Adventures in Wineland

October 2nd, 2007 | Posted in General

Some grapes still on the vine even in late September in Sonoma

The Lovely Anna and I have been lucky enough to travel to some wonderful destinations together over the years. Places like New York City, Hawaii, New Orleans, Paris, Cancun, Chicago, Scottsdale, Orlando, Atlanta and a number of other cities and areas of the US and the world. We’ve enjoyed all of them and often play a little game about what it would be like to live there (especially Hawaii), but in the end we always agree that home is Minnesota. We just can’t see ourselves living anywhere else, even given the attractions of some of these locations.

There is one exception to that… a place we’ve had the pleasure of visiting several times now. That is the wine country of northern California, specifically Sonoma. That is one place we would seriously consider calling home.

We just returned from a short trip out there yesterday, partly in celebration of our 19th wedding anniversary, and once again we fell in love with the region and it’s many charms. We spent the weekend in the company of our good friends Keelan and Barbie Parham from Orlando, who flew in a day earlier to see some old friends in San Francisco. We all stayed with brother Joe Voss and his wife Kelly, who have a beautiful home in Cloverdale in the northern end of the Alexander Valley region. Kelly and Joe’s hospitality was so outrageous we felt like we were in a five star hotel all weekend. The weather was as perfect as the company and the destinations.

Our flight, luggage and rental car were all delayed on Thursday, preventing us from getting out of San Francisco in time to make it to Santa Rosa to visit the Charles M. Schulz Museum as we had hoped. We still made it to dinner (barely), which we had planned to have with Sparky’s widow Jeannie, former museum director Rosie McDaniel and Stephan Pastis and his wife Stacy along with Keelan, Barbie, Joe and Kelly. Jeannie Schulz is a wonderful woman and is so nice to Anna and I, as is the delightful Rosie. A few years ago I spoke at the museum as part of an exhibit called “MAD about Peanuts”, which featured originals of MAD parodies involving the Peanuts characters or Sparky himself. It was great fun and we were welcomed warmly and treated like honored guests. Anytime we get anywhere near the museum, we never miss an opportunity to stop in and see both the permanent collection and whatever exhibit is showing.

Back row, R to L: Stephen and Stacy Pastis, Myself and Anna, Joe and Kelly Voss
Front, R to L: Jeannie Schulz, Rosie McDaniel, Barbie and Keelan Parham

The next day, after hitting the first few of many wineries, we made our way back to Santa Rosa and did get to stop in at the museum. We saw Jeannie again and got a tour of Sparky’s studio, which is always great fun. The rotation exhibit was a collection of tributes to Peanuts and Sparky by other artists, both strip creators and other well known cartoonists. There were a few MAD related originals, including a Sparky caricature by Jack Davis and one by Bob Clarke. Keelan and Barbie had never seen the museum, so they enjoyed our visit.

Outside the museum with an old friend

One of these days I’ll have to tell the story of the one time I got to meet Sparky. It’s a good story, and while it was a brief meeting it’s one I’ll remember forever. It was very indicative of the man himself.

The Parhams and Richmonds at Silver Oak Vineyards

The rest of the weekend was all about good wine, good food, good wine, good company… and more good wine. We were met for a little while by the Parham’s friends from Half Moon Bay, John and Wendy Andarys, so we had a good group for our tour of vineyards. The wine country of California is known for it’s ‘microclimates’, where only a few miles separate areas where the temperatures, sunlight and rainfall differ greatly. These microclimates make for the differences in the wines of the region. We visited several wineries in both Napa and Sonoma, including some big names like Silver Oak, Opus One, Rubicon (Francis Ford Coppola) and many others. Each one has tastings of some of it’s various variatels, sometimes for a nominal charge and sometimes complimentary, in a tasting room. Usually even if they charge you get that money back if you buy some wine. We brought back a dozen bottles of various varieties and had some shipped as well. I was very impressed with a boutique winery called Stryker, and joined their wine club where I will receive three shipments of their offerings per year… outstanding cabernets and bordeaux blends. Anna has a much more discerning palette than I have, so when I find a wine that really resonates with my tastes I put it on my short list.

Entrance to a “wine cave”at the Alexander Valley Winery in Sonoma

What a great time in one of the most beautiful places in the United States. We’ll be back to visit again someday soon.


  1. SteveH says:

    Glad you guy’s had a great time, was thinking of you all. Got my MAD pages home in perfect condition, many thanks for sending them to the NCN con for me. I also picked up a Mort Drucker page and an original CF Payne piece, so my collection is growing nicely! Speak soon my friend.


New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550

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