Proud to be a Sonoman

I haven’t written in over 75 days. In fact, at a point last week I thought about taking a break and shutting my site down until I had more time or felt the inspiration to start writing again. Then, as I was on a walk with my new dog today….

Bodie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

it struck me: I love living in Sonoma. I have felt this way for some time. We moved here (nearly on a whim) a little over six years ago with a 7 month old, 2 dogs, a cat and a gecko. Our family has changed some over the past years. Currently, we have two kids, 3 dogs, 2 cats and a chameleon. It’s a crazy, fun (and busy) life.

But let’s get back to what got me to think about writing again. As I was walking the plaza and “bike” path – mostly used by walkers – with Bodie, I was stopped a few times by people who wanted to say hi to him. I was taken with how nice everyone was.

It wasn’t just folks being nice to my dog, but genuine niceness to me as well. Not that I’m a cranky bugger, though I have my moments like everyone. I had several pleasant conversations with the people I ran into. I even gave some dinner recommendations as well as where to go to see a great view of the valley. I felt like a local. It was a fantastic feeling.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had plenty of moments where I’ve played the local over the past number of years. I have, after all, worked in winery tasting rooms for some time where you must know the area.

The part that made me most proud and why I am very happy to call Sonoma my home is that a place like this still exists. A place where you can take a walk and talk with neighbors and visitors, a little piece of Mayberry if you will. With our crazy busy lives and technology distractions it’s nice to know there’s still a place where people take the time to say hi to others they pass on the street.

Though having the dog doesn’t hurt in starting the conversation.

Cheers!

 

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My Thoughts on the Tragedy in Connecticut

I haven’t written anything in a while for a few reasons. For starters, I have been crazy busy at my new job along with family life and really what has been a lack of topics inspiring me lately. As a writer (or at least a wanna be writer), I feel the need to comment on the tragic events that occurred yesterday in Connecticut.

It wasn’t until I was on my way home from work and heading to pick up our two daughters that I heard about what happened. I was sad and worried for the families, but worse I was not surprised. Obviously this is not the first time that events like this have occurred. As a country when events like this happen we are sad for a while, maybe even make a donation to help and in a little while we move on with our lives while the families and town involved live with the grief daily.

My two girls fall roughly in the same age range of the victims at the school. Before I arrived home there was already an email from the principle of our school and the district’s superintendent. It said “Please be assured that district-wide and school-by-school our campuses remain secure…”. I’m sure the school in Connecticut thought the same thing. I’m not saying that our schools are not safe or that it is a daily worry for me, I just don’t understand how they could make a statement that says our campuses remain secure. To quote my father-in-law, “Where’s the watch tower?”. It is sad, but no one can assure or guarantee my kids safety – not even me.

In my own life, I have been affected by gun violence. Just over 11 years ago my best friend was shot and killed while working a patrol shift for the San Jose Police Department. It was a traffic stop and it changed my life forever, not to mention his family who lives daily with the grief. For some it is impossible to recover fully from this type of act – it changes the way you live, that is for sure. Violent acts like this occur all the time yet nothing really happens to change it.

Some argue that gun control is the right answer. Surprisingly, I am not actually for that. If someone who has bad intentions wants a gun, they will find a way to get it. I am for education on gun use, especially if you are going to have a gun in the house with children. Others say that all the violence in movies and video games are causing these types of events to happen. I will say, my wife and I were talking about this just two days ago following a recent viewing of Scream. That is not a particularly old movie (based in the mid-90′s), but most of the violence was implied violence rather than real-looking violence. That has definitely changed with all the computer enhancements. The American public loves their graphic and violent movies.

I don’t know what the answer is to stop these violent acts against kids (and adults), but I sure hope as a society we figure this out soon. Too many people are suffering for no reason. Unfortunately, when the killer takes his / her own life, as in this case, we will never know the motive behind the murders. I think sometimes that almost makes it worse since we all are looking for an answer as to why this would happen.

The state our country is in right now is really quite sad. Politics, Religion, or any other group are not to blame – at least not in my book. Each one has its flaws and the biggest drawback is pointing fingers. Nearly all groups will do it and it gets us nowhere. We, the People of the United States of America, are to blame. We have let this country slip into a terrible place and we are the only ones that can save us. Stop looking around and blaming other people and start acting like a community that cares about our future. Let’s fix this people. Our future generations should not have to live in fear.

-Saddened in Sonoma

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Autumn Weather, Always Torn

This time of year is always tough for me. I’ve never been a warm weather person and when the Autumn breeze picks up and the vineyards start to turn beautiful colors it makes me happy. But this is nearly always the time of year that is the most difficult for grape growers and winemakers – especially for those grapes that need the extra time on the vines.

Why? Well, for starters the moisture content in the air gets higher and usually we start to have cloudy days and certainly heavy morning fog. This can induce botrytis on the grapes leading to moldy clusters. Not good. In addition, with the shorter days there is limited amounts of sunlight which means it takes even longer to get the grapes ripe.

So as much as I want to light a fire, sit on my couch and get lost in a great wine…I’m torn. I want to enjoy this time of year and all the things that come along with it (like eating more), but I’m always concerned about the grapes. When the vineyards have been picked I feel so much better.

But it is about so much more than just getting grapes ripe. It’s also about developing flavors. Generally speaking the longer the grapes are on the vine, the more depth and character are developed. There is always a give and take when it comes to wine though. During the growing process sugars rise as acid levels fall – at some point the two intersect at the perfect time and that is when the orders are given to pick. There’s a little more to it than that, but those are two very important factors. But wait too long and the wine can be too alcoholic leading to a ‘hot’ character.

All reports I’ve heard is that this year has been a banner year. Quality is really great and quantity has been higher than expected. After two semi-rough years it’s a relief to see one where winemakers are really happy. The last two vintages have certainly had their challenges (cool summers, heat spikes, rain), but the great winemakers have taken the time to provide higher levels of care and sorting to bring out the best qualities.

I live in an amazing place to grow grapes and with very few exceptions the climate is perfect. We aren’t plagued with many of the issues that Europe deals with. It’s not uncommon for France to have rain in the summer and very cold weather early on requiring picking sooner than is desirable. Often I have customers ask me what my favorite California years are and I can truly say nearly all of them. Sure, they each have their nuances (some providing more fruit forward wines or others earthier) but we are lucky that we have these nearly perfect conditions turning out an excellent crop year after year.

Cheers!

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Filed under 2012 Growing Season, Napa, Sonoma, Wine, Wine Country

Repris Wines, My New Wine Adventure Has Begun…

Exactly five weeks ago, I wrote this about not knowing what my next adventure in the wine industry would be. Less than a week later I had two job offers and one that I just couldn’t refuse. An opportunity that has consumed my last four weeks so much that I haven’t even had time to share with you where I’m working. I connected with a newer wine company in Sonoma that took over Moon Mountain Vineyard in 2011.

A while back I tasted a 2004 Moon Mountain Cabernet as the previous owners were closing the estate and had this to say about the property:

Even though there won’t be any more Moon Mountain made, the vines are still there and some of these flavors and aromas will likely still be showing up in future offerings from this estate. I’ll have to grab some of their first releases to share here.

Those words couldn’t have been more true! You see, my new home just released the inaugural wines this past week. Yes, I’ve tasted them. Yes, I love them. Much more so than the 2004 I tasted before. Some of that could be my personal attachment to the vineyard and wines now, but I believe what is happening on the mountain now will outshine anything we’ve seen from prior owners. I have every faith that the wines, the vineyard and the experience rivals the best in the world. That’s a big statement, I know. But likely you haven’t experienced what we have to offer and once you do, you’ll understand.

Here is a preview of what the property and wines offer up. Stunning, right? And let me tell you these photos do a great job of showing off the vineyard, caves and harvest, but until you’ve seen it with your own eyes you won’t fully understand.

My career has taken a swing in my day-to-day tasks and I’m happy for that. I have loved working in tasting rooms for the past five years, but really needed and wanted to contribute in a different way. I’m working with the members of Repris, interacting with them via phone and email. It’s amazing how much crossover there is from in-person conversation to the phone. Either way, I’m telling the story of the vines, the wine making process and my favorite part: the finished product. I’m enjoying it immensely.

Let me know if you are in the neighborhood, I’d love to show you around this spectacular estate.

Cheers!

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Filed under Sonoma, Wine Country, Wine Tasting

Eat, Live, Run: How I Started My Blog

Back in 2009 when I worked for Matanzas Creek we were visited by a group of food bloggers. At that point in time I actually had no idea what a blog was and my curiosity was spiked. These gals seemed to be making a difference on the food front and I thought soon after meeting them that maybe I had a knack for writing about wine. Funny since English and writing were subjects I avoided at all costs in high school and college. I guess I just hadn’t found the right subject.

So, one of these bloggers was Jenna Weber of the blog Eat, Live, Run. This is the post from her visit that day. At one point my face was on the post, but as time goes on the blogs get purged of some pictures to save space. I didn’t even know about the blog and probably wouldn’t have checked except one of my friends happened to be an avid follower and saw me on the post the next morning.

These gals were telling me that some of them saw upwards of 1-2,000 people visiting their blog each day. WOW! I haven’t been anywhere near that, but I also don’t update as much as I want to. Anyway, I’m getting side tracked. A few months later my inspiration finally turned into reality with my first post. That was on Blogger, but I learned within the year that Word Press was much more suited to adding pictures and had an easier interface. I’m coming up on 3 years of blogging this January and I still love it. I wish I had more time to dedicate to it, but life is busy and I update when I can.

The reason I bring up Jenna Weber now is that I just finished reading her book White Jacket Required, a look into her life before, during and after culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu. The book was a dream of hers an I think she did an outstanding job. I’m thinking it won’t be her last book and I look forward to reading future projects – maybe one about her time in wine country? If you like food and more importantly good stories about people, I definitely recommend the read. The book is full of suspense, heartbreak and joy and even a trip to Sonoma’s wine country!

Don’t get any ideas readers, I won’t be writing a book anytime soon! Although you never know what the future will hold – I never thought I would be blogging either.

Cheers!

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Filed under Books, Wine, Wine, Food, Sonoma

A new wine adventure awaits!

Tonight I lie in bed awake waiting for tomorrow to come. Tomorrow brings with it opportunity, new experiences and more time with the family. You see, last Friday was my last day at the place I spent 5 days a week at for the last year plus. Through no fault of my own, the business closed. I was working hard to make it a success; however there were too many factors stacked against us. But that is the past and the past can not be changed. What can be changed is tomorrow (and now – but tomorrow and now are pretty close to the same thing).

I’m already interviewing for my next adventure in this ever-changing industry. And I really mean an adventure. Each place I’ve worked for in the past 5 years has had its own character, history and customers. It has been a lifetime of experiences in a short period of time full of awesome co-workers with unlimited knowledge of wine. All of whom were willing to share with me and impart a real understanding of this complicated business. I’ve also had the pleasure of taking some great classes through leading organizations in the wine industry leading to even more knowledge.

It all sounds so easy: grow some grapes, crush them, bottle the product and sell it to consumers. So simple, I forgot the part about fermentation! But this is an intricate business that has countless steps to ensure the quality of the finished wine matches up with what the winery’s customers have come to expect. As one of the funny ecards floating around Facebook said recently: “you mean I can get paid to help people drink wine? Where do I sign up” It’s true. When all is said and done, that is what we do – although each of us plays a unique role in the process.

So while I don’t know yet what the next adventure for me will be, I do know that it will be exciting. I do know that it will bring with it new challenges and experiences. I also know that I will meet new people with unique perspectives hearing about some of the same processes in new ways. I’m excited for what the future holds and I look forward to where this career path will take me next.

So while I type this and think about all the experiences I’ve had, I know only one thing for sure; this is the only thing I want to do with my life. There are no other jobs or career paths that fit with my lifestyle. In addition, the beverage I have come to not only enjoy daily has provided for my family for nearly half of my post-college years. Good stuff. You’ve heard people say it, but do what you love and the money (and happiness) will come. I’m trying. And if the money doesn’t come at least there’s wine!

More soon on my next steps….

Cheers!

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Filed under Wine, Wine Country, Wine Tasting

#CabernetDay – bringing back good memories

For those who didn’t know, Thursday was officially #CabernetDay on Twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets that I’m sure I haven’t discovered, but will waste plenty of my time in the future. So, what is #CabernetDay? And why does it have that number sign (#) in front of it? Cabernet Day is hosted each year by Rick Bakas, a local Sommelier. He also hosts several other ‘days’ throughout the year. That number sign is what they call a hashtag and in Twitter speak it is used to group tweets together. So, everyone who was tweeting about #CabernetDay could do a search for other people participating. Thus, creating a special place for all the #CabernetDay tweets.

So now that you’re fully aware of what a special day it was for Cabernet yesterday, I’ll share what I was drinking…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If only I could actually share it with you! This is one of my all time favorite wines. It also carries some special meanings to me. For starters, it is the Cabernet vintage we were pouring when I first was working at Arrowood. It was also my first job in the wine industry – pouring wine and conducting tours at the Arrowood estate. But for me, Cabernet goes much deeper than that.

Cabernet was the first wine I remember drinking. My parents didn’t drink much when my sister and I were growing up (at least not to our knowledge) except when we were at parties and family gatherings. If the Manhattans weren’t flowing, then I remember my dad drinking Cabernet. Now, I have a terrible memory so this could all be wrong, but makes for a good story. So, of course when I’m first offered the opportunity to drink I choose Cabernet. Can’t recall whether I was old enough to consume legally, but let’s just say I was. I liked Cabernet for its boldness. Although not right away. Like most alcoholic drinks wine is an acquired taste.

The first bottle I remember sharing with a group of friends (a big milestone in a wine lover’s life!) was a 1995 Beaulieu Vineyard Georges De Latour. For me it was a bottle I’ll remember forever. But it wasn’t until I started working at Arrowood that I fell in love with Cabernet. And until recently it has been my favorite varietal. While I still love it, Zinfandel is quickly catching up and may have even surpassed. Although my wine cellar tells a different story with Cabernet being the most common varietal and consuming almost 25% of the space. Of course, much of that has to do with my time at Arrowood.

I only have a few bottles left of the wine above and I look forward to enjoying them in the near future. Likely those will be enjoyed with company. And there really isn’t any reason to hang on to them much longer as it tasted great now. I would be very disappointed if I let them go much longer and then didn’t enjoy the flavors. Hope you do the same with your favorite wines. #CabernetDay was fun, but I’m also looking forward to the other #days coming up. Maybe Rick Bakas will do a #ZinfandelDay – that would be great!

Cheers!

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Filed under Wine, Wine Tasting