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Weekend Traveler

From the coast to the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains

Capitola's cove of colorful houses (photo: Bo Links)

It’s always a beautiful ride from San Francisco to the Monterey Bay along the coast and then inland through Hecker Pass across the Santa Cruz Mountains. Recently, my husband and I drove south of Santa Cruz to Capitola for breakfast and wine tasting, and then over to the CordeValle resort in San Martin in the Santa Clara Valley. We were gone only 24 hours and had a great time discovering sites, food, wine and people.

We started in the coastal town of Capitola, with its gorgeous vistas and sandy beaches. Capitola boasts that it is the oldest beach resort in the state. In fact, 1869 saw beachfront tents in “Camp Capitola.”

By early afternoon, we were driving up to CordeValle (from the Spanish, “el corazon del valle” or “heart of the valley”), the Rosewood resort in San Martin. Along the way, we passed darting deer, herds of cows, and grapevines before the golf course unfolded before us with its shimmering green fairways and white sandy bunkers.

STAY

Rosewood CordeValle is a classy, yet casual resort built on 1,700 physically stunning acres of what was once entirely agricultural land. (The area still produces wine, garlic and mushrooms.) Environmentally friendly, the owners of CordeValle signed a land use agreement with the county to protect the natural habitat and open space.

The view from a bungalow at CordeValle (photo: Bo Links)

Luxurious wood dominates the California Craftsman style of the entire complex, from the vaulted- and beamed-ceiling lodge to the guest accommodations and pro shop. Earth-tone colors bring the stunning outside environment inside.

After checking in, a golf cart sped us to our bungalow. When we entered the sprawling hideaway, we were taken by the view of the hills and golf course. The bungalow interior mirrored the warm, soothing colors of the landscape with rich shades of beige complemented with Douglas fir. Amenities, including a flat-panel TV, wet bar, and gas fireplace were at our fingertips. The large bathroom and dressing area was large enough for a separate Jacuzzi tub. Plush terry cloth robes, feather-top beds, and luxurious Italian sheets were perfect stress relievers.

In the morning, we lingered over breakfast on our trellised private patio overlooking the golf course (408-695-4500, rosewoodhotels.com/en/cordevalle-northern-california).

PLAY & SHOP

Much has been written about Capitola’s share of touristy shops and places to sit outside on the Esplanade and enjoy the view, but probably the most spectacular sight is the cove of brightly painted houses that envelops the town with color and warmth. And right next to this architectural rainbow is the Capitola City Beach where sunbathing, swimming, surfing, kite flying, paddle boarding, and beach volleyball are de rigueur.

Armida Winery is actually located in Dry Creek Valley, but they love the atmosphere in Capitola so much, they’ve had a tasting room there for many years. With a view of the water, it’s a fun place to sample wine. We enjoyed these 2013s: Bacigalupi Pinot Noir and the Maple Vineyards Zinfandel as well as the 2012 Poizin Reserve Zinfandel (831-462-1065, armida.com).

Because of the land use agreement, CordeValle must grow grapes (as was done before Prohibition), and the successful family-owned Clos LaChance winery located on the property continues the tradition. Clos LaChance is a certified sustainable winery producing over 80,000 cases annually. We especially liked these 2012s: Murphy’s Choice Pinot Noir and the Reserve Zinfandel; and the 2011 Designate Joli Meritage.

Visit Clos LaChance Winery (photo: Bo Links)

The winery includes a bocce ball court and three expansive picnic and tasting areas that overlook the vineyard, golf course, and foothills (408-686-1050, clos.com).

The award-winning CordeValle Golf Course designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., offers an invigorating test for both experienced players and newcomers. The championship layout is set on bucolic land and challenges players to navigate changing landscapes and dramatic undulation. CordeValle takes its role in the community seriously; the resort’s Youth Golf Foundation teaches the game of golf to underserved youth in Santa Clara County (408-695-4558, cordevallegolf.com/golf).

If golf isn’t for you, the resort offers tennis, swimming, a Fitness Center, and many trails for invigorating hikes.

Once you’re done with the physical activity, head straight to the Sense spa. Save time to luxuriate in the Jacuzzi, melt in the steam, and relax in the lounge before your treatment. Many of the services use ingredients from the surroundings, and it’s fun to choose: Should it be vinotherapy for purifying, the rain room for cleansing, or hot stones for a sensual experience? I opted for the Vineyard Vitality, which uses products containing grape seed, known for its antioxidant qualities. First you’re scrubbed with grape-seed oil, then massaged with vanilla body butter containing grape seed (408-695-4558, rosewoodhotels.com/en/cordevalle-northern-california/wellness/spa).

DINE

We started our day on the Capitola Wharf, built in 1857. It’s the prime spot to watch surfers, take in the shoreline scene, and if you’re lucky, catch dolphins swimming by. At the end of the wharf sits the Wharf House Restaurant. This local crowd-pleaser has long been a destination any time of day — people treasure the ambience, the food, and the knockout views of Monterey Bay and Capitola. The atmosphere is cozy, friendly, and nautical (think nets, buoys, shells). Grab a seat by the window and watch the action onshore and at sea while you eat.

Capitola's busy Wharf (photo: Bo Links)

The eggs Benedict are just as you would want them: savory and rich with a luscious Hollandaise. The huevos rancheros are heaped with black beans, cheese, sour cream, and salsa. Kick up both with a bloody Mary and you’re in for a delicious experience (831-476-3534, wharfhouse.com/).

The popular Wharf House Restaurant (photo: Bo Links)

The One Iron Bar at CordeValle is an inviting space (inside dining and outdoor patio) to enjoy specialty cocktails, interesting wines, and contemporary cuisine. We started with the decadent Maine lobster potato skins and then went for the super-moist brick-roasted chicken with garlic broccolini and the creative zucchini spaghetti served with sweet shrimp and burrata. Don’t pass on the warm beignets with your choice of toppings, including caramel sauce, cinnamon sugar, and raspberry. Favorites from a great selection of wines by the glass include the Gruet Rosé, the 2011 Pelerin Pinot Noir, and the 2008 Leal Carnaval Meritage (408-695-4558, rosewoodhotels.com/en/cordevalle-northern-california/dining/one-iron-bar).

Welcome to the CordeValle Lodge (photo: Bo Links)

OTHER ESSENTIALS

Capitola upcoming events: Children’s Halloween Parade, Oct. 25, 831-475-6522

Capitola: capitolavillage.org; cityofcapitola.org

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Patty Burness can be found on Twitter at @pattygb or reached by e-mail at [email protected]

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