Zhadi's Den

Random essays on wine, writing, moving to San Francisco, surfing, cats (exotic and otherwise) and zombies...depending on my mood.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

At last, the latest installment of Girls Gone Wine!

When we last left our heroine, she'd just finished two flutes of J Sparkling Wine and her bus had pulled up to Darioush Winery...(www.darioush.com, for those interested in looking. The browser on this computer isn't letting me do the usual formatting and links for my blogs!)

I’ve been to Darioush twice before. The first had been on the spring field trip, the second when we took a friend on her first trip to Napa. Third time there I was still blown away by the beauty of the place; think Persian temple, columns, sandstone, and understated elegance. I love this winery.

Our tour was hosted by Ryan, manager of the visitor center, and two of the tasting room staff (attractive young women dressed tastefully in black). After being handed a glass of the 2002 Chardonnay, we followed Ryan out back to the crush pad, where the harvest was still being processed.

While Ryan gave a little talk on the whole harvesting operation, one of the women in our tour came up to me and whispered, “Did you know that your skirt has a big rip in it?” and pointed at my backside. Sure enough, the fabric of my skirt had pulled away from its ribbon inset, leaving a rip about a foot long midway down my thigh. Ah, jeez louise….Oh well, at least I wasn’t flashing my g-string. And the rip was below the fat part of my thighs. Hey, you have to be grateful for the small favors in life, y’know? No one had any safety pins or handy dandy sewing kits, so I made due with a half dozen paper clips, which I wove in and out between the ribbon and fabric to prevent the rip from growing any larger.

We adjourned to the cellars, where we were poured more wine by Ryan and the two women, one of whom had obviously missed her calling as a Stepford Wife. Her smile was voice activated; the second anyone talked to her, she’d flash her pearly whites in a grimace that rivaled any Jessica Simpson photo op. Billy and I agreed that she was kind of scary.

We had the 2002 Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet. I’m familiar with the wines at Darioush and this was both a good thing and a bad thing. A good thing because, although my taste buds and sense of smell were still blunted, I knew how good Darioush wines tasted, and could use a certain amount of sense memory. A bad thing because I couldn’t really taste them with the clarity of senses such yummy wines deserved.

Billy bought two bottles of the Merlot, though, to be consumed in the near future. I hoped that ‘near’ meant that weekend, hopefully when I was better able to appreciate the nuances of the wine. And I got a bottle of the Syrah for a friend’s birthday, knowing that she’d share it with me. I didn’t taste as much as I normally would, though, figuring that there wasn’t much point if I couldn’t fully appreciate the wine. I left Darioush with a pleasant sense of well-being, but still quite sober.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Evil Eyes...

Ah, my sweet little 'Mouche...(short for Scaramouche)...

This is just random cat blogging 'cause I'm in the middle of writing two other posts off-line and am not done yet. I almost finished one writing, managed to unplug not only my TCP cable, but my power cord...and couldn't retrieve the post. D'oh! So for those that would rather read about wine or deep inner thoughts than look at adorable cat photos...patience, my pets....

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Revenge of the Wine Weekend, Part One

When Billy invited me as his guest last April to go on the Robert Balzer wine tasting field trip, I had a blast. The only disappointment was that Billy couldn't go as he'd landed in the hospital with an arm injury. In order to share it with him, I took notes, started Zhadi's Den and wrote about the weekend, which was a once in a lifetime experience.

Okay...maybe a twice in a lifetime experience, 'cause when the Autumn field trip rolled around, Billy once again invited me as his guest, only this time, he was gonna go too. I was delighted; as I discovered in Balzer’s wine seminars, Billy is a walking encyclopedia of wine facts (a well-written and engaging encyclopedia, not a dry, boring one), and I was looking forward to a whole new layer of experience to the trip this time around.

As it was, thanks to a nasty cold that hit three days before we left, I also had a layer of mucus between me and my sense of taste and smell the night before the trip. The runny nose had started that Tuesday while I was in Los Angeles. I drove home Wednesday, morbidly aware that I could spend the entire weekend unable to taste Thursday I spent in bed. I crawled out only to make hot toddies infused with cayenne pepper, lemon, honey, and cheap whiskey (Rebel Yell, hooyah!), pop decongestant, Airborne, and mucus thinning pills, and to steam my face over a pot of boiling water infused with cinnamon and cloves. I was determined to push the cold through my sinuses as quickly as possible, even if I had to burn it out to do so. Thursday night, however, I could barely taste the last toddy of the evening, although I could feel the cayenne pepper burning my tongue and throat on its way down.

I crawled out of bed Friday morning at 5:30, downed more cold medicine, a couple of liver pills (de rigueur for a day of wine tasting), and took the hottest shower I could stand. By the time I got to the BART station, I could kind of sort of taste my honey lemon cough drop and I felt substantially less icky than I had the day before. Maybe I’d done the impossible and almost cured the common cold. Or at least partially regained my sense of smell and taste. I was hopeful that Billy wasn’t going to end up wasting money on me. Oh well, at the very least I could fulfill my self-made role as Geisha, which meant showing a certain amount of cleavage and making sure that Billy’s glass was never empty (difficult to do at certain wineries, as I found out).

Once again I met up with the rest of the group at the Oakland Airport, where our bus, driven by the incomparable Malcolm (he’s been the driver for Robert’s tours for many years now), picked us up. And once again, the trip started out with everyone being assigned a number by Robert (always Number One) to insure that no one was left behind at any of the wineries. Although... would that be such a terrible fate? Billy was Number Two, and as his guest, I got to be Number Three instead of 15, my number on the last trip. Three above Patrick “I am not a number” McGoohan, by crikey!

Another difference this time around: Carol, the woman who coordinated the last trip, was no longer working with Robert. Instead, we had Jennifer, a good-natured, funny gal with excellent taste in champagne. She’d laid in a supply of “J” sparkling wine for the first leg of the journey (hey, that hour’s drive from Oakland to Napa is rough!). Everyone had their plastic champagne flute filled at least twice before we pulled up to our first winery of the day; Darioush.

(to be continued)

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Tea Time

When Jen invited me to tea at the Captain's Cottage, we both had certain expectations. We've both had real English teas and been to multiple tea houses, some even in England. And the Huntington Gardens in Pasadena and Tudor House in Santa Monica are awfully hard to beat as far as quality of food, authenticity of the fare, and ambiance. For me personally, the name 'Captain's Cottage' summoned up visions of Gull Cottage in GHOST & MRS. MUIR. Or, at the very least, an interior design theme along the lines of something you'd see in Coastal Living Magazine, lighthouses, shells, ship's wheels, etc.

OH no.

The interior of the tea house in question was...pink. Pink and frou frou. Pink, frou frou and twee. Twee, in case you weren't raised on British regency romance novels, means 'too cute for words.' So cute that it makes your teeth ache. Ribbons and lace and tea cozies and frosted tea cups and pink things and roses and swags and pink things and...and...well, twee. Not a lighthouse, shell or ship's wheel in sight.

There were two rooms with tables adorned with 'lace' doilies, floral patterned place settings, and large floral arrangements. The proprietor was an adorable apple cheeked older woman with ginger curls tucked under a white lacy mob cap, long Colonial style dress, and apron. She was the only person manning (womanning?) the tea shop and asked us if we'd like to sit in front by ourselves, or in the back room. We'd arrived for the last seating of the afternoon and there were only two tables occupied; a youngish man and woman, two elderly women. Both couples were seated in the back room, so Jen and I chose to sit back there as well, rather than sit by ourselves amidst the twee in the front.

The lace table cloth and floral arrangements, upon closer inspection, proved to be plastic. Now, not to be a snob (and neither Jen nor I are particularly snobby...just experienced in the ways of tea), but this is something you just wouldn't find in an English tea house. But since this place seemed to be run by the one woman, doing all the laundry and replacing flowers on a daily basis was probably too much to put on her plate. We settled down with our tea menus (there was no food menu; everyone was served the same fare). Jen chose Irish Breakfast, a black tea, and I settled on Moroccan Mint, a Chinese gunpowder green tea infused with mint. We each got our own tea pot (one of the touches I liked about the place was that all of the tea pots were unique) and tea strainer. We discovered the use for the strainers about halfway through our pots of tea; each was a third of the way full of tea leaves, resulting in a brew so strong that we had to ask for more hot water to cut down the pucker inducing tannins.

First course were tiny scones, one lemon and one cinnamon a piece. There were four little 'biscuits' as well, and a small dish of lemon curd, raspberry preserves, and double Devonshire cream. Given my choice, I'd use at least twice as much Devonshire cream as was served on only one scone. But since we were sharing, both Jen and I portioned it out in unusually parsimonious amounts. We decided we needed to make our scones and buy several jars of cream and preserves to make up for it. Still...the scones were hot and tasty.

Second course. Small open faced 'sandwiches' with egg salad on yellow bread and chicken salad on sourdough. The bread was a bit stale and the salads, while tasty, weren't particularly English. Not a cucumber in sight! Also served in this course was a 'crisp' with seafood salad. It was a Pringle's potato chip with krab salad.

By this time, we were having a hard time keeping straight faces. Sarcasm and irreverent humor run deep in both of us, part of our respective family heritage. We were trying to match our demeanors to those of the elderly ladies (the younger couple had long since left) and the quiet Enya-esque music playing in the background. I felt like Mary Tyler Moore at Chuckles the Clown's funeral. We tried not to look at each other as the next authentically English course was served: three types of spinach pastries, all of them to be found in the Trader Joe's frozen food section.

In the meantime, the two elderly women were happily taking pictures of the place to show their relatives. They were obviously having a great time and enjoying both food and ambiance equally. Who were we to spoil their fun? We tried to keep both sarcasm and giggling at a low volume.

But it wasn't just the food served, but the soft voiced description of each course offered by the apple-cheeked proprietor. She was so...cozy. So...sincere. And so apple checked and sweet that she'd have made a great serial killer. You know, the type of motherly type that chopped up unwary travelers and made meat pies out of their remains.

(And yes, this really DID go through my mind at the time...we'll just leave the psychoanalyzing till a later blog, okay?)

The capper was the dessert course; a slice of pumpkin loaf with very good whipped cream...and a Toffeyette (sp?), little caramel candies with a hazelnut inside, capped with a round of chocolate. You know, the kind you can buy at most grocery stores. Again, it was the serious description of the candy that nearly did us in ("Now this is a hazelnut enrobed in rich caramel, with a milk chocolate disc on top)...but we managed to hold the giggles in check 'till the proprietor had gone back into the kitchen.

Definitely a fun experience, and while not our cup of tea (oh, you know I had to say it somewhere in the post!), there is obviously a place and a clientele for Captain's Cottage, pringles and pink.

Thank you, Jen!

Getting in the mood to blog...

Originally uploaded by zhadi.
...and nothing starts me off better than a random cute cat photo (sorry, Billy!). Shortly to follow, a post about tea and the afore-mentioned wine weekend! Which, if it's anything like my blogs about the last trip, will be in pieces parts.

In the meantime, enjoy Tsavo doing his impression of an otter, sans shell on his chest.

Friday, November 11, 2005

And ANOTHER quick post!

I'm almost ready to start posting regularly again...Finishing up some outstanding business (as in I'm long overdue to finish it, not that I'm doing anything outstanding), crawling out of a black hole of a mood, and trying to shake off the last of this stupid cold. I know there are writers who created some of their best work when depressed (Sylvia Plath and company), but I'm not one of 'em. When I'm in a down cycle (as opposed to a spin cycle), I view my computer with an animosity rivaling that of a classic Star Trek fan towards Wesley Crusher, and the creative portion of my brain with the same suspicion that any right thinking person views the Holodeck. Ain't nothing good gonna come out of either of 'em!

I don't do depression well. My natural state is Pollyanna-esque optimism. So when I'm down, I don't handle it with any grace at all. Especially when I'm sick. Don't you hate it when you have a cold and everything you say comes out sounding whiny? I do.

But I digress. I've got three days of wine tasting in Napa/Sonoma/Healdsburg to write about, including the fact that enough cold medicine combined with wine will make a person forget that they're sick, even if they STILL sound whiny...

More later!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

A quick post

I've been very bad about my posts the last few weeks, but things have been in an upheavel so other than a mini mea culpa, I'm not gonna beat myself up over it. I'll let someone else do that, if they really feel they must.

My temp job ended, y'see, and it was where I did most of my writing and emailing. You gotta love a job that pays well and allows you the time to do your own thing, without any repercussions as long as the work gets done. I will definitely miss that job. So I've been on the job search, going back and forth between L.A, San Diego and San Francisco for personal and business reasons, and have managed to catch a cold. Blech. So it's hot toddies, Airborne and Theraflu, as well as bed rest. At least until tomorrow 'cause I'm going on another wine weekend with the Robert Balzer group. I went on one this last April, which prompted me to start my blog 'cause I promised that I'd write about it. I am praying to the various gods of wine that my sense of smell and taste do not desert me in the next three days. 'Cause that would just suck!

I've also figured out that one of the reasons it takes a long time to grieve for a relationship that's ended is that you're not just grieving for the relationship or the person. You're also grieving for all of the dreams that the two of you built up over the years, the ones that will now never manifest in reality. And that's a toughie. I personally invest a lot in my dreams and do my best to make them happen...and I don't let go of anything easily. Except for this damn cold. It can't bugger off soon enough to suit me.
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