Thursday, September 23, 2010

Annual Block Party at Bob's House!

Ron and I were able to attend this year's annual block party in Long Beach where good friends Bob & Margaret live.

Bob is a friend of Ron's from music school in the late 80s. He plays bass and graciously maintains a relationship with us over the years and miles.

Margaret is a fantastic woman who takes good care of the band with food and beverages while managing her children, socializing with neighbors and participating in games.

She and Bob have four young and bright kids who are very talented.

Each year, they get a city permit and block of the street for a day.

Neighbors organize games for the kids. A local family prepares and serves delicious traditional tacos with all the fixin's. Some folks set up tables with food and beverages.

But the main attraction for us is the music.

Ron went to Musician's Institute in Hollywood with Bob (pictured to the left) and a few other musicians who may or may not attend each year's block party.

The photo above features the musical team (L to R):

Mike R. on guitar (and keyboard), Larry S. on guitar, Jim on drums (keyboard also), Bob R. on bass, neighbor Chris on percussion, and Ron on guitar.

Let's talk about Bob!

Like all these musicians, he is versatile and willing to try just about any rock song, 50s through 80s.

Also, he sings a lot of songs either lead vocal or harmony.

Very talented and fun to be with on stage.

Bob's nickname: Answer Man.

To the left:

Larry, another Musician's Institute pal.

This guy plays and sings a massive variety of songs: rock, country, Beatles, etc.

He is a stalwart at the annual block party.

Larry is easy to work with, a real professional.

I found out in Bob & Margaret's kitchen this year that Larry has a good sense of humor, too!

Okay, Mike.

It's difficult to get started with Mike.

No! I mean, he is very talented and so it is challenging to describe him in a small space like this blog post.

Suffice to say, Mike plays guitar.

Mike sings.

Mike plays keyboard.

Mike is a ton of fun on stage and will try just about any song the band suggests.

Did I mention that he is unafraid to show his effusive personality and love for stage drama?! Quite entertaining.

Now, on to Jim M., yet another Musician's Institute buddy.

First, Jim's nickname is Question Man.

He plays keyboard and drums.

He sings and provides harmonies.

Jim will pick up a tambourine or other hand percussion and play while hammering out chords or a melody on the keyboard with the other hand.

He has a dry sense of humor to accompany his understated performing style.

I think it's pretty obvious that I have a little crush on Jim.

I hope his girlfriend is okay with that. I AM happily married!

Speaking of that...

Ron mostly plays guitar at the block party events. He also sings both lead and harmony.

But he will happily fill in on drums or percussion or keyboard. If there was a trumpet on stage, he would play it.

His guitar playing is so tasteful... it's SICK!

The other musicians know it, too.

Not to brag or play favorites, but he's my husband and he's my favorite.

And moi? Well, yeah, the old boys' club let me sit in this year. I sang a couple of "girl" songs, played flute on two tunes, and even strummed guitar a few times.

Also, no one takes pictures of me but it's okay because it's not my gig.

But, one time that afternoon, I opened my song book to follow guitar chords for a tune and a band member who shall remain nameless on this post said, "No charts!"

I eyeballed two other musicians who were both occasionally peaking at charts, then looked back at the commenter. I shot him my middle finger and that was the end of that!

All in all, Ron and I have a good time at the block party. Bob and Margaret and their kids are a total blast. They are hugely generous people. And all the musicians are talented and fun to play music with for an afternoon of "How about 'Black Magic Woman'" (or fill in the blank with another classic rock song).

We get to hang out with an amazing and fun family, musicians and neighborhood folks and kids. And we make music "for the fun of it," which is good now and then...!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

More Central Coast Wine Tasting!

Our friend Brie invited us to join her and her friend Rose for an afternoon of wine tasting.

We packed a light picnic lunch and headed for Tablas Creek, where Brie is a member.

Pictured here L to R: Brie, Rose, me and Ron.

Tablas Creek grows a huge selection of grapes in a certified sustainable environment. Their tasting list is extensive and offers many delicious white and red varietals and blends.

Our host was native Atascaderan, Shawn. He was gracious and humorous enough to let me snap this classic photo of him appearing to have horns (the wine bottles).

We gave him a new title: Inventory Reductionist Par Excellence.

I'm sure the owners of Tablas Creek will appreciate that.

I enjoyed the 2009 Côtes de Tablas Blanc, the 2007 Grenache, and the 2006 Esprit de Beaucastel.

Personal fave on the tasting list for me was the 2007 Esprit de Beaucastel, which I gave three stars.

Or as they say in french, "trois étoiles."

Next, we zipped into Niner, a newer winery on the west side.

Rose and Brie posed for a lovely photo in the expansive tasting room.

Brie liked the 2009 Sangiovese Rosato (pretty sure she purchased a bottle of it).

Here is a photo of the terrain from the back side on Niner's tasting room. It's called "Heart Hill." Of course!

Back to wine. Rose, like me, was partial to the 2008 Sauvignon Blanc.

I almost forgot to mention that Rose speaks fluent French!

I was so excited to have someone to converse with and learn from that was way beyond my ability!

Rose was very patient with me, just like my French professor at school.

Brie and Ron were left out of the conversation a bit, but I tried to bridge the language gap by sharing what Rose and I were talking about!

Rick, the Niner tasting room host who poured for us, educated us on the fact that "tannins" are found in the skins of red grapes but not white grapes.

Red wines "lay down" longer than white wines because the tannins act as a preservative.

After Niner, we crossed over to the 46 East area, which is on the east side of Hwy 101 in Paso Robles.

Our friend Shakeh, singer-songwriter from the Los Angeles area, was performing at a winery where Ron and I are members, Sculpterra.

We definitely wanted to support her, as well as show off one of our favorite wineries to Rose. It was a fantastic tour, and we all purchased wine.

Time was on our side and we traveled over the dry wash to make a pit stop at another of our wine club wineries, Clautiere.

The girls tried on wigs and gave photo-ops. See Brie and Le Coquette Rose above, and moi, avec les cheveux orange, posing while Ron purchased wine.

Then, we headed over to Maloy O'Neill for a tasting.

Brie purchase the Port and something else. I forgot. I like everything at Maloy O'Neill.

That's why Ron and I are members there.

Plus the fact that Shannon is an amazing person, winemaker, super-taster, friend and fellow non-conformist (nod to the nuns)!

Visit these wonderful "vignobles" and let me know your comments on the wines, tasting rooms and service!

Tell them Sharine and Ron sent you. It won't get you any freebies because we're not famous or rich, but they will definitely have stories to share!