Plinyland®

While in Sonoma County recently visiting my mother for the holidays, my surrogate dad, adventure pal and winemaker extraordinaire Bruce Patch invited me to go pick up some samples at the local wine storage facility in Windsor.

“It’s right across the street from the new Russian River Brewing Company brewery!” he announced excitedly.

Beer aficionados and IPA nuts will recognize Russian River as the brewer of the difficult-to-source double-IPA-of-legend, Pliny the Elder, of which I have done several posts in my own Quixotic pursuit of.

The wine storage facility was impressive enough — a vast warehouse of towering columns of wine cases between which nimble forklifts navigated down shadowed alleys (a decidedly Manhattan-like scene). But it was nothing compared to the brewery across the street.

Bruce in the warehouse

“I’ve never seen it so crowded,” Bruce announced as we loaded the wine samples in the trunk and crossed the road to the brewery. The lot was massive — I looked about for letters on elevated posts to orient where we were parking (“We’re in the ‘E’ section!”), and wondered if we would be able to catch a complimentary shuttle to the tasting room.

The building itself stretched the equivalent of a city block, if this was a city rather than a semi-rural area just north of the Santa Rosa airport. Inside, the tasting room/restaurant was bustling, people milling about waiting for their table.

Bruce entering Plinyland®

Bruce and I lucked into a couple seats at the bar, our preferred parking place anyway. A couple woodsy-looking northerners enjoying their pints were seated to our left, and gazed at us curiously.

“Your first time here?” the one closest me said. “Yep, I haven’t been to Russian River since it was located at Korbel,” referencing the brewery’s first location at the Korbel sparkling wine facility on the actual river for which the brewery was named.

Selfie with new friends at the bar

“Oh, that was a long time ago!”

I ordered a Pliny. Accustomed as I am to having to hunt for Pliny, which is strictly allocated resulting in many southern California stores selling out quickly and only allowing one bottle per customer, it felt thrilling to simply be able to order one on tap. And another, if I so chose.

My Pliny

My lunch decision proved more difficult — my blood pressure rising as the bartender kept passing by, glancing at my menu and me each time. I eventually settled for the pork schnitzel sandwich (over the burger, open-faced pastrami or fish & chips), which seemed like a solid contender to stand up to the forceful hoppiness of the Pliny.

I attempted to engage Bruce in conversation, but my new friends to the left were feeling chatty and had a variety of questions — where did I come from, what was I doing in Windsor, what sort of beer did I like best, etc. When they finally got up to leave, one of them said, “Well, great to see you again!” which left me wondering if perhaps they had enjoyed one pour too many.

Pork schnitzel sandwich

Our meal and beers finished, we headed for the gift shop. Over the years, I’ve gotten better at resisting the irresistible urge to purchase souvenirs when I am in distant places that offer up a buffet of souvenirs. I held up a “Pliny the Elder” shirt, it looked like it might be a nice fit, I felt like I just had to have it. And then projected forward to seeing it on a hanger in the closet next to the t-shirt from Venice with the lion on it, and thinking, “Why did I buy that??” I opted instead for a memento I knew I would use — a case of Pliny.

I was reminded of an interaction I had with a merchant at The Wine House in West L.A. when I was purchasing some Pliny from them several years ago:

“It’s amazing what they’ve done with this beer,” he said, “It’s not like wine where you get a certain harvest, you produce what you can, and when it’s gone it’s gone. They can make as much Pliny as they want, but they don’t.”

“You mean,” I said, grasping the implication for the first time, “They’ve created a false scarcity?”

His face lit up. “You said it perfectly! They’ve created a false scarcity!”

There was no scarcity at the Russian River Brewing Company — Pliny was pouring unlimited from the taps in the tasting room, and there were cases galore of Pliny to purchase in the gift shop. And somehow, I needed it just a little bit less than I had in the past.

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Taco, I Can’t Quit You

Bruce was having trouble posting a comment on my “Goodbye, Year of the Taco” post.

“What did you want to say?” I asked, being that I was now standing beside him in person and could simply accept the comment first-hand.

“I was going to ask why the Year of the Taco has to end.”

“Well,” I replied, “It doesn’t really end. That was more for the narrative and thematic purposes of my blog.”

He looked puzzled, but the answer seemed to comfort him.

The kids and I on the hunt — the prized lion's mane!

The kids and I on the hunt — the prized bear’s head!

As it happened, we were at Bruce and my mother’s house deep in the forest of Sonoma’s Russian River Valley for our annual holiday visit, and there would be tacos on the menu. Our second evening there, we had a crab feast. The next day, the leftover crab made for a perfect lunch of one of my favorite tacos. More

Matsutake Memories

Fungi is a fickle kingdom. Predicting where and when a particular mushroom will grow is like betting on the stock market.

Willa with amanita coccora — the only edible mushroom in a family of deadly beauties

Willa with amanita coccora — the only edible mushroom in a family of deadly beauties

Some mushrooms appear only in years with late soaking rain, others only when there is an early rain followed by a dry spell followed by another rain. Some mushrooms only grow where there is something dead under the dirt, while others cannibalize nearby poisonous mushrooms, transforming them into prized edibles. More

In Vino Veritas

As many of you know and some have tasted, my family has a wine business. Specifically, we make a zinfandel called Wine Guerrilla.

Forestville from the Wine Guerrilla tasting room

Downtown Forestville from the Wine Guerrilla tasting room

It began as a project of my mom’s longtime boyfriend, Bruce, but soon many of us were involved. Our main contribution from Southern California, besides being avid proponents and consumers, has been the marketing. The labels feature my artwork and my wife’s graphic design — a brand that we have extended with some success to merchandise, marketing materials and promotions. More

Skinny Girls Roadshow LIVE from Sonoma — Tearing Down Thanksgiving

As my mother, who is sitting in the next room, can attest, I’ve always been a bit of a rebel. If you knew my mom, you would realize I come by it honestly.

Turkey confit on the stove

Turkey confit on the stove

When it comes to Thanksgiving, I’ve certainly got her to thank for my rebelliousness. After years of bucking the standard Thanksgiving traditions — particularly turkey, stuffing, gravy, et. al. — we were dragged back into the fold by partners and family members who favored a classic approach to the holiday. I did manage to produce an interesting German Thanksgiving dinner one year for my wife’s family, who at that early stage in our relationship were already confused and confounded by me. More

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