Roman Holiday

I just had to share this post. It is written from a senior in high school who was ingenious enough to tour Rome and get all these great pictures in an effort to duplicate the Audrey Hepburn movie, “Roman Holiday.” Enjoy the read – and if you are planning a trip to Rome look up these amazing places.

Hey everyone! Thanks to the transition to Semester II, we have a day off on Monday, so I thought “Why not take a ‘Roman Holiday’?” For those of you who consider old black-and-white movies not worth your attention and time (which, I think, could not be more wrong), “Roman Holiday” is a 1953 American romantic comedy […]

via How I decided to take a “Roman Holiday”: walking into the movie scenes — From Rome with love

Wine Studio – Latitude Wine Bar

Back in 2013 I quit my 9 -5 job to follow my passion, wine. We sold our dream home, picked up roots and moved to Bluffton, South Carolina, a quaint historic Southern town just off Hilton Head Island. We opened a wine bar. Of course, we still needed a regular income so hubby went to work for the Town of Bluffton while I focused on getting the bar built out, designing the layout for everything in the bar, buying all the kitchen and bar supplies AND tasting lots and lots of wine to build our wine list from.

The bar, Latitude Wine Bar, only lasted two years. We opened the doors the first part of February, 2014 and closed them the end of January, 2016. Some would call that being successful in this type of industry. The majority of restaurants and bars close within the first 6 – 12 months. I still question every operational decision I made over that two years wondering if….

Tina Morey from Wine Studio invited me to be the guest host on her weekly virtual Twitter Chat discussing passion and the paths we choose to follow our passion.

Our Focus for #winestudio:

I’d like to talk about the concept of passion and how it can move us in certain directions without sometimes knowing the full scope of what we’re asking it to do.

Q: Passion is one thing, but executing is quite another. Jean, how did it all come about?My husband suggested (on a whim) that because I had such a passion for wine and loved talking about it with anyone who would listen that we should open a wine bar. He didn’t have to suggest it twice. Of course, we put a lot of thought into this before we actually put the wheels in motion.

  • Originally we had planned to locate the wine bar close to our home in Winston Salem.
  • But we ended up moving to Bluffton at my daughter’s urging as she had moved here a year prior. She thought I would never have any time off to come visit and spend time with her and the grandkids. She was right about that; living just up the road from them, it was still very difficult to find a lot of free time so it was really good that we were close.
  • I originally planned to keep my job and hire a manager. I was only going to work weekends and let the manager close every night through the week. But after I quit my job and we moved the location for the bar, it was only logical for me to manage it.

Q: When did you realize that it wasn’t working out? Early on we realized the environment and customer base were different than what we had anticipated. We had to overcome hurdles that were not part of the planning process – things that I don’t know that we would have realized even if we had lived here prior to starting the wine bar.

  • People that have moved here from areas where there was a true wine culture tend to live in private neighborhoods that include private golf clubs. These clubs offer wine tastings direct from the distributors and then allow the members/residents to purchase wines at cost. There’s no need for them to buy in bulk from someone like me or to even frequent wine bars very often because it was cheaper and offered the same quality wines through their private clubs.
  • People who frequented the Promenade (the historic district where the wine bar was located) wanted more than just a wine bar. There were a few other bars located in the Promenade – one specifically referred to itself as a “wine boutique.”       They had sports tv’s around the bar so you can watch your favorite game and as soon as you walk through the door, the bartender starts offering shots. The locals were shocked that I didn’t offer tv’s and sports and even more shocked that I didn’t serve hard liquor.

Any particular pivotal moment? Yes. Last fall we had reached the point where I had to have help at the bar 1 or 2 nights a week, but you can’t find anyone to work only 1 or 2 nights, everyone needed/expected more hours. So I hired someone to work 3 nights/week (Thurs – Sat). When I was the only one working the front of the house, all tips that came thru on credit cards stayed in the company and helped cover the bills. Once I started paying tips out to my employee, there wasn’t enough money to cover everything. We were personally putting a few hundred dollars back into the bar every month – and this was almost 2 years in. We felt like we were putting in money we didn’t have just to keep the wine bar afloat and we were literally doing without at home.

Q: How much does public perception weigh into opening a wine bar? Can we change it? I think perception depends on where you live and the wine culture that surrounds that area. For example, there are only 17 wineries in the state of SC. Typically when someone here says they love wine, they really have no concept of what wine is.

  • In my mind, a wine bar is just that – a wine bar. You serve great wines, offer a great selection of wines to please a variety of palates. You serve charcuterie and flatbreads and create simple pairings and small plates that bring out the best in these wines. But here, people wanted hard liquor and sports TVs all around the room. They wanted to come in to watch the game and do shots. A true wine bar concept was not what the locals were looking for and they thought that I didn’t understand what a wine bar was supposed to be. They also wanted a true dinner menu with heartier food selections.

Q: Social Media. Jean admits her social media became nonexistent because of the demands of the bar. Where does that leave you now? Way behind the eight ball. I’m trying to get back into it, but things have changed over the last 3 years. Because there is no real wine industry here, I can’t seem to find the motivation to write on my blog again. I gain Twitter followers everyday, but am probably about 10K followers less than where I should be. I’m not even sure where people generally look to find out about wine(s) anymore.

  • I am spending more time with my FB page, trying to get it moving in the right direction. Hoping to start live video streaming while I talk wine.

Q: What advice do you have for others who talk of their wine passion and wanting to open their own business? I think my biggest mistake was moving to an area where I wasn’t familiar with the wine culture – or lack thereof. I truly believe had I opened my wine bar in Winston Salem where my alter ego of “Red Wine Diva” already had a reputation of knowing wine and where I was connected in the wine industry, we would be having a different conversation today.

If having a wine bar or restaurant, owning your own winery, making your own wine, or even working in some other capacity in the wine world is your passion, you have to give it a shot. You have to try. Even though I had to close my wine bar, I don’t regret trying. We were there for 2 years – most restaurants and bars close within 6-12 months. If you look at it that way, we were successful.

  • Nobody here knew who Red Wine Diva was – and truth be known, they really didn’t care. Don’t give up who you are – that’s what has gotten you this far and it will go a long way on carrying you through.
  • Occasionally I would get a call from a winery who had found out I was pouring their wines thanking me for doing so. I actually received a call from the PR rep for Chateau Tanunda in the Spring of 2014. John Geber, the owner of the winery, was taking a yacht up the East Coast and inviting distributors and buyers to cruise for an evening with him to taste his wines. They wanted me to come for a private tasting and spend the afternoon on the yacht. Naturally I accepted. Thrilled, I immediately called my distributor that carried these wines to let her know. Turns out she already knew about the East Coast tour. The distributorship had invited “select customers” to join them for an evening. I wasn’t one of those customers. Immediately the distributor wanted to know who invited me and why. Then they started apologizing for not including me and suggested I give up my private tasting and join their group for an evening out. I opted for the private tasting.

Q: Jean, what are your main learning experiences for you personally? What have you gained from this major experience? Wine was and is my passion. Some people are fortunate enough to work with the things they are this passionate about. If you can do that, by all means go for it, but just know that it is okay for your passion to be your hobby and your pastime – a time where you can relax and truly enjoy what you love. Don’t put yourself in a situation where you become so stressed that your passion starts to lose its glimmer.

  • Even though we’ve had to close the wine bar, we still had fun. We met some GREAT people – people that are dear friends today. And the wines that I had the privilege of tasting – OMG! We carried a great selection of wines – wines that typically would not be within my budget. And yes, I brought some of those home when we closed! 😉

Q: Where can we find Jean now?  I am trying to put together a couple of different things. Nothing big has materialized yet, but you will definitely see posts on FB and Twitter as (if) these things unfold.

  • If you are ever in the area on a Thursday, come join me at one of the local watering holes where a group of us go out to celebrate #ThirstyThursday and Happy Hour!

This update just in – South Carolina has some very restrictive laws pertaining to alcohol.  Since we don’t have wineries that come to events and pour wine, the distributors do this.  Then sell the wines through the licensee (private club, restaurant, etc.).  Our most recent law now prevents the distributors from pouring at these tasting events/festivals.  I have been asked by some distributors if I would like to start pouring.  YES – Will Work For Wine!  (or money…)


Some questions from the participants were:

  • Dezel Quillen  (Twitter @myvinespot): How much did the wine list really matter? In reality it didn’t, especially not here because of the limited wine culture. We would have people come into the wine bar and simply ask for a Chardonnay.  They wouldn’t look at the list.  They had no idea if they wanted oaky and buttery or crisp and clean – they just wanted something familiar.
  • Debbie Gioquindo (Twitter @hvwinegoddess): What didn’t you find in all of this? My whole reason for wanting to open the wine bar was to be able to share wine experiences with people. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I was able to sit on “the other side” of the bar and just talk with customers.
  • Melissa Vedrin(Twitter @VedrinMelissa): Is there one thing you wish you had done? I spent a lot of sleepless nights trying to come up with something GREAT that was going to take us to the next level. We tried a lot of different things. The best thing we did was offer cooking classes. We would have guest chefs come in and prepare simple dishes at a prep table in the seating/lounge area using an induction burner showing step-by-step how to prepare the foods. We would have enough of each item already prepared in the kitchen so that we could serve each guest a good sized sample portion of the food along with a predetermined wine pairing. The menu, the recipes and the wine tasting notes were printed up and given to the guests to take home after the class.       Participants could order the wines at a significant discount. These classes were very popular and always sold out. But you could only do them once a month because it took so much to put them together.

Culture Trip in Rome

A Wine Lover’s Guide To The Best Vino In Rome

As I am planning a trip back to Rome next May (to see my granddaughter graduate from high school), I loved this article from the Culture Trip.  I wanted to share it with all of you, BUT I also need to remember all these GREAT recommendations.

Enjoy the read!



Buying Good Olive Oil

How to Buy Good Olive Oil — Honestly 

Suisun Valley, California (January 5, 2016) – Called the Food of the Gods, olive oil, true certified extra virgin olive oil, is indeed a magical food. “This is an ancient food that deserves its place on the modern table,” say Mark and Ann Sievers of Il Fiorello Olive Oil Co. in Suisun Valley Northern California.  “It’s a shame that other countries simply haven’t enforced their standards when it comes to extra virgin olive oil.  It’s a matter of cost for them, but it’s a matter of purity and integrity for the consumer.”

A recent 60 Minutes (Sunday January 3, 2016) episode focused on the production and mis-labeling of poor quality oils in Italy.  “Guy Campanile, the producer of that segment on olive oil, should come to California during fall milling season, to smell and taste how wonderful our oils are, says Ann Sievers.  “It’s no wonder we fare very well in international competitions. Italy, Spain, France, and Greece make some good olive oils, but they usually keep the good oils for themselves. And as 60 Minutes showed, the multinational companies send adulterated oils out to the world.”

How can consumers tell the difference?  Il Fiorello offers some simple advice:  “If you find an inexpensive oil a grocery store, there’s a reason it is inexpensive,” says Mark Sievers.  “It may be old, bad, or adulterated or all three. This is indeed a buyers beware, or we like to say buyer be aware business. If the label on the oil says it is from 5 different countries you can be assured it is not good quality olive oil, and probably not even much olive oil.”

The 60 Minutes segment documented the adulteration of Italian olive oils with highly refined (read processed with heat and chemicals) vegetable oil–a silent issue that consumers are only now recognizing. “It’s too bad,” says Ann Sievers.  “If the label said olive oil and vegetable oil then consumers would know what they are buying.  But then, they probably wouldn’t buy it.”

It takes an enormous effort to make extra virgin olive oil: a whole years’ worth of growing, expensive harvesters, large machinery. And the oil must be only olive oil, and have a balance of bitterness, fruit, and pungency when it comes out of the mill. If it’s not, it is fraudulent, and that is not extra virgin olive oil. Unscrupulous makers add other chemicals to try to make up for the defects. “If you bring me good olives, we can make beautiful oil,” Says Ann Sievers. “If you bring me bad olives you will have bad oil, or none as we will not mill bad fruit. Come visit us and take a tour of our farm and olive milling, (not pressing) equipment during harvest time.  It’s an enlightening experience. The taste and aroma of fresh extra virgin olive oil will stay with you forever.”

According to the segment on 60 Minutes, because of the immense amount of adulteration and bad olive oil, consumers do not even know what good oil tastes like. Ann and Mark Sievers would like to change that.  “Certified extra virgin olive oil is truly a special product and should be paired with great food,” says Mark Sievers.  “Once you’ve tasted the real thing, you won’t ever want to go back to that stuff the big conglomerates sell.”

“It’s all about knowing your sources,” says Ann Sievers.  “Take the time to know where you food comes from, how it is made and how to protect your health and dollars.”

About Il Fiorello

ll Fiorello is one of the leading premium olive oil producers in the USA, with more than thirty gold medals won at national and international olive oil competitions around the world. They grow twelve varieties of olives—all from Italian, Spanish, French and Greek olive trees—twenty minutes from the more famous Napa Valley. Il Fiorello offers tours, tastings, and a full range of visitor experiences in their olive oil visitor center in Suisun Valley, CA. For more information visit:

American Wine Society – 48th Annual Conference



John Hames, Executive Director American Wine Society

PO Box 279 Englewood, OH 45322

Phone: 888-297-9070

Englewood, Ohio – The American Wine Society brings a world of wine to Tysons Corner, Va. for its 48th annual national conference Nov. 5-7.

The nation’s oldest and largest organization of wine consumers released the agenda for the conference, which includes more than 40 sessions, including those from Bordeaux, Champagne, Uruguay, Portugal, New Zealand, Virginia and California.  Registration for members starts Aug. 2.

The AWS selected the Washington D.C. region because of its reputation as a food and wine center and the organization’s foundation in the region.

The conference will be at Sheraton Tysons Corner, kicking off with an opening reception hosted by the Virginia Wine Marketing Board followed by two days of informational tasting session with leading personalities and wines from top regions throughout the wine world, including a plenary session and luncheon sponsored by the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux and a luncheon sponsored by Wente Vineyards.

The American Wine Society Commercial Wine Competition and the Amateur Wine Competition are held in conjunction with the conference. The organization’s wine judge certification training will also be held at the event.

About the American Wine Society

Founded in 1967, the American Wine Society (AWS) is the largest consumer-based organization in the U.S. dedicated to promoting wine appreciation through education. AWS is a non-profit organization of over 5,000 wine enthusiasts, from novice to expert, in 130 chapters throughout the U.S. Membership is open to any adult interested in wine. To learn more, visit us online at:

Promoting appreciation of wine through education

2014 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 17,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Fifth Annual in Vino Veritas

Celebrate Great American Winemaking at Fifth Annual In Vino Veritas

In Vino Veritas, a much anticipated annual, two-day wine event at St. John’s College, Annapolis, Md., opens with a dinner and wine tasting that celebrates the legacy of great American winemaking.

On Friday, February 27 special guest Warren Winiarski (St. John’s College, Class of 1952), founder of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, joins a panel of notable winemakers and connoisseurs in an exclusive evening of wine tasting.  Stag’s Leap produced the winner of the 1976 Judgment of Paris. This historical wine event had a revolutionary impact on the wine industry, putting California wines firmly on the world wine map. A bottle of the award-winning 1973 S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon wine is on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. In its November 2013 issue, “Smithsonian” magazine included this bottle as one of the “101 Objects that Made America.”

Napa winemakers John Turley, founder of Turley Vineyards; John Williams, founder of Frog’s Leap Winery; and Zach Rasmuson, CEO of Duckhorn Vineyards, will join Winiarski for a discussion moderated by Abe Schoener, founder of The Scholium Project.  Turley, Rasmuson, and Schoener are also St. John’s College alumni.  St. John’s College is known for its visionary winemakers –The New York Times magazine describes Schoener as a “fearless, risk loving winemaker.”

On Saturday, February 28, guests at the Grand Tasting can explore more than 100 wines from around the world, premier wine growing regions and producers, meet the vintners, and sample wines and hors d’oeuvres. Workshops will be offered throughout the afternoon.

For prices, tickets and more information about this two-day fundraiser sponsored by the Friends of St. John’s College, visit:

St. John’s College is located in the heart of historic Annapolis, Md.  The college, an independent, four-year institution, also has a campus in Santa Fe, N.M.  St. John’s is known for its distinctive curriculum that focuses on the foundational works of western civilization.  The college also offers graduate-level programs based on these same principles

20 Most Admired

Vineyard & Winery Management Names Industry’s ’20 Most Admired’

Second annual list recognizes North American winemakers

Santa Rosa, Calif. – The cover feature for the November-December 2014 issue of Vineyard & Winery Management (V&WM) magazine, a bimonthly trade publication covering the North American wine industry, recognizes the “20 Most Admired Winemakers in North America.”

Last year the magazine featured admirable people from many different aspects of the wine industry. The 2014 list shines a spotlight on winemakers. “This isn’t necessarily about who makes the best wine, but about which winemakers are most esteemed by their colleagues and others in the industry,” said V&WM editor-in-chief Tina Caputo. “These are the pioneers, the innovators, the trend-buckers, the standard-setters and the leaders.”

The list was compiled by V&WM editors with the input of a nominating committee comprised of winemakers, grapegrowers, wine writers, educators, buyers, sommeliers and consultants throughout North America.

The 20 winemakers who came out on top reflect a wide range of wines, styles and regions. Some produce hundreds of thousands of cases each year; some make only a few thousand.

Because no individual person received significantly more votes than the others, V&WM chose to list the winners in alphabetical, rather than numerical, order.

The Top 20 Most Admired People in the North American Wine Industry include:

• Peter Bell, Fox Run Vineyards (New York)
• Bob Bertheau, Chateau Ste. Michelle (Washington)
• Cathy Corison, Corison Winery (California)
• Paul Draper, Ridge Vineyards (California)
• Merry Edwards, Merry Edwards Winery (California)
• Daryl Groom, Groom Wines (California)
• Josh Jensen, Calera Wine Co. (California)
• Jim Klein, Navarro Vineyards (California)
• Greg La Follette, La Follette Wines (California)
• Jim Law, Linden Vineyards (Virginia)
• Ted Lemon, Littorai Wines (California)
• Dennis Martin, Fetzer Vineyards (California)
• Luca Paschina, Barboursville Vineyards (Virginia)
• Joel Peterson, Ravenswood Winery (California)
• David Ramey, Ramey Wine Cellars (California)
• Johannes Reinhardt, Anthony Road Wine Co. and Kemmeter Wines (New York)
• Rollin Soles, Argyle Winery / ROCO (Oregon)
• Wendy Stuckey, White Wine Maker, Chateau Ste. Michelle (Washington)
• Margo Van Staaveren, Chateau St.  Jean (California)
• John Williams, Frog’s Leap Winery (California)

To read the full story, including profiles of the award winners, click here.

Rutherford Appellation Wineries – Intimate Wine Experience

– Rutherford Appellation Wineries, the consumer arm of the Rutherford Dust Society, has announced an exciting new direction for its annual weekend event, shifting from a Passport format to a more intimate, in-depth Rutherford Wine Experience hosted by Rutherford wineries and highlighting the historically award-winning wines of this premier appellation.

The new format will be launched with a mini-Rutherford Wine Experience on December 5th and 6th, 2014. The weekend will begin on Friday, December 5th with an evening Welcome Reception hosted by Round Pond Estate, followed on Saturday, December 6th by a “menu” of special receptions, wine tasting seminars, and dining at two Rutherford Restaurants: a 3-course Winemaker Luncheon at Michelin One-Star Auberge du Soleil (Enthusiast Magazine’s 100 Best Restaurants of 2014) and a 4-course Winemaker Dinner at Alex Restaurant (Wine Spectator’s Restaurant Wine List Award of Excellence in 2013 and “Best of” Award of Excellence 2014).

Guests will have the ability to personalize their Rutherford Experience with the option to purchase a la carte tickets to the Friday Welcome Reception ($50 per person, 7pm-9pm), the Saturday tastings/seminars and luncheon ($145 per person, 10am-5pm, four options per morning and afternoon time blocks), and the Saturday evening Winemaker Dinner ($125 per person, 6:30pm-9pm), or an all-inclusive Rutherford Enthusiast pass that will give them access to all of the events ($295 per person). All ticket options are available for purchase now on the association’s website, Tickets will not be available on the weekend of the event.

The Grand Launch of the Rutherford Wine Experience weekend will be held in the Spring of 2015 on May 1st, 2nd and 3rd with a Friday evening Welcome Reception, two full days of special events, tastings and seminars on Saturday and Sunday with multiple options for each time block, and two winemaker dinners on Saturday evening.
Rutherford Appellation Wineries is an association of wineries residing in this historical appellation of the Napa Valley and includes producers of acclaimed Rutherford and Napa Valley wines. Proceeds from the association’s events benefit local charities like the Rutherford Volunteer Fire Department, Rutherford 4-H, the restoration of the historic Rutherford Grange and others.

For information about the upcoming December Rutherford Wine Experience, as well as the May 2015 event, please visit or the Rutherford Appellation Wineries Facebook page, or email

Celebrating its 20th anniversary as an official appellation, the Rutherford Appellation is located in the heart of the Napa Valley. It is known world-wide for its signature “Rutherford Dust”, a term used to reflect its terroir, its deep connection to the soil in the vineyards, the wine and the wineries of Rutherford. For more information about the Rutherford Appellation go online to the Rutherford Dust Society’s website at

Bring on The Reds!!!

It’s that time of year again!!!  The summer heat is starting to dissipate, the nights are getting just a wee bit cooler and the smell of Fall is in the air.

For those of us that love a big, bold, red wine but back away from them in the summer, the time is now.  “BRING ON THE REDS!”

Caymus 40th Anniversary cabernet Sauvignon

Caymus 40th Anniversary cabernet Sauvignon

Stock photo from Wagner Family of Wine website.

For your first fire pit evening of the season, I recommend the Caymus 40th Anniversary Cabernet Sauvignon.  This wine is so rich and so decadent that you can forget the S’mores (or not) and just sip wine.  Vanilla and cherry on the nose with hints of leather then dark chocolate and bing cherry on the palate, this wine is your dessert.

Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon     ABV: 14.6%.    Suggested Retail: $60

This wine was a media sample received for review purposes.

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