For a link to the ‘Daily Meal revised version’ of this story, click HERE. And be sure to look around while you’re there…their cite is awesome!!
Finding The Fun
Anyone can write about the wines they tasted on their tour
of California’s wine country. Wine
reviews can be found anywhere you look online these days. I feel (and fear) we’ve turned drinking
wine into more sport than play.
And where’s the fun in that?
So instead of writing about all of the amazing and mostly
exclusive wines I had the luxury of tasting, I would like to talk about the
people…the people and the smiles behind the wine you pour into your glass every
evening, calming you down after a long day at the office. And, like wine, those people range from refreshingly
light and bubbly to indulgently rich and elegant.
Winemaker, Don Van Staaveren greeted us inside the walls of
Three Sticks Winery, a 7,200 square foot warehouse that screamed cool bachelor
pad more than it did accomplished winery.
He’s wearing an arm splint, khaki shorts, a flannel shirt and weathered
boots. His face and hair is
delightfully kissed by many days spent in the sun and surf and when he laughs,
his eyes show the age of a man who has lived a lot in his day. He can easily blend in with the crowd
and no one would know they were walking among such a pioneer in Sonoma
winemaking. He’s warm and kind and
gentle. Even as he poured our 2012
barrel tastings (a rare treat), he did so with such a gentle hand, arm splint
I sat next to Don at dinner later that evening and we traded
bites, constantly bumped elbows due to the splint, and talked about everything
but wine. After spending time with
this man, I undoubtedly see the connection between him and his work. Don chooses to not crush his grapes
during his process, and I would expect nothing less from the most gentle man
I’ve ever had the pleasure of sharing a bite with.
If you were to look at the style of Don at Three Sticks, imagining
it being at one point on a long spectrum, you would have to search far to find
the tiny dot that is Ann Colgin, owner of Colgin Cellars. But apart from her
petite size, there is nothing tiny about this woman. Once meeting her, I was immediately in awe and admittedly, slightly
nervous. Ann greeted us at the
steps of her impeccable winery, tiny dog in hand, not a wrinkle in sight or
hair out of place, a stunning woman with power and beauty and grace. Ann Colgin is the kind of woman who
makes you stand up straighter and desperately try to remember all of your SAT
words. It wasn’t until I cracked a
joke an hour into our tour that I believed I wasn’t in a dream. We were standing in her massive cellar
and after all of the questions had been answered and a long pause entered the
perfectly chilled room, she asked if we were ready to now go taste some wines. A chorus of polite yes please’s and of course’s
and that would be lovely!’s filled
the room and then I blurted out, ‘Um
yeah…it’s kind of been like dangling a steak in front of a bulldog.’ Getting a laugh from such an
accomplished and admirable woman like Ann Colgin can inflate you for a lifetime.
When you’re able to experience meeting the great Ann Colgin
and then getting to taste her beautifully crafted wines, you fully understand
her style: Elegant and refined,
with a hint of playfulness on the finish that sometimes takes a little time (or
a filter-less Carolina girl) to detect.
Coming home after a trip like this one made me look at not
only wine, but people in an entirely new way. It’s difficult not to judge a book by its cover, or wine by
its label or better yet, wine by its winemaker. Because sometimes the fanciest bottle you own is made from
the most elegant woman you’ve ever met…and sometimes it comes from the splinted
hand of a surfing hippie.
And that, my friends, is what makes wine so incredibly fun.