Moscato,Piedmont,Pinot Grigio,Pinot Gris,Sicily,Veneto,Wine

La Fiera ~ The Carousel: Captivating Theme for the Child Within of The Fair Memories

LA FIERA ~ Abruzzo

La Fiera has a wonderful story… Especially if you’re a merry-go-round groupie. In the early 70s, I took my two-year old daughter to a fair, and we rode the merry-go-round for so long Katie fell asleep on it. I don’t even know how many revolutions are in 2-hours. Jim, the beloved carnival guy, never stopped the carousel. It was a slow day, no one else was there, and the world stood still. I got out my little carousel to take this picture. I chose black and white, because the labels are black and white. (Yes, a lively little carousel has survived the several moves in my life. They’re now in my blood.)

MESSAGE FROM WINERY: The origins of the carousel featured on the label originate from medieval riding fairs in the north of Italy. These elaborate equestrian ballets took place in royal courts and featured lavishly decorated horses and highly skilled riders performing synchronized formations. Popularity led builders to replicate them by designing rotating platforms with mounted wooden horses for children to ride. The carousel has been the centerpiece of La Fiera, The Fair, for centuries.

SAMPLE ~ Winesellers, Ltd.


La Fiera Pinot Grigio 2017 ~ Delle Venezie DOC

Piemonte, Sicily, and Veneto – ITALY 

HEART ~ Botter Family

THE WINERY: info is coming from the company’s own statements: Our Pinot Grigio, Montepulciano, Moscato, Soave and Primitivo originate from some of the most renowned winegrowing regions in Italy, from the Italian Alps to the seaside vineyards of Sicily. The La Fiera wines are the perfect partner to a wide range of foods, offering bright fruit flavors and a fresh, approachable style.Our Pinot Grigio, Montepulciano, Moscato, Soave and Primitivo originate from some of the most renowned winegrowing regions in Italy, from the Italian Alps to the seaside vineyards of Sicily.

Since 1928, the Botter family has been producing wines under environmentally friendly policies and with innovative production techniques and technologies. Today, the company is managed by the family’s third generation and specializes in wines of the Veneto.

SCIENCE ~ Terroir

[MEDITERRANEAN CLIMATE]: Since 1928, the Botter family has been producing wines under environmentally friendly policies and with innovative production techniques and technologies. Today, the company is managed by the family’s third generation and specializes in wines of the Veneto. Veneto is a region in Italy which leads in the production and commerce of classified wine. Throughout the region the recent emphasis is on white wines and is ideally suited for the Pinot Grigio grape, where the particular composition of the hilly soil, the exposition to sun, the frequent rains and the constantly mild temperature between April and October combine to provide the best conditions.

La Fiera Moscato 2017 ~ The must is not left on the skins to avoid its acquiring their rust-red color. After soft-pressing the must is left to ferment at a temperature between 18-20°C in stainless steel vats. The wine is then stored at 17-18°C in special stainless-steel tanks until bottling. CELLARING ~ 2-3 years.

[Photo: Michael Paz on Unsplash]


SOUL ~ Inspiration*

La Fiera Pinot Grigio 2017 ~Abruzzo, Piemonte, Sicily and Veneto – ITALY The grapes are pressed cool and the must is immediately removed from the skins, to avoid acquiring their rust-red color. After this soft-pressing the must is left to ferment or about 15-20 days at a low temperature between 60-64°F, in stainless steel vats. The wine is then stored at 64-68°F, under a blanket of inert gas in special stainless-steel tanks until bottling.

Swirl… Light and breezy, lots of apples and pears wafted from the open bottle. When I pulled the cork, I was having a great day. I poured some of this wine into my glass, and my day was made even better.

Sniff… Green apples, tart and refreshing with this clean, stimulating La Fiera Pinot Grigio.

Sip… The first thing that popped into my mind, “This La Fiera Pinot Grigio would be great with so many simple, lighter foods, because it’s light, lively, and satisfying.” It had me wanting more, and made its way to our dining room table for dinner.


[Photo: Jo Diaz]

La Fiera Moscato 2017

Abruzzo, Piemonte, Sicily and Veneto – ITALY

APPELLATION: Terre Siciliane IGT ~ Winemaking in Sicily dates back several millennia. With consistently bright sunshine and reliably moderate rainfall, its classic Mediterranean climate is ideally suited to the needs of grape vines. Add to that the island’s poor soils and the hilly landscape, and the resulting terroir is almost perfect for growing vines. Today, Sicily is one of the largest wine-producing regions of Italy and, though it is the furthest southern region, it actually produces more white wine than red or dessert wine. Altitude is the key moderator for heat and the best whites tend to be made in higher altitudes from indigenous varieties, such as the Moscato grape.

The must is not left on the skins, to avoid its acquiring their rust-red color. After soft-pressing the must is left to ferment at a temperature between 64-68°F, in stainless steel vats. The wine is then stored at 62-64°C, in special stainless-steel tanks until bottling.

SOUL ~ Understanding*

Swirl… La Fiera Moscato 2017 Moscato has delicious aromas of peaches and really ripe pears.

Sniff… When “they” wrote about Nectar of the Gods, I believe they had this one in mind. And let’s remember, Bordeaux-style wines, that are dry and tannic aren’t the definition of nectar, for example, like honey, delicacy, and ambrosia.

Sip… I understand delicious flavors, like this flavorful, yet stimulating wine. Think foods with some heat. Heat and sweet are a natural complement. Heat is always tempered with something sweet. (Mexican food and beer, for instance. Asian foods are another great example.) This La Fiera Moscato is meant for scrumptious foods. If you haven’t had the experience yet, give it a whirl… swirl… and enjoy.

*As I write each blog, I pull an Angel Card to guide my waxing poetic… Gets me in the right frame of mind…



Russian River Valley,Sonoma County,Sustainablility,Wine

Goldridge RCD – Opportunity Waiting to Happen for You, Wine Grape Growers

The Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District (RCD) is an opportunity of a lifetime, for those on their toes. As defined by the Gold Ridge RCD ~ “The Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District in Sonoma County facilitates stewardship projects to address water quality, climate change, biodiversity, ecosystem health, and water quantity on private and public lands by providing technical assistance, outreach, education and project implementation. Gold Ridge RCD provides non-regulatory, confidential, free assistance to our community.”


  • Goldridge RCD is based in Western Sonoma County, and has a team of experts to help – in their own words, above.
  • WEBSITE: In 1941, the Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District (Gold Ridge RCD) was established as one of the original Resource Conservation Districts, the first in Sonoma County and the 7th in California. The 134,000 acre district is located in West Sonoma County and is bordered by Marin County to the south, the Russian River to the north, the Pacific coastline to the west, and the Laguna de Santa Rosa to the east. The diverse resources of the region include rangeland, woodland, wildlife habitat, vineyards, dairies, orchards, cropland, streams, coastal areas, as well as rural and urban areas.

I attended a presentation, as part of a meeting the Russian River Valley Winegrowers Association held. I really wanted to know more about the Gold Ridge Resource Conservationists. I came away really impressed.

They’re willing to help with the following groups of people, for instance:

  • Residents
  • Farmers
  • Permits
  • Public Education
  • Technical Support
  • Financial Support

The operative words HERE, for now, are “help” and “farmers.” Having worked with viticulturists since 1993, I’m very clear on this farmers concept. They’ve taught me viticulture in wine grapes, I’ve taught them PR and marketing of wine in reciprocity. When I heard the presentation by John Green, he made it abundantly clear to the agriculturists who were present:

Sonoma County’s working lands produce not only foods, fiber, and fuels, but also can create widespread benefits to our environment and our economy. With a wide swath of local partnership and initiatives focused on sustainability, the RCD works to support Sonoma County’s agricultural industry as one of the most progressive in the world.

Their purpose is to support Sonoma County agricultural landowners, with the many natural resource concerns vineyardists have… and their services are free…

Did you “get” that? I certainly did, when attending the Russian River Valley Winegrowers Association meeting, which included guest speaker John Green.

John’s the lead scientist and project manager with Gold Ridge RCD. The company is located at 2776 Sullivan Rd, Sebastopol, CA 95472. John Green’s phone number (707) 823-5244, and he can also be contacted via Email: john@goldridgercd.org. Their Website is www.GoldRidgeRCD.org.

Check out their website for more details. Here is one example.

LandSmart® Planning:

LandSmart® is a regional collaborative program that helps land managers meet their natural resource management goals while supporting productive lands and thriving streams. LandSmart® Plans are prepared with you and are geared to meet your needs. LandSmart Plans describe the natural and agricultural resources of your property, document the practices that you use to protect natural resources, identify opportunities to maintain or improve the quality of natural resources on your property, and prioritize management practices according to your needs, goals, and timelines.

There’s so much more to know and offered by this non-profit.

  • Water Conservation
  • Erosion Control
  • Nutrient Management
  • Carbon Farm Planning
  • Attracting Pollinators

Looking for your own verdant Eco system, especially as Sonoma County has a deadline of 2019 as the year when wine grape growing and producing of wine is scheduled to be 100 percent sustainable? If you’re a farmer in Russian River Valley, you know that the rigors of sustainability is quite complex, and a partnership toward that goal, especially for small farmers, is a Godsend . Check out this video for more.


Argentina,Bubbly,Mendoza,Rosé,Sparkling,Sparkling wine,Wine

Argentina! Domaine Bousquet Brut Rosé ~ Wine of the Week


  1. HEART OF THE DEAL ~ THE WINERY: info is coming from the company’s own statements
    1. I can’t make up their history
    2. Nor am I to try

Fun and festive bubbles, is how this Domaine Bousquet Brut Rosé was described… Is it any wonder that my Angel Card* for this one is “Humor?” When it arrived, early in the year, I was so ready for this sparkling wine that I immediately popped the cork, forgetting all else, delighted and mindlessly, just mid-day, danced. (I’ve been dancing all of  my life, and I really know it releases happy endorphins. That, in itself, is pretty humorous (or ridiculous, for some. Combine humor and bubbles and you can just clear the dance floor, buddy. I own it…)

And, I took notes, below…

Domaine Bousquet Brut Rosé


Transformation + Sustainability: The Bousquet family hails from the city of Carcassonne, in the South of France and have four generations of history in the winemaking tradition. Our passion is to produce wines of superior quality and this is what lead us to Argentina to begin a new chapter in the tradition of our wine making.

In 1990, the Bousquet family arrived in Mendoza to investigate the vineyards and wineries. We discovered that the region had unique characteristics including the soil, altitude and terroir. Because of these characteristics and qualities, we knew we had found the ideal location for a winery.

In 1997, a parcel of land was purchased and we relocated from France to the foothills of the Andes. The 110 hectares parcel is located in the Gualtallary Valley in Tupungato, Mendoza, at an altitude of 1200 meters (4,000 feet), making it one of the higher altitude vineyards in Mendoza and the world. With cool nights and a near constant breeze, the vineyard is located in a region with the idyllic conditions to produce ripe grapes and extraordinary wines.


High-Altitude Terroir, organic fruit, French-Argentine Profile…

We are dedicated to farming organically while improving our land’s biodiversity. We believe that the healthier the vineyard, the better the fruit and of course the wine. In other words, by nourishing the land and treating it with respect, we know that the land will give us back its finest fruits.

Organically grown vine roots penetrate deep into the soil where they absorb the trace minerals that help to give our wines their authentic regional taste. For this reason, organically grown grapes can express the purity, intensity and varietal character of the local terroir.

[Photo by Ahmad Odeh on Unsplash]


Little tiny, pick pearls… Delicate bubbles with strawberry-like flavors. It combined the freshness that this Domaine Bousquet Brut Rosé Pinot Noir brought. Its texture was silky and had a long, refreshing finish.

Pour and admire... Golden bubbles escaped the bottle and jumped into a sparkling flute.

Sniff... Yeasty… who spends a lot of time sniffing sparkling wine, really? We all know why we came to the bubble.

Sip... Ah… Just what was missing from my day, but didn’t even realize it, until I took that first sip and enjoyed the lengthening… moment. Delightful and delirious.

*As I write each blog, I pull an Angel Card to guide my waxing poetic… Gets me in the groove, so to speak.


Cabernet Sauvignon,Event,Food & Wine,Napa,Stags Leap District,Wine,Winery,Wines,Wne and Food

Stags Leap District ‘Vineyard to Vintner’ Annual Event Wrap-Up

For the past few years, I’ve really looked forward to attending the Stags Leap District ‘Vineyard to Vintner’ annual event . It’s really well planned, executed, and always rewarding for everyone in the process… a day really well spent in Napa Valley. This year of 2018 was no exception.


PRESS RELEASE: Each year, member wineries of the Stags Leap District Winegrowers open their doors for this one weekend, giving visitors exclusive access to the wines, vineyards and people behind this iconic wine region. Visitors enjoy unparalleled personal, backstage access to private homes and historic wineries alike. The weekend includes exclusive dinners, private tours, barrel tastings, food pairings, music, and experiences–all set amongst the glorious vineyards and towering Palisades of the Stags Leap District. Additionally, to further support relief efforts from the recent fires last year, five percent of the proceeds from this year’s Saturday Open House tickets will be donated to the Napa Valley Community Foundation.


I chose to attend the Vintner-Hosted Lunch and Appellation Collection Tasting. Hosted at Regusci Winery  along with District vintners. The Vineyard to Vintner weekend concludes Sunday with a vintner-hosted farm-to-table buffet lunch. Set among the sprawling ranch at Regusci Winery V2V guests also got a first “sneak peek” of the 2015 Stags Leap District Appellation Collection released in the fall. Wineries in attendance, pouring their Stags Leap District wines. (Subtitles are visits that I’ve been to in the past. Most of them are a result of this event. Those not yet visited I’m looking forward to as future visits.)

Baldacci Family Vineyards

Chimney Rock Winery

Cliff Lede Vineyards

Clos Du Val

Ilsley Vineyards 

Lindstrom Wines

  • Attended
  • Delicious salad table

Malk Family

  • Attended
  • Water station and white wine table

Odette Estate

  • Attended
  • Regusi’s gardens

Pine Ridge Vineyards

Quixote Winery

Regusci Winery 

  • Vintner-Hosted Lunch and Appellation Collection Tasting – This year
  • Sculpture at Regusci

Shafer Vineyards

Silverado Vineyards 

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

Stags’ Leap Winery

Steltzner Vineyards

Taylor Family Vineyards 

This Stags Leap District ‘Vineyard to Vintner’ walk around tasting is undoubtedly one of the most delicious wine with food events I’ve attended in Napa.

Since a picture is still worth a thousand words, I’m sharing more images.

About Stags Leap District Winegrowers

The Stags Leap District Winegrowers is a non-profit association of vintners and growers united by the mission of enhancing the reputation of the appellation and its wines, and sharing its quality with the wine-loving world.

The SLDWA is comprised of 17 wineries and 10 grower members. Wineries include the following: Baldacci Family Vineyards, Chimney Rock Winery, Cliff Lede Vineyards, Clos Du Val, Ilsley Vineyards, Lindstrom Wines, Malk Family Vineyards, Odette Estate Winery, Pine Ridge Vineyards, Quixote Winery, Regusci Winery, Shafer Vineyards, Silverado Vineyards, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Stags’ Leap Winery, Steltzner Vineyards, and Taylor Family Vineyards. To learn more about the Stags Leap District, please visit stagsleapdistrict.com or find the Association on Facebook.com/StagsLeapDistrict, Instagram.com/StagsLeapAVA Twitter @StagsLeapAVA. #SLDV2V


PR 101,Wine,Wine Blogger,Wine Business,Wine Writer

Business is Not a One-Way Street ~ PR 101

[Photo by Mahdis Mousavi on Unsplash]

Here’s how to think about the bigger picture:

So, you get someone onto the task of giving you a list of wine bloggers. The time is taken to build the list. Someone in your company writes glorious stories about how fabulous you are. It gets formatted into an email blast, and you send it to all bloggers.

Here’s the fail of this campaign. See if you can catch the PR blunders, before I reveal them to you.

Subject: SAVE 20 Percent on our…through June!

My response to this email:

My wine blog is my personal journal as a wine blogger. Every story holds some connection to something I have experienced, enjoyed, and then endorse.

As yet, I haven’t experienced [your product].

Their response to me:

I manage inviting micro influencers to … on us! In order to present to marketing I need to have some numbers and data to outline what kind of reach we will get.

Can you fwd some screen shots of your Google Analytics traffic? General referrals, time on site etc?

Thinking to myself about that word “micro,” and smiling to myself… I respond…

My footer has my social handles.

I’m very hard to measure, because of aggregations. I’ve been in the wine business since 1993 as a wine publicist.

I was the first female wine blogger in the world, beginning in 2005, when Web 2.0 began. I’m aggregated on:

  • deepwine.com
  • muckrack.com
  • Wine Advisor
  • Wine Business
  • Wine Industry Insights
  • Wine Industry Network
  • www.networkedblogs.com

I continued with credentials, then sent it with a smile, because… why would someone be querying me, if my credentials hadn’t yet been researched? It boggles bloggers’ minds, people.

The response of all responses arrived.

Thank you for reaching out Jo. At this time, our marketing department has chosen to pass on this opportunity.

Just in case you missed it…

They came to me asking for help to spread their good news. I responded by saying that my wine blog is my journal about my experiences in wine country, and I hadn’t experienced their product yet.

How it all happens

I write a typical blog, like this one would have been, for at least five hours. Multiply five hours by the average amount of money I receive for five hours of writing, as a publicist of wine for the last 26 years…

Tom Wark ~ Profiling the Wine Blog Award, in 2012:

Jo Diaz is one of the wine industry’s most respected publicists. She began her career in the wine industry in 1992 working with some of the industry’s largest and most progressive wineries. She opened Diaz Communications in 2001 and has since become a go-to publicist for numerous wineries, associations and wine industry services. Jo is also the founder of the Association of African American Vintners and PS I Love You (Petite Sirah advocacy). Finally, she pens one of the most important business-related wine blogs.

So, the catch is they came to me. Why? So I could spend five hours of my life writing about them, just because?

Then, I’m told,

“our marketing department has chosen to pass on this opportunity.”

They are passing on engagement, after they queried me? Do they not understand how this typically works?

Let me set this straight

If you send out emails to people, it’s because you’re asking for relational help. Relationships are give and take. A wine blog is NOT a public service announcement platform or free advertising. It’s business to business. When a wine blogger writes about his our her passions, it’s because something nice happened to that person, and then the story evolves.

What I did gain from this is an experience that I can write, because PR 101 is so important.

Build a list of your top dozen people, then work it and be ready to develop that relationship. Bury your old list of every blogger alive, because it wasn’t researched. Research is on you… those of you soliciting media… not on the person you write to and say:

I manage inviting micro influencers to … on us! In order to present to marketing I need to have some numbers and data to outline what kind of reach we will get.

Can you fwd some screen shots of your Google Analytics traffic? General referrals, time on site etc?

I didn’t ask for your email. I have also written this response before to this company. Had I not just seen a colleague of mine endorsing this group, it would have been another just “delete.” I decided to just end it, by sending the same message for the second time, to see what would happen.

Life is not a one-way street. Bloggers are NOT free advertising placements from micro bloggers. We’re writing about our passions.

Make a connection next time. Don’t go to someone, put them through interrogation, then tell them they don’t measure up.

While it may seem to boggle my mind, It doesn’t. Everyday someone is just starting out, and so the learning curve begins. I turn lemonade into a PR 101 learning curves. Education is the name of the game, when all else fails.

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Protected: Notes on America’s First Oenophile

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Sommelier,Wine,Wine Business,Wine Education,Wine Writer

The Circuitous Path from Network News to Fine Wine ~ Tim Ortman

A few days ago, I was explaining to friends Robin Parnell and her lifelong friend Suzette Johnson – while we were out wine tasting – that it was a rosé which became my aha moment in wine. For years, during the Merlot craze, I was giving it my best shot; but, Merlot just wasn’t doing it for me. I don’t even know how many bottles I went through; let’s just say, plenty. I was constantly looking for that special Merlot, that one that would put me over the edge in love…  that held the all the secrets to my wine salvation. I continued to come up short, until I came to California from Maine, as a tourist. I tasted a Rosé, as tasting rooms start everyone with lighter wines, before hitting those expressive reds. Bingo! I found Nirvana, and the rest is history. Going from hating Merlot (yes, strong word), to becoming the “go to girl” in the world for all questions regarding Petite Sirah, who would have seen that evolution? (“Go to,” because of my association with Petite Sirah I Love You, I’m just the obvious person to ask. I either have the answers, or I know where to find them.)

Since I’ve been wine blogging in 2005, I get daily requests from people (who are working for some advertiser) wanting to submit a story that I’d publish… at “no cost to you,” they tell me. This is my journal as a wine publicist, so “delete.” Very rarely, however, something comes along that’s so worthy I’m willing, as a mentor, to shine a light on accomplished talent.

This is also a timely parallel for my aha moment above, and we’ve both had broadcasting careers, before our wine careers… Enjoy this captivating and extremely well written recounting.

The Circuitous Path from Network News to Fine Wine

by Tim Ortman

Many roads can lead to a real love of wine. And I’m not talking about flirting with Chardonnay because “everyone else is doing it.” Or, a casual steakhouse affair with a glass of Cab, after which you return to your beloved Vodka martini. Nope. I’m talking about the head-turning, life altering, seminal moment many have experienced that plunges them head-first into a mesmerizing and totally foreign journey. The moment from which there’s no turning back.

I was a content and happy-go-lucky 25-year-old cameraman working in Chicago, the city of broad shoulders, and slowly becoming polished in my profession if still a bit culturally frayed around the edges. With so many deep-dish pizzerias and Italian beef options, I was leery, even fearful of fine dining where wine was a four-letter word. However, my Chicago bliss was rudely interrupted. Unknown to me, I had been evaluated and selected for a life-changing upgrade. My talents (not my sophistication, I promise you) were deemed worthy of a promotion… a big one. As a result, my wife and I packed up and headed for Europe, where I would join the International Press Corps. as a staff cameraman and member of the NBC News Frankfurt bureau.

From the outset, the job was a dream come true. I was traveling through all of Europe (and the world, too, soon enough) covering news for a major American news network. But when I would gather with my colleagues for crew lunches, or when my wife and I would join friends for dinner, we felt like the gourmet’s version of a square peg in a round hole. Trying to blend in, we replaced my Coke and her Sprite with bottles of something called ‘mineral water’. (Who came up with that name, by the way, and was it intended to sound appealing?) And the meals were marathons. Lunches could last THREE HOURS and dinners often had no end in sight. The common thread throughout went something like this: once seated, a senior colleague, usually European, would utter some unidentifiable words to our waiter and, like clockwork, completely different bottles would appear. Their labels seemed to contain a secret code of uninterpretable French or, God forbid, German writing. Deciphering these codes was foolhardy at best and maddening at worst. Instead, we mimicked our friends and my coworkers and forced down the ubiquitous liquid, pretending to enjoy every drop. At least we no longer stuck out like sore American thumbs.

Eventually, I broke from the pack of lemmings and realized that I actually liked some of what I was imbibing. My taste – or ‘palate’ – leaned more to the white stuff over the red. I noticed that the white wines with French labels were subtly different from one another but generally tasted good. Those with German labels were generally off-puttingly sweet. And the red stuff with French labels just tasted like dirt. But the learning curve was mind-numbing and intimidating. What was the difference between a Pouilly Fuisse and a Pouilly Fume? And, what was a Pouilly to begin with? Asking such questions in a public forum would reveal me as the ignorant American rube that I was. Instead, I’d need to keep quiet and steal glances at labels when no one noticed.

My budding intrigue with wine remained closeted until one fateful night at an Italian restaurant in Frankfurt. I was dining with a dear friend and colleague. He’s about my age, but with Italian-Uruguayan heritage, he was more culturally savvy than I’d ever hoped to be, given what my Dayton, OH. upbringing had provided. Naturally, he took control and, to accompany our Italian meal, ordered an Italian wine. Without taking notice of what it was, I took a drink to get the evening going.

And that’s when it all started. Or, more accurately, stopped. All movement in the room seemed to cease as I savored the entirely new nuances dancing over my tongue.  I no longer heard my friend or the waiter. Didn’t see the surrounding tables or menu in front of me. I was solely focused on the glass in my hand and the flavor in my mouth.

When I finally snapped out of my self-induced trance, with the seriousness of a surgeon, I inquired, “What did you just order?”

To which my friend replied, “Brunello di Montalcino. Is like liquid velvet, no?”

Damn right, and Voila! The light bulb above my head was shining brightly. As the taste still lingered in my mouth, I ordered another bottle. Even the name was seductive… Brunello di Montalcino. What did it mean? Where did it come from? I had to know more. This thing had grabbed me by the so-called palate and wouldn’t let go. At that point, I was fully seduced – or worse, hooked. Even as we left the restaurant, the thought was unshakeable. “Brunello di Montalcino.” There was no turning back.

[Photo Credit: Jacek Nowak]

Not long after that dinner, NBC News transferred me from Germany to Italy. Rome, Italy. I would be just a stone’s throw from the city of Montalcino, home to my beloved Brunello. But this proved to be both a blessing and a curse. Yes, Brunello di Montalcino would be much more accessible. Yet, the Italian shops and restaurants featured not just one Brunello, but 20 or 30 different Brunellos from a variety of producers and vineyard sites – offering many separate vintages for me to choose from. Making sense of it all was almost as maddening as deciphering that first German label had been.

Somehow, I mustered the courage to tackle the course, and with a glass in each hand I tasted my way through the many producers of Brunello. The legendary leader was Biondi Santi, whose winemaking roots could be traced back to the 1800s. And there were others, many others, of whom I would become a lifelong fan – like Ciacci, Il Poggione, Col d’Orcia, and Sassetti to name just a few. Being employed by a television news network has its perks. Occasionally, we’d take a well-deserved break from the hard news of the day to file ‘feature stories’ from scenic locations like… say, Montalcino. Visiting picturesque wineries was a photographic must for these assignments. Our Italian hosts would insist on educating and sampling us on the local grape. Persistence pays off, as well, and I was just beginning to learn one piece, the Brunello piece, of the much bigger puzzle.

After a fruitful overseas run with NBC News, I returned to Chicago where, with the support of NBC and other news operations, I created a production company to continue covering the news. At this point, it had been seven years since I’d left the U.S. and I realized a lot had changed. I discovered two publications dedicated solely to wine coverage. Imagine that. What was next? An all-sports network, or one dedicated to cooking?! As I read through those magazines, I found that a plethora of ink had been devoted to the much heralded back-to-back ’89 and ’90 vintages in Bordeaux. While I knew nothing of this French region, review after review screamed that these were must-have wines. I had just grasped Brunello di Montalcino and was now confronted with the much larger and more complex right and left bank. Once again, I had to dive in. There was no turning back. Would it ever end?

Of course, the correct answer is no.

Once again, my professional TV life intersected with my burgeoning wine life. I was hired to produce a project on the growing wine auction business and invited to sample some of the Bordeaux and Burgundies being auctioned. There was that dirt component again from my earlier run-in with French reds. But this time, coupled with ripe fruit from great vintages, I found it was delicious. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a taste is worth ten thousand words, and after that auction project, I was a hopeless collector – with all of our available funds going into the cellar. Brunello, Bordeaux, and Burgundy would soon be followed with Napa Cabs, Barolo, Barabresco, Rioja and Priorate.

My cellar was growing and diversifying, and so too was my occupation. After decades of globe-trotting network news coverage, I was looking for television work that seemed less perilous and closer to home. I began to replace my exhausting news career with a new and popular format called reality TV. Work was plentiful and the compensation rewarding. But, I quickly discovered that there was nothing real about reality TV, and it proved to be even more exhausting than network news. It was decided. After 25 years in TV, I needed a break from television.

Living in Southern California and enjoying the fruits of my second marriage to a highly successful corporate executive who was also a fan of fine wine, I had the luxury of choosing a ‘second act’ without jeopardizing our financial solvency. We discussed a possible detour on my career path and agreed wine was my only other true passion – an avenue worth pursuing while I pressed the pause button on TV. But where to begin?

Retail shop clerk or cellar rat didn’t appeal to me, and I didn’t have the resume for the restaurant biz. Distribution or sales would be a radical departure, but perhaps something I could manage. I took a job as a sales rep for a prestigious importer and distributor with an impressive portfolio of wines. Learning the portfolio would be daunting but doable. But acquiring ‘street cred’ would be tougher. I soon found out “Emmy award-winning cameraman and producer” made for a meaningless introduction in the wine world. I had to get new credentials.

In the wine business, there are many qualifications and titles that project accomplishment, and numerous organizations that offer the necessary education and testing. Sommelier had a nice ring to it, so I decide to enter the gauntlet that is the Court of Master Sommeliers, having no idea what lay ahead. I learned there are 4 levels to that program: 1) Introductory, 2) Certified, 3) Advanced, and 4) Master. The mentoring from which I so benefitted during my news days would be mandatory if I hoped to survive this brave new world.

Fortunately, the wine world isn’t just full of wine snobs. There are countless educated people in the wine business who genuinely enjoy sharing their knowledge with others. I quickly hitched my wagon to a friend who was studying to become a Master Sommelier with the Court of Masters. His level of study was fare more intense that mine, but he was happy to have me tag along and join his tasting group, an integral component to unlocking the secrets of ‘blind tasting’. Concealing a wine’s identity and trying to determine its origin and age solely by what’s in the glass is a daunting task. But, with the right methodology (the Court of Masters’ methodology) and plenty of practice, it can be mastered.

However, for someone who had never worked in a restaurant, the Court’s required service component would be far more frightening for me. Luckily, the same gracious tutor also offered to mentor me on what would be expected for the exam’s nerve-racking service component.

In addition to the blind tasting and service elements, as with most tests, there would be a written portion. The course syllabus’ suggesting reading listed about 20 scholarly wine publications written by renowned wine authors, each of them encyclopedic in size. Unlike the group tastings, this would be independent study. But where in the world would I find the time to read through tens of thousands of pages on the world’s wine types, regions, clones, soils, maps, graphs, and history, not to mention myriad different grape-growing and wine-making practices?

During my previous decades in news coverage, I had tried to understand the elusive path towards middle-Eastern peace. That path looked far easier than the Sommelier track, which I was contemplating.

Through the course of the next year, and after numerous blind tastings, early morning map studies, and a crash course in wine service, I somehow survived the first two levels of the Court of Master Sommeliers to become an official Certified Sommelier. Both the process and the achievement were a confidence-builder in my new profession. Whether with clients or colleagues, I could more freely and comfortably discuss all things wine-related. Additionally, that confidence opened up doors. Job opportunities appeared and introductions were made to collectors and vintners. I worked with a Paso Robles winemaker to produce two vintages of my own wine; Cab2, a blend of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. It was an enlightening and successful endeavor but the long-distance relationship proved too challenging. I began attending casual wine groups with friends. Eventually, I was invited to join and inducted into the esteemed Confrèrie des Chevaliers du Tastevin. Regardless of how lofty or pedestrian the group may be, the goal is to enjoy fine wine with good friends… which always pairs nicely with any wine.

While my passion for wine became a full-time focus, professionally, I carved out a comfortable niche consulting for restaurants on a part-time basis, sharing my knowledge when needed. This allowed for an occasional return to journalism, producing interesting projects, also on a part-time basis. I was able to simultaneously pursue my two interests; wine and journalism. With two part-time pursuits, I could devote attention towards writing a memoir about those halcyon days spent abroad. As that rough manuscript became a finished book, I reflected on my earlier journeys. And, it became apparent that two different seeds had been planted at the same time. My young journalistic roots had grown intertwined with a budding love of wine. It would be a long and fruitful evolution that would last a lifetime.

Tim Ortman is an Emmy Award-winning cameraman and producer and author of the new book, Newsreal: A View Through the Lens When… He is a certified Sommelier and member of La Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin. Connect with him on Facebook, @TimOrtmanWriter.



Cinsalut,France,French Wine,Grenache,Importer,Imports,Rhone,Rosé,Roussillon,Syrah,Wine,Wine of the Week

Why do I love French Wines? ~ 2017 Les BilaHaut Rosè les Vignes de Pays D’OC, for Example

Crafted for Maison M. Chapoutier, the 2017 Les BilaHaut Rosè les Vignes de Pays D’OC safely arrived. So easy to enjoy, a consistent brand. This is a wine to bring to pétanque and be the hit of the party.

Rosé is such a fun experience. It adds a rosy glow to any gathering. So much so, if I arrive with a rosé, the bottle is quickly enjoyed. It was a rosé wine that brought me to my knees, when it came to finally really enjoying wine. This one? Pure delight. (Should I even say I was happy that I didn’t have to share this one, just have it for own pure delight? Well, I did say it. So the secret is out.)


  1. HEART OF THE DEAL ~ THE WINERY: info is coming from the company’s own statements
    1. I can’t make up their history
    2. Nor am I to try

Les Vignes de Pays D’OC #BilaHaut Rosè 2017


Fighting words (above) from one of France’s most brilliant oenologists, famed Rhône winemaker, Michel Chapoutier, head of Maison M. Chapoutier. And, his Bila-Haut wines from this Roussillon estate are already making waves among wine lovers,. He enjoys “drawing attention to the new quality wines, which now being made in this corner of Southwest France, by a band of individualists and idealists.”

Chapoutier is famously uncompromising when it comes to a wine’s ultea premium conditions. Respect for the environment is non-negotiable. The same demanding technical specifications applied to viticulture and winemaking for his celebrated Rhône wines are in place at Bila-Haut. For Chapoutier, the Roussillon offers the opportunity to make outstanding quality wines that Bila-Haut “Les Vignes” red, white, and rosé for very competitive prices. This a source of great pleasure for Chapoutier, who’s intent on introducing a broader and younger audience to the joys of good wine.


Varieties: Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault

Soil: Grenache are grown in clay and limestone soils, and faces directly toward the east.  Think gentle, morning sunlight… The Cinsault and Syrah are both planted on the plain, in predominantly sandy soil. This wine is 100 percent pressed Rosé. The musts undergo very little racking, in order to develop the wine’s volume, and still maintain its freshness. Fermentation lasts for 15 days, under low temperatures. (Think gentle fermentation.)

[Purchased Photo.]


I’m always grateful when I get to enjoy Bila-Haut wines. There’s no mystery, because there’s plenty of history in Chapoutier’s quality of consistency. Michel Chapoutier’s need for a winemaking style is a bit rogue. Rather than have the land for this wine come from some other wine regions, he’s chosen the Roussillon region of France. He’s not afraid to have his grape vines struggle with a development that doesn’t deliver quantity… What does happen, though, is that it becomes all about the excellent aspects. Oh là là, as we with French descent, like to say. (My Wine 101 explanation is to “just think about the tiny coveted, wild Maine blueberries.”

Always a slam-dunk, thoughtfully chosen juice is the hallmark of a Michel Chapoutier wine. The best possible – just the best possible to be delivered to us, the consumers.

Swirl… Luscious color, a teenager’s rosy pink lips, waiting for that first kiss…

Sniff… Fresh pink grapefruit, picked in March, when fully ripe and ready…

Sip… Ripe, second crop strawberries… Born in the heat of summer…

*As I write each blog, I pull an Angel Card to guide my waxing poetic… Gets me in the groove, so to speak.


Books,History,Wine,Wine Writer

Thomas Jefferson Has Been Reincarnated ~ Passions – The Wines and The Travels

Once upon a time, I was asked if I would review a wine book. I thought, “Why not? Lets see where it goes.” Well, it went alright. This side image only reached the “i”s” on Wine-Blog’s Books page. It’s impossible to capture it all here, nor do I want or need to. This isn’t about what I’ve done; it just demonstrates that one of my passions opened up a door I never imagined. As a result of this page, James (Jim) M. Gabler reached out to me to tell me about his books. I included the details in a story (Summer Reading ~ Let James Gabler Take You Away), as an exception, because I hadn’t read his books. His body of work, however, was fascinating. I’ve read about Jefferson’s historical passions with wine.

When a comment recently appeared on that blog post, I forwarded the comment to Jim.

He thanked me, thought about it, and sent the following three books to me:

Dine with Thomas Jefferson and Fascinating Guests: an account of 25 fact-based dinners at Monticello, the White House, Paris, Philadelphia, and the French wine country. The dinners center on four of Jefferson’s passions: wine, food, conversation, and travel. The guests are a who’s who of famous people of the time. A perfect companion for those who appreciate wine, food, travel, interesting conversation, and the camaraderie of fascinating people. $25.00 Amazon’s Direct link. ©2015

An Evening with Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson: Dinner, Wine, and Conversation. Travel back in time to 18th century Paris and spend an evening with two of the most extraordinary men in history who loved wine and food and changed the world for the better. In the comfort of Jefferson’s residence, join Franklin and Jefferson for dinner, and in response to your questions they tell in their own words the most interesting stories of their lives. “A brilliant roman à clef around the lives and travels of Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin,” Robert M. Parker, Jr, Amazon’s Direct Link print $18, e-book $9.99. ©2006 – first edition

Passions: The Wines and Travels of Thomas Jefferson: “Brilliant”…”Magnificent”… “Remarkable”… “Exciting”… “Superb”… Winner of the 1995 “Veuve Clicquot Wine Book of the Year,” and a Robert M. Parker, Jr. “Wine Book of the Year” selection. “With the touch of an artist, Jim Gabler brings to life Jefferson’s passion for wine.” The definitive work on Jefferson and wine. $25, Amazon’s Direct Link ©1995 – first edition

I put them into copyright order, and knew where I needed to begin: Passions: The Wines and Travels of Thomas Jefferson.

Jim Gabler: In an Email to me, “The preface or introductions will give you a good idea of what they are about. ”

No kidding, as I began to read the Preface of “Passions…” it occurred to me that if reincarnation is a possibility, what better way to write one’s autobiography than to come back as an author and just get it done. Here’s what made me think this… See what you think.

“This is a biography of Thomas Jefferson at leisure, enjoying two of his passions-wine and travel. I have tried to capture Jefferson in the act of living and to let him and his contemporaries speak for themselves. The Journeys you are about to take with Jefferson are, for the most part, based on original sources: his letters, memorandum books, receipts, and the correspondence and diaries of his contemporaries. In addition I have personally followed his footsteps throughout Europe and the United States. These experiences have allowed me to contemporize what he saw and drank.”

Come back, relive it to refeel it, know the sources to consult, know how to finish what was started… Thomas Jefferson Has Been Reincarnated, and we’re all invited. I’ll review each book, from now and through the summer months. His writing style is very enjoyable, so I’ll get back to y’all with each one.


Napa,Political,Wine,Wine Business,Wine Country,Wine Culture,Wine HIstory,Wine Hospitality

Napa Valley Vintner Stuart Smith Supporting “No On C” with a Blog Devoted to Preservation


Stuart Smith has gathered in depth background materials for “No On C and Napa County’s environment” at www.stopmeasurec.com.

The Webpage opens with what’s most concerning for this measure:

“Because Measure C was created in secret, the only public airing of the Measure has been mailings, street signs, ads and letters to our local newspapers.  Even with the generosity of our local editors, initiatives are a terrible way to govern.  It should be no surprise then, that pleasantries are abandoned.  The truth is stretched to the breaking point and misleading feel-good slogans are repeated ad nauseum in hopes that their “Big Lie” will prevail.  This is a hard scrabble, no holds barred fight.  Winning is everything.  Whether any of us like it or not, this is the life of all initiatives.

“My intention with this site is to bring some rational thought to the discussion and jettison the emotional. To be sure, I oppose Measure C. Yet my goal is to bring facts, articles and science to bear on the many issues that are applicable not only to Measure C, but to a better understanding of how our environment functions.”


[Photo Credit: Charlie Smith, Stuart’s brother Website]

Stuart Smith explains: “In my nearly 50 years of living in Napa Valley, I’ve never seen a ballot initiative which has become so divisive in our community. My goal is to bring facts, articles, and science to bear, on the many issues that are applicable; not only to Measure C, but to also have a better understanding of how our environment functions.  Hopefully, those who support Measure C will find the information thoughtful and challenging.”

Smith will be adding additional updates and links until the election in June.

Sections on the blog include:

  • The text of the initiative
  • The language in the voter’s pamphlet
  • An analysis of the numbers being quoted in the initiative discussion (By The Numbers)
  • The anti C editorials from the editorial boards of the Napa Valley Register and St. Helena Star
  • Research articles about forestry, water, and air quality
  • A discussion of Section E of Measure C
  • Stuart Smith’s reflections on the ethics (Morality of Measure C)
  • A compilation of No on C letters, including several of Stuart Smith’s
  • Links to the 9111 Report, the Groundwater Sustainability Report, the Voluntary Oak Woodland Management Plan
  • The list of organizations opposing Measure C

[Photo credit: Kelly Alley]

The No on C campaign can be found at http://protectnapa.com/. One area you might want to read, regardless of which side you favor: “On June 5th, Napa County voters will be asked whether or not to approve Measure C. Learn more about this deeply-flawed measure before you cast your ballot.” Anything done in secret has been done in secret for a reason. Get to the bottom of it, then vote for what makes the most sense to you.

Stuart Smith founded Smith-Madrone Winery in St. Helena in 1971.