Sunday, July 21, 2019

Quick Stop in the Oregon Wine Country

When I go to the Oregon Wine Country with Julie and Dave, they always make a stop in the town of McMinnville for either lunch or dinner at a tapas restaurant called La Rambla.  You can see their street sign in the photo above.

It was my second meal at this place when we visited last May and I can see why Julie and Dave have made this a "must-stop" whenever they go to Oregon.  The food is delicious,  authentic Spanish cuisine and the atmosphere in the restaurant is beautiful.

I love the look of the bar with it's beautiful peacocks framing the back wall.

But, I must say it's the town itself that appeals to me.  It just seems like the perfect little all-American town.  It's warm and friendly and has the most appealing main street.

I snapped this shot in February of 2018 when I was there the first time.  It gives a clearer picture of that main street after the trees have shed their leaves.  I would love to return here and explore this city much more.  I bet it has quite a lot to offer a visiting wine lover or any explorer.  

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Grand Hotel Tremezzo

One of my favorite events on my recent trip to Italy was the day we had lunch at the Grand Hotel Tremezzo.  The building is a grand Art Nouveau palazzo that was so stunningly beautiful that I think I walked around saying "wow" every time I entered a different room.  We went there the same day we were taking the private tour of Lake Como so we arrived at the boat dock in front of the hotel via a private boat.  That was a perfect way to arrive at such an elegant hotel and certainly lent a special status to our little party of travelers.  We were greeted at the dock and then shown to a small lift (hidden behind all the greenery) and whisked up to the first floor foyer.

The lobby of the hotel was simply breathtaking with beautifully tiled floors and red velvet furniture and elegant displays of red roses scattered throughout the lobby and all through the hotel.

Beyond the main lobby, a grand staircase added to the atmosphere.  The only thing missing was seeing elegantly gowned ladies escorted by tuxedo clad gentleman descending the stairs.  That would have made the scene befitting of a James Ivory movie.

We were having lunch on the grand patio overlooking the lake so to get there, we were escorted through the bar which looked like something out of a movie set.

After the bar, we entered a lounge that was beautifully decorated in a rainbow of colors.  The sofas and chairs made me think of colorful scoops of sherbet in their lime greens, tasty oranges and luscious raspberries.

Finally we were on the patio where we had a wonderful lunch with views out over the water.  The food was delicious and the service impeccable.  It was truly a special treat to dine here.

I can't help thinking that it would be so exciting to actually stay at this hotel.  I'm afraid I'd have to win the lottery to afford a stay at this wonderful place.  However having lunch there was a perfect taste of bygone era with all the comforts of today's luxuries.

P.S. I just saw that this hotel was named one of the World's Best in Italy by Travel and Leisure Magazine.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Take A Seat...

I have something a little different today.  I decided to post a few random photos from my recent trip to Italy.  Some are amusing and some are just interesting and none of them really fit into an event or special place.  I'll start with this great sign I saw at a the cafe at Villa Carlotta on Lake Como.  The nice part is that we were "soonest" attended!

Some German tourists brought their cute little dog along on the visit to the gardens of Villa Carlotta and they had fun posing him for photos.  I decided to join in.

This statue in the gardens of Villa Melzi in Bellagio brings to mind the saying "button it".  I wonder what this poor fellow said to get his mouth buttoned up.

We took the ferries across the lake many, many times during our stay in Varenna and Bellagio.  It was always fun to watch the cars coming and going.  Above was a whole ferry load of Volkswagens and to the left a couple of classic cars exiting the boat.

We saw this sea plane several times while we were there.  It never landed near us so I'm guessing it just flew from one end of the lake to another.

We did see several rowing teams out on the lake practicing.  

Another sign I saw in Bellagio reminding pet owners to clean up after their dogs.  

Wouldn't it be great if the dogs cleaned up after themselves?

Italian lizards look a whole lot like Arizona lizards!

My only of view of the apartment building in Milan called the vertical garden was in passing on our way out of Milan headed for Lake Como.  I've seen photos of this place before so I'm at least glad I got to see it in passing.

Between me and my friends, we consumed a lot of Caprese Salads. This one was one of the most picturesque.  

When we returned to Milan for our flight home, we spent the night at the Roxy Hotel just outside the airport.  That's where I found this humorous drawing depicting The Last supper with clowns in monkey masks.  It was a very eclectic hotel.  

Sunday, June 30, 2019

The Last Supper

When I was making preparations for my recent trip to Italy, I discovered rather quickly that getting tickets to see Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece, The Last Supper was going to be a challenge.  Trying to get individual tickets turned out to be almost impossible so, with the help of my friends who had been there before, I signed up for a four-hour tour of Milan highlights that included viewing one of the most famous paintings in the world.  That turned out to be a very smart choice.

The painting is located in the refractory of the Monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie and since it was painted on a wall, it has remained there ever since.  After arriving via a tour bus, our group gathered in front of the church at the monastery.

As we waited for our turn to view the painting, I took the opportunity to step inside the church to see what it was like.  It's a beautiful old church which looked somehow bigger on the inside than it did from the outside.

As our scheduled time drew near, our tour guide led us to a courtyard inside the monastery where I got an even better view of the round tower at the back of the church.

Finally, it was time to enter the hall where this painting is located.  I have to say that entering that room was so different than I had expected.  I guess because of the difficulty getting tickets, I had a vision of going into a room and walking in a line of people past the painting as someone hustled us along.

I was pleasantly surprised.  The room is bigger than I expected and our single tour group were the only ones inside the room for the 20 minutes we had to admire this work of art.  Our tour guide pointed out certain details about the painting but, mostly we had time to admire it at our own pace.  We were even encouraged to take photographs as long as no flash was used.

The artist began work on this painting in 1495 and he used oil and tempera on a dry, plastered wall.  The paint began to break down and wear off even in da Vinci's lifetime.  Further destruction occurred in the 17th century when a door was cut in the center of the wall.  You can see where the door was cut out of the painting in the photo above.  Clearly, da Vinci's work was not as cherished then as it is today.

The Last Supper was a perfect subject for a painting that was adorning the monastery's dining hall.  It was meant to look as though Jesus was dining with the monks who were having their meals in the same room.

This close up photo shows how the paint is faded and peeling from the wall.  And that is after a 19-year restoration project that began in 1980.  Because of that restoration and other attempts to restore the painting in the past, very few of da Vinci's original brushstrokes remain.  Seeing it up close made me wonder if it could possibly survive another 500 years.  I felt saddened that it might not.

At the other end of the hall was another painting that was also painted in 1490s.  This one is called The Crucifixion and it was painted by Donato Montorfano, a well know Milanese artist.  Leonardo added portraits of his benefactor, Lodavico il Moro and his wife and children on either side of this painting but the portraits are so faded now that they can barely be seen.

As we left the room, our guide pointed out this frieze of The Last Supper and explained that it is for the blind so they can touch it and get an impression of what the painting looks like.  He said that this type of "brail" depiction is starting to show up in museums around the world.

I am so glad I had an opportunity to see this infamous painting.  As I said above, its future seems to be so uncertain.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

The Ekollon Wine Tasting Experience

Last week I posted about the beautiful garden located at the former home of the founders of Bergstrom Wines.  After exploring the spectacular gardens and enjoying the view, we entered the little house.

Inside the table was all set for our big group of eager tasters. 

The home has been repurposed to create the space for these special tastings where the wine is paired with delicious food.  It was easy to see that we were in for a special treat.

Each place was beautifully set with the glasses to be used for the various wines and folders for us to take notes and mark our favorites.  This tasting was called the Ekollon Tasting.  "Ekollon" is Swedish for Acorn.  

The meal began with a plate of fresh vegetables that came straight from the kitchen garden I featured last week.  

After the fresh vegetables, we had a goat cheese and mushroom tart with a leafy green salad.  It was delicious.

The entree was a bourguignon made with pork instead of beef.  It was so good that I think I'll try making it myself.  I loved the sprinkling of chives and chive flowers on top.

The entree was followed by a smoked salmon panna cotta with a seaweed chip.  Sounds a bit strange, doesn't it?  Well, let me tell you, it was wonderful.  I enjoyed every mouthful.

The meal ended with delicious, hazelnut filled chocolates in the shape of acorns, of course.

We managed to enjoy all of that delicious food while tasting seven different varieties of Bergstrom wines.  At the end of the table above you see a very special decanter that was created especially for these tastings.  It has a glass acorn in the center bottom of the vessel.  Two people in our group of tasters, ordered one of those special decanters.

It was a tasting experience that I will not soon forget.  The setting in that beautifully decorated house was very special and, of course the garden was a totally unexpected pleasure.  

If you like wines, I think you would enjoy any of the wines that Bergstrom produces and if you are ever touring the Oregon wine country, I highly recommend the Ekollon Tasting.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

An Oregon Garden

At the end of April, I did a post about a special wine tasting experience I had on a visit to Oregon back in February of 2018.  I mentioned that we would visit that winery again during May of this year and expected another great tasting experience.  I was totally unprepared for what turned out to be an entirely different experience.

The experience began at a different location than before at what turned out to be the former home of the Bergstrom Winery founders.  The home was surrounded by a spectacular garden that really was something to admire.  This post is all about that garden.  I'll get to the tasting experience in another post.  The top photo is the path leading deep into the garden and above is a view over the vineyard in the Dundee Hills.

The garden was lush with colorful plants that were thriving in that moist Oregon soil and air.  Above is a pretty little lily pond and to the left, a hint of the colors that dominated the area.

I was enthralled by the California lilac trees.  I had not seen one before and I love the thick blooms and the beautiful color.  Oregon is known for it's blooming azaleas and they were certainly in abundance while we were there.

Even the dandelions gone to seed were looking good among the other plants.

Beautiful purple iris were scattered among the other flowering plants.

The garden sported an abundance of well used bird houses.

Fenced off from the flowering garden was the kitchen garden.  This area was very important because the fresh vegetables and leafy greens from this garden would become a central part of the wine tasting experience to follow.

The paths in the vegetable garden was covered in hazelnut shells.  Oregon grows hazelnuts (or filberts) so the shells are often used to create paths in gardens in the area.  I loved the way they crunched under our feet.

The other thing that caught my eye was how the fence around the garden was covered in moss and lichens.  So even the fence became a living thing. 

The dogwood blooms literally covered the branches of the trees that framed the garden and overlooked the vineyard.  What a gorgeous place to work, live and enjoy!

Next week I'll tell you about the wine tasting experience that took place inside the home on this property.  It was quite a unique and delicious event.