Chillin’ on a Sunday Night

Champagne for your next celebration.

What a weekend!  I left work on Thursday (I only work 4 days a week at my “real” job) and headed to Bluffton, South Carolina.  That’s where my daughter and her family live.  A long five hours later I arrived – exhausted.  We chatted for a bit but I was just too tired to stay up, besides, I had a busy day lined up for Friday.

I am sure most of you know that I am opening a wine bar.  We made the decision a few weeks ago to locate the wine bar in Bluffton.  We want to be close to my daughter and the grandkids so what better way to do this than to have the wine bar close to them.  Move to Bluffton, live close enough to watch the grandkids grow up and still pursue my passion for wine.  This is my version of the American Dream.  You can read here about the spaces I looked at Friday and the decisions I am trying to make.

So I spent a couple of hours looking at spaces Friday, taking tons of pictures along the way and then sharing them with my daughter when I got back to the house.  I have been torn about which space to choose – they all have such great possibilities.  Then on Saturday, I spent a few hours creating a Kickstarter account to try to raise funds for the actual bar build-out.  The project hasn’t gone live so I don’t have a link to give you (yet!).  Sunday I made a few more changes to the Kickstarter project and then drove another five hours back home.

Time to relax and chill!

Jean-Luc Rose

So what wine should I try tonight.  Hmmmm – I think a Rosé might hit the spot and I just happen to have a bottle of Jean-Luc Colombo “Cape Bleue” Rosé, a true French Rosé from the Blue Cape above Marseille.  The hilly vineyards of the Blue Cape have light, stony limestone soils and benefit from a warm Mediterranean climate.  Jean-Luc Colombo is credited as being the “winemaking wizard of the Rhone.”

This wine was such a delicate, pale pink that I wondered if it would have the flavor of the rosés I have come to love over the last couple of years.  I had no reason to be concerned.  On the first sip, the flavors came bursting through.  I picked up hints of citrus on the nose and tart cherry on the back of the palate; a crisp wine with a nice, clean finish.  Excellent choice to unwind and get ready for the upcoming work week – including all the work to finalize plans to lease the space we have chosen for the wine bar…..  😉

Varietal:  67% Syrah, 33% Mourvedre          Alcohol:  12%          Price:  $11.99

This wine was a media sample from Palm Bay International

Napa Valley Wine Academy



NAPA Wine Academy

One potential student to win a $200 certificate to purchase wine

Napa, CA (January 14, 2013)  The Napa Valley Wine Academy launches its inaugural wine program this month with classes that bring students out of the standard classroom and into winery and food centers that place them closer to the subject matter at hand.

Instructors at the Academy are industry professionals who bring an energetic new take to wine and spirit education, using hands-on activities to inspire wine enthusiasts, and interactive learning techniques to help students studying for wine certification classes.

“The Napa Valley Wine Academy stems from our belief that there is no better place to learn about wine than in the heart of Napa Valley, America’s pre-eminent wine region”, says Chris Oggenfuss, Founder and Chief Educational Officer. “Combine this belief with our instructors, who not only teach, but live and breathe the subject matter of wine, and you have a recipe for student success.”

Win a $200 Certificate to Back Room Wines

One of the benefits of taking classes through the Napa Valley Wine Academy is the quality of wines which will be tasted. In its excitement for the large variety of wines available in its local market, the Napa Valley Wine Academy is holding a sweepstakes with the grand prize being a $200 certificate towards the purchase of wine at Back Room Wines, downtown Napa’s fine wine retailer. The winner will have the opportunity to stock up on his or her wine cellar or get a leg up on tasting different wines of the world in preparation for a WSET certification class.

Sign up for the Napa Valley Wine Academy Newsletter at to gain entry into the sweepstakes.

Exciting Classes

A range of classes and wine certification courses are being offered by the Napa Valley Wine Academy:

Basics and Beyond the Basics

The 2-3 hour Basics classes are ideal for wine country visitors, those just entering the wine business, and general enthusiasts, with offerings such as: Prelude to a Sip : So What Am I Smelling and Tasting?  and  It’s a Bubbly World – Sparkling Wines from Around the World.  There are also a series of Beyond the Basics classes such as Wine Finds :  Lesser Known Wine Treasures from around  the World.

WSET Wine Certification Courses

Take your career to the next level:  The Napa Valley Wine Academy is an approved provider of the internationally recognized Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) certification courses, Levels 1 through 3.

Certain classes will be offered in Spanish and German.

Napa Valley Wine Academy instructors hold various wine and spirit degrees, but most importantly, what the Napa Valley Wine Academy offers is energy and excitement for sharing wines and spirits with both enthusiasts and those looking to advance their industry careers.

Napa Valley Wine Academy founder and partners are:

Christian Oggenfuss, AIWS, WSET-Certified, Founder and Chief Educational Officer of Napa Valley Wine Academy, is a second year Master of Wine student with the Institute of Masters of Wine in London and holds the Level 4 Diploma from the London-based Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET). Christian brings 20 years of wine experience to wine education as a marketer and brand builder for premium wine brands. He has also successfully launched wine related businesses in Switzerland and travelled extensively to all major wine regions in Europe and North America.

Catherine Seda, AIWS, is lead educator and partner, and holds the Level 4 Diploma in Wine & Spirits from the WSET. Catherine is an international wine accounts manager at Balzac Communications in Napa, CA, sits on the St. Helena Star and Napa Vintners Tasting Panel, and writes monthly wine columns for local and international publications.

Jürg Oggenfuss, WMD, C.S.W., is lead educator and partner and attended the Wädenswil School of Oenology, graduating with the “gold” Wine Merchant Diploma. After a successful wine retail career, Jürg works at Joseph Phelps Vineyards as a distinguished Wine Educator and Education Coordinator as well as host for VIPs. Jürg holds the Level 3 certificate with Distinction from the WSET, and is fluent in Schwiizerdütsch (Swiss-German), German, French, Italian, Spanish and English.

Guest instructors will also be invited to come speak.

Mira Winery – America Dreaming

There’s a new winery in Napa; but then there’s always a new winery opening up in Napa and Sonoma, right?  So why am I writing about another one – because of their philosophy about wine.  If you follow my blog, you have noticed that my writing focuses more on the story behind the wine – the people, the places, the big picture.  Well that’s exactly how the partners of Mira Winery feel.   They all love to tell stories that center around wine but they also love to hear stories from others.  They’ll even help create your story and memories when you visit.  You may end up in the barrel room and do a barrel tasting or you may end up in the vineyard discussing how the current crop is progressing.  You never know until you get there, but you will always leave with a story.

Tom Kaucic, Jim Dyke and Gustavo Gonzalez are the passion behind Mira Winery.  Gustavo is also the wine maker and won’t even consider producing a wine that he doesn’t believe in, one that he has put his heart and soul into and is proud to put his name on.  He doesn’t rush his wines, they are allowed to age to perfection before bottling.  Following his love for the Burgundy region and profile of wines, Gustavo’s goal is to consistently produce a wine that is approachable at an affordable price point and that delivers that “WOW” factor to the consumer.  But it takes all three of the partners to achieve the goals of the winery; they each bring a unique skill set to the business side with Tom heading up Sales and Jim managing the Public Relations and Communications for the winery.  And how many wineries can brag that their winemaker has produced a 100 point wine – Mira Winery can!  This is a big deal, 100 point wines don’t come along every day.  It takes talent, heart and a way of understanding the complexities of wine that few people ever achieve.

The winery is very personal to each of the partners and they want each customer to feel that same attachment.  Mira Winery is a niche winery producing small lots of each of their wines and just launched this year, but they have been making wine since 2009.    They produce a Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon with price points ranging from $22 to $48 per bottle.  They don’t distribute their wines (which doesn’t bode well for those of us on the “other” coast), but they do sell direct in California and can be found at fine dining restaurants.   Winery visits are by appointment only so check them out, set up an appointment and see what all the fuss is about!   And walk away with your own story!

Cheers to Tom, Jim and Gustavo for living the American Dream.

Tastings Wine Shop – America Dreaming

Tastings Wine Shop in Lexington, North Carolina opened in 2009 when five friends decided to go in together and bring the wine lifestyle to this quaint little town.  One of the partners took on the responsibility of running the shop on a day-to-day basis.  They catered to their regulars and started building up a name and a reputation for the wine shop.  Then the partner running the shop suffered some health issues that made it extremely difficult to run the store.  Heartbroken, the partners put their heads together trying to decide whether to sell the shop or to simply close it.  They decided to close – quietly and with no fanfare.  But as fate would have it, things never go as planned.  In step Chris and Kristin Briggs – visiting family over the Christmas holidays, 2011 and they heard thru the “grape-vine” that the store was closing.  They decided to pay the wine shop a visit and have a talk with the owners about buying them out. 

As the store was set to close by January 1, a lot of wheels had to be put in motion quick – an ABC license, financing, replenishing inventory that had been depleted for the closing – and remember, Chris and Kristin didn’t even live in North Carolina yet!!!  But obviously this was meant to be…..

Chris jumped through all the hoops the NC ABC Board threw in front of him in just 3 DAYS!   Just in time to keep the current ABC license for Tastings from running out, just in time to keep the store from closing and just in time to go visit with Kristin’s family in Pennsylvania as planned for the New Year.

Not only were the original owners of Tastings gracious enough to keep the store running for 3 full months while Chris and Kristin went back to New York to sell their apartment and officially move to NC, they started ordering inventory and restocking the store so that Chris had a turn-key operation when he was ready on April 1, 2012 to take over.

Now for the learning curve!  Chris had a background in robotics and special effects while Kristin had a background in event planning (you see where this is going, right?!?!)  They had both been avid wine and beer hobbyists but had never studied wine and had never worked retail.  (Can you imagine the conversations that went on in their car while they drove to Pennsylvania?)  It was decided that Chris would handle the day-to-day operations of the store and Kristin would do event planning and handle the social media.

Chris reads everything he can find about wine from regions to styles to trends so that he can talk with his customers and answer their questions.  Each day late in the afternoon, he tries to open something new and different for him so that he can taste and make the right kind of recommendations; he shares this new wine with customers coming in as well and offers them free tastings of the day’s selection.  Chris feels that learning about wine and being able to share that knowledge is almost as pleasurable as the wine itself.

Tastings is not a wine bar, but they do sell wine by the glass as an added benefit to their customers.  They also sell premium craft beer and allow the customer to mix and match the beer as they choose.

Although you will find a few local NC wines at Tastings, the selection is very limited.  Chris’s philosophy on this is that the local wineries are so close that he recommends customers go visit the wineries for a full tasting of their wines and truly experience what the winery has to offer and to accommodate this, he keeps plenty of wine trail maps on hand to give his customers.

Chris is now “Enjoying a job where people come in because they want to be there.”  The customers come in happy and it’s contagious so Chris is happy as well.

Feel free to visit Tastings at 312 E Center Street in Lexington, NC anytime and check out their website for a listing of events and happenings at

Cheers to Chris & Kristin for living the American Dream!!!


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