Jo's World,Wine

99 Bottles of Wine On the Wall, it’s no longer a joke

It’s easy to joke about 99 Bottles of Wine on the Wall, when you’ve got it going on. I’ve been doing it for years.

We got this wine storage unit from a client as payment, years ago. I loved it when I got it… Who wouldn’t?

In July 8, a pipe burst in our upstairs bathroom. I put it on Facebook… you know how we all share the good, the bad, and the indifferent, right? Robert Whitely, wine writer and author of Whitley on Wine, as well as managing several wine competitions, got back to me. He had been at one of his wine competitions when his pipe burst on his third floor, and he wasn’t even home at the time. He shared that it was $120,000 worth of damage.

“Good gawd” is what I thought. Surely it won’t be that much for us, most especially since it was only two floors worth of flooding. How it happened is that little plastic screw attachment from the hose that connects to the toilet bowl, which emanates from the wall connection, simply breaks after its five year guarantee. (Be forewarned, it’s the number one insurance claim for house flooding, according to our insurance company.)

Well, from the insurance company’s initial thoughts of $10,000 worth of damage, our costs have now settled into $70,000 total, for all things related to this house flood…

This is pretty much in keeping with Robert’s flood, if each floor will be damaged $30,000 per floor, right?

So, do I feel for Napa after the quake? Most assuredly and most especially since it’s now eight weeks later, and we’re perhaps getting to the reconstruction part of this internal catastrophe some time soon.

Meanwhile, we’re living in what looks like a war zone, with everything pulled apart, wires exposed as if construction was going on; and Child Protective Services would be pulling children from our home, if we had any foster kids living with us.

Which brings me back to 99 bottles of wine on the wall. This wine rack, which is 11 bottles of wine across each row and is nine rows high, was constructed as someone’s private joke, I’ve long felt. But now it’s serious work to pack it all, move it into storage, so that the carpets can be replaced throughout the first floor and much of the second floor of this house. Yeah, the carpets became sponges during the flood, with a lot of it being cut away so that the floors could be professionally dried out. Imagine four huge dehumidifier and 20+ heat air fans running 24/7 for six days, heating your home to a toasty 90 degrees, and the doors and windows have to stay closed, and you begin to get the picture for why you want to call in your wine country plumber to set your house straight, like ASAP if you’ve not been checked out in more than five years.

It’s very hard to imagine what went on.

Think about 67 bath tubs filled with water, and that water pouring into a bathroom over the course of a few hours…

This is calculated from our water bill for what is normal for us, and what spiked on that day (2,997 gallons) divided by how much water it takes to fill a bath tub (45 gallons), and you come up with 66.666666666 bathtubs full of water just thrown into a small room.

So today, I have to pack it all up, put it away, and wait for the movers to haul it away, put into storage, get the floors re-carpeted, have it taken from storage, hauled back in, and place the 99 bottles of wine back onto the wall, like nothing ever happened… Including getting off all of the dust I’ve let accumulate, for the sake of not touching the wine and giving it that ‘hip” look… all while getting my work commitments done. Dang!

Some day, 99 bottles of wine on the wall will be a joke again, but not for a while.


blogging ethics,Wine,Wine Blogger,Wine Business

You can’t ride two horses with one behind + professional ethics

Whomever said, “You can’t ride two horses with one behind,”  never saw the circus act where the pretty, young girl is riding two horses while standing up. You can ride two horses, but you have to be on your feet to do it, not on your behind.

That’s where I am… I’m riding two horses, and I’m standing on my feet. When those “pretty” days are over, seasoned circus pros still find things to do around the tent that are meaningful and have substance. This is how I see my life right now. I was just reminded of it this morning, as I wrote to a client to let him know that I had put him into a story. The essence of the following is what I wrote to him, and is a reminder about my own professional ethics, especially when I had other wine pros ask me how I manage my ethics, based on the fact that I do sometimes write about clients. I first explain that my blog is a journal of my life as a wine publicist. I’ve always claimed this as being true, correct, and the purpose of my wine blog. And, I then continue with the following.

In true journaling style, I thought I’d share it here, for anyone else who wonders “How do I balance an independent blog, if I’m also connected to the industry about which I’m blogging?”

When I write blog stories that include a clients, I DON’T put them into our TIME sheets as billable hours. When adding the time to the project, I record it as a “0” time. I tell clients about the stories in reports, but they’re not TIME related to our commitment to them for duties that are performed per our agreements.

It’s important for me to tell clients about the stories, so they don’t think I’m off wasting hours in places not assigned to me. These stories are just part of me having down time, away from all of my assignments. They let me get my head screwed back on straight, so I can get back to 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., throughout the week; and, even some of this work is spilled into my weekend.

It’s a matter of ethics. If I don’t believe in a brand, I won’t work for it. (I’ve walked away from many companies, because certain standards fell apart.)

  • Stores that include clients are done so, because my blog is my journal of what I do for work, so they naturally will fall into a story.
  • But, my clients don’t BUY my blog, which allows for me to be free to do and say what I think and feel…
  • I’m not being coerced.
  • If they’re a client, I will be writing about them, because that’s what fills my day… the things that I’m learning, as a result of my working with them.




What Labor Day Means to Me

What labor Day Means to Me… is not what you might expect.

It’s not a day to go boating for the last time of the season; or, heading off to the beach one more time, before I settle into apple picking.

No BBQs for me today. Nay… It’s pretty sobering for me.

It’s  time to remember my grandfather Peter J. Bernier. He was my first hero in life. He’s the one who told me, as I walked from high school to his office, like I did everyday after school to say hello to him, that President John F. Kennedy had been shot and we didn’t know yet if he would survive. My walk home, for the next mile was long and lonely. Pipi was a man of  honor and circumstance. His young academic life was ripped away from him, when his family put him into servitude at the Bates Mill, in Lewiston, Maine, at the age of eight years old.

My grandfather was one of those “Boys” in the ad below. He left school after the third grade, my grandmother told me, walking from Lane Road in Greene, Maine to the Bates Mill! That’s a 6.3 mile walk.

Imagine… I mapped it out with a Google walking map. It takes two hours to go in one direction, presumably by an adult, not an eight year old child.

Then Pipi worked hard for nine hours. How did he do that? Did they keep him in that brick housing, across the street from the factory, during the week? [Note the image above. The housing is in the lower left hand corner of this picture.]

He became a very successful businessman, even though he couldn’t read or write. He was a a car sales man, whom people trusted for generations of their families, in the early years of my life. Then he invested in property and became a landlord and realtor. My grandmother did all of his bookkeeping for him. He was so kind and loving to me. My heart is still breaking after all of these years. His own death came when he was only in his 60s (he was 40 years older than I was), on December 3, 1963… only 11 days after JFK had been killed. A double whammy for me…

I grew up on Lisbon Street, where this mill was a little more than a half mile away from my home. I walked past the Bates Mill on Mill Street every day to and from school (St. Patrick’s, Jordan JH, and then Lewiston High School). The building on the front side of the mill was housing. In my day, it was apartments for families, but as generations grew up, with more members of their families working in these mills, they could collect their income and move to an apartment… putting a bit of distance between them and their close proximity to these walls that kept them in impoverished conditions. (I even remember when the housing was torn down.) Perhaps it was originally built to house the children put into servitude, this I don’t yet know. I can’t imagine, however, an 8-year old taking that walk every single day.

Cindy Hodgdon, one of my Facebook friends, just posted this image of the advertisement, adding the text from the photo, taken from Lewiston Memories, a Bicentennial Pictorial, written by Douglas I. Hodgkin:

1861: “Owing to the inability of the Mills to supply the Government with TENT CLOTH. (So much needed by our Soldiers now in the field,) as fast as wanted, the Managers of THE BATES MILLS, Have been induced to run their Machinery Extra Time in order to supply in part, the wants of the Government, therefore the above number of hands can obtain employment at the Bates Mills, to do the following work, viz. Twisting, Spooling, Spinning, Dolling and Quilling. They will be required to work 9 hours per day.”

[Image also taken from Lewiston Memories, a Bicentennial Pictorial, written by Douglas I. Hodgkin]

Cindy Hodgdon: In this book it doesn’t state where they slept (most likely boarding somewhere close), but it does state that the youngest were “required to wear short pants to enable overseers to be sure that in the case of scuffles the older were not picking on the younger.”

I’m crying as I write this. I can’t help myself, from the emotionalism that these images represent for me. After my generation is gone, this will all be forgotten by the descendants of those directly impacted by the Industrial Revolution. This kind of sacrifice is now going on in other parts of the world, where labor unions have yet to find a way to enter. Perhaps it will have to come from their own people, who organize against abhorrent working conditions. History will repeat itself, no doubt. And, their future generations will celebrate being released from slave labor working conditions.

Coming from a mill/factory community, I remember the plumes of smoke coming from those tall chimneys every day… And then the 60s brought environmental issues to our attention. Rather than the factories doing something about it, they closed their doors and headed to countries where they could continue to pollute and take advantage of cheap labor… minus labor union dictates, no rules and no regulations… This was the beginning of globalization. I understood it as soon as they closed the mills and factories, putting everyone out of work… generations that knew nothing else and expected to have a job for life. What was going to happen to them all, as big business decisions were being made with no regard for human life in the process? Now, everyone can see what I saw, the day the first factory closed its doors. It’s taken 50 years to see, what my eyes saw with the very first closing.

What Labor Day Means to me is tears… tears for those who made our lives more bearable on this three-day weekend. Hard labor is what our immigrants give to us. Why people are so thoughtless, when it comes to those willing to sacrifice so much, is beyond me.

I’m seeing it again in California, and all over the US, as immigrant hopes and dreams to live in a country, based on our supposed democracy, are being dashed by the very same people whose forefather came here… Now they they’ve got theirs, they’re shamefully and selfishly guarding the same land that their forefathers took away from First Nation People. It breaks my heart that humanity is this way for some of us.

When you raise your glasses this weekend, won’t you join me in thinking about those who made our lives more bearable; our immigrant elders… Without their sacrifices, this would not be a three-day weekend. It would just be business as usual on this Monday, working for the man…


Chardonnay,Movie,Pinot Noir,Russian River Valley,Wine,Zinfandel

Sunday Sojourn ~ The Man Who Cried + A Wine Journey

Wine, popcorn, and tissues… The Man Who Cried.

A story of a young, female refugee travels from Russia to England, to Paris, to America in search of her lost father the lessons of lost loves in the process are bitter sweet..

The Man Who Cried is a 2000 Anglo-French film, written and directed by Sally Potter. The film stars Christina Ricci, Cate Blanchett, Johnny Depp, Harry Dean Stanton, and John Turturro.

I’ve taken to tasting wine on Sunday afternoons, when I can try put a busy week behind me, get some forward work done (tasting wine assignments), and eat a few snacks in the process. This has evolved into what I consider “putting my feet up.” I choose a film that I think is going to be interesting, then bring out the wines from the week that have an assignment attached to them, and have a few snacks that will make the process more enjoyable.

FILM: The Man Who Cried


  • 2013  River Road Chardonnay, Mills Cuvee, Green Valley of Russian River Valley, Sonoma County
  • 2013 River Road Pinot Noir, Sonoma County
  • 2013 River Road Pinot Noir, Stephanie’s Cuvee, Green Valley of Russian River Valley, Sonoma County
  • 2013 Old Vine Zinfandel, Boschetti Vineyard, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County


  • Raw pecans
  • Toblerone chocolate

Someone who has felt the anguish of being separated from young children, for any length of time, had better get out your handkerchief that Nana left for you to have. The wines and snacks were part of the process, as I watched a movie set into the days of the emerging Holocaust, placed in Russia, England, Paris, and finally in the US. The wines that I tasted were as delicious and complex as the movie was, so it was a great pairing, as well as a remarkable movie. Remarkable because it captures so many of the emotions without any words being spoken. A movie intended for those of a gentle spirit, don’t expect a Hollywood production of blow ‘em up or shoot ‘em up. This story is about the dangerous life during a time of great oppression and world peril, and the desire to come to the new world as love conquers all.

Any wonderful story deserves equally wonderful wines, and so I got to work…


  • 2013  River Road Chardonnay, Mills Cuvee, Green Valley of Russian River Valley, Sonoma County
    • What the wine presented – A golden hue with real clarity, this wine is a rich and zesty temptress, full of complex characteristics. Mediterranean notes dominate with stone fruit flavors of peach and apricot, finishing with butterscotch smoothness. Grown in Green Valley of Russian River Valley, a region also known for its apple growing capabilities, this wine definitely falls into a parallel with golden delicious’ mellow, yet distinctive, flavors.
      • This wine will pair well with cooked shellfish like crab and prawns. It will also work well with grilled fish, chicken or vegetable soups, as well as risotto dishes with spring vegetables.
    • Who the wine represented – Cate Blanchett as Lola
  • 2013 River Road Pinot Noir, Sonoma County
    • What the wine presented – Light ruby in color, delicate in lovely aromatics on the nose of strawberry and violets, this wine demonstrated its youthfulness on your palate as well. This was followed by the same soft and supple finish. The wine also spoke of the strength it would gain in its future, with a bit of independent maturity.
      • I’d pair this one with a lovely French Onion soup or a brie cheese.
      • The wine is definitely well suited to cheese dishes, including a Margarita pizza.
    • Who the wine represented – Claudia Lander-Duke as young Suzie
  • 2013 River Road Pinot Noir, Stephanie’s Cuvee, Green Valley of Russian River Valley, Sonoma County
    • What the wine presented – This Pinot has a bit more depth than the one above. However, it’s sill not as rich as compared to other Russian River Valley Pinots, for my palate; as a blessing, not a curse. Years ago, I loved Russian River Valley Pinot Noirs, because they represented a delicate red wine for me, so food friendly that I didn’t even have to think about them. Then, they took the dark corner of pleasing wine reviewer palates, who wanted more of everything… More depth, more power, more tannins… Cheating Pinot, I believe, of being its true self of being a gentle, delicate, food friendly wine. (Some winemakers even add a bit of Petite Sirah to their blends… Good for them, bad for those of us who aren’t wine critics giving high scores for ball crushing Pinot Noirs.) It appears to me that winemakers who derive great pleasure from working with Pinot Noirs also derive great pleasure from life itself… Having great depth and work hard to leave a gentle footprint in life. These are the winemakers who craft what I know will please my palate. Joe Freeman made all of these wines, and I continue to be impressed with how his life’s philosophies segue right into his wines.  Aromas and flavors of juicy plums and red raspberries are the hallmark of this wine… Deeper than the one above, but not overpowering or lacking its original self of hanging on the vine.  The finish was as soft as an Asian carpet texture on its finish.
      • The earth tones of this wine make it well suited to mushroom dishes, as well as Peking Duck, and beef tenderloin.
    • Who the wine represented – Christina Ricci as the adult Suzie
  • 2013 Old Vine Zinfandel, Boschetti Vineyard, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County
    • What the wine presented – Zinfandels are youthful and handsome wines, most especially in the hands of a Pinot Noir winemaker. These devoted winemakers tend to be kind and gentle with their craft, creating food friendly, full of pleasant flavors wines. They bring out the best in us, without taking over the stage. True to character, this Zinfandel has delicious flavors of freshly picked, wild blackberries and Bing cherries on the nose and then again on the palate. The finish was enduring, but not overpowering.
      • Foods that would pair well with this wine are aperitifs, light cheeses, and lamb with spicy fruit-based sauces.

Studying the characters of this film, while tasting these wines, allowed me to not only identify the person who best fit the role, but it also had me pay attention to the wines in ways I wouldn’t have accomplished in a blind tasting. I prefer to use all of my sensing when encountering wines. I can best relate and even equate the wines, linking with more paths for memory as well.

Give it a try and get back to me. I know you’ll have fun with it, too. As it turns out, my work quickly turns into pleasure; and movies turn into real adventures.




Retailer With Beverage Education As A Priority ~ Total Wine & More

I applaud Total Wine & More

Being on the inside of the wine business, I get to see things happening that let me know who’s who and what’s what.

[Image: center is Ron Rubin, owner and president of The Rubin Family of Wines, greeting his guests.]

I have been in the wine business for over two decades. I’ve not seen it all, but I’ve seen a great deal of it. This includes working with off premise retailers, when I was a district wine sales manager. So, I “get” sales. It’s not my actual calling, but having worked it intensely for three years, I have an appreciation. (If you’re a consumer, and many of you are, “off premise” means that you – as a consumer – take a purchased beverage off the premises to enjoy consuming it.)

[Ron Rubin begins his portion of the program by giving the Total people a bit of history of how he was born into and has been in the beverage industry his entire life, fulfilling his 40 year dream.]

When The Rubin Family of Wines just entertained sales people from Total Wine & More, I was once again reminded what a great company this beverage retailer really is.

[Image is of winemaker and cooper Ed Morris, who works with winemaker Joe Freeman. In the above image, Ed is talking about the importance that choosing the right barrels for each variety is all important as a great structural beginning for making wine with harvested grapes. Below, Ed's demonstrating how barrels are washed from one vintage to the next. This is something I'd never seen, either, visually. The plexiglass allows for the bird's eye view.]

When the day’s educational activities were complete, we all had a pizza picnic dinner in the vineyards. At my table sat Jenny, Dan, Keith, Debbie, Keira, and my new best friend Jen. They were all young, eager to learn, excited to be on the road learning, and just beginning an adventure of a lifetime. Total Wine had a busload of young beverage professionals learning firsthand what being in wine country is all about.

This was my second year attending one of their ‘stops’ along the way, again at The Rubin Family of Wines.  Our stop had been orchestrated by the team from the winery, led by Kate Dos Santos, Lori Knapp, and Diane DiRoma. Every ‘i” had been dotted and every “t” had been crossed. The visit went off without a hitch, offering these eager-to-learn emerging wine pros (not everyone was “emerging,” but many of them were) more reasons to understand Ron Rubin’s wines.

[Image is of Ron Rubin and Alvaro Zamora, the team's vineyard manager for over 25 years. Alvaro knows his vines.]

Imagine a beverage company that will make this kind of investment in its employees? How it enriches their lives is immeasurable, when it’s all said and done.

  • The importance of knowing what you’re selling is paramount.
  • Hand selling by each member becomes critical, versus just dusting off bottles and stocking shelves.
  • Consumers can walk into any store and get valuable information about which wine to buy, and why they’d want to purchase it.
  • In many cases, these sales people will sell what they know, due to the back stories they’ve learned by being in vineyards,wine cellars, and having met the people behind the wine brands:
    • Owners
    • Winemakers
    • Vineyardists
    • The winery cat or dog
    • Any lingering memory
  • Time in the field… for every single minute… is part of a learning curve and an important team building experience.

Images from this day just say it all. I’m not going to wax poetic any further… You get the point, right?

[Winemaker Joe Freeman, conducting a tasting of differing alcohol percentages from the same original wine. It was a remarkable tasting.]

[Winemaker Joe Freeman's glasses of wine, for his demonstration.]

[A lovely pizza picnic in the vineyards with River Road Family Vineyards and Winery wines.]




P.S.A.,Public Service Announcement,Wine,Wine Magazine


This is a public service announcement (PSA) from the Napa Valley office of Wine Spectator

You know how you ask, “What can I do to help?” Yeah… it’s one of those moments.


I just received this Email and know its importance, as I have samples that I’d like to send in this direction. As a result, I understand how important it is, in this time of turmoil.

Perhaps having our $70,000 house flood on July  8, was in preparation for me to have that side of empathy that I’m now feeling, as everyone faces cleanup and re-construction. (Our house flood allowed just under 3000 gallons of water to escape onto our second floor bathroom, and travel down into our laundry room, then out into our garage. That equates to 74 bathtubs full of water to be dumped into that one room, and down into another… It’s now three months later, and we’re still trying to resolve the catastrophe; ergo, I’m here to help.)


From Wine Spectator:


Like a lot of businesses in downtown Napa, our office was affected by the earthquake. As we work on cleaning up and getting the office back in order, we ask that you stop sending us samples. When we are ready to receive them again, we’ll send another notice out.

All samples that are shipped from today forward will be automatically returned to sender. We cannot take any responsibility for samples sent to us during this hiatus.

This includes any wines we may have solicited directly for reports we have been working on. When we hit unpause, we will notify you of any new deadlines.

Thank you for your help, good luck with harvest, and best wishes to everyone.

-Wine Spectator Napa Tasting Office

This image was on Wine Spectator’s site, illustrating a story written by MaryAnn Worobiec. It was taken by my good friend Dave Pramuk, partner with Robert Biale at Robert Biale Vineyards… Just a few weeks ago, I was telling Dave the tales of my own woes. Now, there are just too many of us.

Hold your samples, and when I hear otherwise, I’ll post on this blog. Thanks.


Social media,Wine,Wine Business,Wine Country

Social Media Faux Pas, Reminder to Keep Your Social Media Local

The Napa Valley Earthquake was very close to home. It was also quite a reminder for me how important it is to keep your business local; most especially your social media. Don’t expect someone sitting in Kentucky, for example, to understand the local geography. And, how can you even begin to measure someone’s emotional intelligence in the process. If you’re just hiring some agency, which has hired kids off the street who think they can just fill in the daily blanks, you’re in for a big surprise… sooner, rather than alter.

I actually had an agency call me one time,

to see if I could help with social media for one of their clients…

It was because of my blog. Reading it, it appears that I probably know a bit about the wine business, right? What I was being pitched was to write Facebook entries for a former client, with whom I had worked for nearly ten years. The joke in it for me was that I probably knew too much about the company than anyone would care to know… But, and this is a BIG but… why was I terminated as an expert in their history, and now they were farming out their social media to a group outside of California looking for someone inside of California? They would get the fee for farming it out, and did they even know who they were talking to? No… I didn’t hear back from them when I explained the irony of the fact that I was who I was in the history of the wine company?

And their eventual social media? Generic at best; wanting, a least.

My former client could have come to me directly and explained a shift in my job descriptions. Their continuing revolving door and the layers of their petticoat, however, were now strangling their ability to see beyond the haze of their netting.

Too bad…

I’d like to remind you all, if you own a company, “thinking locally” is always better or your business, as well as your image.

There was a huge social media fail coming out of Louisville, Kentucky on Sunday morning,  as everyone was spreading the news of the Napa Earthquake. It came from a company representing a Sonoma County entity. I’m not editing typos:

See if you can catch the faux pas…

First, the reaction from a Sonoma County Facebook page:

We would like to assure all visitors to Sonoma County that there is no damage from today’s early morning earthquake. Happy travels.

While 403 people liked this, it’s safe to say that they’re mostly not in our area and love Sonoma County. Meanwhile, others saw the flaw in the social media ointment. This allows for a teachable moment.

  • Taylor: Maybe a “hope our napa neighbors are safe” status would’ve been better
  • Christine: Way to put greed above safety.
  • Charlene: Someone is assuring us from Louisville, KY?
  • Susan: There is damage in Napa. Watch the news.
  • Pamela: Naps is not sonoma County
  • Jen: Agreed. Damage in Napa and in Sonoma which is in Sonoma County. And why is a post about Sonoma County coming from KY
  • Jennifer: why does this say Louisville, KY ?
  • Jo: Pamela, the fail is telling people to have “happy” travels. The wine industry is very closely knit, so our hearts are sad, on this side of the industry. Someone who doesn’t understand our situation… Feeling horrible for our Napa Valley friends, won’t be in that “happy” mood. It’s going to be really somber here… Someone writing in Kentucky doesn’t know that… So, it is better to hire someone close to home, in a case like this… That’s where the fail occurred. And… I’m right here in Sonoma.

This is why it’s important to think locally….

There is good news for this story. Enough of us had such a negative reaction that someone has now taken down that entry.



Napa Valley Earthquake: Not too shaken, just a little stirred in Sonoma County

A terrible pun, I know, but actually very true, about this Napa Valley earthquake, as it relates to outlying regions.

Our hearts go out to all of the wine companies, their owners, and their employees, whose lives just got turned upside down. this is PR pro Mia Malm’s office. While This is an office pick-up, the outside of Mia’s building has a different story.

See the image below of her office building. Restoration is now in the building’s future.

As we watch while people share their stories on Facebook their devastation, I feel really connected. Everyone is ahead of any news sources, because it’s impossible for local news to be everywhere at this point in time. There’s just too much that’s gone wrong to record, too; most especially for the human element that this represents. For posterity’s sake, I’m going to show you some of the images that people are willing to share on Wine-Blog.

Having just experiences what’s turned out to be a $70,000 internal house flood, I’m feeling the angst for anyone affected, for the long run of it all.

I just did the math on how much water damage we had from the broken pipe upstairs in the guest bathroom. We lost just under 3,000 gallons of water. It takes about 42 gallons of water to fill a bath tub… So, we had over 71 bathtubs full of water flood the floor, come down into our laundry room through the walls, ceilings, air duct, and floors,  etc.

It’s going to be a big mess for a long time for Napa vintners, complicated by harvest needs. Everyone is so focused on harvest, and yet, it must be managed all at the same time. I’m sure of this, as I try to continue to balance life in the midst of our huge mess.

I asked on Facebook who felt the 3:30 a.m. Napa Valley earthquake shaking. The range was far and wide:

  • South Coastal
    • Carmel
    • Santa Cruz Mountains
  • South Bay and coastal
    • Morgan Hill
    • South San Jose
    • North Beach, which is the northeastern part of San Francisco a few blocks from Fisherman’s Wharf
      Southern part of SF
    • Very strong in Oakland. Gus (the dog) was panicked.
  • East of Napa
    • Fairfield
  • Northeast of Napa
    • Lake County
  •  Napa (of course)
    • Aratas Wine: Downtown is pretty bad. Mike says tanks at the winery just split right open.
  • North of Napa
    • San Rafael and the hills of San Rafael (west of Napa
    • Sonoma
    • Petaluma
    • Windsor
    • Geyserville
    • Cloverdale

In Napa, how Robert Rollett of RJR Enterprises home was devastated. Caption: Stuff on top shelf of book case on floor…thirty pound speakers ended up eight feet away…old tv and TV stand moved 8″ from normal position…

Mia Malm: My office is trashed. Don’t know if the building will be cleared for occupancy. We’ll see. Right now there is a lot of danger of falling bricks. Amazingly, the wine gods kept every bottle intact although there is some dented capsule damage. From Mia to me: Nobody has earthquake insurance, it’s too expensive. Sure you can share it if it helps your story. My stuff is mostly ok, just a mess.

This is the rippling effect…. First devastation, then recreation, which doesn’t happen overnight.

With Mia’s building looking like this, it’s highly unlikely that anyone will be allowed into the building for a while, lest any brinks fall on anyone in the process.

Another PR professional’s office is Lisa Adams Walter. She writes: My totally trashed office in downtown #Napa

Carole Meredith of Co Owner at Lagier Meredith Vineyard, shared storage warehouse, where thousands of barrels of wine are stored.”

A glimpse into what people in Napa are now facing…

This is a stainless steel tank for wine, not a soda can without a logo, at the Hess Collection.


Wine,Wine Importer,Wine tasting

Conscientious wine making and scrupulous storage are required to go the distance

[Image borrowed from the Best of Wines.] Bacchus, author of the site, writes of Jim Ruxin:

You will receive an email twice a month listing current holdings in Bordeaux, California, collectibles from current Parker-rated wines, Burgundies, Alsatian (a fetish), and even German Rieslings. His specialty is older vintages but you may have to wait until he scores a major cellar from a client that goes back 30 years – vintage and otherwise.

Having personally been in the wine business for the last 20+ years, this is how history allows for stories to just unfold on their own, including conscientious wine making. This one is so good, in fact, that it’s worth sharing, with Jim’s permission. As I just wrote in another blog post, PR 101 ~ Personal emails are a true path. During the time when I was writing that story, this one dropped into my Email inbox, from Jim Ruxin of Village Wine of Brentwood.

The subject title read:

1984 Belvedere…you worked there?

Dear Jo,

As a wine broker, I recently acquired six bottles of this wine, served it at a subscription dinner and sold them instantly.

I was extremely impressed with the youthfulness and the maturity. This wine, as all the others in this perfectly stored restaurant cellar, were amazing. Modest wines that were fresh, with wonderful secondary aromas and flavors. Not terribly complex, but there was much to be said for their relative to today modest alcohol. These wines were not austere.

I would buy cases of these and other Belvedere if I could find them. Others from the era that were equally impressive: Cutler Cellars, Stephen Zellerbach, Lakespring.

I wrote back to Jim Ruxin:

Hi, Jim,

I was at Belvedere from 1993 to 1998. When I arrived, Erich Russell was the winemaker. I believe he was there for the 1984 vintages. (I’ve Cc:ed him, so he can correct me if I’m wrong.)

The wines that you had would have been made by Erich, if I’m correct.. Today he owns Rabbit Ridge Winery.

Consider buying Erich’s wines of today, because he does know how to make great wine. Belvedere is no longer in existence. Bill Hambrecht dissolved the business, to make a profit from Belvedere Vodka… First the vodka company had a copyright infringement for the Belvedere name; but Bill, being a venture capitalist, seized the moment and turned that into instant profit…

Thanks for reaching out and sharing. I’m hoping that I’ve been able to guide you to the original source for that wine.

Thanks, Jo.

I just wanted to share my respect and gratefulness. You could taste their effort to produce something of value. Effort like that gets too little respect today. It may have been uneventful then, but their work speaks to me today.

The wine came from a Santa Barbara restaurant that closed 15 years ago when the owner retired. He [put] 440 bottles into professional storage, and they were not touched until the early summer when I acquired them all.

Thanks for sharing, Jim.

I think I’ll blog about this one, if you don’t mind? It’s a good story. I haven’t blogged about Erich in a while, and it would be a great winemaker profile, along with a wine pro backing me up with my thoughts. Are you okay with that?


Every bottle showed like a far younger wine. This includes modest bottlings like 1981 Rausan Segla (at the time), 1975 Lescours, 1989/1990 Meyney and lesser bottlings you would think might not be drinkable at this age. Even the bottles with high shoulder fills showed no signs of premature aging or falling apart.

I already mentioned the California wine that showed so well.

The lesson is that conscientious wine making and scrupulous storage are required to go the distance. Few have tasted the mature potential of mid- to lower level bottlings in off years, because they are often consumed young or ignored by the market when younger better vintages displace them from the limelight.

Can’t wait to open the 1947 Leoville las Cases and 1961 Latour that remain. Please refer your readers to me if they have any interest in these and other remaining wines.


Village Wine of Brentwood
Representing Fine Cellars
+01 310-471-7372 office
+01 310-617-7372 mobile

There you have it… Wines that have aged show all of the promise of their potential, when conscientious wine making and scrupulous storage go the distance.

Thanks for reaching out, Jim. It’s great when colleagues share their own stories, versus me always harping on subjects, for which others might question my credentials.  (It happens every time someone decides, “you’re just a blogger, what could you possibly know?



Oregon,Viticulture,Walla Walla,Washington,Wine,Wine Education,Winery

Writing you don’t see, revealed… Cadaretta’s Soil Composition at Southwind Vineyard

Cadaretta Wine’s Soil Composition at Southwind Vineyard is a story that I wrote for our client. Because it’s for their Website, it’s got a copyright on it and stories like this I never put onto my blog ~ like so many other internal documents that I produce daily. But this one has just stuck with me, I mean really stuck with me. I first wrote it, then ran it by Dr. Kevin Pogue of Whitman College, because he really knows this vineyard site… And, even more important is that he’s an expert in the Great Northwest. This is an area where I have very limited knowledge; while I’ve been there, it’s not like living there. One has to really travel to these locations repeatedly to get to the depths of their roots. It’s very limited exposure for me. I really need to get myself up there, again and soon.

Meanwhile, I got my dig deeper hat on and did the best I could, bases on what’s available. And – as I said – ran it by Kevin Pogue. It was like turning in an extensive research paper and having the professor (which is what he is in his day job) get back to me with edits and humble suggestions.

Huh… This is the part that really got me. He, the one who really knows what he’s doing, becoming humble on my behalf. Where do you begin with that one; except to know that you have to really appreciate this man? And so, my learning began, after a few logical inferences got a red line through them and encouragement to go on, with humble suggestions that were based in HARD FACTS.

I left my ego at the door a long time ago, I pray to the altar of editing, and Kevin Pogue was/is a master.

So, I asked David Hance, my contact person for Cadaretta, if I could put this story onto my blog besides the Cadaretta Website. Why? Because it’s really so good… Not my writing, I’m not talking about my writing. The story is good… I mean really good. Many of us around the world have limited knowledge of this area, and this story needs to be in multiple places; so you – dear readers – will know about a bit of magic in the Great Northwest.

The Southwind Vineyard is just west of Milton-Freewater in Oregon, and is located in the Walla Walla Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA). This estate contains some distinctive soils that help to define its exceptional terroir.

Here’s the Cadaretta vineyard story…

According to Dr. Kevin Pogue:

“The soils in the “fractured block” are distinctive. What makes them distinctive is that the surface layer of loess is relatively shallow, allowing the roots of the vines to penetrate into the underlying fractured and weathered basalt bedrock, which has a different mineral chemistry (more Fe, Mg, Ca, less K, Al, Na) than the overlying loess. The block is on a slope that faces south and southwest, into the sun and prevailing wind direction. The thin soils, as well as enhanced exposure to sun and wind, induce vine stress. This is generally associated with grapes that make better wines.”

Dr. Kevin Pogue, of VinTerra Consulting, is a licensed geologist and professor of geology at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. He holds a doctorate in geology from Oregon State University, and has over 25 years of teaching and research experience at the university level. It was he who Rick Middleton, whose family company owns both Southwind Vineyard and Walla Walla’s Cadaretta Winery, hired to characterize and delineate his vineyard’s soil types. This was done in order to begin to identify Southwind’s terroir, and the flavors that might be irreplaceably ascribed to its wines.

What Kevin Pogue found was an area of their property that they had not planned to plant because they thought the soils were too shallow and rocky. Pogue advised them that it might actually be the best place to plant if they wanted to make interesting, terroir-driven wines.
Kevin Pogue:

“Southwind Vineyard and Walla Walla’s Cadaretta Winery hired me to characterize their soils, and I told them that they should consider developing and planting the Lickskillet soils on their property I felt that this would add diversity to their terroir portfolio, and was likely to give them grapes for exceptional wines. The adjacent Seven Hills vineyard has a block planted on Lickskillet soils. I knew that this would be something new and interesting for Southwind, adding to the diversity of what they offer with their Cadaretta wines.”

Have you heard the Japanese saying, “The nail that sticks out gets hammered down”? This saying is used to make a point about how difficult it is to be different, and that any deviance is met with resistance. With the vineyards at Cadaretta, this is how it is for us, except for the fact that we have something so dramatically different in our Oregon vineyard. And, it’s not something that we’d like to level out. It’s become the basis for Cadaretta; a distinct defining point of differentiation and not the one nail needs to be leveled to match the rest. It’s the one spot found in Oregon that singularly has the opportunity to define new flavors from ancient soil for us. It is truly our unique story and an experiment worth close attention.
Cadaretta Vineyards contain fractured basalt soils, which occur on steep hillsides all over the Columbia basin, as compared to the other 99.9 percent of soil types planted in other areas of the states. Whether they’re wind-blown or alluvial, most soils planted in the Basin are derived in part from the non-native granite, which was finely ground by glaciers and redistributed by wind and water.

The Lickskillet Very Stony Loam series, the fractured and decayed basalts that we have at Southwind, are common on every steep, hillside soil type for the region. They’re not present, however, below 1,250 feet, the maximum height of the Missoula flood. Because of the relatively high elevation, it’s not been historically convenient to develop water to these sites. They’ve not been developed for viticulture, primarily because they are thin, rocky, and occur on steep slopes where cultivation is difficult. A challenge is that it’s so difficult to get water up that high (which is not the primary reason, however). But when this does happens, viticulturists and winemakers find ancient basalt soils, with highly oxidized iron and magnesium, as well as elevated calcium carbonate levels. This results in a distinctive assemblage of mineral nutrients available to vines, which have a big flavor impact on the resulting wines.

It’s a rarity, and an experiment. It’s very difficult to access soils like this in this semi-arid environment; the site is stony, harsh, sunny, and wind exposed.

The Back Story

It’s important to note that terroir is a concept. It’s more than a simple definition, and much more than all that’s tangible. It is a word created by French vignerons, whose families have worked specific vineyards for centuries; where each day their terroir delivers something new to consider. It could simply be a warm breeze on a cool, spring day. Something that simple can affect the outcome of a wine harvest’s uniqueness, if it persists for any length of time.

To gain understanding of terroir for Cadaretta, Dr. Kevin Pogue was asked to help, because only the most experienced person would do, in order to get it right. We began by knowing that the soils on Cadaretta’s hillsides are that complex. Initially, we didn’t know exactly how complex they would turn out to be.

In order to begin the process, a hole about 12 feet deep and at least twice as long was dug into the ground. This revealed all of the layers of geologic history:

  • Loess ~ Topsoil
  • Fractured and decomposed basalt ~ Midsoil
  • Basalt bedrock ~ Bottom soil

Each layer holds certain characteristics and will function in certain ways, affecting the flavors of the wines to be produced; therefore, minerals would become all important as flavor compound considerations.


Loess (pronounced as “luss”) is the wind-blown top soil that has a distinctive geologic history. This kind of soil was first recognized in the Rhine River valley, about 1821 A.D. It’s the most common soil type in the Walla Walla AVA, with its local historical roots dating back to the Missoula Floods. Loess was the final layer deposited, when the floods ceased their ravages. We have to return to the end of the Ice Age, which occurred between 15,000 and 13,000 years ago, to get the complete geologic snapshot. This is when geologists estimate that the cycle of the impounding and catastrophic draining of Glacial Lake Missoula Lake occurred… dozens of times, over that 2,000 year period. The floods would periodically sweep across eastern Washington; heading southward, down the Columbia River Gorge.
Loess is sediment deposited by the wind. It is composed mostly of silt with some fine sand and is poor in clay. Loess in the Columbia contains the minerals quartz and feldspar, derived in part from granite. This is all loosely cemented by calcium carbonate. It is usually uniform and highly porous, crossed by vertical passageways, which permit the sediment to fracture and form vertical bluffs.


Fractured decomposed basalt is the midsoil section, and is from this Lickskillet soil type. Basalt is usually grey to black in color, and rapidly (only in wet climates) weathers to brown or rust-red, due to oxidation of its iron-rich minerals, into rust color.
The midsoil was formed by stony soil and debris that accumulated on, or at the base of slopes. It is composed of loess, basalt, and weathered basalt all coming together. Lickskillet soils are on uplands, and have slopes ranging from zero to 120 degrees. Annual precipitation is usually about 12 inches, and the mean annual temperature is about 48 degrees Fahrenheit.

BOTTOM: Basalt bedrock is the lowest layer of soil in the Southwind Vineyard. Extrusive igneous rocks, or volcanic rocks, form when magma makes its way to Earth’s surface. The molten rock erupts, or flows above the surface, as lava. It then cools down forming a hard rock. It’s dark-colored and fine-grained, and is composed largely of plagioclase feldspar and pyroxene. Basalt is also considered to be one of the main components of oceanic crust.
If the lava cools in less than a day or two, there is no time for elements to form minerals.


All of the above are combining to define the Southwind vineyard in exclusive ways.

Cadaretta’s Southwind Vineyard’s Unique Soil Experiment

With little exception, much of Cadaretta’s Southwind Vineyard has been planted on these Loess soils. These wines will be very characteristic of other Walla Walla Valley wines.

There is, however, an important exception. There’s a location that is high on Southwind Vineyard’s hillside. It’s well above the Missoula Flood elevations, and is consequently in a class all of its own. Loess is thin and the next layer, just below the surface of the loess layer, is undisturbed and decomposed volcanic basalt. It’s easily fractured and it develops into grainy rock soil, which is known as Lickskillet.

It is the presence of these unique, fractured basalt soils, which are so unique as compared to the rest of the state (which state?) that is so out of character, and what Rick Middleton and his vineyard and winemaking teams believe will produce a distinctive wine; one that will become the benchmark wines for the Cadaretta wine brand. Dr. Pogue is truly excited about the possibilities. In independent studies, Pogue has discovered important differences of basalt-based soils. They have the following:

  • More iron, calcium, and magnesium content than loess soil.
  • Generally retain more heat more quickly (only if basalt fragments cover the surface)

Learning what the differences mean for the location that is high on Southwind Vineyards’ hillside is a wait-and-see experiment, as vines have only been recently planted here. But, as with all vines being planted in different locations, it’s a safe assumption that these vines will perform differently, and deliver more unique fruit characteristics. And, the waiting is exciting for everyone involved in Southwind and Cadaretta, as the vineyard moves from test rows to larger production blocks, anticipating the wines those blocks will produce.