#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!


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….


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.


Just ask for Laura!


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


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!


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!


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


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.


What the vineyards look like now. Does not suck.


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?


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…


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,





Bon Chance Food Wine Click! “I Need Your Help: Send Me to France with One Quick Vote!”

Travel Wine Click has been the publisher extraordinaire of food wine porn so obscenely decadent once you read a post, expect to feel overwhelming gastronomic pleasure afterwards. Then you may feel guilty, dirty, angry that once again, you’ve sacrificed all that screen time salivating, fantasizing when you could have been doing your taxes or cleaning the litter box. The only consolation to your angst, eating up this blog contains no calories! 

Take a salacious moment to read Jeff’s  entry and a hot second to vote for him. Let’s get this guy to France so we can self-indulgently consume more no-calorie reads about his trip. All links should be conveniently buried in my following repost…

As posted by Food Wine Click:

Cut to the Chase – Please Vote for Me! OK, if you read nothing else, please go and vote for my friends and I to win trips to France!  It’s easy, as you can only vote once, and the contest closes on Feb. 26. Here’s what you do: Go to the Millesima USA Contest page […]


Bon courage! “Rockin Red Blog Needs Your Help to Travel to France!”

J’adore Rockin Red Blog for the great writing inspired by food, wine and music.  A creative approach I admire and a writer who is as gracious and generous as her pours (take note of the capacity of her wine glasses.) Take a moment to read her entry and a second to vote for Michelle so we can selfishly read future posts about this trip! All convenient links should be in my following repost….

As posted by Rockin Red Blog:

A few weeks ago I received an email from Millesima. The email said they had reviewed my blog and found a few articles that would qualify for their 2016 Blog Awards and suggested I enter the contest. So I did! Yesterday I received another email congratulating me on being a Millesima 2016 Blog Award Finalist! Woo […]


Holiday Pairings for the Discerning Wino

The holidays are here and whether you await St. Nick or Harry Hannukah there is the perfect wine for every occasion and every gift. Nothing could be more cheery than a cheap gift with some cheap wine. Tacky? Shameless? Pas moi! I’m just selfishly thinking of the bottle of joy I’ll need after bringing so much joy to others. Shall we?

Wine Gift Sets_primativo1. Grifone Primitivo Puglia, $4.99  & Scared of Santa, $4.51

The perfect après mall parent giftset to take the edge off and reward the contrivance of happy memories. These pictures will bring a deserving chuckle years later only to trigger repressed emotions by your adult child who is now coping under the supervision of medical professionals. It happened to you right, so why break the vicious cycle of Santa torment now? It’s a time honored tradition!

Wine Gift SetsJaume2. Jaume Serra Cristalino Brut Cava, $8.99, Duct Tape, a Kitchen Timer and Oven Mitts

This hostess gift will ensure your Christmas meal will be cooked to perfection or at the very least tended. Use duck tape copiously to adhere a timer and mitts to the distracted host and anxious chef. Ideal gift for sister/brother-in-laws who vehemently insist on cooking the holiday meal, but really shouldn’t because their inexperience and lack of focus can lead to ruin. It’s not fail proof, but the wine is! Throw in a can of dry roasted peanuts if your feeling generous or don’t think you’ll have time to wolf down a quarter pounder before Aunt Helen says grace to memorialize the main course. Duct tape comes in handy if Aunt Helen digresses from fantastic to periphrastic.

Wine Gift Sets_espiral

3. Espiral Vinho Verde Portugal, $4.99, a Fire Extinguisher

You forgot to water the tree – for weeks but remembered to string those crackly old lights as you were too cheap to buy new. Your darling grandkids plugged all 6 of their refurbed electronic devices into a faulty adapter in a single outlet with your space heater. Your oldest nephew has lit the menorah and before you can say “Shamash” the seven year old twins swiped the matches. Papa Bob insisted on making a fire in the fire place before he took his medication…there’s a wine for that.


Wine Gift Sets_RRBlackBlend4. Black Blend California Extremely Rare Red 2012, $9.99,  Batteries, Magnifying Glass, Tiny Screwdriver, and Pliers.

Those nieces and nephews sure love their gifts from Santa. They will love them even more when they work. All those tiny parts somehow go together if you look closer at the instructions printed on flimsy paper set in type fit for a near sighted thumbellina. If that remote controlled action toy still looks more like a burned out hoop-d on the wrong side of the tracks, don’t give up. Drink that bottle of wine and try not to poke your eyes out with the tiny screw driver or pull your toe nails out with the pliers. Frustration is self destructive but only if you let it get between you and that glass.

Wine Gift Sets_Cline

5. 2013 Cline Cellars Zinfandel, California, $8.99 & a Roll of Stamps with Fisher Space Pen 

Christmas cards are rolling in and you’re ready to return the sentiment. What joy is it to repeatedly sign your name, the kids and the spouse over and over and over and over. Make that 3 bottles of Zin and a few shots of whiskey. Save some of those stamps for the paid bills to send out after the holidays. While you’re at it, let’s make it 4 bottles of Zin.

Wine Gift Sets-Sauv6. Bogle Sauvignon Blanc 2013 CA$7.99 and Lead Mittens with a Tube of Shea Butter Crème Pour Les Mains

Always be ready with a heavy hand to honk the horn in the super store parking lot before you get backed into by another shopper too battle-worn to look in a rearview mirror. Keep your hands to the shelf while fending off the competition at the bargain rack. Some weight behind the velocity of a shoving match for that last pair of size 7 slippers will ensure you’ve got the upper hand. But don’t forget to nurture those cuticles and soften up those callouses. Hang-nails are unseemly while holding the hymnal when singing Silent Night. Keep it together!

Wine Gift Sets_ScaryShite7. CheapWineCurious Cellars 2014 Chardonnay , priceless and a Lump of Coal

Well finally! Some genius is marketing lumps of coal for Christmas. What better to pair it with but my own estate bottled 2014 vintage Chardonnay, that literally will add injury to insult. Takes “you better be good” to a whole new level.

Wine Gift Sets_MCMANIS8. McManus Family 2014 Petit Syrah CA, $7.98 and a Carton of Cigarettes

I call this “The Mall Santa Special.” Forget cookies, Santa really needs a jump start to the evening after being beseeched by throngs of screaming, leaking, demanding shopper bairn. Before the season ends, only to be return to his befitting career as an officer of a notorious biker gang he joined in the 70’s, he needs a bold yet delicate California Petit Syrah. Hell, his old Harley has got to get him from the Santa Rosa Plaza back to the safe house in Guerneville and he can’t conveniently detour to the Rusty Nail to stock-up on smokes and liquor ’cause the place damn got shut down after the last bust. Let’s get this party started early for Ole St. Nick (not his real name) as long as the kiddies don’t see him out of character. Ho, ho, ho.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Stay curious,

Top 10 Wines Under $10 for Thanksgiving

Obligatory preamble:

The holidays are here ready or not. The best anecdote for the stresses of the season is a bottle of wine at the ready. Just pull that cork like a rip cord and glide effortlessly through the seasonal haze of family, friends, houseguest and office parties until you land gently on your feet and into a new year. That was easy! 

Fresh off the presses, as I await the paparazzi to descend, I joyously share my latest proclamation of the #top10under10 dollar wines for Thanksgiving.

Stay Curious!

Cheap Wine Curious Announces Annual Top 10 Wines Under $10 for Thanksgiving

(Nov. 23, 2015 – San Francisco, CA) Thanks to the second annual Top 10 Under $10 Thanksgiving wine picks from CheapWineCurious.com, anyone tasked to select reds, whites or rosés can chill – even if wine snobs will be at the table.
“I’m passionate about kissing the frogs so my followers don’t have to” says site founder Loie Maxwell. In compiling this list, she tasted over 80 wines under $10 and curated her follower favorites.“I had my work cut out for me but knowing there are happy followers enjoying their wine with friends and family at a bargain is my reward.” 
Dedicated to finding great wines under $10, Maxwell was raised in Sonoma County and has returned to her wine country roots after executive roles at Mattel, Target, CVS/pharmacy and Starbucks. She now balances work and family as a brand marketing consultant and being a wine and travel blogger. She continues to cultivate her understanding of wines and food pairings through relationships with local growers, French wine tourism and connecting with the most prolific winemakers and vintners in California.

After six months of mining the bottom shelves of grocery wine departments, Maxwell presents the best deals:
1. Cecilia Beretta Congeliano Valdobbiadene, Prosecco Superiore Brut, Italy $9.99 Top sparkling wine pick this year with hints of pear, green apple, bright citrus and a surprising dry finish.
2. Grifone Rosè, Italy $4.99 A fabulous find! You will cherish this plummy rosè with every elegant fruity drop. 

3. Folie à Deux, Ménage à Trois Red Blend, CA $7.99 The perfect blend of bold black cherry, hints of vanilla and a smooth finish of lingering fruit.
4. Rare Red Grape 4 Blend, Lodi CA $7.99 Still an all time favorite! A top guest request. 
5. Edna Valley Merlot 2013, Central Coast CA $9.99 Big fruit and a solid body, this Central Coast Merlot holds its own against other wines twice the price.
6. Domaine Boyar Traminer, Bulgaria $9.99 Light delicate and floral, this unique white wine is worth the hunt for a second glass.
7. Mark West Pinot Noir, California $8.99 A delightful Pinot Noir under $10 is a rare bird friends will flock to when craving a red.
8. Gabbiano Promessa Pinot Grigio, IGT delle Venezie, Italy $7.79 Not too sweet, not too dry, an easy to drink and refreshing white wine.
9. Espiral Vinho Verde, Portugal $4.49 A light, bright all time go to favorite white that made the list because it is not to be missed.
10. Kono, Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2014, NZ $8.99 A white wine that is crisp with flavors of passion fruit and herbal aromas you’ll enjoy more than you should.
Most wines can be found at H-E-B, Safeway, Vons, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, BevMo, Total Wine, winesearcher.com and various national grocery chains. 

Faites Votre Choix….

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My friend and Napa county neighbor, the Traveling Wine Chick, had the winner’s honor of picking the theme for this Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #MWWC19 . I can only hope the dissertation I am about to put forth is worthy of her motif – “choice.”


I had the good fortune of being a guest at the wedding of two dear friends in Biarritz, France. Merely a week from this last Saturday, I was strolling the gardens and walking the halls of a beautiful chateau on Lac Brindos surrounded by nuptial brilliance and celestial beauty (the wedding designer is genius and there was no expense spared for this union.) I could go enviously on and on and on giving you enough time to stitch a voodoo doll of my likeness, but I shall refrain.


Biarritz is a gorgeous seaside city on the Bay of Biscay, on the Atlantic coast in southwestern France. A luxurious destination that is popular with tourists, surfers and scantily clad sun seekers. Situated in Basque country, at the border of Spain and only an hour or more by car from San Sebastian and Bilboa, the town has had a storied maritime past since its establishment as a successful whaling port in the11th and 12th centuries. Doctors in the 18th century prescribed the destination to patients to remedy ailments as they believed that the ocean had therapeutic properties and soon health pilgrimages to Biarritz became de rigeur.


In 1884, Empress Eugenie, the wife of Napoleon III the longest serving President of the Republic and the nephew and heir of Napoleon the First, built a palace on the beach (now the Hôtel du Palais) and soon this was a favored destination for European royalty including British Monarchs, Queen Victoria and King Edward and Spanish Kings.


Most recently, Biarritz became known as one of the best surf spots in Europe and the beach culture is evident. At times, I did double takes, as certain scenarios looked more like Santa Barbara than seaside France. Surf shops, VW buses with surf racks on top and distant coves sprinkled with bobbing heads on boards waiting to catch the next wave.


Then there are the casinos, the fine dining, the sea food and the warm hospitality…yes in France! Albeit, the service is at a much different pace than what one finds in the US, but then again, what’s the hurry? Slow down, relax and enjoy a glass of wine.

Enough of that.

As I navigated through the choices of meats, seafood, pastries, cheese, wines, meats, seafood, pastries, cheese and wines, I realized I was caught in a traffic circle of gastronomic proportion with all roads leading to gout.

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I was pleasantly exhausted by the generosity of my hosts and the exceptionally kind service we received from the Chateau Brindos staff. As the jet lag delirium waned, and the rehearsal dinner, wedding ceremony, post ceremony cocktail party, formal dinner, Basque performers, fire works display, lighting of the lanterns, cakes, more cakes, macarron pyramids, wild dancing until 8am, day after morning brunch, cocktails by the pool, chartered buses to Jai Alai tournaments, family paella dinner, scheduled outings to local and not so local sights…I was so enthralled by the glamour of all this organized fun, it can only be described as my personal Belle Époque.


As guests, we were all spoiled rotten and the wedding hosts could not have executed with any more or less perfection. What I soon learned to appreciate was the fact that I really didn’t have to make any choices, there it all was before us to indulge in blissful celebration in honor of our friends and their union.



Every wine that was poured for me was excellent, in fact the one choice I made at a restaurant in Paris – a Chinon with my steak frites – was terrible, stale and sour. I sent it back facing off the waiter when he gave me a blank stare – I did not flinch. He disappeared, for a while, then returned with a glass of Bordeaux and chided me for my poor choices. He declared that he has now decided which wine I will be drinking, so I will not bother him again and he can smoke a cigarette. What a kind, generous man, and by the way, the wine was delicious – bon choix!


Back stateside, safe and sound, I thought of how luxurious it was when I didn’t have to make choices, and conversely how the most important choices you make – the friends you keep, the spouse you marry, where you call home, and where you venture – can afford you that rare luxury.

With that pithy statement, I now bid you adieu as I have made the choice to shred all my credit cards before the gendarmes get back from the tabac.

Stay curious!