On Wine Tasting: Sex, Solvang and When Good Wine Tastes Bad [Elbows on the Table]...

Vacations in my adult life have been merely a guise for my love affair with food. Last week I celebrated my 20-something birthday by going to the San Ynez Valley. The valley, made famous by the movie Sideways, grows some of the best burgundy style grapes in the country (your Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays and Grenaches). Santa Barbara’s wine region is about two hours north of Los Angeles tucked inside a dry, mountainous region about 12 miles from the coast. For anyone who has always wanted to dip their toe in the ocean of wine knowledge, this is the best place to start. As far as I am concerned, there is NOTHING sexier than wine. It is all about passion and intoxication and sensuality. I cannot think of another activity in the world that can get a person laid quicker than a bottle of good wine paired with a succulent meal. It is also the quickest way to make friends and the most painless way to get your family off your back. Pair enough good food with enough good drink, everyone is happy and full of adoration. You can, without a doubt, hyperbolize one’s food appetite to one’s sexual appetite (although anyone who has been on a date can attest that the two are not mutually exclusive). When compared, my love of food is the kind of sex where you rent a hotel room and come out with a $2,000 cleaning bill due to broken lamps, torn curtains and turned over furniture which must be followed by a time of celibacy because you are positive at least five sins were committed on top of the act. It is intense. The real beauty of California is that besides the major cities, the state is basically countryside....

Natalie Hall is Hailing the Chief [Fierce Anticipation]

Fiercely Anticipating: Presidents’ Day weekend. It’s here! That glimmer of hope right in the midst of our seasonal affective disorder*! The Federal Holiday that no one remembers! The perfect little blue balls-inducing holiday weekend: too short to merit a vacation, but long enough to keep us from realizing we should stop slaving away for our corporate overlords and open a cooperative beet farm in Oregon! This is a nice one because we don’t have to deal with all the tediousness that marrs our other three-day weekends. I don’t have to be proud of my country, I don’t have to remember anyone, and my facebook feed won’t clog with inspirational misquotes and do-gooder cyber shaming. (Our first President was as boring as he was wooden-toothed, and as such, he is not remembered for his pithy sayings. “Bad seed is a robbery of the worst kind: for your pocket-book not only suffers by it, but your preparations are lost and a season passes away unimproved.” Pull that one out on Monday and see how many likes you get.) There are no parades to block traffic, no fireworks to pretend to care about, no enforced group meat-charring to attend. This is perfect for me, because I hate mandatory fun and I strongly dislike pool parties. As you can probably guess, I have big plans for this weekend. The idea is to drive up to San Francisco, hang out with friends, see Pina in 3-D, and while lingering over artisanal beers, meet a 6 foot tall Indian architect who loves Shakespeare, sandwiches, and casual relationships. What’s going to happen is this: on Friday evening I will don some soft, non-binding sleep wear, open a bottle of wine, and peruse the photo albums of my facebook friends who mysteriously...