Category Archives: James Arthur Vineyards

Fish Fries and Chocolate Dinners

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The Lenten Season is upon us again, and that means Fish Fries (in addition to giving up Facebook). Our friends Nate and Lexi had their fourth young-un the other day — Gabriel — and dad decided to give mom some alone time with the baby by joining the Johnson Family for a fish fry down at St. John Vianney’s. They had the usual assortment of fried fish, pancakes, tomato soup, et cetera, and we got there early enough to avoid most of the line that usually accumulated by mid-evening. Of course, we also had five kids in tow, but a couple balloons (and an extra long French Fry) kept them fairly occupied before we were able to get our food. This was also Aaron’s first fish-fry experience, and he managed to clean his plate fairly well with the rest of us. We saw some familiar faces, including Frank and the Guitar Guy, as well as Cliff, who I used to work with at Land and Sky some eight years ago. It’s a small world.

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In other news, Twin Valley Church has a new pastor. You may remember back in November Pastor Drew and his family left our church and moved to Clear Lake, Iowa. Since then, we’ve been searching for a new pastor for our little flock, and after a very brief search came across the resume of Pastor Ryan Folken. He and his family used to live in Nebraska back in 2008 but had to move due to the recession. They seemed to be quite eager to move back, and after visiting extensively with our church family, Pastor Ryan agreed to become our new head pastor. On Saturday, I helped a bunch of people from TVC (and a few of Ryan’s old friends here) move into the parsonage next door to the church. He and his family seem like a wonderful fit for us, and by some coincidence they have two boys and two girls (one Hannah’s age) just as the Rietjens did.

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Sunday, of course, was Valentine’s Day. Vivian got up early and made me a lovely flower-shaped apple tarts for breakfast and a handmade valentine. Hannah and Mommy both got a cardsflowers and candy, some of which Hannah ate right away, of course. Hannah had also made cards for both grandmas, and Aaron got to give Grammy a bunch of roses when she came over to babysit.

That evening, Vivian and I went down to James Arthur Vineyards in Lincoln for a chocolate-themed Valentine dinner. There was a personal chocolate fondue, salad with chocolate vinaigrette, and a coffee and cocoa-crusted Beef Tenderloin, each with its own wine pairing. Jenny and Kody came as well, and we stayed so long talking about wine and other things that the four of us were the last to leave. Visiting JAV always brings back memories of when I poured for the Lincoln Ad Club’s Taste of the Vine events a decade ago. I’ll have to remember to come back and visit when they have live music again in the summer.

Four-course Wine & Chocolate Dinner
Food by Dinner & Company and wine from James Arthur Vineyards

  1. Appetizer: Chocolate Caramel Fondue with Fruit. Paired with Amo Te, a very sweet red wine.
  2. Salad: Spring Salad with Strawberries and Chocolate Chunks. Paired with Horizon, a lighter red wine meant for summertime.
  3. Entrée: Coffee and Cocoa Crusted Beef Tenderloin, Asparagus with Chocolate Drizzle, and White Chocolate Risotto. Paired with Nebraska Red (dry) or San Realto (sweet).
  4. Dessert: Chocolate Macaroon Bars, Raspberry Brownie Dessert, and Bavarian Mint Fudge. Paired with Aura, a clear, port-style wine.

Wining and dining

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The Mrs. and I just finished off another lovely Valentine’s holiday. The romantic fun started on Tuesday last week when we and a handful of other happy couples from Twin Valley Church assembled at Malara’s Italian Restaurant (at my suggestion) for dinner together. We’d discovered this little place a few years ago, and it was a delight to share it with our friends from church and enjoy some homemade pasta together.

I went on a shopping trip or two during the week and assembled a Valentine’s gift basket for Vivian (with an illustrated card, of course) and a bouquet of red roses to surprise her with when I returned home from work on Friday. I even got a small “love bug” pot of flowers for my littlest Valentine, Hannah.

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On Valentine’s Day, Hannah and Aaron brought a couple Valentine gifts to the grandparents, which included a handmade card with their footprints turned into painted flower petals.

Then Grammy and Pop-Pop came to watch the kids as Vivian and I drove down to Raymond, Nebraska to attend “a chocolate affair winemaker dinner” at James Arthur Vineyards. Vivian had learned about this romantic five-course dinner with wine pairings a year ago, so I made a note to sign us up as early as we had the opportunity (which meant calling the vineyard in January to reserve a spot before the event had even been announced!) It was a tasty affair, to say the least, with Roasted Cauliflower Soup, Chicken Pecan Salad, a roast beef on a baguettea bacon-wrapped filet, and a chocolatey dessert (including a tuxedoed strawberry), each with its own unique wine pairing. We left feeling quite satisfied and ready to come back again next summer perhaps for some live music or a murder mystery.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! I hope you were able to enjoy it with someone you love.

“Meet Your Winemaker” Five-Course Dinner
Food by Dinner & Company and wine from James Arthur Vineyards

  1. Soup: Roasted Cauliflower Soup. Paired with Amo Te or Dry Seyval.
  2. Salad: Chicken Pecan Salad with Chocolate BBQ sauce. Paired with Horizon.
  3. Appetizer: Roast Beef with Caramelized Onions & Blue Cheese on a Baguette. Paired with Sweet Charlotte.
  4. Entree: Bacon-wrapped filet with rich balsamic cocoa glaze. Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Loaded Baked Potato. Paired with St. Vincent or San Realto.
  5. Dessert: Chocolate TrioChocolate-Dipped Strawberry, Churro with Chocolate Dipping Sauce, Chocolate Truffle Meringues. Paired with Tropasti.

Wine, pizza, and babies

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On Wednesday, we had a baby shower for a trio of new little ones at the Institute, which included Baby Aaron. A bunch of my co-workers got to take turns holding him as we all had cake. Our resident ethicist Sister Renee also got to meet both Hannah and Aaron for the first time ever downstairs. (She had a chewy piece of Werther’s candy for Hannah, which she immediately put to use as a mustache.)

Then on Friday, the Johnson Family headed down to the Sumtur for the final family outdoor movie of the season, The Sound of Music. The presentation came between a couple passing storms, but the rain held off long enough for us to watch (and sing along) without any “raindrops on roses.” The only people who got wet were the Sumtur Staff doing the ALS Ice Bucket Meme challenge down in front of the stage, though Hannah also got a damp arm from a temporary tattoo.

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On Saturday, I got to celebrate my birthday a little early, since I happen to share it with my Uncle Ben and Aunt Carol’s anniversary, and this year they’re celebrating their 50th in Cedar Rapids. Jack and Donna got to take the kids for the evening as Vivian and I drove down to Lincoln to have pizza at my favorite pizza “joint,” Big Sal’s. Phil and Jen and Jon Paper drove down to join us, and after getting our fill of pizza, we drove on up to James Arthur Vineyard for a little wine-tasting. I got a sampling of a red wines ranging from Sweet to a Port, and then we explored the grounds a bit as a live band called Tunafish Jones covered a few classic tunes that the middle-aged crowd could dance stagger around to.

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Sunday was roasty and toasty, so we took Hannah down to the splash park on 72nd and Harrison. Mom and dad got a little wet walking her through the sprinkler and splashing gizmos of the water zone, but she spent just as much time wandering about the “all access” playground area swinging and climbing on overhead bars (with a little help from Daddy, of course).

Then Sunday night, we decided to do a quick photo shoot with both our little ones. Aaron seemed to be in an agreeable mood, while Hannah barely sat still long enough for me to trip the shutter once or twice. It made for some fun, quick snapshots of our little kids, and Aaron even got to receive his first noogie from his big sister (and probably not his last).

Next stop: Cedar Rapids!

Keeping busy in Lincoln

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On Wednesday, I had some business that took me to Lincoln, and I decided to take the family with me to make a day of it. We took a trip up to James Arthur Vineyard since we had Living Social coupon that was about to expire. We used it to sample a couple wines and have some bread, cheese, and sausage together. It was a nice, quiet place in the middle of the day, and I made a note to look into coming back sometime in the summer, when the combination of live music and wine makes for a fun evening.

Before leaving town, we dropped by to visit our old friend Bekah at the Duewling dwelling. Mike was out of town, but we did get to introduce Hannah to Bekah and her four kids (soon to be five). It’s always a thrill to see Hannah interact with other kids close to her own age, and especially nice to let her run around another childproof house with the grown ups catch up over chai tea.