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A Wine Lover’s Guide to San Sebastián

Fran Endicott Miller

“In addition to frequent outings to Napa, Sonoma, San Francisco, Carmel, and Santa Barbara, my husband and I annually visit his sister on Salt Spring Island B.C., one of the Gulf Islands between Vancouver and Vancouver Island. It’s our ‘happy place.’”

Fran Endicott Miller is based in San Francisco but is frequently on the road, traveling up and down the Golden State in search of hotels, restaurants, and experiences that exude a sense-of-place.With a focus on travel, dining, and wine, she prides herself on unveiling and lyrically capturing the heart of each of her stories. She writes for a variety of publications such as 65/57 Magazine, Napa Valley Life Magazine,, Walnut Creek Magazine, and Diablo Magazine. 

Essentialist: What was the first trip you took where you thought…I’m hooked and want to do this more?

Fran Endicott Miller: It was my first trip to Europe. The urban energy and diversity inspired me, leading to my move to San Francisco; I wanted that same sense of vitality in my daily life and if I couldn’t live in Europe, I could at least move to a city that replicated the European aura. I returned to Europe—specifically Italy—soon after on my honeymoon. Exploring the culture, food, and terrain with my ‘best friend’ was awesome. Lake Como, Rome, Florence, and Sinalunga—talk about romantic. To this day, Lake Como is still the most beautiful place I’ve ever been.


E: When did you fall in love with California? Were you raised there or move later in life?

FM: I’m essentially a true California girl, having moved here when I was just a baby. I first lived in Southern California where I became a beach and Disneyland regular. Northern California has been home now for decades, and I love that within hours I can be in the mountains, at the seashore, or within a vineyard. That’s really true of any location in California. The regional contrasts are truly staggering.


E: Besides California, what is a place (city, country) that you could go back to a million times?

FM: Italy! For the aforementioned reasons.


E: What about the San Francisco food scene gets you most excited?

FM: The amazing variety of restaurants, both high-end and low, and the quality of the ingredients used in each and every dish. California is known for its glorious produce, cheeses, fish, wines, and other artisan products, and San Francisco chefs typically take full advantage of the bounty.


E: What are a couple of up and coming wineries you have been following?

FM: La Pelle is a newer label founded in 2016 by Maayan Koschitzky who came to Napa from Israel in 2011 and started his Napa wine education at iconic Screaming Eagle. He just released his first La Pelle vintage. Incredibly humble, he eschews praise for the deliciousness of his wines, instead crediting the vineyard and terroir. Oakville Ranch makes beautiful wines—most of their estate grapes are sold to other boutique wineries, but winemaker Jennifer Rue is putting the Oakville Ranch label on the map. And their vineyard tours are spectacular.


E: What are two essential items you carry with you on all trips? (besides your passport and wallet!)

FM: My lightweight down Uniqlo jacket that can be stuffed anywhere, and a baseball cap. I’m always wearing a baseball cap – usually my Golden State Warriors one.


E: What’s on your radar for 2019 in terms of new travel experiences, places you want to go?

FM: I’ll be exploring Punta Mita on Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit, and hope to enjoy an AmaWaterways European river wine cruise along the Garonne and Dordogne rivers in southwestern France. When I drive to Santa Barbara, I typically head straight through. This year, I plan to stop along the way to fully explore central California towns such as Paso Robles and Solvang. And my husband and I celebrate a significant anniversary this year, so a return to Italy would be lovely.

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