Bordeaux ~ You Can Bank On It ~ partie cinq

In northern California, two well known appellations exist: Napa and Sonoma. They’re separated by a mountain range, the Mayacamas. (The Mayacamas Mountain name is thought to originally means “the howl of the mountain lion.” Lions still do exist on this range, you can be sure of that. I’ve seen my own and was wowed.)

  • Sonoma is closer to the Pacific Ocean, by 30 miles, and has its own Sonoma Mountains range for coastal fog to climb over… And it does, I can attest to that, living in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County.
    • Russian River Valley = Great Pinot Noirs and great Chardonnays
    • Alexander Valley = Great Sauvignon Blancs and Cabernet Sauvignons
    • Dry Creek Valley = Great Petite Sirahs and Zinfandels
  • Next are the Mayacamas Mountains, moving eastward.
  • Next is Napa Valley, headed inland to the east, away from the Pacific Ocean. Napa is still influenced, being only 40 miles from the Pacific. It also is influenced by waterways to the south, via San Pablo and San Francisco bays. Winds deliver moisture from a few important directions.
    • Southern end – Carneros Region = Great Pinots and Chards
    • Middle section = Lovely Merlots and Sauvignon Blancs
    • Northern section = world famous Cabernets
    • A bit generalizing a bit here, but the points are still well taken.
At the estate of the Bordeaux producer.

At the estate of the Bordeaux producer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And then there’s Bordeaux, with some places bordering the Atlantic Ocean, where those coastal influences are much more primary. But also consider this, as regards terroir, Bordeaux – as a singular appellation, unlike the Northern California separation, is subdivided by the Gironde River. To the Atlantic’s side is the Left Bank and to the inland side, is the Right Bank. What makes this especially intriguing, besides the years of winegrape growing there is it’s come down to this… If it is a Left Bank wine, it is predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon; if it’s a Right Bank wine, it’s predominantly Merlot.

With each day of viticulture, in any winegrape growing region, vignerons (viticulturists) learn by trial and error, which grape varieties grow best in the specific soil and climate of that region. Bordeaux certainly has the edge in history for their varietal grapes and are certainly well over experimentation. Let’s first think about climate’s importance.

Aspects of Terroir

My original story on terroir took a very long time to research and write. In fact, it’s just shy of 1,700 words, and I could have continued to write… But, this is a blog, not a dissertation. So, here’s the link for that story, if you have any interest: Terroir, what’s the big deal? I was very pleased to have Master Sommelier Randy Caparoso comment, “Bravo, Jo… one of the most thorough explications of terroir yet!”

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.

Add sunlight, temperature, and air streams to this explanation, and you’re beginning to get the point.

Those Who Know the Land Best

Vignerons get “terroir,” for which they – the growers – are also an ingredient. They work with vines each and every day. It’s like the Little Red Hen story. They do all of each aspect, following the outline of The Little Red Hen story:

  • Select the vines
  • Plant them
  • Nurture them
  • Irrigate them (if necessary, and where it is allowed)
  • 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

What Separates the Grape Varieties?

The Gironde River is the main river in Bordeaux. There are also two smaller rivers, the Dordogne and the Garonne, which both feed into the Gironde. These two smaller rivers are shaped a bit like the inside of a peace sign, or upside down “Y.”

  • When facing west in Bordeaux, looking toward the Atlantic Ocean, the “Left Bank” is south of the Garonne and Gironde rivers.
    • The wine must have at least 50 percent of Cabernet Sauvignon.
    • The other 50 percent must contain any variation of the following: Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, and/or Petit Verdot
  • When facing east in Bordeaux, the “Right Bank” is north of the Dordogne and Gironde Rivers.
    • The Right Bank wines are Merlot focused.
    • They also a good amount of Cab Franc, some Cab Sauvignon, Petite Verdot, and Malbec
  • The area in between the two rivers is called Entre-Deux-Mers (Translated: Between Two Seas).
    • It is a large wine sub-region of Bordeaux in south-western France.
    • Entre-deux-Mers is home to different appellations, known for its sweet botrytized whites of Cadillac, Loupiac, and Sainte-Croix-du-Mont; and table wines of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Muscadelle, and Ugni Blanc.

Next Monday: Bordeaux ~ Getting to the Bottom of  Left and Right Bank Soils ~ parti six

*Thank you Millesima CIE for the inspiration to learn more about Bordeaux this year. It’s working, but I still need to get to the bottom of it all, the soils.





Petite Sirah,PS I Love You,Wine

Petite Sirah Stakeholders answer the question, “Why do YOU make a Petite Sirah?”

To Petite Sirah Stakeholders

“Why do YOU make a Petite Sirah?”

The answers are a tapestry revelation, each an important thread, woven into our magic carpet called Petite Sirah.

A. Toraño Family Vineyards ~ Art Toraño, Owner ~ Healdsburg

We make our Petite because it is one of the most delicious, unctuous, voluptuous, dark, spicy, structured and sexy varietals out there. That is why our Petite Sirah is called Salome, all those veils of flavor you could lose your head over.

ARATAS WINE ~ Stephanie Douglas, Vintner; Matt Sunseri, Winemaker ~ Napa Valley

Why do YOU make a Petite Sirah?    Where to begin…

Petite captures the very essence of its American heritage; determined withstanding and loyal over time. She plays well with others but is fiercely independent. She is a bold, ambitious pioneer in the modern world of wine.

I’ve long savored scare Petites made from the small vineyards of Napa Valley. Rare finds indeed as many are reserved for the magic touch that makes well known reds so special. I love Petite’s heritage, tenacity, its intrinsic age-ability and rich redolent soul.  I find it innately satisfying when paired along side the bold flavors found in today’s eclectic modern cuisine.

I make pure, unique Petite. There surely is an easier path to success but few are as rewarding as honoring one of the great guardsman who staked California’s claim in the new world of wine some 130 years ago.

Petite purrs like the exotic rare tiger coaxed from the brush through deliberate patience, and gentle tactility. It can simply leave you awestruck when a beautifully balanced, and oh so elusive, single vineyard Petite quietly crosses your path.

Denier-Handal Vineyards ~ Dick Handal ~ Dry Creek Valley

We started making it because, as winegrape growers first and wine makers second, from the replanting of our entire vineyard we found the Norton Clone PS we had planted was the BEST grape we produced.  Every time some would make wines from our PS grapes the wines won awards.  Finally when we could we decided to make our own to our own taste.  And, it worked!

Harney Lane Winery & Vineyard ~ Jorja Lerner, Family Member, Marketing ~ Lodi

Petite Sirah is part of our heritage here at Harney Lane Winery & Vineyards.  We’ve grown wine grapes for five generations here on the property, and Petite Sirah has been an important part of the mix.  In our fifth generation of winemaking, it’s important for us to include varieties that are an important part of our farming heritage.  In addition, we love the deep rich wines that Lodi Petite Sirah produces.  It’s become a customer favorite!

Heringer Estates Family Vineyards & Winery ~ Mike Heringer, Winemaker ~ Clarksburg

Initially we planted Petite Sirah here, because it was well known in the wine grape growing world that it grows exceptionally well in the Clarksburg Appellation. We’ve continued to develop and grow our Petite Sirah vineyards, because of the incredible quality of the wine we produce from the grapes. Award-winning and crowd-pleasing, our Petite Sirah is the flagship variety of our region and our winery!

Gustafson Family Vineyard ~ Dan Gustafson, President of P S I love You, Owner | Vintner ~ Dry Creek Valley

We planted our vineyard in 2004 with Zinfandel and Petite Sirah. Petite Sirah  has long been considered a great blending variety, lending its deep color and complex structure to Zinfandel. But I chose Petite Sirah for its quality as a stand- alone wine. It’s easy to grow in our vineyard at 1,800 feet, above Dry Creek Valley. It needs no help from other grapes to improve the wine. Of the ten wines we make, it’s our best seller. We’ve converted many Cab drinkers to Petite Sirah once they taste [it].

Klinker Brick Winery ~ Steve Felten, President ~ Lodi

Klinker Brick started making Petite Sirah to blend with its Old Vine Zinfandels. As Klinker Brick’s wine club grew, we started looking for other wines to offer to them. We have some incredible PS vineyards that make great wine. The 2013 Klinker Brick Petite Sirah received 92 points in Wine Enthusiast recently. We like inky, chewy, bigger the better wine and this one is it and our customers LOVE them.

Merisi Wines ~ Mandy Heldt Donovan, Owner and Winemaker~ Based in Napa

Merisi Wines are artistically inspired. Named after Michelangelo “Caravaggio” Merisi, who was also distinctive from his peers, my  wines are nurtured to showcase the real fruit. For me, Petite Sirah personifies this spirit- a grape both earthy and dramatic, its depth and texture contrasted with the bright spices on the nose produces a visceral physical and emotional response when experienced.

Robert Biale Vineyards ~ Dave Pramuk, Owner, Marketing Director~ Napa Valley

We love to make Petite Sirah because not only does it make incredible wine, we want to keep it going strong in Napa Valley where it was a mainstay for nearly a century.

The soils and growing conditions in Napa Valley are perfect for Petite and create wines that are deeply textured and layered with wonderful blue and black fruit character.

Biale is leading the way in the category – with vineyards in five Napa appellations: Calistoga, St. Helena, Rutherford, Chiles Valley and Oak Knoll.

Long live Petite!

Stanton Vineyards ~ Doug Stanton, Owner, Winemaker ~ St. Helena

In 1971, our Family moved from the suburbs of Los Angeles to the heart of Napa Valley. Being just 12 years old I was intrigued By the expansiveness of the surrounding vineyards, and earned a little extra cash pruning our old, head pruned Petite Sirah blocks. Later, when I was old enough to drink wine, I learned to appreciate the dense dark juice that this variety yielded. Now, as a vintner, I can enjoy 10 successful vintages and counting of Stanton Vineyards estate Petite Sirah!

Theopolis Vineyards ~ Theodora Lee, Owner ~ Yorkville Highlands of the Anderson Valley

Because Petite Sirah is a full bodied and bold wine with pepper and spice, similar to my own personal characteristics.


Petite Sirah,PS I Love You,Wine

PS I Love You Members Are Taking It Up a Notch as Petite Sirah Stakeholders

PS I Love You, Inc. is a 501 (C)(6) non profit. This means that we’re a Business-2-Busness organization similar to the Chamber of Commerce. We raise money in order to create marketing dollars. We’re not raising money for the private sector, in order to help the disadvantaged.

Over the years, Petite Sirah has still had many disadvantages along the way; most important in disparaging declarations that Petite Sirah is simply a bastard child, as some have recorded it.

I’m sorry for being so indelicate in my last sentence, I really am sorry. I’m not the one who has made such a declaration about Petite Sirah’s authenticity. Petite Sirah’s stakeholders also don’t think of Petite this way. We want this kind of thinking about Petite Sirah to have its well deserved paradigm shift into the important, American heritage variety that it is, which it rightfully deserves in American Viticultural history. Syrah is considered a noble variety and Peloursin is considered a peasant. Oh… pa-leease… This is the US, we left all of that nobility stuff behind, the day the Mayflower set sail, didn’t we?

Petite Sirah is intrinsically tied to American Viticultural history in some very major ways.

A little more than 11,000 acres of Petite are planted worldwide.

  • 97,826 acres of Chardonnay reported in CA
  • 87,972 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon in CA
  • 47,827 acres of Zinfandel in CA
  •  11,000 acres of Petite Sirah – World wide

The Crème de la Crème

With 9,974 of those acres being planted in California, important stakeholders of  PS I Love You feel that it’s our duty and honor to be very dedicated to Petite Sirah’s future. We’re the guts and glory, who take investing in Petite’s future as our main mission. Call it a passion beyond winemaking, if you will, because that’s what it is… Our crème de la crème stakeholders believe that Petite Sirah is our baby to nourish, while we watch it flourish through its continual development to its place of honor. That would not be a distant cousin or an illegitimate offspring. It’s a place of important, historical significance. And many, many winemakers have taken the plunge, albeit very quietly.

Petite Sirah Case in Point

  • 2002 – 62 growers and producers of Petite Sirah were identified.
  • 2016 – (to date) – 1,092 growers and producers of PS have been identified.
  • This is a 1,661.29% increase.
    • This should speak for itself
    • Ergo… One might think our job is done, we’ve arrived
    • But, it’s far from done, we’ve just begun

Why? Because there are still people who misspell Petite Sirah:

  • Petite Syrah – with a “y,” not the “i”
  • Or, no final “e” on Petit.
    • If the “e” is added to my “Joe,” I just experienced a sex change.
    • If it’s left off a man’s name, pretty much, he also had a sex change.

This seems comical enough, and it is for me, because I have no male envy; but – the BIG but – wine media is still also saying (14 years later) that Petite Sirah is a “distant cousin to Syrah.” In my family, when my father and my mother created my siblings and me, we became their children, not their “distant cousins.”

  • François Durif’s cross pollination story is the real missing link, which means that some basic research is based on hearsay, not hard facts.
  • The wheels of progress are definitely turning very slowly, 14 years later for me as an advocate.
  • And… patience is still a virtue in my office.

While the exposure of Petite Sirah’s influence within the winemaking world has become strong, with Petite Sriah now being many winemakers’ “Pet” project, most marketing departments are not yet singing from one united hymnal. Petite Sriah Stakeholders are invested… It seems like such a silly enough thing to have to say; however, I wouldn’t have to write this, if we had the strength of everyone of the growers and producers passing along the right materials.

The strength of a group is squared the number of the group.

We’re 80 stakeholders; so, 80 x 80 = 6,400, giving us a somewhat impactful voice, but we’re not there yet..

I’m betting that I could go into many a tasting room, ask what Petite Sirah is, and get tons of mixed messages, with many of them being flat out wrong.

How dare I say that? I was once working beside a wine educator who was asked, “What makes this wine sweet?” The answer by the educator was, “It’s the type of grape.”

At the end of the day, when no one else was within earshot, I handed this gentleman “The Oxford Companion to Wine.” With 60 units in wine sales, marketing, vit, and enology studies, plus 10 years in the business as a Director of PR, I couldn’t just let this one slide by. It was my duty to turn him onto brix and how it affects wine production.

Plus, he had been really snooty to me, since being hired. I was completely respectful up to that point. It changed a bit, and I could now educate him, knowing his level of understanding Wine 101. Our relationship changed.

Sweetness in a wine is a very basic concept for winemaking. Petite Sirah is much more complex, because for so many years, there was NO education for it. Winemakers just made it and didn’t even label it as Petite Sirah.

John Parducci, of Parducci Wine Cellars, was a classic example. He made varietal Petite Sirah in the 1930s; except, and this is the big BUT, he didn’t label is as such. In the days, it was called Hearty Burgundy, and winemakers called it Petie Sara… And so did Foppiano Vineyards make and bottle Petie Sara, back in the really early days.

So, I asked our stakeholders a question, realizing in the process that a Q&A can be the beginning of a Q&A series. In the interest of trying to not write a blog post more than 1000 words, tomorrow Wine-Blog will have the results of “Why do YOU make a Petite Sirah?”



Books,Dry Creek Valley,Vintner,Wine

Opportunity of Circumstance, by Vintner D. H. Gustafson

I recently wrote about Dan Gustafson of Gustafson Family Vineyards and Winery, in a fun, astrological way… This Full Moon in Capricorn Celebrates Prominence – Dan Gustafson is in the House. I wrote:

The Capricorn personality is geared towards that of leadership and achievement, they always want to climb the corporate ladder and be the best they can be. Capricorns have excellent sense of time and manage it very well, they are excellent organizers. Capricorns are very creative, not spontaneously creative but it is incorporated into their time management skills and their ideas for executing a plan. Capricorns make good, wise investments because they look at the long term and what will be the most beneficial down the road. (From: zodiac-signs-astrology.com)

Yesterday was the full moon in Capricorn, with the effects of the full moon continuing for the next couple of days. Life at this time centers around being responsible (this is why it’s traditionally tax time), being patient, ambitious and resourceful, and it’s about loyalty.

I went on to explain my thinking. Little did I know just how prominent Dan Gustafson truly is, at that time, on January 24. It’s only two months later, and – wow.

Opportunity of Circumstance

Last night I closed his book called Opportunity of Circumstance, and was so delighted that he had shared his autobiography with me. At the PS I Love You in Paso Robles event, Dan was one of the 10 vintner/winemakers presenting his wine. As soon as he arrived, he handed his new book to me. I was taken aback, because I didn’t know he was even writing his memoirs. With a couple of books already on my list of things to read, I knew it would take a while. Yet, I was very intrigued and committed. It then fell into the queue, “So, what’s Dan’s book all about,” as I began his journey.

His subtitle My Legacy Letter to Family, Friends and Mentors now makes perfect sense, because if it weren’t for family, friends, and mentors, I might never have met Dan Gustafson. I’m very happy that I have… He’s a very generous and kind person, who’s given so much to PS I Love You; including being on the board of directors for longer than I can easily recall, and the last two years has served as our president, enriching everyone’s life in the process.

Dan’s life began in Minnesota. He came to Sonoma County as an accomplished landscape architect and a developer of more than 2,000 residential units, with a rental housing portfolio valued at more than $100 million. His life was also very challenged by a very difficult father. As I read about his childhood, I could easily draw parallels with my own life… His dad was hooked on alcohol, mine was hooked on speed, with a solid chaser of WWII PTSD. We were both being raised so far from each other; however, our childhoods held the same dark clouds. We could either cave or move on. Dan moved on quicker than I did, both of us just happy to “get a move on,” when we did finally leave home. Dan tells about leaving home one night at the tender age of 17, when his father was in one of his rages…

Dan writes:

I had confronted my fears and, though radically naive, with only a candy bar and less than seven dollars in my pocket, I set out for a destination that I alone knew.”

That was a hitching tour from the Minneapolis area to Dallas Texas, and it had the scary elements of my own hitchhiking days. It was very relateable.

Dan shares that one common thread within the wine world, with anyone creating a new winery as I’ve witnessed it in the last quarter century… They come in with a well appointed  histories, lots of stars in their eyes for starting over, and they’re back on the bottom of the learning curve for this new adventure. Unlike most other doctors, lawyers, and Indian chiefs that I’ve met and worked for, Dan’s learning curve was not only steep, but he’s also the perfect resource for the rest of them, because his skills can outstrip any dentist (for instance) who also wants to be a winery owner.

If he began a new venture as a consultant for people wanting to build a winery in the toughest terrain possible, how to work with differing soils at varying altitude and types of soils, plus a positive can do attitude, Dan now has the “Flying Chair Elevator.” Sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride. Dan’s got you covered, based on the hoops he’s had to endure, including Sonoma County’s rules and regulations. I would imagine much of the same is found in other locations where mountainous terrain exists.

His book is written in a very warm and somewhat tender voice. His studies in the divinity and world travel exploration make him well rounded, not the least bit bitter, and moments of some very dear poetry. It’s a book I could easily read again. Many people can relate to his book, for a cadre of reasons. I can, of course, because we’ve known each other for some time, but never in the course of that time, has so much personal information been shared… All of it falling into the category of “Who knew?”

I’m somewhat inspired to write my own legacy letter, but I’m still gathering data and writing for so many others. My wine blog may hold the secrets that my own family friends, and mentors might want to know. Who knows where the times goes, as the song states.

I’m just very delighted that Dan had the time to tell so many people what a great, positive impact that they’ve had on his continuing success. If you need a bit of inspiration, this book is definitely for you… for experiences versus self help exercises.

In typical Dan style, all net proceeds from the sale of the book are going to the Paradigm Foundation, a Minnesota-based 501 (c)(3) charity committed to reducing domestic violence.

Buy it, you’ll enjoy it and you’ll help this worthy cause that is the nightmare of so many children, who somehow manage to survive many of the things that Dan had to overcome. He’s awesome!

Opportunity of Circumstance is available for sales at the two Gustafson Family Vineyards and Winery tasting room locations. The cost is $24.00 and 100 percent of the net proceeds goes to help prevent domestic violence. All sales in Sonoma County are donated to Sonoma County programs.  Call the winery for more ordering details.

Healdsburg Tasting Room
34 North Street, Healdsburg | Open daily 12 – 7
Phone: 707.433.2371

Estate Tasting Room
Saturday 10:00 – 4:00 | Friday, Sunday & Monday 11:00 – 3:00 by appointment


Chile,Sauvignon Blanc,Wine

Wine of the Week ~ 2015 Casillero del Diablo Sauvignon Blanc from Chile

And you think that New Zealand has cornered the market on Sauvignon Blanc’s claw factor? Think again, friends. I just tasted a 2015 Casillero del Diablo Sauvignon Blanc from Chile, and it rivals anything I’ve tasted and really enjoyed from New Zealand, for instance.

Also, I love the new bottles. Fun and so Millennial.

Diablo… a bit of the mischief devil in every glass, a lot of the enjoyment some of us crave in our Sauvignon Blancs, naugty or not…

What I enjoyed: Cool, refreshing, and flavorful in my claw factor – with a score of “3” (perfect form), this one is Highly Recommended Sauvignon Blanc for those of us who like a perfect balance between fruit and its natural Sauvignon Blanc characteristics. The dry, juicy grapefruit is ever present, with lots of lingering flavors so classically Sauvignon Blanc. It’s the SB characteristic that gave a dryness to the crossing between Sauvignon Blanc and the crossing of Cabernet Franc.

A great Sauvignon Blanc is dry, yet aromatic and flavorful. This 2015 Casillero del Diablo Sauvignon Blanc from Chile delivers all that and more.

If you’re like me, with an insatiable curiosity for the lowest common denominator, you want to know “what is that chemical that causes this association with a litter box?”

My claw factor

Let me describe…

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.”

More explanations from The Week:

Cat pee

This is an alarmingly common term used to describe Sauvignon Blanc wines. The first question is, “How many of these people have tasted cat urine?!” I hope not many, but I guess they claim to know what it smells like. They’re really referring to a certain funky tanginess, reminiscent of the smell of guava or earwax [earwax?]. Apparently this is due to a chemical compound called p-mentha-8-thiol-3-one. Which sounds even worse than cat pee. But New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is crazy popular.

Let’s add to that a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, too, with this one. Let’s take it a questionable step further. From AromaDictionary.com

All the compounds and associated wine aromas mentioned above come from the grape, and as such are known as varietal characters. There are too many others to mention here, but one is rather fascinating. Cats urine does exist in wine! Well its smell anyway. Caused by the Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde compound p-mentha-8-thiol-3-one, this sulfur containing compound smells exactly like cat’s urine when in a particular concentration range. When weaker, it exudes the herbal scent of lantana bush, whilst when strong, it has an aroma that can be likened to blackcurrants. And where do you find it? That’s right, in the variety where wine tasters see it the most, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon (and of course in cat’s urine).

Thanks to Creative Palate for the sample.





Wine,Wine Astrology,Wine Business,Winery

Jackson Family of Wines, Go Get ’em in Oregon!

When word spread in Oregon that the Jackson Family was moving in

the entire state of wine was abuzz

“What’s it all about,” they whispered?

I thought, “Well, this is going to shake things up a bit.”

[Image is a Stonestreet cat, one of the wine companies that is now in the Jackson Family portfolio.]

My first interaction with Jackson Family of Wines was years ago, when I was photographing winery cats. I had put a book together and Chronicle Books was interested in my project. At the time, they already had a book entitled Cats in the Sun. It’s a gorgeous books of cats photographed  against a stunning Greek Isles backdrop. My winery cats, against the backdrop of mostly funky wine barrels, stainless steel tanks, and stolls through vineyard locations couldn’t compete in splendorous locations, so they passed. At the same time, my looking for a full time job in the wine industry also couldn’t compete with my trying to publish a book, querying every single publisher, until I would find one…

Instead, a short story was published in The Wine News, a gorgeous glossy magazine based in Coral Gables, Florida. It was a success in that regard. It was perhaps one of the very first integrated pest management stories. I knew of none, so I just submitted a photo for their last page, devoted to GrapeScape images. Editor Kathy Ferguson Sinnes – little did I know – is another cat lover. She asked to have a story for a feature, so I shifted gears and submitted it.

Jackson Family had a cat in my photos, and it was Jess Jackson’s daughter who came out to meet and greet me, as I photographed their cat. That was in Lake County, long before the family has also taken up residency in Santa Rosa, California… It’s only a few miles from where I live, when they purchased Chateau DeBaun’s tasting room.

The Jackson Family has played a larger role in my life than anyone there can possibly imagine; after all, I was only a background singer, in that regard… Still, for me, they’re a primary notch on my wine career belt.

When I decided to go solo and began Diaz Communications, my initial times had very lean days. I spent weekends at Kendall-Jackson as a wine educator, which put food on our table; and, it gave me access to their greatly expanded portfolio. It had copiously grown from the cat story (1993) until my solo launch (2011). In their tasting room, we were mostly selling their complete portfolio, so I had a crash course in holdings. It was so worth it for me.

What most impressed me, and still does, is that whatever they’ve purchased, they just leave in place. I can think of others who make a purchase, fire everyone but that “one person” who knows everything about the winery, and then moves everything to one central location. This is homogenization of human resources at its worst, only benefiting the buyer.

So, there’s K-J, just doing it right

When the Jackson Family moved into Oregon a couple of years ago, I was pretty happy. It’s a state that’s had a few decide to be very protectionistic, regardless of anyone else in the state. Any other variety besides Pinot Noir trying to make a stab at it, hasn’t been well regarded. Having a marketing giant come in is bound to cause some long-needed shifts. The recent purchase of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars is delicious. The portfolio has 14 designated Pinot Noirs; more red blends, Syrah, Viognier, a rosé, and a Riesling. they’re going to have a broad view. This is going to help a lot of wine companies, which have been so restricted.

It’s going to take some fun marketing to keep all of these balls in the air, and Jackson Family can certainly pull it off. It also takes the energy of an Aries personality to just keep this up.

Full moon of the month in Aries on April 22, 2016

… goes to Jackson Family of Wines. You guys are the kind of pioneers who are going to be crafting a completely new chapter in the history of wine grape growing in Oregon. It’s a very young viticultural state, and just moved from adolescence into a young adult. With its own wholesale company, this is going to be very interesting to see how shelf space is now divided. Right now, everything is dominated by a couple of wholesalers. This is a step toward helping to break up the monopoly that’s always brewing there, in so many different forms.

Read There They Go Again, in the Oregon Wine Press.

By Karl Klooster, July 2011 (and not much has changed)

Borrowing a saying Ronald “The Gipper” Reagan made famous when he was the occupant of the Oval Office, “There you go again,” America’s big beer and wine wholesalers are once again trying to ram through Congress a bill that would wreak havoc on small wineries.

Last year, the country’s mega-wholesalers, who enjoy what amounts to a monopoly in many markets, tried to get HR 5034 through. It would have allowed states to fundamentally alter the grounds on which laws and regulations may be challenged.

The bill was twice referred to committee. It finally died an ignoble death at the close of the congressional session.

Jackson Family of Wines disintermediated (removal of wholesalers in the three-tiered system) years ago. They’re going to give the state’s structure a run for its money, knowing how to play in the sandbox of, “Yeah, right, not… three-tiered system.”

Aries are activists. If a business idea comes their way, they tend to plunge right in. Aries are more then willing to take a gamble and follow their dreams and goals. Unlike some Aries who get bored with trying, this is NOT so for the Jackson Family, though… There’s probably a lot of Taurus in their efforts, too; as evidenced by everything they’ve touched so far has been built into a golden palace.

Let’s see what happens… I’m very hopeful for the state that it’s going nicely forward in a more openly accepting, Zen way.


Wine,Wine Business,Wine Writer

When it’s about passion for excellence, it’s about wine writer Cathy Huyghe

One of my greatest joys, as a more seasoned veteran of wine, is to have watched the next generation of  writers slowly rising to a “cream of the crop” level. I’m impressed when I see the same joie de vivre that I had when I began. Coupled with great writing skills, a desire to be true to one’s own self, while being true to everything that she or he has learned along the way, it’s just very gratifying.

I’m pleased to present someone so excellent at what she’s doing that she didn’t “get” my attention; her writing just “grabbed” it. It wasn’t simply and slowly noticing her, it was like a blot of lightening. I really enjoy having someone like this as a resource on my wine blog writing page…

Meet Cathy Huyghe (pronounced HOY-huh), contributor to Forbes 

Cathy Huyghe’s desire to write about wine comes in some serious layers.

  • First, she starts with her primary passions… wine and writing.
  • This is followed by her desire to completely understand what she’s going to be writing, so she researches.
    • To augment her process, she just co-founded a new tech startup called Enolytics.
    • This company helps bring the power of big data to the wine industry, which also includes Cathy.
    • Now, she’s prepared to write scientifically speaking about real time issues.
  • She’s a natural born leader, who’s shaping the future, while living in and writing about the now.

Writing about wine today, in this analytical manner, means that she’s delivering the facts… Remember Joe Friday’s “Just the facts, Mam?” Yeah… Cathy’s a journalist, and that’s what I’m talking about.

I asked Cathy my usual set of questions for wine writers. The answers are always fun. Enjoy her responses, and then you’ll also see what I’ve spotted… A super star. You can finish this story by clicking on the video below, after the Q&A. It will really put you in touch with Cathy’s sensibilities.

Writer Profile questions

[Q]  Many wine writers also have a day job. If wine isn’t your job, what is and for whom?

[Cathy]  When I first started writing about wine, I was working on a project in the Middle East for the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School. After that, I started a digital media company (Red White Boston) for the wine industry. I’ve also worked at a marketing agency and I’ve

[Q]  When did you start writing about wine?

[Cathy]  About ten years ago, when I was a new parent to twin boys.

[Q]  What prompted you to start writing about wine?

[Cathy]  I wrote about this “beginning” in the Introduction to my book, Hungry for Wine: Seeing the World through the Lens of a Wine Glass: “Wine opened the path to getting to know people better. Sip by sip, my interest deepened. Not my knowledge, necessarily – it would be a few months before I enrolled in actual coursework about tasting and analyzing wine. But I was laying the foundation with interest, layer upon layer of it, and lots of questions.”

[Q]  What aspect(s) of wine do you most enjoy covering?

[Cathy]  Definitely the narratives, and using “non-academic” language to talk about wine. Writing for Forbes in particular has helped me to use topics that an audience is already interested in – like business, innovation, politics, and technology – as a “bridge” to talking about wine. I try to meet my readers where they already are.

[Q]  How has your job changed since you’ve started?

[Cathy]  I love it even more!

[Q]  What’s the most memorable wine you’ve ever tasted?

[Cathy]  The 2005 Trimbach Muscat is particularly memorable, since it was the first wine to really turn my head. It made me get wine, and made me understand what all the fuss is about.

[Q]  What’s your favorite variety?

[Cathy]  The one that’s in my glass.

[Q]  Do you believe that there are better quality, lower priced wines today, than in past vintages?

[Cathy]  I like to think that wine is improving all the time. As technology improves, it’s becoming harder to make bad wine, and that’s something that certainly lines up in the consumer’s favor.

[Q]  What’s your favorite innovation in the wine industry over the past few years?

[Cathy]  Innovations in digital technology have been game-changers, in my opinion, for the wine industry. It’s incredibly exciting to see!

[Q]  What’s your favorite food and wine pairing?

[Cathy]  The one I have at home, at my kitchen table, sitting down with people I love.

[Q]  What are your interests outside of the wine business?

[Cathy]  I’m a wife, parent, and daughter, and the people in those circles definitely qualify as “interests!” I’m also a certified yoga teacher. The best days also include meditation, reading, and walking with Coco, my Bernese Mountain Dog.

[Q]  Who inspires you (wine business or outside of it, doesn’t matter)?

[Cathy]  I derive inspiration from so many people. Places, too. But especially ideas. I’m pretty sure I could almost survive on ideas alone!

[Q]  What single project or task would you consider your most significant accomplishment in your career to date?

[Cathy]  I try hard to produce quality content on a frequent basis. That’s easier than it sounds!

[Q]  For what would you like to be remembered?

[Cathy]  As the writer who showed up, and said the things that needed to be said. I’d also like to be remembered as someone who takes risks. Who truly listens. Who sees people. Who encourages and mentors other people to be the writer (and maybe the person) that they were put on this earth to be.


Alexander Valley,Bordeaux,Napa,Obituary,Wine,Wine Making,Winemaker,Winemaking

Bordeaux and the rest of us are silently weeping for Denis and May-Britt Malbec

This blog story began on Thursday, April 14, 2016. I titled it: Bordeaux, You Can Bank On It, Partie Quatre. At the time, I had no idea that this story was about to take a very sharp 180 degree turn.

[Denis and May-Britt Malbec at a reception for Respite Wines in Geyserville a few years ago.]

What Originally Prompted Me

Lately, I’ve been exploring France’s Bordeaux region. As a resource, Denis and May-Britt Malbec are my primary connections to the region, if I have any questions. I’ve worked with them in the past, as they’re  Respite Wines‘ winemakers. The brand is owned by Charles Reichel and Corinne Reichel. When they launched the brand, I worked on a story about the Malbec’s: Respite’s Extraordinary Winemaking Team Denis Malbec and May-Britt Malbec.


Respite Winery, an Alexander Valley artisan treasure, has an unusually talented winemaking team, for which there is no quickly recognizable parallel that will easily come to mind. It’s a combination that has deep wine grape growing and winemaking roots with both Château Latour of Pauillac; and, a European Master Sommelier, who’s won the Prince Henri-Melchior de Polignac award, for best sommelier in the Nordic countries.

This powerhouse couple is the husband and wife team of Denis Malbec and wife May-Britt Malbec, from Notre Vin.

I’m beginning to learn about the Left and Right Banks. One step at a time for me; I have the rest of my life to learn more, right?

I came to a part where I thought, “Denis and May-Britt!” I had just seen roses from Denis on his Facebook page, “Who better?” I went into my Email program and wrote:

Bon jour, Denis and May-Brit!

I’m trying to understand (for a wine blog story that I’m writing) the difference between Bordeaux’s Left and Right banks, in terms of terroir… mostly having to do with its soil composition. But, you might also have other insights for the Gironde River, with the Left Bank also having more Atlantic Ocean influences, and so much more.

When you have time, can you help me? I’ve been inspired to learn about Bordeaux by Millesima CIE. (You might know who they are, based on their New York City store.) I’d greatly appreciate your help, and I’ll be including you in this story.

Merci boucoup!  jo

By Friday, I hadn’t heard from them, also being very aware that we’re all busy and going into the weekend, so I didn’t press on. We were headed to Corinne Reichel’s house in the Geyserville hills, for our own private Respite. When we arrived, these two bottles were waiting for us on Corinne’s dining room table. “Sweet,” I thought, “but right now they’re too special to open.” I thought  of Denis and May-Britt in that moment, and smiled to myself. “So much love…”

By Saturday evening… I saw a post from May-Britt on Facebook. She had placed a beautiful pink rose on her timeline and wrote: Forever in my ♥ 

I thought, “Sweet,” smiled, again. “I should ask her if she got my Email.” I began typing, but then my eyes looked up to the post that preceded mine.

From Bahaneh. It read: So sorry for you loss May-Britt. Please let us know if there is anything we can do. You are in our thoughts. I then traveled upward and passed 100 comments… a very long stream… to get a grasp on what I was reading… Confirmed along the way and a little help from my friend Valerie Reichel Moberg.

Denis Malbec? Oh, No!

Yes. Napa Valley Register: 10:30 p.m., Saturday, April 16, 2016

The driver, a 45-year-old male from St. Helena, suffered fatal injuries and was confirmed dead at the scene, officials reported. The passenger, a 30-year-old male also from St. Helena, who was sitting in the front seat was transported to Queen of the Valley Medical Center to be evaluated, but no injuries were reported.

There are no words for someone so young, to be involved in a single-car accident that would take away his very breath … that could leave someone so sweet, so dear, and very talented as May-Britt Malbec. They’re lovers like no others. Best friends first, kinda love… One that was intertwined before they even came to earth school, and then bumping into each other kinda-love, in some wine world.

It is to be…

There’s nothing we can do to turn back time…

Here’s the rest of Denis Malbec’s early history, which I happily worked on. His childhood ignited the passions in Bordeaux.

Such a extraordinary circumstance

A profile of Bordeaux, as only Denis would know

Winemaker Denis Malbec was born at Latour, which means that he not only learned to walk in between the barrels and bike in the vines, but he also learned vineyard and winery management early on with his father, Jean-Noel Malbec. Jean-Noel was also born at Latour, working there for 47 years. His tenure was from 1947 to 1994. Jean-Noel was Cellar Master from 1969 to 1994; and his grandfather was Camille Malbec, who worked in the vineyard from the 1920’s, until the end of the 1970’s.

Denis first studied viticulture and enology in Bordeaux and later in Reims, Champagne. He completed his studies with a “Tour de France” of the vineyards with internships at Château Haut-Brion – 1988 -, Château Lagrange – 1988 -, the Pugnac Cooperative – 1989 – in Côte de Bourg, Léon Viollant – 1990 -, owner and wine merchant in Côte de Beaune, Duval Leroy – 1990 & 1991 – in the Côte des Blancs in Champagne and at Calvet – 1992 -, negociant in Bordeaux.

He started at Château Latour as one of the cellar workers in 1993 and took the position as Enologist and Cellar Master at Château Latour in 1994 and made the vintages from 1994 to 1999.

Denis came to the US, and those of us who got to know him will never forget that ample smile, so fitted to his wine’s style.

Bordeaux, You Can Bank On It, Partie Quatre: ~ Au revoir Denis, Au revoir, et à toute allure, mon ami. ~




Bordeaux,France,Imports,Merlot,Wine,Wine Importer

Wine of the Week ~ Les Hauts de Lagarde 2015 Bordeaux Rose ~ partie trois

This sample came to me from Natural Merchants. I was asked if I’d taste Les Hauts de Lagarde’s 2015 Bordeaux, which is both organic and verified as NON GMO. If you don’t know me, I’ve been as organic as I can be, once – in the 60s – a “health food” store opened. It wasn’t so much about being “healthy” at that time. I just am. It was about staying with the foods I had been raised on. New fan-dangled fast food read as poison to me. And, here I’ve stayed as much as is humanly possible, in the organic zone… And now the GMO free zone.

Example: I begin each morning with a lemon, warm water cleanse, followed by The Republic of Tea’s Downton Abbey Rose Tea, with drops of Aswagandha and Schisandra liquid that I add each morning. I’m serious about what I put into my body, because we STILL are what we eat. Only then do I eat breakfast, after I get through this routine. I even bring it on the road with me, because you can’t order these herbs on the road and you can’t always get organic lemons.

So, organic wine? Bring it on, and so Natural Merchants did send samples to me. Admittedly, the bottle went down very easily. With just a touch of residual sugar, lightly sweetened rose petal flavors were like delicate kisses of sunshine. It filled my imagination with tons Asian foods popping into my mind… (Tempura lemon chicken, for instance.) I’m not a big fish person, but I know those who are, this wine with a delicate white fish? Oooo lala… Seems so appropriate.I highly recommend this wine as being super delicious!

Technical data:

Appellation: AOC Bordeaux (Right Bank*)
Varietal(s): 50% Merlot
40% Cabernet Sauvignon
8% Cabernet Franc
2% Malbec
Vineyard: Situated in Saint Laurent du Bois
Production Area: 86+ acres

Winemaker Lionel Raymond, Chateau de Lagarde

From the family:

The family property of the domaine du Château de Lagarde has been built up over the years by successive generations.Today, in order to look after our heritage, we propose to carry on using a special mixture of ancestral tradition and the most efficient technology.

In 2000, we tend to believe that it was fate which made Lionel Raymond purchase Château Joumes Fillon (an organic vineyard). Because of Lionel’s strong beliefs in the respect of environment and the terroir he decided to convert the whole vineyard (130 hectares) to organic agriculture.  It was a quite a bet, and most winemakers in the area thought he was pretty crazy. It is twice the work of a conventional vineyard.

Located in the Entre-Deux-Mers, not far from Bordeaux, our wines have grown in the villages of Saint-Laurent-du-Bois, Saint-Martial, Saint-Felix de Conclude since medieval times.

The different properties of the domaine benefit specific conditions: special orientation of the vineyards, composition of the soil, humidity, age of the vines…These conditions are refined during the winemaking allowing us to offer you a large range of products.

Over 20 people work in the vineyard and the cellars, and consistently looking for innovative techniques in terms of production, vintification with respect for the vines, soil and environment.

Our wines reflect our “savoir-faire.”


*Thank you Millesima CIE for the inspiration to learn more about Bordeaux this year. I hadn’t read the wine’s varietal composition, yet. If I had, I would have realized that it was a Right Bank Bordeaux, based on the fact that it was primarily Merlot. So I search and search until I got the a map and clearly found it’s location. Next time, I’ll check the wine’s varietal breakdown first, but I certainly had fun in the process of a teachable moment.

Wine of the Week ~ Les Hauts de Lagarde 2015 Bordeaux Rose, partie trois



If you want the truth, ask a consultant, like D. A. Miller

I’m usually brutally honest, because lying is abhorrent to me. I think it ended when I stopped going to confession. As a small child, I’d have to make up lies; so I’d have something to discuss with the priest, who then would bless me.

“Dear Father, please forgive me, because I did this, I did that, and I did the other. “

I’d make up three lies, and then at the end of it I’d say,” And, I lied three times.” I’d be off the hook and out the door, shaking my head because of what the church had made me do… As hard as the truth may be sometimes, and it can be very hard, the truth is always easier. You get to move on and not spin a terrible web.

So then, I get clients and think, “Yahoo… the days of having my bosses get totally bent out of shape with me, because I wouldn’t stoke their egos, is over!”

Yeah, right… Not. There are clients who are only used to working with employees; and then with a consultant they carry it over to, “Me doctor, you nurse.”

“Hold on, Buddy, if I go tell Wine Spectator that Wine Enthusiast just wrote about you, it’s just wrong and my reputation for knowing what I’m doing is on the line. Sorry, not on my watch.”

Along comes my friend Darryl Miller, who seems to be cut from the same cloth, and that’s probably why I’ve adored him all of these years. Even Darryl’s friends are quick to say, “If you don’t want to hear the truth, don’t ask Darryl.”

Darryl Miller and I met when I was selling wine for the Hambrecht Wine Group (Belvedere and Grove Street wineries). Darryl was working with the Henry Wine Group, and was a great ally… besides being a funny guy. We clicked, and still get to see each other occasionally, as friends. We just met with my friend Corrine Reichel (Respite Wines), Darryl, his friend Karen (who works at Murphy Goode), and my Jose over dinner.

After many years of working with the Henry Wine Group, Darryl is back to working as a consulting brand builder. I highly recommend Darryl, if you’ve got a family owned and operated brand, and you need a great position for it within the over cluttered brands now on shelves. No one knows the market place better than someone who has been implementing sales for the last 30 years, and that would be Darryl.

When you hire a consultant, you not only get that person’s expertise and years of experience; you also gain access to that person’s relationships. If this profile fits your needs, and you want to fast forward your brand, consider Darryl…

From his bio for D.A. Miller… [T] 707-422-1882

Darryl’s a fine wine brand builder in strategic planning, brand positioning, and marketing. He understands how to position a fine wine brand for long term success, by growing volumes and building quality distribution. After working with the Henry Wine Group (HWG) for 16 years, Darryl recently started his own wine marketing business to help producers of fine wine—including start-ups, evolving and established wineries—achieve greater branding recognition.

This is not the first time Darryl has worked as an independent brand builder. From 1981-1995, his wine brokerage business covered all of Northern California, from the Golden Gate Bridge to the northern border, also including the Central Valley. He grew his company to 2.5 million in sales dollars, with 18 product lines and six sales people, before selling it to the Henry Wine Group in 1995.

Subsequent to selling to the HWG, a family-owned California-based company, Darryl ran the Northern California region as sales manager, supervising 12-14 salespeople. After three years of building brands in the territory, he went in-house and became part of the company’s brand management team as a portfolio manager. In this capacity, he furthered his expertise in all aspects of brand building, from fiscal management and budgets to market segments, logistics, margins, press, point of sale and strategic planning. He managed $28 million in sales portfolios.

One of the most important things he learned was the ability to analyze what people expect and need in terms of building their products into successful brands. The number and variety of products allowed him to see many different market aspects, mainly in California, but also nationally and internationally. Darryl managed portfolios for such high-profile brands as Shafer and Saintsbury in Napa Valley. In addition, he also managed import portfolios for Vineyard Brands, Eric Soloman, and Kermit Lynch, adding even more depth to his expertise.

His more than 35-year career in fine wine began when he moved to Seattle, after serving in the air force and attending Humboldt State College. He worked as a waiter, and then a wine steward at a high-end French restaurant, while selling wine for a wholesaler during the day. After his wine and food epiphany, when he realized this was his life calling, Darryl began to educate himself on all aspects of wine and food.

In 1976, he moved back to the Bay Area and worked for Ed Everett’s Wine Action in San Francisco as a sales representative, while still working at night in restaurant service. He moved to Sonoma County in 1980, and worked as a wine steward at the original John Ash restaurant in Santa Rosa. This is where he met many of his future clients, making lasting professional relationships. He obtained his broker’s license in 1981 and started his own brokerage business. His first client was Davis Bynum, and the second was Iron Horse.

With his broad background, Darryl is now on his own, brand building for small, family-owned wineries.





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