Life List Progress #8: Become knowledgeable about wine.

I like wine, but I always feel like I don’t really “know” wine. I’m a “what bottle can I pick up for $10 that will taste good” kind of girl. I want to learn more about wine, so that I feel like I know what I’m talking about when I say I like or don’t like a wine. For our one year anniversary, we did a trip to Central Virginia (yay, vacations!). There are tons of wineries in Virginia now, and we signed up for a wine tour. It was awesome, Chris with Arcady Wine Tours picked us up at our B&B and drove us to 4 wineries (the driving was key – because after 4 tastings, we were a little tipsy). As he drove us around, he told us about the various grape varieties, what grows in Virginia, and how wine is made. I learned so much!

baby grapes

I learned that Cabernet Franc and Viogniers are grapes that grow very well in Virginia – and both are fairly uncommon wines (Cabernet Franc is usually blended in with other red grapes, but in Virginia you see it as a stand alone).

I learned that wine-making is about controlling the sugar in the grapes. A dry wine has 0% of its sugars remaining, while an off-dry has 1-3%. (Super handy for me to know as I like my wines a little sweeter.)

I learned that dessert wines can be made by freezing the grapes to remove water and concentrate the sugars (ice wine style) or by sun drying the grapes (vin de paille style).

I learned that tannins are what make me pucker when I drink certain wines (not so much a fan of tannins).

I learned that what I don’t like about Chardonnay is the oakiness – and that in Virginia a lot of the Chardonnays are made in stainless steel or neutral oak barrels (and I like them more).

We went to four wineries, and bought a bottle of wine at each.

Our favorite was the first, King Family Vineyard, owned by a family from Texas (look at those antlers!), with a polo field on site. You can do there on the weekend to watch polo, eat a picnic lunch, and drink wine. We ended up buying two bottles of wine there – a Rose (which neither of us usually likes, but really did here) and a bottle of really yummy Port.

Tasting Room at King Family Vineyards

The next vineyard we went to was Pollak Vineyards, and it was probably our least favorite. The tasting room didn’t have much personality (The owners of Pollak still live back in the Midwest, and you could really feel the difference between that hands off approach and King Family where we saw both of the owners while we were there). The surrounding area was really very pretty though! We bought a Viognier.

Tasting Room at Pollak Vineyards

Winery number 3 was Veritas Vineyards, which was the largest of the wineries we visited. There’s was the only wine I had had before our wine tour, so that was neat. Their tasting room had a little more personality and the grounds were gorgeous and there were chickens! They do concerts at the winery in the summer, and I can imagine that it is a pretty dreamy way to spend an evening. Chris served us a cheese plate here, which was tasty and a really lovely way to spend an hour or so. We bought a Viognier.

Veritas Tasting Room

Chickens at Veritas

The View at Veritas

The final winery of our tour was Cardinal Point, and at this point I was a little tipsy, so I forgot to take pictures. Oops. It was the smallest and least fancy of the 4, but I liked it a lot. The woman who was working in the tasting room was wearing overalls, which immediately endeared her to me. (I went to college in Central Virginia, and spent a good amount of time in overalls.) We bought a Cabernet Franc – we hadn’t bought any reds yet, and we liked the idea of getting a “only in Virginia” type of wine.

I’m not crossing this off my Life List, I don’t feel as if I know as much about wine as I’d like to, but I made some progress last week and had a lot of fun in the process!

Life List Progress #8: Become knowledgeable about wine.

April Round-up

I read 14 books in April, 4 non-fiction and 10 fiction.

Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear. This is the second book in the Maisie Dobbs series. Dobbs is a private investigator based in London and the books take place in the period between the first and second World Wars (a time period I find especially interesting).

Michael Tolliver Lives by Armistead Maupin. I loved, loved, loved the Tales of the City series when I first read them (and the PBS miniseries too), but I never got into this book. It was nice to catch up with known and beloved characters, but I felt like the sex was gratuitous (which I never felt like in the original series). Perhaps I am just getting old.

Sweet Mandarin: The Courageous True Story of Three Generations of Chinese Women and Their Journey from East to West by Helen Tse. A family memoir of sorts, following the Tse family from rural China to Hong Kong to England. The family started out in the soy sauce business, the author’s grandmother worked as a household servant/cook in Hong Kong, and then 3 generations of the family have owned restaurants in England, so there is a lot of food mixed in with the family lore. If you like Amy Tan, you will probably like this book.

Still Life by Louise Penny. A book blog that I like, Quirky Girls Read, introduced me to Louise Penny, and I’m glad I gave her a try. This is a well-written and engaging story set in small town Quebec. I can see why Penny has won so many Agatha awards (and if smart mysteries that aren’t full of gore are your cup of tea too, then I recommend checking out that awards list!)

Sheer Folly by Carola Dunn. Getting to the end of the Daisy Dalrymple series – there’s only one more after this (so far). In this book, Daisy must solve a mystery at a country estate where she has gone to write an article (this describes about half of the Dalrymple mysteries!). I have really been concentrating this year on reading for enjoyment, and that explains the abundance of mysteries on my Round-ups.

Opting Out?: Why Women Really Quit Careers and Head Home by Pamela Stone. This was my book club’s pick of the month, and a book I enjoyed more in retrospect than in actual reading. It’s definitely an academic text, the author did qualitative research on women who left high-powered careers in law, business, etc. to be stay at home mothers. While this group of women was famously called the “Opt Out Revolution” by the New York Times, Stone found that many of the women were “pushed out” by family-unfriendly policies. This is a pretty small group of women, and obviously a relatively privileged group of women (most workplaces aren’t family-friendly, but most women aren’t able financially to stay home). This made the women sometimes hard for me to relate to, but I think is helpful in determining what would make a workplace more family friendly – mostly more flexibility (flexible schedules, allowing teleworking, and encouraging more part-time work). As a woman who hopes to have a child and continue working, it was interesting to think about – and great to discuss at book club!

Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War by Annia Ciezadlo. This was my favorite book of April. If you like memoirs, definitely pick this one up. Ciezadlo is an American journalist who marries a Lebanese journalist and then spends the early years of their marriage in Baghdad and Beirut. She really does a great job of both showing what it was like to live in a war-zone and making you see what ordinary life is like in these cities – and she will make you crave Middle Eastern food something awful!

Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol. A good YA graphic novel about a girl who acquires her own ghost after falling in a hole in a local park. At first the ghost seems to be a benevolent being, but she gets more sinister as Anya gets to know her.

Monkey and Elephant’s Worst Fight Ever! by Michael Townsend. Children’s book about misunderstandings between best friends. Perfect for the preschool set.

Translucent, Volume 1 by Kazuhiro Okamoto. Manga about a girl with “translucent syndrome”, a (fictional) disease in which the individual gets more and more translucent, until they can’t be seen. Provides a good metaphor about difference and fitting in.

Lila and Ecco’s Do-It-Yourself Comics Club by Willow Dawson. A graphic novel guide to creating your own comics. More a reference book than one you’d want to just sit down and read.

The Odyssey by Gareth Hinds. Hinds has done a number of graphic novel adaptations of classics (King Lear, Beowulf, etc.), but I think this is truly his best – an epic graphic novel to match Homer’s epic poem. Worth reading.

April Round-up


walter loves the dog bed.

Our beloved Walter went to kitty heaven a week ago today. He was 14 (we think) and had lived with Jami for 11 years, arriving unexpectedly and never leaving. He was the most loving cat I’ve ever met. He loved to be near you or on you. Within 5 minutes of meeting you, he would be on your lap, snuggling in. Everyone was his best friend. He loved open windows and would sit on the back of the couch, watching the world go by. He slept in my arms many nights, including the night before we had to put him to sleep – an absolutely heart-wrenching decision I have never had to make before. I am so grateful to his vet who was luckily working on a Saturday and who helped us understand what his kidney failure meant. He was the best cat, my own personal heater in winter, as energetic and happy-go-lucky as a kitten up to about a month before he died. It seems hard to believe that he’s gone.