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Wine

04 Sep 2013
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I might be stressing out the college-aged woman who is pouring wine in Renwood Winery’s new Napa-tacular tasting room. She’s been working for four months at the renovated Amador County winery. She’s memorized piles of information—including the single vineyard designate for each wine we taste. She lists these and pauses, expectantly. “You get an A-plus,” I say. “It must have taken you a while to learn all of that.” “It did!” She seems relieved and pours more wine in my glass. Over the Labor Day weekend, we visited Amador County. We anticipated Rim Fire smoke from what’s now being called California’s fourth-largest wildfire ever, burning an area said to be larger than the combined square mileage of San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose. After a bit of morning haze, though, delta breezes whisked toxic air from leafy rows of vines laden with ripening, violaceous clumps. We haven’t been to Amador…
21 Aug 2013
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If you’ve seen Adam Sandler’s Bedtime Stories or you’re a faithful fan of The Bachelor, you’ve seen Napa marketing genius Dario Sattui’s castle, located in Calistoga. On the north end of Napa County, Castello di Amorosa isn’t exactly ancient. The 121,000-square-foot winery and eight-level playland opened to visitors in 2007. Think Citizen Kane’s Xanadu—except this rich dude’s over-the-top architectural fantasy has a twisting, turning cave maze lined with wine in French oak barrels. The Empire Sattui makes wine, too. No, Castello di Amorosa wasn’t an Italian castle brought over to the United States brick by brick and reassembled. But, yes, bricks were brought over, along with doors, hunks of iron and various medieval fixtures—all used to generate the 107-room, $40 mil-ish castle, including its moat, drawbridge, torture chamber and wine caves. It’s a larger-than-life-sized model of a medieval castle as researched, imagined and re-created by a U.S. winemaker with a…
07 Aug 2013
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I’m sitting at a table in a parking lot—at 18 Hangar Way, Suite C, in Watsonville, to be exact. Near an airport. There’s an airport in Watsonville, a farming community between Santa Cruz and Monterey. And there are wineries. Today, 10 of ’em all, in one place. Here. Am I slurring? Talking too loud? Where’s the restroom again? That's right. It’s under the gorilla. “And he doesn’t peek,” says Al Drewke, owner of Roudon-Smith Winery. Drewke’s referring to an ape face painted into a jungle mural on the wine-warehouse wall. I’m outside, taking a break, snacking on cheese and chocolate from Original Sin, a Soquel, Calif., caterer. It’s 2 p.m. I started tasting wine around noon. I might be tipsy, animated. Babbling on and on (and on) to a Bay Area couple about this unexpected treat. A tiny, tasty wine event, well, here. Rather than in Santa Cruz. Or Monterey.…
24 Jul 2013
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An eco-activist friend looked at me askance a couple of years ago when I bought a wine chiller. The small refrigerator keeps 44 bottles of wine at around 60ish degrees. I considered the purchase a survival strategy while living a year in a toasty, not air-conditioned apartment in Honolulu. While living in Hawaii, I rode my bike to work at the university. I generated very little trash. I didn’t have a microwave or, for months, a toaster. But, still, a wine refrigerator? Am I a bad citizen of the planet? Environmental guilt is at least as bad as religious guilt. So many rules. Thou shalt not wear gold jewelry (cuz gold mining’s satanic). Thou shalt have no other gods beside thine hybrid car. Thou shalt eat organic; buy local; shop at thrift stores; drink shade-grown, fair-trade coffee; and purchase chocolate bars that promise donations to rain-forest preservation. Thou shalt water…
10 Jul 2013
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The night we drank the 2004 Grandpere, we’d spent the day at our grandson Lathan’s birthday-party carnival. A couple dozen kids, balloon animals, face painting, carnival games. “Everyone’s a winner!” Kids raced about collecting candy and filling up bags of popcorn from a rented machine, washing it down with juice drinks in foil pouches. We’d stayed to watch Lathan—his face painted superhero green—open a giant pile of presents. The booty included many things Hulk, from undies to action figures to two sets of Marvel The Avengers Gamma Green Smash Fists. We ate cake. The party was a huge success. And exhausting. We’d planned on going out. I’d looked up some venues with live music. I’d checked the theater schedules. Then we got in the car. Tired. Hungry. “Wanna stay home and cook?” I ticked through the stuff in the refrigerator. “Do we have chicken? I can make masala and naan.”…
19 Jun 2013
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“Wine is sunlight held together by water.” —Galileo Galilei Driving across the Midwest and Southern United States, I’ve noticed an abundance of sun and moisture. These days, fields of grapish dreams are emerging everywhere from Georgia to Missouri. Wineries seem to be thriving with tasting rooms handily close to major highways. The nation is becoming one giant California. Fun to say, given that folks ’round here tend to mock my Left Coast leanings. The change cheers me. I’m on a road trip to see family and friends. I’ve made short stops in near-beer Utah and Arbor Mist-y Nebraska, before moving on through Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, North Carolina—all states with dozens of wineries, associations and marketing plans. My Ohio-dwelling adult daughter planned a visit to a local winery. She even practiced wine-drinking beforehand: She bought various varietals at Ohio stores. Now a year out of college and practicing the art of…
05 Jun 2013
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It’s June, the time of year when I transport self and friends to Spain by stirring up a pot of cold, red, fruity deliciousness. Yeah, it’s sangria time. Sangria seems like a kids’ drink. By “kids,” I mean adults of legal drinking age between 21 and 103. Sangria can potentially be a sugary, soda-pop beverage with some fruit that appeals to people who don’t much like red wine, who drink Arbor Mist or Yellow Tail’s Sweet Red Roo. It has no place in my life. Or does it? A couple of years ago, Dave and I spent most of June in Spain. In Granada, I presented an academic paper that called for collective thinking by critical theorists. (Yeah, I know. Zzzzz.) More importantly, my husband and I drank some Spanish wine—dark-red Spanish wines, characterized by region or Denominación de Origen. In the United States, a couple of better-known Spanish wines…
22 May 2013
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Sacramento boasts plenty of wine bars—some with witty hipsters, and others with well-dressed lobbyists. Or hipster lobbyists. We end up in California’s capital, now and again, on business or pleasure. For something new during a recent visit, we drive south from our downtown hotel on Highway 99. Exit and turn east on Florin Road. Zoom past strip malls with the usual Starbucks, Panda Express and Sizzler chains. The journey is daunting. I’m not especially hopeful. But we have reservations at a landmark winery, Sacramento’s oldest, producing alcohol from grapes since 1897. Doubts double as we turn on Frasinetti Road, just before the railroad tracks. What in the heck are we doing out here? A Burlington Northern train chugs by. On the right, an auto repair shop, building supplies, Industrial Minerals. Just up the road, Siemens operates a light-rail manufacturing facility, and Pepsi bottles liquids of the carbonated variety. “A winery…