What I did this summer

  "Vacation?"

My friend was incredulous. Did you say you went on vacation? Did you really use that word?

 I did. 

She had reason to be shocked. For nearly 30-years the only days off I took were the random day or two when traveling, or when I was able to pinch a long weekend. It was all I could manage financially and emotionally. Vacation was a word that was not in my vocabulary.

As a freelancer, envied by employed friends around the world for my 'freedom,' they never truly appreciated how 'un-free' a free-lance writer can be. Yes, I was free to have my own opinions. I was free to be more political and critical than salaried colleagues (is the wine critic the only genre of pundit that is a cheerleader instead of an informed commentator?). 

The idea of taking off time, in the end, was far more anxiety-inducing than staying in the chair and pounding out the words.  

But the past three years were particularly brutal. And by the end of July when my first draft of the next book was sent in to my editor, I was barely able to grunt. The experience left me feeling  trampled by pack of rats and as bloodless as a leftover meal stuck in a web. I determined that I would never write another wine book again. And what's more, I would take a break. Burned out? I was wearing that old dead cat on my chest, still with it's claw and scratch. I could avoid a break no longer, or I would crack in pieces.

Not totally able to leave obligation behind, I lined up a few book events (hey, they are fun, after all),  rented a car and headed north to claim it. (Fun tip for New Yorkers, take the train to Hudson and rent from there, about a fifth of the price.)

  Me and a car and a road.

Six gorgeous days from Saugerties, to Hudson, to the angel bosom of Vermont.

Want to come with me? Here, take a look. 

The weekend began with @uncouthvermouth, Christina and Brunette Wine Bar in Kingston, NY. Excellent Spot! 

 

Brunette

Brunette wine

The next day a little lunch at Fish & Game. Curious about it? It's stellar. Here are bloody mary tomatoes. Heaven. And yes, there's what to drink by the glass and bottle. They're committed to the good stuff.

  Fish & game

 

The next day, For the Love of Wine event at Hudson Wine Merchants. Packed house. Good ego booster.

    Hudsone wineMichael's dog contemplates my reading

Next day I landed in wine Vermont,  G&F     and got to drink the wine that only London gets to drink, the white blend, pétillant. 

 

Deirdre

Barrel tasting La Crescent from different terroirs with Deirdre Heekin. 

Went out to Worthy Burger (no, I did not, in fact, but opted for smoked blue fish pizza, bizarre but delish).  Somewhere in the night, this happened, I picked it up from Hudson. It's worthy. Trust me. 

AB Normal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A wine from the late Baldo's hands. 2004 Nebbiolo recently bottled. 

 

 

 

Next day, some hikes with old friends, some fresh laid eggs from Deidre's gorgeous picnic, some cider with new friends and the La Garagista goes to Georgia dinner. 

Ike with old friends     IMG_9280      DSC04072         Georgian wines

Deirdre's husband and life and work partner, the talented Caleb used recipes from For the Love of Wine. They worked! The food that he improvised was also so very Georgian. We snuck in a little La Garagista Night Music, rare (field blend from the Home Vineyard, vibrant wine) and crab apple pink and rosé delicious. 


Book dinner Chef with house music   Christina 13882174_10153859217788693_7341498439255376397_n

The next day to the vines, more cider, Shacksbury! Fable Farm! More vines, sunset and capped off with a dinner, which is absolutely perfect, at Hen of the Woods, Burlington with Deirdre, Caleb and toasting to the new life of Vermont wines. 

    Vines                          Winery         ChucksThe ladies who provided the eggs.


     IMG_9353 La cres          Bird life in the vines.

Sunset

Somewhere along the way I saw a shooting star of my dreams and a furry bear scampering off in the woods. I felt like a Fresh Air Fund kid. 

The morning of my departure, I started out south in the still cool.

The drive down the small winding roads, was so heart- bleedingly beautiful, I couldn't be sorry to leave the hills where the vines started to thrive. I was returning to reinvent freedom and embrace it with new energy.

For less of a blog and more of the real wine stuff, the kind I now have more energy than ever for, please sign on to The Feiring Line. $68 a year for 7 issues, and more stuff coming!  

Ordinaire: Oakland: January 23!

IMG_6352

 

Oakland, California within reach? Come on over to the Ordinaire TFL campaign next Saturday January 23rd! What's happening? Tasting some fab stuff in the afternoon, pizza and more happy wines at night. Who knows, there might even be a waltz or two.

The $15 fee for the tasting is dropped if you sign up. The dinner is a terrific deal, where dinner PLUS a subscription is less than a subscription on its own. At dinner, Brad, José, Cory and I will be your personal sommeliers pouring all sorts of surprises that night.
 
The address is 3354 Grand Avenue in Oakland.

For dinner be sure to RSVP to Brad -----bradfordataylor@gmail.com

Oh! What happens if you want to come to dinner but you're already a subscriber? A mere $35 for you.

Really, RSVP. We do need to know if you're coming to din-din.

 

 

Ordinaire: Oakland: January 23!

IMG_6352

 

Oakland, California within reach? Come on over to the Ordinaire TFL campaign next Saturday January 23rd! What's happening? Tasting some fab stuff in the afternoon, pizza and more happy wines at night. Who knows, there might even be a waltz or two.

The $15 fee for the tasting is dropped if you sign up. The dinner is a terrific deal, where dinner PLUS a subscription is less than a subscription on its own. At dinner, Brad, José, Cory and I will be your personal sommeliers pouring all sorts of surprises that night.
 
The address is 3354 Grand Avenue in Oakland.

For dinner be sure to RSVP to Brad -----bradfordataylor@gmail.com

Oh! What happens if you want to come to dinner but you're already a subscriber? A mere $35 for you.

Really, RSVP. We do need to know if you're coming to din-din.

 

 

What’s Going on in Our Dirt at the LitFestie

2015 is the International Year of the Soil. Did you know? And as the creator of The Feiring Line newsletter, I was  asked to help celebrate the soils of the world at the Ballymaloe House Literary Food and Wine Festival

Walk in woods  The vivid woods in back of the BM house.

 

The festival started with an idea from visionary, Darina Allen.  From a grain it turned into a beach.  Where many festivals are full of glitz, this one is filled with heart. It matters.

IMG_4683

Above? That's the coffee wizard Tim Wendleboe in such awe of Darina, the air almost lit up.  

I think I was involved with four workshops. A few of them were my ideas, including, "What  is terroir and can you taste it in the glass?"

I got my wines together.

Gorgeous ones. Chenin from Anjou Noir and also a lovely ditty from Georgia. But I was dismayed. The wines that I presented were not just natural but organic. On the other hand, all of my wine-writing colleagues brought conventional wines from conventional soils and winemaking.

 

 

                 David + The astute and lovable David Lebovitz, and Mark Kingston, the creator of my new  obsession, The Golden Bean's beans. 

 

What is it with this persistent schism between food and wine? Why do we insist food be local and organic but when it comes to wine? No.  

Why for that matter do chefs who care about their ingredient, allow wines that are processed and irrigated and poorly farmed on their list?  

A wild paradox, no? With those questions in mind, I raced to what would prove to be a thrilling presentation over in the big house.  

 What's happening in our soil panel discussion was the last event of Saturday and in that eager crowd there was not one Roundup Ready person.                            

Initially, I had been asked to sit on the panel, but when I saw the experts assembled, such as  Patrick Holden and Roger Phillips, I begged off.  So instead I sat in the audience  itching to ask when was the chef and the consumer going to understand that wine is food and farming matters there as well? I was eager to share the wisdom of the best grape farmers I know and share their obsessive dedication. I wanted to show them that there were people in viticulture who shared the same beliefs. I wanted to ask how many people in that room choose wine on price rather than on naturalness? I wanted to know if this disconnect was there for the consumer or just the wine writer and chef.

I said to myself; that's the last time I decline an invitation for feeling unqualified. The motto for the future? Courage. 

But being in the audience was worthwhile. It was there I heard for the first time the profound notion that  soil is the earth's gut.  "The key concept that has changed my thinking on farming," Patrick Holden said, "is to understand that the soil surrounding a plant’s root zone is effectively its digestive system, or ‘stomach’."

The idea is that we should be concerned about our gut health, with  probiotics etc., just as we should be concerned about keeping all of that life and diversity in the soil.

The soils is our earth's digestive track.

Of course it is.

At the end of the talk questions were taken.  The most memorable came from a young and local farmer who talked of his devotion to the soil and his  responsibility to steward it into health. His statement was sincere, impassioned, committed--and powerful. The meaning that he drew from working the earth, was almost filled with a religious devotion and moved half of the packed audience to tears. Sitting in that room, it was impossible to feel cynical about the world --at least in that moment I had faith in goodness. This could have been the biggest bomb of a bore for the weekend, but in the end the panel was charged with emotional talk brimming with intellectual and emotional fervor. It made me even prouder to have been included in  that heartfelt literary festival. 

 

Trip

That's co-chair Rory O'Connell. Next to him on the left is Roger (in brilliant crimson) and I believe Roger's wife--whooping it up in the evening. 

 

Open to consumers, if you want a food festival of a wholly different kind, one with soul, head to Cork, May 20-22, 2016.

 

This Saturday? Sag Harbor!

The event (fantastic by the way) has passed but, the store lives on. 

If you're stuck out on Sag Harbor or that part of Long Island and need wine, this is your spot. The wines are incredible. And what's better when i was there someone came in and said, "I need a rosé, but not Whispering Angel." Boy, were they in the right place.  Trying to remember what Olivier sold her, La Boutanche? Pradeaux Rosé? What's on the shelves? Rateau! Georgians! Tripoz! Roccalini! This place is a real find and what's more, it's going to be a game changer out there. 

89A Division Street. And the cheese shop it's attached to is divine.

 

 

 

Cav1

 

 

 

 

 

and the wines are........

 

Escoda-Sanahuja Conca de Barbera Nas del Gegant 2013,

Okro's Rkatsiteli 2010

Didimi Krakhuna 2013 ...

Rateau Hautes Cotes de Beaune Rouge 2013

La Boutanche Rose of Grolleau from Massale

 + a little Tripoz here and there..

 

 

Cav2