Astrological Signs With Their Astrological Wines

Astrological Signs With Their Astrological Wines is something that I’ve pondered a bit. What sign matches which sign…

For the lunar eclipse, here’s what I have to offer…

I was born on a lunar eclipse. According to the astrology that I studied (as a side interest) for 10 years, people born on a lunar eclipse are pretty intense, with the opposite sex of that person being attracted to lunar child. Those who know me would probably say that the intense is pretty true, regardless of astrology.

Here’s my take on today, with the blood moon having just happened. Expect the day to be, well, a bit… luny…

Astrological Signs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And remember, as Darrell Martinie, the Cosmic Muffin,” was famous for saying, “It’s a wise person who rules the stars, and it’s a fool who’s ruled by them…Over and out!”


Marketing,Public Relations,Wine

Trending PR, is this the way of the future or just a guise?

I got to thinking about an Email exchange that I had last week, and couldn’t help but ask myself if this was trending PR or not.

I’m going to just share the exchange and you be the judge.

INCOMING EMAIL: Editor Deadline: Need Holiday Recipes

Hi Jo,

My name is Bob and I’m with Family Stories (I’ve changed the names), a syndicated content provider specializing in the creation and distribution of lightly branded food content for newspapers, magazines and digital outlets.

Due to editorial demand, we’re currently on deadline for holiday food section stories and are looking for brand/product recipes to fill some editorial gaps. While there is no guarantee of placement, there is also no cost to you. Because there is strong interest in holiday recipe content for food sections, competition for these spots is high and decisions will be editorially-based.

If selected, you would earn millions of impressions and hundreds of high-quality placements in media outlets across the country.

To submit a recipe for consideration and learn more about how you can get guaranteed nationwide coverage, click here.

Here’s an example of one of our co-op branded recipe stories:

Okay, it looked good, and while it was outside of my day’s workload, which meant I would have to really hustle. I looked up the Website and found the above image… Grass Roots Marketing? Is grass roots marketing the new trending PR? I wanted more information.


Hi, Bob

Regarding “we’re currently on deadline,” do you have an end date? It takes time to put something like this together, when it’s an initial query and I wasn’t preparing for this new way to get content for a digital marketing company.

This is not to say that I can’t help, but I have so many project deadlines already before me that I need a specific date, before I can begin anything new.


INCOMING EMAIL with a red !

Hey Jo,

No worries. We are doing a “Free” Holiday Round-Up (Gift Guide and Recipe Round-Up) – see attached.

This is just to reach out and gain interest levels on clients. We have had over 100 submissions- so we are closing this down to review all products and begin the best layout and spec. no guarantees to anyone on being picked.

We are however selling spots on these Round-Ups. We are doing several of these types of Holiday Recipes/Gifts guides due to popular demand.

$3,500 per spot

These do come with minimum guarantees, deliverables, placements and impressions.

Deadline to purchase a spot and materials would be Oct. 24th.


Reel ‘em in boys… within the first Email arriving at 8:33, my response by 2:58 p.m., just six and a half hours later, 100 recipes flooded his inbox; but only for you and a few others, we’ve reserved $3,500 placement spots. (Their website states $5,000 for the placement.)

Okay, I get it. I didn’t respond. Only $3,500 to become part of a story in whatever publications I can’t even imagine. Good money, if you can get it in this world of continuing to evolve PR options, which are really marketing guises.

On their Website, which is still tempting people into submitting for “free?”:

Want Guaranteed Recipe Coverage?
Secure a guaranteed spot in one of our co-op, holiday-themed food section stories for $5,000 per brand/product recipe. (Promotional offers may be available.) Contact your Account Manager or sales@familystories.com for more details.

Do you have any idea how much time it takes to set up a photo shoot, which also includes the costs of shooting?

Oh, please and no thank you…


China,Wine,Wine Writer

Robert Parker is slowly fading into the sunset

Robert Parker is slowly fading into the sunset… Yeah, right!  And, I mean… right…. but wait to find out what I mean…

Once upon a time, I was raised on Sabattus Lake in the summers of my youth. I remember watching sunsets across a lake that is five miles long and one mile wide… I was watching the sun go down, just one short mile from where I would sit on the beach. I remember the aromas of the water and the water plants, the sound of the lapping lake against the shoreline, and the shimmer of light that played upon the water. I got to wondering and I asked my mother, “Mom, where is the sun going when it goes down behind the hill over there?”

She answered, “China.”

In my finite wisdom, I thought to myself, “Wow, all I have to do is cross the lake and go to the other side of the hill.”

Pretty easy, huh? I might have been five or six at the time.

Today, I got to thinking about something I recently heard, “Robert Parker is fading into the sunset.”

And I thought, how right you are, right into China.

Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown show on China… “China bought two billion bottles of red wine last year. Bordeaux is now looking at China to set their prices.”

I immediately though of my youth and realized what a great title and story this would be… Robert Parker is slowly fading into the sunset, when you realize that he has Chinese partners, you just have to get it. The people of China are enthralled with Robert Parker. Unlike our culture, which is so willing to also throw out our elders (not just the babies) with the bath water, the Chinese culture is a reverse of ours. It has long revered its elders; i.e., those who have come before them, for their knowledge, dignity, and connections.

So, it’s very appropriate that this was his next move to expand his writer base and join forces with a huge emerging wine population. In this regard, Robert Parker saw the opportunity as an early adopter of the Chinese wine market.

Any of my professional dealings with Mr. Parker (20+ years) have left me feeling really great about the man who rose to prominence with his tasting reviews. Granted, all reviews are subjective to the person’s palate; but, his was good enough to have him reach a pinnacle that very few others have even come close to. It’s entirely possible that with social media Robert Parker’s seat will never be replaced, in fact, I think it won’t.

Example: There are many vintners in the world. Some we remember, some we don’t. However, if I said Robert Mondavi, you’d know that he cannot be compared to anyone else.

If you don’t believe that Robert Parker has grand respect, go over the hill, into the sunset, and mention Robert Parker. There’s an entirely new country enamored with the man, where the sunset now also rises…


Dark & Delicious Petite Sirah®,Dark & Delicious™,Event,Food & Wine,Petite Sirah,PS I Love You,Wine,Wine Business,Wine tasting,Winemaker,Winery,Zinfandel

Dark & Delicious Petite Sirah® returns on February 20, 2015

About the ® in Dark & Delicious Petite Sirah®… It’s the Ninth Annual!

←   This image to the left,  is NOT a PS I LOVE YOU event.

←  This one is a case of registration infringement.

←  If other entities didn’t decide that Dark & Delicious Petite Sirah ® events would be way cool and groovy to host, and they do, we wouldn’t have had to register our name.

←  I just decided to go looking again; and sure enough, they’re continuing to happen, as recently as June 14, 2014. This means that I had to write the dreaded “Cease and Desist” message.  I don’t enjoy having to do it, but imagine if someone other than ZAP (say) decided to have a ZAP Zinfandel tasting. We all know this would be wrong, so we just don’t do it. Why – upon why – do people think that a Dark & Delicious Petite Sirah ® event is even permissible, when we’re not involved.?

I’ve blanked out the winery and winemaker’s name. The problem is that our fans think that we’re doing an event, and we’re not, when people infringe on our years of hard work, marketing efforts.

The REAL Dark & Delicious Petite Sirah ®

returns on February 20, 2015 at Rock Wall once again

More details will be following about Dark & Delicious Petite Sirah ® 2015. For now, the following wineries have committed to joining us all again for our next event:

Artezin Wines Fulcrum Wines *
Ballentine Vineyards Gustafson Family Vineyards
Berryessa Gap Vineyards Harney Lane
Bogle Vineyards Klinker Brick Winery *
Carol Shelton Wines * Michael David Winery
Clayhouse Wines Mendocino Wine Company
David Fulton Winery Page Mill Winery
Delectus Winery Robert Biale Vineyards
Denier~Handal Vineyards Rock Wall Wine Company
Don Sebastiani & Sons Stanton Vineyards
F. Teldeschi Winery Twisted Oak Winery
Fenestra Winery Venteux Vineyards *
Field Stone Winery Wilson Vineyards
Foppiano Vineyards New Winery *

If you’re a winery and want to sign up, just visit this link to sign up and join our Dark & Delicious Petite Sirah ® crew.

To Register Click Here


Argentina,Food & Wine,Sonoma County,Wine

“The Bounty of the County” known to Sonoma

Since arriving in Sonoma County, I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve heard or read, “The Bounty of the County.” It’s just way too many times to even calculate; it’s a lifestyle, not a slogan.

This Sonoma County lifestyle is not just about wine, either. Although grape growing is a primary industry, and immediately comes to mind when you hear “Sonoma County,” there are pockets in Sonoma County where our food supply is also very important. For instance, when you drive up Highway 101 from the south, or if you travel down the freeway from further north, when you hit Petaluma, there’s no doubt that there’s our dairy capital. Your nose knows. Along with that one are all of the chicken farmers in Petaluma… Dairy and eggs are a staple. (I buy my freshly laid eggs from a neighbor less than a half a mile from where we live, in suburbia, no less.)

Sebastopol is our salad bowl, in many respects. The first Farmers’ market experience of my life was in Sebastopol, long before I moved out here. I had a scheduled visit to California, to see if I could live here. The first place I was taken for a meal was Chinatown. Enough said? In our travels, we ended up in Sebastopol.

  • Upon arrival in Sacramento, we immediately drove from Sacramento to Chinatown and stayed in San Francisco overnight.
  • The next day, we drove to Santa Rosa, stayed overnight, and drove around Sebastopol, Healdsburg, and Napa.
  • Then, we went back to Sacramento, stayed there overnight and met with Jose’s bosses from the Fuller-Jeffrey Group.
  • Next we drove to Lake Tahoe for an overnight, and went to Chico the next day.
  • Our final destination was to travel from Chico down to Monterey (overnight), Carmel, and Santa Cruz (overnight); all in the course of six days.

I got more than a snapshot of the opportunities that were going to exist for us. In all truth, it was Sonoma County that was at the heart of California’s quality fruits and vegetables being grown. Here, there’s a sense of Mother Earth and living sustainably. It’s not a feel for chemical fertilizers to boost productivity, or insecticides as a way to battle Mother Nature. I’m not saying that this is Organicland, by any stretch of the imagination. What I am saying is that there is more social consciousness in this area, so it does exist in a more abundant nature.

This is greatly to my liking. I came to the right place, of all of the options that were set before me. Luther Burbank had a lot to do with this way of life. This horticulturist came from Massachusetts, as are some of my roots. From the Luther Burbank Website:

Striving to pioneer new and better plants, Burbank used techniques such as grafting and hybridization to introduce more than 800 varieties. One of his first successes was the Burbank potato, a disease-resistant cultivar. A later variation, the Russet Burbank, became the potato most commonly used for making french fries.

So, the Bounty of the County comes out a lot, as I said. Recently, Jose and I were having dinner with one of our dearest friends Corinne Reichel. She’s native to California, so she knows the ins and outs of her area. She’s greatly enriched the quality of our lives, since meeting her and working with her at Belvedere Winery in our early arrival days. Jose and I have joined the Vineyard Club [above], at her invitation. We were just there yesterday with our grandchildren, celebrating a birthday. Our grandchildren are having the same advantage that I had, my children had, and now my children’s children are having… A waterhole to visit for picnics and swimming and playing…

Corinne lives in that area, on the edge of a mountainside. A solar lap pool is hers for the swimming, as well as her lovely home. Jose and I went there for dinner a few nights ago. We had a swim first, then the three of us created our dinner. It was such beautiful representation of the Bounty of the County that it inspired me to write about it as a way of life. It’s very Mediterranean in feel… It is what it is.

Dinner, which came from us all, and then some… This food was so simple that it might be hard to imagine how delicious it all was, because it wasn’t dripping with sauces from all over the place. The original flavors were not disguised in anything but their own juices, representing the bounty…

  • When in the Healdsburg area, Big John’s Market is where we buy organic pork tenderloin. This was our protein, and Jose is always on the grill cooking up something delicious.
  • Corinne added fresh figs that had fallen from a nearby tree, wrapped in prosciutto, and also grilled.
  • I made a salad with organic veggies, with the cucumbers coming from our garden, tomatoes coming from Corinne’s garden, and newly picked, juicy peaches from her tree…
  • Zucchini was grilled to perfection, also from her garden.
  • A corn salad was given to us by her friends Darryl and Carol from the night before with organic corn. (Have you tried buying organic corn this season? It doesn’t seem to exist, as it’s now all genetically modified. So, this was my first corn in 2014.)
  • The cheese cake was purchased at Big John’s. (This specialty food story is locally owned and operated. Just yesterday I was thanking the owner – a husband and wife team – for being there and I didn’t know what we’d do without her store.)

The Wine was an import, and that’s the fun part of it all. Even though we’re surrounded by wine in Sonoma County, we’re also surrounded by people who market wines for sale, and they come from all over the world. Having access to world class wines from other regions expands our horizons, and also lets us know how lucky we truly are in the process.

  • 2013 Adelante Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina
  • The cooler climate Malbec was simply delicious. With typical notes of blueberry and blackberry, the figs especially were a delicious food and wine pairing.  Jose’s grilled pork was also very deliciously paired with the wine.
  • What totally dumb stuck my palate was that I also very much enjoyed the wine with my salad. This was how I started my meal, so I wasn’t going to wait to enjoy the wine until I had my entree. I had, however, used a really delicious olive oil and that oil and vinegar combination didn’t interrupt the flavors. In fact, it was enhanced. (I’ve come to abhor salad dressings with all of the added chemicals and dried this-and-that flavors… So, it’s always oil and vinegar for me… Simple and the most delicious)
  • This Adelante Malbec is touted by its growers, and I will attest to it, as pure Malbec. There was structure, the fruit was in total balance, and the touch oak aging contributed that lovely spice that we adore in a great wine.
  • The Bounty of the County was pure magic.

There are so many options in this area of ours, that if you’re not enjoying a local wine, you’ll be enjoying what a friend of yours has left behind for you to try. In this case, it’s our friend Darryl Miller, of D.A. Miller Brand Building. The meal seamlessly came together… all ingredients in some way contributing to the Bounty of the County from life in the wine zone…


Wine,Wine Business,Wine Making,Wine tasting,Winemaker

Age is a beautiful thing ~ Most especially in wine

The concept that age is a beautiful thing doesn’t always play out well in our Western Culture. In one of my psyche classes, we learned that there are two cultures that make up the world; although, I would argue that I fit into a third one. It would be an evolving Melting Pot culture, which takes a bit from each:

  • Collectivism
    • Focus: Emphasizes interdependence of every human being
      • Example: In a bed of nails, if one sticks up above the others, it must be hammered to be the exact same height as all of the others
    • Classes: A social outlook, political, philosophical, religious, economic
    • Cultures: France, Japan, India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Palestine
    • Communications: High context, equivocal language
    • Reverence: Elders
  • Individualism
    • Focus: emphasizes independent thinking, oriented around oneself; if one rises above others, this is way cool and groovy
    • Classes: A social outlook, political, philosophical, religious, economic
    • Cultures: US, Canada, Great Britain, Italy, Australia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Israel
    • Communications: Low context, forthcoming
    • Reverence: Youth


Notice that in the cultures above, France is listed with the collective society, and the US is listed as an individualistic one. Also notice that communications are very different. This explains why the French culture (generally speaking) sees Americans as rude and crude, when we travel into their country. Our communications with them are too short and lacking in the social graces of equivocal language, whether or not we want to hear and/or know that. And finally, notice which cultures respect age and which one respect youth…

Now, put that into the context of wine. Although the early Romans brought grape vines into France, in their early movings around Europe, it’s the French who have collectively (collective culture) nurtured their vines in specific regions, as the rest of the world has seen those vines as the wines that are the most revered varieties. What’s happened along the way to make these grape vines so special is yet another story. The point I want to make is that it was the French who began to revere the age of a wine, rather than have it be for immediate consumption. It became more than an everyday beverage. It became a monetary bargaining chip, like gold was for the Romans. As a result… Age is a beautiful thing. (Think about the expense of a prominent Bordeaux.)

I was just reminded of this as I had opened and tasted a newly released wine by winemaker Joe Freeman. The ability that I have to study winemakers for the every day long haul is a fantastic privilege, and an honor. With each new winemaker for whom I work, I have to taste their wines repeatedly. As a result, I taste their wines in many incarnations, and become very familiar with what they’re crafting.

We all know that wine is alive and evolving each and every day, but unless you’re working with a winemaker and tasting his or her wines each and every day, it’s not as easy to recognize.

My example and reminder came two weeks ago, when I was tasting through a group of Joe Freeman’s wines, in order to create tasting notes. I had opened four bottles of Joe’s wine. Three of them were red and one was white. The rest of the Chardonnay became the house wine for me, because I eat lighter foods and it just fits with what I prefer to eat. Meanwhile, each day I had just a tiny bit of the soon to be released 2013 River Road Family Vineyards and Winery Stephanie’s Cuvée Pinot Noir. And, each day it began to taste more of where it was evolving, as it gained some age.

  • The color remained garnet, with no signs of oxidation. This would be shown as a browning around the edges, to eventually changing from garnet to a brown color in entirety.
  • Each day the tannins softened. This was allowing more of the plum fruit to push forward, into a silky mouthfeel.
  • Each Day this wine became more elegant than the day before.
  • By the sixth day, when the last drop was drained from the bottle, I thought to myself, “This is a classic example of how age is a beautiful thing,” and so the concept for this story was born, I created the title for this story, and the story is now realized.

This is why some people love storing wine, and taking it from an everyday beverage to a stored one.

It’s also a reminder of how fortunate wine publicists are. It’s our sole responsibility to study our winemakers, in order to create the inspiration for writers to attach the alchemist face to the bottle of wine… Joe Freeman with Ed Morris (his assistant winemaker, who is also a cooper) continue to amaze me. They’re well on their way… Most especially in wine.




Navarra, a Spanish Soujourn

Kingdom Navarra ~ Spain… Off on a new adventure to the Denominacion de Oregen… Northeastern Spain; or, an Iberian wine.

The region of Navarra has interestingly diverse terroir, comprised of three separate climates. These regions are the following:

  1. Northern Mountains, where you’ll find the Baztan valley
  2. Center appellation, where valleys are crossed by the Lumbier and Arbayún gorges and the Bank
  3. Southern region is a flat landscape of grasslands, without trees except for those near rivers and lakes, along the fertile valleys of the Ebro River

Recently I put out to the universe that I was on a mission to taste 100 wines for membership into The Wine Century Club, just about the time I had tasted about 64 different cultivars.

Samples began to come in with much more frequency, I must say… The power of the internet cannot be underscored from my perspective.

I shortly there after logged in wines Catherine Seda at Balzac Communications in Napa from Navarra. The image taken was taken for posterity, while listening to Pandora: My Madonna mix with Cyndi Lauper singing Girls Just Wanna Have fu-un.

Catherine writes, “Kingdom of Navarra? They are fresh and fruity–and many are under $20″

Castillo De Monjardin El Cerezo Chardonnay ~ 100 % Chard ~ SRP: $14.00

NOSE: Butterscotch, lemon, lavender, honey… I could bathe in it. I love the tartness, with rounded edges.

PALATE: Beautiful rich flavors of Chardonnay. This is a lot of wine for the price. I didn’t look at the price before I tasted it, and guessed that this wine was a lot more expensive than it is. It has been explained to me by my friend Delfim Costa of Enoforum Wines (Alentejo, Portugal) that land, labor, and products are less expensive for wines of other wine regions around the world. As a result, we’re able to have wines of more distinction and character in the US, than what we have as bulk wines coming from our California Central Valley AVA. This is why I’m still getting over the quality to value ratio of imported wines.

Bodegas Ochoa Graciano and Garnacha ~ 50/50 Graciano, Garnacha ~ SRP: $12.00

This one was soooooo-oooo good.

NOSE: The aromas dominated from the low yielding Graciano grape, I would presume, because it was just so aromatic. It exuded black fruit of the richest kind in aromas.

FLAVORS: Beautifully rich, ripe blackberries and cassis filled my mouth, having me audibly says, “Ooooo.” It was that good. I loved this one instantly.

Bodega Inurrieta Mediodia Rosado ~ Garnacha ~ SRP: $12.99

OVERALL: A hearty rosé, this very tasty wine reminded me of the days when I’d be picking raspberries at Sabattus Lake on a hot July day; it was a great break from morning water skiing (with all the others out there), with refreshing, yet very flavorful components. It was fun to go back in time through a wine’s flavor.

Bodegas Tandem ARS NOVA ~ Tempranillo, Cab Sauvignon, Merlot ~ SRP: $19.00

NOSE: Very pretty black fruit.

PALATE: A lot more flavor that I was expecting. I know Merlots can be big and gorgeous, and this one falls into that category. I’m just learning about Spanish wines, and learning that there’s plenty of flavor coming from this country. Lots of minerality, flinty, plummy, earth, Jose called it a “Manly Wine” with tobacco, leather, and chocolate…

This experience with Spanish wines was a wonderful lesson in their terroir and the subsequent wines.

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Photographers,Wine,Wine Blogger,Wine Writer

iStockphoto just went totally corporate + Alternative great resource for reasonably priced images

istockphoto is done for bloggers who can’t afford their new pricing structure.  One image for one blog post is now $36. Huh? If I wanted five, one for each day of the week, my blog now costs me $180 for that week… or $9,360 a  year? My blog, according to Cellarer.com, is only worth $$3,718.

I thought blogging was about freedom of thought? Okay, I pay for hosting, a domain name, etc. These things are incidentals. But $9,360 just to make my site more attractive?

For those of use who have been using iStockphoto in order to avoid plagiarism, they’re now offering Getty images as the alternative. Getty bought out iStock, and I wondered how long it would take for corporate to take over. Today’s the day…

For those of us who don’t want our pure sites littered with Getty’s invasive advertisers dumped into our blog posts, this isn’t an option, it’s a corporate intrusion.

I  remember well what I learned in HTML class… Nothing on the Internet is free. It all has a price attached to it.

Here’s why I find that Getty is not an option for me: From a story on The Verge, written by Russell Brandom and entitled, “The world’s largest photo service just made its pictures free to use,” on March 5, 2014.

The new money comes because, once the images are embedded, Getty has much more control over the images. The new embeds are built on the same iframe code that lets you embed a tweet or a YouTube video, which means the company can use embeds to plant ads or collect user information. “We’ve certainly thought about it, whether it’s data or it’s advertising,” Peters [a business development exec at Getty Images] says, even if those features aren’t part of the initial rollout.

Yeah, okay… the initial rollout is code for, “the future of Getty’s ‘free’ program.”

If we’re blogging, we’re not getting paid for billable hours, are we? Even if I’m writing about my clients, and I DO, I  don’t put that into billable hours.

  • To afford these prices, we have to be independently wealthy.
  • To avoid what Getty is doing with “embedded images,” we have to be willing to give our sites over to future advertisers.

The alternative great resource for reasonably priced images? This image was my first download… I searched on “joy.” Joy for getting a better deal, I signed up for a year for less than iStock’s $108.25 monthly ($1299 for a year, versus $99 for an entire year with Dollar Photo Club). Oh Joy, right?

Dollar Photo Club

Meanwhile, where to buy images that won’t be embedding future advertising into your blog post: The Dollar Photo Club.

  • It’s only $10.00 per month, or $99 for the entire year.
  • Each new photo is only $1.00 more.

I’m going to be spending a whole lot less in the long run, so this change just helped me; it didn’t hurt me, as I initially thought it would. I immediately search for the alternative.

What a relief for all of us who are blogging and not filling our blog posts with advertisers… most specifically if THEY’RE making money on our content, but not sharing that with us… Proving nothing is for free, n’est pas?

Live Chat with iStockphoto

The following is my Live Chat with iStockphoto this morning, which is worth sharing, so you don’t have to also try to navigate through what you now can and can’t afford for your blog post, in order to avoid plagiarizing.

Live Chat: Thank you for choosing iStockphoto. A representative will be with you shortly.

Live Chat: You are now chatting with Flavia.

jo diaz: You guys have sadly just out priced bloggers, who are trying to do the right things, by not plagiarizing images. So sad…

Flavia: Hi there

Flavia: I understand, this is a pretty big change to how our site works.

Flavia: We are simplifying our credit system so that you can choose the file size based on the need of your project, not the price.

Flavia: You’ll now have the freedom to download files at high-res for use in future projects.

jo diaz: Yup… Sorry, it will only be a great blog story for me, nothing more. You just missed the point… No [one] pays blogger to write anything, so to have to have an image that’s going to cost a professional amount attached to it makes what you’ve done to so many people [impossible]… But, I’ll have fun writing about it. That’s about it.

Flavia: You can buy a subscription

jo diaz: And, your system is not simplified, it actually become exclusionary. You must have so many corporate buyers that you don’t need the blogging community.

Flavia: I just talked to my manager here and she gave me this link that is great for bloggers like you

Flavia: http://www.gettyimages.ca/embed

Flavia: you will be able to use Getty images photos by only embedding them to your blog

Flavia: for free

jo diaz: Yeah, I remember reading about that one. We have to allow Getty to have links on our sites in order to use them, and those links will be advertising links… A very invasive way for us and very advantageous for you guys to capture the advertising market. It’s a very interesting change, but not one that I’ll use. Thankfully, I’m also a photographer; so, I – and many others – will be going our own way. An interesting juxtaposition for sure.

Flavia: I appreciated talking to you today and I will definitely pass on your feedback.

Flavia: Have a great weekend!

Thank you for chatting with us. Please click the “Close” button on the top right of the chat window to tell us how we did today.

As I tried to comment:

You are not currently connected to a chat representative.

You are not currently connected to a chat representative.

Yup, Flavia hung up on me.


AVA,History,Suisun Valley,Wine

Getting to the Heart and Soul of Suisun Valley

I’ve been working with the Suisun Valley Vintners and Grapegrowers for a long time, at various capacities.

My original tasks were primarily to get the name Suisun Valley on the map, and onto the radar screen. They had been in some sort of Rip Van Winkle time warp, and Jose and I were called in to help them illuminate their valley in the wine media and beyond.


  • American Viticultural Area (AVA) for over 25 years
  • One of the oldest AVAs, since they began in 1982
  • Neighbor to Napa on its southeastern most tip
  • Part of the North Coast AVA…

But, who knew?

I certainly didn’t, and very few others did, too, as I began to spread the word. Now, there’s much more visibility. You may not know this AVA (because who reads everything?), but others surely do. And, it’s enough for it to be growing in a more vibrant winemaking and grape growing way from six years ago.

I became their storyteller, and I love that job; although a lot has changed for responsibilities over the years. Now, it’s mostly Jose who is responsible for Suisun’s Web needs.

Important for people to know…

  • Where did Suisun Valley get its name?
  • What are the details of all these individual grape growers, since I’ve only been writing about them as a group?

Their story is one my most fascinating assignments. I was able to not only study the heart of the valley, I also able to discover their soul.

I began with Koch Wines. Jose and I had helped him launch his Website. I had already written his story, so half my work was done.

Exploring the Potential for Great Suisun Valley Cabernet at Koch Wine

President of the Suisun Valley Vintners and Grape Growers Roger King and and I were also talking about an R&D story I was working on, “Third Generation Grape Grower Fred Abruzzini Has it All.” With this one, I had gotten to the bottom of the Abruzzini family coming into Suisun Valley, and am very excited about this story. Roger loves it, too, and asked me to begin a chronological thought process. He wanted me to dig back to the Mangels Winery, because that’s the tipping point that people in Suisun talk about, and recognize it as something of great merit.

Meanwhile… my mind could only think of getting to the bottom of where Suisun Valley got its name. I had heard that it had Native American roots, and my curiosity was going bonkers.

So, I went that way. What an amazing ride, and I wrote:

How Suisun Valley Got Its Name

BRIEFLY: Well worth the discovery of Chief Solano, formerly Suisunes Chief Sem-Yeto was baptized by missionaries as “Solano.”

The first grape growing and winery in Suisun Valley ~ 1906 ~ Mangels winery (called Solano Winery) had grown to produce 500,000 gallons of wine a year, in Green Valley, Solano County (1893 to early 1950s). A half a million gallons of wine… Right up there with the Beaulieu, Beringer, Wente, the Concannon, Inglenook, Korbel, Martini, and Tulares of the world.

It’s just astounding to me, and I don’t think that it’s that I’m learning all of these facts. What’s blowing me away is that this story has been laying dormant since 1943, from the publications that I have as resources… And, the fact that it’s an internationally told story for the very first time is amazing to me to have this opportunity. I have what some people like to think of as a “scoop,” when in fact…

Writing The Earliest History of Grape Growing in Suisun Valley has me really off and running, and the rest will be history… as the saying goes, as I get to tie in the time between Chief Solano, the 1940s to six years ago, to when I first began the stories. I never thought about skipping backwards to tell the present… But what better place than on their Website, written in such detail as I’m going to be telling.

I never thought I’d grow up to be a historian, but that has happened. Who knew?

Suisunes Chief Sem Yeto was baptized by missionaries as “Solano.”
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Australia,Flavors from the World of Wine,New Zealand,Wine,Wine Business,Winery

Upside down boot + Rightside up New Zealand’s wines

Did you ever thing  about New Zealand being an upside down boot? Okay, so maybe it’s a small boot with a leg warmer, but it’s got it going on.

Thanks to Jasper Hammink of Vinopedia, the new free price comparison engine for wine. He read this post, he wrote:

I saw your blog… hilarious to see that New Zealand indeed looks like a boot. I superimposed the map of Italy onto the map of NZ and with a bit of rotation they are really quite similar: Vinopeida Map. Feel free to use the picture if you like.

I like… In fact, I love…

Everybody talks about Italy being the shape of a boot, but poor little New Zealand is down under, which means that it’s really right side up for them… with their own boot.

I have to thank you, Mills Reef, for originally taking me (virtually) to New Zealand all those years ago, and discovering this. I brought up my image of their islands at the time. I was the first to mention it to them. (I guess I live in a very different world.)

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

New and Fabulous Down Unders

This wine blog is now opening up the world for me in a major way. Before this blog, I have to admit that I was pretty California-centric, because those were my primary wine experiences. Honestly, I had to learn all that I could here, before I could become a world explorer. We all need some point of reference, and Napa and Sonoma ain’t all that bad, to be very honest with you. I learned what I had to. Then, the recession hit, being open to imports happened, and I’ve been off and running ever since.

Flavors and wines that are all great buys, and I’m having a ball exploring these wines. The ones below have been tasted over a period of time, because I couldn’t bear to open them all in one sitting, and then dump what was left over down the drain. This is why you’ll find my notes aren’t consistently presented, but are more stream-of-consciousness-up-to-the-minute, as I’ve felt to report on each one in a candid way.

These wines below were delivered to me by Jane Cleary from Country Vintners. She had the Zeepaard samples delivered to me earlier, and turned it right around with this new list.

2008 Longview Red Bucket Shiraz Cabernet (Adelaide Hills) RRP $13

Get ready for Girl Scout Mint Chocolate cookies. Blackberry fruit wrapped in flavors of Eucalyptus, this wine is called Shiraz Cabernet, with the blend being 76% Shiraz and 24% Cab. I love the back label… It’s ingenious. It lists a ton of adjectives, keeping any dinner party going with things like:

and rich
and mouth filling
and complex
and structured
and aromatic

The list goes on, but I won’t. Buy the wine and enjoy the ride. What is in the bottle is also all over the label. Dribble a few drops from within, and you’ve got a perfect party going on.

Longview Red Bucket Semillon Sauvignon Blanc (Adelaide Hills) RRP $13

COLOR is gorgeous and crystal clear.

NOSE: This isn’t the prettiest of wine descriptions; however, it’s become very interesting to me that some Sauvignon Blancs with Semillon can be somewhere between the litter box and a skunk trail… And, if I smelled either in real life instead of a wine’s aroma, I’d be totally turned off… But, in a wine glass? I find myself evaluating how many wine claws I’m smelling. I used to think about it in five claws, but now I have a Polydactyly cat, and know that it can be a cat with six or seven toes. I called him Big Foot, and he’s a little heavy handed and clumsy with this many toes, and I’d say the same for a Sauvignon Blanc at its most extreme feline aromas. Fortunately, this wine is perfectly balanced and has a pleasant nose that only hinted at my stream-of-consciousness ramblings, with a claw factor of three and a half.

PALATE: Lemony lime. Not tropical, definitely cool climate flavors. Stainless steel helps to preserve all the varietal character, and pleasant flavors. A great apéritif wine with gorgeous cheeses of full body would make this wine a great food and wine hit at any gathering.

FINISH: Fresh and clean with lemon meringue pie lingering. Very yummy.

Lawson’s Dry Hills Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough NZ) RRP $17

I love Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand. The meow factor from this one’s definitely a four, on the scale of one to five (barring ploydactyls). Bright and fresh, I didn’t need to enjoy this one with food. It became my afternoon sipper, until it was gone a few days later. It’s a great value wine, and would please your guests as an apéritif during your summer garden parties.

FINISH: Yes, I definitely did…

Lawson’s Dry Hills Gewürztraminer (Marlborough NZ) RRP $19

This one, as a Gewürtz, shocked me, but only briefly and for good reason. I’ve never tasted a New Zealand Gewürtztraminer. I’m too European centric with this variety, and expected a flowery, off dry wine. Instead, I adjusted my palate, and began to appreciate the dry, yet slightly aromatic, wine. This one would pair really well with a gooey brie, as its acidity would make for a good complement. I enjoyed it, as if I had tasted Gewürtz for the very first time, ever.

Ironberry Chardonnay Viognier (Western Australia) RRP $10

COLOR: Light to medium straw.

NOSE: The bouquet opens with pure lemon citrus, starfuit and floral notes

PALATE: With the above aromas, add cantaloupe and passion flower that develops. Bright palate features ruby grapefruit and white nectarine flavors with citrusy Myer lemon.

FINISH: A touch of bay leaf at the finish.

Longview “Devil’s Elbow” Cabernet Sauvignon (Adelaide Hills) RRP $22.50

Rich, beautiful fruit, this one had the nose of an opulent wine, and the fruit to back it up. It made me hunger for tri-tips and Jose delivered. We both found this wine to be a celestial, despite its name.

Longview “Yakka” Shiraz (Adelaide Hills) RRP $22.50

If you see this one, pick it up. I died and went to Shiraz heaven. It’s got all the right stuff that almost drips down your chin.

Neudorf “Moutere” Chardonnay (Nelson NZ) RRP $48

This one was so gorgeous that I regretted not having it at a dinner party. I knew it was very special, long before I came back to this blog posting to see its price. Rich, beautiful fruit filled my mouth with layers upon layers of flavors. This is a very opulent wine, to be shared in the greatest of moments with very special friends who will appreciate its splendor.

Neudorf “Moutere” Pinot Noir (Nelson NZ) RRP $48

Artisan Pinot Noir from the talents of winemaker John Kavanugh, from Nelson, New Zealand. The grapes for this vintage were hand harvested from low yielding vines. This means be prepared for big flavors; although, the flavors of the grapes were still delicate. I knew immediately that French oak was involved, because it was the second flavor for me, right after sweet Bing cherries. Unfiltered, unfined, and only 680 cases were produced… An eclectic wine worthy of the price.

Neudorf “Tom’s Block” Pinot Noir (Nelson NZ) RRP $28

Very similar in style to the “Moutere,” with big flavors. Toast, again, is very present.

Pikes “White Mullet” (Clare Valley) RRP $14

An interesting white blended wine: 70% Riesling, 11% Viognier, 10% Chenin Blanc, 9% Sauvignon Blanc

Lime aromas up front, added notes of honeysuckle and dried apricot with trailing white smoke at the close. I loved this one… Maybe because it was such a variety of flavors… Layers upon layers…

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On June 15 I read on line, “On June 18, Robert Mondavi’s birthday, friends and fans from around the globe will gather to celebrate his passion and vision by raising a glass and sharing the stories that created his legacy.” When I wrote what’s below on June 12, I had forgotten that June 18 is Robert Mondavi’s birthday. I scheduled this for June 18, so that it would run through Father’s Day Weekend… He means that much to me… Little did I know that this was going to be a worldwide day to celebrate the legend. This blog celebrates him though his living legacy… His children Tim, and more specifically Michael, who is carrying on in his father’s footstep, as another father and son team. I wrote: The father figure who’s most impressed me, during my 18 years in the wine business, is Robert Mondavi. I had the privilege of working with Mr. Mondavi at Robert Mondavi Winery (RMW). Then, Robert was in his 80s, but don’t let that number fool you. I’d see him darting across the winery like white lightening. He was that agile. It wasn’t until years later that I heard of his health becoming fragile. At the winery, while I was educating guests about wine, son Tim would pull up with his car, headed for the wine cellar. I’d point him out, and he’d come over and say a bright smiling, “Hello,” and then be off to work. I remember how electric he would be to guests. [Today, Tim Mondavi owns Continuum Estate.] At internal events, son Michael would appear as head of the winery, to personally greet the winery’s employees. Michael would greet us all, until the last of us arrived… Always the ambassador, just like his father, standing tall and stately. The kids (Michael and Tim) had appointed jobs. I never saw the grand kids, but one of my colleague/friends Molly married one; and I remember thinking to myself, what a gifted life she’s now going to live. It couldn’t have happened to a sweeter person. Their family was growing, and life for us all was moving on. The day that Robert Mondavi passed away I knew that I was going to miss that father figure. The imprint that fathers share during their lives with us, lives on… in our hearts and minds forever. Fathers (mostly) do the best they can, given their own circumstances… And so, on the third Sunday each June, we take the day to share a little extra love with our dads. I made my husband a father on father’s day on June 15, 1980. Before that happened, he used to chase me around on Mother’s Day, saying, “Come here. Let me make you a mother.” I got the last laugh, and a lovely laugh that one turned out to be. And so, I’m now looking at the next generation of Mondavis… Tim is off living his winemaking dreams, and Michael is building his own empire with wine as a producer, importers with Folio Fine Wine Partners. It’s interesting to note that Micheal seems to have his father’s energy for growing a business. In 2004, Michael established his business, and today there are approximately 50 employees at his company, with his son Rob as a founding partner. Now, even though I’m not working for the Mondavi family anymore, I’m still on their list as their samples arrive on my doorstep. Each package ties me back to Robert, one of California’s greatest wine proponents. Robert’s in the same category as André Tchelistcheff, another one of the wine industry’s iconic figures. Folio has brands from around the world, from places like Argentina, Austria, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, as well as many brands from the US. Michael’s living the international life that his father put before him, and enjoying many of the relationships which his father began. This Father’s Day, I’m raising my Italian glass to the entire Mondavi family. Opening act, starting with this Venetian gem…

          • 2009 Masi’s Masianco Pinot Grigio (RSP $18.00)


      This is the estate’s exclusive blend of 75% Pinot Grigio, 25% Verduzzo [Great Wine Century Club addition for me]. NOSE: Bright citrusy nose, lemons, star fruit, just bright and refreshing without even tasting. PALATE: Summer lemonade without the sugar, crisp without the ice, refreshing as all get out. FINISH: Puckered so much from all the lemon that I wanted someone to kiss on the spot, and not the cat sleeping in my office. Grape seed oil on the back end. [Positive puckering, by the way, not from an overly acidic wine. This wine is in perfect balance.] OVERALL: I loved this one, because I was actually able to taste the Verduzzo over the Pinot Grigio. I’ve had enough PG to know it’s flavors well, so the over-riding Verduzzo just introduced itself to me. Having now just tasted Verduzzo for the first time, I have a very clear idea of its flavors. It’s markedly different from a PG, but adds so much vitality to a Pinot Grigio, that it’s a gorgeous summer wine. FOOD & WINE: This wine will work really well with dishes that have a cream or cheese sauce. Also, get ready for serving this one with a final cheeses course. It will cleanse your guests palates, while being really well complemented by a cheese selection. It has simple flavors, so select cheese that are a bit more complicated. (Yin Yang) Segueing into…

          • 2006 Nipozzano Riserva ~ Chianti Rufina Marchesi de’Frescobaldi ($21.00)


      This beautiful wine is the most famous wine from the Frescobaldi estate. Defining the appellation, it’s a classic Chianti Rufina, comprised mostly of Sangiovese, with small amounts of Malvasia Nera, Colorino, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged for 24 months in oak, this wine’s color is garnet with edges of ruby around the rim… NOSE: Brimming with red fruit, just so inviting. PALATE: Black fruit and currants that are big an opulent, dripping with flavor, almost to the point of having to wipe your chin from its drippingly unctuous flavors. SERVE WITH: Hearty red dishes. I’ve got a beef stew recipe that I loved with this one. Grand finale…

          • 2007 LaVite Lucente, Toscana, Indicazione Geografica Tipica (SRP: $25.00)


      While at the winery, I occasionally tasted Mondavi’s Luce wine, because of the relationship that existed during those days. It was gorgeous wine. The tradition continues with Michael, with Lucente emerging as the perfect reflection of Luce. This wine expresses its unique terroir, with exceptional varieties being crafted into wine. It’s a blend of Sangiovese and Merlot, with that kick of Cabernet Sauvignon to place it into the Super Tuscan category. This wine is going to be enjoyed by my Jose today, as his Father’s Day wine. Our kids will raise a glass to this exceptional father… Thanks, Michael for sharing. Here’s to all fathers, everywhere… My you have a very happy Father’s Day, too.

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