Sip Trip: Tri-Cities, Washington

Sip Trip: Tri-Cities, Washington, originally published in Touring & Tasting, spring/summer 2020.

Explore the Heart of Washington Wine Country

A sojourn to the Tri-Cities (Kennewick, Pasco, Richland and West Richland) is an excellent way to savor the heart of Washington Wine Country and experience a winning combination of sun, water and wine. Whether you want to tour wine country, play outdoors, feast on the local culinary bounty or enjoy a wide variety of cultural pursuits, the Tri-Cities has it all!


10 a.m. Start in Benton City with Washington’s hottest AVA, Red Mountain. Encompassing about 4,000 acres of vineyards, Red Mountain provides grapes to over 175 wineries throughout the Pacific Northwest, consistently earning critical acclaim. With 11 on-mountain wineries and tasting rooms to choose from, you’ll enjoy meeting with vintners during this hands-on experience. For an even more intimate exploration of the Red Mountain Trails, ride from winery to winery on horseback or take a horse-drawn  wagon ride. |


9 a.m. Get outside and breathe some fresh air along the sparkling Columbia River. There are fun, outdoor recreation activities for everyone, with stand up paddle board yoga, bike rentals, kayaking and more available.

11 a.m. Visit Columbia Gardens Wine and Artisan Village in historic downtown Kennewick for an urban tasting experience at their boutique tasting rooms and wine production facilities.

12:30 p.m. Choose from one of the three charming wineries on Tulip Lane in Richland —J. Bookwalter, Barnard Griffin and Tagaris — for cuisine that’s expertly paired with their wines. |

3:30 p.m. Indulge in a bit more tasting, with a number of excellent wineries to choose from in Richland and Kennewick, including Goose Ridge Estate Vineyard & Winery, Longship Cellars, Badger Mountain Vineyard & Powers Winery, Kitzke Cellars, Farmhand Winery and Market Vineyards. | |

6 p.m. Revel in a stunning sunset and a gourmet dinner, as well as all of the luxuries of a 96-foot yacht, on a Water2Wine Cruise along the Columbia River.


10 a.m. Enjoy the short drive from the urban Tri-Cities to the small, agricultural community of Prosser. Often recognized as the “Birthplace of Washington Wine,” Prosser has a variety of wineries to visit at the Prosser Wine & Food Park. Vintner’s Village has over 12 wineries, as well as the Winemaker’s Loft, a winery incubator that houses a half-dozen wineries and tasting rooms.

2 p.m. Don’t miss the Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center. Named after Washington wine pioneer Dr. Walter Clore, the Clore Center is a unique wine tasting and education destination that showcases Washington wine’s quality and diversity by offering an in-depth taste of each wine region.

There are always loads of special events going on in the Tri-Cities, with entertainment for all ages and interests. May’s Cinco de Mayo celebration is a true cultural experience with traditional music, amazing Mexican cuisine, horse dancing and more. June’s Cool Desert Nights takes car-lovers throughout the Tri-Cities. Every July brings the three-day Tri-City Water Follies boat racing tournament. Labor Day weekend is the Tumbleweed Music Festival, with more than 100 talented performers participating in three days of amazing concerts and events, many of which are free. Check out to stay up-to-date on all of the local happenings.

Originally published in the spring/summer 2020 issue of Touring & Tasting. Click here to read this story and more!

Wenatchee Whitewater Wows

Wenatchee Whitewater Wows, originally published in the Spring/Summer 2020 issue of Touring & Tasting.

Pair your white — or red — wines with some whitewater on an exciting journey rafting down the Wenatchee River’s wild rapids. This action-packed adventure departs from Leavenworth and combines wine tasting with the splashes, thrills and (possibly) spills of careening down Washington’s exhilarating whitewater for a nonstop day of fun!

Blue Sky Outfitters’ Wenatchee Whitewater Wine Adventures covers ten miles of rapids, with fun names like Upper Gorilla, Sharkstooth, Rodeo Hole, Drunkards Drop, Snowblind, Grannys and the Suffocator adding to the adrenaline-filled day.

After you work up a hearty appetite on the river, you’ll be treated to their famous top sirloin steak barbecue, then chauffeured to Wenatchee Valley wineries for a three-hour tasting tour. The most popular stretch of the Wenatchee River is about 14 miles between the towns of Leavenworth and Cashmere, and it boasts a thrilling array of class 3–4 whitewater every spring (river rapids are classified as 1–5, with 1 as the easiest and 5 as the most challenging).

Experts say that on the Wenatchee, when you hear a rapid coming — you know you are going to get wet! But with 300 days of sunshine per year, you’ll enjoy the drench. Along with great waves, and Osprey soaring overhead and nesting in the tops of trees, you’ll also find beautiful scenery, from mountainous forested landscape in Leavenworth to apple and pear orchards, rocky sandstone spires and grass-covered hillsides as you leave the Cascade foothills and enter the more agriculture-rich eastern part of Washington state.

In addition to Blue Sky Outfitters (, other rafting operators offering guided trips in the Wenatchee River area include Alpine Adventures (, Leavenworth Outdoor Center (, Orion Expeditions (, Osprey Rafting (, River Riders ( and Wildwater River Guides (

Originally published in the spring/summer 2020 issue of Touring & Tasting. Click here to read this story and more!


RH Yountville, originally published in Touring & Tasting, spring/summer 2020.

An enchanting, elegant and extremely upscale amalgamation of food, wine, art and design, RH Yountville showcases a dazzling new experience in the heart of Napa Valley.

The five-building compound features a chic indoor-outdoor restaurant where guests dine to the sounds of water trickling from dramatic seven-foot fountains under a towering glass roof, surrounded by 100-year-old heritage olive trees and sparkling crystal chandeliers.

Previously known as Restoration Hardware, parent company RH launched this flagship project in 2019, marking Chairman and CEO Gary Friedman’s ongoing collaboration with celebrated restaurateur Brendan Sodikoff and award-winning design architect James Gillam of Backen & Gillam (recognized as one of Architectural Digest’s Top 100 architecture and design firms in the world, including more than a dozen top estate winery projects).

“RH Yountville reflects our vision for creating inspiring spaces and authentic experiences that respect and amplify the local culture. This is an inherently personal project given our nearby headquarters in Marin County,” said Friedman.

In addition to RH Restaurant, featuring an ingredient-driven menu with elevated interpretations of timeless classics like ribeye steaks, lobster rolls and housemade pastas, as well as an extensive brunch menu, RH Yountville also includes a two-story stone Wine Vault at the historic Ma(i)sonry building.

Originally home to one of Napa’s first vintners in the early 20th century, the landmark building has been transformed with a 24-foot cedar ceiling, rough-cut fieldstone walls, luxe lounge seating and a monumental limestone bar. Visitors can discover a curated selection of rare, limited-production wines from some of the valley’s top small producers, as well as classic champagnes.

Adjacent to The Wine Vault is an outdoor Wine and Barista Bar serving craft espresso, teas, fresh cold-pressed juices and wines by the glass. Also on the property are two boutique design galleries, featuring globally sourced antiques and inspired objects — all connected by lush garden courtyards with granite and bluestone walking paths and outdoor living room areas that can be reserved for wine tastings.

For more information, visit category.jsp?context=Restaurant_YV.

Originally published in the spring/summer 2020 issue of Touring & Tasting. Click here to read this story and more!

Sonoma’s Field of Dreams

Sonoma’s Field of Dreams originally published in Touring & Tasting spring/summer 2020.

Come by Balletto Vineyards winery on any given Sunday in the spring and summer, and you’ll hear the happy sounds of bats cracking, children laughing and the occasional cheers. Nestled among the winery’s 700 acres of Russian River Valley AVA estate vineyards is a four-acre regulation-sized baseball field.

How did this real life field of dreams come to be? “John Balletto’s hardworking vineyard staff approached him and asked if he would sponsor their league baseball team,” says brand ambassador Nick Frey. “In true John Balletto fashion, he went above and beyond. The Balletto family set four acres of land aside and donated the materials while the vineyard crew donated the labor, so everyone feels a sense of ownership and pride.”

Employees now use the regulation-size field to play in a league with teams from the Bay Area, says Frey. The Balletto team includes vineyard operations manager Manuel Vallejo, a 32-year employee who first approached the boss about building the field in 2002 and still plays with Los Uveros (The Grapers).

Surrounded by vineyards and nestled below a winemaking production area, the field is not directly viewable from the tasting room, but offers a great view for the Balletto staff. The winery does offer a walking tour that takes you around the vineyard and stops right at the field.

Originally published in the spring/summer 2020 issue of Touring & Tasting. Click here to read this story and more!

Touring & Tasting Magazine

I had the honor of serving as the Editor-in-Chief for Touring & Tasting Magazine’s 25th anniversary edition. I also wrote many pieces. To read the magazine in its entirety, click here.

Here’s the custom cover version we did for Robert Mondavi Winery.

This 25 Top Experiences Feature is a great way to do some armchair traveling!

My editor’s letter.


I really enjoyed interviewing photographer George Rose for this story about his stunning new book!

The Sensorio exhibit in Paso Robles is so cool. Hoping it will be able to reopen soon.

This story was a particularly fun one to research!

Click here to read all of these stories and more!

Sow Smart

Getting ready to play in the dirt this spring? The Plant Good Seed Company ( offers a large assortment of certified organic vegetable, flower, and herb seeds, including improved rare and heirloom varieties.

“Connecting plants and people, that’s really what it’s about for me,” says co-founder and owner Quin Shakrawhose business offers hundreds of unique seeds sourced from farmland they steward in Ojai.

“I believe we’re making some really unique agricultural contributions to this region,” says Shakra, who started the business as an organic farm in 2011 but soon realized that there wasn’t a garden-based, small-scale organic seed company in the area. “It turned out that we had stumbled upon a niche that nobody else was covering here,” he says.

The seeds can be purchased seasonally at Ojai Certified Farmers’ Market and many retail stores throughout the 805 area as well as from the company’s website, which also provides free, charmingly illustrated seasonal planting calendars designed to aid customers’ planting and planning decisions for every crop in the catalog.

805 Living Spring 2020Click here to read this story as it appeared in 805 Living magazine 805 Living Pulse April 2020

Putting Homes in Good Hands

GreatBuildz from 805 Living Spring 2020

Looking to facilitate good experiences among homeowners who embark on remodels, Jon Grispul and Paul Dashevsky (at left,) co‑founded GreatBuildz concierge service. Photos: Kitchen by Langoworks Photography; Co-Founders courtesy of GreatBuildz.

Homeowners looking for trusted professionals to help with a home repair or renovation may be interested to hear that a new online service can lead the way.

After renovating and flipping more than 350 homes, local real estate investor Paul Dashevsky was looking for his next project when he came to a realization. “The most brutal part of my own experience doing hundreds of remodels was working with contractors,” says Dashevsky “and I did this professionally. I started doing my homework and realized it must be really hard for the homeowner that does this every 10 years.”

This prompted him to co-found GreatBuildz (, an online concierge service connecting homeowners with home-repair and-improvement professionals.

“The best experiences come from a referral,” says co-founder Jon Grispul, Dashevsky’s nephew. “People typically start online. What we do is take this a few steps further.”

Free to homeowners, GreatBuildz currently provides services in Los Angeles County, the Conejo Valley, and parts of Ventura County, using a 10-step vetting process that includes interviews, background and reference checks, and verification of contractor licenses. Once homeowners submit project information, a GreatBuildz concierge reaches out to learn more about their renovation needs and then matches them with up to three approved contractors available in the area. The concierge stays involved throughout the project because, Grispul says, “We always want to ensure the contractor is doing the work promised and that our clients are fully satisfied.”

805 Living Spring 2020Click here to read this story as it appeared in 805 Living magazine 805 Living Pulse April 2020

Pretty Persian Pastries

Pretty Persian Pastries, from 805 Living, Winter 2020.

For something sweet and special to share with loved ones this Valentine’s Day, check out Simi Valley–based ZoZo Baking Studio (, where owner and pastry chef Fariba Nafissi brings international flavors to the 805. The heart-shaped kolompeh is a “traditional pastry that has no added sugar, and it’s naturally sweetened by dates,” says Nafissi. “Guided by an international palate, I use traditional Persian baking techniques to create interesting flavors.”

Each pastry is pressed with a handmade walnut-wood stamp, then carefully crimped. Her kolompeh comes in a strawberry-pistachio flavor, blueberry-almond, and the original, saffron-infused date. All of Nafissi’s treats can be purchased directly from the bakery or ordered online to be shipped. She also offers recipes and baking classes.

Photo courtesy ZoZo Baking Studio.

Photo courtesy ZoZo Baking Studio.

Photo courtesy ZoZo Baking Studio.

Photo courtesy ZoZo Baking Studio.

This story was originally published in the Winter 2020 issue of 805 Living Magazine. Click  here  to read the story as it appeared in 805 Living. 805 Living Pulse Winter 2020

High Impact Housing

High Impact Housing from 805 Living Magazine, Winter 2020.

Tragedy can sometimes lead to innovation. One example: Plant Prefab’s ( new scalable prefabricated home, the Sunset Bud LivingHome, designed by Burdge Architects ( and presented in partnership with Sunset magazine.

“As a resident and one of the leading architects in Malibu, Doug Burdge [founder of Burdge Architects] wanted his first LivingHome to be especially capable of meeting the needs of those who lost their homes during the Woolsey fire and who want a way to return to their property as soon as possible,” says Plant Prefab CEO Steve Glenn of the recent addition to his company’s LivingHome line.

Created in response to a City of Malibu program that allows victims of the 2018 fire to install accessory-dwelling units (ADU) as a temporary housing solution, the Sunset Bud LivingHome offers an efficient and flexible model for ADU-compliant properties everywhere.

The modular units can be configured in a range of housing sizes from studio (445 square feet) to two bedrooms plus a studio and garage (1,200 square feet), with prices starting at $315,000.

Originally published in the Winter 2020 issue of 805 Living Magazine. Click  here  to   read the story as it appeared in 805 Living. 805 Living Pulse Winter 2020

StarCycle Puts Indoor Cycling in the Spotlight

StarCycle is one of Santa Barbara’s hottest new fitness studios. Courtesy photo.

“It’s a dance party on a bike, like when you’re at a wedding and your jam comes on and you don’t care what anybody thinks — you just get up there and move your body.” That’s how co-owner Dani Stone describes the workout at StarCycle. The La Cumbre Plaza fitness center is part of a new breed of indoor cycling studios that use music and choreography for a physical and mental approach to cycling.

At StarCycle, the lights go off before the 45-minute full-body workout begins.

“The most appealing part to me has been that we work out in the dark, which allows you to really focus on yourself and just ‘do you,’ — modifying as needed,” said Julie Sorenson, who joined the gym on an introductory membership in March 2019 (StarCycle opened on February 28) and recently completed her 170th ride.

“The community there is incredible, and the instructors are super motivating,” she said. “It’s empowering. I can feel the positive energy in the room when I ride. The full-body workout (with weights) has also helped me heal from a shoulder injury.”

Another big appeal for members is that childcare is always available. Moms are the target demographic for the studio, explained co-owner Kayla Johnson-Neal, a personal trainer and fitness professional who’s been working in the industry for 24 years. “With young kids, they are maybe at a phase in life where they aren’t that challenged, so the challenge of doing this workout is like they’ve climbed Mount Everest. It is so fun to watch.”

Themed music rides, ranging from holiday specials to boy bands, Coachella, Stagecoach, and special “naughty rides with explicit lyrics” are also part of the attraction, as is the warm, welcoming atmosphere, where clients are greeted with smiles and hugs.

“I’ve never seen results like this in all of my years of experience. And we’re only a year in now. People have melted,” Johnson-Neal said. “But you know what I love? Weight loss is not what they talk about. Somebody came up to me yesterday and hugged me and started crying and saying, ‘I’m a better wife and a better mom because of StarCycle.’ She’s lost weight, but that’s not where the focus is, and that’s what I think is so cool.”

Tips from Kayla:

  • Find something that you love. “Love” might be an extreme word, but find something that you don’t hate. I’m always telling clients that you need to find a workout that’s going to make you a little bit excited to show up.
  • You don’t have to go all or nothing. It’s just consistency. Maybe it’s kickboxing; maybe it’s Zumba. Just be consistent in that movement.

For more information, visit

Originally published in Santa Barbara Independent on January 21, 2020.

StarCycle co-owner Kayla Johnson-Neal, right, has been in the fitness industry for 24 years, courtesy photo.