Diddakoi Walt Whitman
Take me home...Trollop Fest 2004


Welcome to Trollop Fest 2004!
It had been three years since we terrorized . . . err, VISITED . . . Sonoma Valley, so we figured they would have forgotten about us by now.

Thursday, March 18, 2004
The flights out of Ithaca to well, ANYWHERE, were outrageously expensive, so Steph drove down to Philadelphia on Thursday evening, arriving at Chez Kay around 8:30 p.m. Gary had gone all out and created a lovely dinner of roast duck, garlic potatoes and white asparagus with bearnaise. Unfortunately, just as we sat down to eat, his beeper went off and he had to go into the hospital to do an appendix. We felt bad for him, poor guy, but that didn't stop us from eating well and drinking a bottle of "Cardinal Zin" that Laurie had sent me. We topped the evening by watching Caddyshack and a bit of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Friday, March 19, 2004
Up at 3:45 a.m. - yikes. The weather was kind of spitting rainy slush as we called for a cab to take us to the airport. The driver was 15 minutes late which caused a bit of teeth gnashing on my part, but we made it to the airport in plenty of time. Probably because no one else is stupid enough to be going there that early.

We boarded and pushed back right on time, but the snow had started coming down in earnest (and in Philly) so we had to go out to the end of the runway to be de-iced. An interesting process, to be sure.

"Steph, do not taunt the de-icer!"

The weather was absolutely gross when we taxied out, and all the lovely green de-icing stuff sloughed right off as we trundled down the runway. But apparently it did its job since we made it off the ground and headed toward Chicago. The de-icing made us about a half hour late, so we were a bit nervous as we scurried through the Andy Warhol neon tunnel between terminals to change planes. We made it, and Steph kicked the back of my seat all the way to California.

We landed in San Jose a little early. Our two Stimpies, Laurie and Sarah, were due to have arrived a couple hours ahead of us. I turned on my cell phone and listened to a greeting from Sarah - something about a Monkey Bar and needing to ask Laurie about the "thing that opens other things." We called them and I said we had just landed . . . in Oakland. Just kidding. They were sitting in a place called the Martini Monkey near baggage claim, so we went and got our bags - first ones off the belt - and found the Stimpies a little buzzed in the bar.

Martooni Minkey

Listening to LJJ's Skinny Budgie call

Earlier that morning, Laurie went through security at Orange County's John Wayne Airport. Her beautiful, yet metallic, belt buckle set the detectors off, so they pulled her aside for a more thorough search. The TSA person asked if she had anything sharp in her bags. She was about to respond "No" when she realized that her boss - at the grocery store - had given her a new BOX CUTTER a couple of days earlier and she had put the old one in her purse. Realizing that the term BOX CUTTER is not a really good one to toss around airports these days, she said, "There might be a . . . thing that opens other things in the pocket." Upon which they found said "thing" and a gazillion TSAs, eight sheriffs and three Men in Black descended upon her. An hour later, having been grilled and all of her bags opened and photographed, they decided she probably wasn't a terrorist and let her get on the plane. We'll wait for the final chapter in this since she is supposed to receive a FINE of $300 to $1,500 for having a "thing that opens other things" in her purse. *sheesh*

Of course we were in hysterics as she related this saga to us. We gathered our stuff and caught the shuttle to Hertz where they told me I had been a no show, despite the fact that we were there exactly when the reservation said we would be. A minor show of Tasmanian Devil later, and we had our lovely Pork-colored Family Truckster. We installed a bobbing head monkey (with a fez) in the back window and off we went.

Two hours later we pulled into the parking lot at Korbel Pork Cellars - oh, I meant "Champagne." Although according to California custom, it is really sparkling wine, but who's counting. We went to their deli - all were starving at this point, especially the Rens - and bought some cheese, bread, sausage, pate and teriyaki wings, and of course, some champagne. Ahhhhh . . . .

Champagne = Pork

Lunch with Champagne AND Pork

After lunch we headed back up Westside Road and went to Gary Farrell Winery. I had tried his wines many years ago and he's known for his excellent Zinfandels. The winery itself is beautiful, set up in the hills, and the tasting room has a spectacular view of the valley.

Steph pining for Ithaca

Tasting Room

Redwoods at Gary Farrell

Off to our next stop, Belvedere. We tasted (and bought) some yummy Syrahs and talked to the hospitality manager for a while. She gave us each a postcard of their "Jest Red" Table Wine, because the photo reminded her of us. Even though we weren't wearing our ancient Greek sportswear that day. [Maybe next year].

Every so often we hit a clinker, and this was it: Rabbit Ridge. It seems that their wine was made from raisins, or perhaps those rabbit-related things that look kind of like raisins. At any rate, the place had one things going for it - a spectacular wisteria:

Rabbit Ridge Wisteria

The afternoon was so lovely - temperatures were probably in the low 80's - and we sat under the wisteria and enjoyed the view. And laughed a little bit.


A Ren (Beta) and two Stimpies





We drove to the hotel - The Dry Creek Best Western - and checked in. Nice place with two Queen sized beds, hairdryer and a refrigerator with a half bottle of a rather suspicious looking white zinfandel in it. I accidentally dropped Laurie's bottle of Belvedere Jest Red in the stairwell on the way up (oops) and after calling the front desk to have someone clean it up, an employee showed up at our room with yet another half bottle of white zin. Um, thanks.

We distributed assorted odd gifts: bags, sunglasses and a "Less Talk, More Monkeys" patch from Archie McPhee, signs, buttons and stickers from Happy Bunny. Laurie brought out the "Toadster" - a ceramic frog with two little pieces of toast coming out of its back. Hmmmm.

We drove into Healdsburg for dinner at Manzanita. It wasn't very crowded when we showed up, but the place was packed by the time we left. [Funny, it usually works the other way around with us.]

We had salads to start and a variety of fish, scallops and lasagna for entrees, but the real hit was dessert. We split a Meyer Lemon bombe, a slice of Angel Food Cake and an amazing Caramel Pot du Creme. Wow. We waddled to the car, drove back to the hotel and hit the hay.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Steph and I were up early - but fell asleep again. We all managed to roust ourselves out around 8:30 and went next door to Adel's for breakfast. Very tasty and the festive fake plants and pink granulated sugar were a throw back to, well, to something. After breakfast, we hit the local Safeway and bought a cooler, ice and stuff for lunch. Then, off to the races!

First up was Simi, which is just up the road from Healdsburg. We were there a little early, so we slobbered at the windows until they relented and let us in. We tasted some nice wines there - I bought a case of the 2001 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and had it shipped to Steph's house since the Communist State of Pennsylvania does not allow direct shipments. Steph spent some time hitting on - I mean talking to the dude about their plans to renovate the tasting room. We'll have to go back there in a couple of years and see what they've done.

We continued north to Clos du Bois, where we met Jim and Linda who were visiting from Southern California. Clos du Bois has several different varietals that are not as frequently seen: Malbec, Tempranillo, Malvasia and a Late Harvest Gewurztraminer. Jim and Linda suggested that we go to Silver Oak's Alexander Valley location, so we headed up there.

As always, Silver Oak's Cabernets were wonderful. We tasted both the Napa and Alexander Valley wines. This is the only wine for which I have a standing order for a case each year - I have the Alexander Valley Cabs going back to 1987. They were selling some of their "large format" bottles - we were amused by the fact that they were limiting the large bottles to one per customer. I can't imagine they have *that* much demand for 12 liter bottles of Cabernet at $4,300 a shot. They also had a very cool wine suitcase on wheels - designed to carry six bottles and stow as a carry-on.

Simi Winery

Steph immersing herself at Silver Oak

Vroom, vrooom. Off to Ferrari-Carano at the northern end of Dry Creek. What a spectacular place, with amazing gardens and fountains. We did not, however, sample the wine since a) there was actually a crowd at the tasting bar [the nerve!] and b) I had tasted the wines here a couple of years ago and my opinion was: "Eh."

Tulips at Ferrari Carano

Trollops at Ferrari Carano

Men - always such boars

At last, we returned to the scene of the crime. Dry Creek Vineyard where, three years ago, we spent a riotous hour and half in the tasting room with Mark and married Steph off to Frank Dice, just so she could get a green card.

Alas, neither Mark nor Frank were anywhere to be seen, the guy who was there wasn't fun and the wines were only so-so. Just proves the point - you can never go home again. We did, however, buy a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and sit at a picnic table under the trees and have our lunch. Yummmmmm.

Onward and downward! Back down the valley to Rodney Strong which is actually on the same property that houses J Vineyards where we stopped last time in Sonoma. Again, we were not the impressed by the wines.

And now for something completely different - Roshambo Winery. It is a gorgeous contemporary winery set in the low hills along Westside Road. Just a great space, and the wines were not bad - some good Zinfandels, especially. The owner is apparently an artist - and a touch on the weird side, if her choice of suggested reading materials is any indication. The tamest thing on the shelf was "The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories" by Tim Burton, which Amazon describes as "For all its simple humor, [it] is a peculiarly disturbing book about the violence that children suffer." Uh, yeah.

It was a tad LOUD in the tasting room, partially due to all the hard surface - concrete, laminate, wood - and also the tasting room staff's choice of music. Steph, Sarah and Laurie flirted with Elvis Costello (or whoever he really was) and I enjoyed the nice weather outside.

Back to Healdsburg to walk around the cute little town square and have a nice non-alcoholic beverage. We did a little shopping and then headed back to the hotel to freshen up before dinner.

We went up to another winery, Chateau Souverain, for dinner at their restaurant. I had made reservations there through "Open Table", an internet reservation service that Chateau Souverain links to on their website. Upon arrival, the hostess said that she didn't have a reservation for us. I showed the printout of the confirmation and the hostess' response was, "Oh, we have problems with them sometimes." There was no move made to either apologize for the mix-up or to find us a table. Luckily, the manager arrived and found us a table before I had to get all Renned up.

Dinner was very yummy. Sarah and Laurie tried the Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc; Steph and I each had a flight of Chardonnays. There were salads and pate to start, with grilled salmon, lemon-thyme pasta shells and grilled ono (wahoo). The table had a paper tablecloth on it and Laurie drew a very convincing picture of Flora the Budgie wearing her "chinese finger trap bandage". We all thought it was hilarious, but then again we'd been drinking wine since 10:00 a.m. Back to the hotel and to bed.

Sunday, March 21, 2004
I woke up first, showered, dressed and was over at Adel's around 6:00. Steph joined shortly thereafter, and the Stimpies came in around 8:00. After everyone ate, we packed up the bags, loaded the car, checked out of the hotel and hit the road. Off to Matanzas Creek, where we were greeted by this charmer along the road:

Shrimp-faced Ecadorian Condor

No, sorry, it's a Vulture

We had a really nice tasting at Matanzas. We were the only ones there and the three tasting room staff members were all very informative and friendly. When Steph and I bemoaned the fact that we lived in New York and Pennsylvania, they offered us a large shipping box to take with us, so we could pack the wines and check them as luggage on the plane. ["A thing that ships other things!"] Steph bought two bottles of Sangiovese and I bought one Sangiovese and three of the 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon. Sarah bought a bottle of Syrah.

We headed further down the valley to Glen Ellen where we stopped at the Benziger Family Winery. We tasted some very nice wines there, including a Petite Sirah and a Port.

Steph at Benziger

Which way??!!

Off to Sonoma itself, and Gundlach-Bundschu, which unfortunately was a little heavy on the sell and not too great with the hospitality. The wines were OK, but we were in a position to be picky by this time. I was interested in buying a bottle of the 1996 cabernet because it had an astronaut on the label - but it was $90 and they would only sell a minimum of TEN. Now who does that?!

But the saving grace of GunBun was its fine collection of murals. I mean, check out the artistry, the realism . . . the scary, scary people. And the rosemary shrubs.

The Scream (ing never stops bacause of these bad murals)

Steph in her natural habitat

Look! They're making Champagne!

We stopped back in at Amigos Grill and Cantina for lunch, and had huge burritos and quesadillas. A quick stop at the local drugstore to get strapping tape and discard the leftovers from the prior day's picnic.

Down Hwy 12 to Cline Cellars. Okay, so anyway, quickly back in the car and off for a brief stop at Viansa so Steph could buy mustard and I could take pictures:


Poppies, poppies, poppies . . .

With that, we headed back down to San Jose and dropped Sarah and Laurie off at the airport for their 6:00 p.m. flights. Steph and I drove into San Jose and wandered around the hotels downtown, stopping for a drink (or two) at the Fairmont. We thought about crashing a wedding reception at the Hyatt, but since the bride was Asian and the groom was Hispanic, we figured they might not fit in. After wasting as much time as possible on the outside, we finally went back to the airport and checked in for our 10:50 p.m. flight to Chicago. The flight was full, but not bad, despite the infant in the seat next to me (he was really very well behaved).

Monday, March 22, 2004
It's 5:00 a.m. and we have enough time to stop at Starbucks for coffee and tea on the way to our connection in Chicago. We take off and come into Philly a little late through some very windy weather. We got a rental car and shlepped the loot back to the condo to divvy it up. Steph left around 11:30 to head back up to Ithaca. And . . . I'm spent!

The end of the story? Never fear - T-Fest 2005 is already in the works! And we're looking for a Cabana Boy to drive us around next year. Essay Contest details will be provided at a later date.