Wine cruise on Safari Rose reminds local how awesome Tahoe really is |

Wine cruise on Safari Rose reminds local how awesome Tahoe really is

Claire Cudahy |


July 5 – Paraiso Family Wines- Santa Lucia Highlands

July 12 – Carlson Winery- Central Coast

Aug. 9 – Rusack Family Winery- Santa Barbara Country

Aug. 23 – Balletto Family Winery- Russian River Valley

Aug. 30 – Cass Winery, Paso Robles

Sept. 6 – Manzoni Winery, Santa Lucia Highlands

“Move in closer here, folks. Don’t be shy. These are the people that will either become your best friends or the people you never want to see again,” said the captain as I, along with 60 others, shuffled closer to the 80-foot yacht called Safari Rose.

Once aboard, I’m greeted in the cozy den — decked out in leather and animal prints — with a glass of Sparkling Rosé from the Van Ruiten Family Winery. It’s crisp and not too sweet, just the way I like it. Outside it looks like it might rain.

“It’s our first time doing this cruise,” says Bill Rogan, owner of the Lodi-based winery. He refills my glass with more Rosé as we chat about how he got into the wine business. Any notions of this being a one-taste-and-done cruise are (happily) dashed. I make a mental note to buy a bottle before I leave.

“Just because we’re from Lodi, Zinfandel has always been a big one for us, but we also do a really good Pinot Grigio,” said Rogan, as he pours another glass for a group of us standing nearby. It has aromas of apple, nectarine and … oh, who am I kidding. That’s not my style.

“Is Emerald Bay pretty?” asks a younger man standing nearby, who I would later find out lives in the same small town in Missouri where I spent summers visiting my grandma.

“Just wait,” I say.

Out on the top deck a group of middle-aged blondes are taking selfie after seflie with an iPad and a bottle of wine. Other couples are huddled under blankets, sipping wine and gazing out as the marina gets farther in the distance.

Van Ruiten Family Winery is one of eight California vineyards that will come aboard the Safari Rose this summer for a sunset wine cruise to Emerald Bay from its new home in Ski Run Marina.

The boat is owned and operated by long-time South Shore residents Steve and Karen Dunham. Originally built for 3M Corporation executives in 1959 and moored in Miami, the Safari Rose has cruised through the Great Lakes, the Caribbean, through the Panama Canal to Puget Sound, and up the Columbia River to where it was pulled out in Lewiston, Idaho for its final trek to Lake Tahoe.

“It’s a lot more intimate than some of the other cruises out in Tahoe. Here even when we’re full with sixty people I can talk to everybody, and you realize that there are people from all over the world who come here and want to appreciate the lake and appreciate nature,” said Shelly McCarty, a therapist and stand-up comedian who now spends her summers aboard the Safari Rose.

Down in the dining room the table is covered in a delectable spread of apps: prosciutto covered melon, short ribs, and salmon tartines with lemon and capers, to name a few. When one platter empties, another full one appears.

Back up on the deck I sip the Cab Shiraz — a delicious blend, I might add — as we near Emerald Bay. In the distance Eagle Falls is raging, and any signs of rain have disappeared. The sky is beginning to turn shades of golden orange, yellow and pink. The water follows suit.

“This is incredible,” said a man from Texas as we circle Fannette Island and cruise by Vikingsholm.

Beside me a New Hampshire couple celebrating 30 years of marriage looks too perfect outlined by the sunset to not capture the moment. I snap a photo on my Canon and promise to email it to them soon.

Surrounded by awestruck visitors — some seeing Tahoe for the first time — with the best sunset I’d seen all summer, I felt so lucky to call Tahoe home. Sometimes it pays to play tourist in your own town (and the wine doesn’t hurt either).

The Safari Rose Sunset Wine Cruise takes off every Wednesday this summer from the Ski Run Marina. The trip runs from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. and costs $85 per person. For more information, visit

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