Ever since multiple wildfires raged through bucolic wine country and neighborhoods in Sonoma County and Napa Valley, one message is clear. The region is resilient, rebuilding and open for business. Some of that business — namely tourism, through hotels, restaurants, and wineries — was very slow to come back in the weeks and months afterwards. January and February are traditionally slow and quiet months, but now that spring is in the air, folks are finding their way back to all that wine country has to offer.
I’ve always been partial to this grape that calls France’s Loire Valley its spiritual home. Thanks to a tasting hosted by Val de Loire Millesime at the impressive Chateau Royal in Blois, France, overlooking the Loire River, I’ve discovered many ways to love Chenin Blanc.
We pair wine with food, music and holidays, so why not fashion?
I was super excited when I first learned about this new fashionable wine project a couple years ago. Now, Alara Cellars has made its debut.
Winemaker Janu Goelz loves wine, and she loves fashion just as much. For her, blending them is a natural. Goelz is co-owner and co-winemaker Jason-Stephens Winery with her husband Jason. Together, with Tim Slater of Sarah’s Vineyard, they created The Stomping Ground in Gilroy, home to about half a dozen local boutique wineries.
The craft winery venue was perfect launching pad for Goelz’s own label, Alara Cellars. Her eyecatching labels are original illustrations, the work of Vancouver-based fashion designer and illustrator Malene Grotrian.
In the #RoseAllDay category, you can’t beat Lucy Wines Rosé of Pinot Noir. First, the stunning bottle is all I need as my table centerpiece. The magnum is even more impressive. But pop the cork and pour this lovely pale rose-colored wine, and fresh strawberry notes jump out of the glass.
You’ve got to love this wine’s name. No, it’s not made by sisters or anyone twisted. Michael Martella, Martella Wines founder and Thomas Fogarty winemaker emeritus, likes to have fun with his wine. For him, that means dreaming up inventive blends, such as this Twisted Sisters white.
Tokaji has an identity crisis. You may have never heard about wines from this area of eastern Hungary. They are white wines and mostly all are sweet. And sweet wines are hard sell. Yet the Tokaji wines remain fresh, with bright acidity — even after years of aging. No cloying, overly sweet wines here. This makes Tokaji highly drinkable – and not just for dessert. Therein lies Tokaji’s issue. While it is a perfect after dinner drink, the wine, thanks to the crisp acid, pairs beautifully with all sorts of dishes, and not just creme brûlée or chocolate.
In the wine world we talk about the old world and the new world. The old world is basically Europe – France, Germany, Italy, Spain, etc. The new world is just about everywhere else – The US, Australia, South America, South Africa.
I am standing in the oldest of the old world. My travels have brought me to Tokaji, Hungary, a two and a half hour drive east of Budapest. You may not realize wine is made in Hungary. You may be surprised to learn that the area called Tokaji is the oldest delimited, or defined, wine region in the world, established by royal degree in 1737. The most famous wine here is the sweet wine known as Tokaji. It is called “the king of wine and wine of kings.” This golden to amber nectar has a long storied history, going back to the Middle Ages. Royal fans included French kings Louis XIV, Louis XV, Madame de Pompadour and Russia’s emperor Peter the Great.
Deborah Brenner is a connector. She wrote the book “Women of the Vine” in 2006 about women’s roles the wine industry, and ever since, she’s been bringing women together to further their careers in the wine world.
“The theme of the book was about breaking the glass ceiling in the wine industry,” says Brenner, who left a job as a marketing executive to pursue a passion for wine. She wrote about the inspiring women she traveling through wine country, a who’s who of winemakers including Gina Gallo, Heidi Peterson Barrett and Merry Edwards. They all shared the stories behind their own labels and the trials encountered on their way to the top.
Ah, the mystery of our sense of smell. It is powerful and we can’t really control it. When we smell something, our response is direct and primal. Sniff something and the response is immediate because the sensation goes directly to our limbic system, the part of the brain connected to memory and emotions. If you’ve ever had the experience of smelling something that immediately takes you back to your grandmother’s kitchen, an old lover or a long forgotten destination, this is why. But our language function operates in a different part of our brain and that’s why we are sometimes at a loss for words to express what we are smelling.