Chile,Imports,Wine,Wine Astrology,Wine Business,Wine of the Week

Wines of the Week ~ For The Solar Eclipse ~ Concha y Toro Frontera After Midnight and Moonlight

[Image from Navicore]

On August 12, my husband and I went outside, pulled up the lawn chairs, got under our blankets, and watched the night sky. We were hoping that the meteor shower would be spectacular. It didn’t disappoint, with one brilliant, gigantic streak that had entered our atmosphere and shot across the sky in a major way. We both gasped, it was so incredible and scary at the same time. If that one had landed anywhere, it would have left an enormous hole. But, it did taper off, and left us with a once in a lifetime, united memory of star gazing… Seriously, it looked just like this, minus the colors. It literally took our breath away.

Adventure, looking into the skies, versus staring at mobile devices

Astrology, before astronomy, was the work of sage beings. Astronomy is now the other side of those who interpreted… Go back 3,000 years: planet alignments were the only evening entertainment. The predictability of the stars and planets aligned within about 360 days, a complete circle and the consequences were predictable. Hence, began history. If I didn’t know what was happening on the twelfth, and I had never seen anything like that before (and I haven’t) I would have been scared to death. What was the sky sending us, I would have wondered. Today, we have recorded events, so the momentary fright of the night dissipated as quickly as the comet.

[Wikipedia image]

Now, we have the next exciting celestial happening… the Solar Eclipse on August 21. I’ve been hearing people getting ready for it by having eclipse parties, traveling to the West Coast of Oregon that would help them to see it better (with protection, of course). It’s got people stirred up and that’s always fun, right?

USA Today: “Starting on the West Coast in Oregon, the USA’s total solar eclipse on Aug. 21 will trace a 67-mile wide path east across the country, finally exiting the East Coast in South Carolina.”

When Concha y Toro Frontera After Midnight Red Blend and Moonlight White Blend arrived more than a month ago, I knew I wanted to wait until we got a lot closer to the solar eclipse on August 21, instead of reviewing them right away. Not easy to wait, but they’re so specific. Why waste good marketing. So clever, in fact that really black glasses for viewing the eclipse also accompanied the wines. That one I have to think about. Lately I’ve been having eye strain. I’m on too many devices and my eyes are burningly telling me so.

Frontera Night Harvested wine blends are part of an innovative winemaking concept: wine grapes are harvested in the cool of the night, because they create wines that have bolder flavors and aromas. Both the Frontera Midnight red and Frontera’s Moonlight white were inspired by the moon. They like to say, “Made by the night – enjoy the nocturnal side of Frontera!”

So, let’s get to our Wines for the Week (and event)

2015 Concha y Toro Frontera After Midnight Red Blend ~ Itata Valley, Chile

The varietal composition of Frontera’s After Midnight is 55 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 40 percent Syrah, and 5 percent Merlot. Big from the Cab’s rich, black currant flavors, earthy notes are from the Syrah, and plummy black juice comes from the Merlot, this wine is drippingly good, without being complex and brooding. Remember the price for this wine is under $10, so as a house wine, it’s great for everyday… And, if you’re having a huge eclipse party, this one won’t hit your pocketbook hard. Have a group BBQ, put a bit of it in your sauce for a seamless experience, and get ready to be wowed in the middle of the day.

(For vegans, make sure they have Portobella mushrooms for you. This wine and Portobella… As Meridith May would say, enjoying deliciousness, kiss kiss.)

2015 Concha y Toro Frontera Moonlight White Blend ~ Itata Valley

This one is 85 percent Moscatel de Alejandría and 15 percent white (undisclosed) wine variety. Moscatel, like the Symphony grape, is more of a semi sweet wine. So, expect some sweetness to this one. Let me tell you, after having worked with the Symphony grape for so many years, when a wine has a sweetness to it, it makes for a great SALAD wine. Yeah, wine with a salad. Also great with fruits, BTW, but let me tell you how this works with a salad.

    • Butter leaf lettuce
    • Mandarin oranges
    • Pine nuts
    • One lemon, squeezed
    • 1.4 cup Frontera’s Moonlight blend
    • Whip, adding enough light virgin olive oil to make it creamy
    • Add a bit of turbinado sugar, as needed

Whatever you do for the upcoming Solar Eclipse, get ready for a good time! It’s going to be heightened energy; and I, for on, intend to cash in on the sun fun!


Public Service Announcement,Wine,Wine Business,Winery

PG&E Uncorks Energy Savings for Wineries

[Press Release from PG&e, Images gratis of Rack & Riddle]

PG&E Uncorks Energy Savings for Wineries

SONOMA, Calif.—  Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is helping both boutique wineries with small production, and large wine producers, “crush” the harvest season by saving on energy costs. The “Crush” season typically starts in August and continues into the fall as grapes are processed and fermented into wine. PG&E is offering free energy audits, cash incentives and customized programs during what can typically be an energy intensive time for wineries.

Over the last three years, on average, PG&E’s Wine Industry Efficiency Solutions (WIES) program saved its customers more than 3.3 million kilowatt hours of electricity and 150,000 therms of natural gas – enough energy to power 246 average homes for one year. The average annual energy cost savings totaled $559,000 per year.

“To enable other businesses during a crucial time of year for them is what a long-standing partnership with PG&E is all about,” said Dave Canny, senior manager for PG&E’s North Bay and Sonoma Divisions. “Whether its incentives that help facilitate the wine-making process or our laser focus on safety and reliability improvements to the grid, we want to help them meet their business targets.”

Alexander Valley winery, Rack & Riddle, a family-owned company, is working with PG&E on a top-to-bottom energy audit that includes evaluating equipment for energy efficiency, determining whether purchasing new equipment is worth the cost savings and consulting on the expansion of processing operations.

“Crush is an important time of year for us when we work around the clock to start the wine-making process and this year the number of tons that we’re crushing went up considerably – more than 80 percent,” said Bruce Lundquist, owner of Rack & Riddle. “Because of the increase in product demand, we look to PG&E as a business partner to analyze whether we’re being as energy efficient as possible while looking ahead to determine if current cooling equipment needs to be replaced to meet future facility expansion,” added Lundquist.

Jackson Family Wines, headquartered in Sonoma County, has more than a dozen wineries in the North Bay that PG&E has been working with on several energy efficiency projects, including refrigeration upgrades and lighting improvement – all run through the WIES program.

“The Jackson family is focused on making the highest quality wine in the most responsible manner, with an eye on preserving our agricultural heritage for future generations,” said Julien Gervreau, Director of Sustainability at Jackson Family Wines.

Estimated savings on these energy efficiency programs have totaled more than $8 million for the family-owned and operated wine company since 2008. A recent lighting retrofit at its flagship winery, Kendall-Jackson, located in Fulton, involved converting hundreds of lights to LEDs. PG&E rebates helped offset about 20 percent of the project costs.

“We’ve recognized for a long time that there is a significant energy impact associated with the winemaking and grape growing processes. We’re doing everything we can to minimize that impact and the associated emissions from our activities, and that includes working with like-minded companies such as PG&E,” added Gervreau.

PG&E also announced upgrades in infrastructure so customers in wine-growing territories throughout Northern California can expect reliable energy. Reliability improvements that have directly impacted service during this crucial time of year include: replacing 1,200 feet of power line along Highway 12 through Sonoma and installing new equipment throughout Sonoma to minimize outages; upgrading power poles and installing self-healing grid technology in Napa and upgrading electrical equipment in communities in the Dry Creek Valley.

If you are in PG&E’s service area and would like more information on agriculture rebates, visit www.pge.com/ag or for the WIES program, contact (via email) CLEAResult.


Social media,Wine

Social Media 101 ~Don’t Be One of the Instagram Frauds Out There

“Dear XYZ Winery,” I wrote (Paraphrasing, I was fuming and didn’t save it):

“I have just unfollowed you, too. Yesterday you followed me, so I followed you back. Today you unfollowed me, so I – in turn – unfollowed you. May I suggest to you that this is bad PR. You made me aware of you. And, the social media people that you’ve hired, who promised to get you lots and lots of followers for you, have been successful, in that regard.  However, with today’s apps for finding out who is following you and who is dropping you, your PR plan is flawed. I won’t out you, but you need to know that this is not good PR. It’s so wrong, in fact, that I’m going to blog about it. You’ve given a great story to me.  And I’m giving you free PR advice. If you want to at least appear to be sincere, you should have nearly, if not more, people following you as you are following.”

That was five days ago. They had 5,000 plus Followers when this all went down, and they were following about 700 people. That’s always the dead giveaway. Any company with thousands of followers and they’re only following a measly few… they’re playing the new game to pretend fame and importance. They’re just phony baloney.

As I write this, I just checked where they’re at 5-days later. Well they took my message to heart. Somebody got really busy, liking those that they’ve yet to follow. They just crested to 6,000 followers, but here’s the punch line – they now are also following 5,869 entities.

Good, that makes me feel so much better. Can I do this with everyone? Not hardly. However, I’m blogging about it and perhaps a few more companies will get with a decent PR program.

My Back Story ~ How I got even, instead of angry

And, you can, too. There’s an app for that…

When I began to use Instagram on August 12, 2016, I went in like a sheep to the slaughter. I searched on “jodiaz.” Not a good idea, when you’re years late to the party. Who knew my name was so common? Since I was wanting to build my wine presence I decided to use jodiazwine.

I began following people also into wine. Many of my friends connected with me. Some right away, some later, some not at all. SommTable, for instance: 5,055 Followers, 898 Following. I began to really notice that trend. She asked me to follow her, I did, and in the blink of an eye, I was unfollowed. (Huh?)

Many people, places, and things began to follow me, as soon as I began using hash tags. Many of you know what I mean. Those of you not yet adept, read on. These guys would follow me and that’s how I discovered them. Silly me, so honored that they would appreciate my hard work in life, so I followed them right back. But, interestingly, my follower numbers really didn’t budge.

“Hum,” I wondered, “how could that happen.” I was beginning to experience Instagram; and even more important, I began to realize a social media, nefarious PR faux pas. I decided to start checking every single follower that I had, as a result of them coming after me and then disappearing. One after the other, large followers and only a handful of people – or companies – that they were following THEM back. Hum… “Do these people actually find followers and then as soon as they follow them, they get deleted,” I wondered.

Are People Really That Desperate to Build Their Presence

You bet they certainly are. As I was deleting them one-by-one, Jose being the tech guy that he is, said, “there’s an app for that.” I said, “no, that’s alright, I can do this one-by-one.” Then, after a few days of doing this in the spare time I really don’t have, I said, get me an app. He did. It’s called “Followers.” I love this APP. Everyday, I’m checking it and keeping my Instagram account “real.” Real people, real images, real following and being followed. I HIGHLY recommend it, if you’ve got an Instagram account.

Bah-bye… In the blink of an eye, I cleared my unfollowing list in no time. I check it daily. It won’t ever happen again

So, What’s the Take Away?

I had a Winery from Italy (above) follow me. Cool, right? That lasted until the next day, when it Unfollowed me. I had had enough of these creeps. I want real people to interact with, not make myself look ultra popular, not a company that’s hired a firm that says, “We’ll build up your Instagram account for you.” Some troll for hashtags that are related to their concerns, friend you, and the next day POOF! You evaporate.

I gave myself to them as a credible follower. I was played. but, never again… this same way.



Rosé Wine, by Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan, MW ~ Brilliant

Rosé Wine, by Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan, MW ~ Let me start with the finish.

Loved the book, read it to this very last statement on the back cover: If you’re a beginner, Rosé Wine offers the ideal starting point, and it also serves as a great resource if you’re an enthusiast looking to expand your horizons. Here’s to drinking pink!

She missed one important aspect… wine pros. As a 25 year wine industry veteran, I’ve learned a lot, but I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface on most aspects. I know what I know, but I’m also familiar with what I don’t know. I haven’t had to learn everything possible about Rosé, for instance. Not like I have with Petite Sirah, let’s say, where I could write that quintessential book. Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan has learned much more than the average person within the wine business, for instance, when it comes to this type of wine. And, as a brilliant educator, she now has written the quintessential book on Rosé.

So, let me tell you how I would have added a bit more to the final thought above: If you’re a beginner, Rosé Wine offers the ideal starting point, and it also serves as a great resource if you’re an enthusiast looking to expand your horizons. As a wine pro, this book belongs in your wine book library, because it’s a perfect reference, when you need to review anything about Rosé. Here’s to drinking pink! 

Rosé Wine is now carefully stored with my other wine books, and it’s not going anywhere. (No sharing. I’ll buy you a copy, if you want one, friends.)

Some of my favorite nuggets

  1.  Provence France: “This region has been producing wine since the ancient Greeks colonized the area around 600 BC and brought wine with them. That long history makes Provence France one of France’s oldest wine growing regions in addition to being one of the world’s largest regions specializing in rosé.” p. 90
  2. In “A Short History of Rosé:” In the Twelfth Century, France began exporting wine from Bordeaux to England. It was called a clairet. This means it was more of a rosé than the inky, brooding Bordeaux wines we know of today.
  3. Mateus wine – did I even know it was a rosé, when we were chugging it in the 60s? I have an image in my mind of being at a party my brother had thrown at our summer home (unbeknownst to my parents, of course). The bottle was passed around the room, as if it were a joint. And, did I even know it was from Portugal? Did we even care back then?
  4. White Zin
    1. 1980 – 25,000 cases
    2. 1986 – 1.5 million cases
  5. Gen X moved Pink Moscato forward
    1. 2011-2014 increased sales by 42 percent
  6. As comprehensively as I’ve written about terroir, I’ve never written about elevation having an impact. It does, and I was completely reminded, when I read Jennifer’s word “altitude.” (Hit my head moment.)
  7. Merlot is named for Bordeaux’s blackbirds, who are called “merles.”
  8. I know about cold soaking grapes, during the wine making process. I didn’t know it was at 53 to 59 degrees, which makes sense, but first you have to ask or read about it, right? Never had the time or curiosity to ask the question.
  9. To have vintage Champagne, it has to be 24 months old.


Sonoma,Sonoma County,Wine

The Bounty of Sonoma County ~ Luther Burbank ~ Beyond Grapevines

Those of us who live in Sonoma wine country are familiar with Luther Burbank, if only because of our allergies. This is the place where Luther Burbank settled and went on to cross breed so many new plants that the pollen count is through the roof. Meanwhile, nearly everyone in the US has benefited from Burbank’s experiments. Here’s a snapshot, which explains a bit about the Bounty of our Sonoma County. As the thirteenth of fifteen children, Luther Burbank was born on March 7, 1849, in Lancaster, Massachusetts.

Luther Burbank in Green Valley at his Gold Ridge Experiment Farm

Luther Burbank is considered to be the hidden gem of Sebastopol, California residents. The Luther Burbank’s Gold Ridge Experiment Farm is a living museum, where the plant breeder of his era created many of his contributions.

It was 10 years after arriving in California that Luther Burbank bought the 18-acre Gold Ridge Farm, on Bodega Avenue in Sebastopol, California, in 1885. He was needing more space for his experiments, and this location seemed to be ideal.  At any one time, he was known to have as many as 3,000 experiments underway. He would bicycle from Santa Rosa to Sebastopol, an eight mile journey in one direction, and stay at his farm two to three nights every week. In this country setting, Luther Burbank worked tirelessly from dawn to dusk. He continued to conduct many of his experimental introductions of over 800 varieties of fruits, flowers, vegetables, nut trees, and grains.

It was in the time of his Green Valley Gold Ridge farm days that Burbank’s fame really took off.  With his 1893’s New Creations in Fruits and Flowers plant catalog, word began to circulate.  With subsequent ones continuing his success, the name of Luther Burbank was well on its way. Word of mouth from satisfied customers, as well as media stories that were written about him, kept him in the news throughout the first decade of the century. From 1904 through 1909, Burbank’s efforts were then personally supported by Andrew Carnegie, who also involved his Carnegie Institution. Burbank received several grants from Carnegie, against the consult of Carnegie advisers at the time. Their objection was that Burbank was not a scientific academic in the methods he used for hybridization. No one told Andrew Carnegie what to do, however, when he was on a mission, and Carnegie was on a mission. It was Carnegie who wrote an article entitled, The Gospel of Wealth. This story described the responsibility of philanthropy by this new upper class of self-made, rich industrial pioneers of the time. Carnegie proposed that the best way of dealing with the new phenomenon of wealth inequality that was created, was for the wealthy to redistribute their surplus means in a responsible and thoughtful manner.

What Luther Burbank was doing to increase the world’s food supply fit Carnegie’s criterion, and he supported this important botanist. Other industrialist luminaries were similarly drawn to Luther Burbank. For instance, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford also became Burbank friends, with both men having visited Burbank at his Santa Rosa home; as well as Jack London, Edgar Lucien Larken, Harvey Firestone, Helen Keller, President Taft, and John, Muir.

Paramahansa Yogananda, a friend and admirer, wrote in his Autobiography of a Yogi:

His [Luther Burbank] heart was fathomlessly deep, long acquainted with humility, patience, sacrifice. His little home amid the roses was austerely simple; he knew the worthlessness of luxury, the joy of few possessions. The modesty with which he wore his scientific fame repeatedly reminded me of the trees that bend low with the burden of ripening fruits; it is the barren tree that lifts its head high in an empty boast.

Burbank considered Sonoma County as the chosen place on earth to grow and experiment with plants, that would come to benefit mankind, with of his most important experiment, being conducted in Green Valley at his experimental Gold Ridge farm.

Luther Burbank’s Legacy

In 1903, at the opening meeting of the American Breeders’ Association in St. Louis, Missouri, Burbank was unanimously elected to honorary membership.

From Luther Burbank’s Plant Contributions, by Walter L. Howard, University of California, Bulletin 691, March 1945

Introduced by Luther Burbank POTATO: ‘Burbank’ FRUITS: 113 Plums and Prunes, 10 Different Apples, 16 Blackberries, 13 Raspberries, 10 Strawberries, 35 Fruiting Cacti, 10 Cherries, 2 Figs, 4 Grapes, 5 Nectarines, 8 Peaches, 4 Pears, 11 Plumcots, 11 Quinces, 1 Almond, 6 Chestnuts, 3 Walnuts GRAINS, GRASSES AND OTHER FORAGE: 9 Different kinds VEGETABLES: 26 Different kinds ORNAMENTALS: 91 Different kinds.

Luther Burbank’s legacy also continues, with the celebration of his birthday being annually recognized as Arbor Day. Trees are still being planted in his memory. It was also Burbank’s legacy that inspired Santa Rosa’s annual Rose Parade, which celebrates his memory and showcases the people and talents of the Santa Rosa area. Luther Burbank Home and Gardens was also named as a Registered National, State, City, and Horticultural Historic Landmark.


Petite Sirah,PS I Love You,Wine,Wine 101,Wine Ed,Wine Education

Petite Sirah FAQs

My very first blog posting on December 29, 2005; this was my first wine blog topic. I’m doubling back 15 years later, and not much has changed, in terms of the questions surrounding this intriguing and exclusive wine grape variety. If you’ve been lucky to taste some spectacular ones, you’re a rare palate in the world. With only about 13,000 planted acres worldwide, you’ve almost got to visit wineries in California to taste this prized wine.

As the founding executive director of the Petite Sirah advocacy group PS I Love You, I get a lot of basic questions about what Petite Sirah is.

The most basic question is, “Is it related to Syrah?”

The answer is an absolute “Yes.”

So, when you read that it’s not related to Syrah, you’re reading a dated answer, and people are STILL writing that it’s not related in any way whatsoever. Or, worse yet for me… It’s a distant cousin. If I’m a distant cousin from my parents, I ask you, “What’s wrong with that answer?”

Dr. Carole Meredith and her staff did the DNA fingerprinting on this variety in the 1990s, and there is no longer any question about its lineage.

Syrah (father) + Peloursin (mother) = Petite Sirah (Son – or daughter – of Syrah)

What follows are the most frequently asked questions, with my most frequently given answers.

Q. Is Petite Sirah related to Syrah or Petit Verdot?
A. Petite Sirah IS related to SYRAH. Syrah is the father grape; Peloursin is the mother grape in that crossing. Dr. Francois Durif crossed Syrah and Peloursin in the late 1890s, looking for a grape resistant to powdery mildew, and created a variety that’s very prone to bunch rot, as the cluster is very tight… So tight, in fact, that if a day’s fog doesn’t burn off, bunch rot can begin to grow. Time line for Petite Sirah is on this page (the PSILY Web site is your best friend for info on the variety): www.psiloveyou.org

Q. What are the most conspicuous aspects of Petite Sirah in aroma, flavor, and texture?
A. Conspicuous aspects in aroma and flavors: Big, bold berry cherry. Tannins that won’t quit, in fact, US PS ages better than US Cab, as told by many winemakers and writers… many agree on this; others would dispute that Cab is king; however, a Napa Cab costs $70 a bottle, while a Napa PS is more in the range of $50 a bottle. It’s a tasty alternative to CS, aging as well, if not better.

Q. It was long used as a blending grape to add accent to other grapes. What did/does it do best in such blends?
A. Blender — because it adds colors, flavors, textures, and tannins to otherwise lighter wines (perhaps the vineyard is just bearing fruit, needs some boost from some variety that has all the attributes that PS offers, and has been used accordingly). In the wine spice rack, it’s the staple. Contender — On its own, it’s a joy that those who are brave enough to step outside the bounds of the “usual” will find a new friend. It’s almost a cult experience… very fun to be on the edge with this one. It’s NOT your daddy’s Merlot.

Q. PS is frequently blended with Zinfandel. What’s its primary purpose in that marriage?
A. Marriage with Zin? Zin has very little agability… the marriage is for spice and tannins.

Q. What other grapes benefit from some small percentage of Petite Sirah?
A. Cabs get a bit of PS when the wine is needing some “cftt” (color, flavor, texture, tannin)

Q. In recent years, PS is being used in stand-alone bottlings. If you turn the tables, and add non-PS grapes for accent, which would you choose?
A. Petite and Syrah are a combination that I hear about, as is Petite and Cabernet Sauvignon. Scandalously, some winemakers are beefing up their Pinots with a touch of Petite… and I mean scandalously. If I were a winemaker, I’d let Pinot Noir be Pinot Noir, instead of appealing to aging palates that need flavor to even be able to taste anything.

Q. Are there single-vineyard Petite Sirahs?
A. Yes, there are single vineyards of PS, and more-and-more growers are planting it this way. Although, there’s nothing like an old field blend to really get your sense of taste going.

Q. Will PS become more popular in the coming years? If so, why?
A. More popular, yes, as people’s palates are constantly changing. Here are some growth figures for PS that I’ve been tracking. Know that when I started this in 2002, there were only 60 growers and producers on a list for who’s who. I’ve knocked off the growers, as the most important list for me is who’s got it on their labels… again, 60 was the magic number for both growers and producers. Just over three years later, we had 274 producers (labels with PS on them) on my list. It’s all been gathered through the Wine & Vines Directory, Internet, clipping service, etc. I look daily; therefore, I dare say that this is the most comprehensive list, as no one else is living this particular passion. Today in 2015?

  • 164 growers
  • 905 producers
  • Total = 1,069


Green Valley,History,Russian River Valley,Wine

Sonoma County’s First and Foremost Viticulturist ~ Yegor Chernykh

Who arrived in Sonoma County first to begin growing wine grape and making wines, for instance, is rarely discussed. This is perhaps because it was so fleeting, in the grand scheme of time. Yet, it’s very important to note and not be left trailing into the sunset. If we forget history, and all that jazz… Especially now, during this current time of the Russians (again) having an interest in what resources the United States has to offer.

The Russian River, Russian River Valley, Russian River Road

From the Russian American Company Council, an 1813 report to Emperor Alexander, concerning trade with California and the establishment of Fort Ross…

“This settlement [Ross] has been organized through the initiative of the Company. Its purpose is to establish a [Russian] settlement there or in some other place not occupied by Europeans, and to introduce agriculture there by planting hemp, flax and all manner of garden produce; they also wish to introduce livestock breeding in the outlying areas, both horses and cattle, hoping that the favorable climate, which is almost identical to the rest of California, and the friendly reception on the part of the indigenous people, will assist in its success.” [From: The Russian American Colonies]

[PHOTO CREDIT: By Russian Post, Publishing and Trade Centre “Marka” (ИТЦ «Марка»). The design of the stamp by A. Polotnova. Scanned by Dmitry Ivanov. – From a personal collection, Public Domain.]

It was an invasion of Russian maritime, fur traders that is missing from above; however, this was also just as important for the Russian American Company. Hunters were working east from Kamchatka, along the Aleutian Islands, to the southern coast of Alaska. Some continued to migrate southward, and finally arrived at their southern-most post. They called it Fortress Ross (Крѣпость Россъ). Today it’s called Fort Ross (Russian: Форт-Росс).

The Russians Arrive

Better known, when we think of California history, are stories handed down of Italians and French immigrants; because they came, they saw, and they stayed, during that idealized Gold Rush time. But, historically speaking, it was the Russians who made that very first mark along the Pacific coastline, leaving an indelible fingerprint in Russian River Valley and viticultural practices… Just as its name suggests… and then returned to Russia, just missing the gold rush, as it turns out. (Big historical regret there, I’m betting.)

Unlike the Christo Crew, who invaded in 1492, raped women, and killed as many natives as they could find, the Russians were more polite. For instance, they bought the land from a native Pomo tribe, and then established their territory in the Fort Ross area… Creating the Fort, as it now stands as a tourist destination.

It’s not the presumed Italians nor the Spanish, but the Russians, who have the distinction of understanding the real “bounty of the county.” Hence, the name Russian River Valley, Russian River Avenue in Monte Rio, and the Russian River, for example… they left their mark.

From FortRossStatePark.org:

Science Under Sail: Russia’s Great Voyages to America [in] 1728-1867 tells the story of early Russian maritime exploration in the North Pacific. [Nearly 300] years ago, Russian naturalists, ethnographers, astronomers, cartographers, geographers and artists first described the west coast of America to the rest of the world. To this day, much of our knowledge about the peoples and places of the North Pacific Ocean is based on those Russian reports, artworks and maps. The exhibit showcases a scale model of Bering’s ship and the brilliant, colorful maps made during that expedition’s 7000-mile trek across Siberia, along with portraits of Native Californians and Alaskans, artifacts, and original watercolors of botanical and animal species.

An eastward Russian expansion took on a new dimension in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. As Europeans expanded westward, the Russians expanded eastward. As English colonists first settled along the Atlantic seaboard, Russian explorers, trappers, and settlers pushed into Siberia, and then reached the Pacific Ocean by 1639. By the mid-seventeenth century self employed, contract entrepreneurs sailed through the Bering Strait, and discovered a sea route from the Arctic to the Pacific. This became of great interest to hunters and fur traders. By the early 1800s, Russian entrepreneurs annually exported an average of 62,000 fur pelts from North America, roughly worth about $133,200, which was a large sum of money at the time.

In 1836, the Russians sent Moscow-trained agronomist Yegor Leontievich Chernykh to the Sonoma Coast, in order to improve the crops being grown for their consumption. Chernykh settled in Green Valley, and established a farm along Purrington Creek. That’s found today between the towns of Occidental and Graton Chernykh, where Chernykh erected barracks and five other structures, growing fruits and vegetables, as well as wheat and other grains. Chernykh also developed a large vineyard, introducing the first wine grapes into Sonoma County. Interestingly, Yegor Chernykh became known as Don Jorge.

The Russians pulled out of California in 1841, because finding furs and growing food crops to deliver back to Alaska had become difficult. Everyone, including Yegor, returned to their homeland, ending the pioneering days of Russia and their viticultural history, as we now know it.

They’ve not forgotten us and our land of resources… What states will they settle in this time around, if that’s our fate?



Dear Jo,Education,Wine

Dear Abby of Wine, Please let me pick your brain

I wish I had time to just take questions and answers, and be paid handsomely. I’d spend the rest of the day eating bonbons and writing kids’ books. Alas, that extra time is spent answering a myriad of questions I never saw coming. Good ones, I’ll give them that.

I get a lot of really good questions behind the scenes through Emails. People either trust my opinion, or are curious about what I’m going to have for an answer.

That’s the best part of my life right now within the wine business. I’m surrounded by experts, who have most of the answers I don’t have, and they’re willing to take my calls… Bless all of their hearts!

Question Number 1:

I noticed that the last sentence in your message referred to ‘love for the variety.’ [sic: Petite Sirah] Did you intend it to be ‘love for the varietal?’ If variety is correct, just ignore my comments. ~ Joyce

My Answer:

The correct use of the word, if it is being precisely written (and spoken) English, is “variety.”

Variety is a noun, and varietal is an adjective… And, I don’t mind your asking, by the way.

I love this variety (noun), because I love its varietal (adjective) characteristics…

The word “varietal” is describing characteristics, in this instance.

This is probably the biggest mistake being used in wine writing… So much so that “varietal” is now being accepted by some dictionaries as a noun, but I won’t join that league, yet…. Ever, actually. I’ll go down with the sinking ship, which I know I’m on.

Question Number 2:

I stumbled across your blog entry on grape blog and I was wondering if you might be able to help me identify a grape leaf photo I have (see attached image). Please get back to me at your earliest convenience. ~ Elliot

My Answer:

I’ve Bcc:ed David Gates of Ridge, because if anyone can shed some light on your mystery leaf (on the left), it will be David.

Thanks, David, for telling us if this leaf on the right is Pinot Noir or some other variety. Based on leaves I’ve documented, this is as close as I can get – with my leaf being on the right.

Can you help us?

Elliot… check out this link and do your own comparing, too.

Variety Leaves on Wine-blog

As I look at your leaf image (left) and my blog posting that I did at least a couple of years ago (link is above), when I compare your image with the ones I’ve photographed, Pinot Noir is the closest connection.

The tips of yours are a bit more pointy than my leaf; however, look at all of the other leaves I put onto my blog posting, and I see that the Pinot Noir is the closest, structurally speaking.

All the others have a very different structure. So… the closet I can get is Pinot Noir. You’d need someone like David Gates of Ridge to help with any other thoughts. I’ve Bcc: him. He’ll let me know if I’m close or way off base; meanwhile, go to my blog link above and you give me your own thoughts.

(Thanks for your help, David.)

~ David Gates answer: I would be better able to help ID this vine if you could take a photo of its shoot tip, including the first 6 inches. A photo of the back of the leaf would help. Also, do you know what the clusters look like? Pinot noir is one of the oldest cultivated grapevines in the world, and there are many offspring/mutations of pinot that resemble it (chardonnay, auxerrois, gamay, pinot blanc, pinot gris, pinot meunier, etc). [I am going to scan the leaf’s vein system, and get it to David Gates.]

Question Number 3:

My brother and sister-in-law are one month away from having a baby…my very first niece! I would like to give my niece a bottle of wine that will age well, so that she can enjoy it with me on her 21st birthday. I’m wondering if you have any suggestions? I’d like to spend between $50-$75. ~ Shannon

My answer:

Do you like Petite Sirah? If yes, I’d get this soon-to-be-born child a bottle of Sean Thackrey’s “Sirius.”

Also, I’d only give the child a card that says you will be buying the gift in a couple of years, because you might want to wait until Sean releases his 2010 vintage. This way, both the child and the wine will be the same age, once you both enjoy its dark, inky flavors together.

I have done the same thing for my grandson Jonathan. He’s got a 2000 Sirius waiting for us to share together.

There’s another benefit to this, too, and you’ve just reminded me that it’s time for me to do this now… I need to give my grandson a book on astronomy (for his 11th birthday). I’ll highlight Sirius in the book for him, beginning to see a sprout grow from my original seed of giving him the wine two years after his birth.

Next, when he’s about 12 to 13, I’m going to give him a telescope… Letting him find Sirius on his own, and telling him about the wine that’s waiting for him.

I’ve bought him all the Harry Potters, so I need to point out the character Sirius in that book, too.

It’s amazing how this wine is “kid friendly,” and the one I’d definitely be recommending to anyone who asks… regardless of price point, but it does fall within your range.

There’s so much mythology that goes with this recommendation.

Question Number 4:

I’m a 62 year male retiree who’s trying to develop a taste for wine given its health benefits. My prior attempts have been unsuccessful, as I’ve found the wine not to be liking. Quite frankly, I find drinking a bottle of beer more satisfactory! Moreover, as I’m the sole consumer with my use consisting of at most a glass a night, after initialing opening the bottle. the wine’s taste diminishes greatly! I’m hoping you might provide me with some easy to drink wines, and how to economically store it for near future use.Thanx for your assistance. ~ Norm

My Answer:

My husband and I tend to enjoy a glass of wine each night. He prefers red; and I prefer white, when not having heavier foods. I tend to eat lighter foods at night with a lighter wine.

Neither of us want to open an expensive bottle of wine, while enjoying simple food during the week, and not with a party of people. This is an important consideration.

We don’t want – like you – to pull out a $40 bottle just to sip it through the evening news. These wines need to be shared and savored.

I’m not a beer drinker, I have to share. I’ve never been able to get past the aroma. I tried it when I was about 19 (in Georgetown DC, where it was legal drinking age at the time… What a hoot that was!), but it didn’t do anything for me.

Wine, on the other hand, I (obviously) love.

What I’ve found as my own solution is the new marketing toward boxed wines. There are four bottles in that one small box. Once they’ve been tapped open, the inside plastic bladder compresses, so air doesn’t get in and oxidize the wine, breaking it down from its flavors and vibrancy.

You’ll have to decide to either try a white wine – which stores beautifully in a fridge – or a red. Red wines fit nicely onto a kitchen counter; but during the heat of summer, I’d still store in the refrigerator and just let come back to about 55 degrees before enjoying… like a wine cellar temp.)


Australia,VIT 101,Viticulture,Wine

Planting of a vineyard, by Hugh Hamilton of McLaren Vale

What goes into the planting of a vineyard, by Hugh Hamilton of McLaren Vale, is worth our time.

The planting of a vineyard is far from as simple as this video (below) makes it look.

I got an Email from Hugh Hamilton Wines in the McLaren Vale of South Australia. Don’t we just love how an entity half way around the world, and on the opposite hemisphere, can reach out and get someone’s attention within minutes?

As I read the E-Mail, I thought, “Wow, this is a lot of information to take in… Lots going on: what they’re doing, what they’re selling as chatskis, exciting happenings in the vineyards, keeping up-to-date with all things Black Sheep in 2014 (with their stylish calendar featuring 12 stunning new black and white images), finding a new wine and food match with recipe each month, perfect for the season!

A lot…

They wrote…

The vineyard is a place of constant evaluation, review and renewal based on the never ending quality quest to find the most suitable grape variety for the soil types in our vineyards. This is then matched to customer preferences for our wines and leads to some expensive choices as to the makeup of our vineyards. These are weighty decisions because apart from the cost of replanting and growing new grapes it means we have taken valuable land out of production for many years. They need to be correct ones.

I kept scrolling, looking for that nugget that would mean gold to me and you. I knew it had to be in there somewhere. And, I wasn’t disappointed… at the very bottom of the page… I was so pleased that I patiently scrolled down to the end to discover a video. I thought, “Why not? I’ve come this far.”

It proved to be the golden ticket I had been hoping for… I’ve seen the planting of a vineyard, but not everyone has, and this video is really worth sharing.

What goes into the planning of a vineyard

As I watched it, I realized, not only is this a great “How it’s done” video, but I caught glimpses of Southern Australia and how it’s done there… The people are different than in California. It’s rare to see anyone Anglo willing to get his hands muddy, sadly, unless it’s an owner of a small vineyard. As I was watching the video, I was struck by that. Our local city Anglos who can’t find work would rather hold up a sign than to find a way to the vineyards… which is very easy, by the way. One has only to find the pick-up spot, and get in the truck.

I’m not in their shoes, and I can think of a myriad of reasons why they wouldn’t, honestly; like mental illness, so I’m not judging. It’s just an observation. I’ve yet to see one white person not biologically related to the vineyard or winery go into them in California, and I’ve been all over this state… They’re there in small family vineyards, but they’re an endangered species in the wine industry otherwise.

I was also struck by the dog in this video, just happily hanging around. That might happen in a small, private vineyard, but in any corporate vineyard that I’ve seen in my state, it’s not going to happen. You have to slow down and smell the roses, when you have dogs around, and commodity land isn’t that tuned in.

Here’s the video of how root stock gets planted into a vineyard, step by step. Enjoy!

New Vines in the Black Sheep Paddocks! from Hugh Hamilton Wines on Vimeo.


Oregon,Willamette Valley,Wine,Wine Business,Winemaker,Winemaking,Winery

Aberrant’s Winemaker Eric Eide tells it like it is in Oregon for the past month.

Working with great winemakers is delightful. Just as the days when I was in rock radio, there were stars that I constantly rubbed shoulders with, now the stars are winemakers. When moving to California, I turned my attention to some quieter stars, who are all as equally as talented, but in a different science. Just as music has to be well balanced to be enjoyed, so does wine. They both affect our senses.

Eric Eide (pronounce as ID) is a total talent

Eric has a great winemaker journal, which we’re accomplishing once-a-month. It’s really excellent info, coming from Willamette Valley in Oregon. Eric is a creative wordsmith,  coming up with such expressive thoughts.  I had just finished hours of editing for Eric Eide of Aberrant Cellars, when I thought… This stuff is so great, I need to ask Eric if I can also share on this blog.

Permission granted.

Eric Eide, Aberrant Cellars, Willamette Valley Oregon ~ Enjoy

July 2017 Winemaker Journal

2017 Growing Season ~ Vintage Assessment

Bloom occurred mid-June in Willamette Valley, which is traditionally when we reach this milestone. The past two years were hotter than average. As a result, everything happened earlier than it typically does. So far, the fruit looks very good and there hasn’t been any frost or rain issues. Let’s hope that Mother Nature allows this trend to continue. Based on the progress I’ve seen so far on the vines, I anticipate this year’s yield will be average, or perhaps a little above average.

Ideal summer temperatures, for wine grape growing, are mid-to-high 80s during the day; and we like to see a 20 to 30 degree downward shift in temps overnight. This allows the vines to rest and recharge. Overnight lows depend on where in The Valley the vineyard is located and elevated at a particular site.

In Willamette Valley, we usually get ten or so days in the 90s, and occasionally it pokes above 100 degrees. Photosynthesis shuts down in the vines, once temperatures exceed 88 degrees. Prolonged heat spikes can be very detrimental, as the grape skins take a beating. This is caused by the vine being unable to protect the clusters. If skin development gets ahead of the ripening process, unbalanced wines can be the result.

Present and Future Winemaking Activities

Just recently, I bottled the 2015 Chehalem Mountain Vineyard Pinot Noir and the 2015 Carpe Noctem– both of which I’m very excited about, because they’re potentially the two best wines we’ve made to this point. I’ve included some images here in order to help demonstrate, or de-construct, the process visually. Even after years of making wine, I find it fascinating to see how everything comes together.

Both of these wines are aged in barrels from 17 to 19 months old. Then it goes in tanks for another three to four months. Additionally, they’ll both continue to age in bottles for many months, before they’re released for sale and consumption.  Old Vines will be released in November of 2017; Noctem in March of 2018.

I prefer to treat the upbringing of Carpe Noctem in a manner similar to a Reserva style wine, either from Spain and/or a Brunello from Italy, since it is a big, beefy Pinot Noir. I feel it warrants the extra time it takes for the wine to be ready for enjoyment, when it’s released; though, it will certainly reward many years in the cellar, if one chooses to do so. The “Old Vines” process is a little different, in that it was not aged in barrels for quite as long, and I used less new wood in the aging process. These practices are still my overall philosophy for drinkability and ageability.

I’m happy to announce that the Sidecar G-Force wine has been released and is now available. [You may recall from last month’s Winemaker Journal:] G-Force is a blend of Gamay, Cabernet Franc, and Pinot Noir. The Gamay is sourced from a really beautiful vineyard called Havlin Vineyard, in Willamette Valley. I started by using their Gamay in this blend; but, I intend to also bottle the Gamay varietally, at some point in the future. So far, the response to the spin that we put on these varieties has been very positive.

  • The Gamay is a chameleon of sorts – it can be bold or soft
  • The Cabernet Franc is powerful
  • The Pinot Noir gives a silky elegance to the mouth feel

This project is about introducing people to different styles and varieties aside from Pinot Noir. And, I’m very optimistic from all the positive feedback we’ve received, about G Force thus far.

Our next, immediate project will be to assemble the blend for the 2016 Confero Pinot Noir. This is the wine we consider to be our “workhorse,” and it’s a blend of a number of vineyards and clones. I expect to bottle it at the end of August. We also plan to conduct blending trials for additional upcoming Sidecar projects. For example, I’m exploring the idea of an old-school styled Bordeaux blend.  This includes Carménère, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, and small portion of Cabernet Sauvignon. The trials will involve seeing what percentages of these varieties play together best, and ultimately sing in harmony. I expect that this blending trial will be my focus for the next couple of months, prior to the start of the 2017 harvest.