We left the USofA and went across the Rainbow Bridge to Canada. Checked into our hotel and drove down to the park and walked along taking some pictures of both the American and Horseshoe Falls.
There really aren’t enough words, good thing the photos are available.
The next day we came back, via the WEGO bus and went directly to Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens so Janeen could get a garden fix.
It was a beautiful day to wander around, smell the roses, see the various gardens and enjoy.
After that we went back to the area where the Falls are located and walked around the Queen’s Rose Garden. Seems the roses at Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens have become deer food so there aren’t a lot of them left. Lost of them at the Queen’s Rose Garden.
Had a delightful lunch along with a full pitcher of Molson’s beer. Not a bad view of the Falls from our table.
The next day we left and headed to Ottawa for the evening. 300 plus miles along the Trans Canada Highway. Lots of lakes and trees but not much else.
The Finger Lakes is a region of New York State named for its series of long, thin lakes, and known for its vineyards. There are eleven long, narrow, roughly north–south lakes in an area called the Finger Lakes region. There are over 100 wineries and vineyards located around Seneca, Cayuga, Canandaigua, Keuka, Conesus and Hemlock Lakes. The main grape varieties grown are Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Vidal Blanc, Seyval Blanc and Vitis labrusca (an American native). We tried most of these but in limited number during our visit.
There are a number of notable historical events that happened around the general area of the Finger Lakes – most notable might be the birthplace of the Woman’s Suffrage movement in Seneca Falls, Waterloo, the birthplace of Memorial Day and Palmyra, the birthplace of the LDS Church (Mormons). However, our goal on visit was to taste some of the wines.
Wine Enthusiast has a travel guide for the area with recent updates on some of the better places to visit. First on the list is Hermann J. Wiemer, so that seemed like a good place to start.
Several of their Rieslings have scored some good reviews – 93 points for the 2016 Magdalena Vineyard bottling and 92 for another Riesling.
We arrived after having a light lunch in Watkins Glen – the base of Seneca Lake – in mid afternoon. The Hermann J. Wiemer estate was established in 2001 and has been in continuous operation ever since. It has changed ownership at least once over the years but at present seems to have a stable operation.
Upon our arrival to the tasting room, we were directed to a table to sample a few different wines. The tasting menu has several different options from Chardonnay to their late harvest Riesling.
We sampled at will for the better part of an hour and had informative conversations with the staff. The primary wine is Riesling – although they do make a Grüner Veltliner, Gewürztruminer, Chardonnay and a sparkling wine.
On the red side of things they make a Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc but neither of these were on the tasting menu. The wines were pleasant, we found the Riesling Reserve Dry 2016 most to our taste.
I found it interesting that in the book, 1,000 Places to See Before you Die there is a section on the Finger Lakes and Hermann J. Wiemer is listed; they have a blow up of the page on the wall.
Our next stop, the following morning, was to Ventosa Vineyards.
Not only do they have a wine tasting they also have a small café that made stopping easy and resulted in a delightful lunch. Ventosa, like everyone else in the area, has a number of white wines – Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay – but we were coming for the red selections – Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Lemberger, Cabernet Sauvignon.
We tasted a number of the reds and were quite pleased with the Pinot Noir and the Lemberger both of which could find places in our cellar (assuming we were going to buy more wine).
For lunch, however, we opted for the Dry Riesling, as it would pair better with our lunch. The tasting room was large, well appointed with a large covered porch overlooking the vineyard.
All in all a lovely spot to taste some wines and have a snack – they also have music evenings on Wednesday but not until after 6pm so we didn’t stick around.
From there were off to Damiani Vineyards.
Again, Riesling, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Grigio, make up the bulk of the white side of the house and Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Cabernet Franc are on the red side of the house.
The tasting room is a converted home that has a tasting room on the upper level and a large event room below. Much more rustic then the other places we had visited.
The tastings we did required us to drive completely around Seneca Lake. Seneca Lake is the larges of the Finger Lakes, which is 38 miles long, and a combined shoreline of 75 miles.
I was surprised to learn it has a maximum depth of 618 feet and has only frozen three times in the last 200 years. The shoreline is dotted with homes, wineries, small communities and lovely spots to just sit and watch the lake. Unfortunately our second day going in the area was rainy and restricted our view somewhat.
While we could spend many more days here tasting wines we have gotten a feel for the area and will move on. The Rieslings are good, not to be compared with those of Moselle Germany, but in a pinch I would certainly drink those from the Finger Lakes area. The Pinot Noirs we tasted were OK but seemed to be lacking some of the structure we are used to, that’s not to say they were not good they were – just different from those we have had from other new world sources.
A long time ago, over 40 years at this point, we lived in Bethlehem PA. I had a job at Lehigh University as Director of Housing. The campus was founded in 1856 and has always had a strong engineering program.
This was during my higher education employment days. Over the course of the three years we spent in Bethlehem, we got to know a number of people, visited around the area (Kutztown, Bucks County, Quakertown, Philadelphia) and generally had a good time. One of the things I remember vividly was touring the Bethlehem Steel Plant with friends of my parents – a superintendent in the production area. We toured a couple of times and there is something really magical about watching a huge crucible filled with molten steel tip and pour out a river of liquid steel.
Today the plant is closed – and has been for the better part of 20 years –
sections are being reused, Sands Casino, shopping areas, public TV studios, but most is still in rusting degeneration.
The City is divided into two major parts – separated by the Lehigh River. The South side was the home of Bethlehem Steel and Lehigh University. The North side was the City Center, Moravian College, Church and Victorian splendid mansions. It defined itself in the 1980s as Christmas City. Since our leaving the area, with the steel plant closing, the South side has had to reinvent itself around its immigrant population and University students. There are a number of new business buildings, coffee shops and restaurants, plus a large portion of the steel plant was taken over by the Sands Casino. It seems this Casino is the closest gambling spot to New York City and attracts a lot of bused in business. Other sections of the old steel plant have become art studios, a public TV studio, Industrial Museum and other reuse spaces.
The North side has also had to refocus, but seems to be turning around. The old Bethlehem Hotel has been renovated and made much more comfortable, the Old Town has some interesting shops and various business areas have been developed. There are several large warehouse distribution centers in the area (Amazon has a HUGE operation and FedEx is developing a very large center also) helping the City to survive.
When we moved here in 1975 we decided it might be time to actually buy a home and eventually purchased a duplex on Wall Street for $17,000.
We ended up doing a lot of work to this place but it was ready to move in when we purchased it. The house still stands and looks very much like it did when we sold it before moving to California.
During our visit we drove around a bit on both sides of the river.
It is surprising after all the years to be able to find things we remembered from long ago. The Lehigh Campus has expanded with a number of new buildings taking over, many of the fraternities have closed and been taken over by the campus housing operation and the school has become much more of a liberal arts college than just a highly recognized engineering school (which it was when we were here).
When we lived in the city, dining was limited – ok, it was basically none existent. There was a restaurant in Hess Department store in Allentown the country club in Bethlehem, one or two small restaurants – think diners– and nothing like a place with a wine list unless you drove into the Poconos or NYC. Now there are a number of tasty eateries including specialty cafes doing breakfast/brunch only, steak and fish restaurants and a couple of up scale Italian spots.
One of our favorite places to visit while in town was always the Moravian Book Store.
This place is reputed to be the oldest bookstore in the country and always had wonderful books, artistic gift items, Christmas decorations and other treasures. Well, unfortunately, it is not longer the ‘go to spot’ as it is turning into a Barnes and Noble store for Moravian College. We found the change to be very saddening.
On Saturday we connected with friends Chad and Lynne for dinner.
It was really wonderful to reconnect with them – sure we exchanged the occasional Christmas card over the years but really haven’t seen them since we left Bethlehem (well, not entirely true – Janeen went to their wedding which was held in the National Cathedral in Washington DC). They have lived in the area for over 40 years and seem to know all the movers and shakers around plus a good part of the development history and our conversations provided a nice perspective on the changes and progress of the City.
After visiting in Bethlehem for a few days we left and drove up to Fairview Lake – where Jim and Carol have a lovely lake front “cottage” (1930s chestnut log) they have refurbished and made into a lovely retreat.
The home has two out buildings along with the main cabin allowing them to spread family around when they visit.
Our retreat area was the upper portion of the garage, which Jim had added to the property several years ago, with a great view of the lake. While it was a bit breezy and cool while we visited, it didn’t stop us from going on a lake cruise the first evening or enjoying the patio for afternoon relaxation time.
There is no telling when we will be back to either Bethlehem or Fairview Lake but I can certainly see a time when that will happen.
It’s been a year since we started this adventure – Update #3:
We flew back from Europe to Virginia moving back into our ‘room’ at Jason’s home. The first part of our return involved spending a good deal of time with our granddaughter
and submitting paperwork for new drivers licenses, income tax returns and transferring the title of the Prius to Jason.
We hadn’t been back more than a day or two and we were notified that our car, which we had dropped off in Paris in November, was available for pick up at the dealer. It was nice to have our new wheels back and allowed us to be ready to go at a moment’s notice. This was very fortunate as we got a call that Janeen’s dad had fallen and was on his way to the Hospital. We left the next day for Macomb, Illinois.
Fortunately, he didn’t break anything but he did have a case of pneumonia that needed to be addressed. By the time we arrived,
Harold had been moved to an assisted living arrangement for more direct attention. While we were there, Harold had a relapse of the pneumonia and went back to the hospital and upon release, went into a different assisted living arrangement that was much better.
While we were there, Jason, Terri and KB came for a visit which was a great boost to Harold’s well being.
After being there about 4 weeks, we drove back to Virginia and made arrangements to fly to California. It had been 8 months since we had been back to our “old homestead” and while the house
was rented we have some great friends who allowed us to stay at their place during our visit. The primary reason to return was to check in with our various doctors and have a general check up to make sure we were still good to go on our continued travel plans.
It was great to see our friends,
visit some eating establishments we have enjoyed in the past, and of course for Janeen to get to the
Huntington Gardens. We also got a few things out of our storage in the garage and a couple of cases of wine to bring back when we returned to Virginia. All in all a wonderful 4 weeks in the sun!
When we arrived back in Virginia, the cherry blossoms around the tidal pool were in full bloom!
We could not have planned a more beautiful day to visit and see the cherry blossoms and enjoy spring! When we left, in mid March, it was still WINTER – cold, snow and wet. When we got back it was SPRING with trees leafing out, flowers blooming and beautiful sites all around. It was now time to return to Macomb and check on Janeen’s dad and plan our southern loop drive.
We returned to Macomb late April and stayed for a couple of weeks making sure Harold was getting all the assistance he needed.
Once we had confirmed that, we packed up our car and started our way south. Our first stop was to Cincinnati. Neither of us had been there and it was a beautiful day to enjoy the sites along the Ohio River.
We also took in a visit to the National Underground Railroad Museum.
This Museum covers all aspects of the anti-slavery efforts and also pays tribute to all efforts to “abolish human enslavement and secure freedom for all people”.
From there we drove to Maysville Kentucky. My father grew up in Maysville
and Janeen and I visited once while my grandmother was still alive in the early 70’s. We were able to drive by both the house my dad grew up in and the home my grandmother was in when we visited. After driving around the town a bit we headed out to try and find the old family homestead.
It is a fact that Lee’s have been in Maysville since the late 1700’s. General Henry Lee purchased the house and land in the late 1700 and his descendants include my grandfather – my dad’s father.
The major farm building still exists (no longer in the family) and we were able to find it.
Referred to as Leewood it is a two-story home with twin chimneys with a balcony between. I also learned that the family graveyard was close to the property and it was my goal to try and find it. Once we found the home, we noticed some folks behind the house working some cattle. I stopped and asked if it would be OK to visit the graveyard and was given permission – fortunately there were no cattle in the field we had to go through to reach the graveyard.
The earliest grave markers date to the early 1800’s and include both direct decendents (Lee’s by name) and the related families. Unfortunately the graveyard is really overgrown and many of the stones are unreadable. It would be an interesting project to come back and clear all the weeds; clean the stones and general refurbish the place. Maybe another time we can come back and do that.
After leaving Maysville, I visited with Cousin Bonnie –
the daughter of my dad’s adopted sister. I don’t recall having meet Bonnie previously, but it could have happened sometime in the past. It is always great to reconnect with family.
Bourbon – Whiskey – stuff made in Kentucky that people drink a lot – that was the mission today. First stop, Jim Beam Distillery
for a tour and tasting. Located just off interstate 65 south of Louisville is the place where they make a LOT of this bourbon. It was an interesting tour going over the entire process and into their aging barns holding hundreds of barrels and finally into a tasting room where we were able to sample the final product. Being a scotch drinker, bourbon is not my first drink of choice but it was a great tour and we are glad we made the stop. Next stop – Nashville
Music City USA – Nashville the city where a lot of music has been recorded, played and enjoyed. Before we checked into our hotel, and toured downtown Nashville, we stopped at Cheekwood Estate and Garden. Once the family home of Mabel and Leslie Cheek, this extraordinary 1930s estate, with its Georgian mansion and 55 acres of cultivated gardens
and expansive vistas, today serves the public as a botanic garden, woodland sculpture trail, and art museum. We spent the better part of the day touring the gardens (a must for Janeen every so often) and the home of the family. Much of the interior of the house has been restored
to the original condition and a lot of the original furniture has been acquired and placed throughout. Nice visit to a lovely spot. We also visited the Belle Meade plantation – which was a ‘big’ race horse place for a number of years. The place has been restored and is a good example of the period.
When you think of Nashville you cannot help but think of the Grande Ole Opry that really put the place on the map.
The Ryman Auditorium was home to the Opry for many years before a new facility was built.
We did a tour of the place and enjoy the history very much. From there it was off to the Country Music Hall of Fame. Sure, I’ve listed to Country Music from time to time but the breath and depth of this museum is beyond comprehension. Spending a few hours going through the building is just the beginning.
Our goal, when we left Macomb on this southern loop, was to get to Savannah, Georgia and connect with Bob and Linda. Bob was my boss when I worked at Lehigh University in the late 70’s. When we left we lost contact but reconnected last June. They have a lovely home in Skidaway Island just south of Savannah and graciously hosted us for several days.
Nothing like catching up after 40 years while visiting an interesting part of the world. Bob gave us a quick motor tour of Savannah and the following day we took the hop-on-hop-off bus to get a more in-depth view of the City.
Lots of old homes, great restaurants, city parks, and a lovely city. You know that stuff that hangs from trees called “Spanish moss”? Well, it’s everywhere.
From Savannah we headed to Charleston and stayed at the French Quarter Inn. This was like taking a vacation while on vacation. I had decided we needed a true break and spent the bucks to be able to stay at a really nice place, have some great meals and enjoy the City.
Fortunately in both Savannah and Charleston we were not overwhelmed by the heat and humidity – both of which can be murderous particularly in the summer.
Leaving Charleston we headed to Asheville, NC and a visit with our friends Gloria and Jerry. Readers of the Blog will remember they were the couple that joined us in Portugal for the River Cruise. It is always a treat to visit with them and see the sights of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We spent a day visiting the state Arboretum,
having lunch at a spot along the Blue Ridge Highway and dinner in town. They kept suggesting we could move to Asheville and who knows, it could happen. After Asheville back to Springfield, Virginia for a few weeks to recoup and figure out what’s next.
It’s now been a year. We have travelled a lot, visited old friends and generally had a good time. During this last year Janeen and I have been together virtually the entire time and with very rare exceptions have gotten along well. We continue to learn about what we need to have available to us when we are driving around (how many changes of clothes do you really need; how many shoes can you really wear?) and stayed in a bunch of different hotels (mostly Best Western actually) and had all kinds of weather – sun, rain, snow, everything as far you can imagine. Over the next several weeks we are going to do a Northern Loop – through Pennsylvania, the Finger Lakes of New York, Niagara Falls, drive through some of Canada on our way to Prince Edward Island, visit friends in Boston and return to Springfield. Once we return its go west time, checking in on Janeen’s dad, then all the way to California.
Only time will tell where we end up, but so far the Gap Year Adventure has been fantastic. The Blog will continue!
It’s been a year since we started this adventure – Update #2:
Over the last dozen years or so we have taken a number of river cruises and had booked one on the Douro River with our friends Gloria and Jerry.
We met them several years ago on a tour of the UK and been able to convinced them to join us several times on various river cruises in Europe. Starting in Lisbon
and moving to Porto with the group was enjoyable. We have been to both areas previously but it was nice to be able to share it with Gloria and Jerry.
The cruise up the river was relaxing and filled with fun times – we became part of a group of 12 or 13 passengers
who all dined together and exchanged experiences.
Once the boat returned to Porto
we had a chance, for about 10 minutes, to connect with Janeen’s old high school friend Cherlyne
and her husband David, who live in Eastern Oregon. They were with a different group and we caught them just before they went to taste Port wine!
From Portugal we flew to Stuttgart Germany. The prior December (remember this is now late September) we had ordered a Mercedes Benz for foreign delivery. It was now time to pick up our new car!
There really is something special about buying a new car and picking it up from the factory. After several days in Stuttgart we packed everything up and headed to Venice stopping in Igls Austria for the evening and continuing through beautiful vistas of the Alps and Northern Italy.
In Venice we picked up Jason and Terri from the airport as they were going to join us for several days in Venice
after their adventure drinking great beers as part of OctoberFest.
After Venice we really didn’t have any plans other than to head south through Italy along the Adriatic side (east) with the intent of trying to get all the way to Sicily.
We stopped along the way and enjoyed the sights of Silea, Padova, Barietta, Campoposto, and Torre di Palme to name just a few places we stopped. We took a tour of a
Balsamic producer and learned how long it takes to really make the aged stuff – like 50 years! We toured various gardens learned about the local cultures, ate great meals and drank wonderful wines. Along the way we met any number of interesting people – both fellow travelers and locals.
As we got further south in Italy, around Bari (just above the “heel” of the ‘boot’) we decided to turn north and head to France. Along the way we stopped at Paestum and walked some Greek Ruins,
visited Tivoli Gardens near Rome,
Neive in the Piedmont region
and stopped for a few days in Genoa along the Mediterranean.
On our way to France we passed through an 8-mile long tunnel – half way through it we went from Italy to France.
Our goal in France was the Loire Valley. We found a fantastic VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner) in a small village of Rochecorbon. I loved this place – out the door and about 50 yards down the road was a boulangerie where I would walk down and pick up a warm baguette and croissant for breakfast. Fantastic! During our stay we visited several
Chateau’s and gardens – wonderful time.
From there we went to Brittany – northeast France for a few days and then to Bayeux
and the Normandy Beaches plus
a day trip to St Mont Michel
. Then off to Paris, via Rouen, to drop of our car for shipment to the dealer in Virginia.
Next stop London! We went from Paris to London via the Chunnel
taking all of 2 ½ hours or so with average speeds of well over 160 Mph. We had another VRBO apartment this time in Covent Gardens. Over a week, we saw 3 plays,
shopped in Harrads,
had a fantastic meal
and generally appreciated being in a country that speaks English!
A flight to Dublin
to got us set for a 10-day introductory bus tour with CIE Tours around Ireland.
After the tour we spent Thanksgiving in Kilkenny a town south of Dublin . We had not been to Ireland it was amazing. Stops in Waterford,
County Kerry, Blarney Castle to KISS THE STONE,
Galway, Cliffs of Moher,
Belfast and lots of other places. There is one thing that there are a LOT of in Ireland – Sheep. We visited a place where we were treated to a sheep guard dog demonstration – really neat.
We will be back to Ireland!
Scotland – Glasgow
and Edinburgh and LOTS of scotch. It was Christmas Market
time and we visited several in both cities along with the historical sites of course.
From Edinburgh we flew back to Paris and connected with Ryan and Chris in the apartment I had leased for the month.
Christmas in Paris!
Our friend Claudia joined us and we all had a fantastic time touring,
visiting various places,
taking in the sites
and of course eating and drinking great foods and wines.
New Years Eve was spent at a traditional French Bistro where we expected to be done in a couple of hours,
but were there for over 5 hours and rang in the New Year over an extravagant dessert!
OK, we have now been in Europe for four months and it is time to fly back to the States. During our time in Europe we had visited 9 countries collecting a number of stamps in our passport. We boarded our flight back to start part 3 of our yearlong adventure.
It’s been a year. Yup, a full year since we drove away from our house in Alhambra and started our Gap Year Adventure.
Since that time we have traveled through 20 different States of the Union (California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina) and visited 9 European Countries (Portugal, Germany, Austria, Italy, San Marino, France, Great Britain, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland). While in the US we have visited with great friends and seen wonderful places and travelled over 8,000 miles before heading across the ‘Pond” to Portugal. In Europe we traveled over 5,500 km (3,417 miles) in our new car prior to dropping it off for shipment to the dealer in Virginia.
A good part of the drive across country was reconnecting with friends and family. When we left our home our first stop was in Morro Bay to visit with our friend Claudia
at her B&B where we invited her to join us in Paris for Christmas – which she did! We reconnected with a friend, Myrt,
from when we lived in Bethlehem PA 40 years ago and she reconnected us with another friend from that time frame living in Savannah who we visited too! The drive through Northern California was beautiful visiting with friends, seeing the sights and relaxing.
We tried to stay off the interstate and took the local highway as much as possible.
Sure there was roadwork and single lane situations but it was a grand drive.
Once out of California we made our way to a Cousins’ reunion – cousins and family we have not seen in years. A week on the beach with good family was wonderful. It didn’t hurt that both of our sons and their family were able to be there too.
Of course Oregon for us means the Willamette Valley and wine.
We were fortunate to have close friends at Stoller Vineyards and were able to stay in one of their cottages on the property for 2 weeks! After leaving the International Pinot Noir Celebration, held each year, we drove to Seattle to celebrate our 48th wedding anniversary.
A visit to the Chihuly Glass Exhibit prior to dinner at RN74
made the day very special. A visit to Bainbridge Island to visit with some of Janeen’s childhood friends, a tasting of great Champagne at Fat Cork
and off we went heading east.
We had planned to stopping a couple of times going East from Seattle but the smoke from the various forest fires in Canada and Montana made the air unpleasant, so we pushed through to Bozeman, Montana and a visit with Bonny and David.
Bonny was matron of honor at our wedding so we have known them a VERY long time…and it was wonderful to reconnect with them and catch up. Sure we exchange Christmas cards and calls, but being in their home was wonderful.
Throughout our trip, thus far, we had not stopped at any of the various National Monuments or Parks. Well, as we were driving along, there was a sign for the Battle of the Little Big Horn
and it was just off the road! Seemed like the thing to do and we did. Our ranger guide was very knowledgeable and brought the entire battle to life with his discussion.
Sometimes the world becomes incredibly small. We made a snap decision to drive through the Sand Hills area of Wyoming. After cruising along for a couple of hours, it was time for lunch so we stopped at a Subway in Lusk, Wyoming for a sandwich. Nothing special about the place and the sandwich was as good as any other Subway provides. Just as I was about to close the car door and drive away, I noticed two people we actually know! Dale and Roxanne live in Arizona.
We first met them in Oregon at IPNC but they haven’t been to the event for several years. Turns out they are on vacation. Roxanne’s mother lives in Nebraska and having completed their visit, they were heading to Mount Rushmore when they too decided a break and a sub would be a good idea. What a treat to find friends literally in the middle of nowhere!
Back on the road through miles and miles and miles of cornfields, we made our way to York, Nebraska where we reconnected with friends from Michigan – John and Lora.
We have not seen these guys since we left Michigan in 1973! Sure Christmas cards exchanged most years kept us in touch but meeting up with them again after all these years was fantastic. It was like we had seen each other only yesterday. Great visit. From Nebraska, through a lot more cornfields, we got to Macomb, Illinois and Janeen’s dad.
We stayed a couple of weeks visiting and getting everything together for our next hop to Virginia – stopping at Fallingwaters (Frank Lloyd Wright)
which was specular and our final stop – Springfield, VA and our son Jason, his wife Terri and most importantly our granddaughter Katie Beth.
Our friends Jessie and Phil from Pasadena made it to the East Coast and more particularly to be with us for my birthday!
It was really a treat to have them with us for several days prior to our taking flight to Europe
Two weeks after arrival in Virginia, we boarded a plane
and flew to Portugal; the beginning of our planned 4 months in Europe. Look for Update #2
Former President Jimmy Carter may have a somewhat mixed record, with a Nobel Peace Prize on the one hand and a lost 1980 reelection bid on the other. However, it is thanks to Jimmy Carter that there is craft brewing – and more importantly home brewing! In 1978 Carter signed into law the ability for home brewers making less then 50 gallons for personal use to make beer legally and without the need to pay any taxes! Prior to that time home brewing was hidden behind closed doors and illegal.
Since that time, craft brewers have exploded resulting in hundreds if not thousands of small producers starting in their garage and turning it into a real business (yes, at that point they have to start paying taxes). Jason, our eldest son, has been home brewing for several years and we have tasted the results often. (He has no intention of turning this into a business.)
While we were visiting recently Jason decided to make a batch of what he calls G’Nu Castle Brown Ale, a “clone” of New Castle Brown Ale.
Following the spirit of the original New Castle, this brew requires two separate fermentation tanks (buckets). One batch is prepared to an Original Gravity (O.G.) of 1.050, while the second is prepared to 1.035 OG.
Gravity is a measurement of the wert’s density, and in home brewing is a measure how much malt (sugar) is dissolved into the water.
Distilled water has a Specific Gravity (S.G.) of 1.000. The first batch, which is denser and has a higher Gravity, will end up with a higher Alcohol by Volume (abv). The second batch will have a lower abv because it has less malt to convert to alcohol.
The unique qualities of these two batches help give this New Castle clone it’s distinctive taste. The higher Gravity means the yeast converts the malt faster (more food to eat, so it eats faster) and the product has a “fruitier” flavor to its alcohol. The lower Gravity batch converts slower and will end up with a more “malty” flavor. These two batches are combined after fermentation into a single batch, and mixed thoroughly.
After about two weeks, the two batches are each transferred to a new (sanitized) fermentation tank. This accomplishes two objectives; first the “debris” that has settled on the bottom of the primary fermentation tank (which is called “trub”) is unwanted and gives poor flavor and clarity to final beer, the second is the transfer re-originates the beer and reinvigorates the yeast to convert more malt to alcohol. During this transfer an additional Gravity reading is taken.
At this point the Gravity was approximately 1.035 for the first batch and 1.018, which is about half of the fermentation that is expected. The yeast will continue to convert malt to alcohol for the next few weeks.
Once no further malt conversion is occurring, which can be judged by taking several Gravity readings over several days until there is no change in the reading (or just letting it sit for a long time and then arbitrarily deciding “it’s done!”), it’s time to prep for bottling.
Final gravity readings are taken (1.021 for batch 1, and 1.008 for batch 2) it’s time to combine the batches and add bottling sugar. The bottling sugar is a relatively small amount of sugar that re-vitalizes the yeast and causes them to convert just a little more alcohol. The by-product of this is carbonation; which gives the beer that nice mouth feel. Because the beer has been sealed behind a bottle-cap, the CO2 has no place to escape to and becomes “dissolved” in the beer until the bottle is opened.
Using a special bottling wand, which only allows the beer to flow from the bottling bucket when it’s depressed inside the each bottle (which have all been very well cleaned and sanitized), the beer is transferred from a bucket where everything has been re-mixed into the bottles.
After bottling, the beer is left to sit for two to three weeks, during which time the yeast converts the small amount of sugar into both alcohol and carbonation.
This batch turned out very well, with an estimated final abv of 4.5%, and a flavor that is very much like New Castle. We used a little too much sugar for bottling, so it’s a little over-carbonated, which is why we had one bottle explode during bottle fermentation.
Because this is a home brew, the yeast remains “alive” because there’s no pasteurization process to kill off the yeast. So, as the beer continues to rest the flavor may change subtly over the ensuing weeks and months.
This adds a new element to home brewing as you could have something that’s pretty terrible after the first two weeks, but is actually really great after two months!
We arrived in Asheville to visit our friends Gloria and Jerry and had a lovely evening. The following day, being nice and sunny, we headed out to
The North Carolina Arboretum. This place, about 434 acres in size, includes a lovely arboretum, botanical gardens and a lot of walking paths to explore.
Although the idea for the arboretum stretches back to landscape architect in 1898, the actual place was not developed until quite recently – 1986 – so it is new and filled with lovely plants. While the place is still under development, there are a variety of hiking and bicycling trails along with several mature gardens. Our goal for the day was to get to the bonsai collection.
Inside the main building was a travelling exhibit, Making Scents: The art and passion of Fragrance. While we have seen similar examples of fragrance displays, including a museum in Paris, it was neat to see someone Janeen knows from the Huntington Library and Gardens in CA as part of the exhibit! Tom Carruth
is the curator of the Rose Garden and is known for breeding scented roses such as Sentimental and the Juila Child Rose
After looking over the traveling exhibit we headed outside
and walked towards the bonsai garden and past the model train (which it seems every garden needs to have)
and past a number of lovely areas. Eventually we made our way to the bonsai area
that was specular. It always amazes me to see these huge trees pruned to be so small!
After the Arboretum we drove out the Blue Ridge Parkway
and stopped for lunch at Pisgah Inn. This restaurant is at the top of the
mountain overlooking the various surrounding hills. Nice views, lunch was OK views were better.
For dinner we hit a Mexican restaurant called Limones Restaurant.