Saturday, January 11, 2014

Direction and Misdirection

One of the things we love about staying in bed and breakfast inns is the chance to meet new people. This time we ran into a young couple who were in California for a wedding and then came up to tour the wine country. He works with the UN training security forces in Liberia and she is finishing up a political science dissertation on community development there. So after a couple of hours of conversation on Friday, our last day, we were off to a late start. Finally, my foot was finally painfree enough for me to walk comfortably and so we planned a bit of a walk, with the Robert Louis Stevenson State Park as our destination.

We never made it. The dominant question in wine country encounters is always “What wineries did you see, who gives a good tour.”  Our answer, couched in more diplomatic terms is that we don’t really go to wineries, after more than forty years touring here, been there done that. Only it turned out that Sharon wanted to see one specific winery that was written up as giving a porton of its profits to animal rights. Well the theme of the day was emerging as “we never found it.” But opposite where it was supposed to be was a sign for Christopher Creek  Winery consisting of a few acres of vines, and a modest house and shed not the gradiose faux chateaux and villas that seem obligatory for tasting rooms around here. Up we went and encountered a wine that Sharon rather liked and a young man, Joe Foppoli, who is a fourth generation Northern California winemaker and new owner of the brand.

Following that we set out to find the RLS State Park. Between us Sharon misread the location and then I was unable to follow the subsequent corrections, so with the winter day waning we settled for the Napa State Park, on second effort found a reasonably secluded trail (the first one followed the highway) 

and on it we came upon this pioneer cemetery connected to the Tucker Farm, but apparently serving a larger community through the White Church. The history is obscure, but here are some images.

 and a shot at sunset driving home

Today we head home after a restful low key week. In part, this week has been a trial run, including blogging again, for our forthcoming trip across the Southwestern United States slated for mid-late March. So, stay tuned.

And finally, no trip is complete without another car image. no, not the 1M this time, but a 1963-64 Studebaker Avanti, in a way a distant forerunner of the BMW, a pioneering sport coupe. Some versions of the car were as fast as today’s amped up automobiles. Ever since first seeing it on Wednesday I been jonesing . . .

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Further Ramblings

Yesterday we hung around Sonoma in the morning and then enjoyed a nice lunch with Barbara and Saul Kitchener, at Sonoma’s Fremont Diner, which serves some of the best fried chicken this side of Georgia.

Because of my injured foot, today we toured mostly by auto apart from a short walk through downtown Healdsberg (see map in previous posting). From there we went across the hills to the Napa Valley and traced the Silverado Trail from Oakville to Napa, in the process going through Calistoga, which its late 19th century promoters tried to sell as a resort, “the Saratoga of California."

Along the way I was struck by the different types of vines and their different states of pruning. Now, I am no expert in oenology and I don’t even drink wine any more, but I retain a lively interest. As we have toured we have seen vines trimmed back severely, vines still in the process of pruning, vines left full and all stages in between, the differences depending on the varietal and what the winemaker wants his vines to do. So I thought I would snap a few casual images to illustrate.

Not a vine, but I like the image

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A Second Day in Sonoma and Napa Valleys

The highlight of our second day in Sonoma was a visit with Assunta Pisani, a former colleague of Sharon’s at Stanford who, like her, is now retired and lives nearby in Santa Rosa. Assunta’s sister Maria and her husband Vittorio own and operate VJB Vineyard and Cellars. The vineyard, in nearby Kenwood has been built along the lines of a Tuscan villa and we had a lovely lunch, pizzas of the sort that one normally finds only in Italy, and some fine conversation. Sharon was so taken with their Chardonnay, she and Assunta shared a bottle, that she got a bottle for our daughter and we stocked up on provisions for a light supper that we enjoyed at the end of the day on the patio of our B&B. It was lovely to see Assunta, a charming and literate woman.

Before meeting her we took a very brief walk in Sonoma Valley Regional Park. Sharon has long been limited in walking by chronic arthritis in her foot. Just recently I developed a painful instep, so we did not go far, but I was able to get a couple of nice images of our parched scenery.

Because of our lousy feet, we spent the rest of the day in the car, going across the scenic Trinity Road to Oakville and then ranging up and down Highways 29 and 128, through the Napa Valley. 

We have been coming up here for more than forty years, often at this time of year when we were in grad school in LA and then in our early career when we lived in the midwest and came to the Bay Area to visit Sharon’s family for the holidays. So driving along Highway 29 past Beringer, Heitz, Louis Martini, Crug, all the old school wineries, was a taste of nostalgia. We ended up in Geyserville, where Sharon’s family visited first when she was a girl, before heading back to Sonoma for a quiet evening and our picnic supper. 

Today, Wednesday, we will be meeting up with my pen mentor, Saul Kitchener and his wife Barbara, and after that, who knows? The joy of free touring.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The PENguin Rides Again!

As those of you who follow The PENguin know, 2014 marks the beginning of our retirement. In December, Sharon left Stanford after 25 highly fulfilling years, and I will not be teaching this spring so that we can begin our travels. We started with a quick New Year’s eve run down to Monterey where we brought in the new year with our friends James Bryant and Mary Hill of Carpe Diem Fine Books.

This scene from a beach at Carmel, just south of Monterey.

And now, the first week in January finds us again on the road, this time going north to see friends in Napa and Sonoma and to just hang out in the wine country. Monday’s excursion was to Jack London’s Valley of the Moon Ranch. 

Here you see the Museum that Charmian built to preserve Jack’s literary legacy.

Back in the day when pen and ink were essential tools.

The walk from the museum to London's grave site and the Wolf House

 and the tragic ruins of Wolf House, the home they built which was destroyed by fire in 1913 just before they planned to move in. It remained uncompleted at the time of Jack’s death in 1916.

Finally, a couple of images of the new BMW 1M which we got in October and which will carry us on our travels throughout North America that are planned for the next couple of years. For those interested, more on that one on my facebook page.

My apologies for the quality of the images, today I will stop being lazy and drag out my big old Canon