Brown-Bag (Life)

(Tap, tap. Is this thing on?)

Ahem. Greetings and salutations, patient friends of the j.brix project. It's been awhile. We do hope you've been keeping up with us on our Facebook page, as the humble status update's served as our main form of communication for some time now. We've had a busy few months here -- busy is good, to be sure, but it's also severely hampered our writing time.

So, what have we been up to whilst not writing? Last month, we took off from JB-HQ pointed north for a weeklong trip up the California coast, to spread the j.brix love and visit with friends -- and vineyards -- old and new. San Diego's a wonderful place and all, but those bottles were just itching to get out of the winery for a change of scenery. We'll share tales from the trip now, and in the weeks to come.

Stump the Chump

Ah, Santa Barbara County. Home of the j.brix fruit, and of our hearts. We had a grand time at Dierberg/Star Lane in the Santa Rita Hills, where we started with Sauvignon Blanc (theirs) and ended with Grenache (ours). It's a must-visit if you're in the area. Hollie runs an excellent tasting room, and they're nice enough to supply comprehensive, detailed stats on all the wines, which provide even the geekiest/most inquisitive with as much information as possible.

Speaking of information: As much as I love it, sometimes one needs to go in the complete opposite direction. Enter the Bien Nacido Vineyard, a picnic table full of winemakers, La Paloma Libresca ... and a brown bag.

Did these sleeping Bien Nacido Syrah vines know what was coming?

"Stump the Chump" is a longstanding lunchtime tradition 'round those parts; bring a bottle, and a bag to disguise it; pour a taste for everyone; and let the evaluating begin. Nobody's shy with opinions, nor criticism (during this particular round, "Tastes like Fermaid-K" was one of the nicer comments on an early wine). 

As I listened to bottle after bottle get reamed for winemaking flaws and overall boringness, I started to wonder if maybe it wasn't the best idea to have put our delicate, fine-boned, dear La Paloma Libresca in a brown paper bag, right out there, on the table. Could she handle it? Could we?

Time to pour.

"Beautiful color," someone commented. "Lovely fruit on the nose." "It's Pinot Noir, no doubt about it." "Santa Maria Valley." "Julia's Vineyard, that's it." "No, Edna Valley." "Tastes like something Lane (Tanner) would make."


The unveiling -- and subsequent shock at the fact that this wine was neither Pinot Noir nor from a coastal vineyard, and was both a first vintage and made in our garage -- marked the latest in a string of moments of surreality that have continued to occur ever since we started this project.

This was the next unexpected moment; the placing of the bottle on the "Wall of Fame" at the winery. (That's some company.)

On Vulnerability

Some part of you changes when you knowingly make yourself vulnerable. At a point, you will experience the terrifying truth that maybe it won't work; a flash of self-preservatory instinct that tells you flying under the radar is safest, and now, it's too late. If you truly have done your best, though, you will face this fear -- and you will know that whatever will come, must come, and you will welcome it with openness.

It is in these moments that we are gloriously, imperfectly, stunningly human.

Until next time, friends...