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Summer Wine Adventure

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(Me in the tasting room on Memorial Day weekend, 2014)

In April I had the opportunity to start working in a tasting room pouring wine.  My experience with wine went as far as, “I drink wine”.  That’s it.  Growing up in the Central Valley of California, the only vineyards I saw were used for drying out raisins in the summer because it gets extremely hot there. I checked the weather for my hometown today and it is supposed to be 108 degrees!!  If you know me, you know that I am a seeker.  I am always seeking something… whether it be knowledge, or travel, or new clothes I am never stationary and rarely satisfied.  Working in the tasting room is my chance to gain knowledge about the wine industry and about wine itself.  In an earlier post, I talked about Sonoma County and the art and culture behind wine and the way of living there.  Who knows if I will settle in Sonoma County so I hope to learn as much as I can while I am here.

In my interview with the wine owners, I embarrassingly confessed that before moving to Sonoma County, I thought Zinfandel was a white wine.  Of course, through going wine tasting and exploring our area I have tried wines I’ve never heard of and have educated myself more about wine and wine etiquette.  I was able to redeem myself with my small amount of wine knowledge and my eagerness to learn more.  Thankfully, they accepted me into their wine family and have really shown me the ropes!!

My first weekend pouring, I was literally thrown right in.  It was a busy weekend and I was running around like a crazy person.  I had studied the history of the family, which is extensive and amazing to say the least, and was fascinated with everything I learned.  It made it so easy for me to memorize the facts: like how they’ve been growing grapes since 1956, how the third generation is taking over and work in the tasting room every week, or how 40% of their chardonnay grapes were sold to Chateau Montelena, who made a chardonnay that went on to win the Judgement of Paris in 1976, and put Sonoma and Napa Counties on the map as reputable wine countries.  Knowing the history of the winery is one thing but I still needed to learn more about the wine.  Lucky for me, our vineyard only grows four varietals and doesn’t blend any wine which means I didn’t need to learn about 20+ different wines like some other tasting rooms.  The more I spoke to people and listened to the experience pourers speak about the wine, the more I realized how lucky I am to have stumbled upon this particular family and their vineyard.  Everyone is not only incredibly well versed on wine and the process of making wine, but seriously the nicest people you will ever meet.  

I am still a major rookie after two months in the tasting room but each time I work, I feel more confident and learn something new.  It’s okay that sometimes the customers that come in teach me more than I knew before.  It’s okay that sometimes I say our zinfandel is less jammy due to our cooler climate appalachian only to hear a woman turn to her husband and tell him how jammy the zin is.  I enjoy chatting to people both tourist and local and watching their faces light up when they taste our amazing wine.  I can’t wait to continue my wine journey and become more involved in the industry by attending events and tasting around Sonoma County with my newfound knowledge and palette to guide me!

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Dirty Thirty

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As a kid, every birthday is a monumental occasion.  Rollerskating parties, water park parties, cake, presents, balloons, and everything else that goes with kid parties.  The whole thing feels like a special holiday in which everyone you know celebrates the fact you were born and they’ve had the pleasure to meet you.  As you get older, it seems as though the glitz and glamour wears off and it can even feel painful to turn another year older.  Adults even lie about their age to be younger.  For me, turning 24 was one of the most fun nights of my life.  Since then I have just continued to tell every one I am 24 as I hold up the fingers in between to add up to my actual age.  From my teen years to now, it seems like so much is always going on that birthdays don’t feel as special anymore.  You have prom, sports, learning to drive, graduations, engagements, weddings etc.  There’s no time to make birthdays feel special because there are so many other special things happening!  Your 20’s are such a whirlwind!  The last monumental birthday was turning 21 because drinking is finally legal.  That just opens the door for years of forgotten birthdays due to alcohol consumption.  

Last week my husband made his 30th journey around the sun.  Since I am only 24 (as I hold up 4 fingers), it made me realize that my 20’s are almost over!  I am married to a 30 year old!  This seemed like a good time as any to have a monumental birthday like when we were kids.  The trend I am seeing when it comes to turning 30, is to have a Dirty 30 party, especially for men.  The interpretation of Dirty is very subjective.  I have been to a “Dirty Thirty Stache Bash” where men were asked to grow out their facial hair and the dirtiest stache won.  Dirty thirty for single men might mean strippers or whatever other dirty things single men do.  There are endless possibilities for a dirty thirty theme!

While brainstorming thoughts for my husband’s party I thought about revisiting the stache bash, something with woodworking (my husband’s a woodworker), but living in the bay area, one idea just kept coming back to me… hobo, transient, homeless.  If you’ve ever been to the bay area, you understand.  The theme for my husband’s party would be a Dirty Thirty Hobo Bash!

The party turned out great!  Complete with a hobo camp photo booth, 40oz beers in paper bags, canned food cooked over a fire, and witty panhandling signs.  Guests left with red bandanas folded up with trail mix and bellies full of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Getting older doesn’t mean we have to be boring and throwing this super fun themed party reminded me of that.  We had a blast and all got really into the theme dressing up and taking silly photos.  I hope that my husband felt like his birthday was monumental again!  When I finally turn 30, or 24 with six fingers held up, I will go with a different theme… I’m thinking of taking a tip from my favorite movie and being Thirty, Flirty, and Striving!  Maybe I will have so much fun, that I will even admit to being my actual age!  

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Sonoma County

 

My husband and I moved to Sonoma County in July of 2012 from the Central Valley after I graduated with my master’s degree in school psychology.  After interviewing all over the state of California (because why on Earth would I want to be anywhere else?!) I was fortunate enough to be offered three positions, all in northern California, in the same week!  After careful consideration of each area, my husband and I felt that we would be happiest in beautiful Sonoma County!

To be honest, prior to coming to Sonoma County, I thought zinfandel was white and puckered at any beer other than Blue Moon.  Embarrassing I know!  If you’ve never been to Sonoma County, it is a paradise for foodies, wine connoisseurs, and craft brew experts.  I had a lot to learn.  Since my husband and I didn’t know anyone north of San Francisco, we took the first year of living here to really explore and get to know the area.  We were pleased to discover the multitude of opportunities for the avid outdoorsman/woman.  We hiked, canoed, explored the coastline, and best of all experience the wine, beer, and food.

When I say experienced the wine, beer, and food I truly mean that.  In Sonoma County, those three things are so much more than items to consume.  It is a culture.

Wine tasting to some might be something fun to do for a bachelorette party, but up here it is a lifestyle.  When you walk into a tasting room you are visiting someone’s family, rich with history and stories about where the grapes came from, how people put their heart and soul into farming them, and the process of actually making the wine.  With every varietal you can taste what happened in the vineyard that year, whether it was a warm season or a rainy one, the wine tells a story.  Sonoma County has multiple valleys with varying temperatures which makes growing grapes and making wine here so unique and diverse.  There are coastal regions, warmer inland valleys, and even higher elevated volcanic rock.  No two wineries are the same and everyone is so friendly that many wineries sell grapes to each other in order to get that perfect blend.

Sonoma County is not only a place to taste wine but is also a mecca for people who enjoy craft breweries.  For being a less populated county in comparison with other counties in the state, we have three award winning breweries.  Lagunitas, Russian River, and Bear Republic have some of the top ranked IPAs in the nation and are all within a 30 minute drive of one another.  A few months after living here, I had my first sour beer at Russian River.  I can’t even find another one to compare them to, they are that good.  Even the less well known breweries in the area, and we are spoiled to have quite a few, are outstanding.  I haven’t had a Blue Moon since I moved here, because what is the point?

With celebrity chefs abundant in Sonoma County and locally grown organic agriculture, it is no wonder that the food here is so amazing!  I remember googling best happy hour in Santa Rosa when we had been here for about a week, and the restaurant that came up was Stark’s Steakhouse in Railroad Square.  My husband and I were in awe of the cuisine.  We had expected typical bar food and hot wings and were surprised to discover bahn mi, oysters on the half shell, and truffle fries for next to nothing cost wise.  We are constantly trying new places in the area and when we have guests it is hard to choose which place we want to show off first.

After living here for almost two years, I feel that I still have so much more to uncover and can’t wait to do so.  Leading up to my original intention for writing this post, I decided to get a part time position at a winery!  Working in education, I am blessed with two months off during the summer and decided that this summer (and beyond) I want to experience wine country from the other side of the tasting counter.  Remember when I said earlier that before moving here I thought zinfandel was white?  Let’s just say I’ve come a long way in two years and can’t wait to become a bonafide wine snob!

 

Summer Gardening Coming to an End

Our garden has blessed Andrew & I with a ton of veggies!  At times, we had so many that we were giving our neighbors bi weekly deliveries.  Now that summer is officially over we have decided to start getting ready for winter gardening.  We went out to assess our plants and tear out any barren ones but our garden is not ready to be replaced yet!  I must admit, the last week we have slightly neglected our garden and couldn’t believe how much it is still producing!!!  We started our winter seeds and should have a greenhouse built by the time they are ready to go in to the ground!

My partner in crime (&gardening)

Finally broccoli is growing!

Cherry Tomatoes

Habanero Peppers

Jalapeno Cherry Tomato Hybrid?

Jalapeno Peppers

More Cherry Tomatoes

Japanese Eggplant

Our little friend Pierre

Butternut Squash

Grape Vine

Yellow Squash

Yum!

Our Abundance of Veggies

Our friendly neighbor gave us the gift of Strawberries from his family’s garden

One Year Anniversary/Reception Party

Today is our one year anniversary!!  Like I mentioned in the photo booth entry below, Andrew and I did not have a wedding where we invited guests.  We eloped on the beach with our photographer and officiant one year ago today.  In order to celebrate with our family and friends we had a party last weekend with some of the traditions one would have at a wedding.  We cut a heart shaped cheesecake, had our first dances, and heard some warm speeches.  All in all, our party and our wedding were absolutely perfect!

First Anniversary

My husband Andrew and I eloped on October 2, 2010 and with me going to grad school and Andrew in between professions, we really never had enough time or money to plan a reception soon after.  When the glow of our elopement started to die down I had a lot of people anxious for a delayed reception.  The vision in my head was going to take some time to plan so we decided to wait for our one year anniversary to celebrate our marriage complete with the first dances, speeches, and cutting the (cheese) cake!

One of my favorite things about our party was the photo booth we set up.  For a while I’ve had this picture in my head of setting up a living room set outside.  So we did just that!  I borrowed a yellow couch from a friend, Andrew made a beautiful coffee table, I painted on an old suitcase, and we bought a lovely antique lamp from a thrift store.  I set up my camera on a tripod with a 10 sec timer so our guests could take their photos when ever they felt comfortable and with the help of our photographers we set up lights as well.  It turned out exactly as I had imagined!

Here are some photos of our amazing photo booth:

Garden Update

It has been a while since I posted about my garden… or about anything at all!  Our garden has grown quite a bit!  Some plants have definitely grown more than I even imagined and they have been a lesson to us in spacing for our garden next time!

Calle Lilly #1

 Watermelons

Herb Box which has become all green onions and basil

Flower Box

These are my grape/squash/pepper plants… I was originally growing grapes on this lattice that Andrew and I made but I had some left over soil from plant seeds that never grew so I through the extra soil onto the grape plant.  A few days later a squash and pepper plant started growing!  I guess the seeds just needed some more sun!

Heirloom & Bell Shaped Tomatoes

Summer Squash


Swiss chard

Eggplant

Peppers

Jalapeno & Habanero Peppers

Butternut Squash

Cherry tomatoes, carrots, & onions

Broccoli

I think these are beets but they may be just more swiss chard

Our newest flower box made by Andrew

We have been eating squash, tomatoes, herbs and peppers like crazy!  I am so excited for eggplant!  Growing our own garden has been so much fun and I have such peace of mind knowing where our food is coming from!