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

Wines for All Seasons

As the weather and seasons change, consumers seize the opportunity to enjoy what wine experts call seasonal wines. However, I am of the belief that wines do not have to be seasonal in nature. I enjoy food-friendly, versatile wines that fit all seasons. From classic varieties like Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Riesling to less familiar varieties like Malagouzia, Pinot Blanc, and Xinomavro, there’s something for everyone: both still and sparkling wines at varying price points, all highly rated by some of the world’s renowned wine critics.
*CLICK HERE TO READ*

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

Villa Maria Estate: The Beth’s Smart Sip Trifecta!

Villa Maria
On Wednesday November 15, 2017, I helped facilitate the latest Twitter tasting with Villa Maria Estate, and I could not be more pleased with the selections that the winery sent to me to taste and review. Time and time again, Villa Maria fulfills at a price point that all wine lovers can enjoy. Thus, I am declaring these three wines Beth’s Smart Sips, wines that over deliver with regard to quality versus price. Below are my thoughts. As always, your palate may vary.

2017 Villa Maria Estate Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough $14 (sample)
It is always exciting to taste this flagship offering from Villa Maria and this year’s vintage is no exception. Herbal notes lead to an abundance of citrus and tropical fruits on the palate. Mouthwatering acidity makes this the perfect aperitif wine. Pair this with light appetizers, salads, shellfish, and cheeses like chèvre, fromage blanc, and gruyère.

2016 Villa Maria Estate Private Bin Chardonnay, East Coast, $15 (sample)
My first taste of Villa Maria Chardonnay did not disappoint. Its balance of citrus and stone fruits and a kiss of toasty oak are gently cradled on the palate by a medium-bodied, luscious mouthfeel. For white wine lovers, this is the go-to wine for brie, charcuterie, salmon, poultry, and pork.

2016 Villa Maria Estate Private Bin Pinot Noir, Marlborough, $18 (sample)
Can you say cherry, spice, and everything nice? This Pinot Noir is oh, so approachable with its bright, red berry fruits and delicate tannins. This wine has it all: drinkability, softness, and food-friendly acidity that will be the ideal red wine accompaniment to casseroles, coq au vin, duck, roasted pork or turkey, and sausage stuffing.

Find your favorite Villa Maria wines at this link and stock up!

Happy Holidays!
Beth

It’s Villa Maria time!

Villa Maria

I realized today as I was preparing to write this post that I have not participated in a Villa Maria tasting since June 2016. Life has a funny way of throwing curve balls sometimes and that is why.

However, I am thrilled to be back with my Villa Maria family and friends to co-host this month’s First Sip of Fall on Wednesday, November 15 at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time/5:00 p.m. Pacific Time on Twitter. This time, we will be tasting the following new releases just in time for the holidays:

2017 Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, $14
2016 Private Bin Chardonnay, East Coast, $15
2016 Private Bin Pinot Noir, Marlborough, $18

It is especially exciting to be one of the first people to taste a 2017 vintage wine, a perennial favorite of mine, the sauvignon blanc. This will also be my first time tasting a chardonnay from New Zealand. The fact that it is from Villa Maria is icing on the cake.

Regular readers of my website know that my affinity for Villa Maria dates back to May 2012, when I first became acquainted with the wines. Every year since, 2013 through now, I have participated in these tastings because I believe in the brand. Founded in 1961 by Sir George Fistonich, Villa Maria is still family owned. In 2017, Drinks International named Villa Maria the most admired wine brand in New Zealand and the fourth most admired in the world.

Villa Maria wines are accessible, affordable, and approachable. I am enamored with the winemaking style and the lower alcohol of the wines, which, in my opinion, makes them more enjoyable alone or with food. With Villa Maria, you get a whole lot of bang for your buck. They are proof positive that delicious wines do not have to be expensive.

I hope you will join my friends and me on Twitter on November 15. To participate, be sure to include the hashtags #FirstSipNZ, #OpenAnotherWorld, and #VillaMaria in your tweets and posts. Follow Villa Maria’s winemakers, Helen Morrison at @Helen_Wine, Kathrin Jakowiec at @Kat_Halbtrocken, moderator Janet Fouts at @JFouts, as well as me, @travelwinechick, to virtually enjoy this first sip of fall.

Cheers!
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