Movie,Video,Washington,Wine,Wine Hospitality,Wine tasting,Yakima

Cement Suitcase ~ A Wine Sojourn

Cement Suitcase is a comedy – tragedy about a character named Franklin. He works at a winery in Yakima Valley, and has to deal with life’s blows. It’s an award-winning, independent film about a tasting room manager and his humorous attempts to get control of his life. If you love independent films, and you love wine country, this one will make you feel like you’d enjoy going to this winery and spending time with Franklin. I can see why it’s won so many independent film awards. I also enjoy that it’s included the Latino culture as a lead character, instead of another person just behind the scenes.

As soon as I saw where the movie was filmed, I realized that I had been there… Both at the Airfield Wines company, where it was filmed; and on a separate trip in life, having also experienced a pretty good betrayal in love… Who hasn’t, those of us who have dared to love, and it’s ended up being with the wrong person?

BTW, the name of the winery has not been changed in the movie. It is what it is… Airfield Wines. It also has this splendid wine tasting room that you don’t see in this movie, because Franklin may have broken the wine glass chandelier (above) with his antics.

According to the producers: The best wine salesman in the Yakima Valley is headed for a breakdown, and only two people can help him. One just broke into his house. The other is having an affair with his girlfriend.

For any of my friends who have worked in a tasting room, you’ll be able to identify with many of Franklin’s insights; but also, you’ll think, “Why didn’t I ever think of that?” Franklin turns his tasting room upside down and backwards, reminding me of Bill Cadman (Tulocay Winery in Napa Valley).

I worked with Bill at Robert Mondavi Winery. We were both wine educators. He’d come in once or twice a week, and was actually the first wine tour that I experienced. New educators spent the first day “in the field” taking other educators’ tours. This way, we would witness how each educator had developed his or her own style of their basic wine ed program:

  1. Tour the vineyards for viticulture
  2. Tour the crush area for harvest techniques
  3. Tour the wine cellar to know how wines are made
  4. Attend a tasting, to put it all together

Bill had eyes rolling, having more than a few people asking themselves if they had landed on Mars. It was his description of the chemical process by which wine is made… how carbon dioxide and alcohol are exuded in the fermentation process. I can’t even say it here, because it’s a true Juicy Tale that won’t see the light of day for anyone on this blog. Off site, yeah; if I know you, I can tell you. Here? Nope…

The character in this movie also pulls pranks that are beyond anything I’ve seen in a tasting room, but the theatrics are well worth seeing.

Written and directed by J. Rick Castañeda, Cement Suitcase is a quirky comedy, filmed on location at the Airfield Wine company. Based in the rural wine country of Washington State in Yakima Valley, it’s won several festival awards for its story of someone who finds that it’s time to let go of some baggage. In the process, he can sell a lot of fantasies, along with the wine. It’s his own fantasy that must be rebuilt in the process, however.

If you’re looking for a movie that’s based in wine country and has the nuances of it as a subplot, perhaps you’ll enjoy this movie as much as I did.

Winner of the following awards:

  • Dances with Films Audience Award
  • Santa Cruz Film Festival 2013
  • Official Selection, Tacoma Film Festival 2013
  • Official Selection, Big Bear Lake International Film Festival 2013
  • Official Selection LALIFF 2013
  • Ellensburg Audience Award 2013
  • Director’s Choice Award Gig Harbor Film Festival 2013
  • Eugene International Film Festival Best Narrative Feature 2013
  • SLFF Seattle Latino Film Festival 2013
  • Orlando Film Festival Official Selection 2013

The movie is available on iTunes, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and a host of other cable and streaming platforms.

Here’s a trailer of Cement Suitcase.



Are Genetically Modified grape vines ever going to be good for wine?

Let’s consider if Genetically Modified grape vines are ever going to be good for us… In order to do that, we have to look at studies that are being done independently, many of which are happening outside of the United States, as regards other crops.

It’s also important to note that a study handed off to a university through a grant program by a corporation might as well read, “give us what we want to see, regardless of anything the research group finds.” That’s what has long kept money flowing into any university system.

Meanwhile, other countries are not vested in GMO crops, and they want to know all they can from the current US experiment of an all-age generational study, to protect their own citizens.

I can’t make it more clear… I shudder to think that somewhere in time, someone with vested interests in companies, like Monsanto or Dow Chemical, will come along and want to genetically modify wine grape vines. Look who’s presenting your GMO Answers, below. they’re not scientists, they’re major pharmaceutical/chemical companies.


  • Non-GMO project ~ Genetically modified organism: “plants or animals that have been genetically engineered with DNA from bacteria, viruses or other plants and animals. These experimental combinations of genes from different species cannot occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding.”
  • Science Daily ~  Cross breeding: Classical plant breeding uses deliberate interbreeding (crossing) of closely or distantly related individuals to produce new crop varieties or lines with desirable properties. Plants are crossbred to introduce traits/genes from one variety or line into a new genetic background.

Let me digress into some wondering, because it’s all in line with our most recent development with GMO foods and a government that is supposed to be protecting its citizens.:

Mother Nature has given everything to us that we need naturally. If we weren’t supposed to have wine grape vines, they wouldn’t exist. The same applies to medical marijuana. One has to ask oneself, “What was in those peace pipes ever so long ago?” And, why did marijuana become illegal shortly after Prohibition was repealed? Could it have been to continue to enslave men, since slavery had also become illegal, and prison populations began to decline after the Repeal… Just wondering here.

So, who’s writing what about GMO crops?

  • Collective evolution: 10 Scientific Studies Proving GMOs Can Be Harmful To Human Health = independent studies from around the globe.
  • GMO Answers: Founding Members GMO Answers is funded by the members of The Council for Biotechnology Information, which includes BASF, Bayer CropScience, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont, Monsanto Company and Syngenta. Our members are dedicated to the responsible development and application of plant biotechnology.

MIT, thankfully; but be assured, the GMO proponents will tell you that this MIT researcher has no credentials…

MIT Researcher’s New Warning: At Today’s Rate, Half of All U.S. Children Will Be Autistic (by 2025)

By Nick Meyer On June 11, 2014 ~ “Research scientist Stephanie Seneff of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a widely published author on topics ranging from Azlheimer’s Disease to autism and cardiovascular disease, raised plenty of eyebrows recently with a bold proclamation on autism at a special panel in Massachusetts about genetically modified organisms and other topics.

“At today’s rate, by 2025, one in two children will be autistic,”  Seneff said last Thursday in Groton, MA at an event sponsored by the holistic-focused Groton Wellness organization.

Seneff presented slides showing a remarkably consistent correlation between the rising use of Roundup (with its active ingredient glyphosate) on crops and the rising rates of autism; while it doesn’t show a direct correlation it does give researchers plenty to think about, especially considering Seneff’s research into the side effects of autism that mimic glyphosate toxicity and deficiencies.

The rest of the world is more curious and less vested in genetically modified crops than Corporate US, it seems, than we are.

  • GROUNDBREAKING 2013 STUDY shows pigs were harmed by the consumption of feed containing genetically modified crops. A long-term toxicology study on pigs fed a combined genetically modified (GM) soy and GM corn maize diet, by Dr. Judy Carman, Howard Vlieger, Dr. Larry Ver Steeg, Veryln Sneller, Dr. Garth Robinson, Dr. Kate Clinch-Jones, Dr. Julie Haynes and Dr. John Edwards. Direct link to the study.

November 26, 2013 by True Activist, Geneticist David Suzuki Says Humans “Are Part Of A Massive Experiment, By Arjun Walia

  • DAVID SUZUKI: “It doesn’t seem to be much of a debate anymore, it’s clear that GMOs can indeed be harmful to human health. There is a reason why a majority of countries around the world have permanently banned GMOs, so what’s taking North America so long? One reason might be the fact that biotech corporations like Monsanto seem to be above the government and influence policy, but thankfully these things are changing. Big Island, Hawaii has recently banned all GMO products and bio-tech company products. Various bills calling for moratoria on GE food include Vermont, North Dakota, Boulder, Colorado, San Francisco and more.”

(24th August 2014): Ecologist ~ Cancer deaths double in Argentina’s GMO agribusiness areas

Cancer Deaths Double in Argentina’s GMO Agribusiness Areas: A report by the Ministry of Health in Córdoba, Argentina reveals that deaths from cancerous tumours are double the national average in areas where genetically engineered crops are grown and agro-chemicals are used.

This comprehensive report documented five years of information on cancer cases in the province.

Am I nuts? Those vested Monsanto would tell you, “Yes.”

Lorie from Massachusetts tells it differently, and she’s been observing my communications now for a few years: “Jo, I just [want] to say that while we don’t know each other terribly well you are one of my favorite Facebook friends because everything you post is either beautiful, informative, or thought-provoking. Thanks for never clogging up my wall with useless crap.”

Another view from someone who comments every time I write about genetically modified crops: “Judging from your last comment, you don’t appear to me to be very educated, or perhaps you are willfully blind, but whatever your problem is, cancer rates are declining as per the CDC. And if it were’t for smoking, obesity, sunbathing, lack of exercise and poor diets, cancer rates would be declining more rapidly. GMOs have no effect on cancer rates, except fear of GMO vegetables could result in fewer vegetables eaten and as a result your fearful lifestyle increases your cancer risk. Darwin might predict you are going to go extinct because you are [your] thinking is illogical.”

It’s interesting to note that this person privately told me he’d not be back to my website ever again, and the popular definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results, as if he could “cure” me because – using his words, “don’t appear to me to be very educated.” (Thanks, buddy, my 3.894 GPA didn’t make it to 4.0, because I have philosophical differences with people like you, and I won’t bend just to be in a favorable light.)


Petite Sirah,PS I Love You,Wine

Petite Sirah, The John Wayne of Grapes, Is Our All-American Legend

As regards Petite Sirah being The John Wayne of Grapes… Imagine, if you will, being plucked from your homeland shortly after being born. (Some would argue that you were ostracized.) You’re brought to the Atlantic, where you board a steamship headed for America. You land in New York, are put onto the next train headed to California, and you never look back.

You’re Durif, about to morph into Petite Sirah,

and become an All-American variety

According to wine industry historian Charles Sullivan, Charles McIver of Linda Vista Vineyards (Mission San Jose) imported Durif to the U.S. in 1884, and coined it “Petite Sirah.”

  • Affection?
  • Size of the grape?
  • Couldn’t pronounce “Durif?”
  • Just didn’t want the father’s name to be dropped forever because it would make it harder to tell the story?

Who knows… That’s lost forever, and continues to be part of the mystery of ths legend.

What McIver is responsible for is that he brought the “Wild West” its greatest “Wild Child.” And, like so many others that have made the arduous, culture-shock journey, this is where it has ultimately flourished. Petite Sirah has been fully allowed to express all of its capabilities; not encumbered by what being of mixed lineage would have imposed upon its nature in France. Labeled in France as a misfit, Petite Sirah has solidly proven itself to be “The stuff that men are made of.” Its durable, strength of intensity, and the ability to weather any challenges makes it an all American hero.

Although its grapes are petite in size, don’t be fooled. This burly, manly wine has been able to completely express its concentration of color, flavors, textures, and tannins in ways that could only be imagined in its own homeland.

The American Legend… Petite Sirah

It takes true grit to get it, this Petite Sirah. It’s not for fainting ladies. It’s not for the White Zinfandel crowd. It’s for the cowboy or cowgirl in all of us. Fasten up your spurs, Partnah; we’re headed for a ride!

Did you know…

  • Petite Sirah survived Phylloxera.
  • During Prohibition, it was Petite Sirah that was the wine being used as sacramental.
  • It was the wine that home winemakers were being allowed to make and drink.
  • It was the dried grapes that were being shipped back east as raisins (for reconstituting).
  • And, it was the grape that Napa Valley was planted to by 60 percent in the 1960s.


Cabernet Sauvignon,Chardonnay,Diaz Communications,Mendocino County,Petite Sirah,Pinot Noir,PS I Love You,Wine,Winemaker,Winery

If you want a Moniker Wine, name it that… Moniker Wines

MONIKER WINE: it’s not brain surgery, people, but look how long it took someone to come up with the actual moniker as a wine brand. Now that it’s out there, the rest of us are all slapping our foreheads.

Leave it to the folks at Mendocino Wine Company, to branch out into the Moniker realm. I remember when I wrote about Petite Sirah being the John Wayne of wine varieties. I put it out to all of the members to use that as branding… And it was branded by the Mendocino Wine Company. (It’s so great when someone is actually paying attention and understands a good idea.)

Owner Tim Thornhill came to an event that I was holding in Orlando at Universal Studios, being put on by the National Pork Board. The members of PS I Love You were pouring their wines to go along with chef’s dishes. It was then that I learned of Tim’s sharp wit and great marketing savvy. Now, his next generation has joined his wine company… Chase Thornhill, his son, has been given Moniker Wines to market, among his other duties, and success will be his. According to Chase, “Moniker wines represent the best of our family, our desire to do right by our land and by our community.”

The Thornhills have really put their best foot forward with Moniker wine.

Moniker Estates winemaker is Mark Beaman. Mark has always had deep connections to land through his passion for agriculture. He grew up in Walla Walla, Washington, and his family members were wheat farmers. What I really like most about Mark is that the did something that I could only imagine (I didn’t have the guts). He joined the Peace Corps, and worked on soil conservation projects in Tanzania. That kind of dedication and empathy is what I’d like to know a winemaker has experienced… where he’s also worked outside of his comfort zone and wine disciplines.

This is a family affair, currently involving three generations of Thornhills… Ann and Tommy Thornhill, Jr. are the grandparent generation, bothers Tim and Tom (the III) are brothers, and their youngest generation involves Kate Thornhill-Beaman and Chase Thornhill. I can appreciate family working together, because my three daughters have all been helping Diaz Communications at one time or another, between mothering and launching other dream careers. When the Thornhills invested Parducci Wine Cellars, Tom will tell you, “We were looking for a community in which we could make a positive impact and bring our family together.”

Of Moniker, Tim is quoted as saying (and I can hear him saying it), “I learned young that when someone told me I should not do something, it did not mean I could not do it. This spirit lead me to do things like move giant trees, saving and preserving enormous living things. This same innovative spirit permeates the family and Moniker.”

These are very classy wines,

from a classic American family

2012 Moniker Chardonnay, Mendocino County ~ Ripe and resplendent, Golden Delicious apples with a bit of toasty almond on the finish… I’m thinking of the Cambodian Glass Noodle dish at Chinos Asian Bistro. Wine and food porn in your mouth… yeah, that delicious.

2012 Moniker Pinot Noir, Mendocino County ~ This is a hearty and rustic Pinot for me, destined for barbeques of the best kind… with Pulled Pork Sliders. The American oak is what gives it that rustic, American-style edge. Its spice is evident and part of its appeal. Still within the 13 percent alcohol, it’s a wine with great depth.

2011 Moniker Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendocino County ~ Lots of tannic backbone, so either lay it down for a while, or use an aerator to give yourself the most enjoyment for its big, opulent flavors of cassis, blackberries, and a hint of cigar box.This is a big, complex wine.

You could also do what a friend of ours used to always do, back in our rock and roll days. Roman Marcinkiewicz, then of MCA Records, who is now at Masciarelli Wine in Florida, would call a restaurant to make a reservation for that evening, and ask the wine steward to open the wine at 10:00 a.m. for our 7:00 p.m. dinner enjoyment. We’d chuckle at Roman at the time… We were all rockers, we didn’t get the “fine wine” thing. Now we’ve joined the ranks and are making the same recommendations, when a wine calls for it. (Thanks, Roman, for leading the way!)

Do yourself a favor and enjoy a little Moniker… Wines with lower alcohol are always pleasant to the palate and always very food friendly.


Books,Cabernet Sauvignon,Wine,Winemaker,Winemaking,Zinfandel

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

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…

It’s easier than you think to make wonderful wine at home. Get started today with this practical guide to making your first bottle of perfect homemade wine. Author Lori Stahl demystifies essential winemaking techniques with friendly, jargon-free instructions and gorgeous color photography. She begins by taking you step by step through making wine from a kit, and then shows you how to go beyond the kit with creative additions. Soon you’ll be making your own flavorful wine from fresh grapes, apples, berries, and even flowers and herbs. This home winemaking companion offers a wide selection of seasonal winemaking recipes, new twists on traditional favorites, and sweet ways to enjoy and indulge in the wines you create. Even if you have never made wine before, Making Your Own Wine at Home will show you everything you need to master an intriguing and rewarding new hobby – See more

I brought this book with me on a trip to Colorado to visit my kids. A good read is always fun to do and quickly passes the time on any flight, right?  This book made the time slip away so quickly that when we hit the ground, I didn’t even realize we were landing and had arrived. I didn’t hear any of the, “Please make sure your seatbelt is securely fastened, and your tray table is stowed for landing, and your seat is in an upright position.” No dinging of bells, no seeing flight attendants taking away superfluous materials… nothing. I was completely engrossed, and thinking about how much anyone wanting to make wine would also love this book.

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… Images in the book are great, by the way. And, she’s written the book to give others the freedom and confidence to play with winemaking, in a step-by-step easy to understand program. If you’ve been toying with making your own wine, just do it with the help of this book. I don’t think it could be more simple, inspiring, and all-encompassing for anything else I haven’t mentioned, with this new companion guide.

Lori lists how to make the following Vitis vinifera, with the Concord grape being only exception to Vitis vinifera:

  • Zinfandel
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Seyval Blanc
  • Vidal Blanc
  • Riesling
  • Concord (Vitis labrusca, not Vitis vinifera, like the others above)

If you’re on the East Coast, there are markets where you can purchase grapes grown in California and delivered to you. Our Wooden Valley Winery client from Suisun Valley (another client) has been shipping grapes to the East Coast for years, and has been very successful. There are many home winemakers who bow to the altar of Wooden Valley, and I understand why. These are amazing grapes being shipped off to help those who don’t live out here to actualize their dreams.

Okay, herb wine is a new concept to me, but I do smell a great holistic brew happening here. We’re in the month of October, right? Could be the season of the…

SIDEBAR: My great grandfather John Clarke, who immigrated from Scotland in the 1670s, was in Salem during the witch trials. There’s no mention of his name in any of the history books on Salem’s trials. If I had been born during that time, I would have altered that part of history as being one more of the women who were free spirits and tinkering with herbs, as I do today. If I had had this book’s knowledge back then, I would have been burned at the stake for making herb wine… Oh, yeah.


GMO,Wine,Wine Blogger,Wine Business

Nine years of wine blogging, should I have just written a book?

I’m reflecting on nine years of wine blogging this morning… having started just about this time nine years ago, in terms of thinking I should, and then getting Jose to build a site for me. I’ve had about four wine blog sites in the process. In 2005, I eagerly waited to write that first story, as Jose set up my blog.  It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that my first story was about Petite Sirah. I simply called it, “What is Petite Sirah.” All of it is still true, with most of it still being misunderstood. I just saw a wine writer of major impact write about “Petite syrah,” as he called it.

Do wine writers really read press releases?

I’ve written 500 of 2,100 stories with Petite Sirah mentioned, if not completely about Petite, while wine blogging.

[Image of Weather Report from the Allmusic.com Website, with photo credit for Sam Emerson.]

Jose told a story to me, when we first met, and I still remember most details of it.

The Time

Jose was at Bowdoin College and had an interview set up (independent study program) with saxophonist Wayne Shorter, in Marblehead, Massachusetts, at Lenny’s On The Turnpike. Some of you, like Cyril Penn, may remember Wayne from his days of launching Weather Report. I’ve long looked for this saying’s credit being given to Wayne; but, in a conversation this morning with Jose, he told me that Wayne simply said this to him in passing. It’s not a saying that has had major impact with anyone beyond Jose and/or me, that we know of… But it’s a powerful statement. Jose didn’t think so this morning, when I told him that it’s a very impactful statement. He thought that it was sort of light and breezy, I guess, but I told him that it’s not been something he’s ever forgotten from that interview. Also, I’ve heard him say this to others at least 100 times, since we’ve been together (1976).

It’s not he who comes on strongest. It’s he who lasts longest.

I would say that that’s my claim to fame… I’ve just been here since the early beginning of Web 2.0. I’m definitely not the strongest voice; but by virtue of tenacity, I’m one of the longest. I’ve had very little impact with the masses, because I’m not trying to build an audience. I’m simply writing a journal about being a wine publicist, being in this business, and the things that impact me from day to day… If you’re reading this, you’re reading my diary… period.

Mostly, what I get is that I’m one of the ones who has currently lasted longest. I don’t have a single focus. I write about anything I darn well please… In fact, wine blogging is all about my personal freedom. Words just come, versus a writing assignment where I have to watch my tone, the words I chose, and/or will a client approve of it or tear it all apart.

I had one client once who said to me, after my first press release was written for him, which I thought was pretty darn good, “This is the worst writing I’ve ever seen.” Needless to say, this client only lasted a few of months; a great relief to us both, I’d say.

I’ve also had a couple of commenters on my blog tell me how stupid I am. I know my IQ and choose not to prove what my intelligence quotient is… or is not, so it rolls off my back.

The difference between both circumstances?

  1. Clients pay me, I have to care.
  2. Commenters don’t pay me, I could give a flying rat’s patutie.
    • I also find some amusement in those who decide to deride me.
    • They may get my goat (for a short time frame), but they don’t get my mind.

That’s the charm of wine blogging… We’re able to write and we’re not accountable to anyone… no clients, no deadlines, no assignments… and judgments are subjective, which I remind myself to not take personally. They impact nothing, except that they allow someone to vent. (Public service)

I have an ongoing debate with one person, who actually thought he’d never read my blog again, but keeps coming back to it… And I’m actually finding myself beginning to like the guy. We just had this exchange. I’ve gone to look him up, because initially one asks oneself, “Who is his guy, anyway.” Turns out that he’s had a pretty interesting life. Here’s the exchange, demonstrating how fascinating for me that comments through feedback also are, as part of blogging:

It has to do with my ranting about genetically modified organisms, which I really don’t want to see happening to grape vines. He thinks that it would be great, if they could “cure” Pierce’s disease, for instance. I say, find a natural, existing way… (I believe when I studied viticulture, we talked about companion planting… but, it’s been a while.)


And coffee is ten times more carcinogenic than glyphosate. The same International agency tells us our cell phones cause cancer. Dr Bruce Ames, who created the carcinogenicity test, the Ames Test, is quite clear that 50% of all substances he tested, both synthetic and naturally occurring, are carcinogenic. Let’s put this in context. I am still using my cell phone. And glyphosate is still helping reduce greenhouse gases by reducing tillage and fossil fuel use and increasing yields.

My Answer:

Dear John,

We have to stop meeting like this… Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

I thought of you the other day when I read something to the following effect, paraphrasing: For every professional opinion that you’ll find on one side of an issue, you will also find as many professional opinions from the opposing side.

I’ve stopped drinking coffee for the reason you’ve stated (not easy to do, because there’s an entire culture that goes along with that decision). I only use my cell phone for that very reason you’ve stated (frustrating my family to no end, because more than half of the time my battery is dead, with my husband reminding me, “I hope you never NEED your phone”). It’s very easy for me to not use. I like my time away from client needs and wants, because I work hard and long hours. The increasing yield thing? It’s proving otherwise and time will win/prove the battle.

When I put it into context, too, I see an entire generation being experimented upon. This, for me, is the most frightening and unconscionable part of this entire GMO experiment. You and I are never going to come into agreement on this. I do, however, enjoy your popping up for time to time, to create the other side of the coin. Both sides of the issue are equally important, I grant you that.

Yeah, nine years later, wine blogging is still interesting and my current hobby. I wonder what the next one will be? I was once a model and I was once a dancer. I once played the piano (not very well, but for a long time). I once was a very prolific clothing designer/seamstress (successfully), and I was once a very prolific knitter. I once worked with sisal and jute, creating baskets, and I was also a potter. Now, it’s writing. I’ve dreamed of painting… could it be that, when wine blogging has run its course?


Food & Wine,Petite Sirah

Melting Pot Cooking: Joyce Goldstein and Petite Sirah

Renowned chef and cookbook author Joyce Goldstein excitedly applauds the new food craze of “melting pot cooking” and her experiments with Petite Sirah.

“Petite is a niche variety perfectly matched for this cuisine,” stated Goldstein at the Tenth Annual Petite Sirah Symposium. Concannon Vineyard, the first winery in the world to varietally label Petite Sirah, hosted this annual event for years, with Foppiano Vineyards having initiated it in 2002. I was the program director for all of the symposiums.

Each year it was designed to educate winemakers on how best to craft their Petite Sirahs and to also offer ways to entice chefs and consumers to become fans of this intriguing wine.

Darrell Corti of Corti Brothers in Sacramento recently said of Petite Sirah:

October 03, 2014
“Feast Q&A: Darrell Corti talks farm-to-fork and ‘Legends of Wine’ event”
Sacramento Bee
Chris Macias
How about a red grape varietal that signifies the Sacramento area? Petite sirah. How could this have happened? Petite sirah sells incredibly better than syrah and it wasn’t supposed to be like that. Petite sirah almost became extinct in California. It can be dense, inky and thick and unappealing. Curiously, in areas where people have (success) with it, like Clarksburg, the wine is not like that. There’s a certain lightness to the wine. I think the producers started looking at this wine [via the symposiums], which was used primarily for blending, and it was terrific for giving color, and realized it needs a lighter hand in making it.

What better way to educate winemakers and marketers about what pairs well with Petite Sirah, than to bring in someone with Joyce Goldstein’s credentials? A consultant to the restaurant and food industries, Joyce excels in recipe development, menu design, and staff training. She improves existing recipes, adds new ones to complement the menu, and works with a culinary staff to refine flavors and successful execution.

“Petite is ‘the’ consummate wine match for these new recipes,” was heard over and over again… Food, food, food… Flavor, flavor, flavor… Petite, Petite, Petite. “All the flavors that are in these dishes are the same exact flavors that describe your wines.” Hitch your pony to this star, was Goldstein’s basic assessment, and you’ll be well on your way. “Petite Sirah is not shy,” she explained. It has a lot of bigger and fruitier flavors, and she noticed some smoke with it. “I love to play with foods that have some smoky elements.” The clues, according to Goldstein, are for winemakers to look for these same spices in their wines that are also in food dishes with the same components; like clove, peppercorn, ginger, five spice powder, cumin, cocoa, currants, and cinnamon. The flavors that are in Petite Sirah are also in these melting pot dishes. She offered a plethora of dishes, while winemakers wrote feverishly.

Melting pot cooking is a craze that’s borne from multicultural diversity. It’s a phenomenon from a new generation of chefs who are experimenting with their families’ traditional recipes, and playing with flavors that are fun and creative by introducing alternative, ethnic twists. “Korean tacos are a great example,” stated Goldstein, at the symposium.

Another example of melting pot cooking is Concannon Vineyard’s Petite Sirah paired with a Cuban beef stew – Ropa Vieja – with California fusion. Petite Sirah braised flank steak with ground cumin and peppercorns among other spices and tasty ingredients, meld together perfectly with tomato sauce and beef broth in a slow cooker. (Full recipe available on www.ConcannonVineyard.com).

Winemakers learned that multiculturalism has become so dominant today that we’re seeing recipes pop up which we’d never expect to see. And, they’re all just begging for a wine that’s so completely diverse. What could be better than an immigrant wine that’s also multicultural: Persian derivation, European cross-fertilization (Syrah and Peloursin), and an American transplant?

This parallel is a perfect voyage describing not only Melting Pot Cooking, but also Petite Sirah. Joyce Goldstein’s message was “claim it and you’ll own it.”

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Napa Valley Wine Academy, from near and afar, you too, can learn more about wine

The Napa Valley Wine Academy wants you to immerse yourself in the exciting world of food and wine in the heart of wine country. While their courses are taught at some of Napa Valley’s best wineries, they’re also located in Tampa, Florida, and you can take courses online.

After having immersed my own self in the last 22 years, I understand the excitement that goes along with the wine business; and, as my daughter Melanie just pointed out to me, this business is also loaded with drama. I hadn’t thought about the drama part, but I certainly got it, as soon as she mentioned it.  I’ve been writing stories ever since I got here, and “not writing the worst of them,” said she, shaking her head. (Juicy Tales unplugged would get me into deep trouble… perhaps a novel would be in the offing, though.)

More information from the Napa Valley Wine Academy if you’re not familiar and you’re interested in your dramatic moments.

CSW – Certified Specialist of Wine Program: Our intensive test prep program is intended to give CSW Candidates the advantage of personalized instruction and a comprehensive understanding of the exam material. Our students gain a solid understanding of the world of wine that will help them progress in their drinks career, as well as become part of a network of wine professionals.

Upcoming Napa Valley Courses

  • November 5-8, 2014
  • February 18-21, 2015

Level 1: WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) Award in Wine – Intro to Wine is a  great way to jump start your career in wine. This class provides a basic introduction to the main styles of wines available today.  Level 1 is ideal for those who want to learn more for either personal knowledge, or to boost wine confidence.

Upcoming Napa Valley Courses

  • Saturday, October 11th, 2014
  • Saturday, November 15, 2014
  • Saturday, December 13th, 2014
  • Saturday, January 10th, 2015

Upcoming Tampa, Florida Courses

  • Sunday, October 19th, 2014
  • Sunday, November 9th, 2014
  • Sunday, December 7th, 2014

Level 2: WSET Award in Wine & Spirits – Intermediate. This course covers the key grape varieties grown and the different styles of wine produced around the world as well as the production of spirits and liqueurs.  During class, students will be taken through a guided tasting of wines and taught the WSET®  systematic approach to tasting wine.

Upcoming Napa Valley Courses

  • October 22-24, 2014
  • November 22-23 & 29, 2014
  • January 17-18, 2015

Upcoming Tampa, Florida Courses

  • October 25-26th, 2014
  • November 15-16th, 2014
  • December 13-14th, 2014

Level 3: WSET Award in Wine & Spirits –  Advanced. This course provides a more in-depth and comprehensive look at the world of wines and spirits with an intense focus on systematically and professionally tasting wines. It covers the major grapes and wine styles produced around the world, including what influences the style and quality of these wines and the prices procured for them. A guided tasting of 60+ different wines –still, sparkling, and fortified- in class over the course of 4-5 days.

Upcoming Napa Valley Courses

  • October 18-19 & 25-26, 2014
  • December 6-7 & 13-14, 2014
  • January 21-24, 2015





Astrological Signs With Their Astrological Wines

Astrological Signs With Their Astrological Wines is something that I’ve pondered a bit. What sign matches which sign…

For the lunar eclipse, here’s what I have to offer…

I was born on a lunar eclipse. According to the astrology that I studied (as a side interest) for 10 years, people born on a lunar eclipse are pretty intense, with the opposite sex of that person being attracted to lunar child. Those who know me would probably say that the intense is pretty true, regardless of astrology.

Here’s my take on today, with the blood moon having just happened. Expect the day to be, well, a bit… luny…

Astrological Signs

Aries (Fire sign — pioneer) Pinot Grigio: Pinot Grigio is the popular Italian version of the well known French Pinot Gris, and is a wonderful new beginning for those just starting to develop their interest in wine. This wine parallels perfectly with Aries, as Aries is the entry sign.

Taurus (Earth sign — tenacious) Syrah: Known for its earthy tendencies, Syrah delivers a solid Rhone varietal that keeps developing its following in the new world of wine; however, it has been persistently serving the French for centuries.

Gemini (Air sign — intellectual twin) Zinfandel: The astrological twin has two distinct sides. So does Zinfandel. White Zinfandel (with slightly sweet flavors of strawberry) has brought many people joyfully into the wine world. For most of us, this is an entry point, not the be-all-to-end-all. And the other side of the twin is Zinfandel in its natural, red grape form, offering flavors of blackberries and a pepper spice.

Cancer (Water sign — sensitive, emotional nurturer — Darrell’s moon placement) Sauvignon Blanc: Sauvignon Blanc is a noble Bordeaux varietal. And, as Darrell used to remind us when any planet was in Cancer, Cancer and Sauvignon Blanc are not to be confused with emotions being reflective of someone or something out of control. Rather, anything related to Cancer was controlled and motherly, something austere and nurturing.

Leo (Fire sign — party animal) Champagne: Fun and bubbly, it’s party time. Who doesn’t love bubbles and a party? Whenever we associate a grand gathering, it’s always kicked off with Champagne and/or sparkling wine, and leads into more enjoyment.

Virgo (Earth sign — analyzer) Pinot Noir: At its worst (all signs have “at their best” and “at their worst” tendencies), this is the fussiest grape to grow. Upon deliverance, however, this wine (like all the Virgos in the world) gives us great pleasure. It can range from the most delicates of red with flavors of plum to flavors of bold, dark red cherries. It’s because a winemaker took the time to analyze where he wanted to go with this wine that we get to taste the best expression in its delivery.

Libra (Air sign — judge) Riesling: Find a diner who’s willing to pay over $100 for a bottle of this aromatic, floral discovery, and you’ll find superbly well-balanced wine that will become more of a conversation piece that focuses completely and utterly on the wine, than a subtle experience that’s in the background when conversation turns to the weather.

Scorpio (Water sign — detective) Petite Sirah: This take-no-prisoners varietal is as dark and brooding as the sign. Scorpio is known for always getting you back, so watch that you don’t spill a drop of this wine on your white shirt, or that shirt will be stung by it’s color pigment forever. This is the biggest and baddest of all wines! Loaded with lots of color, flavor, textures, and aromas, Petite Sirah is for the most intense among us.

Sagittarius (Fire sign — jester) Rose: This is a wine that is (like the sign) a jack-of-all-trades, master of none. A rose can be any red wine on a superficial level, never truly achieving what it would have been, had it stayed the course to full varietal intensity that is offered by deeply developing on the vine, and being used accordingly. And yet, who doesn’t love a clown, and what would we do without a bit of frivolity in the world?

Capricorn (Earth sign – banker) Bordeaux: This Cabernet blend is always one that you can bank on for flavor, longevity, and building its monetary cache as it ages. The most money spent on any wine in purchases is for the Bordeaux… You can bank on it!

Aquarius (Air sign – humanitarian) Merlot: What other varietal gives it all up to others? Merlot gives it up to Cab, as its original intent was to be blended into Cabernet, so Cab could shine. It’s had its day in the US as a varietal, but that trend is moving toward Syrah and Pinot Noir, while still holding its position for being a prominent, blending component for Bordeaux, in Cab’s shadow.

Pisces (Water sign – magician) Chardonnay: The one white wine in the US that flooded the market has many different takes on how it presents itself, and fools many among us with its trickery. Is it malolactic fermented, is it neutral barrels that have ML present from past fermentations that we taste, or is it stainless steel for six months, then into barrels, neutral or otherwise? It’s magic.

And remember, as Darrell Martinie, the Cosmic Muffin,” was famous for saying, “It’s a wise person who rules the stars, and it’s a fool who’s ruled by them…Over and out!”


Marketing,Public Relations,Wine

Trending PR, is this the way of the future or just a guise?

I got to thinking about an Email exchange that I had last week, and couldn’t help but ask myself if this was trending PR or not.

I’m going to just share the exchange and you be the judge.

INCOMING EMAIL: Editor Deadline: Need Holiday Recipes

Hi Jo,

My name is Bob and I’m with Family Stories (I’ve changed the names), a syndicated content provider specializing in the creation and distribution of lightly branded food content for newspapers, magazines and digital outlets.

Due to editorial demand, we’re currently on deadline for holiday food section stories and are looking for brand/product recipes to fill some editorial gaps. While there is no guarantee of placement, there is also no cost to you. Because there is strong interest in holiday recipe content for food sections, competition for these spots is high and decisions will be editorially-based.

If selected, you would earn millions of impressions and hundreds of high-quality placements in media outlets across the country.

To submit a recipe for consideration and learn more about how you can get guaranteed nationwide coverage, click here.

Here’s an example of one of our co-op branded recipe stories:

Okay, it looked good, and while it was outside of my day’s workload, which meant I would have to really hustle. I looked up the Website and found the above image… Grass Roots Marketing? Is grass roots marketing the new trending PR? I wanted more information.


Hi, Bob

Regarding “we’re currently on deadline,” do you have an end date? It takes time to put something like this together, when it’s an initial query and I wasn’t preparing for this new way to get content for a digital marketing company.

This is not to say that I can’t help, but I have so many project deadlines already before me that I need a specific date, before I can begin anything new.


INCOMING EMAIL with a red !

Hey Jo,

No worries. We are doing a “Free” Holiday Round-Up (Gift Guide and Recipe Round-Up) – see attached.

This is just to reach out and gain interest levels on clients. We have had over 100 submissions- so we are closing this down to review all products and begin the best layout and spec. no guarantees to anyone on being picked.

We are however selling spots on these Round-Ups. We are doing several of these types of Holiday Recipes/Gifts guides due to popular demand.

$3,500 per spot

These do come with minimum guarantees, deliverables, placements and impressions.

Deadline to purchase a spot and materials would be Oct. 24th.


Reel ‘em in boys… within the first Email arriving at 8:33, my response by 2:58 p.m., just six and a half hours later, 100 recipes flooded his inbox; but only for you and a few others, we’ve reserved $3,500 placement spots. (Their website states $5,000 for the placement.)

Okay, I get it. I didn’t respond. Only $3,500 to become part of a story in whatever publications I can’t even imagine. Good money, if you can get it in this world of continuing to evolve PR options, which are really marketing guises.

On their Website, which is still tempting people into submitting for “free?”:

Want Guaranteed Recipe Coverage?
Secure a guaranteed spot in one of our co-op, holiday-themed food section stories for $5,000 per brand/product recipe. (Promotional offers may be available.) Contact your Account Manager or sales@familystories.com for more details.

Do you have any idea how much time it takes to set up a photo shoot, which also includes the costs of shooting?

Oh, please and no thank you…