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Circus Trip 2018: Finger Lakes Wineries

Day 45, Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Finger Lakes Wine Trail, Geneva, New York

Seneca Falls, New York is right on the Finger Lakes Wine Trail, so of course I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to check out some of the wineries in the area!

I don’t remember how I decided which wineries to visit, but I ended up first at Ventosa Vineyards.  It was lunch time, so I started out with a glass of wine and pizza for lunch; of course I had a Riesling, as that is what the Finger Lakes region is known for!  It was delicious and lovely sitting on their patio overlooking the lake, although it was breezy!

After lunch, I went back inside to have a tasting, and Marissa guided me through some wonderful wines! In addition to Rieslings, Ventosa focuses on the Italian/Tuscan varietals, and grows all of their grapes on their estate.  I really enjoyed their Tocai Fruilano, which is unique and not often found in the United States!

After I left Ventosa, I headed a little way down the road to find Zugibe Vineyards, which was recommended by my server at Ventosa.  My visit there is best described as efficient.  My server was polite and… well… it felt rushed… And not a little unlike I was overstaying my welcome.  I did really enjoy the Dry Riesling though, so I hope she was just having a bad day…

All in all, it was a great day spent visiting the Finger Lakes Region; I would love to go back and see more of the area!

Circus Trip 2018: Fallingwater

Day 39 & 40, Thursday & Friday, August 23 & 24, 2018

Rockwood & Mill Run, Pennsylvania

Thursday was a rest day.  It had been a little while since I had a day just spent at the campground, but there was another reason too.  My former employer was being sued, and I was being deposed as a witness in the lawsuit.  I have to admit that it was an odd experience, laying in my car bed with my laptop at the ready (part of the deposition was answering questions about exhibit documents), answering the attorney’s questions under oath.  It is not an unheard of experience in my career, but it was the first time I’ve ever been deposed while hanging out in a campground in Pennsylvania!  I’m just glad I didn’t have to fly home for the deposition!

The rest of the day, I relaxed, took some walks, and wrote.  The Hickory Hollow Campground in Rockwood was mostly set up for RVs, and I had the tent area all to myself!  Unfortunately, the Laurel Highlands area of Pennsylvania was quite cool during my visit, so I didn’t have an opportunity to check out the pool at the campground.

 

Friday I was back at it, and ready to see a highlight of the trip.  The architect Frank Lloyd Wright is fascinating to me.  I have enjoyed visiting the homes he has designed and seeing how he incorporates nature (and styles representing nature) into his designs.  So it is no surprise that I was excited to visit Fallingwater!

Fallingwater is considered to be Wright’s masterpiece.  It was built in 1935 for Liliane Kaufmann and her husband Edgar, owners of the Pittsburgh based Kaufmann’s department store.  The Pittsburgh wealthy had long been building homes in the Laurel Highlands area outside of Pittsburgh, and the Kaufmanns were no exception.  What is unique, however, is the home.  Fallingwater is built directly over a waterfall on Bear Run, and incorporates the waterfall and the stream into the design of the home.

It is incredible!  There are stairs from the living room of the home to access the water below.  There are 4 bedrooms and six bathrooms in the home.  Fallingwater has several sections that are cantilevered, meaning they are only supported at one end, including the living room and the outdoor balconies. The home is constructed with concrete and locally quarried Pottsville sandstone, and a series of cantilevered “trays” make up the home over the waterfall.  Wright called his style organic architecture, where stone floors continue inside and out, corner windows blur the lines between interior and exterior, and glass is used in abundance to bring the outdoors in.

Wright wanted the design to be in harmony with nature, and he did not want to have unnecessary braces or structural support.  Wright also insisted that he design the furniture on most of the homes he designed, and Fallingwater contains the original furniture that came with the home.  The Kaufmanns were permitted to display some of their own knick-knacks and artwork; Wright liked to control every detail of the homes he designed.

Unfortunately, there were some disagreements between Wright and the contractors, and the owners of the house.  The Kaufmanns were concerned about whether Wright had enough experience working with concrete and structural engineers recommended much more structural bracing than Wright wanted; the owners had the additional bracing added in spite of Wright’s protests.  Even with this additional structural support added, a study done several years ago showed that the cantilevers were still in danger, and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy has had to add additional support in recent years.

 

The tour was very interesting and gave a lot of information about the Kaufmanns and their prized home.  Unfortunately, you can’t take photos inside, and there were far too many people on the tour to sneak any, but I did wander the grounds and I made sure to get the iconic shot of the home and the Bear Run waterfall.  Fallingwater is certainly worth a visit if you have the chance!

 

Circus Trip 2018: Amana Colonies

Day 19, Friday, August 3, 2018

After my second respite in just a few days, I was fully recharged and ready to resume the trip.  My destination for the day was the Amana Colonies.  Yes, that Amana, as in Amana appliances.

The Amana Colonies are the home of a group of German Pietists who fled persecution in their native Germany to settle near Buffalo, NY.  Eventually they moved to Iowa in 1856.  They brought their craftsmanship with them from Europe, and for over 80 years, they maintained an almost completely self-sufficient economy, with a division of labor among the community members.

Me in a German style hat

The society tried to maintain everything as equally as possible within the society by not using money, and not using products that came from outside the community.  Men and women were considered equal, but interestingly, marriage and child-bearing were discouraged, which obviously had an impact on future generations of colony members.

There are seven towns in the community – the total population of the seven is around 2,000 as of the 2010 census.  The colony founded the Amana Corporation, which manufactures refrigerators and other appliances to sell outside the community; it was this business that generated the money that the community needed to purchase land outside of the colony to support the members, as well as to buy supplies that could not be made by colony members.  (Amana is no longer owned by the colony).

An Amana home

All land was owned by the colony.  All jobs were assigned by the colony, and members ate communally in several communal kitchens.  Everybody who could work was given a job according to their abilities, but in general work was divided into traditional male and female roles, with men working in the factory and in the fields, and women working in the communal kitchens and gardens.

The Ackerman House – built 1856

I took the van tour of the Amana colonies.  It was fascinating; our tour guide was a former member of the colony so he had a lot of information on the inner workings of the colony and what it was like to grow up there.  He left the colony as a young adult, and later returned there to live, but he did not rejoin the religion.

Our guide outside the museum

On our tour, we went to several sites within the community.  We saw one of the general stores, a communal kitchen and a church.  At the church, a woman who was a member of the colony explained the way that they worship, with men and women separated during the service.  We also got to watch a video of the history of the community, with lots of historic photos of the community.  It was so interesting to see the cemetery too.  The premise is that all people are equal in the community, so the graves are simply laid in rows, with all the headstones the same, and simply arranged in the order in which people died.  It is certainly a departure from the concept of family plots.

 

 

The Amana colonies functioned well for over 80 years as an almost completely communal economy, importing almost nothing from outside of the colonies.  However, over time, weaknesses began to reveal themselves.  Colony members became unhappy that outsiders had technological advances, and began to make money on the side to support these purchases.  Other colony members then became jealous about what the Jones’ down the street had.  It is a familiar story whether or not you live in a community with a self-sufficient local economy, and sadly it eventually meant the end of the economic structure of the Amana colonies.  Members began to demand a vote of the society, to determine whether the group wanted to continue with their separate, communal society, or abandon it and join the capitalist economy of the people who lived outside.  I think you know how the vote went.

Today people continue to practice their form of worship, but the communal society they built here is gone.

My mom had recommended my visit there; I was interested but I doubt I would have sought it out had she not mentioned it.  It was really interesting though and I was glad I did.

One last note on Amana.  They have a couple of wineries!  I stopped by Ackerman Winery, a family owned winery that has been in operation since 1956, and did a tasting of their mostly fruit wines.  They are sweet, but I found a few that I enjoyed, and purchased the Rhubarb wine.  And I learned that I do not like dandelion wine – who knew?  Now I do.

Ackerman Winery

 

 

Oz Winery: Emerald City Lights White Wine Blend

Whelp… Less than two months in and the job is officially super-busy.  Never a dull moment!

Meanwhile, I opened this wine the other night; I picked it up on my visit to Oz Winery in Wamego, KS.  Yes, that’s the Wizard of Oz, in case you were wondering.  The winery gives all their wines Wizard of Oz names, and carries all sorts of Oz and wine memorabilia in the tasting room.  You can sample two wines for free and this was one of the wines I chose to try.

The Emerald City Lights is a “proprietary” white blend, which is fancy speak for “they don’t want to tell you what the blend is.”  I disagree with this philosophy, since wines are so different naturally that there isn’t really a need to protect the specific grapes used.  But anywhoo…

This wine is very light, with only the palest yellow color, and tart flavors of lemongrass beneath a floral nose.  It is delicious, and much more than I was expecting from a Kansas wine.

Unfortunately, since I had limited storage space in my car on my trip, I only bought one bottle of this wine.  I wish I had more…

 

 

Lyrarakis 2015 Assyrtiko

I have had this wine for a while; it was one that I bought in 2016 after a tasting of Greek wines at our awesome local wine shop.

For those of you who don’t know Greek grape varietals, like I didn’t, Lyrarakis is the winery, Assyrtiko is the grape.  The grapes were grown in Crete, and harvested in 2015.  I was excited to try it, since I had never tried the Assyrtiko grape.

Lyrarakis 2015 Assyrtico

I couldn’t find much online about this wine; it seems that the winery started making the wine under a different label after 2015. I have no idea if they are using the same vineyards either.  Than means you get my impressions exclusively.  Aren’t you lucky!

The wine is a very golden amber color, more golden than a lot of the white wines I drink.  On the nose, it smelled very floral, so much so that I wondered if I would like it, although clearly I had enjoyed it enough at the tasting to buy it.  It has been a couple of years though and wines change over time!

On the palate, it has a very syrupy mouthfeel, a much heavier white than I am used to.  It has a sweet flavor of lychee and passion fruit.  So delicious!

I would pair it with something a little spicy, like Thai food.  You’ll notice that I did pair it with my Spam Museum stemless wine glass, that I picked up on my road trip!

This was a very nice wine.  I don’t remember how much I paid for it, but I think it was about $20.  I would certainly buy it again!

 

 

12 Corners Aromella

When I was in Michigan visiting my family, my cousin and I took a day to head over to Lake Michigan.  We had lunch at a brewery, did a little bit of shopping, went to a couple of the wineries in downtown South Haven, and checked out the lighthouse too.

We stopped at 12 Corners Winery tasting room in downtown South Haven, named for the Twelve Corners neighborhood where the vineyard makes its home, and did a wine tasting.

The Aromella intrigued me.  It is a hybrid grape; a cross between Traminette and Ravat 34, developed at Cornell University’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, NY in 1976.  It was renamed Aromella in 2013 (that took a while!).  I have had Traminette, and like it, but I have never had, or even heard of Ravat 34.

The result is a sweet (but not overly so) white wine that tastes similar to Moscato, but with more floral flavors.  The 12 Corners Aromella is estate grown, the residual sugar on this wine is 5.5 percent and the alcohol content is 11.8 percent.  It was delicious and a great opportunity to taste a new-to-me grape!  It is also reasonably priced at $14.99 a bottle.

If you have tried it, let me know what you think!

 

 

4 Chicks and a Little Bitch: The Presidio & Coit Tower

Day 3, Wednesday, March 28, 2018

After we went to the Sutro Baths, we still had plenty left on the agenda.  We saw the Legion of Honor Museum when we drove by it, and one day I want to visit – but that will have to be a different trip.

We were ready for lunch, so we went over to the Magnolia Gastropub in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood.  Oh wow, this place was good.  I had the Bombay Bubbles IPA (YUM!) and the Fried Chicken sandwich with a salad. It was soooo delicious!

My beer at Magnolia

 

My fried chicken sandwich

We did some window shopping and Lelani tried on some clothes at a cute little boutique.

I found a dinosaur!

After that we went to the Presidio at Fort Point. Fort Point was built between 1853 and 1861 to protect the San Francisco Bay at the height of the gold rush.  It was designed in the Army’s Third System style, a style adopted in the 1820s, and was the only Fort west of the Mississippi River to be built in this style.  It was in use as an active fort up through World War II, although it never fired a shot at an enemy.

When the Golden Gate Bridge was being constructed in the 1930s, there was discussion of tearing down the now obsolete fort, but fortunately the bridge’s Chief Engineer Joseph Strauss saw the historical significance of the fort and designed an arch that would allow the bridge to be built over the existing fort structure.  I am so glad it could be saved.  Unfortunately the fort is currently only open Fridays through Sundays, so we weren’t able to go inside.  The interior is certainly on my list of places to see!

We walked along the water and climbed the steps down and up from the parking area – that was quite a workout!  We considered walking across the bridge, and I definitely want to do it sometime, but we were worried that all the traffic and the people might be too much and too dangerous for a puppy.  Next time – another thing for my bucket list!

We headed to another area of the Presidio for a late afternoon glass of wine at Sessions restaurant.  I had their happy hour white (twice…); the Ressó 2017 Garnacha Blanc – it was delicious!  I also had two oysters on the half shell, because at happy hour prices of $1.50 each, who wouldn’t?!!  Well, someone who doesn’t like raw oysters, but…  They were amazing!

My wine at Sessions

We sat at their outdoor seating, and it was so nice to just sit outside on a glorious, sunny, hot, March San Francisco day.  Those adjectives don’t normally go with San Francisco, and certainly not in March, so we really soaked it in!  And the folks at Sessions allow dogs in their outdoor seating, you just have to take the dog in through the side door on the patio, so we could linger for a while.  Our server even brought Shaka dog biscuits and a bowl of water!

Our last sightseeing stop of the day was up at Coit Tower.  I had been twice before and loved it each time, and so had Lelani, but the girls had never been.  It was too late in the day to go up to the top (if you get the chance to you should), but we had enough time to do a circuit of the bottom part of the tower.  That’s where (most of) the murals are.

Coit Tower

The murals…  Coit Tower’s murals were painted in 1934 as a part of a Public Works of Art Project, the first of the New Deal employment projects for artists during the Great Depression.  They were painted in the Social Realism style, and depict commerce and industry subjects.  Interestingly, I learned while fact-checking for this blog post, that there are more murals on the second floor that are largely closed to the public.  However, you can see these murals, which depict recreation, if you take a tour (there are some free and some paid tours available).  How did I never know this?!  Yet another reason to visit Coit Tower!

A mural wine shop!

 

Coit Tower Industry

We headed back to our AirBnB for a bit of relaxing before we walked up the street to Zen Sushi for dinner.  This tiny, cramped restaurant had some excellent sushi!  It was a great end to a really good day.

 

Vet’s Day Weekend 2017: Annapolis

Day 1, Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Last fall, I decided I needed to take some time away, so I booked a long weekend to the East Coast.  Flying cross country is always tough; for this trip I had to be on my airport shuttle at 4:10 am, which means getting my taxi at 3:40 am!  I never get to bed before about 10 pm on nights when I am flying out the next morning, so you can imagine the sleep deprivation.  It is so worth it when I get to board that plane though!

My flight was direct – and absolutely uneventful.  I got my car, and made my way to Annapolis; it was only about a 25-minute drive there from the airport.  I stayed at the State House Inn, a historic hotel that was originally a house.  There are only 7 rooms, so it is really more an inn than a hotel – without breakfast though.  They do have an agreement for room service from the Italian restaurant below.  The State House Inn is over 200 years old, and perhaps as old as 300 years; however, there aren’t existing records that show when the house was built.

The State House Inn

The upper stories are home/inn, and the first floor is commercial space (this floor is only visible from the back side of the house).  It has undergone a variety of restorations, with the the most recent addition to the building in 1900. You can see the bones of the original building from Chancery Lane, which they say is the most photographed site in Annapolis because of the view of the illuminated dome of Maryland’s State House (you know I had to see that for myself).  The alley was supposedly used by George Washington returning to Mount Vernon on December 23, 1783, after resigning his commission in the State House (there are stairs, so he must not have gotten on his horse yet).

MD State House, from Chancery Lane

Their website indicates that it is owned and operated by Naval Academy graduate Lieutenant Commander Marc Lucas, but I talked with the manager during my stay and she had indicated that there were new owners, so it is likely that the website is outdated.

For dinner, I headed across the street to the Red Red Wine Bar for a flight of wine and a charcuterie plate.  The wine flights and meats and cheeses were delicious!  They have a huge selection of  wines by the glass and the bottle, and also have an extensive selection of whiskys, for my whisky drinker readers.  The atmosphere was very nice, and the server was excellent, explaining all the flavors on the cheeses and meats so I could choose what I wanted.  After my light dinner, I spent a little time wandering the quiet streets of Annapolis, looking in the shop windows, before heading back to the Inn for bed.  Overall, it was a quiet evening, considering that most of the day was spent traveling.  I was excited to see the sights the next day!

I chose an international red wine flight

 

My flight, with wine details

Walla Walla 2017: Relaxation

Day 2 – Saturday, May 27, 2017

Saturday morning Lelani and I were both up early (I mean remember I had basically slept the entire day before!), so we took a walk around the neighborhood and just enjoyed the quiet morning.

Historic Sharpstein Manor, Walla Walla

 

Historic Home, now apartments

We got back, had the hotel breakfast, relaxed some on the hotel patios, and then the whole gang wandered over to Bacon and Eggs for cocktails.  When on vacation you might as well go heavy on the relaxing!  We all enjoyed cocktails – I had a Grapefruit Mimosa – YUM!  Then we did a bit of shopping (Walla Walla has some really cool little shops), and found a shop called Trove that Paula loved, because their logo is a Fleur de Lis.  She loves Fleur de Lis, and Trove had some really cute stuff!  We also went to the farmer’s market, and checked out all the fresh produce and craft items. I got a pair of earrings and a pendant made from recycled glass bottles. They are gorgeous! Sadly, I broke one of the earrings (turns out glass earrings don’t fare too well when dropped on concrete), but I have been using the second earring as another pendant for now. Next time I am there I will be sure to get another pair of earrings – or several!

My Grapefruit Mimosa at Bacon and Eggs

We also went to the Museum of Unnatural History. It is a tiny little place, created and run by a guy named Gerry Matthews with a very strange and creative imagination. He spent his career working in the film and commercial industry.  Most notably, he was the voice of Sugar Bear, the mascot for Sugar Crisp cereal – now known as Golden Crisp.  I am sure everybody my age remembers the voice!  He then retired to Walla Walla and created this museum, a play on the many Museums of Natural History… Let me just say, Wow. There was just so much bizarre going on in such a small space…  The exhibits are – well, there are just no words.  He was there when we visited and he was happy to answer questions or dialogue about his creations…  Lelani and Joel LOVED it! Paula HATED it! Brandon and I were fairly neutral. Let’s just say I won’t be decorating my home in any of his motifs.  It just goes to show that we all have different tastes, and different creative minds.  If you want to visit, it is free (he accepts donations), worth a visit, and clearly a labor of love, but it is only open Saturdays from 10-2 or by appointment.  If you do go, I guarantee you won’t leave without an opinion! Keep in mind, I limited my photos here to the PG-13 stuff, but there is A LOT more to see.

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Saturday afternoon we went to the Morrison Lane tasting room. Morrison Lane is a family run winery, owned and operated by my friend Shawn and his family.  Shawn has been the winemaker for several years now, and the wines are delicious; I especially enjoyed the Rosé, the Syrah, and the Carmenere.  The bottles have artwork depicting the Lewis Chessmen, a group of 12th century chess pieces that were discovered at the Lewis Bay in Scotland in 1831. I love the tie in to history with the labels! Both Shawn and his parents are kind and personable, and love speaking with guests about their wine; we sat around for a while chatting and revisiting some of the wines.

Saturday evening we went over to Shawn’s house for his 50th birthday.  A backyard BBQ with amazing food; chicken skewers with peanut sauce, Thai noodle salad, pasta salad and lots of local beer and wine. We sat around talking and enjoying the hot Eastern Washington evening.  There was laughter – a lot of laughter – of the “what happens in Walla Walla stays in Walla Walla” variety!