Green Valley,Photographers,Pinot Noir,Russian River Valley,Sonoma County,Tour,Travel,Vineyards,Vintner,Wine,Winemaker,Winery,Zinfandel

Exclusively Yours ~ Square Peg ~ Once in a Lifetime Winery

Travel with me on the Graton Road, in Green Valley of Russian River Valley. We’re heading toward the Forest Primeval. And, we’re feeling pretty much the way Yegor Chernykh must have felt, in 1836.

Who was Yegor, you ask? An excellent question…

Yegor was a Russian Agronomist, sent from his homeland to the new world. He was tasked with looking for the perfect place to establish a farm. Once there, his next focus was to cultivate food supplies for Alaskan fur trappers and settlements. Many of the Russians had migrated down the Pacific Coastline, always looking for sea otters. Fruits and vegetables weren’t indigenous yet, and Yegor was eager to find the “perfect spot” to begin gardening.

SIDEBAR: This, my friends, is how Russian River Valley got its name… It was Yegor Chernykh who established the first vineyard and cultivated glens in what’s now called the Green Valley of Russian River Valley.

[The following images have been taken by world class photographer Jerry Dodrill. Only the bottle shot above is mine.]


Now, travel with me along Stoetz Lane, continuing through Green Valley. We’re still heading toward the Square Peg Estate Dry Farmed Vineyard and tasting room/art gallery. And, we’re feeling pretty much the way Yegor Chernykh must have felt, in 1836. But this time, we’ve seen the glens and we’re ascending into the adjacent Redwood Forest. We’re climbing ever higher, with each breath.

Yegor was clearly on to something, as the handful of vineyards located in this micro-section of Green Valley has become a ground zero, of sorts, for some of the most highly sought after Pinot Noir grapes in the world.

Who is Square Peg Winery, you ask? Another excellent question…

First of all… The wines for this winery are Estate grown and dry farmed, and they’re world class… Next?

It’s Brad Alper, wife Alanna Roth, and son Alex Alper’s mountainside ridge winery… They took the road less traveled, and settled to an elevation of 800 feet, on Stoetz Lane… Only eith miles from the Pacific Ocean, you feel those cool Pacific breezes filtering in. And, it’s so peaceful, that they offer their utopia to anyone who wants an adventure, a one-on-one experience with the family.

The name “Square Peg” came to painter and sculptress Alanna, when she and Brad were brainstorming on what to call their new venture. They wanted something easily remembered and vibrant. Square Peg came up, because it’s easily relateable. Who among us hasn’t felt like a square peg at some point, right?

SIDEBAR: This, my friends, is how dry farmed Square Peg Winery got its name.

The greatest asset that Square Peg Winery possesses is that it’s a micro experience, a one-on-one in their tasting room and art gallery. It has a maximum of only 25 people per day, with most parties being the only ones there, at their time of visit. Meeting with the owners gives anyone great stories and memories. Sharing the room with incredible art smooths out the experience. While Brad has said that it’s not all about the wine at Square Peg, a quick Google search on William Knuttel, Square Peg’s celebrated winemaker, tells you that they in fact began their journey with the wine, so that any visit is seamlessly wonderful.

Brad Alper (former commercial, international pilot), his wife Alanna Roth (artist, including glass and sculpting), and their son Alex Alper (working on his Master’s Degree) have a gorgeous location on a ridge side location. I thought I’d share their tasting room/art gallery with you, in the event you could use a breath of fresh air today. This is a very special location. Brad has told me so many times, the letters he gets from people who have visited with him… yeah, he’s going to be the one to tell everyone about their passion as a small vintner family… are simply glowing. With only a capacity of 25 people, and their location being a “destination” ~ not a winery along a wine road with other wine neighbors ~ most people have the place to themselves. They walk away in awe, as I did the first time we went to his tasting room. Check them out…

Imagine yourself with your friends and the family in this setting, tasting delicious wines crafted by winemaker guru William “Bill” Knuttel.


Jo's World,Sierra,Wine

A Howling Wolf in Murphys

Years ago, I worked for Ironstone Vineyards. The following story is one of my favorite memories, while working in the Sierra Mountain region. It all happened in Calaveras County.

It was a two and a half year gig. I intuitively knew going into it that it would only last two years. It managed to squeak it out to two and a half years, with the last six months really squeaking along… except for that howling wolf night. Perhaps that’s why I had to stay for the last six months, to live and tell this memorable story.

I’d travel from Sonoma County to Murphys, California, a town that was 185 miles away. I’d stop in Lodi first, getting some work done in their Central Valley office, then keep going… arriving by late afternoon. It would take me six hours to finally get there (all miles completed of the 185 one way). I’d finish my day in Murphys, and then spend the next day in the Sierras, before driving back home. I was devoted to my job, even though I was from “away,” something that I learned about – being from “away,” while living in Maine… If you’re from away, you’re always going to be the square peg in the round hole. I was definitely a square in that Sierra setting… but, still, I always dreamed about being a cowgirl, giving it my best shot and living it, if only for the moment.

At Christmas, I was one of those kids who asked for a pony and dreamed of one day owning a cowgirl hat. (I did finally get the cowgirl hat, but gave it away during a later wine tour, from Fort Worth to Chicago on Creative Charter’s passenger train).

My most amazing cowgirl moment came one of those last nights in Murphys… Call it an omen of things soon to come, call it the magic of the full moon, call it anything you’d like… I call it a howling good memory.

[I was staying in the middle room of this picture, on the second floor. Image is from the Wikimedia Commons.]

After a day of driving, working, coming into Murphys (a cowgirl and cowboy town), I went to the winery to work even more. Once I got everything put into place at the winery, I checked into the Murphys Hotel… Just like always. I preferred the front room, at the end of the hallway, to the right. The room has French doors that open to the street below. It’s a street that’s still as narrow as it was in those Wild West days… It’s just wide enough for a couple of horses to be tied up to some post ~ standing tail to tail on opposite sides of the street from each other… like only 30 feet wide. The shops are still all relatively small, and I got to know people in most stores. It was very fun to explore, and I’ll always be thankful for that experience, because going back in time is such a hoot.

That front room could be a good thing or bad thing, and it mostly depended on mood. Sometimes I minded that a saloon was directly below me. Other times it didn’t bother me. I learned with this room that there’s a frenetic energy going on when you’re directly above that old saloon… in a cowboy town that’s not much changed since the Gold Rush. The Murphys Hotel was built in 1856.

I’d sit at the table between the glass doors and write things important to me at the time…

How many of us can say they’ve been there, done that? Well, Ulysses S. Grant, Thomas Lipton, JJ Astor, Samuel Pillsbury, William Randolph Hearst, Daniel Webster, J. Pierpont Morgan, John Crocker, Mark Twain, Black Bart, Susan B. Anthony, John Wayne, Sunny Ficus (if they could talk), and I can say it. Murphys Hotel’s history does tell it all.

Each night I’d head to the dining room for dinner. I had now been there long enough to know how to order my dinner. And, I had reduced it down to its least common denominator, proving I could be just like, if not worse, than Meg Ryan in “When Harry Met Sally.” You know that part when she ordered her food. Here is what I’d mostly order, because this is what I’d come to love on their menu…

I’ll have your fried chicken dinner, but I only want two pieces of chicken instead of your usual four. I don’t want to waste any. And…. I’ll have only one scoop of the rice, because – again – I don’t want to waste half of it. Please hold the veggies, because the salad I’m having is taking care of my vegetables… (The salad came with the dinner, so one-way-or-the-other, my veggies were covered.)

And, a glass of wine, I’d say.

My dish affectionately became known as “Señor Chicken.” One night I got my bill and it read, “Senor Chicken.” I thought to myself, “Señor chicken? What an odd name for a dish to be called.” Then, it struck me…. senior chicken, as in a small portion for the elderly. I laughed all the way back to Sonoma County.

So, this one night after my Señor Chicken, when I was getting close to my last days there and had gone through the entire routine I’ve just given to you, I headed to my room. I never did hang out in the saloon, unless Ironstone was having a meeting – like during the national sales meeting. I’ve never needed to connect with anyone in a saloon. I did go down briefly on occasion to get a glass of mineral water… Lightweight in a saloon…

After dinner, I returned to my room… No TV, no clock, no phone at the time, and a washroom down the hall…. is what any of us got. It was a full moon night, warm enough to throw open my French doors. I read while the noise of the bar below grew to its nightly crescendo with people and a band, then slowly it faded away to the point of complete silence. I fell asleep in the middle of this night somewhere in the process.

Then, while the town was quiet enough to hear a pin drop onto the street below my balcony… I heard a howling off in the distance. It was far, far away; so far even that I felt the animal totem energy arrive before the actual sound… All the same, I heard it enough to awaken from a sound sleep.

Slowly and surely it became louder, the energy coming ever closer… howling at the moon, screaming at the tar beneath the pads of its feet, digging in with its claws to get better traction, coming ever closer. I was frozen… just frozen, now asking myself, “Why didn’t you get out of bed to see it?” But, I couldn’t move… my eyes were as wide as they could be. My heart was pounding, the sound passed right under my window. I was no more than 20 feet from it, and then it receded, much more quickly than it came… And I was just simply in awe of being that close to something that played itself out like that, and could now only be recreated in Hollywood… I’m thinking there’s got to be a Western with something similar to this story.

But, who can tell it now…

In days gone by, any of these people could have told stories about their night at the Murphys Hotel ~ Ulysses S. Grant, Thomas Lipton, JJ Astor, Samuel Pillsbury, William Randolph Hearst, Daniel Webster, J. Pierpont Morgan, John Crocker, and Mark Twain. I’m sure orally, most of them did, if even in passing comments….

Now that I think back on The Murphys Hotel’s history, which had lots of historical pictures on the walls and rooms with the timely notable names of those above, all of these people, and I having stayed at this hotel, have been able to tell stories about it.

Me… I can tell it now and join the ranks of others who have talked about the Murphys Hotel…

“Nice company,” said she, and no glass of wine to nod off, did I have. This wasn’t a mirage.
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Bianca Bosker’s “Cork Dork” Book Signing at Silverado Vineyards

I’m in the middle of reading Bianca Bosker’s “Cork Dork” right now and loving it, said she with no doubts that I’ll also write a review for it.

Recently, a review in a major newspaper had a review of the book, and it wasn’t anything like what I’ll be writing. I’m writing from inside the wine business; not from inside a critic’s mind. One of my Somm pals read the review and felt that reading it might not be worth it. My initial response was, “That’s too bad.” Then, I thought about it deeper, as everyone decided to support the SOMM’s thinking, without having read the book. One person had, and being Napa-centric, I expected exactly what he had written… although I didn’t agree with him.

I followed that with: I’ve begun reading the book, and I told my husband, “yeah, right, what else could possibly be new?” I got sucked in on page i of the Introduction last night… sucked in. It was hard to put down, and didn’t until my dream state was intersecting my reading state. I’m back for my next evening’s readings. I’m acutely aware that critics take that word “critic” as a statement of — ergo, I must criticize. Bianca Bosker is a very clever wordsmith, who is writing the memories of her journey. I’m not a critic, I’m an observer who is looking for a fun read. So far, so good. The end of my journey with Cork Dork will be on my wine blog. Let’s just say, I’ve already got a lot of pages flagged. Whatever her journey, right now I’m all in.

I continued: I’ll let you know. It’s about her journey for being a techie into the world of NYC Somms. Honestly, whatever she’s selling as her own experiences… in that loony town… are most likely real. I wonder if the critic is a Somm?

Then, my thoughts were defended by one more person: Judging from Jo’s report, it sounds like the primary reason this book exists is to entertain, and more power to the publisher and author for that. As I mentioned elsewhere, the distortion of wine information is nothing new in this type of medium. Positive may come out of the fact that many readers may be drawn to wine who otherwise may not have. Yeah, it’s uncomfortable, but I do like the plus side.

It sounds like a fun day in Napa to me!

This is CORK DORK author’s only Napa Valley event on book tour

From press release

Bianca Bosker, the author of CORK DORK: A Wine-Fueled Adventure Among the Obsessive Sommeliers, Big Bottle Hunters and Rogue Scientists Who Taught Me to Live for Taste, will be featured at Silverado Vineyards on April 2. Ms. Bosker will read from her new book, answer questions, and sign copies of the book, which will be available for sale. Full of amazing stories, incredible facts, and scientific research, CORK DORK is a charming, informative memoir that digs deep into how improving our senses can help create a more colorful life. CORK DORK has received early praise from among others, Jay McInerney, who called CORK DORK a “brilliant feat of screwball participatory journalism,” and Susan Orlean, who called it “smart and sharply observed … a marvelous journey through the mad, manic, seductive subculture of wine and wine lovers.”

The event, which begins at 2:00 p.m. and ends at 4:00 p.m., is gratis and open to the public. RSVPs are required, to events@silveradovineyards.com; questions to 707/259-6644.

The winery is located at 6121 Silverado Trail in Napa just south of Yountville. Guests will enjoy a tasting of current releases.

Bianca Bosker is an award-winning journalist who has written about food, wine, architecture, and technology for The New Yorker online, The Atlantic, T: The New York Times Style Magazine, Food & Wine, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian and The New Republic. The former executive tech editor of The Huffington Post, she is the author of the critically acclaimed book Original Copies: Architectural Mimicry in Contemporary China. She lives in New York City.

The account of her year-and-a-half journey, CORK DORK: A Wine-Fueled Adventure Among the Obsessive Sommeliers, Big Bottle Hunters, and Rogue Scientists Who Taught Me to Live for Taste (Penguin Books Original; ISBN: 9780143128090; On-sale: March 28, 2017; $17.00) takes the reader inside underground tasting groups, a Burgundy bacchanal, Michelin-starred restaurants, an fMRI machine, and more as Bosker strives to make sense, once and for all, of our complicated relationship with fermented grape juice.

Compulsively readable, fascinating, and a hilarious exploration of the wine world, CORK DORK includes: Bosker’s training for and entry into the country’s oldest sommelier competition, with hilariously disastrous results (though she does eventually become certified); behind-the-scenes looks at two elite Manhattan restaurants, where she trailed sommeliers and watched the complicated dance of service and hospitality unfold and the science behind how we can improve our senses of taste and smell, and thereby live more richly

More Americans are drinking wine than ever before, yet the rituals, customs, and language around it are as rarefied and opaque as ever, leaving many of us wondering what all the fuss is about. What makes the bottle I bought for last week’s dinner party “bad?” Are sommeliers just pretentious, glorified salespeople, or can they actually taste things like pyrazine and honeysuckle in wine? And why do so many people devote their lives (or life savings) to experiencing minute differences in flavor that most of us can’t even perceive, let alone appreciate? These were some of the questions obsessing Bianca Bosker when she decided to give up her job as executive tech editor at the Huffington Post in favor of tasting wines at 8 a.m., lifting and sorting heavy bottles as a “cellar rat” in one of Manhattan’s top restaurants, and foregoing coffee, spicy foods, and sometimes even toothpaste in order to taste better.


Penguin Random House, the world’s largest trade book publisher, is dedicated to its mission of nourishing a universal passion for reading by connecting authors and their writing with readers everywhere. With nearly 250 independent imprints and brands on five continents, Penguin Random House comprises adult and children’s fiction and nonfiction print and digital trade book publishing businesses in more than 20 countries worldwide, including the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, China, India, South Africa, Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Peru, Portugal, and Uruguay. With over 15,000 new titles, and close to 800 million print, audio and eBooks sold annually, Penguin Random House’s publishing lists include more than 60 Nobel Prize laureates and hundreds of the world’s most widely read authors.


In 1981, Ron and Diane Miller established Silverado Vineyards to make wine from the historic vineyards of their estate. Napa pioneers first planted these ranches to vines between 1865 and 1895. Each vineyard played an important role in establishing the reputation of their growing area: Carneros, Coombsville, Yountville, Soda Creek Canyon and Stags Leap District. The beautiful fruit from these six vineyards is the exclusive source of Silverado Vineyards’ Estate and Single Vineyard wines – the Miller family’s highest expression of the Napa Valley they love and admire.

The winery offers The Estate Tour and Tasting (based at the winery); The Silverado Experience (based at the winery); Library Tasting (at the winery) and The Saddle Block Tasting (a private vineyard tour and tasting), by reservation, at vinovisit.com/partners/silverado-vineyards/.

The winery has recently redesigned its labels. Annabel Rey, the eldest granddaughter of Diane Disney Miller & Ron Miller and eldest great-granddaughter of Walt Disney, created a new line drawing of the winery in 2006 on the occasion of the winery’s 25th anniversary. She recently revised the artwork and it now appears on the 2015 Chardonnay and soon, on the 2016 Sauvignon Blanc, 2014 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and 2014 Merlot.



Alentejo,Jo's World,Portugal

Évora, oh Évora…

Anything, everything, all of the time… I left a chunk of my heart in the Alentejo.

Just search on Alentejo, or Portugal, on my wine blog.

Sadly, the second trip (media) that came as an opportunity, I had just booked another flight, and missed the boat (plane). But I was already committed. Someday, I will return to gather more tales… Just search on http://www.wine-blog.org

Évora, oh Évora…

If everah there was a place

In my heart,

To fill that empty hole

One day you stole,

It would be filled with

Returning to you, oh Évora!

Yeah, it’s like that…


Chardonnay,Environment,Event,innovation,Millennials,Wine,Wine Cans

How Do You Feel About Wine Cans?

Wine Cans ~ First and Foremost

Waxing poetic from my own experiences of pitching the concept. As a PR person, I’m finding that wine writers haven’t quite bought into the concept yet, except – that is – for the early adopters. But… BIG but… this is normal and typical for how new concepts – in anything – develop. So, I’m not surprised.

When I saw my first wine in cans EVER, it was the Francis Ford Coppola “Sophia.” I thought, “What a gimmick.” (I wasn’t an early adopter at that time.)

Then, they’ve been creeping into the market place, and they’re not going away. When we look at how many brands there are now, the convenience (for me, thinking around the pool with the recycle bin close by) I’ve become sold. One by one, people will become sold. There’s room for Chateau Margaux, and there’s room for wine in cans.

Just look at this graph! Nielsen has done the research, and what more evidence does anyone need? Just look at this Nielsen chart.

Wine Cans ~ Factoids

In a can, it’s all about convenience, especially when it comes to outdoor activities. This is why, for instance, the topic will be heating up (sorry for the pun, not sorry) this summer, once again.

Someday most of us will all look back and wonder what was the big deal? (Plastic corks, stelvin closures, glass corks, et al.)

Not intended to be a Millennial thing, per se; although, Millennials are still very exploratory and are the age demographic to be more open to anything new. They’ve all recently left home and are out on their own, mostly bucking “the establishment.” Their enjoying wine in a can certainly says, “This is NOT your daddy’s wine,” right?

As we head toward spring (yeah, I, too, have cabin fever), I’m forward thinking.

Here’s the deal… How many people watch sports? How many people don’t watch sports? Probably half and half? Not sure.

I’m in the latter group, because sports for me is getting up and doing yoga most mornings, and I know I’m really in the minority with that one. And so are those who are watching sports with friends, a partner, at a sports party, etc., with a wine glass in their hand, while everyone else has a beer can.

Sailing image copyright: dolgachov / 123RF Stock Photo

Wine Cans ~ Examples of Use

  • Any and all sporting events
  • Tailgate parties, before events start
  • Team championships ~ the most fun
  • Sailing the open seas
  • Perfect for Barbecues
  • Hiking along the coastline
  • Fits well into beach coolers
  • Poolside convenience
  • Festivals for carry in and carry out
  • Camping with no muss – no fuss
  • Picnic baskets will never be the same
  • Skiing, I have one friend who loves them on the slopes (Will they replace the St. Bernard?)

Wine Cans ~  Safety

Then, there’s always those who wonder if these cans are safe. It’s okay, the same held true for beer cans, ever so long ago. I’ve got that covered for you, too:

  • Cans designed to carry wine have the highest of standards in the canning of wine process
  • They have a special internal coating seal for high-quality wines
    • Insures integrity and a shelf-life of at least twelve months
    • They’re air-tight, preventing oxidation of any sort
    • They’re light-proof, also preventing oxidation

And how about the environment?

  • Endlessly recyclable, with no loss to its quality
  • Space efficiency
  • Wine in 187 ml cans produces fewer transport related CO2 emissions than other packaging formats,
    • This includes all larger size cans

Wine Cans ~ A Client

Since I work with The Rubin Family of Wines (they have the 187 ml cans), I’ve learned how cute, these cans are. In fact, that’s when The Rubin Family of Wines decided to use Pam’s Un-Oaked Chardonnay in those little ones, when someone called them a “cutie,” the name stuck as Pam’s Cuties. They fit right into the palm of your hand. Too much fun!


Entertainment,Environment,Event,Wine,Wine Country

Zebras have no stripes; it’s a lie perpetrated by the media!

[PHOTO Gratis: Safari West,  taken by Judy Bellah]

For those of you who love wine country’s other charms…

On April Fools’ Day – Saturday, April 1st – Safari West is playing around and putting a different spin on their Safari Tours. They all felt that it’s a good time to clown around and have some fun. They’ve invited some special Sonoma County celebrities to get in on the silliness. One of them will be your escort, and that person will assist their tour guides for the safari. (They’re even including a few jokes to make their animals smile!)

On safari you’ll see creatures of all stripes, spots and colors, gathered there in a natural sanctuary of inclusion. It doesn’t matter how fast they run, how long their fur, whether they can fly, climb, or just lope. All creatures, great, small, pawed, clawed or hoofed, live and play side by side by side; where seldom is heard a discouraging word and the skies are not cloudy all day (unless it’s raining, of course).

On this tour, you’re sure to learn some wild and bold alternative facts! Giraffes are not tall; lemurs are actually taller. Sloths are much faster than cheetahs. Zebras have no stripes, impalas were named after the car, and much more!

The adventure will continue until you arrive at the Watusi Overlook. There, take a break from the all the untamed hubbub, sit back and relax, pop a few corks, and enjoy some honest cheese and small bites, along with a smashing tasting of genuine wines.

They’re dubbing the tour ‘Alternative Facts Day’ – made up facts – wild and bold as possible! And, it’s all for a good cause – Celebrating Diversity in our Community. The celebrities will choose an organization in Sonoma County to receive a donation. It is a diverse world after all!

It’s long overdue that you should learn the real facts… giraffes sleep 15 hours per day lying on their backs with their legs sticking up in the air!

Happy April Fools’ Day!


Wine,Wine 101,Wine Country,Wine Education

Kids in Wine Country, Bring Them On!

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

Winery Tour Guide

You realize, there are a lot of kids who live in wine country, right? Many of them are born into the wine world, so wine is NOT the forbidden fruit, nor is it something to avoid like the plague… “No Johnny, you CAN’T be around wine while we’re learning about it, so go get another life!” Yeah, it’s not like that at all, and I’ve seen a ton of kids with their parents, and it makes me happy.

Case in Point

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lots of applause, winking, and smiles.

Ah… we dodged the bullet!

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

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

It’s amazing what a little spotlight can do… And who knew that I just love kids!


AVA,Cabernet Sauvignon,Event,Napa,Stags Leap District,Wine

Stags Leap District Vineyard to Vintner 2017

This is an unparalleled Stags Leap District wine experience. Stags Leap is an iconic American appellation, with legendary history, a vibrant future, distinctive Cabernets as Napa’s neighborhood for world class wines.

[Pine Ridge Vineyards]

Last year, we attended this event and were stuck by the quality and attentiveness of each vintner and winemaker. Pictures from last year are included in this story, so you have a feeling for its flavor…

  • Vineyard to Vintner ~ Celebrating Napa Valley’s Stags Leap District ~ Part 1
  • Magic Cellar Rendezvous ~ Celebrating Napa Valley’s Stags Leap District ~ Part 2

Their annual Vineyard to Vintner weekend shares the best that they have for an unparalleled experience, with owner and winemaker participation in private homes and historic wineries, glorious vineyards and billowing mountain ranges. Experience barrel and bottle tastings, inspired cuisine, and lively conversation… Backstage and personal. Join the fun!

The Stags Leap District (from their Website)

The iconic American Stags Leap District Viticultural Area (AVA) is located on the eastern edge of Napa Valley, among the foothills of the Vaca Mountain Range. Barely one mile wide and three miles long, this tiny region – the smallest AVA in Napa Valley – is critically acclaimed for its distinctive, powerful and elegant Cabernet Sauvignon. With a unique growing climate, the rocky palisades to the east capture and focus daytime heat while funneling Pacific breezes down the hillsides to cool the vines at night. This climatic condition along with the region’s volcanic soils of bale loam overlay uniquely proved the area was qualified for AVA designation which was approved in 1989.

[Doug Shafer, Shafer Vineyards]

Stags Leap History

Stags Leap District has been a grape-growing region since the mid-1800s, though the first Cabernet Sauvignon vines
were not planted until 1961 by Nathan Fay. His fruit was in high demand and sourced by winemakers throughout the
early 1970s. In 1976, the famed Tasting of Paris catapulted the region into the global spotlight when French judges
awarded a 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon from Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars first place over legendary Bordeaux producers.
Ten years later when the same wines were tasted blind a second time top honors again went to a Stags Leap wine –
the 1972 Clos du Val Cabernet Sauvignon. Today, approximately 90% of the 1,200 acres currently planted to
grapevines are Cabernet Sauvignon or other Bordeaux varietals.

Stags Leap District Vineyard to Vintner 2017 Details

  • Exclusive Vintner-Hosted Library Wine Dinners: Friday, April 28, 2017 ~ 6:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. (For Consumers)
  • Back-Stage Open Houses: Saturday, April 29, 2017 ~ 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (For Consumers and Media)
  • Vintner-Hosted Lunch and Appellation Collection Tasting: Sunday, April 30, 2017 ~  11:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. (For Consumers and Media)

[Left: Winemaker Elizabeth Vianna of Chimney Rock ~ Right: Jo Diaz]

Tickets and Additional Information

Tickets went on sale, February 14, 2017.  You can find more information and purchase tickets, at StagsLeapDistrict.com/V2V. Price ranges:

  • Signature Wine Weekend for Two packages are available for $339 which includes
    • two passes for all three days of the event
    • the limited 2014 Appellation Collection of 17 handcrafted 2014 SLD designated Cabernet Sauvignons each signed exclusively by the vintners
    • one Solle two-bottle jacquard and leather embossed wine tote.
  • $690 for a three-day pass
  • $545 for a two-day pass (Friday/Saturday)
  • $340 for a two-day pass (Saturday/Sunday)
  • $195 for a Saturday single-day pass.

More information can be found at StagsLeapDistrict.com/V2V.



Books,Petite Sirah,Russian River Valley,Wine

White with Fish, Red with Murder ~ a novel by Harley Mazuk

White with Fish, Red with Murder, by Harvey Mazuk, is a murder mystery set in San Francisco and Russian River Valley in 1948. Harley Mazuk’s novel is one where you imagine Art Deco influences, with Humphrey Bogart (playing P.I. Frank Swiver) and Lauren Becall (Cicillia “Cici” O’Callaghan, as a brunette) getting it on in more ways than one. He calls her “doll,” she a vixen who’s sassy as all get out, and the intrigue, suspense, and sensuality draw you in… in this who done it, and why it’s been done to whom novel.

Does it help that it’s set in my neighborhoods? Yes, completely for me, while it will educate others to wine country, California Bay Area style.

SAN FRANCISCO: We who live here are familiar with all of the neighborhoods and can visualize every step. Those who don’t live here can gain a few insights into neighborhoods; but, one must also go back in time.

WINE COUNTY: Russian River Valley ~ I drive down all of these roads every day I’m out and about. Wohler Road? Com’mon, the Russian River just majorly flooded this past February, and we had to go around to get to River Road to make appointments. I used to work on Westside Road, so it’s easy to visualize, as I still travel on it. Healdsburg, many of you who come to Sonoma County know it well. Forestville, Bodega Bay ~ he’ll take you there, I’ll see you there.

Even though Harley Mazuk was born in Cleveland and now lives in Maryland; he knows these neighborhoods well, though, while he shares his love for California wines (and the business life-style side of it, shaped into this well-crafted novel).

[Picture taken on Patrick Henry’s Creative Charter train, while traveling with Petite Sirah producers, on the Blue Tooth Tour. Left to right: Patrick Henry, Bob Swain – Parducci Cellars, Richard Paul Hinkle – wine writer, Louis Foppiano – Foppiano Vineyards.]

Classic Noir Detective Story

Does it help that part of the story is set on a train (today they’re all vintage cars), with a sleeper seven cabins, six of  which each have an adjoining room to a neighbor, with one master suite in the middle of all the rooms on that car for a principle character? That it’s all about wine, vineyards, and sales people? Yes, because I’ve been there and done it all. Harley does a great job of describing all of these aspects in his story. I’ve lived all of it, except the who-done-it-part. (I escaped that one – literally, and it just all came flooding back.)

In this story, Frank Swiver accepts an invitation by a wealthy wine connoisseur to attend a tasting in this rail road car, and the intrigue begins.

Pages Marked ~ Do you also make note of quotes?

Petite Sirah

Right away, page 17, Petite Sirah is brought up in the following way: “No one knows what year it [blackbird] first appeared. But the grapes it watches over are the best in California, year after year. Zinfandel, petite sirah, Alicante, carignane – that’s nero misto, you know? The fruit ripens slowly and late, and it is so rich and concentrated, so dark, and so good. The room was quiet.”

And, Petite Sirah comes up again in the end.

“The sparkling wine was gone. I had bought a couple of dozen bistro glasses for the guest, and I circulate among the guests, pouring the first two wines. One was a petite sirah from the Spring Mountain area of Napa and the other pure Alicante Bouschet, from a low-rent district.” p. 320

Philosophical Moments

Oscar Wilde quote, a reminder of a bio I was assigned to write, so many years ago: “All of us are lying in the gutter, but some of us are looking up at the stars.”  p.286 (That’s the dark Oscar I remember.)

Nietzsche: “The irrationality of a thing is no argument against its existence, rather a condition of it.” p.335 (A condition of today, to help me stay on an even keel.)

Final thought… for the record

White with Fist, Red with Murder heralds the beginning of a stimulating new series… Thank the good lord for that, because as you realize you’ve just read the final words, you’re already hankering for more.

Publisher: Driven Press



2017 Rutherford Dust Society ~ Save the Date, and Their Leaders

Save the Date

Friday, May 19 and Saturday, May 20 ~ “Rutherford Wine Experience” Consumer Event ~ Tickets will be on sale soon!

The Wine Experience is RDS’s major consumer-focused event for Rutherford. This year’s Experience will include a Friday night VIP reception, multiple educational sessions on Saturday morning, and a new addition to the event called the Rutherford Round-Up, which will take place on Saturday afternoon. The Round-Up is a multi-winery tasting opportunity for customers that will be held at a central location, rather than at individual wineries.

Come experience the real Rutherford. Meet Rutherford winemakers and winery owners at the VIP welcome reception, choose 2 experiential education seminars for Saturday morning, and kick up the Rutherford Dust with us on Saturday at the Round-Up! Starting at 1pm on Saturday, we’ll have a live band, barrel demonstration, local artists, and our favorite food trucks with food available for purchase. You won’t find this many wine and food experiences in one place anywhere else!

Friday, June 2 and Saturday, June ~ Auction Napa Valley

“Rutherford Dust Society is preparing yet another exciting package live auction lot for Auction Napa Valley (ANV) in June. Over the past two years, the Rutherford Dust Society’s ANV live lots raised a combined $190,000 for Napa Valley charities. We would like to extend our gratitude to Auction Napa Valley 2017 Chair, Inglenook and The Coppola family, and each of our wonderful members who generously donated their Rutherford magnums and experiences to make this year’s auction lot so special. And a special thank you to our Auction Napa Valley 2017 Lot Co-Chairs, board member Michelle Baggett and RDS Member Emma Swain and also to their RDS Committee for pulling these amazing lots together. We hope that you will check out our lot display and bid if you are attending in June”

Wednesday, July 12th ~ Rutherford Dust Society (RDS) “Day in the Dust” Trade & Media Event

“Day in the Dust is RDS’ premier tasting for distinguished members of the wine trade and media. This year’s event will be held at the historic Inglenook on Wednesday, July 12th.”

Sunday, August 6th ~ “Rutherford Chili Ball” Community and Consumer Event

Meet The 2017 RDS Board 

The Rutherford Dust Society is a dedicated and diverse mix of Rutherford vintners, growers, and winemakers. The 2017 Board of Directors was seated at the annual meeting and dinner in early February. The diverse and dedicated group of Rutherford vintners, growers, and winemakers are supporting the mission of RDS, many of whom have served on the board for multiple years.

The Society’s mission is to encourage and promote the highest quality standards in grape growing and winemaking in the Rutherford Viticultural Area, and to help wine lovers and the wine trade discover Rutherford’s expression of its unique terroir.

It is with much gratitude and appreciation that RDS honorS Michelle Baggett, Proprietor of Alpha Omega, who served for two years as their Board President. Michelle has passed the torch to Davie Piña, and will remain on the board to focus on a project that she was instrumental in launching: RDS’ participation in Auction Napa Valley live auction.

The 2017 Rutherford Dust Society Board is comprised of the following individuals:

Board Officers

President Davie Piña, Piña Vineyard Management
Vice-President Steve Tonella, S.R. Tonella Cellars
Secretary Regina Weinstein, Honig Vineyard & Winery
Treasurer Joel Aiken, Aiken Wines

Board Members

Michelle Baggett, Alpha Omega Winery
Andy Beckstoffer, Beckstoffer Vineyards
Kathy Chaix, Chaix Wines
David DesForges, Beaulieu Vineyard
Trevor Durling, Provenance/Hewitt
Maria Haug, Talahalusi Vineyards
Gemma Kochis, Inglenook
Julie Johnson, Tres Sabores Winery