium style cement benches with loose cushions. This is a place where lounging is welcome.
Pardon the interruption, but I have to speak about wine. When we were last at Nepenthe, sitting against the railing before lunch, our waiter recommended a glass of Lucia Pinot Noir for me. He showed me that the wine came from the Santa Lucia Highlands - the east of the mountains from where we were near Soledad CA. The wine was not only the best I ever had, it made anything else seem ridiculous. It really was a transformative experience as they say. I didn't know wine could be that good or that different.
So on this, our return visit, I told our waiter that story. He asked when we were there and stated we might have had one of the better years for that wine. I told him I hadn't been able to find it. He told me about the winemakers Gary Franscioni and Gary Pisoni and that Nepenthe buys a majority of their wine.The rest is sold directly from them. (Though while researching this post I found it on-line @ https://www.wine.com)
Link to their web site for their story: https://www.garysvineyard.com/#story
So, besides ordering a glass, I asked for a bottle to go at a price I'd never paid before for a bottle of wine (understanding I was paying the restaurant mark-up). It was something I had to do. After all, at the end of our trip we would be visiting my wine appreciative son and my granddaughter Lucia!
Here are some reviews to say what I can't articulate – or even understand.
Wine Enthusiast – 97: Rich, clean and powerfully mineral-driven on the nose, this single-vineyard expression shows black cherry, tangy raspberry, crushed slated and damp gravel on the nose. There is tremendous depth of flavor to the intensely elegant palate, where strong but perfectly ripe dark fruits are balanced by tightly woven tannins, fresh acidity and more rock and soil flavors.
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate – 95: This vineyard was planted in 1995 by Gary Franscioni and Gary Pisoni. Medium ruby-purple, the 2017 Pinot Noir Garys' Vineyard is shy on the nose at first, opening slowly to red fruit sparks over a core of dense black fruit with classic notes of tobacco leaf, cola, woodsmoke and violet hints. Medium to full-bodied, it's dense and concentrated in the mouth with tons of dark, savory fruits and floral notions. It has ripe, tight-grained tannins and wonderful freshness to energize the dense, layered finish.
We had a few warranty repairs to do on our new trailer and found South Bay Airstream Adventures in San Martin California. So, on the morning we left the trailer park, we dropped off the trailer for repairs, then drove north of San Jose to an Inside Storage facility in Milpitas. The woman there was excellent, giving me a discount and friendly service. Immediately after giving her the keys to the truck, we called an Uber for a ride to the airport and we were off.
South Bay Airstream was a good sized dealer who had a huge lot. They were nice enough, but I did have some issues with them. While I kept stressing our time constraints (like we would be back on a specific date in six weeks) and that I had to have the trailer on that date, they caused a lot of stress. I checked in with him weakly because they had to order a part. Sure enough with only a couple days to go they hadn't ordered it yet and only got it installed the day before we got there. Also, they were supposed to repair our rear stabilizers which wouldn't go down. When I checked the trailer out, I found that they wired the new motor in backwards and the down button would send the stabilizers up. The technician quickly repaired it. But thank goodness I verified everything before I left.