Aug 6, 2017

Our Viking Vacation, Day 1


It's always an exciting time as you embark upon your trip. The joy of being in an airport 2 hours ahead of your flight and guessing on traffic to get to SFO so you don't get stressed.

At the airport a solid 3 hours early and ready to go. This was going to be an epic Viking River Cruise and #euopeanvacation. Why does this hashtag have a certain familiarity? Anyhow, this was not our first trip to Europe but it was our first flights with Lufthansa. How would it be? Where would they stack up against other airlines we have flown with? Well let us say it felt a bit underwhelming. We left 30 min late. Not finished loading the catering. Not very German but may have nothing to do with them. Efficient and effective flight crew without much else (may we say stereotypical German).

So was it good or bad? It was actually neither. Food? OK. Wine and beer, OK. Entertainment system was OK with limited options and pretty clunky. 
Overall we give  a rating of  'Yeah it's OK'. We did end up arriving on time in Frankfurt. Just as well as we had to hike 24 gates to the end of the terminal go downstairs and hike back 24 gates (not very German). The second leg from Frankfurt to Paris was short and over in no time. Getting off and getting luggage easy enough and just as advertised, as we exited our Viking host was there to greet and take care of us.

From here our #europeanvacation now start. 

Happy Travel Adventures,


Jul 16, 2017

A Look at People, Planet, Prosperity with SIP Certified

The Sustainability in Practice (SIP) Certified program certifies that vineyards and wineries meet a strict threshold for environmental and human resource protection. The program relies on independent verification and inspection, is free from conflict of interest, and is 100% transparent with regards to the standards and rules.

SIP Certified is dedicated to the 3 P’s of Sustainability – People, Planet, Prosperity. They are committed to the ‘3 P’ approach, ensuring that both natural and human resources are protected, all of which means you can enjoy wine that has been grown for the greater good. Gives one that warm fuzzy feeling. But all this requires a vision and a plan and a structure that allows the looking at the bigger picture. One that allows things to change if necessary to stay the course of the vision.

There is a realization for those who follow the SIP practice's that how they farm impacts not only their vineyards, but things beyond their fence lines, so there is an independent verification and certification practice that protect the community, the workers, and the environment.

In this article we are focusing on the 'Planet' P
SIP practices require the monitoring of soils, plants, and weather, irrigating vines only when needed and measuring water usage in the winery to prevent waste. Sustainable viticultural methods include cover crops for erosion control, owl boxes for rodent control, native oak tree retention for ecosystem balance, planting to drought resistant rootstock, and advanced irrigation systems for water conservation.
Keeping water clean by growing grasses to reduce erosion and filter storm runoff and also filtering winery water for reuse. There is the introduction of beneficial insects, attracting raptors, and plant enriching cover crops to keep vineyards healthy and the use of alternative fuels and energy sources like solar and wind, minimize tractor use reduce their carbon footprint, and use insulation to increase energy efficiency. There is even the use of wildlife corridors to give animals access to traditional watering holes and food, helping to maintain biodiversity.

Improvement comes in the form of annually updating their farming and wine processing and using standards such as Best Management Practices to evolve with new science, technology and research. Today, there are over 40,300 certified acres throughout California protecting the future of the land they farm on.

Happy Tasting Adventures,


Jul 2, 2017

Tenuta Vitalonga Winery in San Francisco

At the recent James Suckling and Great Wines of Italy 2017 we not only tasted some amazing Italian wines we again made some new friends. Gian Luigi Maraville was one of those new friends. Meeting folks at a tasting is always fun but the expectation of any future followup is low. You know, everyone is having fun and it all sounds good after some wine, food and laughs. However with the type of  offer on hand we cannot miss this opportunity to go back to Italy and have part of a travel plan in that includes what sounds like an amazing place.

We tasted a lot of great wines and as we were discussing some of our favorites we came back to double check our palates and Gian was excited to see us. We started chatting about the wines of Tenuta Vitalonga Winery and the area and discovered he was also the Mayor of his town.  The same town his father and his farther had been Mayor of. As we talked wine and vineyards he told us of the family property and invited us to visit. We warned him that we are the traveling type and may very well come and stay. He was unconcerned and reiterated his invitation. As we sipped on his lovely Terra di Confine we decided that the trip was on.

Terra di Confine is the name by which the Marvalle family has called their estate wine since way back when. Back in the day, this wine was produced on the property in one of the Etruscan caves. This cave has became the wine cellar.  The Ficulle area is on the border of Tuscany and Umbria. Terra di Confine is a blend of Montepulciano and Merlot and is aged in French oak for 12 months producing a very lovey balanced wine.

We enjoyed our tasting and conversation Gian and just so you know we will be coming to visit as soon as we figure out when our next Italy trip is (2018-2020) so be rewarned! Ciao ciao.

Happy Wine Adventures,


Jun 24, 2017

What is SIP Certified?

As we travel around and visit wineries we have often seen SIP certified signs. We also see organic and Bio-dynamic tossed around as well. So you have any number of certifications to show you care. Here is a partial list;

Image result for sip certified wineries in california
USDA Organic. ...
“Made with Organic Grapes” ...
EU Organic. ...
SIP Certified (Sustainability in Practice) ...
Certified Green (The Lodi Rules) ...
Salmon Safe.
Certified California Sustainable Vineyard and Winery (CCSW)

The U.S. government regulates use of the term “organic,” but “sustainable” and “biodynamic” have no legal definitions. So there are two types of organic listings on wine bottles. Wines can be made from certified organically grown grapes, avoiding any synthetic pesticides or additives, or, to take it a step further, “organic” wines are made from organically grown grapes, and are also made without any added sulfites (although naturally occurring sulfites will always be present).

Image result for sip certifiedBiodynamic is somewhat similar to organic farming as both take place without synthetic chemicals but biodynamic farming deviates from organic is it incorporates ideas about the vineyard as an entire ecosystem. Where it gets weird and such is where it also incorporates things such as astrological influences and lunar cycles. A biodynamic wine means that the grapes are farmed biodynamically, and that the winemaker made the wine without doing things like adding things like yeast or making acidity adjustments. Sometimes you may see a wine that says “made from biodynamic grapes”. Basically this means that a vintner used biodynamically grown grapes, but may have followed a less strict list of rules in winemaking (used sulfur to preserve their wine).

Sustainability refers to a range of practices that are not only ecologically sound, but are also economically viable and socially responsible. Sustainable farmers may farm largely organically or biodynamically but have flexibility to choose what works best for their individual property and they also focus on energy and water conservation, the use of renewable resources and other issues.
Some third-party agencies offer sustainability certifications, and many regional industry associations are working on developing clearer standards.
Sustainability in Practice (SIP) Certified is a certification agency that helps farmers and winemakers demonstrate their dedication to preserving and protecting natural as well as human resources. SIP Certified is a rigorous sustainable vineyard and winery certification that has strict, non-negotiable requirements and standards that are based on science and expert input with independent verification, transparency, and absence of conflict of interest.

Both Sustainability in Practice (SIP) Certified and the Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing (CCSW) programs are important supporters of the sustainability movement and encourage responsible vineyards and winemaking, but there are a couple distinct differences. As an example with SIP You must have a winter cover crop, whereas with a CCSW program you have a plan to prevent erosion during winter?

SIP Certified is all about the 3 P’s of Sustainability – People, Planet and Prosperity. So we will be taking a look at each of these 3 P's individually and talk with wineries and vineyards that follow these practices to get two cents worth as well in some upcoming articles. We might even have a taste or two if all goes well.

In the mean time look around as you drive through the vineyards and see if you can spot these SIP certified signs.

Happy Tasting Adventures,