• South Africa: Country of Cool

    By Tamra Bolton

    One of the most exciting things about a trip overseas is getting to explore and investigate the different animal and plant life.  Knowing some of the trees, flowers, birds and mammals you might encounter only enriches your total travel experience.  While I was searching for things to see and do in South Africa, I discovered some amazing things I didn’t know and I definitely don’t want to miss.

    The Cape Floral Region in South Africa is one of eight World Heritage Sites located in the country and it boasts spectacular mountain scenery and jaw-dropping ocean views.  It also contains some of the richest plant biodiversity in the world. Table Mountain National Park alone has more plant species than the whole British Isles or even New Zealand, which was a big surprise.

    Another surprise for me was finding that Cape Town ranks #2 in the world for best beaches, according to the National Geographic Travel Magazine.  Cape Town was only edged out Barcelona, Spain’s eight gorgeous white sand beaches!

    Not only is South Africa blessed with breath-taking scenery and beautiful beaches, but it is one of the top birding destinations in the world.  The Cape of Good Hope National Park is an excellent viewing area.  You have the opportunity to see many of the 850 species that have been recorded in the region, if you time your visit with the annual migrations. November is one of the best times to see the most bird species and the breeding numbers are at their peak during November through March.  Cape Town has the best wader bird watching in the country.  Around fifty of the bird species recorded in South Africa are native to the area and found nowhere else in the world.

    Cape Town has earned the nickname “Capital of Cool”, but I think the entire country of South Africa, with its biodiversity and element of adventure deserves the title “Country of Cool”.  I can’t wait to visit!

  • Experience More Best Bottle Moments!

    Let a Best Bottle of Wine Create a Lasting Moment…

    Life is Short, Have More Best Bottle Moments.  At our core the team here at Best Bottle take great pride in curating wines that set the stage for a Best Bottle Moment.

    So what is a Best Bottle Moment? It’s typically a moment where you are with friends and family celebrating life together over a great meal and a Best Bottle. It creates a special moment where time stops and you have an experience you’ll never forget.                    

    A couple weeks ago I had my eldest daughter and her boyfriend Diego over for dinner. I made steak using the cast-iron high temperature oven method. Which if you haven’t tried preparing your steaks this way, you definitely should try it. It makes steak similar to what you would get at a fine steakhouse.

    When I served the meal, I asked Diego if he would like to have some wine with his meal. He politely said he really doesn’t like wine. I encouraged him to have just a little taste. When he took a sip of the wine the reaction on his face was one I’ve seen many times before. He was having a Best Bottle moment. I asked him what he thought. He replied, “It’s like the wine met the flavors of the steak in my mouth and they collided into an explosion of new flavors that I never knew existed. I never thought wine could taste that amazing.” It is a moment that neither Diego or I will never forget.

    It’s fun to share an amazing bottle of wine. And it’s even better to blow people away by sharing a wine experience they never knew existed and will remember for a lifetime.

    The thing that excites me the most is knowing anyone can create Best Bottle moments. Those moments where time stands still. Created by the simple process of sharing a great meal and a bottle wine with good people.

    Cheers,

    Scott Krauger CEO Best Bottle

  • Dreams of Africa

    By Tamra Bolton

    Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve dreamed of visiting Africa.  Watching Marlin Perkins on Wild Kingdom every week only fueled my desire to see herds of elephants, wildebeests and zebras thundering across the African plains.  Now that I’m older…I still love to dream about watching brilliant sunsets through the flap of a canvas tent and going to sleep listening to the distinctive night sounds of an African night.

    Recently, I discovered the Sanbona Wildlife Reserve near Cape Town, South Africa…it fit the bill for my safari adventure. The Reserve is perfect for experiencing the thrill of the Big Five of Africa – lions, elephants, rhinoceros, Cape buffalo and leopards.  It also has plenty of other wildlife to enjoy and offers some of the best lighting a photographer could hope for. My experience in volunteering with archaeology also makes me excited to see the Khoisan tribes’ ancient rock drawings in the isolated and stark Karoo ravine.   I was delighted to find out that I didn’t have to suffer discomfort just because of the isolated area; the beautiful Dwyka Tented Lodges provide all the amenities you could hope for in the middle of the African landscape.  The camp itself is a treat for the eyes…the tents are arranged in a horseshoe and when lighted at night, they resemble an ancient camp of the Khosian that once roamed the area.  The atmosphere is enhanced by the dramatic rock formations that envelop the camp. When I imagine this trip, I can see myself…just like I did years ago…leaning out of the canvas flap, taking in the velvety night sky dotted with brilliant diamonds of light and smiling as I hear the roar of a real African lion.  This is a trip of a lifetime…maybe you would like to come along?

     Dwyka Tented Lodges DWYKA TENTED LODGES
    Cape Town South Africa is the Best Bottle Destination of the Month. Check the itinerary at:http://www.winebestbottle.com/best-bottle-experiences-cape-town-south-africa-winelands-safari

    DWYKA TENTED LODGES

  • South African Eats

    By Tamra Bolton

    Africa. Safaris…elephants…lions…vast savannahs…all of these bring to mind exotic images, places I long to visit, things I want to see.   I have dreamed of going to Africa since I was a child. I want to see for myself all the wonders this continent holds.  Maybe you have dreamed of such a trip too.  Realistically, in today’s political climate, not all places in Africa are primed for travelers, but some places, like South Africa are great places to experience all Africa has to offer.

    Not only can you visit game reserves and see the famous African wildlife, but you can explore the pristine beaches and climb rugged mountains.  You can also indulge in some of the finest wines and most exotic traditional dishes, while dining in some of the poshest eateries imaginable.

    Cities like Cape Town offer a wide range of dining opportunities, especially to sample dishes like bobotie, one of the national specialties.  This South African version of the British shepherd’s pie has curried meat instead of minced and a frothy custard for the topping instead of mashed potatoes.  While strolling through the villages around the Cape, you will want to enjoy some biltong, a jerky-type meat, usually beef that is a favorite of most South Africans.  This was a life-sustaining staple carried by the Boers in the 1830’s when they made their historic Great Trek northward into Africa’s interior.  I love foods that have great stories and in South Africa, you can bet that almost every regional dish has a story worth hearing.  Just the names of the dishes are intriguing: potjiekos (a stew cooked in a 3-legged cast iron pot over hot coals), sosaties (cubed lamb, usually cooked shish-kebab style), and melktert (a dessert custard in a round pastry shell).

    If you’re adventurous, you can try grilled game such as ostrich, crocodile, eland, springbok and antelope.  If you have the nerve, you can also sample a popular treat, the caterpillar-like mashonzha worm, served grilled, stewed, any way you prefer!  I’ll try anything once…just once.

    After you’ve had your fill of the local cuisine, why not head for the Winelands and tour the fabulous vineyards there and enjoy the wine tastings?  One of the stops on my itinerary would be the La Grange Fromagerie, where gourmet cheeses are available for tasting and purchase.  The Franschhoek Chocolate Factory would also be on my list.  Can you imagine sampling the best wines, cheeses and chocolates all in the same day?  My idea of heaven on earth!

    When I first dreamed of a trip to South Africa, I was only thinking of the dramatic landscapes and exotic animal life, but now I realize that at the tip of the African continent lies a magical mix of ancient and modern, extravagance and simplicity, and much more…just waiting for the adventurous traveler to explore.

  • Terroir

    By Tamra Bolton

    Whenever you are around a group of wine enthusiasts, the term “terroir” eventually comes up in the conversation. What exactly is terroir?  It is a loosely translated French term meaning “sense of place” and the effect it has on wine.  The soil, atmosphere, environment, sunlight and rain patterns, etc. all affect the way a wine will taste.  The same vine, grown in several different locations will have its own unique characteristics and flavors, based on the terroir.  This is true of just about any crop, even onions. Those grown in one part of our state taste sweet and mild, while the same onion grown in another area will make you wince and weep.  All crops, whether they are grapes, corn, oranges, etc. are affected by the soil, weather and location, but wine growers seem to take the term more seriously.

    Many times the comparison of “old world” (European) wines and “new world” (everything else!) wines is when the term terroir enters the conversation.  Most old world vineyards are relatively small when compared to new world vineyards, so the terroir is more easily compared in the old world wines, than in the new world wines.  For example, the region of Bordeaux in France is about 250 square miles and has about 6 different soil types, so the variations in the wine produced is small compared to the Barossa Valley in Australia that encompasses only a little over 100 square miles, but has about 30 different soil types!

    So, whether you feel that terroir is important enough to consider when making your wine choices…the main thing is to choose a wine you enjoy. Try different wines from a particular region and develop your palate. Broaden your knowledge of wines in general.  Being well-versed in “wine language” is not really necessary to enjoy the experience, but it can make you feel a part of the conversation when these terms are introduced.   Cheers!

  • How do I Know if They Made Good Wine the Year I was Born?

    Marc Kauffman, CSW, Certified Sommelier

     

    It’s really fun to find a wine made the year of your birth. Consider all the events that happened that year and do some research about harvest conditions in various parts of the world and you may be surprised to find your birth year may have been a “stellar vintage”…or not.

    Some of us were fortunate enough to have parents that were wine conscious and actually purchased a bottle or two of wine made the year we were born and then held on to them until an appropriate birthday, either theirs or ours, when we got a chance to taste the stuff. Maybe it was a great year and we had a fantastic experience. But all too often the opposite is true. There are several reasons why it is difficult to have this somewhat unique experience. Let me illustrate.

    If you are attempting to find a wine from your birth year for perhaps your 40th birthday you may have quite a challenge. There are only certain wines that are even capable of aging for 21 years let alone 40 or 50 years and these are without exception very expensive. The usual preference has historically been Classified Bordeaux wines. These wines such as Chateau La Tour, Chateau Margaux, Chateau Haut Brion, Chateau Lafite Rothschild and Chateau Mouton Rothschild are some of the most sought after and thus some of the most expensive wines in the world. While in some vintages these wines can live for 50+ years, you must know a lot about the particular vintage and just as important how the wine was stored (the provenance of the wine). It is an extreme risk to purchase and old Bordeaux wine from the local wine retailer unless you get a guarantee. Even then it is rare to find these wines in prime condition. Another wine in this category would be great Sauternes, a dessert wine from the Bordeaux region. Chateau D’Yquem is the best example of this wine. Age-worthy but very expensive.

    As alternatives to red Bordeaux wines, sweet wines and vintage Port are two wines that can stand “the test of time”. Due to high sugar content and in the case of Port higher alcohol, these wines are more or less naturally preserved. They are a safer bet to purchase after the fact if you cannot have access to Bordeaux wines on first release and keep them “in your cellar” for years. I managed to find wine from my birth year at a very special wine retailer in Paris France. La Vinia. (www.lavinia.com) This shop actually obtains the wines directly from the producing winery. I obtained the bottle pictured above from this shop. The wine was in perfect condition and was an amazing experience. I even managed to find a bottle of this same producer’s wine at La Vinia on a later visit from the year 1919, the year my father was born. I purchased it for about $275.00 and brought it back to share with him on his 80th birthday. Again the wine was incredible. If you are lucky enough to experience a wine that has held up well for 50 years it is a treat!

    One final suggestion for finding birth year experiences is to consider Armagnac. Armagnac is a distilled liquor similar to Cognac however unlike most Cognac, Armagnac can be labeled for the year in which the grapes were harvested. The above bottle of 1947 vintage for example would sell for about $500 today. A relative bargain if you compare to a 1947 Chateau Margaux for example that would sell for about $3,000 per bottle if you could find one! And the higher alcohol (40%abv) of Armagnac offers a much better chance of a memorable taste experience.

    So maybe you will lay away a bottle for your kid to celebrate their 21st birthday. Or you may find a bottle from your own birth year for that special party. It takes some knowledge and some searching but it’s worth the effort for a unique celebration.

  • Oregon Coast, Beyond Wine Country

    by Tamra Bolton

    One of my favorite winter time activities is curling up in front of a blazing fireplace with a good glass of wine and the Rand McNally road atlas.  I love looking at all the places I have visited; it’s like taking the trips all over again from the comfort of my chair.  I also enjoy scouting out new places to visit and discovering all the things to see and do in a certain area.

    This evening, I was “visiting” the Oregon coast.  My oldest sister spent a summer in 1969 at the Marine Biology Institute in Coos Bay and I’ve been fascinated with coastal Oregon ever since.  Her stories of the wild waves, quiet tidal pools, majestic cliffs and amazing trees were enough to spark my imagination and my resolve to see it for myself.

    There are several spots that are on my list…all less than two hours’ drive from Portland:  Cape Meares National Wildlife Refuge, Cape Lookout, Seaside and Tillamook.  Why these?  Well, they all have something that I enjoy and they all offer something different.

    Take Tillamook for instance, it is the home of the Tillamook Cheese Factory and the center for dairy products in the area.  I love cheese, so it made the list!  Cape Meares National Wildlife Refuge made my list because anything with “wildlife” in the name is something I’ve got to see.  Not only does this refuge have breath-taking views, but it is home to two of my favorite birds, the tufted puffin and peregrine falcon. The largest Sitka spruce in Oregon also lives here among one of the last old-growth forests still standing along the states’ coastline.  Estimated to be between 700-800 years old, this magnificent giant has a 48 ft. circumference!

    Seaside has my heart because it is the official “End of the Trail” for the Lewis and Clark expedition.  The bronze statue of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark also includes Lewis’ Newfoundland dog, Seaman.  Lewis purchased the dog in 1803 for twenty dollars, these days,  a Newfoundland pup runs around twelve hundred to fourteen hundred dollars!  Seaman is credited in Lewis’ journals with saving them from bear attacks and other calamities, so I guess his twenty dollar investment paid off.

    Lewis_and_Clark_Statue_(Clatsop_County,_Oregon_scenic_images)_(clatD0006).jpg

    Last on my list is Cape Lookout, a favorite place for collectors of glass floats.  While I am not a collector, one of the things on my DBID (Do Before I Die) list is to find one of those gorgeous colored glass balls.  Glass floats have been made since the 1700’s and come from Asia, Russia and the Philippines, some traveling for centuries before finally washing ashore. There is just something magical about such a fragile looking thing tossing about in an ocean for years and still remaining intact.  After doing a little beachcombing, I think I’ll hike out to the point and see if I can spot any whales drifting by…I love daydreaming about travel…but I can’t wait to see it with my own eyes.  Why not make plans to visit somewhere you’ve daydreamed about?  Maybe I’ll see you there…

  • Make Wine the Theme of Your Girlfriend Weekend

    By Tamra Bolton

    Last weekend, I attended one of the zaniest events I’ve ever been to…the Pulpwood Queens Girlfriend Weekend.  You’re probably wondering…what in the world is a Pulpwood Queen?  These gals are members of the largest book club in the world, with over 600 chapters and I am proud to call myself a PQ.  The founder, Kathy Murphy is an amazing woman who is passionate about reading, books and literacy.  Every year, for the last sixteen years, hundreds of her members have traveled from everywhere to spend three exciting days sharing their love of books.  It is a busy time with New York Times bestselling authors giving talks, signing books, a silent auction for charity and it all culminates on Saturday night with the Great Big Hair Ball. This year’s weekend was held in Nacogdoches, Texas, which in 2016 will celebrate their tricentennial…yes, that’s 300 years! They rolled out the pink carpet and had plenty of tiaras for our Pulpwood Queen extravaganza.  The theme of this year’s Hair Ball was Storybooks/Fairy Tales, so everyone came dressed as their favorite character.  We had Cinderella, fairies, Maleficent, Prince Charming (yes, there are male members called Timber Guys), wood nymphs, and even King Arthur made an appearance.  I chose to go as the White Witch, Queen of Narnia, from C.S. Lewis’ classic tale The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.  My husband, a talented metal artist made my crown and my wand and a dear friend made my dress; I found the cape and borrowed a silver tray from my sister to carry my delicious ‘Turkish delight’ around to tempt everyone at the ball.

     

    Every year, a Queen is chosen to reign over the PQ Ball until the next year and this year, I won! I had so much fun that weekend, I decided on the way home, I wanted to have my own ‘girlfriend weekend or sister weekend’.  What a great time of year to plan a getaway with your best buds.  You could have a theme to make it more fun…stay in your pjs all weekend or have a 60’s retro theme or how about the punk rock ‘80’s?  Even your wine could be part of the theme, see who can bring the most fitting named wines or craziest named wines, have a contest, have a tasting and give prizes, whatever you can dream up.

    If you’re one of those women who actually like football, like me, but your team didn’t make it to the Super Bowl, why not have a team theme and instead of watching the game, watch the greatest football moments on Netflix and everyone cheer for their team when they appear?   The possibilities for having fun with this idea are endless…only limited by you and your friends imaginations.  Whatever you decide to do let me know how it goes.

     That’s an order.  Remember, I can do that…I’m Queen!

    Cheers!

  • Oregon Wine Country

    By Tamra Bolton

     

    Imagine yourself in a world class resort, surrounded by stunning art, meticulously landscaped gardens and being able to choose from over 800 award-winning wines for your evening meal…imagine yourself being pampered with a honey and wine masque while your personal spa attendant wraps you in a special organic honey and wine body treatment…imagine yourself retiring to your sumptuous room, cozying up to your own fireplace with a bottle of the best Pinot noir you’ve had in years.  All this and more can be more than a dream at the Willamette Valley’s Allison Inn and Spa in Newberg, Oregon, located only short drive from Portland.

    While you’re enjoying the fabulous amenities at the Allison, you can explore the dozens of wineries just minutes from the resort; like the Archery Summit Winery that boasts unique barrel caves or try The Reserve Flight at the Elk Cove Vineyards where you can soak up fabulous vistas from their spacious tasting room.

     

    oregonhorseride123414.jpg

     

    If you are of the more adventurous bent, the Evergreen Air and Space Museum should be included in your fantasy.  The McMinnville museum is the home of the Spruce Goose, the famous World War II era plane designed and built by Howard Hughes.  Built almost entirely of birch (despite its name), the Spruce Goose is the largest plane ever built and is an awe-inspiring sight.  The museum also has an extensive firearms collection and the most unique water park slide in the world (in my opinion!)…you can actually slide out of a real Boeing 747 to the splash pool below!  Not excited yet?  How about a hot air balloon or helicopter ride over the lush Willamette vineyards and the rugged Oregon coastline?  Love horses? What about taking a horseback ride to nearby wineries?  If you can imagine it, you can do it in the Willamette Valley.

    If you’ve ever been to Zingerman’s Delicatessen in Ann Arbor, Michigan, you can easily imagine yourself at the Red Hills Market in Dundee savoring scrumptious cheeses, meats, craft beers and wines amidst a lively relaxed atmosphere.  Try their wood-fired pizza for an especially filling treat!

     

     

    To round out your fantasy, make a stop at Lange Estate Winery where they produce some of the finest Pinot noir in the US.  Try a flight of their reserve Chardonnay, Pinot gris and of course their coveted Pinot noir while you take in the stunning views of the Dundee Hills and surrounding vineyards.

    My fantasy also includes some soul-searching time on the many hiking trails in the area and spending a little time soaking up the views of the Cascade Mountains and forests and enjoying the quiet.

    Interested in making your dreams reality?  Just check out the Best Bottle Oregon Experience package and you can go from dreaming to doing!

    You’ve waited long enough…don’t let another year go by before you make your dreams come true!

    Cheers!

  • Meanwhile, Back in Wine Country…

     Widerlea Vineyard and Winery The Willamette Valley is crowded with dozens of small wineries, all with their own niche and specialty.  For a wine lover, this captivating region of Oregon is a treasure trove of some of the best Pinot Noirs on the planet.

    All within an easy drive from Portland, the wineries all have their own claim to fame, making each one a treat to explore, even if you only have an afternoon.

    A couple of favorites to check out are Winderlea Vineyard & Winery in Dundee and R. Stuart & Co. Winery & Wine Bar in McMinnville.

     

    Winderlea’s tasting area is modern and sleek in design with minimal appointments and it offers an unparalleled view of its vineyards through the open glass and steel design.  In this inviting area, you might encounter one of their tasting associates, John Sutton.  You’ll know him by his charming Scottish brogue and his quick smile.  I thought it was interesting that after traveling the world, he settled in a tiny town in Oregon…that just happened to bear the name of one of his homeland’s cities.  While you’re there, ask him about his life since coming to Dundee. Be ready for some lively conversation as you enjoy your outstanding flight of award-winning Winderlea wines.  Don’t forget to keep your eye out for the vineyards’ dogs, Monty and Celie, two Australian Labradoodles that roam the grounds.  Their “job” is to keep the deer away from the vines (no munching allowed!), chasing the gophers down and entertaining the visitors with their antics.  I believe they are successful…especially at the latter.

     Jose Mandojana for Parade

    R. Stuart & Co. Winery and Wine Bar offers a different experience, a relaxed, in-depth winery tour where you’re sure to learn something new.  The tour ends at the Wine Bar just down the street, where you’ll enjoy a flight of their most current releases and if you want, you can also sample some local microbrewery specials and get a cup of one of Portland’s finest coffees.

    While you’re out and about, tasting and exploring, look around the small towns you encounter…they are full of amazing artists who work in every medium imaginable.  You never know what you might discover…

    R. Stuart & Co. Winery and Wine Bar offers a different experience, a relaxed, in-depth winery tour where you’re sure to learn something new.  The tour ends at the Wine Bar just down the street, where you’ll enjoy a flight of their most current releases and if you want, you can also sample some local microbrewery specials and get a cup of one of Portland’s finest coffees.

    While you’re out and about, tasting and exploring, look around the small towns you encounter…they are full of amazing artists who work in every medium imaginable.  You never know what you might discover…

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