For better or worse, here I am—trapped in paradise. As long as I continue to live in this vital, inimitable spot on the globe,

I will continue to seek out the unique…the delicious…the innovative products, services and traditions of San Luis Obispo County.

Stay posted for a few of my favorite things.

About Me...

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A wanderlust at heart... captivated by the California Central Coast. Join me on my culinary and vino-infused adventures as I explore and discover the regional novelties of San Luis Obispo County that make living here...easy to stay...and hard to leave.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Day 7 in Switzerland

September 30, 2010

Sometimes you have to let yourself wander. Especially when you’re halfway around the world, far from home, and the grapevines speak to you. Their plump, ripe, fascinating jewels grow silently and magnificently, their alluring beauty calls. When opportunity knocks, you must go to the vines.

During my visit to Rolle, Switzerland, the flourishing grapevines sprawling across the Jura mountain range beckoned. So, on a potentially rainy day, I made the conscious decision to don a backpack with a few simple effects: a notepad, camera, sandwich, bottle of water, and an umbrella. This basic paraphernalia (along with my comfortable walking shoes) provided just what I needed for my day’s destiny exploring the vines. 

Overlooking the lakeside city of Rolle, these rolling green hills, lush with thriving vines and charming cottage-style homes, span several miles of the La Côte wine region of Vaud. The Jura Mountains produce several splendid varietals, predominantly Chasselas, Pinot Noir, and Gamay. Although I’d taken a spectacular car ride a few days previous along the Route duVignoble—a stunning 22-mile drive that stretches along this wine region from Nyon to Lausanne—I needed to experience these vines on foot. 

A workout of the body and visual senses is what I received. After traipsing past the flourishing stalks of corn in Rolle and crossing a busy road, I wandered up the steeping hills, leaving the northern shores and shimmering blue waters of Lac Léman behind me. I ambled up and over to the village of Tartegnin, snapping up pictures of fat, glorious Gamay grapes along the way. This quaint village, also a wine appellation, lies just a stone’s throw from the next charming village I visited—Mont-sur-Rolle.

This neighboring appellation and prestigious wine region also bestowed the opportunity to trek through its never-ending hillside vineyards, where I stumbled upon some of Mont-sur-Rolle's 39 wineries numbering its landscape. Beautiful rows of Chasselas adorned the mountainous terrain; signs pointed in every direction to the charming tasting rooms. Most caveaux are only by appointment, but quite a few open their doors Friday and Saturday evenings. Although I wasn’t able to taste any wine, my journey that day was about the vines. 

At the end of the day I walked back to Rolle feeling as if I’d discovered something rare in this French-speaking region of the world, not knowing if I’d ever have the chance to walk along these vines again. After all, life is short, we get busy, and some opportunities are fleeting.  But I will always remember this day of leisurely exploration and these little-known appellations which remain a mystery to most of the world.

The next time you take a spot of wine for a spin in your glass, as you breathe deep into the trace aromas and sip your way through the gradations of tastes, remember the grapes, remember the vines. Harvest time brings their fate soon enough. The occasion for exploration is brief.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Roll Out the Barrels 2012

The SLO Vintners Association got the summer rolling a few weeks ago with the 22nd Annual Roll Out the Barrels event. This spirituous festival kicked off on a Thursday evening with Barrels in the Plaza, where member wineries and local food purveyors paired up to offer fervent guests sips and bites of their local fare on the historic San Luis Obispo Mission Plaza. Friday evening gave way to a select number of winemaker dinners; then things really got rolling Saturday and Sunday during the Passport to Wine Country Weekend.

Over these two days, SLO Vintner’s member wineries that span the county from Santa Margarita to Arroyo Grande opened their doors to passport holders for wine, food, music, barrel tastings and just plain fun. This lively weekend provided an opportunity for wineries and their attendants to put on their biggest smiles and roll out their enticing new releases.

I looked at these two days as the perfect opportunity to imbibe in some serious wine tasting and late Saturday morning set out on my journey of vinous discovery. Armed with a wristband, wine glass and passport book, I had every intention of scrutinizing each hue, nose, taste and finish that passed my eyes, nose and lips.

But by the end of the weekend my sensibilities and priorities shifted. Although I started out my two-day tasting adventure with a pen and notebook, eventually those tasting tools fell by the wayside. What I realized is simple:  It’s summer and I’m not in a serious mood. I just want to get out and experience the dreamy weather, the stretched rolling green vineyards set against the tawny Santa Lucia Mountains, the fresh air, and let’s not forget…the people. 

What really struck me over these indulgent few days were the amazing people I encountered. I ran into old acquaintances, met some new, and continually found myself in the right place at the right time. And even though I delighted my palate with several new inebriating finds, the real gem lay with rediscovering one of wine’s most fundamental virtues—connecting people with the vital elixir of scent, flavor and merriment.

Here’s to another successful SLO County event. Cheers!

The lavender, surrounding vineyards and rolling Santa Lucia Mountains provided the perfect backdrop at Tolosa Winery on this gorgeous summer day.
The grapevines stretched endlessly from Edna Valley Vineyard.
San Luis Obispo Coastal Wine Trail

I always enjoy the hospitality and pleasant wines of Saucelito Canyon Vineyard and Winery.

The entrance to Chamisal Vineyards.

My top pick for best food bite of the day: the heavenly crostini with smoked bacon, horseradish cream, grape & jicama slaw served with Chamisal's 2009 Estate Pinot Noir. SLO County Chef Maegen Loring paired up appetizers for some of Chamisal's new releases.
Decadent truffles paired with Cabernet Sauvignon at Talley Vineyards was a divine treat. 

I eagerly headed to Wolff Vineyards to try some of their new releases while gazing at striking views of the surrounding Edna Valley region.

Good times at Wolff Vineyards.

Colorful view at Wolff Vineyards.

I stopped at Sextant Wines in Old Edna to try their boutique Zinfandel and Bordeaux style wines.

 The neighborliness hospitality at Sextant Wines can't be beat.

The charming tasting room of Niven Family Wine Estates.

Islay Peak and Madonna Mountain jut out over the sloping vineyards across from Niven Family Wine Estates.

One of my top vinous picks for the weekend: Clesi 2009 Sangiovese, Luna Matta Vineyard Paso Robles 
 Owner/Winemaker Chris Ferrara reminded me, "There is a wine for every occasion."

I ended my tasting adventure in Pismo Beach at the tasting room of Sans Liege.  A pleasant journey into the Rhone zone.

Have a wonderful summer.
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