Heather's Hangout

Sharing the people, places & little moments that make a difference.

5 great Michigan wines for summer July 9, 2017

summerwhitewinesThe warm summer temperatures have provided some lovely evenings to sit outside and enjoy a chilled glass of wine. One of my favorite summer activities (yes, I have a LOT of favorite activities!) is to share a bottle of good wine with friends, enjoying great conversations and laughs. I’m thankful for many of these moments.

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Despite an amazing time in Napa Valley, California exploring several of their local wineries and tasting lots of delicious wines, I still am a big fan of Michigan wines. Besides the fact that there are some great-tasting wines produced here in Michigan, I like supporting my home state businesses. If you’re looking for a variety of crisp, light, flavorful wines to enjoy on the deck, beach, canoe, dinner table, okay, pretty much anywhere, here are a few of my favorite Michigan wines (so far) this summer:

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Domaine Berrien Cellars (Berrien Springs) – Vignoles, semi-sweet wine with light tropical fruit flavors

2 Lads Winery (Traverse City) – Late Harvest Riesling, light on sweetness and cool and crisp to taste

Domaine Berrien Cellars (Berrien Springs) – Seyval Blanc, a fairly sweet wine with aromas of mandarin orange, apricot and honey

Peninsula Cellars (Traverse City) – Kroupa Orchards Cherry Wine, made with black sweet cherries to provide a beautiful aroma and great taste

Left Foot Charley (Traverse City) – Missing Spire, a not too sweet late harvest Riesling

 

Exploring Napa Valley’s wine country April 28, 2017

We woke to a beautiful morning in Calistoga. The downtown was quiet when we walked to find a breakfast place. We came upon a great little place called Café Sarafornia. The family owned restaurant offers a delicious variety of breakfast options.

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After filling up on food, we headed out to enjoy one of the best parts of Napa Valley – wine! Our first stop was Clos Pegase. My friend is a wine club member, which provided a tasting and tour of the winery. What a place! The winery was created by a couple who appreciated art, nature and wine. The owners hosted an architectural competition to design Clos Pegase. Designer Michael Graves won the competition. There are sculptures and art throughout the grounds, although there were more when the original founders owned the winery (he sold it a few years ago when his wife died from cancer). One of my favorite parts of the grounds were the 52 cypress trees in the courtyard, representing every week of the year, and lined in four rows to represent the four seasons. The buildings blend modern and ancient Mediterranean architecture. Our tour took us through the grounds to see the vineyards, then the production facility. It was impressive to see the massive storage, bottling and labeling lines. We then were able to walk into the 20,000 square feet of caves that house wine and a large theater where special events and tastings are held. Our tasting was here! We tried several great wines and enjoyed some cheeses, fruit and nuts. It was a wonderful visit!

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After Clos Pegase, we headed to Chateau Montelena Winery. Another great recommendation. It’s an incredibly impressive site to drive onto the grounds, see Jade Lake and surrounding landscape, then the chateau. Built in 1882, the chateau was converted to a wine making facility and tasting room in the early 1970s. It resembles an English Gothic castle gatehouse. The large arched windows and door, stone walls and (faux) arrow slits make for a neat building! We enjoyed our tasting inside the chateau. The wines that we sampled were very good, although the reds were a tad too dry for me.

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Wandering outside and down the steps in front of the chateau led us to the peaceful area of Jade Lake. There are footbridges that connect to two islands (used for private tastings), built crooked to honor Chinese legend that says evil spirits can only travel in straight lines. Lawns, vineyards and mountains are just beyond. It was so quiet and serene here that I could have easily sat on the bench for hours enjoying the view, light breeze and warm temps.

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As we left Chateau Montelena Winery, we passed an awesome landmark – Old Faithful Geyser! The Old Faithful Geyser of California park is a neat place where you can see one of only three geysers in the world considered “faithful” because it regularly erupts. The geyser also has proven to be a predictor of earthquakes in the area as scientists note when the geyser’s regular eruptions are delayed or lessen, an earthquake is likely within a few weeks within 500 miles surrounding geyser. Entrance is $15 for adults, but we thought it was worth saying we saw “Old Faithful.” Plus, there’s more to see – the park is also home to a goat farm (so cute!), gardens, geology museum and outdoor activities like bocce ball. There is a picnic kitchen in the gift store that offers wine corks and more so you can enjoy a bottle of wine in the park while watching Old Faithful.

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We were hungry when we left Old Faithful so stopped at Dean & Deluca, a nice market type restaurant offering freshly made sandwiches, salads, baked goods and more. My sandwich was huge! Our next stop was Yountville, where we found the Girard Winery tasting room. My friend’s membership at Clos Pegase also gets her complimentary tastings at other wineries by the same owner (although we learned that she is ‘grandfathered’ in and this doesn’t apply to new memberships. Lucky us!). The tasting room has a rustic feel, which I love! The staff was nice and funny. And the wine was delicious!

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We wandered around the area after our tasting, then headed back to Calistoga. We shopped a little more, then ordered a takeout dinner from Puerta Vallerta Restaurant. It was delicious ‘authentic’ Mexican. The evening weather was amazing so we enjoyed our food and some drinks on a table near the pool of our resort.

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It was yet another awesome day of vacation. We once again packed a LOT into a day. I loved the scenery, wines, friendship, meeting new people and exploring so much of the area. I went to bed once again a tired, happy girl ready for the next day of fun!

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(Don’t miss reading about our previous days’ adventures in San Francisco and Calistoga!)

 

Wine and food fest offers taste of California wines April 27, 2017

HH_Calistogawinefest

Cheers to wine country!

Sunshine, blue skies and warm temps greeted us on our second day in San Francisco. After an awesome first day of exploring, I woke happy and ready to see more. And I was not to be disappointed. My friend and I enjoyed a brisk walk through the streets of SOMA (South of Market), then a quick breakfast at a local coffee shop (the restaurants were crazy busy this morning!). It was time to get the car from the parking garage and head north…..to Napa Valley. Our destination was Calistoga.

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While San Francisco is a busy, condensed city, the land north opens up to rolling hills and mountains as you cross the Bay Bridge (or Golden Gate Bridge if you come from the coastal area) to Napa. Northern California has experienced a lot of rain (terrible flooding at times) so the scenery was green and blooming for us. And while I loved wandering the city streets of downtown San Francisco, I also melted at the sight of the mountains and open space greeting us as we drove. Not much soothes my soul more than time in nature. The beauty just makes me smile and relax.

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We arrived in downtown Napa by late morning. It was busy but we scored a parking spot

Napawinecheese

Yummy mimosas and snacks.

by the Oxbow Public Market. I love this place! It’s an indoor market lined with small shops selling natural products, baked goods, spices, books, flowers, fresh fruits and vegetables, plus several restaurants and more. The energy of the crowd was addicting. I’m pretty sure I smiled like a silly fool the entire time we wandered through. Something about the place just struck me. I enjoyed it. We of course worked up an appetite and thirst after walking through the shops so grabbed a spot at the bar at the Oxbow Cheese & Wine Market. They were serving blood orange mimosas so we ordered two along with an amazing cheese, nut and fruit tray. It was a great place to enjoy our snacks and drinks while taking in the ambiance and energy of the place.

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We left Napa to journey along the Silverado Trail Road with our destination of Calistoga in mind. The drive was delightful as we passed winery after winery, each one’s vineyards filling rolling acres showcasing beautiful examples of architecture (serving as their tasting rooms, event locations, production facilities or other). The mountain landscape provided an inspiring backdrop and I was tickled to see so many cyclists pedaling along the bike lane.

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Calistogaspa

So relaxing.

Calistoga is a wonderfully quaint small town. The shops remind me of those small businesses you might find in Traverse City, Saugatuck and Grand Haven (for my Michigan readers). There were plenty of dining and drinking options and a small grocery store.

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We stayed at the Calistoga Spa Hot Springs. The room had modern touches, along with a small kitchenette, space to unpack clothes and a spacious shower. The highlights are a lap pool, geothermal mineral pool, large adult only covered mineral spring hot tub and children’s pool. The outdoor area had plenty of lounge chairs, plus multiple lovely landscaped areas with small tables and chairs – perfect for enjoying drinks and food (which we did!).

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Our plan was to spend the rest of the day at the Calistoga Food and Wine event held at Solage Calistoga. It was a nice walk from our resort. The event was held under tents on the lawn and in the barn. The ambiance was fun and we met many great people, both from the wineries and restaurants as well as other patrons.

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More than 40 wineries were at the event, meaning we tasted some wonderful wine! Some of my favorites included Sebright Cellars, Twomey Cellars, Tom Eddy Winery, Next Door Wines, Olabisi, Jones Family Vineyards and Huge Bear Wines. The food was outstanding as well! We had salmon cakes, steaks, cheeses, fresh vegetables, chicken, and delicious desserts. Add in awesome jazz and beautiful artwork by Tim Howe placed throughout the event, it was a wonderful evening.

 

10 activities for a fun girls night in April 5, 2017

Filed under: Life Lessons — Heather @ 4:00 pm
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GirlsNightIn_blogpost

I love my girlfriends. I love spending time with them, individually or as a group. I, of course, adore my guy friends too, yet there is something special about being surrounded with strong, funny, smart women. I’m fortunate to have many of these women in my life, women who build each other up, provide support, encouragement and love. These women cheer for me when things are going well, and hug me when things go south.

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I have girlfriends from all walks of life. Some who I’ve known since childhood, others I met in college, and others entered my life in the past few years or even months. As I’ve aged, I’ve come to realize the importance of maintaining strong relationships with many of these friends, and also come to understand that some friendships fade over time and it’s okay to move on. I cherish each as they touch my heart and teach a lesson in their own way.

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I’ve enjoyed many adventures with girlfriends over the years. From international getaways to road trips up north (northern Michigan, for you non-Michiganders!) to visits at the local coffee shops, there is laughter and fun to be found all over. And there’s also lots of fun to be had staying in for the evening. I recently enjoyed a fun night in with a small group of girlfriends, indulging in food, music, facials and girl talk. It was a wonderful night of connecting with friends and the much needed relaxation and laughter recharged my soul.

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Staying in with friends is an easy, cheap opportunity to have fun and connect/catch up. There are so many activities to enjoy so I thought I’d share a few of my favorites. The biggest catch to a relaxing night in – ditch the technology. Leave your phone in your purse and instead tune into your friends. One of my favorite parts of my recent girls night in? Not one of us reached for our phone the entire night, ensuring that we were all tuned in and focused on connecting with each other.

  1. Cook new recipes. Sometimes the hostess will try a new dish or we each bring a dish to share.
  2. Choose a theme. Plan a spa party, fiesta night, ’80s theme. You can plan food, decorations, games and more around the theme.
  3. Wine tasting. Have everyone bring a bottle of wine to sample. You can even make it a theme, such as from certain locations (Michigan, Napa, etc.) or types (white,  Cabernet, Riesling, etc.).
  4. Facials. Who doesn’t love getting pampered??
  5. Games. There’s everything from cards to board games to video games and even ‘made up’ games (and drinking games if it’s that kind of night!).
  6. Movie night. There are some great girls’ movies! You can go ‘old school’ with movies like Dirty Dancing, 16 Candles, Breakfast Club or Pretty In Pink. We also like Sex in the City, any Melissa McCarthy movie, Love Actually or sappy romances such as The Notebook.
  7. Plan an activity. Make cards, a holiday craft or vision board.
  8. Dance party. You all know I’m a big fan of music and breaking into random dance at any moment while I’m at home (or anywhere).
  9. Girl talk! My favorite of girl time is catching up on everyone’s lives. It’s a great time to reconnect. We always touch on topics across the spectrum, from love to career to celebrity crushes to hair styles to family to laundry detergent to recipes to exercise to favorite travel spots to lingerie to…..well, I don’t need to spill it all. You get it. Any topic is up for conversation.
  10. Pillow fight. Okay, I’m just kidding. I know some men reading this are wondering about the pillow fights that girls supposedly have at all sleepovers or gatherings (how did this idea ever start??) so I had to throw it in.
 

5 Michigan white wines for summer tasting July 2, 2016

The warm, summer weather in Michigan makes it the perfect time to enjoy crisp, flavorful, refreshing wine. Thankfully, the mitten state is home to numerous wineries that produce delicious varieties of wine.

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White wines are my favorite types of wine, even more so during the summer (so relaxing to sit on the deck in the evening with a cool glass of wine!), and I’m grateful that my home state wineries create many tasty bottles. Here are a few of  my favorites:

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wineArcturos Late Harvest Riesling, Black Star Farms (Suttons Bay) – This long-time favorite is a light, sweet fruit-forward wine full of apple, peach and other fruit flavors.

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Rustic White, Longview Winery (Cedar)  – Another long-time favorite, this semi-sweet wine is loaded with tropical fruit flavor, including pineapple and passion fruit. It’s a refreshing, easy wine that is always popular when served!

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Naked Chardonnay, Chateau Aeronautique (Jackson) – This chardonnay captures ripe fruit flavors such as apple, orange, peach and more to produce a light, crisp flavor and easy finish.

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2014 Chardonnay, Peninsula Cellars (Traverse City) – A lightly sweet wine packed with hints of pineapple, tropical fruit and green apples.

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Missing Spire Riesling, Left Foot Charley (Traverse City) – I usually indulge in this winery’s Cinnamon Girl hard cider so it was a nice surprise to taste this deliciously, crisp, sweet wine, which brings together a blend of the winery’s late harvest Riesling vineyards.

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What wine(s) do you like to drink during the warm summer months?

 

Tips for chilling your wine April 16, 2016

temperature guageYou open a bottle of your favorite white wine ready to enjoy the delicious flavor. You take a deep breath to smell the full aroma. What do you smell? It depends how you chilled the wine, according to a recent workshop that I attended at Michigan By The Bottle tasting room. My sister and I recently attended the “Chill or Not to Chill” wine workshop at the Royal Oak wine-tasting room to learn about the proper temps and ways to chill a bottle of wine (read about the last wine workshop I attended there). Mostly, I learned that I’ve been chilling my wine wrong for ages!

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I learned that winemakers of course intend to get the most aroma and flavor out of their wines, which means they intend to serve at the proper temp to encourage these two things to occur. If you chill a white wine too much, for example, the aroma and flavor are muted.

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For this workshop, we were provided two variations of three different types of wines – one glass was chilled in a regular refrigerator and the other glass was chilled in a wine refrigerator (typically a warmer temperature than a household refrigerator). Note that a wine refrigerator is different than a beer refrigerator, which is a colder temperature too. I could not believe the difference in these wines! The aroma was much fuller and the taste so much stronger when chilled at the proper temperature. I was especially struck by the difference in the white wines, such as a Rieslig and Pinot blanc. Having side by side samples of a glass of refrigerator chilled wine and a glass of wine refrigerator chilled wine was so noticeable. Nothing was distinct on the refrigerator chilled wine, while the aroma and flavors popped on the other wine. I can’t believe I never noticed these differences before now!

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Red wines should be served at room temperature. However, if you really prefer to drink all of your wine at a cool temp, then store your red wines in the basement or put in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes before serving. You can chill the remainder of the red in the refrigerator to slow the oxidation process, which will extend the life of the wine (bring it to room temp before serving). You can also store the bottle on the counter for typically one or two days.

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winebottlesA suggested temperature for a light-bodied white wine (Pinot blanc) is 45-50 degrees, full-bodied white (chardonnay) is 50-55 degrees and a sweet white (sweet Riesling, Moscato) is 43-47 degrees. A medium-bodied red can be served around 55 degrees, light-bodied red (Pinot noir) is 50-55 degrees and full-bodied red (Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah/Shiraz) is 60 degrees.

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For those of you who might use an ice cube to chill your wine faster (ahem, Mom), it was highly recommended not to do as it dilutes the wine’s flavor, body, aroma, and overall intent. A guest at the workshop said he uses an ice bucket with half ice and half cold water to chill his bottle of wine in a few hours. Heck, we’ve stuck bottles in the snow during January for a quick cool down and it worked great!

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I love myself a good fruit wine, such as Chateau Fontaine’s cherry wine or Black Star Farms‘ pear wine. These wines can be chilled.

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Most wines are meant to be drank within a year. Reds, such as Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, age better, and Rieslings age very well (frankly, my Riesling bottles usually don’t last long in my house, let alone a year!).

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I love my stemless wine glasses. But these type of glasses make you hold the glass filled with wine, where the warmth of your hands can start to warm the wine more or less than you want. Duh, I never thought of that!

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Overall I learned that it doesn’t hurt to chill wines, it just depends what process you use to do this. You don’t have to run out to buy a special wine refrigerator (right…yes, I keep telling myself this!). There are several viable options for cooling your bottle, as I listed here. Do you have other suggestions?

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I ended up finding another good, new wine during the workshop – Chateau de Leelanau’s Cherry Wine. Delicious!

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Another great learning experience! I definitely will head back to this local wine resource in the future.

 

*This is not a paid endorsement for Michigan By The Bottle. I went and purchased on my own. I enjoyed the event so want to share with my readers.

 

 
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