Wine Tasting in Tacoma – Wine Bank and Beer Vault


I love to go wine tasting.  Fortunately for me, the Wine Bank and Beer Vault is less than a mile from me.  They are officially in University Place, but since I live in Tacoma, I’m saying Tacoma.

My landlords told me about this wine shop when I first moved in to my apartment.  I didn’t make it over until about 6 months later.  They do wine tastings every Saturday from 2 – 4:30, and occasionally do beer tastings as well.  I would stop in once in awhile for a tasting and to pick up a bottle. The owners, Bob & Linda were always very welcoming.  They have some great wineries and vendors in to offer information on the wines they are tasting each week.

Recently they expanded their beer section and changed their name to the Wine Bank and Beer Vault.  I’ve started enjoying beers more lately thanks to the influence of my niece and her new husband.  Since I primarily drink red wine, beer can taste really good on a hot, summer day.  (Although, we don’t get a lot of hot, summer days here in the Pacific Northwest.)   I do enjoy a good Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, or even some white blends when the weather is warm as well.

Besides the wine tastings, some of the things I like about the Wine Bank is that they have some great specials, including the “under $10” wall.  They are very knowledgeable about their products.  I can go in and tell Bob that I like a specific wine (or beer) and would like something similar, and he will give me good advice.  They also have a “Beer Rewards” program – they say it’s like getting free beer.  Can’t argue with something like that.  Once you spend $100 on beer you get $5 free (I think that’s how it works – I just remember hearing something about “free beer”).

I recently joined their Passport Wine Club. They pick 2 great wines for you for only $29.99 per month, plus you get 10% off all the wine you buy.  My first wines were a Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir from Hunter’s Winery in New Zealand.  The Sauvignon Blanc was FABULOUS!!  The Pinot wasn’t to my taste, but not terrible.   For me, this is another great wine tasting opportunity.

They also offer a Discount Wine Club for a one time, $99 fee.  With this, you get 15% off all of your wine purchases and pay the fee just one time!

There are many reasons to visit this wine shop if you are in the greater Tacoma area.  Stop in to buy a bottle or 2, do a wine tasting, meet Bob & Linda, or buy some beer.  They offer growlers for as little as $7.95!

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Playing Tourist in my Own Back Yard – The Olympic Peninsula


Exploring the Olympic Peninsula

When I had some time off a few weeks ago, I took several day trips on the Olympic Peninsula.  It’s sad to say, but I really don’t get out and explore our own local area as often as I should.  I think I take it for granted that I can always do that when company comes to town, or I don’t have other plans, or it’s a nice sunny day and a friend might want to do something fun.  I decided that since I was off work and most other people were working, the weather was fabulous, that I would go exploring.

I live in Tacoma, so I started by heading over the Narrows Bridge towards Gig Harbor.  I always love the view from the Narrows.  Following Highway 16, I went past Gig Harbor and Port Orchard, turned onto Highway 3 going North at Bremerton.  I took a detour to drive through Poulsbo because I hadn’t been for years.  This is a pretty little town with lots of shops and restaurants and I filed it away for a day when I can make it my destination.  At Port Gamble I turned West onto Highway 104 and crossed the Hood Canal Bridge.  Hood Canal Bridge    Hood Canal Bridge

What a beautiful drive so far!  Incredible views of the water, lots of trees, and very little traffic.

I took another detour into Port Ludlow because I had heard about The Resort at Port Ludlow but had not seen it for myself.  I stopped in and the front desk people were kind enough to let me take a look around and even gave me keys to look in 3 different rooms.  This is a lovely resort right on a marina with beautiful views of the Olympic Mountains, Admiralty Inlet and the mouth of Hood Canal.  The Inn at Port Ludlow has just 37 rooms and suites; they have meeting space for up to 60, and would be the ideal setting for an intimate, waterside Wedding.  It would also be a great romantic weekend getaway location for guests from the Seattle / Tacoma area.  The Fireside Restaurant is warm and inviting, and weather permitting; you can sit out on the deck.      There is a beautiful lawn area on the water side of the resort with chairs and benches; I could see myself sitting out here enjoying the sun and salt air with a good book for a few hours.  One of the meeting rooms looks out onto this view; it would be hard for me to keep focused on business details while looking across this beautiful expanse of lawn.

The rooms are beautiful, with fireplaces, mini-fridge, and large bathrooms with jetted tubs, oversized robes and fabulous views.  I toured a suite that had a huge deck and fabulous view.  The bedroom itself was a little small, but the living area, huge bathroom, and incredible deck more than made up for it.  I also toured 2 Queen Rooms, one with a full bay view and one with a partial view.  These rooms were spacious with a seating area by the fireplace, and the bathroom could be opened up to look out into the room – opening it up even more.

Queen Suite

The staff was very friendly.  The Port Ludlow Golf Club is right there and they offer packages including golf.  They also offer spa treatments right in your guest room.  And the rates are very affordable, starting as low as $129 per night.

Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula

After my tour of The Inn at Port Ludlow, I headed up to Port Townsend.  The Wooden Boat Festival was going on that weekend, so the town was crowded.  I was fortunate to find a parking spot on the street for 2 hours, and set off on foot.  This is an historical town with beautiful architecture was founded in 1792; it is full of shops, restaurants, museums, parks and more.  I was pretty hungry by this time, and wanted to eat where I could look at the water.  I wandered into the Belmont, which was established in 1889 and has a restaurant and hotel. The food and service were very good, although the restaurant itself looked a little tired.  The view was fantastic, and I would recommend eating here if you’re visiting Port Townsend.

After lunch, I wandered around, in and out of shops, took some pictures of the fabulous old buildings, and was intrigued to find a couple of interesting little hotels.  The Swan Hotel is right on the marina and offers wonderful views of both the Olympic and Cascade mountains as well as sea views.  They were completely full so I wasn’t able to see the rooms, but from the outside it was very inviting.  Their sister hotel, The Bishop Victorian Hotel & Gardens is located a couple of blocks inland in the Downtown Historic District.  They, too, were full, but the owners were very inviting and gave me some information and history on both hotels.

Depending on the time of year you visit, you might see whales, bald eagles, and deer.  There are some great wineries in the area, for those wine connoisseurs out there.  There are numerous events and festivals happening throughout the year, including Farmers Markets.

I timed my drive so that I would hit rush hour in Bremerton on the way home.  My advice would be either plan to stay at least until after dinner, or even better spend the night or even a weekend.  You really need that much time to explore this area.

Aloha Beachside B&B – A Little Bit of Hawaii in The Pacific NW


Aloha Beachside B&B Located in Wauna

I had a little time off a couple of weeks ago and decided to do some exploring in my local area.  I had seen signs for the Aloha Beachside Bed & Breakfast, but had never actually seen it.  I wasn’t sure exactly where it was, but it turns out I had driven right past it quite often.

I pulled in without having made an appointment, hoping that I would be able to take a look around.  The owner, Lalaine Wong, being full of the Aloha spirit took the time to show me around, even though she was in the midst of cleaning up after a busy weekend. 

I learned that there are 5 rooms at the Aloha Bed & Breakfast, and all come with a full breakfast.  There are 3 rooms in the main house, and 2 more in the Cabana which is below the main house closer to the beach.

The best room in the main house is the King Kamehameha Room which has views out over the water (even from the tub in the huge bathroom) and direct access to the deck.  This is also called the Honeymoon Suite.  My next choice would be the Queen Liliokalani room which has a nice chaise lounge and working fireplace.  This is a small room near the front door, but it does have it’s own private bath.

The views from the deck on this level are stunning. 

Aloha Beachside B&BAloha Beachside B&B

If you’re traveling with family, the Ohana Room is downstairs and includes a queen bed plus 2 twins; a full living room; a full kitchen and dining area.  It also has a working fireplace. 

The Cabana would be the perfect place for a family or 2 couples traveling together.  It has 2 bedrooms and a shared living room, full kitchen and dining area.  There is a small gazebo outside which would be a perfect place to sit with a book and relax for awhile.  There is also a natural waterfall that can be seen from the deck of the Cabana. 

Aloha Beachside B&B

There are charming touches throughout the property, including a bench at the entry to the cabana. 

Aloha Beachside B&B – Great Choice for a Romantic Getaway

If you are looking for a place close to home to just get away for a night or 2, Aloha Beachside Bed & Breakfast is a great choice.  It is close to Gig Harbor with it’s charming waterfront full of galleries, shops and restaurants.  It is about an hour from Seattle, but will make you feel like you are an ocean away.

Enjoy the Aloha Spirit – Visit Aloha Beachside B&B

And remember, Perfect Paradise Vacations can help you with your plans to stay here.

A Day in Gig Harbor?


Have you been to Gig Harbor lately?

It’s a fun place to spend a sunny day or two.  There really is a lot to see and do in this charming little town.  You can stroll along the waterfront exploring the interesting shops and art galleries.  They have their Art Walk on the first Saturday of every month with spotlighted artists in the galleries.  You can spend most of the day just poking around, from the antique mall, to Java & Clay. to looking at the boats in the marina. to checking out the Harbor History Museum and much more.

If you want to get out on the water you might want to take a tour with Destiny Harbor Tours.  Captain Tom Drohan is an expert on the history of the area, and makes it fun and entertaining.  You will go out of Gig Harbor, under the Narrows Bridge.  Narrows Bridge - Close UpYou’ll also cruise by the interesting community of Salmon Beach and past Point Defiance Park before turning around and heading back to Gig Harbor.  If you’re lucky you might see some eagles Bald Eagleor harbor seals.

Back on land, you’re probably getting hungry.  If you’ve brought the kids, Kelly’s Espresso and Café is a great place to eat.  It’s bright and friendly with a varied menu so there’s something for everyone.  If you like Mexican food, El Pueblito is right across from the water on Harborside Avenue.  If it’s just the grownups, you will definitely want to go to The Tides and sit out on the deck of this historic eatery.  You might also want to venture up the hill away from downtown and check out The Wine Studio – a charming, warm and inviting wine bar and shop.  They have tastings on Friday night and Saturday afternoons.  You might also check out Gig Harbor’s own 7 Seas Brewery.  Both of these are located next to The Inn at Gig Harbor, a good choice if you decide to stay the night (which after tasting wine and beer might be a good idea).  You can book this hotel as well as the Best Western Plus Wesley Inn and Suites on my website.

There is a lot more to do here.  There are parks and beaches, which are always fun for the family.  You can drive out to Key Peninsula to visit Blue Willow Lavendar Farm. There is the Maritime Gig Festival in June, the Gig Harbor Food and Wine Festival in July and more.  Outdoor music in the park on Tuesdays and Movies in the Park on Fridays and Saturdays during the summer.  A good place to find all the happenings is at www.gigharborguide.com.

So get out and play tourist in your own Pacific Northwest.  I love to explore out area.  We are so blessed to live in such a beautiful place with so many exciting places to see and things to do.

I’m going to Wine a little….


When you think of wine tasting in Washington state, what comes to mind? Walla Walla, theYakima Valley, Woodinville, or maybe even the Port Angeles/Port Townsend area of the Olympic Peninsula?  I have some other suggestions for you. 

I was fortunate a couple of weeks ago to be invited to do a barrel tasting at Mosquito Fleet Winery in Belfair, Washington.  I’m a member of the wine club at The Wine Studio, a charming little wine shop in Gig Harbor.  The new owners, Kirsten and Rich, had arranged this tasting as a special treat for the wine club members.  If you aren’t familiar with this shop, you should check them out.  On Friday evenings they have wineries or distributors come in for wine tastings from 5 – 7.  They have a ladies night on Wednesdays with special prices for the ladies.  And they have other events from time to time.  Even if there is no event going on, it’s a great place to stop in and pick up a bottle or enjoy a glass or two with friends.

You may not have heard of Mosquito Fleet yet, but you will.  They only released 2 varieties for 2009 – a Meritage and a Cabernet Sauvignon – a total of only 217 cases.  They will be bottling their 2010 wines in September and releasing them I believe in February 2013.  This time there will be more varieties and a larger number of cases so it won’t be quite as hard to come by. The 2 couples that own the winery welcomed us and, besides enjoying their fabulous wines and the nice spread of cheeses, fruits, and more, they educated us about their approach to wine making in an informative and entertaining way. 

If you find yourself heading that way, you may want to plan your day to continue on to Shelton to the Walter Dacon Winery.  This is another winery I learned about by going into The Wine Studio for a tasting.  They were tasting 5 different Syrahs – one of my favorite varietals.  I liked all of these wines, including the dessert wine which are usually too sweet for me.

Last night they had Madsen Family Cellars from Olympia come in for a tasting.  I wasn’t able to go, but decided to include them in this post because after visiting Shelton you could continue your tour on to Olympia.  I checked out Madsen’s website and they mention that there are a couple of other wineries in the area so you could make a real day of wine tasting.  One of them is Stottle Winery in Lacey.  Their tasting room is open 5 days a week and your tasting fee is applied to any purchase – I love that!

Northwest Mountain Wines, also located in Olympia, will be having their tasting at The Wine Studio on May 25th.  I’ll be at that one as I’ve got a 5 day weekend off from my “day job”.  They have some interesting sounding wines, including some fruit wines and for the holidays a spiced mead. 

Another winery I visited a couple of months ago is Trillium Creek Winery in LakeBay.  Claude and Claudia were great hosts, with lots of fun stories (I tend to find that most winemakers are fun to be around, hmmmm, I think I’m on to something here.)   They have a charming little tasting room, and Claude will offer you some cheeses to go with the wines as he tells you his philosophy of wine making.  Their wines are sulfite free, and they also have some fruit wines including an interesting Ginger wine.  Their property is beautiful and you can arrange for a tour.  Although their wines are not as full flavored as I like, a visit here is a very enjoyable way to spend an hour or two.

Another local winery I have not visited, but have put on my list as I’m typing this and realizing that I need to do more wine tastings close to home, is Olalla Valley Vineyard and Winery in Olalla, Washington.  They also have several varietals as well as some fruit wines.

So, if you enjoy wine, are looking for something to do one day, why not visit one or more of these local wineries.  Just make sure you have a designated driver or taste and spit which seems like such a waste of good wine to me.

Unique Wine Tours in the Pacific Northwest


I love to travel to warm sunny destinations, but during the summers here inWashington state (which may have finally arrived) there is nothing better than getting out and about and enjoying all the beauty we have here.  I also love wine, so I was really happy when I came across a couple of very unique wine tasting tours.

The first involves river rafting on the Wenatchee, a BBQ steak lunch and then wine tasting by limo.  The limo (which holds 20 passengers – sounds like a great group trip to me), picks you up in downtown Leavenworth and takes you to the start of the rafting adventure.  Blue Sky Outfitters will supply everything you need for your rafting adventure and soon you will find yourself  launched into Upper Gorilla and Sharkstooth with lots of fun waves, before winding down Drunkard’s Drop with waves of up to 16 feet.  Sounds scary, but this whitewater adventure is only rated as class 3 rapids.  You will end your rafting adventure at beautiful Riverside Park where you will enjoy a fabulous Top Sirloin BBQ lunch with all the trimmings.  You then change into dry clothes and get back into the limo and start the second part of your adventure – Wine Tasting!  You will be tasting many wines along the way so to encourage guests to stay well hydrated, bottled water is provided in the limo. You finish up at the highly acclaimed Icicle Ridge Winery where the beautiful acreage and great wines make it hard to leave.

Pacific NW Float Trips offers a river rafting/wine tasting trip of their own.  It combines their Skagit River Fall Colors trip, which includes a picnic lunch, with wine tasting and tour at the Glacier Peak Winery.  This one can also be done with a group and depending on the size the price does come down a bit.

Another really unique tour that I’d love to try is Hot Air Ballooning and Wine Tasting.  Wine Country Balloon Tour offers a sunrise tour which includes a 200 year old tradition of toasting with sparkling wine while sailing over the lush acres of slowly ripening grapes.  With this tour on Sundays you can enjoy brunch after the flight for an additional $25.  Not so much wine tasting as wine drinking while ballooning.

I’m not much of an early morning person, so Over The Rainbow Balloon Flights has a similar tour which would fit my schedule much better.  They also do an early morning tour, but have another daily tour that departs a couple of hours prior to sunset.  You’ll board your craft for a once in a lifetime experience. Once in the air it’s time to relax and enjoy about an hour aloft while you drift effortlessly over the picturesque SammamishValley.  Some of the flight will take place up high–l,500 to 5,000 feet up where you’ll enjoy panoramic views of theSeattleskyline and the mountain ranges surrounding thePuget Sound area. You’ll spend some of your flight barely above the surface as you brush the treetops. Help yourself to the leaves for a souvenir. Matthew’s Estate, a premier winery, will host your post flight celebration.

If anyone has done one of these tours, I’d love to hear how it went.  Even better, I’d love to see some pictures posted on my Facebook page.

The exciting life of a Travel Agent


As a travel agent, you probably think I travel all the time.  Oh, how I wish I could.  But who would take care of my clients and book their trips if I was traveling?  And my dog would miss me.  And then, there’s that pesky part time job that pays the bills during slow travel months.  Instead, I spend a lot of time reading travel magazines – both mainstream and industry publications; taking webinars and classes offered by tourist bureaus, hotel/resort companies, The Travel Institute, etc.; and of course, watching The Travel Channel.

This past weekend we had a rare, for us this summer, beautiful warm weekend.  Normally I would spend the whole weekend outside enjoying the sun, but this weekend I was suffering from a toothache and 2 sleepless nights.  I did get some pain meds from my dentist on Saturday (thank you so much, Dr. Fisher!) but still had very little energy by Sunday afternoon.  So, I turned on the Travel Channel and they had two great back to back episodes that featured beaches in the United States.  Since I specialize in tropical destinations and beach vacations I tuned right in, and took notes.  I wanted to share some of what I learned.

The first episode was on Extreme Beach Experiences and first aired in 2007.  Here are some beaches you might want to check out depending on your interests.

Sand Dollar Beach at Big Sur,CA.  This made the list for Surf Kayaking which utilizes a modified kayak to ride the waves like you would in surfing.  It looked pretty amazing and I would love to go to watch, but don’t think I would try it.  This is on a beautiful, long stretch of beach at Big Sur, and you find the entrance at Los Padres National Forest.  The best time to go is September.

Extreme Happy Hour can be experiences at Shooters Waterfront Café inFort Lauderdale on the Intercoastal waterway.  This sounds like a pretty happening place if you are into a party – million dollar yachts, fresh seafood, daily specials, entertainment, special events and best of all, great people watching!

How about some Extreme Snorkeling on the North Shore of Oahu.  North Shore Shark Adventures will take you out (best time is early morning) to “swim with the sharks”.  Don’t worry, you will be safe in the shark cage they put you in before they start throwing bloody bait into the ocean around you to attract the sharks.  I think this is something I might be willing to try.

Newport Beach, CA offers extreme body boarding at “The Wedge”.  The waves break at a depth of 1 – 2 feet so if you wipe out, you may seriously wipe out.  One of my friends told me the did this when she was a bit younger, and it is pretty crazy.  I might watch, but won’t partake. 

For extreme sports, Huntington Beach, CA has it all.  The Travel Channel said they have Beach Games during the first 2 weeks of July, but I can’t find it on their calendar.  However, there are tons of events going on all the time – surfing, volleyball, skateboarding contests, music & entertainment. Huntington Beachhas been known as “Surf City, USA”.  Definitely a fun place to spend a few days anytime.

You might also want to try some extreme swimming (read very cold) at the Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau, Alaska.  You can also do extreme salmon fishing on a river near here where your guide will be equipped with a loaded gun in case a brown bear wants to challenge you for your catch (this one you can do as an excursion from your cruise). 

The second episode I watched was about the 10 best Florida beaches.  This originally aired in 2003 so some things may have changed in the last 8 years.  But, I would still love to visit a few of these beaches.  I’ll just list them briefly:

#10,Daytona Beach– 23 miles long, best for activities such as surfing; rides and fun on the boardwalk; biking, ATV’s or golf cart rides on the beach; or just drive your car onto the beach til you find your spot and spend the day.  #9, Sanibel Island – one of the best places for shell collecting in the world – great sunsets, relaxing, and friendly people.  #8, Panama Beach – best for Spring Break – 500,000 come then – 26 miles long – 19,000 hotel rooms and the businesses cater to the Spring Break party crowd during March – the other 11 months it’s a quiet, cozy beach town.  #7, Sandspur Beach on Bahia Honda Key – secluded, quiet, relaxing – 3 miles of beach.  #6, Smathers Beach on Key West– this spot is closer to Havana than toMiami– it was built with imported sand from theBahamas– volleyball, sunsets, nightlife on famous Duval Street.  #5, Clearwater Beach near St. Petersburg on the gulf is a boaters paradise with soft, white sand.  #4, Lovers Key – secluded for romance – boating, canoeing, biking – outside Fort Myers.  #3, Palm Beach– the playground of the rich and famous – high end shops – rub elbows with the wealthy.  #2, Siesta Key Beach on the gulf coast near Sarasota– the white, sugary sand is the softest you will find – volleyball, swimming, watersports – and sand sculptures.  #1 is no surprise –South Beach, Miami.

So, that’s how this travel agent spend the last, beautiful, sunny weekend we had here in thePacific Northwest!