Connect & Create
At the annual Wine Bloggers Conference, this year held in Santa Rosa from November 9-12, the main topic of major concern were the recent North Bay wildfires most notably in Mendocino, Napa and Sonoma County. The city of Santa Rosa in Sonoma County experienced the Tubb’s fire at its northern edge as it swept through the residential areas of Coffey Park and Fountaingrove, causing devastation and loss of life. In Napa County and Sonoma County, the Nun’s fire ravaged the countryside and further casualties, as well as the separate Atlas fire in Napa and the Redwood Valley in Mendocino. It has been only six weeks since the first fire started late on Sunday, October 8, and continued for three weeks as firefighters focused initially on evacuation before being fully contained. Wine Country residents are gradually coming to terms with the catastrophe that consumed them but are determined to move forward and save their national treasure.
With Spanish wine, my mind generally leaps to full bodied reds that reflect the heat and terroir of this complex region. At the 2017 Wine Bloggers Conference in Santa Rosa, one of the wine discovery sessions showcased a relatively new DO that tested my tastebuds and assumptions. Far to the west within this great country, Rías Baixas in Galicia sits north of Portugal, soaking up the cool moistness of the Atlantic on its rugged, granite base. The name Rías Baixas is Galician for “Lower Rias” and refers to the five main rivers, whose water carve out the mineral-rich alluvial topsoil before mixing fresh with saline.
I admit that the Santa Barbara Wine Country near the Californian coast was always a bit of a mystery to me. It took a 5 hour car journey from the San Francisco Bay Area and a conveniently located Wine Bloggers Conference in Buellton for me to really appreciate this enigmatic gem of a wine destination. Santa Barbara Wine Country sits between San Francisco and Los Angeles and about forty miles NW of the coastal city of Santa Barbara. The coastal mountains unusually transverse East to West instead of the the typical North to South coastal ridge seen elsewhere along this Western stretch of California. This geology allows the climatic Pacific breeze to penetrate deeper inland and provide a cooler and longer growing season for the perfectly positioned Santa Barbara Wine Country. The resulting style for both the red and whites is generally a more sophisticated glass of wine. Unsurprisingly, it is the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grape that seem to enjoy these slightly cooler growing conditions and the marine-calcium rich soils that lend the wine a certain elegance. If I were to take away from the wine conference one recommended Pinot and one Chardonnay it would be the Hilliard Bruce 2010 ‘Sun’ Pinot Noir ($55 approx) and the Alma Rosa 2010 ‘El Jabalí’ Chardonnay ($28), both from the Santa Rita Hills AVA in Santa Barbara Wine Country. I matched the Alma Rosa Chardonnay with a chicken and peach skewer recipe I created a little while back - see the blog post. The Hilliard Bruce Pinot went down so well with another Jambip food creation - my blackberry and basil pork with couscous - I actually forgot to immortalize it via a photo. Fortunately, I have a lasting memory of an evening tour around this unique winery where John Hilliard’s dedication to vineyard quality and SIP certification and Christine Bruce’s passion for perfection are unsurpassed. This talented partnership follows through into an incredible bottle of wine.
My first home-made Christmas card using Illustrator and InDesign was a fun way to start the holiday festivities. Combine this with the long-standing British tradition of feeding the thirsty Christmas cake with rum certainly helped dust down those festive feelings. Click on the pdf link for access: xmas card front design or check out the image below. Happy Holidays to you!
Wine consumption is an excuse to make maps or maybe it’s the other way around. Whichever, if you fancy a wine crawl along Carmel Valley to explore the nineteen or so wineries then these maps may prove useful. A copy of my one page Carmel Valley Wine Route printable .pdf is also available.