January 29th, 2011

“Your words are my food, your breath my wine. You are everything to me.”

~Sarah Bernhardt

Sadly, the last day of our journey arrived. With our luggage packed and the rental car filled with gas, we headed back to San Francisco. Crossing over the Golden Gate Bridge, I marveled at the splendor of everything we experienced in the past five days. From a bridge that was considered one of the modern Wonders of the World to the many varieties of delicate grapes that grew on the vines, to the friendships developed and deepened, it was a time that will forever live in our hearts.

We decided to spend the morning before our flight left at Fisherman’s Wharf. We strolled up and down the docks and ate the famous clam chowder at a small restaurant on the water. We stood at the end of the dock, hoping to see some of the porpoises that frequent the bay, but was told that due to the fishermen complaining about them, measures had been taken to keep them away. While sitting and eating our clam chowder, GW, Paul, and Tracie all spotted some, but I never did. Could see the ripples in the water where they had surfaced and then dived into the depths, but never saw any of them.

After lunch, we walked the streets of Fisherman’s Wharf and visited several shops. Soon, it was time to leave for the airport.

We didn’t exactly leave our hearts in San Francisco, but we did leave a part of it in the Wine Country. GW and I agreed it was the best vacation we’ve ever taken. It is indeed a fact that we will be visiting again soon.

San Francisco’s famous Fisherman’s Wharf

Fresh Crabs

A view of Alcatraz

A familiar sight on the streets of San Francisco

ATT&T Baseball Park ~ Home of the San Francisco Giants

A view of the marina

Several restaurants that line the streets

Thanks for letting us share our memories with you!


January 5th, 2011

“Let us celebrate the occasion with wine and sweet words.”


Before leaving, we were able to tour the BR Cohn Winery whose owner, Bruce Cohn, used to be the manager of the Doobie Brothers. Needless to say, in the winery were lots of memorabilia regarding that time in his life.

We shot over to Domaine Chandon where we tasted several kinds of Sparkling Wine (not allowed to call it Champagne unless it comes from Champagne, Franceso be forewarned). They gave us the two champagne glasses (can I say that or are they sparkling wine glasses?) to take home with us.

Also, we covered the Provenance vineyards where we laughed until we cried at the taste testing. The woman behind the bar kept pouring GW more than the allotted amount for the tasting and shorting the other guys. She kept saying he reminded her of E.F. Hutton because when he spoke, everyone stopped to listen. P thought she was just flirting with him, but GW was not as impressed because he thought E.F. Hutton was no longer alive and wondered EXACTLY what she meant by that. We thought it was hilarious and are still laughing about that. Personally, I wouldn’t blame her as I think he is cute also, LOL! And it’s not just because he is my husband.

We also visited the Arrowood Vineyards in the Sonoma Valley and Nicholson Winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Each place was beautiful and interesting and produced great wine. At the Nicholson Winery, they were setting up for a wedding so we didn’t travel far outside the testing room, but we got a great picture of the little church on the mountainside (see below).

Just so you know, we didn’t just travel from winery to winery.

We visited a wonderful little Irish pub in downtain Santa Rosa (name escapes me).

Ate at the famous and unique Willi’s Bar which was so different from anything I had ever had before. They served unique food on these ‘small international’ plates. Each one of us picked out about 3 or 4 ‘international plates’ and shared them – family style – with the whole group. I tried some dishes I have never had before and they were awesome!!!

The last night there, we had made reservations at the Culinary Institute of American (CIA) where the renowned school had their students cook for us. The menus are printed on paper as they change on a daily basis depending upon the availability and what the students are cooking that day.

Again, the food was top-notch and to die for! By all the special restaurants we visited, I was pretty spoiled by the time we got back home.

B R Cohen Entrance

Doobie Brothers Picture in the Winery

Domaine Chandon entrance

Small church in the Santa Cruz Mountains at the Nicholson Winery

Culinary Institute of America first course

Culinary Institute of America

Culinary Institute of America pastry chef

to be continued for wrap up….


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January 3rd, 2011

“Wine gets better with age. The older I get, the more I like it.”


I have always wanted to visit a castle. So when a tour at the winery Castello di Amorosa presented itself, suprisingly enough, all of us jumped on the opportunity. Well, not all of us. D & A was headed back to Texas and since it was our last day in California, we, along with P & T decided to see what a real castle was like. (See pictures below)

First a little history:

In 1993, after decades of researching and studying medieval castles throughout Europe, Dario Sattui began a humungous building project. The 121,000 square foot Castello includes 107 unique rooms, 8,000 tons of hand-squared stones, 8 levels (4 below ground which we had the pleasure of touring), 900 feet of caves, a completely hand-painted Great Hall (which was so totally awesome), a drawbridge, moat, dungeon and torture chamber (which included a ‘hot seat’, torture rack, a chopping block, and an authentic, antique, actually used back in the Medieval times Iron Maiden which we got to actually see it, ewwww!) a consecrated chapel, and one of the most impressive wine barrel rooms in the U.S. constructed with ancient brick Roman cross-vaulted ceilings (Dario bought and had shipped back to the states and paid the labor of professional brick layers of this type to come over and lay the bricks).

The castle has 30 acres of vineyards surrounding its great, hand-chiseled walls, gates, and guard towers planted with Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes which produce low yields and intensely flavored wines. While touring the level which housed all the barrels of aging red wine, our tour hostess, Kerry, (who was quite funny and totally awesome) opened a barrel and let us all taste some of the red wine that was not quite ready for bottling. It was a unique experience to be able to do that and I thought it rocked.

Then she took us to a separate tasting room from the public and behind this awesome brick and wood bar, served us wines that we tasted and, of course, bought some to take home. See picture below.

For GW and I, that tour of the castle, along with the Nashville in Napa experience, were the highlights of the trip. Not to mention our ‘meet the deer on the mountain top experience’, but we won’t go into that, LOL!

Outside view of the castle turret

Different view of the castle turret. Forgot where we were at the time of the picture taken

Castle courtyard where they actually hold parties and balls

Castle Chapel

This was our tour guide, Kerry, who had been raised around vineyards for many years. She was very knowledgeable and was a hoot to be with! I wish I could remember her name.

Castle Greatroom where in Medieval times, everyone met to eat and conduct business. This is the actual room that was in one of the recent Disney films Bedtime Stories. They also filmed the Bachelor here.

This is where the King and Queen sits. Disney bought them for the film and then donated them to the castle.

The dark spots under the arches are openings where oil would be poured upon those attacking the castle.

This is where the archers would stand to shoot their arrows. Note that they were designed where he could easily have enough room to shoot to the left or the right.

These are the foot stands for the archers who would be shooting over the wall.

This torture device is where the saying ‘being on the hot seat’ comes from. They tie you to the chair and then light a fire underneath and slowly roast you. Ewww!

Here is the rack that slowly tore you from limb to limb {{shudder}}.

Different types of helmets

Barrel we actually got to taste wine from

This is the arch that you can whisper into the corner and the person on the opposite side can hear you. It actually works! Not sure who this person was, BTW.

This is where to tour ended up. Cool, huh?

Then, of course, the store to buy your wares (souvenirs).

This is how they store wine for aging once the fermenting is completed. Notice no labels are on them. Why? Because they will not have to pay tax on them until they are labeled. Interesting, huh?

This tour is a must if you have a penchant for castles and history. I have so many more pictures of so many interesting things, but it is hard to include them all.

to be continued…


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