Award,Jo's World,Wine

The ego versus the reality


Just another day in the life of a wine publicist…

The US Trade & Commerce Research Institute

Yay… we’ve won an award for excellence in market from the The US Trade & Commerce Research Institute (USTCRI)… “a leading authority on researching, evaluating and recognizing companies across a wide spectrum of industries that meet its stringent standards of excellence.”

It just cracks me up, all of the ways people invent to make money. If my ego was invested in what I do, I’d pay the fees for their “award” and get the word out; but, the award won’t ever be displayed in my already too cluttered office with books, wine glasses, wine bottles, furniture, filing cabinets, and paper.

I’m with PT Barnum… There is a sucker born every minute.

When awards are given, people, it doesn’t cost you anything to receive them. Imagine if every Oscar winner had to write a check, after picking up his or her prize? And so, we let it go, but not before capturing this image. It won’t rest in my office. It will just rest right here on my wine blog; so that if I ever get senile, I can remember what not to do.

The Email read:

Hello Jo Diaz,
I wanted to follow up on behalf on Catherine ___ who has been out of the office on maternity leave and wasn’t sure if she had been able to send you this announcement prior to her leave. Please do feel free to ignore this email should Ms. ___ have had the opportunity to connect with you.

On behalf of the US Trade & Commerce Research Institute, I wanted to let you know that Diaz Communications has been recognized as a 2014 California Excellence Award recipient. Our panel of industry executives and consultants oversees an annual survey commissioned by the USTCRI on various industries and determines which companies meet and exceed the industry benchmarks that have been set forth. Diaz Communications was one of those selected this year.

Further details on this selection can be viewed on our website including the press release that was produced for this occasion (which will not be distributed until mutual review is complete). To review the award and the accompanying press release please go to www.ustcri.org and enter the Reference # F9LNJWC on the top right corner of the page. Or you could directly go to the page by clicking the link below:
View your award and press release here

Our Media Division will be able to assist with any request for edits in the business name and/or editing the industry specification (Excellence in…) to be reflected on the award as well as adding a personalized company description on the press release. There is an option to insert such edits post viewing the award and press release.

Victoria ___
USTCRI – Annual Survey Division

Not sure why I’m protecting their names, but I am.

My “letter” is intended to sound so personal… The reality is that as many emails as I get to be listed in any “Who’s Who,” regardless of an false awards I’m issued, nothing beats my Kudos blog page, where people have taken the time to honor me with their kind words…. People with whom I’ve worked over the years.  I keep them here, because I know I’ll miss my own memorial. So, anytime I want to visit how people feel about what I’ve been able to accomplish, it’s all right here.

The reality for USTCRI… TBNT

Thanks but no thanks. I’m not going to even answer your email. I could have that award printed for less money, now that you’ve given it to me… But, I won’t. I don’t need it. Thankfully, you’ve only superimposed the test over an image in PhotoShop, saving yourself that money for etching… But, maybe I should give you an award. Yeah… here you go. You get an “A” in spamming and scamming.

About my ego… I had to check my professional ego at the door a long, long time ago. But, a good laugh every now and then is worth sharing.



Event,Lodi,Travel,Vineyards,Wine,Wine Country,Wine Country Inn,Winery

Social media is a very effective marketing tool + Lodi + Oak Farm Vineyards

How PR works

social media has amplified the process, as we all now know

[Photo: Wilfred Wong]
Nothing new in the title, “Social media is a very effective marketing tool.” However… sitting on both sides of the fence of being a PR pro and a published writer, I’m impressed with other PR people and their efforts. Those who are using social media very effectively, they’re winning the race. One of my closest Facebook pals is doing just that, and I’m talking about Peter Nowack.

The lesson here is “how he’s doing it,” for anyone in my PR position, who is still trying to figure this one out. And, I could honestly take a page from his playbook, as I write this… Thoughts are spinning through my head… Peter’s approach to Facebook:

  • Use of humor
  • Commenting on anything that allows his humor come through on other people’s Facebook posts
  • Developing friendships, but not really pushing any work agenda

Peter asked me privately a while ago if Jose and I could go to a media event, well in advance of his event. I said that our personal lives are very hectic, but if at all possible, we’d try to go. We’re over 100 miles away from his event, so we’d have to have the decks really cleared for this one. As a blogger, it would mean a weekend away, no travel expenses, and no billable hours… But, given the rapport that Peter has set up over the last year or so, I would have made the run, if at all possible… because he’s created a tight bond. This is how PR works, when all things are running on all cylinders.

  • As it turns out, my book’s not done (as it should be), and so I must keep my nose to the grindstone (with my own passionate project).
  • Still, regardless of being there or not, I will help publicize Peter’s project, thanking him for thinking of me.

No longer “Stuck in Lodi”

I have to thank Michael David Winery for inviting me to Lodi earlier this year, to attend a Petite Sirah tasting. It was at that time that I realized, because I hadn’t been there for about a decade, that Lodi is r-e-a-l-l-y on the move.  The event was called, “Unique tasting event in Lodi of Petite Sirahs + some very revealing info on Petite Sirah.”  It was here that I was reintroduced to Lodi’s amazing growth, since that song was written by Creedence Clear Water Revival. One can not “recall” a song – as in “bring it in and fix it” -  but if one could, this is “the” one. Lodi is now lovely, lush with vineyards, and has splendid accommodations and food to match the wines. Getting out to wine taste is an adventure. We stayed at the Wine & Roses Hotel Restaurant Spa. “This ain’t your daddy’s Lodi,” said she, using incorrect English only to make the point more exaggerated. [I've borrowed an image from their Website to prove my point.]

And… it just keeps getting better in Lodi…

Grand Opening of Oak Farm Vineyards New Winery & Tasting Facility

PRESS RELEASE: Lodi’s first true destination winery, Oak Farm Vineyards new facility offers visitors to the Lodi appellation an unequaled wine-country experience that reflects the quality and style of a wine region that has come into its own.

[Again, the image is borrowed from the Oak Farm Vineyards' site.]

“Lodi is gaining recognition country-wide for its quality, hand-crafted varietals,” says Dan Panella, Oak Farm’s Managing Partner. “While are lots of tasting rooms and wine lounges in the area, there hasn’t been a ‘go-to’ place where wine lovers can share an elevated experience – until now. Our new winery is a game-changer. Think Napa style, but with genuine, Lodi-style hospitality.”

The 12,000+ square-foot winery and tasting room complex is perched amid 70 acres of vines, century-old oaks, and historic buildings – there’s even a lake on the property where guests can picnic and share a bottle of wine.

Oak Farm Vineyards is an up-and-coming winery that is making the leap – in a big way – from a custom-crush facility to its own 7,000-case “kitchen.” The winemaker is Chad Joseph, who has been making wine at Central Valley wineries large and small for about two decades, and whose wines have been the recipients of regional, national and international awards.

Oak Farm Vineyards is owned and operated by the Panellas, a family with agricultural roots in the Central Valley going back three generations. The third generation is represented by 36-year old Dan Panella who serves as Managing Partner, and his sister, Nicole, who is responsible for day-to-day back office winery decisions.

Media Preview ~ August 16 ~ contact Peter

Peter Nowack Email – mailto:Bung@BungRCooper.com

Public Grand Opening of Oak Farm Vineyards New Winery & Tasting Facility

Saturday/ Sunday, September 13-14; 11:00AM – 5PM both days
23627 North DeVries Rd. Lodi, CA 95242
Winery Tours; Wine Tasting; Food; Live Music; Door Prizes

Be there, or be stuck somewhere else that day… Unless you’re also writing a book; then, you’re excused… I do know that when I have the opportunity to get to Lodi, I’ll head straight to Oak Farm Vineyards, besides visiting all of my PS I Love You friends vineyards, too. I have a Lodi weekend in my future…




Going down in history as a Variety versus Varietal old fart

Yup… I’m going down in history as a Variety versus Varietal old fart, and I don’t care.

I first wrote about his on May 11, 2007.

Then, I brought it up again on March 11, 2011.

My most recent post for this one was on July 3, 2012.

Now, it’s July 2014, and it’s circled back around again… Steve Heimoff asked the question on his Facebook page, and the answers are very revealing. Of course, I couldn’t help myself from weighing in:

“Variety is a noun,” and “varietal” is an adjective.

E.g., I love the varietal characteristics of this variety.”

That said, so many people have used it incorrectly for so long that dictionaries are now bending the rules. It will come as no surprise that those trained in viticulture (who were awake during that class), and those who prefer to be grammatically correct, will go with variety and varietal as you’ve used them. I was pretty much denounced on a women’s wine blogger group for being an old fart, not willing to get with the times. I’m okay with that… It is what it is, and those who use it incorrectly just don’t know – or care – about the difference. Still, I look at how people use it and then know how long they’ve not really been writing about wine. I’ve also noticed that it is from people who haven’t studied viticulture and enology… the primary experts on wine.

Fourteen people actually liked my comment. As my fellow Facebook people know, this is a good amount of likes on a simple response. One person wrote, “Hallelujah Jo Diaz! I feel like I’m a one woman variety vs varietal crusade!” Those weighing in did so with relief, and that makes me very happy, honestly.

So I wrote, “Now, if we spell things incorrectly, or use commas where there should be periods… Yeah, no one would like that…” and this is so true. We don’t want spelling to break down, nor do we want grammar to break down, but adjectives and nouns? Hum…

The pros – one would think – lead the way for writers

From Michael DeLoach of Hook & Ladder, which he shared on Steve Heimoff’s Facebook page…

With wine specifically (along with biological classifications) the word “varietal” has a legal definition, to wit: §4.23 Varietal (grape type) labeling.

(a) General. The names of one or more grape varieties may be used as the type designation of a grape wine only if the wine is also labeled with an appellation of origin as defined in §4.25.

(b) One variety. Except as provided in paragraph (c) of this section, the name of a single grape variety may be used as the type designation if not less than 75 percent of the wine is derived from grapes of that variety, the entire 75 percent of which was grown in the labeled appellation of origin area.

I believe if we’re wine writing, we should also lead through example, not from conforming to improper grammar… Just an honest opinion. My wine sales and marketing degree program… I worked so hard for those 60 units, that’s why I can’t simply bend, because it’s become fashionable. I think if you’ve worked hard for anything, and understand the differences between right and wrong, you’ll strive to be correct… I don’t care what profession or craft it’s in. (When I’d knit a sweater, if I realized 10 rows up that I had dropped a stitch, I’d tear it out to the mistakes and begin again; because, anyone looking at the finished product – most especially a fellow knitter – would see the flaw.)

Then, I noticed that Wilfred Wong, another of my writing buddies, has also taken off on the variety versus varietal debate, but it came through on Ron Rawlinson’s time line thanking Wilfred. Again, I couldn’t resist commenting:

One would think that if a person wanted to write about wine seriously, correct grammar would be part of the process. Then, there’s a whole new generation of writers about wine, who aren’t really wine writers… They’re slang hobbyists; so, they could give a poop. They like to call themselves artists, which gives them a get out of jail free card.

And so the debate rages on…

I’m a stickler for using the right word, and try very hard to get things write right. I’m not perfect, but if I know a rule, I’m going to use it to preserve the purity of our language. For instance, any time I use the word “ain’t”, I’m poking fun at not using the right word. In a conversation, I just don’t go there.

Someone once said to me, after I had said, “It is I.”

“‘It is I?’ …. Isn’t it, ‘It’s me?’”

No… sorry, you missed school the day that one was explained. “Is” is a copulative verb (the verb “to be”), and takes a subjective pronoun after any use of the verb “to be.” It is I, it is she, it is he, it is they, it is we… etc.)

When I came into the wine business, I learned most of what I did from others for the first few years. Then, I decided to take copious college units to catch up, which included viticulture, enology, sales, marketing, PR, Spanish I and II, wine components… the list goes on…

In all of that, I never came across which word is correct to use in which instance; “variety” and/or “varietal.” Then, on a wine blog I saw something that made me stop and take notice.

David Graves of Saintsbury Vineyard made reference to the misuse of the word “varietal.”

He certainly got my attention. I didn’t know I could be using the word incorrectly. I sent David an E-mail asking him to please explain… Because I have to write so much, and use the word as much as a mother uses the word “milk” with kids, I don’t want to be misusing either word.

Here’s his explanation, and we all need to take notice, if we’re responsible for copy writing…

“Variety is a noun, and varietal is an adjective, which I learned at UC Davis.”

Today, the word has been misused so often that dictionaries have simply given up and are now including the word “varietal” as a possible noun. It pains me to see that which is wrong become right simply because of misuse and abuse. It is I who will be sticking to its original forms. It perhaps doesn’t matter to most of the rest of us; but, there are a few diehards left out there, and I celebrate each one as I see the word used correctly. [Fingers on the chalk board, for those who don't.]

I’m sure there are much bigger issues burning on everyone’s mind today; but I needed this slight diversion right now, as I write “variety” one more time and reflect on its abuse. I see it on a daily basis, and today I let the dogs out…

Both David Graves and Michael DeLoach have been in the wine business for a long time. When you’re in the business, you’ve learned protocol. I wish that the new breed of writers could respect protocol and educate people along a literate path, simply by what they say and do… One can only lead by example… For me, literacy rules over trendy…


Opinion,Social media,Wine,Wine Blogger,Wine Business,Wine Writer

Grasshopper, I’m concerned about the us versus them mentality

I wrote this story on July 20, and scheduled it for today. I have to write ahead, because my day job is writing for other people, and I don’t have the luxury of time each morning to write 1,500 words, as this blog post is. This takes about three to do… I’d have to be up at 3:00 a.m. to launch any thoughts.

And so, this week when I saw Tom Wark’s story about “Misunderstanding: There is no Such Thing As a “Print” Writer in the Wine Media,” I thought, “We all seem to be on the same track and under attack…”

Grasshopper, I’m concerned about the us versus them mentality

I believe that there’s a fine line… a balance, if you will… between what’s been established by today’s big wine writing dogs and what’s emerging. It’s always the been this way… through all of the ages for all professions. Granted, the Internet and social media have sped up the process, but it still takes the same amount of time to bake a loaf of bread, since the oven was created. What we’ve just had happen in 2004 is the oven (social media) being invented, and now we have to wait for everything to bake, and it just needs the right amount of time, or whatever was put into is still raw.

There is a generation that grew up with Kung Fu, the TV series. Always the warrior would go about his business, but when he needed guidance, he would go to his Master. Eastern culture revers its elders for guidance, elders eat first, and there’s great respect for what they’ve learned over the ages.

On the other side of the yin/yang cycle, our Western culture revers its children, the kids eat first, and there’s a lacking respect of our elders… Just go into any nursing care facility, and you won’t want to argue with me about this last one. If we live long enough in this country, we all find out this is true… so, as the song goes… You can always die young and stay pretty, but if you don’t… you’ll be learning as you go along.

Life as it works according to Kung Fu’s Master

Think about lions, Grasshopper, where there is only one male beast who rules his pride. That goes on until he’s had enough, and a younger male comes in to claim the future of the pride. The aging lion is good with it. There’s no sense beating his chest anymore, no sense ripping anyone to shreds anymore. His time of leading is over, because it’s so painful in the process, anyway. When that lion’s time is not anywhere near done, however, he will remain on a pedestal, and his pride knows who he is.

Robert Parker, Junior

The Chinese have put him onto a pedestal that’s not measured by our American ranking systems of who’s on first and what’s on second.

The world has always been ruled by gold, since it was first discovered by the Romans as a bargaining chip. Whatever country has got it, that’s the ruler of the world. Today, the Chinese are buying up our American gold reserves… And they’ve invested in Robert Parker’s company, too. As they say, Parker’s laughing all of the way to the bank right now, because the world is his oyster… While traditional writers still hold credible positions (the elders, if you will), our wine blogging is still in its infancy; and, any influence held is mainly only here in the US. I say this with all due respect. I’ve been blogging since 2005, and I know I’m not a major influencer. I will always remain humble in this regard, for those who have gone before me have paved my way.

They jury is still out about Parker being “over,” coming from the wine blogging community. You will NEVER hear that from the wine industry for at least the next 15 years… if ever. Wholesalers and their sales people know first hand the power of the master. We’ve been here with Robert Parker, and we respect who he is and what he’s done, for the most part. (Nobody is perfect, but when he gives a perfect score, he makes that brand). Robert Parker helped to build many brands, and he’s still helping. He’s not off his throne, yet, and won’t be until he decides that he doesn’t need a pride anymore. And, with his Chinese liaison, he’s now got a new throne… It’s bigger and it’s golden. And bless his heart for growling at those who have decided to test his strengths, wanting to topple him… It just shows how powerful he really is. Actually, those guys would be better off focusing on the Chinese market… Those people have got the rest of their lives to live, after Mr. Parker steps down. Get in with the Chinese now… or you’ll be left out in the cold on the world’s stage. (I predicted a world market in the early 1970s, when manufacturers moved out of my home town of Lewiston, Maine to outsource the world… It’s now here. It’s 45 years later, and it’s now here in full swing.)

Parker’s a powerful influencer. I have a client – who still tells me in this day and age of wine bloggers – that it’s Parker, Spectator, Enthusiast, and Tanzer scores that are going to make the difference with his with wholesalers, as regards who will bring his wines into their states, and place them onto their shelves.

Check this out… Total Wines and More… If you’re not one of these writers, your stories don’t count for them. And, they’re driving retail.

It’s a very complicated matter, and still has a long evolution ahead of it.

I encourage all bloggers to keep going… Their day will come within the wine business. But the old guard is still on very solid ground within the industry, for which we all work.

Let’s take a city that I’m familiar with in Portugal… Evorá…

A large wall surrounds the town, and only so many people can enter through those gates at any given period… And the town can only support so many with living accommodations and services. That’s been going on since the town was built. The addition of cars has allowed more people to enter than ever before; but still, the town itself can only support so many people with its services at any given time… When the restaurants and hotels are full, they’ve reached their limit… Others must wait until something lightens up. This is how the wholesalers heads are constructed. They can only handle so much at any given time, the rest of the wineries must sell directly, and pray they get noticed by the first line of writers, if they’re still looking for a wholesaler to help move their wines… It’s those writers and publications mentioned about with established creds, that still make those decisions.

Smaller wine companies have a terrific struggle on their hands right now… Too much wine left over from the days when they DID have national distribution, a staff that’s become bare bones, and looking for someone to jump start their direct sales… While bloggers help with this one, it’s not the world it used to be… Wineries are having to shrink, as the big guys take over, and the big guys give bloggers some credibility, but the balance still goes to the big guys (as proven above).

CASE IN POINT: Steve Heimoff’s blog entitled, “A family winery bites the dust.”

It’s always sad when an old, little family winery shuts its doors, as Milat Vineyards & Winery is set to do by the end of this month.

I never formally reviewed any of their wines, because they never sent me tasting samples. They didn’t have a high profile in Napa Valley, and perhaps didn’t want one; as the Napa Valley Register, which reported the story, observes, “Unlike wealthy people who start wineries to enjoy the lifestyle, the Milats started the winery to make a living.” Playing the publicity game, with all the related frou-frou and social obligations, doesn’t seem to have been the Milats’ style.

So many stories are like this for small companies…

What I’m saying here is that evolution takes time, a shift has happened, and we’re in the middle of that shift’s major upheaval (like an earthquake). But, rebuilding takes time, grasshoppers. There’s not nearly a completed city yet… The strong will survive, but a modicum of humility and respect will go a long way in getting to the top. Those who practice patience and respect will be the ones who rise to the next level of respected power.

Help to build these small brands NOW, the small ones which can’t afford a publicity person. They will remember you, too, as all ride your wave’s crest.



Event,Fund Raiser - Wine,Paso Robles,Winery

Dog Days in the Vineyard… loveable and creative promtion

Dog Days in the Vineyard is really creative title for an event that brings wine and dog lovers, their dogs, and an event that benefits a non-profit rescue foundation all together in one nice little bundle.

This one’s novel, too, because so many wineries don’t even want to see your dog at their facilities. Still, there are other really dog friendly locations, and it appears that Clayhouse Wines is one of them… to their credit. I love this creative wine marketing cross promotion. It’s the first time I’ve heard of one, which also has a non-profit attached to it.

On August 23, Clayhouse Winery in Paso Robles is holding their first Dog Days in the Vineyard event, to raise funds for Meade Canine Rescue Foundation. It’s a great way to enjoy walking through a vineyard, taking your canine friend along for the journey, and helping to support the tremendous efforts that any dog rescue center has to endure…

[Photo: Lyla and Spike]

from the pain of each dog’s story, to the joy of someone adopting a new pet they’ve rescued. I have a doggie grandson named Spike, who has been through this process. My daughter Lyla found the love of her life adopting this little terrier-chihuahua mix foster dog in Sonoma County. It’s amazing to me that people can get dogs, and then just release them to the streets of a city. Perhaps they feel that they can’t bring the dogs to a shelter; but if they don’t, someone else will. And the animal will be in an injured condition by that time, in all likelihood. People associated with shelters have huge hearts, but the funding doesn’t measure up to the required funds… So, to taking on a fundraiser for a local rescue foundation is very admirable.

About Meade Canine Rescue Foundation:

Meade Canine Rescue Foundation’s (MCRF) mission is to help alleviate the overpopulation and resulting euthanasia of unwanted dogs through education, rescue, providing medical care and spaying/neutering as many dogs as possible with the resources available, primarily within our target areas of California and Connecticut. Dogs that have no other option but instead are provided food, shelter, veterinary care, exercise, and love.

The Dog Days in the Vineyard event is happening in their Red Cedar Vineyard, for a one-mile walk beginning at 8:00 a.m., on August 23, 2014.

Vineyard Address
2200 West Centre Street
Shandon, CA 93461

Dog Days in the Vineyard

The first annual Meade Canine Rescue Foundation Fundraiser is happening at our Vineyard from 8 – Noon. Bring your canine friend to amble, trot, jog or skip through the vineyard. Benefiting Meade Canine Rescue, cost is $25 per person/$40 per couple in advance, or $30 per person/$45 per couple at the gate. Payment can be made before August 15, 2014, through PayPal at 4dots@att.net (designate event). Or you can mail a check, payable to Meade Canine Rescue to PO Box 252, Creston, CA 93452.

Your ticket will automatically enter you in a raffle for prizes from local businesses. After your walk, enjoy a free Clayhouse tasting and refreshments catered by B Albanese, while enjoying live music provided by Starling & Wright.

Special guests include the following:

  • Teresa Rhyne, author of the NY Times #1 best seller The Dog Lived (And So Will I)
  • KVEC radio host David Congalton
  • And, tips from pet CPR certified dog walker Chris Crofford.

For more information visit www.meadecaninerescue.org, or call 805-305-7260


Portugal,Wine,Wine HIstory,Wine Related Products,Winemaker

Cork … It’s what’s for dinner

Cork is one of my favorite subjects. I got a recent email about it, from Jeff Lloyd, of Sitrick And Company in Los Angeles:

By way of introduction, we are working with the Portuguese Cork Association (APCOR) to help communicate the advantages that cork stoppers have over artificial closures. Please check out our Web site 100percentcork.org for additional information on our campaign.

He actually opened with this paragraph:

Wine & Spirits’ 25th Annual Survey of the Top 50 Restaurant Wine Brands asked wine directors at 218 restaurants to name their 10 best-selling wines. Their responses were compiled into a list of the Top 50 Restaurant Brands. Results were presented for 2013 and for the previous 10 years. The results for 2013 by closure type showed that brands primarily finished with cork accounted for 90 percent of the Top 50 Restaurant Brands, up 21 percent, as compared to ten years ago. Brands primarily finished with screw caps showed a 39 percent decline and brands using synthetic closures were down by 70 percent, as reported by wine directors.

Yeah… I love cork. I know there are all sorts of companies to deliver plastic to you, metal twist off caps, etc.. But, the process, the aromas, the aesthetics of using something natural, something coming from mostly Portugal, and the improvements to not allow TCA (Trichloroanisole) creep into this earthy product used to “put a cork in it” for wine bottles… I’m a huge fan.

If you’ve been fortunate enough to visit Portugal, I don’t have to even explain the symbiosis in those neighborhoods of grape vines, olive trees, and sheep meandering within it all eating grasses and leaving nitrogenous waste as a by product… And across the highway are the cork trees and the famous feral black pigs eating acorns in an oak (Quercus suber) forest.

For those of you who haven’t been there yet, it’s a fascinating day trip.

How it all works for Cork (Quercus suber)

  • After an oak tree reaches 25 years of age, it can be stripped of its cork bark layer.
  • They’re harvested every nine to 12 years
    • It’s like sheering a sheep.
  • The tree is marked with the year of harvest.
    • Tree harvesters wait before harvesting that tree again for the nine to 12 years.
  • A single cork oak is capable of living up to 200 years
    • This means that it can be harvested at least 16 times over its lifetime.

Did you know even that it’s an oak tree that has this bark? From the mighty oak, comes the cork, besides the nuts.

Here’s what the 100 Percent Cork people have to say about using corks.

That natural cork in your wine bottle does more than just preserve the quality and character of your wine. It preserves old-growth cork oak forests and a centuries-long way of life through sustainable harvesting of the bark, and helps preserve the planet by naturally absorbing carbon, the greenhouse gas responsible for climate change.

So, go ahead and tell me all the things you want to about plastic and metal closures…  I’m a tree-hugger, you’re not going to convince me that the chemicals used in making plastic closures and/or metal closures are the way to go… Not when we see the polar ice caps slipping away. I want my children and grandchildren to still have a breathable planet that’s not riddled with wild weather. Sometimes, being natural is not only the way to go for the good of the planet, but it also has it’s benefits for quality of life in a simplistic, easy-going way… There’s very little of that these days. Yeah, pass the cork screw.

The following video features wine experts, whom you may recognize, if only through the names of their companies. Each one is endorsing cork, some of whom have used other closures, but are returning to cork:

  • Jim Bernau, fonder of Willamette Valley Vineyards, Willamette Valley OR
  • Richard Arrowwood, Winemaster at Amapola Creek Wine, Glen Ellen CA
  • Ed Sbragia, former head winemaker for Beringer Wines, founder of Sbragia wines, Sonoma CA
  • Steve Rued, winemaker Rutherford Wine Company, Napa CA

Companies, which are more sustainable, are returning to cork… For more than 2,000 years, this has been the sustainable way to go.



Wine,Wine Blogger,Wine Writer

PRIMER FOR BLOGGERS: Winery flow chart for story lines

So many people are blogging about wine today: from pros, to connoisseurs, to hobbyists…

  • Pros, it’s another platform.
  • Connoisseurs, because it’s fun to share their thoughts, and maybe… just maybe… it will turn into later creds… like Robert Parker did for himself.
  • Hobbyists are writing about their experience, simply because they enjoy the beverage, want to share with family and friends, and are at ground zero for understanding how a wine company actually operates.

I have one friend who has said over-and-over again, and I can’t argue with him, “With many of the people wine blogging, what they lack is the history.” This history allows for a depth of experiences that enriches their stories… personal anecdotes that only they’ve personally experienced. Those traditional writers have a real edge, in some regards… Not all, but definitely as regards pulling from their souls, from their history, from their connections. And so, it’s easy to get beyond, “I tasted this wine and it was so pure yummy… like a day in the forest primeval.”

There’s something for everyone in writing about wine… from a beginner to someone with experiences like I’ve had, who’s been in the wine business well over 20 years now.

I believe that the flow chart below can enrich the experience, for those with less history, but with a similar passion to mine.

When I wanted to segue from PR in radio to PR in the wine industry, I had a pretty decent resume and interviewed with some of the big dogs. In interviews, though, I couldn’t hold up. Not because I hadn’t already achieved PR credentials for working with media, but my radio media didn’t interface with wine media… and never the twain shall meet. Neither side has thought hard enough about it. My former radio station, when queried about having a wine segment, didn’t even see the benefits of having a wine reviewer; and, the wine industry doesn’t even think hard about radio as an option for publicity. (I don’t have the time to become a single-minded crusader, because billable hours currently rule my days.)

I was laughed out of some pretty great wine companies. I was essentially told, “You weren’t born into it, you haven’t married into it. Heck, you don’t even have any friends in the wine business, and what’s worse is that you know very little about wine!” I did get my foot in the door, though, and now the rest is history.

The same will be true for those who have just decided that they’d like to write abut wine. Every day there’s something new to learn. You’ll learn that there’s more to that bottle of wine than the liquid inside, and you might want to go off in more uncharted waters. Anyone in this flow chart, when you want a one-on-one quote (if and when you evolve to that depth) will help enrich your stories.

When I was transferred to a marketing department, the flood gates opened for me personally. This is where I really began to understand how the entire operation works for a small to mid size company. I’ve held positions in direct sales, marketing, district sales (Northern CA, Northern NV, OR, WA, ID, MN, IA, ME, MA, Puerto Rico), public relations management, graphic arts development; and not only founding, but also directing a wine grape advocacy group.

This flow chart will help anyone wanting to understand how a small wine company works. Larger ones break down even further. The marketing department has now become a massive operation, because of social media. People who used to have a cut and dry PR position have turned into also having to deal with the Internet in ways I never had to, early on in my wine career. Thankfully, keeping up – i.e., being mutable – is my middle name. Many of my colleagues just farm it out, not even understand half of the implications yet.

You’ll notice HR and CFO are missing here (generally under the CEO), because for anyone writing about wine, a winemaker, or a vineyard manager, these people are nonessential (but are still very necessary within the company).

I believe this chart will help you guys understand how this all works and who reports to whom. If you’re wanting to write about and understand a wine company, this info allows you to understand the big picture.

Besides proprietors and winemakers, there’s a plethora of people within any company that have their own stories and will be willing to help to make up yours.


Public Service Announcement,Wine,Wine Business

Starting a legal winery? Here are things to consider

Starting a legal winery has to be a daunting task, most especially for the people who’ve never been connected to the wine industry. I know that I segued from radio into wine, and it took me at least three years before I was really on any real sure footing.

I was contacted by Danielle Rodabaugh, the chief editor at SuretyBonds.com, a surety provider that issues bonds to working professionals across the nation. I’ve never studied this, nor have I ever helped a new business owner better understand how surety bonds affect the business licensing process. That’s a pretty specific area of starting a winery, and I’ve only been working established brands.

As a public service, I’m providing Danielle’s information, which is way beyond my own personal bailiwick, because Danielle writes articles that help new business owners better understand how surety bonds affect the business licensing process. (You can keep up with Danielle on Google+.)


Starting a legal winery

If you’re interested in starting a winery, there’s more to the process than knowing how to produce delicious wine. You also need to become familiar with the rules that regulate your local wine industry. The exact regulations you’ll be expected to follow will vary depending on a number of factors, such as:

  • where your winery will be
  • how much wine you’ll produce
  • how much money you’ll earn

Licensing and Registration

You’ll have to license and register your winery with the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) if you plan to

  • produce wine for commercial purposes (not for personal or family use)
  • store, blend or bottle untaxpaid wine OR
  • wholesale or import wine products

Anyone intending to operate such a wine premise — whether it be a bonded winery, bonded wine cellar or taxpaid wine bottling house — must first apply to the federal TTB. Operations may not begin until the TTB approves the application. You’ll also have to license and register your winery according to whatever state and local laws regulate the wine industry in your area.

Surety Bonds

Government agencies typically require winery owners to file surety bonds to protect the state against the anticipated tax liability. The government agency can make a claim on a bond if a winery owner fails to pay taxes appropriately. The bond’s funds are then used to pay all taxes fully. Claims on alcohol tax bonds are rare, but without the bonding requirement, state agencies would lose the benefit of the surety’s prequalification standards. Because surety providers want to avoid losing money on claims, they thoroughly review all applicants before issuing a bond. To put it simply, the bonding process prohibits licenses and permits from be issued to individuals who lack the financial capacity to fulfill their tax obligations.


Those intending to produce or blend wine for commercial purposes must obtain a basic permit from the Federal Alcohol Administration. Bonded wine cellars that don’t produce wine don’t have to maintain a basic permit. Before a permit can be issued, the Federal Alcohol Administration Act requires winery owners to provide information about the ownership of the company rather than the wine operations themselves.

Still Have Questions?

If you have questions about starting a legal commercial winery, you can contact the TTB’s National Revenue Center by phone at 1 (877) 882-327, or by e-mail at ttbquestions@ttb.gov. You might also want to get in touch with a local university or college, that offers courses on the wine industry. And, don’t forget to speak with established winemakers in your area, as they usually have some good advice for fellow enthusiasts. The wine-making community is a warm and inviting place.



Cabernet Franc,Cabernet Sauvignon,Napa,Rutherford,Wine,Wine Blogger,Wine Business,Wine Making,Wine tasting,Wine Writer,Winemaking

When the Dust turns to Silk – 2011 Rutherford Cabernets

It was a beautiful summer’s day, when we all gathered to taste the 2011 Rutherford Cabernets, at Francis Ford Coppola’s Inglenook Winery.

I need to immediately segue into the late 1990s.

I was sitting on a panel for the American Wine Society in Cleveland, Ohio, I believe it was. I was invited to talk about Cabernet Franc as a variety. An Australian winemaker, who now lives and works in Sonoma County, was also on the panel.

I was asked, “What was a good year for California Cabernet Franc?” I hadn’t even been living in the state of California for 10 years, and every single one of those years for growing grapes had been stellar, in my estimation. I certainly knew that if I had been living in Maine, the seasons would have each been distinctly unique. But in California? Some nights the fog rolls in for about three days, then it heats up; and when it gets so hot it’s hard to take, the fog rolls back in and things cool down. That was the climate, as I was experiencing and learning about it for about eight years at the time.

So, without batting an eyelash I said, “Every year is a good year out there,” and I meant it from what my world had been in Maine, to what it had become in California.

The audience laughed; but before anyone in the audience could really savor my answer, the above winemaker went and got all technical on it, because he had lived each vintage’s days; worrying when it got too hot, and troubled if the fog didn’t lift in time. And, there I was in shambles with my perfect weather theory (but not in my eyes), as the best laid plans of a marketer – who knew REAL weather (from Maine) – thought… “Okay, here they go, still worrying about each vintage, as if California is France.”

I’ve told you this story above, because things have now changed in California; so when we’re now talking about weather, it’s like what happens when B.F. Hutton talks, people listen.

And so it began, as the group of wine writers at the The Rutherford Dust Society‘s 15th Annual tasting had gathered. We were now having the weather explained to us for that 2011 vintage, and we were listening intently.  It was a tough year, weather-wise, and they came out swingingly apologetically for Mother Nature. We hadn’t even tasted the wines yet, and we were being built up so that we’d cut them some slack… Obviously enough writers had already written about that vintage to make everyone on the Rutherford panel very tentative… and the weather was to blame. The weather is changing around here. I can honestly no longer say, “every vintage is an easy one.” It’s now up for grabs.

Back to the beginning arrival, because this also will double back…

Jose and I arrived on this perfect weather day. As we approached Inglenook, Randy Caparoso [above] was just behind us. I saw him, turned and said hello. I introduced Jose to Randy and vice versa, and we began to walk and talk. Randy told us that he had started his career in the 1980s as a sommelier in Hawaii… Randy said that he had tasted the last 10 years or so of these Rutherford Cabs, and he was really looking forward to these 2011 Rutherford Cabernets. We were all really looking forward to that day’s tasting, so we entered the building as others were also gathering.

It was great to see the mix of people at this event, organized by Paul Wagner (proprietor of Balzac Communications), Tara Thomas (also from Balzac) and The Rutherford Dust Society. This event is really polished and puts their best foot forward for what’s considered California’s equivalent in stature to Bordeaux wines. They’re definitely separate, but close in stature on the shelves of the world stage. (Remember the Judgment of Paris, everyone?)

As we tasted the wines, I was expecting them to be big and brooding, having that chalkiness with big, black fruit, from my tastings of the past… so rich that you can’t see the bottom of your glass, and regretting that you’ve forgotten your toothbrush. You know what I mean…

What I found, however, blew me away, and I’m going to give you an overall perspective, and then a few personal favorites:

  • APPEARANCE: Colors ranged from dark cranberry to an indigo/purple. The density of color: each wine was either medium in color to slightly dark, or hedging on darkness; but, none were opaque.
    • Could this be true of a Napa Valley Cabernet, I thought?
  • NOSE: Blueberry to blackberry, raspberry, to mildly nutty (almond), some cocoa, and a bit of tobacco and cigar was present.
  • PALATE: In varying degrees, all of the above: Blueberry to blackberry, raspberry, to mildly nutty (almond), some cocoa, and a bit of tobacco and cigar was present.
  • FINISH: Only one was too acidic for me, one had a bit of vegetal characteristics, a few had tight tannins (but I knew from tasting those wines what they could do in the future). The rest had soft and silky finishes; and the lingering was very, very pleasant.

The 2011 Rutherford Cabernets that I tasted pretty much knocked my socks off. Cabernets are complex wines, being a cross between Sauvignon Blanc (hence the dryness, in my humble opinion), and the dark fruit flavor profile from the Cabernet Franc… A wine I’ve always loved.


The reason I mentioned Randy Caparoso above is because after the tasting he told us, “These are the Rutherford Cabernets that I remember, when I first started tasting them.”

This begs the questions… Did winemakers craft their wines, in between his first tastings until now, to become picked later in the season, pushing up the brix, allowing alcohol levels to rise, and satisfying wine critics’ palates; or, is the season really dictating what a wine will taste like? And with hotter summers slipping away, are we retuning to wines with less heat in the vineyard, hence cooler flavors on the palate?

Now, I’m left to wonder, but will always carry the banner for 2011 Rutherford Cabernets as being spectacular and highly recommended. What we tasted were an excellent representation.

Three highly recommended 2011 Rutherford Cabernets

  • Frank Family Vineyards, 2011 Winston Hill Vineyard, Rutherford
    • Medium to dark wine. Nose: Rich berries with a touch of chalk dustiness. Palate: After several wines, this was the first Rutherford Cabernet that had me segue from writing about the usual berries, tobacco, and spice to simply write, “That’s what I’m talking about!” Finish: supple, long, and lingering.
  • Provenance Vineyards, 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
    • A darker Cabernet in appearance, but not too dark… beautiful violet around the rim of the glass. Nose: really mature, dark fruit on the nose. Palate: I also segued away from the traditional writings to simply write, “Sweet Jesus.” Finish: smooth and elegant… as elegant as it could possibly be.
  • Pestoni Family Rutherford Grove Winery, Rutherford
    • Appearance: medium to dark. Nose: a full gamut of berries to raspberries, blue and blackberries. Palate: Crushed red raspberries and toasted almonds. Finish: Lovely and smooth, with softer tannins.

Lunch… So what to pair with these Rutherford Cabs? Chef Alex Lovick’s menu was totally delicious with something for everyone… In case you can’t read this menu, I’ll tell you what I really enjoyed:

  • Slow roasted Beef Ribeye with foraged Chanterelles, Estate Squash, and Salas Verde.
  • Butter and Red Oak Leaf Lettuce, Estate cucumbers, toasted pistachios, aged goat cheese, and shiso.
  • Baked estate stone fruit, housemade poppyseed gelato, and granola.

It was a beautiful day spent playing in the dust, for sure…


Petite Sirah,PS I Love You,Wine,Wine Education,Wine tasting,Wine Writer

Wine scores and reviews: those who write them and those who need them

Wine scores: This was one of my very first stories on my wine blog… It was written on February 5, 2006. And, it was a very daring move for the time, because I knew it could enrage a few people.

I wrote it, because I was so frustrated with salespeople who wanted to just take orders and not really hand sell the wine… their job, by the way. So, I wrote the following. Let’s see if it’s still relevant today. And I do have an afterthought at the end…


The frustrations and irony of wine scores…

Frustration 1) “We need a 90 point score, Jo. We can’t sell the wine without it.” [I think to myself, "No, you HAVE to sell the wine without it, and you'd rather be on the golf links."]

Frustration 2) “Jo, if it’s NOT a score from Parker or Wine Spectator, we can’t sell the wine. Nobody cares about Joe Schmoe from Idaho.” [This declaration always put me over the edge.]

Every time I hear those words, I have to go through this explanation over and over, again: Local U.S. writers are a connection between the wines and their readers. These writers have valuable opinions and are providing a wonderful service to their readers and to the wineries. To compile a list of all these opinions provides insight, and important third party endorsements, that take us beyond only two opinions.

Here’s the really BIG irony.

I’ve always been frustrated with these sales declarations, so I wanted to write a business-2-business story. The point of it would be to show sales people how off the mark they had become, and realign their sales pitch to include all third party endorsements as a very powerful tool, while trying to promote their wine. To do this I would have to prove that if writers were given the same exact wine to taste, the results would be diverse, not seamlessly the same.

So, I convinced six of my trusted wine writer sources to help me with an experiment, explaining what I was trying to do. I was given an awesome Petite Sirah by Robert Biale Vineyards. I then had each writer taste the wine and tell me his or her impressions. I knew there’d be a full range, and was dead on. Each one liked the wine, but the descriptions of what they tasted were very diverse… as diverse as their palates.

Another reason I did this was that I’ve become close to many writers, and was hearing from some of them how hard it is to make a living reviewing wine. In fact, one very prominent writer said that it’s so difficult being an independent writer that he periodically thinks about just giving it all up. I know that if these writers simply go away, we’re not going to have a wide range of opinions anymore, and it’s that wide range that gives a creative sales person the endorsements that make a difference with successful sales.

So, off I went. I had a publisher willing to print the story. I even rewrote it with a different twist, but it still wasn’t in print, yet. So, I created this blog, because I wanted this story out there. Once it was up on the World Wide Web, I let each writer know about my blog and the story.

An amazing thing happened. The writers who have confided in me that it’s tough to make a living got right back to me with applause… And like wine where everybody has an opinion and a palate, one of my sources was very upset with me. Here are the problems this writer was having:

  1. Question: “What are you trying to say here?” I knew what was meant, because I soft pedaled and skirted the issues in my process. I really didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes or hurt anyone’s feelings. (Remember my Frustration 2: “Jo, if it’s NOT a score from Parker or Spectator, we can’t sell the wine… Nobody cares about Joe Schmoe from Idaho.”)
  2. Question: “If writers are having a hard time making a living at being a wine writer, then they should just get outta the business!” Then, this writer went on to name a couple of prominent writers who would be appalled at what I had written. The irony? These two writers were within the group who were part of the story… the very ones who told me that it’s difficult to make a living as an independent writer not on anyone’s payroll. [The ultimate irony]
  3. Exclamation: “The reviews are all over the place!” [My point exactly]
  4. Question: “Who’s your audience?” Initially, I wanted it to be business-2-business, but I still don’t know where this blog is headed; however, I’m not going to shut it down while I continue to ponder that question. I’m willing to give more clarity to my writing, and not soft pedal anymore. Also suggested was that I don’t rant and rave. I know I won’t do that, as I already have that luxury available to me without making a public spectacle of myself in the process. [Well, I have ranted a few times, I'm happy to say.]

Here are the reviews.

  1. 5+ An outstanding Petite Sirah, in full, ripe style. Opaque black purple color. Very full-bodied, concentrated, and powerful in style; a massive wine, which is ripe and lightly oaky in aroma/flavor (blackberry, boysenberry jam, black licorice, toast, roasted nut, nutmeg, and tobacco). Very young; should age well for another ten+ years. 15.5% alcohol. 75 cases. Drink 2008-2014.
  2. Biale Zinfandel from the historic Napa Valley, gravelly Dr. Crane Vineyard is sumptuous and expectations, therefore, run high for the Petite Sirah. It delivered with concentrated dark fruit aromas, complex and layered flavors on an agreeable framework with a long, dark fruit-laden finish, simultaneously depthful yet elegant. Expensive by Petite Sirah standards , but worth it. Rating: Outstanding.
  3. Typically inky, this Petite Sirah exhibits strong flavor profiles which do soften and open with aeration. Heavy on the blackcurrant, blackberry and sweet cherry, the wine’s high alcoholic content is tempered by caramel and chocolate over notes. Will be better in a few years, but drinks well already, especially when paired with strong and spicy foods.
  4. The wine is dark and richly flavored, lots of blueberry and ultra-ripe flavors, thick and rich on the tongue. The alcohol is high, but the flavor’s quite accessible.
  5. 89: Deep in color and generously endowed with ripe, somewhat jammy blackberry and black pepper fruit aromas, this full-bodied, weighty wine impresses in the mouth for its full-bore, densely packed, ripe grape character and for the peppery, spicy, smoky seasonings that extend its range dramatically. Unavoidably hot in the finish (15.5% alcohol), but long and tasty as well and only moderately charged with firming tannins, this Petite Sirah drifts a bit towards the over-sized side while scoring big points for accessibility. Limited availability. Drink now to 2012 with full-flavored foods.
  6. Powerful wine. Big, even for a Petite Sirah. Lots of Blackberry flavor with some briary notes. Pepperiness in the background. Many foods would be overwhelmed by such a wine, but we enjoyed it with T-bone steaks given a spicy dry rub before grilling over charcoal.

Okay, I proved my point. Every wine writer has a different perspective, so to settle in on what only person says, is probably going to restrict the learning process for those not daring…

But what none of us could really envision in 2006, was what effect social media was also going to have regarding wine scores and or points. … In some ways, I saw the future; in other ways, I stepped onto a diving board and many have followed… Someone just had to dare to say it. I think if that one writer who had someone else call me and tell me, “Don’t ever call him again. He doesn’t want to talk to you,” hadn’t happened, I might never have written this story.

While at face value, this person might be judged as being a bit rude; when in fact, it was a great learning curve for me… Go where media people are friendly, and where I don’t tick them off so badly that they can’t even have a tête–à–tête with me, because I’m so objectionable. (Do I have body odor?) I honestly appreciate the lesson, because it drove me toward some really special people that have also become mutual friends, and I nurture those relationships. The importance of all wine critics have now all been a bit diluted… and social media has played an important role in the changing of the guard.