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Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

Wine

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…
08 May 2013
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Midwestern girl, me. The first wine I put in my mouth flowed from a silver chalice in the hands of a Lutheran pastor. We’ll call him Greg. About my “confirmation, the Lutheran coming-of-age rite, and subsequent first communion,” I recall three things. One, I was feeling angelic in a white confirmation gown over a new dress. Two, Pastor Greg was young, blonde, godlike in build, thoughtful and humorous in perfect proportions. Six young girls in my communion class all had a crush on Pastor Greg. Three, I remember the flavor and feel of wine in my mouth. There was something sensual about the bitter fruit, the astringent pull of alcohol on my tongue. Welcome to the adult world. This is how it’s going to taste, the blood, paired with thin bland wafer, the body. A party followed my communion event. Now an adult, I was entitled to drink alcoholic beverages.…
24 Apr 2013
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I arrive at the motel early. Housekeepers are still cleaning rooms. Two patrons read newspapers by the pool. I check my email in the parking lot. A Jeep pulls up next to me. Within seconds, we’re out of our vehicles and in each other’s arms. Lovers meeting for a romantic tryst—in Lodi, California. Scoff if you must. We’re here by design. This is not an “Oh Lord, stuck in Lodi again” moment, as the Creedence Clearwater Revival song laments. We like this appellation, east of San Francisco, where grapes have been growing blissfully since the 1850s. Lodi’s sandy soils and Mediterranean climate, with warm days and nights cooled by Sacramento River Delta breezes, are ideal for growing zinfandel, the punk-rocker of grape varietals. Unpretentious but hardly humble. In your face with gooey fruit and zingy spice. Unsubtly dissonant. Rough around the edges, most often without apology. Lodi is synonymous with…
10 Apr 2013
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Hot, windy, crowded. Long lines for the toilet. Overpriced food. But all the bands you love. And now, you can have wine carefully paired with the music. Yes, we’ll be listening to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds while drinking some red wine barrel-aged in a cavern. Maybe one of those Castello di Amorosa 2009 Zingaro “The Gypsy” reds. Yeah, the Castello in Napa is fake, with its caves excavated centuries ago (in 1995). Still, the Tuscan-style replica has a fun vibe. And Zingaro would pair nicely with the band’s “Red Right Hand.” Ah, now you’re wondering: Coachella’s doing wine-music pairings? The lyrics of aged Cave, 55, come to mind: “We call upon the author to explain!” Sure, no problem. I’m not going to Coachella the Fest. This means avoiding pricey tickets and constricting wristbands. This means not having to worry about finding parking, obtaining a shuttle, camping and enduring…
27 Mar 2013
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Merryvale Vineyards tasting room, Napa Valley, Calif. Noon on a Sunday. Cars jammed Highway 29, filled with California-wine-lovers who’d flown in from Asia and Europe, Australia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Mexico and points beyond. We walked into Merryvale’s St. Helena tasting room about the same time as a group of around 30 people from Vallejo. We had an hour to taste before our reserved tour at another winery up the road. No big deal. I had downloaded a two-for-one tasting coupon. So yay. Before last weekend, the Napa experience had never been our thing. Big and crowded. Pretentious and expensive. I’d been there twice, years ago. Not impressed. And yet we gave Napa Valley another try Saturday and Sunday, armed with coupons on the Winery Finder iPhone app. We were prepared for heavy traffic and pricey wines. We weren’t disappointed. At the same time, we met friendly, knowledgeable people who work…
13 Mar 2013
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Grmmpppcckkkkfflllppsssttt, boompf. Grmmpppcckkkkfflllppsssttt, boompf, grmmfthmp. My partner and I had finally fallen asleep. The party at the Murphys Historic Hotel bar had gone on and on 'til the wee hours. Now it was 3 a.m., and we were sitting up in our bed. Groggily wondering why: Why woulda hotel schedule renovation in the middle of the night? In the room next to ours, it sounded like chairs and dressers were being dragged across the floor. Pounding, stomping, thumping. The thin wall behind our headboard vibrated. Grmmpppcckkkkfflllppsssttt, boompf. Grmmpppcckkkkfflllppsssttt, boompf, grmmfthmp. The room next to ours should have been empty. It had not been rented. (We asked hotel staff the next morning.) In fact, previous hotel guests had been said to flee that very room now and then, some not stopping to ask for a refund. Maybe the hotel hired a staffer to make noise at 3 a.m. to perpetuate haunting…
27 Feb 2013
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Maybe there’s some sort of social network these days for the spirit world—some MyHaunt or Facelessbook for paranormal beings to stay connected, make plans, conspire. That would explain how we met Eleanor the Ghost on a wine tasting trip to Murphys, Calif. Maybe you’ve heard of Murphys. Maybe not. It’s a tiny burg in north-central California, miles off the beaten path (10 miles east of Highway 49) on the way to nowhere (aka Arnold, Calif.) in the Sierra foothills. To get me there must have taken the coordinated effort of at least a couple of pranking poltergeists. The Eleanor story begins and begins again at two haunted hotels about 20 miles apart. The story hasn’t ended yet. Haunting is like that, a lifelong problem or blessing, depending on your perspective. Just when you think you’ve exorcised a ghost, years later, she’s back in your life, making herself known. The Significant…