Tag Archives: Wine

Days Of Wine And Roses

9 Feb

Actually, there is nothing about roses in this post. I have been trying to find a way to steal that title for a while and finally figured out a way to do it. This post is entirely about wine and the growth of its popularity in the United States.Wine

Wine is everywhere. We have a wine fridge in the bonus room. There is a new store in town that focuses on wine. I have friends who are proud to wear the moniker of Wine Snob. I know a guy named Dave who makes homemade wine. Doctors tell us that drinking wine is good for our hearts. Restaurants have wine lists that match the wine that goes best with a meal. As I said, wine is everywhere.

I understand the love of what. However, I do not understand when that love began. Historically, the United States has been a nation of people who desire alcohol that is made from grain. Whiskey. Rye. Beer. Those types of things. This history springs, I think, from two places.

One, the United States was birthed from Great Britain and its tradition of grain alcohol. I am not an expert in the history of European agriculture, but I think grapes have always grown better in southern Europe. Great Britain was in a non-grape zone.

Two, Americans did not run into proper grape growing areas until someone figured out that it could be done in northern California. I am not sure when that started, but it was long after Americans had created a tradition of drinking something else.

I suppose that wealthy Americans have always consumed wine and saw it as a symbol of success. However, regular folks stayed mostly with the grains. This even became the focus on a presidential election. In 1840, William Henry Harrison was portrayed as a whiskey drinker who connected with the common voter. His opponent, Martin Van Buren, was portrayed as a drinker of wine and champagne, which meant that he was out of touch. Harrison won.

This is just one example of how American has generally been a grain alcohol nation, but there are probably others. As a student of the American West, I cannot imagine a cowpoke walking into a saloon and saying, “Give me a bottle of your house red.” Instead, I can imagine him saying, “Give me a shot of red-eye.”

Prohibition was a big event in American history. Alcohol was made illegal, but organized crime made sure it was available. I have read that an underlying reason for Prohibition was to take wine away from immigrants from southern Europe, but I have never seen a film of G-Men hacking through barrels of wine. It was illegal beer and whiskey that they were after.

This love of grains can also be seen in popular culture. Think back on some of those film noir movies. How many times did the detective or dame pour a glass of wine? How many times did they put some ice in a glass and pour some whiskey over it? I think about a movie called A Face in the Crowd when Patricia Neal goes to a bar and has a cocktail sitting in front of her.

It happened on television, as well. In the 1960s, a bunch of television homes had bars, and they were all filled with whiskey bottles. I can remember Darrin, or Derwood, getting a drink whenever the antics of Samantha and her fellow witches were driving him crazy on Bewitched.

I write all of that to say that wine is a relatively recent phenomenon in the United States. When did this happen? Why did this happen?

Did the economic boom of the 1990s make people want to grab wine as a symbol of success? The wealthy have been drinking it forever. What better way to prove economic success than to adopt a tradition sign of that success?

Was it the marketing of wine producers? Did they follow in the footsteps of the Ernest and Julio Gallo campaigns?

I know that people have always drank wine, but, at some point, it became the drink of choice for a vast number of people. Like with a lot of things, I have my opinion as to how that happened. It was not a booming economy. It was not an ad campaign. It was these women.Sex and the City

I know that the women of Sex and the City drank martinis and other types of cool drinks. However, the show also provided the idea that a stylish, successful woman about town knew her wine. This popular show introduced wine to a segment of the population that drives our sense of style, and that sense filtered to other segments of our society. Then, we Americans figured out that we liked wine. Apparently, we are not as crass as we are sometimes made out to be.

Am I crazy? Probably. However, the mass love of wine by Americans is a recent development, and it had to start somewhere.

Saturday Night Ramblings

11 Aug

This is another one of those nights where nothing is coming to my mind. The house is mostly quiet because I am the only one around. The television is on ESPN, but the sound is turned down. The only sounds are the air conditioning and the wine cooler.

Speaking of wine, I just poured a glass, but I’m not big on having a drink when I am alone. Actually, having a drink is not at the top of my list at any time. I will have a glass of something at dinner, but then it will probably be only one. I know that a lot of people will have a cocktail or glass of wine to relax, but I have never had a problem relaxing. I don’t know. Maybe, it is all about control. I like being in that state and completely feeling what is going on around me. That’s hard to do while ingesting a depressant.

So, here I sit with the hum of cooling devices and a glass of wine that is going to be dumped in the sink. All of the rooms are dark except for the one I am sitting in. Obviously, it is an exciting Saturday night. It is so exciting that my mind has emptied itself of anything to write about. To fix that problem, I will throw some random thoughts out there as they pop in my head.

My nephew moved back to college today. He attends to University of Tennessee.

As I tweeted earlier, The Refreshments should have been a bigger band.

Ned Beatty’s speech in Network is awesome.

I miss my wife and will be glad when she gets home tomorrow.

College football will start in a few weeks. The most exciting game I ever attended was Tennessee’s victory over the Miami Hurricanes in the 1986 Sugar Bowl. Man, that has been a long time ago.

Wright Thompson is my new favorite person to follow on Twitter.

The Commodores only had one good song after Lionel Richie left, but Nightshift was one of my favorites.

For some reason, Sports Illustrated does not interest me that much anymore.

I really want to go back to Monument Valley.

Jerry Reed was the best real life person to make an appearance on Scooby Doo.

If you do an image search of Lebanon, Tennessee, then this is the first picture that pops up.City Hall

If you do an image search of Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, then this is the first image that pops up.Mt Juliet

If you do an image search of Watertown, Tennessee, then this is the first image that pops up.Watertown

That is all I have. Thanks for making it this far.

The Honeymooners – “This Isn’t a Restaurant! It’s a Lobby!”

22 Jul

We were in no hurry to leave Sonoma, but it had to be done. First, it was to Carneros for breakfast, which wasn’t as good as the dinner we had there. Then, it was on the road to San Francisco. We had a room reserved on Fisherman’s Wharf. I know that it’s a tourist area, but sometimes you just have to do tourist things. Necole had never been there, and we thought that she should see it.

We retraced our trek and returned to the city by going over the Golden Gate Bridge. Necole put on Facebook that it wasn’t really gold, and one of her friends said the name had something to do with the type of paint they used. That’s not exactly right. The bridge spans over a waterway that is known as the Golden Gate. You have to watch out for those Facebook facts.

After crossing, we headed toward the wharf on streets that were filled with traffic. They were also filled with pedestrians, bicycles, trolleys and other untold transportation methods. Sometimes, I think that Necole is not impressed with my driving. On this day, she thought I was doing an excellent job.

We made it to the hotel, got into the room and said, “What the heck? Let’s go out amongst them.” Let me tell you, there were a lot of them. People were everywhere. Necole said that it was worse than walking in New York City. Crowds gathered around street performers and blocked the sidewalks. Bicycles whizzed by. People were wandering around and not looking where they were going. It was chaos. It was also linguistically chaotic, as we heard dozens of languages.

Anyway, we went to Pier 39, the heart of tourism along the waterway. This is where you can find the Hard Rock Cafe, Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Company and a guy pretending to be Jack Sparrow. It is also where you can find the sea lions that are always hanging around. Except, they don’t hang around this time of year because they are busy repopulating the Earth with more sea lions.Honeymoon 037

There was one guy swimming around. I didn’t see a pocket protector, so I don’t know why he couldn’t get a girl.

By this time, we were becoming overwhelmed. We probably saw more people on the wharf than we had in Half Moon Bay and Sonoma combined. We were tired. We were hungry. It was time to find some food and some relaxation. Taking the advice of our bellhop, we went to Scoma’s. That was crap. He probably got a cut for sending people there.

We sat at the bar to wait for a table, and this crusty old bartender asked what we needed. She looked older than the wharf. Necole wanted something specific, and they had a little go around before coming up with a drink. Necole wasn’t happy and spoke in hushed tones about the bartender’s attitude. When we got up, she said, “That’s what you call a broad. Not a woman. A broad.” I was so proud of her. That term hasn’t been used since the days of Humphrey Bogart and James Cagney. Necole went all historic on me.

The waiter was nicer, but I didn’t think the food was any better than the bartender was. After that, we walked some more and made our way to the hotel, which had some fire pits set up outside. Having some of that good Laxton wine with the twist off cap, we decided to take a bottle street side. That’s when Necole got into it with another broad.

Apparently, there is a $20 bottle fee at the fire pits, and the woman working in the deli shop inside was going to get her $20. We paid it but not without getting our money’s worth. The lady was told in no uncertain terms that we had paid hundreds of dollars for a room and should be able to drink our wine anywhere we wanted. She retorted that no restaurant would allow us to do that. That’s when Necole replied, “This isn’t a restaurant! It’s a lobby!”

Some guy from Los Angeles was sitting with us when that happened. We found out that his father used to be the mayor of Los Angeles, and that he was in San Francisco with a bunch of buddies. They were going to show up at any time. They never did show up. I think he was he San Francisco by himself.

Oh, I forgot that a homeless man was sitting at another fire pit when we sat down. They didn’t charge him a bottle fee for his tall boy.

Eventually, some people from Seattle sat with us. They were interesting and taught me a lot. Namely, the South does not have the monopoly on rednecks.

The Honeymooners – Flanagan, then Begin Again

21 Jul

This is the day that we had been waiting for, the day for our big wine tour. I had scheduled a driver to take us to different wineries in the area. This way we could taste all we wanted. The plan was for the driver to pick out some places for us, but the first one was somewhere we had discovered through some friends.

When we were planning our honeymoon into wine country, some people in town said that we had to check out Flanagan Wines, a small vineyard that required a recommendation to visit. A few weeks earlier, I contacted the winery and received permission to visit. We fooled the driver on this one. She had never heard of it and, honestly, had a hard time finding it. However, we made it to the gate, of which I had the security code, and we drove up the hill to our destination. This is the view from the front door.Honeymoon 025

During the tour, we saw the wine-producing area and walked through the caves filled with barrels. It was a true learning experience because we had the place to ourselves and could ask any question. To me, the most fascinating information was how the weather changes from valley to valley. This means that each valley is better at producing a different wine. After the tour, we had a tasting while we looked out toward the rolling hills.

From this point, the tour belonged to our driver, and her best destination was a small market that made fresh sandwiches. Her winery choices left something to be desired. Laxton was the first. It was in a metal building and not as picturesque as the ones we had already seen. Flanagan had a modern feel while Inglenook was historically beautiful.Honeymoon 022

Laxton had a warehouse feel. By this time, we were pretty well buzzed, and that means my wallet will loosen up. I bought a t-shirt, and Necole bought a couple of bottles of wine. The wine maker, who used to work at the national laboratory in Oak Ridge, signed the bottles. It was later when we realized that they had twist off tops instead of corks.

We went to a couple of more, but I don’t remember their names. I remember that they were very touristy and that I felt bad for people who went to these and thought they were getting the wine country experience. I know that there are others, but nothing we saw could compare to Inglenook and Flanagan.

Upon our return to the hotel, Necole and I went to the pool. I chose the shady nap, and she chose the sun. At one point, we had a very deep discussion about human behavior. While people watching, I wondered out loud why women wear cover ups at the pool but tan in their bikinis. I thought about this as I watched several men walk by a young woman on a deck chair. Each one of them stared at her as he walked by. What’s the point in the cover up if it is going to be taken off?

Necole said that the men shouldn’t have been staring at the woman. I replied that she didn’t know men very well, then. Since men are going to stare at a woman who is asleep on a deck chair, then she may as well leave the cover up at home.

Eventually, we got up and readied ourselves for dinner at Carneros. The dessert was so good the night before that we decided to try the other food. It was great, too.

The Honeymooners – An Offer We Couldn’t Refuse

20 Jul

Day 4 of the honeymoon was supposed to be a day of rest. I promised Necole that we would have some pool time, and this seemed like the right place. The weather was warm and the pool chairs looked comfortable. However, plans changed when one of Necole’s friends suggested a winery for us to visit. Luckily, we were able to get a midday tour and tasting.

We drove to the Inglenook Chateau, owned by Francis Ford Coppola, and it was what one would imagine when they think about a winery. Of course, our idea of a California winery comes from Falcon Crest, the old television series. Walking up, I expected to see Jane Wyman at any moment.Honeymoon 017

The tour guide took us through the wine making process at Inglenook. He also took us through its history as one of the area’s great vineyards until it fell into decay under corporate ownership. Coppola saved it with money from The Godfather and has spent decades bringing the estate and wine to its former glory.

After the tour, we tasted fantastic wines and spent a few dollars shipping some of it home. The tour and tasting whetted our appetites, and the guide suggested the Rutherford Grill, which sat across the street. When Necole and I sat down, we both commented that the restaurant reminded us of Houston’s, a place that used to be in Nashville.

Later, I found out that the Rutherford Grill and a lot of other restaurants in California are owned by the Houston’s corporation. It began and was headquartered in Nashville until the owners decided that they were too good for us. They would probably find it interesting that Nashville has one of the nation’s best food scenes and has dozens of restaurants better than the ones they own.

Anyway, I am getting off track. We returned to the hotel and made it to the pool. I got under a cabana and took a nap while Necole got some sun. It was late in the afternoon, and we learned from experience that the Sonoma temperature changed quickly as the sun goes down.

Soon, it was time to eat again. As you can tell, we did a lot of eating on this honeymoon. This time we wanted some casual and laid back, so we went to Mary’s Pizza Shack on the plaza. It was as good as any other pizza, but my focus wasn’t on the food. My mind kept going over the history that was around me.

I had read that this plaza was an important part of the Bear Flag Rebellion, when California declared its independence from Mexico and asked to become part of the United States. That’s the simple version. Like all things, reality is a bit more complicated. I won’t use this post to provide a history lesson because that’s not what I was thinking about while eating pizza.

I was thinking that President James K. Polk, from Columbia, Tennessee, wanted to bring California into the fold and used every means necessary to get that done. I was also thinking about Peter Burnett, native Tennessean and California’s first governor. I was wondering if the people of California realize the role Tennesseans played in the history of their state.

After dinner, we went back to the hotel and found ourselves wanting more. With this in mind, we went to Carneros, a place that was recommended by one of my Twitter friends. We sat at the chef’s bar and watched them work in the open kitchen. Necole had an awesome creme brulee, and I had a so-so cookie concoction.

The day was great, and I realized that the Tennessee guys who moved Houston’s could not have gone to California if some other Tennessee guys had not gotten it in the first place.

The Honeymooners – The First Tastes of Sonoma

19 Jul

And on the third day, we left Half Moon Bay. However, we didn’t leave before having lunch at an awesome sandwich shop. All of the ingredients were fresh, and they put a bunch of them on the sandwiches. After lunch, we drove up Highway 1 toward San Francisco. We had no idea what we would see along the way, but we knew it would be different from what we saw going south.

The road had a little more traffic, and the coast had a little more development. Before we knew it, we were on the coastal edge of San Francisco. It was like driving anywhere else, but I noticed something strange. You couldn’t turn left at any intersection. Necole and I had a whole conversation about how you can get anywhere without turning left.

Some of the neighborhoods we went through looked somewhat rundown. But, we also passed a mall with a Nordstrom, which I know is fancy because Necole and I saw Nicole Kidman at the one in Nashville.

As we went further up the road, Necole was getting more nervous. Once, she had panic attack going over a bridge in Florida, and this road was taking us over the Golden Gate Bridge. She asked if it was a suspension bridge. When I said yes, she began to squirm. As it turns out, Necole did great. She busied herself by taking pictures and felt better when she saw people walking a riding bicycles next to us. Unfortunately, she took those pictures on her iPhone, and I don’t have any to put in this post.

Crossing the bridge took us into a completely different place. We went from city to suburb, and it must have been a heck of a suburb. We passed a Ferrari dealership and a Bentley dealership. We also passed another Nordstrom. Nashville thought it was a big deal to get one, and we saw two on the same road.

We took this route because our next few nights were going to be in Sonoma – Wine Country. Here, we would see fields of grapes and wineries around every bend. We saw those things, but some other stuff surprised. The land without grapes reminded me of Montana. Also, we passed a race track. Somewhere in my mind, I recalled that NASCAR has spent time racing in Sonoma. There’s just something not right about that. The people I see at Talladega don’t seem to be the Wine Country type. In short, NASCAR needs to run where they make whiskey, not wine.

We made it to the city of Sonoma and our hotel, The Lodge at Sonoma. It was not the Ritz, but it was an alright place to stay. The put us in a dinky room, so we had them swap us to a bungalow. This room was better but not great. However, what we found around us was awesome.

After checking in, we went to the Sonoma Plaza. This thing was huge and dwarfed the plaza I have visited many times in Santa Fe. City hall sat in the middle. I thought it was interesting and took a picture of it.Honeymoon 014

I wonder if I am the only person who ever took a picture of city hall. Anyway, we immediately went to a wine tasting. After all, that’s why we drove all the way up there.Honeymoon 015

After some wine, we walked around the plaza, ventured into some art galleries and had dinner at this cool restaurant. Then, it was on to another wine tasting. Little did we know that this was just the beginning of our tasting experiences.

We went back to the hotel and found a spot in a bar/coffee shop/cheese place. I had beer and cheese. Necole had wine and cheese. The beer was good. The wine was good. The cheese was awesome.