blogosphere industry personal world of wine

I’m speaking at the 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference

Somehow I’ve gone this far without telling many people that I’m speaking at the 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference next weekend in Santa Barbara County, CA, and I couldn’t be more excited! (And nervous!) I get to talk about my two favorite things, wine and WordPress. OK, I’ll mostly be talking about WordPress, but I’m sure to mix in a number of good wine-related allegories because that’s how much of a wine geek I am.

My talk is titled Supercharging Your Blogging With, and I’m scheduled for Sunday morning against a photography workshop and a writing workshop. So presumably anyone who comes to my session (other than my work-mates Derek and Rebecca) will be superlative writers and photographers who need to learn more about embedding images and video, managing spam, backups, security, and all the cool stuff that Jetpack lets you do on your self-hosted WordPress site. Oh, and people who didn’t stay up too late drinking on Saturday night. This seems like a good crowd for my inaugural workshop on blogging with WordPress, which will truly be a case study in the thought expressed here:

That being said, the thought of sharing the same “stage” (as it were) with speakers like Eric Asimov and Jancis Robinson is… a little intimidating. Could you tell? Just in case my presentation is less than thrilling, your consolation prize is a video of Jancis Robinson’s keynote from WBC 2011.


cellar cat

To out myself with regards to how passive-aggressive my relationship with wine has been, I got this Tablas Creek wine club shipment in April or May. Tonight while watching Micheal Phelps win another gold medal for being Aquaman, I finally entered the wines into Cellar Tracker. Not even because I thought the wine might be bored, locked for months in its shipper. No, this weekend we’re having houseguests in for the wedding of some very dear friends, and I thought perhaps Mike shouldn’t have to worry about tripping over my unassuming brown box of exquisite, exquisite wine.

As you can see, I had some help unpacking. If I my cats have learned to love Tablas Creek as much as I do, there seems to be a good chance that my child will as well.

I did notice that I now have a couple of wines in my cellar that will still be drinkable when my kid is 17. Which, now that I think about it, is right when I’ll probably need a 17 year old bottle of Tannat or Riesling. That’ll be a good goal for building the cellar: what will wine will make for good enough drinking in 2026 that I’ll survive the years of my kid’s adolescence?

knocked up personal

Long time no me

When you read about pregnancy, happy is the predominant emotional theme. Which is good, don’t get me wrong. But I doubt if I am the only mother-to-be on the planet who is struck dumb with jaw-clenching, heart-stopping terror at the prospect of motherhood – and where, then, is our survival guide? There’s a few palliative columns in your average “what to expect” book about how becoming a parent can be anxiety-causing, and that it’s normal to feel afraid. Seriously now, the term “afraid” so minimally addresses how I feel. I am caught in a blizzard of frozen panic, snowed under by fright.  I need a book on how to convert an office into a nursery when all you want to do is watch episodes of House and re-read old mystery novels  as your body relentlessly balloons and your brain disintegrates.  Week by week.

I’m sure it doesn’t sound like it, but I’m actually happy to become a mom; there are things that I’m really looking forward to, I swear. These aren’t cold feet talking (despite the blizzard metaphor) – rather, every element of my adult psyche is desperately circling in my head in some broken game of musical chairs, as the uneven, tuneless jack-in-the-box music plays, trying to eye which parts of my being will have no place to sit when the music stops in December. It seems very real and evident to me that I will have to sacrifice some pieces of myself to become a mother – it’s an equation that seems as natural to me as the patellar reflex. Something new comes in, and some things have to go to make room.

So I’ve been thinking it was time to give up the blog. I’m not feeling even remotely creative (possibly because I am crusted over in panic, I grant you) and I am not drinking enough wine these days to do anything like keeping my hand in. I haven’t been reading other blogs or wine news. My whole interest in wine has scabbed over, I think in my anticipation that I could not both be a mother and a wine blogger, possibly any kind of blogger at all. Because honestly if I don’t blog about wine I don’t know what I’m entirely comfortable blogging about. It’s all very… exposed out here without a stemmed glass, isn’t it?

But then, to quote Alice, “I almost wish I hadn’t gone down that rabbit-hole–and yet–and yet–it’s rather curious, you know, this sort of life!”

Thus I am trying to dig myself out, gentle reader, of the numbing-dumbing snowbank. Melodramatic maunderings aside, I am taking it quite entirely on faith that I can be a mommy and a wine blogger. (My husband thinks I can.) It seems rather like Big Rock Candy Mountain at the moment, that combination of existences, but why not treat it like it could be true for a while and see what comes of it, I suppose? I’m honestly not sure what you’re going to be finding here from now on, but I’ll try to make it something. Don’t get your heart set – I make no guarantees.

Oh, and I had a tasty little Oregonian Pinot Gris the other night at McCormick & Schmick’s – called Cloudline, and evidently the consulting winemaker is Véronique Drouhin-Boss – which was lovely with my friend’s scallops and slightly less perfect with my pan-fried flounder.

knocked up personal

Lame Salad

Seriously with the first trimester fatigue?

I’m sorry, people, but the bean just keeps sucking all of my creative energy out and using it to build a placenta and kidneys and synapses and other stuff it thinks it needs. Meanwhile, the Scamp languishes in obscurity, gathering cobwebs and inflicting unremitting guilt upon me, your inadequate host. I’ve missed Wine Blogging Wednesdays and Wine Book Clubs and all sorts of great stuff. I don’t even read wine blogs these days! Oh, the horror!

I remember discovering Basic Juice and enjoying it so much, and then I remember how sad I was when the supply dried up. I don’t mean to abandon you, really – it’s just that all I do is work and sleep and stare off into space while blearily creating life. Dullsville Township, population: me.

Oh and please don’t assure me that it only gets worse when the kid sheds me and starts screaming. If you have nothing nice to say… maintain radio silence, if you please.

Back soon, if the rumors about the second triathlon are to be believed.

personal world of wine

A Wine Scamp Bloggerpack? Surely you jest!

So months ago, Jill from Domaine 547, the hippest online wine shop run by a blogger, approached me about taking part of her blogger-pack program. I was quite excited to do so, as so many of my favorite wine bloggers have been involved already and it’s time I started hanging with a good crowd.

But what two- or three-pack of wine says Scamp? Jeff Lefevere of Good Grape did a neat selection of Alsatian varietals from the Willamette Valley. Awesome idea, and as an Oregonian I couldn’t agree more about promoting the whites from that region. Dr. Debs of Good Wine Under $20 did a great round-the-world trip of value, very apropos for her blog. I love good cheap wine, so was full of admiration for this idea. Brooklynguy did a two-pack of Loire wines, which he recommended for the holidays, and Ryan and Gabrielle of Catavino did a grouping of great Portuguese wines.

All great concepts, and I couldn’t bear to copy anyone. So I went back in my head (envision Wayne’s World wavy lines) to the days when I taught a weekly wine class, and remembered that my favorite classes to teach were the “X Varietal Around the World” ones. And because I’m such a Syrah freak, I thought we’d go that direction. Jill agreed, and we started trying to think about what three wines could take us around the world on the Syrah magic carpet ride… for about $60 bucks.

This was seriously hard work!

See, if you’re going to do a Syrah Around the World (which could sound positively dirty if you say it right), you must have a French one. But in France, they do not make very many 100% Syrah wines — mostly, they blend Syrah with Grenache and other lovely varietals into wines called Cotes du Rhone, Chateauneuf de Pape, etc. But you HAVE to have a French Syrah, because Syrah’s done so differently there and that’s the whole point of a ‘Round the World tasting: regional styles.

The two French wines that are all or mostly Syrah are: Hermitage Rouge and Crozes-Hermitage Rouge. The former is v. expensive. The latter is rather expensive. Jill and I spent most of our debate time looking, but finally found a C-H for Not Much Money that tastes French, from the good folks at Dme Ferraton. Voila.

Then the other obligatory region in a Syrah tasting is, of course, Australia. Because we both love it and because it’s just a kickin’ value for the cash, we chose the d’Arenberg Footbolt Shiraz. (Anything, dear reader, from d’Arenberg is The Shizzle. Love them into little green apples, I do.)

Finally, a Californian Syrah. I hadn’t heard of the winery that Jill suggested, but once I tried them I was very impressed. Not telling, though, until I post the actual review.

A huge shout-out must go to my friend Lady J, who spent last Sunday on the couch watching movies and tasting (well, she was drinking) wine with me. Her presence got me to ignore the morning sickness nausea that has become my hourly companion and pop the corks that have been nagging me for weeks and weeks. Plus I knew that the bottles I opened went to a good home.

So be on the look-out for reviews of the three wines in the blogger-pack upcoming. I’ve been so remiss that I might be at the back of the blogger-pack line, but reviews you shall have, dearies, and sooner than summer this time.

As a post-script I must note that I REALLY MISS DRINKING WINE. Tasting it makes me miss it that much more. And these three bottles were SO good. Gah.

knocked up personal

Midwife drives brother-in-law to prayer

So, I’m interviewing midwives for The Big Day. I mean, obviously, the right candidate will be there all through the script work, reading and rehearsals, but really it’s all about the Opening Night. (har) Never really gave it too much thought, honestly — not like I do when I realize there might be a raised eyebrow or two over my lefty, granola behavior, given my state of residence. I always figured I’d see a midwife instead of an OB/GYN, as I was planning to get pregnant, not sick.

But my 74-year-old father-in-law, who is the last of the blue collar democrats and understands the political implications of a woman’s right to choose and everything, was severely taken aback by the midwife thing. Like, way.

I’ve talked to Dad-in-Law a little bit, explaining that 70% of births in Japan and Europe are attended exclusively by midwives, and that those countries have much lower infant and maternal mortality rates than the US does. I’ve also explained that midwives will only take on low-risk patients, so that if the tyke is presenting breech or I’m having twins or something, they’ll march me off to an obstetrician post-haste. I’ve even considered buying him a copy of The Business of Being Born, which I heartily recommend to you all. Slowly but surely, I think I am calming his fears for me and his new grandbaby.

Not so in the case of my brother-in-law, who told my husband that working seeing a midwife instead of a doctor was “dumb,” and that he’d be praying for our family. Brother Dear is certainly closer to The Jesus than I am, but I wouldn’t call them bosom buddies. Thusly, I think a thank you card from one of the trinity would be a nice gesture, since my reckless trusting of midwives has so fervently brought my in-laws closer to god.

That being said, of course I’ll take all the prayer I can get.


Sour grapes

What I’m learning about myself is that twofold: I am cheap and I am petty. As these are not two traits I was hoping would be in my Fave 5 as I contemplate motherhood, I am holding on desperately to the belief that they are fleeting.

Trait The First: Man alive, but I hate opening a bottle of wine just to taste it and give (throw) it away! Hate the very notion of it! Abhor, detest and abominate! But what else is a spitter to do?

Trait The Second: Why should everyone else get to drink wine except me? Why should I tell people about neat wine without getting to drink it like everyone else? Why should I even bother reading about wine when I’m not going to be able to enjoy it? And while we’re on the subject, why can’t I eat soft, unpasteurized cheeses and sushi? This whole knocked-up scene sure has a lot of Don’ts involved. Maybe I am whining, but honestly now — wouldn’t you?

Poor pitiful me aside, I’m very irritated with wine and all the limitations it symbolizes for me right now. I’m not a big person, as it turns out, but rather a slave to my comforts… but they’ve sold me down the river, and along I float without a drop to drink.

Bah, humdinger.

Postscript: I wish I could say I’m missing a particular wine variety or region, but really I miss a nice big glass of it.  Food-wise, what mostly doesn’t make me want to hork these days is sour food.  I am gestating a Sour Patch Kid, it seems.

Less wailing next time, gentle reader, I promise.


How do you write a wine blog if you can’t drink wine?

You’ve probably noticed my lack of activity here on the Scamp… attributable previously to a renovation of my kitchen, a more permanent condition has arisen: that’s right, gentle readers, the rumors you’ve heard are true! Remodeling will get you pregnant! Home Depot and Lowes are nothing but well-disguised baby factories!

Seriously though, all 2+ of us here at the Scamp household are delighted, terrified and otherwise blown away by this (not entirely unforeseen) development. I’m going to be a mom! For the rest of my life! Hurray! Help!

The only pallor this casts over my life is right here at the Wine Scamp: if I’m forbidden from imbibing (much, regularly) for most of 2008, how on earth am I to complete my plans for world domination via wine blog writing? What will become of my gentle readers, bereft of my whimsy and wit?

OK, well obviously I can spit. I’ve spat in the past, I spit on occasion presently and I will certainly spit in the future. Don’t let anyone tell you, however, that this is a preferable way to taste wine. Sure, Robert Parker does it when he tastes 1,987 wines a day, as do Tanzer and Robinson and Laube and anyone who attends a mass tasting. Maybe it’s just my own fault, then, as All The Cool Kids are doing it, but when I taste wine and spit, I never do get the kind of sensory input that I get when I taste and swallow.

Part of the reason, I think, is that I don’t get the scents/tastes from the wine that I would if I had swallowed, at least not the scents that would be wafting up behind my epiglottis. Without this pseudo-aftertaste olfactory input, I tend to feel like I have one eye closed while trying to interpret a painting. Wear an olfactory eye-patch for 8 more months? Bleh.

Right, I hear you – pregnant women can drink a small glass of wine from time to time, with food. Well, not in the first trimester when the nugget’s just getting its cells organized; it doesn’t have the wherewithal to handle its Cabernet just yet. When the autumn leaves start to turn, I’ll let a few sips past my gullet, but until then it’s the spit bucket all the way, I fear.

I must confess that the prospect of opening up a good bottle so that I can swish and spit a mouthful does not hold the appeal that enjoying a nice glass does. Also, as a mama-in-training I’m all about learning my lumps before accidentally folding my child up into origami. My life is changing permanently, and thus so will this blog. Heretofore, we’ll be talking both wine and womanhood, juice and gestation, Pinot Noir and propagation.

Stick around; it’s going to be a hell of a ride!



Kitchen beforeI’ve been neglecting you, dear reader, and I confess that I may continue to do so for just a while longer. Kitchen remodeling, a little-known torture originating in the 12th century, has ensued at Scamp Central, and I am somewhat the worse for wear. I could tell you all sorts of things about my current adventure, but none of them, sadly, are wine related. Well, except for this one thing:

Oak CountertopsWe’ve installed oak butcher block countertops in most of the kitchen (there will also be tile near the sink). They come from the store unfinished in standard lengths, so we had to cut them to fit, and then sand and oil. There are lots of ways to learn what oak smells like, but I think this might be one of the most effective… right after going over the falls in a barrel. Vanilla, spice, smoke, toast, and woodsy aromas dominate, with a sawdust and mineral (oil) finish.

Wish us luck in the tile work… 6 square feet of countertop, 11 linear feet of backsplash and 150 square feet of floor to go, and I’ll have a functioning hearth once again! Yes, I know we probably should have tiled the floor first, and I’d rather not discuss it.

personal reviews Wine Blogging Wednesday

Wine Blogging Wednesday #43: Comfort Wine

800 boxes of kitchen with wineYou’ve probably noticed that The House of Scamp favors a certain Scandinavian home furnishings store. Well, we’re remodeling our kitchen, and guess where the new cabinets are coming from? That’s right, I have 800 boxes of kitchen piled up in my living/dining room, and for the next 2-3 weeks I’ll be assembling, installing, and then playing with tile as well.

So I’m very glad that this month’s Wine Blogging Wednesday theme was chosen by Joel at Wine Life Today to be “comfort wine,” because I could really use some right now. Tearing up my kitchen is starting to have a rather profound effect on my psyche; something about chaos affecting the hearth makes my house feel less like a home and more like a take-out dumpster.

But from this destruction will arise a phoenix of a kitchen: a kitchen with more than 36 inches of counter space, with more than 5 cabinets and enough room for all of my appliances! (For the record, “all” equals 7, including the toaster, coffeemaker and blender. OK, I meant for that to seem like Not A Lot, but instead it seems like A Lot. How many appliances do you have?)

La Vieille Ferme Rouge 05And I have my comfort wine to keep me warm in the meantime. It’s not fancy by any means, and I mean that: La Vieille Ferme Rouge is a mere Cotes du Ventoux, a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Carignan. It’s a friendly little table wine from the Perrin family, the makers of the iconic Beaucastel Chateauneuf-de-Pape, and I discovered it when I was in the wine business. As you can see from the label, it’s not much of an eye-catcher on the shelf, and thus it’s a well-kept secret. I’ve been drinking it for years; some vintages it’s a little lighter and sillier, some vintages it’s more intense and rich.

Dark, deep red in the glass. Nose of grape must and raspberry juice, as well as dusty earth and a hint of white pepper. Pretty structured this vintage, with brusque tannins, dark earth, cranberry and blackberry on the palate. Really, this wine would go better with barbecue or kielbasa than the turkey and dressing I frequently pair it with (it’s been a go-to Thanksgiving wine for many years now). Also, it’s less of a quaffing wine this vintage; however, it sells for about $6.99, tastes damn delicious, and really takes the edge off of a slight mis-calculation in kitchen dimensions and the subsequent gnashing of teeth.

Thanks to Lenn at Lenndevours for inventing Wine Blogging Wednesday, the wine blogosphere’s most enduring meme, and to Joel at Wine Life Today, for reminding us that wine can soothe just as much as it can excite.