----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ The Fabulous Adventures of Astera: Writer/Actress for Hire: April in Carneros

The Fabulous Adventures of Astera: Writer/Actress for Hire

Meet Astera (aka: me), a star in her own mind. Our plucky little heroine has embarked on not one but two difficult, low-paying career paths: writing and acting. Witness the menial jobs! The unreasonable demands! The quirky friends and family! And the glimmer of success just ahead! Through it all, Astera maintains her core beliefs: 1) She is destined to be fabulous 2) Everything is more fun with a cocktail.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

April in Carneros

The problem with going wine tasting is that there are no free tastes anymore. It seems that every winery charges at least $5, or even $10 for a "reserve tasting." And I heard that Rutherford Hill was charging $20 for just one taste of its new ultra-premim red blend. That's why April in Carneros is such a fabulous event. Here's how it works: For $25, you buy a glass at any participating winery. Then, you use that glass as your ticket for tastings and other goodies at any of the 18 wineries that took part in the festivities this year.

The catch? It's good for one weekend only. So, participants must scurry from winery to winery, imbibing all the wine they can between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. It makes the roads a bit treacherous...we saw one really bad accident, and one really big jackass. The accident required paramedics. The jackass was just a jackass. He came whipping around us into a lane of oncoming on a narrow, curvy road, only to slam on his brakes because we had a car in front of us! He then turned in at the same winery we were to visit, and when one my companions suggested he be careful out there, the buffoon loudly proclaimed that only people who were drinking had to be careful. Everyone else, he said, should drive more than 35. He then proceeded to drink. And later, he got behind the wheel. Apparently, he was magical enough not to be subject to the perils of drunk driving. We, on the other hand, did the prudent thing and hired my 19-year-old brother to chauffer us through the Carneros region.

But enough unpleasantness. Some really good wines can be sampled during April in Carneros. We had a lovely Chenin Blanc at Roche. Cline was an absolute madhouse, probably because in addition to their tasting, they offered free sausage sandwiches, which were very tasty, and a lively outdoor band. We tasted a very good chardonnay there, but their Red Truck table wine was nothing special. Still, it was a beautiful day and they have beautiful grounds.

The Larson Family Winery offered drinkable wines, a llama, a bocci ball court, a play area for children, a friendly dog and plates of barbecued oysters for $5. It was all charming, but I don't like oysters. But there was more free food to be had at Homewood Winery (a variety of salads) and they had a good Mt. Veeder zinfandel, plus a ruby port that could be sampled with slivers of dark chocolate. Nothing compares to the chocolate-covered blueberries at Rutherford Hill, though.

Schug was all right, but they had a much better atmosphere last year, when guests could walk through their caves out onto a back lawn, where the tasting and an art show took place. It was a much more low-key affair this year. We didn't go to Viansa--too touristy. We did venture off the beaten path to Adastra, though. I wanted to go just because I liked the name, which I thought was taken from my favorite Latin motto, Ad astra per aspera, or "to the stars through difficulty." The wine was good enough, but the tasting was somewhat disorganized. It took place in a very funky, falling-down old barn, much like the old bard we have on our property. Ours is full of bats, though. Theirs might be, too, I suppose. Don't bats only come out at night?

We ended our tour at Artesa, which offers delicious wine and clean, modern grounds and artwork that my husband loved. They wer a little bit of killjoys, though. At precisely four o'clock, the bottles came off the tables and there were no more tastes to be had. So, we wended our way out of the Carneros regioun and up the Silverado Trail to Steltzner, where my brother was working. He didn't give us tastes, but he did give us a bottle of Duckhorn, which we are saving for a special occasion. Then he made my dad take us all out to dinner. All in all, a most satisfying day, even if we did only manage to make it to seven wineries.

A side note: Is it odd that I find my parents to be such good company? They really are quite amusing these days. Last weekend, for example, we had a family dinner that turned into a rather raucous affair. At one point, my brother accused my mom of thinking his ex-girlfriend was a whore, and she responded by saying, "Oh, honey, I know they're called 'hos.'" We laughed and laughed. I just hope that they don't become totally batty when they reach old age.


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