My third overnight in one week (read about #1 and #2) was a trip to Napa, aka California’s drunkest county. A friend of mine, Nichole, has an amazing relative, Tori, who owns a fantastic winery, Frog’s Leap. She was kind enough to invite us (Nichole, myself, and four other friends) to the annual Frog’s Leap Peach Festival, which is essentially their harvest kick-off celebration. For the price of your ticket, you get to eat as much food and drink as much wine (and peach-flavored beer) as you want. The light breeze was warm, and there were kids running around, and quaint little chalkboards with all the options at each tent listed. There was the tent where you could get corn with peach butter and ribs, the tent that had two different types of salad, each with peach vinaigrette, the tent with the three sliders (salmon, pulled pork, and roasted pepper; each with a peach sauce, of course.) And then there was the dessert tents: peach ice cream, peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream, deep fried peaches with cream. Let’s just say the food was fantastic. And then there were the wines…
Over the course of three hours, I tried all seven wines, and the peach beer. And I had four glasses of water. (Don’t worry, I was drunk, but actually not that badly. I guess all that drinking in Prague served me well.)
I started with the Sauvignon Blanc, which was probably my favorite of them all. It was light and refreshing and honestly felt more like I was quenching my thirst than I was drinking alcohol. I absolutely loved it. I ended up buying a bottle on our way out, and my dad said it was the best Sauvignon Blanc he’s ever had. He doesn’t drink all that much wine, so I don’t know if that carries any weight, but I loved and he loved it and it was totally worth it. So yeah.
I moved on to the Zinfandel, which was also great. One of my favorite two reds. I swear, these were not my favorites because they were first. I never got that drunk. The Zin went really well with the corn that I was having, and with the deep fried peach I had next. I bought a couple bottles of this one too to bring home, and it went well with the BBQ chicken, bell peppers, and pasta we had with it. I’d say it’s safe to say this Zinfandel pairs well with most any summer dinner.
Then came the Cabernet Sauvignon. It was good, but I’ve had better. Perhaps it was just overshadowed by the absolutely amazing sliders I was having at the time. Pulled pork with peach sauce on the right (amazing), smoked salmon with peach glaze in the middle (amazing), and pepper and mushroom with a peach truffle sauce not really pictured (absolutely amazing). But the wine was good too.
The Heritage Blend. This one was just okay. It tasted basically just like red wine without any distinct flavors, which makes sense, seeing as it is a mix of grapes. I didn’t like it that much, and was glad I was distracted by the scavenger hunt that we completed. It took us all over the main property, and we theoretically learned some stuff about the winery, but really we just used it as an excuse to get up and walk around. Plus, we were gunning for the basket of wines. We didn’t win, but that was okay, because it was actually a lot of fun.
And the Merlot. The Merlot was goooood. I like Merlots in general, and this one was better than a lot of Merlots that I’ve had. It pretty much tied the Zinfandel for my favorite of all the reds, although I bought Zinfandel and not Merlot to bring home because a Merlot seemed too heavy for outdoor barbecue. At least, this one did. But when I go to a restaurant and see this on the menu, I’ll definitely be getting a glass or two. By this point, we had tasted all the food, completed the scavenger hunt, and moved on to the photo booth. We had to wait in line. The above selfie happened.
Followed by the Petite Sirah. We were chilling out, chatting, and eating some more peach ice cream, which was the perfect blend of peach flavor and ice cream creaminess and generally tasty. The wine was good too. It was berry-y and full of flavor, but I think it would have been better if it had aged for a few years, or maybe a decade. You can see Elizabeth’s glass of peach iced tea, which was also tasty (I just had a sip.)
Finally, I finished off the wine selections with a glass of Chardonnay. It was sweet and smooth, like a Chardonnay should be. I didn’t like the Chardonnay as much as the Sauvignon Blanc, but I tend to not like Chardonnays as much as Sauvignon Blancs, so that doesn’t surprise me. But it was definitely a nice wine to finish the afternoon with, and it was nice to get Nichole into a photo, not like I had to ask…
Okay, not finally. And not really finished either. I grabbed a glass of the peach beer too on our way out. The party was over, but ours wasn’t… The beer was good, if not fantastic. (I’m spoiled. Thanks, Prague.) But it was good. I liked the peach flavor, and it went well with the peach ice cream I was finishing when I got the beer. It also went well with the burrito, which I got when I was finishing the beer. It seems to go well with most things.
When we walked in, Tori made us promise to be Frog’s Leap fans forever, and after this fantastic afternoon, I can certainly do that! We finished the evening on a small meadow on Frog’s Leap property, after driving past vineyards. We had a few more beers, a burrito, some s’mores, and slept under the stars. Or would have, had there been stars – it was cloudy. But the trip as a whole was AMAZING.
*Just a note. This was originally written when I was still drunk. It was reread to make sure nothing outrageous was getting put on the internet (the privacy lessons my parents instilled in me as a child seem to have worked, at least somewhat). But only minimal edits were made. So enjoy a glimpse of my less-functioning mind, and take everything with a grain of salt: *
And here I am. Home at just after 4 in the morning. Knowing I should sleep, but the little hairs in my ears are still damaged from the incredibly high decibel level they endured all night and I can’t fall asleep for some reason because the muffled sounds of late at night (really, early in the morning) are strange.
On a side note, I think that the hours of 3 and 4 are really the quietest hours of the day. Because even the latest night owls are asleep, or curled up with their internet and a big, warm blanket. And the earliest early birds aren’t up yet – they’ve been asleep for hours and are catching their last few moments of shuteye.
Anyways… we had a great time. We started with a glass of very sour white wine at a diskotech near Vyšehrad. I swear, of all the things I expected when I went out for a night on the town with my host mom – the person who is theoretically making sure I don’t do anything stupid or life altering while I’m living in Prague* – I did not expect to feel old at a club. But this first place we went to was basically empty, and everyone there looked like they were 16 at the oldest. Apparently the fake ID business is a booming business in Europe too…
*I say theoretically because she says I should do what I want. I asked what she would say if I came home with a tattoo – she said nothing. I asked what she would say if Emma asked her about a tattoo – she said that she’d tell Emma everyone is allowed to do whatever they want. She asked me why I think I have to wait to have kids. Don’t worry, Dad, I did not get a tattoo, and I have no intentions of getting pregnant.
Obviously, we got out of there, and ended up at a bar called Harley’s around 11. Needless to say, Harley’s is an American-themed establishment, with motorcycles hanging from the ceiling and a variety of vanity license plates on the walls and Jack Daniel’s as the bar’s drink of choice. In typical Czech fashion, however, we started out with a plain ol’ Staropramen beer. (Staropramen – the local Praha beer, but definitely not as good as Pilsner. Just sayin’)
Anna got hit on by three different guys within not even five minutes, (what is this nonsense, I mean, she’s married!) and a group of three Italian guys (we were three, with Anna’s very nice coworker studying economics having joined us) from Milan bought us a second round. Also, at some point, because Aneta was wearing three or four giant rings, including one on her ring finger, the Italians asked if she was married. Apparently they wear their wedding ring on the other hand? Aneta’s left hand – no ring. Then my left hand – no ring. Then Anna’s left hand – no ring. And a shared smile by us three girls. ‘Cuz Anna never wears her ring. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her wear it. But she never said she wasn’t married – they just assumed. And bought us all a round of shots of blackcurrent flavored vodka. And then an extra one because I’m American, which means I must drink a lot, right?
We danced all night – really, I should say all morning at this point – to classic rock’n’roll songs. With the Italians. And the Brits. And the group of incredibly attractive Danes. Who bought us more beers. (They did it properly, though, and went for the Pilsners.) The 2am fire show was fun to watch – we sat at the bar and watched the three bartenders as they threw flaming alcohol bottles around their backs and back and forth and spat fire. It was quite impressive, but also terrifying, because we are sitting at the bar not even half a meter away from flinging fire, which is itself not even half a meter away from the wall of alcohol bottles. I feel like their nightly fire show is just an explosive disaster waiting to happen.
Hopefully, though, I’ll get back there before that happens. Because, in spite of the fact that I met only the Czechs that I came with, there were a lot of very attractive foreigners looking for a good night on the town. And I learned that I have made a significant transition in my second language abilities. Namely, that I no longer try to speak Japanese when I’m drunk. Nope. Now I speak Czech. Better than I do when I’m sober, I think. That and the beer was cheap.
…I barely had two liters of beer.
I definitely thought Oktoberfest was a giant beer drinking festival, but in reality it is a giant carnival. It makes every county fair I’ve ever been to look pathetically tiny.
Literally, dozens of roller coasters and bumper cars and every other type of ride imaginable. And all the crazy foods that go with such madness – including not only cinnamon coated doughnuts and warm chocolate and coconut coated almonds, but also pretzels literally twice the size of my head and roasted fish.
Technically, this madness is a wedding festival, celebrating the marriage of some German king to some beautiful lady. But in reality, it is a two week, three weekend excuse for Germany to shut down and party. There are about a dozen “tents,” each of which takes a couple months to build and a week to take down. My rough estimate is that each tent seats at least 2,000 people, and they probably cover not even a third of the fairgrounds. Oktoberfest is literally HUGE.
A lot of people said that going to Oktoberfest is an absolute must, that I’d be crazy to miss it. Others said that its basically a madhouse and I’d be crazy to attempt it. In reality, both parties are right, but it was totally worth it.
I went to Oktoberfest with Christine and Alessandra, who are friends currently living in Paris. Christine is good friends with my neighbor (they went to high school and studied abroad in France together), and Alessandra is just a few years younger than myself. They have friends, Misha and Sophie, who live in Munich and are ethnically Czech. Just to be confusing. Long story short, we got the real Munich tourist experience, courtesy of Misha and her friend, and got the inside scoop on how to do Oktoberfest right. Being with them also means that we actually had a table reserved in a tent Sunday afternoon, which is apparently a difficult feat. Anyways, we spent Saturday going around Munich itself – churches, fountains, German food and red wine for lunch, and Italian food and white wine for dinner.
The reality is that Oktoberfest was totally worth it. (Expensive, but totally worth it.) I fulfilled my new-country-of-the-month quota (because apparently the Czech Republic doesn’t count and we’re saying Denmark was in August) and I had a really great semester. I got over my homesickness, and had a really great experience. I got to see dozens of adorable German children, hundreds of German women in traditional dirndls, and one dog dressed like this: