A Burgundian Finale!


To end my blog series, I'd like to share with you our trip to Burgandy, France...

We have come to adore Pinot Noirs, and we went to go explore their roots. This pilgrimage helped us to appreciate both European and Californian wine a bit more. I always encourage wine tourism because it's educational, breathtaking, exciting, and full-filling in so many ways.

First off, to travel there, you need to take a train from Paris to Dijon, and then another one from Dijon to Beaune, the base town for a Burgundian tour.

2nd, wine tasting here is NOT the same as in California. You can't just drive up to the wineries and expect a glamorous tasting room with a perky, welcoming wine club attendant. Keep in mind that most wineries in France are generations old, which means that they have survived because they have a loyal following with consumers, restaurants, and distributors. They don't need to please tourists who will probably only buy 1 or 2 bottles of wine. Some might view this is "stuffy" but I think it shows history and culture, so it should be appreciated for what it is.

We did a bit of research and learned how to go wine tasting in Burgundy and found 2 proper ways....

1. Jeep/Van Tour

Companies: Authentica and Chemins de Bourgogne

Both of these tour companies were amazing: provided great information, tastings, and scenic views. There are multiple tours to choose from, whether you want a meal included, cheese tasting, or a simple vineyard drive along. Do a bit of research, and you will find tours that fit your style and budget.

Some key things we learned were...
a. ALL of the grapes in Burgundy are Pinot Noir. Government-mandated.
b. Quality is marked and controlled on the label. Look for "Village" or "Premier Cru" for your best bets (these mean that the quality is a bit higher and the winemaker is involved with the process from start to finish). Amazingly, this labeling is government controlled as well, so you know what you are getting. Now, if only California regulated what "Reserve" means....
c. Each region within Burgundy are distinct. Our favorites were the "Village" qualities of Beaune and Gevrey Chambertin. Fruit forward, but not jammy, and earthy notes that are not too overwhelming. Overall, great balance.

Sweeping vineyard views
Castle among the vines
French vines. The long stem is referred to as a "baguette" and the short one is called "croissant" - Oh, Frenchies :)
Wine tasting at a family vineyard
Touring their generations-old wine cellar

Yes, GENERATIONS old. Reminds me of "Cask of the Amontillado".
Bought a bottle of "Gevrey Chambertin" for our wedding night.

2. Cellar tours, walking around Beaune

Winery: Mache Aux Vins

Stay overnight (or maybe 2-3 nights) in lovely Beaune, a little town with a wonderful wine-making past and present. Wander in and out of alleys, have snacks and house wine at random cafes, splurge and have dinner in a wine cave, and explore the ancient wine cellars masked as modern store fronts. Most are guided tours of cellars and caves, but some are self-guided. One we will highlight is Marche Aux Vins, a self-guided and self-pouring cellar tour. This "store" may not be among the vast vineyards, but we found it to be so much more...

Wandering in Beaune
Inside Marche.... looks like it could be a typical wine tasting on a long flat table, but....
... instead, you are lead downstairs into a wine cave/cellar!
Wines are labeled with descriptions. The tour is self-guided.
We are able to pour our own tastings. Very trusting of tourists. We remained surprisingly mature through this process.
Being a self-guided tour, we were able to move about at our own pace.

 Wine has taken us far and wide, shown us unique differences between people and cultures, made us open-minded about possibilities. I end my blog on this note: my journey isn't over, but I turn it over to you to take you places and experience/taste things you never knew of. Why? Because it's just good l'vin(o).


Finding wine, finding myself


Pinot Noir has become my favorite wine - so versatile, pleasing, and distinguishable between key regions. Some favorites - Sonoma, Russian River Valley, Oregon, Burgandy, SLO. Why? I have come to really like fruit-forward (not jammy) qualities with light earth tones. This is my go-to style, and each of the mentioned regions give different degrees of this. I don't know what it is, but writing just can't seem to describe why I react with "Oh.... my.... God!" with quality wines from these places. Is it the way that the sweeping vineyard views, gorgeous weather, mystic fog, soil, minerals from the earth, TLC of the hands and minds that handle the grapes and vines, and inviting sunshine is somehow compressed into a simple, humble glass? Because Pinot Noirs are so distinct, it is easy to mentally transport back to some of our favorite trips...
And now, I am about to embark on a new adventure... to Japan! My wine journey is not ending; in fact, my self-education with sake will begin. However, I am still wondering why I am cutting off my flowing supply of great, accessible wine.

As I live in Japan, I will see how my perspectives (on wine) change. How much will I miss it? Will sake and Sapparo be able to fill the void? Will Japanese food naturally change my cravings? (FYI - ramen and red wine do NOT go together).

Thank you for reading my blog. It was not created with any ambition - just a simple desire to record what I learn and hopes to share knowledge with others who are curious.

I choose to end my blog, though, to begin a new one, which will chronicle my time in Japan. Through writing this blog, I have learned the importance of recording experiences, having an outlet for ideas and reflection, and looking back on growth. I am excited to see how my next writing journey develops!


Don't Mess with Texas Wine


Texas got wine?

I had no idea. What a pleasant surprise as I planned my trip to San Antonio. I originally thought I would take 2 days to meander through the old town, past the Alamo, through the River Walk, but then I somehow stumbled upon Texas wine country while browsing online (oh, the treasures I find!). I quickly cut my San Antonio self-tour to one evening, and then I spent the next day and a half in Fredericksburg, 1.25 hours from San Antonio. Unintentionally, I found myself in the real Texas, the flat countryside, with the smokin' BBQ and good ol' Texan hospitality (especially in the tasting rooms). Cabernet Sauvignon and juicy, tender beef ribs? Yee-haw!

Barrel room with Texan love

Texas mostly grows Bordeaux varietals like Cabs, Merlots, Cab Francs, but we found a lovely locally-grown Pinot Noir that we just adored. Winery: Sister Creek Winery

Only in Texas...

Tasting at Sister Creek Winery

Saloon-like set up at Becker Vineyards

Enjoying the outdoor setting at Becker Vineyards

Good excuse...
Drinking with the locals. Yes, that's a real belt.

Thank you Texas! I look forward to spreading the news about your awesome wines!


Sonoma Landing Pinot Noir


It has been quite a while since my last posting. Looking back, my days are a haze of MANY different wines. Some good, most unmemorable.

It's not that I have been drinking BAD wine. No, no. I just become underwhelmed after I finish a bottle and I lose motivation to re-purchase, to re-try. The hunt for bargain wines is not an easy one (oh, what a tough life). At times you feel you have found something worth writing about, but you just get bored or tired of it over time. And then you forget... What's that wine we had? Oh well, onto the next!

Is new and fresh on your palate something to pursue, or reliable and predictable?

(this can be a metaphor for so many things)

I am at a point where I do want something that I can always turn to and KNOW that I won't regret opening and finishing. I choose you, Sonoma Landing Pinot Noir!

Light bodied, light tannins from the stems and skin to mellow out the fruit, and pairs wonderfully with a light meal of salad, fish, or something with gooey cheese (perhaps ALL of them together!).

My wine racks are stocked with a variety of wine, many that we purchased as single bottles. My wandering palate will continue to pursue the next greatest bargain. But as of right now, it's "interested" in the Sonoma Landing.

This bottle is usually offered on BevMo's 5 cent sale!


Temecula's WoW (World of Wine) event


WoW... I love being a wine person!

$90 per ticket (which can be shared between a couple) that can be used over 2 days.

30+ wineries participating

2+ wine tastings paired with gourmet food samples - per winery

a gastronomically FANTASTIC weekend.

(see photos below)

No other words necessary. I'll let you know when the next event is approaching....


Meeting Rex Pickett (author of Sideways)


Thank you Ian Blackburn (of Learn About Wine) for organizing a meeting with Rex Pickett, author of Sideways! Pickett has come out with the sequel to Sideways, called Vertical

It was inspirational to listen to Pickett speak about his life, influences on his storyline, struggles in the writing world, and his passionate hatred towards Merlot!

Interesting facts I learned were...

* Pickett's personal life is reflected in Miles, so the story is quite personal.
* Like Miles, Pickett really DOES hate Merlot.
* Sideways, the play, is coming soon to Santa Monica. (Pickett said "no" to creating the musical version).
* Pickett is working on an HBO series about a wine critic with a social disorder.
* The Hitching Post and many wineries of the Santa Barbara Vintner's Association were AGAINST the filming of Sideways, the movie, because they thought it would give them a bad name. Oh, the irony!
* Pickett's ex-wife, who at the time was his most trusted peer-editor, told him to burn Sideways after reading a draft.
* This author is not out to please the public. In fact, he had many creative differences about how the sequel should be. He did not want to write what others wanted for Miles; he wanted to let Miles be Miles and therefore decided to NOT consult focus groups or big-time publishers.
* In the book Vertical, Pickett takes our beloved characters to Oregon's Willamette Valley - where else would Pinot lovers go?

The wine nerd in me is thrilled to share these experiences with you!

Getting ready for Rex Pickett's talk at Cafe Metropol, Downtown L.A.

Artwork outside of Cafe Metropol

Danny and I are excited to hear about Vertical, the sequel to Sideways

Rex Pickett enthusiastically gives us the backstory to Sideways. Ian Blackburn, from Learn about Wine, is listening in the background.

Rex Pickett explains that he writes from a very personal place

Thanks for the event Ian Blackburn! FYI - "Beekeeper" Zin is his first wine! Full-bodied, smooth, dark berries with a hint of spice - delicious!

Some personal time with Rex Pickett
Thanks for the encouragement, Rex!

Rex, we all appreciate you for making the time for us :)

I read the first chapter last night... I'm hooked already! (I will post a review on the book when I finish)


Let food drive your wine


When I first started tasting, I was on a mission to find affordable wines that I could lounge on the couch with. I enjoyed food with wine, but the wine was the main event.

I kicked up the enjoyment factor a bit by letting food help me decide the wine, and now, they are BOTH the stars. DOUBLE the enjoyment!

Many people ask me "I can't enjoy wines. I want to, but I don't know how." Before I'd always suggest "Try everything and narrow down your choices." But now, I suggest, "Well, what do you want to eat?" The great thing about learning to drink wine with food is that you're not forced to drink a large amount, nor are your taste buds abused from drinking flight after flight. You first enjoy the food (which you already know how to do) and then you see if the wine provides a different, better experience.

I am by no means a cook, but this is a quick dish that I make when I need a healthy munchy:

Mediterranean Pizza (all ingredients were bought at Trader Joe's. Ingredients can be added, taken out according to your preference, therefore I do not tell you how much of each to put in)

- Toast a whole wheat pita bread. Spread eggplant hummus after wards.

- Chop tomatoes, mushrooms, garlic cloves, walnuts. Throw into a bowl. sprinkle in fat-free feta cheese, slice in some avocado, and if you want more texture, add some sliced almonds

- Finishing touch: olive oil (just a tad) and balsamic vinaigrette (don't add too much at first. Taste and add because the flavor can be overwhelming). Mix in oil and balsamic into bowl of ingredients. Taste and add more of anything as needed.

- Spoon the yummy stuff in your bowl onto you hummus covered pita bread. Enjoy with a lighter-bodied red wine like a Pinot Noir, or enjoy outdoor with a summery Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc!