Do You Know About This Tuscan Fail Safe Practice?

[PHOTO of Castello di Meleto, Tuscany: Jo Diaz. All photos were taken by Jo Diaz, unless otherwise noted.]

This practice is one that I had no idea existed, until I was the guest of Castello di Meleto. Located in Gaiole in the Chianti Classico region of Tuscany, this past October. I was travelling with Michael Yurch (Bluest Sky Group), wine writer Dr. Michael Apstein (who writes for many publications, including Decanter), and Windows on the World author Kevin Zraly (did a pop-in).

Antonia Caserta was our guide for the three days at the Castello. On the last day of our visit, Antonia told us that she was going to “put us to work,” right after breakfast.  With her lead, we all walked from our dining room, and headed down a pretty vertical hillside… toward one of the small houses below.

I took a few pictures on the way down; then my camera’s battery needed recharging. I always have a backup, but it was in my backpack, which I decided to shed for this one time during the trip, and left it at the Castello.

Back up the hill I ran. (Bad idea, not in the best shape to simply glide upward with that kind of a vertical incline.) I took several horizontal segues back to the top of the hill. grabbed my iPad, then headed back downhill. As I approached the little shed, I wondered, “Could this building have also existed in the 1200s, when the Benedictine Monks were in residence?

[PHOTO: Castello di Meleto’s historical images.]
I recently wrote the story of the structure’s origin: The Benedictine Monks Are Smiling ~ Their Abby is Now Chianti’s Castello di Meleto.) It certainly looked as if it was part of the original plan, because it replicates all of the other stone structures (of alberese stone, also known as sandstone) and constructed walls of the 1200s, at this location. As the naturally abundant, existing resource, these stone constructs are the best evidence of their greatest building resource.

I arrived just in time to see my colleagues wrapping up the task. Greeted by Giovanni Maria Farina [pictured], the winery’s agronomist, I was still scheduled to perform the work, and I was now ready.

Antonia Caserta borrowed my iPad, so she could photographed my hanging the grape clusters. I could have stayed there all day, just hanging grapes. I love viticulture (studied it at the college level). My husband and I inherited a small vineyard at our mountainside home in Alexander Valley, Sonoma County. We’re growing Sangiovese and Grenache grapes. A study was done, and this land proved to be the best-suited place for both varieties of wine grapes.

The wall I was looking at was magnificent, as my friends had hung just harvested grapes clusters, cut from vine cordons. (French for the word “ribbon” is cordon. The cordons are the arms that outwardly stretch from the vine stalk, just like ribbons would.)

But not just the clusters were hanging on their own. (See the image above.) About five to six inches of cordon on each side were part of what was being hung to dry, to support the clusters. The clusters were hung here, to begin their semi-drying process. That was step one, and since I missed why my friends were doing this, it would take my hanging the grapes and moving to the next stage, before I actually came to realize what was happening.

We left this shed-like building and traveled to the next stage, going into the adjoining building to see this miracle of drying wine grapes… a tapestry so magnificent it took my breath away. Giovanni was waiting for us, to explain the process.

In the event of a stuck fermentation (when fermentation slows down), this can be disastrous for the future vintage. Hanging grapes in this manner can prove to be their saving grace.

Have you ever seen more beautiful wine grapes in differing stages of veraison (the onset of wine grapes ripening)? In my 27 years of being in the wine business, I had yet to see anything so visually beautiful in a shed, nor did I even know that this practice exists.

We exited these hanging grapes in awe, to enjoy a lovely Tuscany lunch, under perfect, autumnal conditions.

[PHOTO OF PICNIC: Antonia Caserta of Castello di Meleto]


Upon returning back to Sonoma County, I did a bit of research to better understand the tradition I had just experienced. It was certainly something not new, just new to me.

Here’s what I found, coming from a PDF, from the Court of Master Sommeliers.


Central Italy Toscana – the Court of Master Sommeliers

“The traditional practice of governo (fermentation with the juice of dried grapes, to strengthen the wine and initiate malolactic fermentation) is legally permitted. This process must be indicated on labels as “Governo all’uso Toscano,” Chianti normale may be released on March 1 of the year following the harvest; however, the subzones of Rùfina, Montespertoli, and Colli Fiorentini require additional aging.

“Chianti Riserva requires a minimum two years of aging, Chianti Superiore wines require an additional 0.5% of alcohol and lowered vineyard yields.”

One more exploration, to finish what I’ve learned, since returning home.

“Governo” mentioned about in the Court of Master Sommeliers PDF… What is it?

Governo ~ A Bit More to Know 

Governo is a winemaking technique, which dates back to the fourteenth Century AD. Invented in the region of Tuscany, these selected grape aren’t only saved to help complete fermentation, but they may also help to stabilize the wine. Grapes are allowed to partially dry, not completely, though.

They also help what’s called a “stuck fermentation,” when the juice begins to slow it’s process of turning juice into wine. Winemakers will add these grapes to the must (fermenting juice crushed, that also contains the stems, skins, and seeds of the grapes), so the fermentation gets a boost in sugar. This hopefully enlivens fermentation, once again.

[PHOTO: I was really struck by the enormity of the Apennini Mountains and the thick, looming fog.]


From Chianti, we drove eastward [pictured above] across Italy to the region of Marche, through the Apennini Mountains. (These mountains travel north to south through Italy. Here, in Marche (and Umbria) this Governo winemaking technique is also used. I was introduced to the white Verdicchio wine grape variety by Colonnara Viticultori in Cupramontana ~ In the Castelli di Jesi region of Le Marche. Here, it adds a bit of sweetness and an effervescent quality to the Marche wines.

For all of the samples of Italian wines I’ve tasted, I better understand he ones from these regions, and will have more personal insights, where Central Italy is concerned. Flying into Rome, driving to Tuscany, then driving to Cupramontana in the Marche region, and spending a day in Senigallia, on the shoreline of the Adriatic Sea… What a fantastic, educational experience. If you ever get the chance to tour Europe, this is a “must do,” for all of the reasons listed above.

A very special thank you to Michael Yurch of Bluest Sky Group, for your arranging my journey, as a guest of Castello di Meleto and Colonnara Viticultori, to join this Italy-bound adventure.


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Romancing the Grape ~ Relationship Selling for Hospitality Professionals

SAMPLE COPY from Lynda R. Paulson ~ PHOTO: Jo Diaz

Romancing the Grape ~ Relationship Selling for Hospitality Professionals by Lynda R. Paulson should be mandatory reading for all winery tasting room personnel. This is always how I sold wine, while working in a tasting room, because my studies and background are in PR. That said, it’s a rare combination walking into a tasting room. That’s where I began to learn about wine. For the average “Jo,” however, backgrounds are as varied as could possibly be…

  • From mechanical engineers
  • Retirees from any profession
  • Those just starting a wine career – as I was, seguing from radio broadcasting
  • To insurance sales people, let’s say, who love wine and want to work on the weekends, in a tasting room

All are welcome, and all should have a basic understanding of what they’re actually doing. Lynda’s book HAS spelled it all out very succinctly.


  • First Impressions
  • Personality and Body Language
  • Romancing the Grape
  • Facts, Benefits and Bridges
  • Buying Signals
  • Creative Selling, Add-ons, Phone Sales
  • Busy Weekends and Special Events
  • Your worst Day: Handling Crisis
  • Wine Club Sign-Ups
  • Follow-Up, Come Back Soon!

I highly recommend this book to any and all tasting room managers. If you don’t have a tasting room manager who is so invested (and why not, I can only wonder), then get the book for yourself, tasting room personnel. Odds are, if you practice what’s in the book, some day you will have the skill-set to manage tasting room personnel.

Romancing the Grape will make a huge difference in your career. Working in a tasting room is more than a glorified part-time employee. It’s a bonafide sales job, and you’re invited to be and excellent professional. You’ll gain all of the knowledge and confidence to become that shining star!

Romancing the Grape has been much needed for a long time

My favorite entry in the entire book, since I’m also a huge fan (and friend) of Julie Johnson at Tres Sabores:

At the small, farmlike, Tres Sabores winery in the Napa Valley, members of the “Wine Society of Tres Sabores” are treated like close friends. I watched the owner/winemaker, Julie Johnson, greet a group of club members, as they arrived to pick up their allotments. She stopped what she was doing and came out to hug them and chat about news of the wine year.

This is the beginning of anyone not familiar with relational selling that you’ve got to go the extra mile to meet and greet everyone arriving.

About Lynda R. Paulson

Lynda R. Paulson has received widespread recognition as a winery communication skills and public speaking coach for more than 35 years, working with more than 600 wineries in the U.S.

From Amazon: She is also renowned across the country for founding and leading the Executive Speaking Experience, a powerful, personal, interactive program focused on public speaking and presentation skills for very small groups of individuals. She has coached numerous business and sales executives, celebrities, wine critics, upper management, and thought leaders to prepare and present their messages. Her coaching techniques have been crafted over decades for clientele such as AT&T, American Express, Disney, AT&T, ING, IBM, Oracle and many more companies, and countless individuals. Formerly a Vice-President at Dale Carnegie Training, she was also their first woman instructor in the United States.

Paulson is the author of The Executive Persuader: How to Be a Powerful Speaker, and has published many articles on sales, customer service, people management, and team building.


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Leaping Horse Vineyard ~ More Than a Leap of Faith

PHOTO: Jo Diaz

SAMPLE: Quintessential Wines for Ironstone Vineyards:

Listening to “There’s No Way,” an upbeat Powerwalk Playlist on Spotify…

I’ve got this 2017 Leaping Horse Vineyard Chardonnay wine sitting on my desk, waiting to be opened; screwcap right there, just needs a twist. What’s holding me up? I just read something from Tasting The Past, The Science of Flavor and the Search for the Origins of Wine, by Kevin Begos, and that’s what I’m about to do, Taste The Past, having worked with owners John and Gail Kautz. They also own Ironstone Vineyards, in Murphys, California. So, I thought it was entirely possible that I’ve tasted wine from the vineyards that have crafted this wine.

But then I read the label more carefully and saw “California” for the appellation… probably not. Now I have to taste it with a more open mind. First I’m going to share something really cool from Tasting The Past, about how we drink in the present form. It all has to do with wine – right here, right now.

“…In another study twenty-six people tasted three different wines, with and without classical music. They perceived the wine as tasting sweeter and enjoyed the experience more while listening to the … music than while tasting the wine in silence.'”

Opened the bottle and a sweetness wafted up… (It made me remember what I had just read. This blend of wine from California, primarily from the Chardonnay grape has other familiar, floral memories. Aha… 90 percent Chardonnay and 10 percent Viognier. Viognier rounds out anything with a romantic bouquet… I’m brought right back to the Sierras and that old Wild West town of Murphys.

This 2017 Leaping Horse Vineyard Chardonnay has very light and lively flavors of lemon and honeysuckle, lending itself really well with Asian-style foods. It makes me want to drive to our favorite Thai restaurant, and paying corkage for bringing it with us… It’s that well made. If variety is the spice of life, then this is both the variety and the spice!

[Yeah, so we went to get Thai food.]

I wonder if this wine would bring back some really sweet memories for you, if you listen to happy Powerwalk music, too.

I’m going to go off in a different wine blog story here, so I can connect the past with the present, because I had some really fun and some really mysterious times in the Sierras. Here’s one of the best.

[PHOTO: James John Sands]

A Howling Good Story in Murphys, California

Years ago, I worked for Ironstone Vineyards. The following story is one of my favorite memories, while working in the Sierra Mountains, happening in Calaveras County.

It was a two-and-a-half-year gig. I’d travel 185 miles from Sonoma County to Murphys, California once a week. I had always dreamed about being a cowgirl. Here, I was living it, if only for the moment. The most amazing moment came one of those nights in Murphys. Call it an omen of things soon to come, the magic of the full moon, call it anything you’d like… I call it a howling good memory.

After a day of driving, I went to the winery to work a bit. Once everything was finished, I checked into the Murphys Hotel, just like always. I preferred the front room, at the end of the hallway, to the left. The room has French doors that open to the street below. It’s a street that’s still narrow, as it was in those Wild West days. It’s just wide enough for a couple of horses to be tied to some post, perhaps  only 30 feet wide. Shops are still small, so I got to know people in most stores. It was really fun to explore. I’ll always be thankful; going back in time is such a hoot.

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

That front room could be a blessing or a curse, mostly depending on mood. Sometimes I minded that a saloon was directly below me; other times it didn’t bother me. I learned 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.

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 us somethings, but not all things.

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. I had reduced it to a lowest 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. This is what I’d come to love on their menu.

I’d say, “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.”

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’m still laughing.

So, this one night after Señor Chicken, I headed to my room. No TV, no clock, no phone, and a shared washroom down the hall. 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; it slowly faded away to the point of complete silence. I fell into a deep asleep.

PHOTO: fotobokeh

Then, while the town was quiet enough to hear a pin drop onto the street below, I heard a shrill howling off in the distance. It was far, far away; yet I felt the animal totem energy arrive in my spine, as I was awakened from a sound sleep.

Slowly and surely it became louder and louder, the energy coming closer and closer… howling at the moon, screaming at the tar beneath the pads of its feet, digging in with its claws to get better traction, closer 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 saucers. My heart was pounding, the sound passed right – under – my – window. I was no more than 20 feet from it, as it reached its crescendo. Then it receded into the distance, much more quickly than it arrived, as my heart was pounding. I was just simply in awe of being that close to something that played itself out like that, with no visuals, but highly evocative and a story to last a lifetime.



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Thanksgiving Wines Came Early To My Home

[PHOTO: Purchased]

Company samples are listed with each wine.


  1. HEART ~ THE WINERY: This information came from the wineries’ notes.
  2. SCIENCE ~ WINEMAKING ~ From the winery.
  3. SOUL ~ Jo’s Musings

The early bird arrived with all of these samples. Each one holds an important special memory, a unique time and place, flavors of wine in that time. We’re entering the most fun time of the year… A time of giving, caring, sharing in very generous ways. Family, friends. expanding the table, rearranging furniture to accommodate everyone… Giving Thanks. We’ve made it this far into the year. It’s now time to celebrate the good, the bad and let the ugly take a backseat for a short period. We’ve seen it all. We’re all hopeful, feeling the peace sign circling back again, the olive branch shared, and it’s our time of deep commitments and caring.

So, the following samples were brought to a group of friends gathered to enjoy the wines that I said, “Heck, I’ve got a lot of wine to open. Once opened, I’m going to taste each one with my own notes, and I’m willing to share the names with notes, and if you want to write your own notes, that’s very cool, too. In exchange, you can each take some wine home. It would be a shame to waste it.”

They let me also borrow their notes, which I’ll review, to get to the “soul” of what they were all feeling… But only for curiously sake. I’ll be writing my own impressions here, then privately review theirs for my own curiosity. I won’t be sharing, since I don’t do group tastings publicly.

Consider what each “SOUL” delivers, AND think about your own menu. You’ll might get some ideas for fun food and wine pairings this year. These are white options…



NV Valentin Bianchi S.A., New Age White, San Rafael, Mendoza Argentina


Bodegas Valentin Bianchi is a fourth generation, family-owned Argentine winery founded in 1928 (and is among the oldest Argentine wineries still owned by the same family).   It is renowned for traditional Argentine wines.  After almost a century of hard work and success, Valentin Bianchi still shines with the legacy of the family, seeking to keep alive its passion for wine, crossing borders via export to most of the world, and constantly exploring new horizons, on both the winemaking and marketing sides of the company.


  • 90% Torrontes, 10% Sauvignon Blanc
  • 10.6% Alcohol
  • $12.99

Valentin Bianchi wines encompass the exponents of the best terroir locations in Argentina, with a philosophy that encourages a constant exploration for the ideal terroir for each wine. Its philosophy is to find the unique and unparalleled aspects of each one of the winery’s estates to interpret the vine’s intent and provide the market with variety and excellence in each and every wine they produce.


The Valentin Bianchi S.A., New Age White is like witnessing sparkling diamonds in the sky, with a bit of tiny bubbles still enjoying their time in the bottle. Consider that this one is only 10.6 percent alcohol… It’s definitely one for those who are wanting to start out slowly, with some delicious appetizers to bring it all together.

Some Italian parents cut the wine they give their children with a bit of water. I refer to that as wine with training wheels; i.e., a starter wine, just right for anyone who is new to wine and it’s Thanksgiving, again. This one? That person might even finish it and look for a bit more, please and thank you.

For those of us who love cheese as an appetizer? Given the right pungent cheese, I believe this (with it’s bit of residual sugar) will complement it and be delightful.

HEART lead in

2016 Stella Pinot Grigio Wine 

This one was a canned wine and I decanted it, so it was in disguise, because I wanted honest reactions. My age demographic can be set in its ways. I wanted no judgments on the can, just the wine. Everyone “liked” the wine, and we all agreed it was an entry wine. It was quite pleasant, and we all agreed that the canned wine is just right for their target audience.


Estate founded: 1986, Pinot Grigio grapes were grown in the mild Mediterranean climate of Sicily, in various vineyards locations. The soil composition is clay. The vines are trained on spur-pruned cordons, at an elevation of 382 feet.  Stella’s vineyard has 1,133 acres at 1,133. Exposures vary, and were planted from 1982 to 1995. Harvest time was August through September 2016. The first vintage of their wine was in 1996, and there were 57,000 cases of Stella Pinot Grigio produced.

Winemaker Danilo Chini fermented this wine in stainless steel tanks for 10 days, and the temperature was 64°F.


  • 100% Pinot Gris
  • 5% Alcohol
  • $32.00
  • Winery production: 850,000 Bottles
  • Region: Sicilia
  • Country: Italy



Would I have it by the pool? Most assuredly. My pool has all ages swimming in it. This Stella Pinot Grigio Wine is as refreshing as a salt water swim in a pool. No nasty chlorine to take over the fun, just the spirit of the wine… young, vibrant, easy, fun… Did I mention refreshing and something to just float with. It’s how I enjoy taking parties… just floating through them, snagging the spirit. This one is the spirit of Stella!

Okay, so this is Thanksgiving and how are YOU going to use it?

2017 LÜK Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, Oregon


Van Duzer Corridor- Willamette Valley… a wine brought to us by Aberrant Cellars. This is soon to be the newest sub-AVA within the Willamette. For decades, winemakers and winegrowers have extolled the virtues associated with the influence of the afternoon winds coming inland from the Pacific Ocean, and being funneled through a gap in the Coast Range mountains. This “Van Duzer effect” has a significant impact of style for the wines of this, and some neighboring, regions.


  • 100% Chardonnay
  • 9%
  • $30.00

Temperatures are dramatically affected with 20-30 degree drops in the late afternoons. Longer hangtimes throughout the season are a necessity, to incorporate these swings in temperatures; and, more often than not, flavor development is ahead of sugar development. This offers lower potential alcohols. Grape skins end to become thicker from the winds, resulting in less juice to skin ratio, and often provide wines which have a savoriness and display tightly wound energy at their cores.


I know Aberrant Cellars firsthand regarding the soul of this wine. Eric Eide (pronounced as I.D.) is the owner winemaker, and one of our clients. Before Eric decided to have his own brand, he had a successful career as a wine salesperson. He not only knows what he wants, but he also knows what YOU want. Quality and great value for the price is his credo, and tasting though his wines, including the comments of the big dog wine critics on the block, these wines are SOLID. It’s tremendous to work with someone whose intentions are pure, as are his wines. These wines are soulful, just rock solid soulful… actually why I love working with Eric. He trusts us, we trust him. You can trust his wines, too.  Smooth Chardonnay, really smooth. Great with a Thanksgiving day turkey; especially with white meat and delicious gravy. Think wild rice stuffing, home made cranberry sauce with a raspberry vinaigrette… and Lük Chardonnay… All a match made in heaven.

2017 Ironstone Vineyards Chardonnay, Lodi, California


Ever since the first gold nugget was discovered in the Sierra Foothills, the region has attracted dreamers, innovators, and pioneers. The Kautz family settled in Lodi, CA in 1926 and founded their first winery, Bear Creek, in 1968 – the same year they planted their first vineyards. Over the next 20 years, the family expanded its vineyard holdings to more than 5,000 acres of vineyards in the Sierra Foothills and Lodi. Today, the second generation of the Kautz Family is making wine and operates a state-of-the-art winery, which produces acclaimed wines. They’re located in the Sierra Foothills town of Murphy, in the heart of California’s scenic Gold Rush Country.


  • 90% Chard, 5% Viognier, 5% Chenin Blanc
  • 5% Alcohol
  • $13.99

For more than 30 years, the Kautz family has been committed to sustainable viticulture practices that improve the health of the vineyards and the larger environment. With more than 6,000 acres of vineyards in the Sierra Foothills and Lodi, the Kautz family has been an essential part of the region’s winemaking history. Ironstone’s Leaping Horse Brand represents value-driven everyday wines from the family’s best vineyards throughout the Lodi appellation.


The soul of Ironstone Vineyards’ wines rests with matriarch and patriarch, Gail and John Kautz. I worked with the Kautz family from 1998 to August 31, 2001. It was john and Gail who taught me their graciousness and their farm ethic. Good honest people, who are committed to delivering the best wine for the value of the wine. Tasting their 2017 Ironstone Vineyards Chardonnay was like entering a time machine. All of these years later and I can still recognize their wine. New to it is the Chenin Blanc and Viognier; still, it’s a winemaker Steve Millier wine. It’s got his signature all over it; that would be great structure, fantastic flavors, and another great wine for the turkey. With this Chardonnay blend, I’d want it with turkey’s succulent dark meat, with a bit more weight.

2017 Luca Bosio Vineyards, Piedmont, Italy  


Luca Bosio Vineyards, now in it’s third generation, was established in 1967 by farmers Egidio and Angela. Their son, Valter Bosio married Rosella and along with their son Luca, a graduate winemaker, work tirelessly to keep up the family tradition. Luca has brought a wave of freshness and novelty both in technical and commercial areas. After the success of his innovative and progressive ideas, and under the constant support of the family, the company has taken the name of Luca Bosio Vineyards.

In the centre of the Langhe, among the hills celebrated in Cesare Pavese’s poems, you can find LUCA BOSIO VINEYARDS winery, in a world where technology and rural tradition coexist.

It was 1967 when Egidio and Angela decided to start a work and a life full of fatigue and satisfactions; like every good farmer Egidio started step by step, with humility and tenacity, not pretending to reach success immediately and knowing that working hard and paying attention to the quality of the products would have given him results. Now, in the XXIth Century, the company includes 60 acres of vineyards, divided in the typical cultures of the zone. The plots of land are mainly in S. Stefano Belbo but also in Castiglione Tinella, Mango, Costigliole d’Asti and Castagnole Lanze. The property of the company is only a little part of the entire panorama, in fact hundreds of farmer organizations give their grapes to our factory so we have a total annual production equal to 1000 acres of surface; grapes come from different part of Piedmont, like Langa, Monferrato, and Roero.


  • 100% Arneis 100% D.O.C.G.
  • 13% Alcohol
  • $17.99

Luca Bosio Vineyards winery is located in the center of the Langhe region of Piedmont. The company has 60 acres of vineyards and sources additional grapes from vineyards in Piedmont.


This is a very fetching wine… It’s smooth as silk and has tons of floral notes and an ample supply of fruit flavors. The wine also has perfect well balanced acidity, so it’s great with foods. I would open with this one as people arrive. You’ll have more time to explain what this Arneis is all about. It’s flavorful with more stone fruit, as its a warmer climate type wine… Golden delicious apples and peaches dripping with honey flavor. It’s also got a bit of a nutty flavor. Cheeses and crackers with your appetizers, served with Luca Bosio Vineyards Arneis. Not into cheese and crackers? Try stuffed mushroom caps. This one will get any party going, it’s that much fun.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!


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Do You Know Verdicchio and Le Marche, Italy Are Quietly Famous?

[PHOTO: Autumn at Colonnara Viticultori]

Some might even say it’s a best kept secret, but I don’t mind letting this secret out of the bag…

Not to worry if you don’t know either Verdicchio or Marche. I didn’t know anything about the alluring Verdicchio grape, either, before my trip to the land where it reigns supreme, in Le Marche, Italy.

In the US, for instance, if you type “Verdicchio” into a Google search, it displays people who have just passed on. Meanwhile, if you type in Chardonnay it’s all about the white wine, wine, wine. If you type in Cabernet, it’s all about the red wine, red, red, red, of course.

As Americans, unless we’re in a sommelier program or have visited Le Marche, Italy, the odds are great that we’ve not had the joys of tasting Verdicchio. In fact, if you misspell it in typing, spellcheck is going to want you to replace Verdecchio with radicchio. (Yeah, right, not even close.)

So, why?


  • Number one is that there are very few Verdecchios that make it out of the Le March region of Italy. This is the regions “white” wine… It’s famous for it in Europe. Where we pop into our favorite restaurant and easily order Chardonnay, for instance, in Italy, they do the same with Verdicchio.
  • Te UK is familiar and enjoys it.
  • When they do get exported to the US, they makes it to the east coast and mostly stay right there.
  • The center of the US is not necessarily wine county. Do a comparison of wine purchases in the heartland versus beer.
  • Now do the same search, but search in the south, in moonshine country.
  • Finally, San Francisco might have a few Verdicchios, but they’re hand sold by sommeliers.  (Never to me, because I would have been enlightened and written it down.)

[Photo: Claudio Giovanni Colombo – Rural landscape along the road from Jesi to Filottrano (Ancona, Marches, Italy), at summer.. Fields of sunflowers and view of Filottrano]


Most countries, including the US, and winemakers of today have settled into a really safe, comfort zone, of crafting what’s selling the most… This increases a bottle line and makes shareholders very happy. While both Chardonnay and Cabernet satisfy the masses (easy to say and easy to order), stepping outside of a comfort zone is definitely the most adventurous wine find of all. What many people are missing, though, as a result of a very narrow focus by the world of wine, are the adventures inherent that heritage, indigenous varietal wines deliver. Wine has the ability to take the most adventurous of us on a foreign expedition. I will be forever indebted to my hosts Colonnara Viticultori in Cupramontana ~ in the Castelli di Jesi region of Le Marche, for the opportunity to not only discover a new wine and wine region, but also the opportunity to satisfy my curious and adventurous soul.

Today, many wine writers are searching for these heritage varieties to write about, for a couple of reasons:

  • Chardonnay and Cabernet burn out… How many times, how many ways can we make it enticing, again?
  • Millennials are now the largest  demographic, and they’re adventurous. They don’t want mom’s Chardonnay, nor do they want dad’s Cab.
  • Tell they you’ve got a Verdicchio and they’re going to hover closely in excited anticipation, while you open the bottle.

Fine Points About Verdecchio

The word verde in Italian and Spanish, plus Vert in French all mean “green,” in our English vocabulary. This should immediately tell you that this wine will have a bit of a green tinge to it in its color, and it does…

This is a light to medium-bodied wine, depending on the producer. Mostly, it’s fermented dry and the alcohol is usually low; so, this isn’t a “hot” white wine. It’s refreshing, tasty, and exciting. The range:

  • Crisp Acidity
  • Soft ripe, juicy peaches
  • Milder flavor olive oil
  • Almond skins

Only a few Verdicchio grape vines are planted in Argentina and Brazil, BTW. The rest of 99 percent Verdicchio vines in the world (of note) are in Le Marche, Veneto Italy. This wine is mostly used as a stand-alone variety, but it’s also used in some blending.

PHOTO: Jo Diaz
In the land of Cappuccinos and Galato

[A map showing the location of the Adriatic Sea. Created by Norman Einstein]
In the land of Cappuccinos and Galato, the Marche region in central Italy, is bordered on the western side by the  Apennini Mountain Range, and by the Adriatic Sea on it’s eastern bordered. Combining these two geological factors has created a very powerful, marine influence on the region. It really keeps it quite cool due to the fog hugging the Apennines in the distance, traveling inland from the Adriatic Sea.

As I was standing on the edge of the Adriatic, and one of my hosts Cora Tabarrini pointed eastward, telling me that directly across from that location lies Croatia. Writing this, I had to research the geography, just for a reference point. It’s 104 miles between Senigallia, Italy (where we were standing) and Zadar, Croatia (to where she pointed straight ahead). And, for your reference on this map, Senigallia is 18 miles north of Ancona, the capital of Le Marche.)

In Italy, different winemaking regions have different ways of naming their wines, and in the Marche region it’s the following:

  1. Grape variety
  2. District of village
  3. A proprietary name
  4. Classification

[PHOTO: Jo Diaz.]

Reading an Italian Label

Producer ~ Colonnara (a Jesi standard)

The Variety ~ Verdicchio (a specialty)

The Region ~ Dei Castelli di Jesi and Classico (a Premier region)

Classification ~ Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOCG)

DOCG, according to wine consultant Catherine Fallis MS, in The Encyclopedia Atlas of Wine, “The DOCG was conceived as a class apart to represent the top wines” when regulations needed clarification.

One more thought from Kevin Zraly’s Windows on the World

  1. If it’s “Classico,” all of the vineyards are within the historic part of the region, for instance.
  2. If it’s listed as “Superiore,” it has the highest alcohol level and it’s also more age-worthy.

The Global Encyclopedia of Wine, Peter Forrestal – Consulting editor

Central Italy – COLONNARA: Established 1959…

“One of the several cooperatives in the Jesi zone, Colonnara is in the vanguard for reliability and overall quality. The members’ vineyards are overseen by an associated company… to ensure good viticultural standards. The flagship wine is Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Cuprese, from selected grapes, with intriguing vegetal tones, slow development and good longevity. This is also an impressive sparkling Verdicchio.” p.315

I’ll be continuing with my crash course in the Central Italian peninsula region. Meanwhile, thanks to Bluest Sky Group for arranging the educational experience, and to you Colonnara Viticultori in Cupramontana, for hosting me as your guest. Grazie Mille!



Cabernet Sauvignon,Rosé,Tuscany,Wine,Wine of the Week,Wine Samples

Red, White, and Rosés Don’t Need to Have a Season to Have a Reason, Do They?

Samples. Companies are listed with each wine.


  1. HEART ~ THE WINERY: This information came from the wineries’ notes.
  2. SCIENCE ~ WINEMAKING ~ From the winery.
  3. SOUL ~ Jo’s Musings

[PHOTO: Taken at Castello di Meleto]

BACK STORY: In 2002, I was charged with getting publicity for Petite Sirah. At that time, I could only find a total of 62 growers and producers. Today, they’re over 1,186… That’s 1,124 growers and producers combined. Pretty substantive in 16 years of chanting Petite Sirah, Petite Sirah, Petite… The “i” without the “y”… At the time, wine’s biggest highlight, beyond the wine, was how it paired with food. White was for chicken, pork, and fish. Red was for red meat, lamb, and chocolate. Rosé was for “pussies…” The Sutter Home White Zin crowd; I was among them, in the late 80s. My wine palate hadn’t even begun to develop.

[PHOTO:  Donato Fiorentino]

So, how was I going to get Petite Sirah in front of wine writers, and have a different twist in 2002? I paired it with holidays. It was pretty novel idea in the early 90s, so I had given writers another edge. Now, I’m pitched all of the time; this wine is for this holiday. and that wine pairs well with that holiday. I still occasionally do it, I have to admit. I have, however, come back around in my own thinking, that Red, White, and Rosé don’t have a specific season, but they do have a reason… And, that has always been to pair it with the best foods. If we sit around and wait for a holiday to break open any bottle of wine, we’re going to only have… how many days a year(?)… when we’re enjoying wine guilt free or not just for pool side or Christmas.

So, here’s the deal… I’m going to list a RED, a WHITE, and a ROSÉ wine I’ve enjoyed this year. Each one was great wine for the money, as my old friend Audie used to say, when Jose and I would pop into his wine shop for another bottle of Merlot – in the 80s. Any of these wines you can plunk down on a table with a group of friends, when the occasion isn’t to celebrate your latest Margaux find for only $3,000, so you wouldn’t be able to talk about anything else. These are everyday wines, which pair really well with the right, everyday fare, for the other 350 days of the years…

2016 Reserva Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon


The first one (red) I want to list is the 2016 Reserva Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon. I’ve told their story several times, because it’s a really great one to share. It’s a real story and it defines the wine. Now, instead of repeating myself, I’m letting their video (below) tell their tale of drama and intrigue to you, because it really says it all.

And all I’m going to say is this: Casillero Del Diablo’s wines, from one vintage to the next, is always one of the greatest wines in the room for value, as deliciously yummy. I wouldn’t blink opening this wine anywhere, anytime, for any party, for any reason. Pick the occasion, pick the wine, pick the variety, you just picked a winner.


Science and Soul of this wine is right in the bottle, waiting for you to simply pull the cork. The 2016 Reserva Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon is 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. The grapes are grown in Chile’s Central Valley vineyards, on hillside with benchland and river bench soils. After the juice was fermented in stainless steel tanks

And, I dare you to watch this video first. (It’s so worth it.)


And Now The White

NV Montinore Estate’s Borealis White Blend

[PHOTO: Jo Diaz, taken at Castello di Meleto, Gaiole in Chianti, Tuscany, Italy. It’s a wall painting replica of a Medieval tapestry. The colors remind me of a white wine.]

NV Montinore Estate’s Borealis White Blend [Willamette Valley, OR]


Established in 1982, Montinore Estate is the largest producer of certified estate wines made from Biodynamic® grapes in the country. With our 200-acre Demeter Certified Biodynamic® and Stellar Certified Organic vineyard located in north Willamette Valley in Oregon, we focus on producing superior Pinot Noirs, cool climate whites, and fascinating Italian varietals.


By employing thoughtful Biodynamic® and organic growing practices and utmost care in winemaking, the quality of our vineyards is reflected in the grapes and then in the wine. Our approach to winemaking focuses on producing wines that are an expression of where they are grown, while ensuring they are approachable, food friendly and structured for graceful aging. From harvest dates to fermentation vessels and temperatures, from cultivating our own yeasts to selecting the perfect barrels for aging, each decision is thoughtfully made with one end goal in mind: To craft wines that reflect the place where the grapes are grown, offering freshness, liveliness and complexity, while showcasing the best characteristics of each variety.

[PHOTO: Jo Diaz]


This wine reminded me of why I love wine in my own unique way…  When it comes to wine, being a purist is so limiting; the more the merrier is my credo, and Borealis delivers. Primarily composed of northern Alsatian white wine grapes, Borealis is a melange of 38 percent Müller-Thurgau, 32 percent Gewürtztraminer, 19 percent Riesling, and 11 percent Pinot Gris. The blending of these grapes is as intriguing as a Medieval tapestry, in the blending of white wine elements:

  • Müller-Thurgau dominated my palate, as represented by the beige coloring
  • Gewürtztraminer is seen as the hints of gold… it’s lusciousness
  • Riesling is gray moments, fueled by a slight petrol
  • Pinot Gris is in the foliage, balancing the Germanic influences with a bit of Italian flare

Together, as they blended into the melange characteristics, it was a really fun, floral exploration of this Montinore.

Rosé is Like Champagne, in that Rosé is for Any Day

With Most All Foods

2017 Little Black Dress Rosé [Mendocino County, CA]

[PHOTO: Jo Diaz]

I like the entire concept of Little Black Dress wines, from the Excelsior Wine Company. This is the 2017 vintage of LBD Rosé, the winery’s first Rosé release since the 2015 vintage. Highlighting LBD Wines’ commitment to crafting top quality wines only when growing conditions deliver exceptional grapes, the current vintage is bursting with flavors of fresh strawberries, bright red fruit, juicy watermelon and a crisp, bright and balanced acid with semi-sweet finish.


Since its inception in 2009, LBD Wines has been a strong supporter of women’s causes worldwide including Dress for Success Worldwide, Susan G. Komen, Keep a Breast, True North Foundation and Fatigues to Fabulous. Now through the brand’s LBD Cares Fund, the heritage continues with upcoming Spring events in support of the Junior League of Boston, Dress for Success Worldwide in Chicago and Susan G. Komen in New York. The 2017 LBD Rosé will be featured prominently at each of the aforementioned events. To find out how to join LBD Wines in supporting these women’s initiatives while experiencing the new 2017 LBD Rosé, visit Facebook and Instagram.


 According to a February 2018 Wine Intelligence Study:

  • Over half of Rosé wine drinkers are male
  • Over a third of the adult population drinks Rosé Wines
  • And approximately half of Rosé Wine drinkers between 21 and 34 consume Rosé at least once per week.

Along these lines and well before the newly energized #metoo movement, industry experts were extolling the popularity of Rosé, citing that the once female-skewed beverage has lured more male drinkers and found appeal beyond beach communities such as the Hamptons and Miami. According to a May 26, 2016 Fortune Magazine article “Rose Isn’t Just A Girly Drink,” the varietal is “a boozy trend that has engulfed boisterous bros, the Hamptons ‘It’ crowd, and major Hollywood stars, including Drew Barrymore and Angelina Jolie. The beverage that unites them: Rosé, is reporting sharp sales increases that far outpace the broader $38 billion wine industry.”

[PHOTO: Purchased – Ilya Glovatskiy]


I just explained sapiosexual to someone, after I heard someone say about him, “Oh, he prefers blondes with glasses.” He looked at me quizzically. I said, “You know, someone finding some else sexually attractive or arousing who’s intelligent.” He asked, “What’s glasses got to do with it?” I responded, “People who wear glasses are using their eyes too much and need support. Those are readers. That’s an intellectual  habit.”

He had to admit, I had a point. Now, imagine someone in a little back dress wearing glasses… Yeah, she’s smart, snappy, and has more that a modicum of decorum. Now you get Little Black Dress.

Whatever the reason, whatever the season; when dining, wine and food will complement each other… Find your groove and treasure the moments, with Little Black Dress.

[PHOTO: Purchased ~ Sutsaiy Sangharn]



Kevin Zraly ~ Windows on the World Complete Wine Course’s Latest Edition

[IMAGE to the right: purchased]

Wine is infinitely more intriguing than most other balls in the air we juggle during life, especially for the curious. Much of our inquisitiveness will be addressed within the pages of Kevin Zraly‘s 2018 edition of his Windows on the World Complete Wine Course. This is most especially true for us when we have more curiosity and less time to travel, when we could be weaving our own tapestries. Just step onto his pages and travel into the depths of how we taste and what we taste in reds, whites, and rosés, with Kevin Zraly.

Revised, Updated & Expanded Edition

Kevin Zraly ~ Windows on the World Complete Wine Course ©2018

  • “One of the best start-from-scratch wine books ever written.” The New York Times
  • More than 3 Million Copies Sold Worldwide
  • James Beard Award for Excellence


I caught up with Kevin Zraly at Castello di Meleto in Gaiole, in the Chianti Classico region of Tuscany, where we were their guests for he castle’s five-course lunch, with copious wines.  I hadn’t seen him since 2006, when he was honored by the former Wine Appreciation Guild in San Francisco. Kevin Zraly was the recipient of their prestigious author for the 2006 Wine Literary Award. I was sitting next to him during lunch, which I knew was pretty exciting. Now, 12 years later, we were in Chianti sharing food and wine.

When we both returned to our home states, he sent his latest copy of Windows on the World to me, as a review sample. I have Zraly’s 2006, his 2011 editions, and now his 2018 Edition. “What’s going to be the difference?” I wondered.

So, the book

I was genuinely stuck by Kevin Zraly’s touching dedication.

“This book is called Windows on the World Complete Wine Course for a reason. Windows on the World was a restaurant atop One World Trade Center in New York City. I worked there from the day it opened in 1976 and for the next 25 years, until September 11, 2001. I continue to title this book with the same name of the restaurant to continue its legacy.

“I dedicate this edition to all those who worked at Windows on the World, celebrated their birthdays, anniversaries, or bar mitzvahs there, dined there, or just had a glass of wine at the bar….”

(You’ll read further in your copy…)

The regions of wine covered in the 2018 edition, have immeasurably expanded in a continuing anthology of wine grape varieties, bottles and glasses, how to read a label, wine aromas and tastes, and a 60-second wine expert, for instance.

Here’s a nugget of wisdom:

Kevin’s new book (the one to the left in this photo) is massively expanded and really well done. I was immediately relieved in by his explanation of “Kinds of Tasters.” He references Janet Zimmerman’s article “Science of the Kitchen: Taste and Texture...” I never knew about Janet’s SCIENCE OF THE KITCHEN: TASTE AND TEXTURE article (so, now I know the original source of explanation for my palate). Finally we can all understand the specifics of tasters, from non-tasters to super tasters… I’m a super taster, and that’s not a bragging right. It’s a curse. I eat very little as a result. Kevin has condensed Janet’s taster types:

  • Non-tasters ~ Average taster = 96 taste buds per square centimeters ~ far from picky and less engaged with what they eat and drink
  • Half-tasters ~ 184 taste buds per square centimeters ~ Tend to enjoy a wild array of food and drink
  • Super Tasters ~ 425 taste buds per square centimeters ~ Tend to taste everything more intensely (so, less is more, from my personal experiences)

Kevin Zraly is an exceptional scholar; and, academics love to not only learn, but they also love to teach. And, whenever possible, teachers like Kevin love to record what they’ve learned, so it lives on… Taking his wine courses is the difference of gliding along like a Cessna 172, or actually taking off with him in a Sukhoi Superjet 100 super jet.

When the opportunity arises to get into one of his classes, it’s a chance of a lifetime. It will deepen your knowledge of wine and expand your appreciation. For the rest of us, until we can get into one of his classes, just buy his latest Windows on the World (2018) Complete Wine Course. Begin your journey, one chapter at a time. The pleasure you derive from wine will grow exponentially, through the amount of knowledge in Kevin’s sharing. Kevin Zraly’s life experiences of wine tasting and traveling to wine regions… the understanding of wine’s structure, historical developments, and the relationships he’s nurtured along the way are yours to also explore via Kevin’s written pages.

Michael Yurch of Bluest Sky Group organized to have Kevin join us for lunch.




Calistoga is Updating Their Game and I’m Musing in My Hopes for It

I can’t figure out if this is a blessing or a curse. Only time will decide, if this is going to be a great move. I’m going to reprint a press release from the town of Calistoga, California. Their intent is pure, so I really hope their plans will out work well!

My editorial comment, before I copy/paste the text, is this:

Whenever in Napa Valley, going to the Rutherford Grill was so delicious… The food, the ambiance, the convenience. Then, the Valley filled up with wall to wall tourists, and getting in means that we have to arrive at 11:00 a.m., when they first open, to get some of their delicious foods that I still crave. Yeah, right.

Next Gotts Roadside originally known as Taylor’s Refresher – We’ve been using it as a meeting place, when our granddaughter Chloe and her mom meet us halfway; they coming from the Suisun Valley area and we’re coming from Geyserville. Last weekend, while we were waiting for them (they were running late), Jose decided to get in line. after about 10 minutes, he came back to the car:

He: I can’t still keep standing there, the line is in an “L” shape and not moving. I don’t know when I’ll get to a window and then I’ll have to wait again.

As we continued to wait… after he came back, a party van pulled into the parking lot with a bus load to Silicon Valley 20-somethings. One-by-one they piled out of the van: 1, 2, 3, 4… to 20 people. By now the line had grown, but now by 20 more people? About 10 minutes later, another busload of 20 people pulled in and filed out… Forty more people, besides ALL of the families already waiting in line?

HINT TO GOTT’S: There’s a reason why wineries are turning away buses. Bus loads of people need their party planners to call a restaurant ahead and make a reservation. It’s just common courtesy. By accepting them, you are straining all of your resources: staff, not only your ability to deliver food, but also “good” food as well, and to also serve and continue to have the appreciation of the people in your community, with generations of people who have come to love your roadside attraction.

Once Chloe arrived, we left the Rutherford and St. Helena areas that Saturday, and drove north to Calistoga. It has now become our go-to place, because it’s still a treasure. The old cowboy town is funky nostalgic and fun. Chloe loved being there. We had lunch at Checkers. Still plenty of room, a sane environment, and some favorite dishes. After lunch we discovered Mad Mod, a great little store, with a charming store owner, and an adorable “birthday” shirt for Chloe. (Should I even give away my favorite haunts, lest they, too, become over crowed and unbearable?)

Look, I know some people love crowds. Some of us don’t. If I want to go to Disneyland, that’s where I go. If I want a few hours in Napa, I don’t want it to be getting a burger, right after a couple of tour buses drop off 40 people. The L-shaped line that Jose encountered? It had become a long “u” shape. I pity the young parents with children in the car who are all hungry.

So, here’s to managing Calistoga’s growth. May you please do it in such a way that visitors will still have that down-home, country experience.

PHOTO: Iakov Filimonov

Napa County Fair Association restructures for new role in 2019

CALISTOGA, CA – November 6, 2018 – After managing the Napa County Fairgrounds for nearly 83 years, the Napa County Fair Association (NCFA) has restructured their organization to adapt to changing times and to continue to remain viable and relevant in serving the community.

This new chapter will include a new board, new vision, and exciting opportunities that support the county fairgrounds as a sacred, public gathering place for future generations. There are several positive changes to this restructure. As of this week, the board has amended the Articles of Incorporation to open up opportunities for any adult resident of Napa County or areas serviced by a Napa County zip code to support, donate, or serve as a board member.

By becoming more accessible, NCFA hopes to recruit influencers interested in preserving their 80+ year tradition of celebrating Napa’s agricultural heritage. These changes will also allow for a newly appointed board of directors focused on fundraising and program development. With the right resources in place, NCFA is optimistic that it will be able to continue to host year round community events and activities that bring families together for years to come.

While the newly restructured NCFA plans to heavily focus on preserving the Napa County Fair and community events, much consideration has also been made to finding a long-term, sustaining solution to the infrastructure needs of the fairgrounds in Calistoga. For the past eight years, NCFA has worked diligently on strategic planning to preserve this beloved public asset. In 2016, this led to steering negotiations between the County and City to form a new governance structure that would have the capacity to care for the 70-acre property. As of December 31, 2018, the property and facilities will no longer be NCFA’s responsibility.

And while NCFA has not been formally invited to do so, the future vision of the nonprofit charitable organization is to continue to support their successors. The association is hopeful that the new governing agency will invite them to continue to raise funds and resources to renovate and upgrade the facilities for the community’s benefit. It has been through the fair board’s determination, staff loyalty, and volunteer commitment that NCFA has been able to not only preserve, but enhance programs that include the County Fair & Fiesta, ENGAGE Art Fair, Star-Spangled Social, and Christmas Faire.

To date, what began as an endeavor to find sustainable solutions has resulted in a state of limbo for the organization and its employees. One difficult step in the restructure process was the recent issue of layoff notices. It was always the board’s plan to keep existing staff in place during the transition of governance. However, with the contract expiring in just weeks they felt it was important to give NCFA staff enough notice to secure new employment.

Despite the challenges, the board is just as committed today as they have been for the past 80+ years. The fairgrounds will host several holiday events and parties this season, resulting in a very busy RV Park. In fact, the RV Park is so popular that management has opened overflow dry camping to accommodate the demand for the Holiday Village & Christmas Faire weekend.

Currently, NCFA staff is in the throes of producing the 49th Annual Christmas Faire to be held the first Saturday in December. This treasured community event is free to the public and takes hundreds of volunteer hours to put on. Please consider signing up today at www.CelebrateNapaValley.org/ChristmasFaireVolunteer.

Earlier this year, the Fair Board made a promise to the community to deliver a quality golf course through the end of October. Not only did the course remain open, but the course conditions were significantly improved.

“We’re proud of the course conditions and are pleased to announce that we’ll be continuing operations through the end of the year with a modified schedule for the off-season,” says board chair Karan Schlegel. “We sincerely hope that the community continues to support the golf course while NCFA continues to manage it to the end of this year.”

The course will continue to operate through the end of the year with its new schedule, open Friday through Sunday, weather permitting, as “walking only,” and closed Monday through Thursday.

Schlegel shares, “Throughout our work, we have sought to create a stable, prudent, and fiscally responsible Association that can continue to serve well into the future. While we’re unsure what the new governance will entail, we’re still committed to our beloved county fair and fairgrounds.”

For more information about volunteering, upcoming events, or the Napa County Fair Association, dba: Celebrate! Napa Valley, please visit celebratenapavalley.org.






Benedictine Monks,Chianti Classico,Food & Wine,Food and Wine,Imports,Italy,Sangiovese,Tuscany,Wine,Wine Country,Wine Philology,Wine Travel,Winery,Wines

The Benedictine Monks Are Smiling ~ Their Abby is Now Chianti’s Castello di Meleto… a Wine Company

Wine Philology: Wine History

I was the guest of Castello di Meleto in Gaiole ~ In the Chianti Classico region of Tuscany.

  • Hosted by Antonia Caserta (sales manager)

[PHOTO: Historical image from the Castello di Meleto website]

Forget your daddy’s straw basket candle holder, dripping with memories. Castello di Meleto in the Chianti region of Tuscany has gone way upscale sophisticated and delicious, with their Super Tuscan Sangiovese wines, and for good reasons.

Service to the saints is held each time another cork is pulled at Castello di Meleto. I found myself in their chapel room, one morning, before anyone else arrived, just quietly meditating. I stopped when the flurry of breakfast preparations began in the castle, whirling through the little room, as I sat in darkened silence. I was reflecting on how fortunate I was to be in a fortification, built in the 1200’s for Benedictine Monks. What must have it been like then?

Why did I feel like Rapunzel, when looking out of my bedroom window? In modern times, there’s no prince below. Been there, done that, and now he’s a king. And, I’ve cut off most of my hair in the process. There is no hair to climb, no need for anyone to come to my room and rescue me. That fairy tale wasn’t going be played out this time; however, in my current circumstance, I could still imagine what it would have been like, given the place where I had landed. Because, there I was, in a Benedictine castle, opening my window, looking below, where the stage was set for a new fairy tail.

It Began With a Benedictine Monk

[PHOTO:  Sarah Holmlund]

From the Conception Abbey Website:

First off, a Benedictine monk is a man of the Catholic religion who follows the rule of Saint Benedict of Nursia [birthplace of St. Benedict, founder of Western monasticism], a Christian saint and a patron saint of Europe. St. Benedict founded multiple monasteries in Italy. Recognized for his wisdom and leadership, men seeking to live out the monastic life sought him out to be their abbot. There is no evidence that he ever contemplated the spread of his Rule to any monasteries besides those which he had himself established.

The word “monk” comes from the Greek word “monachos” meaning “single” or “solitary”. It means to practice asceticism by living alone or with any number of other monks. Dedicating one’s life to serving others, or voluntarily choosing to leave mainstream society to live life in prayer and contemplation. In Greek the word can apply to women, but in modern English it is for men, as the word “nun” would be used for female monks.

[PHOTO: Jo Diaz, my bedroom where Benedictine Monks once lived.]

And, I was sleeping in my room, enjoying Tuscan foods in their dining rooms, and moving through their gardens, as they once had… where they had to deal with the people of Siena, who were trying to take away their monastic lifestyle at their Abby, now the Castello di Meleto.

How did I get there?

How did I become so fortunate? I really was there. This was not a fairy tale, and yet it felt like I was in one. I was in Gaiole, Italy, in the heart of Chianti county, in Tuscany, as a guest of Castello di Meleto. My wine blog began the process… all the years of writing, all the time spent in full disclosure. I received an Email from Michael Yurch of Bluest Sky Group, who was organizing a group of wine professionals.

Ms. Diaz. I really like your policy, as stated on your home page.  No nonsense and no one’s time wasted! I’m leading a small group of wine professionals on a short trip to Tuscany and Le Marche…

I accepted, and now the tales are being written. I took copious images, and this story is more of a photo journal. You, too, can imagine yourself in Gaiole, Italy… Or, maybe even (better) get yourself there, and live the dream. Delicious Chianti wines are waiting for you, too. (The Straw baskets are a thing of the past, sophistication is the new norm.)

Dine at the castle, with delicious, authentic Tuscan foods prepared by their excellent chef team. Each dish is paired perfectly with their wines.

Roam their gardens, swim in their infinity pool (the monks in heaven as smiling down on this one… something their lives couldn’t have even imagined).

Castello di Meleto is now a paradise of quiet splendor… a far reach from the days of  the Benedictine monks, who also lived there, in their days of solitude.

[Vestments worn by the monks, during holy days.]

Castello di Meleto Documents its Historical Background

The first accounts relating to Meleto date back to the eleventh century, at which time it was a property of the Benedictine monks. Subsequently it became the property of a certain “Guardellotto,” a member of a local feudal family, whom Frederick I Barbarossa dispossessed of his properties, giving them to the Ricasoli-Firidolfi family.

[When the monastery had to become fortified during the wars.]

FROM Igers Toscana

This is the Castello di Meleto in Gaiole in Chianti. Its origins date back to the 11th century when it was the property of Benedictine monks. Ownership the[n] passed to a feudal family called Guardelloto. [Emperor] Federick I Barbarossa dispossesed him and the castle passed to the Ricasoli-Firidolfi family in 1256. Its strategic location between Siena and Florence meant the castle was the background for many wars between the Guelphs and Ghibellines.

The [noble] family branch of Firidolfi da Meleto originated here. The name “Meleto in Chianti” was first included in the “Libro degli Estimi” (Book of surveying) of the Florentine Guelphs as property of Firidolfi family in 1256.

Its location, set between the Republics of Siena and Florence, ensured that the Castle was the background of many wars between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines, one of which was the second Aragonese invasion of Chianti in 1478 when it was occupied by enemy troops, and during the Medici War, in 1529, when it was besieged by the Senesi militia.

More of the castle, according to Chiantishire:

The Castello di Meleto was a possession of the monks of the nearby Coltibuono Abbe. The name Coltibuono is Latin (cultus boni) meaning good harvest.

I cannot help but wonder: Could this suggest that this Castello was a sacred place for the Monk’s viticulture? I believe we’re all left to wondering, about this fairy tale Castello di Meleto. A little mystery does the soul good, vero?


Italy,Tuscany,Vineyards,Viticulture,Wine,Wine & Food,Wine Appreciation,Wine Country,Wine Country Inn,Wine Culture,Wine HIstory,Wine Hospitality,Wine Travel,Winery,Wines

Colonnara Viticultori in Cupramontana ~ In the Castelli di Jesi region of Le Marche

[PHOTO: Jo Diaz – Cupramontana Headquarters]

To understand wine, first we need understand its culture and people. The first time I wrote that was in 2009, just prior to a trip to Portugal. This thought was just reaffirmed, as I’m newly returned from an Italian adventure, in the epicenter of the Renaissance.

This story is about my beginning adventures in the Marche wine region in Italy.

DISCLOSURE: I was a guest of the following:

[PHOTO: Jo Diaz]

I was part of a wine and food professionals’ collective, assembled by Michael (Mick) Yurch of the Bluest Sky Group, Michael Apstein (Boston-based wine writer), a pop-in at Castello di Meleto by wine educator Kevin Zraly (on tour with his publisher, for his  Fourteenth Edition release of Windows on the World). On this leg of the journey, we were all  guests of Colonnara Viticultori in Cupramontana ~ located in the Castelli di Jesi region of Le Marche.

[PHOTO: Jo Diaz]

An Italian Adventure to Last a Lifetime

I just experienced a seven-day, cross-country van tour in Central Italy. I first crossed the Atlantic Ocean, landed in Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport, traveled to Gaiole in Chianti, to Cupramontana in Marche, then to the Adriatic Sea. This map is of Route E-78, which we picked up in Siena, to finish crossing Italy to it’s eastern seaboard.

What a fabulous experience. If you love adventure, just get on that plane or boat and do it. A whole new world of wine is waiting for you! And, the center of Italy, like all other regions in Italy, is jam packed with history that dates back to the early beginnings of time, and incredible, reflective wines of each region.

[Map by Friedrichstrasse, via Wikimedia Commons]

[PHOTO: Jo Diaz – Headed toward the Apennini Mountain Range.]

It did help to have Emiliano Bernardi, the Italian sales manager for Colonnara Viticultori, driving us from Castello di Meleto in Chianti to Cupramontana, starting in Siena on Route E-78 (to the right), as we drove through the Apennini Mountain Range. Also, on this leg of our journey, was export manager Cora Tabarrini, from Colonnara. They – throughout the trip – provided a lot of hospitality, history, culture, and many backstories.

Just before we boarded the van, I had told Mick Yurch, “I pity whomever is going to be sitting next to me, because I had just had two espressos.” I was totally buzzed on really excellent coffee. He said, “Sit up front with Emiliano, he’ll answer all of your questions.” (Great plan.)

[PHOTO: Jo Diaz ~ I was really struck by the enormity of the Apennini Mountains and the thick, looming fog.]

This entire belt of Italy is an amazing trip for anyone wanting to learn and experience this area of Italian culture, life, foods, and wines. The latitude is filled with Romanic history, the ravages of the Middle Ages, castles and Medieval tales of knights in shining armor, Benedictine Monks protecting their Castello di Meleto (for instance), the Siena Roman Catholic Cathedral with it’s historic, mosaic marble floor, to the adventures of Fabriano’s Museo della Carta, a paper making tradition. Then off to the spectacular Grotte di Frasassi with its into-the-mountains-we-go world famous stalactites and stalagmites, followed by a trip to the Adriatic Sea at Marche’s Ristorante La Pagaia, Next off to one of Marche’s most famous beach locations. When it was explained by my host Cora that Croatia was just across the waterway as we looked to the east over the Adriatic, it was then that I really understood the enormity of what we had all just experienced. What a gift we were given by Colonnara Viticultori (and Castello di Meleto in Chianti).

[PHOTO: Jo Diaz ~ Emiliano Bernardi (left), and Cora Tabarrini (right) are preparing our tasting and Colonnara.]

Before I jump into the wines we tasted at Colonnara Viticultori, I feel compelled to share my primary experience… what my eyes saw, for this is where I began to taste the fruits of their labor… from the landscape, the mountain ranges always in the distance, the olive trees, the Roman Pines, and the tunnels through massive mountain ranges. There was so much to take in, think about, and wonder in amazement. I was transfixed in this new wine region and its terroir. And, I learned enough to fill a dedicated notebook.

Colonnara is in the province of Ancona, the capital of Marche. This is a land of rich harmony and tradition. Our group was given first-hand opportunities to experience so many aspects of Marche. Friends were made, bonds were created, we tasted the flavors of the regional wines with regional cuisine, and we visited many cultural centers as we learned about their ancient, Italian history… Marvelous memories that we now cherish.

[PHOTO: Jo Diaz. Note the enormous fog bank that was to eventually welcome us, on the other side of the Apennini Mountains, through a succession of tunnels.]

And the flavors of the wines? They were all delicious, well balanced, and precisely reflecting their terroir and culture. Much on the main tasting, later. For now, I’ve begun a bit of Colonnara’s geography as we witnessed it, which is reflective of the Cupramontana region.

[PHOTO: Jo Diaz.]

Today, this region is considered the world’s capital of Verdicchio, the white Italian wine grape variety, which is primarily grown in the Marche region of central Italy. A major role of their terroir are the Apennini Range that consists of parallel smaller chains extending for 750 miles. These ranges run along the length of Italy’s peninsular structure. So, as we traveled from Gaiole (in Chianti) to Cupramontana (in Marche), it was along a roadway running west to east, which goes through a succession of tunnels (still being constructed, after 40 years).

I mention all of this, because it’s the major influence that I could find and define between the terroir of Gaiole and Cupramontana. It’s similar – on a much larger scale – to the terroir differences between Sonoma and Napa in California, for instance. There, it’s the Mayacamas Mountains that create one area: Napa Valley, to be defined by Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc, and Sonoma County to be defined by Pinot and Chardonnays. In the instance of Gaiole, Chianti in Tuscany, it’s Sangiovese; in Cupramontana, it’s Verdicchio. As we drove eastward through the tunnels of the Apennini Range, we eventually arrived on the eastern side of Italy’s Adriatic Sea. Much like the Pacific has influence over California’s wine growing regions, the Adriatic has a powerful, cooling influence over the wines grown in the central/eastern shores of Italy. This is why the Marche region of Italy is defined by the white (and slightly green tinged) wine, with stone fruit flavors (and a slight oiliness) variety called Verdicchio…

[PHOTO: Jo Diaz ~ This is my view from Casa Blu, my country B&B home for three days. The fog haze never lifted, during my stay. The influence from the Adriatic Sea is powerful.]

This is not the first place in history to have Verdicchio to be as part of its history. It does now, however, through the passage of time and  generations of experimentation with the Verdicchio grape, come to be known world-wide as the home to this varietal wine. Cupramontana has become known as one of the best places in the world to grow and experience Verdicchio’s best expression of its character. And, in my next story about this area, I’ll discuss the wines we tasted, gratis of Colonnara Viticultori in Cupramontana.

Welcome to Verdicchio Central

From: Google Maps

Le Marche, an eastern Italian region, sits between the Apennini Mountains and the Adriatic Sea. Ancona, its capital, is a port city on the Riviera del Conero, an area with sandy coves, limestone cliffs and medieval villages. Pesaro is the birthplace of renowned opera composer [Gioachino] Rossini. The interior has countryside dotted with fortified hilltop settlements and the glaciated valleys of the Monti Sibillini National Park.

Special thanks to Michael Yurch of Bluest Sky Group.

PHOTO CREDIT: Iryna Markova of the Apennini Mountains.