Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Bubbles and Bites – Oh, My!

If I had to label the Summer of 2019 for this artist, I might call it my “Summer of Great Escapes,” where I focused on realigning my health and creative center. Instead of a one- or two-week long vacation this year, I took what I refer to as mini vacations to see family and friends and to experience something new. These escapes help clear my mind so I can proceed with recalibrating my priorities and direction. After my miraculous escape from a determined tree followed by a mini Florida escape, my third escape was to Wine Country California, a wonderful way to combine family visit and vacation – closing one season and entering another with a fresh outlook, new memories, and a lot of good ideas for new paintings.

Elaine Weiner-Reed – Gloria Ferrer Vineyard and Winery 2019

Part 2: Sonoma – Sedately, We Roam

Nirvana of the senses: Two days, two vineyards, two tastings. One winner.
We had found the perfect balance.

     Part 1 (Napa) and the Wine Trolley behind us, my sister and I arrived in Sonoma late Saturday afternoon, having made our way sedately through the glorious countryside from Napa, calmed by never-ending vineyard vistas. I admit that we left our Napa spa resort hotel behind us with some regret, but we found our Sonoma city hotel a block from the town square to be comfortable and in a perfect location to begin our multi-sensory explorations of Sonoma.

     My sister and I would always joke about the fact that “wine time is anytime,” but the fact is, we normally do not partake before 5:00 PM in our current time zone. Consequently, it was with some trepidation and lingering memories of wine-trolley-day that we reserved the only available time slot remaining – morning – for the one tasting we could schedule for our only full day in Sonoma. That 10:30 AM Sunday reservation was for the Gloria Ferrer Vineyard, specifically for their “Bubbles and Bites” sit-down tasting. Not only was the wine time slot taking us out of our comfort zones, but so was the focus of the tasting, namely sparkling wines, or American “champagne.” Generally my preferred wine is red and not bubbly: Pinot Noir, Syrah, or Merlot.

     So, tired and dubious at best, at 10:30 AM sharp we were welcomed by our vineyard hostess and hastened to the private dining room, the last party to join the four wine aficionados already seated at our table. Large picture windows offering views of the vineyard lent warmth to our bespoke table, elegant in its floral arrangement and crystal place settings. Pretending to be on East Coast time, I surrendered myself to the experience, intuitively knowing this would be the piece de resistance of all wine tastings to date. I was not disappointed (none of us were), for our last-minute reservation had teamed us with kindred tablemates with whom we conversed, laughed, and toasted amiably throughout what evolved into a sublime two-hour tasting.

Elaine Weiner-Reed – Gloria Ferrer Bubbles&Bites Sept.2019

     We each learned much more than ever before about wine-food pairings as hostess Becky alternatively regaled us with highlights of wine-making processes and specific historical or viniculture points of interest. Explanations of our exquisite plate of gourmet treats was provided by the Chef, who had artfully designed each hors d’oeuvre and placed them on the plate to align with each bite’s companion wine. Specific ingredients were selected to perfectly pair with a specific wine – which they did, resulting in us requesting recipes as selective refills allowed us to explore a varietal in more depth. As a bonus, we were treated to several additional off-menu prime wines, each served individually in tailor-made wine glasses designed to bring out the flavor of each wine. As we reluctantly prepared to leave, we were treated to a quick peek in the wine cave, home to the large steel vats nursing future sparkling wines. So engrossed was I in the entire tasting experience, I unfortunately took no photos of our delectable bites or wines, but the photo of our menu (above) will give you a good idea of our gourmet treats. Each wine was superb, and the Pinot Noir was among the best I have ever had. My additional notes regarding specific food bites include: 1) the caviar was Sturgeon roe; 2) the strawberries in the trifle were bourbon-soaked.  

Elaine Weiner-Reed – Gloria Ferrer Vineyard Terrace

     Gloria Ferrer’s Bubbles and Bites experience was my first tasting in which food had been created specifically to pair with wines, definitely tantalizing our taste buds as we took sips and tastes as directed to unleash flavors. Good cooking is an art form I greatly appreciate. It isn’t common knowledge, but I am a foodie, and as such appreciate good food – especially good food artfully presented. I cook, often creating original dishes which generally cannot be repeated because I use what is at hand and add spices and ingredients alternatively based on instinct, taste, and experience. Being able to cook many foods pretty well makes going out to eat a challenge because I find most restaurants to be lacking in the imagination, taste, and spice departments. In all categories, however, Gloria Ferrer excelled. As we completed our purchases and said our good-byes, my sister and I moved out to the terrace to eat a bit more and soak in the timeless beauty of the vineyards on that beautiful fall afternoon. We had one more vineyard on our day’s agenda, but Gloria Ferrer remains my all-time favorite, epitomizing what a tasting should be.

     Our second and final Sonoma vineyard visit was to the Gundlach Bundschu Vineyard and Winery, recommended by one of my sister’s friends as being one of the oldest vineyards in the region. This time, we chose to share a late afternoon tasting on the windy terrace of Gundlach Bundschu, referred to as GunBun. There we sat, sharing a sandwich and wine flight as we watched people, dogs, and butterflies traverse around the terrace. It was another lovely setting in wine country, and it was here that we got a glimpse of a real wine cave tucked into the Sonoma hillside – a surprise treat to end our day in Sonoma. The following day, back to Sacramento and I was soon heading home to Maryland, certain I would be reading my next Kate Carlisle mystery with visions of the real Napa and Sonoma dancing in my head.

Elaine Weiner-Reed - Gundlach Bundschu Wine Cave

   Elaine Weiner-Reed - Gundlach Bundschu Terrace 

Gundlach Bundschu -  Love Lies Bleeding (Flower)

                                 Cheers! Until next time, live creatively and fully.  
                                                           Yours in Art,


© 2019 Elaine Weiner-Reed (EWR)
      All images and content remain the property of the Artist. No reproductions or prints are authorized. All rights reserved.

Bubbles and Bites

For this artist, it is important to see and have new experiences in the form of classes, museums, or short trips. They recharge me, give me a fresh perspective, and more often than not provide new material for artistic expression. This time, my adventure of renewal included shaking up my taste buds, as my eyes feasted on acre upon acre of gorgeous vineyards.

Elaine Weiner-Reed - Wine Country California 2019

Part 1: Napa and The Wine Trolley

Two days, six vineyards. 
It all started with the wine trolley…
and we thought it really might end there at one point. Really…

     My summer’s third “escape” was a condensed five-day roadtrip with my sister. Destination: Wine Country, California. My desire to revisit that beautiful region crystallized over the last year as I poured through eight or more books in a Bibliophile Mystery series by Kate Carlisle centered in San Francisco and Sonoma County. I had not been to that region in over 25 years, so the time was ripe. Pun intended… It was, after all, harvest time! Not only that, but I could not believe my good fortune with the timing of the trip because the weather was cooperating and our days were to be a succession of hot and sunny – too hot for the Californians, but perfect for me. If you read my last article ( A Girl, A Tree, and A Good Samaritan) you can appreciate how sorely I needed that sunshine to lighten and brighten my way forward.

     I arrived sometime after 3:00 PM and hopped in my sister’s car, headed west. It only took about an hour to reach Napa from the Sacramento airport, so we were relieved to be able to check into our room right away. Tucked away in a corporate park, our spa hotel welcomed us with a surprise bottle of Prosecco in our room which was complete with real wine and champagne glasses. It is amazing just how welcome real glass can be after hundreds of hotel stays offering only paper or plastic.

     The first full day of our trip started and ended at Model’s Bakery in the Oxbow Market in Napa. In the morning we had coffee and their to-die-for breakfast sausage sandwich on a feather-light English muffin with a marvelous mystery sauce. Normally I skip breakfast, but that day we had to eat for we were boarding the Wine Trolley promptly at 10:15 across the street from Oxbow. Since it was near 90 degrees already ( I admit it was really hot), we chose to sit in the open section of the trolley, facing outward…baking. Prepared for just such situations, my sister impressed everyone by pulling out sunbrella, hand fan, suntan lotion, and face towel from her Mary Poppins-like bag. Despite our laughter, I admit to ducking under the sunbrella with her as we sat 30 minutes longer in direct sunlight.

 Sisters' Napa Wine Trolley Adventure

     Finally, 27 of us were all-aboard and the trolley set off, our adventure underway. And I do mean adventure… I mentioned that some of us chose to sit in the open, facing outwards, right? Little did we know our travels would take us on highways – yes, four-lane, sometimes physically divided highways where the speed limits were at least 60 miles per hour. Despite the heat, a harness and helmet would have been welcome as the shock-less trolley bounced out bottoms on benches as we careened past historic landmarks, most of the trolley driver’s stories (half-heard over traffic noises) featuring tragedy, mayhem, and losses in the Valley. I wanted to splay myself on the ground in thanks at each destination, wine-tasting becoming farther and farther from my top-ten list with every re-boarding of the trolley.

     Perhaps it was the circumstance of concentrated vineyard visits, but there is such a thing as “too much of a good thing.” By the second winery, my sister and I had opted to share tastings. Fortunately, the second winery, Whitehall Lane, was our lunch destination. It was one of my favorite vineyards, one where we got to pick and taste different grapes, experiencing the differences between a cabernet and a pinot in a whole new way. There, my sister and I grabbed garden chairs, bringing them into the wine cave and tasting room to savor a glass of Sauvignon Blanc as we dined on a picnic lunch of baguettes, salads, and sweets catered by Sonoma’s “A Girl and A Fig” restaurant. The food and company were great since our trolley-mates were a congenial collection of newlyweds, birthday girls, and wine enthusiasts.

     The third winery is a blur, but on the highway headed to our fourth and final winery, a loud noise frightened us, bringing home how unsafe that trolley ride could potentially be: It turns out that a 12-wheeler explosively blew out a tire while speeding past us in the opposite direction on the divided road. White knuckling it, we thankfully were not struck by any flying tire shrapnel. By that time, I think that those of us on my and my sister’s side of the trolley were all wishing for alternative transportation as we collectively breathed in relief, listening with one ear to more dark tales of Napa history by our trolley driver, nicknamed by me as Happy. By the fourth winery, Andretti’s, my sister went wineless and I skipped the stand-up tasting in favor of a glass of red wine recommended by a fellow visitor. We were now well into our fifth hour and rather dreading the last leg of our rock-‘em/sock-‘em ride back to the market square. You can be sure there will be future drawings of the trolley adventures in this artist’s sketchbook!

Elaine Weiner-Reed - Napa: Best Seat in the House

     Did I mention that our Wine Trolley ride took place on Friday the 13th? Probably irrelevant, right? Anyhow, we finally arrived back at the Oxbow Market, each of us quickly wishing each other well, tipping “Happy,” and hastening on to our next wine country destination. As for me and my sister, we purchased food for the night, took it back to our room, and recuperated enough eventually to dine on our balcony. Our lovely view of the rising of the full Harvest Moon over Napa’s hillsides was accompanied by live music from a neighboring balcony party. For the rest of our last night in Napa, we relaxed, took a swim in the deserted pool, wished on the moon, and laughed about our day’s experiences, planning a more leisurely self-guided trip through Sonoma beginning the following day. This time, we vowed, no more than one or two vineyard visits per day – the better to remember and savor the tastes and vistas. 

          Until next time, live creatively and fully.
                      Yours in Art,

 © 2019 Elaine Weiner-Reed (EWR)
      All images and content remain the property of the Artist. No reproductions or prints are authorized. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

The Red Chair - From Painting To Poem

Artists Inspiring Artists

©2019 Elaine Weiner-Reed - The Red Chair - 60"X x 30"H; Acrylic (Private Collection)



   If you haven't had the opportunity to work or collaborate with other artists, I highly recommend it. Whether in a workshop or group or show of visual artists, or collaborating with other creative disciplines, it is extremely rewarding.

More than that, it is unifying. Art builds bridges and encourages health and respectful dialogue. It enlightens and enriches. At the core of every flourishing culture and society, there lies art. ART at the heART of it all!

     I have always created art and written poems or stories... As I paint, the ideas flow between head and heart and hand and brush. Paint falls to canvas (and everywhere else, truth be told!) and my words flow to paper...and sometimes, eventually, to a computer file.

     My Painting "The Red Chair" is my latest in a series of paintings incorporating chairs. Alternatively, the moods of those paintings in the "waiting" series are ones of  solitude, tension, or anticipation. It is up to the viewer to create the story around the scene, the chair, the people...

The Red Chair
                      © 2019 Elaine Weiner-Reed

Life stops for no one.
As much as we would sometimes like it to stop…even
For a few seconds…
To savor a moment in time, a scene, an exchange.

Or maybe we could just slow down its passage as we cherish
Its passage, its gifts, its scents and sounds… sweet seconds with our children or
Our own youth.

Bigger than life itself, TIME looms,
            Flies, slows down, or speeds up.
So, let me take a “time out” … a moment to sit in the Red Chair and
Replay scenes of life. Moments in time.

Stop the world…
I see moments flying by me…
   I see the red chair but cannot get to it for a longed for “time out.”
My stopping of the clock.
My savoring of a memory.

This is my salute to mortality and that
All-too-short dance that is my beautiful life.
         Stop. The. World.
I want to get off…just for a few seconds. 
I promise.
   I need to sit down…now.
Just for a moment.
      In the Red Chair of possibilities. 


   Now, what happens when I ask these questions of you, my patrons and guests?

         What does my painting sound like to you?
         What memory does it evoke?
         How does it make you feel?
         What does it make you think of? 
         How would you write the scene or story?

   Enter, my 2019 summer exhibition with April M Rimpo at Slayton House's Bernice Kish Gallery entitled...

Portraits of Life - The Art of Storytelling

                                 Listen to how Patti Ross brought my painting to life in poetry!

                                           Thanks for your continued support.
                                                  Yours in art and gratitude,

© 2019 Elaine Weiner-Reed (EWR)
      All images and content remain the property of the Artist. No reproductions or prints are authorized. All rights reserved.