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.


Dear Diary,Guest Accomodations,Landis Shores Inn,Sonoma County,Wine

Living in Sonoma County, I find myself dreaming of Sea Ranch Lodge

I need a real vacation, because this wine publicist’s house is under siege with repair people. Yesterday I posted about a flood happening in our upstairs bathroom. With water fans blowing 24/7, the “loud” white noise is now really setting in. I need a couple of days at the ocean… and again, I find myself dreaming of Sea Ranch. Our friends Ellen and Ken Landis at Landis Shores Inn are in Half Moon Bay  own a lovely bed and breakfast that we could also be visiting. But it’s in a bit more lively neighborhood, even though it’s also a bit from the mainstream. My hesitancy right now is that I need a complete rest, and it always inspires me to photograph how eclectic the neighborhood is. Nay, I need solitude; just salt air, wild grasses, a few deer, and the Pacific Ocean crashing below, with uninterrupted sea breezes.

Driving there is also part of the “adventure,” because the Pacific Coast Highway is spectacular. It isn’t always the quickest route; and it might take you on roads not meant for the feint of heart.

Sea Ranch is situated in Sonoma County on 52-acres of scenic coastal property. It’s located within The Sea Ranch development, which encompasses a 10-mile stretch of beautiful coastal homes, and an 18-hole golf course.

FROM THE NORTH: Traveling southward  on Highway 101, cut across (east to west) in Cloverdale, and west on Route 128. In Boonville  turn left onto Highway 253 (Mountain View Road) heading toward Manchester. You’ll experience a forest primeval. It’s worth the extra time.

FROM THE SOUTH: Off Highway 101 in Windsor, head west on the River Road, which takes you to Jenner, where you turn right onto Route 1 (The Pacific Coast Highway), and head north to Sea Ranch.

Coming from Route 253, it’s clear that although the Sea Ranch homes have been under development since the 1960s, their backdrop is a magnificent, untouched forest… So much to explore, so much city left behind, so much peace and tranquility.

Sea Ranch is a beautiful lodge facility. The staff completely surrenders to welcoming you. The attention to detail in their rooms is awesome.

I find Sea Ranch to be a gorgeous, Pacific oceanside retreat that beckons your spirit to stay, walk the cliffs, breathe the salt air, indulge yourself in a full-body massage, enjoy the sounds of surf and the sight of wild sea birds in exalted flight, and be pampered by an extraordinary staff who are there to serve your every need. Sea Ranch  is just quietly there, waiting for me to rest and relax… Something that the writer in me needs so much right now.

And yes, on this trip I’ll bring plenty of wine for those food and wine moments… Or, just sipping by the fire, whatever the mood. It just won’t include any white noise… Just the sounds of the surf crashing…


Wine,Wine Related Products

Avalon Bay saves my day, right when I needed Calgon to take me away

I was asked if I would review a wine refrigerator for Avalon Bay, a home appliance company; their Avalon Bay AB-WINE12S 12 Bottle Single Zone Thermoelectric Wine Cooler, to be exact.

Sure, why not? I have another Air & Water wine refrigerator in our kitchen. When I get samples in my office, I occasionally lamented that I don’t have a convenient storage unit right here for white wines coming in. So, yes, I was up for it… a gift falling from the sky. As you can see, my wish was granted.

It arrived and I immediately found just the right spot for it. Right next to me. Within two days, it was completely full of newly arrived samples. I was so excited about it that I took a picture of my slightly messy office… When you’re writing a book and have other duties, other things just seem to pile up. But I thought to myself, “I’m so inspired, I’m going to take a before and after picture. I would write, “Here’s my mess, but doesn’t the Avalon Bay AB-WINE12S look great in the middle of it?” Then, I’d shoot an after picture, because I was very inspired to get organized.

However, the unthinkable happened. Sometime during the night… God only knows at what hour, a hose pulled away from the guest bathroom… from  the wall to the toilet bowl. And it spewed seven gallons of water a minute for how many hours is beyond me… but it was enough to do at least an estimated $10,000 damage in the blink of an eye. Estimated is always the operative word, n’est ce pas?

The saving grace of this little refrigerator cannot be underscored. When the inspector for the job arrived, and we were told that fans would be brought in and dehumidifiers to suck out the water evaporating from the walls, floors, carpets, the house would become a 90+ degree sauna. The one thing he cautioned us about was our wine, and how it had to be properly stored, or the potential for losing it was a high probability.

And, that’s not a column in my office; it’s an air flow tube for sucking up moisture, going into one of the many dehumidifiers.

Sigh… the wine samples that arrived are protected. Now, I’m wishing for a huge, insulated wine closet, and recommend to anyone with a collection of wine, begin to get your coolers in place. No one wants to face what we’re currently going through… much less, “What to do with all of the wine?”

Benefits of this 12 bottle refrigerator:

  • Compact and Freestanding
  • Complete with interior LED light
  • Features Digital Temperature Display
  • Holds 12 Standard Sized Wine Bottles
  • Perfect for small wine collections
  • Thermoelectric Cooling and Vibration Free
  • 1 Year Limited Manufacturers Warranty

The SKU (AB-WIN12S, if you’d like to get started with your own 12 bottle refrig… Hopefully not under the same conditions.

Once the work is finished in my home, I’ll post that real “after” picture I wanted to add to this story. For now, bless this mess, and Avalon Bay for saving my day; and the white wine samples.

Here’s the after picture I was going to show you, of being more organized (Okay, I’m laughing out loud, because what are ya gonna do?”

My office has gone to hell in a hand basket for about three weeks, as I trudge on, waiting for the room to be “re” sheet rocked, repainted and new carpet to be laid. Yeah, they say these things are ruined. It’s beyond me to figure it all out. The insurance guys came up with this plan, and you know how they’d prefer to not spend money, so it must be true, right?

Just another day in the life of a wine publicist, who’s writing about the journey…



Dusty Moments and Luscious Wines ~ The Rutherford Dust Society’s 15th Annual


The Rutherford Dust Society is having its annual tasting on Wednesday, July 16. This annual event is held so that trade members are able to meet the vintners, growers, and winemakers of the Rutherford Appellation. Each year they have a Special Grand Tasting for wine writers, wine buyers, wholesale members, and off and on-premise accounts (one is grocery stores and wine shops, for example, and on premise are restaurateurs). This year they’re featuring 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2013 white wines. This special trade tasting is taking place from 2:00 to 4:30 p.m. at Inglenook, 1991 St. Helena Highway in Rutherford.

This is a photo video slide show that I did from the 2010 media tasting, just for perspective.

I’ll be reporting back on how wonderful it is… It’s an event I always love to attend.

It’s not open to the public, because it’s intended to educate everyone in the wine business about these special wines coming from Napa Valley, so that we can then share with the rest of you what we’ve learned.

From their site:

The Rutherford Dust Society was founded in 1994 by growers and vintners in tribute to the legacy of our grape growing and winemaking forebears. Since the late 19th century, the growers and vintners of Rutherford have played a significant role in the development of Napa Valley as a world-class winegrowing region.

For anyone else not attending the event, here’s a video for your own edification.


Italy,Wine,Wine Century Club,Wine Education,Wine tasting

Wines appealing to the adverturer inside of you ~ Rocca Sveva

There’s a group called the Wine Century Club, of which I’m a member. All you need to do is track how many different varieties that you’ve enjoyed… even if those varieties are in a blended wine. It almost feels like cheating; but those are their rules, and rules are rules. When I started I thought, “piece of cake,” but I hit a wall at 60+ varieties. Once you get past Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, etc., the usuals… you really need to step outside of your comfort zone… And so I did, and I finally reached my 100 different varieties goal.

You know what? Once done, you want to keep going, and so the Wine Century Club has set up new goals:

In addition to regular membership, we also recognize serious grape nuts who have tried at least 200 (Doppel), 300 (Treble), 400 (Quattro) or 500 (Pentavini) varieties.

I’m headed to Doppel… I’ve always wanted to be a Doppel, I think… And, so, when the wines from Rocco Sveva arrived, the first thing I wanted to do was to check out the varieties, to see if I’m getting closer to my goal. I’m currently at 147 different wine grapes tasted, in one form or another.

So, anyway…

A shipment of wine arrived from Cantina Di Soave’s Rocca Svena, which are Estate wines from Verona. Verona is a city straddling the Adige River in Veneto, of northern Italy. It’s the second largest municipality in the region and the third largest in northeast Italy. This wine company was founded in 1898; and I’m on their radar screen, which – of course – I love.

The following three wines were sent for me to enjoy… and so I did…

First of all, am I going to be moving forward in my Wine Century goal? I checked all of their varietal content against what I have on my wine century spread sheet…

  • Soave Classico 2013 ~ Garganega grape ~ Nope, I’m good with that one. I also find the Garganega grape to be very delicious.
  • Ripasso Valpolicella Superiore 2009 ~ GRAPES: 70% Corvina (all set), 25% Rondinella (YES, a new one!), 5% Molinara (YES, a new one!)

Now I’m up to 149. Can I make it over the edge to 150? (You can see the passion building for self achievement. My only competitor in life is my own self… always to improve.)

  • Amarone Della Valpolicella 2008 ~ GRAPES: 70% Corvina, 25% Rondinella, 5% Molinara (NOPE, but I’m still very appreciative for the two that are sending me forward: This one is the same as the one above, including the same blend. So this one will be side-by-side in a comparative tasting, to understand the one year’s difference in aging and how the harvest has affected these two wines… Still a great learning experiment.)

What I love about shipments of wines that come from Rocca Sveva is not only what I’ve mentioned above… getting to taste new varieties; but there’s also something much deeper… They’re indigenous varieties. While I do love having learned all that I have about California wines, which are now indigenous to California, is to taste another part of the globe… the wines from “somewhere else.” We can all agree that the more one travels, the more broadminded one becomes. Travel and the flavors associated with stepping outside of a comfort zone is mind expanding. So, while I’m a wine publicist working in California, telling my tales (sometimes juicy, sometimes not so juicy), I love learning more from other world regions.

One of the greatest gifts in my life was when Delfim Costa of Lisbon, Portugal brought me to his country to taste his Enoforum Wines of the Alentejo region. Let’s just say that my Wine Century Club membership was put into overdrive… And now, I’m being allowed to enjoy Northern Italy in my Russian River Valley office… How superb… A day in the life of a wine publicist, who is being true to why I started this wine blog, sharing with those whom also love wine adventures.

Rocca Sveva wines tasted

  • Rocca Soave Classico 2013 ~ Garganega grape
    • I was turned onto the Garganega grape quite a while back. I love this variety. It’s a dry, white wine, with lots of floral notes, with flavors that remind me of golden delicious apples, a palate that’s full flavored and very lemony… I really enjoyed the toasted almond finish. Think aperitif and your favorite cheese that would complement a lemony white wine.
  • Ripasso Valpolicella Superiore 2009 ~ 70 percent Corvina, 25 percent Rondinella, 5 percent Molinara (The three indigenous grapes going into this wine)
    • The younger of the two wines, this one was big and bold. Dark cherry flavors, a touch of nutty spice, and tight tannins, this is definitely ready for a tri tip summer barbeque.
  • Amarone Della Valpolicella 2008 ~ 70 percent Corvina, 25 percent Rondinella, 5 percent Molinara
    • Deliciously complex, this smooth, silky wine lives up to its reputation for red berries and dried fruit like cranberries and dried blueberries. The tannins on this one reminded me why these wines are only now being introduced… as a six year old wine, this one would be great for a prime rib dinner.

I highly recommend these wines… not only for the excitement they bring to a palate ready for adventure, but also for the delicious flavors that each has presented.