Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Few Funny Pictures

Here's a sign that was in our hotel...& every single place in California.


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If you can't read it, it says "Warning - Chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm may be present in this hotel or in food or beverage sold or served here."

WOW. That's a hell of a warning! Good thing I'm not having kids, now I just have to worry about getting cancer. At least I'll be able to blame the whole state of California if I do.

This guy gets the award for owning the best t-shirt ever.

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Doug should've traded him his shirt for that one, but we didn't think to ask. Damn.

Now for a completely different direction (& by request from Becky)....

Doug & I were at a loss. If for whatever reason we weren't able to walk Truvy to Texas & back each night, we were punished with very long, sleepless nights. Luckily, there was a solution! Enjoy (even though it's a bit on the dark side)!


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What we won't do for our dogs...or for sleep!

(Her top speed is 6 MPH!)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Toasting The Coast

Sometimes when plans change, it's a good thing. We had originally planned to head from our hotel in San Jose to Paso Robles, then to Monterey, & finishing off in Santa Cruz...however, a little internet birdy told me about an event that we just couldn't pass up: the 17th Annual Monterey Winemakers' Celebration!

We were really excited about this because the Monterey region is pretty spread out, & quite a few of the wineries have limited hours or the tastings are by appointment only. Not to mention that for $50 each, we were both able to taste as much wine as we wanted from 45 Monterey wineries, all out of a Riedel -- when you consider that most tasting fees in Monterey are $10, that's quite a bargain without even considering the cost of the glass! I'm no genius, but that's a purty smart move on our part...

Held at the beautiful Custom House Plaza, California's oldest government building, this event was an out-of-town wine tourist's dream. You see, we Lou dwellers don't get a lot of wine when you consider the big picture. For example, we get lots of wine from Estancia Estates & our very much loved Hahn Estates/Smith & Hook, but wines from Bernardus are very rare here, & stuff from Figge Cellars, Galante Vineyards, Otter Cove, & Scheid are largely unheard of. Again, just examples...you get the idea.

Aside from the wine, scenery, & terrific weather (it was sunny & 63°, but not like a St. Louis 63° - somehow it was warmer but still cool enough for jeans), we were treated to a cooperage demonstration. Doug & I had never seen anything like it, so that was a highlight for wine geekish people like us.

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The cooper is splashing water onto the wood to make it more bendable.

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Then he tightens the ropes around the bottom of the barrel to shape it.

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Once he has the barrel the way he wants it, the cooper removes it from - oh, look! A heating element that aids in the process.

Next, the barrel is moved over this thing. Sorry, I don't know the name of it, but I do know that it toasts the inside of the barrel to give the wine character.

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I would've loved to have gotten more precise information for you, but give me a break. We'd already tasted our way through a tent & a half. Regardless, you probably didn't know how wine barrels were made. Since I really didn't, either, we're all just a little smarter now, aren't we?

Another big highlight was meeting Bill Anderson, the master winemaker from Chateau Julien. What a cool guy, & the wine he makes rocks, too! As I've said before, we've met quite a few winemakers, & not all of them are that interesting &/or fun to talk to, but Bill was a delight! We met him very early on in the event, which was perfect - he wasn't tired of talking to people, & after we'd tasted through his lineup, he opened up 2 very special bottles a couple of hours earlier than he was supposed to just to give us a preview. Fan-freakin'-tastic!

Here we are with the 2003 Chateau Julien Merlot (their flagship wine, & truly delicious).

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Here's the rest of the lineup that they had for the day's tasting.

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More on that later, but suffice it to say that we were so happy to experience these wines early before our palates were demolished by all of those other wines!

Wait...that's not to imply that the other wines were bad! They certainly were NOT.

Like Pelerin Wines - very small production, high quality Pinot Noir, Syrahs, & Rhone blends.

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Or Ventana Vineyards - not only are their wines wonderful, but they get a special mention for being the only winery to present a - you guessed it - rose'!

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Let's face it...too many pictures in a post & they can lose their significance, the page takes too long to load, or it just gets boring, so I'll stop here. There were many, many wines that deserve a mention, but a girl only has so much energy. Bottom line, attending the Monterey Winemakers Celebration was one of the best decisions we made during our entire trip!

One last thing -- Doug & I seemed to be the only people at the celebration that didn't live in California, & we were actually remembered by the event volunteers for traveling so far. We didn't get a trophy or anything, it was just cool.

Stay tuned, there will be more!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

California Drinkin'

I had a little idea that just didn't pan out...I was going to do a little diddy, you know, a parody if you will, of "California Dreamin'", but I got hung up. The first line was going to be "All the grass is brown, & the sky is blue...", or something like that, but then ~poof~ it was gone. Regardless of my poetic failure, I think my next few posts are going to be great. But let's not get ahead of ourselves, ok?

Yesterday, we came home from an incredible week of wine tasting in California. It was our very first trip ever to California, & we decided to step out of the ordinary & expected. We didn't go to Napa Valley.

Why not? They make excellent wine in Napa, don't they? Sure, some of the best in the world. Aren't the wineries supposed to be incredible? From what I've heard, yes, they are. Certainly the restaurants are every bit as good as everyone says... I know quite a few people who have gone & adored the place. So, if not Napa, where in the hell did we go?

Central Coast!

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Paso Robles, Monterey, & Santa Cruz, to be exact, but it's all considered to be Central Coast. We chose this area because we absolutely love its wine & they have a reputation for being less expensive & friendlier when compared to...well, the other area. Oh, & let's not forget that our good friends, the Luces, went to Paso Robles & had a great experience. We don't really know anyone else who has been on a wine-focused vacation to Monterey or Santa Cruz, so we were very curious. With all of that, we pretty much had to go!

So, we're back. I'm faced with a mountain of laundry, clingy dogs, a bunch of pictures to upload (but we need to find the freakin' cords!), I'm unfortunately 2 hours behind my normal schedule (damn, I knew better, I really did), & I have to go back to work tomorrow. Joy. Obviously, I've got a ton more to say, & I'll get to that...