Just the Bottle

One woman's adventure in beer, food, wine and spirits

Filtering by Category: travel

Transparency at Portal del Montsant

"Don't follow trends" is part of the ethos of Portal del Montsant. Their story begins in 2003 after finding the perfect space that once housed the old Marcá wine cooperative. 

The majority  - 95% - of their wine production is Garnacha and Cariñena. Portal del Montsant sources from small plots of land they consider their "crus." The plots produce different expressions through their soil (clay, chalk, and sand), elevation (ranging from 700-800 meters), and age of vines (average of 60 years old). Generally, they practice organic winemaking and growing, but aren't certified. These factors among their desire to produce wines they would enjoy create something special. 

Portal del Montsant produces around 250,000 bottles per year with 85%-90% remaining within the Spanish market. 

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Santbru Vinyes Velles

The Portal del Montsant Santbru Vinyes Velles was one of the stand out wines to me that I also purchased. I sampled the 2013 within their gorgeous space and purchased the 2014 to bring home. The 2014 paired perfectly with the delicious lamb paella my significant other made upon my return. It recently received 90 point rating in Wine Enthusiast. There is an earthiness that is almost smoky to me that came through with spicy red fruit. 

These are not wines to sleep on especially considering the limited export market. If you do find the Santbru especially the very enjoyable 2014 vintage, perhaps have more restraint than me and allow it to age some. I can only imagine what this wine will taste like in the next 5 years, which perhaps leads me to planning my next trip to Spain again soon. 

Live a little more!

During the Wine Bloggers Conference in Santa Rosa last year, there were two post conference excursions to choose from - Napa and Livermore. Both seemed like great options, but Livermore intrigued me. I didn't know much about the area, the wine, or the history. I went with Livermore and returned to DC with love for a new part of California.

As we departed Santa Rosa on a gloomy day after our conference concluded, we were greeted by an amazing team from Livermore Valley who along with serving us sparkling wine promised us sunshine, wine and a non pretentious, but informative wine trip. As we drove past Oakland and San Francisco, the clouds gradually melted away.

We entered a world that is growing in reputation as a place to visit for so many things like wine, food and even ice cream.  Every winery we visited had great value wines along with a unique story or passion that drove the owners or winemakers. One winemaker I met, shared how he was previously in construction and kept getting laid off from jobs or the pay would be sporadic. This spurred him to pursue a degree in oenology, and follow his dream. Another winery owner shared how she had been a pilot with an airline that went under. She decided she would rather be closer to her family and be in control of her own destiny.

These stories of work and determination led to a very genuine and thoughtful experience. Even though this was my first trip to California, I felt as if I were visiting home. Every person greeted me or treated me as more of a family guest as opposed to a tourist. 

If you are planning a California adventure especially one with wine, I would strongly urge you to visit Livermore Valley area. The wines and people have a story to share and it's one worth getting to know.

California Dreaming

I discovered the #winelover community through an ambassador who spoke highly of the group. There's a blog, hashtag on Twitter, but most of the online conversation occurs in a public Facebook page. It serves as a jumping off point for many when it comes to travel, sharing their love of wine, or asking questions. Besides the online discussion, they also organize various trips. I was lucky enough to go the Athens trip a couple years ago and met Tomilsav. Once I knew he was planning a special #winelover trip and conference on an indigenous Serbian variety, Prokupac, I was SOLD. Luckily, I have my special fella who loves wine and travel as much if not more than me. He was on board this time so I had someone else to participate in my silliness and adventures.

The #winelover trip always opens with a special BYOB dinner. This dinner is designed for us to bring something special and share it with others before we truly begin our trip within the region. Last time, I brought Chester Gap Cellars from Virginia. Many of the other #winelover-s are located within Europe and were quite surprised and astounded by a Virginia wine. However, before this trip I was torn. What do I bring as something special this trip?

Before we left, I stopped by Zachys DC location with the fella as he had purchased some wine from one of their recent tasting experiences. While there I talked with Tim about our desire to bring something special and being at a loss for ideas and time. He said, "why not a Napa or  Sonoma wine?" Zachys has set themselves apart by hosting a California Strong Initiative with the goal of raising $25,000 to be distributed equally among three initiatives. It was like a light went off.  We bought two California wines to the BYOB dinner Hirsch Vineyards Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast San Adreas Fault 2014 and Matthiasson Chardonnay.

Both wines were a huge hit as I also included why I brought them and why people should care about #SonomaStrong and #NapaStrong. A new friend who runs Wines of Balkans tweeted out the Hirsch wine and encouraged people to buy and donate to various charities.

I was so excited to see that I'll have the opportunity again to taste Matthiasson during the Wine Bloggers Conference as part of the live wine blogging experience. I'm looking forward to chatting with them to learn more about their wines and sharing the love I experienced for their wine while in Serbia.

I've only been home about two weeks, but I'm ready to get back on that plane (not really, but Xanax helps) and learn more about honing my writing, networking, and sharing the Napa and Sonoma love.  

 

Why I am going to Wine Bloggers Conference

I have debated for years attending the Wine Bloggers Conference. Numerous friends and wine writing/loving aficionados have gone and highly recommended, but I waited. There was always an excuse or reason. Well, one year there was a real reason that involved two amazing friends who got married and I needed to consume all the things at their open bar and help punch open a manatee pinata. But this year with a deadline approaching I finally said do it (after numerous texts, emails, gchats with friends telling me to as well).

On the day the scholarship application was due, I filled it out. I almost decided through imposter syndrome that I wouldn't be selected. Did I have enough followers? My dad reads my blog (hi dad) and my grandma reads it when someone prints it out for her. But, who else? Does it have real influence? Can I prove such influence? 

Days went by. I remained somewhat hopeful, but decided I probably wouldn't get it. With certain issues pending in my life, I figured I wouldn't make it without the scholarship. Another year would pass with promise of attending and me not going. My life is cliche of good intentions paving the road to Hell (along with beer, wine and cheese paving that delicious road).

I found out eventually I had won a scholarship! I shared this great news with trepidation again. After talks with many it finally hit me - I deserved this and it was a great honor. 

Having engaged in nonprofit fundraising and fundraising for causes I care about, I realize the importance of donors. Donors to the scholarship fund were able to help me and many others have the ability to travel, stay and attend the Wine Bloggers Conference. I am truly grateful for their generosity and hope to return the favor to others in coming years.

As my anxiety of flying and travel comes and goes, my excitement builds for what lies ahead. This conference is known for helping many to hone their skills and build amazing connections. I am looking forward to so many things! Besides meeting so many people I have engaged with through social media, I am really interested in many of the sessions. 

"The Ethics of Wine Writing" should hopefully be a truly honest and insightful debate over ethics. When I worked in prospect research, I attended a similar session on how to ethically research people and engage them. Ethics is something that I feel evolves over time and I always love to debate the policies people set and why.

"Lights, Camera, Action!" will be another important session with much to learn. Tanisha Townsend and Sarita Cheaves among others will be panelists. Tanisha has been a pioneer in video and wine. She has continued to perfect lighting, content and more. I know I can get a lot of useful information for my own blog from the speakers.

I hope you continue to read and follow me through my social media accounts (Twitter:  @justthebottle and IG: @justthebottle) for my Wine Bloggers Conference fun along with my upcoming European experience through Belgrade with #winelover, Budapest, and Vienna.

I will try to follow my grandfather's advice for life and for my adventures. My paternal grandfather passed this year in March after I returned from Cuba. He had a sharp tongue and wit. He once told, "try to be a good girl...but it's not an absolute necessity." I think I will lean on the latter.

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Flying Fox Vineyard

My special fella and I decided to take a short trip over Labor Day Weekend. Usually I avoid travel on holiday weekends as it's expensive and stressful. However, we were lucky with a pretty pleasant drive to and from the Staunton, Virginia area. We also lucked out as I found a Howard Johnson Express for about $60 a night. It was cheap enough and was walking distance of restaurants in the downtown area. The dream would be to stay in a quaint bed and breakfast or a 5 star hotel, but you know....that costs money. Hojo Express didn't let us down except for some really weak wifi.

One of our first stops on our winery day of fun was Flying Fox Vineyard. I briefly stopped by the winery years ago and am glad I finally made it back. They are located in Afton close to some other cool wineries such as Veritas as well as distilleries and breweries. Their grapes are grown at Flying Fox Vineyard (mostly their reds such as Cab Franc, Petit Verdot and Merlot) in Monticello AVA and Ridge Run Vineyard (mostly their whites such as Viognier and Pinot Gris) in Shenandoah AVA. 

Their tasting room is really welcoming albeit very small. We arrived early and were able to hang out some after our tasting. There was seating outside that would have been amazing if the weather was cooperating. I definitely want to return on a snowy day to sit by that fire place.

We bought several bottles of their wine and enjoyed a 2014 Merlot to start off our wine tasting filled day. It can be enjoyed now or allowed to age. It had some dark cocoa characteristics and raisin or plum. 

What was pretty exciting was their launch of the vermouth! We found out that day was the first day people could sample or buy the vermouth (well fancy wine club members had access earlier, but I'm not a VIP I just play one on tv). The vermouth is basically all Virginia made except for the wormwood. The vermouth was really intriguing with the spring being incredibly fruity with strawberry notes. We both enjoyed the summer edition and discussed cocktail pairings. I can't wait to see what they do with the winter vermouth.

Interestingly enough during our visit we heard that they may also be experimenting with orange or amber wines. Chances are it will be made with the Pinot Gris.

Flying Fox Vineyard states on their website that they are Nelson County's Best Kept Secret. I truly don't know how this can still be the case, but I imagine with their vermouth and tasty wines, they won't be for long.

#Winelover Athens Anniversary Welcome Dinner - Scala Vinoteca

I attended the #winelover anniversary trip to Athens, Greece in February 2016.  It was a great opportunity that I found from a friend I made from the International Wine Tourism Conference.  The #winelover community is based online, but is pretty simple - we love wine.  All are welcomed to join and members include industry, sommeliers, importers, winemakers, and simply wine lovers.  I had seen some of the members blog posts, tried some of their wines, and was excited to finally meet some of the members on the trip.  

The trip started off with a welcome BYOB dinner at Scala Vinoteca.  Scala Vinoteca was the perfect welcome to Athens and to the #winelover community.  Every member brought a special bottle of wine.  Before coming I heavily debated what I should bring.  I asked my friend who is also a #winelover ambassador and specialist.  I was concerned that perhaps everyone's bottles would be super rare or high end ($100 or more).  She stated it should just be something really interesting or important to me.  Therefore, I ended up going with Chester Gap Cabernet France 2012.   I have written about my love of Chester Gap and their wines before.   It ended up being a big hit!  Many people hadn't traveled to America or their travels were limited to New York or other cities.  They were incredibly excited to try a Virginia wine and also  appreciated my love of promoting local.  Others experienced that difficulty in promoting local wines and food especially when at times they may be pricer than others.

The Scala Vinoteca space was somewhat modern with an open kitchen design.  Our group took over multiple tables and moved around to socialize.  The food was a delicious evolution in Greek and Mediterranean cuisine.   Being part of a large party, we had pre-set menu for the dinner as we did for other meals.  Every course was a tasty surprise ranging from vegetarian friendly to meaty delights.  

After eating our fill, we returned late to the hotel and continued the after party in the hotel lobby just as R. Kelly sung.