1-23-19 Why Swirl a Glass of Wine

OK, it’s true we love wine. And yes, there are a variety of traditions and rituals we seem to follow from time to time. I was thinking about this recently when I ran across a blog on this very subject – and as I am not one to pass up good information I have borrowed liberally from it for this update to our Blog.

Tasting wine with friends is always a treat. Here we are with our besties Jessie and Phil.

Wine lovers develop certain habits that may seem strange in polite company. These customs and rituals are part of wine appreciation that you pick up as you progress through your wine education. They are also easy to ridicule, and become the essence of wine snobbery to the uninitiated. Yet they (almost always) serve a role in enhancing our enjoyment of the wine.

Drinking Pinot Noir with the winemaker is always a treat. This time Stoller Vineyards with winemaker Melissa

Did you know that we hold our glass up to the light and gaze intently at the liquid within as if it holds the secret of life? In truth, it may only hold the secret of the next few minutes, but this visual inspection allows us to evaluate the wine’s clarity. Similarly, by tilting the glass against a white background, we can see the wine’s color and discern a clue to its age and condition.  The color of the wine around the rim changes with age, and if the wine (white or red) seems murky, it may be over the hill or have been stored improperly and exposed to heat.

Janeen with a bottle of Native9. Winemaker James Ontiveros’s a night generation farmer in California and celebrates his heritage with the wine he makes from his family’s 8-acre Rancho Ontiveros Vineyard

 

This visual inspection is also why we hold the glass by the stem; fingerprints on the bowl are unsightly, and our hands may warm the wine. True wine geeks will hold the glass by its foot, with or without the pinky extended. This shows sophistication but requires care in performing the next tasting ritual – The Swirl. Swirling the glass becomes second nature to wine lovers – we’ve been spotted swirling water glasses, juice drinks and the occasional cocktail in unguarded moments. Yet it serves two purposes. First, it completes our visual appreciation as we note how the wine cascades down the side of the glass. Try this experiment: Take two identical wine glasses and fill one with water no more than a quarter to the top. Then pour an equal amount of red wine into the second glass. Swirl each glass. The water will simply fall back to the bottom, but the wine should form rivulets that flow more slowly, as if clinging to the side of the glass. These rivulets are called “legs” or “tears,” depending on whether you’re feeling sexist or emotional. A wine that has “nice legs” will have good body and will taste richer, perhaps with more alcohol, than one that leaves little to behold after a good swirl.

I really am of the opinion that lots of glasses on the table is a good thing.

 

The swirl’s second purpose is to release the wine’s aromas into the bowl of the glass so we can perform the next step: Stick our nose in the glass and inhale deeply. (Swirling and sticking one’s proboscis below the rim are two very good reasons not to fill the glass too high!)

Champagne – Always an enjoyable beverage

Finally, after all this rigmarole, we actually put the wine into our mouth. But we don’t swallow it at first. Rather, we gargle it or swish it around the inside of our mouth. By aerating the wine and swishing it noisily around our gums, we theoretically release more of the wine’s flavors. We certainly annoy anyone around us.

Even after we swallow (or spit if we’re at a wine tasting and have a LOT to taste), we’re not done. There’s still the “Oooh – ahh” of sucking in air to enjoy the wine’s leftover flavors that linger in the mouth. This is yet another way of accentuating the wine’s flavors.

And then, maybe we’ll smile. But there’s still one more ritual: We pull out our smartphones and post a photo of the wine on social media. Facebook and apps like Delectable or Vivino make it easy to catalog and brag about the wines we drink. For what’s the point of enjoying a wine if we can’t share it?

From time to time it is a treat to open a BIG bottle. In this case it’s a 1995 magnum of Sparkling wine from Argyle.

 

12-31-18 New Years Eve Recap

We ended last year in Paris and will do the same thing again this year. Needless to say, the time in between our two visits to Paris

Chris, David, janeen and Ryan celebrating on the last night in Paris 2018.

has been FILLED with travel, family, joy and some sadness. What has been planned as a “gap year” of travel has continued a second year. Using our son’s home in Springfield VA as our base, we traveled up and down the east coast of the US and Canada, back and forth to Macomb Illinois and across country twice – once by plane and once by car.

The first several months of 2018 were spent caring for Janeen’s dad in Macomb Illinois.

Harold and his great grad daughter

After living in a Senior Independent Living situation for 10 years or so, it was time to move into assisted living care. He spent his 101st birthday

Janeen and her dad on his 101st birthday.

(March 5th) in Wesley Village surrounded by friends.   Janeen got to spend her birthday in Macomb too (March 6th) where we had a celebration at the local Mexican restaurant and a Margarita (no salt, over ice please).

Janeen with her birthday drink!

After celebrating birthdays, we were back in Springfield for a brief visit and a flight to California.

A second birthday dinner for Janeen was held once we were back in Virginia.

We had planned on returning to CA to visit our various doctors and getting checked up to make sure all systems were continuing to operate as designed. While there we visited with close friends, ate great foods and visited the Huntington Gardens.

We returned to Virginia in time for D.C. Cherry Blossom time.

Cherry Blossom time at the Tidal Basin

It seems the day we decided to go to the Tidal Basin was ideal – blossoms floating in the air, nice breeze and a beautiful day. We didn’t stay in VA long as we head back to Macomb to check on Janeen’s dad before turning South towards Savannah Georgia. Stops along the way included Cincinnati Ohio, Maysville Kentucky, Bourbon country, Nashville TN

The Ryman Auditorium, the original home of the “Grand Ole Opry” in Nashville

and Savannah Georgia. Coming back north we stopped in Charleston, and Asheville NC before getting back to Virginia.

After getting our clothes clean, the car washed and helping Jason (our son) do a batch of home brew beer, we packed up again and headed north. This time through Pennsylvania stopping at Longwood Gardens

The Italian fountains at Longwood Gardens

and Bethlehem before continuing on to the Finger Lakes of NY. I admit to not being impressed with the wines we tasted in the Finger Lakes but it was beautiful all the same.

Finger Lake wine tasting

Next stop Niagara Falls.

Boy, that’s a lot of water falling over the edge around Horseshoe Falls!

The Falls

We spent a couple of days on the Canadian side of the Falls and had a enjoyable time. From there a stop in Quebec City (it was hot which seemed to surprise the locals) and then a long drive to Prince Edward Island.This is the local of Anne of Green Gables – we didn’t actually make it to the “spot” but we certainly saw a lot of the countryside and they do raise a LOT of potatoes!

Winding our way south through Saint John New Brunswick and into Portland Maine we stopped in Boxford Mass to visit with friends then

Joel and Wendy, our hosts in Boxford Mass

found our selves back in Virginia in time for Hamilton the Musical at the Kennedy Center. I’m really glad we had listened to the sound track a couple of times as it really helped to hear what was happening on the stage. The soundtrack includes virtually all the songs and dialogue of the entire play so following along wasn’t  difficult as we had heard the songs previously. Some lines made more sense after reading the book, as well.

Business  accomplished in VA, we turned around again and headed to Macomb. We were there for the better part of July leaving the first week of August. We had things to get done in California and needed to be moving along. Traveling along route 66 for most of the way was interesting – sites you see from various commercials and movies would flash by from time to time.

While we overnighted with friends in Chandler AZ, we received word that Janeen’s dad had passed. Yes, it was sad news but not unexpected.

California called us.. When we arrived, the goal was to complete the removal of all our household possessions from the home we had owned for 40 years. We kept only those items that mean something – artwork, pieces of solid wood furniture, kitchen items to set up a working kitchen, a few tools but nothing we couldn’t easily replace.

All our stuff in the moving van ready to go to storage

After  a quick trip to Santa Barbara for the Carnesale wedding,

here we are having an afternoon refreshment in Santa Barbara

we got back in time to meet the movers to have all our stuff placed in storage. The house sold at the end of November – we are OFFICIALLY Houseless.

Jessie and Phil – our good buds in Pasadena.

Our trusty Mercedes Benz (MerCBlu) continued to provide us with our transport as we headed to Northern California and visited with friends of 50 years in the Bay Area prior to pointing it East ;back to Illinois for an October memorial service  for Janeen’s dad. Our entire family was present which was a great comfort.

The Family at Harold’s Memorial

Continuing to Virginia, we once again got all our clothes clean, packed our bags and flew to Paris for the month of December.

Beth joined us for a tour at Mont Saint Michel – France

So this year (2018) started in Paris and will end in Paris. We are here with our entire family to enjoy being in the City of Lights with all that means. As for celebrating the New Year? Who knows. It’s only 3:30 on the 31st as I write this so the plans for this evening are not yet set.

This “gap year” that started so long ago (we started on this adventure in June of 2017) seems to be continuing. We return to Virginia in a week but come back to Southern France in March and have two different river cruises (Holland at TulipTime and The Remarkable Rhine) in April returning back stateside the middle of May.

From us to you – Bonne Année – The Lee Blog Continues in to the new year of 2019.

 

12-23-18 Bastille Marché

One of the joys of visiting in Paris for an extended time is the ability to go to the local markets to stock the apartment with food. The Paris Bastille Market comes alive with brightly colored stalls and enticing food displays. This Marché (Market) has been around for a very long time – taking over the Boulevard Richard Lenoir twice a week – Sundays and Thursdays.

Need a new purse? Maybe a backpack?
Well, oysters, fresh and at least 6 different kinds!

There are three pathways through the market where vendors are engaging with shoppers and calling out their specials for the day. We spent the better part of several hours doing our shopping for the next several days but it’s hard to not be amazed with the stuff that are being sold. We arrived via the metro coming up at one end of the market – a booth of hats, gloves and lots of fresh shellfish. As we walked down the way there were booths of organic eggs, flowers, cheese, bread and piping hot ready to eat meals.

Tomatoes – nicely boxed
Lots of fresh vegies
Household items – wrapping paper, storage containers, hats…

Ryan had a menu he was working on for our Christmas dinner – chicken, fresh vegetables, green apples and other ingredients to make our traditional Rice and Curry. We also picked up cheese, some marinated olives, some nuts and lots of other delicious treats.

Ryan and Janeen checking out a spot.
Another big booth!
Oranges, pineapples and fruit.
Ryan picking out some sausages for later.

 

12-18-18 Paris – Musée d’Orsay

Paris, the City of Lights, and Museums! We have visited several museums during our various visits to this lovely city – The Louvre, Carnavalet Museum, Musée Rodin, Musée de Cluny and the Musée d’Orsay.

The view of the Musée d’Orsay.

All of these museums are wonderful and have a different focus or approach. Janeen particularly likes Carnavalet Museum as it represented the History of Paris through the years but unfortunately it is under renovation until 2020. A visit to the Louvre is certainly an enjoyable time but it is HUGE and crowded particularly when you want to see the Mona Lisa (I can pass on that, been there done that) and we decided a repeat visit to Musée d’Orsay would be on our list of places this trip.

The Musée d’Orsay is located on the Left Bank of the Seine and is housed in the former Gare d’Orsay – a Beaux-Arts railway station built between 1898 and 1900. The museum holds mainly French art dating from 1848 to 1914 including paintings, sculptures, furniture and photography.

The overlook from the end of the museum.

The museum houses the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces in the world. Paintings by Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, Gauguin and Van Gogh provide a fantastic snapshot of this style of painting.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir- Bal du moulin de la Galette, 1876. Yes please, I’d like this on my wall.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir- Bal du moulin de la Galette, 1876
Édouard Manet, Olympia, 1863
Claude Monet – La Rue Montogueil, Féte du 30 juin 1878. Now this could certainly be in my living room.

The original railway station, Gare d’Orsay, was constructed in time to be part of the 1900 Exposition and provided rail service throughout southwestern France until 1939. At that time, the short platforms had become unsuitable for the longer trains and the station stopped long distance service but continued with more suburban services. It has been used in several films over the years and was set to be demolished starting in 1970 but nothing happened and eventually the Directorate of the Museums of France had the idea of turning it into a museum that would bridge the gap between the Louvre and other museums of Paris. After much work and renovation the new museum was ready to receive art in 1986 where it has continued to provide a wonderful place to view art in Paris.

The interior of the building is huge with exhibits on several levels. After purchasing our tickets we entered on the main floor that overlooks the entire space. The main floor has early 19th century art: Conservative on the right, Realism on the left.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir- Bal du moulin de la Galette, 1876

Wandering among the main floor’s gallery of gleaming white statues is a joy. At the end of the first floor is a scale model of the Garnier Opéra House – this cross section lets you see the complexities of all the stage areas and gives you a good idea of the size of the place.

The front of the Opera house and cut away.
The cut away of the Opera House.

Upstairs is where the impressionist and post-impressionist – well presented and amazing. I could certainly have one or more of these on the wall in my house!

Beth, Janeen and David outside the Musée d’Orsay

All in all David was in the d’Orsay about 4 hours while Janeen and Beth had previously spent a few hours it was not nearly enough time to really see everything – David missed all the furniture, photography and the special Picasso exhibits. Most likely we will back during this trip.

12-11-18 Paris Flea Market

Paris, the City of Light is the world’s most visited capital. The city is proud of its many monuments from the iconic Eiffel Tower to the lofty Notre-Dame cathedral and the majestic Arc de Triomphe. No doubt this is Europe’s most enchanting capital!

Here is our list of the top 10 Things to Do and Must-Sees in Paris

  1. Go to the top of the Eiffel Tower.
  2. Take a riverboat cruise on the Seine
  3. Enjoy a Hop-On Hop-Off bus ride around Paris
  4. Paris by Night: Spend an exceptional evening at the Moulin Rouge.
  5. Visit the Notre-Dame Cathedral of Paris.
  6. Take a stroll around Montmartre and visit the Sacré Coeur Basilica.
  7. Visit the Louve Museum
  8. Enjoy a romantic dinner on the Seine River
  9. Take a stroll in the heart of Paris
  10. Visit the Garnier Opera House.

Yes, there are lots of historic neighborhoods to explore; bistros to sit and have a coffee and all those monuments are spectacular. However, there is another side of Paris that tourists don’t normally visit and they include outdoor markets (literally hundreds held every week) and a Flea Market that goes back over two centuries!

The most famous flea market in Paris is the one at Porte de Clignancourt, officially called Les Puces de Saint-Ouen, but known to everyone as Les Puces (The Fleas).  It covers seven hectares and is the largest antique market in the world, receiving between 120,000 to 180,000 visitors each weekend. This market is about a 10-minute walk from our apartment.

One of the walkways of the Flea Market (not my picture wrong season of course) but typical view.

The history of the flea market dates back over two centuries, when rag and bone men scoured through the garbage of Paris at night to find valuable junk to sell on. They were called ‘crocheteurs’ or pickers. The romantic term was ‘pêcheurs de lune’ or ‘fishermen for the moon’. Many set up their temporary stalls within the Paris walls in sleazy neighborhoods, but because these districts were full of pickpockets and thieves, they were chased out of the city walls to Clignancourt, Montreuil, Vanves, etc. The largest of these flea markets is the one at Clignancourt, but the other two continue to this day.

Only if the decision was easy could you make up your mind on what to buy.

The rag and bone men gathered outside the walls of Paris at the Porte de Clignancourt and set up temporary stalls where they hawked their wares. Eventually, they formed groups of stalls to attract more customers. The more enterprising traders began to ‘trade up’ in terms of goods and eventually it became popular for Parisian collectors and antique dealers to shop there for bargains.

A bathtub of Bangles.

Today, when we arrived, it was almost overwhelming to take it all in.   Up one walkway, turn down another and round and round we went. Sometime hitting the same spot before realizing we were walking in a circle. If we had been trying to furnish or decorate an apartment it would have been a snap!

Stacks of books, racks of cloths and toys spread around.
Which one to buy!

There were stalls with rugs, lamps, furniture, nautical items, clocks, lamps and lots of decorative items. Other shops had stacks of books,

Plates, books, stuff everywhere you look.
Little boxes – lot of little boxes
Just a typical table sitting around with stuff on it.
Tennis anyone?

piles and piles of them others with stuff you would have considered trash and tossed out to the garbage but here it was ready for someone to see a need and pick something up from the pile.

This reminded me of my neighbors garage – he NEVER throw anything away.

We left without buying anything but had enjoyable walkabout and will most likely wander back later during our visit.  After all, if we bought something, where would we put it and gosh we don’t even have a home to put anything anyway. We might be back, who knows, and pick up the cow sofa.

This Cow Sofa certainly catches the eye.

12-8-18 Paris and an Update

For the last 18 months, Janeen and I have been “on the road”. This road has taken us across the USA twice, around Europe for 4 months (and 9 countries) and up and down the East Coast from Savanna Georgia to Prince Edward Island Canada. During these travels we have visited lots of friends, made new friends and toured all kinds of places from Castles to Kentucky Bourbon producers. Throughout this time we have been together virtually 24/7 and I can safely say we continue to communicate with each other and have a good time.

One of the things that have been a constant is “where to next” and we keep finding new places, and old, to visit. As of the end of November, we no longer own a home in California and that prompts us to begin thinking about new places to live – or at least to call “home” when not on the road. However, a final spot won’t be critical until sometime in June or so of next year as we have lots more to do over the next 6 months.

Since the last update, about a month ago, we have stayed mostly in Virginia with some brief times visiting friends in Asheville NC.

One of the “lots’ we are thinking about where a house would be built for us.

We also did a day trip to Charlottesville VA both of these areas are places we might find a landing pad. There are a number of positive things about Asheville – we know some folks there, the community has a lot of activities including walking trails and even a wine tasting group and the place would be brand new.   The Downside is it’s 475 miles away from Springfield VA and our granddaughters – making it somewhat undesirable as a result. Charlottesville is closer, 100 miles or so and we have an agent looking at properties that might work for us that we will check out when we get back to Virginia.

We had Thanksgiving dinner at Bistro L’Hermitage while Jason, Terri and KB were in Florida.

Right now we are in Paris. Yes, Paris France again for Christmas and New Years. We are in the same apartment we had last year in the 18th arrondissement (currently well away from the protests that have been happening, which is nice). Our youngest son, Ryan and his husband Chris are completing their Masters Degrees (Ryan in International Business and Chris in Hospitality) and Ryan has signed on for an internship which will have him first in Bordeaux and then in a couple of other cities outside of Paris. So, as Ryan and Chris are in Paris, our other son Jason decided he should come here for the Holidays too. He and his family show up on the 18th and are here until after the first of the Year.

Prior to our arrival a few days ago, Chris and Ryan had gotten the keys to the apartment and stocked it with the critical items – wine and cheese plus some other food items and they now have spent a few hours helping to get the Christmas Tree up and decorated.

Janeen and Chris having a jolly time
Chris getting the lights on the tree.
Ryan working on the porch making a wreath.
The Tree is decorated and ready for Santa’s Visit.

 

Next up, our friend Beth will be joining us tomorrow for 2 weeks! She has never been to Europe and it will be exciting to take her around to the unprotested ($$$) wonders of this great city.  She will be here when the Lee’s of Virginia arrive and will move out of our apartment and into Ryan and Chris for a couple of days before she heads home.

More soon!

11-09-2018 The Winery at Bull Run

Virginia is dotted with a number of small wineries throughout the state. While we have been driving around we have noticed a number of them but have not been prompted to stop. Recently, a friend invited us to join her for a Harvest Festival at The Winery at Bull Run

Entrance Sign

and it seemed like a good time to take the plunge into the local wine world. It would not be an exaggeration that we have been to literally 100’s of wineries over the years – and have a good understanding of the process of how grapes are grown and wine is made.

Cradled in the foothills of the Bull Run Mountains, this winery is just a half hour away from our current landing pad in Springfield Virginia.  Located adjacent to a charming Stone Bridge that crosses Bull Run stream at the eastern entrance of the Manassas National Battlefield Park it is cloaked in history and drama for sure. The original stone bridge was destroyed during the first major battle at Bull Run in July 1861.

The Bridge

Some years later the bridge was rebuilt. Historical markers throughout the property document both the encampments and movements of both sides during the Civil War battle.

A view of the ruins of the old stone house and the tasting room in the background.
The tastingroom building in the background and the production building on the right.
Outside the Tasting room is this lovely porch – would be nice on a warm day.

Established in 2012, the winery has had a limited release of about 2,500 cases until recently. Production is now ramping up to 10,000 or more with both estate-grown fruit and purchased fruit. The Winery has two vineyards on site totaling over 8 acres of Norton vines. The Norton grape is a true Virginia Native having been first cultivated in Richmond VA during the early 19th century. In addition to the onsite vineyards they also have a 115-acre property in Rappahannock County. At that location they are currently growing an additional 8 different varietals – Chardonnay, Petit Verdot, Chambourchin, Traminette, Merlot, Viognier, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.

We arrived at the Winery in the early evening – so it was impossible to really appreciate the beauty of the location. The winery includes several buildings – a very nice tasting room, a barrel room, tank room and general support faculties.

One of the seating areas of the tasting room.
The tasting room included some entertainment which was nice.

We started off in the tasting room – a charming room paneled in vintage barn wood with hand-hewn beams. A hand painted mural depicting the property circa 1862 backs the Stone bar, with copper counter.

This was a lovely painting as the backbar in the tasting room.

There is a nice seating area with fireplace and comfy couches plus a general area for table seating. When we arrived there was a musician playing guitar and a crowd of people enjoying the music and the wine.

Finding a spot at the bar, we sampled 3 whites and 4 reds – a standard tasting menu for the day it seems.

Starting in the tasting room – David, Tiy, Betty and Theresa

The three whites included a 2017 Pinot Gris, a Stainless Steel Chardonnay and a 2017 Delaney (a blend of 5 different varietals) then moved to the four reds: a 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon, a 2016 Merlot, a 2016 Norton Reserve and a 2017 Chambourchin. The one common denominator of the wines was the ABV of 13% that is a sweet spot as far as I am concerned. The whites were all pleasant.  The Cabernet Sauvignon had only been in bottle 3-weeks and really was not showing at its best – but then I don’t see drinking a Cab Sav until it is at least 5 or 6 years old. The Merlot and Norton were interesting – soft and generally pleasing to the palate. After enjoying our tasting we headed out to the Production Barn for the Harvest Dinner.

My posse in the Production Building prior to dinner. Theresa, me, Tiy and Betty

Over the course of the next couple of hours and a five-course meal paired with different wines we learned more about the place and enjoyed visiting with new friends.

We started the evening with a toast of course.
There was a toast at our table for each course!

The first course was paired with a lovely 2017 Viognier – which was my wine of the evening. It went great with the Pumpkin Ricotta Ravioli and I was able to score a second glass that I nursed throughout the evening.

Pumpkin Ricotta Ravioli Pumpkin Ricotta Ravioli, Autumn Vegetable Ragout, and Parmesan Brodo

Course two was a Caramelized Onion and butternut squash tart paired with a 2017 Pinot Gris.

Carmelized Onion and Butternut Squash Tart Butternut Squash and a Caramelized Onion Tart with Crème Fraîche and Gruyère Cheese

Next up was a Grilled port Tenderloin paired with a 2014 Meritage Reserve. This was the oldest wine served and quite nice (second favorite wine of the evening).

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Polenta Charred Romanesco, Pickled Blackberries, and Polenta Cake with Blackberry Gastrique

Course four was a Seared New York Strip paired with a 2016 Reconciliation

Seared New York Strip Truffled Root Vegetables and Herbs Finished with a Mushroom Sauce

and we finished the evening with Mini Chocolate duo paired with a port style wine called Fort.

Mini Chocolate Duo Hazelnut Torte with Pretzel Brittle and Turkish Coffee Custard

At one point I had the chance to talk to the wine maker, Ashton Lough.

Here we are with the winemaker, Ashton Lough.

He joined the Winery at the beginning and has been responsible for all aspects of winemaking since then. Until recently his position was part time only recently being expanded to a full time position as production has increased. I found it interesting that his educational background, and I assume employment positions, was in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. This is not the traditional pathway to becoming a winemaker but the results in the glass are quite pleasing – particularly the Viognier – so I guess he is doing OK.

 

The evening was enjoyable and could easily cause us to visit this place again to sample more of their wines.

10-4-18 Northern Cal and Empire Mine

After leaving SoCal we drove to Cupertino and spent a couple of days at my sister Georgia’s place. Our primary reason for being in the area was to celebrate the 50th wedding anniversary of our friends Pete and Jaynese. Janeen had been in the wedding party and all members of the wedding party were represented!

A bunch of old friends! Jane, Jaynese, Linda, Gary, David, David, Bonnie and Janeen

It was a lovely afternoon celebrating with them.  A couple of days later, we hooked up with our Bethlehem PA friend Myrt

Myrt our friend from Lehigh days.

for an evening meal at Palo Alto Fountain and Grill that was delightful.

After leaving Cupertino, we went to Sonoma; first a quick visit with Richard de los Reyes,

Richard owner and winemaker of Row Eleven – he makes really nice wines!

winemaker at Row Eleven then lunch with Kirk and Denise, winemakers and owners of WesMar wines.

Janeen, David, Kirk and Denise – we love these guys!

Both visits were mucho fun and it was great to see all of them even if it was for a brief time. After lunch we went to Sonoma and stayed with our friend Beth. The highlight of our visit was being able to fix all the lamps broken by her cat – turns out new light bulbs were all that was needed! It was great to visit friends prior to heading east.

We found this Fork in Napa!

Our first stop, heading east, was the Empire Mine State Historic Park. Janeen had been here some 20 plus years ago while doing a Northern Cal tour with the boys, but I had never been. This was an active gold mine from 1850 until 1956. Since 1975 it has been a California State Park keeping alive some of the history of the gold rush times. Over its history the mine produced 5.8 million ounces of gold extracted from 367 miles of underground tunnels.

Lots of trees planted ‘over’ the mine.

In October 1850, George Roberts discovered gold in a quartz outcrop and thus started mining in the area and after several years, it changed hands being purchased by William Bowers Bourn (1869) who died in 1874 but his son, William Bourn II along with partner George Starr modernized the place and brought in skilled Cornish miners and technology to work the hard rock mining operation.

The Cottage – where the owners lived when not traveling around the world or living in their place in Healdsburg or San Francisco

Over the years various buildings were constructed on the site including a Cottage (small cottage, only 3500 square feet) and a Club House, used to entertain visiting mine owners from around the world, plus various other mining structures.

The old main offices
A section of the rock crusher. There were 80 of these and they ran 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

Over the years the mine went from water powered operation to steam to electricity. What never changed was the hard work required to get the gold out of the rock. Digging deeper and deeper following veins of gold baring quartz, the mine eventually went over 11,000 feet deep. Various operations to get both the workers and the rock to the surface were required. Extracting gold from rock isn’t easy and generally isn’t a healthy operation. Superintendent Starr, however, had an impressive safety record.

Shift change in 1990.
The Shaft – this goes down at about a 35 degree slope and the workers road the sled in the dark to the bottom.

Turns out that gold mines were defined as “nonessential industry for the war effort” by the US Government and operations where shut down from 8 Oct. 1942 until 30 June 1945. After the war, a shortage of skilled miners forced the suspension of operations below the 4600 level by 1951.

This is an old photo of the head frame – the ore would come up to the top and be dumped into the crushers.
Ore carts

By the 1950s inflation costs for gold mining were leaving the operation unprofitable. In 1956 a crippling miners’ strike over falling wages ended operations. Ellsworth Bennett, a 1910 graduate of the Mackie School Of Mines in Reno was the last “Cap’n” (Superintendent) of the Empire, overseeing the closing of the Empire on May 28, 1957 when the last Cornish water pumps were shut and removed. In its final year of operation in 1956, the Empire Mine had reached an incline depth of 11,007 ft.

 

9-24-2018 Alhambra Our home town for 40 years

For the last 40 years, we have owned a home in Alhambra California. While we have completely vacated the place and put it on the market, it has yet to sell. Recently we spent the better part of a month in our old town – staying with some friends – and doing the final bits to close out the property. As of today, (9-28) we have had several offers but have yet to get through the entire escrow and final sale process. Hopefully soon this will happen. This got me to thinking about the history of the City and what has happened over the years.

The original inhabitants of the land where Alhambra now sits are the Tongva and the San Gabriel Mission was founded nearby on September 8, 1771 as part of the Spanish conquest and occupation of Alta California. The land that would later become Alhambra was part of a 300,000-acre land grant given to Manuel Nieto, a soldier from the Los Angeles Presidio. In 1820 Mexico won its independence from the Spanish crown and lands once ruled by them became part of the Mexican Republic. These lands then transferred into the hands of the United States following the defeat in the Mexican–American War. A wealthy developer, Benjamin Davis Wilson, married Ramona Yorba, daughter of Bernardo Yorba, who owned the land that would become Alhambra. With the persuasion of his daughter, Ruth, Yorba named the land after a book she was reading, Washington Irving’s Tales of the Alhambra, which he was inspired to write by his extended visit to the Alhambra palace in Granada, Spain (we visited the room where Irving wrote the book during our trip to Spain in 2015).

Alhambra was founded as a suburb of Los Angeles that remained an unincorporated area during the mid-19th century.

A view of Main Street from about 1920.

The first school in Alhambra was Ramona Convent Secondary School, built on hillside property donated by the prominent James de Barth Shorb family. Thirteen years before the city was incorporated, several prominent San Gabriel Valley families interested in the Catholic education of their daughters established the school in 1890. The city’s first public high school, Alhambra High School, was established in 1898, five years before the city’s incorporation – both of our sons graduated from this school along with other legendary folk including Clive Cussler – author, Cheryl Tiegs – fashion model, Dorothy Howell Rodham – mother of Hillary Clinton, Mickey Thompson – race car driver to name a few.

Incorporated in 1903, the city was originally promoted as a “city of homes” and many have historical significance. There are various styles; craftsman, bungalow, Spanish Mediterranean, Spanish colonial, Italian Beaux-arts and others. Twenty-six single-family residential areas have been designated as historical neighborhoods.

One of the historic homes in Alhambra.

The downtown area at the intersection of Main and Garfield has been the center of the business district since 1895. Having undergone a number of construction changes over the years it is still the main point to start shopping. Along Main Street, there are a number of car dealerships making it very much a destination for anyone looking to buy a new car.

Main Street of Alhambra

Alhambra has experienced waves of new immigrants, beginning with Italians in the 1950s, Mexicans in the 1960s, and Chinese in the 1980s. As a result, a very active Chinese business district has developed on Valley Boulevard, including Chinese supermarkets, restaurants, shops, banks, realtors, and medical offices. Just around the corner from our home was an old Bob’s Big Boy Restaurant that was turned into a popular Asian restaurant, Noodle World – our go-to fast food spot for years.

Alhambra has also been in the movies!  NCIS, NCIS-Los Angeles, Father of the Bride and other TV and movies have used parts of Alhambra over the years.

NCIS has filmed in Alhambra a time or two.
This is the home used for the movie Father of the Bride with Steve Martin.

Phil Spector,

Phil Spector – looks like he put his finger in an electrical socket!

a legendary record producer who did a number of records for the Beatles and others, lived in Alhambra for many years in what was called the Pyrenees Castle built in 1926.

Pyrenees Castle – Phil Spector’s house on the hill in Alhambra

In 2003, actress Lana Clarkson was shot to death in his Alhambra home and in 2009, Spector was convicted of second-degree murder in connection with Clarkson’s death. This was national news for several months.

The Hat great food

The Hat, a local icon, was opened in Alhambra in 1951. It was the original, family-owned outdoor restaurant, and is now a well-known small Southern California chain. The company has kept to its roots by keeping its retro neon signs featuring a chef’s toque and the words “World Famous Pastrami”. It was a prototype of today’s fast-food restaurants. Its customers consume 13–15 tons of pastrami per week – we have had our share over the years but NOTHING close to the amount they sell on a regular basis. Another favorite over the years has been Pepe’s Mexican Restaurant.

Pepe’s Mexican Restaurant – great food!

Started in Alhambra they now have locations in many local cities but the original is always the best.

During our visit we discovered that one of our favorite chefs has purchased a neighborhood pizza place and is beginning to change it into something different. Genovese’s Pizza (2900 Main Street, Alhambra – stop by!)  has been around for a long time and now Hugo Molino and his wife Aricia are hosting Pop Up presentations for some of the creations Hugo has done over the years. Recently we were there for Tuscan Night that was wonderful.

Our “Group”, David, Janeen, Jim and Sally
Strawberry – Basil Bruschetta with Burrata cheese and pomegranate molasses
Diver Scallop on Gorgonzola soft polenta meyer-lemon cream
Smoked Filet Mignon and chianti Redction on Pappardelle Dolognese and Rapini
Sour cream Panacotta with California Figs and a glass of San Felice Vin Santo
Hugo and Aricia taking a bow.
Janelle – my neighbor during the Tuscan Nights Pop Up Dinner

Over the years the City has changed, but it has always been able to maintain a certain character – clean, relatively safe, a bedroom community with generally good schools and an active City Council moving in conservative fashion to improve the place.

Once we sell the house, which will happen eventually we know, we will still return as we have great friends to visit, places to eat we love and a climate that is really hard to beat.

This is the front of the house we lived in for 40 years.

09-13-18 Morro Bay, Marina Street Inn B&B and some Wine Tasting

Having shared nuptials and celebrated the wedding over the weekend, we gathered our belongings and headed to Morro Bay to stay a few days and enjoy the cool weather of the area. Over the last 30 years or so we have stayed at a B&B in Morro Bay – Marina Street Inn.

The front of the Marina Street Inn – stop in and visit with Claudia.

Over the years we have gotten to know the Owners and they became friends not just owners of the B&B.

Proof that we were here in February 2008 and that we are skinier!!!

If you have been following our Blog for a while you will remember that Claudia joined us in Paris for Christmas and New Years last year.

Having been here as many times as we have we do have a preference for the first floor and that’s where we are – the Dockside Room.

The Dockside Room – this is where we usually stay.

However, over the years we have stayed in all four rooms of the Inn.

The Rambling Rose room is one of the 2 rooms on the first floor.
The Garden Room is on the second floor with a small patio between it and the Bordeaux Room
The Bordeaux room on the second floor.

We hadn’t been here very long before we got into Claudia’s car and headed out to dinner at the Galley. This is a great fish place right along the water in Morro Bay and a spot we have been to virtually every time we have been here. Great food, nice people and they don’t seem to mind if I bring my own wine (which is always a plus!).

The next day, after a lovely breakfast,

The dining table will seat 8 without a problem. There have been some lively discussions at this table for sure.

we piled into our car and headed out for a picnic at Justin winery. Justin has been around since 1981 with the mission of making world-class Bordeaux style blends. Since then they have expanded both their knowledge of viniculture in the unique region as well as the acreage.

Justin’s Tasting Room – lots of space to move around.
Krystal the Tasting Room Supervisor at Justin was fun to talk to about their wines.
Janeen and Claudia sample some wine and enjoy our picnic lunch

After a new owner came in about 10 years ago a new tasting room and facilities were built to expand the customer experience. Located a good 10 miles off Hwy 46, the main route along the wine areas of Paso Robles, it’s a destination for sure and not something you just stumble across. We planned a picnic lunch on their patio along with a wonderful bottle of Rose and had a fantastic time.

Here we are at Justin after or picnic. Claudia is between Janeen and David (duh).

Not being finished with wine tasting the next day we packed up and went out again – this time to Niner Winery. Niners consist of about 223 acres and are best know for estate grown cabernet sauvignon, Pinot noir and Chardonnay.

Niner’s tasting room – two big fire places would make this place a delight in the winter.

The entire place started about 2001 and has been doing OK. They have a restaurant with a limited menu and a very nice tasting room. We arrived for our lunch reservation a little early so or course had to sample a few things in the tasting room. We settled on a bottle of Chardonnay to go with our lunch.

The Heart shaped area with trees is a lovely feature of the Niner vineyards

Sitting out on the patio overlooking some olive trees, the “heart” shaped grove of trees and the lavender plantings was a lovely way to spend the afternoon.

Niner’s plantings of lavender were just outside the tasting room

Back to the Marina Street Inn for the evening ending this wonderful day we just hung out in the living room, read some books and enjoyed the end of the day together.

A comfortable living room open to all guests is a great gathering place before breakfast or anytime during the day.

If you are ever in the area drop in and say hello to Claudia and if you need a place to stay be sure to mention us and I’m sure she will give you a discount!