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?

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 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!

California Marathon Road Trip: Sonoma and Tin Barn Vineyards

The day after Jon’s marathon, Jon and I decided to head to Sonoma for the day to do a bit of wine tasting.  The day was cold and clear, and we got to Sonoma right at lunchtime.  After wandering around the square checking out our lunch options, we decided to try the Plaza Bistro.

The place was pretty empty when we arrived, and the temperature was cold – I wish they would have turned the heat up a bit.  But the service was friendly and fast, and the food was excellent.  Jon had the beet salad, with roasted beets, fresh sliced fennel, Blue Lake beans, Chevre goat cheese, and almonds, all on baby greens topped with a sherry vinaigrette dressing.  Jon was very satisfied with the salad – but he wished it had been larger.

Lunch at the Plaza Bistro

Lunch at the Plaza Bistro

I had the salmon sandwich with applewood smoked bacon, arugula, and lemon garlic aioli on a ciabatta roll.  It came with a green salad with vinaigrette.  The sandwich was amazing!  My only gripe was that the salad needed something more; it was just lettuce and dressing.  The sandwich was more than enough for me, and I knew Jon would be hungry again soon if he didn’t eat more, so I was very kind to share a few bites of my sandwich with him.

My salmon sandwich at The Plaza Bistro

My salmon sandwich at The Plaza Bistro

After our tummies were full, we were ready to start our tour.  We headed first to Tin Barn Vineyards.  We were first introduced to Tin Barn wine when we went to Zuzu restaurant in Napa a few years ago.  Zuzu is a tapas restaurant (fabulous by the way) and we had a bottle of their Zinfandel with our meal that evening.  We were hooked.  It was well balanced, fruit forward, and not overpowered with tannins.  We even tried to visit the tasting room on that trip and struck out, because it was Tuesday and they were closed.

This trip we were lucky enough to be there on a Monday, one of the days that the tasting room was open!  They are located in a row of warehouses, and it looked pretty deserted.  But the sign said they were open, so we went inside.  We looked around the tasting room waiting for somebody to come out, and peeked into the winery area as well.  Eventually, the owner, Michael Lancaster, realized that we were out there and came out to pour – he had been working in the winery and didn’t hear us come in.

Tin Barn Vineyards Tasting Room

Tin Barn Vineyards Tasting Room

Mike was super friendly and guided us through the Tin Barn line-up, starting with the Sauvignon Blanc, a dry, crisp balanced wine with flavors of lemon-grass.  There were two Pinot Noirs, both from Ricci Vineyard in Sonoma County, the 2010 and 2011 vintages.  They were both excellent; and having two different vintages from the same vineyard meant you could taste the difference that weather imparts on wine.

There were also two Zinfandels on the list – both from 2011.  The first was from Gilsson Vineyard in the Russian River Valley – a nice, fruit-forward Zin.  Gilsson Vineyard has 50 year old vines, which make for a fantastic wine.  The other was more tannic, from Los Chamizal Vineyard in Sonoma Valley, but also delicious.

We finished the tasting with the 2011 Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.  This isn’t a vineyard designate wine, and it also contains Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petite Verdot.  It was a great California Cab, with great structure and not over-oaked.

We left with two bottles of the Sauvignon Blanc and a bottle of each of the Zinfandels.  Our visit left me wishing we lived closer!

Arbor Crest 2012 Riesling

I was craving a white tonight – even though the temperature is currently 27 degrees outside with the wind chill bringing it down to 19.  But it is nice inside, as I watch the first of the Olympics broadcasts with Oliver snuggled up next to me.

Arbor Crest Wine Cellars is located in Spokane, WA and this Riesling is sourced from the Dionysus Vineyard in the Columbia Valley.  Arbor Crest is one of the oldest wineries in Washington – it opened in 1982 as the 29th winery in the state.

When we visited in August 2013, we didn’t get to visit the winery’s Cliff House Estate (it was closed that evening), a beautiful mansion located at the top of a 450 foot cliff.  The views from the top of the hill outside looked spectacular, so I’m sure it would be an amazing place to relax on the patio with a glass of their wine.  One day…

Arbor Crest Wine Cellars 2012 Riesling - Dionysus Vineyard

Arbor Crest Wine Cellars 2012 Riesling – Dionysus Vineyard

2012 was a great year in the Dionysus vineyard, with warm summer days and cooler nights that allowed for the right amount of acid retention.  The 2012 Riesling was aged in stainless steel tanks.  It is a lovely straw color, and on the nose, you pick up a lot of tropical fruit smells, ripe pineapple and honey, with a hint of a floral smell.  On the palate, you get the same ripe pineapple flavor with loads of honey.  The mouth feel is thick and syrupy.

If you have a chance to try it, be sure to let me know what you think!

How the Seahawks Won the Superbowl – A Play by Play

Jon (with my blessing of course) went to go watch the Superbowl at his friend’s house.  They invited me, and the friend is actually a coworker of mine, but I was looking forward to hanging out at home.  That way, there is no pressure if I didn’t want to watch the game.  But here’s my play by play, in case you were interested in a recap from somebody who has next to no interest in football.

First Quarter

Wow, what a start!  The Seahawks somehow score 2 points right on the kickoff to Denver.  Something happened in the end zone – I wasn’t really paying attention because kickoffs are rarely that exciting.  I think they added a two point score since my days of actually understanding football (that would be in high school…).  Is this a new way of scoring?

So then the Seahawks had the ball and they made some plays, but they couldn’t quite get it all the way.  They managed to get a field goal too.  And then they got another (but honestly I can’t remember if that was the first quarter or the second).

My Facebook page kept lighting up with posts about Harvin!!!!  I guess this is a Seahawk who is hot stuff.  But he’s been injured and just got back.  He did manage to catch some good passes and get some yards.  Meanwhile, Oliver enjoyed a nice nap on my lap, while we quietly watched the football game.  Since Jon wasn’t home, the volume was much lower than the last game we watched.  Oliver really appreciated that.

Second Quarter

This quarter was dominated by an awesome interception by Malcom Smith (see, I really do know a little something about football).  This Seahawk caught one of Manning’s passes and then managed to run unimpeded all the way to the end zone for a touchdown!  That was pretty cool.

Other notable first half random thoughts:

  • No injuries, yay!
  • Some Bronco named Kingston has quite a large butt
  • Richard Sherman has received no mention at all – maybe he’s really not all that and a bag of chips after all…

Half Time Show

I had no idea who Bruno Mars was.  He looked a Little Richard impersonator.  I did recognize his second song though, so I guess I learned something today.  And the Red Hot Chili Peppers were good.  I’m getting old…

Third Quarter

The quarter began with a play that even I can immediately recognize as amazing.  Percy Harvin caught the kick and squeaked by everybody for an 87 yard run and touchdown!  Oh my…  The look on Manning’s face was priceless.  My Facebook feed is lit up again.  Richard Sherman got his first mention for getting close to catching one of Manning’s passes.  Oliver barely woke up for any of this.  He is snuggled in for the long haul…

While waiting to find out if Sherman got injured during a play, I see the best commercial of the game so far.  The one with the Doberman Chihuahua cross dog.  When his top heavy head made him face plant in his cone of shame – hilarious!  I guess you had to be there…  I guess Sherman wasn’t badly hurt.

I’m hungry – I suppose that is the downside of not going to a Superbowl Party.  No snacks.  Oliver does not agree to get up and go make me something.  The next Seahawks touchdown is a pass to Kearse – looks like a dance party out there with two different Broncos spinning him around before he gets loose and finishes his run.

The score is 36 – 0.  Wow.  I never expected to see a game that was so one-sided!  But then the Broncos got a nice touchdown with a pass to the end zone.  And a 2-Point Conversion.  They are finally on the board.

Fourth Quarter

The beating continues with a touchdown pass from Russell Wilson to Baldwin – I can’t believe that I’m getting the names down.  The announcers have given up on Denver, basically already calling the win for Seattle.  And they still haven’t played the Budweiser commercial with the Clydesdale and the puppy.  That’s the one I’ve been waiting for!

Oliver continues his nap.  He must be dreaming of something good, because his little paws are twitching up a storm.

And with two minutes left of the game – the Clydesdale and the puppy!  So cute!  Watch it here.

And that’s it!  That’s how the Seattle Seahawks won their First Superbowl!  And the fireworks begin outside my window – Oliver is wide awake now.  He hates fireworks…