This is the sixth and last of a series of sponsored posts documenting Bohemian and Pacific Sun publisher Rosemary Olson's wine and food cruise around Italy and Croatia with Duckhorn Vineyards and Food & Wine Trails.
This is Your Captain Speaking
When I heard on the deck intercom at 6am that we were approaching the Venetian skyline, I jumped out of bed threw on a robe and could hardly believe the beautiful scenery. I quickly glanced down the deck side of the ship to see who else was up to see this spectacular sight and I saw a sea of white terry robes flapping through the deck bars. Not wanting to miss a moment of it, I called room service for coffee.
I was excited to board a water vessel to the island Murano, known for its handblown glass. I love handblown glass and collected pieces in Sweden, Quebec, France and Mallorca. I don't have any more spaces for glassware at home so perhaps I’d find small glass gifts. I guess I could hang a chandelier from the ceiling.
Glass is the second largest industry in Venice after tourism. The masters shared their Venetian chandelier glassmaking with us in a very hot workshop, heating, rolling, shaping and blowing. Trying to stick to my light weight purchase concept, I bought four pairs of unique glass cufflinks to thank my new Duckhorn friends and a red glass cross pendant for myself. I'm spending the rest of my day searching for special gifts for my children.
Off to San Giorgio Island. St. George was the military protector of Venice. I wanted to view the painting at the cathedral of "The Last Supper" as it is said to depict the Holy Spirit. It is indeed most beautiful.
The gondolas in Venice are black because there was fierce competition to make the most ornate vessel. It got out of hand so the authorities mandated standard black. The gondolas hold only six people. There are currently 443 gondoliers who all had to pass an exam to qualify. There was once a female gondolier, but she was the only one.
We toured Venice in a circle of boats noticing that no one occupies the first floor of many water worn buildings. It looked eerie through the worn doors and planks of the dark, vacant structures. I had strong notions of ancient water creatures living another life under the city combined with masked spies wearing oversized scuba gear in search of hidden Venetian treasures. Then you look up and see the beautiful Venetian architecture and street life.
There were thousands of Venetian masks to choose from and my issue was “which do I wear with glasses?” I go to many events so I just had to bring a few home. I found a gold mesh mask and four others, linens, a selfie stick for my son (which I should have bought on day one) and a cool boy's Venetian landmark T-shirt with funky video action figures.
OK, I can head back to port. I run along the dock, swiftly navigating through the mass of people. The boat was pulling out and I could not miss it. I was meeting the captain for tea in an hour! Thankfully they came back for me. I apologized to the guests, they were all sweating and some smiled and asked me what treasures I found in a matter of 10 minutes. I, of course, proudly pulled each one out and shared whom they were chosen for. They were most focused on my new ring and where I found it. I said, "Oh yes, let's see, this is the one I found in Kotor, Montenegro!"
What do you ask the captain of a ship? When I was early 20s I worked for a successful temp company in D.C., half the staff wanted me to work outside because I enjoy building face-to-face relationships. The other half of staff wanted me on their inside phone team, so they paid a few grand on a personality test that took a few hours. The result? I should be captain of a ship. So I called to speak with Captain Gunnar Romtveit with no reply. I then found a Mediterranean gondola-style notecard in my bag. I sent a hand-written letter to him sharing my story. That was the ticket.
We met for tea on the top deck. He was in uniform, of course. He was busy preparing to hand the ship over to another captain to continue the ship's journey. I told him that this is my first cruise. The cruise ship reminds me of a 5-star hotel where I don't have to drive country-to-country.
His career started when he was 15 in Norway. He and his older brother went to sea together, a shipmate was a drunk and they got in a fight. Gunnar was sent to another ship when tragedy struck. The ship he left with his brother onboard capsized and only one person survived. Sadly, it wasn’t his brother. He went home to be with his family and they tried to talk him out of sailing. He assured his family that trouble would not come back. He loved this work. I asked him if he thinks of his brother when he's on the sea and he said he’s carried him in his mind and heart for 20 years and has found peace.
To earn the title of captain is similar to a master's degree education. Gunnar has dedicated his life to a 41-year maritime career, sailing with Oceania since 2010. His favorite ports are Shanghai, Singapore and Hong Kong. Dallas is on his bucket list. He'd like to see where J.F.K. was shot. It made a significant impact on his family listening to it on the radio in Norway.
His worst experience on his ship was an explosion outside of Cape Canaveral on New Year’s Eve. He could not sail and there were no hotels or airlines available. Guests took their mattresses outside to sleep until they could go home.
Life is good, he says, working 10 weeks onboard and 10 weeks off. His son followed his footsteps and is a ship captain as well. Every day has it's new set of surprises, he says.
So, looking back, should I have been a captain of a ship? Mastering a ship is very technical, demanding and takes a very specific maritime-engineer mind. I am satisfied that I chose to be the captain of the media properties I cherish. And I do believe we are all captains of our personal lives, our vessels.
I'm off for a farewell party hosted by the amazing Duckhorn team, to share more stories and laughs and sip more of their incredible wines. I'm the lucky one. I can just zip over to Napa for a visit.
This was an exceptional experience. I heard about this cruise through wine club members. To see what other adventures are available check out Food and Wine Trails www.foodandwinetrails.com.
Special thanks to Larry Martin and Heidi Hall, Food and Wine Trails; Gunnar Romtveit and Oceania Cruises; Alex Ryan, Neil Bernardi, David Crum and Jim Fallon, Duckhorn Portfolio Group and Stett Holbrook, Bohemian Editor.
And cheers to the Duckhorn wine friends and other travelers aboard, you were all wonderful to be with on this special journey and I hope to see you again soon to share more stories.
Ciao for now.
This is the fifth of a series of sponsored posts documenting Bohemian and Pacific Sun publisher Rosemary Olson's wine and food cruise around Italy and Croatia with Duckhorn Vineyards and Food & Wine Trails.
Croatia and Slovenia
In Zadar, Croatia I visited the Salt Pans and Salt Museum in Nin and did a walking tour of Zadar. Besides buying several bags of sea salt, the rest of the tour was slow. Our tour guide admitted on numerous occasions that her brain was too hot to remember anything so that was that.
Later, we went on a panoramic tour of Koper, Slovenia. It was incredible. Slovenia was a surprise as it's not well-known to many Americans. The country is working hard to build tourism by sharing the local goods of wine, olives, truffles, tomatoes and air-cured prosciutto.
Nearby Piran is nestled on a coastal inlet where no cars are allowed. Following WWII it became part of Yugoslavia and many people moved to Italy as a result. In efforts to rebuild the city, the Yugoslavian government gave away free houses (with no water) to bring the people back. The movie Piran Pirano tells the story of this time. I bought 10 more bags of salt for gifting. It's the best table salt I ever tasted.
For food and wine lovers like me, Padna village was special. We traveled into the hills where villagers prepared local foods for us. The crisp white wines were great and the truffle spread was incredible— rich, creamy and redolent with truffles.
Duckhorn Wine Tasting
Duckhorn's Alex, Neil, David and Jim hosted a blind tasting of their wines, namely, Merlots and Merlot blends. Merlot is considered "a sommeliers best friend" due to its versatility in pairing with a variety of cuisines.The tasting also included single vineyard and estate grown Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Duckhorn has eight distinct vineyards in Napa Valley. They also source grapes from Santa Maria's Bien Nacido and Sonoma County's Dutton Ranch vineyards.
I love blind tastings because I revel in the complexity of each wine. One wine really stood out: the 2003 Three Palm Vineyard blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Syrah and Cab Franc. This over-the-top delicious wine had a higher percentage Cabernet Sauvignon than others in the tasting. It would be great with prime rib. It won my vote for the best wine tasted on the trip. Too bad it's sold out back home.
The Adriatic Sea was calling. With the heat wave the water was a balmy 86 degrees. I ran back to the cabin to put my swimsuit on, flung a towel over my shoulder and headed for the beach. One slight dilemma: I wasn't sure what to do about my bag with money and passport. I decided to go to a beach cafe and chat up the staff. A tall, congenial young man approached me and I asked him if he would be willing to watch over my bag. He said yes instantly and I looked in his eyes and asked "are you trustworthy"? He looked at me with disconcerted eyes and then a warm smile.
"Someone just stole my wallet last week and all of my money, so yes, I'd like to help you," he said.
I said I'd gladly pay him for helping me. We shook hands and he tucked my bag away and I ran into the sea and swam and sang for over two hours. In the water I met a young happy Slovenian couple. We chatted in the water, laughing because they had broken English and it was hard to understand one another. We then decided to share in a drink and talked about fashion and textiles at the cafe where my bag was hiding. I happily paid the young man 10 Euros for its safe keeping and suggested he spend it that night and have some fun with friends. Then it was time to leave. I was about to miss my ship, which was bound for Venice. We hugged and I hurried back to the ship barely on time, laughing with the crew and telling them of my fun in the sea and with the Slovenians.
I made sure to rinse right away because the dense Mediterranean salt content gave me a severe rash once in Mallorca, Spain. I was covered head to toe in tiny red bumps that itched and burned. It was so bad that no one would stand next to me in the Louvre Museum in Paris. I looked out the museum window and saw a pharmacy across the street. I went in and showed them my condition and they nearly cried and gave me a large tube of cream. I was better two weeks later back in the states. So, do enjoy the salty sea but rinse very well, right away!
Ciao for now.
This is the fourth of a series of sponsored posts documenting Bohemian and Pacific Sun publisher Rosemary Olson's wine and food cruise around Italy and Croatia with Duckhorn Vineyards and Food & Wine Trails.
Oceania's Culinary Institute is the only cooking school at sea and extremely popular. I was fortunate to participate in the "Mermaid" cooking seminar with Chef Instructor Noelle Barille. The lesson was cooking fish seven ways. Noelle is humorous, but precise with her instruction.
At one time in my life I was a private cook for a wealthy family on Martha's Vineyard. They called me their chef because they loved my cooking. At the end of the summer they offered me, fully paid, to go to Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. It was a chance of a lifetime but I did not want to be so far from my family at 17, so I went to Mt. Vernon College and chose publishing and here I am 30 years later admiring Noelle who went to the Culinary Institute of America and worked as a chef in Napa and now lives in Genoa, Italy.
We sautéed salmon with a soy sauce glaze, lightly fried jumbo coconut shrimp, ceviche, gravlax, roasted sea bass, poached salmon for salmon salad and pan-seared sea bass with a light cream sauce.
I learned a lot about cooking fish. Only turn fish once. Don't use tongs. Squeeze ginger juice from grated ginger. Use parchment paper. Don't use butter because it burns in the pan. Use regular olive oil just to coat pan, be patient and watch the temperature closely.
I needed a break from tours so the class was great. The last time I took a tour nearly everyday for a week was my trip to Ireland when I was 21. On other trips I self navigated and explored without a guide. But I was eager to see Kotor. Anxiously, we walked around old town inside a fortress. I do believe one of my past lives was in the medieval era. I love the architecture, stone, mysterious paths, churches and smells. So, I'm on a mission to buy a ring that was handmade in Kotor. Two shops into my quest, I instantly fell in love with two completely different and stunning rings. I thought the clerk said they were 50 percent off but they were 15 percent off, within those few minutes I knew I was buying them both anyway so I really did not care. I loved them. Off to the square for a beer and shared pizza which was served with the sauce on the side and that was good because it tasted medieval moldy. In a good way.
Ciao until next time.
This is the third of a series of sponsored posts documenting Bohemian and Pacific Sun publisher Rosemary Olson's wine and food cruise around Italy and Croatia with Duckhorn Vineyards and Food & Wine Trails.
Argostoli, Cephalonia, Greece
Off to see the mysterious Melissani and Drogarati caves. Drogarati cave is about 100 million years old and was discovered 300 years ago when an earthquake opened the entrance. The acoustics are perfect for concert events, particularly opera. In Melissani cave you travel by boat. The stalactites are estimated to be 20,000 years old. The chilly water is a rich blue, a mix of saltwater from the Ionian Sea and freshwater that flows from Argostoli. They say a dragon lives in the Drogarati cave, thankfully, I only saw cave pigeons.
Upon returning a quick nap was in order to prepare for a special dinner at Jacques Restaurant with Duckhorn staff and selected wines. Winery President Alex Ryan shared a fascinating story about the winery's history. It's quite clear how they are so successful with their talented team and incredible wines.
Our favorite dishes of the dinner included a hearty serving of duck foie gras with candied black cherries, jumbo bay scallop and watercress carpaccio, and green apple tartare with caramelized hazelnut. I also loved the escargot purée pastry and prime rib with pepper and herbes de Provence.
Then we danced the night away with their house DJ sipping Shramsburg bubbles and martinis as the ship swayed in high winds. Upon leaving the bar we slipped outside and could barely keep our footing, so for fun we grabbed a ship-mate scurrying to tie down the deck to snap our picture. When we looked at the photo our faces were a bit contorted from the strong wind much like sticking your head out of an airplane.
Ciao for now!
This is the second of a series of sponsored posts documenting Bohemian and Pacific Sun publisher Rosemary Olson's wine and food cruise around Italy and Croatia with Duckhorn Vineyards and Food & Wine Trails.
Marina, Oceania's tour guide for us today, is a local so she knows the best foods to eat. We await a feast for lunch at a famous Mt. Etna winery, but she says we must taste the local Sicilian cannoli, granita and arancini.
Giardini Naxos is the first Greek colony in Sicily. The Greeks founded many cities of Sicily. Sicily is the biggest island in the Mediterranean. The capital is Palermo. Archeologists have found pre-historic items such as stone tools, caves and drawings. I was in search of some of these artifacts, I found them on a hill in a tiny house, now a gallery, atop of the old Greek Roman Theatre (built in the 3,000 B.C.). I ventured to this matchbox-size gallery in a stone house. There were several ancient carved blocks of accounting and calendar stones and carved heads, one the head of Niobid of Taormina. There was also an exhibit of artist Casimiro Piccolo. His work is a mixture of fantasy, wizardry, gnomes and a mad-hatter style.
Nearby is an ancient coliseum. It's breathtaking to imagine the gladiator fights that took place. Today, something much tamer will occur. Toto is performing.
Later, we walked through the beautiful old town to the clock in center square. Every other door seems to be a specialty pastry shop, I try a small goat cheese cannoli. I walked out the door finishing my second bite. It was the best pastry I've ever eaten. I turned around and went back in for the pistachio one. The owners smiled at me. They knew! I slipped into a small shop and tried the arancini di riso (fried rice balls). I walked out mesmerized and a man came running behind me. "Madame! Madame your phone!"
I've been on tours much of my time now and I wanted to buy something local, but running out of time for the bus to the winery. A beautiful, fashionable woman approached me and asked if I wanted to try something special, Acqua di Taormina, a citrusy, fresh eau de toilette. I bought the largest bottle.
Scenes of The Godfather were shot here. In the 1970s and 1980s the mafia was active, but life is peaceful now as many mafioso are now in prison.
Next we travelled to Barone di Villagrande for a wine tasting led by well known Italian sommelier Mariella Ferrara. She works exclusively with Food & Wine Trails. One white caught my attention as it had a smoky nose. I was curious if the volcanic ash and soil produced this flavor. Mariella was astonished I picked this up.
Lunch served on a sprawling terrace consisted of local produce and cheeses, handmade lasagna, eggplant marinara, roasted potatoes, baby Caesar salad, breads and a delicious almond-based flan topped with marmalade and almonds.
Gathering up their staff for a photo, I then shared my red Chanel lipstick for a hearty laugh!
The evening was lively enjoying abundant stories with Duckhorn wines.
Ciao for now.
This is first of a series of sponsored posts documenting Bohemian and Pacific Sun publisher Rosemary Olson's wine and food cruise around Italy and Croatia with Duckhorn Vineyards and Food & Wine Trails.
Our ship, Oceania Cruise's Riviera sets sail from Rome. I'm traveling solo and I walked into the first evening at a private Duckhorn Vineyards reception from not knowing anyone on the ship to meeting 100 eager travel companions. We range in age from 30 on up and come from across the U.S. Walking into the room and being able to make a connection with complete strangers is fascinating. We all quickly see the thread of our love for good wine and food. Alex Ryan, Duckhorn's president and CEO, says his wines "celebrate life and new stories." So off we go.
Our first day is all about Roman history and we tour the vineyards of Vesuvius guided by Piera owner of Vin Viaggiana. She is a history buff who has been giving tours since 2001. She is full of humor and spunk. She is also a celebrated sommelier who works exclusively with Food & Wine Trails.
I sit in the front of the bus next to Piera to get much more insight and stories. She's married to a Scot. She says she's shocked how much beer Scots drink vs the volumes of wine Italians drink. Sitting in the first seat behind the driver, I see the hairpin turns we are making, nearly gasping at each turn while nearly skimming the scooter riders with no helmets.
In the Campania region, we explored ancient Stabiae, one of only seven Roman villas buried by volcanic ash by Mount Vesuvius. The ruins were excavated twice. The first time many of the mosaics, frescoes and statues were looted. It's astonishing how much skill and time that went into the interior murals and frescoes. Inside we saw an underground thermal bath. It's believed that slaves went through tunnels 24 hours a day to keep fires hot to warm the baths. I will appreciate my hot tub even more!
Venturing through the towns of Pompeii up to a winery for a tour and lunch, we saw the local produce of lemons (home of the famous limoncello which I now know how to make), oranges, olives and walnuts in abundance. Tomatoes originated from Christopher Columbus which surprised me and the olive trees from Greeks which makes sense. Farmers once came down the mountains in cloaks carrying cheese, earning it the name ‘monks cheese.’ Nearby Grananio is known for its dried pasta. It was once dried in the streets by young boys hand fanning it. Speaking of fanning, the temperature is abnormally hot, we felt like we were literally baking under the sun needing fanning ourselves!
Finally, we arrived at the Sorrentino Family Vineyard. Zio Antonio greets us at the driveway with an eager smile. He was the classic Italian we were waiting for, hugging and kissing, flirting with the woman, engaging in fun with the men. He was the master wine pourer, a few glasses for us, the rest for him as he'd tilt his head back and down the final pours! Every time he did this, about 20, he became more lively. Wine at the five-generation old vineyard is 100 percent organic. Grapes are grown in volcanic soil which reportedly gives the grapes a higher sugar content which is my preference along with higher alcohol levels in more full-bodied reds. California's reds like Cab and Zin are higher in alcohol than Italy's heartier reds.
Back in the days of Roman Empire, we learned, wine was with honey, saltwater or sap. Locals say this added to their feisty gatherings and uproars...was this a preservative?
Lunch started with Spumante and then various wines and a four-course meal of cheese, roasted peppers, fried zucchini balls, pasta, roasted eggplant and zucchini, sausage, antipasti, fruits and cakes, and a very entertaining Papa Antonio.
Ciao until next time.