Wine Bloggers Conference – Take 1

I have had the desire to attend the Wine Bloggers Conference for years, and really wanted to go to Lodi last year. However, time was usually not the best for my schedule or other life reasons would impede me from going. This year, as they celebrate their 10th year, it is back where it began…in my back yard of Santa Rosa. I put it on my schedule early so that other things wouldn’t creep in to push it off until another year and I am excited as well as nervous to be attending!

Life within the last month has felt like it is moving at the speed of light, but pockets of joy in tragedy always shine a little sideways. Living with the different conversations after the firestorms of Sonoma and Napa counties has really reminded me why I love this community. Watching chefs, farmers, business owner, neighbors and wine makers come together to care for those in need has been heartwarming.

I feel honored to get to share my love of wine and food from our counties bounty with others as well as spend time with likeminded lovers of the vine! I’m looking forward to meeting some of you beautiful people from social to put in a little real face to face time. There are so many sessions I am looking forward to attending and it will be hard to narrow down on a few.

“Enrich Your Wine Vocabulary” should hopefully bring insight on how to stay true to my voice while delving into wine descriptors during wine reviews. How do you bring the common aromas and flavors that us wine educators share with just the right hint of your own spiced word choices? Hello, this session has the phenomenal Andrea Robinson! I have a little vine chat dream with that powerhouse!

I am looking forward to the Wine Discovery Session with Consorzio Tutela Lugana DOC. As a certified sommelier, there is nothing more exciting to me as wine discoveries. As someone knee deep in studies for my CSW, I can’t wait to bring the knowledge to the forefront and learn about this region. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the region will be an honor to experience in the glass.

“Live Wine Blogging” sounds intimidating and exciting all at once. I love taking notes to share with others and I am curious to see how this will unfold for me, the lover of pen to paper. Will I take to the Twittersphere or do short posts during the brief interviews? I guess you’ll have to follow to see how this will shake down.

“Legal Issues Every Blogger Should Know” is something that I am very curious about as my day job revolves around compliance issues in finance. I am looking forward to learn how compliance relates to my blog. There are other items I hope are touched on like copy write issues with photos as well as some I may not even be thinking of right now. As odd as it may sound to some, I’m excited to learn what this power hour may unfold.

Bring on the education and camaraderie! You can follow me on twitter & Instagram @gotchabygrapes for my Wine Bloggers Conference shenanigans.

Sonoma Wine Country Weekend

With a quickening of the pulse & the lingered memories that cause hunger to creep in, I am reminded that it is almost time for the culmination of bounty in my county, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend. I have a long time affair with this event. When I originally heard about it, in the space of tender beginnings of full food & wine appreciation, I put it to the side as a someday happening. As the years continued I moved it lovingly to the shelf I label bucket list due to the culmination of colliding obligations with the unchanging event weekend timing.

As a natural helper & hard working lady that is often lured to do things in the name of charity or assisting a friend, I did what is second nature. My first view was from behind the curtains of volunteering for all 3 events including helping to set them up. Work wise, the views of Fridays, Sonoma Starlight event held at the scenic Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Geyserville where top notch. There was a decadent bounty of warm evenings, pool views, lights, music, fabulous food & wine gems from the best wineries. After a long & sweaty day of work I folded myself home, but I couldn’t stop talking to my husband about how lovely the event was laid out, how fun the music was & how amazed I remained by the fabulous guests dressed to the nines.

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The next day, was a little more difficult to pull myself together to work, but as I parked in the vineyard at MacMurray Ranch in Healdsburg I was ready to get a long day started. I checked into the volunteer center quickly & observed the layout of this event. Brilliant tents separated by AVA (American Viticultural Areas), so you could fully plan your day exploring. Wineries representing the libations made with world class fruit by talented winemakers tucked alongside beautiful foods prepared by passionate chefs, was mind blowing. The day was long, tending to the needs in the tent I was assigned too & after a day surrounded by look, but don’t touch I was ready to say a quick hello to friends while trying to find my car so I could beat the crowd home. I knew that I would have to put down the helper hat one day & attend this event, but sometimes that hat is just hard to take off.

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I don’t know how I awoke so early on Sunday to set up the auction, but when I got there I felt blessed that I could be a part of a team that put so much work behind the scenes to raise money for local charities. I was asked to stay for the auction, but after 3 days of work, between my regular crazy normal work schedule, I explained kindly that I would like to leave before guests arrived knowing that the linens where lovely & I would see photos later. I read later of the fundraising accomplishments, quietly smiling that I could offer my services to assist in whatever small way I could. In future years I never pulled the 3 days together again, opting for Friday & Sunday service so that I could enjoy a day of boring household duties that somehow nurture peace & puppy play time.


I skipped a few years due to other obligations, choosing to partake in online bidding. I donated & received some great auction lots. Last year was the first time I bought tickets to the Saturday event, because I wanted to see from the other side of the table. It did not disappoint. By this time, I knew quite a few more people & luckily attended with a dear friend. I love taking photos for memories & sharing, but it appeared the vision of real camera shocked a few people leading to laughter a plenty. It felt wonderful to peruse the various tents dappled with wine & food that is not just visually stunning, but palate pleasing! Other than seeing winemakers & chefs while enjoying their talents, this event is so well put together it appears to have a sparkling bow on it. If you could desire a flavor, from comfort to decadent, you will find it here.

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Trying to summarize why this is an event you can’t miss is difficult because there are so many words on various pieces of this puzzle. The only way I can think to explain it, is to consider what would I tell a person that asked, “What did you do this weekend?”. Have you heard about Sonoma Wine Country Weekend? It is a beautifully thought out event that showcases the very best food & wine from the county while raising money to assist is great local charities. I discovered new wines to fall in love with while enjoying lovely plated food. I even stumbles upon delicious breweries & other local delights. I would continue to describe in detail some of my favorite finds encouraging people to adventure to the winery or restaurant of delightful memory.

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There is an array of events this coming Labor Day weekend that have your name all over it! So check out the link: see if you can take part in a piece of greatness while adding other sections possibly to your bucket list. I’m looking forward to attending the Saturday event again this year & hope to see you there.

Cheers to another great piece of Sonoma County magic!

Rome-around Part 2

More rested then the jet lag tinged day one, I was ready to over-fill my mind with as much visual stimulus as possible in Rome.  We enjoyed a quick breakfast at our tiny hotel before our daily adventure, our only plan for the day, being a private tour of the Vatican…more on that later. Oh, by the way, when I say tiny hotel I totally mean it. I felt like I was tucked into a pocket of time in a Harry Potter hide away spot. It was a perfect it-will-do spot, but most likely not a do-over stay. We utilized our hop-on & hop-off bus passes as a way to get the highlight reel of this beautifully historic city. While enjoying the opportunity to hop off for closer views then allow ourselves the coach to later whisk us away to keep us on schedule for our mid-afternoon plans.

There is a majesty held in visions seen that instantly become emblazed as your memories. While you look around every day hustle then turn left or right as instant heart quickening history unfolds around you. The detail in art wraps into the ancient held within the grasp of the new, all intermingle in such a way that I intend to share visually. As I stated the day started with a bus tour that we could hop on or off at our pace and here are some highlights.

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After feeling like a conquering, Rocky Balboa, from the many long winded flights of stairs we stood for a moment in observation of our scenery. We happened upon a photo shoot with a lovely Italian model dressed all in white with a large sunny day hat to shade her. While later, in front of horse carts I chuckled as a lady dressed in a puffy black jacket was scolding her black poodle that shared a panache for matching red bows with her owners red boots. People watching is the best and Rome did not disappoint!

We felt the need for a quick snack on our way to the Vatican City and found ourselves stumbling into the Mercato Trionfale where I found extra things too purchase. I indulged in a delicious focaccia style pizza that I asked the lovely lady to only cut off just a few inches for me. Not too sure what the others had, but I know I always lose the husband at some point to gelato. I wish we had this market style in Sonoma County so we could grab our desires for dinner or quick purchase needs while visiting farmers and butchers. I loved this place with all the hunger I could muster while I wished we could stay longer in a home environment where I could cook with the ingredients I found.

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I feel that the Vatican is its own story that you could live in for months without discovering it all so after many hours with a lovely gentleman named, Luca, we were hungry and a slightly parched. We intended to stop for a glass of wine and whiskey, but nothing happens simply in Rome. I made sure to not over fill because I knew I wanted to wash up, wait for the evening to darken the skies while the lights caressed our path to a last supper in Rome. I greatly enjoyed a leisurely stroll past the lovely fountains while listening to music, looking at beautiful art from lovely street vendors and taking in all the joy of laughter in those wining and dining around us.

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In a breath I cannot believe all we fit into two days and then I look at the schedule I push onto myself at home and think I know exactly how we got so much done.  I sure would have enjoyed a few more days to languish in this buzzing city of history, art and food. 


Rome – The First Encounter

I want to break down a vacation I took on a day by day style of writing. Feel free to let me know what you think. Hope you enjoy!

Travel is always fun, quirky, and for me, as long as the arrival part happens I don’t really care how the rest unfolds. I am unable to sleep on a plane, no matter how long the flight is. So when I land I usually like to go to bed early on, so the rest of my vacation is not tainted by fatigue. The sleeplessness has not a glimmer of cause in fear, it is purely the excitement of uninterrupted time. Time for stillness to read a book or to have a movie binge fest…best day ever! So while people decide to be fast friends and sleep on me and snore, thank God for headphones, I enjoy all the moments that I get to relax.

Getting off the plane we headed to the train station for a quick trip toward our hotel. Note to self, leaving through the back gives a total different view then the front. The front doors would have led to a view of busy streets and a quick few blocks to the hotel to drop off our luggage. The back, well, that shows you the other side of the coin. After walking through an eternity of back allied cobblestone streets, people laughing and shaking their heads, homeless resting where they can, we finally arrived at the hotel. Weary and desiring to off load the baggage I was carrying, pun intended, we discovered that we were 4 hours too early for check in. Without rest I was not my usual quick witted self and learning rapidly why I usually am the person that handles directions. We left our bags with the attendant and stumbled our way around the streets of Rome in quest for nourishment, until we turned a corner to go into a church (they truly are amazing works of art) and spied the Colosseum. Interwoven with my thoughts of awe, historic intrigue and delight, I knew there had to be food near and this girl was in need of a glass of wine!

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Back to the church real quick, I’m going to share a photo that I took after saying play that funky music white boy (enormous organ, to say the least). Fed and watered, I felt slightly more energetic. I knew we had a dinner idea for the future and I knew that is where the wine would happen. I had a moment glancing upon a decaying old stone wall that had wisteria climbing through the iron with graffiti tags that I knew this city was for me. The idea of people trying to rush about in there every day life, quick and hurried, while every turn showed a piece of history, of artistry, of  screams of the past standing triumphant over time, was engaging for all senses. I loved the dirty parts intermingled with the beautiful parts, the fresh new fun interwoven into old tales. I love that about humanity in general though, so this was normal times 100.

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Viewing the majesty of the city briefly from a hop on/hop off bus, gave us an idea of where we wanted to revisit the next day after some rest. After checking into the hotel and washing up we enjoyed walking around hither and yon, stumbling upon ideas as fast as relics. Our first evening, a member of our party wanted us to enjoy a roof top dining experience that she had enjoyed with her late husband. So in honor of their time we headed to find it from her memories vault. We arrived early enough to watch the sun set over St Peters Basilica. Thinking of fine dining restaurant portions in California wine country I talked everyone into trying a tasting menu per person. Silly me, as someone very familiar with Italian families, I forgot about the portion size. At the end of our meal I remember being grateful for the amount of walking we were going to do the next day. Mentally preparing myself for smaller meals, got to love Mercato Trionfale take away! Blessed with a belly full of hearty, wonderful food and the Montepulciano shared around the table, I was very ready to rest my head after checking in on my home front. Next will be day 2 with the Vatican highlight reel.

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Enjoy every moment you can travel, even if it is in a glass or in your own neighborhood. Every day withholds moments in need of discovery.


Slovenia’s Vinakoper

I took a trip to Croatia that happened to drive through Slovenia from the Italian starting point. The first stop in Slovenia was Vinakoper winery. I loved the rich wood carved doors around the tasting room as well as leading into the barrel room. The lovely guide ushered us into the cool crisp hillside made up of mostly sandstone and began to explain the history of the largest winery in Slovenia.

The winery was founded in 1947. In 1949, they began blending vineyards and the cellar was officially finished in 1953.  The vineyards are located on the Slovene Istria area with beautiful rolling hills around the coast in ten different locations extending over 570 hectares, which is approximately 1,408.5 acres. They also make, Grappa made from two different grape varietals from their estate. The wine production is 70% red varieties & 30% white varieties. While 50% of the wines produced are considered local varieties such as Refosco, Cipro and a unique Malvasia. Multiple times we were informed the winery believes in natural production with a very high quality.

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Volume & barrel amount are listed on large barrels. For example, the biggest barrel pictured above, would last 56 years if you drank 2 liters every day. The close up on the barrel shows that the carving was in honor of the 1953 cellar creation. Red varietals are all aged in oak while the white varietals are aged in acacia, oak or stainless. They find that acacia seems to give a fruitier flavor in white varietals. They stopped using concrete tanks a while ago. The lovely winery tour guide explained how the cooperage of the barrels gives spice while the smaller barrels seem to show a deeper longevity for the wines, but they only used those barrels for 1 year for high end wines than the barrels are reused or sold. The barrel room is three quarters underground, maintaining a 53 degree temperature. Their oldest wine still in bottle is a 1966 Cabernet Sauvignon.

We were then ushered into a long tasting salon with barrels on one wall, views of the countryside on the other wall and a huge table with benches of thick, rich, beautiful wood. The first wine was a Malvazija, aka Malvasia made in a dry style. It was a sparkling light yellow with green youthful tones. Wafting into aromas of acacia blossoms, citrus infused almonds & tropical fruits. The flavors almost hinted of grapefruit with fresh unroasted almonds. As the wine warmed a slight honeyed note, hints of the varietal. I would pair this with a delicate white fish or a subtle cheese course that would acknowledge the acidity and aromatics. You can almost taste the Mediterranean sunny sea air in this glass.









The next wine took a flight with me and I have been storing the last bottle for the perfect cool evening. Refosk, aka Refosco, the king of darkness, shows as ruby red with violet hints glimmering in the light. This was a complex kaleidoscope of blackberry, raspberry and blueberry notes with a hint of floral accompaniment. In the wines youth, there almost seemed to be the pizzazz of bing cherry. This wine calls for a bountiful charcuterie plate or a beautifully grilled steak. In some of the barrels the large blocks of tartaric crystals that have settled, it was referred to as wine stone, is retained and then used as yeast for bread, added in tea or as a powder to flavor foods.


The last wine also traveled back with us and we shared the last bottle over Thanksgiving with friends. The sweet wine styled, Cipro, is refreshingly not a syrup or heavy handed dessert. It was a lovely scarlet red with slight brick red hues. I found aromas of violets and roses to be met with salty, sea air kissed strawberries and candied oranges. The playful aromas matched flavors of rose and rich, ripe strawberry with slight vanilla kisses that leave your palate in anticipation of pairing. I would chose a dessert that is drizzled with caramel and spiced with nutmeg or clove. It would also be beautiful with an airy chocolate dish garnished with a bounty of berries.


Our visit concluded in the wine shop where my husband discovered what appeared to be converted gas pumps where locals bring jugs to fill with table wine and are charged by the liter. I think I need some of those at my house! I also brought some of their sparkling wines with me for hotel evening tastings. I will share my tasting notes on those in the future. The wines offered great euro value and would be a pleasant add to your collection for everyday enjoyment. I believe at this time they are not available through shipping though, so you should make Vinakoper a stop in your vacation plans.