In Corning, it’s the Gaffer District

Gaffer District in Corning

Corning Gaffer District

Clock Tower in the Gaffer District – a city landmark

We just came back from the Wine Bloggers Conference held in Corning, NY.  We were very impressed by this small, quaint town and would love to return some day. It’s the perfect place to stay if you want to explore the beautiful Finger Lakes.  As part of the conference, we were driven to wineries on 3 lakes: Keuka, Seneca and Cayuga. All were about an hour’s drive from Corning. More about the Finger Lake Wine Country.

We stayed at the Radisson Hotel in Corning, which is ideally located if you want to walk to the main shops, restaurants and museums in the town. The main street in Corning is Market Street and is about 6 blocks long. The area is called the Gaffer District in honor of the highly-skilled glass-blowing artisans who create unique glass pieces in all sizes, shapes and colors.

Corning has a very small-town feel to it.  Almost every shop on Market Street is independently owned and operated. The shop owners and staff are very friendly and helpful.  In fact, most people we passed on the street stopped to say “Hello” and ask how we were doing.  Many of the locals congregate around the clock tower in the plaza.  We saw many families sitting and having a meal or ice cream and taking the opportunity to enjoy one another.  Kids were taking turns jumping up on to a stage and giving impromptu performances.  One night a guitarist was playing for an attentive crowd.

We didn’t have much free time but stopped for a drink at Tony R’s Restaurant and then had dinner at The Cellar, a wine and martini bar with delicious tapas on their menu. We had breakfast at Sorge’s Restaurant, a family-owned Italian Restaurant operating since 1951.

We took a quick walk along Corning’s Market Street and these are the shops that caught our attention:

  • Bottles and Corks –  a great selection of local wines
  • Donna’s – small diner that takes only cash
  • Gaffer Grill and Tap Room – an American Steakhouse
  • Market Street Brewing Company and Restaurant – Corning’s only Brew Pub
  • Old World Café & Ice Cream – also serves homemade soups and sandwiches
  • Poppleton’s – homemade desserts, breakfast and lunch
  • Stained Glass Works – stained glass lamps and window.  Classes are taught there
  • Steuben Design Company  – an interior design studio offering workshops
  • The Glass Menagerie – a glass retail shop featuring local and regional artists
  • The Source – homemade chocolates and gift baskets
  • Three Birds Restaurant – progressive American fare with a Martini Bar
  • Vitrix Hot Glass Studio – distinctive contemporary gifts
  • Wegmans – large market with café and bakery.  Also has a pharmacy
  • Wine and Design – an art workshop with lessons that include a glass of local wines

You can find a Gaffer Tour of the historic buildings on Corning’s Gaffer District Website.

There are two Corning museums not to be missed

The Rockwell Museum includes American Bronzes, Landscapes and Pottery. The Corning Museum of Glass has 35 centuries of glass art, history and technology as well as glass blowing demonstrations.  You can even make your own glass souvenir in a 40-minute class. The summer weather during our stay was very comfortable. I imagine the winter months can be very harsh.  Corning is truly a town that has something for everyone!

The Gaffer District Movie

Wine Country Art by Elizabeth Bollwitt

We thought Elizabeth’s paintings were so beautiful and interesting that we asked her to write a guest blog.  What initially caught our attention were her wine-related works. Be sure to check out her website for these and other paintings. We hope to see more of them in wine country art galleries.


Hello, my name is Elizabeth Bollwitt. I am a self-taught artist who paints with a very organized brush stroke giving my work a flowing almost liquid effect. The viewer can then step back and abstract from the work a bit and yet the scene is intact. The paintings are completely done with colored dots. Some know this as pointillism, which is consider a science of sorts that deals with the theory of color and exact placement of that color. Respectfully, when compared to this science . . . I just blob it on there.

By layering the primary and secondary colored dots, the scenes make for some of the most vibrant colors visible to the human eye. Loving the challenge of making something out of nothing is what makes hours seem like minutes.  I like to hustle to the chair, sit down and do the work.  Inspiration, I would never get anything done if I had to wait for or romance Inspiration first. When someone says, you know what, I think that, how about this, have you ever tried, when will you… I write it all down and diligently work through a long list of words and ideas that I have compiled. That is the foot print for all my artwork.

I was raised and currently reside in eastern Iowa near the Mississippi River. I have a BA in computer graphics with a background in publishing and marketing. My life centers around my kids, family, business and painting. I also enjoy carving, photography, canoeing, tennis, target practicing, traveling and taking the Harley out for a ride.

The painting shown above is PROST (German for Cheers). The painting PROST, can be viewed at V. Sattui Winery in St. Helena, CA., a family-owned winery established in 1885. The two paintings below are Sunset Flower and Shutters. To view, more please visit:



Freemark Abbey Napa Valley

freemark abbey

About Freemark Abbey

Freemark Abbey is one of the most stunning wineries in California wine country. The historic stone buildings date back to the late 1800′s. As we recently drove into the parking lot of the winery, we were shocked to see a construction crew appearing to begin demolishing one of the buildings. Thankfully, once in the tasting room, we found out that the buildings were being retrofitted and added on to as part of a huge 5-year remodeling and expansion. The beautiful stone facade will remain on the existing structures. The hand-hewn stone had originally been transported from nearby Glass Mountain by horse and oxen.

The ambitious expansion will include 2 restaurants, a remodeled kitchen to prepare appetizers for wine pairings, and a boutique hotel to house visitors and guests for potential weddings on the property.

Freemark Abbey has a very interesting history. According to the information we were given at the winery, Josephine and John Tychson purchased the property in 1881 to pursue their dream of making wine. Following John’s untimely death, Josephine became the first woman to own and operate a winery in the Valley. In 1886, Josephine began constructing a small redwood winery and hired Nils Larsen as her foreman. Together they produced wine for 8 years, and in 1894 Josephine sold the winery to Larsen. Larsen leased the winery to Antonio Forni who began construction on a new stone building.

Because of Prohibition, the winery was closed for 20 years. Despite its name, the winery has never been used as an Abbey. It was purchased by 3 men from Southern California in 1939 and the name is a combination of their names.

Freemark Abbey is now owned by the Jackson Family and the winemaker is award-winning Ted Edwards. The winery has one of the most extensive library collections in the Valley and guests can enjoy a memorable tasting of these called “Decades.”

Other tastings offered are:

  • Classic Tasting $20
  • Cabernet Comparative Tasting $30
  • Wine and Cheese Pairing $25
  • Chocolate Truffle Pairing $30

The winery is located north of the town of St. Helena at 3022 St. Helena Highway (Hwy. 29). To schedule a tasting, call 800-963-9698. You won’t be disappointed!

Murder in the Willamette Valley

Unholy Alliance by Judy Nedry


I was sent a copy of Judy Nedry’s “An Unholy Alliance” and got hooked on it after only a few pages. It’s a fast-paced mystery set in the beautiful wine country of the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Joe and I had a great tour of this wine country when we attended the Wine Bloggers Conference in Portland a couple of years ago. On a pre-conference tour, and then again as part of the Conference, we were driven to many of the wineries in the area and were able to taste their delicious Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris wines. We were impressed with the countryside, the wineries, the winemakers and the owners who we met. Reading this book brought me back to those visits and reminded me why I’d like to return.

In “An Unholy Alliance,” Emma Golden, divorced and in her mid-fifties, lives in Portland and is hired to write a book about the Oregon wineries. Emma, a recovering alcoholic, once lived in the wine country with her then-husband, Dwight McCourt.

Emma’s friend Melody calls her and asks her to look after their wine country BnB, the Westerly Inn, while Melody and her husband go on a much-needed vacation. Emma is reluctant to return to the area, but finally agrees to do so.

Once at the Inn, Emma begins her part-time duties as Innkeeper, while taking the opportunity to visit with as many winery owners and winemakers as possible to get material for her book. One of the first people she runs into is her ex-husband, Dwight McCourt. Dwight has expanded the winery that he and Emma had started together. They begin talking about the “ruthless and dishonest” Ted Maxell, an outsider who brought in big money to establish his winery, Cougar Crossing. No one seems to like Maxell, but it’s a shock when he’s murdered at his own dinner party. Emma was a guest at the party and together with another guest, Rob the reporter, she begins her quest to figure out who murdered Maxell. Emma has a very curious nature and also compares notes with Angel, a member of the staff at the Westerly, whose daughter is engaged to Maxell’s son.

Judy Nedry’s second book in this mystery series, “The Difficult Sister,” is set in a town near the Coast in Southern Oregon. This book isn’t about the wine country, but the town isn’t too far from the many Southern Oregon wineries we visited on our drive up to the Wine Bloggers Conference.

To learn more about this mystery series and read an excerpt from “An Unholy Alliance,” visit You can also read the author’s blogs and purchase a book if you like. There is a third book in the works, and I look forward to reading it and seeing what other danger Emma can get herself into.

Garré wins at Taste Our Terroir

Garre winery

Garré’s Charlie Smith and Mona Canen with blogger Janelle at Taste Our Terroir

About Garré Vineyards & Winery

At Friday night’s “Taste our Terroir” at Casa Real in Livermore, we were able to taste many of Livermore’s best wines paired with appetizers from local restaurants. The wines we tasted were all delicious and the food excellent. Among the 700 people attending the event, my cousin Mona was pouring the 2010 Profound Secret from Garré Vineyards. We thought the wine was very good and went by the winery the next day to taste more of their wines. Profound Secret is the name of one of the owner’s thoroughbred race horses, and the colorful label on this bottle is a painting of a racehorse by Robert A. Anderson.

We were delighted that the award for Judges’ Best Pairing went to Garré Vineyard & Winery and Garré Cafe. The appetizer they served was a tomato and olive braised beef short rib with whipped potatoes and panko crust, prepared by chef Robert Sapirman.

The other awards for the evening included:

*Best Classic Pairing: Vasco Urbano Wine Company and Zephyr Grill & Bar
*Most Innovative Pairing: Cuda Ridge Wines and Posada
*Best White Wine Pairing: Longevity Wines and 1300 on Fillmore
*Best Red Wine Pairing: Wood Family Vineyards and First Street Alehouse

Casa Real event center is at Ruby Hill Winery and is a lovely setting for weddings and other such events. We look forward to returning to Taste Our Terroir next year.

profound secret

Profound Secret – Bordeaux Blend

Santa Barbara Fisherwoman Stephanie Mutz

At the recent Wine Bloggers Conference in the Santa Barbara Wine Country, a small group of bloggers enjoyed a wonderful visit to the Bridlewood Estate Winery in the Santa Ynez AVA.  The entrance to the winery is impressive, with its Spanish Mission style of architecture.  Our Apple Basket lunch of local sandwiches and salads was served overlooking Bridlewood Lake and was complemented by delicious Bridlewood wines.

Bridlewood winery

Bell Tower at Bridlewood Estate Winery in Santa Barbara wine country

Following the lunch, we had a very informative seminar in the Bridlewood cellar.  Rather than the usual panel of winery owners and winemakers, this panel included:

  • Richard Martin (Moderator), editorial director of Food Republic
  • Mark Williams, Winemaker for Bridlewood Estate Winery
  • Jeff Olsson, chef and proprietor of New West Catering and Industrial Eats Restaurant
  • Jake O’Francis, Pig farmer
  • Christopher and Johanna Finley, farmers for Finley Organic Farms
  • Stephanie Mutz, Santa Barbara Fisherwoman
fisher woman stpehanie

Photo of Stephanie Mutz by Fran Collin,

Most interesting to me was the inclusion of Stephanie, a sea urchin fisherwoman. As Stephanie’s website states, she’s been fishing in the Santa Barbara area for 7 years and strives to make fresh, sustainable seafood available to the local population.

Stephanie got her undergraduate degree at UC Santa Barbara and then went on to Graduate School in Australia.  Her goal at the time was to become a Community College professor in her field of Marine Biology. While she was writing her Graduate School dissertation, she worked on urchin boats.  After a part-time teaching job ended, she decided to concentrate on fishing full time.

Being that most of the people Stephanie fishes with are male, she feels fortunate that they are accepting of her and very helpful when necessary. She usually goes out on her boat alone, unless the weather is bad or she needs extra help getting what she needs for the market.  In some cases, she joins other fishermen on their boats for fishing or diving.  Stephanie fishes for sea urchins and snails and regularly delivers her catch to local chefs when the weather and the catch are good. There seems to be a fad for sea urchin delicacies in Southern California and that demand is keeping Stephanie very busy these days. She also works closely with Jeff Olsson and his Industrial Eats Restaurant.  Stephanie does not always know what her daily catch will be and often she will bring Jeff in something different than he asked for.  She praises Jeff for being adaptable and creative in making the best of Stephanie’s haul.

After a day at sea, Stephanie unwinds by sitting in her meadow at home with a glass of wine to recap the day with her boyfriend, also a fisherman.  They discuss ways to become more efficient and productive at doing what they love to do.  She does her best to promote what the industry is all about to the entire community. She thinks its important to encourage people to have a balanced lifestyle, which includes eating local foods.

For recipes and information on how to find Stephanie’s catch, consult her website:

sea urchin delicacies

Appetizers prepared by Chef Jeff Olsson. On the right is sea urchin on avocado

Daou Vineyards in Paso Robles

Daou vineyards

The view from Daou Vineyards and Winery in Paso Robles

About Daou Vineyards in Paso Robles

This is one of the latest wineries in Paso Robles (2007) and perhaps the winery with the most breathtaking views. Imagine yourself sitting on these chairs with a glass of wine pondering life. This is about as gorgeous as it gets in any wine country. The winery is situated on the west side of Highway 101 in Paso Robles. It sits at an elevation of 2000 feet. It may be hot in Paso Robles during the growing season, but this hilltop site is cooled by the breezes coming from the Pacific Ocean through the Templeton Gap. The soil here is all calcareous, and the Daou folks believe this is the ideal terroir for producing Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varietals. Although the emphasis is on Bordeaux style wines they also produce some lovely Rhone style white wines, namely Viognier and Grenache Blanc. The winery is owned by Georges and Daniel Daou, two brothers who were successful business entrepeneurs in the medical industry. Daniel Daou is also the winemaker. The vineyards are Sip Certified, meaning sustainable farming is in practice throughout the estate. The tasting room is beautiful, and visitors are welcome to Daou Vineayrds in Paso Robles daily from 11am-5pm. The current tasting fee is $20, but waived with a purchase of wine. There are also food pairings available. Check the Daou Vineyards website for complete visiting details and other details about the winery.

More about the Paso Robles wine country

The Hitching Post in Santa Barbara wine country

Hitching post in Buelton

To culminate our wonderful weekend in the Santa Barbara wine country following the recent Wine Bloggers Conference, we didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to have dinner at the Hitching Post in Buellton. We’d last eaten there shortly before the restaurant was featured in the 2004 movie, “Sideways.” As in the movie, when Miles and Jack meet Maya and Stephanie, it’s obvious that the Hitching Post is a popular spot for locals and tourists.

Reading the information on the menu, we found that Frank and Natalie Ostini opened the restaurant in 1986 to bring Santa Maria style Barbecue to Buellton. Today their children continue the tradition of combining old and new, and boast of serving the best French Fries in Southern California. The staff is very courteous and friendly, which is always a plus.

When we visited on this Sunday night, the restaurant was packed with families, couples and a few singles. The menu features a good assortment of appetizers, BBQ meats, fresh salads and yummy desserts. Most of the wines, by the glass or bottle, are from the many great wineries in the Santa Barbara wine country. The restaurant also serves wines from their own winery that focuses on Pinot Noir.


If you want to explore the Santa Barbara wine country and the “Sideways” wine trail, be sure you stop by the Hitching Post. You won’t be disappointed.

Wine Bottle Art

Diane Selmi – Wine Bottle Art

If you’re looking for a special gift for one of your wine lover friends, an original wine bottle art painting by Diane Selmi might just be the perfect choice.

Diane started painting unique wine bottles 10 years ago when she retired after a long career as a travel agent. She saw a picture of bottles in a magazine and was taken by the explosion of colors and reflection. She had just added a small studio to her house and was starting to paint other subjects, when she put everything aside and began composing wine bottles. She enthusiastically experimented with shapes, placement, light and color.

wine bottles as art


Each label is chosen very carefully and is a painting in itself. Diane began giving her paintings as gifts, and as they were seen by others, she started to get requests for commissions. The idea of personalizing the labels came to her very early on. Diane has included the names of family members, pets, boats, favorite places, as well as favorite wine bottles in the compositions.

It’s hard to believe that Diane has had no formal training in painting, but she says she recognizes a future painting when she sees a subject that has the light and color she loves. She has sold many of her paintings and has made notecards to sell or give as gifts.

wine bottle art


Diane paints with acrylic and has painted on canvasses 24X24 to 48X60. The paintings are unframed and prices range from $500 to $2500. She does not currently have a website but can be reached on Facebook or by emailing:

Kosher Wines – Celler de Capcanes

Of all the wonderful wineries we visited in October on our European Wine Bloggers Pre-Conference trip to the Priorat and Montsant wine regions in Spain, one of the most interesting to me was Celler de Capcanes. What is unique about this winery is that they produce 3 Kosher wines: Peraj Ha’abib, Flor del Flor de Primavera and Peraj petita. Even though Kosher wines account for only 2% of Capcanes’ production, these wines are highly sought after.

image of kosher wine

One of three kosher wines produced at Capcanes

Kosher wine production inside the gate

Kosher wine production inside the gate

Not being Jewish, I knew almost nothing about Kosher wines. I was fascinated to learn of the many restrictions placed on the making and handling of wine to comply with Jewish Law. All aspects of the production and handling of Kosher wine before and after the bottle has been opened must be done by Jewish hands. Even by just looking at a wine, a non Jew can contaminate it. For that reason, the Kosher cellars at Capcanes are closed to visitors.

Capcanes has a long history dating back to the Middle Ages. Over the years, many people left the area for bigger cities following the devastation to vineyards from Phyloxera and the advent of industrialization. In 1933, five families from the village established a co-operative so they’d be able to survive as farmers and be able to efficiently sell their grapes. A big change came in 1995 when the Jewish community of Barcelona, 100 miles away, asked Capcanes to produce a Kosher wine. That required new equipment to be installed. From the popularity of these Kosher wines, Capcanes attracted investors and much of the winery was remodeled and modernized. The other 98% of Capcanes’ wines now enjoy a distinctive reputation around the world.

Our tour and tasting was led by Jurgen Wagner. He is the co-winemaker and the director of operations at Capcanes. In the photo below he is pictured with an assistant currently interning at Capcanes in production of Kosher wines.

Jurgen Wagner with intern

Jurgen Wagner with intern

On a side note, one of the wines produced at Capcanes is a wine that we have purchased locally at K&L Wines. It is produced specifically for the U.S. market and imported by Eric Solomon. The wine is Mas Donis Barrica and the current vintage is 2009. It is a highly acclaimed wine and value priced at $11.99. It is delicious and is a great choice for your Thanksgiving dinner. You can read Joe’s review of the Mas Donis at Wine Values and Bargains.

For more information on the wines of Capcanes, visit their website at: