I've really been enjoying my time off, not only because I get to read and catch up with life, but because I'm really appreciating a few small trips. For instance, last weekend I visited some good friends in Northern California--Chico to be exact. A small college locale with bursts of trees and a downtown full of boutique shops, Chico is a nice place to kick back. Sure, it could be argued that it's not the first spot that pops out at a person when they're looking at a map, but there are a lot of hidden gems to find here.
One of them happens to be a winery just outside of Chico proper in a tiny location named Vina which, as far as we could tell, basically consists of shut-down fishing and tackle shops and a dusty drag of road lined by a few homes. (Or maybe we just hit the fringes of Vina?)
Anyway, after searching around a little, we finally spotted a road that led through the trees to the Abby of St. Clairvaux, where Monks run a winery. Just beyond the foliage, we could see the pieces of a building scattered about and coming together into a semblance of walls. It seems they're reconstructing a monastery, which was purchased by William Randolph Hearst and eventually sent here for relocation. (For more info, here's a short article from USAToday that mentions it and the winery: http://www.usatoday.com/travel/destinations/2006-05-22-monks-vineyard_x.htm . Click and then scroll down slightly for the article itself.)
Beyond the reconstruction, we discovered the tasting and sales room of the winery itself and, let me tell you, the monks make some tasty sweet red wine that I just had to purchase. If you find yourself in the area, I highly suggest coming here because, in addition to the wine (which is always a pleasure in itself), it's interesting to chat with the monks who tend the tasting room bar.
Cool, huh? There's got to be a book in there somewhere. :)