By Kara Sweet


“How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways.  I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach.”

I love thee, wine, when I have shared you with very special people at very special occasions. I don’t love your “what.” By this I mean “what” the wine is, such as what producer, what grape, what year, what cost.

Wine, I love you for the who…the when…the where…the why…and the how. I love you for all the other parts of the experience—the people and places which I hold most dear.

Wine, there were so many of you I adored sipping this year, and so many that I sipped with those whom I adore.  


Red Cap Vineyards—2006 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon

Red Cap

I found this very distinct wine in a lucky turn of events at Canyon Lake Liquors in Rapid City. Imagine my delight as I saw the Red Cap label with the year 2006—the very first year Red Cap produced for commercial sale.

Red Cap 2

I bought the bottle for a truly milestone event: the graduation of my youngest child from high school. After my husband and I watched our “baby” give his valedictorian speech, greeted family at the reception, and cleaned up the aftermath of the celebration, we popped the cork to pour the deep-red liquid into our glasses. Just the two of us toasted each other, shared a special moment, and thanked the universe for our blessings. To see what our love accomplished made this wine perhaps one of the most important we would ever open together.


Thomas LaTour—2011 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir


Thomas La Tour

Though the “what” of this wine—pinot noir—is perhaps my favorite grape, this wine, from one of my preferred regions, was lovable for another reason as well. It was opened to celebrate some of my favorite people: my closest girlfriends.

Thomas La Tour 2

As a group of busy, working moms, the eight of us make it a priority to spend time together; however, this is not always easy. For this occasion we planned a four-course meal paired with four different wines. Every course was delicious, as was this wine. It was a beautiful translucent ruby with all the characteristics of the Willamette Valley: cherry, strawberry, earth, and eucalyptus. Moreover, all of these positives were made even more so by the laughter, the smiles, the camaraderie, and the love.  


Verdades—2012 Valle de San Vicente Cabernet Sauvignon 


Not usually known for wine production, Mexico does have a burgeoning trade. Many of these wines are produced in the Baja California area just south of the United States around the tourist destination of Ensenada.

Verdades 2

This one was incredibly special because I enjoyed it when my sister and her family joined my family on our second vacation together to Mexico. The weather was not cooperating when we arrived. The rain and the wind kept us in the restaurant much longer to enjoy this Cabernet. Then the rain stopped, and our group couldn’t be kept from enjoying the beach in the damp darkness of night. Though this wine was obscure, it will forever be close to my heart because of the people with whom I shared the evening.


Chateau de Trinquevedel—2013 Tavel Rosè  


Nothing says summer like a wonderful rosè. Served chilled, this was perfect for a warm summer night due to its dryness on the palate with strawberry and rose petals on the nose.  

Tavel 2

On this particular summer evening, I enjoyed this well-known French rosè in downtown Sonoma during the Sonoma City Party. This was in the middle of my summer stay in Sonoma County. I met up with several people whom I had only known through social media. Thankfully, the group accepted me and made me feel so welcome. I sipped the Tavel out of a plastic cup while listening to live music with new friends, enjoying everything that I loved about spending two months in wine country.  


Cartograph—2012 Mariah Vineyard Pinot Noir


Alan and Serena’s wines earned my affection on my very first visit to Cartograph. Serena’s bright smile and Alan’s friendly demeanor instantly intrigued me. Then I started sipping their wines, and I was hooked! With a Sangiovese from the Upton Vineyard, the same name as my husband’s tiny hometown, and a Pinot Noir from Mariah Vineyard, spelled just like my sister’s name, I had no choice really.  

Cartograph 2

The second summer I was able to visit the tasting room I brought my sister Mariah along. Though not a huge fan of red wine yet, Mariah also fell in love with the Mariah Vineyard Pinot. The earth, eucalyptus, and cherry all showed through on the nose and the palate, a wine to love from the first sniff.  


Mumm Napa—Brut Reserve Rosè

Mumm Napa Rose

Sparkling wines also hold a special place in my heart, especially if they are pink. The particular day I opened this gorgeous bottle, I actually picked grapes at Old Folsom Vineyard outside of Rapid City. I brought my favorite “old lady friend” Linda with me—it’s okay, she labeled herself this, not me—to pick grapes; then we met my other favorite “old lady friend” Molly.  

Mumm Napa Rose 2

We poured the pink bubbles into Molly’s beautiful Waterford crystal glasses, and frankly, it wouldn’t have mattered what we paired with the wine at this point, we treasured it already. I toasted these two women, and as I did, I secretly hoped that I could age as gracefully as they had.  


Patz & Hall—2013 Rued Vineyard Chardonnay

Patz & Hall

Often times some of the best moments in life are those that are unplanned. My dear friend’s birthday was one of these delightful moments. The date happened to be on a weekend. Because her friends were busy chasing children and careers that day, there was no party planned…until I looked in my wine cooler and saw an exceptional bottle of Chardonnay—her favorite variety of grape. This wasn’t just any Chardonnay; it was a Patz & Hall.   

Patz & Hall 2

I dug in my fridge, made an impromptu cheese plate, called the friends who were available, and barged into the birthday girl’s kitchen. We spent the chilly fall afternoon laughing and sipping in comfy clothes. No pomp and circumstance needed, just a great bottle of wine from a producer I love.



Wine, I have counted the ways I love you, and they are many. But mostly I love you, wine, because I share you with those who mean the most to me, at locations that are special, for occasions that are important.

Wine, you were made memorable—not because of what you are—but because of who, when, where, why, and how I sipped you.

Thank you…and happy Valentine’s Day!



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By Its Cover: Trends in Wine Labeling 

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