IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT TIME OF YEAR YOU VISIT, HEALDSBURG IN CALIFORNIA’S SONOMA COUNTY WINE COUNTRY IS A PERFECT DESTINATION

We’ve had the pleasure of visiting Healdsburg, California in every season of the year. As a photographer, my favorite season is the fall because of the colorful leaves, but you can find an unbelievable vacation experience every month of the year in California’s lovely Sonoma County. And of course, wine tasting has no seasonal limits!

Enjoy the food, wine, and ambiance of this beautiful destination. We invite you to explore our photo gallery for first-hand experiences and personal photos of our visit to one of California’s most beautiful wine destinations.

HEALDSBURG, SONOMA COUNTY CALIFORNIA PHOTO GALLERY

Lompoc California: Discover What's Around the Bend in California's Central Coast

If you haven't thought about visiting Lompoc while touring California's Central Coast, think again.

Lompoc is known as the City of Art and Flowers, and it delivers on those promises and much more. Nestled just one hour northwest of Santa Barbara California, Lompoc is an emerging destination that has it all: a rich historical past; a wine trail and local tasting rooms featuring award-winning varietals; nationally-renowned civic murals; the awe-inspiring historic La Purisima Mission; scenic back roads; rugged ocean vistas; hiking and biking trails; and just about any activity you have come to enjoy in other Central Coast locations. 

Colorful murals such as this can be found throughout the charming town of Lompoc.

Colorful murals such as this can be found throughout the charming town of Lompoc.

Visit EXPLORELOMPOC.COM for information about lodging choices and recommendations for places to see and things to do in this fascinating, and yet-to-be-discovered Central Coast destination.

The slide show below will give you a quick taste of what Lompoc has to offer the visitor. For a more in-depth look at this destination, visit my Lompoc Scenic Photo Site. All photos on this site:  © Joanne DiBona/ © Tony DiBona

Click the arrow to the right below to start the slide gallery.

Catalina Island: California's Island Resort

Although just 22 miles off the Southern California coast,

Catalina Island

remains a world apart from the hustle and bustle of the mainland. The town of Avalon, founded in 1887 as a seaside resort, evokes a charm that is undeniably unique and captivating. It's no surprise that it was a favorite stomping ground for the rich and famous over the decades. View a SLIDE SHOW to see this magical island through my eyes (and camera lens)!

 The picturesque harbor in Avalon, Catalina Island   © Joanne DiBona       

Il Cortile Ristorante....an Authentic Taste of Italy in Paso Robles California

The quaint city of Paso Robles, with its picturesque historic downtown and renowned wine region, delights the visitor with its share of Central Coast charm. But it also offers something very special: an authentic taste of Bella Italia at the Il Cortile Ristorante in the heart of downtown.

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While the restaurant's hip, chic décor evokes California cool more than rustic Tuscan, the spirit of Italian cuisine definitely is reflected in the innovative and extensive menu. Having traveled many times to Italy, the birthplace of our parents, my husband Tony and I pride ourselves on our knowledge of the authentic cuisine of our heritage.

Our culinary tour of the Old Country began with our “antipasti” a masterfully seasoned plate of grilled octopus in a spicy vinaigrette, followed by carpaccio di anatra, thinly slice duck blanketed with gorgonzola sauce, balsamic reduction and caramelized onions.

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Il Cortile's pastas are all home­made, which was clearly evident after our first bite of our secondi piatti, second course. Tony claimed that his selection (ravioli stuffed with lobster and served in a shrimp-­infused tomato sauce) ­­competed nicely with his Sicilian grandmother's similar family recipe. I, in turn, savored ravioli stuffed with ricotta and tossed with asparagus in a light white wine sauce. To be honest, my grandmother never came close to creating such a wonderful dish.

Magnifico.

Our main course featured the restaurant's signature osso bucco which, as it should, melted off the bone to be enjoyed in its rich sauce. Paired with 2011 Halter Ranch Syrah, it was indeed a culinary match made in heaven.

We ended the meal with Il Cortile's Panna Cotta, a light creamy dessert topped with fresh Central Coast berries. Once again,Tony declared it was every bit as delicious as his grandmother's version and as he admitted later, may have been even better!

Il Cortile offers an impressive wine list, but if you wish to bring your own special vintage, there is a $20 corkage fee with a limit of two bottles.

 So, when in Paso Robles, do as the Romans do (or visitors who love incredible Italian cuisine) and enjoy an authentic taste of Italy at the Il Cortile Ristorante in the heart of downtown.

Taste Your Good Fortune at KITCHEN 1540 in Del Mar, California

If your travels find you in the charming seaside community of Del Mar, California, some twenty miles north of downtown San Diego, celebrate your good fortune. Not only will you be afforded majestic views of the California coast and the pleasure of meandering through the quaint and picturesque town of Del Mar, you are in the perfect location to enjoy a culinary experience at KITCHEN 1540, located in the historic seaside hotel, L'Auberge Del Mar.

The brainchild behind the taste sensations on the restaurant's new menu is Chef Brandon Fortune. Classically trained at the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Atlanta, Brandon's creations are modern American with a decidedly Southern influence based on his Southeastern roots.

                           ©Joanne DiBona

                           ©Joanne DiBona

KITCHEN 1540's sleek, modern décor is sophisticated and comfortable at the same time, and sets a perfect stage for a variety of innovative dishes sure to please the most discriminating palate.

So what can diners expect from Fortune's menu?

Start off your culinary adventure with a tastefully arranged platter of cold-smoked trout and organic beets. Cured steelhead saltwater trout and tender beets are embellished with a blood orange vinaigrette, black walnuts, and feathered horseradish, served with a side of chive-potato cakes.

Those who prefer a warm appetizer might elect a plate of asparagus and grilled wild ramps. Described by the chef as “spring on a plate,” this vegetarian dish features organic wild ramps and asparagus with parmesan and pecorino cheeses shaved on top. A delightful French-inspired cream sauce made with eggs and lemon and lightly toasted caraway seeds is the perfect dressing for this vegetable creation.

                   Shrimp and Grits, a Passionate Combination ©Joanne DiBona

                   Shrimp and Grits, a Passionate Combination ©Joanne DiBona

Shrimp and grits, the Chef's signature entree, elevates grits to new heights, thanks to a roasted corn and chorizo cream and succulent fresh shrimp. A topping of popcorn adds a whimsical theme to the plate. Chef Fortune admits he used this dish to woo his wife, a testimony to the old adage, “The way to the heart is through the stomach.”

Seafood specialties include the popular “still smoking scallops,” presented sizzling hot surrounded by asparagus and coriander puree, wild chanterelles, and smoked almonds powdered with lemon-thyme buds. The flaky North Pacific Halibut is served with celery root puree, mushrooms, spring carrots, and garnished with crispy fiddlehead ferns.

Chocolate lovers will delight in the malted milk chocolate mousse, one of several excellent desserts available to satisfy your sweet tooth. Roasted almonds and chocolate crunch, topped with homemade coffee ice cream, provides a decadently delicious end to a perfect meal.

For a complete menu, visit www.laubergedelmar.com. For several of my images of Kitchen 1540 and Chef Fortune's culinary masterpieces, log onto the San Diego Scenic Photos site.

Try it out if you are in Del Mar-- and raise a glass to your good fortune.

Mariposa, Ca: Historic Gateway to Yosemite

The old mining town of Mariposa is the perfect place to begin an adventure into Yosemite National Park.

Not only does the town exude charm and historical significance, it offers a wide option of overnight accommodations and amenities a mere 40-minute drive to Yosemite Valley.

View my photo essay of this charming Gold Rush town at the 10best.com/USA Today link:

This historic town of Mariposa, Gateway to Yosemite National Park  © Joanne DiBona

This historic town of Mariposa, Gateway to Yosemite National Park  © Joanne DiBona