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Local Potions

As I look through my blog posts this year, I’ve noticed a very travel and conference-focused trend. It seems I’ve been really good about staying on top of writing about these things, and less so with some of our local adventures. At this point it seems I have to reach all the way back to April to start writing about what we’ve been up to, covering visits with friends and family, trips up to wine country, adventures to new theaters and the symphony. Instead of stepping through these chronologically, I thought it might be more interesting to group things up.

To begin, let’s talk about some of the wonderful things I’ve had to drink this year.

Back in April, my sister in law and her husband were in town visiting. When we have guests in town there’s a bunch of stuff we love to do, but it’s also fun to check off some of the attractions we haven’t seen yet either. That brought us to the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. Going into this I didn’t have any expectations, I wasn’t sure what it had, how big it was or anything. Now that I’ve been, I can definitely recommend a visit.

There’s a path that winds through the garden, taking you through various Japanese trees, flowers and other plants. Throughout they have pagodas of varied provenance, some created in Japan and shipped over, some with dedications, one that came from the Pan-Pacific International Exposition (world’s fair) that was held in San Francisco in 1915. There’s a distinctive arched bridge, stone lanterns and various water features, from fountains and streams, to a koi pond. The walk through these lovely gardens concluded for us at their tea house, where we got snacks and some hot Matcha green tea.

More photos from our visit to the Japanese Tea Garden here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157666201291390

Moving from tea to something a bit stronger, in June we had a pair of friends in town who we took up to Sonoma County for some wine tasting. Now, we’ve done this journey with many folks, so I won’t give a play by play this time around, but it was worth noting because we went on the Partners Wine Tour at Benziger Family Winery, something I hadn’t done in years.

But first, we had lunch! We ordered sandwiches at the nearby Glen Ellen Village Market, bought a bottle of 2013 Dragonsleaf Pinot Noir and sat outside in the shade outside the tasting room at Benziger. There are few things in the world so relaxing and satisfying as that picnic lunch with friends was.

It was then onward for the tour! Taking a little over an hour, the tour took us on a long ride through the vineyards, giving history of the winery and tastings throughout our journey. We then went into the wine caves, where we sampled some not-quite-finished wine right out of the cask. The dining room in the cave was closed for maintenance, so our final tour stop was into the library, where our membership status got us a sample of one of their amazing old library wines.

More photos from the Benziger Partners Tour, and stops at Jacuzzi Winery and Imagery Winery here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157669175719622

Wine adventures continued later in the month when MJ and I went up to Napa Valley for an afternoon of dining at Rutherford Grill and tasting as Rutherford Hill Winery, where we are members and had to drive up to pick up our shipment of wines. I’m a fan of Merlots, and Rutherford Hill is internationally famous for them, but what really made membership for us was how well we’re treated as members. They have an amazing tasting room in their wine caves, and are very flexible about wines you can pick up in your shipment, since price is determined by precisely what you buy anyway. With them, membership turns out to essentially be an agreement to buy a certain number of wine bottles per cycle, with a set of recommendations as a default. It was all very refreshing for such a large Napa winery, and their wines are exceptional.

Upon arrival, we were led back to the caves where we sat in a little alcove to sample a series of wines. Our host was wonderful and we really enjoyed the ambiance and coolness of the cave, especially with how bright and warm it was outside. Once the tasting was concluded, I took advantage of the springtime climate that had all their flowers in full bloom before going inside to pick up our wines and a few other goodies.

More photos (especially flowers!) from our day up at Rutherford Hill here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157667277830503

My final drink adventure was closer to home than all the rest, a quick walk from home down 2nd street and over to Black Hammer Brewing. It was here that I met my friend Pasi who was in town from Finland and another fellow in town from Copenhagen. It’s on the newer side and they don’t serve food (though outside food is allowed), so I hadn’t been to this brewery before. We arrived pretty late and only had a couple rounds, but I was really impressed with the variety available in their small batches of beers. I went with the Nautical Twilight and Sunrise Set.

I love living in a place where I can not only find some delicious things to drink, but do so in beautiful places. Even the brewery, though lacking in scenery of my tea and wine trips, had a comfortable atmosphere that’s begging me to return.