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A New Year 2010

A new year as well as a new decade has arrived, 2010 is already 21 days old and I am looking forward to a far better year than last. There are signs the economy is on the way back, the stock market has improved, and I am back to working full time after a furlough in 2009. I was never one who was overly excited about the changing of years, after all it is just another day, but I do have a good feeling about this one. I am already filled with great excitement to an event planned for March. My wife turned 40 on January 12th and part of her present was a trip to Napa Valley. I thought it fitting as she gave me the same gift when I turned 50 five years ago which began our love of Napa Valley and annual return trips ever since. Not wanting to brave the rainy season to be in the valley on her actual birthday we decided to wait until the middle of March when the weather begins to improve some. The trip includes our annual Napa Valley vacation partners that have been along for the ride since the 50th birthday trip; our sister and brother–in–law, but another exciting twist to this trip is four friends along for my wife’s birthday trip that have never visited the valley. One friend has even said it is a trip that she has on her bucket list….how exciting is that to be a part of someone’s wish list of things they want to do in life! This will certainly be a wine country experience they never forget and that will have them looking forward to future visits as it has for me.  I will say a big part of my desire to return is the Wine Country Inn. I have my favorite wineries and restaurants, but the Inn really goes the extra mile and I feel as though I can’t wait to return.  Check back for details as the trip plans evolve…I can tell you dinner at the Martini House is already on the list!

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Winter Games

Stuck in the house?  Looking for something to do?  I was just thinking recently about things to do in the winter months that are different, yet fun.  A neat idea popped into my head relating to wine.  I decided that when I watched the movie Sideways, I felt as though I had to drink Pinot Noir (definitely not Merlot) as that is the wine to drink in that movie.  I recall the next time I decided to watch I made sure I cracked a nice Pinot before hitting play on the DVD player.  At first I thought I could do that again as I haven’t watched Sideways in a while, but then I remembered that I also own the movie Bottle Shock.  As you know Bottle Shock is the story of how California wines made their mark in the famous Paris tastings and one California Chardonnay took top place.  That famous wine was the Chateau Montelena Chardonnay.  At the time that the Chardonnay took first place in Paris, the wine maker for Chateau Montelena was Mike Grgich; currently owner of his own label for over 30 years; Grgich Hills Estate.  The movie does reveal much about Mike Grgich or his identity, but you can easily research details about the Paris tasting and Mike Grgich. My idea is to purchase a bottle of the infamous Chateau Montelena Chardonnay as well as a bottle of Grgich Hills Estate Chardonnay.  My own little personal Paris tasting…the wine vs. the winemaker!  Of course, it is not the infamous 1973 Chardonnay, but I think it will be fun to see how the wine that won evolved current day as well as how the winemaker has evolved.  Pick up the DVD Bottle Shock as well as a bottle of each Chardonnay and have your own Paris tasting too!  Stop back and see who I decided is my winner.

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New Year, New Itineraries…

Another New Years has come and gone; now replaced by old man winters icy grip and the doldrums of winter. The past few weeks have been down right miserable for many in the United States, especially those of us in the Northeast. We’ve suffered through 2 ½ weeks of miserable cold which finally broke this past Saturday and provided us with a much needed 40 degree heat wave. I for one was ready to throw on my shorts, set a lawn chair up outside and enjoy some frozen tropical drinks!

When its cold like this, I look to look ahead to the warmer months of boating and BBQ’s and I also like reviewing my upcoming travel plans so I can figure out where I will be in the world this year. One of the trips I am really looking forward to is Santa Barbara, California in March. My wife and I will be traveling across country to visit family in beautiful Santa Barbara. I have been to California several times, but never to Santa Barbara.

Santa Barbara bills itself as “The American Riviera,” it is located on the pacific coast nestled between the Santa Ynez Mountains and is approximately an hour north of Los Angeles and 3 hours south of San Francisco. The land was originally settled by ancestors of the Chumash Indians who were then followed by the first Europeans who were Spanish missionaries that arrived 1782. Following the Mexican-American war Santa Barbara and the rest of California became part of the expanding United States.

For wine enthusiasts, you will remember that Santa Barbara is where the movie “Sideways’ was filmed. In the movie “Sideways,” (Miles) Paul Giamatti and (Jack) Thomas Haden Church take a wine tasting road trip to salute Jack’s final days as a bachelor. You can even plan a trip to follow the exact route that “Miles and Jack” took on their journey by visiting:

http://www.santabarbaraca.com/docs/forms/FinalSideways09-web2.pdf

For those not wanting to follow the exact footsteps of “Miles and Jack,” Santa Barbara County offers 3 American Viticultural Areas (AVA’s) which host a large number of wineries. The AVA’s are broken down as follows:

Santa Maria Valley- This is the northernmost AVA and was the first to gain that distinction. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are the two main varietals that come from this region.

Santa Ynez Valley- This AVA is an east/west corridor that runs from the cooler coastal climates to the warmer inland climate. Because of its climate range there are several varietals that do well in this region including Pinot Noir, Cabernet and Merlot. The latter being Miles’s “favorite” choice in the movie “Sideways”!

Sta Rita Hills- This area is actually located within the Santa Ynez Valley. The Santa Barbara county wine website states that “A typical day in Sta Rita Hills starts with marine layer clouds and fog, which burn off by 10am; there are then two or three hours of calm sunshine until the on-shore winds pick up, cooling things down again. This maritime influence, combined with the sedimentary soils with patches of limestone is the perfect place to grow the appellation’s hallmark Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.”

Aside from the 3 sanctioned AVA’s, there is also the Los Alamos region, which is also looking to one day become a federal sanctioned AVA.

Los Alamos- Located between the Santa Maria Valley and Santa Ynez Valley, this region produces a wide variety of varietals due to its complex climate and soil composition.

For more information on Santa Barbara County’s wine region visit:

http://www.sbcountywines.com/SBC.html

As we trudge our way through the rest of January and February I will be looking forward to and planning our trip to Santa Barbara. Be sure to check back in late March as I will be doing a write up on all the wineries we visit.

For more information about Santa Barbara you can visit:

http://www.santabarbaraca.gov/

http://www.santabarbaraca.com/

If you decide to go to Santa Barbara County you can fly into Santa Barbara Airport or Los Angeles International Airport which is about an hour south. If you are within the state of California you can also take Amtrak which has a stop in Santa Barbara city or take a drive on U.S. 101 which bisects the city of Santa Barbara.

Until next time, Salude!

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2005 Trefethen Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

Celebrating over 4 decades of 100% estate winemaking, Trefethen Vineyards motto is “one family, one estate, one passion. This motto shines through in the quality of their Napa Valley Cabernet. The Cabernet Sauvignon vines are planted in the estate vineyard location in the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley that is known for the gravelly soil that heats up quickly in the spring. According to their website, the combination of the warmer area with limited yields produces Cabernet with bright, complex flavors. The 2005 vintage is comprised of 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4 % Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot, 1% Cabernet Franc, and 1 % Malbec…a winning combination if you ask me. Lots of ripe fruit flavors combined with rich spice notes and a long finish complete this wine. The hint of oak comes from 16 months in French and American Oak barrels. The wine drinks beautifully now, but will continue to improve over the next 4-6 years. Trefethen Cabernet has received accolades from various highly regarded wine critics and produces a wide range of wines that I will make it a point to try based on my liking of the Cabernet. I have decided that a visit to the winery is a must on my next trip to Napa in March. The tasting room is located on the ground floor of their 19th century building, designated a National Historic Landmark. I feel as though I have only touched upon the surface of what there is to know about Trefethen with my first purchase.

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Welcome 2010

img_0152Another year is passed and a new one has just begun. As much as I love the Christmas season the changing of the calendar year does very little for me. I enjoyed dinner with my family New Years Eve and again on New Year’s Day. It was great and I am always up for a good time and happy for the time spent with my kids, their wives and of course, the newest generation, my granddaughter. But really moving from one year to the next is just another day in my mind. Yes, there are some yearend tasks to perform such as tax preparation and making sure all of the prior year paperwork is in order, changing calendars and so on. There are also many who will make big New Year’s resolutions vowing to be different and all of that, but how often do they really keep those promises? As I look back and reflect on the past year I realize there were good things that happened in my life and also some not so good, all things considered though I am better off than many of those less fortunate. 2009 was not financially strong with the bad economy, but the highlight for me was the birth of my first Grandchild, a beautiful little girl who without a doubt has changed my life for the better! The point in all this is that I pretty much know that 2010 will be much like other years of my life with some good and some bad and I always hope the good outweighs the bad and pray that there are no earth shattering events. When I allow myself to look ahead on the New Year I can look forward to some good things already. It seems that the economy is starting to take a step in the right direction, hopefully some of the troops will make it home and there are no more terror attacks. Those are my global thoughts, but on a personal level we have a Napa Valley trip we are planning in March with a group of friends for my wife’s 40th birthday that I am looking forward to. A visit to the valley in the first quarter of 2010 is certainly something to toast in the New Year, so maybe this year will be a bit different since it is my first time to Napa in March! Maybe it isn’t just another day for me after all. Happy New Year, may you all realize your dreams and goals in 2010 and as always, enjoy a glass or two!