The “Wild” Tamed


Lovely presentation of food! The wine is arriving shortly!



These faces are beginning to smile, and perhaps drool a little.

Everybody needs at least half a glass of wine to start— and shortly all these medium solemn faces will become alive!

We also need a glass of wine to determined what the three meat dishes are- some are designed with sauces—that we have to taste together with the food to figure out what the meat is. (And I don’t like liver!)

The sauces were terrific.


And boy are we smiling now!

Our translator and guide had time to join us. Natalia is on the right and maybe has sampled a bit more than we did yet.





Mussels with spices and lemon, and of course white wine. I drank the wine and sipped on the lemon, but mussels—no.

Of necessity the wine must be white.






After eating, Mike decided on some fresh air— but the thought of the century old wine carrier rolling towards him changed his mind. He then went to the bathroom instead.

Some of the rest of our small group stayed and argued about the best of the four wines tasted with our meal.


Then our lovely waitress came over with a trey of three other wines asking them to taste these— and the fight ended.

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I asked someone for the lavatory and the waitress said, “Go outside, behind the wooden barrel. (Ha!)”


(Does that look like wet footprints on the lawn to you? I thought so and I didn’t get any closer to the barrel.)



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Charles and Mike had come out at the same time and led me to the correct facilities— all three of us vying to use it first—I won.

Vladimir Pushkin herded us to the hospitality room after the meal. He is the sales manager of Fanagoria Estate Winery. And uses his hospitality suite for “special tastings”.




Vladimir is showing us a picture of a huge wine tasting under his jurisdiction of over 500 people several years before.


Mike literally pushed me out of the way in order to get a closer view. “Damn.” he said. These people are all drinking wine?—There’s no fighting, there’s no yelling, there’s no over turned chairs— they can’t be “real wine” drinkers!”

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Fueled with fresh air, a bit of sunshine, and an amazing dinner and wine tasting with these wonderful people, we were allowed the dignity of walking out to the car and getting into it and driving towards home. (With a driver of course)



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Living in the Raw

Mike is doing a, “happy dance” visiting Fangoria Winery. You can see (on his right knee) where he actually knelt to see and smell (not kiss) the vines.

This young vineyard manager took us up and down the rows of vines explaining what they were doing (most vital in the US) in their way of irrigation- which is none.

Their water comes from the mountains and the rivers.

The vineyards swoop down to the Black Sea Below. With occasional rain coming from the mountains.

Finally I got them to move along by screaming, “I am freezing!”

I chose this primer sparkling wine house again because the view of the highs and the lows and how they supplement the growing grapes. The local stone dates to the winery founding in 1860.

Our next winery was Karakezidi Wine Making House. And what is particularly unusual for this winery and farm is that it is all totally organic.

Yanis’s wine cellar.

This is the hospitality room where Yanis brought us to sample some of his wine. It is also his, “hospitality” room and includes the following options: music, dining, wine tasting, and much more. Yanis is center, Mike is on the right and Charles Gordon left. The man who wrote the book, “The Russian Wine Country- Sleeping Beauty Awakens” and that is what brought us here.

He played several instruments while we ate lunch, everything grown organically on the farm of course. Then with the wine he sang beautifully. A warm and friendly man who wanted to hug us as we left, but being about a foot shorter than I, I kept it reasonable by putting my cane between us.


Yanis dispersing wisdom which he loves to do and… does it well. Look around the inside of his house. And now we are going to go outside and look at his house- built by his and his family’s hands.


If you notice the swimming pool you wouldn’t want to jump into it because it would be colder than the Devil.

Further down you will find a very luxurious garden built by Yanis and supplied with plenty of fertilization from the animals: goats and chickens he has roaming around at all times.

We thoroughly enjoyed Yanis’s rural and organic lifestyle- most especially his wines and to top all this off the excellent organic meal and hospitality he provided.

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Fanagoria Winery

In the beginning—

There was rain, cold, and even bits of snow- but that was October in Moscow. Then onto St. Petersburg, and the weather was slightly milder but still cold.

We’re standing before the ship that with one shot ended the revolution. Smiling but freezing, when the cannon turned our way we were out of there!

The best part was yet to come.

Our final destination was, Anapa, on the Dead Sea and encountered 65 degrees and sunshine.

Mike had contacted Charles Borden, an American who lived in Russia and who is a food and wine writer. After reading his 2014 book, “Russia Wine Country- Sleeping Beauty Awakens.” There was no going back!

And this is where we stayed for four days, in the red roofed white building on the right. In front you will see the Black Sea which is a resort area- and beautiful.

This is the North Eastern shore of the Black Sea, some 60 miles from the crossing of the Crimean Peninsula and about 200 miles North of Sochi. It was founded in the 2nd Century BC as a Greek trading Port. The Black Sea provides a great moderating influence. Rainfall is sufficient so that the fruit and vegetable growing regions near the shore survive well. The terrain is rather flat with deep rich soils. And nearby are the Caucasus Mountains.

In 1985, president Gorbachev, initiated an anti-alcohol program targeting not only vodka, but wine. This resulted in a two thirds reduction in the vineyard acreage. Until the collapse of the USSR the states farm system was privatize. Today the Anapa region has in the order of forty, “serious” wineries.

And they treasure their older methods of grape processing.

Fanagoria Estate Winery

The Fanagoria Estate winery lies about 20 miles North of Anapa and very close to Crimea. The original 1950s state farm buildings belie the most up-to-date stainless-tanks, and other equipment within. They produce an amazing array of beverages from a supermarket bag in the box series, to excellent high-end varietals. Plus a display of very impressive wines from regional varieties.

The hospitality here, lead by the Russian speaking Vladmir Pukish, was outstanding.

Russias primer sparkling wine house, Abro Dorso is situated in an idyllic setting surrounded by mountain forest and overlooking a beautiful lake. The handsome main building, constructed from local stone that dates to the wineries founding in 1860 by Russian Royalty.

Since its privatization in the 1990’s the faculty has seen a major production modernization program. Their top end can hold its own with the worlds best.

Next week we will take you walking through the vineyard and barrel making… and a bit more.

Starting with this picture.

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An unusual “Birthday Holiday” in Pacific Grove, California.

Our daughter Bronwyn and her daughter Edie were both born on January 27th. We arranged to stay for several days at the Lighthouse Hotel.

They arrived from Sacramento while we drove up from San Luis Obispo- missing most of the Holiday traffic. Our rooms, were on the second floor and had a balcony. You overlook the cemetery, deer, golf course, and see, hear and smell the ocean. You can walk most everywhere and we did.

Steve took this picture and in the distance you can see the ocean. It was roaring and very hard to talk over the grumbling… but make sure you’re safe from the wildly hit golf balls!

Steve asked a trail walker to take our pictures and she arranged us so that we could move around and she could get the trail and the ocean within the sight lines.

There were many honking “Seals” on the rocks below. The white blobs were also seals- I thought at first they were mushrooms or whipped cream- but I was wrong. Turns out that baby Harp Seals are born with a white or yellowish color and stay that way for a couple months. Guess why Dana, their dog, was pulling on the leash…


Bronwyn and Steve were getting closer to the edge of the sea, but Mike yelled out, “Watch it! We didn’t bother to bring towels!”

We went to Fandangos for dinner and here is the view of the restaurant from the parking lot.

This was the entrance, it has been here over 50 years and has a wonderful reputation.

Edie and her friend, Eleanor, decided to stay at the hotel with the dog and order in.

This is the four of us at the dinner table celebrating a family dinner and birthday, with the kids doing their thing. I look sad because the holiday music was very loud in my ears and it made me frown. But it doesn’t show me smiling afterward when the waiter gallantly came over and turned it down.

After this meal we walked around a bit of downtown and loved the trees wrapped with Christmas lights.

A fitting end to lovely birthdays and Christmas.

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Suzdal, Russia and The Golden Ring

This is the picture of our lodging at the Art Hotel Nikolaevsky, Posad. Looking closely on the left the building with three green roof tops is where we stayed in a lovely suite. The red roofed building with the blue roof was reception-dining-bars- and hotel rooms.

Never leaving the grounds, a guest would have swimming pools, three different restaurants, a church, and sports fields.

This picture of the Kuysechesky offers traditional cuisine in an aged but beautiful surroundings. It was difficult for me to walk to the main restaurant and this one was nearby. The weather was cold and raining (Mid October) so not surprising that we were the only dinners there. The food was prepared in a Russian coal stove and wonderful!

The next night, the same weather, we hit the tavern, “Opokhmelachnay”. Located in the former house of gardener Sheryshev, built in 1760. No picture for this restaurant.



“The Winter Garden” This building was right across from our balcony but it was not open to the public, most likely due to the weather. Otherwise, it would have been delightful to see the sun set and have an overview of the moon and the stars and the Suzdal fields called, “Opolie”.

Each day our driver, Vitaly, came to pick us up in the morning. The first stop was a castle and completely walled in, “The Savor Monastery of Saint Euthymius”

Suzdal served as a royal capital when Moscow was a cluster of cow sheds. The monastery was founded in the 14th century and grew mighty in the 1600th through the 1700th century. While Mike went to see the inside, I remained in the car, safe from the rain and the cold, and just read about it.

Following that, we went to see the museum of wooden architecture and peasant life.

This picture shows the rural outdoor living of the people. The large first structure on the right was a necessity for the water wheel. The two buildings behind are used to give tours to show the lifestyle and building types of that era.

In 1864 the Trans-Siberian-railway went through Vladimir 35 kilometers away and Suzdal was by-passed not only by trains but by the 20th century.

Thus it remains the same today as it was 200 years ago. If you want to walk back in time this would be the place to go!


The next blog will be dealing with the first wine tasting festival in this area of Russia, our (Mike’s) main reason for visiting!




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This is a continuation from the first blog about Russia


The Aurora Ship, which was used to counter attack the Bolsheviks in Saint Petersburg as they attacked the parliament while it was in session at the Winter Palace. This revolution was in October 1917.

The Aurora revolutionary ship. It fired its gun, one shot, to provoke the Revolutionaries to storm the Winter Palace. Here was the seat of the provisional government that the Bolsheviks planned to over throw- and did.

We did move on because it felt that the gun was aimed at us- along with the frosty air, and also it might be the fact that we are from California. The ship was preserved as a, “Historical Reminder”.

Mike and I are smiling because we’re about to go board our enclosed canal boat but had time to get a cup of hot coffee. And left the horses on either end of the bridge to stand guard.

The horse behind.

This horse was guarding the Anichkow’s Bridge along with the Fontanara, Moika, Neva Rivers.

Looking out over the green hedges we were surprised to see the Peter and Paul fortress along with church shadowing it.

Still on the canal boat- the heat is on! We could have gone out to the back deck for better viewing of what we were passing- but then we would have to come back and defrost again.

Figured that with all the sideshow on the river boats and with the Aurora that you might be interested in seeing some of the elegance distributed by the wealthy. This one is Catherine’s Palace and the entrance way to the same.

The leaves are falling, time to go in.          What can one say about such elegance and beauty? This was only one of the three Catherines’ Palaces.


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Saint Petersburg

Saturday October 7th, we took two trains to Saint Petersburg and arrived at 7 PM: A mob of train people- including, “Taxi hunters” hustling at exorbitant prices. If you were dragging luggage you were a victim. Mike kept saying, “Too much.” Until he got a reasonable price.

Our destination was the Helvetia Hotel, and what a very good choice

It is comprised of an early 9th century converted mansion with a gated and guarded entrance. It opened into a lovely courtyard covered by an awning for the occasional rain. An oasis of chairs and tables outside- with lovely greenery abounding. The Helvetia Hotel is located in the city center and is in the immediate vicinity of the main artery of foot traffic. Only 5 minutes away from the Moscow train station.

The next morning our guide, Natalia, took us to see the infamous Aurora ship that is revered as a symbol of the 1917 Revolution in Russia. The cruiser fired one shot to prod the revolutionists into storming the Winter Palace, seat of the provisional government that the Bolsheviks planned to overthrow.

We were cold so we will put this off till next week!

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Moscow Russia

Arrived around 1:00 PM and checked into our hotel Pushkin. And proudly shown into our split-level suite. She said welcome to our best room in the hotel and stopped. Looks at my cane. I look at her, and at the stairs, and at the cane and I said, “Do you have an elevator?”

And we were changed to a nice first floor room.

But there was an elevator anyway.

Met our guide Natalia the next morning who led us to the Kremlin and Red Square. Cold and drizzly but walking was good, but not for all of us.

This is the Kremlin. It was a fortress of old, and now is the present seat of government. Sunk 49 feet into the ground so as not to dwarf the other surround buildings, the State Kremlin Palace is the Kremlins only modern building. Built in 1961 to host the Communist Party conferences.

The Cathedral of the Arch Angel. Commissioned by Ivan the Great shortly before his death in 1505 this was the last one of the Great Cathedrals to be built in the Kremlin.

The Cathedral served as a burial place for Moscow tsars whose white stone sarcophagi with bronze covers were no longer buried here after the capital was moved to Saint Petersburg.

Lovely building but not allowed in because of a service going on.




Ignore the truck in the driveway- another old church but lived in by one of the tsars, and so preserved.





Mike only in front of the Kremlin walls- Saint Basil Church. I had to go back and rest up to continue walking. (And maybe a glass of wine too.)

And look at this picture, boy I am sorry I couldn’t make that walk.

This is the Arbat district. An artist community where we had lunch and happily it was in a very warm and dry and served wine restaurant to rest up after this remarkable day.

To be continued, but only if you want to read it. We will go to Saint Petersburg for our next stop.


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Recent overview of Russia

Ship 1

This is the Aurora Ship, which was used to counter attack the Bolsheviks in Saint Petersburg as they attacked the parliament while it was in session at the Winter Palace. This revolution was in October 1917.

Ship 2

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The culmination of our parador trip ended (May, 20th 2017) in the principality of Andorra as we crossed the French Alps.

The population of this whole country is 80,000 although not seen in this picture. Then as we drove through this breath taking beauty we arrived at an entrance way to the City.

Shortly thereafter we stopped for an overview for as much of the country as we could see, what with the Alps all hanging around.



This country became independent in 1993 and had its first democratic elections. This country became independent in 1993 and had its first democratic elections. Before that time it was the autonomous state of both the French and the Spanish since 1278.


For many years now Andorra has been the tax free paradise for shoppers and changed from the Peseta to the Euro in 2002.


As fascinating as the country is- we were on our way to a wine tasting area near by- and what a trip that was.

This was the overview of our room, looking up, down, and around at the magnificent Pyrenees. With all the tree coverage and homes we wondered where the Devil the wine growing was going on???


Although this Patio is not overwhelming, it made up for it as night with the sound of the river cascading down the hill side behind it… and lulled us to sleep.


The next morning the hotel owner and vintner told us that we would be going up to his winery driven by his second in command.

It started off basically at ground level and transitioned immediately to steep curves, and suicide curves, every time we went around a corner I almost fell off the back of the truck. But the driver just kept laughing and said, “It gets better.” “Better than dying?!” I asked.

When we stopped at the top my legs had to quit jittering before I could get out of the truck. But the magic words, “Come, let’s taste this wine.” Looking around and down, and down, and down. God knows how they grew grapes on this magnificent mountain.

These giant distillers were shiney, modern, and clean— and loaded with wine. We drank, smiled and drank some more. I asked out driver how we would get down, would we be going down the same way as we went up? I’d rather walk… He laughed and said, No, we have an easier way down. And I asked why he didn’t do the easier way up? He responded, “More fun this way.” Mike chimmed in, “Yeah, but I need another drink before I get on any winding road again.”

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