Shaking Hands Through A Glass: Reflections on 2022

 

I was sick, sick, sick all of fall of 2022.  At least that’s what it seemed like. After almost three COVID years of avoiding people and wearing masks, it’s as if this cold and flu season has hit us with a vengeance. There’s even a name for it: “immunity debt.” Honestly, I’m still coughing, which is hard because I am typically a robust, healthy, strong, active, and fit person. Like just about everyone else, I hate being sick. It’s annoying. It’s exhausting. I want to get on with my life. 

Worse, when I’m sick, usually wine tastes bad. Coffee too, but that’s not a problem for someone who writes about wine as often as I do. 

If I had suspected that a delightful wine one day would taste terrible the next, that the treasured bottle of Ridge Geyserville I opened to write about on Tuesday would smell like rubbing alcohol and taste sour a day or two later, I would not have opened it to write about it. Not the Ridge or the organic Seven Oxen zin from Paso Robles or the biodynamic practicing zin from Chateau Davell in El Dorado County. That’s right, the entire line up of Zinfandel that was so wonderful one day tasted terrible the following days. 

5 CA zinfandel with vegducken

But this didn’t stop me from writing about those zins (read that article here about the wines pictured above). Even sick, wine takes me to a treasured time and a place in my life.

For example, Zinfandel brings me back to how I got into wine, how I came to work at the outdoor tasting table at Ridge Vineyards up Montebello Road in the Santa Cruz Mountains, reminding me of those Saturdays driving the winding lane high above the San Francisco Bay fog. 

A bottle of wine connects me with people too, people like my boss at Stanford, a man who laughed when he interviewed me and I said I needed to come in late on Saturdays because of my other job. 

“And what job is more important than this job?” he demanded.

“It’s at a winery,” I answered meekly. 

“Winery? What winery?” he wanted to know.

I had nothing to lose at this point. I loved the winery job and didn’t want to give it up, even though I really needed the one at Stanford. “Ridge?” I answered. 

“Ridge? Ridge Vineyards? Well, then if it’s Ridge, of course!” He leaned forward conspiratorially, confiding, “I’m a wine club member!” He proceeded to go on and on about Ridge. “If Ridge wants to hire you, so do I!”

And that’s how I came to work at the tasting room at Ridge on Saturdays, and then to drive to Stanford Hospital where I worked in patient transport, pushing people around all night. 

It’s said wine allows us to shake hands with a farmer.

Wine also allows us to shake hands with each other, crossing divides to make connections –-  political, cultural, geographical.

Through a shared bottle of wine, often with a clink of a glass, we can talk with anyone on the planet. Through wine we share an experience, a specific physical manifestation of a time and a place, I recall lessons I learned in the vineyards and wineries of Portugal, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, France, California, and this year, in Italy and in Baja California. 

Wine tells a story that transcends language.

Pour a glass; have a listen. Just be forewarned it might not taste as good when you’re sick!

So who did I listen to in 2022? Who did I shake hands with via a glass? 

My writing partner Sue Hill 2022 Top 10 List is all about listening to the wine and food pairings (read her 2022 favorites here). Read our Best of 2020 in our 20 to try in 2021. 

What I cherish most are the experiences meeting people in wine in person in the vineyard or the cellar or by phone: the experiences with people and place mean more to me than the experiences of the wines themselves no matter how lovely they may be. 

In Summer and Fall of 2022, I had quite a few such opportunities:

  • I worked with Slow Wine Guide as a field representative, and I visited or met with by phone, and tasted the wine of almost two dozen wineries and wrote about most of them for SWG;
  • I traveled to Italy where I attended Terra Madre, attended and spoke at the Wine Media Conference, and I went on several media excursions tasting and visiting a dozen or so wineries in Lugana, Valtellina, and Trento;
  • I attended OIV in Baja California, Mexico, tasting wines from all over Mexico, and I visit several wineries in the Valle de Gaudelupe. 

Many of these stories have yet to make it on to the page (other than the brief notes for the next edition of SWG), or be published here on Wine Predator as one of the 108 published articles in over 140k words I produced in 2022 — about the same number of words for two novels!

Because in addition to being sick in one way or another for most of the previous four months, in June 2022 my life shifted unexpectedly, and I have been trying to catch up ever since:

  • My VW van transmission went out in early June which made my commitment to assist Valerie Mallory with her Burning Man honorarium art installation a complicated disaster because the van wasn’t fixed in early August as expected but in September which meant I had to figure out an alternative vehicle to get myself out there as well as our shelter and kitchen…
  • In late June the car I drive was hit, and in August it was determined to be totaled, and so we had to go car shopping because also unexpectedly our son got a job in Reno and took our only functioning car because the van was still out of commission…
  • About mid-June I learned I had an almost full time college teaching assignment for fall semester changing my wine travel plans, and then in early August I learned I had to complete a 40 hour course on the same day my Slow Wine Guide materials were due AND I was supposed to be at Burning Man to help Valerie… 

I shake my head in wonder at all that happened during that time in 2023 in addition to writing for Wine Predator! 

In thinking about which posts are in my Top 10 for 2022, I thought I’d review what readers read the most; below are the Top 3 most viewed in 2022. The second most viewed in 2022 is also the most viewed post of all time. 

Of 1262 total posts now on Wine Predator, here are the Top 3 Most Viewed in 2022–

  1. Although I actually think they are looking for this post, “And the winner is: Luxembourg wins World Wine Tasting aka Championnat du monde de dégustation 2022, from Oct 2021, in first as most read and in twelfth for all time is: “Who Won 2021 World Wine Tasting Championship, Who Competed for Team USA, and A Lawsuit”

  2. From July 2019, coming in as the second most read in 2022 and as the number one  most popular post of all time: “5 Wines from Spain Paired With Paella: Red, White, Cava, Rosado?”

  3. From October 2016, this post about Jura came in third for 2022, and sixth for all time: Exploring Flavors of Jura Food and Wine — Vin Jaune, Trousseau — with #Winophiles

The Top 5 Most Viewed in 2022 Written in 2022:

  1. From January 2022, in first place is this article which discusses the 2022 Slow Wine Guide tour, the Guide itself, and a number of the wineries I wrote about: 2022 Slow Wine Tour Showcases Italy, CA, OR, WA, NY Wines in 5 US Cities

  2. From July 2022, this second place articles discusses the 2022 Burning Man honorarium project I was involved with: “Burning Man 2022: Waking Dreams, Secretly Abandoned Spaces, Minstrel Cramps, and a Fox in the Hen House #WorldWineTravel”

  3. From October 2022, written in Lombardy, Italy as they were making the announcement not long after I led a panel on Slow Wine and Slow Food, in the third place is: And the Wine Media Conference in 2023 will be held…

  4. From April 2022, “An Invitation to US Slow Wine + Slow Food and A Visit To Snail Winner Santa Barbara County’s Biodynamic Beckmen Vineyards #WinePW” comes in fourth.

  5. From April 2022, Why Organic Famiglia Febo Deserves to be in Slow Wine Guide Italy #ItalianFWT made the list in fifth place.

This shows quite a range of topics and places that you readers and subscribers are interested in!

So what were some of MY favorite articles from 2022? 

  1. My Number One is this article sharing this amazing news paired with an exceptional bottle of Champagne and a delicious spot prawn salad: I Won the 2022 Jancis Robinson Wine Writing Contest! Celebrating with Champagne Henriot 2012. It was such an honor to be selected and I’m thrilled to be mentored by these esteemed writers!

    In chronological order, here’s the rest of my Top 12 from 2022:

  2. I can’t choose between these two Italian women wine leader so here they both: Vigna Petrussa’s Slow Wines Plus More To Try: #ItalianFWT Preview  and La Maliosa Saturnia Biodynamic Natural Wine: Red, White Native Grapes Paired with Pizza #ItalianFWT

  3. In March, I wrote about Ventura County Women in Wine for the VC Reporter, but there was a lot more to say than could fit in the article, so I told the complete story here plus linked to the VCR article: Ventura County’s Bud Break and Women in Wine

  4. In April, we wrote about one of our favorite Santa Barbara wineries, biodynamic Beckmen, based on our visit and interview with Steve Beckmen in 2021: An Invitation to US Slow Wine + Slow Food and A Visit To Snail Winner Santa Barbara County’s Biodynamic Beckmen Vineyards #WinePW

  5. From May, Sue and I both chose this post as a favorite from 2022: May #WinePW Preview Features A Journey to Slow Wine Guide Wineries Plus 9 Wines With Pairings

  6. Biodynamic Troon in Oregon is one of our favorite wineries, and I have an interview with Craig Camp to share one day soon. In the meantime, check out: So Oregon’s Biodynamic Troon Vineyards FIZZante and Vermentino Pairs with Pizza, Salad #WinePW

  7. In February 2019, I met Sheila Donohue at the Vinitaly Ambassador Course in Los Angeles. I learned she was moving to Ventura where I live, and starting a business there to import and distribute wines, specializing in indigenous grapes produced sustainably by families. I’ve had the privilege of tasting many wines that have never or rarely been in the US,a dn writing about them both for VeroVino, and here on the blog. Check out this June 2022 example: Albana, Boschera,  Erbaluce, Incrocio Bruni, Maceratino: Rare Italian White Grapes Plus Pairings #ItalianFWT

  8. In June 2022, I published this article which includes links to two articles and interviews I did for VeroVino, one with a winemaker and the other with a cork farmer: Alentejo Summer: Join A Harvest Cork Conversation and Enjoy These White Wines + Pairings

  9. September 2022, Wine 101: Slow Wine Guide Wineries in Santa Barbara AVAs from Sta Rita Hills to Ballard Canyon and Beyond #WinePW

  10. Pinor Noir from my favorite place, and you’ll see why in this article from August 2022: Celebrating Organic Pinot Noir from Sta Rita Hills: Au Bon Climat, J. Dirt, The Ojai Vineyard, Sea Smoke

  11. Great visit and interview with the winemaker in this August 2022 article: A Summer Harvest and A Visit to Santa Ynez Valley’s Beautiful Biodynamic Demetria #WinePW

  12. From November, the article about Zinfandel and how I got my start in wine at Ridge, plus wow, what a meal: A Vegetarian Feast For The Holidays: “Vegducken” + 5 CA Zins + gratitude for my Zin origins #WinePW

  13. BONUS for a BAKER’S DOZEN! From December 2022, even though I didn’t have a chance to include many details from my visit, here’s: Intriguing Italian Alpine Wine and Cheese: Foradori Bio Teroldego Paired with Their Tyrolean Grey Cow Cheese and Taleggio Mushroom Risotto #ItalianFWT

photo from Antonella Manuli of La Maliossa

So what’s up for 2023? 

My goal for the past six or so years has been to publish 108 articles a year that offer quality and substance, averaging over 1200 words each. 108 is considered an auspicious and sacred number as well as a number that shows up repeatedly in the natural world. It also means that if my goal is 108, then I’m publishing roughly two articles a week for 52 weeks or nine per month. I’ve accomplished this goal this year with 108 posts averaging 1300 words and totaling 140k words.  Having written 700 posts in 6 years, and averaging over 1400 words, I’ve done really well toward that goal. 

However, next year I anticipate taking a step back from the blog. While I’d still like to publish 108 articles, they may not all be here on Wine Predator. It is also unlikely I will be returning to Slow Wine Guide, which I found to be very rewarding but also very time consuming. In 2022, I also didn’t return to the US Wine Team because I just didn’t have time for it.

Stepping back a bit from writing on Wine Predator will allow me to work on deepening my writing with the team at Jancis Robinson which will be mentoring me in 2023 as part of my award for winning the 2023 Wine Writing Contest, and where I will be publishing two articles (and hopefully more!) 

I plan to do more writing for Edible Magazine, I have several freelance commissions in process,  I’ve got some pitches out with other magazines, and I may do more writing for the VC Reporter and Ventana. 

I love working at Clos des Amis in the vineyard and the cellar, but I just didn’t have enough time to help much in 2022. Hopefully that will change in 2023 with pruning as soon as the roads dry up enough to get into the vineyards! Read about a year in Ventura County the vineyards and the Clos des Amis cellar from 2021 here.

As the pandemic interrupted my WSET 3 in-person course with Napa Valley Wine Academy, I want to dedicate time in 2023 to completing the course as well as attending online and in-person educational events and tastings in Los Angeles and beyond.

And I want to get back to writing fiction, in particular, revising my novel based on my experiences hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in the mid 1980s. I’ve also started work on a novel that takes place in the 1960s. 

2023 will keep me busy with other projects as well:

  • I’m teaching at Ventura College this spring: I have two classes that run back to back from 830am-2pm on Mondays and Wednesdays from January 9 until mid-May. 
  • In April, I’m leading a DIY Mouthwash workshop at Lucidity Festival and I will be on a panel where I will share tips for tending dreams and writing about them.   
  • Valerie Mallory wants me on her Burning Man art installation team for 2023, culminating in a piece called “@Play!”
  • I will continue to hike and ski and camp and travel and have adventures! 

More than anything else, I hope to again travel to write about wine regions in the US and around the world!

In closing, I’m grateful to Sue Hill for all of her help in the kitchen and on the computer. I’m also grateful to my spouse Marshall Sheridan for his assistance with a little bit of everything from groceries to grilling to cleanup to putting up with a constant parade of wine bottles and glasses. In 2022, I was joined at the tasting table and in the kitchen by Gretel Compton and Kathy Talley as well as Sheila Donohue, and I’m grateful for their assistance. I also appreciate all of the work that Melanie Webber put into organizing our visits in Trento plus all the work that went into the press trips before and following the Wine Media Conference in Lombardy. Finally, I’m very grateful to all of the wineries and winemakers who entrusted me with their wines. 

Thank you for joining my journey on Wine Predator!

Happy New Year!

See you along the way in wine in 2023!

 

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