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Surviving The Crush

I am sitting among the turning leaves between a row of Cabernet and Merlot grapevines, thankful all the 2013 wine has been safely janeiphone pictures 055picked, fermented, pressed, and tucked away in gluten-free Vadai , Hungarian oak barrels .  I had no concept of the intense fun and camaraderie, of the immense quantity of hard work, and of the huge expense this “little” hobby would bring to my life and my husband’s life.

Although I have posted virtually nothing for months, because the vineyard chores hoarded all my free hours this summer, I did bang out a few words along the way to try to capture some of the stages of vineyard management and wine making.  If you don’t mind a bit of back-tracking, I will post some of them over the next few weeks dating the month of the activity.  

A bit of background

Seven years ago, we planted tiny pencil-thin grapevine sticks in our backyard with the hope of beautifying a bare patch of dirt.  85 bare root Cabernet and Merlot sticks filled ¼ acre…two rows of Merlot and four rows of Cab.  From the first day we moved here, my husband longed to look down rows of grapevines when sitting on the deck.  And…make an attempt at wine making one day.

How hard could it be?”

Other people made homemade wine out of a few grapevines on their property.  If you have read any of my previous posts, you already know that question can be dangerous for us.  I guess we epitomize Einstein’s definition of insanity, because it is still our fall back question.   Conversely, that question has caused us to stretch and grow in ways we never thought possible, and for which we are now immensely grateful.

So…on a chilly April morning seven years ago, 30 friends and family members sliced a box cutter through the packing tape of an overnight-ed box.  Bright multicolored sweatshirts dotted the rows my husband had marked. In a couple of hours, non-farm raised people from suburbia planted a vineyard.  What a sense of accomplishment we felt when it was done,  while munching on grilled meats, polenta, and sipping wine from the deck.  Some Italian friends even made homemade ricotta for the best cannoli anyone had ever eaten.   We all marveled,  “That wasn’t so hard, and this after-party is fun!”

Every vine “took” in the ensuing summer. “Yee Ha!  We are on our way!”  Summers two and three, my husband carefully trained the vines to grow on the trellis system.  We watched the vines get big enough to consider harvesting the grapes for a little wine making. 

Year four, we got out the trusty wine manual, called From Vines to Wine, that our neighbor who had been making wine for a few years told us was all we would need to get started.   “Could one book be all we would need? Really?”  That attempt went into the compost pile.  However, we did have the best smelling yard on the street.

Year five, I got a bit of advice from the local wine makers at Mann Vineyard, Sycamore Creek Vineyard, and any other local vineyard, whose wine maker would spend a bit of tasting room time answering my questions.  That batch got bottled, labeled, and given to friends.  Yet…most of it went down our friends’ drains or in Sangria or spaghetti sauce. 

Year six just got bottled.  My husband and I opened our first bottle after we thought bottle shock would be over and gave it a swirl and taste.  “Hmm!  I am actually not going run to the sink and chuck it.”  We took another sip; then ended up drinking the whole bottle one Sunday night two weeks ago.  “Yeah!  It is drinkable.  Not the best Merlot we’ve ever had, but passable.  We are actually making some progress!” We have not yet tried the Cab that was just bottled, because it will still be in bottle shock.  (I will keep you posted when we brave a taste.)

janeiphone pictures 059That brings us to this year.  Year seven.  About April of this year, I was lucky enough to be able to start mentoring with Ted Medeiros, a Double Gold Medal winner in the San Francisco Wine Competition.  You need to know that this is HUGE.  The San Francisco Wine Competition is the biggest US competition and the biggest world wide…outside of France.  

Since April, Ted has helped me learn how to maximize the flavor in the grapes through vineyard management and has helped me save last year’s aging wine from turning into another grotesque tasting vintage through aging-wine care and maintenance.  All aspects from vines to wines have been addressed.  He is an exacting task master, keeping me working…HARD…too tired and sore each day to contemplate anything but a hot shower.  He is also a positive feedback teacher, which kept me going when I wanted to give up.  Amid the long hours and relentless amount of work, I feel lucky to be learning from a genuine pro. 

Like anything worth learning, my husband and I are finding out that the more we learn the more we need to learn.  We are the type that like to do everything ourselves with a little (okay, a lot) of help from friends and family.  After all….

“How hard could it be?”

Ferrito’s Cannoli Recipe (this is well worth the effort!)

Cannoli Filling

This is a homemade sweetened ricotta cheese stuffed into or put on to just about anything!!!!

Ricotta Cheese

1 gallon whole milk
1 quart cultured buttermilk

Heat to 175 to 180 (no more or it will scald.)
Stir constantly.

When desired heat is attained, TAKE OFF THE HEAT.

Scoop the forming curds into a cheesecloth covered funnel and place in refrigerator overnight to drain.

Makes about 1 quart of ricotta cheese.

MAKING FILLING:

Take sugar and process in food processor for 1-2 minutes until superfine – remove.

2 cups of processed sugar
2 cups of fresh ricotta cheese ( drained overnight at least)
1 tsp of cream
4 tsp of vanilla

Process all of above ingredients until very fine but not over processed, as it will get grainy.

REFRIGERATE OVERNIGHT – this will allow all of the components to meld together.

Then stuff filling in cannoli shells.

Traditional sprinklings on Cannoli are chopped pistachios, chocolate chips(mini), or citron.
A chocolate ganache over the top could be the ticket as well.

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Third Time’s a Charm?

Wine Country Living

Name Change

Well, here I am again, wanting to write, wanting to change the focus of this blog, wanting to change the name to reflect that change.  As gluten-free awareness has exploded the last three years, there is less and less need for a gluten-free sleuth.   Expanded, detailed information and research have obsoleted my hard-earned and, many times, painful original research to discover the landmines of hidden gluten.

With the new government regulations of 20 ppm of allowable gluten in foods labeled GF, those of us that are super sensitive or have an extreme case of Celiac disease already know we still have to read ingredient lists even when the food is labeled GF.  For example, teff flour has some gluten in it, but falls under the 20 ppm of gluten allowed by the FDA.  One day of eating something with teff flour does not affect  me; whereas, consecutive days rip my stomach apart.

While I am not thrilled that the FDA arbitrarily decided on our behalf that any ppm of gluten is ok for Celiac disease and gluten intolerance, the new labeling guidelines at least point me in the right label-reading direction, saving me time in the grocery store.  For that, I am thankful.

So…my daily focus has swerved to GF Wine Making and GF Wine Country Living.  The blog name needs to reflect this new direction.  After this entry, I will be changing my name to GF Wine Country Living. Again, I hope I do not lose any of you, but in case I do, the new name will be the following:

GF Wine Country Living.

www.gfwinecountryliving.wordpress.com

Last time I changed names, you did not have to do a thing.  WordPress automatically carried you along.  Hopefully, this third name change will be “the one.”  Thanks for your loyalty, and stay tuned for a new, fun focus.

 

Grabbing-a-Bite-to-Eat Survival Kit

First, I hope you will forgive my five month hiatus from blogging.  A dear family member “passed.”

The other night, as I threw my three “must haves” in my purse running out the door in anticipation of grabbing a bite to eat somewhere in town, I realized how prepping for and anticipating potential problems when eating out had become second nature.

Usually on a spur of the moment decision to go out, my husband and I have no idea where we will end up.  We decide what types of food we want as we drive; then, cruise our local haunts to see which is the least crowded.  While I love this type of spontaneity, it can present challenges for a Gluten Intolerant diner.

Never fear, I have developed a simple three product survival kit:

1. A tiny container of GF salad dressing, because salad dressing can be a land mine of hidden glutens.    I get these wonderful little containers at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. www.bedbathandbeyond.comsalad drssg bottleWith three filled at all times in the refrigerator, each with a different type of GF salad dressing,  I can easily grab the one I want  in a split second.

2. A small bottle of GF soy sauce…in case a sushi attack drives us into a sushi bar;  (why eat sushi if you can’t dip it in thesoy sauce
soy sauce/wasabi mixture?)  Just found out last night, that our local sushi bar carries GF soy sauce.  Isn’t it wonderful how easy it is getting to eat out and how the new awareness of GF limitations and needs have infiltrated the restaurant industry?  That said,  I still bring my jar of GF sauce soy in my eating out kit in case we end up at the other sushi bar in town, which does not have GF soy sauce. Although I could put the soy sauce in one of the above plastic containers from BB &B, it can leak a bit if the liquid is as thin as soy sauce.  To be safe, I stick with the regular, non leaking soy sauce jar.  Don’t want to ruin another purse. www.san-j.com

3.  A slightly toasted hunk of my favorite GF baguette…for slurping up that amazing pre-dinner olive baguetteoil in Italian restaurants.  For some reason, watching everyone else at the table dip bread in olive oil and not being able to participate can make me nearly melt down.  It is one of those trigger points where I can instantly flip into self pity over being gluten intolerant.  But hey, I have solved it by pulling out my baggie filled with a piece of safe GF bread.  Then, the only thing I am fanatical about is to make sure I have my “own” plate or little bowl of olive oil, so I can eliminate all cross contamination by the wheat-bread-dippers at the table.  Who really likes sharing, anyway?  The baguette is a must-have at Greek restaurants for hummus and  baba ganoujs, too. www.againstthegraingourmet.com

My mottos are Do Not Get Left Out;  Do Not Stay at Home;   Get Prepared and Go!

Sure,  non GF people do not have to think ahead, plan ahead, or pack ahead to simply grab a bite to eat, but accepting, developing, and incorporating these simple tasks into my life has allowed me to embrace a normal, rich, fun life, instead of  shrinking into limitations.

So…go out and have fun (with a little preparation.)

My Glutenfree Salon Experience

The Package Is You, A Complete Makeover Experience

IT started in her smile, rose to her eyes, and then floated like soft smoke around the tiny room.  Past the striking artwork, over the antique writing desk, and amid the fresh, bright yellow daffodils, IT slid into my body on a sip of tea served from a proper English teacup, infiltrating the tension I carried within me.  As the “aah” of relaxation cracked through mDSCN0452y stress, I looked back up at her gratefully.  There IT was in her face…that warm, open, healing love of compassion.  It was like getting a big, gentle hug from your mother or grandmother.  I knew the next hour or so would be extraordinary. It was.

Don’t get me wrong with all this oohing and aahing, Karen Lane is a no nonsense biologist/artist, who has mastered her crafts.  Working for years as a scientist in the medical field left her feeling not quite satisfied.  The tug of creativity, art, and beauty called.  With a career change to cosmology, she not only finds herself owning and operating her own makeover salon, but teaching theory, anatomy, and science in the Cosmology Department at San Jose City College.  For 22 years now, she has found a perfect venue to balance art and science.

Karen has taken the posh salon experience and ratcheted the standard up a notch.  Walking into her salon, you will not hear three or four blow dryers or smell any nasty chemicals.  No, hers is a private salon.  You will be her sole client.  She will devote 100% of her attention to you for the allotted time.  How often in our electronically pinged lives do we get to experience peaceful, refreshing, devoted attention?  What a powerful gift.

An added bonus is Karen’s devoted commitment to designing a nontoxic, allergy free program of products and services to fit your specific needs, be it gluten intolerance, scalp issues, or other allergic sensitivities.  Special attention is given to Gluten Free products, due to her own gluten sensitivity.  For the first time, ever, I had a cut and color without an adverse reaction the next day.  My reactions to the harsh chemicals, even when gluten free, in hair salons were so severe that I knew not to schedule anything important the day after an appointment.

Appreciative of the organic, eco, GF products, I was skeptical of how effective the color treatment would be.  “How would it hold up?” I wondered.  I happily report after five weeks and counting, I have not noticed any loss of color, shine, or intensity.  Tools for the sensitive person are a consideration, too. Unlike industry standard brushes, Karen applies color with a rubber bristled brush, which does not prick the scalp, opening the skin to minute absorption.

Because the products do not contain the harsh chemicals that drive the color, shampoo, and conditioners quickly into the hair, she allows the non toxic products to have a little extra time on the follicles.  For example, she leaves the conditioner on for a full 20 minutes.  However, for a bit of extra money, she will give you a mini facial during that time.  Of course I opted for that! Covered with a “healing” quilt, I relaxed to her feather fingertip massage on my face.  My head wanted to flop down when she tried to lift it indicating that the facial/conditioning experience was over.  “You have to hold your own head up now,” she had to gently whisper in my ear.  I had relaxed into a wet-noodle state.

“Okay,” I was thinking, “This woman certainly has the nurturing gene, but can she cut hair?”  I like a haircut where the cut speaks for itself with very little intervention on my part.  My normal hair dresser is a master at a stylish cut.  With my skepticism in full bloom, I sat in the hair dresser’s chair ready to receive a mediocre haircut for the cause of a blogging review.

As we discussed what would look good on with my facial structure, I knew she had been sincere when claiming to be an artist with people as her canvas.  Thus, her other services: make-overs, personal color analysis, ward robe redos. To help people try to safely be comfortable in their bodies and more authentically themselves is her mission statement.  If the compliments by family, friends, store clerks are anything to go by, I got a great haircut.  Is there any aspect of this business at which this woman does not excel?

For one and a half hours I was steeped in soothing music and nurturing and pampered with wicked expertise the likes of which I had never experienced.

GO! Go to Karen, not only if you are gluten intolerant, allergic, or scalp challenged, just to be wrapped in her MAGIC!

Practical considerations:  organicallycoloringyourhair.com

Address:   The Package Is You

501 N. Santa Cruz Ave. Ste C

Los Gatos, CA 95030

Office 408-395-6927,   cell 408-204-8945

Rates: Cut & color: $140.00

Just color: $70.00

Weaves: $40.00+

Mini facials: $20.00

 

 

Eating out When Traveling

 “How do you handle it when you’re glutened on vacation?” asked a fellow Celiac blogger.

The answer: questions, lots and lots of questions and a bottle of charcoal tablets to relieve the “food baby” bloating.  I have a running list of questions in my head developed over years of traveling that need asking at the three major types of restaurants: fast food and big chains, sports bars, and fine dining.

My husband and I have the travel itch running in our veins.  After only six weeks of eating solely at home when I was first diagnosed with Celiac disease, we were going a little stir crazy.  I was literally afraid to eat out and to risk getting a gluten reaction:  “glutenated, glutenized, glutened,” etc.  My husband, bless his heart,  thoroughly researched  the foods served at a Mother’s Day brunch at a local restaurant,  so I could dip my toe gently back into eating out.  I was so scared of the eighth month pregnancy bloat and ensuing gas pains  from accidentally ingesting a contaminated food that I stuck to cheese and fresh fruit that day with a shockingly okay experience.  (Whew!  Big milestone!)  Since then, I have traveled extensively with him with surprisingly few reactions.

Here are the most basic of basic things I learned, and they work in almost any country:

fast food is nearly always contaminated as a general rule;

bar food and happy hour food is nearly impossible, except for the occasional steamed mussels or plain salad with a plain grilled chicken breast on top;

fine dining with trained chefs is by far the safest way to go, but buckets of money are required.

Big Mom PurseOther practical coping strategies when eating out are carry a big Mom purse that you can stuff with emergency GF protein bars,  GF salad dressing, GF crackers or a crust of GF bread, and those little packages of GF soy sauce.   There is nothing worse than being left out of an otherwise safe hors d’oeuvre, because you have forgotten to pack a baggie of a few GF crackers or a bit of GF bread or baguette to dip in that great olive oil in Italy, for example.  I also hate eating plain sushi without the soy sauce/wasabi dip.  Somehow the joy is sucked right out of that dining experience without it, so bring those GF soy sauce packets.

When you do get stuck at a sports bar, stick with a dressing-less salad with a plain grilled chicken breast.  Put the GF salad dressing from your purse on it or ask for lemon wedges you can squeeze over it.  Anything else in a sports bar gets me a wild reaction.  Can’t quite figure out how they cross contaminate a bun-less plain burger, but they do. Can I tell you how sick I am of 15 years of salad with a flavorless chicken breast on top!  Just the thought of this meal makes my whole body want to gag. Those are the times I have to kick my inner self with the thought, “I am here to enjoy the company of my friends/family.”   If that doesn’t work, I go to the mantra, “It could be worse. At least I am mobile, have my sight,  my hearing, etc.”

Since we live in wine country, eating great food (homemade or from restaurants) and drinking fine wines are hobbies of pretty much…everyone.  Luckily,  after a few key questions (ok, maybe a lot) at restaurants with trained chefs, who understand where glutens hide in meal  preparation, eating out is not a problem.

Yes, my GF diet is expensive, but if I adhere rigorously to these guidelines, I can travel almost anywhere in the world and find something safe to eat.  (My husband always jokes that my Celiac foods and my requirement to eat at fine dining restaurants when traveling are the equivalent of a Beamer, Mercedes, or Tesla car payment.  Of course, he quickly follows that statement with “but you are worth it.”)

I concede that I do not always get to eat what I would really like, but safety must be the first priority with Celiac disease.  I understand, first hand, that “safety must come first”  from having Celiac disease damage not only my intestines but my whole immune system.  I just don’t go to “the cheat”  zone, after crawling slowly back from a nearly non-functioning body.

Just yesterday when discussing with a gluten sensitive person the myriad of questions  I ask wait staff and sometimes the actual chef, I heard the plea,  “But I don’t KNOW what questions to ask! Could you please list them on your blog?”

So, I will be starting a series of blog posts sharing the running list of restaurant questions I have amassed over the last 15 years of eating out.  If I can eat out safely, so can you…with a little attention to detail and a lot of questions!

Dedications and credits:

Today’s entry is dedicated to Karen for her blog post requests, and to Amanda’s post called Glutened on the First Day of Vacation, from her blog,  Celiac and Allergy Adventures,  celiacandallergyadventrues.wordpress.com.  The first quoted sentence and the words “food baby,” ” glutenated, glutenized, and glutened” in this post come from Glutened on the First Day of Vacation.

2013 Wine Tasting Trip

Once a year I decide that I am going to take a bunch of gluten enzyme tablets and taste any wine I want during our annual wine tasting trip…this year to the St Lucia appellation of Monterey County, CA.

My husband had recently had a very good Pinot Noir from Sheid Winery (Monterey County) in a restaurant in Carmel on one of our Friday night dates.

With half a roasted chicken, sweet potato chips, a couple of apples and lots of napkins packed in the trunk,  we were off to check out Scheid Winery.   After a year of careful eating and very good health, I was feeling a bit cocky… quite sure that a bit of wine tasting would not bother my new, healthy self.  After all, a Celiac wine lover can get tired of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, and champagne.  “What were the real chances of getting the random wheat molecule from the wheat paste used in the barrel making process?” my self confidence reasoned.

Wow!  Did I have fun!  I had the two different vintages of  estate Pinot Noir; one of which my husband had had in Carmel.  I happily worked my way down the six wines in the Reserve Flight.   ” Why not go first cabin when splurging?” Aah, the joy of opening the taste buds as the wine slides over the tongue, instead of my usual “Celiac good girl” swirl, smell, and dump.  To be able to actually discuss, debate, and laugh over wine words at the first hint of fruit and the complex licorice depths at the end taste of a rich, red wine are a wine lover’s paradise.

I  still felt wonderful after the lengthy tasting and after a picnic on the Scheid Winery patio in the February, 67 degree blue-sky weather.  Lovely!

On the way home, I felt wonderfully relaxed and drowsy.  About 45 minutes into the drive home, I frowned with the thought , “I am REALLY tired, the kind where if I don’t get to lie down soon, I will want to murder anyone who stands between me and a bed.”  After fifteen more minutes my stomach started the loud gurgle syndrome.  “Uh oh!” It finally dawned on me that I was having a gluten reaction.  “Yes, I know,  I might be a slow learner or simply unrealistically hopeful.”  By the time we pulled into the garage, I grabbed the keys from my husband, ran for the door, and made a mad dash for the bathroom before falling into bed for a long immune-system-compromised nap.

The bottom line to myself and to everyone else out there with true Celiac disease is that this oak-aged wine “thing” is real.

Next year, my husband will definitely have a built-in designated driver!  It was just not worth feeling like that, and the enzymes are simply a teaser.  Do yourself a favor and heed the wheat contamination validity of oak barrels.  

Scheid Winery Review for Gluten Intolerants/Celiacs          Scheid
2010 Sauvignon Blanc  ****
Aged only in stainless steel.  Crisp, dry, well balanced…tastes the most similar to a Marlborough Sound, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc of any California Sauvignon Blanc that I have tasted to date.  (Believe me, in the last two years of discovering just how treacherous anything but stainless-steel-aged wines are for Celiacs, I have tasted as many Sauvignon Blancs as I can, especially since I don’t really love the other traditionally stainless-steel-aged wines, like Pinot Gris, etc. I find most of the California Sauvignon Blancs a bit too grassy for my taste.)

2009 Sauvignon Blanc Reserve
Some aging in oak.  Not okay for Celiacs.  I thought the 2010 had a better balance of acid and fruit.

2008 “Isabelle” Sparkling Wine**
An interesting take on sparkling wine, being made from a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes, which gave it a hint of blush and a more deeply varietal taste than traditional types.    I liked it. Stainless steel aged only.

Review of the Oak-Aged Wines (Safety of these oak-aged wines questionable for Celiacs)

 I tasted these wines using the Gluten-zyme tablets (which did not work for preventing a gluten reaction.)

2007 Pinot Noir Reserve ***
Very good Pinot, which my husband loved.

2008 Pinot Noir Clone 667 Reserve ****
My favorite of the two Pinots tasted, because I thought it had a more complex pallette with that luscious undertone of licorice that I love.

2007 Claret Reserve
Not my cup of tea, but am unable to verbalize why.

2007 Petit Verdot Reserve, Napa Valley
Also not my cup of tea.

The tasting room was a charming little house with a lovely patio filled with tables for picnickers.  A bit to the side of the belly-up-to-the-bar tasting area was a wine gifts and accessories area that was not the usual  kitchy, cheap souvenir shop. I found gift items I’d really give to my wine loving friends.

The tasting room staff was friendly and open to discussing the gluten issues of the wheat paste used in the barrel making process.  They wrote down the name of my gluten enzyme product, because each of them knew someone suffering from Celiac Disease.   I hope they read this blog entry, so they find out how the enzymes did NOT work this time.  I would hate for anyone else to suffer needlessly in their experimentation, like I just did.

I recommend visiting this lovely Monterey County Winery.
Thumbs way up for Scheid’s 2010 Sauvignon Blanc for those with gluten issues!!!

Scheid Vineyards
1972 Hobson Ave.
Greenfield, CA 93927
831-386-0316
http://www.scheidvineyards.com
Tasting room open daily from 11-6.