With a sheepish grin, I present my entry in the 28th Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #MWWC28. To my chagrin, my Napa neighbor, fancy drinking buddy and the reigning #MWWC27 champion, @travelwinechick, chose the theme “SMILE.” Feeling inspired, I was coaxed out of my hiatus to bring you this treatise. Too many smiles to share, far too many words to write. I apologize in advance for the mental whiplash you may endure from my litany of reasons to smile.
Contrary to popular belief, I am not a disciple of the Marie Antoinette school of Philosophy and Moral Consciousness. I do contemplate the ills of the world everyday, as I’m sure you all do. And when that tsunami of helplessness, guilt, fear, and anger washes over me, I often find myself shipwrecked on the island of despair…which happens to be near my fridge. But look! The plane, the plane, here comes wine to the rescue. Fridge opens, corks pop, glasses clink, salutations and smiles all around…even when I’m imbibing solo. Self medicating? Escapism? Nonsense.
Like many a bon vivant, I am a sucker for temporal motivation – the theory that motivation is heavily influenced by time. If the idiom holds true that life is too short, then it is our duty to do everything within our power to enjoy it immediately. Even more so if you have been blessed with the opportunities and freedoms in this lifetime to do so.
Let’s be clear, I’m not suggesting you sell the house, mortgage the children and let it all ride on red…that would be fun but impractical. I’m merely insisting you get out of a rut, turn off the news, call over a somewhat likeable neighbor and open that bottle you thought you were saving for a special occasion. Today is special. Open that bottle and pour. Maintenant!
Here are a few of my favorite things that make me smile…..they are not in chronological order and they are mostly pictures for posts I thought I would write months ago:
Bubbles under $10 make me smile.
My latest and greatest find under $10 is this bottle of Chardonnay Prosecco simply called Italian Bubbles. Light, crisp and very effervescent, it is a delightful bargain commonly priced between $8.99-$10.99. You can find a retailer near you on wine searcher.
Love makes me smile.
I had the good fortune to be invited to the beautiful wedding of very dear friends this past September. It was a special and intimate event held in the verdant hamlet of Monte Rio along the Russian River. Great food with delicious vegan options were paired with fantastic wines – too many for me to recall as I was thoroughly enjoying the moment. When the evening Pacific breeze rolled in from the coast, guests were offered cozy blankets and seats next to a wood burning fire. Filled with love and incredibly hip, most guests had dietary preferences as diverse as their sexuality. And I thought I was being avant garde by proclaiming my rekindled love for Merlot. Always surprising, squares like me greatly appreciate the San Francisco vanguard.
Harvey Nichols makes me smile, ka-ching.
On a recent business trip to London, I stole 2 hours to admire the fancy goods at Harvey Nichols, the London luxury department store that offers designer fashion, beauty, food & wine. Harvey Nicks is a very dangerous place for those of us who are impulse control impaired. Never fear, BREXIT is here. With the £ down and the dollar up, Americans can actually buy something without regret. I was visiting friends and decided to buy them a lovely Gavi and have it wrapped up by my helpful wine merchant, Emmanuele. As a transplanted Italian, he approved of my selection but encouraged me to take a look around at some of the pricier rare vintages displayed. I marveled and then resigned myself to the £21.00 Gavi. Sadly, I never had the chance to taste it as my wino friends had already opened several bottles of wine by the time I arrived. Alas alack, I was deeply obligated to imbibe their countless cellar picks. Shame.
Barbapapa makes me smile…even though I don’t know why.
I was at a fanciful trade show and bumped into this friendly blob. I immediately had to snuggle it. Why was I so drawn to its amorphous shape, kindly eyes, wide thin smile, snake bite of a nose? Well this was the very famous and wildly popular children’s character Barbapapa. As his site explains: “He is always ready to help. His goodwill is inexhaustible.” I think my thirst is inexhaustible and he triggers me to find a good rosé. Ah-ha case closed.
Wine Makers make me smile.
Humble, wise, grounded and generous, I have yet to meet a wine maker I don’t only admire for their talent, but for who they are as a person. Ok, ok, maybe I’m making sweeping generalizations and maybe somewhere there is a bad apple, but in my 3 years as a blogger with a few tastings in my notebook, I must say, I remain optimistic. Wine makers don’t only make great juice, they are also really cool people.
Bob Blue epitomizes my exact sentiment. Bob received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Drinks Business Green Awards 2014. The award recognizes Blue for his 25-year commitment to the highest standards of organic viticulture. Besides being an amazing wine maker, he is a steward of the pristine natural environment of Mendocino county and the air, water and soil that make these fantastic wines possible.I was particularly enamored with their “Gew” which has been grown for the past 30 years in the foggy Central Coast vineyards that bring a good Gewürztraminer to life. Honeyed apricots, stone fruit and not too sweet, I love the fresh floral and fruit flavors that make this wine a great pick for Thanksgiving. The Fetzer Shaly Loam Gewürztraminer can be found at most retailers on winesearcher.com for UNDER $8.00 – yeah, smile worthy for sure.
Fetzer Vineyards has been a pioneer in sustainable practices for decades with a long list of achievements that include: The first California winery to operate on 100% renewable energy in 1999, the first wine company to publicly report greenhouse gas emissions with the Climate Registry in 2005, the first Zero Waste certified wine company in the world in 2014, and the largest organic wine grape grower in the U.S. certified by CCOF. This latest luncheon I attended was to announce their B Corp certification, the highest standard for social and environmental responsibility in business. And over achievers that they are, Fetter is going above and beyond its history of sustainability toward creating a positive impact in the environment and in our communities. Hey, with all that is wrong in the world, it feels good to know that a company of this scale is doing more than enough good.
James Hall is the winemaker at one of my all time favorite wineries. I have yet to taste a Patz & Hall wine I didn’t love and I have never left their beautiful winery without buying a few bottles. James rode into the barrel room for our tasting on his white country cruising bike, basket in the front and rack in the back. Immediately, I knew this guy lived his craft, followed his passions and materialized his dreams as fluidly as he cruised around the facilities on his bike as if he were going on a picnic. For more than 30 years, James has crafted artisan, single-vineyard, small-lot production wines for which Patz & Hall has become famous for as a Sonoma destination. I was a guest of Patz & Hall aficionados and #sonomachat partners in crime @amylieberfarb and @SLHousman. Selfie smiles were all around. My fave that day – Moses Hall 2013 Pinot Noir Carneros. I left with 3 bottles. Only one survived the week after..but not for long.
First Class Service makes me smile.
Invited by my well connected friend Elizabeth @travelwinechick, I had the unique opportunity to enjoy a private tasting at Ehlers Estate in the lovely Napa Valley with my favorite wine host and educator Bradley. When I saw my name on the slate with my very own lounge area and gift bag, I admit that I loved the royal treatment. Moreover, their 2014 Ehlers Estate Sylviane Rosé is DIVINE! This luxurious wine was recommended by Fortune magazine as one of the top 5 rosés to drink this last summer. The neon pink color is arresting, the first sip of rich fruit and bright, beautifully balanced body with a short but satisfying finish is all I need any time of year. Bravo! It’s a splurgy good buy at $28.00, ehlersestate.com Get yourself some of that #ehlerslove !
Of course Upper Class on Virgin Atlantic makes me smile, especially in my sleep. Nothing is better than a 10 hour transatlantic flight that comes with unlimited Champagne and a seat that folds down into a bed. Hey now, don’t hate the player, hate the game.
Parties make me smile…in moderation.
Let me tell you, I’m a lightweight and although I enjoy my beverages, sometimes I enjoy them more than I should. Here I am at the illustrious Red and White Ball Fundraiser for Sonoma Valley Schools with Laurie Galleon, the Mayor of Sonoma. If you didn’t notice, the theme is red and white and by the end of the evening, I barely noticed. So many great vintners were pouring that night I was happy I lived within stumbling distance.
Below, you’ll see me at the Wine Blogger’s Conference in bountiful Lodi California. Can you spot all the celebrities I had the good fortune to get a photo op with? I won’t go spreading rumors, but let’s just say, I didn’t get an invite to the “after” pool party at “the ranch.” Again, I’m a square. I brought my husband and my son so they could sit in a clandestine motel room on the wrong side of town watching cable until I called them to pick me up. While I was brushing my teeth, taking Advil and dousing my liver with water, these party people were reveling at a bacchanal love-in. I’m not one to gossip, I’m only sharing some highlights of the event that were shared with me by someone who knew someone who was supposedly at the afterparty. This definitely made me smile.
Spaaahhhhhhhs make me smile for many reasons.
Who doesn’t love a spa day other than the people working at the spa? The locals discount at the Sonoma Mission Inn is a day pass to the facility for only $50. This allowed me and 30 of my friends to spend all day until they threw us out. Definitely worth the money. I always enjoy a Salad Nicoise and a bottle of Gloria Ferrer Brut Rose by the pool. Take a stroll around the grounds and watch the awkward entanglements of guests in the Watsu® pool. I’ve never seen a noodle utilized like that but I’m sure it’s relaxing…..ok now I’m feeling guilty about taking that picture of those hapless guests in compromising positions. Keep it to yourself.
Tasting Lodi wines while a cat puurrrrves out on a shoe makes me smile….
I can’t think of a better pairing. Not much more to share here. It’s quite obvious.
Art makes me smile…because I’m juvenile.
My parting shot at making you smile involves the esteemed world of art. Every year the Tate gallery awards up and coming British artists the prize which is named after the English painter J. M. W. Turner, one of the most historically renown and prolific British artists. The annual prize is presented to British visual artists under the tender age of 50 and is staged at Tate Britain. Since 1984, this honor has become the UK’s most infamous art award. Yes, that is a giant butt. Anthea Hamilton’s work combines surrealism, comedy and uncompromising sexual imagery and she is one of the winners of the 2016 Turner Prize. Yes, that is a giant butt. Coincidentally, the exhibit is next to this seedy pub called A Hole In The Wall. Yes, that is a giant butt. Need I say more? So go on now, pop a cork and crack a smile.