Wine and Religion + Santa Ynez Valley with Adam McHugh



What did John the Baptist, Dom Perignon and Saint Vincent have in common when it comes to wine? What makes the vineyard of Clos de Vougeot in Burgundy so fascinating? Why should you consider visiting the wine region Santa Ynez in Santa Barbara County?

In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, I’m chatting with Adam McHugh, author of Blood from Stone: A Memoir of How Wine Brought Me Back from the Dead.

You can find the wines we discussed here.


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Three of you will win a personally signed copy of Adam McHugh’s terrific book, Blood from Stone: A Memoir of How Wine Brought Me Back from the Dead.


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To qualify, all you have to do is email me at [email protected] and tell me that you’d like to win a copy. I’ll choose three people randomly from those who contact me.

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  • Why do French and American oak impart different notes?
  • Historically, why were more Catholics than Protestants involved in winemaking?
  • What makes the 100+ acres of Clos de Vougeot so interesting?
  • Why was the wine négociant system created?
  • Which major contributions did the Benedictine monk Dom Pérignon make to the wine world?
  • How did John the Baptist become the patron saint of cellar masters?
  • What’s Adam’s take on the ongoing debate between geologists and sommeliers?
  • Why should you consider visiting the wine region Santa Ynez in Santa Barbara County?
  • What are Adam’s top tips for getting the most out of a visit to Santa Ynez?
  • What was Adam’s hope in writing Blood From Stone?
  • Which unpopular wine belief does Adam hold?
  • What’s Adam’s favourite wine book?
  • Why is the Coravin Adam’s favourite wine gadget?
  • Which disastrous Shiraz wine pairing did Adam serve at a dinner party?
  • What’s the best way to pair a very tannic wine with food?
  • Which Julia Child recipe is at the heart of Adam’s current favourite food and wine pairing?
  • How has John Steinbeck inspired Adam as a writer?
  • What coffee message would Adam put on a billboard?
  • What can you expect from Adam’s book Blood From A Stone?


Key Takeaways

  • I loved how Adam wove in the stories of John the Baptist, Dom Perignon and Saint Vincent as they relate to wine. I agree with him that wine can be a spiritual thing apart from its religious associations.
  • Clos de Vougeot in Burgundy is such a storied vineyard. I’m glad he included it in his book.
  • The Santa Ynez wine region in Santa Barbara County is on my radar to visit next. It’s incredible that over 80% of the wines from Santa Ynez are made by family-owned wineries that make less than 10,000 cases yearly.


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About Adam McHugh

Adam McHugh is a wine tour guide, sommelier, and Certified Specialist of Wine. He is the author of The Listening Life and Introverts in the Church and a regular contributor to Edible Santa Barbara & Wine Country. He lives in California’s Santa Ynez Valley.




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Adam McHugh 0:00
There was a movie that many people have heard of called Sideways. That introduced me to the Santa Ynez Valley. 80 something percent of the wineries in this area are family owned wineries who make fewer than 10,000 cases a year. And those to me are the hidden gems of this valley. And so I would search out producers like Story of Soil and Dragon Head and Future Perfect. And I would stay in Solvang, which is this funny little Danish enclave that was established a little over 100 years ago. It’s really charming and lovely. It’s just a town of half timbered buildings and windmills and storks, nests and very authentic Danish bakeries. And it’s a good home base for exploring the region.

Natalie MacLean 0:53
Do you have a thirst to learn about wine? Do you love stories about wonderfully obsessive people, hauntingly beautiful places and amusingly awkward social situations? Well, that’s the blend here on the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast. I’m your host, Natalie Maclean. And each week, I share with you unfiltered conversations with celebrities in the wine world, as well as confessions from my own tipsy journey as I write my third book on this subject. I’m so glad you’re here. Now pass me that bottle please. And let’s get started.

Welcome to Episode 222. What did John the Baptist, Dom Perignon and St. Vincent all have in common when it comes to wine? What makes the vineyard of Clos de Vougeot in Burgundy so fascinating? And why should you consider visiting the wine region Santa Ynez in Santa Barbara County? You’ll hear those tips and stories in Part Two of my chat with Adam McHugh, author of Blood from Stone, A Memoir of How Wine Brought Me Back From The Dead. You don’t need to have listened to Part One from last week first. But I hope you’ll go back if you missed it after you finish this one. And just a reminder that three of you are going to win signed copies of this book. All you have to do is email me at [email protected] to let me know you want to win.

Now a quick update on my upcoming memoir Wine Witch on Fire: Rising from the Ashes of Divorce, Defamation, and Drinking too Much. Well, my book baby went to the printer last week, holy smokes. I had the same feelings as when my son went off to university, some sniffles, pride, etc. I now know it’s out of my hands and it’s being shaped by the presses and ink and paper that will give it its final form. And that’s exciting and terrifying. So I won’t have the books until mid to late March. The publication date is officially May 9 in Canada and June 6 in the US and worldwide. Yeah. Until then, I’m heads down on trying to drum up some media interest in the book. If you’re in the media, or you know someone or know someone who’s know someone who is in TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, podcasts or websites that are in any way related to food, drink, or books, memoir writing, online bullying, women’s issues, entrepreneurship, mental health, self care, relationships or divorce. And I’m sure there’s other topics, please let me know.

I’m also interested in connecting with influencers in any of these categories who are an Instagram, Tik Tok, Facebook or other social media channels or platforms. Every little bit helps, especially when there are 2700 books published every day. It’s really hard for a book to break even let alone breakout. I hope to hear from you  at [email protected] with any suggestions you have.

All right. Here’s a review from Terry Veepond, a beta reader from Ottawa. “So many experiences described in this book mirrored my own split. I wish this book was around during that time. It’s like that one person who understands exactly what you’re going through at a time when you’re married and single friends try as they might just can’t relate. Natalie has written a masterclass on navigating divorce and heartbreak and learning how to move on to find true contentment. As a wine enthusiast, I’ll be giving much more respect and attention to female reviewers and giving much less time to male reviewers”.

Oh, don’t do that, Terry.

“I’ll also be looking deeper at the backstory of wine producers and again with a focus on strong female lead endeavours. On a personal note, it’s a great reminder that a path to healing is not linear. By continuing to reflect on our character strengths and weaknesses, and most of all learning to forgive ourselves, it creates the space for love to re-enter our lives.”

That’s lovely.

“By standing in our authenticity, we can take on anything that comes our way. I really loved when the story flowed into the historical accounts of women who were persecuted as witches. I thought it brought extra magic and depth to the story. I also really liked how this flowed into spotlights on women wine producers around the world. These backstories really highlight Natalie’s prowess in wine and elevate her reviews beyond her super tasting ability. I definitely give it five stars.” Thank you, Terry.

By the way, now that the book has gone to the printer, I am still looking for early readers. So these are not BETA readers who are more involved in editing, but rather those who are willing to just read the book and give me a sentence or two at the end on what they thought about it. If that’s you, please let me know at [email protected] I’ve posted a link to the blog post called Diary of a Book Launch in the show notes at This is where I share more behind the scenes stories about the journey of taking this memoir from idea to publication. Okay, on with the show.

Natalie MacLean 6:37
We tend to think of French oak imparting vanilla and spice but American oak sort of sweet coconut notes. Is that just the nature of the trees themselves or is there any other reason? Is it that looser grain or I don’t know if you know?

Adam McHugh 6:51
It’s all white oak, but it’s actually like American oak is a different subspecies of white oak than the French oak. And so my guess would be it’s a different chemical compounds within the wood that’s released through the toasting process. It’s a generalization. But yeah, French oak is known for vanilla, anise like, spice notes like that. Whereas American oak is coconut and dill. I always pick up a dill note like in Roija, which I think comes from American oak, but it’s probably just different chemical compounds.

Natalie MacLean 7:20
And if you’ve just joined us, welcome to the oak show. Anyway, I’ll wrap up my oaky questions right now and get back to sort of the more religious aspects of your memoir. It just struck me – but I could be wrong  – that it was more that Catholics who cultivated the vineyards back in the day than the Protestants was that because I don’t know, let me just speculate and then you can correct me, the Catholics believe that it was an expression of God’s love, whereas Protestants tended to abstain. The Protestant work ethic. Catholics, what I do remember from Mass, this is the blood of Christ. It’s not a symbol like they were more literal, maybe less metaphorically minded. Do you know why the Catholics tended to be cultivating the vineyards?

Adam McHugh 8:00
It’s probably even more simple than that. It’s that there weren’t any Protestants until the 16th century. So throughout the Middle Ages, all the monastic orders, especially the Benedictine and the Cistercian monks, were the ones that cultivated the great vineyards. After the fall of the Roman Empire, they were sort of entrusted with the vineyards that Rome had once planted and attended. And so but until you know Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses like in the 1500s, and so but then after that I would say that Protestantism was more of an intellectual and theological movement. And I think we’ve lost in a lot of ways the sort of the earthy spirituality that some of those monastic orders have you know.

And the great vineyards of Burgundy were pretty much all planted and tended by like Cistercian monks. And historically but I loved how they interwove like prayer and devotion and reading and preaching with backbreaking labour as well and the invention of a great deal of technology as well. Whereas the Protestant movement was a little bit has been more traditionally an intellectual movement. And then as you get later into like American Protestantism, there’s it’s a very like teetotaling culture in a lot of different ways. And so in some ways, I feel like more connected to a Catholic sort of understanding of wine and spirituality than I do to the sort of the Protestant sort of fear about it. And that’s a fast generalization because there’s lots of Protestants that are like Episcopalians who are very into wine, but that’s kind of the way you can paint it.

Natalie MacLean 9:32
Well. Yeah, I love that whole integration of mind, body and soul with the monks praying and then out there tilling the vineyards or whatever they were doing. Tell us about the most famous 100 acres the Cistercians tended, Clos de Vougeot, for 250 years I think you said. Why was this vineyard so special?

Adam McHugh 9:49
Well, for one thing, it was big. I think it was even 125 acres.

Natalie MacLean 9:53
and it was in Burgundy, I should say. Yeah, you know, in

Adam McHugh 9:56
Yeah, you know in Burgundy 125 acres is massive. And monks would enclose many of the great vineyards with what’s called a clos, small stone wall. They essentially cloistered the vineyards that have these distinctive expressions are were considered the best. But Clos de Vougoet is interesting from a modern perspective because anyone that knows Burgundy and I’m you know as we all are learning more and more about Burgundy  because it’s so complicated. Clos de Vougeot it really depends on the different producer that’s making the wine because there’s actually so many different terroir within those 125 acres. It you know has a big stone wall around it, but it’s far from a monolith. And so it’s all Grand Cru. But I’ve heard many people say that truthfully, in terms of quality, there are parts of it that are Premiere Cru or even Village level and then there are parts of it that you know make some of the best wine in the world. But it’s interesting, it probably had more to do with like ownership or sort of how it was bequeathed to them that they got it enclosed, because there’s actually so much variety within Clos de Vougeot.

Natalie MacLean 11:02
And I might have my historical facts wrong, but as I understand it Napoleon sort of took the vineyards away from the religious orders. Didn’t have primogeniture, meaning the first son got everything the way they did in Bordeaux. So the  Clos de Vougeot there’s like, I don’t know, is there more than 100 owners each having like a small vineyard row or even less of one row today?

Adam McHugh 11:23
Yeah, I don’t know exactly how many owners there are. But this is the case all throughout Burgundy really. And that’s sort of what led to the negociant system. Because you’re absolutely right that the Napoleonic Code said, okay we’re no longer going to just pass it to the eldest son, but inheritance is going to be divided evenly among all children. And that was 100 years ago. And you think about that continuing to be broken down year after year, it means that there’s particular family members or families that have like one bush like one vine in the Clos de Vougeot or in you know wherever. That’s why these big companies called negociants come along. And they purchase fruit from all of these different families and businesses and are able to make wine in greater quantity because you really can’t make much wine on one row or a couple of different vines.

Natalie MacLean 12:15
Sure, sure. That makes sense. So let’s talk about some of the famous religious folks who made major contributions. We’ve already mentioned St. Vincent, patron saint of wine. Dom Perignon, what is his contribution to wine in your opinion?

Adam McHugh 12:30
Well I mean there’s the mythology around him. He was it 17th century in Champagne or in Épernay? The mythology is that he created sparkling wine that he sort of discovered it you know. The myth is that he’s in his cellar and he says, brothers come quickly I’ve invented the stars. It’s a great story, but it’s pretty much clearly a fabricated story by one of his later like fans. Because truthfully, I think it was seven years before that.

Natalie MacLean

Fan fiction. The first fan fiction.

Adam McHugh

Oh, yeah, there was way centuries before that all these famous monks all have these like kind of hilarious legends around them. But it was actually I think seven years before Dom Perignon even started like making wine or even being involved in his monastery in Hautvillers or something like that, that an Englishman had sort of published a paper saying here’s how we can put molasses and sugar into wines we’ve gotten from France to create the sparkle. So Don Perignon absolutely did not create sparkling wine, but he actually was actually more involved as far as I know.

And it’s been a while since I’ve thought about this. He was very involved in pruning regimens and was like much more sort of like vigorous pruning to get the higher quality wine. And he also, I think, in that in blending just again trying to get a really high quality based wine rather than just pulling out of you know particular blocks in particular vineyards. But he also really emphasized for a long time, like red wine Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier rather than Chardonnay, because he was trying to make still wines rather than sparkling wines. That was what he thought was the highest quality Champagne had to offer at the time. And white wine, like Chardonnay, that was planted there because the acid was so high. And the white wine would be more likely to create sparkle, because in the spring, the yeast that had gone to sleep in the winter would wake up and keep feasting on the residual sugar in white wine a lot more than red wine, which fermented a little bit faster. So yeah, not only did he not invent sparkling wine but he actually for a long time was focused on creating still wines out of red varietals.

Natalie MacLean 14:43

Yeah, I heard he was complaining about the bubbles, not trying to get them in there. But that’s interesting. And then there’s John the Baptist. Why is he known as the patron saint of the cellar?

Adam McHugh 14:53
Yeah, it’s because in the Gospels, It was King Herod, I forget which King Herod, threw him in the dungeon because John the Baptist was speaking truth to power and he was like married to his sister or something like that. And John the Baptist wasn’t cool with that. So he got thrown into the dungeon of the palace and eventually beheaded. And so because he was in the dungeon, he became the patron saint of cellar masters.

Natalie MacLean 15:19
Okay, so you talk about there’s a debate as well that you mentioned between geologists and sommeliers. Can you really taste the soil and minerals? I mean where do you come down on that? Because a rock is not going to go through the organic process up a vine and out into your glass. But where do you net out?

Adam McHugh 15:38
You know I don’t know. I sort of had fun with that in the book. I think it’s a bit of a tempest in a teapot. But everyone always has to have something to debate about in every field. And I find that I find it a fascinating debate. I’ve read a bunch of different things on it that sommeliers will say I can taste the soil in you know Chablis or Sancerre. Or I can taste the slate a Mosel Riesling etc.

And then the geologists will say, actually that’s impossible. There’s no way for vines to metabolize rock to the extent that then they actually deposit those aromas and flavours into their fruits and create wine that tastes like the soil. But I think there’s probably a lot more conversation to be had around that. But the question is always if that’s true, then why is it then? Is it just analogy? Or is it just enough people have said they can taste the chalk from Chablis you know? That Kimmeridgian soil in the wines that therefore now we’re all sort of persuaded that that’s what we’re tasting. And they’re trying to describe non fruity components of the wine and you know so the the heralded minerality of Chablis and Sancerre and whatnot.

I think it’s kind of a funny debate. After being in a hospice for eight years, I find sort of the idea that people are really up in arms about whether you can taste rocks and wine from a scientific point of view, I find it kind of funny. But it’s still kind of a fascinating topic.

Natalie MacLean

First world problems

Adam McHugh

Yeah, it’s extremely first world problems, but it’s an ongoing debate. And I sort of make light of it a little bit but I actually find it pretty interesting.

Natalie MacLean 17:13
And so why did you choose to go to I think I mispronounced it earlier but the Santa Ynez Valley in Santa Barbara. Why there versus…

Adam McHugh 17:23
The easy answer is it’s two and a half hours away from where I lived, and Napa is about eight hours away from where I lived. And the other easy answer to that is there was a movie that many people have heard of called Sideways that actually introduced me for the first time to the Santa Ynez Valley. I was living east of Pasadena, about I guess maybe three hours away from Santa Ynez and this movie in 2004 comes out starring Paul Giamatti that is set and filmed in the Santa Ynez Valley. And I was so. It’s kind of a dark comedy, but it’s sort of a sad and comedy in a lot of ways. But stil, it like won an Academy Award for the screenplay. And but I was so taken at the time with the way this valley – I say this valley because I live here now – was portrayed and just kind of this bucolic beautiful, wild rural area. I was so taken with that that I knew I had to come up and visit as soon as I saw that movie. And that’s one of the only movies in my life I’ve ever seen more than one time in the theatre. I saw twice in the theatre. And probably three weeks after I first saw the movie, I drove up here to Santa Ynez and I just fell in love. Like from the very beginning, it was so different. I’ve been in Napa like a couple of times, which to me always seems so opulent and decadent and polished and you know incredible. But Santa Ynez felt like the wine back country to me, kind of felt like you were hiking into the backcountry. You were tasting Pinot back in the day out of corrugated shacks and old barns. And I really love the wine, they’re a little bit more reserved.

Natalie MacLean 19:07
And do you think the wines of the region are undervalued?

Adam McHugh 19:10
I was gonna say I really love the wines. I felt like they were a little bit more reserved in nature than some of the kind of the big blockbuster cabs of Napa or Paso Robles. And I don’t know if they’re undervalued. I mean I feel like this valley now at this point has been very much discovered by Los Angeles. And we’ve seen big changes in the last two or three years with COVID in a lot of L.A. refugees moving up here like I once was. And I think there’s a certain reserve a certain kind of cloyness to the style of wine around here that I really appreciate. That there’s more delicacy to our style here because of a pretty cool climate. I very much love the wines here. If I’m not drinking French wines, I’m absolutely drinking Pinot Noir on the Santa Rita hills.

Natalie MacLean 19:51
And so if we’re planning a trip to your region, what are your top tips on getting the most from our visit there?

Adam McHugh 19:57
I would say search out the small producers and there’s not too many big producers here. But the ones that if you just Google wineries of the Santa Ynez Valley you’re gonna get some of the bigger sort of more photogenic ones you know. I think 80 something percent of the wineries in this area are made by family owned wineries who make fewer than 10,000 cases a year. And those to me are the hidden gems of this valley. And so I would search out producers like Story of Soil and Dragonette and Future Perfect, more than I would some of the bigger more sort of Tik Tok oriented wineries. And I will probably stay in Solvang, which is this funny little Danish enclave that was established a little over 100 years ago, that was sort of built. It sounds super kitschy and it kind of is, but at the same time it’s really charming and lovely, especially at Christmas time because they really do it up. But it’s this town of half timbered buildings and windmills and storks, nests, and very authentic Danish bakeries. And it’s a good home base for exploring the region. So those are a couple of things that I would say, find the small producers and explore Solvang a little bit.

Natalie MacLean 21:11
Great. Excellent. All right. So before we jump into the lightning round, many people who’ve written a memoir say they did it because others reading their stories will feel less alone. I’m asking you this selfishly too, because I’ve just finished my own memoir. So how do you dig deeper into that phrase? What does it mean specifically that you want to share your story, which is unique to you, but when others read it, they’ll feel less alone.

Adam McHugh 21:35
I just think ultimately, the point of writing a story that’s going to be for public consumption is that, for me anyway, the hope is that people will connect with it. I want people to hear a little bit of their own story in my story, because we’re all humans and we have so much in common. And we all have had grief and loss and transitions and career change. And  have been through divorces and lots of you know life pains.

And you know there’s a real vulnerability to writing a memoir, where you really lay out a process by which you arrived somewhere. It’s one thing to talk about well now I’m here in the Santa Ynez Valley and they drink you know really good wine and I work in the wine industry and life is awesome. But the process to get here was so painful. And when you’re revealing that process, I think that’s when you’re hoping for deep human connection. And so the hope is that people will, even if they don’t relate to the details of the story, will relate to the process and the emotions and struggles. And I’ve already had this you know I’ve gotten great response from a few people that are just like yeah you’ve inspired me to take this step or I laughed and I cried through your story, because it reminded me of you know. I guess ultimately you know I don’t think I’m ever going to write blockbuster, New York Times bestselling books. But I think ultimately, you hope that people will feel less alone that they’ll connect.

Natalie MacLean 23:01
Yeah, it’s the transition they identify, not the specific change. So they didn’t move to Santa Ynez but they might have moved place as you said change career, got divorced. Like it’s what happened, the transition and how you felt and how you dealt with it. The specifics of you are married to so and so and you know you had a job here is not so much the story. But what happened and how you dealt with it. Well, you’ve been leading me along here, I love your whole change transition analogy. So I think I’m processing because I’ve got to figure it out for myself, too. So what is your greatest satisfaction having written the book now?

Adam McHugh 23:39
This is my third book. And for me, the moment that means everything – nd I know you publish books too and I’m sure you had this experience is that – the moment the box of books show up about a month before book release. That to me is like the moment that I live for. It’s before it’s gone out into the world before the critics and the reviewers have had gotten a piece of it. And you just get to sit there with your creation that always. I love the texture of the book that my publisher chose. It has this very vintage feel to and you just hold it in your hands and you just feel it. And you just remember all the agony and torture that’s gone into that little thing in your hand. And that, to me, is what I live for. That’s the moment and then after that you know it goes out into the world and it feels like you’re sort of like dropping off your kid at college and you hope that you’ve taught the kid well and that they’re gonna go and make good choices, because then it’s sort of like feels at that moment. Like you start you let it go and a lot of ways and you just don’t control what’s going to happen to it or what people are going to say about it after that. But that one moment is like your moment with the book.

Natalie MacLean 24:52
Yeah, I love that. And you know there’s so many great unboxing videos on social media but I think it’s that element of it’s really feel it’s like you’ve been Geppetto all along to this book and now it’s a real boy. It’s a real child. It’s. So let’s go into the lightning round. Just a few quick questions, quick answers. Is there something you believe about wine with which others might disagree with you?

Adam McHugh 25:19
I believe it to be a very spiritual thing. I believe it to be not only a beverage that we can enjoy, but something that may actually sort of lift our minds towards higher thoughts.

Natalie MacLean 25:33
Beautiful. Do you have a favourite wine book?

Adam McHugh 25:36
Karen McNeil’s book  The Wine Bible. Hands down. She has a new edition out which it looks beautiful. And what I love about Karen is that not only that she knows everything in the world about wine, but she’s an incredibly good writer. And I appreciate that, because we all know there are a lot of wine books that are pretty dry. And she’s a really good writer. The idea that Champagne is like a sword enveloped and whipped cream you know things like that. Just incredibly good writing.

Natalie MacLean 26:01
Wow, I love that. I didn’t hear that one. And do you have a most useful wine gadget you’ve discovered along the way?

Adam McHugh 26:08
Oh, I don’t know if I have too many wine gadgets. I like my Coravin for sure. When you live in the wine country, there’s far too much free wine out there. And it’s very easy to drink too much. It’s so the Coravin helps me to just keep it to one glass. And although I’m not always convinced to keeps wine for more than a few days. But yeah preservation system is key when people are giving you too much free wine.

Natalie MacLean 26:34
Exactly. Preservation for the human body, too. So tell me about a bad wine pairing you’ve had I think you might have mentioned a chicken picante but I’m not sure what is that dish by the way.

Adam McHugh 26:47
Chicken piccata, it’s basically a breaded chicken and like a lemon caper sauce. It’s delicious. You know, I’ve always heard this was years ago but I’d always heard like the best wine is the one that you want and the best dish is the one that you enjoy. And so don’t worry about you know sort of pairing wine and food together. And so I sort of tested that theory. This was 20 years ago, when I really loved Australian Shiraz. You know big jammy intense Australian Shiraz, which now isn’t necessarily the case. Then I paired it with chicken piccata, which is the absolute worst pairing I’ve ever had in my entire life. And it basically just sort of I had friends over and I that’s what I served. I’m still kind of embarrassed about that. And it just kind of ruined everything. And that’s when I was like okay I think I need to think a little bit more carefully about this whole idea of pairing food and wine.

Natalie MacLean 27:39
And do you have a great wine pairing?  You’re talking about, maybe something about duck fat and a chewy wine.

Adam McHugh 27:45
That’s what I talk about in the book. You know just the notion that if you’re going to have a really tannic wine, instead of having it suck all the proteins out of your saliva, you want to put some good marbled fat in there to soften it all out. And you know the wine will cleanse your palate of the food and this food will cleanse your palate of the wine. But lately I’m having really weird Chardonnay phase right now, where I’m really loving the Chardonnays, especially of the Santa Ynez Valley, which tend to be lighter and kind of saltier than some other styles. And I’m really into like Chardonnay from the Santa Rita hills and Julia Child’s roast chicken recipe right now which she’s slathered in butter. So how bad can it be right but this sort of butter slathered roast chicken with that crispy skin along with like a clean, fresh pure style of Chardonnay is like my favourite go to pairing right now.

Natalie MacLean 28:37
Oh, yeah, I loved her free spirit. Doesn’t matter if you drop the chicken on the floor. Keep going.

Adam McHugh

Amazing women.

Natalie MacLean

She was, wasn’t she? So if you could share a bottle of wine with anyone outside the wine world, wwho would that be? And what would you ask? What bottle would it be?

Adam McHugh 28:55
That’s a really hard question for me to answer. Ever since I moved to the central coast of California, I’ve pretty much been reading John Steinbeck ever since. He lived up in Salinas, which is about three hours north of where I am. And the way that he portrays the central coast of California is what I aspire to do. You know I talk a lot about place in the book and I tried to describe a lot of the landscape and seascape. So this valley, but you know he’s the master. He’s the muse of all writers trying to write about the Central Coast and I think I would just love to sit with him. I don’t know if he was a wine drinker. Probably not. But I would love to sit with him and just talk about writing. I’d like to know how he did it. What he sees. I’d like to see sort of this valley and the central coast through his eyes and his ears.

Natalie MacLean 29:45
Well he wrote Grapes of Wrath, right?

Adam McHugh 29:47
Exactly. Yeah, he did. Although that wasn’t as much based here but like his East of Eden book or Tortilla Flats and Cannery Row are all based up in Monterey and the Central Coast. And I wish that I could describe this area with the words and the pith that he does. He had a magic pen for sure.

Natalie MacLean 30:07
Yeah, absolutely. And speaking of pith, if you could put up a billboard in downtown San Francisco, what would it say?

Adam McHugh 30:14
You don’t have to have 27 different ways to drink coffee. Even time I go to San Francisco and you walk into a coffee shop and it’s like a frickin science experiment in there. And I’m like, I just want drip coffee. I don’t want it run through a funnel. Like I just gets. I get overwhelmed by coffee shops in San Francisco.

Natalie MacLean 30:39
Okay, well. Yes. That’d be good. And also maybe a little side note “by my book”. But given your expertise, which wine would you like served at your funeral?

Adam McHugh 30:49
Probably, trying to think of something funny or metaphorical to say but I don’t really have anything. Probably Chateauneuf-du-Pape because that was you know the eye opening experience for me and probably like the, in terms of meaning, the central wine in my experience and what led me to get into wine and pursue this calling of writing and wine. So Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Probably Chateau de Beaucastel from Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

Natalie MacLean 31:18
Oh that’s a great choice. Yeah, absolutely. So as we wrap up our conversation, is there anything we haven’t covered that you wanted to mention?

Adam McHugh 31:26
People just sort of asked me you know exactly like what the book is about. And the way that I put it is for eight to 10 years, I used to work in the Pasadena area as a hospice chaplain and grief counsellor and now I live in the Santa Ynez Valley, and I’m a Sommelier. And I work in the wine industry. And I’m a wine tour guide as well. And Blood from a Stone and the name of the book is how I got from there to here. Essentially, that’s sort of my elevator speech about my book.

Natalie MacLean 31:55
Well done. Well refined. So where can people find you and your book online and I presume in bookstores that sort of thing?

Adam McHugh 32:01
Yeah its all over the interwebs of course and hopefully in a lot of local bookstores. I’m all about supporting local bookstores and come to the Santa Ynez Valley, it’s all over the place here. There are various wineries that are carrying it. And I don’t have a website but if you want to contact me and please do you can email me at Adam [email protected] Or find me on Instagram at Adam McHugh Wine.

Natalie MacLean 32:25
Excellent. Adam. Oh, thank you so much. I really appreciate this great conversation. I could keep going on another hour with you. But we both have to resurrect ourselves probably with a glass of wine by that time. But thank you so much, and I look forward to continuing our conversation perhaps in another episode down the road.

Adam McHugh 32:44
Yeah, thank you so much. That was fun.

Natalie MacLean 32:46
Okay, I’ll say bye for now. Cheers, Adam.

Adam McHugh


Natalie MacLean 32:54
Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed my chat with Adam. Here my takeaways. Number one, I loved how Adam wove in the stories of John the Baptist and Dom Perignon and St. Vincent, all as they relate to wine. And I agree with him that wine can be a spiritual thing, apart from its religious associations. Clos de Vougeot in Burgundy is such a storied vineyard. I’m glad he included it in his book. The Santa Ynez wine region in Santa Barbara County is on my radar to visit next. It’s incredible that over 80% of wines from Santa Ynez are made by family owned wineries that make less than 10,000 cases yearly. That’s tiny in the world of wine.

In the show notes, you’ll find my email contact, a full transcript of my conversation with Adam links to his website and book, and where you can find the live stream video version of these conversations on Facebook and YouTube Live every Wednesday at 7pm. You’ll also find a link to my Ultimate Guide to Wine and Food Pairing. That’s all in the show notes at Email me if you have a sip, tip, or would like to become an early reader of my new memoir at [email protected]

If you missed episode 52 go back and take a listen. I chat with Matt Cauz about visiting Burgundy and tasting Barolo. I’ll share a short clip with you now to whet your appetite.

Natalie MacLean

I’m asking the questions the reader would love to ask. But that person is not going to get into Domaine Romanée-Conti. And the only reason by the way, Matt, that I would get into Romanée- Conti is that Aubert de Villaine and his like recognize how many readers I bring with me. It’s not me. It’s the readership that I bring with me. And so I’m trying to ask the questions they’d be dying to ask. And even if they were there, maybe they’d be too embarrassed to ask. So I’m a very, very nosy person, but I’m also very shy and so writing has given me that cover of being able to ask people things like, well what is your greatest failure? What did you learn from it? Those kinds of things that are it can be uncomfortable if you just sort of turned to someone at a dinner party and started down that road.

If you liked this episode, please email or tell one friend about it this week, especially someone you know who’d be interested in the wines, tips and stories we shared. You won’t want to miss next week when I chat with Steven Laine, author of the wine thriller Root Cause. Thank you for taking the time to join me here. I hope something great is in your glass this week. Perhaps a lovely glass of Burgundy Clos de Vougeot if you’re lucky, or rich, or both.

Natalie MacLean 35:53
You don’t want to miss one juicy episode of this podcast, especially the secret full body bonus episodes that I don’t announce on social media. So subscribe for free now at Meet me here next week. Cheers.