Wine,Wine Writer

Writing, the lost art

I love writing about wine, but I also just love the exercise of writing.

When I was in elementary school, I learned the Palmer Method. Anyone remember that one? I found that I loved it, because it was so artistic. It was the closest, in Catholic school, that I got to any kind of art program. I have a lot of god-given artistic talents. Writing also became one of them. I feel confident in saying that, because when I hit public school in the eight grade, we had penmanship each morning in home room. My home room and science teacher decided that rather than putting the writing assignment on the blackboard, he’d have me do it for him. I had perfected it with the nuns, being the second-born pleaser that I had become with my nun teachers.

I love handwriting

In high school, I once decided to turn in an assignment that I printed, instead of cursive. It was handed back to me by Miss Dumais, and I was instructed to re-“write” it. Oh, excuse me; I thought the printing was a fun change. Hum… That was the only paper I ever turned in that was printed after that. (Quick study)

My first clue that handwriting might be becoming antiquated is when a teenaged grand daughter asked me to read the letter I had written to her, because she hadn’t learned cursive in school. To be sure, I was taken aback. Good ‘ole California public school education. What in the world were the kids being taught, because I also had to teach her how to read in the third grade. She had cleverly gotten away with not knowing how to read for that long. This was a big fail of her school, but I quickly got her up to speed, once I knew.

Meanwhile, schools are now beginning to completely drop cursive. My nuns are turning in their graves, and I’m beginning to reel, after this recent experience below.

Was he at it again?

For the Dark & Delicious Petite Sirah, we purchase physical tickets for those who are invited to attend. I like hand writing the envelopes to those who have taken us up on the invitation. This year, I got a lot of people telling me that their tickets didn’t yet arrive.

I thought it might be the guy in my Post Office who, a few years ago, stole my son-in-law’s Christmas/Birthday cards with gift certificates in them. Ray was born the day after Christmas, so each year I send him both his Christmas present and his birthday gift. That year, I put each one into a separate card and envelope, but joined in one Priority envelope. And, I then dropped it off at the Post Office, in one of those prepared Priority envelopes with a window. You could see the gift envelopes through the plastic. They should have arrived quickly, but missed both Christmas and his birthday. When they didn’t arrive, I went to Home Depot to cancel the cards, but I was told that they had already been SPENT at the Windsor store. They NEVER left the Post Office. They even had the guy on camera with a big bucket of things he had bought, one by one passing them through check out. (I chose not to prosecute, because his family dynamic would change with a felony offense for the petty theft of $200.)

Now, I was asking myself, “is he stealing tickets?”

Most of the cards returned to me, after the event… “No such person at this address,” they read. What? I asked a few people if they were still at the same address. Yes, they were. What could it be?

Then, it hit me… People are beginning to not read cursive at all.

Are we headed back toward hieroglyphics? What goes around comes back around?

I believe so, especially  with all of the LOLs, IMHO.

What is going to happen to the art of writing and those artists who love the process?  Is writing truly going to become a dying art?


Wine,Wine Making

Malolactic Simplified

Ball-and-stick model of lactic acid
Image via Wikipedia

Sipping on a very expensive Chardonnay; lots of oak, 100 percent ML… considered to be one of the best, I’m thinking…

Malolactic fermentation:

A + B = C

Acid + Bacteria = Cream.

  • The Acid is Malic, the same one found in Apples and lots of other fruit.
  • The winemaker adds a Bacteria.
  • The conversion is from Malic Acid to Lactic Acid as an end product, which is the same acid that’s found in Cream.

This ML Chardonnay by itself is a topic of conversation; so, if that’s your intent, winemaker, you win. With food, however, it becomes a topic of how Chardonnay can be over manipulated.

So, what kind of Chardonnay floats my real boat?

Chablis styled chardonnay… Very simple, very clean, and very refreshing. Lower alcohol, did I mention that as well?

Whomever decided that malolactic fermentation had to also be applied to white wines, most specifically in this case Chardonnay, came on with a vengeance. And, unfortunately for my palate, so many winemakers followed.

Note to you guys for people like me: pull back on it a bit for a food friendly wine. If I want almonds and cream, I’ll be eating them, along with enjoying my less expensive wine to balance my food flavors. And, if I want caramel, I’ll suck on hard candy after dinner.

That’s how you as a consumer can decide not to get these big, over the top flavors… Go for the cheaper Chardonnays, because it costs a lot of money to malolactic ferment…

Less expensive Chardonnays pair well as an aperitif with cheeses, with cream dishes like a creamy dill asparagus soup; or chicken, pork, and fish with lovely sauces (like a plum or teriyaki sauce) that rounds out your flavors.

You, too, can join the “Cheap Date Society.”

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China,Napa,Sonoma,Sonoma County,Sonoma Valley,Wine

Yeah… Wine’s high rent district

I love my friends. They send me Emails that they think I should read, which of course will elicit an opinion.

My friend Paul Moe in Florida just sent a link to me from Smirky Chimp saying, “They’re all ‘wine barons!’”

I wrote back, after reading the story entitled, Sour Grapes in ‘Wine Country’—Intense Challenges to Wineries Erupt, by Shepherd Bliss | March 6, 2015 – 10:22am…

Yeah, it’s going on. High rent district.

I wanted to comment, but didn’t have time to figure out how I can register… It had to do with the comments of…. “Come to my state!”

What they don’t get about “their” states… California is on the Pacific Plate and everything from the Sierras east is on the American Plate. It’s totally different geology – ergo, totally different terroir. THIS is why other states can’t make a go of it, the way the West Coast can and does:

  1. Different plates, ergo geology
  2. Mediterranean climate, which they can’t duplicate
  3. Too much water, which will dilute the fruit’s intense flavors
  4. Terroir is everything, and we’ve got tons of it
  5. If you don”t want to believe it, okay… BUT… follow the money

Shepherd Bliss raises some great points, by starting out:

(Sebastopol, California) Sonoma County’s premium wine industry in the San Francisco North Bay has become a magnet that attracts developers from around the country, across oceans, and nearby. They move heavy industrial operations into rural areas and expand them to become event centers and commercial bottling operations. Under the pretense that they are merely agriculture, rather than alcohol-producing factories, large wineries seek to avoid Environmental Impact Reports (EIR) and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)…

He also writes:

For $41 million dollars, a subsidiary of the Chinese developer Oceanwide Holding recently purchased the 186 acres of La Camapagna near Kenwood, off the nearby busy Highway 12. It includes the rights to develop a winery and luxury resort. This is one of the largest stretches of land on the Sonoma Valley floor that has not yet been “improved.” The citizens group Valley of the Moon Alliance stalled a previous development on this land by a 2004 lawsuit. Oceanwide Holding also plans to develop what would be the tallest skyscraper in San Francisco.

I once read, and believe, that a nation’s wealth is measured by how much gold they have, starting with Italy’s Roman Empire. We do all understand, don’t we, that the US has begun selling off its gold to China?

Dr. Shepherd Bliss III’s background:

Shepherd Bliss teaches at Sonoma State University, owns Kokopelli Farm, and has contributed to two dozen books, most recently to the Sierra Club’s “Ecotherapy: Healing with Nature in Mind.” He can be reached at [email protected] and shares the website www.vowvop.org with other members of the Veterans Writing Group.

Lecturer at Sonoma State University, Psychology and Humanities Departments
Current ~ Sonoma State University
Previous ~ Harvard University

If anyone understands what’s happening behind the scenes, I’d give it to Dr. Bliss.

You, too, should read his evaluation of what’s happening. I would have, but I’m rushing against time to have time away from my computer for the next week…

My bottom line is that progress always happens much too quickly, and ruination also happens before anyone can figure out what’s going on. Once the damage is done, there’s no turning back. If you don’t believe that, find any Native Born American… of the First Nation People… and they’ll give you an ear full.

Meanwhile, if we want to protect what we have, we have to take an active role by first bringing it to people’s attention, just as Dr.  Bliss has.


Marketing,Wine,Wine Writer

Back Label Girl is available to spin your story

Wine labels, including the back label, are portals to a winery.

In the the late 60s, my friend Leon Pinkham said to me, “Album covers have the greatest art on them.” I hadn’t thought much about it before he said that to me. I had just taken it all for granted, but once Leon pointed that out, it was clearer than clear. Along with that musical generation came a platform for visual artists, too. They created, and if it was exceptional it became the lead into the magic, which was inside the cover.

Today, the same holds true for a bottle of wine. And, if you’re just beginning to enjoy wine, you’re the most susceptible, because you’re not bogged down by what you know. You’re open to the innovation that a wine label can and does bring to the bottle of wine… You can live the excitement, and you’ll also be building the brand. Packaging will either draw you in, or move you on down the isle to find exactly what you’re looking for. Before I understood (better than I do today) what was in the bottle, I was drawn to the label like a moth to a flame, bought the wine, and only then discovered what was inside. (Pretty interesting days.)

Before living in California, I lived in Maine and worked for WBLM radio station, in Portland, Maine. I was as far away from viticulture as is possible, but I loved my weekend food and wine adventures with my husband. We had a favorite wine shop that I’d go to each Friday. I’d buy a bottle of wine, bring it home, and we’d enjoy it over the weekend.

Finally, after months of doing this, Jose said to me, “Alright! I’m going to buy the wine this Friday, because every time you buy a bottle of wine, it has some flower or plant on it, like a Field Stone Sangiovese.” I couldn’t argue. He was right. So, off he went to Audie’s Wine Shop, and he bought a bottle of Clos du Val Cabernet. You know, that’s the label with the three graces on it… a.k.a. three naked ladies.

Back Label Girl

Versatility is how my friend Sue Straight, also known as The Wine Wench, is best known. She’s a wine writer, as well as a Direct-to-Consumer consultant, and has now branched out a bit more with her professional services as Back Label Girl. With Sue’s years of experience with writing about wine, she’s decided that she’s a perfect independent contractor to help brands write back label copy.

According to Sue:

Back Label Girl™ was created at my breakfast table. You know how most people read cereal boxes while they are eating breakfast? I read wine bottles, because my table is usually covered with them – I’m a professional wine writer and wine judge. While munching on my granola one morning and reading back labels, I realized that there are a lot of crappy back labels out there – miss-spellings, grammatical errors and boring information abound. You wouldn’t believe some of the information that wineries put on their back labels, and some wineries don’t put any information on their back labels at all! I asked myself, “Why would consumers want to buy these wines?” So, the light bulb went off above my head and Back Label Girl™ was born.

Sue has 30 years of working in the wine industry, coupled with being a professional wine judge and professional wine writer, she’s created Back Label Girl™ to be a specialized one-stop-shop. Wineries send her barrel samples, and she produces compelling tasting notes, tech sheets, and other marketing materials. The following are some of her offerings:

  • Back label text
  • Tech sheets
  • Newsletters
  • Magazines
  • Web content
  • Social media content
  • Email and direct mail text



Integrated Pest Management: Cats, bats, birds, and dogs in the vineyards

Oh, the discoveries of integrated pest management…

CATS: My first lesson came just after I arrived in California… while waiting for a full-time job at a winery. I had secured a part-time job at Belvedere, who had a winery cat. Watching that cat turned into a project that was such fun. I had no idea where I was headed, which was the beginning of understanding integrated pest management.

Belvedere had a cat Smoky, and I watched how visitors to Belvedere just fawned over her… At least, the cat people did, and there were plenty of them.

So, I got this bright idea, once several people said, “Oh we were just down the road at Alderbrook (or Mill Creek, or Armida, or Mark West), and we just saw their cat. That made me realize that there were other cats. The photographer in me took over, especially since I had a bit of time to undertake a project. This was in 1993 and 1994… Long before any other winery cats, dogs, or birds were even thought of as wine industry story fodder.

Off I went, and I learned a lot as I photographed a ton of cats, all over the place; Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino, Lake County, et al.

The lesson I learned about integrated pest management was this… Wineries have cats because they keep the rodent population down (that’s the usual reason). If the cats don’t do it, the rattlesnakes will (that’s the unusual reason). The stories I heard could fill a book, but then… I got full time work, and didn’t have a patron to launch that project.

I did get to publish a winery cat story, entitled, Cat O’Wine Tales in The Wine News. And, last year I launched a Winery Cats Website, with the help of my Webmaster husband. Wine writer Millie Howie was calling me the Cat Lady long before she was calling me by my name, as that reputation preceded my reputation as a wine industry publicist… Word was out on the woman who was photographing cats, Millie later told me.

BIRDS: Along the way, I spied these boxes beginning to dot the landscape. I soon discovered that they’re strategically placed owl boxes. As owls and hawks take up residence, the balance between birds and rodents is in full play.

BATS: Next, Jose and I had dinner with RCA’s music rep Beverly Stevens. (Jose was still in radio, and part of his job was meeting with the recording artist liaisons. This usually involved dinner meetings. Jose, Beverly, and I went to Topolos in Forestville. Little did we know that as dusk, bats in the belfry would begin to emerge one-by-one, until it became a myriadic frenzy, until all of the bats had completely cleared out form their sleeping location, and had completely swooped down into the vineyard to dine on any pests they could find.

DOGS: There was a  story that appeared in Northbay BIZ magazine, entitled, “The Nose Knows,” written by Alexandra Russell. The story is about Santa Rosa’s Assistance Dog Institute offering a “sweet solution to vineyard pest woes.” Dogs are now being trained to sniff out the pheromone of the female vine mealybug. This insect is so dangerous to a vineyard that it can wipe out an entire crop.

It’s such a threat that at one of Foppiano’s Annual Petite Sirah Noble Symposiums (for which I was the organizer), we had a session just on this subject, delivered by Lucia Varela of UC Davis’s Extension office. Lucia earned a B.S. in biochemistry from UCLA and took her doctorate in entomology from UC Berkeley in 1990. This is how serious vineyard diseases are, for our billion-dollar, California wine industry, and the simplest of all solutions might be man’s best friend (women’s best friend, too, by the way).

Integrated pest management is one solution to having better wine… Wine are less impacted by a chemical solution, when other solutions exist; and someone’s willing to take the time to employ those solutions first and foremost.



Wine Books I’ve read over the years…. Getting ready for some summer reviewing

With weather averaging in the 70s in Northern California, our summers begin a bit ahead of other areas, in terms of getting outside, having weekends where we leave wine country to the tourists, and find quiet moments to get back to slower times on longer days.

Also, I’m still rebuilding my life from our house flood. All books were hauled out, but many are still in the garage and I’m slowly bringing them out and seeing them again.

I’ve enjoyed these wine books over the years, as well as some wonderful food books, too. Perhaps you have a wine book library, because you also love wine books. Maybe you can discover a new one here. Enjoy!

Wine Books I’ve enjoyed reading over the years,

and I highly recommend every one of them….

A Companion to California Wine ~ Charles Sullivan

A Concise Guide to Wine Grape Clones for Professionals ~ John Caldwell

Angels, Thieves, and Winemakers ~ Joseph Mills

Been Doon So Long ~ Randall Grahm

Bioscapes of Wine ~ Dr. Sondra Barrett

Buy the Right Wine Every Time ~ Tom Stevenson

Celebrity Vineyards ~ Nick Wise

Concannon: The First One Hundred and Twenty Five Years ~ Tim Patterson and Jim Concannon

Corked Wine: A father. A daughter. The wine trip to end all wine trips ~ Kathryn Borel

daring pairing ~ Evan Goldstein

Divine Vintage ~ Randall Heskett and Joel Butler MW

Drink This: Wine Made Simple ~ Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl

First Big Crush: It’s a dirty love affair ~ Eric Arnold

Food & Wine ~ Wine Guide 2010 ~ A Pocket Resource for the Person Who Loves Wine

Food & Wine Guide ~ Jamal A. Rayyis

Georgian Wine Guide (2012) ~ Malkhaz Kharbedia

Good, Better, Best Wines ~ Carolyn Evans Hammond

good wine – the new basics ~ Richard Paul Hinkle

Gracianna ~ Trini Amador

Grape Pest Management ~ UC Davis, SRJC required required for course study, Viticulture 101

Grapes Grow Sweet ~ Tessa DeCarlo

Great Wines of America ~ Paul Lukacs

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

How to Import Wine, an Insiders Guide ~ Deborah M. Gray

In Search of Bacchus ~ Wanderings in the Wonderful World of Wine Tourism ~ George M. Taylor

Into the Earth ~ A Wine Cave Renaissance ~ Daniel D’Agostini with Molly Chappellet

Kendall-Jackson’s “small plates perfect wines” is a perfect cookbook

Living in Portugal ~ Anne de Stoop

Mint Juleps with Teddy Roosevelt ~ Mark Will-Weber

New Classic Winemakers of California ~ Steve Heimoff

Oldman’s Brave New World of Wine ~ Mark Oldman

Oldman’s Guide to Outsmarting Wine ~ An intoxicating wine book to treasure ~ Mark Oldman

Old Napa Valley: The History to 1900 ~ Lin Weber

Passion on the Vine: A Memoir of Food, Wine, and Family in the Heart of Italy ~ Sergio Esposito

Spectacular Wineries of Napa Valley ~ Panache

Spinning the Bottle, Again ~ Paul Franson and Harvey Posert

The Wine & Beer Maker’s Year ~ Roy Ekins

The Curious World of Wine ~ Dr. Richard Vine

The Essence of Wine ~ Alder Yarrow

The Everything Guide to Wine ~ Peter Alig

The Finest Wines of California ~ Stephen Brook

The First Global Village ~ How Portugal Changed the World ~ Martin Page

The New York Times Book of Wine: More Than 30 Years of Vintage Writing ~ Howard G. Goldberg

The Ohio Wine Industry ~ Patricia Latimer

The Psychology of Wine ~ Evan Mitchell and Brain Mitchell

The Simple & Savvy Wine Guide ~ Leslie Sbrocco

The University Wine Course ~ Marian W. Baldy, PhD, required for course study at SRJC, Enology 101

The Wild Vine ~ Todd Kliman

To Cork or Not To Cork: Tradition, Romance, Science, and the Battle for the Wine Bottle ~ George M. Taber

Using Wine to Make Sense of The World ~ Elliot Essman

William Sonoma, Christmas

William Sonoma, Thanksgiving

Wine Components ~ Alder Yarrow

Wine Marketing Online ~ Bruce McGechan

Wine’s Hidden Beauty ~ Sondra Barrett PhD

Wines of South American ~ Evan Goldstein MS

Wines of the Southern Hemisphere ~ Mike Desimone & Jeff Jensesn

Windows on the World Complete Wine Course ©2006 ~ Kevin Zraly

Windows on the World Complete Wine Course ©2011 ~ Kevin Zraly




Veraison is fruit set to raisin

In California, everything in nature is coming early for 2015, as regards growth of plants. This has been the winter from hell for most of the country, but we’ve been really blessed in the Golden State. Bud break has happened: this is when a grape vine’s tiny nodes begin to burst forth with the year’s entire potential. If you look at a node under a microscope, you can see the layers of the year’s leaves, tendrils, and berry clusters. It’s one of life’s miracles. Soil and weather, trellising and sun exposure will then take over and deliver the goods for that year, coming from the shoot coming off the cane… And they’ve already begun their growth.

This is a pictorial study of veraison that I did in 2006. It’s the process of one singular cluster going through its entire cycle for that year: from tiny green berries, to plum fruit, and then to tiny shriveled grapes. The birds seemed to have found them in these finals days; so I also had a nasty cluster of buzzing flies. (Nature does what it does.)

  • From green in the beginning (June 28, 2006), when they were full of tartaric acid
  • To deep purple (October 28, 2006), when the sugar levels reached about 25 degrees brix
  • Headed toward dried out fruit (November 24, 2006), that are somewhat escaping the birds looking for a yummy lunch
  • December 7, very few leaves are left on the vine, and those that are are a Dijon yellow
  • December 17, almost every berry is somewhat shriveled
  • January 3, 2007, it’s over for this cluster

I covered my grapes in most years, to avoid the birds poking and pecking; but this year, I left this cluster alone to see what nature would naturally do with these juicy Zin berries…

Update on October 14, 2006… We had a natural predator, Ladies and Gentlemen!

June 28, 2006

July 16, 2006

July 30, 2006

Aug. 9, 2006

Aug. 16, 2006

Aug. 23, 2006

Aug. 26, 2006

Sept. 2, 2006

Sept. 9, 2006

Sept. 24, 2006

Oct. 14, 2006

Oct. 28, 2006

Nov. 14, 2006

Nov.24, 2006

Dec. 7, 2006

Dec. 16, 2006

Dec. 23, 2006

Jan. 3, 2007


PR Advice,Public Relations,Wine

The Thank You That Changed My Thinking

Do you have a publicist?

Second question… Have you ever said thank you?

PR – for the most part – is a really thankless job in many regards, and so it should be. I have no doubt about that one. I’ve learned some things along the way that are really worth sharing, though, which have to do with those who have the need for not only a publicist, but also a charm school education. I’ve experienced events worth sharing; things to make you think, and have a better handle on those who help you achieve your goals.

I’m going to first cite some examples from my 30+ years of being a publicist.

First, why anyone would need a publicist?

When I was an artist, I couldn’t say to a potential customer, “Didn’t I do a great job?” That would be ridiculous, right? I’d rather follow in Vincent van Gogh’s footsteps and cut off an ear.

That was the best lesson for me, prior to becoming a publicist. I can tell story’s about others, but I can’t tell about my own accomplishments. My accomplishments aren’t ego driven; they’re task driven. I also subscribe to King James Bible verse of “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” I easily trip in clumsy moments. I don’t need any incentives or help in tripping.

I take my accomplishments as a benchmark being met… Nothing more, nothing less. It’s a great feeling to just get ‘er done.

Charm School Drop Out #1

I had one client a long time ago who said to a wine journalist, whom I had brought to his house on a Saturday morning, “I would never allow to have my publicist in a story about me.” The journalist was quietly taken aback, as was I… both of us blinking…

  1. It was said in my presence, with only three of us being in his kitchen at the time, like I wasn’t event there.
  2. Bringing this writer to him was never supposed to be about me, so “what was he doing?” I thought.
  3. He was never written about by this writer, either, because he didn’t pass Charm School 101, I can only imagine.

Charm School Drop Out #2

During a party, when I tried to introduce a journalist to the host, he verbally abused her. She cut him some slack for being under stress. Clients can be trying, and this one was an extreme case. I didn’t cut him any slack, though. He was just rude, I’m only writing this to show how the job can be thankless for all of us along the chain of publicity, including a writer, of all people.

It doesn’t always have to be this way, and for the most part it isn’t. It’s the only solace I have in this story. I didn’t work for him anymore after this event.

Charm School Drop Out #3 (Final)

Each time I got publicity for this one man, he became hard to manage for a while. When the publicity ended up on his desk, it was like the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was reignited again. He’d be as nice as nice could be, until something was published. Then, he’s turn into this man who treated me very poorly… as if he was say, “This is about me, not you… You did nothing for this story. I spent my life developing it!”

Well, he did. No argument there. What he missed in this process, though, are the bridges that he didn’t have before I came into his life. Publicists have back stage passes, which some wine writers like to hold in reserve, even. The passes had dried up for him years before, but I breathed new life into his story. I had one person in that company tell me, “You’ve gotten more publicity for this company in one year, than it’s had in its multiple decades of existence.”

That was a great thank you and much appreciated from my friend Lynn. It didn’t come from Dr. Jekyll, though, so it makes for this example.

The Director of Charm School

This past week, I was just reminded… a man for whom I have the utmost respect, to begin with. I believe the universe delivered him to me for a very specific reason. I had to first pass the above tests (along with others), so I could share these stories with you as examples of what not to do.

It’s also great to have that cherry on the top of a hot fudge sundae, isn’t it… And, it was just delivered.

I have a client who is one of the kindest, most generous men I’ve ever met. I have to credit it to his upbringing. Why I say that is when you’re raised in an environment that challenges you continually, instead of simply nurturing you along the way, it takes a bit longer to understand the basics of Charm School. I won’t mention his name, because he’s so humble that he’ll become really uncomfortable, and I don’t want to do that. I just want to let people in my profession know, princes do exist and they’re willing to thank you in ways that will make you exclaim, “What?!” His personal message of thanks, hand written, and sent to me as a “person,”  not as a company performing, and his generosity in ways that I’ve not experienced in the last 33 years of my PR career was like receiving an Oscar.

He told me that I’m an “EXCELLENT writer”… Rarely heard, as I plug away. I’m just doing my job, not looking for applause, but when it comes, it’s delightful.

What a feeling…

Do you have a publicist? Have you ever said thank you to her or him? Would you even consider doing so?

If yes, to all of these questions, you, too, are a prince or princess among princes or princesses. As I’ve said about other things that I’ve witnessed in my life, I’m happy that I lived long enough for this one.


Alameda,Dark & Delicious Petite Sirah®,Dark & Delicious™,Education,Environment,Event,Food & Wine,P.S.A.,Public Service Announcement,Wine

Food safety guidelines for wine and food events, the rigors

I was told, by one of our food partners, at Dark & Delicious Petite Sirah, The Alameda County Environmental Health Department is the most stringent, for compliance regulations being met in the entire US, as an example of letter-of-the-law compliant. That’s the bad news. The good news is that any event, which anyone goes to in Alameda County having been issued a license by the the Environmental Health Department, is going to be one of the cleanest and safest in the entire United States.

My partner told us that nothing is equal to the hoops that each food partner just had to meet and pass for our Dark & Delicious event. I, too, as the organizer, had to jump through hoops I would never have imagined, and am now feeling a bit more seasoned.

As a public service, I’m going to share their rules and regulations, which you can also find on line (links will be provided). If you landed here by searching on “food safety guidelines for wine and food events,” this blog will pop up as a precursor. You have to dig through a site searching for the right forms; so this one will make life a bit easier for you. I’m saying this from experience, now. This is my public service to you, organizer, with my blessings for an easier go of it.

Also, it’s my firm belief that Alameda County is just the beginning for how it will all later become. They’re the benchmark… period. So, get prepared. If you’re attending a wine and food event, and the event organizer has the Food Safety license, you’ll feel more comfortable that everything is as it should be, and no one gets food poisoning, right?

I can give you the gory details of my own food poisoning experiences in Vermont, at one such wine and food event; but I’m going to spare you.

I, more than anyone else, understand why this had to happen at my wine and food event. I just wish I had had more time, and the minimum of $150/hour for the event didn’t have to have a 10-hour minimum rule, which equaled $1,500 in the final minutes of setting up the event for that same night. It’s a steep learning curve.

So, be forewarned… It’s also very expensive, comparative speaking, if you’re a small event.

Begin with your Alameda County Environmental Health Department Sponsor Application Health Permit for Sponsors of Food Facilities at Temporary Events. Then, follow all of their rules and regulations. Give yourself a month to get it all done.

Next, you’re going to have to prepare for a shopping spree, or you can rent it all.

Temporary Event Booth, Preinspection/Self Inspection Form~ Page 1

I didn’t get these papers until a few hours before our “doors” opened. This gave my poor husband a very small amount of time to go shopping for items that he couldn’t even yet imagine. He had gone out about a half hour earlier to get other things that I needed, at the last minute. (This happens to all of us, when we’re setting up an event, no matter how good your inventory details are. “Expect the unexpected” is the rule of thumb.) All of a sudden, he got my panicked phone call, telling him he had to buy things he couldn’t even envision.

The following, however, are best not left to that rule for expecting the unexpected. Get them gathered early, a month in advance, and you’ll be a much happier organizer.

Necessary washing stations for vendors ~ Page 2

We needed nine of these utensil washing stations, because we had 11 food partners. Four of the partners were within five feet of the station, so we didn’t need to have the other two, to make 11 of them. (It was nine tables, 27 bins, nine water jugs, paper towels, soap for washing utensils, solution of sterilizing utensils, soap for hand washing…)

Make a separate check list, or you’ll forget something.

All wine companies had to have the Wash Hands Set-Up within five feet of them. We had 50 wineries. We needed to have one behind each two 8-foot tables that were joined together. So, prepare for at least half of your tables around your event space having a hand washing station behind them. I know, who’s ever done that in all of the Untied States wine events? Don’t forget your tables for them, either…. Table, water, big bucket, soap, and paper towels, a rack for the dishes.

I’ve never seen a crew set up anything so fast as furiously as Rock Wall Wine Company.

This is all serious business and it’s the future. Like I had to, “Get over it, it’s the law.”

We’ll all be safer for it.

Final thought

No matter where I set up a wine and/or wine and food event, I’ll be checking in with the county first. I figure I have one of two options:

  1. Check in with the county, pay the fees, and comply.
  2. Forgo the county, buy event catastrophe insurance, pray I don’t need it, and then refund everyone, because I didn’t do the job right.

Honestly, Plan Number 1 makes the most sense. Frightened with the potential canceled event, it was a lot easier to comply, regardless of how complicated it was. It would have been a major disaster to tell everyone, “we’ll be reimbursing you.” Besides the ill will that would come from that, my career would have ended on the spot. I’d rather do the work, than be out of work.

Take the education and get on with your life, that’s my motto.



Wine,Wine Blogger,Wine Writer

Pardonez moi in writing

Portia (1888) by Henry Woods… Portia is the heroine in William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.

This is my wine publicist’s journal. In most journals, nothing written matters to anyone but the author… but this one is public. In a public one, everything matters to everyone.

The quality of mercy is not strain’d,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.

The Merchant Of Venice Act 4, scene 1, 180–187

I really do appreciate the edits that people tell me exist.

  • I pull an 80 hour week, perhaps like you do.
    • So you know how exhausting life can be.
    • You manage my slips very well.
  • Keeping up with the blog is fun.
    • Mostly.
  • I feel a commitment to it.
    • Sometimes it’s a real chore.
    • Not writing everyday has people running for the hills.
  • It’s not a paying gig.
    • And I do work for money as a private contractor.
    • Sometimes I wonder, “Why have I made this public?”
    • But, I know that some of this is helpful for others, including flubs… They happen.

When I edit my blog posts, I’m like everyone else

  • I read it as I think it is, not as how it really exists.
    • So, I miss things someone else might not – like you did.
  • I pay an editor for a fee, which will never be returned from this writing situation.
    • But, she also has a life and may not get to the blog post before I launch it.

I’m not living in the days of old in journalism

  •  A story was written.
    • Edited by the author.
  • Handed to the editor of the book, newspaper, magazine, television or film producer, and a final brush-through happened.
  • This is the way that very few mistakes were made.
    • Do you ever go online to find the flubs in any given film?
  • But, still, makes get through; factual and otherwise.

From Successful Blogging:

“For me blog post editing takes longer than writing the post. I may spend one or two hours writing a blog post[;] then, four to eight hours perfecting it. Even then typos can and do slip in sometimes.”

[I just found a place where a semi colon should have been, in the quote above; so, I’m demonstrating that there’s no perfection in this world, by anyone, all of us included.]

Boy, I wish I had her devotion and time, though. I also take a couple hours of writing, but then even more time editing. For me, it’s more like two to four hours of edits. Pay me for those six hours, and I’ll go the extra mile.

Writing is a four-step process

  1. Thinking about the story.
  2. Writing the story.
  3. Editing the story.
  4. Re-writing the story.
    • And the editing continues and continues; for not only content, but also for making sure the edits are happening along the way for style, content, typos, and grammar.

And, I continue to still make mistakes.

So, if you’ve gotten this far in how I’m continuing to write my journal and you find that mistake(s), just leave a comment.

  1. I’ll edit it.
  2. I’ll thank you, with a big pardonez moi.

And I repeat:

The quality of mercy is not strain’d,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.

This blog of 586 words just took four  hours to think about it, do some research, write, edit, and rewrite it…. For free… It’s a journal, people, and that is all. And, yes, I can easily read this below.