Importer,New Zealand,Sauvignon Blanc,Wine,Wine of the Week

Wine of The Week ~ Locations Wine NZ

DISCLAIMER: Wine-Blog is a journal of my PR wine activities and learnings. 1) I occasionally write stories about wine clients, but don’t charge them hours for that time. 2) Wine reviews (and trips) originate from free samples sent by PR people representing the brands. 3) Images are mostly mine, some are purchased; a few rare ones are part of fair trade usage.

I have to thank a former client Mills Reef , for originally taking me (virtually) to Hawks Bay, New Zealand all those years ago, and discovering this fact, while working for them. I had this epiphany that New Zealand is an upside down boot. I was the first to mention it to them. (I guess I live in a very different mind.) But, then, over the years I’ve modified it. It’s an upside down shoe boot with a leg warmer. And, yes, they’re making great wines, despite my having fun of their unique shape.

San Francisco Wine Exchange had winemaker Tim Preston coming to the US, and I was the person who set up Tim in one American city after the other, during his stay with media lunches and dinners. Tim was a hit. How could he not be? He’s about the loveliest person on the planet, and he makes solidly structure wines. Find a Mills Reef and buy it. You won’t be disappointed, is all I can say, as validated by so many wine writers around the US at the time.

The New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs and Pinot Noirs are very distinctively, terroir driven, and  delicious. I had the of pleasure working with the Preston Family of Mills Reef Winery, when they had their US media blitz. They had launched into US distribution, and wanted that buzz.

So, here we are with Locations Wines, and the one they call NZ. It’s a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, a famous region for their Sauvignon Blancs. This Sauvignon Blanc is 100 percent SB; from a blend of three regions…

  1. Marlborough’s Wairau Valley
  2. Awatere Valley
  3. Waihopai Valley

Last April, I was offered the opportunity to taste Dave Phinney’s Locations Wines, which are non-vintage wines from Portugal, Italy, France, New Zealand, etc.. Having them be non-vintage has opened the door to not only great opportunities, but also for wines that are tasty, under $20 (Hello!), and have ingenious packages; albeit the same consistent design. Only the name changes to protect the innocent. Each wine is crafted to represent as much of the essence of its country or place as possible; yet, they are non-appellation, non-variety, and non-vintage. They ARE very tasty, I can tell you that…

  • If the wine is from Portugal, the label simply has a really big “P” on it.
  • If the wine is from Italy, the label simply has a really big “I” on it.
  • If the wine is from France, the label simply has a really big “F” on it.
  • If the wine is from New Zealand, the label simply has a really big “NF” on it.

Today’s wine is brought to you by Locations NZ, and it’s a temptingly delicious Sauvignon Blanc. Of my five claw rating, it’s three claws, which means that it is in the perfect Sauvignon Blanc department. See below for the Sauvignon Blanc Claw Factor. Enjoying a wine this good, for $19.99? It’s a really good deal. Getting ready for the holidays… Cheese course and this Sauvignon Blanc, if you like Sauvignon Blancs, you’ll love this one.

About Locations Wine Brand

The base of the blend is comprised of fruit from vineyards in the heart of the Wairau Valley, with its traditional passion fruit and crisp grassy flavors. This component is complemented by the second wave of plantings in the ever-expanding Awatere Valley, which is noted for the minerality and elegant characteristics the fruit gains from the region’s proximity to the Pacific Ocean. For the balance of this wine, fruit was sought out from the southern valley of Waihopai, where the gravel soils, and later, cooler ripening climate produce Sauvignon Blanc characteristics that provide the final layer of complexity and brings balance to the inaugural release of NZ.

Sauvignon Blanc Claw Factor

One Claw = Commodity SB

“Did I order water, Ms. Sommelier? What is this?”

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

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

Three Claws = Perfect SB

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, this is a well balanced and tasty wine to enjoy.


Education,Vineyards,Viticulture,Wine,Wine Ed

Current Issues in Vineyard Health Program at UC Davis is on December 5

Disclosure: Public Service Announcement

From UC Davis, this is a reminder about the upcoming Current Issues in Vineyard Health course, offered by UC Davis Extension scheduled. It will be held on Tuesday, December 5. The course is lead by Dr. Deborah Golino, Director of Foundation Plant Services, and UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Plant Pathology, at UC Davis.  Guest speakers, chosen for their involvement in developing solutions to the problems associated with grape pests and diseases, provide the latest management information on current topics. Please see the course agenda attached.

As a Public Service Announcement, I have copied their Email and Registration Page, for anyone interested, or who might need a reminder and, or a link for registration.


Current Issues in Vineyard Health

Date: Tuesday, 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, December 5

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

Fees: $210.00 Includes lunch and course materials.

Guest instructors, chosen for their involvement in developing solutions to the problems associated with grape pests and diseases, provide the latest management information on current topics, including:

  • Breeding grapevines for Pierce’s Disease resistance
  • Controlling grape fungal disease such as powdery mildew and Botrytis bunch rot diseases
  • The grape grower’s role in managing exotic pests and diseases
  • Mealybugs and grapevine leafroll viruses

Lectures are provided by a talented group of speakers comprised of UC faculty, departmental experts and UC farm advisers who cover:

  • The biology and control of mealybugs in California
  • The dangers of spreading mealybugs in pomace and prevention of the disease
  • Damage reduction in the vineyards

Deborah Golino, Ph.D., is director of Foundation Plant Services and is a UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Plant Pathology, UC Davis. Her research focuses on the study of grapevine viruses, virus-like diseases and the reduction of the damage they cause.

Tue., 9:00am to 4:00pm, Dec 05

UC Davis Conference Center 550 Alumni Lane, Davis CA 95616

$210.00 Includes course materials and lunch.

Special Discounts
CAAA Member Discount: Current members of the Cal Aggie Alumni Association and other UC alumni associations receive $50 off the course fee.  If you don’t have your association discount code contact UC Davis Extension Student Services at (800) 752-0881.

The UC Davis Sign-Up page: Click Here.



Bloggers Getting Legal ~ Wine Bloggers Conference 2017

DISCLAIMER: Wine-Blog is a journal of my PR wine activities and learnings. 1) I occasionally write stories about wine clients, but don’t charge them hours for that time. 2) Wine reviews (and trips) originate from free samples sent by PR people representing the brands. 3) Images are either mostly mine, some are purchased; a few rare ones are part of fair trade usage.

It seemed like it was going to be a pretty dry topic… Legal Issues Every Blogger Should Know

So serious, should I? Okay, I decided to go for it. I was also inspired by Megan Bridget Riley Kenney (Wannabe Wino), as we stood there wondering. We went in. Megan’s an attorney in Washington D.C., and also a wine blogger… always special company.

From the WBC 2017 Agenda:

“Legal Issues Every Blogger Should Know: Did your photograph wind up on someone else’s website without permission? Have you properly disclosed that your wine review is based on a free sample? Your blog may be for fun but the law treats you just like other media and publishers. This panel will go over the practical realities of legal compliance, protecting your copyright, and staying out of trouble. Our speakers include regulatory affairs expert Doug Levy (Doug Levy) and lawyer (Seth Buckley Attorney at Chang Iwamasa LLP), both also wine bloggers.”

That room should have been filled with wine bloggers. There were no lines to get in, everyone had headed out to the other two sexier options of “how to improve their game.” The options:

1. Pitch Perfect – A look at the Blogger-PR Relationship
2. Lights, Camera, Action!
3. Legal Issues Every Blogger Should Know

Honestly, EVERY blogger should have been in that legal room, because sexy is fun (and sells); but, legal covers our sexy butts. This is why I’m launching this journal, as my first report from the Wine Blogger’s Conference of 2017.

If someone wants to wine blog, and s/he is accepting ANY samples of ANYTHING, a disclaimer is mandatory. I’ve written the name of importers, and I’ve highlighted the winery with a link, but I’ve been way off in where it’s been placed. And, I’m willing to bet most wine bloggers are in the same boat with me. Remember: ignorance of the law is still no excuse (with a caveat of – except for a few privileged few). Are you in the two percent? I’m not and I’m now covering my butt. See that disclaimer above? Yeah, it’s mandatory, and on each blog story from this point forward.

There are very strictly written rules about any freebies, by the US Federal Trace Commission. And, they’re cracking down. It may not have happened to a wine blogger yet; but, as we were asked, “Do you want to be the first one issued a $16,000 fine – that you HAVE to pay?”

I though, “Holy marde, NO!”

Think about that wine bloggers… Your hobby just cost you $16,000. I’d rather take a trip around the world on a sailboat, than to blow that kind of money out the window, simply because I enjoyed a few samples of wine and was negligent of the laws put into place to protect consumers. According to Doug Levy and Seth Buckley, when you’ve written about a wine, and you haven’t got a disclaimer BEFORE you provide a link to the Website, that’s the offense. Why, because the link takes the reader (consumer) to a place of business, where the wine can be purchased. You’ve endorsed (or not) the product, this is an advertisement…

Go to Doug Levy’s Website and read Bloggers must disclose freebies or discounts.  While this is a 2017 updated article, it’s still very relevant. His lead paragraph… I’m betting you see yourself in this article. I know I do.

Many bloggers and other writers rely on product samples or invitations to events to get what they need for their writing. This is particularly true among travel writers, especially when an article requires transportation, lodging, or meals in order for the writer to evaluate and write about a destination or the services available there. The ways bloggers disclose these relationships are as varied as the blogs on which they appear, and the rules that established publications apply to these situations vary just as much.

At a later date, I’ll have more. From all of the people who’ve told me lately, not just at the Wine Bloggers Conference, but emails, Facebook, in person, etc., I offer inspiration, am a role model, and more of the same inkling. It, therefore, is my duty to get you all caught up. I don’t ever want to hear that one of you/us has been taken down.



Sauvignon Blanc,Wine,Wine of the Week

Wine of the Week ~ Terrunyo Sauvignon Blanc, Which Went Down So Darn Easily

DISCLAIMER: Wine-Blog is a journal of my PR wine activities and learnings. 1) I occasionally write stories about wine clients, but don’t charge them hours for that time. 2) Wine reviews (and trips) originate from free samples sent by PR people representing the brands. 3) Images are either mostly mine, some are purchased; a few rare ones are part of fair trade usage.

Terrunyo Sauvignon Blanc 2016, from Chile, which went down so darn easily, it’s way too easy to enjoy, in a good way. It was this side of dangerous, because I had to remind myself that I was tasting, not sailing on a yacht in the Cowes Week Race. I did enjoy enough to get it onto Instagram immediately, then life happened in the fast lane… Summer and visitors…

I was just reminded of this wine, once more, as I drank a Sauvignon Blanc from Napa Valley. It was hard to enjoy, because it wasn’t varietally correct.

Terrunyo deserves three claws: “Three Claws = Perfectly balanced Sauvignon Blanc. “Ah, I’m back working with a master winery, and having a Sauvignon Blanc from the Tokalon ‘old vines’ block. Yes!”

OFF TOPIC: All I seem to do, I know, is rave about the wines that I review, I know. I don’t name names of wines that I don’t enjoy, and there are plenty. I won’t help anyone build an un-shopping list. Do you know anyone who keeps one of those? I surely don’t, and I’m not going to rag on fill-in-the-winery-name. Life’s too short, so I tell you about the great one I enjoy. The ones with extreme value, too. The tasty ones, like Terrunyo’s Sauvignon Blanc. It’s really a perfect fit, on my palate.

Sauvignon Blanc is a wine that has a fascinating range and it deserves its own rating system, in my humble opinion. On one end of the spectrum, there are the commodity Sauvignon Blancs. You know, the ones that have no character, no finesse, and something important is missing (like aromas and flavors). On the other end of the spectrum, you feel like you just finished cleaning the litter box, and the aromatics of that are still lingering in the air, and now it’s on your palate. (Oh, God!) Then, there’s that fine line, right down the middle. It’s got character, flavors, and lots of finesse. And, the aromatics are inviting, green pear, apple, gooseberries, tart lemons, grapefruit… maybe some cat claws, and all’s well with the world. (Yum…)

A long time ago, I created a scoring system for Sauvignon Blancs. It was just so easy to do. Here’s how it works, if you haven’t yet read it:

Sauvignon Blanc Claw Factor

One Claw = Commodity SB

“Did I order water, Ms. Sommelier? What is this?”

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

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

Three Claws = Perfect SB

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, this is a magnificent wine to enjoy.



Alexander Valley,Cabernet Sauvignon,Petite Sirah,Sonoma,Sonoma County,Wine,Winemaking,Winery,Zinfandel

Pedroncelli Winery, Geyserville California, Celebrates 90 Year Anniversary

When I began to read about the Pedroncelli Winery’s celebrations for their 90 year anniversary, I was thrown back in time, remembering when I first came to meet Julie Pedroncelli. It was in the early 90s, and I had begun Cat O’Wine Tales. (I was out photographing, for what would become a feature story in The Wine News ~ Coral Gables, Florida). Julie had a great winery cat named Tilly, at the time, which I photographed while it lounged in her office. I’m not sure of the name of the one on their stone wall, but Julie will recognize it, so it’s fun to share. I immediately enjoyed Julie’s down-to-earth demeanor and kindness.

Her family then became a member of PS I Love You, when I started the group. And Pedroncelli Winery has remained a loyal supporter, for the last 15 years. If you know about Petite Sirah as a variety, the Pedroncelli family is one of the founder members. They believe in community and education, so you can give them a thanks, Petite Sirah lovers (and you know who you are.) Pedroncelli wines are very well structured and wholesome, and created in a beautiful area of Dry Creek Valley.

POINT OF REFERENCE: Dry Creek Valley is on…

  • The northern tip of Russian River Valley, in Sonoma County.
  • Highway 101 splits
    • Dry Creek Valley (Pacific side)
    • Alexander Valley (Eastern Myacamas Mountains side)
  • From the eastern side of Alexander Valley, I can stand on our porch and look across to where Pedroncelli Winery is located


In January of 2015, the family lost John Pedroncelli, one of its patriarchs. I wrote, The Loss of John Pedroncelli is Deeply Felt in Wine Country. 

That was a painful moment, because Sonoma County had lost one of its early pioneers. I wrote:

“John Pedroncelli was one of those quiet leaders; you know them, they’re the most in tune with harmony…We’re all going to miss John’s direct involvement; however, his kind heart and business acumen will continue. It is said that we remain alive as long as one person still thinks about you… John Pedroncelli will remain in my heart through eternity, and I know that Jim and Julie’s families feel the same. We’ve lost the body of a great man and wine leader, but not his enduring spirit.”

At his winery’s memorial celebration, my heart was so touched when I found my words on a card for guests to take home with them. It was a further connection of love for this humble, yet prominent, family.

And now they’re celebrating 90 years of living and working within the Geyserville community… A community which I now also call home. As I look across to Alexander Valley and the Pedroncelli’s neighborhood, I feel such a strong connection.

[Family image borrowed from the Pedroncelli Winery Website.]


The Story From The Winery

The Pedroncelli family is proud to announce the 90th anniversary of their multi-generation winery. Ninety years ago Giovanni and Julia Pedroncelli were drawn to a small property in Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, being offered in a distress sale.  The property included 25 acres of vineyard, a shuttered winery and a home. With memories of their native Italy drawing them to the area, they were willing to buy a winery property mid-prohibition, one of the many “firsts” of the Pedroncelli legacy. They spent the years leading up to Repeal selling grapes and, working together, they forged a family business which today spans four generations with the fifth learning about farming from their grandparents and great grandparents.

As early entrants on the Sonoma County wine scene, there are many firsts for them from welcoming visitors to taste wines in the cellar in the 1930s to placing Sonoma County on the label in 1940s; becoming the first to make a Rosé of Zinfandel with more than 60 consecutive vintages and among the first to plant Cabernet Sauvignon in Dry Creek Valley. The Pedroncelli’s were early adopters of incorporating small oak barrels and temperature controlled stainless steel tanks in the cellar and the first in California to start an independent sales & marketing network. The pillars of their success are family, farming and their flagship wines Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.

As third generation family owner Julie Pedroncelli St. John puts it, “I feel a great deal has been accomplished by my family and we could not have done it without the massive support network of our customers, staff, grape growers and distributors (many are multi-generational as well!) whom have given their time and attention to our wines.”

Members of the Pedroncelli family will be working their way through 90 cities as they market wines and host dinners across the U. S. and beyond, all with a special attention given to their 90-year history and glimpses of what’s to come in the next 90.

Now, we’ve come to November, in Pedroncelli’s 90 years of celebrations. No one expected the fires that many of us have all just experienced.  In true gracious and empathetic style, Julie Pedroncelli and her family continue their community involvement and service, with the emphasis on their community as a family effort.

In Julie’s Words

October will go down as a month to remember—before the fires and after the fires; while family, staff and the winery itself were unharmed by the fires there are parts of Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino and Lake counties, which have been severely damaged by the firestorms. We picked our last load of grapes on September 29 which was 10 days before the fires. We are participating in an ongoing program for CA Wine Strong of donating $1.00 a bottle of our wine sales, and hosting a Redwood Empire Food Bank barrel for donations-either food or monetary. Much of what we’ll do for the next decade or more is to help rebuild and support the renovation of the devastated areas in the 707 area[code].



The Wine Scholar Guild ~ How to become an expert for French, Italian, and Spanish Wines

Real story: When in Boston, I was a bit lost, so I asked a police offer, “How do I get to Harvard?” His answer, “Study haaad.”

How does anyone learn about wine? Well, if you spend 25 years in it, you’ll have a great background in whatever companies that employ you. Or, you can just take a crash course, and you’ll gain some insight very quickly. The Wine Scholar Guild is one such program, where you’ll shoot like an arrow and hit your target, faster than my traveling the world for the last quarter century.

As far as I’m concerned, none of us should ever stop learning, and my background can always use more wine knowledge. Not sure about most of you; but this lesson, had it come first, might have taken me in a completely different direction. When I read a press release, my eyes opened quite largely, as I began to drool. This also came to me right after I had written about an upcoming auction: DRC and Pétrus Lead Heritage Auction as Wine Market Continues to Rise, which also had me drooling.

From the Wine Scholar Guild

Insights About France’s Deep Legacy

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti

  • How deep is your background in Domaine de la Romanée-Conti?
  • Do you know that La Romanée is the smallest AOC in France?
  • Or that Domaine de la Romanée-Conti was one of the last to pull their vines after phylloxera?
    • They replanted in 1947 using budwood from La Tâche
    • Thus, they did not produce Romanée-Conti for seven years.

From Press Release ~ www.WineScholarGuild.org

Want to know what sets DRC apart? You are invited you to learn about the DRC farming and winemaking philosophy. And, if Italy or Spain are more to your liking right now, you can study that, as well.

You can earn the Master-level certificates through 11 weeks of self-study fully supported by 17 live webinars, a comprehensive study manual, an interactive preparatory e-learning module and quizzes for self-evaluation.  We provide true tech support, stellar instruction from world-renowned instructors like Andrew Jefford and Allen Meadows, a flexible schedule of study designed for busy professionals and all the necessary tools to master the wines of Bourgogne.


Becoming more wine literate, especially about imports, has never been easier.


Germany,Riesling,Wine,Wine of the Week

Wine of the Week ~ Two Rieslings – Urban and Schloss Johannisberg Gelblack

DISCLAIMER: Wine-Blog is a journal of my PR wine activities and learnings. 1) I occasionally write stories about wine clients, but don’t charge them hours for that time. 2) Wine reviews (and trips) originate from free samples sent by PR people representing the brands. 3) Images are either mostly mine, some are purchased; a few rare ones are part of fair trade usage.

Two Rieslings ~ Schloss Johannisberg Gelblack and Urban by Nik Weis… Two very different, but equally delicious, Rieslings.

Thus begins the season of thanks. And, I am so thankful that my wine journey has included Rieslings. Dry, off dry, I love them all, because they’re so versatile and food friendly. Usually lower in alcohol, you can also enjoy a bit more, and not feel as tipsy.

I’ve been sent two Rieslings, so I’m going to feature them both today. They’re extreme opposites, as Rieslings go. One was dry, the other off dry, so it makes this a better sharing moment. And, before I forget, make sure that you think of this variety for your Thanksgiving meal(s). It is a perfect wine for appetizers, the sweeter version can work with salads (sweet ones, as long as your salad dressing also has some Riesling in it, along with Mandarin oranges, and lemon versus vinegar), great for bird dishes, making stuffing out of this world as a pairing, and even desserts (off dry ones, to balance the sweetness of desserts).

With Rieslings, think Yin Yang. If it’s dry, match with sweeter foods (cranberry dressing). If it has some residual sugar, go with dryer foods (herb dressing).

2015 Schloss Johannisberg Gelblack (SRP $30) – Produced by the architect and first 100 percent Riesling estate in the world, this off-dry wine was crafted from hand-harvested grapes from the Schloss Johannisberg Vineyard.

The Schloss Johannisberg Gelblack Riesling was the drier of the two. This one is my appetizer Riesling… Bring on a cheese plate, taste a few cheeses, and pick a couple of your favorites to serve. You can also wrap up a meal with a cheese plate, and finish your meal with this one. This one is sheer elegance.

The Riesling grapes for this one were hand-harvested from a single vineyard, located in Rheingau, Germany. After fermentation, the wine settles on the lees for five months. It’s quite complex and has a delicious nose of white gardenias, pears, and apple blossoms.  It’s very well balanced and speaks refinement! I wanted to expect that, and wasn’t disappointed, and delighted that it over delivered so well, with really crisp acidity. This one is only 12 percent alcohol. Just refreshingly delicious and completely over delivers to perfection. Highly recommended for your holidays!

HISTORY from their Website:

Some 1,200 years of viticultural history are associated with Johannisberg. An eventful history, which, among other things, led to the creation of the world’s first Riesling wine estate and with it, a unique wine culture that has existed at Johannisberg ever since. Founded as a Benedictine monastery, the Johannisberg abbey quickly became a viticultural focal point and initiator in the Rheingau. Today, in the heart of the cellar, is the underground library “Bibliotheca subterranea” – the famed treasure chamber of the palace, with its centuries-old wine rarities.

As of 1716, Schloss Johannisberg belonged to the prince abbot of Fulda, who had a grand, three-winged palace built in line with the taste of the times. It is thanks to this owner that the benefits of a “Spätlese” (late harvest) were recognized. In 1775, the courier annually sent to Fulda to receive official permission for the start of the grape harvest was delayed by several weeks. By the time he returned to Johannisberg, the grapes were infested with noble rot. Nevertheless, the courageous cellarmaster had the rotten grapes harvested and vinified, thereby producing a new style of ?wine – “Spätlese” – which thereafter became standard at Johannisberg. Although documents from 1730 report that a few growers “gladly waited for a bit of noble rot in order to increase the sugar level of the grapes,” the year 1775 marked the beginning of a deliberately scheduled late harvest of botrytized grapes. A monument adjacent to the Vinothek (wine shop), where the estate’s current vintages can be sampled, commemorates the famous courier whose delay led to the worldwide triumphal course of “Spätlese”.

2016 Nik Weis Selection, Urban Riesling. (The off-dry one.) My first impression, since I tasted it during really hot weather: As refreshing as a long summer day, when a heat spell has finally broken, and we’re all energized. So, now taking that refreshing moment into the warmth of autumn, it’s light and lively and ready for delicious foods. Please keep in mind, this is a 9.5 percent alcohol wine. Get out the foods, Precious, we’re going for a ride with this touch of sweet wine! Remember, when there’s  a touch of residual sugar, there is going to be a whole lot more flavor.

Here is what Nik Weis Selections offers as historical info:

Urban Riesling (SRP $15) is made by Nik Weis , under his Nik Weis Selection label, to distinguish this non-estate wine from his family’s celebrated estate-bottled St. Urbans-Hof Rieslings. A master of Riesling (he works with nothing else), Nik is best known as the winemaker and third generation owner of St. Urbans-Hof, one of the premier estates in Germany’s Mosel Valley. Urban was created by Nik a few years ago and is very much a family-community affair, including grapes from vineyards owned by his wife Daniela’s family, plus friends of Nik’s father-in-law. For this wine, Nik works with grapes grown in the Mosel’s blue slate vineyards and valley floor vineyards characterized by gravel and river sediments.

About the “Urban” name: No, it’s not a nod to hipster urban chic, but a reference to Saint Urban, patron saint of winemakers, prayed to in hope of good vintages and invoked in cases of blight, unseasonable weather, or simply feeling faint (presumably after experiencing any one of the aforementioned conditions). The story goes that Urban was named Bishop of Langres in Burgundy in 374 AD. Political troubles broke out soon after, forcing Urban to flee for his life and take refuge in the nearby vineyards. There, friendly vineyard workers took pity on the unfortunate bishop and hid him from his assailants. Not one to waste an opportunity, Urban went to work, converting his newfound companions to Christianity. From there it was a happy-ever-after situation, with Urban and his merry band roaming the French countryside, making converts as they went. Urban died peacefully around 390 AD at the age of 63 – a relatively good age for the time. He sounds like a reasonably good egg.

This wine is a treasure. How could anyone be disappointed in a wine that offers so much flavor, value, and charming history, at such a great price? It’s on my “favorites list.” Give it a try, and I’m betting that it will be on your list, too.

Imported by HB Wine Merchants

Jane Kettlewell and Suzie Kukaj from Mionetto Pfitscher Marion



Fun with Astrology and Wine Pairings

I spent about 10 years enjoying the reading and studying that I did with astrology, beginning in the 60s.  I wanted to know how Leon Pinkham could read my astrology chart via an ephemeris, and know so much about me in that reading; telling me things about myself, that I didn’t even want to admit to myself, yet; although, I knew he was right. What had I been missing and how did he do that? So, I hit the books… a lot of books for a lot of years. I stopped when someone asked me to predict something, it turned out that I was right, but her husband came down on me like a ton of bricks. I decided to protect myself from that again, so I let it go in terms of helping others.

From AlwaysAstrology.com: History of Astrology…Ancient Babylon

Astrology has been around for thousands of years. Tracing its roots back to ancient Babylonia, it was practiced by the priests to decipher the will of the gods. From Babylonia, astrology was adopted by the Greeks. They trusted the stars and the oracles to forecast the future. The Hindus of India were also exploring astrology at this time between 5000 and 3000 BC, developing some of the same signs we use today.

When my friend Darrell Martinie, Boston’s Cosmic Muffin, passed away on Wednesday, July 26, 2006, after a three year battle with cancer, everyone in my family was shedding crocodile tears. Darrell and his husband Ed Boesel had been our friends for over 30 years. (Ed still is our friend.) My daughters grew up knowing Uncle Ed and Uncle Darrell. It was very sad for us all. To honor The Cosmic Muffin, I began to think that if he could pair an astrology prototype with wine for each sign, what would it be. Here you go.

Astrological Signs With Their Astrological Wines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hugs and kisses, Darrell! Over and out…



Cabernet Sauvignon,Chile,Importer,Imports,Wine

Halloween’s Devilishly Delicious Cab ~ 2016 Reserva Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile

This bottle of wine has been worth saving, since it arrived in September. The 2016 Reserva Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile had Halloween written all over it, right?

A reliably tasty wine from Casillero del Diablo, this is something you can bank on as a great value. I don’t care what grape variety it is, these wines are always a best deal on any wine shelf. For only $10, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain… Like a “house wine” to fall in love with…

Excelsior Wines offers most of the wines being farmed in Chile.From their site:

Founded in 1883, Viña Concha y Toro is Latin America’s leading producer and occupies an outstanding position among the world’s most important wine companies, currently exporting to 135 countries worldwide. Under the name of Excelsior Wine Company, it exclusively distributes the Chilean wines of Concha y Toro as well as its Argentine property, Trivento, and the newly acquired Little Black Dress and Five Rivers lines of California wines. Expanding on a decades-long relationship, Banfi Vintners and Concha y Toro formed this sales and marketing venture for the US, revolutionizing the way brands are brought to the market.

Why this wine is called Casillero del Diablo

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 2016 Reserva Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon is 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. The grapes are grown in Chile’s Central Valley vineyards, on hillside with benchland and river bench soils. After the juice was fermented in stainless steel tanks

  • 60 percent of the wine was aged in medium toast, American oak for eight months
  • 40 percent of it was aged in stainless steel for eight months

This Cabernet Sauvignon is a dark, ruby slippers red in color. It has aromas of rich plums, Bing cherries, and blackberries. The flavors are drippingly rich, and very satisfying. I loved the smooth finish, still tannins are bright and crisp, so it will age well. In ten years, I expect this wine to still be bright and fresh.

Get ready for fall and winter recipes

Rule number one, when cooking with wine: Only use wines in your cooking that you will also drink.  So, with fall and winter foods, I think “crock pot cooking;” a bit in the pot, the rest with dinner. Cooking with wine has acidic components that tenderize meats, as does slow cooking. Adding the wine you’ll be enjoying later makes for flavors that are seamlessly integrated.

So, who’s the winemaker for this great house wine?

Winemaker Marcelo Papa

Being polar opposites, it’s long been thought that quality and quantity are mutually exclusive of each other. Marcello Papa has found an internal ingredient in his own being, which seamlessly unites the two concepts of qualtiy and quantity into harmony through his endeavors. Given high-end technologies, he’s taken each part of the process, and united them, for the good of making solidly crafted, affordable wines. This thinking has made Concha y Toro’s wines a world leader. Hands on equipment in the right places still keeps the wines in a delicate balance.

Marcello has been with Concha y Toro since 1998… Coming onto 20 years of being in one place has great advantages, including high end consistency of whatever’s being made. In this case, it’s wine and the balance is perfectly delivered.

What I’ve also learned through the years of tasting their wines, the wines coming from Concha y Toro are delivered by a team of winemakers who all live well-balanced lives. From his bio:

As with a number of Chile’s top winemakers, Papa earned a degree in agriculture and a post-graduate degree in enology from the highly regarded Catholic University in Santiago. He was subsequently recruited by Kendall–Jackson, where he spent the next five years before joining Concha y Toro in 1998. In 1999, a year after working on his first vintage of Casillero del Diablo wines, Papa was given the additional assignment of working on Concha y Toro’s prestigious Marques de Casa Concha wines, and named chief winemaker of Concha y Toro’s Puente Alto cellar. Under his direction, Marques de Casa Concha wines have earned some of the most vaunted accolades in Chilean winemaking.

In 2005, Papa captured Chile’s highest honor, when the Chilean Wine Guide distinguished him as its “Winemaker of the Year.” It was a remarkable tribute to his diligent work on the Casillero del Diablo range, referencing Papa’s capacity to “create exceptional wines that are widely available in the marketplace, yet achieve extraordinary levels of quality in spite of large production levels.”

This 2016 Reserva Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile is imported from Winesellers, LTD.




Napa,Sonoma,Sonoma County,Sonoma Valley,Wine,Wine Country

I feel like I was just knocked out ~ Pocket Fire in Geyserville

What the 12-day, California wine country experience many of us just had: some were longer with more devastation, some were shorter, with minor problems. Bottom line: ask anyone involved in this perfect, epic fire storm, and they’ll tell you that they’ve been traumatized. This is my own exhausting story. During that time, I didn’t have access to my computer. I wrote in Facebook – hunt and peck – with my iPad. This is how the story unfolded and how we spent the 12 days of uncertainty.

Jose awakened me,”We have to evacuate,” he said, in a calm voice. This was 3:00 a.m.. I asked, “Why?” He had me get up and look outside of our bedroom door (made of glass). The hill above our house was ablaze and it didn’t look like anything was going to survive unless we just got the hell out. I grabbed Buddy the Cat, and we hightailed it down the mountainside, while a fire raged outside of our home, on a higher ridge, and very visible from the town of Geyserville, where we sat for hours in the early morning hours of October 9, 2017.

This image you see is one that Jose took with his phone, while we were waiting for time to move forward, away from 3:00 a.m.. He also took Buddy’s picture (earlier, above) and our shadow one, during our evacuation.

We drove into downtown Geyserville and looked up to the mountains. This is the horror we witnessed, wondering if we’d ever go home again. Will it survive? I thought.

Later in the day, we were invited to stay with our friend Corinne Reichel, located on the east sides of Geyserville. Somehow we thought we’d be able to return and thanked her, but we weren’t ready to be evacuated just yet. (Shock makes you a bit dull in your brain, I’ve learned.)

As the days went by, we had a front row view to our eastern mountain location, below the Pocket Fire. (Still not contained as I write this, and National Guardsmen are still in our neighborhood, on the “ready.”) Everyday, we monitored the mountain ranges. At first, Jose was using a tracking App on his phone. He was able to coordinate where we’re now living and where we were standing. From there, we could use binoculars to see where our house was located. Actually, we didn’t see our house, which is covered in high oaks; but, we were able to see our neighbors and know the oaks above our home.

Once we knew the exact location, we then watched with eyes burning on that reference point. Flames were over one ridge and down the other side of it. We watched just everything, and all I could do – based on not having my computer and a hunt-and-peck iPad – was tell everyone what I was going through day by day, as a diary entitled #MandatoryEvacuation ~ of whatever was happening. It was quite a rattling experience.

So, so happy it’s over, I’ve had two other major traumas in California… Now this one is lingering and needs closure. The outpouring of encouragement, the continued offers for housing, the sharing of love and overwhelming feelings… The following is my diary.

A special kind of disbelief ~A special kind of camaraderie

Day 1 at 2:07 p.m., October 9, 2017,  #MandatoryEvacuation #Geyserville

We’re safe, only took the cat and photography equipment. [I also took about 10 minutes to photograph every square inch of the house. I had thought of doing this just days before, for insurances purposes. I moved swiftly, as if fire was biting at my heels.]

Raging flames behind the house, on a nearby ridge, as we grabbed the cat and off we went into town. It seemed contained enough to return.

We’re okay now [I thought, as I wrote this], and ready to leave if we have to again. Incredibly, CDF planes are flying overhead to dump water. This is supposed to be the first time they are using 747s. They are HUGE, flying over so low! Wild night. Hoping for one less active tonight.

[As it turned out, we couldn’t stay at home and headed back to downtown Geyserville. We took the offer from our friend Corinne Reichel, knocking on her door, feeling bedraggled. She took us in… So kind and loving.]

Day 2 at 12:06 p.m., October 10,  #MandatoryEvacuation #Geyserville

We came home feeling we might be safe. We even went to the lake to take picture, because there’s a massive helicopter in our neighborhood, taking water from the lake. My neighborhood; and course, deer are involved. We’re downwind from this fire now. Check out the size of the helicopters they’ve sent in. We’ve been told by a neighbor to evacuate, again. All is not safe with fires. Grabbing the cat and heading for lower ground for a second time.

Day 3 at 10:12 a.m,  Oct. 11, #MandatoryEvacuation #Geyserville

Yesterday, went to get masks, toxic air.

Drug store didn’t have anymore. Suggested the AUTO PARTS store next door. Well, YEAH. Their masks protect from all kinds of particles/chemicals. Got some. N95, people, N95

News people just said this is the ONLY ONE that WORKS… N95

Geyserville hills to the south of our home, where we live. We’re with a friend for now, as we are under a mandatory evacuation. This is the view from her home. This is headed south, and we are located north of this… Not a present danger, as the winds are blended winding southward. Still feel major angst, too, for those in its path.

Day 4 at 8:12 a.m,  Oct. 12, #MandatoryEvacuation #Geyserville

So, in the “gotta love um” category!

Willamette Valley Fire Department drove 11 hours to get to Geyserville yesterday, to help us out, with about 10 fire trucks. They are based a 10 minute walk from our home… I don’t know how many feet that is, but they’re that close. Remember I said the help we need right now is to have more states send in their Fire people? Yes, my prayers were answered by our Oregon friends. Does it matter that we have two Oregon wine clients, Oak Knoll Winery (Greg Lint) and Aberrant Cellars (Eric Eide). Yes! Today is a GOOD day!

Day 5 at 8:12 a.m,  Oct. 13,  #MandatoryEvacuation #Geyserville

NOTE TO EVACUEES: Food, Water, Clothes, etc. Donations and pickups:

This is where Jose and I were yesterday, picking up food for others. Bill DenBeste is the Best(e). His daughter told me that Bill and wife once had a fire encircle his home, but left it standing, miraculously. So, he has tremendous empathy. (He also told me about all of the charity work that he does, on a daily basis.) Two days ago, they fed 2000 displaced people. Food is being prepared and given out DAILY, since Monday. They have converted their office suite to rooms for donations, clothing, toys, all items. They have a truck coming with 50 pallets of water bottles. One of his friends in Texas sent him a cash donation. This is a very humble man, so loving and giving. Thanks, Bill DenBeste of DenBeste Water Solutions and Carroll Shelby Engine Company, 820 DenBeste Court, Windsor. #Amazing grace…

Jose’s notes continue… Our friend Debbie Shu turned us on to this wonderful home made relief operation happening in Windsor by Bill DenBeste of DenBeste Motor Sports. Bill, his family, and his employees started on Monday to provide free BBQ food to anyone in need. In their offices, they have collected donated items of all types, including clothing, and have them sorted by age and sex. The location is 820 Denbeste Ct, Windsor. Please pass this to anyone who would benefit in the Windsor/Santa Rosa area or consider stopping by to help with donations. True home town heroes!

Day 6 at 1:37 p.m., Oct. 14, #MandatoryEvacuation ~ So, masks…

This company either needs to make smaller ones, or I need to grow a bigger head. That’s the funny person inside of me.

The emotional person: Even though we’re safe and our Pocket Fire is no longer threatening, there’s still no emotional relief. Was just in Big John’s store in Healdsburg, getting more groceries. Met an employee outside, taking a break. Her four children are now waiting to go back to school, but their school burned to the ground. This coming week, administrators are deciding where displaced children will now be going. We both took a deep breath.

Once in the store, Jose had gone to get nuts, and I was looking for BBQ sauce to put into a crock pot for a pulled pork dish… As I was looking at shelves, I just became overwhelmed with emotion, and had to hold back tears, as my lips quivered and my eyes watered. I found my sauce and went looking for something else. As I got to the beginning of a new aisle, a gentleman was ahead of me, just staring, so I stopped and waited until he got his bearings. When he finally realized I was waiting, he apologized for blocking my path. I said, “That’s okay, I know how you feel.” We both smiled at each other knowing all too well what I meant, then went our separate ways. I found Jose…my rock… and continued with our day.

Day 7 at 11:32 p.m., Oct. 15, #MandatoryEvacuation

Can’t wait to see this sign, but alas… I must wait. Good night…

Image 📸: Courtesy of Leah Smith ~ I could have altered the color of this photo, but this is what Lisa Smith got, given our air quality. So it is what it was…

Day 8 at 7:40 a.m., Oct. 16,  #MandatoryEvacuation

I so want to just go home, and I’m one of the lucky ones. Cat is with us, in a lovely home while we wait, had a 1971 Margaux last night with our host Corinne Reichel, then I just saw a video this morning of the base at the Santa Rosa Fair grounds. So many fire trucks, their tents for the duration, just so many crews it was astounding. Sigh, shaking my head, I can’t begin to imagine everyone else’s angst, and their facing another day. I’ll get over it as soon as I get going. God bless all of you, from the fire fighters from all over the US, their families worried about the spouses fighting the fires, their daddies, those without homes in shelters wondering what the hell they’re going to do now, jobs lost, businesses lost, schools lost, pets lost, lives lost. Damn, the list is long. Smoke filled lungs, ravaged neighborhoods. There, another day in paradise altered, I have so much to return to, when I can. I’m over my angst for today, I’m moving on…

Damned mask…

Day 9 at 7:36 a.m., Oct. 17, #MandatoryEvacuation, 

As I listen to my cat’s howling this morning, going stir crazy, having been a shut in since Monday, October 9, I’m helpless, because I, too, am going stir crazy. Still, I can get outside, for some emotional relief, he can’t. This isn’t his neighborhood. This isn’t his air to breathe. Last night, I had a bit of an anxiety attack, when I woke up about 2:00 a.m. When will it end? How horrific these fires have been. There are others facing so much loss, and I’m an emotional basket case? What is wrong with me? I need to find my calm place, get over myself, and get back to yoga…

Day 10 at 8:20 a.m., Oct. 18, No longer a #MandatoryEvacuee,

So thankful for the village that supported us in our crisis. 

So, so many. Now, I want the rains to come, for everyone still not home yet and back to their comfort zones. Corinne Reichel, for hosting us (including “Buddy, the cat”), Terry Mcnulty – whose son Justin was on the front lines dozing the fire breaks, along with all the fire fighters who have come from all over the US to help. Thanks to everyone in our neighborhood, who gave us the first calls to evacuate, before the police even came into our neighborhood, telling us to leave…

Then, hanging with all our neighbors in the early morning, watching the flaming horizon, where our homes were in jeopardy, a common bond of caring for each other. Sarah Stierch and James Gore, who kept everyone informed… For Sarah, it is still minute by minute. For James, it’s once a day with the Geyserville crew. Farmers Insurance was on it, the minute we told them we were in danger. (This is the second time we’ve needed them, the first time was during our home flooding, they are the BEST.)

Thanks to our five fish for surviving for nine days without any food! And to ALL of you, with your daily caring and meditations… It took a village, and now I’m on that end of the process, until this nightmare ends for everyone still involved in these fires. So thankful to be back to the mess we had to leave behind.

Day 11 at Oct. 19, No longer a #MandatoryEvacuee

I awoke in the middle of the night, running from fire in a DREAM.

Fell back to sleep. At 6:15 a.m., I awoke to a dream that had to do with lumber, helping people to rebuild, but couldn’t get into a construction labor union building. I was so confused it awakened me. I wish just awakening from this post event was so simple… just awakening.

MIRACLE of this event, for us personally: Jose’s five fish managed to stay alive for the entire 10 days, with NO feeding!

I expected to come back home to find a toxic fish tank.

They’re Jose’s fish, because I lost all of the fish I had cared for, a year ago, when we moved to this lovely home. It was so traumatizing – after caring for them for about 16-17 years – that I wouldn’t fill the fish tank and start again. Jose still wanted more fish, so he began again. VOILA, they scavenged.

Day 12 at Oct. 20, No longer a #MandatoryEvacuee

Last night it rained. Love the moisture on these doors. The earth outside smells so damp and refreshing. Life begins anew. One comment that I had from my friend Jean Jacote, “Petrichor is the word for the smell that comes in the air after it rains. I am in love with this word.”

I wrote: I love it, too, Jean… #NewToMe “Petrichor is the earthy scent produced when rain falls on dry soil. The word is constructed from Greek πέτρα petra, meaning “stone”, and ἰχώρ īchōr, the fluid that flows in the veins of the gods in Greek mythology.

I rise from the ashes…

The End