Tag Archives: wine

France 2016

Two years ago we went to Italy for a family vacation and it was awesome.  For almost a year Nancy’s family has been planning a trip to France.  Greg and Maggie got a chateau in Mercurey for a week and invited everyone to come along.  An offer like that is hard to refuse so Nancy and I were in.  We left on Friday July 1st for Paris, direct flight of course.  Wheels up at 5:25pm and landed at Charles de Gaul airport at 6:55am the following morning.  We attempted to sleep on the flight but on a flight like this it was near impossible.  We managed a few hours of broken sleep before we landed, went through customs and got the rental car.

Before heading to the chateau with the family we stopped at the Palace of Versailles to walk around.  It took a while getting in because of security but it was pretty amazing once we got through.  The tourists from China were pretty bad, just like at the Vatican.  Always on their phone taken stupid pictures, videos and selfies plus just pushing everyone out of their way.  The palace was pretty amazing despite all the people in it.  It reminds me of the Vatican in fact.  Lots of people, narrow hallways, just a cattle call getting people through the rooms.  We finished in the Hall of Mirrors and shortly after that we found an exit.  It might have been nice to see the rest of Versailles but we had had enough of the crowds and wanted some fresh air.  Thankfully the gardens are HUGE and provided plenty of room for everyone.  Since we arrived when it opened the gardens where still pretty empty.  I was a little disappointed that none of the fountains where on but by the time we left, someone had flipped the switch.  Very impressive fountain displays considering how old they are.  We even found a water display timed to music which was really cool.

We could have spent all day here, just relaxing in the gardens but we had to drive ahead of us to Mercurey and Château de Mercurey.  This part of the journey was certainly an adventure.  You just take the A6 out of Paris so it was pretty straight forward.  We wanted some drinks at one point and got off the highway, mistake.  Not only did we not find a gas station to get drinks but we couldn’t get back on the A6 towards Lyon.  Once we got that outta the way it was another 2 hours before we got off the highway.  The in-car GPS took us off the highway pretty early but it ended up being for the better.  The rest of the way to the chateau was all through the country side and small villages.  The scenery was amazing.  It might have taken a little longer but it was certainly worth the extra time.

While excited to arrive at the chateau we were dog ass tired when we did arrive.  That first night we kept it pretty low key.  The family had dinner already prepared and we didn’t even have to help with cleanup.  Everyone was very understanding of us being up for about 30 hours at that point.  Being the troopers we are, and wanting to acclimate ourselves as quickly as possible to the local timezone, we stayed up for several more hours relaxing by the pool smoking cigars.  I made it to about 10:30 before I had to call it and Nancy was not far behind me.  That first nights rest was pretty amazing I must say.  The temps are very low at night so we slept with all the windows open.  The next morning it was great to wake up in the Chateau. In this part of France we are at a much higher latitude so it is cooler then home, chilly almost.  We left the balcony doors open all the time, at night it gets to the 60’s, perfect sleeping weather. We also had a balcony so I often smoked a little cigar with some coffee while over looking the vineyards as the sun rose casting the perfect light onto the village.  Amazing.

The long travel day on Saturday meant it was a lazy chateau day on Sunday.  We only got out of the house to visit the market in Chalon-sur-Saõne which was cool.  The market is right in the town square near the river and main church.  Nancy and I decided to cook dinner for everyone Sunday night and managed to get everything we needed from the market.  We got pork chops, fresh vegetables and some amazing fruit.  Even found some strawberries like I did while in Mirano, Italy.  For me the coolest thing we found in the market was a local craft beer maker.  He was offering three kinds, Ambeer IPA, Blonde, and an English Brown Ale.  Talking to him he was certainly passionate about his craft.  He kept wanting to tell us about the different beers and their flavor profile but Nancy and I didn’t really care.  It wasn’t a question of which one we were getting, we were getting all three. That night Nancy and I cooked a great meal on the grill for the entire family.  It was a great meal and it was wonderful to cook for everyone as a thank you for inviting us along.

Tuesday was all about wine.  The owner of the chateau, Christophe, is a wine nut and offers a tasting to guests that stay at one of his four chateaus.  Greg signed us up for the extended tasting and I must say it was pretty damn amazing.  We have been to many tastings before, we live in Loudoun County after all.  This was something completely different.  In his chateau he built a wine cellar in the basement and it currently has almost 9000 bottles.  We started in the cellar and he must have talked for an hour about the wine in his collection.  Going over how to store it properly, how he built the cellar and how his collection started.  He then went into some of the specifics of his collection.  When you hear him talk its some pretty amazing bottles he has collected.  I can’t remember the local vineyard but it took him 20 years to get on the list and even then the allotment is under 12 bottles a year.  This year he has been notified he is only getting 6.

After the tour of the cellar, we went to the tasting room.  The tasting ended up being six bottles of some very old wines.  We tasted a 1960 Champagne, 2001 white, one red that was from 2003, another red from 2011, some late ’80’s sweet wine from the west coast of France and finally a port from Portugal barreled in 1967 and then bottled in 2012.  All of the wine were fantastic and we ended up buying four bottles, two reds and two whites.  I am not a fan of whites but the one we tasted was really good.  I certainly have a better appreciation for vintage wines after this tasting.  Christophe explained the whole process of what happens when you age a wine and why it is so much  better after several years.  The big thing for reds was the tannin.  The aging process lowers them significantly, making the wine taste better.  You also reduce the levels of sulfites which are there to preserver the wine.  This experience was the highly of Mercurey for me.

The following day started early with a balloon ride over the country side and local villages.  6am came early but worth it once we lifted off.  I even helped in getting the balloon ready for launch by holding it open while it filled with air.  The early morning start in the calm cool air allowed for a magical lift off.  The wind was very kind to us and our pilot, Pierre, said we lucked out by going over so many villages.  We eventually landed in a far flung village in a farmers hay field.  After we packed the balloon up we headed to the local church, Église Saint-Maurice, on the top of the hill to celebrate our successful trip in typical French fashion with champagne.  We even got a certificate of our trip which was really cool.

Later that night we had a four course meal prepared by a Michelin rated chef, Thomas who is a local caterer that Christophe recommends.  We got to pick the meal and I was very impressed with everything he cooked.  It was plated well and served by wait staff which was a nice touch.  For this evening we drank a red from 1985 which was in the pre-pack Greg got on our arrival to the chateau.  After the tasting early, I had a much better appreciate for this vintage red.

Wednesday was a real excursion day for us.  We split from the family and headed to Dijon on our own adventure.  Here Nancy wanted to see an owl on a church and rub it with her left hand which is good luck.  We parked in the city center and started our hunt.  We had a spot on the map but this ended up being the end of the trail which we didn’t know at the time.  We realized quickly that this was not the spot so we followed the markers on the street.  This was a great walking tour of the city.  We eventually got lost when a square the trail led us to was completely demolished and the trail went cold.  After an exhaustive search was just decided to get lunch at La Comedie and continue the hunt later.  Lunch was great sitting at the outdoor cafe watching the people. Both our meals where fantastic and because this is France, Nancy smoked after the meal.  Thankfully Dijon has an official app with the Owl walking trail marked on it.  Come to find out, the trail picked up about a half block directly behind us which was nice.  We eventually did find the owl and rubbed it for good luck like so many travelers before us.

The famous owl of Dijon. It has been taken up as the symbol of the city. It is said to be good luck to make a wish while rubbing the owl with your left hand.

With that accomplished we continued to just walk around the city and explore.  Eventually we decided on heading back to a small square we walked past earlier.  It was just after two when we arrived so all the restaurants where closing up.  We just wanted a drink and found a guy that was helpful.  He kept telling us that all the restaurants are closed and there was a fast food place just down the road that would be opened.  We had to explain we just wanted drinks and he said “oh wet bar, right there” and pointed to the next restaurant over.  Here at O’zaviat we drank a couple local beers and did some people watching.  It was great just hanging out in the square watching the city around us.  We had the times so I was able to smoke a cigar.  The bar tender even brought us some olives and garlic in lemon oil which paired perfectly with the beers.  So far most of the beers have been blonde, farmhouse and Belgium styles, not my favorites but decent.

That night we headed back to Chalon-sur-Saône for dinner with the family.  It was our job to find a place on the small island which is known as restaurant island because on one small street it is just jammed packed with restaurants.  It was a mess trying to find parking but once we did we strolled down the street looking for a placed for the entire family.  One lady literally laughed in our face when we wanted a table for 11.  That place wasn’t busy all night so their loss for not wanting to seat us.  We found Chez Jules which was accommodating and ended up being fantastic.  Nancy and I both got the four course fixed menu which was great.  We finally got to taste the famous Bresse chicken for the entree, it tastes like chicken.  To me it was nothing specially but still a good meal.  Getting back to the house that night was an adventure as the garaged closed at 8pm and we didn’t know it.  Thankfully someone let us in and we were able to get out.

Thursday was another chill day at the chateau.  Nancy and I tried to hit a winery but by the time we got ready it was noon and that means everything was closed.  Getting use to the schedule of things was proving difficult.  At this point we just decided to stay pool side for the day.  This allowed me to catch up on my writing and smoke cigars all afternoon.  I eventually did go for a walk around the village.  I wanted to check out the small cemetery next to the chateau and find my way to a statue of the Virgin Mary I spotted at the top of the hill.  What I eventually found was a small trail that actually lead me to summit.  The top of the hill had some great views overlooking the village below.  It was a good walk before the boys dinner later that night.

Dinner tonight was going to be extra special.  On Sunday when Nancy and I cooked I proposed the idea that the boys cook a meal and I must say they delivered.  They had to shop for and prepare the meal themselves and it was fantastic.  Joey said they had no problem at the grocery, only weird thing was the butcher looked at them funny when he explained how much steak they wanted.  To our surprise the meal was plated.  The entire family was blown away by the food.  It was probably the best home cooked meal we had all trip.

Friday no one went anywhere.  For the Free’s it was the last full day in France before they set off for home.  They where going to spend Saturday at the airport hotel for their Sunday flight home while Nancy and I would continue onto Paris for several days.  As such, everyone just wanted to relax and not do much.  Greg wanted to go out to Chalon-sur-Saône for dinner but no one was buying it.  That night I believe was the first night all 11 of us were sitting down by the pool.  Most nights everyone would spread out and do their own thing but this night, everyone gathered around and talked as a family.  We really didn’t go out with a bang that night, didn’t even stay up that late.  Saturday we had to be out of the house by 10am and it was a 3 hour drive to Paris for everyone.  Being responsible sucks sometimes.

Saturday morning came faster then we wanted.  We had already packed but since I am not a morning person, it took some time to get going.  It was a quick breakfast, packed the car and we were off to Paris for several days on our own mini vacation within the over all vacation.  We started driving and talking about what to do first and a plan quickly formed.  Nancy wanted to visit the Champagne region of France so I found Troyes.  It is a Medieval city and famous for it’s exposed half wood building….and the champagne.  When we arrived it was before noon so the city was dead, even for a Saturday.  The bistro we found online didn’t actually sell wine by the glass so we moved on and found another placed to grab some lunch and a drink.  We couldn’t spend more time here but it was a nice detour on our way to Paris.

Once in Paris we checked into the hotel and I was off to drop the rental car off.  Now I don’t drive stick, in fact the most I have ever driven stick was while in Italy on our last European vacation.  Let me tell you it was interesting navigating the city.  I stalled numerous times in the middle of an intersection to the annoyance of those behind me.  I would take a deep breath and just try again.  Eventually I made it out of town and onto the highway towards Charles de Gaulle Airport.  From the airport it was a quick train ride to Châtelet-les-Halles Station and a leisurely walk to the Paris Marriott Opera Ambassador Hotel.

Our time in Paris was a mix of planned events and just hanging out.  Nancy wanted to see Jim Morrison’s grave so Sunday we went to Père Lachaise Cemetery to check it out.  They actually had it blocked off with a guard posted.  Nancy was telling me that over the years they have had a lot of vandalism.  In fact the headstone was removed because of graffiti.  We also saw Oscar Wilde’s grave and the “Aux Morts de la Commune, 21-28 Mai, 1871” To the Dead of the Commune which is a tragic store.  The place is a little creepy, it is a cemetery after all, but it was fascinating walking through the place.  This is a very old cemetery so you have some graves sites that are dilapidated and old next to brand newer ones.  Lots of family tombs and in one area they have a huge section for cremations.  There must be tens of thousands of people cremated and interned and barred at Père Lachaise Cemetery.  There is a small church in the middle with two smoke stacks, looking at them they will cremate the remains right there before internment.

The top part was added later by a wealth benefactor to Oscar Wilde’s original tombstone.

No trip to Paris would be complete without a stop by the Louvre.  This is a giant museum with thousands of items on exhibit.  Everything we read said to have a plan of attack and to do your research before going and I must agree with that.  The collections are so vast it is impossible to walk the entire museum in one day and really enjoy it.  We had two major objectives while at the museum, to see the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo.  Both were pretty easy to find thanks to our map and for the Mona Lisa, there are signs on the walls pointing you to the exhibit hall right from the main entrance.  Supposedly if you stair at her long enough, she will talk to you.  Both Nancy and I tried this but eventually gave up.  The crowd of rude people was just to much so we gave up.  Another cool thing we found was the original foundation of the Louvre which started off original as a castle.  They didn’t find this section till recently and it’s pretty cool.  You get to walk through what was the moat of the castle.  The walls must be 40 feet high and who knows how thick.  We spent several hours in the museum and eventually got tired and decided to head out.  I could certainly go back and spend another day or three here.  We didn’t even hit the Medieval or Egyptian sections and only scratched the surface of the Greek/Roman areas.  Simply an amazing place and total worth your time for a visit.

The Eiffel Tower, probably the single best icon of architecture in the city was Tuesday.  I didn’t schedule this to early so we had plenty of time to walk up before we had to be at the tower.  It took a while to get to the top but it was a worthy journey once we made it.  Paris reminds of Washington DC in that there are very few tall buildings.  It seems like most cap out around 8 or ten stories which isn’t high at all.  I believe up until early this century the Eiffel Tower was the worlds tallest building in fact.  Needless to say, it has some spectacular panoramic views of the city skyline.  Just like in Seattle at the Space Needle, I got a little woozy when I would walk towards the edge.  It’s hard to explain, I don’t feel sick and I know I won’t fall off but my head just starts going funky.  Let me tell you it was weird taking pictures from the edge.  Up at the top they have a small champagne bar so of course we got a couple glasses and made a toast.  Totally over priced but is pretty high up on the coolness scale.

Later that afternoon we went to the catacombs just down the street.  We missed going to the ones in Rome so this was my first opportunity to see such a thing.  I was shocked at the number of bodies buried in the catacombs.  My French is not very good but it appeared there are different sections for different churches and different years.  Many of the sections are artfully stacked making the design of a cross, a building and one was even of a heart.  It was very somber walking through the narrow passageways.  We noticed that many of the sections are blocked off and I guess you have to be on a special tour to see those.  Without the lite path and some closed gates, it would be very easy to get lost down there.

The rest of the time in the city we would spend walking around visiting all the cool cafes and bistros that dot every street corner.  There is certainly no lack of places to eat and drink.  I feel we drank, smoke and ate our way across the city.  It was so much fun just sitting at the small tables watching the Parisians do their thing.  While you can’t smoke in doors, it is expected that people outside will be smoking.  Ashtrays are on most tables and if not, the wait staff would immediately bring one over when they see the pack of cigarettes.  I was also able to smoke my cigars without anyone giving me grief.  In the States, you would get a lot of dirty looks from people but not here in Paris.  As for the food it was all fabulous.  Some of the meals where different but none of them where bad.  It’s a foreign country after all.  If I wanted to eat American food I would have stayed home.

The coolest place we found we didn’t actually eat anything at, The Cricketer.  Earlier while walking around I found a stationary store that happened to be closed, surprised, so we headed back towards it.  We also wanted to stop by The Cricketer, a place that is closed on Sunday’s by the way, which is an English pub.  I got my pen and some kick ass stationary while Nancy went to the pub.  When I walked in we were the only ones in the place and I thought they where going to close, it was just after 2pm after all.  The cook, Ross, said they are open but that it’s just quite.  Ross and Teabou the bar manager where awesome.  We hung out at this place for hours just chatting with them, drinking beer.  The selection they had was the best beer in all of France, the Tiny Rebel Hadouken was best over the whole trip.  It was a true IPA and the first bitter beer I found in the whole country.  We also found Brooklyn East IPA which was another rare find. In general conversation we found that George Clinton and P-Funk was playing Monday night at a local venue.  It took a little arm twisting but I managed to get Nancy on board for seeing the show, it’s George Mother Fucking Clinton!  The show was not sold out but pretty packed for being Paris.  Total random find of the whole trip seeing George Clinton at Le Trianon.

Almost as quickly as it began it was time to pack up and head home.  Our last night was pretty low key, I think the entire trip was finally catching up to us.  Paris was a great city and offers lots of things to do.  Over our four days I feel we only scratched the surface of what is possible.  We will definitely come back for a second visit.  I could just spend days walking the city and hitting all the cafes; eating, smoking and drinking my way through different neighborhoods.  Then there is another day at the Louvre, the aquarium, going up and down the Seine River, hitting one of the other dozen museums, the cathedral of Notra Dome….I could go on and on.  France was great, a beautiful country with friendly people.  The city is very walkable and the metro system is top notch, the perfect way to get around.  It was clean, prompt and easy to navigate.  The food is spectacular, history, culture and let’s not forget about the wine.  I see why France is the number tourist destination in the world.  Till next time Paris…..

Spring in the Middle of Winter

When the temperature gets to the high 60’s in the middle of winter, you take the opportunity to get outside and doing something fun.  This past week we got some crazy weather for winter and headed outside.  Early in the week it was cold and rain during the weekday but come the weekend, Saturday was almost perfect.  The tempers we great for being outside with plenty of sun.

Acres and acres of grapes and they are constanly expanding their operation to produce more wine.
Acres and acres of grapes and they are constanly expanding their operation to produce more wine.

Pat, Matt, Nancy and I headed out to western Loudoun to visit a few wineries.  We didn’t have much of a plan only that we wanted to hit Maggie Malick Wine Caves first.  Nancy had heard about this, they created their own “wine cave” and this is where they do their tasting.  Totally underwhelming when we arrived at this place.  The owners are nice and the guy certainly is  talker but the facilities are lacking.  This space is used for the wine production as well so it is cramped and the facilities dated.  Wine was decent but nothing special.  In summer they put up an outside tent which would be nice but inside, not so much.

After here we headed to Breaux Vineyards for another round of drinking.  This is the first time any of us have been here since their expansion.  I must say the new place is quite impressive.  Here we did a small sampling and got a bottle.  Because of the nice weather we went outside to enjoy it, along with a ton of other people.  Inside Breaux was pretty dead but outside, it was a mad house.  Everyone was taking the opportunity to enjoy the nice weather.

IMG_3401Not wanting to stop at two wineries we hit an old favorite next, Hillsborough Vineyards.  We have been coming here for many years as a family group.  For Pat this also holds special meaning as it is a place that she and my dad would go to often to enjoy some wine.  The views are great here.  You look down the mountain and across the valley.  Another sampling and another bottle of wine here to.

After our third we had a decision to make.  The original plan was to come back to our house to cook out with everyone.  As the day wore on none of us wanted to cook, we would have to get groceries as well and we just didn’t want to do it.  So instead we decided to continue our journey south into Purcellville to hit a brewery and get some food.  With all the wine tasting Pat and Nancy agreed we could change it up a little so Matt and I could enjoy some drinks as well.

IMG_3405Belly Love is in the heart of downtown so we went here for the first time.  I have seen their stuff at different beer festival so this was the first time to the brewery.  The brewery is at the end of a small strip mall.  They have a small outdoor seating area when it is nice.  Inside it is a modern decor.  They do have food but we didn’t try any on this trip.  The flight was pretty good with a huge variety in styles.  I particularly liked their IPA and something they called Boom Choco LoCo Boom which was a chili chocolate combination.

We meet a guy that the bar that pointed us to a BBQ joint just down the street called Monk’s BBQ.  This place has character and some pretty taste brisket.  It was a Saturday night and the line didn’t stop for almost an hour.  We were lucky to even get a seat we found out.  In addition to good brisket they have a nice selection of craft beer.  Everything they carry is local to the area.

After such a long day of drinking it was good to get home and finally relax for a while.  We can find creative ways to keep going and Loudoun County certainly has plenty of good watering holes.  I have started to see a few distilleries pop up so that i something else we will have to try one weekend.

A Day Tasting New Wine and Beer

It was a beautiful Saturday so we headed out to the country for a little wine tasting.  We have the Virginia Wine Pass and wanted to use it at a new winery so we picked Creek’s Edge Winery in Lovettsville.  It was a nice drive out into the country north of Leesburg to this winery.  Brand new, opened last year sometime and I must say the facility is pretty impressive.

CreeksEdge-deck-500

cigar and wine, life's good
cigar and wine, life’s good

The main building is styled after an old barn, silo and all.  The outside is all stone work and the inside you see the exposed wooden beam structure.  Very nice and certainly sturdy.  They have plans on opening a new pavilion late this year to be used for special events and possible an expanded tasting room.  We did a small flight of wine and grabbed a bottle before heading out to the balcony.  When we arrived there was only one other couple so we took the opportunity to get a primo spot on the deck so I could smoke a cigar.  We spent the next couple hours talking and relaxing on such a fine spring day.

Afterwards we headed to Ocelot Brewing which just opened.  We meet one of the guys helping to start this new brewery at our local Whole Foods the day of the Super Bowl.  Nancy and I where sampling beers before filling two growlers with suds.  He was great to talk to and we got the inside scoop on the new brewery.  We followed their postings on Facebook and saw that it was finally open.  We missed the soft opening the week before but made it down the following week.

beer and music
beer and music

The place was really nice inside, spacious with lots of new shinny brewing equipment.  While sampling their beers we meet one of the owners Eric who was really cool.  It was great he took the time to talk to us about his passion for beer.  Every now and then he would stop to help a customer but come right back when he finished.  We got his whole store on beer, how the whole company got started and their passion for music.  Eric loves to travel, smoke cigars, loves music but can’t play an instrument and has a passion for beer.  This is my kind of guy.  For me the most interesting thing about this new brewery is their choice of beers.  Eric mentioned they will have no core brands, they will stick to one off and adventurous stuff.  Eric was always searching for the next great beer, much like Nancy and I do.  When starting Ocelot, they took that philosophy and turned it into a business model.

ocelot brewing logoThey only had three options to start so we did the flight.  I must say I was not very impressed with the beers overall.  They where not bad, but they didn’t blow my doors off.  I in fact rated them all 2.5-2.6, literally middle of the road.  What I love about this place is the facility, their passion for beer, a constantly rotating selection and their dedication to music.  I can see this place hosting local bands and maybe a festival or two in the company months or years.

It was a great day exploring what Virginia has to offer in terms of beer and wine.  The state is really coming into its own in terms of wine and I believe in the next couple of years it will for beer as well.  There are a lot of passionate people in this state that love to make alcohol and share it with others.  We certainly will visit Creek’s Edge Winery again and will probably make Ocelot a regular hangout for us.

Nancy’s 5th Anniversary of her 29th Birthday

It’s not often that Nancy’s birthday falls on a Friday and the following Monday is MLK day meaning a long weekend to celebrate Nancy’s birthday.  I had been trying for weeks to get Nancy to commit to something for her birthday but she really didn’t want to.  She would have been content to sit at home but Pat was able to wrangle her into going out to celebrate with the family.

We started the night off in Round Hill, about 45 minutes the way our drunk crow flew.  We  started at a winery and slowly work our way back home traveling down route 7.  We took the country roads to Bogati Bodega & Vineyard for a couple bottles of wine.  We settle on Fat Ass which was pretty good.  While not to far for us, everyone was able to make it in a reasonable amount of time.  I believe Pat mentioned she left at 10:30am to make it on time.

After that we headed to Leesburg for a very nice dinner at Tuscarora Mills.  Nancy had been here once before for a baby shower and raved about the food.  Everyone was excited about this place and I must say it didn’t disappoint.  Greg meet an old co-worker who bought two bottle of wine for the table.  Besides the table being to small for 6 people, the food was excellent.  We got the full spread with apps, main course, desserts and coffee.  All of which were very good and while a little expensive, was worth the price.

After a nice dinner we headed across the street to MacDowell Brew Kitchen for a night cap.  The place was a little busy so we headed up stairs and found there was  free comedy show going on.  We got a round and enjoyed the show.  I don’t remember the name of the guy, he was ok.  He had his moments but it was certainly worth the price of admission.

By the end of the show everyone bailed.  It was pretty late and everyone else had a long drive ahead of them.  Nancy and I decided to head to Clyde’s Willow Creek for one last set of drinks since it didn’t close till 2am.  Nancy has tried to get me out there to see her happy hour crew and I was happy to oblige.  I don’t know if we meet any of the regulars but I did meet one of the happy hour bartenders, Jeff.  Definitely not my scene but the people watching was pretty good.

Eventually we made it home after a long night out, close to 2:00 in the morning I believe.  It was an eventful evening with lots of stops.  I wonder what we will do next year, Nancy’s birthday should fall on a Saturday so that is a full day of activities.  We packed four things into eight ours, can’t imagine what we will do with a full 24 hours.

We Got the Band Back Together

vancouver_2014-12
base of Multnomah Falls

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For several months we have been planning a trip to the west coast to see Bobby and Tracy. It was to coincide with Pat and my aunt Rose passing through from their cruise on the west coast. For the first time in several years we were going to have most of the family together in one place.

Not long after announcing that Nancy and I were traveling west, Matt wanted to get our flight info. He booked his own ticket and made it a surprise to everyone with his arrival. We rented a car so we meet Bobby and Tracy at their house. I walked up to Bobby in the garage and told him that we had picked up a stranger, it’s the thing to do in this area. The look on Bobby’s face was priceless when he realized it was Matt. Soon after Tracy walked out of the house to greet us and Nancy mentioned the stranger as well. She was shocked and couldn’t believe it.

at the top of Multnomah Falls
at the top of Multnomah Falls

That night we sat around the camp fire and it was awesome. We feel right back into place, it was as if they never left for Vancouver. Matt mentioned it as well. Bobby’s reply was this is how it should be, we are family and he was so right. The real surprise came on Saturday when Pat and Rose arrived. We took a bet on how many people would cry once Matt made his appearance. Instead of tears it was laughter. Pat was beside herself and it was like being home again.

Friday was a day just about the kids. Pat and Rose hadn’t arrived yet and Ellie and Tyson had school. We did a few of the local tourist things with the time we had. We hiked up Multnomah Falls which was impressive. There is a bridge at the base of the falls and standing there looking at the bowl was amazing. I have seen pictures of this spot before but it doesn’t do it justice. We then hiked the short 1.5 miles to the top of the falls and got the perspective looking down at the river, very beautiful.

Walking Man Brewery
Walking Man Brewery

From here we continued on the Historic Columbia River Highway to Stevenson, WA. Here we stopped at Walking Man Brewery for lunch and a sample of their micro brews. The food was spectacular for this little hole in the wall. The beer was also very good. We could see into their brewery which was quite small.  They brew just 1500 barrels a year with most of it consumed at the brewery. Their Barefoot Brown was ok but I really liked the IPA. It had a good hop bitterness yet smooth finish. We even got a couple growlers to go and to add to my collection.

Being in hippie central, we headed to the farmers market and Saturday market to experience a little of the local flair on Saturday. The farmers market was very impressive, never have I seen one so large. If you could find it in a grocery store you could find it here.

the awesome farmers market in Portland
the awesome farmers market in Portland

Of course they had vegetables and fruits but also cheese, meets, canned good, bread. An amazing variety of things to be bought. Everything was local, some hyper local, and most of it organic. Everyone in Portland is obsessed with organic and sustainable food. The Saturday market is a local craft fair kinda thing and I must say it was uninteresting. If you like crafts this is a great thing, but for me it didn’t do anything for me.

Sunday we gathered the entire family and headed towards Mt. Hood. We stop first at Rasmussen Farms for the pumpkin patch and assorted activities.  Next stop was a winery for the lady’s, Wy’East Vineyards just down the road.  The ladies did a wine tasting and got a bottle.  The men and kids went and played bocce ball on their regulation court. The master champion has yet to be determined but it was fun.  Last fun filled adventure was to Kiyokawa Orchards for apples.  While we didn’t pick any apples we did take the hay ride around the farm.

a little pumpkin bowling at Rasmussen Farms
a little pumpkin bowling at Rasmussen Farms

After a long day of travels we headed to Hood River for food.  Thankfully this is the home base of a couple brew pubs, Double Mountain and Full Sail.  We have Full Sail here on the east coast so we tried Double Mountain first but they had a 60 minute wait for a table, off to Full Sail.  The food was great and we got their pub exclusives so I got to sample some different beer.  We did stop at Double Mountain on the way out of town to fill our two growlers with Hop Lava and Kolsch.

Our final day and it was all about the wine.  Oregon is known for their pinot noir from the Willamette Valley so we headed to the valley to hit some wineries.  First up was Plum Hill Vineyards.  The views were ok, the guy was supper nice and as for the wines I don’t know because I didn’t sample here.  Just down the road was Elk Cove Vineyards.  This place is the complete opposite of Plum Hill.  It is very large and their wines are widely available across the country.  The tasting was good and offered a few wines exclusive to the vineyard.  The last place was Kramer Vineyards and here we spent the majority of our time.  Our server had a great personality and you could tell she loved what she does.  Everyone but Bobby did a flight and we got a bottle and some snacks as well.  At the end we even got a tour of the facilities which was really cool, I have never been on a winery tour before.

Mt. Hood is in the background
Mt. Hood is in the background

Almost as soon as it started we had to start heading back home to meet the kids.  They where in school all day but their baby sitter was only available till 5:00pm.  We did have just enough time to stop in downtown Portland and hit Tanner Goods.  I have been eying a duffel bag from them for I don’t know how long.  It was great to stop by their flagship store and get my bag, tax and shipping all free which was nice.

This was our last night here and we good a giant family meal.  We had steak and all homemade sides.  It was great just hanging out with everyone at the house instead of going out to dinner as was the original plan.  As we started driving back to the house we all agreed that family time cooking and sitting around the table was a better use of our time then going out.  We ended the night around the fire pit cooking hotdogs.

One of the signs showing the way to Full Sail
One of the signs showing the way to Full Sail

Getting up early the next morning was rough but we did it.  We said goodbye to everyone and started the five hour flight back to the east coast.  Thankfully Bobby, Tracy and the kids are coming back to Virginia in late December for several weeks over Christmas.  It will be great to see them during that time but I fear it will not be long enough.  They already have a packed trip back so I don’t think we will get to hangout as the entire family much while they are here.  It will still be great to see them.

I can’t wait to get back out there and see them again.  It is just so much fun hanging with them and the area they live in beautiful with lots of things to do.  There is good wine, good shopping, excellent beer and if more outdoor activities then you can shack a stick at.  Three cheers for family, we got the band back together!