I don’t know what got into me this year, but somehow, starting somewhere around the day after Christmas, I got obsessed with the coming of summer. I first fixated on daylight savings. March 11th. I looked it up, marked it on my calendar, and then every day I would note that I had gotten one day closer to the light. March 11th came, though, with rain. For the weeks and weeks that followed this expansion of lightness that I had so anticipated, the days stayed gray and dark. I began, then, looking at the seven-day forecast everyday, because everyday it would tell one more day into the future. I need the summer this year.
Well, my wait is finally at an end. No, it isn’t officially summer yet, but the days are long and warm and my favorite thing has started back up again: Our Wednesday night BBQs! These Wednesday BBQs, for me, are one of the big landmarks of the best season of the year. What better way, after all, to spend a long, warm (though never hot, this is California, after all) night than poolside with a cocktail and a steak just off the grill? Or chicken, if that’s how you roll. Either way, it’s right here waiting for you when you get done with your day’s work. Plus we’ve got a variety of salads, baked potatoes, and some beautiful desserts. Just about everything you might stock up at your very own BBQ, except we do it for you. It’s so easy, like a mini-vacation, mid-week. Just the way a summer night should be.
As you may have heard, California is a great place for wine. We try to keep a huge, and constantly rotating, variety here at the hotel, which means that it yours to sip for free every night in our bar. It’s a pretty nice little set up for you, our guests. But, you know, California wines are available, really, all over the world, including where you’re from. What’s special about coming here, to Northern California, when you’ve got a little bit of free time, is going wine tasting, and this month I thought I’d tell you about my favorite winery to visit.
And, no, this is not about my favorite wine. If you’re searching for the best tasting wine, sit in our bar and look. It’s free and you don’t have to have a designated driver. I’m talking about the most fun I’ve had at a winery, and the winery I’m talking about is Chandon. Chandon, of course, starts with a bit more fun because all its wines sparkle, and, you know, the visit lived up to the promise of those bubbles. The grounds are light and airy, littered with interesting and beautiful sculptures. The staff, too, is easy and good-humored, which is not necessarily true of every winery in the Napa Valley. There is a huge hilltop terrace where you can sit with your samples and order small plates from their amazing restaurant. It’s elegant, and yet not the kind of place that’s going to make you feel self-conscious about having maybe just a little more of their delicious bubbly wine than you had planned to drink. When I was there recently, it was with the plan to hop from place to place, wine tasting the way one hears about it being done. We got stuck, though, for hours and hours, at Chandon. It was so endlessly inviting, so exactly the thing we had in mind when we set out on the adventure. My advice to you, skip the rest and head straight for the best.
It’s always fun to meet and get to know the new additions to our staff, to learn about where they’re coming from, where they plan to go to, and, in so many cases around here, who on the staff they’re related to. But, I have to say, the ones whose stories I’m always the most curious about are the ones who take the graveyard shift. This decision, to work through the hours that the rest of the world is sleeping, is pretty dramatic, and the people who make it have strong reasons. Of course, I’m also hoping that someday we’ll hire a vampire and, through my insightful questioning, I’ll be the one who figures it out. But I digress.
As you may have guessed, all this is to say that we’ve hired a new graveyard bellman. Matt is his name and he’s been here for just a couple of months. Matt’s a student at San Jose State, with plans to teach PE and coach sports. Well, actually, it isn’t just a plan, he’s already coaching middle school sports and he loves it. But until he gets his degree, he can’t take on the PE classes that would fill out his schedule and allow him to live off of this work. Still, having found the thing he wants to do in his life, he doesn’t want to take a break until he’s done with school. Instead, he took enough graveyard hours to fill out his work week, without cutting into his middle school or his college time. He sleeps, he says, from 8am-12pm and then again from 8pm to 10pm. When I asked him how that felt he said that he used to sleep a lot and so he figures he’s got enough rest stored up to do this for a while. Which reminded me that he’s 22 and will be just fine. And, anyway, all good coaches know the importance of hard work and sacrifice. Even better if they have experience of it.
A long long time ago, as maybe one or two of you might, possibly, maybe remember, I told you about a favorite little place of my called Yummi Yogurt. Frozen yogurt was out of favor way back then. Those were the days when Dr. Atkins was our overlord and we were all getting skinny by eating double cheeseburgers with butter melted on top, hold the bun. Somehow, though, in the last year or so, frozen yogurt has wheedled its way back into our collective conscious. Now there are Pinkberries and Red Mangos and Tutti Fruttis in every strip mall worth its salt and people are lining up out their doors.
Not me, though. I’m sticking with Yummi Yogurt. Not that I’m close-minded. I made a little tour of the others. Maybe frozen yogurt got popular again because there was some huge technological improvement and all these newer, trendier places actually were serving the best dessert known to man. It was possible. But, no! Yummi Yogurt is still creamier. Its flavors are still richer. Plus they change the flavors everyday and the variety is, for lack of a better word, eccentric.
Not convinced yet? Then let me give you another small twist. I’ve been going to Yummi Yogurt for a little bit more than 20 years. I feel awfully old writing that, but it’s true anyway. The owner still remembers me from when I was in middle school and coming in there everyday. Pinkberry is run by a board of directors, I can’t figure out where, and brags on its website, about having become and “iconic brand”. If you’re reading this, then you perhaps know the difference between our hotel and the Marriot, and have chosen us. Yummi Yogurt over Pinkberry is kind of like that.
Those of you who’ve been reading this newsletter over the years, which, I’m not sure there’s anyone who’s been reading this newsletter at all, but if anyone out there has been reading this newsletter over the years, you’ll maybe remember that I have already told you about Chandon’s sparkling wines. But having, this same month, declared my love for the Chandon winery, it seemed a little phony to then switch over and write to you about some other wine that you can sit in our bar and drink. I thought, instead, to offer a couple of little tidbits that have sharpened my enthusiasm for our friendly neighborhood bubbly maker.
First, as we all know, even though we’ll all say that we’re going out to buy a bottle of champagne and happily come home with a beautiful bottle of California bubbles, technically, legally, the French have a lock on that name. Champagne can only come from Champagne! Which has left me, at least, wondering what’s missing from my local selection. What secret subtleties am I not sipping? Well, perhaps the folks at Chandon had that same question because they’ve charmed a young French woman, raised in a winemaking family in, yes, Champagne, to join their winemaking team. What, then, does the Chandon team not know about the secrets of French sparkle? Nothing, now.
The second little thing that I like about Chandon is that on their website you can find several pages of cocktail recipes that their bubbly wines make the centerpieces of. I have no idea if any of them are any good as I, personally, hate champagne cocktails. I love that they’re there, though. It shows such levity on the part of this winery, such a lack of the pious severity that is, well, not unknown in their counterparts. It reminds me of what I liked so much about visiting their winery. I was in one of the more beautiful, elegant places I’ve been in my life, and yet I felt relaxed and unselfconscious.
It’s all about Chandon this month. Sit in our bar and sip their wine after work all week, and then take off on the weekend and visit the mother ship. It’ll be a great week.