Today I’m sharing more highlights and photos from Santa Barbara Wine Country blogger/influencer group trip that was coordinated by Emily Martin of The Jetsettting Fashionista and Emily Martin Communications & Events along with Lacey Fussel and Lisa Gerbac of Muse Wine Marketing

I wrote about Part One of this 48-hour adventure in wine tasting, fabulous food and sightseeing Santa Barbara’s wine region earlier this month, which you can read here.

I left off with our jeep tour around the ranch and vineyards at Gainey Vineyard. After the tour, we headed to the Foxen Canyon area, a picturesque region in Santa Barbara Wine Country with rolling hills and oak trees.

Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard

Fess Parker, the actor who played Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone in the 1950s and 1960s, bought over 700 acres in Foxen Canyon in 1988 and decided to start a family business he could pass down to his children. That business was a winery that got its start with a five-acre experimental vineyard of Riesling grapes and is now one of the most well-known and most-visited wineries in the area.

Fess Parker’s son, Eli Parker, whom we met the previous evening at their Epiphany tasting room in Los Olivos, became the assistant winemaker in 1989. A few years later, he was the head winemaker. In 2005, he turned over the winemaking reigns to Blair Fox and is currently the Brand Visionary.

Fess Parker Winery is a gorgeous property. I love the comfortable and relaxing feel to this winery, built in 1994.

We were led to their stylish seating area with the two-way outdoor fireplace.

The table was set and waiting for us and the weather could not have been more perfect, just right for lunch al fresco.

Just beyond the patio is a picnic area and vegetable garden that will soon be overflowing with summer veggies.

Winemaker Blair Fox enjoyed lunch with us and talked about Fess Parker wines.

While I do favor white wines, I thought The Big Easy was fantastic. This blend of 74% Syrah, 16% Petite Sirah, 10% Grenache is not overpowering, and rather soft and very drinkable.

After lunch, Blair took us on a tour. First stop, one of their vineyards named Rodney’s Vineyard after the deceased son-in-law of Fess Parker.

Next, we walked though the patio area and into the winery.

There, Blair discussed the winemaking process in the barrel room where he ages and ferments Fess Parker wines.

It was a lovely experience learning about Fess Parker Winery from their winemaker and enjoying delicious food and wines. It’s such a beautiful and peaceful property, definitely worth a stop when visiting Santa Barbara Wine Country. Be sure to check out the Fess Parker memorabilia in the tasting room.

The Town of Los Olivos

After our visit to Fess Parker Winery, we headed to the charming town of Los Olivos which is located in the heart of Santa Ynez Valley. Restaurants, boutiques, antique shops and wine tasting rooms await visitors in this quaint village.

We would be visiting three tasting rooms, all within a short walking distance of each other.


Our first stop was J. Wilkes tasting room. Jefferson Wilkes began J. Wilkes Wines in 2001 with a long career in the wine industry in Santa Barbara Wine Country. He passed away in 2010 yet the brand has remained and continues to move forward, producing wonderful wines full of character and at reasonable prices.

Our tasting was led by the winemaker and brand ambassador at J. Wilkes Wines, Wes Hagen. Wes is a wine industry leader with a lengthy resume of accomplishments that include researching, writing and having approved the last three AVA’s (American Viticulture Area) in Santa Barbara County: Sta. Rita Hills, Happy Canyon and Ballard Canyon.

Wes talked to us not only about J. Wilkes Wines but he shared some of his vast knowledge about the history of wine that impressed our entire group. You can watch his YouTube videos about the history of wine. As a wine and history lover, I find this information fascinating!

Bien Nacido and Soloman Hills Estate Tasting Room

After our tasting at J. Wilkes concluded, we went next door to the Bien Nacido & Solomon Hills Estate tasting room. Bien Nacido Vineyards is one of the most well-known and prestigious grape producers in California.

They produce Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc and Syrah grapes to both sell to high-end wineries and for their own label.

We tasted a variety of Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs during our visit. My favorite was the 2014 Bien Nacido Chardonnay.

Dragonette Cellars

A couple blocks from Bien Nacido Vineyards is Dragonette Cellars tasting room.

Brothers John and Steve Dragonette, along with friend Brandon Sparks-Gilllis founded Dragonette Cellars in 2005 after working together in a wine shop in Los Angeles.

The Dragonette Cellars team focuses on creating high quality wines from small lots of Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, and Syrah.

We enjoyed gathering around the table and listening to the story behind Dragonette Cellars while sipping their outstanding wines.

Stay tuned for the final part in this three-part series on Santa Barbara Wine Country!

Disclosure: The wine tasting experiences were part of the blogger/influencer trip and I was not charged. All opinions expressed here are my own, as always.


As I approach 50, I’m focused on taking care of myself now more than ever. From lowering stress levels and making sleeping a priority to leading a healthier, more active lifestyle, I aim to feel my best in every way. Incorporating good nutrition and regular exercise into my daily life are essential to a healthy lifestyle so I am embracing both these days and quite enjoying it, surprisingly!

Today I want to share a few healthy eating ideas I learned about by taking the Clean Eating Chef Series at Ramekins Culinary School. I also want to tell you about my new home gym!

Clean Eating Chef Series

The Clean Eating Chef Series included three evening classes, meeting once a week. The series was divided into breakfast, lunch and dinner categories.

The class was taught by Chef Hollie Greene and Mary Sheila Gonnella. Chef Hollie is founder of Joyfoodly. She is a cooking instructor, Wellness in the Schools consultant, and a Professional Expert for the California Healthy Kids Initiative. Chef Hollie’s website is chock full of healthy recipes and lots of food prep and cooking tips, many of which are shown in short videos.

Mary Sheila Gonnella of Occidental Nutrition is a Holistic Nutrition Consultant and Educator who focuses her practice on helping people suffering from problems relating to high blood sugar. She also incorporates Ayurveda into her nutrition consulting and is an expert in fermentation.

The class was designed as part demonstration and part hands-on instruction.

For the demonstration portions of the class, students could easily watch Chef Hollie and Mary Sheila at work on overhead tv screens.

We were each given a packet with all the information and recipes we would be learning about that evening, as well as a work station and apron for the hands-on portion of the series which included prepping, cooking on portable stove tops and eating! It was quite fun!

Healthy Meal Ideas

The three classes were packed full with information and recipes. We made a lot of food each night. For the breakfast class, we focused on dishes that would not raise blood sugar, satiate your appetite, give you energy, nutrition and sustenance and taste great!

The first dish we prepared was Breakfast Pho. Pho (pronounced ‘fuh’) is a Vietnamese broth-based soup. Mary Sheila and Chef Hollie showed us how to make our own Immunity Broth – either in a pressure cooker or a crock pot – using chicken bones, spices, seaweed, and vegetables. Once the broth was cooked in their pressure cookers and drained off, we each had a bowl. We chose what ingredients to add to our Breakfast Pho. Hard-boiled eggs, black rice and Russian kale were just a few of the foods we could add.

The Breakfast Pho was tasty and comforting and full of nutrients.

We also made Avocado Bowls. We started with a halved avocado then picked the foods we wanted to top it with from an array of choices that included walnuts, sauerkraut, roasted Delicata squash, Gomasio (sesame seeds and dried seaweed) and a seed mixture. I now have this dish for breakfast – usually just the avocado, sauerkraut and Gomasio – at least three mornings a week.

One of my favorite segments of the class was learning about Ayurvedic spices from Mary Sheila. She talked to us about our Dosha, the three Ayurvedic body types: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Each body type is helped by certain spices. Mary Sheila created spice blends for each Dosha that we could select and take home. Based on the descriptions, I think I am Pitta. I took the Pitta blend home and sprinkle it on my meals from time to time.

Another fun hands-on dish we made is Nori Hand Rolls. The finished dish looked somewhat complicated to me, but they were incredibly easy to make!

We were given a bamboo rolling mat, nori (dried seaweed sheets), a plate of prepared veggies and tofu, some small bowls of aioli and pesto that we made in class earlier, and nutritional yeast. Chef Hollie showed us where to place the food items – as you can see from the photo – then how to roll up the Nori into hand-held rolls. I’ve already made these at home a couple of times. They are fun to make as appetizers for guests or even with your guests.

Chef Hollie also showed us how to properly cook chicken breasts on the stove She then turned the cooked chicken breasts into a delicious chicken salad she loaded into roasted Delicato squash halves. So tasty and satisfying. I was stuffed!

The series included how to make sauerkraut too. Mary Sheila teaches her clients and students about the digestive properties of  fermented foods. It’s fascinating!

I have not made my own sauerkraut at home yet, though it really is so simple. The most important part of preparing sauerkraut for fermentation is mashing it up. It needs to be almost liquified. This takes time, patience and muscle. Maybe I will incorporate it into a future workout!

There were so many other dishes we learned how to make in this series. I wish I could tell you about all of them!

If you’re in the Bay Area, consider taking one or more of the classes Chef Hollie and Mary Sheila will be offering this summer:

“Easy Weeknight Farmer’s Market Dishes” is a hands-on class on June 1st taught by Chef Hollie Greene

“Shopping + Cooking Smart for Back to School Meals” is also with Chef Hollie Greene and hands-on on August 3rd.

“Fermentation 101” is taught by Mary Shiela and is hands-on. This class is on July 6th.

Also visit each of their websites for more information (Joyfoodly and Occidental Nutrition) and the Ramekins class calendar for even more fun and delicious classes.

My New Home Gym

Late last year, my husband asked me almost every day what I wanted for Christmas. I kept telling him I have everything I need and not to worry. But gift-giving is something we all enjoy and I knew he wouldn’t agree to a gift-free holiday season.

I thought about it and one day I told him I wanted a treadmill. And that I wanted to put it in our formal dining room. I thought for sure he wouldn’t want to give up an entire room in our home just so I could have a treadmill, but he surprised me and said it was a great idea. I was elated!

I shopped around online, read reviews, checked measurements, cost-compared and finally found one I liked: the Sole F80 Treadmill. I could not be happier with my Christmas gift!

I have spent countless years trying to implement a consistent exercise routine that I actually enjoy, and now it’s finally happened. The treadmill arrived on December 18th. Since that day, I have used it between 3 and 6 times per week for no less than 30 minutes at a time. I made an agreement with myself when it arrived that I will never spend less than 1/2 hour on it, once I hop on, and I will use it at least three days per week. Right now I am using it three times per week for one hour. I walked/ran 12 miles last week!

I bought a shelf that straps into the treadmill dashboard. It holds an iPad and even my laptop so I can watch Netflix and read blogs.

Since we sacrificed an entire room in our house for the treadmill, I figured we may as well make it a full home gym! I bought a BOSU Pro Balance Trainer that I use for balancing, crunches and lunges. A foam roller for stretching my back and rolling on my IT band. And I brought the old recumbent bike and my free weights in from the garage.

I also bought a weight bench. I knew I needed one when I was doing bicep curls while sitting on our coffee table!

For the last couple of months, my hormonal issues have subsided (yay, no more hot flashes!), I sleep better, have more strength my lower body and I feel clear-headed on most days. I am also less cranky and my emotions are steadier.

Eating well and exercising really do affect your wellbeing and it doesn’t take years to feel and see the results. I am grateful to have these tools and valuable knowledge to help me continue to improve my health and overall wellbeing.


Disclosure: The Clean Eating Chef Series class at Ramekins was complimentary. All opinions expressed here are my own, as always.