The day after we’d met our anniversary twins, at breakfast we met a couple who’d also met each other at the University of Illinois while they were in graduate school. California was crawling with our relationship twins!
We’d scheduled a cave tasting (that is, a wine tasting and tour of the caves) at Alexander Valley Vineyards, so we headed there first. The caves are human-made, their construction having begun in the 1990s to provide a space for barrel aging that naturally stays within a very narrow, wine-friendly temperature range. Additional caves are under being dug, but at present space is tight, especially considering that forklifts must be employed regularly to move barrels in and out as they require topping off. As our guide explained some of the challenges of keeping track of which wines were where, when the barrels would need to be accessed, etc, the wheels in Ian’s head began to turn as he began to envision a database for this information. “Sounds like some wine IT is needed!” he said. A new career path? Time will tell.
During the tour, we did a barrel tasting of two wines that were identical except for the type of oak (French or American) barrel they were aging in. The difference was subtle, but it was there. We also met a charming dog named Cali (short for California), who had knack for finding bungs that occasionally popped out of their wine barrels (oh boy, new toy!) and learned some interesting facts about cork!
- Wine corks cost 30 to 80 cents a piece (I would have guessed no more than 5 cents!).
- A cork oak must be at least 25 years old before its bark can be harvested, and after that, the bark can be stripped again every 9 to 12 years (which I guess might explain the cost of cork)
Are you fascinated?! No? Well, how about a pretty picture then?
For lunch, we went to Bear Republic in Healdsburg. Since we were leaving for the Yosemite area the following day, I took a look at the updated forecast for the area and began to get very concerned that I had not packed properly for our time there. Whereas mild weather and scattered showers had previously been predicted, the more recent forecast was for chilly temperatures, rain, and *gasp* snow. I was ill-equipped, so after lunch, we began a quest to find me an appropriate rain jacket and another layer to wear under it. I won’t bore you with the details–Ian was less than enthralled at the process, so you probably don’t want to read an essay about it. Suffice it to say I was unsuccessful in my quest on that day. Back to the wine.
We visited two more wineries that day, Ridge, which was new to us, and Dry Creek, where we’d been twice before (and belong to their wine club). With purchases there, we were steadily amassing a good collection of bottles to send home.
Back at the inn, during wine hour in the common room, Ian and I chatted with an interesting woman who not only had a full time day job but also had a side hustle editing articles for archeology journals (because yeah…that’s a pretty popular side hustle) and was working on a historical graphic novel about World Word War I. As she described the project, she kept saying, “Now, don’t steal this idea!”—as if I could even…I don’t draw, and I’ve forgotten just about everything I learned in history class about WWI except the bit about Arch Duke, who I believe was the drummer for Franz Ferdinand, being assassinated…or something like that. Also, there were a lot of trenches, and it was quite unpleasant.
After our new friend had to skedaddle, I eyed the fancy (we’re talking a wooden board that turns and letter holders that I think were made of iron) deluxe Scrabble set on the coffee table in front of us and suggested to Ian that we play a game. Normally, Ian avoids playing Scrabble with me, in part because he has beaten me only once in all the times we’ve played and he gets a little sick of losing, but he agreed this time. We weren’t actually able to finish the game before we had to stop get ready for our dinner reservations, but I was more than 100 points ahead, so… Well, heck, I’m happy he played with me.
We had a nice dinner at Hazel that night then returned to the inn to get organized in order to head toward Yosemite the following day.