This morning after waking up in my own bed, my husband Kevin, made me a cup of coffee.  My bleary-eyed, not quite awake self, in one quick action took a generous sip of the java, rolling it around on my tongue and taking in a little air.  I was trying to capture the nuances of the flavor.   This works really well with wine, but not so well with hot coffee.

Let me explain.  Late last night we returned from a rare week away without the kids, experiencing for the first time, the amazing, beautiful wine country, God’s country. Sonoma.  Loving wine, Kevin has always wanted to go, so we took advantage of my sister’s prolonged Easter visit and generosity, leaving the kids with their Aunt for a fun week at home.

Trying to figure out how this story fits into my gardening rambles, I decided it fit right along with the tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers.   I’ll include some traveling rambles (and eating and drinking!) from time to time too.  Driving through the town of Sonoma, I was amazed that a great many of the homes had small vineyards growing right in their front yards!    I imagined how absolutely incredible it would be to have the right climate to include some vines in my garden in Nebraska.   The fruits of my labor would result in a whole new kind of bounty!

This time of year, the vines were mostly bare, just the bones really, beginning to wake up with evidence of new growth.  Each type of varietal grows on a different kind of vine.  I gave them all names based on their shape; soldiers, brothers in arms, fingernails.  There were some that looked like something you would see growing outside of a haunted house, dark, thick and twisty; the jamm-y zinfandel grape grows here.  Jambones.

We visited many vineyards.  At first we hit the big productions with sprawling mansions and vines that went on forever, clearly each trying to outdo the other in grandeur.   You couldn’t help but let out a little gasp, picking your jaw up off your chest as you walked into their foyer.

One afternoon we decided to give our caramelizing palates a break, and ventured further north to visit Armstrong Redwoods State Park.   The majestic trees, some towering over 300 feet tall, solidified our thoughts about what a beautiful country we live in.

Speaking of beauty, we have never seen anything like this little guy before.  He measured about 6 inches long.  He was munching on a leaf, nom, nom, nom.   I posted him on Facebook (which happens to be the quickest way to get any question answered!), and seems like everyone knew exactly what he was!

The last couple of days we spent exploring the Alexander Valley and Dry Creek.  Finding gems in much smaller productions with equally breathtaking views.   We “Face-timed” the kids from Stryker showing them the view, they later told us it was so beautiful it looked like we had photo-shopped the whole thing.   Our favorite of them all, hands down was Medlock Ames.  Medlock Ames is a newer winery who aggressively practice environmental sustainability, utilizing completely organic methods for production.   They have wonderful examples of some of the produce found on their ranch growing in raised beds just outside of their tasting room.  They were recently featured in Food and Wine, so they are enjoying some well deserved attention.  Still, they promise that even as they grow, that they will only sell their wines to restaurants that share their philosophies.   It was probably their amazing Kate & B’s Block Cab I was hoping to taste as I sipped my coffee this morning.

Which brings me back to the reality of the day.   We returned to Nebraska with some pretty hefty storm warnings.  This is only the second time in history that the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center has issued a high risk for tornadoes more than 24 hours in advance.   At almost noon, it seems more like dusk and the sky is looking quite green.  Time to make sure the phones are charged, and flashlights are in place in the basement.   The wine is down there too.