Wine Tasting at the Agua Dulce Winery in Santa Clarita, CA

Hello everybody! I hope you had a wonderful Labor Day weekend. While I enjoyed three long days off, I was bummed that my first weekend without any freelance projects ended up being spent in bed… sick. I felt the token scratchy throat on Wednesday but refused to believe I was getting sick… until Thursday night when the feverish flush and general “Oh Nooooooo” type exhaustion started setting in. I did get to do a couple fun things despite being all germy this weekend, and one of them was touring the beautiful Agua Dulce Winery in Santa Clarita, CA.

Sipping zinfandel in front of $3,000 barrels!

Sipping zinfandel in front of $3,000 barrels!

My husband and I had a LivingSocial deal and even though I felt crummy, I was determined to use it before it expired. We drove the 35 minutes north of Los Angeles into a quaint little desert town called Agua Dulce, or “Sweetwater”. We began our tour by learning about the types of barrels used for winemaking. Did you know that oak wine barrels can cost between $3,000 – $5,000 EACH?! The flavor, grain and texture all drastically affect the taste. Our awesome tour guide Steve explained how Agua Dulce’s barrels came from Hungary, France and some other place I can’t remember. Wild, right? Most wines chill out in the barrels for three to five years.

Inside this immaculate and chilly warehouse were racks and racks of fermenting wine and gigantic, steel machinery. These machines are used for blending the wines and mixing all of the spirits together. All of the gigantic tubs had ladders running up to them and I couldn’t help but think that this place was like the grown-up version of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

Wine made here!

Wine made here!

We headed outside to see the grape presses, but I was more enchanted with the gigantic bins of waste leftover from pressed grapes. They had a yummy winey smell to them, and it was pretty interesting to see how small wine grapes are in comparison to table grapes.

These grapes have seen better days

These grapes have seen better days

One of my favorite wines we sampled was actually a port, which is a red wine mixed with brandy. We got to try the port with some dark chocolate chips, so despite only being able to taste about 50% of it thanks to my cold, it was enough to know it was sweet and GOOD! If I had a glass of that, maybe I would have been feeling better… but lo, and behold, I was the DD and had to stick with my Dayquil buzz instead of wine, so I got sips to taste only.

Enjoying some port and chocolate. Note the tissue in my hand. Blech!

One of the coolest parts of the tour was getting to taste wine straight from the barrel. Our guide used a glass tool called a “thief” to suck out some of the wine. I didn’t catch all of the nuances in the taste, but it had a really fiery, intense “oaky” flavor. It was really neat to imagine how as time progressed the flavors would mellow and blend together to become more of the smooth tastes we’re accustomed to today.

Matt gets to taste wine right from the barrel with the "thief"

Matt gets to taste wine right from the barrel with the “thief”

After the tour, we had yummy sandwiches, homemade chocolate chip cookies and cucumber salad provided from the winery out under their gazebo. It was a hot Santa Clarita day, but it felt really good to get out of my bed and get some sunshine on my face. I’m pretty sure I needed it as I’ve been quite a zombie this weekend, logging an astonishing 13 hours of sleep last night. WHEW!

Enjoying the sunshine!

Enjoying the sunshine!

This trip made me even more excited for the upcoming Fitcation, a three day women’s blogging retreated hosted by the fabulous online community, Mamavation. I’ll get to hang with people like Kenlie from All The Weigh and try numerous wines from Sip the Good Life in Paso Robles, along with sporting some fancy new shoes thanks to Earth. I can’t wait! There’s nothing like having fun and blogging about it 🙂

If you’re ever in the Santa Clarita area, definitely stop by Agua Dulce! The people were really friendly and in addition to delicious wines, they had a cute little store filled with country clutter and wine gear. My friend Feeling Vine would love it!  Despite my husband’s reluctance, I bought some really cute mason jar lid coasters with pigs on them and a Christmas gift for April. Ah, retail therapy!

So now you know some of what I did this weekend, tell me what you did, too!







Lyssa’s off the sauce: life as a booze-free gal

I’ve never been a huge drinker. When I do drink, my friends and husband find it comical that after just one glass of wine or one hard cider, I already have the boozy pink glow and the sillies. One time, my best friend and I finished off two bottles of Gewurztraminer between us and the night ended with me dancing in a pair of dutch-clogs on the patio in my bathing suit. Ah, memories. I always thought that alcohol for me was one of those “Eh” type pleasures in life — I enjoyed it, but not often, and  have been seriously “drunk” only about 10 times in my life. Don’t get me wrong; at Christmas time, I love nothing more than an icy glass of Bailey’s Irish Cream, with a drizzle of chocolate syrup on top. I also love a fine glass of really full-bodied red wine, the kind where the tannins drench your tongue in all those fabulously dark, fragrant whiffs. I’m not a regular beer gal, much to my father and husband’s dismay. (Fun fact: did you know at our wedding, my dad actually gave my husband a dowry? Not kidding – my dad brewed my husband a custom beer called “My Daughter’s Dowry”) However, in the past few years I’ve grown to love hard cider, especially Angry Orchard. It’s refreshing and light but still packs a buzz-bangin’ punch. I also got into a bad habit of a weekly lambic, a sweet fruit beer that’s like candy that makes you drunk. It’s AWESOME.

Because of my new medication for my PCOS, I can’t have alcohol. Actually I can, but my doctor told me that with my insulin resistance problems and body type, each time I drink, I’ll have to accept that my weight loss will stall for the next few days. Bummmmer. Not to mention my liver is thoroughly pickled, apparently not from my once-a-week libations but just from life in general. Hopefully I’ll get the results to that this week. Anyhoo, I didn’t think I’d miss booze until after a week without it had passed, and I realized how much I missed a chilled glass of Moscato in the bath tub at night. I didn’t realize how much I used alcohol to unwind every now and then. A couple of ciders on the weekend, a glass of wine at night, a glass of red with Italian food for dinner. Probably not the best de-stress technique in the world, but I wasn’t harming anyone, definitely not overindulging and would never get behind the wheel in my buzzed state, so in my book, a little buzz at home to take the edge off? Why not? (I used to work on my thesis with a good buzz going, and yes, I graduated! Grad students, I highly recommend it. Thesis writing is unpleasant, so if you’re a wee bit inebriated, it dulls the pain of big words like “hegemony”.)

Enjoying some champagne at a friend's wedding

Enjoying some champagne at a friend’s wedding

Dinners out with friends are super hard, when the alcohol is flowing and the conversation is going and I’m in the corner with my glass of water. A few nights ago my husband and I cooked dinner at home and we ate our grilled chicken and vegetables on the patio, savoring the dusky glow of Los Angeles. I swigged a sip of his red wine and was overwhelmed at how rich and sweet it tasted, how the grapes filled my mouth with notes and aromas like a sherbet sunset in Napa valley.  I was going to try to be 100% clean n’ sober for the duration of my weight loss activity (which is like, omg, forever), but I decided that special occasions are worth the splurge, so tonight at Monique’s beautiful wedding, I participated in the champagne toast and enjoyed every sweet sip. Will my weight loss stall? Probably, but what else is new? Plus, if nothing is happening, nothing can stall anyways, right? Hahaha. I shouldn’t say nothing is happening because it’s very possible I’ve lost weight, I just haven’t had the chutzpah to get on the scale in the last two weeks. Scale PTSD, much?

So now it’s out in the open. I miss booze. It had a more important place in my life than I thought it did. Sniffle, tear. It sounds like I’m an alcoholic when I say it had a place in my life, but you don’t realize how much you like something until it’s gone (except for PMS, aforementioned thesis and the Chicken Pox.)

What’s your attitude towards booze? Something you don’t even think ab0ut? Do you refrain? Do you overdo it? Is it average? What’s your fav drink? For the record, a peche Lindeman’s Lambic is probably my favorite booze on earth. Crap. Now I want one….instead, amuse me with your drink of choice! Cheers, folks. It’s 5:00 somewhere.

Skinny Margarita Monday

Sometimes, I enjoy a fine adult beverage. Usually, I love a glass of chilled white wine, or if I’m feeling especially decadent, Bailey’s irish cream mixed with ice cubes and milk. However, lately I’ve been craving the salty, lime taste of a margarita. But what’s a calorie counting gal to do?! Booze calories add up quickly, and I’m the type that would much rather eat my calories than drink ’em. Margarita mix in particular is loaded with sugar – and that packs heat if you’re trying to watch what you eat drink.

Limey! Only 95 calories for a magical margarita.

I’ve been wanting to try Bethenny Frankel’s Skinny Girl drinks, but I’m frugal, and if I’m spending $17 on a bottle of booze, it better be a fine, aged wine for me and my sweetie – not a low-calorie elixir with the name “skinny” in it. Something that costs $17 should be fattening, anyways. Enter my cost-cutting ways and new favorite low-cal booze – Margaritaville’s Skinny Margarita. A whole handle of this potion was only $11, and while initially I was skeptical, I have to say – this stuff rocks.(No, I am not plugging for Margaritaville or anything, but if they wanted to hook me up with some free stuff, that’d be awesome 😉 )

I mixed a little Aloha with Hola and made a Strawberry Margarita/Daquiri thing.

4 oz (1/2 cup) is 95 calories, which isn’t bad for a decent sized drink. The first time I tried it, I just had it on the rocks. The best thing about this stuff is that it’s basically lime juice, tequila, and agave nectar. Tequila is made from agave anyways, so it’s kind of genius for them to use a natural, low-calorie sweetener that comes from the same thing the booze is made from. The agave nectar doesn’t leave any artificial sweetener after taste – one of my peeves with Splenda or aspartame.

The second time I had it, I went wild and had two servings (1 cup = 190 calories) with 1/2 cup frozen strawberries (30 calories). Blend it all together and you’ve got yourself a fancy pants Margarita-slushy-dacquiri thing. It was quite delicious, and after I added a dollop of fat free whipped cream (5 calories), I felt like I was on the beach in Cabo, instead of in cat-hair covered sweatpants toiling away on a thesis.

I'm whipped for whipped cream.

If you’re counting calories or watching your weight or just want to be a jubilant, lighter-weight drunkard, I recommend you check out Margaritaville’s Skinny Margarita. It’s tasty – and will no doubt soften the blow of Monday! C’mon – it’s 5:00 somewhere!