The Soberanes Fire: What About The Wine?

This has been an odd summer. Aside from it being our first proper summer on The Monterey Peninsula and adjusting to “June Gloom”, now officially August and gloomy still, a fire is raging through the nearby hills. A few weeks back, apparently some careless campers failed to extinguish their fire, thereby sparking the Soberanes Fire. The fire began in the Big Sur area and spread northward to The Carmel Highlands having already ravaged 43,000 acres and still burning. Coordinated efforts to quell the fire have been underway, 350 evacuations have happened and still 57 homes have been lost and 1 human life so far. The fallen was operating a bulldozer to fight the fire on what is extremely treacherous terrain. It is a tragic turn in the ongoing devastation and my heart goes out to the family, the rescue community and all impacted.

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Yosemite and Wine.

Recently I had the privilege of returning to one of the most spiritual and awe-inspiring natural settings in the U.S. Reflected in the title of this post, Yosemite National Park is among the most revered locations in the world. Originally sacred to the native peoples, The Southern Sierra Miwok, recognized and honored Yosemite as divine, and treated it as such. Today visitors from around the globe visit the park, to take in the natural wonders. This year in particular, on the heels of 2 droughts, brought heavy rains, allowing the waterfalls of the park to gush in full glory. It is a sight that will stop you, make you be still and stare, revel in the grandeur. The force. The movement. Your own smallness in juxtaposition. And possibly move you to unbridled emotion, eclipsed only by The Falls themselves. 

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Know your wine? Get these 2 books.

Wine books. Which ones are worth the investment? In this era when seemingly everyone and their grandmother can write a book, it can be daunting to know what to choose. That choice really depends on your needs and what you are searching for. Some wine books are very technical, focusing on the science, others more poetic, paying tribute to the sensual tonic that we love so much. All can have their place. What if you just want to learn more about wine, plain and simple? The regions, varietals, styles and overall magic? Well then, I have two to offer up in this post. 

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An FLX Wine Legacy with Meaghan Frank

If you know a single fact about the wine making history in The Finger Lakes area of New York state, then you know of Dr. Konstanin Frank. He relentlessly pursued his belief that Vinifera could grow there, against the better judgement of all who were considered experts on the area. An immigrant of German heritage, who lived mostly in the Ukraine, he had escaped the era of The Cold War, with his family in tow, to pursue the ever-alluring American Dream. This my friends, is a success story. It is complicated and fraught with taxing tales of a man so steadfast to his own convictions, that eventually loses his edge. But he did it. He accomplished what he set out to do. In his 50's, when most people are thinking about retirement, cozy dinner holidays with grandchildren, warm and therapeutic vacations to Florida, Dr. Frank was just cranking up. 

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Napa in 48 Hours.

A few weeks ago Gabe and I at last made pilgrimage to the mecca of the U.S. wine world: The Napa Valley. It was time. We have been living back in California now for four months and we were ready. We were able to head up on a Thursday, which afforded us some of the weekday elbow room, not enjoyed on weekends. We had a ball! We moseyed up and down Highway 29 the first day and The Silverado Trail the next, with a loose outline of each day. We seized the moment, and the wine. And we relaxed into it. But it was not without some planning and research. 

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Love Day Wines!

Valentine's Day is almost here and whether or not you are partnered, dating, single by choice, poly or otherwise, you SHOULD be drinking delicious wine. Before we get into that, I must espouse my feelings on this holiday. I love it. Well I must love it, to not love Valentine's Day would be against my own self-interest. You see Valentine's Day is my birthday. Yes, Beverly Snawder pushed me into this world on one of the most special holidays, emblematic of love. Thanks Mom! She always made it a special day for me, baking many a heart shaped cakes, always chocolate, procuring thematic decor in the "pre-Etsy" era (basically the Stone Age), before the holiday had been commercialized to the 9's, as it is now.  The essential theme for me, on my birthday and most days is love. Love sweet love. Self-love. Love of life. Loving to love. For me, it is everything.

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Happy New Year from The West Coast!

Hi friends and fellow wine drinkers! I hope the latter part of 2015 treated you right. Mine was packed full of developments and BIG CHANGES! All for the best but very all consuming for the past few months. Alas, here we are on the first day of 2016 and my new residence is in none other than sunny, wine filled California!!! So much wine. We have re-located from Chicago to the Monterey Peninsula. Gabe and I arrived in early December and our movers finally showed up with our worldly possessions around the middle of the month, I started a new job and then it was the holidays and visitors and wine tasting...oh my. We are happy and obviously still getting adjusted but for the blog alone, this change is monumental. We have already done some tasting in the area, which you will hear about NOW.

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The 2015 Wine Blogger Conference: Notes From A First-Timer

Last week Gabe and I made our much anticipated journey to Corning, NY for the Wine Bloggers Conference. Yes, it is a thing. A whole conference is devoted to such. And people, it is done well. Seriously, it has taken me a week to process everything that happened, everything that I learned and everything that I want to share. It was a transformative experience, which I think is owed to both the stellar organization by Zephyr Adventures, the outfit who puts it on each year, and also to the local community who hosted us. In this case I am referring to The Finger Lakes area of upstate New York or FLX. They know how to welcome guests up there. And of course, the community of bloggers themselves...ahem, ourselves. Big smile. So proud to be amongst them.

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The Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan: Papa Don't Preach!

For those that came of age in the 80's or 90's, you undoubtedly got the Madonna reference in the title. Upon returning from Traverse City, I would test this question out on people, "We went to The Ciccone Winery. Does that ring any bells?" Many would pause, narrow their eyes and even ask, "Why does that name sound familiar?" Are you on to me yet? Madonna Louise Ciccone, lest we not forget, hails from Michigan. Good old Silvio, father to The Material Girl, has planted roots, quite literally on The Leelanau Peninsula, where he owns and operates a world-class winery. Salut!

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Traverse City, Michigan: Part 2, Wines from the 45th Parallel North

After leaving Bowers Harbor (see part 1), we were ready for some solid nourishment. I have to be judicious about using the word "snack", so as to be clear about what kind of snack I mean. After 2 wineries, it was time to nosh. Note that most wineries have nibbles for sale, crackers, cheeses, meats and the lot. For budget, preference and sheer convenience, we had packed our own yummies. When embarking on a day of endurance wine tasting, this is advised, even if you do plan to add in a sit down meal somewhere. After some munching, we were ready for the next establishment: Brys Estate.

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Traverse City, Michigan: Part 1 of 3 on The Old Mission Peninsula

Last month, Gabe and I took a few days to head north to the Great Lakes wine region du jour: Traverse City, MI. Here in Chicago, many local wine shops, restaurants and even grocery stores feature wines from this acclaimed, and for us, a regional wine area. Some of you may already be in the know, but those not, now hear this: Traverse City is making some damn good wine. Also known as "The Cherry Capitol of The World", the terroir includes a great lake. How ya like them cherries? Speaking of sweet fruits, though the Rieslings are world-class, Traverse City produces some considerable reds, including Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc. They have an admittedly shorter growing season, due to their northern (read frigid) location but as the winos know, some grapes do very well in such conditions. I recommend visiting in June or July, if you are cold wimp, like me. Word has it that the Fall is quite stunning there. At the very least, try the wine!

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A Rosé fit for "Jennie Rose Day"

I consider myself one of the most fortunate humans alive, for many reasons. A huge part of this feeling of gratitude for my life, is owed to the gift that was and is, even since her death, my adult relationship with my paternal Grandmother, Jennie Rose Snawder. You see, this was a relationship of my own forging. It began as an attempt, at 18 years old, to get her to forgive me for a silly teenage blunder. I had left her off of my photo collage/high school graduation invitation. I did not have many photos of us, something I corrected later in life. I certainly did not want to use the one of us in which my hair was temporarily died green with food coloring for St. Patrick's Day. Though smiling in the photo, she was none too pleased with that move.  Jennie Rose liked structure. She held herself and others to such. She taught me the value of keeping to a system, a schedule. Her Germanic roots shining through. And I, always a challenge to her austerity, embracing the French aspect of our heritage. The two fostering an Alsatian sensibility, of course. That was Grandma and I: Germany and France. Finding our balance.

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Bastille Day 2015: prêt à boire!

Bonjour tout le monde! La Fête nationale is upon us and what better way to celebrate French independence than to express our freedom by drinking French wine? And what could possibly be more French than wine from France? And sometimes the most convoluted, expensive and confounding? Mais, oui! This is very French. And yet, we still love them and their gorgeous wines. I have once again, taken on the painstaking task of sampling some different French wines for you to consider as you celebrate Bastille Day. You are celebrating Le quatorze juillet, oui?! As a self-described Francophile, I typically do this with wine, haricot vert and beaucoup fromage. If for no other reason, it is a fun occasion to try some French wine and eat stinky cheese. For the past several days, mon amour and I have been exclusively sipping various affordable French wine in preparation for this post. Not all have been noteworthy but there are a few that I am plucking to share here, in hopes that you will consider them for Bastille Day festivities, and beyond. Vive la France!

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Are you a wino headed to NOLA? Pontchartrain Vineyards is a must!

Last month I had the privilege of attending a conference in New Orleans, on behalf of my employer. As it was my first trip ever to the fabled city, I thought it best to add some vacation days and invite my sweetie to join me for the latter. We made it into a lovely, albeit warm and dewey, getaway to the Bayou. A few days in the esteemed French Quarter, a few in The Garden District and a perfect day trip across the lake to the winery of the same name: Pontchartrain Vineyards. The respite from the crowds, aromas and residue of that fine city is well worth the cost of the car rental alone but Pontchartrain Vineyards stands on it's own as a destination. If you are headed to NOLA and can work it in, I advise that you do so.

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Muscadet Tasting at Bar Pastoral

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending a very affordable and educational wine tasting at Bar Pastoral here in Chicago. Muscadet. Watch yourself. It is not what you think. That word was not Muscat or Moscato. An all too common confusion, I learned. No dear. Muscadet is a white wine made from the grape Melon de Bourgogne, in the western region of the Loire Valley in France. Though it can have some sweet notes, it is not a "sweet wine" as we think of the two aforementioned M's. Muscadet is very special and as I learned, has an underdog story. We should all be purchasing, consuming and collecting now, before it gets priced out. And if for no other reason, because it is very enjoyable wine.

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Andersonville Wine Walk 2015: Nailed It!

This past Sunday my partner and our pals Sarah and Katy, participated in the Andersonville Wine Walk here in Chicago, in you guessed it, the formerly Swedish now just cool and queer neighborhood of Andersonville. Or A-ville, as some abbreviate it, which makes me feel weird, like I am saying a dirty word. Anyhow, Andersonville is remarkably adorable with a plethora of shops and restaurants along Clark from Foster to Bryn Mawr-ish, give or take. There is much wine to be had in the vicinity and a few excellent wine shops to boot. This day however, is all about engaging with the businesses that don't sell/serve wine, to get the winos to come in...and people, it works!

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Kentucky Again! 2 more Wineries

Last month I traveled back to Kentucky for a quick visit with the family for my mother's birthday, amongst other things. As luck would have it, my brother had a few days off and was able to make time for wine-tasting! Just the brother, the partner and I set out to see what Forest Edge Winery was all about. I was curious as I had read about them back over the winter holidays, when I researched wineries that were driving distance from Louisville. That one intrigued me because I discovered that it is aptly named, being on the edge of Bernheim Forest. I imagined all kinds of lush greenery surrounding the grape vines. As spring had sprung in Kentucky, I felt this was a perfect time to visit Forest Edge, thus we set out on a gorgeous weekday afternoon.

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Me Encanta Mendoza!

As part of our journey to South America, in addition to Chilé, we had the pleasure of traveling overland, through The Andes, by way of a terrifying bus ride, to the bewitching land of Mendoza, Argentina. Those of you who have been, know of which I speak. It is just different there. Mendoza was the penultimate for so many reasons, to say nothing of this being the location of the wedding of our friends, for whom we had traveled to be with on their special day. The wine flowed in wine country. I was not even certain that we would be able to squeeze in a visit to the vineyards, but luckily, one member of our party spotted a deal at the hostel he was staying in, and 3 of us decided to go for it: a half day, 2 wineries and an olive oil factory for $25 US dollars. Was there even a question?

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