The Tasting Panel magazine

November 2018

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Page 79 of 124

november 2018  /  the tasting panel  /  79 In both her personal and professional lives, Rachel Speckan seems to be constantly in motion. As the National Wine Director for City Winery, Speckan oversees the wine programs of eight City Winery locations in six cities from her home base in Chicago. The role demands fairly consistent travel, and with two small children at home, Speckan finds that making time for both work and family is the ultimate balancing act. As a longtime fan of Wente Vineyards wines—they're featured at all City Winery locations—Speckan regards the Wentes' own embrace of lifestyles driven by family, food, culture, and wine as somewhat of a guiding example. The winery's various "Make Time" programs, meanwhile, exemplify the importance of putting time aside for yourself and your loved ones amidst the many distractions constantly competing for our attention. "Wente was really the first California winery experience that spoke to me," says Speckan, who holds a master's degree in social sciences and advanced certifications from both the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and The Court of Master Sommeliers. "I went to a wedding on the property in Livermore and was taken by the fact that for over 135 years Wente has been embracing the concept that there is more to life than simply making wine, and that they also encourage the forming of interests outside of wine for their employees." Speckan says she's been a fan of Wente wines ever since that trip, which drives her passion for sharing them with City Winery guests. "In Chicago, the Morning Fog Chardonnay is a permanent fixture," she says. "It's a humble wine that makes a soft yet strong statement for Chardonnay—a wine that is at once popular and very polarizing. With ripe fruit balanced with crisp acidity preserved by the influence of the morning fog and a long, steady growing season in Livermore, this is a wine that speaks to a sense of place in the purest way. It's not California Chardonnay, but Livermore Chardonnay." One of the driving philosophies at City Winery is that its wine offerings need to be of the highest quality while telling a story, so sense of place is also key for Speckan. "I spent lots of time outdoors as a child, so having roots in the land is very important to me," says Speckan, who grew up on a farm in the Ozark National Forest in northwest Arkansas. "At City Winery, I try to align with winemakers who share a similar vison and translate a particular place to the taste of a finished wine." When asked to choose some favorites from the Wente portfolio, Speckan first names the Riva Ranch Pinot Noir from Monterey, which she says "shows layered notes of pomegranate, cherry, tart strawberry, rose petals, and fresh-picked white tea leaves" mingled with overtones of savory spice, cinnamon, and vanilla. "It's piquant, simple, and delicious," Speckan adds. Yet it's perhaps her love for the Charles Wetmore Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon that speaks most to Speckan's affinity for Wente's wines. "Charles Wetmore was a pioneer of plant- ings in California as a 19th-century agricultural commis- sioner," she explains. "This single vineyard encompasses the Wente family's dedication to Livermore and estate vines, as well as their respect for history, while shepherding innova- tion and a relevant, current approach to winemaking in California. The Charles Wetmore Cabernet Sauvignon makes space to speak of the sense of place, but it also captivates with the telling of a story over time through wine." So how does Speckan herself "make time" for her family and her own personal fulfillment amidst the often-stressful environment of restaurant work? "My childhood adventures in the mountains involved licking river rocks, smelling the forest after a rain, and similar experiences that involved intense sensory imprints, so being outdoors is very impor- tant to me and my husband," she says. "Pre-kids, it was things like camping and canoe trips; now with two young children, we tend to stick to hikes in the forest and often go foraging to teach them about nature." Another way Speckan unplugs is by playing ultimate fris- bee. "I played soccer through college but eventually decided I needed to do something less stressful on my joints," she explains. "Ultimate gives me the ability to still do a team sport and helps keep me fit. I also love the people who play it—they tend to be highly educated, inquisitive like me, and take it very seriously." Wente Vineyards Morning Fog Chardonnay is popular in Chicago, and as Speckan notes, "it's not California Chardonnay, but Livermore Chardonnay."

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