Discovering Wine Country – This is how the story begins
Okay, perhaps it didn’t really start here. There is always something before right? Even the Big Bang…something had to cause the bang. We’ve all heard that there is nothing new under the sun. I might beg to differ with that, but regardless, there is always another way to look at things. And…it’s not like any of us have seen everything!
We’ve been traveling through Wine Country in different parts of the country and sometimes the globe for a while now. The stories we find there never get old. They are stories of people, their dreams, and their passions. They are stories of places, some familiar, some more exotic, all interesting and beautiful in their own way.
It’s crazy that we came to all of this through wine. But that crazy beverage has been around since at least 5000 BC. It melds together aromas and flavors that take us beyond just grapes and we find that, as well as the alcohol in it, intoxicating.
So, on to more stories, as we become better and better storytellers.
We’ve laid out a season filled with beautiful places, fascinating people, and of course, great wine.
Where are we headed?
What wine country regions are we discovering this year? I’m glad you asked!
Troon in the Applegate Valley
We will discover Troon Vineyard in Southern Oregon’s Applegate Valley. Craig Camp the General Manager, takes the time to show us their vineyards that once were farmed commercially. They have transformed this property first to organic, then biodynamic and now to Regenerative Organic Certified. They have gardens, orchards, sheep and a bee rewilding project.
Santa Barbara California
We explore Santa Barbara. This fascinating bit of California has been shifting for 12 million years turning the mountain ranges, which in most of California run North-South, to running east to west. Yep, a full 90-degree turn. We will tell you what that means for the grapes.
You will get to see the different AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) within the region and the different grapes that can be found in each. Oh and then there are the towns and areas to explore, from the Funk Zone and the El Presidio areas in the City of Santa Barbara to the towns of Solvang, Los Alamos, and Los Olivos further inland in wine country.
Yakima Valley Washington
We will head north to Washington’s Yakima Valley. Vineyards dot this high desert region and it seems strange to find grapes here. The region is growing some of the finest wine grapes in the state of Washington and we explore Elephant Mountain Vineyard and the legendary Red Willow Vineyard.
New South Wales Australia
Outside of the US, we visit Australia and the New South Wales region that surrounds Sydney. Mudgee, the Shoalhaven Coast, Southern Highlands, Orange and the Hunter Valley all reside here.
The Hunter Valley is the oldest wine region in Australia and we speak with Stuart Holder, the Senior Winemaker at Brokenwood and the President of the Hunter Valley Wine & Tourism Association about the region.
We head to Orange, which is both a city and a wine region in New South Wales. This area is high altitude and cool climate grapes are thriving here. We learn about the Wiradjuri People, the first nation people from this area, taste some Bush Tucka and stroll the streets of Millthorpe after tasting the wines of Angullong.
We go glamping and wine tasting at Nashdale Lane, go through a Chardonnay vertical at Philip Shaw, slurp oysters and sip bubbly at the Swift Wines Packing Shed, and learn about some fascinating scientific and technological advances being tested at Rowlee.
The Shoalhaven Coast
On the Shoalhaven Coast, we learn a bit more about the history of this region as we stay at the convict-built historic Coolangatta Estate. They have heritage-listed rooms on the property you can stay in. All the comforts of home wrapped up in a bit of history.
Greg Bishop the owner of the property gives us the history and tells us about the vineyard.
We make a very wet drive through the mountains to Southern Highlands. This region sees all 4 seasons and has always been a getaway for the people of Syndey since the colonial days.
We visit Tertini and Jonathan Holgate their winemaker, who shows us the winery and takes us to their Yarandoo Vineyard.
We cover quite a bit of ground, then we dive down some rabbit holes.
Rabbit Holes in Discovering Wine Country
We follow some adventurous rabbits down some rabbit holes. I’ll admit, I seem to fall down these rabbit holes pretty often when I’m researching. It’s easy to do. I figure, if I find them fascinating, you might too.
The Missoula Floods
We learn more about the Missoula Floods that hit the region 13,000 years ago and how they still have an impact on the wines.
We will dig into viticulture practices, with winemakers and vineyard owners. These people are in touch with the land and are finding ways to revitalize the soil. From organic to biodynamic to regenerative. We look into how these methods can create better wines and a better planet.
We have been lucky to speak to so many people in the wine industry on this subject. So we have insights on the topic from Rudy Marchesi partner and past President of Montinore Estate in Oregon’s Tualatin Hills AVA a sub-AVA in the Willamette Valley. Rudy came to biodynamics through gardening.
On the other side of the globe, we speak with David Lowe of Lowe wines in Mudgee Australia, and Rod Windrim former owner and founder of the biodynamic Krinklewood Vineyard in Australia’s Hunter Valley.
Back in Washington, we speak with Sarah Hedges Goedhart about biodynamics at her family’s Red Mountain Estate.
In Oregon, we speak with Wayne Bailey of Youngberg Hill in the McMinnville AVA, and Rudy Marchesi of the Tualatin Hills AVA, both in the Willamette Valley.
In Southern Oregon, we speak with Craig Camp of Troon Vineyards and Bill Steele former owner and founder of Cowhorn Vineyard, both in the Applegate Valley.
Finally, we end our biodynamic/regenerative discussion with Jason Haas, General Manager of Tablas Creek in Paso Robles, the first Regenerative Organic Certified Winery in the World.
Then we dive into Chardonnay. You might be surprised to find that this is not the love-it or hate-it grape that you thought it was!
We discover the glories of aged Semillon by comparing two from New South Wales, one older and one younger.
Corks vs Screwcaps
Then there is the discussion of screw caps vs. corks. Australia uses screw caps almost exclusively. Have we moved beyond the connotations that went with screw caps? Do we need the ritual of pulling corks? Which is better for the wine, or for the winery, and why are winemakers choosing screw caps?
Places to see, places to stay
It is Wine Country. These regions are not all wine. Wine country is often in beautiful regions and when you are there, it’s good to find time to get out and enjoy a bit of nature. There are amazing towns with terrific restaurants and places to stay.
Then there is the food
Wine is meant to be enjoyed at the table with food. We discover the local ingredients and recipes and then go beyond that, creating dishes at home to pair with these wines. So now and again, you will get a recipe and a pairing, meant to make you drool.
Are you ready to continue Discovering Wine Country?
Watch for our first episode on Troon coming August 9th. Then episodes will drop weekly. We will be sure to share them here, but…if you want to follow Discovering Wine Country on social media, you will see when episodes drop there!
And if you are heading to wine country and want to share the experience! Join our Facebook Group “Discovering Wine Country” where writers and content creators are sharing what they are discovering in wine country around the globe!
We are looking forward to taking this journey with you!
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine and WSET 3 Certified. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.