Napa Valley Wine Academy, from near and afar, you too, can learn more about wine

The Napa Valley Wine Academy wants you to immerse yourself in the exciting world of food and wine in the heart of wine country. While their courses are taught at some of Napa Valley’s best wineries, they’re also located in Tampa, Florida, and you can take courses online.

After having immersed my own self in the last 22 years, I understand the excitement that goes along with the wine business; and, as my daughter Melanie just pointed out to me, this business is also loaded with drama. I hadn’t thought about the drama part, but I certainly got it, as soon as she mentioned it.  I’ve been writing stories ever since I got here, and “not writing the worst of them,” said she, shaking her head. (Juicy Tales unplugged would get me into deep trouble… perhaps a novel would be in the offing, though.)

More information from the Napa Valley Wine Academy if you’re not familiar and you’re interested in your dramatic moments.

CSW – Certified Specialist of Wine Program: Our intensive test prep program is intended to give CSW Candidates the advantage of personalized instruction and a comprehensive understanding of the exam material. Our students gain a solid understanding of the world of wine that will help them progress in their drinks career, as well as become part of a network of wine professionals.

Upcoming Napa Valley Courses

  • November 5-8, 2014
  • February 18-21, 2015

Level 1: WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) Award in Wine – Intro to Wine is a  great way to jump start your career in wine. This class provides a basic introduction to the main styles of wines available today.  Level 1 is ideal for those who want to learn more for either personal knowledge, or to boost wine confidence.

Upcoming Napa Valley Courses

  • Saturday, October 11th, 2014
  • Saturday, November 15, 2014
  • Saturday, December 13th, 2014
  • Saturday, January 10th, 2015

Upcoming Tampa, Florida Courses

  • Sunday, October 19th, 2014
  • Sunday, November 9th, 2014
  • Sunday, December 7th, 2014

Level 2: WSET Award in Wine & Spirits – Intermediate. This course covers the key grape varieties grown and the different styles of wine produced around the world as well as the production of spirits and liqueurs.  During class, students will be taken through a guided tasting of wines and taught the WSET®  systematic approach to tasting wine.

Upcoming Napa Valley Courses

  • October 22-24, 2014
  • November 22-23 & 29, 2014
  • January 17-18, 2015

Upcoming Tampa, Florida Courses

  • October 25-26th, 2014
  • November 15-16th, 2014
  • December 13-14th, 2014

Level 3: WSET Award in Wine & Spirits –  Advanced. This course provides a more in-depth and comprehensive look at the world of wines and spirits with an intense focus on systematically and professionally tasting wines. It covers the major grapes and wine styles produced around the world, including what influences the style and quality of these wines and the prices procured for them. A guided tasting of 60+ different wines –still, sparkling, and fortified- in class over the course of 4-5 days.

Upcoming Napa Valley Courses

  • October 18-19 & 25-26, 2014
  • December 6-7 & 13-14, 2014
  • January 21-24, 2015





Astrological Signs With Their Astrological Wines

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

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

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

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

Astrological Signs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Marketing,Public Relations,Wine

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

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

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

INCOMING EMAIL: Editor Deadline: Need Holiday Recipes

Hi Jo,

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

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

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

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

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

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


Hi, Bob

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

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


INCOMING EMAIL with a red !

Hey Jo,

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

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

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

$3,500 per spot

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Oh, please and no thank you…


China,Wine,Wine Writer

Robert Parker is slowly fading into the sunset

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

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

She answered, “China.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

←  This one is a case of registration infringement.

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

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

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

The REAL Dark & Delicious Petite Sirah ®

returns on February 20, 2015 at Rock Wall once again

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

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

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

To Register Click Here


Argentina,Food & Wine,Sonoma County,Wine

“The Bounty of the County” known to Sonoma

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Age is a beautiful thing ~ Most especially in wine

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Navarra, a Spanish Soujourn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This one was soooooo-oooo good.

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

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

Bodega Inurrieta Mediodia Rosado ~ Garnacha ~ SRP: $12.99

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

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

NOSE: Very pretty black fruit.

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

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

Enhanced by Zemanta


Photographers,Wine,Wine Blogger,Wine Writer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dollar Photo Club

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

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

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

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

Live Chat with iStockphoto

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

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

Live Chat: You are now chatting with Flavia.

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

Flavia: Hi there

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

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

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

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

Flavia: You can buy a subscription

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

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

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

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

Flavia: for free

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

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

Flavia: Have a great weekend!

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

As I tried to comment:

You are not currently connected to a chat representative.

You are not currently connected to a chat representative.

Yup, Flavia hung up on me.


AVA,History,Suisun Valley,Wine

Getting to the Heart and Soul of Suisun Valley

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

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


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

But, who knew?

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

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

Important for people to know…

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

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

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

Exploring the Potential for Great Suisun Valley Cabernet at Koch Wine

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

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

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

How Suisun Valley Got Its Name

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

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

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

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

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

Suisunes Chief Sem Yeto was baptized by missionaries as “Solano.”
Enhanced by Zemanta