Wine,Wine Business,Wine Writer

Discovering Writer Mark Pendergrast

[This photo is borrowed from Mark Pendergrast’s Website.]

I enjoy introducing you to other writers in the wine business, or related to it in some seamless way. In this case, it’s a fellow writer whose expertise has earned him columns in Wine Spectator, which are related to coffee and evaluating it.

Mark is best known as the author of Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World, now in its second edition (Basic Books, 2010).

Some reviews of this book:

“With wit and humor, Pendergrast has served up a rich blend of anecdote, character study, market analysis and social history.” –New York Times Book Review

“Few coffee drinkers suspect that they are affecting American foreign policy, the domestic policies of Latin-American and African countries, and the habitat of migratory birds. Pendergrast shows how and why they are. He has taken on a huge subject, but he organizes the facts skillfully and puts personalities in the perspective of their times. This encyclopedic volume is the entertaining result.” –New Yorker

“Pendergrast’s fast-paced narrative reads more like a novel. Uncommon Grounds is a focused and juicy history of our last legal and socially acceptable drug.” –Wall Street Journal

So, it’s a Saturday and I’m going through Emails. The day before I received an Email from Mark Pendergrast late in the afternoon, and I had missed it. He was asking for me to connect him to someone that I know. In his Email he wrote: For information on me and my books, see www.markpendergrast.com.

I went to his site and found a fellow New Englander; he moved from the Atlanta area to live in Vermont.  Vermont… and I’m from Maine… There’s always room for any New Englander (born or transplanted), for understanding our innate natures. So, I dug deeper.

Mark’s wide range of topics includes:

  • Inside the Outbreaks, which is a history of the Epidemic Intelligence Service of the CDC
  • Mirror Mirror, a fascinating history of mirrors
  • For God, Country & Coca-Cola: The Definitive History of the Great American Soft Drink and the Company that Makes It
    Third Edition ~ For God, Country & Coca-Cola is a cultural, social, and economic history of America as seen through the green glass of a Coke bottle. And what a quintessentially American tale it is. Coca-Cola began humbly as a patent medicine amid the fervor and chaos of Reconstruction Atlanta. A shrewd marketeer saw its value as a beverage, and it rapidly grew through the Gilded Age to become the dominant consumer product of the American Century.

For personal reasons and just for fun.

  • Silly Sadie is another fractured fairy tale about a princess who turns into a frog and whose lovely legs attract the royal chef, with nearly fatal and edible results. The Frog Prince rescues her just in time by jumping into the middle of the king and queen’s chess game…
  • Jack and the Bean Soup is an irreverent, funny take on the classic fairy tale, only in this case Jack is propelled heavenward by powerful flatulence. A children’s book that will appeal to adults as well — and it explains the presence of evil on earth and the origin of thunder!

Ah, yes, someone else who enjoys writing children’s stories.

And then, there’s Mark musical career… All this and writing about coffee, too? Charming…

On his site it’s written: Mark began singing Broadway tunes as a kid along with his parents during road trips and harmonized with his older brother to Kingston Trio songs. Now he is in a great Vermont choral group called Social Band and has begun to put poetry to music for Social Band concerts.

Here are examples:

  • “One Leaf”
  • “Green Mountain Idyll”
  • “Ah! Sunflower”
  • As part of Social Band, Mark got to sing in a quartet, beginning with a solo here:
  • “Redmount”
  • Mark also enjoys harmonizing in folk duos. Here are a few samples:
  • “Night Rider’s Lament” with Lily Jacobson
  • “Flying” with Sophia Donforth
  • “Your Daughters and Your Sons” with Sophia Donforth
  • “Don’t Need This Body” with Michael Wilson
  • “Let Them In, Peter” with Kevin Dann
  • “Last Kiss” with Steve LeClair
  • “Kumbaya” with Wicha Promyong (1950-2014), a tribute to a compassionate visionary who helped the village of Doi Chang succeed with coffee.

I encourage you to get to know Mark Pendergrast. It’s worth the sojourn, discovering the nuances of a writer who has many sides to his own story. He brightened my Saturday, I can tell you that for certain.

Mark Pendergrast was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. He is the “fourth of seven children in a family that valued civil rights, the environment, sailing, reading, and games of chase and charades.” He’s also very well educated, having earned a B.A. in English literature from Harvard, taught high school and elementary school, then went back to Simmons College for a masters in library science. In 1991, he began writing books full time.

This is a snapshot of  Mark Pendergrast, who is the coffee critic for Wine Spectator Magazine.


Argentina,Cabernet Franc,Cabernet Sauvignon,Dark & Delicious™,Imports,Marketing,Mendoza,Wine

Decopas ~ A wine for the (Millennial) ages

Decopas is a wine dedicated to the Millennial audience, and I believe that this wine is perfectly suited to that age group; however, I love it, too.

Their label tells the story perfectly, doesn’t it? (See below)

The label doesn’t tell the story of the winemaker, we don’t know about the Estate Vineyards, we don’t know about winemaking practices, it’s not on the label. All we know is that this is very cute and and eye appealing, and we’d like to be in that cartoon for an afternoon adventure. Their cartoon is the Saugivnon Blanc label (without “The office is closed… Time to Decopas,” which is slang for “By the glass?”).

History Pre Millennial

Personally putting on an annual wine and food event for PS I Love You, called Dark & Delicious ®, I get to watch how generations, all enclosed within an old Navy hangar in Alameda (at Rock Wall Wine Company) behave. People of all ages attend, but I don’t have time for empirical research, because I’m trouble shooting the entire time; however I do have to respond to everyone’s needs and wants, and  I have to watch every detail for any derailments. It’s always the Millennials that are so jazzed to be there, over and beyond others.

  • Could it be that they’re still so young (in comparison to my age) that they’re still just naturally enthusiastic?
  • Could that be because they’ve not been around wine long enough to be somewhat jaded?
  • I once read that sophistication is when your not shocked anymore… So, could it be that each new wine provides an “aha!” moment?

It could be all of the above. One thing I am sure of is that I write from a historical perspective, having been writing about wine since the early 1990s. I write from what I’ve learned over that period, but I also write from new things that I’ve just learned… and the latter is when I have my “Aha!” moments. When I first started it was all Aha! Now, someone has to work really hard to impress me, and I was just really impressed.

Decopas wines just did it for me. Not because of the everyday quality of the wines…  I highly recommend them for an everyday, fun value.

It’s because of how they’ve targeted the wines… directly at Millennials… a demographic that every producer should pay close attention to, regardless of your wine’s price. This group talks to each other via social media, so you can forget the time honored writers pre-social media. They don’t talk to Millennials. If anything, they’ve taken the time to talk down to them… a big whoopsie, in my humble opinion. Part of that may be due to the fact that those writers who are mostly men… Not all… Sorry for you guys who have approached it this way. Women tend to approach a younger generation in a completely different way. They’re our children, if you’re my age. They’re the kids who we taught in school, scouts, summer camps, dancing, art, and music classes… So, you won’t find many women talking down to Millennials. We talk up to them, because they’re our future. One gentleman, whom I adore, is Fredric Koeppel. (He calls his wine site, “Bigger Than Your Head,” which – of course – wine is, as a beverage that you’ll never fully comprehend in its massive state of learning.) Fred’s a man who’s embraced social media and is adored by Millennials, because he’s never been on the attack. Lesson for all to learn, by watching our friend Fredric, with his mismatched, magic socks.

Decopas ~ Millennial Wine

Above proves that I do indeed throw history into my writing… Let’s move on to Decopas…

Their legend, and I couldn’t have written this any better:

“Decopas” is Argentine slang for “happy hour”

Their marketing:

Each day in Argentina, thousands of colleagues, family and friends turn to each other and ask: “¿Decopas?”  Buenos Aires slang for “By the glass?” this joyous invitation signals the start of Happy Hour! As bars start to fill and the wine starts to flow, patrons relax in a welcome atmosphere in which food, music and dance combine and culminate in lively conversation. It’s these moments—full of fun, friendship and laughter—that we cherish because they bring us closer together. So join us with Decopas and savor the good times …after all, Life is Full of Flavor!

The parent company:

Excelsior Wine Company exclusively distributes the Chilean wines of Concha y Toro as well as its Argentine property, Trivento, and the newly acquired Little Black Dress and Five Rivers lines of California wines. Expanding on a decades-long relationship, Banfi Vintners and Concha y Toro formed this sales and marketing venture for the US, revolutionizing the way brands are brought to the market.

Founded in 1883, Viña Concha y Toro is Latin America’s leading producer and occupies an outstanding position among the world’s most important wine companies, currently exporting to 135 countries worldwide. Uniquely, it owns around 9,500 hectares of prime vineyards, which allows the company to secure the highest quality grapes for its wine production.

The wines:

Decopas Sauvignon Blanc

While Sauvignon Blanc is an older variety associated with Bordeaux, development of it in Argentina has been slow. (It can be vegetative, and so this problem has had to be overcome).  Cultivation has expanded over the last few years in Mendoza, and they’re having great success with it.This wine proves it.


Light and lovely.


Lemony and tempting.


As delicious as its aroma suggests… Lemony flavors are well balanced. This one is full of flavor in all the right places.  I can see a Millennial party, where this one is the hit in the white wine division…

Sauvignon Blanc rating for my Jo Diaz Meow Factor:

Three Claws (See yesterday’s claw factor scale.)

The ending:

Lingering on my palate, I was reminded why I love Sauvignon Blanc, the mother of Cabernet Sauvignon

[Father, Cabernet Franc ~ Mother, Sauvignon Blanc… (Or, is it the other way around?)]

Decopas Malbec

Ah… Malbec, for so many years in South America, you were considered Merlot. One of the Bordeaux varieties, this one has had tremendous success in Argentina, to the point of me thinking… Argentine red wine? Malbec. This one is 100 percent Malbec and fits really well with grilled meat dishes or firm cheese appetizers.


Garnet with purple edges, medium dark.


Perfect nose, with alcohol being 13.5 percent the aromas aren’t masked in alcohol fumes… Dark cherries come through with great aplomb.


Sweet cherries woke up my taste buds, but a dry finish told me that it was a natural phenomenon, not tons of residual sugar. Simply delicious and characteristic.

The ending:

Smoky toasty wafting… a delightful experience.

These wines are available nationally, and sell for $12 a bottle… Very affordable and pleasurable, too.


Sauvignon Blanc,Wine

The Claw Factor of Sauvignon Blanc

What’s the Claw Factor?

Sauvignon Blanc is a wine that has a fascinating range and it deserves its own rating system, in my humble opinion.

On one end of the spectrum, there are the commodity Sauvignon Blancs. You know, the ones that have no character, no finesse, and something important is missing (like flavors).

On the other end of the spectrum, you feel like you just finished cleaning the litter box, and the aromatics of that are still lingering in the air, and now it’s on your palate. (Oh, God!)

Then, there’s that line right down the middle. It’s got character, flavors, and lots of finesse. And, the aromatics are inviting, green pear, apple, gooseberries, tart lemons, and all’s well with the world. (Yum…)

One day, it occurred to me that I didn’t like writing about SBs, because I might have to actually write, “cat pee.” I’ve had horrors about that one, since the day I read that when men curse or are crude all is still well in the world. When women are coarse or crude, however, that’s another bowl of cherries. To actually write the word “pee” would remove me from being perceived as dainty, feminine, or politically correct. So, instead of having to say or write “cat pee,” I devised a claw system.

I describe how much I enjoy a SB by the “Cat Claw Factor.”

One Claw = Commodity SB

“Did I order water, Ms. Sommelier?”

Two Claws = Commodity headed toward being a well balanced kitty, but not quite there.

“This has hints of being a SB. I can live with it, but it’s not all that la-te-da…”

Three Claws = Perfect SB

“Ah, I’m back working at Robert Mondavi Winery, and having a SB from the Tokalon ‘old vines’ block. Yes!”

Four Claws = Just off perfect, and headed toward the litter box

“This is like a day old litter box. I can take it, but I wish I didn’t have to. Make a note to self, ‘empty that thing as soon as possible.'”

Five Claws = It’s over the top with capsicum like 2-methoxy-3-isobutylpyrazine

“Call in the paramedics, I can’t breathe.”

The day I can tell it like it is, I will. Until then, it’s all about the claws, baby…



Wine is a civilizing beverage

I was just reminded that “wine is a civilizing beverage” as I tasted through some wines of Turkey. This was my very first introduction to Turkish wines. What it also did was unite me with a person whom I didn’t know, because I had written about the wines of his native homeland – Turkey. His name is Gence Alton, and he’s a neighbor, living in Santa Rosa, California. Who knew?

A bit about Gence:

My blog posting struck a chord, which struck up a conversation on Facebook, when I posted the following:

I love my job… I got to taste wines of Turkey for the very first time. They have a purity of flavors about them that’s very interesting… http://www.wine-blog.org/index.php/…/12/12/wines-of-turkey/…

These are our very important thoughts,

which related to world peace.

Gence Alton:

Great piece Jo, I thank you on behalf of my entire country!

Jo Diaz:

Well, that’s wonderful, Gence. It was a wonderful experience and an honor.

Gence Alton:

With all the adversity these days we need all the support we can get, our wines need the rest of the world to discover them to survive, a bitter fact.

Jo Diaz:

Yes, I thought about that as I was blogging… Wine is a great unifier, a civilizing beverage. People do not represent their governments, I’ve come to learn. I am horrified by the things my government does, in the name of all American people. It isn’t easy to pick up everything and just move to another country… Not when you have generations of history, children, grandchildren etc.

I also learned about life a very long time ago: “Life is full of war, famine, and pestilence. It’s my job to find my own happiness, regardless.”

My husband’s words of wisdom to me: “Worry about the things you can control.” I think this is about he same assessment. I love people of all places in the world. If they produce wines, that’s what easily speaks to me… It’s civilizing.

How anyone could not see the  colors of our diverse civilization as being beautiful is just beyond my comprehension.


Importer,Imports,Travel,Turkey,Viticulture,Wine,Wine Making,Winemaking

Tasting Wines of Turkey for the Very First Time

There’s a first for everything, I know. Never, in my wildest dreams, did I even think of Turkey as a county producing wines, which just shows how naive I am, even after 20+ years in the wine business, learning everything one step at a time. I guess after 20 years, I deserve to know more about the world of wine, even if it jabs me like a bolt of lightening. The only answer to “why” is that I take one region at a time and seem to devour it for years, before I move on to other places, most especially when it’s outside of my peripheral vision.

A bit about Turkey producing wine from the Wines of Turkey Website:

Right now, Turkey is focused on bridging the gaps between one of the oldest grape growing and wine making regions in the world, by eduction the new world about what Turkey has to offer. With an 11,000 year history of winemaking, and more than 800 indigenous grape varieties, this represents both the “oldest world in terms of wine making and the newest in terms of quality wine making.”

Turkey’s unique geography is bridging Asia and Europe, which is the physical location for not only being the cradle for civilizations, but also “this geography represents a unique fauna.” It has a biological diversity that is represented by 75 percent of the total number of plant species, which are entirely found in all of of Europe.

Important aspects:

  • Sixth largest grape growing area in the world (but only using three percent of it with wine making)
  • Original home of Vitis vinifera
  • Oldest civilizations with the most diverse cuisine
  • Unique indigenous grape varieties
  • Great tourism potential given the wines of Turkey

Importer: Vinorai.com wines

Turasan, 2013 Emir*

(eh-MEER) ~ Cappadocia, Turkey

From the importers’ Website:

The Emir* grape only grows in one place in the world – Cappadocia, Turkey. The Turasan winery is located in the heart of Cappadocia, giving it a natural advantage in producing the freshest and finest Emir. It is often compared to Torrontes and has been grown and made into wine since the Hittite era (1700 BC). Emir thrives in Cappadocia’s volcanic soils and benefits from its unique micro- climate: high altitude, hot days and cool nights.


VISUALLY: The wine is a light yellow in color, and is very inviting.

NOSE: This one had aromas that I’ve never experienced before. Slightly floral, but also influenced by the terroir’s olive trees… This is all in a very pleasant way, please understand. This wine had me needed to rethink everything, because of their singular purity.

SIDEBAR: I brought his up to my contact person Shane Rai, Co-Founder (VinoRai)

I wrote: These wines are wonderful… Could I actually be tasting wines that didn’t mutate upon themselves?

Shane: Yes, you are right – from all that I’ve read and asked from our producers, these native varietals haven’t mutated.

There have been some hypotheses that some of the natives, for example Kalecik Karasi, is linked to another Turkish varietal, but there hasn’t been any DNA profiling conducted to verify that claim.

Then again, the other famous indigenous varietal, Okuzgozu, is said to be related to another indigenous varietal called Kara Erik from neighboring provinces but some recent doubts on this parentage have been cast on that claim too.

With grape domestication having been traced back to 6-7000BC in Turkey, its not terribly surprising that not much detailed literature exists on this topic though there seems to be some increased efforts lately in DNA profiling which might lead to some new & perhaps interesting claims.

PALATE: The producer talks about Torrentes, but that’s not what I got at all. I got the most unusual flavors I’ve ever had in a white wine. It was like tasting white wine for the very first time for me. It was that unique for flavors.  Lichees nuts, white peaches, and star fruit seem to come to mind and palate, along with yellow nasturtiums.


Refreshing and thoughtfully lingering. This is a perfect wine for the Wine Century Club. When you’ve tasted this one, you know you’ve spent your money and time well exploring a new wine.

Turasan, 2012 Kalecik Karasi*

(Kah-le-djic Car-ah-ser)

Imported by Vinorai

From the importers’ Website:

Kalecik Karasi* is a blue-black grape indigenous to Turkey and known for producing fruity wines with low to medium tannins and bright acidity. Although compared to Pinot Noir at times because of its similar red-fruit orientation on the palate, in reality that is where all other similarities end. Kalicek Karasi is unique on its own. Red fruits predominate on the palate with characteristics of vanilla and cocoa undercurrents. Turasan winery is located in the heart of Cappadocia and Kalecik Karasi from this region takes on the characteristics of the terroir. Cappadocia is located on high altitude with limited water supply allowing the grapes to take longer in reaching maturity thereby making the aromas of red fruit, raspberry, red currant and cherry all the more intense and vibrant.


VISUALLY: The wine is light in color, the way I love a great Pinot Noir from California to be; ruby red in color and allowing light to beautifully pass through.

NOSE: Unusual and having to really think about it, because it’s so completely new to me. If I had a Turkish nose and palate, it might jump out at me…  Soft middle Eastern spices like cardamom seeds and Mahleb.

Mahleb is an ancient spice that is used principally in the Middle East, Greece and Turkey. It is the pit of the sour cherry. The aroma is nutty with a hint of almond and cherry. It is used in breads and pastries. Also is an excellent flavoring for sweetmeats. Mahlab, has been used for centuries in the Middle East (especially in Turkey and Syria) as a sweet/sour, nutty addition to breads, cookies and biscuits. This old spice has gained an American following with the new interest in Mediterranean cooking and is mentioned in several popular new cookbooks.

PALATE: When I tasted this wine, I knew that I was tasting history. There is a purity to this wine that seems to state,” this is how wine grapes are, when they’ve not mutated upon themselves for the last nearly 2,000 years.” Purity of flavor, with a simplicity of blueberries and cherries.

FINISH: Silky and lingering, with a slight tannin that’s holding promise for this one. Delicious.


Collection 2012 Diren Öküzgözü*

(Oh-cooz-goe-zue) 2012 Kirizi Sek Sarap,

Dry red wine

From the importers’ Website:

Founded in 1958, Diren’s focus has largely been on indigenous varietals. The 2012 Diren Öküzgözü incorporates Cabernet Sauvignon but mostly highlights the native mid-eastern Anatolian grape – Öküzgözü*. This grape typically produces medium-bodied wines with ripe fruit and spice flavors with plenty of acidity. This wine is lively and structured and due to its forward character can be enjoyed year round. IN 2012, a hot summer was followed by a cool, dry harvest allowing for long hang-times. Excellent structure, aromas, and balance are a hallmark of the vintage.


VISUALLY: The wine is dark cherry in color, telling me that I saved the heavier bodied wine for last. Not knowing anything about these wines, I got lucky in my tasting order. This wine is a gorgeous deep ruby color.

NOSE: Dark cherries and a touch of spice entice…

PALATE: The acidity promised in their own notes delivered. What a great wine for a beef stew. It makes me want to go out and find some Turkish spices to create a dish I’ve also never tasted. It would be fitting. The Cab is perhaps the tannins that will hold this uncomplicated, but very delicious wine.

FINISH: It’s now about five minutes since I tasted this wine, and I’m still enjoying the flavors… Seriously…

I highly recommend to anyone who is wanting to expand your knowledge base about wines to step outside of your own neighborhood (of knowledge) and go global. These Turkish wines are fabulous. It makes me want to plan a vacation to Turkey as soon as possible.

* Wine Century Club ~ I have now tasted exactly 150 different varieties, from around the globe.




Marketing,Retail,Wine,Wine Business

1000 corks – two things about that

1000 Corks

  1. Does anyone need or want 1,000 corks? I’ve just emptied a wine barrel with over 3,000 corks and don’t want to just throw them away. If you pay for shipping for 1,000 of them, I’ll send them to you.
  2. 1,000 corks, the Website


1000 Corks, the offer

Please email me: jo@diaz-communications.com

1000 Corks, the Website

where you buy and search wine

I was asked by Sam Ockman on Facebook:
“I was thinking about doing a little bit of p.r. push right now because it’s right before Christmas for 1000 Corks. But I’m not sure who to even try and pitch it to. I figured since you’re the expert maybe you’d know.”

I responded: “What exactly are you wanting to pitch? The Website and getting stories about you?”

Sam got back with the following:

“Just the idea that if you’re looking for a specific bottle of liquor or wine, there’s a search engine that will find it for you at the best price.
“1000 Corks is a wine and spirit search engine. It’s a passion project to keep track of the inventory of every wine and liquor store in the United States.

“A user can search for their favorite wine or spirit and find the best price. Or they can find where to buy it locally.

“Our goal is to be better than wine-searcher, while being completely free.  Wine-Searcher wants $43 for the professional version for a year, and we’d rather you take that $43 and spend it on a great bottle of wine.

“We think our underlying technology is better because we crawl every site, and never rely on outdated feeds provided by merchants.

“We invite you to try out our search engine by searching for your favorite wine or spirit. And let us know how we can improve.”

1000 corks.com

So, I got personal, with this question… Always fun to learn a bit more about someone…

“What got you started with 1000 corks, the driving force behind the effort?”

1) What got me started is actually answered here: http://1000corks.com/history

2) Driving force:  At this point the technology is really fun. Crawling 650 wine stores is sort of like doing a miniature implementation of Google. You have many of the same programming challenges, but it can be done with a really small team. And it can be really fun when I hear about a wine that I want to buy, and I use 1000 Corks to find it. I feel a sense of pride, like, “I made that”.




Italian Wine Equals Great Romance

Italian wine equals romance in my world. Why? I don’t really know, they just do. Perhaps it’s the past life I’ve had in Venice? Maybe it’s dreaming in Italian, but in my waking life I don’t understand the language, but in a dream I understood every word… So much so that it woke me out of a dream state into total waking amazement.

Italy has a way of bringing out the romance. Maybe it was early years when Gina Lollobrigida was a hot sensation in films during the 1950s and 60s; and, remains a beauty for those of us who knew her films and those times. Or, perhaps it’s the white stucco architecture with orange tiled roofs and climbing bougainvillea… Maybe the outdoor markets, the Mediterranean climate and the seaside. Whatever it is, it’s for real, along with the wines – simple and uncomplicated, pairing well with foods – makes me dream of Italy and leaves me wanting to go there… to write about it all from more than imagination… real time, real experiences…

I’d hug that wall, too, sista!

My wine writing friend and colleague Dick Rosano has just finished his second book based in Italy. He just wrote to me:

My first novel (and second book), Tuscan Blood, was published in 2012. You may already know that, but the second novel in the series of that I’m writing, all set in Italy, has just been published. Hunting Truffles is set in Piedmont during the truffle season, where the truffle hunters are in a panic as they discover that their usual harvest has been stolen literally from under their feet. Inexplicably, the bodies of murdered hunters turn up, but no truffles. A young man from Tuscany, in tow with his aunt and her restaurant crew, pursue the theft and the thieves through the hills of Piedmont and the wine and food of Italy.

Italy just brings out the romance in born romantics…

When the wines of Italy arrive on my doorstep for tasting, it makes a celebration. Here are the wines that elicit such emotion in my heart.

Let’s start with a newly received Italian wine: the 2011 Capezzana Conte Contini Bonacossi, Barco Reale di Carmignano.

[The image of the Capezzana Conte Contini family is borrowed from their Website.]

Also from their Website, which reads, Wines since ‘804. (Yeah, that’s 804, not 1804, 1904, or 2004)

History of Capezzana

Wine jars and tasting cups found in Etruscan tombs dating to approximately 1000 BC show that vines have been cultivated in Carmignano since Pre Roman times. More specifically, a parchment rent contract conserved in the Florence State Archives, dated 804, reveals that vines and olives were cultivated at Capezzana for the production of oil and wine as early as 1200 years ago. In the early Renaissance, Monna Nera Bonaccorsi built the first ‘Nobleman’s house’ and nine farmhouses together with wine-making buildings at Capezzana. Numerous generations and families followed: the Cantucci, relations of the Medici, and the Marchesi Bourbon del Monte. In the Eighteenth century the wife of Marquis Bourbon, née Cantucci, enlarged the estate and increased the number of farms; her greatest achievement, however, was to introduce exemplary administrative practices, evidence of which can be found in the estate’s historic archive. After the Bourbons the property passed to the Adimari Morelli and then to the Franchetti. Sara de Rothschild, widow of Baroni Franchetti, sold it to the Contini Bonacossi.

So here we are, with an Italian wine of great history.

Label: This wine is made from traditional Carmignano grapes (Sangiovese, Cabernet, Canaiolo*) by the Conti Contini Bonacossi at Capezzana, in Carmignano. The vines grow in the ancient Medici estate, the “Barco Real or “Royal Property” mentioned in Cosimo de Medici’s “Decreto Muto Proprio” in 1716. With this decrete, which is the pride of Tuscany Grand Duke Cosimo I*II set Italy’s first laws establishing boundaries and production standards for quality wines.

Nose: Bright red fruit with a touch of ferment… that aroma that tells you this is wine, not berries on the vine. Minerality suggests some clay in the soil, but there’s no discussion of soils on the Website, so this is what my nose is picking up and may not be the case. I also picked up black olives; this property has 346 acres of olive trees on their estate. In fact, it has more acres of olive trees than it has grape vines (247 acres).

Palate: Lovely, medium bodies appearance, fruit, and flavors. with a 13.5 percent alcohol listing, the toasty cherry fruit is just light enough to be a fine wine with Italian dishes of fresh tomatoes, garlic, freshly made pasta, and fresh mozzarella cheese all melting together.

Finish: Medium lingering in a very pleasant way.

Recommendation: Deliciously recommended as a wine to share with friends, as you explore great Italian heritage and foods with a bit of substance to them, at $25.00 per bottle.

Our next Italian wine is the 2011 Monrosso Chianti, Estate bottled at the Castello di Monsanto Monrosso Chianti DOCG (Sangiovese, Canaiolo*, and Merlot): ruby red color, aromas and flavors of ripe cherries and raspberries, crisp, soft tannins; $14.

History of Castello di Monsanto

From Castello di Monsanto own story: Aldo Bianchi, a native of San Gimignano, left Tuscany before the Second World War to seek fortune in the North of Italy. In 1960, he came back to the area for a wedding and was enchanted by the view from the terrace of Castello di Monsanto: all the Val d’Elsa with the inimitable backdrop of the Towers of San Gimignano. It was love at first sight which made him buy the property within a few months. But if Aldo was bewitched by the landscape, Fabrizio, his son, immediately fell in love with the wines he found in the cellar. Thanks to a passion for wine handed down to him by his grandmother, who came from Piedmont, and to an innate entrepreneurial spirit, Fabrizio, together with the untiring help of his wife Giuliana, started to plant new vineyards and convert the numerous farmhouses….and an incredible story of love, passion and joy for wine and everything concerned with it, starts from here.

CONTINUING: Right since 1962, the property of Castello di Monsanto is about 25 hectares of vineyards, adjacent to the rest of the lands, which are found within the area of the Chianti Colli Senesi  production. Here is where the youngest and freshest wine of the company is produced : the Monrosso. Vinified in steel with 12/15 days of maceration, it ages in Slavonia oak barrels for 12 months before sale.

Nose: Ruby colored fruit with a touch of earthiness… an aroma that speaks to a damp climate season. Medium bodied in appearance, invitingly promising a food friendly wine. Another Italian wine that is 13.5 percent alcohol.

Palate: Soft like a Pinot Noir… Could it be delivering that, because it’s in a Pinot glass? I’ve had several wine tasting focusing on which glass to choose with what variety; and, I know that a Pinot glass delivers wine fruit to certain areas on our tongues, eliciting certain focused flavors. This one, being in the Pinot glass, delivered plum in just the right amounts with just the right flavors… I got rich, sweet plums… period, and couldn’t be more delighted, especially given the nose of earthiness.

Finish: Medium with a nice toastiness on the back end.

Recommendation: Deliciously recommended as a wine to have as your everyday value Italian wines for pizzas, lasagne, and Italian dishes of fresh tomatoes, garlic, freshly made pasta, and fresh mozzarella cheese all melting together.  At $14.00 a bottle, this is a great find.

* Wine Century Club addition in the red wine department


Marketing,Wine,Wine Business

Weight of Wine Bottles and Being Unduly Impressed in a Time of Sustainability

How do you feel about the weight of wine bottles these days?

I know of one wine writer who, when the bottles began to take on the “Big Boy” effect, had serious issues right away. It’s only been within the last 10 years that wine bottles have put on the extra pounds…

As part of the fattening of America, they’ve been super-sized.

Are you impressed?

Do you pick up a wine bottle from a shelf, and make a decision based on the complete packaging, including that the wine bottle, combined with the wine within it, now weighs five pounds?

When I first started working at Belvedere Winery, a case of wine was 36 pounds. (Each bottle filled with wine weighed three pounds, times 12 bottles in the case.) When we shipped the wine, we automatically put the weight down as 36 pounds. Some marketing department must have decided that it wanted its brand to take on a new and improved persona, I’m thinking. I would begin with the wine (hopefully), and end with the bottle… Now, a case of wine can weigh up to 50 pounds. That means that each bottle became 1.16666666666666 times heavier.

But I’m still back to what’s in the bottle, not the bottle itself, having the quality that I’d like to enjoy. I’d rather have the extra dollars it takes to make quality of the wine be the real consideration. Does it take a “complete package” to sell you, though, on the quality of the wine within?

How do you feel about this issue? I’d really like to hear your pros and cons. Are you into the sustainability movement, which prefers that all things in life, including creating a bottle that uses less energy to create, and takes less energy to haul across country in 18-wheelers, be more environmentally conscious. Or do you see the heavier bottles and believe that what’s inside must be of a higher quality?



Books,Food & Wine,Wine

Holiday book recommendations for wine and food lovers

Each year I like to share book recommendations for wine-related books I’ve read in the past year, for those who like to up the ante on their family and friends’ wine libraries… The book library, of course.

Here’s my list and a paragraph about each one for new books in 2014:

Mint Juleps with Teddy Roosevelt, The Compete History of Presidential Drinking, by Mark Will-Weber

Mint Juleps with Teddy Roosevelt, The Compete History of Presidential Drinking, by Mark Will-Weber, is a well researched and documented history book, the likes of which we’ve yet had revealed. Enlightening, frightening, and really captivating, this book will never be pried out of my stiffly clutched arms. I think I’ll take it with me for fun and giggles in the great beyond, for sheer entertainment, when I meet this cast of characters on my advisory board.

This is an excellent resource, written in an amusing and entertaining way… A very easy read and even easier recommendation. Mark explains who in the White House abstained, who imbibed, and who over-indulged during Prohibition. Secrets revealed…

The blog’s full report

Have you ever thought about Making Your Own Wine at Home? by Lori Stahl

Making your own wine is done by a lot of home winemakers. And, if you’ve ever thought about making your own wine, right in the comfort of your home, there’s a great new book on the market. Written by Lori Stahl, and published by Fox Chapel Publishing, Making Your Own Wine at Home is a no nonsense book that’s a practical, how-to beginners’ guide. Lori gives us creative recipes for making grape, fruit, and herb wines. From Fox Chapel’s Website…

Lori spent two cultivations with Jim and Sandy Whitmyer at their Coopers Hill Farm, based in Lititz, Pennsylvania. This is where she gathered her insights and learned all of the nuances of their wine supply business. This was great background for then going on to write about what she had learned…

The blog’s full report

Fusion Food in the Vegan Kitchen and great wine pairings, by Joni Marie Newman

Pairing Fusion Food in the Vegan Kitchen recipes with some recently tasted wines was a great education for me.

Fusion Food in the Vegan Kitchen, published by Fair Winds, offers fresh ideas and flavor combinations for anyone, as it would for any vegan on the path of finding culinary satisfaction. The book is subtitled: 125 Comfort Food Classics, Reinvented with an Ethnic Twist!

I believe this book will be one of the best additions to your cookbook collection. When it’s all said and done, my wine and cookbooks will never leave me in this lifetime. I schlepped many of them from Maine to California, costing a bundle in shipping fees. They’re the books of life. Treasure your moments with your food and wine books. They nurture us in immeasurable ways.

The blog’s full report ~ I also include wine pairings for the recipes, so you’ll know how this book works for not only vegans, but guests who will love the vegetable dishes.

Reread: The First Global Village ~ How Portugal Changed the World, by Martin Page

In a historical time-line, Portugal has had pivotal dates and people, which have affected their country; and, in a trickle-down effect, world civilization. This book’s chapters outline the dates and people who migrated to Portugal, giving it such a varied culture. Each transformation, as adapted, has added rich fibers to the tapestry threads of these fascinating people of today.

On New Year’s Day, my resolution was to learn the Portuguese culture, which was inspired by this book. The titles of the chapters indicate each invasion and the ethnic traditions left behind as a result. To read these titles puts into perspective how the last (nearly) 3,000 years, Portugal became a nation set apart from all others, and yet has so many links to the past that many people can identify with the Portuguese of today.

The blog’s full report ~ So nice, I read it twice…

Wines of South America, by Evan Goldstein

This latest book by Evan Goldstein is just brilliant, but that’s what I’ve come to expect from him; and, that’s why he’s even more important to me than the books he’s producing… Evan Goldstein is capable of taking a book that he’s written and going on the road with the eduction he’s gained in the process… to eagerly share with the world all the knowledge that he’s discovered.

Wines of South America is now the most essential guide on this region, eclipsing any other bodies of work in my wine (book) library to this point in time, if not forever. If ever there is a wine educator extraordinaire, it’s Evan Goldstein.

The blog’s full report

Buy the Right Wine Every Time, by Tom Stevenson

Written by Tom Stevenson, and published by Sterling Publishing, Tom is one of the wine business’s most prolific authors. Tom Stevenson is a British author who’s been writing about wine for more than 30 years. He’s regarded as the world’s leading authority on Champagne; I have his Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia in my wine library; and now, I see him as a quintessential authority who’s simplified a process that has terrified more than a few smart people, by reduced buying wine to it’s lowest common denominator… He’s removed the vintages.

How can that happen, you might ask? We’ll, there are good years and there are trying years for each vintage, I’ll grant you that. However, each vigneron and winemaker strive for some level of consistency. That means that if you trust a wine brand for delivering great wines from one year tot he next, as best they can from year to year, so you’re going to most likely be successful if you stick with what you know.

The blog’s full report


Amenities, Supplies, Services,Wine

Spot-Not for wine enthusiasts

Gadgets, doodads, and fooferettes is where I’d categorize Spot-Not. I can be anal retentive about my wine glasses and decanters. I want them spotless. Did I want to dedicate an entire blog post to one product? No, how much can be said?

Then… I read the bottom of the E-Mail from Julie Weber: “This Wednesday [in mid-November] we celebrate the Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, and, as an entrepreneur, I believe in the consumer power. I am launching a crowd funding campaign on Kickstarter to let the wine lovers community decide if they want to see Spot-Not on the market. The fact that this was from an entrepreneur and a mother of four made me want to bring this product to your attention. She’s not reached her goal of $8,000 yet, so this might be something fun to get behind! She’s closing in on $5,000.

This project will only be funded if at least$8,000 is pledged by .

Spot-Not is a great gadget and gift idea for wine enthusiasts

I believe that this product is great, because I’m always having problems with my decanters with trying to get them spotless.

Julia Weber’s own words about about Spot-Not

Hi Jo,

I loved your article about  The Essence of Wine Book Project and wanted to share with you my project, Spot-Not  for wine enthusiasts and party hosts. It is a wine accessory line that dries and polishes the insides of  glassware and wine decanters.

Wine enthusiasts, winery owners and party hosts, all have experienced the same problem – white spots on glasses and difficulties drying inside of a decanter. I have found a solution to eliminate the frustration, save time and make the glassware spot-free.

The first product, Spot-Not for glasses, has a flexible multi-petal core which allows the dryer to adjust its shape to the inside of any type of glass and a re-usable washable sleeve which dries and polishes the insides of the glasses to a beautiful sparkle.

Another product in the line, Spot-Not decanter drier, consists of two main parts: a drying cloth that is inserted into the decanter and a mitt for the outside of the decanter. Both parts are made of highly absorbent microfiber material and have two magnets. The drying cloth for the inside of the decanter has a flexible core to keep them in place. It allows the magnets and cloth to conform to the inside shape of the decanter. As you move the mitt outside, the cloth inside follows, drying and polishing the inside of the decanter.

Both Products won prestigious international awards for design in Kitchenware and Tableware. As one of the most promising Canadian startups, Spot-Not has been chosen to present at the new season of the Dragon Den, a popular international reality show.

As a mom of four, I always have to think about multitasking and finding efficient ways to do things. The same time, I enjoy hosting family reunions, and having a glass of wine with my friends. Spot-not makes my life easier and allows me to have more fun with friends and family while enjoying a beautiful table.

This Wednesday we celebrate the Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, and, as an entrepreneur, I believe in the consumer power. I am launching a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter to let the wine lovers community decide if they want to see Spot-Not on the market.

Please, take a look at the Kickstarter page, and I will be happy to answer any questions about Spot-Not:


Best wishes,

Julia Weber

Inventor and mom- entrepreneur