I know it is a tough duty, but it was time for my spring winemaking trip to Napa Valley. This trip officially started Sunday March 23 and went until Friday March 28. On this trip we blended the 2012 Glenwood Cellars Cabernet with winemaker Brian Nuss of Vinoce Wines. We blended our 2013 Glenwood Cellars Sauvignon Blanc with a new winemaker for this vintage−Kent Humphrey of Eric Kent Wines in Sonoma. And we blended our second bottling of the new 2012 Glenwood Cellars Chardonnay with Kent (I will tell you more about this exciting new wine in a future posting). Kent and I also discussed the development of a new Glenwood Cellars Pinot Noir. We tasted samples and we expect to bottle this new wine around May 30. Stay tuned for more on that.
I actually started writing this article in American Airlines Admirals Club while waiting for the plane to Napa (you can’t imagine the pressure one is under having to go to Napa and taste wines day after day).
The pre-trip weekend was especially busy. As many of you know, Mrs. Tiedemann and I leased a Chicago apartment in September to use as our Chicago office for our many wine activities (we are putting a lot of effort into trying to get our wines in that market). We arrived late afternoon on Friday which gave us just enough time to unpack, catch our breath and then head out for dinner at Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse…one Chicago restaurant that is considering our wines for its wine list. Having dinner in these restaurants is a great way to judge server wine knowledge and review the wine lists. Deb Maclean is the manager and wine buyer there.
Saturday started out with a little excitement at the apartment. I was doing a small DIY project installing a new dimmer switch on the ceiling can lights in the dining area. I will confess this is my third attempt at this. I’ve yet to purchase the right dimmer switch. Now you would think that a guy who has been in the maintenance business for forty years, changed many light switches and had a great teacher in the electrical trade (Marvin Abergas was a journeyman electrician, a great guy and a wonderful father-in-law) could change a simple light switch without incident. Wrong. I disconnected the old switch, wired in the new (all was going well, confidence was high) and just as I was shoving the switch into the metal wall box, sparks flew, the lights went out, the apartment went dark, Mrs. Tiedemann screamed and I jumped a foot off the ground. Now I’d done it. I had blown the main breaker for our apartment’s electrical panel.
Now this situation required me to go to the building’s office with some embarrassment and ask for the maintenance department’s assistance. Of course, I had to explain to Vivi, the front desk person, and to Maria Mastej, our good friend operating the office on this morning what had happened. I got funny looks and some questions. All turned out well. Maintenance man Paul came to the rescue, reset the breaker to our panel (down in the basement electric room) and replaced the old switch. I told Paul that I would replace the switch and he said “No. No. I’ll take care of it.” There was certainly a message in his tone of voice, and the looks that Paul gave me told me that I wasn’t touching the switch again. The problem: Still no dimmer on the lights. I’ve decided to call a local electrical contractor to solve this problem.
After the failed DIY project came an eye examination and new glasses for Mrs. Tiedemann. Then we grabbed some pizza bread at a local deli and headed back to the apartment for lunch. We no sooner did we finish lunch than the folks from Atlas Galleries came to hang some artwork. Now don’t get excited, they aren’t Rembrandts, and hanging was indeed in the price of the artwork. Mrs. Tiedemann and I have sort of a running joke about artwork that we’ll never agree on what to buy. Fortunately we found we both really enjoyed the work a new contemporary French impressionist: Jaline Pol. She has created some amazing pieces with great colors which are bright and daring.
After hanging the pieces, the Atlas folks loaded up their cart and left. Then along came Cathy Salerno, a designer from Drapery Connection, to measure for blinds and drapes. Now don’t draw any conclusions−this was an unbudgeted expense. Our apartment is in a lovely old building called the Seneca building located on Chestnut Street right off Michigan Avenue. This building originally housed apartments, then converted to a hotel and now converted back to apartments. When it was a hotel our family stayed there for many years on our trips to Chicago. We love the building, we love the location and have learned to adapt to the fluctuating air conditioning and heating common in such old buildings. Currently we are learning just how many inches we need to open the window to regulate the heat. The windows in the building were changed a number of years ago. They are not Thermopane and do not seal well, making the apartment a little drafty. Since we are in the Windy City, experiencing the worst winter in 30 years, we needed some extra covering besides the sunscreens currently installed on the windows. I can tell you that the small bathroom and bedroom that are at the end of the heating duct are a real experience when the wind is blowing, particularly with the -15 degree wind chill.
With the window measuring and fabric selections completed, Mrs. Tiedemann and I sat down for a well-deserved glass of wine and cocktail. Just a bit of relaxation then off to dinner at Mike Ditka’s Steakhouse, which is about a block and a half from our apartment. We’ve tried over the years to make a reservation, but it was always booked. The weekend before this we had stopped in to find out who buys their wine and to eat lunch. Lunch at Ditka’s was a great experience. Mrs. Tiedemann and I had one of the best burgers we’d experienced in a long time. The service was great and we got the card for the managing partner and wine buyer: Paul Woodard. I followed up with an email to Paul introducing myself and asking about an opportunity to taste our wines. His response was one that fits into the ‘how small a world it is’ category. Turns out Paul and his fiancé also live in the Seneca building. In a follow-up email, I explained that we had dinner reservations for Saturday evening and he agreed to come by our table to introduce himself and talk shop.
Dinner at Ditka’s was even better than lunch. We beat the crowd and the wait by going to an early 6:30 p.m. reservation (I strongly recommend doing this; when we left at 7:40 p.m. the lobby was packed with people waiting to be seated). We had a great conversation with Paul and tasted our 2009 Tiedemann Signature Series Red Wine with him. We made an appointment in two weeks to taste all of our wines in the hope of getting a spot on Ditka’s wine list.
Neil, our server was outstanding and the food was excellent. I am sure that I’ll do a future post on Ditka’s. Mrs. Tiedemann and I agreed that it should be on our list of Chicago favorite regular restaurants.
Sunday Morning March 23: We woke up to find an inch of snow on the ground and it was still coming down. Will it never end? At 8:00 a.m., I was off to the airport and Napa Valley and Mrs. Tiedemann was headed back to Elkhart to hold down the fort. We would meet back in Chicago the following weekend when I returned.
I scheduled Napa to be a busy week. As I mentioned earlier, I blended wine but I also did winery and various interviews for the wine blog, caught up on Napa activities with old friends and even made some new friends. Stand by for Part 2 of my Spring Napa trip next Thursday.
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