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We are jumping on our brooms and taking you to the South of France just before Halloween. There, most wineries finished their wines and are celebrating this week with their Vin Primeur in Languedoc Roussillon or their Vin Nouveau in Bordeaux. These are the biggest wine celebrations of the year where there is a lot of great food, castle and winery visits, winetasting, mountain hikes, etc. for the 0-100 year old audience.
Meanwhile, the witches from the Medieval town of Villefranche-de-Conflent are preparing to spend their winter in the Canalettes caves with the most amazing calcite crystals formations in the world to keep warm until Spring.
Those witches belong to the Catalan folklore of a rich cultural and wine-growing region in France.
In Villefranche-de-Conflent it is the tradition to give a close relation or a child, a witch as a sign of love.
If you suspend the witch inside a home or better in the room of a child it will move away the bad spirits and leave peace and happiness instead.
Last winter, following our forced departure from the United States (this is another long story that I am not ready to tell yet), my son fell in love with those witches, the calcite crystals of the Canalettes caves as well as the Vauban-built Fort Liberia towering the fortified town of Villefranche which we decided to visit on a Sunday (bad idea…You’ll see why as you read along). He also insisted on us taking the underground secret passage with 734 steps linking the fort to the town.
After a very steep and long descent, we found out that our car would not start because I had left the lights turned on. The battery was completely drained and I had parked the car in the only flat place in town. Forget about pushing the old Peugeot! There was no live soul around us on that late Sunday afternoon. Everything was closed except bars and restaurants. My eight year old daughter and I decided to beg for help in the town while the rest of the family was trying to figure out how to get the car started. We hit the first bar and asked the bartender for help. He told us that he was not fixing batteries only drinks. Fortunately, the bartender was well intentioned and sent us to his friend’s souvenir store which was still open in town. His friend’s store sold witches, only witches.
I did not see how witches would fix the car battery but when we returned to our base the old Peugeot started running again not by magic but thanks to a handful of villagers that came to my husband and son’s rescue and pushed and pushed and pushed. My son also had a mega meltdown because his sister and I had been gone for too long while hitting every single bar and asking for help.
As the car kept running, my son wanted to buy a witch. We returned to the witch store where he spent a very long time checking them all out. He finally chose one with red and yellow stripes – the colors of the Catalan flag. He added that he would give it to a child with autism for Halloween for good luck and good health. A huge milestone for him!
Empathy in a tricky situation!
I happily paid for the hand-made witch and returned to our car (still running) while the villagers were shaking their heads and making bad jokes about women’s driving skills.
While living in the South of France, I have found a deep sense of community and “joie de vivre” that tremendoulsy benefited my son after his very traumatic events last February. He thrived while living there and never got sick. We "blamed" some of his social awkwardness to the fact that he came from the other side of the Atlantic and that he had to adjust to a new lifestyle... Indeed, he adjusted very quickly and was well accepted.
People do take the time to slow down there and spend more quality time with their families while obsessing less about money. And of course they always have an excuse to celebrate life with wine and food!
Cheers from the friendly Witches!
Autism was studied by fate after my son was diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder just before his fourth birthday and wines were studied by choice.
I made that choice eighteen years ago while I was living in France, my native country.
Eighteen years ago, I was happily living in the South of France trying to launch my career as a translator after having been enrolled to the prestigious translation and interpretation program of the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California. Unfortunately, internet was non-existent in this beautiful part of the country and so was the need to communicate in English beyond the basic skills taught in high school (this has since changed dramatically). This is also the most largely planted vineyard area in France.
Following the end of the Algiers war in 1962, the area around Beziers was only producing cheap « vinasse », a pejorative word for beyond mediocre wines.
Since my translator’s career did not quite take off I decided to study a little bit of oenology, a little bit of winemaking and a little bit of wine marketing in the famous Centre de Formation Professionnelle Agricole de Beziers. It was a lot of fun. I was hooked on wines immediately. I had arrived at exactly the right time for a wine revolution in the South of France.
By the early 90s, southern French single-grape wines had gained great popularity compared to some of their local Appellations d’Origine Contrôlée wines set by the stringent and aging French INAO (Institut National de l'Origine et de la Qualité).
Robert Skalli, originally from Algiers had begun to develop a new generation of wines which expressed both the nature of their terroirs and the complexity of taste of the different varieties. He was soon to be followed by more wine rangers from the outside.
Pierre Degroote from Holland, was one of them. I worked with him after graduating from the Centre de Formation Professionnelle Agricole de Beziers. Pierre, an agricultural and oenological engineer had partnered with Bernard Montariol, a wine producer to create Domaine Virginie (named after Pierre’s daughter) outside of Beziers.
They both used used cutting-edge cropping methods and vinification techniques that all of the locals considered crazy but they became at the forefront of the fantastic development potential that now exists in Languedoc. Pierre was very proud of his “Ferrari” pneumatic press and his micro-oxygenation system when he first launched his varietal wine line. He would always have to show them to everybody visiting the Domaine. He is passionate about his wines.
Although he was followed by more people from the outside who came to make more great wines at great prices from the South of France he was one of the early pioneers and he is still at it.
Some of my favorite wines from this beautiful part of France come from the lesser known varietals such as Viognier, Roussanne, and Marsanne all of which are aromatic and floral whites which are well adapted to the hot summers of the region. For the reds Syrah, Mourvèdre and Carignan are particularly well adapted producing spicy concentrated wines full of character.
2009 Maison 2545 Roussanne, Vin de Pays d'Oc, France (91 Points) $14.99 / Bottle and $179.88 / Case of 12
It hails from Pierre Degroote, the single most important vintner in the history of southern France’s wine industry. Because it’s one of our custom blends, we used the number 2545 on the label to signify the address of our Napa headquarters.
2009 Maison Elise Richard Roussanne, Vin de Pays d'Oc, France $14.99 / Bottle $179.88 / Case of 12
So lovely on the nose you could smell it forever. Soft, lush, honeyed pear flavors with the nose's tangy herbs and a mineral note. Enough acidity to last - a nice unoaked Chardonnay or Alsatian white alternative.
2008 Maison Elise Richard Red Blend, Corbieres, France $14.99 / Bottle
$179.88 / Case of 12
The obscure AOC wine for some but oh so yummy! This is a red blend (all of the AOC wines from Languedoc have to be a blend of varietals) of 40% Carignan, 30% Grenache Noir, 20% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre which is derived from vines from 20-80 years old. Lots of character behind plenty of accessible fruit. Worth every penny.
And to celebrate the end of this year in style, here is a killer deal... Hard to say no thank you…
Case of 2009 Maison Elise Richard Roussanne
Standard Shipping Included!*
$195.83 $75.00 / 12 Bottles
This is an exceptional offer for this weekend only! Ends Sunday at 5 PST.
I have not been blogging a lot lately. Being a mom affected by autism and running Wines for Autism 24/7 by myself is not always obvious. The hardships brought by autism regardless of how low or high a child stands on the autism spectrum coupled with personal, financial, health, family, school, etc. stresses can just be too much to bear. Many times I felt compelled to call it quits especially after my son developed atypical PANDAS last Christmas. Nothing seemed to help him. He was doing so well and overnight he literally fell of the ladder to recovery. Needless to say I felt quite helpless and quite angry.
I know all too well that I am not alone fighting the autism beast with XYZ interventions and many like me are willing to walk to the moon backward and on their knees to get some relief.
I know all too well the razor sharp pain brought by autism. Unfortunately, I was not born with a golden spoon and I did not marry a golden rooster either. So immediate relief was never obvious. We do not have any relatives living nearby to offer free babysitting. Romantic outings were of course are out of the question…
My partners at winetasting.com have been wonderfully supportive of my cause and I cannot thank them enough for their generosity. Without them Wines for Autism would simply not exist. They are the ones working quietly in the background, offering their expertise, topnotch quality wines and donating them to our major national events such as National Autism Association and Autism One conferences.
As Thanksgiving is fast approaching I am happy to give thanks to all of the autism family warriors out there.
These are really cheaper than buying at your local supermarket or wine shop and you can be confident that they are great wines because they have been selected for us by our expert wine consultant, Francis Sanders.
Half Off Mixed Case of 12 Bottles (6 Red, 6 White) KIT 386
$207.88 $99.99 / 12 Bottles
Save over $100 with this 12-bottle collection of our favorite red and white Winetasting.com exclusives.
Half Off 6 Bottles of Red (6 Reds) KIT384
$114.94 $57.47 / 6 Bottles A mixed bag of Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Merlot and Southern Rhone style blends makes this collection every red wine lover’s dream – at a savings of over $57.
Half Off 6 Bottles of White (6 Whites) KIT385
$92.94 $46.47 / 6 Bottles
This 6-bottle white wine collection includes Roussanne and Chardonnay crafted in a variety of styles. At $7.74/bottle, you can’t afford not to cash in on this deal!
And to the small non-profit organizations that have been contacting me for support… Be creative! Throw a wine and cheese fundraising party before the big Holidays to raise funds for your cause!
We will provide you with the wines for your fundraising event and we will ship them to you for free! And as I said this is an exceptionally low offer, we can only have it run until Sunday at 5 PST otherwise we will all go bankrupt.
With much hope and dedication to our cause
Yesterday was a very special day for our family as we attended the First Annual Surfers for Autism event in Daytona Beach Shores.
It was a very special day for us because we finally found a physical activity that my son truly enjoys and boosts his self-esteem. He has been fairly challenged in all sports especially those team ball sports...
Seeing all of those kids given a chance to enjoy the thrills of surfing thanks to 100% dedicated professional surf instructors volunteering their time for them was priceless. Never was there a single criticism, complaint or judgmental look but only cheers and positive vibes from a crowd of hundreds.
Once in the water all of those kids no longer looked so “disabled” but very much “abled”. These events are examples of inclusion at the highest level.
It was December of 2007 when a simple idea was presented to a small
group of South Florida surfers by a member whose life and family have
been touched by autism. The concept of introducing children on the
autism spectrum to surfing took hold and the group began planning for
the inaugural Deerfield Beach event. California-based Surfers Healing,
an organization taking children with ASD surfing, was having great
success and Florida would soon follow suit.
At a typical SFA event, surfers are provided a safe environment where two to four highly skilled and trained surf instructors carefully guide
them into waves. Surfers and their families are treated like rock stars and enjoy a day filled with a range of activities including stand up paddle boarding, kayaking, live music, face-painting, games, bounce houses, fire engine tours and much more. A catered lunch is also provided, all at no cost.
Watching my son being so comfortable with Tom, his surf instructor, lifted all of my constant mommy’s worries brought by autism on that very special day. He trusted Tom completely so I did not have to be glued to the surf board. I could actually watch them both from a distance having a great time. With each wave my son’s smile grew bigger.
He was feeling so comfortable with the water that I felt like I had to push his limits a little more. I just knew that he could stand on that surf board but he needed a little extra motivation. I kept motioning him to “stand up” but he kept ignoring me. I kept cheering him “up, up, up” but he kept ignoring me more. He was having way too much fun riding his board horizontally. At some point he said to Tom “Wait, let me yell at my mom first”.
Being at the Ponce de Leon Inlet reminded me of one of my son’s numerous passions or call them obsessions - galleons, treasures and conquistadores. So I started bargaining with him ‘Look, if you stand on that board you will win Ponce’s helmet”. He had wanted a conquistador helmet for ages... Go figure. With the perspective of winning that coveted prize he stood up and rode the waves like a pro... TEN TIMES! I then told him that we could “upgrade” the plastic conquistador helmet to a metal one if he rode the waves ten more times standing... So he did it and then quit.
It does take a village to raise a child with an autism spectrum disorder. Parents alone simply cannot do it. That village is Surfers for Autism.
I am pretty sure that my son will be chasing Tom down the beach at the next event.
I am honored to support in a small way Surfers for Autism with Wines for Autism.
Cheers to Surfers for Autism and to all of its amazing Volunteers for unleashing our special kids’ potential!
Can we keep it up? Let us all spread the word about Autism Awareness, let us empower each other and educate more people while sipping a glass of wine (always to be enjoyed and drunk in mo-de-ra-tion of course).
Would you like to contribute to our Autism Blog?
If you have a knack for writing a story in any of these categories (and I know that a lot of you do) please contact us here and we will be delighted to feature you and give you all of the credits you deserve!
• ARTISTS & AUTHORS
• BIOMEDICAL INTERVENTIONS
• EDUCATION & OTHER THERAPIES
• FAMILY’S PERSPECTIVE
• WINE TALK
Now, don’t be shy about the last category. We don’t expect you to be a Master of Wine, we just want to hear your wine stories (at home, restaurants, fundraising events, in the plane, abroad, nowhere...). Submissions should be 50-300 words in length and written for a broad audience.
Please submit your story in an MS Word or Text document with the story. Please no foul language or overly crass stories. You will be notified via email if your story is chosen and/or requires any edits prior to publishing.
Please give us your name, location and let us know if you have a personal blog. If you have a photo, images or a video you would like to include you are welcome to, just keep in mind that the image dimensions and resolution should not be too high.
Cheers to all of you!
On Friday, June 18th, Jeremy Sicile-Kira graduated from high school with a full academic diploma and a GPA of 3.7 last week despite being severely impacted by autism and having to use assisstive technology to communicate. He gave a speech at the graduation ceremony.
A few days ago Jeremy sent me a very nice e-mail about his future plans.
“My goal after graduation is to attend community college, to help others, and raise autism awareness about teens and young adults by continuing to write. My next project is to write and publish an online newsletter.”
“My immediate project is to present to two autism parent support groups - The National Autism Association (NAA) Metro Chapter, and their support group on Staten Island (for more information on these support groups visit www.naanyc.org.)
This idea came from the fact that I wanted to visit New York this summer to visit family and friends. Also, I get emails from people who tell me they are inspired by my story and want to know how I became the success I am today. My mom said I had to find the money myself to pay for the trip for me and a support person. Two local NY chapters of the NAA offered me some donations to help pay for the trip, but I need more to cover the cost of the trip (airline tickets, ground transportation, two nights hotel in Manhattan, food, etc).
My mom nicely encourages me to pay for what I want. I made enough money one year to buy my assistance dog and best friend, Handsome, by starting my own flower business on my high school campus.”
Thanks to the generosity of other sponsors Jeremy is getting very close to his goal and only needs to raise $250 for his trip to New York.
We are proud to sponsor Jeremy and help him reach his goal in any way we can.
We hope that Jeremy’s story inspires many people.
Please feel free to share this blog with friends.
Best wishes to you and your loved ones,
Kevin Hosseini is a talented 15 year old artist with autism that we are extremely proud to feature in our next “Autism Wine” from Portugal which should be available this summer.
Kevin’s artwork is simply amazing and talks to the soul. Kevin is the California Representative for VSA Arts (The International Organization on Arts and Disability) and one of eleven representatives to fly to Washington D.C. for an exhibit at Union Station last year.
Not only is Kevin a true inspiration to our community but he is also extremely generous.
To make a long story short when we had everything planned for the artwork of our first Portugues wine, the artist (who is not on the autism spectrum) changed his mind and wanted us to pay him some astronomical price for permission to use his artwork just a few days before the labels were going to be printed. So we ended up with no labels, no bottles, a lot of wine in stainless tanks in Portugal and strict deadlines to meet.
Everybody was very stressed out here in the United States and there in Portugal. From years of dealing with extreme stress and autism I said “Why don’t we run a Contest on Facebook for a week and look for an artist who is willing to be featured for free.” The theme will be the "Ocean" which is also one of my son's favorite subject. Anything about the ocean brings him joy.
Fate would have it that before I even posted the Contest on Facebook (I still had to figure out how to do it), Kevin’s mom contacted me out of the blue asking me if I would consider featuring the artwork of artists with autism on wine bottles. Talking about good Karma...
The rest is history and Kevin won the contest.
You can visit Kevin’s artwork here.
We are very saddened to learn that Kevin is not doing well.
Kevin started a slow decline into mental illness at the age of 14. He is now in a psychiatric hospital in Cerritos said his mom.
It means a lot to his family and to us.
With much hope and dedication to our cause,
... HELP US RAISE FUNDS FOR OUR PARTNERS!
WINES FOR AUTISM GIVES ONE THIRD OF ITS GROSS PROFITS FROM EACH SALE TO THE ORGANIZATION OF YOUR CHOICE.
All too often I hear the ominous expression “Window of Opportunity” with the word autism and it disturbs me greatly.
Ideally, the younger a child, the earlier he/she receives massive biomedical interventions and therapies the better prognosis for his/her future will be.
Unfortunately, the reality is quite different. Not everybody will receive massive biomedical interventions and therapies at an early age because most of us cannot afford them and because most of them are not reimbursed by insurance companies. Not everybody will improve significantly let alone recover from autism.
So what do we do with all of those people who missed their “Window of Opportunity”?
Do we throw in the towel and call it quits? Do we stop treating them biomedically, do we stop giving them therapies because they are now too old? Do we lock them up in institutions or day hospitals because they cannot function properly in our society?
There is not a single family affected by autism that is not haunted with the fear of what is going to happen to their loved ones with autism when they are no longer around to care for them and protect them.
Polly Tommey, the Founder of The Autism Trust could not have described in better words how we all feel:
I am delighted to introduce you to George Saidah and to his non-profit organization, Heart of Sailing.
I first met George four years ago at the Autism One Conference in Chicago. He was standing alone behind a table with a few flyers and a poster... Nothing showy or flashy. The name of his organization intrigued me so I started asking him questions about it. After a few seconds I asked him if he was French. You can never get rid off the accent no matter how hard you try... He said yes so I immediately switched to French and I became more impressed with his foundation and work.
First of all Heart of Sailing is free. Second, Heart of Sailing is unique.
Although there are no published and peer-reviewed scientific studies on the benefits of sailing for autism, George, an accomplished and passionate sailor, had observed that once kids and adults on the autism spectrum were taken on a sailboat they immediately calmed down and started smiling much to their parents’ dismay. George would tell me that they would relax unlike their parents and would start taking risks and becoming more independent and mainly would be proud of themselves. I had observed the same beneficial effects on my son.
I told him last week “If I had waited for those published and peer-reviewed scientific studies on every single diet or intervention I did for my son he would not be where he is today. My motto is “If it works you stick to it and if it does not work you move on”. Start with the simple, inexpensive and safe.
It does take a lot of guts and a lot of self-control to take those kids out sailing.
Sailing is neither simple nor inexpensive unless you sail with Captain George. His dream is to take all of our children sailing around the world. He is already doing it in Canada and in France. For France he switched “Heart of Sailing” to “Au Coeur des Voiles”.