Valentine’s Day Gifts for Wine Lovers

“We are all mortal until the first kiss and the second glass of wine.” Eduardo Galeano

Valentine’s Day will soon be upon us and it’s time to find that special gift for your better half. Since the 17th Century, there have been three traditional Valentine’s Day gifts; Cards, Chocolate, and Flowers. Of course anyone would be thrilled to receive any of these gifts. If you are in search of something for the wine lover in your life however, I have a few ideas to share with you.

It is hard to argue with the statement: Wine is for Lovers. It can engage the sense, stimulate the soul, and make any day feel special. For this reason an obvious choice would be a bottle of bubbly or luscious red wine, which would make most wine lovers extremely happy if given as a Valentine’s Day gift, but let’s look at some other more creative options.

Wine Club Membership

You can commit to showing the wine lover in your life how much they mean to you with a gift that will last throughout the year. Consider ordering a wine club membership from a favorite winery: it’s a gift that keeps on giving! Every bottle that they open will bring back those loving feelings of Valentine’s Day. I can recommend one of my favorite Washington Wineries, Seven Hills Winery in Walla Walla.

Washington’s Seven Hills Winery has an incredible selections of wines and their Wine Club Memberships would make an ideal gift for any wine lover.

Seven Hills Winery offers three levels of club membership. Members are granted exclusive access to our limited production wines, receive invitations to winery events, and enjoy savings on wine purchases throughout the year. In additon, Seven Hills Winery Club members are eligible for Crimson Wine Group’s sister winery membership privileges and invitations to exclusive events at Double Canyon in West Richland, WA; Archery Summit in Dayton, OR; Pine Ridge Vineyards in Napa, CA; Seghesio Family Vineyards in Healdsburg, CA; and Chamisal Vineyards & Malene Wines in San Luis Obispo, CA.

Create Your Own Wine and Food Basket

Online there are plenty of gift baskets available already made up and ready to ship, but a homemade gift basket can include all of your special someone’s favorites and gives the basket a more personal feel. For the wine lover in your life, consider collecting their favorite cheeses, nuts, crackers, spreads, and cured meats, and arranging them in a basket with a bottle of their favorite wine, and taking them on a picnic date. Now granted it will be February and if the weather is bad, you can always consider enjoying the picnic from the comfort of your home!

For the Wine Loving Pet Lover

Who can resist the face of a cat or dog especially if they are the bosses…I mean protectors and overseers of a Winery or Tasting Room. For a gift that is sure to light up someone’s day each time they open it, give them the perfect coffee table book. Here are two of my favorites, Wine Cats and Wine Dogs California 3.

Wine Cats by Craig McGill & Susan Elliott

Wine Dogs California 3 by Craig McGill & Susan Elliott

A Wine Cork Holder

Chances are each month you share a number of bottles of wine with that special someone in your life. Why not have a place to put each of the corks from those bottles each year?

Wine Cork Holder – Metal Monogram Letter (Heart)

The books and cork holder from Amazon contain affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase by clicking on them, I will receive a commission, at no additional cost to you.

Repour Winesaver®

Awhile ago, through social media, I came across a brilliant product that has revolutionized my by the glass drink consumption. I know the concept of wine left in the bottle is not something that happens all the time, but when it does the Repour Winesaver™ , with its effective wine preservation technology, has created an easy and affordable way to save that bottle of unfinished wine for another night. Having a box of these on hand would make any winelover happy.

When hosting a party, or a casual evening with friends, multiple bottles of wine are often opened at the same time. The smart little Repour Winesaver can remove all of the oxygen from the wine bottles, keeping them fresh for days and even weeks or months.

Here’s how it Works!

This is a great little stopper, and recommended for any wine lover on your Valentine’s Day gift list. As a special for Valentine’s Day Repour Winesaver™ is offering some amazing discounts if you use the links below. Each discount code is good until 2/22/20. Also, each order includes free shipping.

Buy 2, Get 1 10-pack – Discount Code: DrinkInNature2020  https://www.repour.com/discount/DrinkInNature2020?redirect=%2Fproducts%2F10-pack-repour-wine-stopper
Buy 4 4-packs for $24 – Discount Code: MyDrinkInNature,  https://www.repour.com/discount/MyDrinkInNature?redirect=%2Fproducts%2F4-pack-repour-wine-stopper

WAKE UP WINE®

Another product that caught my attention last year was an electronic decanter that can make any wine taste 2-5 times better in just minutes. Complete honesty here, in our house when a bottle of wine is opened a small sip is tasted to test its drink-ability and if it needs some time, the statement “This wine needs to WAKE UP” is often made. We use this electronic decanter for 5, 10 or even 20 minutes to get the wine to the balance it needs to be enjoyed that evening. This is a gift any winelover would be excited to receive.

WAKE UP WINE ™ was designed to be a portable and easy-to-use electronic decanter that cuts wine decanting time from hours down to minutes with the push of a button.

How it works: Open any wine bottle, it really doesn’t matter if its white, red, expensive, or cheap. Pour into Wake Up Wine’s™ signature decanter and run for suggested time. Pour your wine into your favorite glass and enjoy. It is that easy thanks to Wake Up Wine’s™ patented process.

Using WAKE UP WINE ™ is incredibly easy with the recommended decanting time guide that is included.

This is a product that I have used weekly for over a year and I highly recommend it.

The WAKE UP WINE ™ PRO sells for $199.99. If you use the Promo Code: drink10 you will get 10% off of your order from WAKE UP WINE.

‘WAKE UP WINE ™ “PRO” this electronic decanter comes with the following: 750 ML Premium Glass Decanter – lead-free and dishwasher safe with 4, 6 and 8 oz. measuring marks Touch Control Panel – set or adjust decanting time with a push of a button Built-In Rechargeable Battery – up to 4 hours of continuous use from a full charge.’

VinGardeValise®

If you are looking for the ultimate Valentine’s Day gift that a wine lover can use each time they travel to a new wine region, than you should consider a wine suitcase from VinGardeValise™ . This durable suitcase is as stylish as it is secure and versatile.

The VinGardeValise™ wine suitcase has a hard exterior shell than has been tested for durability and performance. No matter the weight from the bottles of wine, the 360 degree Hinomoto Wheels make moving the suitcase through a busy airport or to and from a winery a breeze. VinGardeValise™ has also includes a TSA-compliant lock to keep those bottle of wine where they belong.

The VinGardeValise™ Grande 05 (pictured here) is the ideal travel solution for wine lovers who want to safely transport wine, and spirits, artisanal olive oils and other treasured bottles. No more worrying if those favorite vintages will reach their final destination safely with the specially designed covered foam inserts that provide maximum safety against breakage.

VinGardeValise™ wine suitcases are available in 8-bottle and 12 bottle sizes and colors such as matte black, silver, and burgundy. The removable inserts allow for flexible and customized travel for packing wine accessories or personal clothing and travel items.

This is hands down the best wine transportation system that I have used. It is durable, easy to maneuver, and I love that it can be a suitcase just for wine, or I can use half of the suitcase for other items that find there way home with me.

A wine suitcase from VinGardeValise™ is wonderful gift and an investment in years of safe wine travel. Knowing your most recent wine purchases will travel, sometimes around the world and back, without a bottle of wine being broken adds to your travel experience.

Products were received from Repour Winesaver, WAKE UP WINE and VinGardeValise for this blog post but the opinions about these products are my own.

My hope is that this list of Valentine’s Day Gifts for Wine Lovers will help you in finding just the right present this Valentine’s Day for that unique and wonderful person that has captured your heart.

“They are not long, the days of wine and roses: Out of a misty dream
Our path emerges for a while, then closes within a dream.” Ernest Dowson

Photos (unless otherwise noted) and all rights reserved ©Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.

An Evening with Some of Oregon’s Biodynamic and Sustainable Winemakers-An Approach to Viticulture: Part Two

“You have to take risks. We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen.” – Paulo Coelho

Welcome to Part Two of, An Evening with Some of Oregon’s Biodynamic and Sustainable Winemakers-An Approach to Viticulture. If you are visiting the blog for the first time you can read Part One here and then you will be up to date on how this post wraps up this educational seminar that I had the pleasure of attending last year.

From Left to Right: Moe Momtazi-Maysara & Momtazi Vineyard, Scott Flora-Native Flora, Steve Girard-Benton-Lane, Rudy Marchesi-Montinore Estate, Stephen Hagen-Antiquum Farm.

Another true example of Biodynamic farming in Oregon and how animals play an important role in the whole process can be found in Antiquum Farm. Stephen Hagen, the owner, farmer, and visionary behind Antiquum Farm takes an old-fashioned approach to agriculture and strives to build a vineyard and wine that has it’s own sense of personality.

Stephen Hagen of Antiquum Farm

It was clear that Hagen was having a great time listening to the farmers that spoke before him and his enthusiasm and passion about farming was evident when he started talking about his philosophies and practices when it comes to growing grapes in the Willamette Valley.

“I hope that you guys are having a lot of fun. I’m having a lot of fun because for me some times you can feel so alone in the world and maybe like you are a little bit crazy and listening to a guy (Rudy Marchesi) who is excited about Pinot Gris and talks about expression and character and individuality in that varietal your like okay cool there is another one like me. I hear so much collective wisdom and knowledge here about things that are really really valuable and this light me up as well. There is a lot of knowledge, wisdom and experience here and then there is me.”

“I’d love to tell you that I got into farming wine out of some desire to make beautiful articulate wine and that I wanted to craft Oregon raised Pinot Noir, but that’s not true. I go into this knowing nothing about wine at all and nothing about wine growing. What lit me up was a passion for farming and a desire to do it in a way that is all encompassing, engaging and creative. To basically make Agricutlture Art!”

Unfortunately, people don’t look at Broccoli the way they look at wine. Wine is the only agricultural product that is poked, prodded and sniffed. It’s a shame! We should look at carrots and all our food with the same critical analysis that we do with wine. But, we don’t. So, for me wine growing represented the greatest possibility to turn Agriculture into a truly creative endeavor.

“So, just to get this out of the way, I am not certified anything! I’m not a joiner, I think that all sustainable methods are awesome and are steps in the right direction. For me, I didn’t want any sort of protocol to sort of box in what we were going to start doing in the vineyard.So, over the years what we kind of pieced together was something I call ‘Grazing Base Viticulture. I treat the vineyard like a living organism but instead of taking a farm that is supporting the vineyard, I make the vineyard the farm.”

Photo from Antiquum Farm Wesite

Sitting on 140 acres Antiquum Farm is located at the southern end of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, and the estate vineyard itself is on a mere 21 acres of that property situated in a high elevation location with thinner Bellpine soil. The Grazing crew on the farm consists of a core group of about 60 Katahdin/Dorper sheep, 60-75 geese, and Hagen’s weeding and sanitation crew of about 75 laying hens.

Photo from Antiquum Farm Website.

“It took three years for this site to be totally self sustaining. A huge part of this system is designed so that we’re grazing the geese, the sheep and the chickens through the vineyard in what is called Rotational Intensive Grazing.”

All of this grazing by the sheep, geese and chickens works on the bio mass in the soil and the root matter stimulating an system of continual microbiol activity. Hagen likens this to a constant root mass accordion action going on in the ground that is pulling oxygen and carbon into the soil. Working the soil this way Hagen believes gives a wine, or broccoli, a sense of presence, personality and energy reflecting in fact that the soil is a living thing.

What affect does Biodynamic farming have on the grapes themselves? Hagen shared with us some slides that showed amazing transformations in his Pinot Gris site.

“On our Pinot Gris site we started seeing these mutations of individual berries that are split in color. We have also seen in the last two vintages berries that are almost Pinot Noir in color and all these different berries taste completely different. The darker ones are like Pineapple and Mango, their have deeply succulent tropicality.”

With these changes Hagen started to notice that his little six acre Pinot Gris site was suddenly divided into almost three different vineyards because of characteristic differences.

“It’s all the same clone, all the same root stock but we start seeing this opportunity for articulation and expression that we weren’t seeing before. The vines up in one knoll are physiologically growing differently. They’ve become a little more invigorated and the canopy is more open. The clusters are smaller, the berries are smaller, the skins get really really thick and all the sudden the skins taste like Hibiscus and Rose-hips. They are not like Pinot Gris at all. There is a difference in the body of the wine and the texture broadens out. The fruit side of the wine drops down and there’s this totally different sense of balance in the wine. The acid is still there but it’s just texturally richer and it sort of has some density to the fruit.”

With the changing behavior in the Pinot Gris, Hagen also started noticing some color changes in the Pinot Noir site as well. One year Hagen says that all of their Pinot Noir turned blue instead of the typical purplish black color. There has also been unexplained cluster growth where the flower clusters upon blooming turned upward, instead of down, pointing toward the sun.

Hagen can not always explain the changes that are going on in the vineyard due to Biodynamic farming such as untypical ripening times, acid levels, PH levels, flavors and physical changes to the clusters and grapes, but he does know that his wines have changed due to it.

“It is Bizarre, it doesn’t make sense, but I think the wines are fun and their different. If you want a Pinot Noir that is Oregon, a Willamette Valley Pinot Noir wine that you know what you are getting, We’re not that at all! Sometimes I have no idea of the what or why something is happening in the vineyard but that’s the fun part.”

Scott Flora of Native Flora

To say that Scott Flora of Native Flora has his own opinion about why and how to practice, Biodynamics, Organic and LIVE Certification may be a bit of an understatement. Flora has named his property including, vineyards and building, The Dundee Hills Winery Sanctum, and he was eager to explain to us why and share his beliefs on farming including how he embraces a private place where one is free from intrusion.

Flora started off by talking about what Native Flora is and what it is not.

“Native Flora is the vineyard and my last name is Flora, so I was born to do this. We are not normal, we are not LIVE, we are not organic, we are not Biodynamic, we’re not conventional. So, what are we? We’re innovative , we’re both traditional and experimental and those things go together. We are very human and humane and we are the smallest winery on this panel.”

“We talk about sustainable and this is why I don’t like the word. You say I am not hurting anything so it must be good. There is no concept of bettering. Everyone is talking about improving things so it’s not sustainable. Get rid of the word, let’s throw it away. I hate it, it’s really a pathetic mindset. Our word is Improvability and that’s what we like to farm to. Staying the same is what I say is failing, so we move forward.”

Native Flora sits on a site that is not a normal location for a vineyard, but Flora’s criteria called for something out of the ordinary. Flora wanted a North facing aspect, yes the side of the hill that you usually have difficulty growing grapes. A higher elevation was also desired, at least 750 feet was the goal, Flora was also looking for at least 15 acres with specific soil, and higher annual rainfall. Finding just the right 20 acre site in Newberg, Flora now has a property that is North facing on a 30% grade with seven soil types and double the annual rainfall.

When Flora calls his property a Sanctum he means it whole hardheartedly and he sees his land, vineyard, animals and buildings as the organisms in a membrane.

“On our property what I like to think is the fence line that runs along our property is kind of like a membrane. So, I think about everything that is in that membrane as the organism that we run. Our idea was to take the vineyard, the home, the winery and the tasting room and mash it all into one giant working organization. When we think of this I don’t think of just the organic matter that is on the property, I also think about the buildings themselves and of the water that goes on the property.”

Photo from Native Flora’s Website.

The first thing that Flora invested in was a massive GeoThermal heating cooling system to supply heat and cooling to the structures on the property. Then they also dug into the hillside so that they could use the Earth for insulation so that everything could stay cooler. A plumbing system that heats and cools everything radiantly through the floors and other areas of the built was also added. With water being such a precious commodity, Flora made sure that his 1400 Sq Foot roof line caught every drop of water that hit it.

“We take every drop of water that hits the roof line because it doesn’t belong to Oregon until it hits the dirt. We funnel it into a water catchment system on our property and we actually have approximately 1.3 million gallons available for us to use in the vineyards. We only use a fraction of this each year so what we do is drop water into giant Koi ponds, we actually have an upper and lower pond, as well as tanks and cisterns. It all connects and we move water throughout the property like a commodity.”

At Native Flora it is very much about building and maintaining a healthy membrane so that all of the organisms inside the membrane can thrive. Flora says, “The whole farm is an organism that lives inside the membrane, so humans, animals, plants, buildings and all the natural resources are part of the membrane team.”

Sheep are a major part of the team at Native Flora and they are in the vineyard 24/7. Flora has built the vines to keep them out of reach of the sheep and everything in the vineyard is made so that the sheep can go wherever they want and they are used constantly to mow and fertilize the vineyard.

Photo from Native Flora’s Website.

To wrap it all together Flora shared that all the things that are growing they try to keep it as diverse as possible.

“We do a lot to seed this diversity in terms of putting a lot of beneficial into the environment. With these practices every year we’re consuming fewer resources and the quality of grapes and the quality of wine is proof of the ultimate good in all of this.”

A Visit to Native Flora

The next day we were invited to have lunch and do a wine tasting at Native Flora and I want to share a few photos from that visit.

If you have the chance to schedule a tasting with Native Flora I highly recommend doing so. The views are spectacular and the wines are wonderfully diverse and full of a personality that can only come from the land from which they are produced.

A bottle of this delightful 2015 Cuvée Libertus Extra Brut Sparkling went home with me! You can read more about this and other Oregon Sparkling Wines on a previous post here.

Having the opportunity to listen to five farmers, winemakers and winelovers, who are so passionate about how they work the land and vineyards was a perfect way to end a trip to Willamette Valley. I want to thank Moe Momtazi, Steve Girard, Rudy Marchesi, Stephen Hagen and Scott Flora for taking the time to share their stories and knowledge with the Wine Writers Educational Tour Group.

A great resource if you are interested in reading more about Oregon’s Biodynamic Winegrowers is Voodoo Vintners by Katherine Cole. Voodoo Vintners examines the motivation and reasoning behind the Biodynamic farming advocates.

Voodoo Vintners: Oregon’s Astonishing Biodynamic Winegrowers by Katherine Cole

I’d love to hear your thoughts on Biodynamic, Organic and LIVE Certification farming in the Vineyards and how you feel about the wines that are being produced by these winegrowers.

Photos (unless otherwise noted) and all rights reserved ©Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.

An Evening with some of Oregon’s Biodynamic and Sustainable Winemakers-An Approach to Viticulture: Part One

“All of nature begins to whisper its secrets to us through its sounds. Sounds that were previously incomprehensible to our soul now become the meaningful language of nature.” -Rudolf Steiner

From Left to Right: Moe Momtazi-Maysara & Momtazi Vineyard, Scott Flora-Native Flora, Steve Girard-Benton-Lane, Rudy Marchesi-Montinore Estate, Stephen Hagen-Antiquum Farm.

Many articles have been written in the last ten years about the Biodynamic movement in some Oregon Vineyards, so when I learned that part of the Wine Writers Educatinal Tour in Willamette Valley last year included a seminar on ‘Approaches to Viticulture’ I was really intrigued. As an avid edible gardener I am always looking to learn more about sustainability and Biodynamic farming. There was so much to share about this evening that I have broken this into two different posts, the second post will follow in a couple of days.

What I learned right away when the evening seminar started was the vast differences in how each of the ‘farmers’ viewed sustainability, Biodynamic and organic, and to what extend these practices should be applied to the land and vineyards. Since the seminar was hosted at Maysara Winery it only seems fitting that I start with the host of the evening Moe Momtazi.

Moe Momtazi of Maysara Winery and Momtazi Vineyard

One of Momtazi’s philosophies toward Biodynamics is “In order for everything to have a complete ecosystem, everything has to come from your own property.”

Already a down-to-earth environmentalist from his years growing up in Iran, Momtazi and his wife Flora purchased a 496 acre plot of abandoned farm land in 1997. Moe shared, “My grandparents refused to use chemicals and fertilizers in the soil or on the plants and I wanted to do the same,” so he began clearing those acres of land without the use of chemicals. Momtazi believes that practicing Biodynamics taps into the each element of the seasonal calendar, the creatures large and small that occupy the land and the earth itself, this brings the ‘farm’ back into the natural cycles that are in nature already.

If you agree with some that Biodynamic is a form of agricultural Voodoo, then you might also be interested in learning that the grapes grown in Momtazi’s Vineyards are some of the most sought after grapes in the Willamette Valley. In addition to making their own wines, they provide fruit to a few of the Willamette Valley’s top wine producers. Momtazi Vineyard has used strict organic and Biodynamic methods since 1998 and in 2005 it became Demeter Certified Biodynamic and the winery followed suit in 2007. There is much more to share about Moe’s philosophies and practices when it comes to Biodynamics and for this reason I will be sharing more about Momtazi’s passion for working with the land and his holistic farming techniques in an upcoming blog post.

The term Biodynamic® is a trademark held by the Demeter association of Biodynamic farmers for the purpose of maintaining production standards used both in farming and processing foodstuffs. Demeter International is the largest certification organization for Biodynamic agriculture, and is one of three predominant organic certifiers. … Demeter Biodynamic Certification is used in over 50 countries to verify that Biodynamic products meet international standards in production and processing.

Steve Girard Proprietor of Benton-Lane Winery

Steve Girard and his wife Carol founded Girard Winery in the Pritchard Hill area of Napa Valley in 1980 where they were known for producing notable Cabernets and Chardonnays. Then after tasting it for the first time, they fell in love with the Pinot Noirs from Oregon and a new journey began. Not only to make Pinot Noir, but also a new path to farming using a combination of Biodymanics, organic and LIVE certification methods.

“In Seattle at a district tasting in about 1980, I tasted my first Pinot Noir. I think that it was one of David Lett’s wines and I was in Love! I mean this stuff was like liquid sex, it was so good. It had all the flavors of the berry, it had cherry, it had root beer, it had cranberry, My God it had mushroom, there was cola. It was just this beautiful beverage and I had to make it.”

In 1988 the Girard’s purchased an old sheep ranch in the Willamette Valley that checked off all of the things they were looking for, an East faces slope, the right soils and the right elevation.

“I came up from Napa Valley thinking I was going to do the same Cha Cha that I did there. Napa Valley had no concept of sustainability. No Concept! We wanted pretty vineyards. We wanted the customer to come up and go ‘oooh la la’ look at that gorgeous vineyard. So, what we did is we used a heavy Pre-emergent Herbicide that we painted on the soil right underneath the vines, so there wouldn’t be a blade of grass and that’s what we wanted. It was gorgeous, it was just dirt and vines and then at the end of every row we put a little rose bush. That was it and we knocked them out. The customers came in and they thought My God this is so beautiful, this is what we want.”

Girard thought it would be business as usual planting and growing grapes in Oregon but change was on the horizon.

“I came to Oregon, I did the same thing. And my friend Dickey Erath came down and scolded me, he said ‘Steve what the hell are you doing?’ I said, well, I’m doing what I did in Napa and what I’m still doing in Napa. He said ‘No No No, this is Oregon, we’re all about sustainability up here.’ I didn’t even know what that meant and he said, ‘You know your killing the soil, the soil is a living thing and your killing all of the Mycorrhiza, the Nematodes, the earth worms that are gonna open up the soil.’ “

This conversation with Dickey Erath triggered a different way of thinking about the land, the soil and the vineyards for Girard.

“I really studied all of the three methods that we have available, Biodynamics, Organic, and LIVE Certification. I really read up on all of them and what I found was that they all had attributes and they all had defects. So, I thought to myself why would I want a defect? Why would I take it? Why would I take a system that had really cool stuff but also had baggage that I didn’t want?

Girard, like Momtazi referenced Rudolf Steiner, the founder of the Biodynamic approach to agriculture and how felt his suggested methods ranged from practical to “pretty goofy, absurd and silly,” but also how he took some of those ideas and implemented them into his Oregon Vineyards.

“When I talk to my friends, I have two good friends that are Biodynamically Certified, I say I just don’t get it, it sounds silly to me. Does it make better Wine? And they both say sorta the same thing-you don’t get the point, your missing the point. I say, there’s only one point for me and that is making better wine. So, I took the good stuff from Steiner that I learned and I left behind the other stuff.”

When it came to the remaining two methods, Organic and LIVE Certification, Girard said that he took the same approach by taking the best from each of these practices and leaving the things he felt wouldn’t work for him behind.

“How do I farm? I took the best of these things and I found out and then saw this incredible change that some of my colleagues have been talking about. I saw my wine juice nutrients go through the roof! You know it worked!”

Today the estate 145-acre vineyard uses a combination of sustainable, organic and biodynamic farming methods but Benton-Lane is not certified.

“I don’t think I need certification because I believe it. I believe in my system. And so, I do give up a certification but I don’t think it is a problem because I’m not going to let anything change my view.”

When asked what his idea of sustainability was Girard replied, “My idea of sustainability is that I need to nurture my vineyard so that a thousand years from now whoever owns my joint is still making sex in a bottle, Sexy Pinot Noir!”

You can learn more about Steve Girard and Benton-Lane on their website.

Rudy Marchesi President and Chief Viticulturist at Montinore Estate

Marchesi who began working as a consultant at Montinore Estate in 1998 went on to become the President of the winery and in 2005 he purchased Montinore.

Ruby Marchesi’s love for making wine dates back to the 1970s where in New Jersey his grandfather made wine at home and Ruby like him wanted to do the same. Marchesi’s start in the wine industry began in the early ’80s in the Northeast where he began making wine for his own small label while raising his daughters. However, when his oldest daughter wanted to attend Reed College in Portland, Ruby knew it was time to fund that college dream and he took on a job with a major distributor and wound up relocating to Oregon.

Marchesi returned to the work he loved, wine production in 1998 when his daughter graduated from college by accepting a consultancy at Montinore Estate. Things really began to change in the Montinore vineyard in 2003 when Marchesi started Biodynamic trials on sections of the vineyard that the Pinot Noir blocks were not producing as well as were expected.

“The story of how we are also a Biodynamic winery and have been for awhile now, is a little different. I had always been a vegetable grower and I loved organic this or that, maybe because I was a hippy from the 70’s. When I came to Montinore they had been farming conventionally and what I found were vineyards that had soils that were very compacted and there was very little oxygen in the soil. The Cover Crop Was Moss! And, the vines reflected that quality of soil so they were very uneven, some big some small. The fruit characteristic was a bit Ho Hum and the wine was a bit Ho Hum at best.”

“Biodynamics is a very elaborate system of farming, it has a lot of components that aren’t in our everyday toolbox.” -Rudy Marchesi

Soil and vines in poor condition was not the only thing that Marchesi discovered when he arrived at Montinore.

“When I got there the first year we discovered we had Phylloxera on the property and you could see the vine were dying. So I came to understanding organic and Biodynamic through that need of healing our vineyard from Phylloxera. What I started to understand was that there’s a whole community, the vineyard is a community, its not just an ecosystem, its a community of organisms. And, if their working together a lot of the problems that you might encounter aren’t there.”

Marchesi discovered a group in New Zealand had found a good Fungi, a Micro Rizal Fungi that works in amending the soil and actually crowds out the wood rotting Fungi Phylloxera, and works to an advantage in the Vineyard as well. However, the path to healing the vineyard was not an overnight process and a lot of hard work, patience and some bodily harm happened because the soil first needed to be opened up so that the new Fungi could be introduced.

“First, we had to open the soils, we had to cultivate, open it up and aerate. What was really interesting was we had so many gophers in our vineyard that our guys would have to wear Kidney Belts as they were driving in the tractor because they bounced around so much their kidneys would hurt! Once we started cultivating and cleaning up it was like Mother Nature was trying to aerate our soil with gophers. Once we got it aerated we didn’t have any gophers anymore, it was pretty wild.

The amendments to the vineyard didn’t stop with aerating the soil and more things were done before Marchesi said he saw considerable physical changes in his vineyards that he attributes directly to Biodynamics.

“Then we started doing cover crops, putting carbon into the soil to feed these good Fungi. We actually got spores and inoculated the entire 240 acres with specific strains of this Fungi that we knew would be happy in the vineyard. Then we started to seeing results in using compost as a remedy for the vines that were weakened by the Phylloxera. It started bringing back the vineyard from the brink of disaster due to the Phylloxera. We weren’t 100% successful in the thinner soils that you get up higher on the ridges, sometimes we’d lose some vines. But, that was in ’98-’99 when I started that and now it is 2019 and we still have 200 of the 240 acres Home Rooted in their late thirties.”

Marchesi was down for talking dirt with Scott Flora even if both of them don’t always agree on the bests ways to work and treat the Vineyard. You can learn more about Rudy Marchesi and Montinore Estate on their Website.

This whole process started leading Marchesi down the path to understanding that this piece of land was a community, not a vineyard, not just soil, but a community.

“What we are creating is a community of micro organisms that live in the soil, they have their own life cycles and they each have their own bi-products of their life that goes into the soil to create this interrogated community.”

Finding additional information to help him learn more about Biodynamics proved difficult and although their were a couple of books on the subject that he read by people like Nicolas Joly, Marchesi really wanted to learn more about how to practice Biodynamics. Answers to his questions finally were presented when he took a year long class at the Pfiefer Center in New York. During this time Marchesi learned all the techniques about Biodynamics that would not only continue to improve the Montinore Vineyard, but also broaden his impact in the Biodynamic community as well.

“We became Certified Biodynamic in 2019 and I became president of Demeter USA, so I’m running the organization, I don’t really know why or how I am doing this but I said, I’ll help and the next thing you know I am knee deep into it. I believe it’s a really fantastic way to farm. Every year at the end of the season the farm is healthier than it was when it started in the Spring.”

After hearing three passionate farmers talk about the road to Biodynamics and sustainability when it comes to producing wine then your mind shifts toward thinking about how all of these practice influence the final outcome, the wine.

“From a wine perspective we saw tremendous results, I should say changes and results. The wines prior to Biodynamic practices were fairly Ho Hum and, now we’ve seen a progression over the years that the wines become not only more complex and more interesting but their really reflecting the character of our place. This way of farming has allowed our vineyard to be more expressive and our wines to be a reflection of character and place.

For the dinner following the seminar Marchesi told us that he brought some of his Pinot Gris for us to try and that he thought that this wine had really taken on a unique liveliness from the health of the soil.

“I think that the soils that we have produced is making some really interesting Pinot Gris, relative to the rest of the Willamette Valley. It has the typical apple and pear, but after 4-5 years of farming this way some citrus and herbal notes came out and it was almost like we blended a little Sauvignon Blanc and I thought that’s kind of cool but then it continued during the next year and the next year. I realized that what was happening was an expression of all these particular soils. That’s what lights me up in the morning”

In Marchesi’s Biodynamic farming practices there seems to be compelling evidence that treating the soil in the right way is a practical way to protect the vineyard’s ecosystem while adding something new and different to the character of the wines produced. As the Biodynamic farming method continues to gain traction in the Oregon wine industry, and around the world, it is becoming less of a ‘trend’ and more of a way to help our planet bounce back from centuries of chemical treatments.

I learned so much from Moe Maysara, Steve Girard and Rudy Marchesi during the first part of the seminar, it really opened my mind to how Biodynamic, Organic and LIVE Certification can shape the future of wine production. I hope that you will continue to read Part Two as it will include what Stephen Hagen of Antiquum Farms and Steve Flora of Native Flora shared about how they farm their vineyards and what affect that has one their wines. Also, as mentioned earlier a third post coming soon will include a tour of Maysara Winery and Momtazi Vineyard as well as a conversation with Moe Momtazi.

Winemakers’ ‘Green’ Glossary

  • Biodynamics: A method of organic farming rooted in a spiritual world view espoused by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner; typically exceeds the standards and regulations for organic certified farming.
  • Organic wine: Made from grapes grown without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, as certified by Oregon Tilth.
  • LIVE: Low Input Viticulture & Enology, a nonprofit organization that certifies vineyards using international standards of sustainable viticulture practices in wine-grape production.
  • Salmon Safe: A nonprofit group operating in conjunction with LIVE to protect salmon habitat; has certified more than 50,000 acres of farm and urban lands in Oregon.

Photos and all rights reserved ©Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.

Champagne Guy Méa – The Way Of The Wolf

In 2015 the United Nations gave the Champagne region of France World Heritage Status, verifying what fans have known all along-Champagne is indeed unique. However, it is not just the delicate bubbles in each bottle that make Champagne so unique and authentic, there is also a deep history that runs through the land and sets the precedent to each village, champagne house and bottle produced. With over 350 years of history the Champagne Region in France is brimming with places to explore and stories to hear.

A visit to Champagne Guy Méa

I hope that the following photos and story help tell part of the story of Champagne Guy Méa and give you a glimpse of some of their family history and unique Champagnes.

The Guy Méa Champagne vineyard stretches from the hillsides of Bouzy and Louvois (Grand Cru villages) to the village of Montbré and Ludes (Premier Cru villages) also located in the Montagne de Reims.

Long before the expanse of vineyards, which spread as far as the eye can see from the French Champagne region village Louvois, there were rich dense forests and the countryside was filled with woodcutters and hungry wolves. The original spelling of Louvois is Loupvoie, which roughly translates to ‘The Way of the Wolves’. Appropriately named as it designated the route that the wolves would take, moving in packs coming down the forest of Saint-Basle and through the village. So, what is the connection to the Way of the Wolves and the Champagne House of Guy Méa?

Written on the walls of the Winery are the Lyrics from the song “People Of the North”

Les gens du Nord Ont dans le cœur le soleil Qu’ils n’ont pas dehors

Northerners have the sun in their hearts they don’t have outside

Back in the early 1900’s a family of woodcutters, the Milesi family of Champagne Guy Méa, moved from Bergamo in the Brembana Valley to Louvois searching for good fortune. After the inflect of modern fuels replaced wood, making money as a woodcutter was no longer a way to support a family. Embracing the change that was sweeping the landscape, the Milesi family soon changed directions and converted into small Vignerons, also known as a cooperative winery. This new path began as contributors of the great Maison, then as their own Champagne producers in the mid 1990’s.

The Beginning of Harvest and a Celebration

During my visit last year I had the opportunity to visit Champagne Guy Méa on a busy harvest day and a 4th Birthday celebration of the winemaker, Sophie Milesi’s oldest son Léonard.

There is always an air of excitement in the air during Harvest and driving through the hilly region of Champagne to visit Champagne Guy Méa the roads were bustling with tractors and truck and various fields were speckled with grape pickers. For this reason, being able to visit a Champagne house on a busy harvest day was truly a memorable experience.

Pinots Noir and Chardonnays, are the base of Champagne Guy Méa vintages, and the grapes come exclusively from their 9.5 ha of vines, in Grand Cru and Premier Cru.

Everyone at Champagne Guy Méa was incredibly busy but very happy to share with us the process of pressing the grapes.

Guy Méa champagne reaches back 5 generations.

At Champagne Guy Méa new and old generation go hand in hand working together to produce beautiful champagnes.

It was from the 1950s, with Grandfather Guy at the helm that the estate took off along with the Maison de Champagne commercial boom and the purchase of many surrounding plots. At 88, Guy is never far away and is there to share his knowledge with his Granddaughter or suggesting that they open a good bottle for a tasting.

Father, Jean-Louis continues taking care of the work in the vineyards and estates.

Guy’s daughter Evelyne Méa and her husband Jean-Louis Milesi (pictured in the center with his grandson Léonard) worked tirelessly to continue the build up of the estate.

Sophie Milesi 5éme génération Winemaker

“Wine fills the heart with courage.” -Plato

To be a winemaker in the traditional Champagne Valley is exclusive to begin with. Then if you add being a woman who runs a champagne house to it, well it becomes much more of a rarity.

Sophie Milesi took over the management of the family vineyard and the future of the house of Guy Méa about 9 years ago after completing her education and wine studies. During these years she has developed a new identity to the family business, putting her mark on the wines as the generations before her did. Sophie has an enthusiastic smile which matches the enthusiasm for the task she has undertaking. But, wine of course isn’t everything, Sophie is also building her family with her husband, Franck Moussié, who came from the Bordeaux wine world, and their two young sons, Léonard and Valentin.

Sophie Milesi is also an ambassador for champagnes, with other female winemakers, within Les Fa’Bulleuses de Champagne, an association of “women of the heart”, created in 2014. Sharing their passion for winemaking, for their families and helping each other is a common bond that formed this group and daring and determination keeps them going.

Photo from article about Les Fa’Bulleuses de Champagne
from Femivin

Although not certified organic, Sophie strives to work without any treatment. Maintaining that Viticulture is about common sense and that she will not treat the vines if it is not necessary. Sophie is also a strong voice in the immediate ban on glyphosate and the implementation of aid so that winegrowers can weed mechanically.

Sophie strives for Champagne that is easy, with elegant balance and beautiful bubbles using their raw tradition with the essential base of all their cuvèe, Pinot Noir.

As a child Sophie, “kept repeating with a smile to the ears and the mischievous look “when I grow up, I’ll be” Champagneuse “!! Do not look for this word in the dictionary, it just leaves the head of a child raised to the rhythm of the seasons and harvest, which could recognize a thousand places, the smell of wines that begin to work in the cellar.” from the Champagne Guy Méa website.

A Champagne Tasting

The tasting bar at Champagne Guy Méa was a perfect intimate setting to enjoy the Champagnes by house Guy Méa while viewing all of the business of harvest that takes place. The walls are covered with family photos and records of harvests past.

One of the walls has a record of all harvests and other information dating back to 1994.

CHAMPAGNE GUY MÉA BRUT TRADITION PREMIER CRU

The Pinot Noir character and strength of the Montagne de Reims can be found in this Tradition cuvée.

Everything is fresh in this Brut Tradition Premier Cru, with a taste of fruit salad topped with toasted hazelnuts and a vapor of saline notes. Splendid!

The Brut Tradition Premier Cru is a combination of Pinot Noir (60%) and Chardonnay (40%) of the Guy Méa clay-limestone soil vineyards between Louvois and Tauxiéres-Mutry in Montagne de Reims. Incorporating about 40% of Reserve Wines, this Champagne is aged on latte in bottle for a minimum of 18 months.

BRUT NATURE BELLE DE NOIRS 2012

Brut Nature Premier Cru is produced in limited quantities and is only made in the best years from when there is a perfect ripening of the grapes.

A lovely example of the Champagne Guy Méa style, made without added sugars to bring out the crystalline class of the old family vineyards. This was such a unique sip of Champagne with its bold freshness, classic elegance and earthy mineral notes. An exceptional Vintage.

ROSA DÉLICE PREMIER CRU

The Cuvée Rosa Délice is a wonderfully fruity champagne that had me asking for a second sip.

Rosé blended mainly with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir based on the Cuvée Prestige. Bouzy Rouge comes from “Chaudette et la Perthe”, plots over 65 years old located in the heart of the Bouzy vineyard. For this Le Bouzy Rouge the grapes are sorted manually and destemmed. The berries collected fall directly into the tank or slowly and naturally the stage of alcoholic fermentation will begin. Taken from the Champagne Guy Méa website.

Champagne Guy Méa Cuvée Rosa Délice is a lively and fruity champagne that has wonderful balance and is brimming with lovely youthful Rosé characteristics.

Finishing off with a Sip of Fresh Pressed Grape Juice

This was my first experience sipping freshly pressed Pinot Noir grape juice and it really was delicious.

One thing that I just could not get over was the price of bottles of Champagne. Next time I am bringing a suitcase just for those special bottles of bubbly to bring home.

I could have spent all day at Champagne Guy Méa, with its fantastic views, welcoming hospitality and delicious Champagnes it was such a memorable wine tasting experience.

There is a big difference between enjoying a glass of Champagne at home and drinking it after touring the house in which it was produced, bottled and stored. Luckily, tasting memories like this can be remember each time you pop the cork on a bottle of Champagne no matter where you are.

Photos and all rights reserved ©Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.

At This Moment…2020 A New Year for Wine, Food and Travel Experiences

At This Moment….My Drink in Life blog series in which I share with you things which are inspiring or intriguing. I expand on things I see, do, read, or taste, and share them so you may discover something new or inspiring. In turn, I hope that you will share with me what is grabbing your attention…at this moment.

2020 is almost upon us and like many, I am feeling the positive vibes and possibilities when it comes to the New Year. This includes wishes & dreams, goals & plans and Yes, there are some actual solid Intentions (not Resolutions) floating around in my head as well. After all, it’s 2020 and a new year means a plethora of possibilities.

A person with increasing knowledge and sensory education may derive infinite enjoyment from wine.” Ernest Hemingway

Taking a wild guess… from my blog content you have probably deduced that wine related plans play a major part in my goals for 2020. Admittedly, I am more focused on Wine during the next twelve months and this includes different ways to expand my horizons when it comes to wine education, wine travel, and an overall enjoyment of wine.

So, I would like to share with you some of my plans for 2020 At this Moment…

Wine Education: At this Moment…

There are many things in life that involve continual education and wine, with its ever changing landscape, definitely falls within this realm. Wine knowledge will continue to be a goal of mine in 2020. In January, after months preparation, I finally begin my weekend class for the WSET Level 2. The test will follow during the first week in February, and I am already anticipating passing by signing up for the WSET Level 3 with classes beginning at the end of February. I am also planning on attending more wine events, both educational and social, with the intent to learn more about local, regional, and national wines.

Wine Travel and Festival plans for 2020: At this Moment…..

2020 will undoubtedly be my busiest year when it comes to wine travel and wine writing. A few of the things that are on my calendar for the new year are:

January-It is off to Bellingham, Washington on a Media Trip to learn more about the area, in anticipation of the 2020 Pacific Northwest Wine Festival there in August. The Festival includes both a public wine tasting, and the announcement of all medal-winning wines entered in an earlier judged competition. Up to 55 wineries from the Pacific Northwest along with restaurants from the Whatcom County area take part in this Wine Festival set in the stunning city of Bellingham. A perfect way to experience another Washington Wine region. I will be sharing more information about the 2020 Pacific Northwest Wine Festival when the details have been released.

You can see my post about the 2019 Seattle Wine and Food Experience here and please visit the SWFE website for more information about this years events.

February-I am excited to once again be taking part in the Seattle Wine and Food Experience, this years 12th annual event takes place the weekend of February 20-22, 2020. There are three distinct events which showcase the best that the Pacific Northwest has to offer. These events include a Thursday night kick off with a smorgasbord of the ultimate feel-good foods + crafty brews with ‘Comfort’ and then Friday we are getting dressed up for the signature event ‘Pop! Bubbles + Seafood’ where bubbles and wines will be poured and the Pacific Northwest’s bounty of seafood will be featured. Saturday rounds out the weekend with the spectacular ‘Grand Tasting’ which is a deluxe showcase of Pacific Northwest wine, beverage, food and lifestyle. This is an exciting sensory exploration and wandering education platform to really emerge yourself in all things PNW.

March-For the first time I will be traveling to the annual Washington Winegrowers Convention & Trade Show in Kenniwick, Washington. Here I will join others in the winegrape industry from around the region, and nation to learn more about what is happening with Washington wines. This industry event in 2020 features keynote speaker, Lulie Halstead, CEO of Wine Intelligence. So, mark your calendars for March 2 – 5, 2020 and check out Washington Winegrowers’ website for additional details.

Taste Washington is a fantastic sampling of more than 235 wineries, 65 restaurants, 60 exhibitors and some of the nation’s most-talented chefs.

March-Not to be missed March 19-22 is ‘Taste Washington‘. I was blown away with the 2019 event and this year promises to be even more of a wine and food lovers’ wonderland. Taste Washington highlights the best of Washington States wine and food in a single location.

Pinot Noir Grapes; Willamette Valley, Oregon.

April-Last year I traveled to the Willamette Valley in Oregon with Fred Swan’s Wine Writers Educational Tour and in 2020 we will be converging on Paso Robles, California for yet another wine education experience. This will be the first time that I have traveled to the Paso Robles Wine Region and I am very excited about this wine education opportunity. More information about WWET can be found here.

Personal development is a major time-saver. The better you become, the less time it takes you to achieve your goals.” ―Brian Tracy

August-There are many firsts for me in 2020 and this continues with a trip to Eugene, Oregon for the Wine Media Conference. Although I would have loved to have made it to Australia, where the conference was held this year, I am thrilled to be traveling to southern of the Willamette Valley to take part in this conference.

The conference attracts wine bloggers, traditional wine media, social media influencers, and wine industry members who communicate with them. These attendees are key members of the wine industry. They are not only passionate about wine – they are energized by communicating to their audiences about wine, wineries, and the people that make up the wine industry.” –Taken from the Wine Media Conference website

This list of destinations and events by no means is a complete account of all my travels, but is a glimpse into some of the activities that I will be taking part in 2020 and things that I hope to share with you.

My main wine Intentions for 2020 are probably not that dissimilar to many other wine lovers when it comes to what we hope to achieve when pulling the cork on bottles of wine in the New Year.

2020 Wine Related Intentions…At this Moment

Branching Out More

Diversity is my main focus when it comes to my wine drinking intentions in 2020. I definitely want to work on trying new wines and seek out unfamiliar varietals and blends. Also covered under this category is drinking great wine when I feel like it, and not thinking that it needs to be saved for a special occasion or celebration.

Continue to do more for local and regional wine communities

I want to continue to do just a little bit more for local wine communities. This means that no matter where I am I will strive to drink local when possible. The small act of drinking, eating, and shopping local, is the support boutique wineries, small businesses, and farms in an area depend on. While also discovering products that I might not have noticed otherwise. This goes for wine, but also beer, cider, spirits, coffee, and much more.

Focusing more attention on other things that I Enjoy

What many people may not know about me is that I have a true desire to grow as much of our own food as I can during the Spring to Fall months and to cook almost all of our meals from scratch. With an extremely busy schedule these last couple of years I have not been able to enjoy and focus much attention on our backyard garden and with the new year I am striving to change that. It really is all about balance and rediscovering that ability to leave work behind while focusing more on home life and doing what brings me joy.

For this reason on Drink In Life, I will strive to incorporate more of my love of Vegetable Gardening and Cooking by creating more meals around the garden and sharing wines that pair perfectly with those recipes. When the garden is not producing as much I will share some of my favorite recipes with wine pairings. I also want to get back to introducing more recipes that incorporate wine and spirits into the food and showcase how these beverages can enhance the flavors of other foods.

I hope that you join me on this journey to broaden my wine knowledge and experiences, and I would love to hear what you are striving to achieve in 2020 as well. Cheers Everyone and Happy New Year.

Images are ©Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.