PR Advice,Public Relations

When you hire someone to do PR for you, that’s not where your job ends

It’s where it begins for true success…

I wish I had penned that bit of wisdom, because it’s brilliant. Alas, it was penned by another, and I don’t take credit for someone else’s words of wisdom. So, credit to the universe.

When I read it, I didn’t make note of the author. The words, however, have never left my mind.

Another great bit of knowledge that I’ve found is by LAD Communications, penned by Anne Louise Bannon (May 2002 issue of Wines & Vines): “Which may mean that even when you’ve gotten big enough to hire someone to do your publicity for you, you’ll still be doing much of your own PR. But that’s what telling your story is all about, and that’s what sells wine.”

This is still relevant today, even though it was written in 2002.

This is very important information when you’ve decided to hire a PR agency or person to represent you. In the wine business, how many brands are out there? I’d love an exact figure, but I don’t have it for this world-wide market. It’s not outside the realm of possibilities that there could there be as many as 10,000 worldwide?

It’s not like the peanut butter business, let’s say, where you’ve got fewer than a dozen brands. Those stories are very easy to tell. Nobody cares who started the company, and nobody’s going to ogle over the flavors. It’s pretty straight forward, “Is is smooth or chunky?”

With wine, your flavors will stand on their own, against the other 10,000 in the world.

So, what’s going to really sell your wine to a wine writer who could be thinking to him or herself? “Who are the characters behind the scenes, tell me everything you can about this person or people, and when may I talk to him or her?”

So, PR 101 is really what my mom drilled into my head ever so long ago, “God helps those who help themselves.”

PR people are just the missing link in the process to bridge the gap between who you are and getting that story into the hands of a writer. PR people open the door for you, and your job is to then step-up and be willing to tell your story, when the opportunity arises. And remember, opportunity only knocks once.

Cliche? Yes.

Good advice? You decide…


Education,Wine,Wine Etiquette

Wine Tasting Etiquette ~ Perfume is for romance, not for wine tasting

Wine Tasting Etiquette ~ 101

Although there’s a lot of “romance” associated with the “wine experience,” additional aromas when tasting wine doesn’t really add anything. In fact, it takes a lot away from a really pleasant experience.

I’m no saint with this one. I’ll admit it… I learned this the hard way.

It was when I began my wine career in a tasting room. What did I know? I honestly knew so little about wine, that I didn’t know this really basic rule. I was gently told, and life moved on to a more enjoyable place.

Once one’s wearing perfume – this applies to both men and women – the pure enjoyment of tasting wine’s been drastically altered. It’s impossible to pick up all the nuances, if any perfume’s included in the experience.

It’s been years since I’ve worn perfume, as a result. What that’s done to my senses has allowed for me to smell even more delicate aromas than before I dropped the love potions. My sniffer’s so sensitive that this past week, I was able to smell cigarette smoke from another car, while we waited for the light to turn green… and all my windows were up. (I’ve also got a tank of a car for tight closure.) I honestly should have never smelled the other person’s cigarette smoke. Imagine, then, the person who just bathed in cologne standing next to me at a tasting. I’m over the edge before I even begin… And so are many, many others.

Consider, when you’re going to be wine tasting, that the more aromas you’re wearing, the less you’re really going to smell and taste wine. You’ll greatly benefit, as will those around you, if you hold off the perfume for the most romantic part of your day… An evening soirée with someone you love…after you’ve had your candlelight food and wine dinner.


Amenities, Supplies, Services,PS I Love You,Restaurants,Wine

A classic restaurant, bar, caterers, and picnic item… Boxxle

Being asked if I’d consider Boxxle, I had no clue what it was or that it even existed, so I curiously said, “Sure.” When it arrived, I thought, “What a great restaurant, bar, caterer or picnic item!” And, I’m hooked.

Restaurants, bars, and caterers

For people in restaurants and bars… Remember me? I’m the one who asks, “How long has the bottle of this wine been opened?” There’s nothing more irritating to me than knowing that the wine I’ve just ordered and received is dated… Bars and restaurants mostly make money on the first glass poured, if you didn’t know that; so, they’re happy to see how long they can continue to sell that bottle of wine, boosting their profits. And, who can blame them, in some regards. They’re also very happy to replace the wine, if you dare to call it out, because you know better. It simply goes back to the bar and a new glass arrives, tasting a whole lot better.

“Dare” is the operative word in this one, too. Most people don’t know enough about wine to know the difference. If it’s been opened way too long and it’s oxidized… never mind “corked…” I ask about its freshness, based on the wine tasting flat. Wine should be lively in flavor, not lacking brightness.

SIDEBAR: Don’t be “that one” who orders a wine and then you decide you don’t personally like brand’s “flavor.” That’s your bad, not the wine’s bad.

Corked is also a whole other story… it shouldn’t even get to our tables in the first place. When it does, it’s a teachable moment. I don’t just say, “There’s something wrong with this wine.” I say, “This wine is corked.” If they look at me quizzically, I continue. “Here, smell it, so you know what ‘corked’ is all about.” If I have to explain corked, I’m happy to do that too. I’m a wine educator and happy to help someone to learn about TCA (tricholoranisole).

If I were in the business of serving beverages to other people, this would be a necessary item… And, I’m in that business once a year, when I thank the volunteers who give their time, energy, and hearts to PS I Love You, to help us fund raise for our annual 501 C6 non-profit to keep it going.


Caterers, same as above for your profit margin.

PERSONALLY: Each year, PS I Love You holds an annual event. (PS I Love You is the wine advocacy group that I started with Foppiano Vineyards in 2002, and it’s still going strong on behalf of Petite Sirah as a wine grape variety.)

Member wineries are willing to share their Petite Sirahs for this event. Many of the members even attend to pour their own wines. We’ve held it at Gustafson Family Vineyards, as well as Lone Oak Vineyard owned by Kent Rosenblum of Rock Wall Wines. It’s about a 60 person party. Each year, I ask the members to share their wines.

The oddest part is when I ask them to include a white wine, too, if they make one. In my thinking, it seems to me that this picnic should be all about Petite Sirah, because we hold it for our event volunteers. But then, it’s held in the summer, in a Russian River Vineyard, when the heat of the day is almost established by 12:00 noon, when everyone begins to arrive. So, I know that many people want to first enjoy a refreshing glass of white wine. It’s great that they’re member wines. It’s most likely, however, that no one will be there to talk about those whites. Wine gets marketed and ultimately sold, in my humble opinion, at events like this, when a personal connection happens. With most of these wines, they’re opened and people just have “whatever.” This is unfair to the producers, I know it and it’s been a burr under my saddle for as long as this event has been happening… for the last eight years.

I also know that most of my producers may feel the same way. I had yet to find a fair answer… Until Boxxle came along. This is a fair and equitable solution for me, and I’ll be loading in the white from a box company from one of the members… and I’ll promote it as such.


Imagine this one, restaurants, bars, and caterers. If you’ve got a wine by the glass program going on, and you’re willing to serve a great boxed wine, you’ll have wine that you can count on for the next five weeks, if you only sell one to two glasses a day. You KNOW you’ll move through the wine a lot quicker, if it’s a popular variety; but, what if it’s a more obscure varietal wine? This gives you great options and opportunity to expand your by-the-glass program, beyond your wildest dreams… Can you say, “Great profits,” boys and girls?


PERSONAL: For consumers, you’ve got to think about getting wine to a picnic or to the beach… Maybe you’ll be at the beach for a week or two. Maybe you’re headed camping.  You might even have some friends who will join you. Your Boxxle is in your refrigerator or tent, and it just gets tapped. It’s like a keg of beer, but it’s a box of wine, put into a container that keeps it fresh and clean, and it’s a blast to “tap,” in those fun summer moments.

I do advocate for boxed wine.  No air getting into the box, the wine can last as long as six weeks, versus five days, if you’re lucky. I conducted an experiment for six weeks and the boxed wine lasted the entire time.


Education,Field Blend,Vineyards,Viticulture

Viticulture 101 – 2

Viticulture 101 continued from last Monday…

APRIL 8, 2015:

Vines are trained in two different ways. This is the other way, with cordons being discussed in last week’s Viticulture blog. It’s called a “head pruned vine.” The trunk grows up, each spring it grows canes (with leaves, shoots, and tendrils). It then is pruned back during the winter months, to start all over again the following spring.

I took this picture at Field Stone Winery and Vineyard in the fall, years ago. These vines are now 130 years old!

Rita Connor: Great color

Jo Diaz: Fall can be beautiful out here. The color of the vines shows disease… Our little secret. It’s Pierce’s Disease. It doesn’t affect the flavor of the wines. It just reduces the vine’s strength, until it’s finally gone. UC IPM – “It’s caused by sap-feeding insects that feed on the xylem”

APRIL 9, 2015:

Taking the glamor and romance away from a vineyard, to get to the heart of it, the most important thing to remember is that it is a grape crop grown in a garden. In many cases, it’s grown right along side other fruits and vegetables… In this case, artichokes are in the foreground at Iron Horse Vineyards, with the vineyard being in the background.

Rita Conner: Love this information. I know the reason they plant all those beautiful roses along the edges of the vineyard.

Jo Diaz: They are more for decoration than for anything else. When I first got here, people were talking about rose flavors in the wines. It would take so many roses to even begin to do such a thing, but it did sound very romantic. This is why I wrote about about the “glamor and romance.” I’m reducing it down to dirt. LOL; but, it’s really pretty dirt.

Rita Connor: We were told that the roses were an early detection of a bug infection. Therefore they knew how to protect the vineyard. Fact or fiction?

Jo Diaz: I forgot about that one.  You’re right. Thanks for the memory jog. Powdery mildew… Thanks… Helping me through it all, Rita.

Now, I’ll have to find an image in my thousands with rose bushes at the end of vines. I’ve taken this to my wine blog as a once a week blog. You’re mentioned and I wanted to ask you if I can link your name to Facebook. I didn’t do it without asking permission. This week I’ve been in a writing frenzy for one client, so I forgot to ask you. Here’s a link: Wine Blog

[Photo Credit: Rita Connor]

Rita Connor: Of course you can. This is a picture I took in 2007


APRIL 10, 2015

Along with viticulture being complemented with adjoining crops, like the olive trees in the image above,  they can also be enhanced with integrated pest management. Owl and hawk boxes help to keep the rodent population down… much preferred to those pesky rattle snakes doing it for us in California. But there are other critters who are a natural complement, too, which I learned in Portugal. Europe is more earthy and holistic than we Americans are, when it comes to matters like these. Sheep… mowing between the rows and fertilizing as they go along, too… This was delightful to see. I hadn’t yet seen this in California, but do have to say that I’ve now seen it at Tres Sabores in Napa.




The timing of the Green Parade has never been better… Irrigation-wise

Earth Day is just days away…. California’s drought versus viticulture is very complex, but has the ability to get people thinking more intelligently and scientifically. And, the Green Parade may have finally just arrived, more than a few decades from the summer of love, peace, and ecology.

I just read an article by Dan Berger (Vintage Experiences) entitled, “Weaning vines off water,” appearing in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

I’ve got to hand it to Dan. He’s been a friend for a very long time, and writing about wine for as long as I can remember. He was located in Los Angeles and working for the LA Times when we met. Once he moved into Santa Rosa, we obviously got closer, as did all of his stories based on his location. Dan has always been on the leading edge, provocatively and thoughtfully so. I like what he began with his story about weaning vines off water. I know it’s already begun as a first chapter. It’s the second chapter that’s now become critical of what to do in California viticulture. Winemakers who are already enlightened are now quietly thinking… “Get on board with sustainable efforts, “y’all!”

One wine pro privately shared with me: Grape growing opponents have already begun drawing on this article as evidence that we are wasteful in a time of drought, as evidenced by the comments on the PD website.

Personally, I just wrote about overhead irrigation (or irrigating for frost protection at the absolute wrong time of day, if THAT was the intent). It was an egregious and blatant use of water, right after we had had rain, and it hit a chord for wastefulness.

Dan Berger’s story has begun an important process in a meaningful way. I’d like to add more to what has begun, based on what I’ve also been learning along the way.

So, how does over use of watering get turned around?

The answer is very simple… Science… if science is ever simple. But, it is, if you just pay attention.

Dan’s story included a winemaker who has been intuitively farming for a long time. What he had to say reminded me of my early gardening advice. It came from my 90 year old neighbor when I first met him. I was buying his fruits and veggies, began my own organic garden, and then I took his advice:

Dry farm…. Don’t water your plants. Let the roots go deeply into the ground, so you produce strong plants. They’ll give you plenty of fruits and vegetables that will taste great.

And, he was right. I put up 30 quarts of tomatoes, my first year, without even trying to have so many tomatoes with about five plants.

Does this also apply to California?

Not the same way, at all… The difference between the East Coast and the West Coast is that the East Coast dry farming is dependent upon rain. He didn’t want me to be at my garden every day; however, if it ever did get dry – with no rain for a long period of time – he suggested doing something about it. Still… All of this is intuitive.

[Image taken at Robert Biale Vineyards in Napa.]

What if science were to enter into the conversation?

I’m very fortunate to be working closely with The Rubin Family of Wines, located in the Green Valley of Russian River Valley. Proprietor Ron Rubin is a master at life. He doesn’t do anything halfway. The Sonoma County vintner throws himself into what he does, paying close attention to every single detail. So, when he bought his 40-year dream winery, he set about hiring every single accomplished consultant, who would become his advisory panel. This is beyond having a staff whose skills were spot on from the onset.

Sustainability was his first concern.

  • His vineyard manager Alvaro Zamora had planted every single vine in the vineyard. To replace him could have been suicide.
  • He additionally hired Jim Pratt, of Cornerstone Certified Vineyards, to be his director of vineyard operations, with Alvaro remaining as his vineyard manager. Jim brought a level of sustainability to Ron’s team that the Green Valley of Russian River Valley vineyard had not ever known. Everything is measured carefully, to produce the best vines ever. When, where, how much to fertilize, and with what materials, which would have the least amount of impact on the surrounding environment, yet nurture the vines.
  • Next, he hired Dr. Mark Greenspan, of Advanced Viticulture, Inc., who brought in weather stations. It’s these weather stations that dictate terroir in a more precise way. (Drip irrigation is the method used, and it’s precisely measured… There’s no waste. There’s no untimely water usage, there’s no over watering. It’s precise, sustainable, responsible, and done with great care and thought. (Mark’s comments below are expressed for critical thinking.
  • Together, they all work with Rubin’s critically acclaimed winemaker Joe Freeman.

With science to now back it up, it’s the conscientious brands that are already on line with programs like Ron Rubin’s. They’re the ones already quietly leading the green parade, with the help of certified scientists. Those who aren’t there yet, please get on board.  As we approach Earth Day, the timing of the Green Parade to have great success has never been better… or more critical.

According to Mark Greenspan, Ph.D., CCA, CPAg

As a scientist and practitioner working with the water needs of grapevine vineyards, I applaud the work done by Mr. Williams and agree wholeheartedly with him that many growers are using excessive amounts of water to irrigate their vineyards. However, to extrapolate the experience of dry farmers to that of the industry as a whole is not complete. Some vineyard soils are indeed able to support a vineyard throughout the season without irrigation when practices, such as those applied by growers like Williams, are implemented. However, a large proportion of vineyards cannot withstand the stresses experienced during a portion of the dry summer months experienced here in California, and it is a mistake to assume that all, or even most, vineyards can be farmed in this manner.

Applying the Science

That said, as a contributing [scientific] writer for a leading wine industry publication and a frequent public speaker, I have chided the industry publicly for using more water for irrigation than is necessary for vineyards. Unlike many other field and permanent crops, grapevines are thrifty water users and can be very water use efficient if water is managed carefully, using specialized sensors and devices for measuring soil moisture and plant moisture status. We delay irrigation for as long as possible into the summer months, encouraging the vines to extract as much rain-fed moisture from the soil water bank as possible. By doing this, we wean the vines off the “quick fix” of irrigation, as Williams stated, encouraging a deeper and more extensive root system. We have found that repeated years of doing this allows us to delay our first irrigation well into the latter weeks of summer. In fact, in this manner, we do find that some vineyards may be dry farmed. Yet, as I have said, most vineyards require a small amount of irrigation to get them through the period between the depletion of winter/spring moisture and the beginning of fall rains. And by imposing a mild stress on the vines, we put the vines into a water-use-efficient state where we need to irrigate with only approximately 20 percent of what the theoretical water use is for a vineyard during the period of irrigation. The net of this is that we irrigate with only a small fraction of the 100 gallons per vine that Dan Berger referred to in his article about Mr. Williams.

In essence, I have more in common with Williams’ methods than with the industry as a whole, and feel that growers can make great strides in reducing their water footprint by employing best management practices for vineyard water management. But having worked with vineyards all over the North Coast and the state, I can honestly say that to say that all vineyards should be farmed without irrigation is misleading and more needs to done in this regard to make it complete.

Mark Greenspan, President and Viticulturist of Advanced Viticulture, Inc.




Ecology,Entertainment,Environment,Event,Fund Raiser - Wine,Green News,Green Valley,Russian River Valley,Sonoma County,Wine,Winery

Earth Day in Green Valley of Russian River Valley

Earth Day in Green Valley of Russian River Valley is near and dear to my heart. I’m a Summer of Love survivor and apostle. In Northern California, nobody does Earth Day better than our own Joy Sterling of Iron Horse Vineyards. She, too, is an apostle of treating Mother Earth with dignity and r-e-s-p-e-c-t.

For the past several years, she’s called upon some very heavy hitters to join her and her guests, to put an important stamp on this day. This year is a continuation of past extravaganzas. Past speakers have been the following:

  • Gil Grosvenor, Chairman Emeritus of National Geographic
  • Ted Turner, renewable energy advocate
  • Pulitzer Prize winning scientist Jared Diamond
  • Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor

[This image is borrowed from Kevin Jorgeson’s Website.]

From Joy Sterling:
I am very excited to announce that our speaker for this year’s Earth Day will be Kevin Jorgeson, who free climbed the 3,000-foot Dawn Wall of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, with climbing partner Tommy Caldwell, in January [2015].

Eat, drink, and be green with Kevin Jorgeson, when the day will also feature:

Participating Wineries:

  1. Deloach Vineyards
  2. Dutton-Goldfield Winery
  3. Freeman Vineyard & Winery
  4. Hartford Family Winery
  5. Iron Horse Vineyards
  6. Lynmar Estate
  7. Marimar Estate
  8. MacPhail Family Wines
  9. The Rubin Family of Wines


  • $65.00 for General Admission ($55.00 for wine club members)
    • The day is limited to 300 guests.
  • $250 VIP Reception with commemorative
    • One-time only Summit Cuvee and sustainably farmed California caviar
    • At the home of Iron Horse Founders Audrey and Barry Sterling
    • One hour meet and greet from 12 noon to 1pm
    • Limited to 100 guests, which then flows into the Main Event

Net proceeds to benefit The B-Rad Foundation, a memorial fund set up for the late Sebastopol rock climber Brad Parker, supporting community, getting kids outdoors and environmental stewardship.

Tickets: Cellar Pass, Celebrate Earth Day in Green Valley



The only way to get over this is to get under it, Governor Brown

Governor Brown, this blog post is dedicated to you:

If you see me in this vineyard tomorrow morning, only five minutes from my home, with my bar of soap and towel, know that this is where I’ll be taking my showers from now on.

My husband went out and about yesterday, to get coffee, something to eat, and then off to the gym. He likes to photograph something wine country related each morning for an Instagram post.  This is what he posted and I immediately went ballistic, when I saw it on Facebook.

Governor Brown, you need to rethink your proclamation. (I wanted to write that “you need to have your head examined,” but my great grandfather Governor William T. Haines has channeled to me that I should have more respect.)

You tell citizens of California to cut water usage, but businesses can just continue on with business as usual. Quoting Alternet: One group not facing restrictions under the new rules is big agriculture, which uses about 80 percent of California’s water. 

I’ve been taking five or less minute showers since the Summer of Love. When we had a house flood last July, the town of Windsor – when I called to get a reduction in our water bill, due to the deluge in our upstairs bathroom told me, “Your house is way under what a house your size uses.

Keep in mind, when measuring how much water was lost, it was 66 bathtubs full of water.

This is calculated from the water bill for what is normal for us, and what spiked on that day (2,997 gallons) divided by how much water it takes to fill a bath tub (45 gallons), and you come up with 66.666666666 bathtubs full of water just thrown into a small room.

So now, a house that barely uses water is supported to cut back even more, while businesses are allowed to waste as they see fit?

What is wrong with this picture?

  • It just rained on Sunday, more rain was due on Monday; but, it was just cold and cloudy with dark clouds all day.
    • Should this land have been irrigated yesterday, on Monday?
    • Or, should some vineyard manager have been doing his job and turning off the switch for the day?
  • This vineyard is using overhead irrigation, instead of drip, in the morning.
    • The afternoon sun will evaporate a lot of it.
      • If the sun does come out today.
      • But, what about all the other days, when the sun DOES come out and evaporates a good portion of it?
    • Overhead irrigation waters everything, including between the rows, encouraging roots to stay on the surface.
      • This doesn’t force the roots to go deeply into the soil to find a water table.
      • Wasted!

One October, when living in Maine, we had a hurricane. We lost power, which means that our well and electricity were out… for 10 long days. I heated the house with a wood stove, so I could cook and we kept warm, living by candle light. But, what about baths? I went down to the pond and bathed in spring fed, 50 degree water.

Don’t be surprised, Governor Brown if you see me on Arata Lane in Windsor with a bar of soap and lathering up in this vineyard. The only way to get over this waste of water is to get under it and prove a point.

From Daryl Cagle, a brilliant cartoonist… Visit his site at cagle.com for more spot on political humor.


Diaz Communications,Education,Viticulture,Wine

Viticulture 101 ~ A Perspective

My background perspective of viticulture comes from college classes, being in the field, and being behind a camera for that better view.

My blog is my journal about my being a wine publicist, for not only viticulture, but for enology, marketing , PR, sales, wine education, for writing about it for over 20 years… etc…

My Facebook page is a place where I can rant and rave and has very little to do with wine. It’s a tremendous relief. It’s my blog that covers that segment of my life, not my Facebook page. We all need an escape, right?


During my Facebook time, I find myself focusing on art, gardening, some politics (because there are so many political problems today), the fields of education, broadcasting, photography, and caring about health issues. For a long time I’ve felt that that was enough. I’ve even avoided making wine statements. I’ve been thinking, if people want to be my FB friends, and they think that I’m going to be completely focused on wine, those people are going to be sorely disappointed.

But, this past week something changed.

Back to the change

It was inspired by a work related job that I’m developing, which has to do with wine education. I thought, “How fun would it be to put up just one image with a description on Facebook that has to do with the spring season in a vineyard. This thought came from spending a day at The Rubin Family of Wines’ vineyard in Sebastopol. Jose and I were photographing a second soil monolith, constructed by Paul Anamosa of  Vineyard Soil Technologies. In between photographing the arduous process, I would see something magical happening right next to me on a grape vine. There was early morning dew, the rising sun reflecting from tiny, emerging leaves with their white downy hairs. Droplets of water were clinging to the tips of leaves. I realized I had found a heavenly happenstance… and THIS was worth sharing with my friends… Not in the business of wine, but for those outside of the business of wine. Most likely they would live in other states, and they may have never seen anything like the image I could bring to them… And that’s what has created the following blog post.

I then realized that there may also be people in the wine business who may have also never seen these images, or considered them… They may also live in New York City, for instance and be pining for this kind of image. Most especially for the ones who are in sales and spend their days in offices, visiting wine shops, supermarkets, and restaurants. While they’re in the wine business, they’re not in the vineyards, except for a few remembered field trips. It didn’t take long to realize that the image served a lot of people, including those who are as invested in the business as I am.

Viticulture 101

I wrote: VITICULTURE: See this tiny cluster? If you take a moment to look, you’ll also see how the cluster is going to be forming… When you get grapes, the skeleton that holds all of the grapes onto that form (called the rachis) holds each sub cluster on its own stalk, too. In this picture that I took at The Rubin Family Vineyards… When I really looked at it, it was the first time I actually saw the big picture of what it will become. Can you can also see where it will all separate into individual stalks, too?

Some responses from close friends:

Rita Conner: OK now you have to photograph the stages as they come along. It a great lesson in grape growing.

Monique R Dubois: You are like having a private professor… Looking forward to the next lesson! Thank you!

Betsy Nachbaur (Acorn Winery in Russian River Valley):…love your photos, and descriptions. Amazing to us how each of the 60+ varieties in our Alegria Vineyards looks a bit different at this stage. And, that Bill [grape grower, winemaker, husband] seems to be able to ID most of them by sight….

I wrote back to Betsy:

Jo Diaz: That’s because he’s a genius… After tending each variety, his mind has tapped into each one. It’s like knowing each of your children. He’s running a monastery,

Inspired to continue – Day 2

VITICULTURE 101: Yesterday, Rita, I wrote about how I could see the clusters (within the entire cluster) begin to take shape. This morning, with my own house grapevine, I saw what I was envisioning and explaining yesterday. This one clarifies my vision. If you compare the two, you’ll be able to see it, too, if it was almost there, but not quite…

Continued comments, telling me that I’m onto something…

Rita: Thanks Jo wonderful pictures

Howard G. Goldberg (author of The New York Times Book of Wine): Jo, the Central Park money trees adjacent to Fifth Avenue are also showing the same baby clusters. Because of the cooling proximity of the Hudson, the coinage in trees adjacent to Central Park West is still dormant.

Monique Dubois: This a great visual! Thanks.

Day 3

VITICULTURE 101: Rita Conner, you’ve inspired me to keep going with what I’m watching daily. Today, it’s about the tendrils. These slim projections come from the vine as fingers, grasping anything near them. Later, when the clusters become large, these tendrils have a firm hold and support the clusters from heading toward the ground. In grape growing, they grasp the trellis system. If they’re wild grapes they’ll climb up a tree. Here, you can see this tendril grasping another shoot. (I don’t have a trellis system. This is a volunteer grapevine that just happened at my front doorstep. I now help it to be decorative each year, because it’s so pretty and very “wine country.”

Day 4

VITICULTURE 101: “Cordon”

The trunk of a grape vine, when trained on a trellis system, has cordons that extend outward from it. From here, shoots will grow from the bud, along with the leaves, tendrils, and grape clusters. [Pictured here is David Coffaro’s vineyard manager.] The reason they’re called “cordons” is attributed to the French. Think of Chicken Cordon Bleu, a.k.a, Blue Ribbon Chicken. In French, “cordon” is translated to “ribbon.” Cordon’s extend from the trunk of a grape vine as the “ribbons” or “cordons.”

SUB PLOT: Rita Conner (thanks for inspiring Vit 101), Monique R Dubois and C.j. Tolini, (thanks for enjoying it). We’re all from Maine, where French is the second language, making this one easy for all of us who are French to remember.

The comments of appreciation are continuing; therefore, so am I. Once a week, I’ll gather the images and make this a weekly feature, until we hit harvest. I hope you, too, enjoy Viticulture 101.


Food & Wine,Sonoma County,Wine

Turning wine into vinegar, almost

“Why would anyone be turning wine into vinegar?” you might ask.

Sonoma Portworks has the answer and the goods to prove it… And, they’re mighty delicious, so now I know why. Perhaps you will too, someday.

Besides producing completely delicious port-style wines, Sonoma Portworks in Petaluma also produces some really delicious flavors for you to enjoy, beyond wine. Jose and I met with Bill and Caryn Reading, who told us their story; and then we tasted all of their wines, including their Sonomic products. It’s the Sonomic products that I’m going to write about today, because this food item is almost vinegar and almost wine… But it’s not almost delicious… It’s completely and utterly divine, and needs your attention.

As Bill and Caryn assured us… We’ve never tasted anything like it, and we’ve been enjoying it sparingly ever since, because it’s that good. Now, we either have to make a trip back to Petaluma, or just order a case of it to have around. It’s not something you want to be missing from your pantry staples. It’s easily like having salt, pepper, and Sonomic on your kitchen table… It’s that much of a great complement to your best dishes.

What they’ve written about this nectar:

For centuries, the term “balsamic Vinegar” has been used to describe one of the most highly prized liquids in Italy — grape must that has been cooked, then aged until it becomes so sweet, smooth and complex, it can be sipped from a liqueur glass.

On their Website:

Sweet, tart, rich, refreshing, simple, and elegant all at once. Made with Gewurztraminer and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, it’s like nothing you’ve tasted before. We keep our exclusive recipe under wraps.

But our secret is your secret ingredient. Just a sprinkle elevates salad to an impressive culinary treat. A drizzle turns grilled meat into a four-star meal. A splash or two makes club soda into a sophisticated sipper. Sonomic is less acidic than vinegar and richer than balsamic. It’s the secret ingredient that will revolutionize everything from your fruits and veggies to your desserts and drinks.

There are two products… One is red (Cabernet) and the other is white (Gewurztraminer); both are out of this world, and a great addition to the wine world. On a salad? If you use oil and vinegar to control your own spices and flavors that go onto your salads…. You’ve just found gold, baby! More is in our future; and for my friends who love flavors that are clean and refresh your palate, let me know once you’ve walked on the wild side of wine, known as Sonomic


Jo's World,Travel,Wine

Yes, I’m “that one”

Being fussy isn’t easy, especially when you’ve written about that one yourself. In my story, it’s called Road Warrior Survival Guide. In the air, it’s probably called Air Warrior Survival Guide… Or, at least it should be, because flight attendant service seems to be a very difficult job, these days… Having to put up with people’s beverage choices.

Somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, on the flight from Charlotte to San Juan, Puerto Rico, I forced a flight attendant to abandon her cart, in what seemed like a smoldering rage.

Maybe I should have asked for the wine, but I was just trying to digest the food I had had, in an airport restaurant. Why don’t chefs of great merit have restaurants in airport locations, for people who love whole foods? I think they’d make a killing (no pun here). Why does it have to be food trucked in by some company like Sysco Foods? Everything is either frozen, already flavored, and/or commodity GMO crap being pawned off as food. An airport, where people who are traveling for business – most especially – are used to having great food and wine choices. Hit an airport and there goes the fine wine and dining neighborhood.

We were going to be in the air for four hours, with the beverage cart coming by after an hour. I asked for the following… Hot water with lemon slices. They have hot water for tea, they have lemon slices for beverages, right? I got the stoic face: no smile, no eye contact, no “just one moment.” I was sitting in a seat low to the ground. She was five feet 11 inches tall… (At least the memory is this image.)

It was just the “turn around, return to the galley,” and all but throwing it at me upon the return. It was just another notch on her “Air Warrior Survival Guide.” I’m betting that it made it into her round table discussion that evening, when the flight attendants and pilots got together to discuss the day’s tiny annoyances.

While she was handing it to me, I had to put down the barf bag down, on which I was scribbling about her survival guide versus mine. I smiled and thanked her, while accepting the styrofoam cup she pushed toward me, expressionlessly.

Yes, I’m that one… It’s official, I thought to myself.

“One peep out of you and we’re going to pull into the next airport and offload you,” is what she was thinking.

I finished writing on my barf bag, and then returned to thinking about the adventures I was going to be having in PR. I was comforted in the fact that I was heading to Laurel to get some real food and gracious hospitality, in Santurce, Puerto Rico… Jose’s city of birth on the island, one of my favorite neighborhoods on la isla de encanto.