Appellation Trail wrap-up

We decided to do the Appellation Trail for a few reasons. We love wine, it was an excuse for us to go to places we’d never been, and we figured it would be inexpensive and give us an opportunity to see lots of our friends. So how’d that work out for us?

Loving Wine

I can’t speak for Mike, but I love wine more than ever. I feel like my palate has become much more educated than it was when I began this journey. I also am much more aware now of how much I have to learn than I was when I began this project.

Sadly, my adjectives did not grow nearly as much as my palate did, and I feel that my wine assessments in this blog suffered as a result. I found myself using the same words over and over again and was frustrated by my limited ability to describe what I was tasting.

I’d like to get the wine aroma wheel sometime this year and see if it helps me develop the nuance and range of adjectives that would make me better at describing what I smell and taste.

When we began this journey, we thought nothing of visiting six or more wineries in a day. Over the course of the year, we learned to identify exactly when we hit palate fatigue, and we learned we were hitting it faster than we’d originally thought. If we’d taken the same number of trips but hadn’t taken notes during the tastings, I’m not sure we would have realized how fast our taste buds became numb.

[Okay, I’ll speak for myself: What she said. -Mike]

Visiting New Places

I can safely say that we would very likely never have gone to Lompoc or Placerville had it not been for this project. Now that we’ve been, we absolutely want to go back. We were also scared of Napa, but our experience there also made us wish to return. Heck, we wouldn’t have discovered that San Benito had great wine if it wasn’t for this project!

This project got us out of our Monterey wine cocoon to see a wider world of wine. I can tell you flat out that Monterey wine is awesome, but seeing what else lay out there really gave us new appreciation for what we have right here.

[Couldn’t have said it better myself. -Mike]

Inexpensive? No, but it could have been cheaper.

One of the things we got a new appreciation for is just how budget-friendly the wine-tasting experience in Monterey is. Here, a tasting that costs more than $5 is surprising, and more than $10 is flat-out shocking. As we learned, much of the rest of the wine-tasting world is in the $10 to $25 range.

Add on to that the cost of eating out and staying overnight, not to mention the cost of buying just a fraction of all the fabulous wines tasted, and this wound up being a significantly pricier experience than we’d originally estimated. Upon reflection, however, I’ve realized we could have done it more cheaply.

Tactical wine tasting = cheaper project

Our personal goal was to explore appellations in as many different areas as possible. When we could, we’d also tack wine tasting on to trips we were already taking. In the end, we hoped to rack up AVAs from all over the United States.

Unfortunately, some changes in our lives affected these plans. I took on many more responsibilities at work. In this relationship, I’m the trip planner; the added work responsibilities left me far less time to plan and made it more difficult for me to get away on weekends. I also traveled a lot more for work, and some of those trips left me traveling back home on weekends.

Due to limited time and limited budget, the majority of our tastings were in California. We’d planned to hit Texas, Long Island, Oregon and North Carolina, but for a variety of reasons either the trips or the wine tasting portion of the trips never happened. While those would all have been great experiences, Oregon is the only location on that list with enough AVA density to make an efficient Appellation Trail trip.

The Efficient Appellation Trail

If we’d done this project the efficient way, rather than the exploratory way, we could have done it in only four trips.

  • Napa (17 AVAs as of December, plus adjacent to and serving wine from Yolo County)
  • Sonoma (13 AVAs)
  • Southeast Washington (8 AVAs)
  • Lodi (7 AVAs, plus adjacent to and serving wine from El Dorado and Amador)

By strategically selecting our wineries in each location for the broadest range of AVAs, we could have easily racked up 40 AVAs with these four trips. If we had not excluded Monterey County (9 AVAs) from the project, we could have done it with only three trips.

[But efficiency wasn’t really the point, getting to many different places was. So we win! -Mike]

Friends? Not as often as we would have liked.

As I mentioned above, our trips became less thoroughly planned as the year went on. Our next-to-last wine tasting trip, to Placerville, was planned about 24 hours ahead of time. Unfortunately, it’s tough to invite friends along to a last-minute trip like that. In addition,  because I was so focused on other things, I didn’t have it in me to plan the logistics for other people as well as ourselves.

And here again I have to give a shout-out to Shawn for having planned out the Woodinville wine trip. [Edit: And to Mary and Luke, who really led us on our Sonoma trip!] The opportunity to go on a wine trip that someone else had planned was absolutely the best holiday gift I could have gotten.

[Yay Shawn! -Mike]

Are you guys doing the Appellation Trail again in 2012?

We’re not visiting 40 more wine appellations in 2012 – but that doesn’t mean the Appellation Trail is over!

We aren’t going to set a number of AVAs to visit, but we are going to write about our future wine tasting experiences in this blog and continue to track the new AVAs that we experience. There’s over 100 AVAs in California alone, so we’ve got many more to go just in this state! With so many new AVAs cropping up all the time (too many? Well, that’s another post), we’ll never run out.

[I’ll make sure to keep a wine tote in my car. -Mike]