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Monday Manifestos
Travels With Charlie

By Charles Olken

April in Carneros. May in Mendocino. Summer In Santa Barbara. It all sounds so wonderful, except that it is work, and even our trip to France, which will allow a certain down time on the weekends to visit Monet’s Gardens and Mont St. Michel, will be filled with Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc in the Loire and Calvados in Normandy.

Yes, it is the life of the wine critic. But, it is also the life of so many of us who will traipse all over the globe in search of new wine adventures. The Olkens have known the meaning of “busman’s holiday” first hand for several decades now. Not that we are complaining, mind you. When California engaged heavily in flirtations with Sangiovese, we spent a week in Tuscany. We tasted Sangiovese at Avignonesi and stopped at the most delightful taverna for a late lunch with fresh pasta and homemade sauces. The old saying that you cannot get a bad meal in Italy was never more true than on this respite from tasting and spitting.

Trips up to Washington State to learn about their wines firsthand always find us taking a day or two in Seattle. Those of us who live in the San Francisco Bay Area know we are a water-oriented community. Well, Seattle does us one or two better in that regard. The local Merlots and Chardonnays, the delights of the Walla Walla and Red Mountain AVAS are matched by waterfront seafood at Ray’s Boathouse and flying fish at the Pike Place Market.

The Carneros has its open houses scheduled for a couple of weekends from now, and the wineries there, are special enough even when there are not open houses. We love to stop at Domaine Carneros and Artesa, and if you are going up, think about making a reservation for the gallery/museum known as the di Rosa Preserve. The late and much-missed writer, collector and vineyard-owner, Rene di Rosa, founder of the famous Winery Lake Vineyard, together with his artist-wife Veronica, is remembered at this fabulous mix of garden and indoor museum set right in the midst of the vineyards.

Up at the Anderson Valley, in May, it is the Pinot Noir Festival. Lovers of that grape will find the Anderson Valley less crowded with tour busses but loaded with wineries and good wine. It is a frequent stop on our travels.

And Santa Barbara. Well, northern Californians may not trek on down for day-visits the way we can get to places like Napa, Sonoma and Livermore, but this is Pinot country with more than a dose of very good, cool-climate Syrah mixed in. We will be heading that way in June because we need to get our share of those wines as well.

It is going to be a busy summer for us. And if you are a wine lover of any stripe, there is no time like the present to spend some time wandering around in wine country.


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by Samantha Dugan
Posted on:4/9/2012 3:23:38 PM

When and where are you going in the Loire Charlie? Not that you need any help from me but if you need any suggestions let me know....oh and, can I come with?! Love the Loire!

Mendo invite
by John Cesano
Posted on:4/11/2012 3:24:10 PM

I invited you to Hopland Passport, another Mendocinbo County event in May. With a greater variety of wines, equally high quality, and often lower prices, this is terrific introduction for many, reintroduction for others, to what the inland Mendocino upper Russian River wineries are doing these days. I know you wrote that you would be busy May 5 & 6, 2012 and couldn't attend our spring Hopland Passport wine weekend, but I hope you'll save the date for our fall Hopland Passport wine weekend, October 20 & 21, 2012, we really would love to earn your favor one day and become a frequent stop on your travels too. Cheers, -John

by Charlie Olken
Posted on:4/11/2012 3:40:32 PM


I have made amny happy visits to Hopland and wrote about some of them extensively a few years back in my newspaper columns.

It is a lovely town well worth the trip.

by Oonagh Stransky
Posted on:9/6/2012 4:15:57 AM

Thank you for the kind mention of your research trip to Avignonesi. If you're ever back in the area please do come visit us again. In the meantime, have a look at our new website 

Best wishes, 

Avignonesi Winemaking and Hospitality Team

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