Grateful for Good Gifts, Good Stories with Wineries from Napa #WinePW

Joy to the World– Grateful for the Gift of Good Wine and Good Stories: From one fire to another

If you ask me, it’s stories that make us humans, stories that help us make meaning, stories that help us connect and care for each other. And so if you are looking for a wine for a gift this holiday season, I would choose one with a good story. Here’s one of mine.

When I was a little girl, there was a fire in Ondulando, a neighborhood above ours on the east end of Ventura. I’m not too sure how big it was but that fire had a huge impact on me. We all stood in the street in awe watching it burn.  Seeing the orange glow on the hillsides seemed more threatening to me and my home and my family than it actually was.

Following the fire, at certain times of the year when the light would hit windows on the hillsides just right, they would glow red and it would strike terror in my heart — I was sure there was another fire and I was surprised that no one was alarmed.

wearing my N95 Particulate Respirator on Day 2 of the #ThomasFire

A few days ago, that fire I feared as a child hit for real.

The Thomas Fire started at Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula and fueled forward by fierce winds, flames raced toward Ventura at times gobbling an acre a second until it reached Ondulando and beyond.  I heard the dispatch call out addresses and I pictured the streets where my friends grew up– and where friends live today.

I could imagine only too well what it looked like from my childhood home because I could see that fire as it spread to the hillside where my grandfather built his house– and his wine cellar not far from where I live today, a block away from the mandatory evacuation zone which was just lifted and two blocks from where it still is.,

The wind was and continues to be terrible, with hurricane force winds of 80 to 100 miles an hour driving the fire to consume almost 50k acres that first night, and now, while less intense, the winds are erratic, less predictable, ever dangerous. Until the wind dies down, it will be impossible for them to contain this fire. With no rain in sight, they are saying it may burn until Christmas or even the New Year.

Screen shot from an ArcGIS map showing the Thomas Fire burn area Dec. 7 2017

As of this writing, nearly 150k acres have burned with 500 structures destroyed including homes belonging to a dozen or more friends as well as former students who met in my creative writing class over 15 years ago.

the house of a childhood friend of mine, Suzanne Henthorn; here’s her GoFundMe page if you can help: https://www.gofundme.com/suzannes-fire-relief-fund

In my county, over 100k people have been evacuated from their homes in the previous few days. I know more people who have been evacuated than I know who have not been evacuated.

And this fire as well as a spate of fires in Southern California will be part of a Federal Disaster area. Already the resources are driving and flying in.

We are the lucky ones, able to stay in our homes, power flickering, non-potable water flowing, our VW van ready for us to escape into, a comfortable home away from home. We are safe save from the smoky air… and cabin fever. Minor inconveniences really in the big picture.

Sue also was lucky: she lives in a voluntary evacuation zone so she was also able to stay home even though at times all of the roads around us were closed due to fire. Above are a few of the photos Sue’s partner John Walsh shared; these were taken from their house in Meiners Oaks which is in the Ojai Valley — the inlet of green in the sea of browned lands in the map above.

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4 Cabernet Franc from France, CA and Idaho for #CabFrancDay

Cabernet Franc? You’re not likely to find this wine on its own shelf at the neighborhood grocery store– even though it deserves one! Better known as a blending grape found in Bordeaux wines, Cabernet Franc can also stand alone, as has been well-proven in Chinon in the Loire Valley of France for many years.

In fact Cabernet Franc Day founder Lori Budd of  Dracaena Wines  chose December 4 for the annual celebration of Cabernet Franc because it is the anniversary of the death of Cardinal Richelieu who is credited with transporting the grape to the Abbey of Bourgueil in the Loire Valley in the 17th Century. (Also of note: Alexandre Dumas features the Cardinal in his novel The Three Musketeers!) 

As one of Sue’s favorite varietals, we’ve been eyeing today’s Cabernet Franc Day for a year and collecting wines that we want to share. Last year, for the first Cabernet Franc Day, we featured one from Lodi’s Cantara, Idaho’s Hat Ranch, and Four Brix’s which uses fruit from Paso Robles which we paired with osso bucco.

This year, we decided it would be fun to taste a “classic” version of Cabernet Franc — a Chinon from France that people can find easily at Whole Foods plus three from less common wine growing regions: El Dorado County CA, Lake County CA, and Idaho: Continue reading

Christmas in California Tuscan Style #ItalianFWT

Tuscany.

Let the name roll romantically off your tongue.

Tusssss… can…neeee.

It’s seductive, yes?

Like a kiss?

While I have never been to Tuscany, it is a region of Italy that captures the imagination: sunsets, rolling hills with views of the ocean, vineyards, and bottles of Chianti wine in those quaint straw bottles. But Tuscany offers much more to the world of wine than Chianti! Continue reading

Here’s Why To Try Old or Ancient Vine Zinfandel from Mendocino or Lodi

What should you pour on Thanksgiving to pair with turkey, ham, or prime rib?

I say Old Vine ZINFANDEL!

(Although I must admit after tasting these three Beaujolais with coq a vin I was reminded how well that works too!)

Last Wednesday, on Zinfandel Day 2017, Sue, John, and I tasted FOUR old vine or ancient vine zinfandel: three from Lodi as part of a Facebook live event and one from Mendocino; all four were samples sent for our review consideration. Two of them should be easy to find in your nearby supermarket! Plus I tasted a blend that features Lodi and Mendocino old and ancient vines fruit that has been aged in bourbon barrels — and you should be able to find that one as well.

We’re fans of Zinfandel around here: we also did a Pre-Zinfandel Day warm up post featuring two more old and ancient vine Zinfandel from Lodi.  Last summer we did a Lodi-centric tasting with 13 zinfandels.  And after the 2008 and the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conferences, I came home with MANY bottles of Zinfandel which we tasted and I wrote about here (2008) and here (2016).

But if you’re not convinced that zin is the direction you want to go, check out this post all about what wines to bring for Thanksgiving.

And now back to ZINFANDEL.

Old or ancient vine zinfandel? What does that even mean?

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Do you know the way to Beaujolais? We do! Part 2 with Coq a Vin!

Pair with pate and triple cream brie — together!

Do you know the way to Beaujolais?

You should!

Beaujolais is a great greeter wine– a wine to greet guest with to rev up there palate and say HI!. Much like Sauvignon blanc can be a greeter wine, beaujolais has acidity and brightness, it awakens the palate and prepares you for what’s to come. Pair this wine as a greeter wine with pate and a triple cream brie and your guest will love you!

So do you know the way to Beaujolais? Continue reading

Do you know the way to Beaujolais? Part 1

Beaujolais LOVES Pate!

Each year, the third Thursday of November is the day that Beaujolais Nouveau is released.

What’s the big deal? Beaujolais nouveau is the first wine of the vintage! A red wine made with Gamay grapes grown in the Beaujolais region of France and fermented for a few weeks and then bottled 6-8 weeks following harvest, on the day of release, Beaujolais Nouveau celebrations used to include races to get the wine delivered around the world. These days, it’s shipped in advance but no one may sell it until after midnight.

As fresh, fruity, and fun as Beaujolais nouveau is, there’s a lot more to the region of Beaujolais than nouveau wine!

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Zinfandel Day 2017 with Lodi Old Vines

This Thanksgiving, we’re grateful for old vine zinfandel from Lodi!

With Zinfandel Day today, and with Thanksgiving coming up, my thoughts turn to zinfandel, my go to wine when it comes to holiday ham, turkey, or prime rib. It’s a wine that works well with many of the sides too.

While many know zinfandel as an inexpensive, fruit forward wine that pairs well with pizza or burgers, some people are making top shelf zinfandel, often from old or ancient vines, a red wine that is elegant as well as rich, spicy, and complex and worthy of sharing with friends and family on special occasions. They taste and feel like a high quality wine. People often dismiss Zinfandel possibly because they haven’t tasted the really good ones, so they don’t know how very nice a really good Zin can be.

A selection of old and ancient vine Zinfandel from Lodi: some of these vines are over 100 years old!

You are invited to join us for an old-vine Zinfandel virtual tasting on National Zinfandel Day November 15th at 3 pm PST. The virtual tasting will be presented LIVE on Lodi’s Facebook page with wine grower Keven Phillips of Michael-David Vineyards, owner and winemaker Kyle Lerner of Harney Lane Winery and Stuart Spencer winemaker of St. Amant Winery and the program director of the Lodi Winegrape Commission.

In anticipation of this event, Sue and I opened two high end Old Vine Zinfandel Continue reading