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Random Friday

I keep pretending I’m still in Napa, but it isn’t really working.

Here’s a photo of Regusci Winery:

Click on photo to purchase, or to view larger, in 24atHeart gallery.

Isn’t it pretty?

It’s a small farm where they also happen to make (super yummy) wine.

In other news:

•  I’m working on my business taxes.  Working on taxes for Twenty Four At Heart, LLC is something I hate with every ounce of my being.  If you ever want to hear me swear like a sailor, come visit while I’m working on taxes.

•  Once again I’m vowing to keep better/more organized records of my business next year.

•  Baby Face worked me SO hard at the gym this week.  I guess he figured I needed it after my mini-vacation.  My legs are screaming at me.  If you don’t think legs can scream, I dare you to work-out with Baby Face.

•  I also went to the dentist this week.  Does life get much better than the dentist, taxes, and screaming legs?

•  Yes, it does.  I know this because today I’m with Paul Newman.  Paul Newman is one of my favorite people.  (He truly is a huge improvement over the dentist, taxes and screaming legs.)

•  After accidentally washing and/or ruining several FitBit Zips, I’ve decided to try out a Jawbone UP24.  I let you know what I think of it after I’ve worn it for awhile.  I’ve heard good things, but that doesn’t mean I won’t ruin it in the normal course of doing all the things I do.

•  I’m looking forward to the weekend.  Primarily, I’m looking forward to some outdoor time, some exercise, some shooting, and a little more post-Napa, pre-Texas, catch-up time.

•  Happy weekend!

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The Thing I Hate About Vacations …

It’s so great to get away on a vacation.

Even if you don’t get the chance to go too far, for too long.

It’s such a nice mental health break to change up your environment now and then.

San Francisco:  Click on photo to purchase, or to view larger, in 24atHeart gallery.

But …?

I hate coming back.

I mean, I like sleeping in my own bed again and all that sort of stuff.

It just seems to take days to get caught up from being gone.

This time, I’m only home for about a week before I take off for Texas.

I have so much work, so many errands, so many appointments, so much everything crammed into that one week period.

I have a friend who is extremely wealthy.

He’s mind boggling wealthy.

He travels all around the world, frequently, and without hesitation.

Of course, he has “people” who handle everything for him.

When he comes home the house is stocked with groceries, someone cooks for him, and he doesn’t need to worry about laundry.

In fact, there are “people” everywhere he goes who make his life simple.

Wouldn’t that be AMAZING?

We should all be so lucky to have “people” handling the simple mundane details of our lives.

I am my own people.

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Tips For Visiting Napa

I thought I’d share a few tips for visiting Napa today.

I’ve visited Napa Valley several times in my life, at different ages and life stages.

Visiting Napa is different than visiting wineries in other locations.

(Yes, it’s even different than visiting other California wineries … such as those along California’s Central Coast.)

If you have an opportunity to visit Napa, perhaps a few of my tips will help you plan your trip.

•  First of all, if you’re flying, Oakland is the closest large airport.  (I flew into San Francisco, most recently, since I had work there.  I rented a car once I was done and drove to Napa.  I flew out of Oakland on my return flight.)

•  If you’re in college, or want a drink-fest, you will probably gravitate to the wineries with inexpensive “tastings.”  I know when I was in my early 20′s I wasn’t super particular about what wine I was drinking. I was just happy if I could afford wine at all.  Now that I’m old and decrepit, I’ve come to appreciate truly good wines.

•  Napa newbies often feel like they have to go to as many wineries as possible with whatever time they have available.  I suppose that’s fine if you’re in a competition with someone over who saw the most wineries.  Personally, I like *good* wine.  I’m a proponent of visiting quality wineries (and really enjoying the experience) vs. a high quantity of so-so wineries.

•  If you’re on your honeymoon, anniversary, or some other special occasion, splurge on a nice hotel.  There are a lot of really nice places to choose from.  I knew I would barely be in my hotel during my most recent trip.  I did *not* spend money on a nice hotel.  (My hotel was clean.  It had a great shower and a comfortable bed.  That’s all I needed.)  I did spend money dining at a few award winning restaurants.  I did spend money purchasing some special wines that aren’t available at the retail level.  Decide what your priorities are for your particular visit and plan accordingly.

•  If you have underage kids, it’s better not to bring them.  I watched a mom yell at her ten year old son because he had wandered off to put his hands in a winery fountain.  She was upset with him.  She’d been drinking wine for an hour and ignoring him.  What did she expect?  You can’t expect a kid (or anyone) to happily sit and watch you drink for hours on end.  By the way, the boy wasn’t hurting anything by putting his hands in the fountain.  I almost put MY hands in the fountain as a sign of silent solidarity with him.

•  Every season has something different to offer in Napa.  Summer gets hot, but the vines have a lot of grapes to show off.  It varies based on weather, but in general, grapes are harvested from late August through October.  In November the vines don’t have grapes but the leaves turn gorgeous fall colors.  In spring, you can experience “bud break” as the vines renew themselves with fresh growth.

Bud Break

I find all seasons to be beautiful in Napa.

Here’s a spring photo of the budding of soon-to-be grape clusters:

Bud Break on Grapevine © SHaggerty 2014 W-1

A close-up of a future grape cluster.

•  Don’t fall into the theme-park trap.

There are hundreds (thousands!) of wineries in the area.  Some of them have built “attractions” in an attempt to get your business.  Do you want to spend a few hours looking at the moat at a winery?  Or would you prefer to spend that time in the vineyard of your favorite winery while talking to the owner?  It’s something to keep in mind as you plan your trip.

For instance, I went to visit one winery purely to see the grounds.  I knew the photography opportunities would be spectacular.  I had no interest in the wine, and I knew it going in.  On the other hand, I only did that with ONE winery.  I planned the rest of my visits focusing on the actual wine at the wineries.  (You might do something similar if you’re a fan of architecture and want to check out an interesting winery because you’ve heard they have an amazing building.)  Put a little forethought into your visit so you don’t get distracted by every shiny object that comes your way.

Lake Jade at Chateau Montelena

•  In general, I recommend visiting two to three wineries per day.  If you do more, you’re probably not going to remember much about them.  (Of course, depending on a given situation/geographical location, it may vary.)  If you’re only doing tastings and no tours, you’ll be able to fit more into each day …. but how much wine can you drink before you  get trashed  need a nap?

•  If you’re headed to Napa for a drink-fest, please hire a driver or pre-determine a designated driver within your group.  In fact, getting a driver is a good idea for everyone.  Even if you don’t intend to drink much, it’s easy to have one sip too many when there’s so much delicious wine surrounding you.

•  Napa police have regular DUI checkpoints, as they should.

•  It’s easy to research wineries ahead of time, but you can also pick up a winery map for free at almost every Napa hotel or restaurant.  The map will give you information about all the wineries, including whether or not you are free to “stop in” or need an appointment ahead of time.  If you do want to call for an appointment, the map is useful because it also includes the phone numbers and addresses of each winery.

•  If you’ve never been to Napa before, I would suggest starting with a tour of one of the large production wineries.  It really is fascinating to learn how wine is made.  It’s also very interesting to understand the differences in how a large winery and a small, family run, winery operate.  On my recent trip, I took my guest (a Napa newbie) to Mondavi Winery.  It’s a huge, beautiful, winery.  For thirty dollars we went for a 75 minute tour which included a great educational introduction to the history of Napa and winemaking.  A tasting of three wines concluded the tour.  It was nice to have that experience first as we progressed on to smaller, more intimate, wineries.

•  There’s a difference between a “tour” and a “tasting.”  Tours include tastings but also give you a look at how the wine is made, a bit of history about the winery, information regarding what is different about *that* wine vs. another winery’s wines, etc.  During a tour you might see wine being bottled, you might have the opportunity for a barrel tasting, you might be able to taste a grape or two off the vine, and/or many other experiences you wouldn’t have if you were at the winery just for a tasting.  I enjoy meeting and talking to the people at a winery.  I like the experience of immersing myself in the culture of, and really understanding, a winery.  That being said, I wouldn’t want to “just” tour all day.  For my recent visit, I scheduled one tour per day.  During the rest of the day, I visited wineries for tastings and/or (since I’m a photographer) for their visual appeal.  (By the way, it does vary, but most tours are about 90 minutes long.)

•  If you have a favorite Napa Valley wine, it’s a smart idea to book a tour at that winery when you plan your trip.  Many of the wineries only allow a limited number of people per tour.  Smaller wineries can be difficult to get into without prior scheduling.

•  Napa Valley is divided into appellations (micro-climate grape growing areas).  Many people plan their visits geographically by appellation.  For instance, if you love cabernet sauvignon you might want to compare the wines from neighboring wineries in the Stag’s Leap District to see which winery makes your favorite cab.

•  There are some world-class restaurants in Napa Valley.  Some of them are booked months in advance.  If you’d like the experience of dining in a Michelin Star restaurant, plan ahead.

•  Some wineries, and some restaurants, offer pairings.  You can experience a wine and chocolate pairing.  You can experience a several course meal with a wine chosen perfectly for each course.  If you love wine and food, you’ll love Napa.  (As an aside:  Most wineries have food/dining events periodically throughout the year for their wine club members.  Some wineries even offer cooking classes.)

•  Don’t forget, the Napa area has a lot to offer besides wine.  There are plenty of absolutely amazing restaurants and spas.  There are a lot of hiking and biking opportunities.  There’s shopping, golf, movies, horeseback riding, art galleries, etc., etc.  Take the time to breathe in the scent of the vineyards and enjoy your visit.

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Every Fairy Tale Must End?

I’m headed back to reality today.

Sigh!

What a wonderful, spoiled rotten, few days I’ve had.

Also…?

I was in a hotel with no wifi!

Oh, of course, it made me really frustrated.

How can ANY hotel not provide wifi in this day and age?

But …?

At the same time, it was a nice break not to be inundated with real-life-chaos.

I can’t wait to go through my photos.

!!!!

Here’s a photo I took at Cakebread Cellars vineyard yesterday:

Click on photo to purchase, or to view larger, in 24atHeart gallery.

The vines are just beginning to get their “bud break.”

In other words, the vines have gone from being completely barren, to sprouting new green leaves and little buds which will become grape clusters.

It’s amazing because even though they’re still very small (brand new!), you can really see the beginning of what will become a grape cluster.

I’ll show you a close-up of a bud (so you can see the baby cluster!) once I get a chance to go through my photos.

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Napa

I’ll be returning to Orange County tomorrow.

I’m still in wine country.

How much wine can I drink before I start fermenting?

Also?

I apologize to all my friends I *might* have drunk-texted while I’ve been here.

Also, again …..

One of my friends lined me up with absolutely amazing top-tier restaurant spots for every night I’m in Napa.

(La Toque, Morimoto, and Bouchon … so far!)

(Thank you Thomas Hawk!)

I’ve done nothing but drink fabulous wines and eat one delicious gourmet meal after another since I’ve been here.

I’ll need to go on a water-only diet when I leave.

I’ve been to Napa several times before, but it has been way too long since my last trip.

For years, my favorite wine has been the Cabernet from Regusci Winery.

Inside Regusci’s historic wine cellar.

Regusci is a small winery.

They rarely sell their wine to restaurants or even at the retail level.

I “discovered” Regusci when I was given a few bottles as a gift several years ago.

Since then, I’ve gotten a lot of my friends hooked on it.

I purchase it online since it isn’t available in retail stores.

I was delighted to finally have a chance to tour the beautiful (so photographic!) Regusci winery.

It was great to meet some of the people I’ve conversed with via phone for many years.

My time at Regusci was definetly a highlight of my trip.

I can’t wait to go through my photos and share with you how beautiful it is at Regusci Winery.

Another highlight was visiting Jarvis Winery yesterday.

(Thank you, Paul Newman, for the excellent recommendation.)

Jarvis Winery is so utterly amazing – it definitely needs a post of its own.

Again, I haven’t had time to even look at most of my photos.

I do have one I can share with you now though …

An underground waterfall in the Jarvis Winery cave.

The entire winery is built within a gigantic, 45,000 sq. foot, cave.

As you can see in the above photo, there’s even an underground waterfall in the cave.

It’s visually stunning -

And the Jarvis wines are absolutely superb.

I feel so fortunate to have had such fantastic experiences here.

To top it off, Napa weather has been perfect for my entire trip.

It’s been in the mid-70′s.

Wild California poppies are blooming everywhere.

It’s gorgeous.

Today …?

Well, today, I’m going to enjoy every single moment of my last day in Napa.

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Cheers!

I’ve had the most wonderful time these last few days ….

Click on photo to purchase, or to view larger, in 24atHeart gallery.

Today is Day #4 of this trip and I can’t wait to see what adventures it will hold.

San Francisco was exciting and busy and a whirlwind.

Napa has been a series of delicious wines, extraordinary gourmet meals, and the most beautiful warm sunshine.

I’ll have lots to get you caught up on when I return.

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Friday – Travel Day

Hello, hello.

This will be brief because I don’t really have time to write.

I had a great afternoon and evening with my friend, Thomas, yesterday.

I got some amazing photos of the city.

I always seem to have adventures when I’m with Thomas …

We might (ahem) end up in places where we aren’t supposed to be.

I’m taking a short drive to Napa this morning.

I’ll try to get a photo or two posted over the weekend.

In the meantime, if you’re interested, I’ve been trying to post a few quick snapshots of my adventures on Facebook and Instagram.

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Up, Up, And Away …

I’m in San Francisco today and part of tomorrow.

Click on photo to purchase, or to view larger, in 24atHeart gallery.

I love my adventures up north.

It’s been about four months since my last visit, but it seems like much longer.

I, intentionally, didn’t overbook my brief stay in the city.

I’ll be bopping around to different locations over the next several days so blog posts might be sporadic.

I’ll update when I have time to do so.

(Paul Newman said he wants to see photos of grapes once I get to Napa.)

In other weird, annoying, news …

I’ve had an irritating, itchy, hot (!??!), rash on my bum arm and shoulder for over a week.

It’s driving me crazy and I have no idea what caused it or why it won’t go away.

I’ve tried cortisone cream and benadryl cream.

Did I mention it’s very uncomfortable?

If any of you have any ideas, suggestions, rash home remedies – please let me know.

Traveling, and shooting, with it isn’t ideal.

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Spring Shopping

I hate shopping, so it’s always noteworthy when I make even minimal effort.

(And, trust me, I never make more than minimal effort.)

I usually only go shopping if there’s an event I need clothes for.

Yesterday was no different.

I have places to go, and events I need to be at, over the next three weeks.

So, what did I do in preparation?

I bought a new pair of yoga pants.

Yep, I really did.

(And, I might even wear them while flying to and from various locations?)

I also bought a (cheap) small, travel, cosmetic bag to replace my grubby, old, one.

And now I’m ready for fine dining in Napa?

No?

Oh wait, I also got some mascara and a new pair of earrings.

I’m all set!

(Who wants to clean and pack my camera gear for me?)