Monthly Archives: August 2009

The upside and downside of being the mom of a winemaker!

This is the last weekend of August and in most families that means, kids are back in school, summer is almost over, or that it’s a great time to travel.  Not in my family.  Our oldest son, Brandon, is a winemaker so the last weekend of August usually means, see you in 10-14 weeks.  

With this in mind we had Brandon over this weekend to the house to share in some last family fun for some time.  Brandon’s wife Kim couldn’t make it here this weekend as she works for Lynmar Winery and they were having a big wine club event.  Jacob, our other son, and his girlfriend Brittany came here with their dog Opal.  Around 3:00 we had all gathered at home together.  Brandon came with presents of wine, fresh pears from his tree and tomatoes from his garden.  Of course the first thing on the agenda was to pop open a beer or two.  Brandon had brought some Lagunitas Red, one of his of his favorites, and we had just bought a sampler case of Sam Adams.  After the first beer went down Brandon, Jacob and I went on an outing here in Dublin.  The ultimate goal was to go to the Ranch 99 market and get some good seafood that Larry could use for his ceviche starter for dinner.  I also had Sunday on my mind – harvesting our grapes that are growing on our arbor.  So our first stop was the local beer making shop looking for yeast.  They were closed.  Then we went to Orchard Supply Hardware and purchased a bin to squish the grapes into.  We were pretty pleased with our purchase so then we went to the Ranch 99 market.  Both boys had never been there.  I love going to that store, you never know what produce is on special and the fish is so fresh.  Being a foodie, I love to watch what other people are buying and I try to imagine what they are going to make with it.  We ended up buying ½ pound of bay scallops and ½ pound of raw shrimp that had already been cleaned and peeled.  Afterwards for a treat we went to our local Chinese tapioca drink shop.  We all ordered different fruit drinks with tapioca for an afternoon snack.

We came home I had to finish up all my prep work for dinner.  My goal for dinner was a nice cold fish tostada.  It being a hot day I didn’t want anything too heavy and I wanted something cold.  I had already pan seared the cod with thinly sliced onion, olive oil, tequila and lime juice.  My in-laws had caught this cod a couple months ago while deep-sea fishing in the Pacific near the Channel Islands.  For snacks we had my homemade hummus with pita bread and a caprese salad with fresh heirloom tomatoes we had bought that morning from the farmers market and basil from my new basil plant.  Just a sprinkling of salt and pepper, a splash of lemon balsamic vinegar and a light drizzle of garlic olive oil.  Done and delicious!

Brandon opened up a bottle of chardonnay that he had brought.  It was very nice, light acid, more on the dry side, without too much oak.  It went down very smoothly.  Brandon, Jacob and Brittany sat outside and got caught up with life while Larry and I were putting the final touches on the meal.  We ate outside where it had cooled off to the low 90’s.  First Larry served the ceviche, which was one of his best yet.  We enjoyed that with two different pinot noirs that Brandon had brought.  They were from two different years and two different vineyards but both from the Russian River Valley.  I really liked them both.  Sorry, but I can’t tell you what wineries these wines came from as I was sworn to secrecy.  As I brought out the killer fish tostadas, Larry brought out another bottle, this time a zinfandel.  I didn’t drink any of that as I was enjoying the pinot too much.  The fish tostadas had lettuce, tomatoes, cilantro, fresh corn, black beans, green chilies, avocado and the fish.  I served it with fresh store bought salsa.  For dessert we had ice cream sundaes with fresh strawberries from the farmers market.  By this time I had switched over to just drinking bubbly water.  A good time was had by all.

While I was cooking our Sunday breakfast, egg scramble with spicy turkey sausage and hash browns, Larry and Brandon were all over the arbor picking away at the grapes to make our wine.  That is a whole story for another day. 

     Brandon and Larry picking grapes                                                                  The grapes we harvested 8/30/09

This day ended up being a very full day as we picked the grapes, we crushed the grapes with our feet, we filtered it, and we poured the juice into three 64 oz. growler bottles and put them into the fridge.  Brandon and Jacob played tennis for a couple of hours, Brittany did a couple massages to go toward her therapy hours and Larry and I took the dogs for a walk to the dog park to play.  Brandon distributed a lot of wine that he had accumulated and shared it between Jacob and us.  He is so thoughtful and giving, this is one of the upsides of being the Mom of a winemaker.

We sat down with Brandon and did a 5-minute video interview about what is going on now and this upcoming week as the he and the winery are getting ready for harvest.  Of course throughout the afternoon we watched the Giants vs. the Rockies to tie it up in the wild card standings.  The bottom of the 8th inning and everyone left.  Brandon, headed north up to Santa Rosa and Jacob headed south to Santa Cruz.  The boys most likely wont see each other until Thanksgiving.
The house is quiet except for Kruk and Kuip on the T.V.  Three outs and the game is over.  In the silence of the boys leaving we were able to root for the Giants and they ended up winning 9-5!  

I won’t see Brandon and hardly talk to him for the next 2 months, one of the downsides of being the mother of a winemaker.  I will have to make, what I call, an “emergency hug” trip.  I usually do that around the end of September and again the end of October.  I just need to see his smile, feel his harvest adrenalin, get a kiss and a hug and I’m satisfied for a few more weeks.  We keep in close touch with Brandon’s wife Kim, as she becomes a wine widow for 8-10 weeks.  I will try and have her down for a weekend or two and do some fun things with her during this time period.  Brandon will work every day for those 8-10 weeks putting in between 12-16 hours each day.  Toward the end of October the hours start to lessen.  The great thing about all of this is that he absolutely loves what he does!  He is so excited for the harvest to start, to see how it goes, to make good wine for you all to enjoy.  While he is sweating away in the cellar the tasting room at Dutton Goldfield is open welcoming customers who want to sample and purchase the wines he made in previous years.  It’s a vicious cycle, it changes every year depending on the weather, the setting of the fruit, and all of the other conditions a winemaker needs to contend with year after year.

I am a very proud mother of a very good winemaker.

Governor Schwarzenegger Proclaims September 2009 California Wine Month

Governor Schwarzenegger Proclaims September 2009 California Wine Month for the 5th year in a row.  Recognizing the Golden State’s vintners and growers for their more than 200-year-old agricultural tradition,positive impact on the state and national economies, and commitment to sustainable winegrowing practices.  The proclamation praises the wine community’s many contributions.  “Many wineries are also committed to serving their communities and promoting socially and environmentally responsible farming practices,” said Governor Schwarzenegger in the proclamation.  


       California vineyards in the summer                          California vineyards in the fall

California wine generates 820,000 jobs in the U.S., including 330,000 in California. 

The state’s vintners and growers, along with California’s 80,000 restaurants, have helped make the Golden State a top destination for culinary travelers from around the world, attracting nearly 21 million visitors each year to its wine regions.  Visitors to California can explore the state’s 2,800 wineries which produce 90 percent of U.S. wine.  First Lady Maria Shriver is promoting the California Travel and Tourism Commission by appearing on a TV spot promoting California as the “Land of Wine and Food.”  California is the fourth largest wine producer in the world.  With over 60 percent of the state’s winegrowers participating in the Sustainable Winegrowing Program, it is truly a model for wine regions in other states and abroad.  The program has won Governor Schwarzenegger’s top environmental award from the California Association of Winegrape Growers. 

           California Grapes

California Wine Month is also supported by several association partners including the California Travel and Tourism Commission, the California Olive Oil Council, the National Restaurant Association and the California Restaurant Association which recently conducted its second annual “Best California Wine List Competition.”

Retail and restaurant establishments throughout the nation are celebrating California Wine Month and several publications will feature special coverage of the state’s wines.

Retail/Restaurant Partners Celebrating California Wine Month (CWM)

Safeway, Von’s and Pavilions stores (Newspaper ads and in-store displays in stores nationwide)

Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (Posters and shelf talkers in stores throughout the state)

Kimpton Hotels (Special wine promotions in all restaurants)

Beverages & More! (Posters in stores)

Costco (California stores)

Roy’s Restaurants (Special wine promotions in all restaurants)

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines (Special wine promotions on board all ships)

The Melting Pot (Special wine promotions in select restaurants)

Vino Volo (Special wine-by-the glass promotions in all airport locations)

California Wine Merchants (In-store tastings with vintners)

Gary’s Wine & Marketplace New Jersey (Three stores doing in-store tastings with vintners)

Grande Harvest Wines New York (In-store tastings with vintners)

Morrell & Company New York (In-store tastings with vintners)

Sherry-Lehman Wine & Spirits New York Sherry-Lehman Wine & Spirits New York (In-store tastings with vintners)

Union Square Wines New York (In-store tastings with vintners)

Zachy’s New York (In-store tastings with vintners)

Cork Bar Los Angeles (Special California wine flights throughout September)

Wall Street Journal September 12

San Francisco Chronicle August 28

Los Angeles Magazine September edition

The Restaurant Standard (California Restaurant Association) — August/September Edition

10 Reasons to Love CA Wine

California is one of the first places that come to mind when we think about wine. Why do we love it so much? In honor of California Wine Month – September 2008 – let us count the ways;

1. A living national treasure, with history and entrepreneurial spirit: California wines have been around for nearly250 years, and the industry is the fourth largest producer of wine in the world. After Prohibition, California has led a wine quality revolution by combining art, science, innovation and tradition.

2.A leader in sustainable winegrowing and winemaking practices: With its statewide Sustainable Winegrowing Program (SWP), establishing strong environmental standards and practices from ground to glass, California vintners and wine grape growers are a model for other agricultural products and other wine regions in the U.S. and the world.

3.Comprised largely of family businesses: The vast majority of California’s 4,600 wine grape growers and 2,700 wineries are family-owned and operated businesses, many involving multiple generations.

4. Offers immense choice for wine drinkers, because of diverse growing regions, soils, climates, winemaking styles and people: With wine grapes grown in 46 of the state’s 58 counties,California counts 107 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs). Starting with the Spanish missionaries, to German, Swiss, French and Italian immigrants, to the modern day entrepreneurs and researchers, all have made their mark on California wines.

5. Inspired a culinary revolution: As the popularity of California wines has risen, so has the national focus on fresh seasonal cooking and dining. Many of America’s top chefs work in California’s wine country.

6. Provides careers for thousands: The California wine industry generates 875,000 jobs nationwide, with wages totaling $25.2 billion. The overall economic impact of the wine industry on the U.S. economy is $125.3 billion.

7.Creates beautiful travel destinations throughout the state: California is the most visited state in the U.S. for food and wine-related activities, with 19.7 million tourists visiting the state’s wine regions each year.

8. Offers unprecedented opportunities for women: Women have played a critical role in the California wineindustry’s past, and today are taking lead positions in viticulture, winemaking, sales, marketing, hospitality and distribution. In the U.S., you’re just as likely to see a female as a male sommelier.

9.Keeps land in agriculture: Although less than 1 percent of California land is planted to vineyards, California wine is the number one finished agricultural product in retail value in the U.S. Wine grapes ensure that land stays in agriculture, and preserves open space and scenic pastoral landscapes.

10. Has driven a new “wine culture”in the U.S., inspiring people in all 50 states to establish wineries:Wine consumption has risen for 14 consecutive years in the U.S., and the proliferation of wine magazines, websites, blogs and yes, even a reality television show about wine, attests to the fact that wine is becoming more a part of mainstream American culture. California’s success in wine quality, production and innovation has helped inspire winemaking ventures in all 50 U.S. states.

Russian River Valley – Grape to Glass Weekend Aug 14-16

Want a good excuse to head up to Northern California?  Here is the perfect reason.  It’s summer, the area is beautiful, there are more wineries than you know what to do with and the Russian River Valley Winegrowers Association is holding their annual Grape to Glass fun-filled weekend.  The festivities start Friday August 14 and go through Sunday the 16th.  This is not like your normal festival.  There are activities that you sign up for in advance and participate in.  Here is a sampling of things to do:

• Get your boots dirty and your wine knowledge refreshed while taking part in our Behind the Wines grower and vintner presentations.
• Taste your way to a winning hand at the Winery Poker Run.
• Take in Sip ‘N’ Cinema – Where Hollywood meets Wine Country at MacMurray Ranch – A Sensory Experience.
• Experience the Russian River Valley Lifestyle by land, water and air – on bikes, kayaks and in hot air balloons.
• Enjoy wine country at its best at the Hog in the Fog Winegrower BBQ, Tasting Fest & Auction showcasing samplings of more than 50 of our wineries.

                      Grape to Glass                                                                              Hog in the Fog

• Wings, Wine and Wind-down is where you can relax, watch the“Wings Over Wine Country” Air Show, experiment with salts and wind-down from your Russian River Valley weekend.

There are so many things to see and do while in the area from Santa Rosa to Healdsburg!  If you need any help in planning it out for you go to, their Education Wine Tours will guide you if you want to stay overnight or make a vacation out of it.

Go to the Grape to Glass website and order your tickets today.  You can order the tickets for individual events or as a whole package (this saves you $$$).  Bring some friends and take a day or the whole weekend.  You will be glad that you did!

You’ve Heard Of Murphy Goode Winery? Did You Hear That Hardy Wallace Got “A Really Goode Job”

I’m sure most of you have heard the term “social media”.  More and more industries are hiring a staff person to strictly be their social media person.  This means that this person will handle the media outreach for the company such as on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Linkedin, Plaxo and YouTube accounts, for example.

The wine industry has started to realize that the time is now to hire a social media person.  This could be the golden opportunity that won’t cost them a lot of money and will ideally increase their wine sales.  A winery that has been around for over 20 years named Murphy Goode in Healdsburg, Sonoma County put out a contest so they could hire this perfect social media person for their winery. 

         Murphy Goode Tasting Room

Murphy Goode wanted to hire a lifestyle correspondent who will take care of all their social media outreach needs.  This person had to send in a video of why they are this perfect person for Murphy Goode to hire, and why he/she would do “A Really Goode Job”.  The contest lasted about 3 months and each contestant had to submit their 2 minute video and get their readers, friends and Murphy Goode to vote for them.  After over 1,000 applicants submitted their video Murphy Goode narrowed it down to 10 finalists.   Hardy Wallace from Atlanta Georgia who has a wine blog called Dirty South Wine, won the contest for the six month stint!

Larry had met Hardy last year at the Wine Bloggers Conference and actually voted for Hardy’s video to win.  We saw Hardy once again at this year’s Wine Bloggers Conference which was a week after his winning announcement. 

                         Hardy Wallace

As you can imagine with all the publicity, press and piers, Hardy was flying higher than the highest kite you’ve ever seen.  

Larry and I met up with Hardy while we were in the Russian River region last weekend and interviewed him after his first full day on the job.  He is so nice, dang cute and extremely lovable.   After watching the videos below you will see why Hardy won, and why he will do such a Murphy Goode job!  Good luck Hardy!

Hardy’s winning video

Murphy Goode announces Hardy as the winner

Hardy is VERY happy!

Fox News interviews Hardy Wallace and Dave Ready Jr. the Murphy Goode winemaker interviews Hardy after his first day on the job at Murphy Goode Pt. 1 & Pt. 2

 Larry, Lori and Hardy at Murphy Goode Tasting Room

Catch Some Great End of Summer Wine Events

There is still over a month until summer is officially over, but kids are going back to school and the temperatures outside are changing.  So with the end of summer coming up, it’s a great time to go some wine festivals.  For example:

Family Winemakers of California – August 23 – Fort Mason Center – 3-6pm  $50 in adv. $60 at the door. 
This event will feature more than 300 of California’s small, family owned wineries.  More than 30 new wineries just this year! 

Sonoma Wine Country Weekend – Sept. 4-6  MacMurray Ranch, Healdsburg
Choose from dozens of winemaker lunches or dinners ($75-$160)
The 30th annual TASTE of Sonoma (Sept. 5 11am-4pm).  There will be over 150 wineries pouring their finest offerings and more than 60 chefs whipping up fantastic food pairings.  ($150-$195).

Wine and Cheese Train Ride on Board the Niles Canyon Railroad – Aug. 30 & Sept. 6 – Sunol, $37.50
Wineries of Livermore are highlighted by the Pacific Locomotive Association.  Boarding at 3pm, departure at 3:30pm and return at 5:30pm are thescheduled times.  This is a fund raiser for the PLA with the goal that guestsexperience and appreciate fine railroad service while learning more ofLivermore Area wines.

Edna Valley Wine Tour – Aug. 22nd 10:30-4:00  San Luis Obispo  $109
Travel along back county roads. Discover the familiar to hidden localfavorites. Taste at four distinctive wineries, fees included and enjoya fabulous gourmet picnic lunch in the most picturesque of settings andmaybe make some new friends along the way!

Santa Monica Pier Seaside Wine Tasting – Sept. 3 – 6:00-10:00pm $20 for 5 tastes plus a glass of your favorite wine
Take in a concert, sip some great wine, and breath in the Pacific Ocean.  The Wine Bar opens at 6pm, 1 hour before the concerts start and stays open until 10pm, as the concerts are winding down.

Have Fun!

Can you drink 28 glasses of wine in 3 hours?

You wouldn’t even believe this if I told you.  What if I told you that between 9:30 and 12:00 this morning I drank 28 glasses of wine?  Well, if I had really drank everything I wouldn’t be alive to write this.  Today Larry and I had the fantastic opportunity to go and taste 28 samples of wines from the Russian River Valley, Sonoma County.  We were invited to a “media tasting” sponsored by the Russian River Valley Winegrowers. There were 24 of us media types and a panel of 6.  The panel was moderated by Geoff Kruth, Master Sommellier and Wine Director at the Farmhouse Inn and Restaurant.  The rest of the panel included John Holdredge of Holdredge Wines, Pete Opatz, viticulturalist to Picket Fence Vineyards, Dan Kosta of Kosta Browne Winery, Tom Dehlinger of Dehlinger Winery and the host, Peter Merriam of Merriam Vineyards.  Everything took place at Merriam Vineyards which is on the Windsor/Healdsburg border north of Santa Rosa.  Upon entering the room for the first flight we were greeted with 9 glasses filled with Pinot Noir from different wineries in the Russian River Valley.

Flight 1 – The first flight was Russian River Pinot Noir – Single Vineyard – 2007 – The price of the bottle and my grade of the wine
Balletto Vineyards – Burnside Vineyard – $34.00 B
Coterie Cellars – Saralee Vineyard – $38.00  B-
C Donatiello Winery – Maddie’s Vineyards – $62.00 A-
Dutton Goldfield Winery – Freestone Hill Vineyard – $58.00 B+
Forchini Vineyard and Winery – River Terrace Vineyard – $32.00 B
Freeman Vineyard & Winery – Keefer Ranch – $46.00 B-
Russian Hill Estate Winery – Tara Vineyard – $46.00 B+
Sequana Vineyard – Dutton Ranch – $40.00 B
Suacci Carciere Wines – Suacci Vineyard – $48.00 C+

Flight 2 – The second flight was Russian River Pinot Noir – Blends – 2007 – The price of the bottle and my grade of the wine
Chasseru Wines – $40.00 B
Hook & Ladder Winery – $25.00 B+  **
Hop Kiln Winery, Generations – $40.00 B
J. Lynn Wines – $19.99 B  **
Joseph Swan Vineyards, Cuvee de Trois – $28.00 C
Kenwood Vineyards – $18.00 B-  **
Moshin Vineyards – $36.00 B
Olsen Ogden Wines – $42.00 B+
River Road Vineyards – $27.00 B 
Terlato Family Vineyards – $60.00 B+
Willams Salyem, Westside Road Neighbors – $67.00 B-

Flight 3 – The thrid flight was Russian River Bordeaux’s.  The winery, vineyard, varietal, year, price and my grade of the wine
Acorn Winery – Alegria Vineyard – Cabernet Franc, 2006 – $32.00 B **
Dehlinger Winery – Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006 – $50.00 B
Ledson Winery & Vineyards – Merlot, 2005 – $44.00 B-
Longboard Vineyards – Merlot, 2007 – 24.00 B+  **
Merriam Vineyards – Miktos Red Wine, 2005 – $50.00 B-
Selby Vineyards – Azvedo Ranch – Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006 – $40.00 B-
Suncy Winery – Hedin Vineyard – Merlot, 2006 – $30.00 C
Windsor Oaks Vineyards – Chalk Hill – Malbec, 2007 – $35.00 B  **

After the third flight we were treated to an awesome lunch at the winery.  During lunch we mingled, and talked about each other business etc.  We also drank more wine!  We had 2006 Merriam Merlot and 2007 Picket Fence Pinot Noir.  Here was the menu:

Arugula & endive salad, avocado, Manchego cheese, caramelized almonds, lemon-truffle vinaigrette
Salad of baby beets, feta cheese, orange & horseradish vinaigrette

Rotisserie pork loin, pomegranate glaze, roasted red grape & farro salad

Wild mushroom & goat cheese spaetzle

Mini Chocolate cakes, caramel mousse mini chocolate chunk & banana bread pudding

                  Peter Merriam, Merriam Vineyards

All I can say is WOW!  Luckily they gave each of us a cup to spit the wine into and a bottle of water at each flight to replenish liquids.  So in reality I probably drank about 1 glass of wine.  But it sounded a lot more impressive saying 28 glasses.  Our day did not end there.  We went on to two more wineries, then out to dinner.  That is another blog for another day.

Remind me, why did I go to Palm Desert in August?!

I’m back from a week in Palm Desert.  For those of you who don’t know, Palm Desert is about 5 miles due east of Palm Springs, which is about 90 miles east of Los Angeles.  If you like the hot dry desert weather, then you would love it.  If you’re like me who likes it hot outside but not too hot that you can’t even lay out in the shade without sweating like a pig then you would have been frustrating.

We left on the 1st of August for 8 days.  I was so looking forward to this trip, as Larry and I had just got back from the Bloggers conference (which was hard work drinking all that wine – another blog to follow about that weekend).  Larry didn’t even go home, he went from one conference to another, back to back.  We were going to unwind, to have no obligations (except to see my grandmother and family), eat, drink, and get reacquainted with each other; all on a low budget.

We left Dublin about an hour later than planned as Larry’s back decided to spasm just as we were about to pack up the car.  So, guess who had to lift up the ice chest, the suitcases etc. and pack it all in?  Yep, ME!!!  I was so nervous that my back was going to go out doing this.  [Two and a half years ago when Larry, our son Jacob and I went to Palm Springs to have a nice relaxing week there in January, I had a bad back the whole time we were there and Larry had a back spasm while we were there the day before we were to leave to drive home.  Jacob had to load the car for us, as we were invalids!  We have such bad memories of that trip, it was so cold all week, we couldn’t go to the pool once and all the citrus trees were literally freezing each night.]  Larry was in good pain the whole drive there, but with this kind of spasm he is better off sitting than standing.  I drove 5 ½ out of the 7 hours it took to get there.  I forgot to go to the library to rent a book on tape so we just had music and each other.  The Giants had the nerve to be playing a night game so we couldn’t even listen to that!

We got to Palm Desert, checked into our 1 bedroom villa.  This was part of the Marriott Desert Springs Vacation club.  Our unit was beautiful.  It had a separate bedroom with a Jacuzzi tub, shower, a full kitchen with dining room and living room.

                   The view from our porch

There were two TV’s a DVD player and a really nice porch area that faced out to the golf course and lake by the 2nd tee.  Around 8:00 we were off to the local “City Wok”, Chinese restaurant for dinner and a beer.  We ordered their catfish two ways special, which we had in a black bean sauce, Kung Pao combo, freshly steamed edamame and brown rice. The beer went down real smooth and we were extremely impressed with the quality of the food. 

Every morning we had breakfast outside on our patio, read the paper, did a sudoko, watched the world go buy (or the ducks).  It was very relaxing.  Most lunches we had outdoors too but sometimes the sweating got out of control and we had to go back into the air-conditioned unit.  We went to the pool at least once each day and even went to the Marriott pool one day to see if that was something we would want to do more often.  We walked through the beautiful hotel and spent about 2 ½ hours in the 116 degree heat.  Their pools there were very nice, and we found a great spot in the shade under an umbrella, but it was very crowded and noisy.  (What were all these people doing in the desert in August?)  We took advantage of the flag that you put up on the back of your chair to call over the cute little cocktail waitress.  Larry ordered a margarita and I ordered a strawberry daiquiri plus a plate of fresh fruit.  That came to over $40.00!  We ate about half of the fruit there and brought the rest back to the unit and a couple days later made a nice fruit smoothie out of it.  In the end we decided that our local pool by our unit was just fine for the rest of the week.

We only cooked one dinner in.  We made soft tacos, which actually gave us three additional lunches.  One night we brought in Chinese Food, again from the City Wok. 
   Larry in the living room with Chinese food and wine

This time we ordered and spicy chili string beans with chicken and peppercorn chicken with brown rice.  We ordered in pizza one night, and went out to dinner at the Yard House one night.  We went there after we had seen the movie Funny People with Adam Sandler.  Very good movie.  For dinner Larry had an Ahi Crunchy Salad and I had their BBQ Chicken Salad.  Larry had one of their many beers they have on tap, and I ordered a cosmopolitan martini.

We had dinner at my Aunt Frankie and Uncle Ray’s house one night.  My 94-year-old grandmother and cousin Danny live there too.  My 85-year-old great-aunt Beatrice also joined us.  Aunt Frankie made delicious lamb chops, a cheesy potato casserole and green beans to go with the meal.  We had brought a Merlot from Murietta’s Well Winery in Livermore to share with everyone.  After dinner we sat and talked and enjoyed a piece of peach pie with banana nut ice cream.  Another night we met Aunt Frankie, Danny and Grandma at Applebee’s and had a nice early dinner (5:00).  After dinner Larry and I went to the movies and saw the most recent Harry Potter movie.  We then went to the Cheesecake Factory and enjoyed dessert.  I had their lemon cheesecake and Larry had their carrot cake.  I haven’t gone out for dessert in years! ☺ 

As the week went on Larry’s back got better and better.  We never did any exercise except in the pool.  We met very nice people at the pool each day.  We got a lot of work done that we had brought to do.   We also did a lot of reading, knitting, watching DVD’s and visiting.  Toward the end of the week the weather got a little bit cooler and I was able to layout in the sun the last two days. 

I was wondering why did I choose to go to the desert in August!  Then I figured it out.  One, it is a quieter time there.  Two, it will for sure be warm!  Three, we can stop on the way home in the San Fernando Valley and visit a lot of our family.

                     Lori and Grandma Millie  
our, and most importantly, I wanted to see my almost 95-year-old grandmother.  She has been a very large part of my life and it is challenging to get to see her but once a year.  This trip makes it twice this year, and that makes it all worthwhile. Family is very important to me; you just can’t take them for granted. I don’t know how much longer she will be around but for me to see her smile and hear her laugh and to be comforted that she is happy was all I needed to make my vacation complete.

Ame Restaurant Wine Challenge

Hey San Francisco Bay Area locals! Here’s one for you. Ame Restaurant in San Francisco has issued a challenge:  Dine at Ame, order the 3-glass flight of wines, and if you correctly identify the varietals, the wine flight is free!  Running through the month of August.  Seems like a no-lose deal.  Great dinner, and free wine, assuming you’re as good as you think you are at wine tasting.  Have fun!

Wine Bars – The new way to sample many different wines all in one place

One of the newest hippest places to go to when in a downtown area is to go to a wine bar.  Why you may ask?  Well the main reason is that if you like wine, they usually offer a very large selection.  Some wine bars offer tastes in 2, 4, and 8 ounces besides the glass and or bottle.  I love the different sized samplers as it give you a perfect way to sample different wines.  When you find a wine that you like you should write down notes about what you liked so you could go and find it to have at home.  Usually these wine bars offer tapas or small bites to select to go with your wine.  It’s a perfect, casual and fun place to go with other wine lovers.  

A few weeks back I went to meet up with my friend Liz for just that.  We agreed on meeting at Vinoteca in Danville.  Neither of us had been there as they were pretty new to town.

Vinoteca was beautiful with its wood floors and tables, some couches with short cocktail tables and tall cocktail tables covered with black tablecloths with tall stools.  Liz and I were greeted very nicely and were taken to a nice bar table.  We looked at the menu, which is very nice, filled with beverage and tapas choices.  The food menu is divided by categories of Nibbles, Bocadillos (small grilled sandwiches), Greens and Things and Petite Plates.  The wines they offer are mostly from Europe.  This was a nice change of pace for me.  I didn’t know what to order so I asked my waiter and he made a great suggestion.  You can order the wine in 3 different sizes – glass, carafe and bottle.  Besides the wines they offer, they also make blood orange sangria that they serve with lunch, and they have draught beer from Belgium, Germany, Italy and the Pacific Coast.  They also have some bottled beer, ports and espresso drinks to end the meal with.  

I had a glass of ’07 Vaza, Crianza, Tempranillo, Espana, which was just perfect with the Tapas we ordered.  Liz had the ’07 Olvena, Chardonnay, Somontano, Espana also good but served a bit too cold.  They serve the wine in a Luigi Bormidi glass (which I’ve never heard of before.)  We ordered marinated olives, salted almonds; sheep’s cheese-stuffed Majool dates wrapped in pancetta; smoked pulled pork, caramelized onion with Piave cheese Bocadillo, and chicken and salt cured ham croquette with spicy sofritto.  When the boys came to join us Larry ordered a ‘07 Albarino, Paco & Lola, Rias Baixas, Espana and Werner ordered an ’07 Pinot Grigio, Benvolio, Furili, Italia. 

To add to what Liz and I had eaten the boys ordered heirloom tomato salad with spicy oregano and baked feta; grilled calamari with yellow fin potatoes, chorizo, piquillo peppers and arugula, and a black cod with heirloom tomato gazpacho and couscous.  Everything was delicious and served on different styled plates.  We were all full after having these dishes.

The service was fantastic and it was crowded for a Thursday night.  They have a live band in there Thursday-Saturday from 9-11, but by 9:30 when we left they still weren’t there.  I would highly recommend Vinoteca for lunch, an aperitif to dinner or for dinner.