The Big Woods

Little House on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere....Where are the big woods? Well, they really aren’t there anymore. Heck, the Little House isn’t really there anymore. Just a wayside on a hill near where the house used to be. In all fairness? It hasn’t been there in over 100 years.

What happened to the woods?  I blame bears.So I went to look at the site. It took a bit longer to find than I anticipated. Sigh. Typical. The cabin was tiny. A loft, a big hearth, a table. But it reminded me of being a girl and imagining what it was like. And the it was the sounds. Wind through the trees and the grass. Birds and insects chirping away….The description of what sounds surrounded the Ingalls family was always pretty descriptive in the Little House books. So I listened. and recorded. I ate lunch at a table on the grounds and watched people come and go.. Mostly people my age or older. In Jazzy’s and wheel chairs, some wandering around the site, others just in and out of the cabin. We all acknowledged each other sheepishly, but didn’t speak to each other…

That's a lake? well, maybe if you are 6Then I went down and took a look at Lake Pepin. I remember reading about Laura taking a trip into the town of Pepin. In the book it is seven miles drive to town and the horses periodically get bogged down in the spring mud. The going is easier now. The roads are paved… It still is seven miles (or so). Laura experienced awe when she saw the lake and the town. For me, Pepin isn’t the biggest place I have seen. Even at age five. Lake Pepin is less a lake and more of wide spot in the Mississippi River. But the lake glistened in the sun and I tried to imagine what it must have been like for Laura and Mary to run along the beach. I imagined that the location of the local Laura Museum was the the store.

That is Holly Hobbie, amirite?By the way? Museum people? Your Laura looks like Holly Hobbie…. imma just saying…

Villa BellezzaNow the original plan was to stop at wineries along the way, This is part of the Upper Mississippi River Valley AVA after all, but… I killed too much time dealing with construction and getting lost and I still needed to make my way to Minnesota. So, I wandered along the town and noticed that there was a winery there. Villa Bellezza is a bit grand a space for Pepin, Wisconsin and very Italian looking but they were growing Foch, Frontenac, Frontenac Blanc, Frontenac Gris, LaCrescent, Marquette, Prairie Star and St. Pepin on twelve acres of vineyard located in and around the region. Interesting…. It was Saturday afternoon though and late at that. Ugh. Same deal with the Maiden Rock Cidery that I had looked up. So I resolved to avoid the tasting room crowds and stock at an area liquor store.

Wisconsin is the leading producer of cranberries in the United States!!!  You know what happened. Nothing from those places were being sold. But there was Wisconsin wine there. Cranberry wine from Spurgeon Vineyards which is in Western Wisconsin but more than 150 miles away. sigh again. Not about the wine being made from Wisconsin. That makes sense as Wisconsin produces more cranberries than any other state in the U.S. (The More You Know!!!). Still. I was expecting something a little more local. Perhaps tomorrow.

Little Volcano on the Wino Prairie – Day 5 – Oh! Canada!

Little Wine on the Prairie Logo

Where am I now? Seems like I did a lot of driving but am still in Montana. Which in fact, I am. But not for long.

Today Now I will be  off. To La Canada. Not La Cañada, that is in California.  We (royally speaking) are heading to visit our neighbor to the north. Think maple leaves instead of surf boards.

I have been on the road so long at this poing that I have no idea what day it is or what I am supposed to look at. Oh, that is right. I am a wino. Is there wine along this route?

Well, totes (I say ‘totes’ instead of ‘totally’ just to irritate my teenagers). At the end of the road today I will be in Penticton home of the Wine Blogger’s Conference for 2013. So that means I will be driving through the rest of Montana, Idaho, Washington State and then British Columbia.

Day 5 Itinerary

This is probably the winiest portion of my trip. With nearly 30 wineries along my route including:

Lolo Peak Winery
Tenspoon Vineyard
Rock Creek Winery
Missoula Winery
Beauty Bay Winery
Coeur d’Alene Cellars
Green Horse Wines
Timber Rock Winery
Hierophant Meadery
Townshend Cellar
Latah Creek Wine CellarsKnipprath Cellars
Arbor Crest Wine Cellars
Fenwyr Cellars
Vin du Van
Marketplace Wineries
Overbluff Cellars
Robert Karl Cellars
Grande Ronde Cellars
Cannon Hill Vintners
Corbeaux Ciderworks
Barili Cellars
Barrister Winery
Seven Bays Winery
Whitestone Winery
Rock Wall Cellars
Esther Bricques Winery
Copper Mountain Vineyards
Okanogan Estate

Amazing. And these are just the wineries on the United States side of the border.

Walla Walla AVA

A town so nice, they named it twice!

Well, not so much the town in this scenario as the entire appellation. This seems only fair as the this AVA is located in two separate states – Oregon and Washington. The justifications for the establishment of the viticultural area are historic, geologic, geographic and climatic.

Walla Walla translates at “rapid stream” or “many waters” in the Sahaptin language that is shared by the Walla Walla, Umatilla, Yakama, Nez Perce and Tenino peoples. Western settlers moved into the area beginning in the 1830s when Marcus and Narcissa Whitman came as missionaries to the Walla Walla people but were murdered by the Cayuse following outbreaks of measles that the indians believed were caused by the whites (they were, but they didn’t do it on purpose as no one was aware of germ theory quite yet).  Viticulture began informally with French fur trappers in the 1840s in an area previously known as Frenchtown, now called Lowden.

The geologic basis of the creation of the appellation is based in part  on the similarity of the river plain of assorted wind blown loess soils well drained by smaller streams that cut through the area.  Being located  between the Cascades and the Blue Mountains along the Washington, Oregon and Idaho border means that the area is blocked from the moderating temperatures nearer the Pacific but also in a rain shadow as well.  This means that the climate is more intense with warmer days with cool evenings and semi-arid which requires irrigation for cultivation.

Modern viticulture (i.e. post-(the dreaded) Prohibition) began with Leonetti Cellars in the 1970s with Woodward Canyon Cellars and L’Ecole 41 coming along in the 1980s .  The Walla Walla AVA was established in 1984 and amended to extend the territory in 2001.  Varietals produced in the area include:

  • Barbera
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Carmenere
  • Chardonnay
  • Cinsault
  • Counoise
  • Dolcetto
  • Gewürztraminer
  • Grenache
  • Malbec
  • Marsanne
  • Merlot
  • Mourvedre
  • Nebbiolo
  • Petit Verdot
  • Pinot Gris
  • Pinot Noir
  • Riesling
  • Rousanne
  • Sangiovese
  • Semillon
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Syrah
  • Tempranillo
  • Viognier
Oh, and I have actually been to this viticultural area!  The Wine Bloggers’ Conference in 2010 was in Walla Walla.


















Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Ignite! Myself.

Ignite! is a speaking program where presenters speak for five minutes using 20 slides that automatically forward every 15 seconds. The motto is “enlighten us, but make it quick”. I decided that this year, I would try to participate at the Wine Bloggers’ Conference version. It is entitled, How Wine Made America.

Here is my attempt (luckily I didn’t spontaneously combust!)

I haven’t watched it yet. Be gentle.

Portland, Here We Come!

It is summer, the weather has been miserable here in the midwest so it is time to decamp to more favorable climes. And what place is the best to take off for when you are looking for cooler weather? The Pacific Northwest, of course!

Actually, it is time for this year’s Wine Bloggers’ Conference and this year it will be in breezy Portland, Oregon. Well, in Portland Oregon, anyway. Apparently the temperatures will be not so breezy, but rather about 102. Hahah. The jokes on me!

So I am busily re-arranging my wardrobe for the trip and thought I would start showing off my maps of Oregon viticultural areas.

There are about 16 different AVAs in Oregon, so I am going to tackle them alphabetically (‘ya gotta chose something!). This means that we will start with the Applegate Valley AVA.

Located in southern Oregon and part of the Southern Oregon AVA and Rogue Valley AVA, this appellation is relatively small with only about 400 acres planted in vines. Historically, it is important as it is where some of the earliest vineyards in the state were planted and home to the first commercial winery there. It is currently home to six wineries and is planted mainly with Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot and Syrah.

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Eric Asimov




If you are a wine lover, you are definitely familiar with Eric Asimov. We wine bloggers were lucky enough to get a chance to hear him and learned how he began his career.

Sorry that this video bounces around a bit as people kept moving to get closer to him.

Gretchen Neuman, Editor, September 8, 2011

Jancis Robinson on Books

Is the printed word dead? Wow, I hope not.

In a continuation of her keynote address at the Wine Bloggers’ Conference this summer in Charlottesville, Jancis Robinson discusses the past and future of wine books…

Gretchen Neuman, VinoVerve Editor September 6, 2011

Jancis Speaks

This year’s Wine Bloggers’Conference showed me how much the consequence of our craft* has risen. The keynote speakers were major wine personalities, Jancis Robinson, OBE, MW, wine writer for the Financial Times and who also advises the QEII on her wine cellar and Eric Asimov of the New York Times.

I am periodically going to publish bits and pieces that I thought were cool from these speeches.

This is Jancis Robinson talking about the evolution of her website and the decision to use a subscription model.  I like it because there is not great master plan involved which makes me feel like even I could manage to accomplish greatness… Although she was already a Master of Wine at the time, so I guess there goes my dream again.




* Please slap me if I use such a phrase again.  I felt like an actor dissecting their oeuvre, which usually makes me want to vomit.


Gretchen Neuman, VinoVerve Editor, September 1, 2011

Jefferson Vineyards – History

After visiting Monticello, it makes perfect sense that my first stop the next day was the Jefferson Vineyards. The property was originally part of Monticello and granted to Filipo Mazzei so he could develop a vineyard. Jefferson had been disappointed by his attempts to produce wine grapes so he brought in Mazzei, a Venetian viticulturist to take over the effort. This is a story about timing being essential. Luckily, the dream lives on at this winery.

Jefferson Vineyards
1353 Thomas Jefferson Parkway
Charlottesville, Virginia 22902

Gretchen Neuman, VinoVerve Editor August 30, 2011

Mountain Mama

West Virginia always makes me think of a John Denver song. Not one in particular, just all of them in general. And I got to go there on my way home from the annual Wine Bloggers’ Conference.

Yes, I am looking at the states that I am visiting out of order. Why? because some of them I will visit both coming and going… I will get to them… eventually. It has been a bad month for me.


West Virginia.

The original plan didn’t include me driving through many of the parts of West Virginia that I wanted to visit.  Doesn’t that figure. The Greenbrier for instance. A great resort and home of a bunker for the government in case of Armageddon (the real one… not the California car version).  Given my new used fancy ve-hickle that was acquired two days before I hit the road, I was able to re-configure my trip.  White Sulpher Springs was now on the list.  Unfortunately, there was a golf tournament at the Greenbrier, so I couldn’t saunter into the  lobby of the resort.  Still, the area was quite beautiful.

On the other hand, the town of Matewan the subject of the movie by John Sayles was still not on my route.  It seems awfully small so maybe it was for the best.  I didn’t make it to anywhere  in Bloody Mingo.  I blame the Baldwin-Felts agents.

Even, even worse?  I didn’t get to taste any West Virginia wine.


Very simply bad timing.  I didn’t enter the state until nearly 6:30 pm and most of the wineries close before 6:00pm. sigh.  These wineries were along my route and I hope to lay my hands on some of those wines very soon.

Watts Roost Vineyard — located closest to my entrance into the state had already closed for the evening.  Given the number of tourists in town for the golf tournement, I am sure they were glad to close for the evening.  Still, they are producing wines from Chambourcin, Leon Millot and Vidal Blanc as well as elderberry, blueberry and blackberry wines that I would like to try.

Wolf Creek Winery — Also located in the Greenbrier Valley and is planted with twelve acres of Marechal Foch, Chambourcin, Seyval Blanc and Vidal Blanc and have medals from the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition (bronze), an International Eastern Wine Competition bronze and the Charleston Wine And All That Jazz Medal (Note: be careful there is more than one Wolf Creek Winery in the midwest).
Daniel Vineyards — Found further west, near Beckley, Dr. Daniel has planted 114 varietals on his property.  The wines seem to have received multiple medals from multiple competitions.  The downside?  They don’t ship. Boo.
Fisher Ridge — This winery was never going to be a good road trip stop for me as they are by appt. only.  Next time I am going through West Virginia I will try to plan better.  Also, they have no website. bummer.
Toscano in Appalachia — This winery is also by appt.  and while they have a website, it is just a single page with no additional information about the kinds of wines that they are producing (though from the name I am guessing something Italianish).
Winetree Vineyards — This winery sounded fantastic growing a mix of vinifera and hybrid grapes (or at least producing wines from them as I am a bit skeptical on the idea of a West Virginia Cabernet Sauvignon).
I promise that the next time I am in the state, I will get there earlier in the day.

Gretchen Neuman, VinoVerve Editor August 22, 2011