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Tag Archives: wine lover

Monthly Wine Writing Challenge Entry/ Subject-Fear

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Madman on the Loose, I Could Die Today

On a sunny bucolic vacation day, The Bam, bam bambambam of an automatic weapon splintered the birdsong and rustle of the breeze through the treetops.  “Wait! Were those real gunshots?  Was it someone target practicing? Should I be worried?” we sat on the deck in the sunshine, pondering.  “It is a bit countryish with huge lots in this little seaside enclave of vacation and retiree homes. People could target practice here, I guess. And yet…”

In the twenty years we had been coming to that cabin for a women’s retreat week, we had never heard anything like this.  After all, it is Cleone, a tiny community where the grocery store, post office, and gas pump are rolled into one, where the one restaurant (with consistently awesome Mexican food) opens whenever the owners feel inclined to cook or do business, where the community’s one claim to fame is MacKerricher State Park, a CA north coast refuge for sea otters, birds, tide pool creatures, plus a great place for whale watching on the spectacular headlands.  Cleone is a bedroom community of Mendocino and Fort Bragg.  We have always loved its reclusive air, a great place to get away, kick back, from the intensity of the Bay Area, where the population consists mostly of dog walkers, birders, cliffs-meet-the-sea nature-lovers.

“So what were those gunshots?”  Not hearing more, two of us decided to go for a walk out on the headlands.  However, when we got about 25 feet down the road, we saw two sheriffs with guns out, peering into the huge row of brambles and pine trees that separated our street from the one behind.  “Um, maybe we’ll head back to the cabin. That doesn’t look good.”

As soon as we got back and ushered our other friend off the back deck that faced the bramble patch, we heard Bam, bam, bambambam, again.  Next came the shouts, “Clear! Look to the north.”

“Oh s__t! We are directly north of the gunshot sounds!”  A  911 call to find out what was going on, had us sheltering in place with the knowledge that the sheriffs were trying to locate two suspects on the loose.  Just “knowing the suspects were in the brambles and could come out shooting at any time” was a surreal NCIS moment.

One of my friends said, “I know it is bad when they send up choppers to look for people, so we are probably okay, because none are in the air.”  Two seconds later, whomp, whomp whomps shook the windows of the cabin…for the next five hours, many times hovering directly over the cabin’s backyard. “Good times!”

We were at the point of fear where something inside the body changes.  Each of us tried to think strategically and find items in the room to protect ourselves, should we live through gunfire and actually encounter gunmen: cans of tuna to throw at the perps, fireplace poker to brandish in their direction, wine bottles to crack over their heads. Yes, we were gee-whizzes in a crisis!

A quick text from my husband admonished us to stay away from the windows.  Hard to do in a cabin filled with bay windows.  When the numbness of too much adrenaline set in,  one of my friends pulled out a deck a cards, said to sit down at the dinette table (in front of a bay window, of course)…she was going to teach us a really fun game.  I pulled out a bottle of wine from the previous day’s wine tasting in the Anderson Valley and three glasses, and said, “If I’m going down, I am going down happy.”  The other friend found the salty snacks, then the chocolate, and said, “Well, we need something to go with the wine.”  By the end of the five hours, three bottles of excellent wine had been drunk and every piece of junk food we could lay our hands on had been eaten. I can’t tell you the name of the card game we played at least 20 or 30 times, but it was fun in a crazy, I-am-going-to-enjoy-my-potential-last-moments haze.

True story.

Epilogue, there was only one gunman. During one of the volleys of gunfire, he killed a well respected sheriff in the community.  During another volley, the actual gunman was shot, but able to crawl away, into the brambles, where he died.  All of this took place one street over from our cabin. Part of me is still not “over” this senseless, horrifying event. The fact that two people were killed less than 250 yards from us is unfathomable.

On a brighter note- My recommendations when visiting the Mendocino Coast Area
Do stop and visit the wineries of the Anderson Valley.  Their terroir and weather is allowing them to produce some amazing Pinot Noirs.  This trip we discovered Drew Winery and their phenomenal 2010 Pinot. Hard to find now, because it sold out so quickly.
The Little River Inn is a great place to stay (just south of Mendocino) with vast panoramic ocean views and a good restaurant.
Try Wild Fish Restaurant near the Little River Inn for scrumptious fresh fish and a staff knowledgeable on adapting their menu for gluten intolerant Celiacs, like me.  Make reservations, because there are only eight tables.  Go just before sunset and catch the color splash over the ocean as the sun sets.

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A July Day in the Life of a GF Wine Maker

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As I mentioned in my last post, I will be doing a bit of back-tracking through the year, trying to catch up with what life was like during the growing season in the vineyard and as a fledgling wine maker.  Below is July’s post…

As I gather a tomato and cucumber for a Greek salad from the kitchen veggie garden, I don’t know where the time went.  How did it get to be three o’clock?

-Didn’t I just put on farm clothes, grab the pruning shears and drop bunches of grapes to allow the remaining clusters to deepen their flavor?

-Didn’t I just spend a couple of “minutes” with Ted Medeiros, my mentor, trying to absorb his assessment…making mental notes of his laundry list of chores to keep last Fall’s vintage, now aging, on tract and hopefully, tasty?

-Didn’t I spend a mere half hour making the adjustments to the wine and topping off the barrels, which meant shifting one of the three gallon containers into two one gallons and three screw top wine bottles (all of which had to be cleaned and sanitized first?)

I guess a few more hours passed than I thought!  Moments of “I absolutely can’t believe how much hard work this grape growing and wine making process is” warred with “I can’t believe how lucky I am to have the opportunity to learn these skills from an industry pro.”

It dawns on me that my body is screaming for some quality food.  Around the corner I go, into the vegetable garden to rummage any ripe produce I can get.  Thus, the Greek salad fixings for a very late lunch.

My Greek Salad Recipe
1 garden ripe tomato, fresh from your garden is best, of course
1 two-inch section of cucumber, again…garden fresh if possible
A bit of red onion, thinly sliced
6-8 GF kalamata olives (I have good luck with Trader Joe’s brand olives for being truly gluten-free)
A few chunks of Feta cheese blog pictures 049if you have not tried Pastures of Eden feta, do anything to get your hands on it.  My husband is not usually a fan of feta, but loves this one.  He will even eat it plain as an hors d’oeuvre spread on crackers or French bread.  I have never served this particular brand to any guest who has not loved it! I get it at my local Trader Joe’s.)

Dressing:
Huge dollop of Greek yogurt
Juice of 1/2 a lime or lemon
Two pinches of salt
Couple of turns of fresh ground pepper

Directions:
Chop everything not in the dressing into bite size pieces.  Mix dressing in a small bowl.  Pour over chopped ingredients.  Gently mix, just to coat all the chunky bits.

Enjoy the rich blending of these garden fresh ingredients that shriek…it is summer!

The good news!!!  I have zero gluten reaction to our back yard wine aged in completely wheat free oak barrels, which come from Hungary. I can be tipsy with no stomach cramps, no brain fog, no sick exhaustion.  After two years of abstinence from all wine aged in oak, I can at least drink this.  The trick is learning how to make something I would want to drink.  Hmmm.

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.

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.

 

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.