As I prepped for our 9th Anniversary Party at Ceja Vineyards on Saturday evening, my mind kept coming back around to the half marathon I would be running the next morning. As I cleaned and polished, set out wine, printed signs and made sure everything was just right for the 200 guests to arrive, I lamented that I, Wine Club Wendy, would not be partaking in any wine tasting that day! Alas, dehydration is the enemy. It is best to save the vino for the finish line!
I woke up early on Sunday, my alarm was set for 4:50 am, but the nervousness of missing my alarm (which I never do) had me up at 4:30. I tiptoed around the house, made my ritual coffee, had a bowl of Cheerios and mentally prepared myself for the 13.1 miles ahead of me. My training has been lacking for the past year, very sporadic and without discipline. I knew it wouldn’t be my best race, so I set my goal to keep it under two hours and to feel decent throughout the race.
The Napa to Sonoma is a spectacular course that winds through the vineyards in Carneros and ends at the Sonoma Square in Downtown Sonoma. The start is at Cuvasion Winery a couple of miles from my own work place, and the course passes through gently rolling hills filled with vineyards as far as the eye can see. At one point we passed by one of Ceja’s vineyards and I gave a little wave to the Pinot Noir planted there. I feel very lucky to live in a place where a run can be called a “Destination Race” because yes, it is just that good!
I started out a little farther back in the pack of 3000 runners this year and now I know this was a costly mistake, even if the event is chip timed. I spent the first 2 miles along with my fellow Vinerunners Eileen, Emily and Brian (the blocker), weaving and dodging through hundreds of runners to try and get out to some open road. I finally moved into some open space and settled into my pace. I didn’t have a watch on, it has been missing for quite some time, and I didn’t really have any idea how to keep track of my time. So instead, I just pushed myself a little harder than a regular run, and I was delighted to find that I was passing people the entire race! I couldn’t gauge how fast I was going, so I just kept chipping away at the miles. At mile 10 I gave out a holler and the gal next to me concurred, 3 miles? 3 measly miles? I could do that in my sleep. Around mile 12 (oh how I love mile 12) a group of friends were there to cheer me on, and it was nice to have a little encouragement to get through the final mile and pull me into the finish line.
I crossed the finish line and forgot to even glance at the clock. I was trying to get my bearings, have my timing chip removed, grab some chocolate milk (have you read that it is the new Gatorade?) and stretch my legs before the soreness set in, when it finally dawned on me that I had no idea of my time. I had seen a teammate somewhere in the last few miles and figured he couldn’t be too terribly far from me, so I went in search of Mark to try and determine my time. We guesstimated somewhere around an hour and 50 minutes, and we were pretty much right on the money. I tried to smile and nod as everyone congratulated me, but the 10 minutes slower-than-last-year time didn’t sit too well with me. Nonetheless, I had finished the race and was glad to see Amelia and Martha Ceja pouring wine over in the tasting area. Marta bravely gave me a hug (sweaty) while Amelia handed me a chilled bottle of Ceja Vineyards 2008 Bella Flor Rosé. Now this made it all worthwhile! ¡Gracias Amelia!
Next year I hope to improve greatly upon my time, more training(!), a watch, and situating myself closer to the starting line should help! I never thought I would say this, but in the words of John “The Penguin” Bingham, waddle on, my friends.
After a week of fretting about the weather, Super Bowl Sunday was going to be a glorious day in San Francisco. I pulled myself out of bed at 5:00 am and quickly checked out the window, awesome – no rain! A wave of relief passed over me as I stepped into the hot shower to awaken my body. In only a couple of hours I would be asking it to run farther than it has in 6 months. A little café con leche and an almond butter and homemade blackberry jam sandwich and I am out the door and on my way. I took the shuttle into the City from the Kaiser Office in Oakland with 3 friends (including one Kaiser employee), all geared up and ready for the run. At the starting line we were amazed at the number of people – 10,000 runners and a whole host of volunteers all up at the crack of dawn for an organized run through Golden Gate Park. It was a bit chilly, but we reluctantly gave up our warm ups and headed for the starting line. I could see it a good 200 yards in front of us, but with new chip technology timing the clock wouldn’t start ticking for me until I actually crossed the line.
We started out the race in a residential area, heading up Fell Street and then back around down Oak Street and into the park. I was pleased to find that a good portion of the race was at a very slight downhill, and welcomed those times when I could relax into my pace and catch my breath. It took a little while to warm up, but the sun was shining and it truly was a glorious morning. We ran all the way through the park, past the starting line (again) and all the way down to the Great Highway. I knew it was a flat out-and-back on the Great Highway, but I couldn’t see the turnaround point until I was almost right on top of it. I passed the time by watching the elite runners going the other way. The first guy looked relaxed and confident, like he was out for a morning jog – except he finished the race in an astonishing 1:06:08 (an hour and six minutes – that is fast 5:02 minute mile). No one was near him, certainly not the second place guy who was over two and a half minutes behind him! I kept my eye out for the first woman, as I passed by miles 8 and 9, she was coming back in a small pack of men and finished in 1:15:08 – a speedy 5:44 minute mile pace! Wow. Focusing back on my own running, I was feeling good and just had a little stiffness in my right leg. I made it to the turnaround and knew I was entering the final stretch. But as I whipped around the cones I was hit by a blast of cool ocean air. I rolled my eyes and groaned. Just my luck – a steady headwind for miles 10-12! I opted for some Gatorade at mile 10 for a little extra energy and kept chugging along. By mile 11, I was in glee – on 2 miles to go, I could do that with my eyes closed and a glass of Ceja Chardonnay in hand! With mile 12 in my sights and a sharp right turn back into the park (and out of the headwind) I was on my way home. In less than 8 minutes I would be done! Lots of people were lined up on the sidelines ringing cowbells and cheering everyone on to the finish. I gave a final little push a crossed the finish line…. Looking down at my watch – 1:48 and change. Just about what I expected, 8 minutes slower than my previous race, but for good reason – I had actually trained for that race. Hmmm, gives a girl something to think about. I better get out there and pound the pavement a little more before the next one!
~Wine Club Wendy
March 20, 2010. This is the second year I have run the annual Carneros Fire Department Vineyard Run (www.carnerosfire.org) and that infamous hill up to the Artesa winery does not get any easier! If you have ever been to Artesa, you know it sits perched upon a little hill here in the Carneros region with gorgeous views and on a clear day you can see all the way to San Francisco. While this might make for an easy start to the race, it is one of the toughest hills I have encountered at a finish in a long time! Artesa hosts this fundraiser every year for the volunteer fire department, donating their space and wines for the participants. It includes a 5k and a 10k run (3.1 miles and 6.2 miles respectively) followed by a pancake and sausage breakfast (and vino too!).
I love this run. It’s not too big, somewhere around 900 runners; it’s always full of locals like my fellow Vinerunners as well as winery friends and others from around the community. I invited a running pal of mine to test his legs on the rolling hills of Carneros and he accepted – he’s training for the Boston Marathon this month and always a sure bet for any fun run I can dig up! He got a personal best on the course, but when I asked him how it went he said he was silently cursing me all the way out. Those rolling hills are beautiful, and though they seem trivial, you can definitely feel them as you are chugging along. I ran a respectable time, though 4 minutes slower than last year (indeed, I need to step up my training, I know) – it was however, still fast enough to win a bottle of Artesa’s Late Harvest wine. After a satisfactory race, a belly full of pancakes, and a bottle of wine in hand I left the race with a big smile on my face. Next year I might even coax some of my co-workers into running it with me. In the meantime, next up for me is the US Half Marathon on April 11th in San Francisco. It will be my first race across the Golden Gate Bridge – wish me luck!
Contrary to popular belief, I’m not out tasting on a weekly basis – but I do make time when guests come from out of town to visit (or any other similar excuse). My Mom and her husband were here this past weekend and I wanted them to have a memorable experience. I planned a couple of tastings and a Saturday night dinner reservation, but for the rest of the time I thought we would play tourist and pop in wherever our hearts desired. On Saturday afternoon we headed over to Sonoma Valley to the Robledo Winery where we learned about the “historia” of the family from Luis Robledo himself and tasted some of their fabulous wines. The tasting room is in an old barn on their property off of Arnold Road, and has a rustic atmosphere. For us, the Petite Syrah was a standout and we picked up a bottle for dinner that evening.
I chose the Harvest Moon Café on the square in Sonoma for dinner. It was highly recommended by Lin Durling of Artesian Wine Tours (www.artisanwinetours.com) and a new destination for me. We were seated right away in the small, cozy front area of the restaurant. Our waiter’s name was Pasang and he was from Nepal, he told us that Pasang means Friday and is a common name for Sherpa’s born on that day. Reminiscent of my travels in Bali where they have only 4 names; First, Second, Third and Fourth [born] – respectively Wayan, Kadek, Nyoman and Ketut. For males they put an “I” (pronounced “ee”) before the name and for females they use Ni. That makes me Ni-Nyoman Wendy. And yes, if they have more than 4 children, they start over again! If you have read Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert you already know this little factoid.
I digress; we were talking about the Harvest Moon Café. The service was spot on and the food was delightful, especially the chunky tomato soup and the lamb stew over a bed of risotto. I recommend this little jewel of a restaurant for a welcoming, cozy dinner.
After dinner we headed back to Napa and stopped in at the Ceja Vineyards Wine Tasting Salon & Lounge in downtown for salsa lessons. The floor was packed by the time we got there and the intermediate lesson was just getting underway. My mom and her husband immediately jumped out on the floor and participated in Ariel’s “Bachata” lesson – although my mom already dances salsa, this was a new step for her and she loved it. You must stop by! Every Saturday evening the beginning classes start at 7:30, intermediate at 8:30 and then the party continues all night. Some of the best nightlife in Napa!
On Sunday we made several stops, including one at Bistro Jeanty in Yountville for some of their world famous tomato soup – it comes with a puff pastry baked on top and is simply to die for! If you have not tried it, I recommend you head over there immediately. It’s phenomenal. A trip to Yountville is not complete without a stop at Bouchon Bakery – we grabbed a couple of baguettes and a few of their delicious French macaroons.
Wanting to drive up valley a bit, we headed up to St. Helena and popped in to Charles Krug on Highway 29, it is the first winery in the Napa Valley (established in 1861) and offers not only a great selection of wines, but lots of history as well. It was getting late and time to start heading home for the evening, but on our way back we saw the gorgeous Culinary Institute of America (once a monastery and later owned by Christian Brothers) looming on the right, and we couldn’t resist but to stop in for a glass of wine and marvel at the kitchen and the architecture. I still haven’t been there for dinner, and I think that's criminal. It’s next on my list – I’ll be sure to update you when I go. Stay tuned!
~Wine Club Wendy
Running has been integral part of my life for 17 years now. A long time team sport athlete, I began running my sophomore year in college to help battle the loathsome freshman fifteen. I joined my college cross country team at the beckoning of my soon-to-be coach and never looked back. While I wasn’t the top runner on my team – I was very green – I was dedicated and enjoyed the challenge. By my senior year I made the top 20 in my conference and had really gotten the running bug. I finally broke the 20 minute barrier and logged a PR for a 5K at 19:36 after graduation. I learned a lot from my teammates (what not to do as well as what to do) and a wealth of knowledge from my overly dedicated nerdy but awesome coach.These days I have logged many miles in many different countries, run loads of road races, made tons of running friends and now I can literally walk out the door of my office at Ceja Vineyards and run through the rolling hills of Carneros, amidst the mustard and vines, in one of the most beautiful places on earth.
Today marks 2 days before my fourth half marathon and I stand before you totally unprepared, but not afraid. I have a mere 20 miles logged this week and none of them very satisfying. I ran my first half back in the late 90s in Colorado and it was grueling! I was a newbie to Colorado and to trail running and a good half marathon in the foothills of the Rockies will break a girl in quickly. But many years later, and a few half marathons the wiser, I know a 13 mile run is not anything to fear. Especially through Golden Gate Park on a cool February morning and with a Super Bowl Party with friends awaiting me afterwards. Bring it on Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon. I fear you not!
~Wine Club Wendy
What does a running club and a wine club have in common? C’est moi! As the Wine Club Manager here at Ceja Vineyards I spend a lot of my time talking with members, pouring wine, setting up appointments for tastings, and dealing with wine shipping logistics. But on the off hours I belong to another type of club, the Vinerunners here in Napa. Our motto is “a drinking club with a running problem” for a very good reason! Almost everyone in the club is connected to the wine industry in one way or another and very dedicated to it – we are in the Napa Valley after all – but we are also very dedicated to running. Often when I move to a new city I immediately begin searching the web for a running club, I know we will instantly have a commonality and there will undoubtedly be runners in my ability range, but here in Napa it is two-fold. Wine and running? What could be more perfect? For me, not much else. So the next time you are visiting Napa and if you have an inkling to go for a scenic run with some wine drinking running fools, come meet us on Thursdays at 6 pm or at 8:30 am on Saturdays at the Napa Running Company, 942 Main Street in downtown Napa.
Wendy Newman, Ceja Vineyards' wine club manager, explains the ins-and-outs of this fabulous familia. You can join the fun too! From festive fiestas to access to exclusive award winning wines, being a Casa Ceja wine club member is a must for any wine aficionado.
With 2009 drawing to a close and the holidays in full swing, there comes a time for gratitude and reflection. Stopping to think about my last 8 months here at Ceja Vineyards I realize how much knowledge I have gained, how many new friends I have made, and the good times that have been had. I have learned so much about food and wine it’s hard to know where to start. My very first week working here Amelia showed up with 60 fresh oysters from Hog Island, and I watched as she and Javier barbequed them to perfection (in front of the camera, of course), added a little Mexican flare, and then we all plopped them in our mouths with some Ceja Chardonnay to wash them down until our bellies were full. I had to pinch myself, is this really where I work? As the days passed on, I grew to realize that this was a way of life here at Ceja Vineyards. Not only was my wine knowledge growing on a daily basis, but I was also learning about cooking and pairing various foods with wine.
My significant other and family are delighted when I come home and use some of my freshly learned cooking tips and recipes. They look at me slyly and ask, “Did you learn this at work?” Some favorites so far have been the Cabernet Reduction Sauce that I lightly poured over a plump filet mignon and the Chardonnay Poached Pears for dessert paired with our Dulce Beso late harvest wine (you can find the recipes and videos on our website and Facebook page). I hope you have had a chance to try your hand at cooking some of the recipes that we have shared with you – and please let us know how it goes, we love to get feedback!
For all of you out there that I may have helped solve a shipment issue, fixed a credit card glitch, or, if I was lucky enough to actually spend some time in the tasting room with you and our lovely wines, I want to thank you for being a part of the Ceja vision and family. Assisting you and bringing these wonderful wines to your table is a great joy to me and I am honored to do so. Here’s looking forward to a fantastic New Year ahead of us, more amazing wines, great food, and lots of good friends!
~Wine Club Wendy
What is a wine club exactly? I have been asked this question so many times, and a wine club is so many things! It’s an opportunity to take part in something you love, that brings a smile to your face, and that makes you want to quickly open another bottle and share it with your friends. Here at Ceja, our wine club members become part of our family. We love to have our newly found family members around, listening to Latin music and eating amazing cuisine whilst sipping on one of our fabulous wines with friends and family. It’s all part of the Ceja experience.
Casa Ceja wine club members receive shipments four times a year – in March, June, September and December. Members can chose to receive 3 (Vinum), 6 (Cantus), or 12 (Amor) bottles per quarter, always consisting of 2 varietals chosen by our Winemaker Armando, our General Manager Ariel and our President Amelia – and always something new! We offer the benefit of shipping the wine directly to you or you may pick it up if you live locally and can attend one of our spectacular wine club pick up parties (just ask around, we are known for them). They are always full of music, wine, delicious food, and lots of fun and conversation!
With the holidays in the air (yes, this is your wake up call, Christmas and Hanukkah are 2 months away) keep in mind a wine club gift membership for a friend or family member. It is the gift that keeps on giving! They will think of you each time these delicious wines show up at their doorstep and will always be accompanied by one of Amelia’s amazing recipes.
So jump on board, come join the Casa Ceja family and enjoy the benefits. Just give me a call or email me, I would love to hear from you and answer any questions you may have.
¡Salud, amor y vino!
Wine Club Wendy
-brought to you by CejaVineyards.com
Submit a fun and creative Haiku (HI-coo) about our 2006 Sonoma Carneros Pinot Noir for the chance to win a bottle of said amazing wine (we can ship it for those who don’t live locally)! We will be accepting Haikus until Sunday (Oct. 11th) at midnight, then our staff will vote on their favorite Haiku and we will announce the winner on Monday (Oct. 12th) – so get your pencils ready, bust out the Ceja wine, put those creative caps on, and post your Haiku on our Ceja Facebook Discussion Board today!
(Go to www.facebook.com/cejavineyards and look for the DISCUSSIONS tab at the top of the page). ¡Salud!
What is a Haiku?
We are looking for Haikus in the traditional 5-7-5 form; which means that it has 3 lines, the first line has 5 syllables, the second line has 7 and the final line has 5 syllables. Be creative and have fun with it.
2006 Ceja Sonoma Carneros Pinot Noir
A black cherry nose
Taste silk velvety layers