2017: My Year of Challenge, Transformation, and Love

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When asked to describe my 2017 in one word, my immediate response has been challenging. The first things that come to mind are the sudden death of my mother in January (Obscurity Thwarted), an unexpected tax bill in March, my health scares in January and May-June, then the Napa and Sonoma wildfires in October (A TWC Update: 2017, wildfires, recognition, and Villa Maria).

I decided to reread my website articles from the past year and categorize them. I realized that despite the challenges, I live a simple, charming life here in the Napa Valley. It is not easy living solo in a place far away from my real home, which in my heart will always be the East Coast.

I have enjoyed and shared with you some amazing wine and winery experiences this year, such as:

Villa Maria Estate: The Beth’s Smart Sip Trifecta!
4th of July Cookout Wine of the Moment: 2014 Antigal Uno Cabernet Sauvignon
2011 Lieb Cellars Reserve Blanc de Blancs: My Lake Tahoe Wine of the Moment
2016 Bridge Lane Chardonnay: My Wine of the Moment and Beth’s Smart Sip
The Comstock Experience
Webster Cellars Reserve: My Wine of the Moment
She Said, He Said: 2017 ZAP Zinfandel Experience
You had me at aphrodisiac!

I have also had great success this year, both personally and professionally.

Most importantly, I transformed myself by losing 82 pounds in 10 months and have maintained this healthy, fit lifestyle for five months and counting. I finally loved myself enough to take care of me, so that I may give to you my best self. This transformation is my second lease on life. Many of you have contacted me with your encouragement and stories inspired by my success, so I created a separate website which focuses on this journey, Napa Fit Girl. I share my thoughts about wine and health here, too, though:

#MWWC33: Once Upon A Time
Translation, Passion, and Transformation

Professionally, I do not think I have had a better year than 2017.

I am truly honored to be recognized by wine writing mentors, winning a Born Digital Wine Award in the category of Best Tourism Content with a Focus on Wine for my piece, Lodi: Beyond the Zinfandel. I still cannot believe I won. Thank you to all of you who read and support my writing.

My website was also recognized by 10greatest.com as a top wine blog.

In 2017, I contributed to five other outlets: basil & salt magazine, Drizly, Snooth, American Winery Guide, and Cellar Angels. I did not realize I had published so much. In fact, all year I have been feeling guilty for not doing more. I accepted fewer wine samples due to my lifestyle change, and instead, opted for more wine destination experiences, which I prefer. Through my words, you and I visited East Coast destinations such as Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New York. You accompanied me on my travels to Amador, El Dorado, Napa, Placer, San Joaquin, Santa Barbara, and Sonoma Counties in California. By way of my palate, I took you to Argentina, Chile, France, Italy, New York, and New Zealand. I wrote about my favorite wine movie, my philosophy about tasting notes, and craft beer. Below are my articles for these other outlets, in case you missed them. I was much more prolific than I imagined.

basil & salt magazine
Wines for All Seasons
GoatHouse Brewing
Taste Maryland!
A Moment with Viticulturist, Vintner, and Winemaker David Parrish

Drizly
2017 Top Shelf Blogger Holiday Gift Guide

Snooth
Hudson-Chatham Winery Chelois
Maryland Wine: It’s Time!
Much Ado About Tasting Notes
Beth’s Smart Sip: 2016 Crowded House Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand
My Wine Movie Moment: French Kiss
Wine Destination: Chester County, Pennsylvania
Gender, no. Vermentino, yes.
Hudson-Chatham Baco Noir
Champagne Jacquart Brut Mosaïque NV

American Winery Guide
Hudson-Chatham Winery in Troy, New York
Ackerman Family Vineyards
The Red Hook Winery
Bella Grace Vineyards, Sutter Creek
Comstock Wines
Boeger Winery
Robert Biale Vineyards
Lightning Wines
Hudson-Chatham Tannersville
Hendry Ranch Wines
DaVero Farms and Winery
William Harrison Vineyards and Winery
Crocker & Starr
Dutton-Goldfield Winery

Cellar Angels
2014 Zoetic Wines Grazioso Sauvignon Blanc

In light of all that I have accomplished and enjoyed throughout the year, I have changed my one word to describe 2017. The new word is love: self-love, love of the written word, love of wine experiences, love of travel, and love for you, my readers.

I wish for you in 2018 the kinds of love I have discovered this year in the face of great challenges. May 2018 be our best year yet.

Happy New Year!
Beth

My First Writing Award!

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Today something incredible happened. I still cannot believe it, but I won my first writing award.

I have always loved writing. I am a much better writer than a public speaker. It is my communication method of choice. As a child, I kept a diary, under lock and key, of course, and as a young adult, I kept a journal for many years. When I was in sixth grade, I wrote my first book in a spiral notebook. Sadly, I do not know what happened to my book. I still have dreams of writing a book about my life of reinvention and transformation.

My experience in professional writing originated during my years as a graduate student and community college professor. I wrote many papers, in French, as a master’s degree student. As a doctoral student, I wrote class papers and my dissertation. As a college professor, I wrote articles for academic journals.

I began this blog June 16, 2011, not having any formal wine knowledge. However, what I lacked in experience, I made up for in my passion to write and my thirst for learning.

Today, I was both honored and surprised to be the winner of a Born Digital Wine Award in the category of Best Tourism Content with a Focus on Wine for my piece, Lodi: Beyond the Zinfandel. I could not be any happier than I am in this moment. Thank you, readers, and all of the media outlets who have given me the opportunity to write. It is in practice that I become a better writer.

Love,
Beth

A TWC Update: 2017, wildfires, recognition, and Villa Maria

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Here it is November already. I don’t know about you, but it has been a heck of a year for me. In January, I lost my mom unexpectedly. When I returned home from traveling home for the the funeral, I became so ill that my doctor thought I had pneumonia. When she sent me for X-rays, the radiologist thought he saw a mass. After another round of X-rays, they realized that the mass was bone. March then arrived with an unpleasant surprise: I discovered I owed a an unexpectedly high amount in federal and state taxes. A couple of months later, I had another health scare, an abnormal mammogram, which, after two ultrasounds and another mammogram, turned out to be a tissue density change.

Then last month, I witnessed the devastation of the Napa and Sonoma wildfires. I woke up around 1:00 a.m. on Monday morning, October 9, thanks to my cat and an explosion of Nixle text alerts on my phone. A friend who lives just a couple of miles from me had to evacuate her home that night, which threw me into a tailspin as well. At 2:00 a.m., my suitcase was packed by the door and couldn’t go back to sleep. After a couple of more uneasy days and sleepless nights, I realized there was nothing preventing me from evacuating voluntarily. I left on Wednesday, October 11, just prior to the announcement that my apartment complex was part of an advisory evacuation. My instinct has always served me well and this time was no exception.

On Sunday morning, October 15, I returned to Napa. As I was driving home, the Nixle alert announced that the advisory evacuation had been lifted for my area. Again, I knew in my heart it was time to return. I learned some hard life lessons during those five days when I didn’t know if I would have a home to which to return. In spite of what happened to me, I am thankful that I had a place to stay. I was fortunate not to have lost anything but a bit of my faith in humanity. Two of my co-workers lost everything in the Atlas Fire. A winery a mile and a half from where I live burned to the ground. Countless others suffered, too. I was blessed to escape tragic losses that cannot ever be replaced. My heart will heal in time and I will learn to trust again.

I would be remiss if I didn’t publicly thank CAL FIRE, first responders, local law enforcement, and other emergency personnel for their tireless hard work during the fires. I also want to thank my friend, Christine, of OMG I so need a glass of wine or I’m gonna sell my kids, who was and is there for me in so many ways.

If you want to help others who lost so much during the fires, please click this link to see where you can make a difference.

In the midst of the fear of the wildfires, I received some unexpected, happy news. I was shortlisted for my first writing award for a piece I wrote last year entitled, “Lodi: Beyond the Zinfandel” in the Born Digital Wine Awards, in the category of Best Tourism Content with a Focus on Wine. I cannot tell you how much this glimmer of positivity meant to me during this heartbreak. After six years of wine tourism and wine writing, someone finally took notice of my work.

It is only November 2, 2017, but life appears to be looking up this month I am excited to announce that I have been asked again to be the writing and social media lead for the upcoming First Sip of Fall – Villa Maria Twitter Tasting on Wednesday, November 15 at 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time. If you follow this website, you know that I have written about and sipped Villa Maria wines no fewer than eight times since 2012. I am honored that the team at Villa Maria has entrusted me with getting the word out about their new releases. Stay tuned for more information about Villa Maria and this special tasting.

On that happier note, I will conclude this post with a quote I wrote to inspire myself for the rest of the year and beyond. I hope you, too, will take this and run with it, as I plan to do:

In every moment is the opportunity to start over, let go, begin something new, be happy, forgive, travel, live, and love. This is my moment.

Love,
Beth

 

#MWWC33: Once Upon A Time

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#MWWC33: Once Upon A Time
*This post is an entry for Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #33. You may vote through June 19 at this link.*

Once upon a time, I sat down at my computer to publish another post when I realized, “Oh crap, #MWWC33 (Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #33) is due! I have no idea about what to write!” I finished my original post and while doing so, I realized I have something weighing on my mind and it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while now.

As some of you know, I have lost 75 pounds and eight clothing sizes, as of this post, since September 12, 2016, by working out five or six days per week at Fit Body Boot Camp Napa and by following a meal plan outline. Alcohol is not a part of the plan, of course. I also recently began a new website, Boot Camp Babe, to share my experience and to inspire others. There, I wrote a post entitled, About the wine…, which chronicles my history with wine, its integral part in my life, and its correlation to my weight gain these past eight or so years.

During these past nine months, I have cut my wine consumption tremendously. Prior to this, I was one of those people who came home from work and opened a bottle of wine a few nights per week to accompany my dinner and to relax. I also work at a winery in the Napa Valley as a wine club and social media manager, so wine is my career. I used to attend many wine and food events, accept lots of wine samples, and went wine tasting often. Now I only drink wine occasionally, such as when I am celebrating a special occasion, when I go out to a nice dinner (not always, but sometimes), or have a friend over. I maybe have wine a couple of times per month. I taste wine sparingly, spitting and dumping most of it, and I am being more selective regarding acceptance of wine samples. It’s not that I don’t enjoy wine, but frankly, I feel amazing without it. At my annual physical in April, my vitals and blood work results were outstanding. I love how I feel after a workout. Before, I was consuming hundreds and hundreds of calories in wine and now I prefer my calories to be solid, not liquid.

Interestingly, I think my palate is changing as well due to both my dietary changes and decreased wine intake. When I do indulge, my go-to wines are Champagne and sparkling wines. I also lean towards crisp, clean, preferably unoaked or neutral oak aged, higher-acid whites and rosés. Heavily oaked, higher-alcohol red wines feel and taste too heavy.

One final observation is that I feel somewhat disconnected from my wine writing and social media peers because I no longer participate frequently in virtual tastings, nor do I post lots of wine photos and reviews like I used to do. I’ve even had someone tell me that I am not as fun anymore. I have to admit, that hurt. I am still the same person inside, but with less weight and wine in my life. I am not denying myself anything, I am making dietary and workout choices that make me a better person in every way, inside and out. I have also broadened my connections and friendships to include fitness-minded people like me. I am healthy, happy, strong, and yes, fun.

As you can imagine, this poses a dilemma for me. Am I still qualified to write about wine if I don’t taste or drink it as often? Do I continue this website? I hope that you will help me answer some of these questions in the comments below.

Cheers!
Beth

Translation, Passion, and Transformation

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Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #32

This is my entry for Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #32 (#MWWC32), as described at this link. Voting begins Tuesday, April 25, 2017, and ends Monday, May 1, 2017, at the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge website.

I never used to be a procrastinator until I started participating in the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge. After a lifetime as a classic overachiever, perhaps I am starting to relax. Or, perhaps it’s because I see the challenge word and go blank until the very last minute. As I type this, I am still blank, but I am going to write something to keep my streak alive.

When I think of the word translation, I am immediately taken back to my college days. More specifically, I am transported back to Aix-en-Provence, France, and I am sitting in my summer abroad French Translation class at The University of Provence, now part of Aix-Marseille University. I was only 21 years old. The class was held in the afternoon after a grueling morning of other classes. Honestly, it was all I could do to get through this very intense class. It was extremely difficult and the evening homework was long, tedious, and hard as hell. However, the professor was fantastic. She, my classmates, and I often went out after class, as if we didn’t have hours of homework to do every night, and had drinks and bites at various local bars and cafés in Aix. It was during these tasting experiences that I really began to enjoy French wine, especially local wines. I didn’t know anything about wine, but I liked what I drank.

After our post-class outings, we returned to campus for dinner in the cafeteria. When I first arrived in Aix-en-Provence, I became very ill drinking from the pitchers of water in the cafeteria that were left for us daily. I will never forget that day. I had attended all of my classes through the late afternoon when it hit me about halfway back to our dormitory. I had to run, not walk, and it seemed like the longest run of my life. I made it, but I vowed from that point forward to only drink wine with lunch and dinner.

My wine experiences in Aix were turning points towards my enjoyment of wine, not just to avoid water, but as a true beverage choice. Shortly thereafter, as we traveled by bus from Aix-en-Provence back to Paris, I would have my first real wine experience in Beaune.

Although I no longer teach French, my previous career, the language has proved to be very helpful in my wine career, especially when it comes to the translation and understanding of wine labels, wine-related vocabulary, research, and publications. I often revisit this journey and of course, hindsight is 20/20. I truly believe that this study abroad experience in France was where my passion for all things French converged with a blossoming passion for wine. As life would have it, it would take many years for wine to move to the forefront and French to go into remission. Regretfully, I rarely have the opportunity to speak French or travel to France. I haven’t traveled there since 2005. I would love to visit France from a wine professional’s perspective.

Now I find myself in transition again as I follow my latest passion, health and fitness. I’ve lost 64 pounds in seven months through a high-intensity interval training workout and meal plan.  I believe that there is an ebb and flow when it comes to life’s passions, and that they co-exist, but either take center stage or persist in the background. It remains to be seen how my love of wine will translate into my current mind and body transformation.

You had me at aphrodisiac!

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Aphrodisiac Food and Wine Pairing

Working in the wine business, I attend many events. After a while, many start to feel the same. However, at Dutton-Goldfield Winery in the Russian River Valley, which I reviewed previously, the event planners are clearly thinking outside of the box. One such event was their recent Aphrodisiac Food & Wine Pairing Class taught by Master of Gastronomy and author/fourth-generation publisher, Amy Reiley. I was excited, literally and figuratively, when Dutton-Goldfield allowed me to attend the class as a representative of the media.

You may not be as familiar as you should be with Reiley’s name, but I bet you’ve heard of some of her cookbooks such as Fork Me, Spoon Me: The Sensual Cookbook and Romancing the Stove, both of which attendees received as part of the class. She is also the founder of Life of Reiley, a boutique publishing company for culinary professionals, and the creator of EatSomethingSexy.

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Amy Reiley teaching us about aphrodisiac foods

Attendees of the class were couples except me. Such is the life of a single girl. Regardless, I had a fantastic time and met a lovely couple with whom I shared a table. The wife was from my hometown of Asheville. Small world.

The class consisted of four food and wine pairings, with the recipes being from Reiley’s cookbooks and the wines from Dutton-Goldfield, of course. Chef and Innkeeper Larry Willis of the The Gables Wine Country Inn prepared the food.

As we proceeded through the pairings, Reiley explained to us what makes a food or drink an aphrodisiac. It is typically a food or drink that offers long-term health benefits, such as nutrients our bodies require and/or something that is good for cardiovascular health and blood flow. A few examples include honey (the nutricious nectar of Aphrodite), crabmeat (high protein, low fat), avocado (healthy fat, vitamin E), and oysters (zinc). Aphrodisiacs also often impart immediate physiological effects, as do wine, chile peppers, and ginger, for example. Now about those delectable pairings…

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Honey Carrot Soup and 2015 Chileno Valley Vineyard Riesling

Pairing #1: Honey Carrot Soup and 2015 Chileno Valley Vineyard Riesling, Marin County
One of the reason’s I love Dutton-Goldfield is because of the beautiful Alsatian-style wines they produce. The riesling’s lively acidity and citrus and stone fruit flavors tamed the sweetness of the soup ever so gently, as well as cleansed my palate for every sumptuous spoonful.

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Afternoon Delight Crab Salad and 2014 Dutton Ranch Rued Vineyard Chardonnay

Pairing #2: Afternoon Delight Crab Salad and 2014 Dutton Ranch Rued Vineyard Chardonnay, Green Valley of Russian River Valley
As as some of you may know, I am not typically a fan of California chardonnay, but this pairing left me wanting more in every way. This cool-climate chardonnay was luscious, yet also bright. Combined with the salinity of the crab and capers, the creaminess of the avocado, and the textured crunchiness of the apples, this was my aphrodisiac moment of the class. I took tiny bites and sips to prolong the deliciousness. I brought home two bottles of the chardonnay and I’m ready to make this crab salad for someone special. Oh, yes.

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White Truffle Scented Wild Mushroom Risotto and 2014 McDougall Vineyard Pinot Noir

Pairing #3: White Truffle Scented Wild Mushroom Risotto and 2014 McDougall Vineyard Pinot Noir, Fort Ross-Seaview
This was the first rice recipe I’ve eaten in over five months. Oh, my. The velvety risotto coated my mouth, while the intensity and earthiness of this pinot noir gave way to sensual euphoria. This, my second favorite pairing, felt like comfort food, like home, and I imagined curling up beside someone and sharing this exquisite pairing together in front of a warm, crackling fire.

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Devil’s Gulch Ranch Pork Albondigas and 2014 Devil’s Gulch Vineyard Pinot Noir

Pairing #4: Devil’s Gulch Ranch Pork Albondigas and 2014 Devil’s Gulch Vineyard Pinot Noir, Marin County
You had me at pork and pinot noir from the same farm, no less, right out of the gate! I mean, how could one go wrong? The acidity of the wine and sauce was a match made in heaven. And this pinot noir, for goodness sake, showed layers and layers of vibrant berry fruit and complex spices for days. I didn’t want this pairing to end.

As we progressed through the class, which I was sad to see end so quickly, I thought often about my Fit Body Boot Camp meal plan, which isn’t just good for me and has helped me lose lots of weight in just over five months (52 pounds as I type this!), but also contains many aphrodisiac foods. Now that’s a slam dunk: great health, improved body shape and image, AND increased libido. Now if only I could find someone with whom to try some of these recipes and wines…

#EatAndDrinkSomethingSexy!
Beth