Archive | February 2014

My strange love…

Today I had to shell out a good chunk of dough for the 30,000 mile tune up on my car.  The money out of pocket is the bad news.  The good news is that all my service shop gives out a real treat when you get your car serviced.

What could it be?  Ice cream?  Cake?  Wine?

Free I-Pod?

Sure all those things would be nice.

But, nope…

A car wash!

I can’t explain it, but I love the car wash!  It just makes me giddy, when you drive in, and the automatic conveyor belt pulls the car along in little fits and starts.  You smell that wonderful soap smell, and hear the first pelting of water on the windshield.  And the brushes – I always laugh when the brushes come over the car, enveloping you in a little car wash cocoon.

Then there is the next pelting rinse cycle – you just feel cleaner as the water pours over the sunroof and down the windows.  And then it ends with that whoosh of air, drying off the car.

I don’t need to have company in the car wash – I’m content just going through all by myself.  And I laugh out loud every single time!

My mom and my husband both think my love of car washes is really strange.  But it is just one of my favorite simple pleasures.  Who can be in a bad mood in a car wash!?

What is your strange simple pleasure?

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Oliver’s Terror

I am hiding under the bed right now – that’s the safest place.  I’ve been under here since late last night – when the apocalypse began.  My mom tried to get me to come out for breakfast – she shook the bag of food and I finally came downstairs.  But then I saw the windows…  I am too smart for them.  I hid under a chair until I could make a break for safety – back under the bed.

A couple hours later my mom came upstairs and dragged me out from under the bed.  She said she wanted to make sure I wasn’t sick.  I’m not.  I’m the only sane one around here apparently.  She saw my fear whenever I looked towards the windows.  I buried my head in her elbow until I could get away.  I don’t want to see such death and mayhem.  My dad went outside right before that.  I heard the door open and close.  He’s going to die.  I know it.  He’s not coming back.  EVER.

Oscar and Coraline are idiots.  Oblivious.  Just sitting there in their beds, lounging and sleeping, waiting for the end to come.  They don’t even know that it is near.  They will certainly die too.

I’m not sure what’s going to happen, but I hear the sounds of something rolling off the roof and hitting the deck.  It is terrifying.  It is probably hand grenades.  Or bodies.  Yes, it is probably bodies.  I don’t know how they got up there, but I am certainly not going to leave my hiding place to find out.  Best to wait it out and see who is still alive at the end.

I am in more danger now that mom removed the box in front of me. I don’t know why she is taking my photo during such a dangerous time…

I am in more danger now that mom removed the box in front of me. I don’t know why she is taking my photo during such a dangerous time…

My name is Oliver, and I am afraid of…

SNOW…

Snow Day February 2014

Snow Day February 2014

 

California Marathon Road Trip: Petroni Vineyards

Our last stop on our Sonoma wine tasting tour was Petroni Vineyards  It is just off the main square on Broadway, the main street leading into Sonoma.  They share the space with the Wine Hardware store, which carries all sorts of wine racks, wine fridges, decanters and wine accessories.

Petroni is an Italian style winery; they produce 8,000 cases annually.  They have a limited distribution – the owner owns the North Beach Restaurant, an Italian restaurant in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco.  They sell their wine there, and they sell by the glass at a few places in Sonoma, but otherwise, they just sell from the tasting room.

Inside the shop is a tasting bar with a flat screen TV mounted above the bar; they use it to show their customers a video about the winery and the vineyards.  Our server mentioned that it was a really slow day – we were their second customers that Monday.   I need to get that gig! Only a couple sets of customers in a day!  I could totally get caught up on all the reading I am always wanting to do!  Of course, not so great when you are trying to operate a business.

She took us through their line-up beginning with the 2011 Chardonnay, which was good, but I don’t remember anything more.  Then we moved to the 2012 Rosato di Sonoma – it is a Rosé blend of 50% Sangiovese, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Syrah – it was very good when we tasted it day, with flavors of strawberry and watermelon and a light floral taste.  Sadly, when we had it again a month later at home – the floral taste overpowered the fruit flavors and it wasn’t as good.

Next we tried the 2011 Pinot Noir – it is an earthy, cherry flavored wine with lots of spice.  It was excellent.  The 2008 Rosso di Sonoma blend is a heavy and tannic blend of 75% Syrah, 20% Sangiovese, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon.  It was my least favorite of the tasting, but certainly not a bad wine.  The 2008 Syrah was up next – this wine was very good, with nicely balanced tannins and flavors of blackberry and spice.

The 2007 Brunello di Sonoma was an amazing wine – Wow!  It was fermented on the skins for up to 40 days, and then aged in 20% new French oak and 80% used French oak barriques (a standard 59 gallon oak barrel) and puncheons (an 80 gallon cask) for 18 months.  This wine is pricey though, at $60 a bottle, so a taste of it will have to be enough for us.

The last wine that we tried was their 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon.  This wine was an excellent example of what a cab should be; not heavily oaked.  Our server told us that the winemaker believes in using some neutral French oak, to avoid covering up the characteristics of the wine; it is aged for 18 months in 50% new and 50% used French oak.  I loved the fruit forward balanced nature of this wine, but couldn’t buy it at its $70 price tag.

Petroni makes their own olive oil too; during our tasting we also got to sample their olive oil with crispy bread sticks.  The salt of the bread sticks and the oil were fantastic – it was a great accompaniment to the wine.  We really enjoyed our visit.

California Marathon Road Trip: Schug Winery

After our trip to Gundlach Bundschu, we visited Schug Winery.  Schug was founded by Walter Schug and his wife Gertrud in the 1970s.  Both of them grew up in Germany with fathers who managed wine estates, and Walter learned the trade at several wineries in Germany, England and California.  Once they moved to the United States, Walter worked at the winemaker for Joseph Phelps Vineyards in the 1970s before starting his own winery.

Schug is located just outside of the town of Sonoma.  They produce about 40,000 cases annually but you wouldn’t know it from their tasting room –  it is tiny little space!  I was a bit surprised by that, but we were greeted warmly by the server there and guided through the line-up.

Schug Winery – the tasting room is just the dark pink section in the middle. Cozy!

Schug Winery – the tasting room is just the dark pink section in the middle. Cozy!

Their Rouge de Noirs sparkling wine is where it is at.  It is a great sparkler with light bubbles, and a fruity, effervescence.  It is made from 100% Ricci Vineyard Pinot Noir, fermented with the skins for 3 days and then a bleeding off of the juice with no pressing.

The Carneros Pinot Noir was very good too – it is their flagship wine with more than 5,000 cases produced.  To be honest, I did like the Estate Pinot better, but not enough to justify the  extra $12 in price.  Their Sauvignon Blanc was not on the tasting menu, but our server let  me have a taste and it was a delicious acidic Sauvignon Blanc with flavors of grapefruit and honey.

We went home with the Sauvignon Blanc, the Carneros Pinot Noir and the Rouge de Noirs – but I would be happy drinking anything that we tried that day!

2011 Insomnia Cabernet Sauvignon

We can’t always drink expensive wine, so tonight we tried out a very affordable California Cabernet Sauvignon from Insomnia Wines in Buellton, California.  It was only $9 with the six bottle discount at Fred Meyer.

On the nose, there is lot of smoke and tobacco.  On the palate there are flavors of ripe figs, more smoke and tobacco, and vanilla on the finish.  As big as that sounds, this wine is very approachable, with enough fruit to make it an easy drinking wine.

I paired it with bratwurst baked in beer – an India Pale Ale, and vegetables baked in Greek dressing – red beets, carrots, red potatoes and cabbage.  It was delicious!

2011 Insomnia Cabernet Sauvignon

2011 Insomnia Cabernet Sauvignon

And the extra bonus is the label – the label is actually a hologram, so when you look at it from different angles, the eyes change.  Too bad it doesn’t show in the photo…  Just proving that I am still a sucker for a good label.

Life is Precious

It had been a long week – several long weeks all running together actually.  So it was timely that Noémi Ban was speaking at the university this week – a coworker and I went to see the presentation.

Noémi Ban is a Hungarian born Jew – she became a United States citizen after she immigrated here.  She was born in 1922, and she was 21 years old when the Nazis invaded Hungary.  When you hear her speak, a palpable silence comes over the room.  The only sound comes from her voice, thickly accented and still strong.  She speaks simply, not going into too much detail about the emotions she must still feel vividly, even after all this time.

She tells the audience about how her family was deported to Auschwitz; told to bring only a small parcel with food, and a change of underwear.  No valuables, not even wedding rings.  She tells of the stench of the cattle cars they rode in for 8 days.  With one bucket for water, and one bucket for a toilet.  For 85 people.  She explains how, on their arrival, they are told not to bring their parcel with them.

She doesn’t break when she explains how her family lined up at the entrance of Auschwitz, how she was the only one in her family who was sent to the doctor’s left side.  How she didn’t know then what it meant to be sent to the right.  It was only later that she found out the doctor’s name.  Josef Mengele.

She speaks candidly about having her menstrual period on the day that she arrived in the camp.  How she refused to drink from the bowl of soup that was sent down the line of women prisoners, because so many mouths had already been on it by the time it reached her.  The guards told her that next time the soup was passed to her, she would drink.  Or else.  She understood what “or else” meant.  The soup made her period stop within an hour.  She didn’t know it at the time, but the soup contained toxic chemicals that permanently sterilized many of the survivors.

She speaks of how, after 4 months at Auschwitz, she was sent to Buchenwald and began working in a factory building bombs for the Germans.  She explains how the Nazi guards didn’t seem too concerned with watching the women much, choosing to spend much of their time in an adjoining room.  This gave her and the other women an opportunity to deliberately wire the bombs incorrectly, so they wouldn’t explode on impact.  She laughs lightheartedly when she explains their sabotage, as if she were explaining a childhood prank.  She tells us that she did this forced labor for seven months.

She maintains her composure when she explains that when the Americans were getting close, the Nazis forced the inmates at Buchenwald to march to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.  Noémi and several other women managed to escape from the march and run into the forest.  She tells of hearing a man, and the profound relief she felt to discover it was an American soldier.  She laughs when she tells of how she and the other women kissed and clung to the soldier, only letting go when he told them they might strangle him.  She was liberated in April, 1945.

Her voice gets soft when she tells us that her father was the only other family member who survived the war.  Her mother, sister, brother, grandmother, aunts, uncles, nephew, cousins – 21 family members in all, were all sent to the gas chamber.  She cracks a little when she recounts how she had to tell her father about their fate – how she wanted to tell him because she didn’t want him to hear it from somebody else.  She was 22 years old.

You would think the sad part of the story ends there, but it doesn’t.  She tells the audience that after getting married and having two sons, she was living in Hungary during the Soviet occupation after the war.  She became a teacher.  And in 1956, she and her family escaped from Communist rule by hiding themselves in giant balls of yarn that were being shipped across the border to Austria.  They came to the United States in 1957.

She gets angry as she talks about the people who say the Holocaust never happened.  How she wishes she could sit with them and ask them to explain what was done to her.  She ends her presentation by telling her audience that she learned to love life in Auschwitz.  Everything else she has endured must pale in comparison to Auschwitz.  Where she learned to love life.  She ends with a statement that must seem obvious by now.

Life is precious.

California Marathon Road Trip: Gundlach Bundschu

Our second winery stop was at Gundlach Bundschu – good luck trying to pronounce that name!  It is the oldest continuously family-owned winery in California.  It was founded by Jacob Gundlach in 1858 as Rhinefarm, with Charles Bundschu joining the company in 1868 – originally the farm in Sonoma was about 400 acres.  It was renamed Gundlach Bundschu in 1894 and at the turn of the 20th century the company was producing about 250,000 cases of wine each year.

Up until that point the winery facility was located in San Francisco, but the production facilities and about a million gallons of wine were destroyed by the earthquake in 1906.  They moved the production facility to Sonoma after the quake and then Prohibition hit.

During prohibition the winery closed its doors, and all but 130 acres of the farm were sold – the family managed to make a living selling grapes for juice and raising cattle.  After prohibition, the farm began selling grapes to Inglenook, Almaden and then Louis Martini wineries, but didn’t reopen the winery until the 1970s.

The winery now produces about 25,000 cases total – I believe all their wines are estate grown.  They have a huge tasting room with a gorgeous outdoor patio area; seems that they do a lot of events.  Too bad it was too cold to sit outside and enjoy the view!

Gundlach Bundschu Patio

Gundlach Bundschu Patio

Gundlach Bundschu was a fun winery; our server was Columbian and he was super friendly.  We tried Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.  We both loved the Zin!  It was fruit forward and balanced, without losing structure.  There was a lot of pepper and spice on the Merlot, and the Chardonnay was a nice acidic wine with a light balanced oak on the back of the palate.  The only wine I didn’t really like was the Gewürztraminer.  I liked it at first taste – it was semi-sweet with citrus, but there was a floral finish on the back of the palate that didn’t appeal to me.

Gundlach Bundschu Tasting Room

Gundlach Bundschu Tasting Room

While we were there several other groups came in, and you can tell they have a loyal following.  Which isn’t surprising, given the quality of the wine.  What a fantastic visit!