Recently I had the chance to participate in Lone Madrone's Dinner on the Dunes Kayaking Tour. Besides making some very yummy Rhône, Bordeaux and Italian varietals and blends, Lone Madrone’s staff is an energetic and creative bunch that put together some great events. This adventure was open to everyone, including wine club members, winery fans, and the odd scribe to record the affair.
Winemaker and owner Neil Collins and his wife Marci, along with co-owner (and sister) Jackie Meisinger hosted the adventurous romp in the Morro Bay National Estuary, a 2300 acre natural preserve along California’s Central Coast. Shannon Coleman, marketing director, took care of the details and helped us check in before we hit the water. The day was a bit overcast but the temperature was pleasant and the mood at dockside was enthusiastic.
After a bit of instruction on how to operate the paddle by the pros at Central Coast Outdoors, we headed down the ramp at the State Park Marina to the floating dock to find our boat. I choose a bright yellow sit-inside single kayak and was pleased to find a small waterproof blanket that kept my knees and torso warm and dry. The Central Coast Outdoor staff provided a water bottle and snack. The wine bottles, they told us were out on the sandspit. (Now there’s incentive!)
Two dozen of us piled into our watercraft, and in two groups, headed out into the cool waters of Morro Bay. We got a first class tour of the Bay’s incredible diversity of wildlife by the experts at Central Coast Outdoors. Within 2 or 3 minutes of our departure we found ourselves witnessing a half a dozen sea lions feasting on a school of anchovies. The sea lions, oblivious to our presence, were diving through the water chasing their prey. All the excitement attracted gulls and pelicans as they joined in on the feast.
We moved northward through the smooth waters of the bay and stopped and visited a very active heron rockery amidst a stand of eucalyptus trees on the bay’s eastern edge. Our guides were knowledgeable about the sea life, the waterfowl, and history of the bay and including this secluded nesting area. In addition to Heron there were Snowy Egrets, Caspian Terns and Long Billed Curlews enjoying the stillness of the late afternoon.
We then headed across the bay to the five mile long sandspit with its giant sand dunes that create and protect the estuary. Along the way we circled Grass Island - a low lying rise of sand and eel grass that on this day hosted over 100 large white pelicans. As we headed to our landing site the distant views west included the ancient volcanic cones of Hollister Peak, Black Mountain and to the south the looming Irish hills.
Stomachs and palates were now begging for sustenance and we made haste to our sand dune destination. We beached our crafts and were quickly handed a glass of wine to celebrate our journey. I opted for a glass of Lone Madrone’s richly flavored Ro?e. The chilled dry, dark pink wine had plenty of backbone from its blend of Nebbiolo, Grenache Noir, Barbera and Zinfandel.
Our guides, now turned chefs, started creating the evening’s meal. One non-cooking guide, a biologist by day, offered to lead a walk on the dunes and to view the sunset over the Pacific. A hearty bunch followed. With a glass of the 2007 Points West Roussanne we hiked up the huge landscape of sand ‘till we reached a rise with an unobstructed view of Morro Rock and the pounding surf below. We were rewarded with the slowly setting sun and the warm comfort of the wine.
Back at the makeshift camp, dinner was served buffet style. The gastronomical treat included, grilled veggies, tabouli salad, a pear, spinach and goat cheese salad, fat juicy gourmet sausages, breads, veggie patties and brownies. All delicious.
Wine choices included the 2003 Nebbiolo with its elegant mix of spicy pepper, tea flavor and pleasant earthiness. I found myself venturing to the 2006 Barfandel, wondering where this complex and invigorating varietal had originated. Winemaker Neil Collins was amused and gently told me it was a blend of Barbera, Petite Sirah and Zinfandel. Hearing my gaff, others were not so kind. The party was on.
As dusk settled in, the trek back across the bay still needed to be negotiated. We loaded ourselves in our kayaks and we started the journey back to the State Park dock. The night was calm and the water like glass. We paddled back in the darkening night, arriving too quickly from our Lone Madrone adventure.
At dockside we maneuvered out of our boats and all were accounted for. New friendships had been made and old ones renewed, and once again the folks at Lone Madrone had outdone themselves with another successful event.
Lone Madrone is open daily from 10:30 to 5pm and is located at 2485 Highway 46 West To get on their mailing list visit www.loneMadrone.com or call 805.238.0845
Barrie Cleveland can be reached at www.WineryAdvisor.com or at 805.543.1363