How to decorate a small living room? 7 must haves.

Have a small living space and don’t know how to deal with it? Having a cluttered space makes you not want to spend time there. However, with smart styling and design you can make your living room appear open and bright.

Adding a few essential pieces of furniture and decor can create a cozy, warm environment and open up a space. Some of the key elements of any living room include items like an accent chair, rug, and a staple coffee table or bar cart.

• Choosing a large and bold area rug will help to create a larger space. Go for bold patterns  and interesting color to create focus. This can also help anchor the space and give you a good staple piece to design the rest of the room around. Placing your “seating area” in a corner of the room will also help with opening up the room.

•Coffee table is another must have in any space. If you want to go minimal, you find a skinny coffee table to have more room to walk around it. You can also repurpose ottomans to use as table or get smaller stackable pieces to make the furniture flow better. 

•Smart lighting is the key to ensuring your space looks big and bright. If you have good natural light, make sure to use it all! Don’t block the windows with dark curtains. If you don’t have enough natural light, invest in smart lights like Hue Lights. That way, you will multiple light sources birthing up your room. My favorites are light strip which you can attach to a tv stand or bookshelf. 

•Bar or bar cart is also a great way to add a unique feel to the space without taking up too much space. You don’t even need to stuff it full of liquor. Make is into an accent piece by adding beautiful books or magazines to display. 

•Use a small pouf or an accent chair for an extra pop of color and to add dimension and light to the space. It’s an easy way to have another talking piece in the house and extra seating without taking up the room. Pouf with storage are a great way to go if you want to hide some of the smaller items.

•Cozy throws and pillows are always a must. Throwing some blankets around and a few pillow will give your house a warm and welcoming feel. It’s also space and budget friendly. It’s also the best way to add some seasonal flare to your living space. Add more reds for Christmas pastel tones for spring and bright yellow, blue and oranges for summer. 

•Smart use of colors is also a powerful tool when creating an open concept feel. Keep most of your walls white. Using darker tones will eat up the space. It’s always fun to add an accent wall which can be a darker shade, however be mindful of which wall to paint. Adding that pop of color on the wall will add depth to the space you’re creating. A small wall in the hall facing the living room or the wall behind your couch is a good place to start. Don’t add more than 3-4 colors (or even 2) to keep your living room cohesive.

Paying attention to details and maximizing the available space will help you create an open and welcoming environment without losing space. Adding intentional pieces of furniture and a color palette is a simple way to increase an areas use and cozy feel.

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Dog friendly wineries in Sonoma

PAIR YOUR FAVORITE THINGS – VINO AND PUPPIES.

Love to travel and enjoy wine, but not sure if you dog can come with? Below is a list of the top 5 wineries in Sonoma where you and your pup will have a fabulous time. 

 

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CLINE CELLARS. This family owned winery has a special place in my heart. This is there Shawn and I got engaged and then married a year later. This is where our first child, our German Shepherd, Dago, came for his first Sonoma adventure.

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Located on Arnold, Cline is a small, casual winery that is family and dog friendly. They offer multiple tasting rooms and multiple large picnic areas where you can enjoy the wine and a snack. You can do a tasting in one of the designated areas or purchase a bottle to enjoy outside. While they don’t have a deli or food service, there is a fridge with cheese, meat and sandwiches for purchase. You’re welcome to bring your own food in as well.

If you’re into walking tours and history, Cline offers multiple tours during the day, some of which include the Mission museum and adobe chapel. There’s a lot to do for any kind of wine drinker – relaxing on the grass, winery tours, and even donkeys! Yes, they have two donkeys that live on site. Pudding and Fancy!

There’s a lot of room for your dogs to walk around (on leash, of course). Our pups love to explore the orchard and look at the donkeys. You can find water bowls around the property to make sure your pets don’t get thirsty. The property is so large that you don’t have to worry if other dogs are too close to you or if there’s a problem with sitting. It’s one of the best places to come if you want more room for your dog(s) without having to deal with other dog owners. 

They recently installed outdoor cabanas on the big lawn. I can’t wait to come for a visit when they’re ready! It’s a perfect way to spend the day enjoying wine and good company. 

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VIANSA. Located just minutes south of Cline, Viansa is another spectacular winery you should visit with your pooch. Sitting on a hilltop, you will take in 270° views of Sonoma from the private “outlooks” and picnic areas. 

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Just off of Arnold Drive, this upscale property is visible as you drive by so you won’t miss it. They offer multiple tasting options, cabanas and of course dog friendly outdoor picnic and sitting areas. Unlike Cline, they do have their own market place with lots of great options, though outdoor food is not permitted. They also serve wine by glass in case you’re there for just a quick stop and don’t won’t to get a full bottle. (That would be a waste though). 

You won’t be able to take a tour of this winery or property, however they offer a variety of interesting wine tastings including a fireside tasting and outlook tastings. 

From my experience, the picnic tables can get pretty crowded so if you have a pup that’s not so good in a busy space, I recommend coming here on an off day (earlier in the day and weekdays). That way you get the private experience and your dog will be happy to be their own. 

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I highly recommend Viansa for an upscale wine experience that is still dog-friendly, affordable and memorable.

 

 

ROCHE. This winery is so different from the other 4! Located right in Sonoma square, it’s a small tasting room with large outdoor space. It’s a must visit on a day out in town. Roche is family owned and operated since 1982 and you can feel the amount of care they put in when you visit. 

I love visiting Roche, after some walking and shopping in the square. It’s so convenient to pop in for a glass or bottle, chat with the staff, and have your dog hang out and people watch. The outdoor area fits about 60 people so you don’t need to worry about seating or making your dog claustrophobic. 

They offer multiple tasting options and my favorite is the Family Tasting which includes 6 wines which you can pair with hand-selected cheeses and meats from the deli. Yum! You can also purchase bottles to go to enjoy on your own. 

I recommend Roche for casual vibes, get togethers, outdoor lounge, good wine and nice people. 

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GUNDLACH BUNDSCHU is one of the oldest family owned wineries in Sonoma. It’s located on the Napa/Sonoma border making it a very convenient spot to go to. The Rhinefarm is a huge property with multiple picnic area, pond, walking paths and many more. 

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Gun Bun offers amazing tours for any personality from estate tour to an offloading experience on Pinzgauer – an Austrian made military vehicle. How fun is that?! Very unique and exciting adventure. They also offer a cave tasting, a vista courtyard tasting if you’re looking for a romantic experience or a club lounge tasting. 

Well behaved dogs are welcome and must be on lease. Again, there’s plenty of outdoor space for the pups and humans to feel comfortable and relaxed. 

This winery is laid back and relaxing with a classic California vibe. With open picnic table seating by the pond or vineyard side lawn space, Gun Bun is the perfect spot for a spontaneous visit with fur friends to chill and take in the views and wines at your own pace. 

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LANDMARK. Last but not least, Landmark Winery has two locations – one in Sonoma and one in Russian River.  Both location have gorgeous lawns and picnic areas perfect for a day with the family and dogs. 

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Landmark winery has a wide variety of local cheeses, charcuterie and accoutrements available for purchase in their tasting rooms. Guests are welcome to bring their own picnics, however no outside alcohol is allowed on the premises. There is no cost for admission, just a minimum wine purchase of $25 for each adult.

Some of the really cool tours you can do at the Landmark include a horse-drawn carriage tour which takes 3 hours and estate viticulture practices, winemaking techniques, and Sonoma wine history. 

 

I hope you look into these amazing Sonoma wineries and take your favorite pup on an adventure. Sonoma County is such a warn and cozy area and everyone should spend at least a day there to see some of the dog friendly wineries.  

Apartments for rent. Top 4 Communities in Marin.

Marin county is one of the most prestigious places to live in California and the country. Just minutes away from San Francisco and Sonoma, Marin county is a beautiful area full of outdoor activities, great dining options, shopping, luxury spa and hair salons. Renting an apartment in Marin is a great decision if you want to be in the center of it all and life the best life North Bay has to offer. Here’s the top 5 resort style apartment complexes in Marin County based on location, amenities, and community ratings. 

  1. Serenity at Larkspur – this beautiful 16 acre property offers amazing amenities such as salt water pools, gym, yoga classes. It’s one of the most dog friendly apartment complexes (with off leash dog run) in Marin and have limited breed restrictions.  This property hosts monthly events like cooking classes and fitness bootcamps as well as quarterly events like whiskey or wine tasting, holiday party, pool side bbq and yuppy hour for dog owners. They offer modern 1 and 2 bedroom apartments that range in size from 708 sq.f.  To 1096 sq.f. 

Highlights:

5 minute walk to/from Larkspur Ferry Terminal

30 minutes drive at Sonoma wineries

Multiple grocery stores within 5 minute drive

1 bedroom, 2 bedroom and 2 bedrooms town homes available

Rent starts at $3200 (based on availability and market)

Pet friendly; Pet rent $50 per month; Pet deposit $500.

 

2. Cove at Tiburon – located in prestigious Tiburon, the Cove offers a truly luxury lifestyle and resort amenities. 2 pools, full gym, fitness classes, kayaks, and even charter boat to rent. The Cove is also a dog friendly community but has limited play areas. The Cove is known for outrageous resident parties with amazing drinks and catered food. 

Highlights:

30 minutes away from San Francisco

Minutes away from downtown Tiburon and ferry terminal 

Walking distance to Nugget Market

1 bedroom, 2 bedroom, 3 and 4 bedrooms apartment homes available

Rent starts at $3310

Pet friendly; Pet rent $50 per month; Pet deposit $500.

 

3. The Preserve at Marin – gorgeous hilltop property features a no-edge pool, brand new penthouses with views of the bay and Marin’s best schools near by. This property is also dog friendly with breed restrictions. Located slightly further out from the shopping and dining, The Preserve has the best views on the north bay and even San Francisco. 

Highlights:

30-45 minutes drive to San Francisco 

10-15 minutes drive to closes downtown and restaurants 

10-15 minutes drive to ferry or Golden Gate transit 

2 bedroom apartments and 3 bedroom penthouses available 

Rent starts at $5000

Pet friendly; Contact the property directly for pet rent and deposit. 

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4. Tam Ridge – this brand new property just opened for leasing 2 years ago. Tam Ridge offers spacious apartments and town homes, amazing deli/market on the first floor that’s super convenient, roof top bbq area with views of mt. Tam, fitness classes, new gym equipment  and beautiful heated pool. Located on a busy intersection close the Highway 101, the traffic around the property is not the easiest to get around. 

Highlights: 

30- minute drive to San Francisco 

Walking distance to shopping and dining 

5 minute drive to Larkspur Ferry 

Rent starts at $3000 

1, 2 and 3 bedroom apartments and town homes available 

Pet friendly; Pet rent $100 per month; $1000 pet deposit. 

I hope this summary of Marin’s best apartment will help you with your search for the perfect rental in the North Bay. 

Where to go for dinner in Marin?

Need a new dinner spot in Marin? Here’s my top 5 new spots to check out for a casual and flavorful dinner date or a get-together with friends.

Roma Antica is the one of the newest additions to the Marin food scene. The owner, Alessandro moved here from Italy and opened the original Roma Antica in the Marina district in San Francisco. In June 2019, they opened their second location in Larkspur. This restaurant has everything you can ask for – a cozy environment, comfortable seating, two outdoor patios, and a modern interior. The service is always top notch – fast, and friendly with Italian flare. The food is authentic Roman flavors, European wines and sparkling water. Just like back in Rome!

Guest House – another new hit in Marin! Located in Kentfield, by College of Marin, Guest House is a mix between seasonal flavors and speakeasy like bar. This restaurant is perfect for dinner, happy hour or drinks at the bar. The service is excellent, food is always fresh and flavorful, atmosphere is trendy and modern and just what Marin needs. One of the owners is a well known bartender that helped to open many amazing restaurants in San Francisco and North Bay.

Burmatown – is a family owned restaurant and a hidden gem. Located on Magnolia between Corte Madera and Larkspur, it’s easy to miss. It’s a tiny building with a little outdoor bar area for a nice wine while you’re waiting for a spot! They don’t reservations for parties of 5 or less so be ready for a wait. However, it’s so worth it! The kitchen is run by the mom and her kids are the servers. They’re the most genuine and happy staff which shows in the quality of food and service.

 

Marin is in need of new and trendy restaurants and I’m sure I will be expanding my list of “must try” restaurants soon. Talk later!

What to look for in “dog friendly” apartment

Marin county in general is very pet friendly. You can bring your dog to a bank, have him/het sit with you on a patio in a nice restaurant, and walk it through a shopping mall. However, when it comes to apartment hunting in Marin things get a little tricky. You need to make sure to speak with the apartment community manager directly to  discuss your options.

  1. What is the pet rent and deposit? Most apartment complexes have a set rent that you have to pay for your pet. It ranges from $35 to $75 per month. Pet deposit is another thing they will charge you. Typically, it’s $250-500 one time fee refundable at the end of the lease minus the cleaning fees. Some apartment have different amounts they charge for cat vs dog.
  2. Do you have breed restrictions? Sadly, most apartments will not allow Huskies, Pit Bulls, Dobermans, German Shepherds and other “dangerous” breeds. You will need to speak with the office staff about the restrictions and how you might be able to get around them. Some places even have weight restrictions in which case even if you have the friendliest puppy but he’s chubbier than 25-50 pounds, he might not to allowed to live in the community.
  3. Does the community have a pet waste area or dog park? This is a very important part of apartment hunting in Marin. You need to make sure not only you’re allowed to have a dog but also that there’s a decent area for the pup to play, use bathroom, and even run off leash. Many apartments started to install fenced in dog runs to promote healthy and active living for dogs.

Overall, I love how pet friendly North Bay is. Anywhere you go, you will see cute pups hanging out on patios or lounging by storefronts. Most of them are better behaved than crazy spoiled kids, too.

5 Questions to ask when Apartment Hunting in Marin

Marin might be the best place to live but don’t forget how difficult finding housing can be. Don’t have 5 million dollars to spend on a house? No problem,  try apartment hunting in Marin and see what’s available.

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I know, everyone wants to own a beautiful house on a hill with views and pool… But what if you can get even better amenities in a Marin resort style apartment complex? Marin county apartment shopping isn’t all that scary. Many apartment complexes offer pools, gyms, fitness classes and even wine and bike storage. Start your apartment hunting in North Bay by checking out the multiple resort-style apartments. You can schedule your showing with the leasing office directly or use a relocation company like Foundation Homes to help you book a tour.

What to ask when apartment shopping?

  1. What is included in rent? Typically base rent is just that. Base rent. Make sure you understand what other charges you will be responsible for. Most likely, you need to pay for all utilities such as water, sewer, trash, even valet trash in some places. An average costs of utilities is $120-170 per month. Only 30 minutes north, in Sonoma, it can be as low as $80. Some of the smaller apartment communities might include utilities in rent but you need to check with the office.
  2. Are dogs/cats allowed to live on property? Marin county is super dog friendly however not all apartment communities are. Make sure to ask about the pet policies, pet rent, and pet breed restrictions and pet friendly area on property
  3. What amenities are available on site? If you want to truly enjoy Marin indoor/outdoor life style, ask about the pools and outdoor areas available in the complex.
  4. Is there any shopping, hiking, dining available near by? Even if you fall in love with the apartment, ask what there’s to do in walking/driving distance from the property. Marin county is famous for its hiking trails, outdoor lifestyle, good food scene and shopping.
  5. What lease terms are available and what happens after my lease is expired? Don’t just sign the paper on the spot, ask about your options. Many apartment communities offer flexible lease terms from 3 to 14 months based on your needs and preferences.

 

 

 

Dublin, Ireland. Pt.2

One of the highlights of out trip was a guided tour to Cliffs of Moher and Galway. Not only is the scenery gorgeous, the fact that you can relax on a very nice coach is outstanding. It’s an earlier tour so be prepared to wake up at 5-6AM and don’t stay up late at the pub the night before. 

We booked this tour a day in advance and I’m so glad they still had a couple of spots for us. We met our shuttle in front Trinity Colleges’ gates, they make sure you’re in the right group since they offer multiple pick ups for different tours. Our guide was amazing from the minute we met him. It’s a pretty long ride to the first stop but he kept everyone entertained and happy with his stories, history of Ireland and local treasures. Plus, wifi and comfy seats didn’t hurt – if you must take a nap, you can. I might have taken a few. 

First stop oddly enough is the Obama Square (or something close to that). They have a little statue of Obama and all. As an introduction, you might hear a lot of Trump jokes which I’m all about. Sorry not sorry midwest. 

Then, off to the Cliffs we went. Driving through Irish countryside is an experience of it’s own. I don’t know how the driver managed to get us though all the skinny, windy road in a bus. Very impressive! Very scary! A couple hours later, we arrived to the Cliffs of Moher. Not going to lie, I cried a little. The most beautiful ocean side with magnificent cliffs going nowhere… Something you must see at least once in lifetime. It’s breathtaking and I could easily spend a day just starring at the view. The paths, just like the county roads are skinny and windy. Walking to the edge of the viewpoint is a bit scary, but worth it. Sure enough, there will be a plenty of brave soul taking photos all the way at the end.  

Another thing about the Cliffs –  be prepared for the ever changing weather. It might rain on and off every 20 minutes with a bit of sunshine in between. It’s romantic and makes for good photos for Insta. 

Once that part of the tour is over, it’s another 2 hour drive to Galway. We didn’t get much of the tour there just the basic facts about the town. It’s very old, quaint and picturesque. The tour guide suggested visiting the King’s Head pub which we did. After which, we decided not to take the bus back but find a hotel to spend the night in instead. 

We booked a hotel just off the main square and were happy to get another night and morning to enjoy this beautiful town. Just like Dublin, the food scene is amazing… Architecture, history, people. Worth exploring for a day or two. 

I know many people rent a car to get around Irish coast, but it you prefer to relax and be transported from place to place this tour is definitely a must. Warn the driver that you’re staying in Galway and he won’t have to worry about loose Americans not making the bus back. 

To get back to Dublin or keep traveling, simply buy a train ticket. Super easy to buy online (make sure to put in current date and time. Looking at you, husband).

Note from Shawn: I loved all of the stories that our tour guide sewed during our bus ride. On this trip we really learned that the Irish love to sing and tell stories. We learned about a highway that was diverted (for millions of dollars) to avoid disturbing the faeries. In Ireland their are faery bushes and it is said that any person that cuts down one of these bushes will be cursed to die within the year. The government had approved the plans for a highway and in it’s path lay one of these bushes. Nobody in Ireland would cut down the bush, fearing imminent death. Because of this the Irish government had to contract engineers and re-design a curve into the highway, allowing it to pass to the side of the bush. Crazy stuff. We also passed the castle of a goblin kings on the way to Galway, it was a real, tiny 500+ year old stone castle. Overall it was a very fun tour with lively storytelling and a funny guide, would definitely recommend.

Trip Advisor tour  https://www.tripadvisor.com/AttractionProductReview-g186605-d11464672-Cliffs_of_Moher_Tour_Including_Wild_Atlantic_Way_and_Galway_City_from_Dublin-Dubli.html?m=19905

King’s Head Pub – a must visit in Galway – 

https://www.thekingshead.ie/pub

Breakfast and tea – http://www.ardbia.com

The best Spanish tapas with an Irish twist   

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g186609-d4946141-Reviews-Cava_Bodega-Galway_County_Galway_Western_Ireland.html

 

 

What to do in Dublin in January?

Last October, I found an amazing deal – San Francisco to Dublin for under $300 round trip. Thank you again, Scott’s Cheap Flights. I told my husband to call the airline and book it ASAP. Panicking and rushing to get through the steps, we booked our trip to Ireland for late January. Dublin is a destination I’ve wanted to go to since I was little; I was born on Saint Patrick’s Day after all. Shawn (my husband) is part Irish and has a special connection with Ireland as well. So what do you do in Dublin in winter?!

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Well, with the tickets booked I started planning our time in Dublin. Not even knowing where to start, I booked the main touristy things such as Guinness Store and Jameson (another post on this later), Trinity College, and a walking tour of Dublin leaving a few days to plan things on the spot. I’m so happy I saved a couple days to just rest. The jet lag was terrible. The worst I’ve ever experienced. One piece of advise – if you get seated in the back of the plane and have access to unlimited wine – DON’T DO IT.

Arriving in Dublin around 9am was painful. We dropped off our luggage at the Temple Bar Inn (Dublin’s best location for exploring), found the only pub  (The Auld Dubliner) that was open nearby and tried to drink the pain away. To be fair, Irish coffee did make it better. So the first day there was a waste. We walked around the Temple Bar area, enjoyed the cute architecture, had our first “Irish Breakfast” (weird at first but I loved it). Finally, after we checked in and took a decent nap it was time to go find food.

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Full Irish Breakfast

We randomly walked into Bad Ass pub for a stew and were amazed by the live music. Apparently, they have open mic Thursdays. Seriously, I’ve never heard better voices especially in a  pub. Definitely going back! The food was great too if you go on any other day and the people were super friendly.

Next morning we booked a guided walking tour of Dublin. You can find many different ones on TripAdvisor based on your interests. We did the architectural tour, it was a great intro to Dublin and Irish history. Some of the main stops are the Trinity College, Dublin Castle and Temple Bar neighborhood. Our guide was very knowledgeable and proud to be Irish. The tour took about 3-4 hours which was a perfect start to the day.

If you find yourself hungry, I recommend checking out the Parliament Street area by the City Hall. Small eateries and upscale restaurants – good options for every taste and budget. We had lunch at The Oak and loved it. It’s an elegant and charming gastropub which offers Irish classics such as stews and fish and chips as well as very unique sandwiches and small bites. Booths with large windows make it a great people watching spot. 

https://www.instagram.com/theoakdublin/

 

Next step – check out the Trinity College Library. What an experience – millions of books and statues; the atmosphere…. very Harry Potter like. I loved it! This is a rather quick excursion and can be done on any day. Short walk from Temple Bar with other beautiful sites on the way.

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More tips on what to do in Dublin coming soon.

Travel Bucket List. Revisited.

It’s been over a year since my last post about traveling. It’s time to revisit and see if any of my plans came to life.

Here’s the list I posted in 2018:

  1. Greece. Already booked for 2019. Did it! Honeymoon was amazing! 
  2. Ireland. MUST go like now. Did that too! January in Dublin did not disappoint. 
  3. Iceland
  4. France. Booked for March 2020 – taking my mom too, for her birthday. 🙂 
  5. Japan
  6. Portugal
  7. Croatia
  8. Germany
  9. Argentina
  10. Brazil
  11. Peru
  12. New Zealand

Well guess what?! 2 countries down and 1 more booked for 2020. I think that’s a pretty good pace. If you’ve heard of Scott’s Cheap Flights, you know how addicting and exciting it is to find a new deal. For my next international trip, I was able to book a round trip to Paris for only $275! Crazy! I’m so excited to cross another destination off my list.

Funny story. Before I actually booked the flight to France, I saw so many great deals that I had to write the destinations down and draw from a bowl. Paris won!

Fisher’s Wine and Cheese Bar

 

It might not be a brand new spot but it is my favorite wine bar in Marin. Located in the Marin Country Mart in Larkspur, Fisher’s Wine and Cheese won me over with the warm decor, changing wine selection, and amazing food.

Wine: selection changes every 2 weeks and the wines are picked by their wine buyer, Carter. I was able to find a rare Greek wine, local wines from Sonoma/Napa that are not sold in stores as well as other limited releases.

Food: traditional California eats. With a twist. I recommend meatballs, Mac and cheese, and cheese platters. Everything is made in house and available for lunch and dinner. They offer a sandwich of the month which is always popular and is usually sold out by lunch time.

Atmosphere: small wine shop with cozy decor. Small selection of gifts, cheese and meat for sale, wine for sale, to go lunch boxed, etc. I love sitting outside on their patio with live music and bay views. They always have fresh flowers for the table too.

Fisher’s Wine and Cheese is a stylish spot for wine, California eats and gifts.