Monthly Archives: July 2013

First Annual Family Outing at the Ballpark

we met our kids and grandchildren at the Oakland A’s baseball park.   Surprisingly we all got there
within 3 minutes of each other. 
Brandon, Kim, Elliana (3) and Eden (2 ½ months) were driving down from
Santa Rosa and so were Jacob, Brittany and Zinnia (5 months). 

        Eden, Elliana and Zinnia tailgating at the A’s Game

The three cars parked so we had a
parking spot in between the cars to lay down blankets and put out folding
chairs.  We got there 2 hours
before the game so we could have a serious tailgating party.  The boys and Elli played some catch
with a football while the girls talked and nursed the babes.  The first thing I pulled out of our
playmate was the sangria Larry had made the day before.  (See recipe below).  Brandon had brought a bottle of Armida 
Pinot Grigio, and of course there was beer. 


Jacob got
his little gas bbq going and then on went the English Bangers and foil packets
of red and green peppers and red onions. 
After a bit we had a feast of homemade salsa and chips, a corn and tomato
salad with homegrown grown basil and the bangers with the grilled veggies and


After we
had plenty to eat and drink it was time to pack it up and head on over to the
ballpark.  This was Eden and Zinnia’s first baseball game.  Elliana has been to a baseball game every summer since she has been born, and this was her second A’s game this year.  The sun had broken
through the fog so the temperature was perfect, in the high 60’s and
sunny.  We got there during the
first inning, which wasn’t very good. 
The A’s pitcher gave up 4 runs in the first inning!  But afterwards he calmed down and we
got some runs and the A’s ended up winning 10-6! 

                     Zinnia with her Daddy at her first ballgame

I bought some Cracker Jacks for Elliana to enjoy.  She also enjoyed a soft pretzel and
some dipping dots ice cream.  You
just have to keep on feeding the kids food so they stay somewhat occupied.  The kids and grandkids made it through
the 7th inning stretch. 
Then they left and went home. 
We however saw some friends who were in the same section as us, just a
few rows down from us so we sat with them through the end of the game.


I can’t
wait to do this again next year! 
Maybe Giants ticket prices wont be as expensive as they were this year
and we can go to a Giants game.  We
will see?!


Larry’s Sangria Recipe


5 plums, coarse diced

3 oz blackberries (about
half of the usual plastic basket) cut in half

Same amount of
grapes,  cut in half

1 bottle of Zinfandel (we
used 2011 Saucelito Canyon Vineyards Zinfandel “Backroads”, from Edna

½ cup triple sec

½ cup apple cider

1 shot of peach brandy


Place everything into a
pitcher, stir and refrigerate until ready to serve.


To serve:  Spoon out fruit into each cup, then
pour the wine ½ way up the glass. 
Pour sparkling water to ¾ way up the glass and add 1-2 ice cubes.  Drink.  Serves 6-8 oz glasses. 





Edna Valley Wine Tasting

We recently celebrated my
mother’s 80
th birthday by gathering the family in Pismo Beach.  Lori has already written about the
celebration, and about wine tasting in Paso Robles, on her
.  On the way to Pismo we
stopped for wine tasting in Edna Valley. 


Edna Valley is about 45
minutes south of Paso Robles, still in
San Luis Obispo County.  We had never been to any of these
wineries before, so Mom’s birthday was a great opportunity to explore a new



We stopped first at Tolosa
.  Great views there, and
a beautiful tasting room.  We had
arranged a special tasting for Mom and Dad, and Lori and I, and also our
younger son Jacob and his family, including their first child, 5 months old in
the picture below.  The special
tasting was a wine and cheese pairing as follows:


2011 Chardonnay (No Oak) <-> Bucheron


The No Oak Chardonnay is
crisp, fruity, light.  The Bucheron
is a goat’s milk cheese from the Loire Valley in France, fairly mild, a little
bit soft.  The No Oak Chardonnay
was our favorite wine of the day. 


2010 Chardonnay <-> “Lamb Chopper”


A more conventional
California Chardonnay, paired with a sheep’s milk cheese from Holland. 


2010 Pinot Noir <-> Taleggio


This is a cow’s milk cheese
from an area northeast of Milan, Italy. 
This was the favorite cheese among those of us who like soft


2010 Cabernet Sauvignon <-> “Barely Buzzed” 


This is a cow’s milk cheese
from Utah, semi-firm, with the rind rubbed with espresso and lavender.  Unique and delicious. 



This was a relaxed and fun tasting. 


Next we went to Saucelito
Canyon Vineyard
.  This was a
completely different wine tasting experience for a few reasons.  Where Tolosa has a large and immaculate
facility, Saucelito Canyon is small and quaint.  Tolosa was Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Saucelito Canyon was
Zinfandel.  Where Tolosa was a
relaxed and special tasting, at Saucelito Canyon we were joined by my brother
and sister and their families, and the noise level went up considerably.  Fortunately they have a really nice
outside tasting area that we took over, so as not to disturb their other guests
inside the tasting room. 


Here’s what we tasted: 


2011 Sauvignon Blanc:  Good, but we came here for the Zinfindels.  Let’s move on. 


2011 Zinfandel
“Backroads”:  A lighter bodied Zin,
with nice fruit.  Bought a couple
bottles of this, and opened one last night when we cooked a turkey breast.  Worked quite well. 


2011 Dos Mas:  Zinfandel plus two more:  Grenache and Petite Sirah.  Those two more gave it a bit more
oomph, and a nice finish.  This was
the favorite of a few people in our group.  And it comes in a bottle with a slightly unconventional
shape, which makes it different and unusual. 


2011 Muchacho:  Zinfandel and Tempranillo.  OK, we’ve tasted blends like Dos Mas
before; they’re fairly common.  I
can’t remember tasting another Zinfandel-Tempranillo blend.  And why not, why haven’t other
winemakers put these two grapes together before?  This was great; my favorite and the favorite of a few others
in our group. 


2011 Zinfandel Estate:  For those purists who like just the
Zinfandel and only the Zinfandel, especially when it comes from 100+ year old
vines.  This wine is a tribute to
the winemaker being able to get out of the way and just let great grapes make
great wine.  The other favorite of
some of the group. 







Wine Tasting in Paso Robles

Last weekend was a special weekend.  We celebrated my mother-in-law’s 80th birthday.  My husband Larry, and his father Al, spent a number of months consulting and doing research as to where this event would take place.  Half of the family lives in Southern California and the other half lives in Northern California.  So, the final plan was to meet in Pismo Beach, which is just about half way in between.


Some of us started this weekend by meeting in Edna Valley on Friday afternoon where we went wine tasting.  Larry is going to write a blog about that so all I’ll say is that we went to two entirely different wineries with totally different tasting experiences.  Both nice.  After wine tasting we went and checked into the Seacrest Hotel.  Then we all met at the Chinese Restaurant Mei’s.  They had 2 large tables all set up for us, as there were 21 of us including our 3 grandchildren.  The four generations sat down and started the gift of gab.

Throughout the weekend the family did different things during the daytime within our individual families like 4-wheeling in the dunes, or walking around the Cal Poly campus or taking a stroll along the Pismo pier and having clam chowder.  Larry and I just went down to the beach with our children and enjoyed watching our 3-year-old granddaughter run in and out of the ocean and play in the sand.  The two little ones, 5 months and 2 1/2 months, stayed close to their parents. 


We met up again for dinner on Saturday night, this time up in Avila Beach at a restaurant called the Custom House.  It was very nice.  We sat outside and had steak or fish for dinner.  Some of us brought a bottle of wine that we had brought from home and some had purchased mixed drinks.  It was a lovely night, we sang happy birthday to the birthday girl and gave her presents and cards.


The next day was spent mostly by the pool.  Elliana, our 3-year-old granddaughter was in the pool 2 separate times.  She had a blast.  The more time she spends in the pool the braver she gets.  Our sons Brandon and Jacob went to play tennis with their younger cousins Alex and Daniel.  They have been trying to do this for years.  Larry’s sister’s family left before dinner.  The rest of us went to Steamers.  We had a nice dinner and especially enjoyed watching the dolphins swimming in the ocean.  We were looking for whales as Brandon had seen some from his hotel room earlier that afternoon.  But no luck for us.  After dinner Larry’s brother and family left to go back home.  So that just left our family with Larry’s parents.  We were down to just 11 of us.


The next morning after hugs and kisses we separated from the in-laws and started to head north.  We treated our kids to a nice breakfast in San Luis Obispo called Big Sky.  We had some good grub.  From there we went to Paso Robles and all went to Peachy Canyon Winery. 

            Peachy Canyon tasting room at the Old School House

This is where Brandon and Kim used to work and got married seven years ago. Their grounds are perfect for picnicking and running around and have gorgeous views of their vineyards.  After walking around the beautiful grounds we went into the tasting room and did some tasting.  We had a great experience.  The tasting room is full of nice items to purchase.  They have a refrigerator with a few picnic items in it.   We started off tasting their Chardonnay and Rosé.  Then we tasted a number of their Zinfandels and a couple red blends.  They are known for their Zins.  We all bought a couple bottles of wine before leaving there.


From there Brandon and family and Jacob and family left to drive back home since they still had a 5-hour drive.  Larry and I continued to go wine tasting while we were in Paso Robles.  The next winery we went to was Calcareous. 

                          Beautiful views from Calcareous Winery

It is way up Peachy Canyon Road.  They have a beautiful tasting room and a very large outdoor area with beautiful views of the valley and quite a number of tables and chairs to have an amazing picnic.  For a $10.00 tasting fee we tasted 5 of their wines from a 2012 Lily Blanc to a 2012 Vin Gris of Malbec to a 2009 Grenache-Mourvedre to a 2010 Tres Violet which is their signature wine and finally a 2010 Lloyd Bordeaux blend.  Our favorite was the Tres Violet, which is a blend of Syrah, Mourvedre and Grenache.  Anna was the one pouring for us.  She was very nice and informative.  They produce about 10,000 cases with two labels.  The tasting room opened in 2007 and their first harvest was in 2006.  Going back to the outdoor area, they have a pizza oven; bocce ball courts and they sell picnic supplies in the tasting room.  Their supplies are limited to salamis and cheeses.  I would bring my own picnic lunch next time I went there.  They have a nice selection of books, garments and other goodies for sale in their tasting room.  It’s a great place for kids to run around.


The next winery we went to was just up the road about a mile.  It is called Minassian Young Vineyards(MYV). 

                The tasting room at MYV and their wine making facility

This tasting room and property were so different from Calcareous.  The winery and tasting room are on the same property.  They produce about 5,000 cases and have about 5 acres of grapes right there at the tasting room.  They use about 5% of their estate grapes in their wine.  Allison was the one pouring for us and her 8-month-old son Wyatt was wrapped up and on her back the whole time.  They have a pizza oven outside, but not much room for sitting and picnicking.  They didn’t charge for tasting.


We shared a tasting of 2010 White, which is a Roussanne and Grenache Blanc blend, a 2011 Field Blend which is Mourvedre and Grenache Blanc, a 2009 Mourvedre, a 2010 Estate Syrah, a 2010 Estate Zinfandel and a 2008 Cabernet.  We bought a bottle of their Estate Syrah.  We enjoyed the wine tasting experience.  They didn’t have any music playing but their views of their vineyards and others across the canyon were just beautiful.  No dogs are allowed as they have a couple that like to greet you when you arrive.  Their tasting room opened in 2005 and all their fruit is dry farmed.


We then drove back down Peachy Canyon Road through downtown and went out to Hwy 46 heading east and we found Derby Wine Estates. 

                      View of Derby tasting room and water feature

They have a few tables out in front for picnicking, but they are right on the highway so it is a little bit noisy.  They have a cute tasting room and Victoria and Seth took care of our tasting needs.  They produce 2,000 cases of wine, which is even smaller than MYV.  They have a nice selection of items for sale in their tasting room.  We started off our tasting with a 2010 Pinto Gris, which we really enjoyed.  Then went to their 2010 Fifteen Ten White Rhone, which is a blend of four different grapes.  Then we had the 2009 Fifteen Ten Red Rhone, which is a blend of four grapes.  We then tried their 2010 Pinot Noir and their 2007 Pinot Noir.  After that we sampled the 2007 Implico, which is a Cabernet blend, then the 2009 Syrah and finally their 2009 Petite Sirah.  We left there buying a bottle of their Pinot Gris, the White Rhone and the Red Rhone.  We had another great tasting experience.  They have a $10.00 tasting fee.

It had been many years since we had been to Paso Robles.  It is always enjoyable going there.  We went out to lunch in the square at Basil Thai and remember that restaurant as always being consistently good.  I would highly recommend going to Paso Robles for their wine tasting.  We will go back someday in the not so distant future.

Sake Tasting in Japan

I was in Japan last week on business.  ( is fun, but there is a real job.)  Business went well, and at the end of the week, we met up with a friend to go to a new sake tasting bar in Tokyo.  I’ve had sake on previous trips to Japan, but never really thought about it, or done any side by side tastings.  Well, this was fun.  This tasting bar lines up 3 glasses for you, and you (in my case, my Japanese friend) picks out 3 different bottles of sake to try from the 500 or so they had.  With 5 of us tasting, we lined up a few bottles on the bar:

Sake is fermented rice, not exactly rice wine.  But there are similar characteristics:  there are specific strains of rice that are better for sake, and specific areas in Japan that give different taste to the different rices.  There are different degrees of care that go into the fermenation process.  Probably even more similarities if/when I dig into it.  One other similarity is the time, energy and love that goes into the labels:

Also, just as with wine, different people have different tastes.  I didn’t like the most expensive one the best, but it was quite smooth.  I thought it lacked a bit of flavor.  A less expensive sake had better balance between flavors, to my untrained, outsider palate.  But as with wine, if you like it, then it’s good.  

I’m back in the Bay Area now, and enjoying the nice Summer weather.  Business was great in Japan, but I can’t really recommend traveling there during Summer, as you get both heat and humidity.  

Back to wine with the next post; heading down to Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo soon.  



Summer Means Plums

A couple of months ago, talking about Spring, I showed a picture of a bit of our plum tree in blossom.  (I think it’s a “Santa Rosa” plum tree.)  This tree has managed, over the 21 years since we first planted it, to produce some decent crops.  However, over the last 5 years, the crops have been outstanding.  Maybe the roots finally hit groundwater?  Maybe it just takes that long for one of these to mature?  I have no idea why, but we are now getting over 100 lbs of plums each year from this tree. 

In the past, we’ve Plum BBQ Sauce, which actually is pretty darn good, if I do say so myself.  This year, while we may make some of that BBQ sauce again, we’re working on other recipes.  Lori made a Chipotle Plum Sauce – sweet, smoky, tangy, delicious – which is a new one for us.  And the other night we had shrimp with a Plum Salsa, accompanied by Plum Tropical Smoothies.  The smoothies were just made up on the spot, as some hard alcohol seemed appropriate for that evening.  Here’s approximately what went into those drinks:

1 cup diced plums

1 cup diced frozen mango

½ cup diced pineapple

6 oz rum

3 oz peach brandy


Put it all in a blender, and away you go.  Unfortunately, as can be seen from the photo, we had no umbrellas or anything fancy, so just regular straws for the drinks. 

The Plum Salsa effectively just replaces tomatoes in a salsa with plums.  The color is about the same, but the plums are a bit firmer.  Here are the ingredients:

8 plums, diced small

1 red bell pepper, diced small

4 green onions, fine dice

½ red onion, diced small

1/3 bunch cilantro, fine dice

1 jalapeño pepper, fine dice

Juice of 2 limes

Salt and pepper to taste

After putting everything together, take about half the mixture and run it briefly through the food processor or blender, then recombine with the other half of the salsa.  I highly recommend letting it sit overnight to let the flavors come together.  It was good the first night, but we tasted too many of the individual flavors.  The next day it was much better.  Makes about 3 cups salsa. 

Enjoy the drinks and salsa, and if you need some plums, just let us know.  We have just a few!