History,Portugal,Wine,Wine HIstory,Winemaking,Winery

Amphoras as seen through the eyes of Portugal

As I’ve written previously, To Understand Portuguese Wines, One Must First Understand the People. I would add the word “history” to what must also be understood. I can now say this, most especially after having spent 10 days in Portugal last fall with Delfim Costa of Enoforum Wines. This has become abundantly clear to me.

In world history, Portugal was invaded by the Romans, who left so many artifacts behind that one can’t escape their presence, anywhere in the country.

One of those artifacts that captured my imagination is the amphora.

When visiting Carmim Winery, winemaker Rui Veladas took us into the large dining room (above), where guests are entertained in very grand style. Lining the wall, which is opposite the doorway, were large amphoras left behind from the days of Roman captivity.

In the US and other new world countries, seeing an original Roman amphora is going to be a very rare occurrence. In Europe, however, this is going to be a bit more matter-of-fact. These artifacts have existed in these countries since the Romans first arrived. Julius Caesar marched his 30,000 soldiers up the Tagus. This is a major river, found at the port of Lisbon and the Atlantic Ocean, the river which also separates Portugal and Spain). Once Portugal was captured by Julius Caesar and his army [Julius is seen above in the image, with the halo he's finally negotiated], today’s Portugal was then called “Lusitania.” This was an ancient Roman province, which included approximately all of modern Portugal south of the Douro River, as well as part of modern Spain.

Caesar didn’t go to Portugal to spread Roman culture. He went there to loot and plunder, as he was a poor man. He sent a fleet northward to what we now know as the Douro region. “Douro” is Portuguese for gold, and the river was glimmering with it. His plundering allowed him to go back to Rome and buy his way into Roman politics. This is what cemented his position in the world as a leader. (Money writes history, as we all know.)

The Romans stayed a long time in Portugal, leaving behind a lot of architecture, culture, foods, wine, and artifacts… including these gorgeous amphoras.

I can’t even begin to tell you what seeing these huge vessels was like for me. Imagine, though, a clay vessel that is 2,000 years old, against our 70-80 years in time that we humans spend on this planet. You have to be quietly filled with awe in that process… At least, I was.

Then José Fonseca, the winemaker for Enoforum (who was touring with us) told me about these amphoras.

It’s this information that became the impetus for this blog entry, because it was so historically fascinating.

The Romans, in order to seal off these amphoras, used a thick layer of olive oil at the top after filling the vessels with wine. As the wine was released from the bottom, for their enjoyment, the layer at the top would spread outward. As it did that, it would continue to cover the top of the amphora, keeping all oxygen out. (Hence, the need for a “thick” layer of olive oil.)

Yes, I would imagine that with one of these wines, a wine writer of the time (humor) as s/he would be discussing the nuances of its flavors, would be able to capture and record more than a hint of olive oil.

And, yes, these wines didn’t oxidize… That being the most important reason and finding of the Romans about these wines being placed in amphoras. A seal of olive oil against oxygen kept wines much longer. It should come as no surprise, then, that an olive tree grove and a vineyard are still placed side-by-side today.

Also interesting to note, for those not in either business (grape or olive tree growing), first Mother Nature ripens grape vines. Then, the next harvest delivered by Mother Nature, is olive trees. While wine was fermenting, what the amphoras would be sealed with was being brought in for production… Then becoming the sealing material of the vinous fruit in these large vessels.


Education,Event,Law,P.S.A.,Sonoma County,Wine

Immigration law at the Sonoma County Wine Library

There’s going to be an informative, hands-on workshop in both Spanish and English on Immigration law at the Sonoma County Wine Library. I’ve asked wine grape growers what it’s like, now that we have stricter immigration laws, and none of them are happy. Many are being forced to by mechanical harvesters, because workers are no longer showing up as they used to do.

Some would argue that this is perhaps what our government, lobbyists, and big business had in mind all along…

  • Force out migrant workers, which also forces machinery sales. (Anyone see that happen, yet?)
  • Stop the flow of immigrants, so our homeless with their signs “will work for food” will show up to take those jobs. (Anyone see that happen, yet?)
  • Force small vineyards to sell or drop fruit, because no one is there to pick it? (Anyone see that happen, yet?)

Points well taken?

Liliana Gallelli, a dynamic and caring young woman who is dedicating her professional life to helping those who need it, understands and works within the sometimes bewildering legal maze of immigration. She is scheduled to present a detailed and practical workshop, in both Spanish and English.

Healdsburg Library
Thursday, July 17, 2014
From 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Anyone with children is encouraged to bring them along. Childcare and stories will be provided in the Children’s Library, so adults will be free to give their full attention to the forum.

On May 22, the Amigos de la Biblioteca and the Sonoma County Library put on this workshop in Santa Rosa. The Sonoma County Library’s executive director Bo Simons has decided to host it again in Healdsburg. According to Simons, “Liliana blew me away with her dedication, granular knowledge of immigration law, as well as her sympathy and care for those who have to navigate that maze. Please come or help me to spread the word.”

Bo Simons: 707-433-3772 x5, cell 707-508-6202; home 707-433-9247.



Happy 4th of July with Happy Camper wines!

Bar Harbor

Back in the 1970s and 80s, while living in Maine, being a Happy Camper was a way of life. Lots of my time was spent on gorgeous Mount Desert Island, exploring Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor, Maine. It was such a fun time that although it’s now 3,500 miles away, it’s marked in my mind and heart forever. Wine was also part of that culture, sitting around our camp fire, looking up at the sky’s splendor unhindered by any city lights, while the kids laying sleeping in our tent.

Had I then had access to this newly launched wine brand called Happy Camper, I’m betting that it would have been my ultimate favorite, versus the Mateus that was passed around; although Mateus did have its flower vase and candle holder appeal… There’s no denying that!

my happy camper kid

This past week, Happy Camper wines showed up on my door step. I have to tell you, I’m having a new love affair with its packaging. In Rock n’Roll, it’s called having a “hook.” This brand definitely has a “hook.” It’s so cleverly designed that it could even make a curmudgeon smile.

Jeffrey Dye has given us lots of reasons why this brand will take off, and they’re all right on the money. He’s definitely onto something! This is marketing genius at its best. Who doesn’t love a Happy Camper? Jeffrey Dye’s slogan of “getting to where life is good,” might even take some of us into a retro look back to where life was as simple and fun as this Happy Camper image.

Predominantly using California’s Central Coast fruit, with a price tag of only $8.99 a bottle, this wine is a bargain.

I adore the screw cap, too. In my world, twist off is the way to go. (Yes, I’m one of those advocates). Let’s talk… Today’s wine cellar is the back seat of your car, for as long as it takes for you to drive home. And, if you ARE building a wine cellar, where corks play into that romance, good for you! But you’re not filling your cellar with under ten dollar bottles of wine, are you?

Jordan Pond, Mt. Desert Is.

Another fun feature is that the capsule is dotted with those all-too-familiar camping symbols. This bottle of wine is an attention to detail extravaganza!

Popular varieties: Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet… that’s what Happy Camper is all about. What does it taste like? Spend the money and find out! At only nine dollars a bottle, you can’t afford to not have this experience (and you won’t be disappointed).

What could be more patriotic this 4th of July weekend than camping and enjoying an American-made wine, and Happy Camper certainly qualifies.

Click here to visit Happy Camper on line.

Be safe, play hard, and have fun out there, Happy Camper!


Australia,Wine,Wine Business

When wine becomes a bitch… Treasury, I feel for you…

I just read the headline: Law firm launches shareholder class action against Treasury Wine Estates

I had to chuckle to myself. Here I sit in the wine business. Treasury Wine Estates is doing everything right, in my humble estimation… Staying engaged in their wine company’s advancements and participation in the industry. As the exec director of a wine advocacy group, I get to see it all from the inside. For example… there’s one guy, when I hear that he’s bought another brand, I think, “Oh, crap… we helped to build the brand and the first thing he’s going to do is pull the plug on membership.” And, he does. Not only that, but he fires everyone within the new company he’s bought… leaving one person to manage the mess he’s leaving behind, assigning winemaking to a singular department for all brands, and he’s off and running… Homogenizing as he goes along.


Then, there’s Treasury, trying so hard to do what’s right, keeping employees and memberships in tact; but that’s not good enough for its investors… because they didn’t buy a lifestyle. They bought into the stupid concept that there’s tons of money to be made in the wine business and they want a huge piece of that pie. The reality is that for most people in the wine business, they’re simply struggling farmers trying to make an honest living in an industry that produces magical days and soothing nights.

Investors… a funny breed. From BrisBane Times, by Eli Greenblat.

Maurice Blackburn Lawyers will push ahead with its shareholder class action lawsuit against Treasury Wine Estates, the makers of wine brands such as Penfolds, Wolf Blass, Rosemount and Beringer, lodging its claim with the Federal Court on Wednesday in a case that could claim millions of dollars in damages over the alleged late disclosure of a 2013 profit downgrade to investors.

It didn’t come around fast enough for you guys, huh. (Pity party… continuing on with the story…)

Backed by litigation funders Bentham IMF, Maurice Blackburn has begun a class action case against Treasury Wine linked to the timing of the winemaker’s disclosure of a $190 million write-down in 2013 – a write-down that included a $33 million provision to pour 6 million bottles of wine down the drain after the stock was considered out of date, off or unsellable.

The wine should have just been shipped to all of the share holders. I dare say that the wine being “off” or unsellable would have fit perfectly into their wine cellars, without them having a real clue of what was important to do, in order to move forward… Like not keeping wines that were “done” in storage.

Honestly people, if you want to make money from money, just invest in pharmaceuticals. You’ll make tons, because that’s all you really want to do, right?

Case in point: I took a business class for four units (and pulled an A from this one). One of our exercises was to buy stock and then watch it go up or down throughout the semester. I pretend invested in a pharmaceutical company, because I kn0w what the average American cycle… and I knew what I was doing.

  • Eat poorly
  • Get sick
  • Need… nay want… prescription drugs to make them feel well, again
  • Versus do the work and recover

I also knew that in real life, it would be the last thing I’d invest in, because it would simply be a predatory maneuver… I need to sleep at night.

My family doctor has shared that he went to a medical convention and came away feeling ill from a presentation. The guest speaker was the head of a pharmaceutical company. He shared, “My dream is to have every single American on drugs, whether they need them or not.”

So there, investors… Leave the wine industry if you’re looking for making a quick buck. Those who are here to make  a quick buck aren’t taking their companies public. They’re just slicing and dicing their way through the thickets. Pharmaceuticals make money from sheeple… Best investing advice for the day, as we shake our heads over your law suit against Treasury.

There are a lot of nice people who work within that company… So, I shake my head…


Education,Wine,Wine Country

Coming to wine country with kids… Safari West is your answer

Safari West is one solution following yesterday’s wine blog about children being welcomed into wine country…

[With the exception of the overnight tent accommodations, these images are of my daughter Melanie Hoffman and her children.]

Where to stay, so kids aren’t totally isolated into an adult world… Why not a wild animal preserve? Just minutes from where I live, Safari West is such a special place.

It’s always such an inspiring meeting with nature, when I go to their location, and I always want to bring children with me in the process.

… And, they have a GREAT wine list, parents …

Here’s a bit about Safari West, from their site.

Here in the heart of California’s wine country… in the fields of wheat-colored grass, on the slopes of rolling green hills, among the trees and ranches and vineyards is where you will find the essence and spirit of Africa.

Not a drive through park…this is the home of Nancy and Peter Lang.

Come through our gate and be transported into an exotic, new world. A captivating tapestry of raw sounds and earthy smells; a magic place with the sights and sounds of the Serengeti where the air is filled with melodious chirps from the aviary, squawking calls from gregarious parrots, and a occasional lemur screech. An African style oasis where guests experience a rare sense of freedom and gain renewed inspiration..

Safari West serves two important functions: first and foremost, we are a wildlife preserve, with several important ongoing projects such as:

The propagation of endangered species. Safari West is the home of zebras, giraffes, cheetahs and many more exotic creatures.

Under the directorship of Nancy Lang, Safari West is breeding several endangered bird species.

Several Research and Conservation programs are ongoing: Conservation through Education.

But Safari West is more than a preserve. We are dedicated to raising awareness of our exotic neighbors and promoting understanding through in-person contact. That’s why we offer safaris year-round. If your only experience with a zebra or giraffe has been at a zoo, you should see these beautiful animals in their natural habitat. You owe it to yourself, and to them.

And you thought coming to wine country is all about wine… Not if you have children.

Safari West features luxury tents that are imported from Africa, and they’re built on high wooden platforms with spacious decks. The pale green canvas walls make them part of the landscape… but they’re not just any old tents… like the ones I used in camping out in days of old. These tents enclose plush beds, hot showers, and rustic but elegant decor. They have polished wood floors and unique hand-hewn furniture. A continental breakfast is included, and you can enjoy that overlook wildlife. For me, the giraffes make me smile, every time I see them.

I’ve borrowed this image from their site, because I haven’t photographed inside their tents, but you really need to see why I, my children, and grandchildren are so excited about this area as an option for being here.

If children are coming along with you to wine country, as parents you have an obligation to them (and the people around you who either didn’t bring theirs, or don’t have any of their own), to make sure that your children are happy and engaged. They’ll learn that wine is an everyday part of life as a liquid food, most especially if they wake up in an area that’s designed to inspire them, first thing in the morning and last thing at night, before they head off into dreamland.

When you return from your day of tasting, your children will be able to explore the following on tours:

  • Birds: in an aviary and on the lower grounds
  • Carnivores ~ Cheetah, Fennec Fox, and  Serval
  • Hoofed Mammals ~ Addax, Aoudad, Blue Duiker, Bongo, Bontebok, Cape Buffalo, Common Eland, Dama Gazelle, Gemsbok, Grant’s Gazelle, view more, including their zebras
  • Primates ~ Black-and-White Colobus Monkey, Black-and-White Ruffed Lemur, De Brazza’s Monkey, Patas Monkey, Ring-Tailed Lemur
  • Reptiles ~ Tortoise, Sulcata or African Spurred
  • Rodents ~ Indian Crested Porcupine

Yeah… all in wine country…

Conservation through educational opportunities

At Safari West, they strive to promote the most thorough understanding of our natural world, and they emphasize how and why it is what it is, and where it’s heading.

Established early on as grade school excursions, our trademark Safari tours present guests with an entertaining and academic adventure covering many of the fundamental and advanced aspects of environmental studies from behavioral ecology, through evolutionary theory,and most importantly to conservation.

Aside from our tours Safari West continues to promote education with hands on training and research in various scientific fields. Through our Wildlife Foundation we support student researchers in their ongoing ambition to work with these animals in their natural environments. This task is not only sponsored by the Foundation, but students are actively trained on property in the fields of physiology, anatomy, and ethology.

I highly recommend Safari West as a wine country destination for any adults who are bringing their children with them. As a family destination in wine country, it gives parents a great base from which to explore, while your children also enjoy a vacation that inspires and wows them. The day I discovered Safari West is the day that my life because enriched, because I’m an animal lover… always bring home the strays. I understand how Peter Lang had a need to rescue Hollywood animals… Bringing them to a place that would be a sanctuary and a base to educate people about wild animals.

Again, from their site:

Since its founding, Safari West has grown from a small safari based operation, serving several hundred visitors to a premier educational facility. Safari West’s continual growth and evolution were carefully steered during the past two decades by Peter and Nancy Lang… Now with over 60,000 annual visitors, Safari West was rated by AAA second only to Disney Land as a must experience location in California. This year, Sunset Magazine listed it as one of the top 300 destinations in the western United States.

I bring my children and grandchildren to Safari West for occasional updates… I hope you can, too.



Education,Napa,Sonoma County,Wine,Wine Country,Wine Education

Children in wine country… get over it

I was just reminded of this, last weekend at the Bacigalupi 50th Anniversary celebration of the Judgment of Paris decision… Bacigalupi’s grapes were a portion of the Number One chosen wine from Chateau Montelena… Yeah, Sonoma ruled and Napa got the credit. (Easier for the French to say “Napa,” n’est ce pas?)

[Image of Senay Ryan and her two children, while David Ryan was exploring food and wine offerings.]

FROM Rusty Gaffney: In 1973, Mike Grgich of Chateau Montelena came to the Bacigalupi’s house and asked to buy some Chardonnay. He made 1,800 cases of the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay using 20 tons of grapes from Henry Dick in the Alexander Valley, 14 tons from the Bacigalupi’s, and the remaining 5 tons from Napa Valley growers John Hanna and Lee Paschich. The original weight tag from 1973 is displayed in the Bacigalupi’s tasting room.

So, anyway….

As I was walking around the grounds during their next back-to-back event that day, the Third Annual Vineyard Designate Tasting, immediately following their ceremony, I spied a lovely woman, sitting at a table with her two adorable kids, who were also very interesting and articulate, I might add. She waved, and I took their picture. Very friendly, I thought, so I struck up a conversation. I immediately knew she was really from away. It turned out that she’s from London. I had to ask, “What do you think of our food?” I know that it’s awful… GMO, pesticides, herbicides, artificial fertilizers, I eat organic, so I know the difference when I don’t. I also know the bloating when I’m eating gluten products. We’re a nation of bad eaters. I also know that Europe hasn’t followed in our footsteps. It’s not necessary to label foods as “organic” over there, unless they want to. They just don’t engage in our food crap regimes.

Her answer… “It’s horrible.” Yeah, I wasn’t surprised, so we had common ground. We also talked about a lot of other cultural differences. One especially… Her two kids were the only children at this event. I told her that it’s a crime that most Americans haven’t figured out that if children aren’t put into the culture, they’re not going to understand it.

This is coming from a former Girl Scout Day Camp director. For years I managed 200 kids for two weeks, with a staff of 50. I know that anything is possible with children, we just have to “care.”

Wine needn’t be taboo

Back to my Robert Mondavi Winery days on this one, because I gathered the best stories while working there.

This day delivered a tour with four overly rambunctious boys, Rumble, Tumble, Fumble, and Bumble, I dare say.

There were decidedly not happy about being in wine country with their parents; and frankly, if I were a 10-year old boy, I’d be jumping all over my buddies, too, instead of looking at an expertly positioned trellising system with stressed vines.

I began, not with my usual spcheel, but instead with….

“Well, what have we here? Four young men who are pretty awesome to let their parents do something other than Disneyland! Please help me, Ladies and Gentlemen, to welcome these wonderful young boys!”

I started applauding, encouraging with body language that everyone else join me… In others words, “Get your eyeballs back into your heads, please, or we’re all gonna wish we had stayed home today.” (Everyone’s eyeballs had shifted up and to the back of their eye sockets as they watched these kids, realizing they were all about to share the winery tour from hell.)

As an adult tour guide for adult subject matter, I had to do some really fast gear shifting. I reached way back into myself and returned as a former director of Androscoggin Girl Scout Day Camp, completely leaving the adults behind… for a few minutes, at least.

“Thank you, Young Men, I know how hard this is. There’s nothing here for you, and this is about to be so boring. But I have to thank you all for being on your absolute best behavior, giving this special day to your parents, who have given so much to you all of your lives.”

“Aren’t they wonderful, Ladies and Gentlemen? Please help me in thanking these adorable young men for being so selfless and generous to their parents!”

Lot’s of applause… and we hadn’t even started yet.

As we went form one place to the next, before I’d begin to talk about whatever segment of winemaking we were covering, I’d start with, “Ladies and Gentlemen, please help me again to thank these young men. Haven’t they just been the best kids you’ve ever met?”

Lots of applause, winking, and smiles.

Ah… we dodged the bullet!

When the adults were enjoying their wine tasting, I ran to the back room, got non-alcoholic grape juice, brought it out for Rumble, Tumble, Fumble, and Bumble, who had now collectively become Humble, and it was drinks all around.

At the end of the tour, when everyone had left, the parents and boys remained. One of the mothers said, “My sons and I want to thank you. They told me that this was the most fun they had had in a long time, and they learned some things, too!”

It’s amazing what a little spotlight can do…



Wine Grape Varietal Leaves

Wine Grape Varietal Leaves can all be found in resource books, but I wanted my own images. There are many wineries where I’ve worked, prior to becoming a consultant. At each one I learned a different segment of the wine business. While at Kendall-Jackson, I took advantage of Santa Rosa Junior College’s Demonstration Vineyard; which in all fairness was planted pre-K-J, when the facility was Chateau DeBaun.

What’s interesting to note (I picked this up in my viticulture course), red grapes have a more “maple leaf” shape with notches being very evident. White wine grape leaves are more rounded.

For the most part, you’ll notice this to be true. The leaves follow in alphabetical order, with the name of the cultivar under the leaf. Enjoy!

These images are all only 72 dpi (dots per inch) on this site.

  • They won’t translate well into documents that require high resolution.
  • If you need high res, jo@diaz-communications.com.
  • And, they’re all copy written, so I appreciate your not taking them for your projects.
  • They’re here for learning purposes only.


Cabernet Franc

Cabernet Sauvignon



Chenin Blanc

French Colombard



Johannisberg Riesling




Muscat Blanc


Petite Sirah

Pinot Meunier

Pinot Noir


Sauvignon Blanc







Award,Wine,Wine Blogger,Wine Business

Top 10 Reasons I Blog

I don’t write this blog for other bloggers. I know they’re not my audience; although, for many, that’s their joie de vivre and that’s just fine. There’s a camaraderie among wine bloggers, and once a year they gather to enjoy each other’s company. Sometimes I wish I could join them; but, the reality is that I’m so busy writing that I can’t afford those hours away from being in service to others, in order to also make ends meet. I have a wine job, and my blog is a hobby… It’s not even an avocation, because I’ve got the vocation. In many ways, I’m out on a solitary limb, but that’s always been the script that I came into life to live, it seems.

Give me a task and I’ll throw myself into it. Half the time I wonder if anyone cares, the other half it’s just nose to the grindstone. Every so often… about once a year it seems… someone lets me know that what I’m doing has relevance, and that keeps me focused on this solitary path.

I was once again reminded of this as I clicked through on an incoming link on my back end this morning for Ebuzzing:  http://labs.ebuzzing.com/top-blogs/drinks?start=60

As a wine publicist, these are my Top 10 Reasons why I’m blogging about wine

  1. Years ago, Bill Brinton of Charles Creek said to me, “Jo, this press release is such a great story. I wish you were a writer.”
    • CODE: This story should be published, but since it’s headed to writers, no one is going to plagiarize it.
    • This was pre-Web 2.0, so he was right… It wasn’t going to be published, just perhaps inspire someone to dig deeper.
  2. When I studied HTML, we learned that the Web was going to become interactive; i.e., Web 2.0. Anything I wanted published, I’d have the power to self publish.
    1. Including my photography
    2. My second passion…
  3. My blog is a place to store stories about wine writers.
    • If I tell a client that I want to send something to a certain writer, that person invariably asks, “Who’s that?”
    • Most winery owners can’t keep up with the plethora of wine writers, so I just give them a link that explains who that writer is.
  4. I have clients who have found me, because of my blog.
    • CODE: I don’t have to convince them of my writing skills.
    • They also have decided ahead of time that they like my writing style. (Freedom to be me…)
  5. Wine issues, this is my outlet…
    • Not Facebook or any other social media outlet, including Twitter…
    • But I engage in both to a lesser degree.
  6. An inside edge to a lot of wine dealings proves to be interesting for others, and I like to share.
  7. There are back stories to a lot of things going on.
    • Who doesn’t like a good, juicy tale?
    • And, who doesn’t love to share them?
  8. I can occasionally use my blog to advertise events for which I or my clients are involved.
    • Roger King of Suisun Valley and I just had this exchange on Facebook, regarding Suisun Valley’s Uncorked event:
      • Jo: “I forgot to tell you that I blogged about it… Not this week, but last week. Happy to see another success story!”
      • Roger: “Jo Diaz, thank you so much, surely made many more aware. It was a great success and very special evening for our little sell out this week. Come a long way with your help.”
  9. I can educate others on my blog, which has allowed me to cut down on press releases, but still get the word out.
    • I was turned onto this by one writer telling me that a San Francisco editor had told him, “I’m sick of all her press releases with nothing but statistics about how Petite Sirah has grown…”
    • Oops!
  10. Writing started out as a hobby for me, so once in a while, I like to return to it for the pure joy of writing.
    • Occasionally, I’ve even posted a poem… under the tag of “Poet in Wine Country.” Not a lot, but sometimes I’m just inspired.
    • Sometimes I’m just inspired to share something new… like this blog post, inspired by Ebuzzing. Who knew that someone was watching?



Award,Books,California,Chardonnay,Event,Healdsburg,Movie,Petite Sirah,PS I Love You,Sonoma,Sonoma County,Sonoma Valley,Wine

Did you know that the Judgment of Paris had mostly Sonoma County Wine in that “Number One” winner?

It isn’t often that I turn my blog over to someone else’s writing. This is my “journal,” so if I didn’t experience it, it’s hard to segue into someone else’s news.

That said, I do have an introduction, because over the weekend Jose and I attended the Bacigalupi Family‘s 50th Anniversary Celebration and Third Anniversary Vineyard Designate Tasting. It was the 50th Anniversary Celebration that really tugged at my heart strings.

There was traffic on Highway 101 on Saturday morning… Who knew that was going to happen?

Once we mostly arrived, we were shuttled up the hill into the Bacigalupi vineyards and old farm house. It wasn’t a large group… Maybe 30 of us? But, it was a very special group. We waited a while for Rusty Gaffney, The Prince of Pinot to show up. He was flying up from LAX, but he got caught on Highway 101. No one had imagined that on a busy Saturday in wine country; the road crew would be out, making giant holes in the road, and blocking the right hand lane… But, they did.

ABOUT RUSTY GAFFNEY from his Website: “I am a retired ophthalmologist who has had a love affair with Pinot Noir for nearly forty years. When I retired in 2001, I decided to devote my energies to writing the PinotFile, an online newsletter that was the first wine publication exclusively devoted to Pinot Noir. Read more…

Rusty had written a speech for the 50th Anniversary Celebration. We all waited for him to arrive, but time was slipping away and we had to move forward… Another event was waiting at the tasting room location, so we couldn’t wait any longer. Lee Hodo (Four Tier Communications) read Rusty’s word, and we all were more than a bit verklempt. So many facts were jammed into that speech. Things that I knew and things that I didn’t know. It seemed to me, since I didn’t stand there taking copious notes… but instead listening… that this speech was fabulous and the world deserves to hear what Rusty Gaffney had thoughtfully composed and to say. So, permission was asked and granted. These are Rusty’s own words and thoughts about the Bacigalupi family.

I’m also pleased to say that the Bacigalupi Family has supported PS I Love You since Louis Foppiano, Christine Wells, and I created the Petite Sirah wine grape advocacy group. Always the forward thinkers and supporters of their own industry… The Bacigalupis are remarkable.

Also, please remember that the following was meant to be Rusty’s notes. I edited a few things (in brackets) for ease of reading. He knew what he wanted to say and did some abbreviating. Enjoy…

Bacigalupi Family 3rd Anniversary Vineyard Designate Tasting
and 50th Anniversary Celebration

by Rusty Gaffney

It is an honor to speak on behalf of the Bacigalupi Family whose three generations of winegrowing success has played a pivotal role in the history of California wine. I want to confine my comments today on 2 major events:

  1. The 50th Anniversary of the planting of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay at Goddard Ranch
  2. The 1976 Judgment of Paris Tasting, which is still a frequent topic of discussion 38 years later

[It was] 50 years ago [that] prunes took precedent over wine grapes in the Russian River Valley, and grapevines were relegated to the poorest ground. The Italian forbearers who had settled the region had planted field blends of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Carignane, but there were also extensive plantings of French Colombard, Golden Chaslis and Mission, varieties that are nearly extinct today in the region. Locals had little interest in or knowledge of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the two grape varieties that now dominate the Russian River landscape.

John Bacigalupi, the son of Charles and Helen Bacigalupi, who grew up on the family ranch, tells the humorous story of the time his father called Foppiano Winery in Healdsburg to tell him that his crop of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay was ripe and ready to pick. The winery told him they could not be bothered, as they were too busy processing prunes.

When Charles and Helen Bacigalupi put the early plantings of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the ground on Westside Road in 1964, most thought it was folly to plant these grapes that nobody wanted.

Charles Bacigalupi, who was born in Santa Rosa, became a successful dentist in Healdsburg, and his spouse, Helen, was trained as a pharmacist. They had always wanted a ranch in the country and in 1956 they acquired the 121-acre Goddard Ranch on a bench on Westside Road in Healdsburg. The ranch had some plantings of Zinfandel, Golden Chaslis, Mission and Muscat as well as prunes and cherries.

The Bacigalupis had no farming experience but their scientific backgrounds served them well and both had a green thumb. The white grapes on the property brought in little income, so they decide to pull out those vines and replant. Upon the advice of Paul Heck, a patient of Charles’ who was a partner in Korbel Champagne Cellars, and Bob Sisson, the UC Davis farm advisor for Sonoma County, they planted Pinot Noir and Chardonnay instead of the popular Zinfandel. The Bacigalupis had scarce knowledge of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and only vaguely realized that the two varieties grew in France.

Karl Wente supplied them with Wente selection budwood from his Livermore plantings. [Six] acres of Wente Selection Chardonnay and [six] acres of what was thought to be Pommard clone Pinot Noir was planted on St. George rootstock in 1964. and field budded in 1965.

In 1973, Mike Grgich of Chateau Montelena came to the Bacigalupi’s house and asked to buy some Chardonnay. He made 1,800 cases of the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay using 20 tons of grapes from Henry Dick in the Alexander Valley, 14 tons from the Bacigalupi’s, and the remaining 5 tons from Napa Valley growers John Hanna and Lee Paschich. The original weight tag from 1973 is displayed in the Bacigalupi’s tasting room.

[SIDEBAR... Most of that film was shot in the town of Sonoma, and at Kunde Family Estates, also in Sonoma, California. What were they thinking when they gave it to NAPA?]

Mike Grgich was the creator of the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay that won the 1976 Judgment of Paris, a blind tasting organized by British wine merchant Steven Spurrier where the top French wines were squared off against California wines. The shocking victory by two California wines put California wine on the world wine map and changed the global wine market dramatically.

According to Grgich, nine of the best judges in France were chosen, but they couldn’t obtain media coverage because California wines commanded little respect at the time. George Tabor, a journalist based in Paris, came over to the tasting because he had nothing better to do that day.

When the judging ended, the Chateau Montelena Chardonnay received 132 points, more than any French or California Chardonnay. When they revealed the results, some judges tried to correct the scores, but Tabor was said to have prevented that.

In the afternoon the judging panel tasted the Cabernets and a Stag’s Leap Napa Valley Cabernet came in first place — but received 127 points, so the Chardonnay was the champion of the Paris tasting.

Tabor would later publicize the results and even wrote a book about this seminal event, “Judgment of Paris.” A 2008 popular movie about the event was titled ‘Bottle Shock.’
The 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay that Grgich crafted is included in a current Smithsonian exhibition “101 Objects that Made America” along side Abraham Lincoln’s hat, Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone and Neil Armstrong’s space suit.

[SIDEBAR... 34 of the 39 tons came from SONOMA COUNTY, boys and girls...]

The 4-acre Paris Tasting Block of Chardonnay on the Bacigalupi Ranch is still thriving and currently the grapes are sold exclusively to Rudd Winery in Oakville, and bottled under the Edge Hill label. Grgich never bought any more Sonoma County grapes after the 1973 vintage, preferring to produce Chateau Montelena wines from Napa Valley sources exclusively.

Although the results of the Judgment of Paris were widely publicized, the vintners in Napa Valley downplayed the fact that most of the Chardonnay grapes came from Sonoma County. The label on the 1973 bottle underlies the attempt to promote Napa Valley, stating the source as “Napa and Alexander Valley.”

Through the years, the Bacigalupi family added other vineyard sites and now has three Russian River Valley estate vineyards: Goddard Ranch, Bloom Ranch and Frost Ranch. Until 2002, the Bacigalupis sold all their grapes to numerous Napa Valley and Sonoma County wineries. Today, Bacigalupi estate grapes are part of many winery bottlings and the Bacigalupi Vineyard is often designated.

Beginning in 2002, the Bacigalupi family bottled their own wines using estate grapes under the John Tyler label (an amalgam of John Bacigalupi and winemaker Tyler Heck’s first names). A tasting room was built on the Goddard Ranch property and opened in June 2011. With the launch of the John Tyler Wines label and the opening of the John Tyler Wines tasting room, John and Pam’s fraternal daughters, Katey and Nicole, became the face of the winery, sharing in the winery’s business, direct sales, marketing and management of the tasting room.

Beginning in 2013, the name of the winery began transitioning from John Tyler Wines to Bacigalupi Wines to honor the legacy of winegrowing of the Bacigalupi family. The first release bearing the Bacigalupi label was from the 2011 vintage and were vinified by the new consulting winemaker, Ashley Hertzberg.

Visit the Bacigalupi Wines website at www.bacigalupivineyards.com for more information and to acquire the wines.


Marketing,Wine,Wine HIstory,Winemaking

Mission not-so-impossible: Know your audience and then pitch it

Want to know how to get my attention?

  • With an email that has a personal message in it, directed at me.
  • If you send a press release to me, odds are I’m going to delete it before I even think about considering it.


  • My blog is not a journalistic news outlet resource.
  • My blog is my journal source about being a wine publicist, so it’s very personal.
  • If I don’t have a personal tie to your story, how can I write about it?

And, so, I got a great email a few weeks ago.

Hello Jo,
I’m Deborah Hall, wine grower, wine maker in Sta. Rita Hills ava. I just read your article about the Mission grape and its role in history. It turns out I have a Mission vineyard planted in 1887. I’m making Angelica, just as the padres did. If you would be interested in trying it. I’d be happy to send you a bottle, I’m sure you will appreciate it. Let me know the best address to ship it to. Also, let me know when you will be in the area, I’d be happy to show the ancient vineyard.

All the best,

Deborah Hall
Grower – Winemaker
Gypsy Canyon Winery
Sta. Rita Hills
805 705-1446

Wow… How hard was that? Deborah first studied her audience and then went for it. Not bad for a grower, winemaker, and now a PR agent. I have a story (below) on the mission grape. Deborah makes a Mission wine (Angelica) and wanted me to know about it. I wrote back to her:

Awesome. You’ve got a story I’d be interested in writing. My address is below for shipping. Very happy you reached out to me. My mission story can use an update.

She wrote back to me:

Wonderful! I’ll get the Ancient Vine Angelica right out to you. There are some wonderful stories about the vine I have uncovered at the Santa Barbara Mission Archive Library.

It arrived at a poignant time… My daughter, son-in-law, and two grand babies were moving to Colorado and were in transition in my home at the time. Melanie saw the wine and wanted to taste it. It was a joyous wine, and helped to elevate the spirit of the time for me… and pushed my kids on with their mission, to leave California for now.

Deborah is crafting a gorgeous wine, a piece of California history… just as my kids have a piece of California history in their souls. And some return back to it. (I can hope, can’t I?)

Angelica ~ Another name for the Mission grape

At Gypsy Canyon, they grow their grapes in healthy, vibrant soils and make their wines by hand, “capturing the fragrance of bloom in your glass.” I can attest to that one… Ripe and juicy apricots on the nose, this rich, nutty port-style wine is called the Gypsy Canyon Ancient Vine Angelica from the Marcelina’s Vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills. It is an 18 percent alcohol wine, with a nine percent residual sugar content. It’s a sipper for special occasions, like mine above, or any time you just want to enjoy a liquid dessert. And, yes, by sending two bottles to me, you know that my upcoming holidays will have us enjoying the second bottle of Ancient Vine Angelica.

But here’s the deal… when I went to her Website, I discovered the following. This has put everything into an even deeper perspective. One bottle would have been enough, seriously. And, then I read…

Ancient Vine Angelica

$ 150.00

Ancient Vine Angelica is a historic dessert wine from our 130-year-old Mission vineyard in Sta. Rita Hills.

It is presented in a hand-blown bottle with a hand-made paper label printed on a manual letterpress. The cork is sealed with estate-harvested bees wax.

Oh… my… gawd…. Over the top generosity. The wine is worth every single cent. The generosity continues to blow me away. She signed her bottles and now I have to make sure that this wine is so honored, when my family gathers again.

I’m thinking about Elizabet Barrett Browning right now… “How do I love thee, let me count the ways…”

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace. EBB

I love thee, Angelica, for your rich, delicious nectar
Your touch of spice, your nutty rich aromas. Your smooth, soft and silky ambrosial finish…As your extended legs slowly drip down the side of my glass, Hinting at your ripe sunlit days and cool, brisk nights. I love the memories that you bring to me. The flavors that linger long after parting moments. Angelica… you are my Mission… JD

Mission grape, a.k.a, Angelica

The following was a final project that I wrote for my Enology class taught by Pat Henderson, winemaker for Valley of the Moon, about the Mission Grape’s role in California Wine Viticultural history. After my presentation, which included a tasting of a light but flavorful Malvadino Mission wine, Pat asked for permission to use this piece in future classes… Permission granted. Deborah has found it in her search for Mission wine… If you need a history lesson, here it is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The missionaries’ contributions to the wine industry were many:

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

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

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

Famous California Mission Viticulturists:

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