Tag: Napa Valley (page 1 of 2)


Twipper of the Week: Shem Hooda from Sugar and Stamps!

Current city: San Francisco, California, USA

Age: 28

Total countries visited: 16

What makes you interesting: Alongside travel blogging, I also juggle a full-time job. Working in health care gives me the ability to help others while also saving up for my travels. I’m living proof that you don’t have to quit the career you love to travel often!

What brands do you love: Anyone with a great loyalty program! I love brands who value their customers and reward them respectively!

What’s your favorite passport stamp: My stamp from China! On a recent trip to Thailand, I had a 16-hour layover in Beijing. Thanks to a little research, I was able to hop off the plane and over to The Great Wall of China without having to obtain a visa ahead of time! A temporary transit visa granted me an unforgettable experience and one of my favorite passport stamps!

If you wash up on a deserted island with your luggage in hand, what’s the one thing you’re thanking God you packed: My camera! I can’t imagine not being able to document the experience.

What’s one thing you have no problem breaking the bank for when traveling: Something unique to the city or country I’m in. An experience I won’t be able to have or a cuisine I won’t be able to taste anywhere else in the world is always priceless in my book!

Where are you the most authentic you: I’m my most authentic me when I’m happy. When I’m traveling, and have the freedom to explore a new place on my own terms, my adventurous and most authentic self shines through.

Describe the last time you tried something new: I took a hot air balloon ride over Napa Valley in California. It has been on my bucket list for such a long time and I highly recommend the experience to everyone. The feeling of floating up in the air with no one else in sight was breathtaking.

Who is/are the most interesting person/people you have met while traveling: In Dublin, I met a group of girls from Holland. Despite our mild language barrier, we ate our way through the city, made jokes, laughed and spent the day exploring new sights together. That’s the thing I love most about travel — it leaves you with the opportunity to interact with people you may not normally meet.

Next travel destination: I’m headed back to Mexico for a wedding. I plan to fill any downtime with some R&R on the beach, a trip to Chichen Itza and some scuba diving!

Twipper of the Month – May 2017

Twipper of the Month – May 2017: Linda Dumpe from Have A Good Journey!

Some people like to visit a foreign country to get a taste of different cultures, but for Linda that’s simply not enough. As a seasoned traveler and blogger of Have A Good Journey, she doesn’t just visit a new destination, she lives there. From tasting wines in Napa Valley to solving an ant problem in India,  Linda knows how to makes the best out of every situation and this is why we have named her our Twipper of the Month for May. “My experiences have widened my horizons, made me a more open-minded person and not judgmental, and more self-confident. I’m very grateful I can live my life traveling,” says Linda. Even with no new destinations set, we can’t wait to see where she ends up next.


Twipper of the Week: Linda Dumpe from Have A Good Journey!

Current city: Riga, Latvia

Age: 30

Total countries visited: I haven’t counted before but approximately 25. 

What makes you interesting: I’m a risk-taker and I’m not afraid to step out of my comfort zone. For example, when I just moved in to my apartment in India, I had to deal with ants who were climbing on me at night. I was paranoid for some time even after I got rid of them.

What brands do you love: I’m a true fan of Leica cameras.

What have you learned about yourself during your travels: How brave I am, how well I can deal with different situations, and how diverse people and places are. My experiences have widened my horizons, made me a more open-minded person and not judgmental, and more self-confident. I’m very grateful I can live my life traveling.

What is the most impractical item you have ever packed: I always pack impractically and I just deal with it, I tend to pack more stuff than I need but it’s fine. The most impractical situation was not about what I packed, but where I packed everything. I went to Rishikesh in India with my suitcase and discovered what a bad idea it was when I had to climb up the streets, stairs and mountain to get to Lakshman Jhula. I guess I need a backpack sometimes. 

Describe yourself in three words: Spontaneous, brave and emotional.

What do you enjoy doing the most during your travels: Imagine a cozy sofa or chair outside with a spectacular view in front of you, a coffee mug in your hands and a breakfast table near. You feel like the time has stopped, you are present in the moment. I love to try local food, interact with local people, go hiking or roam around the streets, sit at cafes.

What is your best and worst travel memory: The best travel memory was  dancing through Sonoma and Napa Valley for the whole weekend while tasting wines from different vineyards. The wines were so good, the mood was brilliant, the weather was perfect. I was literally dancing and enjoying myself to the fullest!

The worse: I don’t keep bad memories. I always try to see and remember only positive. Probably the worst experience was when I was in Oslo in 2010. I woke up to go to the airport and heard the news that all the flights had been cancelled due to the eruption of volcano Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland. That was a stressful day, a lot of planning on how to get to Riga by land. 

Where and when were you the most culture shocked: One evening in Dubi I had nothing to do so I went to the hotel’s rooftop bar to have a cocktail. I sat at the bar and there was an Arab gentleman sitting there drinking beer. We exchanged quick glances and continued to enjoy our solo evening. When he was done, he called the waiter, paid and went on his way. Few minutes after he was gone, a barman gave me another cocktail and said, “It’s from the gentleman who sat over there.” He sent the drink as a nice gesture. I was pleasantly surprised.  Nowadays people of different cultures get stereotyped a lot for how they live and what they believe, and this gesture taught me how nice people can truly be.

The other culture shock was in India. I worked in the contemporary art gallery and had a business meeting in a fancy five star hotel. After the meeting I had to go to the village for my colleague’s son’s birthday. Right after spending time in such a place, I was thrown in a different reality. The house in a village had no windows or doors, many beds were in the garden as the family was so big and not everyone had their own space within the confines of the house .  This was a very emotional day with many lasting impressions.

Next travel destination: Nothing’s arranged yet but definitely somewhere warm!

Wine Country with Mom: Part V


By: Brian Shinnick

We pulled into Judd’s Hill winery after our sugary binge on the pavement. The rolling mountains ran out and upward as the backdrop to the large veranda. The sky poured out into a sharp, dazzling blue. Cloudless. The vines, recently harvested, streamed upward on the mountain’s back in perfect sage colored rows and we wandered around, our fingers reaching out to graze the greenery. There were still a few grapes left hanging, and I nibbled.

The resident sommelier is something of a shorter, pudgier variety of Craig T. Nelson with the signature bald-on-top graying mullet. His name is Judd. No relation. He recited all the bits of information that both Katherine and the Spelletich sommelier had already told us. Katherine politely informed him of this repetition. Judd, being the crafty old boy he is, decides to turn his ramblings into a game where more and more wine will be prized. Problem: No one was actually paying attention the first go-round. That or the wine has clouded the learning abilities of the group. Result: no one has any idea what the hell he’s asking. Except, for the lone wine genius: the Brazilian man, sitting cool like Cruise in Ray Ban’s. He’s answering every question correctly with ease.

Mom doesn’t like this. Nuh-uh. Jan wants to play the game too. Jan wants to show the crew that she’s been drinking wine since she was twelve so she must be an expert. Jan even serves wine at parties, much like Judd is doing now, which makes her a sommelier. Boom.

Judd touches his finger to his lips and asks, “And who knows the best time of day to actually harvest the fruit from the vine?”

Mama Bear folds her arms and drunkenly strong voices, “Noon!”

“I’m sorry?” Judd turns to her unsure of what he heard.

“The afternoon. Like early dinner time.”

“Um,” he squints his eyes a little, “No. Actually, the finest hour for the fruit is in the middle of the night. Yes, it’s even sometimes made into a sort of party for the pickers and they bring their families and it’s a beautiful event.”

Mom’s not buying’ it.

Judd begins again, “How about this. Can anyone tell me what one acre of vineyard land yields in grapes? Um, in tons, that is. How many tons of grapes?”

“Six hundred…THOUSAND,” she says with sheer confidence.

“Six hundred thousand?” Judd repeats it back. “Six hundred thousand tons?”


“Ma’am there’s probably six hundred thousand tons of rock in that large mountain right there. Are you saying you can yield that amount of grapes from one acre of land.”

“Yeeeeeeeeeeee-up,” she says after finishing the rather full glass of wine in front of her.

“The answer is five. You can get five tons of grapes from one acre of land.”

Judds Hill 2 - Erik Wait

We leave the Judd Hill winery having purchased zero bottles of wine—I imagine it was a choice Mom made out of spite—and a heavy buzz. We get back on the bus and everyone is a bit rosy in the face. The Canadians are a little more in love and her sunglasses are crooked and his shirt is un-tucked only on the right side. The Lone Brazilian is smiling his very wide smile discussing South American wine to the honeymooners. The Asian women are all laughing hushedly at each other with their hands in front of their mouths. They’re adorable.

I shout with purple lips from the back of the bus, “Katherine, can you turn on some crowd pleaser jams? A little Metallica? Some Slayer, maybe? Y’know, something to loosen up the gang a bit.”

Her big beautiful eyes look into the rearview mirror with a salty smile, “You’re pushing your luck, Chicago.”

“You have no idea.”

The bus turns off the main road and begins down a skinny stretch of asphalt lined with the spires of Mediterranean evergreens and lush vines running—as they always do—into the hills. We pull up to a grand Italian villa with a round splashing fountain to welcome all who enter. The beautiful building is surrounded with lush, tall trees shading the area perfectly, nestled in the mountains and vines. Andretti Winery.

We wander around, Mama Bear and I, not concerned with wine or wine knowledge just yet. The space, that place, the lowering sun, the warm dirt beneath the vines. It swallowed us. We just smiled quietly.

I finally went to get us both some wine and began talking to the Canadian couple as we waited at the small bar. As we discussed what circumstances lead us all to the same place, I could see Mom sitting at a small table, wine already in hand, talking with Katherine.

The three of us go and sit on the grassy edge of a shady spot beneath a tree and laugh for a while about how much we hate winter and there’s no way, we can’t do it, we just don’t have one more god damn winter left in us. They are excellent people. Extremely polite but still a little edgy. Dave, the dude of the couple, asks the very hungover bartender lady if he can just have a bottle of wine, any wine, that he can bring to the shady spot instead of running back and forth. The extremely-discontent-with-her-job bartender gladly hands over a bottle.

I stand up after a while, remembering I’d left Mama Bear, and look to see she’s sitting at a crowded table laughing with Katherine and the like. She gets up for a moment and I meet her walking to the bar.

“Oh, there you are, you little booshkies! [Gasp] I just had a GREAT idea!” she says.


“What? But you don’t even know what I’m going to say.”

Resting my hand on my scrunched forehead I explain, “I can just tell it’s one of those…y’know…Jan ideas that nobody ever really wants to participate in. Like, matching Halloween socks or, uhhhhhh, visiting Abe Lincoln’s childhood home, or joining that Church of Scient-whatever it was.”

“Hey! Historical sites are magical and you’re going to regret not going to—“

“Mom, what is it?”

“A group picture!”

“Yeah, I don’t—“

“Zip it!”

She runs to the front of this large porch everyone is now sitting at and begins shouting wildly and flailing her arms for everyone’s attention.

“Hey, everybody!” she says. “Heyyyyyy-oh!”

The group looks at her with confused smiles.

“I was wondering if we could take a picture, like a big group picture to remember this wonderful day? Can we? It’d be fun!”

There are a few rustles, but mainly silence among the group. I walk over, “C’mon, gang. This one’s for the Christmas card, now get your asses up here.”

The group assembles along a patio wall and smiles for a few pictures. Katherine is kind enough to snap the photo. It wasn’t until that moment I realized how glad I was to have done this with these people. This strange little cast and crew. Maybe it was the booze. Definitely the booze. But in that moment, I was really happy to be with my mother. I was really happy to understand more of who she is, who she is in this moment. It’s never easy to realize who you are traveling with until you’re knee-deep in the muck of it all. Not until it gets ugly do you know who you’re dealing with. Odds are you’re both going to survive, but you’re both guaranteed to be different.


I knew that when the flash snapped and I knew it was all over.

We single-filed back onto the bus, ready to brave the ride home, clinking more bottles and laughter rang out amid the music of the highway. Red wine spilled into the white and cheersing glasses cheersed.

“Katherine!,” I shouted. “Can you pull over for some waffles or somethin’? Orrr, uhhh, you guys got White Castle’s in this town?”

She shook her head laughing, “We’ll talk later, Chicago.”

Wine Country with Mom: Part I
Wine Country with Mom: Part II
Wine Country with Mom: Part III
Wine Country with Mom: Part IV

Wine Country with Mom: Part IV

Napa Valley

By: Brian Shinnick

White then black white then black then white then blackblackblackblackblack then white then blackblack then muffled sound then white then blackblackblack then muffled sharp pinging noise then white then “Booshkie-booshkers!” then black then “We almost gotta leave, Bri-bees!” then Oh My God What The Hell Time Is It? Black. Ohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygod.

My eyelids peeled back slowly, and I could fuzzily see my mother skip around the white hotel room yelling at me to rise and greet the day for “Nnnnnnnnnnnn-apAAAAAAA!”  I rolled the comforter away from my body, slipped my legs over the side of the bed, put my head between my hands and accepted the hangover I was bathing in.  Come on, I thought, this is like a distant cousin to a full-blown Check-me-into-detox-over.  Just get up and go, I thought.  So I did.  Showered then shaved then coffeed then lobby waited.

Hotel lobbies are a place of eminent danger when hungover.  You just sit there in those luscious comfy chairs and there’s pleasant music playing faintly and your mom is oozing happiness and everyone’s super nice to you and they ask you if you need anything when you don’t need anything and it’s just a universal vacuum of awfulness.

We’d signed up for a small trip to Napa Valley with Green Dream Tours that was to take us direct from our hotel to wine country where we’d visit three different wineries with a stop for lunch at some point.

It’s 7:56 a.m. and the small white bus has arrived.  Before I can rub the feeling back into my face, my mother has already run out to greet the driver and tour guide, Katherine.  Katherine, might I add, is stunning.  Tall, blonde, she wears red lipstick and a tight flower-patterned dress beneath a jean jacket.  She smiles genuinely, warmly, and immediately I can tell she’s got zero time for my Chicago bullshit.  I’m in love.

Green Dream Tours

I catch the two of them mid-conversation when I approach the bus. “And I STILL haven’t been on a cable car!  Three days gone past.  I mean, San Francisco and we haven’t been on a single cable car,” my mother divulges exhausting her breath.  “Whew! Oh, here he is,” she says looking at me.

Katherine and I nod to one another, and she’s already hot to my game.  She raises her eyebrows in judgment and goes, “You really ought to take your pretty mother on a cable car, you know.”

“Yeah…” Nodding my head I ask with a raw voice painted in cigarettes, “You got any wine on that bus?”

“Come on, champ,” Katherine laughs patting my back as we get on the party bus that’s been fitted with wrap-around leather seating, a knock-off hardwood floor, and an elaborate sound system that’s linked to Katherine’s quintessential tour guide headset.  We’re the first ones on the bus as we drive from hotel to hotel picking up other small groups of people, mostly couples.

There was a red-headed husband and blonde marathoner wife from Philadelphia in their late thirties. A couple near my age from Quebec that looked more like they’d strolled down from New York’s East Village, they were sleek, trendy. An uncomfortably politically correct trio of Asian women in the hierarchy of a daughter, a mother, and an aunt. Another husband and wife from Minnesota that were really quiet and a lone Brazilian man of about forty.

The morning drive is quiet and foggy.  Peaceful.  Katherine chimes out Napa Valley trivia through her headset and no one is really paying attention before she stops and says, “Listen, people, I know it’s quiet now and we don’t really know each other. But trust me, you’re all gonna be chatty best friends by the time we pack up for the ride home.”  I sat there and saw it all unfold:  Mom would get wasted, like crazy wasted because she’s drunk on two glasses of wine and now she’s gonna be guzzling buckets of wine the whole day. She’d probably just get lost in the vines and collapse, and we’d leave her behind, and her first born son wouldn’t even notice because he’s fallen in love with the guide.


A two-hour drive and fifteen “I gotta pee”-complaints-from-mom later and the bus pulls into an industrial lot.  “I know what you’re thinking, folks: Hey where are all the vines and hills? Right?  But you’re really going to enjoy the Spelletich Winery,” Katherine assures us.  She was right.  Even though I felt like I was in a bathroom remodeling company’s showroom drinking absurdly delicious wine while a cool jiving sixty-something sommelier lady, we’ll call her Charlotte, spat an encyclopedia’s worth of grape knowledge at me.  While most everyone did this swirl-sniff-tiny-sip routine, Jan and I threw back the petite glasses of grape sauce in one gulp like it was Pepto-Bismol.  Some people we’re even pouring their leftovers out into these big buckets and me and Mama Bear are looking at each other like: Do these idiots know they’re tossing out free booze?  I mean it’s free.

We head to the big backroom where there’s a grape press and a million barrels stacked on top of each other and every time Charlotte dips into a barrel and asks if anyone would like to try, Mama Bear and me are throwing Southside ‘bows through the crowd trying get at the nectar.

“Now you’ll notice in this press the density of these grapes more so than any other batch from another year.  That’s caused by this incredible drought we’re in the midst of here in California.  The yields of grapes are drastically underwhelming.  But the grapes themselves are the best quality they will ever be.  The fruit closes in on itself and tightens when it endures dehydration.  That tightening intensifies the sugars and thus the fermented product.  It’s marvelous for the product, yet detrimental to our livelihood as wine makers.”  Charlotte shakes her head, “The artistry of wine will dry up at its peak.  The beauty of it all will collapse from the apex of where it could ever go.  Poetic really.”

The crowd goes quiet and still at this painful reflection.  No one brings a glass to their lips.  Somber looks all around.

“Yeah,” I shrug my shoulders, “but it’s just wine, right?  I mean, no, it’s great stuff and all, but… didn’t the government, like, declare a state of emergency.”  Uh oh, somebody’s buzz from the night just woke up. “Terrible for the economy and the rest of the Jesus Juice elitists, sure, no one’s doubtin’ that.  But come on, we’re talking about water here.  Our bodies are, like, 98.6% water, right?  We need that shit.”  Everyone is staring at me, and I got my arms stretched wide as if others will join me in agreement.  “I mean, let’s just put the poetry into perspective.  Right?”


It’s one o’clock by the time we roll around to lunch.  The spot we stop at is like a highway oasis, but it’s like a 5-star artisan oasis with charcuterie and sushi and organic bars of soap for sale.

“Oh my goodness!” she puts her hand over her mouth, “Do you think they have one of those Chinese herb shops with the immune booster shakes?  Oh my goodness GRACIOUS!  Look!”  She points to a fluffy pink sign hanging in the corner of the open-air building and begins speed walking toward it.  By the time I catch up with her she’s already in line.  She turns and looks at me like that creepy little dude from the Lord of the Rings movies and says, “Cuuuuuuuuuup-caaaaaaaaakessssssssss-uhhh.”

“You’re gonna eat cupcakes for lunch?”

“Cupcakes and wine.  We’re on vacation.”

“Does that mean I can smoke cigarettes?”

“It’s your vacation too, Booshkers,” she says with gentle understanding.  So she bought a bunch of cupcakes.  I bought some ice cream and a pack of cigarettes.  We snuck back to the bus a little early, cracked a bottle of Cab and giggled hiding in the parking lot.  She always yelled fiercely at my smoking, pointing her fingers at my face, my throat.

Then she asked for a drag.

Wine Country with Mom: Part I
Wine Country with Mom: Part II
Wine Country with Mom: Part III

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