Wine Regions

Extraordinary Women of Spain: Chefs and Winemakers

Two good friends of mine are experts on culinary experiences.  I am so excited to fill you in on an outstanding women’s travel series called the Extraordinary Women of Spain:  Chefs and Winemakers. This travel series is co-created  by Epicopia Culinary Journeys and Epicurean Ways (the two good friends of mine).  There will initially be 5 trips to Spain to savor the culinary aspects of many different regions.  The first tour will be in the Catalonia & Barcelona region which includes visiting a total of no less than 10+ Michelin Star women chefs- all in 8 days!  Talk about some expressive, mind-blowing meals (with fabulous wines to match of course).  Speaking of wine, the winemakers you will meet include world-renowned masters of the craft, as well as passionate owners of small wineries .  Departure is set for June 16 – 24, 2012.

Each itinerary is designed for women, about women. Your Experience Director, Gabriella Ranelli de Aguirre is a recognized leading specialist in the food,
wine, art and architecture of Spain. She is the go-to person for the international press on matters gastronomic.

The travel series will continue to include five eight-night itineraries in Spain before braching out to other countries  and will also feature the women chefs & winemakers in The Levant: Alicante & Valencia offered October 20 – 28, 2012. The 2013
itineraries will include women chefs & winemaker in La Rioja and Basque Country, the region of Galicia, and Madrid: Town and countryside.

According to Harold, a 40 year veteran of the travel industry, “Women Chefs & Winemakers in Catalonia brings you deep into an elite wine and food region with plenty of time to linger, savor, reflect, discover and learn from the extraordinary Catalan women creating food and crafting wine in their own unique way.”

So…I ask:

When was the last time you were inspired? Had the chance to hang out with smart like-minded women and explore a region unfettered by your everyday duties and responsibilities? When was the last time you took the time to indulge your interests in food and wine? Have you ever said to yourself?  Someday I‟m going to get away on my own?  Well it‟s time to make it happen.

My friends mentioned not to delay – the 10 Michelin Star Journey is limited to 15 women.  Contact Harold Partain for Epicopia Culinary Journeys at 972.771.3510 or Toll Free 877.661.3844 or Email:

If you can’t wait to see or hear more before getting in touch with him, here is the link to the fabulous itinerary:  I am salivating as I write!


Each month, the Society of Wine Educators chooses an Educator of the month.  I had the privilege of interviewing the March Educator, Gilat Ben-Dor.  When interviewing, I like to get a feel for the person’s experience by asking the following questions:


Gilat’s answers were the following:

Like many a wine professional, I have a three (or four, or ten) way tie when it comes to my best wine experience. The Wine Women Awards I participated in at the opulent Hotel Bristol in Paris, with my fellow Top Ten World Finalist women from around the world, was an unforgettable experience. So was the two-week journey across Australia’s wine regions with a close-knit group of colleagues, fellow winners of the Wine Australia AusWISE national competition.
And even going back to my undergraduate days, I spent a semester living in Tuscany. Some of my best wine experiences came from the days they gathered us students for cultural field trips to the Tuscan countryside. We sat among friends over multi-course lunches, exploring the best of the region’s wines with each course. Getting up from the table one day, I looked back at the utter sea of wine glasses left behind, and I thought, “This is it. What a beautiful way to spend the moments of our life.”
Rather than have a favorite wine region, I have my “best of class” favorites. For example, my favorite white wine to complement subtle sauces is a Sancerre; my favorite “lamb” red is a Barossa Shiraz or a Chateauneuf-du-Pape; and so forth. I have very specific preferences, largely driven by the terroir or region rather than by individual brands.
When I go for “value wines,” I really mean it! These wines are extremely affordable. There’s nothing like Paul Jaboulet Aîné’s Parallèle “45” from the Côtes du Rhône to go with a hot, rustic meal.
I hold five wine credentials, from organizations including the Society of Wine Educators (CSW – Certified Specialist of Wine), the Court of Master Sommeliers, the International Sommelier Guild, Wine Australia (Australian Wine Bureau), and I am a Certified Bordeaux Educator through French agency Sopexa. As I mentioned under my favorite wine experiences, I was also fortunate to be a Top Ten World Finalist at the Wine Women Awards – Paris (2007), and a national winner of the Wine Australia AusWISE national wine educator competition.
I was working in “Corporate America,” but I knew my heart lied with an entrepreneurial life dedicated to my passions: these include wine, of course, but also speaking, writing, traveling, and business-so creating Renaissance Wine Academy LLC seemed like a natural outlet for me.
Indeed, this is only the surface! I have recently come out with 3 new books about following passion and creativity, and have formed my own publishing company in the process. I look forward to merging this area with my passion for wine, and am currently working on my first wine book.

GUSTO POWER™ is her success coaching business for the “Multi-Passionate Professional.” The books and this business are not directly wine-related, but they are all about living with passion and creativity, which does tie into the pleasures of wine! She tends to draw a lot of culinary and wine people for her personal and professional development services.  Wow, what a busy and accomplished woman!

The challenge for week 2 is to talk about a wine region that I am least familiar with.  I am happy to do that because I will be travelling to Paris, France next year.  Part of my plan is to visit vineyards and winemakers of the Champagne region and the Loire Valley region (which I am least familiar with).

I happenned to attend a wine tasting event at Vino100 in Dallas, Texas this past week.  I was speaking with the marketing representative from a South African winery, and he offered me a Chenin Blanc.  I hesitated for a moment when a friend of mine asked if I had ever tasted a Vouvray, which I have.  She said that Vouvray is made from the Chenin Blanc grape which is a huge export of the Loire Valley….who knew?  Vouvray can be dry, medium dry, sweet and sparkling.  Sparkling – my favorite!  Well, I actually haven’t tried it yet, but any type of grape that comes in a bubbly texture has got to be good, am I right?

Another varietal of the Loire Valley is the Cabernet Franc.  Have I tried this before?  Perhaps in a blend?  Hey, I was correct!  I was visiting the site which mentions that varietal is mainly for blending.  This site is quite informative for my challenge.  It also mentions that the Loire Valley is France’s most diverse wine region, producing excellent and affordable wines in every style.  The more I read about the wine region and what it produces, the more set in stone my plans will be to visit there.

An 80 page magazine/book about the Loire Valley wines is available and can be sent to the US only.

Vouvray Wine Cork