Fish Out of Water

Musings and observations about life from an East Coast native now living on the Left Coast in the California State Capitol since 2004. This fish has made her home in Madison, WI (7 years); Portland, OR (2 years); Las Vegas, NV (7 months); Middlebury, VT (3 summers); Marne-la-Vallee, a small town east of Paris, France (6 months); Middletown, CT (3 years); and Marshfield, MA, the fish's coastal hometown 40 miles south of Boston (17 years).

Location: Sacramento, California, United States


Wine Country "Weekend"

I was in Santa Rosa for work most of last week, and Mr. E came up to meet me on Friday afternoon so that we could do a Bubble Room visit and overnight in Windsor as a very brief wine country "weekend" trip. My Mom and J&B had given us gift cards to J Vineyards for some recent special occasions, so most of the trip was subsidized thanks to these family gifts (merci beaucoup!!!).

As usual, we had made an appointment for the 2pm Bubble Room food and wine tasting. We haven't been to the winery on a Friday for quite some time, so we were surprised at how quiet everything was, compared to our typical Saturday afternoon visits!

Below is a photo of the Bubble Room menu that we enjoyed, along with images of each course. The chef and kitchen staff made wonderful accommodations for my dietary restrictions, so none of my food included dairy, cow, pig, garlic, or onion. The third image below shows one difference in what Mr. E and I received, for example, as the third course included crispy pork cheek for him but a lovely poached egg for me. Yum!

We decided not to do any more wine-tasting on Saturday, given the amount of wine that is poured during a Bubble Room experience, and instead we focused on some other local attractions, including a visit to the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa. The volunteer docents were very friendly and informative, and there was a special display of the Stanley Cup at the Museum yesterday in conjunction with the NHL playoffs and the current exhibition of "Peanuts in the Penalty Box." Mr. E was far more impressed by the trophy than I was, but lots of other visitors had clearly made a special trip to see the Cup, as we saw many other guests wearing hockey shirts as they toured the Museum!

One of the most striking installations in the Museum is a floor-to-ceiling mosaic mural made of 3,500+ tiles of "Peanuts" comic strips, which greets visitors as they first enter the gallery:

The Stanley Cup was set up on a table in front of the mural so that visitors had a great photo opportunity with both the trophy and an iconic part of the Museum. Mr. E and I also enjoyed seeing the range of comics from the 1950s through the 2000s, as they showed how the drawing style had evolved over the years. Here's an example from the earlier time period:

Another exhibition focused on the animated "Peanuts" features, such as "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" or "A Charlie Brown Christmas." The latter display included the inspiration for the sad little tree in the film:

After our visit to the Museum, we decided to take Highway 12 all the way to historic downtown Sonoma, which was our lunch destination. We couldn't quite go through downtown Santa Rosa on our original route, however, as several of the streets were blocked off for what we discovered later to be the Luther Burbank Rose Parade & Festival. Too bad we didn't know about that in advance, or we could have planned to watch it as part of our local itinerary for the day!

We managed to wind our way around the detour signs to Highway 12 and were lucky enough to find a parking spot almost immediately along the perimeter of the central square once we reached Sonoma. Although we'd driven through here on a previous wine-tasting trip, we had never stopped to explore the shops and restaurants and historic buildings in the area, so we strolled around for a bit and enjoyed lunch (and some bread to take home) at Basque Boulangerie Cafe. We continued on the scenic route of Highway 12 through Napa and were pleased to see that the road widening construction along the latter part of the connector, near the intersection with I-80, has finally been completed, so the journey was much smoother and faster than in the past.

Oh - we also noticed a new destination, Hamel Family Wines, along Highway 12, which stood out thanks to the badger statue outside the entrance. When we got home, I looked up the winery to confirm that the animal was, indeed, a badger and to better understand the significance. Sure enough, the family behind the winery includes several generations of University of Wisconsin alums, which definitely was part of the influence for the totem animal both at the tasting room and on the wine labels. So our next return visit to Wine Country will definitely include an appointment to check out this badger-friendly locale!


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