The destination for this trip is Nepenthe, a special restaurant clinging to the cliffs in Big Sur, CA. I publish articles about “Whisky With a View” and am on a road trip to visit candidates for articles.
Leaving Anaheim, CA very early on a weekday morning gets me through the tangle of Los Angeles without a single slowdown – amazing! Three hours from home, with dawn beginning to break, I turn West onto California Route 46 at Lost Hills. Almost 800 oil wells sprout from the arid grassland in the Lost Hills Oil Field, straddling both sides of the highway. I love the way non-traditional lighting conditions change the appearance of common scenes, like oil wells. In the breaking light they resemble, not a major source of light crude, but a shadowy field of dinosaurs.
Route 46 goes due west from I-5, crossing the San Andreas Rift Zone, through lush grazing land and geologic outcroppings that eventually grow in size and become part of the Coastal Range. With angled, early morning light playing on the landscape and a sky heavy with rain, magic happens. Cloudburst, from The Grand Canyon Suite by Ferde Grofe comes through satellite radio. For nearly ten minutes, the scenes before me change in near perfect synch to the music played by The Philadelphia Orchestra.
The experience is a most exhilarating way to kick start a day that has already been memorable, what with dinosaurs before breakfast!
Another 60 or 70 miles and I pass through Paso Robles and into the Templeton Gap area, home to boutique wineries. With late morning fog cutting driving speed down considerably, I experience some of the terroir of the area that makes for sensational wines. Through the mist, I get sneak peeks into the glens and valleys where quaintly-named vineyards live – Peach Canyon Winery, Windward Vineyard, and Dark Star Cellars, to name a few. The thought of terroir - that combination of geology, soil, vegetation, topography, weather and water that gives each wine its uniqueness - makes think about the selection of single malt Scotches awaiting at Nepenthe. Scotland’s vast array of terroir is what gives each distilling region its own special attributes.
Route 46 ends at California 1. Another hour and a half, past San Simeon and Hearst Castle, and I arrive at Nepenthe, 800 feet above the surf of Big Sur. Angus Wagner, server extraordinaire, is “into” my project and offers to bring the entire selection of single malts to the panoramic deck for a photograph. With the coastline of Big Sur in the background, ten whiskies back lighted by the late morning sun, and a tray of California artisanal cheeses, the scene is the epitome of “Whisky With a View”. Talisker 10 year old, from Scotland’s Isle of Skye goes perfectly with the Monterey Jack, Point Reyes Blue, and Humboldt Fog Goat Cheeses.
Following lunch, Nepenthe’s staff and I have a wonderful conversation about Scotch and food pairings – they are all quite expert at this.
With my soul filled with the sensory treasures of the day, I head north for my first night on the road, with anticipation of the next adventure in my on-going quest for “Whisky With a View”.