I’m now just one week away from the Wine Blogger Conference. From the Welcome Opening at 9 a.m. through to the Live Wine Blogging conclusion at 6 p.m., Day 2 will be packed full of learning, eating and wine tasting. The Professional Wine Writing Tips course is definitely on the top of my list. This course will be taught by Wine journalist and educator Deborah Parker Wong; Wine Business Monthly editor-in-chief Cyril Penn; longtime wine blogger Fred Swan and keynote speaker Andrea Robinson. From mastering the four points of view in wine writing to doing the dirty work of finding sources & fact checking to the ethics of accepting free wine or travel to enriching my wine vocabulary. These are all things I’d like to improve and I’m definitely looking forward to the class. Next, is learning about What Companies Want from Wine Bloggers. This will make my writing more relevant and publishable! As part of our mid day break, El Dorado Wines is generously providing all conference goers with lunch. It will be interesting to see what vegan options will be available for me. Yum! The afternoon will be filled with Wine Discovery sessions about the Consorzio Tutela Lugana DOC stretching along the southern shores of Lake Garda in the Italian wine growing region of Lugana or DOP Cariñena in Aragon the birth place of the Garnacha grape in Spain. Once my brain is full of info on Italian or Spanish wines, I get to participate in doing some Live Blogging about White & Rosè wines. This should be a blast! I hope I’m as spontaneous as I think I am! And then it is off to a delicious vegan dinner with family in Santa Rosa! I’m excited to see them and to eat, drink and be vegan…all weekend long!
I wanted to add a quick update to my experiences with Schug Carneros Estate Winery. As you’ll see once you read my blog post, the winery has a gorgeous view; offers incredible vegan wines and really knows how to throw a party. I was invited back recently by Crista Johnson, Schug’s Marketing Coordinator, to celebrate Oktoberfest. She assured me that Chef Kristine even had some vegan German cuisine just for Steve and me. So on another gorgeous day I headed over to beautiful Sonoma to spend the afternoon with my new friends at Schug. The Biergarten (or more accurately, Weingarten) was perfectly set with polka band Polkageist West, a buffet of German cuisine, never ending Federweisser and all the pretzels and mustard I could eat! Just as Crista promised, Chef made sure I was very well fed. Vegan wurst, German potato salad, cabbage salad, warm pretzels and the best artisan whole grain mustards I’d ever had! If you are looking for a new wine club membership I highly suggest that you give Schug Carneros Estate Winery a try. They have gone far above most local wineries to ensure that their vegan guests have as much food, wine and fun as their omnivorous guests!
I never dreamed that I’d come home from a wine tasting sunburned, sweaty and covered in dirt from my shins down and consider it one of my favorite wine tasting experiences! I recently joined Schug Estate winemaker Mike Cox and his team at their Pinot N Pickin party and picnic. This was my first grape picking party and I have to admit that it brought out a bit of my competitive side!
Schug Carneros Estate Winery is located in Sonoma County’s beautiful Carneros region just 20 minutes from downtown Napa. This family owned winery has an enduring history in wine making. Founders Walter and Gertrud followed in the footsteps of their fathers who were both wine estate managers in Germany. Their true love endeavored over the next six years while Walter trained at various wineries in Germany, England and California and continued to complete his Viticulture & Enology degree. Finally, spring of 1961, they married and within a month were on a ship heading to New York City. From there, they loaded up all of their possessions into their Volkswagen Beetle and made the cross-country journey to California to join the burgeoning wine industry. In 1966, Walter was hired by E&J Gallo which led to a long relationship making wines for Joseph Phelps Vineyards before he struck out on his own. Having more demand than their leased winery could produce, Walter & Gertrud purchased 50 acres in Sonoma’s Carneros Appellation. As their family business grew, their three children, Andrea, Claudia and Axel, contributed their expertise to the business. And Axel’s wife Kristine explores her passion for food and wine pairing as the Winery Chef. Though Walter and Gertrud have now both passed on, their passion for wine endures through their children!
The morning of the grape picking dawned cool and sunny. It was the beginning of a perfect day. Surrounded by many of the wine club members, I was treated to a quick tour of their cellar before the hard work began. I always enjoy seeing the inner workings of the winery. And contributing to the harvest of the grapes helped me appreciate the amount of work that goes into the finished bottle. The entire team was working hard and bustling around getting it done! Next, was the picking of the teams! Intern Michele from Italy and Lena from Germany were in charge of the competition. As soon as I heard Lena was from Germany, I made sure I got on her team. I even got to practice a bit of my new language skills! But this was no time for play. My team needed to defeat Team Italy. After a quick demonstration on how to use sharp cutting instruments, the picking began. We all started out a little slow but the chatting died down as we became more comfortable harvesting the grapes. It wasn’t long before jackets and sweaters came off and sun hats went on. As the bins began to fill with grapes, the energy turned from friendly to friendly but competitive. It was amazing how quickly an hour and a half flew by! Then the waiting began. Each bin of grapes were driven up to the scales. Tension filled the air and everyone held their breath. And then it was announced…Team Germany defeated Team Italy by 200 pounds! Ja! Fantastich!
To celebrate our harvest, the sipping of wine began! The 2016 Sonoma Coast Sauvignon Blanc was bright, well balanced, and offered a lovely grapefruit finish. A much better way to cool down than drinking water! This wine paired really well with my picnic lunch of fresh greens and a grilled veggie & portobello sandwich on sourdough. It was really delicious; another reminder that some of the best meals I’ve ever eaten are made with simple & healthy whole foods. The 2015 Estate grown Chardonnay was another wonderful surprise. Grown in the cool climate at the Estate vineyard with minimal new oak, it was refreshing with an elegant finish. This Chardonnay pairs very nicely with food. Next, they introduced the 2015 Estate grown Pinot Noir. It will do nothing but improve with a couple more years of cellaring but I really enjoyed the flavor of strawberry and the silky finish! Finally, I finished my picnic with the 2013 Late Harvest Riesling. The 2013 Riesling is not vegan but the next vintage release will be! Walter Schug was a true pioneer of late harvest Rieslings with almost 60 years of winemaking experience here in the U.S. and Germany. Its high sugar content made this the perfect finish to a perfect afternoon! Who needs dessert when we can sip the wonderful outcome of noble rot!
Winemaker Mike Cox grew up in Sonoma and learned much about the winemaking process in his hometown. Being a local, he had a big jump start over many other young winemakers who don’t grow up in such an extraordinary area. While he started college studying to become a chemical engineer, it wasn’t long before he transferred to U.C. Davis and completed his Enology degree. His summers where spent working at Sonoma wineries, learning and building experience in the industry. He enjoys working closely with growers and prefers small production vineyards for the unique qualities they contribute to his blends. This really does show through in his wines. He prefers using the newer technologies available to winemakers today which include not only the hydraulic punch-down fermenters but also moving away from using animal product to fine his wines. Beginning with his 2014 to current vintages, his whites are all vegan-friendly. Any reds beginning in 2005 to current vintages are vegan as are the Roses and Rouge de Noirs.
If you are planning on exploring Sonoma Valley, Schug Carneros Estate is a wonderful place to start. The drive up Bonneau Road takes you through the vineyards to the hillside tasting room. The families’ German history is reflected in their cozy post and beam tasting room and their German flag. And from the upper patio you will enjoy a spectacular 360 degree view that includes Mount Diablo. Hang out with friends at the picnic tables and order wine by the glass or take a self-guided tour wandering through the vineyards. No appointment is needed; just stop by the tasting room for a detailed guide with the points of interest marked along your route. Reservations for a tasting are only required if your party is 6 or more. If you do prefer a private tasting, CLICK HERE to schedule your visit. Make a day of it, enjoy beautiful Sonoma Valley and as always; eat, drink…and be vegan!
Food and wine go hand and hand here in Napa Valley. In fact, there are seven Michelin starred restaurants dotted along the 30 mile stretch that runs from Napa to Calistoga. Really an incredible number! Sadly, the philosophy of the Chefs in Napa Valley is that it is animal products that pair best with wine. Animals are viewed as nothing more than a commodity. This philosophy is reflected by most of the residents and visitors of Napa Valley who simply see animals as a menu item. And as much as I’ve enjoyed the beauty of the Valley and the extraordinary experiences I’ve had the privilege to enjoy, I’ve often felt conflicted with my decision to live here.
So when I heard of Monica Stevens and her vision for Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch (JARR) three years ago, I was thrilled. Monica’s mission to provide Napa Valley with a no-kill rescue that will not only save the lives of companion animals like cats, dogs and bunny rabbits but farmed animals too. In the three years that Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch has been active, it has done incredible things for all animals. This includes finding forever homes for 500 animals in need that include dogs, cats, bunnies, chickens, ducks, horses, pigs, goats and sheep. JARR has provided 15,000 pounds of pet food for the local food bank and those in need; has provided over 1,000 spay/neuter surgeries; funded 50 life saving emergency surgeries and fields 120 calls per week from people who need help saving their animals! And this is just some of what they have accomplished! Early in 2017, JARR opened Ella’s Cathouse & Catnip Bar. This cage-free, no-kill cat adoption center is the first of its kind in Napa and has kept dozens of cats out of the county shelter system and found forever homes for them. It is also the first animal adoption center that has a no-meat policy for all staff and volunteers. Monica and her team have done all of this amazing work with the help of hundreds of dedicated volunteers and foster parents. JARR’s ultimate goal includes building a state-of-the-art, cage-free rescue and sanctuary that will serve the physical and emotional needs of the companion and farmed animals that call it home.
Saturday, July 29th was the fourth annual fundraising event. Ranked as one of Napa Valley’s top wine auctions,
WineaPAWlooza has raised millions of dollars for the animals. Thanks to the generosity of the Napa Valley winemakers and wine lovers, this year alone, JARR raised $1.3M! Generously hosted again by the Gamble Family Vineyard, the who’s who of the Napa Valley wine industry shared the red carpet with dogs, goats, a pig and a donkey!
Beginning with a Grand Tasting event that featured over 50 of the Valley’s premiere wineries and restaurants, we enjoyed mouth watering plant based bites that paired just perfectly with the wines! I was incredibly pleased by how well these decidedly unvegan restaurants did! Williams Sonoma Spanish Style Heirloom Gazpacho with Smoked Paprika was refreshing and delicious. La
Toque’s Chilled Snap Pea Jus with Salted Radish and Nori had a savory, seafood -like flavor. I scooped up Nuri’s delicious Japanese Curry with eggplant & tofu with a cracker as my spoon. I went back for seconds for Ottimo’s Farro with Summer Beans, peas & almond citrus. This salad is incredible and it is on their regular menu to enjoy any time! Bottega made an amazing Watermelon with Calabria chili vinaigrette salata. Ring of Fire included cheese on all of their offerings but after chatting with one of the servers about being vegan she took it upon herself to have the Chef bake up a vegan pizza for Steve and I. She even tracked me down and gave me the whole pizza to be sure we had enough to eat. That was a level of service I did not expect! I wish I could talk more about the wines but I had just finished a 5-day juice fast so my focus was 100% on the food offerings!
The Pet Parade included a stoic donkey, a happy-go-lucky pig, two adorable goats and a stream of fortunate dogs all rescued and rehomed with the help of JARR! The live auction is where the real magic happens and thanks to the generous bidding $1.3 Million was raised to build the sanctuary. JARR announced the addition of a Sundowner Sportman 3H Bumper Pull trailer dedicated to the Roth family of New York for their dedication to animal welfare. This trailer will be housed in Napa Valley and, in collaboration with the County of Napa Emergency Services, will be made available to assist with the large animal emergency rescue during wildfires, accidents and other natural disasters. And even more wonderful news was announced that JARR is currently in escrow on property in the Carneros region. JARR is now one huge step closer to realizing their dream. When completed, this sanctuary and educational haven will be open to the community and will welcome all visitors. According to Monica, it will serve as a destination and best-practices example for animal advocacy. And to finish off this celebration, Co-founder David Stevens and his band Wristrocket, provided the music for the late night party and SONS Bier Garden.
Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch is well on its way to achieving their goal to offer sanctuary for farmed animals, education for the public and rumor has it, that once completed, they may even offer a vegan cafe which will be the first all-vegan offering in Napa Valley! So if you are looking to volunteer your time or would like to donate to an organization that is in line with your vegan principles visit their website HERE to learn more! I hope to see you at next year’s WineaPAWlooza but until then remember to Drink Wine, Save Animals. And as always…eat, drink and be vegan!