Hot Springs 2021, Part One

May 13 – 24, 2021

May arrived with rapidly declining Covid rates and Joanna and I fully vaccinated, began to plan for a return to our routine of the last seven years of abundant travel.  This next trip would mirror those we did last year during the height of the crisis, indeed much of what we will do during the remaining year will be similar, that is car trips of varying length with international travel to be resumed in the 2022 and beyond.

Home to Oakland

Home to Oakland

We spent the first four nights, as we do so often, visiting Jessica, Kris, and little G in Oakland.  On the way we stopped at Andrew Murray vineyards to do a wine club pick up and got sandwiches at Panino’s in Los Olivos, a chain we’re familiar with from our bike weekends in the area.  I had a ham and cheese sandwich while Joanna thoroughly enjoyed her English Stilton with Bartlett Pear (Olive Oil, Balsamic Vinegar, Tangy Blue Cheese, Sweet Juicy Pears, Dried Cranberries w/ Crunchy Walnuts and Greens), although the vinegar soaked the bread to the point where it all fell apart before she could finish.  A better choice would have been a baguette for a firmer foundation but some plastic silverware saved this days sandwich.

In Oakland, we’d engage in most of our usual activities close to the apartment and have a couple of fun outings during the weekend.  The first of these was Saturday afternoon; after putting Gemma down for her second nap, Jessica and Kris went to San Francisco to meet friends (James and his girlfriend Jessica, his parents, Alyssa and her boyfriend and Rebecca) and rent kayaks near Oracle Park (home of the Giants baseball team).

ATwater Tavern

ATwater Tavern and Oracle Park

Once Gemma was awake, we toted her down to the car and drove over to the city to meet the group, fortunately finding plentiful free parking across from ATwater Tavern where everyone had gathered after their watery adventure.  We joined them on the back patio underneath a large awning and ordered our first round of drinks, commenting on how chilly it was with the wind blowing in off of the bay.

ATWater View of the Bay

ATWater’s Chilly View of the Bay

We started with a Westar Prickly Pear Smokarita (mezcal bruxo and prickly pear) for Joanna, and I had a Sazerac (limousine rye, emperor Norton absinthe rinse, and Peychaud’s bitters), which I get whenever I can.  To eat we split a very good order of fish and chips (with fries and Cole slaw) and I washed it down with a Trumer Pils (a locally brewed Austrian pilsner, one of my favorites) on draft.

Fish and Chips at Atwater Tavern

Fish and Chips at ATwater Tavern

With this group of friends, the conversation is always lively and of course, little G stole the show, but that might just be a proud grandparent talking.  Regardless, it was a very nice time and we soon found ourselves bidding farewell to all and heading back to Oakland.  Our next outing took place early Sunday afternoon with a drive out to Sonoma for a wine tasting at Rams Gate Winery where Jessica and Kris are members.

Outdoors at Ramsgate

Outdoors at Ramsgate

Unfortunately, one can’t visit if accompanied by a child who can walk, Little G’s latest trick, and so we abandoned to head up the road to Viansa Winery which had a very nice outdoor space replete with covered picnic tables and a kitchen dishing up sandwiches and pizzas.  It was a gorgeous sunny afternoon, not too warm and it felt great to be out with people as we begin to look at the restrictions and lockdowns of the pandemic in our rear-view mirror.

Hanging Out at Viansa

Hanging Out at Viansa

We started out by sampling two glasses of their white wine and one rose, which was the clear winner, enough so that we went ahead and got a bottle to split.  In the meantime, we demolished two pizzas, one a pepperoni/sausage combo and the other a Margherita with the meat based one the clear winner.

We finished up the wine and pizza and pondering what direction to go in now, Kris mentioned that James, Jessica, and his parents would be visiting the area, up the road at Jacuzzi Family Vineyards and that we could possibly meet them there.  A quick interchange of text’s set it up and soon we were on our way to our next stop.

Jacuzzi Vineyards

Jacuzzi Vineyards

Here the family also produces and sells its own olive oil and when we arrived James and family were on a tasting tour of that part of the operation.  We checked out the gift shop, purchased a bottle of wine and some chocolates and repaired to the rear of the facility to an outdoor table with an umbrella to await the arrival of their group.

Back of Tasting Room

Back of Tasting Room

Both wineries were great places to visit with a toddler as there was plenty of outdoor space for Little G to roam about safely, under the watchful eye of a parent or grandparent of course.  Soon James and family arrived, more wine was opened, and the balance of our stay flowed gracefully as we got a chance to get to know his parents and his Jessica much better than the day before.

A Bottle at Jacuzzi

A Bottle at Jacuzzi

With an hour drive to get home we soon had to leave to start G’s bedtime routine, that is dinner, bath, and good night kisses.  It had been yet another fun-filled stay with Jessica and Kris and knowing we’d be seeing them again the next month made it a little easier to say goodbye the next morning as prepared for our full day’s drive to Lone Pine.  We’ll cover that and more in the next post.

Baby G in May

First Steps for Little G



Rams Gate Winery:

Viansa Winery:

Jacuzzi Family Vineyards:


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