California Wineries

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Temecula

Temecula sounds like a city in Transylvania, but it’s actually a city north of Rancho Bernardo by about 45 minutes (so about 1.5 hours north of downtown).  My coworker Steve and his family live there because the houses are less expensive and the school district is great.  I was a little hesitant to accept his invite to go wine tasting there, because I’d never heard of the city before.  How great can it be if I’ve never heard of it?  I mean, I’m a pretty big wino, and I know everything, right?  Uh, no.

Eva, Steve’s wife, handed me a pamphlet and told me to pick one.  I was overwhelmed!  There were at least 25 wineries!!

“What you’re favorite?” I asked.

“Lioness,” Eva answered immediately.  “They have great fries and a beautiful view.”

So we started there.  Steve was designated driver (DD), because, “I don’t like wine.  I drink beer.”

I don’t understand it, but that’s what he said, and we had a DD, so I went with it.  He sipped his Sprite while Eva and I enjoyed flights.  A “flight” is composed of 5 glasses with a different type of wine in each.  When presented all at once, wineries (or bars) serve them on cards or in special holders.  These simple, elegant holders were the best that I’ve seen; the spiral metal spine connected rings that held the glasses.  They were so pretty, I almost didn’t want to drink the wine.

Ha!  As if I could resist!

The fries were covered in truffle oil and parmesan.  The view was of mountains and vineyards.  The company was hilarious.

Heaven.

Steve drove us to Daniel’s, which was little more than a tasting room and gift shop.  We weren’t impressed with the wine or the ambiance.

Wilson Creek, however, was another slice of heaven.  From the fountain out front to the little bridge over a creek, to the huge gift shop and tasting room, it was an amazing experience.

“People pay to have prom pictures taken here,” Eva informed me.  I believe it!

We ran into some penguins.  Well, they were people dressed in penguin costumes.  Why?  Why not?!

Then I found a wine purse.  What an ingenious invention!  It is a cylindrical carrier with a corkscrew tucked into an interior pocket.  It is just the right size to carry a bottle of wine, and has a convenient handle to carry it.  I had to have it.

Then Eva had to buy a matching one.

So now we’re Wine Purse Buddies!

When we returned to her house and showed her teenage daughter, I thought that the girl might pass out from her huge eye roll.  She just doesn’t understand how cool a Wine Purse is!  Especially MATCHING wine purses!

And, ok, we were a little drunk, and may have been a bit enthusiastic about our purchases.  STILL, a WINE PURSE!  Genius!

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Random Penguins

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Rancho Bernardo

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“After you get your glass of wine, you walk down the sidewalk to the confectionary, where the proprietor will give you a piece of chocolate which pairs with the wine,” the sommelier told us.

Dad, my Stepmom, and I said, “Ahhhh!” at the same time.  Chocolate and wine?!  This place was heaven!

“This place” was the Bernardo Winery in Rancho Bernardo, California (north of San Diego but still in San Diego County, i.e. “North County” in local parlance).  There were several buildings grouped together like a small town.  All were very rustic, made of old wood and decorated with rusting tools.  Dad and I made a game out of naming the tools and what they might do.  Stepmom enjoyed looking at the flora and trying to name them; she lamented that she would like to be a landscape designer.  There were old tractors, covered wagons, and even a small museum.

We rather enjoyed the coffee shop, where we bought a cheese and cracker plate, where they had gluten free bread for me!  Then we checked out the purse shop, the clothes shop, the housewares shop, all while sipping on wine.  These places must sell a lot of merchandise!  Think about it: pair women with wine, lure them to the shops strategically placed between them and the free chocolate, and convince them to walk the gauntlet several times – and not all the women had Dad to keep them from buying anything.  I can see where this would be a fun (and expensive!) place for a girls’ night!

In a courtyard, workers were busy setting up for a wedding.  California is so beautiful that I have seen many proposals, weddings, and places set up for weddings.  I feel like I’m living in a vacation resort!

We also checked out the restaurant.  The food was good, not great, but the ambiance was priceless.  Sitting on the patio, sharing wine, sitting in the shade and watching the people walk by – wedding guests all dressed up, couples dressed nicely for dates, and tourists like ourselves in jeans and t-shirts – this was a great day.

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Ramona/Escondido

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Ramona is a city east of Rancho Bernardo, nestled in the foothills of the mountains.  The houses cost about the same as in RB, but come with land.  Some of them come with 2 acres, some more.  Some residents own horses and dogs.  While this may sound like my native Texas, it has a California feel: there are wineries, for example.  We met our friends in Ramona and drove north to Escondido, down a winding road, through beautiful country, to get to the wineries.  Thank God I don’t get car sick.

Cordiano Winery was just as beautiful, though distinct from, the previously mentioned wineries.  We sat on a patio overlooking the mountains, eating gluten free pizza and sipping wine.  My friends were charming.  A light breeze blew.  And I thought to myself – I am blessed.

Highland Hills Winery had just a small tasting room and was family run.  An independent film, “Beyond the Impact,” was being filmed there by Jeff Patton and his crew.  The proprietor said that they used drones to film some of the footage.  How cool is it to sip wine while watching a movie being filmed?!  Ok, so it wasn’t the first time for me; I did that in Tucson while at a work conference (Jim from the Office was there!  http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1024677/)  and again in Houston (I was in the film).  STILL, it’s pretty darn cool to think that we might be watching the scene on Netflix one day.

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Back to the winery.  I love that we drove through the vineyard to get to the tasting room, and that the barrels of wines were behind a window on one wall of the tasting room.

Then we went for ice cream.  How’s that for a perfect day?  Wine, friends, AND ice cream?!

My new friend Marcy Millar re-purposes corks to decorate picture frames, tables, etc.  She also used pennies, alternating dark and bright, to create a design on her armoire.  I took many pictures!  [Marcy can be reached at mmillar24@cox.net if you are interested in commissioning a piece.]

“I found Stu Pedasso wine,” Marcy told me, “And thought it was just the funniest thing ever!  So I bought cases of it for family and friends for Christmas.  Unfortunately, the wine isn’t that good.  People called me and said, ‘Uh, Marcy, I hate to tell you, but I didn’t really like the wine.’  Well, DUH!  It wasn’t about the wine!  It was about the name!

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I laughed so hard that I almost fell off my chair.  Marcy’s a hoot.  Her art is impressive, too; gives me inspiration.  She said that I could bring her some corks and she’d make me a trivet.  I LOVE TRIVETS!!

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Marcy’s Dining Room Table.  The center pattern is composed of horse shoes.

 

Wineries

The lessons learned here are many, including:

  • All wineries are different.
  • If you have a chance to try a new winery, do it!
  • Don’t judge a winery by its location. Even if the city name sounds strange, the experience may be amazing!
  • Corks can and should be up-cycled.

Texas has wineries, too.  I regret that I never visited the ones in Grapevine (near DFW airport) or Llano (though I’ve drank many a bottle of Llano wine!).

Mike

I have a new friend named Mike.  Yes, another one!  I’ve dated Mike the Plumber, Mayor Mike (also known as Mustang Mike, before he took office), The Great Mike M., the other Mike M., another Mike M.—all three have birthdays in the month of May, Mike B., and…I’m *pretty sure* that’s all of them.

Maybe.

So Sally sent me this video: “Stop Naming Your Children Mike.”

I shared all this with the new Mike, who shall henceforth be known as Mike the DM, because he is the Dungeon Master in a new Dungeons & Dragons campaign.  My last D&D adventure was approximately 20 years ago.  I quit playing because Alan (my husband at the time) played an obnoxious barbarian who specialized in belching and farting.  I decided that I could either play D&D with him or continue to sleep with him.  I chose the marriage (at the time).

D&D aside, Mike the DM answered the video with LOLs and the comment, “I think you’ve dated more Mike’s than the total number of Julie’s I’ve known.  There’s one at roller derby, a buyer at an old job, and a girl I had a crush on in 5th grade.”

I answered, “LOL, you should have gone to school with me!  There was Julie Ann, Julie Nan, Julie Eileen, and Julie Maxine!  Plus, one Julie who wouldn’t reveal her middle name.”

Mike and I met through work.  We were both on the same conference call; he works in a different building.  He sent me an instant message (IM) about a D&D Campaign—get a few nerds in a conference call, and gaming comes up eventually—and before I knew it, we were IM’ing regularly.  Then we moved to text.  And I had no idea what this guy looked like.

“Can people be best friends without ever having met?  Too late, we already are,” I texted him on Friday.

“It happens,” he replied.

We’re having lunch on Tuesday.  Don’t expect a love connection; I suspect that he’s half my age, based on the discussion around D&D.  I’m ok with that; I can always use another friend.

Even if he is named Mike.

Cheers!

 

 

3 Mountains in 3 Days!

 

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Sally Strawberry, Penny Pineapple, and me (Jules Strawberry).  Hook ‘Em Horns!

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“Mom’s stripping, it’s fine,” Sally said to Penny.

I had stopped to unzip the lower half of my hiking pants, to convert them to shorts.  Penny had asked why we were stopping.

“That’s my daughter!” I said of Sally to Penny, showing her what I was doing, and that I was not, in fact, removing all of my clothes.

***

“Hike!” Sally responded when I asked what she wanted to do while she was here.

And so we did.

Sally Strawberry and Penny Pineapple came to visit last weekend, the second time since I’ve moved to California.  We hiked last time, too, but Blacks Mountain wasn’t very memorable.  And since we’re not beach people, our December trip to La Jolla was enough to keep Sally satisfied for a year or so.

We hiked Cowles to get a view of San Diego, and Sally said, “I’d rather see mountains than city.”

So I answered, “We’re going to Iron Mountain tomorrow.  It’s about the same level of difficulty and has great views.”

The next day, as we were huffing and puffing up Iron Mountain, Sally informed me, “This is harder than Cowles.”

“Oh, I guess if I can hike it, I figure it’s about the same,” I responded.

The view from Iron pleased my little girl, and Penny didn’t scowl too much (she’s not as into hiking as we are), so I figured it was a good hike.  At the bottom of the mountain, I had extra energy, so sprinted a few feet and back again, passing a road runner.  Meemeep!

Penny was looking like she was at the end of her energy reserves.  You know, kinda like a zombie, who keeps forcing one foot in front of another, determined to go on.  She didn’t argue when I offered to get the car and pull it around, saving her from walking 40 feet.

In the car on the way home, Sally asked me, “Should we serve enchiladas at your funeral?”

The question wasn’t totally out of left field.  That is, we’ve discussed my funeral before, when I told her that I wanted her to play, “One less problem without you,” by Ariana Grande.  I’ve always wanted more of an Irish wake then a tear jerker.

“That’s more of Mom’s thing,” I replied, referring to my mother, who passed in 2008.  She ate enchiladas almost every day.  She’d cook a large casserole dish of them and then eat one for lunch with a pile of chips and queso.  “Maybe gluten free pizza?”

“I’ll have to practice,” Sally said, referring to the family recipe that Mom perfected when she wasn’t cooking TexMex.  Of course, Mom’s version was full of gluten, so the recipe needs to be modified.

I laughed.  While we had been discussing my funeral arrangements, AC/DC’s Highway to Hell came on the radio.  “Is this a sign?” I asked.

Sally laughed.  “A warning!” she said.

On the third day, I took them to Mount Woodson so that we could get pictures on the famous Potato Chip Rock.  By “we” I mean “them,” of course.  I’m an engineer; I know that cantilevered beams will break after cyclic loads are placed on them.  The only question is, “when.”  And after seeing families of 4 and 5 people pose on the rock, and others jump on it, I avoided stepping onto it myself.  As in, hell to the no, I’m not getting on that thing!

The climb up Woodson was a lot longer than I remembered.  Like I said, if I can climb it, I figure it’s a good hike, but moderate.  The number of hours to hike or miles don’t register with me as much.

Two and a half hours later, when we reached Potato Chip Rock, I wondered if Penny would ever go hiking with me again.  She was breathing hard, sweating, and moving rather slowly.

Thankfully, standing in line to take a picture on Potato Chip Rock gave us time to catch our breaths.  We waited while an 8-year-old boy and his 13-year-old sister climbed up and posed for their parents.  Then we waited while their mother joined them and more pictures were taken.  And we waited some more while the father showed a nice stranger how to work the drone that he had brought (a quad copter), so that he could jump in the picture.  And they posed in several different poses.  FINALLY they declared themselves done and scrambled off the rock.

Then we waited while the next family did the same.  Damn.  Thing.  Except, everyone in that family wanted a picture of themselves alone on the rock, jumping, before they gathered as a family.  All the while, their little dog yipped and yapped, not liking all the strangers standing around him.  I may have told it to be quiet or shut up once or twice.

Really, people, if there’s a line, then take one or two pics and get off.  #Impatient #WTF #BeConsiderate

FINALLY it was our turn.  Sally and Penny climbed up as quickly as they could and sat on the edge of the rock.  They did not jump, and held only that pose while I snapped close up and wide angle shots.  One kiss, another pic, and down they came.  #ThatsHowItShouldBe #ShortAndSweet

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The climb down the mountain went more quickly than the climb up.  After all, the hardest part was behind us, we were refreshed, and there was the promise of air conditioning and a shower at the end.

“I’m starving,” Penny confided.  “Should have brought some cashews or something.”  The dried apple chips just weren’t enough for this 7.5 mile trail.

As we stumbled to the car, at the very end of this 4.5 hour hike, I thought, “They’re never coming hiking with me again.”

But then Sally said, “WE DID IT!” and I smiled.

We actually did more than *just* hike.  We shopped for Sally’s first professional business suit.  When we found out that Banana Republic was having a 50% sale, the clothes piled up, and we ended up buying Sally an entire wardrobe.  Then we found out that she could get an extra 20% off by signing up for a store credit card.  DONE!

One night, we met my friends Heather and Scott for dinner.  Sally loved them!

Scott’s first reaction to finding out that she’s an astrophysicist was to tease her, “Are you going to go after the really hard stuff, like Dark Matter?”

Her answer was, “YES THAT’S WHAT I DO!”

Then they were off on a nerd tangent that even I couldn’t follow.

Heather was equally charming and I think Sally was ready to move in with them.  “Can I invite them to my wedding on the beach next year?” she asked.

Wow.  After one meeting.

Of course, I shouldn’t be surprised, my friends are pretty darn amazing.

On Monday night, we had dinner with another friend, who was also named Heather.  When I first introduced Heather to Heather, I laughed and said, “I feel the need to watch the movie Heathers again!”

Since they are both a tad younger than me, and the movie with Winona Ryder and Christian Slader came out in 1988, I had to explain my comment.  “It’s a dark comedy about the popular girls and one other girl—Winona’s character—and how hard high school can be.”

“Oh!  It’s like Mean Girls!” Heather said.

“Ummmm…kinda?” I responded.  “But darker.  Christian Slader’s character is a bit like Johnny from the Breakfast Club, but darker.”  How does one explain Heathers without giving away the plot?

I scheduled a movie night at my house to watch it.  We laughed at the wacky plot and the 80’s fashion.

“Colored tights?!  I thought that was for children!” Heather exclaimed.

“The shoulder pads!” I said.

We’ve been fast friends ever since.  Nothing like bonding over old movies with retro fashion and homicidal plots.

Her last initial happens to be “S,” so I told Sally, “To keep them straight, remember that Heather S is Single.  Heather P is married.”

I felt a little bad assigning that label to Heather, since she is a beautiful, intelligent woman who may find a nice guy any day now.  But then I remembered that my last initial is also S, and I’m single too!  Doh.

We got on the subject of health, and Sally said, “My doctor told me that I need to take Vitamin D, since I’m not getting any.”  Her smile and reference to her lesbian lifestyle made it clear that this was an innuendo and the “D” stood for… “Dude.”  Yes, Dude.  We’re going with that.

Heather blushed and said, “I don’t take pills, I take my Vitamin D straight!”

WELL THEN!  I’m glad that my children are adults, so that we can have conversations like this.

Cheers!

P.S. My next post will be about Country dancing in California.  Yes, there are honky tonks in Cali, and I’ll compare one to Billy Bob’s.

P.S.S. As always, follow me on Instagram (jules_rules_strawberry) or Facebook for more pics!  And I tweet occasionally, too (@JulesSBerry)!

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Sally Strawberry, Explorer, Conquerer of Mountains