Book Sample,Books,Sample,Wine,Wine tasting,Wine Writer

Brut Force follows Corkscrew in Rollicking Hilarity, Outlandish Intrigue, and rooting for Felix Hart, Again

SAMPLE BOOK: When Peter Stafford-Bow sent an email to me about his newest novel Brut Force, I told him I was ready for a little Brut Force. Fortunately, I knew who I was talking to, so I wouldn’t be accused of sexual harassment. We both had a good laugh.

Peter Stafford-Bow has outdone himself again,

in my humble opinion.

I thought Peter Stafford-Bow’s Corkscrew was the highly improbable, but occasionally true, tale of a professional wine buyer, and I loved it! Now, followed by Brut Force,  I believe this one is also occasionally true, but am definitely hoping the improbable is more like impossible.

Felix Hart is Peter Stafford-Bow’s character of a professional wine buyer, who again steps in deep merde.  If you think you can casually read this book, think again. It’s definitely a book that will have you leave everything else undone, until you get to the bottom of it; a.k.a, the last page that states “The End.”

It’s been left wide open, though, for the next installment, and I can hardly wait for the two years it will takes to construct such hilarity, scratches of the truth, and “what could go wrong next?” (which does develop in rapid fire).

For the lay person, while Felix Hart’s adventures take them into Wine 101, with words and explanations, like verasion, viticulture, pips, lees, and malo, we’re all then swept into the full blown planning of the Judgement of Bassildon. And, I don’t just mean the planning of who, what, when, and where, in its normalcy of planning. I mean the back end of it, where complicated chicanery becomes the usual, as the web grows larger and larger from competing forces, and guess who’s smack dab in the middle? Will he get out with his life and every limb?

Meanwhile, there’s a layer from the Minstrels of Wine that has me wondering how much would be real and how much is total bunk. Peter Stafford-Box has a website he’s been developing, devoted to this society he’s created. His tag for it?

The Worshipful Institute of the Minstrels of Wine
Established 538 B.C.E
Minstrels’ Hall, Long Acre, London W2, England
No visitors

“Welcome Initiates, on this, the twelfth day of Dionysus!”

Peter Stafford-Bow is a pseudonym. So, the question begs, “Who is this author, anyway?” One thing’s for sure, he’s in the wine trade and knows the intricate ins and outs, the good, the bad, and the ugly… As any industry has, really, but with wine? Wine tells the truth and can make a liar out of any of us. This is why fiction is so much fun.

Stafford-Bow’s character Felix Hart, in order to be spellbound by him, is on a testosterone overdrive and is a self-absorbed sod; and yet, he’s still lovable and you want him extricate himself from the weavings of his conjoined webs, which he’s created throughout the story.

From Corkscrew to Brut Force, what could possibly be next? Whatever it is, I’m ready.

Final thought: This is a somewhat timely book, as we were all rocked by the headline by the Daily Beast, for instance, “Cheating Scandal Rocks Elite Master Sommelier.” Someone shared the quiz’s answers and 23 wine experts, who did all of their studying to get to that level, had titles removed in professional shame… And, that’s a shame, because many of them could have made it. It such a long journey to take. Something taken this seriously allows for satire… That’s what Peter Stafford-Bow’s book uses… satire… flawlessly.


Books,Wine,Wine Book,Wine Ed,Wine Education,Wine Etiquette,Wine tasting,Wine Writer


If you  know me, you know that I enjoy helping friends with their events, etc.. I got to circle back with Kevin Zraly this past fall, when we met again; this time at Castello di Meleto in Gaiole ~ In the Chianti Classico region of Tuscany. Kevin was touring, promoting his 30th Edition of Windows on the World, I was beginning to learn about Italy, and we both were having lunch at the Castello. He gave a copy of it to me, and I reviewed it.

Now, Kevin is back on the road with his wine education. You may remember is connection as the wine educator for Windows on the World. As life moves on, he’s not mobile and an asset you won’t want to miss, if in San Francisco and have that thirst for wine knowledge with a veteran wine pro. (I was recently referred to as a veteran… Yes, we are, so we’ve also got the stories to enhance our classes.

So, anyway, if you’re in San Francisco, this calls has your name all over it and you know who you are. You-Tube video is at the end of this blog post. It’s worth a look…

Wine Expert Seminar & Tasting Reception

Seminar & Tasting Reception ~ Ticket Information Link

Learn the fundamentals of wine from the perennial best selling author of Windows on the World Complete Wine Course and James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Kevin Zraly.  Kevin’s personal stories, wine theory and tasting methodologies will inspire and enlighten both enthusiasts and professionals alike!

This seated tasting experience will be followed by a walking wine & bites reception with Kevin.  His Window’s on the World Complete Wine Course and his latest book, Red Wine: The Comprehensive Guide to the 50 Essential Varieties & Styles, will be available for purchase & signing at the event.

415 Grand Ave.  Top Floor
South San Francisco

Friday, Jan 25
7:00-9:30 p.m.


Also a Trade Component


Chianti,Chianti Classico,Italy,Tuscany,Wine,Wine & Food,Wine Appreciation,Wine Business,Wine Country,Wine Culture,Wine Ed,Wine Education,Wine HIstory,Wine Hospitality,Wine Importer,Wine tasting,Wines

When Opportunity Knocked ~ Siena Italy Was at the Door

[ALL PHOTO: Jo Diaz, unless noted otherwise. Shop in Sienna, Italy]


In October of 2018, a door was opened for me by Bluest Sky Group, when I was invited to join a group of wine professionals traveling in Italy. We would be exploring the central wine regions of the peninsula’s boot, with two hosts wine companies as their guest.

Excitedly, down the rabbit  hole I went. I love travel; wings on my feet like Mercury. Initially contacted by Michael Yurch, Mick had no way of knowing I’d been projecting this trip for years, perhaps my whole life… I was so ready.

My two hosts:

This story, in a series of stories about my trip, is part of my Castello di Meleto notes, images, and experiences. Other similar stories also exist for Colonnara.

Imported Wines

To be able to understand and truly appreciate imported wines, one expanding ingredient is learning about their culture firsthand. For instance, when in Portugal, it was all about ceramic tiles. They were everywhere, brought in by the Moors, during their occupation of the Iberian Peninsula. Once home, I created a You-Tube video, dedicated to the images I had taken of the variances in ceramic tiles… Very much part of their culture. My host then was Delfim Costa. Before his wine career, Delfim was in the tile business; and since then, he’s also returned to work in the tile industry again. In the days we spent together in Portugal, he was an amazing host, Lisbon being his hometown. When learning from a native of a region, you’re immersed in ways that simply being there on your own can’t deliver.

Now, it was time to discover what has made this region of Italy so outstanding and unique.

All of this, trust me, leads to a restaurant door, with delectable Italian foods, wines, and ambiance.

For this central portion of Italy, it’s all about massive, wooden doors and metal door knockers. (I have a series of some door knockers I loved, at the end of this story.)

What did this say to me, in cultural context, as the knockers all told a story?

  • You are welcomed here
  • From our knocker, you know what’s important to us
  • Our knockers are ancient, and we’re still very old school
  • Quality is in the details, as is our own imaginations
  • Time is not about rushing, it’s about experiencing, and opening this massive door
  • Bussare alla porta, sei invitato (Knock on the door, you are invited)


[PHOTO: Antonia Caserta, our gracious host with Castello di Meleto]

It all began in the town of Siena. We had driven 18 miles from Castello di Meleto in Gaiole, to explore this historic region, with its ancient history ties to the Castello. Our tour guide for Siena Camilla Curcio was arranged by our host Antonia Caserta.

Camilla Curcio’s specialty is freelancer leisure travel and tourism, and she’s really good at it. As we stood in front of the Siena Cathedral, she explained that she was born in the building just 20 feet from us. At the time, it was Siena’s hospital. Let’s just say, she’s about as connected as anyone can possibly be to Siena right now, in these modern times. As Camilla was explaining one historically significant point of the town, and its connections to horses, I noticed all of the door knockers in the narrow passage way. Every single one of them had a horse knocker. They proclaim and celebrate their connection to a historic event.

[PHOTO: Camilla Curcio]

Siena, Italy and Horses are Intrinsically Entwined with History

The Palio di Siena is a horse race held twice each year, in Piazza del Campo, on July 2 and again on August 16, in the town’s arena. As it happened, this year was going to have a third one on the weekend. Why three races, in all of its years of existence of only holding two? Siena was readying for the 100th Anniversary for the ending of World War I. I had to let that sink in. We have no such celebration in the US for the ending of wars in the US. However, we do celebrate the anniversary of the publication for the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain in 1776. This Palio di Siena was gearing up to be a similar extravaganza as our fourth of July, on steroids.

This is the arena for the Palio di Siena bi-annual horse race.

I could feel the energy of everything and everyone around us getting ready. We were standing in front of a horse stall, when I took this picture of Senora Camilla. In just a few days, this alleyway was going to be closed to people and filled with equestrian activities regarding the race.

[PHOTO: Mikhail Mandrygin]

How the race works: 10 horses, bareback riders, all dressed in appropriate colors, with each one representing one of the seventeen city wards. (There must be some doubling up on the wards for some of the riders.) Word has it it’s extremely competitive and really fun to watch by the crowd that hovers into the central town arena.


Castello di Meleto ~ Food, Wine, and Fellowship in Siena 

At the day’s end of our Sienna adventure, we walked to our dinner, being held at Ristorante Guido.

The mixing of  history and culture – from the first half of our day in Siena – gave us all an appetite, so segued into what every wine region enjoys as dusk falls on the regions: camaraderie, great wines, authentic fare, and experiences to go with it.

At one point I felt like I had sucked in my Ribollita so quickly, I hadn’t even thought to take time and focus on a decent image of the bounty before us. A lot of it also had to do with the amount of information we were all taking in. Like, the Ribloita… I had experienced it the day before, and when given an opportunity to have it again, I couldn’t resist. This is a favorite cultural treasure I found. I’m betting if you don’t know you, this can make you drool.


A baker bakes daily. The following day, the bread is a bit more dry, so you use it in a “soup of the day:”

Broth from – let’s say – turkey broth that you made from bones, herbs, and spices, that you earlier boiled for a few hours. (For me, it’s left over from a holiday turkey, that I process into broth and freeze until I need some of it.)

Then, combine the broth with vegetables, herbs you grabbed from the garden (or organic bin at the grocery) and chopped up a bit, some crushed garlic for good health. Throw in some carrots, blanched tomatoes, celery, whatever makes sense… perhaps even some other day-old veggies or cannellini beans… Now, stir in your day-old bread. Place those ingredients into individual oven bakeware dishes, place in the oven… soaking in the bread and heating to a prefect bowl of soup on a cold winter’s day.

Grate some cheese to top it off and voila!

In this picture, left to right, Michele Contartese (sales director at the Castello), the restaurant’s sommelier in the distance, and wine writer Dr. Michael Apstein, taking copious notes.

So, the door knockers

Let’s get to it. A picture is worth a thousand more words, so here we go…

Meanwhile, I’d like to walk toward any of those doors, again, any day of my life. Meanwhile, these are the lingering flavors of Siena knocking.


Social media,Social Networking in Wine,Wine

10 Most Important Things I’ve Learned After Only Posting One Line A Day on Facebook in 2018

The year 2018 was very relevant to me. I had a life changing experience, most especially as it related to 1925. I took social media to a new experimental level. It has changed my life.


Asked in April if I missed my old way of posting, I quickly said, “No.” (Absolutely not, because I surely did put a positive, life-altering twist on it.)

10 Most Important Things I’ve learned after focusing and… Only Posting Once a Day on Facebook for a Year ~ A Line A Day

  1. I learned whom, among my friends, also loves history.
  2. People really responded well to having a respite from the daily grind, because I read it very frequently.
  3. By day-7, since she never signed her diary with a point of reference (regrettably), I realized her name could simply be Alinea Day.
  4. Went deeper into developing existing relationships, though commenting on anyone who had taken the time to read A
    1. In the process, those relationships became much more meaningful.
    2. If I couldn’t find a new post by anyone – many don’t published every day – I then dug around in their photos… each still are worth a thousand words.
    3. Taking the time to learn a lot more about my friends made their lives matter so more more. People with whom I checked in daily, or just occasionally, I grew to know my neighborhood. HERE<DIV
  5. Jargon of 1925
      1. Horse related
        1. Shoe boil
        2. Wagon Shoe
        3. I stopped making a list, but I may read her diary again and update at that time.
      2. “Carried Aunt M.s oil stove down to her.” – Wagons carried, Trucks deliver
      3. Went to pictures (movies)
      4. “Coming down with grippe, I guess.”
      5. Made a pair of bloomers.
      6. New words/concepts
        1. Parure
        2. Painted floors
  6. Things long gone
    1. Prefatory, now simply called preface
    2. Wooden spools – all sewing concepts
    3. Surviving on horses for transportation for all daily functions.
    4. Alinea Day sewed a lot of slips, among other clothing items.
    5. Replacing a sleigh for a wagon, once slow was over; and, vice versa once snow arrived – store the wagon, bring out the sleigh.
  7. I had to REALLY restrain myself from posting occasional epiphanies that had no where to go. Examples:
    1. Why do people always say, Not to mentions, but then go on to mention it?
    2. That SUPER moment I had with my 4 year old grandson, who – after his bath, I helped from the bath water and wrapped him in a towel… He said, Can you carry me onto your bed, so I can get dresses and watch a move: “Yes, Max, I’ll carry you to my bed, but this is going to be the last time, since you’re now so heavy…” And later that evening, I danced out the strain…
    3. When did everything become a price point, instead of just a price? Who really  needs the point? Isn’t the point the price?
    4. The more you buy the more you saveSay what? The more I buy, the more I spend… Com’mon, who do you really think we are?
    5. As I drove past a field of horses in my neighborhood, and saw one of the horses fully endowed, I thought, “If some human men are circumcised, why not male horses?”
    6. As regards Bird Brain
      1. SHE: Looking out toward the gold finch feeding area, at 3:00 p.m. Most of the morning thistle is just about gone for the day.
      2. HE: Enters the room and says, “Have you seen how much thistle is on the ground? It’s a huge mound. Can that be recycled? It’s such a high pile.”
      3. SHE: Who had noticed how high the pile was that very morning (16 inch peak), “Yeah I know about that pile. Look at those little gold finch hanging upside down, on the bottom and just that little piece of netting. So few of them will eat there, now, while that huge pile of thistle seeds is there right beneath them. Yeah, that’s why they’re called bird brains.”
    7. Emailing with a publisher friend, he was sad that “the new wine study certainly has made it very difficult, if not impossible, to make a positive claim about alcohol and health.
        1. My response: I wouldn’t let the alt right affect this book being published. That’s what they want… But, age does get better with wine. We sip it with delight, we know what it took to get to the point of maturity, we understand the aging process, and we marvel at the sun going down with a glass of wine in our hands. If the alt right only knew that it helps with digestion, it might cure their constipation.
  8. I found my core again. I found a common core… Could it be a trend?
    1. Joel Vincent has joined the focused brigade:”So I’ve decided to post a daily ”uplifting” story for a year. I tell my kids when they get home ”before you tell me the bad thing that happens I need you to think of a good thing, then I’ll listen.””So I’m going to hold myself to that standard.”I will tag it ”#uplifting””And I will tell you, spending 5 mins searching for something uplifting once a day feels pretty good. It’s actually not that hard…”
  9. By early December, not only was I contemplating what would happen in 2019, but others (who had also come to love Alinea) were finding it difficult to let her just simply vanish back into thin air.
    1. From my friend Terry Mcnulty: Oh, Jo. I am really going to miss these little notes from long ago. Thanks for sharing with us.
    2. Jo to Terry: What if I kept it going, which I can into 2019. All of her entries re there for next year, too. I’m conflicted. Would I drive people crazy, or would I just continue as we get to know our friend better?

My beat will go on in 2019, with some modifications. This year, I’m free to be… The following people who helped to make A Line A Day Special.

A Line A Day visitors

1. Aileen Casanave
2. Alan Wastell
3. Alisa Gean
4. Alison Smith Story
5. Alissa Fehr Leenher
6. Amy Navor
7. Ana Keller
8. Antonia Caserta
9. Andrea McMillan
10. Andrew A Govatsos
11. Barb Kotts
12. Barbara Jean Barrielle
13. Barbara Trigg
14. Becca Gomez Farrell
15. Beck Hopkins
16. Ben Drury
17. Benjamin Webster
18. Betsy Nachbaur
19. Betsy Walker
20. Bonnie Bissonnette
21. Brian Showalter
22. Bubba Gelly
23. Carole Meredith
24. Carole Murphey
25. Carolyn Lewis
26. Cathrine Todd
27. Cathy Huyghe
28. Cheryl Bringuez
29. Cheryl Dupris
30. Cheryl Wolhar
31. Christian Callec
32. Christine Havens
33. Claire Pecqueux
34. Cora Tabarrini
35. Corinne Reichel
36. Daisy Damskey
37. David Anthony Hance
38. Deb Masselli Clarke
39. Debbie Shu
40. Deborah Gray
41. Deborah Parker Wong
42. Dee Elliott Marken
43. Delphine Brouard
44. Denise Fraser
45. Denise Lowe
46. Dennis Figueroa
47. Dezel Quillen
48. Diane Boulay Moncrief
49. Ed Morris
50. Eduardo A. Dingler
51. Elaine Roop
52. Elisa Burroughs
53. Elizabeth Smith
54. Elizabeth Vianna-Hill
55. Ellen Scott Landis
56. Elliot Essman
57. Eric Hwang
58. Erin Tomko
59. Fredric Koeppel
60. Gigi Rollin-Penn
61. Ginny Clapp
62. George B. O’Connell
63. George Rose
64. Georgia Mona Choate
65. Gina Angela
66. Grace Keller
67. Greg Lint
68. Gretchen Snowe Bly
69. Guita Mesriani
70. Gwendolyn Lawrence Alley
71. Heidi McLain
72. Heidi Stine
73. Holly Berry
74. Howard G. Goldberg
75. Howard Greenblatt
76. Hugh Hamilton (200)
77. Irene Graziotto
78. Jamie Silver
79. Jan Chiri
80. Jane Hodges Young
81. Janet Johansen
82. Jay Walman
83. Jayan Landry
84. Jean Jacote
85. Jeanette Van Der Steen
86. Jeannine Pelletier
87. Jeff Stai
88. Jennifer L. Massey
89. Jill Simmons
90. Jim Caudil
91. JoAnn Actis-Grande
92. Joe Brizz
93. Joe Gargiulo
94. John Corcoran
95. Jose Diaz
96. Julie Brosterman
97. Julie Pedroncelli St John
98. Karen Senne Hill
99. Kate Morgan-Corcoran
100. Kathleen Willcox
101. Kathryn Johnson
102. Kathy Lang Wiedemann
103. Katie Gomez
104. Katie Jalbert Kelley
105. Katrina Morss Commesso
106. Keith Edwards
107. Ken Payton
108. Kerri Visconi Cooper
109. Kerry Damskey
110. Kevin Gagnon
111. Kimberly Noelle Charles
112. Kristin Wastell
113. Lana Bortolot
114. Lashan Rangana
115. Laura Ness
116. Laura Ramey
117. Laurin Beckhusen
118. Leah Osberg
119. Leeann Froese
120. Len Dest
121. Leslie Caccamese
122. Leslie Spitzer
123. Lettie Teague
124. Lisa Klinck-Shea
125. Lisa Verville
126. Liudas Gužas
127. LM Archer
128. Lorrie S. LeBeaux
129. Luminita Dane
130. Lydia Lewin
131. Lyla Diaz Moore
132. Lynn Gowdy
133. Mac McClary
134. Mara Farrell
135. Marcia Macomber
136. Mark Krigbaum
137. Mark Squires
138. Marlene Rossman
139. Marty Johnson
140. MaryAnn Sullivan
141. Melanie Hoffman
142. Mia Morelli
143. Michael LeBlanc
144. Michael Yurch
145. Michelle Williams
146. Mieke Fielmch (Liudas friend)
147. Mona Ashbaugh
148. Monica Kårbro (Liudas friend)
149. Nancy Brazil
150. Nancy Weil Brown
151. Nicole Marino
152. Odette Therrien
153. Oneca Jarrett
154. Pamela Heiligenthal
155. Pamela Klein
156. Pamela Murphy-Dyer
157. Pat Taylor
158. Paul Boazu (Liudas friend)
159. Paul Manchester
160. Paul Moe
161. Paulette Labbe Crowley
162. Pete Clarke
163. Phyllis Zouzounis
164. Punky Mahle Simpson
165. R. Ruth Linden
166. Renee Mejid Mueller
167. Rich Mauro
168. Richard Ray (Pete’s friend)
169. Rita Conner
170. Robert Saks
171. Robin Dohrn-Simpson
172. Robin Ivy Payton
173. Robin Young
174. Ronald Plunkett
175. Ross Rylance
176. Rui Bastos-Amaro
177. Russ Winton
178. Sabrina Silva
179. Sandra Crittenden
180. Sandy Barrett
181. Sandy Grimmel
182. Sarah May Grunwald
183. Sarah Stierch
184. Sarah Tracey
185. Sean Allen Driggers
186. Seth T. Buckley
187. Shandra Bishop
189. Sharon Olson
190. Sharon Webb
191. Shauna Rosenblum
192. Shelia Martel
193. Shelley Esson
194. Shelford Trotman
195. Stephanie Douglas
196. Stephanie Trotter-Zacharia
197. Stephen Mitchell
198. Steve Heimoff
199. Sue Patterson
200. Sue Straight
201. Susan Foppiano-Valera
202. Susanne Carlberg
203. Tara L Thomas
204. Tatum Reynolds
205. Terry Cloutier Willard
206. Terry Mcnulty
207. Thea Dwell
208. Tracey LaPierre
209. Tracey Richardson
210. Vida Gužienė (Liudas friend)
211. Viviana Vecchione TheWine’sFringe
212. Washington Kipkurui


Cabernet Sauvignon,France,French Wine,Syrah,Wine

Wine For “Happy New Year” ~ The “After Bubbles” Thirst for “What’s Next?”

[Photo: sapannpix]

Surely, the wine on New Years Eve and New Years Day don’t only include bubbles, right? Sometimes it’s great fun to be out on New Years Eve and last long enough to segue into “what’s next?”

In large events with crowds, we don’t really have to think about what’s next. We we’re living it and drinking whatever’s handy. Eventually, we go from bubbles into another phase. For some of us, it’s red wine. That’s what this one is all about…

What Red wines are the final destination after glitzy Champagne, we’re headed to glamorous Reds.

Sometimes it’s fun to have a party with friends.

  • Menus of foods: gathering, prep, cooking, and serving
  • You get to hang out with people you’re closer to.

There’s a deeper level of intimacy. You’re paying attention to your wine’s flavors, while still learning more about the people you’re with. Stories are being shared, and you might even be discussing the wines along with the weather and sports.

[PHOTO: hkt83000]

Then, there are those times, when just being at home – you, the couple – is the most intriguing.

The home date is alluring: cooking together, sharing more intimate interests; wining and dining to explore mutual dreams, perhaps fulfilled in the coming year? Nothing else matters…

[PHOTO: hkt83000]

It’s the party folks and the lovers, to whom I’m addressing right here. Over the last few months, I’ve enjoyed the following wines, and they’re definitely worthy of your enjoyment, too, if you’re thinking about having a tasty adventure with red wine on New Year’s Eve.


[PHOTO: Jo Diaz] ~ Each wine is a sample from the wine company named.

  • HEART ~ THE WINERY: This information came from the wineries’ notes
  • SCIENCE ~ WINEMAKING: Also from the winery
  • SOUL ~ Jo’s Musings


Eponymous Cabernet Sauvignon 2014


Robert L. Pepi knows what it’s like not to own his own name.  When his family sold the renowned Robert Pepi Winery in 1994, the label lived on.  But, Bob Pepi himself cannot put it on a wine label. Therefore, the first wine that Bob has made for himself since the sale of the family name has a label that reflects both his belief that “wine should be fun” and explains his predicament.  Eponymous is “one for whom or which something is or is believed to be named.”  Bob Pepi has given it his own playful definition, “a play on words by one who is unable to use his family name on his own bottle of wine.”  Vineyards are in both the Napa and Sonoma valleys:

  • Napa Valley: Eastern Hills north of the city, 300 feet above the Silverado Trail.
  • Sonoma Valley: Just over the peak of Mount Veeder on the Sonoma side of the Mayacamas Range that separates Napa Valley from Sonoma Valley.



This wine was made from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from two distinctly different sites. Over 75 percent of the blend is from Mt. Veeder – a core vineyard that winemaker Bob Pepi has been utilizing for more than seven years – and one from the bench lands below Atlas Peak Appellation. The wonderful 2014 harvest was marked by a long growing season that started in early Spring, allowing long hang-times that, along with the moderate heat, aided in even maturation. The result was good, ripe fruit at moderate sugar levels. After picking, hand-harvested fruit was fermented with utmost care and the resulting wine was aged 20 months in 70 percent new oak (90 percent French and 10 percent American), with frequent racking the first year.


This is a very complex and special wine; one that’s indeed shared with aficionados, on occasions like New Year’s Eve.

Eponymous Cabernet is alluring in its aromas, delightful in its sumptuous flavors, and is stunning in its long and linger finish of black currant and tobacco.

Equating it to Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s Bal du moulin de la Galette: It’s an example of a captivating, social occasion, with its depth of colors, and strength of purpose: Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s Bal du moulin de la Galette comes to mind (Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette).

[Bal du moulin de la Galette is found in the collection at Musée d’Orsay, Paris]

SHIRVINGTON Cabernet Sauvignon, McLaren Vale, Australia ~ 2104


Shirvington was founded in 1996, by Paul and Lynne Shirvington (with sons Tony and Mark), with the planting of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon vines in their first vineyard, Redwind.  The 16 hectares [39.5369 acres] of red clay and limestone soil are located in Willunga, just south of McLaren Vale, that was chosen by the Shirvingtons for the area’s ability to consistently produce outstanding table wines of great character and quality.  Further purchases in 1997 and 2001 saw the development of two new vineyards, Kurrawyba and Manjalda, in McLaren Flat and McLaren Vale itself.


The Estate-grown grapes for this 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon come from the Redwind Vineyard that the Shirvingtons planted on red and black clay over limestone soil in 1996. Sustainable farming practices are used in all Shirvington vineyards. The wine was 100 percent barrel-fermented, and aged for 19 months in 100 percent French oak (33 percent was new oak, 11 percent was 1-year-old oak, and 56 percent was 2-year-old oak).

[PHOTO byrdyak]


This highly acclaimed Shirvington Cabernet Sauvignon comes from the most important wine-producing area in the Fleurieu appellation, and is highly regarded throughout the world for its ability to craft fine wines, including this Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s a favorite region for growing Cab, because the climate is Mediterranean.

This Shirvington 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon is known for its ranges of classic, deep ruby colors… think deep and elegant, black fruit, that reminding us of plush, black velvet. Its totem is the black panther, against vanilla notes emerging from its oak barrel’s aging process. Smooth and steady…


Department 66 “Others” Red Wine, Côtes Catalanes IGP, Roussillon

Maury France ~ 2014

In the southwest corner of France lies Department 66. Having moved to this location, Dave Phinney continues his illustrious wine career, naming his new Brand Department 66, in honor of the location, the inspiration for his now “namesake” winery and vineyards in the town of Maury, France.


FROM DAVE PHINNEY: In March of 2008, I took a friend up on an offer to visit Maury, France. She and her husband had recently purchased vineyards in the area and thought I may have an interest in the town and its wines. We flew from San Francisco to Barcelona and made the two-hour drive up to Maury that night. When we arrived it was pitch black…I had no idea what the morning light would bring.

When I awoke, what I saw was insane. I looked out my bedroom window and saw one of the steepest, oldest vineyards I had ever laid eyes on. I was in – hook, line and sinker. It was a challenge to be polite and get through breakfast. If this is what I could see from my bedroom, what else was out there? The answer was perhaps the most amazing confluence of vineyards I’ve ever been exposed to. I spent the next two days driving around with my jaw agape, stunned by the raw beauty of this truly unique place. I called my wife and told her not to tell anyone where I was and what I was doing. She told me not to do anything stupid. I left that first visit committed to purchasing just under forty acres of amazing old vine Grenache. The only stupid thing I did was not buy more. Since then, I’ve returned at least once a month during the regular season, and every seven to ten days during harvest.


Deep in the Southwest corner of France lies Department 66, which serves as the inspiration and namesake for our winery and vineyards in the town of Maury. Roughly two hours east of Barcelona, Spain, and thirty minutes inland from the ancient Roman port city of Perpignan, old vine Grenache thrives along with Syrah and Carignan in the “Cotes Catalanes;” a sub-appellation of the Roussillon.

We own and maintain 300 acres (120 hectares) of vineyards among the Pyrénées-Orientales mountain range, which were planted more than 60 years ago. The terroir is dominated by black schist, with small deposits of granite and limestone in red, rocky soils known as angile.


This “Other” Red Wines is a blend of Grenache, Carignan, Syrah, and Mourvèdre. Very much a Rhône-style blend, its deep ruby color congers up flavors of each variety: Grenache brings in the lavender, Carignan has the baking spices, Syrah’s saddle leather introduces hints of earthiness, and Mourvedre finishes off the trailing spices on the finish.

This is a rich, French wine; there’s no doubt about that. It’s extremely well made, as I’ve found with any of David Phinney’s wines, because he’s committed to wines that are approachable, lively, and very easy to enjoy. This Department 66 “Others” Red Wine is no exception. Perfectly well balanced in acidity, the depth of the wine’s structure leaves you with a long, smooth finish. This is ONE tasty wine.

The image below speaks to the location’s terroir, in general. [PHOTO: Richard Semik ~ Vineyard of Maury in Languedoc-Roussillon, France]

[PHOTO: Richard Semik]

Department 66 “D66” Grenache, Côtes Catalanes IGP

Maury France ~ 2014


FROM DAVE PHINNEY: In the spring of 2009, we began construction on a winery and now have over three hundred acres of vineyards. We have a home there and an amazing group of friends. My wife and kids love it almost as much as I do. Someone once commented on how nice it was to have a second home in France and I said, it’s not my second home, it’s my other home. We have found a place and a group of people that are unmatched. I am so lucky to have been introduced to this amazing area and so proud to share its wines with you.


A saturated cardinal hue belted in garnet is revealed in the glass.  The nose brims with an impeccable oak profile with shaded oak tree accents. A mineral cast of alluvial soil can be detected as well, which frames a vibrant perfume of red berry fruits, cassis, cardamom, and exotic spices. The entry bursts with a vibrant blueberry and cassis concentrate that is rounded out with the richness of a crème brûlée, or crema catalana.  The mid palate has vibrant acidity with distinctive mineral notes of garrigue, stone, and schist. Closing with purpose, the wine boasts silky tannins and a lengthy finish of sublime


I loved this wine. I huge Grenache fan, and the 2014 D66 Grenache delivered all that I love about Grenache: It’s very aromatic on the nose and delectable on the palate — the nose draws you in, the palate holds you there with raspberry and black tea flavors. Always look for the hint of lavender, like this one has, and you know you’ve arrived to Grenacheland. Because it’s coming form Maury, expect to find minerality… It’s just part and parcel of Maury…

These are my four red wines, heading into what to do after the bubble have you light and lively, and wanting to get down with some red. These reds will more than do the trick. New Year’s magic, in bottles.

May the magic of the New Year be all yours to enjoy!


Book Sample,Books,Importer Search,Imports,Wine,Wine Book,Wine Business

How to Import Wine, An Insider’s Guide ~ Second Edition

How to Import Wine, An Insider’s Guide ~ Second Edition by Deborah M. Gray, is an important wine book for anyone importing wine; most especially for a novice in the aspects of our wine business. I once tried to get a novice to read this book, as I was working with the neophyte. That person no longer has any wine brands, and has turned the attention to leading people on European tours. When I was working with her, I was let go. Why? I was told, “Great publicity, Jo, but this person doesn’t know what to do with it.”

There are “how to” books; when it comes to importing, this THE ONE

How to Import Wine, An Insider’s Guide ~ Second Edition is critical for those wanting to break into the business; and it’s also important for those already in the business, because the nature of the wine industry is ever changing. We just have to keep up or bow out. According to Deborah Gray

For me, writing is actually engaging in the pursuit that brings me the most pleasure and sense of fulfillment in life. I wish I’d discovered that many years before I did. I feel compelled to write; I cannot not write. Ideas, plots, characters, dialogue and story lines swirl around my head all the time and some of them make their way to the page as fiction. With non-fiction it is a desire to provide accurate information, insight and perhaps inspiration for others, to enable them to move forward in their own career choices.

Since the 2011 publication of the first edition of How to Import Wine, tectonic changes have fundamentally reshaped the US wine business landscape. This comprehensively revised edition puts this new environment into a manageable, actionable context.

Novices and veterans alike will be able to identify dangers and new opportunities, in such areas as

  • Federal and state regulations
  • Evolving distribution practices
  • The impact of social media
  • How to appeal to newly emerging, Millennial trendsetters


“I wish I had had Deborah Gray’s book at hand, during my wine importing days. This book is essential reading.” –Thomas Matthews, Wine Spectator

“I didn’t think a book about the wine business could be as interesting to read, as this book was; but, I found it very hard to put down. You feel like you are having a personal conversation with a friend that is very knowledgeable about the business.  –Boris Gutierez, Chilean-wine.com

“I think it is the best and most comprehensive piece on the subject I’ve seen in print. I am certain this book will make a valuable contribution to the wine industry.” –Janeed Olsen, PhD, Professor of Wine Marketing, Sonoma State University, and author of Wine Marketing and Sales.


  • Established her first wine importing company in the US in 1992
  • Has travelled to forty of the fifty states throughout her wine career
  • Worked with distributors
  • Conducted wine dinners and tastings
  • Spoken at wine festivals and conferences
  • Appeared on radio and television
  • Served on the Wine Board of the Australian Trade Commission for many years
  • Instructor at San Diego State University, teaching wine importing and distribution

And, she just became a US Citizen!


California,Philanthropy Thru Wine,Wine

In The Season of Giving, and the Biggest Wine County Heart Beats On

I’ve had the pleasure and honor to have worked along side of some pretty amazing people in my lifetime. This is one of those people… A man who has so much heart, that he’s gearing up to one day give someone else the gift of renewed life, as he once received. I mean really, who would ever dream this up, but someone with an enormous heart? Ron Rubin is that man. 

Below is a business press release that I crafted for Ron, of Ron Rubin Winery. A press release is a front label, not the back one.

The back label of any great wine bottle, for instance, has the heart and soul of the matter. It’s the heart and soul that means the most to the messages… The daily celebration of each new participating Winery in Ron Rubin’s Trained For “Saving Lives” program is what drives his passions. Since his program in late of 2017 and the counting began, it hasn’t stopped, and it’s now slightly over a year later.


Ron thought about a program to save lives, made the decision to initiate it,  did some research about the necessity, and when it all came down to it, research was vague relating to wine country and any incidents. But, that didn’t stop Ron from continuing his forward movement. Ron Rubin  purchased 450 Automated External Defibrillators (AED) from ZOLL, and then set up Red Cross Training for those wine companies with the AEDs, so people would be confident in a crisis to use one. 

Ron Rubin is continuing with the distribution, until all 450 AEDs have been placed in wine country. It began locally in his own Sonoma County, and has now spread outward to include the entire state of California. Ron is a one-man band in this effort, and organizations are noticing his philanthropic efforts. The number of AEDs place in 2019, will continue to grow, with more California’s wineries being equipped to save a life, if necessary. There will continue to be emphasis on local winery advocacy groups, that will share the message with their members, about this great “free” offer. There is a modest fee for the Red Cross training; that said — the AED’s have a suggested retail value of $1,700 for each one. The modest training fee guarantees a greater success rate. It’s imperative.

This is the year’s report card of Ron Rubin’s efforts to have wine country be more heart safe. On Ron’s Website the full list of participants is available.

Awarded on December 14:

Ron Rubin Receives Second Trained For “Saving Lives” Award
at the 18th Annual “Spirit of Sonoma Awards” Ceremony

The Sonoma County Winegrape Commission successfully nominated Ron Rubin for a 2018 Spirit of Sonoma Award, at the Annual Spirit of Sonoma County Award luncheon, December 14, 2018, at the Doubletree Hotel in Rohnert Park.

Each year, Sonoma County businesses are invited to nominate someone who embodies the spirit of their community. The award “honors those individuals who contribute to the economic development and enhancement of the communities in which they live, work, and conduct business through donations of their time and expertise in support of local business and in helping others.”

Ron Rubin, owner and president of Ron Rubin Winery in Sebastopol, received this award for creating his Trained For “Saving Lives” program, in collaboration with the American Red Cross and Zoll Medical Corporation.

Rubin has covered the cost of placing automated external defibrillators (AEDs), with his outreach now including all 450 qualifying California wineries. To date, 185 AED units have been provided, and over 1,000 winery staff personnel have been trained by the American Red Cross in CPR, AED, and First Aid.

According to Ron Rubin, “I’m very honored to have received this Spirit of Sonoma Award. My TRAINED FOR “SAVING LIVES” program is an effort to have California wineries provide the safest, wine country experience possible, for both staff and consumers, alike. When people visit California wineries, their health and safety are very important.”

Awarded on December 4, 2018:

Ron Rubin Is Honored by North Bay Business Journal

For His Trained For  Saving Lives Program

North Bay Business Journal held its annual award ceremony, for North Bay Area business leaders. In total, twenty-five winners were named for the 2018 Wine Industry + Spirits Awards, WINnovation Awards, and for a special award given to Ron Rubin, at the DoubleTree Hotel in Rohnert Park, on Tuesday, December 4, 2018.

Ron Rubin, owner and president for Ron Rubin Winery in Sebastopol, received this award for creating his Trained For  “Saving Lives” program, in collaboration with the American Red Cross and Zoll Medical Corporation.

Rubin has covered the cost of placing automated external defibrillators (AEDs); not only at North Bay wineries, but has also expanded his outreach to include all qualifying California wineries. To date, 176 AED units have been provided.

According to Ron Rubin,  “I’m very honored to have received this North Bay Business Journal award.”

Congratulations, Ron. You’re amazing.


Books,Rosé,Wine,Wine 101,Wine Appreciation,Wine Book,Wine Business,Wine Culture,Wine Ed,Wine Education,Wine Etiquette,Wine Gift,Wine HIstory,Wine Writer,Winemaking

Top Wine and Spirits Books of 2018 ~ Belonging in Any Great Wine (Book) Library

Each year I enjoy putting a list together of the best wine books I read through the year. This year is no exception, and these books are each fabulous. Here are my 2018 Wine and Spirits Books, in alphabetical order. Happy shopping for your wine lovers. Regardless of the level of knowledge and interest, if you have a book lover in your life, who also loves wine, there’s definitely something in this list that will tickle that person’s fancy.

And just a thought, as I’ve just completed a couple of travel flights… People around me were reading more books and spent less time on personal devices, than I’ve seen in a l-o-n-g time. Did I see a new trend back toward holding the real deal in their hands, and turning pages? Perhaps… I had a book, BTW… Kevin Begos, listed below… an exceptionally crafted message, which would have been lost on any electronic devise. We are – as humans – less able to now read, since our attention span has have been diminished, given how electronics have us going here, there, and everywhere… We’re – as people – less able to focus when reading, for example. Brain Health and Wellness.

2018 New Wine Book Releases

Brut Force ~ Peter Stafford-Bow

He’s at it again, Ladies and Gentlemen… Going to go down as the funniest wine book/novel of 2018. Listed as “The further, staggering adventures of a professional wine buyer,” our author tells backstage tales of what it’s like inside the wine industry, as his character Felix Hart continues his antics.  His first book is Corkscrew, for which I laughed myself silly reading it.

There’s now an audio version of the Corkscrew book, is you like to listen to books while driving. Link: www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=127370598

I expect the same from Brut Force, as I’ve just begun this next journey. I’ve been receiving many sample book copies at the very end of this year, so reading has been shy of voracious.

I want to savor this one. Based on Peter’s first novel, this one is going to take me chuckling into the end of the years; after Christmas, really. This is when I’ll no longer have to busy myself with all of the holiday duties and festivities.

Corkscrew was the funniest book I’ve ever read; and, as a wine novel, it made it even funnier. Join me in the merriment during the last week of the year. Quoting other reactions:

“Wine lovers and teetotallers alike will weep with laughter.” Buckinghamshire Bookworm Monthly.

“Felix is back! Hold on to your Pinot and buckle up.” American Goblet Magazine

I fully intend to double back, when I’ve finished my copy. We can compare notes t that time!

DRINK PINK: A Guide to the World’s Best Rosés ~ Larry & Ann Walker

They now have got “writing duo” on their list of accomplishments. Larry and Ann are obliging the rapidly expanding US set of rosé devotees, with their timely new buyers’ guide. And the authors bear a message for these new American enthusiasts. Pink wine tastes just as good in December as it does in July.

As the US Rosé market heats up,  authors Larry and Ann Walker offer a “how-to” manual for the coming revolution.

For one, pink wine is arguably the most food friendly wine.

How to Import Wine, An Insider’s Guide ~ Second Edition ~ Deborah M. Gray

How to Import Wine, An Insider’s Guide ~ Second Edition is critical for those wanting to break into the business; and it’s also important for those already in the business, because the nature of the wine industry is ever changing. We just have to keep up or bow out. Since the 2011 publication of the first edition of How to Import Wine, tectonic changes have fundamentally reshaped the US wine business landscape. This comprehensively revised edition puts this new environment into a manageable, actionable context. Novices and veterans alike will be able to identify dangers and new opportunities, in such areas as:

  • Federal and state regulations
  • Evolving distribution practices
  • The impact of social media
  • How to appeal to newly emerging, Millennial trendsetters

Passions – The Wines and The Travels of Thomas Jefferson ~ James M. Gabler

As I began to read the Preface of “Passions…” it occurred to me that if reincarnation is a possibility, what better way to write one’s autobiography than to come back as an author and just get it done. Here’s what made me think this… See what you think. As James has explained, Thomas Jefferson was America’s first oenophile.

James M. Gabler: “This is a biography of Thomas Jefferson at leisure, enjoying two of his passions-wine and travel. I have tried to capture Jefferson in the act of living and to let him and his contemporaries speak for themselves. The Journeys you are about to take with Jefferson are, for the most part, based on original sources: his letters, memorandum books, receipts, and the correspondence and diaries of his contemporaries. In addition I have personally followed his footsteps throughout Europe and the United States. These experiences have allowed me to contemporize what he saw and drank.”

Napa at Last Light ~ James Conaway

An important book on the critical political issue regarding Measure “C” in Napa Valley, this past 2018. I believe this book came out just in time, because it certainly made everything clear to me, leaving me knowing which way the wind should blow. If this book had anything to do with Napa’s Measure “C” (for agrotourism expansion) being defeated, and I think it did, I’m thrilled. It’s already too darn busy in Napa Valley, turning into a Disneyland of wine… You can buy a ticket, but then try to find a place where you can even fit into the squeezed spaces. If you’ve ever been to Disneyland, you know what I’m talking about. Kids love it; parents are frustrated by it, after the money they’ve had to shell out just to get in.

This is, no doubt, the most controversial book I’ve ever read about our beloved wine business. Because this business is so agriculturally based, and I’ve been personally involved in all agricultural preservation since the 60s, this book meant a lot to me. And, it’s given even more insights into what we’re all doing in the business of water management on wine’s behalf.

Napa at Last Light will really make you think. James Conaway has pulled out all of the stops, I believe, to prevent a potential on-coming freight train of destruction, in this 25-mile long valley of diminishing capability for expansive continued growth.

Romancing the Grape ~ Relationship Selling for Hospitality Professionals ~ Lynda R. Paulson

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!

Tasting the Past ~ Kevin Begos

This book is the quintessential wine history book, for the last 8,000 years. Tracing all DNA evidence, Kevin Begos has created the most currently documented history of wine, as it exists, in the most masterful way possible. This wine book, just like wine, is far from dry, and carries all of the excitement of a 1945 Margaux Bordeaux.

I had a history teacher years ago, that literally put me to sleep in each class, under the spell of her monotoned voice, droning on each day for 45 minutes. As I read Kevin’s book, I thought about her and was wishing Kevin Begos had been my history teacher. Silly, I know, but so true.

With a lifelong career in published writing, Kevin is a masterful storytelling, and his new book is just so well written, and so filled with exciting moments of wine’s ancient past, it just captivated me and never let go.

Subtitled The Science of Flavor & The Search for the Origins of Wine, there is a lot going on in this truly engaging book, if you love wine and you love the origins of all life forms – or you know someone who fits that profile – this is a very important book to have in  a wine library.

[PHOTO: from publisher Algonquin Books]

The Booklovers’ Guide to Wine ~Patrick Alexander

SOMMs, Start Your Engines: And I say this after knowing that SOMMs have a boatload of details to learn… Do I need to throw on another layer?

Ah… yeah…

This book is like point-counter point, reaffirming, just another connection… Albert Einstein’s brain has been studied. Results… It’s the amount of connections in his brain that gave him his genius. A network from one concept had many links/memories; so, the quantity created more images than average, with a massive amount of thoughts for the best recall. You may already know this, or not. Either way, it’s a great refresher, just like The Booklovers’ Guide to Wine.

For someone just starting out with wine, this is like speed dialing.

[PHOTO: from Karen MacNeil’s Website]

The Wine Bible ~ Karen MacNeil

This book should be in everyone’s Wine Book Library, because it’s a great resource for any research.

If you’re even thinking about become a sommelier, do yourself a favor and begin in earnest with The Wine Bible. You’ll become familiar with wine regions of the world. Here’s just a nibble of Anjou-Saumur and Touraine, for instance:

The middle Loire is probably the most fascinating and least well-known part of the valley. This is where the Loire’s best sweet and medium-sweet wines, sparkling wines, and red wines are all made, along with many terrific dry wines and rosés. While several grape varieties are grown, the leading white grape is chenin blanc, the leading red, cabernet franc. (p. 264)

This is a book for all times; mostly, though, it’s a book for right now; if you’re the least bit thirsty for wine knowledge, as well as the liquid manifestations…


Vineyard ~ Sonoma County ~ George Rose

This year’s quintessential coffee table book, for any book lover. Dan Berger has best described this beautiful book: “VINEYARD Sonoma County” is a celebration of the beauty of winegrowing throughout one of California’s most diverse wine regions and is the culmination of the photographer’s twenty-five-year career spent living, working, and documenting the dramatic seasonal changes of Sonoma County Wine Country. The volume includes a foreword by Alder Yarrow, publisher of the prestigious Vinography.com wine blog and an introduction by noted wine writer and mutual friend, Dan Berger.

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

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.

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. I’m thankful it’s in print, because there are those who just don’t understand and think we’re immediately born with a palate. Trust me, I’ve had to develop mine over the years, and it’s still ongoing.

Wine Folly: Magnum Edition of the Master Guide ~ Madeline Puckett and Justin Hammack

If ever there was a wine book of the times ~ like the times right now ~ Madeline Puckett and Justin Hammack have nailed it with Wine Folly: Magnum Edition of the Master Guide. It’s a hard copy and it’s going to be a quintessential guide to have in any wine library. Completely visual with wine graphics and charts, bottles and maps, varietal characteristics for some old and some-new-to-you Wines to Explore, etc… This is the compilation of a massive endeavor, a book of the times, and an adoring audience so ready for quick sound bites to solidify the skeleton their fleshing out. It’s also a quick reference for anyone with great knowledge of wine and just wants quick navigating of facts and figures…

Wine for dummies, 7th Edition ~ Ed McCarthy and Mary Ewing-Mulligan

Jam packed with a life-long learning of wine, wine veterans Ed McCarthy (Certified Wine Educator) and Mary Ewing-Mulligan’s (Master of Wine), Wine for dummies continues to deliver Wine 101 in a fun and appealing way. They get you going, if you’re just beginning in wine, teach you how to buy wine – which can be intimidating, given the thousands of brands – inspire you with the history of “old world” and share “new world wines” knowledge (which have less history). They then wrap it up with “When you’ve caught the Bug,” and what to do with the knowledge they’ve shared.

As their own personal experiences have expanded, so has this easy accessible, wine related subject. Always an apropos book for someone just starting out in wine and wants to read and learn in sound bites, Wine for dummies delivers the most up-to-date info from their personal experiences and learning.

My favorite part of the book? Appendix A ~ Pronunciation Guide to Wine Terms. It begins:

Name or term = Pronunciation

Agiorghitiko = eye-your-yee-tee-koe

This is a wine encyclopedia, or sorts. It’s also the kind of book you can read in soundbites, and pickup nuggets of wisdom each time you turn a page. Or, use it as a reference, when you need to pronounce something that you have no idea it even existed, like Agiorghitiko. You know someone who will love this one, right?





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 canes, off the cordons. (The French for the word “ribbon” is cordon. The cordons are the arms that outwardly stretch from the vine stalk, just like ribbons would. From the cordons grow these canes.)

But not just the clusters were hanging on their own. (See the image above.) About five to six inches of canes, on each side of the hanging cluster, 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 why grapes are dried in this manner.

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.