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Claiborne & Churchill Déjeuner d’Anniversaire – A Celebratory Lunch in the Vineyard

Claiborne & Churchill 40th Anniversary Luncheon

I was very fortunate to be invited to Claiborne & Churchill Winery in Edna Valley, CA, for their 40th anniversary lunch in the vineyard! The invitation read as follows:

“We are excited to have you for our Déjeuner d’Anniversaire on Sunday, April 16. We’ll start with a sparkling wine reception and shared picnic board at 12pm and be seated for lunch about 12:30pm. Please be sure to wear closed toe shoes and dress warmly as the lunch will be held in our Estate Vineyard. We are looking forward to having you join us!”

Claiborne and Churchill Estate Dry Riesling

Firstly , a little bit of history from the C&C website about the winery and owners:

“Claiborne & Churchill is a premium family-owned winery in the Edna Valley of San Luis Obispo, founded in 1983 by Claiborne (Clay) Thompson and Fredericka Churchill Thompson. Former teachers at the University of Michigan, the couple left the “Groves of Academe” for the vineyards of California in 1981 in order to begin a new life in the wine industry.”

And quite a life and legacy they have enjoyed here in Edna Valley! Daughter Melissa was seated near us, proudly watching and listening as her parents shared their joy. The sun was shining and it was a perfect spring day…

Chef Shaun Behrens, chef and owner of Bear City Social ( charmed our taste buds with farm to table food pairings designed for a stunning array of Claiborne wines.

Chef Shaun Behrens

The five course meal started with a picnic cheese board and new release Sparking Brut Cuvée, a champagne style dry sparkler. Crisp with tiny bubbles and balanced acidity, the two plus year creation process showed off it’s delicate flavors.

An elegant amuse-bouche of Croque Monseiur with flaky pastry dough was served with Estate Dry Riesling, vintages 2017 and 2021. The ‘17 was showing signs of softening and a slight petrol, and the ‘21 as a young, vibrant wine with light acidity.

A French Bistro Salad with strawberry, goat cheese, and lardons was paired with the New Cuvée Elizabeth Dry Rose of Pinot Noir 2022. Fruity, bright pink and quaffable, this wine needs to be on lots of spring and summer time tables. Super light and soft acidity with strawberries and peach on the tongue, a clean crisp mouthfeel and fresh finish.

Main entree was Coq Au Vin with lardons, mushroom, root vegetables and braised greens. Rich, buttery flavors of the meats and mushrooms, enhanced by fresh veggies, were paired with Runestone Pinot Noir 2018 and 2020. The ‘18 had time to age in bottle, soften around the edges, with long notes of cherry and light vanilla. The ‘20 vintage was young and bright, ripe red fruit and a bit more forward acidity. Both were delicious, but the ‘18 Runestone Pinot felt like a special treat.

Lastly, a more savory than sweet Pear Tart with Roquefort cheese, honey, and rosemary desert that was an absolutely stunning finish. The unexpected pairing with Estate Syrah 2016 was on point. Earthy rosemary and Roquefort cheese brought such intense and unexpected flavors out of the Syrah. Deep plum, blueberries, and just a bit of leathery tobacco rounded out into a lingering finish.

All in all, it was a lovely experience and I got the chance to meet some of our local foodie talent. Conny, owner of food truck and catering was at our end of the table (check out her site and locations, super fun), and was as refreshing as her menu! Thanks also go out to new friends Jack and Nobi, and my long time friends Jamie for always being a great cohort, and Lauren for the invitation and planning to take me for a birthday celebration to remember! Everything Happens For A Riesling, as the shirt says…and here’s to many more….

L-R: Jamie, Conny, Boozylife, Noby, Jack, and Lauren

Queens at Work—Drag Brunch at Bianchi Winery, Paso Robles

Drag Brunch at Bianchi Winery
Boozylife n Miss Shuga Cain

Sunday mornings are made for brunch, and if brunch is at a winery (with fabulous drag queens), all the better…

Anyone that really knows me understand that I live for both breakfast and queens! Bianchi Winery hosted a beautiful brunch of mimosas, fruit, eggs, bacon, and biscuits by Trumpet Vine Catering , and I was lucky enough to score a ticket at a VIP table (yasssss)! Thanks to Jamie, Camille, and the crew for including me (last minute) in drag shenanigans…

After show meet & greet with the ladies at Bianchi Winery

The performances and regalia were impeccable, bringing in a few famous name Queens from RuPaul’s Drag Race as well as local talent:

@missshugacain (RuPaul’s Drag Race 11)

@mercedesimandiamond (RuPaul’s Drag Race 11)

@joeyjayisgay (RuPaul’s Drag Race 13)




Brunch by Trumpet Vine Catering
Joey, Me & Jamie at Brunch

It was over 90° (with NO SHADE) in Paso Robles, and these dedicated queens were working HARD before noon! Groups of 8 to 10 guests were seated at banquet tables on the lawn in front of the stage. We were given tokens to trade in for bottles of wine, and all enjoyed a few of the brut sparkling wine, a lovely and very drinkable dry rosé, and a crispy Sauvignon Blanc…all winners with the heat.

Camille & Joey
Drag Brunch at Bianchi Winery

After the show we were escorted to the back patio (for more wine), and to meet the queens…By this point I think everyone was dehydrated and happy to be in the shade. Three applications of sunscreen later, no one burned which was a miracle!!

Two pretty ladies

If you’d like to see more videos from the show, you can have a look on my YouTube channel

Thank you to everyone at Bianchi Winery for your hard work and service, and to all of the incredibly talented queens, a beautiful time was had!! Happy Pride everyone!! NOW I’m inspired to host a drag show 🙂

The Olive Trees Are Here!!!

I’ve been on an unofficial, quasi-forced BoozyLife hiatus this last month! Changing work locations, moving into our tiny house, and general life exhaustion have made everything else a higher priority. I am so happy to say we are starting to settle in, and there will be LOTS of upcoming Paso Robles wine events I’ll be checking in from, plus a quick trip to the Finger Lakes in late September….but, as for this last week…

I am currently pouring behind the bar at San Marcos Creek Vineyard & Winery

a boutique, family owned operation, with an adorable four room inn and hall space for events. The owners, Roberto and Kimberly Morelli, are expanding the already gorgeous grounds with a fenced garden–complete with forty year old olive trees that were transplanted this past week! I was lucky enough to be a witness to the process, and take a few ‘as it’s happening’ shots…

Harvest in the Finger Lakes 2015

Fall in the FLX
Fall in the FLX

I’ve been off the grid! Gentle readers, sometimes business takes it all out of you for a bit, and quite frankly being business owners was rough for a patch. I’m happy to report things are currently fantastic at our tattoo shop, and I’ve been able to once again turn my attentions towards the fields and this year’s harvest bounty.

It’s finally October first, which means lots of the grapes have already been harvested and pressed around the Finger Lakes, and one of the busiest times of year is here! Tasting rooms will be extremely lively on beautiful fall weekends, so if you’re visiting, be civil and expect crowds of other tasters. The good news is, the views are heading towards incredible – enjoy, and don’t be in a rush. The Finger Lakes are all about taking a breath and enjoying some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. Pick some apples, peep the fall leaves, hike a waterfall, taste some locally made wines, ciders, beers, spirits…chocolates….cheese…

Beauties in the sunlight
Beauties in the sunlight

Harvest 2015 is in full swing, with lots of grape picking, pressing, and cellar happenings currently in the works, area wide. My Instagram feed is currently full of grapes being pressed, yeasts going in and fermentation starting, and lots of rain gear the last twenty four hours! It’s been dry and warm the last two weeks, so many growers got their grapes in before rains started in earnest. Our local weather called for over three inches of rain into today, with more over the weekend. Hopefully it dries out so that everyone gets their remaining crops in!

It’s also fun to see the apple farmers harvesting for their upcoming vintages of hard ciders. The movement is growing nationwide,  and the Finger Lakes area is at the center of high quality, heirloom farmed fruits, classically made, dry to off-dry, sometimes fermented in bottle, hard apple and pear ciders. This coming weekend (October 3rd and 4th) is the Apple Festival in Ithaca, with FLX Cider Week also kicking off. I’ll be attending some local happenings on that front, so stay tuned! October is going to be fun, and fall is the best time of year to be in this area, in my humble BoozyWife opinion…that’s why we tend to stay local until the snow flies again….

Repost: 5 Best Finger Lakes Wineries to Visit on Seneca Lake

Check it out! I posted a link to an article on 5 Best Finger Lakes Wineries to Visit on Seneca Lake. On a personal note, I’m behind the bar pouring at the Lamoreaux Landing tasting room a couple of days a week–the view is not to be missed, and the wines are all of a high quality that I enjoy being a part of! Enjoy the read and start planning your next trip to the Finger Lakes 😊

Expression and Connection

Wine is made all over the world. No matter where you go, someone is growing grapes and fermenting them, on a vineyard plantation or on trellis systems carved into the side of a mountain. This has been happening since ancient times. The foundations are there.

Tattoos are made all over the world, too. Artists travel the globe to share inspiration and knowledge, tattooing collectors that often also have traveled great distances. This has been happening since ancient times. The foundations are there.

I see the connection between my two loves as something that has been playing out for centuries–the desire to express through body decoration, modification, and the desire to create elixirs and wines from the fruits of our labour. Very basic human expressions, tied in tradition and history. See you on the road!

For Maximus

The first time we were introduced, I expected the worst from you. I had been warned that you were cool but had some ‘issues’, and that I should take caution at our first meeting. I had a pretty uninformed opinion on your type, but apprehension was my first emotion. Then, I met you. I had no idea how much you would eventually change me for the better. You would teach me about forgiveness, dedication, love, caution, responsibility, and ultimately unwavering trust. Those are some big lessons for anyone, and you did that without a single word. I never realized how special you would be to me, and how much love you and your dad had to share.

You were a big, strong guy, with a barrel of a chest and a loud rambunctious bark. Your white fur and pink nose made you look like a big old polar bear mixed with a pig, bounding with playful energy around the one bedroom apartment. Other times you were quiet, a panting bear skin rug just happy to be with his people, therapeutic and warm. I slept with you before I slept with your dad–we curled up together on the fuzzy purple loveseat you claimed as yours, a fact which I was unaware of at the time…and you were sweet enough to share it with me, never a growl or a sideways glance. Your shedding was absolutely ungodly, and I often rode the train home looking like I was an insane dog lady. You had first cuddles, always. You accepted me as one of your buds, and from that point on I felt your love.

You had been abused by your first ‘owners’ (I use the word angrily)-addicts that didn’t feed or train you, and left you with a terror of kennels, puppy nightmares, and massive distrust for new people. Luckily, you were rescued by a man with integrity, someone who you could trust until your last breath, and you dedicated yourself to him one hundred percent. He worked hard with you to build that commitment. It was a long and sometimes difficult journey for you both. You relied on the chain of trust, built and extending from the one man you held above all others. You were a city dog, and a family dog-you had a boy to care for, as well as his mom, and you looked out for them and loved them for years before we ever met. You learned to play. You were a hyper young guy that would chase a blue raquet ball under the futon, and then bark hysterically, because someone had to dig it out for you. GET IT! Repeatedly. For half an hour. Best game ever! Human training.

When your dad and I got together, you had already comforted me through one of the most difficult times of my life. He brought you to see me at my mom’s house, and you cuddled me for all you were worth, right before she passed. There was this silent, special strength that you had, and it was incredible. You were a therapy dog without formal training, a survivor that innately knew how to deal with emotional pain and traumatic sadness. That’s why we called you “Max the Therapist”, you were always there for the hard times with your silent, strong, warm body. You were comfort. I will truly miss that.

We moved you with us out of the city, so you could enjoy nature in your older years. Not without its initial hiccups, the relaxed country life was something we were finally able to give you. The same misconceptions I had when I first met you, followed us here, and I was disgusted that your peaceful home could be threatened by money grubbing scumbags and overly educated behaviorist strangers. You were so loved, so many friends to reflect on your strong character and dedication, I was so moved. Yes, you were a pittie, and that made you vulnerable to bad humans….but you had found the good ones, and everyone that loved your dad, also loved you. We kept you safe from others that would do you harm.

Max was there for our big day to hold the rings

You were the most handsome ring bearer in any wedding, ever. You were patient when were were hours late, good for the ceremony, and fantastic for pictures-my prince’s white steed. You were a great older brother to the little maniac puppy we brought home right around that time, too. You helped us raise Ozwald and eventually became his keeper, looking over him and protecting him as you did with those you loved. You also nurtured the girls we acquired during your later years, adding everyone to the pack and keeping the peace. You were the first and head of our crazy fur kids. I am so proud that I got to be your mama for the later part of your life. I’ll always see you panting in the sunshine, and rolling around on the fresh grass giving yourself slight grass stains on your white back. Mama loved you first Max, even before I loved daddy.

The Fingerlakes of Ice , Frozen Falls, and ONE WEEK UNTIL PARIS

Ice on Seneca : photo by Melissa Brewer
Ice on Seneca Lake : photo by Melissa Brewer


Ice crust on the lake : photo by Melissa Brewer
Ice crust on Cayuga lake : photo by Melissa Brewer

Taughannock Falls iced over : photo by Leah Kaller
Taughannock Falls iced over : photo by Leah Kaller

Icy blue sky : photo by Melissa Brewer
Icy blue sky over Seneca Lake : photo by Melissa Brewer

It has been a VERY frigid February in the Finger Lakes, with temperatures falling below zero for extended cold snaps lasting multiple nights. The Finger Lakes themselves are freezing over, with only Cayuga and Seneca not completely iced over. Seneca has not frozen over for generations, and the view of the lake with ice crusts floating on the surface is stunning. Time will soon tell if the temperatures have caused damage to grapevines along the shores of the Finger Lakes. The lakes create microclimates that help keep temperatures just a bit higher near the deepest bodies of water (Seneca and Cayuga are deepest), but this February has been brutal. Although the cold is difficult to bear, the beauty of a frozen winter here is beautiful.

Today Is February 22, which means in ONE WEEK I will be headed to Paris, Corsica, Rotterdam, and Amsterdam with my husband Eddie-I’m a lucky bitch. Keep checking in on this BoozyWife, things are about to get interesting!

Re-Post from Swedish Hill: Producing Finger Lakes Ice Wines

One of the best things about this area in winter is the production of Ice Wines! Sweet, velvety, rich nectar from the frozen grape, pressed while still frozen on the vine. Follow the link to read all about production this time of year, from one of the first wineries I ever visited in our area–Swedish Hill! I still have pics of my meeting with

Time for Ice Wine
Time for Ice Wine

Doobie the Donkey….he’s a sweetie (“No feeding Doobie crackers, Doobie is on a diet!” reads a sign above the tasting bar….)