Category Archives: Thoughts

Ocean + Mountains = Great Wine

The Santa Cruz mountains may not have the mystique and popularity of Napa Valley or Sonoma, but the unique ocean/mountain climate here produces some great wines without the fuss and crowds that you can find elsewhere.

And, of course, getting there is half the fun. We loved breathing in the 79-degree mountain air with scents of pine, as we navigated the endless wild twists and hairpin turns up the mountain roads.

There are more than 70 wineries in the region, most family-run small-to-medium operations. In our short time here we were able to hit four of them while driving by several more.

First on our self-guided tour was Testarossa. This is the oldest continuously running winery in the Santa Cruz mountains and the Bay Area. The property used to belong to Jesuit monks who still live nearby but no longer do the wine work. The ambiance still reflects this influence with a higher-end feel. Tasting fee was $10 and the 2006 reserve Pinot Noir was the best, though none of the 5 pours were sources from grapes on the estate.

Inside Testarossa Winery.


Next up was Cooper-Garrod Estate Vineyard, which had more the feel of an old fashioned dude ranch. Half of the property is a horse stable, so we saw kids breaking young horses, doing stunts on bareback, and walking horses all around. Inside the main cabin was the tasting room. For $5 each we got 5 pours, mostly estate grapes. They had Chardonnay and Pinot and Cabernet Franc, which was the best.

Tasting at Cooper-Garrod.

The next day we went to Savannah-Chenelle Vineyards, which has one of the most beautiful properties of any winery. Romantic and rustic, the wine tasting included estate and non-estate grapes, including an unusual un-oaked Chardonnay, which was nice and fruity. But the Pinot Noir was delicious — even for me, since I usually prefer the drier Cab. The property is sprawling with a Villa on top of a hill, clearly marked varietals of grapes on the hillsides and areas for a quiet picnic. Views of the mountains and valley below are fantastic. Tasting fee was $10 for six good-size pours.

The Zinfandel grapes at Savannah-Chenelle.

Finally, the best for last…the Mountain Winery is not only a vineyard but also a quaint outdoor amphitheater where we saw (and met backstage) the Barenaked Ladies, and also Blues Traveler. Perched high on a mountaintop, breathtaking views of the Bay Area from San Fran to San Jose made it easy to see why the locals were “tailgating” in the parking lot with actual crystal glasses, vintage wines, olive trays and cheese boards. Truly a unique sight to behold. And the locally sourced Cabernet reserve capped off a great experience.

What a venue for a concert at the Mountain Winery!

So next time you’re seeking out wine country, don’t overlook the Santa Cruz mountains. They don’t produce large quantities here, but the rich flavors make this area unique.

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Posted by on August 1, 2012 in Thoughts, Travel


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Mini-random journeys

Happy observations, profound thoughts, minor annoyances, pleasant surprises…

  1. How much sugar do I want in my coffee, you ask? Just keep pouring until it starts to feel a little creepy.
  2. If you see me standing here why do you need to step on my foot?
  3. There’s nothing like the sound of katydids humming and gravel crackling under two wheels.
  4. Unless it’s on Disney or Sprout, there’s no point asking me if i saw that hilarious TV show, the trailer for the epic movie sequel,
    or that great game the other day.
  5. How do CFL bulb manufacturers get away with saying their bulbs last 7 years? I’ve never had one last 7 weeks.


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Posted by on July 8, 2012 in Random, Thoughts


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Suburban creep

I enjoy traveling. And I like living the suburban life. But when I travel, I don’t want to visit suburbia.

Recently we traveled to New York City, and while visiting the borough of Queens, I was struck by how suburbia is encroaching on the character of places like this. Next to the row housing and tenaments is a brand new CVS store (with parking!). Alongside the subway tracks, street-front delis, and bagel shops are Home Depot and Best Buy.

Is it just me, or is it getting harder and harder to find places with pure character and original vintage? What’s next – Starbucks in Philly’s Independence Hall?  Walmart at the bottom of Niagara Falls? A mall next to the Alamo? Oh wait, that already exists…

While modern outfits like these are sometimes convenient to have, they drain the appeal of visiting a place that’s supposed to be a getaway – different from home.

After all, I could save a lot of time and money by going to the Target down the road instead of the one on the volcano of Hawaii’s Big Island.

On one side is the housing you’d expect in Queens, NY…

…and on the other side is a CVS store tucked under the elevated tracks of the subway.

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Posted by on June 26, 2012 in Random, Thoughts, Travel


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Mini-random journeys

Happy observations, profound thoughts, minor annoyances, pleasant surprises…

  1. A poppyseed bagel should lose its bakery card if all the seeds fall off when you’re slicing it.
  2. It’s such an unexpected treat when the shopping cart you pull off the line doesn’t thump every two feet or violently pull to one side.
  3. When in doubt, reboot.
  4. How is it that if you still have a Barack Obama bumper sticker on your car you’re “naive,” but if you still have a Rick Perry sticker you’re “loyal”?
  5. Starbucks and dark chocolate are proof that God loves us.
  6. 50% of statistics can made to say anything 90% of the time.


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Posted by on May 29, 2012 in Random, Thoughts



Reasons to avoid talking on the phone

It’s ironic that the device I use the most is also the one I can’t stand using. At least part of it.

Today I made airline reservations and was forced to call Delta to speak to an actual human. Four times. The first representative couldn’t help me so she transferred me to another department. But we got cut off, so I had to call back and re-explain the issue to someone I knew couldn’t help. The second rep gave me the number to call directly to the online support desk. So I did, but unfortunately she gave me the number to Delta’s internal IT service desk. For employees. Call #3 fail. Finally the fourth call was the charm and a supervisor was able to override whatever systems were creating the havoc to begin with.

This issue is a microcosm of why I hate talking on the phone. But it’s more than that. I will do almost anything to avoid talking on the phone. Here are a few reasons why…

  1. The delay. Incredible that cell phone providers haven’t improved this. After 20 years, callers still stammer through pauses between speakers and then end up talking over each other because neither party hears the other. This timing problem makes having a normal conversation so difficult.
  2. The abyss. Don’t call me and stay on the line unnecessarily without saying anything. Get to the point. Time’s a wastin! And it’s disrespectful to take up someone’s time for nothing.
  3. The clueless helper. How many customer phone reps does it take to change a lightbulb? The reason I avoid calling to speak with someone like the plague is that they don’t know what the hell they’re doing, if they can even grasp my issue from their call center in India or South America. It’s just so much easier to fix it yourself online.
  4. The bad timing. Inevitably the phone starts vibrating when you can least get to it. When your arms are full of grocery bags; when you’re running late to drop off the kids; or in general when you can’t be bothered. Yet you can’t NOT answer the phone because you never know what emergency lies on the other end.

There are so many reasons why, but before you think I’m some sort if grumpy curmudgeon, read what The Oatmeal says on the subject. They sum it up better than I can…


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Posted by on May 21, 2012 in Random, Thoughts, Uncategorized