Road Trips: Raymond & Buena Vista Winery

I’m a wine member with the Boisset Collection which includes Raymond Vineyards,  Buena Vista Winery, Deloach, Frenchie, JCB, Lockwood, Wyeth, Amberhill, and Wattle Creek which makes heading to Napa or Sonoma  a really fun weekend road trip!

Jean Charles Boisset has his roots in France where his parents had wineries; he has bought a few in the U.S. (see above) and in 2009 married Gina Gallo. Some of the rooms have a wild slant (think of the French Court in the 1700). There are costumes, wigs to play dress-up in some of the private tasting rooms, and some crazy art.

Back to the road trip – I went up for the day to Raymond & Buena Vista with a couple of girlfriends. Raymond was fun and whimsical – French is next door and we did the tasting all at Raymond. Buena Vista is rich in history and has a wonderful bubble lounge. It was the only working winery during prohibition.

Raymond Vineyards (founded 1970), has been a family business for five generations now. They originally came in 1933.

Now, they and Buena Vista are inspired by famous proprietor Boisset. Also, they are certified organic and Biodynamic and the winery is entirely powered by renewable solar energy. Very Bay Area of them!

At Buena Vista, “The Count of Buena Vista,” Agoston Haraszthy de Mokesa, immigrated from Hungary in 1840 after growing up among his local vineyards. He was the first to plant hops in Wisconsin and became an important pioneer in the American beer industry.

His love for wine continued as he moved around California (San Diego, then San Francisco, then Sonoma) looking for the perfect atmosphere in which to grow great grapes. Finally, he settled in Sonoma in 1860 and hit it big.

Since then, Buena Vista has gone through multiple owners (including the Catholic Church), and currently is part of the Boisset Family Estates a measly 150 years after the Count first made it over.

Weather you belong to a wine club or just want to go up for a day of tasting with a picnic, the wine country is so close with great restaurants and beautiful scenery, it is well worth a trip at least twice a year if not more often!

MoMo’s happy hour has potential

As you know, I like to try all the new restaurants in Walnut Creek. Most recently, I went to MoMo’s in the old McCovey’s location.

The original MoMo’s is across from AT&T Park in San Francisco and is a hugely popular place to go, especially for Giants fans before and after ball games. This is the first time they’ve expanded since opening in 1998.

The happy hour is nice, and the food itself is reasonably priced (I haven’t done a full meal yet – just happy hour), but I’ve heard from two separate parties that they thought the food was bland. Others have raved, so I’ll have to go back and try a full meal.

They have a really cool entrance and an awesome fan under a blue ceiling. They offer homemade fries, pizzas, and oysters during happy hour. The pizzas are tasty and are a great size for the price, so I’d definitely recommend that. One thing that annoyed me was that there was no sound on during the games on TV because of the loud music!

Margaritas, mules and other cocktails are $7 during happy hour, and you can get local beer and wine at the bar as well. The oysters are $1, pizza and wings are $5, and you can get calamari, lamb sliders, and a half-pound burger all for less than $10. In the grand scheme of things in Walnut Creek, that’s a pretty good deal.

According to Diablo Magazine, the lettuce leaves appetizer and lamb burger are both really good. They also loved the smoked salmon flatbread with pesto and the more upscale petrale sole dish.

Either way, this is a cool new attraction in Walnut Creek that definitely deserves another trip back for a full meal. It’s an improvement over McCovey’s and adds to the list of trendy hangout spots in downtown.

Have you checked it out yet? What did you think?

Opportunity Knocks?

At 55 Crest Ave. in Alamo, you might see a “best of both worlds” type home. It’s a 0.84 acre lot, the land is appealing, and because of that, they’re listing at $795,000.

But if you’re waiting to move into the 21st century, this may not be the place for you. Believe it or not, this run-down old place had almost 50 disclosure packages requested because of its location and potential.

I personally know a few people who are interested in the renovation project, with the knowledge that a remodeled home in that area may sell for much more later on.

Of course not all buyers who request a disclosure package will write, but I suspect they got at least 15 offers, the opportunity is too great even if the property sells for one million, it is surrounded by $1,500,000-$2,000,000+ homes.

There was a combination of speculators looking to flip it and disgruntled buyers who have lost out on homes and think it might be worth building their dream home. It just goes to show that the Bay Area real estate market is crazy red hot right now – it is a seller’s market.

If you are thinking of buying in or around Walnut Creek, give me a call! I’d love to help you.

Burger Lounge, Hella Good!

Burger Lounge, the new burger joint on Oak Grove Rd., is making its first foray into Northern California with its Walnut Creek location.

Rooted in San Diego, they are well-known for their grass-fed beef, craft sodas, huge salads, half-and-half fries and onion rings and delicious shakes. The decor is fresh and stylish; I saw lots of people comfortable and conversing.

(Note: if you get there after 11:30 on weekdays, there will be a line out the door)

Burger Lounge also serves wine and local craft beer (Calicraft at the Walnut Creek location). Maybe the coolest aspect of the Burger Lounge mission is that they try so hard to make food that tastes good but is also as sustainable as possible. As mentioned, their burgers are grass-fed and they avoid a lot of the processed ingredients other places use.

I really liked my burger. I got mine to go and it was gone before I hit 680. Overall, I give Burger Lounge FIVE Mt. Diablo’s! Give it a try and let me know if you agree.

Are Walnut Creek’s In-N-Out dreams dead?

According to ABC7, the new In-N-Out location Walnut Creekians have been salivating over might be in trouble.

Just TRY to say no to this picture…

Apparently, a community near the proposed site (N. Main St. at Second Ave.) of the new location is trying to stop the construction because of the expected long drive-thru line that will cause traffic and late night noise.

The city has not taken a stance yet, and the owner of the property already has it zoned for a restaurant, so it may very well still happen. Would In-N-Out have a restaurant without the drive-thru window? If so, how will In-N-Out feed all the folks who don’t want to leave their cars to eat their fast food?

Anyway, the local community rightly likes its quiet, peaceful street and think there is already a plethora of fast food restaurants nearby, making In-N-Out unnecessary.  My son will be bummed, I for one am indifferent.  They are not my favorite, the patty is too small…stay tuned for future blogs on our areas burger locals.

This would look great on N. Main St. Just saying.In all seriousness, it looks like the city will plan a few public hearings after they review the proposal again. It remains to be seen if the local community will have their way, or if residents of Walnut Creek will be able to save themselves 10 minutes of driving on 680 (in either direction…) for those juicy burgers.

For what it’s worth, the anti-In-N-Out petition on Change.org has about 10 times as many signatures as the pro-In-N-Out petition. At least our town gets involved.

Road Trips: Strawberry Jam 5K in Capay

Grab your kids for a short road trip! Today there is a fun event going on in Capay (1.5 hours from Walnut Creek, just North of Vacaville): a 5K run and farm tour at Capay Organic.

I get produce from the delivered to my door weekly if I choose and you pick what you put into that box – of course it is only fruits and veggies currently in season and they often have a recipe included.  Last week I got sunchokes as I forgot to modify my order – these are also called Jerusulum  articokes and I made a wonderful potato sunchoke latke which will be recreated and served for Easter Brunch.

From the Capay Organic website.

Tickets are available here, and sign in begins at 10 a.m., with the run starting a half hour later. The farm will be open to tours from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and includes the options of tractor rides, a Q&A, arts and crafts, face-painting, a petting zoo and an Easter egg hunt!

If that’s not the most perfect way to spend Saturday of Easter weekend, I don’t know what is! For you foodies, there will be a little farmer’s market section with local honey, olive oil and pesto tastings, fresh Mexican food and plenty of sweet dessert and coffee options.

For a little different twist on your regular Bay Area road trip, consider Capay Organic for your next weekend away. They have events almost every month, and the pictures make it look like an absolutely gorgeous setting. I wish I could have been there today myself!

The problem with large AMC’s for lenders and clients

Our friend Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending wrote a blog recently about Apprisal Management Companies (AMC’s) that I found really interesting. Jay wrote about the mess that usually comes out of a broker-lender relationship due to appraisal issues.

Family Home, Residence, Contemporary, Property, Modern

After the mortgage melt down the laws changed that required lenders to use AMCs instead of cherry picking their appraisers directly.  This past practice created an opportunity for dishonest practices.  However, creation of AMC’s created a separate list of issues and caused the cost of appraisals to increase.  The AMC’s usually paid the appraisers too little and decreased motivation by appraisers to do a good job or they hired inexperienced appraisers because the seasoned appraisers got out of the business as their salary decreased. Initially there was no parameters in place for the appraiser you got.  Many times, I got an appraiser from Sacramento appraising a property in the Walnut Creek School District and would get a low value because the comps they pulled were parts of Walnut Creek not in the school district.  As you can imagine, this led to some huge problems

As time passed, mortgage brokers such as JVM have moved to a “mortgage banking channel” to avoid using AMC’s and now utilize their own internal AMC that is still compliant but staffed by competent, local, highly-skilled appraisers of JVM’s choosing.  The lender still can’t talk to the appraiser, but at least they have control of the quality of appraisers and know the area they are appraising.

For more information about this topic, see this Washington Post article Jay quoted in his blog. You can visit JVM Lending here.

Pending: 304 Grapevine Pl. (Pleasant Hill)

A past client just put his home at 304 Grapevine Place in Pleasant Hill on the market. It went pending in 7 days and received four offers all over the asking price.

He only bought 15 months ago, but a career with the Coast Guard has him moving to Seattle and he will still walk away with some money in his pocket, although he is telling me Seattle is as pricey as the East Bay if not more so.

I love helping our military sellers and VA buyers. I specialize in knowing about the VA loan, have worked on a military base in Nuremberg, Germany and have a son who is currently in the Navy (on a nuclear sub, NuPoc graduate). If you know somebody who is eligible for the VA benefits and would like to know more about the home buying process, I would be honored to help them.

You can take a tour of their beautiful home here. If you’d like to know what it takes to get your home sold in 7 days or be next on my list of satisfied customers, please give me a call or visit my website at www.kristinlanham.com.