Dry Creek Valley Wednesday, Mar 24 2010 

I am embarrassingly overdue for providing an explanation for my absence.  Seriously.  I’m ashamed.  But! I have a few really good excuses – and in case I haven’t been evil enough this month, I’m not going to give them to you all at once.  I mean, wouldn’t that just be too damn easy?  I thought so.

I digress – let’s talk about something awesome.  You know what’s awesome? San Francisco is freaking awesome, especially when you go with your five best girlfriends.  And, especially, especially when you go wine tasting. In a limo.

Yes. And. Please.

The weather may not have cooperated, but that didn’t mean we didn’t take advantage of Sonoma County’s Barrel Tasting Weekend. Evidently this is a big deal – we just happened to be there for it (…no, seriously. We didn’t plan this trip around wine tasting. I swear.  Just a happy coincidence!).  But what trip to Cali would be complete without a little vineyard tour – particularly because it was my first time in California.  I know. It’s pathetic that I’ve made it this long without seeing the west coast of my own country, yet I’ve been to Europe three times.  I know. My priorities are clearly skewed.


I don’t know what I was expecting out of wine country, but it so far surpassed my expectations that I can’t even begin to explain it to you.  There are just grapevines literally everywhere you look.  I can only imagine it green and lovely in the spring and summer, without the rain that persisted through most of our day.

In case you’re unfamiliar with it, barrel tasting is a pretty unique thing – it’s sort of like tasting beer halfway through the brewing process: it tastes delicious, but it’s not done yet.  The vineyard essentially cracks open a barrel or two of each type of wine and offers a tasting before it’s ready – meaning that you can drink it at the winery, but you can’t bring it home with you until it’s finished months later. It also means that what you’re tasting at the vineyard that day is an unfinished product used to determine what the finished product will taste like when the process is complete.  You can purchase bottles and cases, called futures, that you then return to the winery once the wine is bottled.

Obviously, this was problematic for me for several reasons:

1) I am, and always will be, unwaveringly impatient.  I can’t help it.  I want to do things now. What can I say?  I don’t have a lot of self-control.

2) Um, I don’t live here. Yes, this wine is fantastic, but I can’t exactly come back for it in October or next year.  That might be the least economical decision ever.

3) Fortunately, wineries allow for such a predicament, and will ship the wine to you.  Unfortunately, New Jersey, in a fit of puritanical zeal, has refused to make this legal.  Thus, no wine futures for moi.

However, to offer nothing but futures would be silly when you’re attracting the kinds of crowds that Barrel Tasting Weekend does, so most wineries also offer bottles of their finished wine for sale as well.  And if you think I paid to check my carry-on luggage all the way back home to New Jersey because it had several bottles of wine in it carefully wrapped in sweaters…then you are absolutely correct.  Congrats!  Looks like you have been listening closely all this time!

We visited the following Dry Creek Valley vineyards:

Armida Winery

David Coffaro Vineyard and Winery

Mazzocco Winery

Pedroncelli Winery

Rued Winery

Wilson Winery


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Boozy Sunday Wednesday, Sep 23 2009 

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I have a pretty small family.  When you put all of us together in a room at, say, Thanksgiving, there’s only 15 people there.  And that’s counting significant others.  We try to make the most of our small number though, and we are one of the few families that celebrate literally everyone’s birthday with a full-on, cake-and-ice cream, cards-and-presents party.  I don’t just mean the children – aunts, uncles, grandparents…everyone gets a party.  So we’re pretty close.

The kids are pretty close in age, too.  On my mom’s side, they’re closer to my younger brother’s age, and on my dad’s side, closer to my age.  Growing up, my cousins and I didn’t have a boatload of stuff in common: they danced, sang, and did theater, while I am literally tonedeaf and cannot sing a note.  They played softball (which I quit because, frankly, I sucked) and soccer (which I never played because, as I once told my father “it was too much running” – I’m still eating those words after consequently deciding to play field hockey for nine years), and I got my black belt in

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karate.  And then we all went away to college, in three different states, and only saw each other a few times a year.  And then I graduated.  And my cousin came to my graduation.  And met my friends, who told her every embarrassing story she could ever hope to hear about her “perfect” cousin, who now seemed none too perfect.

It was probably one of the best things that could’ve happened, because while she’d always been my cousin, after that graduation weekend, she also became one of my best friends.  I have her to thank for meeting Boyfriend (at her Memorial Day party last year), and for letting me into her circle of friends so that I’m not tragic and bored now that he’s moved away.  She never fails me when I call her at all hours of the day, bored, demanding entertainment, and she has allowed me (and, occasionally, Boyfriend) to drunkenly crash on her spare bed more times than I could ever possibly count.  In short, she’s a keeper.

Also, she knows me too damn well: two months ago, she asked me to go to a wine festival with her and I said yes immediately, knowing not one detail.  I didn’t have any idea where it was, who was going, what time of the day it was, or how much the ticket was.  She didn’t either, but she knew I’d say yes without any of that other information.  And, of course, she was right.

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So yesterday, the big day, we took some folding chairs and our $14 tickets down to Valenzano Winery in Shamong, NJ.  Do not ask me where Shamong is.  I don’t know, still.  I didn’t drive and didn’t honestly care.  All I can tell you is that it was south.  I’m not even honestly sure I can pronounce the name of the town correctly.

Anyway, apparently, $14 got us a seat in one of the VIP (yes, we are very important) tents and unlimited wine of all varieties.  There was a blueberry champagne, a cranberry champagne, reds, whites, and the bottle I wound up purchasing – cranberry red.  Delish.  Needless to say, we skipped the wine tasting portion and went straight to the wine drinking portion.  In the sun.  In the middle of the day.  Outside.  Man – it was the life.

And really, as I sat there with Cousin in the unseasonably hot weather, sipping my wine and munching on cheese cubes, with Boyfriend sending me periodic football updates (In case anyone’s wondering, my fantasy team is 1-1.  And no, Maurice Jones-Drew is decidedly not helping me win.  Admittedly, he’s doing more than Wes Welker, however.), there was honestly no place I would rather be.