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Rhone Rangers Varietal Nights – MOURVEDRE (This Newbie Cali Girl’s FAVORITE Rhone Varietal)



On May 6, I had the pleasure of attending the Mourvedre Varietal Night at Tablas Creek Vineyard, just one event of the Rhone Rangers’ 2014 Varietal Night Series.

During this event (along with the others in the series), patrons have a unique opportunity to celebrate and taste Rhone-varietal wines poured by local wineries, sample artisan cheese and small bites served to pair with the wines and enjoy live music.



Brief History of Mourvedre
Mourvedre happens to be my favorite of all wine varieties. Pronounced More-VEHD-ruh, this wine has a mid-palate depth and a structural bass-note compared to other GSM blends. It is native to Spain, where they call it Monastrell. It was well-established in the Roussillon region of France most likely by the 16th Century, later spreading east towards Provence and the Rhone.

Mourvedre’s Aromatics, Flavor & Mouthfeel
A Mourvedre often offers more savory notes than fruit notes, and has been described as “meaty,” “earthy,” and “herbal.” Its aromas can include coffee, pepper, cured meat, licorice, wild mushrooms and tobacco. Its mouthfeel could be described as plush and full-bodied with a long, velvety finish.


My Tasting Experience with the Mourvedre
Although I did not have enough time to taste every wine at this event (I struck up conversation with several of the vineyard representatives), I was pleased with the varieties I did taste. I would still like to venture out to the remaining wineries I missed to taste their Mourvedre, and then do a follow-up article to this one, so stay tuned for that.


My Tasting Notes…
Cass Vineyard and Winery
Wine: 2012, 100%, neutral oak
Winemaker notes: “I’m a farmer. I want you to taste what I grow, not what I can do to what I grow.”
Aromatics: Tart fruit, pomegranate.
Flavor: Pure, Smooth, bit of spice (baking spices).
Pairing: “I would suggest enjoying this wine with rack of lamb.” – (from the winemaker) or “Come visit the veranda because we serve food until 5 p.m.!”


Wine: 2011, 100%
Winemaker notes: “This is a darker, more serious blend. I like Mourvedre more fruit-forward.”
Aromatics: Fruit-forward, fig or raisin, hint of warmth, like an afterthought of spice.
Flavor: Myrrh/Incense, smoky but smooth on the first sip, black cherry in the middle with a warm candied finish.
Pairing: I paired with Tartufo charcuterie, and the wine definitely woke up the truffle/yeast mushroom flavor of the meat…like nutritional yeast. Do not pair with plain bread, as it almost makes bread taste bitter.


Wine: 2011 just-released, 100%
Winemaker notes: “Pair with ahi tuna, beef, lamb shank or herbed Chevre.”
Aromatics: Spicy and warm, cedar, yet noticeable red fruit.
Flavor: Complex, spicy, heat/kick to it, cardamom, pepper, oaky. You get a recognizable forest floor, red berries, mocha and the cedar that was on the nose.
Pairing: I paired with bread and cranberries with olive oil, as well as a bite of plain Chevre, which smoothed out the wine and brought out the fruit of it.


Kenneth Volk Vineyards
Wine: 2010, 100%
Aromatics: A bit sour, tart and pungent.
Flavor: Very blackberry, hint of spice, somewhat underwhelming with a dash of strawberry.


Wine: 2011 “El Pelon,” 100%, only made 303 cases.
Aromatics: Spicy and complex, heavy and dark-red fruit.
Flavor: Smooth, clove, good mouthfeel, bay leaf and herbs with hint of dark fruit.
Pairing: I paired with boar, which brought a buttery softness to the complexity of the wine. Bread with olive oil took its personality down a notch.


Tablas Creek Vineyard (the host)
Wine: 2011 Estate, 100%
Winemaker notes: “Tablas Creek actually started the Rhone Varietals on the Central Coast. This wine had a soft, wet, long and lush year. Chateau de Beaucastel (sister winery) sent the Rhones from France to California in 1990.”
Aromatics: Subtle fruit, darker and fresher.
Flavor: Wetter, cooler taste to it, with earthy, blue fruit.
Pairing: I paired with bread, cranberry and chevre, which brought out the earthy/bitter/gamey-ness of the chevre.


Thacher Winery and Vineyard
Wine: 2011 “Controlled Chaos”47% Mourvedre, 33% Zinfandel, 20% Grenache
Winemaker notes: “We haven’t done a 100% Mourvedre since 2009.”
Aromatics: Summery strawberry/rhubarb (Grenache).
Flavor: Hint of spice/warmth, more medium-red fruit with a cherry aftertaste…hint of pepper (the Zin).


Wine: 2011, 100%, only made 200 cases.
Aromatics: Spicy, earthy, peppery, bitter.
Flavor: Spicy, notes of black cherry, very earthy and full-bodied, great stand-alone.
Pairing: With Fisalini cheese, the wine is sweeter and smoother.


Minassian – Young
Wine: 2010, 100%, 14.4% ALC
Aromatics: Tart, but rich and fruit-forward.
Flavor: Medium-bodied, darker red fruit, hint of warmth and spice, smooth finish.
Pairing: I paired with bread, cranberry and Chevre, which brought out the earthy/bitter/gamey-ness of the Chevre.


Pomar Junction
Wine: [YEAR?] – Grenache – 30%, Syrah – 30%, Mourvedre – 40%
Aromatics: Tart, but rich and fruit-forward.
Flavor: Medium-bodied, darker red fruit, hint of warmth and spice, smooth finish.
Pairing: I paired with bread, cranberry and chevre, which brought out the earthy/bitter/gamey-ness of the chevre.


Pomar Junction #2
Wine: “Train Wreck” – Cabernet Sauvignon (25%), Zinfandel (25%), Mourvedre (25%), Syrah (12.5%), Petite Sirah (12.5%)
Aromatics: Fruity/Jammy, spicy with black berry and a hint of jalapeno.
Flavor: Leather, spice, jalapeno, black currant, cherry and blueberry, tobacco; excellent as a stand-alone.


Foods that were available to pair with the wines were as follows:

  • Chevre plain: fresh and soft goat’s milk, creamy in texture with light citrus notes.
  • Manchego: delicious Spanish hard cheese made with sheep milk, aged for six months to give it a nutty, caramel flavor.
  • Fisialini: hearty, nutty cow’s milk with no rind, creamy white, firm and crumbly fresh.
  • Prosciutto: Italian ham cured by drying, served in thin slices.
  • Tartufo: a sausage made with black summer truffles with a delicate, earthy aroma.
  • Finnocchiona: Tuscan seasoned sausage flavored with fennel seeds and black pepper.
  • Wild boar sausage: artisan, gamey and earthy.


Wines I Have Yet to Taste

  • Alta Colina
  • Venteaux
  • Vines on the Marycest
  • Lone Madrone


Overall, it was a wonderful event with amazing wines, and excellent opportunities to meet the people who know those wines the best. It also saves the time of driving all over the county to find your favorite wine of a certain variety by bringing them all to one place to learn about and sample.










For more information on this event and others Rhone Rangers events like it, please visit www.//rhonerangers.org/calendar/chapter.php or email pasovarietalnights.@gmail.com. Discover the American Rhone wines of Paso Robles…

Zinful Selections of the Central Coast – (Broken Earth Winery Zinfandel Festival 2014)



Picture this:
It’s 10AM on a Saturday, and the sun has already gotten in its morning workout and is beaming all over the place.
Its greeting is warm and breezy and says, “Time to come out and play.”

And on the agenda is a scenic drive through Wine Enthusiast’s 2013 Wine Region of the Year, Paso Robles, CA.
And this drive ends at Broken Earth Winery, complete with a beautiful stone barrel and tasting room, a sprawling green lawn reminiscent of a resort escape, staff that give off more a “family” feel, and an amazing festival taking place in the midst of it all.


Jen and Sarah, taking in the tasting room.

Welcome to the 2014 Zinfandel Festival (March 15, 2014).

I arrived with my friend Jen promptly at 11AM, and we made our way to the tasting room first.
We’re Central Coast newbies and are all about this “wine is the new coffee,” brunch-time tasting.


Our first sips were of the 2012 Grenache Blanc, which was awarded a Gold Medal and 92 points at the Central Coast wine competition.
Nose: Fruity, crisp, with notes of apple and melon.
Body: Lighter, complex, with bright fruit and distinguishable (yet delightful) taste of the alcohol…smooth finish.
*Can purchase for $20.

Next, we tried the 2010 Pinot Gris, which is made from grapes other than the ones they grow. (All of their wines’ grapes are Broken Earth-grown, besides the Pinots and Zins.) (Silver Medal)
Nose: Bright and light, with notes of pineapple and melon.
Body: Hints of a petrolly, almost plastic taste, slightly bitter finish.
*Others may experience notes of ripe red apples, honeydew, along with pineapple, mango and guava.
*Can purchase for $16.

On to the 2012 Diablo Blanco (aka “white devil” in Spanish) is a Viognier. Should be intriguing, right? And it was. But far from evil, I must say…
Nose: Fresh pear and distinct grape on the nose, like a younger grape though…light and sweet.
Body: Notes of bergamot and an herb, perhaps rosemary.
*Others may experience hints of apricot and peach, along with tangerine, papaya and guava.
*Can purchase for $18.

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On to my favorites…the red varieties. This flight began with the 2010 Quadrant Platinum, which is a Bordeaux-style blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Petite Syrah. (Double Gold Medal)
Nose: Mid-level fruit-forwardness, and just a bit dry.
Body: Complex, with notes of sandalwood or myrrh…so a bit smokey and toasty…with a warm and understated finish.
*Others may experience ripe fruit with a velvet texture.
*Can purchase for $16.

The Quadrant, in all of its unique and subtle boldness was a perfect precursor for the 2010 Pull CdR, a blend of Syrah, Petite Sirah, Grenache and a dash of Viognier. (Silver Medal)
Nose: Subtle, fruit-forward (but not too forward).
Body: Dry and smooth, just a hint of spice and with a velvety finish.
*Others may experience aromas of strawberries on the nose.
*Can purchase for $18.

Next, we sampled the 2010 Broken Earth Tempranillo. (Silver Medal)
Nose: Fruit-forward and a bit jammy, smokey.
Body: Toasty, rich and tart, with a smooth and subtly spicy finish. Warm.
*Others may experience subtle floral notes.
*Can PAIR WITH Italian or red sauces, smoked pork or sausage.
*Can purchase for $22.

Then, we were down to the Zin! We sipped the 2012 Broken Earth Zinfandel, which was a new release.
Nose: Smokey and dry, a bit of spice…nutmeg or cardamom perhaps.
Body: Full-bodied and complex, with a smokey/myrrh taste, a bit of a kick and edge to it, with a smooth finish.
*Others may experience black cherry and pepper.
*Can PAIR WITH pasta or grilled beef.
*Can purchase for $22.

As a follow-up to the earlier “white devil,” we next tempted our tastebuds with the 2012 Diablo Negro (black devil), a Petite Sirah.
Nose: Fruit-forward and a bit jammy.
Body: Very bold fruit presence, with plum and vanilla on the finish. Smooth, subtle & tart finish. Hint of strawberry on the tail end of it.
*Others may experience vanilla bean, roasted coffee and intense berries.
*Can purchase for $18.

Next, we had the privilege of trying the 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, which was delicious.
Nose: Sweet and fruit-forward with strawberry and rhubarb.
Body: Smooth and compex, with a hint of celery seed, or parsley perhaps, with a subtle yet full, warm finish.
*Can purchase for $48.

Second-to-last, we also had the privilege of tasting the 2010 Reserve Petit Verdot, normally used exclusively as a blending grape as it can be too bold and spicy on its own. But the climatic conditions of that year, made this one an excellent stand-alone.
Nose: Evident alcohol scent and very dry.
Body: Dry, but warm and toasty like a campfire. It was smooth and warm to the finish.
*My tasting cohort, Jen, got goosebumps!
*Can purchase for $48.

Finally, we capped off our delightful tasting experience with the 2010 CV Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, which spent 13 months in one barrel, five months in another, both of which were new French oak barrels.
Nose: Dry, with a raisiny essence of fig.
Body: Medium-boldness, but dry with dark cherry, the taste of oak and a sugary finish/aftertaste.
*Others may experience dark fruit, vanilla and exotic spices.
*Can purchase for $59.

Tasting room staff was informative, pleasant, and all were having an amazing time, as the Steve Sturgis and Roadhouse band played outside until 1PM.

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Sunshine, Santa Maria Grills and Zinful Thinking

As Jen and I wandered outside, we were greeted with the perfectly-charred, smoky scent of the large Santa Maria grill in action.

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This was our first-ever experience with what was called a “sausage garden,” provided by J&R Meats, all-you-can-eat, with a delicious variety of mustards and breads.


Best of all, we were handed a generously-poured glass of Zinfandel with with to enjoy/pair our sausage selections.


So we filled our plates, perched on the babbling fountain in the sun, and enjoyed what—so far—was turning into a perfect day.

Other patrons were scattered at tables, lounging in chairs and cheery conversation in a sun-dappled and tree-speckled, green garden.

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It was lovely.

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Straight from the Barrel – Venturing Inside the Broken Earth

Next, self-proclaimed “cellar rat” David Sanchez, accompanied at points by Broken Earth Event Coordinator Michelle Angell, gave is the grand tour of the cavernous depths and high ceilings of the Broken Earth barrel room and offices.

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We saw the amazing place where they print their labels, where patrons can actually have their own custom labels, printed—which not a lot of people know!


So if you have a gift, wedding, business event, anything, you can print your own custom wine label. Amazing, right??

Look at this printer! They are the only winery in the U.S. to own this equipment, which is very cool.

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Once in the barrel room, we had the opportunity to taste straight from some of the barrels, which was pretty fun! David was incredibly informative, and made a really awesome time of it all for everyone.

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It eventually become hot as Hades outside, so the cool barrel room was a welcome relief of an environment, with tunes from the Back Bay Betty band wafting in through the open doors from outside.


When we headed home, we were slightly tanned, full and very content.

I would highly recommend this event to anyone passing through (or living near) the SLO/Paso-county area. Keep your radars up for next year by following their Facebook page for event updates!



Learn more about Broken Earth wines.

Follow Broken Earth on Facebook.


Event photos continued….

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Rhone Rangers – A Tasting for All Tastes (with detailed photos and info)



The day’s adventure began with excited chatter resonating off the walls of a pristine barrel room almost as chilling as the Sommelier exam…
and concluded with a giddy gaggle of wine “tasters” napping here and there on the winery lawn as if it were the world’s softest blanket.

And somewhere between these two amusing bookends of the day was my first-ever grand wine tasting.


A Day as Warm as a Central Coast Zin
Feb. 16 was a beautiful, warm Sunday on the Central Coast. My parents had made the short trek from Illinois to visit for a week, thus having the pleasure of joining me for the Rhone Rangers Experience at Broken Earth Winery, Paso Robles, CA.


Moderated by Master Sommelier Evan Goldstein (author of “Perfect Pairings and Daring Pairings”), the event began in the winery’s belly: the cool and austere barrel rooms, which had been partially cleared to make way for elegantly set white-linen tabletops.


There were more wine glasses at each place than silverware—a beautiful sight indeed for lovers of the vine.


Wine for Breakfast: the Seminar
Starting the day with vino is one thing I will never complain about. Except, perhaps after a grand tasting day as grand as this one turned out to be…

The “Rhone Essentials” Seminar kicked off at 10:30 AM with a series of delightful whites. I had favorites and less-favorites, but what I found most fun was marking down my own notes on each wine to see how close or far my observations were from those of the wine experts seated at the head table like a grape grand jury.

Connoisseur until proven amateur, right? And I was determined to simultaneously enjoy the wine in front of me as well as preserve the validity of my astute critiques of each wine’s unique features.


Love at First Flight
The first sip to hit my palate was of the Tablas Creek 2012 Grenache Blanc, presented by Jason Haas, the winery’s partner and general manager. This long-legged wine was fruit-forward on the nose…peach and pear, to be exact. It had noticeable oak in the middle and a smooth, buttery finish.


Now, Grenache Blanc (pronounced gruh-NOSH blonk), which is a Rhone varietal in the family of all of the wines I will detail here, combines both richness and acidity. It is known for carrying notes of preserved lemon, green apple and grapefruit, developing a hint of nuttiness with age (much like myself). Needless to say, the Grenache Blanc and I were instant friends.

The second “leg” of the first flight was a Pomar Junction 2012 Viognier, presented by winemaker Jim Shumate. This wine is fermented in actual barrels, and during this particular year, in acacia-wood barrels to bring out the body and flavor (delightful floral, tropical and citrus notes) without adding oak. Prominent to me were peach on the fruit-forward nose with a hint of honeysuckle, green apple and melon to create a smooth and tropical middle, with a warm and subtle finish.


Viogniers like this one (pronounced VEE-ohn-yay) are typically aromatic, with a nose of peach and apricot. Apparently they are known to have a hint of violet is well, which is where I’m guessing my brain was saying “honeysuckle.” Viogniers are full-bodied with stone fruit (such as peaches and plums), spice and moderate-to-low acidity.

Something funny to point out to all you experts out there is that, for the longest time in college, I thought the descriptions of a wine meant the wine was actually made of those things. For example, if I saw “cinnamon” or “melon” in the detailing of its flavor, I thought the wine itself actually contained that fruit or spice. To this day, it still amuses me that the product of a single type of fruit can parade as a host of other fruits and spices all at once, but I suppose therein lies the magic of wine. After all, I have yet to sip the juice of a peach that makes me think of Viognier. Grapes alone hold that kind of power….the chameleon of the fruit realm.

Third in the first-flight lineup was the Adelaida Cellars 2012 Version White Reserve, presented by winemaker Jeremy Weintraub. Wine-traub…easy to remember. This wine was a unique blend of 33% Grenache Blanc, 25% Picpoul Blanc (pronounced PEEK-pool Blonk), 25% Viognier and 17% Roussane (pronounced ROO-sahn).


Picpoul Blanc translates literally to lip-stinger, and consists of wines known for their acidity complemented by tropical notes in some of the older (riper) vintages. The Roussane ages very well (like my beautiful mother, no doubt) and tastes of honey, pear, honeysuckle and rose petal. In other words, it tasted like my family’s beautiful country yard in the spring, when everything was in full bloom, mixed with the late summer ripening of all our fruit trees. Yes, if I could lick that memory, this wine is what it would taste like. But to me it also had a subtle nose, very grape-firm flavor and oak in the idle, with a subtle finish. I think it left me only slightly underwhelmed, perhaps being overshadowed by the robust scent-memory I was in the middle of.

Finally, the first flight came in for a smooth landing with the Proulx 2012 Grenache Rose, presented by Proulx owner and winemaker Kevin Riley. This grape varietal is the world’s second most-planted grape, normally (in its pure red versions) producing a wine with red fruit on the nose, licorice, black pepper, cherry and spice. As a rose, this wine had higher sugar (and alcohol), lower acidity, more of a subtle fruit nose, hints of rose petals on a smooth—almost unrecognizable middle—and with a slightly oaky, subtle finish.


“Reddy” To Turn My Tongue Purple
I have always been partial to reds. Whites make me want to nap, reds make me want to dance.

Whites put me to bed, reds put me to work on chores or writing. That’s not to say I can’t enjoy a great white or rose, but for me, Mourvedre is bettah…


The second flight (yay, reds!) began with a sample from our host—Broken Earth Winery’s 2012 Grenache, presented by Broken Earth winemaker Chris Cameron. As I mentioned before, this particular grape is known for fruits, licorice, black pepper, cherry and spice. For me, it was very dry and woodsy on the nose…so I could tell I was going to like it.

In the words of my dad, “I want to spit splinters.”


But when I took my first sip, there was the fruit! I savored delightful notes of fig and raisin, I sailed blissfully through a drier yet full-bodied and tannin-heavy middle, and slipped out of that first taste with a dry, fruit finish. Perhaps it was the mere transition from white to red that had me enthralled, but regardless, it was an excellent start to the second flight.

Next in this flight was my absolute favorite wine of all wines—Mourvedre. This was Cypher Winery’s 2011 Mourvedre “El Pelon,” presented by Cypher winemaker Christian Tietje. For my parents and I (to whom I had the privilege of introducing Mourvedre) this was our favorite so far. This wine was fruit-forward on the nose, very full-bodied (and therefore a good stand-alone wine that did not necessarily require a pairing) with a dark color and complex middle and a sweet yet oaky finish.


Mourvedre (pronounced more-VEHD-ruh) ripens later than all of the other Rhone varietals. It is known for aromas of chocolate, red fruit, earth and leather, which altogether give it that complexity that I find ravishing in a wine. In addition, notes of currant, plum and spice accentuate it. Should you decide to pair it with food, Mourvedres team up amazingly with gamey meat and Italian dishes that incorporate mushrooms, as an aged Mourvedre carries notes of game and truffles, even.

The third wine brings is only to the middle of this slightly longer flight, with the Eberle Winery 2012 Syrah Steinbeck Vineyard. The wine was presented by former winery proprietor, Gary Eberle. I say “former” only because, although he continues to be part of the winery, he is no longer as key a stakeholder as before, perhaps due to family differences—which I can neither confirm nor dispute, based on the limited information available in the press. All I CAN say is that Gary gave us the pleasure of his company at our table later on, which I will talk more about later…good man, great wine.


So this Syrah was also an excellent stand-alone wine, which struck me instantly with a nose of blueberry. Others at our table agreed with a “blueberries and blood” type of flavor, which was confirmed. While it sounds odd, it was delicious. It resembled a sirloin, cooked to perfection…or Carpaccio…served with a warm blueberry glaze. It was full-bodied on the nose, fruit-forward, strong and bold in the middle, with a smooth, woodsy and spicy finish. Syrah (pronounced Sur-RAH…also known as Shiraz) is the most frequently planted Rhone varietal in California. With aromas of smoke, bacon fat, black fruit, crushed rock, blue- and blackberry, black olive and spice, this wine seemed to take all of the best flavors of my past (in Iowa) and my present (in the Central Coast) into consideration with this one amazing cacophony of savory richness.

Fourth in this flight was the Zenaida Cellars 2011 Petite Sirah, presented by winery owner/winemaker Eric Ogorsolka. Now, Sirah is a challenging varietal to perfect. As we learned from Eric, you don’t crush it…you let it do its thing. This wine is the free spirit and (according to my judgment) also the “Virgo” of the Rhone varietals. With this wine, they used CO2 to prolong the fermentation, which takes approximately 30 days. In growing the grape, you must give it enough water that it won’t shrivel up, but you must also let it take its time…very much like a successful love story, if you ask me.


This wine was fruit-forward on the nose, dry, with a nutty brown color and heavy tannin. It had a spicy, warm and blackberry-essence middle and a smooth tannin finish. Pronounced puh-TEAT-sur-RAH, this wine is halfway between Syrah and Poursin, which was developed in France in 188- by Dr. Fancois Durif. The wine is very dark in color with almost bluish hues amongst its red with powerful tannins that reward those with the patience to cellar.

Finally, my tongue was totally purple and was headed gleefully into the last of the “red flight:” the Anglim Winery 2011 Best Barrel Blend (Red Rhone Blend) of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. I cannot find it anywhere online now, so I’m assuming it may have been so good, it has already sold out. Presented by the winery proprietor Steve Anglim, it is their best barrel blend. My parents and I definitely agreed…we thought it was unique, with its spice on the nose….and almost a bit heavy, harsh and only slightly bitter on the finish.


As it blended three amazing types of wine, detectable characteristics included red fruit, black pepper, hints of rose petals on aromas of smoke, bacon, blackberry, chocolate, and earth. It was outstanding. Though Mourvedre can be difficult to find on their own, a blend that includes Mourvedre very rarely disappoints. And this one was no exception.

Gourmet Food and Winemaker Chats
As we eagerly began the Vinter’s lunch, all tables at the seminar were joined by the Rhone Ranger’s principals and winemakers for a gourmet banquet lunch, with each members’ Rhone wines being passed freely for consumption among the tables.

Prepared by Chef Jeffrey Scott, the incredible meal we consumed consisted of slow-braised Niman Ranch lamb with windrose potatoes, porcini and pomegranate gastrique; grilled, free-range chicken Tagine with Israeli couscous, currants and Nantes carrot glace; winter vegetable gratinee with glazed fennel, celery root and melted leeks; thyme-roasted heirloom beet salad with barrel-aged feta, rocket greens, candied hazelnuts and Solera vinaigrette; organic watercress bisque; and hot chocolate bread pudding with cinnamon stick crème Anglaise.



Three words: my happy place.

To complement this amazing meal, Gary Eberle was pouring several Eberle wines, including the Cotes du Robles. In the midst of other cheerful conversation and excellent storytelling, Gary also told us the story behind the name “Eberle.” Apparently, “eber” means the bear and “le” means little…so “the little bear.” So neat!






The Grand “Tasting”
I put “tasting” in quotation marks, because by the time you’re done, you’ve gone far beyond merely “tasting” anything. Without even meaning to, you’ve been drinking since 10:30AM. Though incremental, it’s still going to hit you at some point that the reality of how much wine you’ve really sampled is astounding. I stopped at a point, but I am not a person to dump out the wine normally. Perhaps it’s due to my Midwest roots, where you finish everything on your plate and all of the milk in your glass. It didn’t matter if you were full, finished or on fire. You would eat and drink every last drop. So I used to be that way with wine. But I’ve finally evolved through my Central Cost living to be a “taste and tip-out” sampler. WIN.


So for the Grand Tasting, we moved out of the barrel room and into another large room filled with tables that were stationed with wineries from all over, local well-known individuals, fruit and cheese.



By the time I’d gathered enough photos and wine samples from the event to last me an eternity, I joined my parents outside where they had decided to sit and bask in the type of weather in February that has yet to hit Illinois in April.





There was a great live music performance going on outside, and people had either picked a table and cracked open their own bottle…or were napping face-down on the grass. (see backdrop of next photo lol)Image

Of course, they were totally fine….just wine naps, clearly. But it was nevertheless funny to see a person far beyond my parents’ ages just snoozing in the lawn sporadically. Most guests, however, were up and about and taking in the scenic ambience of Broken Earth…rather than laying ON the “broken earth…”


This is DEFINITELY an event worth attending. In my opinion, visitors to the San Luis Obispo metro can wine taste until they’re blue in the face and leave town without any real sense of what the wine is about, how to interact with it, and what type of feedback to take back with them to accompany the bottle of wine they purchase. But in contrast, events like this give patrons not only a delicious array of wines to sample and memories to savor, but they also give an education.

In addition (and a part of the event that I personally loved the most), you get to meet the people who understand the love, care, science and labor behind the wines we drink. I grew up on a farm. So whether you harvest corn and beans or wine from the vine, I respect that immensely. There is something to be said for people who make a living cultivating the land, and doing it in an attentive and tender enough way to produce the types of wines we are lucky enough to enjoy here on the Central Coast.



About Rhone Rangers
Rhone Rangers is an organization committed to advancing knowledge of American Rhone grapes, as well as how to enjoy the wine those grapes produce:

The Rhone Rangers is America’s leading non-profit organization dedicated to promoting American Rhone varietal wines. American Rhone-style wines are made from the same grapes that have flourished for centuries in France’s Rhone River Valley, and their growing popularity in the United States speaks to their versatility with food, wide range of rich flavors, and to the skills of American winemakers.

Our mission is to educate the public on Rhone varietal wine grapes grown in America and to promote the production and enjoyment of these wines, with emphasis on integration into our daily lives. For a wine to qualify as a “Rhone Rangers” wine, the winery must be a member of the organization and 75% of the wine’s content must include one or more of the twenty-two traditional Rhone grape varieties as approved by the French government for the wines of the Cotes du Rhone (including Petite Sirah/Durif).

The Rhone Grapes Themselves
With ancestral roots stemming back to France’s Rhone Valley, these 22 grape varieties’ Appelations include Cote Rotie, Hermitage, Condrieu, Chateuneuf du Pape, Gigondas, Bandol, Cotes du Rhone and more. To be considered a “Rhone Ranger,” one of these 22 accepted varieties must dominate at least 75% of the blend.

This Rhone Rangers Event
At this 2014 Rhone Rangers tasting event, Broken Earth Winery had a record turnout that included a sold-out seminar attendance of 240. which were joined later by an additional 310 people. In addition, there were 65 show representatives there to provide conversation, information and more tasting, including 45 Paso Robles member vineyards.

The event, now in its seventh year, continues to grow with each tasting, and not surprisingly so.

CHEERS! Looking forward to 2015…

For a complete list of vendors and silent auction lots, click here.

And more photos to enjoy, below!




My First Yoga Retreat – Discovering the Undiscoverable, and some Other Oddball Notions


My greatest fear is to stop thinking.
This was the profound discovery I made on November 16, during my first-ever yoga retreat at Harmony House Yoga in Pismo Beach, CA.
Not spiders, not public speaking, not cancer, not even death.
I realized my greatest fear is to let a moment lapse where I am not actively thinking about something…planning, reconsidering, judging, musing, creating, analyzing, generating. And while this makes me an excellent PR/social media agency Accounts Manager, it makes me a very, very poor yogi.
There is no mental quiet, no inner calm, no inner “blank white nothing” that I can easily fall into nor scavenge for. There is only color and sound and thoughts tangled with loose threads from other balls of thoughts.
Why is this?
Why is it that even if I don’t have time to think about something to the extent that it deserves, I actually write it down so I can think about it later when I do have time?
It’s like I’m afraid I’ll miss something…overlook something. Like I’ll forget something important, suffer a missed connection, bypassed opportunity or underprepared attempt.

Overcoming This Greatest Fear
I strongly believe that people should try to overcome fear. Not all fears, as some fear is not only acceptable, but also essential. It keeps us grounded, realistic and human. It keeps us relatable and humble. No…I just believe we should try to overcome our greatest fear, for that is the one that stands in the way (usually) of true happiness, contentment and peace.

So, to try to conquer my fear of ceasing my thoughts, I decided to attend a two-day yoga retreat…complete with morning, afternoon and evening yoga, meditation, camaraderie and…where lack of camaraderie…the bliss of solitude. This solitude being, of course, the elusive, magical goal of my experience since I have not (thus far) ever been able to manifest it internally.

The dawn paddle-out, and my inside-out self.
Gray mist still hung low in over the Pismo Beach coastline as several other early-rising yogis and I made our way out to the sand for the morning (7AM on a Saturday) paddle-out. There was Ryan MacDonald (Irish, by name and by beard), Kelly Metcalf (the studio owner), Claudia (the more tenured yogi of the bunch), Summer (with fiery red hair), a girl with dark hair (who emerged from a nearby beachfront apartment) and a girl with a really cool surfboard (see photos).




We first formed a sort of prayer circle right there on the sand. And as the wind skipped around our faces, throwing loose strands of hair this way and that, Chris played the bagpipes and Kelly led us in a morning meditation.



As I looked around the circle at everyone else with their eyes closed and smiles on their faces, I noticed very blatantly the key difference between me and them:

There they were, sinking into their own inner peace of this gray, quiet morning, eyes closed and trusting, uncurious about anything else around them…able to FOCUS.

And there I was, finding joy in THEIR expression of peace…finding my own mirth in watching the waves lick the sand, and the seagulls pretending to be untethered kites over our circle, and finding awe in staring wistfully at surfers interacting with the ocean in a way I’m fairly certain I will never have the skills nor gall to.


But in that moment of reconizing this difference, I made peace with it. PEACE…that thing I can never find. I made peace with the fact that I want my eyes open. I want to absorb everything and everyone else. I want to be the sponge of the nature and souls that surround me in order to give off their vibrant energy in return. And maybe in that osmosis of all life surrounding me, the tiny pieces of my environment that I take in and hoard for a lifetime, maybe that IS my “self.”


Maybe my “inner peace” is different in that I both find it—and wear it—on the outside.

But one thing I did NOT have on MY outside…was a wetsuit. So at the end of the meditation, when the bagpipes fell silent and the other yogis ran towards the waves with their surfboards, I gleefully watched. I sent my camera lens and hearty grin in their direction to show my support from the dry (and only slightly warmer) beach.







The Afternoon Beach Yoga and Tiny Joys
The day was beautiful, sunny and warm (hello, Cali). It was dappled with tea at Honeymoon Cafe with Chris Assaad, Summer (from the morning paddle-out) and Ryan, during which I discovered that Yerba Mate is divine with a little bit of honey and nutmeg in it; a brief peek-a-boo session with Chris Buschard’s baby from behind a newsstand; and yoga on the beach with three women at least 20 years my senior…and another tiny, joyful realization…



When these three other women and I finally settled into Sivassanah on the sand, I realized that the sand has the exact same muffling effect as a Midwest snow. If you lay down in even the smallest groove of it, it sounds like you’re miles away from everything else. For a moment, despite the warm temperatures and sounds of the surf, I felt as if I was packed into a neon snowsuit in mid-January…bundled up by my mom so thickly I could only move like a robot…nuzzled into the quiet of a snow-fort in the backyard of our Illinois home where I grew up.


And right there in that moment, in my sunny new home, I became ever-so-slightly homesick.





An Evening Conversation (Talk) With Chris Assaad
Along with a fairly large group of other yogis, I rang in the evening with a low-lit, calming and very unifying talk by Chris Assad.



The story he told began with how he had just gotten into music when he started losing his hearing. He thought he was bad at music. He had surgery on his ears, and within a year and a half, he got his hearing back. When he turned on the radio after regaining his hearing, he became on fire for music…because he finally had sound…something he didn’t think he’d be able to have. And along with music, he gained spirituality.

He began to go to school during the day, and to play music at night. And once he was fully launched into his law career, he ended up turning down a six-figure salary to focus on music…to put something more into his life than the 9-5 chatter we all live with.


“If you were God, why would you give someone a gift that requires something great of them, then put them into a condition that prevents them from doing it?” he asked us. And what I thought in response was that…well, he doesn’t. I think we put ourselves into those conditions that we feel are restraining us. Perhaps we are righteously misguided, if that makes sense. We are making good decisions, but are doing so in a way that ignores the inherent compulsion we feel to pursue our true gifts. So…we are not in the wrong, we just aren’t headed in the right direction for ouselves either.

He asked us to take out the crayon and paper in front of us and write town dreams we have realized, dreams we have given up on, and then the reasons why we’ve given up on those dreams.

Here’s what I came up with for myself:

Realized dream: Marrying a good man and living by the beach. And more importantly, outgrowing my adolescent self. (Not like I wouldn’t have—you can’t stay 12 forever—but you’ve been there and know adolescence feels helpless and eternal).

Dream given up on: Having my family and my husband’s family live close to one another.

Why did I give up: Washington and Illinois are never going to be closer to one another, and both families are settled in houses they built themselves. So we will either have to choose a family, move every two years to remain fair, or live precisely in the center…thereby never being close enough to either family to just drop the kids off on particularly busy days.

So even though I ultimately have little decision in this situation, I’m sure many others in the room came to some profound (and perhaps even solvable) realizations in that conversation and time of reflection

Chris did leave us with some profound words:
“Fight or flight does not know the difference between real danger and perceived danger. Therefore, we need to take action in the face of that which makes us uncomfortable,” he said. “If you take even the first step today that leads towards your dream, then you are living your dream.”

When I Almost Went Raw, Buuuuuuut…Didn’t (photos to come)
After morning beach yoga, which was delightful, I made the point to attend church in a nearby Catholic church I would walk to (yes, I’m Catholic). The mass started 20 minutes late, was half in Latin, and 90% of the women and girls had lace atop their heads…aka, not the best mass to be at in a tank top in yoga pants & flip flops. I was wildly out of place, but the people there were friendly enough. So yeah…church and yoga in one day. Some sort of saintly feeling to that…

So raw food chef Betsy Asmus gave a seminar at the retreat, which I was excited to attend. I’ve always wanted to hear more about going raw, and perhaps even go raw myself. Why not. I love anything that could make me healthier, have more energy and live longer.

Betsy’s story:
Before she went raw, she was 45 lbs heavier and was on nine medications at age 55. She would get up at 4:30AM to work out every day, would work 12 hours as the dean of a college, but it wasn’t enough. When she finally went to the doctor and lined up all of her drugs to inform him that they weren’t working he said, “Oh, you’re not supposed to be taking this with that, or that with this…” and so on and so forth. Being a woman who has previously worked in Medication Therapy Management, this aspect of her story hooked me, and I wanted to hear how she moved forward from this all-too-common (and unfortunate) dilemma in the human healthcare system.

Her first step was to go to Whole Foods and check out Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen book. From that point on (according to Betsy), she had no more allergies, is on no mediations, she sleeps with a cat now (in fact), she has lowered her bad cholesterol and blood pressure, she has a freedom from food (rather than an addiction to it), she does not bloat (no wheat), she does not have mucous (from dairy), and more. Her first clue that going raw was working was that she didn’t flat-line at 3PM like usual. Her extra weight started melting off, and her skin tone improved.

In the middle of her story, she fed us an oatmeal raisin cookie that was made using persimmon as the liquid, and which was dehydrated instead of baked. It was unreal delicious. Like, seriously.

So my first question to her was which dehydrator she used. (That’s me…if I like it, I want to learn how to make it too…NOW.) She said she uses an Excalibur 9-tray with the 14”x14” trays, which runs around $250. She said to make sure the temp gets down to 105 degrees on whatever machine you purchase, because otherwise (any hotter), it takes away the foods’ nutrients.

On dehydration of food, she says that YES…it takes longer, but it maintains the minerals and enzymes in the food and prevents them from deteriorating.

On her other dietary habits, she said, “If it comes from something that has a face, I don’t eat it.” (This made me chuckle.)

Next, she prepared us a pumpkin pudding with ginger spice cream. How? You can soak cashews to make creams and cheesecakes! (OMG, who knew?!….more like, who knew and DIDN’T TELL ME?!) You soak them overnight, using the hottest filtered water you can (which speeds it up). And you blend them to make the cream.

FUN FACT: Cashews are fruits. (?!?)

Also, apparently…don’t eat peanut butter. This is because bacteria often grows between the hard shell and the nut, which is not healthy to consume.

GOOD NUTS: cashews, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans and Brazil nuts.

– Must be labeled “raw” AND “organic” to ensure it hasn’t been heat-processed or radiation-processed. Sprouted is even better.

Finally, she won my heart with  a “fudge ball.” This wondrous little morsel was comprised of almond butter, dates and cacao and strawberries (whaaaaat?). It was delish.

To make, simply puree the strawberries, chop the other half of the ingredients and blend with the dates, add lemon juice as a preservative and a raw vegan “binder” substitute. You can also make sunflower seed flour and pumpkin seed flour, just be sure to use a dry container when “blending” and DO NOT overblend…or you will get a substance that has a very peanut-butter-like consistency.

I decided, as I left, I was going raw. And I also knew that, as a woman married to a “comfort food” guy and also being a woman who loves all things that can be hunted and cooked on a grill (i.e elk), I would probably go through life continuing to eat foods that came from something with a face. However, I love the idea and think that there are likely a variety of nutritional routes a person could take to obtain what they felt was their optimum regime. I think it works much the same way as exercise does….there is no perfect form of exercise. The best form of exercise is the KIND THAT YOU WILL ACTUALLY DO. So with a diet, the best kind of diet regime is one that is actually PLAUSIBLE and ENJOYABLE for you to stick with.

The Yoga Retreat Finale
There were no fireworks, no weeping goodbyes, and I had made no new best friends. However, I had learned, I had practiced great yoga all weekend, I had spent my days filled with the joy and light of a variety of vibrant and inspiring individuals, and I would definitely go back again. I loved the studio (and the beach), I loved the people, and I loved the time the retreat forced me to take out of my usual monotony and actually ENJOY the sea, sand and sky I’ve been blessed with living in the midst of since October.

I ended the day with another amazing yoga session, some tea and healthy treats with the other students, and then I headed back into my busy life to talk about what a great time I had.

I met my pals at Phantom Rivers Winery, not far away at all, where I ate some food that had come from something with a face, drank wine, and made a little bit more peace with the fact that internal and external zen doesn’t have to be a perfect art acquired by intense meditation and a flawless sense of self.

Sometimes zen is just a little bit of dusky sunshine, a little bit of a rich Mourvedre, and a little bit of acknowledgement to oneself that you are ever-so pleasantly always on that delightfully thin line between all stereotypes.









This is NOT a “Sultry Glisten”: My first Bikram Yoga Class




Soaked. Through. 

I was sweating like a snowman in the Sahara, in a way no current or future “wicking” properties of yoga clothes could ever counteract.

I was standing in a puddle of my own sweat on the towel over my mat I’d sworn I wouldn’t need, talking myself out of fainting, trying not to let my brain get too lost in identifying which damp-human smell around me belonged to whom. 

And I liked it. 

“Hot” and “Bikram” Are Not the Same

I’ve done a couple of years of hot yoga before this. Although I’d taken a few months off with a wedding, cross-country move and new career, I was pretty sure I could handle whatever this Bikram class could throw at me. I’d been invited to try Bikram Yoga SLO by new-acquaintance and now-friend Joe Patane. And those who know me know that the only challenge I can turn down is one involving skydiving or eating bugs. So, there I was…

“Bake-ram.” “Bake-ram” was all I could think of to describe the first second I walked into the classroom, a moment comparable to the second you open an oven to check on the cookies before shielding your face with an oven-mitt. A hot blast. A sauna. I began doubting my prior confidence in tackling these temps, but settled down on my mat anyways. 

Sweat Baby Sweat

I was sweating before we even started moving. No, before we even started breathing. In fact, I didn’t even know I was breathing until our first inhale/exhale exercise because the air going in and out of my lungs was the same temperature. In fact, it was coming out of my living human body COOLER than the air around it: fathom that. 

As teacher Lori Logan guided us through the flow, I found myself sort of caught up in a misty, warm daze that was basically my consciousness melting the instinctual resistance to being in a room that hot….or perhaps more likely, the steam filling the room as our toxins escaped us. Looking around the room in my balmy, lucid state, I began imagining what each of my fellow students’ “puddles” contained: Superbowl food? Wings? An entire box of Vino (yeah, that was mine). Cigarettes? Cheesecake? And as I did this, twisting and pulling my muscles into the various different non-shapes we were making with our bodies began to feel cathartic for me. 

I Wanted To Dive Off A Cliff

Not in a bad way! When the nearly two hours of “bake-ram” and moving, holding, breathing, straining, stretching, bending and sweating was coming to a close, I wanted to dive off of a cliff…anything…just to feel the rush of air against me. As Lori cracked the door and windows open to allow the first little wisps of fresh, cool air into the room, it was like having a bucket of “blessing” dumped over me. I kept fantasizing about a fan (ha….FANtasizing)…about standing out of the top of a sunroof while going 75 mph…about taking a nap naked on a frozen pond. And as I reveled in the beautiful brush of air on my sweat-beaded skin, I slipped into the best Sivassanah. This class, I let my mind wander to the most peaceful, best place in the world for my Sivassanah time, wherever that might be. And I slipped into a half-awake dream where I was in a pontoon, under a sky of stars, sleeping next to my husband…I could almost feel the movement of the waves.

Overall Review

Overall, it was awesome. And if I could do it after having taken four months off from any sort of hot yoga, I think almost anyone could do it. Lori was an excellent teacher, with a calming voice and willingness to lead without forcing, and allow relaxation without letting you sleep (“keep your eyes open” she’d say over and over). She was welcoming to me as a newbie, provided me with anything extra I needed to enjoy class, and I would definitely go back. 

Personally, I would perhaps do it three times per week as a treat, rather than every day. But it was amazing, and I felt light as air and happy as a clam the rest of the day. 

Even better, she has a “new student” special, where your first month of unlimited classes is just $30. 

Located in the old Creamery in downtown San Luis Obispo, you can park there for the class FREE of charge. Just make sure you’re polite and move after class is over. There are meters on the street as well, but it’s nice to not have to pay while you’re in sweating your heart out. 

P.S. TAKE A TOWEL AND A WATER. And maybe chug a coconut water on your way to class. Better safe than unconscious. 😉

Give her a try! 


Facing the Needles: My First Acupuncture Treatment EVER


First question I get when I tell people about this: How was it?
My answer: GOOD.
Second question: Did you pass out?
My answer: Almost. Twice.

I Fear Not “The Needle”
Buuuut…the needle fears me.
Here’s the scoop: in high school, I was always eager to volunteer to donate blood. I mean, it’s for a good cause. Karma. If I donate all of my great, healthy blood, then someday if I ever need blood, plenty of great, healthy blood will be available to me.

I would always watch the needle go into my arm through all nurses’ favorite vein. Yes, I had “nice-looking veins.” Creepy in other forums, a true compliment coming from a phlebotomist.

So I would WATCH the needle go it. Great, fine, worst part over. But then after all of my blood had been collected and it was time to head back to third period science, I’d faint. Cut to me, laying on a mat on the gym floor, eating cookies for an entire afternoon. It’s no wonder I loved donating, honestly.

But years passed, and I stopped donating in lieu of having my entire afternoons back.

A New Need for Needles
Cut to present-day, where I have a neck I can’t turn in either direction, for any apparent reason. I’m constantly in pain and—though I refuse blame it on my failure to stick with my yoga routine—I decide to give acupuncture a try.

Jonathan Olcutt, L.Ac., at Intuitive Acupuncture was my place of choice, at the recommendation of a fellow member of the ShareSLO street team. The morning I showed up there, I’d drunk plenty of water, skipped coffee, and even had the Ayurvedic-balanced food Kitchari for breakfast. I was ready to go.

You Need To Know WHAT?
The questionnaire I filled out pre-appointment took me a good 15 minutes or so, but man….was I ever thorough. I wanted to avoid any situations where I suddenly started seizing mid-procedure, Jonathan standing there saying, “Wait, what?! You had pizza two days ago? We can’t put needles in you if you had PIZZA two days ago!” (or some other slightly unrealistic trauma)

Next, Jonathan went through this form with me. Every tiny detail. So despite the awkwardness of the types of things I’d had to elaborate on the forms, I was glad he was at least thorough. He then carefully outlined the whole procedure for me, and we began.

The first needles went between the knuckles of my closed fists. Pretty cool! The second needles went in, and I felt my head start to grow cold and vision get spotty. “I think I’m going to pass out,” I said with a smile. Where is my needle bravery? I wondered. He laid me down and let me chill for a while before resuming.

Try #2: a couple of more needles… Cool! I thought. Next thing I knew, another wave of black-out was passing over me. I informed him. I was laid down.

Predicting as I did that the rest of the procedure would likely be like this, he had me stay laying down for the needles in my knee and ear tissue. But once those were in, I was allowed to rest in there in a dim room, soothing music playing, and relax while he moved to the next client in the other room.

Strange Purple Visions
What happened next was something I’ve only ever experienced before in a Reiki “massage:”
Behind my eyelids, I began to see waves of violet churning in various directions. Soon, I saw these waves begin spinning in a circle of violet…faster and faster, until they exploded in a ring of bright white, and then there was just calm, stillness and darkness behind my eyelids. I rested.

Upon some research, if this was real, it was a signal of the Crown Chakra (whose color is violet) rebalancing. There are also many other interpretations, but I didn’t dig too deeply into it. I’m open to other interpretations if you’d like to leave some below in “Comments.”

The key thing was, I was relaxed. My mobility in my neck, upon a second test of it, was greater…and my pain was less. It wasn’t gone, but then, these types of things can also take several treatments.

Extra Muscle Help
Before I left, Jonathan used a special clavicle-shaped tool to knead over the knots and pockets of toxins in my neck and shoulder. Though slightly painful (my fault, I put them there), it helped immensely. I could turn my head at least 25 degrees further than I could when I came in, and the pain I’d been experiencing had gone from a 7 to about a 3 on a scale of 10.

Overall Review
If you can handle the needles, this place was wonderful for acupuncture. Jonathan was great, kind and calming, and the office is nice and has a very good vibe to it. Plus, he’s a great resource on alternative medicine if you’re seeking a mentor on it.

Right now, you can book your first appointment for FREE, actually, if you just want to try it. So test it out, and hit me back with what you thought!