Spending time in Napa Valley got me thinking about wine…

Wine tasting here is a ritual that can be intimidating. The self-righteous sommelier stated that filling out the wine order form was a “test of intelligence”.

I know little about the intricacies of wine. I know which tastes good and which is going to give me a headache. I own a few wine gadgets: an electric corkscrew in honor of my carpal tunnel, an aerator to help it breathe and a vacuum bottle stopper for leftovers. I’m ok with where I am right now in the wine department.

I choose wine from areas I have been to. Wine with a story. I am drawn to Montepulciano from Tuscany, Barolo from Piedmont, Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, Shiraz from Australia. I recall sitting in a pub in New Zealand – it was trivia night (the horrors!) and I was invited to join a team. The only answer I knew was a question about Brett Favre ;-).

Drinking wine has a cerebral and a sensory component. Cerebral is the easy part for me. It is knowing the demographic origin of the grape, the soil composition, the wine-making process. The other is the primal sense of taste. That sense, as with all our senses, is underdeveloped. While we are aware of the 5 elements of taste (sweet, sour, salt, bitter and umami), they don’t get adequate attention. Wine is different in it’s depth, quality and mystique than, let’s say a Coca-cola. Drinking wine with a bit of reverence is a good thing.

That said, often in life the less you know the more you can enjoy. An avid surfer knows so much about surfing that he can no longer go to any beach and catch a wave. He needs to check the surf report for the perfect conditions. Perfect is the enemy of good. I know musicians that can’t just lean back and tap their feet – they need to deconstruct and respond to their analysis of the song rather than the song itself. It’s like a joke…if you dissect it, it dies.

When it comes to wine if you get too intellectual about it, it is no longer fun. But if you down it like a Coke, you miss out.

10 Reasons to Visit Japan (that you won’t find in the guide book…)

1. Bathrooms

Once you leave home, finding a bathroom can be a challenge. In Japan, they are everywhere and are taken to a whole new level. Even in gas stations toilets have heated seats and music for privacy, and most of them will give you a wash and dry also.

2. Coffee shops

Dark and quiet and classy. You can sit there for hours and no one cares. Today I had a great latte, a nap, and plum liquor with soda on the rocks. Check out Sowgen and Cafe Bibliotec Hello.


3. Vending machines

When is the last time you saw beer in a vending machine? And quality coffee, in cans, that come out hot!

4. Baskets

A place to throw your stuff when you sit at a cafe or bar. Your hat, jacket, scarf. In Japan everything has its place.


5. Made for sharing.

Food is bite-sized and communal.


6. Ben Fiddich

The coolest bar I have ever been to. 1 Chome-13-7 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku-ku. 9th floor. Tokyo.


7. Fruit sandwiches

Strawberry shortcake in a sandwich form for breakfast.


8. Cooking Classes

Whenever I travel I like to take a cooking class. This one was one of my favorites. Everybody prepared their own Bento box. This is the one – www.cooking-sun.com

9. Recycling

Japanese are serious about recycling. Not only is there no litter on the street, garbage cans are scarce and people bring their trash home. That’s how much they care.


10. It’s the perfect meeting spot.

If you go off season (steer clear of cherry blossom time and vacations), the airfare is reasonable, considering the distance. You can fly nonstop from most continents.

There is one big detraction I must mention. Although smoking is banned on the streets, it is allowed in bars, restaurants, schools and hospitals 😱 But that should not stop you from visiting this phenomenal place full of history, charm, Zen and some of the most delightful people you’ll ever meet. 

The Winter Solstice and Other Musings

Last night, the longest night of the year in the Eastern Hemisphere, I flew across the Atlantic. Leaving behind my daughter, close friends and Israel, a country that I have loved since I was 15. Once fluent, my Hebrew is clunky and my Midwestern accent is definitely stronger. That place has taken my heart and it is stuck there. Seeing Lia in an IDF uniform-how do I even start? Mostly proud, but also worried, sad that there is an army at all, concerned she’ll be cold. In case you haven’t noticed, I don’t plan to give Facebook versions of things on this blog. I’ll tell the truth as I see it.

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