Learning More about CA’s Livermore: McGrail, Murrieta’s Well, Steven Kent

CA’s Livermore: McGrail, Murrieta’s Well, Steven Kent

Napa may be California’s most famous and best known wine region, but California’s commercial wine industry actually began elsewhere– in warm interior valleys like Cucamonga east of Los Angeles and Livermore east of Oakland in Alameda County. While the padres first planted grapes in the 1760s to make sacramental wine using the labor of enslaved native Americans, immigrants settling in California planted vines first for their own use, and then for commercial use. Robert Livermore in Livermore Valley led the way in the 1840s followed by pioneering winemakers like C. H. Wente, James Concannon, and Charles Wetmore who founded their wineries in the early 1880s.

Livermore Valley’s rare Continue reading

Cerasuolo from Organic Famiglia Febo and Biodynamic Lunaria with Abruzzo Inspired Saffron Mussels, Pecorino and Pasta #ItalianFWT

Cerasuolo from Organic Famiglia Febo and Biodynamic Lunaria with an Abruzzo Inspired Menu

Who wants to go to Abruzzo? Me! Famous for being “green” from the rivers that cut through from the mountains through the hills where the wine grows and down to the Adriatic Sea, Abruzzo has plenty to rave about from food featuring saffron to Montepulciano as a red wine or rose.  I’m headed to Abruzzo then Veneto in June after a quick stop in Rome just in time for “Republic Day aka “Festa della Repubblica” which celebrates the day that Italians voted to decide in 1947 NOT to follow a monarchy but to become a republic after the devastation of World War 2. Continue reading

Protect Earth with Chile’s Biodynamic Matetic EQ Sauvignon Blanc Paired with Chimichurri Blackened Halibut #WorldWineTravel

2020 Matetic Vineyards EQ Coastal Sauvignon Blanc with local halibut and chimichurri

In 2023, we celebrate the 53rd anniversary of Earth Day– when the people of Earth first came together to officially recognize the gifts of the planet we call home, and marks the birth of the modern environmental movement. Over the past 50 years, we’ve made a lot of progress to protect out planet from pollution and resource extraction. Land is being protected, and rewilding efforts have returned animals to their homes, restoring ecosystems from soils to the skies. Organic produce and other products are easier to find– including in wine, thanks to a few pioneers in conservation, permaculture, biodynamics, agroecology, and regenerative organic viticulture.

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On Italian Island Time: Vermentino and Cannonau di Sardegna with Peccorino and a Seafood Stew #ItalianFWT

seafood stew, Sardegna wine and cheese

While you can pair whatever food you want with your wine, we have learned time and time again that  “What grows together goes together.” Some foods just make some wines so much better. Just as you can elevate a wine with food you carefully choose to pair it with, the right glass can make a decent wine better (and a great wine not so good, too!).  Continue reading

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

Santa Barbara County AVAs in order of addition: 1 = Santa Maria Valley; 2 = Sta Rita Hills; 3 = Ballard Canyon; 4 = Happy Canyon; 5 = Los Olivos District; 6 = Santa Ynez; 7 = Alisos Canyon; move your mouse onto the map to see the key

While most mountain ranges snake south to north paralleling the ocean, in California’s Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties, the Transverse Range is exactly that — crosswise, or perpendicular to the Pacific and running west to east. This anomaly is what makes Santa Barbara AVAs special: air off the cold Pacific Ocean rushes east, cooling inland valleys to make them habitable for vines, and closer to the coast, to provide a cool climate terroir that produces stellar Pinot Noir and Chardonnay as well as spectacular Syrah, gorgeous Grenache, and captivating Cabernet.

AVA stands for American Viticultural Areas, and indicates an appellation of origin, a specific region that offers unique or special characteristics. The US has 260 AVAs with over half of them (142) in California. Within an AVA, sub-AVAs further differentiate, and often particular grapes prevail.  Obtaining an AVA is complicated, complex, time consuming; only the truly devoted will succeed in proving the uniqueness of the terroir: geography, topography, climate, geology and more factors go into proving the distinctness of an area.

Why learn about AVAs? Knowing more about an AVA can help you find the wines you will love! Santa Barbara has 7 officially recognized AVAs: Santa Maria Valley AVA, Santa Ynez Valley AVA, Sta. Rita Hills AVA, Ballard Canyon AVA, Los Olivos District AVA, Happy Canyon AVA, and Alisos Canyon AVA.

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A Summer Harvest and A Visit to Santa Ynez Valley’s Beautiful Biodynamic Demetria #WinePW

3 biodynamic wines from Demetria with a farm basket of organic fruits and vegetables

Wine country around the world is wonderfully scenic. Santa Barbara County, known around the world for its beauty, proves the rule, even during a drought year making the state truly “golden.” We were reminded of this during recent visits to Santa Ynez Valley: from the drive along the Pacific, to the climb up from Santa Barbara over San Marcos pass, and down the other side toward Lake Cachuma, an eerily empty reservoir following a history making absence of rainfall in 2022. 

On any road trip, some times you go with the flow, sometimes you trust your gut. In 2021, when I asked Lisa Stoll of Explore Wines Tour company about wineries she would recommend I include in Slow Wine Guide, she suggested Demetria: practicing biodynamic, great wines, and a beautiful locale Continue reading

Chardonnay Blanc de Blanc: Ivaldi’s Andrea DOCG Alta Langa #ItalianFWT

Italy is a land full of fascinating and unusual grapes that are indigenous or autochthonous, meaning that they have been there for a long long time, if not forever or original, or adapted to that place so much as to be unique. Read more about this topic here with tasting notes and pairings for several very rare Italian wines. In fact, that is one of my favorite aspects of Italian wines: there are so many interesting grapes to discover! And I’ve been on quest at least once a month for over five years to learn more and write about the interesting indigenous grapes of Italy. 

So why bother with “international” grapes like Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, or Merlot grown and made into wine in Italy? Continue reading