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Sommelier,Wine,Wine Business,Wine Education,Wine Writer

The Circuitous Path from Network News to Fine Wine ~ Tim Ortman

A few days ago, I was explaining to friends Robin Parnell and her lifelong friend Suzette Johnson – while we were out wine tasting – that it was a rosé which became my aha moment in wine. For years, during the Merlot craze, I was giving it my best shot; but, Merlot just wasn’t doing it for me. I don’t even know how many bottles I went through; let’s just say, plenty. I was constantly looking for that special Merlot, that one that would put me over the edge in love…  that held the all the secret to my wine salvation. I continued to come up short, until I came to California from Maine, as a tourist. I tasted a Rosé, as tasting rooms start everyone with lighter wines, before hitting those expressive reds. Bingo! I found Nirvana, and the rest is history. Going from hating Merlot (yes, strong word), to becoming the “go to girl” in the world for all questions regarding Petite Sirah, who would have seen that evolution? (“Go to,” because of my association with Petite Sirah I Love You, I’m just the obvious person to ask. I either have the answers, or I know where to find them.)

Since I’ve been wine blogging in 2005, I get daily requests from people (who are working for some advertiser) wanting to submit a story that I’d publish… at “no cost to you,” they tell me. This is my journal as a wine publicist, so “delete.” Very rarely, however, something comes along that’s so worthy I’m willing, as a mentor, to shine a light on accomplished talent.

This is also a timely parallel for my aha moment above, and we’ve both had broadcasting careers, before our wine careers… Enjoy this captivating and extremely well written recounting.

The Circuitous Path from Network News to Fine Wine

by Tim Ortman

Many roads can lead to a real love of wine. And I’m not talking about flirting with Chardonnay because “everyone else is doing it.” Or, a casual steakhouse affair with a glass of Cab, after which you return to your beloved Vodka martini. Nope. I’m talking about the head-turning, life altering, seminal moment many have experienced that plunges them head-first into a mesmerizing and totally foreign journey. The moment from which there’s no turning back.

I was a content and happy-go-lucky 25-year-old cameraman working in Chicago, the city of broad shoulders, and slowly becoming polished in my profession if still a bit culturally frayed around the edges. With so many deep-dish pizzerias and Italian beef options, I was leery, even fearful of fine dining where wine was a four-letter word. However, my Chicago bliss was rudely interrupted. Unknown to me, I had been evaluated and selected for a life-changing upgrade. My talents (not my sophistication, I promise you) were deemed worthy of a promotion… a big one. As a result, my wife and I packed up and headed for Europe, where I would join the International Press Corps. as a staff cameraman and member of the NBC News Frankfurt bureau.

From the outset, the job was a dream come true. I was traveling through all of Europe (and the world, too, soon enough) covering news for a major American news network. But when I would gather with my colleagues for crew lunches, or when my wife and I would join friends for dinner, we felt like the gourmet’s version of a square peg in a round hole. Trying to blend in, we replaced my Coke and her Sprite with bottles of something called ‘mineral water’. (Who came up with that name, by the way, and was it intended to sound appealing?) And the meals were marathons. Lunches could last THREE HOURS and dinners often had no end in sight. The common thread throughout went something like this: once seated, a senior colleague, usually European, would utter some unidentifiable words to our waiter and, like clockwork, completely different bottles would appear. Their labels seemed to contain a secret code of uninterpretable French or, God forbid, German writing. Deciphering these codes was foolhardy at best and maddening at worst. Instead, we mimicked our friends and my coworkers and forced down the ubiquitous liquid, pretending to enjoy every drop. At least we no longer stuck out like sore American thumbs.

Eventually, I broke from the pack of lemmings and realized that I actually liked some of what I was imbibing. My taste – or ‘palate’ – leaned more to the white stuff over the red. I noticed that the white wines with French labels were subtly different from one another but generally tasted good. Those with German labels were generally off-puttingly sweet. And the red stuff with French labels just tasted like dirt. But the learning curve was mind-numbing and intimidating. What was the difference between a Pouilly Fuisse and a Pouilly Fume? And, what was a Pouilly to begin with? Asking such questions in a public forum would reveal me as the ignorant American rube that I was. Instead, I’d need to keep quiet and steal glances at labels when no one noticed.

My budding intrigue with wine remained closeted until one fateful night at an Italian restaurant in Frankfurt. I was dining with a dear friend and colleague. He’s about my age, but with Italian-Uruguayan heritage, he was more culturally savvy than I’d ever hoped to be, given what my Dayton, OH. upbringing had provided. Naturally, he took control and, to accompany our Italian meal, ordered an Italian wine. Without taking notice of what it was, I took a drink to get the evening going.

And that’s when it all started. Or, more accurately, stopped. All movement in the room seemed to cease as I savored the entirely new nuances dancing over my tongue.  I no longer heard my friend or the waiter. Didn’t see the surrounding tables or menu in front of me. I was solely focused on the glass in my hand and the flavor in my mouth.

When I finally snapped out of my self-induced trance, with the seriousness of a surgeon, I inquired, “What did you just order?”

To which my friend replied, “Brunello di Montalcino. Is like liquid velvet, no?”

Damn right, and Voila! The light bulb above my head was shining brightly. As the taste still lingered in my mouth, I ordered another bottle. Even the name was seductive… Brunello di Montalcino. What did it mean? Where did it come from? I had to know more. This thing had grabbed me by the so-called palate and wouldn’t let go. At that point, I was fully seduced – or worse, hooked. Even as we left the restaurant, the thought was unshakeable. “Brunello di Montalcino.” There was no turning back.

[Photo Credit: Jacek Nowak]

Not long after that dinner, NBC News transferred me from Germany to Italy. Rome, Italy. I would be just a stone’s throw from the city of Montalcino, home to my beloved Brunello. But this proved to be both a blessing and a curse. Yes, Brunello di Montalcino would be much more accessible. Yet, the Italian shops and restaurants featured not just one Brunello, but 20 or 30 different Brunellos from a variety of producers and vineyard sites – offering many separate vintages for me to choose from. Making sense of it all was almost as maddening as deciphering that first German label had been.

Somehow, I mustered the courage to tackle the course, and with a glass in each hand I tasted my way through the many producers of Brunello. The legendary leader was Biondi Santi, whose winemaking roots could be traced back to the 1800s. And there were others, many others, of whom I would become a lifelong fan – like Ciacci, Il Poggione, Col d’Orcia, and Sassetti to name just a few. Being employed by a television news network has its perks. Occasionally, we’d take a well-deserved break from the hard news of the day to file ‘feature stories’ from scenic locations like… say, Montalcino. Visiting picturesque wineries was a photographic must for these assignments. Our Italian hosts would insist on educating and sampling us on the local grape. Persistence pays off, as well, and I was just beginning to learn one piece, the Brunello piece, of the much bigger puzzle.

After a fruitful overseas run with NBC News, I returned to Chicago where, with the support of NBC and other news operations, I created a production company to continue covering the news. At this point, it had been seven years since I’d left the U.S. and I realized a lot had changed. I discovered two publications dedicated solely to wine coverage. Imagine that. What was next? An all-sports network, or one dedicated to cooking?! As I read through those magazines, I found that a plethora of ink had been devoted to the much heralded back-to-back ’89 and ’90 vintages in Bordeaux. While I knew nothing of this French region, review after review screamed that these were must-have wines. I had just grasped Brunello di Montalcino and was now confronted with the much larger and more complex right and left bank. Once again, I had to dive in. There was no turning back. Would it ever end?

Of course, the correct answer is no.

Once again, my professional TV life intersected with my burgeoning wine life. I was hired to produce a project on the growing wine auction business and invited to sample some of the Bordeaux and Burgundies being auctioned. There was that dirt component again from my earlier run-in with French reds. But this time, coupled with ripe fruit from great vintages, I found it was delicious. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a taste is worth ten thousand words, and after that auction project, I was a hopeless collector – with all of our available funds going into the cellar. Brunello, Bordeaux, and Burgundy would soon be followed with Napa Cabs, Barolo, Barabresco, Rioja and Priorate.

My cellar was growing and diversifying, and so too was my occupation. After decades of globe-trotting network news coverage, I was looking for television work that seemed less perilous and closer to home. I began to replace my exhausting news career with a new and popular format called reality TV. Work was plentiful and the compensation rewarding. But, I quickly discovered that there was nothing real about reality TV, and it proved to be even more exhausting than network news. It was decided. After 25 years in TV, I needed a break from television.

Living in Southern California and enjoying the fruits of my second marriage to a highly successful corporate executive who was also a fan of fine wine, I had the luxury of choosing a ‘second act’ without jeopardizing our financial solvency. We discussed a possible detour on my career path and agreed wine was my only other true passion – an avenue worth pursuing while I pressed the pause button on TV. But where to begin?

Retail shop clerk or cellar rat didn’t appeal to me, and I didn’t have the resume for the restaurant biz. Distribution or sales would be a radical departure, but perhaps something I could manage. I took a job as a sales rep for a prestigious importer and distributor with an impressive portfolio of wines. Learning the portfolio would be daunting but doable. But acquiring ‘street cred’ would be tougher. I soon found out “Emmy award-winning cameraman and producer” made for a meaningless introduction in the wine world. I had to get new credentials.

In the wine business, there are many qualifications and titles that project accomplishment, and numerous organizations that offer the necessary education and testing. Sommelier had a nice ring to it, so I decide to enter the gauntlet that is the Court of Master Sommeliers, having no idea what lay ahead. I learned there are 4 levels to that program: 1) Introductory, 2) Certified, 3) Advanced, and 4) Master. The mentoring from which I so benefitted during my news days would be mandatory if I hoped to survive this brave new world.

Fortunately, the wine world isn’t just full of wine snobs. There are countless educated people in the wine business who genuinely enjoy sharing their knowledge with others. I quickly hitched my wagon to a friend who was studying to become a Master Sommelier with the Court of Masters. His level of study was fare more intense that mine, but he was happy to have me tag along and join his tasting group, an integral component to unlocking the secrets of ‘blind tasting’. Concealing a wine’s identity and trying to determine its origin and age solely by what’s in the glass is a daunting task. But, with the right methodology (the Court of Masters’ methodology) and plenty of practice, it can be mastered.

However, for someone who had never worked in a restaurant, the Court’s required service component would be far more frightening for me. Luckily, the same gracious tutor also offered to mentor me on what would be expected for the exam’s nerve-racking service component.

In addition to the blind tasting and service elements, as with most tests, there would be a written portion. The course syllabus’ suggesting reading listed about 20 scholarly wine publications written by renowned wine authors, each of them encyclopedic in size. Unlike the group tastings, this would be independent study. But where in the world would I find the time to read through tens of thousands of pages on the world’s wine types, regions, clones, soils, maps, graphs, and history, not to mention myriad different grape-growing and wine-making practices?

During my previous decades in news coverage, I had tried to understand the elusive path towards middle-Eastern peace. That path looked far easier than the Sommelier track, which I was contemplating.

Through the course of the next year, and after numerous blind tastings, early morning map studies, and a crash course in wine service, I somehow survived the first two levels of the Court of Master Sommeliers to become an official Certified Sommelier. Both the process and the achievement were a confidence-builder in my new profession. Whether with clients or colleagues, I could more freely and comfortably discuss all things wine-related. Additionally, that confidence opened up doors. Job opportunities appeared and introductions were made to collectors and vintners. I worked with a Paso Robles winemaker to produce two vintages of my own wine; Cab2, a blend of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. It was an enlightening and successful endeavor but the long-distance relationship proved too challenging. I began attending casual wine groups with friends. Eventually, I was invited to join and inducted into the esteemed Confrèrie des Chevaliers du Tastevin. Regardless of how lofty or pedestrian the group may be, the goal is to enjoy fine wine with good friends… which always pairs nicely with any wine.

While my passion for wine became a full-time focus, professionally, I carved out a comfortable niche consulting for restaurants on a part-time basis, sharing my knowledge when needed. This allowed for an occasional return to journalism, producing interesting projects, also on a part-time basis. I was able to simultaneously pursue my two interests; wine and journalism. With two part-time pursuits, I could devote attention towards writing a memoir about those halcyon days spent abroad. As that rough manuscript became a finished book, I reflected on my earlier journeys. And, it became apparent that two different seeds had been planted at the same time. My young journalistic roots had grown intertwined with a budding love of wine. It would be a long and fruitful evolution that would last a lifetime.

Tim Ortman is an Emmy Award-winning cameraman and producer and author of the new book, Newsreal: A View Through the Lens When… He is a certified Sommelier and member of La Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin. Connect with him on Facebook, @TimOrtmanWriter.



Cinsalut,France,French Wine,Grenache,Importer,Imports,Rhone,Rosé,Roussillon,Syrah,Wine,Wine of the Week

Why do I love French Wines? ~ 2017 Les BilaHaut Rosè les Vignes de Pays D’OC, for Example

Crafted for Maison M. Chapoutier, the 2017 Les BilaHaut Rosè les Vignes de Pays D’OC safely arrived. So easy to enjoy, a consistent brand. This is a wine to bring to pétanque and be the hit of the party.

Rosé is such a fun experience. It adds a rosy glow to any gathering. So much so, if I arrive with a rosé, the bottle is quickly enjoyed. It was a rosé wine that brought me to my knees, when it came to finally really enjoying wine. This one? Pure delight. (Should I even say I was happy that I didn’t have to share this one, just have it for own pure delight? Well, I did say it. So the secret is out.)


  1. HEART OF THE DEAL ~ THE WINERY: info is coming from the company’s own statements
    1. I can’t make up their history
    2. Nor am I to try

Les Vignes de Pays D’OC #BilaHaut Rosè 2017


Fighting words (above) from one of France’s most brilliant oenologists, famed Rhône winemaker, Michel Chapoutier, head of Maison M. Chapoutier. And, his Bila-Haut wines from this Roussillon estate are already making waves among wine lovers,. He enjoys “drawing attention to the new quality wines, which now being made in this corner of Southwest France, by a band of individualists and idealists.”

Chapoutier is famously uncompromising when it comes to a wine’s ultea premium conditions. Respect for the environment is non-negotiable. The same demanding technical specifications applied to viticulture and winemaking for his celebrated Rhône wines are in place at Bila-Haut. For Chapoutier, the Roussillon offers the opportunity to make outstanding quality wines that Bila-Haut “Les Vignes” red, white, and rosé for very competitive prices. This a source of great pleasure for Chapoutier, who’s intent on introducing a broader and younger audience to the joys of good wine.


Varieties: Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault

Soil: Grenache are grown in clay and limestone soils, and faces directly toward the east.  Think gentle, morning sunlight… The Cinsault and Syrah are both planted on the plain, in predominantly sandy soil. This wine is 100 percent pressed Rosé. The musts undergo very little racking, in order to develop the wine’s volume, and still maintain its freshness. Fermentation lasts for 15 days, under low temperatures. (Think gentle fermentation.)

[Purchased Photo.]


I’m always grateful when I get to enjoy Bila-Haut wines. There’s no mystery, because there’s plenty of history in Chapoutier’s quality of consistency. Michel Chapoutier’s need for a winemaking style is a bit rogue. Rather than have the land for this wine come from some other wine regions, he’s chosen the Roussillon region of France. He’s not afraid to have his grape vines struggle with a development that doesn’t deliver quantity… What does happen, though, is that it becomes all about the excellent aspects. Oh là là, as we with French descent, like to say. (My Wine 101 explanation is to “just think about the tiny coveted, wild Maine blueberries.”

Always a slam-dunk, thoughtfully chosen juice is the hallmark of a Michel Chapoutier wine. The best possible – just the best possible to be delivered to us, the consumers.

Swirl… Luscious color, a teenager’s rosy pink lips, waiting for that first kiss…

Sniff… Fresh pink grapefruit, picked in March, when fully ripe and ready…

Sip… Ripe, second crop strawberries… Born in the heat of summer…

*As I write each blog, I pull an Angel Card to guide my waxing poetic… Gets me in the groove, so to speak.


Books,History,Wine,Wine Writer

Thomas Jefferson Has Been Reincarnated ~ Passions – The Wines and The Travels

Once upon a time, I was asked if I would review a wine book. I thought, “Why not? Lets see where it goes.” Well, it went alright. This side image only reached the “i”s” on Wine-Blog’s Books page. It’s impossible to capture it all here, nor do I want or need to. This isn’t about what I’ve done; it just demonstrates that one of my passions opened up a door I never imagined. As a result of this page, James (Jim) M. Gabler reached out to me to tell me about his books. I included the details in a story (Summer Reading ~ Let James Gabler Take You Away), as an exception, because I hadn’t read his books. His body of work, however, was fascinating. I’ve read about Jefferson’s historical passions with wine.

When a comment recently appeared on that blog post, I forwarded the comment to Jim.

He thanked me, thought about it, and sent the following three books to me:

Dine with Thomas Jefferson and Fascinating Guests: an account of 25 fact-based dinners at Monticello, the White House, Paris, Philadelphia, and the French wine country. The dinners center on four of Jefferson’s passions: wine, food, conversation, and travel. The guests are a who’s who of famous people of the time. A perfect companion for those who appreciate wine, food, travel, interesting conversation, and the camaraderie of fascinating people. $25.00 Amazon’s Direct link. ©2015

An Evening with Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson: Dinner, Wine, and Conversation. Travel back in time to 18th century Paris and spend an evening with two of the most extraordinary men in history who loved wine and food and changed the world for the better. In the comfort of Jefferson’s residence, join Franklin and Jefferson for dinner, and in response to your questions they tell in their own words the most interesting stories of their lives. “A brilliant roman à clef around the lives and travels of Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin,” Robert M. Parker, Jr, Amazon’s Direct Link print $18, e-book $9.99. ©2006 – first edition

Passions: The Wines and Travels of Thomas Jefferson: “Brilliant”…”Magnificent”… “Remarkable”… “Exciting”… “Superb”… Winner of the 1995 “Veuve Clicquot Wine Book of the Year,” and a Robert M. Parker, Jr. “Wine Book of the Year” selection. “With the touch of an artist, Jim Gabler brings to life Jefferson’s passion for wine.” The definitive work on Jefferson and wine. $25, Amazon’s Direct Link ©1995 – first edition

I put them into copyright order, and knew where I needed to begin: Passions: The Wines and Travels of Thomas Jefferson.

Jim Gabler: In an Email to me, “The preface or introductions will give you a good idea of what they are about. ”

No kidding, as I began to read the Preface of “Passions…” it occurred to me that if reincarnation is a possibility, what better way to write one’s autobiography than to come back as an author and just get it done. Here’s what made me think this… See what you think.

“This is a biography of Thomas Jefferson at leisure, enjoying two of his passions-wine and travel. I have tried to capture Jefferson in the act of living and to let him and his contemporaries speak for themselves. The Journeys you are about to take with Jefferson are, for the most part, based on original sources: his letters, memorandum books, receipts, and the correspondence and diaries of his contemporaries. In addition I have personally followed his footsteps throughout Europe and the United States. These experiences have allowed me to contemporize what he saw and drank.”

Come back, relive it to refeel it, know the sources to consult, know how to finish what was started… Thomas Jefferson Has Been Reincarnated, and we’re all invited. I’ll review each book, from now and through the summer months. His writing style is very enjoyable, so I’ll get back to y’all with each one.


Napa,Political,Wine,Wine Business,Wine Country,Wine Culture,Wine HIstory,Wine Hospitality

Napa Valley Vintner Stuart Smith Supporting “No On C” with a Blog Devoted to Preservation


Stuart Smith has gathered in depth background materials for “No On C and Napa County’s environment” at www.stopmeasurec.com.

The Webpage opens with what’s most concerning for this measure:

“Because Measure C was created in secret, the only public airing of the Measure has been mailings, street signs, ads and letters to our local newspapers.  Even with the generosity of our local editors, initiatives are a terrible way to govern.  It should be no surprise then, that pleasantries are abandoned.  The truth is stretched to the breaking point and misleading feel-good slogans are repeated ad nauseum in hopes that their “Big Lie” will prevail.  This is a hard scrabble, no holds barred fight.  Winning is everything.  Whether any of us like it or not, this is the life of all initiatives.

“My intention with this site is to bring some rational thought to the discussion and jettison the emotional. To be sure, I oppose Measure C. Yet my goal is to bring facts, articles and science to bear on the many issues that are applicable not only to Measure C, but to a better understanding of how our environment functions.”


[Photo Credit: Charlie Smith, Stuart’s brother Website]

Stuart Smith explains: “In my nearly 50 years of living in Napa Valley, I’ve never seen a ballot initiative which has become so divisive in our community. My goal is to bring facts, articles, and science to bear, on the many issues that are applicable; not only to Measure C, but to also have a better understanding of how our environment functions.  Hopefully, those who support Measure C will find the information thoughtful and challenging.”

Smith will be adding additional updates and links until the election in June.

Sections on the blog include:

  • The text of the initiative
  • The language in the voter’s pamphlet
  • An analysis of the numbers being quoted in the initiative discussion (By The Numbers)
  • The anti C editorials from the editorial boards of the Napa Valley Register and St. Helena Star
  • Research articles about forestry, water, and air quality
  • A discussion of Section E of Measure C
  • Stuart Smith’s reflections on the ethics (Morality of Measure C)
  • A compilation of No on C letters, including several of Stuart Smith’s
  • Links to the 9111 Report, the Groundwater Sustainability Report, the Voluntary Oak Woodland Management Plan
  • The list of organizations opposing Measure C

[Photo credit: Kelly Alley]

The No on C campaign can be found at http://protectnapa.com/. One area you might want to read, regardless of which side you favor: “On June 5th, Napa County voters will be asked whether or not to approve Measure C. Learn more about this deeply-flawed measure before you cast your ballot.” Anything done in secret has been done in secret for a reason. Get to the bottom of it, then vote for what makes the most sense to you.

Stuart Smith founded Smith-Madrone Winery in St. Helena in 1971.


Cinsault,France,Grenache,Rhone,Rosé,Syrah,Wine,Wine of the Week

2017 Côtes-du-Rhône Samorëns Rosé Domaine Ferraton Père & Fils

A Rose by Any Other Name ~ Rosé


  1. HEART OF THE DEAL ~ THE WINERY: info is coming from the company’s own statements
    1. I can’t make up their history
    2. Nor am I to try
    1. My tasting notes
    2. Imported from Sera Wine Imports, New York, NY


2017 Côtes-du-Rhône Samorëns Rosé  Domaine Ferraton Père & Fils

HEART ~ Ferraton Family

Domaine Ferraton Père & Fils ~ The land and the people who tend it share the same history; a history which grows from generation to generation. At the origin it was one man named Jean Orëns Ferraton. He was a vigneron, and son of a vigneron. A region basked in sun, the Rhône Valley. It was 1946. The story begins…

“Michel, his son, inherited the same passion. He decided to give a new dimension to his father’s vineyards. The first Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage and Saint-Joseph Ferraton were brought into the world. A close friend of the Ferratons,’ Michel Chapoutier brought his know-how. In 1998, the vineyards were converted to organic viticulture, then certified. Before embracing the culture of bio-dynamics. An audacious step, for innovative and strong perspectives.

“Twenty percent of Ferraton production is estate wines. All are biodynamic and, since 2015, Demeter-certified, with fruit coming from the domaine’s 37 acres of prime vineyards in the northern Rhône’s Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage, and St. Joseph appellations.”

SCIENCE ~ Terroir

The cornerstone: the estate of Ferraton Père & Fils has supported the winery and its cellars. The winery owns vineyards in the appellations of Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage and Saint-Joseph.

Their know-how has passed to other renowned terroirs of which the harvest is vinified and aged: Côte-Rôtie, Condrieu, Cornas, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Côtes du Rhône, Côtes du Rhône Villages Plan de Dieu and Tavel.

Of all these wines, the Single Vineyard Selections act as the quintessence, creating a mirror image of their site, incomparably loyal. Issued of land and vines of biodynamical cultivation, these wines are, due to necessity, of limited quantities, precious and rare.

[Photo of roses by Alex Blăjan on Unsplash]

SOUL ~ Play

The Ferraton Père & Fils wines are small-lot estate and négociant wines. I’ve been very fortunate to have been reviewing these wines for a few years. The advantage of this has been to experience the consistency of quality, deliciousness, and value; and, I’ve come to realize that these are the attributes that constitute the Ferraton wines’ Hallmark. The 2017 Côtes-du-Rhône Samorëns Rosé  Domaine Ferraton Père & Fils was very exciting to taste… Another delicious vintage, this wine delivered the promise of past vintages and was simply delightful!

Swirl… The composition of this Samorëns Rosé is Grenache (75 percent), Syrah, Cinsault. When I swirled my glass, aromas of spring strawberries and early cherries wafted from the glass.

Sniff… It was like burying my nose in a bouquet of these gloriously scented heirloom roses.

Sip… So easy to enjoy, so smooth and well balanced. And refreshing, just as I expected and just as I enjoyed. This one is a quintessential example of what constitutes a rosé for me. Just easy elegance.

The following image is from their Website, so you can see their terroir.


Cabernet Sauvignon,Event,Napa,Rutherford,Wine,Wine tasting

Rutherford Dust Society Immersive Wine Experience May 4 and 5, 2018

If you’ve been holding out until the last minute, time is now fleeting, but there’s still today and tomorrow to sign up, BUT… no later than Wednesday, May 2, 2018.

The Rutherford Appellation

The Rutherford viticultural area is located in the historic heart of the Napa Valley. It’s known world-wide for its signature “Rutherford dust,” a term used to reflect its terroir, its deep connection to the soil in the vineyards, the wine, and the wineries of Rutherford. In collaboration with its grower and vintner members, the Rutherford Dust Society (RDS) focuses on helping wine consumers, trade, and media to discover Rutherford’s celebrated  terroir. They do this, while promoting the highest quality standards for grape growing and winemaking in the region. The RDS also supports other Rutherford non-profit organizations, like the Rutherford Hall, the Rutherford Volunteer Fire Department, and the Rutherford 4-H.

The Rutherford Dust Society is a non-profit, member association for growers and vintners in the Rutherford Appellation. Tickets and passes are now on sale for the 2018 Rutherford Wine Experience, on May 4 and 5.

Now in its fifth consecutive year, the Rutherford Wine Experience offers an intimate and exclusive wine weekend with the growers, winemakers, and proprietors behind Rutherford’s most iconic wines.

If you love Napa Valley, and you adore their Cabernet, most especially, this is not an event to miss. I’ve had the pleasure of attending for years, and I know this is a very special learning and tasting experience.

The 2018 Rutherford Wine Experience (RWE) is comprised of three unique events over a two-day period. The event weekend will launch with an intimate VIP Welcome Reception at Rancho Caymus Inn on Friday evening from 7:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., where 60 guests will taste an exclusive selection of rare Rutherford Appellation Cabernet Sauvignon with Rutherford vintners, growers, and winemakers.

Exclusive in-depth wine education seminars will be offered Saturday morning at various Rutherford vineyard and winery locations. Space is extremely limited for all seminars and topics. Locations are summarized below:

  • A sustainability-focused Eco Tour at Honig Vineyard and Winery
    • Followed by a tasting of single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • An exciting exploration of the three distinct zones of the Rutherford Appellation—the Rutherford Bench, the Valley Floor, and the Eastern Benchland
    • With Beaulieu Vineyard’s winemaker John Hazak.
  • A guided tour through the vineyards in the Wagdola (wagon + gondola) along the Rutherford stretch of the Napa River, where guests will learn about the 13-year river restoration program completed by RDS.
    • This seminar includes wine tasting from the vineyards explored along the tour, led by second-generation vineyard consultant Lauren Pesch and river restoration expert Gretchen Hayes.
  • A Cabernet Culinary Challenge at Sequoia Grove Winery.
    • This one explores, with instruction, the principles of Cabernet food pairing with a competitive twist.
  • A Cabernet appellation tasting at Elizabeth Spencer Winery
    • This one features small-production, vineyard-designated Cabernet Sauvignon paired with hand-selected artisan cheeses.

The culmination of the weekend, the “Rutherford Round-Up,” will take place Saturday afternoon in the historic olive grove, at Rutherford Ranch, from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.. The Rutherford Round-Up will include a Grand Tasting of wines from 20 Rutherford wineries, set in a fun, convivial atmosphere with the live music of one of Napa Valley’s favorite local bands, Serf and James, and wine-friendly cuisine.

“This is an event that we look forward to year after year in Rutherford,” said Regina Weinstein, Director of Marketing at Honig and RDS committee chair of the event. “The 2018 program includes the most exciting wine education seminars we’ve ever had, allowing us to share authentic wine, food, and agricultural experiences with consumers, like never before.”

All-Inclusive Passes for the weekend are available for $230.00, and Saturday Passes are available for $170. A la carte tickets to the individual Wine Experience events are also available. Tickets and passes must be purchased in advance from the Rutherford Dust Society’s website (http://www.rutherforddust.org/wine-experience) no later than Wednesday, May 2, 2018.

  • Welcome Reception: $75.00
  • Saturday Seminars: $95.00
  • Round-Up: $95.00

For more information about the upcoming May event, including a complete list of participating wineries and details of their Wine Experience offerings, please visit www.rutherforddust.org, Rutherford Dust Society’s Facebook page, or email info@rutherforddust.org.



Education,Wine,Wine Business,Wine Education

S.S.U. Wine Business Institute Announces Second Volume of Academic Case Research Journal

Sonoma State University’s Wine Business Institute School of Business and Economics pretty much says it all. While the University of California at Davis focuses on training enologists and viticulturalist, Sonoma State University (SSU) – being in the center of California’s North Bay wine world – was poised to go in this direction.  SSU is the first U.S. institution of higher education to offer programs and degrees which specialize in the business of wine. It’s the first school of business in the world to offer an executive-level wine business degree. In 2018, WBI will open the Wine Spectator Learning Center, a 15,000-square-foot education complex dedicated to training the next generation of leaders for a changing global wine industry.

Now, there is a Second Volume of Academic Case Research. These new case studies offer insights and lessons that have been learned from wine industry organizations in Italy, Germany, Spain, and the United States.  This is an electronic journal dedicated to international wine business issues, and is published semiannually as an industry digest for qualified academics, scholars, students, and wine industry stakeholders.


Case studies featured in the second volume offer an examination of issues related to the valuation of a California Central Coast family-owned winery; challenges of leadership transition and strategy change at a family-owned business in northern Italy; restructuring of sales channels and marketing strategy at a German winery; and brand equity planning across multiple wineries in Spain.

The complete second volume is available here: https://wbcrj.scholasticahq.com/issue/604.

“This collection of case studies provides wine industry stakeholders a resource for strategies and approaches to stay competitive in a rapidly evolving and globalized business,” Dr. Armand Gilinsky Jr., Korbel Professor said. “Case studies are grounded in field research to illustrate the complex challenges and opportunities for wine businesses in transition, whether family-owned, focused on regional markets, or large firms with international operations.”

The Wine Business Case Research Journal is published in an open-access format so that authors can retain copyrights to their work, and case studies are “double blind” reviewed so that authors and reviewers remain anonymous. Members of the Journal staff include Founding Editor and Korbel Professor, Dr. Armand Gilinsky; Associate Editor and Bordeaux-based international winemaking consultant, David Rowe; Production Coordinator and Sonoma MBA, Valery Vue; Consulting Librarian, Rita Premo; and Student Editor, Marguerite Williams. The publication’s founding editorial board includes five past editors of academic journals, wine business researchers, and university scholars from the U.S., France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Australia, Mexico, New Zealand, and South Africa.

For more information regarding the Wine Business Case Research Journal, including sample case topics and submission guidelines, or to submit case research for the Spring/Summer 2018 edition, please contact wbizcase@sonoma.edu, or visit https://wbcrj.scholasticahq.com/. For information regarding wine business academic programs and degrees, please visit www.sonoma.edu/sbe, or contact (707) 664-3235 or winebiz@sonoma.edu.


Bubbly,Bubbly Wine,Sample,Spain,Sparkling,Sparkling wine,Wine,Wine Importer,Wine of the Week

García Carrión’s Jaume Serra Cristalino Brut NV Cava

García Carrión, situated in Penedes, Spain, is a winery with a large portfolio, and has delicious sparkling offerings from Jaume Serra Cristalino. The sparkling Cavas are a Brut Cava, Rosé, and Extra Dry. Each one is great for every occasion, including no particular occasion at all.

They definitely fit into an easy value brand category, including having  received the “Value Brand of the Year” award several times from Wine & Spirits magazine, for just that reason. Great wine for its price category, the Jaume Serra Cristalino offers solid value, sparking wines.

When thinking of upcoming party events for this spring and summer (or just enjoying as an everyday sparkling house wine), look for this brand. And, you’ll be well rewarded.


  1. HEART OF THE DEAL ~ THE WINERY: info is coming from the company’s own statements
    1. I can’t make up their history
    2. Nor am I to try
    1. From: J. Garcia Carrión


García Carrión’s Jaume Serra Cristalino Brut Cava

HEART ~ Garcia Carrion Family ~ With a lot of preceding history

“Jaume Serra is situated at the top of a slope that gently descends towards the Mediterranean Sea in Vilanova I La Geltru (Barcelona). Its origins went back to 1647, a year in which it was constructed [and] called ‘El Padruell.’ [This is] a walled farm that since the XVII century was used for protection to an old masia-fortaleza [ farmhouse-fortress] that, as the legend says, it used to have a passage that connected with the village.

“In 1943 Don Jaume Serra Güel established his company in Alella and he put his name to it. In 1956, the Rato family bought ‘El padruell’ farm, and in 1975 he purchased the winery of Don Jaume Serra Güell. In 1984, for lack of enough vineyards in Alella, it decided to move the winery to Vilanova I La Geltru, and began the construction of the new winery and the planting of its vineyards. It opened to the public in 1986.

“In 1997 Garcia Carrion family bought the winery Jaume Serra.”

SCIENCE ~ Terroir

The Current winery and vineyard are surrounded by a plot of lands of just about two and a half acres. Their wine varieties are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Tempranillo, and Chardonnay.

The Fermentation installations have an elaboration capacity of 1,320,860 gallons of wine, with the most modern equipment available. The winery has the capacity to produce 1.7 million cases of wine a year. It also has 3,500 American and French oak barrels, so that they’re able to age their wines of the highest quality.

SOUL ~ Balance

I opened this everyday value wine just before Easter. I decided to pop the cork, while setting up my holiday table. I then regretted opening it so quickly, (it seems I’m always thirsty for bubbles. I have no other excuse.) Once I opened it, I immediately knew that if I had just waited and taken notes on Easter day, instead of THAT day, everyone would have enjoyed this Cava, not just me.

Swirling… Not necessary with bubbles ~ You don’t want to lose any of that spritz. The García Carrión’s Jaume Serra Cristalino Brut Cava delivered a tons of excited bubbles, I knew I was on my way to a really fun adventure.

Sniff… A crisp, dry sparkling wine with lean aromas of apples and pears.

Sip… Do I really sip Cava? Probably not, which is why the rest of the bottle didn’t make it to Easter.  The citrus  flavors were so well balanced and delicious that it made my holiday preparations a delight. Now, as we prepare for family and friends to enjoy the upcoming adventures from Mother’s day, to graduations, to summer parties, this – as a house wine – means that you’re always ready for a tasty adventure, with anyone who shows up for celebrating… always with Bubbles.


Biodynamic,Organic,Organization,Wine,Wine Appreciation,Wine Business,Wine Culture,Wine Ed,Wine Education,Wine Legislation

Earth Day in Wine Country ~ You are what you eat AND DRINK

You are what you eat AND DRINK… Why have we missed stating the obvious DRINK part for so long? As you think about this question, consider where we’d be today, if – in the 60s – we would have chanted this concept, with “drink” also included. Then, our children would be further ahead in their thinking. Consider what’s below in the findings, and  you might understand why I’ve made this claim.

We Are What We Put Into Our Bodies

I recently saw a graph showing the most sustainable vineyards in the world. The US was lower on the list than I wanted it to be. On one hand, that was a disappointment. On the other, I live in Sonoma County, and by 2019, this entire county is supposed to be registered as “sustainable.” The rigors are impressive, so I feel pretty great about that. I’ve lived my life organically. I was naturally organic until the 60s. Then processed foods (dry cereals, for instance) were beginning to show that they were causing some health problems. So, I backed off foods that weren’t being sold in the just opened “health food stores.” I’ve watched the movement since the 60s, as soon as the phrase “you are what you eat,” came to life. When dining out, there’s no fast food, except an occasional Panda indulgence. (Yeah, I love noodles; and I only buy Italian noodles for home, since they’re not big on chemical farming in Europe. Helpful hint.)

This all said, all three of my daughters are now the cooks for their families, all eating and enjoying a healthy, slow food lifestyle. The Wine Market Council’s findings, therefore, don’t surprise me one iota. Those of us who live like I do, raised our kids the way I did. They’re now a new generation of educated consumers and home economists. Yes, we’ll pay more for less intervention. It’s an upside down and backwards way to live. This is what our mechanized food system has done to us. We’ll support small, local farmers, because they deliver the good goods.

In Time for Earth Day 2018: Wine Market Council just released the results of their study: “Green” Study Highlighting U.S. Wine Consumer Attitudes Toward Organic, Sustainable and Biodynamic Production

Survey finds consumer willingness to spend slightly more for wine made of  organically grown grapes and sustainably and biodynamically produced wines, as well as other key data. The research survey looks into wine consumers’ understanding, perception and reaction to various green designations for wine production.

“We uncovered a lot of very insightful data that shows the perceived benefits these ‘green’ wines have to consumers and how relevant these benefits are to the buying decision,” said Steve Burns, president of Wine Market Council. “These findings will help our members make key business decisions in the years ahead.”


For the study, Wine Market Council surveyed 1,159 primarily high frequency wine drinkers (those who consume wine more often than once a week). Focused specifically on how consumers identify and understand the various production methods, they inquired about the apparent benefits to consumers and how relevant green methods are to pricing and buying decisions. The complete report is now available to Wine Market Council members and will be discussed at the association’s upcoming Annual Membership Meeting taking place May 11, 2018, at The CIA at Copia in Napa.

The association shared a few highlights including:

Consumers are more confident that they understand what “made from organic grapes” means than what “sustainable” or “biodynamic” mean. There was a strong correlation between confidence of understanding and interest in these wines.

  • Sustainable and biodynamic wines are significantly more often associated with external environmental impact (water and CO2 issues) than organic wine and wine made from organic grapes, which in turn are more often associated with input issues (no SO2, no synthetic pesticides/fertilizers, non-GMO).
  • There was little difference perceived between “organic wine” and “wine made from organic grapes,” but substantial differences between those wines and biodynamic and sustainable production.
  • The data indicates a willingness to spend slightly more for wine made from organically grown grapes than from conventional grapes, and slightly more still for sustainably/biodynamical produced wines than wine made from organically grown grapes.

SIDEBAR: When Oliver’s moved into my neighborhood, I had never seen the word “conventional” used to describe food. I asked the young man working on the “conventional” table, what are “conventional foods?” He shot right back… “The ones with poisons on them.” We all had a good laugh. As I like saying, “Funny, not funny.”

“Ah… I see,” I thought…

The study also dove deeper into consumer habits through a 3-day online discussion with 11 selected high frequency wine drinkers. Among the highlights:

  • A commitment to organic food doesn’t directly translate into a similar commitment to “organic” wine. Other decision-making factors supersede how the wine was produced.
  • Barriers to purchasing wine made using these production methods include the following: perceptions that they cost more, not liking one they had tried, skepticism about there being standards behind the designations, availability, visibility, and a lack of awareness.
  • The willingness to pay more for these wines is dependent on occasion, previous trial, or recommendation.
  • These designations could be a tipping point for decisions to purchase a wine among those who see green production as a positive.

Wine Market Council provides its proprietary research to association members only. Upcoming research projects include a robust retail wine study to be released this summer.  Membership dues are based upon different criteria that are dependent upon member association with the wine industry. You can inquire about membership at the Wine Market Council website WineMarketCouncil.com, or email Wine Market Council at SBurns@WineMarketCouncil.com. Media questions and requests should be sent to contact@teplinnuss.com.

Wine Market Council is hosting their Annual Membership Meeting on Friday, May 11, 2018, from 9:00am to 12:00pm at The CIA at Copia (500 First Street, Napa, California). This year’s meeting kicks off with V.I.P. keynoter, Christian Navarro, president and co-owner of Wally’s Wine & Spirits and Wally’s Beverly Hills. For more details and to register for this meeting, click on this link: https://wmcmembershipmeeting.eventbrite.com.