March 2nd, 2006

Dead Dog Cat

Last Thursday

Last Thursday started the fun of the very long weekend with friends. It started somewhat inauspiciously.

First, Jeff & Deena arrived at our house, bearing gifts of wine. Jeff has taken up apprenticeship, apparently in a non-formal sense, at a winery in Kentucky. He brought a mixed case of their wines, and set up a wine tasting to start off, going to the extent of having a dozen of his favorite wine glasses shipped to our house, which arrived just before they were needed.

Then, Stuart & Andrea, John & Nancy came in one car from where they'd stayed the night before, in the LAX hotel row. While they were unravelling from their car, Jeff and I hopped into mine to go pick up David & Brenda at the Ontario Airport. Just short of the terminal, a weird noise occured, and I suddenly lost power steering. Seeing the two of them by curbside, I pulled over to find that I was leaking radiator fluid as well. Luckily, my mechanic sent first his girlfriend, with a loaner car, and then a tow truck, to pull the vehicle to his shop. Unfortunately, I forgot to give her a key, and so later, I had to run back to the shop to give him one. Repairs took the weekend, so we were carless.

Once back, I started grilling steaks for everyone, while Jeff taught about wines. Much fun, but the blood alcohol levels rose to the point where it was going to be impossible to leave as early as forestcats had hoped for. While we waited for metabolization of the various substances, forestcats and Deena took brushette to Agility Class, and then Brenda took Stuart, Andrea and Nancy shopping, as they had packed for tropical climes, and had discovered as the sun set, that Southern California can be chilly. I suggested Penneys, and they came back loaded with sweatshirts and the like. In the interim, the rest of us pulled out books, and read. Woohoo, we're having fun now!

Finally, we got moving, and ended up en route to Ventura. Jeff got us going very quickly, while forestcats arranged for a room for us just off the highway. It's a good thing we didn't try to go too far, as Brenda nearly collapsed in exhaustion, due to the flight and the time changes and whatnot. Most of us were hungry by then, so we found that Ventura rolls up the sidewalks at 9PM; we found the only open kitchen at a pizza joint, and we dug in.

While I was waiting to order, an old patient of mine from some eight or nine years ago came up and shook my hand. The group I'd worked for has long since disappeared, and he'd long since left Orange County, and we chatted for a moment. Nice.

Then, food absorbed, we were off to bed.
Dead Dog Cat


Last Friday, I finished reading Death Masks, another Jim Butcher novel of his Dreden series about a wizard/PI in Chicago in the present. I'm still finding the series very readable, and I'd recommend it.

I actually finished that book, just after midnight, then got some sleep.

Next morning, we all gathered in the reception area of the motel, while we plotted the day. Jeff had listed fourteen wineries in the area that he'd like to try; we pared that down quite a bit. Then we were off to start testing the waters.

The first one was so off the beaten track that we were seeing loose dogs wandering on the "road". We started with Sanford Winery, at which we had a pourer who looked like he was pissed off at having to pour for us to taste. Not great wines, but a start.

A theme occurs here in that one car got a bit lost, henceforth, and this car will have its problems intermittently during the entire weekend/trip.

Traffic through Solvang sucks. Enough said.

We then stopped at Sunstone Winery. Followed by Bridalwood, where we proceeded to eat cheese and coldcuts. Both of these had wines that we might share in the future with our friends from the San Fernando Valley.

Then, we arrived at Fess Parker Winery, where they also sell "coonskin" caps. Even the wine glasses had the headgear etched onto them. They had pretty good port there...

Next was Curtis Winery, which I recall due to purchasing Lavender Honey, for a honey tasting that I plan to hold some day.

Sated with wine (or, more realistically, finished due to the wineries tasting rooms closing at 5), we drove on to Pismo Beach, where, too tired to climb back into the cars, we simply walked down the hill from our motel to AJs for steaks. It later turned out that our mechanic recommends the place; the ambiance there is hunter's cabin, with an enormous number of hunting trophies decorating the interior. The food was fine.

We got back to our room at about 8:30PM, and forestcats announced her distain of our friends being too tired to do anything at such an early hour. I carried out certain activities of a fluid nature in the bathroom, and when I returned to the main room, my beloved was deep asleep, and snoring. Cute.
Dead Dog Cat

Last Saturday

We opened the day with breakfast at the Holiday Express registration area, with quite a variety available. Useful for sopping up wines, don't you know.

Once again, a certain vehicle got lost.

We started with Wild Horses winery. The meal the previous night had led to my spouse not being able to finish her food; due to the prevalence of canine presence the previous day, she had taken the leftovers with her to feed to any pooch who made him or herself available. At this winery, she rapidly found such a critter, who went into paroxysms of joy at the largess.

Next winery was Turley. Now, forestcats and I had been to the facility many years ago, when it was Pesenti, and we didn't much care for most of the wines, but it's been sold, and the new vintner is VERY good. I don't think he knows how to make bad wine, so if you see a Turley on the menu, it's probably worth trying.

Next was Mastantuono, and they had an Agave wine which they'd made specifically for places that had limited liquor licenses, only allowing wine or beer, and still wanted to sell margaritas. Alone, it tasted pretty awful to me, but mixed with margarita mix, it tasted margarita-like. Ew.

Then, on to Castoro. Let me say that I purchased honey from New Zealand, and we'll leave it there.

Next was Eagle Castle. Now this is a new winery, and they are building a castle on the property to attract visitors. However, the wines were pretty damn good; in fact, they had a viognier that was the best of the varietal that I'd ever tasted. We bought some of that, as well as a late harvest viognier for future enjoyment. One irritant: they ring a very loud bell when someone joins their wine club, as Brenda did.

Next, and last for the day, was AJB Winery, a family-run place. They'd had nobody visit all day, and when we did, Jeff and Brenda had a long, long chat with the proprietor. They bought, between them, five cases of the wine, due to the excellent prices, and they tasted more than eight. They took so long in there, that the cows actually came home, along with a goat. No kidding. Ask forestcats.

The car with our four friends from Chicago had moved on to get a place in Cambria, but at this point, they hadn't tried to get one yet. When they did, in San Simeon, there were only four rooms to be had, and they had the staff at the motel arrange another room elsewhere. The car that kept getting lost went there...and got lost. For over an hour. They were so upset that we didn't see them for dinner that night.

Dinner was at the Sea Chest in Cambria, where they had very good seafood, but they don't accept credit cards. ???

Stuart & Andrea joined us to watch an episode of Firefly before bed, which was very nice.
Dead Dog Cat


Last Sunday, I finished Death at the Crossroads, a samurai mystery set in the 1600s. Very interesting read, and I'd recommend it; it's the first of three, none of the others of which I presently have, but I'll find them!

More wineries, but now, it's just Jeff and me. We started at Opolo, which I didn't find all that interesting, then moved on to Adelaida. Their wines were pretty good, though not entirely to my taste. They gave some recommendations, though, that were very helpful.

Then we went to Villicana, a step up. Next, Caparone, a step down. It was family-run, and the wife of the vintner was in a chatty mood.

At the next place, very commercial (Marin & Weyrich), we split what they offered; I took the reserve list, while Jeff took their standard fare. The wines on the reserve list were excellent, especially the Nebiollo, though even the standard Nebiollo was pretty good. That stop is just off the 101, and worth trying, especially for the reserve list.

Finally, as the day was coming to a close, we stopped at Zenaida, where the lass behind the counter was basically for show, and didn't really know much about the stuff she was pouring.

We then left the Paso Robles area, and returned to Cambria. We had moved into a different motel, due to cost, and when we arrived, we found David & Brenda's car sitting with the trunk open. Since it was Sunday, and no one was left in the motel, there had been nothing of the wines stolen from it, but it had started raining, and the contents were moistened. Just as we drove up, San Simeon had a power failure, an irritant of the first water. This led to my spouse making dinner reservations not at a good restaurant, but at one that she could read in the rapidly darkening room, The Brambles. When we finally arrived there, I ordered the rabbit stew. It looked like no stew I'd ever seen, and it was dry, tough, and flavorless. Ick.

Before crashing that night, Jeff stopped by with a half bottle of wine, and we watched Master and Commander, and then called it a night.
Dead Dog Cat

Last Monday

We opened the day, after having an al fresco breakfast at the motel near the pool, walking the beach at San Simeon. Due to the approaching storm, the waves were pretty wild, but it was spectacular. Jeff, who forestcats had gifted with an oddly-colored rock, brought her one in exchange; it's now in our front yard.

The rain made the drive back to Los Angeles rather troublesome, but we all managed it in reasonably good time. However, the last five miles took much too long, as we were going to the hotel near the airport that the Chicago contingent were going to use overnight before catching the plane home. They'd no sooner unloaded their car into the hotel, then we'd piled back in and headed north to Santa Monica. (Please note that there are two Four Points Sheratons within a few miles of each other in and around LAX; it confused us).

We all then went to the Border Grill for dinner; for those who recall when Dungeonmaster used to be in Santa Monica, the restaurant is across and down the street from Magicopolis. No, we didn't stop in. The food at this restaurant is universally excellent, and I enjoyed my choices very much. Our friends seemed to, as well.

Our car (Jeff, Deena, forestcats and I) headed back to our digs after making a stop at Borders, while the rain hosed down on us.

The dogs were overjoyed to see us, while we took stock of the damages our pets had done to the house in our absence. Clean-up proceeds apace.

Dead Dog Cat

Last Tuesday

Due to the extremely wet conditions, forestcats couldn't take Sirius to Agility Class, so we went off and got my car back from the mechanic. Next, we went to pick up Jeff & Deena at their hotel, loaded them up, and headed off to Temecula, which Jeff had stated wasn't quite the place that he was interested in for tasting. Paso Robles, however, had been, and he was reasonably satisfied with our perambulations.

After a meal at Marie Callender's in Temecula, we started off with Hart Winery. As my spouse puts it, though, they seem to have oak splinters in the wine (to put it another way, the wine is very tannin, and not to her taste). They had a fellow there giving massages, and as my low back had been griping, I availed myself of the service. *Sigh*.

Next, was Callaway, the most commercial wine tasting room I've ever seen. The vines are nearly all gone, ripped up due to diseases. They don't make the wine at the winery anymore, and the winery has been handed around, corporately. The kids behind the counter were jerks, and were more interested in their own mating games with each other, than with servicing the tasters in front of them. I was not impressed at all with their behavior; Jeff wasn't impressed with their wines.

Next was Mount Palomar, interesting because it had a late harvest chardonnay.

Then, Falkner. The fellow behind the counter was a very pleasant, ex-Navy man, who was very knowledgeable about wines, and food. He'd been in Louisville, Kentucky in the past, and chatted with Jeff & Deena about places there that he recalled fondly. Then, he introduced his boss to Jeff, and the boss recalled having been to the winery in Kentucky, buying wine there, and having his family enjoy it so much that it all was drunk up. To finish up, the gentleman behind the counter gave some "don't miss it" advice about other options in the area, some of which we purused, to our delight.

Next was Wiens, which is a new winery, just building a facility on their vineyard. They had really very good wines; it's family-owned, and one of the daughters-in-law poured for us. Nice stop.

Lastly, we stopped at South Coast, a winery turned into a resort. Ick.

We finished the night off, back at the all-you-can-eat sushi place, at Jeff & Deena's request. Good food, until we were full.

So, now we have an enormous number of wine glasses, as most of our friends didn't want to lug them back to their homes in on board luggage. We also will have to take some wines to Chicago soon, since our friends can't ship it back to Kentucky. Argh!