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Location: Northern California

Read all about the adventures of the Tsao Family during the summer of 2012

Monday, March 20, 2006


Wine not Whine

This past weekend I ditched the husband and kids once again and went on another Mom's Weekend Away, this one put together by my local Mothers Club. I joined two dozen other stressed out moms in need of some R & R and headed north to wine country, California's beautiful Napa Valley.

My friend Jennie picked me up Friday afternoon at 2. I left my mother-in-law and sister-in-law with a pot of corned beef and cabbage and my two little ones and headed off to freedom. Jennie is one of my few offline friends who actually reads my blog and admits to it. And she still likes me! We had a great time talking on the way to Sonoma. We had such a great time that we missed our turn off to Sonoma and ended up in Napa. But we figured out our mistake, turned around, and made it to The Lodge at Sonoma with plenty of time to relax, unpack, and dress for dinner.

That night we met up with four other friends at a local Brazilian restaurant. I had risotto with prawns. Yum. It was spicy and good and very kid-unfriendly. In fact, the restaurant didn't even have a kid's menu. No mac-n-cheese, no chicken strips, no balloons, no crayons. Oh, but it did have an extensive wine list and we enjoyed a nice bottle of red. And creme brulee for dessert. Again, yum.

I slept great Friday night. My bed was big and fluffy and--best of all--devoid of children! I got to sleep in the middle of the bed; it was heaven. Our room had one of those cool gas fireplaces that turn on with the flick of a light switch. I want one of those in my post-children dream house.

The next morning our damn internal alarm clocks woke us up at the unholy hour of 6:50. We decided to hit the hotel gym before showering and sharing a breakfast of pancakes and smoked salmon on bagels. It's always good to start off a day of drinking with some light exercise and a heavy breakfast.

The moms met in the hotel lobby at 10:30 AM and there was much noticing that we looked better when we were wearing clean clothes and had no children or diaper bags with us. I took photos of happy moms with big smiles. We were free! And about to board a bus that would take us on a tour of three wineries: Gundlach Bundschu, Viansa, and Artesa. Plus, the sun was shining after what has seemed like weeks of winter rain. The day was full of possibilities.

Our first stop was Gundlach Bundschu. We enjoyed a tour of their barrel cellar and got to gaze upon a beautiful table made partially out of redwood. A couple of us tried to eat some cheese that was attractively laid out but were immediately reprimanded. Apparently, the cheese was for some other more important group. Harumph. More important than the Mothers Club?! We drank our wine and felt the service and pouring was a smidge miserly. Double harumph. I bought two bottles of some exceptional Chardonnay (2003 Sangiacomo Ranch) and a gold dipped grape leaf for my nanny and then it was time to go.

Our next stop was the Viansa winery. Viansa stands for Vicky and Sam. Clever, huh? Sam's last name is Sebastiani, a name synonymous with Napa Valley wine. Viansa is all about the Tuscan influence and the pairing of wine and food. Our tour guide was funny and informative and didn't drone. After a tour of the grounds and a tasting of three (or was it four?) wines, we sat down and had sandwiches and pasta salad and biscotti. Each table had a bottle of red and a bottle of white and all I have to say is Vicky and Sam are right: food is better with wine! Or vice versa. Or whatever. After lunch I bought two bottles of a red wine that has hints of strawberry and raspberry (2004 Pacomio). At this point I was feeling no pain and when the talk turned to the topic of why $900 bed sheets are the best, it was probably good I did not have access to a computer with the Internet and its easy online shopping.

Our final stop was at the artsy fartsy Artesa winery. We were very excited to see our name on a welcome sign when we walked in the door. See! It wasn't so hard to make us feel welcome! Besides the sign, they had champagne flutes filled to the brim with Codorniu Reserva Raventos sparkling wine. Yes, we definitely liked this place. Our tour guide poured herself a nice glass, too, and then proceeded to give us the longest tour in wine touring history. By the end our glasses were drained and so were we. Luckily, there were two more wines for us to taste, a red and a white. I don't know any more than that, except I bought two bottles of the sparkling stuff.

When we got back to the hotel I realized that I had purchased more wine than I could carry, but with Jennie's help I managed to get it to our room. We didn't have long before we were supposed to report to the lobby for dinner, but we hit the town for some locally-made lattes. Back in the room, we re-did our lipstick, changed into dinner clothes, and joined the rest of our group. We took the hotel shuttle to our dinner spot, the Sonoma Meritage Restaurant. More wine, delicious appetizers, an entree of salmon and mashed potatoes and wilted spinach, and a medley of desserts including more creme brulee: it was a feast. The food was good and the company was excellent. No high chairs! No whining! No food on my lap! No reminding people to say "please" and "thank you!" It was quite a night.

After dinner I resisted the urge to continue my binge drinking and instead went back to the room with Jennie. We read in bed before lights out and when we woke up we read in bed some more. Remember when you used to do that? I do. The vacation was worth it just for the opportunity to read in bed in the morning and not have to get up to go fix somebody named Thomas a juice cup and a breakfast of banana, waffles, and scrambled eggs. I had two days of respite from my life as a short order cook.

Jennie and I didn't book any spa appointments (she has sensitive skin and I'm just lazy) so we hit the road after a leisurely morning and stopped at Marie Callender's for all-you-can-eat brunch. Nothing beats a breakfast of pancakes, waffles, chocolate cake, and sausage. After breakfast, we perused the outlet mall in Napa and managed to find a bargain or two. Or three. But who's counting?

My lovely chauffeur dropped me off at home at 3:00 and my dream weekend came crashing to a close. Re-entry was a little rough, but I managed to pull through. Dinner at Chevy's and a beer helped. Mike was glad that I came back (he's never sure I will) and the kids were, too. This morning while I fixed a four course breakfast of cinnamon toast and juice and yogurt and apple sauce, I remembered my two adult breakfasts. And while I cleaned up spilled applesauce, I remembered leaving my towel on the hotel room floor and how it was magically replaced. And when I ate my ravioli lunch over the sink, I remembered the two small squares of chocolate left each night on my pillow by the person who turned down my bed.

And as I gaze upon my six bottle of over-priced wine, I'm remembering my Mom's Weekend Away and I'm looking forward to next year's.

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