It’s no secret that I love to enjoy life.  I get immense pleasure from eating wonderfully prepared food, traveling to exotic (or mundane) locations, meeting fascinating people, and imbibing elixirs as simple as sun tea with Meyer lemon and honey, or some of the most exquisite wines and spirits in the world.  But even with my travels throughout South America, Australia, South Africa, and Europe, I never forget the amazing grapes of the good old U.S. of A.

While hanging out at The River, a.k.a. “Downtown Rancho Mirage,” I love to stop into the Tulip Hill Winery’s Tasting Room, especially if I have out-of-towners in tow.  Don’t be fooled.  Its retail look and location may mask the fact that you can hang out there and taste some really great, handcrafted wines that are produced in a state-of-the-art facility on the shores of Clear Lake in Northern California.  This is the only tasting room of Tulip Hill, as well as the only wine tasting room in the valley.

Founded by father-daughter team Budge and Kristi Brown in 2001, this family business has grown steadily as they continue to plant new vines and offer a greater variety of wines.  I’m particularly fond of their reds—big cabs, jammy syrahs, and spicy zins, among them.  Their chards are also interesting, ranging from steely to über-oaky.  And if all this vin-talk is flying right over your head, you’ll benefit from a fun and educational respite in the tasting room.  Bring some friends.  Take your time.  Peruse the shop, which is packed with a wonderful variety of food- and wine-related fare.  And don’t be surprised when you walk out lugging a case—or two, or three.