Wine Flies When You’re On a Plane

You may recall that I flew out to California in August for the Wine Bloggers Conference[1].

One of the great things about the conference is that the location changes every year, giving wine bloggers the opportunity to visit new wine regions across the country. Lodi is not only an excellent wine producing region, the city itself was also an excellent host to the several hundred wine bloggers that descended in from all over the world.

Welcome to Lodi
Welcome to Lodi

It also turns out that Lodi is surrounded by lots and lots of wine. Since I was in California wine country, I figured I couldn’t leave without making a few stops to do some field research. So Laura, my new Italian wine blogging friend, and I took our matching convertibles up to Clarksburg on our way to the airport on Sunday. We met up with Robin from Wine Flights in Sacramento who I’d met at the conference; he was a native and offered to show us around.

California Life
California Life

We made our first stop at Miner’s Leap, a winery owned by a lawyer who I’d met at a conference panel the day before. I thought I was busy, but then I met Loyal Miner. He’s a named partner in a Sacramento law firm and a few years back decided to open a winery. No big deal. While he wasn’t mowing the lawn[2], blending wine or writing summary judgment briefs, he decided he should expand his operations and build a concert amphitheater on the grounds of the vineyard. We arrived and he was knee deep in concrete getting it ready for the concert that was scheduled to occur the following weekend.

Tasting Room at Miner's Leap
Tasting Room at Miner’s Leap

We tasted some wines and then headed to our next stop: Lunch[3]. It was a little BBQ joint called Husick’s Taphouse that was just about the quaintest thing I ever did see. We walked in to an gentleman playin’ his guitar and singin’ the blues. The family-owned restaurant showed us a good time, and my bacon, turkey and avocado Panini was to die for. They insisted we leave with a bottle of wine that we enjoyed with our meal.

Singin' the Blues
Singin’ the Blues

By this point in the trip, I had four bottles packed in my suitcase[4] and I didn’t think I had room for more. Getting the wine home is always such a dilemma[5]. We had at least two more places to visit and I couldn’t buy any wine[6]. In stepped Robin to save the day. He’s the brain behind, Wine Flights in Sacramento, a new wine tourism company that organizes all your travel needs in the Sacramento area. They recognized that Sacramento isn’t a top wine tourism destination, which is silly since it has an international airport and more than 600 wineries within an hour’s drive. It’s a less expensive way to experience California wine country without sacrificing the quality. The best part is, they’ve developed a wine carrying case to get you and six of your favorite bottles home safe on the plane. He had a prototype in his trunk and agreed to let me try it. Score! I now had room for more bottles! We backtracked to Miner’s Leap where he’d wanted to send me home with wine, but due to my former space quandary, I’d had to refuse. I’m now the proud owner of two lawyer-made wines.

Next up on our journey was Bogle, the iconic winery that produces more than 2 million bottles per year, far more than all other wineries in Clarksburg combined. Bogle is one of my go-to repeat wines, especially for parties where I know we’ll be going through wine quick[7]. It’s great quality at an affordable price. Robin told us about the special blends they make available only at the tasting room, so I was excited to try.

Bogle Vineyard California
Vineyard Life

We were running a bit low on time[8], so we didn’t do a full tasting, but what we did taste was fantastic. The Rosé was so good I had to buy a bottle[9]. And it was only $13. The winery itself was beautiful too; several production buildings sat next to the tasting room which looked out over acres of vines. The lawn was packed with people listening to live music, eating pizzas from the mobile wood-fired pizza truck. And good wine was obviously flowing.

Bogle Wine California

Time continued to tick, and Robin really wanted to show us one last place, The Sugar Mill. We weaved along the back country roads[10] until we arrived at an old massive factory complex. In various stages of renovation, the first building is one of the coolest places I’ve ever seen. Talk about innovative entrepreneurship; they’ve taken the shared space model and really made it work. Eleven wineries have their tasting room here so visitors can come to one spot and enjoy lots of local wines without having to drive to multiple wineries. We weren’t there long[11] but it was a nice taste of what the Clarksburg area had to offer.

Bogle Wine California

Traffic was light and check-in was a breeze, so Laura and I had some time to kill before our flight. We settled in to the Vino Volo right outside our gate and gabbed and Instagrammed over a flight of Rosé. Not a bad way to prepare for a flight.

Wine Vino Volo Airport
Pre Flight Vino Volo

I had two flights to get home and for my first leg, I was glad I had a window seat. The landscape was incredible, again, and this time the sunset was absolutely breathtaking. Wine adventures are so much fun!

Wine with a view
Wine with a view

I’d finished my book on the flight out, and lucky for me I’d met a new wine friend at the conference who happened to write a book! She gave me an autographed copy for my flight home; the subject is wine and romance, so clearly I was hooked from page one.

Wine Book Plane

I arrived home safe and sound, and so did my wine, even though I failed to properly seal the box[12].  Thanks Wine Flights in Sacramento!

Safe and sound!
Safe and sound!

I’ll certainly be back and I’ll need another empty box to fill! And thanks so much to the #WBC16 Scholarship Committee for funding my travel scholarship to get me out to the conference. Can’t wait for next year!

Lawyer Footnotes

#WBC16
#WBC16

[1] See Pre-Cap, Recap, Gewürztraminer, and Goats. When’s the next wine trip, Universe? I’m ready!
[2] He insists on doing it himself. No OCD here at all. But it does look good.
[3] Because, #priorities.
[4] Which was only medium sized, not my jumbo.
[5] #WinoProblems
[6] HashtagSadface

Crazy California landscape
Crazy California landscape

[7] Hello Book Club.
[8] That whole “catch a plane thing”.
[9] Thank god I had some extra room!
[10] With the top down. Obvi.
[11] The space was amazing but my Type A personality was really starting to kick in, so we had to say our goodbyes and make our way to the airport.
[12] Oops.

 

Wine Blogger Friends
Wine Blogger Friends

 

The Old Sugar Mill
The Old Sugar Mill
View from the air
View from the air

Wistfully Remembering Sauvignon Blanc Weather

We’ve officially transitioned to fall in the Northeast. The cold weather is coming. As this new reality sets in, I find myself wanting bottles of rich red wine, not white[1]. Looking back, I realized that this summer was full of new white wine experiences, and what a summer it was! I received a few bottles from Nimble Vineyards earlier this year and had the opportunity to crack open a bottle of their 2014 Sauvignon Blanc just before the chill in the air appeared.

Sauvignon Blanc White Wine
Summer Sipping

The last of the warm weather lends itself to a refreshing pick-me-up and I know that when the cold sets in, I’ll find myself wanting heavier reds[2]. So today, with the temps pushing 86, even with a breeze, I’m glistening just a bit, and the chilled 2014 Nimble Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc was just what the doctor ordered.

Though the nose isn’t overly fragrant, there’s a bouquet of fresh wild flowers lingering in the back, the kind you’d pick from your garden[3]. Perfectly light and crisp, with pleasant touches of acidity and minerality. When I take I sip I spy some pineapple juice with a long grapefruit finish. The acidic grapefruit cuts any sweetness that the pineapple flavor hinted at, making this a delightful aperitif wine to get you salivating[4]. We paired it with some apple slices and cheddar cheese, but mostly just sipped it on its own.

Sauvignon Blanc White Wine
Keepin’ it Chilled

Nimble Vineyards has been growing grapes for more than 15 years, but at first only sold what they made to wine makers. As I learn more about winemakers and vineyards, selling grapes to other producers appears to be a very common practice throughout the world, something the general public may not realize. It also seems like more and more, these vintners are deciding to keep at least a portion of their crop to make their own wine. Nimble recently began having a go at winemaking themselves, and it seems to have worked out very well.

At 70 cases made of this Sauvignon Blanc, you’ll be lucky if you can find a bottle[5], but if you can, grab all that you see. It’s an excellent example of a perfectly balanced wine. And it’s a good drinker for warm sunny days. What more can you ask for?

Sauvignon Blanc White Wine
The rear end of the Nimble hog …

Their wine labels feature the rear end of a wild hog, inspired by the wild hogs roaming their vineyards, enjoying their grapes. This is apparently a problem in Sonoma County, so much so that the state authorizes unlimited hunting of them, and several businesses have sprung up that will organize a hunting party for you and your closest meat-eating friends[6].

The Sauvignon Blanc varietal originated in the Bordeaux region of France, though I think popular culture now tends to associate it with New Zealand. It turns out that California is producing some amazing wine out of Sauvignon Blanc grapes as well, so don’t be afraid to give them a try!

Until the next glass, Cheers!

White Wine Sauvignon Blanc
Cheers!

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] Maybe I’m being a bit melodramatic, we’re only in the second week of chilly weather, which I love. But I am going to miss my summer of #whitewineallthetime!
[2] How insightful of me, and it’s coming true already.
[3] That is, if you had a garden with wild flowers that survived the elements.
[4] Husband made homemade sauce so we’re waiting for that to finish up. I’m guessing we’ll be going with a red for that…
[5] No distribution yet and no online sales. Give them a call to arrange a visit at 707.433.9844, OR shoot an email to hello@nimblevineyards.com and they can ship you some!
[6] I can see it now: Bachelorette Party Gon’ Wild! First you taste the wine, then you hunt the hogs….Just kidding! #liabilityproblems #lawyerlife

Better Beckons

Warning: Sappy Post.

Sorry to get deep and emotional, but since I’ve been invited[1] to be part of Beringer’s Better Beckons contest, it made me remember what I’m doing and why, and it put a smile on my face. So I hope it does the same for you!

Better Beckons.

As I pondered this concept, I started thinking about why I started this blog, why I drink wine[2], why I get up in the morning[3]. It’s really because something better is beckoning. Every day can be a great day, if you choose to be happy in the moment[4]. You may not be in the perfect place, but if you think about the place you want to be in, and do something every day, even if it’s a small something, to put you a little bit closer to that place, it’s a day well spent. It’s important to remember that life really is a journey and not a destination, and if you don’t have fun along the way, you’re losing out. Being the best you can be and being happy with who you are is that’s all that matters.

Beringer Wine
Isn’t this what life is all about? #BetterBeckons

While you’re thinking about your life and what your plan is, grab a bottle of Beringer and bring it somewhere beautiful, fun and inspiring. Pop the cork, pour a glass and reflect on your surroundings[5]. Post a photo on Instagram, hashtag it with #BeringerUS and #Contest, and you could be the lucky winner of a trip to Napa Valley[6]. Photos must be posted by September 30, so get poppin’!

I took my bottle of Beringer to Gillette’s Castle in East Haddam, Connecticut. The home is an epic masterpiece built by William Gillette, a writer, playwright and actor, famous for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes on the American Stage. Construction began on the medieval-esq castle in 1914. Twenty men, five years and $1.1 million later, it was completed in 1919. Built entirely from Gillette’s own design plans, it includes secret locks, hidden mirrors, perhaps the first sprinkler system, and at one time, its own steam-powered railroad.  Sitting atop one of Connecticut’s Seven Sisters Hills, its breathtaking views of the Connecticut River are sweeping and commanding.

Beringer at Gillette's Castle
Beringer at Gillette’s Castle

Dying with no wife and no heirs, in his will Gillette warned against his home and possessions ending up in the hands of “some blithering saphead who had no conception of where he is or with what surrounded.” Ironically, The State of Connecticut purchased the land and turned the property into a state park[7].

Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon
Overlooking the Connecticut River

The wine I brought with me was the 2013 Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon Knights Valley. In a word, it was luxurious. A big nose with a beautiful bouquet of blackberries and raspberries. Stunningly rich and silky smooth with beautiful, soft tannins that left you wanting more. Lots of ripe fruit that finished with almost a hint of chocolate. At $35 a bottle, it’s an excellent dinner party splurge. You and your friends will enjoy this big bold wine with your fruit and cheese platter, a hearty pasta, or even a nice filet mignon[8].

Beringer Wine
#BetterBeckons

Can’t wait to show you where I brought the 2014 Beringer Luminus Chardonnay Oak Knoll. Until the next glass!

Cheers!

Beringer WineLawyer Footnotes
[1] My Instagram posts and Tweets were sponsored by Mirum Shopper. They also provided me with the wine and glasses. All thoughts, reviews and content contained herein are my own.
[2] So many reasons!
[3] Because the alarm goes off and it’s hard to sleep through.
[4] A nice bottle of wine helps too. And people you like. And good food. Did I mention wine?
[5] I’m not advocating bringing wine to places with a no alcohol policy…So if you get caught, don’t blame it on me. #StateParks
[6] Details and contest rules available here. Must be 21+ to enter.
[7] Where I’m sure alcohol is not allowed.
[8] Let me know what time dinner starts and I’ll be there. Maybe I’ll even bring a bottle of wine.

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!