Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

My WSET Level 2 Experience

By Nikki Lincoln


One of the things that William highly encouraged when asking me to join this blog, was for me to work on getting a couple of WSET awards. I had thought about taking Sommelier classes for some time so I decided to look into it. I was happy to learn that the Wine and Spirits Education Trust is more of a scholarly pursuit of wine and is fitting for someone who wants to write about, review, or simple know more about wine. I realized this was the ideal path for me and soon signed up.


I was so excited when my books came and quickly started reading through them so I would be knowledgeable in time for my class. The main textbook was divided in a way that made the subject matter very approachable. It started with basic, broad wine education and then later chapters went into more details about specific varietals and regions. This approach gave a good foundation before delving into the nitty gritty and gave a great foundation before heading into the classroom portion of the program.


When the day came, I have to admit, I was a little nervous. I love wine tasting and I’ve had so much fun writing articles for this blog but I’ve often second guessed whether I’m tasting the right notes or not and I was worried about having to share my opinions in front of a class full of people and a master taster.Anyone who’s met me may find this hard to believe, but I get really nervous about public speaking and usually have to practice what I’m going to say in my head so I don’t mess it up when I open my mouth. Knowing that we’d be going around the room sharing our tasting notes about the various wines we’d be trying made my heart beat so quickly. What if my turn left me having to describe a wine that I couldn’t pick out notes on? What if my nose was off? What’s the difference between gold and lemon colors? I decided I just had to go for it so when we got a wine that I felt comfortable with, I raised my hand to volunteer my notes… and the teacher said buy clomid without a prescription I nailed it. 20130817_105604 The rest of the weekend in class went that way. By the end, she was looking in my direction when there were no other volunteers. The experience was really great for my confidence. I love wine and writing and it felt so good to have my skill level in this field validated.


The weeks since have been spent studying for the test (which was last weekend). Although this level didn’t include any blind tastings, I made sure to taste a lot of wine as part of my preparation and I can’t wait to share those notes. I also started keeping track of wines that I wasn’t as familiar with so a trip to K&L may be in order soon so that I can remedy the situation. I also kept track of the wines I really loved and I’m looking to get those as well. The whole experience was just incredibly educational and one of the most enjoyable classroom settings I’ve experienced. Hopefully, I did well enough to pass the exam because I’m looking forward to taking the Level 3 course next year.

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Interview: Nikki Lincoln, Simple Hedonisms New Millennial Writer

An Interview With Nikki Lincoln

Last week Simple Hedonisms announced a new writer and focus in “Millennial Writer to Join Simple Hedonisms – Introducing Nikki Lincoln

Today we kick that off sharing a little bit about Nikki, in an essay interview I asked her to fill out.

Why Do You Get So Excited About Wine?Nikki Hollywood

I think for me, it’s really just about how big and complex wine is. Even though I’ve been tasting wine for several years now, I keep finding something new and surprising. There’s always something to discover and it’s been fun to see how my tastes have grown and changed over the years.

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I suppose you could make a similar argument about beer but frankly, I like the taste of wine more. You could also say similar things about spirits – and I do enjoy a good whiskey or tequila tasting but I also know I can’t sit around a have a glass of tequila every night with dinner and expect to be a functioning member of society (props to anyone who can though).

It’s interesting to have a beverage that is common enough that it’s ok to have it every day but so complex that different varietals and vintages will pair so differently with meals and occasions. I love that wine can be something so normal and common but also something that can be prestigious and luxurious. I’m not sure there are a lot of things you can say that about.

Tell Me About Your Wine Epiphany Moment:

I would say my first wine epiphany moment would be the first time I went on a proper wine tasting trip. Up until then, my scope of wine experiences was pretty limited to family dinners and the occasional White Zin. I “knew” I didn’t like reds and that sweet wine was better.

However, the first time I went tasting, I got to explore different varietals, learn that not all reds taste the same, and hear about what notes to look for in the wine. It definitely opened to world of wine for me and really helped me transition into more complex wines. The more I went tasting, the more this grew and developed until I became a wine enthusiast.

When people tell me they don’t really know about wine and ask how they can get into it – my response is always the same: “Taste a lot of wine!” That’s the only way to really learn what you like and how big the spectrum of wine really is.

Why Do You Want To Write About Wine? What Are You Most Excited To Share With Readers?

Nikki wine

I was never someone growing up who said “I love writing, I want to be a writer,” but I always found that I was great with creative writing classes where I had the freedom to write whatever I wanted. I never had a problem with crafting my experiences or musings into something interesting that flowed off my fingertips. As an adult who doesn’t have to write for homework assignments anymore, I find that I choose to write about things I’m passionate about and wine is one of those things.

I feel my contributions are two-fold.  First, my experience with wine is more exploratory and not as broad as William's (yet),  so I feel my writing will appeal to people who are getting into wine and aren’t looking at it in as technical  a manner. Second, William said I could write about more than wine. I saw that the blog description mentioned food and lifestyle as well and I know I have a lot to contribute in those areas. I love wine but I have plenty to say about food and recreating as well.

What Do You Want to Learn the Most About Wine? What Do You Find The Biggest Challenges

I’d say my biggest challenges would also be what I want to learn the most – I have to work still to picking out notes and details. I’d love to be able to do that better as to appreciate more of the subtleties of the wine.

Share Your Plans: How Often Do You Hope to Write? Themes?  Events? Wine Reviews?Nikki guitar

Anything and everything! Ideally, I’d like to get something up 1-2 times a week. I find that I do better when I just stumble upon ideas. Ever since William and I talked about me writing for the blog, I’ve been jotting down thoughts or ideas for posts for I have some things queuing up already. However, I know that I can’t always put fingers to keys and make words come out. When that happens, I know I can at least conjure up reviews or event summaries. I also am the kind of person who gets lost in thought over the most random of occurrences and that’s how a lot of my posts are born.

I think William got the idea about cialis no prescription me writing for his blog because he liked my style (which he found at my last blogs and so that’s really what I’m bringing here. I come up with a lot of crazy theories, I write about things that I’m passionate about, I’ll do reviews, and sometimes I just ponder over something in my life so much that my heart will pour out of me in the form of a thought provoking post.

Tell Us a Little About Your History and Life to This PointNikki giants

I am originally from Los Angeles. I moved to the Bay Area when I went to college at UC Berkeley. I majored in Economics with a minor in Cal Football. I have not missed a home game since my freshman year of college (and it turned out to be a riveting defeat of Oregon, the experience of missing it was scarring).

After graduating, I started working in finance and that’s where I am now. In my free time I attend a lot of Cal and Giants games, drink a lot of wine, travel, hike, and generally love to explore new places and events. I’m an avid reader, movie watcher, and purveyor of the arts. It might sound like I do a lot – I prefer to refer to it as being very well rounded.

Some Curious Facts About Me:

  • When I was at Cal, I fired the Victory Cannon for a year.
  • I have very few dislikes but the ones I do have are usually things that everyone else loves: watermelon, baked beans, chocolate cake, pepperonis… you get the point.
  • I’m a huge nerd and love geeking out. My favorite superheroes are Batman and Iron Man but I actually tend to prefer villains. My last blogwas an attempt at a geek blog with my friends (
  • I love video games and am quite good at them. People never expect/believe this and I get a lot of satisfaction in proving them wrong.Nikki cannon
  • My mother's family is Brazilian and thus I can speak Portuguese.
  • I am a big Broadway fan and listen to the Showtunes Pandora station all the time. I know most of the words to my favorite musicals and it’s almost impossible to stop me from singing along even though I’m not gifted vocally.
  • I love rock climbing which I started 4 years ago, I climb mostly hard 10's.
  • I am great at remembering facts, movie lines, and useless trivia. I wanted to go on VH1’s World Series of Pop Culture as a way to monetize this skill. However, the series got cancelled after two seasons.
  • I have a creative side that doesn’t get exercised as much as I’d like. I have taken classes in painting, sculpture, web design, and computer graphics.

What Are Your Favorite Wine categories, and varieties? Which Do You Want to Learn the Most About ?

I think William will really like my answer to this one… my favorite wine is Grenache. I had it for the first time at the Vinter’s Market a few years ago and bought my first bottle – the rest was history. I tend to gravitate towards Grenache on any menu and I feel like it consistently delivers.

On the flip side… I want to learn more about Grenache Blanc. I never knew it existed until I did a wine paired tasting menu at Jardiniere. When the Sommelier brought it out I was said as much and I could tell she was excited to introduce it to me. The funny thing about this answer is that William is known for his Grenache Blanc so I know that I’m going to have a lot of opportunity to familiarize myself with the varietal in the near future.


Millennial Writer to Join Simple Hedonisms – Introducing Nikki Lincoln

Simple Hedonisms Is Excited to Announce a New Contributing Partner

My ability to write about wine, share my thoughts and insights has become diminished over the last year, as my role as a small Vintner and strong advocate for Rhone wines, along with a day job, consumes many long days and nights.  My passion for wine and helping others learn explore, however, has not diminished, nor my ability to influence what people consume, as activity on my Delectable and Instagram accounts show regularly, in some cases more than my Cellartracker 1100+ detailed notes.

Simple Hedonisms was one of the widest read bogs in the Bay area during its heyday, hitting 5,000+ readers and 250k hits a month. People still write me regularly they miss the posts and education.  In fact, the following is still very large, when articles are published. I don't intend to give it up, after 5 years. (Wow!) My goal for quite some time was to bring on multiple writers, to leverage the brand and the following, and help others get a start. It's worked with some success, but nothing lasting or persistent.

A few months ago, a friend of mine introduced me to Nikki. She helped at an event, and  I was immediately impressed. Nikki is young, passionate about wine (and life) and not afraid to dive into anything. She is keen to learn, and more importantly, open to it.  I meet a lot of people who love wine, and want to be a part, and have become an good judge of potential and value. Many have stars in their eyes about the wine industry, but not the long term drive and passion to take it to new levels. As I looked at Nikki's personal blog, I was struck by her energy, positive outlook, and a writing style that was clear, easy to read, and engaging.549239_10101839812582643_1038955257_n

I was struck by the insight of this newer consumer in her article, a year ago “The Economics of Wine.” Clearly, good instincts and energy to be tapped into. (The fact that she also wrote about the Batman movie was duly impressive.)

The Plot Thickens, The Wheels Turn, I Gain a “Padawan”

I had somewhat of an affinity to Nikki right away as she is a geek-ette.  You might never guess this as cute as a button millennial is an avid gamer, comic fan, and more. But, she also is very grounded, outgoing, playful yet mature old soul. She lacks nothing for confidence, but is not arrogant.

The wheels started turning. It was clear she was passionate about wine, and impressionable.  Years past I was a bit of a skeptic on Millenials being the 'great white hope' for the wine industry. Now I embrace them as part of the force that is enabling the upheaval going on beneath our noses, that in ten years will completely change the landscape of wines made and consumed.

I also regularly talk about the journey of wine exploration, the similar path many of us follow as wine enthusiasts, and as a 'palate shepherd' my goal has always been to help others on their path of never 551299_10101868744502843_1066635266_nending knowledge and palate expansion.  I would have loved to been guided and progress faster than I did, my first decade.

Nikki has a palate consistent with many new enthusiasts, she will try most wines, but right now gravitates towards reds, sometimes bigger ones.  She is falling in love with Pinot and Rhone whites (sounds familiar!) She is also open, interested, curious by nature. For most wine enthusiasts, exposure is the key to palate purchase cialis online progression.

I humbly suggested to Nikki, if she was willing, I would love to help her with exploration and suggestions. The end goal of what she likes is ultimately hers to discover, but I would try and accelerate her path, open synapses.  I was a bit wary of the reaction, as you hear constantly that Millennials don't want to be told what to drink, or just do what their parents did.

Nikki showed her  true form, (and love of Star Wars), by enthusiastically  responding “I am your Padawan.”  If my son wasn't engaged to a beautiful Italian girl, I'd be introducing him to Nikki.

Follow In The Footsteps of an Avid Wine Millennial Exploration

Shortly thereafter, it all came together in my head. I liked Nikki's writing. She wanted to learn and share with the world. I wanted more content for Simple Hedonisms. She represents the advent of a new generation of wine consumer. I get more offer for samples and events than I can attend……Why not ask Nikki to join the team.20130414_132359 (3)

So voila. It starts this week. Nikki has free reign to write about whatever she wants.  The focus will be wine, but she is also interested in microbrew, spirits, restaurants & food, events. Nikki lives in the city, where Simple Hedonisms has a strong following, so she is now also able to better represent the publication there with the myriad of events and tastings there.

Please Give Nikki a Warm Wine Country Welcome

I am excited about this new development for Nikki, our readers, and myself. (How best to learn then to also teach.)

Tomorrow I will publish an interview about her. She will be diving headlong into tastings and events, with me when she can, on her own many times as well.

Today, by the way, is also her birthday, so a big cheers to you my friend! (Now, get writing!)

nikki front 2

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New Weekly Feature – Top Blogs & Articles Of The Week

I am an obsessed wine geek, there is no doubt. Our house & farm is covered in wine books, wine making or tasting materials, wine samples, glasses and more. I’d furnish the entire house in wine barrel furniture if I was allowed.

As a result, I read

a lot of weekly material, blogs, wine writers etc. Simple Hedonisms was supposed to be more about educational wine writing than it has evolved into, although in my defense I do try and incorporate some small nugget or three into many of my reviews.

Some weeks I may feature 4-5 articles, some I may only have one, or even forget, but I will try to do my best. If you find this weekly article useful as it evolves, share your thoughts.

Top Picks:

(1) Richard Jennings: Rhone Rangers Tasting “Summary”

I have long admired Richard’s detailed Cellartracker notes, there was never any doubt how dedicated this man is to capturing and sharing information about wine. His latest, almost breath taking record from the Rhone Rangers San Francisco event is an incredible resource:

California Rhônes: Thoughts on 2012 Rhône Rangers Tasting

(2) Jon Bonné: Sonoma Coast is a sweet spot for Syrah

I write regularly about the virtues of cool climate Syrah. One of my favorite wine writers, Jon Bonné of the San Francisco viagra fast delivery Chronicle, does a great summary piece:

Sonoma Coast is a sweet spot for Syrah

(3) Fred Swan interviews Rhone Pioneer John Alban on the First Hospice du Rhone

Norcal Wine is one of the best Bay area resources for wine education, and intellectual, investigative journalism. With the 20th Anniversary of Rhone mecca Hospice du Rhone only 2 weeks away, this is a timely,

insightful piece.

John Alban on the First Hospice du Rhone and the State of American Rhone Variety Wine in 1993hdr_20_year_seal

Cheers and have a

great week!

Related Articles

Countdown To The 20th Anniversary of Hospice du Rhône #HdR2012

Wine of The Week: 2009 Petrichor Les Trois Syrah (or Wow!)

A Call For Rosé – May Panel Review (Drink Pink!)

A Call For Submissions & Samples for the "Twelve Days of Wine Christmas" – Repeat of Last Years Hit Series

Last year, almost on a whim, I ran an a article series called the “Twelve Days of Wine Christmas.” 

It was a big success with a total of hundreds of thousands of views when done, one of the top being buy essay canada

t Types and Benefits” href=”″

rel=”bookmark”>Part 4 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas” Wine Clubs – A Review of Different Types and Benefits.

The series, expanded this year with more items and focus, included canadian viagra for sale games, gadgets, books, and more.

Feel free to contact SimpleHedonisms at to discuss your idea. Samples that can be used and photographed or video recorded, always appreciated, if practical. In some cases website information and pictures may suffice.

Items & submissions should be received by Dec 15th at the latest.


A New Beginning & Old World Renaissance? Robert Parker to Cease Reviewing California Wine

It’s the dawn of a new wine era. Over the weekend, with less fanfare then I expected on the Twitterverse, world renowned wine critic Robert Parker published this to subscribers:

I am thrilled to announce that Antonio Galloni will have expanded responsibilities for The Wine Advocate and as of February 1, 2011. I would like to take credit for my powers of persuasion over recent years in trying to convince Antonio of the virtues of covering additional wine regions, but if truth be known, the writing was always on the wall that his enviable talents and passion for this field would ultimately prevail, and the beneficiaries are the world’s wine consumers.

According to an article on Vinography and The Wine Cellar Insider Parker will still be involved in special tastings but day to day operations goes over to Antonio.

I can hear the likes of Alice Feiring and Randall Grahm (and many more) breathing a sigh with a hope that the era of big, tannic, extracted, dark color wines will transform into a Renaissance of Old World style, where varietals again have a chance to express themselves. I haven’t followed Antonio Galloni, but Alder does reference a belief that he is less focused on ‘intense ripeness’ as Parker. I will hold that hope close to my heart.

By the way for a great read, and more perspective, I highly recommend Alice’s book “The Battle for Wine and Love: or How I Saved the World from Parkerization” and Randall’s “Been Doon So Long.”

One can debate the pros and cons of what “Parkerization’ has done to the wine industry. Certainly it has helped wine sales immensely for some producers. Perhaps it has evolved the thinking and exposure of wine aficionados. Or one could ask if ‘devolved’ by so much dependency on a single point of view.

My beef with the Parker phenomenon has been homogenization: the world is full of hundreds of wonderful, unique wine varietals and styles; and when Spanish & Italian vineyards start planting Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, and winemakers change their traditional styles at the coaching of a consultant to achieve a high Parker score, something was lost in the world. Hopefully not forever in some cases.

The world is cyclical if a trend doesn’t last long enough, and it ‘feels’ like the pendulum had started to shift anyway; certainly many of the serious wine aficionados I know have shared this sentiment for awhile; and it seems the consumer interest is slowly awakening as well. The millions of US consumers herd mentality will take quite some time to turn around the Queen Mary – but there is hope.

Today’s wine consumer has many more choices for wine information – yes even those dreaded wine bloggers. Brilliant wine writers like Jon Bonné each week write about  unique, interesting wines. The communication evolution has changed how consumers learn about and interact with brands, and will continue to do so. Social Media isn’t a fad, its migration of communication, just as we progressed from telegraph, to fax, to email. That doesn’t mean traditional media is dead; just augmented.

Social Media has pushed most wine writers to the web and to publish blogs, engage on Twitter. Millennials show more interest and consume more wine than any previous American generation. The movement is underway.

I send this to wine consumers, new and old. Open your minds and palates. Try new things:

  • Learn to explore more white wines; there is an ocean of complex choices outside of California chardonnay butter bombs.
  • Never let one tasting, varietal, experience, AVA or even country jade you. Try again.
  • Understand that is ok, and actually can be positive if a red wine isn’t so dark light won’t pass through it, many red grapes do not naturally produce dark red colors unless extreme intervention or blending is done to accomplish.
  • Branch out to new wine types, countries, price points.
  • Experiment, read, and ask those with more experience for suggestions. No matter how much you know, there is always someone with deeper experience – one of the  many beauties of wine.

Many winemakers today want to simply be a Shepard and let the varietal and the vintage express itself. A Pinot Noir from a Russian River Valley vineyard generally shouldn’t be the exact same each year. Learn to embrace and appreciate variation.

Let the new decade of non generic, de-globalization of the New World palate commence.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments below.

Cheers and thanks for reading Simple Hedonisms Wine Blog !

p.s. watch for screening of new movie: Escaping Robert Parkerlevitra buy online

Highlights of This Weekend’s Wine Road “Winter Wineland”

This weekend in Northern Sonoma is the 19th annual Winter Wineland on the Wine Road, Northern Sonoma County. As I wrote last month, this event has an extra special place in my heart, as it was the final trigger to convert me from monthly visitor  to avid resident of Sonoma County.

140 Wineries in the 30 miles radius of Russian River, Dry Creek, Alexander Valley, and Healdsburg will participate. Advance ticket sales ended yesterday, but at $55 for two days, its one of the best values in entertainment around. (There is also a Sunday only option for $45. DD are $5.)

Wine ~ Art ~ Education

Never content with status quo, the Wine Road crew has expanded the focus of the event; each winery will have a unique focus on something related to Art or Education as well, enhancing your weekend experience.

Tips to Maximize Your Weekend

Last year I wrote an in depth article on advice for getting the most out of your weekend. The premise remains; with SO much to do, take a few moments to make a plan.

You can download this years detailed program here. Take a few minutes, pick out things of interest, and combine them with wines you enjoy; pick a few of your favorites wineries as well as venture out new.

Interesting Picks

I got together with an industry friend to see what stood out in the guide. I will confess in advance the Wine Geek in me, dominates over the Art side. Some wineries will have more specifics of what they are offering, than maybe in the guide, but we had to base it on what information was provided.

Benovia Winery 3339 Hartman Road Santa Rosa – Learn all about barrels, how they are made from Sequin Moreau of France.

Camellia Cellars 57 Front Street Healdsburg – Featuring folk art by Kathy Joseph and Chris Lewand. Recycled broken china and pottery, called “Pique Assiette”, are made into both useful and whimsical items, many with a wine theme. the artists will be present, working & available to answer questions on technique.

Clos du Bois Wines 19410 Geyserville Avenue, Geyserville – Live Music, plus  offering a video education demonstration on Barrel Production,Winemaking and Wine Cave excavation!!

David Coffaro Vineyard & Winery 7485 Dry Creek Rd, Geyserville –  Art Exhibit with Andrea Cleall. Andrea is known for her use of vibrant color and will show her lush Sonoma County landscapes.  Also a  Tasting Seminar with Matt Wilson. Can you taste the difference? Showcasing the 2009 Petite Sirah in two formats. Taste the version that was bottled in August of 2010 and then compare it to the same wine that remains in French oak barrels for additional aging.

Dutton-Goldfield Winery 3100 Gravenstein Hwy. N Sebastopol –  Local artist, Bonnie Soule Karlsen, will be showcasing her representational and abstract artwork inspired by Sonoma County. We offer a designated sensory area where wine tasters can broaden their scope of understanding aromatics, soils, and different aspects of grape growing and winemaking.

Frick Winery 23072 Walling Road, Geyserville – The warm campfire will be roasting hot dogs and smores. Inside the small tasting cottage view walls covered with art by Judith Gannon. Winter is Syrah time with six vintages of Frick Estate Syrah being featured 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 & 2008. Three new releases of Syrah. Learn about THE winter vineyard job of pruning with demonstrations of head pruning techniques.

Hauck Cellars 223 Center Street, Healdsburg – Sensory Experience: each aromatic component of their wines (cherry,chocolate, etc) will be isolated in a separate glass. After testing the aromas in isolation, you’ll be better able to identify the bouquet of each wine.

Inspiration Vineyards and Winery 3360 Coffey Lane, Suite E, Santa Rosa – Hosting long time glass artist Diana Jameson whose love for color and the Sonoma County landscape are the Inspiration for her fused glass creations; many of which are functional pieces. Also be offering an exercise in training your nose to some common wine components.

Inman Family Wines 3900 Piner Road, Santa Rosa – For Winter Wineland the Inmans will unveil a new display highlighting the history of the Olivet Grange Vineyard and the families who have farmed and made wine at the property.

Kendall-Jackson – Healdsburg 337 Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg – Develop your wine vocabulary and ability to identify aromas in wine. Visit and learn more about the “aroma wheel” while discovering the subtle differences in wine aromas & bouquets. It’s an opportunity to smell wines to determine the primary characteristics found in a particular wine.

Kendall-Jackson Wine Center 5007 Fulton Road, Fulton  – Visit the Kendall-Jackson Wine Center and meet their Wine Educators, learn the difference between wine aged in new oak barrels and wine aged in neutral oak barrels.

Kokomo Winery 4791 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg – Turn your attention to Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley. Join them for a unique tasting and cheese pairing highlighting just how different clones of Pinot Noir can be! Featuring two Pinot Noirs from the same vintage, vineyard and winemaker but from two unique clones – isolating the variable to the clone. The tasting starts with the lighter, more delicate 2A clone that shows the elegant Burgundian side of  the varietal, then moves to the Pommard clone which is more intense in flavor and highlights the richer side. Both wines are from Peters Vineyard in southwest Sebastopol and are grown by Kokomo partner Randy Peters. This eye opening experience will show you just how different clones of the same varietal can be!

Merriam Vineyards 11650 Los Amigos Road Healdsburg – The Wonderful World of Water! The clear choice: Learn about the importance of their environmentally sustainable water reclamation program, one of the few constructed wetlands in Sonoma County. Become mesmerized by a kinetic water sculpture, created by world famous Sonoma County artist Ned Kahn. Water scenes photographed by local artist Lance Keuhne will be on display and offered for sale. To warm you, a  cassoulet with duck confit will be paired with award winning Bordeaux varietals…

Mill Creek Vineyards & Winery 1401 Westside Road, Healdsburg – Can you REALLY read a wine label? Come learn the “code” and discover all the secrets a wine label holds.

Mounts Family Winery 3901 Wine Creek Road, Healdsburg –  Live  Music, and Snuggle up to a warm fire.  Winemaker David Mounts will be pouring  award-winning Petite Sirah, Zinfandel & Grenache to name a few! Learn about the unique & complex soils we have throughout our ranch from Richard Mounts, vineyard owner and 63 year old resistant of Dry Creek Valley.

Old World Winery 850 River Road, Fulton – New Wine Road member will be pouring all of  their current releases along with a couple of library selections of perfectly aged Zinfandel. They will be giving tours of the facility and discussing how wine was made 100 years ago,which is how they strive to make it today. See actual working demonstrations of a bottle corker that is ~100 years old!

Silver Oak Cellars 24625 Chianti Road, Geyserville – Meet Brad Petersen, our Alexander Valley Vineyard Manager to discuss the evolution of our farming practices since 1972, grapes sustainably grown for generations to come.

Thumbprint Cellars 102 Matheson Street, Healdsburg; – Ready, Set, Mac Off! Join Thumbprint for their Second Annual Mac Off on Saturday. Enjoy local chef creations of extreme Mac-N-Cheese and  wine.

Vintage Wine Estates 308 B Center Street, Healdsburg – Pairing local artisan cheeses with our Sparkling,  Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel wines.  Learn tips for creating great wine and cheese pairings on your own.

Free Ticket Contest!

Simple Hedonisms will be giving away 3 pairs of Tickets to this weekend’s event: The first two will be from (verified) email subscribers (secure, confidential) top right, and the 3rd pair  for a trivia contest I will announce tomorrow.

Come Back Thursday for Part 2 – Featured Winery Sales Incentives

While visiting your favorite wineries, and visiting new, remember these small artisans sell wine for a living, remember your visit with a bottle or 12 to enjoy later. This Thursday, Simple Hedonisms will publish some of the special sales some of the Winter Wineland participants are offering, but look around for specials and stock up on memories – wine is as much an experience as a beverage!


Part 11 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas” Last Minute Gift Ideas, Local and Online; IWA eGift Cards

Its December 24th, and you have that nagging sensation you’d like one last additional gift, or remembered someone. What to do?

Up until now I have steered away from the traditional suggestions of gadgets, glasses, wine cellars, etc, as many suggestions abound on these.

eGift Card, Instant Gift, Instant Delivery at the Click of a Mouse

One fast, immediate gratification option: an eGift card from IWA, one of the Wine Catalogs I like to frequent.  Simply go online, decide the amount you want, enter the recipients email, and Voila – instant gift. This card is redeemable not only for cool wine stuff from the catalog, but also at Vintage Wine Estates wineries: Windsor Vineyards , Girard Winery , Fire Station Red and Windsor Sonoma Winery, as well as their cool new tasting room, which carries IWA items, in downtown Healdsburg. (If you visit, make sure you FourSquare check in for 20% of wine!)


1. Good Stemware:

Many solid choices here.  IWA is a one stop shop for a variety of stemware, including Riedel, Speigelau, and Schott Zwiesel. I have been ‘field testing ‘ their Ultima line since last summer, and am very pleased.

Ultima glasses are designed to be break resistant. Unfortunately the old breakage test video they had is gone, but these glasses are very hard to break and will survive falling over on marble, hitting the faucet, and other tests that kill most other classes, especially Burgundy ones (big bowl) which are my personal favorite and seem most prone to breakage. I love these glasses.

Want a set today to wrap? Call your local wine shop. (Healdsburg residents can pick them up at the Vintage Wine Estates tasting room.)

2. Every Day Stemware

For everyday glasses, or for those nights I have multiple bottles open and need table space, I am a fan of the Riedel O, stemless glasses. They are also great for microbrew, sparkling water at the dinner table. They take less space to store, and fit nicely in the dishwasher. Buy them online or pick up at most wine shops. Target even carries a set thats just slightly different, but Riedel O nonetheless.

What not to get a hardcore wine lover:

1. Whacky wine openers: most serious wine geeks I know, self included like a traditional waiters wine key. Buy a very nice one of those perhaps, one can never have too many. Not something that takes half a drawer, counter mounts, or is bigger than a wine bottle tself. Don’t get me wrong, perhaps not a bad present for some, but not your friendly Sommelier, Wine Maker, or Geek, in my opinion.

2. Clunky, think bowled stemware from a department store. Ugh. Stemware matters; if you aren’t a believer, sign up for the next Riedel tasting seminar you see.

Ok, its time for this Simple Hedonist to sign off and get busy with his own Holiday plans. I will have a final post tomorrow, and then shortly I will be sharing about some very exciting changes in my Wine Country Life – if you aren’t already aware!

Cheers and Seasons Greetings

The 12 Days of Wine Christmas

Part 1 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas”: Wine Road Winter Wineland, Redwood Foodbank Raffle.

Part 2: “12 Days of Wine Christmas” – Gadget Review of the VinniBag

Part 3 of “The 12 Wine Days of Christmas” – The Wine Check (no, its not money!)

Part 4 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas” Wine Clubs – A Review of Different Types and Benefits

Part 5 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas” The Wine Soirée aerator & Limited Edition L/S

Part 6 of “The 12 Wine Days of Christmas” Lookout Ridge Winery & Wines for Wheelchairs

Part 7 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas”: Book Review/Recommendation: The New Connoisseurs’ Guidebook to California Wine and Wineries

Part 8 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas” Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Membership

Part 9 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas” Make the Rhone Head in Your Life do a Backflip with Hospice du Rhone tickets

Part 10 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas” – Wine! Holiday Gift Pack Specials, Shipping

Wine of the Week: Cartograph 2009 Floodgate Vineyard Gewürztraminer

Welcome to a new weekly feature of Simple Hedonisms: ‘Wine of the Week.’ In addition to increasing my wine reviews, once a week I will pick a wine that’s my personal favorite. It may be a sample sent for review, something tried at a restaurant, something imported from K&L Wines, or one of the many bottles I have purchased in my travels and tastings.

When I review wine and samples, I try and separate out my personal palate preferences to review the quality of the wine, expression of the varietal. Wine of the Week will also combine some aspect of what I like as a wine consumer. No, it won’t always be a Rhone wine, as the inaugural pick shows.

Rediscovering Gewürztraminer

I love to branch out beyond the traditional varietals the New World palate has fixated on, the wine world is full of many hundreds of accessible varietals (Grape types.)

Gewürztraminer is sometimes associated as a slightly sweet, or off dry style wine, which doesn’t appeal to all consumers. Although a tiny bit of residual sugar (aka sweetness) is a very valid style and ideal for certain food pairings, this does not represent the full range of experiences and styles.

What is an Alsatian Varietal?

What is an Alsatian varietal? It simply refers to the Alsace region in France. You know of Bordeaux varietals like Cabernet and Merlot, Rhone wines like Syrah, Grenache, Viognier. The most commonly known Alsatian varietals are Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, and Muscat. If you are a fan of these wines, check out the Alsace Varietals Festival in Anderson Valley this February.

Who is Cartograph? Remember the Name, You’ll Want To.

Haven’t heard of Cartograph yet? Welcome to one of Healdsburg’s up and coming boutique producers, the love child of Alan Baker and Serena Lourie, focusing on Pinot Noir and Gewurtz.

Is that a bold statement in today’s crowded wine world? Go to their website and try to order their  2008 Split Rock or Two Pisces Pinot Noir. Guess what it says.


I had wanted to review the Pinots’ , got behind on reviews, and now it would be a tease. The good news is that Cartograph is stepping up production.

A Brief Synopsis

I’ll do a more in depth feature piece in the future, but it’s a fascinating story of two people passionate about wine. Alan, an award winning radio broadcaster who moved from Minnesota, NPR Wine radio show and Podcaster, a stint at Crushpad, and them jumping both feet into his true passion and destiny.

His partner Serena, who grew up in both France and the U.S.,  shared an inherent love for wine. First a an MS in nursing and then an MBA, then a founding member of a Venture Capital team, all roads pulled Serena back to wine, where she and Alan, by fate it seemed, intersected at Crushpad.

Their passions and lives melded together and Cartograph was born. There are more details and insight on the Cartograph website, it’s a worthy read.

Review: 2009 Floodgate Vineyard Gewürztraminer

To the Eye: Vibrant, pale yellow straw. Clear.

On the Nose: Gewürztraminer is a floral grape, I find in some cases the floral aroma profile can be overwhelming. Not with Cartograph; I want to bury my nose in the glass and leave it.  But I remove it because I want it in my mouth. Aromas of peach, stone fruit, honeysuckle wash over you.

In The Mouth: I am immediately struck by the pleasant viscosity of the wine. It’s  immediately pleasing and elegant on the palate. Honeydew immediately comes to mind. It holds through on the mid palate with lime and peach, and then finishes with a lingering kiss.

Where to Buy: The Gewurtz is available through a few distributors/shops (several in Healdsburg) you can find here or online. $22

Food Pairing: A fairly versatile wine; I enjoyed mine with roasted chicken, would pair equally well with Christmas Turkey, but in no means limited to these.

Recommendation: Wine of the Week, will inherently be indicative of a strong recommendation.

I’d like to further extrapolate this as an excellent ‘winter white.’ It was great this summer during the hot months, when the last thing you wanted was a cabernet or zin on a hot day, but its complexity and weight lend itself to the same characteristics I would look to in a white Rhone blend.

Important note: Do NOT overchill this wine. If you don’t have a wine cellar or regulated 52-58 degree environment and are pulling it from the fridge, let it sit for 15-30 minutes. Over chilling will numb its complexity, much like eating a bowl of butternut squash soup from the fridge, instead of the hot fragrance of the stove top.

Wine Geek Notes:

•Harvest Date: Hand harvested September 15th, 2009 (night pick)
• Brix at harvest: 24.0
• Crush and Pressing: Whole cluster pressed to steel tank
• Fermentation: 10 day ferment, 100% steel
• Aging: Aged 5 months in steel barrels
• Alcohol: 13.7%
• No malolactic
• Bottled: February 2010
• Case Production: 61 cases

Buy and enjoy a bottle, before what is left is gone – cheers!

Part 9 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas” Make the Rhone Head in Your Life do a Backflip with Hospice du Rhone tickets

It shouldn’t be news to any that follow me, that I am a massive fan of Rhone varietals. I mean, I drove 12 hours just to get a half ton of grenache blanc…clearly its beyond a hobby. Rhone varietals seem to engender a level of enthusiasm from wine aficionados I don’t quite see in other varietal categories.

What Are ‘Rhones’

For those asking what are Rhone varietals (grapes) it refers to wine grapes whose origin is the Rhone Valley of France. Bordeaux is known for Cab, Merlot, etc, Burgundy for Pinot and Chardonnay, and the Rhone valley has 22 varietals, some quite obscure. The most well know red Rhones being Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, and Carignane and white Rhones being Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne, and Grenache Blanc. But a true Rhoner’s eyes will light up like a Christmas tree at the pouring of a Cinsault or a Picpoul.

The Ultimate Rhone Weekend

Not to take anything away from the amazing weekend events the Rhone Rangers put on, but for a Rhone enthusiast, Hospice du Rhone is weekend of complete immersion, and being surrounded by others who share your passion. Winemakers and enthusiasts from all over the world, including France, Australia, South Africa make the annual trek to modest Paso Robles.  The event goes through 10,000 Riedel stems a day…this is serious tasting.

What Goes on a Hospice du Rhone (aka HdR)

You can peruse the event schedule and seminar series, but basically its a whirlwind 2+ days of educational seminars, tastings,  food pairings and entertainment, attended by wine makers, writers, and consumers. You don’t have to be an expert to enjoy or appreciate; in fact if you are newer to Rhones but passionate about them, this is an excellent immersion that will greatly propel your knowledge base.

Simple Hedonism will be in attendance providing live Social Media coverage, and series of pre and post event articles. I will also be helping co-ordinate local tastings for live tastings that will be held prior to the event, celebrating Rhone varietals, as I did for #Grenache Day. (No Fire dancers this time, sorry.)

Limited A La Carte Tickets or the Big Kahuna Weekend Package

I recommend the full weekend package which includes all events and seminars save the Thursday night Rhône ‘n Bowl or the Friday night Soirée. If you can’t spend that much, commit much time, or want to intersperse HdR with other things, there are limited A La Carte Tickets.  For the first time this year, there are a very limited individual Seminars for sale as well, for $155 a piece. (You will taste wines at each seminars you may not see otherwise, last year’s  French and South African lineup was incredible.)

Maker a Rhoner Squeal like  Kid

Tickets can be purchased here, buy a Weekend Pass one for your Rhoner, print it out and put it in a massive box with a bow. The event seminars make great stocking stuffers. You’ll likely get a reaction akin to a small child getting is his/her first bicycle.

See you there, cheers!

The 12 Days of Wine Christmas

Part 1 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas”: Wine Road Winter Wineland, Redwood Foodbank Raffle.
Part 2: “12 Days of Wine Christmas” – Gadget Review of the VinniBag
Part 3 of “The 12 Wine Days of Christmas” – The Wine Check (no, its not money!)
Part 4 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas” Wine Clubs – A Review of Different Types and Benefits
Part 5 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas” The Wine Soirée aerator & Limited Edition L/S
Part 6 of “The 12 Wine Days of Christmas” Lookout Ridge Winery & Wines for Wheelchairs
Part 7 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas”: Book Review/Recommendation: The New Connoisseurs’ Guidebook to California Wine and Wineries
Part 8 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas” Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Membership
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