Monthly Archives: October 2010

What does Wine Tasting and the World Series Have in Common?

On a normal day going wine tasting in California you have people who are very relaxed and happy.  They are relaxed because they aren’t working and they are happy because they are drinking wine.  This is all good, especially this time of year when most of the craziness has died down from the harvest.  The grape vines are void of their grapes, so it’s time for them to start to hibernate for the winter.  The leaves on the vines are starting to change from the green to the red to the orange and yellow.  It’s a great time to go wine tasting!  So Larry, Elliana and I went wine tasting on our babysitting day yesterday.  Mid-week is a great time to go wine tasting; the crowds are less, which frees up more time with the winery staff.  They have more time to give you attention and you usually can have a nice spot at the bar.  Ask if there is any way you can see their winemaking facility.  It’s always interesting to see how each winery makes their wine, so similar, yet so differently.

So, you ask?!  What does this have to do with the World Series?  Well, as it turns out the San Francisco Giants are in the World Series against the Texas Rangers.  Yesterday was the first game of the series.  So as we go to our first winery, Arista Winery in the Russian River Valley, Sonoma County we noticed that we wern’t the only ones wearing orange and black (those being the colors of the Giants).  It was great, we had a lot of attention to talk about wine and baseball.  These are two of my favorite subjects!  Arista is in a beautiful spot on West Side Road.  The grounds at Arista are beautiful.  It is designed with an Oriental Garden feel and as you walk through their gardens you get a sense of peacefulness.  We tasted their Gwertztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc on the white side.  Then for the reds we were treated to a Pinot Noir comparison of two wines from the Sonoma Coast.  Their ’07 La Cruz Vineyards which was a blend of two vineyards and their ’08 Sonoma Coast a blend from four different vineyards.  Both were very nice.  I have a thing about the ’07 vintage and love almost everything produced from that year.  Next we compared two Pinot Noirs from the Russian River.  Both were 2008 vintages.  The main difference of those two wines was the fact that one was a blend and the other, the Longbow, was from a single vineyard.  We were helped by Gabriel and Billy.  The staff was very nice and they have a very relaxed policy.  They want you to come and spend time in their beautiful gardens while sipping their wine.  There is plenty of seating and areas to picnic if you choose.

Next we went to Thomas George Estates , just a couple minutes drive from Arista.  After you drive up their driveway and park, you will just fall in love with their grounds.  They have their wine cellar caves on the one side and the tasting room and winery on the other.  They have many tables and chairs for you to sit on to enjoy a picnic if you choose to.  We were the only ones in the tasting room at the time.  We sampled their Sauvignon Blanc (which I liked) and Chardonnay.  Then we sampled a Russian River 2008 Pinot Noir and a 2008 Sonoma Coast single vineyard Pinot Noir.  I enjoyed the single vineyard but liked them both.  Finally we sampled 2008 Dry Creek Zinfandel.  It had a nice body, light on the fruit forward, but a very nice finish.  They do offer events and weddings in their caves.  Shannon who was behind the bar was also a Giants fan and was wishing that they could close early that afternoon.

Through all of this Elliana was a trooper.  She batted her dark eyes and smiled every so often.  We got back to the kids house in time to see the pre-show of the World Series.  Thankfully there is a happy ending to our wonderful day as the Giants beat the Rangers 11-7.  What does Wine Tasting and the World Series Have in Common? Fans everywhere!

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.

Wine, Artisan Bread & Babysitting

I had a great day yesterday.  Larry and I drove up to Santa Rosa for my weekly babysitting gig with my granddaughter Elli.  Larry came up with me because currently I have a bad back, so I can’t lift Elli quite yet.  When we arrived nearly at noon Elli was just waking up from a nap.  Kim had already made Asian spiced meatballs and put them in the crock-pot to be ready for dinner.  We had a little bite to eat, a nice turkey sandwich, and then got our day moving along.

Kim went to work at Arista Winery.   After Elli got fed and cleaned up we left and drove to Forestville where we had heard about an amazing bakery there.  The bakery is called Nightingale Bakery , and if you blink too many times you will miss it and the whole downtown area.  The bakery is known for their Artisan breads.  We came out with a loaf of rye bread, sliced whole wheat with oats, and a sweet mini baguette.  Afterwards we made our way to Guerneville and found the Guerneville Park, which has a few parking spaces, walking trails that lead to the Russian River, and picnic benches amongst the redwood trees.  We parked there and walked along a passenger bridge over the Russian River to the small downtown area.  We stopped at My Coffee Bazaar and had a nice coffee drink and sat outside in a little garden area.  My Coffee Bazaar was a nice little place with fantastic coffee drinks, baked goods, breakfast and lunch items.  Halfway through our drinks, Elli decided that she was thirsty too.  So Larry fed Elli her bottle of milk.

                 Larry and Elli, 5 months old with a full belly

It was a very leisure afternoon.  The sky was blue, it was about 70 degrees outside, and there was a light breeze that blew the downed leaves around.  After we were all done with our drinks we walked back over the bridge to our car and went off to our next location.  

As we were driving west on River Road we decided to take a right hand turn onto Olivett Road.  Along this road the wineries are known for good Gewurztraminer, Zinfandel and Pinot Noir.  We stopped at Hook and Ladder Winery .  We have passed by this winery several times but never stopped there.  Their vineyards and wine making facilities are there as well as the tasting and barrel room.  We sampled their Gewurztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Zinfandel blend and their Tillerman, which is a Burgundian blend.  There was another couple there when we arrived.  Elli was in her stroller and when she woke up we gave her a cup of water with a hint of grape juice.  Their tasting room is in their barrel room.  What they have decorating the tasting area are t-shirts from different firehouses from around the country.  They also have a board with patches from different firehouses as well.  They sell t-shirts and sweatshirts and a few earrings.  Outside they have a well landscaped yard with a number of picnic benches.  If you sit on one of the benches you will have a nice view of their vineyards and the surrounding hills.

We then got in the car and went back to our son and daughter-in-laws home.  Larry and Kim prepared the vegetables and the rice sticks to compliment the meatballs that were smelling very good.  I got to feed Elli Squash and oatmeal for her dinner.  She is 5 months old and has been eating solids now for about 3-4 weeks.  She really enjoys it and had a big wide mouth open for each spoonful.

After dinner we got into our car and went on our way back home.  So, another 12-hour day with Elliana in the books.  We didn’t get to see Brandon as he was literally knee deep in grapes at Armida Winery , as the bulk of harvest has finally started to come in.