A Night to Remember at Portola Hotel & Spa
When I checked in to the Portola Hotel & Spa in Monterey, California, I knew my companion and I were in for a treat. The front desk dispensed warm chocolate chip cookies before handing over our room key. We were attending a wine dinner later that evening featuring the wines of Central Coast winery J. Lohr. It seemed fitting this LEED Silver, eco-friendly hotel would team up with an equally eco-conscious winery for the dinner—great food and wine while being mindful of the environment, a win-win.
Our spacious room was designed with a nautical theme and contained a seating area and a big, comfy king bed adorned with a playful stuffed sea otter. Sliding glass doors led to a balcony overlooking the picturesque harbor. I knew I was going to like it here. The marble bathroom contained a large, tiled shower built for romance.
Before dinner, we set off to explore the hotel and its surroundings. The outdoor pool with a Jacuzzi was a great place to unwind before our feast. The hotel is ideally located near Fisherman’s Wharf and the historic downtown and a short walk to Cannery Row. It is as if Monterey is the hotel’s living room.
Jacks Restaurant & Lounge, a comfortable setting with striped banquettes and nautical accents, hosted the evening’s wine dinner. Guests were seated at separate tables while the winemaker and chef came around to each table to answer questions; it was a great format. We were greeted with a 2012 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, crisp and refreshing, served with smoked salmon Carpaccio, a winning combination. It promised to be a fun evening.
The second course was pan-seared Monterey Bay abalone served with frisée, green beans, purple Peruvian potatoes, and English peas in a white wine lemon sauce. It was paired with the 2011 Arroyo Vista Chardonnay. The abalone was so fresh and tender, nearly melting in your mouth, and enhanced by the Chardonnay with hints of lemon, green apple, and butterscotch flavors. It was incredible.
Not long after, the third course arrived, a grilled Harris Ranch New York strip loin with heirloom tomatoes, chimichurri sauce, and a blue cheese popover. We had our choice of two reds, a 2009 Paso Robles Cuvee Pom (Merlot blend) or a 2009 Paso Robles Cuvee St. E (Cabernet Franc blend). Both wines were rich and full-bodied, delicious with the beef, although I preferred the St. E for its rich berry flavors.
Before we knew it, the final course arrived, our dessert of cocoa nib-infused vanilla bean ice cream with fresh cherry compote and almond tuile. It was paired with 2007 Monterey Late Harvest Riesling, a lovely, aged wine that complemented the flavors of the dessert. We lingered to enjoy every last drop of the wine and morsel of the dessert. It was a fantastic meal and a truly memorable evening.
After dinner we decided to stroll along the waterfront, admiring the moon and stars. Before retiring we were tempted by the handcrafted beer at Peter B’s, the hotel’s own brewpub. The outdoor seating with fire pits was inviting while we enjoyed the award-winning beer. I especially loved the Alvarado Street Raspberry Wheat, the recipient of a recent gold medal. Our magical evening was coming to an end, but I knew I would sleep peacefully in the soft bed listening to the sounds of the harbor lulling me to sleep.
Details: Portola Hotel & Spa is a LEED Silver Certified hotel and participates in the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, sourcing seafood that supports healthy oceans. The 379-room hotel is the perfect location for a romantic and/or relaxing getaway. The spa offers restorative body treatments to help you forget your cares. And the chocolate chip cookies are a decadent and homey touch. The hotel is located at Two Portola Plaza in Monterey, California. For reservations, call (888) 222-5851.
J. Lohr Vineyards and Wines have tasting rooms in San Jose and Paso Robles, with vineyards throughout the Central Coast and in Napa. The winery is committed to embracing sustainable practices, including generating 100 percent of its energy requirements though solar array and using farming practices that are healthy for the environment.