Showing posts with label wine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wine. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Patland Estate Vineyards Mystery Box Wine Deal!


Patland Estate Vineyards Mystery Box of Wine

It's not very often that you see a blog post here about a wine promotion.  In fact, this may be the first time!  But that is how excited and passionate that we are about this incredible deal!  Patland Estate Vineyards is once again offering their "Mystery Box" of wine for a limited time.  Keep reading...

Patand Vineyards Mystery Box

To tempt you even more, we've been given the green light to share with you what was in last year's Mystery Box.  If you purchased this, you did VERY well (but you already know that!).

Last year's box included nearly $1500 worth of wine.  The six amazing bottles of wine were:

  • 2008 Syrah
  • 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2011 Malbec
  • 2012 Pinot Noir
  • 2014 Port
  • 2016 Sauvignon Blanc
What's In The Box?

What will be in this year's box?  We don't have all of the details but we know WITHOUT A DOUBT that you will receive some incredible wines for a fraction of the price.  Did we mention that the Mystery Box not only includes 6 incredible wines but also free shipping!  What a deal!

Six Mystery Wines for $499 and Free Shipping

This isn't some gimmicky wine club where you spend $49 and get $11 worth of wine (and most of that value is in the glass for the bottles).  Michael Patland of Patland Estate Vineyards has told us repeatedly that this is without a doubt his favorite promotion of the year and it is always a mind-blowing value for the consumer.  We cannot stress this incredible deal from an amazing winery!  Get it now.

This deal ends October 31st.  Visit Patland Estate Vineyards today to get this deal!

Monday, September 13, 2021

Winery Adventure: Repris Wines

We were very blessed to be able to travel to California recently for a wine trip with great friends.  We had planned the trip in 2020, but we had to postpone for a year due to most of the world shutting down from the Covid pandemic.  We decided that we would take this trip in 2021, come hell or high water.

Our "Winos" group as we jokingly and affectionately call ourselves, spent a few evenings and many text messages back and forth to discuss the "must visit" wineries as well as those that had been on various wish lists throughout the years.  After much discussion and many emails back and forth to the wineries on our radar, we finally decided on nine wineries that would complete our adventure.  And, so we begun with Day #1...... Repris Wines.

We love Southwest Airlines
We love Southwest Airlines!  However, a non-stop flight from IND to OAK would be ideal.

There were three couples who took part in our journey and each one flew into a different airport.  Kris & Scott flew into Sacramento.  Richard and Sarah flew into San Francisco and we flew into Oakland.  Previously we had flown into San Francisco but next time would try Sacramento as we heard that the drive is very easy and the traffic isn't as heavy.

Tour Guide Skippy
Share a car - save some money!  And take a lunch break when YOU want!

Our tour guide/driver was Napa Scott.  Sorry, he's not for rent.  Well, I guess everyone has their price.  Contact us and I'll put you in touch with him!  One great benefit to having your own transportation is you can make changes on the fly, move at your own pace and grab a bite whenever you want to.

Repris Wines ATV Tour
Become a member at Repris Wines and ask for the ATV tour!

Both of the other couples in our group are members at Repris so they specifically asked for something special for our group.  We took an ATV tour of the property, a tour of the cave and......   well, I'm not going to spoil it yet.  We started to get excited when we saw the ATVs waiting for us. What a great way to start a few days in wine country!  Now if I could just get them to trade these units for John Deere Gators.....

Repris Wines Vineyards

Everywhere we went on the property was meticulously maintained.  The grapes were about 2-3 weeks away from harvest and the deep purple/blue-ish colors were so inviting.

Old Zinfandel vines at Repris Wines
These vineyards are 45 years old and producing delicious Zinfandel.

Drinking wines is always the highlight of visiting any winery, but learning about the property and the history is a close second.  These Zinfandel vines were planted by horse and plow and have been here for the better of 50 years.  The root stock is said to be as deep as 75 feet below ground.

View from the top of Moon Mountain Road
The view from the top of Moon Mountain Road?  Priceless.

Despite some smoky haze in the area from various California fires, we were completely in awe of the view from the top of Moon Mountain Road.  This is a view that we could get used to every day.  By the way, if you haven't been to Repris Wines in Sonoma, the drive up to the property isn't for the faint of heart.  You're completely safe, but the roads would not be forgiving if you don't pay attention.

Jeff and Melissa acting like tourists
Say "cheese" and act like a tourist...

No tour to the top of the mountain would be complete without a "touristy" picture.   I wish I had a dollar for everyone who has taken this exact same photo on their visit to Repris.

Repris Wine Cave Entrance

The entrance to the cave at Repris is breath taking.  Candles lined he main entrance that fed into one of the barrel storage rooms.  If you've never had a cave tasting experience, you need to add it to your list.  It's such an intimate surrounding and (in our opinion) the best way to taste wine.  For those of you who are cold blooded, there are very cozy and warm blankets at the table to keep you comfy.

Barrels, Barrels Everywhere
Do you think they would miss just ONE barrel?

Throughout our trip we had discussed (like literally EVERY OTHER visitor) the idea of "Oh, they surely won't miss just one barrel" and we thought we were clever.  Our winery host chuckled, although he was probably rolling his eyes when we weren't looking.  He finally told us that if we could lift the barrel, we could take it.   No dice.  

Let me first say that there was absolutely NOTHING disappointing about this winery visit.  We would definitely go back again.  One thing we personally would have love to experience was a barrel tasting (and we would have gladly paid for that).  Barrel tasting really gives you a finer appreciation of how different a wine tastes pre vs post bottling.

Intimate Wine Tasting Experience
Our wine tasting setting, complete with candles, charcuterie and blankets.

Incredible Wine & Charcuterie List

We loved how not only was the wine featured (duh!) but that Repris also went above and beyond to explain what was offered with the charcuterie.  The L'amuse 'Signature Gouda' was one of our favorite cheese of the entire trip and now we are on a hunt to find it.  Take a look at these amazing wines that we sampled at Repris:

  • 2019 Sauvignon Blanc
  • 2016 Texture Lancel Creek Chardonnay
  • 2018 Syrah
  • 2018 Left Bank
  • 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, Moon Mountain Vineyard
Each wine was uniquely delicious.  The Sauvignon Blanc was offered when we first arrived while we were waiting to board our ATV for the property tour.  The remaining wines were tasted in the cave setting.

Repris Wines Charcuterie
Get in my belly!

We really appreciate a winery that serves food with their wines.  Whether it is charcuterie, a light meal or snacks, a little food is always welcome.  Yes, it is great to add a few solids to the belly, but more than that, we appreciate the confidence that a winery has in pairing their wines with food.  We typically are not "wine/food" people because it can actually distract from the beauty and wonderful flavors of the wine.  However, this charcuterie was expertly paired and made us think about trying the same going forward.

2018 Repris Syrah
Gorgeous colors and amazing aromas..

The staff at Repris were so much fun!
A fun winery host helps build lasting memories.

The staff members at Repris were not pretentious at all.  And believe me, they have every right to be.  Their wines are really top notch and we appreciated them more with every pour.  It's one thing to have a host who is knowledgeable about the winery and the wines.  But to have a host who is not only a great ambassador of the brand but ALSO funny, welcoming and makes you feel like a friend?  You just can't beat that type of experience.

Repris Wine Cave
"Forever"memories were made at Repris!

We don't rate wineries or our experiences.  Nearly every one that we visited during our trip was amazing in their own way.  The one that disappointed us won't be written about.  But Repris absolutely exceeded our expectations!   Admittedly, when our friends originally told us that we had to visit Repris, We thought they were a little crazy because they had all been there on prior trips.  "Why would someone want to go back to a winery they have visited before?"  Now we understand.  Repris is without a doubt on our "must see" list of wineries for our next trip.  It was incredible!

Check out our new friends at Repris Wines

Please visit Repris Wines for more information about their wines and membership opportunities.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Wine Tasting Fees: A Necessary Evil


Wine Tasting Fees
Wine tasting fees.  How much are they and why do I pay them?

We recently returned from an incredible wine country adventure that took place in Sonoma and Napa, California over three full days.  While we were there, our wine-loving group of six had the opportunity to visit nine wineries.  Wait, that's not right.  We added a tenth winery, but it was literally for just a glass of wine as they couldn't squeeze us in for a tasting.

Prior to the trip, we had combed over our options, created a whiteboard and mapped out best practices based on location, time of day and whether or not we had any "must see" properties.  It turns out that we did.  So much has changed since the last time we were in Napa ... including the wine tasting fees!  Don't get me wrong.  We weren't blindsided and we had our eyes wide open when creating our plans.  Most of the wineries we were visiting were what we would classify as very special places.  These weren't the 5,000,000 cases of box wines for $3.99.  About half of the wineries on our tour were very low-production, no-distribution gems that you could only visit if you were members.

As a professional courtesy, I reached out to 6 of the wineries that made our final cut.  Our good friends who we joined on the trip were wine club members or had connections at 3 others, so they made those contacts.  After the professional courtesies and wine club member discounts that we all had, we were looking at right around $250.00 in wine tasting fees for nine wineries.  When you break it down, it is really very reasonable!  Only one tasting room required payment up front, which ironically, was our least favorite of the trip and no wine was purchased there.

Wine Tasting Experience
You have to pay to play!  Wine isn't free and either is your tasting.

So are wine tasting fees just a racket?  Are they a way of adding a few bucks to the bottom line and vintners wring their hands together and salivate as the tour buses of blue hairs arrive daily?  While there may be a small hint of truth to the second point, wineries really are NOT making anything from you off of their tasting fees.  In our case, we opted for an "elevated" tasting experience at most of the places that we visited.  We weren't keen on bellying up to the wine bar with a crowd of sweaty tourists who had just left their 5th winery before noon.  We sought out and asked for private tastings (or semi-private if that is all that was available).  For the general population, our fees would have ranged from $45 - $100 per person.  Again, we were afforded some professional discounts and gratis tastings.

Private Wine Tasting With Charcuterie
A private or elevated tasting experience will cost more, but it is worth it.

Why do wineries charge fees and why have increased substantially over the last five years?  To answer the question, you have to look back at history.  The smaller, boutique or low production wineries are constantly in fear of being swept about by the Constellation Brands and the E&J Gallo of the world.  Keeping a foothold in an area of the world where a plot of land can sell upwards of $500,000 for an acre of grapes is extremely daunting as well as constantly tempting - to cash in!

Low production means just that.  Wineries that produce 1000, 3500, or even 7500 cases of wine annually have to be very select on how that wine is consumed.  If that winery uses 10% or even 5% of their annual production for wine tastings, it hits their net income hard.  

Remember the horrific fires that consumed various parts of Sonoma and Napa in 2020?  Even if a winery and/or its vineyards remained physically untouched, many red wine grapes were affected with smoke taint and could not be harvested.  Imagine raising, nourishing and encouraging your crop for an entire year, only to have it wiped out days before harvest.  The folks at CADE Winery told us that because of the smoke taint, they will not have any 2020 vintage red wines at all.

And then there was a little thing that we all recall because we are still living with it in some fashion. The worldwide pandemic known as Covid-19 left no stone unturned, including wine country.  For safety reasons, tasting salons were closed completely for extended periods, forcing wineries to seek alternative tasting options.  It also forced those companies to reach out to their membership, offer deals that would have never seemed possible before and in some cases, sit on inventory.

Of course, the tangible costs associated with a wine tasting.  With most of our tastings, we had 4 - 8 wines (which means 4-8 glasses to clean per person), a custom tasting menu, charcuterie, a host or hostess and the costs associated with set up and tear down of the tasting.  Is that worth $50 per person?  In our eyes, it's a resounding YES!

Support Your Local Wineries
Need we say more?  Show them some love.

So the $64,000 question then is "Is there a way to avoid wine tasting fees"?  The super-simple, quick and sarcastic answer is yes;  don't go to a winery!  I know that's not the answer you were looking for, but it is very honest.  However, if you are going to visit your favorite or soon-to-be-favorite wine slinger, understand the expectations before you go.  Often times, wineries will be clear on their wine tasting/wine purchase policy.  For example, for every "X" number of bottles that you purchase during your visit, they will waive the tasting fee.  

What we found out in our personal experience was that nearly every winery we visited waived the tasting fee for us if we purchased wine.  There was never a "set amount" discussed, and truthfully, our group of six purchased several thousands of dollars total at 8 of the 9 wineries.  The only exception was the pre-paid $45 tasting fee for one of our visits, and that winery was a flop.  Maybe a major source of their income is from tasting fees because people aren't buying the wines?  Just a thought.

The proverb "A Fool and His Money Are Soon Parted" never held truer words that in wine country.  But the memories you take from a trip like this will last you forever, or at least until the next time.  I compare a trip to Napa and Sonoma like a trip to Las Vegas.  Stay with me here!  The $3.99 buffet is comparable to the $5 wine tasting.  They are unicorns.  They don't exist any longer.  Traveling to wine country is not cheap and quality wine is worth every penny!  If you don't want to pay, stay home and drink wine from a box.

Trips To Wine Country Are Pricey
Your trip to wine country will leave you with wonderful memories and a lighter wallet.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Rodney Strong Wine Estates REJUVENATION Virtual Wine Tasting


Rodney Strong Wine Estates Wine Lineup

It was a great day for a wine tasting.  But then again, isn't any day perfect to gather for some vino?  

Rodney Strong Rejuvenation Power Point

Our group of six gathered at our home (aka DrinkTheBottles HQ) for a virtual wine tasting provided by our friends at Rodney Strong Wine Estates.  This tasting was promoted as a media tasting and we invited our friends to enjoy some new wines.  Whenever we have a virtual tasting we always try to include others.  It would be a shame to "waste" six bottles of wine on two people.

Rodney Strong Wine Estates Portfolio

The folks at Rodney Strong Wine Estates have been going through a makeover, or a REJUVENATION as they call it, for the last 3 years.  They have touched every part of the business from the estate, the vineyards, the tasting room, the personnel and, as you may notice, the logo/label!

Rodney Strong Wine Estates Wines

The lineup consisted of six unique and flavorful wines.  The winery proves that you don't have to be expensive to enjoy quality wines.   We tasted these wines in order:
  • 2020 Rodney Strong Rose of Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley:  $25.00
  • 2019 Rodney Strong California Chardonnay:  $17.00
  • 2017 Rodney Strong Sonoma County Merlot:  $20.00
  • 2018 Rodney Strong Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon:  $22.00
  • 2018 Rodney Strong Alexander Valley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon:  $28.00
  • 2018 Rodney Strong Old Vine Zinfandel:  $25.00
Rodney Strong Wine Estates note taking

Everyone had the chance to taste all six wines and choose their favorites.  Jeff took notes.

Rodney Strong Vineyards Rose of Pinot Noir Russian River Valley

We started off with a bang!   Collectively and unanimously our group thought that this Rose of Pinot Noir got two thumbs up!  Strong strawberry finish with a medium acidic finish.  At only $25.00 suggested retail, this is an incredible deal.

Charcuterie Board

Melissa and Jeff tried their hands at their first charcuterie board.  You simply cannot have a proper wine tasting without charcuterie.  This is only a small sampling of all of the food that we had!

Rodney Strong Vineyards California Chardonnay

Great golden color and bright Chardonnay.  Some people tend to look down their noses at Chardonnay, like Merlot.  But this one full of flavor and you won't believe it is only $17.00 when you taste it!

Rodney Strong Vineyards wine close up

The nearly hour-long virtual wine tasting presented by Director of Communications Christopher O'Gorman and Director of Winemaking Justin Seidenfeld started out with a history lesson and background about the winery and vineyards.   Rodney Strong (or "Rod" as they referred to him) started off as a dancer and became a wine pioneer not just in Sonoma County, but throughout California.  The winery has been active for over 60 years and Justin is only the 4th director of winemaking in those 6 decades.  

RSV is a Certified Sustainable Winery that believes heavily in conservation, water management and solar energy.  The focus is now more on micro farming while they also plan extensive vineyard replanting over the next 7 years.  

The original tasting room at the winery was opened in 1970 under Rod's watchful eye and just went through a complete remodel.   The focus now is flighted wines by appointment, which will give wine lovers a better tasting experience.  

Rodney Strong Vineyards 2017 Sonoma County Merlot

I really have to applaud the entire Rodney Strong Vineyards (Rodney Strong Wine Estates) team for their vision.   While it may have been a bit overdue to some, they clearly have the right people making decisions both aesthetically and with their winemaking.  Change can be difficult.  But change is inevitable and often necessary to survive in business and to attract a new or emerging audience.  

If you haven't tasted any wines from the Rodney Strong portfolio recently, we would encourage you to do so.  You might find a new favorite.  While they do offer more expensive and exclusive wines like Alexander's Crown or Rockaway Cabernet, the bulk of their offerings are in the $20 - $30 range and affordable for most people.  FYI, our favorites of the day were the Rose of Pinot Noir and Old Vine Zinfandel.  Thank you for Alicia, Christopher and Justin for spending some time with us last week and sharing your labor of love.  Cheers!

Friday, May 28, 2021

2019 Upshot White Wine Blend - Rodney Strong Vineyards


2019 Upshot White Wine Blend

Once in awhile we are introduced to a wine that really opens your eyes, especially at this price point.  The 2019 Upshot White Wine Blend by Rodney Strong Vineyards is just such a find.  If you're looking for a daily drinker for summer or a fun treat for your guests at your next outdoor dinner party, we think this one is a great choice!  Stone fruits on the nose joined with new spring flowers and a fresh summer rain.  In the mouth are ripe peaches, fig jam and just the perfect touch of salinity that opens up for an incredibly crisp finish.  You'll likely want this one chilled (but not over chilled) and we think this wine would be a great accompaniment to some hard cheeses and cured meats.  Enjoy!

2019 Upshot White Wine Blend Label

ABV:  13.0%

Healdsburg, CA

Suggested retail price:  $19.00

Drink The Bottles score:  85/100

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

2017 Ravines Wine Cellars Pinot Noir


2017 Ravines Wine Cellars Pinot Noir

It's not every day that we get to taste wines from New York's Finger Lakes Regions.  But if you're going to have the experience, then the 2017 Ravines Wine Cellars Pinot Noir is a great place to start!  All of the berries are estate grown and there are two things that instantly got me excited about this wine even before tasting it.   The color of the wine on the cork was exceptional for a Pinot Noir and the familiar Pinot aromas were hurdling out of the glass.  The color was medium burgundy and crystal clear to the rim.  Aromas of late season violets, dusty book, damp earth and muddled red fruit blended seamlessly and kept our interest throughout the tasting.  There's a very bright and definitive acidity that marries cranberries, damp earth and cigar box flavors to make way to a medium finish.  Wine was tasted over two nights - the first right out of the bottle - with similar notes.  This Pinot Noir would easily hold its own against more expensive Oregon Pinot and we highly recommend this!  Well done.

2017 Ravines Wine Cellars Pinot Noir Label

ABV:  13.0%

Finger Lakes, NY

Suggested retail price:  $24.95

Drink The Bottles score:  92/100

Monday, August 31, 2020

2017 Corison Cabernet Sauvignon

Any time we are afforded the opportunity to taste a Cathy Corison wine, we know that we are in for a real treat.  The soon-to-be-released 2017 Corison Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley) is absolutely no exception.  This bottle was tasted in a line up of other Napa cabs about seven weeks ago and we have purposely held off writing about it until the release date is near.  

What immediately struck us was how mature and fine this wine appeared in the glass and on the nose, introducing layers of fresh violet bouquet, cedar plank, dusty spice box and whiffs of tar.  The wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvingon and it rewards the taster with black cherry, plum, blackberry pie with a sweet crust and dried spices.  The violets are always dancing in the glass.  The finesse on this work of art is evident by the long and memorable, effortless finish.  You get mesmerized by the amazing fragrances and stunning color of this wine and it is truly one that makes you wish your glass was bottomless.   Incredible!

ABV:  14.2%

Napa Valley, California (St. Helena)

Suggested retail price:  $100.00

Drink The Bottles score:  97/100

Thursday, July 9, 2020

What To Do With Wine That Sucks

As a wine blogger, I am fortunate enough to taste hundreds of bottles of wine annually.  And while most of my friends think that's a glamorous and "lucky" benefit of being a wine writer, I always caution them this:  It's hard work.  Seriously.  If you're just popping a cork and pouring, go get a bottle of grocery store plonk and get drunk like the dude pictured below.  That's not drinking wine.  Correction - that's not tasting wine.  That's not learning anything about the wine, the terroir, the appellation or the story behind the label.  To me, that's not only important but critical when sharing my thoughts on this amazing product.

The title of this article may seem brash, but it is a valid problem, at least for some.  Those without any perceptible palate won't know, won't care and will just tell you the bottle was, "eh, ok".  Is it bad that I'm starting to get a headache by playing that exact scene over and over?  Let's move on....

Bad wine.  What do you do with it?  First of all, you have to recognize that you wine is bad.  If you don't know this Wine 101 tip, you should learn.  A good rule of thumb is this.  If a wine smells bad when you pour it (yes, you must pour it into a glass or decanter and not chug it) then you should follow your nose.  If you open your prized 1964 Chateau Claret and it smells like nail polish remover, rotten eggs, garlic or newspaper, then it has crossed the bridge from brilliance to bunko.  To me, the most common indicator of rotten wine is the smell of damp newspaper or a strong rubbery odor.  

I'm not talking about a wine that has become stale after you opened it and sat it on your kitchen counter for two weeks, expecting it to taste the same as it did during your card party.  Oxidation is going to cause your wine go become stale, go flat and lose any hope of recovery.   It looks like you should have consumed the whole bottle instead of wasting your precious resource.

So what are we going to do with this wine?   We are going to toss it out.  Pour it down the sink.  Flush it down the toilet.  We aren't going to put it in the dog's water dish and you damn well better not be cooking with it!   Admittedly, I have had wine that I felt was less than stellar and I used it to cook with for a few days.  But I have never used corrupted wine to put in my food.  If you won't put shitty wine in your mouth, why add it to your food?  

As a wine blogger/writer, what to do with wine that sucks gets a bit trickier.  Let me first say that if you are reading a wine blog that tells you how terrible a wine is, then you need to find another blog to follow.  We, as writers, should be promoting GREAT wines and the people behind them.  Shaming someone who doesn't have a product that is up to par does nothing but make the writer look like a jackass.  The blogger probably thinks they are being cute, but they aren't  They're a dick.

As a wine blogger, most of the time I taste one or two wines at a time.  I know that the large wine publications have a large staff that literally taste dozens and sometimes hundreds of wines per sitting.  That's an amazing feat but not for me.  I like to really study the wine and not just sip and spit.  And I will tell you from personal experience that 98% of the wines that I taste and 100% of the wines that I write about are very good and worth your money.  They wouldn't be here otherwise.  

Back in 2014 while writing for my previous blog, Midwest Wine Guy, I was sent twelve small sample bottles from a winery in the middle of the United States.  I had originally read their wine and travel blog and found it not only entertaining but captivating.   I was so enamored by their stories that I knew I had to sample their wines.  The wines arrived and I opened the first one.  Yikes.  Vinegar.   No big deal, right?  There were 11 more varietals to try.  Bottle 2 - spoiled.  Bottle 3 - disgusting.  Bottle 4 through 12 met the same fate.   Bad wine.  I guess the only benefit from these bottles is that I did the right thing by recycling them, as I do with every bottle.

Never having experienced this before, I quickly reached out to my dear friend Jim Caudill, a giant in the wine industry with an amazing palate.   Although I was panicked and avoiding emails from the sample provider, Jim told me that being polite and direct was the best approach.  "I'm sorry, but I don't think that the wine you submitted is the best representation of your craft.  There's a chance that the wine became spoiled (in shipping usually) so I'm afraid I'm unable to provide my thoughts on your subsmissions."   Wow!   I thought that sounded great and I quickly fired an email to the vintner explaining my position.  What I received in return was a barrage of insults and curse words and the famous comparison of not knowing my back side from a hole in the wall.   Good times.

I actually didn't write for several months after that and began questioning my abilities to taste and write about wines without bias.  Then one day I thought "to hell with it" and moved on.  I'm a better blogger because of it.  This was a good lesson in honestly and humility.

So what did we learn here today?

Wine = bad?    Don't drink it.

Wine submissions that are genuinely bad?   Don't write about it and be kind.


Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Navigating Wine Country During a Pandemic (aka let's help each other)

There is little doubt that the first half of 2020 has been anything less than unexpected from what most would consider a 'normal' daily life.  The global pandemic has affected every person in some way, and most people significantly enough to alter their lifestyle, even if temporarily.  Work, school, daycare and financial hardships have reached into most homes, creating a fear of uncertainty and anxiety for many.  But all is not lost.  Whether it is a false sense of security, the need to return to an accustomed lifestyle or a belief that the worst of this virus is over, people are starting to venture out of their homes and travel.  

There is no doubt that a large number of the world's population are still cautious and some, even frightened, about the health of the world and those around us.  It's difficult to control the actions of those around us, but by using common sense and social distancing, we can begin to appreciate the lives we are customary of enjoying.  I, for one, have chosen to travel.

It has been much too long since we visited California's amazing wine country.  My wife and I feel very blessed to be able to make this trek with friends later this summer and we are going to maximize the fun, the feels and the fellowship during this long weekend.  But wine country (at least online) looks much different than it did previously.  Nearly every web site lists COVID-19 precautions and health protocols.  Some wineries are asking guests to sign health release forms upon arriving on property.  Access to many areas that were once readily available is now off limits.  And that mask?  You better be wearing one.  So how do you drink wine through a mask?   Let's discuss that later.

Now that (like it or not) we understand that times look much different than they did just six months ago, how do we navigate California's wine country?  What is new and what is required and what is the best way to plan your trip?
  • If you're headed to Napa like we are, check out the new health guidelines before you go.
  • Bring a mask or several masks.  (Nobody wants to wear a wine-stained mask).  If you don't have one, stay home.  You'll be turned around at the cellar door without one.  
  • Make reservations because they are required now.  Long gone are the days of just "popping into" a winery for a quick tasting.
  • Keep your distance and be respectful.  Re-opening to the public after being closed for months can be scary and foreign to your hosts.  Tread lightly and follow their lead.
  • If you like the wine, consider making a purchase and/or joining a wine club.  Most wineries are family owned and have suffered greatly because of the pandemic.  Show some love and you'll be rewarded with your incredible wine purchases.

Now that we have a few pointers on how to navigate your upcoming wine trip, let's discuss about what you should expect from a winery before and during your visit.
  • Communication.  Seems easy enough, right?  You would be surprised.   I have reached out to about twenty California wineries during the planning of our upcoming trip.  I am amazed at how many of them never even bother responding to an email.  We get it; the wineries and tasting rooms are starting to get busy with re-opening in its infancy.  But if we have specific needs or your web site scheduling tool doesn't work, we have to email you in order to plan our tasting experience.  The lack of communication sends a message of apathy and we could have been your newest and biggest fans.  I call this a "don't be a dick rule".  
  • Create a memorable experience.   We understand that some areas and experiences may still be closed, but wineries still have an incredible opportunity to create lifelong memories for their guests.  In lieu of a cave tour or super secret hidden gem tasting room that is inaccessible, maybe a sit-down with the vintner or a special library bottle tasting could be an extra-special treat?   Or perhaps it is connecting us with the most special wine tasting room host who would blow our socks off with his/her knowledge, personality, humor and kindness?
  • Try not to make things too sterile or uncomfortable.  We're all scared.  And we, as guests, promise to follow all of the rules and breathe the hot summer California air through our uncomfortable masks.  We ask in return that the tasting room doesn't smell of hospital disinfectants and everyone doesn't spray us down with Lysol if we clear our throat.
We are all going to get through this together.  We are going to wear our masks and pull them down when permitted (and to drink wine!).  We are going to try to get back to a "normal" lifestyle and enjoy everything that wine regions all over the world have to offer.  But most of all, we are going to embrace the ability to move freely, travel the world and drink some superb fucking wines.  Go explore!

This article does not necessarily convey my personal feelings regarding the current global pandemic.  While I encourage my readers and oenophiles to travel and enjoy wine, I also advise everyone to use common sense, be safe and exceptionally courteous to those around you.   -Jeff

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