I would be remiss to not address my absence from writing. Several years ago I went to wine school and switched my hobby and my career- wine for politics. Like many, I have had a hard time writing about wine and lifestyle during a time when things seem dire. I’ve even considered dusting off my political resumé and getting back in the game to work on issues I care most about. Living in the middle of the nation’s capital can be both exciting and exhausting when tensions are this high. Dear friends and family members are estranged by ideologies in a way that I’ve never seen before.
Many wine and lifestyle writers are wondering if our duties perhaps lie elsewhere. And for some, they may. However, I have been reminded many times that the world needs all sorts, particularly during times of great stress. Our society and our lives would be rather bleak indeed without art, music, travel, the joy of sharing a great meal and great conversation.
And let’s be honest, more than a few of us have been reaching for wine bottles to soothe frayed nerves, regardless of how we feel about world affairs or where one lies on the political spectrum.
I was reminded recently of a lesson I learned over a decade ago in Greece while studying political philosophy and conflict resolution with The Fund for American Studies. I’ve written briefly about my time there. It wasn’t in air conditioned classrooms where I learned the most, but rather over hearty debates with a glass of local wine in under grape vined trellises, on breathtaking beaches over frosty glasses of Mythos, and on terraces watching the sun rise over Chania after staying out all night. There were myriad religions represented that summer. 19 countries. Countless opinions. At first glance there was far more to divide us than unite us- and yet, that’s what happened. I am reminded once again what we were taught that summer. The questions unite us and the answers divide us, which has perhaps never rung truer.
During a recent social media debate over a political issue things got rather heated, as they are wont to do. At long last, once the parties had agreed to disagree, I made a wine recommendation based on something I knew the other person would love. And then the strangest thing happened; I received an apology for something that had offended me in the dialogue. No Greek island required.
And I realized anew that perhaps it’s not just the questions that can unite us, but a shared bottle of a 2012 Brunello. Or a 2008 Champagne. Or a beautiful vintage tawny port.
I’m currently at my third Wine Bloggers Conference in Lodi, California, which will be followed by a few days in Napa and Sonoma. The past several months have been full of wine related travel, and I’ve whittled down my top 5 travel essentials for looking and feeling fresh and luxurious on the go- whether you’re sipping and swirling in Champagne or California!
Darphin Kiwi Mask
This keeps travel weary skin refreshed and dewy and smells great! It’s perfect for reviving jet lagged skin after a long day of travel. I also love that this skin care line doesn’t include harmful ingredients like parabens.
Downey Wrinkle Release Spray
Not all hotel rooms abroad have irons, so this spray becomes essential to keeping from looking rumpled! It can also refresh clothes that have been in a stuffy suitcase for too long.
Not only can they serve as crucial layering pieces on chilly planes or wine caves, these versatile accessories can change up the look of a limited wardrobe in a flash!
Nothing is worse than getting sick on vacation. I use this generic CVS brand to clean up grimy airplane seats, hotels, and before eating. I like these in particular because they have moisturizing aloe, smell neutral, and there’s no sticky residue. The individual packets are particularly convenient.
Cuyana Leather Goods
Though I use these at home, they’re particularly great for travel. The wallet easily fits a passport, lipgloss and multiple currencies. The toiletry bags are great for corralling makeup and sundries in style. Find them here.
What are your travel must haves? What wine travel is next on the docket for you?!
I am on a month long trip through Europe tasting, eating and drinking outstanding wines, meeting incredible people in stunning places. And so I thought it only appropriate to share some of my tried and true travel tips for getting the most out of your next vacation!
The best laid plans…Things often go awry no matter how carefully a trip is planned. We have so little control over things like weather, travel delays, overbooked flights, etc. Go in knowing this with a few tools at your disposal.
Be nice to customer service. Anyone in the service industry likely deals with disgruntled, tired, rude customers every.single.day. However, they often have discretion to accommodate or even upgrade a few customers if at all possible. Remember the old adage: “honey catches more flies than vinegar!”
Learn to say a few key phrases. No matter where I’m traveling, I always learn to say hello, please, thank you, excuse me and cheers! It’s amazing how little effort these 5 words take to learn in even the most difficult languages, but I view it as an issue of cultural politeness. Often, it is rewarded with a more authentic travel experience, tips from locals, a better table, or even a complimentary glass of wine.
Talk to locals. While it’s great to have a travel plan, avoid hitting too many tourist traps by seeking out local advice. This can be as easy as recruiting the hive mind on social media or chatting up a bartender or barista during off peak hours.
Go with the flow. If you find yourself overtired, give yourself a break. If you and your travel companions aren’t seeing eye to eye, give each other a break! Remember that your cup of tea (or in my case today: Madeira!) might not be someone else’s.
Have a plan, but don’t forget to build in some down time. If you spend your entire vacation checking things off a list, you’re far less likely to enjoy your trip. Some of my favorite travel memories have taken place during the half day that I’ve blocked off with nothing scheduled. Talk to other travelers to see what they’ve enjoyed most (or found underwhelming!). Even if this time is merely spent people watching in a cafe or browsing a market, this time often results in restorative and exciting trip memories!
Embrace the local culture. Try the local specialty. Listen to some local music. Respect cultural etiquette. Your trip will be greatly enriched by these authentic touches.
I recently returned from an outstanding trip to Spain, and while I enjoyed an amazing array of food and wine adventures, one dinner in particular stood out.
I initially opted to visit Mallorca because I fell in love with a wine from the island, but I had no idea that my quest to see the winery in person would lead me to experience the island in such a unique manner.
We were eating at the Michelin starred Cuina De la Terra in Capdepera with our hosts, family friends, and the venerated Mallorcan artist Joan Bennàssar, who has written extensively about local wine. While discussing wine, art, culture, and island history, Bennàssar made a comment in passing that stuck with me.
He swept his hand towards the wheat swaying in the breeze nearby,
“This, we turn to bread.” “Olives, oil,” he gestured to the green tinged oil in the hand blown glass, “and grapes, into wine. And this. This is what makes us civilized.”
It was one of those moments where time stood still for me.
Mallorca is a place that is intrinsically connected to the land. Its inhabitants are fiercely protective and proud of its unique heritage, which gets harder and harder to preserve in the face of overwhelming tourism. The Medieval castle of Capdepera, one of the last villages on the island unspoiled by tourism, was uplit behind me and I was enjoying an outstanding meal with friends I haven’t seen in over a decade, outstanding hosts, and one of the great artists of our time.
But really, it’s the simple things that make us civilized.
Autographing his book, “The Wine I Drink Tastes of the Sea”
With Bennàsar in front of one of his paintings at Cuina De la Terra
We lingered at the table for 5 hours over far too many bottles of wine, and then took a tour of Bennàssar’s works on the property. In this age of smart phones, concrete jungles, and the importance of being busy it was truly a night to remember.
Behind the Scenes, Bon Vivant, Bubbly, Drink Well, On the Road, Rosé, Seasonal Sips, Tried and Trues, Virginia Wine, Weekend Getaways, Wine Tasting, Winemakers, Wineries and Vineyards
Planning a wine tasting trip Charlottesville, Virginia can be a daunting task- there are a number of outstanding wineries and picking just a few is no easy feat!
On my most recent trip with a group of friends, I took my cue from the most recent #VAwinechat, hosted by Frank Morgan of Drinkwhatulike.com at Early Mountain Vineyards. After tasting a selection of their wines I decided I needed to visit in person. Although the winery is a bit of a drive from many of the other Monticello AVA wineries, but the bucolic setting and behind the scenes tour sealed the deal! Other than their own outstanding wines, Early Mountain has one of the loveliest tasting rooms in all of Virginia and serves an Ambassador for other Virginia Wineries with a program called “Best of Virginia.”
The General Manager was kind enough to give my group an exclusive behind the scenes tour of the production facility, where we enjoyed tasting through Thibaut Janison’s bubbly, as well as Early Mountain’s own outstanding rosé. With notes of strawberry, watermelon, white peach and white pepper, the easy drinking rosé cut right through the muggy weather as we made our way through the tank and barrel room.
While Early Mountain is not situated in the main Monticello wine cluster, it’s well worth a visit just to take in the outstanding facility, views and enjoy some of the best wines from all over the state, which they have thoughtfully organized into flights. It’s a great way to experience wines that aren’t so readily available, such as Ankida Ridge’s Pinot Noir. I walked away with several bottles of the Early Mountain rosé, only to regret not purchasing a full case once back in DC.
After our tour at Early Mountain we made our way to the Library room at nearby Barboursville. If you’re looking for quiet amidst the chaos, this is your best bet! Down a hallway and through the Octogan Barrel room, one enters a key code to the library, an appointment only retreat for winelovers that offers patrons exclusive customer service along wine tastings and glasses of wine from the reserve list. There is also a tempting menu of cheese and charcuterie, which are perfect pairings for the fully customized wine tasting. Guests are given wide range to select either a tasting of 6 wines for $20, tasting pours or full glasses of some of the winery’s more exclusive offerings.
I sampled through an outstanding vertical of their acclaimed “Octagon”, mixing and matching the traditional tasting with an additional pour of 2008.
While checking out the terrace overlooking the grapevines, we met grape grower, Fernando Franco, who has been at Barboursville for 16 years. He spoke of the wine like a proud parent speaks of children, graciously offering tastes of the Nebbiolo ’07 as we chatted.
After lingering and sampling for a few hours, we made our way back to town to enjoy the always reliable gastropub, “The Local”. On your way out of town, don’t forget to stop for a sack of Bodo’s Bagels and Raising Cane’s fried chicken!