SoCal Ideas for Wine Tourism Day, Sat. May 11 2013

VCwinetourismday

This Saturday, May 11 is Wine Tourism Day, a day to celebrate North America’s wine tourism industry and all those who enjoy the experience of visiting wine country.

According to organizers, “Local wine industry folks in their respective regions — including wineries, hotels, restaurants, and other wine-related businesses — have created special events for people who love anything to do with wine, food, events, travel and fun!”

Events can be anything from wine pairing dinners to music events to structured tastings. Search for an event near you or register for the Great Wine Tour Giveaway.

Or create your own event! You don’t have to visit Napa–head out on Saturday to a winery near you and celebrate! You may be surprised by what you’ll find in a few hours drive. Please post in the comments and tell us which wineries are YOUR favorites to visit?

Read on for Wine Predator’s picks of places to prowl! Continue reading

Message in a Bottle: Waves, Wines, Words Writing Workshop

I’ve been busy getting all the details figured out for the “Message in a Bottle: Ocean to Ojai” writing workshops that I’m doing with Danika Dinsmore as part of Ojai’s WordFest March 19-27, 2011.

A week or so ago I checked out venues for the winemaker dinner and open mic for Thurs March 24 and stopped by Old Creek Ranch Winery to talk with owner John Whitman and winemaker Michael Meagher. We also enjoyed some tasting: the petit sirah from the barrel is out of this world delicious!

And while I can’t make any promises, it’s looking likely that the cherry trees will be blooming at Old Creek Ranch Winery!

Here are all the fabulous details–menus and wines to come soon!

Message in a Bottle: Ocean to Ojai --Whales, Wines, Words Writing Workshop Writing instructors Gwendolyn Alley of Ventura, California and Danika Dinsmore of Vancouver, British Columbia join forces Thursday, March 24 to offer a unique writing workshop that engages the senses and ignites the imagination. Message in a Bottle: Ocean to Ojai – Waves, Wines, Words, an event during Ojai’s WordFest, will take its participants on a journey that begins with a whale watching cruise, continues at small family owned working ranch, and ends in the majestic Ojai Valley. … Read More

via The Write Alley

Green Drinks & Green Wine –biodynamic, organic & sustainable practices explained

shapeimage_3Whenever I bring up Green Drinks, the national green monthly networking event, people always assume I am talking about “green” as in sustainable drinks.

Uh no, but that’s a good topic too and one that confuses people as well. Since I just happen to have some info on it and a desire to let you in on some wonderful “green” wines including the Vino V Pinot Noir I want to feature for tomorrow’s Wine Blogging Wednesday #58 hosted by Katie at Gonzo Gastronomy, I figured I’d take on a intro to both Green Drinks and “Green” Drinks especially green wines in this post.

First, Green Drinks–the event. Then Green Drinks, the beverage with particular attention to wine, my favorite drink of all and possibly one of the most easily available green drink (after water and likely most non-alcoholic beverages!)

Green Drinks is a networking event for people who are “environmentally minded.” Casual gatherings, held monthly in 400 cities around the world, bring like-minded people together to eat, drink, socialize, problem solve, network, find jobs, learn, and make jobs better. Locally we meet on the second Wednesday of the month and it appears to be sponsored by GreenLiving Magazine; I’ve gone twice now.shapeimage_7

In April, we met at the new Red Cross headquarters in Camarillo where officials showed off how they are pursuing LEEDS certification and described the many ways the Red Cross is trying to go green. About 30 people attended, and I saw familiar as well as new faces. Some wine and appetizers were available, but they weren’t necessarily “green”–either by being locally produced or organically grown.

In May, I rode my bike over to the Crown Plaza on the promenade near the ocean. The restaurant served excellent fried calamari and a tuna appetizer as well. People paid for their own drinks; I had a house special using locally made Limoncello that was really yummy–not too sweet and not too sour. Over the course of the evening, about 30 people passed through.

This month, on Wednesday June 10 from 5:30pm-7:30pm, we meet at Sheila’s Place Wine Bar and Restaurant, 302 N. Lantana,  Camarillo. Maybe I’ll see you at our local green drinks or in spirit at yours!

So what about this other “green drinks”? What makes an alcoholic beverage “green”? And I don’t mean St Paddy’s Day green beer or other artificially green drinks.

Typically it means a beverage made from organic, biodynamic, or sustainably grown grapes, grains etc and/or produced using sustainable practices. For some examples of organic beers, go here.

According to an article by Heather Stober Fleming, a wine professional who lives in Fairhaven MA ( http://tinyurl.com/dbzakd), “As the green movement gains momentum, more wine drinkers are seeking out wines that are made from producers that are using Earth-friendly farming practices.”

If a wine is made from certified organic grapes, the label will read “organically grown,” “organically farmed,” or “made with organically grown grapes.” The fundamental idea behind organic farming is to harvest grapes that have been grown without pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers or any other synthetic chemicals.

Methods like crop rotation, tillage, and composting are used to maintain the health of the soil. Other natural methods are also used to control weeds, insects and other pests that can damage the vineyard or the fruit.

It is important to know that most wines made from organically grown grapes will not be labeled as “organic wine.” In order for a wine to be labeled as “organic wine,” it must be made from certified organic grapes and contain no added sulfites.

Biodynamic is the highest form of organic farming. It goes beyond the elimination of all chemicals. It incorporates the environment in and around the vineyard and works with nature to apply the knowledge of life forces to bring about balance and healing in the soil. No artificial fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides may be used. Farmers achieve pest control through soil management and the use of biodynamic sprays and teas. Crop rotation, natural vineyard compost, and manure are employed to promote a healthy crop. Biodynamic farmers nurture a diverse animal, bird, and insect population to promote natural control of predators. The vineyard must be free of all synthetic components for 36 months and under biodynamic farming for 24 months before it can be certified. Weeds are controlled by using cover crops and other mechanical or by-hand methods. The majority of composting material used is generated by the vineyard itself. What is taken out of the land is put back in.

The Demeter Association, an independent certifier, is the organization that certifies a vineyard as biodynamic. The certification is extremely difficult to achieve, must be renewed every year and is the ultimate guarantee of purity in agricultural products. Sustainable agriculture produces crops without depleting the earth’s resources or polluting the environment. It is agriculture that follows the principles of nature to develop systems for the best crop possible.

As far as I know, there are no certifications or legal guidelines for sustainability. It is more of a way of life and a commitment that the farmer has made to the land to produce the best product possible, without stripping the land of what nature has given it. All organic and biodynamic growers practice sustainable agriculture, but not all sustainable agriculturists are certified organic or biodynamic. The wine industry is not only green in the vineyard, but the wineries as well.

There are more than 75 wineries in California that have switched to solar power to supply electricity for their winery and other facilities on their property such as tasting rooms, office buildings, and residences.

The article also mentions these widely available wines:

* Bonterra, one of the first wineries in California to commit to organic and sustainable agriculture. All of their wines are made with certified organically grown grapes. They also make one red wine, The McNabb, which is certified biodynamic.

* Benziger — The Benziger family is an industry leader in organic, biodynamic, and sustainable grape growing. They are going through the certification process so the wines that are distributed across the country do not have the organic certification on the label yet but have been grown in sustainable vineyards. The certified organic wines are currently only available at the winery. Benziger Tribute is a Bordeaux blend that is biodynamic certified. It’s hard to find, but well worth it if you do.

* Cono Sur from Chile produces a Cabernet Sauvignon/Carmenere made with organically grown grapes.

* Öko from France produces a Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend made with organically grown grapes.

* All the following wineries are solar powered — Cline, Domaine Carneros, Saintbury, Fetzer, Far Niente, Frog’s Leap, Grgich Hills, Long Meadow Ranch, Merryvale, Robert Mondavi, Robert Sinskey, Shafer, Silverado, Spottswoode, Eos, Clos du Bois, Rodney Strong, J. Lohr, and St. Francis.

Usually, information on the front and back label can inform the consumer of earth-friendly practices that were used to produce a specific wine.

WBW #55 syrah/shiraz showdown: CA Vino V 05 & AUS hazyblur 03

wbw-newI’m fortunate to live in the prime grape growing and wine producing region of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties–and, until just recently, just a few miles away from the Grateful Palate warehouse facility in Oxnard (it’s now in Fairfield near Napa).

I’ve long been a fan of Adam Tolmach’s Ojai Vineyard from back in the day when I had a print column “The Art Predator” for a weekly where I reviewed art shows, restaurants and whatever took my fancy, and was paid primarily in trade, mostly food and drink  (I could never say I was a starving artist.)

We had lots of trade at an Ojai restaurant which carried Adam Tolmach’s wines and I was thrilled to get to know many of them by the glass. It seemed that wine maker Tolmach often dropped off the odd bottle or two of wine that wouldn’t find its way onto a typical list or store. In particular, I remember being floored by one of his syrahs back in 1998.

So when I learned that Michael Meagher was a disciple of Adam Tolmach and was making his own wines under the Vino V label (V as in Ventura), that his limited edition wines (600 cases) are carried by restaurants like Campanile, and that his daughter was in my son’s kindergarten class, I wanted to get my hands on some and try it!tn

With this Wine Blogging Wednesday hosted by Remy Charest, pitting north vs south, here was a perfect opportunity to put a tasting together using a Vino V wine. Continue reading

WBW #55: Vino V CA Syrah vs which AUS Syrah?

wbw-new1Two questions: Where do you cellar your wine? And what should I drink from mine?

in the late 1950s,  my grandfather built a wine cellar into the hillside of his house, the floor made from water-washed Japanese stones used as ballast in a ship almost a hundred years ago.

He enjoyed his wine, but it didn’t take anything too exotic to please him–he drank chianti by the jug, the more unusual or interesting wines in the cellar supplied by friends. One day I will inventory what’s there and see if any of it is drinkable, much less valuable for more than a conversation or two.

Conveniently for me, my grandfather’s nearly empty wine cellar is less than a mile from my house as the crow flies, right up the hill from where we live near the beach. It’s just far enough away to keep me from ransacking it regularly, and it allows me to forget exactly what’s in there allowing the wine to age well past what it would if it was underneath our house which also maintains cellar like temperatures most of the year.tn1 Vino V syrah

For this Remy Charest’s Wine Blogging Wednesday, I decided to do syrahs (no surprise to anyone who knows my fondness for them!), and to compare Vino V’s White Hawk syrah with something from Down Under. So yesterday I headed up to the cellar to see what I had stored that would be a worthy competitor to Michael Meagher’s wine. Continue reading

Wine Blogging Wednesday #55: North vs South

In this month’s Wine Blogging Wednesday,  host Remy Charest the Wine Case challenges us to taste, to discuss, and to blog about not one but two wines: one from the “south” and one from the “north.”

I met Remy at the Wine Bloggers Conference last October when we strolled the vineyards of Quivera with a small group then I sat next to him at lunch. Now I often visit his blog and I follow him on Twitter, so I was happy to find out he was offering this month’s prompt which includes these closing words:

The one restriction is that the wines should be comparable in nature: Bordeaux blends from Bordeaux and Australia, sauvignon blanc from the Loire and from California, cabernet franc from the Niagara and Long Island, riesling from Washington State and Spring Mountain, etc. If you compare a Barossa shiraz with a chablis… well there just isn’t much actual comparing to do, right?

You have until March 18 to find these wines, taste them – and while you’re at it, see how they compare with a same dish. Put your tasting notes up on your blog, put up a link as a comment on this blog, and you’re all set. Heck, if you don’t have a blog, you can just put up a tasting note as a comment here, and I’ll include it in my roundup, on the weekend of the 21st of March – the official beginning of spring.

Cheers to everyone, and thanks a bunch to Lenn Thompson, founder of the WBW, for letting me in on the fun.

How to decide what to drink? A French Rhone wine with a California or Australian style rhone? A coupla GSMs perhaps like Twisted Oak’s with one from AUS? A California favorite like a syrah with an AUS favorite syrah from Grateful Palate? What about a northern California syrah and a southern California one? Hmmn, I’ve been wanting to try Vino V’s Michael Meagher’s Syrah–maybe this is finally the time!

Notice any trends? Bet I’ll be writing about something red for Wednesday!

Thanks Remy for the fun prompt!

Greening Valentine’s Day with organic treats, homemade gifts & local, sustainable, organic, biodynamic wines of course!

Even though Valentine’s Day screams RED: red roses, red foil chocolates, red sweaters, red hearts, and RED ink in your checking account, GO GREEN and SAVE GREEN this year! Turn your Valenfree trade chocolatestine’s Day GREEN with some of these tips from LIVE Earth: Save a Little Love for the Planet on Valentine’s Day (photo by LA Green Girl). Wine Predator’s additional tips and commentary are in bold and italics.

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching! February 14th is Saturday and you want to be prepared, but while you’re at it why not show some love for the planet too. It doesn’t take much to green your Valentine’s gifts and festivities. You will be surprised at how much love you can spread around the world. Here are some great tips you can use to show your loved one you care about them, and the planet.

1. So you’ll want a card to go with the wine. Buy valentine cards from local artists who make greeting cards out of recycled material.

artlifekissessm2Most art galleries feature a selection of cards by local artists: around here, I find my favorites at Farmer and the Cook in Meiners Oaks by a local cycling activist artist or at Buenaventura Art Gallery on Fir by the Post Office. Or download my kisses poem and send me a donation; you could also send your loved one a link to my Kisses poem (and show me a little link love too while you’re at it by linking to Kisses on your site!)

2. Make your own valentine cards with recycled items and things from nature such as dried flowers, satin ribbons, fabric hearts.

Try going to the beach or the snow and handwriting your message! Photo the message and send it to your loved one! Or print it out!

3. If you like to enjoy your wine by candlelight, use eco-friendly fragrance free candles. Beeswax or vegetable based candles that are biodegradable and smoke-free are a good choice.

Beeswax candles also clean and clear the air of pollutants and they smell wonderfully while they burn. I find mine at our local farmers markets; I keep them near sunlight so as they warm during the day, they exhale a rich sweet scent.

4. Choose wine or champagne that’s  organic, biodynamic, or sustainably produced. If there is a vineyard near,  buy from there. You will be supporting a local business, cutting down the use of packaging for shipping and probably saving some money too.

images-2Organic isn’t the only GREEN wine around–look for biodynamic wine or wines produced from sustainable vineyards, wineries and businesses.

One “green” red  I enjoyed recently over New Years weekend in Joshua Tree is RN13 Vin de pique-nique which indeed is perfect for a Valentine’s Day picnic! Made from 40% cabernet, 40% syrah, and 25% grenache (and sometimes mourverde)  grown organically in the south of France (Languedoc-Roussillon), the blend brings out the best of all three–it’s a spicy, silky,  full bodied,  full of fruit, full of fun!

I found the wine in Joshua Tree for $15 at a funky little cool cafe and shop on the corner across the street from the strip mall in Joshua Tree where you’ll find a thrift store and a natural foods market. We enjoyed it during a cloudy, wind whipped sunset in Joshua Tree and with a dinner of bolognese, salad, and stuffed portabellas. If you’re not in the neighborhood of Joshua Tree NP, try a Whole Foods Market.

The unusual way it’s bottled makes it easy to reuse as well! And each time you reuse the bottle, you will remember your special “picnic”!11ojai

Yesterday at a Santa Lucia Highland’s tasting in LA I tasted dozens of wonderful wines–mostly chardonnays like Bernardus full of character and pinots like Belle Glos with its lipstick red dripping cork seal and amazing nose plus a few intense syrahs like Wrath or Novy’s 2006. I also discovered Hahn’s sustainably grown wines. Unfortunately,  by the time I made it to their table, they were packing up. They did give me some seeds which they use as a cover crop and we will plant for Valentine’s Day!

You’d be surprised how many biodynamic, organic and sustainable wines that are being made in the US these days and beyond! Go here to learn about biodynamic wines from Quivira in the Dry Creek Valley of Sonoma.

You’d also be surprised at the number of wineries scattered across the country; I know I am! I’m lucky since in my backyard I have world-class wine and winemakers like Manfred Frankl of Sine Qua Non and the up and coming Michael Meagher at Vino V, and long-time local winemaking guru Adam Tolmach at Ojai producing wine from grapes typically sourced within 50 miles of my house.

5. For dessert, buy Organic or fair trade chocolates treats, (if you can buy from companies whose profits go to helping endangered species) or make your own chocolate treats with organic chocolates, nuts and fruits.

chocolate-strawberriesMaking your own customized chocolate treats like chocolate dipped strawberries with pecans really is easy! Finding organic strawberries this time of year is simple also since now is when they are really coming in season. While my favorites “Harry’s Berries” aren’t certified organic, the family follows sustainable and organic practices. You can find a recipe here.