Archive | January 2014

Glacial Lake Missoula: 2011 Gamay Noir

Tonight Jon cracked open the Glacial Lake Missoula 2011 Gamay Noir.  It is the first vintage of this Gamay Noir, which is sourced from Rebecca’s Vineyard in Southern Oregon.

Glacial Lake Missoula is located in Blaine, Washington, near home.  This local winery produces small batch wines, sourcing from some of the best vineyards in Washington and Oregon.  The 2011 Gamay Noir is sourced from Rebecca’s Vineyard in the Umpqua Valley, in southern Oregon.  The higher temperatures make for a more robust wine than the grapes from the Willamette Valley further north.

The wine has a ripe blackberry nose, and is fruit forward with flavors of blackberry and cherry.  It has very low tannins and a mellow acidity.  It was made by bleeding off 25% of the juice, and aging the rest for eight months in new French Oak Hogsheads.

This is a drink now wine, so enjoy!

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California Marathon Road Trip: Jon’s First Marathon

The day had finally arrived – the reason for our trip – Jon’s marathon.  The 31st Annual California International Marathon.  December 8, 2013.  Jon was ready for this.  He had been training for months.  He had run some 25 mile runs.  He was cross training with swimming, weights and the stationary bike.  All that was left was to get out on the course.

The start time was 7 am, and despite choosing a marathon in California in December so the weather would be warmer, he was greeted with an unseasonably low Sacramento temperature of 27 degrees.  Jon was dressed in shorts, long sleeve shirt, short sleeve shirt, running hat and gloves and his socks and shoes.

As we watched all the bundled up runners pile out of the cars, he got worried that he had under-dressed.  “Look, they are all wearing pants and sweatshirts…” he said to me.  I reassured him that these California runners weren’t used to running in below freezing temps, but he ran when it was far colder.  If he put more layers on, he would just be too hot.  I wasn’t completely convinced that he wouldn’t get hypothermia, but I must have sounded confident.  He got out of the car to go up to the start line.  Fortunately, it took so long to get to the front of the line of cars in order to drop him off, that he really didn’t have much time to wait before the start of the race.

Unfortunately, the California International Marathon isn’t all that spectator friendly.  I dropped him at the start, but there is no place to park there to see the runners start.  I didn’t feel like parking more than a mile away and trying to find my way back to the start, in the dark, alone, and in subfreezing temps.  Jon was on his own…

I headed back to the hotel for a leisurely breakfast and shower, then made my way to downtown Sacramento to find the finish line.  Jon told me he expected to finish at about 3 hours, 30 minutes, but I wasn’t too sure about his estimate.  He always estimates that he will be much slower than he is.  So I left lots of time.

An early runner – in front of the California State Capitol

An early runner – in front of the California State Capitol

I got downtown at about 9:10 am, and made my way over to the finish line.  There were some bands playing, some people cheering, and a Santa riding a reindeer – sorry, the reindeer was not real, just a costume, and sadly, I didn’t get a photo.  It was still cold – only in the 30s, but I found a spot right by the finish line and settled in for the wait.

Inspiration for the last half-mile!

Inspiration for the last half-mile!

Jon was wearing black shorts and a gray shirt, along with approximately 2,000 other runners.  I might be exaggerating here, but I’m not.  There were several false starts, as I spotted men coming toward the finish and did a double take before realizing it wasn’t Jon.

Jon made good in his estimate, finishing in 3 hours, 28 minutes and 27 seconds.  Amazing!  That is a race pace of 8 minutes per mile!  For 26.2 of them!  I can’t even do that pace for one mile!  I was very proud of him, but he was so cold after he stopped running that we didn’t hang around long at the finish celebration.  It was a long limp back to the car with a stop for a hot tea on the way.

Jon (at left) about to cross the finish line

Jon (at left) about to cross the finish line

Jon’s attempt at a smile – he was tired, cold and in pain!

Jon’s attempt at a smile – he was tired, cold and in pain!

Back at the hotel, Jon took off his shoe to reveal a bloody right foot.  I accused him of not trimming his nails.  It wasn’t until a couple days later that we discovered the culprit.  A large (about the size of a penny, but thicker, and much sharper) PIECE OF GLASS that was sticking up through the sole of his shoe.  He said that he had felt something about a half mile into the race, but kicked at it and just kept running.  At one point he thought that the pain was just his foot cramping.  Apparently my husband either has an EXTREMELY high tolerance for pain, or he has no nerve endings in his foot.  He says the piece of glass, “just adds to the legend.”

So who knows how well Jon would have run if he had not had a large piece of glass puncturing his foot for 25.5 miles of the race.  But I do know, he ran well, and I couldn’t be more proud!

And Jon, remember we aren’t going to make marathons in California a new tradition.  I love you, but our next vacation won’t be in California!

(And in case you are worried – the foot didn’t get infected…)

California Marathon Road Trip: Old Clarksburg Sugar Mill

In my last post, I told you about our visit to Locke, California, on The California Delta.  After our visit, we got back on Highway 160 and were enjoying the scenery when we  saw a huge, old brick building.  We knew it must have been a factory of some sort, but didn’t know what kind.  Then we saw a sign announcing that we were coming up to the town of Clarksburg, and there was wine tasting at the Old Sugar Mill!  Well, duh, of course we had to stop – it was wine tasting in a historic sugar mill!

The Front Entrance of the Old Sugar Mill

The Front Entrance of the Old Sugar Mill

The Old Sugar Mill was a beet sugar mill that was originally owned by the Amalgamated Sugar Company.  This particular mill was built in Logan, Utah in 1897, and closed in 1933, due to blight and drought in Utah.  At that point, the company dismantled the mill and moved it to Clarksburg, where it was reconstructed and opened again in July, 1935.  The mill changed hands a couple of times, but had a long run processing beet sugar from surrounding farms, before finally closing for good in 1993.

The unrestored section of the Old Sugar Mill

The unrestored section of the Old Sugar Mill

In 2000, a plan was made to convert the mill into winery crush and retail space, and the first winery opened there in 2004.  The Old Sugar Mill has 10 wineries operating there now, and the mill is huge, with a lot of yet to be converted space.  Since we had never visited before, I did what any self-respecting wino wine connoisseur would do; I found a lady in the restroom who was carrying wine, and I asked her which were her favorites.  She said Todd Taylor and Rendezvous.

Todd Taylor was closer to the restroom, so we headed there, and ran into Todd himself.  He led us through his lineup of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel.  I liked them all and was pleased by how much I enjoyed his Carneros Pinot Noir.  If you remember my posts on my March trip to the Anderson Valley, you know I wasn’t blown away by the Anderson Valley Pinots we tried.  Todd Taylor’s Pinots were wines I really enjoyed!  And his Zinfandel was excellent as well.

The Interior of the Old Sugar Mill – I love those Brick Walls!

The Interior of the Old Sugar Mill – I love those Brick Walls!

We asked Todd for his recommendation on another winery that did Zinfandels, since Jon wanted to make sure we tried some good Zins on this trip.  Todd recommended Three Wine Company, just down the hall, so we headed there next.

Three had a larger lineup, with a complimentary tasting of 5 wines.  It is the latest project of Matt Cline, who worked for many years as the winemaker at Cline Cellars.  The first wine was released in  2008.  For my tasting, I tried their Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Old Vine Zinfandel, their Field Blend, and the Petite Sirah.  My favorites were the Riesling, a nice semi-sweet Riesling, and the Old Vine Zinfandel (actually a blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Carignane, Mataro (also known as Mourvèdre), and Alicante Bouschet).  I wasn’t a fan of the Field Blend, but I liked the Petite Sirah.  It was a big tannic wine, but I think it would soften over time.

Christmas at Three Wine Company

Christmas at Three Wine Company

We wrapped up our purchases at Three and headed out just as the Old Sugar Mill was closing for the day.  We drove back to Roseville to meet up with Jon’s friend Pablo and his girlfriend Jessica for dinner at Sushi Nami.  They were having their “appetite stimulus package” sale, which meant that any of their sushi rolls was on sale for half price.  HALF PRICE!  It was advertised as a limited time only, but Pablo said that this special has been going on for a couple of years now.  I would totally visit all the time if I lived nearby!

We had a good time catching up, but unfortunately Pablo and Jessica couldn’t stay very long, and we were on our own again.  We headed back to the hotel for an early night, as Jon’s race would be here before we knew it!

The Seahawks Win: As Portrayed by a Non-Sports Fan

I am not a sports fan.  I never turn on a game, and only occassionally watch a game when Jon is watching.  And surprisingly, for as big a fan as Jon is, he really doesn’t watch much either.  So as it happens, I only watched maybe two partial Seahawks games all season.  Even though I am aware that our local team has been doing really well this year.  So in tribute to team spirit, I thought I would post about the game from my perspective.  Enjoy…

3:40 pm – Jon told me that the game started at 3:30, and then he went out for a run.  Despicable Me 2 just finished, so I turned off the DVD player and discovered the Post-Game Show on TV.  I watched for awhile, and they were all talking about the Seahawks.  I thought, maybe Jon got the time wrong and the game is over?  Very confusing.

3:50 pm – Jon comes home and I ask if he maybe got the time wrong.  He takes the remote and and turns the channel.  Apparently the Post-Game Show was for some other game.  The Seahawks are playing the 49ers.  I of course, don’t recognize their uniforms because they are so dark blue.  I was expecting the lighter blue and silver of the 1980s uniforms, since that is probably the last time I really watched a game.  I should know this, because people have been wearing dark blue and lime green all week – old memories die hard, I guess.

1st Quarter – The Seahawks are behind with a score of 0-3.  Jon is disgusted.  He decides the Seahawks are going to lose, so he turns off the TV and goes to take a nap.

3rd Quarter – Out of some weird curiosity, I turn the TV back on.  The Seahawks are still losing 13-17.  I half pay attention and the Seahawks managed to score a touchdown while I’m not looking.  Then they get a field goal.  I am always impressed by those field goal kickers.  If I were a football player, maybe I would be a kicker.  Less likely to get squashed that way.

Jon wakes up and comes downstairs.  I tell him that the Seahawks are now in the lead.  I’m not sure if he was more shocked by that, or by the fact that I was actually watching the game.

Then there was a play with a dropped ball, a big dogpile, and a 49ers guy who will be lucky to walk again.  I had to look away when they played the replay and you watched his leg bend in a way that it was never meant to.  UGH.  I’m sure that knee will haunt me in my dreams.  Like a bad horror movie.  By the way, the Bell Witch Haunting was a really bad horror movie.  Don’t watch it.  They deserve to die, just for being so stupid.

4th Quarter – The ball changed hands a few times in a way that made Jon cringe, then cheer, then cringe again.  Or maybe the cheering came before the cringing.  I’m not sure.  I find the whole game confusing.  Plus I wasn’t wearing my glasses, so I can’t really tell what’s going on.  It’s hard to see that little ball on the TV without my glasses.  I am getting old.  I miss my 20/20 vision.  I guess the 49ers almost got a touchdown.  And something about an interception.  And then a fumble.  Don’t quote me on all this – this is really just my perspective.

So now there are only about two and a half minutes left in the game, and the 49ers quarterback throws to the end zone.  Sherman (this is a Seahawk, just in case you are also not a football fan) jumps up and tips the ball away from the 49er guy and another Seahawks guy caught it.  I can’t remember that guy’s name.  Jon jumped out of his chair and started screaming and yelling.  Oliver was sitting on my lap, and was utterly terrified by the noise.  I tried to calm him down, but Oliver couldn’t take the yelling.  He ran away – I’m sure he went to hide under the bed.

Then Sherman grabbed that 49er guy’s ass – you know the guy who didn’t get to catch the ball.  I thought that in football you only grab your own teammates’ asses?  Why do they do this in football?  Do baseball players grab each other’s asses?  I’ve never seen anyone grab anybody’s ass after a half-marathon…  But I digress.  So then Sherman got into the other guy’s face, and the 49er guy pushed his face away.

I don’t support that kind of obnoxious behavior, from winners or losers.  Jon told me I should go easy on Sherman in this blog post, but there’s no reason for that kind of behavior.  I hope the coach gives him a dressing down…  Jon did tell me that Sherman got a 10 yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.  I still don’t think it’s right.

Then they dawdle around on the field for awhile, before announcing the Seahawks win.  This is why I don’t watch football – there is far too much dawdling…

In the post-game interview, Sherman antagonizes the 49er guy more, calling him a mediocre player.  He says MEDIOCRE twice and he puts the emphasis on the word, to clearly indicate that he is taunting the other guy.  Jon tells me that Sherman hates 49ers.  But still – there’s no reason for that.  Don’t be that guy – you won.  Win gracefully.  I REALLY hope the coach gives him a dressing down.

So that’s it, friends.  That’s how the home team made it to the Superbowl.  If you would like, I can provide my commentary on that iconic game in a few weeks!  By then, I might have even figured out who they are playing.  I do know it is the 48th Superbowl, so I should get some credit for that.  And don’t worry, once Jon stopped yelling, Oliver came out from under the bed…  GO BLUE!  (Or whatever we call them…)

California Marathon Road Trip: The California Delta

After our visit to the John Muir National Historic Site, we decided to take the scenic route back to Roseville.  We found CA Highway 160 and set off into the California Delta.  The reality is that much of the area just south and west of Sacramento is a delta; in its natural state the California Delta is a freshwater marsh with significant annual flooding, and a series of channels and sloughs with islands of peat.  The official name is the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta because it is located at the confluence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers.

Beginning in the mid 1800s enterprising Americans decided that seasonal floods didn’t really work for them, so they set out to control nature and remade the Delta into fertile farmland that now rarely floods.  The rivers are contained with high built up levees on either side, which happens to be perfect for a highway, right?  The delta also happens to deliver a significant amount of the water supply for the San Joaquin Valley and southern California through an elaborate pump system.

So you drive along an elevated road, with the slow moving river on one side and large farmhouses on the other, and you feel like you have been transported into the Louisiana bayou, only with less vegetation and no Spanish moss.  And no alligators.  I imagine that in the summer the heat is probably pretty similar to the south, but perhaps with less humidity.  But otherwise it is EXACTLY the same.  Really.  And there are probably just as many mosquitoes.

One of the many bridges spanning the river

One of the many bridges spanning the river

Along the way, we stopped in a couple of small towns that modern life seems to have largely passed by.  Isleton (population 804) announced that it had a historic point of interest, so we set off to find out what is was.  It wasn’t clearly marked, so I’m not exactly sure what we were looking for or if we found it, but what we did find was a small town with several turn of the last century buildings in various states of disrepair.

The second story of an abandoned building in Isleton – its Chinese immigrant past still visible.

The second story of an abandoned building in Isleton – its Chinese immigrant past still visible.

And we found a woman who seemed to be on drugs, who proceeded to follow us around and stop where we stopped, and continue when we did, peeking into cars along the way.  So, due to the fact that this woman was creeping Jon out, we didn’t hang around long in Isleton.  Note: there were an awful lot of cars parked along the main street for as dead as the town appeared to be.  We could only find a handful of businesses that were actually open (or in business for that matter); certainly not enough to justify the number of cars that were parked.  We also found that stereotypical car covered with cats – so we took a photo of that too.

A couple of the more maintained buildings in downtown Isleton, California

A couple of the more maintained buildings in downtown Isleton, California

Cats on Cars

Cats on Cars

Our next stop on the Delta was in the historic town of Locke.  Locke was founded in 1915 by Chinese immigrants who were prevented from living in the nearby communities with whites.  This was once a thriving town with a Chinese school, traditional Chinese doctors, and restaurants and shops catering to the Chinese population.  You can see what it once was by the Chinese writing remaining on some of the buildings.  Technically, Locke isn’t a town, but an unincorporated area, but the historic buildings and its connection as a Chinese immigrant community earned it a designation as a National Historic Landmark District.

A row of historic buildings in Locke, California

A row of historic buildings in Locke, California

Someone (I cannot remember who) had told me that Locke was a quaint little historic town with art galleries and shops.  What we found wasn’t quite what I would describe as quaint – although it was certainly trying.  There were only a few shops open – a couple of art galleries and a consignment shop.  And a tiny little museum on the history of the Chinese in the area.  And wow, historic is an understatement!

Locke has as many abandoned buildings as it does occupied ones – and some of them seem dangerously close to falling down.  I would not want to be in Locke when the next earthquake hits California!  The upside was that there weren’t any tweakers in Locke, and it did give me the opportunity to take some interesting photos of the old, run-down buildings.  Other than that though, it wasn’t much of a destination – I was glad we had just chanced upon it rather than heading out there with a plan to spend awhile…

One of the not so well maintained buildings in Locke

One of the not so well maintained buildings in Locke

Our cruise of the California Delta was certainly interesting and beautiful, giving me an opportunity to see something new in California.  Jon lived in Sacramento for a few years and never knew this was right outside of the city!  This is definitely not a world of strip malls and pavement.  And at the end of our delta tour we happened upon a converted beet sugar mill – I will post about that next!

Have you ever visited the California Delta?  What did you think?

California Marathon Road Trip: Martinez Adobe at John Muir NHS

In my last post, I gave you a glimpse into our visit to the John Muir National Historic Site, and the house that John Muir owned and lived in during his later years.  Also on the property is an 1849 adobe home, called the Martinez Adobe, located on a section of the Juan de Bautista de Anza historic trail.

The land that the adobe is located on is the Rancho El Pinole, a Mexican land grant of 17,761 acres that was given to Ygnacio Martinez in 1842.  To fulfill the terms of the land grant Martinez built an adobe house, but that’s not the one that is standing today.  The current adobe house was built in 1849 by his son, Vicente Martinez, a year after Ygnacio’s death.  The property was divided up over the years, and the adobe and the land nearby was purchased by John Strentzel (John Muir’s father in law) in 1875.

Martinez Adobe, built 1849 – Adobe Construction

Martinez Adobe, built 1849 – Adobe Construction

The adobe is interesting for what it is, but not completely authentic (a wood section has been added on to the home).  However, the home is set up with an exhibit on the Juan Bautista de Anza historic trail, which follows the route of the 1775-1776 expedition by the Mexicans from Tubac Presidio in Southern Arizona, up through California.  Although the mission was funded and organized by Mexico, the colonists that traveled with Anza were from several areas around the world, including Spain, Basque, Mexico, other parts of Europe and Africa.

An outdoor oven at the Martinez Adobe

An outdoor oven at the Martinez Adobe

We had visited the Presidio State Historic Park in Tubac, Arizona, where the mission departed from, and had seen the signs of the route, but had never stopped at any of the historic sites.  So it was interesting to learn a bit about the end point of the expedition.

The exhibit included some of the history of the Oohlone tribe, who were decimated by disease when the colonists arrived.  It was a good reminder of the not so nice parts of the history of this nation.  The exhibit also documented information about area citizens who belong to the Oohlone tribe, as well as citizens descended from the settlers from the Anza expedition.

The adobe doesn’t take much time to tour, and it provided some great information on a piece of our history that I didn’t know much about.  It was well worth the time.

California Marathon Road Trip: John Muir National Historic Site

The day before Jon’s race, we decided we would head over to the John Muir Mansion in Martinez, CA.  John Muir is considered the father of the National Park Service, and I bet many of you didn’t know he lived in a 10,000 square foot mansion at the end of his life!  He was born in Scotland in 1838 (shout out to my Scottish roots!) and the family immigrated to Wisconsin in 1849 when Muir was 11 years old.  He had a tough childhood, with a father who did not appreciate John’s desire for education.  He had to get up in the middle of the night after his father went to bed, in order to read and study.

He and his brother both went to Canada during the Civil War to avoid the draft.  Then, after the war, as a young man, John was working in a factory making wagon wheels, where his intelligence led to several inventions that would make production more efficient.  Until one day, an industrial accident left him with a cornea that had been pierced by a tool he had been using.  John was instructed by his doctor to leave his eyes bandaged and to sit in a darkened room for six weeks.  SIX WEEKS!  Just sitting there in the dark!

Poor John was about to go insane; the only thing that kept him on this side of sanity was imagining his walks in the countryside.  He imagined and remembered an entire childhood of walks in the country alone and with his family, and was able to make it through the completely incapacitated month and a half.  His cornea healed.

His six weeks with no vision led to a turning point for John; he decided that he couldn’t continue with the life that he had been living; he wanted to do something that would make a difference.  He started down a path of wilderness exploration, and attempting to preserve that wilderness for future generations.  He set out on a trek around the United States, first heading south to the southern states, to Cuba, to New York, then making his way out west and stopping Yosemite, where he was so enthralled that he spent the next four years.

Eventually he began to crave human company again, and ended up in the small agricultural town of Martinez, California, where he met his future wife Louisa Strentzel (she was Polish, so shout out to my Polish roots too!), and began working for her family’s fruit farm.  He made a fortune growing fruit  – apples, pears, figs, quince, wine grapes (Flame Tokay, Muscat of Alexandria and Zinfandel).  There were once 2,600 acres on the fruit farm, but that is down to 325 acres now.

The Italianate Mansion John Muir lived in during his later years

The Italianate Mansion John Muir lived in during his later years

John and Louisa married in 1880 and had two daughters together, who he raised to love and appreciate nature.  When his father-in-law passed away, he and his wife inherited the 10,000 square foot mansion on the hill.  They moved into the mansion in 1890; the house was built in 1883.  However, after years living on the farm, Muir began going a bit stir-crazy so his wife offered to take over the daily operations of the farm so Muir could go back to doing what he loved – traipsing through the wilderness and working towards conservation of the nation’s wild areas.

The house is amazing, and has been restored to what it looked like in Muir’s time.  It is 14 rooms, with a bell tower above the attic that gives a 360 degree view of what was once the estate.  After the earthquake in 1906 damaged the fireplace in the living room, Muir had a gigantic man-fireplace built.   It looked a bit out of place in a refined Victorian mansion – it seemed like it belonged more in a mountain lodge.  We got to check out the scribble den, which is what Muir called his study, and where many of his preservation writings originated.  The self-guided tour also included the bell tower at the top of the house, and the attic space – they had a lot of storage up there!

The front sitting room at the John Muir Mansion – with one of the original marble fireplaces

The front sitting room at the John Muir Mansion – with one of the original marble fireplaces

The fireplace John Muir built after the 1906 earthquake – this one is much more robust

The fireplace John Muir built after the 1906 earthquake – this one is much more robust

John Muir had some major successes – Yosemite was designated the first National Park in California in 1890, protected for the ages from development.  He played a major role in the establishment of Mount Rainier National Park in Washington State.

The Scribble Den – John Muir wrote at the table by the window

The Scribble Den – John Muir wrote at the table by the window

He also had some failures – the Tuolumne River was dammed in 1923, flooding the spectacular Hetch Hetchy Valley.  Muir had fought the project to build a dam that would provide water to the San Francisco Bay area, but despite his efforts, legislation was passed in 1913 by Woodrow Wilson to move forward with the dam.  The defeat was devastating to Muir.

John Muir brought this Sequoia to the property as a seedling from Yosemite

John Muir brought this Sequoia to the property as a seedling from Yosemite

In the end, although he didn’t live to see the fruition of a lot of his life’s dreams, he was instrumental in protection of the Petrified Forest and Grand Canyon National Parks in Arizona, Glacier National Park in Alaska, Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks in California, and in my own backyard, Mount Rainier in Washington.  In addition, Muir began a national debate about the importance of preservation, and not allowing the need for resources to blind us to the need to have wild areas preserved for future generations.

The debate continues today, and because of that, when John Muir died on Christmas Eve in 1914, he died a very rich man.