Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Labor Day Weekend

Much to our parents dismay (because it was a holiday weekend - and maybe other reasons too - like we were way too young!) we chose to get married September 1, 1973. Yup, 35 years ago! So we consider the whole weekend 'our' weekend! We use to go to the Scottish Games on Saturday but stopped a few years ago. This year we took 2 of the grandsons (well, 3 if you count the one who will be born in about 3 weeks), and their mom & dad, on a train ride. The Niles Canyon Railway had their steam engine out and of course, hubby could not pass it up! The boys (all 3 of them!!!) seemed to have a good time!

And then on Sunday and Monday was the Livermore Valley Harvest Wine Festival. You buy a ticket - get a wine glass, and get to visit any (or all if you can do it between the hours of 12 and 5 PM) of the 43 participating wineries to taste their wine. We felt really old when we told someone we had been doing this yearly since 1990 and they told us we should get special treatment becuase it had been so long!!!! Thanks a lot!

This year there seemed to be less people - less traffic. Dont know if because there are so many more wineries that the traffic was more spread out - if the cost of the tickets and the economy had an impact - or what. But it was nice to put up with less traffic and crowds! But we also noticed that the wineries were tasting fewer of their wines and there were less vendors at each place than usual. Also one of the venues I really wanted to visit was already closed (well before thenending time) by the time we got there.

The weather was lovely - after a mid week heat wave, it cooled off very nicely. Sunny and warm all weekend - heat and wine drinking dont mix well! The only downside was the wind on Sunday which played havoc with my allergies but that even eventually died down.

I also have a very disappointed husband - he always gets a Festival tshirt and this year we couldnt find the right one (meaning right size!). In fact, we only could find 2? 3? wineries selling them.

We were very startled when we went to one of the newest wineries and they wouldnt even let us into the tasting room to look around unless we bought tickets for their barrel tasting! When we told them we just wanted to look around and not do the barrel tasting, we were told they had to do it this way for 'traffic control'. Hmmm, there was a total of 3 people in the tasting room - and they were all workers! And the tasting room was huge! Were they implying that we were so fat we would take up the whole room????? Oh, and there wasnt even anyone around us, behind us, near us, trying to buy tickets! They had the cutest t shirts there but of course, after that snobbishness, I was not about to buy anything from them...

We also had our usual anniversary dinner at Wente's. We always go there for our anniversary and sometimes in between. The restuarant is lovely - the food is wonderful - and the service is great (attentive but not rushing). And this year was so disappointing. First of all, they couldnt seat us at our reservation time...we ended up waiting 20 minutes (and the bar tender had a definite attitude problem and was not the least bit friendly) past our reservation time and yet the big room was only 1/2 filled and the smaller room was entirely empty. So where did we get seated? In this third very small room in the back. Very small. My view was of a blank wall filled with a huge mirror or out the French doors into a service area. Wow. The room held one large table set up for 10, 2- 4 seaters, and 2- 2 seaters. The big table was never filled. And the 4 seater behind us had an older man, his younger Asian wife, and the son who appeared to be about 6, and apparently had never been disciplined a day in his life. He thought it was fun to go over to the mirror and entertain himself there - never mind that he was disrupting others - or swing and do push ups on chairs from his table and another table - or stand next to another diner to look out thier window....on and on. And never once disciplined by the parent and no intervention from the staff. But then again, apparently this restaurant that once prided itself on being a 4 or 5 star restaurant no longer has a dress code when we saw them seat a young man wearing a tank top undershirt, shorts, and flip flops. It apparently must be all about the money now and not standards.

The food was excellant but nothing on the menu was on the website menu (http://www.wentevineyards.com/restaurant/default.asp) which I had checked that morning for their daily updates. My mouth was so watering for the pavlova dessert! And of course they didnt have it; in fact, their dessert menu was quite disappointing. I think this was the least expensive meal we ever had there - we skipped the bottle of wine (what happened to their extensive binder of wines? Now they have a few listed in the menu itself) and no dessert....And it still took waiting over 20 minutes to get our check. The waitress came by once to fill up our water. They usually clean the tablecloth between courses and this did not happen. She checked on us once during the meal, and then when she delivered the dessert menu. It wasnt even our waitress that came back to find out if we wanted dessert - it was a 'manager' who apologized because the waitress was 'opening wine bottles'. Let me tell you, there were not enough people in the restaurant to keep someone busy opening wine bottles for 20 minutes! (Yes, I did put this review on www.yelp.com and also sent a copy of it to the restaurant).

At this point there was only ourselves and one other couple in the back room. That couple told us that since it was taking so long to get our bill, when they heard us ask 2 different people for our bill, that we should just leave! It was tempting!

Finally the waitress appeared with the bill - and an apology that it took so long becuase she was getting our anniversary surprise! 6 cookies on a plate on which was written in chocolate - Happy Anniversary! Complementary of course. And I think they had probably bought the frozen shaped cookie dough at Costco and baked them a few days before...

Very disappointing! Will we go back? Probably. In all the time we have been going there, we have only been disappointed twice - and the other time was lunchtime.

Isnt this pretty? It used to sit in the bend of the road. Run down, dilapidated. And then a couple bought it to renovate for a B&B and had so many issues with the city that they gave up. After that, the wife of one of the Madden's (yes, THE Maddens) bought it and worked on it more. Dont know why that fell thru but it did. Finally the Concannon Winery (one of the oldest in the valley) moved it further back on their property to protect it from vandals. They have it on that new brick foundation and the beautiful grounds - she looks proud and happy again, doesnt she!

We had fun on Sunday. Got to sip my absolute favorite raspberry champagne (http://www.squidoo.com/LittleValleyWinery) at 2 different sites - and one of them featured a blooming edible hibiscus flower in it! Had to try that one - it was fun and would be great to have at showers and all. The volunteer serving was fun to talk to - married to an East Bay Regional Parks police officer - mother of a son who plays water polo at the same HS our daughter went to - also did lifeguarding for the city just like our daughter....yada yada yada. And the people from the Little Valley wines are the extremely (and rightly so!) proud aunt and uncle of the goalie on the silver medal Olympic men's water polo team!

We heard some great music this weekend - sat and listened to a big band under the grape filled arches at Concannon Winery (see photo of grapes up above!). And came home that night and, on the night of our real anniversary, had a wonderful dinner of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!


Aunt Kathy said...

Well what can I say to that?

I can say Happy Belated Anniversary

PB&J for dinner???

Sorry about the restaurant.
And the T-shirt.

Glad the train ride with the grandkids was fun.

and {{{HUGS}}} for keeping a positive attitude through it all.

baxter said...

Yeah PB&J cause we werent hungry until too late for a bigger dinner! And in fact - I only had 1/2 a PB&J sandwich! LOL