Napa 2017 – Day 3 – Sonoma – Jordan Winery

“Penicillin cures, but wine makes people happy.” — Alexander Fleming

I think of all the days I had planned for this Napa 2017 trip, I was most excited by Day 3.  I had never really been to Sonoma before (we will ignore my inglorious attempt at horseback riding, which admittedly took place in Sonoma during our honeymoon.  I endeavor to forget the experience on a somewhat regular basis, as I lack any semblance of grace when it comes to activities requiring any gear superfluous to that which God granted my person.)  People have often told me that Sonoma is fabulous, and it was my day to discover Sonoma for myself.

The four of us set off around 10am for the hour-long trip up Highway 29 through Napa Vally and west to Jordan Winery.  I was first introduced to Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon in medical school.  Marcia is the mother of one of my two best medical school friends, Maria, and over the years I have managed to finagle Marcia into becoming a friend of mine in her own right.  Maria is a fabulous human being – honestly, she’s one in a million – and it’s easy to see why is is the way she is when you meet Marcia and her jolly husband, Jose.  All three of them are brilliant, witty, thoughtful, and surpassingly kind.  No visit back to Denver is complete without dropping in on Marcia and Jose; they have become family, and I don’t think I can ever repay the kindness and generosity they have shown me.  I guess I’ll have to pay it forward, which is likely their intent.  Anyway, I digress.  In medical school Marcia learned that I was a fledgling wine aficionado and has been very influential in helping me develop my taste in wine.  Jordan was one of the first truly excellent wines I had ever had, sitting in her kitchen, chatting about everything and nothing.  Since that time I have taken every recommendation from Marcia seriously, and I have never once been disappointed.

Marcia, who is the essence of living life fabulously.

Driving through Napa is very beautiful, and it’s just amazing to appreciate the sheer number of wineries here.  Despite a slight and inevitable traffic jam through St. Helena, we arrived right on time for our 11 o’clock tour and tasting.  Jordan, located in the northern part of Sonoma in the Alexander Valley, is absolutely breath-taking, and photos really don’t do the place justice.  You notice the grandure  of the place immediately as you enter and then wind your way through the outer grounds of the estate, over several bridges, grateful to see signage confirming you haven’t gotten lost.  Then you come upon this gorgeous chateau, ivy growing along the sides, with a grand driveway overlooking the grounds you just traversed.  It makes for a pretty spectacular first impression.  We stood in the morning sun wondering over the place, and I could hear little else besides birds chirping and a light breeze rustling through the trees.

One side of the Jordan chateau. Beautiful.

I had to go back and read about it, but I learned that the majority of the estate grounds have been preserved as natural habitat (which explains a little of the meandering drive to the chateau itself).  The property includes 112 acres of grapevines, 18 acres of olive trees, a one-acre garden, two lakes, and grazing pastures.  That’s pretty unique for a winery, especially one situated on such valuable real estate.  Props, Jordan.

Exited to be at Jordan!

Already impressed, we checked in and were soon led along a path dappled with shade to the start of our tasting experience.  As we strolled we learned some of the history of Jordan from our guide.  Yevgeniya and I were delighted to find that we knew two members of our tour group – Angela and Jordan, both nurses from Loma Linda!  They were there to celebrate Jordan’s birthday at, appropriately, Jordan Winery.  Smiles and greetings exchanged, we stopped at an overlook shaded by majestic trees where we could gaze out across the rolling hills below us.  Here a taste of Jordan Chardonnay was poured, paired with a delectable savory ricotta topped with black caviar, furikake, and edible flowers.  It was so lovely I almost didn’t eat it, but was glad when I did as it was a perfect complement to the Chardonnay.

A delicious and beautiful morsel that paired perfectly with our delicious and beautiful Jordan Chardonnay.

Chardonnay still in hand, we were led along a gravel path to a second overlook, where we could gaze down over the farm.  There were cows grazing, goats milling about, and even a few donkeys resting in the shade.  Looking out to the horizon we could see some of the vineyards, as well as an olive grove.  Jordan also makes wonderful olive oil from the olives harvested on the estate.  The scene was pastoral and peaceful.

We were then led back to the chateau, into an immaculate dining room with a wall of windows looking over the wooden fermenting tanks.  Jordan has numerable on site events, many of which take place in this dining room.  They have a rather unique “membership” system; by simply providing an email address, you earn points based on purchases from the winery.  As you earn points you are invited to these various events.  You don’t necessarily have to sign up for a wine club, and I find this approach refreshing and rather democratic.  More props to Jordan!  We soon had the opportunity to walk through the fermenting tanks, where we learned more about the winemaking process at Jordan.  Something I found interesting is that they use a layer of egg whites distributed over the top of the tank to help filter the wine of debris.  Also, they do their blending in these massive oak tanks, and only after the final blend is approved is the wine moved into the smaller oak tanks for an additional year of aging.

jordan barrel room
Jordan Winery oak fermenting tanks, very attractive and unique!

From here we made our way into the library and (exciting!) through a secret passage into a hidden, intimate room where a beautiful spread awaited us.  We were each seated at a gorgeous dining table where an immaculate, individual cheese board awaited.  To go along with our delectable cheeses, which were seriously tasty, we were treated to a vertical tasting of the Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon from 2009, 2011, and 2013.

One of the best cheese boards ever, complete with a delicate Jordan olive oil.

Needless to say, each of the Jordan Cabs were outstanding, and each was a little different.  I was a fan of the 2009, while Brian preferred the 2011.  We ended up purchasing both!  It was quite the experience to relax in this elegant secret room, lazily enjoying our wine and cheese, chatting over the merits of this one versus that one.  I didn’t want to leave!

Per usual, Marcia’s recommendation was a home run all around – all four of us, and our two Loma Linda friends, agreed it was a fantastic experience.  They even made it possible for our friend Jordan to have her picture taken beside a bottled vintage from her birth year!  How fun is that?  We were sad when our time at Jordan came to its inevitable conclusion, but you can bet I will be back on future Napa visits!

Yevgeniya, Jordan, Me, and Angela, all smiles at the conclusion of our Jordan Winery experience.

Napa 2017 – Day 2 – Duckhorn and Cakebread

“Compromises are for relationships, not wine.” — Sir Robert Scott Caywood

By the time we departed from Silver Oak Cellars it was already getting on toward the lunch hour.  We didn’t have much time before our Duckhorn Vineyards appointment at 1pm, but no trip to Napa is complete without a visit to V. Sattui Winery.  Unique to wineries in the Napa Valley, V. Sattui has on its grounds an extraordinary deli and picnic area.  You can do your tasting, purchase your favorite bottle, then visit the deli for truly exceptional cheeses, meats, and other goodies.  You can then park yourself at a quaint picnic table on their lush lawn in the Napa sunshine.  Few luncheon experiences can compare!

To my disappointment, as mentioned, we didn’t have enough time for this – we lingered too long at Silver Oak.  So this visit to V. Sattui was more of a quick breeze through the deli, sampling cheeses and olive oils, selecting pâtés, and piling back into Steven’s Audi SUV where the goods were divvied up on paper picnic plates.  We happily nibbled as we wound our way up Highway 29, arriving right on time at Duckhorn Vineyards.

Duckhorn Vineyards is located off the Silverado Trail north of St. Helena.  It’s a lovely property and they produce very nice wines, but I found the tasting experience disappointing.  Though we were on time for our appointment, we were not greeted or seated for 30 minutes.  We sort of wandered around the little shop where you first enter; when we tried to ask someone to assist us, we were told to keep waiting.  Once we were seated, we sort of sat there looking at the line of empty wine glasses in front of us for a good 15 minutes before anyone came around to pour our first taste.  No one really took any time to tell us about the wines, and again there were long stretches between tastes where we seemed to be pretty much ignored.  It was odd for Napa, a region known for its hospitality and service.  I would say you could be safe in skipping Duckhorn Vineyards on your next Napa visit – stick to ordering your favorite wines from this winery online.

Our dear friends, Steven and Yevgeniya, at Duckhorn.

A bit underwhelmed, we departed Duckhorn for Cakebread Cellars.  I am definitely a Cakebread fan; we went to Cakebread last year with my parents, and I was impressed with their Pinot Noir as well as many of their other wines.  As such I was really looking forward to Cakebread, especially after the subpar Duckhorn experience.

Cakebread Cellars was founded in 1973 by Jack and Dolores Cakebread.  The estate is located between Oakville and Rutherford right off Highway 29.  The grounds are pleasing with the main building, a rustic wooden structure, rising above the rows of vines.  Since our visit last year the tasting room has changed, and they have established a pretty garden where they grow, among other things, vegetables used in their culinary endeavors.  Cakebread offers several tours and tasting options, as well as cooking classes for members and multiple other events.  One of the things I appreciate about Cakebread, in addition to their delicious wines, is that they are on the more reasonable end of the tasting fee spectrum for Napa Valley.

Cakebread Cellars.

Unlike Duckhorn, at Cakebread we were greeted immediately upon entry and offered a taste of their Alexander Valley Vin de Porche rosé during our brief wait for the entirety of our tasting party.  The rosé was bright and dry and perfect for sipping outside on a hot summer day.  Within moments we were led to the garden, where JP conducted our tasting al fresco surrounded by flowers, vegetables, and vines.

On the way to the garden at Cakebread Cellars.

I sat on a smooth wooden bench enjoying this tranquil experience, lazily sipping the delicious Cakebread offerings, listening to the pleasant voice of JP as she told us about each wine she poured.  I found one of their blends very interesting; it is called Guajolote (which is Spanish for “wild turkey”) made of 40% Merlot, 30% Syrah, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 1% each Grenache and Cabernet Franc.  It was an unusual blend that I wasn’t sure about when she described it, but that I actually enjoyed very much!  At the end JP even gave us a bonus, a taste of a delicious Cabernet Sauvignon made from the fruit harvested at their Dancing Bear Ranch vineyard on Howell Mountain.  Still, it is the Pinot Noir from Cakebread Cellars that I fancy, and as such we purchased 3 different Pinot Noirs and a bottle of their Reserve Chardonnay.

Our tasting done for the day, it was time for dinner!  After a brief discussion, we selected Bouchon Bistro, a French restaurant concept from the famed Thomas Keller which proudly boasts a Michelin star.

Bouchon Bistro, Yountville.

Needless to say, everything at Bouchon was incredibly delicious.  We started our meal with oysters (amazing) and escargots (when in France…) served in the more traditional escargot dish, each morsel topped with a small puff pastry.  This we paired with a luscious Sauvignon Blanc recommended by our waiter.  Brian and I split a simple salad of greens, and for my entrée I had the most incredible trout of my life.  Tender, flakey, bursting with flavor, the fish was elegantly topped with haricot vests and toasted almonds.  Oh, it was soooooo good!  The service was equal to the quality of the meal, and the experience as a whole was immensely enjoyable.

I realize experiences like these are a bit of a splurge, but honestly it’s worth it.  What in the world is more joyous than good food with good wine and good friends?  How can you help but feel wonderful when all of your senses are replete with delight?  The smell and taste of excellent food and wine paired with the voices of friends chatting and laughing, the smiles on each other’s faces, the tactile feel of a hug or a handshake, the heat of other people nearby, the inner warm glow of love and happiness all around you.  It is divine, and yet also doesn’t need to take place at a fancy restaurant.  Those who know me know that I enjoy cooking and I love hosting – dinners, cocktail parties, etc.  It brings me so much pleasure to have people I love around me, sharing a good bottle of wine and an array of snacks and cheeses or a home cooked meal.  These experiences give me life, and thus I pursue them with great zeal.

Thus we closed Day 2 of Napa 2017, returning merrily to the Marriott, eager for what the morrow might bring.

All smiles on Day 2 of Napa 2017!



Wine Wise – Bordeaux Style

Before we get further along, you might be wondering: what, exactly, does “Bordeaux Style” or “Bordeaux Blend” actually mean?

Well, as you may have already discerned, Bordeaux is a region in France located here:


The Bordeaux region is huge: Napa is divided into 16 appellations, while in Bordeaux there are 60!  There are 6 varietals in Bordeaux that, by law, are allowable in the blends produced in the region:  Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petite Verdot, and Carmenere.  Not all 6 need to be included, but wine containing any varietal not in that list of 6 must be sold as merely as “Vin de France”.  The dominant varietal in red wine produced in Bordeaux is either Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot; Left Bank wines feature Cabernet Sauvignon as the primary grape, and Right Bank wines feature Merlot.  The remaining varietals are usually found in small amounts, contributing characteristics such as color and additional tannin structure.

In the United States, if a wine label boasts a single varietal (e.g. “Cabernet Sauvignon” or “Chardonnay”), it must contain at least 80% of that varietal.  If the wine contains only 79% Merlot, the wine maker is not allowed to market the wine as “Merlot” and must call it something else (usually “Red Wine”).  Bordeaux-style Cabernet Sauvignon, such as the Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from Silver Oak Cellars, therefore must contain at least 80% Cabernet Sauvignon.  To be considered a Bordeaux-style blend, it must contain at least 3 of those 6 Bordeaux varietals.


Napa 2017 – Day 2 – Silver Oak Cellars

“Drinking good wine with good food in good company is one of life’s most civilized pleasures.”— Michael Broadbent

We awoke on Day 2 excited for the real start of our Napa 2017 experience.  We hit the Marriott gym first, a nice space next to their spa with a good assortment of cardio equipment and strength training options.  Our muscles limber and our palates anticipating a full day of delicious wines, Brian and I met up with our friends and we set out for Silver Oak Cellars.  The Silver Oak experience was by far the best of the day, and hence deserves its own post, I think!

silver oak water tower
Silver Oak Cellars, with the iconic water tower that is featured on their label.


Silver Oak Cellars is located in Oakville, CA in the Napa Valley appellation, though they also have vineyards in Alexander Valley.  The winery derives its name from its location in Oakville and its proximity to the Silverado Trail.  It was started in 1972 by two friends, Raymond Twomey Duncan, a Colorado entrepreneur, and Justin Meyer, a wine maker and, believe it or not, former Christian brother.  The winery focuses on producing high quality Cabernet Sauvignon, and if you like Cabs, you’ve got to make a visit to Silver Oak.


We booked the Twomey and Silver Oak Experience, a private tour for our group with the opportunity to taste both Twomey and Silver Oak wines.  As a quick side note, Twomey essentially started when Ray Duncan purchased Soda Canyon Ranch Vineyard in 1999, intending to use it for expanded Cabernet Sauvignon production.  When he discovered it was planted with high quality French Merlot vines, it seemed there might be an opportunity to expand beyond Cabernet Sauvignon.  However, the Duncans were dead set on maintaining the purity of Silver Oak’s original mission: excellent cab, and only cab.  Instead of expanding the varietals offered under the Silver Oak label, they started a new company: Twomey Cellars.  Twomey now primarily produces Pinot Noir and Merlot wines.

Outside at Silver Oak, looking forward to our tour and tasting!

We pulled up to the quiet, airy estate and were greeted by Debbie, our guide.  If you go to Silver Oak, ask for Debbi – she’s knowledgeable, sassy, and a lot of fun!  We started our experience with a Twomey pinot, followed by a Twomey merlot in a room half occupied by the Duncan family private wine cellar.  I admit I wasn’t very impressed with the Twomey wines, but hey, that wasn’t what we came here for!  We soon moved on to the Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, which we took with us as we started our walk around the grounds.

Duncan Family private wine cellar.  Believe me, the picture does not do it justice – it’s actually the size of the entire tasting room, encased behind a wall of glass.

The Alexander Valley cabernet was delicious.  The 2012 vintage is 98% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Merlot.  I found it rich, bold, and velvety, with a subtle softness around the edges.  As we walked and sipped, Debbie led us through the winery and shared some history of the estate – they have certainly survived a lot of adversity!  Floods (more than one), fires (in the same year as one of the floods!), illness, etc.  At one point they actually hauled in dirt to raise the estate off the ground to avoid future flooding.  We breezed through a beautiful banquet room – you can rent the space for corporate events and such – and out onto the front lawn overlooking the vineyards.  We were then escorted into their production space, the steel fermentation tanks rising nearly to the ceiling.  Here Debbie poured us a taste of the 2012 Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.  The Napa Valley Cabernet is a true Bordeaux style blend.  The 2012 vintage is 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Petit Verdot.  It was different from the Alexander Valley Cab; definitely more “old world,” more complex, with more acidity and structure.  It was absolutely lovely.

With this new treat in our glasses, we proceeded in to one of the many barrel rooms.  Silver Oak ages its wine for just about 2 years in American oak, and the wine spends an additional 20 months or so in the bottle before it is released.  As we stood in the chilly room surrounded by the 2015 vintage, I couldn’t help but feel a little giddy knowing this wine wouldn’t even be available for another 2 years, and that it would taste differently from the wine in my glass.  That’s the beauty of blending – at places like Silver Oak, the wine is always a little different, a little new, a novel experience.

Our group and the 2015 Silver Oak vintage!

We exited the barrel room before I could start shivering, returning to the tasting room and the grandeur of the Duncan Family cellar.  Once back we had the opportunity to sample one of the library cabernets (which basically refers to one of the older vintages).  After a few more laughs with Debbie and another splash of our favorite Silver Oak wine, we headed back into the Napa sunshine and on to our next destination: Duckhorn Vineyards.

Napa 2017 – Day 1

“Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance.” — Benjamin Franklin

Well, the start of Day 1 was interesting.  What we intended to be a relaxing drive up North, complete with a collection of Audiobooks and tasty snacks, quickly devolved into a very uncomfortable experience when the air conditioning of our car suddenly ceased to exist.  How easily we take such things for granted!  Air conditioning is a luxury for which I will, from this point forward, be sincerely grateful.  Driving through the Central Valley in the 90 degree sun without air conditioning was fairly miserable, and I will admit I did not handle the situation gracefully.

Somehow Brian managed to tolerate the ensuing 6 hours of my griping and groaning, heroically patient man that he is.   When we arrived at the Napa Valley Marriott I burst free of the sweltering car and made a beeline for the air-conditioned lobby.  Heaven!  My sweating skin drank in the delicious coolness, and I was able to focus again on the joyous fact that we had arrived in Napa!  We checked in and 30 minutes later re-emerged, showered and refreshed, to head into the late Napa afternoon.  It was time for some wine!

napa valley marriott
Napa Valley Marriott Hotel and Spa, our home for the week!

We met my friend John and his significant other, Patrick, at the John Anthony Vineyards tasting lounge in downtown Napa.  John and I worked together first during a research elective my senior year at Harvard College, then at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute after I graduated, and then at iPierian, a start-up biotech company, in San Francisco.  He started as a mentor and quickly became one of my most valued friends.  Ours is a friendship going back 10 years with multiple stories and escapades.  I hadn’t seen John in three years, and I was glad for the opportunity to enjoy his company again.  We breezed in to the chic lounge, hugs were exchanged and introductions made, and we embarked on the first of many fabulous tasting experiences of the week.

John Anthony Vineyards is owned and operated by the husband and wife partnership of John and Michele Truchard.  Unlike most wineries, located on a single estate, John Anthony Vineyards is made up of several small vineyards scattered throughout the southern part of the valley, including the Carneros and Oak Knoll appellations.  Each vineyard location was chosen for its soil and microclimate, and the harvests are pooled to craft their wines.  I have to say, this strategy is working well for the couple – the wines we tasted in this pleasant lounge were excellent.  The tasting room is situated in a perfect location, walking distance from the plethora of downtown Napa restaurants.  The feel of the lounge is relaxed sophistication, very much my preference for social gathering places.  I loved the simple pleasure of enjoying good wine with good friends in this graceful space, and I will most certainly be back on future Napa expeditions.

john anthony outside
John Anthony Vineyards tasting lounge, downtown Napa.

After our tasting we headed to Angele for dinner.  Angele is a little French restaurant located on the river in downtown Napa, right next to the Napa River Inn.  The restaurant is a converted boathouse with a pleasant patio and river views.  They call themselves “French country,” and that is a good description of the atmosphere here.

We started off with oysters and escargots, served not in the usual escargot dish or in the shell, but in a puff pastry with a delectable garlic butter sauce.  Delicious!  We also sampled their fried deviled eggs, something I would normally shy away from, but that I had to admit were tasty.  I had the tuna nicoise salad, the lighter fare exactly what I wanted on this pleasant evening.  Brian had their roasted pork chop (I personally don’t eat mammals, though fish, poultry, and yes, snails are fair game) which he described as expertly done.  We paired it all with a lovely pinot noir of John’s selection.  The staff was personable and attentive, the service excellent.

The evening was a delightful way to kick off our vacation, and we went back to our hotel excited for the week to come.



Napa 2017

“Beer is made by men, wine by God.” ― Martin Luther

Something you should know about me, especially as I build on this little blogging project, is that I love wine.  I one hundred percent hate beer, and while I will occasionally enjoy a Manhattan with good Kentucky bourbon, I rarely drink anything else.  Good wine is a luxury to be appreciated and shared, and it is a fascinating topic of study.  When my husband and I went on our honeymoon 3 years ago, we went to Napa…and we loved it so much that it has become one of our favorite places to visit.  Napa, and its nearby sister Sonoma, together have become a mecca for excellent wine, excellent food, and serene beauty.  There’s also horseback riding, hot air balloon rides, hiking, biking, and plenty of places to swim and workout (a necessity for yours truly!)

the castle 2014
At Castello di Amorosa on our honeymoon in 2014.  Aren’t we cute?

We returned to Napa for the second time last year during an epic Tour de California road trip with my parents, and we decided to go back again this year for our anniversary.  Someday, when we have finished the phase of life called “Residency” and have graduated to “Attending” status (with subsequent Attending salaries), we plan to visit France and Tuscany and other famous wine regions of the world…however, one of the major benefits of living in California is the fact that we have this incredible wine region in our own backyard.  There is so much fabulousness to be had in Napa and Sonoma that I suspect we will never tire of visiting.

Stay tuned for more on our Napa 2017 trip, complete with reviews of wineries and restaurants!


Casual Fitness

I hate elevators.  I truly hate elevators.  And not just because of the feeling of claustrophobia (which I get), or the awkwardness of standing around squashed against strangers (which I feel), or the infuriating inefficiency of standing and waiting around for vertical transport (which my meager attention span can’t seem to tolerate).

These considerations, while significant, pale in comparison my observation that we as a society seem to have forgotten that the majority of us have perfectly functioning lower extremities perfectly capable of carrying us up and down a few flights of stairs.  It boggles my mind when I see people use an elevator to go down a single flight.  I mean, really?!

Now, don’t get me wrong, elevators do serve a noble purpose.  There are those among us with disabilities, injuries, or other conditions preventing the usage of stairs.  In this regard elevators have served to provide equal transport within a building.  As someone who has moved into dorm rooms on the 5th floor of buildings without elevators, the existence of an elevator to move heavy or bulky objects is a blessing.  In my hospital, elevators allow us to move patients to the places they must go to receive care.  These are just a few examples of appropriate elevator operation.

For routine use, though?

Obesity is a scourge in this country, and it has been getting alarmingly worse over the past 20 years.  Obesity rates exceed 25% of the population in most states and is associated with a myriad of health problems.  1 in 4 women who become pregnant are obese, which not only increases the risk of preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, stillbirth, and congenital anomalies, it also makes cesarean deliveries and postpartum recovery more complicated.  Even a lot of adults who are not obese are deconditioned from sedentary lifestyles and white collar jobs that require mental, as opposed to physical, exertion.

obesity 1990
United States obesity map in 1990.  Not too bad, really.

Obesity is a complex, multifactorial problem.  However, a major contributor is that most of us Americans have become complacent.  We spend 10 minutes driving around a parking lot to find the closest possible parking space instead of just parking in back and walking.  We take an elevator to go up 3 flights instead of taking the stairs.  We have technology that makes our daily lives easier and more efficient (I love my Roomba), but also provides us more time to sit around.  The American Diabetes Association recommends 10,000 steps a day just to help maintain weight (as opposed to losing weight), and most people fall dramatically short of this goal.  Our cars, technology, and yes, elevators, are not helping.

obesity us
United States obesity map in 2015 with trends by state to the right.  Note the complete absence of blue or green states.  Even in traditionally “fit” states, such as California and Colorado, 1 in 5 people are obese!  This is seriously scary!

Good health is golden. Good health is something to hold sacred, that you can feel grateful for even at those times when the rest of your life seems to be falling apart.  No matter how bad things get, at least you aren’t taking 20 medications to manage all your medical problems.  At least you don’t have to stick yourself multiple times a day to test your blood sugar and give insulin injections.  At least, if you live at the clinic, it’s because you are providing care, and not because you need to see multiple doctors a month for all of your medical conditions.  At least you don’t have to devote a chunk of your income to prescriptions and copays.  In a high stress world, at least you don’t have to be stressed about your health.

Have I made my point?

To live a fabulous life you have to have the health and vitality to really live.  Maintaining good health is a necessity to maintaining balance, and maintaining good health is something in this crazy world of ours that you can actually have some control over.  Part of maintaining good health is keeping your body fit.  Vanity aside, staying fit keeps your heart strong, your muscles lean, your bones free of osteoporosis, and even keeps your mind sharp.  Good fitness ensures you can continue to enjoy the things you love well into your later years.  Who cares if you are 70 if you have the fitness of a 50-year-old?

mom and dad at wedding
My parents.  Aren’t they gorgeous?  Dad is 70 and still runs marathons.  Mom is 67 and swims 3-4 days a week.  Totally healthy, pretty much zero medications, and they look younger than most couples in their 50s.  They are fit and happy and living life fabulously!

Finding time to workout, though, can be tough.  When I work 16 hour days and 90 hour weeks, the last thing I want to do is go to the gym.  I’m sure many of you can relate!  So how to prioritize fitness and maintain balance when the time and energy just frankly doesn’t exist?  Enter what I like to call “casual fitness.”  What I mean by this is figuring out how to build small snippets of exercise into your day.  Here are some examples:

  1. Get a FitBit or some other sort of fitness tracker and set goals for yourself, at a minimum 10,000 steps a day.  Then see how you do.  Having a goal and keeping track will help motivate you to walk more!  These devices keep track in real time, so if it’s 3pm and you’ve only got 2000 steps, then you know you’ve got some work to do before midnight!
  2. Pretend elevators do not exist.  Take the stairs 100% of the time (okay, unless you are going to the 100th floor of a sky scraper or something…though if you’re feeling it, go for it!)  As someone who hates elevators and has a lot of experience taking the stairs, I promise you will not be a sweaty mess in your nice suit after walking up to the 3rd floor.
  3. Stop circling the parking lot at a grocery store or restaurant, stalking the space in front.  Just go to the back, park, and walk.  Even if you are in heels – you know you’ve walked farther in heels before!
  4. Take periodic 5 minute walks throughout the day.  Short of someone coding, imminently delivering, or whatever similar emergency exists in your line of work, there is nothing that can’t wait 5 minutes for you to get up and stretch your legs from time to time.  Get away, clear your head, get some steps in.  By the time you get back you will feel better and likely be more efficient!
  5. No matter how tired your are or how gross you feel, you can always walk.  Take a 15 minute walk after dinner every night (or longer).  Bring your family with you and make it some time to be together without the distraction of technology.
  6. If you live close to your grocery store or place of work, consider walking.  Biking is a good option as well, just be careful of distracted drivers who are texting and not necessarily looking out for you.

You would be surprised how much activity just these small changes can add to your day.  You may not be devoting an hour to a formal exercise regime, but you will be incorporating casual fitness on a regular basis.  I predict in a few weeks you will notice a difference.  So join me in eschewing the elevator in the name of casual fitness and better health!  I’ll see you on the stairs.

What ideas do you have about how to incorporate casual fitness into your day?  I would love to hear your thoughts! 

Tasting in Temecula

There are some definite advantages to living in the Inland Empire, and not just lower cost of living and better traffic.  While nothing is really close, there are quite a few fun places that are not far.  Las Vegas is a 3 hour drive.  La Jolla and Santa Monica are both about 1.5-2 hours, depending on traffic.  Big Bear Lake, with its summer hiking and winter skiing, is about 1 hour away.  Joshua Tree National Park and Palm Springs are both also roughly an hour.

joshua tree
Hiking in Joshua Tree National Park

Possibly one of my favorite nearby Southern California destinations is Temecula, a sun-soaked valley sometimes called “the jewel of Riverside County.”  About a 40 minute drive from our apartment, Temecula has established itself as a wine growing region in its own right.  It features beautiful estates and eclectic tasting rooms, and while it isn’t Napa, the wines are tasty and often surprising.

Many familiar varietals, such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Noir don’t do well in the Temecula heat.  Instead, varietals such as Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenach, and Cabernet Sauvignon thrive in the region.  I love coming to Temecula to taste something new, different, and fresh.  There are also a number of events that happen around here, such as hot air balloon festivals, running races, and concerts at the wineries.  Temecula Wine Country is a fun wine tasting experience to do as a couple, with friends, or as part of a special occasion.  It’s also not a bad place to get married!

Temecula Wine Country Hot Air Balloon

Tasting in Temecula is a little different from wine tasting in Napa, where you are given a pre-selected tasting of 3-6 wines, depending on the estate (at some estates, such as the exclusive Opus One, you in fact taste 2 wines).  Temecula wineries give you “tasting tickets,” typically good for 6 tastes, and a menu of several white, rose, and red options produced by the winery.  You essentially get to design your own tasting – though I still recommend trying any whites you are interested in before moving on to the reds.

On our most recent trip to Temecula we visited Fazeli Wine Cellars, Lorimar Vineyards and Winery, and Callaway Winery. While I was a little disappointed with Lorimar, Fazeli and Callaway were awesome!

Fazeli Wine Cellars is a fabulous estate located on the De Portola Wine Trail.  The owner, Bizhan “BJ” Fazeli, is descended from Persian ancestry, which is reflected in the ambiance, the names of the wines, and in the excellent restaurant located on the estate (Baba Joon’s Kitchen).  All of the wines I tasted were good, but my favorite included a varietal I had never even heard of before.  It was a red blend called “Mayhem,” made of 71% Cinsaut and 29% Mourvedre.  I learned that Cinsaut is well matched with the growing conditions in the Temecula Valley, as it thrives in hot weather.  Used most often as a blending grape, Cinsaut has low tannin and low acidity, which makes it an ideal varietal for rosé production.  As a result of featuring Cinsaut in this blend, Mayhem is a lighter red with a delightfully peppery finish delivered by the addition of Mouvedre.  I normally think of a crisp white Sauvignon Blanc as my wine of choice for sitting outside on a hot summer day, but this could definitely be enjoyed in a similar manner.  I would recommend a visit to Fazeli as part of your next Temecula tasting experience.

The Fazeli Wine Cellars Estate

Callaway Winery is worth a visit just for the views.  Okay, and they have tasty wine, too!  It is nestled on a hill overlooking the vineyards with an airy tasting room and a beautiful patio with tables, chairs, and couches.  You can wander outside and lounge in the sun (or the shade, if it’s too hot) and sip your wine as you gaze out across the rows of vines.  It is a relaxing, lovely, timeless experience.

road view callaway
View of Callaway Winery, nestled at the top of the hill.


Callaway currently grows many varietals on the estate grounds, including Viognier, Syrah, Zinfandel, Sangiovese, Grenache, Roussanne, Petite Sirah, and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Their tasting list is expansive – I didn’t realize until halfway through the experience that I could turn the page of their menu for even more options! – and even includes a few port options (yum!).  I didn’t taste anything that I didn’t like, but my favorite was their Wild Yeast Syrah.  Now, I should disclose that I love Syrah.  A good Syrah goes with pretty much anything, from chicken to steak and even fish like salmon.  It’s also wonderful by itself or with nearly any cheese.  Syrah and Syrah blends are good right out of the bottle, but they age beautifully and the flavor profile deepens over time.  Syrah wines are rich and complex and darn it, delicious!  What’s not to love?  So yes, I do realize that I am biased.  Regardless, the Wild Yeast Syrah from Callaway had everything I love in a Syrah, and the flavors changed on my palate from start to finish of each sip.   Every now and then in Temecula you stumble across something like this which makes you go “wow!”

Enjoying our Callaway wine outside.

If you live in Southern California and haven’t checked out Temecula Valley Wine Country yet, I highly recommend a visit.  Check out Groupon before you go, as many of the wineries offer tasting deals and discounts on winery estate tours.  I find that visiting 3 wineries in one day is reasonable – after that it’s easy to become overwhelmed, if not completely sloshed.  As always, be safe!  There are companies that offer transportation around Wine Country, and you can always use the spittoons to help ensure safe vehicle operation capacity (it’s okay to not finish every pour…especially if you do not enjoy that particular wine!)

For comprehensive information on all that Temecula has to offer, check out the Temecula Wine Grower’s website!