It was the best of vacations, it was the longest of vacations…
It was the age of wine-tasting, it was the age of not knowing what the heck you were tasting…
I always wanted to visit Napa Valley, but when you’re the only wine drinker in the house, it can be a hard sell. The kids were always too young, and Husband’s drink of choice is Coke.
(Although if he feels he’s had too much, he might have a beer instead.)
I needed the perfect moment to suggest a trip to Napa. A time when everything came together – when there was something of interest for everyone – a masterful stroke when no opposition was possible.
Then it happened:
♦ Daughter turned 21 and showed interest in finding a wine she liked… Check!
♦ We were driving to Oregon – Napa is (sorta) on the way home… Check!
♦ I found out there’s a winery with my maiden name, in a town near Napa… Check!
♦ And what’s this? A Hartwell winery IN Napa? Husband’s name!… Check and Mate!
Have you ever been to Napa Valley? It truly is a beautiful area.
Expensive as hell, but beautiful.
We drove by acres and acres of vineyards, very picturesque. Lots of cars too. And buses. And everyone knew exactly where they were going.
I didn’t really plan our trip, you know? I figured we’d wing it.
After driving past, like, the gazillioneth vineyard, across many a hilly road, Husband turns to me. “We should probably stop somewhere,” he says.
“Where to?” he asks.
Daughter says she feels sick.
Husband performs magic with his GPS (how he does this, I can’t say) and announces we’re going to the Hartwell winery.
After a dose of Dramamine and a few more hilly roads, we are there:
The sign by the big iron gate is blurry, so let me read it to you. It says:
Hartwell Estate Vineyards – By Appointment Only
By appointment only?!
I turn to Husband. “That’s just so like your family.”
As we sit in the car, gazing at the huge estate, the big iron gate opens and a Lexus pulls out. Husband slaps my arm excitedly. “Look! Look at the license plate! Look what it says!”
I didn’t get a picture of it, but this was their vanity plate: ❤ WELL
“I didn’t know they allowed symbols on license plates!” By the look in Husband’s eyes, I’d say new plates are in our future.
Eventually we wind up in the Napa Valley Visitor’s Center, where Husband talks to one of the attendants.
Meanwhile, I peruse $12 jars of jam. Yeah. Jam. I mean, they have Merlot in them, so there’s that.
Daughter walks up behind me. “What’s a mortar and pestle for?” she asks.
“You use it to grind herbs.”
“How come we don’t have one?”
“I use the back of a spoon. Why?”
“You can buy one here for $50,” she says.
“Put it back.”
Husband returns. The attendant told him there are two reasons a winery would be ‘by appointment only.’ Either the place is small and they don’t have room for many visitors, or… the wine is very expensive and they want to cut down foot traffic.
“I think we can guess which one is true for the Hartwell winery,” Husband says.
“That’s just so like your family,” I say.
But enough about Napa.
Drive an hour and a half east and you’re in Murphys, California. It’s sort of a mini-Napa. About 2,000 people live in the town, and there are 31 wineries surrounding it.
I fell in love with Murphys almost the second we entered it. As posh as Napa was, that’s how homey and welcoming Murphys was.
Lots of pretty little shops (I bought jam for $5 in one), lots of big green trees, a lovely park with a pond, and many, many tasting rooms.
One of them is for the Hovey winery.
My maiden name!
As it turns out, the winery folk and I are not related. Also, they pronounce their name differently. My family says it with a long ‘o’ sound, they used a short ‘o’ sound.
But here’s the thing: they told me while I was there, they’d pronounce it my way. And they did! Very accommodating of them, wouldn’t you say?
You know what else?
They gave me 10% discount on my purchase, just because of my name. I told them there was no way I could prove it was my name. I might be lying.
They said they trusted me.
That’s just so like my family. ❤
Now we’re home again and the memories of a lovely vacation and good people stay with us.
Since our theme today is wine, I’m giving you a recipe that includes it. Nothing fancy, because I’m not from fancy folk. Also, it’s nothing difficult, because it’s summertime and who wants difficult? This is as easy as easy can get.
In fact, it’s a real cheat. 😉
Cheater's Beef Burgundy
- 2 strips bacon, cut into small pieces (this is easier if you stick them in a freezer for about 10 minutes)
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- About 2 cups leftover gravy or your favorite prepared gravy
- 1/2 cup red wine (or broth, if you’d rather not cook with alcohol)
- 1 tomato, cut in small pieces, or 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 small can sliced mushrooms, or 1 cup sliced fresh, if you’d rather
- About 3 or 4 cups cooked beef, cut into cubes (I used leftover roast beef, but you can use any tender cut, even deli meat. I won’t tell. Meatballs would make an interesting variation.)
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat; add bacon and onion and saute until both are cooked. Add gravy and wine, reduce heat to medium and stir with a fork until fully incorporated. Add tomato, mushroom and cooked meat; cook, stirring, until heated through.
Serve over cooked egg noodles or mashed potatoes.