Australia,Livermore Valley,Wine,Winemaker

Adam Richardson ~ Then and Now

Years ago, when we were both working for Concannon Vineyard, Adam Richardson was hired to be their winemaker, while I was already their PR consultant. I had the joy of writing Adam’s bio for the winery. At the time, Adam had a strong background with Gallo. If you want to learn the wine business on a fast and thorough track, Gallo is the school to attend: Gallo and working for Robert Mondavi Winery I learned, once working at Mondavi, earlier.

So, I watched Adam become an international traveler, managing two harvests each year… One in Livermore and the other back in Australia. This is where Adam knew he’d finally land. From The Wine Group (the owner of Concannon) to Treasury Wine Estates. Yup… Adam has worked for the largest wineries in the world.

From Adam:

Howdy friends and colleagues,

As some of you may have heard, later this week I will be leaving Treasury Wine Estates Americas to focus on my own Australian wine brand (A.T. Richardson), and to develop a new part of my business, offering wine consulting services.  The most exciting aspect of this transition will be that Eva, the kids, and I will finally make the long-awaited move to our vineyard and winery in Australia’s Grampians wine region in Victoria.

In addition to sharing this update on our exciting move, I am writing to ask a favour of you: As I build out my wine consulting business, I would love your help spreading the word. Here is a link to my consulting webpage:  A.T. Richardson Wine Consulting. In brief, I plan to offer advice and guidance on all aspects of winemaking, with a focus on developing wine blends for new brands and specific target consumers, as well inventory utilization and cost control. I will also offer contract winemaking services for boutique producers at my Grampians winery.

For those of you not yet familiar with my wines, feel free to review my website at atrichardsonwines.com. I started this brand in 2006, after buying some property in the small but historic Grampians wine region, and developed my 15 acre vineyard on the inhospitable ironstone slopes just outside of the township of Great Western. I have been producing about 1,800 dozen each year of Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Durif and Nebbiolo in Australia and exporting some to the U.S. In the coming months, I will be looking at re-establishing exports to US and Europe, as well as building my distribution footprint within Australia, so if you are inclined, please also share information about my brand.

Adam and his family are very excited about this move, and perhaps someday I could visit visit his family and him in Australia!

What I wrote for his biography:

  • Rhône-style specialist, Richardson has extensive experience. He received his winemaking degree from Charles Sturt University in New South Wales, Australia. He has been on winemaking teams for Rancho Zabaco, Anapamu Cellars, MacMurray Ranch, and Mirassou in California. Prior to the U.S., Richardson worked for d’Arenberg, Oakridge Estate, Normans, and Miranda wineries in Australia. Richardson crafts super-premium wines for Concannon, one of California’s oldest winemaking families.
  • Then, he went to Treasury Wine Estates…

From an exclusive story written in Shanken News: Exclusive: Treasury Wine Estates Americas Taps Wine Group Veteran As New Chief Winemaker

It writes: Treasury Wine Estates (TWE) has named Adam Richardson vice president and chief winemaker for its Americas brands, Shanken News Daily has learned. Richardson will oversee winemaking for Treasury’s U.S. labels, which include Beringer Vineyards, Chateau St. Jean, Stags’ Leap Winery, Etude, Souverain, St. Clement and Meridian Vineyards, among others.

What a background, huh? A new bio is definitely in order, as well as Book II. Best wishes, Adam… All the best of luck!




Wines from the Douro Region of Portugal

[Image of the Douro was purchased.]

When we think of wines, we think, “Port.” And it’s a beginning. These “Porto” wines are from the Douro Region of Portugal. That would be right, except there’s so much more to the Douro.

It begins with their terroir, the most unusual in the world. To think I was so close, when I visited, and yet so far… Had I gone back, this was going to be my next visit… the terraces of the Douro along the river. And it’s not off my radar screen yet for a visit. I purchased this image for you to see what I need to see… Need to breathe, need to absorb, and need to photograph for myself.

2014 douRosa Douro White Wine

  • This wine was so typical of what I’ve come to know with Portuguese wines, that I’m betting that I could pick it out in a blind tasting as Portuguese. It’s all about the typicity, some common thread of flavor. It’s very lean and clean wine, but possessing some complexity… Like the history of Portuguese wines. This was a delicious wine serves with pork… Not Black Pig that I tasted in Portugal, but definitely working really well with pork. It also reminded me of Portuguese fare. When I was there, I was pretty overwhelmed with being in Europe and another time zone. But, I do remember the foods all being quite rich… Now I know why. The foods and wines are meant to complement each other, and I didn’t really pick up on it at the time, because everything was so new.

2013 douRosa Douro Red Wine

  • A delicious red wine, this one takes me right back to paradise. Portugal has a sister bridge to the Golden Gate, and just as one can leave his or her heart in San Francisco, so can one leave one’s heart in Lisbon. Tasting of lean fruit, beautifully in balance is why it’s just tastes so good.

2011 Quinta de La Rosa, Douro D.O.C Red Wine

  • This blend is why we buy red wines, looking for something with succulent flavors… It comes from a family owned and operated winery, so the love of wine grapes is definitely there. All vines are in low yield production, making the plump, juicy grapes have jammy flavors. There are three grape varieties in the blend: 40% Touriga Nacional, 30% Tinta Roriz*, and 30% Touriga Franca. This one would be great beef stew, venison, and other richly sauced meats.

Quinta de la Rosa, Lote 601 Ruby Reserve Porto

  • Whooph… Just like being whisked back into The Old World. I think I can remember enjoying this in a past life. Taking it tonight to a special Mediterranean dinner with friends. It’s going to be a hit of our 40 or so people. (Perhaps I should bring the Quinta de la Rosa Tawny Porto as a back-up, since I’ve yet to open this one.) I feel like I’m sitting on top of a mountain in Maine and eating all of the wild blueberries. Telling you where is like giving you the name of a favorite fishing hole. Yeah, it’s like that. You, too, can have this port to try and figure out the spot. Terroir… Great Porto are only from Portugal. Otherwise, put another name on it, fellah…

Quinta de la Rosa Ten Year Tawny – Tonel 12 Porto !

  • I have to let you know that this is very special bottle of wine… Given that it’s a 10 year Porto. As a consequence, I’m saving it for Thanksgiving, so it can be shared with family. I WILL report back after having tasted this one, but it would break my heart to open it right now, and not be able to share it with very special people. I’m thinking Thanksgiving, because you’ll then have the rest of the December holidays to know what it tastes like in my world, and then perhaps in yours.

Samples from From Winesellers, LTD.




Being Thankful ~ Winesellers, Ltd.

Winesellers, Ltd. Named “Importer of The Year” by Wine Enthusiast Magazine

Why I’m especially jazzed is because in the past year, I’ve been asked and responded to tasting their imported wines. It’s enriched my life and palate, because I’m able to taste wines from all around the world… Wines I would otherwise have missed. To taste history is an honor, by these people who are willing to share the fruits of their labor with me.

Family-owned importer earns 2015 Wine Star Award

Wine Enthusiast Magazine press release

(CHICAGO, Ill.; November 3, 2015) – Each year, the editors of Wine Enthusiast honor the individuals and companies that have made outstanding achievements in the wine and beverage world with the magazine’s Wine Star Awards. Today, Winesellers, Ltd. – a family-owned company in Niles, Ill. that has imported fine wines globally since 1978 – was named Importer of the Year by the esteemed magazine.

Winesellers, Ltd., founded in 1978 by Yale Sager, is now overseen day-to-day by his two sons, Adam Sager and Jordan Sager. The company imports and sells wines to all 50 U.S. states with a diverse portfolio of producers and brands from Argentina, France, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Italy, New Zealand and other countries worldwide that can be found in premier retailers and restaurants throughout the U.S.

Winesellers, Ltd. portfolio includes:

  • Argentina: Santa Julia, Zuccardi (Mendoza)
  • Australia: Hope Estate (Hunter Valley/Western Australia)
  • Austria: Biohof Pratsch (Niederosterreich)
  • California: Tortoise Creek (Lodi/Clarksburg/Central Coast), Santa Barbara Winery, Lafond Winery & Vineyards (Santa Rita Hills), Vinum Cellars (Central Coast, Napa/Clarksburg)
  • Chile: Hacienda Araucano (Colchagua)
  • France: Besserat de Bellefon (Champagne), Charles Armand, EXEM Bordeaux, Mont Gravet, Le Charmel, Avive
  • Germany: Heinz Eifel, Dr. H. Thanisch-Muller Burggraef, Dr. Pauly-Bergweiler, Bollig Lehnert, Dr. Heyden, Fitz Ritter, Eifel-Pfeiffer
  • Italy: Tiamo Organic, Bellafina Sparkling, La Fiera, Gran Passione, Prodigo
  • New Zealand: Sea Pearl, Fault Line, Fire Road (Marlborough), Murdoch James (Martinborough)
  • Portugal: Quinta de la Rosa (Duoro)
  • Spain: Mas Fi Cava (Penedes), Resso (D.O. Catalunya), Pazo Torrado (D.O. Rias Baixas), Clos de Nit (D.O. Montsant)
  • Dominois de Castilla (D.O. Rueda, Toro & Ribera del Duero), Navardia (D.O.C Rioja)
  • Artisan Ciders: Manoir de Grandouet, Domaine de la Minotiere, Cidrerie Dausfrene (Normandy), Le Brun de Bretagne (Brittany), Bodegas Mayador (Asturias)


Event,Food & Wine,Oregon,Oregon Pinot Gris,Pinot Gris,Wine

Get Your Gris On – Think Appetizers

On November 14 and 15, 2015, Oak Knoll Winery is again getting its Gris on.

Long standing proponent of Oregon Pinot Gris, Oak Knoll Winery has historically supported this variety. And, it has good reason to do so… Pinot Gris is the state’s largest wine grape crop. Many would love to have Chardonnay catch up in Production, but those who are in the business of wine grape growing in Oregon have weighed in, by continuing to plant what demand is currently dictating.

Oregon Pinot Noir has its partner and it’s Oregon Pinot Gris.

As a result, Oak Knoll is continuing with Get Your Gris On in a couple of weeks.

President Greg Lint came up with the idea of having a weekend, before going into the holidays, for suggesting Oregon Pinot Gris to winery fans. “Knowing that most families love to have sparkling wine and Pinot Noir with their main course, why not think Oregon Pinot Gris for the appetizer portion of our meals? It’s a natural!”

Since bounty is associated with Thanksgiving, starting with lighter wines makes a whole lot of sense. Starting with a heavy wine will destroy your palate’s ability to enjoy a lighter wine later, if you chose to go backwards in your tasting. A crisp white, like an Oregon Pinot Gris is a great place to start. As an experiment, take a few sips of a big meaty Petite Sirah and then try a few sips of your Pinot Gris. You’ll quickly understand. (This experiment can be done anytime, when a white wine and a red wine are open simultaneously. Taste the red first, then taste the white.)

And so, we’ve gathered a group of suggestions, in the event you’d also like to Get Your Gris On this coming Thanksgiving, with your family and friends.

Goat cheese is a favorite with most people, for Pinot Gris, so we’ll start there, but end with a bigger Jack cheese to end this list.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!





Food & Wine,Health,Jo's World,Wine

With wine, how much does matter

Once upon a time, in a tasting room, not so far away, I was telling some visitors about wine having health benefits. They thought that was pretty cool. They bought some wine (for their health), and left to visit more wineries. As soon as they left, my tasting room manger came flying around the corner from her office, behind the bar – where I was.

She said to me, “Don’t you EVER say anything like that again!”

Oops… I remember that moment, every time I clink someone else’s glass and we say, “To your health.” I have, however, refrained from telling anyone about the health benefits that have disclosed since that early tongue lashing. Early on, when the rumblings began about wine and its resveratrol health benefits, I “got it.” But, winery professionals were banned from even mentioning it, I quickly learned, until it became common knowledge. It should also be noted that there are ill effects, depending on the person’s DNA proclivities. For instance, if you’re a woman and have a family blood line where women get osteoporosis, leave the white wine alone.

I’ve found my own cure

I’m going to share a story that’s evolved over the past couple of years for me. More recently, I’ve even found my own cure. You’re not going to find this recorded anywhere, because there’s not been any lab testing on it – yet, not that I can find anywhere.

But, I found it on my own…

I’m going to start with food does not grow in boxes, and many times, neither do cures… They can cover up a problem, but a real live cure? I’m a health food junkie. When I began to make my own food purchases in life, I didn’t eat at fast food joints, and it had to be organic. That hippie movement ethos of the 60s became a lifestyle for many of us. It seemed like a fad. It really was a lifestyle choice.  So, what I eat has to be really good food. Nothing should go wrong in my body, right? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Then, I began to grow fibroids on the arches of my feet. First my left foot, and then my right foot; and, there was no stopping their growth. Beginning as the size of a tiny pea, and growing to the size of a dried apricot – and continuing to spread downward toward my toes, on my right foot; and the size of a grape on my right foot. I looked up lumps on the bottom of feet via Google.


Lumps and Bumps in the Arch of the Foot- Plantar Fibromas

Within the arch of the foot, firm, nodular masses may form. These can occur as a single mass or in clusters. They are called plantar fibromas and are a non-cancerous tumor that forms within a ligament in the arch of the foot called the plantar fascia. Frequently, they will slowly enlarge causing pain while walking. Their cause cannot always be determined. Damage to the tendon will cause their occurrence and there is an association with taking the drug Dilantin.

No real cure is stated, just treatments that “may” work, including cutting into someone’s foot to remove them. I asked myself, what’s to stop these fibroids from growing back?

So, last October, when visiting my daughter in Colorado, I decided to start a wine cleanse. A new environment, I didn’t have to taste a lot of wine, a habit (which I had developed for having one to two glasses of wine, beginning at 3:00 p.m. each day) began to slip away. One morning, I crossed a tack strip and almost fell from the pain. I had hit the apricot sized fibroid. For me, enough was enough, but I had no clue as to how to solve this dilemma.

When I returned home, I continued with my new lifestyle. Tasting wine and spitting, so I was reducing a lot of acid going into my body. Within a few days of coming home, I noticed that the fibroids were reducing in size. Something was going on. When I went out to dinner and had more than one glass of wine, there would be no reduction. But, if I only tasted and spit wine, I could feel the reduction each day. I was on my way to getting the balls of my feet back, without any fibroids.

Next, I had a New Year’s resolution. I was going to have warm lemon water (which I’m having right now as I write this). It’s another one of my successful resolutions. By January 2, I noticed an acceleration of the fibroids dissolving. It was that quick. Today, a year later from my original start, I now am very sure that I accidentally fell into my own cure; my right foot (the grape sized fibroid) is now the size of a tiny seed bead (almost gone); my  apricot sized fibroid is slightly smaller than the size of a dime. Next year at this time, it will only be a memory.

I’ve been managing the fibroids. When I’m out and about enjoying wine with others, the next day there is no diminishing of this disorder. But, when I taste wine and spit, I’m just fine… The diminishing continues. When I taste a series of wines and have a favorite, I’ll enjoy the bottle, but slowly. One glass a day doesn’t put me into a growth tailspin. It just means that the finish line isn’t here yet.

I still enjoy wine, being around it day-to-day. I just don’t revel in the abundance that’s been given to me with a wine business lifestyle. I’ve also helped another person, who shared with me that this is also a problem for him. Guess what? It’s working for this person, too.

We are what we eat. Wine is liquid food, and for some of us, it has adverse effects, when we get into a pattern of over indulgence. I hadn’t realized that I had, until I cut back and my feet (and mind) began to sing Hallelujah!

For those of you with this condition, if you go my route, all you have to do is cut back the excess. And, if you go with the warm lemon water each morning as an additional cleanse (for your liver, before any other food goes into your body), you, too, may be well rewarded.

Here’s to your health!




The Carmenere Wines of Chile from the Cachapoal Valley

FIRST THE ACCOMPANYING BOOK: The Carménère Wines of Chile, from the Cachapoal Valley, originally published in 1990.

Class act: Along with these three wines pictured below, I also received “Red Grapes, Hidden Treasure: The Carmenere Wines of Chile, from the Cachapoal Valley.” The book is gorgeous, and I’m about to get a major knowledge bump (without falling on my head) about Carmenere from Chile’s Cachapoal Valley.

This coffee table sized book has images by photographer Sara Mathews. The stories are written by Sara Matthews, Mariana Martinez, and Rafael Guilisasti, and the forward was written by Isabel Guilisasti, the marketing director of Concha y Toro. What a magnificent collaboration. Eye candy at its finest and words for your Spanish soul, even if you have no Spanish DNA.

Ten great things that I learned about the book for Cachapoal Valley from Sara Matthews:

  1. The images for this book are NOT going to be from vineyards and wineries.
    1. Sara Matthews decided to create a book that does exactly what I tend to do with stories about wine; i.e., focus on terroir… people, landscapes, foods, culture. From these elements, you learn a lot about what the wine is going to have for a focus. [EXAMPLE: The Wines of Portugal ~ First you must understand the people]
  2. In the Cachapoal Valley, it is comprised of tranquil lands and modest, colonial homesteads.
  3. Winemakers arrived late in the 19th Century.
  4. By 1980, it became recognized for its Carmenere, but at that time it was thought to be Merlot.
  5. By 1990, the DNA identity of Carmenere came from the Maipo Valley.
  6. Carmenere is named for its “carmine” color. Think of vibrant, autumnal leaves.
  7. The wine has a silky soft and spicy character, with a very velvety body.
  8. The soil of the Cachapoal Valley has fertile alluvial terraces, comprised of clay, sand, and silt.
  9. When Carmenere was nearly wiped out of France by Phylloxera, there is no such pest in South America.
    1. Phylloxera is indigenous to North America, and was brought to France during the late 1800s.
    2. This just about wiped out the fickle-to-France grape. As a result, when it came time to replant, Carmenere wasn’t a priority.
    3. South America has been very careful to not import the devastating pest.
  10. Carmenere is very particular about what soil it grows best in, and the Cachapoal Valley sets the gold standard for South America.
    1. Best location is in the town of Peumo, because of the breezes from the ocean, to river beds, and then across reservoirs.

While Burgundy is well known for its Pinot Noir, the US is the world leader for its Petite Sirah, Australia is known for Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc has crafted its own signature identity in New Zealand, and in Chile Carmenere is becoming known world-wide for its best world flavor characteristics.

So, let’s get on with the tasting. I’m going to be looking for that “silky soft and spicy character, with a very velvety body.” Thanks to Concha y Toto, I have three samples.

The Carmenere Wines of Chile from the Cachapoal Valley

2012 Marques de Casa Concha Carmenere

  • I’m going to start with this one, because it’s a 2013. Just because it’s one year older, tannins will have softened more than the 2013, so the flavors should be more straight forward and elegant. [Wine Ed: Tannins dissipate over time.]
  • It’s from the Peumo Vineyard, in Cachapoal Valley.
  • Bright garnet in the glass, aromas of plums, earthiness, and I was right about the tannins… Just as soft as ever I’ve tasted for a three year old wine. HOWEVER… When the color is considered, as bright garnet as it is, I’m very impressed with its lovely tannic structure. As Joni Mitchell has sung, “I could drink a case of you, darlin.” Silky smooth and velvet delivered, with a touch of smoke on the finish. I believe I’ve just tasted this variety for the first time; although this ISN’T the first time I had it.
    • The book has greatly helped to prep me for this tasting.
    • The wine was aged for 18 month is French oak… It’s got classic flavors, egged on by the French oak.
    • Big Wow yummy… Yes, sir. I would sever this wine anytime, to anyone. It’s delicious.

2013 Casillero del Diablo Carmenere

  • This one is brand well enough known that it’s become one of my favorite wines to purchase, when I’m in Puerto Rico. It’s a comfort wine.
  • This second Carmenere is still very garnet in color, but it’s more translucent. This suggests to me that it is also going to be very approachable, even though it’s a year younger than the 2012 Marques de Casa Concha Carmenere.
  • Tannins are tighter, fruit is still very easy to enjoy. More plums and blueberries, too .A touch of pepper makes this one racy and fun.
  • Looking forward to Puerto Rico’s next return and having this be the “house” wine, during that stay. (The store is just down the street from where we stay, and Puerto Rico has an unbelievable import program.) While working with the Hambrecht Wine Group, Puerto Rico was one of my sales territories. The folks at V. Suárez & Company were like family.

2013 Gran Reserva Serie Riberas Carmenere

  • Gran Reserva Serie Riberas is a special selection of Gran Reserva wines, which come from vineyards located close to different river basins. This creates uniquely distinctive and fresher wines, according to info from Concha y Toro, and the flavors back that up.
  • Always the consistent garnet color for Carmenere, very soft tannins, and really bright fruit tell me all I need to know.  My neighbor Gary is going to love me today. Three open bottles, and only Jose and I living in this household. This wine is too good to not allow others to also enjoy it. Soft tannins, juicy fruit of black currants and dark chocolate, this seems to be a classic style, at least as far as I can tell, with my limited scope for this variety. I’ll tell you this, I’m now going to be looking for Carmenere on wine lists.

Concha & Toto’s Winemaker: Marcelo Papa
Marcelo holds a degree in Enology from the Universidad Católica de Chile and he has followed a successful career in Viña Concha y Toro. Since 1998, he’s been in charge of the range Casillero del Diablo. A year later, he took on the responsibility of Marques de Casa Concha, one of the best-known and traditional brands of Chile.


Books,Wine,Wine Writer

Angels, Thieves, and Winemakers, by Joseph Mills, Second Edition

I received the newly released Second Edition of Angels, Thieves, and Winemakers, by Joseph Mills.

Every bit as good as his first edition, he begins this journey with his penchant  for humor, but then he leans into more thoughtfully provocative musings.

“This second edition contains new poems, completely revised poems, and a re-arranged sequence.” According to Press 53 publisher Kevin Morgan Watson, “It showcases those poems which have aged well, and there has been a judicious pruning of pieces. The result is a impressive new release akin to a reserve.”

I started laughing right away, which I had expected, when I began reading…

Angels, Thieves, and Winemakers

Introductions Made Easy

If only people wore labels,

their foreheads clearly displaying

their appellation, their varietal,

their alcohol content, think of the time it would save.

We could cut out the small talk…

There’s a bit more to this one, which is worth finishing on your own, for the final chuckles.

The humor continues; but then I didn’t have to hold my splitting sides. Joe took a turn into simple observations of life in the wine world, watching behaviors without judgment. He just states facts that we take for granted, but are curious, nonetheless… And, they make you smile and think.

At Happy Hour, She offers a Half Dozen Hypotheses Why a Second Glass Can Taste Better

  1. The eye sees the refill

and tells the body,

Hey, we’re staying

for a while.


2. The wine itself relaxes;

having slipped out of its cork corset,

it begins to breathe easier

and make itself more sociable.

After all, if you were bottled up

for months, even years,

you’d be a little shy

or irritable at first.

Then, Joseph Mills finishes with provocative musings. One especially reminds me of what I did with my own children and am now doing with grandchildren.

Practicing to Be a Poet

… Whatever my father thought of this,

he would wait, seemingly patient,

smoking Kool after Kool, [no Kools in my life, though] as I scrambled around ditches, and he would admire

anything I scavenged from the weeds, saying, “That looks like a good one.”

when I would clamber back to my seat…

Joseph Mills is a prolific poet. He’s of a very special kind, who considers wine country in a way others have yet to capture. Mills has published many books, including the first edition of Angels, Thieves, and Winemakers. I was very fortunate to have a copy for review for that one, also. What I wrote is now on the back of his second edition, and I’m honored.

This brilliantly written body of work had us laughing out loud, realizing that Joseph’s razor-sharp wit and wisdom was more than what the doctor ordered… It was insightful, inspirational, and extremely well written entertainment. Jo Diaz

Nothing has changed with his second edition, as regards the quality of his humanity. It’s a great read and worth putting into your wine (book) library.

Joseph Mills’ day job is teaching at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, where he holds an endowed chair, the Susan Burress Wall Distinguished Professorship in the Humanities. His educational background: Poet and critic Joseph Robert Mills grew up in Indiana. He earned a BA at the University of Chicago, an MA at the University of New Mexico, and a PhD at University of California, Davis. (The aha moment… UCD and what it does to our vinous souls…)


Suisun Valley,Viticulture,Wine,Wine Business,Winemaker

Suisun Valley Grape Growers hired Paul Skinner of Terra Spase

Suisun Valley Grape Growers (Suisun Valley Vintners and Grape Growers Association) hired Paul Skinner of Terra Spase to create weather stations in their pastoral appellation; and, that’s what “put them on the map.” This is according to Roger King, the president of the Suisun Valley Vintners and Winegrape Growers Association. They hired Paul Skinner during the heyday of their government funding. We were also hired to “get the word out.” So, I’ve got more that an inside track. I’ve got history.

Their history is that of a rectangle, with the lower right hand corner of a Napa map have a chunk taken our of it… a small bit if you will, and that’s Suisun Valley. With a history that dates back to Chief Solano and 1800s viticulture and winemaking, Napa’s shadow and Robert Mondavi marketing left this tiny piece int he dust… But, after doing his climate study, he went to some Nana people and told them aobut this piece of very affordable real estate that they might want to consider. If you’ve followed their growth spurts, you’ve seen Gallo and Caymus enter stage left.

Paul Skinner Findings

In May of 2008, Suisun Valley Grape Growers Association hired Terra Spase of Napa, California, to begin the process of scientifically defining their terroir. Proprietor Paul Skinner and his staff immediately initiated the project, which was to inventory and assess the conditions of the available climatic and topographic data for the Suisun Valley AVA.

  • Suisun Valley’s eight-mile length of Springtime (March-April) Growing Degree Days are very closely aligned to Napa Valley’s 30 mile stretch, just in a condensed version.
  • Noteworthy climate findings include what was once empirically understood by the farmers and discussed as anecdotal evidence: situated in close proximity to the San Francisco Bay, portions of this area exert influence on the regions’ climate.
  • The lower portion of the Suisun Valley is subject to steady southwesterly, bay influenced breezes beginning in the late springtime. Annually occurring springtime northwesterly flow along the Northern California coast pushes marine air into the San Francisco bay and up through the San Pablo bay into the Suisun Valley region.
  • It is increasingly recognized as a significant player in California’s luxury and ultra-premium wine grape market segments.

On February 3, 2009, Paul W. Skinner, Ph.D. delivered his “Climate, Topography and Wine Grapes in the Suisun Valley AVA” report to the Suisun Valley Grape Growers Association Board of Directors’ meeting, commissioned by SVGGA. In his introduction, Skinner indicates that because high intensity climate monitoring has been implemented in Suisun Valley with the installation of several automated weather stations, documentation of mesoclimates within the established AVA has provided a valuable, historical record from which to draw upon, in order to deliver the report.

Skinner writes, “The establishment of their own weather station network to collect weather data on a 24 hr basis by the Suisun Valley grape growers shows forward thinking on their part. It was also an important step forward for the Suisun Valley Grape Growers Association to recognize the value of developing this report for the use of the wine community and their constituents.”

It is Skinner’s hope that Terra Spase’s analysis of the climate data that was collected [to date] will become the basis for an improved understanding of how weather and climate attributes define Suisun Valley AVA’s potential for producing world class grapes from different wine grape varieties.

Above is the “short of it.” Below is the scientific breakdown: In May of 2008, Suisun Valley Grape Growers Association hired Terra Spase of Napa, California, to begin the process of scientifically defining their terroir.

On July 8, 2008, Terra Spase delivered Phase 2 to SVGGA, which included the data compilation phase consisting of the various datasets for analysis, including the following:

  • Narrowing target climatic parameters
  • Processing supplemental PRISM (Parameter-elevation Regression on Independent Slopes Model) weather dataset for analysis and mapping
  • Extracting target parameters from PRISM and local climate datasets
  • Target parameters summarizing for key time periods
  • Processing of elevation data in preparation for mapping the GIS analysis
  • Promising trends in data

On February 3, 2009, Paul W. Skinner, Ph.D. delivered his “Climate, Topography and Wine Grapes in the Suisun Valley AVA” report to the Suisun Valley Grape Growers Association Board of Directors’ meeting, commissioned by SVGGA. In his introduction, Skinner indicates that because high intensity climate monitoring has been implemented in Suisun Valley with the installation of several automated weather stations, documentation of mesoclimates within the established AVA has provided a valuable, historical record from which to draw upon, in order to deliver the report.

Skinner writes, “The establishment of their own weather station network to collect weather data on a 24 hr basis by the Suisun Valley grape growers shows forward thinking on their part. It was also an important step forward for the Suisun Valley Grape Growers Association to recognize the value of developing this report for the use of the wine community and their constituents.” It is Skinner’s hope that Terra Spase’s analysis of the climate data that was collected [to date] will become the basis for an improved understanding of how weather and climate attributes define Suisun Valley AVA’s potential for producing world class grapes from different wine grape varieties.

Terra Spase recognizes Suisun Valley’s AVA with the following:

  • Located in the North Coast AVA, Suisun is one of the oldest, continually producing wine grape zones in the West.
  • It is increasingly recognized as a significant player in California’s luxury and ultra-premium wine grape market segments.
  • Wine grapes support in-valley wineries, as well as wine companies in Napa and Sonoma.
  • SV grape growers produce popular wine grape varieties, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay; as well as specialty cultivars, such as Syrah, Petite Sirah, Barbara, Grenache, Sangiovese, and Zinfandel.

Noteworthy climate findings include what was once empirically understood by the farmers and discussed as anecdotal evidence, and are now validated by this academic study; namely, situated in close proximity to the San Francisco Bay complex, portions of this area exert influence on the regions’ climate.

The report delivers the AVA’s geography in great detail; which to date has yet to be so thoroughly recorded. Considering all aspects of elevation, slope, and distribution aspects, the report recommends that if the wine grape growers take all aspects of the detailed topographical effect into account in the designing and production phases of their vineyards, development will significantly increase their likelihood of producing ultra-premium grapes and wines from their vineyards.

CLIMATE DATA AND MONITORING EFFORTS: The Terra Space report delivers extensive maps, which present a visual account for all of Terra Spase’s findings (examples):

  • Suisun Valley AVA and Vicinity
  • Separate maps for Elevation, Slope, and Aspect
  • Automated Weather Stations in the Suisun Valley AVA
  • Separate Precipitation, Humidity, and Temperature maps

Extensive charts deliver extensive supporting material for all of their findings (examples):

  • Seasonal Precipitation (in) 1995-2008; (CIMIS 123)
  • Monthly Precipitation (in) 1999 (CIMIS 123)
  • Mean Weather Precipitation (in) 1995-2007 – CIMIS 123
  • 2007 Monthly Rainfall (in) Williams2 and Abernathy 1 stations.

With data from the following sources, much was demonstrated from the average monthly temperatures from Terra Spase’s initial findings. [The map is used with permission of Terra Spase.]

  • CIMIS 123 ~ California Irrigation Management Information System: lowest, southwest
  • AB1 ~ Abernathy 1: southeast quadrant
  • AB3 ~ Abernathy 3: south, mid-valley
  • SSV ~ Suisun Valley: west, mid-valley
  • GV ~ Gordon Valley; central, upper-valley
  • WL2 ~ Williams 2: northwest quadrant
  • PRISM ~ Program at Oregon State University developed by Dr. Christopher Daly, the PRISM group director.Suisun Valley’s unique, distinguishing features:

Precipitation ~ Springtime rains can occur after mid March bud burst, but are relatively unusual. This relative absence of late spring rain in Suisun Valley is a climatological advantage the region enjoys over many other winegrape growing regions.

The absence of precipitation during the summer months allows for the early ripening of relatively disease free winegrapes.

Growing degree day data indicate conditions range from Winkler’s Region III to Region V, within Suisun Valley AVA in different years, defining the quality of their winegrapes.

As a characteristic of many California coastal valleys opening onto the San Francisco Bay complex, the northern parts of the Suisun Valley region tend to see higher maximum and lower minimum temperatures than are observed in the southern parts of the region.

The lower portion of the Suisun Valley is subject to steady southwesterly, bay influenced breezes beginning in the late springtime. Annually occurring springtime northwesterly flow along the Northern California coast pushes marine air into the San Francisco bay and up through the San Pablo bay into the Suisun Valley region.

Suisun Valley’s eight-mile length of Springtime (March-April) Growing Degree Days are very closely aligned to Napa Valley’s 30 mile stretch, just in a condensed version.


Culture,Food & Wine,Portugal,Wine

Portugal has a very abundant food and wine legacy

If you’re not familiar, Portuguese historical adventures have created an abundant food and wine legacy, for which they are most proud… while being very humble about it as the same time.

During the past 3,000 years, Portugal experienced an ebb and flow of different civilizations invading their country. From Iberian to Tartessian, Celtic, Phoenician and Carthaginian, Greek, Roman, Germanic, Arabic, Jewish, and the Moors, all of these aggressors left interesting imprints on this small, Mediterranean country. It is important to note that in 868 A.D., during the Reconquista period, the Christians re-conquered the Iberian Peninsula from Muslim and Moorish domination. This was when the first county of Portugal was formed, and it was then transformed into the independent Kingdom of Portugal.

Today, Portugal is the oldest political reality in Europe, with its borders remaining unchanged for the last nine centuries. All of the incursions of Portugal happened before the creation of this country. It is the invasions and dominations by each society that established the roots of Portugal.

Its culture, history, language, foods, wines, and ethnic make-up have created a civilization so unique that writer Martin Page devoted an entire story to it entitled, “The First Global Village, How Portugal Changed the World.” For many, Portugal proved to be an Eden.

Subsequent to all of the above occupants, between 1415 and 1542 A.D., Portugal went on to become a major economic, political, and cultural powerhouse, as its empire’s explorations stretched from Brazil to the Indies. This was done with enriching effects, and is referred to as their own Age of Discovery.

These multicultural contributions, both from being raided and from experiencing their own voyaging, have led to epicurean and civilizing benefits for the world to enjoy. Their invaders each added a rich confluence of food, wine, and lifestyle; all of it geared toward enjoying the gifts of the earth in the healthiest possible ways. As the world’s first cultural melting pot of all humanity, each of Portugal’s defining paradigm shifts then trickled out to every corner of the globe.

Today, their influences remain as great contributions.

  • ARAB CULTURE: When the Arabs arrived, they brought with them bananas, coconuts, sugar cane, oil palms, maize and rice, lettuce, onions, carrots, cucumbers, apples, pears, wine grapes, and figs… All part of a Mediterranean diet.
  • FRANCE: The Portuguese own and operate over 400 restaurants in Paris as Italian trattorias.
  • INDIA: The chili plant was brought to India, allowing “curry” to be invented.
  • JAPAN: Portuguese Jesuits lived in Japan for generations before our ancestors knew of this, introducing words into the Japanese language; e.g., “orrigato,” which means “thank you.” They brought the recipe for tempura. They also introduced the technique for gun manufacturing. (One could argue that guns aren’t very civilizing. They do, however, help one protect oneself from another’s behavior, which might be uncivilized in intent.) The Portuguese also taught the Japanese how to construct buildings that would withstand artillery attack and earthquakes.
  • UNITED STATES: While Portuguese is one of the most prevalently spoken language in Europe, it’s also the language of cattle ranchers in northern California and fishing communities along the New England coast line…. Both of which I have personal experiences.
  • WRITERS: Sintra, Portugal, has been an attraction for writers’ inspiration for generations; e.g., Henry Fielding, Robert Southey, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Lord Byron, Ian Fleming, Graham Greene, Christopher Isherwood, W. H. Auden

Portuguese foods are still studied today by northern European medical researchers for clues as to what makes their heart-healthy diets such a phenomenon. The following information will provide great insight.

Irrigation, which was driven by water wheels, was brought to Portugal from Alexandria. This act created a technological revolution, the likes of which had never been seen in Europe prior to the Arabs arriving. This allowed for the crops mentioned above to be successfully farmed and introduced.

In a historical time-line, Portugal has had pivotal dates and people which have affected their country; and, in a trickle-down effect, world civilization. People from all over the world have migrated to Portugal throughout certain periods of world history, contributing to their varied culture. Each transformation, once adapted, has added rich fibers to the tapestry of these fascinating people of today.

Each world invasion, and the ethnic traditions left behind, has resulted in a country’s history that is a fascinating study in interdependence. It’s a country that is completely unique as a result from all other countries in the world. It’s been active and constantly adapting, creating a nation set apart from all others; and yet, has so many links to the past that many people can identify with the Portuguese culture of today.

Martin Page has given us chapters to follow in his book, as an outline with dates of significant benchmarks, putting Portugal’s history into complete perspective. The details within the book are the following:

  1. From Jonah to Julius Caesar [700 BC ]
  2. Rome on the Atlantic [55 BC]
  3. Rise & Fall of Christianity [212 AD]
  4. Arabs Bring Civilization to Europe [712]
  5. The Christian Reconquest [1126]
  6. The Cistercian Peace
  7. Prince Henry the Misadventure
  8. King João and the Great Adventure
  9. Pêro da Covilhã: Master Spy
  10. Vasco da Gama and the Lord of the Oceans
  11. India and Beyond
  12. The Golden Age of Lisbon; Disaster Abroad
  13. The Coming of the Inquisition; The Departure of the Jews
  14. Freedom Regained
  15. Pombal and the King: A duet in Megalomania
  16. Playground of the great Powers [England and France]

With each invasion, the Portuguese people were open to the civilization refinements that were delivered to them. Along the way, they created the Institution of Good Men (in the 700s), which still exists today. A social consciousness act was created, whereby, widows and orphans are in the care of the country. Once created, this social welfare system has been maintained. All duties of the town are seen as everyone’s responsibility – including fire fighting – and are independent and self sufficient. It’s a daily way of life in Portugal, throughout the entire country, not just pockets of social consciousness.

On a personal note, having visited Portugal in the fall of 2009, I found the Portuguese people everywhere to be extremely polite as a people. I’m in constant communications with Enoforum Wines, a client in the Alentejo wine region, and am continually impressed by how all of their communications written to me are with the utmost humility and respect. One has to wonder: with all of the challenges that each new invader brought to Portugal, did the exposure to so many different kinds of people and mannerisms create a culture of world diplomats?

Exploring the foods and wines of Portugal

There are many experts who cite the foods and wines of Portugal as being the freshest and finest in the world; not only in flavors, but also in value.

When there, I learned that Portugal’s foods held the rich flavors of my grandparents’ summer garden. Fruits and vegetables reminded me of the days when I was allowed to devour their victory garden. I just thought of it as a place to hang out and eat; they thought of it as a place for me to enjoy the fruits of their labor and always know where to find me. The flavors of Portugal were that great. My friend Madalena Rudé, of Castro Verde, told me that she finds the best fruits and vegetables come from Portugal, and she’s traveled the world. I have to agree that the flavors were really superlative.

Fish arrives daily from the sea, and may be ordered from a basket of fish presented to restaurant guests, without the bother of reading a menu. The fruits and vegetables enjoy the benefits of being grown organically, not as an advantage, but as a standard of living.

While visiting Reguengos, winemaker Rui Veladas of Carmim Winery had taken me to tour their vineyards. As we entered the gate, we first passed their olive grove, and then drove down to their vines. As we passed the rows of vines, I realized that each row had a couple – if not a few – grazing sheep in it… row-after-row. I was allowed to get out of our vehicle to take pictures. Then, when we returned to the gate where we had entered, we saw an entire flock of sheep. They were wandering everywhere. It was at this exact moment that I realized how very beautifully basic and wholesome Portugal still remains.

A familiar product of the Mediterranean climate is olive oil. Portugal’s Alentejo district has many olive trees that thrive in its soils. These oils are considered by many authorities to be world-class. Olive trees are integrated within the vineyards, bordering vines, and being brought in just after the harvest of grapes. This is all done in a systematic way, produced by Mother Nature, allowing vintners to also enjoy the oils from olive trees, as well.

A delicacy on hoof is their black feral pigs of the Alentejo. They’re allowed to roam the countryside, dining on acorns from the cork trees, and mushrooms during late fall when the rains arrive. This humane treatment of this food source gives the black pigs the best possible life, until that fateful day. The meat from this food source is absolutely delicious… a delicacy for any meal.

Of the wines from Portugal, what international wine experts have written:

  1. Jancis Robinson: “It is so sad that top-quality Portuguese wine is not widely known and appreciated. Admittedly, the fact that Portugal now has such a vibrant wine culture… these wines have such a strong personality, I don’t think any interested drinker should deny themselves the Portuguese experience. Portuguese wine is well placed to take advantage of current fashion for “heritage varieties. The Alentejo Region, hot and dry, in the southeast, is perhaps the most promising source of accessible table wines, full-bodied, with intense colours… and this is without a doubt one of the most promising wine growing regions in the world.”
  2. Eric Asimov of New York Times: “Today, Portugal is a source of distinctive wines. More than anything, these wines struck me as honest. They do not try to imitate flavors and styles that are popular elsewhere.”

When in Portugal, one who embraces all things wholesome in life might find a home away from home, as I have.



Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween and Boo!