Wine Flight

IMG_2048Welcome aboard! Fasten your seat belts and secure your belongings. Before taking off, I would like to share some announcements about our flight. First, I had the great honor of selecting the theme “travel” after winning the #MWWC24, which was a lovely surprise. Thanks to all who voted for my post and continue to encourage my jack-assery. Secondly, some passengers may consider this theme broad and possibly unimaginative, but I selfishly stuck with it because of my enchantment with those tiny, precious bottles of wine served on airplane flights. A recent spate of coast to coast “travel” fueled me to share my inflight wine experiences. Not only has this been an idle curiosity of mine, but ultimately it should be useful information. After all, I am a pragmatic wino. Lastly, please remain seated as there could be some turbulence in my wine reviews. I may have taken my low standards even lower as I came to realize that a captive audience of strangers on a 6 hour fun ride at 39,000 feet will drink just about anything. There was no recourse and it was far too late to change our theme from “travel” to “vodka.” Nah zda-rovh-yeh!

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VOTE by clicking HERE

Virgin America SFO to PSP
Bottega Gold Prosecco, Valdobbiadene (Veneto), Italy  $8.50/20cl Mini Bottle

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My flight from SF to Palm Springs was short and uneventful. However, I cringed thinking of what was on the wine list. I had committed myself to tasting at least one wine per leg of my itinerary. After perusing my touch screen menu, I was pleasantly surprised with the offering. Being budget conscious (and sadly not drinking gratis in Business Class,) I decided to try the Bottega Gold Prosecco.

When in doubt my fearless flyers, get the bubbles. How bad could it be? And Prosecco mitigates further risk of gag-reflex due to the protective veil of bubbles and pleasantly high sugar content. This beauty did not disappoint.

Presentation was very chic for a single serve wine. I found the cap very clever – screw top but molded to look like a caged cork – clever! Nose was apricot, grapefruit and the first sip very citrusy, green apple, surprisingly dry, mousse copious and very effervescent for a Prosecco. Ok, the finish was a little bitter – this happens with some Cavas and Proseccos. Although the finish was abrupt, it didn’t ruin the overall enjoyment, it’s just a little reminder that you are drinking Prosecco on a plane and not Champagne in a Chateau. After all, we are in economy class and I’m just happy to have an aisle seat.  Rated an enthusiastic buy again!

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The wine list was impressive for my low standards. I think I made the right choice passing on the splurgier picks and the “One-Hope” Cabernet, which I found to be rather pessimistic.

American Airlines SFO to JFK

Fruit and Cheese Plate, $8.79 
Fresh fruit served with Brie, Cheddar, Dill Havarti and Muenster cheese. Served with gourmet crackers.

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Like them or not, I’m an avid American Airlines traveler, I want to keep my status, so they have my loyalty. I am just a couple of thousand miles shy of being a million miler. Not that it means much, but I’m hell bent on hitting that milestone one cheese plate at a time.

I NEVER order wine. It is too sketchy. But for you my fabulous followers, I did the deed. I manned-up and got myself a bottle of economy class white and main cabin red. I will be polite, but after my brief tasting, I tried to pass it off to the kid sitting next to me until she said she wasn’t old enough to drink. I then turned my head to the Chatty Cathies behind me and they gladly took the swill, tapered their conversation and fell asleep. 2 problems solved. Net-net? I’m glad I was able to savor the moment with the fresh flavors of my American Airlines cheese plate. I’ll take two more and a vodka.

La Noria, Villa Noria, Chardonnay/Sauvignon Blanc, Vino d’España, $8.00/187ml
Pineapple, first sip, peach, ripe apricot, hot alcohol and slight bitterness on the finish, lingers on the back of your throat with a little honey suckle and lemon rind. Rated politely drinkable. Pairs well with crying babies and chatty neighbors when imbibed copiously.

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Orquestra, Felix Solis, Cabernet Sauvignon, Vino d’España $8.00/187ml
Grapey nose, tannins, Rioja, short finish of wet stone, not much fruit, dry, could taste and feel the alcohol. Mouthfeel was not smooth and creamy or rich and bold it was wet stone, asphalt, thin. Rated drinkable in times of horrific turbulence, a bird hit or when lightening strikes the engine and fills the cabin with smoke. Remember, serve yourself before you serve others. JuiceboxOxygenMask copy

Well, I am certain my experience is merely a product of my destiny. When I researched what first and business class were drinking it was very respectable, if not downright despicable to those of us who fly economy. But I’ll let you be the judge….I’ve included the American Airlines wine list for your perusal. AAWineList

 

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But for now, please return to your seats, put your seat in upright position, lock your tray tables and store your items safely below the seat in front of you. The attendants will be coming through the cabin to collect any garbage and recyclables. Please refrain from digging in the first class cabin trash for any remaining drops of Roderer Brut Vintage Champagne. Although it is not considered an FAA offense punishable by law, it is still absolutely appalling behavior. Just be grateful that you are permitted to breathe the same recycled air as those in the upper classes. Thank you for flying the thirsty skies. Buh, bye.

Stay curious!

loie

Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #24–The Results

It is with my sincerest gratitude that I accept the honor of winning this month’s wine writing challenge #MWWC24. I thank everyone who voted for their support, appreciation and questionable judgement. I’ll take what I can get, I’m not one to admonish those who vote under the influence, especially if it improves my chances.

I was in very good company, the competition was steep, so admittedly, this was a pleasant surprise. Then again, this month’s theme is a subject I’m well acquainted with and the “pleasure” was all mine!

I will be pondering the choice of next month’s theme. I promise to keep it interesting.

Stay curious!
Loie

the drunken cyclist

The results are inIt is that time once again, time to announce the results of this month’s Monthly Wine Writing Challenge. In all this month, there were 14 eligible entries for the theme “Pleasure” which was supplied by last month’s winner, Ted of The Drunken Cyclist.

As I mentioned at the time of the vote, the number of entries almost doubled in the last 12 hours or so before the deadline for submission, which proved once again that we bloggers can procrastinate with the best of them! The voting this month was extremely close, with four posts within a handful of votes and it was not until late last night that a winner emerged.

So without any further ado…

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Congratulations to Loie, another multiple winner of the Challenge

As winner of the Challenge, Loie is now responsible for choosing next month’s theme, and if her choice of themes follows her pattern of submitting…

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Wine Clubbing Weekend

 

Cheers to wine clubbing! Photo by Rachel, friend of clubber @travelwinechick , and retouched usung the coolest app Snapseed.

Hello there! Do you indulge yourself with a little wine clubbing? Does membership have its privileges? Are you thrilled with your shipment or dazzled by your pick-up? These are all thoughts to consider when making the decision about joining a wine club. 
 

Before Snapseed…

  

After Snapseed….whoa! Trippy, man.

 I know how fortunate I am to have several fabulous wineries within close proximity to research (Patz & Hall, Gloria Ferrer, Buena Vista, Hamel, Cuvasion, Artessa, Gundlach Bundschu and just in my neighborhood!) and research, and research, and research. And after a little more research, it soon became a reactive, emotional decision. I didn’t dip in my toe – I immediately jumped into the vat! I joined the most fabulous, most expensive, chicest wine club I saw. It was love at first sight. The architecture, the view, the food program. All exceptional. Oh, how good was the wine? Sure, I loved the single vineyard unoaked Chard. The Pinots were “nice”and the sparkling Blanc des Blancs was a delight. The staff was well informed and lovely, the attitude of the members, variable. Sadly, wine clubs tend to magnetize entitled douche bags but if the space is grand enough, you can dodge them or be seated so they do not obstruct your view. I wish they asked your preference of douche bag or non douche bag seating (like smoking, non smoking back in the day) but sadly, don’t join a wine club if you can’t suffer a few douches.(I’m beginning to sound like a staunch proponent for out-moded feminine hygiene) I digress – but this is a serious factor to consider. Other than excellent wine, all around kindness and civility with a healthy dose of frivolity is requisite for this clubber.

 

No douches here! Except that lady behind us discussing how she shot a Lion on Safari in Africa. we had our backs to her, all good.

 
So, I fell out of love with my club. It was too far. Too expensive. High douche factor. The beauty and the wine could not hold my interest. I strayed, and I liked it. In fact, I had already joined the other club, I was a wine list adulteress. I needed to end this charade.

My official departure was an ackward long goodbye. My allotment was auto-purchased although I had already informed them I was leaving weeks before. Oopsie. After a few teidious exchanges I was reimbursed. I reassured them I did not want to suspend my membership, I wanted to cancel it. Valerie, the loveliest winery concierge ever, expressed she was sad to see me go, that I was one of her favorite members because I was so nice and “cheerful.” Tears welled up in my eyes as I read her email, how could I leave Valerie to the douchie wine-wolves! (I can’t call them snobs as most snobs I know actually are more disheveled and bookish and put their money in wine and travel not Rolexes and Teslas. Am I being a snob about snobs?) Well, I felt much better about leaving Valerie to fend for herself after seeing my allotment credited on my bill. I’m sure she says that to all her departing guests. Bon chance Valerie. 

My parting advice on joining a wine club:

1. Love the wine – really, really, really love it. It’s actually the point of joining a wine club in the first place.

2. Sniff out the douche factor, calibrate your tolerance and if you happen to be a douche, you are probably in the right place unless it’s my wine club.

3. Is the club room accessible, totally fabulous, expanse enough that reservations are easy?  Is the space comfortable for members at full capacity? You should never feel like you have been relegated to coach class and stuck in the center seat while tasting your flight. 

4. How is the view? The architecture? The hospitality? Are the parties divine? Return to point number one. These  alterior “experiences” can be an utter distraction if point number one is not undeniably true.  

 Many of you may be members of an online wine club and never visit your winery but for a handful of times, if ever. I applaud you for stocking your cellars while saving gas and lessening your carbon footprint. Furthermore, enjoying your wine sans douchebags is the ultimate luxury. 

Stay curious,

Loie 

Mixing Business with Pleasure

It’s that time of the month again – Monthly Wine Writing Challenge! And the theme chosen by the winner of last month, Ted from the Drunken Cyclist, is “pleasure” so enough of the preamble and on with the innuendo…

 

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Click here to VOTE!  or go to mwwcblog.wordpress.com

 

Everyone has a day job. Some enjoy theirs more than others. Quite the understatement as the continuum of job satisfaction is broad and the reasons why infinite. One of the greatest pleasures one can derive from life other than the relationships you establish with family and friends, is building a purposeful career in a field that you are passionate about. I have had the good fortune to be inspired by close friends who have connected their passions with a purpose.

Some people struggle to do so, others fall into it quite easily (lucky bastards!) I especially commend those with the courage to pull the rip cord and jump regardless of what others think, say or envy of their ambitions. Redirection of one’s career comes with the deepest of fears. Failure, disparity of income, angry spouses, pleading parents who incessantly beg you to try dental school one more time. Chasing the dream can sometimes be a hellish nightmare, but when the net disappears, whether you free-fall or fly, you will feel the sheer pleasure and thrill of freedom.

Good news for us winos, there is a myriad of business to be had in this field. Those I have met in the business along my path are the most passionate, engaged and inspiring people I have ever encountered. Many decided at one point in time to ditch the day job as chemical engineers, school teachers, police officers, travel agents, hedge fund managers to make wine their life’s work.

I don’t suggest you run derelict of all your responsibilities to catch the next Greyhound to Napa, but if you believe there is a chance, a window, a slight possibility, I suggest you seriously daydrink daydream about it upon opening your next bottle.
I recently had the opportunity to mix business with pleasure while beating the bushes in NYC. I have done business there countless times, but this was the first time I actually had an open agenda to reconnect with East Coast colleagues, push my booze (Mezcal to be specific) and peruse tech incubators. I also indulged in parties, theater, restaurants, a little shopping and the beauty of New York in Springtime.

My dear friend Stephanie Lake PhD, had a fabulous launch at  Rizzoli, for her book Bonnie Cashin: Chic is Where You Find It. A highly praised book on the founding designer of Coach and one of the most influential and iconic American fashion designers you never heard about. Truly one of the greatest untold stories of the last century. Bravo Stephanie. Of course we drank Champagne in honor of the occasion. Alas, I didn’t get a glimpse of the label. Quel dommage.

IMG_1737I had the unique opportunity to set up shop (laptop, iPhone, lip gloss and Mezcal) at the office of friend, power broker and tech start-up CEO Jane Barratt. She offices her company Gold Bean (a securities trading tool for new investors) in a FinTech (truncation of Finance Technology if you want to talk like the cool kids) incubator, funded by Barclays. If this befuddles you, Google what I just wrote if you are the least bit interested. It’s inconsequential in contrast to our primary agenda: the wine selection for Jane’s cocktail party that evening. So we ventured over to Eataly to peruse the wine shop.

Eataly was originally a group of gourmet food boutiques in Europe until the B&B Hospitality Group, key partners include celeb chefs Mario Batali and Joe and Lidia Bastianich, brought it to New York. With the resounding success in NYC, comes more stores in Chicago and LA. It’s a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach. Go, please, I beg of you, por favore.

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Please read Eataly’s “manifesto” by clicking here or on the image – it is inspiring and makes you love what they do even more. (Lucky bastards.)

I soon found out the shop only carried Italian wines. Duh.I feel perfectly comfortable selecting California, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chilean, Argentinian and Washington wines. Ok, I confess, I am Italian wine illiterate, at best remedial. When in doubt, ask the merchant! Here are his recommendations, albeit, I will take credit for suggesting a Campari or Aperol and soda with a twist as an apertivo. I know my Italian liquors very well thank you. Jane’s only request, stick within a budget. Well, that rule I can abide by!

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2011 Nino Negri Quadrio, Valtellina Superiore DOCG, Italy $14.95 Predominantly Nebbiolo with a small amount of Merlot, this blend is a great value as it is a a rich, full bodied red with a dark garnet-red color.  Nose is berry and floral, raspberry and roses, with an herbal notes. First sip, it is tart, fruity with lingering tannins. You’ll also pick up some toasty oak. Enjoyable, and rated buy again – although it’s a splurgy good buy as it is over my limit of $10. Live a little.

Sono Montenidoli Tradizionale, Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG, Italy $13.99 I read up on this maker and they have an intriguing story, click here for more details as I will not do it justice in my hasty review. Great white, pale yellow, light nose, rich on the palate, with a firm dry finish. This white is perfectly paired with Mediterranean dishes, roasted fish, lemony citrus on all kinds of seafood and I think it would pair nicely with sushi. It is a pleasant wine and one I would consider on occasion over the typical choices of Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc or a Vinho Verde. Rated guestworthy!

Caparzo Sangiovese 2014 from Tuscany, Italy $14.99 Ruby red color with an intense and fruity bouquet. Spicy with cherries, raspberry and vanilla rounding out with a nice lasting finish. Of all Italian wines, I do enjoy a flavorful Sangioveses and it’s my safe word when indulging in the pleasure of an Italian wine list. Of course, I enjoy this wine with spaghetti and bolognese – perfecto!

Non sequitor alert…..Of course one of the finest pleasures in life is ramen. If you are a ramen-phile like myself, you seek out the darkest, dingiest, smallest, clandestinely communal hole in the wall places where you will wait 45minutes to 1 hour in line with all the other aficionados to slurp up a bowl of that brothy, chewy, spicy, flavor-packed, salty, fatty goodness your body craves. A friend took me to Totto Ramen house in the neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen (no pun intended as ramen shops are notoriously hot, steamy and as I mentioned, the lines are hell.) I dare you to go, you will become an addicted fiend like the rest of us. I promise.

After an indulgent ramen gorge, what could best aid in digestion? A foot rub of course. Conveniently across the street was a seedy, questionable and very A-typical Chinese foot and back massage “practice.” My white-guy former work colleague was taken aback and refused my offer to pay for his $15 15min chair massage. More for me! I can’t say it was truly a pleasure as my masseuse had just returned from an aromatic smoke break and his technique possibly fractured my C4 and C5. I failed to remember the Cantonese safe word, so I just whimpered away.

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I wouldn’t go in there if I were you ladies, unless you like your back rubs smokey and assaultive. Don’t be lured by the Rub-A-Dub-II-for-one deal.

Had I known that I would be starring in the sequel, Enter the Dragon II : 50 Shades of Black and Blue, I might have considered ordering some Mochi at Totto instead. However, I was consoled knowing my friend would return in 15 minutes. So much for happy endings.

Stay curious!

loie

Like Magic : The Wines I’ve Been Drinking & Reviewing

Spring is here and I’m feeling renewed, refreshed and thirsty. Apple trees are blossoming. The poppies are vibrant. The roses are soaking in the sunshine and much needed rain.  Bottles of wine have magically appeared at my doorstep and I have discovered a few gems.

Before you envy me and my lavish lifestyle as a cheap wine aficionado, take note, this is hard work, especially for my palate. Waaa waa waa, poor me. No seriously, there is a special place in hell for cheap wine reviewers. You get a pauper’s ransom in cheap ass wine. Some is brutal swill. To be more truthful, most are blech! 98% of all the wines I recommend are ones I’ve precariously selected and bought myself. But when I receive a sample from a winemaker that is delish, well, hey ho, it’s payday. Oh yeah, I only get paid in wine, good or bad.

EVERYDAY A BEACH DAY…
MARTIN CÓDAX 2014 RIAS BAIXAS ALBARIÑO, SPAIN $15

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Everyday feels like beach day when sipping on Albariño. This wine is perfect paired with scallops, prawns, garlicky shrimp. Bright, citrus, lemony with a crisp, even, dry finish, this delightful wine will finish your last bite of wood plank grilled salmon perfectly. And for that, I rate this wine a buy again!

I was rather impressed and the winemaker, Katia Alvarez sent a lovely note about her vintage. Founded more than 25 years ago by 50 local farmers in the Galica region of northwest Spain, today Martin Códax is now supported by more than 550 families and cooperatives. The winery is located in the historic city of Cambados in the heart of the Salnés Valley and the birthplace of Albariño. Coastal wet climate, steep grades, and granitic vineyards make this grape produce aromatic and medium bodied wines. In ancient times, the trade of shells from the harvests of the sea were deposited throughout the coastal regions. The shell deposits can still be found in the vineyards today and the calcium brings a perfect balance of pH to the soil.

Fun fact: Martin Codax, the character who this winery is named after, was one of the most important medieval Galician troubadours. His ballads, the oldest in Galician-Portuguese, extol his love and passion for the sea. Hey, you had me at garlicky shrimp.

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‘Cantigas de Amigo’ is a 13c. manuscript by the namesake of this winery, Martin Códax. I think ‘Cantigas de Amigo’ would also be a great name and menu design for a restaurant that served garlicky shrimp, grilled squid, pan seared scallops accompanied by bottles and bottles of chilled Albariño.

 

WINE SO GOOD, I FORGOT TO TAKE A PICTURE…SO I FOUND SOME FOR YOU.
GHOST PINES 2013 PINOT NOIR, 37% SONOMA & 63% MONTEREY COUNTY $23
GHOST PINES 2014 ZINFANDEL, 30% SONOMA, 66% SAN JOAQUIN, 4% LAKE COUNTY $20

Well, what can I say, I forgot to shoot this wine because I was enjoying it to the point of utter dereliction. Riveted to the telly watching the fireworks of the US presidential elections can throw anyone off their game, but fortunately for me, I had this bottle as consolation. My appreciation to the winemaker and fellow Sonoman Aaron Piotter.

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Halloween squirrel terrorises south of England neighborhood. As seen on crazyasabagofhammers.com @robtinbc

The name is intriguing, it is a poetic reference to the Gray Pines dotting the Northern California coastal hillsides. The marine layer can look ominous and obscure the fauna and flora. Hence, the “Ghost Pine.” While driving along windy coastal roads, hapless wildlife can be veiled by the fog as well, but obviously road kill “Ghost Squirrel” is not an appealing name for a fine Pinot Noir. But he’s out there…

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First bottle, the Pinot Noir…rated: buy again. Cool ocean breezes and blankets of fog consumed gradually by sunshine are the desirable conditions for Pinot Noir. Both Monterey and Sonoma coasts provide the cool loving environment these grapes require to bring forth the bright flavors and acidic lift that a Pinotfile like myself expects. What I found interesting about this wine was the boldness and intense fruit. Ripe red cherry, pomegranate and lavender with a medium body, baking spice and cocoa finish – a very nice surprise.

Secondi, the Zinfandel rated: guestworthy. The tech sheet on this wine opened with “Ghost Pines knows no boundaries…” well, ok now….easy does it! My readers may be winos, but they are respectable budget conscious people. Possibly God-fearing but likely agnostic.

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Well, what my very close future friend Aaron was actually referring to was their focus on the fruit. They look for quality lots in various vineyards and secure the best fruit regardless of AVA. What this has done is create layers and complexities that play to each regions strengths leading to unique flavors and profiles. Although this Zinfandel had the classic profile – bold fruit, jammy, ripe berry with some toasty oak – it also had lovely layered flavors of strawberry, spices and pepper with a long lush finish. I took this bottle of Zin to a dinner with friends at The Fig Cafe in Glenn Ellen.   A local favorite, they famously offer fabulous courses with no corkage. Although bold, this Zin paired perfectly with the fig arrugula salad with chevre, pecans and pancetta drizzled with a port and fig vinaigrette. Even better, my fancy friends were impressed. Mon dieu! One of them was French. When asked where I got this wine of course I told him it magically appeared on my doorstep.

Stay curious!

loie

#WineWednesday Mendo Bargain!

Eureka!!! I have a wine steal to share with you today. Balanced, great body, ripe plum, berry and a little earthy on the finish. Widely available, easy drinking everyday and organic! As it is Spring in Sonoma County, I may have been pollenating my wine with too many antihistamines but I’m certain I’m not hallucinating – it was under $10. Achoo! 

Frey Winery has a celebrated, diverse portfolio of organic & biodynamic wines,
made with no sulfites added, vegan, and holy cow, gluten free! Located in Redwood Valley in Mendocino County, an area north of Sonoma County that exhibits the classic  beauty of California coastal environments. Hiking, wineries, marijuana grows, Indian reservations and B&Bs, this area has very diverse tourist attractions and considered a part of the “emerald triangle.”  

Medocino County has 10 AVAs but I lovingly refer to it as the Emerald Triangle AVA

 This is the largest cannabis-producing region in the United States and the world. Mendocino County, Humboldt County, and Trinity County are the three counties in Northern California that make up this region. Growers have been cultivating cannabis plants in this region since the 1960s. As many have warned in the past, I suggest not straying from your hiking trail too far or you could face the treachery of cliffs falls and unfriendly farmers. 

But as this region is also fabulous for grapes, I suspect the wine industry will continue to thrive. Within Menocino County  lies the Anderson Valley AVA as well as a group of smaller AVAs including Cole Ranch, McDowell Valley, Potter Valley, Redwood Valley and Yorkville Highlands. Many small vineyards dot the hills and rolling valleys of the rugged region. These legacy vineyards from Mendocino’s immigrant past give the region its identity as a home to Zinfandel, Mediterranean red varieties, including Syrah, Petite Sirah, Carignane, Charbono and Grenache. Mendocino’s prolific Anderson Valley is home to some of America’s most sought-after Alsatian whites, prestige sparkling wines, and Pinot Noir. It’s a great area for a wine adventure and the town of Mendocino is one of the most charming and beautiful places you’ll ever see.

Frey Natural Red Blend $9.00 Mendocino CA

Now, as you can see in my photo, although there was wine dripping Pollack style over the label, rest assured, there were no wardrobe casualties because I was wearing a lobster bib while chugging it. You will love this wine so much, you might selfishly keep it to yourself, and grotesquely drink it from the bottle as well. I won’t judge you, that much. 

Stay curious!

Loie

What’s New?

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Well, well, well. Look at what the cellar rat drug in. Moi. I’m obviously a bit sheepish as I have not participated in the #MWWC23 in some time. I have been lax if not guilty of abandonment of my blog. I can barely tweet a #FF or a #WW without pulling a muscle. I wish I had a better excuse but I don’t. Nothing is new. I haven’t found any great cheap wine buys, quite the contrary. I’ve been splurging like a drunken “you know what” setting sail on ship to ruin. Can’t take it with you, so you might as well drink it now.

My big idea to meet the requirement of the theme “new” came to me as I was reaching deep to compete. I decided to write about all the “new “posts I didn’t write. Thus, before you is a laconic anthology of all the posts you missed because I didn’t write for the past 4 months. I had every intention of doing so. I took pictures, accepted samples, made appointments, took copious notes. But once sober, I would get distracted by life and, well, here we are! I’ll stop making excuses and just get on with what’s new….

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Oh yeah baby. This is what I’m talking about.

Well, here is some new news: I am now a member of the “Chateau Society” at Domaine Carneros, the gorgeous bubble house at the Southern Sonoma/Napa county line on the Carneros Highway 12. @travelwinechick drug me into it kicking and screaming. But after intense, lengthy feigned resistance, I cÂved. I am quite satisfied with the perks of membership. After all, I am a bubble person at heart and who doesn’t love a Chateau…and by the way, their wine is really fantastic. They are an establishment owned by the renown Taittinger Champagne Cellars in Reims. Their French style sparkling wine is divine and the place is always packed! Hence the benefit of being a Chateau Society member, private seating in the club room and no mixing with the masses. I’m being factual, not snobby! Although a right messy foreign tourist can be added entertainment and the high stakes dating rituals of the SF Millennials are always a good show when you are in the mood. The late disgorged 2010 Brut Rosé is heaven and the Verméil Demi Sec is a treat. Toss in a cheese plate, charcuterie, view and sparkling personalities, voila!  BIENVENUE au Société de Château.

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Just ask for Laura!

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The view never gets old. What do you see in those clouds? I think I see the Concorde.

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mmmmmmm meat.

 

A new venture

What else is new? Well I’m in the Tequila, Mezcal and Rum business….a project that has been taking up my bandwidth this past year.

My Mexican spirits have landed in the warehouse so please think of us if you happen to have any distributors, brokers or accounts interested in award winning Mexican spirits. We are close to closing a few deals with retail and regional restaurant chains in CA so hopefully, we’ll be available in your pueblo soon. Although we are working on content, please visit our site at puenteinternacional.com – arriba!

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Gran Dovejo Añejo, Reposado and Blanco, by master distiller Leopoldo Solis Tinoco (several gold medals won on these bottles of liquid gold y plato), Gustoso Rum (looking for a Latin music celebrity investor – know any?) and La Luna Mezcal, both from Michoacan, totally bad ass legit!

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Our Luna Mezcal Limonada

Oh, I almost forgot, this is a wine blog….well here’s a spoiler: expect a few more non sequiturs, I can’t promise any deep, researched, fact checked, burgeoning wine writing genius ahead, but hang on for the ride and enjoy the pretty pictures.

A new season

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What the vineyard looked like in February…those are turkey vultures perched on the stakes, not crows.

The mustard is blooming – that’s new. When the rows between the vines and the ascending foothills from the Mayacamas are frothing in neon yellow, Spring is coming. One of my favorite times of year.

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What the vineyards look like now. Does not suck.

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The vine buds are coming, I can feel it.

I was enlisted by my mother to take my octogenarian father to a doctor’s appointment. Of course on my watch, there was some mix-up by the nurse and his treatment was mistakenly postponed. Because the doctor was on vacay in Tahoe and dad wasn’t bleeding to death, we decided not to protest too much and go out for lunch. We headed on up to the SHED in Healdburg for lunch. Beverly Headlsburg as we Sonomans lovingly call it, is very fabulous. In the 70’s it was a great place to hide out on a felony. I don’t know whatever happened to the outlaw bikers and seedy roadhouses, but today, it’s a great place to buy chicly overpriced kitchenware, lounge about a fermentation bar and eat native plants on $36 artisanal toast (I’m exaggerating, sort-of.) I just love everything about it and dad was buying. He insisted, I swear.

 

 

After admiring the fields of neon yellow, surprisingly, I was served a farro salad tossed with heirloom beets, herbs and mustard blossoms! Guess what they taste like? Mustard. What a concept.


New ideas…

I have been working on the Latin spirits business for over a year now but every now and then, an interesting project pops up. I was asked to source a new premium value wine for a rather humongous retailer. Sorry, can’t tell you much more about it but the wines we sought were being cellared by Jesus Ceja of the famous Ceja winemaking family. I’ll have to bring forth a good story about the Ceja someday. I am certain there is one there.

Jesus led us through a vertical the barrel tasting of Sauv Blanc and Chardonnay. We also tried a fantastic Grenache Blanc and Pinot Grigio, all Carneros grown and made.As work life balance happens, I was rushing to the barrel tasting with kid in tow as the school day was over. As we entered the barrel room, impressed by the barrels, my son exclaimed “it smells like wine in here!” I guess he picked that up from his kindergarten field trip to a winery. I didn’t go because I was informed there were already too many parent volunteers to chaperone. Well perdoname!

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 1.53.56 AMThe Cejas also own and operate the Carneros Brewery and we are now working on a beer project with them too. The apricot pilsner is fantastic and the ales and lagers are not too shabby either. They are located on hwy 12 across from the Fremont Diner and before you cross the Sonoma county line into Napa. Visit them and take it all in!

New found wisdom…

I tried a new restaurant, well new to me. Saison is the regaled 3 Michelin Star haute cuisine SF restaurant. We had a 10 course meal with 6 of my closest and well funded friends. I had a gift certificate so of course I had to use my coupon as I explained to my unwitting husband. Hubby and I got out relatively unscathed but the rest…the damage was done when we nodded our heads for the wine pairing. Why the heck not? Thank goodness my health conscious husband quit drinking because I can think of 295 reasons why we shouldn’t do the wine tasting. Timing is of the essence, as we only tragically realized the expense after we got the bill. It was amazing, divine, worth every excessive penny, but….brace yourself for a first world, 1 percenter problem…although the wine pairing was exquisite, the presentation was unacceptable. Sorry, harsh, ouch, I know. With such amazing wines, curated masterfully with the expertly presented courses (our chef was intensely articulate about every nuance of the food, farming, slaughtering, pickling, was the gluten free range or not) I felt short changed of the wine story. Was the sommelier on a smoke break (or spending all his time at Marc Andreessen’s table?) We had the somm’s assistant that night. A guy who wouldn’t explain the wines and why they were perfectly matched with the food. A couple of times I asked to see the bottle, and there was a bit of a hurried shrug, but not in a snobby way, more like a “if I seem rushed, she many not ask me any embarrassing questions about the wine.” Oh, and I was ready to do just that. I dig deeper than the root stock when I ask about wines because I care and want to learn. I take great pleasure in geeking out on wine and if I dork out, it is usually appreciated. That is what I find fun and democratic about wine. The only worlds where dorking out will make you legit are wine and video games. Well this guy’s evasiveness was becoming a pain in my Asteroids.

 

I have a friend who is close friends with the wine director, Mark Bright (like responds to her texts when he’s on vacation “close.”) He was not there that evening, I asked. But without calling out the somm on duty that night (Max) I decided to give the benefit of the doubt to the wine server. Maybe he has Crohn’s disease or his car was on a short meter. Was it the stigma of my gift certificate?

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Do  you think the rushed wine service had anything to do with this guy grooming himself with the cutlery? Or was it because I had a coupon?

It was truly a masterful pairing so I followed up the next day with an email for our wine list. No answer. I did later find out Mark Bright was on vacation in Tahoe. I wonder if he was skiing with my father’s oncologist? Overall, Saison was amazing and I highly recommend it. My only advice: if your wine pairing requires a micro loan, I suggest you remain vigilant about getting the full story.

A new find…

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Lastly,(yessssss, denouement ) my buddy @vinebuzz dropped into the office to share some new finds. Rich has a great palate and when he introduces a wine, you know it’s good. We tasted several Greek wines and some outstanding Jumilla Sauv Blanc. But his newest find, Keller Estate Pinot Gris, was the wine that reminded me of why I love Pinot Gris. Alsatian style wine, floral, honeysuckle, minerality and dry finish. Get a hold of a bottle and if you have a chance to visit, Keller is located in that unique part of the Sonoma Coast AVA know as the Petaluma Gap, which is very accessible from the 101 freeway and pastorally beautiful.12670449_1139705816053309_8289855028422378739_n

In closing my friends, I wish you all an auspicious and happy new year! Although it is the year of the monkey, I hope to write more and monkey around less, or vice versa. And with that, I’m out!

Stay curious,

loie