On Cider, Hot Sunny Days, and Travel Blues

Last night I opened my bottle of hard apple cider from Neil Collins’ cidery. I had been eyeing the bottle every time I looked in my fridge, trying to decide the perfect time to open it and let’s its crisp, cool contents fill my glass and my belly. I have had a long week with starting my internship and commuting. I felt useless as I sat around in my tattered leggings and torn t-shirt, not doing much of anything (so watching netflix). It was 100 degrees here in the valley yesterday, but felt hotter. I decided I needed a drink and thought I might open a bottle of wine, but realized I only had a few bottles that were ready to be opened now, and they were a couple of Zinfandels. Zin seemed to much, but lo and behold (!) I spotted the little bottle of cider sitting pretty in the corner of the fridge door, just begging to be consumed. I popped it open and reveled at the lovely and crisp apple notes. I felt refreshed again.BristolsCider

As I sat sipping my cider I did a scan over my Instagram and saw that one of my friends, the incredible iam_wander_woman, is in a beautiful French alpine city called Annecy. The gorgeous city, full of canal-side, pastel-colored buildings and cobblestone roads looked incredible. The Lac (lake) looked stunning with turquoise blue waters. I felt a pang of envy. It has been so long since I’ve gone anywhere. But I had to remind myself, that we will be going to England and Scotland in early August for a friend’s wedding. Seeing her pictures made me ready to hop on that plane right now. There is nothing better than an English summer. I miss walking the meadows and going to pub for a Pims Cup or a glass of Rosé. It hardly ever gets above the mid 80’s there, even at summers peak. I felt blue. I love California, but I am not ready for the onslaught of triple digit days ahead. I’m ready to take a break from this place. Until then I will just have to dream of cold ciders on a balmy pub patio, and try not to melt here.  TheMillPub

On being the annoying one who always asks a ton of questions…

I’m starting my Winemaking internship tomorrow, and I’m so looking forward to it. I intend to take full advantage of the fact that I’ll be working around individuals who have worked in the industry for years. That means asking a lot of questions. I’ve come to the conclusion that it will be better to be the annoying one that asks a ton of questions, than be the one who doesn’t ask any and has no idea what is going on. During my internship I’ll have the opportunity to work in the lab, cellar, vineyard, and production floor so I am lucky that I’ll get to see just about every side of a working winery. I’ll be working at a very (very, very) large winery so it’ll be interesting to see how these industrial sized wineries work as opposed to a much smaller winery, such as the winery I work in at Fresno State. I think seeing both sides of the coin is important. I’ve been told by several winemakers in the industry that deciding which environment to work in is extremely subjective. Many winemakers have tried working in larger wineries only to feel like it wasn’t the right fit for them, while several have said that much preferred working in a larger winery over a small winery. The winery I’ll be working at produces sparkling wine made in the méthode traditionelle, as well as red and white wines, which I’m really hoping I’ll get a chance to work with. Regardless of what I do I’m sure it will be fascinating. I’m going in with a positive, can-do attitude so hopefully things will go smoothly and I don’t do anything disastrous like ruin a 100,000 gallon tank of wine, for fall in one for that matter.

To West Paso (and Picpoul), With Love

My semester is over and I am enjoying the few weeks I have off before I begin my Winemaking internship, and get back into the thick of things. I’ve spent a lot of hours doing: baking delicious bread (my God, why does bread + butter = heaven? And, why can I not stop eating it?), cleaning my office and getting rid of old paper work, watching a lot of Netflix (poor Molly Hooper, how could Sherlock do you so dirty??? *tears*), and a lot of personal research about wine (duh!). I’ve been thinking back on the trip I took to Paso Robles, specifically to the Adelaida District. Paso is the only California wine region I haven’t explored so this was a real treat for me. Our tastings at Tablas Creek, Halter Ranch, Lone Madrone, and Law Estate Winery were all excellent. It was awesome to see so many Fresno State alumni doing awesome things at so many of the wineries in the region. Special shout out to Neil Collins (not a Fresno State alum), Winemaker at both Tablas Creek and his own winery Lone Madrone, truly an amazing Winemaker. I hope to one day make great wines like Neil (🙏). I found this trip to be a real eye opener for me, as I was able to experience many Rhône varietals, that I’ll be honest, I have little experience drinking.

Tablas Creek Wine glass

Mourvèdre, Syrah, Counoise (a personal favorite, tasted like the holidays, amazing.), Grenache, Viognier, Roussanne, Vermentino, Tennat, Marsanne, and most notably Picpoul could be found at tasting rooms across the Adelaida District. Picpoul was everywhere. It was the one varietal I wasn’t yet acquainted with. Over our tasting at Tablas Creek, John the tasting room manager, explained that Picpoul is indeed a lesser known grape, but it packs a big acidic punch and is used to add brightness to the wines with it’s lemony flavor. I was hoping to try the 100% Picpoul wine Tablas produced but unfortunately they were out on the day we were there. Have any of you tried a single variety Picpoul wine? Any suggestions for certain brands that are worth hunting down? Feel free to comment. I am always interested in learning more about unique varietals.

On Opening a Bottle of Wine Without a Corkscrew….

The last couple of weeks have been rough. E and I thought our move was going to be quicker and easier. After all, we’ve both moved greater distances (me from So Cal to San Francisco, and him from the UK to So Cal) without much hassle. Naturally we assumed we’d find a place in no time. Rental homes seemed plentiful in the Central Valley of California. This is an illusion. I had no idea homes would rent so quickly. Anyhow, we’ve finally found a place and are moving in tomorrow night. About f*cking time. We’ve found ourselves living in a hotel for the past couple weeks as we wait it out (I’ll be quite happy to not see another hotel room for some time). We had a spare bottle of wine left over from a party, and seeing how it was our last night semi-homeless I decided to imbibe.

Lazy Bones 2014

Only, we don’t have a corkscrew… Not a problem, right? Aren’t there about a million creative ways to open a bottle of wine on the fly? In the age of Youtube and the ubiquitous ‘wine bottle in the shoe against the wall’ video I was sure I’d figure out how to solve my predicament.

1 women vs. 1 bottle of 2014 Cabernet Franc. What could possibly go wrong?

I’m one of those people who when left to my own devices will MacGyver my way through any problem, sometimes to ridiculously disastrous results. But I was feeling confident, so I stared the beast in the eyes and tackled it head on. 1 women vs. 1 bottle of 2014 Cabernet Franc. What could possibly go wrong? I decided on the tried and true push the cork into the bottle method. Now for the tools: a sharp pair of scissors I use to clip any eyebrow flyaway, and an old pair of metal tweezers for backup. Wish me luck!

I first tried to pierce the cork through the middle to alleviate any pressure for when I pushed it into the bottle. I’ll embarrassingly admit that just pushing the scissors through was no easy feat and took many minutes of grunting and fumbling in the dark. I tried to keep quiet to little avail as E was asleep. After I managed to pierce the cork I used the end of a makeup brush to try to push it down into the bottle. No budge. I cursed under my breath and imagined that if anyone was watching this sorry display they’d surely think I was a desperate alcoholic trying to get my fix. I spent the next 15 minutes working away at the cork, trying to wedge the scissors and tweezers in between it and the bottle’s neck. The cork eventually gave way with a satisfying plunk, and I drank my slightly gritty first glass (in a flimsy plastic cup, no less) with pride. By the end of the epic cork battle my tweezers looked like some kind of horrific shiv one might find in a prison yard, but the fight was well worth it.  Job done! Pat on the back!

Tweezers

Lazy Bones 2014 Cabernet Franc (Paso Robles, CA)- Personally I tasted notes of dark cherries, boysenberries, under ripe plum, and black pepper with bold tannins and a bit of minerality on the finish. But what do I know?

So, never give up, friends! Take that cork by the horns and push, pull, or defeat that bastard in any way you see fit. Surely that cheap bottle of Trader Joes wine will thank your palate for its liberation.

 

The First of Many… (Hopefully!)

The first day of my Enology degree program starts in 44 days. It feels far away, though it’s going to speed by I am sure. People (friends, family, and strangers) have been asking “Are you excited to start?”. “Yeah, I’m pretty excited, but I’m not sure what to expect” has been my requisite answer, because I do not know what to expect. It feels both daunting and strangely natural to be pursuing my Bachelors at such an age. Though I have been told that many people have gone into a wine degree after many years in another career, so that gives me hope that I will not be older than everyone in my class by a decade.

But before I get ahead of myself what the hell is Enology and Viticulture? They are defined by the ever-reliable (and always right, wink wink) Wikipedia as follows

the science and study of all aspects of wine and winemaking except vine-growing and grape-harvesting, which form a subfield called viticulture.

Basically the councilor described it as a “wine chemistry degree.” I can dig it, can you? I see winemaking as the perfect blend between art and science. Winemaking is messy, backbreaking, precise, and just about as unglamorous a job one can do. It will be a lot of meticulous cleaning, scrubbing, sorting, cut fingers, bruises, mud, stained clothes and hands, long days and nights, stress, and more stress for good measure. Sounds like fun, right? But to be honest I would take that any day over my past career. I worked as a nurse for five years, and while I greatly enjoyed helping others, I constantly felt burnt out and unfulfilled. That is no way to live, my friends. I got interested in craft beer in my early twenties and then began steadily getting more interested in wine. My obsession grew, and well, to make a loooong story short here I am. Starting over. That’s what life is all about. It’s little starts and stops, dips, and curves, and sometimes you have to completely shed the skin you were in and start again.

I hope anyone that is interested will join me on this crazy journey I’m about to embark on. I would love the company.