Goats, Groves & Grapes #WBC16

I love going on adventures. Earlier this month I flew out to Lodi for the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference[1] and it was quite the adventure. Part of the conference agenda was a mystery excursion where attendees picked their destination based purely on the name. The choices included Watts Up, The Wine Abides, Three Ring Circus, The Rack Pack, 99 Bottles of Wine, The Porron Zone, Dutch Crush, Blends with Friends, and my snap pick, Goats, Groves & Grapes[2].

Wine Instagram

While everyone seemed to have a grand old time on their excursions, I can’t help but think that mine was very special[3]. A group of about ten bloggers packed into a van and I was happy to see that Jeff, one of my best good Twitter friends, who I’d yet to meet in person, was in my group.

It took us about ten minutes to get to our first destination, Jessie’s Grove Winery. We were greeted by Wanda Bechtold[4] and her son Greg Burns, fourth and fifth generation owners and caretakers of the winery. They welcomed us into their tasting room with a glass of Chardonnay and quickly brought us through to an outdoor space where we gathered around Wanda and settled in for a tale of the history of Jessie’s Grove.

Jessie's Grove Winery
Bloggers and cats are like peas and carrots

This 85 year old matriarch was a beautiful sight to behold. She’d published a book in 2004[5] about the history of her family’s estate and she used it to tell us the tale of her great grandfather, Joseph Spenker, who immigrated to the United States from Dragun, Germany in 1854. His journey to Lodi started when he joined a wagon train to the West Coast in 1859, hoping to capitalize on the Gold Rush and find his fortune. At a rate of about two miles per hour, the journey took him 154 days. He’d made a poor decision when he traded his only horse for a mining claim that turned out to be barren; so and after several months when nothing had panned out,[6] with $1.27 in his pocket he walked to Stockton, California. He began selling mining tools to the miners who hadn’t yet lost hope, and in ten years, after saving and scraping, he found himself the proud owner of more than 1,500 acres, including the land I found myself sitting on that day.

Jessie's Grove Winery
Jessie Spenker, the namesake of Jessie’s Grove

Joseph’s daughter Jessie, who the winery is named for, took over management and had to make some tough decisions during the Great Depression and Prohibition. Jessie’s perseverance is what kept them going. As the roosters crowed and the cat meowed from under the table in front of us, I realized what a special moment this was, and how much history was surrounding me. The resulting success of Jessie’s Grove is a testament to the hard work and forethought from each generation of the Spenker family who sacrificed to keep the operation going.

When Wanda’s tale was over, we took a tour of the surrounding property[7]; a gorgeous sprawling space with a rustic old barn, a live music venue, an open air museum, and last but not least, Tortie, Wanda’s pet tortoise.

Tortie the Tortoise
Careful, he likes fingers!
Winery Barn
Winery wedding anyone?

Greg, Wanda’s son and current owner, walked us through the vines, which were almost ready to start harvesting. Some vines had been planted as far back as the late 1800s, making them some of Lodi’s oldest.

Grapes on the Vine
Grapes on the Vine
Bloggers in the Winery
Getting the perfect shot #bloggersgonnablog

Just as we were grabbing the perfect photo of the sunlight on the grapes, our van appeared and it was time to travel to our next stop, their “cousin” property, Spenker Winery[8]. Just a few minutes down the road, another branch of the Spenker family also grows grapes, but on a bit of a smaller scale. This Spenker bunch has been growing grapes for more than 100 years. Fritz Spenker bought the farm from his relative, Joseph Spenker, Jessie’s father. It’s not clear how they’re related exactly, so the families continue to refer to each other as cousins. Fritz’s grandson Chuck began making wine with his wife Bettyann in 1994, and by 1997 they’d earned a 90 rating from Wine Spectator. In addition to their two daughters, Kate and Sarah, the Spenker’s have brought on lots of goats to help with farm tasks, and now Bettyann makes fabulous, fresh goat cheese. The plan is to have the Spenker Artisan Creamery open in 2017[9].

Goats
Soooooo excited!

We were introduced to the goats and even got to feed them. They were just as excited as we were! When it was time for them to go to bed, we headed into the tasting room for dinner. Our meal of homemade stuffed peppers with a healthy side of fresh grown tomatoes and homemade goat cheese was stunning. The cheesecake finish was topped with an exquisite zinfandel reduction. It was exactly what we needed after our strenuous[10] day of wine tasting.

Winery Vines
Twilight in the Vines

We walked out feeling sated and truly moved by the hospitality we’d been shown. The Jessie’s Grove and Spenker families welcomed us with open arms. And then, as if they night couldn’t get any better, we walked out to a stunning sunset surrounding the vineyard. An epic end to an epic day.

Spenker Winery
#sunsetforthewin

Cheers!

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] #WBC16
[2] Because who doesn’t love goats? But seriously, I was also hoping for some chèvre…
[3] Read: the BEST one.
[4] Wanda and Greg are the owners of neighboring Bechthold Vineyards as well. Famous for their Cinsault grapes, it was named California’s best vineyard in 2014, and is also Lodi’s oldest at 128 years old.

Jessie's Grove Winery
Greg & Wanda at Jessie’s Grove

[5] It’s out of print and now virtually impossible to get. Keep your eyes peeled at tag sales and church book sales for me!
[6] See what I did there? #playonwords #panningforgold
[7] With a few more glasses of wine. Obviously.Wine Glass
[8] I figured the goats had to be there since we’d only seen a tortoise at Jessie’s Grove. I was right.
[9] I’ll be back.
[10] No but seriously, it’s hard work! I swear!

Public Service Announcement: Last Bottle Marathon

The Wine Harvest is happening, at least in some parts of California[1], and that means it’s time for the Harvest Marathon on Last Bottle.

Grapes ripe for the pickin', just like the wine deals on the Last Bottle Marathon!
Grapes ripe for the pickin’, just like the wine deals on the Last Bottle Marathon!

You MUST already know about Last Bottle, but if you don’t, it’s a wine buying website with great daily deals on wine. Every so often they hold a MARATHON featuring CRAZY wine deals with FREE SHIPPING, no matter how many bottles you order[2]. So sign up if you haven’t already and start ordering.

You’re welcome.

Link to the Marathon: http://bit.ly/LastBtl

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] A bit on the early side because of this year’s unique weather.
[2] The Firm usually sees an uptick in FedEx deliveries a few weeks after these marathons … Just doing my part to keep the world ticking.

Last Bottle ... Literally Crushin' It
Last Bottle … Literally Crushin’ It

#PrayForItaly

By now you’ve probably heard about the massive earthquake that rocked central Italy this past week. The peaceful villages affected were literally sleeping when the quake hit, and entire cities have crumbled. My friend Laura, a fellow wine enthusiast and an Italian native, has instituted a fundraising effort through her family’s non-profit organization, Vertical Foundation, Corp. She’ll be hand delivering the funds to Italy to ensure it goes directly to on the ground recovery efforts. Please consider making a donation to help get these beautiful people back on their feet and help them rebuild their lives.

My thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected.

xoxo

Rescuers carry a stretcher following an earthquake in Amatrice, central Italy,  Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016. A strong earthquake in central Italy reduced three towns to rubble as people slept early Wednesday, with reports that as many as 50 people were killed and hundreds injured as rescue crews raced to dig out survivors. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)           NYTCREDIT: Alessandra Tarantino/Associated Press
Rescuers carry a stretcher following an earthquake in Amatrice, central Italy, Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016. A strong earthquake in central Italy reduced three towns to rubble as people slept early Wednesday, with reports that as many as 50 people were killed and hundreds injured as rescue crews raced to dig out survivors. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
NYTCREDIT: Alessandra Tarantino/Associated Press
(C) Graphic News
(C) Graphic News

 

 

How Do You Say Gewürztraminer?

I don’t know about you, but this is one of those wines I gloss over on the wine list, walk past at the wine shop, and avoid saying out loud at all costs. At #WBC16[1], I was lucky enough to cure the problem, and let me tell you, it’s about damn time!File Aug 20, 9 25 43 AM

Pronounced, Geh-VIRTZ-trah-MEE-ner[2], the grape originally hails from Italy’s Alto Adige region[3], an ancient wine growing community in the Dolomites[4] bordering Austria and Switzerland. Italy’s smallest wine growing region makes around 40 million bottles of wine on a yearly basis[5] and is the oldest German speaking[6] winemaking area in the world; they’ve been honing their craft for the last 3,000 years[7].

Wine Tasting AlsaceThe bottle of Gewürztraminer I sampled was an absolute gem. Breakout sessions were scattered throughout the conference, and I had the foresight to attend May Matta-Aliah’s session on the Wines of Alsace. We sampled three typical Alsatian varieties, a Riesling, a Pinot Gris, and finally, the Gewürztraminer. The Riesling and Pinot Gris were both lovely; soft, light and elegant. The Gewürztraminer was a slam dunk. My tasting notes started off with “Wow” and “Incredible”[8]. It was one of those tastes where spitting would be a crime…so I didn’t.

Alsace Wine

As we were sipping, my new wine friend Laura explained how the word is broken down: Gewürz translates roughly to aromatic or seasoning, Tramin refers to Tramin an der Weinstraße, often abbreviated to Tramin or Termeno, the specific location where the grape comes from, and er means “of”. So, Gewürztraminer pretty much means “aromatic seasoning of Tramin”[9].

Tasting Notes on the Zind-Humbrecht Gewürztraminer Grand Cru Hengst 2013

A high residual sugar content (45 grams per liter[10]) made this one a bit on the sweeter side. Not something you’d want to drink with dinner, but after dinner, before dinner, with dessert, without dessert, would all work just fine. I got a bright, full mouthful of pineapple and a slight minerality on the extra-long finish. The wine kept going and going; I didn’t want to let it go. It was almost moist, a great, lush mouthfeel; very reminiscent of my Sauternes tasting experience in Bordeaux[11]. This Gewürztraminer has characteristics similar to the Sauternes I tasted, being a sweet wine with great depth and body. I’ll have to try some more of these Alsatian Gewürztraminer beauties and let you know if they’re all as amazing. In the meantime, grab one of these if you can find it.

File Aug 20, 9 23 26 AM

Maybe not a wine to throw back with your beer-guzzling neighbor, as it will set you back at least $70 if you can find it, but it is certainly something to be shared with loved ones[12]. A highly acclaimed vintage, Wine Enthusiast rated the Zind-Humbrecht 2013 a 94 and Decanter bestowed a 97. Not too shabby.

Grapes for this bottle were grown in the Zind-Humbrecht Hengst Grand Cru vineyards in Wintzenheim, Alsace. The Zind and Humbrecht families joined forces in 1959; their ancestors have been growing grapes in Alsace since 1620.

Is there a wine you’re scared to pronounce[13]? Get on the Google and don’t let it stop you! You could be missing out on an amazing wine!

Until the next glass, Cheers!

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] You can read my first recap of the conference here.
[2] Practice it in the privacy of your home and you’ll be good to go. #thatsnotweird
[3] The Wine Folly has a great overview of Alto Adagio and the grapes grown there. Check it out.
[4] The Dolomites have been on my travel bucket list forever, but I had no idea there was wine! Another addition to the Wine Bucket List!

© Consortium of Alto Adige Wine
Castles, towers and vineyards, oh my! © Consortium of Alto Adige Wine

[5] To put that number in perspective, in 2015, the State of California produced 229 million cases. I don’t understand how this could be possible because that is two billion seven hundred forty-eight million BOTTLES. But, I found it on the internets, so it must be true.
[6] Wait, but I thought this was Italy? Given that it’s been making wine for 3,000 years, you can imagine that a lot has happened in the area over the past few millennia. A power struggle between Italy and Austria has been going on, pretty much forever, and tensions still run high. Also this.
[7] America was born in 1776, or 240 years ago. To put that in perspective, this small area of Italy has been producing wine for 2,760 years longer than America has been around. WOW.
[8] I’m super good at tasting notes.
[9] #bilingual
[10] Residual sugar generally refers to the sugar content remaining in the wine after fermentation stops or is stopped.
[11] Ahhhh #FancyinFrancey. That was fun.
[12] Like your good friend Wine Esquire here.
[13] Viognier is Vee-own-YAY. Blaufränkisch is Blahw-FRAHN-keesh. And here’s a link to more pronunciations. You’re welcome.

Gewürztraminer