December 30, 1999



In the morning, the ship docked in Vallejo, shown in the upper middle portion of the map below. Here we boarded buses that took us into Napa Valley for a day in the wine country.

map

Our first stop was Schramsberg, a lovely hillside winery, tucked back in the trees. One of the oldest wineries in the valley, Schramsberg has miles of caves, dug by Chinese laborers in the 1870s, that are used to store and age the wines. Schramsberg produces one type of wine exclusively: champagne.

Schramsberg

Our guide led us through caves lined with hundreds and thousands of bottles of champagne, stacked on pallets and in racks, forming walls up to fifteen feet high. Eventually, we stopped in a spacious cavern, lit only by scores of candles on tall free-standing candelabras. Here we were served three different kinds of champagne.

It was only around ten-thirty in the morning. I hadn't eaten breakfast. I drank three full glasses of wonderful champagne. Did I mention I'm not generally much of a drinker? I was very, umm, cheerful.

My mom and I both decided that we liked the third champagne best: a demi-sec dessert champagne called Cremont. We each bought a bottle to take home, on the wine-enhanced theory that we ought to have at least one souvenir of the day.

From Schramsberg, it was on to the Merryvale Vineyards, where we tasted three more wines, and then were served a delicious lunch (accompanied by three more wines) in the medieval-style Cask Room, a long, high-ceilinged hall where the walls were formed of 2000-gallon wine barrels.

Merryvale

Afterwards, we did a little shopping. I discovered that they had chocolate truffles made with wine. Now, I may not be a big wine aficionado, but I am a major chocoholic. So I bought ten dark chocolate truffles made with Antigua dessert wine. Yum. Now I'm set: I've got champagne and chocolate. We can go home now.

But the day was not over yet! We were off to yet another winery—the Pine Ridge Winery, where we tasted four more wines, while touring the grounds and learning more about how grapes are grown and wines are made than we'd ever really wanted to know.

PineRidge

Whew. At last, we returned to the ship, for another fine dinner, accompanied by yet more wine (I declined), after which it was off to bed, happy and feeling quite thoroughly indulged.

Late at night, I discovered one of the curiosities of the voyage. I got up to go to the bathroom, without turning on any lights. While I was washing my hands, I noticed tiny flashes of light coming from the toilet bowl - it was phosphorescent algae in the sea water used in the toilets, churned up by the flushing. The glow was only visible in total darkness.