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Pairing bocce and Wine

Sept 15-21
written September 17+
Dear Diary, Friends, and Families,

A week diary.  Another normal week: family, wine, bocce, and garage construction.  The family part refers to Mamo getting yet another heart pacemaker.  At 94-years-old, she managed to out-last three devices and needed a fourth.  She went into the hospital on Tuesday and came out on Wednesday, tired but with the new heart aid working just fine.  As "routine"as the operation had been described, everyone is relieved it is over. (Unfortunately,  one old pacemaker wire has since gone out of service, so yet another operation looms in a few months.)

Wednesday morning, I visited the Yribarren Family Vineyard, 20-minutes west of home in Kerman,  California.  My goal had been to look at their bocce fields, since they had announced a weekended tournament.  Unfortunately, theirs are grass fields, so provided no guidance for our own backyard construction project.

All was not lost however, as the winery was doing their annual bottling and had invited customers to come and take a look.  Yribarren, like most small vintners, contracts a service for bottling.  A trailer-installed bottling plant is brought in, complete with crew. In a few hours, the contractor transfers all the liquid from the vintner's "barrels", actually large plastic tanks, to pallet loads of bottled and labeled wine cases.
Wendy Yribarren explained the process for me while I tried some pictures.
Bottle boxes are emptied at the end of the trailer and the bottles march along past a filling machine, cappers and corkers, label application, and back into the white boxes.  In a few hours, the entire year's production is packaged and ready for a bit of storage.  Yribarren will release these 2012 and 2013 wines next month, at their annual "Grape Stomp".  Hopefully, we can make that party too.
So far, our only other diary-significant activity this week was the initiation of our backyard bocce court.  (Construction details below). We still don't know how to play, but I have hung our sign out and we'll see who shows up to give us instructions.
On Saturday, we tried to solve a bit of our ignorance.  There was a bocce tournament school fund raiser out at the Yribarren winery and we decided it was a fund raiser worth supporting.  I mean, it's held at a winery, how serious can it get?
The Yribarren family opened their vineyard home for a fund raiser for the Houghton-Kearny K-8 School 
There were three grass courts set up.  Terry explained the rules and our team, "The Strangers in a Strange Land" was the last team of the eight-team roster.
It was all good fun, win or lose.  ("The Strangers" mostly lost.)

All in all, it was a great day.  We learned a little about both bocce and about the grape and almond farms of the local valley - and about a very nice group of people.  We'll return next year, after we practice at home!

Sunday started early.  I was out of the house at 5:15 am, headed for the Clovis Rodeo grounds for the annual Clovis hot air balloon event.  I took way too many pictures, but how can one not when all those colors are around?
The coffee and cinnamon bun trailer was  supplying the early  crowd and crews.
Once the crowds and all seven balloons did start to arrive, I found myself just hanging around "Dave" and his balloon as he did his meticulous preparations.
Dave got the weather report and permission to take-off.  He, in turn, gave instructions to his pick-up crew and they started the inflation fan.
Adding heat inflated the balloon, Dave took on his passenger, and was gone, the first of the pack.
Meanwhile, the others were launching, successfully avoiding any nearby hazards.
The winds were very calm and the balloons passed overhead like slow-motion dancers before drifting west.
On my way home, I saw one balloon just ahead of me, so I tried to follow.  It landed in a very narrow parking lot on the Fresno State campus.  The pilot later said he'd prefer more space, but the wind determines where the balloon goes much more than the pilot.  ("Grace" was the pilot's mother, who truly must have been looking out for him from above.)

After all that, I needed to speed home for a patio breakfast with the whole family, from one-year-old Zaiden to 94-year-old Mamo. Marianne had prepared a great spread and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.  We worked in an explanation of bocce and a walk in the neighborhood for Mamo.
Next week we will travel over to Monterey, but that's another story.

John and Marianne

Meanwhile, the garage is finally done except for rain gutters (why we need them in this desert I have no idea.)
On Monday, a little more concrete.
On Thursday and Friday morning we made progress on garage details, and the final bocce.
The bocce court started as a rough mixture of decomposed granite and oyster shell chunks.  Gary and Rick spread oyster shell "flour" and after two flour treatments and three or four rollings, we are calling it done!


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