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My Heart Will Always Be In Wine Country

One thing that has always drawn me to the Napa Valley is its strong sense of community and unbreakable bonds between the vintners, businesses and residents alike. It’s the primary reason I consider the Napa Valley my home away from home. This is a community of multigenerational farmers, vintners, chefs and artisans, school teachers and musicians and entrepreneurs to name a few. This is a community of people in small towns who know and greet their neighbors by first name, who know their neighbor’s parents and extended family because, well, in wine country everyone is family.

In the wake of the wine country fires, I’m so taken back by the selflessness of others and the philanthropy of so many to help those who were impacted in the worst ways. I live an easy one hour drive from Napa and the outpouring of support to transport much needed supplies for disaster relief as well as meals to feed first responders, the manner in which friends and complete strangers alike have pulled together is a testament of this unbreakable community. Let me repeat that. Unbreakable community. Amidst the tragedy, this unbreakable community has banded together to rebuild what has been lost. I know you’ve seen the devastation in the media, but there is so much that the news isn’t sharing because of course, fear mongering. Not all is lost and there is still SO much beauty to experience! Please take a minute to watch this video with messages from a handful of wineries that my dear friends at Cellar Angels compiled. The best thing you can do right now is visit the wineries and buy Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino and Lake County wines. Stimulating the economy will keep doors open and people employed.

Did you know that 90% of harvest had already been completed before the fires started? Most of the wine and vineyards have been saved. Fires have been completely contained and wine country is open for business, with even more of a purpose. It’s not just about the vintner sharing their story in a bottle anymore, which is something that I’ve always personally loved. It’s now about these same vintners and proprietors sharing their stories of survival, their tenacity, and their legacy in each and every sip.

Let’s all raise a glass to celebrate love, life and of course, wine!

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Three Pioneer Women Walk Into A Bar

Last Thursday the fourth grade class ventured to spend 24 hours at the historic Sutter’s Fort.  This is one of those field trips that’s a really big deal for the kids, the teachers & by default the parents.  The kids spend most of the school year preparing for their big day.  Each picks an historic character from one of the famous parties that crossed over the Donner Pass to reach California & Sutter’s Fort & they write reports on their character in addition to the state reports & more.  The day of the field trip both the kids & parent volunteers were required to dress in period garb & the kids were transported to the fort by horse drawn wagons.  The kids were in their glory.  And let’s just say that I can rock a braid & bonnet like it’s the latest fashion trend.   Well, not so much, but if you have it you gotta work it, right??

Let’s fast forward a bit.  Parent volunteers weren’t merely chaperones.  We were also characters in the fort & had assumed the responsibilities of each of the tradespeople who ran the fort on a daily basis.  There was a blacksmith, candle & rope making, gristmill, carpenter, kitchen & bakery.  I worked the bakery.  Make some bread?  How hard could that be?? ….

The bakery was an outdoor beehive oven.  Another mom & I had to build a raging fire in the oven & bring the temp to 500 degrees.  (Insert good pioneer moms gathering & chopping wood to make tinder & char-cloth to spark with flint rock to ignite the fire.)  Let me just say that my earlier years of being a Camp Fire Girl finally paid off…

It literally took us FIVE hours to get the dang oven to reach that magical 500 degrees!  Five hours of building the fire, chopping the logs down to coals, then shoveling the flaming coals out of the oven & carrying them to this fire pit to warm a caldron of water.  See, it was too freakin cold for the dough to rise, so we had to make a dough bath in the caldron.  At this point I seriously questioned WTF I’d gotten myself into??  And it gets even better.  Once the oven reached optimal temp (BTW – we had no thermometer so had to take a gander by putting our hand in the oven & attempting to hold it there for 15 seconds.  If you couldn’t do it, the oven was ready) we had to shovel out ALL the coals, dip brooms into water & sweep out the oven til it was nice & clean enough to slap the dough balls in there.  Yeah, that was fun.  Now I know what it’s really like to sweat my ass off over an oven ALL freakin day long. 

Thankfully we had 45 minute break in the afternoon so me & two other moms decided we’d walk a couple blocks to one of our favorite spots to grab a bite of real food.  I have to preface this by saying that Sutter’s Fort is located in the heart of Midtown Sacramento.  Anything worth doing or seeing is, for the most part, in Midtown.  Especially the food.  So down the street we walk, sporting our most stylish period clothing whilst doing our best to smile & wave at gawking passers by.  The restaurant we went to had a line out the door, so we popped into the attached bar next door knowing they had the same menu.  All heads turn when we walk in (because we were just that hot) & I throw my arms up & ask, “What’s a pilgrim gotta to do get a drink around here?!”  Insert hysterical laughter & 30 minutes of gabbing with construction workers at the bar.  And a well deserved ice cold beer.

We returned to our post feeling refreshed & ready to bake.  And I must say, that bread turned out amazeballs!  But not good enough to ever go through that ever, ever again. 😉

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It’s Highly Likelii(.com)

How do you choose new wines?  Unless I’m at a winery I find that I’m less adventurous with my wine selections and I tend to stick with my old faithfuls.  For one, my eyes gloss over looking at all the hundreds of bottles on the store shelves, and I also don’t want to waste money on something that I might not enjoy.

I recently met the masterminds behind the super cool wine recommendation engine Likelii.com. They’re everyday wine drinkers like we are and they wanted to help consumers demystify the wine buying process (can I get an “Amen!”).  I tried out their search engine (think Pandora for wine).  I plugged in three of my favorite wines (or you can simply type in “red” or “white”) and it populated three new wines for me to try.   Can’t wait to try them! Likelii.com just launched their beta and are super eager to have as many people try them out as possible.  You could win $100 in free wine just for test driving their recommendation engine and giving your feedback!  They’re giving out 3 $100 gift certificates between now and the end of the year.  Simply click http://bit.ly/VZM2L6 and you’ll be well on your way to sipping fabulous varietals.  Cheers!