A Midsummer Knight’s Dream ~ Field Trip to Napa | Sonoma 🚗💨🍷


The winery with the dungeon was one I had to see.
On this weekend winery getaway to Napa and Sonoma, HubbyDoug and I had only two days to visit and sample. So rather than a meandering trip, we became precise and and streamlined about what we wanted to see.

We’ve enjoyed Gundlach Bundschu wines since Doug’s last trip to see them a few years ago so they were a top choice.  But friends told us about Castello Di Amorosa, a winery fashioned after a thirteenth century Italian castle, complete with dungeon … and torture chamber. Um… more about that in a bit.

Peace and quiet

There are times when visiting a winery is like visiting an old friend. The feeling of ease and relaxation wraps around you like a warm hug. At Gundlah Bundschu, we made our way to the bottle bar to grab a glass and then walk the vineyard. I typically enjoy so many of their reds but because of the heat, I chose a flavorful, chilled and beautifully floral Gerwürtztraminer, while Doug had his favorite, Pinot Noir.

The relaxed vibe of the staff invites you to take your glass and explore pretty much anywhere on the property. There were no limits, and no restrictions except perhaps your footwear, and how long you needed until you wanted to refill your glass.

We got our shoes dusty as we made our way through the vineyards, stopping to taste a couple of Pinot Noir grapes off the vine. There was nothing like it. The flavor was so bright and sweet; almost like a sunburst on the tongue.

Small enclosures at various points along the walk were available with coolers of water and comfortable seating. It was unbelievable how quiet it could be out in the vineyards with nothing but the sun, a light breeze blowing, breathtaking scenery and your wine to savor. We felt any tension melting away as we sipped and walked.
It was how I imagine heaven might be.

While we could’ve stayed all day, we wanted to get to the next destination before nightfall, those winding roads can get pretty tricky.

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Dungeons and dragons
Driving on approximately forty minutes, we arrived at the castle. A labor of love for Dario Sattui and 20+ years from concept to completion (15 years of construction), Castello Di Amorosa is an authentic replica of a 13th century Medieval Tuscan-style castle. Fashioned with hand squared stone, tile and ancient brickwork brought over from Europe, it features spectacular upper and lower courtyards, 5 defensive towers with battlements, a chapel, great hall, royal apartment, dungeon and torture chamber (no castle was complete without them), as well as a fully functioning winery. This architectural marvel is 136,000 sq. ft. including castle and winery. There are 8 levels — 4 levels above and 4 underground. It is truly a feast for the eyes.

We made our way through the drawbridge to travel back in time to a world where romance swirled, women swooned and if you stepped out of line, it was the rack (or the iron maiden). I made sure HubbyDoug was on his best behavior. The chill from the deepest cellar crept up my spine with a slither and it made it difficult to remember the heat from the sun just beyond our reach. It kind of freaked me out when we walked through the labyrinth before getting to our final destination: the tasting room. I bet Halloween here is a scream!

Taking in the opulence and authenticity of detail was awesome and then to see the modern winemaking equipment was a real juxtaposition. And it wasn’t lost on us that we were taken to our wine tasting right after visiting the dungeon and torture chamber. Hmmmmm…. Needless to say, many of us bought several bottles. My pick: the 2015 Dolcino Gerwürztraminer a nice, slightly sweet chiller.

In the next post: Day 2 of our excellent wine adventure at Alexander Valley Vineyards, Francis Ford Coppola Winery, and Jordan.
Cheers!

©TheWineStudent, 2016

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Wine on the Waterfront 


To celebrate that summer is actually here in the Cleve, my friend Shelly and I checked out the 5th Annual Waterfront Wine Festival in Avon Lake, OH.

In support of the Smiles for Sophie Forever Foundation confronting pediatric brain cancer, this event featured several local Ohio wineries including Matus, Paper Moon, Firelands, Humble Bee and Vermillion Valley.

My pick for the day: Vermillion Valley Cabernet Franc. Served slightly chilled, it had a light, flavorful vibe of blueberry, raspberry and hint of dark cherry that was enjoyable but not heavy. It definitely took the edge off the heat from the sun.

With the beautiful breeze off Lake Erie, and plenty of sunshine, it was a great event that drew fantastic crowds and helped to support a great cause.

Cheers!

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©TheWineStudent, 2016

 

House of Cards Binge Watch Weekend!


Deception! Backstabbing! Lies! What better way to spend a cold weekend in the Cleve than bingeing on season four of Netflix series House of Cards.

To appropriately enjoy the delicious unfolding of events, we needed an appropriately delicious wine. We chose a 2011 Kiona Vineyards Red Mountain Syrah. It’s rich, dark and full of flavors that reveal themselves slowly and stealthily. Much like Frank and Claire’s unraveling machinations.

Did I mention that this wine is from Washington? The state, that is. 😉

Cheers!

Buggin’ Out on a Saturday Night


“I don’t eat bugs”, was the text response from my friend Shelly when I mentioned the bug and wine pairing event at Spaces Gallery. I admit, the thought of an evening of bug eating made me feel like a contestant on Fear Factor. But this is a brand new year, and why not try something new?

Spaces planned this edible cricket tasting event to coincide with their exhibit from The People’s Museum of Revisionist Natural Itstory about seeking narrative justice, by confronting and questioning norms perpetuated through our culture. The exhibit also speaks to the viewer, as a consumer of culture and information, to question those norms and ‘not readily accept them as facts.’ The evening’s cricket experience was designed to address those concepts, as well as illuminate issues of sustainability in a meat and potatoes culture.

Big Cricket Farms, founded in 2014 by Kevin Bachhuber, is aiming to corner the gourmet protein market, as “America’s first urban cricket farm.” According to their site, crickets are a sustainable alternative to traditional protein sources, such as beef. Crickets are a tasty (?), cost effective way to have your protein and crunch it, too. These crickets are quite different than the ones I occasionally see my cat take down. Slightly smaller in size, the Tropical Banded Cricket (Gryllodes sigillatus) are an edible variety having the identical nutritional components to their larger counterparts. Since you are what you eat, Big Cricket edible crickets are fed a diet of organic grains and fruit and vegetables. A happy meal, indeed.

Stacked up against other sources of protein (grams/100 g), including beef and seafood, insects provided a huge nutritional punch; with Chapulines (Mexican grasshopper) coming in the heaviest hitter with 35-48%. Beef paled in comparison at only 10-15%. Chapulines are harvested only a few times a year and after being cleansed, are toasted with lime juice, salt, agave worm extract and, occasionally, chili.

Insects are rich in essential nutrients, vitamins( with the exception of B12~ beef won in this category); minerals such as copper, sodium, iron, zinc and potassium, and rich in amino acids.

In the video presentation of Kevin Bachhuber’s TEDx talk, he explained the importance of biodiversity, especially in food sourcing. He explained and how consuming insects (namely crickets) makes for a more humane way of acquiring sustenance while maintaining a healthy ecological footprint. Insects emit far fewer greenhouse gasses than livestock, and consume much less water.

So now… time to eat. I knew I had to just dig in, and take a bite. Over-thinking just made me more squeamish. In the salsa, with crunchy chips, they weren’t too bad: The crunch of the chips masked the crunch of …well you get it. I began to feel brave at this point. Then came the mac and cheese… with cricket sprinkled throughout. This made some of us at the table wince a little. But we knew what we’d signed up for, there was no going back. One of our table mates described the flavor as ‘wheat berry‘, and thought the crunch could be likened to the crunchy topping you’d find on any gourmet mac and cheese dish. Jay, a new friend, suggested the taste was like grain but fairly bland. I wondered then, if perhaps crickets functioned a little like tofu: Lots of bland goodness on its own, but taking on the flavor of whatever it’s cooked with. Shelly was not impressed. By the time dessert of caramel cricket apples and ice cream came around, most of the crickets remained uneaten on her plate. I give her full marks, she did try a few bites.

To be honest, at this event, the wine chosen for the pairings came in a distant second. It was all about the bug. And that was ok. Shelly and I enjoyed our 2012 Mercedes Eguren Cab Sauv. The rich blackberry essence provided a lovely light-acid balance to the creamy(and crunchy) mac and cheese.
As I pushed back from the table, I couldn’t help but admire this adventurous group as dinner came to a close. And given what we’d just eaten, the question, ‘is anything stuck in my teeth?’ had a whole different vibe.

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Cheers!

©TheWineStudent, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited, deleted and manipulated: one-night only with wine, and artist Rose Haserodt


On one of the first really chilly nights this season, my fellow culture vulture, Shelly, and I ventured down to visit the one-night-only art event by Cleveland artist Rose Haserodt. Presented by EmergeCleveland, and housed at the Singer Steel building in Murray Hill, it was a unique and vibrant experience. The industrial feel of the space with its high ceilings and skeletal walls set the scene for art lovers in the Cleveland area. It was great to see visitors of all ages coming out to enjoy the work. EmergeCleveland is a collective of social entrepreneurs who invest in emerging artists; selecting one artist per year for a ‘site specific installation and exhibition.’

But what is art without a lovely glass of wine to sip? On the list for the event was a complex and warming 2011 Dante red blend from Michael Pozzan Wines. The rich nose of leather, and tastes of chocolate, blackberry jam and molasses provided a toasty companion that kept us warm as the temperature dipped. It paired beautifully with the canapes of brie, strawberries and red grapes.

We enjoyed the evening with EmergeCleveland, Rose Haserodt and her work. Judging by the turnout to this event, and the number of red dots on the paintings, there will be much success in her future ~ no editing, deleting or manipulation needed.

Cheers!

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©TheWineStudent, 2015