Bordeaux,Importer,Importer Search,Imports,Wholesaler,Wine,Wine Business,Wine Culture,Wine Distribution,Wine Importer,Winemaking,Winery,Women in Wine

As the World Turns, So Does Wine Importing as the Heartbeat of International Wine Dreams

Let me begin by writing about a past conversation I had with one of my contacts, who works in the Pentagon, whose identity I’m going to keep private. I will say, he knows enough to have called this one, and I’ve watched it all happen to be true.

When the Democrats are in power, it’s all about wine

When the Republicans are in power, it’s all about alcohol

If you’d like to argue this one, I would only counter with, why is there now a 25 percent import tax on wine coming into the US; and, alcohol comes from red states, crafted by the original moonshiners, with no 25 percent tax increase?

Since I’ve been in the wine world, a lot has happened before my eyes. This includes my name having reached places I’ve yet to understand. I’m witnessing this as people come to me for advice, which I’m happy to give when able. And, if I don’t have an answer, I usually know who does. So, something will come of any connection, for all of us.

The Question

Bonjour Jo, Parlez vous français ou espagnol? Mon anglais est très précaire… à bientôt, Michelle (not her real name)

RESPONSE: Un peu et un poquito. Les deux sont difficile pour moi aussi… tambien, à bientôt, Michelle.

So, “my husband and I bought a property in Bordeaux, where we have been working since 1996 (before we lived in Spain). The economic situation in Europe is dire .. and we must seek to sell our wines beyond our borders. Can you help us? Best regards, have a nice day.”

I told her that I don’t have the ability to work with importers or wholesalers, anymore. But, I would find an answer. And so the connections and updates into the shrinking of the wine importing business in the US began. The one thing I did already know, because I’ve been watching it for about 30 years, is the continuing development of global wine AND wholesale oligopolies. What this has meant for consumers:

  • WINE:
    • Fewer options for wine brands on store shelves
    • Fewer people to hire in the wine world
    • More commodity wines edging out the artisans
    • More use of chemicals, since artisan brands are more likely to farm organically and/or biodynamically
    • Farmlands growing more consolidated; ergo, more immense farming techniques
    • Mechanization of harvests
    • Less hands-on during harvests; ergo, less delicate aromas and flavors result
    • Fewer options for wine brands in their portfolios
    • Fewer people to manage the sales to wine shops, grocery stores, and restaurants
    • Artisan wines have no place on the shelves, except for a few “pet” brands for the buyers
    • Their fighting against any direct sales for artisan brands, to keep wine buyers hostage to their own portfolios
    • Keeping imports out of our country, as they’ve been value brands in the past, perhaps with the exception of Bordeaux and Burgundy wines, and if they don’t own them, they don’t want anyone else to, either


Hey, why keep listing anymore, you get it by now, right?

So, my connection might be working with her

But here’s her lengthy scenario… It’s going to take a lot of time, if she truly wants to come into the US market, regardless of the fact that her label will say “Bordeaux.” Just imagine that one about 25 years ago; Bordeaux would have been a shoe-in.


What my source says about the global wine world today


“I need to be honest and say that I have never seen the American market in such turmoil. COVID has permanently closed many restaurants, 70 percent in some cities. Furthermore, the current regime in Washington has imposed a 25 percent tariff on many EU wines that include the wines of France and Spain. It’s a daunting time in the US for wine sales, but we continue to do our job, which is to put new producers into the system.

“Small importers are going out of business. The big guys are cutting marginal suppliers and won’t even discuss new products. The fact is that 90 percent of owners have the same level of passion and quality (and investment). The secret of making very good wine has been out for a long time now. From a marketing standpoint, the names of the wines are awful and the labels are even worse. I spend much of my day telling current clients why things are not working. The best thing for any hopefuls about the US market is to rid themselves of any hopes for selling in the American market, for the foreseeable future and to concentrate on Asia. This is no longer the ‘promised land’ for anything. Yet, if brands haven’t been discouraged by all of this, I’m happy to discuss the process further, and give it a try.

My contact explained all of this with Michelle and she’s NOT discouraged that it will take so much to get her company ready. She’s young, so time is on her side, but is the United States? The November election will have something to do with this, too. I’ll be closely following this one. The work ahead for her wine brand is going to be a full-time, part-time job.

One hopeful caveat to all of this: with international wine brands begin discouraged from US practices, the playing field could be a bit more hopeful. Meanwhile, Asia is taking the stage as a leader, perhaps for many more years than is possibly imaginable. Still, let’s remember, the oligopolies are also moving in that direction. So, it’s all still shaking out for an inevitable plateau.

For me, I may have an upcoming trip to Bordeaux. My contact wrote the following to Michelle. “Creating press relationships during this period is also important, but you already have Jo in your corner, which will be hard to improve upon!!” This made me smile, but my job is also more complicated now, based on all that’s been written above. This is not your daddy’s wine business anymore, as it shrinks and expands simultaneously… as the heartbeat of wine…

Thank you to Wine Business and Wine Industry Network for featuring this story in their blog section.



Wine,Wine Business,Wine Industry Discrimination

My Funniest Wine Industry Discrimination Story Ever ~ It’s a Classic

As if discrimination is ever funny; still this one is a classic and continues to make me chuckle.

A few years ago, while minding my own business, the phone rang.

“Hello, this is Diaz Communications.”

Amiable man on the other end of the phone, “I’d like to speak with Jo Diaz, please.”

“This is she.”

Complete silence for at least six to seven seconds. Count Mississippi 1, Mississippi 2, etc., for six or seven seconds, to get the pregnant pause, for the full impact of the “dead air,” as we call it in radio.

Laughing to myself, thinking that he’s thinking, “Jo, Pat, Chris… damn, you never know anymore.”

The man gathers his thoughts and proceeds to tell me that he’s a head hunter from XYZ Firm; and moves forward, not really knowing what to do. It was in his voice.

Meanwhile, I decided to go along for the ride; and, he did his thing asking questions, like I honestly mattered anymore. I mattered enough for him to make the call, until the only hang-up was gender. In the end, he was continuing with his cordiality and then we politely said goodbye. I could just see him on the other end, egg on his face and all.

About six weeks later, a letter arrived for Ms. Pat Diaz. Oh – my – God, I DID read his mind; which wasn’t the first time in life for mind reading. I’m pretty good at it, actually; so, I couldn’t wait to see what was written to my newly-named Ms. self.

Dear Pat Diaz,

We thank you for applying for our Public Relations position [for which, of course, I didn’t apply].

You are surely well qualified. We did, however, choose another candidate for this position. We wish you well and trust that you’ll find your perfect job opportunity, too.

I thought to myself, “Well dude, I read you like a book; and, since I own my own PR firm, perhaps you should have been better informed about a lot of things regarding this Ms. Diaz.

Sometimes, I still laugh about that one. It’s a classic. Yes, I kept the letter… If I ever need a good laugh, I can just pull it from the file cabinet, under Are You Kidding Me, Dude?

It happened in wine country, I’m not alone. I just chalk it up to ever-evolving away from ignorance… Things are much better than when I started my PR career, in 1983, and since that call.


PR Advice,Public Relations,Public Service Announcement,Wine

The Importance of Public Relations Cannot Be Underscored Enough, or How I’d Like to Bop a Few CEOs Over the Head

Obviously, I would never bop anyone over the head, but some people really do need to understand what PR is and what it isn’t. So, I got that frustration out.

So, let me tell you a little life story, which drove home the importance of PR (not to me, but to a former CEO).  I had a client that I loved. Everyone was great, I did my work, and the image of something very “hippie on drugs” slowly morphed into a company of pre-eminent local importance.

Everything went along swimmingly, until my beloved CEO moved to another location, and the sales manager took over. All this person understood was sales figures. PR, in the CEO’s not-so-humble opinion, was a waste of time and money. All of the work I had done with this company was slipping down the drain with the CEO, and I suffered every new scowl that met me each new morning. The constant pit in my stomach was my intuition telling me the writing on the wall. This person knew by April that in December I’d be moving to California, so the call came. “Jo, can you meet me in my office tomorrow?”

“Here we go,” I thought. So, I walked into the office and said, “Let me tell you, why I’m here. You don’t need me anymore.” A huge sigh of relief from the CEO. My intuition has never been wrong, so it makes perfect sense that it wasn’t going to be wrong on that fateful day. But, I was in the middle of a huge project, convincing my Rotary Club to grant a scholarship to immigrants and refugees to the University of Southern Maine. I had interviewed the head of the ESL department, only to learn that to be enrolled in the English as a Second Language program took a mere $500. Once in, they could apply for grants, scholarships, and loans, but they had to “get into” the program first. Why they couldn’t afford to was because they were working in entry jobs, with a peer group that had marginally intelligent language skills. This was like having a ball and chain around their necks for any real forward movement.

What really put me over the edge was to learn that an Indonesian immigrant, a surgeon, was working in a meat processing plant. That kind of talent was truly being wasted, when the addition of a surgeon to the community was paramount.


I had already been pushing for this for a year and a half, talking one-on-one with each member, and now I was being told to go find something else to do for the next eight months. I was so close to the finish line, I could smell the barn, and I just couldn’t give up. So, once I explained this circumstance, I asked if I could just continue – at no charge to the company – until the end of the year; when I’d be moving. I certainly wasn’t going to apply for another PR job under false pretenses of, “Man, I can hardly wait to work for you,” when I only had eight months to go. (That would have been my own PR fiasco.)

PR is not an ephemeral job. PR takes a lot of time, by first instilling trust and then working diligently and honestly, continuing to work those relationships. Many connections become friends over the years… but never in just months…

The answer was “okay.” So, I still put in my hours, but not a bill, and submitting a monthly report for their public file. I was a contractor, keeping their FCC public file, so what I was submitting was actually very important for the company. Little did the CEO know, since I was inherited.

I moved forward and in November, my Rotary Club announced that not only was I going to get my wish, but I was getting it two-fold with two – not one – scholarships. The $10,000 they had raised earlier that I was tapping into, was going to be giving 10 percent of it to USM for the scholarships. All I had to do was get my ESL head to know, and he would begin the process. I got to meet the first recipient, a nursing single mom, and hand over the program to a gentleman on my committee. I implored him not to let this important program fall by the wayside. I just looked up “Portland Maine Rotary Scholarships,” and found my answer: 6 Annual College Scholarships. 

It’s nearly 30 years later… BUT, it only took a few months of my being in California for my former CEO to call me at the winery where I was now working. “Hi, Jo! I wonder if you could help me? I have someone in mind to fill the job you left behind. Do you know her? Could you recommend her?” The enthusiasm made me ill.

“Ah… No, I can’t help you, and hung up the phone.” I told my new employer what that call was about. She said, “Well, isn’t that a backhanded compliment!”

Right… It took an inordinate amount of time and work to prove to someone, who was solely into sales, to understand that each and every segment of PR adds up to the ultimate goal, sales. One does not build a reputation overnight, but once it kicks in, PR has polished the reputation and making sales a lot easier to happen, when you trust the source.

So, if you ever wonder if you need PR, just ask yourself, “Do I need a reputation?”

Thank you to Wine Industry Insight and Wine Business for offering this as a credible link to their daily news pages.



Gentrifying Robs More Than Land in Napa Valley

It eliminates heart and soul… I’m still thinking about “Napa Valley Beyond the Fires, Small Family Farms Are Bureaucratically Being Squeezed Out.” Lots of people who are well-to-do, become land barons. It’s where the money naturally goes, building castles in the sky; and Napa is where everyone into glamour wants a piece of the pie…

In my personal history, I’ve watch substantial money being handed down and its process through generations (the wisdom of age), that’s really been happening since the beginning of time. If you enjoy history, you love digging deep. I’ve done it within my own lineage, dating to 1622.  It’s fascinating to read a history that is exclusively yours.

So, now I’m looking at Napa Valley. Having read Old Napa Valley: The History to 1900 by Lin Weber, I read about the players, who was funded, and why. Some land just got gobbled up.

Anyone else who visits Napa Valley, and has great memories of visiting Yountville, for instance, can begin to put all the names of the region together with the history that created it, and anyone who loves history, will find this a detailed read.

  • Surrounding towns, lakes, and streets are reflective of their land owners: Angwin (Edward Angwin), Yountville (George Yount), Lake Berryessa (Berryessa family), Coombs Lane (Nathan and Frank Coombs), Chiles Valley (Joseph Chiles).
  • The Napatos Indians inhabited the land around the city of Napa.
  • Mallacamas Indians to the north of Napa were found in Calistoga. (Since a double “ll” in the Spanish language is pronounced as a “y”, the Mayacamas Mountain range is what it’s called today (in and around the city of Calistoga, crossing over into Sonoma County).

Then, it settled in for a bit. I’m ever so thankful for my stint at Robert Mondavi, when I was allowed to dig deeply. Among Christian Brothers, Charles Krug, Robert Mondavi Winery, and Beaulieu Vineyards, it was a new time. (Others, too, but these have their own quiet farmer stories… What a dynasty existed, but, that still allowed others to come into the valley, because all of the land wasn’t already gobbled up.

Fast Forward to Now

As I contemplate Napa Valley and how the “little guys” were – and some seeming still are – always fighting those coming in with more resources, and actually taking over in some instances, with no regard for their neighbors, it’s heart-breaking. I reached deeply into my soul for this one. Some empires, built on history, will pay all due respect to those who are in the lineage, related or not. Preserving the name is very important. Why? Because they’re ALREADY BRANDED. Buying a winery doesn’t mean that you know about marketing. I’ve had so many professional experiences with this one.

There’s one winery I recommended, once having but purchased by a corporation, “Don’t get rid of the established figurehead,” I said. After they no longer needed my services, they did drop the history. Then, they held tight with the brand, eventually someone new coming in. Alas, it’s for sale.

You Can Buy Land; You Can’t Buy Empathy

Okay, a bit controversial: when the nouveau rich come in, forget about it… (Because “new” money doesn’t always preclude history; but in some cases, it really does.)

They didn’t get their money handed down to them, in a caring way, so there goes the neighborhood. They have no reason to care. They buy, they dream big, because they have an exorbitant amount of money, and just take over. They get into city councils, construct new rules. If only we could reach their hearts.

I had two great comments that I want to share, the issue at hand:

  1. Bill Tobey – Wine Broker says:

These are important comments, so think about this. HOW do you want Napa Valley to be?

Fires Can Now Buy Time

Land has been stipped in Napa Valley. If I’ve learned anything from the fire in Sonoma County of 2017… I lot of people in the hills of Santa Rose, most of those gorgeous homes were lots. The hopes and dreams down the tubes. What they got from insurance only covered the bare minimum, if it actually covered that much. They may have ended up owning, and can’t begin again. This is going to also happen in Napa. Over-extended lands are going to go through a metamorphous… Then there’s that other side of the coin; will some of these local billionaires grab the land and being to farm big, in the hopes of having the grandeur of Henry VIII?

We’ll witness the rebuilding, and I’m hoping that some of the charm that’s defined Napa stays in Napa.


Napa,Vineyards,Vintner,Viticulture,Wine,Wine Business,Wine Country,Wine HIstory,Wine Marketing,Wine Sales,Wine tasting,Wine Travel,Winery

Napa Valley Beyond the Fires, Small Family Farms Are Bureaucratically Being Squeezed Out

In the event you’ve not heard about this grassroots effort, here it is again, as we wonder so much about Napa Valley these days…


Save the Family Farms” is a group of owner-occupied grape growers, who make wine in Napa Valley and classify ourselves as “micro-producers.” We are small operations and the current COVID-19 economic crisis threatens our operational viability more than ever. Current Napa County regulations take a one-size-fits-all approach, requiring small family farms and vineyards to invest up to $10 million and several years trying to obtain a use permit. This short video below describes why small family farms and vineyards are important to Napa Valley and our path to economic viability via onsite tastings with direct to consumer sales.”

Save The Farms is a Napa Valley 501(3) non-profit, and I’m with them in spirit. I, too, worry about the small family farmers in Napa Valley. It is they who have a sense of community, charm, a true passion for their unique terroir, which they bought into long before it became chic to arrive.

As Ken Nerlove, of Elkhorn Peak Cellars, says in this video, “The small Farmer… that’s the character of the Napa Valley. That’s historically what the Napa Valley is about. And, when that goes away, um… the soul of Napa Valley can go away.”  The only way they can sell their wine is to have access to the direct consumer.

Legislation: Have to have access to direct consumer

  • In 1990, there were about 7,000 wholesale distribution houses. Today there are about 600 distributors.
    • They don’t want to take on small inventories, because they can’t make money with the brands.
  • Have to have access to direct consumer
    • It costs these small farmers million to do so; before they even make a pitch for sales. Think about that.

It makes no economic sense for small farmers to do so. They’re up against a rock and hard wall, it appears. Some of these farmers are only making 1,000 cases of wine a year.

This video is important to watch for all of the details.

No tasting rooms, no wine on-site can be sold; just how are they to survive? You can join their effort and follow this one.

This non-profit is in favor of the creation of a micro-winery-ordinance. It’s actually critical to this segment of wine in Napa Valley’s charm, a valuable diamond in the Napa Valley crown, the historical jewel around which the rest of the crown was constructed.




Education,Red Wine,White Wine,Wine,Wine Appreciation,Wine Culture,Wine Ed,Wine Education,Wine Gift,Wine Innovation,Wine Marketing,Wine tasting,Wine Travel,Wine Webinar,Wine Writer,Wine-Blog,Wines

Mastering the World of Wine Has Never Been Easier, Thanks to Evan Goldstein

Webinar and Education – Master the World

An extraordinary educator, Evan Goldstein MS might have exercised his rights to the “gold” in his name; as in, a golden opportunity not only for himself, but also for us, when he created Master the World™; Learn Like a Pro.

A new seminar is coming up on October 21, 2020, in the event you become inspired.

I personally walked into the world of wine in early 1993. I’ve had 27 years of studying, lessons, teaching, and enjoying it all. The positive relationships forged along the way have given me insights that are so worth sharing; ergo, we all benefit. Really, the world of wine has to be one of the most enjoyable professions on the face of the planet, especially when you combine great people and food with the wine. Most people have a “happy hour,” after hours. It’s a “happy day,” for those of us in this industry, all due to the end goal… wine.

Advocating for Evan Goldstein is one of my greatest joys, because he’s quite fabulous in my opinion, just for starters. He’s bright, energetic, well-educated, approachable, yet easy-going in his style. His latest project is engaging, thought-provoking, and a blast in the process.


FROM HIS WEBSITE: “A trip leading a group of sommeliers through the wine country of Brazil’s Serra Gaúcha was not when one would expect to have an “aha” moment for a new business idea. Alas, that is what happened to our Co-Founder and Master Sommelier Evan Goldstein in February of 2015.

Every morning, Evan watched a New York City sommelier, studying for the tasting section of a prestigious wine certification exam, ritualistically open a set of six crudely-packed mini wine bottles to blind taste, in an effort to train her palate. The wine bottles were packed by a friend back home to help her study. When she finished tasting, she would email home and ask for the wines’ identities to check her deductions. This got Evan thinking: There’s got to be a more effective way to train one’s wine palate, and not just for sommeliers but for all wine lovers.

Fast forward a few diligent years, we have figured out a high-quality production process, subjected it to sensory and lab analyses, jumped through regulatory hoops, created branding and packaging, and developed a wine evaluation tool that has morphed into a unique and effective wine education experience: Master the World.

This is no ordinary wine club – it is a wine club that will empower you to explore new wines, learn how to evaluate them, and decide for yourself what you like. No artificial intelligence telling you what to drink, no gimmicks, no swill.

I’m all for learning as much about wine as I can. Why? It’s made me a lover of world history (who knew?), craving for the flavors, knowing they reflect the exact point in time and place where they were created, even standing there! If this is wine nerdy, I’m in. It’s a great way to go out!

(“In moderation, my dear,” I hear Mother Saint Yolande saying to me and y’all, as a cautionary warning.)

EVAN’S INGENIOUS Master The World™ (MTW)


Master The World™ (MTW) @ www.MTWwines.com is a new and innovative wine education platform for industry professionals and consumers alike seeking to hone their palate. Subscribers can look to improve their tasting skills and expand their wine knowledge via carefully curated blind-tasting kits, conveniently delivered monthly to their door. Three subscription plans are available: an à la carte, “check-us-out” single kit for $90 (an original holiday-season gift or birthday present), a monthly “pay-as-you-go” option at $80 per kit, or a 12-kit annual subscription for $840, i.e. $70 a kit, including free overnight shipping during summer months.

Now launching in 45 states nationwide (excluding AL, DE, MS, SD, and UT), MTW is the brainchild of industry veterans Limeng Stroh (Co-founder/CEO) and Master Sommelier Evan Goldstein (Co-founder/Chief Wine Officer). Stroh and Goldstein are also long-time partners in Full Circle Wine Solutions, a top California-based wine & spirits marketing and education firm.

Each kit contains six wines packaged in 187 ml glass bottles, each selected by a panel of Master Sommeliers as textbook examples of a specific grape variety, region, and/or style. “Regardless of provenance, every wine comes from a top-notch winery, many of which are celebrated household names. We taste dozens of wines before zeroing in on our finalists,” notes Goldstein.

If you want to begin to learn about wine, this is like an experience that those of us who are “in the business” have, when we’re learning, and now so can you. If you want to brush up your wine knowledge, it’s equally fun and you can take advantage of more details; since you’ll already know some of what Evan will be introducing.


You have a bow and arrow in life. You can run around with arrows all day, trying to find and hit your target; or, you simply take time to find solid ground, draw the bowstring back, find your target, hold steady, pull back the bowstring so it’s taut and controlled, and then trust yourself to let go.

After just one session, you’ll have more understanding, knowledge, and a walk-away with more enlightenment. Being very candid and honest… I was able to guess four of the six varieties that I tasted, I got some regions right, but I didn’t get some others. There were times when I thought it was one thing, wasn’t sure; but I had been right, and sorry I hadn’t trusted my instincts. The reason I’m telling you this, even with my years of learning and visiting the world, I’m never going to know it all, none of us are. But I know I get to inspire the average person who is curious about what I do know, and it further educates. So now, take Evan… He impresses me… Nuf said?


Check out Evan if you’re ready to take what you know, no matter where you are in the process, to another level. It’s a fun way to pass the time, stretching your imaginations and your palates. He has plans and you’re invited:


Napa,News,Sonoma,Sonoma County,Sonoma Valley,Wine,Wine Country

News from Aratas Wine of Napa Valley ~ It speaks to our collective sadness

We’re all suffering in Napa and Sonoma valleys… There are a myriad of reasons; from absorbing toxic ash from “some other place” this time, to having been evacuated and praying for about a week to learn if your home is still standing, to getting home and having some damage, to getting back to an empty lot, or having lost a pet(s), or even people. It’s a fire war zone, in the middle of a virus war zone, and we need to elect a leader to see if we really are a free people zone.

It’s a painful stage, but we’re also finding little joys along the way, we have to. Californians are somewhat resilient. And, our firefighters have a passion beyond comprehension. Actually, they all do, too. They come from everywhere around the globe to experience it. I’ve been able to chat with them in my neighborhood (past fires), and they’re the best people ever, considering their enemy. Think about it.

[PHOTO: Stock that I purchased. All rights reserved.]

So, the News from Aratas Wine of Napa Valley

September 30, 2020

Calistoga, Napa Valley

To our friends in wine,

Thank you for the outpouring of love and support. Your messages and notes of encouragement are meaningful during this extraordinarily difficult time. This year has brought us unfathomable challenges. Tuesday, in the wee hours of the morning, our home, a cedar shake bungalow nestled among old oaks in a quiet box canyon, burned to the ground along with every home in our community. Sixteen years of life in the vines reduced to a pile of ash in just an instant. We are utterly devastated.

The Glass Fire ignited on Sunday morning in the thick woods off Crystal Springs Road a couple miles down the valley. It burst open and spread from 20 to 2500 acres in moments engulfing Rattlesnake Ridge directly above us. How aptly named as we’ve had a few close calls with our unpredictable neighbors over the years. The irony is cruel. Cal Fire’s brave, but battle-weary firefighters fought relentlessly for 24 hours while “Big Bertha” the starship 747 super fighter dropped retardant from overhead. Those golden hills draped in drought-stricken vegetation have been here before. The fires of 2017 still burn in our memory. This time, the intolerable heat and erratic winds were too much to harness, with the windswept the monster over the ridge, just before dawn. The battle was over.

I weep trying to find the words. Winemaker Matt’s family has been evacuated along with 80,000 other neighbors all waiting to know if their lives have been forever changed. The smoke and ash are overwhelming. We watch…and wait for an end to the carnage but the situation is dire. Over 48,000 acres of pristine old oak and redwood forest, historic wineries, homes, and schools are under siege at this very moment. It’s burning virgin land, never before threatened by fire.

The Land Trust of Napa was the first private land conservancy in the US (est.1976). Through its conservancy, 15 percent of all the land in Napa County; pristine wilderness and heartwood, has been voluntarily protected from development for future generations, to cherish as we do. It is all at risk and suffering along with the devastation of an agricultural community, which thrives by growing grapes. The Glass Fire and Shady Fire are still raging beyond comprehension. Everyone in wine country desperately needs your support and encouragement.

I hope those of you who visited us in the “treehouse” will cherish your memories as much as we do. So many of our very best of times started with a visitor and the pop of a cork. It’s what drives us and Aratas Wine.

So here we are. While the good news is our winery is fine for the moment and our fermented wine is resting safely in the cellar. Regretfully,  much of the 2020 grapes succumbed to smoke taint during the massive LNU fire just a couple weeks ago. It’s a one-two punch to the gut. So this year, our new baby, a lone Sauvignon Blanc, will carry the flag for Aratas Wine. It’s a lovely, elegant wine, harvested in the nick of time and we look forward to introducing it to your world. Our fall release event in Virginia, scheduled for Sunday, October 18, will go on as planned. We hope our east coast friends will join us for a night of hope and a positive spirit.

Thank you for supporting our restaurants, heavily weighted down by the COVID climate, and for choosing our wines for your table. Recently, we’d received exciting news we’ve been eager to share, but it will wait. We hope you are in good health and in a good place. We can’t imagine what else could be lurking behind the next corner, so now might be the time to drink your best wines first. I imagine you have felt defeated at one time or another this year, while grappling with the cloud of COVID. We are in it with you and hope a glass of fine wine shared with a friend might make it a little better. They say we’ll get through this…

With our gratitude and a heavy heart,

Stephanie Douglas

Please visit our website or social media outlets for more information, release event tickets, or to stock your cellar with our newly released wines. We appreciate your support more than you know.  www.AratasWine.com ~ www.NapaLandTrust.org


Books,Wine,Wine Appreciation,Wine Education,Winemaker,Winemaking,Women in Wine

Where do I Begin, I’m just so thankful ~ Lucia Albino Gilbert & John C. Gilbert

Thankful is the best place to start, because I needed a little jog.

Once upon a time ago, I wrote a story, Wine Review: Lucas & Lewellen Wines are Santa Barbara Delicious.

I received this comment: Professor Lucia Gilbert says:

Readers may be interested in knowing that Megan McGrath Gates is the winemaker at Lucas & Lewellen winery. Megan was appointed winemaker in 2007, and Director of Winemaking in 2014.

I responded, just happy that I had finished another story, with so much on my plate:

Hello Lucia, Thank you for your comment. I have talked about Megan McGrath Gates, on April 29, 2020. This time I wanted to focus on viticulture, with Lewis Lewellen (her employer).

I’d been writing about Lucas and Lewellen for a bit, exploring different aspects of the winery, and trying to recreate its heart and soul. I also know the attention span of a blog reader. So I thanked her; but, wasn’t ready to add more to the story at that time.

We continued the conversation, though, all the while my not realizing that Lucia Albino Gilbert & John C. Gilbert had just self-published this historically important book: Women Winemakers: Personal Odysseys. Lycia asked if she could send a copy to me. Lucia asked if she could send a copy to me. That I was ready to receive, and so my own odyssey began.

Here’s what you really need to know and remember ~ Well acclaimed history professors, writing about female winemaking history with in-person interviews, facts, figures, and from around places in this world. Each woman was interviewed and telling it like it was and still is, through having conducted what must have been some of the most tedious and extensive, albeit enjoyable, moments of the authors’ lives.

The foreword was written by Zelma Long. From there, it’s very focused, purposeful, and an important resource for any research related to the world of wine, as it cohesively and historically begins each odyssey for each woman; the who, what, when, and where of it all, into the emergence of women into a traditionally male-dominated world. The farmers grew it and the farmers’ wives stood at the ready to sell it at the end-of-the-driveway farm stand. That’s as close as they got to having some control. For the world of wine; get educated, but expect to stay in the lab as an enologist. Once in, many women wanted more and they managed to have it their way. Following each story, there are similarities and some differences.

[PHOTO: LEFT TO RIGHT: Elizabeth Vianna, winemaker at Chimney Rock, Napa Valley with Jose Diaz, my partner/husband.]

This book just draws one in…

After each introduction, bios were revealed, then how they emerged into their chosen field, and that burning question: Each woman was asked about working in a male-dominated field. The character of each woman seems to be just about the same, but not always for the reasons. That’s broken down into for unique entries.

Learn what it takes and who it takes to become that rising star

I spent a lot of time reading this book, digesting it in small increments, holding each story as a parallel reminder of my own personal odyssey, because I’ve broken my own glass ceilings. I have lived through so many of the challenges. And, what it took to have each trailblazing woman to get where she was at the time of her early beginning to where she now is, rings true for me, too. Early achievement in a career is the springboard for personal success, as are mentors.

This book is a focus on winemaking women who have found themselves in a “man’s world” and their careers that have followed.

  • California’s Trailblazers (1965-1974)
  • California’s Trailblazers (1975-1979)
  • Trailblazing Winemakers in International Regions
  • The 1980s to the Present

They explore pathways, and you’re along for the ride, somewhere in the world. You’ll discover the backstories for a lot of very influential wine people. Fascinating people have had similar experiences to discover who matches with which configuration.

  • The Sensory Pathway
  • The Family Pathway
  • The Science/Agronomy Pathway
  • The Enology Pathway

And, so YOU think you want to be a female winemaker? Good for you and you can thank those who blazed through those doors. They paved the way and you may never even know it. Those who do know it, certainly get more out of life.

Again, as a research asset, there are five Appendices, a Glossary, and a brief story of Lucia Albino Gilbert & John C. Gilbert.

I’ve included my friend Elizabeth Vianna, winemaker at Chimney Rock. She’s one of my Napa Valley rock stars, and always a delight to see and visit.


France,French Wine,Wine,Wine Accessories,Wine Appreciation,Wine Business,Wine Culture,Wine Ed,Wine Education,Wine tasting,Wine Travel,Winemaking

When you leave part of your heart in France ~ Château Sainte-Béatrice is partly responsible

What a charming little village Lorgues is, located in the Côtes de Provence region of France. This area bespoke France to me. It’s a region rich in viticultural history; and, is actually known to be the birth of Mediterranean wine grape growing. (From the Mediterranean Sea, the Romans entered France coming into this region.)

Provence is rosé country, my friends; delicious and delectably refreshing wines, and it was all mine for a day, before we headed south, going to Nice on the French Riviera, next. My first visit was to

Château Roubine Cru Classe, which I’ve written about over time. So, after this morning to mid-afternoon visit, we went into town. This is when I thought, “I could return to my French roots, here.” Franck Duboeuf said to me earlier in the week, “I hope you love France.” He was spot on, as it would be very easy for me to live in France, honoring my Bernier-Ouellette grandparents’ roots.

Côtes de Provence ~ Terroir and Regions

Just for a bit of background, this region is heavily influenced by its Mediterranean climate, being in close proximity to the Mediterranean Sea. It’s usually sunny, hot, and dry, varying with the sea’s influences; that is to say, depending on which way the wind is blowing. Its geology has complex, geological features. The makeup of its soils has a division line. In the northwest, the soil is limestone. In the southeast, the soil is crystalline.

  • Limestone = Composed of calcium carbonate, but it may also contain small amounts of clay, silt, and dolomite (sedimentary rock similar to limestone, usually found in a basin).
  • Crystalline = Composed of mica, kaolinite, and smectite.

There are five geographical areas in Provence: Coastal, Inland Valleys, Foothills, Beausset Basin, Sainte-Victoire Mountain.

And, there are six terroir designations: Côtes de Provence Sainte-Victoire, Côtes de Provence Fréjus, Côtes de Provence La Londe, Côtes de Provence Pierrefeu, Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence, and Coteaux Varois en Provence.

Lorgues Village

Just before we went to Château Sainte-Béatrice winery, our van stopped in Lorgues. I got out of the van, and my heart skipped a beat. There (picture above, lower, left side) was a red, slim-fitting dress on a mannequin. I could go no further in the town, I had to find the shop attached to the dress. I’m NOT a shopper, being a bit of a minimalist. I’ve left many European cities and towns, and bought absolutely nothing. When I see something I DO want (anywhere), I’m unstoppable. And I had to have that dress. I think I had waited my whole life for KINOALO Collection; and bought the dress, but the shop owner couldn’t take credit cards. This is the only way I saw Lorgues. I had to run up the street, to find an ATM machine that would convert cash into Euros. I just made it back to the store and back to the van. Got it! Everyone was waiting in the van for me, and off we went (about two blocks) to Château Sainte-Béatrice.

Château Sainte-Béatrice


We were welcomed as we walked into the reception room, which was filled with historical viticultural and winemaking memories and artifacts. So many tools from a time nearly forgotten of Provencal objects. The exhibition with old tractors represents the evolution of cultivation equipment. Each winery visited, in the 10-day whirlwind tour, took great pride in their emphasis on historical artifacts. Château Sainte-Béatrice was no exception; in fact, it’s exemplary. Such a collection seemed to gather everything seen in earlier winery visits, and a whole lot more, in one location.

I’m just going to run a group of photos for you. In my next story, I’m going to write about Chateau Sainte-Beatrice’s delicious and refreshing wines.

ADDITION: This photo below had a comment worth sharing, because it paints more of an image of “then.” From JCP: the blue machine was used in the countryside before the tractors to cut the grass of the meadows and also to plow. it was pulled by one or two horses. My response in the comments area.



Réserve du Domine Ste Béatrice 1988, Cotes de Provence, oh so tempting, how would it have held up? (The fact that it’s not in a cool, 55-degree wine cellar chilling, lust no more. Still, great to see a wine over 30-years-old, though; right, huh?)

Mastering the art of selection… what to explore first? I had absolutely no idea what this blue machine below actually is. I was just one person in a group of nine people. It was impossible to steal our eductor away from everyone else.

So, I put it out to my Facebook Village, which has quite a few wine professionals in it. “Most likely,” I thought, “someone from Europe will know.” As it turned out, with author Wink Lorch’s connections at the the Musée de la vigne et du vin de Savoie – (the Savoie wine museum), they provided two photos, one with a description of item.

— It still takes a village…

Labeling machine.
This machine from the 1960s is a manual triggered mechanical labeler. It was used to stick the paper label on the bottle. Different tin glues used. In the 1990s, mechanical labelers appear. If the labeling work is then greatly facilitated, the equipment had to be changed.

Well, we don’t have to be a wine scholar to know what this one is.

Whimsy tucked in with everything else, making me smile.

Cans, for what, for when?

And… my personal FAV. Who wouldn’t want a little cannon to scare away murmuration?



Times of BLM Correctness: Something So Simple in Petite Evolution Has Been Really So Complicated

Mission Statement: In today’s times… I halted dead in my tracks. So innocent, I would never have guessed the comments put forth. But I understand them, so I’ve morphed.

[PHOTO: Jo Diaz, all rights reserved.]

Wait for it

It started out so simply. The mission statement for PS I Love You is now more than a bit dated.

To promote, educate, and legitimize Petite Sirah as a noble variety, with a special emphasis on its terroir uniqueness.

Written in 2002, promoting was going to be my focus for the variety; because, as a wine grape, it had all but fallen off the known wine grape, varietals chart.  Easy, let’s fix them with a lot of publicity, starting in 2002.

So, how would this be accomplished? With education, through press releases. Again, easy.

Legitimize Petite Sirah as a noble variety… Let’s face it, the French wine industry has documented wine grape nobility, and they’re not going to change it, maybe not even in a blue moon. That’s even if we stand on our heads and spit nickels. So, not going to even think that anymore. But, very few people now would even say it isn’t a heritage grape in California. The history of Petite Sirah follows the year of American researched in a timeline, placed on PS I Love You… Ahead of our research, the history of Petite had been well-documented by Charles Sullivan, our noted American, wine historian, though U.C. Berkeley Publishing.

[PHOTO: Jo Diaz, all rights reserved.]

Terroir uniqueness, now this one is not totally complicated; since Petite Sirah morphs into wherever it’s planted. It does well in cool climates, in warm climates, and everything in between. You just have to taste and document each one separately. So, have fun with it.

1. My first draft updating the mission statement went to the members of PS I Love You.

To promote, educate, and legitimize Petite Sirah as a heritage variety, with a special emphasis on terroir uniqueness, taught by our Masters of Petite Sirah.

Lots of “Yeses!” But then I had two “Nos.” The first one made me stop and think, but I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it, yet.

JULIE JOHNSON of Tres Sabores:

I’m not sure how either reads to be honest.. sorry. “Educate” is confusing.  We’re not educating Petite Sirah.  We can educate ( the public, the press— etc “about “ petite sirah   Etc. etc.)   I don’t think the grape has any difficulty being legitimate.  I think it has a problem with garnering the recognition it’s due.  And we’ve always been about that.  That’s different.  Always love “celebrating” a wine. My two cents! 

The awkward sentence structure made PS I Love you educating Petite Sirah, itself; which of course ~ we don’t sit Petite down and offer it some courses. So, that could be more straight forward.

And, I’m over the “Noble” part, which was why I pulled it, switching out “Heritage.” And it is about garnering recognition. This Petite Sirah group still has a way to go to get those celebrating headlines Julie mentioned.

[PHOTO: Purchased.]

This is what you waited for

The second thought submitted for an edit, and coming from left field for me; when, in fact, it’s coming from the generation of my own adult children. We educated them around having empathy regarding social issues, and now they’re taking it to the next steps, which then re-educates us, the parents. Check it out… It came from Robert Biale Winery.

We have had a point come up in our company from someone about saying “Masters.” Right now since the Master Sommeliers have decided to drop the Masters part of their position. They are worried about BLM that people might have issues about saying Masters.  He thinks it just might be a sensitive thing to change to right now. Just wanted to let you know.

Ah… yeah. My kids would be right on this, too, if the Email had gone to them.

[PHOTO: Purchased.]

So, the Master Sommelier thing. I immediately began to research it. Yes, it’s already come up as an issue.

The New York Times: Prestigious Wine Organization Drops Use of Term ‘Master’ (From the Master Somm’s organization).

The organization, the Court of Master Sommeliers, Americas, wants to be more inclusive. Some black wine experts say the recent changes aren’t enough.

By Christina Moral, June 22, 2020
A prestigious wine organization will stop its common use of “master” with a sommelier’s surname as part of an effort to be more inclusive and to help diversify the wine industry.

The organization, the Court of Master Sommeliers, Americas, said in a statement last week that it wanted to play a part in diversifying the industry in the wake of nationwide unrest and conversations about institutional racism prompted by the killing of George Floyd.

From The Masters Sommeliers 

With great humility we commit to listening, learning, advocating and acting for change in our industry and our communities. We resolve to support initiatives for inclusion and diversity in the hospitality industry and to support organizations that create opportunities for the Black community and people of color to thrive as sommeliers, winemakers, distributors, retailers, and beverage industry leaders. We pledge to do more within our organization to inspire and support those seeking to become Master Sommeliers. In January we made a small but significant first step to encouraging…”

Aha, I see even more. What I had originally read had me understand they weren’t dropping it from their title, they’re just going to drop “Masters” from their lexicon. So, yes, we’ve also got to drop the ‘master,’ because I hear them. What also drives this is that I’ve held a few Masters of Petite Sirah events. I don’t intend to ever use that name again, even though a master can be a noun (person), with another master being a verb (achievement). It’s just too soon, if ever. Empathically, we’re still on an upward swing… maybe even toward more fun features.


PS I Love You promotes and accents the positives of Petite Sirah as a heritage variety worth enjoying.

[PHOTO: Purchased.]