Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Wine and water combine for life's greatest pleasures

A walk through a vineyard always surprises and delights. Both
European and American grape growers frame vines with roses.

"Wine is sunlight, held together by water." -- Galileo Galilei

I cannot imagine life without wine, but of course I would survive. Less happily, no doubt, but more sober.

But life without water.  No way. Besides our bodies' need for it, and the huge percentage of the body it inhabits, my mental health would shrivel and perish. Dare I say "dry up?" And how would I cry?

How did a kid growing up in land-locked Montana become a devotee of cruising and sailing the world's waterways?

Keller catches a trolly
in Portugal between
visits to vineyards.
It's a miracle. Like water to wine.  Loaves and fishes.

This  kid is no happier than when she's at sea, moving smoothly across the water, with a bottle of wine chilling and her pal Keller at her side.

Maybe we're playing a game of Scrabble.  Quietly reading.  Or maybe Keller opens the vino and pours me a glass. Vivaldi plays softly.

"Clink, clink."

Some of our happiest times the past few months have involved both water and wine. Views from a ship balcony, glass in hand. Ah, sublime!

Lisbon's Altis Belem Hotel and Spa has a magnificent water view.
One of the prettiest sea views we've had in many trips abroad has to be our room with a view of the Altis Belem Hotel and Spa in Lisbon, Portugal.

So hypnotized were we by the floor-to-ceiling views of the Tagus River Harbor that we could scarcely leave the room.

The hotel's elegant decor honors Lisboa's exploring and seafaring heritage, with beautiful murals and illustrated panels....... we admired them on the way to a walk, to the
nearby world-famous Discoveries Monument, which honors intrepid Portuguese sailors and Henry the Navigator. Also within walking distance is the gorgeous and well preserved 12th-century Lisbon Cathedral, Sao Jorge’s Castle, and two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: BelĂ©m’s Tower (very close to this top hotel) and the eerily beautiful, almost mystically beautiful and serene Jeronimos Monastery.

Wine lovers enjoy the fruits of the vine at tastings far and wide.
We also took time to taste the fruits of the vine, admiring several vineyards and sampling the wines. In the ancient parish of Belem, just under four miles from central Lisbon but a world away with its tranquil surroundings, we also discovered Vinho Verde. Wow! This refreshing wine is Portugal's answer to Proseco, a slightly carbonated flavorful wine; we brought several bottles back with us.

We do this whenever the opportunity presents itself: sample wines and bring a bottle or two back home, including here in southern California.  Most people think of Napa or Sonoma in conjunction with California wines, but near Santa Barbara, we've several times visited the Fess Parker Winery and Vineyard near Los Olivos.
 The Fess Parker Winery and Vineyard
is a wonderful, tasty get-away.
There, the late TV actor, famous for his Daniel Boone character, honed his love of wine, founding a lovely inn, spa and restaurant which his family still owns and operates.

There are many ways to combine the pleasures of the grape with the worlds oceans and rivers.  We are not, by far, the first people to combine the miraculous delights of wine and water.

"Red wine and whitewater" is the theme of a two-day rafting and wine tasting trek by Aventure Connection of Coloma, Calif. 1 800 556-6060.
Although we have yet to try it, we're looking forward to checking it out and writing more about it.  El Dorado County is home to some of the finest wineries in
California, and Adventure Connection's wine-savvy guides combine the pleasures of wine tasting with the exploration of the rivers.  The quality of the rafting trips combines with the adventure on and off the rivers and into the wineries for a tasting of varietals as well as a testing of the rapids.

Cookie has her eye on the weather, but her
destination vineyard in southern Europe is only a few miles away.
Several of the top cruise lines also feature wine-themed cruises. Seabourn, Oceania and Crystal are among the highly ranked cruise lines offering cruises that specialize in wine seminars and wine tastings.  Several of Europe's barge cruises also feature wine samplings and vineyard visits. Google: cruises specializing in wine and go to the region that entices you (Burgundy, Champagne, the Loire Valley, etc.) Some ideas to get you started. Check out:
or go to the individual cruise websites for information on your water and wine connection. Clink, clink!

These orchids are among dozens which grace
the grounds of La Jolla Shores Hotel.
Coming Saturday:  In the basement of LaJolla Shores hotel, in a tiny, fragrant room, two botanical wizards work their magic on orchids and other flowering plants to keep the historic hotel in blooms all year long.

Let us know what you'd like to see on this blog.  We have ideas, advice, itineraries for many places on the planet.
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We are having lots of fun with this! Watch for posts every Wednesday and Saturday.

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