By Dan & Krista Stockman

Our favorite thing about wine is when we have a chance to slow down and share a good bottle with family or friends over a delicious meal. Open That Bottle Night – it was Feb. 27 this year – is the perfect occasion to do just that, so we did.

We already had plans to celebrate the wine holiday by enjoying Coq au Vin and opening some great wine – just the two of us – when Krista’s sister asked for help with the kids that day. Instead of scrapping our plans, we expanded them and decided to make dinner at Kara’s house and share some great wine with our brother-in-law, Jason.

We’d share with Kara, too, but she typically doesn’t appreciate good wine – we often bring her wine that we would never drink, such as peach Moscato or some other overly-sweet and simple wine product. She loves them, which proves once again that taste is subjective: What does it matter to Kara that a wine is rated at 96 points if she hates it? Likewise, what does it matter to us that she loves wine we think would be better poured over pancakes? Drink what you love and love what you drink, period.

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Once again, we stumbled onto wonderful wines

By Dan & Krista Stockman

With February doing its worst to depress us, our thoughts turn to warmer days with sunny skies and, well, of course, wine.

Last summer, to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary, we spent a week in Oregon’s Willamette Valley wine country. Like other major wine regions, there are far too many wineries to visit them all in a week – even for professionals like us. The Willamette Valley is home to nearly 700 wineries; there was no way we would get to even a decent-sized sample of them. But we had to start somewhere, so we made a list of wineries we wanted to visit based on research, recommendations and names we recognized. Even then, our list was far too long for the time we would be visiting: We had never been to Oregon, and there was a lot we wanted to see and do, leaving a limited amount of time for wine tasting.

On top of all that, we knew visiting during a pandemic would make the experience very different and even expected that some places might not be open. What we didn’t expect is that experiences would, in many cases, be better than visiting in pre-pandemic times.

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Some wineries lose their entire vintage

By Dan & Krista Stockman

Wildfires in California’s wine regions are becoming increasingly common.

In 2017, wildfires burned parts of Napa Valley with six wineries damaged or destroyed.

The 2020 wildfires – known as the Glass Fire – were dramatically worse. The San Francisco Chronicle reports at least 27 wineries were damaged, with many of them destroyed.

And that’s not all – even wineries that were not burned may have lost their entire 2020 vintage because the heavy smoke from the fires ruined the grapes still on the vines, giving them an unpleasant flavor called Smoke Taint. Many wineries in the Napa and Sonoma Valleys will make no wine at all, others will make only a fraction of what they had planned, the Chronicle said. And it’s not just Napa and Sonoma – statewide, the California harvest will be about 15 percent smaller than 2019.
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2020: The year that could even ruin a wine holiday

By Dan & Krista Stockman

To say 2020 has been disappointing is an understatement.

Sure, there have been some great moments and opportunities to learn life lessons as a result of the pandemic. But many of the things we look forward to most have been sidelined – family gatherings, concerts, summer festivals, buying paper products whenever you want or need them, etc.

Through it all, though, we’ve had our wine. Even when all stores were closed, wineries and liquor stores had curbside service in a pinch. (We never actually needed to use that kind of service, thanks to our wine cellar, but it got close.) When we couldn’t gather with friends over wine, we gathered with wine over Zoom. It wasn’t the same, of course, but it was appreciated.

When the calendar turned to November a few weeks ago, that meant one thing to us: Nouveau Day is near! Nouveau Day, for those not familiar, is the day the first wine of the vintage is released in France. You can buy Beaujolais all year, of course – and we highly recommend that you do – but Beaujolais Nouveau is only available in November (starting the third Thursday of the month) and December, and should be consumed by New Year’s Day.

Beaujolais Nouveau is a fun, festive wine. It’s a party in a glass. It’s like New Year’s Eve for wine. It’s a new beginning.

We figured that things might not be going as planned this year, but at least we’ll have Nouveau to celebrate.

Then 2020 said: Think again.

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