Geographer in the Wine Store -- the Blog

New Labels are in the House

It’s a whole new store in here

September 15, 2016

I’m sure some of you can relate to this, it happens to me in my closet on occasion.  I walk in to get dressed for work and exclaim “how is it I have absolutely nothing I want to wear in here!?!” I walked into the store recently and had the same reaction.  I was perusing the shelves like “had it, over it, served it at Christmas, just done looking at that one.”  Couldn’t help but think maybe some of our customers had the same experience.  I mean, I hope it was just me. But still. So, as we sold out of a wine I ordered something new in it’s place.  Now the shelves are full of new wine I want to buy and drink and share.  That’s a warning, by the way.  If you can’t find what you’re looking for in exactly the spot you last saw it, it’s not you.  It’s me.  Suddenly I’m feeling like I have all the power.  (Not really, Kaytlan!)

Along those lines, we do have a lot of new wine in the store.  Good wine but maybe names and labels and varieties that are unfamiliar.  Again, it’s me.  I have an overriding personal philosophy to find the unusual, buck the trend, and at every opportunity, to support the little guy.  Whether I’m buying shoes, coffee, chocolate, or wine, I can’t help it.  Putting a new wine on our shelves, knowing only 500 cases were made to be shared around the entire world makes little hearts shoot out of my eyes.  I want everyone to get to try that wine!  Please, when you visit, ask questions, ask for a recommendation, tasting notes, or an explanation about a grape or region.  I am not kidding when I tell you I get really excited when I get to talk about the wine.

I also have an ulterior motive for freshening up the store.  Beyond Napa is preparing to celebrate its one year anniversary in a few weeks.  Most days I cannot believe it’s been a year since we placed those first orders, met with our distributor reps, and opened the doors to all of you because it is still so much fun!  Some days it feels longer, as I can’t remember getting butterflies before calling in an order and that silent, constant prayer of “Please God, let me get this right.”  I can’t even begin to quantify all I have learned about wine over the past twelve months.  I don’t dare dwell on it either or I’m forced to face how naive and under-educated I was.  At the same time, that allows me to love my partners all the more because, seriously, they took a big risk bringing me along.  I try very hard every day to make them happy with their decision. (And I am very sorry about the over-ordering, Kaytlan!)

Over the last year, I’ve had the chance to ask myself a lot of questions about business, the wine business in particular, and my place in all of it.  What do we want from Beyond Napa?  What is Beyond Napa to our customers, to our community?  What is it to us?  I’ve got a revolving door of answers in my own head and I would love to hear yours.  Hopefully, we’ve become a part of your lives, your routine.  I like to think we’ve spent our first year of business building relationships so you trust us with your wine selections.  You know you’re going to get the best price we can offer you on a top quality wine.  It might not be the wine you see on every shelf in every store, but it’s going to be a good one.  I also hope we’ve become a part of our Main Street, a participant in this small town life I love so much, giving our time and talents to the causes near and dear to those we love.  

So please, stop back in soon.  Let us know how it’s going, where you’re going, what you’re drinking.  Stalk our shelves, make requests, and trust us when you try something new.  Go ahead and answer our burning questions from above on Facebook, Instagram, email, or in person.  And while you’re thinking about it, please answer this one too: why do lonely bottles languish?  I promise that single bottle of Garnacha from Spain is just as good as the 11 buddies who used to occupy the same cubby.  Buy.the.singletons.  Please!  So I can put something brand new in it’s place.


Follow me!  The grapes are in here.

Chambourcin grapes on the vine.  And one of my all-time favorite pictures ever.  (Sorry kids)

Grapes in the bin ready to be weighed.

Here's the spouse hard at work.  I think this was an actual candid, which shockingly turned out better than the pics where I said "act like I'm not taking your picture."  Because those look soooo natural.  


September 9, 2016

I just helped a customer at Beyond Napa who declared our building was really something special.  “It’s like nothing else in El Dorado!”  I couldn’t agree more.  That also sums up my feelings about Grace Hill Winery in Whitewater, KS.  It’s like nothing else around here.  Making the turn off of Highway 96, driving past a corn field, and then suddenly popping up in the midst of a vineyard.  In Kansas.  It’s amazing.

My spouse must love me a little.  Even though he never reads the blog, he does “surprise” me every year with a week in Yountville, CA.  After 10 years of returning to the same tiny town (and we just booked trip #11!), I feel like it’s my home away from home.  But as much as I love Northern California and feel at ease there, we always plan our trip for January when the vines are dormant.  Despite nearly 20 years learning about wine, I had never seen grapes on the vine until I visited Grace Hill winery on my birthday last year.

When I was told that Grace Hill harvests are done by volunteers, I could hardly wait to get my name on the list.  Despite being sick with a late summer cold, when my day to harvest arrived, I loaded up on Tylenol, stuffed my pockets with tissues and headed out to the vines.  And it was just as magical as I had dreamed.  I can’t really describe the feeling of ducking my head under the canopy to discover these heavy, round, luscious, purple clusters of Chambourcin grapes ready to be claimed and added to my bin.  It was a discovery in every sense.  There’s satisfaction in watching them pile up as the team of volunteers worked down the rows, chattering at first and then settling into the steady rhythm of work.  Rest assured, it is work, regardless of all the laughter coming from the rows.  I carry cases of wine around every day but I noticed it’s not easy to carry 20-30 pounds of grapes to the scale especially after the physical work of getting those grapes off the vine and into the bin.  And lest you think us poor volunteers were being worked to the bone, the winemakers were hoisting bins far heavier than mine over their heads into back of the truck.  No one complained (not even the lady who discovered the giant spider!) We smiled the entire shift.  (Full disclosure, I might have complained a little when I got home and discovered the spouse had grape juice down his entire shirt.  Not because of laundry, or even a fondness for that t-shirt, but because that’s wasted juice, my friend!)

I’ve watched videos of harvest on YouTube.  I’ve followed favorite wineries on social media for years and marveled at their photos.  Now I can say I’ve got my own pictures because I’ve done it too!  And I cannot wait to go back next year.  Thank you, Grace Hill Winery for hosting your wine-loving community and letting us learn a little more about what it takes to get that liquid sunshine into the bottle.

Oh, and if you need a cellar rat intern, I’m available.

This is sweet Georgia, the wine dog.  (and random stranger feet) She looks just like Chloe from Chloe's Cuvee.

Hello, Growltiger.  Mr. El Gato Moscato himself.

Celebratory Sangria!  This recipe really knocked it outta the park.  I'm looking forward to trying this for our next event in the District.

Party at the District

August 26, 2016

Kids and teachers are back to school, the weather is teasing us with cooler morning temperatures,  rain is back in the forecast, and here at the wine store, we have turned our attention to all the fast-approaching festivities that sweep fall into winter.  

In the next few months, we have Oktoberfest, our one year anniversary, two more First Friday at the District, Small Business Saturday, Old-Fashioned Christmas, three Thusiastic Thursday tasting classes, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Eve.  (and a partridge in a pear tree…)  We’ve been collecting cocktail recipes and tasting new wine and working out budgets for days because this is one of our favorite things to do -- host!

While I’ve certainly enjoyed all of my homework wine, my favorite bottles were the ones shared with friends.  I love it when you come into the store and ask “what’s open today?  What are we trying?”  We love to share the wine.  When we opened our doors last year, we were asked what made us special, what set up apart from the liquor stores in town?  And we quickly answered “we know wine.”  And we do.  But it turns out we also know how to throw a party!  Because knowing what we are serving is only half the fun.  The rest comes from welcoming you into the building, connecting with all of you, and creating relationships that extend beyond wine, but into our community as well.

Maybe you’ve attended a Thusiastic Thursday class or stopped by the District for First Friday and experienced our particular brand of hospitality. We do love sharing our passion for wine and our community with all the visitors to our building.  We have customers from Alaska to New York and many states in between, as well a loyal following of “locals” who know without being told, to pull up a chair, grab a glass, and sit for a few.  What is maybe not so well known is that we can plan these events for you too.  We’ve selected wine based on menus for events from 20 people to 200.  We’ve helped create signature cocktails for holiday parties.  We’ve created tasting party packets complete with wine, tasting notes, and regional maps.  We’ve even helped host private tasting parties outside of the building.  

As we are in full party-planning mode around here, now is the time to take advantage of all of our creativity.  We can work with any budget, almost any theme, for any occasion.  If you want to host a wine tasting, Bunco night, dinner, party, or some combination of your own at your home or office, or our Party Room, let us at Beyond Napa help you pull it all together.  

In the meantime, pull up a chair and sit for a few.  I just iced down a Sauvignon Blanc from Chile and I cannot wait to share it.

Mark your calendars now!  Don’t miss an event this fall.

  • Thusiastic Thursday -- Rioja! September 15, 6:30 pm
  • Oktoberfest September 23
  • Beyond Napa’s First Anniversary October 7, 5-8pm
  • Thusiastic Thursday -- wines of Chile. October 20, 6:30 pm
  • First Friday at District 142 November 4, 5-7pm
  • Thusiastic Thursday -- Beaujolais Nouveau November 17, 6:30pm
  • Small Business Saturday November 26, 9am-5pm

The Swirl

The Geographer got out of the Wine Store and this is what happened…

August 17, 2016

Ever stood at a party, or hosted a party, and watched a guest incessantly swirl a glass of wine?  We stand, transfixed awaiting the dreaded slosh over the sides, unable to engage fully in any activity except the mesmerizing red wine whirlpool in a glass.  If you’ve ever been tempted to tell the unrelenting offender to cut it out, please, do.  

What is the Swirl?

Watch any movie about wine (Sideways, Bottle Shock, Cement Suitcase are all excellent choices) and you will see it: that twist of the wine glass stem that sends the wine twirling in the glass.  The first step of the “swirl, sniff, and sip” routine that gives wine tasters automatic sophistication.  

Why Swirl?

Much of our enjoyment of wine is due to the smells we encounter.  Those aromas travel through nasal passages until they find themselves hanging out in the back of the throat, ready to aid in the physical tasting of the wine. These aromas might be found on the palate as well but often they are in addition, adding a little something extra to the experience of tasting wine.  (Test this theory sometime by plugging your nose and taking a sip of wine.  It completely changes the flavor).  

In order to best discover wine aromas, employ the swirl.  Use a wine glass with a stem and pour in 6 oz or less of wine.  Hold the stem at its base with the glass resting fully on a flat surface, and gently move the glass, drawing tiny circles on the table.  Once you’ve got the table swirl, you can move up to freestyle.  Just swirl with care.

By swirling, the surface area of the wine is increased, meaning more of it comes in contact with air, evaporating some of the alcohol which releases the aromas.  The bowl of the glass catches them (which is why you put your nose in the glass to really find the aromas of a wine). Sometimes a recently opened wine tastes “tight.”  Swirling the wine and exposing the surface to as much air as possible will help open the wine, much like decanting does.

Once and Done

But seriously folks, once is enough.  Over the weekend, I was sitting next to a table of people who ordered a really nice bottle of red wine and one of the occupants swirled his glass for the entire hour.  It was mind numbing. One swirl (three to six circles on the table) is sufficient to release the aromas and open the wine so you get the most from each glass.  Swirling can (and does) become a tick.  So be present in your swirling, as you should be in tasting wine.  At Beyond Napa, we serve our daily samples in portion cups (because dishes) but if you want to practice swirling in the store, just let me know. I have plenty of glasses available.


Keeping the glass firmly on a flat surface, hold the glass stem between two fingers and holding your hand against the table, draw small circles with the glass base.  This works great if you're just starting out or have awkward Lana man-hands (don't judge me).

Grasping the glass stem between your thumb and index finger, you can swirl either by keeping the glass on a flat surface or raising it.  Continue the idea of drawing tiny, quick circles to get a good swirl of the wine.

Rosé wines come in lots of different shades of pink.  I would say the variety was a surprise but my daughter was obsessed with pink for years and I feel pretty versed in that area of the color wheel.  For wines, my favorite pinks lean more towards copper or new penny shades.  This photo is courtesy of Wine Folly.  

So this is Provence and this photo pretty much speaks for itself.  Also, I season everything with herbs de Provence because it tastes like sunshine to me.  

This is the Rose I've been drinking lately.  Definitely one of my top five.

Just Because It's Pink, Doesn't Make it Sweet

August 11, 2016

I’ve lost track of the number of Rosé wines opened at my home in the last 6 months.  I’m going to blame my dear friend Emily, because she is never afraid to try something just because it is trendy.  She pushes the boundaries, friends. She lives in the deep end.  

Since our ‘Thusiastic Thursday in April was dedicated to comparing Rosé from different varietals and different growing regions, I approached Rosé as a research project.  If not for me, then for my customers (and Emily), I embraced the summertime trend of glasses and glasses of Rosé and enjoyed almost all of them.   Once I put the I-accidentally-ordered-a-White-Zin-at-the-hospitality-table days behind me and accepted that Rosé  wines are not cotton candy sweet despite their pinkish hues, I found a whole new section of the wine market to explore.  Yay!

What is Rosé?

Rosé wines are made from red grape varieties but instead of macerating on the red skins soaking up all those anthocyanins and tannins, the juice is handled differently than a traditional red.  Rosé  made from the saignee method sits very briefly on its skins, maybe a few hours before it's drained off and finished like a white wine.  Rosé made from the direct press method, is pressed straight through the skins creating that salmon/copper color found in most French Rosé.  

Rosé  wine can be produced from nearly every variety of red grape out there and it’s made in nearly every wine-producing country on the globe.  Rosé can be dry, sweet, or someplace in the middle and it’s dominant flavors include strawberry, honeydew melon, celery, and orange peel.  Rosé from a warmer climate, like California, might have more raspberry or cherry flavors while a Rosé from a cooler climate can have cranberry or red currant flavors.  Rosé has a medium body, medium acidity, and typically medium to light alcohol.  It’s best served chilled, like a white wine, but drink them young. Rosé is not a wine you want to cellar for more than a year or two at the most.

Rosé  All Day

Of course my favorite Rosé made from Valdiguié grapes has to be ordered directly from the winery, which cannot ship to Kansas right now because it’s too hot.  That was poor planning.  Nonetheless, I’ve found a few that will get me through the end of the summer.  My top two include Beach Day Rosé from Grace Hill Winery and Cotes de Provence from Barton and Guestier.  Beach Day is a native Kansas Rosé made from a blend of Noriet and Foch, both hybrid grapes that grow very well around here.  The wine is bright, crisp, and full of grapefruit and citrus flavors. B&G’s Rosé is crafted from traditional Southern Rhone varieties.  At 50% Grenache, it’s no surprise that it’s one of my favorites.  This wine is soft and gentle, with hints of strawberry and raspberry. It's light, but has a crisp and spicy aftertaste.  

Despite the fact that I’ve bought jeans and socks this week, and have three black boot options as open tabs on the chromebook, it’s still summer for a little while longer.  Which means more Rosé for me.  And hopefully for you too.  

Cheers y’all.

And in this corner...Rioja! 

August 3, 2016

Taking the CSW Prep class has offered me the opportunity to try new wine. Not like anyone had to twist my arm.  It was a Willamette Valley Pinot Noir that set me on my current obsession with wine, and a Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley (ideally Calistoga or Rutherford) that kept my rapt attention.  But I call myself an equal opportunity wine drinker because I get very excited about opening up a bottle of something new for the very first time.  It's like Christmas!  My most recent discovery, and a wine I happily added to my "love it" list, is Rioja from Spain.

A little background....

As part of the European Union, Spain has several quality designations for its wine, each level meets a set of standards regarding the types of wines produced as well as the character of those wines.  The most basic level is table wine, followed by country wine.  The highest rung on the quality pyramid is the PDO or Protected Designation of Origin wines.  In Spain, this category is made up of three subcategories, which includes the middle designation of DOCa.  Rioja is one of only two DOCa wine regions in Spain.  Like with most of Europe, the wine blends produced in the region take their name from the growing region as opposed to the grapes used.  These wines are composed primarily of Tempranillo grapes, sometimes 100%, but typically with a little Garnacha in the mix.  Tempranillo is indigenous to Spain, making Rioja wine a truly Spanish experience.  

In order to maintain the DOCa designation, Rioja wines follow a strict protocol for aging including how much time a wine spends aging in oak and how long the wine must be bottled before release.  My first Rioja was a Rioja Crianza meaning it spent a minimum of one year aging in an oak cask and another year in the bottle before it was released for sale.  How handy is that?  The Spanish age the wine for you.  Although most Rioja wine will also benefit from aging in your cellar, if you have the patience to wait for it.

So what's a Rioja?

If you love the tannin structure and bold flavors of a Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, you will love Rioja.  The American oak is detectable on the nose and the bright fruit flavors in this full-bodied wine balance with its earthiness.  

We have a new Rioja in Beyond Napa right now that I’m curious to try with a group and see everyone’s reaction.  Now to dive in deep and find a Reserva and Gran Reserva Rioja to add to my bucket list.


For more information on Rioja in an easy to digest format, check out Wine Folly’s blog on the subject at

This is Geographer in the Wine Store... so for those of you who don't go around drawing air maps of Europe every day, here's one for reference.  If you were standing here, I would just draw this up on your receipt and you could take it with you.  You can find Spain sharing the Iberian Peninsula with Portugal just south of France. 

Here is a map of Spain from Corkbuzz.  You can see the Rioja region in the upper right in orange.  Rioja is about 40 degrees latitude placing it right in the middle of the preferred grape growing latitudes of the world.  It has a continental climate, moderated by the Ebro River

I'm ready to visit!  Who's coming with me?  Rioja is made up of three subregions.  Rioja Alta is higher in altitude, Rioja Alavesa in the west benefits the most from the cool river influence, and Rioja Baja is the warmest, flatter sub-region most famous for it's Garnacha.  Let's go!

Thanks to a French woman…

July 1, 2016

I have a pretty fresh MA in U.S. History.  Something I don’t necessarily put to use every day but something that I worked very hard to achieve.  And while you rarely meet a fanatical patriot in the discipline of US History, you do meet people who love the Fourth of July.  I’m one of those.  I love the long weekend or midweek break to celebrate my home.  I love the chance to reflect on the good and the bad in our history.  I also love my family’s traditions, the food, the wine, (sometimes) the fireworks.  My favorite tradition is reading aloud the Declaration of Independence.  It gives me chills.  I also read the Declaration of Sentiments, a document based on the Declaration of Independence, crafted by a group of women and men, and signed on what was probably the first conference for gender equality, held in Seneca Falls, NY July 19, 1848.  It gives me chills too.  

I love strong women.  And I’m so fortunate to know so many!  That love permeates every aspect of my life, both my study of history and even into my love of wine.  My absolute favorite winemaker (besides Ryan Scott but that’s a whole other blog post) is Heidi Barrett.  I love hearing the stories of women winemakers, farmers, and women who own wine labels.  Their journeys fascinate me and I can’t get enough! (That’s a veiled request for you to share with me any stories you’ve heard!)  And the latest story shared with me came as such a surprise I wanted to share it with all of you!

Madame Clicquot.

Maybe you’ve been lucky enough to have a bottle of yellow label Clicquot Champagne in your life.  I’ve had two.  The wine is, simply put, fantastic!

I had heard the myth that Champagne was discovered/created by Dom Perignon who marketed the bubbly stuff and created a wine celebration culture recognizing bubbly wine as the pinnacle of the party.  (I never questioned it!) Nope.

In 1805, at the age of 27, Clicquot was widowed and assumed control over her husband’s wine estate in Reims.  Through constant research, Clicquot perfected the steps we now recognize as Methode Champenoise, or the Traditional Method, for creating sparkling wines.  She developed the labor-intensive process of riddling (remuage), which created a clearer, brilliant wine focused on that sparkling stream of bubble ascending from the bottom of the glass.  She marketed champagne to all the royal courts in Europe, most notably Russia (breaking the blockade in 1811).  It was Clicquot who ushered in the era of Champagne!  

And not to put too fine a point on it, but without the French, U.S. independence from Britain would have taken longer and cost many more lives.

So this year, as you head into the Fourth of July weekend, take a minute and raise a glass.  To our country, to the French, and to strong women everywhere.  

I will make mine a bubbly one.  Thank you Madame Clicquot.

The Dichotomy of Wine:

June 22, 2016

Is this dry or sweet?

Red or white?

At first blush (see what I did there?), wine appears to fit into our culture’s love affair with dichotomies.  It’s either this OR that, it’s one but NOT another, draw the thick sharpie line of belonging, including one but excluding the OTHER.  When you’re new to the world of wine, those easy demarcations make wine less scary. But do you really want to drink a wine that checks only box A at the exclusion of box B? 

As the Geographer in the Wine Store, I’m here to challenge your perceptions.  As it goes in life, it goes in wine.  And we know that in life it’s not always black or white.  Sometimes the choices are more complex.  With wine, the real magic, the discovery, is found in all the spaces inbetween.  For example, most Champagne or sparkling wine made in the méthode champenoise, are not made from 100% white grapes!  Champagne is a blend of both white and red grapes (that have been handled with the utmost care) and can be finished anywhere along the dry/sweet SPECTRUM from Brut Natural to Doux. There are actually EIGHT different official levels of sweetness for sparkling wine.  And depending on your worldview of the color pink, Rosé in the glass, can surprise us all with its variety of hue and dry/sweet levels.

You might discover that you don’t necessarily want a wine with a large amount of residual sugar in the bottle.  It might be that you really enjoy a wine with crispness, or one that reminds you of tropical fruit.  Maybe it’s not tannins that grip your jaw, maybe it’s oak you’d like to avoid.  The vocabulary of wine is vast, for sure.  But the wine store is the perfect place to try out some new descriptors and ask questions that might lead you into new drinking territory, with new flavors to enjoy.

Much like when you roll into Quick Trip, you expect to have more choices than simply Pepsi v. Coke, the wine store is filled with options. I am a self-described equal opportunity wine drinker, in direct correlation to my life philosophy.  And I’m always looking to convert others to my way of thinking.

You are welcome to come by Beyond Napa and hold up a bottle and ask “is this a sweet wine?” But don’t expect a single word answer!  I’ve got maps and books and usually samples! And my previous occupation was “professor.”  


There's a fungus in my wine?

June 7, 2016

There’s a certain kind of person who makes wine their profession.  First of all, a happy person.  While there is no short supply of stresses in agriculture or business….this is WINE we’re talking about.  I have yet to meet someone who has the good fortune to turn their passion for wine into a day job who is unhappy.  (This is mostly true for my favorite beer rep as well).  Wine professionals also tend to be adventurers.  It’s not enough to study the geography of a place, we need to SEE it.  And while I read other people’s tasting notes like they are the long-lost letters of Mary Lincoln (yes, that’s significant), I don’t want to take someone else's’ word for it.  I want to smell it and taste it as well.  Which means, most wine people are not only travelers, we’re foodies.  I use the term “we’re” loosely here.  As my actual foodie friends can attest, I have a long list of “I don’t eat that” foods that run the gamut from sushi to broccoli.  I am willing to try most things once (and I’ve tried sushi and broccoli and once was ample) in order to build my repository of aromas and flavors (I get asked all the time, "how do you *know* this wine tastes like wet stone?"  Ummmm).  And thus, my latest class wine.

Sauternes.  Pronounced saw-tern.  Sweet, dessert wine from the Bordeaux region of France.  Okay.  I like wine.  I like the French.  They know about wine.  They’ve been doing this for a while.  But I don’t like sweet wine.  Crisp, balanced with acidity, porch sipper wines have a place sure, but this stuff looks like syrup.  Also, the French eat frogs, snails, and liver, all of which are on the “tried it once and I’m done” list.

And then, from the syllabus: “if you can’t find Sauternes, try to find another botrytis affected wine such as…” Botrytis cinerea.  Also known as the Noble Rot.  The French made wine out of fungus-infected grapes.  And seriously, that’s how you talk about Botrytis.  INFECTION.  Like pink eye.  Or the plague.  

The region of Sauternes, on the southern edge of Bordeaux is influenced by two rivers.  Humidity isn’t always a viticultural friend, but in the case of this particular fungus, humidity is key.  Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle grapes growing by the river are infected with the fungus and begin to shrivel, concentrating the grape’s sugars.  Winemakers wait for that perfect balance of infected, raisining grapes with minimal loss of yield before they harvest.  The results create a thick, rich, dessert ready wine.  

I poured my glass.  Tried to get my kids to identify the aromas for me (they declined) and swirled this heavy, amber liquid.  “What’s a little wine fungus?” I asked myself.  I would eat mushroom pizza every day of the week if it were acceptable for an adult with children to do such a thing.  So bottoms up!  And while it is not going to be my go-to new favorite wine (I’m looking at you Vouvray!), I am so glad that while I might be not an official foodie, I’m adventurous where it counts.


I like to call it "Life-long Learning"

May 28, 2016

My first week of wine school is complete.  And man, is this fun!  I’m studying to be a Certified Specialist of Wine or CSW.  This is NOT sommelier school, but it’s just as difficult.  I know from personal experience, that the wine business and wine education and wine enthusiasts is very competitive.  I was worried I wasn’t.  I worried over nothing.  

Our first lecture covered the basic components of wine as well as the major wine faults.  It’s a lot of chemistry and latin terms and I was feeling very out of my depth. So I got caught up on the pertinent parts of chemistry.  Perk of living with very smart children.  If you were in the store lately, you probably had at least one science-y term thrown at you and possibly saw my neon notecards close at hand.  Of course in a wine store, I never want to discuss wine faults. But I do feel like I now understand how to identify the main sulfur/mold/yeast faults.  Just in cases.

Our first wine of the week was a Chinon.  It’s French.  Most of my sources/teachers/educational experiences in regards to wine have come from the U.S. where we mostly label our wine by the grape variety.  Not the French.  They label by region.  Chinon is located within the Touraine subregion of the Loire Valley, on the lower side of the river.  It’s a cool region that provides early ripening.  Chinon wine is 100% Cabernet Franc (now that’s a grape I know even though I’ve never had Chinon before!!).  Mine was a beautiful tawny red with a lighter rim.  This medium-bodied, medium-intensity wine was full of black cherry and honey aromas with cherry, pepper, and spice flavors.  Chinon/Cabernet Franc wines are dry, with medium acidity, medium tannin levels, and no bitterness (although I sort of wonder if this is more personal than scientific).

While my Chinon is long gone (I’ve opened the wine of week two: Vouvray! Same valley, totally different variety) I’ve had quite a few domestic Cabernet Franc wines (it even grows in Whitewater!!) so I can make some recommendations if you’re interested. I’ve had quite a few customers try out the Vouvray (save some for me! I’ve got the write up the tasting notes!!) and it has gotten rave reviews.  Best.Homework.Ever.


May 20, 2016

My heart is full!

This morning my sink was full too! Of wine tasting glasses from last night.  Thankfully my coffee was extra strong (THANK YOU HANNAH!)

I love hosting Thusiastic Thursday.  Last night was the fourth in what I hope to be a continuing series.  I try to make wine selections that are topical or timely.  I search online resources and reviews, read all the price books, dig out my own tasting notebooks, and then TRY TRY TRY all the wines until I find the right bottles to go together.  And this is my job?  How is that even possible? My heart is so full.  

I’m the only drinker of alcohol in my household and while I have the best group of friends IN THE WORLD (shout out to my tribe!) they live in other towns or (HORRORS) don’t love wine.  (But let’s be honest, very few people love wine the way I love wine.  When I say wine is my soul mate, that’s for real).  Thusiastic Thursday is more than just an event next door to Beyond Napa to me.  It’s a chance to gather up people and SHARE THE WINE.  And while there are collectors of wine, I think most of the world’s winemakers craft something special that becomes sometime more special when it’s not just cellared, but opened and shared.  So last night I got to share three bottles of wine with friends and that fills my heart too!

I can’t help myself but I have to know everything about the wines I open.  Not just grape and growing region but I want to know the stories, I want to find the vineyards on the map, I want to know as much technical information about the production as I can find.  And every Thusiastic Thursday, I start pouring wine with about 7-10 pages of notes sitting by the bottles. I try and remember that not only am I sharing the wine, but that tasters come in groups and THEY want to share the wine too. I worry about finding that balance between giving a wine lecture and hosting a party.  Last night was one of those nights where I questioned whether I had shared enough information, had I taught anyone anything new about sparkling wine? And then, when I was clearing away the tables, I found one of the white paper placemats we used COVERED in notes:   technical information, names, labels, grapes, and it was ILLUSTRATED!  There were several guests who took their placemats with them so they could keep their notes!! And this too, fills my heart.

But my most favorite part of the night is always the very end.  When everyone has gone home, the cleaning is mostly done, the car is loaded (thank you sweet Isabelle), and the lights are off.  I love to pause and take it all in.  To breathe in this old old building, to listen for the freezer (yep!  It’s working!), and simply marvel that this is my job, this is my life, that after years of dreaming about what I could be when I finally grew up, life is at last, this wonderful, fulfilling, peaceful existence.  


Geographer in the Wine Store -- May 12, 2016

I’ve been thinking about writing a blog since I first heard the word blog (which was quickly followed by words about how narcissistic it is to write a blog and I let that sort of public opinion get to me.  I was young).  But then the universe handed me an opportunity to get my MA in History at Wichita State University and I grew my confidence as well as my writing and researching skills.  So now, narcissistic or not, I’m writing a blog! And now I’ve got a far better topic than ever before too!  WINE.

I’m calling my blog Geographer in the Wine Store.  Aptly named because that’s how I think about myself and the work part of my life.  My first academic love (and my first college degree) is Geography.  Which might seem odd but I assure you geography and understanding wine are like two peas in a pod. All the reasons why wine is more than a bottle of liquid can be explained by geography (okay, and science but lots and lots of geography). It probably goes without saying that my primary obsession in life is wine and I’ve recently been gifted the opportunity to work in a wine store.  So there you go: a Geographer in the wine store.

A truly inspiring woman, Laura McGrew, once wrote a blog titled “The Blog Goes Here” and I’ve held on to that idea she expressed about place-holding, for a very long time.  I’m borrowing the phrase now, not so much to hold a place as to explain a place.  The wine blog is going HERE and this isn’t the place one usually finds a blog.  As a matter of fact, if you click on the word “Blog” on that menu to your left, you’re going to get the building blog (written by another one of my inspirations, the one and only Joyce Parker), but not one about wine.  You gotta hunt for this one a little bit.  And there’s your first geography lesson.  You’re welcome.  Wine is next.  

I will post on Facebook (Beyond Napa) and Instagram (beyondnapa.eldo)  whenever there’s a new installment, so follow us there if you need reminding to check our webpage on the regular.  If you want to comment or start a conversation, please do so on Facebook or Instagram.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to find not only one blog reader but maybe a few and start a bit of our very own wine community?  That’s my dream.

So welcome to Geographer in the Wine Store.  I'm so happy you found me.  Let’s learn some stuff.

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