Tag Archives: wine tastings

The End of an Era

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So it goes.

After ten years, I have decided to resign from my role as an Independent Wine Consultant doing In-Home Wine Tastings for the Traveling Vineyard.

It was a difficult decision to make.

When I first started, I didn’t know if I would like it. But I figured, “What did I have to lose? If I don’t like it, I’ll quit.” Little did I know that I’d not only love it, but I’d also take away so much more than wine knowledge…

I’d make friends with people all over the country with whom I probably would have never met otherwise…

Lisa, Me, Katie - Puerto Vallarta 2007

I’d earn some fabulous trips…

Including those to Sonoma

Where I’d learn to love Pinot Noir in the Russian River Valley…

To Puerto Vallarta, Mexico…

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Where we took a break from wine and tasted tequila instead….

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Then, there was Tuscany

Ah… Tuscany… One of the most spectacular trips I’ve ever been on…

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A beautiful stay at Villa Dievole

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Where my husband proposed…

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And then there was Napa….

Which was so much fun that it’s mostly a blur…

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Outside of the trips, being part of The Traveling Vineyard changed my life.

Those of you from my childhood or even high school, know that I was painfully shy. In college, I was even told by an acquaintance that when she first met me, she thought I was just stuck up because I didn’t really say much.

Traveling Vineyard lit something inside me.

I felt good in front of an audience.  (A little wine could always calm the nerves otherwise!).

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I got to teach!

When I was a kid, I loved school so much that as I ascended through each grade, I wanted to be the teacher of that grade! Then, when I hit high school, I realized it wasn’t really about teaching any more. Most kids/teenagers didn’t want to learn. I saw teachers pulling teeth to get the class interested or just to behave. I was even threatened to be kicked out of class once for falling asleep.

I no longer wanted to be a teacher.

But when I started doing Wine Tastings, I got to teach about wine. And I got to teach people who wanted to learn about wine.

One of the greatest rewards was hearing from other people that they never really liked red wine before; but that I had taught them how to like it. I walked them through each wine and explained how to recognize the aromas and flavors in each one so that they could determine the style they liked. I demonstrated that by pairing the wine with simple foods, the flavors could change as well. I gave them the ammunition to become more confident about wine, to describe what they like at a restaurant to get a recommendation, to be more confident in trying new things.

It felt so good.

I met the greatest people. They all loved or wanted to learn about wine!

This included fellow consultants (aka, my Wineaux friends)…

Wine Tastings Hosts…

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and the guests…

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A special thanks to every single host and guest I met over the past ten years! My Traveling Vineyard experience would not have been nearly as enjoyable without you!

And I even got to meet many of the winemakers…

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I earned awards.

I got not only recognition for my efforts, but the fun, friendship and financial reward that came along with it!

So, it was a difficult decision to cut ties.

In all honesty, I believe that The Traveling Vineyard is truly at its height. There is so much room to grow. If I had been putting the same effort as I had just a few years ago, I’d be twice as successful.

But I lost it.

I lost the passion.

I still love wine. I still loved meeting all of the people. I still loved teaching about wine.

Then why?

In 2012, I started on a path to better my health. My health became priority and running became a new part of it. After a herniated disk at the end of the year and back surgery in March of last year, I stopped doing tastings completely.

I needed to heal.

I needed to recover.

And I learned one thing…

I needed to slow down.

For the past ten years, I’ve basically had two full-time jobs. I was very involved with TTV. While there were no minimums to remain active, I did an average of six to eight tastings per month. In addition, each month, I held a Team Meeting. I participated in a Taste of the Business Meeting. I listened to the consultant and leadership conference calls. I taught Learning with Leaders classes. I didn’t miss anything that was offered.

When I slowed down with my tasting events, my husband noticed how much less stressed I was. I had more balance.

But I can’t do anything half-way. Generally, I am “ALL IN” when I’m passionate about something. By slowing down and doing less, I lost interest. I lost the passion. I found I liked the time at home with my husband and my dogs.

Then I realized that I’ve pretty much had two jobs most of my working life. I had summers in high school and college with two, or even three jobs. The same happened after college.

It’s taken me this long to realize that it’s time for me to slow down.

To take care of myself.

To just enjoy life.

It’s a little difficult because I’m so used to being busy. But I’m learning.

2014 is going to be all about self-care.

Traveling Vineyard has taught me so much not only about wine, but about life. The company will always hold a special place in my heart. I would still recommend The Traveling Vineyard to anyone wanting to learn about wine, wanting to earn some extra cash or to take it on full force as a career. I know many consultants across the country and would be happy to recommend someone, if I can, in your area for more info about hosting or consulting.

And with that, I say, “Farewell,” to that part of my life. I have fond memories frienships that will last forever.

Remember… “Over a bottle of wine, many a friend is made…”

~Unknown

Thank you for ten fantastic years, Traveling Vineyard!

Cheers~
Carrie

Five Things Friday

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I’m still on “vacation.” It’s been crazy! But instead of being stressed, I’m eating it up. {We’ll get to that within the next week or two.} And I’ve been enjoying and appreciating every minute of it of the time I get to spend with everyone!

I’ve always loved when other bloggers do their Five Things Friday posts. It can include items they are loving right now, other posts or articles that spoke to them or important things in their lives. I’ve been introduced to some wonderful new websites and products and learned from others’ insights. So today, I thought I’d share some with you.

1) How to Choose Gratitude over Stress this Holiday Season – I actually came to this place on my own this year. {Yay, me!} But this post is a good one to help anyone throwing their hands up in the air, looking for some solace right now.

2) The End of an Era  – Earlier this week – December 17th to be exact – marked my 10-year anniversary with The Traveling Vineyard. And I resigned. This is big news! And don’t worry, nothing bad happened. I still love the company. It was just my time. They’ll be a post on that, too, soon… And all the wonderful things I took away from the experience. I will be forever grateful!

3) The Career Path Less Traveled – Just entering the workforce? Don’t worry about your exact career. Just live life. Here’s how.

4) Last Minute Christmas Gift IdeasChristmas Lists from Running with Racheal, last year’s Top 5 Gifts for the Hard-to-Buy-For-Person-Who-Has-Everything and Gifts They’ll Actually Use.

5) This… Just to make you smile:

Who is the most difficult person on your shopping list?

Merry Christmas!

Cheers~
Carrie

The Red Wine & Chocolate Debate

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About ten years ago, when I first started doing Wine Tastings with The Traveling Vineyard, I learned that red wine and chocolate paired well together. I am not really sure where I learned that. I took an online Wine Spectator class where a bunch of us met weekly to go over the lesson and taste the wines together. Did I discover it there? At our first Annual Harvest Convention, I attended a session on food and wine pairing with a gentleman from the Culinary Institute of Arts. Did I taste it there? Or was it just something I overheard from other consultants? I truly can’t remember.

But over the past year, I’ve read articles {like this one} by wine connoisseurs and enthusiasts across the globe who state that pairing red wine and chocolate is just plain WRONG! {For the record, my husband agrees, swearing that chocolate should only be paired with Port. But this is not because he’s a connoisseur; it’s just his personal preference.}

And you may be scratching your head asking yourself the same question, especially after my post about dessert wines, stressing how a wine should always be sweeter than the dessert itself.

I have used dark chocolate at Wine Tastings to illustrate food and wine pairing and to convert people from whites to reds. It works. I still have guests who swear by this pairing. I must admit that it has been a while since I’ve had the two together myself. But as a wine enthusiast, maybe my palate has not evolved to that of a connoisseur.

In any case, I have a couple of points to make and tweak about this pairing.

In my opinion, not all types of chocolate go with red wine.

When I’ve suggested that hosts serve dark chocolate and recommend just picking up an easy package of Dove Promises, some decide to go all out instead. They get all sorts of flavors with white chocolate, caramel, mint, chili pepper – you name it. Most of these don’t go with red wine. You are going to taint my poor wines that I’m bringing with mint! While these flavors might be fun to try with specific wines with a more experienced wine drinking group, it’s not the best option when I am trying to teach and showcase new wines, possibly to new wine drinkers. Furthermore, some hosts have even just bought milk chocolate because they don’t like dark chocolate. But both the red wine and dark chocolate tend to smooth each other out. So dark chocolate is the way to go, or at least the place to start.

Dark chocolate doesn’t go with all red wine.

At my tastings, I save a specific wine to be paired with the dark chocolate. This is because, I don’t believe it works with all wines. I feel like it works best with the more fruit-forward of wines from the New World. Earthy Old World (aka European) wines are best served with dinner. Bigger, bolder, fruit-forward wines from California and Australia seem to be the best candidates for chocolate pairing. I’m talking Cabernets, Syrahs, and Zins. Some New World blends work, too. This is a generalization; however, not a rule to live by. Not all California Cabs have the same style and characteristics. Therefore, not all of them will work.

Pair dark chocolate with reds that have chocolate “notes” when you smell and taste the wine.

Just as you’d pair chicken or fish marinated in lemon and herbs with a nice Sauvignon Blanc with citrusy notes, try chocolate with a red that has the aromas or flavors of chocolate. Not sure which wines showcase that? Tasting and describing wines takes practice. Remember the Importance of Company? Otherwise, if the bottle has a description, look for chocolate words like “mocha”. But remember, taste is subjective, so not everyone will agree on those notes. Furthermore, labels may describe wines more for marketing purposes than what the wine actually smells or tastes like.

At one time, the Traveling Vineyard carried a bold smoky Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile. It had chocolate and raspberry notes, but was a very heavy wine that usually only big red wine drinkers at my tastings enjoyed. That was until I started pairing it with these Raspberry Chocolate Bars, a recipe that I believe was shared by my friend and fellow Wine Consultant, Deb. I always have my guests taste the wine before trying a food and then after. Many white and sweet wine drinkers were surprised how much they loved this red after trying these decandent bars!

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Quick & Easy Raspberry Chocolate Bars

*Warning: This is not a healthy recipe by any means. Make it for a crowd, eat one and send the rest home with someone else.

  • 1. 5 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup softened butter
  • 10 oz raspberries
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, beat the first three ingredients with a spoon or on medium until all crumbly. Press the mixture in the bottom of an ungreased 13″ x 9″ pan. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. In a saucepan, mix together next three ingredients. Bring to a boil for one minute, stirring constantly. Let cool ten minutes. Sprinkle chocolate chips over the first mixture in the pan and then carefully spread the raspberry mixture over that. Bake until set (about 20 minutes). Then let cool for 30 minutes. Chill for one hour. Cut into 48 bars.

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And lastly, there is a general rule of thumb that goes for any wine pairing:

Pair any wine with any food as long as you like them together!

All that matters is that you like the wine with whatever you are eating. I swear by the fact that grapes don’t go with wine, but if you like them together, by all means, pair them!

So this Valentine’s Day, whether you are singled or coupled, pick up a bottle of New World red wine and some dark chocolate to do a little experimenting yourself. It’s more important that you be the judge.

What side do you take on the chocolate and red wine debate and why?

Cheers~
Carrie

This valentines’ day…