Shale Oak – A Unique Winery

Awhile back, My long-suffering Hubby and I were visiting friends who were in the wine business in Paso Robles, California. They said that one of their favorite wineries in the area is Shale Oak because it is architecturally unique, has an emphasis on sustainability, and the wine is really good. Well, to me that sounds like a home run!

When we pulled up to the winery, it was stunning to see a huge wall of stained glass as part of the tasting room. But yet it blended so well with the native landscape. It sort of reminded me of those funky A-frame houses from the 1950’s. Even the interior had a Mid-Century Modern feel to it.

The buildings at Shale Oak are LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certified. The landscape consists of native vegetation and rainwater is caught and used throughout the winery. Here is some info about the sustainability of the winery: inbalancegreen.com

The tasting menu was a small selection, which I think is wonderful. It shows (at least to me) that the winery is focused on what is good at the time of harvest. I also noticed while I was digging up my notes, that Shale Oak prides themselves on doing small batches and they don’t have all of the same wines available all the time.

For example: I tried a wine named Ku. It is a blend of Petite Sirah, Syrah, Zinfandel and Grenache. The vintage was 2008. It is currently not available, but you can get Petite Sirah as a lone varietal now, which I couldn’t get at the time I was there.

Ku from Shale Oak

Ku from Shale Oak

Speaking of Ku…It is a beautifully lush, plummy red wine with hints of smoke and pepper. The finish lingers a bit. I wish I had bought a case of this.

Albarino from Shale Oak

Albarino from Shale Oak

I also loved the Albarino. It was a bright, crisp wine with tropical fruits, and the finish was a balance of minerality and creamy texture. Sometimes I feel that Albarinos get a little too harsh, but this one was just right.

Syrah from Shale Oak

Syrah from Shale Oak

The last wine I bought was the Syrah. It had layers of black fruit, pepper, tobacco leaf. It was rich with a smokey finish.

If you are ever in Paso Robles, do not pass up an opportunity to see this winery. Until then…please check out their website: Shale Oak

Cheers Y’all,

Lori – Your Twisted Sommelier

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Stolpman Vineyards

A couple of years ago, I stumbled across a tasting room in Solvang, California for the Stolpman Winery and I fell in love with everything they had to offer. This was before I got really serious about wine. I now use some of their wines to compare with others and I still feel that Stolpman is still producing a top quality product.

Stolpman is known for their Syrah, of which they have several variations. Each Syrah, whether it is the “Estate”, “Originals” or “Hilltops”, has its own character depending on where in the vineyard it was grown. A personal favorite of mine is the “Hilltops” and I really don’t care which vintage…it’s all good.

Stolpman is also where I became fanatical about Grenache. I love the spicy aspects of this wine and the soft tannins it can have. I also discovered Roussanne here. Stolpman calls it “L’Avion” which is French for “The Airplane” because the grapes are planted close to an old air strip. This wine is very full bodied with rich fruit and honey with a little oily texture.

Another thing I like about Stolpman is a training/ownership program for “La Cuadrilla” (Spanish for “The Crew”). A block of the vineyard is given to the crew to maintain and proceeds from the sales of the wine from that block are given as bonuses.

By the way, the tasting room has moved from Solvang to Los Olivos. And they have added a tasting room in Lompoc.

My last visit which was in December ( I know! I’m sorry I’m JUST getting around to writing this!) I went to the Los Olivos location and was throughly entertained and impressed with Kari, who I could tell loved the winery she was representing….Thank You Kari!

Stolpman Website:http://www.stolpmanvineyards.com/

Cheers Y’all!

Three Times the Charm with Corison

The reason I say that, is because this will be the 3rd time I have written about Corison.

If you care to look at my previous posts:

https://loristwistedcork.wordpress.com/category/sommelier-stuff/page/2/

https://loristwistedcork.wordpress.com/category/wine-trails/page/5/

Whenever I’m in Napa, I will always make an effort to stop by because not only is the wine outstanding, but I love the “homey” atmosphere and friendly staff.

It is refreshing to drive up to a New England styled barn instead of some behemoth of a structure. The tasting “room” is actually in the barn where the wine is kept in barrels. The barn is cold (I always take a scarf). Sometimes there are fruit flies and there is no gift shop filled with trinkets. There is just wine…damn good wine.

The friendly staff is more like family and welcome you into the cold barn. And sometimes if you are lucky you might even get to meet Cathy Corison, the winemaker/owner. I was lucky this past visit.

Cathy is a friendly petite lady who is very passionate about moderate alcohol levels in her wine. Some winemakers feel that high alcohol levels (above 14%) add flavor and body…which it does, but it makes the wine more like a “meal in a glass” and Napa is full of powerful, bold wines that score high points with wine critics, but after awhile my tastebuds go numb. However, Cathy’s wines are below that level and yet they always come out flavorful and elegant. Cathy is known for her Cabernet Sauvignon that has finesse and depth of flavor. She also makes Gewurztraminer and Cabernet Franc that I think are fantastic.

While we were talking, I told her that I really enjoy learning about how grape vines grow, discussing topography and I find geology interesting. And whenever I pick grapes, I get into a “Zen like” state. Her response was that I must be a winemaker at heart. Well, I just thought that statement was one of the nicest things I could have heard.

Unfortunately, Cathy couldn’t stay long but she left us in the capable hands of Joyce, who showed us around the barn and the Kronos vineyard, which is located right out the back of the barn. The Cabernet vines from the Kronos vineyard are about 40 years old and still produce beautiful rich fruit with black cherry, cassis, chocolate…at least that was what I got from the one little grape that I poached from the vine…

I will be honest, Cabernet has never been my first choice to drink. I think because when I was starting to be interested in wine, I only knew of the big fruit, over-oaked and tannic California Cabernets. I am so happy that I now have the California Cabernet that I have been looking for and my palate is a happy camper.

By the way, Cathy received “Winemaker of the Year – 2011” accolades by the San Francisco Chronicle.

You can read about it here:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/12/30/FDHB1MHN12.DTL&ao=all

The Corison Winery website: http://www.corison.com/

And now back to my glass of 2002 Corison, Kronos Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Beautiful blackberry, smoke, licorice, spice and velvet smooth!

Spring Mountain Vineyard

What a treat! Our friends Rick & Helen told us that they had arranged a tour & tasting at the Historic Spring Mountain Vineyard. (www.springmountainvineyard.com)

Spring Mountain Vineyard (SMV) is located in Napa and within the sub-appellation of Spring Mountain American Viticulture Area. This AVA is above Napa, and something I found interesting, is that because of how the winds coming off the Pacific Ocean and over the mountain, they have cool days and warm nights. The winery has been around since before Prohibition and it is also the place where the TV series Falcon Crest was filmed.

You have to have a reservation 24 hours in advance. So when we pulled up to the gates, Rick had to talk to a call box and let them know we had arrived. The gates “magically” opened and we drove the twisting road to the winery. Once there, we were immediately greeted with a warm “Hello!” and glass of Sauvignon Blanc for each of us by Patrick our tour guide…now that’s what I call customer service!

By the way, the Sauvignon Blanc was outstanding. Lovely citrus and floral notes with a bit of mineral.

The grounds are lush with exotic plants (at least to me they were unusual). Remember I grew up in West Texas so anything green that isn’t cactus is exotic.

Our first stop was into the winery and cave where the barrels are stored. Part of the cave was constructed in the 1880’s but was expanded decades later. It was amazing to look at a sea of barrels filled with wine. It was kind of funny because Rick, Helen, Sully & I were the last ones out because we kept posing for pictures and were so fascinated with the whole set up. Just as a side note…even though Sully is not much of a wine drinker, he is always interested in how its made…Thank Goodness!

As we made our way around the property, Patrick is pouring us more wine: a Syrah and a Co-Ferment Syrah. The Co-Ferment is where the Syrah is crushed and fermented along with another grape. In this case it was Viognier. Unfortunately I don’t remember much about these 2 wines because I couldn’t walk, drink and gawk, while taking notes.

Our last stop was at the Victorian house called Miravalle where one of the owners Tiburcio Parrott lived.This was one of the structures featured on Falcon Crest and it has a stained glass window with a beautiful parrot (not a falcon) in it. But I guess “Parrott Crest” just doesn’t sound as majestic. I thought it was just going to be a house tour and then we would be finished. But NO! Rick & Helen didn’t tell me we were going to do a vertical tasting of Cabernet Sauvignon. A vertical is where you get to taste different vintages of one particular wine. I don’t get a lot of opportunities to do this, so I was over the moon!

We were ushered into the dining room and sat a huge table. We would be tasting 5 wines.

First was the 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon. The smell was red fruit, forest floor, and granite. The taste was mixed berries but a black cherry taste stood out. It was also earthy and leather with a bit of chocolate. The tannins were surprisingly soft. This wine had aged well. I really liked it.

The 2003 was just a lighter version of the 2001 and, kind of, a disappointment.

2005 was more intense and spicier than the 2001. The smell was clove, bright red fruit and curry. The taste was licorice, cocoa, plum, and cinnamon. It needed time to breathe. I still liked it though.

The 2007 was more fruit forward than the others. The smell was berry rich while the taste was black cherry, raspberry, plum, and cassis. It was velvet on the tongue and had a full mouth feel.

The last wine was the 2007 Elivette. This is the signature wine of Spring Mountain Vineyards. It is a very opulent but elegant wine. The smell is red fruit, brown sugar and allspice. The taste is cranberry, black cherry, cola and chocolate. It had a bit of a tannic bite but I think aging will smooth that out. I really enjoyed this wine.

After all was said and done…I liked the 2001 and the Elivette the best.

It was a fantastic experience and I’m so glad that Rick & Helen are wine club members because they shared their memories of all the SMV wines they have had throughout the years and how the vineyards and the grounds have changed. Before we left, we took a bottle of the Sauvignon Blanc with us to enjoy at the hotel. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day.

The California Haul

Bless my Long-Suffering Hubby’s heart! He decided that he would take another chance and let me go to Napa again.

Remember last time I got food poisoning. Here is the link to the 2 part post: part #1 (http://wp.me/pJNy2-1V) and part #2 (http://wp.me/pJNy2-28).

But this trip was going to be extra special. Not only were we going to see my favorite Mom-in-Law;-) but we were going to see one of our favorite musicians, Joe Bonamassa (http://jbonamassa.com/). Meet some new friends and visit old friends.

I won’t go into detail about each winery I visited. I will save that for future posts. This is sort of an overview of our trip and a “Thank You” to everyone that made it fantastic.

We did a lot of driving on this trip. We landed in Los Angeles, spent the night in Solvang, drove over the Golden Gate Bridge and were going to visit a couple Sonoma wineries but the traffic was so bad between San Francisco and Sonoma that all we had time for was a photo of the moon.

The next day we got massages at our hotel, The Golden Haven Spa and then off to Oakland for the Joe concert and to meet up with some of our “BonamassaBuds”. On our way out of Napa we stopped at Corison Winery, which is one of my favorites, and I was hoping to meet Cathy Corison the winemaker, and “sho’nuff” it was my lucky day! She is such a lovely person to talk to and everyone there is fantastic.

We got to Oakland in time for a “meet & greet” with Joe (Thanks Rick for arranging it) and I know y’all will think Sully and I are crazy, but we had a “m & g” the weekend before with Joe in Austin, TX, where we gave him some wine from Texas. So we were tickled that we were going to be able to ask him if he was able to try it… And “sho’nuff” Joe said he liked what little he got to taste because as soon as he opened it, everyone grabbed the bottle and started pouring into Solo Cups. I just shook my head and asked if everyone enjoyed it and Joe said “Oh yes! but  I’m sorry about the cups” I told him that I appreciated his honesty and that I was trying to get him out of his California Cabernet box and to try Tempranillo from Texas. Joe really is a good guy and I HIGHLY recommend going to see him. After the concert, he apologized again about the treatment of the wine. Thanks, Joe…I’m still a fan.

Back to Napa we went. This time we were meeting Rick and Helen for the day. We were going to Corison (yes, I went twice, Rick & Helen had never been) and Rick had arranged for a tour of Spring Mountain and I was so excited to be able to taste their wines, roam around the grounds and actually go in the caves. It was quite a treat! We even did a vertical tasting of their Cabernet.

We only went to two wineries while in Napa, but to me it was all about quality not quantity. Hanging with my Hubby, Rick and Helen was definitely quality time; food, laughter, wine, beer and music.

The next part of the trip was to meet up with our friends Chris & Amy, who temporarily moved to Paso Robles to do some wine business “stuff”. So on our way south we stopped at a winery I had never been to called Calera. Getting to Calera took some doing, but Oh My! it was sooooo worth the trip.

We finally got to Chris & Amy’s house and were greeted with persimmon glazed lamb roast with winter root veggies. We opened up the half bottles (yea! for half bottles!) I brought from Corison, Spring Mountain, and Calera.

We went to several wineries and a brewery for Sully. My faves were Robert Hall and Shale Oak. At Robert Hall we got to meet Mr. Hall and Don Brady, the winemaker. We also got to tour the winery and taste from the barrels. Shale Oak has a Mid-Century Modern looking tasting room and the wines are  delightful.

It was time to say “Goodbye” to Chris & Amy and keep going south to Los Olivos. On the way, we stopped at Laetitia. This was my 3rd visit and I swear they keep adding more wine to the list. I just stick to the Pinots. We arrived at Los Olivos, I always love to stop at Stolpman. They are known for Syrah but I really like their Grenache too.

We made it to my Mom-in-Law’s home in the Ventura area and this is where the next couple of days were kind of confusing as to if we were really going to a winery or a tasting room. I’m glad that Norine supports me in my quest for wine, but Sully kept trying to tell her that believe it or not “Lori can’t drink all day!” it was so funny and I got to see parts of California that only locals discover. By the way, I had no idea Malibu has 2 AVAs (American Viticulture Areas). I also discovered a nice winery called Old Creek Ranch Winery in the Ojai Valley and met the winemaker, Michael Meagher.

Our trip to California ended with a lighted Christmas parade of boats in the Ventura Harbor. Something I never witnessed in person because I grew up in West Texas and the only boats I know of have the word “row” or “bass” in front of them.

This really was an amazing trip because of the following people: My hubby Sully (for putting up with the wine, madness & always being Designated Driver); The Bona/WinePeeps, Rick & Helen (y’all are so generous & fun); The Wrangler of The BonaPeeps, J Dawg & the Lovely Karen (careful, we want to hang with y’all again). The rest of The BonaPosse: Marlies, Mindy, Rich, Rocket, Shreddy, Chef Ron. My fellow Wine Geeks: Chris & Amy (without y’all I would not have a vineyard experience in magical Alpine and Corison, or as much fun) and My Mom-in-Law for fueling my obsession with wine, being able to read a map correctly even when the map is wrong, and freezing at the harbor so your daughter-in-law can watch boats go around in a circle.

My L.I. Babies Are Home!

If  y’all read my previous post about my issues with getting my wine shipped from Long Island, New York, you can guess that I’m thrilled to finally have them in the house just waiting to be uncorked!

Long Island was wonderful…kind of like Napa but in a low-key New England vibe. There are 2 roads with wineries one after another just like Napa but less traffic and tour busses.

This trip was a wine/see the family thing. My Husband has family in Long Island & Massachusetts. In my excitement about seeing both; I friggin forgot to take pictures…I’m not a professional blogger (that’s why I post about twice a month & my ” job that pays the bills” sucks the life & brain out of me) so sorry! The only pics I have are the wines I bought.

Anyway, the first winery was Osprey’s Dominion (www.ospreysdominion.com). It got winery of the year, so I wanted to check out if it was worth the hype. I think everybody on the Island read the same thing I did because it was noisy and crowded. The tasting room was huge and had a rustic “hunting” lodge feel but I could not see the whole room and the only spot open was toward the entrance. I’m short and I was not going to elbow my way through the crowd.

The winery had a sign:”try our Award Winning Cabernet Franc.” In fact I think the whole Island was pushing Cab. Franc because I would see signs for it everywhere. My friend Chris Lawler,wine maker at Times Ten (www.timestencellars.com) does some of the best Cab Franc so I knew I had a good comparison.

Wine #1) 2007 Reserve Chardonnay. The smell was: green apple, lemon, toast. It was not oaked for very long so the taste was light vanilla, green apple, pineapple and a little creamy. Very nice drinkable wine.

#2) 2009 Gewurztrminer. It had a light floral, dry citrus quality. I’m used to more floral and spicy fruit. It was o.k.

#3) 2007 Cabernet Franc. The smell was earth, chocolate, dark fruit. The taste was disappointing. I missed the rich dark fruit and herbs. It was too light and acidic. This wine should have a more velvet quality because Cab. Franc is not as tannic as Cabernet Sauvignon.

#4) Reserve Merlot. The smell was plum, violet, currant, bell pepper. The taste was black fruit, clove and earth with a full mouth feel of velvet. Nice!

I tried 2 others but they are not worth mentioning and I really question the “winery of the year” award.

Next stop was Bedell Cellars (www.bedellcellars.com). It is a small winery that had a sophisticated Cape Cod look with amazing original art. and the upstairs had views overlooking the vineyard.The staff was young but really nice and knowledgeable and asked me all kinds of questions about Texas wines. I even threw away my itinerary and asked them where else I should go….Luckily we picked some of the same ones, so my research was not too far off 😉

wine #1) 2008 First Crush,a Chardonnay/Viognier blend. The smell: fresh citrus. The taste: light, peach, pear, apple and honey. Enjoyable.

#2) 2008 Chardonnay. The smell: mineral, citrus, earth. It had been lightly oaked so the taste was light toast and fruit but I wanted more apple and pear. It was o.k.

#3) 2009 First Crush, a Merlot/Cab. Franc blend. The smell: strawberry, black cherry. The taste: raspberry, bright cherry, cloves with a balanced acidity. Delightful, easy drinker.

#4) 2009 Cabernet Franc. The smell: plum, violets. The taste was full of fruits and herbs. There was a little acidity that balanced all of the fruit quality. Very Good!

Overall, I would highly recommend this winery.

Macari was next (www.macariwines.com). They have 2 tasting rooms, one in Mattituck and a smaller one in Cutchogue.We went to the smaller one. This was one of the wineries that both the Bedell staff and I agreed on. It did not disappoint.

The tasting room was black, white and green with copper counter tops. Wish my kitchen looked like that!

I told them that Bedell sent us and I was a sommelier from Texas and worked with 2 wineries in Dallas. They were very nice to me, but I did not get special treatment which I appreciated because they were great with everybody and had a lot of repeat customers.

Wine #1) 2009 Sauvignon Blanc. The smell: grapefruit, lime, honey. The taste: grass, lime, mineral. Very Delightful.

#2) 2007 Chardonnay Reserve. The smell: toast, citrus, green apple, pineapple. The taste: creamy vanilla, toast, pear, apple. It had been oaked for about a year but the balance was wonderful. As you can guess, I’m not a fan of big, oaky chardonnays. I loved it!

#3) 2009 Riesling. The smell: citrus and tropical fruit. The taste: peach, mango, lemon and a bright acidity that made it effervescent… it’s a good thing!

#4 & #5) 2005 Merlot. One was the Estate and the other was Reserve. The Estate was a nice quality Merlot, but the Reserve was a little more “exotic” with tones of leather, nutmeg, cocoa. I liked both but chose the Reserve.

#6) Sette, a Merlot/Cab. Franc blend. The smell: green twig, clove, anise. The taste: plum, bright cherry, chocolate and not too acidic. Very Nice.

I did try the Cab. Franc…sorry Macari…Chris has the better one. But I will be coming back!

I wish I had taken photos at the next winery. It was Sherwood House Vineyards (www.sherwoodhousevineyards.com).You drive into the middle of one the vineyards and there is a tasting “shack” and picnic tables and fire pits all around. It is a fun gathering place and you meet some great people there. The only challenge was trying to get the smell of the wine because the wind was blowing.

Wine #1) 2009 Chardonnay. The smell: citrus, pear, green apple. The taste: tangerine, ginger, green apple with a light acidity that made it effervescent. Really delightful and lovely.

#2) 2003 Chardonnay. The smell: toast and apple and I could tell by the gold color of the wine that this was going to be oaky and buttery. It was! If you like that kind of Chardonnay then I would recommend it.

#3) 2009 White Merlot. It reminded me of the Merlot version of a White Zinfandel. Just to let y’all know; there is only one Zinfandel grape and it is red. But the winemaker has to “dilute” the grapes so much to make it into “White” Zinfandel. I have REALLY simplified the process but I just wanted y’all to get the idea. Please don’t shoot me, my winemaker friends. I have no idea about White Merlot. I going to have to do some digging.

#4) 2003 Merlot. It was like a rustic Cabernet Sauvignon. Not much fruit more leather and smoke. Not good.

#5) 2004 Cabernet Franc. It had leather, earth, black cherry qualities but was forgettable.

I would go back but it would be to hang out, chat with folks and drink the 2009 Chardonnay.

The last winery was Shinn Estate (www.shinnestatevineyards.com). It was a converted barn (I think). There was a small garden where you could sit and drink. The tasting room was small and rustic. However, the person helping me was not as charming as the surroundings. In fact she left me and someone else filled in but really couldn’t answer my questions.

The 4 wines I tasted were: a 2009 Chardonnay, a red blend of (Merlot, Petit Verdot,Cab Franc, & Malbec), a 2007 Merlot and a 2007 red blend called “Wild Boar Doe” that was (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Cab Franc, Malbec). All of the wines were forgettable except “Wild Boar Doe”. The smell: earth, forest floor, dark spices. The taste: forest floor, black cherry, plum, gravel. Very Good.

But I won’t go back to Shinn.

During our trip we stopped at one winery on Cape Cod called Truro….Bless their Hearts…they are trying but I would not go back. Everything tasted green and acidic. I tried a Vignoles which I’ve never done before. It was a cross between a Sauvignon Blanc and a very dry Riesling. It made me pucker a bit and had a mustard quality.

Well, I’m glad we went and I want to go again…but I hope the wineries will be able to ship my wines to me!

Surviving the Napa “vacation” Part 2

After we saw Napa, we decided the next day to go to San Francisco. 

I love San Francisco. Luckily, my Mom-In-Law does too. I kept having to remember that this trip was not all about me; it was Norine’s 80th birthday and we needed to do things she would enjoy…..but there was one more winery I HAD to see….

So we headed to the Thomas Fogarty Winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains, S.E. of San Francisco Bay. I knew My Hubby & Norine would love it because Thomas Fogarty is known for their Gewurztraminer (a German grape that is more rich, spicy and floral than a Riesling). I was excited about the Barbera (an Italian grape that tastes like cherry, tar, and minerals with a light finish).

The winery is 2000 ft. above sea level and the views are breath-taking and the wines did not disappoint. We even joined their wine club (well, I did !). The guys that were running the tasting room were a hoot. I was trying to decide how many bottles of Barbera to buy and should I also get the Grenache. Well, the gentleman that was helping me said “of course you should get the Grenache because it is from the same vineyard as the Barbera and they are gown across the road from one another and you can sometimes hear the Italian Barbera hurling insults at the French Granache and the Granache responding back.” I had to buy the Grenache after being told a story like that!

We headed back down the mountain to San Francisco for lunch.

A wood-fire pizza restaurant, named “A16” was recommended to us. It is in a very upscale,trendy,neighborhood by the harbour. And unfortunately because it is in a neighborhood; there is NO PARKING! We drove around for about 20 minutes and finally I jumped out of the car and went into the restaurant to ask what to do about our situation and the “hostess” didn’t have clue as to the parking situation and told me “we don’t open until 5 and do you have a reservation?” 

Well, after that we decided to go to Ghirardelli Square. We knew it would have restaurants that were open and parking. We ate at a pub and walked around and shopped a little. The Ghirardelli chocolate is still good and cheaper than if you bought it at Pier 39.

Our next stop was Pier 39.It is always congested with people and shops, but once you get to the end of the pier; it is quiet and peaceful.You can see Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Dinner was next on the list and Norine enjoys going to Alioto’s which is legendary in San Francisco. It still has a very old world feel and the wait staff is very professional and friendly. Unfortunately, I think this is where I got the food poisoning. Maybe the fish sat out too long or the Swiss Chard was not good. But at 1 a.m. til 4 a.m. the next morning I lost everything I consumed that day.

This is where the “vacation” went to “hell in a hand basket”. I was in bed all day trying to keep down crackers, ginger ale and water. So Sully and his Mom were running errands (shipping all the wine we bought) and driving around looking at the beautiful scenery. That night I woke up to all of the lights on but nobody was around. I thought well maybe the 2 of them got a wild hair and decided to go to a casino. I called Sully and he was at the emergency room with his Mom because she was having trouble breathing! It was 5a.m. before they got back to the hotel and Norine said she almost thought she wasn’t going to make it through the first day of her 80th birthday.

Later that afternoon, when I could keep down a baked potato and Norine could breath; Long-Suffering Sully packed us up and announced that he was taking us home! On the way back to Norine’s house we did stop at Laetitia Winery because they have wonderful Pinot Noirs. I only tasted about 3 and asked for half the normal tasting amount. They were very nice an offered me crackers and mineral water if my stomach started to turn.

We made it back to Norine’s and had one day of rest before flying home.

While we were in Napa, Norine kept reminiscing about the Christian Brothers Riesling that she bought back in 1981 and she had one bottle left. Well, where Christian Brothers used to be; is now a culinary school. So she was disappointed that she couldn’t get more.

But before Sully & I left to go back home; Norine opened that last bottle of Riesling and we toasted the fact that the 3 of us survived the “vacation” and her 80th birthday. And to tell you the truth, I was very surprised that the wine was still good. It had aged to a gold color and there were “crystals” of tartaric acid in the bottom of the bottle. It was a delight to drink a 29 year old wine.

In spite of all of the negatives on this trip; we will do this again and hopefully Norine will find another old bottle of wine to share.