A Wine Drinker Rambling about Wine

Month: July 2015

Home-School Winelover : Discovering Protocol WineStudio

Being a wine enthusiast, I’m constantly trying to broaden my wine knowledge. I frequently read wine blogs and wine books. And follow various wine bloggers and enthusiasts on twitter. (It always comes back to Twitter with me, doesn’t it!)

I’m a marketer’s dream . . . and ironically, having a degree in Advertising, I guess, I’m my own dream consumer, too.  Ha! Since becoming a stay-at-home mama, it’s good to know my degree isn’t wasted. 

woman on couch


Anyway, one evening while idly scrolling through twitter, I came upon a discussion with the hashtag –  #WineStudio. It was hosted and moderated by Protocol Wine Studio @Protocolwine

Protocol Wine Studio

Protocol Wine Studio

Questions and chatter were being thrown back and forth at a winemaker about their wine, vineyard practices, terrior, and philosophy in real time. Wine banter, jokes and pictures of what was getting eaten with the wine were popping up. (Mention wine/food and I’m paying attention.) There appeared to be a group of enthusiastic wine drinkers, all in different parts of the country, who were simultaneously tasting and sharing their thoughts.

Intrigued, I became a fly on the wall and followed along. The chatter was fun and educational. However, before I knew it, the hour was up and everyone was saying adios and arrivederci with a promise to get back together the following week. Well, to further my homeschooled wine education, I googled Protocol wine and marked my calendar for the next chat.  

It turns out Protocol WineStudio, based in San Diego, CA, offers a virtual wine discussion every week on Tuesday evening and encourages public participation through twitter. It’s only an hour long but often chat goes past the time slot. I’ve connected with some of the most interesting wine people. This group of beginners to professionals is affable and welcoming with the only criteria being you have to like wine.


The format’s simple. A region/vineyard or wine is basically dissected over 4 weeks. At the same time, a Vigneron  or winery owner chats with participants while they taste his/her wine!

Chilean Sun in a Bottle

Chilean Sun in a Bottle


The past month featured Chilean winery Montes Vineyards with Aurelio Montes, Jr. for the first two weeks and Aurelio’s Kaiken Vineyards in Argentina for the second two weeks. 

Kaiken Vines courtesy Kaikenwines.com

Kaiken Vines courtesy Kaikenwines.com


I picked up a bottle of 2014 Montes Classic Series Sauvignon Blanc. It wasn’t the exact wine from Montes being featured but it did give me a sense of Chilean wine and particularly their Sauvignon blanc. 

Montes Sauvingnon Blanc

Montes Sauvingnon Blanc

The Montes Sauvignon Blanc poured clear and lightly golden like a sunrise on a hot summer day. Right away there was a citrus scent tinged with lime. The taste was like biting into a Granny Smith Apple with a lovely tart lemon finish. In the middle, was this wet rock which made me think of what garden rocks might taste like when hosed down in summer. (I might have licked one as kid, but no one can prove that. And I’ve paid my mom to keep mum.) My husband and I have since added several more refreshing bottles to our wine closet. It’s our new summer favorite!

What I learned from the twitter chat was a light lesson in biodynamic wine-growing and that South America may be the next wine powerhouse. My local wine shop connection seems to think so. Ian googled Protocol Wine when I went to pick up my bottle and grilled me on the discussion. He’s a somm who loves talking about wine and, in his opinion, declared Chile to be the next great wine region. Plus, the wine is delicious and incredibly affordable!


Montes VIneyards courtesy of Monteswine.com

The chat spurred me to do a bit of research on biodynamic farming, organic agriculture, Chilean Wine regions and Argentina wine beyond the lovely Malbec. Overall, this homeschooler has prospered in her wine education!  

So I invite you to mark your calendars, carve out the appointed hour, get a babysitter, open a bottle and join the twitter #Winestudio Chat. Besides being interesting and entertaining, it’s a really great pour!


Here’s the scoop!

From the Protocol WineStudio Website:  True Wine Culture

“We are Sommeliers and professionals who are dedicated to the wine trade and all those who support it.  Our goal is to explore expanding dimensions of the wine world to evolve concepts in wine sales and education.

Our philosophy centers around a cultural aesthetic where wine gently glitters from the background and becomes part of a complete social experience—a journey of wine awareness.”

#WineStudio Project: What is #WineStudio?

As with everything, the word evolve always seems to rear it’s changing head. In the most simplest of terms, #WineStudio is an educational program placed on the Twitter platform where we engage our brains and palates. It’s instruction and wine tasting, with discussions on producers, grapes, tourism, terroir, regional culture, food and wine matching and what all this means to us as wine drinkers. We converse and exchange information and at the end of the four-week program, we end knowing so much more than when we started. We’ve also made new contacts, possibly a friend, but always with a sense of  #WineStudio camaraderie. Tuesdays, 6:00pm – 7:00pm PST.

Throw Back Thursday: Ode to Friendship

Today is Throwback Thursday and I’ve decided to write a post about friendship. Because when you “throwback” to old photos that’s what comes up. Plus, I’m a bit sentimental. (Kleenex, please.) So here’s a Shout OUT and a throwback to old friends and new.

A couple throwbacks ago, I posted a picture on twitter from, you guessed it, my wedding day. It was taken moments before I walked down the aisle to marry my beloved. It makes me laugh and not just because I’m wearing a Groucho Marx nose but because of the four girls with me. Those girls are more than bridesmaids. It’s 25 years of  friendship. It’s all that characterizes great friends: laughter, inside jokes, prayers for each other, shared frustrations, love, joy, cried on shoulders, supports during losses, cheerleaders and foot prints from much needed kicks in the butt that only friends can give.


The verse Proverbs 27:17 says “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” To me it’s the definition of friendship. Iron sharpening iron. And we’re always better for it.


Friendship is a funny thing. It can begin from the most tenuous connections. College, work, and most recently social media. Granted, virtual friends are somewhat strangers but through social media great cyber friendships occur. Just like my old friends, they can sharpen life.

In just a few short months I’ve enjoyed jokes, been challenged to get out and run, read inspiring blog posts and expanded my vino tasting experiences all because of virtual friends.

Actually wine has the same effect. It occurs the first time you taste a truly remarkable wine and you’re limited in descriptors for what you’ve just tasted. Vocabulary suddenly becomes important as we grasp to communicate our experience. You start wanting to learn words beyond ‘yummy’.

So I’m thankful for Throwback Thursday. Yes, it’s a marketing twitter trend. But who cares! Anything that reminds me of the iron sharpeners in life is a good thing. Some have had a lasting impact that’s shaped, supported, challenged, encouraged and enriched life. And they age like a well-balanced wine. Perfectly.

wine laugh

So Cheers! And dig out those old pics cause there are some sensational throwbacks!


Rediscovered Wine History & A Really Great Deal

Sometimes, low-risk opportunities turn into invaluable discoveries…

A while back, while scrolling through my emails, I clicked on the latest groupon. It was for a winery tour and tasting at a local vineyard. $15 for two. Tour, wine, food, glasses. $15. My skeptical mind doubted it would be worth it. The hope-fulled, adventurer in me said it was a low-risk opportunity, so I jumped on it. The deal was for Canadian River Vineyards and Winery in Lexington, Oklahoma.

Canadian River Vineyard and Winery

Canadian River Vineyard and Winery


The plan was to go in the spring when the weather was pleasant. However, we’d also been praying for desperately needed rain. And God graciously answered. It rained and rained and rained until the second week of July, breaking a 100 year old record. Most winery and vineyard tours aren’t the best during torrential downpours so the visit was postponed.

The heavens cleared and on a warm Saturday morning, we headed out to experience Oklahoma viticulture.

As the car turned on to Slaughterville Rd., a lush field of vines filled the horizon.

Bushy, beautiful vines!

Bushy, beautiful vines!


Canadian River Vineyard and Winery is a little slice of wine country in Oklahoma. The owner and winemaker, Gene, gave us the tour while we sampled his Chardonnay. It was a refreshing lifeline in the early July heat and humidity.

Bushy, grape-filled Vines.

More bushy, grape-filled Vines.



Gene is really affable and made us feel welcome immediately. He lead us into the sangiovese vines and jumped right into the realities of growing grapes in Oklahoma. It was apparent Gene found having a vineyard in this area a worthwhile pursuit by the way he talked about terrior. Shaded by lush canopy, the grapes were lovely with just a touch of black rot. The abundant rain had made it hard to keep the canopy from getting bushy.



We moved inside to the production barn and on through to the crushpad. Gene explained that the grapes are harvested in August and placed in a freezer to cool overnight. The temperatures on August nights in Oklahoma can hover around 90 degrees. The freezer brings the grapes down to a comfortable pressing temperature.

Tiny Crushpad . . . Big wine.

Crushpad pathway for hot wines!


Gene shared lots of stories as he took us around. Upon graduation from Napa Valley College, he’d wanted to start a vineyard but buying land was costly so he came to Oklahoma. Gene’s son was the winemaker in the beginning. Now his son works as a winemaker for a Napa winery.

Going from red grape press to white grape press, Gene mentioned that Oklahoma had been the fourth largest grape producer (table and wine) in the US in the 1800s until the early 20th century.


Say what!?!  The heartland was once wine country? Be still my wine-enthusiast heart.


I actually did a little research about that comment. An article (click here) published by a professor at Oklahoma State (The rival university. I’m a Sooner. I let that go for the sake of the grapes) confirmed Oklahoma’s prominent grape history. Delaware, Concord and Catawba grapes were grown. Some native vines were instrumental in creating high-quality French-American hybrids. (Oh-la-la, OUi OUi. Sooner Pride showing) Then 1917 and prohibition. And the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. Not to mention, Oklahoma was a dry state till 1959. Ouch, Oklahoma was hit hard. Good-bye grapes.

Back on the tour . . . our last stop was the tasting room.

Veranda to Tasting Room

Veranda to Tasting Room

The winery had been quiet on our arrival but now the veranda was filled with weekenders. Being the first sunny Saturday in a long time, everyone wanted to be outside. That left us inside where we got to chat more with the winemaker. (And taste his delicious wine.)

The hostess, who happens to be the long-time next door neighbor and extremely knowledgeable about the wines, had prepared a wine and food pairing for us. (Her backyard gate opens into the vineyard. Oh to dream . . . )

  • Sauvignon Blanc was crisp citrus paired with cherry tomatoes and basil. Best idea ever.
  • Merlot  paired with olives and pepperoni. The bottle we brought home didn’t last the weekend.
  • Muscat Canelli with creme cheese and pepper jam. Delicious.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon with pepperoni, olives and hard onion cheese.  The cabernet was our favorite but sadly it was currently sold out.


Quick!Take the pic. . . the bottle's almost empty!

Quick!Take the pic. . . the bottle’s almost empty!

Gene told us the new Cabernet was ready to be bottled but there’s a cork shortage. The corks were still sitting on ships in port due to a “slow down”. With orders to be filled and eager wine-drinkers (me) wanting bottles, I offered him my collection of 200 hundred or so corks to get things moving along. Shockingly, he laughed and declined.

On a side note, I’d read about this vineyard in the  book American Wine: The Ultimate Companion to the Wines and Wineries of the United States by Jancis Robinson and Linda Murphy (Click here to order). I’d thought it might be a good idea to visit someday. Especially since it was in a current book by a wine expert. It’s now “a go as often as possible” for me.

Movies at a vineyard: Better than the Drive-In

Movies at a vineyard: Better than the Drive-In

Canadian River Vineyard is a gem in the heartland. There’s lots of weekly family-friendly activities and events. Movies in the vineyard till the late autumn. Happy hour with yard games on Friday and Saturday evenings. In fact, there’s even a Grape Stomp festival in the fall!

Movies at a vineyard: Better than a Drive-In

Movies at a vineyard: Better than a Drive-In

I’m already planning the next visit . . . with or without Cabernet.

Reveling in grape history,


RoadTrip Wine Stops: Bravery Required



The summer break has been speeding by at the rate of a Japanese commuter train. However, I’m still actively plotting wine adventures to take as soon as my little ones return to the Halls of Education.

Road-trippers need peaceful places to unwind.

Road-trippers need peaceful places to unwind.


On our annual trek to the northeast, I took note of all the winery signs that littered the interstate. If only it was possible to just pop in for a half hour. I wanted to leisurely try the wines of Arkansas or Tennessee (I saw signs for them. No joke.) or Virginia. Even going a bit out the way for a winery in southern Delaware. But  traveling with kids, cranky relatives, pets, or distant destinations requiring a steady 90MPH to eat the miles, eliminated casual popping. Or so I thought.


On the way into Virginia I spotted a sign for a winery called Fincastle Vineyard and Winery. It promised a quick 2 miles off I-81 and claimed to be on the “Virginia Wine Trail”. Their words not mine. Exiting the highway, we followed the sign pointing right. It took us to a gravel winding road. Doubts crept in as to whether this was a good idea. Small plots of vines lined the road.


A sign read “Bed and Breakfast”.  My stomach sank. Going farther, a second sign read “Tasting Room” with an arrow to a steep gravel driveway.  We parked, put on the handbrake and sat there paralyzed with apprehension. The place appeared sans guests so if I was about to humiliate my family with trespassing charges, at least there’d be no witnesses.


My husband told me to be brave and get out of the van. I had insisted on this pit stop so I needed to take the lead. Yikes. I’m a follower by nature but maybe the Good Lord was trying to stretch me. SO lead I did.

Fincastle farm

Fincastle Vineyard and Winery is a charming farmhouse with a lovely garden path and outdoor veranda.  The wine, not so charming.  Let’s just say, the dying vines at the property entrance represented the state of the wine.  A nice friend of the family poured a sampling for us. There were 8 different wines. Some sour, some tasteless, one drinkable, one brown and one I’m still not sure was actually from a grape. Not a great start to Virginia Wine Country. But my kids got a needed break while playing with the vineyard dog.


I bought a bottle of  their “Knight’s Tour”. A dry red blend of Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon aged 2 years in oak. Call me crazy but I wanted a souvenir.

Knight Tour Red Wine Blend

Knight Tour Red Wine Blend

During vacation, I followed a twitter virtual tasting hosted by VAWineChat featuring, obviously, a Virginia winery. It made me want to give Virginia another chance. Besides, I’d just driven 6 long hours through the state so there had to be more wineries than the interstate offerings. Google maps put the VAWine Chat winery too far for us to make a detour but I did find a few possibilities.


After a weeklong visit with family, we headed home. The first day of driving was filled with crowded, bumper to bumper interstate traffic. It was a classic rural rush hour.

Rural Virginia !?!

Rural Virginia !?!


After white-knuckling it for 3 hours, I pulled up the list of Virginia wineries. The winechat had given me the courage to bravely seek wine adventure again. There was one requirement: the place had to have 4 out of 5 or more starred reviews only.  This would severely limit the options but traffic had used up my patience. I needed a bit of good wine and peace. 

Weary Travelers, Sit here.

Weary Travelers, Sit here.


Between Staunton and Lexington, Virginia, lies Rockbridge Vineyard. Once again, located 2 miles off  Interstate 81. Beautiful vines cover the hill behind a red barn. There’s a pavilion with picnic tables and porch swings. The wine was good. Yeah, I know I just told the ending before the story. But it was.


RockBridge Vineyard

RockBridge Vineyard

The tasting hostess, Durie, welcomed us warmly. We must have looked road weary because she quickly offered water and restrooms! With each glass poured, she gave us interesting tid-bits about the winery, the winemaker and wine made in Virginia.  It quickly replaced my first less-than-tasteful experience.

The final wines of the tasting were both dessert. Turns out Rockbridge has Ice wine in its line-up. The winemaker has a unique advantage making Ice wine in Virginia.

With most ice wines, the grapes are left on the vines till the first hard freeze then quickly harvested frozen. The grape juice is extracted  like a summer icepop when you suck out all the syrup, leaving the ice behind. The Rockbridge grapes are harvested at peak condition and then trucked to a freezer. Peak condition produces peak flavor.


Wine pairs perfectly with porch swings

Wine pairs perfectly with porch swings


Ice wine is not a favorite of mine, but I bought a bottle because it was that good. Subtle, sweet fruit and well-balanced. It was joined by a bottle of Rockbridge 2011 Cabernet Franc.


RockBridge Cab Franc and IceWine

RockBridge Cab Franc and IceWine


And that’s what I came home with: peak flavor.  The next time in Virginia, we are definitely making an effort to go farther than 2 miles beyond the interstate! The bottle sitting in my fridge tells me it’s worth it!

RB motto


So be brave. Get out of the van. You might just find the next great bottle down that gravel road. I did. Cheers!

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