Environment,Event,Green News,Green Valley,Russian River Valley,Sonoma County,Things to do in Wine Country,Wine,Wine Country,Winery,Wne and Food

Earth day at Iron Horse with Kevin Jorgeson ~ 2015

Always climbing to new heights, Joy Sterling of Iron Horse Vineyards nabs Kevin Jorgeson as a guest speaker.

From Joy Sterling:

I am very excited to announce that our speaker for Celebrate Earth Day in Green Valley will be Kevin Jorgeson, who free climbed the 3,000-foot Dawn Wall of El Capitan, with climbing partner Tommy Caldwell, in January [2015].

The date is Sunday, April 19, from 12:oo noon to 3:00 p.m. Participating wineries include DeLoach Vineyards, Dutton-Goldfield, Freeman Vineyard & Winery, Hartford Family Winery, Iron Horse, Lynmar Estate, Marimar Estate, MacPhail Family Wines, and The Rubin Family of Wines.

At the event, Iron Horse will officially release a one time, limited production Summit Cuvee. Total production 250

This Earth Day event celebrates Green Valley of the Russian River Valley. Personally, I can’t imagine spending it anywhere else, in a perfect world.

[This image is borrowed from Kevin Jorgeson’s Website.]

Guest speakers are all highly acclaimed:

  • 2011: Environmentalist Ted Turner
    • Ted Turner is perhaps best known as the founder of CNN and for his billion dollar gift to the United Nations. He is the second largest land holder in North America with approximately two million acres. He has five active foundations addressing some of the world’s most pressing issues – from improving air and water quality and developing sustainable energy solutions to his Captain Planet Foundation, which educates children on how they can make a positive impact and the Nuclear Threat Initiative launched in 2001, which works to reduce nuclear dangers.
  • 2013: Jared Diamond Earth Day
    • His latest book “The World Until Yesterday” studies what we can learn from Traditional Societies (subtitle, even). A professor of geography at UCLA, Jared has picked up many awards throughout his illustrious career:
  • 2014: Justice Sandra Day O’Connor
    • Sandra Day O’Connor is a retired Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. She was appointment in 1981, by Ronald Reagan, and served until her retirement in 2006. She was the first woman to be appointed to the US Supreme Court.
  • 2015: Kevin Jorgeson will join the ranks of the luminaries listed above
    • Kevin Jorgeson and his climbing partner Tommy Caldwell were the first two climbers to successfully complete a free climb, of the Dawn Wall called El Capitan. In Yosemite National Park, they completed the 3,000 foot climb, between December 28, 2014 to January 14, 2015.


blogging ethics,Dear Jo,Wine,Wine Blogger

TBNT – Thanks, but no thanks

One of my bosses turned me onto TBNT… Thanks, but no thanks. I find that I use it a lot (at least in my head) as I read queries regarding my blog.

First of all, if you think my blog is all that and you’re still asking me to write for my blog, you didn’t get very deeply into it.

Let me show you what’s on my Contact/Use page:


Please DON’T contact me to provide me with free writing content.

My blog is my wine journal. If you’re not living inside of my head, and you’re not, I won’t allow for your non-wine client’s like buried inside Wine 101 Basic information, which I’ve already covered. (It’s the buried link to some corporation that I find objectionable, from non wine people.)

  • I only write about what I experience.
  • I also will provide public service announcements for the wine industry.
  • I can’t do anything for something like this one: “I wanted to pass an article by your screen that I think you may find interesting for Wine Blog. ”
    • It’s not going to happen. Save yourself some time.
  • Thank you…

And here’s another thought, no answer is an answer. The following email has inspired this blog, once it became a pressure push.

Hey Jo,

I haven’t heard back from you about the email I sent below. Would love to hear from you to see if you d be interested? I have companies waiting to write for your site who are prepared to pay for each post you publish.

Thanks again.



Hi Jo,

Just a quicky. Your blog http://www.wine-blog.org/ excites me! It s a great looking and well kept blog. Unusual these days!

Anyway, I’m part of a team of rockstar bloggers and I blog for lots of brands. We are always on the lookout for good site to guest post and yours fits the bill!

If you are looking for awesome content to excite your readers then we can certainly provide that. We are willing to pay you a $25 contribution fee for every blog of ours you publish on your site which should help towards the cost of running your site.

Here are some examples of what we do. (Not directly related to your blog but will give you an idea).

What do you think? We d love to write regularly.

Emily (last name withheld)

Super Blogger

*** If Emily really were a super blogger, I believe she’d be off and running on her own, already. Nothing against Emily, she trying to make a living. My problem is the industry that’s exploiting her talents at almost nothing per hour for the writers they’ve hired. This, in turn, is costing writers of great talent real job opportunities.



Vintage Wine news from Friuli

From Friuli with love…

The benefits of having a wine blog is that it daily continues my wine education, beyond what I’m learning and writing about our clients. Clients pay me to keep up, so that keeping up has to do with information that will benefit them directly. Yes, social media is also moving that education along as well; but, having a wine blog has people reaching out to me from afar, much more than I would be learning in social media circles.

Some of the incoming pitches are worth sharing on this blog, but I can’t keep up with it all, either. Once in a while, I get info from afar that I find worthy for passing along. Writing as much as I do… Well, I’m either reading or writing; and my reading these days is mostly limited to helping clients to prove or improve their strengths. What’s going on around me otherwise just doesn’t have as much impact…

My closest connection to Friuli was when I was employed as a PR person and I was about to send my employer into a conference to deliver a presentation on Cabernet Franc. I researched a great report and gave it to him to deliver. He shot back, “Cab Franc in Italy?!? There’s no Cab Franc in Italy!” I said, “Yes there is, you can look it up.” Impertinent I know, but I had all but lost my patience by then.

My Email was about “2014: a different vintage.” It was referring to Europe, versus its own 2014 harvest in Friuli, Italy.

So, instead of focusing on all of Europe, I first wondered “What’s the size of Italy, as compared to the United states?” I went exploring and found this website: OverlapMaps.com. I compared the US to Italy and got a quick snapshot. Italy and California are very close in size. With the length of longitude of both, there must be some similarities, including both having Mediterranean climates.

Next, I checked latitudes, to make sure how closely related they are. These are my close guestimates.

  • Italy
    • 37° North
    • 46.5° North (the Friuli area)
  • California
    • 31° North
    • 42° North (45.4° is Willamette valley’s latitude)

Friuli to California are not in the same ball park…

  • Northern Italy is 6° more north
  • Southern California is 4.5° shorter than Italy, when including Sicily…
  • Oregon is just right… So, this is another story.

The report that I got gave us a sweeping vintage update for Europe, but from the comparatives that I just set up, I’m going to focus on just the Friuli region, and know that if you enjoy wines from Friuli (including delicious Cabernet Franc), this is your update:

2014: a different vintage

FROM THE WEBSITE, a bit edited:

Lis Neris is the first Italian town to greet the Isonzo River, as it meanders its way out of Slovenia, is Gorizia. This is historically Europe’s most contended border settlement. Flowing south, the river crosses enchanting countryside dotted with tiny villages, which are nestled around their bell towers and vineyards. This is where the spirit of the place beats time with the rhythms of daily life. Since 1879, it’s here that four generations of my family have worked passionately to help create and develop one of Friuli’s most representative wine estates.  Signed, Alvaro

Email from Alvaro

Greetings from Friuli,

European vine growers agree: mild winter and wet summer put us through the wringer. Every vintage has its strong and weak points. Since last summer it was already possible to detect the problems occurring in the vineyards and to try to solve them [by] working hard.

Now I can affirm that the worst is over and that the results are better than I was thinking during the summer. All the wines have a lighter structure (less alcohol) and, at the same time, flavors and aromas are supported by a tasty and mature acidity[,] which enhances their expression potential. This situation is more positive for white wines than for reds.

We confirm the production of Traditionali wines and of Selezioni from single vineyards. On the other hand, for this year, we abandoned late harvest and drying process. We have not abandoned yet the idea of producing Lis, our top white wine; if we will release this vintage, it will be the demonstration that real quality can follow different paths.


Well, I’m looking forward to tasting some Friulano, Friuli’s signature white grape. How about you?


Petite Sirah,PS I Love You,Wine,Wine Business,Wine Magazine,Winery,Wne and Food

Top US Wine Companies from WBM’s ~ My own Top 7 from this list

When I got into the wine business in early ’93, I knew (pretty much) nothing about wine. And so I worked it and studied it; and I expanded it, when I created the Petite Sirah wine grape advocacy group called PS I Love You. It’s through this group that I’ve learned firsthand about the following companies, going right down Wine Business Monthly’s list of the Top 30. Here are my seven (7):

  1. The Wine Group
    1. 57, 500,000 total cases of wine
    2. Concannon Vineyard is part of the above number
    3. This private company has done more to help Petite Sirah than another company on the face of the earth. For a few years, they gave hundreds of thousands of marketing dollars to give Petite Sirah a HUGE shot in the arm. I know, because I was also hired by Concannon to do PR for them, when my work was evaluated for results. Marketing director Lynn Kirimli told me – at the time – that I had gotten more publicity for Concannon’s 100+ year history in one year than what the winery had received in its entire existence. Not bragging… They had put the money into getting the results, I just did the work and it was a great story to tell, of America’s – the world’s really – first varietally labeled Petite Sirah
  2. Treasury Wine Estates
    1. 14,300,000 cases of wine
    2. Stags’ Leap Winery is part of the above number of cases
    3. A wine writer of significance told me when I got started, “If you don’t have Stags’ Leap Winery as a member, you haven’t yet arrived.” It only took a few years to get it going with them, because I appealed to Robert Brittan, at the time. At first, Robert wanted to meet me for lunch, but I wasn’t up for it. I told him, “I’d love to meet with you and we’ll feel great about each other. I’d rather have you take that same money and apply it toward membership. With membership funds, I can do a lot of marketing for Petite Sirah… the real cause. When I became brutally honest with Robert, he saw the reasoning and we gained a member. When Stags’ Leap Winery was sold to Fosters, now known as Treasury Wine Estates, we’ve survived each incarnation. Top people in this company understand how supporting the smaller factions of the wine industry does ultimately come back to them. Just think of Aesop’s Fable of The Lion and the Mouse. We just never know when one entity will help another.
  3. Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines
    1. 4,000,000 cases
    2. Rosenblum Cellars is part of the above number
    3. Kent Rosenblum was the first person to respond, when I sent out a questionnaire after Foppiano’s first annual Petite Sirah Symposium… “If there was to be a group, would you join,” with a “yes” answer. I invoice him (along with some others) and his check arrived immediately. Kent and Louis Foppiano helped to launch PS I Love You. When Kent sold Rosenblum Cellars, I thought, “There goes the neighborhood.” (Most new owners who buy into the business from other industries cancel all involvements with outside groups, has been my experience.)  But, Diageo has been right there and remains the first winery to pay into the PSILY coffers.
  4. Bogle Vineyards
    1. 2,000,000 cases
    2. Bogle is Bogle is Bogle
    3. When Patty Bogle was alive, she also joined very early on. She became a member of our board of directors, she served as treasurer, helping us with finances, and was always an inspiration. We traveled together for Petite Sirah, and I thought of her as a friend. Little did I know how much this relationship would mean, until I was asked to speak at her memorial service. It was held at UC Davis in their new auditorium. I thought that I would follow a long line of wine business guest speakers, but when I got the program, I realized that I was the only one speaking on behalf of wine, and one of her personal and professional friends was also going to speak. I had to choke back a lot, had to take one really deep breath, but my humility won out, as I said our last goodbye on behalf of wine.
  5. Don Sebastiani & Sons
    1. 1,250,000 cases
    2. The Crusher is part of the above number
    3. Don Sebastiani and his sons sought out PS I Love You to become members, so it came from out of the blue. It’s important for me to note that when I first came to California from Maine, Jose and I visited Sebastiani Winery in the town of Sonoma… It was a very first visit to wineries, five years before we moved here. I learned about the historic and iconic company. Never, in my wildest dreams, did I ever think that I could offer anything to this historic family. It is they who I should be helping, not the other way around. The family has been very generous and forward thinking…
  6. Vintage Wine Estates
    1. 1,200,000 cases
    2. Girard Winery is part of the above number
    3. Another company that came to me, versus me coming to them. When I put out the need for help with a US Army sergeant who was coming to wine country and wanted to taste some Petite Sirah, owner Pat Roney stepped forward with an overnight accommodation in the hills of Napa.. A tour and tasting happened for our soldier, Pat’s generosity has always been right there.
  7. The Hess Collection
    1. 700,000 cases
    2. Artezin Wines is part of the above number of cases
    3. This company is also another one that found us.  Little did I know that The Hess Collection has a Petite, and they do. They also are honoring historic varieties, like Zin, Petite Sirah, and Charbono, so it’s with that label that they want to market Petite. In 2010, I held a wine and music tasting at The Hess Collection. I gathered writing and had a jazz CD that we listened to… Scoring the Scores.

Each one of these companies above have a focus on the internal community of the wine industry. You know that 80/20 rule for sales?

  • Approximately 20 percent of your customers produce 80 percent of your sales.

I can turn that into a membership breakdown for wine advocacy groups, as well.

  • Approximately 20 percent of your members come from large companies; while the other 80 percent, come from small producers.
  • The large companies offer support, while the smaller companies need the exposure to build their brands.

The real benefit from the big guys?

We all benefit. The power of one is one. The power of two is squared, so it’s the power of four. The power of 80 members? It’s 6,400. This is what has allowed Petite Sirah, virtually obscure in 2002, when I began – with 62 growers and producers COMBINED – to have become 1071 growers and producers COMBINED:

  • 164 growers
  • 907 producers

Why you may not know about this amount?

  • Most wine companies only produce 300 or less cases a year.
  • It’s not sent out for critical acclaim… Too few cases are made, it’s all sold at the winery, and no score is needed.
  • Because it doesn’t leave the winery, you’re not going to see it on shelves or restaurant lists.
  • It’s a winemaker’s wine… It is they that have the passion, because it’s easy to grow but challenging to make into wine.

It’s the above companies that have this passion for Petite, and it’s also their Pet Project… and my favorite large companies. And, by the way… When Kent Rosenblum sold his company to Diageo, he started Rock Wall and is still a huge supporter of PS I Love You, hosting our annual picnic for the volunteers for Dark & Delicious, a wine and nibbles event.



Dark & Delicious Petite Sirah®,Dark & Delicious™,Petite Sirah,PS I Love You,Vintner,Viticulture,Wine,Wine & Food,Wine Business,Wine Education

A Petite Auction – no small deal

The Ninth Annual Petite Sirah auction has become an exclusive Petite auction; the only one of its kind in the entire world.

[This image was taken in 2014, just before the doors opened for Dark & Delicious Petite Sirah®.]

The US is dominating in the growth of this variety, and has its own marketing group called PS I Love You. This makes this auction the only one of its kind in the world. Each year the Petite auction is a huge hit, raising funds for the 501 (C)(6) non profit… It helps us to educate people throughout the year about Petite Sirah (a cross between Syrah and Peloursin)… and what it isn’t (Syrah).

This is the 2015 Petite Auction

Aratas Wine ~ $200

  • Two (2) Bottles: 2011 ARATAS ” Napa Valley” Petite Sirah
  • Two (2) Bottles: 2011 ARATAS ” Shake Ridge Ranch” Petite Sirah
  • Plus a waiter’s corkscrew and leather travel pouch.

Napa Valley is a great appellation for Petite Sirah and these two wines are a great representation!

Artezin Wines ~ $150

  • Six (6) bottles 2012 Artezin Mendocino Petite Sirah

Wonderfully textured, youthful, chewy tannins will soften with a bit of aging. Petite Sirah is meant for hearty fare standing well with grilled meats and richly sauced pastas and stews.

Artezin Wines ~ $150

  • Six (6) bottles 2012 Artezin Garzini Petite Sirah

A big Petite, accents of plum and berry flavors, with herbal notes and savory undertones with well-structured and rustic tannins. Drink now. 166 cases made.

Ballentine Vineyards ~ $120

  • One (1) 3-L (double magnum) of 2008 Ballentine Vineyards Petite Sirah from our library

The 2008 Petite Sirah vintage was overall a fantastic one for red wine. It provided good weather, long hang times, and smaller crops with concentrated color and good tannin development in the grapes. Quickly becoming a signature wine of Ballentine, Petite Sirah has grown close to the hearts, minds and lovers of those of us here at the winery.

 Bogle Vineyards ~ $250

  • Private wine tasting for eight (8). Each guest will leave with a signed bottle of Petite Sirah

Come on down to the Delta for a lovely afternoon at Bogle’s tasting room in Clarksburg.  Enjoy tasting through our wines and relaxing in the vineyard. Each guest will leave with a signed bottle of  Petite Sirah.

Carol Shelton ~ $150

  • A three year vertical of 750ml bottles from Carol Shelton Rock Pile Reserve Petite Sirah, all signed by the winemaker
    • 2009 Carol Shelton Rockpile Reserve Petite Sirah
    • 2010 Carol Shelton Rockpile Reserve Petite Sirah
    • 2011 Carol Shelton Rockpile Reserve Petite Sirah

Clayhouse Vineyards ~ $300

  • One (1) 3-L (double magnum) of Clayhouse Estate Petite Sirah 2006 from our library.

Concannon Vineyard ~ $120

  • Private tour/tasting certificate for 8 people

Concannon Vineyard ~ $45

  • One bottle of Reserve Petite Sirah – signed by Jim & John Concannon

Concannon Vineyard ~ $50

  • Coffee table book: “Concannon Vineyard, the next 125 Years” – signed by Jim & John Concannon

Delectus Winery ~ $188

  • A three year vertical of 750ml bottles from Delectus Winery
    • 2007 Delectus Winery Petite Sirah
    • 2008 Delectus Winery Petite Sirah
    • 2009 Delectus Winery Petite Sirah

Denier-Handal Winery ~ $125

  • A three year vertical of 750ml bottles from Denier-Handal
    • 2009 Handal Family Vineyard, Alexander Valley Reserve Petite Sirah
    • 2010 Handal Family Vineyard, Alexander Valley Reserve Petite Sirah
    • 2011 Handal Family Vineyard, Alexander Valley Reserve Petite Sirah

F. Teldeschi Winery ~ $144

  • Four (4) bottles of the 2000 Teldeschi Petite Sirah

Fenestra Winery ~ $125

  • Private wine tasting & tour for up to six (6) people; includes logo glass and cheese pairing

Field Stone Winery & Vineyards ~ $108

  • 2013 Field Stone Rose of Petite Sirah
  • 2012 Field Stone Staten Family Reserve Petite Sirah
  • 2010 Field Stone Reserve Port

Whether you are just discovering us or are a longtime friend, this is as close as you can come to Field Stone without actually paying us a visit! If you want to check out our current releases or place an order, just go to our fieldstonewinery.com Web page, where you will find detailed descriptions of all our latest products. We are a small family winery, which is passionate about Petite.

Field Stone Winery & Vineyards ~ $160

  • Tour & Tasting certificate for up to six (6) people at Beautiful Field Stone Winery, in amazing Alexander Valley.

Tour the oldest underground winery in Sonoma County and experience a barrel room in full production. This unique estate nestled in Southern Alexander Valley is considered one of the premier locations by the late André Tchelistcheff and our 120 year old Petite Sirah vines supports the claim!  Our private tour gives you the opportunity to customize your very own experience and create an afternoon you’re bound to reminisce for years.

Foppiano Vineyards ~ $90

  • 2003 Magnum of Reserve Petite Sirah

Foppiano Vineyards ~ $120

  • A gift Certificate for a tour and tasting for up to six people

Gustafson Family Vineyards ~ $1,300

  • Overnight Stay for Six People at the Gustafson Estate Residence… We welcome you to explore our unique Mountain Estate. As our private guests you will observe the seasonal activities of the vineyard and winery, and have an opportunity to meet Winemaker and Vineyard Manager, Emmett Reed. Guests may enjoy a walking tour of the vineyard and winery, a private tasting of our Estate wines, and a complimentary bottle of our Gold Medal winning 2010 Estate Petite Sirah. Our small team of dedicated staff will provide you with individual attention and unsurpassed hospitality.

Harney Lane ~ $85

  • A three year vertical of 750ml bottles from Harney Lane
    • 2010 Harney Lane Petite Sirah
    • 2011 Harney Lane Petite Sirah
    • 2012 Harney Lane Petite Sirah

Justice Grace Vineyards ~ $110

  • A three year vertical of 750ml bottles from Delectus Winery
    • 2010 Shoe Shine Petite Sirah, Golden Vineyards, Mendocino County
    • 2010 Shoe Shine Petite Sirah, York Creek Vineyards, Spring Mountain District
    • 2011 Shoe Shine Petite Sirah, Gustafson Vineyards, Dry Creek Valley

No sulphur is added. LGBT Front Label series, with three vineyard designates. Petite Sirah with a humanitarian cause: Dedicated to those who struggle valiantly for justice and dignity in the work-place. A Living Wage for all.

Klinker Brick Winery ~ $100

  • Three (3) bottles Klinker Brick 2012 Petite Sirah, in a wooden box presentation

This Petite won a Double GOLD in the 2014 Rhone Shootout

Kokomo Winery ~ $115

  • One magnum (1.5 Liter) of 2011 Zinfandel from Kokomo Winery; Pauline’s Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel

Lava Cap Winery ~ $100

  • Private tour and tasting gift certificate for four people

Lava Cap Winery ~ $40

  • Petite Sirah 2011 Gift Pack ~ 1 bottle of 2011 PS and Petite Sirah fudge
    • $40

Mettler Family Vineyards ~ $200

  • One magnum (1.5 Liter) of our 2003 Mettler Family Vineyards Petite Sirah.

Michael David Winery ~ $150

  • One magnum (1.5 Liter) of Michael~David’s Petite Sirah, included in a wooden box

Miro Cellars ~ $180

  • Six (6) bottles of 2012 Miro Petite Miro Petite Sirah

Unrestrained, passionate, and grand wines like these do not ordinarily come with such modest price tags. Enjoy the freedom of not having to worry that you’ve developed a taste for spendy wines. Now you can delight in the wealth of sensory power these plush red wines offer without breaking the bank.

Neal Family Vineyards ~ $210

  • A Neal Family Vineyard vertical (750ml bottles) of Rutherford Dust Petite Sirah from the Neal’s home project:
    1. 2005 Neal Family Vineyards, Rutherford Dust Vineyard
    2. 2006 Neal Family Vineyards, Rutherford Dust Vineyard
    3. 2007 Neal Family Vineyards, Rutherford Dust Vineyard
    4. 2008 Neal Family Vineyards, Rutherford Dust Vineyard
    5. 2009 Neal Family Vineyards, Rutherford Dust Vineyard
    6. 2010 Neal Family Vineyards, Rutherford Dust Vineyard

Overland Wines at Kick Ranch ~ Minimum bid of $250

  • The winner of this auction item will enjoy a very special tour for up to eight (8) of the Kick Ranch vineyard in Sonoma County, and a wine tasting hosted by Overland and Kick Ranch’s owner Dick Keenan.

Pedroncelli Winery ~ $110

  • Six bottles of Pedroncelli Winery’s 2012 Pedroncelli Petite Sirah, rated at 88+ points by Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate

Ridge Vineyards

A three year vertical of Dynamite Hill Petite Sirah in 750ml bottles, presented in a Ridge branded wood box. – $175

  • 2003 Ridge Dynamite Hill Petite Sirah
  • 2004 Ridge Dynamite Hill Petite Sirah
  • 2005 Ridge Dynamite Hill Petite Sirah
  • Ridge branded wood box

Robert Biale Vineyards ~ $145

An owner-autographed three (3) bottle collection of  Biale Napa Valley Petite Sirah, in a wooden box with a display card showing the recent Wine Spectator quote from December, ’14 “Biale is regularly one of the top producers of Petite Sirah.”

  • 2012 Royal Punishers, Biale Napa Valley Petite Sirah ~ 92 points
  • 2012 Palisades, Biale Napa Valley Petite Sirah ~ 90 points
  • 2012 Thomann Station, Biale Napa Valley Petite Sirah ~ 93 points

Rock Wall Wine Company ~ $ to be announced

A three year vertical of Rock Wall Wine Company Petite Sirah in 750ml bottles

  • TBA Rock Wall Wine Company Petite Sirah
  • TBA Rock Wall Wine Company Petite Sirah
  • TBA Rock Wall Wine Company Petite Sirah

Stanton Vineyards ~ $120

  • One (1) 1.5 liter of 2011 Stanton Vineyards Petite Sirah

The Stanton family has grown grapes in the Napa Valley since 1947. We began making our own wine in 1999. For this first vintage and the next three we used grapes exclusively from our Oakville vineyard. In addition to the Oakville property, the Stanton family owns two vineyards in St. Helena. The growing season of 2011 was cooler than normal, and dominated by wet weather in June. By carefully managing our grape canopy and severely limiting the number of grape clusters per vine we were able to harvest earlier than normal, before another significant rain event that occurred in mid- October.

Stanton Vineyards ~ $120

  • One (1) 1.5 liter of 2012 Stanton Vineyards Petite Sirah

The Stanton family has grown grapes in the Napa Valley since 1947. We began making our own wine in 1999. For this first vintage and the next three we used grapes exclusively from our Oakville vineyard. In addition to the Oakville property, the Stanton family owns two vineyards in St. Helena. Petite Sirah is a staple for Stanton Vineyards. This newly released vintage is 100 percent Stanton Estate Varietal Petite Sirah.

The Crusher ~ $216

  • One case (12 bottles) of 2012 The Crusher Petite Sirah. The Crusher wines are a testament to an enduring partnership between the winemaking tradition of the Sebastiani Family and the Wilsons, a well-respected grape-growing family with deep roots in Clarksburg, CA. Fittingly named for the point in the winemaking process where the fruit of one family’s labors literally gives way to those of the other… The Crusher wine highlights the vibrancy and beauty of the fruit produced in the up-and-coming Clarksburg appellation.

Vina Robles Winery ~ $219

  • Six (6) bottles: Three (3) bottles of each for the following:
    • Vina Robles 2011 Petite Sirah, Creston Valley
    • Vina Robles 2011 Petite Sirah Estate

Wilson Vineyards ~ $300

  • Six Bottles of Wilson Vineyards 2010 Petite Sirah, plus a lunch for two (2) with Wilson Vineyards’ Grape Grower in Clarksburg

Wooden Valley Winery ~ $700

  1. A 20 person tasting and tour ~ $350
  2. A 20 person tasting and tour ~ $350

Discover this hidden gem in your own back yard. It’s in lovely Suisun Valley, which neighbors Napa Valley to its southeast. Just northeast of the East Bay, Suisun Valley is off the beaten path, down home, and as friendly as can be. Far from the crowds, during your time with us, you and your group will spend two to three hours, with a member of the Lanza family. Learn our history, tour the facility, and finally enjoy a wonderful barrel tasting experience in our barrel room. You enjoy these premium wines that might even become your “House Petite,” in the process.



Importance of Wine Competitions

Wine Competitions…

What is the importance of wine competitions?

This is a frequently asked question by wineries just starting out, and their owners are stymied by the fees, the amount of competitions out there, and the ultimate value that competitions play in the wine business. Frankly, name any industry and you’ll find that they, too, are constantly looking for third party endorsements, as that’s what drives consumers. When people are buying a product, it’s always easier when that person knows nothing about the brand, to have read or be told that someone or some group they trust have given it a thumbs up. As a society, we do it with cars, with movies, with dining, with just about anything.

So, how important are competitions? Very!

There are two arguments in this process. 1) Magazine reviewers rule, as it’s just one voice, therefore it’s not a consensus of a group. Sometimes those within a magazine’s structure might question the credentials of a competition’s judge. 2) From a competition’s perspective, it can be argued that the single person tasting a wine is only one voice telling you what his or her palate prefers, while the person buying the wine might have a completely different palate than the wine reviewer.

Both are right and wrong at the same time… It’s a yin-yang world, after all.

The single reviewer touches on a good point that someone on the competition tasting panel might NOT have a developed palate; but, the argument there is that neither does the consumer, and that a non-sommelier judge still has taste preferences that might align with a consumer’s opinion. (Everyone has taste buds and everyone knows what he or she likes and doesn’t like; therefore, that untrained palate adds a layer of what a consumer — who will ultimately be buying the wine — would like or not like.)

The competition panel could argue that just one person has a too narrow view of the wine, judging it in a very linear way — in a way akin to what that person’s palate has come to expect, want, and perhaps demand of wine in order to judge it worthy. Well, there you go. That’s right, too, as the wine reviewer needs to have benchmark standards in order to have an overall opinion.

As I wrote, it’s a yin-yang world, and that’s what makes it such an exciting place. If you’re in the business of making wine, then you must honor both of these business’s aspects; i.e., send your wines to wine reviewers AND competitions. Somewhere in the process, there will be a high score or a medal of worth, and that’s the fodder that you need for sales people to have a third party endorsement for any retailer or restaurateur who’s too busy to taste wines for consideration.

Nicholas Ponomareff of California Grapevine makes it his business each year to keep a complete database of each year’s wine competition results, and it’s available for purchase. (You can call Nick at 858-457-4818, or E-mail him at grapevine@san.rr.com.) The value of this list is that it calculates all the top scoring wines in any given year. Imagine that it’s your wine that has become the top scoring wine in its category. Away you’d go with that one!


Social media,Social Networking in Wine,Wine,Winemaking

Winemaking, a simply complicated passion

Facebook is the land of questions, including winemaking; especially for some of us in the wine business. If I get a winemaking question on this blog and I don’t have an answer, I turn to my winemaking friends. Last week, on my blog about “Sur Lie aging versus aging Sur Lees,” one of my readers thought I might have an answer for a very complicated question.

The one time that I tried winemaking, it quickly turned to mold; so I knew that I had to let it go and just get better at asking questions and then writing about the winemakers… Let the experts worry about the chemistry. I was much better with biology, anatomy, physiology, physical science, and languages (English grammar, French, Spanish, and American Sign Language).

The following question as a “comment”


“Have 120 gal. of Pino noir aging for 5 mo. Trying to build flavor & aroma how long can I leave it on the lees before racking? Color & aroma are still a little weak, but it has good flavors?”

Hum… Not wanting to have him turn his wine into mold, I turned to my Facebook friends:


WINEMAKING QUESTION: for my winemaking friends… Seems like a home winemaker…

“Have 120 gal. of Pino noir aging for 5 mo. Trying to build flavor & aroma how long can I leave it on the lees before racking? Color & aroma are still a little weak, but it has good flavors?

Here are many answers

… which prove that this simple question is quite complicated. And, makes for a very interesting read, in my humble opinion.

Collin Jeffery Cranor (Nottingham Cellars and Vasco Urbano Wine Company) ~ Winemaker

“That’s a loaded question Jo. And one that will certainly draw 10 different responses from 10 different people.”


All great opinions [welcomed], and it would make fora great blog story, too… Publicity in the making… I can’t answer this, because the only time I tried to make wine, it developed mold overnight. Yeah… I’m not all that.

Christine Havens (Wawawai Canyon Winery) ~ Winemaker

“I think it’s impossible to say without being there to assess the wine. Mistakes in winemaking happen! I once had to dump 400 gallons of Gewurztraminer.”


Both good answers to give to my reader who asked this question.

Melanie Hoffman

I’ll ask Heath [Hoffman] ~ Winemaker

(My daughter and son-in-law… Heath has worked for Davis Bynam, Venge Vineyards, Clos Pegase, and more… many prestigious wine brands and winemakers. This, along with working with a wine analysis company in Graton, which adjusts wines that need adjusting. He actually makes some of the finest Pinots I’ve ever tasted; soft, elegant, and very very smooth.)

Miro Tcholakov (Trentadue Winery and Miro Cellars) ~ Winemaker

The color is not going to improve for sure, the aromas will change -for good or bad is uncertain without being there and knowing the entire history. If the lees is clean at this point -keep the wine on it until bottling. If there were no obvious fruit aromas improvement in that direction is unlikely.

Melanie Hoffman ~ from the Winemaker

Heath asked, “Do they have access to an air pump? They can inject air into the bottom of the barrel for about 30 sec, while stirring the lees up to 2 minutes. That will be basically the equivalent of a racking. If they don’t have an air pump the wine should come off the lees at 6 months and racked. Sur lie aging is pretty much an expert process. Not for the faint of heart. It could go wrong quickly. After racking the sulfur should be tested so the free SO2 is between 30 and 35, ballpark.”

Alison Crowe (Garnet Vineyards) ~ Winemaker

Have them email me, happy to help the micro vintner. It’s a phone conversation rather than a 25 word FB response.

Marty Johnson (Eaton Hill Winery and Ruby Magdalena Vineyards) ~ Winemaker

If Alison is willing to help, steer your reader in her direction! It can be a very complicated or a very simple solution. It can depend on many variables. She is the “go-to” girl for Pinot Noir, and for winemaking questions!


Thanks Alison, I’ll send an Email to him… Everyone’s comments – so much good advice – and I’ll also give him your email. These answers demonstrate how complicated his seemingly simple question is.

Susanne Carlberg (Christopher Bridge Wines) ~ Vintner

And then there’s always Alison’s “bible” … good to have in any winemaking library!



Historic Variety: Mission Grape

The following was a final project that I wrote for my Enology class at Santa Rosa Junior College, taught by Pat Henderson, winemaker for Valley of the Moon. It was regarding the Mission Grape’s role in California Wine Viticultural history. After my presentation, which included a tasting of a light but flavorful Malvadino Mission wine, Pat asked for permission to use this piece in future classes… Permission granted. You, too, are also able to benefit from this history.

[This photo is of the famed Santa Barbara Mission, which I purchased. I’ve never been there.]

So, today, I’m not going to rewrite what I can’t improve. In reviewing my footnotes, I found a New Englander friend, Mark Miller, still very much alive and on the move. I used one of Mark’s books for historical reference with this project. He inspired me, truth be told. Mark’s most famous for his Coyote Cafe in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Mark made the big “Wagons Ho” westward move years ago, and today he’s still out discovering the world. Sharing food and wine with him is a very memorable adventure. If fact, my sister Bonnie Bissonnette, who normally doesn’t taste wine, made an exception as Mark fed us and shared a couple of his personal Burgundies. Both of them came from single barrel productions that he purchased directly from wineries in France… How memorable and fitting for today. If you’re not lucky enough to grab that kind of attention from Mark Miller for an evening, then find a way to simply taste his food in one of restaurants world wide. This still proves to be a true culinary delight that will be just as memorable for you.

The Mission Period pre-California (1568-1662) – The earliest winemaking in the continental US is credited to the Spaniards of Santa Elena, South Carolina around 1568. The first wine grapes in New Mexico were planted by Franciscan missionaries at Mission of Socorro on the Rio Grande about 1626. In 1662, Franciscan fathers came from Mexico into El Paso Valley, Texas, where they established the San Ysleta Mission. They came with cuttings of the Mission grapes, strapped to the backs of their pack mules. Because the climate there was so drastically different from the United States’ East Coast, the grapes flourished under these perfect, viticultural conditions, i.e., dry, hot, stony soils. The earliest successful viticulture was established in the 17th century in the great Spanish province of New Mexico, stretching from El Paso, Texas to the Pacific Ocean.

The Mission Period in California (1769-1834) – In the 1700’s, New Spain (Mexico) was home to many Spanish missionaries who were determined to convert the new world’s heathens to Christianity. Establishing a mission had specific criteria; i.e., the site must not only be near woods and water, but it must also be on a rise of ground so that missionaries could clearly see the arrival of ships. Additionally, there needed to be open fields for both grazing animals and planting their food items. The items not only consisted of fruits and vegetables for their meals, but also included grapes for their sacramental wine and their brandy. Once fruit and vegetables were planted, and the vines were in the ground, they were tended and watered by their Indian converts.

Spaniard Father Junipero Serra had a dream of founding a chain of missions up the coast of Alta California. It is he who is known to have brought the first mission grapevines from Baja, California in an arduous, overland expedition to San Diego. Padre Serra established 21 missions stretching 650 miles along El Camino Real from San Diego to Sonoma, today’s California Coastal Highway 101. Each site was set at a one-day’s walking journey apart, and became way-stops for California’s first tourists. “To facilitate trade and communication, each mission was built the distance of one day’s ride or hard walk from the next.” *1

The mission grape is believed to be of Mexican and/or South American (Argentina) origin, related to the Spanish Criolla, and the Pais varietal of Chile. In the early 2000’s when I wrote this report, there are 36,872 acres planted to the Mission variety. Prior to being planted in California, the Mission was first grown in Mexico for 200 years. Criolla means “a New World scion of an Old World parent, adapted to the new condition.” *2 The grape flourished in California, producing a sturdy vine that didn’t require staking, and ripened well in almost any climate. The exception was Mission Dolores in San Francisco, whose climate was, and still is, consistently cool and damp.

Padre Serra arrived in San Diego on July 16, 1769, and established his first mission, San Diego de Alcala. Once the flag had been raised, the tireless Padre Serra, who was small and slight in stature, continued up the coast of California to establish 20 more missions. By 1823, 54 years later, the last of the Spanish missions had been established, stretching along the coast of California from San Diego to Fort Ross, located in Sonoma County, and under the command of Mariano Vallejo. The mission/forts were centers of civilization, trade and industry, manufacturing a wide variety of goods from wine and brandy, leather and saddles, to woolen items and soap. These commodities were traded for objects they could not manufacture; i.e., pots and pans, lighting fixtures, and musical instruments. In 1834, under duress of the padres enjoying the good life, by the provisions of the Secularization Act, missions were turned over to civil government.

In the fall of 1769 in San Diego, Indians were taught to plant, then to tend Padre Serra’s first grapevines. These vines bore abundantly in September of 1772, and the Indians were then taught to make wine. It was fiesta time at Mission San Diego with the first vintage. Mexicans and Indians hurried to press the grapes. The press was a cowhide suspended from four corner posts set in the ground. Baskets of grapes came up, balanced on the heads of scurrying Indians. When they arrived, the baskets were handed to a man on a short ladder that emptied the grapes into the cowhide. When it was full enough, two Indians with scrubbed feet began to trample the grapes. When the grapes became pulp, it was put into cowhide bags for fermenting. More grapes were then put into the press for stomping. The wine was racked into new skin bags for storage.

The missionaries’ contributions to the wine industry were many:

  • Brought the Mission vine to CA
  • Trained growers and winemakers
  • Proved that CA is a world-class winegrape growing region
  • 1986 — 1,800 acres located in CA
  • Links the modern industry to its origins
  • Likes hot country
  • Is very productive, yielding good, off-dry wine
  • The Mission grape remains a significant crop in CA, though rarely seen as a varietal name
  • Created a profitable business, a glimpse of how the future might become
  • Much easier to preserve in difficult conditions than low-alcohol dry wines

Mission wine, which has thus become practically extinct in the second quarter of the century, nevertheless had a curious survival…In the 1920’s, in Paris, an English wine lover encountered an expatriate Pole who told him at the turn of the century, at Fukier’s, the best restaurant in Warsaw, “the choicest and most expensive dessert wine came from California.” The Englishman, finding himself not long after Warsaw, remembered what he had been told, went to the famous restaurant Fukier and asked for its California wine. He naturally supposed that it must be California wine such as other restaurants had, and was curious to know how it could be both the most expensive and the best available in a distinguished restaurant. The waiter told him that, fortunately, there were a few bottles still left, some of which were brought to the curious dinner: “Imagine my surprise when I found that they were of wine from the Franciscan missions of California grown during the Spanish period, a century and a half ago. The wine was light brown in color, rather syrupy, resembling a good sweet Malaga in taste, and in good condition.” *3

Judgment of early Mission wine was harsh, as fermenting and aging in skin produced a wine of inferior quality versus the now familiar barrel and stainless steel fermenting and aging. “One judgment, expressed in 1827,” the grapes of Los Angeles, Captain Duhaut-Cilly wrote, were quite good, but the wine and brandy made from them were “quite inferior, and I think this inferiority is to be attributed to the making rather than to the growth.” *4

Famous California Mission Viticulturists:

  • In 1841, George Yount (the first white settler in Napa Valley) planted at his Caymus Rancho, among other fruit, a vineyard of Mission grapes, and made wine from them for his own enjoyment and that of frequenting guests, using the Spanish method of storing in hides. This planting was located near what later became Yountville.
  • British-born John Patchett cleared some land a mile west of Clay and Calistoga Streets in Napa, and planted a vineyard of Mission grapes for winemaking, hiring a German gentleman by the name of Charles Krug to be his winemaker.
  • Charles Krug, revered as the founding father of Napa County’s winemaking, learned the craft in the town of Sonoma from Agoston Haraszthy, personal friend of Mariano Vallejo.
  • Gottlieb Groezinger, a very prolific vintner, bought land from Henry Boggs in Yountville, which is now part of the Vintage 1870 Mall. By 1873, Groezinger was producing 160,000 gallons of wine; 100,000 of it from the Mission grape.
  • J.H. McCord, a ’49er, had a winery, Oak Grove on the corner of Highway 29 and East Zinfandel Lane in Napa Valley. McCord claimed that his vineyard of Mission grapes was the oldest in the Valley, and was producing 50,000 gallons per year by 1890.
  • Los Angeles vintners: John Chapman planted a vineyard of 4,000 Mission grapevines in Los Angeles in 1824. Dutchman Juan Domingo (a.k.a., Johann Groningen), Frenchmen, Louis Bouchet and Victor Prudhomme were among the first viticulturists of influence. One of the most important Los Angeles vintners was Jean Louis Vignes. Vignes was from the winemaking region Cadillac in France, and in 1833 imported European varietals from France, thereby laying claim to being the first American to plant vitis vinifera. Mexican viticulturists were Manuel Requena, Tiburico Tapia, Ricardo Vejar and Tomas Yorba. One estimate gives Los Angeles 100,000 vines as early as 1831: such a quantity would have yielded 30,000 gallons of wine a year.


Argentina,Bubbly Wine,Dark & Delicious Petite Sirah®,Dark & Delicious™,Holiday,Malbec,Petite Sirah,PS I Love You,Russian River Valley,Sonoma County,Sparkling,Wine

Valentine day wines for 2015

For Valentine day wines, let’s start with some bubbles, segue into some delicious red wines…

Bubbles are a natural for Valentine’s Day and perhaps the first wine associated with this lovers’ holiday. My choice for the best California sparkling wine recommendations are Brut wines from Iron Horse VineyardsJ Vineyards and Winery, and River Road. All come from Russian River Valley’s cool climate, which creates excellent cool climate varieties. All brands are delicious, and all are very special to share with someone you love. Prices vary, with Iron Horse having the most range, and being on the high end (but, you lover is worth it, right?). J is the next price point to consider, which can also be a bit pricy, depending on what you can afford (after your December holiday spending). The River Road Pinot is the most affordable and a great value, to boot.

Red wines for you to enjoy

First Malbec for Lovers

Let’s go to South America for our Malbec from Trivento (translated: Three Winds ).

STORY: When, in the mid-1990s, Concha y Toro, Chile’s leading wine producer, announced its successful purchase of a collection of vineyards (now accounting for 3,185 acres) in the Mendoza region of neighboring Argentina, there was little doubt on either side of the Andes that change was in the air. Wind is an agent of change, so it was only fitting that the new venture was named “Trivento” (Three Winds), a whimsical reference to three winds that sweep through Mendoza and are such a distinguishing feature of the region’s climate and environment.

At every level, Trivento Malbec wines are designed to provide the wine lover with superb value and an authentic expression of the world-class potential of Argentinean winemaking and terroir.

Sound yummy?

Trivento Argentina 2013 Malbec Reserve Mendoza

This is a bright red wine with plum and raspberry aromas that intertwine on your palate. I love the touch of vanilla, which comes from this wine enjoying six months of barrel aging in French oak. It’s delicious, well balanced, with the finish having soft tannins that give us a velvety mouth feel. (Get our soft beef dishes, like a pot roast. It will be a natural compliment, and will soften the tannins further from the marbelization in the meat’s cut of beef.)

A Cabernet-Malbec blend…

Trivento Argentina 2013 Cabernet-Malbec Reserve Mendoza

Think about Dorothy’s slippers… Ruby red and bold… This red wine is more bold than the pure Malbec as a variety. The blended flavors of this wine get their guts and glory from the addition of Cabernet Sauvignon. (It reminds me of a Rutherford Dust Cab.) It’s a 50-50 blend, so it’s got plenty of Cabernet to make this different from just the Malbec one.

Aromas: Plum and bramble berry, a touch of sweet vanilla
Palate: Bold, beautiful, and the aromas carry forward onto your palate
Finish: The big, black fruit carries into the lingering tannin’s structure, which then demands a Tri-tip to make it all come together nicely.

For the little Devil in all of us!

If presentation is just as important as what’s inside the bottle, let’s go with the Legendary Collection from Casillero del Diablo.

The package is just as impressive as the wine:  “Commemorating its successful partnership with Manchester United, Casillero del Diablo presents Legendary Collection, an exclusive Cabernet Sauvignon that aims to conquer the most demanding palates in the world. ” It’s big, it’s bold, and it’s gorgeous. My girl friends will love giving this one to their guy pals.

Petite Sirah ~ A Lover’s Favorite Red Wine

With an advocacy group called PS I Love You for Petite Sirah, how can I not list Petite Sirah on any Valentine’s Day list? Our entire Dark & Delicious event is based around Petite Sirah and the aspects of love… PS, I Love You. Those pouring at Dark & Delicious on February 20, are the following… as we continue the love past February 14, on February 20th. (Tickets: secret code for a discount: dd2015winery.)

All of these Petite Sirahs are highly recommended. Our members all make their Petite Sirahs with passion, and hand crafting is of the utmost importance to them.

Artezin Wines Fulcrum Wines * Ridge Winery
Ballentine Vineyards Gustafson Family Vineyards Robert Biale Vineyards
Berryessa Gap Vineyards Harney Lane Rock Wall Wine Company
Bogle Vineyards Klinker Brick Winery * Sones Cellars
Carol Shelton Wines * Kokomo Winery * Stanton Vineyards
Clayhouse Wines Las Positas Sundstrom Hill Winery *
Concannon Vineyard Lava Cap Winery The Crusher
Dashe Cellars * Marr Cellars Theopolis Vineyards *
David Fulton Winery Mettler Family Vineyards Trentadue Winery
Delectus Winery Michael David Winery Tres Sabores
Denier~Handal Vineyards Mineral Wines * Twisted Oak Winery
Diamond Ridge Miro Cellars Ursa Vineyards
F. Teldeschi Winery Neal Family Vineyards * Vasco Urbano Wine Company *
Fenestra Winery Overland Wines * Venteux Vineyards *
Field Stone Winery Page Mill Winery Vezer Family Vineyards
Foppiano Vineyards Parducci Wine Cellars Wilson Vineyards
* New Winery


Wine,Wine Competitions,Wine tasting

Thirteenth Annual Pinot Noir Shootout

To all of my wine pals,

I don’t know anyone who works more tirelessly for Pinot Noir than Barbara Drady does. Her Affairs of the Vine annual shootouts are worth your time and energy. I believe in the process of a collective palate, just as I do for individual ones. Barbara’s panels are always worth their weight in gold, as a who’s who.

Pinot Noir Shootout Details (from Barbara Drady)

A wide array of palates, emphasizing both traditional and new media, will gather to assess the best Pinot Noirs from all over the world at the Pinot Noir Shootout finals, on March 28, 2015 in San Francisco, California.

The Pinot Noir Shootout will be featured on Twitter, Facebook, other Social Media networks, and in numerous wine publications.

The finalists will be showcased at the 13th Annual Pinot Noir Summit in May 2015. We are planning another wonderful event for this our 13th year with some big surprises, to extend the customer base and interaction. This event always attracts Pinot Noir lovers from the consumer, media, and trade segments. Attendees pit their palates against the panel – selecting and voting for their favorites.

The comments and reactions to the wines will be accessible on the Affairs of the Vine website, and will be posted shortly before the Pinot Noir Summit commences.

Registration Form

You must register by February 10, 2015, to participate in the Pinot Noir Shootout!

Ship your wines to be received no later than February 16th.
Send to:
Affairs of the Vine
696 Elliott Lane
Sebastopol, CA 95472

Registration for the Pinot Noir Shootout is $65 per wine.

Enter here and save $10 per submission – $55 per wine.

Register 4 or more wines and receive an extra $5 per entry discount – just $50 per wine.

Register by February 5, 2015 and submit four bottles of each entry by February 16, 2015.

Overview of the Wine Shootout Process

Take a peek at the Results of last year’s Pinot Noir Shootout and Summit here.

View their list of invited judges here.