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For the Love of Wine

Bridget Connelly

“Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing.”  ~ Ernest Hemingway

I'm not sure where or when my love of wine began. Maybe it was in my Fenwick Days paired with Lake Geneva summers, where the classic Beringer White Zinfindel was a party essential. Maybe it was my University of Wisconsin Days in Madtown, where slapping the Franzia Bag was a regular occurrence and two buck chuck from Trader Joe's was a staple in the sorority rooms (sorry Judy!). Or perhaps it was 2008, where I spent a good portion of the year in Roma, where wine with meals at all times of the day was normal and highly encouraged. Although, it could be traced down to my Irish Catholic roots. I’m going to guess it was a culmination of all of the above. Some of my favorite memories with my favorite people, include drinking good wine, even bad wine — dancing, eating, laughing, sometimes crying (thanks a lot red wine!), and laughing until the early hours of the morning. I love it for many reasons, but mostly how brings people together to celebrate, to unwind and to enjoy life. And boy do I love bringing people together in the name of wine.

If you don’t already know, California holds a plethora of impressive vineyards. I didn't know or appreciate this until a few months into living here. Shockingly enough, this is not why I moved here, but it’s a damn good reason if you ask me! When I first moved to San Diego, I had to work a few jobs. Most of them had me working almost every weekend. I was exhausted, frustrated and feeling burned out. When my birthday came around, the first one since moving away, I was determined to take it off and to do something FUN. I was craving a weekend getaway, with best friends and of course some wine. Good ole’ Google informed me of vineyards that were only about an hour away from San Diego. So I rallied the troops, and started to plan my first “vacation” away from my new home. 

Shortly after, I found myself and 5 girlfriends road-tripping inland to Temecula, the Napa of San Diego. We splurged on a room at Temecula Creek Inn for the evening, so 1 bed and 6 girls was totally fine by us. More moola for the vino anyhow. We were a little too over ambitious on this wine tasting expedition. Turns out you should not pre-wine drink in your room, before “tasting” all day, followed by post-wine consumption at dinner (or head to a casino). Ha! But we had a ball. I will never forget that trip we took together and I don’t think I will ever forget how I felt the next day!

Needless to say, this hilarious wine-induced trip, quickly became a yearly tradition. For the last 4 years we have made it a point to go back around my birthday. We spend the days hitting up all new and old wineries, pressuring the wine servers for generous pours and bonding over the love of wine. My top wineries include Ponte, Falkner, Miramonte and Wilson Creek. This past year we took the Temecula trip to a new level by renting the Woody with 50 of my closest friends. If you are ever going with a group to Temecula from San Diego or Orange County I would highly suggest this. Think couches, swivel chairs, Hawaiian prints and plenty of room to dance — a wooden bus of dreams. We had the time of our lives belting out tunes, dancing on the chairs (apologies) and helping ourselves to many, many the “tastings.” Here’s hoping Temecula wants to see our joyful faces again next year!

Temecula has been very good to us. But I'm not biased to just San Diego vineyards. We recently went to Los Angeles, and went to a winery in Malibu. I love this spot because you can make a whole day of being at one place. You should too. Pack a picnic — blankets, cheese, bread, fruit and crackers. Try a few tastings and then indulge in a bottle or two or three around your spread. Whatever your heart desires! We spent the day lounging in the grass, in the trees and in the antique furniture on the property. It's in the Malibu mountains, but just a short drive to the beach, if you’re in the mood for a post-wine tasting dinner along the ocean. The stunning backdrop, plus good company, plus a bottle of Rose, plus snacks = Heaven on Earth.

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A couple hours north of Los Angeles, is one of my top California destinations, the breathtaking Santa Barbara. From college visits, to music festivals to wine tastings, this city has never let me down. Santa Barbara and it's surrounding areas contains a plethora of hidden gem wineries. One weekend, my fiance and I made a coastal cruise up to SB and tried out some of these gems. We spent the morning walking along the ocean, then packed a picnic basket of the essentials (cheese on cheese), and had our own little wine tour. Stops included the Solvang wineries, my favorite being Rusack Winery. From there we made our way to the town of Los Olivos — where time seems to have stood still, but the wine kept on flowing. We took our time and strolled around this antique-like town to a handful of tasting rooms. The first being the adorable "Little Red Cottage" at Stolpham Vineyards. We eventually finished the day under the twinkling lights at Carhart Winery— soaking in every last bit of the day and every last ounce of our wine, quite literally. We left with red teeth and happy smiles. A great day indeed.

This past weekend, I finally, made it to Napa Valley, the mecca of wineries. I have been dreaming about this picturesque place since my passion for wine tastings began to develop. It was everything I thought it would be and then some.

Stay tuned for part 2 soon :)