I am excited to share that my website made Amsterdam Diary’s Top 90 Wine Blog List. This is the first list I have made since I re-branded, so this wonderful news. The author writes, “If you are looking for the perspective of a professional who specializes in wine, check out elizabethsmithconsulting.com. This website will open doors for you to a world you could never have imagined, and this is why it’s worth checking out.”
*CLICK HERE FOR THE LIST*
Firehouse Wine Cellars is aptly named, of course, after the 1905-era, former fire station purchased by some Rapid City, South Dakota, locals in 1991 to create a local brewery, Firehouse Brewing Company, South Dakota’s first microbrewery. From this venture came the idea of opening a winery beside the brewery. The entire operation – brewery and winery – is still owned and operated by the original partners and family members.
On the back label of Firehouse Wine Cellars’ The American Marquette, I discovered this lovely description from Michael L. Gould, whose Old Folsom Vineyard is the source of the winery’s South Dakota grapes:
Nearly 100 years ago, my grandfather, Antonio Finco, emigrated to this country on a ship called America from the port of Genoa, Italy. Like many others, he left his home and all that was familiar to start a new life in a strange new land. His few possessions he carried in a small suitcase, his traditions he carried in his heart.
Like his fathers before him, Antonio made wine and continued that tradition in his new country. Even now, we continue this family tradition from our own estate grown Marquette grapes, harvested from Old Folsom Vineyard, just south of Rapid City. Like my grandfather, this remarkable grape has made its start in America. Genetically, the Marquette and I are both grandsons, it is a grandson to the noble Pinot Noir. Together we have found our roots under the South Dakota sun.
It is in this spirit of tradition and family that I present to you Firehouse Wine Cellars and three of their wines: one made from Nebraska brianna and edelweiss grapes (my first Nebraska wine) and two made from South Dakota marquette (my first South Dakota wines).
NV Brianna Edelweiss, American, $24
(Sample; 235 cases produced)
While this wine is sold as non-vintage and is sometimes a blend of South Dakota and Nebraska grapes and different vintages, winemaker Adam Martinez confirmed that all the grapes in this offering are from Nebraska and the 2017 vintage. However, it was easier to keep the label consistent with previous releases. (Those who have submitted wine labels to the TTB understand.) Cool fermented at around 55 degrees, fined and clarified, and aged in stainless steel, this semi-sweet white, a blend of 50% brianna and 50% edelweiss, is a light gold in the glass. On the palate, the .08% residual sugar meets its match with the 10.4% total acidity, rendering a bright, integrated play of honeysuckle, sweet tropical fruits, tree fruits like apple and pear, and a lime finish. With an ABV of 11.1%, sip away without the guilt. Pair this with spring, summer, salads, and seafood.
2016 The American Marquette, Old Folsom Vineyard, South Dakota, $30
(Sample; Only 27 cases produced due to a summer of hail and bird damage)
This 100% marquette wine, whose grapes are sourced from Mike and Marnie Gould’s 10-year-old vineyard just south of Rapid City, goes through a cool fermentation and manual punch downs, which, according to Martinez, creates more skin contact. This does not increase tannins, but rather, higher phenolic compounds. It is aged in for nine to twelve months in a blend of 60% French and 40% American oak barrels. With lower alcohol (13.6% ABV) and high total acidity (11.2%), this medium, brick-colored wine is replete with tart blackcurrant, cranberry, plum, and peppery spice, begging for rich, fatty foods like hearty, meaty pasta dishes and charcuterie.
NV Tradition Marquette, Year Two, $29
(Sample; 60 cases produced)
Tradition is Firehouse Wine Cellars’ take on a fortified, port-style wine made from South Dakota marquette grapes and bottled every two years. During fermentation, Martinez adds a neutral brandy spirit made from distilled syrah grapes. The finished wine has 8% residual sugar and 20.5% ABV. Martinez uses a solera-style system’s fractional blending and aging regime. The first vintage was aged in barrel and the second vintage added to that barrel. Year One was the first year of bottling and this is Year Two. The original vintage and the newest vintage will always be part of future blends. As a result, going forward, the youngest part of the blend will be two years and the oldest is five or more years. This Year Two selection is dark and opaque in the glass, more brown than red, and tastes like someone spiked the homemade, chocolate-covered, black cherry cordials. In fact, chocolate-covered cherries are exactly how I imagine pairing this wine, although Black Forest cake isn’t out of the question.
For more information about Firehouse Wine Cellars and to purchase their wines, visit their website, or better yet, visit both the winery and brewery for a complete, South Dakota craft beverage experience.
As luck would have it, it was a very cold night for the kickoff reception and dinner at the 13th Annual Anderson Valley Aromatic White Wine Festival hosted by the Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association. However, it was under the warmth of a heater, accompanied by delicious wine and food, where the two Elizabeths, one from Philo and one from Napa, would first meet and discuss the magic of their name, which comes from the Hebrew word, elīsheba`, meaning God is my oath.
The next day, Napa Elizabeth entered the festival’s grand tasting, and before her very eyes stood Philo Elizabeth (also known as Alisa or Ali Nemo) and her partner, winemaker André DuVigneaud (Andy), who beckoned her to taste two of the rieslings from Bee Hunter Wine, their winemaking project featuring a range of whites, a rosé, and reds from the hidden gem vineyards of Mendocino and Sonoma Counties. Like a bee is always hunting for the perfect garden, Bee Hunter, a word from Boonville’s own language dialect, Boontling, is always searching for lesser-known, sustainable, organic, and biodynamic vineyards from which to source their grapes.
Napa Elizabeth’s mission: to find the festival’s perfect pairing for their 2015 Wiley Vineyard Riesling ($24), whose slight effervescence gave it a unique Pét-Nat or cider quality. She buzzed around the room (pun intended), stumbling up on the small plates prepared and served by Boont Berry Farm Store, which featured locally sourced foods like smoked salmon, turkey, avocado, mushroom, sweet onion, and cranberry. The winner: the plate that Andy fondly called “deconstructed Thanksgiving”, featuring the turkey, onions, mushroom, and cranberry cream cheese spread. Better grab this wine for your Thanksgiving table before it is gone.
The two Elizabeths would reunite that evening at Bee Hunter’s pop-up tasting at Aquarelle Catering & Events in Boonville. Napa Elizabeth tasted through their available portfolio and could not get enough, so returned once again the next day to discover that not only is Andy a winemaker, but he is a chef, making his own brisket sliders and BBQ tacos, surprising those who ventured in to taste. He made a special-order plate for Napa Elizabeth that fit her wellness lifestyle. The wine pairing: Bee Hunter’s take on Bordeaux, the Yorkville Highlands blend of 50% cabernet sauvignon and 50% merlot ($48), which showed off its higher-terrain terroir in unison with the rich, fatty brisket.
Napa Elizabeth was sad to depart Boonville, but Philo Elizabeth said that she and Andy would be in Napa soon, the following Thursday, in fact, and the two reunited for a wine club pickup at Mumm Napa. As they said goodbye, Philo Elizabeth handed Napa Elizabeth two open samples, the 2014 Bee Hunter Mendocino Pinot Noir ($48) and the 2014 Oppenlander Vineyard Pinot Noir ($60). She returned home to taste with her cat, Einstein, by her side, and spoke to Philo Elizabeth and Andy via telephone the next day to get the rest of the story.
As always, your palate may vary.
2014 Bee Hunter Mendocino Pinot Noir
With grapes sourced from three vineyards in Mendocino County – Wiley, Docker, and Oppenlander – this wine is aged 20 months in a mix of 20-25% new, tighter grain, French oak barrels, and the remainder used one to four vintages. This oak regime, longer extraction time, and a blend of vineyard sources renders this wine very fruit forward and aromatic, a delight for even the most sensitive wine drinkers. A light garnet color in the glass, this wine shows juicy, sweet berry fruit like black cherry on the front of the palate, finishing with a tart berry mélange of redcurrant and cranberry with a backdrop of black tea.
2014 Oppenlander Vineyard Pinot Noir
Made the same as the previous wine, but sourced from one vineyard, Oppenlander Vineyard, located just north of Anderson Valley and east of the coast, but close enough to enjoy the cool, foggy coastal influence, this pinot noir is the dark and brooding sibling to the Mendocino. A medium garnet in the glass, this wine is creamier, more weighty on the palate, and reveals an intense, brambly fruit profile of blackberry, blackcurrant, and black raspberry. The zingy acidity and spice are notable, the latter of which reminded me of my favorite cinnamon tea. If you spend any time with Philo Elizabeth and Andy, you may hear this wine referred to as “Guns & Kittens”, a throwback to their first vintage meeting with the growers in their 1860-era farmhouse and its plethora of vineyard kittens and 30 long guns, which precariously found themselves together in a closet during this fateful visit. The following year, one of the vineyard kittens, Baxter, found a home with Philo Elizabeth and Andy, joining family members Cleo and Puff.
Thankfully for us, this is only the beautiful beginning of the tale of two Elizabeths and Bee Hunter Wine. Visit their website, where you can purchase wine, learn about their Bee Hunter Brand Ambassadorship program, book a tasting event, or become a Bee Hunter club member yourself. Stay tuned and always bee huntin’.
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!
Most importantly, I transformed myself by losing 87 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:
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.
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
Robert Biale Vineyards
Hendry Ranch Wines
DaVero Farms and Winery
William Harrison Vineyards and Winery
Crocker & Starr
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!
I am from Asheville, North Carolina, which has more breweries per capita than any other city in the United States. My interest in craft beverages began years ago with beer, not wine. Thus, my first article about craft beer is long overdue. I am thrilled to share with you one of my favorite craft breweries, GoatHouse Brewing in Lincoln, Placer County, California. I have visited GoatHouse numerous times this past year, including a Sunday morning, Farm Yoga session in August 2017. It was an honor to interview co-owner, Catherine Johnson, for basil & salt, after my first experience of yoga among the brewery’s dairy goats.
*CLICK HERE TO READ*
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.