January 25

Ground Boots Wines – For The Love of Dog!

gypsy canyon logo

Though I have strayed a time or two, the goal of my blog is to eat, drink and shop my way through Napa Valley and share those experiences with you. But when I learned about winemaker Deborah Hall and Ground Boots wines, I knew her story needed to be shared. Deborah’s winery Gypsy Canyon Winery is located in Central California’s Santa Barbara County and I became aware of Deborah because of the amazing powers of social media. And very loosely paraphrasing a philosophy by Mercedes Ruehl’s character Anne in the early ‘90s movie The Fisher King (one of the best movies EVER!), I fully believe that positive energy finds positive energy no matter how far apart it may be!

the fisher king

In her own words, Deborah is a winemaker, designer, tree hugger and Mom living on the vineyard. She is also the founder and principle of Gypsy Canyon Winery – a tiny historic vineyard and boutique winery that focuses on estate grown Pinot Noir and Mission grapes. Deborah studied viticulture and enology at U.C. Davis and has become a recognized expert in the field of grape growing, winemaking and package design. In 1999, she began her passion for growing grapes and making wines while tending the vines in the healthy and vibrant soils of Santa Barbara County.

Deborah Hall and her family!
Deborah Hall & Gregg Tully, Managing Director of Soi Dog. Deborah brought the front dog, Ting, home with her from Thailand!

Though she was doing what she loved, running a successful business and embracing her life in the country, Deborah felt a little empty. I know this is something I relate to and understand. Sometimes in the midst of what many people call “success”, there is a feeling that time is slipping past and maybe a little more can be done. In fact, I gave up my career in real estate three years ago so that I could explore that same nagging hunger that Deborah was feeling. Now I get to write about my passion for being vegan, volunteer for several animal welfare organizations in Napa Valley, I get to be a full time Mom to my 3 dogs and cat and a full time support system to my husband Steve! What I have sacrificed (and I do use that word very lightly) in material objects has more than been made up for with joy and fulfillment. And I have truly never been happier! About a year ago, Deborah also began reflecting on her life and thinking…”what next?” She remembered her love for animals and our environment. As a child, she had dreamed of becoming a veterinarian but as so often happens her life took her a different direction. It was then, she began to contemplate and consider what she could do now to make a difference.

Back to the wonders of social media…while Deborah was on Facebook she came across Soi Dog Foundation. Soi Dog Foundation is a not-for-profit, charitable organization based and registered in Thailand and registered in the U.S., Australia, the United Kingdom, France and Holland. The mission statement of Soi Dog is to improve the welfare of dogs and cats in Thailand which in turn improves the lives of both the animal and human communities. To end animal cruelty and to ultimately create a society without homeless animals. In addition to helping the homeless, neglected and abused cats and dogs of Thailand and responding to animal welfare disasters and emergencies, Soi Dog works tirelessly throughout the Region to end the ghastly dog meat trade. And in the midst of all of this hard work, they have also spayed and neutered over 77,000 cats and dogs across the Region!

soi dog logo

What caught Deborah’s eye about this non-profit, is the fact that they show the successes created by their hard work and compassion for all living things. She was literally able to see the before and after of a rescue! This gave her a huge dose of inspiration and after a couple days of brain storming she had her “ah ha” moment! Using her years of experience and vast resources in the wine industry, she decided to bottle some wine, sell it and donate the proceeds to Soi Dog. Being driven by purpose, her ideas continued to flow until she had created a whole new brand for Soi Dog and Ground Boots was born! Ground Boots is the very first wine dedicating 100% of the profits to make our world a better and more loving place.

Tai Chi before!
Tai Chi before!
Tai Chi After
Tai Chi After

Deborah teamed up with famed artist Donald Roller Wilson to design a label for Ground Boots. He then generously donated one of the images for the label. And using her vast resources in the business, she sourced some top quality wine that is often declassified and sold off as bulk. This is often done merely because the wine does not “fit the program” or the marketing plan. She chose the finest barrels to bottle and it became Ground Boots. She has now also created a new title for Ground Boots which is Charitable Negociant.

Label

Now that she is experiencing the magic that being driven by purpose creates, she has decided to dream really big. This is not a one-time charitable donation for Deborah and Ground Boots. Her goal is to work hard and to grow her love for animals into the “Tom’s” of the wine world! In fact, Deborah has taken her altruism even a step further. She flew to Thailand to personally vet Soi Dog Foundation. Over the course of two weeks, she journeyed into small villages and assisted in the set-up of mobile spay and neuter clinics. This allowed the local “dog catchers” to visit the local temples and to bring stray and injured dogs and cats in for treatment. She also went through the heartbreak of visiting Wat Saun Kaew in Bangkok. This shelter is known as the worst dog shelter in the world. Deborah met and spent time with the founders of Soi Dog – John and Gill Dalley. They poured over maps of the northeastern districts of Thailand and educated her on the vicious underbelly of the dog meat industry. Seeing what an incredible group this was and what radical changes they were making, she made Soi Dog Foundation her first non-profit partner!

The hardworking Soi Dog Foundation team!
The hardworking Soi Dog Foundation team!

But it gets even better! Deborah will be returning to Thailand this summer with a journalist and videographer. She will not only be presenting Soi Dog with the funds she raised but she will head back into the trenches and will be working hand and hand with Soi Dog. She will once again return to the Wat Saun Kaew shelter in Bangkok. She will also journey to the Buriram District of Thailand to spend time with the rescued dogs and she will be a part of the undercover investigations of the northeastern Thailand dog meat trade. Her mission is to share all of this live via social media and Livestream! What an amazing woman helping others do amazing good!

Now onto the important stuff…the wine! The first bottling was a 2012 Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County, using earth friendly bottles. 100 cases were bottled and are available for just $70.00 a bottle. Click this link now to reserve your wine today! This will be the most loving and fulfilling wine, you have ever purchased!

Ground Boots bottling team!
Ground Boots bottling team!

Thank you for letting me share this amazing story and Deborah’s beautiful journey to help the voiceless dogs and cats of Thailand. And as always…eat, drink and be vegan!

****To all of my vegan friends, I have not confirmed that the wine is considered vegan-friendly.

October 28

Baldacci Family Vineyards Offers Red & White Vegan Wines!

Beautiful Stags Leap District!
Beautiful Stags Leap District!

Baldacci Family Vineyards is located in the gorgeous Stags Leap District in Napa Valley. The Stags Leap District is located south of Yountville Cross Road on scenic Silverado Trail. I drive up Silverado Trail every Saturday from April to September to help care for orphaned song birds before they are released back into the wild. And every time I make that drive it is a reminder of how lucky I am to live in this beautiful section of Northern California!

Wappo Indian Dwellings
Wappo Indian Dwellings

Stags Leap District borrowed its name from a legend handed down by the Wappo Indians who were native inhabitants of Napa Valley. Story has it that a strong and beautiful stag was trapped between steep cliffs and (non-vegan!) hunters. Instead of giving up, this stag soared across the chasm in the cliffs, eluded the hunters and created this wonderful legend! This legend is just the beginning of the District’s long history. In the mid-1800s even though Silverado Trail was nothing more than a quiet horse trail, this did not stop the grape growers. And by 1878 the region’s first winery was built. Many of you Cabernet lovers may already know this but the more recent history of the Stags Leap District began in 1961. Nathan Fay planted 70 acres of the region’s first Cabernet vineyards. This decision bordered on brilliant. There are now over 9,800 cabernet acres in Napa Valley and the Stags Leap District is recognized for its world-class cabernet sauvignons! And that isn’t just us bragging. In 1976 at a blind tasting held in Paris, nine French judges awarded Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars first place for its 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon. Ten years later the same wines were judged a second time and this time Clos Du Val’s 1972 Cabernet Sauvignon took the honors!

Baldacci Family Winery
Baldacci Family Winery

Thomas and Brenda Baldacci arrived at the site that is now Baldacci Family Winery almost 20 years ago. It includes 45 acres of Estate vineyards, an on-site winemaking facility and a unique system of wine caves below. They have also purchased 23-acres in Carneros and replanted with their Family Collection varietals which will produce Pinot Noir, Merlot, Syrah, Gewurztraminer and Chardonnay. Many of which are vegan-friendly. And in 2013 they expanded yet again with the purchase of Stella Vineyards. This 8.5 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes is located upvalley in Calistoga at the base of Diamond Mountain.

When my husband Steve and I made the decision to move all the way across the country from Raleigh, North Carolina to Napa, California three years ago I was really nervous. I had spent the last five years living in the South and I imagined that everyone in Napa would be too busy or worse yet – not friendly! Thankfully, I was so unbelievably wrong. I have lived from Northern Michigan to Southern Florida to Eastern Virginia to Central Colorado to Eastern North Carolina and have met many wonderful people. But I have never felt as welcomed anywhere else as I have since I moved to Napa. It is such a wonderful place to live. Happy, friendly people; perfect weather and lots of wine!

Me and Matt!
                         Me and Matt!

Matt Mills is one of those special people. Through the wine industry, Steve and I met Matt very soon after we moved to Napa. We have all stayed in touch and I was excited when I learned that he is the Direct-to-Consumer Manager for Baldacci Family Winery. When I reached out to Matt to schedule our wine tasting, he discussed our vegan lifestyle with their winemaker, Rolando Herrera, and created a special wine tasting just for us!

Tasting the delicious Gewurztraminer
Tasting the delicious Gewurztraminer

We enjoyed the delicious 2012 Frederich Gewurztraminer, the 2012 Sorelle Chardonnay, the 2011 Elizabeth Pinot Noir and a not yet released Pinot Noir all grown from their Carneros Estate vineyard. They were all such amazing wines that we came home with a bottle of the Chardonnay and the Pinot! And not to start bragging about the award-winning wines produced in the Stags Leap District again but their vegan Sorelle Chardonnay was the 2014 winner of the prestigious San Francisco Wine Chronicle!

2014 San Francisco Wine Chronicle Winners!
2014 San Francisco Wine Chronicle Winners!

One concern that I have when discussing vegan wines is that many wines may be vegan-friendly one year because the winemaker chose not to fine the wine but may not be vegan the next year if the winemaker feels fining is necessary and he uses an animal product to do the fining. This is a problem we vegans do not have to worry about with Baldacci Family Winery. Matt explained that all of the wines we tried will forever be vegan because even if the winemaker decides to fine his next vintage of Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer or Pinot Noir they use vegan-friendly bentonite clay for these particular wines! I also learned something really interesting from Matt for my gluten intolerant readers. Since Baldacci uses the natural cork which seals perfectly, no gluten is used in the bottling process.

Pinotandchardonnay soywaxcandles wine awards wine tasting2

Baldacci Family Winery is located at 6236 Silverado Trail in Napa and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Contact them at 707.944.9261 to schedule a tasting appointment with Matt! Please thank them for using a vegan-friendly fining agent in several of their wines and let them know you are vegan when you schedule your appointment. And be sure to take home one of their delicious smelling soy candles. But most of all, enjoy…Cheers!!

September 3

Mason Cellars vegan wine

Jon at Mason Cellars
Jon at Mason Cellars

I’ve lived in Napa, CA for almost three years and have to admit that before this magical city became my home I didn’t really have much of an appreciation for wine. When I was younger, I loved my beer and as I got older I always preferred a red apple vodka martini or two. It didn’t help that I chose my grocery store wine based on how much I liked the label! That’s how everyone chooses a good wine, right?! Wrong! Just ask any of the 4.5 million people who visit our over 500 wineries in Napa Valley annually!

As I began to visit different wineries and enjoy tasting the many different varietals – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Sauvignon Blanc being my favorites, I really began to have a much greater appreciation for wine and finally understood what the big deal was all about! As I became more interested in wine tasting, it became very important to me to be sure that what I was drinking was vegan. Turns out that many of the wines I loved were not animal friendly at all. Part of the winemaking process includes a  “fining” process. To a lay person like you and me basically a fining agent is added to the wine and it attracts grape particles, dead yeast cells and can even remove some tannins to make the wine more drinkable. All of that seemed reasonable enough to me until I found out that many of the fining agents used include blood powder, casein (milk protein), egg whites, isinglass (fish bladders) and gelatin. But do not despair, the great news is that there are vegan fining agents available for winemakers to use – carbon, bentonite clay, limestone, kaolin clay, silica gel and plant casein are all good alternatives.

As part of my promise to you to eat, drink and shop my way through Napa Valley, I recently visited Mason Cellars and tasted their incredibly tasty vegan wines. Mason Cellars tasting room is located at 714 First Street near Oxbow Public Market. Their delightfully fruity releases include the citrusy Mason Sauvignon Blanc, the intense grapefruit Pomelo Sauvignon Blanc, the crisp apple Three Pears Pinot Grigio, seasonal berry 60 North Merlot and the earthy Mason Cabernet Sauvignon. Just delicious!

Mason Cellars Merlot

Instead of using animal proteins, the winemaker Randy Mason uses bentonite clay to fine his wines. His goal is to create the finest wine possible, make it consumer friendly (we vegans thank him for that!) and price it fairly so everyone can enjoy his passion. With wine ranging from only $10 – $24 a bottle, Randy has made his wine accessible to almost everyone! If you stop by between 11 and 5:30 Thursday – Monday you can also enjoy complimentary wine tastings.

You will also have the pleasure of meeting Jon who is in charge of the tastings. His knowledge of the wines is exceptional and he is very friendly! The tasting room is also very dog friendly.  In fact, if you come in with your four legged family, Jon is going to be sure that you all feel welcome! I also had the opportunity to meet their much loved office dog Cabo. She was rescued by Laura, the office manager and gets to spend her days hanging out at the Mason tasting room.

My favorite work of art!
My favorite work of art!

Randy’s wife Megan is in charge of the design and set-up of the delightful tasting room. Come in and take a look at the local artists showcased while you are sipping wine. I enjoyed all of the pieces but I did have my favorite!

It was really hard to choose a favorite wine but I settled on a bottle of the Merlot and Pinot Grigio to enjoy at home. And I will definitely be back for more!

To enjoy at home!
To enjoy at home!

On Tuesday, September 16th at 6 p.m. PST I invite you to join me on Tout Suite’s live program. Napa Valley Vegan will be featured on this episode. I will be discussing my vegan adventures through Napa Valley and will be preparing Butler’s BBQ soy curls and pairing it with Mason Cellars vegan wines. If you would like to be a part of the live audience or join us from the comfort of your own computer click this link to register! I would love to see you there!

 http://toutsuite.com/events/living-vegan-napa-valley