Chinon: The Lady of the Lake

Chinon might well be best known for it’s Chateau, and it’s central role in Joan of Arc’s story.  But in this case, Chinon is known for it’s Cabernet Franc, and it’s other wines.


Chinon is located in the region of Touraine, which is located in the central Loire Valley, in northwestern France.  Chinon is especially known for it’s Cabernet Franc, although up to 10% of Cabernet Sauvignon can be blended in.  There is also some Chenin Blanc planted in the region.  Cabernet Franc from Chinon is quite varied and can be bold and grippy, or light and minerally, but both aqre quite affordable and great alternatves to some of the more expensvie regions in France.

2012 Domaine de noiré soif de tendresse chinon – $16.00

When I first opened this, it was very dusty, closed and full force potpourri.  But now, after an hour, it’s coming around to lusciousness.  On the nose, violets, rosepetals and grassy notes.  The palate opens up to reveal a medium bodied grippy red with prune, cherry, wild strawberry, coffee, and smoke notes.



2011 Les pensees de Pallus – $20

Smokey with perfume notes, pencil lead, and bright raspberreis, the peppery notes open up to sour cherry, blackberry, and chewy stewed meat


School Daze – Further Adventures in Wine

Society of Wine educators logoAs you may have read, here on le blog, last fall I was studying for my CSW certification (Certified Specialist of Wine) through SF Wine School.  Recently, I learned that I didn’t make the cut; unsurprisingly, with only 65% of first time test takers passing, I narrowly missed my pass rate.  After my initial fury at myself for missing 9 itty questions for the required 75% passing rate, I realized that this was a great learning experience, and an opportunity for me to share what I learned here.

Studying your passion isn’t always easy.  It can turn in to a job, which, in my personal opinion, makes passion die.  A little of my passion did indeed die, as I was struggling to understand some regions that I was ill equipped to understand properly, along with work obligations, and family life.  Yep, didn’t I say it was my own fault?  I lost focus.  But I’m back!  And I’m going to share my week by week re-examination of the material as I follow along with the official Certified Wine Educators online prep course.10580071_10152495237266482_5417861720379461881_n

My downfall?  By far, Germany.  Perhaps if I put some Falco on in the background, along with Nena and The Scorpions, the Pradikat levels will soak in to my brain more thoroughly.  Rock me Amadeus in the Rhine with the Riesling!

While some weeks (namely the chemistry portion) aren’t as fascinating, there is a wine tasting component that is going to not only be really interesting and eye opening, but also help me drill in my head where each region is and what it’s terroir is.  I will be the first one to admit, 5 years ago, I was not convinced that French wine was going to be my new love; but here I am, enthralled with Burgundy and the Rhone, and enamored of Languedoc and the Loire.

So here goes:  Week 1:  Wine Composition & Wine Faults


I won’t bore you with the details of the winemaking process (unless you really want to know…) but the pairing is Chinon, red Chinon.  This Cabernet Franc based wine from the Touraine region of the Central Loire Valley (France) is one that I am less than familiar with, so I look forward to exploring it more, both on my own and with my study buddies.

Stay tuned on January 26th for my Chinon tasting exploration!

And in February, winemaking, sparkling wine, and then…yes, France!



Wine School: San Francisco Wine School’s CWAS

I admit it, I generally liked school.  Not the horrible teenage years of angst of course, but the education part; the learning.  The reading.  The opening of doors in my  mind.  Part of the reason I started this blog was for my own education, as well as the education of my readers, about wine, food, and travel.  I long to explore regions I don’t know, I want to find out more about varietals that are obscure.  I drink for charity, I drink for education.


To that end, I was thrilled when I was invited to participate in the San Francisco Wine School‘s inaugural California Wine Appellation Specialist (CWAS) 3-day intensive program on a blogger scholarship.  A whole class about California Appellation?  I got this!  Or so I thought.
The three rainy days I spent in the Hyatt in Santa Rosa were the most intense I’ve had since I took Statistical Analysis for Research over the summer in college.  Yes, I know, I enjoy torture.  This three day intensive delves into the intricacies of California’s wine and wine regions, and examines their impact on the world of wine.
When I walked in to the room of wine professionals, somms, and other industry members, I knew I had a good baseline knowledge of California wine.  At least I thought I did.  As we moved through the state, starting each morning with a taste of sparkling wine from the focal region of that day, SF Wine School’s founder, David Glancy MS, CWE, took us through his cutting edge program.

The packed agenda condenses a 9 week course in to a three day weekend, providing total immersion and slamming our brains full of little known AVAs and factoids that are important for those seeing a CWE credential.  Included in our education was a guided tasting of 60 wines, review of detailed wine laws related to California, the importance of the state in the wine world, and so much more.

Specifically, as we looked through Mendocino County, Napa Valley, Sonoma County, Santa Cruz, San Francisco Bay, the Delta, Lake County, the Sierra Foothills, Monterey and San Benito, Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and beyond, we learned about the smallest AVA, the largest AVA, the largest undivided AVA, and what wines are produced where.

Phew!  That’s a weekend full!  I’m proud to say, that after a month of studying things that i never thought I’d want to know (hey, how many AVAs are there in LA county people?) I earned my California Wine Appellation Specialist credential with honors – missing only three pesky questions on the 100 question exam.

I highly recommend this class to any blogger, educator, or wine industry professional who wants to further their career and knowledge of California.  The instructors are experts in their field, as well as instructional material, as well as entertaining and personable.  This is an excellent first stop to the CSW (Certified Specialist of Wine) credential, which I intend to pursue, and on to the CWE (Certified Wine Educator) credential.  This 3 day class is returning April 26-28, and I suggest you run, don’t walk to sign up.

The school itself has provided world class wine education and professional development since 2011 and offers a wide variety of courses to suit your wine education needs.  With a unique online model in conjunction with in person classes, there is something for everyone.

Lessons on being a better blogger…writer…or whatever

Wine:  The final frontier

These are the voyages of the Wine Brat, Thea.
Its 5 year mission (yep, it’s true.  I’ve been blogging for five years!)
To explore strange new wines
To seek out new bottles and new producers
To boldly go where no wine blogger has gone before.

These are the voyages of a wine bloggers writer and lover, trying to discover more about herself and her passion for the grape.

Recently back from a weekend in Virginia at the Wine Bloggers Conference, where both New York Times wine critfc Eric Asimov and London Financial Times wine writer Jancis Robinson gave a key note speeches, my thoughts are jumbled and varied as I think about how to be a better blogger.

Both Jancis Robinson and Eric Asimov challenge the word, and somewhat the concept – of blogger.  Is "blogger" still really a valid term?  Bloggers are wine writers who chose to publish on line.  Traditional print media authors choose to publish on paper.  Writing is what brings us all together, today.  Love, true love (of the vine).  I am still getting used to this idea.  I am a proud blogger and I like to refer to myself that way, because if I call myself a wine writer, the mass public naturally assumes that I write for a publication.  Perhaps we should be called "online wine writers".

As wine writers, Jancis challenged us to do more investigative research before we blog.  Er write.  While the core value of this makes sense, I question the validity of her challenge; I am not a journalist, nor do i wish to be one.  While the most successful wine bloggers (not in terms of making money but in readership) have similar core writing styles, none of them assume or claim to be journalists.  Nor do I.  I try to be accurate and truthful in my writing, but in the end – my blog is just my blog, and musings of what I feel like talking about.  one of the major reasons that I decided not to pursue writing with an online wine magazine was because I didn’t want to be subject to the editorial rules that come with being a professional writer.  I write this blog so I can express my  thoughts in a meaningful way, and I hope that you enjoy reading it, and share with others.

One vital point that Jancis made during her speech was that writers, print or otherwise, need to sit up and take notice that while the book is not dead, the delivery method of the written word is changing.  Online, kindle, ebook readers, print, newspapers, magazine.  Essentially, they are all the same thing – but the delivery method is different.  I have an ipad, but most of my books are just that – books.  That said, the Kindle / iPad / Nook market allows you to give readers the option of how they will choose to accept delivery of your material.  I read blogs primary via an RSS reader.  Some people read blogs via the web or on their phone.  The point here, is that you must make your material available and readable for all sorts of platforms, as well as an international audience.  Don’t localize too much or you are putting yourself in a box; I write primarily about American wines, but just one click on Google Analytics, and I know that I have international readers.  The balance is maintaining my wit and style, while limiting colloquialism that would be lost on an international readership.

A key point that both Robinson and Asimov were keen to make is that if you are an online writer, you are also your own editor and publisher, and you need to understand what this means.  My task is to digest these nuggets with a blogger’s mindset, and interpreted to suit your needs.  Jancis further implored us, as wine writers in an online world, to hone our writing skills.  I work at this every day and in every post; but there are, sadly, too many blogs that use poor grammar or just don’t make sense.  If you are a blogger online wine writer, you should ensure that you are taking the time to digest your thoughts, and work & rework your written words.  Writers of all sorts go through multiple iterations before their words are put to print.  I think we should do the same.  Posting things that are not well thought out just add ot the misconception that bloggers online wine writers are hacks that don’t know what they are talking about.  While I don’t think I need an editor to write a blog, I DO think I need to self edit – even if it’s at the most basic level of spelling.  I believe I need to understand how to structure a sentence so that it makes sense and expresses my thought coherently; I also believe that to write a piece for a n audience that won’t hear my inflection and comedic wit, that i need to think about how it looks on the page, and not how I sound when I say it out loud.

Occasionally, writers suffer from a thought block or an uninspired lull.  I am not immune to this but I have found that reading other blogs and using tools like Creative Whack Packs can help blast me out of lull.  Another key trait of a good writer is admitting that you don’t know something.  I hope that you see that in my writing; I don’t know a lot of things, and I’d rather admit that, than make something up.  There shouldn’t be any fear in admitting the unknown.  One of the keys in being to be open an honest in this is fostering a community, both of readers, and other writers, who you can uses as a resource.  Encourage new readers to be engaged.  Wine can be a scary subject for someone just starting to enjoy it, and when you get too esoterica and off on tangents, you will alienate some readers.

The following day, Eric Asimov, author of the New York Times column formerly known as The Pour (now incorporated in the Diner’s Journal), shook up the room my telling us that we shouldn’t write tasting notes.  I emphatically disagree with this statement -0 and even though I think it was really meant rather flippantly, I think many in attendance are taking it too literally.  I am spinning this with my bloggers mindset, and ensuring that my tasting notes have a place within the story of the wine at the focus of the post.  We are, after all, wine bloggers (wine writers wine writers wine writers.  I will get this down eventually!).  To not write a wine review or tasting note for a year, if I take Asimov at his word, would cut out a large amount of wine blogs who are talking about the wine.

In fact, in a simple poll that I did on Facebook, I asked my blog readers if I should write more reviews, less reviews, or something entirely different.  While the majority of respondents said they wanted me to write more about the winery, location, or the STORY, they also indicated that they wanted the tasting notes in context.  So, for my part, I will try to make sure I write about why I like or dislike a wine, what emotions it evokes in me, and why I think you should try it, and try to stay away from triple berry crunch descriptors.  After all, my schnozzberry might be your razzleberry.

The key takeaway I have from Eric’s speech (which I might add, I read on twitter, and watched online after the event – since I was suffering the creeping crud at the time) is that in order to write about wine, you need to learn about wine.  Tasting wine is not enough.  You need to experience wine.  How do you do that? You drink a lot of wine, you explore wine, you read about wine, you learn about wine, you experiment with pairing wine with food.  Why this is important is that it can give you the perspective to be able to think about situations in a new light.  I knew, before going to Virginia, that the VA wines that I had tasted were probably not the best examples of what the state has to offer.  I didn’t like VA wine.  But, I went to VA with an open mind.  I decided, before I went, that I was going to taste VA wines and yes, they might suck, but, then again – they might not.  And, I’m happy to report, I was pleasantly surprised by some of the wines I tried.  This changed my pre-concived notion about wines from the area, and I’m more apt to try a wine from someone off beat as a result.

So go forth, and learn.  I am my own worst critic and I often question if I write well, or if I know anything about wine, so I am ever striving to learn more and do better.  The secret to success in most things is to be on a continuous journey of education.  I know what I like, and I chose to write about that because that’s what I know.  The unconformable challenge, is to learn about what I don’t know, and to share that journey with you.

Wine blogging has evolved.  Even if you write your blog out of passion, as I do, writing with professionalism and knowledge is key to being heard.  That doesn’t mean your blog shouldn’t express your voice, but it does mean:

  • Learn your subject matter
  • Dive in to your material, and don’t be afraid to dig deeper
  • Be honest
  • Ask questions
  • Be inquisitive
  • Be welcoming and gracious

Happy reading!