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An Opaz/Catavino Christmas Letter – A Year in Review

Each year, we as a family(The Opai!) do our best, as many do, to gather our thoughts in the form of a Christmas letter. And despite this years delay in being mailed due to our travels back to our homes in the USA, we still put our best foot forward to create a rather comprehensive wrap-up. Our letters are still in a queue to be mailed out!

Around this time of year we also make sure to share a summary post on Catavino, providing you some of the best articles of the year. However we decided to instead share our Christmas letter with all of you. Why? Although it is originally intended for friends and family, many of you have become more than just readers; and looking back on this year we began to realize that many of you, more each day, have fallen into one of these categories.

Consequently, we hope you enjoy our little recap, and will in turn share some of your own personal highlights in the comments below. As any blogger knows, we live for the comments, and we would love to hear what you remember most fondly of 2009, while at the same time, what you anticipate for 2010. (Following the letter is a slideshow of some of Ryan’s favorite photos of 2009)

When reflecting upon our last 365 days of existence, it’s difficult to give weight to one event over another, as each and every moment afforded us a new adventure. From sailing the high seas to creating an international wine conference, we feel truly blessed to have experienced so much in such a short amount of time.

The majority of our travels have been a direct result of our business, Catavino, which has grown steadily despite the international economic downturn.  One might attribute this to the fact that we’ve worked diligently over the past year, but one might also argue that wine is a social lubricant in both good and challenging times. Consequently – said with a glass of wine in hand – we appreciate all of your support savoring a glass, or three, of wine over the holidays.

Currently, we are enjoying holiday libations among family and friends in both Chicago and Minneapolis, wondering how in God’s name we ever survived sub zero degree temperatures prior to our departure for the USA 5 years ago. Having spent the previous holiday season savoring traditional Catalan calçots (similar to a sweet spring onion grilled over hot coals (http://bit.ly/Calcots) and wild turkey roasted to perfection we’re perplexed how the human body can endure icicles hanging from one’s wind chilled nose.

So what have been some of the highlights this year?

First off, we’ve fallen head over heels in love with London. Previously having only passed through the airport on various trips, it was lovely to finally secure time to enjoy London to its fullest. First, the SITT tasting, followed by the London International Wine Fair, and finally, the Boutique Winery Tasting where Ryan helped project the Douro wine harvest live on a 30ft screen to a room full of wine lovers. Each trip included various wine tastings (some hosted by us), seminars, workshops, and of course, loads of social media! London also brought us closer to our friend Robert, and his family, who not only housed us, but also warmly endured our frequent, visits with delicious dinners. Add wonderful dinners with Ryan’s sister, and close family friends, and it was tempting to justify a move. If only there were more vineyards near London 🙂

July brought a saga of missed flights (http://bit.ly/DeltaFAIL) and sleepless nights, as we made our first non-family trip to the USA to host two Portuguese wine tastings in both New York and California. However, when all was said and done, Ryan was finally able to savor a pastrami on rye at Katz’s deli in NY; Gabriella could finally say she visited a handful of California wineries; and we both adored meeting a slew of American wine bloggers that we only knew virtually for the past 5 years.

So what else happened? 2009 brought Gabriella’s entire familial clan to Spain in doses of 1 or 2 weeks at a time. Days were spent gorging on cured ham and cheese, enjoying long walks through medieval streets, and sipping wine while under the hot Spanish sun. It was an absolute treat to have them with us, and with any luck, visits will become more frequent in the future as we lure them back to various undiscovered European cities.

In other news, wine was the impetus that led to us finding ourselves on a National Geographic Odyssey ship, where we spent 5 days educating over 100 passengers on the diversity and quality of Iberian wine. Or rather where talked briefly about wine and spent the rest of the time taking a much needed break before the EWBC a few weeks later. From St Jean de Luz, France, across the northern Basque coast, around the Galician tip and down towards Lisbon, we experienced bio-luminescent bow surfing dolphins, and lazy days gazing out into the deep blue sea.(http://bit.ly/CruisePT1 and http://bit.ly/CruisePT2)

This year, our little conference called, the European Wine Bloggers Conference (EWBC), grew up! Having started at 40 participants in Rioja in 2008, we’re tickled that we’ve just capped out at 150 in Lisbon this November. Entertaining, thought-provoking and challenging, the conference seemed to touch many people’s lives, and from the organizers standpoint, we couldn’t be more pleased. It’s always difficult to know of a conference’s success when you’re the ones planning it, but you just need to remember that what you see is not what the participants do. So the blinding fear that all is going is if done correctly hidden from the participants view. This year was far and away a huge success, and we look forward to next years, where? We aren’t sure yet, but we know it will be fun! (http://bit.ly/EWBCfeedback)

With a quick look at 2010 we have many hopes and dreams which include Catavino expanding; the European Wine Bloggers Conference moving to yet another country; speaking is going to be a huge theme as Ryan begins to travel more and talk about social media and wine; and with any luck, we’ll have more of you visit us in Spain!! Remember, your all invited to come share delicious Spanish tapas, or ample amounts of wine.

Have a wonderful holiday and best of wishes in 2010!

Love, Gabriella and Ryan Opaz

We hope you enjoyed our letter, and we wish you all the best in 2010! For our part we are looking forward to more London visits, new friends among the vines, and dinners that linger into the night. Please share with us your thoughts below and we look forward to seeing you all in the New Year! Happy New Year!!!


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