I left my heart in Houston…

bush airport united terminalIt seems like it was just yesterday that I walked through this terminal with you on my shoulders.

“Look at all the people, daddy! Look at the airplane, daddy! Daddy, daddy, daddy, we’re going to blast off!”

In fact, it was earlier this week that your sister, mother, you, and I returned from our unforgettable trip to California together.

From the “school bus” that I rode from the parking lot to the pizza concession where we shared a slice (you cheese, me pepperoni), every footstep and every terminal announcement remind me that I won’t be seeing you for another fourteen days.

All the old folks tell me, “cherish these precious days with your little ones; they’ll be grown before you know it.”

I’ll be counting the days, the hours, and the minutes until I’m reunited with you, sweet girl.

Wish me luck, wish me speed. And keep my heart safe for me here in Houston because I simply can’t take it with me…

best beach in del mar california

Historic Barbaresco Tower and appellation viewing station now open to public

The landscape of Barbaresco is a viticultural text. The newly opened viewing station atop Barbaresco Tower is a tool for reading it.

torre tower barbaresco reopeningAbove: the new viewing station atop the historic Torre di Barbaresco, the iconic tower of Barbaresco village (image by Barbaresco producer Giovanna Rizzolio).

The view from atop the newly restored Barbaresco Tower “is spectacular,” writes leading Italian wine blogger Alessandro Morichetti in a post for Intravino this week.

“It gives you a 360° panorama and if you really want to look really cool when you visit, be sure to bring your Enogea map” (the meticulously detailed Barbaresco atlas by celebrated enocartographer Alessandro Masnaghetti).

He is referring to the fact that the now-open-to-the-public tower offers visitors an unparalleled tool for studying the viticultural landscape of one of the world’s greatest appellations and its highly coveted wines.

Visit Alessandro’s post for a breathtaking video on the restoration (in Italian).

Once a medieval fortification, the former ruin is now a destination for wine lovers and visitors to the UNESCO Heritage site known as the Vineyard Landscape of Piedmont: Langhe-Roero and Monferrato.

It includes a tasting room, a wine cellar, a multi-media “history of Barbaresco” exhibit, and the viewing station (above), which is accessible via elevator.

It was opened to the public for the first time earlier this month.

As of the publication of this post, a Google search did not reveal hours and visiting information. Contact information for the offices of Barbaresco township, which manages the site, can be found here.

Image below via the Barbaresco township website.

tower barbaresco tasting room

Bat mitzvah wines and a gorgeous La Jolla sunset

ronco del gelso produttori di caremaToday I am a fountain pen…

Cousin Amalia (my niece, brother Tad’s daughter) sang her Torah portion and Haftarah brilliantly on Saturday at Temple Beth El in La Jolla (where I was bar mitzvah, too). And she gave a wonderful speech about commitment and faith.

It was really lovely to see her on the bimah with her parents (her mom Diane also sang a Torah portion!).

A lot of people asked me about the wines that we selected for the party that evening.

The white was the Bianco Latimis Isonzo del Friuli by Ronco del Gelso (in the Italian region of Friuli, for those who are not familiar with Italian geography, in northeastern Italy). It’s a blend of Friulano, Pinot Blanc, and Riesling Italico grapes. It showed beautifully on Saturday evening. Great freshness, nice fruit and acidity, and great value.

The red was Carema by Produttori di Carema cooperative. It’s made from 100 percent Nebbiolo grown in Italy’s western Alps in the region of Piedmont. Even though it has nice tannic structure, it was lithe in the glass on Saturday and again, its freshness and acidity made it pair wonderfully with the Neapolitan-style pizzas that were churned out of an onsite mobile pizza oven.

Great party and I’m so glad people enjoyed the wines.

Whenever I attend a Jewish event, I am invariably and inevitably asked what I think of Manischewitz “wines.” Most are disappointed when I tell them that it’s not exactly the most wholesome “grape product” that you can put into your body.

In southern California, where healthy eating and living are practically imperative, it’s easy to find organic produce, cage-free chicken, heirloom beef, and “housemade” ketchup.

But the nostalgia of Manischewitz is so powerful that it was served on Saturday for Kiddush after services only to be followed by organically farmed microlettuces later that evening.

I wrote about Manischewitz a few years ago here for the Houston Press (for those curious, you might be surprised by what goes into Manischewitz).

All in all, this has been wonderful trip and visit for me and the girls.

They’ve loved grandma’s house with its many treasures.

They’ve loved getting to know their cousins Amalia, Abner, Oscar, and Eli.

Everyone has been so welcoming and sweet and the girls have had a blast.

That’s Tracie P and Lila Jane, below, watching the sunset yesterday evening from grandma Judy’s apartment at Seal Rock (La Jolla Cove).

Sadly, our short family vacation comes to an end tomorrow. I’ll see you on Wednesday…

best place to watch sunset la jolla

La Jolla won’t annoy ya… California, here we come!

la jolla california blacks beachThat’s Black’s Beach in the photo, above, one of California’s most famous nudist beaches — at least when I was growing up in La Jolla in the 1970 and 80s.

It’s also a great surf spot and when I was a kid, they used to take generators and beer kegs down there and put on some pretty rowdy rock shows (for real).

When you hang out at the Torrey Pines Glider Port above, you can often see the silhouettes of manta rays and dolphins swimming in the clear waters below.

In the distance, you can see one high-rise on the point. That’s the La Jolla Cove and the building is “939” on Coast Blvd., where my grandparents once lived and where my mother still lives to this day.

We’re heading there tomorrow for a long weekend with my family: our niece Amalia will be bat mitzvah on Saturday and we’ll be there for the services and party.

It’s a big occasion for our family for another reason. Most of our California family has never met Lila Jane, who just turned two. So it will be wonderful for them to get to know the Texas side of our family a little better.

As much as I love being a Texan, being married to a gorgeous and generously loving Texan, and raising our beautiful little Texans, Californian is still who and what I am.

I’m lucky that I get to spend so much time there and thrilled to be taking the girls there at this time of year.

As Mel Tormé says in his wonderful operetta “California Suite,” La Jolla won’t annoy ya… (here’s the link to moment when the song “La Jolla” appears and the entire work — give it a listen! — is embedded below).

Tomorrow night we’ll all fall asleep to the sound of waves crashing on the Children’s Pool. And Friday morning we’ll take the girls to see the seals who sunbath on the sand there (Lila Jane, in particular, is really excited about that!).

Thanks for being here. I’ll see you next week.

In the meantime, SURF’S UP!