The Society of Wine Educators

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The Society of Wine Educators is a membership-based nonprofit organization focused on providing wine and spirits education along with the conferral of several certifications. The Society is internationally recognized, and its programs are highly regarded both for their quality and relevance to the industry. 

The mission of the SWE is to set the standard for quality and responsible wine and spirits education and professional certification. 

Guest Blogger: Southwest Sojourn Part Two: New Mexico

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Today we have a guest post—the second in a series—by an author we have all gotten to know by the nom de plume of Candi, CSW. Click here to read the first article in the series, as Candi takes us on a tour of the Grand Canyon. Below, Candi takes us on the second leg of her southwest sojourn to New Mexico—complete with museums, turquoise jewelry, and (of course) New Mexico wine!  

After a worthwhile stop at the Grand Canyon, our next destination was New Mexico. We used Santa Fe as our base of operations and took side trips to Los Alamos and Taos. Given our preferences to avoid crowds and noise, our stay in Santa Fe was on weekdays. I highly recommend this strategy if your goal is a relaxing, all-adult trip.

Our side trips were both very scenic drives, which reminded me of the book cliff-type canyons and mesas of Colorado. Highlights of our side trips included:

Bradbury Science Center, Los Alamos. This is a free, small museum located in the center of the small town. Convenient parking right outside the door, staffed by enthusiastic volunteers. If you are a history and/or science buff, this is worth a stop. Provides a sobering, educational experience of our history from World War II to the present.

Los Alamos Nature Center. Not easy to locate, but once we found the place it was a literally hidden “gem”. Apparently run by a not-for-profit, again staffed by volunteers. The outdoor exhibits feature succulent gardens and local plants. Indoors, there were exhibits about plant, insect and animal life. If I am going to view snakes, scorpions and tarantula spiders, I prefer to do so when they are in glass-enclosed cases. Then I can take a close look and identify what I hope to never see in my own yard.

Taos, New Mexico

Taos, New Mexico

Millicent Rogers Museum, Taos. Again, not easy to locate, but what a find once we got there! This museum surfaced on my pre-trip research, thank goodness. Wonderful displays of Native American blankets, rugs, pottery, and ceramics. But the highlight was clearly Ms. Rogers’ collection of Southwest jewelry. Much more elaborate than my personal taste, but stunning. Silver, turquoise, other gems, necklaces, oh my! Highly recommended if Southwest culture and art are of any interest. Yet again, a helpful volunteer provided additional information on Taos to assist us in making a few stops on the way out of town.

When we checked in at the Rogers Museum, there was only one couple next to us doing the same thing. One of them mentioned that she was American, but had married a British citizen and lived in the UK. So the wine geek in me asked if she had tried the British sparkling wines and, if so, what did she think? Well. It turned out that she and her husband own vineyards in South Africa! I have the names of their brands to research. But I ask you, what are the odds of that type of meeting in a museum on the outskirts of a small town in New Mexico? Curiouser and curiouser.

The town of Dixon is located between Taos and Santa Fe. This little place is the site of Vivac Winery. This vintner features wines made from grapes grown in New Mexico. My preferences include both small-production wineries and those that feature grapes grown in the state in which the winery is located.

Photo via: https://www.facebook.com/VivacWinery

Photo via: https://www.facebook.com/VivacWinery

Sidebar: I understand that some connoisseurs tend to, ahem, frown upon wines that are not from the glamorous, well-known viticultural areas. One of the great things about wine is there can be something for all of us to enjoy.

The Vivac facility includes wine tasting, wines by the glass and even craft beer tasting. Lesson one about tasting in relatively remote areas: tasting room staff of these facilities may not be especially knowledgeable about wine. My strategy was to take an open-ended approach; for example, just asking what the server could tell me about the wine. Note- taking. Looking at label detail. Getting what information that I could. Part of the adventure.

Vivac wines sampled included Chenin Blanc, Dry Riesling, Sangiovese, Refosco, Tempranillo, and Cabernet Sauvignon. A plus was the wide selection of varietals from which to choose. I was not, however, able to discern enough variation in wine quality and impact to purchase the more expensive wines tasted. So Chenin Blanc and Sangiovese were the choices. We have since enjoyed a bottle of each and they have proven to be solid selections. Bonus: our hotel featured a program encouraging visits to local merchants. Each wine bottle was 15% off, and I had planned this visit before even learning about the discount. Score!

Our final day in New Mexico was reserved for Santa Fe. We began with a stop at the very popular Georgia O’ Keefe Museum. If you are a fan, it is worth a stop. But beware: the museum is small and the entry fee is steep compared to others that we encountered. We will return to the gift shop, though. Nice, varied selection and, duh, no fee to get into the shop!

Until this trip, I did not realize that Santa Fe is considered quite the culinary destination. There is even a Santa Fe School of Cooking. Given my wine passion, branching out into a beginning foodie has been a natural extension. So a stop at the School’s shop for School of Cooking products was a no-brainer. Oh, and remember the 15% discount? Another score at a shop I had already planned to patronize.

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Another sidebar: for takeout dinners, we especially enjoyed Blue Corn Cafe and Rooftop Artisan Pizza. Blue Corn was a place we visited 10+ years ago and they are still going strong. Rooftop is an affiliate of Blue Corn and makes some interesting pies featuring Southwest items such as green chiles and, yes, blue corn crust.

We strolled the Santa Fe Plaza, but found the shopping to be limited with more vacant retail space than we expected. And, the shops seemed to alternate between tacky-touristy and very glamour-oriented with prices to match. A benefit that resulted: we had time to walk further, to the galleries and shops along Canyon Road.

After seeing the Rogers Museum the previous day, my interest in Southwest art, pottery and ceramics had grown. One of the Canyon Road galleries had several “starter” collectible pieces that appealed. One followed me home. Looking at the piece every few days since returning, it still entices and reminds me of the vacation. Sort of like bringing home a bottle of wine you’ve tasted, enjoying after a year or two, and confirming that your purchase was a good decision.

Thanks to our first stop at the Grand Canyon, we were acclimated to altitude. But on our Santa Fe day, we again walked well over 3 miles, all on hard surfaces. It was well worth the additional 1+ miles we put in to get to Canyon Road. At the end of the afternoon, we began to feel the impact of the activity. A bit sore. Made it back to the hotel, slowly. Walked to the lobby elevators. Tired. Just thinking of putting our feet up and re- hydrating.

Photo via: https://www.casarondena.com/winery/

Photo via: https://www.casarondena.com/winery/

Wait. My “Wine-Dar” (Wine Radar) went off on the way into the elevator. We took the elevator to our floor, unloaded all of our purchases, and my husband went to the ice machines. I just had to go back downstairs and check out my Wine-Dar. Sure enough, there was a table set up in a corner of the lobby. Hotel staff at the ready. Several bottles of Red on the table, White in an ice bucket. Glasses. I approached the table and noted one gentleman wore Sommelier name tag. OK. I explained that I was a complete wine geek, and basically asked what he was doing.

Turns out that many hotel guests are unaware that New Mexico makes wine. And, once a week, they offer wine samples to guests from one of the small wineries. This week, it was Casa Rondeña, a vintner new to me. Never one to be shy about wine, I asked if I might take a two glasses of vino up to our room; of course! So I asked about the various options and settled upon one glass of a Bordeaux-style blend of Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc. My other choice was another blend: Tempranillo, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Back up the elevators with two glasses of wine and a smile on my face. Put feet up. Once that was done, there were no plans to leave the room until morning. Pacing ourselves.

For the evening, we had takeout already in the frig, along with a half-bottle of Vivac Chenin Blanc. At dinnertime, we got out the paper plates, enjoyed our takeout, and began with the Vivac in our trusty plastic wine glasses. At one point, I got up to refill my glass. Opened the frig, which required turning my back on husband. Poured some wine, and heard behind me a light tapping sound. Although I was tired, I was alert enough to know two things. One, the tapping sound was made with a plastic wine glass gently coming in contact with a table. Two, the translation was: “hit me again, woman”. He’s not a demanding soul, but, hey, I was the one standing up by the frig.

Later, each of us sampled the two Casa Rondena wines. Husband preferred the Bordeaux- style blend. I preferred the other blend. So each of us got the remainder of our preferred wine. In a glass glass, even. Funny how preferences work out that way.

A very nice visit to New Mexico. A blend of culture, beautiful drives, shopping, nice dining, and enjoying new and different wines.

By the way, did you know that Scottsdale, Arizona now has a wine trail? Stay tuned for Part Three.

In the meantime, New Mexico Wine Cheers!

Welcome to the World, Petaluma Gap AVA!

Map via: http://petalumagap.com

Map via: http://petalumagap.com

Welcome to the World, Petaluma Gap AVA!

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) of the United States has—just today—approved the first new American Viticultural Area (AVA) in over a year, and it is…the Petaluma Gap AVA!

Along with the approval of the new AVA—located in California’s Sonoma and Marin Counties—the southern boundary of the North Coast AVA is being expanded to include the northern portions of Marin County. The Petaluma Gap AVA overlaps a portion of the Sonoma Coast AVA and will be considered a sub-appellation of the newly re-outlined North Coast AVA.

The petition for the Petaluma Gap AVA was submitted by the Petaluma Gap Winegrowers Alliance in February of 2015. According to the petition, the unique factors of the area include the following:

  • The Petaluma Gap itself: A geological feature known as a “wind gap,” the Petaluma gap is actually a 15-mile-wide area of low-lying hills that create something of an opening in the otherwise much taller Coast Mountains. This area stretches from the Pacific Ocean, eastward to the bucolic Sonoma town of Petaluma, and then straight on through to San Pablo Bay. The effect on the area is as follows: as the inland areas heat up during the day, the heat causes the warm air to rise, and the cool air off the Pacific Ocean is pulled up into the gap. The wind gains speed as it travels, and eventually empties into the bay.
  • The Wind: Late afternoon wind speed within the Petaluma Gap is typically 8 miles per hour, and it is often clocked in at over 20 mph. In contrast, winds in the surrounding areas rarely get above 2 or 3 miles per hour.
  • The Climate: Mornings are cool and typically foggy. Late mornings and early afternoons are increasingly warm after the fog burns off. However, the breezes typically begin by mid-afternoon, cooling things down and bringing in the evening fog. The diurnal temperature range can be forty to fifty degrees (F).
  • The Grapes: The almost-daily winds tend to help reduce yield in the vines, creating late-ripening, small-berried fruit with intense flavors and good acidity.
Map via: http://petalumagap.com

Map via: http://petalumagap.com

An announcement regarding the establishment of the Petaluma Gap AVA was published in the Federal Register on December, 7, 2017; this final rule will be effective on January 8, 2018. The area within the new AVA totals 202,476 acres. There are currently over 80 winegrowers, 4,000 acres of vines, and 9 wineries located within the boundaries of the new region. The area is planted mainly to Pinot Noir along with Chardonnay and Syrah. Click here for a list of wineries located within the region, as well as those that produce wine using Petaluma Gap fruit.

We look forward to tasting these wines—and welcome to the world, Petaluma Gap AVA!

Note: Before today, the last AVA to be approved in the United States was the Appalachian High Country AVA (encompassing parts of North Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee) in October of 2016. With the change in the Executive Branch that occurred earlier this year, several key posts at the Department of the Treasury were left vacant, including several whose signatures are required for new AVA rulings. However, in recent weeks these positions have been filled (including Brent James McIntosh, General Counsel and David Kautte, Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy). It seems that the business of approving AVAs is back on!

References/for more information:

Belgium and the Netherlands have a PDO Wine: the Maasvallei Limburg PDO

Map via: http://wijngoed-thorn.nl/nl/3/nieuws

Map via: http://wijngoed-thorn.nl/nl/3/nieuws

The Maas River (known in France as the Meuse) runs for over 575 miles (925 km) from its source in France’s Grand Est Region. From there, it flows north through Belgium, then forms a portion of the border between Belgium and the Netherlands before turning slightly to the east and wandering a bit before joining the Hollands Diep and flowing into the North Sea.

A portion of the area where the Maas forms the border between Belgium and the Netherlands (about 60 square miles) is known as the Maasvallei Limburg. Maasvallei Limburg has (believe it or not) recently been designated as a PDO wine region by the European Union. This is noteworthy for several reasons, including the area’s northerly location (between 50° and 51ºN) and the fact that this will be the first PDO wine region that crosses the border and includes area within two separate EU countries.

According to the EU petition, “Grapes for wine were cultivated in the abbeys along the Maas in the early Middle Ages. Historical texts refer to modest wine production within the abbey walls. A number of place names also refer to vineyards—including “Wingerd” (vine)—which indicate a history of wine cultivation in the area. Wine was one of the reasons that the convent of noble Benedictine nuns in Thorn acquired its status as an abbey-principality.”

In modern times, winemaking is fairly new to the area, and still somewhat obscure with just 10 producers on the Belgian side of the area (including Wijnomein Aldeneyck) and only one on the Dutch side (Wijngoed Thorn).

The Sint Servaasbrug Bridge over the River Maas (Maastricht, the Netherlands)

The Sint Servaasbrug Bridge over the River Maas (Maastricht, the Netherlands)

The Maasvallei Limburg PDO is approved for varietally-labeled red and white wines—however, according to the EU documentation, “blending is allowed, but something of an exception.”  Grapes approved for the region include the following:

  • Red Grapes: Acolon (a Blauer Lemberger  X Dornfelder cross), Dornfelder, and Pinot Noir
  • White Grapes: Auxerrois, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Siegerrebe (a Madeleine Angevine X Gewürztraminer cross)

Welcome to the world, Maasvallei Limburg PDO!

References/for more information:

 

The “New” New Zealand

Queenstown, Otago

Queenstown, Otago

If you’ve been following the wine news (or even some of our posts here at Wine, Wit, and Wisdom), you know that New Zealand is in the process of formalizing its geographical indications for wine and spirits. It is a long and interesting tale, but here is the gist:

New Zealand’s Geographical Indications (Wine and Spirits) Registration Act of 2006 created a registration system for wine and spirit geographical indications and allowed for the scheme of regions and subregions currently in use; however, the act was never brought into force. Fast forward ten years to November of 2016, and a revised law, the Geographical Indications (Wine and Spirits) Registration Amendment Act, was passed. As a result, the 2006 Act entered into force in July of 2017. Soon thereafter, applications for geographical indications began to be filed with the New Zealand Intellectual Property Office.

Mount Maunganui (suburb of Tauranga, Bay of Plenty)

Mount Maunganui (suburb of Tauranga, Bay of Plenty)

Three geographical indications—New Zealand, South Island, and North Island—were immediately approved as “enduring indications.” Several other applications for wine regions (geographical indications) and subregions (known as “local geographical indications”) have been submitted—many of these have been approved, and some are still pending. Geographical indications (excluding enduring indications) will need to be renewed after the first five years, and every ten years thereafter.

One of the newly-approved geographical indications is Marlborough. Here’s an update on the area:

Accounting for over 59,000 acres (24,100 ha), the Marlborough region on the South Island is home to over two-thirds of all of New Zealand’s vines and grape production. The region is heavily planted to Sauvignon Blanc (47,000 acres/19,000 ha) and in many ways has shaped the explosive growth in New Zealand wine overall. Marlborough is also the largest producer of Pinot Noir in the country, with much of the region’s 6,400 acres (2,600 ha) of Pinot Noir is made into sparkling wine. Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and Viognier are grown here as well.

Blenheim, Marlborough

Blenheim, Marlborough

Cloudy Bay, which gave its name to a now-famous Sauvignon Blanc producer, and Clifford Bay are both situated along the coast of Marlborough.  The Marlborough Region can be considered to have three separate areas (unofficial subregions), from the Wairau Valley in the north, to the Awatere Valley further south, and the Southern Valleys on the inland side.

  • Wairau Valley: The Wairau Valley (known by the Maori as Kei puta te Wairau—the place with the hole in the cloud) is one of New Zealand’s sunniest places. The region is known for stony, alluvial soils and a cool climate that tends to become drier as one heads inland.
  • Awatere Valley: The Awatere Valley is located to the south of the Wairau Valley, stretching inland from the coast into the Kaikoura Ranges. This is one of the coolest, driest, and windiest areas of Marlborough—and many of the vineyards have some elevation.
  • The Southern Valleys: Located inland, the vineyards of the Southern Valleys—consisting of the Omaka, Fairhall, Brancott, Ben Morvan and Waihopai Valleys—wind and wrap around the surrounding hills. The area has a great diversity in terms of mesoclimates and soils, but does tend to heavier, more clay-based soils than the areas closer to the coast.
Auckland

Auckland

Other geographical indications of the “New” New Zealand that have been approved (as of November 15, 2017) include Hawke’s Bay, Gisborne, Matakana (a subregion of Auckland), Waiheke Island (also a subregion of Auckland), Northland, Wairarapa, and Canterbury. More are sure to come, and we’ll be posting them as they are announced here.

References/for more information:

  • https://www.iponz.govt.nz/about-ip/geographical-indications/register/
  • https://www.nzwine.com/en
  • https://www.nzwine.com/en/our-regions/marlborough/

Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, your blog administrator

Guest Blogger: Book Review—The Wines and Foods of Piemonte

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Today we have a guest post and book review brought to us by Harriet Lembeck, CWE, CSE. Read on as Harriet reviews a beautiful book about the wine and food of Piedmont, Italy!

Book Review: The Wines and Foods of Piemonte—text and photos Tom Hyland, maps by Alessandro Masnaghetti

If you are planning a trip to Piemonte, this book is a must. If not, once you read Tom Hyland’s book, you will be clamoring to go with this in your backpack. Hyland informs you about grapes not often seen in the US, such as the red Ruché, Freisa, and Pelaverga, and the white Timorasso. His book covers reds, whites, sparkling and dessert wines.

This book covers the well-known wine regions, and will fill in your current knowledge with all types of delicious tidbits. For instance, did you know…

  • Barolo DOCG is produced in eleven neighboring communes—and within the area there are several dozen crus (legally recognized nenzioni geografiche aggiuntive [geographical designations])—each of which may be described as a unique terroir.
  • The Alto Piemonte—with its borderline continental/Mediterranean climate—contains the little-known Boca DOC, which produces an acid-driven Nebbiolo-based red wine that is delicious while still young.
  • The Montalbera Winery in Castagnole Monferrato produces as many as four versions of Ruché a year, which may include a stainless steel-fermented version, an oak-aged version, and a passito version.

Hyland’s writing is very graceful and readable, and a large glossary fills in definitions, that if he stopped to explain, would slow up the flow of his story. Interviews with winemakers and chefs are most informative. Hearing different producers argue for single vineyard wines versus wines from blends of vineyards, or hearing discussions of the use of small barrels versus large barrels, helps to explain the complexity of these wines from Piedmont.

A list of recommended wines, restaurants, local foods, and further suggested reading all combine to make this book invaluable to travelers, wine students, and lovers of Italian wine as well.

Bibliographical details: The Wines and Foods of Piemonte Text and Photos Tom Hyland, Maps by Alessandro Masnaghetti, University of Nebraska Press,  208 pages, paperback. Available on Amazon.com

HarrietHarriet Lembeck is a CWE (Certified Wine Educator) and a CSE (Certified Spirits Educator – a new designation). She is President of the Wine & Spirits Program, and revised and updated the textbook Grossman’s Guide to Wines, Beers and Spirits. She was the Director of the Wine Department for The New School University for 18 years. She can be reached at h.lembeck@ wineandspiritsprogram.com.

Are you interested in being a guest blogger or a guest SWEbinar presenter for SWE?  Click here for more information!

 

 

CSW Practice Tests and Quizzes!

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Are you nervous about your upcoming CSW exam?

Has it been a while since you took the CSW exam, and you’d like to know if you “still got it”?

Are you considering studying for the CSW and would like to know how it stacks up against other programs you’ve taken?

Are you a wine student looking for some new study tools?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, we have an announcement for you! We now have a suite of CSW practice quizzes and practice exams available! The complete set includes five practice quizzes (each based on the entirety of the Study Guide and Workbook) of 25 questions each, and three complete 100-question practice exams. The practice exams may be taken in either a “quiz” format (where you get the results to each individual question immediately), or in a timed, one-hour “practice exam” format. The price is $19.00, which includes unlimited use of the exams and quizzes for six months.

For more information, click here (navigate to “course catalog”) 

 

 

Estonian Vodka, now a Protected Geographical Indication

Map of the Baltic States

Map of the Baltic States

Earlier this month, the Baltic country of Estonia was approved for its first protected geographical indication (PGI), as awarded by the European Union. The product of choice is Estonian vodka. Vodka has a documented history of production in the area of Estonia that dates back to the 1400s.

According to regulations, PGI-indicated Estonian Vodka must be produced entirely in Estonia using raw materials grown in Estonia and Estonian water. Estonia now joins Poland, Lithuania, Finland, and Sweden as EU countries that have PGI status for their vodka.  An application for Norwegian vodka is pending.

The Estonian city of Tallinn

The Estonian city of Tallinn

A trip to Estonia might be in order, if only to taste the vodka and experience what the Lonely Planet website considers one of the “best value” destinations for 2018. While you are there, you can visit the old town center of Tallinn—one of Europe’s most complete walled cities, the Kumu Gallery—a 7-storey limestone, glass, and copper art museum, and the Great Guild Hall—built in 410 and housing historical exhibits documenting the history of the Baltics through art, music, literature, language, stamps, and coins.

References/for more information:

Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, your blog administrator

 

New York State of Whiskey: Empire Rye

Empire Rye logo via: www.empirerye.com

Empire Rye logo via: www.empirerye.com

It all started at a craft spirits conference in late 2015, during that hour when all of the best work gets done at a conference: the late-night, after-hours drinking session.

It seems that at a particular table, a group of New York State craft distillers had gathered and the conversation turned towards the state’s nascent craft whiskey industry. According to Tom Potter, founder of New York Distilling Company, a group of them “shook hands, and decided to do something” to differentiate and protect those distillers using local products and high-quality craft production methods.

Not long after, the Empire Rye Whiskey Association was born. According to their website, the association intends to be “an homage to New York State’s pre-Prohibition rye whiskey-making heritage and a testament to the ingenuity and industriousness of its contemporary distillers.”

The standards for a whiskey to be labeled as an “Empire Rye” include the following:

  • The mash bill must include a minimum of 75% New York State-grown rye grain (which may be any combination of raw or malted)
  • It must be distilled to no higher than 160 proof
  • It must be aged for a minimum of two years in charred, new oak barrels—and placed into the barrel at no more than 115 proof
  • It must be produced entirely at a single New York State distillery—including mashing, fermentation, distillation, and barrel maturation—and made (excepting maturation time) in a single distilling season (January 1 through June 30 for the spring season, or July 1 through December 31 for the fall season)
  • Products so produced may display the “Empire Rye” logo on the bottle.
  • A product made from the Empire Rye whiskeys of more than one NY distiller may be created and labeled as “Blended Empire Rye”
Photo Credit: Empire Rye/Facebook

Photo Credit: Empire Rye/Facebook

Empire Rye is not a protected geographical indication, nor is it defined by state or federal law—for now, it remains a trademark and certification mark used by members of the Empire Rye Whiskey Association. But who knows what the future may bring? This is some tasty whiskey.

Examples of Empire Rye are widely available up and down the east coast of the USA. I was also able to locate three examples on retail shelves in central Texas (each bottle I found was priced in the $40 to $50 range). For those in other locations, online retailers or a trip to New York might be your best bet.

Members (and whiskeys) of the Empire Rye Whiskey Association (as of October 2017) include:

References/for more information:

Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, your blog administrator

Are you interested in being a guest blogger or a guest SWEbinar presenter for SWE?  Click here for more information!

Guest Post: Southwest Sojourn: Scenes, Shops, Sips and Savors

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Today we have a guest post—the first in a series—by an author we have all gotten to know by the nom de plume of Candi, CSW. Read on while Candi takes us on a southwest sojourn to the Grand Canyon—along with some cheap Chardonnay and some plastic wine glasses. 

Road Trip! My husband and I recently took a vacation to Arizona and New Mexico. Three destinations, one drive day only between stops. We have learned that more than one consecutive drive day is not kind to our aging bodies and minds. So be it. We needed the change-up, rest and respite. Fortunately, we were rewarded with all of these.

First destination: Grand Canyon National Park. We had not been to the Park in over a decade. September is part of the shoulder season, with decent weather and less crowding. No offense intended, but parking lots full of rented RVs and kid mobiles are not for us. Not to mention noise, noise, noise at each popular spot.

Day 1, drove to Tusayan, AZ. This town’s advantage is being immediately south of the South Rim entrance to the park. You pay a premium for basic lodging in Tusayan for the convenience. Location, location, location.

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When we checked in for two nights, the place’s friendly front desk staff provided sample menus for local restaurants. OK, so the prices were out of date. The menu descriptions were, however, accurate. To avoid our no-no’s of noise and crowding, we were looking for takeout. Restaurant chosen supposedly featured typical Mexican and Aztec cuisine. The 10% coupon from our lodging didn’t hurt, either. My frugal soul loves discounts!

Within the hour, I was headed out for a two-block walk to Plaza Bonita. Saturday night. Crowded and noisy. Staff busy, people waiting for tables. Checked in to pickup my order at the first stand I saw. The gentleman behind me posed a question at the stand: do you have Prickly Pear Margaritas? When the answer was in the affirmative, I had two immediate thoughts. First, please let my order come quickly. Second, get me outta here!

Given the work load in the restaurant, I was kept waiting longer than expected. But the staff added complimentary food to our order. End result: for less than $40 we had enough food for two nights, two adults. This became important the next evening. And the food was quite good: chicken mole (billed as Aztec) and carne asada (with quality cuts of steak).

The family geek always comes prepared for small-town travel. Plastic wine glasses, cheap screw cap wine. Unoaked Chardonnay, anyone? Half for tonight, save some for tomorrow!

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Day 2, the Grand Canyon. Shuttle buses, required for the most popular stops, to the left. Private vehicles, including ours, to the right along Desert View Drive. Emphasis on the private. Taking our own time, deciding when and where to stop.

One nice thing about revisiting a national park after years have passed is that so many scenes, sites and views somehow seem new. They may not be new, but we enjoyed them, so it didn’t matter. Our favorite places this time:

  • Desert View Watchtower: one of the most remote options. Tour buses allowed, so some crowding to climb the tower. That was fine; there was a path going below the tower, in the opposite direction. A very steep path. It surprised me that so many people went so very close to the Canyon edge of the path. We are talking, duh, a big drop if you stumble. They don’t call the Canyon grand for nothing. I stayed at the other edge, took my time, and just quietly appreciated.
  • Lipan Point: I did not remember this stop from last time. No tour bus parking available: yes! The Point offered unique views not available at Desert View. Shallow areas, rock formations resembling: fill in your imagination’s blank here. Birds? Temples? Other? Hint: experience this one with your eyes. Don’t put an electronic device between you and the Canyon here. Or maybe at any Canyon location. But, hey, it’s your vacation.
  • Tusayan Ruins and Museum: I know this stop was new to us. Instead of a canyon view, the site is on the other side of Desert View Drive. Very educational, very quiet. A small display of local vegetation and succulents. Signs describing the ruins along a level path.
  • Yavapai Point and Geology Museum: along the popular South Rim walk. Consequently, very crowded and noisy. But the views and education within the Museum were worth the visit, anyway. Museum had big display windows, excellent exhibits. A very civilized place to refill your water bottle. Hydration at 7,000+ feet altitude is very wise. Even more important as, ahem, one ages.
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I just mentioned altitude. We walked at leisure, took our time, enjoyed every scene, and kept up the hydration. But, still, we are talking walking on a windy day at altitude for people who are acclimated to sea level. After about 7 hours, even with breaks, we were tired. Seriously tired. The last half-mile to the car was most challenging. We began to hurt as well as become exhausted. Feeling every year of our age and every step taken.

The car. Upholstered seats. Cold water. A bit of a snack. Rest of sightseeing by car, briefly. Period.

Back to our trusty room. My husband used online tools to estimate that our altitude walk for the day was 3.5 – 4+ miles. Considering conditions, not bad for an honest day’s exertion.

All we wanted to do that evening was rest and put up our feet. Leftovers in the room? Fabulous. The rest of the cheap Chardonnay? Even better.

I’m sure by now you want to know: did we ever have Prickly Pear Margaritas during the trip? No: I have very rarely had a Margarita, and had visions of sweet pear syrup serving as an accelerant of the liquor to my brain. To this day, I believe I am correct.

Did we taste vino at other stops? You have to ask? That is, I believe a “preview of coming attractions”. Stay tuned for other Destinations.

In the meantime,

Cheap Chardonnay Cheers!

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Rebirth in Austria: The Schilcherland DAC!

Map via: http://www.austrianwine.com/news-media

Map via: http://www.austrianwine.com/news-media

The Austrian wine region formerly known as Weststeiermark has been re-born as the Schilcherland DAC. This brings the total number of Districtus Austriae Controllatus regions (DACs) in Austria to ten. This change was announced via the website of the Austrian Wine Marketing Board today (October 16, 2017), and the changes will be reflected in the wines of the current vintage (2017) and moving forward.

The new DAC is approved for one type of wine only—rosé produced from 100% Blauer Wildbacher grapes. The grapes must be harvested by hand and the wine must be packaged in a glass bottle. There are two quality levels: Schilcherland “Klassik” DAC and Schilcherland DAC—which must specify a single vineyard (Ried) designation on the front label. Other requirements are noted below.

For Schilcherland Klassik DAC:

  • The wine must be vinified dry (max. 3.0 g/l residual sugar)
  • The wine should show no oak influence
  • Alcohol content must range from a minimum of 11% to a maximum of 12% abv
  • The flavor must be refreshing and fruit-forward, and should show aromas of strawberry, red currant and raspberry

Schilcherland DAC:

  • The wine must be labeled with a specific vineyard (Ried) designation
  • Minimum alcohol content of 12% abv
  • The wine must be vinified dry (max. 4.0 g/l residual sugar)
  • The wine should also be refreshing and fruit-forward and with no oak influence; but it is expected to have a deal more flavor intensity then the Klassik versions.

We’ll post more information as it becomes available, but for now—Welcome to the world, Schilcherland DAC!

References/for more information: