Chardonnay,Environment,Event,innovation,Millennials,Wine,Wine Cans

How Do You Feel About Wine Cans?

Wine Cans ~ First and Foremost

Waxing poetic from my own experiences of pitching the concept. As a PR person, I’m finding that wine writers haven’t quite bought into the concept yet, except – that is – for the early adopters. But… BIG but… this is normal and typical for how new concepts – in anything – develop. So, I’m not surprised.

When I saw my first wine in cans EVER, it was the Francis Ford Coppola “Sophia.” I thought, “What a gimmick.” (I wasn’t an early adopter at that time.)

Then, they’ve been creeping into the market place, and they’re not going away. When we look at how many brands there are now, the convenience (for me, thinking around the pool with the recycle bin close by) I’ve become sold. One by one, people will become sold. There’s room for Chateau Margaux, and there’s room for wine in cans.

Just look at this graph! Nielsen has done the research, and what more evidence does anyone need? Just look at this Nielsen chart.

Wine Cans ~ Factoids

In a can, it’s all about convenience, especially when it comes to outdoor activities. This is why, for instance, the topic will be heating up (sorry for the pun, not sorry) this summer, once again.

Someday most of us will all look back and wonder what was the big deal? (Plastic corks, stelvin closures, glass corks, et al.)

Not intended to be a Millennial thing, per se; although, Millennials are still very exploratory and are the age demographic to be more open to anything new. They’ve all recently left home and are out on their own, mostly bucking “the establishment.” Their enjoying wine in a can certainly says, “This is NOT your daddy’s wine,” right?

As we head toward spring (yeah, I, too, have cabin fever), I’m forward thinking.

Here’s the deal… How many people watch sports? How many people don’t watch sports? Probably half and half? Not sure.

I’m in the latter group, because sports for me is getting up and doing yoga most mornings, and I know I’m really in the minority with that one. And so are those who are watching sports with friends, a partner, at a sports party, etc., with a wine glass in their hand, while everyone else has a beer can.

Sailing image copyright: dolgachov / 123RF Stock Photo

Wine Cans ~ Examples of Use

  • Any and all sporting events
  • Tailgate parties, before events start
  • Team championships ~ the most fun
  • Sailing the open seas
  • Perfect for Barbecues
  • Hiking along the coastline
  • Fits well into beach coolers
  • Poolside convenience
  • Festivals for carry in and carry out
  • Camping with no muss – no fuss
  • Picnic baskets will never be the same
  • Skiing, I have one friend who loves them on the slopes (Will they replace the St. Bernard?)

Wine Cans ~  Safety

Then, there’s always those who wonder if these cans are safe. It’s okay, the same held true for beer cans, ever so long ago. I’ve got that covered for you, too:

  • Cans designed to carry wine have the highest of standards in the canning of wine process
  • They have a special internal coating seal for high-quality wines
    • Insures integrity and a shelf-life of at least twelve months
    • They’re air-tight, preventing oxidation of any sort
    • They’re light-proof, also preventing oxidation

And how about the environment?

  • Endlessly recyclable, with no loss to its quality
  • Space efficiency
  • Wine in 187 ml cans produces fewer transport related CO2 emissions than other packaging formats,
    • This includes all larger size cans

Wine Cans ~ A Client

Since I work with The Rubin Family of Wines (they have the 187 ml cans), I’ve learned how cute, these cans are. In fact, that’s when The Rubin Family of Wines decided to use Pam’s Un-Oaked Chardonnay in those little ones, when someone called them a “cutie,” the name stuck as Pam’s Cuties. They fit right into the palm of your hand. Too much fun!


Entertainment,Environment,Event,Wine,Wine Country

Zebras have no stripes; it’s a lie perpetrated by the media!

[PHOTO Gratis: Safari West,  taken by Judy Bellah]

For those of you who love wine country’s other charms…

On April Fools’ Day – Saturday, April 1st – Safari West is playing around and putting a different spin on their Safari Tours. They all felt that it’s a good time to clown around and have some fun. They’ve invited some special Sonoma County celebrities to get in on the silliness. One of them will be your escort, and that person will assist their tour guides for the safari. (They’re even including a few jokes to make their animals smile!)

On safari you’ll see creatures of all stripes, spots and colors, gathered there in a natural sanctuary of inclusion. It doesn’t matter how fast they run, how long their fur, whether they can fly, climb, or just lope. All creatures, great, small, pawed, clawed or hoofed, live and play side by side by side; where seldom is heard a discouraging word and the skies are not cloudy all day (unless it’s raining, of course).

On this tour, you’re sure to learn some wild and bold alternative facts! Giraffes are not tall; lemurs are actually taller. Sloths are much faster than cheetahs. Zebras have no stripes, impalas were named after the car, and much more!

The adventure will continue until you arrive at the Watusi Overlook. There, take a break from the all the untamed hubbub, sit back and relax, pop a few corks, and enjoy some honest cheese and small bites, along with a smashing tasting of genuine wines.

They’re dubbing the tour ‘Alternative Facts Day’ – made up facts – wild and bold as possible! And, it’s all for a good cause – Celebrating Diversity in our Community. The celebrities will choose an organization in Sonoma County to receive a donation. It is a diverse world after all!

It’s long overdue that you should learn the real facts… giraffes sleep 15 hours per day lying on their backs with their legs sticking up in the air!

Happy April Fools’ Day!


Wine,Wine 101,Wine Country,Wine Education

Kids in Wine Country, Bring Them On!

Back to my Robert Mondavi Winery days on this one, because I gathered the best stories while working there.

Winery Tour Guide

You realize, there are a lot of kids who live in wine country, right? Many of them are born into the wine world, so wine is NOT the forbidden fruit, nor is it something to avoid like the plague… “No Johnny, you CAN’T be around wine while we’re learning about it, so go get another life!” Yeah, it’s not like that at all, and I’ve seen a ton of kids with their parents, and it makes me happy.

Case in Point

This day delivered a tour with four overly rambunctious boys, Rumble, Tumble, Fumble, and Bumble, I dare say.

They were decidedly not happy about being in wine country with their parents; and frankly, if I were a 10-year old boy, I’d be jumping all over my buddies, too, instead of looking at an expertly positioned trellising system with stressed vines.

I began, not with my usual spiel, but instead with….

“Well, what have we here? Four young men who are pretty awesome to let their parents do something other than Disneyland! Please help me, Ladies and Gentlemen, to welcome these wonderful young boys!”

I started applauding, encouraging with body language that everyone else join me… In others words, “Get your eyeballs back into your heads, please, or we’re all gonna wish we had stayed home today.” (Everyone’s eyeballs had shifted up and to the back of their eye sockets as they watched these kids, realizing they were all about to share the winery tour from hell.)

As an adult tour guide for adult subject matter, I had to do some really fast gear shifting. I reached way back into myself and returned as a former director of Androscoggin Girl Scout Day Camp, completely leaving the adults behind… for a few minutes, at least.

“Thank you, Young Men, I know how hard this is. There’s nothing here for you, and this is about to be so boring. But I have to thank you all for being on your absolute best behavior, giving this special day to your parents, who have given so much to you all of your lives.”

“Aren’t they wonderful, Ladies and Gentlemen? Please help me in thanking these adorable young men for being so selfless and generous to their parents!”

Lot’s of applause… and we hadn’t even started yet.

As we went form one place to the next, before I’d begin to talk about whatever segment of winemaking we were covering, I’d start with, “Ladies and Gentlemen, please help me again to thank these young men. Haven’t they just been the best kids you’ve ever met?”

Lots of applause, winking, and smiles.

Ah… we dodged the bullet!

When the adults were enjoying their wine tasting, I ran to the back room, got non-alcoholic grape juice, brought it out for Rumble, Tumble, Fumble, and Bumble, who had now collectively become Humble, and it was drinks all around.

At the end of the tour, when everyone had left, the parents and boys remained. Their mother said, “My sons and I want to thank you. They told me that this was the most fun they had had in a long time, and they learned some things, too!”

It’s amazing what a little spotlight can do… And who knew that I just love kids!


AVA,Cabernet Sauvignon,Event,Napa,Stags Leap District,Wine

Stags Leap District Vineyard to Vintner 2017

This is an unparalleled Stags Leap District wine experience. Stags Leap is an iconic American appellation, with legendary history, a vibrant future, distinctive Cabernets as Napa’s neighborhood for world class wines.

[Pine Ridge Vineyards]

Last year, we attended this event and were stuck by the quality and attentiveness of each vintner and winemaker. Pictures from last year are included in this story, so you have a feeling for its flavor…

  • Vineyard to Vintner ~ Celebrating Napa Valley’s Stags Leap District ~ Part 1
  • Magic Cellar Rendezvous ~ Celebrating Napa Valley’s Stags Leap District ~ Part 2

Their annual Vineyard to Vintner weekend shares the best that they have for an unparalleled experience, with owner and winemaker participation in private homes and historic wineries, glorious vineyards and billowing mountain ranges. Experience barrel and bottle tastings, inspired cuisine, and lively conversation… Backstage and personal. Join the fun!

The Stags Leap District (from their Website)

The iconic American Stags Leap District Viticultural Area (AVA) is located on the eastern edge of Napa Valley, among the foothills of the Vaca Mountain Range. Barely one mile wide and three miles long, this tiny region – the smallest AVA in Napa Valley – is critically acclaimed for its distinctive, powerful and elegant Cabernet Sauvignon. With a unique growing climate, the rocky palisades to the east capture and focus daytime heat while funneling Pacific breezes down the hillsides to cool the vines at night. This climatic condition along with the region’s volcanic soils of bale loam overlay uniquely proved the area was qualified for AVA designation which was approved in 1989.

[Doug Shafer, Shafer Vineyards]

Stags Leap History

Stags Leap District has been a grape-growing region since the mid-1800s, though the first Cabernet Sauvignon vines
were not planted until 1961 by Nathan Fay. His fruit was in high demand and sourced by winemakers throughout the
early 1970s. In 1976, the famed Tasting of Paris catapulted the region into the global spotlight when French judges
awarded a 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon from Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars first place over legendary Bordeaux producers.
Ten years later when the same wines were tasted blind a second time top honors again went to a Stags Leap wine –
the 1972 Clos du Val Cabernet Sauvignon. Today, approximately 90% of the 1,200 acres currently planted to
grapevines are Cabernet Sauvignon or other Bordeaux varietals.

Stags Leap District Vineyard to Vintner 2017 Details

  • Exclusive Vintner-Hosted Library Wine Dinners: Friday, April 28, 2017 ~ 6:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. (For Consumers)
  • Back-Stage Open Houses: Saturday, April 29, 2017 ~ 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (For Consumers and Media)
  • Vintner-Hosted Lunch and Appellation Collection Tasting: Sunday, April 30, 2017 ~  11:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. (For Consumers and Media)

[Left: Winemaker Elizabeth Vianna of Chimney Rock ~ Right: Jo Diaz]

Tickets and Additional Information

Tickets went on sale, February 14, 2017.  You can find more information and purchase tickets, at StagsLeapDistrict.com/V2V. Price ranges:

  • Signature Wine Weekend for Two packages are available for $339 which includes
    • two passes for all three days of the event
    • the limited 2014 Appellation Collection of 17 handcrafted 2014 SLD designated Cabernet Sauvignons each signed exclusively by the vintners
    • one Solle two-bottle jacquard and leather embossed wine tote.
  • $690 for a three-day pass
  • $545 for a two-day pass (Friday/Saturday)
  • $340 for a two-day pass (Saturday/Sunday)
  • $195 for a Saturday single-day pass.

More information can be found at StagsLeapDistrict.com/V2V.



Books,Petite Sirah,Russian River Valley,Wine

White with Fish, Red with Murder ~ a novel by Harley Mazuk

White with Fish, Red with Murder, by Harvey Mazuk, is a murder mystery set in San Francisco and Russian River Valley in 1948. Harley Mazuk’s novel is one where you imagine Art Deco influences, with Humphrey Bogart (playing P.I. Frank Swiver) and Lauren Becall (Cicillia “Cici” O’Callaghan, as a brunette) getting it on in more ways than one. He calls her “doll,” she a vixen who’s sassy as all get out, and the intrigue, suspense, and sensuality draw you in… in this who done it, and why it’s been done to whom novel.

Does it help that it’s set in my neighborhoods? Yes, completely for me, while it will educate others to wine country, California Bay Area style.

SAN FRANCISCO: We who live here are familiar with all of the neighborhoods and can visualize every step. Those who don’t live here can gain a few insights into neighborhoods; but, one must also go back in time.

WINE COUNTY: Russian River Valley ~ I drive down all of these roads every day I’m out and about. Wohler Road? Com’mon, the Russian River just majorly flooded this past February, and we had to go around to get to River Road to make appointments. I used to work on Westside Road, so it’s easy to visualize, as I still travel on it. Healdsburg, many of you who come to Sonoma County know it well. Forestville, Bodega Bay ~ he’ll take you there, I’ll see you there.

Even though Harley Mazuk was born in Cleveland and now lives in Maryland; he knows these neighborhoods well, though, while he shares his love for California wines (and the business life-style side of it, shaped into this well-crafted novel).

[Picture taken on Patrick Henry’s Creative Charter train, while traveling with Petite Sirah producers, on the Blue Tooth Tour. Left to right: Patrick Henry, Bob Swain – Parducci Cellars, Richard Paul Hinkle – wine writer, Louis Foppiano – Foppiano Vineyards.]

Classic Noir Detective Story

Does it help that part of the story is set on a train (today they’re all vintage cars), with a sleeper seven cabins, six of  which each have an adjoining room to a neighbor, with one master suite in the middle of all the rooms on that car for a principle character? That it’s all about wine, vineyards, and sales people? Yes, because I’ve been there and done it all. Harley does a great job of describing all of these aspects in his story. I’ve lived all of it, except the who-done-it-part. (I escaped that one – literally, and it just all came flooding back.)

In this story, Frank Swiver accepts an invitation by a wealthy wine connoisseur to attend a tasting in this rail road car, and the intrigue begins.

Pages Marked ~ Do you also make note of quotes?

Petite Sirah

Right away, page 17, Petite Sirah is brought up in the following way: “No one knows what year it [blackbird] first appeared. But the grapes it watches over are the best in California, year after year. Zinfandel, petite sirah, Alicante, carignane – that’s nero misto, you know? The fruit ripens slowly and late, and it is so rich and concentrated, so dark, and so good. The room was quiet.”

And, Petite Sirah comes up again in the end.

“The sparkling wine was gone. I had bought a couple of dozen bistro glasses for the guest, and I circulate among the guests, pouring the first two wines. One was a petite sirah from the Spring Mountain area of Napa and the other pure Alicante Bouschet, from a low-rent district.” p. 320

Philosophical Moments

Oscar Wilde quote, a reminder of a bio I was assigned to write, so many years ago: “All of us are lying in the gutter, but some of us are looking up at the stars.”  p.286 (That’s the dark Oscar I remember.)

Nietzsche: “The irrationality of a thing is no argument against its existence, rather a condition of it.” p.335 (A condition of today, to help me stay on an even keel.)

Final thought… for the record

White with Fist, Red with Murder heralds the beginning of a stimulating new series… Thank the good lord for that, because as you realize you’ve just read the final words, you’re already hankering for more.

Publisher: Driven Press



2017 Rutherford Dust Society ~ Save the Date, and Their Leaders

Save the Date

Friday, May 19 and Saturday, May 20 ~ “Rutherford Wine Experience” Consumer Event ~ Tickets will be on sale soon!

The Wine Experience is RDS’s major consumer-focused event for Rutherford. This year’s Experience will include a Friday night VIP reception, multiple educational sessions on Saturday morning, and a new addition to the event called the Rutherford Round-Up, which will take place on Saturday afternoon. The Round-Up is a multi-winery tasting opportunity for customers that will be held at a central location, rather than at individual wineries.

Come experience the real Rutherford. Meet Rutherford winemakers and winery owners at the VIP welcome reception, choose 2 experiential education seminars for Saturday morning, and kick up the Rutherford Dust with us on Saturday at the Round-Up! Starting at 1pm on Saturday, we’ll have a live band, barrel demonstration, local artists, and our favorite food trucks with food available for purchase. You won’t find this many wine and food experiences in one place anywhere else!

Friday, June 2 and Saturday, June ~ Auction Napa Valley

“Rutherford Dust Society is preparing yet another exciting package live auction lot for Auction Napa Valley (ANV) in June. Over the past two years, the Rutherford Dust Society’s ANV live lots raised a combined $190,000 for Napa Valley charities. We would like to extend our gratitude to Auction Napa Valley 2017 Chair, Inglenook and The Coppola family, and each of our wonderful members who generously donated their Rutherford magnums and experiences to make this year’s auction lot so special. And a special thank you to our Auction Napa Valley 2017 Lot Co-Chairs, board member Michelle Baggett and RDS Member Emma Swain and also to their RDS Committee for pulling these amazing lots together. We hope that you will check out our lot display and bid if you are attending in June”

Wednesday, July 12th ~ Rutherford Dust Society (RDS) “Day in the Dust” Trade & Media Event

“Day in the Dust is RDS’ premier tasting for distinguished members of the wine trade and media. This year’s event will be held at the historic Inglenook on Wednesday, July 12th.”

Sunday, August 6th ~ “Rutherford Chili Ball” Community and Consumer Event

Meet The 2017 RDS Board 

The Rutherford Dust Society is a dedicated and diverse mix of Rutherford vintners, growers, and winemakers. The 2017 Board of Directors was seated at the annual meeting and dinner in early February. The diverse and dedicated group of Rutherford vintners, growers, and winemakers are supporting the mission of RDS, many of whom have served on the board for multiple years.

The Society’s mission is to encourage and promote the highest quality standards in grape growing and winemaking in the Rutherford Viticultural Area, and to help wine lovers and the wine trade discover Rutherford’s expression of its unique terroir.

It is with much gratitude and appreciation that RDS honorS Michelle Baggett, Proprietor of Alpha Omega, who served for two years as their Board President. Michelle has passed the torch to Davie Piña, and will remain on the board to focus on a project that she was instrumental in launching: RDS’ participation in Auction Napa Valley live auction.

The 2017 Rutherford Dust Society Board is comprised of the following individuals:

Board Officers

President Davie Piña, Piña Vineyard Management
Vice-President Steve Tonella, S.R. Tonella Cellars
Secretary Regina Weinstein, Honig Vineyard & Winery
Treasurer Joel Aiken, Aiken Wines

Board Members

Michelle Baggett, Alpha Omega Winery
Andy Beckstoffer, Beckstoffer Vineyards
Kathy Chaix, Chaix Wines
David DesForges, Beaulieu Vineyard
Trevor Durling, Provenance/Hewitt
Maria Haug, Talahalusi Vineyards
Gemma Kochis, Inglenook
Julie Johnson, Tres Sabores Winery


Baja Wines,Importer,Imports,Tom Bracamontes,Wine

The Passion of Tom Bracamontes ~ Baja Wines, and you’d better believe it

Tom Bracamontes, of La Competencia Imports, approached Diaz Communications, almost a year ago. We met in the town of Sonoma, and I was really jazzed to help him. He’s gathered a group of wine companies from the Baja region of Mexico. If anyone understands the process of herding gatos, it is I.

As the matriarch of PS I Love You, having given birth to the group and then seeing it though these past 15 years, I can share that it’s really difficult to keep it on an even keel, most especially now, though these teenage years… P.S. I Love You is now 15; we’ll be cresting on sweet 16 this coming October. I hope it’s easier than it was with one of my children’s growing pains. (Please, God, not that again, huh?)

So there we were: Tom needing help and my unique position to know what to do. (I also started the Association of African American Vintners, so PSILY isn’t my only rodeo in this regard.) Because he’s a one man band, Tom would love some PR help, but he’s constantly in the middle of the following:

  • On the road constantly
  • Organizing events
  • Taking on new brands
  • Merging with any company that can help his processes

I just got another E-Mail from Tom. I recently told him that since he isn’t ready for PR prime time, I’ll turn this into a blog story, begin to get his word out… In the words of Nike, I’ll “Just do it.”

SIDEBAR: Baja Uncorked 2017 (think Oregon Pinot Camp meets Baja) is June 25-27th

​​As the buzz continues to build around Valle de Guadalupe’s emergence as a world class wine region, a vast group of vintners, in association with La Mision Wines & La Competencia Imports, have come together to create a one of a kind wine experience BAJA UNCORKED!

Specifically designed for U.S. based wine buyers, retailers, sommeliers and media, BAJA UNCORKED will introduce lucky attendees to the region’s unique features and provide an opportunity to taste a wide variety of local wines.

So, here you go. Perhaps your first inkling that Baja Wines are a force to be recognized.

From Tom Bracamontes

Buenas Tardes a Todos:

La Competencia Imports and La Mision Associates are proud to announce several new additions to our ever expanding U.S. Distribution Network.  In the first two months of 2017, distribution agreements have been reached for Las Vegas (Johnson Brothers of Nevada), North Carolina (Epiphany Wines), and New York/New Jersey/Pennsylvania (VOS Selections).

These well respected companies join the likes of Serendipity Wines (Texas), Fiasco Fine Wines (New Mexico), Bodin Street Wines (Chicago), Encore Beverage (Reno, NV), TBK Beverage Co. & Creo Commercial (Arizona) and La Competencia Imports/La Mision Associates. (CA: Self-Distribute). We hope to announce a couple of additional markets within the next 60 days.

Redux: Jo’s bullet points for visual effect:

New Distributors

  • Las Vegas – Johnson Brothers of Nevada
  • North Carolina – Epiphany Wines
  • New York – VOS Selections
  • New Jersey – VOS Selections
  • Pennsylvania: VOS Selections

Current Distributors

  • Texas – Serendipity Wines
  • New Mexico – Fiasco Fine Wines
  • Chicago – Bodin Street Wines
  • Reno, NV – Encore Beverage
  • Arizona – TBK Beverage Co. & Creo Commercium
  • California – La Competencia Imports / La Mision Wines (self distribute)

Wines from Baja are coming on strong, people… Got a Mexican restaurant connection? Yeah, I’m thinking that, too.


Holiday,Wine,Wine Business,Winemaker,Winemaking,Winery

Concannon Vineyard ~ where St. Patrick’s Day means so much

While James Concannon may have not been the first Irish vintner to work in a vineyard or winery in the United States, he was clearly the first Irish vintner to create his own winery.

This is why, for me, celebrating St. Patty’s Day has a lot of significance. So much credence is given to the French and Italians for their American viticultural accomplishments… There’s another unpolished facet in the America diamond of winemaking, and it belongs to Irish vintners. From my own personal experiences, my hat’s off to today’s James Concannon’s family.

[Image of my friend Jim Concannon.]

Here’s why…

Shortly after the 1849 Gold Rush, family patriarch James Concannon emigrated from Aran Island in the Bay of Galway to Boston. In 1875, James moved to San Francisco. He acquired the West Coast franchise for rubber stamps, and did very well with this business. By 1883, James Concannon had also begun to grow grapes in Livermore Valley, and this is where his family has been ever since.

Following his death in 1911, his sons Joseph, Thomas, and Robert continued the family business. Tom graduated from Santa Clara College with a degree in chemistry, and became Concannon’s winemaker. Eventually, James’s son Joseph and Joseph’s wife Nina purchased all interests in the winery from his brothers and sisters; and, as sole proprietors continued the business until Joseph’s death in 1965.

In 1953, Jim Concannon graduated from St. Mary’s College in Moraga, California, receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration. After graduating, Jim returned to the winery, and began to work with winemaker Katherine Vajda, the first technically trained woman winemaker. According to Jim, “I was always deeply inspired by my Uncle Tom. Then, working with Katherine was an exceptional opportunity to learn from one of the most talented people in the business. Between Katherine and my uncle, I was so inspired that I decided to become a winemaker, and took classes at U.C. Davis to sharpen those skills.” Jim Concannon also spent two years serving his country in the Korean War after college.

Inheriting the winery in 1965, Grandsons Joseph S. Concannon, Jr. and James J. Concannon continued managing all aspects of the winery. Joe was to oversee all vineyard and sales operations. Jim headed up Concannon’s wine production. As a side note, the Concannon brothers released the industry’s first variety labeled with the name Petite Sirah, from their 1961 vintage in 1964.

A few years ago, the torch was handed from Jim Concannon to his next in line… John Concannon. It was a gratifying moment for everyone in the family, and for, me, too. As I had worked with the winery for about 11 years… Very good years.

Today, Concannon Vineyard is managed from offices in James Concannon’s original home, just steps from the cellar doors. Grandson Jim Concannon has stayed on at the winery, continuing the family’s legacy, working from his office just steps away from the historical landmark built by his grandfather. Jim is surrounded by a century of wine and family memorabilia, and travels extensively to represent Concannon Vineyard. Jim has given the winery over 50 years of dedicated service. This is the strong Irish ethic that I’ve come to respect.

Happy St. Patty’s Day to all, and hopefully you’ve all made it beyond green beer!


Law,Wine,Wine Business

How to Get Your License Bond When Opening a Winery


I get an Email, asking if I would want a story by Vic Lance, founder and president of Lance Surety Bond Associates, a surety bond expert who helps small businesses get licensed and bonded. Vic graduated from Villanova University with a degree in Business Administration and holds a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. He was offering information for getting a license bond when opening a winery.

My answer: “Just send what he’d write, I’ll do the rest, okay?” The rest was sent. As I read it, I realized that it was a really well written advertisement, which was the ulterior motive. But, this one was so well written and completely out of my purview.


Print it as it exists. It is a good public service announcement. My labor for this blog came from changing the code, behind the scenes, so that when you click on links, you also don’t have to leave the page.

I declare that this is not an endorsement. I don’t know Vic Lance, but his biography is formidable, and all pdf. files are good links for you.

Vic Lance of Lance Security Bond Associates

If you’re in the wine business, chances are you could be described as “detail-oriented.” Anyone who’s opened his or her own winery knows the importance getting every last detail right. But, while you might be more worried about varietals and cultivars, have you studied up on getting your liquor bond?

The liquor bond, also called an alcohol bond or a liquor tax bond, is required by the federal government for any legally-operating winery. Whatever you call it, it serves as a guarantee to the government that your business will pay all its required taxes. In many cases, your state or county authority will require a separate liquor or wine bond for your winery, in addition to the federal requirement.

While the process of getting bonded isn’t complicated, there’s a little more to it than simply filling out a form and paying a fee. We’ve created this handy guide to getting your liquor bond, so you can get the best value and protect your business.

Getting licensed with the TTB

The first step is to get licensed with the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). Officially, if you’re producing your own wine for commercial sale, the TTB considers your business a “bonded winery.” As such, you’ll need a basic alcohol permit from the Federal Alcohol Administration, and a permit to establish and operate wine premises

Why is the liquor bond required?

Along with the permit applications, you’ll have to submit proof of your wine bond. Should you fail to pay your taxes, the government can file a claim against your bond, which the surety will pay, up to the full amount of the bond. You’ll be required to pay the surety back in full, however, and a claim against your bond can have otherwise grave consequences for your business. If you avoid claims and stay on top of your taxes, the liquor bond requirement should be a relatively minor, and hassle-free, part of doing business.

Estimating the cost of your wine bond

The amount of your federally-required bond can vary widely, based on the size of your winery and how much tax liability you will have at a given time. Generally, wineries with stock valued below $50,000 follow slightly different rules than larger wineries. The cost of your bond will only be a percentage of your total bond amount, depending primarily on your credit score. Applicants with good credit, and a sound history of money-management, usually pay between 1% and 4% of the total amount.

You may have heard a rumor that anyone with bad credit can kiss their dreams of winemaking goodbye. In fact, with a reputable surety provider and a solid plan for your financial future, you can still get bonded with less-than-perfect credit. Premiums are generally higher, between 5% and 15% of the total bond cost, to mitigate the risk to the surety. Nonetheless, you will still be able to open your winery, and improve your financials over time.

In addition, remember that your state or county may have additional bonding and licensing requirements.

Getting the right bond for your money

Not all liquor bonds are created equal, and you want to be sure that the TTB recognizes yours as legitimate. Since surety companies don’t deal directly with the public, look for a surety bond agency that works only with A-rated, Treasury-listed surety companies. A reputable surety bond agency will shop around to get you the best rate on your bond, and can offer more personalized service for each applicant.

Giving your winery room to grow
Since your wine bond will be calculated based on your tax liability, an honest, accurate assessment of your business is a must. Plan carefully when it comes to where your product will be stored, and if you can hire a CPA with some winery expertise, then so much the better.

Remember, it’s better for your business to be bonded above your actual tax liability than below. The wine business can fluctuate drastically, and your tax rate can change from one year to the next, based on how much wine you make, or even a wine’s alcohol percentage per volume. You don’t want to be caught with a bumper crop, or a sudden surge in production, without adequate bond coverage. If you’re unsure about the year’s business forecast, give your winery a little room to grow.


The process of getting your winery licensed and bonded might seem intimidating at first. If you have any questions about how to get bonded, you can always leave a comment below.

Vic Lance is the founder and president of Lance Surety Bond Associates. He is a surety bond expert who helps small businesses get licensed and bonded. Vic graduated from Villanova University with a degree in Business Administration and holds a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.


Sonoma County,Wine,Wine & Food,Wine Country,Wine Hospitality

Haydon Street Inn ~ Healdsburg, CA

Healdsburg, California has turned into quite the “wine country living” town. It’s always had the flavor, but it’s more sophisticated today than ever. With the addition of Hotel Healdsburg, along came many retail shops that have created a more stylish town to visit. The charm is evident everywhere you go.

For those of us who love to travel and still want to enjoy the comforts of a home environment, Haydon Street Inn in Healdsburg offers that reassuring warmth. It’s placed in a quiet residential neighborhood, yet it’s very close to the hub of Healdsburg’s Plaza. This allows visitors the luxury of walking from your accommodations into the charm of a town with heavy Spanish influences. Typical of these quaint, Spanish-influenced California locales is a park. They’re always placed right in the heart of the city, where all gather and are welcomed. Healdsburg’s plaza is used to the max. Jazz concerts are typical on many summer late afternoons. Art, crafts, and antique fairs delight visitors on a consistent basis. And, late afternoon reading is often enjoyed by those locals who have the luxury of that pastime.

Haydon Street Inn’s rooms are a perfect complement to the town. The inn has all the elements of a home-away-from home. Rooms are bright, cheery, and each one is unique in true Victorian style. Their Website shows each room, so take a look at their Website. I’m including the image of where my husband and I stayed, because I really fell in love with this room. It was an immediate “connect.”

As with all B&B’s, each of the “Bs” is very important. With Haydon Street Inn, they’ve paid close attention to their “Bs.” Innkeepers John Harasty and Keren Colsten are proud new owners, and have provided luxurious comfort with the first B – the beds. Who doesn’t go to a B&B with high expectations of a luxurious bed! Slipping into deluxe slumber is what we all crave, in our homes and in our homes away from home. We’re drawn to great B&Bs like moths to a flame, because they offer what we’ve left behind and won’t compromise in our travels. It’s always fun to enjoy how someone else’s hospitable and decorative flair puts a room together, and Keren has outdone herself. My only regret was there wasn’t more time to really enjoy Haydon Street Inn. (I’ll explain at the end of this blog, about what brought us there.)

The second “B” – breakfast – is where John shines. A former executive chef at Churchill Downs (for 12 years), John now creates a morning feast that must certainly be an easier gig than his last one… Consequently, having a smaller group to prepare for has allowed his creative side to flourish, and benefits all of us who are lucky enough to enjoy the fruits of his labor. This is NOT a continental breakfast in any way, shape, or form. It’s an absolute culinary delight. For anyone who’s come to wine country to “rise and shine and go drink wine”… this is the pace to start… with a hearty “from the heart for the best start breakfast.”

Here’s the menu… They feature a delicious three-course meal every morning, accompanied by French pressed Wolf Coffee (you can also choose from a large selection of gourmet tea), fresh OJ, entrees may include Eggs Benedict, Stuffed French Toast, Citrus Blueberry Pancakes, Croissant Egg Strata, or one of many styles of quiche or omelet. We had a mushroom quiche that was amazing. We also had tasty potatoes, a side of bacon, fresh-baked breads, homemade scones (that were perfect), muffins, fresh fruit and yogurt… It seemed like it would never end (only because I eat so little, or I end up wearing it… you know how that goes).

The bottom line is no one will go hungry at Haydon Street Inn, and it’s an amazing delight. According to their site: “With 48 hour notice, a special diet can be prepared for you, and continental breakfasts are available for early departures.”

Another advanatage of a B&B are the new people that you’ll meet while traveling. Robert Hanf and Kathy Dutney (left) shared our breakfast table, and were wonderful to visit with. We all shared early morning camaraderie, as if we had known each other for a long time, before setting off on our separate wine tours.