Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Message in a (Wine) Bottle

Wine bottles have more uses than just holding wine. For centuries they, along with beer bottles, have been used to send messages into the future. Writing a message and sealing it in a bottle before casting it out to sea sounds romantic, and a bit adventurous.  Where will it go? Who will find it? When will it be found? Will anyone reply? 

The first known messages to be sent out in bottles occurred around 310 BC by the Ancient Greek philosopher, Theophrastus. He was intent on proving that the Mediterranean Sea was formed by the Atlantic Ocean. (There's no record as to if he received any answers.)

Queen Elizabeth the 1st
During the 16th century, Queen Elizabeth created the official title of “Uncorker of Ocean Bottles” for the person designated to open bottle from the sea, which contained messages from the Navy about enemy positions on the high seas.

Coconut Wood
In 1784, forty-four Japanese seamen set sail in search of buried treasure on various Pacific islands when their ship was blown off course and stranded on a deserted island. One of the castaways, Chunosuke Matsuyama, carved their story into thin pieces of coconut wood then inserted them into a bottle and tossed it into the sea. In 1935, over 150 years later, the bottle washed ashore in Hiraturemura, Japan – the village where Matsuyama had been born.

To launch a message in a bottle, the sender usually writes a note or request, seals it in the bottle and then tosses it into the sea or river to see where it might end up. It appears that 1913 and 1914 were good years to send out messages in bottles as these three stories show.

Thomas Hughes
One hundred years ago, on September 9, 1914, 26-year-old Private Thomas Hughes, a British soldier on his way to fight in France, cast a bottle into the English Channel that contained a letter to his wife. The message read:

"Dear Wife, I am writing this note on this boat and dropping it into the sea just to see if it will reach you. If it does, sign this envelope on the right hand bottom corner where it says receipt. Put the date and hour of receipt and your name where it says signature and look after it well. Ta ta sweet, for the present. Your Hubby."

Granddaughter Emily Gowan
Hughes was killed in action two days later. In 1999, 85 years after the event, a fisherman found the bottle in the River Thames. Hughes’ wife Elizabeth had died in 1979, but the letter was delivered to his 86-year-old daughter, Emily Gowan who was living in Auckland, New Zealand.

Bottle & Post Card
Crew of Maria I
Another interesting find was in the Baltic Sea, near Kiel Germany: The skipper of the Maria I netted a brown beer bottle while fishing. A crewmember noticed a paper inside which turned out to be a postcard from Denmark. Dated May 17, 1913 the card had been written and released by 20-year-old Richard Platz, a German living in Berlin.  He requested that the finder forward the postcard back to him in Berlin.

Maritime Museum in Hamburg
Platz died in 1946, but his granddaughter, Angela Erdmann, now 62-years-old still resides in Berlin and was amazed at the find. The bottle and its message went on display at the Maritime Museum in Hamburg this spring, but is now being studied by researchers as they try to make out the remainder of the message which has been badly smudged over the years.

Glasgow School of Navigation
Again, in 1914, a scientist, Captain C. Hunter Brown of the Glasgow School of Navigation cast 1,890 clear glass bottles into the ocean as a way to study local ocean currents around Scotland. The notes read:

Note Found Inside Bottle
Please state where and when this card was found, and then put it in the nearest Post Office. You will be informed in reply where and when it was set adrift. Our object is to find out the direction of the deep currents of the North Sea."  One of the bottles was found east of the Shetland Islands by a fishing vessel – 98 years later, in 2012.

Zeppelin L 19
It was during WWI, on February 1, 1916 when the crew of Zeppelin L 19 of the German Imperial Navy was returning from their first bombing raid on England. Engine trouble and malfunctioning radio equipment led to the Zeppelin flying off-course into Dutch air space where it was fired upon. The damaged airship was then blown offshore and landed in the North Sea.

King Stephen and Sinking Zeppelin
The next morning a British fishing vessel, The King Stephen sighted the L 19's distress signals. When the captain and crew arrived, they found Germans aboard the sinking ship: the captain refused to rescue them and left them to die. As the weather worsened, Zeppelin crewmembers wrote personal messages and an account of what had happened before placing the notes in several bottles and tossing them into the roiling sea. When the Royal Navy made a search of the area, no airship or crew were found. It was four months after the incident when a crewman’s body washed ashore, and six months until bottles began washing up on shore to tell the story.

And what “message in a bottle” tale would be complete with out the requisite love story. In 1956 a young Swedish sailor, Ake Viking wrote a letter addressed “To Someone Beautiful and Far Away.” In it he gave his address, a description of himself and closed with these words, "Write to me, whoever you are." Viking then placed the note in a bottle and tossed it overboard to see what, if anything, would happen.

Two years later, Viking received a letter in reply from a 17-year-old girl, Paolina, in Sicily.  She wrote, "Last Tuesday, I found a bottle on the shore. Inside was a piece of paper, bearing writing in a strange language. I took it to our priest, who is a great scholar. He said the language was Swedish and, with the help of a dictionary, he read me your charming letter. I am not beautiful, but it seems so miraculous that this little bottle should have traveled so far and long to reach me that I must send you an answer ..." The two began corresponding and in 1961 Ake moved to Sicily to marry Paolina, his message answered. An article was written about the couple in The American Weekly in 1959 titled "Love in a Bottle."

Message in a Bottle
Bottles are still being found today, around the world. In April 2013 a bottle washed up on the beach near Dubrovnik, Croatia.  It had been thrown out to sea in 1985 from Nova Scotia, Canada and made a journey over 4,000 miles.

"1906" Message
The oldest note in a bottle was discovered in April of this year, bearing the date of September 29, 1906. A Canadian man, Steve Thurber found the bottle near Schooner’s Cove in Tofino, British Columbia. Inside was a note signed by Earl Willard. Unfortunately, Thurber doesn’t want the bottle opened so independent verification hasn’t been done.

All told, only about 350 bottles have been recovered and reported around the world. Maybe it’s time to finish that bottle of wine, write a message, and send it off with the current, into the tides of history.

~ Joy

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

6 Campy Wine Trips for Summer

June is National Camping Month: Time to load up the camper/RV/motorhome and head out for some R & R & W (Rest, Relaxation and Wine.) But now your stay can be up close and personal at designated wineries and breweries across the country.

A growing number of agritourism businesses now offer RVer’s a chance to camp at their sites for up to 24 hours at no charge.

In return, it is hoped that RV travelers will visit the wineries, breweries, farms, orchards, and ranches to experience and enjoy what their hosts have to offer. 

Many wineries offer free tours of their facilities and a wine tasting to their RV visitors.  Animal ranches and farms may offer a chance to see the animals up close and purchase food and products made directly on the farm.  There is no obligation for an RV visitor to purchase anything while staying there, although buying a bottle of local wine to enjoy while watching the moon rise over the vineyard is a nice token of appreciation to your hosts.

If you prefer an RV Park with hookups and amenities, there are several located near wineries that charge a daily rate for parking, and some have extra wine-related perks.

Here are six places to check out for a wine country getaway in your motorhome this summer:

1) Harvest Hosts      
(Free Camping/Annual Membership Charge)
Started in 2010 by Don and Kim Greene, Harvest Hosts is the first membership program for wine-loving RVers. For a $40 membership fee per year, campers will receive unlimited access to the member website which provides maps, host locator, travel itinerary ideas, latest updates and host directory. The directory is a downloadable list of agritourism sites that allow self-contained RVs to park and stay. (Self-contained means that your camper has a toilet and built-in holding tanks for waste water.) Host sites are not normal campgrounds and do not provide water, electric, restrooms, trash or sewer facilities, but most will provide you with memories you wouldn’t get at a regular campsite. 

2) Wine Country RV Park
(Daily Rates for Parking)

Located in the Lower Yakima Valley of Washington State’s Wine Country, Wine Country RV Park actually provides the parking site for your RV, with amenities, all within walking distance of 13 tasting rooms, and another 23 wineries are within easy driving distance. The park can accommodate different kinds of rigs and 125 sites are equipped with full hookups, a picnic table and WiFi. Daily rates run from $34 to $56 depending on the size of your rig. Discounts are available for Good Sam, Escapees RV Club and AAA. Located in the town of Prosser, there are also two local breweries and a walking/bike trail to burn off some of those calories.

3) Wine Country RV Park Sonoma
(Daily Rates for Parking)

Sonoma is home to over 400 wineries, and Wine Country RV Park Sonoma will put you in close proximity to many of them. Located in Santa Rosa, California, the Russian River Valley is home to 25 outstanding wineries.  With over 150 full-hookup sites, the 5.5 acre park is located in the heart of Sonoma's Wine Country. All sites include water, sewer, electric, cable and WiFi for $49 per day. Weekly and monthly rates are available along with discounts for Good Sam, AAA, and seniors.

4) Vineyard RV Park
(Daily Rates for Parking)
This campground is in Vascaville, California and located near Napa Valley; home to over 400 wineries. Amenities include full hookups, cable, WiFi, a catch and release pond, laundry facilities and a pool. Daily rates range from $52 to $55 with Good Sam, AAA and active military discounts available. Weekly and monthly rates are also available. No RV? No Problem! You can rent an RV here to stay in.

5) The Vineyards Campground and Cabins on Grapevine Lake
 (Daily Rates for Parking)          
Located in Grapevine, Texas, this 52-acre award-winning RV Park is close to five local wineries; all located on the Grapevine Wine Trail.
The park has over 90 full hookup RV sites with WiFi, located on or near the lake, with or without trees. There is a nature trail, and fishing and paddling are allowed on the lake. Rates are from $48 to $68 a day depending on whether you have a pull through or a back-in site. Discounts include Good Sam and TACO (Texas Campgrounds.)

6) Texas Wine Country Jellystone Park
(Daily Rates for Parking)
Located outside of Fredericksburg, Texas, this RV Park is on Highway 290 in the heart of Texas Wine Country and close to 12 wineries. Another 30 wineries are scattered around the area. This is definitely a park for families with kids. Amenities include full hookup sites, WiFi and cable, plus a pool, hot tub and amphitheatre. Twenty-four RV sites are located in the park with daily rates ranging from $58 to $70 depending on where you've parked.

If you’re an RV owner and a wine lover, then it’s time to head out to a vino-centric RV destination and enjoy camping and wine with like-minded oenophiles around the country.

~ Joy

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

10 Tasty Summer Wine Cocktails

Wine cocktails have become fashionable again, especially since The Great Gatsby remake came out last year and we realized how totally cool they really are.

A wine cocktail is crafted predominantly with wine instead of spirits although various amounts of liquors may be added along with fruit juices and/or sodas to create the cocktail. Any wine can be used; it just depends on what you like.

Besides offering a new twist to a favorite wine or mixed drink, a wine cocktail is perfect for summer’s sultry weather when drinks with lower alcohol are more refreshing.

Here are ten made with a variety of wines.

Bubbly Wine Cocktails Using:
1) Champagne
Champagne goes with every occasion, even if it’s settling in on the porch with a good book, and bubbles are extremely popular when mixing a wine cocktail. Champagne is usually mixed with fruits, sodas, and liqueurs for lively and thirst-quenching cocktails.

Champagne Cocktail

The mother of all wine cocktails is the Champagne cocktail, an IBA (International Bartenders Association) Official Cocktail.  It is made with sugar, bitters, champagne, brandy, and garnished with a maraschino cherry or orange slice.


2) Prosecco
If Champagne is too costly, consider Prosecco, an Italian sparkling wine that is usually dry or extra dry. Prosecco is the main ingredient in the Bellini cocktail, another wine cocktail favorite, especially in Italy. The Bellini is made with chilled Prosecco and peach puree: Simple and tasty.

American Sparkles

3) Sparkling Wine
You can also opt for an American-made sparkling wine. Many of these may be sweeter and some will also be crafted from a fruit (strawberry, cranberry, watermelon), adding another layer of flavor to your drink.

Pinot Gris Wine Cocktail
White Wine Cocktails Using:
4) Pinot Gris
A perfect wine cocktail made with Pinot Gris involves stone fruits: peaches, apricots, cherries, and fruit juices like apple, pineapple and cranberry. You can even add watermelon cubes or cucumber slices. For some interesting and varied ideas visit Ecco Domani’s wine cocktail recipes @

Kir Wine Cocktail
5) Chablis
This wine is perfect for concocting the popular French drink known as Kir. Usually crafted with crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur), it can also be made with blackberries (de mûre) or peaches (de pêche). The IBA suggests mixing 9 parts wine to 1 part liqueur, but the French have been known to mix Kir a bit stronger …

6) Moscato
This fruit-friendly wine can be mixed with an assortment of fruit juices to make numerous wine cocktails. Mocato wines have a new following among the younger wine drinkers who like its lighter style and spritzy character. When mixing a drink, play into those peach, nectarine and orange flavors with juices and fruit to complement them. Or cube up watermelon, add some lime juice and garnish with mint. Sutter Home has an amazing list of Moscto wine cocktail recipes to try @

The Bishop Wine Cocktail
Red Wine Cocktails Using:
7) Merlot
Merlot can be mixed with a variety of fruit juices to create some intriguing cocktails.  Go with the grape’s natural flavor profile and mix with cherry, berries, black current and plum fruits and juices. Or try this popular Merlot wine cocktail called The Bishop: Made with powdered sugar, orange and lemon juice strained into a glass over two ice cubes. Fill the remainder of the glass with Merlot and experience a divine drink.

Queen Charlotte
8) Pinot Noir
Usually considered to be one of the red wine darlings, Pinot Noir can make a drink seem royal when mixed with the right ingredients. Try a Queen Charlotte with 2oz of Pinot Noir wine, 1oz Grenadine and fill with lemon-lime soda over ice: A majestic summer reviver.

Chianti Margarita
9) Chianti
This light-bodied Italian wine is made from 80% Sangiovese grapes: With its floral and spicy aroma, it is the perfect wine to use for some exotic cocktails. Danzante Wines has a Chianti Margarita cocktail that includes all the margarita basics: tequila, triple sec and lime juice served over crushed ice @ Definitely a summer dazzler.

10) Any Wine

Wine Spritzer
The one-size fits all wine cocktail is the wine spritzer. This drink can be made with any wine you have on hand. Simply add sparkling water, club soda or lemon-line soda at a ratio of half mixer to half wine, add ice, top with fruit and enjoy.

If you happen to like Cabernet instead of Merlot, or Vidal is your go-to wine instead of Chablis, feel free to substitute. One of the coolest things about a wine cocktail is that it is hard to mix a “bad” one. And if all else fails, mix up some Sangria, refrigerate for a few hours and pour a cool salute to summer.

~ Joy