A Vineyard in Napa by Doug Shafer Fills in an Important Historical Napa Timeline

Working for the Robert Mondavi Winery, as Doug Shafer also has, gave me time to simultaneously study Napa history. The prior five years, I had been living and working in Sonoma County, and that history (and its characters) had become second nature. But, then being in the land of Napa, I needed to know more; so, I read Lin Weber’s “Old Napa Valley, The History to 1900.” That became a great base, and the rest was history, as the saying goes. After I had read that book and several others, I got a job in the Sierras as the Director of Public Relations for Ironstone Vineyards… And off I went into that history; then onto Diaz Communications, having more control over my own direction and destiny.

A few years ago, my client Ron Rubin (The Rubin Family of Wines) handed me Doug Shafer’s book, “A Vineyard in Napa.” I had shamefully prejudged it as Doug filling pages with his own winery’s history, which would be a long marketing piece. So, it wasn’t a priority. This was all while I was still really busy learning all I could about Ron Rubin’s own life history. Simultaneously, publishers were onto my writing about wine books that were being newly released. Involved story, I know…

So, the dust began to settle on Doug’s book. Never out of sight, so never out of mind, it was a reminder that one day I’d find the time. The books arriving always slow down after the Christmas holiday season; and, as luck would have it (for me), I had just closed three really great books, was hungry to keep going, and I decided to dust off A Vineyard in Napa.

As I began Doug Shafer’s story, I realized I should never-ever again judge a book by its title. This story is so much more than A Vineyard in Napa, with a marketing spin. It’s a historical account, from one who was there, shaping the future of this renowned American wine county location… A who’s who of what each who in Whosville had accomplished, with some still in the continuing mode… and how each has contributed to an intriguing and expanding tapestry of terroir.

Doug’s father John Shafer got the itch to leave his comfortable position, as a successful publishing executive. While living in a Chicago suburb, he upended his family in 1973, and moved them to Napa Valley. He wanted to get his hands dirty. He loved the freedom of being outdoors, having access to tools and machinery… Some kids’ dream of being an adult, who’s always outdoors instead of being indoors… The honesty of working with one’s hands; the passion of being at peace with oneself in all decisions being made…

I never realized how underdeveloped (by today’s standards) Napa was in the 1970s. The book first establishes the immediate Shafer family moving there. Next you’ll segue into the Stag’s Leap District, itself, grasping its tidbits of valley history and gossip… Living in the middle of it, Doug’s memories are all about today’s Napa Valley: past and present leaders of who came, who left, and who’s still standing.


  • p. 10  ~ John Shafer, working in publishing, adopted the company’s motto, because it hit a chord:  “a good book, seldom mentioned is soon forgotten.”
    • “It’s appropriate to write about this book now, I thought,” since its copyright is 2012
  • p. 215 ~ I noted this one, and its for winery owners around the globe
    • “One thing we’ve learned over 20 years is that the surest thing you can do in regard to quality is to ensure your grape source, and there’s no better way to do this than owning your own vineyards. Consumers understand this, and its the reason the words “Estate grown” on your label is such an important distinction.”

With John Shafer being a pioneer, a fair man, a great father figure/role model, I tagged so many pages in Doug Shafer’s book, wanting to share thoughts that really hit a chord, and possibly pique your curiosity when you ask yourself, “I wonder what I should read next?” Then, I realized, this isn’t a research report. For those who want to know “how to” begin a winery, what the challenges are, and want to dive in knowing a lot of the pitfalls ahead of time, this one is for you. For those of you just curious, this is also for you.

This one is a library keeper for sure, in my Napa Valley history area. From the 70s until 2012, I really enjoyed reading about how it all began; why and how it’s still moving along really well. But, as Doug will tell you, it’s never been a completely comfortable bed of fluffy roses.

From the Shafer family, Doug segues into the Stag’s Leap District, and then into the Shafer’s extended family. Actually, chapters are quick and to the point, until you arrive at Chapter 23, and Doug introduces the time when John and he needed some help with winemaking. A much more fact-filled chapter introduces Elias Fernandez, in 1984, their long-standing and honored winemaker.

  1. SEGUE: Jose and I met Elias at a Stag’s Leap District tasting last year. Both of us were incredibly impressed. We were in a lounge area at the winery with Elias, as the event was slowing down to the doors being closed. Jose and Elias got into a smooth conversation, when we began to share wine business talk. It was easy to do, as Shafer was just releasing a Petite Sirah. If you didn’t know, in 2002 I began PS I Love You, the advocacy group for Petite Sirah. Then, Elias and Jose got deeper into Elias’s job. To have read about him in much greater depth, all I can write now is deep, deep props…

So, there it is. I finally got to read A Vineyard in Napa, by Dough Shafer, with Andy Demsky. Great job, guys!



Award,Marketing,Research,Wine,Wine Blogger,Wine Business

Cathy Huyghe Receives the 2016 Diaz Communications Innovator of the Year Award for Enolytics

Jose Diaz and I are pleased to announce that Cathy Huyghe of Enolytics is the recipient of 2016’s Diaz Communications Innovator of the Year Award. With her expertise in analyzing consumerism and the wine industry’s facts and figures, to better understand today’s wine market, Cathy joins the ranks of those whom we’ve watched develop into the wine industry’s top industry innovators.

Enolytics Mission

Enolytics is committed to bringing the power of big data to the wine industry.  We help companies visualize their own data, and we also aggregate multiple sources of data on wine consumers. Never before has such vast amounts of data been available. And never before has it been pulled together, across multiple platforms, in order to build a more unique, powerful, and complete view of wine consumer sentiment and behavior.

In 2009, Jose Diaz and I not only watched who was a leading innovator, but we also felt, as seasoned veterans, that we should bring attention to up-and-coming individuals within the wine industry, who clearly demonstrate serious innovative leadership. From 2009 until 2012, it was very obvious to see who these new innovation leaders were:

For the next four years we didn’t see anyone easily popping out the way that Lisa, Rick, Evan, and Paul had. Still, we watched and waited for that slice of extraordinary effort from 2012 on.

KISMET: In 2014, our client Ron Rubin (The Rubin Family of Wines) told me that he would like to have a story about his winery’s Feng Shui’s design and reconstruction. I went searching for who would be the right person to pitch. Meanwhile, I also remembered Ron saying, I’d like to see it in Forbes. I searched Forbes + Wine and fell upon Cathy Huyghe‘s name.

I pitched her and she was intrigued. I didn’t know that she has design in her background of studies; so, of course she showed interest for a unique hook in a wine story. Kismet!

From her bio:

Cathy received a master’s degree from the Graduate School of Design at Harvard in 2004 and a second master’s degree in Journalism in 2010, also from Harvard.

Next, she told me that she would be coming to Santa Rosa on April 29, 2016. It would be a perfect opportunity to meet for breakfast at The Vintner’s Inn. I also contacted the late Barbara Lyons Stewart, our Feng Shui designer. (This was prior to Barbara’s recent passing.) We met for breakfast.

It was like we had all known each other, since the beginning of time. Barbara and I were there to help Cathy in any way she needed with images, the story idea of its unique point of view, and Feng Shui philosophies. The result was this great story for The Rubin Family of wines: Texture, Balance, Finish: The Wine Tasting…Experience, Feng Shui Style. It was during this meeting that I knew Cathy was much more than a passing ship in the night. We stayed in touch and shared info back and forth.

Trademarking “Enolytics” in February 2016, Cathy Huyghe launched a story on March 3, 2016: Introducing Enolytics: Facing Down The Wine Industry’s Elephant In The Room. Even though we met a month after this story was published, we didn’t talk about her new venture during our meeting about Feng Shui; but, it didn’t take long before Cathy and I were discussing it. Then, I got her E-Mail newsletter and asked permission to share on my blog… wanting to see her succeed and also to tell the world about her efforts: Measuring the immeasurable is shocking ~ Enolytics. Diaz Communications was now really paying attention. And, I stayed focused on what Cathy’s been learning and sharing. I even participated in a survey just today, before I began to write what I knew was my assignment for today…

I take this Harvard grad very seriously. With my own family Harvard legacy (I’m from Maine and the Boston area), I know well the intellectualism that comes from this prestigious region, and it’s Cathy’s to use and enjoy.

Congratulations, Cathy Huyghe, for your earning the 2016 Diaz Communications Innovator of the Year Award!




Current Wine and Winegrape Research course offered by UC Davis Extension

This is Public Service Announcement for UC Davis. For the inquisitive, marketers, wine sales industry pros, wanting to understand more about wine grapes and current enology projects.

You are invited to join U.C. Davis’s Extension program for the Current Wine and Winegrape Research course, so that you can soar to new heights of understanding.

Monday, February 13 ~ 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

You’ll enjoy a full day of brief, 20-minute presentations, by researchers describing their new and broad-reaching research on issues relating to wine grapes and enology projects. A wine reception will follow the presentations, which is co-sponsored by the American Vineyard Foundation and the National Grape and Wine Initiative. During this time you will be able to meet the researchers.

U.C. Davis is also looking for researchers to speak at this event. Presentations will be 15 minutes long with five minutes allowed for questions. If you’re interested in sharing your current wine and winegrape research at this venue, please complete the form found at this UC Davis link. Accepted speakers do not need to register as attendees to the course.

Location: UC Davis Conference Center 550 Alumni Lane, Davis CA 95616

Fees: $49.00 Includes lunch, wine reception (starts at 4:20 p.m.), and course materials.

Please use the following link to view the details on the course and to register: xtension.ucdavis.edu/section/current-wine-and-winegrape-research. If you have any questions, please contact Kristen Farrar – Staff Research Associate III | Foundation Plant Services UC Davis at kfarrar@ucdavis.edu.


Amenities, Supplies, Services,Green Valley,Russian River Valley,Vineyards,Wine,Winery

Constructing a soil monolith with Vineyard Soil Technologies

[Photo Credit: Lori Knapp, The Rubin Family of Wines]

I just recommended Vineyard Soil Technologies in my story entitled, “Soil Monolith ~ a perfect wine gift for the winery owner...”

The Rubin Family of Wines has taken advantage of their soil preserved in a Monolith, in order to educate others who visit the winery, who would never be able to see the depths of the soil in the Rubin’s family vineyard. Owner Paul Anamosa of Vineyard Soil Technologies had explained to me that it’s a huge process, and the images below will show exactly how this enormous process occurs.

I asked Lori Knapp, the operations manager of The Rubin Family of wines, to share her thoughts with me. She not only organized it happening at the winery, but she also was there to document it pictorially. This is what Lori had this to say of the process, “The concept of a soils monolith is fabulous, because it embodies art, nature, and science all in one… as does the process of making wine.  Now we can use our soils monolith to show the unique character of Goldridge soil, which is found in the Green Valley, while we share the distinctive flavors and terroir of our Green Valley wines with others.”

From Paul Anamosa on how this is accomplished

We visit the winery property, and dig a hole 6 feet deep, by 3 feet wide, and about 8 feet long (a typical evaluation pit). We then smooth one side of the pit and press a frame into the side. We then dig out the soil on the other side of the frame while wrapping the frame and soil in shrink-wrap. We finally get all 5 feet of frame and soil isolated, and then bundle it, and truck it out. It goes back to our work shop where it is hardened with a non-toxic glue and then glued onto a piece of plexiglass. We have used tempered glass on the first few, but feel that with the ever present threat of earthquakes, we did not want to have glass shards flying though tasting rooms if they shattered.

I watched the process, when the second (below) monolith was sliced from the earth. The most amazing thing for me was to see how hard the soil was, once the crew dug down as deeply as six to seven feet. The earth in that location has a firm crust formation. It’s hard for me to image roots going any deeper.



New Year’s Day From Around the World ~ Let’s Celebrate With Wine!

The part of my blog that’s currently intriguing me the most is having some important doors opened from import brands. As a result, I’m getting to taste the entire world in the comfort of my own home. In junior high, geography was an easy “A.” It still is. Being a lover of life and culture, my life’s assignment is diversification, and a facet of it is definitely diversifying my palate.

I’ve been holding onto some beauties, and there’s no better time for this blog right now, than to start 2017 with a global pulse, and a far flung range of prices.

Based on the samples shipped to me, we’re going to Europe first, because they get to 2017 before we do.


The La Bastarda Pinot Grigio and the Il Bastardo Sangiovese each retail for about $9.00 a bottle. Both also enjoy widespread U.S. distribution. Each variety – a white and a red – makes for a great house wine. They’re so affordable, easy to find, and great conversation pieces. If you want to be a bit edgy, consider these wines made by winemaker Paolo Masi, of Renzo Masi Winery.

From print material:

Both wines are made by Paolo Masi, best known for his fine Chiantis. Paolo is the third-generation winemaker at the highly regarded Renzo Masi winery, south of Florence in the Rufina district of Tuscany. From entry-level to fine wines, the winery philosophy is rooted in delivering quality and value. “Big enough to be broad-minded. Small enough to care about the details” is the Renzo Masi motto. In addition to their own Rufina wine estate, the Masi family contracts with neighboring growers on a long-term basis, which includes consulting on vineyard management to ensure top-flight quality

2015 La Bastarda Pinot Grigio Terre di Siciliana IGP ~ Blanca ~ HB Wine Merchants ~ $9.00

BLANCA: Starting with its name, I mean, com’mon… we can’t just ignore this one. La Bastarda. Since I was the only blonde in a family of seven, my mother joked that I belonged to the milkman. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I learned Charlie Norman was our milkman for all of those early years, and he was very, very, blonde. I can hang with anyone, and have. So, bring on the Bastardos! And then, there are the labels… Very cool… I want a day in Siciliana, where I can wear my hat, too, with big earrings, poolside, and enjoying  refreshing Pinot Grigio.

La Bastarda is more than just a pretty face. This is a crisp and refreshing Pinot Grigio, and very easy to enjoy. Citrus flavors abound, as well as pear and a bit of green apple. Don’t let her slim body fool you, though. There’s plenty of unflexed muscle, sitting next to the pool, glass in hand. When this wine hits your palate, you’ll know that it’s a cleverly disguised topliner. Print material: You may buy it for the package but you will keep buying it because it offers affordable pleasure and satisfaction.
The wine is an ideal accompaniment to seafood, cream based pastas and salads.

2015 Il Bastardo Sangiovese di Toscana IGT ~ Rubio ~ HB Wine Merchants ~ $9.00

RUBIO: Let’s start with the name.  Il Bastardo… Telling it like it is, so little is pure bred anything these days. Just look at Petite Sirah that I’ve been advocating with PS I Love You, for the last 14 years… I guess if I can hang with Petite Sirah, I can hang with anything else, including il Bastardo.

From Chianti Rufino, Tuscany, Italy – Tuscany is considered the best terroir for the Sangiovese grape, after the Classico region. If you enjoy the aromas of black cherry, this wine is very enticing, and won’t disappoint. When you sip it, you’ll enjoy its medium body that won’t overpower most Italian dishes… It will work in harmony. (If you’re looking for full-bodied Sangiovese, get yourself a Super Tuscan. This wine has some Cabernet Sauvignon to beef it up.) Tannins are very smooth and let a full fruit finish. Try with BBQ.

2015 Peter Zemmer, Rolhüt, Pinot Noir ~ HB Wine Merchants ~ $18.00

When Peter Zemmer is in the house, I’m a happy camper. This is a style of Pinot Noir that I love. In fact, any of the Pinots on this page make me very happy. Alcohol levels are in great balance, making all of these wines very food friendly.

The Peter Zemmer brand is a third generation winemaking family. This wine is all estate fruit; and the winery is very sustainable, with state of the art solar panels to take advantage of the region’s 300 or so days of sunshine a during the year. From their Website: Since the establishment of this family business in 1928 the winery Peter Zemmer has been producing top quality wines on the finest vineyards in and around Cortina s.s.d.v. in Alto Adige, South Tyrol.

Back Label – Sometimes what others have written is just beautiful poetry: The distinctive elegance of this wine captivates the senses with its perfect harmony. The wine reflects not only its characteristic origin, but also the natural distinctiveness of its unique terrain.”

This Pinot Noir producer crafts Pinots that are as smooth as silk, and this 2015 in no exception. I loved the dominant plum flavors, along with touches of spicy clove and nutmeg, and a smooth, elegant finish. The way this wine is crafted has a lot to do with its finish. Stems (where tannins are present) are immediately removed. The grapes are then fermented at a very comfortable and constant temp of 82° F. This goes on for approximately seven days. You can always depend on a Peter Zemmer Pinot Noir being decidedly delicious.


I received four wines from Georges Dubœuf. In this blog story today, because we just enjoyed it for Christmas, is the first one of four listed. I’m going to focus on the rest for Wine(s) of The Week next week. They’re the following four wines from Georges Dubœuf:

  1. 2015 Château de Nervers, Brouilly, Mis en Bouteille, [bottled] Par Les Vins Georges Dubœuf~ $18.00
  2. 2015 Domaine Des Quatre Vents, GFA Darroze Propriétaire Fleurie Par Les Vins Georges Dubœuf ~ $24.00
  3. 2015 Georges Dubœuf Pouilly-Fuisse, Appellation Pouilly-Fuissé Contrôlée ~ $25.00
  4. 2015 Georges Dubœuf Macon-Villages, Appellation Macon-Villages Contrôlée Chardonnay ~ $15.00

This one deserves to be considered as a decidedly delicious medium bodied red wine, worthy of your attention.

2015 Château de Nervers, Brouilly, Mis en Bouteille, [bottled] Par Les Vins Georges Dubœuf~ $18.00

According to Château de Nervers, “Raised with passion in the castle. All our wines are made exclusively with the grapes grown and harvested on the estate of the castle of Nervers, they are put in vats or barrels, bred and bottled at the castle.” In the castle… There’s magic in castles, isn’t there? I could spend the rest of my life going from one to the next. The history, original art work of the masers, the feeling from spirits of antiquity, aromas too complex to interpret… The castles, built when craftsmanship meant more than beating a time clock and cutting corners, except when it was in actual stone.

From their Website: From the hunting lodge of Nervers to the Château de Nervers… Originally, Nervers was a hunting lodge with a cuvage. The whole belonged to the owner of the castle of La Chaize. In 1830, this property was acquired by Pierre Denoyel, specializing in gas lighting in major cities such as Lyon, Rennes, Venice, etc. Since then, it has remained in the same family. At present, it is Count Jean-Gabriel de Chabannes who owns it and his son Jean-Benoît the manager. The estate consists of an agricultural area of ​​about 60 hectares including 45 hectares of vines. The whole of these lands is located around the Castle which is a big advantage for the exploitation. The name of Nervers comes from a small stream called the Nerval which flows below the castle. After several long years of work (about thirty years), this important pavilion became a castle. A castle of the XIXth century under the influence of the Napoleon III. To read more, click here.

My daughter Melanie has a great palate. I told her that we could enjoy this wine, if she was willing to take notes for me. (My hands were full of four grandchildren, ranging in age from two to five… and trying to get Christmas dinner on the table. Once I tasted the wine and then read her notes, it was a reminder of how her notes were the ones chosen in a group for publishing with Windsor Vineyards, many years ago, over everyone else’s… And why I hired her for a while to write Melanie’s Wednesday Wines.

Here goes: Bright raspberry aromas in the bouquet, cherry with dusty cocoa powder, that finishes with a touch of vanilla and nutmeg spice, at the close of the nose… The palate features juicy cherry flavors and a touch of cedar. It’s smooth and balanced. Its structure offers ripe mulberry fruit and a strawberry jam finish, with just a hint of espresso.

I’m drooling and really looking forward to the rest of the Château de Nervers wines.


Portuguese Heritage ~ Dessert Time

2006 Sandeman Old Tawny Porto, Rested 10 years ~ $32.00

For the first 20 years of my life, I lived on Lisbon Street, drove to the beach by going through Lisbon and Lisbon Falls, Maine. Never, in my wildest dreams, did I ever think I would be standing in Lisbon, Portugal, looking at their expansive river, trying to imagine Christopher Columbus leaving port and headed to the New World… But, history happens. In 2009, I left a piece of my heart in Portugal… and there it waits for me to return.

I’ve written copiously about the country, the art, the culture, the foods, the people, and her wines. I feel so lucky and for that I constantly give thanks. It is perfectly fitting that I begin this banquet year with a 1986 Sandeman Old Tawny Port, that’s rested for the last 10 years.

Sandeman has been in existence for 225 years… Europe is like that, Certo? At the end of a satisfying meal, it’s time to reminisce. This is where we can tell the stories of our ports of call, while savoring a Porto and all of its delights. Sandeman Porto Tawny 10 Years Old is a vibrant premium aged wine, where the balance of ripe fruit and oak aged intensity, highlight Sandeman´s quality. Think the end of the early morning, and it’s almost time to shut it down. Some will enjoy a port with a Cuban cigar. I’ve personally never had one, but do remember my grandfather and dad having cigars, on really rare occasions. Early in the morning, on January 1, comes to mind as a time when it would be cool for those who enjoy a great cigar.

USA – Oregon

…and this is a client’s wine. If I can’t enjoy it, I couldn’t write/right about it.

2013 Aberrant Cellars, Carpe Noctem Pinot Noir Willamette Valley, Oregon ~ $60.00

Proprietor and winemaker Eric Eide is as eclectic as they come. When does a publicist submit wines to the major publications for an up-and-coming owner/winemaker, only to have scores return in the low to mid 90’s? When I tasted Eric’s wines, I was humbled to think that I could be working with such a Pinot Noir master from Willamette Valley… And there he is. Eric has a winery dedicated to avoiding conventions. His wines reflect his years in Europe studying old world influences, which he would then blend with his New World wines. His influencers were Christian Serafin ~ Burgundy, France and Jean Lus & Jean Paul Jamet, Cote Rotie, Northern Rhone Valley, France.

Aberrant Cellar wines are delightful to taste… They’re not over extracted, they’re more feminine; versus, muscular and bold Pinots. This is Eric’s more bold Pinot Noir, still, it’s worthy of singular attention for New Year’s Eve, with delicious appetizers. I can see duck fans really drooling with this wine and a pairing. And, get ready for a lesson in Latin, with many of his wines… Such as Carpe Noctem.

Seizing New Year’s Eve… In this case, according to Eric and I completely agree: Our top Pony.  A (very) rigorous selection which showcases the depth, power, and ageability our efforts provide within a vintage.  Starting with the first choice throughout the whole cellar a tiny percentage of barrels are temporary contenders for Noctem.  Over the ensuing 14 months, through continuous evaluation, only about a third of those chosen originally end up making the final cut.  Following several more months in barrel and an additional year ageing in bottle, we are finally willing let go of the reins. 

While this lengthy practice is quite rare in the modern era of Pinot Noir production, we adhere so that all of our patrons considering this wine can feel confident they’ll be rewarded upon it’s release, and for many years to come.

USA – California

A Magnum of the 2009 Iron Horse Vineyards Brut X ~ Russian River Valley  ~ approximately $200.00

Starting the year off with a respectable bang! This is a precious sparkling wine, and there’s just no other occasion to unleash a wine of this magnitude! I’ve been holding this one for the last two and a half years… Not easy to do, but patience – as a virtue – won out.

This classic brut is 74 percent Pinot Noir and 26 percent Chardonnay. It was aged for four years en triage and was last disgorged on July 18, 2014. The dosage includes the winery’s Thomas Road Pinot Noir. Its beautiful golden color gives way to fruits like pear and baked apples, which leads into a light style of honey graham crackers. This is a very refined sparkling wine, just like the family who crafts it… The Barry Sterling family.


2014 Marques de Casa Concha Chardonnay ~ Chile ~ Concha y Toro ~ $22.00

Want it smooth? Want it consistently great? Want a wine that delivers more than you’d expect of pay for? Concha y Toro every time you stand in front of shelves loaded with wine and you don’t even know where to begin… Ask your sales person to guide you to anything Concha y Toro, and pick your flavor and price range. You’ve begun…

This Chardonnay was so smoothly delicious, it was gone before I realized it. I don’t care what vintage year, either. They’ve got it down! I went searching for what others think about this wine, too. This one says it all: Decanter named the 2012 Marques de Casa Concha Chardonnay—by winemaker Marcelo Papa with grapes from the Llanuras de Camarico Vineyard in the Limarí Valley—one of the Best Chardonnays in the World.

Each vintage has the same critical acclaim. All of these wines are best values, regardless of the price for each level of cost. Concha y Toro has carefully created wines for each pocketbook. Most people can afford a bottle of Concha y Toro, whether or not they know it. I was in Puerto Rico, a couple of years ago, saw it on the shelf of a local wine shop, and just didn’t stress on anything else. It’s my go to Chilean brand.

2014 Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon Devilish Release ~ Chile ~ Concha y Toro ~ $12.00

I’ve called this one devilishly delicious in the past. Nothing has changed, except look for “Devilish” on the bottle’s front label area. Smooth as a baby’s bum, juicy like ripe black berries, a finish as silky smooth as a kimono, This is a Cabernet that makes a great house wine, if you want to stock up on wines from South America’s Chile.

The Winery Story ~ Concha y Toro ~ In the closing years of the 19th century Don Melchor de Concha y Toro discovered that his most treasured wines had been pilfered from the “casillero” (cellar) beneath his family home. To discourage further theft, the enterprising Don spread a rumor that his deepest, darkest cellars were haunted by the devil. Today, the original Concha y Toro family estate, complete with its Devil’s Cellar, is Chile’s leading tourist destination! The wines may have been stored in hell, but they are made in heaven. With its steady sunshine, cooling winds and pestilence-free vineyards, Chile is a winemaker’s dream. Add to this a winemaking tradition based on French grape varieties and winemaking techniques, and you have a winning combination. High quality wines can be made inexpensively, which Concha y Toro successfully demonstrated with the release of its Casillero el Diablo wines in 1963.

Frontera is brought to us by Excelsior Wines… Their credos:

  • As a Producer, our commitment is to provide the highest price/value relationship in the industry.
  • As an Importer, our goal is to represent specific products from “The Best” wine growing regions.
  • As a Marketer, to provide excitement, visibility, and product knowledge about our wines and how to enjoy them while socializing with family and friends.

And… they do it well at only $5 retail.

2016 Frontera, Night Harvest Wines, Moonlight White Blend ~ Chile ~ Excelsior Wines

Moonlight White ~ Moscato based, this is Concha & Toro’s most popular wine brand. From their Website: Notice striking changes to Frontera’s 750-ml. range, including the addition of an “After Dark” tagline, a nod to the younger generation, for whom “The day starts to come alive at night!” Frontera Night Harvest Blends are a fresh winemaking concept: grapes harvested in the cool of the night for bolder flavors and aromas.

Chill it well, and get ready for a little Moscato. We all have one friend who prefers a white wine that’s a tad sweet, right? Bring this one to the party, and you’ll make someone (two or three) very happy. Moscato is a very floral wine and this one delivers that happiness in a glass.

2016 Frontera, Night Harvest Wines, After Midnight Red Wine ~ Chile ~ Excelsior Wines

After Midnight Red ~ Cab -Syrah blend from Central Valley, Chile. The grape varieties are about half Cabernet Sauvignon and half  Syrah. There’s also just a touch of Merlot, for good measure. The color of this wine is rich purple in color. It has aromas of rich, red cherries and currants. On the finish, you’ll enjoy a smidge of cedar. The acidity is great and the tannins are sweet and smooth.

From their Web: After Midnight Red Blend is a late-night sensation! Inspired by the moon and made during the night, I really do enjoy the nocturnal side of Frontera! PERMISSION! Enjoy After Midnight Red. Pour a glass, finish off the pizza, red meat dishes, and any cheeses not yet enjoyed…

Happy New Year, everyone! Here’s to your health, wealth, and happiness in 2017!



Wine and Spirits Books of 2016 That Belong in Any Great Wine (book) Library

Each year I enjoy putting a list together of the best wine and food books I read throughout the year. This year is no exception. Here are my 2016 Wine and Spirits Books. And, here’s headed to your Black Friday shopping…

A Zentrepreneur’s Guide ~ by vintner Ron Rubin and Stuart Avery Gold

We’ve got secrets. Secrets that we’ve shared with you these many pages, with the impassioned hope that you will share what you’ve learned with others who seek an inward light through a shadow of change. p. 142

When people, as gifted and talented as Ron Rubin and Stuart Avery Gold, want to make the world a better place by giving people the tools to enrich their lives (and in this case it is I who received the benefits with their book), you’ve just got to go for it.

Blinders ~ Michael Amon

I’ve been in wine business since ’93. Just when I think I’ve seen it all, along comes Blinders!

In fact, I can’t remember ever devouring a book this quickly. And, even if I hadn’t been flying, for some time off, I still would have put everything non-urgent aside and just read through it. Michael Amon’s debut book Blinders is a must read, if you love to be captivated by the first sentence onward… Simple, easy, no frills, “Trilby saw her before she saw him.”

Blinders, if you don’t know, are people who taste wine blindly, and then go on to name 1) wine grape variety, 2) year produced, and 3) wine brand producer. Take the idea of sommeliers, then imagine a bumpkin in a pumpkin patch. Now, you’re on your way to an exuberantly lively and amusing great time.

Bourbon Curious, Second Edition ~ Fred Minnick

If you don’t know anything at all, it’s best to start with the best person to explain the mysterious. In this case, a spirit… I was exposed to Bourbon as a kid, because it was my mom and dad’s favorite spirit. Then, it got revisited via the culture of Mad Men’s exploits. Now, thanks to Fred Minnick, I understand so much more about bourbon and whiskey, and am looking forward to that moment when I order my next spirit, but it won’t be a Manhattan.

According to Fred, bourbon, like wine, has its own culture. If you love bourbon, this isn’t news to you. Minnick calls it the most misunderstood spirit on liquor store shelves. I’m betting that he’s right.

Corkscrew ~ Peter Stafford-Bow

This is a classic and is my #1 recommendation for the audacious among us for the holidays.  I laughed so hard I cried occasionally. This is a very, very funny man, and not intended for the delicate among us.

I’m glad I lived long enough to read this one… This is the funniest book I’ve ever, ever laugh-out-loud read. I thought I was telling tales when I wrote Road Warrior Survival Guide… Doesn’t even hold a candle to what I just finished reading. Corkscrew, The highly improbably, but occasionally true, tale of a professional wine buyer. I can promise you, you don’t know anyone who’s more funny… Entertaining to the Nth degree, really jolly. If there’s a glass ceiling for how much you can laugh while reading a book, Peter Stafford-Bow has broken it.

Drinking with the Democrats ~ Mark Will-Weber

My first thought was Camelot. I, as much as anyone else, was as entranced as everyone else. I also didn’t realize until just now, that both presidents have ties to assassination. Pure Coincidence.

Meanwhile, what was Camelot like, during those years while we were asking ourselves what we could do for our country… amid avoiding the Vietnam War?

Joe Kennedy‘s fortunes were a result of being connected to the Mafia, ergo, they owned the presidency (whether or not we enjoy knowing that). Enough documentaries have emerged from history for us to be informed – as possibilities…  Mark writes: “… it is hard to envision Camelot-or at least the Jack and Jacky version of it-without daiquiris, the occasional Bloody Mary, or the finest French champagne.”

Drinking with the Republicans ~ Mark Will-Weber

You may not remember Chester. He didn’t win an election. He became President after James Garfield‘s assassination. Garfield was president for only 200 days… This one is a lesson to be considered, when choosing a VP. If a dandy has been chosen, then don’t be surprised when the party animal takes over. Arthur’s wife Ellen Herndon died suddenly in 1880, before Chester had taken office, so Chester Arthur’s sister Mrs. Mary McElroy came into the White House to serve as First Lady. Both of them had an appetite for splendor, and they spent equally well.

Fruitful Aging ~ Tom Pinkson

It’s a very spiritual book and since wine is a spirit… It works for this wine blog, in my humble opinion, especially for my spiritual friends, of which I have plenty.

Tom begins, “A silver tsunami of increasing longevity is sweeping across our nation. Over the next several decades, the number

of Americans over age 60 will increase by nearly 70 percent, the largest increase for any age group in the population… Will it be positive? Fulfilling? Meaningful?”

Tom’s book is all about giving people the emotional tools to begin living now, so that there will be no regrets, by presenting a panoply of examples for what’s important as we prepare to exit stage right. Tom makes certain that we know, as elders, this is time that has the potential to be our best years yet, as we continue to define our worthiness, repair what’s yet to be mended, and provides exercises to that end.

If a glass of wine or two comes into that quality of life, too, I know Tom won’t mind, since we’ve been at a party with a good amount for wine for those who wanted it.

Red Mountain ~ Boo Walker

Red Mountain by Boo Walker is a novel that will draw you in, hold your attention, and have you up in the middle of the night because it’s nearly impossible to put down, wanting to know what happens next.

The challenge of a really great book, and this one is one of those, is that, for its readers it’s a reminder of our life cycle… It can begin with great joy. As it evolves, it has its intermediate moments of joy turning into learning curves for growth. And, like a dearly beloved family pet, its life is shorter than ours, so we have to take deep sighs at its “The End.”  We eventually have to put it to rest in our libraries, for perhaps a revisit from time to time. I know that’s why I’ve schlepped my library from Maine to California, from Windsor to Geyserville, and the good gods only know where to next. But, schlep I will. Red Mountain is a keeper, and I’ll revisit it from time to time…

Swallow This ~ Mark Phillips

I love this guy Mark Phillips… He’s the brains behind WineTasting.org.

His site begins with “Making Wine Fun.” Yes, indeed, he’s got quite the sense of humor. I learned a long, long time ago, make what they have to learn be as much fun (and funny) as possible, and even the most complicated concepts become easy for nearly everybody. And, he also subliminally admits, wine is complicated. Say what you want about it needed to be easy, but even Mark admits to some lotus layers still unfolding. It is what it is… A magical mystery ride.

A trilogy, parts 1 and 2

The Charlemagne Connection ~ R.M. Cartmel

With my father having been to Burgundy, I was led right into this wine-based, mystery novel. From the moment I opened the book, I was engrossed, loving The Charlemagne Connection. It’s one of those where it’s really hard to put it down. I’d awaken at 3:00 a.m., and decide to read for a couple more hours, after having taken it to bed with me the night before. It’s that wonderfully written.

And I thank David Clark (my father was a David Clarke, too), because he’s guided R.M. with bits of viticulture that I know (from 20+ years in this business called “wine”). However, because of France’s history of wine (imported by the Romans when they invaded Western Europe, until Charlemagne drove them back to Italy), the lexicon is so much more rich than what we know in our very new US wine grape growing history, that I learned even more.

The page corner folded down moment ~ p. 85-86

The conversation resumed as if it had never been interrupted. ‘Do you really think they’d steal stuff?’ Truchaud asked?

‘Oh come on. The only way to stop people stealing stuff is to give them enough money so that it doesn’t hurt to buy it. I suppose it’s partly our fault for pricing the good wine the way that we do, but why make it cheap when fat cats are very willing to pay loads for it? I would even go so far as to think the fat cats wouldn’t buy ours if it were cheap. There would be no exclusivity. That’s what they are really paying for, you know; a label to when the plebs don’t have access.’

The Richebourg Affair ~ R.M. Cartmel

A book of “who done it” in France’s Burgundy region of Nuits-Saint-Georges… It is the first in a series of two novels of “Not all is at it seems in the peaceful vineyards of Burgundy…”

If someone you know loves a great mystery novel set in wine country, this one will make someone very happy, this holiday season. It’s set in the methodically arranged vineyards of Burgundy, and things get a bit rumpled for a short time, with Commander Charlemagne Truchaud, our hero detective.

The Secret of Altamura ~ Dick Rosano

If you’re looking for a wine county novel to read, Dick Rosano’s books won’t disappoint you. He’s an excellent author. Also, for your gift giving, when a friend or family member is an avid reader and loves wine, this is for their library that won’t disappear, once the bottle is opened. Some of us love our wine libraries. Anything Dick writes is highly recommended in my world.

Prolific is the word that best describes Dick Rosano, and that’s prolific with five stars. As was written in The Washington Post:

“Original in conception, well-researched and deftly written.” The Washington Post

The Secrets of My Life: Vintner, Prisoner, Soldier, Spy ~ Peter M. F. Sichel

Reading Peter Sichel’s memoir is like taking an advanced course in not only wine history, but also wine in wine marketing. Sichel touches upon the American market. But, more important to those of us who already know a bit about the United States’ wine history, his adventures as they relate to Europe, including what happened to the business of wine during World War II, connect some very important missing dots in wine history’s chronology. At least it did for me. This is an advanced course for anyone who’s serious about understanding the business of wine.

It’s also a real eye opener for someone just learning about wine. It will equally move you into a fast forward mode.

Vertical ~ Just in and reading it as I write this ~ Rex Pickett

Miles and Jack are back… If you loved Sideways, as the book and/or the movie, here we go again, as Miles trips his way into Oregon wine county, slurping Pinot along the way. Unabashedly, he dumps a dump bucket over his head to please an adoring crowd… What else is coming?

I can sum it up in one paragraph:

It takes just a little bit to get going, because Rex Pickett was laying out all of the poignant parts of his story that would be unfolding. One doesn’t just jump in with frivolity, when the story is more heartrending than one being wrapped up in wine country tomfoolery. Miles isn’t going to create the new next-best variety, either. Miles becomes a man of honor.


Petite Sirah,Petite Sirah Symposium,Wine,Wine Education

Still With The “Y?” ~ Why?

PS I Love You began in October, 2002. Today this Petite Sirah advocacy is still actively educating. It’s 14 years later. Early on, when I’d help wine writers to understand that Petite Sirah is not spelled with a “Y,” I’d mostly get people thanking me for the education. I do remember correcting one person, however, who was furious with me… “Why didn’t you tell me BEFORE I wrote my story?”

That one amused me, because www.psiloveyou.org had been live for at least five years at the time, and this person was a very visible wine educator. My thought, but not response, was “Why didn’t you do a couple minutes of research, before you wrote your story?”

Then, just as things were moving along pretty smoothly, Web 2.0 hit. I was back to square one. Everyone was now a wine writer. They mostly didn’t have any history, but off they went, along with the “Y” all over again. And, I began anew.

Again, people would thank me and we had more people being educated about the “i” versus the “y,” and understanding.

Fast Forward to Today

If I’ve told one writer, I have told at least 50, in the last couple of years. What do I get back in response? Nothing, nada, zip, zilch. Not one single person responds to his or her email. I’ve come to realize that all of these people querying me to be on my wine blog with their own stories relevant to wine have pseudonyms, and the people who hire them at five cents per hour have zero interest in putting out what’s real and what’s imaginary.

Fake News is a Happening Thing

Here’s My Latest… No Response

And, the irony is so painful

She wrote:

Do not confuse either [Syrah and Shiraz] with Petite Syrah, that is a totally different wine and flavor profile, which we will explore later.

So, I wrote:

Hi, Jacquelyn,

Thanks for your story on Petite Sirah. If I may….

The TTB has helped with the confusion. They no long accept Petite Syrah – with the “y” – as a synonym for Petite Sirah. Nor does the TTB allow for any more labeling of Petite Sirah with the “y.” (There might be a couple left that are grand fathered in, but I really doubt it.)

In France, Petite Syrah is a variation of the Syrah grape, so it all makes sense to stop the practice in the US.

Only Petite Sirah – worldwide – is Petite Sirah.

Syrah – the father grape – was crossed with Peloursin – the mother grape = offspring ~ Petite Sirah. Dr. Carole Meredith of UC Davis has identified the DNA fingerprinting. I can connect you, if you’d like.

This could also help your readers become less confused, when it’s not spelled with the Y. It’s still a common mistake, even though I’ve been fighting the good fight for the last 15 years. Thanks. Perhaps when I’m dead and gone!

Nothing. I’m listening for a pin to drop… Nothing.

If you are a writer about wine, an educator about wine, a sommelier/master of wine, etc., or an advocate of wine and want to help others… “i” before you even think of using a “y.”

Please and thanks, and you’re welcome, in advance.



Eleven Years… Eleven whole years of Wine Blogging

Sometimes I wonder, “Am I nuts?”

I voiced it to Jennifer Chin, when she was querying me about helping with her client Ernest Vineyards, a new [artisan] producer of cool-climate Chards and Pinots from the Sonoma Coast. I wrote to her:

Thanks for contacting me. Right now, between my day job and all of the wines backed up for my wine of the week program I’m really swamped.

I don’t see any lightening of my load for a while… Also packing the house for a move in the fall.

I would like to help you, but I can’t at this time. The work load is so heavy, that’s my exhaustion. All I seem to do is write my brains out. I’ve been writing furiously since 1993…

Jennifer came back with a gift.

Dear Jo:

I’ve always thought that writing is one of the most difficult of occupations.  Colette, the French novelist, had several pithy thoughts on this; one which I particularly like goes something like this….”Put down everything that comes into your head and then you’re a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff’s worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.”

In other words, no wonder you’re tired!!!


Jennifer Chin
Founder, Strategic Wine Solutions

I managed to write all of this down, because it’s going to make a great, So, how’s it going with all of that blogging…

It’s 11 year later and I wonder, how many books could I have written in this time frame, and would they have been more fun?



Red Mountain ~ A Novel ~ Boo Walker

Red Mountain by Boo Walker is a novel that will draw you in, hold your attention, and have you up in the middle of the night because it’s nearly impossible to put down, wanting to know what happens next.

I received a copy in the US mail from Boo.

For Jo,



Well, I did enjoy. I really, really did.

Also, my being related to the wine industry, I too have tons of stories; but, couldn’t possibly be as eloquent nor as empathetic as Boo Walker is in Red Mountain. This one is a must read for people who enjoy stories about life in wine country, which aren’t sugar coated. Life in this business is not nearly as romantic, from an insider’s perspective. We have to stay focused on the details, not the billboards. While it’s bucolic in essence, it’s still blood, guts, and some glory. Boo brings it all together.

If I were coming to wine country to visit, this is the book I’d be reading on the airplane.

Red Mountain

Red in soil equals iron oxide; viticulturist Hector Bedolla taught that to me in the early 1990s. Red Mountain in Washington State, according to Boo Walker’s story, reminds me of narratives I’ve heard about Sonoma County in the early 1960s, brought to me by Lou Foppiano. Everyone mostly cared about everyone else then… the good, the bad, the ugly…. The joy, the sorrow, and the discovery.

What I enjoyed most about Red Mountain was the eloquence of style, the construction of characters, and the possibility of recovery by everyone.

The Paragraph I Most Related To

Otis had taught Brooks that making good wine meant taking care of the land and crating more of a permaculture. Otis told him that you can’t just plant vines and plan to make good wine. You need to have a living farm, a place that encourages the circle of life. You need biodiversity, like gardens and trees and pest control, sheep for weed control and manure and milk, bees to pollinate and to give honey, dogs to protect and entertain and, of course, to clean up your accidents in the kitchen.

The challenge of a really great book, and this one is one of those, is that, for its readers it’s a reminder of our life cycle… It can begin with great joy. As it evolves, it has its intermediate moments of joy turning into learning curves for growth. And, like a dearly beloved family pet, its life is shorter than ours, so we have to take deep sighs at its “The End.”  We eventually have to put it to rest in our libraries, for perhaps a revisit from time to time. I know that’s why I’ve schlepped my library from Maine to California, from Windsor to Geyserville, and the good gods only know where to next. But, schlep I will. Red Mountain is a keeper, and I’ll revisit it from time to time…

I’d honestly like Boo Walker to write a sequel. I’m already ready for it. Meanwhile, I’ll be reading Lowcounty Punch, Off You Go, and Turn or Burn. It’s his style that I know crave, and how he weaves his stories… I started with his last story, but I feel the need to begin at the beginning… It would be like the three summers in succession that I read The Hobbit, and then the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I think I found my modern day Tolkien.



Bordeaux 101 ~ The Stages of Learning about Bordeaux ~ partie

Bordeaux 101, my stages of discovery for the past year. Since this is a birthday for me, and my last year was devoted to learning more about Bordeaux, today I’m sharing my Bordeaux 101, for anyone else so inspired.

Now I’m going into a new region: Verona, Italy, for 2017. Today is my cross over, thanks to #IAMarone inspired…

For you, From Bordeaux with Love

In late 2015, I had a realization… 24 years in wine work, and I hadn’t made real time for learning about the origin of fine wine ~ Bordeaux. I became committed, inspired by the importer Millesima. I truly believe that if one is to learn about any wine region, he or she first needs to learn about the culture. This happened to me by first moving to Sonoma County, and learning all I could at Belvedere Winery. In that job I was sent to nearly every state in the US. When I started my own PR firm with my husband/partner Jose Diaz, we had Mills Reef as a client. I then learned a lot more about New Zealand. What an amazing opportunity that was. I didn’t get to travel there, but was the first to declare that New Zealand was an upside-down boot, and a land of lamb and people with gentle passion and delicious wines.

Next, Enoforum wines entrusted me with their wines. This time, I got to travel to Europe… Portugal. Immersed in that culture for ten of the most fabulous learning days of my life; my wine world expanded exponentially steeper than I could have ever imagined.

When Millesima invited me for the second year in a row to enter their contest, I thought, why not? It was a ridiculous thought, based on how little I knew or had written about Bordeaux, but I did a Nike thing… Just do it, right?

It was their grace of turning me down – which I fully expected – that made me want to take a journey and learn about Bordeaux. What were the secrets that I was missing? How could I apply with I know about wine already, apply what I know about the culture of wine and beyond to get serious.

Below is a list of how I got serious in 2016 to learn about Bordeaux. And in 2016, it took getting to partie seize that I seized the day for just learning about wineries in Bordeaux… True to my core, I first learned about the culture. I was then ready to learn about the wines. I seize(d) the day!

If you, too, are ready to learn about Bordeaux, save a link to this story. You’ll be able to return and read each story at your leisure, and systematically find the joy that I have… Bordeaux.

Wine Blog Bordeaux Series

  1. Beyond Bordeaux – Season 1 – A Travel Series with Host Patrick Cappiello
    • The LCBO Broadcast Production Group’s series takes us beyond the obvious… the wines
  2. My Story for Passion of Wine ~ Partie un ~ Just getting started
    • The beginning of my armchair, Bordeaux journey
  3. My Story for Passion of Wine ~ Partie deux
    • The Bordeaux varieties
  4. Wine of the Week ~ Les Hauts de Lagarde 2015 Bordeaux Rose ~ partie trois
    • Tasting a Bordeaux wine
  5. Unexpected Bordeaux “partie quatre” ~ Bordeaux and the rest of us are silently weeping for Denis and May-Britt Malbec
    • The Loss of Denis Malbec
  6. Bordeaux ~ You Can Bank On It ~ partie cinq
    • What are the Left and Right banks all about?
  7. Bordeaux ~ Getting to the Bottom of Left and Right Bank Soils ~ partie six
    • Terroir of the banks
  8. Bordeaux ~ Cabernet Franc, a Luscious Bordeaux Variety ~ partie sept
    • Cab France, the grape variety
  9. Bordeaux ~ The Aquitaine Region ~ partie huit
    • A region by any other name
  10. Bordeaux ~ Mirror of Water ~ partie neuf
    • A new Bordeaux landmark
  11. Bordeaux ~ What You Don’t Know ~ partie dix
    • Things I found fascinating about Bordeaux
  12. Bordeaux ~ Impressionist Alfred Smith ~ partie onze
    • Could there be a French Impressionist from Bordeaux?
  13. Bordeaux ~ Albert Smith Work in the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux ~ partie douze ~ Partie

    • More from this Bordeaux Impressionist
  14. Bordeaux ~ Beyond the vines, while enjoying the culture ~ partie treize
    • More Bordeaux, the city
  15. Bordeaux ~ Banking on Iconic Wineries ~ partie quatorze
    • Continuing to explore the Banks’ regional diversities
  16. Bordeaux ~ Les Hauts de Lagarde 2015 ~ The Red and The White of It ~ partie quinze
    • Les Hauts de Lagarde 2015 – Blanc and Rouge

Credit to Millesima for originally inspiring me to learn about Bordeaux.

Key for French Numerals

0. Zéro / Zero
1. Un, une / One
2. Deux / Two
3. Trois / Three
4. Quatre / Four
5. Cinq / Five
6. Six / Six
7. Sept / Seven
8. Huit / Eight
9. Neuf / Nine
10. Dix / Ten
11. Onze / Eleven
12. Douze / Twelve
13. Treize / Thirteen
14. Quatorze / Fourteen
15. Quinze / Fifteen
16. Seize / Sixteen