Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Wine and Albert

Sunday we met Albert, our daughter Deb's friend (and we understand the current word for that is "manpanion"). Albert accompanied us on a wine tasting trip up into the Santa Cruz Mountains just a few miles from Deb's place in Mountain View.

Two wineries were on our itinerary, both small family-owned wineries making very good wines and selling them at boutique prices. The first was Picchetti's, said to be one of the oldest wineries in California, dating back to the 1880's.

Their property includes a nature preserve with hiking trails. Signs at the trail head warn of rattlesnakes and mountain lions. We did not hike. The area open to visitors offers very nice picnic opportunities.

Picchetti's tasting program is similar to many others these days, and quite different from the universal program of years gone by: each taster pays $5 to sample five wines, and each sample is about a half ounce. When Suzy and I were a young couple, wine tasting (pretty much limited to the Napa Valley) was wide open; you went from winery to winery, sampling as many of their wines as you wished, without paying a penny. Of course, the wineries hoped you would buy a bottle or two. We used to joke about the wine industry filling people full of wine then turning them loose on the highways.

Many wineries provide crackers of some sort to clear a taster's palate between different wines. Picchetti's does not, but they did allow Albert to purchase a box of gourmet crackers for our group.

This building, just above the current residence, was the Picchetti family's original homestead.

Not far away, but higher in the hills sits the Cooper-Garrod Winery, annually producing about 3000 cases of estate-grown wines. I believe that means their wines are produced solely from grapes grown on their land in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

They also have an equestrian center offering horseback riding on trails with a panoramic view of Silicon Valley. We did not ride.

Cooper-Garrod offers a free taste of any two wines, but to try their entire line of fine wines, a taster pays $5. They DO offer saltines, but we still had Albert's crackers to munch on. The lady in charge of tasting was very pleasant; she seemed to have a wide and personal knowledge of the wines produced here AND the history of the family. Turns out she is Mrs. Bill Cooper, and Mr. Bill Cooper is the winemaker.

The tasting center used to be a packing shed for the prunes and apricots originally grown at the farm, which was established in 1893. Although the family produced wine for their own use for many years, and sold their grapes to other wineries, the first public release of their wine waited until 1994.

Following our wine tasting adventure, Albert treated us to an exquisite dinner at a tiny but toney restaurant called Crimson. Our server offered to take our picture.

Dessert was a delightful chocolate fondue!

Now about Albert. Albert is a very warm, open, friendly person who loves to laugh. He is employed by a firm in Silicon Valley that does a large amount of business with AT&T. And he seems to care a lot about our daughter. Fortunately, Deb seems to care a lot about Albert as well.

We've spent some nice quiet days here at Deb's house, and we are catching up on badly needed rest. Thursday we'll cross California's Central Valley and the majestic Sierra Nevada, largely along back highways, to the Carson City area of Nevada. This is the home of daughter Kathie (or Kat) with her husband Shawn and their son Sam; and Kat's daughter (and our granddaughter) Renee with her husband Adam and their son Darren, our much fussed over and doted upon great grandson.

We'll back soon as possible to catch you up on the activities of ... Our Life on Wheels.


  1. The California wine country is really great. Those Santa Cruz mtns. are also so lovely any time of year.

    Albert works with AT&T? Can he broaden their coverage for all of us users out here in blogland? Just kidding, of course, but it sure would be nice.

    Enjoy a safe journey toward the next group of family members.

  2. Wine tasting is a great hobby, especially now that it is official that drinking wine is a healthy activity.

  3. I loved the wine tours back in the days when Christian Brothers was still open. You could keep on tasting long after the tour was over until you could barely walk out of the place. I hate to think of driving.

    Your daughter is a beautiful woman and she looks very happy.

    Enjoy your trip across the Sierra. This is a nice time of year to go - before labor day and before the ski season.

  4. The term "manpanion" is a new one for me. I wonder who thinks up these catchy names?

    The winery tours looked like fun. I wonder if the $5 charge is simply to discourage too much drinking? Surely, there can't be a whole lot of cost to the wine sampling.

    Looks like you had a great time meeting Albert and a very nice looking dinner to boot!

  5. Manpanion...I haven't heard that one before. You learn something new every day.

    Glad you had a good visit with Deb and Albert. I'm not into wine, but I like the scenery and atmosphere of wineries.

    Safe travels on your way to Carson City!

  6. It looks like our paths will almost but not quite pass on Thursday. We are currently in Bass Lake and will leave Thursday, headed first for Grass Valley for a little repair work and then on to Fernley, NV for the night at Walmart.

  7. Those are wineries that I missed in all the years I lived in the area. Thanks for the visit. Your daughter looks very happy.

  8. You have a beautiful daughter and she looks very happy with her friend. Thanks for the tour of the winery.


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