tasting through rosé + pinot grigio with ava grace | planting the summer garden

drinks, gardening, vineyard life, wine

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Happy National Wine Day!

Yes, it is an actual holiday. I pretty much revel in that day’s festivities every day of the year, but I’m celebrating with you by sharing a couple bottles of wine that Steve and I enjoyed this past week. We finally took the plunge and made some drastic changes in our yard, and I couldn’t be more happy about them!

Although AVA Grace Vineyards kindly sponsored this post, all words, opinions, tasting notes, and photos are mine. I am happy to align myself specifically with brands that I trust and with whom I actually ENJOY, so I thank you for supporting the brands and companies that support holly & flora and allow me to keep the recipes, stories, and reviews coming your way!

I can officially say, after waiting well over a year, that we have a garden again! That might seem like a short amount of time, but for someone who has tended a garden and made countless meals and cocktails from its herbs, vegetables, flowers, and fruits for nearly 12 years, it felt like a lifetime. It’s hard to contain my excitement.

Nature surely has a way, however, of forcing you to change your direction or slow down, no matter what your plans are. Take this past Sunday. Steve and I couldn’t have chosen a windier day to plant our summer garden and paint the exterior of our house. Dirt in our faces, debris in the paintbrush, flies in our wine. Then try taking photographs in these conditions.

You get the picture. A slightly blurry one, perhaps.

So, maybe we didn’t accomplish the lines on our to-do list as fast as we would have liked, but we got all of the plants snugly settled into the soil, and we ended the day with laughter, a mandatory hot bath, and a sleepy viewing of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Gardening always makes me think of the lush landscapes the hobbits tend and the lifestyle of simplicity they embrace.

We are super excited to actually have the beginnings of a garden this month. When we moved out here to Paonia over a year ago, we didn’t have the time to plant or maintain even a simple herb garden. We inherited a mess of a vineyard and a “dirt bomb” of a yard, when we purchased this property. We went from gardening a small, lush, corner lot in suburban Denver to full-on farming 16 acres of grapevines out here on the dusty slopes of western Colorado wine country.

This year, we made an effort, despite the pressing needs of the vineyard, to dedicate a day to pause and plant a garden for ourselves. We picked up a few flats of herbs and veggies at High Country Gardens, filled up our playlist {which included DJ Frane’s aptly titled, “In the Garden”}, donned our grubbiest clothes, and chilled down the wine.

And what started out with one gifted clipping of lemon balm became an entire herb garden, once the plants hit the dirt. Dill, oregano, rosemary, basil, chervil, parsley, and thyme, along with a few varieties of mint. I’ve been waking up early and going to bed late, making sure that they’re all watered and sturdy and safe.

We also needed an afternoon to relax and let go of the hectic days behind us. We successfully planted 1,000 dormant grapevines over four days last week. That’s one THOUSAND. I still can’t get my head or aching hands completely around it. We filled the gaps within our three Chardonnay plots where there was some winter kill to the vines. It will take a few years to harvest fruit from these new vines, but the wait will be worth it.

We celebrated the completion of this daunting task by cracking a couple of bottles of AVA Grace Vineyards‘ wines. The concept of “vine to bottle” is more than just a catch-phrase for winemaker, Andrea Brambila. According to Andrea, good wine starts with good farming, and I couldn’t agree more. The quality and resulting flavor of wine involves the soil, the sunlight, the rain, the farming, the people working the land and winery, and the ethics behind the winemaker. The French have given a name to this cohesive concept — terroir.

“The life found weaving in and out of the vines everyday adds layers of depth and complexity to each varietal, from how long the grapes were touched by the sun to the fragrant wildflowers blooming freely throughout.”

– Andrea Brambila, winemaker for AVA Grace Vineyards

Andrea’s winemaking style is centered around creating fruit-driven, balanced wines that “show off the grapes’ natural acidity, aromas, and flavors.” Grapes and wine handled with integrity. Her personal motto, similar to my own, is to “learn by doing.” Born and raised in California’s Central Valley, she has worked alongside winemakers for over 12 years and brings that experience to AVA Grace Vineyards.

The name, AVA, means “life”. Andrea’s wines are a perfect complement to life’s small victories, cozy rituals, and everyday celebrations. For me, they were the perfect pairing to a day spent in the garden, a day I’d been dreaming about for well over a year.

I find that gardening, just like wine, brings people together. It gets them talking, laughing, story-telling. And similar to wine, gardening also encourages friendships and SHARING. I’m definitely on team “have a glass of wine by yourself with a good book in the tub”, but I always find that wine is even better when shared with good friends or family.

I recently sent a quick email to our local farmer, Faith, thanking her for selling lemon balm a couple weeks ago. I picked up a bag of the freshly clipped herb from her, and she happily handed me a started plant. We really weren’t considering planting a garden this year until she made that gesture. It was the first herb we planted in our yard. And if you know anything about lemon balm, you know that it SPREADS.

Who knows? You might find me at your doorstep with a starter plant for you in the next year or so because I might need to get rid of some! Those herbs are about as prolific a grower as mint. Be careful where you plant them. 😉

I was really excited and to try two of my personal favorite wine styles, rosé and Pinot Grigio, from AVA Grace Vineyards. I taste through a wide spectrum of wines — quality-wise and price-wise — regularly for both my job and my personal enjoyment, and I truly enjoyed the balance and finesse that both of these wines exhibited, especially for their pleasing price point.

ava grace rosé, california, 2017

  • on the eyes  –  brilliant, pale watermelon pink
  • on the nose  –  ripe strawberry, watermelon, gardenia, and rose, with hints of fresh thyme and wet rock
  • on the palate  –  crisp with bright acidity, boasting notes of red berries and ripe nectarine, dry on the finish with a silky mouthfeel
  • in the glass  –  13% alcohol, 3.50 pH, 3.75 g/L residual sugar, 6.4 g/L titratable acidity
  • on the table  –  pairs perfectly with slow-roasted chicken, grilled spring vegetables, roasted peaches with cream, or falafel with tzatziki
  • on the shelf  –  $12
  • where to buy –  here

ava grace pinot grigio, 2017

  • on the eyes  –  palest of straw with green reflections
  • on the nose  –  white lily, ripe honeydew, d’Anjou pear, honeysuckle
  • on the palate  –  crisp with medium acidity, boasting notes of white peach, lime zest, and ripe pear, with a lingering finish
  • in the glass  –  13% alcohol, 3.30 pH, 9.0 g/L residual sugar, 7 g/L titratable acidity
  • on the table  –  pairs well with spicy, Asian-inspired dishes, roasted golden beets with chèvre {my personal favorite}, grilled shrimp, and summer stone-fruit salads
  • on the shelf  –  $12
  • where to buy –  here

Cheers to the weekend and to new beginnings and to finished projects and to hopeful plant-baby futures! 😉 I’ll be posting an update on the new vines and the progress of the garden, including some garden-derived cocktail recipes before summer is over.

Have a beautiful weekend!!




  1. Ashley Trego says:

    It’s sooooo rose season! Lots of awesome ones from France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and …Paonia!!

    • That 5680 rosé was so GOOD!!! And I forgot to wash my shirt from the bonfire, and I tried putting it on today. Took that thing off immediately!! 😜 Also, we need another duckling date! For reals!!!! Happy weekend, Ash! PS – I’m in the big city, and it feels WILD.

  2. How beautiful it looks! Rosé is, after all, the most photogenic and cinematographic wine!

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