Tag Archives: Grapes

WINE TRAVEL – WHERE TO GO, WHAT TO DRINK?

I love to travel. Since I was a child, I have always gotten excited about traveling – to the next town or across and ocean.

Dorianne shares this passion and we also are passionate about wine, so we combine the two passions wherever possible. This will begin a series of blogs on wine related travel, leading up to our departure in late February for a few months in Spain, Portugal, and France. I will, of course, blog from the places we visit about the locales, the people, and yes, the wines.

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Wine Travel is Fun and Rewarding – Here we are at Foxen near Santa Ynez, CA.

“We are torn between nostalgia for the familiar and an urge for the foreign and strange. As often as not, we are homesick most for the places we have never known.” ~ Carson McCullers 

A couple of years ago I took a short sabbatical, six weeks, and Dorianne and I went to France. We spent 3 1/2 weeks in an apartment in Paris, then went to Lourdes in the Pyrenees for a conference, the spend about six nights in Bordeaux and six more in the Loire Valley. The year before that, we took our daughters to Paris, Burgundy, and Provence for three weeks. In each of these amazing places, we sampled the local and regional wines and, where possible, visited the vineyards and chateaus where wine was grown and made, and made friends in cafes and tasting rooms with others who love wine.

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A Great Wine Shop in St. Emilion.
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The Good Stuff.

 

“If I were really really ridiculously wealthy, I wouldn’t buy a mansion, just tiny apartments in every city I love.” ~ Mara Wilson 

Combining wine enjoyment and education with travel is something that may not be for everyone, but for some, it is the essence of a quality experience. Those of us who spend time with people who create and sell wines know that they tend to be very interesting people, indeed. People like Wes Hagen of Clos Pepe Estate in the Santa Rita Hills of California’s Central Coast region and Giancarlo at Le Wine Bar in Bordeaux, are just two examples of friendly, knowledgeable, and approachable people who happen to be in the wine business. There are countless others as well. Wine travel lets you meet these people and have the experience of connecting at a much deeper level with the wine itself.

Wine travel can be a day trip, for those fortunate enough to live near wine-producing regions. I will be taking such a trip in a week, to the Santa Ynez, Santa Rita Hills appellations in Santa Barbara County. This will be a group tour, with many people who I know – four wineries and a picnic lunch. A very nice way to spend a day.

One of the things we will be doing on our upcoming European journey is setting up future small group wine tours in France. Working with travel professional Steve Hooks, we will be creating a series of tours that will include time in wine country – initially Bordeaux then Burgundy – followed by some time in the city – either Paris or Lyon. The tours will be geared toward those who are already familiar with fine wines and in separate groups, those who want to learn about fine wines. The focus of the former will be discovery and enjoyment and the focus of the latter will be education and enjoyment.

“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.” ~ Anaïs Nin 

I really believe that good wine is best enjoyed with others. Our tours will emphasize that point, while offering some really unique opportunities to access some amazing places, enjoy great food paired with fine wines, and exploring the people and places of some of the world’s great wine regions.

We are not certain that there is a viable market for tours of this level. There are not many truly high-end wine tours being offered to North American customers. Some of the major tour companies and some of the cruise lines have tours featuring wine, but they are rather pedestrian, have larger groups, and mix the novice and the expert, which does not often go well in my experience.

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One of the Buildings at Chateau Smith-Haute- Lafitte in the Bordeaux region.
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In the Tasting Room at Smith-Haute-Lafitte

 

Our question is – is there a market for a week-long small group experience with four nights in a premier wine region (Bordeaux, Burgundy) followed by three in a major city (Paris, Lyon), staying in top hotels, with tastings of top wines, dinners in chateaus, connections with locals in the wine trade, special tours of museums (like a private evening tour of  the Musee du Louvre), wine pairing experiences, wine seminars and more?

As the year unfolds, we will be finding out. Share your thoughts in the comment section or email me at DrJim-Lockard@ATT.net

ALMA SOL WINERY – SMALL PRODUCER GETTING BETTER AND BETTER

Dorianne and I returned to Alma Sol Winery’s tasting room the other night with three other couples. Alma Sol Winery (Link) is owned and operated by the husband and wife team of John Shaw and Lisa Cuevas Shaw.

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The heading of the tasting list at Alma Sol Tasting Room in Thousand Oak, CA

John Shaw, who serves as winemaker for the couple – really a two-person operation, from the vineyard to the tasting room – met us at the door. Lisa Cuevas Shaw was inside with a bottle of wine in her hand. We began the evening’s tasting, which John had selected from his list of Bordeaux-influenced wines.

“It’s a cool evening,” he said, “so it’s all reds and all full-bodied wines.”

The wines he poured were indeed, red and were generally fuller bodied wines as well. The exception was the first wine, a 2010 Cuevas Cabernet Sauvignon, which was very elegant and a fruit-forward wine. After that, the wines had more of a mineral presence and varied as to the fruit presence. I won’t go into detail, because these wines are produced in such small quantities that they are very unlikely to show up outside of the tasting room. You can obtain some of them at the website (link above).

We first met John and Lisa at the Paso Robles Garagiste Festival a couple of years ago. They told us that they would be opening a tasting room in Thousand Oaks – our neck of the woods – very soon. The location is shared with Sunland Vintage Winery (Link), whose mostly Italian varieties we plan to return to sample soon. Alma Sol, using mostly grapes from the Cuevas Vineyard in Paso Robles and other fruit sourced from Paso and as far north as Napa Valley. In fact, we tasted a blend of five Napa Bordeaux-style grapes in the tasting – it was made in a middle ground between the French and California styles –  fruity and elegant, but higher in alcohol.

We finished the tasting with their dessert wine: 2012 Almazan Dessert Wine, Paso Robles ($34.00)

From their website: This Portuguese Port-style wine uses both Tempranillo and Touriga Nacional grapes from the east side of Paso Robles.  The beautiful nose is made up of cherries and cranberries and follows through with a very fruit forward, elegant mouth feel. The finish is long with a touch of fortified wine that lightly warms your mouth. This wine pairs great with your favorite dessert, Dark chocolate raspberry truffles, or a cigar (if you like them, of course).

Production: 70 cases   

We bought a bottle. Very nice!

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It is really nice to see more tasting rooms open in the Thousand Oaks area. Alma Sol is a great addition to the local line up – I look forward to seeing how John and Lisa continue to develop as winemakers.