Alexandra Williams, MA
Pssst – if you don’t live in California, read this anyway, as you can probably buy one of the 1.5 millions cases of Sustainability in Practice (SIP) wines near you, which might cheer you up about missing the event.
What is SIP?
When a winery achieves this certification, it means they are committed to practices that support workers and the environment, as well as contributing to cleaner processes. As we’re in a major drought in California, these vintners, ranchers and farmers are leading the way in trying to work with, not against, the land and weather, as no crops will be sustainable if we don’t do something now.
Every time you buy a SIP-certified bottle of wine, you are putting your money toward growers who share your (and my) preferences for sustainable practices. You are casting a vote to keep these vintners in business. By drinking wine! Can you say “win win?” If you’re into social media, you can even use the hashtag #ispySIP. And if you have no idea what a hashtag is, and wonder why I’m co-opting the pound sign, no worries – just ask your local shop if they carry SIP certified wines.
Besides me, who now wants to say, “I spy with my little eye…. wine?”
Earth Day Food & Wine Weekend
Let’s say you are somewhat close to Paso Robles in Central California and want to come to the event April 18th. Held at Castoro Cellars, it’s a food and wine experience that’s high class and low key. Heck, you can wear your flip flops and “I Love California” t-shirt while dancing to the Cali Funk tunes of Proxima Parada if you want. Guess where much of your admission money goes? To educational scholarships for relatives of farmworkers and Spanish education programs. Drink Well and Do Good should be their motto. But it’s not, because I just made it up.
For the record, this is not a sponsored post. They are giving me free admission, but I’m writing about this because one of the organizers is my friend and I know what a fun event it will be. For example, on their Facebook page, I just saw reference to locally grown onion, Gruyere, bacon quiches that will be at the event. Besides, they know the difference between “borne” and “born.” The editor in me is savoring this grammatical knowledge. You know, like a good glass of wine.
Photo credits: Earth Day Food and Wine
The Wine Bloggers Conference was held here in S.B. County over the weekend. As presenters, Kymberly and I were invited to participate in the events. The first weekend highlight was visiting five Solvang tasting rooms, followed by dinner at Cecco Ristorante and gelato at Café Dolce. I’m going to list the 5 tasting rooms so that you can visit them when you come to Solvang.
Every single one of them had very outgoing, personable owners. The fact that I know very little about wine was not a deterrent to my experience. I just tuned out the wine talk (you need a translator if you’re not a wine person) and focused on the taste. Turns out I’m a Gewürztraminer and port person (I discovered this at Presidio).
We found out that Aston Martin does tour events too. They have a Pebble Beach – Lake Tahoe – Yosemite event coming up in August. Fast cars and mountain roads. I’ll wait for
James Bond Daniel Craig to pick me up.
The event was based at Bacara Resort, so we took a walk along the beach afterward. No matter what car you drive, or whether you do or don’t stay at the resort, the beach is open to the public. People think it’s private, but locals know it’s not, so you might like to add Haskell’s Beach to your visit.
The third highlight was a tour of some of the wine rooms in Santa Barbara – first in El Paseo downtown, followed by the funk zone. We got around the funk zone via surreys. Did you know you can rent surreys, Segways, scooters, skates and bikes (of course) down by the beach?
And pedaling the surrey counts as exercise. I’ll link to the places that hosted us, and let you decide for yourself which of their wines you prefer.
Au Bon Climat
Grassini Family Vineyards
Margerum Wine Co. & MWC32
Jamie Slone Wines (opening next month, but we got a sneak peek)
C’est Cheese (they sell a huge variety of world cheeses and wine, so get a sandwich to complement your tasting adventures)
Fox Wine Co. (lots of art too)
Municipal Winemakers (my favorite for the vibe – they are in a former scuba shop, complete with swimming pool behind the wall)
Deep Sea (which is over the water on Stearns Wharf)
If beautiful cars, beaches, and people (that’s me, in case you’re confused), plus wineries galore don’t tempt you to come visit Santa Barbara, then you are jaded I tell you, jaded. FYI, Santa Barbara isn’t known for jade, unless it’s the color of the sea. While you’re here, come take our exercise classes so you can speed along during your surrey ride.
Did I mention I won a bottle of wine during the conference? Yeah, I win good stuff. Oh, and standing by an Aston Martin makes you look like a model. See what it did for me?
As I haven’t gone to a wine-tasting in at least 20 years, and when I did it was as the designated driver, I was hopeful that I would blend in (haha, see that little joke there – One Wine is all about wine blends). Just in case my lack of knowledge was embarrassingly apparent, I brought along a ringer to help me. Turns out, the winemakers were quite friendly; not at all snooty or over my head.
I happen to live in Southern California’s wine country. As I live at the top of a mountain pass that leads from S.B. to Santa Ynez, I see the tour jeeps and buses loaded with visitors headed to the wineries every weekend. I mention this in case you decide to come to S.B., stop at Whole Foods for picnic items, then come up and over the Pass for a tour.
Weekend travel aside, I was a bit trepidatious when I walked into the wine section at Whole Foods for the event, as I actually felt a bit of an imposter. What if someone asked me about “legs” or “nose” or any other body part associated with wine knowledge? So I did what I do at fancy restaurants when there are too many fork choices – I watched what other people did and copied them. First thing learned: the mason jars were for pouring out any extra wine in your glass when you’re done tasting. Second thing learned; lots of snacks available!!!
Actually, I learned a lot. One Wine is a collaborative effort between the So. Cal. Whole Foods markets and specific Central California winemakers. The wines selected to be part of the One Wine label are not only affordable, but also produced locally, by hand, in small batches, and support the local economy and land stewardship. For this event, Margerum Wine Company, Ampelos Cellars, Hearst Ranch Winery, and Sextant Wines were on hand.
I tried the 2013 Margerum Rosé (Grenache, Counoise, Cinsault), the 2013 Margerum White Blend (Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc), the 2012 Sextant Zinfandel (Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Syrah), and the 2013 Ampelos Rosé) Syrah, Riesling, Grenache), in that order. If that’s the wrong tasting order, oh well. I kind of did a circle around the room. And I asked why Petite Sirah has an “I,” while Syrah has a “Y,” and learned it has something to do with them being completely different, yet somehow related way back when. Hmm, might have to do some follow-up work on that explanation.
When I confessed my lack of wine knowledge, Rebecca Work, co-owner of Ampelos Cellars advised me to only concern myself with three questions: 1 – Is it yummy; 2 – Do I lick my lips; and 3 – Do I want more? If that’s all it takes, I’m now a connoisseur! As part of my extensive wine knowledge, I’ll share an interesting tidbit. Ampelos Cellars is the first vineyard (2009) in the U.S. to be certified in all three categories: biodynamic, sustainable, and organic.
I can’t say which of these wines you’ll like, but I ended up buying some of the Margerum Rosé.
And right on the label it says only 224 cases were produced. So if you want some of this year’s One Wine blends, you should probably hurry to one of the So. Cal. Whole Foods markets for these Spring 2014 releases. I left a few cases for you.