How a Soil Monolith Is Constructed

How a soil monolith is constructed by Paul Anamosa and his crew from Vineyard Soil Technologies is a very labor intensive job. So much so that Paul isn’t really looking to mass produce these works of art. He prefers the pace that he currently has, which is about one a month. Once the following pictorial steps are done (below), Paul then has many stages of glue applications to encase these layers of soil remain in a perfect condition, which makes them display worthy.

Honestly, his collection would be a great art exhibit, in my humble opinion. To see how our layers of soil go deep into the earth and what they contain on the way down is fascinating. The American Museum of Natural History in New York City would be a great place for an exhibit on geology, since the earth supports all things above and below ground, to see what we’re standing on – really standing on, not just a drawing rendering – is part of who we all are and what we depend upon for support, in so many ways.

Our client The Rubin Family of Wines has had two soil monoliths completed from his Green Valley of Russian River Valley vineyard. What you’re seeing here is the first one. On the day of the second dig, once that was completed, Paul and his crew hung this one; the winery’s project.

Paul told me that he’s very excited to have had the opportunity to slice into the earth in this vineyard, because he’s yet to have a Goldridge soil sampling. For a geologist, this is akin to having an unexpected birthday present delivered to his doorstep. Until a tractor digs this deeply, one can only imagine, based on all scientific evidence… But to see it, to actually grasp it… it’s a rare gift seen by only a few.

This is why I believe this would make both a great artistic and a geological exhibit. Anyone with any scientific curiosity about our earth’s layers would welcome the opportunity to see a slice of Mother Earth, based on the progression of differing soil types. Visually, it helps us to better understand how our earth was formed. Also, to see how our grape vines grow in these earth types is a wonder that they can grow at all.

Seeing this Monolith on the wall, and then looking at this second dig site, tells the real story of the enormity of the work involved. This is a huge commitment to slice away a piece of work, which then demonstrates the soil’s composition in minerality.

I once had an old farmer friend Mr. Dumont (in his early 90s, who had been farming all of his life) tell me not to water in Maine garden. He told me that without water, roots naturally go deep into the earth, searching for a water supply. To water my plants, he said, would cause a shallow root system and plants that wouldn’t be strong. I took his advice, which worked in Maine. It’s tougher in California to do that, based on our soil types out here… Not the same as Maine at all. I’ve yet to grow any decent tomatoes out here, when I could put up 36 quarts in Maine in one summer alone.

Paul and I talked about the fact that Goldridge soil is very loose and sandy, which makes any water just filter right down through the earth. It has great drainage, so how much can the roots of these plants gather? Some irrigation is required.

Lori Knapp, Ron Rubin’s operations manager, was there to witness this first Monolith process and she documented it photographically. I asked her for her thoughts:

“The concept of a soils monolith is fabulous because it embodies art, nature and science all in one, as does the process of making wine.   Now we can use our soils monolith to show the unique character of Goldridge soil found in the Green Valley while we share the distinctive flavors and terroir of our Green Valley wines.”

Understanding soils does help, in my opinion to understand flavors. I once had viticulturist Hector Bedolla of Crop Production Services tell me, while on a vineyard tour on Bradford Mountain, “See this red soil? It’s filled with iron oxide. This is what makes zinfandel so spicy.” It was then that I first connected soil’s minerals to a crop’s flavors. It was the beginning of my understanding terroir.

The Process of a Soil Monolith

We visit the winery property, and dig a hole 6 feet deep, by 3 feet wide, and about 8 feet long (a typical evaluation pit). We then smooth one side of the pit and press a frame into the side. We then dig out the soil on the other side of the frame while wrapping the frame and soil in shrink-wrap. We finally get all 5 feet of frame and soil isolated, and then bundle it, and truck it out. It goes back to our work shop where it is hardened with a non-toxic glue and then glued onto a piece of plexiglass. We have used tempered glass on the first few, but feel that with the ever present threat of earthquakes, we did not want to have glass shards flying though tasting rooms if they shattered.

For a winery owner, to see one’s own soil is this side of miraculous, in my humble opinion. You see what you have, and it’s very easily explained to others. Some of us are visual learners, and in many instances I am. With this monolith I get it. For me, being there for the second digging really drove a lot home. Once schist was hit… to the depth of this slicing, that was it… Schist is a metamorphic rock. If you were a tiny hair-like root, do you think you’d make it through the rock, or would you believe that a certain amount of irrigation is necessary for this particular vineyard?


VIT 101,Viticulture,Wine

VIT 101 – 6

WARNING: If you’re in the wine business, this is only viticulture 101.  This blog story has been created for people just learning about vineyards. Please judge accordingly.

VIT 101

Jo Diaz: Volunteer grapevines. This grapevine just popped up about five years ago. Last year was the first year we actually had any grapes on the vine. If vines begin from seed, they take about five years to bear fruit. If they’re grafted from another root stock, it takes three years. It’s now beginning to be out of control with growth, and I’ll have to cut it back soon. Otherwise, if you came to visit, its tendrils might attach themselves to you and you’d become a trellis for the rest of the season. “Grapes on the House” is what we call it.

Gypsy Canyon Winery: Walking through the vineyard, there are always a few vines reaching out to the aware passerby. Nature’s way of reminding one to be in the moment. So, yes I welcome a few new tendrils.

VIT 101

The Perfection of a vineyard… I’ve been wanting to share this one with you, even though it’s a month old. Most vineyard images that you see are mature in the season process, not one just emerging like this one. It’s just not as glorious.

Or… isn’t it?

Look very closely at all the juxtapositions, in one 10 acre plot, as this one found at The Rubin Family of Wines. The viticulturist has planted every single vine, which began 25 years ago. The precision is impeccable. This man loves his garden and each vine as his own child… And every season, it brings forth remarkable fruit. His name is Alvaro Zamora.

FROM: Patricia… Beautiful! I love images of vineyards at all stages of life. Orchards, too. I remember driving through the early ’70s when a lot of nut groves were being planted. Now they’re mature! Lovely to follow the life span gazing out of the car and then stopping to buy and taste the results.

[Photo: provided by Marty Johnson]

Marty Johnson, co-owner/co-founder at Ruby Magdalena Vineyards:

Lovely. The precision is commendable. Makes our ramshackle little vineyard look pretty shoddy. But then again, we did ours by hand as well. Hole by hole and plant by plant. Probably helped bind my wife and I together as tightly as anything could. Here it is in the first spring after planting. (March 2009)

Jo Diaz:I am betting, Marty, that I could have shot the same image of your vineyard. It’s all about how I shot this one. From above, you can get these angles. It’s all about how to angle the shot.

I just looked at your image in larger scale. Good job! This will be a fun one to watch.

Marty Johnson: Baby steps Jo, baby steps. My wife and I are patient and we have each other to lean on. Just trying to keep the hand crafted in hand crafted wines.

VIT 101

Jo Diaz; Just as a follow-up, I thought I’d share this image with you, since the earlier image was of a vineyard just starting out in the season. This is from a small family vineyard called Orentano Wines, from the Ron Buonchristiani family. It’s located in Russian River Valley, and they’re one of our artisan clients. I took this picture the first day I saw their vineyard. They handcraft a few hundred cases of their own Pinot Noir each year. The rest of their Russian River Valley Pinot Noir grapes have contracts from buyers, eager to have their grapes. This location is as romantic as a vineyard ever gets, right?



Happy Mothers Day

If my mother had any proclivity toward alcoholism, I would have driven her there by the time I was five. But, I never saw her have more than one glass of Manischewitz on Easter, year after year. That tells me that she was never going to be an alcoholic. I was a spirited child, born on a lunar eclipse, who didn’t take no for an answer, even from my parents, ever. Her nickname for me was Persistence Personified.

Oh, wait, I do have another alcohol memory of her.  It was when I got married the first time; she got totally wasted on Manhattans. I can’t blame her for that.

To my mother, Dear Mom,

I offer you this tribute. You did, after all was said and done, drill some trite sayings into my head that I still find useful. And, believe it or not, most of them gave me my PR backbone. You were my most influential public relations teacher, and I didn’t even know that until today… Miss you…

~ Happy Mothers Day ~

Famous Last Words that have stuck with me

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
A leopard doesn’t change its spots.
A word to the wise is sufficient.
Actions speak louder than words.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Beauty is only skin deep.
Beggars can’t be choosers.
Birds of a feather flock together.
Can you believe she’s wearing white after Labor Day?
Curiosity killed the cat.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.
Don’t come out until you have a smile on your face.
Don’t cross any bridges until you come to them.
Don’t cut off your own nose to spite your own face.
Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.
Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.
Flattery will get you nowhere.
Go to your room:
Great minds think alike.
Haste makes waste.
He’s three sheets to the wind.
If you make your bed, you’ll have to lie in it.
If your friend jumped off a bridge, would you jump, too?
It’s better to be safe than sorry.
It’s better to have loved & lost, than to have never loved at all. Knock on wood…
Misery loves company.
No news is good news.
Only a fool laughs at her own jokes.
Out of sight; out of mind.
Pardon my French!
Patience is a virtue.
People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.
Remember the golden rule.
Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Sing before you eat; cry before you sleep.
Slow down before somebody gets hurt.
That behavior isn’t becoming of a young lady.
That’s killing two birds with one stone.
There’s more than one way to skin a cat.
Two wrongs don’t make a right.
Waste not, want not.
What you don’t know doesn’t hurt you.
Why add insult to injury?
You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your relatives.
You can’t have your cake and eat it, too.
You can’t judge a book by its cover.
You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
You can’t squeeze blood from a turnip.
You mark my words…
You have a Champagne appetite and a beer pocketbook.
You wait until your father gets home!
Your eyes were bigger than your stomach.



Women for WineSense Offers New Scholarships

When I lived in Maine, I produced a community issues talk program on WBLM radio that aired on Sunday mornings.  I learned a lot about the Portland, Maine area’s community. I interviewed Bart Weyand, from the English as Second Language Program at the University of Southern Maine. The program was about immigrants and refugees that were coming into Portland as a port of entry. Because they didn’t have the language skills, they couldn’t apply for grants, scholarships. or loans. If we could be get these citizens into the program, they could then apply.

What did it for me was finding out that an immigrant surgeon was processing meat at a food processing plant. That kind of skill was being wasted on a job where his skills weren’t being used?  I couldn’t fathom it. Bart also mentioned that the immigrant’s language skills were also not to progress, based on the fact that typical language skills in this setting are marginally intelligent. (I’m sorry if this seems insensitive for who is working in this plant. By and large, this is the mainstream reality.)

I had to do something about it, so I went on a bender with my Portland Maine Rotary Club. My argument wasn’t about immigrants and/or refugees and whether or not Portland should be a port of entry. This was already happening. My argument was about a waste of talent. I had to lobby each member, before I felt that the board was ready for my proposal. I got it passed… Not only for one scholarship, but two of them. It passed just before I moved to CA in 1992. When I left, I asked someone I trusted with my passion to carry it forward. Returning years later, I saw an ad on TV, calling for applications for the scholarship.

Today, there are SIX college scholarships. Done!

I believe in helping our population to progress. I also believe in helping our wine industry in the same way, when possible.

From their press release…

Three new scholarships to the Professional Members

of Women for WineSense

In honor of Women for WineSense’s 25th anniversary, the Napa|Sonoma chapter (WWS) will offer three new scholarships to its Professional Members. Eligible WWS members who are seeking to progress their careers with additional education may apply online or by mail for the scholarship awards totaling $1,750 through May 31, 2015.

Eligible education programs for the awards include, but are not limited to, WSET, Court of Sommeliers, online wine business management certificates, wine finance and accounting, viticulture and oenology courses. Winners will be chosen on merit by a blue-ribbon panel of seasoned WWS Professional Members. The Grand Cru ($750) and Premier Cru ($500) Scholarship winners will be announced at WWS’ “Bubbles, Brix & Buzz IV” event on July 22nd at Ram’s Gate Winery in Sonoma.

These new scholarships, awarded directly by the WWS chapter, will supplement the four chapter scholarships previously announced totaling $10,000, which will be awarded to students this year in wine business or viticulture and oenology degree programs at Sonoma State University, Santa Rosa Junior College, Napa Valley College and U.C. Davis. “Many of our members supplement their formal education with courses and programs related to the wine industry and specific to their discipline,” explained chapter president, Christine L. Mueller. “These scholarships will help our Professional Members attain their career development goals of progressing in the industry.”

The first of its kind, WWS scholarship fund was started more than a decade ago in 2002 by the Napa|Sonoma chapter of WWS to help students with financial challenges pursue a career in the wine industry. This furthers WWS’s goals to foster passion and education for wine making, business, marketing and enjoyment, and allows students that may not otherwise have access to the higher education institutions in Northern California. To learn more or apply for these new scholarships, visit: www.wwsnapasonoma.com/wws-scholarships.

Throughout the year the chapter hosts events and fundraisers for this cause, including their upcoming “Summertime Rosé” event at Sonoma’s Best on June 11th and “Bubbles, Brix & Buzz IV” on July 22nd at Ram’s Gate Winery in Sonoma.

Women for WineSense is a not-for-profit organization 501(c)6 formed in 1990 to help promote women working in the wine industry. WWS offers outstanding education programs, member benefits, and networking opportunities to industry professionals and wine enthusiasts. The Napa/Sonoma Chapter currently has more than 325 members of which nearly 80% are professionals in the wine industry. To join or learn more about membership, please contact Ellen Reich Luchtel at Membership@WWSNapaSonoma.com or visit the WWS chapter’s website: WWSNapaSonoma.com.



Volatilizing Your Esters Brings Joy to Your Wine Experience

Smelling the wine as part of wine tasting
Image via Wikipedia

Your nose is the key to enjoying a glass of wine, long before the wine ever hits your palate. Volatilizing your esters is the key to enhancing that experience 10 fold.

The act of swirling your wine releases the bouquet. (The bouquet is a result of the wine making process. Aroma, on the other hand, is related to the scent of the grape.)

It cracks me up that there are classes on volatilizing your esters. But then, if you see people swirling their wine as a wine geek habit, and you follow suit only to simulate the mannerism without knowing why it’s being done, this is why classes on volatilizing your esters have evolved, I dare say.

Esters are chemical compounds found in all substances. In fruit, the same chemical compounds found in green apples, blackberries, and blueberries, for instance, are also present in certain grape varieties. This is why a tart Chardonnay, for example, can be said to taste like green apples, and a really round and juicy Pinot Noir can be said to taste like mashed plums. Those flavors cross the spectrum of fruit.

It’s just Chemistry 101, and a lot more fun when it’s related to the finished product of wine. I recall the differences between my own Chemistry 101 and Oenology 101. Oenology (enjoying wine) was a lot more fun than chemistry (blowing up potato mash… although, that was a lot of fun, too).

Esters are formed by the action of alcohol and acids, and reside in the finished product…In this case, it’s wine.

If you’ve never done this, give it a whirl…

  • DON’T SWIRL your wine first.
    • Just smell the wine in your glass.
    • Put your nose in the glass (tip your head and focus on just one nostril, really concentrating your effort).
    • Take a deep sniffing breath.
  • NOW SWIRL your wine.
    • Put your nose back into the glass.
    • Take another really deep sniffing breath.

Voila! The contrasts are remarkable.

Now, take your time and think about what aromas come to mind, besides “wine,” and begin to find your own descriptions for what aromas are being associated with that variety and glass of wine. It might only be one new aroma for that day, but you’re got the rest of your life for discovering the rest available to you and your wine experiences.

REMEMBER: You’re your own best expert, because you know (more than anyone else) what you love and what you can’t stand. Developing our own palate rocks!

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Alexander Valley,Event,Wine,Wine Country

Why would you not want to taste Alexander Valley?

If you enjoy wine, I can’t imagine why you would not want to taste Alexander Valley.

I was just reminded of this event by Lisa Mattson of Jordan Winery, who invited me to taste the valley on the weekend of May 16 and May 17. This is the Eighteenth Annual Taste Alexander Valley in 2015. I remember when it began, and it’s now grown into a three-day extravaganza, which showcases some of the best of northern Sonoma County’s wine country.

I have a lot of wine friends in this area… Near and dear to my heart is Field Stone Winery… If you ever get a chance, see if you can check out their teepee. The creator of Dances With Wolves teepees created it for the Staten family. I was in the tent with my Sioux friend Honey Airborne and John Staten, family Patriarch of the winery. She came to Californian to taste Petite Sirah, after being reactivated during 9/11 restoration. She then had to serve multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We spent 10 days together tasting the finest Petite Sirahs from member wineries of PS I Love You. Since Easter weekend fell in the middle of her tour, she stayed with Jose and me. (Wineries take this holiday, so I didn’t try to book her.) Today it’s clear, but we didn’t know it at the time, it was her resurrection, too. John Staten is also the ordained Reverend Dr. John Staten. He and I used to share some pretty interesting discussions on spirituality. Perhaps there was a nudge… Perhaps…

Trentadue Winery is near and dear to my heart as another major supporter of PS I Love you. They also entertained our Airborne vet, with a very sweet, from their hearts family luncheon. Then, our Vet invited Leo Trentadue to New York City, where he was honored on a float that traveled down Fifth Avenue as a Wold War II Vet. A lot of history exists for me in Alexander Valley, besides a lot of delicious wine…

[Photo of my sister Bonnie Bissonnette.]

I went to Jordan Winery years ago as a media person, when I was writing my winery cat story, “Cat O’Wine Tales.” Publish in The Wine News (no longer in publication), it was my favorite magazine at the time, because they were a bit fringe. I loved that Jordan cat, who was perfectly camouflaged… Hard to spot, but my sister did find it.

My story began a step away from the usual wine stories of the time, into the world of the peripheral… Integrated Pest Management, but with a real twist of sassiness… Probably my hallmark at that time. I certainly didn’t know anyone who wrote exactly what she was thinking in a wine magazine as I did. I had no advertisers to worry about, so I let it rip… I had one New York City wine broker (with whom I was working) who called me to take issue with my line about one of the cats, “She has all the finesse of a high priced call girl.” I thought, “Oh, Richard, get over it!”

So, here we are in Alexander Valley… With your own fun stories and memories to make. Thanks, Lisa Mattson of Jordan, for remembering me.


Winery Open Houses
Set amidst breathtaking vineyard mountain views, this event offers guests access to wine tasting, food pairings, and educational wine experiences at more than 25 Alexander Valley wineries.

Weekend Tasting Pass (Sat. & Sun.) $70, Early Bird price $60

You might also like to consider:

Magnum Dinner + Barn Dance (Friday evening) $150
This elegant night includes dining and dancing under the stars, special magnum selections from our Alexander Valley wineries and a menu specially prepared by local celebrity chef Dustin Valette (formerly of Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen).

Ultimate Weekend Package (all 3-days) $210, Early Bird price $200
Our premium weekend package offers access to our Friday night Magnum Dinner & Barn Dance PLUS a full weekend of tasting at participating wineries.

EventBrite tickets: Click here.


VIT 101,Viticulture,Wine,Winemaker


VIT 101: Integrated pest management happens in vineyards; because when it’s all said and done, a vineyard is really just a grape farm, once the romance has been stripped away. Cats, dogs, birds… they all play a role over the use of poisons. Here are a few of my favorite cats. Chimney Rock Winery (blue sky, white stucco), Pacific Star Winery (on the post), and Rabbit Ridge Winery’s cat. These images were taken years ago. Each kitty did its job; in loving memory.

VIT 101 ~ The field blend: When Europeans came to California in the late 1800s and into the early 1900s, they planted vineyards, so they could still enjoy wine in the new world. They simply blended their fields; hence, field blends. These vines were all head pruned, and the vineyards were pretty helter-skelter. When they’re examined today, you’ll find the occasional white variety thrown in as a spice ingredient.

This image (below) is of David Coffaro, who’s in his vineyard at David Coffaro Estate Vineyard​. In this 100+ year old vineyard, he has 17 different varieties planted, including Petite Sirah, Syrah, Peloursin, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Carignane, Aglianico… His list goes on…

These old blocks remind me of an ancient vineyard I visited in Chile a few years back. It was on a rugged hillside, and the owner, with a mule and a plow, was working the field of vines, which were not planted into rows, but randomly scattered across the hill. When we inquired as to why the vineyard was not arranged into rows, his reply was that the mule didn’t care whether or not he had rows, so why should he bother…

Winemaker DAN KLECK’S Insights

Whalebone Vineyard

DAN KLECK: Field Blends bring a remarkably different decision into the winemaker’s quest, and beg the question: How do I know when this block is ripe? Since nearly all varieties ripen at slightly different times, how does one arrive at a harvest date? Provocative plight for a winemaker with modern training, seeking that ultra-rich, ripe wine that verges on perfection. Since no winery labelled varietally back then, perhaps it didn’t matter what was in the bottle, as long as it was drinkable.

These old blocks remind me of an ancient vineyard I visited in Chile a few years back. It was on a rugged hillside, and the owner, with a mule and a plow, was working the field of vines, which were not planted into rows, but randomly scattered across the hill. When we inquired as to why the vineyard was not arranged into rows, his reply was that the mule didn’t care whether or not he had rows, so why should he bother…


VIT 101: FLOWERING of grapes. A grapevine reproduces sexually, but is hermaphroditic, or self-pollinating. So, we don’t need the bees for these grapes. Just time on the vine. From the cluster that I showed you the first week of April to today… This is the transformation. Also, pay close attention tot he color of the leaves now, in only a month.



A Good Year is a Great Movie

IMAGE: LuxInteriorDesigns.com Website.

LOCATION: Uncle Henry’s Chateau La Siroque is actually Chateau La Canorgue, which is set in the Provence region, Luberon, France.

I loved this movie, because it’s written about our wine lifestyle, A Good Year (written by Peter Mayle and directed by Ridley Scott) has really struck me. It’s worth sharing, in case you’ve not seen it yet.

Maybe because it was set in Europe (London and Provence), and pulled on my European British and French DNA, that it’s swept me away. I cannot tell you why I’ve been just watching it over and over again, but I’m presently hung up on it. I love the bustle of London, I love the lessons in the vines.

IMAGE: © 20th Century Fox

I adore the lessons taught by Uncle Henry to master Max; a precocious child who tries to out-fox the fox, but that’s impossible. Lessons in humanity are taught through interactive sports between the Uncle and Max, very important ones that every young man should learn from an involved senior; the critical ones that can – and mostly do – cause paradigm shifts at some turning point in life.

Displacing a magical childhood, Maximilian is brought back to Uncle Henry’s old chateau. Losing his Uncle in this life, he finds him again in his heart. He also returns to the family that lovingly shared in the caring for Max through Uncle Henry’s vines… The vigneron and his French country wife.

I’ve seen so many people in wine country that could have played the part of vigneron in real life. The vineyards I’ve been in… mountains sides, valley floors, knolls in a hillside, caves filled with glorious wine… I’ve walked that every day for the last 19 years, and this movie just speaks to all of it.

I can only imagine having been there to see shadows cast on the chateau’s walls in last afternoon, because I’ve been there so many times. It was all just so familiar and even comforting.

Seeing guys who think they know a lot about wine, but they just know the right things to say… sorta… I love the comedic side of that. Knowing the underside of stones in a vineyard, understanding each jewel, laughing at M. Duflot, as he subtly underscores the importance of his rocky vineyard, like my grandfather used to guard his fishing hole and blueberry patch.

IMAGE: LuxInteriorDesigns.com Website.

And the love affair that was set into motion before these two characters even came into life… Their DNA united and reunited them.

If you haven’t yet seen this movie, you can join me in just discovering it. I was under a rock for a while about it, because it came out in 2006. My daughter Melanie did tell me about it, but even that escaped me.

It’s not a blockbuster. It hasn’t made a billion dollars yet. It doesn’t have enough violence, lewd sex, and all that Hollywood razzle dazzle, thankfully. It’s just a delightful movie that’s got lots of heart and soul, set in wine county… My cup of tea these days.

A few characters:

  • Albert Finney as Uncle Henry
  • Freddie Highmore as Young Max Skinner
  • Russell Crowe as Max Skinner
  • Marion Cotillard as Fanny Chenal
  • Abbie Cornish as Christie Roberts
  • Didier Bourdon as Francis Duflot
  • Isabelle Candelier as Ludivine Duflot

This link is soundtrack music that will transports you into the movie, which I listened to while writing this.

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France,Importer,Imports,Wine,Wine Century Club,Wne and Food

Preparing for Provence Through Wines and Genealogy

I need to go to Provence, and I’m preparing for it through wines and genealogy.

I can’t explain it… I just keep watching A Good Year over-and-over-and-over again. I want to go around the round-about in Bonnieux. I want to visit Château la Canorgue (Route du Pont Julien, 84480 Bonnieux). This is the winery in Luberon, where the movie was filmed. The Château is about a mile from Bonnieux. (BACK LABEL: These are the movie’s locations that Max, an investment expert, inherits from his Uncle Henry.) It’s only 31 minutes without traffic to the Château from town. I need to drive that via D36, to get from one place to another, and experience what I’ve been viewing from a camera’s interpretation for quite a while.

I want to live (for a time, even if it’s only a week) in France, just as my ancestors have done, since 800 BC.

Maine… Here I sit with a wine from the appellation Sèvre et Maine. I was born and then spent 40+ years living in the state of Maine in New England, on Lisbon Street. I’ve been to Lisbon, Portugal. Now France is calling me.

Meanwhile, I’ve traced my roots back to Karanos (Caranus), the first ruling king of the Argead Dynasty, the ruling dynasty of Macedonia from about 700 to 310 BC.  Karanos ruled from 808–778 BC. From that line came the following:

  • Alexander the Great (Alexander III of Macedon  – July 20/21 , 356 – June, 323 B.C., and a member of the Argead Dynasty.
  • Charles the Great  (Charlemagne – April, 2 742/747/748 – January 28 , 814)
  • King Duncan (Duncan I “King of the Scots”, 1001 – May 1153, Medieval Gaelic)
  • Malcolm III (Kings of Scotland), another notable king continuing along the way
  • Reverend William Blackstone, the first inhabitant of Boston
    • His great granddaughter Patience Blackstone married Josiah Clarke, my great grandfather of 11 generations past
    • I was born as Jo (Ann) Clarke, in Maine (USA)

There are those who’ll wonder why is she bothering with all of this genealogy stuff. Well, some of us like history, especially if it’s connected to our own DNA. It becomes more fascinating. I wish, for instance, that I had paid more attention to Shakespeare’s Macbeth,  since Duncan, who was the actual young king at the time, was depicted as an elderly king in Macbeth. According to the story, Duncan was killed in his sleep by Macbeth. It would have meant more to me at the time, if I had known this.  Let’s just say, I would have been more curious, and read a whole lot more than the Cliff Notes.

What I had yet to discover and just did, is that Maine (in France), is in the Loire Valley… A French connection, be it ever so small and distant to something, is huge to me right now.

2014 Le Charmel Côtes de Provence*

Aromas of rose, not because I have some on my desk from my daughter Lyla’s garden; but, because this is the dominant bouquet of this wine… And, minerality. Crisp, clean and wholesome. Grapefruit on the palate, lingering citrus and rose hips. This wine is deserving of a spring party. It makes me want to order a tablecloth specifically to honor the feast. What a great finish that’s begging for food. Let’s see what my “In Julia’s Kitchen with Master Chefs” would offer for a matching food and wine pairing. I opened up the book to Rabbit with Mustard, Fava Beans, and Baby Onions. I would (personally) replace the rabbit with chicken. I just can’t eat bunnies… Just a personal preference, but B-I-N-G-O.

The Varieties: 30% Syrah, 30% Cinsault, 20% Mourvedre, 10% Grenache, 10% Rolle.

I can add the Rolle to my Wine Century Club list as my 149th variety that I’ve tasted of wine grapes. I’m now just 49 varieties away from my Doppel (second century) membership level. After the first 50 varieties tastings, it gets much more complicated. You have to travel the globe and taste history, instead of being stuck in front of comfort zone wines.

This wine received 20 percent cold skin maceration and 80 percent of it was direct pressed. The temperature was carefully controlled and monitored throughout its entire process, and maturation of the lees took place in stainless steel tanks… Keeping it rich, yet crisp and clean. A lot of great care was taken to bring this distinctive wine to you.

I could really get used to Provence, I really could. I’ll just have to brush up on my two years of high school French and make that trip of a lifetime. (I’m imagining the stories yet to be told!)

2013 Le Charmel Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie*

Here before me is a delicately delicious white wine from the Loire, a 2013 Le Charmel Muscadet. This wine’s main varietal lineage is Melon de Bourgogne. I’ve added Melon de Bourgogne to my list. I’m now at 150 varieties that I’ve tasted.

When I opened the bottle’s stelvin capsule to the 2013 Le Charmel Muscadet, marvelous minerality wafted in the air. When I read the tasting notes – after I had tasted the wine and taken all of my notes, I read the following: “… located in the Eastern part of the Loire Valley… the soil here ranges from granite and schist hillsides to some regions of clay and is rich in magnesium and potassium…” This immediately explained the minerality to me.

I poured the wine into a Burgundian glass. I like a big, bold opening on a glass. I wanted to bathe in this one. Citrus, like Meyer lemons and tart green apples. This wine is made for soft gooey cheese… I tasted it at room temperature, to get the most from the flavors. It’s a powerfully decadent and refined wine in tasting characters, due to having rested on its lees for several months. I’ve spent the last minute thinking about it, and it still continued to linger. I pulled out my “In Julia’s Kitchen with Master Chefs” to see what would work with this wine… Bingo: Troffie di Farina di Castagne Chestnut Pasta Sauced with Pesto, served with a Potato and Green Bean Garnish. This wine is so refreshing that I can just simply enjoy it as a sipping wine. A day in my garden, making everything perfect for those summer month…

Life is good right now, with a touch of sweetness from Maine, France.

*These wines were sent to me by importer Winesellers, Ltd., of Niles Illinois. They are extremely affordable. The Rosé has a suggested retail value of $13, and the Muscadet is $12 a bottle. Stepping outside of your usual varieties will bring you great tasting pleasure and flavors, which will excite and delight your palate. These two wines are highly recommended to take you on that new, deliciously decadent journey.



PR Advice,Public Relations,Wine

Number 1 Rule of a PR Pro is to be a Writer’s Writer

The number 1 rule of a PR pro is to be a writer’s writer… It’s really imperative that you write to inspire, not tire, your audience.

PR Pro Joe Gargiulo, of JAG Public Relations, contacted me last week about my story called, “Top 10 Faux Pas of Wine PR People.” He was expecting something entirely different and commented on Facebook.

…your piece certainly hits on key issues re submitting PROFESSIONAL WINE SAMPLES, but I was expecting the bigger picture such as: (1) not knowing the difference between a ‘variety’ and ‘varietal;’ (2-5) press releases that aren’t newsworthy, have unimaginative leads, contain too much hype, or are simply boring; (6) not know the rules re the capitalization of personal titles; (7) using ‘terroir’ as a synonym for ‘growing conditions;’ (8) always capitalizing varietal names; (9) beginning 75% or more of sentences in a story w/ prepositional phrases/adverbial clauses; and (10) using trite imagery such as ‘nestled in the hills of … blah, blah, blah.'” THE END

Great Points, I Thought

What Joe didn’t know, though, and so I explained it to him, the story was written after becoming involved in a Facebook post about PR reps. It was mostly about how some PR people dog writers after they’ve sent samples. This group of writers would much rather get the free samples and then be left alone, rather than have any further communication with the PR person who sent the wine. Many times we have to follow-up, per the boss’s orders. And, since that’s the person paying our salaries, it’s necessary whether or not the writer approves of the intrusion. (Who wants to get fired or lose a client.) I reiterated tot he group that nothing is for free in life. (That went over like a lead balloon.)

Post phone calls are seen as “harassment.” My simple solution to them was to just stop accepting free samples, and purchase their own. Certainly that would stop all of the harassment. (The second lead balloon.)

I did, on Facebook, get a lot of appreciation from fellow PR pros, however, regarding the list of how to think about samples. What I wrote was helpful for them, they told me. Most especially for PR people just starting out, they deserve to know the rules of engagement, any may have fallen into their jobs accidentally, in an under staffed smaller wine companies. Or just hired by a big agency, and not given a play book. (It happens all of the time.) The newbies were the ones with the biggest targets on their backs. I remember when I just started out.  I had no clue what the rules were, so many I learned the hard way.  This 10 Top list was just begged to be written, so I did as a public service.

Then, I considered Joe’s Top 10, and saw faux pas of a different nature. His Top 10 are really important, because wine PR professionals are educating writers with your press releases. Making then inspirational is your real task.

Inspired by PR Pro Joe Gargiulo’s

Top 10 Faux Pas of Wine PR Pros

  1. (1) not knowing the difference between a ‘variety’ and ‘varietal;’
  2. (2-5) press releases
    1. that aren’t newsworthy
    2. have unimaginative leads
    3. contain too much hype
    4. or are simply boring;
  3. (6) not know the rules re the capitalization of personal titles;
  4. (7) using ‘terroir’ as a synonym for ‘growing conditions;’
  5. (8) always capitalizing varietal names;
  6. (9) beginning 75% or more of sentences in a story w/ prepositional phrases/adverbial clauses;
  7. 10) and using trite imagery such as ‘nestled in the hills of …

One at a Time

1) Let’s start with Number 1: Variety is a noun, varietal is an adjective; e.g., I love the varietal characteristics of this variety.

There are many new writers who don’t care about this one. Take a course at U.C. Davis, and your 4.0 just took a hit. (I also wonder how many Master Sommeliers know the difference?) Enology and viticulture  majors who were present during this discussion know the difference. Many wine pros find the incorrect usage a decomposition of the English language; academics do care.

2 – 5) Press releases. These have to do with “Business writing 101″

  1. A press release is about “news.”
    1. Writers don’t care about your gold medal, seriously. They have their own palates and some are even insulted with your news. They would rather judge for themselves.
    2. This news is better shared with your consumer social media audience. That’s the target for this news, not wine media.
  2. Have unimaginative leads?
    1. Become a writer’s writer.
    2. You’ll then inspire others to action.
  3. Contains too much hype?
    1. Less is more.
  4. If you’re boring, writers will be bored.

6) If you don’t know the rules regarding the capitalization of personal titles, here they are:

  1.  Capitalize people’s titles, when it’s about their credentials
    1. Our President John Doe is working on his allocation plans tomorrow morning, for what each broker will be receiving of his highly prized wine.
  2. Don’t capitalize people’s titles when the title is being used in a sentence, but not connected to the actual person.
    1. The president of the company is John Doe. He will be working tomorrow morning on his allocation plans, for what each broker will be receiving of his highly prized wine.

7) … using ‘terroir’ as a synonym for ‘growing conditions;

  1. Stop that… Terroir is so much more.
  2. All aspects of terroir include the people who work the land, the geology of soil types, geography of location, the atmosphere and climate of each location, and the sense of place.

8) Always capitalize varietal names.

  1. I would never write your name as susan or tom.
  2. The actual writing of Vitis vinifera names is to capitalize the grape variety, like Merlot
  3. But if a second name follows and it’s referring to a color of the grape, like Pinot gris and Pinot noir, the second word is not a name but a color and therefore is NOT capitalized.
  4. Honestly, it’s very hard for me now to writer Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir without all caps. (Forgive me Father, for I have sinned, miserably.)

9) Beginning 75 percent or more of sentences in a story w/prepositional phrases/adverbial clauses;

  1. Prepositional phrases are great for prose, not for press releases; e.g., “Into the vineyard went our winemaker to test for brix, and our sugar levels have hit 22 degrees.”
  2. Adverbial clauses contains no subject or predicate; e.g., “He checked the brix the day before.”

10) … trite imagery such as ‘nestled in the hills of …

  1. You’re not writing the story, you’re writing the press releases.
  2. Writers might want to make it “nestled,” so give them the logistical data and let them ‘nestle” it for your client.


Find a way to inspire, not tire, your audience, PR Pros.