the mountains, the sunshine, the sense of escape that comes with traveling an hour away from somewhere — all reasons I’d drive up to Julian while I was living in San Diego. I don’t have the same inkling to head an hour away now that I’m back in Wisconsin. even gas edging towards $5 in Southern California didn’t deter me from my Julian sojourns when I needed them.
but beyond all of that, perhaps the biggest reason I’d escape to Julian: it served as an excuse to visit the Menghini Winery. I don’t even know what drove me to stop there the first time, if it was apple pie or wine tasting or just getting out of San Diego. (I remember my second visit quite clearly, with one Miss RLD.)
the winery is located in a valley and, in the winter the wind howls something terrible around the converted barn that hosts tastings. there are resident cats and dogs, tables and chairs out the back and in the front for leisurely tasting. I went up often enough that the woman who usually ran the tastings (and whose name now escapes me) recognized me. on my last visit before I moved, it was mid-week at the end of apple season and I was the only there. they were getting ready to drain and bottle one of the aging tanks. she let me try some of the unfiltered white wine. it was a most peculiar taste, and something that, while I can’t quite describe, has certainly stayed with me.
during my day in Cork, I took the opportunity to visit the J. Jameson & Son’s Old Midleton whiskey distillery. it was my first experience with using Bus Eireann for local connections, and what a good relationship we developed (why don’t we have public transportation that is this easy to use in the U.S.?). the facility that we toured was in use until 1975, and the distilling process has since moved to a larger one on the same site. whiskey in Ireland is made either here or at Bushmills in the North. that produced in Midleton is transported to the Dublin facility for bottling and packaging.
not knowing anything about the process, I found the tour at least informative, but I have since discovered that our ‘guide’ did little more than recite the information provided on the pamphlet. it felt like something aimed directly at tourists for whom English was not a first language (and there were quite a few on our tour).
the barley is dried out in a kiln using anthracite, which is a smokeless fuel that results in the distinctive taste of Irish whiskey. that made in Scotland uses peat to fuel the fire, which gives the drink a smokey taste. Irish whiskey is also distilled three times, in contrast to twice for Scotch whisky and once for bourbon. initially, to test the proof of whiskey after it was distilled it was set on fire. if it didn’t burn, the proof wasn’t high enough. if it exploded, it was too strong and given over to the workers at the distillery.
the top photo is of the masher, where the dried out barley is mixed with boiling water. during the process the starches in the grains are converted into fermentation sugars, resulting in a liquid known as “wort”, which is then sent on to “washbacks” for fermentation.
the bottom photo is the oldest building on the site, dating to 1794, when it was built as a woollen mill. it was used as a military barracks during the Napoelonic wards, and was turned into the distillery in 1825. the waterwheel at the side dates to 1852. it’s 22ft in diameter and made of cast iron. it also functioned until 1975.
at the end of the tour, i took the opportunity to compare bourbon, scotch, and whiskey, discovering that i don’t much care for any of them!
full day and a half in Cork. arrived earlier than expected day before last on a bus from Dublin, after one from Belfast. spent Sunday afternoon walking around the city — Beamish Distillery, St. Fin Barre’s cathedral, City Hall, Patrick Street and around. finally sorted meeting up with Nicolette & Kelly (they actually came down from Belfast by train yesterday, rather than Sunday), and had an amazing night’s sleep at the hostel in MacCurtain Street.
yesterday more walking around Cork City — the weather has been fantastic thus far! and then i took a bus out to Midelton to see the Jameson Distillery and the kitchy ‘Jameson Experience Midleton’. the distillery bit is quite interesting, but the tour is somewhat perfunctory, seems like it’s designed for the tourist who doesn’t much care about the history of the company or who has a limited understanding of the English language. the facility we toured, however, was in constant use from the time the complex was built in the 1840s (?) until 1975. the process has now been moved to a newer complex on the same sight, where all whiskey (except for that produced by Bushmills) is produced.
back in Cork, we went out for dinner at a restaurant down the road with a waterfall in the courtyard. very posh compared to where/what i’ve been eating so far! after sitting for a bit, we went to explore the city centre and ended up having some pints and participating in a pub quiz. (and ran into about a dozen students from USD, who are attending the University of Cork … wait, i thought i was in Ireland … ?)
today, picking up the car and heading north.