2017 The year in retrospect

Wet West Virginia moss

I’ve started this post at least 3 times.  How to sum up a year?  My tendency is to go analytical and spin out the year chronologically.  But remembering a year doesn’t really work that way.  Even scanning through my Instagram feed, I found my mind drifting, one memory taking me to another, rarely chronologically and I would swipe from one end of my feed to the other as the thoughts took me.  The visuals, the photos, were the things that drew me in, so that is what I want to share with you.

A Year of #_______Strong and of people coming together

2017…It’s been a year. It was the year of #(currentdisasterousevent)strong. There were so many, it was overwhelming at times. These events, that used to happen in some far away place, to people we didn’t know, suddenly, as we become a global community, have become things happening to people we know in places we have often seen. I had friends in Florida, Houston, in Sonoma, in New York City, in the Dominican Republic. And then of course there was Vegas. That’s home, and while I was not on the strip that night, many people that I work with daily and care for deeply, were. It was a year of stress and struggles, but also a year of people coming together. These events reminded us what is important, they caused us to be in touch with people who are dear to us and let them know they are dear to us.

Nature and home

As I sifted through the photos from this year, the ones I found the most moving, were those I took on our family farm early this spring.  No, they have nothing to do with wine, but returning to this place during some torrential spring rains, brought some perspective to the year.  The day was wet and rainy, but it only drizzled a bit while we were there.  We watched the creek rush overflowing it’s banks, and trudged from the ridge to the meadow and were soaked to the bone by the the dripping trees and wet underbrush by the time we left, but bits of astounding beauty were everywhere.

Fungus on the Farm

Fungus on the Farm

My Waterfall.

My Waterfall

Friends and Wine in Virginia

While we were on the East Coast we were able to catch up with friends and spent a weekend with my best friend and another friend from college as well as their husbands and did a bit of exploring of Virginia Wine Country.  A few years ago, we did a girls weekend in Virginia wine country and this was a great opportunity to do  Wine Country II,  Electric Boogaloo tour with the boys.

I did a bit of research on the history of Virginia Wine Country before we traveled, and we tried to take in a few different areas starting at Chrysalis and Stone Tower in Northern Virginia.  Chrysalis Vineyards is the Champion of the Norton Grape, a grape native to North America and have their tasting room at the Ag District Center.  The Winery is the vision of Jennifer McCloud who started Chrysalis in the late 1990’s.  This is a from scratch business. In Todd Kliman’s book “The Wild Vine – A forgotten grape and the untold story of American Wine” he talks about meeting Jennifer at the Vineyards and riding out with her in her pickup to see the vines.  She is the heart and soul of this winery.

Norton Grape Vine at Chrysalis Tasting Room

Norton Grape Vine at Chrysalis Tasting Room

Stone Tower Vineyards, is something completely different.  You drive up Hogsback Mountain to find an impressive Estate with a “stone tower” hence the name.  Part of the property had been in the family for 40 years and in 2005 they added to the property when a neighboring farm was available.  Many of their vines are still too young to yield fruit, so their winemaker brings in juice from California for some of their wines, which are labeled under “Wild Boar Cellars”.  Regardless, the wines were all beautifully made and the Estate wines made from grapes grown on site are really exquisite.  The tasting room at the vineyard in Loudoun County is expansive and beautiful and as such is overflowing with wine tasters from the DC area on the weekends, so go early!

Stone Tower Winery in Virginia

Stone Tower Winery in Virginia

We ventured south from here to meet my dearest friend at Barboursville Vineyards in Central Virginia.  This Vineyard is on a historic estate between Monticello and Montpelier. On the property lies the remnants of the home designed for James Barbour by Thomas Jefferson.  In 1976 the Zonin Family, who command a portfolio of 9 wineries in 7 regions of Italy, acquired the property.

Barboursville Vineyards

Barboursville Vineyards

We then headed to Charlottesville (this was early in the year, before they needed a #CharlottesvilleStong).  We had a great dinner on the Historic Downtown Mall and then planned our morning trip to Monticello.

Jefferson wanted so desperately to grow grapes and make his own wine.  He was a renaissance man and as such tended to get wrapped up in some things to the detriment of others.  The property is beautiful, the house unique and quirky, with it’s wine elevator among other things and the gardens are lovely, if filled with non native species.  The vineyards speak to the longing to make his own wine and on this spring day, in the mist, they seemed to echo this.

 

Monticello

Monticello

Vineyards at Monticello

Vineyards at Monticello

We had lunch at the historic Michie Tavern and visited a few other wineries, a standout being Blenheim Vineyards, owned by Dave Matthews.

How much California Wine Country can you see in 6 days?

August took us on a Flash Tour of the California Coast and it’s wine regions.  We spent 6 Days traveling the coast hitting Santa Barbara, Paso Robles, Monterey, Napa, Sonoma, the Livermore Valley, and Santa Cruz. You can check out our travels here. The trip was amazing, here are some visual highlights.

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Other highlights

Those are the big highlights, but we were busy all year.

At the beginning of the year I did a tasting of Natural Wines with Matthieu at the farmers market.

We did a Superbowl Wine Party How to pair with Everything!  And we did pair with everything!

In April we did a Virtual trip to the McLaren Vale in Australia with our friend Dean being our Wine Reporter at Large

In May and June we dove into Rosé with some basics and tastings.  July saw us drinking lots of bright whites, as you would expect in the summer in Vegas, and then

We found ourselves back in Santa Barbara again in October and spent time in Lompoc in the Wine Ghetto, Solvang and downtown Santa Barbara.

Beyond that we traveled closer to home and did some amazing at home pairings.  Including a wonderful Grenache Vertical and some Wine and Chocolate bark pairings.

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Onward to 2018

And what about 2018? I love the New Year. It always feels like a clean slate. Will there be good wine and some wine travel? Yes! Adventures and meeting new people and sharing their stories is what we are all about, and we get better at this all the time. Plans are in the works for this year, but who knows where the wind may blow us. I look forward to more spontaneous trips this year.

And I have been inspired seeing people post their “power words” for the new year.  Mine…”Exploration”.  I love research and if I want to be more spontaneous this year, it actually probably means chasing tangents down the research rabbit hole, and I’m okay with that!  I do have a few things on my list.  Expect to see more on French wines and wine regions this year.  Between trips to wine regions, we will be taking some virtual trips to France and digging in deeper to it’s wine regions. There is a reason that when people think of wine, they first think of French wine.  I am also anxious to search out more “natural wines”.  I know, I know, it’s a really open term, but I love pét-nat and I want to explore deeper into this movement and I’m anxious to see how this category of wines develops and evolves.  And then of course there will be the tangents.  I always start the year with plans, and I will be sitting down soon to create my list for 2018.  By the end of 2018 I am sure that I will have happily strayed from it.

Happy New Year!  I’m off to make my exploration planning list.  I should probably pour a glass of wine as I head down the rabbit hole.

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Flash tour Central Coast – Day 4 – Santa Cruz to Paso Robles on the Pacific Coast Highway

Bonny Doon beach

More of the Flash Tour!  We are back on the Central Coast for Day 4.  Today is about the call of the ocean, and we spend much of the day on the Pacific Coast Highway.

Day 4 Santa Cruz to Paso Robles to Solvang

To the Pacific Coast Highway

Day 4 we were up early and heading to the coast again. This time through San Jose then onto Rt. 17 to Santa Cruz. This glorious stretch of road is notoriously dangerous, but is tree lined and beautiful running through Scotts Valley with Redwoods to the North. This drive takes you to Santa Cruz and then Route 1, the Pacific Coast Highway. We drove to just before Davenport and enjoyed the scenic drive up Bonny Doon Road for a bit. Then it was back to enjoy the coast on Bonny Doon Beach. It was still early, so we hopped back on the 1 heading north and took in some more of the coast. We came upon Theodore J. Hoover Natural Preserve in the Rancho del Osos- Big Basin Redwoods State Park. As you drive up the coast looking at the ocean suddenly this burst of mountainous beauty catches your eye from the other side. We stopped and took in a little of the view before heading back down to Davenport and the Bonny Doon Tasting Room.

Bonny Doon Vineyard Tasting Room

Bonny Doon…there is so much to say here.  The first of the Rhone Rangers, Randall Grahm has been a winemaking pioneer in California.  I will treat you to a full post on Bonny Doon, Randall Grahm and all of the really great and interesting stuff, but for now…visit the Bonny Doon Vineyards Website and have a quick read.  We had an amazing tasting in their tasting room which sits right on the Pacific Coast Highway, then went across the street to enjoy the view and have a picnic lunch.

Paso Robles – Tablas Creek Vineyard

We hit the 101 and proceeded to Paso Robles heading straight for Tablas Creek Vineyard, where we did a tasting and took a look at where the vines were in veraison.  They were pouring two interesting wines, Clairette Blanche and Terret Noir. Tablas Creek imported Clairette Blanche to the United States in 2003, it was released to them in 2009 and planted in 2010.  The half acre block of Clairette Blanche at Tablas Creek is one of the only plantings in California.  The Terret Noir is a blending grape from Chateauneuf du Pape.  This vine was brought in from the Beaucastel Estate in Chateauneuf du Pape, as part of Tablas Creek’s goal to have all the Chateauneuf du Pape varieties.  Watch for tastings and pairings with these two rather unique wines.  And if you are a wine geek, get yourself to Tablas Creek Vineyard.  If you can’t make it there, visit the website, you will find a ton of fascinating educational information on Rhone wines.  Of course you will also find loads of information here on our website.  We were lucky enough to do an interview and tour with Jason Haas their General Manager and had fascinating discussions on a wide range of topics including the Rhone Varieties, the Adelaida AVA and using Foudres, dry farming and more.

A little more PCH

Then it was back on the road to Solvang in Santa Barbara County where we would stay for the next 2 nights. Luckily were were not in a hurry, so we drove SR 46 to the Beach and up a little to Cambria and then took the Pacific Coast Highway to Morro Bay and SLO before getting back on the 101 to see sunset out the back window and moon rise out the front as we drove into Buellton.

Morro Bay and Morro Rock on The Pacific Coast Highway

Morro Bay and Morro Rock on The Pacific Coast Highway

 

Day 5 takes us back to Santa Barbara!  Come back for more of the trip!

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West Side Paso Robles – the Highlight Reel!

Moonstone Beach Sunset in oil
Daou Over-Look

Daou Over-Look

We spent the weekend in Paso Robles arriving mid-afternoon at DAOU where they were having music out on the patio. The views from this vineyard are incredible.

It is 360 degrees of the Paso Robles area from the top of a mountain on the West side.  Watch for a slide show of amazing photos of the view coming up this next week!

Tablas Creek Wine Walk

Tablas Creek Wine Walk

The end of our day was filled with a Vineyard Walk at Tablas Creek. The walk was led by Tablas Creek Viticulturalist Levi Glenn.  We and about 50 other wine lovers hiked through the vineyard tasting wines as we walked learning about the vineyard and the grapes and then enjoying small bite pairings prepared by Chef Jeff Scott.  We watched the sunset by the head-pruned Tannat.  This was just a joy. We promise a video in the next week or so to let you enjoy the walk with us vicariously!

The next morning found us up too early again, so we roamed the West Side hills enjoying the views.

Lone Madrone Tasting Room

Lone Madrone Tasting Room

We started our day of tasting at Lone Madrone’s new tasting room across from the Adelaida entrance.  This is Neil Collins’ winery (the winemaker at Tablas Creek).  The renovated barn is beautiful with great art.  Inspired by this little bit of Paso Robles 6 degrees of separation we headed to Le Cuvier.  Okay, let me double back and explain.  When Neil first started in Paso Robles he was working at Adelaida for their winemaker at the time, John Munch.  Tablas Creek stole Neil away from Adelaida and then John Munch left Adelaida. He now is the co-owner and winemaker at Le Cuvier.

Le Cuvier View

Le Cuvier View

So after an evening a Tablas Creek, a tasting at Lone Madrone where else could we go but Le Cuvier.  They do small pairings with all the wines here. John Munch is an exceptional character and his wines are unique.  His flamboyant writing style makes his blog well worth the read!  You can look forward to a fascinating blog post on this fascinating man.

Jada Patio

Jada Patio

Our next stop was Jada on Vineyard Drive where they do cheese pairings with all of their tastings.  The hospitality here was exceptional.  We were greeted downstairs and guided up to the tasting room and offered a table on the patio.  They brought us our cheese and they came around with each wine. This is a young winery, but the staff is knowledgeable and thoughtful and really made this a great experience.

Vineyard at Proulx

Vineyard at Proulx

On our last trip we had stopped by Shale Oak and I found that Kevin Riley their consulting winemaker had his own winery called Proulx (pronounced: Pru).  We stopped by to find Kevin and his wife Genoa running the tasting room and were able to taste their wines and have a great conversation with them.

Halter Ranch Dinner

Halter Ranch Dinner

This day finished with the Vineyard View BBQ at Halter Ranch.  We were early, so we sat and enjoyed a glass of wine on the patio by the tasting room and then headed up for the dinner.  The food, the wine and the view were all perfect.  To top it off we were seated alphabetically which put us next to the Sass family and we enjoyed the evening chatting with the winemaker, Kevin Sass’ parents, brother and sister-in-law.  Good wine and good company…that’s what this is really all about.  You can expect some great photos and a blog with more details on this wonderful and relaxing dinner.

Sunset Moonstone Beach

Sunset Moonstone Beach

Our final day saw us paying homage to the sea, which brings the climate that allows all of these grapes to thrive.  We headed out to the coast and drove from Morro Bay to Ragged Point enjoying the views along the way.

So that’s the highlights!  Stay tuned for photos, videos and more detailed blog posts!