A Long Weekend Getaway to Bavaria

A Roadtrip to Allgäu – the Most Beautiful Part of Germany

Last June, when my mom came to visit us in Germany, we took her on a weekend getaway to my most favorite part of Germany – Bavaria. I cannot recommend this place enough. We are talking sprawling green hills so lush they don’t look real, alpine roses cascading from flower boxes, little lakeside restaurants overlooking crystalline water with waitresses wearing dirndls, fairy tale castles and more beer gardens then you can count.

Beautiful Oberstdorf
Well, hello Bavaria!

We decided to visit Allgäu, because good friends of ours had visited and loved the region.  It was a perfect road trip from our town in southern Germany, Esslingen. The easy drive took us about two hours and the area is so gorgeous and full of old fashioned Bavarian charm. Basically, we spent the entire trip gasping at the views, leaping out of the car for photo ops, taking strolls and spending languorous afternoons at cafes in the sunshine.

Beautiful Obersdorf
Seriously, so many ops for gorgeous pictures!

Day 1: We drove to the picaresque town of Oberstdorf, and stopped at the ridiculously beautiful alpine Schwand Hotel for panoramic views of the surrounding mountains covered in pines, a drink and ice cream!

View Alpine Roses
How can this even be real?!
Alpine Hotel
100% pretending I’m in a scene from the children’s classic Heidi!
The Schwand Hotel, Oberstdorf
The Schwand Hotel
We've got a sundae!
Sundae Bavarian Styles! Yeah, I’m also biting Brad’s face.

From there, we hiked to the Freibergsee Lake about a mile away, and had to stop again when we came upon the alpine lakeside restaurant, for a bite and to take in the idyllic views. The waitresses wear drndyls and the place is full of German merrymakers making the most of their summer holidays. I couldn’t get over how lovely and pristine this place was.

Prost! Alpine Lake Styles
Prost Bavarian styles!
Alpine Lakeside Restaurant - Allgau
I mean….look at this view!

We ordered the most delicious salad (I’m not sure if I have mentioned this before, but southern Germany is NOT known for its tasty salads or veggie meals of any kind really. Honestly, they are non existent, so this was a real win).

Salad at the Freebergsee
OMG this salad – grilled chicken, sauteed mushrooms “fried potato pouches” and a creamy garlic dressing

Day 2: Visit Cinderella’s Castle: AKA Neuschwanstein Castle

Built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria in 1886, this castle is said to be the inspiration for Disney’s Sleeping Beauty’s castle, and is a total fairy tale come to life. We got our tickets, took a shuttle bus and then walked about ten minutes up to the castle. You can tour the inside if you like, but I think the exterior is the most exciting and the best views are from the hanging bridge, over the valley. The castle, the town, the sweeping views – it is all a Bavarian dream.

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Oh, just Sleeping Beauty’s Perfect Fairytale Castle Nestled in the Bavarian Alps!
Brie & Brad Neuschwanstein
Pretty Romantic Day!
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The View on the Walk to the Castle

After visiting the Castle, we  strolled around Lake Alpsee, and marveled at the clear azure waters and wildflowers. We also enjoyed a beer and sausage in one of the several cafes in the sunshine 🙂 Well, Brad and mom did. I had a Prosecco, per the usual. I just can’t get on board with beer, guys.

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Mom & Brad strolling along the Alpsee

Brie Lake Alpsee

Where to stay: We stayed at an adorable AirBnB cottage in the town of Sonthofen, complete with flower boxes, views of the village and a Cuckoo Clock! It actually scared us all to death in the middle of the night, as it was totally LOUD. The room was spacious, comfy and exactly what we were looking for. We even saw a gentleman in town driving his tractor in lederhosen! Siiigh, I love Bavaria 🙂

Our cottage in Sonthafen
Our AirBnB

Where to eat: We found a very yummy little Greek restaurant in town that we really enjoyed. Staff was super friendly. We also liked cafe Bene Kaffee & Laden for frühstück – German breakfast comprised of various cheeses, breads and spreads – butter, jams, etc.

More photos of the fam in Bavaria 😀

Final thoughts: Bavaria is my most favorite part of Germany, and I think the next time we return to Germany, we will visit again coupled with a hiking trip in Switzerland. I first became intrigued with the area, when a friend visited for a wedding and sent me photos. It looked like she had taken photos in front of a green screen – the rolling hills were so impossibly lush and picturesque. She drank hugos, ate Bavarian goodies and I knew I had to visit immediately. It absolutely did not disappoint!

One Week in Drakes Bay: Costa Rica’s Jungle Paradise

I don’t know how you all are spending your Shelter In Place, but I’ve been spending a lot of it dreaming about our very recent trip to Costa Rica, and it’s been helping, a lot. I hope that this can provide a bit of escapist, jungle, fantasy for you as well.

This place, oh this wondrous place.

The remote Osa Peninsula, located on the southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica is the tropical jungle paradise of my dreams.

Cabinas Drake Bay
Beach Cabinas at Osa ❤

During the first half of our trip, we based ourselves in Drakes Bay, a wild and remote bay on the northern Osa Peninsula. This place was absolutely spectacular. Think: secluded beaches straight out of Jurassic Park, jungle rivers, resplendent red, blue and yellow scarlet macaws swooping out of the jungle and toucans singing in the trees outside our deck. Due to it’s secluded location, Drake’s Bay remains for the most party largely untouched, and it felt like we were exploring our very own deserted island.

Palm Trees & Surf Drake Bay

Highlights:

Take in the sprawling, sparkling, views:  Rent a Superior View Room and just take in the view from the bed! Enjoy the glittering azure waters and balmy breezes from your deck. We saw Macaws fly past as we were lounging.

View from our deck, Osa De Jinetas, Drake's Bay
View from our deck – insert angels singing on high.

We woke up early each morning, around 6am to watch the jungle come alive. (Now, I am NOT the kind of gal who enjoys waking up at the crack of dawn on a vacation, but in the Osa Peninsula this is the most magical time of day). We were greeted each morning by toucans singing in a tree next to our deck, dazzling Scarlet Macaws exploding out of the jungle, soaring in pairs overhead. Capuchin monkeys leapt from tree to tree. During our first morning, as I was sitting reading on our deck, the resident puppy literally slept underneath my deck chair.

Our dogger friend, Drake's Bay, Osa De Jinetas
I made a friend 😀
Toucan Drake Bay, Osa De Jinetas
Woke up this morning to toucan singing it’s little lungs out in a tree next to our cabin!
Two toucans! Osa De Jinetas, Drakes Bay
TWO TOUCANS

Hike to deserted beaches: Hike 20 minutes through a jungle path to Playa Cocolito, a gorgeous little crescent shaped secluded beach. Cross the hanging bridge. Keep your eyes peeled for toucans and monkeys! We saw a howler monkey just chilling as we crossed, in a branch directly across from the bridge. We even had a little dog friend accompany us on the hike! We lounged for ages watching Scarlett Macaws fly overhead and feed in the almond trees. Stay for the unreal sunset.

Playa Cocolito Drakes Bay
Playa Cocolito – Secluded Beach #1

You can hike even farther to Playa San Josecito, known for its Scarlet Macaws about 2 1/2 hours total. But the weather was way too warm for us to commit to a 3 + hour hike, and we ended up seeing a ton of macaws anyway!

Hiking Trails Drakes Bay
Just follow the jungle signs!

That tell tale squawk means a Macaw is on its way!

Scarlet Macaw Playa Cocolito
Look at this beauty! NOT easy to capture on camera as these beauties are movers!

 

Brad Playa Caletas

Secluded Beach Drakes Bay
100%, we kept expecting a raptor to lunge through the foliage

Fresh Seafood and Pineapple/Mango Daiquiris: Lounge on the hotel’s deck in the afternoon sipping fresh mango/pineapple daiquiris and enjoy the balmy breezes. Dine at the open air seafront restaurant, Kalaluna. Personal faves: We had the mixed ceviche each day, while listening to the ocean crashing on the shores.

Ceviche and pineapple daquiri, Drakes Bay
Mixed ceviche topped with avocado and fried plantains
Mojito Time - Drakes Bay!
Mojito time on the deck!

Paddle the Jungle River: Borrow kayaks and paddle up the jungle river in the bright green lagoon like water. It’s magical. Felt like we were part of The Jungle Book! If you’re daring, go for a swim in the crystal clear water. Brad did a little snorkel. I went for a swim as well, but honestly I am terrified of snakes and drew the line at a leisurely jungle river swim.

Hanging Bridge Drake Bay

Go for Sunset Swims with the  Pelicans: Each night, we went for a sunset swim in the bathtub temp water, floating in the gentle waves as pelicans soared and dived right above our heads.

Sunset Swim Drakes Bay
How’s that violet sunset and cotton candy clouds??

Sunset Drake's Bay, Osa De Jinetas

Visit Corcovado National Park: A trip to tropical rainforest Corcovado, considered one of the world’s most biodiverse regions, is a must when visiting Drake’s Bay.  The trip entailed an intense hour speed boat ride, with a wake up call at 5am, brekkie at our lodge and then boat. We saw peccaries, a family of playful pizote (my favorite), capuchins and squirrel monkeys with their babies. Because Corcovado is such an an iconic place you have to go, and I don’t regret it, but I think we saw just as many animals in the jungles surrounding our lodge.

Corcovado Peccaries

Dive/Snorkel Cano Island: Brad did this and loved it. Swam with 20 foot manta rays and saw a frog fish, which is apparently very rare, (and rather insane looking.)

Frog Fish! Diving Cano Island
Frog fish! Told you it was insane looking.

Where to stay: Osa De Jinetas. Unbelievable views! Beautiful spacious cabinas. Tons of wildlife. Delish food. LOVED IT.

 

 

Where to eat: We ate most of our meals at the open air beach restaurant at the lodge, Kalaluna, which is wildly romantic and has a great vibe. They have yummy seafood and Italian meals. Breakfast was included and offered fresh fruits, great coffee and made to order breakfasts. We also strolled about twenty minutes along the beach and into town. In town, we also liked Casa El Tortugo, right on the river.

Breakfast View Drakes Bay, Osa De Jinetas
Breakfast with a view!
Fresh Seafood Pasta Drakes Bay
Chef’s Special – seafood pasta!
Grilled Shrimp & Coconut Shrimp Drakes Bay
Grilled & Coconut Shrimp

Where to stay: Osa De Jinetas. Unbelievable views! Beautiful spacious cabinas. Tons of wildlife. Delish food. LOVED IT.

Osa De Jinetas, Drakes Bay
Osa De Jinetas, Drakes Bay
Our Deck - Osa De Jinetas
View from our deck

IF YOU GO…

GETTING THERE: We took a 6 person prop plane from San Jose Airport that was effing terrifying, open air, and beautiful as all get out. Thank GOD for my Scopolamine patch.

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GETTING AROUND: Our hotels arranged a shuttle to pick us up from the tiny airport. The road is unpaved and super bumpy. At one point we forded a river. Once you get to your hotel, no car is needed. We walked everywhere – to deserted beaches, into town, etc. It was fab.

Final thoughts: I have been dreaming of the Osa Peninsula since we first visited Costa Rica about four years ago and it surpassed my wildest expectations. It’s amazing to visit a place that is still relatively untouched, and it made my nature loving, adventure craving heart sing. I felt like I was in a scene straight out of the Swiss Family Robinson. ( I realize they were shipwrecked in the East Indies, but I was competently obsessed with this story as I kid, and Drake’s Bay is exactly how I pictured their island). I know that we will visit the Osa Pensinsula again and again, or at least, I sure hope that we have the opportunity.

Next up on the blog: Exploring more of the Osa Peninsula. We’re headed to the Iguana Lodge in Puerto Jiminez. Jungle central!

 

The Best California Wines at Korbel Champagne Cellars

While we’re all stuck at home and practicing social distancing for the foreseeable future, I thought it might be a fun time to write about some delicious and affordable champagne options, because Lord knows, I could certainly use something fizzy and frivolous to elevate my mood right now!

Oh, Korbel Champagne Cellars in Sonoma County 😀 We have been visiting this place for the past seven years, on our way to the Russian River or St. Orres in Gualala. Good friend’s told us about this place, and we haven’t looked back since.

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The tastings are free, and as our fav sommeiler once told us, “you get five tastings, but hey, I’m not a math major.” the grounds are gorgeous, the wine room is festive as all get out, and bottles cost about 13 bucks on average.

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We always do the tasting because it’s fun, and end up taking home a few bottles of the Sec, the Organic Brut, the Rosé, and usually a red sparkling Rouge for the holidays, because that deep red with shimmering bubbles looks great on your table for Thanksgiving.

Korbel Display

The Sec and Organic Brut you can only typically purchase at Korbel Champagne Cellars. If we’re feeling splurgy, we get a slice of the turtle cheesecake at the onside deli, grab a bottle of chilled Sec and sip our bubbles on the patio overlooking the vineyards.

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Baby Brie & Brad – first visit to Korbel!
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This my friends, is the turtle cheesecake, baklava and Sec ❤

The Sec: This California sparkler is now actually a little too sweet for me, but it was the first sparkling wine I fell in love with. We served it at our wedding so it holds a very special place in my heart. It’s slightly sweet and delicately fruity with excellent bubbles. I recommend serving with orange or pomegranate juice as a mimosa.

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View from the Timber Cove Inn in Jenner CA….ahhh aaaaa (Angels singing)

The Organic Brut: ( Our new fav) – Light body, dry, with hints of fruit and delicate bubbles.

The Rouge: This dark red sparkling wine is tart and tangy and rich with a dry finish. Perfect for Thanksgiving and gorgeous on the table.

Next on the wine blog – best budget bubbles at Bevmo! I think we can all use some good recommendations for great sippin’ bubbly while we’re stuck in doors for the foreseeable future!

 

 

Camping at California’s Beautiful Samuel P. Taylor

How to Spend a Great Weekend Camping at Samuel P Taylor in Marin

As mentioned in a previous post, Brad and I go camping about six times a year. We like to do a combination of car camping and back packing trips and we try to book places that are within a two hour drive. Samuel P Taylor is one of our go tos,  It’s about an hour drive from Oakland in Marin, which really can’t be beat.  We leave work at 3pm and by sunset we have our tent set up, fire going, and bubbles in hand to toast the upcoming weekend! Our favorite campsite has a creek running through it and is surrounded by towering redwoods. It’s close to gorgeous hiking in Point Reyes, and should you go for the 4th of July (which we often do) it’s close to the Marin County Fair which has fantastic fireworks.

Camping Samuel P Tayor

Best hike: Point Reyes Tule Elk Reserve

Hold the phone guys – there is a sprawling coastal hike that takes you past an elk reserve in Point Reyes. ELK! How did I not know about this before now?!? This 10 mile hike begins at Tomales Point, at the northern end of Point Reyes National Seashore and takes you past sweeping coastal views, blooming wildflowers, the aforementioned heard of elk if you’re lucky, and down to the ocean.

Tip: Bring water, as there are no potable sources of water in the area. Restrooms at the trail head.

Spectacular coastal views, Point Reyes, California
Spectacular coastal views!

Summer Hiking Point ReyesPoint Reyes Coastal Hike

Summer Hike Elk in Point Reyes
Elk sighting! Whooohooo
Hiking Point Reyes in Summer
I call this wildflower trail

Note: If you should experience a rainy day, and it’s quite likely as this is Marin, there is a very cute town about 10 minutes away with a great movie theater. We spent an afternoon watching Aladdin and completely loved it. I love camping, but who wants to sit in the dripping, gloomy rain?

Next up in my camping blog: A long weekend at Big Basin, Santa Cruz.

How To Spend a Perfect Weekend Camping in Henry Cowell

California’s Best Camping

I am a camping, wilderness loving, nature-is-my-heart-song, kind of gal. During the summer, Brad and I go on about six camping trips a year, lately a mixture of car camping and backpacking trips.  One of my all time favorite places to camp is Henry Cowell in the Santa Cruz mountains. We have our favorite, glorious, campsite, and our schedule down pat. We leave work around 3pm, and we have our tent set up, fire going and bubbles in hand (beer for Brad) to toast by sunset.  Summer camping in California is a thing of beauty ❤

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Enjoy the jaw dropping, panoramic views.

Set up your camping chairs for maximum visuals, my favorite are the deluxe chairs from Home Depot. I gave these to Brad as a Valentine’s gift, and we have had these babies for about 8 years now. Grab your chilled drink of choice, snacks ( I like to make a deli platter, with cheese, chips and fruit), grab your favorite book and settle down for some intense lounging and soaking in the views.

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Hike the Redwood Loop and to The Observation Deck

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100% this is the Godswood

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Let the campfire mesmerize you

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Hike to the Garden of Eden for a swim

This idyllic hike takes you through the towering redwoods, along a train track, (if you’re lucky you will hear the old steam town train through the trees), to a beautiful swimming spot with ice cold, crystal clear water. The hike lasts about half an hour, to the San Lorenzo river and back. Located off Route 9 in the Henry Cowell Redwoods. For an even more secluded spot, continue down the river

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Head to the boardwalk!

At least once a season, we head to the Santa Cruz boardwalk for some sand, swimming, and rides. They also have really fun free nigh time concerts on Fridays and Saturdays. The drive is about 20 minutes from the campsite.

Plan your return trip! 😀

More Camping Photos:

Note: I won’t be posting for the next two weeks, because I will be in Costa Rica, (insert haaaapy dance) but expect an epic post about volcanoes and thermal baths in La Fortuna, and wildife galore in the tropical jungle paradise of the Osa Peninsula!

How to Spend a Week In the Gorgeous Gold Coast

A trip to Australia’s dazzling Gold Coast is all about enjoying the balmy, tropical weather –  lounging at beaches and lagoons, eating the spectacular seafood at outside patios, and enjoying the wildlife. Last March, we spent time in Sydney, followed by a week at the Gold Coast and completely fell in love with the Land Down Under. The Gold Coast is located south of Brisbane on Australia’s east coast.

Highlights:

Beach and lagoon hopping up and down the Gold Coast

Lounging with roos’, visiting koalas and other Aussie critters

Top notch seafood – looking at you king prawns and the pies

Lorikeets flitting from tree to tree and fruit bats swooping through the night sky

A Visit to Carrumbin Wildlife Sanctuary

We had the most amazing day lounging with kangaroos, holding koalas and feeding emu at Carrumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.  I legit dream about it all the time. This place is expansive and we spent several hours observing the creatures.  Kangaroos and wallabies hop about with free reign of the park. You can hold a koala – if they aren’t feeling too sleepy. There is a lake filed with giant pelicans, trees filed with chattering jewel colored lorikeets, and skittering fringed lizards can be spotted everywhere. Buy feed at the entrance and feed the ‘roos, as you wander through the park. It’s a magical experience. Turkeys and sacred Ibis roam the grounds. Emu wander around as well, which you can feed (I did, but only after a few fortifying breaths. Emu are intimidating AF.)

Lounging with Kangaroos, Currumbin Gold Coast
I think this should be our new family portrait
Kangaroo Portrait
BOOP
Lounging with Kangaroos, Carrumbin, Gold Coast
Kanga conversations. I love this country.
Clever girl...raptors in Carrumbin Animal Reserve
Clever girl…….of COURSE we found the raptor
Koala Carrumbin
Look at this perfect little facer

As we were leaving the reserve to begin our beach hopping, a volunteer at the park suggested we grab some fish & chips at The Beach Shack in Currumbin, and enjoy the expansive views. Great recommendation!

Cotton candy clouds at Currumbin Beach, Gold Coast
Cotton candy clouds at Currumbin Beach – not a bad view for lunch!

Beach hopping:

Spend a few days exploring the beaches and lagoons up and down the Gold Coast! The beaches are varied and gorgeous.

Surfer’s Paradise/Broadbeach

Stroll the promenade and enjoy the sun at Surfer’s Paradise. Enjoy some $5 seafood tacos at Koi in classy Broadbeach, followed by cocktails at one of their many great patio happy hours or at a Surfer’s Paradise beach bar. In Broadbeach during one of our happy hours, lorikeets literally filled the sky. It was was amazing.

Surfer's Paradise, Gold Coast!
Gold Coast baby!!! (That’s right – I will never get over Joey T)
Surfer's Paradise Beach
This beach was gorgeous, but quite windy

Burleigh Heads

Choose a spot anywhere along the water for stunning views of Surfer’s Paradise and some sunshine. Grab a curry chicken pie at one of the delicious bakeries in Burleigh Heads, then a pick a spot to lounge on the grass.

Brad Burleigh Heads
Oh, just Brad looking cool AF

Tallebudgera Beach

Check out Tallebudgera Beach for a swim in the serene, turquoise lagoon surrounded by pines. Spot the lorikeets chattering wildly and flitting about in the trees. This was my favorite beach – the water was so placid and clear, it felt like we in Polynesia! It also had a very local vibe, which I loved.

Tallabudgera Beach, Gold Coast
This stunner of an estuary was a great find!

Wildlife

I often find myself day dreaming about lounging on our deck at twilight, watching bright, jewel colored rainbow lorikeets as they swooped from tree to tree in pairs and cockatoos flitting through the sky. Palm trees swayed gently in the breeze, the estuary sparkled green and as the sun set, fruit bats filled the sky. We sat watching the birds and taking in the view for ages. Australia is showstopper, through and through. 

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All The Seafood

We went to the most delicious Asian fusian place in Broadbeach called Mamasan, recommended by some friends who live in Sydney and had one of the best meals of my life. Australian king prawns in a rich green curry with perfectly cooked veggies. Brad and I talk about it all the time. Honestly – I was so enraptured by my meal,  I could barely make myself snap one quick pic, before I devoured it.

 

Where to stay

We stayed at an AirBnb at Surfer’s Paradise overlooking the estuary. Very comfy, great pool, nice views. Another great option is Broadbeach. More sophisticated vibe, better restaurants, but Surfer’s Paradise has the better beach.  Can’t go wrong with either place 🙂

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Transport

We had a car, which you will need for the beach-hopping. It’s also the best option to get from the Brisbane airport to the Gold Coast. There is a very nice train running from Broadbeach to Surfer’s Paradise, or you could use Uber. 

As you can probably guess, we have already begun planning our next trip to Australia. We are thinking of flying into Brisbane and driving the Great Ocean Road. Brad would like to visit the Barrier Reef as well. I would like to visit Byron Bay, because I am bound and determined to meet Chris Hemsworth.

sexy chris hemsworth GIF

 

A Budget Guide to Trader Joe’s Best Sparkling Wine: Round Two

I’m Sampling the Best Bubbly Bargains at Trader Joe’s – And Listing the Tastiest Options!

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Happy Valentine’s Day Y’all! LET’S DO THIS

As Valentine’s Day is now upon us – (am I the only one this holiday really snuck up on?!), I figured I’d publish a quick post on TJs best budget bubbly, in case you are in the market for a yummy bottle, need one last minute, or just feel like grabbing yourself a treat!

Cecelia B ($7.99): This sparkling rosé is a pretty stellar bottle of bubbly for the cost.  It’s tart, crisp and fruity on the palette.  Just look for the pretty purple label on the shelves.

Segura Viudas ($7.99):  You know I love a good Cava. This vibrant Spanish Cava is refreshing and light with notes of citrus and a dry finish. I will definitely buy again. Bonus: while sipping, pretend you’re at an outdoor cafe in the sunshine, sampling manchego and olives and croquetas.

Mionetto Prosecco ($10.99): This Italian bubbly is light, crisp and refreshing with delicate bubbles and notes of peaches and apples.

Next Wine Blog Post: The Best California Sparkling Wines at Korbel Champagne Cellars.

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