A Wine Country Tale Of Families And Al Stewart And Sitting On Laps
Thursday, September 23, 2010

On one of our very first trips to California's Wine Country, several years ago, we were told about a winery that made great ports. 

I am not a port drinker. My Hubby is. 

So, off we went to Prager Winery where they specialize in ports. 

We'd been wine tasting for a good part of the day, so I was content to sit in the car with my book while my Hubby went inside to try some ports. 

He was gone a long time. 

Chapters of long. 

But I had my book and it was a good book. 

As I sat there engrossed in my story, a ruckus outside made me look up and to my horror, I saw a large group of people who, for a minute, I thought were a tour group, headed right towards me. People I did not know. Well, except for that one person who happened to be my husband. 

The woman leading the troops pointed at me and said, "Is that her?"

And I was descended upon, by loud, drunken people who pulled me from my car and insisted I come inside and try some of this wondrous port. 

My Hubby makes friends easily. 

Prager Port was delightful. The tasting room was just an alcove of a room with a utility sink and Mr. Prager himself, with his Kris Kringle beard, was pouring the port. And I will admit, the port was silky sweet and tasted like the finest candy. 

The group of folks who pulled me out of my car were locals who spent their weekends imbibing in the fruits of their land. 

There were about ten of them and they insisted we accompany them to the next winery. 

Which we did. 

After we tasted at Rombauer, they insisted we follow them to the next stop.

About that time, I looked at my hubby and quietly informed him,  I didn't want to follow them anymore. 

They were a little too . . . drunk, for my taste. 

So, my Hubby decided to lose them. When they took a turn, we didn't and we laughed and laughed at our cunning getaway. 

The next thing we knew, they were there, right behind us, beeping their horn, flashing their lights, and waving us down. 

At the red light, they all got out, looking like a gang of Chinese Fire Drillers and ran up to our car, banging on the windows. We didn't want to roll the window down. We were worried about being subject to some sort of drunken, angry car jacking, but we did anyway. They apologized for losing us, reassuring us they would drive slower and be extra mindful because we just couldn't miss the  next winery that they, our new best drunk friends, were taking us to. 

We looked at each other and sighed. We were stuck with the tour group of Drunkies. 

And the thing is, I'm so very glad they found us and got out of their car and pounded on our windows and insisted we follow them.

They took us to a little winery, a cult wine they loved, with just this tiny, hole-in-the-wall tasting room.  

It was called Frank Family Vineyards. 

Our drunken Chinese fire drilling friends promised us the wine was spectacular and their chardonnays were over the moon magnificent. 

See, Chardonnay used to be cool. It's not so much anymore. As trends go, Chardonnay is now the low man on the totem pole. 

But I am here to come out of my Chardonnay closet to say, I love Chardonnay. I do. 

I like big wine. I like wine with something to say. My favorite wine is Zinfandel. And no, not White Zinfandel. 

I have a shirt that says, "Friends don't let friends drink white zinfandel."

Zinfandel is a big, hearty wine, full of jammy, berry tastes and a bite of spice to its note. Zinfandels are a notoriously fussy grape and hard to get right.

I think that's part of the reason I love it, because it's fussy. I'm fussy. But when done well, it is sublime. The wine, that is, not me.

Chardonnay is the big boy of white wines. It's not fruity like a Pinot Grigio. It's not grapefruit laden like a Sauvignon Blanc. If it's done properly, it's buttery with just a taste of oak (because in my opinion, this wine should only be fermented in oak) and the fruit will just dance on your tongue. It's a great white wine.

And so there we were, in this hole in the wall. 

We were greeted at the door like old friends because these people were loyal patrons of Frank Family. In all honesty, I think they were loyal patrons of A LOT of wineries.

Anyway, we were immediately ushered to a back room, a VIP bar where I was poured one of the best chardonnays of my life. It had this buttery taste, luscious and creamy, with the perfect amount of oak and it was big and just brilliant and I fell in love with Frank Family instantly.

And Dennis. 

Dennis runs the place over there and his heart is just as about as big as the barrel chest that encases it.

We became loyal patrons of their magnificent wines and with each and every trip we made to the Wine Country, Frank Family, was always one of our favorite stops. 

A few years down the road, my father died, quite unexpectedly. 

The week after his death, my Hubby and I were scheduled to head out to Napa and Sonoma. 

We decided to cancel our trip. But my siblings wouldn't hear of it. They said my dad would have wanted it no other way. 

And that dad of mine, who loved life, who loved a good wine, who loved us, would, indeed, have shooed us out the door, ordering us to have a good time.   

So my wonderful Hubby informed my mom and my Aunt Lorrie, (my dad's sister and one of my favorite people in the world), to pack their bags — they were coming with us. 

My Hubby booked flights and rooms for the ladies and we took them out to the motherland with us. My sister Beth and her husband also accompanied us. 

There were more than a few tears on that trip, as we toasted my dad. And in those moments where we shared stories of his life and I just could feel my heart cracking in such grief as I let go of this incredible dad of mine, I felt his presence so strong, that love of his, so fierce. He was with us. I felt him there. I am certain of that.

But along with the heartbreak, there was an awful lot of laughter too, just the way my dad would have wanted it. 

I'd like to share one of those laughter memories with you today. 

Up in the hills of Napa and Sonoma, oftentimes it's hard to get radio reception. This was before the days of satellite and iPods and so we got nothing much but static. 

We were in a tasting room perusing their gift shop when my aunt picked up a CD called "Music of The Wine Country" by Al Stewart. 

"What do you think? Should I buy this so we can have some music?"

And I'm pretty sure at this point, I'd been to far too many wineries that day, because I just shrugged my shoulders and said, "Why not!"

I wasn't thinking about "The Year of The Cat."

What else would explain me embracing the music of Al Stewart, except copious amounts of wine. 

We listened to that CD for the entire day.

And if at all possible, it was far worse than "The Year Of The Cat."

It was 

But wanting to be polite, I just went with the crowd and pretended to enjoy it as I steeled my ears against Al Stewart's whiny yowl that ironically sounds like a wounded cat. 

On the second day of our trip, someone popped in the CD and I thought, "If there is a God in Heaven, let that CD be scratched."

The car was quiet as we listened to Al Stewart and his whining punctured with yowling. After a few minutes of this simply unbearable "Year of the Caaaaat in Whiiiiine Country", my aunt said, "You know, this Al Stewart is just awful."

I breathed a sigh of relief and joined the chorus of "I know, right?!" from the entire car who had all kept their opinions bottled up until now. 

My Hubby was driving, concentrating on the winding curves, as we all sat there complaining about Al Stewart and his awfulness. Suddenly, without a word and without skipping a beat, he just popped out the CD, rolled down the passenger window and flung the CD out of the car. 

My dad, I'm sure, loved it.

Later that day, we found our way to Frank's Family. Dennis was there and as he was leading us back to the private bar, we told him about my dad and how we were all here, still so raw and full of grief, celebrating his life. 

Dennis looked at us and said, "Come with me."

He took us into his office, a cluttered little gasp of space, where he opened up one of their finest vintages and filled our wine glasses. He raised his glass and said, "To Jack."

And we sat there in Dennis' office and told our stories about Jack and his greatness. And Dennis, listened well and good and kept our glasses full and whiled away the afternoon with us, listening to our stories of this great man, so much like himself. 

The years have passed and Frank Family is no longer just a cult wine with a room in the back. Word of mouth and multiple awards have turned Frank Family into a rock star of the wine world.  

We went to see our old friends at Frank's. Their new tasting room is gorgeous and cavernous and as always, we were welcomed with open arms. Big, wide arms.

Sadly, it was Dennis's day off, but Rick brought us into Dennis's new elegant office, so fitting for a man of his calibre.

Rick was kind enough to give us a private tasting right there in Dennis's office, just like that day of so long ago. And once again, I swooned at their buttery chards, their splendid wines, all of them. 

Afterwards I asked Rick if I could take a picture with him as I stood by his side. 

Rick grabbed me by the waist and pulled me onto his lap for the picture.

Later I said to my sister, "Why is it that guys always grab you and plop you in their lap every chance they can get."

And my sister was like, "What are you talking about?"

She says this doesn't happen to her. And she is something, with her glossy locks and sapphire eyes and long, lean marathon body. 

I am nothing. I mean nothing. You should see my upper arms. They could be a member of the Wiggles. I am not long and lean. And I have a turkey neck. And yet, men have always done this to me. 

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, riiiight.

Well, here's what I'm talking about. 

Three men in two day's time, two days in a row, on vacation, pulled me down on their lap. Men I did not know. Men, who I was just standing next to them, posing for a picture and bam, the next thing you know, I'm on a lap!  I'll show you the proof in the next few posts. And one of them, my friends, is a doozy.

So Ladies. out of curiosity sake, I'm taking a poll, I'd like to know, does this happen to you? 

I personally find the lap thing a mite uncomfortable. 

And not because I'm all of a sudden, sitting on a man's lap.


I adore being on a man's lap. It has nothing to do with that. I'm talking physical discomfort. 

I'm uncomfortable because I refuse to just plop myself down on a man, full weight and all. I certainly wouldn't want to crush anyone. And so therefore, I center all my weight on my legs, so the man has the illusion, I am as light as Tinkerbelle. And even though my thighs get quite the workout as I'm all perched on the lap, it is excruciating after about 20 seconds. And that is why I am uncomfortable on a man's lap.

If you're ever out in Napa, Calistoga actually, pop in and see Dennis and Rick and the rest of the crew. They'll treat you like family and share some of their finest wine, which is mighty fine. And watch out for that Rick, he's a feisty one.

Program Note: I know I haven't been around much this week. I am heavy into critiquing my writing partner's manuscript as we speak. We are swapping our novels back to each other at the end of the week and as usual, I am behind. It's not just laundry that defeats me. Trust me, there's a whole list of things that defeat me on a regular basis. I'll be back to my usual bloggy self next week.

Today's Definite Download: This is one I've already used in my playlist, but it was in the days when the only one reading me was my wonderful non hula hooping sister. I love this song very much and it fits here, today.

The Weepies, "The World Spins Madly On" for Dennis and Jack and yes, even lap man Rick and especially for that man of mine with his big generous heart and the way he makes me laugh every single day. Good men, I am so blessed to have known as my own world spins, madly and I do mean madly, on.

Go take a listen, right here.  Enjoy.


Lisa said...

What a great post, Joann!

As for the lap thing - I know exactly what you mean. And I "get" the sore thighs so as not to put your ntire weight in said lap. I mean, it was fine back in the days when I weighed 98 lbs. dripping wet...but nowadays? Not so much. How tall is your sister? Because I'm thinking it is maybe something that happens to us vertically challenged gals?

Renee said...

I'm not one that frequently gets pulled into a man's lap, but it has happened. And I totally feel ya' on not resting your entire weight on sed laps...

DB in MD said...

I wish I had had your advice 3 years ago when I took my 2 teenage boys on a trip to CA. My husband didn't want to go look at redwood and sequoia trees, so he opted to stay home. We drove through Napa, Sonoma, and actually stopped in Calistoga to see the geyser. Believe me, after 10 days in a car with 2 teenage boys, a glass of wine sounds mighty fine.

It sounds like you had a lovely trip.

@sjoyr04 said...

Laps happen to me ALL the time. like you most of the time I gingerly hold most of my weight (or I try to at least) off their laps 'cause I don't want to hear any "fat cow" comments.
However some men deserve to bear the full brunt of all my weight, to those men I plop with all my might... all 120lbs of me.

Deidra said...

I don't usually have the lap problem, but then again, I don't usually happen to pose for pictures where one person is sitting and the other standing. So I wouldn't know!

LisaPie said...

I am having blogger problems, so I am hoping this post goes through. (crossing fingers and toes)

I loved how you honored your dad, all of you together traipsing around toasting him.

Back in the day before I became invisible I was a lap sitter. I am a flirty, touchy, feely kind of gal and it goes with the territory. Enjoy it while you can!

Jennifer Vanderbeek said...

Never have been the victim of the sneak attack lap, must just be you!

As for port? We indulged with some last night from San Sebastian Winery in St Augustine--so rich and red and fruity it's instant relaxation.

twelvedaysold said...

Nope, no lap pulling here. But I think my husband would be far more uncomfortable with me being in a man's lap than I would about holding my weight in my calfs.

Which yes, I do that.

Dawn in D.C. said...

I love your descriptions of wine! I like wine, but I don't have the subtleties of the tongue to appreciate all the finer wines. I do however, know which ones suck. :) Your trip though wine country sounds amazing!

I have a theory about the lap plopping (and no, it does not happen to me, not even when I was younger) you are a small gal, right? I mean, you're not tall. Can I just say you're short and be done with the PCness? Okay, so you're petite and that makes men feel big and strong, so that's why they grab you and plop you in their laps. Because they can. And it's good for their egos.

Unknown said...

You must ooze sex, 'cause that doesn't happen to me....but then I haven't been to any wine tastings! lol

Christine Macdonald said...

I just about laughed my head off when I read:

I have a shirt that says, "Friends don't let friends drink white zinfandel."

GREAT post.

Could be BEEEEEEEEEE any more alike?

Cecelia Winesap said...

What a wonderful post, Joann! You had me laughing and crying all within ten minutes!

Beth Zimmerman said...

I don't drink wine. Never have. It's always interesting to me though to hear others describe it!

I'm sorry you lost your dad but glad you had such an awesome man in your life!

And I have NEVER, that I can recall, been pulled into a strange man's lap! Which is a VERY good thing because I do not like violations of my personal space and he would probably wind up with a black eye or two!

Cheryl said...

What are you talking about? You're a little minx! Of COURSE men want you to sit on their laps! This never happens to me, btw..

Jaime said...

Great post!! I grew up in the vineyards of Sonoma before moving to SD, CA. My father worked for what was formerly Piper Sonoma which is now J winery. He passed away 13 yrs ago this Dec and wine always makes me think of him and my brother and I running through the vineyards and the wine cellar! Infact, at J winery, they named their Pinot Gris vineyard after him and it is lined with the cherry trees that he planted when he worked there. So I try to always make a trip there when I go up to visit family.

PS: I LOOOOOOOVE me some Frank Family Chard!!! If you love the tiny wineries, and good Zin then check out Wilson Winery the next time you are in Sonoma!YUMMO!

Anonymous said...

your tales of wine country make me want to crack open a bottle at 3:20pm. The lap thing? not me BUT I do totally know what you are talking about, the holding your own body weight with your thighs?

Anonymous said...

Ummm...no one ever pulls me down on their lap. Ever.
I've never had zinfandel wine, i will have to try it. I'm currently big on Shiraz.

Katherine said...

Loved the read... I SO get sitting on the lap.... you just can't put all your weight on them!

I am now absolutely and completely craving a glass of wine...

Nancy C said...

This entire story makes me happy to be alive. The world is full of so many good people, like your dad and Dennis.

I admit I am a Pinot Grigio girl. But, I do live in MD. Not exactly wine country. Perhaps I would be turned by that buttery wonder.

I must ask...are you petite? I never, EVER am pulled onto men's laps. Perhaps I look intimidating.

Anita @ GoingALittleCoastal said...

I can't remember the last time I was plopped onto someones lap. I like Dawn in Austin's rationale. I'm tall and not of the petite variety like yourself. It would take a harder tug to plop me down.

Your wine knowledge is impressive. I only know what I don't like. If I said something tasted buttery or oaky people could tell a mile away that I was full of bs. I do like Chardonay and Pinot Grigio. But when I was in Italy I drank any red wine that was served. It's different there. Doesn't have that stuff in it which I can't for the life of me remember what it's called.

I had to google Al Stewart as I had forgotten about him. Do you know Year of the Cat is over 6 mins long?

Cupcake Murphy said...

I am completely immune from the Lap Thing but I LOVE The Weepies and the week after my dear dad died my husband and I had to take a 3 week trip with his entire family to Mexico. Surreal. Thanks for your gorgeous, detailed post my friend.

Judie said...

O.K., so I guess this means that when you come here for a glass of wine before we go out for fabulous Mexican food with perfect margaritas, I should not serve my all-time favorite, California Seedless White.

Tracie Nall said...

You had me crying with that special moment in Dennis' office celebrating your dad and sharing those memories.

Then came the lap...and I'm laughing! I'm convinced it must be your hula hooping abilities that cause men to do this, because it has never happened to me either. That mental image I now have of you channeling Tinkerbell and working those leg muscles is too much. Sounds very uncomfortable.

Fragrant Liar said...

Well, around older, more gregarious guys, yeah, I can get pulled into a lap, but I really dislike that. It hasn't happened in awhile, and I'm SO OKAY with that. I think in part they do it with women they feel safe with. But like you, I hesitate to crush somebody's nether bits.


Tiffaney said...

Dang, I'm so sorry I missed you when you were here a few weeks ago. I live in Sausalito (just over the GG Bridge), but I was in SoCal and just got back home last week. Next time you're here, I'm TOTALLY stalking you guys on your tour. But mainly because I want to observe your effervescent charm and coquettish-ness and get pulled onto some laps!

Unknown said...

Winerys...the memories.. Thanks for visiting during my SITS Day!

Baby Sister said...

Don't get pulled onto any laps but Boyfriend's. But I agree with the whole crushing thing...I hate it.

You get pulled down cause you're so cute. ;)

Unknown said...

I've never tried port before. I've always been too intimidated to order it. It sounds so masculine and fancy or something. Next time, NEXT TIME, I will order port!

W.C.Camp said...

I've heard of girls like you that get pulled into the laps of drunken guys in every PORT! W.C.C.

granny1947 said...

Damnit Joann...you made me cry.
Oh ok...you also made me laugh.
No...no-one pulls me onto their laps..sigh.

Art Chick said...

OK, I am only familiar with my husband's lap region, and getting plopped there is the closest thing to a lap dance he's ever gonna see from me. But I totally get what you're saying about it being excruciating. I'm no light load these days, and I'm very conscious of that fact on the rare occasion that any plopping occurs on my behalf. I want to spare the Hubs any discomfort, and give him any illusion I can that I have not become a complete cow, so I take all the weight on my own legs. It's probably the best thigh exercise I get. Hmmm. Can I count that as my workout if I do it once a day from now on???

Missy @ Wonder, Friend said...

Oh, I love this. I laughed. I cried. And then I Googled Frank Family Vineyards.

The lap thing does not happen to me either. I've experienced it, sure, but not with the near the regularity you seem to! But you, Joann, sell yourself short. Of course men can't help themselves!

MrsBlogAlot said...

Used to get a lot of lap pulls before I was married and after too much White Zin (-:

The Furry Godmother said...

No laps for me. But I am six feet tall and built like I could kick some serious booty. Probably too intimidating, huh?

Pat said...

Your wine jaunts sound wonderful. And what a special time after your Dad passed away - that Frank was a doll!

I haven't been pulled onto a man's lap in about 50 pounds ago!

Joann Mannix said...


You have a closed blog, so I'm replying here in the hopes you see it. I like that idea! Plopping full weight on the laps of the guys I don't like. Oh, who am I kidding. I like all men!

Joann Mannix said...


Same goes for you. No access to your blog. Wow. Wow. Wow. That is an amazing story! And yes, I know J Winery! I've been there many a time. What an incredible childhood you must have had! Your dad had a vineyard named after him, that is one the best legacies I think a person could have.

Thanks for the winery tip. I'm always looking for new ones to try.

Meg at the Members Lounge said...

I only wished we had crossed paths on this trip. Trust me folks, Joann knows the deal - follow all of her recommendations, you won't go wrong!

Liz said...

I don't get pulled into laps often, but I know what you mean about centering your weight. Every Christmas Eve, Santa comes and everyone at my great aunt's house gets a present. It's always an uncle who plays Santa, and I never want to squash his lap.

Just yesterday I wrote about sadness with a happy ending. And I've recently read a few more posts like that. I guess we're all in a somber mood right now. I'll blame autumn. :)

good luck with your editing!

Anonymous said...

Hi Joann-great post. I love Chardonnay, too. I do not care if it is not cool. It has been a good friend to me. No, can't say I get pulled into laps often but I am not surprised to hear that you do. I'd pull you onto my lap:-)

Deborah said...

I can't remember anything I read after "buttery."

I've only been on a few wine tasting forays and after the 4th or 5th tasting I'm making cracks about 3-buck chuck and making all the wine snobbys want to smack me in the wine spitter. Whoo ha!

Unknown said...

Bloggging is SOOO Time consuming! I know! I hope you don't take too long of a break.
No one has ever pulled me onto their lap that I can recall.
I tell myself that it has nothing to do with my appearance and everything to do with my intimidating demeanor. I'm not sweet. I'm super bossy. And loud.

purplume said...

That's beautiful about toasting your Dad. I would like my family to toast and be happy once I'm gone.

I don't think I've ever been pulled into a lap. I know I give off keep away signals. I was molested and I would be swinging if someone did.

Joann Mannix said...

Just a test.

Melissa B. said...

The last time I was in Cali wine country, I was 8 months pregnant. Sounds like you had a better time, even with your book!

Ash said...

Your husband is a doll!!! Booking tickets for your mom and your aunt - what a great guy. Your father sounds like one in a million as well. So glad that you had that trip to help the healing.

And now the picture of you is becoming more and more clear ;-) You almost have me wanting a Chard, I'm a Cab girl myself, but will look for the Frank Family label and give it a try. With a toast to Jack.

jayayceeblog said...

Sounds like a wonderful, sentimental trip when you were toasting to your dad. These grabby guys pulling you onto their laps better watch out. Your Hubby is liable to whip a CD out and fling it into said grabby guy's neck like one of those silver martial arts weapons with the sharp edges. And then you would get blood on your outfit and we all know laundry is hard enough to deal with without throwing in blood stains!!!

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