A moderate imbiber, he detested heavy drinking and would even ask guests to leave if they got too drunk. The actor David Niven famously said, “The wine would flow like glue during the meal.”
Still, that didn’t stop Hearst from being a lover of fine wine and spirits. Take a closer look at the nearly 3,000 bottles of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Chablis and Champagne in the modestly decorated two-room cellar. They’re some of the finest wines in the world, and they’re not just for show. While the bottles belong to California State Parks, the wine inside actually belongs to the Hearst family, who occasionally pick up a bottle to enjoy offsite. The empty bottles are then returned and put back on display.
At one time Hearst Castle had its own zoo and housed exotic animals like lions, grizzly bears and chimpanzees. While those animals were sold off, descendants of the original zebras still roam the property. Keep your eyes peeled on the bus drive to and from the estate.
The wine cellar is part of the Cottages and Kitchen Tour ($25 adults, $12 children) at Hearst Castle in San Simeon. The 45-minute tour allows guests to see some of Hearst’s favorite and most personal rooms, like those inside the Casa del Monte Cottage, the first building completed on the hilltop and home to the ornate “Cardinal Richelieu” bed and the large, practical kitchen where chefs would prepare elaborate meals for Hearst and his guests using then-state-of-the-art equipment, like stock pots and early refrigerators.
A visit is also a chance to get swept back into the golden era of Hollywood. Hearst entertained the Hollywood and political elite at the dreamy Mediterranean revival-style mansion during the ‘30s and ‘40s, where he lived with his mistress, actress Marion Davies.
San Diego-based Casey Chiotti regularly crosses the globe to experience destination restaurants and sniffs out bakeries like a bloodhound. A freelance food and travel writer, she has had work appear in Sunset, Travel and Leisure, San Diego Magazine and Bon Appetit. She also wrote MapQuest's gameday guide to San Diego's Petco Park.
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