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.
A few times a year I make it a point to take a mini getaway with some of my childhood best friends. This time we decided that Cabo San Lucas was the place to meet for some sun, fun and some much needed R & R. Being that this was my first time in Cabo I thought it was the perfect opportunity to escape the busy summer workplace and go to a destination where words like- private beaches, bottomless margaritas and vibrant nightlife, would entice the quadruple threat of four California women. It was destined to be nothing less then a memorable trip.
We arrived in Cabo in the early evening just as the last rays of sunshine fell behind the dry dessert mountains. Hot winds welcomed us as we descended the airplane into paradise. The first evening commenced into pure relaxation. We feasted on ceviche and cocktail de camarones, followed by the most thirst-quenching margaritas a girl could ask for. Sitting outside in 75 degree weather overlooking the ocean was simply a perfect introduction.
The next few days we lived as beach bums; swimming, boozing and bikini strutting, my three favorite summerlicious things to do. Dining out in local restaurants became our second priority, as we were not fans of the commercialized restaurants targeted to tourists. I became obsessed with Sopa de Tortilla, which consists of pasilla chile and chicken based broth, topped off with avocado, lime, crema and tortilla chips. I was also in heaven everyday with the succulent street food that came our way like, hot dogs wrapped in bacon and tacos galore. How could I resist?
The morning of our departure we were lucky enough to catch the Mexico vs. Uruguay World Cup game at a local bar right on the beach. As part of my travel traditions, I happened to bring a bottle of Ceja Chardonnay as my little traveling gnome and as a symbol for good luck. Servers were dressed in there festive Mexican jerseys, ready to win the battle. Sadly, we lost that match but cheered up after some locals offered to buy us a round of Palomas: (tequila, limejuice, grapefruit juice and soda water), probably the most refreshing drink ever. A definite must try. Period.
After an extended weekend filled with nonstop laughing, indulging and schmoozing in the tropics of Cabo, we came back as bronzed beach babes, refreshed and ready to take on the world once again!
Until the next adventure amigos…
Paella is a Valencian rice dish that originated in its modern form in the mid-19th century near lake Albufera, a lagoon in Valencia, on the east coast of Spain. Many non-Spaniards view paella as Spain's national dish, but most Spaniards consider it to be a regional Valencian dish. Valencians, in turn, regard paella as one of their identifying symbols (Excerpt from Wikipedia).
In this video Amelia Ceja prepares Paella Mixta, a free-style combination of meat, seafood, vegetables and beans. This tasty dish is paired with Ceja Vineyards' crisp dry rose - Bella Flor.
Dalia Ceja cooks up a wonderful treat just in time for summer - chicken skewers with spicy peanut sauce! Paired with Ceja's Sauvignon Blanc, this is a treat worth sharing with family and friends!
Dalia Ceja takes you on a tour of Ceja Vineyards' Wine Tasting Salon and Lounge located in the heart of downtown Napa. Next time you're in the neighborhood, please stop in for a taste of some of Napa's finest vinos! In addition to the wine tasting, join us every Saturday evening for the hottest salsa party around! We offer a beginner's salsa lesson at 7:30pm and an intermediate class at 8:30pm. Both classes are free of charge. A dance party continues afterwards until 11pm. No partner necessary.
A friendly breeze welcomed us as we arrived at the Love Field airport in Dallas. This was the first time that I had set foot on Texas soil and I felt a wave of excitement surge through me as we began our exploration through this unfamiliar but thriving Metropolis. Upon hailing down a taxi, I received my first real introduction to Texan culture; Taxi driver: “Y’all California folk? Now that’s a long way from Dallas…well, y’all enjoy and take care, ya hear.” I immediately fell in love with this place. Who wouldn’t? Texas accents were like music to my ears.
Our agenda for the next few days was quite simple. We were there because my darling mother was being recognized as one of the Women Wine Stars, alongside legendary vintners like Dolores Cakebread and Katheryn Hall by the prestigious Les Dames D’Escoffier. It was quite the honor and I was thrilled to join her side to represent Ceja as the next generation in the wine industry.
There was a buzz in the air the day of the big event. A sense of excitement seemed to radiate off everyone, as we were each interviewed by The Wine Channel T.V. with hostess Just Jess. After a few laughs on camera we cruised to La Duni, a very chic and Latino inspired restaurant. I can tell you one thing, Texans know how to eat. We feasted on a yummy brunch of chilaquiles paired with fresh squeezed tangerine mimosas. My kind of food heaven.
A few hours later I was standing in my BCBG gold stilettos walking through F.I.G. or the Fashion Industry Gallery. The who’s who of Texan society was there and the event itself turned out to be a huge success. Halfway through the event, the honorees were celebrated by parading through the crowds of thirsty admirers waving flags of their respected winery, followed by brief speeches on their trials and tribulations. It was inspiring to hear the voices of such powerful women who've made such remarkable impacts in the wine industry.
The F.I.G hosted over 600 guests who sampled over 50 delicious wines from California and nibbled on a handful of top Dallas restaurant tapas. As the evening continued I couldn’t help but smile and think to myself; you know you’re in Texas when it’s a black tie event and half the men are wearing cowboy hats and a few women are in cowboy boots. An amazing sight. I envied them. My feet were killing me and I would’ve traded in my stilettos for boots in a second.
The next day, after a successful meeting with our new wine distributor we had a free afternoon and decided to explore Dallas by foot. Our journey began in the historical downtown district through the delightful afternoon sunshine. As we were taking advantage of the glorious sun I stumbled upon what I consider an amazing treasure- an authentic Western/cowboy store. I walked straight in and the heavy smells of leather welcomed my nose. The wall to my right was lined with over two hundred pairs of colorful cowboy boots and to my left a gorgeous display of antique turquoise jewelry. I spied a pair of low heeled chestnut boots and knew that they had to be mine.
As we walked back to our hotel, I felt a positive admiration for the city and its deep passion for food, wine and authenticity. I felt almost at home and could imagine what life would be like living in such a flourishing city. The Texan sun began to set, illuminating the sky with deep red, pink and orange hues. It was the perfect way to end our trip to Dallas, but it definitely won’t be the last.
Until the next adventure amigos…
For all of you with a sweet-tooth out there we have just the recipe for you! Dalia Ceja prepares one of her all time favorite desserts - almond infused flan with a sweet and tart berry salsa. Try this rich dessert with Ceja Vineyards' velvety Syrah!
It's pizza time folks! Dalia Ceja, Sales & Marketing Manager at Ceja Vineyards shares one of her favorite pizza incarnations made with fresh and zesty ingredients. Paired with Ceja Vineyards' Vino de Casa Red blend, this delectable dish will have you singing "Mozzarella!"
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
Mother and daughter duo, Amelia and Dalia Ceja, create traditional corn tacos of chicken and potato with a spicy fire roasted salsa. Ceja Vineyards' Vino de Casa White blend is on hand to complement this fabulous dish!