The Wine & Soul Dress Rehearsal

I have read all of Shakespeare’s plays – even the disputed ones. As you can imagine, I am a fan of theatre – all that strutting and fretting on an actual stage.

On Monday, May 22, I felt on stage at Townie Bagels in the Warm Sands neighborhood of Palm Springs where I hosted a dress rehearsal for Wine & Soul. This was my first  opportunity to share more about me, connect to the community, and listen in to what wine lovers in Palm Spring want.

After my stage fright wore off, I found myself in the zone because I was surrounded by good company. I brought four wines – two I had tasted and so knew were lovely and two that I would taste along with my guest. I shared more about my Wine & Soul philosophy:

  • Wine is social and builds community;
  • Wine is a product of the earth and must respect the earth;
  • Wine and food are intricately linked; and
  • Wine should be a simple joyful experience.

The theme of the tasting was France – but with a twist. Three of the wines were from France and the fourth was from Africa by way of a French winemaker from the Northern Rhone. All were under $20 retail and 3 out of 4 could be found in local retail outlets. The lineup was a follows (* = ones I vetted before the event):

Wine #1: Champalou Vouvray Pétillant Brut, ($19.99 at Desert Wines & Spirits)*

Wine #2: Domaine de Fontsainte Gris de Gris, 2016 ($14.99 at Whole Foods)

Wine #3   Alain Graillot Syrocco, Morocco, 2012  ($18.99 online at D and M Wine and Spirits)*

Wine #4: Domaine des Gaudets Morgon Cote du Py, 2014 ($16.99 at Whole Foods)

The process: lively conversation over tasty wine with a sprinkling of wine education.

The “results”:  The Moroccan Syrah was favored by most with the Vouvray coming in second. I was pleased by the showing of the African wine because I have a special connection to it –  I lived in Morocco for nearly a year.

For me as a budding business woman, I learned a great deal and with the help of the group began to develop ideas for future programming, including:

Desert Reds – a quest for reds that are light on their feet and do well with a slight chill

“Best of the West” – an opportunity to  share with the community my current favorite California producers.

Blind Tasting – I always love to do this because we are all so influenced by labels. When you take them out of the picture, it sparks a really interesting wine conversation. This tasting provides a perfect opportunity to talk about the ABC’s of wine tasting and what I call “mindfulness” in wine tasting.

I will end on a note of heartfelt gratitude for those who showed up to be part of my wine journey –and the story of Wine & Soul. As a business woman I will be refining my model and offering fee-based tastings, workshops, and personal consulting services in the future.

Stay tuned, fellow wine lovers and desert lovers,

In community, CJ


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The Magic When the New World Meets the Old.

I have been a little silly over a certain wine that is definitely a product of New World fruit –  Willamette Valley, Oregon to be precise – but has a certain Old World sensibility. The result is one sexy wine that keeps me coming back for more.

So what is it about the wine? It is an authentic reflection of its cool climate and proudly so. The wine pops with juicy cherry fruit and violet mingle with earth and exquisite minerality. What’s also intriguing is that it’s a red wine that is only 12.5% alcohol, which is not the norm in the New World. When it comes to pairing it with food, the possibilities are mind-bogglingly vast: steak frites, seared duck breast, pork chops over mashed sweet potatoes, etc.

And let’s not forget the label because they do matter. Intriguing. Is there a message here? Why rhinestones, something shiny and inexpensive? I would characterize the wine differently as a “diamond” as in the phrase “a diamond in the rough,” the “rough” being our U.S. wine production, which can be touch and go. (I can still recall a wine maker event at Bay Grape in which Jill Matthiasson spoke about how Napa “lost its way.”) Yes, it has been compared to Cheverny from the Loire Valley and rightfully so – though it is more Pinot Noir than Gamay and red Cheverny is dominated by the latter. Bow & Arrow prides itself on making wines from grapes found in the Loire Valley and in the Loire Valley style.

Above all, it is a reminder of all-things-good that our domestic wine industry. has to offer This is what happens when you put a little soul in your wine making.

For your consideration and drinking pleasure Portland’s own Bow & Arrow’s 2014 Rhinestones ($25), a blend of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Gamay sourced from the Willamette Valley.


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Wine Fables & Flashbacks on a Fated Day

Big news – Wine & Soul has moved to the desert, a fitting relocation to a magical place that embodies survival, rejuvenation and adaptability to change.

Now for my ongoing quest for good wines that express place and tell a story. One of the local markets was hosting a tasting of The Fableist Wine Company and so I thought I would get out of the house of never-ending boxes and do something I love: taste and chat about wine.

Important wrinkle to this story: the winery is based in Paso Robles, a part of California wine country that has played a vital role in my journey to “self-made” wine professional. After being smitten by a wine (the start of my Cru Beaujolais thing) while on vacation in Paris, I vowed to learn more about wine. Paso Robles was the perfect place for that: friendly and unpretentious. We were “best buds” until I had to part ways after bring given a bottle of wine that was 16.5% alcohol. We had grown apart.

So while tasting the lineup, I experienced pleasant flashbacks of winding roads and sunny, warm weather that were a respite from the bone-chilling fog of my beloved first-home, San Francisco.

Enough of my story. Fableist is a collaborative project between winemakers Curt Schalchlin  of Sans Liege  & Andrew Jones of Field Recordings. (I had a pleasant memory of a past vintage of Chenin Blanc in the capable hands of the latter.) And it is all about stories; each wine is based on one of Aesop’s Fables.

Here’s the Lineup (People seem to either love or hate the artwork. What do you think of it?):


Here’s the skinny on these bottles that retail for $20:

Fableist 2014 Chardonnay, Fable 163 – The Bee & Jupiter

on the nose apricot fruit, palate has a lush mouthfeel, touched by toasty oak – shows restraint and a nod to White Burgundy with minerality to balance it out. Well done.

Fableist 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Fable 373 -The Ant & The Cricket

Ripe blue fruits on the nose, followed by tart plums on the palate, a touch of cedar and tobacco. Decent California Cabernet Sauvignon (with the addition of Cabernet France, Merlot and Tempranillo).

Fableist 2014 Tempranillo, Fable 067 – The Two Travelers & The Axe

On the nose, brooding black fruits, much livelier on palate. Definitely fruit-driven, and bigger alcohol than I tend to like in my wines (14.5%) but it wore it well and would pair well with my Moroccan beef. prune and almond tagine.

Fableist 2015 Petit Sirah, Fable 053 -The Farmer’s Son,.

Fruit forward with not much else to back it up; alas, I found it rather one-dimensional.

The missing fable: What I hoped to have tasted (and have enjoyed in the past) is the Fableist Merlot, in which the winemakers do a laudable job with a varietalthat has been on the maligned list since that movie, which I actually loved. It is a nod to what the British would call a “proper Claret.”

I did not take anything home with me but I enjoyed reconnecting to wines from a region of my early years of taking my curiosity and hitting the road: in the quest for knowledge but above all, in the quest to enjoy a beverage that continues to enchant.

As I conclude, I cop to leaving you hanging about the “fated day” referenced in the title. Alas, I am not one to dwell on misfortunate – I am passion, determination and grit in a petite wine-loving package!

And then there is this:


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How to Shop for Wine like Eckhart Tolle

[I love technology – give me a new app anytime; however, in Wine & Soul style I believe in “balance in all things” and so knowing when to use it and when to lose it is the golden rule. This was the inspiration for this post.]

Ok, I have no idea if Eckhart Tolle even likes wine. However, I did have the distinct pleasure of meeting him at Wisdom 2.0 and found myself thinking, “what a relief- he is the real deal.”

I also work part-time in a wine shop and encounter legions of people on their smartphones who end up purchasing what is not exactly the best the shop has to offer.

What was sticking abut Eckhart Tolle and what might be instructive or even inspiring to people visiting their neighborhood wine shop, is just how present he was with the people who were sharing his environment in that moment.

It can be as simple as remembering the song form the “60’s called “Love the one you’re with.” But more aptly titled “Engage with the one who is there to help you find a wine you love.”

I know wine and I also taste what we sell; therefore, I could certainly be of service to a customer and might even trump your smart phone.

So back to channeling your inner Eckhart Tolle. I would say try this on for size: next time the kind, smart and knowledge me welcomes you and ask you to “please let me know if I can be of any assistance,” take me up on the offer.

This could be the start of a beautiful relationship. To me, working in wine retail is not about selling a bottle but rather building a relationship so that you return to chat about my favorite subject: wine! This could be the beginning to taking a simple act that we take for granted and to inject a little meaning into it. This is the start of making something transactional into something transformational.

Care to join me on this journey of putting more mindfulness into the wine shopping experience?

On a related note of finding more JOY in wine: My pick for wine of the week is …


Idlewild 2014 Cortese!

The home of the Cortese grape is Italy; specifically, the southeast of the Piedmont near the town of Gavi. In California, you will find it farmed on Fox Hill Vineyard in Mendocino – the source of the grapes for this wine. This skin-contact white wine has lovely floral aromatics with Asian spices and orange peel flavors with an alluring texture on the palate. The touch of salinity and mouthwatering acidity completes the picture. If it fits, you can make this savory wine your baby introduction to Orange Wines, aka, white wines made like red wines. It is not quite an Orange Wine mind you but it definitely is leading you towards one.

In Joy,



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Faith Restored & Another Reason Why You Should “Never Say Never”

My love for Bandol rose has make me a tad intolerant of rosé made of Pinot Noir with the notable exception of one from Oregon that retails for $90. Amazing as it is, I cannot afford to drink it. ( If you can and want to know the secret, please drop me a line. I am a bit of a tease today.)

So I opened the bag that contained my Bay Grape wine club selections for August and low and behold, a rosé from Eola-Amity Hills, Oregon made of Pinot Noir with glowing words to boot on the info sheet. Words, words, words.

Skepticism crept in. When I saw that the vintage was 2014, I was wondering about this holdover from last year when the current release is from the 2015 vintage.

Then I tasted it, and I liked it – dare, I say, even loved it! I would have it again and again. The wine was herbaceous, floral and deliciously mineral driven with touches of wild raspberry and cherry fruit.  The savory character made it mouth-wateringly refreshing. I can’t wait to have another bottle, if and when, Indian Summer arrives in San Francisco. Time in the bottle has been good to it. (I recall Kermit Lynch remarking about how well Bandol rosé can withstand aging; based on his recommendation, last year I tucked away a 2014 Terrebrune rosé!)

Thank you Salem Wine Company for restoring my faith and reminding me to stay open, open, open.

My Wine & Soul drinking mantra:

Let yourself be challenged. Throw out your preconceived notions. Be present with what is in your glass.

I Kissed a Rosé of Pinot Noir — And I liked it!



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A Wine You Want to Party With

On tasting my second bottle of a particular California Syrah, I realize that there are wines with a clear identity, a certain authenticity and vibrant personality with whom you want to hang out. And then there are others that just seem “ho hum” and so you opt out of any time spent lingering.

Piedra Sassi “PS” 2014 Syrah is the former: a wine you want to party with. And should.

The grapes come from Santa Barbara County, a lovely cool coastal climate, which shines through the final product. This wine comes alive with flavors of roasted meat and deep black fruits yet never ventures into brooding, over-ripe California red wine territory. Supple and spicy with decent acidity that brings it all into balance. Fun to boot, including its short and squat bottle.

With its “dare to be different” while still being delicious personality, I want to hang out with it – over and over again.  Compelling and complex stuff at a value price ($19 retail).

Come and get it. Wine should bring joy to our weary souls. And this one does.

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Winter has Arrived – Gamay to the Rescue!

[Note to my readers: I wrote this post a few days ago when Spring was on the wane.]

It has been been winter in the Callen household in two ways. First, the summer solstice is on its way and so San Francisco has turned bone chilling. Second, sweet Cleo, my husband’s assistance dog has taken ill and seems to be dying. Sadness all around. I even lost interest in food and wine!

Then, the tide turns. Well, not exactly but I move into a state of acceptance; cherishing the time I have left to hug my precious pup. Dogs teach you how to be in the moment and in their waning days those lessons are most potent and poignant.

When I was able to eat a meal again, I chose comfort food- a farmhouse recipe for baked chicken with lots of onions and paprika served off buttered egg noodle with English peas. Decided it was time to have wine again and so since it was Cru Beaujolais (a Morgon) that I tasted in a Parisian bistro that launched my wine journey, decided to have Gamay – served slightly chilled, of course.

The 2014 Christal Fleurie we enjoyed was made by  Alain Coudert’s Domaine de la Roilette and is the one that is intended to be fun but hardly frivolous. And it was. Lively fruit on the palate but not tasting like fruit juice; you knew by the other flavors (was that thyme? Violets? a whiff of perfume?) that popped that this was wine with good acidity to match my meal –and delicious to boot. This is the Fleurie you drink while Roilette’s Tardive Fleurie is in the cellar clocking in the 10 years needed to express its full glory.

In the words of the producer: “Christal is the exact opposite of Tardive! It comes from two granite parcels and the vines are much younger (25-30 years). The grapes produce something fruitier, so it’s very easy to knock back on a hot summer day or for an apéritif.” The Christal is particularly lovely in 2014, with very pretty, ripe, round fruit on the palate balanced with brisk acidity.”

Despite the cold of this almost-Summer day, the Christal did the trick. I then glanced at the mantle and spied a sign I found two years ago that reads:

Wine makes everyone hopeful.”

I guess it does.


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