Jazucci Wine

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Drink what you like.

I’ve said it so many times in my wine career, I’ve lost count.  Well into the millions, if not billions.  I’m not going to lie and say that I didn’t inwardly cringe a bit whenever a customer just loooooooved their $5 bottle of cloyingly sweet because 500lbs of sugar were dumped into the barrel red wine.  Do you have something else?  Just like it, but in white or blush?  A nice crisp sparkling muscato hinting of peaches and apples?  A beautiful rosato bursting with so much fruitiness that you don’t realize no sugar has been added?  Nope.  They were all about the $5 bottle of sweet red.   They liked the taste and they loved the price point.

And red wine is good for my heart, right?  Well, maybe not that red.  It has too much added sugar.  Let me introduce you to something my cousin likes to call jacuzzi wine.

Jacuzzi wine? They were hooked simply on the moniker.  Something fun.  Absolutely no trace of snobbery that the wine world has projected as it’s façade for decades.  Plus it wasn’t White Zin.  They didn’t know a lot, but they knew to stay away from white zinfandel–at least in a fancy wine shop.  White zinfandel was for purchasing at the grocery store where you could hide it in the bottom of your cart and drink it at home without judgmental eyes watching.  No this was a much more sophisticated choice in wine: it was a Cabernet Blanc. Granted, it too was sweet, but not quite so cloying.  However, it had something that the sweet red didn’t: it was light and delicate and offered flavors other than “sweet”–like peaches.  It was light and fun and peachy and wha–$16 a bottle?

Silence.  Of course, you can always buy a glass of it for $5–walk down the street, do some shopping.  Think about it for awhile.  Buy a glass and then buy a bottle of sweet red to take back to your hotel.

You see, what I learned very early in my wine career is that wine can be scary and it can quickly get expensive–and thus those in the wine world quickly learn what their wine values are.  Are they a $300 bottle of Dom?  Or a bottle of 2 Buck Chuck?  The truth is, they’re both.  To my palette, it’s definitely a bottle of good quality French champagne, but I don’t need Dom Perignon–Bollinger or Krug will do nicely thankyouverymuch!  Or a bottle of Artemis.  Or an elusive cabernet franc or petite verdot.  But to those just starting out, $5 bottle of sweet red is everything to them.  I know.  I’ve seen their faces alight with glee as they walked out of the wine shop.  They want so badly to like wine but big-buttery California chardonnays and spicy-in-your-face Australian shirazes and dry-despite-saying-semi-dry French champagnes don’t taste good.  And they’re expensive and why throw $20, $50, $100+ down the drain when it tastes disgusting?

They want to like wine…and they don’t want to spend $100 a bottle.

A fair assessment. I love wine and I don’t want to spend $100 on a bottle. I mean, I will splurge from time to time, but not often–not when you can spend much less and still get a great bottle. So to me, values in the great big world of wine come down to two things: do you like it and can you afford to drink it whenever you like?

Everyone is entitled to their own wrong opinion and that is blatantly obvious when dealing with wine. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be so many varietals or styles of wine available. But the one consistent is that we are all seeking that holy grail of wine that is the perfect combination of delicious and affordable. So you when you find yourself introducing people to wine, you suggest Muscato and Riesling and Gewürztraminer and then fall back to Jacuzzi wine and sweet red.  And when you set aside your values and focus on their values, they leave happy.  Sometimes it was with a case of Jacuzzi wine; other times with a glass of reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. But they were happy. They fell in love. They found their wine values and victory was oh-so-sweet…or spicy…or buttery…but always delicious.

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A Winey Day!

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I’m not sure about you, but my picture taking tendencies definitely ebb and flow.  There are some trips where I have hundreds and hundreds of pictures and others where nary a roll of film was used (and yes, I realized I just aged myself!).  Unfortunately, this trip to California was during a lull in photo taking–and with the exception of the Golden Gate Bridge, I really didn’t get many pictures of anything else.  I’d like to think I was trying to be more discerning with my photography or perhaps enjoying myself way too much to even think about stopping to take a picture, but probably the most accurate reason is that I couldn’t be bothered taking out my camera and taking the shot.

While the pictures aren’t so reflective, Napa Valley was amazing.  I will grant you that it’s a bit different than I imagined, in that I imagined rolling hills covered in rows of grape vines with tasting rooms tucked away, like little hidden treasures waiting to be found.  You know, something like this:

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But that was not Napa–that was Sonoma.  Napa was a lot more….in your face.  Go here! Try this! No this! Buy that!  Not that I minded, it was wonderful rambling from winery to winery without much trouble or effort.

At the time, I ran a wine bar which focused on Texas wines but offered a few California selections, so I wanted to be sure to hit some of those wineries.  Our first stop was St. Supery Vineyards & Winery, followed by the Francis Ford Coppola Winery, followed by Cakebread Cellars, followed by Silver Oak Winery.  There may have been a few more thrown in, but those stand out the most because:

  • St. Supery was one of the wines we carried at the wine shop.  Even more impressive is that they had heard of our wine shop located smack dab in the middle of Texas. ImageImage
  • Coppola was stunning.  Absolutely stunning.  It was so picturesque and looked like you stepped into some gorgeous movie set version of Tuscany.  Plus they had memorabilia from all of Coppola’s movies upstairs from the tasting room.ImageImage
  • Cakebread was another wine we sold at the wine shop.  And we got a special tour, complete with a barrel tasting.  Even Matthew was impressed…and slightly annoyed that he was the designated driver and could only take small sips–I graciously and selflessly finished all his wine for him!  No pics because…well…we were barrel tasting!!
  • Silver Oak.  Sigh.  I just adore Silver Oak wines.  Alas, because Cakebread took up most of the afternoon, we got to Silver Oak about 10 minutes AFTER the tasting room closed.  I may have had a slight meltdown in the parking lot.  But I’m sure I was just hungry.  I did manage to get a picture of their iconic white tower.  And honestly, we had such a great time at Cakebread that I couldn’t be toooooo upset.  Just know that Silver Oak will be my first stop on my next visit!Image

Our day in Napa went by way too quickly!  If you want to visit (and you should!), I would plan out your day a little more–at the very least know tasting room times of your favorite wineries because they can vary greatly and you definitely don’t want to miss out and cause a scene in a parking lot!

Go to Napa (or Sonoma).  Drink wine.  Eat amazing food.  And send me a postcard!! 🙂

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Napa Valley, Circa 2004

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It’s hard to believe that it’s been 10 years since my trip to Napa Valley, CA!

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like a scene from a movie–out front of the Francis Ford Coppola Winery

It definitely serves as a reminder that I need to go back and soon!

Golden Gate Bridge

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Hungover.

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Well, Turkey and Greece are, for all intents and purposes of that specific trip, done.  Of course, I could continue to write ad nauseum about the trip, but I need to move on because I have other great things to share and well, I need to leave some hope that I will return to both places someday.

To me, it is always bittersweet writing about a particular place that you’ve only visited once.  When you write about someplace that you live or have lived or visit frequently, there is always a sense of nostalgia for what is familiar and what is comfortable.  And when you write about someplace you haven’t been, it is with a sense of excitement and enthusiasm.  But these in-between places that you just pass through are–for me–the most difficult to write about because once your story is told, it’s done.  It gets put into a box and you may revisit your pictures or your stories about it, but the likelihood you’ll actually return to that place is fleeting.  Or, even worse, that you’ll go back to visit and it won’t be as magical.

As such, wrapping up a big trip (like Turkey & Greece) leaves me feeling a bit lost–a bit hungover, if you will.  Drunk off reminiscing about 3 amazing weeks in such an astonishingly beautiful place and how could I ever find beauty elsewhere in the world?!?!?  Which of course, is ridiculous because beauty is everywhere and sounding like an angsty-emo teen is not going to win friends or influence people…

With some inspiration from Uncle Spike’s Adventures, who has been posting pics of Hawaii in the 80s, I started perusing through some of my older pictures that I have on my computer and came across a few of my first vacation to California to visit my friend Matt.  Since it’s been 10 years, I think it’s definitely time to share!

As I wasn’t there for very long, we hung around in Matt’s ‘hood: the Palo Alto/San Jose area.  If you’re unfamiliar with California geography, it is about an hour-ish drive south of San Francisco.  We did get one day to drive north, but Matt made me pick between Napa Valley and San Francisco–as if that was a choice (no offense, San Fran!).  Of course, since San Francisco is in between Palo Alto and Napa Valley, I still got to see some of the sites 🙂

And with that, off to Cali we go!

dipping my feet in the ocean in Santa Cruz

dipping my feet in the Pacific in Santa Cruz

ooops...didn't see that wave coming!

ooops…didn’t think the wave would be that high!!

Matt on the boardwalk while we were walking around waiting for my shorts to dry!

Matt on the boardwalk while we were walking around waiting for my shorts to dry!

 

The Palace of Sultans

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Built between 1460-1478 for Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror, Topkapı Palace is definitely one of the crown jewels of Istanbul’s glory.  The sprawling grounds have amazing views of the city, but with every amenity available inside, there would have been no reason to leave the grounds! Sultan Mehmed spared no expense in building his dream home–complete with a church, a library, audience chamber, and a harem.  Of course wanting to contribute the grandeur, subsequent Sultans since Mehmed have built, rebuilt, and added to the palace grounds and structures.  The result is varying architecture throughout the palace grounds. Again, there wasn’t enough time to see everything, which meant picking and choosing.  The only thing I’m sad we didn’t get to see was the Sultan Robe collection.  There simply wasn’t enough time, as the line for that exhibit was approaching 2 hours, and so we decided to use that time strolling the grounds and visiting all the other exhibits.

The Imperial Gate and main entrance to the palace

The Imperial Gate and main entrance to the palace through the outermost wall

The Gate of Salutation that separates the First and Second Courtyards.

The Gate of Salutation along the inner wall and entrance into the Second Courtyard

looking across the courtyard at the Hall of Justice

looking across the courtyard at the Hall of Justice

Imperial Divan

Imperial Divan

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the detail of the ceiling of the Imperial Divan

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tile detail along the walls and ceiling

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The Gold Window behind which the Sultan would sit when he wanted to hear the affairs of state, but not be seen

all the doors along the Imperial Divan were decorated...

all the doors along the Imperial Divan were decorated…

...and the windows too!

…and the windows too!

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Kubbealtı, where the Imperial court was held

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The Gate of Felicity and entrance into the third courtyard, which were the private areas of the palace and entry through the gate was only with approval by the Sultan himself.

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the doorway of The Gate of Felicity

outside of The Audience Chamber

outside of The Audience Chamber

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main entrance to the Audience Chamber, where the Sultan received visitors

detailing of the tile of the entrance to Audience Chamber

detailing of the tile of the entrance to Audience Chamber

a look down at the cafe on the palace grounds--with stunning views of the Bosphorus

a look down at the cafe on the palace grounds–with stunning views of the Bosphorus

The Conquerer's Pavilion, which housed the Imperial Treasury

The Conquerer’s Pavilion, which housed the Imperial Treasury

of course, I loved the decorative sidewalks!

of course, I loved the Pavilion’s decorative sidewalks!

one of the water fountains around the palace grounds

one of the water fountains around the palace grounds

wash basin in front of the Enderûn Library, aka Library of Ahmed III

wash basin in front of the Enderûn Library, aka Library of Ahmed III

inside the reading room of the Enderûn Library

inside the reading room of the Enderûn Library

nothing like a selfie while in a palace!

nothing like a selfie while in a palace!

potted plants and flowers lined the sidewalks...

potted plants and flowers lined the sidewalks…

the huge tree lined sidewalks

…along with huge trees

walking back to the Salutation Gate

walking back to the Salutation Gate

I know I could have stayed there for hours exploring, as there were a lot of areas of the palace grounds that we didn’t get to visit.  Unfortunately and all too soon it was time to go–after all, we had much more to see!

the view from across the Bosphorus

the view from across the Bosphorus–pic courtesy of Istanbul Top 10 (click pic to go to their website!)

Walkabout in Istanbul

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We did a lot of walking around (and there were like 30 in our group, so I’m sure we were quite the spectacle!), but it meant for a lot of great shots of the city.  I could babble on and on about all the things we saw, but really the best part about it was just taking in the sites of this amazingly beautiful city.  And since a picture is worth a thousand words, I’ll let them do the talking!  Enjoy 🙂

colorful houses

colorful houses

A view from an overpass

a view from an overpass

down the streets we go!

down the streets we go!

the obelisk at the Hippodome

The Obelisk of Thutmose III, originally erected at the Temple of Karnak in Luxor around 1490BC–Theodonsis The Great had it brought over to Istanbul in 390AD.

base of The Th Obelisk

the base of The Obelisk

The German Fountain, commemorating the visit of Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1898

The German Fountain, commemorating the visit of Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1898

In the Hippodrome--although there wasn't a chariot or horse to be seen!

in the Hippodrome–although there wasn’t a chariot or horse to be seen!

what's a trip to Istanbul without a magic carpet speech?

what’s a trip to Istanbul without a magic carpet speech?

one of my favorites, however, I wasn't interested in schlepping a big ol' rug around for 17 days!

one of my favorites, however, I wasn’t interested in schlepping a big ol’ rug around for 17 days!

One of the 3,100-ish mosques in Istanbul

one of the 3,100-ish mosques in Istanbul

A street sign on the way to the palace

a street sign on the way to the palace

An information booth

an information booth

Tulips...

tulips…

...tulips everywhere!

…tulips everywhere!

Amazingly Bazaar

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Well, it certainly would not be a trip to Istanbul if you didn’t go to the bazaars!  Yes, there are numerous bazaars in Instanbul.  Bazaar literally means market and there are many to be found.  We went to the two most famous: Kapalı Çarşı and Mısır Çarşısı.

The Kapalı Çarşı, or Grand Bazaar, was just that: GRAND.  It was an enormous web of stalls, selling everything from handmade objects to jewelry to tshirts.  If you didn’t find something, you definitely weren’t looking hard enough!  My only complaint about the Grand Bazaar is that we weren’t given any time to look around.  I know we were on a tight schedule, but it should have allowed for us to get lost in the throngs on stalls. Then again, perhaps if we had–we might still be in there looking!

Grand Bazaar entrance...well, one of many!

Grand Bazaar entrance…well, one of many!

color everywhere!

everything everywhere!

rows and rows and rows of stalls

rows and rows and rows of stalls

exiting the Grand Bazaar, heading to the Egyptian Bazaar...

exiting the Grand Bazaar, heading to the Egyptian Bazaar…

...and of course, more stalls along the way!

…and of course, more stalls along the way!

so many pretty--and breakable--things!

so many pretty–and breakable–things!

The Mısır Çarşısı, or Egyptian Spice Market, was tiny in comparison.  However, there seemed to be miles and miles of spices of every variety–if you can name it, you could find it.  But the best place?  The best place was right by the north eastern entrance: a little old man selling the best Turkish Delight I have ever eaten.  It was everything you wanted–soft, chewy, slightly aromatic, and with a hint of flavoring that you could tell was real–not artificial.  Our wonderful keeper of the Turkish Delight let us sample the flavors–knowing full well that we would happily purchase whatever we tasted. April and I definitely disagreed on the best flavor, but that’s okay because everyone is entitled to their own wrong opinion.  Unless your opinion is that rose Turkish Delight from the Mısır Çarşısı is the best, then you would be right! 🙂

Our only shot of the Egyptian Bazaar...we were way too distracted by the spices and Turkish Delight!

Our only shot of the Egyptian Bazaar…we were way too distracted by the spices and Turkish Delight!

and what's a trip to a market without a flag seller?

outside of the Egyptian Bazaar–what’s a trip to a market without a flag seller?

After we finished at the bazaars, April and I were given a few hours of free time while others in our group went on a cruise on the Bosphorus.  We went back to both bazaars for a much closer look.  As time grew near for us to meet our group, we walked along the Bosphorus and enjoyed people watching.

Galata bridge: connecting two continents

Galata bridge: connecting two continents

at the time we surmised this said no swimming or jumping, but according to Google Translate: "It is forbidden to keep fish in this area"

at the time we surmised this said no swimming or jumping, but according to Google Translate: “It is forbidden to keep fish in this area”

even if the sign was about jumping or swimming, we wouldn't have wanted to with all the jellies in the water!

even if the sign was about jumping or swimming, we wouldn’t have wanted to with all the jellies in the water!

the lower level of the bridge was filled with restaurants

walking along the lower level of the bridge

and there were plenty of food carts

there were plenty of food carts

and this...boat/restaurant

and this…boat/restaurant

It was rather bizarre to sit on the shores of the river and look out onto…Europe.  Even today, it still seems strange that not only a country, but a city can sit on two continents. But perhaps that is part of the charm that is Istanbul.

a look at Europe from Asia

a look at Europe from Asia

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque

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Also known as the Blue Mosque, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque was built from 1609-1616.  While seven years may seem like a long time, when you arrive and realize how enormous and intricate it is, you’ll be impressed that it only took seven years!  In fact, it makes the neighboring Hagia Sophia look tiny in comparison.

It was quite humbling being in such a beautiful and awe-inspiring place.  The pictures below, however, do not do it justice.  That certainly is not a dig at April or my photography skills.  They cannot convey the craftsmanship poured into each of the 20,000+ tiles that cover the interior from floor to ceiling or the time spent creating over 200 stained glass windows. But even more simply than that, they cannot convey the serenity one feels while being in such a majestic place.

The impressive front shot

the impressive front shot

one of six minarets (first one mosque in Turkey to have that many! There is actually only one more in Turkey that has 6.)

one of six minarets.  it is the first mosque (of only two) in Turkey to have that many!

Walking through the outer wall and into the courtyard

walking through the outer wall and into the courtyard

another minaret

another minaret

ceiling decorations of the courtyard walkway

ceiling decorations of the courtyard walkway

Taking off our shoes.  There was also a basin, should anyone want to cleanse themselves (usually arms, feet, and head) before entering for worship.

the entryway where we were asked to remove our shoes. there was also a basin, should anyone want to cleanse themselves (usually arms, feet, and head) before entering for worship.

The doorway where we entered

the doorway where we entered

The main dome ceiling--all tiles in the Blue Mosque were hand painted!

the main dome ceiling

all women had to keep their heads covered

keeping our heads covered

even the pillars were tiled

even the pillars were tiled

A close-up of some of the stained glass windows

a close-up of some of the stained glass windows

The Women's area of worship.

the Women’s area of worship.

the intricately designed tiles were floor to ceiling

the intricately designed tiles…

a close-up of the tile work

…and a closer look at the detailed work

The main floor has a huge space for worship surrounded by walkways to the other parts of the mosque.

the main floor has a huge space for worship surrounded by walkways to the other parts of the mosque.

After we were finished–and because it was right there–we went to have a look at the famous Hagia Sophia.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have time for a tour, but the gardens were quite spectacular!

The gardens between The Hagia Sophia and The Blue Mosque

The gardens between The Hagia Sophia and The Blue Mosque

The fountains in the garden.

The fountains in the garden.

well-sculpted mushroom trees

well-sculpted mushroom trees

A side shot of the Hagia Sophia

A side shot of the Hagia Sophia

The Hagia Sophia

The Hagia Sophia

Istanbul, Part 1 of 78.

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Just kidding! I mean, I could easily do it AND provide you with at least 3 pictures per day…but I shall refrain, simply because well, there is a great big world out there to explore!

Our first day in Istanbul was all ours. So once we got to the hotel and unpacked our things, we grabbed our cameras and went exploring! While we tried to blend in as much as possible, we obviously didn’t do a very good job because random people would stop and ask us where we were from. And before we could even answer, they would start guessing–as if they had a bet with the coffee shop guy next door. English? Nope. Australian? Nope. German? Are we wearing socks with our sandals? I mean, nope. South African? Nope. New Zealand? Nope. Canada! Closer, but no. Finally, they would throw their hands in the air, which would give us the opportunity to respond with [at the same time] The United States and Texas [because yes, I’m that kind of Texan!]. We usually got puzzled looks, followed with a “we usually don’t get Americans visiting here.”  Ah, well…we’re excited to be here and they sure as heck don’t know what they’re missing!

As we started wandering, we realized our hotel was literally right around the corner from Taksim Square.  Oh sure the taxi driver pointed it out as we drove through it, but we didn’t realize just how close until we were walking!

A view from the hotel

A view from the hotel

as we wandered down the street from our hotel, we realized we were right next to Taksim Square

walking up to Taksim Square

down the street from our hotel

looking out from Taksim Square

Taksim Square

The Republic Monument Taksim Square

Taksim Square: the tulips were in bloom and they were gorgeous (hint: expect to see many more pics of tulips!)

Taksim Square: the tulips were in bloom and they were gorgeous (hint: expect to see many more pics of tulips!)

A busy thoroughfare where we just got lost in a sea of people

After Taksim Square we weren’t sure which way to go, so we decided to follow the sea of people down this busy thoroughfare.

We had no clue what was behind these gates, but--if the gates were any indication--something impressive!

We had no clue what was behind these gates, but–if the gates were any indication–something impressive!

Afterwards, we had dinner at a restaurant near our hotel.  While there was a lot of pointing involved–the food was delicious and of course, it wouldn’t be complete (for me, anyway) without a Turkish coffee.  I know, I know I’ve already shared this picture with ya’ll before, but it was a monumental occasion!

My very first Turkish-in-Turkey coffee!!

My very first Turkish-in-Turkey coffee!!

It was a great day–although April will be the first to tell you that I was a party pooper and went to bed waaaaay too early!  c’est la vie! 🙂