Category Archives: traveling

Italian Wines and Japan

In my day job I sell software development and test tools for a small company called Imperas Software.  Last week I was in Japan, Yokohama specifically, for a trade show.  Great view of Mt. Fuji from my hotel room.  The picture below, where Mt. Fuji is that white (snow-covered) spec in the middle, does not do it justice.  Cell phone cameras do have their limitations.  

One of the things we did as part of the trade show was to serve wine to our customers, and prospective customers, at the end of one of the days of the trade show.  My task was to go out and find a few bottles of wine.  So I checked out a couple of the local wine shops around the convention center, and ended up at this smaller shop, a little off the beaten path.  I was surprised to find that this shop had an excellent selection of German wines.  Better than most wine shops in the Bay Area, although maybe that isn’t setting the bar too high.  However, German whites weren’t going to do me much good, since I had no way of keeping the wines cool for the day, until we served.  

So I went for the Italian reds.  (Not a real good selection of California reds, and the Italians seemed a better value than anything else in the store.)  When I brought the wines up to the register to pay, I complemented the proprietor on her German wine selection, not knowing if she would understand English that well.  Fortunately, she did.  Her story was spending 4 years in Boston at the Berklee College of Music, studying piano.  Having lived in the Boston area myself for a few years, I know of Berklee, and its reputation for producing outstanding musicians.  So I said to her that she must be a very good piano player, to which she replied that it’s hard to make money at music, and wine was and is her other love.  Thus the shop.  

At the show, we opened a 2009 Brigaldara Valpolicella, and a 2007 Abrigo Giovanni Nebbiolo d’Alba.  A Dolcetto went unopened, taken home by my local sales rep.  Both wines were very good.  The Nebbiolo a bit bigger up front, with tanins on the finish, probably would have been better with food, but still quite good standalone.  The Valpolicella was smooth, really well balanced, and quite enjoyable.  

As for the show, it was a success.  Customers enjoyed the wine, and who knows?  They might even buy some of our products.  



A Day in Carmel

Lori and I went to Carmel on Labor Day.  Carmel is always a nice day, wandering around the shops, having lunch.  And the drive itself, following Monterey Bay around from the northern tip at Santa Cruz to the southern tip at Monterey and Carmel, can be beautiful.  It’s actually a reminder of what California was and still is, as you go from coastal mountains with coastal redwoods to the agriculture of the mid-bay area (Castroville artichokes!) then to the pines of the Monterey Peninsula.  All with beautiful sandy beaches, or lively and lovely tide pools. 

This trip we ate at a restaurant new to us, Dametra Cafe, which bills itself as a “Ristorante Mediterraneo”.  Indeed it is a Mediterranean restaurant, with a Greek-based menu, but with dishes from as far away as Persia.  There were also dishes from Israel, Italy, Lebanon and Turkey that we noticed on the menu.  We went pretty simple for lunch, with Lori ordering the chicken shawarma sandwich and a gyro for me.  Portions were more than generous, and the food was delicious.  Their wine list is a bit limited, but Lori found a Penfolds Cab Shiraz, and I had a glass of a nice Spanish Garnacha Syrah blend.  Great atmosphere there, very friendly, and adding to the Mediterranean feeling was the post-lunch serenade of the restaurant, in Spanish, by the Mexican chef. 

Shopping in Carmel is always fun, and we found a few things, including being able to check off a few boxes for the holiday gifts.  And not to worry, we bought something for each of the grandkids. 

After Carmel, we decided to take the driving tour of 17 Mile Drive.  This is a scenic road that winds through the Pebble Beach area, through golf courses, mansions and some great California coastline.  Just a beautiful day for that.  I don’t know if you can see them in the photograph, but seals were all over the rocks just offshore. 

Finally, on the way home, we made a pilgrimage to Phil’s Fish Market in Moss Landing.  Only one of the best fish restaurants around, although not particularly fancy.  We picked up a quart of clam chowder for dinner, actually getting off pretty easy.  But it was Labor Day, and we weren’t sure if the boats had actually been out, so we didn’t worry about picking up any fish. 

Hope you had a great holiday weekend also!



The Lonely Planet Speaks

The other day I had a great opportunity to meet and greet the CEO of the travel book publishing company Lonely Planet .  The Cornell Alumni program, here in the Bay Area, put on a reception/lecture in Berkeley.  I drove into Berkeley, parked and walked across the street to the Hotel Shattuck Plaza .  In all my years of going to Berkeley I never knew of this very cool hotel.  They have a fantastic bar and restaurant area next to the main lobby.  It was pretty busy for a Tuesday night.  I went into one of the ballrooms to find the event.  They had some nice appetizers sitting on a table in the corner.  They had 3 different kinds of cheeses, Humboldt Fog, a Gruyere, and a Blue Cheese.  They served that with sliced baguette.  They also had some fresh fruit, a roasted vegetable platter, a couple puffed pastry items with filling and small potato pancake topped with lox and cream cheese.  They had a bar serving your basic Central Coast Cabernet and Chardonnay, beer and soft drinks.

I was talking to some ladies there; they seemed to be frequent travelers.  One had gone to India for a three-week tour last December.  She said it was the highlight of all her travels so far.  Another lady said that she just got back from Greece and had a great time.  Like many of the other people who came to see Matt Goldberg, Cornell alumni, all were very much interested in travel.  A number of people in the crowd are avid Lonely Planet travel book readers.  The company started about 37 years ago by Tony and Maureen Wheeler.  They started traveling with backpacks because they didn’t have a lot of money but loved to explore.  So they kept good notes of their travels and started their first guide.  It was designed for travelers who were traveling with their clothes on their backs and to this day, in general, it still is.  They have kept up with the current times and have an application with the I phone and I pad and can be found on Facebook and Twitter as well.  Yes, Lonely Planet was the main guidebook for those traveling on a budget and seeking the roads less traveled.  Lonely planet has produced and sold over 100 million guidebooks, they have over 450 employees worldwide and have over 300 authors who contribute.  Matt says that their ultimate goal with their books were to “use travel to break down walls between people.”  He also said some clues to traveling safely and comfortably are “to keep your wits about yourself, and to smile more than you frown.”

Matt was a very dynamic speaker.  The audience was very receptive to him and his work ethics.  There were some very good questions about where Lonely Planet will be going in the next 5 to 10 years.  Matt couldn’t say much because things aren’t yet set in stone, but their plan is to be around and in the front foreground of all travelers needs.