Buttonwood Flowering Blossoms

Buttonwood Cherry Blossoms

Flowering trees, such as the beautiful almond tree above, are one of the best examples of feng shui plant life.  Not only do most of these trees sprout delicious nuts or fruit, but their blossoms give off an alluring scent that carries on the air.   Flowering branches also have auspicious symbolism.  Because they usually bloom in winter or early spring, these floral tendrils represent longevity and  overcoming great burdens.  There are not many blossomy trees in my neighborhood, so I usually resort to the Japanese Cherry Blossom lotion from Bath and Body Works (the smell is to die for).  However, on a recent trip to Solvang, a generous collection of these beneficial plants reside at Buttonwood Farm.

Buttonwood Back View

Originally an equestrian ranch established by philanthropist Betty Williams, the property now boasts a vast vineyard, tasting room, and organic farm.  Pictured above is is the back entrance to the tasting room, which leads out to their intricate and beautiful gardens.

Buttonwood 02

The tasting room is stylish and very serviceable.  Two tasting bars reside on either side of the space, allowing for easy flow of patrons.   I love the living chandelier of leaves – a highly conducive and artistic example of the wood element.

Buttonwood Duck

Buttonwood also has many farm-fresh products for sale, including olive oils, preserves, salsas – and my personal favorite – the Raspberry Grenache-Syrah Chocolate sauce.  Decadent and loaded with antioxidants, this sauce is ideal for desserts or a chocolate martini.

Buttonwood 01

Wine barrels are used as support for an elegant table in the middle of the room.  I love barrel furniture, and it’s a green and economical way of reusing these vessels.  Powerful and striking images painted by Seyburn Zorthian grace the walls.  Much of Seyburn’s art is highly influenced by her study of Shoudo, the passionate brush stroke technique of Japanese and Chinese writing.  She also creates the artwork featured on Buttonwood’s wine labels.  For more information about her art, please visit her website here:  http://www.seyburnzorthian.com/artist.html

Buttonwood Fountain

I was captivated by this gorgeous fountain nestled in a private garden outside the tasting room.  Working fountains with clear, clean water add beneficial and peaceful chi (energy) to an environment.

Buttonwood Grounds 01

Daffodils were in full bloom when we visited.  Also known as narcissus or jonquils, these flowers have a myriad of symbolic meaning.  In feng shui folklore, the white ones represent the flowering of one’s talents and skills, and can be used in furthering one’s career. I also think they are great examples of spring; they remind me of hunting for Easter eggs as a kid.

Buttonwood Grounds 03

There were many different wines  l sampled.  My favorites were:

  • 2010 Devin – An irresistible  sauvignon blanc.  Influences of honey, lemon and apricot come through in a charismatic fashion.  Crisp and complex.
  • 2009 Marsanne – A decadent white.  Hints of honeycomb and marzipan contrast nicely with a crisp taste and rich body.  Flavorful and refreshing.  (Sold Out)
  • 2010 Cabernet Franc – Sage and raspberry take center stage with this enticing red.   Very easy to drink.  Silky and sophisticated.
  • 2009 Trevin – An intoxicating red blend composed mostly of Cab Franc.  Vanilla, rhubarb and dark berries were the notes highlighted on my palate.  Tasteful with a lingering finish.
  • 2010 POSH – One of the best ports I’ve had.  Dark cocoa and espresso make their presence known, with a holiday influence of cinnamon, orange and cherry.  (A bottle came home with me.)

Rhea and Victoria

I also got to meet fellow feng shui consultant, writer and interior designer Rhea Peake (pictured left here with my friend Victoria).  She has many years experience in creating sacred spaces and improving environments, as well as a plethora of other skills and talents.  In addition to her strong ties with Buttonwood, she is based in Santa Barbara, Hawaii  and Vancouver.  For more information, please visit her website here:  http://www.rheapeake.com

Buttonwood Grounds 02

Comfortable seating is placed purposefully around the gardens, encouraging guests to linger with some wine and a picnic lunch.  In addition to their tastings, Buttonwood also hosts many different events throughout the year, including a crawfish boil.  I also suggest checking their website for some  stellar recipes (I will be trying the olive oil cake recipe first) as well as their informative blog Buttonwords.  I am going to try to come up at least one more time before the seasons dramatically change, so I can sit under a flowering tree with a glass of Cab Franc and just immerse myself in the auspicious environment that is Buttonwood Farm.

Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard

1500 Alamo Pintado Road, Solvang, CA 93463

805-688-3032

Hours:  Open Daily 11:00 am – 5:00 pm

http://www.buttonwoodwinery.com

Buttonwood Front Entrance

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Wine: An Old School Perspective

On a recent trip to Santa Barbara, I was introduced to an unusually captivating wine merchant known as Municipal Winemakers.   While I was waiting for my friends to arrive, I grabbed a glass of their robust MCS, and perused my surroundings.  The tasting hall here promotes comfort in an artistic and environmentally-conscious fashion.  A large warehouse door (pictured above) opens up to the outside world letting in light and fresh ocean air. Surplus wine bottles and tasting glasses are stored in upcycled file cabinets. The seating is a mixture of reclaimed wood benches, padded folding chairs and classic science lab stools.  Bookshelves constructed of wooden crates are laden with 1980’s textbooks and vintage high school trophies.  One of the many items that captured my attention was the illustrious chandelier (pictured below).  This is actually constructed using a wine bottle washer, which is the large metal frame holding all the bottles in place.   Lovely and enigmatic, this piece is a wonderful example of water, metal and fire elements.  This also helps to counteract the negative influence of the beams present.  I am not a fan of exposed beams in any environment.  From a feng shui standpoint, they create negative influences in health and relationships.  The fastest way to alter the beams here would be to paint them and the ceiling the same color; thus making them symbolically disappear into the ether.  However, the various lighting in the space helps to soften the unfavorable effects of the beams.

On the right we have a more detailed image of the wine bottle chandelier.  On the left are the metal lanterns inscribed with Dan’s in primary red, which hang about most of the ceiling.  My guess is they reclaimed them from somewhere, but I’ve no idea where.

The momentous piece of art above is actually raised a bit, encompassing paint and other materials.  The gold pieces in the ore are shards of brass veneer from vintage high school sports trophies.  From a feng shui perspective, the environment at Municipal captures most of the five elements beautifully:

  • Wood –The art hanging about the walls, and the plants located directly outside.
  • Fire – The nostalgic wood-burning stove situated in one corner of the room.
  • Metal – The art, tables,chairs, chandelier, roof, and file cabinets.
  • Earth –  The rich colors of browns, grays, and earthy reds.
  • Water – The glass bottles, the horse painting in the bathroom, and the blue and slate gray hues.

Now while the metal, water, and fire elements are displayed here quite well, the room is lacking a little wood and earth energy for my liking.  Even though they have a lot of wonderful wood furniture – which is best material for furniture in my opinion – it cannot be considered a wood element because the wood is dead.  However, the sheer amount of art from various craftsmen, displayed around the environment, helps to foster the creative wood energy.  As for earth, the main examples here are in the form of different colors.  But I do love the classic globe perched atop one of the file cabinets.  So here symbolically, the earth is also present.

And now on to the wine.   I sampled six delicious wines, and fell for each one of them:

  • 2011 Bright White – an arid riesling with hints of tart citrus.  Perfect for a summer day.
  • 2011 Sweetness Reisling – Sweet and clandestine, this white wine has an alluring bouquet with hints of honey and orange.  Intoxicating.
  • 2011 Rose – A refreshing, subtly sugared beverage.   Cool and crisp.
  • 2010 Bright Red – An amazing classic red blend with strong hints of dried herbs and cranberry.  It reminded me of good holidays past.
  • 2010 Grenache – Chocolate nuances abound in this rich and robust elixir.  A must for any red wine aficionado.
  • 2010 MCS – My favorite of the group.  A complex blend of Mouvedre, Carignane, and Syrah grapes.  This is a bold and brazen red that will make your head turn.  A bottle of this came home with me, and I’m saving it for a special occasion.

In addition to their retro-esque decor, another aspect I love about Municipal are the hours.   The tasting room is open from 11:00 to 6:00 daily – where as most tasting rooms close at 5:00.  And on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, they stop tastings promptly at 6:00, but remain open until 11:00, transforming into a wine bar!   Wine, by either the glass or bottle, is available to drink on the premises.  Pre-made cheese plates from C’est Cheese are available if one is feeling peckish, and classic board games lie about for one’s leisure  (A very studious couple was playing chess in the corner)  Unlike my other wine adventures, I visited Municipal twice in one weekend.  I experienced the wine bar environment on Friday night, and then returned Sunday afternoon for tastings.  They also offer free local delivery to patrons who arrive on a bicycle.  The metropolitan class of Municipal Winemakers will leave you with a feeling of warmth and abundance.  I’m very much looking forward to my next visit.

Municipal Winemakers Tasting Room

22 Anacapa Street, Santa Barbara CA 93101

805 931-6864

Hours:  Open Daily from 11:00 – 6:00,  Wine Bar:  Thursday – Saturday 6:00 – 11:00

http://www.municipalwinemakers.com/

The Feng Shui of a Burger

In Ancient Egypt, the onion was highly revered as a perennial icon.  The people of that time believed that the many layers, rings, and orbicular shape of the onion symbolized eternity and longevity.  Part of this was probably due to the face that onions were one of the few foods that did not spoil during colder months.  And of all the vegetables to be recreated in various precious metals by Egyptian artisans, the only one ever  to be made out of gold was the onion.  My own personal love of onions came out about when I was a kid, in the deep fried form of onion rings.   Those golden circles of deliciousness were so good (especially at Carl’s Jr.).  I also remember dried onions atop the ever-popular green bean casserole.  Yum.

Earlier in the week, I visited the Toluca Lake location of The Counter, an international burger chain.  Unlike other burger establishments, The Counter lets patrons custom design the sandwich of their dreams.  From fried eggs to Gruyere cheese, the multitude of different combinations is astounding.  And it’s very easy to do – The Counter provides a check sheet, and patrons mark off what they want on their sandwich.  Being able to create a burger to one’s exact specifications is an excellent feng shui experience – you create the ideal burger for the environment of your stomach and taste buds.   Some locations offer different toppings than others, including what they call their MP Selections, which differ from location to location.  Here’s what I went with:

  • Multigrain Bun
  • 1/3 Beef Patty, cooked Medium
  • Brie Cheese
  • Burmuda Red Onion
  • Lettuce Blend
  • Grilled Onions (Did I mention I love onions?)
  • Roasted Green Chiles
  • Basil Pesto

The sauce selection is also served on the side, because sometimes burgers can be too dry or too moist.  My creation was absolutely ambrosial in its taste, and cooked to perfection.  But how is this burger feng shui?  Well, first, lets look at the colors, and how they represent the five elements.  The brown shades of the meat itself and the multigrain bun are very earthy.  The purple of the Burmuda onion is fiery.  The grilled onions have a slight metallic sheen to them.  The brie would also be metal, because it’s white.  Then there is the lettuce, roasted chiles, and basil pesto, all of which symbolize wood in their green hues.  Color-wise, water is not represented.  However, I had a glass of water with my meal, so I wasn’t completely without the water element.

Let’s look at the yin and yang of the ingredients of the burger.   I’ve mentioned yin and yang theory before, which is the belief that opposite components interact within and opposite each other in a complimentary way, and cannot exist without their opposite counterpart.   This theory presents itself all the time in life, especially in food.  In this sandwich, the thick yin of the burger mingles well with the sharp yang of the Burmuda onion.  The yin of the melted brie gently opposes the yang of the basil pesto.  These flavorsome combinations are evident in all cuisines.  Yin and yang can also be attributed to how food is prepared.  My burger is very much yang, as it was fried, the onions grilled, and the chiles roasted – all of which are yang food preparations for yang foods.  Also, look at the texture of the ingredients.  If the food is soft in consistency, it is yin.  But if it is hard or crunchy, than it is more yang.  I would say the burger is much more yin in its texture, as everything in the burger except the Burmuda onion was soft.  The Burmuda onion wasn’t exactly hard, but it had more of a crispness to it, making it more yang in its structure.

And of course, a burger needs a side dish.  Upon my server’s suggestion, I went with the Parmesan Cheese Fries.  Fine shreds of Parmesan  and garlic aioli completely transform the common potato to Pharaoh status.  Although they are fries, I suggest using a fork with them rather than ones hands, as the aioli brings a greasy goodness to the dish.  Fresh rosemary adds a wonderful, savory wood element  as well, adding a yang touch to a yin food.  For my beverage, I selected the Menage a Trois Blend.  A fantastic red combination with hints of raspberry and blackberry.  I’m not sure on the year, but I think it’s a 2009.   The wine accompanied the meal flawlessly.

One  thing that I really like about this branch of The Counter are the pictures on the walls.  Photographs of a rock band and their instruments hang on the Eastern wall.  I love the creative fire energy this brings to the metal-dominated interior.  My favorite of the display is pictured above.  My server, Pamela, was absolutely golden in her service.   Personable and charming, she took care of my every need to ensure that I had a great dining experience, including walking me through the burger checklist.   Should you be visiting this specific location, I advise sitting in her section.  Parking options abound in Toluca Lake, but I usually find free parking on some of the residential streets – just check the signs for restrictions.  On my next journey here, I plan on trying The Counter Cobb, and perhaps the yin energy of a chocolate malt.

The Counter Toluca Lake

10123 Riverside Drive, Suite A, North Hollywood CA 91602

Hours:  Sunday – Thursday 11:00 – 10:00,  Friday – Saturday 11:00 – 11:00

http://www.thecounterburger.com/Toluca_Lake_CA/

A Garden Oasis at Carhartt

The bewitching grace of the colorful  fish called koi has long attracted mortals.  In the folklore of many eastern countries, koi is considered to be a symbol of strength, endurance, courage and abundance.  It was also believed that the larger the koi one owned, the more prosperous one would become.  As I was entering the Carhartt Tasting Room, I was immediately taken with the colossal fish sculpture acting as guardian to the establishment.  The intricate metalwork of the delicate fins and scales is a truly beautiful thing to behold.  I am honestly not certain what kind of fish it is, but it reminded me of the stately koi.  Also known as “swimming flowers,” koi are available in a wide variety of colors, usually white, yellow, orange, red, black, or any combination thereof.  If we can judge by the grandiose size of this fish, then Carhartt must be thriving in its prosperity.

Located in the wine hamlet of Los Olivos, Carhartt is perhaps one of the smallest tasting rooms I’ve ever visited.  Photographs, mostly of the winemakers and nearby landscapes, adorn the walls of the matchbook-sized room.  But what really captured my attention was the heavenly garden in back.  Guests are invited to have their tastings out here when the weather is fine, as well as to just come and enjoy a glass or bottle at their leisure.  From a feng shui perspective, this tranquil oasis has all of the five elements represented, blending together in perfect unity:

  • Wood – The trees and lush plants in the garden.
  • Fire-The colors of the flowers and flower pots, as well as the wine in our glasses.
  • Metal -Parts of the fountain and patio furniture, and the metal signage
  • Earth – The stone of the fountain, the terra cotta flower pots, and brick tile on the ground.
  • Water – The elegant fountain, part of which is made from a wine barrel (pictured below)

Notice the little stone frog perched in the fountain.  Frogs, in feng shui folklore, attract luck and wealth, especially when paired with other items such as water and flowers.  Also, this specific frog is placed diagonally from the main entrance to the garden, which can help to attract wealth to the environment.  I think the frog is cute, and adds a healthy energy to the fountain and surroundings.  And I think I spot some real living fish in the pond, too.

And now on to the wine.  All six of the intricate wines we tried were intoxicating and lovely.  The two that really impressed me were the 2010 Sangiovese and the 2009 Syrah.  The Sangiovese had a deep, silky sheen in color and tasted divine, with hints of strawberry and oak.

The Syrah won my heart, however.  A deep, blood red wine with suggestions of chocolate, pepper, and blackberry.  It was love at first taste.  A bottle of this fine liquid gem accompanied me back home.  I will most assuredly be purchasing this again.

Another aspect I love about Carhartt wines are the labels on the bottle.  Each varietal has a different animal on it.  The Syrah has a pig, the Merlot a pheasant, the Sangiovese a rooster.  All of these animals have different meanings and symbolism, both in feng shui and other historical avenues.

The rustic class and simplicity of Carhartt made for a wonderful wine savoring experience.  They also played amazing music during the tasting, including some selections from the Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, most of it being a fusion of mellow bluegrass and jazz.   For a truly excellent outdoor wine tasting experience, visit the fine people at Carhartt.  And, don’t forget to pay homage to the giant metal fish in front.

Carhartt Tasting Room and Winery

2990A Grand Avenue, Los Olivos, CA 93441

805 693-5100

Hours:  Tasting room open daily 11:00 to 5:00.

http://www.carharttvineyard.com

The Road to Melville

Herman Melville was one of the greatest novelists of the nineteenth century.  His most popular book, Moby Dick, illustrates the adventures of a sailor called Ishmael and his experiences aboard the ship Pequod.  Bent on revenge, the captain of the ship, Ahab, relentlessly pursues  a large whale who destroyed his last boat and bit off his leg.  While I have never read Moby Dick, I can understand Ahab being somewhat angry at the whale.  I also appreciate his tenacity at the continual hunt for this grand creature, Moby.  It reminds me of my never-ending exploration for good wine (without the revenge or blood-loss).   On my recent travels, my friends and I stopped at Melville Winery in Lompoc  to sample their vineyard creations.  The main tasting room is in the rotunda-esque portion of the building (above), with beautiful grounds perfect for picnics and relaxation.

This winery is rich with color!  On the day we visited, elegant wisteria was in full bloom, adding a beautiful wood element to the front of the building.  This flowery plant also adds  a little fire energy with its calming violet color.  The mustard hue of the stuccoed walls and the reddish tile add a lively earth element to the environment.  Most shades of yellow are symbolic of earth or mountains, and tend to put one immediately at-ease.  This, I found, continued as we journeyed inside.

An expansive tasting bar lined the back wall of the room that I now call “the tasting rotunda.”  I fell in love with the beautiful marble that covered the bar.  Marble, real or faux,  is a stylish and tactile way of adding an earth element to any environment.  This specific marble takes it one step further.  Notice how the patterns on the stone almost looks like a map of some sort; maps and globes are another way of how earth can be introduced symbolically into ones surroundings.

Another auspicious aspect of the environment are the potted trees inside.  An example of this is pictured below.  Living trees and plants indoors can add a beneficial wood element to the area, as well as improving air quality.  Faux plants are also good, but they will not aid in improving the indoor air as real plants.   Notice also at the top of the picture there are beams on the ceiling.  Beams, from a feng shui perspective, can greatly affect the health and emotional relationships of an area in a negative fashion.  They can  symbolically apply pressure to those in the room, and can cause quarrels or discord among people as well.  Being that this is a business, it’s not as bad as if it were a residence, but I’m not fond of it.  This was the only negative I noticed in the surroundings.  I love how all the windows let in natural sunlight, bringing more nature in from the outside.

And now on to the delicious wines:  Here’s what I tasted:

  • 2009 Estate Chardonnay – Now, while I am a red lover by heart, there is nothing like a white wine on a warm California day.  Referred to as their core chardonnay, this was my favorite of all the wines we tried.  Pineapple, lemon, and sage are very evident in the aroma.   Truly excellent and crowd pleasing.
  • 2010 Estate Viognier – A crisp white wine with hints of pear and ginger.  Not as sweet as other viogniers, but I quite enjoyed it.  Would be great with Chinese food.
  • 2010 Estate Syrah – A sultry red with suggestions of plum and elderberry.  Very tasty.
  • 2010 Estate Pinot Noir – A deep, rich pinot full of spices.  One can taste black pepper, cumin, and ginger among others.  I loved the ruby color of this wine.  Sophisticated and complex.

The grounds of Melville are well-manicured and pleasing to the eye.  My friends and I took advantage of this and brought a picnic lunch to savor the gorgeous day.  We also purchased a bottle of the 2009 Chardonnay to accompany the meal.  Definitely one of the best picnics I’ve had in a long time.   I will definitely be visiting Melville again when I’m in the Lompoc area.

Justina Cross, Shaun-Mathieu Smith, Wendy Cross and Andres Acevedo. Photo courtesy of J. Cross.

Melville Vineyards and Winery

5185 East Hwy 246, Lompoc, CA 93436

805 735-7030

Hours:  Tasting room open daily 11:00 to 4:00.

http://melvillewinery.com/index2.html