It’s All About Wine – Alexander Valley Edition

I admit it has been a while since I have posted here.

But that is because I have been learning. About one of my favorite things. Besides wine.


Naturally, I have made maps about wine too. (It is almost like you can hear one of my teens complaining)

So over the next couple of weeks expect to see maps of the American Viticultural Areas made with ArcMap.

I am starting today with the Alexander Valley. First some quick facts:

  • Settled: 1840 by Cyrus Alexander. Property was part of Henry D. Fitch and Josefa Carrillo Fitch’s Rancho Sotoyome. Alexander was granted two leagues of property as a reward for managing the Rancho for the Fitch Family
  • Established: October 24, 1984
  • Location: Sonoma County, California
  • Size: 32,536 acres; 15,000 acres under vine
  • Wineries: 45 – including Clos du Bois, Francis Ford Coppola, Geyser Peak, Jordan (a friend of the blog!), Kendall-Jackson, Murphy Goode, Silver Oak and many more!
  • Elevation: 128-2573 feet above sea level.
  • Grape Varieties Produced: Barbera, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignane, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Grenache, Malbec, Merlot, Muscat Canelli, Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Sangiovese, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon Syrah, Tempranillo, Viognier, Zinfandel

Map of Alexander Valley AVA


by Gretchen Miller Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

This Wine Might Be Past its Prime

A couple of years ago, I saw an article about the discovery of the oldest wine ever discovered.  Found in Armenia it was made 6,100 years ago.  No. It was not liquid.

At the time I was amazed but as it was known that wine was originally produced in Georgia (not the Peach Tree State but rather the one in the Caucasus), I wasn’t really too surprised as Armenia is in that general area.

Now an announcement has been made that even earlier wine has been discovered and in Europe.  Found on an ancient mound on the Greek Drama plain, the site of ancient Dikili Tash has been undergoing excavation since the 1920s.  The last dig in begun in 2008 and completed in 2010 has continued to explore further back into time.

In an analysis of the pottery found on the site, showed evidence of tartaric acid which is sign of fermentation as well as carbonized grape seeds and skins.  Carbon dating indicates that this  wine was being produced 6,200 years ago.  That is 100 years earlier and nearly 1,400 miles to the west of the previously known discovery of early wine.

For more information: (in French) (in French with English translation)

Gretchen Miller Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Little Wine on the Volcano – Day 4

Little Wine on the Prairie Logo

I have left the Prairie and Laura Ingalls behind. I am in Montana. Or Wyoming. Or back and forth.

The point is that I am going to Yellowstone. National Park.

Not the Hamm’s Beer Brewery. That music was used in the 1936 film, Yellowstone, a 63 minute epic about murdering conmen looking for buried loot in Yellowstone National Park. The movie starred (had in it anyway) Alan Hale (Not the Skipper from Gilligan’s Island but rather his father who he looked an awful lot like), Jim Thorpe (yeah. THAT Jim Thorpe but in a bit part) and a dude named Paul Harvey who was sadly not the one who provided, “The rest of the story,” for so many years on what I call Old Man Radio which usually has news on the (pick your own number)s. Jeez. Not a single millenial is going to understand any of that rant. crud. I am super old.

But anywho. Back to Yellowstone.


Geyser – now pronounced Geezer (Oh, Dr. Brian Cox why did you let me hear you say that word. Now, I shall never say it another way again and I will be ridiculed.
Mud Volcano
Grand Prismatic Spring
Mammoth Hot Springs
Lake Yellowstone
Yellowstone Caldera
Resurgent Domes.

NERD ALERT!!! I know what all those things are.


The downside? No wine along the trail. BOOO. At the beginning and end of the trail? Much better. They include:

Yellowstone Cellars
The Old Hatchery Winery
Lockhorn Hard Cider
Wine Bozo’s

Little Wine on the Prairie – Day 3

Little Wine on the Prairie Logo

Day three!!! They Holy Grail on Ingalls! The Wilder side of Little House! De Smet, SD is the motherlode of Laura. By the Shores of Silver Lake, Little Town on the Prairie, The Long Winter, These Happy Golden Years and The First Four Years all happen here. Houses that the family lived in are here. Ma, Pa, Carrie, Grace, and Mary are all buried there. Whew. I am not sure where to go first. I am actually hoping to arrive the evening before so I can get my fill. Some of it will be odd. Silver Lake has dried up into a marsh. I think Big Slough is still there but I am not likely to go wandering into it. I learned that from Laura. No death trap dugouts just the ability to freeze to death in a winter with 32 blizzards and dwindling food supplies. And I am guessing no wine. Which would suck. Big time. Especially while you are grind wheat in a coffee grinder and twisting straw into logs until your hands bled. Bah. The town is largely laid out the way it was. The old General Store is still there and later in the summer they host a pageant. Not my thing but great for little girls I am guessing. And there is wine there now. Did I mention that before?

Wine?  Champagne on the Prairie!

After leaving DeSmet, it is on to Montana to get ready for my bonus trip into Yellowstone. Cross your fingers on that one. At least I have learned from my trips of the past and have made a hotel reservation. Trying to find a room on a summer night in Montana is a bitch. And I really don’t want to roll into Missoula that late again. VOLCANO! Geysers, which I will pronounce like GEEZERS in an homage to Dr. Brian Cox, the James Blunt of Astrophysics on the Science Channel and the BBC (or the Beeb, as it is referred to in my abode)!!! I might start mumbling about ME-thane too. I will think of more stuff, never fear.

Even along this route there WILL be wine. At least nine wineries are located within a few miles of my pathway so this should be fun. The wineries include:

Little Wine on the Prairie – Day 2

Little Wine on the Prairie Logo

On the road again….

Oops. Wrong song, wrong theme. So, by now I should be in Minnesota. We have said our sad goodbyes to the Big Woods and to poor Freddie and Ma’s dream of a more comfortable widowhood…We are on to Plum Creek, Walnut Grove and Mankato. I don’t remember what the deal was with Mankato, except that it was the big city nearest to Walnut Grove.

What do I remember about this book? The Ingalls family lived in a house dugout of a hill literally on the banks of Plum Creek. This seems unwise and dangerous seeing how creeks often flood. In fact, the dugout is gone. Washed away by Plum Creek. I would have told them so, if they asked, but they didn’t. While living in this underground death trap, the Ingalls lost pretty much every crop they grew because the area was over run with crickets (Rocky Mountain Locusts). Oh, and baby Freddie was born here. Hard to believe that a child living in a dark, dank pit didn’t thrive. Oh, Freddie.

Road Trip - Day 2

Oh, there might have been a couple issues with birthday parties, Nelly Olson and leeches. Hard to believe that I haven’t re-read the books, eh?

Walnut Grove has a museum and the folks that own the old Ingalls property let people come look at the spot where the dug out used to be. I know I sound negative about it, but don’t think for a minute that I will skip it.

Nearby wineries include:

Choices, choices….

And now? Off to the Little House motherlode, South Dakota!

Little Wine on the Prairie – Day 1

Little Wine on the Prairie Logo

First day on the road. Whew. This means that I have survived prom 1a, prom 1b and prom 2 and assorted after parties. Also graduation. And making sure Kevin and the girls managed to make their flights to Luxembourg. Oh, and I managed to pry myself away from my sweet puppy.

But finally. I will be on the road and it is all wine and Little House on the Prairie all the time. Well, not the prairie today. Today, it will be the Little House in the Big Woods in Wisconsin. Do you know how many years it took me to realize that Lake Pepin was really the Mississippi River? Or more specifically like a lake with a major river running through it.


The fun part of this voyage is that there is wine along the trail.  Lots of it.    Like nearly 100 wineries in Wisconsin alone.  WISCONSIN.  And there are nearly 20 within a couple of my route.  

So this leaves the Big Woods.  In and a round Pepin, Wisconsin.  There is a replica of Ma and Pa’s cabin at a roadside stop and then Pepin, itself.  I don’t think there is much left of the old town, but I will see soon enough.  Then I cross over into Minnesota where I will skip over to a couple of places never really mentioned in the books.  Laura’s Uncle Peter had a farm in Zumbro Township.  While staying with her Uncle, Laura’s only brother Charles Frederick died at 9 months.  He is buried in a nearby.


Road Trippin’ 2013

Little Wine on the Prairie Logo

As you may have noticed, I head out on a road trip nearly every year.  Last year was the exception but only because my girlies started school the day before WBC12 began.  Hm.  Miss the last first day of school for daughter #1 after making a consecutive 14 previous?  or skip the road trip for the year.  Yeah.  You know how I went on this one.

But this year, I am off again for adventures. I’ll be heading west to Penticton, BC for WBC13. This is the first Wine Bloggers’ Conference held in Canada and I am looking forward to it. The bummer? I need a passport this time. I know that this need seems self-evident for most of you, but as a gal who used to cross the border for dates in high school it seems a little crazy to me. Strangely enough, it isn’t getting into Canada that is the issue, but rather coming home and I am loathe to risk another lecture from a self-important douanière (long story).

Since I am largely taking the route that I took to Walla Walla for WBC10, I am looking forward to seeing some sights that I missed on my way out there – namely all the Little House on the Prairie historic sites. Knowing me as you do, you can’t be surprised that I want to do something so nerdy. I loved those books and know that I would have to make these stops sans ma famille. Why? Well, the girls would never put up with more than one stop. Heck, I couldn’t get them to even read the books. It breaks a mother’s heart, it does. But luckily I will indeed be on the road without them and am looking forward to stopping where I please. Oh. Did I mention that there is wine nearby at every stop. Yup. It’s true. Because of this, I have dubbed this trip: Little Wine on the Prairie.

Since Laura Ingalls Wilder never made it further west than the eastern portion of South Dakota, I’ve had to put on my thinking cap (bonnet) to come up with other plans. Here are a couple of ideas that I have thrown around:

  • Sturgis, SD – the location of the big biker rally every year. I believe it is in August. Good lord, I hope it is in August.
  • Yellowstone National Park – Yeah. I want to see the sites but I don’t want to camp or stay in the cabins and develop Hanta Virus (yeah, I said it). Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic Spring, Mud Volcano and the Mammoth Springs are tops on my list. Oh, and if I could figure out where the caldera edge for the mega volcano is, that would be swell too.
  • Lake Okanogan, BC – Naturally, I will be seeing the lake as I will be staying on it. But I think an extensive search of the lake to find the Ogopogo, the lake’s native monster. Is it a plesiosaur like the Loch Ness Monster and Champie from Lake Champlain are thought to be or a basilosaurus like other cryptozoologists think? Either way. Or not. With my luck my camera will jam as I am eaten by the thing.

But first? Before I leave, I must survive high school graduation. Not mine, of course, but rather Celia’s. Cross your fingers and hope for the best both before and after graduation.

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

LGBTQ History and Wine Collide

Chevalier d'Eon as a man

Etching of the Chevalier d’Eon by an unknown author and is in the public domain due to its age.

I went to open a bottle of wine last night and saw something that surprised me. The wine that I opened (A white Burgundy) was named for a podcast subject.

For those of you have haven’t watched my video podcasts about wine history, the October 28th subject was the Chevalier d’Eon. D’Eon, born Charles-Geneviève-Louis-Auguste-André-Timothée d’Éon de Beaumont in 1728 and was a French diplomat, soldier and spy. Working for Louis XV (Yes, Kevin Neuman, Louis XIV is dead) he managed to become meet and impress the Empress Elizabeth of Russia by disguising himself as a woman, Lea de Beaumont. Later he became a diplomat to the English where he ingratiated himself with the British aristocracy by supplying them with the fruits of his vineyards back in France. Unfortunately the French government eventually sent a permanent Ambassador who humiliated the Chevalier by demoting his to secretary. D’Eon had dirt on the king and the ambassador tried to poison the Chevalier to protect his liege. Eventually the crown paid the Chevalier off and offered him a generous pension. D’Eon wisely went into retirement in London.

Mme. D'Eon

Engraving of the Chevalier d’Eon by J.B. Bradel from the Mémoire of French Heroines Joan of Arc, Jeanne hachelle, &c. &c. &c, 1779 and is in the public domain due to its age.

Eventually, the Chevalier became homesick and negotiated his return to France by claiming to have been born a woman. Since he had managed to pass so easily as a woman in the Russian court, even becoming a maid of honour to the Empress, this was believed readily enough. In fact, the British had odds on it at the stock exchange. Since, it would keep D’Eon from being imprisoned in the Bastille and allow the king to ignore the rants of a ‘hysterical’ woman (telling the Louis XV’s secrets), it was a win-win all around. Louis XVI insisted that if the Chevalier returned to France then he must dress as a woman and even sent additional funds to supply an appropriate wardrobe. So after living the first 49 years of his life as a man, the Chevalier d’Eon spent the remaining 33 year of her life as a woman.

Chevalier D'Eon Burgundy

Photo of the Bourgogne Tonnerre, Chevalier D’Eon, 2011 by Gretchen Neuman

Long story to go with a bottle of wine, eh?

Well, that happens with wine.

At least this wine.

As I mentioned before, this was a white burgundy from Tonnerre, which happens to be the town that the Chevalier d’Eon was born. Located in Lower Burgundy which is in fact the north, it is about 7 miles from Chablis another town that primarily produces white wine. It was produced by Domaine Dampt et fils in Collan, France. As I drank the wine, I realized that this was to same type used to butter up English lords so that the nation’s secrets could make their way to France. Is the wine worth treason? Well, I guess that is a matter of individual taste. The wine was crisp and minerally with a lemony bite. Perfect and refreshing.

As we finished the wine, I realized it was the first wine that I had ever had that honored a member of the LGBTQ community. Not that was such a term in the Chevalier’s day. So, watch the video… Here

and enjoy the wine named for such an interesting character in history.


Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor