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After hauling ourselves out of bed and managing the dance in the shower of hell for the first time, we ate a hearty breakfast with lots of protein and liquids so that the heat and wine wouldn’t take its toll.  We rolled down Six Mile Road to our first stop of the day, Ironstone, the mega-mall winery of mythic proportions.  Ironstone goes beyond anything I have seen at Napa, and I thought I have seen it all.  This is a complex that houses a museum with a 44 pound gold nugget, three floors of rooms for banquets or other functions, a park where you can try your hand at panning for gold, a “branch office” of the Black Oak Casino, concert stage, and wine tasting room with restaurant, deli, and the obligatory gift shop. This particular weekend the local quilting guild was in the complex, and the local Humane Society had a “Dog and Pony Show” in another part of the grounds.  We headed to the Quilter’s faire, where I naturally found a place that was selling beads.  AF found a bake sale inside.  Inside, where it was cooooool.  I noticed that the small room off to the side had the bake sale, and the rest of the room was filled with quilts, and quilting paraphernalia, including a ergonomic table for sewing machines, and a convertible pattern cutting table.  I checked out the bake sale which did something that I hadn’t seen at bake sales.  The quilting guild had put their baked goods on antiquish plates, and bowls.  I happened to find two very small copper molds with goodies in them.  The molds turned out to be quite prophetic.  One had a grape cluster on it, the other, a four leaf clover.  Though it wasn’t a shamrock, I took it as “divine inspiration” as to where we were going to have VintaCon this year (snicker).  I perused the room, and managed to find a lovely dinosaur quilt for only fifty dollars.  Sigh.  No where to put it, so I left that bargain behind for some seven year old to enjoy.  I did find unique candelabras made from barrel staves.  I chose a five candle size for $15, and got a table runner to compliment, made with grape fabric.  Ms. F. was still shopping for the perfect backpack purse and did manage to find one.  It was now an hour and a half into the day.  I headed up to see the nugget in the “museum” (gimmick to bring people into buy overpriced jewelry, books and other tourist gewgaw).  Yup, a big damned nugget they got there, woo-hoo.  Over at the mall, er, tasting room it was crowded.  Very, very crowded.  Everyone was bellying up to the bar, eating at the restaurant, getting deli items and shopping at the overpriced gift shop.  I will say this, when I did manage to get a spot at the bar, the wine wasn’t that bad.  For an extra two dollars, you could sample their “reserve wines”.  I declined.  They make a Symphony wine named “Obsession” that was just sweet enough without being too overpowering, and the one and only California “Shiraz” I managed to see on this trip.  I inquired as to why the Aussie name and the pourer said that they had brought over cuttings from Australia, therefore the Aussie name.  I ended up getting a variety of their wines, however, the zoo atmosphere had taken its toll, and I wanted nothing more to do with the place.  The staff, incredibly busy, did have time to personally haul the large amount of wine to the car (which I brought up from BFE parking).  Ms. F. had shown up, tasted and bought a case.  It was now two and a half hours into our day, and I wanted get going.  By no means should there be a huge event going on when we are there.  They do offer tours of their wine caves, but of course that weekend they weren’t.  I’m sure during October there won’t be the circus like atmosphere there was on that day.

We proceeded onward down Six Mile Road.  After a slow drive down a gravel section we reached Gerber-Laraine Vineyards.  This is the type of winery that I am more accustomed to.  A large vineyard, very pastoral nestled in its own valley; they use the small farmhouse as their tasting room.  “Bam-Bam”, a very elderly Rott/Lab mix was there resting in his “sandbox” at the front.  This is a Hollywood connection winery, where the owners are a director/producer and actress.  Apparently that stops in Hollywood, as they take their winery very seriously and want to get as far away from Hollywood as possible when it comes to their winemaking.   Their wine is very well crafted and it was the first Chard that appealed to me.  Very well balanced.

After moving on to Hwy 4, we took a gander at the Twisted Oak facility, which is fairly nice, you get to see the large production area from there and more of their “twisted humor”.  Moving on, our next stop was Irish Vineyards.  These guys are all over the map as far as varietals.  They do use the “Irish” theme to the extreme.  Why?  The owner’s name is Irish.  Their Blarney White comes in a green version named “Slainte” which is an Irish toasting wine, and many people (including me) are suckered into buying the novelty bottle. Most of their wine is fair and worth a trip.  They make a tasty apricot wine, however, I found the Malvasia to be a treat.  Our last stop on Hwy 4 was Chatom winery.  As we walked in the door I could tell that this winery has a definite sense of humor.  They proclaim that “Our Owner’s Gay!”  Gay Callan, that is. Apparently some folks had a problem with their sense of humor and thought that was “offensive”. The tasting room is more like a wine and food pairing experience, more than just a tasting.  Being that it was the last stop, it was nice to have something more than crackers to go with the wine. It is a “must stop”, whatever we plan for.  The Semillion goes with the unusually wonderful almond/lavender/lemon bark that they have for sale there too.   Thus ended our day two in the hills of gold.

Next Installment:  Shakespeare in the park and the Sunday mother lode