Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A Hefty Pour

I love to learn about wine. In fact, 6 of my items from this year's edition of "The List" are wine related. Now, here we are, two-thirds of the way through the year, and I can finally check off one of these wine related items, which is to visit a winery I've never been to before. In fact, I can check it off twice!

Over the past few weeks, I've had the pleasure of visiting two wineries I have never before visited, including Fenn Valley Vineyard in SouthWest Michigan (not far from where I grew up), and Loma Prieta Winery, located in Los Gatos, CA (less than an hour from the Santa Cruz coastline). Here's a little taste of my two very different (but both enjoyable!) experiences.

Fenn Valley Vineyards

At the beginning of August, B and I took our annual excursion to visit our families in Michigan. My family lives in SW Michigan, and my sister and brother-in-law were visiting from TX at the same time, so it was also a little bit of a family reunion of sorts.

Because B doesn't get loads of time off, we built in a little quality vacation time for just the two of us in the midst of the swirl of family. To accomplish that mission, we rented an AirBNB overnight on a sailboat at the Yacht Club and Marina in Saugatuck. Saugatuck is a charming little Lake Michigan Coast town, with plenty of cute shops and restaurants, and of course, the Lake.  I can't say that we'll ever take up residence packed tightly in a tiny v-birth sailboat for a night again in the future, but we LOVED drinking bubbly on the bow, watching the sunset across Lake Michigan, and soaking up a wholly new-to-us experience.

Fenn Valley Vineyards is just a short jaunt from charming little Saugatuck, tucked away in the Lake Michigan countryside, and we decided to check it out before reconnecting with my mom and step-Dad back "inland." With the slogan "The Lake Effect Everyone Loves," Fenn Valley has been a premier coastal MI wine producer for more than 4 decades.  Along with a variety of reds and whites, they also produce the famous "Michigan Cherry Wine" and even boast a few sparklers, which is a favorite style of mine (and probably a favorite style of ALL true wine lovers!) In fact, they day we visited Fenn Valley, they were disgorging their latest sparklers and had to close a portion of their operations to the public (they do daily wine production/facility tours) due to the natural CO2 release from the disgorgement. I guess that makes sense -- don't need anyone passing out due to lack of Oxygen!

My "everyday" wine drinking palette tends to prefer dry, high acid, citric white wines, so when we completed our tasting, it was a little surprising that my favorite wine of the day was a 2012 Late Harvest Vignoles. Apparently, weather conditions contributed to a very unique harvest that year, that ultimately resulted in an unusual, yet deliciously fragrant and sweet vintage. It was a nice, unexpected departure from my "usual", and a tasty reminder to allow myself to stay openminded and explorative when playing in the infinite possibilities world of wine.

If you find yourself in MI, I recommend a visit to Fenn Valley.  The tasting fees are low, and the pours are HEFTY. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon!

That's me and my hefty pour at Fenn Valley in SouthWest Coastal Michigan!

Loma Prieta Winery

Just days after B and I returned to MPLS, I hit the road again. This time, I was off to the West Coast where I was hosting a bachelorette party for one of my oldest and best(est) friends, WJ.  WJ lives in San Francisco, adjacent to Sonoma and Napa, which are arguably among the best wine valley regions in N. America and the world, and I've been lucky to spend a tiny little slice of time in both regions during past NoCal visits. Napa and Sonoma were both in the mix as potential locations for our Bachelorette weekend; however we ultimately decided to take a different tactic for the weekend and head down the coast to Santa Cruz for the weekend instead.

We had a "wild" bachelorette weekend in the literal sense that we spent a lot of our time soaking up nature, with an awesomely rejuvenating hike through the redwoods of Nisene Marks State Park and getting our Namaste on with a private cliffside yoga session overlooking the Pacific.  But it wouldn't be a #NoCal bachelorette without a winery visit, so we made sure to carve in time to visit the gem that is Loma Prieta.

Loma Prieta sits in the midst (and mist) of the Loma Prieta Mountain, about 45 minutes outside of Santa Cruz, in Los Gatos. The day we were there, the weather was an uncharacteristically warm 80 degrees, and the views stretched to infinity, offering a perfect setting for an afternoon of wine drinking.

Loma Prieta is considered a "boutique" winery, due to its limited production (less than 3K cases. For comparison sake, the Mammoth Mondavi sells MILLIONS of cases annually). Ironically, LP is the LARGEST producer of "Pinotage" in N. America.

For the uninitiated (which included me until a few weeks ago) "Pinotage" is a hybrid grape that was first born in S. Africa, in a marriage of Pinot Noir and a grape called Cinsault, which originated in Southern Rhone, France. LP does a fine job with this special hybrid. I especially enjoyed a unique Sparkling vintage (2014) Blanc de Noirs so much that I bought a bottle for WJ and her "fancy" (aka fiancee), and then I MADE THEM OPEN IT the night before I flew home, just so I could have a glass. Y'all already know I'm "Klassy-with-a-K" like that!

If you find yourself in Santa Cruz...or in San Fran...its well worth the trip to this, perhaps unexpected little winery outside of the "classics" of Napa and Sonoma that you may already know and love.  Need more convincing? Just check out the views!

Blue Skies, smiling at me at Loma Prieta Winery (hey! That rhymes!)

Cheers, mates! I can't wait to check a few more of my wine related items off my 2016 LIST!

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