Entertainment,Event,Food & Wine,Green Valley,Wine,Wine tasting,Winery

Delicious Earth Day at Iron Horse Vineyards in Green Valley, April 27, 2014

Delicious Earth Day at Iron Horse Vineyards in Green Valley, April 27, 2014, is definitely on the list of “things to do.”

Everything out here in California seems delicious right now: the roses are gorgeous and not quite peaking, the days are hitting in low 80s, breezes are carrying the scent of flowers in bloom, and grape vines are just about ready to flower… It’s Mother Earth revisited, and we’re so lucky to be in this Russian River Valley land of wine…

One of my favorite earth people is Joy Sterling. Each year, when Earth Day comes around, Joy gathers wineries that have Green Valley wines, and they all celebrate Earth Day together at her family’s lovely winery. Joy is so accomplished in so many ways; and, each Earth Day is a reminder to us all that her family treasures their responsibility of stewardship for the land that’s been entrusted to them.

Besides the very special wines coming from Green Valley, the deliciousness is going to be delivered by the following food people:

  • Menu by Chef Douglas Keene
    • Korean BBQ Tri Tip with Kimchee Fried Rice, Grilled Shrimp “Yakkitori” with Chilled Asparagus, Ham and Ponzu, and Vientamese Style Chicken Wings with Spicy Bean Sprout Slaw.
  • Trio Ensaladas from the Iron Horse garden
    • Little Gem Lettuce with Caesar Dressing; Egg, Spring Onion and Shaved Fennel Salad with Flat Breads; Redwood Hill Goat Feta Cheese with Baby Greens.
  • Pies from Patisserie Angelica
    • Meyer Lemon Pie with Torched Meringue, Organic Local Strawberry Pie with Tahitian Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream and a Light Glaze; Dark Chocolate Cream Pie with Fresh Local Whipped Cream; Banana Cream Pie with House Made Caramel, Tahitian Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream, Bananas and Fresh Local Whipped Cream.

I’m bringing my appetite… How about you?

This outdoor, festival style, walk around food and wine tasting is featuring Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs from nine Green Valley wineries:

The guest speaker on Sunday is going to be retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. I can hardly wait to meet her. It was her words that saved my sanity, during my early days of entry into the California wine industry. Wanting to get into the wine industry was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. In the midst of that first year, I had to keep telling myself the following quotation of hers, which I had read:

Do the best you can in every task, no matter how unimportant it may seem at the time. No one learns more about a problem than the person at the bottom.

Like all other years in the past, this Earth Day celebration has live music. This year it will by Trio Ellas – “three beautiful, talented young women whose unique sound combines traditional mariachi, romantic boleros, bluegrass and rock.” — Joy Sterling

Large scale sculptures by local artist John Pashilk will be on display… Yes, Joy surrounds herself by artists of every genre, being one herself (former journalist).

Demonstration of water saving aerial drones for agriculture, will be presented by Silicon Valley Robotics.

Tickets available on Cellar Pass.

  • $65 for the main event
  • $300 for the VIP
    • This includes a one-hour meet and greet with Justice O’Connor, at the home of Iron Horse founders Audrey and Barry Sterling.
    • It is limited to 100 guests, and is well worth it, having attended with Jose in the past.



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Santa Cruz,Wine

Santa Cruz Mountains Terroir from Expert Dr. Mark Greenspan ~ Part 2

Skyline Boulevard, along the crest of the Sant...
Image via Wikipedia

My earlier post was Part 1 with Dr. Mark Greenspan, of Advanced Viticulture, about the Santa Cruz Mountains. Today is the rest of my interview with this world renowned expert in Climatology.

[Q] Can you define the Santa Cruz Mountains?

[A] It can be defined with varieties: Two sides of the mountain… anything from a cool climate Pinot to a warm climate Cabernet.

[Q] I’ve heard there’s a lack of frost in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Can you explain that?

[A] The lack of frost in the Santa Cruz Mountains can be explained, because the cool airs drains away and it goes to the valley floor; so, they don’t generally get much frost up there.

There’s a very distinct day/night diurnal – as you go up in elevation. We’ve looked at climates very carefully at two particular locations; one was in Oakville, and one was in Mt. Veeder. Both have identical heat summation degree days, 3,000 (pretty much, plus or minus by 100 every year). But the Santa Cruz Mountains have a very distinct day-night, diurnal temperature pattern. And that’s what makes the difference, because they have a totally different Cabernet in the valley than they have up in the mountains. The same thing’s true with any variety, primarily reds. As you go up in elevation the days are cooler and the nights are warmer. So they don’t get as big a diurnal swing between high and low, day time and night time temperatures.

An old wives’ tale is that you want warm days and cold nights. That came from, I believe, people who were growing wine in warm regions. They have to have a cool night if they have a warm day. But if they have a moderate day, they don’t need that cold night, because the heat that ripens the grapes also metabolizes acids, so they lose acidity. So, if you’re in a hot climate you need that cold night to keep the crispness in the fruit and in the end wine. It can acidulate to some extent, but you really can’t make the same wine from a cooler climate vineyard that you can from a warmer climate.

The mountain gives you that the advantage of both. It gives you the same amount of heat summation, but you don’t get the heat extremes; so that during the day it doesn’t get as hot. And heat can really damage fruit; beyond changing it to the right thing, it can actually damage the fruit giving you off flavors… raisiny characters or cooked characters. The other thing it does, is have that warmer night (and I don’t mean warm, I mean 55-60 degrees, instead of 45 degrees), and the metabolism of the grapes stays active at nighttime. Not as much as it does in the day time when it’s warmer, but it still stays active. I call it night ripening. At that point, it’s not accumulating sugar, because there’s no using photosynthesis at nighttime from the sun. But by keeping the berry metabolism going, you’re maturing tannins and all the flavor compounds are being made, sort of as a by-product of the basic berry metabolism. In effect, it keeps going at night time, and you’re still making those products and ripening grapes at night without bringing in sugar. So, you tend to get riper fruit in the mountains at a lower brix. This gives you, to me, a lot more leeway in the stylistic abilities of that site, because you can go ahead and wait until 26 brix, and you’ll have a really ripe flavor and a really mature tannin. Or you can pick it more at 25 or 24 ½ brix, and still have a ripe tannin, but you’ll have a more delicate style wine.

[Q] What about in the valley?

[A] In the valley, on the other hand, you don’t have that leeway, because you’re waiting and you’re waiting for the tannins to get ripe, when you’re already at 26. By the time you’re at a 25 brix, sugar stops accumulating in the fruit anyway, it just starts dehydrating. It’s just the natural physiology of the grape. It just runs out of gas, and starts to break down basically. You talk about all this “hang time,” and how bad it is, and how all the growers are complaining about it. You have that problem in the valley, but you don’t have near that problem in the hills, assuming you have water available.

So that’s what we’re really finding about mountain climate. That’s probably 90 percent of why that Santa Cruz Mountain appellation has been so successful; whether it’s economically successful; at least viticulturally and ecologically successful to make great wines from the fruit, is because it’s mountain vineyards. If those vineyards were flat, it wouldn’t be the same.

That’s the climate in a nutshell, putting it only into the perspective of temperature. And, I do that all the time because the berry doesn’t know whether if it’s foggy or not, but it reacts to temperature; and then, humidity will have an impact obviously on other things, like disease, more than it would on berry ripening.

So there’s that aspect.

[Q] Are there other aspects that exist about the Santa Cruz Mountains that we haven’t covered?

[A] The other aspects have to do with drainage and generally shallower soils. Shallower soils allow us to control the water better. You find some dry farmed vineyards, but not a lot in California.

[Q] Is it better to just let vines be dry-farmed, and allow all plants to just go down on their own looking for their own water supply to become strong, allowing the plant to find its own water table? Is this the case for a mountain vine?

[A] Not necessary. It could be, but it really depends on the soil. People ask me all the time, “If I irrigate deeply, won’t the roots go down there to get water?” But in the North Coast of California, including the Santa Cruz Mountains (and this primarily refers to the western side of the Santa Cruz Mountains, I don’t know if it’s true on the other side, it may be) we have enough rain fall that we start every year out with plenty of water… Even this year, we had limited rain fall, but it finally did fill up by the end of February. The profile from top to bottom is full of water, it’s not saturated but it’s at field capacity. Right now (this was a Q&A in April) while the vines are dormant, there nothing taking up water except for weeds and cover crops (yet) in the vineyards.

I say the roots are going to grow wherever they can, because we’re in a relatively wet climate. So, irrigation doesn’t change that. What it does is… after that water pool dries up, then all the water it does get, roots that aren’t in a wet zone will go dormant, and we get active roots only where there’s water. So I don’t think you can force roots to go down there in a wetter climate.

[Q] On the mountain how much is top soil and how much is mountain rock?

[A] Generally I think you have more shallow top soil on mountains. Technically there’s probably just a few inches of top soil with some partially decomposed sand stone. It just depends on the local topography and geology. The bottoms of the hills collect water and there’s more soil there; they don’t need to be irrigated. Vineyards with sand stone need more irrigation and fertilization, and it makes more intense wines. As an appellation on the whole, compared to Napa and Sonoma – for instance – you don’t need as much irrigation.

In the Santa Cruz Mountains, you have to think quality, when you’re growing grapes there.

[Q] What about Chardonnay in the Santa Cruz Mountains?

[A] Chardonnay grows in a more diverse and wider range of climates than Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir is very restrictive on the coolest end of the spectrum; whereas, Chardonnay starts about in the middle of the Pinot range ~ and not quite as cold, actually, but you can grow it in much warmer climates. But, if you grow it in a cooler fringe, you’re going to get the most varietal express. Chardonnay grown on the coolest fringe definitely get tremendous varietal expression here is real fruit forward.

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Santa Cruz,Wine

Santa Cruz Mountains Terroir from Expert Dr. Mark Greenspan ~ Part 1

I didn’t know much about the Santa Cruz Mountains until I interviewed Mark Greenspan.

It doesn’t get much better than sitting with someone trained in terroir and viticulture, and Dr. Mark Greenspan, of Advanced Viticulture, is as good as it gets. I wanted to learn about the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA because I attended the World Of Pinot Noir this spring, and sat in on the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA discussion. As people discussed their place on the mountain, I learned that there’s a lot going on in the Santa Cruz Mountains, not much of which I previously knew.

If you read Wine Business Monthly, you’re familiar with Mark’s writings. If you don’t read WBM, Mark has two decades of viticultural scientific research and field experience. He’s provided viticultural leadership to winery estate vineyards and to winery grape suppliers, while managing one of the largest portfolios of viticultural research projects in the private industry sector. Mark has worked side-by-side with leading viticulturists, vineyard managers, winemakers, and agricultural technologists, while keeping closely in touch with academic research.

Mark’s eclectic background includes a Masters degree in Horticulture/Viticulture and a Doctorate in Agricultural Engineering, both from the University of California, Davis. He is one of very few private practitioners who have been elected as an honorary member of Gamma Sigma Delta, the Agricultural Honor Society.

He’s regarded as one of the world’s leading experts in wine grape irrigation and has written scientific and trade journal articles on the subject. In addition to his command of grapevine irrigation practices, he has extensive experience in vineyard mineral nutrition, crop load management, vineyard uniformity, grape maturation, weather, climate, and viticultural technologies.

I was honored to have some of his valuable time to learn about the Santa Cruz Mountains. My intereview with Mark Greenspan follows:

[Q] Santa Cruz Mountains is not like other wine regions. Why?

[A] It doesn’t have a high density of vineyards and wineries, which can either market separately or market together. And in the Santa Cruz Mountains, they don’t have the density. They’re spread out and are few and far between. There’s power in numbers, and if they break it down, there’s only going to be a handful of members in each area. Some vineyards, for instance, have two or three different soils within just one vineyard on one property. There’s a tremendous amount of variability. Different kinds of soils: sand stone, to clay, to loamy soils. There’s a tremendous amount of variability within one property. I always ask why wineries focus on soils so much. I’m more of a climate oriented AVA and terroir believer. I believe climate has much more affect on differences for a region.

[Q] Santa Cruz Mountains is a rather large AVA. How does this work in the AVA scheme of things?

[A] That’s not a bad thing or a good thing. It’s defined partially by elevations, based on which side of the mountain a vineyard is on. That’s how they drew the boundaries. West side, cooler side, it’s a higher/lower (?) elevation than the other side, the warmer side (I think). They adjusted it so that it’s roughly at that level where you could grow grapes, where it’s not too cold (it’s too cold near the ocean). And as you go up the mountain it gets a little warmer and stays a little warmer at night. And, on the inland, eastern side of the mountain, it’s warmer, and they have elevation defined, because as you get to the valley, it’s a lot warmer, and it takes a lot of the characteristics out of the AVA, which is generally a cooler climate region as compared to other AVA regions in the state.

[Q] What are the climates like here?

[A] There are really two distinct climate sides of the mountain: there’s the cooler Pinot Noir side, and there’s the warmer Cabernet side. Obviously there are other varieties that go along with those sides, but there are two distinct climatologies. One is on the eastern side, and has less direct ocean influences, but is more influenced by the San Francisco Bay. This means the air warms more before it gets there and stays warmer. Plus there’s the simple fact that there are two aspects: one is facing east, and one’s facing west.

[Q] Can you explain this really unique region?

[A] The only other region that I can think of that’s similar is the Sonoma Coast, only because it’s a large AVA also and runs along the Pacific Ocean. It really doesn’t have the same elevation, though, but it’s definitely different.

[Q] Tell me about the Santa Cruz Mountains.

[A] The highest point in the Santa Cruz Mountain range is the Loma Prieta Peak at 3,786 feet. The mountains are largely the result of a compressive uplift, caused by a leftward bend of the San Andreas Fault’s geophysical and climatic factors. The appellation encompasses the Santa Cruz Mountain range, from Half Moon Bay in the north, to Mount Madonna in the south. The east and west boundaries are defined by elevation, extending down to 800 feet in the east and 400 feet in the west. This makes it a very unique AVA with this amount of elevation.

The only other AVA I can think of that’s comparable is up in Mendocino in the Yorkville Highlands [between 1,000 and 2,200 feet in elevation], which is defined by elevation also, but doesn’t have as much coastal influences, either.

[Q] What other factors make this region so unique?

[A] I think it’s safe to say that the Santa Cruz Mountain range has two things going for it that define it: one is proximity to the ocean and the second is elevation. It’s really hard to think of another appellation that has those two in such dramatic fashion.

We may not have that appellation anywhere else in the world that has these features.

Other areas that I might question:

  • Atlantic is quite different
  • Europe has very different climate patterns
  • Chile is said to be close to California climate, but they mostly farm on the coastal plains

[Q] There’s talk about regions within the Santa Cruz Mountains. Have you heard about this movement?

[A] No, I haven’t heard about this. Santa Cruz Mountains is probably not nearly as well known as it should be. It needs a good storyteller to get the word out, but not dilute its potential by fragmenting it before the name is instantly synonymous with wine, first. It’s important to keep it as a unified AVA for economic purposes.

Next, Part 2…

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Marketing,Wine,Wine Business,Wine Sales

The difference between marketing and PR

Years ago, I used to wonder a lot about the difference between marketing and PR. These areas of expertise weren’t part of my first post-secondary learnings, so I was pretty perplexed. Sales, marketing, and PR all seemed to be the same thing, because they all fell (and still do) under the same umbrella in the wine business. Enrolling in Santa Rosa Junior College’s wine sales and marketing degree program, which was 60 units of grueling assignments, brought it all home as I worked toward my second career choice in California wine country. All of the studies at the JC are amazing, as it relates to the wine business, because students are learning from seasoned wine professionals.

So, here’s how marketing, sales, and PR go hand-in-hand. Once broken down, it’s quite simple:

The marketing department is the first tab on the flow chart, falling under the Chief Operating Officer and/or President.

Under marketing are sales and PR, as separate entities.


The marketing department prepares everything needed to support sales efforts, which include the following:

  • Research and development ~ Is there a need?
  • Concept ~ Coming up with the story to fulfill the need
  • Design ~ Creating the eye appealing and eye catching materials
  • Sales support ~ from POS (Point of Sale, wholesaler support) to POP (Point of Purchase, consumer interest)


Where PR fits in…

Once all of the above is done, the story has to get out there. This is where public relations comes into play. PR is a branch of the marketing department as a support unit.

  • A PR person, in a smaller company, is assigned to the task of writing the story for all of the above. This person also works as a liaison between the company, organizations, consumers, and media. In smaller companies, all of these tasks may fall into the hands of one PR person, beginning with copy writing.
  • In larger companies, there might be copywriters in the company whose sole job it is is to write; leaving PR to others who work as liaisons between any of the above segments. Perhaps there’s one person to work with organizations, another to work with consumers, and another to work solely with media.

Some PR Departments can be huge, some are comprised of one person. The size of the company dictates the size of all departments.


Once the marketing team has all of its ducks in a row and the PR person has done his or her job, the sales department hits the streets selling the product. The success of the salespeople, after everyone else has done the best he or she is able, sells the product and brings the bacon back to the rest of the team.

These three entities have separate functions, under one heading… Marketing. That said, the success of any company is dependent on these three units also being able to work cohesively in purpose. If they do, this becomes the ultimate success of the company. If they don’t, the company is ultimately doomed to failure.

The importance of understanding interdependence in a wine company

I had one boss in the wine business who literally hated the marketing department. It didn’t matter what we were doing to help this person run the tasting room, she had some quirky burr under her saddle. I realized this when she causally said to me one day, “Everyone knows that we [tasting room staff] are supposed to hate the marketing department.” This was a quick snapshot into understanding that she had never studied business; because if she had, her mind would have been open to working as one unit for the good of the whole.

Each part above, when working properly, feeds off the success of each other, and makes a company as good as it can be in order to accomplish marketing, sales, and PR.

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Event,Wine,Wine Etiquette,Wine tasting

What to wear in wine country

What to wear in wine country is a continual question.

It’s all about wine.

It’s in the country.

It’s very casual around here.

The above defines the term “wine country casual.”

I know it’s really hard to do… the dressing down… Hey, I’m a Yankee, with really really deep Yankee roots. My maiden name is “Clarke.” While I might want to get gussied up, I’ve learned that it’s not worth it around here, unless you want to look like a novice.

  • Grandmother Gertrude Haines Clarke was the daughter of the late Governor William T. Haines of Waterville, Maine, my great grandfather…
  • Great grandmother Patience Blackstone Clarke was the granddaughter of the Reverend William Blackstone, who was sent to the new world by King James to preach the King James version of the Bible. He landed and settled on a piece of property that today we call Beacon Hill and the Boston Commons. My great grandfather (eight generations ago) settled Boston, and then went on to settle Cumberland, Rhode Island.

How much more Yankee and uptight can one get?

Following that tradition, I was a member of the Lewiston Rotary Club (perfect attendance) for two years. With this one I successfully created a community garden, also working in concert with the Lewiston-Auburn Chamber of Commerce. Then, I became a member of the Portland, Maine, Rotary Club (perfect attendance) for five years. With this one, I set up a scholarship for immigrants and refugees through the ESL program at the University of Southern Maine.

Then… I moved to Sonoma County. Oh my God, what culture shock evolved from that move. I lived in business suits during my Maine professional days, and then joined a California Rotary where many of the guys came to the meetings in shorts and tropical shirts. I didn’t last long.

My job as a district sales manager allowed for me to travel all around the US and into Puerto Rico, where people still wore suits. All of the cas living just seemed nuts. Although, as people came to Belvedere, when I was organizing and actualizing their National Sales Meetings, and everyone wanted to know what was appropriate dress wear. “Wine Country Casual” always seemed to be everyone’s answer. It took me years to be able to wrap my mouth around that one, let alone wrap my mind around it.

Now, it’s over 21 years later… I’ve relaxed my mind and my Puritanical thoughts (with the history still being what it is).

Every single event that I put on I’m asked by at least one person, “What’s the dress code.” I find myself constantly answering, “Wine Country Casual” (WCC). It doesn’t matter what the event is, I just know… California’s wine country events have a relaxed state of mind. Being that this state is the sixth largest world’s economy, don’t let WCC fool you, though. People out here are very serious about wine country in an economic sense; but when they’re putting on a gathering, stuffy walls come down, and the casual walls go up.

When you’re planning to attend anything related to the wine business, if it’s black tie, you’ll be told… otherwise, dress down so you’ll blend into the WCC crowd.

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Are you right or left nostriled?

Smelling the wine as part of wine tasting
Image via Wikipedia

Are you? Are you right or left nostriled?

Have you ever noticed that there are some of us who tilt our heads while “doing the nose” on a glass of wine? I know we might look really dorky; but, honestly, this is just elemental for the moment, so we can get the most from that glass. Every now and then it’s really nice to simply slow down and smell the roses ~ In this case, it might be a Rosé, a Viognier, or even a Cabernet.

Those of us who do this head-tilt-thing, we’ve deliberately cast off all ills of the world, throwing all caution to the wind, for just a little bit. It might even be recharging our batteries, so we can resume getting back to business… We have the intent of receiving the absolute most from the aromas of the wine. As funny as we may sometimes appear in the process, to those who have yet to try it, we’re like bees sucking life giving nectar out of a flower.

Since our noses are the primary key to getting the most from enjoying a glass of wine… long before we even think about it, or it ever hits our palates… we just want to breathe in all that sumptuous nectar delivered by the alchemist wine gods.

Have you ever tried it? If not, give it a whirl. (Bad pun, I know.)

Swirl your wine, first, really get it going.

Then, if you’re right handed, use your right, nose-head tilt.

If you’re left handed, use your left, nose-head tilt.

Now, breathe in deeply for as long as you can. See if the lemon, toasty, smokey almonds, or – with a red – black or blueberries are accentuated. Later, just try your entire nose, and reflect on the experience before… See if it works for you.

Maybe it has to do with a mind think of Pranayama, where we naturally extend and draw out each breath, to maximize the sense of smell… Maybe we love too much, but… the end results are glorious.

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Art in Wine,Food & Wine,Travel,Wine

Seamless… art, food, and wine… in one Santurce location

The first time I went to Puerto Rico, my three children were pretty young. My mother-in-law Mami Ana wanted José, the girls, and me to come to her Puerto Rico to stay with her. I fought it, it was the dead of winter in Maine. Packing three kids was hard enough in the summer, and what was I going to do with my cat… Each excuse got dumber than the one before it. She offered flights for each of us and housing when we got there… Not to mention the cultural experiences that were being presented.

As a mother-in-law has a right to ask, she queried, “What the matter with you!”

Ah, what was the matter with me? So, I begrudgingly packed our bags, and my mother took my cat for the week. Off we went… the flight was easy, I just nursed Lyla for about eight hours.

As it now turns out, her ears easily get plugged on flights, so I was helping with the pain in her ears. She wasn’t one of those kids who cried for the entire flight… And those who raised their eyebrows now had smiles as we deplaned.

Getting off the ramp and into the airport was the signal of things to come. We left below zero weather in Maine to walk into 80 degrees at 8:00 p.m., no walls in the airport at that time, and palm trees were swaying with tropical evening breezes. I thought to myself, “I could live here.”

My mother-in-law allowed  us to do anything we wanted to do, and beach was heavily on the agenda. We went to El Morro and Old San Juan. We drove the the south end of the island, to the town of Ponce. Here we visited the Museo de Arte de Ponce [Above]. Mami Ana topped that off with a couple of days in the Condado Beach area, staying at the Dupont Plaza Hotel. This was a few years before the New Year’s Eve fire in 1986, that destroyed it.

She sealed my fate. I would forever and ever love and yearn for Puerto Rico.

José and I just returned for a week…. to lay his dad to rest, and to live, love, and learn even more about his tropical island. José was born in Santurce, San Juan, PR. For our last two visits, we have rented an apartment in the Condado area. As we were driving around this time, I spotted an art museum within walking distance. We ditched the car for the last day, because we were just minutes from the beach. Since we had only walked the beach, but not soaked in the sunshine, this seemed like a great last day thing to do. With dinner at a restaurant being our final destination. But, something changed, having seen the art museum. I just couldn’t get it out of my head, so I told José that I’d like to go to find the museum first. He took it to The Google, and we discovered that it was easily within walking distance… the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico [Above]. As it turned out, we were just missing an Gustav Klimt exhibit… Sigh…

What we did find, however, is a credit to the Puerto Rican culture… Seamless… art, food, and wine… in one Santurce location. Rules: Backpacks checked in in the reception area. No cameras inside of any of the exhibit halls; but in main hallways, it was okay. The Botanical Gardens are open to photography. So is the restaurant.

José and I were off and running. We had explored the first floor, and I wanted to go into the gardens. Being given permission to photograph anything that I wanted to, it was a heyday for me. We were outside for the rest of the morning, and then returned to slowly finish viewing the museum’s art… which we did. Breathtaking and to be in José’s town of birth, priceless. By the end of seeing all that we had wanted to see, we were both famished. We traded in our desire to go out to dinner, by choosing to eat in the museum’s restaurant… and this is what this blog post is all about. (Sorry for the long intro, but none of what I’m going to write would be as rich in content, if you hadn’t read this back story.)


Kitchen | Art Bar

Here we found all that Chef Mario Pagán promises on his website: “Nuevo Caribe Cuisine,” concept inspired by the plethora of fresh ingredients available year round in our beautiful island. Queen Snappers from our southern coasts, butter avocados from the north, handcrafted cheeses and other local delights make for an enticing and intriguing menu.

Yeah… no kidding, and little did we know… Chef Pagan from the Food Network:

Locally recognized as one of Puerto Rico’s best chefs, Mario Pagán has two of the finest restaurants in San Juan: Chayote and Lemongrass. His third restaurant, Laurel, will open in October in the Museum of Art in San Juan. Mario’s passion for cooking began while watching his mother prepare meals rooted in Caribbean cuisine in his San Juan childhood home.

A lush tropical view greeted us, from where we were sitting… to my left and to José’s right… on their terrace overlooking the Botanical Gardens. Inside, every inch and detail of the restaurant was artfully designed. (We were later told by the apartment’s manager that this is one of the finest restaurants on the island. It’s got my vote.) I was fascinated by the back interior wall, which was done in layers. Decor was tastefully Zen. The stage was set for our palates.

Chef – Owner: Mario Pagán ~ Manager: Paola Ramos

We toasted Puerto Rico with an imported Prosecco, while we read the menu. As I waited, a little basket of bread was brought to our table. José’s been avoiding all breads, so I thought I’d be just fine with what was presented. I used a tiny bit of butter on the “just baked” bread, and thought I had died and gone to heaven. I spent many years making my family’s own bread, trying several different kinds of bread, always returning to a favorite… I know bread and this bread was the finest I have ever tasted in all of my years of living. It was so light and delectable that it clearly takes bread to an art form. OMG… I told our wait server how much I loved it, and she went back into the kitchen to have more baked… We were in for the long haul. When the second serving arrived, I had to have José take just one taste, which wasn’t really enough… Screw the Paleo diet, this bread was heaven in layers of deliciousness. José threw caution to the wind, as we finished our Prosecco and bread.

A gastronomic menu to delight our sense of taste… Appetizers:

  • I had the “My Chicken Cracklings, Malt Lemon Grass Syrup, Toasted Coriander” ~ with a Torrontés (South American) [Above]
  • José had the “Berkshire Short Ribs, Red Cabbage Green mango Slaw” ~ with a Zinfandel (CA)

Between the wines, bread, and appetizers, we were over-the-top full, and realized that we wouldn’t be going anywhere with our last night. We finished with Cappuccinos and a delicious little complementary beignet…

The exercise of walking back to the apartment and savoring the finest meal on the island was just settling in, while I was, again, still thinking that I could move to Puerto Rico and be just fine… Seamless… art, food, and wine…

I still can’t believe that I didn’t write down the producers of the wines we were having. It was our last night. I was on overload with the ambiance and all of the sights I had just seen, both within and outside in the gardens, that writing just wasn’t on my agenda. Photographing was, but writing would take way too much away from the moment… I did know that I wanted to bring all of the thoughts back with me, because there was one overriding thought… For me, there is no better way to enjoy the arts, than with a museum, a glass of great wine, and some artful gastronomic dishes. It just brings everything together in one place, and Chef Owner Mario Pagán has stuck a fine chord realizing his dream, while maintaining mine of being back again in Puerto Rico.

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Organic wines and a bird defect

I just don’t get out much lately. I’ve got so many things to do that joining others… taking that precious time… has been eluding me for a while.

Jose and I just made the time, with our friend Sue Straight (Wine Wench) and her friend Mindy Joyce, to taste 17 imported organic wines. What a breath of fresh air it was, and how very, very insightful.

As we tasted through the wines, discussed them, told stories, and discussed what the wines were like… right down to which actor best represented the wines (that was my doing, once one hit me as a character… like a great character actor). I do have to say, there was not one Jack Nicholson in the house.

The greatest gift we can give to this evening, I believe that we’d go on and on with whatever we were tasting and talking about, and then someone would pop up with, “I can’t believe these wines are also organic.” The thought that organic wines can’t be as superior to, if not better than, their non-organic compatriots was enough to occasionally stop us dead in our track and agree that “organic,” for all intents and purposes, just isn’t a flavor issue… If anything, they’re better, because we know that the practices to bring these wines to us are much more pure in intent, in practice, and better received by our bodies.

Yeah.. I’m a health nut (pistachio), and very pleased with the life choices I’ve made in this regard. My dentist just told me everything I needed to know… She told me in what great condition my mouth is… whatever I’m doing, it’s really working. My physician also doesn’t expect to see much of me, because everything is better than it should be. Why? Organics matter… They really matter.

Don’t even say GMO to me…

So, here we were, tasting wine on a late Friday afternoon; all imports, all organic, and for me… very amazing.

Price points? All so reasonably priced, these wines are ones worth sharing.

I’m going to list them, give you a few adjectives, and tell you who they’re like for characters… You’ll have fun with rest, and decide who you’d like to drink in for the night. (Next blog posting…)

See if you can find the bird defect…

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IMHO,Wine,Wine Business

How about you, girlfriend? Are you into wine, too?

Ah, the use of the word “girlfriend.” How about you, girlfriend? Are you into wine, too? is easy to now ask.

This has the potential to put some guys on edge, I just realized. A gentleman on Facebook recently wanted to know when “girlfriend” had become main stream for women. This person is a perfect gentleman in all ways, so I can see him asking the question… “Like, when did it happen?”

Well, I can’t blame him. For years we went from not wanting to be called “girls” to wanting to be called “women.” And, don’t even try that “ladies” thing on us. That’s the kiss of death, man. Honestly, I’d say — but remember, it’s internally a womano-y-womano thing — it’s since we’ve now found a fun voice.

Think about it… and I even did this in the 60s with certain guys… “How’s it goin, man?”  Well, there you are; men easily calling each other “man” for a very long time…

  • Women have easily been calling each other “girlfriends” for a very long time. And, we’ve had boyfriends.
  • Some guys have “girlfriends;” and some have “boyfriends;” but, the latter denotes a hookup.
  • So, not all guys have boyfriends, and the ones who do use it in a personal, not a professional way ….
  • But, we girlfriends, which we’ve always had, are a bit behind the times in that kind of business camaraderie, but not socially.

And, that’s what it is… We’re a step behind catching up in the business world; but, we’re getting there, too.

Hell, we just got the right to vote with the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920… Nearly 100 years later, we can now be professional girl friends.

WIKI: (Amendment XIX -  to the United States Constitution prohibits any United States citizen from being denied the right to vote on the basis of sex. It was ratified on August 18, 1920.)

We then got ourselves into civic clubs in the 1980s, that had been here-to-fore denying women access… Membership discrimination in California social clubs

Like Rotary, for instance, in the early 1980s… I was happy to be one of the first women to sit on committees, and then to be the first woman on my club’s board of directors… This paved the way for other women to join. Today’s women don’t have to prove themselves anymore, like I had to, as being capable of doing what they’re doing. I had one guy push me against the wall so hard I was ready to quit. I went to Dom Tardiff and told him I had had enough. He said, “You can’t quit now. That’s exactly what he wants. He wants to say, ‘See, they can’t take it.’” Yeah, it was that hard.

It’s no longer about feminism, though; it’s now about credentials… And, you’d darn well better believe that we also had to have the credentials to go along with our really hard heads.

Now, we’re just now learning how to slap backs.

So, how about you, girlfriend? Are you into wine, too? 



Do you ever wonder, “Why do imports seem to cost less than domestic wines?”

Here are some thoughts…

Do you ever wonder, “Why do imports seem to cost less than domestic wines?”

Each day I analyze who’s clicking onto my blog, from aggregated sources. I found my story, the one about Marlene Rossman, an extraordinary wine writing talent, coming through to be from BabyBoomerKnowledgeCenter.com.

I re-read the story and noticed a comment at the bottom of it. Given the nature of the question, it was unlikely that the publisher of the site was going to be able to answer it. There was a total disconnect to the site’s genre ability. … Honestly, at the time, had I not been in the wine business for over 16 years, I wouldn’t have been able to answer it, either. (No harm, no foul.)

For me, it actually took working with Delfim Costa of Enoforum Wines, based in Évora, Portugal to even begin to have an answer to the question.

QUESTION from Terry:

Visiting France a few years ago, I was pleasantly surprised to see wine priced very reasonably. For $5-$10 you could buy quality which would cost you double that in the U.S. Some say wine here, both imported and domestic, is overpriced in general, at least compared to Europe. Is that true?

ANSWER from Jo:

…It’s not that wine is over-priced in the US. I wrote a blog on the cost of a bottle of wine. The Cost of a $50 Bottle of Wine

The breakdown is staggering for the fees associated with producing a bottle of wine. It’s priced fairly in the US (mostly), given the stream of people who must be paid within that system.

What causes imports to be less expensive is that the cost of living for land, supplies, and labor in other countries is less; consequently, it costs less to make that bottle of wine.

The next consideration is the costs involved in importing the wine… the licenses, the taxes, the transportation, the storage of it, and now the sales and marketing to support in the US… But it still remains less by comparison. (It costs more to live here than most places where wine is produced in the world, right?)

You can always travel the world to get your less (cost of living) expensive wine, but now you have all the expenses of going abroad. It’s cheaper, in the long run, to let the pros bring it into our country, but it’s definitely more fun to go get it yourself.

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