Oh Lord, stuck in Lodi again

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   Just about a year ago I set out on the road Seekin’ my fame and fortune Lookin’ for a pot of gold Thing got bad and things got worse I guess you know the tune Oh Lord, stuck in Lodi again Credence Clearwater Revival made the song, and the town, famous in 1969.  At the time, the small town of Lodi was a bit of backwater, located somewhere between Stockton and Sacramento, and was a thriving farming community. Fast forward 50 years, and it is still a thriving farming community, but today, most of the agricultural pursuits center around wine.  In the 70s and 80s, and to some extent today, large production facilitates that focused on both bulk wine and zinfandel made the wine of the region famous.  Lodi is still the self-proclaimed capital of Zinfandel, and over 40% of premium Zin from California is produced here. In addition to a strong heritage of Zinfandel, Lodi has also been home to many other varietals. With the 4th and 5th generation wine families, you can find Iberian, Rhone, Austrian and German grape varietals all thriving. This year, the annual Wine Bloggers Conference is headed to Lodi in August.  Ahead of the storm, I was invited by the Lodi Wine Commission to a whirlwind tour of Lodi – focusing on “anything but zin” – my specific request to showcase the lesser known grapes that thrive in this region. A short 90 minute (just don’t leave at rush hour!) drive from the Bay Area, Lodi is a hidden goldmine of delicious and living history.  One such vineyard is Mokelumne Glen Vineyard, which specializes in German and Austrian varietals. With strong ties to Germany, the Koth family has over 40 varietals of both obscure and more common grapes planted here, in a hidden spot where the river dips and a natural “glen” is formed. Originally planted to Zinfandel vines, as so much of Lodi was, Bob Koth (right) had a natural curiosity about viticulture and started researching what other grapes would do well there.  Today, that has culminated in the German Collection Vineyard, an experimental block next to their house, where 35 of the 41 varietals are planted.  With just a row or two of most, it is a true experimental vineyard.  If you’re lucky enough to get a bit of this fruit, it is true gold. After touring the property, we went in to town and sat down for lunch at Pietro’s, where we tasted some lovely wines from Bob’s fruit. Sidebar Kerner – This aromatic white is a cross between Trollinger and Riesling, and is common in Germany, but unsual outside oft hat region.  This was a nice refreshing white, with a medium body and delicious saline and mineral finish, with rich apricot notes. Markus Wine Co Nativo white blend – The Markus Wine Company is a coop between winemaker Markus Niggli and Borra vineyards, where Swiss born Niggli can play a bit with styles and structure.  The Nativo is a fresh and fun […]

They are so charming!

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You know the scene:  You’re at a party, enjoying a lovely glass of wine, when you set your glass down and walk away.  Five minutes later you come back to find that your glass has magically dissipated! How do you prevent glass thievery from occurring?  Well, there are pens.  There are charms.  There are stickers.  Personally, I’ve always been a fan of wine charms, as they can be handmade, or come in unique configurations. I have made my own from both beads, baubles, and Shirnky Dinks.  So when Shannon from the Bohemian Trading Post contacted me about her products, I was excited to have the chance to check them out. These are not your average wine charm!  The heavy weight and quarter sized charms are easy to read, and hard to miss, and come in a variety of silly, sexy, retro, or snarky pictures and slogans.  For $17.99, you get four charms, and there are several sets to choose from.   Having a girls night in?  Check out the Snarky Women!  I Drink Because You’re Boring, I’m too sober for this, and Dinner is poured are perfect for any coffee klatch.  Scary movie night?  Get the Retro Creep Show set! I love these, and recommend these hand made, quirky, fun charms for your Mother’s Day, Graduation (college, please!) and other Spring gifting. There are seasonal specializes as well, so check back from fun holiday items like 4th of July and Holiday! With dozen of other products, from hair barrettes to rings and other jewelry, Bohemian Trading Post was founded on creative and quality.  I’d say they hit the mark with these charms, and I look forward to collecting more.  I love accessories that are functional, pretty, and  unique, and BTP fits the bill. Check out their website! Thank you Sharon for creating a special set just for me!     

Rocking the Rhônes!

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As a wine writer, one of the most exciting things is to taste wines from producers that  am unfamiliar with, and that I have no bias or previous information for.  Coming to a wine with a fresh perspective gives me to ability to focus on what I taste, and feel, vs what I remember or think I should expect. Enter Domaine Montirius.  This small, family run vineyard is a relatively recent entry in to the Rhône; founded 26 years ago by Eric and Christine Saurel, it is now a true family business.  Certified bio-dynamic since 1999, the Saurels are dedicated to pursuing balance in the vineyard, and in the wines, and to find the perfect expression of the land in those wines. In the practice of biodynamics, it’s important to “observe, feel, listen to and taste, repeatedly, and to act on different clues in the environment.  The idiosyncrasies of Mother Nature create a natural rhythm to the winemaking process. The 2011 Montirius Mineral Vacqueyras is an unusual blend of 50% Bouboulenc, 25% Grenache Blanc, and 25% Roussane.  You might be wondering about Bouboulenc, as its one of the more obscure white Rhône varietals.  It’s a hearty grape, and tends to resist weather and pests, but s a forgotten variety for the most part until the Surels re-planted it in 1994.  A late ripener, it requires patience and tenderness, but yields a minerality and brightness. The grapes were hand harvested and fermented whole cluster.  Aged without oak, there is a texturally intense fresh white wine. Strong notes of ginger and grapefruit peel, with tropical mango and green apple to follow. The palate is reminiscent of a baked apple, with the spice cabinet making a bold appearance. This wine is perfect for meatier fish, chicken, and even pork. When I first tasted this wine, I anticipated the retail at $35+.  Even at that price, I think there is excellent QPR.  However, I was pleasantly surprised to learn it is only $22!  This is a wine to run out and stock up on, as it will certainly be my summer sipper as we slip in to warmer weather. Thank you to the Teuwen Communications team for helpng me find the undiscovered and unusual Rhône Valley wines!  

Once Upon a Time in Texas

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There was a time, not so long ago, that when someone mentioned Texas, I would cringe and shrink back in horror.  While it is true that I have some very good friends that live there, I had not experienced the best parts of the state in my travels, and wasn’t inclined to jump at the chance. Enter an opportunity for a girls weekend.  Instead of going to the dreaded humidity and heat of Houston, or the craziness of Dallas, we all decided that Austin would be a great place to visit.  Luckily for us, we had mutual friends that lived there, so we could make an adventure out of it. As luck would have it, my friend and fellow writer Melanie was able to work with the Omni Barton Creek Resort in Austin to put together a showstopper preview of thier upcoming Wine & Food Event program.  This program, which will kick off this spring and run through the year, will showcase a wine region or winemaker, while also highlighting the unique foods and ingredients from Austin. Upon arrival, we got a sneak peek at the opulence of the weekend with our in-room welcome: At the Omni’s 8212 Wine Bar & Grill, Executive Chef André Natera developed a custom tasting menu to go with our wine tasting experience, which kicked off their Wine & Food Program for the year.  Focusing on fresh, seasonal ingredients our taste buds were delighted. First Course:  Potato & chive chowder, with steamed clams and smoked bacon.  Paired with the bright and interesting Zocker Gruner Veltliner, with creamy lemon and bright white floral notes, this medium body and bright acid wine cuts through the creaminess and delivers a pop to the senses. Second Course: Seared Branzino fish, with braised artichokes.  Paired with an Oregon riesling, you can’t go wrong here.  The Lemelson Dry Riesling from the Yamhill-Carlton District is fresh, full of stone fruit and Asian pears, with lycgee notes.  A hint of tell tale petrol shows through with a beautiful finish of Keffir lime. Third Course:  Tortellini and mushrooms with smoked & pickled mushrooms and Parmesan truffle butter.  Oh la la!  A party for the palate, the Li Veli Susameniello was a delight.  One of the obscure grapes from teh heel of Italy’s boot, it is a close cousin to the more common Sangiovese.  The spicy, berry driven palate was ripe with dried flowers and old saddle leather, pipe tobacco and anise.  A delicious match! Fourth Course:  Aged New York Strip soup vide with a truffled demi glace and potato butter puree, paired with the southern Rhone Perrin Vinsobres Les Comunds.  Classically Rhone, this tannic cherry cider was full of dried herbs and cracked pepper as well as dried rose petals.  The opulance was the perfect match for the richness of the beef. Our experience at the Omni Barton Creek was world class, and the dining experience was exceptional.  I highly recommend that you check out the Wine & Dine Program, which continues through the fall special pairing events. From Italy to Texas […]