Wednesday, June 30, 2010

My Gadabout Adventure

I work with a couple of people who own a side business in addition to their regular day jobs. They are a couple as in there are two of them but they’re also married. My workplace is a little unusual that way. The husband was expected to be out of town on company business, so I was asked to fill in as hostess on a few trips for said side business during his absence. His company business has been postponed, but they asked me along yesterday to get some on-the-job hostess training while they took out a small group. I was really glad I was invited.

Robin and Danita have been operating Gadabout Serene Adventures for at least a couple of years now. I’ve known about it but didn’t realize how really cool it is. Although their trips and tours are catered to seniors, anyone is welcome. (Anyone who wants to pay, of course.) What’s included? Everything. Danita normally acts as hostess and serves breakfast, drinks and snacks. Meals are included as well as overnight lodging on trips lasting more than a day. Transportation is provided to each destination, the only extra money needed is for souvenirs. Wine, in my case.

I was invited to go along on the wine tasting trip. What? Wine tasting instead of working? Oh no, I couldn’t possib – oh, alright, twist my arm! Damn my lush reputation! The trip included lunch at our first stop at King Estate Winery near Eugene, followed by visits at Sweet Cheeks Winery and Silvan Ridge Winery. Yeah, more about the Sweet Cheeks name later.

We left Bend at 7 a.m. and picked up a few more customers in Sisters. It ended up being a small group of just seven, which was okay with me for my first time. Robin and Danita have several regular customers and three of them came along, plus one new couple and Danita’s parents. On the way to Eugene, I helped serve breakfast rolls and drinks. There’s a really good reason that I don’t wait tables. Ask one person what they want to drink, and promptly forget while asking the second person. Seniors are generally forgiving, or at least he pretended not to mind. We played Bingo (because that’s what old people do) and they won small prizes. Easy breezy.

We arrived at King Estates Winery ahead of schedule but they were more than accommodating with our lunch reservation. King Estates provides both lunch and dinner and had narrowed down their menu for our tour group, printing special menus just for us. I saved a couple of them because I always save stuff like that. I also like to take pictures of my food and drinks, which I think everyone else found amusing, if not odd. Don’t judge me, old people.

Lunch started with drinks, but not wine, because that was for later. The new couple ordered Chardonnay sodas, which I had never heard of, but then I had to order my own after seeing their cute little fizzy bottles. Yes, I took a picture. Our menu choices were an albacore salad, roast chicken with spinach and mushrooms or a hanger steak with fingerling potatoes. The descriptions on the menu were better than mine, but whatever. Use your imagination, they all sounded scrumptious. Being the carnivorous meat-eater that I am, I ordered the hanger steak. It was cooked perfectly and the potatoes were yummy and there was a little pat of garlic butter that I used my third piece of bread for so I could use it all up. I sopped up everything on my plate with every piece of bread I could find. Oh, but I took a picture first. It was all nomalicous.

Our dessert choices were either a bread pudding (again with a really tasty description I can’t recall) or a flourless chocolate cake with pistachio ice cream. It was a toss-up because I love chocolate cake, but I’m not crazy about pistachio ice cream. On the other hand, the bread pudding had some kind of rum or amaretto or some other boozy yumminess in it, but bread pudding can be soggy and weird sometimes. I chose the chocolate cake and you know what? I was wrong. I love pistachio ice cream! Especially when paired with a gigantic slice of super-rich, super nommy cake! Oh, heavenly day!! Yes, I remembered to take a picture before diving into my sin-on-a-plate. My very sweet neighbor offered her bread pudding up for a picture AND a bite. Bonus!! And I was wrong again (I hate when that happens) because it was incredibly warm, sweet, soft, flavorful and not at all soggy.

Lunch was followed by a tour of the winery where we learned how they make their most popular varieties, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. We saw the crush pad where the grapes are first brought in, the giant steel barrels they are fermented in and the wooden kegs the wine is aged in. I am always amazed at how scientific the wine-making process really is. There was all this talk about yeast and microbes and some kind of tartar clay and how they keep from getting foggy wine or ice crystals and some wines are allowed to heat up while others need to be kept cold. It’s a lot more than just picking some grapes and squeezing them into a glass. Of course that would just be called grape juice but you get the idea.

After the tour, we bellied up to the bar for some wine tasting. Our tour guide doubled as our bartender/sommelier and served us tastings of their Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and a dessert wine. I wasn’t as impressed with the wines as I was with the lunch. They weren’t bad, just a little dry for my taste and Pinot Gris isn’t really my favorite anyway. I did buy a bottle of Riesling though, because the description on the bottle says it has flavors of ginger and citrus. I like ginger. I like citrus. They better not be lying.

Next, it was on to Sweet Cheeks Winery, whose Riesling Danita was raving over since we left Bend. Now, about the name. If you know me at all, you can guess what kind of image the name Sweet Cheeks conjures for me. Well, when the winery owners saw the hills that the vineyard is planted on, they saw the same thing. How can you resist a wine with a name like that?

The aforementioned Riesling that was raved over is very good, but I ended up getting a bottle of the Rosy Cheeks (which brings to mind another image but my mind is a dirty place to live). They also had some delicious-sounding cheeses and the most wonderfully whimsical paintings on their walls. I took pictures of all of those too. I would have bought one if I’d had an extra two or three hundred dollars on me.

Our last winery stop was Sylvan Ridge, across the street from Sweet Cheeks. Obviously they were less imaginative in the naming of their wines, but not less skilled in the making of their wines. Of course the $40 Elizabeth’s Red was my favorite, but I settled on the less expensive Muscat. It’s perfectly yummy enough.

On the way home, Danita told me that they usually play a movie, but I think most everyone was content to doze off after their day of wine tasting. I couldn’t help sneaking in my own little cat nap after helping to serve non-alcoholic, re-hydrating beverages and snacks to the guests.

All in all it was a great day and a great way to play “hooky” from work. Robin and Danita are so wonderfully easy-going with their guests yet utterly professional. They have planned for so many of the little details I think it makes it easy for everyone to relax and have a really excellent adventure. Much better than Bill and Ted could have done.

As for me, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Robin is out of town in October so I can go on the Hearst Castle trip. I’ve always wanted to go there, but I’ll console myself with some Rosy Cheeks if it doesn’t pan out.


shannon said...

Love your blog! I'm going to become a regular!

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