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.

Mad, Hot Wine Tasting Skillz!

That is my explanation and I am sticking to it.

Yes, I am working slightly backwards, but that is the nature of my brain at the moment.

Yes, I have returned from Portland, Oregon and the 2012 Wine Bloggers’s Conference. Yes, I saw old friends, made new friends, made Kevin observe me in my natural environment…. oops. That sounded dirty. The point is that I am telling this tale out of order.

So last part first is this. At the end of each conference there is the introduction of the venue for the next event. Kind of like at the closing ceremony at the Olympics where England turned the stadium over to Rio de Janeiro.. In this case, it was Portland making a little room for Penticton, British Columbia. Now imagine that Rio brought wine. Now you are getting the idea.

Penticton is in the Okanagan region of British Columbia. Now, I have been to Canada before. I grew up on the border near Niagara Falls. And due to Kevin’s work schedule, I got to spend some spectacular times in Winnepeg, Manitoba and Edmonton, Alberta. We vacationed at Lake Louise in Banff and another vacation in Vancouver and Vancouver Island. And yes, I am looking forward to my visit next spring (making a mental note to get my passport renewed…).

But back to the wine tasting.

As an introduction to our conference next year, the folks from Penticton brought Okanagan wine… and gave us a blind tasting. With a challenge. Each table got a red and white and we had to figure out what they were. Generally speaking I hate doing this. I am typically pretty bad at it unless it is pretty obvious. In this case, I knew that they were from the Okanagan, so that gave us lots of hints. Pretty quickly Kevin and I and our table mates, Robin Ross of Underground Cellar, Glynis Hill of Vino-Noire and Julie Crafton from Napa Valley Vintners quickly narrowed down the red to a Pinot Noir and the white to a Pinot Gris. We narrowed down the year for each and then of course, we knew it was to the Okanagan. Then we got chatting… just as we needed to turn in our entry I scribbled down a couple of sub-appellations that we had chatted about but never really agreed upon.

Amazingly enough. We scored a perfect score.

Pure skill.

That is my excuse, and I am sticking with it.

More WBC12 stories to come.

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor