Summer is the time for chilled whites, light reds, and of course bubbles. You all know I like variety and mixing it up, but Dry Creek Vineyard’s Chenin Blanc is one I keep going back to. I always have a bottle or six of this one handy. It’s perfect for sipping on the beach, on the porch, in your air conditioning, or in your hot as hades non-air-conditioned space.
It would go well with a handful of nuts, or with an exquisitely prepared Chicken Piccata, with fresh lemons, a handful of capers, garnished with a sprinkle of garden-grown parsley.
“If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Dry Creek Vineyard extends praise to our original source of inspiration in the small French village of Vouvray in the Loire Valley. It was in Vouvray, that our love affair with Chenin Blanc began.”
I get notes of floral and stone fruit, peaches perhaps, with a touch of minerality behind the scenes. The mouthfeel is perfection; great body with a silky swirl finish. At $12.99 a bottle, you seriously can’t go wrong.
AND let’s not forget that summer doesn’t end until September 22 this year. That’s FOUR MORE DAYS OF SUMMER PEOPLE! Savor your favorite summer staple while you still can. I know I will be.
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.
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.
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, 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.
We tasted some wines and then headed to our next stop: Lunch. 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.
By this point in the trip, I had four bottles packed in my suitcase and I didn’t think I had room for more. Getting the wine home is always such a dilemma. We had at least two more places to visit and I couldn’t buy any wine. 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. 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.
We were running a bit low on time, 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. 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.
Time continued to tick, and Robin really wanted to show us one last place, The Sugar Mill. We weaved along the back country roads 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 but it was a nice taste of what the Clarksburg area had to offer.
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.
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!
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.
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!
 See Pre-Cap, Recap, Gewürztraminer, and Goats. When’s the next wine trip, Universe? I’m ready!  He insists on doing it himself. No OCD here at all. But it does look good.  Because, #priorities.  Which was only medium sized, not my jumbo.  #WinoProblems  HashtagSadface
 Hello Book Club.  That whole “catch a plane thing”.  Thank god I had some extra room!  With the top down. Obvi.  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.  Oops.
I love going on adventures. Earlier this month I flew out to Lodi for the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference 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.
While everyone seemed to have a grand old time on their excursions, I can’t help but think that mine was very special. 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 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.
This 85 year old matriarch was a beautiful sight to behold. She’d published a book in 2004 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, 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.
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; 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.
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.
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. 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.
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 day of wine tasting.
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.
Lawyer Footnotes  #WBC16  Because who doesn’t love goats? But seriously, I was also hoping for some chèvre…  Read: the BEST one.  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.
 It’s out of print and now virtually impossible to get. Keep your eyes peeled at tag sales and church book sales for me!  See what I did there? #playonwords #panningforgold  With a few more glasses of wine. Obviously.  I figured the goats had to be there since we’d only seen a tortoise at Jessie’s Grove. I was right.  I’ll be back.  No but seriously, it’s hard work! I swear!
My adventure started in First Class on American Airlines, and when I landed in Sacramento, I was upgraded to a VW Bug Convertible at the car rental counter. I don’t think I’ve ever actually driven a convertible before, so obviously I put the top down and went on my merry way. Things took an interesting turn when I arrived at my destination. It turns out that when a lot of wine bloggers gather in a location with a minimum number of hotel rooms, sometimes, your accommodations aren’t so stellar. Even though this hotel got a higher rating on TripAdvisor than some other local options, I think I got the short end of the hotel stick. But I’m really not complaining. Everything else was fabulous.
The welcome reception was held at the Mohr-Fry Ranches in Lodi and it just happened to be the proprietor’s 53rd wedding anniversary. Cheers to them for allowing 100+ strangers to invade their front lawn for an evening of wining and dining. I met up with some Twitter friends and finally connected social handles to faces. The evening was lovely, and the cold Vermentinos that were being poured really hit the spot. I always knew Lodi was the place for Old Vine Zinfandel, but I had no idea there were so many amazing white grapes being grown there. From Vermentino to Viognier, I was one happy, if not a bit tired, camper wine blogger.
Given my East Coast roots, I was thoroughly jet-lagged for the first two out of the three days and found myself up before dawn. So I did what any normal person would do. I hopped in my convertible and went out seeking the sunrise. I couldn’t find a “go to” place for sunrise in Lodi, but I put my compass app on and headed East. It worked out pretty well and I got some stellar sunrise views over the vines.
The conference exposed me to a whole host of wine bloggers from around the world. It also exposed me to a lot of wine in a very short amount of time. More on that later. The connections I made and insights I gained from the speakers and presenters were well worth the few days away from the office. Being awarded the scholarship was my impetus to go on this wine adventure, and it was an absolutely invaluable experience.
Coming Soon: A recap of my amazing small group excursion adventure at Jessie’s Grove and Spenker Winery, featuring wine, turtles and goats. Oh my.
Lawyer Footnotes  I was lucky enough to receive a scholarship to assist with travel expenses and registration fees. THANKS to all the scholarship donors! I’ll be donating to the fund to help a newbie attend next year! You can donate too!  Thanks, Uncle Bob! This was smart given that it was 98 degrees, the sun was shining and I had no sunscreen. But whatever. #priorities  Hello Motel 6. That being said, this was a total #FlipFlopsInTheShower kinda place …  Like @Dracaenawines, @10KBottles and @WineAntics to name a few.  This is so unlike me.  Despite my attempts at Googling the same.  #SpeedTasting  BHAHAHAHAHA. That was funny right? #lawyerlife