Friday, March 28, 2008

The Wineries

Alright, here it is! The recap of the wineries we visited while in Sonoma and Napa -

Our first day in wine country - we drove through the town of Sonoma on our way to Napa.

Bartholomew Park
We got complimentary tastings from the Wattle Creek tasting room in San Fran for this winery. It was actually in the town of Sonoma. We were the only ones in the tasting room - checked out their small museum before hitting the bar. Met a nice lady that pointed us in the direction of Gundlach-Bundschu, just down the road - the parent company of Bartholomew Park (little did she know we actually had a complimentary tasting for that one, too!). Bartholomew Park makes wine from their 37 acres of organically grown grapes. We liked all of their reds - the Syrah was a little young but David liked it, the estate Cabernet was very smooth and easy to drink, the Zinfandel was peppery and probably my favorite, but we compromised and grabbed a bottle of their Merlot since there was only a few bottles of their 2004 vintage left.

We tried a lot of wines here since we each did a tasting. They are one of the few wineries that actually had a tempranillo, which we both liked. They also had a tempranillo rose', which was very interesting - light, but not sweet - a good picnic wine. We both really liked their Cabernet Franc, but ended up walking away without buying a bottle. Enjoyed their lake (pond?) view and got to peek inside their fairly new wine cave (yum, the smell of fermenting yeast!).

The nice lady from Bartholomew Park suggested that we stop at Artesa on our way over to Napa. Artesa is actually in Napa Valley, but in between the towns of Sonoma and Napa. The best part of Artesa was the fact that it's built into the side of a mountain, so you feel like you're visiting a bunker, however, they have a fabulous tasting room with cool modern art. They also have fountains and artsy sculptures outside. Got to taste their wine- picked up a bottle of their tempranillo (the only other winery that made one). David sweet talked the girl that was serving us into giving us half-flutes of their sparkling wine (we weren't supposed to get any since we had already done tastings - everyone in wine country is very particular about how much people consume at their establishment!). Beautiful views - thought it was pretty funny to see a Mercedes with the 750ML license plate next to the BMW with the ARTESA one.

Probably our favorite winery - we stopped after Artesa on our way to Napa, and then again on Wednesday when we drove back through Sonoma on our way back to San Fran. Folio is Michael Mondavi's wine studio - Michael is Robert Mondavi's (very popular Napa winemaker) son. They sell a variety of different "brands," if you will, since they sell their own wine and some of their friends' wines. They're heavy on their reds (which works for us!) - they had 4 Pinot Noirs, 1 Cuvee' (blended red), 1 Merlot, 1 Mataro, 1 Syrah, 3 Cabernet Sauvignons, 2 Petite Sirahs, and 4 Old-Vine Zinfandels, oh, and an amazing old-vine Zin Port! Between the two visits, I think we tried all of them! The first day we ended up buying a bottle of Trinitas Old-Vine Petite Sirah (2004), which we ate with our huge slabs of meat that night! We also bought a 2004 Medusa Creekside Vineyard Old-Vine Zinfandel, and the Medusa Old-Vine Zinfandel Port. It was our first experience with port and we LOVED it! We actually took the bottle of port back home for Easter and shared some with the family - Grandpa Bruce really enjoyed it! :) Our second time through, we bought the 2005 Oberon Merlot (really good smell, almost nutty), the 2005 Hangtime Mounts Vineyard Syrah (for my mom, smooth - evidently it pairs well with venison), and the 2005 Oberson Oso Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (expensive, but amazing - we're saving that one for a special occasion!). If you're interested in checking these wines out, you can buy them online at Noble Merchants - they're under the California section - both Napa and Sonoma regions.

Oh - that's only day one. I'll get back to the big wine shuttle on day two- but I'm out the door to go enjoy some of this fabulous wine with friends!

Music from Men in Trees

Sometimes I get bored with my current music and I seek out something fresh and new. Luckily I have two music-inclined people in my life - my little brother is constantly supplying me with new stuff and my good friend Jenny also suggests artists to me that she's currently listening to. For example, Jenny just dropped me a message on Facebook saying that I should listen to Colbie Caillat's CD "Coco" - to which I responded, "I already have it! and love it!" Turns out, my little brother had already told me about Colbie last fall.
Although I've been listening to the new Jack Johnson CD "Sleep Through the Static,"
it was time to find something new. I've been watching a lot of Men in Trees on lately - with nothing new on TV, what else was I to do? - and I really like some of the music they have on the show. ABC is pretty good about finding new artists for their shows, and they have music guides for each episode so you can find most of the songs you heard and liked. I looked up the songs on itunes and downloaded the ones that sounded interesting. Here's the CD I came up with - it's kind of folksy, a bit country, but definitely not too mainstream (yea!).

Men in Trees Music:
Smile by Dry Spells
If Ever There's a Reason by Derby
Can't Let Go by Lucinda Williams
Apologies by Grace Potter and the Nocturnals
Yesterday's Gone by Bernard Fanning
What I'm Looking For by Brendan Benson
Hold on Beauty by Cameron McGill & What Army
Sun Will Shine Again by slackstring
Get Outta Town! by Lucky Soul
My Baby Cares for Me by Nina Simone
Love and Truth by Mother Mother
Let Them Knock by Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings
Honor Me by Sarah Stanley
Love on the Rocks by Sara Bareilles
All We Are by Matt Nathanson

The last two artists I actually bought full CDs of - Sara Bareilles is the singer of "Love Song," which if you've listened to the radio at all in the past few months you should have heard before! Matt Nathanson I was not familiar with, but I liked his voice, and more importantly, I thought my hubby would enjoy his CD "Some Mad Hope."

New music is always fun! Oh, and I promise I will post about the wineries SOON!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Easter chocolates

My grandma gave me a box of chocolates for Easter. The hubby and I decided it was probably better not to leave them at home for us to eat, so I brought them into work this morning. I left them in my boss's office (the only place safe to have food in the lab). He had mentioned that he had opened them up, but as of lunch none of the rest of us had eaten any. This is how many he ate on his own, as of 1:30pm.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Happy Easter from MN!

Can't wait to drive home in this...and yes, that's my spring flag blowing in all of that snow! Evidently it was a little premature.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

We're back!

Well...we made it. We got to enjoy the beautiful weather of sunny California (it only rained about 20 minutes on Friday afternoon!) and for the most part didn't have to think about work for an entire week! We're quite a bit poorer now, but at least we have 15 bottles of wine to show for it! Not to mention the countless bottles we consumed while there...

So - here's a recap.

Friday - got into SF, checked into our hotel at the Fisherman's Wharf, spent the rest of the day wandering around the wharf, Pier 39, and Ghiradelli Square.

Highlights: Fresh sourdough bread sandwiches and a bottle of Anchor Steam beer as soon as we got into town. Got a bit dolled up and wandered into an art gallery on our way down to Ghiradelli Square - while admiring some paintings, we were approached by an art dealer. Half an hour later, we had seen all of LeRoy Neiman's paintings (evidently this gallery is the largest dealer of his artwork) and had even been taken into the back room to privately view one of the newly released pieces. Evidently we looked like we could afford to buy a $4,000 painting. Needless to say we did not buy one, but it was pretty funny to talk about over cocktails for the next couple of hours. From there we headed to happy hour at Ana Mandara, a slightly swanky Vietnamese restaurant in Ghiradelli Square. Had an awesome couple of martinis - one with Bombay Sapphire gin and lychee liqueur and juice, another with citrus vodka, lemongrass, mint, and sour mix. Yum! We bought chocolate at one of the Ghiradelli stores, wandered into a wine tasting at Wattle Creek, then rounded the night out with sushi and tea. Perfect.

Saturday - Breakfast at Lefty O'Douls (including a couple of beers - hey, we were celebrating St. Patty's day!), St. Patrick's Day parade, wandered around North Beach, grabbed supper at the Fisherman's Wharf and headed to bed early.

Highlights: Lefty's was a great way to start out the day - greasy breakfast, strong coffee, and a couple of pints at the bar. Met a little girl that demanded a shirley temple with too many cherries from the bartender as soon as she walked into the door (too cute!).

Lowlights: Grabbed supper at the wharf at Pompei's Grotto - only so-so food. The worst meal of our trip. Plus got seated right next to an older couple (literally, we were practically sharing a table with them!), the woman barely said a word while the man made random comments like "that bathroom is definitely not handicapped accessible!" and "I think that food last night was from dead fish." At which point, I looked down at my shrimp-stuffed calamari and decided I was done with my meal.

Sunday - busy busy day! Our last day in town, so we wanted to make the most of it. Checked out the view from the top of the San Fran Institute of Art (beautiful!), grabbed breakfast, walked around Russian and Nob Hills, explored Chinatown, went back to the wharf for fresh Dungeness crab and brown-bag beers, then had Italian in North Beach.

Highlights: Checking out the 'secret' gardens and walkways in Russian and Nob Hills (so cool!), seeing how fortune cookies are made in Chinatown (there's an automatic pour spout to squirt batter onto each griddle, the griddle then presses the batter into a flat circle, the person working the machine then picks the wafer up, folds a fortune into the middle of it, and lays it over a metal rod to shape it - how simple!), walking into a free tea tasting which ended up being a tea bar lead by "Uncle" Gee - more on that later because that is worth an entire post by itself!, trying our first dim sum lunch (interesting, but I have no idea what we were eating!), finally found the sea lions at Pier 39 (we kept missing them!), found a cute little Italian place in North Beach, sat outside to enjoy a pizza and a bottle of wine, had lattes, then decided to have another bottle of wine, then needed espressos to give us enough energy to walk home!

Monday - checked out of our hotel, grabbed breakfast, then rode the cable car (with our luggage!) down to the rental car agency - got our car and drove to wine country! We checked out Sonoma a bit, then drove over to Napa (while hitting a couple of wineries on the way). Checked into our B&B, the Candlelight Inn, then drove up to Rutherford to find the Rutherford Grill.

Highlights: Sonoma was beautiful - the main square felt like Trimont (our tiny hometown in southern MN), but with better shops and more wine! We hit four wineries that day, including what ended up being our favorite - Folio. Heard that Laura & Gabe are buying a condo - so we grabbed a couple of flutes of sparkling wine at Artesa and toasted them. I also had just heard that I got a travel grant for this year's ASM meeting ($500 for travel expenses), so it was a two-fold toast! :) Rutherford Grill was really, really good - but the meat portions were insane! David ordered a pork chop and it ended up being two chops thick! My prime rib was outstanding, but there was just too much of it! The best thing about this place was the no corkage fee- meaning we could bring in a bottle of wine and have them open it up for free (yea!).

Tuesday - had an amazing three course breakfast at the Inn, then grabbed a wine shuttle that took us (along with two other young couples, and three older ladies - sisters! - from Jacksonville, FL) to seven wineries. Got back to the B & B - couldn't handle any more fancy food, so we found a brewpub in Napa and grabbed beers and pub food. Couldn't handle any more alcohol, so we drank lots and lots of water that night and went to bed early.

Highlights: Too many to count. I'll post about the wineries later. And the ladies from Jacksonville.

Wednesday - another three course breakfast, checked out, drove around Napa and Rutherford to visit some wineries, then back over to Sonoma before heading back to SF, killed some time by the wharf, then drove to the airport and came home on the red eye.

Highlights: Champagne tour at Mumm Napa, topped off by flutes of sparkling wine. Headed back to Folio to buy more wine (the only place we visited twice!). So exhausted, we had to take a 20 minute nap in the car in Sonoma! Got to drive down Lombard St - the curviest road in America - a little scary, but pretty cool. Had one super strong, but yummy, pomegranate margarita, but instead of getting a little tipsy, I just got goofy from sheer exhaustion!

All in all - an amazing trip. More about Uncle Gee's tea bar and the wineries later!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Off to San Francisco!

The hubby and I are very anxious to be off to San Francisco and Napa for almost a week! We leave bright and early tomorrow morning - we're almost packed, but have a few loose ends to tie up before we go. We're spending Friday through Monday morning in San Fran - we're staying near the Fisherman's Wharf, planning on checking out the big St. Patrick's Day parade on Saturday, hitting up the MOMA, and spending time exploring the city! Then we're renting a car and driving up to wine country - probably hitting Sonoma and some wineries around there on Monday, then heading over to our B&B in Napa. We'll be in Napa until Wednesday, so we'll have plenty of time to tour wine country and drink lots and lots of wine!! :) We just booked at shuttle tour for Tuesday so we can drink without worrying about driving (which I'm sure my hubby appreciates even more than I do!). Then on Wednesday it's back to San Fran, return the car, kill some time until we fly out late that night. Whew! It's going to be a good time! I'm sure I'll have lots of wine recommendations and pictures to share when we get back!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

It's been awhile...

Sorry! I've been busy so it's been awhile since I last posted. In the past couple of weeks I gave two lectures (one for my boss's medical micro class, one for my preparing future faculty mentoring experience at Hamline), did a bunch of homework for my preparing future faculty class, started writing another manuscript, did a big rabbit experiment (which, of course, didn't go as expected!), spent an evening working by candlelight after my house lost power due to the nearby electrical pole lighting on fire, and found my dog playing with a naughty toy that he found in the neighbor's yard (I'll give you a's shaped like a bone...).

Needless to say, it's been a little crazy around here. Good thing my hubby and I are off to San Francisco and Napa Valley for almost a week - we just have to make it to Friday! I just posted a few new things...I've been thinking about most of these for awhile, just didn't have time or energy to actually get them posted! Enjoy!

Six Feet Under Obsession

I had heard just enough about the old HBO television series Six Feet Under to know that I would probably like it. So I finally got around to renting the first few discs from season one and I completely LOVED it! That was in January. It took me only two months to watch all five seasons. And I balled for the last 3-4 episodes - it was a pretty emotional goodbye. I think my hubby was a little worried about my obsession. And I'm pretty sure he'll be super psyched when I decide it's time to watch them all over again. If you haven't seen it, and enjoy some dark comedy and drama, try it out! Plus - Nate, one of the leads, is a Minnesota boy so props to him. And Frances Conroy - the mom - is pure genius. And Rachel Griffiths - now on Brothers & Sisters - is also one of the main, and most interesting, characters. LOVED IT.

Who would buy this?

I was working on a lecture on Yersinia pestis and I googled images of the black plague. I came across this image:
I was a little confused, so I went to the website that this image is from - Soapy Hollow. Evidently this is a Texas-based soap and spa product company. Someone evidently found the Giant Microbes website and decided that they could be used to help sell spa products. The description for this particular package is the following:

Does someone you know have the plague? Did they give *you* the plague? Would you like to give someone the plague? Now you can! This groovy doctor's bag box is filled with Black Death, back from the successful European tour! It includes:
  • Giant stuffed Black Death (Yersinia pestis) microbe.
  • Three Gargoyle soaps in Ring Around the Rosie essential oil blend,
  • 1 ounce bottle of Ring Around the Rosie essential oil blend with a bonus mini-mist sprayer.
  • Sachet bag of herbs/flowers to ward off the "evil plague demons".

all wrapped up in a groovy doctor's bag box. It's all here but the leeches. Recover like it's 1599!

(Real plague not included. Will not start global pandemic. Not to be used to wipe out countries, bring about the fall of western society, or create a new Dark Age. Do not taunt Box o' Black Death with excerpts from The Decameron ).

Seriously? Who would buy this??

Is this SYD??

I just found this postcard on postsecret - and I asked my hubby if he had sent it in. It looks just like our cat, Sydney! And it would explain why he loves and cuddles with my hubby but bites me. Good thing our cat has more hair than this one...