Posted in cancer, life, wine

Life Between the Bottles

I used to have a blog called Real Housewife of Cobb County. I started when I quit my job to be a stay at home mom when my youngest daughter started her senior year. Most people expected the blog to be along the lines of the Real Housewives TV show, but it was just a therapeutic place for me to write about life.

It makes sense then, that lately I have been missing my blog about life in general, because there has been a lot happening in my life, and while I am not forgetting to be grateful for all of the blessings, lately, there has been a lot of sadness and tribulation.

My Mom has been battling stage 4 cancer since January of 2012. She has endured life altering surgeries, been through countless chemotherapy treatments (4 different regimens over 6 years, but we lost track of the number of treatments after she was on a maintenance chemo for a year), and let’s not forget the round of radiation for a tumor that popped up on her spine. Up until June of last year, she has been the victor. You would never know if you met her that she was a cancer patient. In June of last year, however, she had a pulmonary complication from the maintenance chemo that she was on. She also developed what seemed to be an undiagnosable debilitating back pain that by November would have her housebound, mostly immobile and dependent on Oxycodone for relief. She has had a pretty rough road from them until now.

She started Taxotere in February. We were told that this was a last line of defense, if it didn’t work there were no other options. At that time, she had developed tumors in her groin lymph nodes that could be clearly seen on the outside of her body. The silver lining was that one of the 5 medications she had to take to offset the side effects of the Taxotere were some mack daddy steroids. The steroids stopped her back pain. That was a ray of light in a pretty dark storm. I live 750 miles away from my mom but I have been able to go to each of her treatments with her and stay for a few days after through the blessing of intermittent FMLA leave.

The last time I left her on March 25th, I truly felt I was watching my Mom die before my eyes. Either the chemo was not working or it was killing her and it didn’t really matter, which one it was, she was fading away before my eyes. Her breathing was so labored that I worried for her to sleep. She had developed what she referred to as a weakness in her legs – she could truly barely walk. I came home wondering when I would have to return on a full-time basis to care for her until the end. Two days after I left, she had a doctor’s appointment that caused such concern that they moved her scan up by nearly 2 weeks to see what was going on. The scan revealed a blood clot in her leg and two in her lungs. This might not seem like good news, but to me, it explained the breathing and leg weakness issues. I thought, ok, they can treat this and maybe the chemo is not as bad as I thought. Maybe it’s working and the weakness and breathing will improve now that the blood clots have been identified and treated.

My Mom spent M-F in the hospital monitoring those blood clots. The same week she was hospitalized my 94 year old Grandma fell and ended up with an open fracture of her wrist. She underwent surgical repair with general anesthesia — very risky at that age.

My husband and I had a trip to Italy scheduled the following week and teetered all week on whether or not to cancel that trip. My Mom came home, my Grandma came home and my Mom’s exact words to my concern that I was going to come home to no surviving family was “well if we die, we’ll still be waiting here when you get back” — she’s a funny lady.

I left for Italy thinking that my Mom was taking one cycle off of chemo to recover from her blood clots and hospitalization and that I would go up for her next scheduled treatment on May 1st. She actually sounded so much better than she was before they found the lung clots that I had hope she would once again defy the odds. Even though she sounded better than she had, there was something dodgy about our conversations and I actually said to my husband that I think my Mom is lying to me. I think her scan showed cancer growth and she’s stopping treatment. I called her Oncologist (I am on her HIPPA forms) but couldn’t get a clear cut answer. I would found out later she swore her doctor, his nurse and her closest friends to secrecy so that I wouldn’t cancel my trip.

I speak to me my Mom everyday and even upon my return she continued to tell me that she had a follow up coming up to see if she would have her next scheduled chemo treatment at the beginning of May.  Again, I have this 6th sense that she is withholding information but I figure I would get to the bottom of it the following week when I am there in person.

But that’s not how it happened. I was sitting at my desk at work on Wednesday, April 25th, when I received a call from a woman who identifies herself as my Mother’s Social Worker and gives me the name and number of my Mother’s nurse. They have both visited her this morning and she is in good spirits and not in any pain. The Chaplain will also visit this week. Ummmm….wait….what? I hate to sound stupid, but exactly who are you? “I am with Hospice, your Mom has entered Hospice. She identified you as the decision maker and said you have a medical power of attorney…I’m sorry, I thought you knew….”

I made plans to return to Cleveland a few days after that phone call. I thought I would get here and we would have some enjoyable moments over the next few months. I would get some things in place for her and travel back and forth, between Atlanta and Cleveland, just more frequently, until the very end when I would be here full time.

Instead I would arrive to find my mom almost completely unable to get up from her recliner, where she has been sleeping because it keeps her back more comfortable. I would walk into her home to realize that, just based on the condition of things, she had not been able to care for anything for at least a couple of weeks. She has a wonderful tribe of friends, but they are all in their 70’s with limitations of their own. They made sure she was not alone, not in pain, had groceries and that her cats were cared for.

My mom appears to be declining rather quickly. I had  to move her to in resident Hospice care. I could not lift her out her chair anymore. We had issues this last week that compromised her safety and her dignity and she needs 24 hour care. One of my daughters was here last weekend and the other is coming this weekend.

I’m trying not get ahead of myself. There are so many things I will have to take care of, and I am fighting with myself to take one day at a time. How does the mouse eat the elephant? One bite at a time. One of my mother’s favorite sayings.

I’ve been visiting my 94 year old Grammy. Her wrist is healing nicely but the general anesthesia did take a toll. Always sharp as a tack, she is not quite the same. It’s so sad to me that she will outlive two of her 3 children.

Since I’ve been here, my Dad’s youngest brother, my Uncle Brian, unexpectedly died in his sleep. I can’t remember the last time I saw my Uncle, but my youngest got to spend some time with her Grandpa and all of the uncles not too long ago. Here is a picture of all of them. My Uncle Dan told the waitress to “hurry up and take the picture before one of us dies.” Two have died since then. That is the sadness of death really. It is not sad for our loved ones, I am a Christian and believe in life everlasting. But it is sad for us who live with a void in our lives.

As long as I am writing about life’s valleys, I have to include my niece Kristen. She is my husband’s sister’s youngest daughter. She is 47 and she is in desperate need of a liver transplant. Desperate need. Of all of the things going on in my life, she causes me the most concern. She is too young. She has children who still need her. But, I have to believe that Kristen is going to get that liver. And the God is going to hold her until she does.

I have a pretty healthy attitude about death. It is as natural as being born. Everything living thing will eventually die. None of us will escape.  I had seen with my own eyes that my Mom had probably run out of grace this time around. I have seen her suffer greatly this past year and I think in this world, that perhaps watching a loved one suffer is the hardest thing to bear. So, I will be thankful for the blessings in my life and the ability to be with her now.

 

 

Posted in wine

Drinking Wine While Flying

Let me just say right of out the gate, my opinion is limited to one airline. I’ve lived in Atlanta for 18 years so your first assumption about which airline I’m flying is probably correct. I have no other complaints about this airline and they will continue to be my first choice in booking flights.

So, what’s my beef? The wine selection in the Main Cabin! I have been traveling alot recently – mostly between Atlanta and Cleveland, but my last trip was to Italy and when I saw the same exact options for wine as my Atlanta to Cleveland flights, I thought it was worthy of a discussion, because truly they could do so much better and it really wouldn’t be that hard.

Before I rant, let me show you what I am talking about. This photo is actually from my international flight, but it is exactly the same options as my domestic flights. A fairly nice selection for beer and for liquor, but what do you see for wine? Red and White. That’s it! I originally assumed this was just what short, domestic flights had become and I can get over that. But when I boarded my flight to Italy and it was the EXACT SAME options, I was more than a little disappointed. 

In fact, I ordered one of my favorite beers instead of choosing between the magnum sized unidentifiable red or white.

If you haven’t figured out my airline, let me assure you we are not talking about a discount airline. I am quite certain that the overall wine program for this airline is something that quite a lot of time and effort was put into. In fact, their website divulges that they take great pride in the wine options for the First Class Cabin. Those selections are carefully curated by an incredibly talented, award winning, Master Sommelier. Here’s a peak at an example of what’s available for a select few flyers:

 

Please don’t think I’m whining that I want First Class options in the Main cabin — I know that the difference between flying first class and coach is one of the few blatantly obnoxious differences in class and socioeconomic status still widely accepted in today’s society. It’s just that it seems to be an awful long jump from the First Class options to the Main Cabin options of Red and White. Surely there is a middle ground. I only include the First Class options to point out that, there is someone already on staff who has the knowledge and the capability to create a slightly better experience for us poor souls in the Main Cabin.

Would it be so much trouble to list Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay? Or even a red blend and Pinot Grigio? With a recognizable producer? Would it? And if that answer is yes, someone please help me understand why, because as a self-declared wino, I find this to be incredibly frustrating. I want to know what I’m ingesting and Red and White just isn’t good enough. It’s not.

Not to mention, I don’t think I’m alone in my willingness to pay more for a wine that is recognizable. And if the lack of selection on international flights is because the drinks are free, let me just assure you that just because I can’t afford a first class plane ticket does not mean I wouldn’t allow a quick swipe to my credit card for a really nice Italian wine on my way to Italy.

I believe in the “if you’re not part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem” philosophy so, you know, if the Main Cabin doesn’t warrant the services of a Master Sommelier, then I, a mere CSW, would be happy to help this airline improve it’s Main Cabin wine list, because it does need improving and it really wouldn’t be that hard.

In the meantime, thanks for the great beer and liquor options.

Posted in wine

Going for the Double Gold – Dracaena Cabernet Franc 2015

In hindsight, this Dracaena Cabernet Franc 2015 wine, would have made a perfect wine to drink while watching the Olympics because this wine brought home not a Gold, but a Double Gold Award from the San Francisco Chronicle Wine competition. I came across this Twitter post regarding this accolade, which I hope gives you an  idea of what an honor this award is:

Not an easy task to win a Double Gold from me or my winejudging (.com) compatriots at the #SFCWC2018 but the Cabernet Franc from Dracaena Wines is a rare gem that wooed us with flavor, finesse and elegance. Congrats!

Awards, points and ratings only count for so much though right? Right. So I had to try it for myself and it did not disappoint.

Describing tastes and aromas in wine is my nemesis, try as I might to develop a sophisticated palate, it is a slow process for me. So, I’ll give you my impressions and then tell you what the winemaker says;)

I called this wine deep garnet in color, with the slightest little bit of lightening along the meniscus. The thing that knocked my socks off was the nose on this wine. I would literally describe it as luscious. I can’t describe it beyond that, it was probably the most compelling aroma I have experienced.

The flavors did not disappoint either. There was just so much going on. I got plum and licorice and then this tobacco thing — totally different than how I have previously described tobacco in wine. For me the tobacco lingered forever on an incredibly long finish. I consider this wine to be full bodied and powerful, but so, so well balanced and just beautiful. It made me really think, so I’d even add complex to this one.

I was excited to see the winemaker actually called the aromas a “vibrant bouquet” (red currant, tobacco, earth) and referenced a “parade of flavors”  (plum, dark chocolate, black cherry, black licorice) on the palate. A spiciness and hint of herb on the finish “for what seems like ages.” So I am probably mistaking spiciness and hint of herb for the tobacco on the finish.

Here is some technical Info:

Varietal: 100% Cabernet Franc
Harvest: September 25, 2015
Age 20 months in French oak (10% new)
Bottled: June 20, 2017

If you really want to geek out a bit, check out the tech sheet for details about the vineyard, sun exposure and the 2015 season. (click here)

The bottom line is this is truly a great wine that is worth ordering online — and being home for a signature for lol! You can order here  for $32.

While you are ordering, be sure to check out the story behind Dracaena Wines (druh_see-nah). Owners Mike and Lori Budd have a great story – NJ residents making Paso Robles wine. They began as home wine makers and ended up making a wine worthy of the Double Gold award.

Lori hosts the Winephabet Street podcast, has an award winning blog, and is very active in the social media spaces. I have enjoyed listening and learning from her , which made drinking her wine all the more special.

P.S. Lori also created Cabernet Franc Day, celebrated on December 4th. (#cabfrancday).

Posted in wine

Canned Wine – It’s Good!

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I’ve been curious about this whole canned wine craze. I tried a Rosé at an event and thought it was very nice, but I fully recognize that I judged that wine before it ever hit my lips and I wasn’t expecting much. I can’t explain it exactly, but like most things in life, wine is a multi-sensory experience and somehow the can just doesn’t give me the feels that a beautifully labeled bottle does. So, was the wine actually good or was it because my expectations were so low?

I decided I wanted to investigate canned wines further and set out to purchase several Rosé options, but as I was standing in the canned wine aisle – there are so many, it’s literally it’s own little section – I spied several Pinot Noir options. Fussy, finicky, hard to grow Pinot Noir in a can? I decided on 3 different Pinot Noir options: The Great Oregon Wine Company, Underwood, and Alloy Wine Works.

A friend and I tasted these wines on a Tuesday night. She tasted them completely blind, but I knew which ones were in each glass since I was the one who poured them. In full disclosure we had a glass of Primitivo from a bottle that she had brought with her before we did our tasting.

All three of these selections equate to the less than $15 a bottle category and I do think they hold their own in that range. They were good! Good as in, I didn’t feel the need to spit anything out, I finished my glass and I would not hesitate to taste canned wines in the future. Of these three, one of them was a standout in comparison to the other two, and that was the Alloy Wine Works. In my opinion, it had a lot more dimension than either The Great Oregon Wine Company or Underwood. There was a much more detectable earthy quality, whereas the other two were all fruit to me. My tasting companion agreed.

Let’s look at each one of these individually:

img_3997.jpgThe Great Oregon Wine Company: I could not find a lot of information on production of this wine. The tasting notes are different for their bottled Pinot Noir than the canned version, so I am assuming the canned wine is produced specifically for the cans? These are sold in 4 packs for $13, each can is 187.5 ml, so you have 750 ml bottle  divided up among these cans. Offerings in a can from this producer include Rosé, Pinot Grigio and Pinot Noir. Check them out here.

UnderwoodThe Union Wine Company, producer of Underwood, tells us that it is the same exact wine in their can as in their bottle. Wine Enthusiast gave this wine 87 points. The cans are sold on the website in 4 packs of 375 ml each for $28 (that’s the equivalent of 2 bottles) or in 24 can flats for $151.20 with an automatic 10% discount for case purchases (equivalent to one case of wine). I was able to buy mine in a single can from Whole Foods, I cannot recall the exact price, but I think around $9.  Offerings from this producer include, Rosé, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Reisling, Bubbles (white and pink). There are also 2 blends Riesling Radler (Oregon Riesling, hops, malt and grapefruit) and Get it Girl (Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris). Get It Girl takes a political stance and 100% of proceeds go to Planned Parenthood – important to know regardless of where you stand. Find out more here.

alloyAlloy Wine Works, is a label of Field Recordings. in Paso Robles. Field Recordings. also cans their Fiction label wines, but those remain under the Fiction label. Alloy Wine Works produces only cans, with some very interesting options: Chardonnay, Rosé, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, a dry-hopped sparkling Rosé, two different spritzers , a wine coffee blend and a peachy chardonnay. It appears there was a 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, but I do not see it offered on their website at this time. I was surprised at how good this Pinot Noir was. This was also the only wine of these three that put the vintage on the can – 2014 for this Pinot Noir. This can was 500 ml, the largest option and I believe it was right at $8 at Whole Foods. You can purchase a 4 pack online for $26.00. I am very curious to try additional canned options from Alloy.

I read a few professional reviews that detected a “tinny” note, although one of those reviews did ponder whether it was his own preconceived notion. I did not detect any notes of tinniness or metal in any of these three cans. As I mentioned above, I do have a little bit of a preconceived notion that these wines are somehow a different animal than a bottled wine, but I recognize this is pure personal prejudice on my part. I’m fairly certain I felt the same way about screw caps at one point.

I am fairly certain I am going to do this again with Rosé. Although, I am also thinking about putting the Alloy Wine Works Pinot Noir up against a bottled Pinot Noir for a can to bottle comparison.

Canned wines are not made for impressing at dinner parties, or for your cellar. They are made to be portable — much lighter than glass and also non-breakable. Pools, boats and any outdoor activity that requires you to carry your wine on your person are all situations that make canned wine an excellent option. They are also just plain fun – especially with the unique options that some of these producers are offering. Although canned wines have only recently become “a thing” in the mainstream, it’s worth poiting out that the Francis Ford Coppola winery has been selling the canned Sofia wines – that include a bendable straw – for more than a decade.

My final impression is that canned wines are innovative and different and fun, and they are in deed good! I think, under the right circumstances, say hiking or lazing on a beach somewhere, they might even be damned good. I highly recommend giving a canned wine a try.

Posted in music, wine

Brandy Clark – Musical Genius

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Brandy Clark with her amazing bassist Vanessa McGowan. — City Winery Atlanta

I shared an epiphany with my husband while watching Brandy Clark perform at City Winery Atlanta last Friday night – she’s the modern day Johnny Cash. If you are a Johnny Cash fan you might be offended at that statement, you might even dismiss me as crazy and stop reading, but you’d be missing out on an amazing talent.

I discovered Brandy Clark by complete accident when she opened up for Jennifer Nettles at The Georgia National Fair in Perry, GA a few years ago. My daughter (who was then in college) and I shared the best awkward mother daughter moment ever as we both laughed at the unexpected lyrics.

BrandyClark

Although the lyrics were unexpected, the song instantly became one of my all time favorites. Possibly it is both the lyrics and the delivery that make her so appealing, revealing a raw humanness that I like to think everyone can relate to on some level.

So many of her songs (Stripes, Daughter, Big Day in a Small Town), are both satirical and yet so honest that you somehow feel better about life after listening to them.  Brandy Clark is old school country while at the same time being completely current. She is an accomplished song writer with a voice that is beautiful and pure and a performance style that makes you feel like she really gets you — even if you’ve never gotten high, lived in a small town or considered murdering an ex. Just like Johhny Cash could make you imagine what it feels like to stand in a prison yard or get your shoes shined. And that is the genius that is Brandy Clark.

Songs she has written have been made famous by the likes of Miranda Lambert (Ain’t Your Momma’s Broken Heart) and The Band Perry (Better Dig Two). She has had such musical legends as Reba McEntire and Kenny Rogers among many others who have recorded her songs. What I’m getting at here is she is the real deal – true musical talent that world does not often get to see.

When I saw that Brandy Clark was coming to the intimate venue that is City Winery Atlanta, I could not wait to see her and she did not disappoint. As if I needed more of a reason to love her, she sang Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow (Carole King), Good Hearted Woman (Waylon Jennings) and Blame It On Your Heart (Patty Loveless) – all songs that I have loved for my entire life. These songs represent exactly the kind of homage she pays to way back when, while adding her own very current take on life.

I could go on, but I’ll just leave you with the entire song that started it all for me, I really hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Posted in wine

OhEmGee! I feel So Validated!

I just got around to reading Karen MacNeil’s Winespeed  from February 2nd (read here) and I got so excited I had to make a brief blog post about it.

She features two white Bordeaux wines in this edition, one of which I have previously blogged about because it changed my wine life – I am not exaggerating! Read the entire post here, but here is relevant excerpt:

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I can’t explain why this tickled me so, but it did! Karen MacNeil is a true icon of the wine industry, so to have her sing the praises of a wine I had already tried and felt the same way about just puts a smile on my face!

Happy Friday fellow winos! I might just go splurge on this bottle in honor of this event!

Then there was this white Bordeaux…. If I have had a life changing wine moment to date, it would be while standing in a grocery store in Cleveland, OH. The store, Heinen’s, had a very nice selection of wines to taste in those pneumatic dispensing machines that allow you to purchase 1 oz pours so you can try a lot of wines. I tried a white Bordeaux and I loved it. Not liked, loved. It had great mouth feel and was creamy and delicious. Fruity, yet somehow buttery. It knocked my socks off. The wine was Domaine de Chavalier Pessac-Leognan Grand Cru Classe de Graves Blanc 2008. Leave it to me to have the first white wine I fall in love with be a Bordeaux that retailed for more than $100! I pretty much appreciated the moment and blocked it from conscious.
Then there was this white Bordeaux…. If I have had a life changing wine moment to date, it would be while standing in a grocery store in Cleveland, OH. The store, Heinen’s, had a very nice selection of wines to taste in those pneumatic dispensing machines that allow you to purchase 1 oz pours so you can try a lot of wines. I tried a white Bordeaux and I loved it. Not liked, loved. It had great mouth feel and was creamy and delicious. Fruity, yet somehow buttery. It knocked my socks off. The wine was Domaine de Chavalier Pessac-Leognan Grand Cru Classe de Graves Blanc 2008. Leave it to me to have the first white wine I fall in love with be a Bordeaux that retailed for more than $100! I pretty much appreciated the moment and blocked it from conscious.
Posted in wine

Trillium Vineyards, Bremen, Georgia (USA)

I recently discovered this absolute gem of a place. Research for my previous article about the Hungarian Community in this area of Georgia (read here), brought me to Trillium Vineyards’ door one Saturday afternoon last month. I was intrigued because most of the wineries in Georgia are not in this area, even though they used to be. As or right now, Trillium is the only vineyard and winery in Haralson County.

My friend Susan and I were warmly greeted by the owners, Bruce and Karen Cross. The space that is the Tasting Room is absolutely stunning. Previously a barn, it is rustic and chic and makes you want to settle in and never leave. I wish I had taken more pictures, but here are some of the space. It sits on a beautiful piece of land with plenty of outdoor seating.

Having just opened its doors in August of 2017, they also had their first harvest in 2017. Having a winery and no wine to taste doesn’t really work out very well so Bruce purchased grapes from vineyards in Texas and made 6 wines to offer guests while the grapes he grew are busy fermenting and aging. We tasted through 5 of the wines and both Susan and I really enjoyed each one. One of the wines had already sold out – a dry Moscato that Bruce named Woolgathering. So unusual! I would have loved to try it and hope to get the chance in the future.  To the right, you will see the current options and description of each. Susan and I both purchased the Forever Friends and I also took home a bottle of the Huckster.

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Look at the beautiful presentation of the glasses for the tasting flights! The flights are a mere $5 by the way.

Just this week Trillium posted on their social media accounts that they won three Double Gold awards and one Silver award at the Texas International Wine Competition!

Bruce and Karen were pharmacists in their previous life. Karen grew up right here in Bremen. Trillium Vineyards is named for theTrillium flower — Karen’s favorite flower from walks with her Aunt when she was young. The entire concept of the vineyard is based on the Trinity represented in the flower and also by friendship. Their flagship wine, Forever Friends is a tribute to this. The label includes the Trillium flower and the Celtic symbol for friendship.

If you like to get a little geeky about grapes, I think you will find this a little bit interesting. Bruce is growing some unusual varietals in his vineyard. So unusual, that I couldn’t recall the names, but I did find reference to two of them on their website: Blanc du Bois and Lenoir. I am by no means a viticulture expert, but I was intrigued by these varietals because I know enough to know that they are not common. Bruce tried to explain a little bit about them but I was sampling his delicious wine and not retaining information – haha. I did remember that he mentioned that they are not Vitis Vinifera, and this too, is very unusual. A little research revealed the following.

The Blanc du Bois grape and the LeNoir grape both belong to the Vitis Aesteivalis species. This is interesting because the vast majority of wine grapes in the world are grown on Vitis Vinifera rootstock. This is because Vitis Vinifera is resistant to Phylloxora — a plague that entirely eradicated vineyards across Europe in the late 1800s. The Vitis Aesteivalis varietals are resistant to a different disease – Pierce’s Disease – which is a more present danger to grape growers in southern states (or anywhere that can have a mild winter). Pierce’s Disease is fatal to the vines it affects can spread quickly over an entire vineyard.

I know I lost some of you with this grape geek speak, but this is another difference that I think makes Trillium unique. I don’t think many other Georgia wineries, if any, are growing these two varietals.

Visiting:

Trillium is currently open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday for tasting, however, they host a variety of events every week, including a guided tour from Bruce himself. Check out upcoming events here.  You can also host your own private event here and, as stated above, the setting is absolutely stunning.

They have a wine club that has events just for members. Wine Club Manager, Sherri Boon, mentioned that they will be having an event in February for Wine Club Members to taste the wines being made from the 2017 harvest. If getting a sneak peak (taste) of these wines is not incentive enough, Sherri pointed out that members will be a part of history as they will be the first people since Prohibition to drink wine from grapes that were grown and produced in Haralson County. I don’t know about you, but I love this sort of thing.

Trillium is only about an hour from Cobb County, an easy and beautiful drive. I sincerely hope that Bruce and Karen are the pioneers that will make Haralson County a booming grape growing region once again. But, even if they remain the only winery in the area, it is worth the drive to visit them.

Posted in wine

Haralson County Georgia (USA) Wine, Past and Present

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I added USA to the title of this post because, the Republic of Georgia is such a hot spot on the global wine scene right now. As much as I’d love to be writing about a visit to that Georgia, or Hungary, this article is about the history of wine in my own back yard. Haralson County borders Alabama, about an hour west of metro Atlanta. The Hungarian Colony that I am writing about was located between Tallapoosa and Bremen.

Not being a native Georgian, I am not well versed on the history of this great state. I have a co-worker to thank for bringing this great little piece of American wine history to my attention. The story is real, but to my mind it is like a fantasy dream come true. The modern day equivalent of winning the lottery.

Imagine you are an Hungarian immigrant in 1886, having left your country of origin as a farmer and now, in your search for a better life you, you live in Pennsylvania and work in a coal mine to make your living here in the New World.

Along comes a man named Ralph L. Spencer, who wants to develop an entire community based around growing grapes and making wine. He recruits a Catholic Priest, Father Francis Janisek, to help convince people to move to rural Georgia. Mr. Spencer is offering a plot of land for a home, plus 10 acres of land. Two acres are already planted with grape vines, and the other 8 you must plant with additional grape vines. Father Janisek was coming to the new community, so that there would be a church community in place.  It is said that Father Janisek was given a home, a horse and buggy for his part in the plan. The home, a Rectory, resembled a castle that sat atop a hill overlooking the wine growing communities.

img_3737Fifty families were the original settlers on 2,000 acres of land. The grape vines flourished and by 1893 the Hungarian Colony consisted of three separate communities: Budapest, Tokaj and Nitra, totaling more than 200 families with some 12,726 acres of grape vines. Homes, shops, a school, the church, a cemetery and wineries made the area a booming wine region.

By 1900 it would be more than 20,000 acres under vine and the Hungarian Colony supplied most of the Southeast with wine along the Southern and Blue Ridge Railroads. The wine could be bought along the railroad stops for $1 a gallon and you had to bring your own container. At the turn of the century the Hungarian Colony made Georgia the 6th largest wine producer in the United States (45 states at the time).

Maybe its just me, but this scenario is pretty much a dream come true. I’m not discounting that farming is incredibly hard work, as is wine making, but it sure beats coal mining. If anyone has a similar offer today, I am ready, able and willing.

Can you guess what happened to this bustling little community? Prohibition. Georgia passed Prohibition in 1908, a full 12 years before the ratification of the 18th Amendment that made Prohibition a nationwide reality. The town literally ceased to exist. Some of the residents stayed and found some way to make a living. Most returned to Pennsylvania and the coal mines. The ones who stayed were buried in the community’s cemetery that is still there today.

The homes and buildings were literally abandoned, eventually falling into disrepair and crumbling. The Rectory still stands and is being renovated. Here is a picture of it from the road. It is known now by locals as Keys Castle — it is rumored that a descendant of Francis Scott Key once owned it.  It also has a reputation for being haunted. I am told by the owners of  nearby Trillium Vineyard  that a local resident has purchased the home and is renovating it.img_3730

Its so interesting to me that Georgia was once one of the largest producers of wine in the United States, all because of this little area in Haralson County. Currently, the vast majority of Georgia wine is grown and produced a bit farther north, and east, and it seems so odd to me that no one had attempted to bring this industry back to life in the former grape growing region where it all began.

Well, not until August of 2017 that is. My friend Susan and I stumbled onto Trillium Vineyards in our Haralson County adventures. We so enjoyed everything about this winery and found it to be so special that I am writing an entirely separate article about it, so please stay tuned for that.


Sources:
Haralson County Historical Society: https://www.haralsoncountyhistory.com/budapest.html
The Georgia Wine Trail Document
Posted in wine

2017, My Year In Wine In Review

 

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January 2018 marks one year since I obtained my CSW credential.  I don’t think even I realized how incredibly ambitious this was on my part  — having 0 industry experience, and not much wine knowledge at all. Nevertheless, I managed to pass the exam in January of 2017. I realized almost immediately that while I now had some solid book learning, I was desperately lacking real life knowledge.

So, I began searching out every wine opportunity I could find. I created a social media presence for Side Hustle Wino and began connecting with other wine people. I read industry news sites, magazines and books. I listen to wine podcasts daily. I volunteered at numerous wine related events, and for a period of time this past year, I was planning events for 3 different Meet Ups. I accepted a side hustle job that allows me to occasionally work for pay featuring wines at Costco. Most importantly, I drank a lot of wine, because really how else am I supposed to really, truly learn? I also tried to purvey all of this activity into an occasional worthwhile blog post.  I believe this method of operation is what my Dad likes to refer to as “throwing a lot of shit at the wall and seeing what sticks.”

Maybe not the best method of operating, but I did continue to learn. A lot. I am beginning to feel comfortable in my knowledge, which is something that can’t be given or studied, you have to acquire it through experiences. This is not to be interpreted as I know a lot, because I don’t. But I do know a little, and what I know now, compared to this time last year, well that is a lot. Knowing that this is just the the tip of the iceberg is what is so exciting about wine — I will never get bored with this subject matter.

I’ve attached a slideshow of some of the wines I experienced in 2017, by month. There were a few really good wine moments — a 1961 Gevrey Chambertin! A white Bordeaux – Domaine De Chevalier – that changed how I think about wine.

On a completely personal level, 2017 was a challenging year.  Knee rehab for me and serious health issues for both of my parents who are 750 miles away — and I am an only child to my Mom. Both of my daughters moved into new places. My Mom moved into a new place and so did my 94 year old Grandma who is in better health than any of us.

The one thing that was severely lacking in my life in 2017 was travel. Five trips to Cleveland left me constantly chasing PTO at my day job.  I ended up taking time off without pay to spend the week with my husband and daughters at Thanksgiving.

So, while am spread a little thin right now, 2018 will likely be me the end of my “real” job.  It is project based and is scheduled to end this year. My plan is to “retire” from the 8 to 5 corporate environment. I hope to devote all of my time to writing, experiencing and drinking wine. Perhaps a dream job will present itself?

So, that’s where I am at. I hope this post finds you happy and healthy and sipping something delightful and I hope 2018 is full of health and happiness for you.

Cheers to a Happy New Year!

 

 

Posted in wine

Champagne, Chocolate and Cheese

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L to R: Francois Gigandet, H. Blin; Terry Tomasello, Domaine Wine Distributor; Karl Vivier, A Cocoa Affair; Ted Field, Domaine Wine Distributor

What more could you ask for? I recently attended this event hosted by Domaine Distributors that featured Champagnes from producer H. Blin, hand-crafted chocolates custom created to pair with each Champagne by Karl Vivier, owner of Cocoa Affair, and a beautiful selection of artisan cheeses from Caly Road Creamery, provided by owner Robin Schick.

Francois  Gigandet, from H. Blin, traveled all the way from France to pour his Champagnes and tell us about their vineyards, their processes, and just share his knowledge, experience, and enthusiasm with us. He hand carried 27 of these lovely glasses on the plane and told me I should never drink from a flute!

We sampled 7 Champagnes (pictured below) and they were all amazing. Each was special in it’s own way. If I had to choose, my #1 would be the Vintage. Champagne only produces a “Vintage” blend when the year is absolutely outstanding — after tasting this 2008 Vintage, I can easily concur that 2008 must have been outstanding. This one was fruity and biscuity and complex and I j’adored it!

The remaining six I would have a difficult time putting in order of preference. They were all delicious and had a unique feature that made it special in its own right. H. Blin uses sustainable growing practices in all of their vineyards, however, several hectares are certified organic, producing the organic L’Esprit Naturale, which also has no dosage. *

The Blanc De Noirs is is 100% Pinot Meunier which I think is quite unique, I had never tasted a 100% Pinot Meunier Champagne before.  Perhaps not so surprising when you discover that H. Blin is located in the Vincelles village in the Champagne region, an area know for the Pinot Menuier variety.  All Champagnes are produced primarily with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Menuier.  Pinot Menuier usually takes a much smaller role than 100%, or even the 80% that shows in the Brut and Demi- Sec.

 

Did I mention each had a custom chocolate hand crafted to specifically pair with it? Sadly, I did not get a good photo of all 7 pairings, but just look at these gorgeous examples:

Left: Pear jam, mango-passion fruit, milk chocolate ganache, and toasted oat – paired with the Vintage Champagne.

Center: Raspberry and curry leaf ganache, a hint of Espelette pepper and smoked paprika – paired with the Rose.

Right: Mandarin-mango ganache, grapefruit zest, violet tea and a hint of orange – paired with L’Esprit Nature.

You can find A Cocoa Affair here.

Robin from Caly Road told us the cheese was there for “after, when you get hungry” but let me tell you, her cheeses would go well with any wine, and these Champagnes were no exception. Caly Road Creamery is the only retailer to currently carry ALL of the wines distributed by Domaine so if you are looking for any one of the gems they distribute, and a fabulous cheese to pair with it, please stop in and see Robin at Caly Road Creamery.

If you love Champagne, seek out H. Blin. The Champagnes they produce are not only unique but produced with incredible quality and care. And, if you ever have a chance to meet Francois, well, you will be charmed I’m sure. img_2299-1

*For an excellent source of information and a quick Champagne 101, check out Wine Folly .