Humor me, please,just for a moment. After trying several days to get a sunset over the Pacific Ocean, Rosie finally gave up and left Fort Bragg, California. No more Pacific sunset attempts. Enough is enough. The Hawthornes are headed for Yosemite National Park and then Vegas. I don't know why Vegas. We don't gamble. We don't like big cities. We don't like glitter. We don't care for Elvis impersonators. We don't want a quickie wedding. Let's just say, Vegas was on the way to somewhere else. And I guess one should go to Vegas just to remind oneself why one doesn't need to go to Vegas. So I asked Mr. Hawthorne to map out a route for us. I thought I'd involve him for a bit and actually ask him for input, so he could feel needed and semi-important and so he could feel good about himself. Mind you, I wouldn't listen to him. I'm just throwing him a bone. This is what he drew (recreated by Rosie) :
I don't know why he threw Reno in there, but he did. And who the hell does he think he is? Zorro? Now here's Rosie's route:
I took control of the maps, gave Mr. Hawthorne directions, and he never knew the difference. Note to self: Self: Never let Mr. Hawthorne look at another map.
Mr. Hawthorne is driving south down California and starts noticing all these vineyards on either side of us.
Vineyards freakin' everywhere. He asks me, "Is this concidence?" And there are signs for wine tastings. I point out one sign that says "Next Right - Wine Tasting." I order Mr. Hawthorne to take an immediate right.
Saracina Ranch. And they have wine tastings! At 12 o'clock in the afternoon. Let's check it out. From Saracina: Saracina was named after a centuries-old farmhouse and vineyards in Tuscany where owners, John Fetzer and Patty Rock spent their honeymoon. The main ranch is home to Saracina Vineyards, a small-production, state-of-the-art, California Certified Organic winery and the first wine caves in Mendocino County. Working with winemaker, Alex MacGregor, they produce stylistically unique wines with lush California fruit and silky, soft tannins. Atrea, their second brand, focuses on interesting , quirky Rhone-style blends.
The bouquet of the wine just hit me. Outside the caves. Well, maybe not the bouquet. More like a cab with a recent wino for a passenger. Still, it's promising.
We have 6 wines to taste. I, being the designated drinker, sample the six wines. And they're stingy with the tastings. Here are the six wines with my impressions. Saracina Sauvignon Blanc 2008 Light greenish yellow. Orange peel and gingery spices on the nose, along with a subtle honey nuance. Nicely concentrated but youthfully uncompromising, with a nervy spine of acidity accentuating the wine's dry impression. Atrea The Choir 2009 The hugely aromatic nose, with complex notes of orange blossoms, Asian pear, ginger, and jasmine. The palate carries similar flavors with emphasis on stone fruits. It sports richness and bright acidity without excess weight or alcohol. Atrea Old Soul Red 2006 Inky ruby. Powerful aromas of dark berries, cherry-cola, licorice, and Indian spices. Chewy, deeply concentrated black currant and bitter cherry flavors are framed by silky tannins and gain sweetness with air. The finish repeats the cola note and lingers impressively. Saracina Zinfandel 2007 Pungent scents of resinous herbs develop as this wine opens with air. The fruit has a firm, juicy strawberry taste, the tannins balancing it with a lean, earthy grip. For a spicy stew. Saracina Petite Sirah 2007 The Petite Sirah exhibits an inky-blue/black color and vivid black raspberry, blackberry, floral, and white pepper notes. It is a full-bodied wine with generous, supple tannins that are typical of the vintage. This wine is accessible now but could easily be held for a generation. And just WHY the hell would I want to do that??? These are just MY impressions of the different wines. YMMV. OK. I lied. Which brings me to wine descriptions. Is it just me, or do wine descriptions on menus sometimes read like resumes? This mildly aggressive, intelligent 2006 Cabernet bore its significant complexity on its considerably broad shoulders, the breadth of which left me breathless and, at the same time, longing for more. Or maybe like a bad novel - the kind with the embossed covers and a shirtless Fabio on front. The profound oakiness of the Cabernet led me to believe it was aged in a box of #2 pencils. I'd rather chew my way through a cardboard box then assault my gullet with this dreck. The cloying insipidness of this whiny Chardonnay brought back memories of long-abandoned Halloween candy found in a pillow case in the back of my closet with a hint of Skittles and the quick rinse of off-brand caramels finished off with the deliriously poignant suggestion of gym socks. The curious merlot was strongly earthy, devoid of personality and flaunting its flawed character like a badge of dishonor. It shamelessly had no charm whatsoever. The distant flavors of barnyard permeated throughout with definite chicken scratch thrown in, which lingered on my abused palate. After five glasses, I deemed it unpleasant with its bizarre and heady vegetal flavors not to mention its abrasive unattractiveness and I stumbled away from its glaring offensiveness.
$52 poorer, we left Saracina. For miles and miles, there's nothing but vineyards and wine tastings. I wanted to stop at each one but Mr. Hawthorne nixed that idea.
Mr. Hawthorne is breezing down the highway and I missed what was on my right. It's the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone. You'll just have to trust me on this.