Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

On a Mission to Capture California Wines and Times

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMission San Miguel arch frames a statue of Fr. Junipero Serra, the Franciscan founder of California’s 21-mission chain.

Story & photo by

Cecil Scaglione

Mature Life Features

The real California, that land that’s a mixture of myth and movies, does exist.
All you have to do is follow the California mission trail down the 100-mile-long Salinas Valley, dubbed the Salad Bowl of the World, from Mission San Juan Bautista outside Salinas to San Luis Obispo mid-way between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
We took the scenic River Road that parallels the Salinas River and Highway 101 as far south as Mission Soledad. This quiet out-of-the-way mission is the 13th established by the Franciscan friars in the chain that forms the spine of the Golden State. It sits on a site that was served by native-built redwood aqueducts from hot springs eight miles away on the flanks of the Coastal Range.
Within a couple of hours’ drive time north from ‘Obispo are several other missions – Santa Cruz, San Carlos Borromeo del Rio Carmelo at Carmel, La Soledad, San Juan Bautista,  San Antonio, and San Miguel. They’re all worth a look-see but we saved a few for a return trip.
We drove onto the Hunter Ligget Military Reservation to get to Mission San Antonio, the next one down the road from Soledad. It was established third after the missions at San Diego and Carmel and is the only such sanctuary still on a military base. Besides serving as centers for settlement, the 21 California missions were built as military complexes roughly a day’s horse-ride apart.
It’s southern neighbor, San Miguel, was established in 1797 as the 16th mission on El Camino Real (The King’s Highway). Window panes are still made of stretched sheepskin, similar to those the padres substituted for glass.
Before heading on down to 240-year-old Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolos, we ducked into Paso Robles, one of the best-kept secrets on this out-of-the-mainstream tourist trail. It anchors a rolling Tuscan-lookalike landscape that supports some 70 wineries. It’s still a land where cowboys and charros share a glass of locally made wine after a hard day corralling cattle, manhandling trucks and tractors laden with produce of all kinds, or working the vineyards that quilt the undulating countryside.
Vintners here are even known to down a cold beer after a hot day tending vines.

Mature Life Features, Copyright 2004

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Written by Cecil Scaglione

August 16, 2013 at 5:56 pm

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