Terroir ~ The Most Complex Segment of Wine

If you ask anyone in France, “What’s terroir all about?” not only will that person tell you in words, but his hands… and even his entire body… will go into action.  A word created by French vignerons, you can bet your bippy that it means something, and it’s worth writing about it for the uninitiated. If you’re still skeptical after this, go fight with the French… on their own turf, in their own vineyards, under their own blue (or gray) skies. It exists, take it from someone who’s got some French in her (Bernier and Ouellette; Bernier pronounced like Viognier, and Ouellette pronounced like Willette) to know it’s for real.

I marvel at those who would love to just dismiss it. It’s like telling someone in the deepest regions of New Guinea, for instance, that Facebook exists and they challenge you on it. Ignorance is bliss, but it’s only ignorance of facts. When someone’s light bulb goes on, it’s like a Christmas tree just lit for the first time of that season.

I wrote this one a long time ago, in my wine blogging land, but I haven’t published it yet. I don’t know why… holding it back as I’ve seen other try to take it on, for good, better, or best… I’ve just let it rest right here, but now is the time.

Terroir beginning with Earth

Let’s see, which end begins the definition? Do I start at the top with the skies; or do I start with the bottom, the earth.

Let’s begin with earth, which is always referred to as Mother Nature, by those who worship the ground that we walk upon for giving us all things naturally great. For me to understand Pangaea, I decided to study geology. I spent five months reading everything I could get my eyes on, both on and off line. It began with the earth churning and turning and eventually pushing up a land mass. That super continent, called Pangaea, formed approximately 300 million years ago; and then, it began to break apart forming seven continents, after approximately 100 million years.

University of Wisconsin-Madison: In 2001, scientists reported that tiny zircon crystals had been found in Western Australia, and are the oldest known materials formed on Earth, some 4.4 billion years ago. In a more recent study, which appeared in the journal Nature Geoscience, geochemist Jack Valley (University of Wisconsin, Madison) and his colleagues have further reiterated that the crystals are indeed as old as was first theorized, in 2001.

Consider earth now in each region. The climate of each is going to vary, depending on latitude and longitude. What happened next, once continents existed, were life forms taking shape. What those life forms left behind, including any inland seas, rivers, lakes, etc., will become future life, based on all climatic conditions. When life forms die, they return to the earth as nitrogenous waste. What a tree, flower, and/or an animal (including the human species) leave behind will break down and return to the earth, nourishing those soils. This is all relative to what that earth will ultimately become. What you find in the soil of Maine, for instance, for minerals, will greatly vary from those found in California. If you think that this is incorrect, then I must draw you to an important manifestation. When the North American plate occurred, it was aligned with another oceanic plate to the west called the Farallon plate. (Scientists concur that the Farallon Islands remain as part of that plate.)

San Joaquin Valley Geology: [The] Farallon plate (which preceded the Pacific Plate) and the North American plate were moving towards each other; with dense oceanic crust (basalt) of the Farallon plate diving beneath the more buoyant continental crust (granite) of North America. This process, which is called subduction…

  • Farallon = Basalt
  • North America = Granite
  • Pacific = Sandy loam topsoil + Sandstone = moderate clay layer

The Pacific plate, submerged by the Pacific Ocean for most of its life, acquired numerous limestone deposits from the decay of marine organisms in this region. It is today one of the few places where granite and limestone are co-located, providing a well drained and mineral rich soil well suited to viticulture. [Michaud Vineyard]

This is the evidence of why the Pacific Coast, born of the Pacific Plate that subducted the Farallon Plate, provides a completely different soil type than any other viticultural region in the United States. Even within the western coastline of viticultural regions, there are even more breakdowns of soils.

Terroir, how complicated are your soils?

As winemaker Joe Freeman of The Rubin Family of Wines said to me in an interview, when discussing Green Valley’s soil types:

As different aspects work together, you can put Goldridge soil in Wisconsin, and you’re not going to grow premium wine grapes. You can move this Mediterranean climate to Georgia, and with their humidity and everything else, you’re still going to get a completely different game.

Moving on to Climate in Terroir

Since Joe Freeman also brought up “climate,” let’s explore this one, too.

Temperatures, fog, sunshine, rain, wind, storms, sea breezes (where applicable) all contribute to terroir. Simple terroir 101: The differences between a Maine McIntosh apple and a Sebastopol one… Just taste one of each, and you’ll come away from the tasting saying… Wow!” Regionalism clearly defines terroir, if you can just buy into that “word” given to us by our French heritage. It’s a really easy sell for terroir, when you immediately taste a comparative difference. Terroir is not just about grapes, either, although it’s mainly applied to winemaking. It’s about everything that has to do with a region and growing a crop within that region. The terroir of lilacs… Grow them in Maine, forget them in California. They struggle there, while they proliferate in Maine. The same can be said for blueberries. Have you ever picked and eaten a wild Maine blueberry on the spot, then tasted the huge ones that grow in Oregon?

  • Give me a handful of wild Maine ones any day of the week.
  • If I want a Pinot Noir grape, though, I won’t find a single one in Maine.
  • If I eat a Pinot Noir grape from California, with our lack of moisture, they’re going to taste completely differently from those grown in Oregon
  • … and still more differently than those grown in Washington State.
  • Some other indigenous, agricultural examples:
    • Massachusetts cranberries
    • Idaho potatoes
    • Grains in the Midwest

Why? Terroir, and in every case… Climate and soils.

According to climatologist Dr. Mark Greenspan of Advanced Viticulture:

Climate often gets neglected in discussions about “terroir.” People think “soil,” and soil is definitely important. When they think about “terroir, it’s definitely important. Grapes grow in an environment, and the flavors and all the ripening characteristics of the fruit are really linked to the environment; specifically and most importantly it’s about temperature. It’s as simple as that. There are a lot of nuances in temperature. It’s more than what’s the temperature right now? It’s what are the day time and night time differences? How cold does it get at night, how warm does it get during the daytime? And different varieties respond differently to different climates, that’s why different varieties are grown in different regions due to climate and soil.

People Who Work the Vineyards

Vineyard managers get it. They work with vines each and every day. It’s like the Little Red Hen story. They do all of the following:

  • Select the vines
  • Plant them
  • Nurture them
  • Irrigate them
  • Train them
  • Trellis them
  • Prune and thin them
  • Net them from birds just before harvest
  • Harvest them
  • And get them to the winery for wine production

According to Jim Pratt of Cornerstone Certified Vineyards:

Hundreds of thousands of years ago it [California] was under the sea as part of the Pacific Ocean. When the Pacific receded, it left great soil: sandstone, down about anywhere from about five to nine feet, with a sandy loam soil on top. So what we have is a moderate clay layer that’s permeable to water. This gives us outstanding drainage, with the sandy loam on top. This is good nutrient content, but not so much that it dictates the vigor of the vine. This way the wine maker and grape grower can actually work together with the soil, take what it gives, and then add this Russian River area climate. We have the best of both worlds; we have great soil and outstanding climate. This gives us a perfect terroir…

More to Consider for Terroir ~ Aesthetics

Like those crazy commercials… But wait… there’s more…

Earth, climate, and people are huge components for terroir. They’re tangible objects. But what about the intangible?

What about the feeling you get when you’re walking through a vineyard… the natural buzz you get from the spirit energy of the region?

Many First Nation Americans get the mythology of the spirit that Earth delivers. Mythology, too, is part of terroir. Each original tribe that crossed the Bering Straight, when the ocean was lower and allowed people to migrate to the North American Plate created their own stories; However each one, as a common thread, refers back to a universal and omniscient Great Spirit, a connection to their Earth.

Today, perhaps it’s because those who work the vineyards are having a firsthand experience each day with what nature delivers. It’s also seen on the faces of those that you encounter in the vineyards and ask them about their experiences… They light up when they talk about being among the vines. They have energy for delivering even more of what the earth has to offer, which deeply connects them to their roots, literally and figuratively. Their body language is saying, terroir. It’s the screech of the owl, cleaning the vineyards of pests. It’s the fog that seemingly rolls in. It’s… most important to this entire subject…  The unique flavors delivered by everything and everyone along this chain of happenstance. It’s terroir.

If viticulturists, winemakers, and climatologist all get it, then it is what it is… Terroir

Perhaps this introduction will begin a journey for you to understand the most complex part of grape growing… terroir.


Jo's World,Marketing,Wine

An Egregious, Yet Successful, Marketing Plan with Bigly Results

For this, we all need a glass of wine, to completely relax into it. Get one, sit down, and have a Friday read…

I wrote this one so many months ago on a note pad. I wish I had dated it. It was prior to the elections, I can tell you that much.

I titled it, Donald Trump’s Marketing Plan, and then I watched it unfold into his complete success…

  1. No advertising. (No jobs created.)
  2. Take advantage of news time, by calling news conferences. (Free advertising.)
    1. Say something totally outrageous during the conference. (Confiscation, odious move.)
    2. News spreads the word for you.
    3. It will be debated for a week on prime time by news talking heads. (More free advertising.)
    4. When news calms down, Repeat.
  3. Repeat forever to make it a “truth.”
  4. Be late for those meetings, too, because it drags out the drama to the next advertising cycle, as many times as possible. (“What could he possible be saying this time?” you hear them think.)
    1. Still no money spent on advertising.
    2. No jobs created, by the guy who talks about bringing jobs back to America.
  5. Bring in high profile wannabes, to open for you.
  6. Repeat.
  7. Repeat.
  8. Repeat.
  9. Start over.

Today, it’s months later from that cycle. Now we’ve entered a new cycle. The marketing plan worked, including with the help of nefarious outside influences, and news channels who were completely sucked in, that we know.

I don’t endorse this plan. I’m sharing, because I’ve just have found it to be a completely new strategy that I’ve never seen in operation before. The jury is still out on how it will play out; and how it might be used in the future, since it got its desired results – bigly.


Education,Wine,Wine Blogger

Does size really matter?

Yes, it really does. Check out how happy my friend Denise Medrano (The Wine Sleuth) is, for instance. The size of the smile on Denise’s face is directly proportional to the size of the bottle…

The bigger the bottle, for instance, the longer the wine will age well. There’s less space (not oxygen, because that was removed and refilled with Nitrogen) at the top of the bottle. With less space at the top, it gives the wine a longer time to age.

Know Your Sizes

Wine bottle names and their capacity is always a fun question for those trivia moments.

Split ~ 186 milliliters ~ 1/4 bottle

Half bottle ~ 375 milliliters

Bottle/Fifth ~ 1 bottle

Magnum ~ 2 bottles


  • Jeroboam ~ 4 bottles
  • Rehoboam ~ 6 bottles
  • Methuselah ~ 8 bottles
  • Salmanazar ~ 12 bottles
  • Balthazar ~ 16 bottles
  • Nebuchadnezzer ~ 20 bottles
  • Sovereign ~ 33.33 bottles


  • Double Magnum ~ 4 bottles
  • Jeroboam ~ 6 bottles
  • Imperial ~ 8 bottles
  • Salmanazar ~ 12 bottles

Based on Biblical Names

  • Jeroboam ~ Was the first king of the Israelite Kingdom of Israel from 922 to 901 BC, after the revolt of the 10 northern Israelite tribes against Rehoboam. This put an end to the United Monarchy.
  • Rehoboam ~ Was the king of the United Monarchy of Israel, and later of the Kingdom of Judah. After the 10 northern tribes of Israel rebelled in 932 – 931 BC, he formed the independent Kingdom of Israel.
  • Methuselah ~ The oldest person (969 years) in the Bible, is the grandfather of Noah.
  • Salmanazar ~ King of Assyria under the name of Shalmaneser. There are conflicting dates given, but this gives you a range of his reign possibilities: either 1274 BC – 1245 BC, or 1265 BC – 1235 BC.
  • Balthazar ~ The name commonly attributed to one of the Three Wise Men.
  • Nebuchadnezzer ~ The ruler of Babylon (Chaldean Dynasty), he reigned from 605 BC to 562 BC. He conquered Judah and Jerusalem, and sent Jewish people into exile.

The following image is borrowed from Lost Canyon Winery in Cloverdale.


Cabernet Sauvignon,California,Chardonnay,Petite Sirah,Pinot Grigio,Pinot Gris,Pinot Noir,Sauvignon Blanc,Wine

The 2016 California Winegrape Crush Is a Return to Normalcy

[Pictured is Alvaro Zamora, vineyard manager for The Rubin Family of Wines]

The following is very interesting info from Ciatti, Global Wine & Grape Brokers, regarding the 2016 harvest.

The Ciatti Company

Ciatti is the world’s largest and most comprehensive bulk wine and grape brokerage frim. Aside from its home base in San Rafael, California, seven additional offices around the world provide clients the kind of information and intelligence that today’s competitive global wine industry demands.

Founded in 1972, Ciatti has deep roots in the wine industry, both in California and the countries in which the company operates. The current partnership includes industry professionals with over 135 years of collective experience including: John Ciatti, Greg Livengood, Glenn Proctor, John White, Chris Welch and Steve Dorfman.

The Preliminary California Grape Crush Report just released shows 4,000,790 tons were crushed in 2016. The report reveals the overall crush was up eight percent from the 2015 harvest, and the average winegrape price was up 14 percent to $789.00 per ton. A more in depth look shows the standout varieties, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Grigio, Petite Sirah, and Pinot Noir proved to be the largest tonnage increases from the previous 2015 vintage. New plantings along the coast and the northern interior have produced the rebound yields.

Since I have a personal interest in Petite Sirah, as the founding executive director of PS I Love You, the wine grape advocacy group of Petite Sirah, I’ve also asked for more info on this variety. Meanwhile, below are quotes from the Ciatti team.

Ciatti’s Experts Offer Insight

“The 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon gained a surprising 101,500 tons, for a historic state total of 557,192. Virtually all California regions increased from 2015 to 2016. Lodi, Modesto, and Paso Robles areas experienced their biggest tonnage ever. We believe that the large increase is due to new plantings coming on line, as vine yields seemed average. Anticipate that the 2017 California Cabernet Sauvignon harvest could move quickly towards 600,000 tons.” – Glenn Proctor

“Chardonnay tonnage was up by six percent and back to 672,000 tons, a yield closer to a state average. This year’s harvest showed regional gains and losses almost opposite to what we had seen in the previous year’s light harvest. Large gains of 12 to 19 percent were noted in the premium Coastal regions of Sonoma, Napa, and Monterey where demand has been the highest. However, yields in the Southern interior valleys from Fresno to Bakersfield were down by three to seven percent. Pricing for Chardonnay was up as a state average by 10.8 percent, reflecting a continued demand for California’s largest wine grape varietal.” – John White

“The 2016 California Pinot Grigio (Gris) crop came in at 243,665 tons, up 58,467 tons or 31.6 percent from 2015. This was the result of new plantings of the last few years beginning to approach full production. Statewide average pricing was essentially flat at $595 per ton. The majority of the state’s Pinot Grigio plantings are in the Central Valley and are controlled by wineries with owned vineyards and/or long term contracts. With that, the opportunity for spot grape purchasing will remain limited in the near future. But there are currently bulk wine purchasing opportunities that didn’t exist after the 2015 harvest. With Pinot Grigio continuing to show strong demand, we see the market to continue to be essentially balanced.” – Chris Welch

“The 2015 Sauvignon Blanc Vintage witnessed a large influx of demand due to the lowest yields in the past five vintages. In 2015, California harvested 88,256 tons, 2016 we gained 19.5 percent up to 105,509 tons. Even with this increase in supply, demand made the 2016 Sauvignon Blanc crop feels small.” – Todd Azevedo

“As expected, the 2016 Pinot Noir crop provided some relief coming in approximately 35 percent higher than the 2015 crop report. The Central Coast made the biggest rebound with approximately 58 percent increase and the North Coast increased approximately 32 percent from the previous vintage. The average price for Pinot Noir tonnage in 2016 was $1,831/ton. The highest price per ton comes from Sonoma County at $3,657. Even with the increased yields and high prices, demand remains at an all-time high.” – Todd Azevedo

“After two consecutive light harvests, total state production of Zinfandel was up 6.7 percent from 2015 to 414,559 tons. Almost all areas saw increases in tonnage, the largest being District 11 (Lodi) increasing 22.7 percent to a total of 146,397 tons. District 13 (Madera/Fresno) totaled 159,547 tons, but was down (-3.8 percent), with most of the production destined for a struggling white zin market. On the North Coast, District 3 (Sonoma) rose 13.5 percent, while District 4 (Napa) was down (-11 percent). Despite the increase in production, tonnage levels were still far below that of 2012 and 2013 with relatively no newly planted acres.” – Johnny Leonardo

“State reported a decrease of 40,000 tons produced into grape juice concentrate for 2016 versus 2015. Only 393,000 tons or (9.4 percent) of this seasons harvest went to concentrate. Specifically, Rubired tonnage was down (11.4 percent) to 47,000 tons. Raisin and table grapes totaled 196,000 ton or an increase of 17 percent. We continue to see strong demand on Red juice concentrate, and weaker demand for white concentrate.” – John Ciatti


Food & Wine,Nero D'Avola,Wine

A Sweet Unlikely Food and Wine Pairing ~ 2012 Stemmari Cantodoro + Dana Confection Company

In December, I received samples from the Dana Confection Company. These hand-made confections, as much as I wanted to just jump right in, had to wait. I had too much holiday activity swirling all around. The unique confection samples sat on my desk, waiting for me to come back down to earth. Meanwhile, I had a visiting granddaughter (during the Christmas holidays) spy the sweet little boxes. When I told her what was inside, she was curious. “Why not?” I thought.

We tried the handmade calissons, taking a tiny bite from each one. With her five year old palate, the flavors were bright and exciting. It was she that nailed each one before I could. And then, I wrapped them back up and waited.

With this being Valentine’s Day, I decided that this is a great time to share something wildly delicious. Want to make the love linger, give them a try, post Valentine’s Day. (I’m now thinking ahead to Easter, though!)

Dana Confection Company is a French confectionary based in Brooklyn. They make rare, French sweets called ‘calissons,’ using locally-sourced ingredients. Primarily made from fruit and almonds, it’s a great pairing for any of you who are looking for an alternative to dark chocolate and red wine.

I know chocolate is the sweet of choice today, so just chalk this one up for your next sweet tooth craving, like tomorrow… And learn how delicious these little confections are with – YES – red wine.

I decided to pull an older bottle of wine for the pairing. I wanted something where tannins would be softer; something that would interfere less with the experiment. It was a 2012 Stemmari Cantodoro. And it worked really well.

The 2012 Stemmari Cantodoro is a blend of 80 percent Nero d’Avola and 20 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine has flavors of black fruit: cherries and ripe blackberry. Hint of mocha, for you chocolate lovers, and the tannins were still present, but the sweetness of the confections really softened and rounded out the wine.

Now to the delicacies…

From Dana Confections Website:

Calissons are a rare sweet originating from 16th century Aix-en-Provence and are comprised of two delightful layers: the first, a chewy and subtly sweet fruit and almond blend that brings out the best flavors of the season, and the second, a delicate layer of royal french icing for an extra bit of sweet and crunch. They are traditionally made with candied Provençal melon.

Their flavors change with the seasons, so every season is a new adventure. Our base ingredients are almond, fruit, sugar, powdered sugar, non-GMO glucose, egg white, salt and natural flavors. And… they’re gluten free. They are also not sticky sweet… They’re as delicate as lavender, flavorful enough to satisfy a sweet tooth, and yet savory enough to satisfy une vie douce, as they would say in Provence.

Tasting Notes, all with the purple, white, and green treasures

Cherry Star Anise ~ This one would go well with an older Petite Sirah.. The hint of rose is really lovely, the confection smooths out whatever tannins exist.

Melon Blossom ~ “We grow our own fresh herbs and soak them in syrup to extract their flavor before combining them with our sweetened fruit.” Their delicate white confection would pair well with a Pinot Noir, adding a touch of enrichment to oak’s vanilla experience.

Rhubarb Lavender ~ This rhubarb lavender calisson (which Rachel Dana grows herself) is one that makes me want to share with a Gamay Beaujolais. They too, like Pinot Noir, are delicate in flavors and styles… a delicious pairing.

Wines with softer tannins and delicate flavors would be a great food and wine treat. A rule of thumb? Wines from Provence are ideal:

  • Grenache Noir
  • Cinsault
  • Mourvedre


Delicious Traite Finale ~ Nougat

This one was the Traite finale… A French-style treat is this olive-pistachio nougat, which is a great sweet and salty mix. Pistachios and black olives? Yeah, I thought, what? too. What a great surprise. It went well with the 2012 Stemmari Cantodoro, just like all of the others. You know how you are with potato chips? Yeah, it was like that. I couldn’t stop. It wasn’t about the wine any more. It wasn’t about over thinking it, either It was just pure enjoyment, shy of gluttony. I think I need a case of these, and write it off to the fourth meal of the day… dessert.

Dana Confection is a sweet (literally and figuratively) start-up company that should focus on selling to Williams-Sonoma. Yeah, they’re that good. Meanwhile, visit their site and order a few delicacies. What a great Easter hunt item for adults… Sophisticated sweets!

[Images from this blog post have been provided by the Dana Confection Co.]


Culture,Event,Food & Wine,St. Helena,Wine

Appellation St. Helena (ASH) hosting its premiere annual wine and food pairing event

bASH St. Helena

With so many options, I remember reading once, “I can enjoy food and wine everyday, with all of the offers out there.” I thought, “yup.” I also don’t usually advocate for events I haven’t attended (yet). This one, however, given the who, what, when, and where, I don’t have to attend to tell you about it. If you do attend, I’m quite sure it’s going to be fabulous. I’ve worked in Napa Valley, have clients – present and past – in Napa Valley, I know the heart and soul of it. It’s come into its own. This is why it’s world renown.

So, it’s that time of year again; i.e., time to indulge in the winemaking and culinary arts of St. Helena, with the Napa Valley epicenter for food and wine…

Who: 35 wineries pouring wines from Appellation St. Helena
What: Wine and food pairing competition
Where: Culinary Institute at Greystone, St. Helena, CA
When: April 1st, 6 to 8:30 PM

From ASH’s Press Release

On Saturday, April 1, Appellation St. Helena (ASH) is hosting the premiere annual wine and food pairing event, bASH. This party annually draws repeat attendees from all over the country. It provides guests with an incomparable opportunity to taste wines from one of Napa Valley’s most respected viticultural areas, alongside the culinary power players of the region. Energy is always high from attending guests these, while sampling the pairings prepared by each ASH winery and culinary team. And you guys get to vote for your top three favorites. (Good engagement…)

bASH is a celebration of the legacy of acclaimed St. Helena winemaking, which began in the mid-1800s. It began and continues to be with Napa Valley’s most innovative vintner leaders; as well as contemporary cohort of vintners, featuring some of the most famous cult wine vineyards and winemakers in the world. It also highlights the incredible chefs that bring added celebrity to the community. At the 2016 bASH there were bites served by the following:

This year attendees can expect over 30 winery/chef teams, who will be showing off an array of their most lauded ASH wines and pairings.

ASH represents more than 50 St. Helena wineries and 20 wine growers. It presents bASH, in partnership with the Culinary Institute at Greystone, Sunshine Foods Market, and the St. Helena Chamber of Commerce.

Tickets are $125.00, and are available on the ASH web site.

Get more information at www.appellationsthelena.com

Contact: Lisa Stockon, 29 Marketing Studio ~ lisa@29marketingstudio.com


Education,Marketing,Wine,Wine 101

Calling All Marketing Departments, Life Just Got Really Easy

FOREWORD: I was contacted by Visme to share this info graphic. It hadn’t been until I’d written this blog, however, that I fully understood how this company has incredible opportunities for wine companies. You can now personalize amazing presentations, create infographics, and enhance other engaging content for your staff, marketing materials, and for your consumers. Visme is a secret weapon to present your ideas visually, most especially for those visual learners. I already have an idea that I want to see come to life, now that I’ve totally “got it.” Enjoy, people, and think of the marketing opportunities at your finger tips.

Become a Wine God in Four Easy Steps

Wine Blog is a personal journal from a wine publicist; therefore, there have been few and far between entries by others; although I’m asked all of the time, by people who want to contribute. Once in a great while, something comes along that has true merit. So, now I’m introducing what was going to be this blog post. Just prior to finishing it, I had the above epiphany.

As a wine educator, this infographic passes the test of “will it be worth it for curious wine consumers?” Not everyone has time to jump into a sophisticated program, like Wine Sommeliers, Master of Wine, etc. Not everyone is at that level yet, either. And, more important is that visual learners will find this their best tool.

Once, someone criticized a wine 101 entry on this blog. I explained to the commentor there are some people just beginning. This person obviously expected more from me. As a wine educator, though, I’ll take any great opportunity to help spread the word of how to enjoy wine. This includes when a novice wants to begin the journey of wine.

The following infographic was made by using Visme. I endorse it as being a great start for anyone wanting some wine 101 tips. You might even consider this for a tasting room, for training and for inquisitive wine consumers.


Cabernet Sauvignon,Chardonnay,Merlot,Pinot Noir,Russian River Valley,Sonoma County,Wine,Wine Hospitality,Winery

Wine of the Week ~ Kendall-Jackson 2014 Seco Highlands Pinot Noir

Getting out to visit a winery is always a rare treat. We moved to California from Maine, because of the opportunities. Once embroiled in work within those opportunities, however, visits are now mostly for appointments, in order to get more work accomplished.

This past week, Jose and I segued back to my former place of employment… Kendall-Jackson Winery. It’s always a special time, when I do return. K-J hires the best people, and so work never felt like work. This was mentioned to me by their employee Katie Williams. Katie greeted us, and became our joie de vivre, during our K-J experience.

I was going to strike a low profile. I wanted to see if any Petite Sirahs were on their tasting menu. Hearing what others think about Petite Sirah is ever enlightening, and it lets me craft better and more to the point messages about the variety. Alas, no Petites in house… But out of house…  Edmeades and Field Stone do have Petite Sirahs.

Once I learned that there was Petite in the house, I no longer needed to be a faceless visitor. When Katie learned that I was also in the business of wine, she shared that she’d grown up in this industry… Her last name of Williams is from the Williams family… Of Williams Selyem. Yeah, THAT one. Yes, she surely had grown up learning about wine. And she’s a wonderful hospitality educator. For anyone thinking about visiting Kendall-Jackson, if Katie is your educator, you’re in for a real treat. Honestly, all of the educators there go out of their way to make a visit the best experience possible.

When we arrived, I was also looking for periodicals that serve as local wine guides. When I told Katie that I first wanted to find local periodicals, she went and got them for me. (Above and beyond; she could have just pointed them out to me.) Next we tasted and talked quite a bit. I shared how my days working at Kendall-Jackson were so much fun. She confided that she could be anywhere else – and I KNOW she could – but she loves the people at K-J. I knew exactly what she meant.

Will Alexander (VIP Estate and Trade Educator) did a pop in, because he recognized us from the taping of Undercover Boss. We all had a good laugh about that one, Rick disguised as a rambling cowboy.

Katie took us through a comparative tasting. She poured two different wines of each variety, like these two cabs, side by side. One from the valley floor and the other one is from elevation vineyards. A comparative tasting is so much more interesting. It also avoids having to pour out great wine in the process of tasting. We began with Chardonnay, segued into Pinot Noirs, then a Merlot and onto Cabs, including their Stature. Jose and I both wanted to bring a wine home, and we were deciding on which Pinot, when Katie said, “Oh, wait a minute. I bet that I’ve got just the one for you.” We had discussed the wines as we went along, so she had come to get a sense of my palate…

She came back with Kendall-Jackson’s Jackson Estate 2014 Seco Highlands Pinot Noir. She popped the cork, poured us each a taste, and she hit a Bull’s Eye. This Pinot Noir is how I love my Pinots… Gentle and kind… A lovely translucent, garnet rose color poured into the glass. Soft aromas of Bing cherries filled the air, it was pure Pinot. This wine comes from Monterey’s cook climate, at an elevation of 250 to 350 feet, on the Western slope of the Santa Lucia Mountains in the Arroyo Seco region. Soils, which are gravel and sandy loam, give it soft flavors, too. It was aged in French oak, with 45 percent of it being new, and a medium toast. The barrels were so well made that the oak didn’t interfere with the flavors of the wine in any way at all. It has just a slight vanilla on the finish, which is what I also love.

This Pinot Noir is like a velvet moment on a day when you give yourself permission to segue into a break… in wine country. Perhaps one day I’ll retire here, to reap all of the benefits. For now, living and working in the middle of it all ain’t too shabby, either!

This wine is a knock-out! If you love a translucent Pinto, instead of a heavier bodied opaque Pinot, look NO further. This one comes highly recommended for not only enjoying with a great meal, but I’m thinking afternoon sipping, when I want another mini break.


Event,Green Valley,Russian River Valley,Sonoma County,Wine,Winery,Wne and Food

Earth Day at Iron Horse Vineyards

Earth Day has really important significance, now more than ever, most would agree.

Joy Sterling at Iron Horse Vineyards, when a significant speaker presents him or herself, has a merry band of Green Valley growers and producers gather at Iron Horse for a day of a charming celebrations. This year of 2017 is just such a year.

Before details, I’m sharing this picture taken by Lawrence Sterling, which recently came into my email inbox. It has the following explanation from Joy:

“Greetings from thoroughly drenched Green Valley. We have received 22 inches of rain since January 1. Green Valley Creek, which bisects the vineyard, is a tributary of the Russian River; and, that whole swath of the estate is in a 100-year floodplain.

“For several days you couldn’t see the tops of the posts on the bridge. We call that doing our part to replenish the aquifers.

“Of course we need the rain. A year ago, 43 percent of the state was gripped by “exceptional drought.” Now that figure is two percent. (Source: US Drought Monitor) And, after 40 years here at Iron Horse, we are seasoned at riding out a wet winter.

“We are very lucky that our vineyards are hillside and our sandy soils drain easily. The rainbows have been inspiring. But we are going to have to hustle to get the pruning done before bud break.”

Within a week of this photo, Jose and I drove to that flood plain, because we were in the neighborhood and very curious. Clearly 95 percent of the water had receded. It’s a remarkable transformation and a much needed cleansing of our earth.

The Future of Food

The theme for this year’s Earth Day event is the future of food.

The date is Sunday, April 19, from 12:00 noon to 3:00 p.m. Participating wineries include DeLoach Vineyards, Dutton-Goldfield, Freeman Vineyard & Winery, Hartford Family Winery, Iron Horse, Lynmar Estate, Marimar Estate, and The Rubin Family of Wines.

The keynote speaker is California Secretary of Agriculture Karen Ross.

Acclaimed San Francisco Chef Traci Des Jardins is on board to showcase the “Impossible Burger,” made entirely from plants, she has served it at the Paris Climate Change Conference as tartare.

Ronstadt Generations will perform live, honoring the family’s musical traditions with the Southwestern and Mexican songs of their heritage, blended with original material.  Special guest: Linda Ronstadt.

Imperfect Produce is providing a beautiful display of “ugly” produce as crudités.

We have enlisted Copia, a mobile app that helps businesses and events connect excess edible food to feed communities in need, instantly.

Joy is inviting you to join the festivities. Net proceeds will benefit Sustainable Conservation, a non-profit organization uniting people to solve California’s toughest environmental challenges, chosen by Secretary Ross, to be the beneficiary.



Wines of the Week ~ Georges Dubœuf Selections

Georges Dubœuf is now celebrating its 50th Anniversary. What successful tribute to dedication, passion, and excellence, with selecting the very best and then delivering that best to the world. Congratulations, Georges and Franck Dubœuf. I continue to remember with joy my phone conversation with Franck in 2014. From that story:

While Franck’s father was raised on a small farm, where his family owned a few acres of Chardonnay vines, he grew up in an evolved business and growing up in a vineyard versus the small farm of his father’s youth.

“It was a wonderful childhood, walking, discovering, secrets in the vines. Helping with harvest, because that’s just what everyone does… But, not my favorite work,” he admitted, almost chucklingly to himself. His life evolved as his father’s vocation evolved into a négociant. No longer vinifying wine, the focus switched into checking samples every day during fermentation… tasting the future. It would be at this point that his father… realizing the potential for how the next vintage would taste, and how it should evolve based on foreknowledge, came up with his epiphany. “What if?”

Georges Dubœuf wines originated in Beaujolais, France. Today, father and son Franck and Georges Duboeuf regard their wines as sensual, with lots of freshness. They’re perfect for gourmet lovers of great foods who love crisp wines.  The wines from Georges Dubœuf are traditionally hand harvested; this original method of harvest grapes guarantees that the highest quality of wine grapes are being delivered to you.

Georges Dubœuf Selections

2015 Georges Dubœuf Pouilly-Fuissé, Appellation Pouilly-Fuissé Contrôlée

The first of the three that I tasted, it was like a day in spring sunshine. We were heading into Christmas and the beginning of winter.  Familiar flavors of Chardonnay ~ apples and citrus ~ were something worth celebrating, too. The wine is clean and refreshing, no hint of malolactic ~ just bright, refreshing wine that clearly defines Chardonnays that I’ve come to love. The wine was stored in oak barrels, which makes it more supple than wine stored in stainless steel tanks. It was as inviting as its label suggests, with celebratory-styled flowers. Just an explosion of deliciousness…

Let’s talk about the region: Pouilly-Fuissé is an appellation for white wine in the Mâconnais sub-region of Burgundy, taking its name from the town of Mâcon. Located in Central France, Mâcon was a major crossroads in Roman times. Grapes would have been brought by the Romans, but the Celts had brought them first for cultivation. The communes consist of Fuissé, Solutré-Pouilly, Vergisson, and Chaintré. Chardonnay is the only grape variety in this region; so, when you pick up a Pouilly-Fuissé, it may not have Chard on the label, but now you know what you’re going to enjoy.

This Pouilly-Fuissé was what’s for dinner. Spaghetti Squash with tomatoes, spinach, onions, garlic, chicken breast… broth, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Drooled and sipped while prepping. So, so delicious, from wine to entree. It was seamlessly scrumptious.

2015 Georges Dubœuf Mâcon-Villages, Appellation Mâcon-Villages Contrôlée

This wine was a bit more complex than the Pouilly-Fuissé. It has more full-bodied, Burgundian flavors of a powerfully rich wine. The Mâcon-Villages wine also doesn’t have the buttery notes of a typical California malolactic Chardonnay. It’s more of a Mediterranean style with the viscosity and smoothness that comes from a really refined olive oil. Although not having the flavors of olive oil, it has the silky textures we love, making this wine as smooth as it gets, with old world craftsmanship.

Let’s talk about the region: Mâcon-Villages. This is an appellation covering white wines that are produced in selected communes of the Mâconnais wine area, in southern Burgundy. The appellation specializes in dry white wines, which are made from Chardonnay grapes.

The vineyard altitude for this wine is from 825 to 990 feet high. The soil is limestone, so expect minerality. Citrus and floral flavors dominate. With a 13 percent alcohol level, this is a very food friendly wine.  I simply loved it… Refreshing is putting it mildly. It’s super-cala-frag-delicious.

2015 Domaine des Quatre Vents Fleurie, Appellation Flurie Contrôlée, for Georges Dubœuf 

A red wine between the above whites… This Gamay had flavors of cinnamon, roses, and violets… Typical for Gamay flavors, but don’t be fooled… This one is a quintessential example.

The day we tasted it, it was my birthday. My family had just arrived from Colorado to celebrate my winter solstice birthday and Christmas. Grandchildren were circling my feet, and we sipped to my family’s arrival with great joy. It slipped into enjoying my birthday, chocolate flour-less cake. With my cake, this wine made every taste and sip silky smooth. An easy wine to accommodate our joy, it was the life of the party. It couldn’t have been more joyful celebration, with this Pouilly-Fuissé being the confetti of our day… light, colorful, and lusciously delightful.

If you’re looking for a wine for all occasions, a wine sourced from Georges Dubœuf is a wine with great character that’s very affordable to have in your wine library.

Georges Dubœuf is imported by Quintessential Wines.