A Wine Drinker Rambling about Wine

Month: May 2015

A Ghost Hosted Dinner Party

Like a fine wine, that savings bond was tucked safely away, maturing until the right time.  

          Recently, my husband’s Grandmother hosted a dinner party. Fairly normal occurrence. Except, she’s been dead for 18 years.




This was our kids first “fancy” dinner. Not quite black tie but still dress up. (I made them put on their Sunday Best.) And it’s one of the most memorable dinners we’ve had so far. Grandma’s ghost or any other apparition didn’t actually appear. However,  her generous spirit was lingering even now long after she’d been gone.

Cheerful, lively and generous,  my husband’s Grandma Flo was affectionately called ‘CashFlo’ by her grandchildren. She lived out the Bible verse, “God loves a cheerful giver . . .” and was constantly slipping cash to one grandchild or another. A generous nature is a precious character trait she passed on to my mother-in-law and to my dear husband.


Well,  six months ago, while searching for a document , my husband found a savings bond that we got for our wedding. It was from Grandma Flo. After twenty years, the bond had matured nicely.

A wonderful idea struck my husband.  To celebrate our upcoming anniversary, we’d take our children to dinner at an upscale restaurant courtesy of Grandma Flo. They’d get to experience fine dining!

Reservations were made at Sophabella’s.  It’s a quaint local Italian restaurant specializing in steak, pasta and Chicago-style pizza. All family favorites.


Since I insisted everyone dress up it caused a few melt-downs. There are certain members of our family who refuse to do any activity  that might attract attention. Even minor, like dressing for dinner. Several debated it wasn’t necessary since Sophabella’s atmosphere can be casual to fancy and everything in between. I stood my ground. Special occasions require something more.


Well, the big day arrived. However, when we got to Sophabella’s, the parking lot was blocked with  a couple of guys striping the parking spaces.  The place looked closed. Not a good sign.

Somewhat concerned, we parked next door and walked over. One of the guys waved us to the door.


The restaurant was almost empty except for one couple sitting in a booth near the entrance. They finished dinner and left soon after we arrived. A bored looking waiter stood at the hostess station.

“Reservation for six?” Apparently not necessary tonight!

He seated us at a table directly in the center of the restaurant. However, with the entire place empty, there were no worries about standing out!

Sinatra's Corner Booth

Sinatra’s Corner Booth

We couldn’t have planned it better.  A relaxed and festive attitude took over. The kids were told to order anything they wanted. They kept asking about different dishes and we’d say “Whatever you want!”

My youngest ate her first New York Strip.  She loves steak and it was a treat to watch as the steak was placed before her. “This is so cool. I can eat the whole steak? This is cool.”  I’m pretty sure she fell into some kind of steak-trance. This child loves steak so much she boasts that someday she’ll raise cattle just to have her own supply.

New York Strip a la Sophabella's

New York Strip a la Sophabella’s

Chocolate Cake to Share

Chocolate Cake to Share


We ate everything from appetizers to dessert.  At one point in the evening, as my middle daughter passed her extremely decadent chocolate cake around, I raised my coffee cup.

“A toast! To Grandma Flo who made this evening possible.”

Glasses raised. We grinned contently at each other. “To Grandma Flo.”
I peeked at my husband as glasses clinked. He smiled back a bit misty eyed.

Thank you Grandma Flo.

Now twenty years later, your cheerful spirit is still generously giving.

Gotts and The Birdman

This is the first  in a series of Snapshots  from our Napa Valley Trip in April. 

Back in January, my husband and I decided to plan a trip to Napa Valley to celebrate our 20th Anniversary. To get acquainted with the area, I started following all things connected with Napa; wine bloggers, wineries, restaurants and winemakers on twitter.

One place that kept coming up was a local burger joint called Gott’s Roadside. Lots of people tweeted about the longing to go back to Gott’s. Some boasted of stopping by on the weekend. Others posted incredible pictures of burgers, tacos and trays of yummy food usually on a picnic bench.

The Famous Gotts Roadside

The Famous Gotts Roadside

I’ll visit any joint that claims to have great burgers so Gott’s went on the list of lunch places for the trip.

The month of April arrived and we went to Napa.

After a morning of wine-tasting, we headed to Gott’s for lunch. Earlier, we’d checked out their second location in downtown Napa but we wanted to eat at the original. It’s up Highway 29 in St.Helena.

Turns out, Gott’s is a total TOURIST SPOT. Complete with souvenir menus, red and white decor and picnic tables. There are patio tables in the front and two huge lawns filled with trees and umbrella-covered picnic tables in the back. It’s a fantastic outdoor place to eat.

As we were parking, a half dozen cars drove in. The line to order snaked around the edge of the patio and never appeared to shorten. In fact, later that weekend as we passed Gotts on the way to a winery, the line was the same. Just the people standing in it had changed.

After ordering burgers and fries, we sat on bar stools under the covered porch. It was across from the pickup counter and bar. A friendly college guy working there asked if we needed anything. We must of had goofy grins cause he remarked how he loved to see smiles! He told us that during the summer, the line could stretch around the building.


Gotts burger and fries

Gotts burger and fries


Our seats were perfect for people watching. The bachelorette parties, the college guys on a road trip, families, couples on romantic getaways, even locals. For lunch, this was the place to be. However, there was one particular group that stood out.

Two couples came around the corner and I could barely suppress a giggle. I think my husband was having the same trouble.

All four were dressed from head to toe in what could only be considered the official Birdwatcher’s uniform. Strictly LL Bean. Matching vests, hats, and high-powered binoculars hung around their necks.

My husband pointed out the ones with fanny packs. (They weren’t hard to miss.) He’s still sore at me for not letting him get one when we took the kids to Disneyland. NO. No fanny packs. He likes to bring it up whenever he needs to be hands-free for something. I just glare at him. Absolutely not.

I could barely stop myself from asking them if they were doing “The Big Year” (click to see a clip). Or saying, “Seen any yellow-bellied sapsuckers?”  Meanwhile, The Birdwatchers ordered and went to find a table among the trees. The ideal place for spotting birds.


The Birdman and Beer

The Birdman and Beer

One lesser attired Birdman wondered back toward us and ordered a beer. Birdwatchers drink beer? They were so smartly dressed, I would of expected them to order a Chablis 1982. Apparently even sophisticated birdwatchers  prefer beer on a warm day! Who knew!

They were a treat to see. I hope they saw lots of rare birds in between a few wine-tastings. At least, I hope they did some wine-tastings. Although, they seemed so serious maybe the birds kept them from it.





Anyway, despite Gott’s being touristy, I’d go back. The food was good but nothing special. The real draw was in the festive atmosphere, the friendly workers, and the fact everyone was excited to be there. It felt like we were at a cookout with friends on Memorial Day.

I love Memorial Day. It’s a lovely way to start summer!

I’m so glad we ate at Gott’s. The Coney Island of Napa Valley. A “must see” on the tourist list.

Next time, though, I’m ordering the tacos. The lady next to me had a tray of them with a beer and they looked outstanding!

The Napa Chronicles

The Napa Chronicles:

A series of posts about our trip to Napa Valley


We're finally here! Legendary Wine Country

We’re finally here! Legendary Wine Country

Our 20th wedding anniversary was upon us, so my sweet husband and I started brainstorming for ideas on how to celebrate this momentous occasion.

Ten years earlier, the plan had been to travel through the hot spots of Italy for our 10th. We’d explore Rome, Florence and Venice. See the Sistine Chapel. Wander through vineyards in Tuscany and sample wines. Sit in cafes and enjoy long meals ending with strolls through a piazza.

That was the plan until we were surprised with Baby #4.

Fast-forward ten years and life is quite different! Today, the baby is a 5th grader and we’re surrounded by 3 busy teenagers. Any getting away at this point is almost impossible. So, when the Grandparents stepped in and offered a golden opportunity, a long weekend, we took it. They’d see that our children stayed feed, in school and alive. We’d be free to go anywhere and do anything. Now for the fun part: Where?

wine glasses

Since wine is one of our passions, Napa Valley came immediately to mind. Who could ask for a lovelier place. 

It’s loaded with unique wineries, vineyards, quaint and quirky towns, phenomenal restaurants and beautiful countryside. It is incredible. The pictures don’t lie. They’re real and really amazing.

Those who live there exude a sense of pride, care and passion for their home. Everywhere we went, the locals welcomed us and were eager to share why they loved living and working there. The enjoyment of the area was catching.

Well, needless to say the trip was heaven blessed and gave us great memories.


We came home wanting to go again! So I thought I’d share a series of posts about the places we got to visit and our memories of  wine country. I hope you enjoy a snapshot of Napa.






Vineyard at Judd’s Hill

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