A relaxing drive up from the coast takes you to Rancho Chiquita, a 40-acre estate high in the Santa Monica Mountains with a heart-stopping view. From almost everywhere on the property you can look down the canyon past waves of chaparral-cloaked hills all the way to the Pacific Ocean. Or look up at a seemingly limitless blue sky. The quiet and privacy here are absolute. From the impressive entrance at the Casa Grande, you can see the other estate buildings and grounds just below, as well as the ocean off in the distance. A wide lawn sweeps out from a small hacienda, like a bright green terrace poised above the canyon. It takes no effort at all to picture it dotted with tables and umbrellas, your guests enjoying themselves as the afternoon sun slowly wanes, finally slipping away in a blaze of color.
The Casa itself is an Estancia-style structure, with earth-toned stucco walls, a genuine Mexican tile roof, and a beautiful courtyard, partially shaded by a giant California oak. Paved with hand-hewn canterra stone, this lovely plaza is graced by tiled planters and clusters of bird-of-paradise and bougainvillea. A tiled Spanish fountain gently burbles in the center, while wrought-iron gates and antique wooden doors further contribute to a rustic, Old World ambiance. The Courtyard looks out over the hilltops to the wide ocean beyond, and at night the stars appear even brighter and more numerous from this lofty vantage. This is a sublime area for serving refreshments just before the ceremony.
The estate has many little grace notes, which you can experience by taking a leisurely stroll around the grounds. Bright pink oleander, roses and pots brimming with geraniums flank the house. Right next to the lawn a sundrenched mini-patio exists for the sole purpose of savoring the panorama that stretches all the way to Catalina. On nights when the moon hangs low and full over the hills, your ocean reception is suffused with a soft glow. A winding path of flagstone steps descends a sloping hillside to the ceremony site—a circle of manicured lawn with a border of dahlias, daylilies, and other multicolored blooms. At one end of the lawn is a simple white gazebo, and with nothing around you but rolling hills and a sweep of coastline, this is a spiritual spot for exchanging vows. The setting at Rancho Chiquita is an exceptional one, and thanks to owner Geraldine Gilliland the food is equally enticing. She’s an award-winning restaurateur, caterer, party planner, cookbook author and teacher. Her cooking school has been featured in Fine Cooking Magazine, the Los Angeles Times and Bon Appetit, the latter having named her one of the top six chefs in the United States. Many of the dishes Gilliland prepares take advantage of fresh handpicked fruit from orchards on the property. Another noteworthy thing about Gerri is that she’s a lover of animals, and donates proceeds from the site fee to many organizations that help abused animals. Rancho Chiquita is a place set apart. Sites like this are few and far between, so we don’t think you’ll mind making the scenic journey up the canyon to get here. The short trip is more than worth it.
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