Category Archives: Wine

If you like a wine that you drink, now with your phone, it’s so easy. Just take a picture of the label. You learn about it. You learn where it comes from and what the soil is like and why you like it. And that’ll lead you to another wine. . . . Padma Lakshmi

Well That’s Just Super!

This is the conversation Philip and I had last night.

Philip said, “I made our reservations to fly into Oakland on the 4th. Our event with Bob is on the 5th and we’ll stay the weekend and have our meetings and training sessions through the next week. See what hotel you can get close to Fremont.”

So  I clicked away and checked out our regular haunts.

“Looks like there is some big event going on, the hotels are either unavailable or really high priced that weekend.”

Then I googled “Super Bowl.” I knew it was going to be in the San Francisco Bay Area, I just didn’t know it was that early in February.

Philip knew it was on the 7th, he just didn’t know it was in the Bay Area.

So, here is the ugly truth– we are sports illiterates.  We are not fans, we are not followers we didn’t watch the Royals in the World Series, but did follow the final games online. We didn’t watch the Chiefs in the play-offs, again catching the final score online. We are happy for both teams doing well this year. We are happy for our friends who follow every game, who watch the Royals in the burning heat or the Chiefs in freezing cold.

We are not those people.

But those people were driving up the cost of the hotel rooms we usually stay in when we are in California.

We spent almost 2 hours finding a hotel that was within driving distance to our event on Friday  and that cost less than a month’s mortgage. We’d  enter our dates, search for a hotel , find one that listed some reasonable price, click select and the next page would show that price for one night, a price 3 times as much for the following night, and a warning that rooms were paid immediately on reservation with no refund for changes.

Um, NO!

We finally used some (a bunch, actually) of Hilton points to offset the cost of one hotel and the on Saturday we’ll move to Windsor, north of the city. I haven’t got the rooms for the rest of the week yet, but we’ll figure it out. By then, the fans will have thinned out and the prices won’t be so hard to take.

And this way, I’ll be strolling the square in Healdsburg to taste some wine while the fans are cheering on their teams. And they and we will all be happy!

On the Road Again

We just got back from nearly a week in Texas.  It was 4 degrees when we left home and in the mid-50s when we got to Galveston.  Not sun bathe at the beach weather, but certainly warmer than home.

Not that we were heading to the beach anyway. This was a work week, so we spent most of our time in conference rooms, training centers, or working in hotel rooms.  That said, we try to have some fun on the road. But, we arrived on a Sunday, so we did take a bit of time.

I had googled “Wineries in Galveston” and found one nearby, in Santa Fe, TX.  We stopped at the Haak Winery  and tasted several of their wines.  When we are tasting several, we always share a tasting, both to save money and so we aren’t drinking too much.  We sat on their deck, which was possible because they had heaters, and enjoyed the sunny but chilly day. We bought a bottle of their White Madeira to take home, and walked around the vineyard a bit and drove on to our hotel.

Rooms were a bargain in Galveston, cheaper than nearer our client site, so we drove an extra few minutes in return for a view of the beach.  Originally we had a view of the back parking lot, but the sink in our room didn’t drain, so we were moved across the hall to a room with a patio/deck and yes, we could see water, if we looked across the Walmart parking lot and the road.  I’m not complaining, since I wasn’t expecting a view. And it wasn’t as if I was spending my time on the deck drinking margaritas!

We ate at a couple of local places.  It felt like the local prices were high (tourist town) so we also went to our fall back position for diet friendly,  fast and economical– Wendy’s salads. Oh, such connoisseurs are we!

When we finished with client work there, we drove for one last night in north Houston, and finally found what Philip had been wanting– Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen had cheap oysters on the half shell.  So he had a dozen oysters, I had a shrimp cocktail with 9 large shrimp and we each had a side salad and a glass of wine and we were very happy.

Client visits went well, had some different food, found a new Texas winery.  Working hard but taking time to smell the roses (you know, the ones planted at the end of the rows of grapes!) Great way to start the year!



Happy Anniversary Baby, I’ve Got You on My Mind

We’ve been celebrating our anniversary for a month, and it has been a great month.

This year we celebrate 35 years of marriage.

Yes, that is a long time.

And, if you must know, yes, we were young when we got married. Around 10 years old, I think—at least that is my story and I’m sticking with it.

But I digress.

We had thought of going to Hawaii, or some big trip to France or Italy, but frankly, making the time wasn’t working, and we’d rather not have that cash outlay right now. So, we decided to have some fun here.

We bought new phones, which we love. They are fast, sleek, have big screens and do lots of thing—and the cameras on them are very good, for snapshots and things you’d need day to day.  And we got small tablets for ourselves, which make it easy to read books, nicer than the phones for searching without dragging out the laptop. Who doesn’t like new toys?  So, even though we bought them a month before our actual anniversary, we counted these as “Anniversary gifts”.

Then we went on the mega work trip. And it was work—not a vacation at all.  We were up early to go to client sites to prep the rooms, ate the free breakfasts at inexpensive hotels (expensive hotels don’t offer free breakfast!) where we stayed, lived on weak conference coffee and when available, ate free dinners, which are usually carb heavy (Lasagna, Potatoes and gravy, rice) and lots of lettuce, with maybe some cheap wine offered for good measure.  However, free is free, and really, on the road unless we are going someplace really special, most of the time   we end up eating salad for dinner anyway.

But, we also took a day off and toured the Missions in San Antonio, TX one Saturday. And went to the Lodi Zinfest the next Saturday when we were in California. And it was great fun.  For us, both counted as anniversary celebrations.  We stopped for a couple of wine tastings when we finished our appointments. We had small plates one night and people watched from a sidewalk table. On our way home on a Saturday, when they announced the flight was overbooked, we scored free tickets for an upcoming flight simply for waiting in an airport for a few extra hours—and while we were there we shared a glass of wine and some pâté at an airport restaurant that we never would have found without the extra time.  We define all of this as part of the anniversary celebration.

Since our actual anniversary was a “school night” we defined the day before as the actual celebration day. We went to a new restaurant that had just opened a few blocks from our home and had appetizers and shared a glass of wine before going to a movie at a new theater. After the show, we bought macarons and took them home for dessert for the official anniversary dinner at home—where we had filets, baked potato, asparagus and a split of 1997 Opus One wine in our own dining room.

I guess it is hard to define a celebration when life is to be celebrated. We may not buy cards or flowers or balloons to punctuate every life event, but we do tend to have a good time wherever we happen to be. I think we succeed in making the commas in our life story enough fun that we don’t have to wait for exclamation points!

Is One Day Off Really a Vacation?

I earned every ounce I gained while I was in California for business. I began the trip well enough with mostly fast food salads during the work week, but then we found ourselves in Monterey on Friday night—how sad is that?  We were staying at the Hyatt, which looks like they are doing a remodel with mid-century modern touches. This was emphasized by the cool jazz group playing in the lobby bar the nights we were there.  (Any time the band uses drum brushes on the trap set, I’m a happy girl!)

TusCa restaurant at the hotel had a flat bread with Tenderloin Tips, Gorgonzola Sauce, Candied Onions, Fresh Arugula that was good –tender pieces of beef, just enough sauce and onions to leave you wanting a bit more—so  yummy and we split one with some salad.

Saturday, we did winetasting in Monterey.  We did hit the pier, but just down and back.  Seafood restaurants lined each side of the pier, and (as we’d been told/warned by the concierge) nearly every one gave samples of clam chowder, which Philip compared and I avoided. Like many tourist districts, the pier was mostly restaurants, bars, cheap silver and souvenirs that I just don’t go for.  We walked to the end, and back, then drove to another touristy part of Monterey, Cannery Row, where we found more what we had come to find in Monterey—Central Coast California wines.

We shared a tasting at Carmel Ridge Winery Tasting Room, and they suggested we also try A Taste of Monterey – Wine Market & Bistro, as they offer selections from across the region.  We climbed the stairs to the second level and where we split a tasting of their wines of the day.  They have a great view of the water so we ordered some small plates.  We had a window view of the bay, wine, food and no place else to be. There were not a lot of people eating, so no rush to change out the table, so we had a long, leisurely time, talking and watching the people and the waves. We had a great  time!

Sunday, we got up a little late, grabbed a cappuccino at Peet’s in town for breakfast, then drove the 17 mile drive through Pebble Beach, which was interesting enough and gave us a chance to see the Monterey area seaside.  We did an exploratory drive through Carmel, but didn’t stop. That will have to be another trip.  We stopped at a funky little house converted into The Corkscrew Café, where we shared a salad and split a burger—and since we don’t usually have burgers this was a treat.  The waiter had a small and stylized handlebar mustache that looked great on him and made me smile.  I meant to tell him how well he wore it but didn’t.  I suspect he doesn’t care what I think of his mustache, but it is always nice when people compliment Philip’s look (he has been wearing a variation of a Van Dyke lately and gets a lot of compliments).

We drove the rest of the way toward our destination intermittently slowing to glacier speeds.  At one point, the traffic was so bad for so long that our Garmin said “Do you want to convert to Pedestrian Mode”?” (No, we want the traffic to speed up!)  We finally got to our hotel, to prep for meetings the next day.

The Genesis of Wine

Hogue Genesis Cab 2008

A guest post by Philip

This is not a discussion about the origins of wine, but a story about a recent experience involving wine. Over time you may find this to be thematic of my future postings, as it seems to be one of those hobbies that constantly offers new opportunities. My latest trip is an example of part of my ongoing wine hunt.
Even though Grace could not travel with me on this business trip, as we’d originally planned, I had a surprisingly enjoyable evening on my first night out.

I was in San Antonio Texas and as usual my choice of hotel was based on what was affordable, yet within certain acceptable limits. I travel too often to put up with extremely low-end lodging but also too often to spend a ton of money every night. On this particular trip, the Doubletree Hotel in Downtown San Antonio won my business at an amazingly low $80/night.

Since I had meetings in different cities in south Texas, I flew into Austin then drove to San Antonio for an early morning meeting the next day. I decided that since I’d be answering emails and working from my room, I’d just find my dinner at the hotel restaurant.

The restaurant was your typically chain hotel café/bistro. Since it was relatively near the Riverwalk, I was not surprised to find that I was one of only 3 patrons in the hour I was there that evening. I picked a Southwest Chicken Salad, the Chicken Tortilla soup and the house Cabernet.

I hadn’t had this particular Cab before, but by the glass options are not always great, so I had limited expectations. As the evening progressed, I found that the quality of the food and service at this hotel restaurant was unusually nice. Adding to the experience was the unexpected quality of the house wine. They were pouring a Hogue Genesis Cabernet Sauvignon 2008. I enjoyed it enough that I put the wine on my watch list, to remind me to find it again someday, and added it to my recommendation list for my friends. Google research after dinner showed it typically sells for about $16.99/750ml. It was good enough that I told Grace about it when we talked later that evening.

A couple of days later, while prepping for a networking event that I help host, I was in San Marcos, a town known for its Outlet Malls/Stores. I saw a large sign for Gabriel’s Wine and Spirits Outlet. As a committed wine hobbyist, I felt compelled take the exit and check this out. Besides, I was on a quest for party supplies.

The first wine I saw when entering the store, on the discount rack, was Hogue Genesis Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 for $9.99. Needless to say I immediately purchased a bottle and 4 days later, brought it home where Grace and I can share this wine. I wouldn’t want her to feel neglected since she had planned to join me, but at the last minute she could not make the trip. We’ll see if she likes the wine as much as I did!

Phil’s Review of Hogue Genesis Cabernet Sauvignon 2008: This Cabernet has a nice dark color in the glass, with a bouquet of plum and black cherry. It has a medium body that is well-balanced and fruit forward. On the palate, I tasted blackberry and currant flavors at the core, with pepper, licorice and herbal notes as the flavors linger with mild tannins on the finish. This a good, well-priced cabernet that would go well with burgers and steaks, but for red wine lovers, I would also suggest that the pepper and herbal characteristics paired well with a spicy southwest salad and tortilla soup.

Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes. . .

Free shutterstock_97614038 Heart shaped balloon

. . . or, with that oversized wine glass of Syrah.

I will say that, while we don’t officially celebrate Valentine’s Day, we managed to have quite a nice time last night.  We got home around 7 and decided to heat up some soup instead of cooking dinner.  To make it more celebratory, we also opened a bottle of one of our favorite California Syrahs, 2009 6th Sense, by Michael David Winery.

And it was good.

I’ve been stressed lately—and an evening of Syrah, reminiscing and Castle on TV, all worked as a very nice chill pill.  At one point, Phil asked me if I remembered our first kiss, then did a little extemporaneous reenactment.

Also good.

So, I guess we do sort of celebrate Valentine’s Day. I made a Jib Jab Valentine e-card (for some reason, I love sticking our faces on the animated characters. It may be that I am just easily entertained) and we had wine and got mushy.  We just didn’t go out, buy flowers or candy or cards or have a fancy dinner.

So I hope all of you who celebrate Valentine’s Day had at least as much fun as I did.

And for those of you who don’t celebrate—an anecdote.

Once upon a time I was card shopping over lunch on Valentine’s day.  A couple of guys about 30 years old, were also last minute card shopping over lunch. The guy looking for the card was not happy about the whole thing. He was griping and complaining and basically cussing the whole Valentine tradition.  Finally, he found a big, red, shiny card, showed it to his friend and said “This ought to shut her up!”

So, as we pause to bask in the remembered glow of that special moment, we can all give thanks that we are not in that relationship!

To Celia

Ben Jonson (~1616)

Drink to me only with thine eyes
And I will pledge with mine.
Or leave a kiss but in the cup
And I’ll not look for wine.

The thirst that from the soul doth rise
Doth ask a drink divine;
But might I of Jove’s nectar sup,
I would not change for thine.

I sent thee late a rosy wreath,
Not so much hon’ring thee
As giving it a hope that there
It could not withered be;

But thou thereon did’st only breathe,
And sent’st it back to me,
Since when it grows and smells, I swear
Not of itself, but thee.

Here’s to the Past, the Future and Today

Hand uncorking a wine bottle

Thanks, Younger Grace and Philip!

Last night, we opened a bottle of wine that our younger selves bought and put away for us.  And it was quite a tasty treat!  It was a bottle of 1997 Stag’s Leap, bought when we were much less knowledgeable about wine, but were eager to learn more. In those days–like a lot of people– we had a decent income and comparatively low outgo, so—yay—we could afford good wine to lay up. And it did a very nice job of laying up and was a treat when we opened the bottle. 

But it reminds me that I am “Younger Grace” compared to someday.  So I need to figure out what kinds of good things I can do today to ensure that Someday Grace is happy and grateful for what I did or didn’t do going forward from today!  And while that likely includes buying a bit more wine for the cellar, it can also be saving a few more bucks to do everything from buy food to updating my house or maybe splurge as a space tourist when I’m retired.  And I think I’d love a driverless car. I probably ought to exercise a bit more, so that Someday Grace can get around well enough to do the things she/I’ll want to do .   Someday Grace, I’ll keep you in mind when I decide how to spend our money and our time…. 


Three Women Walking

The link takes you to one of my favorite sculptures, Three Women Walking (Tres Mujeres Caminando) which represents three stages of femininity: the young, the matronly, and the elderly. It shows a woman walking, as a youthful woman is walking in the opposite direction moving away from her and an older woman is walking behind her, seemingly gaining on her.