Julian: a charming getaway
Julian, California, is a former gold mining town up in the mountains, only about two hours or less from almost anywhere in San Diego, Riverside or Orange counties. Founded more than 100 years ago, Julian is rich in history and still full of rustic ambience as it transports visitors to another era. Known for its abundant apple orchards and resulting delicious apple pies, Julian has even more to offer visitors who want to get away from the big city hustle and bustle—charming boutiques, enticing wineries, cozy bread-and-breakfasts, rollicking theatre, gourmet restaurants and picturesque hiking trails. We recently traveled the scenic, winding road to Julian and discovered what you can do in a few pleasant hours in Julian:
Jeremy’s on the Hill:
Our first stop for a late lunch was a special treat that was a pleasant surprise in such a seemingly remote location. Jeremy’s on the Hill is family-owned by Cordon Bleu-trained chef, Jeremy Manley, and his mother, Teresa. Jeremy, who has been cooking since he was a young boy, is talented way beyond what might be expected from a 27-year-old chef. Besides creating and producing innovative and delicious cuisine, he is energetic and passionate about serving wonderful food from local, seasonal, and usually organic sources.
The Julian Lodge:
We spent the night at the cozy Julian Lodge, built in 1885 and conveniently located right off Julian’s Main Street. Our room had a comfy bed and was lovingly furnished with tasteful antiques. A very nice continental breakfast with great coffee, juices, breads and rolls is included each morning and served in the lodge’s welcoming dining area. Rooms are reasonably priced (starting at about $85) and ideal for a relaxing getaway that is close to the shops and many attractions in Julian.
We started our day at Peacefield Orchard, a serene, pastoral orchard with a long history and some very old trees, such as one affectionately referred to as Granny Gravenstien, which, at more than 115 years old, still produces apples. There are seven varieties of apple trees in this orchard and also pear trees and unique prune-plum trees. During the fall season, the orchard opens to pickers, providing a fun, family experience.
Next we were treated to a scrumptious breakfast at the Frajta Grill, located in the historic De Luca House (built in 1893) and featuring an appetizing array of authentic Mexican dishes all made from scratch with fresh ingredients. After our stroll through the apple orchard, we enjoyed a relaxing morning on the Grill’s outdoor patio where we savoured wonderful coffee and juices and great meals. Our only challenge here was deciding what to order since the Mexican specialties offered included such delicious options as chilaquiles con heuvos, steak ranchero, red or green enchiladas, Mexican breakfast burritos, chili rellanos, and various appealing omelet options.
Transit Van Shuttle:
During breakfast, we met gracious Maurice Wright, who owns the local franchise of Transit Van Shuttle, which would take us in luxurious style to the final stop on our whirlwind tour of Julian. We learned that Transit Van offers many services, including tours of the area and wine tours, along with airport pick-up and delivery. We really enjoyed our comfortable ride to J. Jenkins Winery through some of the lovely winding hills around Julian.
J. Jenkins Winery
Located two miles north of Julian, J. Jenkins Winery sits in a lovely valley at the foot of Volcan Mountain in the midst of a bucolic apple orchard and ten acres of Pinot Grigio and Pinot Noir grapes. We tried a tasting of six wines. (A $6 tasting includes a logo glass.) We were particularly surprised and impressed with the Dolcezza wine, made only from apples. Expecting a very sweet taste, we were surprised with the delicious crisp, fruity taste of this wine, which was wonderfully refreshing on a hot summer day. We liked it so much that we brought home two bottles. We also enjoyed a subtly sweet and citrusy 2012 Sauvignon Blanc and a rich estate 2011 Pinot Noir made in the Burgundy style with nice minerality and berry overtones. We also especially liked the Pommier Apple Port with its sweet fruit forward taste that makes it an ideal dessert wine. (We imagined how luscious it would be over vanilla ice cream.)
We had to bid farewell to Julian too soon but were amazed at how much we did during our 24 hours there and left knowing we would come back because there is so much more to do. We only scratched the surface. You definitely need to save time to wander up and down the main street, peeking at art galleries, shopping in unique shops and sampling apple pies. The fall months are the most beautiful time in Julian with warm sunny days and cool invigorating nights. The popular fun-filled Julian Apple Days Festival is always held the first weekend in October every year, but there is always something going on in Julian.