Category Archives: spring

a summer dinner among the vines | thoughts on hospitality

I just finished writing a blog post for our winery project, The Storm Cellar, telling a few stories and showing off some of the gorgeous photographs that Irene Durante captured for our very first dinner in the vineyard back in the middle of June. The evening couldn’t have been more beautiful, and the food any more delicious.

This dinner was the first time that we formally released our freshly finished wines into the world. There was a moment, when Steve and I were walking behind the guests, as they were seating themselves at the long, communal table we set, right in the middle of our Riesling vines. We paused and watched the scene of smiling faces, full wine glasses, friends and family, and a prep station ready to plate. Tears filled our eyes, as we pulled each other close.

Our dream was being realized.

All of the hard work, late nights, early evenings, uncertainty, and excitement had lead up to this moment that we had been waiting for for nearly three years.

Steve and I recently dined at Tavernetta, Bobby Stuckey’s newest restaurant located in Denver’s Union Station. Stuckey is known for his iconic, Boulder restaurant, Frasca, which recently won the 2019 James Beard Award for Outstanding Service. Frasca was the only Colorado nominee finalist and winner at what is basically known as the “Oscars of the Culinary World.”

I bring up Stuckey, who is also a Master Sommelier, because of his vocal, and now internationally recognized, stance on the practice of hospitality. He mentions in a Denver Post interview that the concept of hospitality is “not about what we do to somebody; it is about how we make them feel.” Every night, at each of his restaurants, what his team figuratively does is “open the door and give every guest a bear hug.”

Steve and I couldn’t agree more with this philosophy of placing the guest experience above the tasks we execute. We could plate up the most beautiful food, serve the most exquisite glassware, source the most colorful flowers, and host a dinner in the most breathtaking setting, but without making our guests feel welcomed and special, the entire event would be flat, disappointing, and unmemorable. Continue reading

spirit-free chamomile citrus fizzes | the countdown to wine

Hello, friends!!

I’m laughing to myself this afternoon because the last time I published a blog post was nearly a year ago, and what brought me to my computer today is the same reason why I decided to write a post before – rain. Weeks of rainy days have brought us indoors and delayed us from finishing up the pruning and tying down of canes in the vineyard. It is nearly impossible to work in the mud, so I’ve committed to cozying up inside and gluing myself to the computer.

And I’ll happily distract myself and procrastinate a little by sharing a spirit-free cocktail with you.

But first, let me catch you up to speed on what’s been happening here at the vineyard. Should I start with the positive and exciting or the super-scary and exciting? I suppose I’ll start with the super-scary and finish on a high note.

If I type out all that we need to accomplish within the next ten days, I might have to break out my inhaler, but I really think you want to know what’s been going on, so I’ll take my chances. I’ve been a mad mix of stress-eating Nutella by the spoonful, making due with four solid hours of sleep a night, and rocking back and forth while mumbling Psalm 23. Our vineyard is planted with 16 acres of vines, and within each acre are about 1,000 plants. Because we’ve received so much rain this spring, all of the fruit farms are prolifically producing. That sounds great, right? Well, with a very limited workforce here in our valley, that means all of the farm help around here is spoken for.

Our team of three is two rows away from pruning all 16 acres of vines, and my arms and hands have dearly paid. I sleep with braces on both arms every night, and despite my efforts, my hand get numb at times, and my handwriting resembles the scrawl of a kindergartener. Also on the agenda, we have to finish building our tasting overlook, where we will hold our appointment-only tastings. Construction has been delayed on that project because of – yet again – the rain. We also need to bottle and label our wines (SIXTEEN THOUSAND BOTTLES) before throwing our first wine dinner in the vineyard.

We are also slated to receive 1,250 new vines in two weeks. We still need to dig 1,250 holes in which to plant them, so I’m strongly feeling that it is a good idea to postpone that project until the first of July. Is the timing optimal? Not so much. It’s a more attainable and sanity-saving goal, though.

😝😝😝

Okay, the panic is kicking in, so let’s switch over to the positive happenings. Steve and I surprised our families and tied the knot – just the two of us here – back in February in the middle of a snowstorm in the middle of our Chardonnay vines! Then we took a road trip down to Arizona, where I saw the Grand Canyon for the very first time. It was covered in SNOW! I will have to write a separate post highlighting that beautiful trip. We recently took tank samples of our wines and got placements at three of our favorite spots in Denver, and we will be pouring our wines with one of our favorite Colorado chefs, Alex Seidel, at the Telluride Reserve in August!

And we are throwing our very first wine dinner in our vineyard on Friday, June 14th, and it thankfully sold out this morning!

UTTER.

CRAZINESS.

Continue reading

the grassed word | celery cordial + lemongrass gin

If you follow a few cocktail-centric Instagram accounts, you’ve most likely seen several riffs on the classic cocktail, The Last Word, popping up in your feed this week. That’s because Mike Yoshioka, a cocktail enthusiast based in Los Angeles, CA created a global online event that celebrates the beloved cocktail.

The event, aptly named We Have the Last Word, encourages Instagrammers to replicate the original recipe or create an iteration on the classic. It is an event that inspires you to dig deep into your creativity. It truly and deliciously brings cocktail enthusiasts and creators together. The Last Word is one of my favorite cocktails both to make and enjoy, especially over the summer months, so I knew I had to come up with something fun as a contribution.


“What was truly inspiring was how the cocktail community came together. New relationships were formed. People started to bond. They began to inspire one another, sharing information, collaborating on projects, and supporting and encouraging one another. They showed that the world is indeed much smaller when we can come together and unite. Even if it is just over a cocktail.”

— Mike Yoshioka of mmydrinks, via a recent post in Difford’s Guide


The original specs on the cocktail call for equal parts gin, green Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur, and freshly squeezed lime juice. It’s light, refreshing, and a perfectly balanced amalgam of sweet, herbaceous, and acidic notes. I decided to do something creatively challenging for my contribution to this event that celebrates one of my favorite liqueurs, Chartreuse, and bring in some early summer flavors to the mix — celery, lemongrass, and cucumber.

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petals + blooms beauty punch | jules aron’s pretty zen books

I’ve been on team #treatyoself before it was even a hashtag. At some level, we all have. I mean, giving yourself a present just feels good, right? And when we get better at giving ourselves presents, we are better able to give others presents. It all comes full-circle. While some might associate the reference with getting a mani-pedi, calling in a personal day and going on a solo hike, finally buying those fancy jeans, or simply taking the time to bake a scratch-made, decadent cake, I’m talking about treating yourself in the form of a cocktail break.

A healthy-ish cocktail.

One that’s sparkling and filled with pomegranate juice, rosé, and the most delicious floral syrup.

Along with a long tub-soak in some DIY herbal rose bath salts.

I have your attention now, right?

Now that I’ve set the tone, I’ll share my inspiration. My friend Jules Aron just released TWO books that match perfectly together: Fresh & Pure: Organically Crafted Beauty Balms & Cleansers and Nourish & Glow: Naturally Beautifying Foods & Elixirs. I thumbed through Jules’ combined Pretty Zen collection of 150 recipes for healthy, natural body care and delicious drinks, meals, and small bites, and I’m sharing two of my favorites from Jules with you today.

And I’m giving away a copy of each to ONE lucky individual over on Instagram! Continue reading

meyer lemon bourbon fizzes | a change of scenery

April has been quite the month for us, to put it lightly. Since our move out to the western slope of Colorado to the tiny town of Paonia a few weeks back, I’ve traded my dress suits for Carhartt overalls, I haven’t given wearing makeup a second thought, I go to bed before 11:00 on most evenings, and I’m learning how to drive a tractor.

Crazy, right?

Our nightly conversations involve discussions on pruning styles, vineyard trellising ideas, irrigation challenges, soil amendments, the right tractor attachment for weeding, and the next step for renovating our 1950s farmhouse. It’s definitely a fixer-upper, but it has charming potential. Some people might say it’s dated and basic, while I say it’s “rustic chic” and just begging for a breath of fresh air!

It’s hard to think that March 9th was my last night as a sommelier and manager at Shanahan’s back in the city. I know I have alluded to change over the past few months here on the blog, but I hadn’t gone into much detail. Now that I am finished with my job, it’s a little easier to do. For those of you who don’t know, Steve and I took a daring leap of faith and decided to follow our dreams of owning and operating a vineyard and eventual winery.

We had always thought we’d wind up in either California or Oregon, and we had always thought it was about ten years down the road. Well, when the timing is right, and the place is a perfect fit, you sometimes have to take the risk, close your eyes, jump out, and make the dream happen.

And that’s just what we did.

We asked two of our closest friends and fellow wine industry professionals to join us on this crazy adventure, and we have all been pruning just over 20 acres of grapevines over the past few weeks, in addition to acclimating to “roommate life” in a small farmhouse. Optimally, we would’ve started on the daunting task of clipping back the vines in March, but Steve and I were still finishing up our jobs there at the restaurant. I’ll share more about the move, our new place, and our plans for the future in another post. For now, I’ll share this simple cocktail I’ve been making with the remaining Meyer lemons that keep trickling into my kitchen.

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