Saturday, November 26, 2011



This fall we employees of Holland America lost a fellow worker and kindred spirit, Elyce Kaplan, to that dreaded C word, cancer. Characterized by a smile for all and a zest for life, she is sorely missed. When Elyce found out I was going to Budapest and Prague, she was right there with info, tour guides to refer me to , and food tips (she turned me on to Hungarian Spicy Paprika from the market there). I shared her love of cooking, books and travel. Writing about her snowmobiling adventure, her surfing lessons, and Temecula wine tasting on Facebook were enthusiastically enjoyed. That is why I decided to put together a Celebration of Life in her memory.

Groupon posted a 3 hour jeep charter for 6 passengers on line via Sunrider Tours, http://www.sunridertours/ . Kelly, Rita, Roz, Judi, Gena and I signed up. Included was free tastings at Leoness Cellars, a guide, and the jeep. Every bargain hunting I looked for 2 for 1 coupons on line for two other wineries (easier if your tour is not on Sunday).

On Sunday October 16, Travis, our guide and co-owner of the company, met us at the Starbucks in Old Town Temecula at 3pm. Previously we all decided to bring goodies for snacking in between and we loaded them into the cooler on the back bumper of the jeep. Earlier in my phone conversation with Travis I explained to him the purpose for our trip mentioning that we planned to place a white rose (one of her favorite flowers ) in the vineyards at each winery.

One person rides shotgun, three in the middle and two out in the roofless back seat. We were going to trade off in the back seat but Roz and Rita decided they liked the wind blown look so much they weren't about to give it up. The drive to each of the wineries was very short, only about 10-15 minutes between). Each winery gave you about 5 tastings. We loved having a driver so we could imbibe and were amazed at how many wineries (36) are located there.

Leoness,(,) our first stop and Elyce and Dennis' favorite, is located on De Portola Road. Their collection of both white and red wines (including Cellar Selection Series, Vineyard Selection Series, and Signature Selection Series) offers something for everyone. Of course each winery tries to get you to join their wine club. We each had our favs mine being the 2008 Meritage and2008 Mourvedre. Most preferred the white selections.

Our second winery, Danza del Sol , is a 35 acre Estate winery on the DePortola Wine Trail, Roz enjoyed her favorite the Reserve Chardonnay while I liked the Tempranillo and Dos Blancos. During our tastings here we laid out our repast on several tables, inviting Travis to join us. I think he really enjoyed our treats of cookies, blueberry covered goat cheese, crackers, spicy yogurt dip and veggies to name a few. Travis was indispensable-keeping track of our left behind belongings, taking numerous pictures with all kinds of different cameras, and offering suggestions along the way . If he had been able to get a word in edgewise he probably would have shared more of his wealth of knowledge with us, but we had our own agenda and enjoyed each other's company outside of the work setting.

Our last stop we wouldn't recommend to others, Robert Ronzoni. It is a fairly new winery so may improve with years. As the day ended at twilight we all agreed that it was a wonderful idea. Later we shared our pictures with Dennis Kaplan who was touched by our honoring Elyce. It was a very special day ,and we felt her there with us in spirit.

As for Sunrider Tours, I highly recommend them. They have many different tours with different prices. Some are 4-5 hours long that include lunch or appetizer and cover all tastings at 4 or more wineries. Some have Barrel Production Tours, grape tastings, tasting challenges etc. Guided is a great way to go as it lets you enjoy the wine without worrying about the driving and by the by, Temecula roads are well policed. Look for online specials with groupon or other sites too. I recommend either staying for dinner at one of the many very good restaurants in town or at the wineries (check out reviews on or better yet spend the night at one of the many Temecula hotels or B&B's and enjoy your wine purchases some more. There are historical walking tours of Old Town available and a pretty good small Old Town Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings. Don't be a snob-there are some pretty good wines in Temecula (and it is closer than Paso Robles, Napa or Sonoma or Oregon). Try them-you might like them.

And in closing, we miss you, Elyce!!

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