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Release Your Inner Monkey This Holiday Season

Dec 08, 2014 10:59AM ● By Jennifer Neys

By Julie Ross

Everything you need to know about living a full and happy life can be learned from wine labels, but only if you read the right ones. Fortunately, these labels (and the accompanying tasty beverages) can be found practically in our backyards.

On a sunny October weekend, I sat on the patio of a converted horse barn in the Martinez hills at the Climbing Monkeys Winery (CMW). Adjacent to the patio were 2000 pounds of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes in fermenting vats, waiting to be transformed by the skilled chemistry and artful creativity of winemaker Marta Ashby. By now, these delicious grapes have been incorporated into expertly crafted red blends and bottled solo as – wait for the great name -- Super Cab-ifragilisticexpialidocious. (Sorry Mary Poppins, this is a fantastic wine, even though the sound of it is something quite atrocious…)

Like all CMW labels, a life lesson can be learned from the one on the back of a bottle of Super Cab. Here is an excerpt: “It’s OK to get out of your comfort zone. Feel the adrenaline and the blood rushing through your veins. It’s called living life, all those rules can wait….”

And from the label on the PLAR (Party Like a Rockstar) Zinfandel, we get these words of wisdom: “It’s all about believing in yourself and knowing what you are capable of…leave the bad attitude at home and ride this roller coaster.”

CMW is a family winery. Marta’s husband, Kevin, handles vineyard management and sales. As if this weren’t enough, Kevin is also “head cellar rat” (a job title I am thoroughly jealous of). Their son, Nicholas, who will take the winery into the future, is currently assistant winemaker and one of the cellar rats responsible for behind-the-scenes work crucial to producing quality wines. Daughters Kristy and Lauren, along with future daughter-in-law, Nicole, are fellow cellar rats and brand advocates.

To commemorate the marriage of Nicholas and Nicole next spring, a very special wine has been created, a “family blend” named Happily Ever After. The following lovely metaphor for marriage is from its label: “The family blend is a perfect blend of two strong varietals complementing, not overpowering, heightening the sensation of each other to another level. We perceive this state as Happily Ever After, the culminating moment when we know we have achieved utter bliss.” See what I mean about learning from wine labels? This is one marriage getting off on the right foot.

But, wait. I almost forgot. You are probably wondering why the winery is called Climbing Monkeys. These people are avid rock climbers. When Nicholas was younger, Marta and Kevin marveled at how fast he climbed – just like a monkey. When it came time to apply for the license to operate the winery, the clerk asked for the name of their business. Name? They hadn’t thought about that. So, why not Climbing Monkeys? And the rest is history.

You are invited to uncork your potential and release your inner monkey on Saturday, December 13, and Sunday, December 14, from 1 - 5pm, when the winery is open for tastings and sales to the public. Have a drink with Marta and Kevin, and pick up your holiday wine while you’re there. Check out their website at for directions and more info. Wine club memberships are available online and make a great holiday gift from a local family business.

Thanks to travel pro Margaret Miner of VinoCruising for introducing me to CMW. You can reach Julie at [email protected]