d’Art Wines, Lodi, CA

For Art and Wine

To experience d’Art Wines, you will need to travel to the Lodi AVA in the central valley of California.  An ideal growing region that has warm days and cool delta breezes at night is home to this beautiful Cabernet Sauvignon Estate.  While there, enjoy a glass of Final Cut, a blend of Tempranillo, Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petite Sirah. Then stroll the tasting room to view the winemakers photoart that also adorns the wine bottles.



Every inch of the property is put to use.


Meticulously maintained vines.


Barrels full of art, inside and out!


Antique transportation is great advertising.


Barrels are everywhere.


Pathway to wine greatness.

To experience the art experience check out http://www.dartwines.com to plan your own trip.



Stone Hill Winery, Hermann, MO

Preserving History!

A recent road trip took me to the quaint town of Hermann, MO, where I found Stone Hill Winery.  The winery, Missouri’s oldest, was established in 1847.  Prohibition caused the destruction of equipment and vineyards, but in 1965 it was purchased and restored.


On the National Register of Historic Places

Stone Hill Winery

The vineyards used to cover the town!

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The cellar tour was like walking back in time.  The underground cellars are the largest series in North America and were hand dug over 25 years.

Stone Hill Winery-15

Endless rows of barrels

Stone Hill Winery-19

Original bottles of wine

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I hope you are inspired to make your own road trip to Hermann, Missouri!

To make plans to visit, check their website at: http://www.stonehillwinery.com

When Your Hard Drive Dies, You Improvise!!

The Blue Ridge Parkway, NC to Vaso de Vino

Maybe destroying my hard drive wasn’t the worst thing to happen today.  Note to self- don’t set a magnet anywhere near the computer.  Having to pause and rethink how I was going to post today also made me re-evaluate how and what I want my blog to be.

My intent is to create a mood and visual experience that makes my readers say, ” I want to see, to taste, to go, or to experience that myself.”  Every adventure is a very personal experience and I am hoping to jump start that area of your brain that seeks adventure and wants to go exploring.

Since “pictures are worth a thousand words” and I love to take them, this is the best way for me to help you with that journey.  I am able to capture a moment in time that will show you all the wonderful adventures that are waiting for you.

I hope that you can travel with me and experience many magical and amazing places, vineyards, National Parks, and wineries through my eyes and start plans to visit yourself.

Here we go!!!

On a rainy day, I decided to drive a portion of The Blue Ridge Parkway just outside of Asheville, NC.


Blue Ridge Pkwy Rain

Fog settles in during the rain


Mystery of the Road

A Mysterious Looking Fog Blankets the Road


After the rain clears

When the rain ends

  After my drive, I needed a break and headed to Vaso de Vino Wine Market in Arden, NC.  A great place to try wines, they also hold monthly wine dinners the last two Thursday’s each month.  Here is a mouth watering show of one night with wines from Australia.

I hope you have been inspired to visit the Blue Ridge Parkway and to try out Vaso de Vino Wine Market!

For more information on the Blue Ridge Parkway visit: http://www.nps.gov/blri

For more information on Vaso de Vino visit: http://www.vasodevino.com

I would love your feedback on my new format!  Please let me know what you think and what you would like to see in the future.  Thanks




Quantum Leap Winery, Orlando, Florida

From Mickey Mouse to an Urban Winery



Their industrial location in the Mills 50 district


When you need a grown-up break from the world of Disney, where should you go?  How about a Florida winery!

DSC04231Quantum Leap Winery is a unique destination in Florida.  They do not make wines from the Florida native grape, Muscadine, but focus on creating great tasting wines from around the world.  They do this by purchasing wine juice from small wineries in premier growing regions and then age, finish, blend, and package the wine in their facility.  Their focus is on being environmentally friendly and reducing their carbon footprint in the process.

The winery is owned by Jill Ramsier and David Forrester.  The friends have a passion for wine and decided to take the leap and open a winery of their own.  Norman Saley, the winemaker, joined them in 2014 bringing his California winemaking experience with him.



DSC04246Upon arrival to this urban winery, you will notice the eclectic, artsy, vibrant neighborhood.  Quantum Leap’s home is a former warehouse building and retains many of its industrial attributes.  The interior is very open and inviting.  There is a large central bar for tastings and an open area with ample tables, chairs, and couches.  The exposed ductwork is visible against the high ceilings with plenty of lighting.  Bright artwork adorns the walls, which you can purchase and there is an area in the corner for musical artists to perform. Outdoors, the prior loading dock serves as a covered porch area to sit a spell and enjoy great wine.


Stepping inside, we were greeted warmly and offered one of two tastings.  We choose to do both, Lucy’s Whites and Buster’s Big Reds.  A variety of wine regions were represented from Washington to California and Veneto, Italy.


Our tastings included:


  • Grape Pedaler White Blend, Columbia Valley, WA 2014  -Viognier, Gewurztraminer, and dry Riesling.
  • Pinot Grigio, Veneto, IT 2016
  • Garda White Blend, Veneto, IT 2014 -Traditional Northern Italian blend
  • Sauvignon Blanc Reserve, Russian River Valley, CA 2014


  • Tempranillo, Ancient Lakes AVA< WA 2013
  • Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, CA 2014
  • Merlot, Napa Valley, CA 2013
  • Sangiovese, Paso Robles, CA 2014


They have a large selection of amazing wines for purchase and I’m sure you will find a few that you want before heading back to Disney!

To learn more about them head to their website: http://www.quantumleapwinery.com




Sculpting the Vine:   The Art of Pruning



As I continue my journey through the wonderful world of wine, I have been given the opportunity to learn the delicate art of pruning.  I discovered that the vineyard is like an art gallery with each vine a unique and different sculpture.


IMG_4229The farmer views their vineyard through a special lens.  They not only have to see the needs of the coming growing season, but they have to be able to envision what is necessary for the coming years.  Cuts made today will impact the health and productivity of the vines.  Decisions have to be made about which canes to keep and when a portion of the cordon (lateral growing arm) may need to be replaced by another.  If they only had a crystal ball this would be easy, but is anything ever easy?

IMG_4232On my first day, I was given instructions about which canes to cut and why to keep others.  I was told how many buds to leave and how to tell when to “lay down” a new vine to replace an old one.  There was a lot of information in a short amount of time.  After watching and discussing why they chose the cuts they made, I was entrusted with a pair of clippers and was off on my own.

At first, I worked slowly and nervously. I made my cuts and asked many questions.  I didn’t want to mess up this wonderful vineyard and disappoint the farmer I was working for.  I was reassured when they said to make what thought was the best possible choice when pruning.  They don’t always know what the correct choice is either but know that just like any plant it will regrow and be given another chance the following year.

As I moved through the vineyard, I realized that each individual plant is a composition.  With each cut made, I was creating a sculpture that given the right conditions will bear incredible fruit to harvest for the coming years vintage.  Not only that, but the shape that is created with each thoughtful prune will determine in the course of time how productive the plant will become.


Viewing the vines as a living piece of artwork helped me to overcome my fear of making a horrible mistake. I was able to choose which prunes to make based on the future for this plant.  I could see the beauty of the present and the incredible destination for this vineyard.

Thanks again to Overmountain Vineyards for allowing me to take these photos!


The Singing Wine Maker, Livermore, CA

The Art of Entertaining!

What could be better than having musical entertainment at a winery?  Having the winemaker himself be that entertainment!  If you visit on a weekend, you may be lucky enough to catch Steve Powell, musician extraordinaire, singing and playing his guitar for his guests.

The Singing Wine Maker is part of Tesla Vintners, a community of 3 wineries that you can visit.  Intrigued, we chose to visit to find out what was behind the name.


IMG_1630IMG_1628Steve and his wife Karen are owners of Tesla Vintners and The Singing Wine Maker.  Their desire is to celebrate, “Truth, Beauty and Goodness through Wine, Music and Art.”  This is apparent throughout the indoor and outdoor spaces. You are welcomed by beautifully carved wooden statues and a colorful flower garden that surrounds a lovingly refurbished home turned winery.  Inside the bright colors and artwork continue.  There is a large grapevine painted on the front of the wine tasting bar and vineyard inspired mural-like artwork adorn the walls.


There is an eclectic gift shop throughout the winery with many fun and humorous wine inspired selections. If outdoors is your thing, you can take a bottle out to the warm firepit with your picnic and relax, while kids play on the grassy area.

We opened the door to some great ’80″s music being played.  Steve was playing his guitar behind the tasting bar and a crowd was singing along.  Everyone is encouraged to sing  and enjoy the moment, whether they can sing or not.  We were welcomed to the bar and asked if we would like to do a tasting.  We had already viewed some of the art and heard the music portions of what they desire to celebrate, now we were going to enjoy the wine.


We had the pleasure of tasting their Sparkling, Red, White and Dessert wines.  We enjoyed many of the musically named wines, but loved having their dessert wines served in a chocolate cup.

Their current offerings include:

  • Sparkling wines: Brut, Almond, Raspberry, and Peach
  • Reds:      Melody- a blend of Livermore Primitivo and Central Valley Petite Sirah
    •       Harmony- a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Old Vine Zinfandel and Syrah
  • Whites:  Scherzando- Symphony-grape based wine with a little Muscat
    •       Dolce- A Muscat Canelli wine
  • Dessert: Ruby Port
    •       Karens Kisses
    •       Chocolate Port

At any time, they may have Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

To enjoy your own weekend of music and wine check out their website at:  thesingingwinemaker.com





King Family Vineyards, VA via Shenandoah National Park

How do you finish an incredible trip to a National Park?  You go to a vineyard, of course!

A desire to see and hike Shenandoah National Park began this wonderful adventure.  My son Ryan, who has fallen in love with National Parks as much as myself, has become my frequent traveling companion.  He planned some amazing hikes for us to tackle and found some beautiful places to stay.  After we had worn ourselves out, we found a delightful family-run vineyard and winery just outside of the park.


First though, the incredible Shenandoah National Park.  Straddling the Blue Ridge Mountains in northwestern Virginia, it is both visually and physically inspiring.  Though authorized to become a National Park in 1926, it didn’t become one until Dec. 26, 1935.  Its feature, Skyline Drive, is 105 miles long and runs through this narrow park offering some great stop off points for photos. During a visit, you are able to see stunning views and wildlife while challenging yourself to some difficult hikes if you choose.


We started our trip with a hike to Dark Hollow Falls (1.4 miles roundtrip).  This was not a difficult hike and we saw tons of wildlife, even a bear.  The falls were beautiful and a great start to the trip.

Staying the night at Big Meadows Lodge, on the Historic Places Registrar, we walked to the Big Meadow in the dark to try our hand at taking some starry night photos.




We also stayed at the Skyline Lodge which had some incredible sunset views overlooking the Shenandoah River Valley.DSC03000

A hike on the Old Rag Mountain Summit trail turned out to be a much more difficult than we expected, but we persevered and had a blast doing it.



Finally, we were able to walk a part of the Appalachian Trail that runs through the park.  It was a thrill to do something we had always wanted to do.

After all of that, we decided to relax and went searching for a vineyard.  Lucky for us, we found King Family Vineyards in Crozet, Virginia.  They are located just outside the southern end of the park off of Hwy 64.DSC02980

The King family has created a place that is comfortable even though they have grown since their opening in 2002.  What started as an 8-acre vineyard has become 31 acres producing 10,000 cases or more a year.  The property is picture postcard perfect.  The white and green trimmed buildings are stunning against the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains, while the gravel driveway still reminds me that it is a farm. They are in the Monticello American Viticultural Area (AVA) and they grow a variety of vines: Viognier, Chardonnay, Petit Manseng, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec.



We were greeted by James King, one of the sons, when we arrived at the tasting room.  A former Marine, he has also served as the Tasting Room Manager and a General Manager.  He was warm and friendly and introduced us to his family’s boutique, ultra-premium wines. He told us about their winemaker, Matthieu Finot, who was born in the Rhone Valley of France and some history of the farm.

The tasting room is spacious, with high ceilings, a stone fireplace, lots of windows and ample tables and chairs.  Tastings are done at the large stand-up bar that even has a hook to hang your purse.  They offer a classic tasting of 6 wines that rotate seasonally.  That day we tasted a number of wines on their menu including a 2015 Cabernet Franc and a 2016 Crose a dry, Merlot-based rose, which I purchased.  They do not have a restaurant, but you may bring a picnic or purchase a variety of meats, cheeses, and bread that they offer.DSC02976

While exploring, I was surprised to see a polo field on the property outside the tasting room.  David King, the owner, has played polo since 1980 and wanted a place to continue playing when they moved to Virginia from Houston, TX.  With a perfect location, he built the field and now Roseland Polo hosts matches on Sundays.  They are free and open to the public.  You can bring a picnic and purchase wine from the golf cart during matches.  We were so disappointed that we were not there on a Sunday, but it gives us a reason to return to the vineyard and explore Shenandoah National Park again!

For more information on King Family Vineyards go to: http://www.kingfamilyvineyards.com

To plan your Shenandoah National Park trip visit: http://www.nps.gov/shen/index.htm


Winter Wonder!


2005 #1 CD 876

2005 #1 CD 875

My kids during a Wisconsin winter long ago.

It must be the Wisconsin girl in me that still gets excited when it snows.  The wonderful memories that it stirs up of watching the flakes drift softly to the ground and of the fun we had playing and sledding in it.  It probably doesn’t hurt now that I live in an area where the snow doesn’t last long and the cold goes away pretty quickly.  It seems that I remember winters “Up North” lasting six to seven months or more!! OK, not really, but they sure are a lot longer than they are in South Carolina.  I love that I can have a cozy day or two and then get back to my regular routine.

DSC04272Watching the snow also made me start thinking about how winter can affect a vineyard.  Obviously, the climate can be quite different depending on where it is located, but that doesn’t change the fact that vines go through a cycle every year.  After harvest time; the vines turn woody, their roots dive deep into the soil for nutrients and they create carbohydrates that help protect them through the winter.  When the first frost occurs, the leaves fall and the vines go dormant.  Although this is a time of rest for the vines, it is an active time for the farmer.


Pruning of the vines is done now, either by hand or machine, to shape the vines and create the best growing conditions for that particular variety of grape.  The basic process for this time of year appears quite simple, but every vineyard has different requirements for how things are done based on the climate, the varietals that are grown and the vineyard management preferences.

There is also activity in the winery and tasting rooms.  Since it is a slower time of year, paperwork is done, fun events are scheduled and the winemaker carefully watches over their wine.  Depending on the type of winery, they may tweak it or let nature make the decisions.  A lot more occurs during this time, but that will be left for another article.

DSC04276If you can, try to visit a vineyard in the winter. You won’t be disappointed.  Every season has its reason to visit, the best part of winter is being able to see the beauty in the vineyard while the vines sleep.  You get this time to enjoy the silence, watch the animals, see the farmers working and dream of the magic that will occur once again the next year.







Thanks to Overmountain Vineyards in Tryon, NC for letting me take these winter photos!



Where it All Began!!


With our move to California in 2016, we began to explore the Livermore Wine Valley.  This unique area is one of the oldest wine regions in the state.  The first vineyard was planted here in 1882 and produced its’ first award winning wine in 1889.

As we began to explore, we encountered a two-label winery which uses grapes sourced from other local vineyards.  The original BIG WHITE HOUSE (BWH) label was created by John “The Elder” Marion by making wines out of the family home with friends.  It was his son, John Evan Marion, who created the label JOHN EVAN that we had the pleasure to meet and try his personal premium wines.  He has been involved with the winery since the beginning and is one of the youngest wine makers in the valley in his 30s.


John Evan, the winemaker!

Upon arriving at the winery, we were surprised to find a pretty, but unpretentious pole barn instead of our anticipated Big White House (we later learned that John Evans lives in that house in the town of Livermore).  The rolling hills surrounding the structure are covered in stunning green vines and provide a beautiful wine country backdrop.


The open tasting room features a standing only bar along one wall, with white rafters and an industrial ceiling overhead.  The walls are packed with beautiful artwork from Laura Marion, the winemakers sister.  You will also find her designs on the wine bottle labels, often featuring John Evans himself.  We were greeted warmly and had a tasting of his incredible white and red wines.  We were particularly lucky to partake in a barrel tasting, which occurs most weekends.  WOW!!!  This was eye opening.  We tasted a smooth and full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon called THE DEBONAIRE.  The wine has an incredible cherry and vanilla aroma and broadens to a fruit flavor as you taste; it had us hooked.  We bought futures (wine to be bottled on a later date) on the spot.  His small-lot, Rhone-type variety wines are not to be missed.


The current wine tasting list includes:

  • BWH 2015 Riesling, La Estancia Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands
  • BWH 2015 Lapsus, Roussanne/ Viognier/ Grenache Blanc, Ripken Vineyard, Lodi
  • BWH 2014 Sangiovese, Ripken Vineyard, Lodi
  • BWH 2015 Zinfandel, Sblendorio Estate Vineyard, Livermore
  • BWH 2014 Alfie’s Amalgamation Zinfandel/ Petite Sirah/ Cabernet Sauvignon
  • JOHN EVAN, THE DEBONAIRE, 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Clark Vineyard, Livermore
  • JOHN EVAN, 2015 Cuvee Juliette, Cote-Rotie-Style Syrah, Livermore
  • Member only: BWH 2010 Petite Sirah, Sblendorio Vineyard, Livermore 


    Barrels and equipment at the working winery 

The atmosphere of the winery feels like home as we were able to talk at length with John Evans and watch as he lovingly worked with his wines.  This is definitely a working winery and you feel as if you might have had a small part in the creation of these masterpieces.

To learn more about them please go to: www. bigwhitehouse.com





Overmountain Vineyards, NC

Where I am now!!


My first vineyard for this blog has to be the wonderful place that I have the privilege to work at.  Overmountain Vineyards (OMV) in North Carolina’s Polk County is owned by Frank and Lita Lilly.  Their daughter Sofia, assistant wine maker to her pop Frank, has become a friend and has already taught me so much about wine, winemaking, and the vineyard.

I began this journey by searching for a winery, any winery, near our new home in South Carolina.  Little did I know then that I would stumble across this diamond in the North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountain foothills.  After my first visit, I was hooked.  Not only by the wines, which are amazing, but by the incredible atmosphere that they have created on their farm.  The staff was warm and inviting, the family genuine and friendly, and their Great Danes just beautiful.


I am reminded each time I arrive that a vineyard is a farmers dream.  Not only do they get to be in nature cultivating what the earth provides, they get to use their passion to create a wonderful product for all to enjoy.  For the Lilly family, it all begins on the 70 acre farm with 17 acres of French vinifera.  Learning what grows best and how to grow it in their climate is a skill that they have perfected.  Each year brings it’s own challenges and they are up to it.


When you arrive at the vineyard, you will be stunned by its beauty.  Numerous vines fill the rolling terrain, a cozy tasting room with an impressive patio sits on the hilltop, and the winery and barrel room are next door.  The amazing views of the North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains make this a place everyone would love to call home.


Two gentle Great Danes may greet you as you make your way to the tasting room.  Once inside this boutique winery, you are offered a generous tasting of the French-style wines they are known for. Their current menu includes:

  • 2016 Chardonnay
  • 2016 Epic Petit Manseng  Estate Premium Wine
  • 2016 Camelia (blend of Chardonnay and Petit Manseng)
  • 2016 Rose (from 100% Petit Verdot) Estate Grown
  • 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Grown
  • 2015 Cabernet Franc Estate Grown
  • 2015 Revolutionary Red ( 80% merlot, 20% cabernet sauvignon) Estate Grown


You can’t go wrong with any of the above offerings.  These artisanal wines are handcrafted in the Old World Style using a minimalist approach, giving them all a wonderful flavor and smell.  They also make a killer sangria if you are after something sweet and you even get to keep your OMV water glasses as a souvenir.



To go with your wine, you may bring a picnic lunch or choose from their light selection of crackers, meats, and cheeses.  Seating is both inside at the bar and outside on the patio, under one of two outdoor pavilions, or by their fire-pits with a borrowed blanket.



A bonus when visiting is that there is a two-mile certified segment of the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail on the property.  This was the route used by patriots during the 1780 King’s Mountain campaign.  You can hike this trail during business hours and enjoy the wooded area surrounding the farm, Mill Creek, and use picnic tables along the route.

For more information please check out their website at: overmountainvineyards.com