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Category Archives: MWWC

Organic & Biodynamic Wines and the Environment – #MWWC36

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Sometimes procrastination pays off. As I was pondering the topic for this month’s Monthly Wine Writing Challenge, Environment, and trying to determine what I would write, the Keystone Pipeline leaked some 210,000 gallons of oil. That’s about 5,000 barrels! Regardless of your opinion on the pipeline, I think we can all agree that spilling crude oil is not a positive event for the environment.  

What does this have to do with wine? Nothing, really. However, it got me thinking about how we can continue to function in the modern, industrialized world while being good stewards of the environment in which we live. Therein lies the connection to wine.  

Monthly Wine Writing Challenge

Modern agricultural operations, including vineyards, incorporate the use of things like chemical fertilizers and genetically modified organisms. Opinions vary on these topics, often passionately, and I am not here to argue any particular viewpoint. I simply want to lay a foundation and present some facts. “Just the facts, ma’am.” 

Just the Facts Ma'am

The use of fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides have had positive effects on farming over the years, by increasing yields, and reducing damage done by insects and other pests. However, these same chemicals can leach into water tables or run off into nearby waterways, which can cause damage to desirable plants and animals, and contaminate  food and water supplies for human consumption. In recent years, many farmers have become more environmentally conscious, and are turning to natural or organic methods to control pests and increase yields.  

In viticulture, organic and biodynamic farming practices have taken root (pun intended 🙂) and are becoming more and more popular. Both methods are chemical-free, and emphasize soil health to ensure optimum growing conditions. Increasingly, consumers are seeking out organic or biodynamic wines, which encourages farmers and producers to consider these practices from both an environmental and a social responsibility perspective.  

Organic farming is regulated in the United States by the Department of Agriculture, or USDA. In vineyard management, certified organic grapes are grown without the use of any synthetic additives, such as pesticides or fertilizers. All aspects of winemaking are included in certified organic wines, including yeast strains, fining agents, and any other materials used in the production of the wine. In the wine world, organic wines may have various degrees. From certified organic wines, to those made with organic grapes but may include non-organic additives. Biodynamic wines are, by their nature, also considered organic, but are taken to a higher level. Any and all of these farming techniques reduce the amount of harmful chemicals being used and released into the environment. 
Organic Seal - small

When I first heard of Biodynamic farming, I was a little skeptical. Well, that’s a bit of an understatement…I thought it was just weird. Hippie-dippie stuff. I mean, come on, planting and harvesting based on the phases of the moon and stars? Burying cows’ horns filled with manure? Seriously? However, the more I’ve learned about biodynamic vineyard management, the more I become a believer. Or at least accepting.  

Biodynamic Horns

Biodynamic farming embraces the idea that all things are interconnected in the universe. It takes the “Butterfly Effect” to the ultimate extreme. Applying this belief involves achieving balance between the vines, earth, moon, and stars. In practice, this holistic approach to farming includes such activities as adhering to a biodynamic calendar for farming activities, and yes, burying manure-filled cows’ horns (never a bull’s horn, apparently) in the ground over the winter, and then spreading the manure in the vineyards in the spring. The biodynamic calendar identifies four categories of days: Root, Fruit, Flower, and Leaf days. Fruit days are the best for harvesting grapes. Root days are for pruning. Flower days are rest days for the vineyard. And Leaf days are for watering. Some even extend the biodynamic calendar to the finished product, by drinking these wines only on Flower or Fruit days. Those ardent followers believe this is the reason the same wine may taste differently on different days.  

Do organic or biodynamic wines taste better? I’ve never noticed a difference. But then again, I’ve never done a blind tasting, comparing organic, biodynamic, and conventional wines. Perhaps I’ll do just that, and share my findings in a future blog post!  

Whether organic and biodynamic wines are better quality or not, the practices employed in producing them are arguably better for the environment. In my opinion, anything I can do to be a better steward of the planet on which we live is worthwhile. After all, it’s the only environment we have.  

Have you tried organic or biodynamic wines? Let me know, in the comments, what you thought of them. 

Cheers!  

  • By Kent Reynolds
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The Faith to Believe – #MWWC31

Walk into your local wine shop, and you are faced with hundreds of different options and choices. Which wine is the right one for you? How will you know? Unless you buy the same wines all the time, you are about to drop your hard-earned cash on a bottle that you may or may not like. Why?

faithAllison, the OkieWineGirl, wrote an amazing piece for Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #30, and won the challenge. As all winners do, she had the honor of selecting the topic for #MWWC31. She chose: Faith.

Monthly Wine Writing Challenge

Boiled down to its essence, faith is simply placing trust in someone or something. Sometimes that trust is given based on past experiences. Other times, it is with no prior basis or evidence for believing in the person or thing. Often thought of as a religious tenet; faith actually occurs in all aspects of human life. For example, I have faith that the meteorologist got the weather forecast right for my outdoor picnic. I have faith that my boss will pay me for the work I have done. When I get in my car, I have faith that the other drivers around me will operate their vehicles safely. And when I head into that wine shop, I have faith that somebody along the supply chain, with good taste, has sampled the wine I’m about to buy, and enjoyed it enough to recommend it for sale. In other words, I trust others peoples’ decisions and recommendations, and on faith, I am willing to try that unknown bottle.

This faith, however, begins long before I walk into those hallowed wine shop halls. At some point, a farmer looked at a plot of ground and had faith that a particular grape variety would grow well there. That farmer invested faith and dollars in planting and cultivating the vines; a process that takes years before recognizing any dividend. Over those years, that farmer nursed and tended those vines as they grew and matured, not knowing whether his faith will be rewarded.

fallow-land

Next, a winemaker bought the farmer’s grapes, with the faith to believe that she could produce a wine that people will enjoy. In the same way that the farmer may rely on his farming skills, the winemaker may have a documented track record of skill in making quality wines. However, she needs faith to trust a new source or grape variety. She purchased the grapes, and on faith, started the winemaking process with them. Many factors beyond her control can conspire to foil the winemaker’s plans, and result in an unpopular wine. But she has faith to believe the outcome of her hard work will be successful.

grape-harvest

Once the wine was fermented, aged, and bottled, the winemaker presents it to her audience. At some point, this will include a representative from a distributor. This representative tastes the new wine, and likes it enough to recommend this new wine be added to the company’s portfolio. This, too, is an act of faith. Will consumers like the wine as much as the representative did? The distribution company itself has faith in the representative; that he knows and understands the trends and demands of what customers are looking for. Relying on that faith, the distributor buys pallets of the wine.

The next faith hurdle is the buyers from the myriad retail sellers. Our friendly distribution rep must introduce the wine to the buyers, who will taste it and decide whether they think their local consumers will appreciate it. Stocking an unpopular wine could result is substantial losses to the store. So the buyers must have faith to believe that their customers will enjoy and buy the wine. In the same way, once that wine hits the stores, the sales employees have to sell it. They must have faith in the buyers, and trust that they brought in a wine the local shoppers will like.

This brings us full circle to us; the wine consumer. If you are like me, you enjoy variety in your wine journey. When I walk into my local wine shop, eager to find something new and unusual – maybe even obscure – I have faith that the store associate knows the wines available in the store, and can provide reliable recommendations. Over time, I’ve learned which associates have similar tastes to mine, but even then we don’t always like the same things. Still, when I’m about to drop a portion my hard-earned paycheck (since my faith in my boss was not misplaced and he did pay me) on a new, unknown bottle, it is a leap of faith. Will I like it? Will I agree that it was worth the price? Will my dinner guests enjoy and appreciate it? So many variables exist that are out of my control, I simply must trust and exercise faith. Faith to believe.

wine-store

And finally, writing this blog post is an act of faith. I trust that people will read it (and if you are still reading all the way down here, I thank you most sincerely.) I trust that those of you who read this post will enjoy it; and that it may perhaps resonate with you. If it does, my faith will be rewarded.

Thanks for reading!

 

The Value in the Obscure – #MWWC30

Monthly Wine Writing Challenge

Obscure…O-B-S-C-U-R-E…I have never heard of the grape or the region from which this wine is made; they are both obscure. Obscure.

Having successfully completed the latest round in the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge Spelling Bee, let me just say that I am a big fan of the obscure. Although there is no conceivable way to taste all of the thousands of different grape varieties in my lifetime, I am committed to giving it my all, and taste as many as possible! Not too long ago, I learned about the Century Wine Club. Yes, it’s a thing! All you have to do to qualify for membership is taste at least 100 different grape varieties. After going through my wine log, I discovered that I was only a handful short, so I hastened to my local wine shop and stocked up on a few more obscure varietals and blends. Yes, blends count toward membership.century_club_seal

As you may have determined by now, this is my entry into the 30th Monthly Wine Writing Challenge, #MWWC30. Last month’s winner, Shez, The Epicurious Texan, had the honor of selecting the topic for the next Challenge. As luck would have it, she selected “Obscure.”

obscureRegular readers of my blog may know just how much I enjoy the pursuit of the obscure. My love of obscure not only includes grape varieties, but regions, too. I am even writing a series of blog posts on “Lesser Known AVA’s” which can be accessed from the tab on my menu. Sure, it’s small now, but wait till I get going! Whenever possible, I like to conduct my research live and in person. But that is perhaps a topic for another MWWC.

lesser-known-avas

Nevertheless, when Shez was kind enough to post a blog offering some guidance into what she had in mind with this topic, she specified that she is interested in reading about others’ favorite obscure wines and grape varieties. My only hesitation is in adhering to Shez’ suggestion that we select “that one varietal that they love…” Just one? As much as I tried, the best I could do was narrow it down to three. I hope that’s OK, Shez.

Many who are “into” wine might not find my first selection to be that “obscure”, but most people I know with limited wine knowledge have never heard of it. In fact, just the other day at lunch, a co-worker was looking over the wine list, and asked if any of us had ever tasted “Gree-natch.”

Grenache is a red grape, and is probably most famous as one of the trio of grapes that make of the classic Rhone blend GSM – Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre. (Another obscure grape!) It is also the main grape used in Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines, and is renowned as a major player in Rosé from Provence.  In addition to France, Grenache is also widely planted in the U.S., Australia, and Spain where it is known as Garnacha. One of the things I like about Grenache is its versatility. I have tasted Grenache wines ranging from light-bodied with mineral and gravel notes, to rich and full-bodied with juicy red and black fruit flavors. My favorite Grenache to date falls into the latter category.

navarro-grenache

Navarro Vineyards Grenache 2012 ($27.00 Retail)

Big, bold red. Blackberry, cassis, spice, and oak. Full bodied with firm, smooth tannins.

I’m not sure why I didn’t take more detailed tasting notes on this one. Maybe because it left such an indelible impression on my brain that I knew I would never, ever forget it!

My second obscure grape may be more familiar to those of you in the Great White North. While on my Quebec “work-cation” earlier this year, I came across Baco Noir, a hybrid grape originally developed to resist phylloxera while maintaining a French character. The grape is also quite hardy and can withstand the harsher weather and climate conditions found in cold regions like Canada. Unlike many native Canadian grapes, which display “foxy” aromas, Baco Noir is bold and fruity.

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Henry of Pelham Baco Noir 2014 ($16.40 CAD, approximately $11.35 USD Retail)

Fruit explosion! Deep violet in color. Aromas of blueberry and raspberry. Flavors burst with blueberry, blackberry, black currant, and cedar. Medium tannins, yet full-bodied, with zesty, tingling acidity. Best with food; the acidity can overpower without. The finish lingers with berry and spice.

Many of the reviews I read prior to purchasing this wine complained of its sweetness, which caused me no small amount of apprehension, since I do not prefer sweet wines. However, after tasting it, I discovered this is not a sweet wine. On the contrary, it is quite dry, but very fruit-forward which many people mistake as sweetness. My biggest disappointment is that I haven’t found anywhere here in Northern California where I can get my hands on more of this wine! If any of you dear readers know where I can find it locally, please let me know in the comments!

Finally, please let me introduce you to my friend, Vranac. Talk about obscure! I just checked, and Total Wine & More, the wine superstore, doesn’t list it on it’s website at all! Vranac is a black-skinned grape native to Montenegro. It is most commonly planted in Macedonia and Croatia. Lucky for me, an obscure winery nearby in the Sierra Foothills has also planted some Vranac vines, and produces this remarkable wine. Now that I mention it, I’m way overdue for a visit to Sierra Ridge Winery!

sierra-ridge-vranac

Sierra Ridge Winery Vranac 2008 (Hmm. I didn’t make note of the price when I bought it. I’m guessing in the $18-24 range.)

Deep purple color. Aromas and flavors of Blackberry, cherry, black pepper, and spice with notes of raisin. Medium bodied with soft, smooth tannins and a lingering finish.

One of the common denominators I have found in my exploration of obscure grapes and regions is…value! Since these wines are not widely known, they don’t demand such high prices as their more famous counterparts. Yet, these wines are equally as good, and in many cases (think mass-produced supermarket brands) they are far superior! I encourage you to stretch out of your comfort zone and seek out the obscure. I can promise you will find some amazing wines, and you might even save yourself a buck or two in the process!

Cheers!

 

My Winestory – #MWWC29

I can’t say exactly when I had my first taste of wine. As a child, Sunday dinner was a formal affair. We’d come home from church and change out of our “Sunday” clothes, only to dress again that evening for dinner. I clearly remember pot roast. Lots of pot roast. I also remember wine. My parents always served my sister and me a small glass of wine with Sunday dinner. I’m sure it was no more than an ounce or two. I assume that started around age 11 or 12. Mind you, this was wine from a jug, from one of the fine estates of E&J Gallo, Almaden, or Carlo Rossi, but wine it was.

Skip ahead a few years to junior high. In health class we studied a unit on alcohol, including a section on alcohol abuse and alcoholism. In one lesson, we took a quiz and to my shock, my parents’ drinking habits ticked almost all the boxes that indicate possible problems. Around this same time, I have vivid memories of my dad, passed out in his recliner after dinner. His normal habit after coming home from work was to toss back a couple of gin & tonics, then have a few glasses of wine with dinner. After dinner he’d retire to his recliner to watch TV, and within minutes, he was sawing logs. My sister and I laughed at it this first, but as I got older, it stopped being funny. One night, I tried to wake him up so he would go to bed, but I couldn’t, so I turned off the lights and went to my own bedroom to read.

I don’t know if my parents met the clinical definition of alcoholic, but with that kind of upbringing and exposure to excessive alcohol consumption, by high school, I had pretty much decided I was never going to let that happen to me. Whether alcohol abuse is an inherited genetic trait, or learned behavior (nature vs. nurture) I do not know. However, I do believe that children of alcoholics are much more likely to become alcoholics themselves. My sister is an example of this. She is a recovering alcoholic who, with the support of her AA friends and family, recently celebrated 18 years of sobriety!

So how, then, did I end up here? Not only drinking wine (and beer and liquor), but blogging about it? Glad you asked.

Monthly Wine Writing Challenge

John Taylor, author of Pairs With: Life, won #MWWC28, and his Major Award was to select the topic for #MWWC29. He chose: Winestory. An opportunity for us to share our personal stories about how we got here, and why in the world we decided to start writing a blog. Having sufficiently (I hope) set the stage, here is my

winestory

Like any other kid in living in a college dorm, despite my convictions, I occasionally succumbed to peer pressure. That’s when I first learned about the joys of the sweet elixir. I’m referring, of course, to White Zinfandel. In the early 80’s, this fine juice was in its heyday, and priced right for starving college students! It was everywhere! Kool-aid with a kick, and all the cool kids were drinking it. But I still wasn’t hooked.

In our early married years, my wife and I were pretty much teetotalers. st-innocentWe might have a glass of wine when we went out for a special occasion dinner, and would buy a bottle for home maybe twice a year. However, one fateful December when we were living in Oregon, we attended a company holiday party at St. Innocent Winery. At first I demurred when the hostess offered me a glass. Sure, I knew Pinot Noir is what put the Willamette Valley on the wine map, but I truly subscribed to the (untested and erroneous) belief that red wine gives me headaches. The hostess assured me that St. Innocent’s wine would not give me a headache. She was right, and the wine was delicious. The rest, as they say, is history.

I started buying wine regularly, and joined a wine club, receiving quarterly shipments of wines from all over the world. My journey of discovery and adventure had begun! Soon, friends and family were asking me for advice: wines to buy, pairing suggestions, anything wine related. I was hungry for knowledge about wine. I subscribed to magazines, and enrolled in web-based classes. Then one day, I received a voucher in the mail. My wine journey was about to change, and go in an entirely new direction.

If you have read my blog before, you probably know that I am a member, and ardent supporter of NakedWines.com. (If you are unfamiliar with NakedWines.com, please follow this link to their FAQ page.) When that voucher arrived, I was skeptical. I had been disappointed by many of the wine clubs I’d tried, but I figured $160 worth of wine for $60 was worth the one-time risk. Once the wine arrived and I had my first taste from the first bottle I opened, I was hooked.

not-the-original-bottle-it-was-so-good-i-bought-more

Not the actual First Bottle. It was so good, I bought more.

One of the things that sets NakedWines.com apart from traditional wine clubs is the social media aspect of the company. Members, known as Angels, are encouraged to post reviews of the wines they drink, and interact with each other…and the winemakers…on the website. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed writing the reviews of the wines. Even more surprising was the fact that other Angels were reading them, and commenting on how much they liked them. New Angels were starting to seek out my reviews and opinions. They were looking up to ME! I’m no sommelier, no winemaker, or any other sort of expert. I’m just a guy who drinks wine, with a new passion for writing about it.

The natural next step, then, was to figure out this whole blog thing, and start writing. So I did. My main focus is on sharing those wine reviews, expanding them beyond NakedWines.com, to include all the wines I enjoy. More than just reviews, though, I like to tell a story about the wine, the region, and if possible, the winemaker. My goal is to engage my audience, and if I may be so bold, perhaps educate them a little. Keeping my childhood in mind, and cognizant of my family history, and remain vigilant on my consumption. Nevertheless, wine has become my true passion, and sharing it brings me joy.

Smile – #MWWC28

What’s the longest word in the English language? Smiles. There are only six letters, but there’s a “mile” between the first and the last!

Monthly Wine Writing Challenge

This is my entry for #MWWC28. As the winner of MWWC27, Beth, The Traveling Wine Chick earned the honor of selecting the next topic. She chose “Smile.”

smile

The first thought that comes to my mind when I hear the word “smile” associated with wine is: “Of course. Wine makes me smile.” But that makes for a pretty short blog post. Instead, I’m going to step outside my comfort zone, and try a little creative writing.

Steve had it all. He was the high school football quarterback, homecoming king, and just to complete the cliché, he dated the head cheerleader. With straight A’s and a league football championship his senior year, he received a full-ride scholarship to the prestigious university of your choice. Steve was no slouch.

After college, Steve accepted a position at a major investment firm, and was quickly working his way up the ladder, earning a fat paycheck plus commissions. Yes, he married his high school sweetheart, the cheerleader, and they started a family. Steve’s life was picture perfect, and his future looked bright.

One year, his company holiday party was held at a local winery. Steve had never been a wine drinker. Sure, he’d had a glass from time to time, but never really got into it. In fact, he had never been much of a drinker at all, preferring to focus on his personal goals and lifetime achievements. He felt that drinking could become a distraction, and he would lose his focus. Still, the winemaker herself was at the party, pouring her best wines. Steve enjoyed a few minutes chatting with the winemaker, but asserted that common argument: “wine gives me headaches.” The winemaker assured Steve he would not get a headache from her wine. He agreed to give it a try, and she poured him a glass. At the first sip, a smile emerged on Steve’s face. This wine was delicious! Steve had a hard time describing it, but he knew it was different, and better than any wine he’d had. He was hooked immediately.

With a fresh appreciation for the wonders of a finely crafted wine, Steve started a small collection. He began exploring varietals, regions, and styles. He joined clubs, and went wine tasting with his wife on the weekends. Pretty soon, Steve found himself planning vacations around wine regions, and he enjoyed exploring the beautiful landscapes of Bordeaux and Burgundy, Tuscany, Alsace, Rioja, and others. Over the years, Steve tasted hundreds of wines from regions the world over. He loved to share his love of wine, hosting dinner parties, and donating bottles to charity auctions. Whenever a friend or family member needed a wine recommendation, Steve got the call.

Then one fateful day, Steve’s phone rang. It was bad news. Cancer. Steve’s mom had been his biggest supporter; driving him to practices, mending his torn uniforms, tutoring him on those hard subjects. She was there for the good times and the bad. Now she needed him. Even those whose lives appear perfect from the outside can suffer life-changing tragedies. Our lives can change in an instant with a phone call or conversation. Steve’s world was rocked to the foundation. Cancer is something that happens to other people, not Steve and his mom. But it did happen; is happening. Steve was comfortably well-off, but cancer doesn’t discriminate between rich or poor. You can’t buy your way out of this.

Steve caught the next flight home and went to stay with his mom. The prognosis was not good. The cancer had spread quickly and by the time the doctors caught it, it was too far gone. They gave her only 30 days. Steve was with her for the duration. He drove her to doctor’s appointments, and helped arrange for the best hospice care in the area. In the end it was peaceful, surrounded by loved ones.

Steve returned home a changed man. The grief and pain had sucked the life and joy out of him. He found it difficult to smile at much of anything. He was a strong man; a survivor; so he knew intellectually that he would eventually heal. But at times, the emotional pain was crushing. Even his passion for wine waned. He’d still have a glass or two with dinner, but it wasn’t the same. He was careful with his drinking, because he knew that self-medicating his pain could be dangerous, so he regulated his consumption. Weeks passed, then months, and slowly the hurting became less intense, and he knew he was starting to heal.

A few weeks later, Steve was working late. The custodian, Jeff, came into Steve’s office to clean. Steve had worked late often enough that he knew Jeff, but they had never talked beyond pleasantries. Still, something in Jeff’s demeanor told Steve something was wrong. Steve inquired, and Jeff confided that his father had just passed away. Instantly, corner-office Steve and custodian Jeff were on level ground. A friendship was born out of mutual heartache and pain. Through Steve’s friendship and caring, Jeff walked through his grief and was soon feeling like his old self. But the friendship didn’t end with the end of the crisis. Steve and Jeff remained committed friends, and their families became inseparable.

On a bright, clear Saturday morning some weeks later, Steve took Jeff winetasting. They spent the day exploring the local wine region, tasting wine and enjoying the peaceful beauty of the vineyards. That evening, Steve cooked dinner for the two families, and opened a bottle of his favorite wine. It was a perfect ending to a perfect day. As they savored the meal and wine, Steve, Jeff, and their wives all shared happy, contented smiles.

And they lived happily ever after.

This is a work of fiction. The characters and events are made up. Except for the part about the holiday party when Steve first discovers quality wine. That really happened, and is how I got started on my wine journey. Nevertheless, although fictional, the emotions and feelings are real. When going through a rough time, stay focused on the things that are really important in life. Even in times of tragedy and pain, if you look for them, you can find things that can, from the depths, evoke a genuine smile.

This post has been therapeutic for me. Although not death, cancer, or any other illness, I have been walking through a very difficult time, and have had difficulty finding smiles. Writing this fictional story has helped me to realize the truth underlined above. If you are going through a painful time, my hope is that my words are helpful to you, and that you, too, can find a smile.

Santé!

Life in a Bubble – #MWWC27

bubble-724x499It’s that time again! The Monthly Wine Writing Challenge!

Monthly Wine Writing Challenge

The theme for #MWWC27 is “Bubbles.” Like probably every other person out there in the blogosphere, my mind immediately went to Champagne, or any other sparkling wine. There are many to choose from; Cava, Prosecco, Cremant, California Sparkling, and so on. Then, like probably every other wine writer out there, I thought: “too obvious; everybody will be writing about that.” Ah, but then again, like Vizzini, from The Princess Bride (only the best movie ever made), perhaps I can outwit my opponents by doing exactly what they expect me to do!

But lest I get involved in a land war in Asia (watch the clip, it’ll make sense), I decided to write from what I know and let the words flow as they may. This is a decision made largely due to the fact that I have not a lot of experience with wines that tickle the nose. You see, many members of my family get headaches after drinking sparkling wine, so I don’t often buy it. We can debate whether the bubbles cause the headaches, or that they result from some other cause. The fact remains that sparkling wine rarely makes an appearance in my home. I do try to keep a bottle of Prosecco or Cava on hand for those unexpected special occasions, or a spontaneous brunch in need of a Mimosa, but that’s about it.

So what is there to say about bubbles, then? Life.

We humans are a predictable lot. We like routine, and take comfort in the familiar. We take the same route to work every day. We shop at the same stores, and eat at the same restaurants, because we know what to expect. I even know people who will order the same thing off a menu every time they go to a particular restaurant. They don’t like change, or trying new things. We like to live our lives in big, comfortable, predictable bubbles. Boring! Yet many people approach wine in the same way.

While there are at least 10,000 grape varieties in the world, realistically about 1,300 are used in commercial wine production. So why, then, do so many people “only drink Chardonnay”? Or Cabernet Sauvignon? Or Pinot Noir? Because that is the comfort bubble in which they live. They know what to expect. They are predictable. These people are really missing out! There is so much variety out there; so many flavors to experience and enjoy, why limit yourself?

I love variety. When I go to a favorite restaurant, I like to try different things each time. It’s the same with wine. Sure, I have my favorite, go-to varietals, but why limit oneself? century_club_sealI love variety! Sure, a Napa Cabernet Sauvignon will pair with my steak, but what about a Chilean Carménère? Shall I open a familiar Sauvignon Blanc this warm summer evening, or a different and exciting Grüner Veltliner? I recently submitted my application to the Wine Century Club. Yes, it’s a real thing! All you have to do for membership is try at least 100 different varietals. And you know what? Blends count! It’s really not that daunting a challenge, if you are willing to get out of your bubble and try new things.

Life bubbles are limiting; restricting. They only allow you to experience what is within reach and safe. I encourage you to step out of your bubble and try something new. The next time you are in your local wine shop, or better yet, the unfamiliar wine shop in the next town over, instead of reaching for that familiar bottle of Chateau Drink Often, try something adventurous and new. This is my challenge: Explore. Experience. Enjoy life outside your bubble.

 

Alone in a Crowd #MWWC26

I Only Drink Alone or With Others

Solitude. Wine. Solitude and wine. At first glance, those two words don’t seem to go together. Isn’t wine meant to be enjoyed in the company of others; friends and loved ones? Of course it is! And don’t they say drinking alone is a sign you might have a problem?

Yes, they do, but what do they know? And just who are “they,” anyway? “They” are everywhere, telling us what we should and should not be doing. “They” aren’t very fun at all. But I digress.Monthly Wine Writing Challenge

This is my entry for the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge, #MWWC26. As last month’s winner, Beth, the Traveling Wine Chick, had the honor of selecting this month’s theme. And she chose “solitude.” Challenge. Accepted.

This month’s theme was announced on the first day of my 30-day trip to Québec City. It turned out to be a timely announcement. Québec City is in the Canadian province of Québec, which is commonly known as French Canada. In Québec, the people speak French. I don’t.

1-canada-quebec-flag

Some of my first thoughts on solitude came during my first few days of my trip, as I struggled to find what I needed in the Super Marché. Shopping in an unfamiliar grocery store is stressful enough, but there is a sense of being all alone in a crowd when you don’t speak or read the language. It certainly gave me a much greater appreciation, and sympathy, for immigrants to the U.S. who are not English speaking. Fortunately, most of the people there do speak at least some English (Canada is, after all, officially a bilingual country), and are very accommodating, so I was able to survive. (In my defense, I tried to learn French before our trip. I really tried! I did manage to pick up a few helpful terms and phrases, but darn it, I’m old!) In true stereotypical Canadian fashion, I even had several people apologize for their poor English. I always responded that their English is far better than my French! Then we laughed together. Laughter is, indeed, a universal language.

But this isn’t the MWC. It’s the MWWC, with the emphasis on the first W…wine! So, whereas wine and solitude don’t naturally seem to go together, please allow me this opportunity to wax poetic.

I submit to you, dear reader, that wine and solitude are actually symbiotic. While it is true that wine is meant to be enjoyed with others, one of the unique and magical truths about wine is that everybody experiences it differently. Pour a taste from the same bottle for 10 different people (OK, let’s assume it’s a magnum), and each will describe different aspects of the wine. Some with limited wine experience may taste only fermented grape juice, while others might describe a host of fruit, floral, herbal, or mineral notes. There are no right or wrong answers; the enjoyment is in each individual’s own, unique, subjective experience.

Take this concept to another level with me. We’ve (hopefully) established that a group of individuals experience the same wine differently. In much the same way, an individual within that group will experience different wines in different ways. It is in the enjoyment and ethereal experience of a given wine that the individual drinker is transported to his or her own, unique place. A place of solitude.

Open a bottle of Bordeaux, and share it with a loved one. Allow the aromas to invade your senses. See the color in the glass as you swirl the wine. Now, to the tasting. That first sip, rich and decadent, may transport you to the rolling hills of the French countryside. You imagine are walking in the vineyard; the cool evening breeze in your hair; the gravelly soil crunching underfoot. You are utterly alone in this charming place. Solitude. bordeaux-vineyards-france-hikingYour partner experiences something completely different. Her Bordeaux fantasy involves a Parisian bistro; an outdoor table on the sidewalk, the bustle of the people passing by; the charming waiter with his attentive gaze, ready to refill the glass at a moment’s notice; and the delightful meal with which to enjoy the wine. Solitude.Paris Bistro

It’s a hot, summer afternoon. You open a chilled bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. The straw color immediately cools you as you anticipate the cold, crisp refreshment. Take that first sip – instantly you are carried away to the soft, warm sands of a tropical beach; relaxing in a chaise with a good book. The sun is warm on your skin, the sand soft and warm on your feet. You are utterly relaxed. Solitude. Chaise at the BeachYet your partner has been whisked away to a cool mountain lake; on the porch of a cabin overlooking the rippling water. Hungry trout beckon, but rising to grab the fishing pole would merely disrupt the moment. Solitude.Lakeside Mountain Cabin

Wine is an enchanting, magical beverage. Depending on your circumstances, it can bring relief to a stressful day, enjoyment to a social or family gathering, or release you to indulge in your own unique, relaxing, peaceful solitude. Different people, different experience. Different wine, different destination. Where will your next glass of wine take you?

SNAP! We’re back! Still not convinced? Are you worried about the whole “drinking alone” stigma? Do you have a pet? If so, you’re not drinking alone! If not, and you are interested in adopting and being a good pet parent, then get thee to the nearest SPCA and rescue a deserving dog or cat.

There are hundreds of dogs and cats that need a loving home, and you will never drink alone again! (Note: I do not advocate adopting a pet simply as a drinking buddy. If you are not willing to devote the love, time, and attention needed to care for a pet, please don’t.)

Now sit back, pour a glass of whatever strikes your mood, let it take you where it will, and bask in your solitude!desertiland