Award,Wine,Wine Blogger,Wine Business

Top 10 Reasons I Blog

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Rusty Gaffney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Marketing,Wine,Wine HIstory,Winemaking

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

Want to know how to get my attention?

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


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

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

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

All the best,

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

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

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

She wrote back to me:

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

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

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

Angelica ~ Another name for the Mission grape

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

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

Ancient Vine Angelica

$ 150.00

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mission grape, a.k.a, Angelica

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The missionaries’ contributions to the wine industry were many:

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

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

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

Famous California Mission Viticulturists:

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




Food & Wine,Wine

Who doesn’t love a little black dress?

When I was graduating from the eighth grade, my mother took me from Maine (where I was growing up) to Boston, to get my graduation dress. We met my cousin Ann in the city, she came in from Stoneham, to give me fashion guidance. Plus, living in the Boston area, she knew all of the great stores… From Filene’s to some little hole in the wall, where I was finally allowed to buy my dress. I say “finally,” because once we met Ann, we walked into Filene’s and I saw this little blue dress that I adored. What my mother and Ann didn’t know about me is that I can immediately spot what I love, and nothing is going to deter me from that moment on. I didn’t have to, nor did I, see the other 500 dresses. I saw my dress, I loved it, I wanted it… But, it was the first store, the first dress I proclaimed as mine, and we had just traveled 140 miles to get to this first place. There was no way that I was allowed to buy that dress.

So, we trudged on to another 15 or so stores, with some lunch in between. At each store, I saw the same dress. Yeah, there were that many of them; however, the odds were in my favor that no one else in Lewiston, Maine was going to be wearing this dress. For a Mainer to go to Boston to buy a dress just wasn’t happening at that time. It was too far away… Except for my family, Boston was part of who we were and still are. Drawn by desire, until the last 15 years, we didn’t even know that great grandfather (10 generations removed) was the first Anglo to settle there (William Blackstone)… But, that’s another story.

The little blue dress… After a long day of shopping, trudging through every large and small store with dresses in it, the final store… there it was again. This time, they let me try it on, and my mother let me buy the dress, because we had run out of options… A dress I can still remember… Its powder blue color, its sleeves that were a bit puffy and three quarter length… Just below the knee hemline… Its added lace to the sleeves and the bottom border, about six inches off the hemline… Its scooped neckline, its zipper up the back… the little blue matching belt about three fourth of an inch wide… Every detail, every single detail of that dress; including that I had to be schlepped all over Boston to finally get my way. (That’s how I still shop for all clothing.)

If it had been black, I wouldn’t have wanted it. I was a kid.

Now, my closet has a bit of black clothing, including a little black dress. Why? Why not… Black is slimming, black is sleek, black is forgiving, and black is delicious.

And, I quite imagine that when people were sitting around a table, trying to come up with a name for a new wine, this one just slipped into the conversation and took over… How about Little Black Dress? No amount of other naming, regardless of how great others thought they would be, would be shaken from the one person who knew this one name would catch on.

Over the age of 21, who doesn’t love a Little Black Dress… Now, off to the wine.

I just received three wines from Little Black Dress ~

  • 2011 Little Black Dress Chardonnay
    • A smooth wine, with a bit of residual sugar and 13 percent alcohol. This one is ready for food.
    • ACCESSORIZE: Something creamy colored. If you’re a cheese fan, think of Franklin’s Teleme with Black Pepper, Los Banos CA.
  • 2012 Little Black Dress Divalicious Pink Pinot
    • Soft, smooth rose, with tons of strawberry and watermelon flavors… Only 12 percent alcohol; very European in style.
    • ACCESSORIZE: Bring on the red shoes to go with this one, and enjoy while eating a summer fruit salad with lots of strawberries and watermelon. Why deviate?
  • 2011 Little Black Dress Pinot Grigio
    • This one is more of the floral and round flavors, rather than tart and dry. Just 12.5 percent alcohol… I like this winemaker! Peach and pear were flavors that I loved from this uncomplicated, delicious wine.
    • ACCESSORIZE: Go with something lime green to bring out the pear in this one… (Don’t get wicked on me.) A Waldorf salad with apples, pears, walnuts, and Gorgonzola cheese.

The marketing is cutesy and definitely wanting to attract the female persuasion; i.e., “Divalicious.”

I’ve seen some people be really offended by the marketing solely toward the women’s movement. (Hey, women have had this movement going on since forever, and we’ve made our advancements as a result.) While I’m not a huge fan of this kind of deliberately singling out women over men, straight over gays, etc., protectionist marketing does have huge benefits toward a focused target. I know that for sure. I do it all the time.

And, let’s face it… women primarily buy the everyday items for home and family. In any relationship, female energy is the one putting on parties, serving as the hospitality contact, decorating, etc.. So, if you’ve got a winemaker as adorable as the Little Black Dress wine company, and you want to bring attention to that brand I say, go for it…

This brand clearly defines who they want to buy their wines (millennial females), and it’s just pure fun… Get over it, wine connoisseur fans, this one is NOT meant for you.

Headed toward a cocktail party or a bachelorette party… OMG, Little Black Dress.

Some important points to remember for this tasty, everyday wine…

  • Female winemaker… See that image above of a gorgeous woman? That’s the winemaker, Zidanelia.
    • I borrowed the image of Zidanelia from their Website.

Serious winemaker with great credentials… From their Website:

Given her exotic looks, adventurous resume and single-name appellation, you might think we made Zidanelia up, just for fun. But the talented winemaker behind Little Black Dress is remarkably real. Born in Texas, raised in Argentina, fluent in Spanish, English and a bit of French, Zidanelia earned an Argentinean National Diploma of Oenology while working in the Andes growing region.

She then served in the cellar at Les Vignerons du Pays d’Enserune in France before coming to California and joining Fetzer Vineyards in Hopland, where she is known simply as Z. Dedicated to the art of balance and complexity, Zidanelia and Little Black Dress are a perfect fit for each other.

My Jose  commented that their Website looks like an online woman’s magazine.

I completely agree. It’s all great marketing, and it’s all geared toward easy enjoyment of an every day wine.

Little Black Dress Wine has my vote. A Little Black Dress will always fit nicely into my closet (clothing and/or wine) for that perfect upcoming party.





Hyposmia ~ the aging palate

Probably not too many people in this lifetime want to admit that their palates are on the wane. No awards are given for fessing up, and it will definitely work in one’s disfavor, but I’ve always been one for telling it like it is, not like it isn’t… I just didn’t know there was a name for this life changing phenomenon.

I’ve got to thank Dan Berger for bringing it up years ago in his Vintage Experiences Commentary. I’ve been thinking about this. I even talked to a colleague about it, and he told me to just let it go because I have wisdom to offer… Yeah, right… but it’s just not the same.

I’m always ready to reinvent myself. As one part of me is left behind, I discover another. It’s in the not letting go of the old room that doesn’t allow for one to discover what’s in the new one.

So, let’s discuss… What’s Hyposmia, anyway?

hy·pos·mi·a (n.) A diminished or deficient sense of smell.

The good news for me is that I was born with a hypersensitive sense of smell, so I probably still have a better than “average” ability now. None-the-less, having my sense of smell diminish a bit causes me to wonder what happens to people who are born with an average sense of smell.

Like Alice, I’m off into a new room, exploring new things, and not letting one thing that slips ever-so-slowly away become a negative…

It’s just an opportunity for new things to come my way. For instance, I can go photograph a wine competition and bring back wonderful images, versus having to be the one where after a flight of wine, I’ve just lost it but must trudge on. (This image was taken at the Riverside Wine Competition in May 2007, thanks to the generosity of Dan Berger and Juliann Savage.)

I have something for my eyes (glasses), and even if someone invests something for my nose, I’m happy to smell a bit less… versus extending the length of my nose and its capabilities. Enough already!

It’s not the changes that happen in our lives that matter. It’s how we handle the changes that counts!

For Dan’s issue, please contact him thorough his Web site for his full story. It’s very enlightening, and he’s brave enough to put it out there. I’m just following his lead. I can’t call it an “opinion” because it’s got a medical name: Hyposmia.

This perhaps might explain to me, however, how Robert Parker can give (for instance) a 2004 Black Coyote Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon a score of 91, and write the following:

  • This deep ruby/purple-colored wine, made at the Judd’s Hill Winery and bottled by Robert Pecota winery, is outstanding. A beautiful, rich wine, it exhibits notes of black currant, licorice, underbrush, and subtle background oak. Medium to full-bodied, still very young and primary but very promising as well, this wine should age nicely for 12-15 years.

Then, another wine critic writes the following, with a score of 84:

  • Wholly absent of the polish and finesse that we associate with Stags Leap Cabernets, this brawny but soft-centered wine is singularly defined by ripeness, and its ongoing toughness and undisguised heat stand out for lack of buffering fruit.

Same bottle, two opinions.

And, thanks to Lewis Carroll for these wonderful images. Where would we all be in life without a little Alice in Wonderland!


Wine,Wine Blogger,Wine Country

The week my computer fried itself

This is the week my computer decided to fry itself.

Oh, yeah… All new start… All new programs. All new computer.

Whole new appreciation for when it’s going well. I also spent a lot of time in my organic garden, waiting for things to come together in my office, thanks to Jose.

This is a volunteer flower in my garden. It’s right smack dab in the middle of my strawberries. I feed the birds and this one planted itself. I thought I’d let it go, and this is what’s developing. It’s over six feet tall and still growing strong. It will be a trip to see birds feasting on it, coming full circle.

I’ve also been enjoying a shipment of Little Black Dress wines. I have a story about a little blue dress, but later… It’s late Thursday night, and I’ve had enough… Enough of a rough week, and I need to call it a night. I’m back on track is all I can utter.


Education,Organic,Wine,Wine Making

Understanding sulfites’ role in wines

Véronique Raskin and I have embarked on a journey that has to do with organic wines. And, we really got things going…. That I know for sure. When I saw a link coming in from Italy, I knew that this is huge.

Meanwhile, Véronique also knows that this is her moment to finally get out that which has been rattling around her brain since the 80s… At first, she was so gung-ho that someone was finally listening, that we just nailed it with a title that sent shock waves rippling, with The shocking truths behind organic wines in the United States… In that first installment came a bit of a stall. Véronique was not only going to disclose some long-held truths that hadn’t yet seen the light of day, be she was also realizing to do so, it must be handled delicately. The delicate part is what’s put it into a “how do I do this, so that only the truths will be revealed and remove all of the emotion?” She wants history, she doesn’t want to defame anyone or anything in the process.

So here we are. She’s got the next part of the story and has to edit it… I’ve got people greatly interested and I’m holding back the tide…

Which brings me to a great insert…

I just got the following Email, and I asked permission to use it for today’s blog from Jim Lapsley. Here it is.

Dear Jo,

I’m writing with a question and a comment.

The question:  When are we getting the rest of Véronique’s story?  Having been a participant in the early days of organic wine in California, and an acquaintance of Véronique’s, I am curious to read her version of past events.

The comment:  In response to a comment on the first story you wrote that “Sulfites are a natural occurrence on wine grapes” which really isn’t correct.  The grapes don’t produce sulfites and the sulfites aren’t on the grapes.  I think it is important to get this right especially if the discussion gets into sulfite additions. There is too much misinformation out there that we don’t need to add more.

Sulfites sometimes (although definitely not always) are produced in small quantities (10-20ppm) by yeast during alcoholic fermentation, although the sulfites quickly bind with oxygen and aldehyde so that the amount produced by yeast is not reactive.  Like most living organisms, grapevines produced amino acids for cell growth, and some amino acids (cystine, for instance) contain sulfur atoms.  If the cystine is broken down, the sulfur is released and can react, which is probably the source of sulfites (as well as hydrogen sulfide).

Using current analytical methods, the detectable level for sulfites in wine is about 5ppm (or was a decade ago).  When the sulfite labeling law was put into effect back in the 1980s, the limit was about 10ppm, which is why that number is listed as the action level in the labeling law.  During my roughly 10 years of organic wine production from 1991-2001, producing 3 to 4 red wines a year from organically grown grapes at Orleans Hill, I had my wines analyzed by ETS Labs in St. Helena in order to make label claims.  Every red wine came back “less than 5ppm”.  The wines may have had some sulfites–we can’t know–but if so, they were below level of detection.

I also made a no-sulfite added organic Chardonnay which was cold-fermented.  These wines always had some detectable sulfites following fermentation (although in most years the amount was below 10ppm–the highest was 23ppm one year).  I suspect, but don’t know, that the cold fermentation stressed the yeast, causing cystine breakdown and Sulfite formation.

My point in the above is that although it is true that yeast can produce sulfite in wine, yeast don’t always do so, so repeating the rather common assertion that sulfites naturally occur during fermentation is, at best misleading.

If you have any questions on the above, I’d be happy to respond.

I’m sending this to you via personal email, rather than as a post on your blog, because I respect you as an industry veteran and think this discussion is better conducted off-line.

Best regards,

Jim Lapsley

Additionally (second Email allowing me to use his information)…

Tony Norskog, who also produced “organic” (organically grown, no-sulfite added) wines (mostly for his “Daily Red” label) and who purchased the Orleans Hill brand from me when I quit commercial production in 2002, has even more years of experience producing organic wines than do I.  His experience is similar to mine in that the vast majority of his red wines contained “not detectable” levels of sulfites.  I am copying him on this email so that you will have Tony’s email, and perhaps Tony can add a bit of his own experience.

Certainly sulfites can be produced by yeasts (assuming there is a sulfur atom somewhere in the mix), but the assertion that this is usual is not born out in my experience, at least with red wines.  My colleagues at UCD sometimes still make the claim, and I generally ask “backed up with what data?”

Another issue, which hasn’t yet come up in the discussion, is the form of the sulfite.  SO2, when added to an acidic medium like wine, disassociates a proton (H+) so that most of the “sulfite” is in an ionic form and should be referred to as the “bisulfite ion.”   This is what winemakers refer to as “free SO2″ because it is “free” to react with compounds, such as aldehyde or oxygen.  Once it reacts, it forms a larger molecule of some kind (depending upon what it has bound with) and is referred to as “bound SO2.”  Together the “free” and the “bound” are referred to as “total” SO2, which is what the TTB wants measured.  Winemakers mostly want to know the level of free SO2, since that is what provides protection to the wine.  It is probably the free SO2 that people with asthma react to (although I am not sure of that and am not a medical doctor).

If yeast produce some SO2 during the fermentation process, which also produces lots of intermediate compounds on the road to converting sugar to alcohol, almost ALL of the SO2 produced by yeast quickly binds with other compounds.  That is why most winemakers add SO2 to wine once the fermentation is complete.

Who is Jim Lapsley and how we can trust his information?

(From a UC Davis pdf)

James Lapsley
Dr. Lapsley is an internationally known author, winemaker, and instructor. His main areas of research are the economics of wine production and marketing, and the history of California wine.  He is an Emeritus Continuing Educator, having retired from UC Davis University Extension in 2009. In retirement, he works 30 percent as a Researcher at the University of California’s Agricultural Issues Center and as an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis, where he
co-instructs a class on wine economics each spring.

Lapsley has authored Bottled Poetry, a history of the emergence of the Napa Valley as it evolved into California’s premiere wine region. He co-edited, along with Kirby Mouton, Successful Wine Marketing, which was awarded the OIV Grand Prize in 2001 for the Best Book on Wine Economics. From 1980 to 2002, Lapsley was President and Winemaker for Orleans Hill Winery, which specialized in wine produced from organically grown grapes. In 2003, he was a Fulbright Scholar in Uruguay, where he collaborated with faculty in the Schools of Chemistry and Agronomy to create a much-needed degree program in enology.

Since his retirement in 2009 from University Extension, Lapsley has been active in research on California wine economics and has authored or coauthored the following articles: “Grapevines of Innovation: Ozone as a Cleaning Agent in the California wine Industry” Calanit Baram, Jim Lapsley, Rolf Mueller, and Dan Sumner, Journal of Wine Economics, Vol. 7, #1, 2012; “Economics of Wine Import Duty and Excise Tax Drawbacks,” Daniel A. Sumner, James T. Lapsley, and John Thomas Rosen-Molina, Agricultural and Resource Economics Update, Giannini Foundation, Vol. 15, #4, May 2012; “The Introduction and Dispersal of Vitis Viniferainto California: A Case Study of the Interaction of People, Plants, Economics, and Environment,” in Biodiversity in Agriculture, Gepts et al., Cambridge University Press, 2012; “O’Neill Vintners,” case study and presentationfor the UC Davis College of Agriculture Agribusiness Executive Seminar, Monterey, March 5, 2012; “Too Much of a Good Thing? Causes and Consequences of Increases in Sugar Content of California WineGrapes,” Julian M. Alston, Kate B. Fuller, James T. Lapsley, and George Soleas, Journal of Wine Economics, Vol. 6, #2, 2011; “ Economic Implications of the Import Duty and Excise Tax Drawback for Wine Imported into the United States,” Daniel A. Sumner, James T. Lapsley, and John Thomas Rosen-Molina. Report by Agricultural Issues Center, August 20, 2011; “Looking Forward: Imagining the Market of California Wine in 2030,” Agricultural and Resource Economics Update, Giannini Foundation, Vol. 13, #6, July 2010 (Originally presented as a lecture at the pre-meeting symposium for the American Association of Wine Economists 4th Annual Meeting, Davis, CA, June 26, 2010). Lapsley is currently researching the first California wine boom of the 1880s as well as studying the life-cycle of wine firms from 1980 to 2010.


Wine,Wine Business,Wine Hospitality,Wine Magazine,Wine Writer

Marvin Shanken knows how and why to throw a party

Years ago, when I was working at WBLM radio in Portland, Maine, my boss Bob “Doc” Fuller had a once a year client party.

For me, this man set the gold standard in bosses among bosses. I’ve had plenty… the good, the bad, and the ugly. And, as someone once said to me as he was headed out the door, “Some you remember more than others.” Doc hit a high pinnacle and remains a dear friend in so many ways. It’s his generosity that defines him and keeps him in that spot in my heart and mind, as someone who was thoughtful, fair, and kind.

His client party was his way, once a year, to give back to those who had made him successful for one more year. Eve Rubins, his national sales manager who went on to become his general manager, was tasked at setting it all up, and she did a great job. I got to photograph each event. Jose got to be one of Bob’s on-air, shining stars. It was much ado about something very special.

The west coast has a version of that client party, and Marvin Shanken of Wine Spectator fame is the man who puts it on each year. After each event, when those in attendance begin to wax poetic in the afterglow, those who didn’t attend ask, “How do I get onto that list?” The answer is pretty simple… It’s a client party…

Just as Bob Fuller took care of his friends, so does Marvin Shanken.

Here’s how it went down for me, as I wanted to say thank you… And I did say thank you…

So, there stood Marvin Shanken, but I didn’t expect him to remember me. There’s so many of us… How could he remember us all, when he only comes to town one day a year?

But, that wasn’t going to stop me from interjecting. He was talking with Maryann Worobiec (wine writer and critic with Wine Spectator), and I adore her. The threesome also had Cheryl Lewis, a long time associate/friend for me, who sells advertising for Wine Spectator… It was a power house team, enjoying each other’s company.

Jo: “Excuse me, I just have to interject.”

Jo and Maryann: Hug, hug, kiss, kiss.

Marvin Shanken smilingly said to me: “Do you know who I am?”

Jo: “Yes, Mr. Shanken, I DO know who you are…” (With a smile and a twinkle in my eye.)

Marvin: “And who do you work for?”

Jo: Lots went through my head. “Do I tell him about PS I Love You? He’d get that in a heartbeat. No, I brought Ron Rubin’s wines with me, and he needs to hear Ron’s name…”

“I work for Ron Rubin.”

Marvin: His face and eyes lit up… “MY Ron Rubin?”

Jo: (Okay, this was going to be fun)… “No, he’s MY Ron Rubin. He’s been with The Republic of Tea and now he’s into wine.”

Marvin: “No, he’s MY Ron Rubin,”

Jo: “No, MY Ron Rubin.”

Marvin: “Ron and I go way back!”

Jo: Quizzical expression on my face said, and I asked , “Really?”

Marvin: “Yes, we go back 40+ years, when he was in the wholesale business.”

Jo: “Okay, you win. He’s YOUR Ron Rubin.”

It appears that my Ron Rubin also belongs to Marvin Shanken, and I wasn’t going to push that one any further uphill… It reached its destination.

My Ron Rubin also falls into the category of spectacular, so I’m not surprised that Marvin Shanken holds him close to his heart, too.

There’s a lot to be said for what Mr. Shanken does each year… He gives back to the community that supports him. This is what makes a huge difference between the good, the bad, and the ugly, for those of us who weren’t born independently wealthy, or for those of us whose parents blew the trust fund leaving us to our own devices…  When an employer shares his bounty each year, there’s more than enough admiration to go around and that’s why the Wine Spectator BYOM party “list” is admirable.

(BYOM = Bring Your Own Magnum)


Event,Food & Wine,Suisun Valley,Wine

Uncorked! in Suisun Valley continues on June 21, 2014

Uncorked! is happening in Suisun Valley, on Saturday evening this coming June 21, 2014. From 6:00 p.m. — 9:00 p.m. guests will be savoring Suisun Valley appellated wines… The Suisun Valley Vintners and Growers Association is hosting this event, at Il Fiorello Olive Oil Company.

This annual wine and food event features a wide selection of all Suisun Valley wines and gourmet foods.

Personally, because I began to work with this valley since it started to seriously market itself (in 2003), this is a growth that I’ve watched beyond anything that I could have imaged… Back then, there were only two wine companies, with everyone else being a grower, and only a handful of wines being appellated to Suisun Valley. The time was ripe to let the world know that they were down home people, neighboring Napa Valley in the southeast quadrant, if you searched for them on a map. With a climate that’s very typical of the southeastern part of Napa Valley, minus the hustle and bustle, this is “the” place to be on a Saturday evening for a homey food and wine event…

Local Honored Chefs:

  • Chef Peter Halikas, owner of Mankas Steakhouse
  • Chef Lindsey Gilpin, owner of Backdoor Bistro
  • Chef Salvio De Furia of Salvio on the Rock
  • Chef Marvin Martin of Il Fiorello

Menu Items:

  • Mushroom Empanadas with Guerro Style Corn and Green Salad
  • Pork Al Pastor Tacos with Cilantro Slaw and Roasted Salsa
  • Polenta with Duck Ragout and  Wild Boar Ragout
  • Whole Spit-roasted Lamb
  • Assorted flavors of Gelato


  1. Auburn James Winery
  2. Avenue Wine Company
  3. Farmers Jane Wine Company
  4. Galvan Family Vineyards
  5. Grapeheart Vineyards
  6. GV Cellars
  7. Il Fiorello
  8. King Andrews Vineyards
  9. Mangels Vineyards
  10. Rock Creek Vineyards
  11. Seven Artisans
  12. Stuessy Cellars
  13. Sunset Cellars
  14. Tenbrink Vineyards
  15. Vellum Wine Craft
  16. Vezer Family Vineyard
  17. Winterhawk Winery
  18. Wooden Valley Winery
  19. Winterhawk
  20. Vellum Wine Craft
  21. Farmers Jane Wine Company
  22. Auburn James Winery

Limited tickets are available, and they’re $50.00, with advanced purchase only, please.

Tickets can be purchased Il Fiorello Olive Oil Company , Wooden Valley Winery, and online at Brown Paper Tickets.

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Rock n'Roll,Wine

Devo Tour 2014, after Gerald Casale launches his new wine brand

Devo Tour 2014

Devo Tour 2014, comes right after Gerald Casale launched his new wine brand this past May 28, at the McLoughlin Gallery, in San Francisco, called The 50 by 50.

Devo, an American rock band formed in 1972, is made up of members from Kent and Akron, Ohio. The band included two sets of brothers, the Mothersbaughs (Mark and Bob) and the Casales (Gerald and Bob), along with Alan Myers. Tragically, Gerald lost his brother Bob on February 17, of this year. But the show must – and will – go on with a 2014 tour. Launching on June 18, at Rams Head in Baltimore, Maryland, the band plans on…

This international tour is intended to raise funds for Bob Casales family… for his wife and two children.

Bob Casale ~ July 14, 1952 to February 17, 2014. Casale died of heart failure in Los Angeles on February 17, 2014. He’s survived by his brother Gerald, wife Lisa, and two children (Alex and Samantha).

Here’s a lineup of venues, for anyone wanting another round of Devo, and wanting to support this artist’s family…  a tribute to a very talented man…

THE 50 BY 50

How I came to know about all of this was by being invited to a launch of Gerald Casale’s new wine company project: THE 50 BY 50

ABOUT THE 50 BY 50 from their press release:

Since Pinot Noir grapes don’t thrive in Napa’s Wooden Valley, THE 50 BY 50 went to the best location nearby to purchase the fruit where they do thrive–the Sonoma Coast. Gerald explains, “Our ambitious five-year plan for releasing our first vintage of complex, Bordeaux-style Estate wine is on course. Meanwhile, to launch our 50 by 50 brand, we are offering the 2012 Pinot Noir and 2013 Rose of Pinot Noir as our debut releases.

The fruit for both wines was grown and harvested at Rodger’s Creek, in the Sonoma Coast AVA (American Viticultural Area). Rodger’s Creek vines are 12 years old. The soils are a Kidd stony loam and our grapes came from vines on an approximately nine percent slope at an elevation of 675 feet.” The anchor of THE 50 BY 50 vision and its namesake rests in the creation of its estate house, a realization of a never-built architectural masterpiece known as the “50 by 50” designed over 60 years ago by the pre-eminent, 20th Century Modernist architect Mies Van Der Rohe.

When Jose and I arrived at the McLoughlin Gallery, we were both stuck by the unusual art. This particular piece spoke to me because I am so disappointed by today’s American fast food scene. It has fattened America, left so many undernourished and physically impaired, and it’s not getting any better. It’s getting much worse with the introduction of genetically modified foods. The maladies of today are NOT the maladies that I grew up with… but, after spending $10,000 in one year alone, to get to the bottom of two of my daughters constant stomach pain… and linking back to the introduction of GMO products…  Oh my gawd, oh my gawd, oh my gawd…  Jose asked about the piece and we learned that Gerald Casale had just purchased that piece and this is how this venue was chosen to launch his brand 50 by 50.

I knew I was going to like Gerald Casale…

I’ll always be here to help a rocker gone winer. This is the first, interestingly, who’s actually acknowledged my existence, to the point of inviting me to an event. Jose and I trotted off to San Francisco, with me thinking I’d see a ton of my wine writing buddies… I was aghast to not find one other single wine writer or blogger at the event. I was fine with that, but it just amazed me that I had somehow gotten inside of something so special, without the rest of the wine writing community flocking to an art gallery to enjoy fine wine, a proprietor, and some very unusual art objects. Telling Jose that I didn’t understand how I ‘d gotten onto the guest list in the first place… It’s a normal thing to wonder when you have no connections… Jose asked the PR pro Libby Coffey, “How did you come to invite Jo?”

Without even batting an eyelash, she answered, “Because Jo’s cool!” Okay, I’ll take that. Someone had done her homework, and understood my passion, when I thought no one was looking…

Speaking with Gerald, I realized how special he is. When he said why he was going on tour, my heart went out to him. I hadn’t realized that his brother’s passing was so current, as I now know. I’m so sorry that his family has to experience this… Someone so young and talented… just gone.  He told us that he loves being on stage performing. He’s one of those performers who’s genuinely in love with making others happy, and so he continues to love the limelight… A pied piper who now brings the wine to the party as well as the music.

Instruments: vocals, synthesizer, bass, guitar, and keyboards: The complete package with a kind heart…