Ancient Roman Grand Cru,Italy,Wine

From Atri with Love ~ Imagine Enjoying a Wine from an Ancient Roman Grand Cru?

Very interesting E-Mail from Vinum Hadrianum: the exact wine the Roman Emperors drank

With my team at Vinum Hadrianum, we produce wines concerning tradition, trying to revive the legendary Vinum Hadrianum, one of the seven renowned crus of the Roman Empire, from Atri, Abruzzo.

SIDEBAR: Atri is the setting of the poem The Bell of Atri by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Its name is the origin of the name of Emperor Hadrian.

[PHOTO: Atri, Teramo, Abruzzo, Italy: exterior of an old typical house with plants and flowers.]

“Our two limited edition wines are created from organic grapes. We use Trebbiano d’Abruzzo for our white “Aelio,” and Montepulciano d’Abruzzo for our red wine “Maximo.” They both are produced with extended skin contact, and are fermented and matured in traditional amphorae.

“We will soon bottle our first production of 2018. Feel free to share our attached story, or to just draw inspiration for a terrific blog post, and don’t hesitate to write back with questions and inquiries!”

Intriguing, to say the least. Wine-Blog has brought really interesting, historical wine facts from around the world for me to explore… Not this.

It wasn’t until I traveled to Europe and saw the majesty of ancient amphorae, lined against a wall, their terra cotta colored clay, their spigots ready for tapping at the bottom, the aromas of ancient history…

[PHOTO: Jo Diaz, Monsaraz, Portugal]

And, here is Vinum Hadrianum, returning to Ancient Rome, for a throwback in history. One of my most interesting stories I’ve ever researched and written came to me last July, when I visited Château Roubine Cru Classé. To have stood where Knights Templar had once stood as a base location, where they wined and fed themselves as they prepared to help pilgrims travel with safe passage to the holy lands… Very awe-inspiring.

And now, the wine they drank? Such an endeavor is truly remarkable.

[PHOTO: Vinum Hadrianum Website.]



Wine has been a precious drink since the dawn of time and it remains a sought-after drink by most people all over the world. It takes only a look at the color and a whiff of the smells to lure you into drinking it. Perhaps they also fall in love with it.

In Vinum Hadrianum, our goal is to revive the traditional ways of winemaking in ancient Rome and to rediscover wine authenticity. Viticulture and winemaking secrets have been passed on from generation to generation since the Roman times in Atri, our little town in Abruzzo. Without them, our authentic wines couldn’t be possible. Vinum Hadrianum is one of the seven most renowned Grand Crus of the Roman empire. It was created in the ancient town of Hatria, which is known today as Atri, where we are based. We honor this name by producing entirely handcrafted wines, using techniques that have long been forgotten, but are living a revival with us.


The first two wines of Vinum Hadrianum will be soon released. “Aelio” from Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, and “Maximo” from Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. They’re both from traditional indigenous varieties and are aged in hand-crafted amphorae. Extended maceration has helped to achieve vibrantly colored wines, with an incredibly higher concentration of flavors, while having an interesting spin on tannins.

THIS, I would love to taste. Do you agree?
The Atri commune sits in the heart of Abruzzo not far from the coast where Italy meets the Adriatic Sea.


Vinum Hadrianum wines are aged in unique hand-crafted amphorae. Local artisan potters, trained in the Castelli method, craft them using the local clay, which was renowned since antiquity due to its ability to create superior pottery, since it’s both lightweight and strong. The amphorae are still made most traditionally. The artisan potters form and cook them in kilns in a local cave, the same way our ancestors did.
These amphorae were widely used in ancient Roman times, to age and transport wine. They gave it great longevity and they support our Vinum Hadrianum wines with extended aging potential. Our wine gets more complex and richly flavored with every day it spends in the amphorae, with the evolution continuing in the bottle.

PHOTO: The Atri commune sits in the heart of Abruzzo not far from the coast where Italy meets the Adriatic Sea.


Atri is ideal for organic wine production and the combination of climate, soil, and topography guarantees high-quality grapes. The steep terrain of the Calanchi doesn’t allow for mechanization so everything is farmed by hand. This makes work especially hard, since no chemical treatments are applied, to get pure grapes. When you take a stroll through our vineyards, you can’t miss the aromatic bouquet of the wild licorice plants. We let them grow freely because we adore the subtle flavor they give to our wines, as it is an original expression of our terroir.

Our vineyards in Atri are influenced by the Adriatic Sea, which brings occasional rainstorms that give precious water to the vines. The Calanchi terrain is rich in clay, so vines always have the water they need. This soil is perfect for viticulture because it also drains well, allowing the vines to dig deep into the earth. As a result, we get premium grapes without having to irrigate our vineyards.

[PHOTO: The Feast of Achelo, painting by Peter Paul Rubens created in 1615. Purchased]


Due to the hard viticulture conditions and the artisanal way of production, only a limited number of bottles of Vinum Hadrianum are produced every year. It’s your chance to have a sip of the exact wine the Roman Emperors drank. Abruzzo’s most famous wine of antiquity can now be in your glass.

Vinum Hadrianum


Food and Wine,France,French Wine,Gaillac,Grape Growing,Petite Sirah,PS I Love You,Red Wine,Wine

Petite Sirah in France? A Flip of the Coin at Clos Hirissou

[PHOTOS: gratis Clos Hirissou]

The greatest joy of starting PS I Love You, the advocacy group for Petite Sirah, has been the people I’ve met along the way. People from all over the world have contacted me about Petite, and this is the most recent communication, during the last 18 years of relationships.

This one is one of the most important, also.

Hello, my name is Nicolas Hirissou. I am the owner of Domaine du Moulin and Clos Hirissou, in the southwest of France. Two years ago I had the idea to plant 11,000 plants of Petite Sirah. It’s very unique for France.Recently popping up on the Petite Sirah I Love You Facebook page was Nicolas Hirissou. He began a conversation with a comment:

[He later shared that it took 7,000 plants for one hectare; so one and a half hectares of Petite Sirah equals to 3.5 acres. This is a serious experiment.]

In that conversation, I thought, I been sooo looking for anyone growing Petite in France! Years ago, I had a contact; and hard as I try, I cannot retrace his information. So here I’ve been, knowing there has to be some Petite in its own native land and yearning to know where; when, Nicolas Hirissou just sailed right in from the sky, as if he were on the wings of his golden eagle Cinto.


“My family and my two passions help me in this adventure. Falconry and Corsica are my two sources of inspiration: The search for polyphonic wine ………”

Polyphonic wine, indeed. Now I’m inspired to explore more. I’m going in…

[PHOTO: Amazing doors are just part of Frances’s cultural architecture.]

The conversation began:

Jo: Hello Nicolas, thank you for your E-Mail. Yes, Petite Sirah is very unusual for France. I would love to speak with you about your vines. I have been wondering what it is like to grow Petite Sirah in France. I believe this is very historic.

I also shared my personal blog URL with him, telling him I wanted to write about his Petite Sirah vines. I can’t help being really curious and wanting to know if Petite will be considered in France, ever, as its climate is beginning to be more like California’s, due to more heat and less rain. When I was in France last July, I even had one vigneron mention a possible, future return of Petite Sirah to France, given the climate changes. This is what has most recently piqued my curiosity, about Petite. And, now, I’m able to dig deeper.

[PHOTO: Domaine du Moulin]

Domaine du Moulin and Clos Hirissou

While Domaine du Moulin and Clos Hirissou are both wine companies of Nicolas Hirissou, the focus for today is his vineyard and his future Clos Hirissou Petite Sirah. This location is the commune of Gaillac, France.

WIKI: Gaillac is a town situated between Toulouse, Albi, and Montauban. It has gained much recognition due to the wines that bear the town’s name. The Tarn river runs along the border of the town by the south, east to west. It lies 50 kilometers north-east of Toulouse. It is a market town and is the commercial center of the north-west of Tarn.

Notice the thin, black line? This is the vineyard’s outline.

As difficult as it was to find rootstock, in 2019, Nicolas Hirissou planted those 11,000 Petite Sirah plants in the vineyards of Clos Hirissou. He’s now working toward and anticipating his first harvest; which will be 100 percent Petite Sirah, in 2021. He believes that he’s alone in his endeavor, because Petite Sirah is considered a table wine, not in the AOC (Appellation d’origine contrôlée, a protected area with rules and regulations).  Nicholas also believes this grape is perfect in his native, Gaillac’s climate, because the terroir it’s less hot than in the south of France.

To further complicate it, there’s no market for Petite Sirah in France… at all. He’s all alone on France’s limb of the Petite Sirah family tree. Sales in France? He doubts it, but wait! He knows that if he makes a very good Petite Sirah, he’ll be able to sell it in the US.

[PHOTO: Future label]

This is his label,  The wine will be made like a grand cru; and it’s organic, in limestone soil. Limestone is one of the known choices for producing great wines.  It has favorable nutrients for wine grapes and allows for good drainage. The grapes also retain moisture in this terroir, especially in dry weather.

“The grape variety Durif is certified in my area, and there are only 30 such plants. I have 1.5 hectares and next year I will plant 0.5 more. After that will depend on sales, but my dream is to have more hectare.”

What draws Nicolas Hirissou to Petite Sirah?

In 2001, he worked in Napa and had tasted Petite. He was 21 at the time and has never forgotten the experiences and the flavors.

“Five years later,  we had a grape field museum in Gaillac. The organizers experimented with Petite Sirah, because 100 years before this time, we had a lot of Durif in Gaillac. The experiment stopped, but I tasted lots of bottles from this experiment and love them. Here, in my area, they don’t care about this grape. Every year I come for three weeks to USA, and every time I taste some Petite Sirah. Last year I visited Stags’ Leap Winery, with the winemaker Christophe Paubert.”  [Christophe Paubert is the winemaker and general manager at Stags’ Leap Winery, in Napa Valley.]

“I love the power, the colour, and the fact you can keep it a long, long time in bottles.

“I hope with my soil and my climate I will have more acidity with a wine more fresh.”

I hope you do, too, Nicholas. I have a feeling you’ll be keeping me in your loop.

Until then, people, birds, food, and wine… four of my favorite things.

Special thank you to Wine Industry Insight for publishing this story.
Special thank you to Wine Business for publishing this story.


Magazines,Wine,Wine Blogger,Wine Business

When Wine Spectator rises to the top again, you know the cycle is over

SUBTITLE: Wine Blogs Then (2005) and Wine Blogs Now (2020) ~ 15-year perspective


In 2004, as a wine publicist, I had heard rumblings about an Alder Yarrow. It seems he had a wine blog called Vinography. I had heard about Web 2.0, and this guy was doing it. Hum, I’ll have to check this out.

When Web 2.0 was being created, I was in the middle of an enrichment, business class at Santa Rosa Junior College. Web 2.0 was brought up, and we were all soon going to be enjoying an interactive Web. What that meant at the time was still pretty mysterious. It didn’t take long to find out, though; and when I saw fellow wine publicist Tom Wark launch Fermentation I though, Hum, I’ll have to check this out.

He was the first wine publicist in the world I knew of, to do this? Can I do that, too? I had to think about it. I knew it was going to be a precarious, bumpy ride, being the first female publicist in the world to ride two horses with one behind and not shying away from being on the edge. I dove in; time to tell some interesting backstories. Cyril Penn (Wine Business Magazine editor) referred to my stories as “Musings,” when he listed his first blog resources, on his daily newsletters.

MILLENNIALS ~ Spring ~ Birth of wine blogging

So, off we all went, followed by every millennial who loved both wine and writing, and they wanted to save the world from well-established media types. What a mess it became. Staying out of it was an opportunity to get to know the players, instead. The first Wine Media Conference (originally called the Wine Bloggers Conference) allowed for the introduction. It began mostly was mostly a guy thing, simply wanting to knock the big dogs off the mountain top.

SAMPLES FLYING OUT THE DOOR ~ Summer ~ The Heat was on

Meanwhile, wineries, including my clients, were thrilled to have new avenues to get their wines reviewed. The most prolific writers began to not see their floors anymore, as the samples piled in. I didn’t mind reviewing other wines, too, besides my insider story musings… But, I never advocated for client wines, the same way bloggers did. I was busy creating their technical datasheets. Conflict of interest? If they were my clients, there was a level of my endorsements, right? I just mused on, continuing with wine business subjects.


At the first and second wine bloggers conference, everyone was still struggling with “How can we monetize our blogs?” The answer for me was simple, but not for most of them. “If you want to monetize your wine blog, get a job in the wine business,” I said.” They didn’t seem to like that answer. Then after a few years, some of the women – interestingly – were the ones to take the advice. While their blogs suffered for the steep learning curve they went on, their love of wine and the business blossomed. And, good for them! My job in that regard was satisfying, and I had picked up a Portuguese client in the process. I, too, expanded greatly.

LINKS, LINKS EVERYWHERE ~ Winter, surrender

As time went on, many of us developed exchange links. By the time mine grew to a very long list of 84 (for then), my interest in writing on my blog had shifted. Recently, I thought, “I need to clean up that list because many of them are probably gone.” And, I know that broken links can also hurt search engine optimization; both outbound and inbound. It just became time. I’ve had my blog since the end of 2005. I just thought I have to cut through the jungle of wine blog links and got busy. The numbers are fascinating, so were the names people had taken on, as each person had his/her own raison d’être. Mine was to tell the backstories, theirs was to create their own unique perspectives. Today, I was reminded of that, as I searched for their current status. The numbers:

From the “Blogs ~ Domestic ~ Shared” category, there were 85 wine blog links:

  • 44 links went nowhere
  • 18 links hadn’t been published in a range of years, from 2010 to 2018
    • 10 early beginning dropouts
    • Eight more recent, from  2016 to 2018
  • 22 of them are still active
    • Excluding mine, which is also active
    • So, 23 blogs are still in the overall pool number gathered early



Can’t beat ’em, join ’em ~ Everyone’s in the pool

While both wine bloggers and established wine writers were dealing with the new normal, writers ~ most especially those with established wine careers ~ were in a bit of a quandary, under the weight of now so many options outsiders had. They weren’t in the closet, but in some ways, they had been sent to their rooms, in light of the new darlings. Wine magazines were going through a bit of subscription denial – which would have been progressing, if there weren’t so many new potential subscribers, now becoming dependent upon “How did that taste, my new influencer?”

Once one established writer decided, “Well, I’ll just have a blog, too,” most every one of them was on his or her way with their own blogs, on their already established wine Website.

Top 100 wine blog lists NOW

A combination of wine bloggers and wine magazine personalities

The definition of wine blog has evolved from self-publishing, to now include magazines with paid staff members sharing informal thoughts. The fan base for them had already been established, they’re content-rich, and written really well, with professionals at the keyboard. So, it’s no surprise to me that the number one seat for years used to be Alder Yarrow’s spot, from Vinography, and is now taken by Wine Spectator. No offense to Alder, either. He just doesn’t have the staff of publisher Marvin Shanken. Now, the very thing that wine bloggers wanted to topple (and this NEVER included Alder Yarrow, I need to add) were major publishers: Robert Parker, Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, and Wine & Spirits magazines. Today, Vinography is still at the top, but a bit further down the line on the Top 100 list, because of that staff thing.

It’s now completely integrated, and I knew this the instant I saw the following “Top 100” list.  Numero Uno is yup… Wine Spectator. And good on them. Publisher Marvin Shanken is a great guy, who’s stood the test of time, and is a darn good wine education philanthropist. He’s all pro and there you go.

Special thank you to Wine Industry Insight for publishing this story.
Special thank you to Wine Business for publishing this story.



Italy,négociant,Tuscany,Wine,Wine Making,Wine of the Week,Wine tasting,Winery,Wines,Wne and Food

Wine of the Week ~ Chianti 2018 DOCG Renzo Masi & C. Rufina, Italy

A piece of my heart was deliberately left in Chianti Country, during a visit to Tuscany, with the Bluest Sky Import Group. A life-altering education, every time I’ve headed out to “be there,” smell the terroir, feel the earth, see the vines, taste the wines, and ask questions (even if some sound like I just got off the boat). These experiences allow me to now be more curious when a wine arrives, for my thoughts. This Chianti 2018 DOCG Renzo Masi & C. Rufina, Italy is from a region I’ve visited (Tuscany); so it’s a bit poignant.

Why? I could live in Italy, so it really pulls at my heartstrings, each time there’s a physical connection, like wine or images.

I visited Castello di Meleto, Gaiole in Chianti, Tuscany, my host. And now I’m exploring, from my armchair, Chianti 2018 DOCG Renzo Masi & C. Rufina, Italy. Cork was pulled, lovely aromas wafted into the air, glass was poured, I tasted the wine and Chianti came rushing back. Our noses and taste buds have memories. We just have to close our eyes and be transported back to another paradise. In this case, Florence Tuscany. A bit north of where I was, but only by 45 miles.

Italian wines are so well suited for anything involving veggies in broth, beans, cheese, and some bread… We had this 2018 Renzo Masi & C. Rufina with pizza. It was perfectly delicious.

I’d also suggest a Simple Ribollita, like this one pictured ABOVE. [PHOTO: purchased]

[WINE PHOTO: Jose Diaz, josediaphotos]

Dry cherries, lots of fruit, easy finish. It tastes like a home’s everyday wine; one to just have around for fitting in perfectly with anything Italian. This wine doesn’t have a big, tannic structure for laying down for years. It’s very drinkable for now, but you could stash a few in your wine cellar for the next Italian meal, too; but they won’t last long. They’re simply that delicious.

Find your local wine shop with a good selection of Italian Imports, and go get it. If it’s not there, ask for it. When in sales, I learned that some wine merchants keep a list in the backroom of wines requested by partons. When the wine reps show up, the buyers have a tendency – if there’s space on their shelved (vintages do run out, you know) – they’ll find another brand. H.B. Wine Imports helps this winery to have shelf space in this category. It’s three days later since the wine was opened and first tasted. I’m still loving the light, ethereal structure and flavors.

WINERY:  MASI RENZO & C. SAS FATTORIA DI BASCIANO ~ Viale Duca della Vittoria, 159 ~ 50068 RUFINA (FIRENZE) Tuscany – Italy

FROM THEIR WEBSITE: MASI FAMILY, from the winery: The Masi family has been making wine for three generations. From the beginning until now, the leading philosophy, which has distinguished our work, has always been the same: producing wines with an excellent quality/price relationship. To obtain this, year after year we have searched for and selected the producers who can guarantee a constant high-standard quality level, and we have created a long-term relationship of cooperation with them, including our consultation on how to manage the vineyard, with the aim of reaching the highest quality.

About our work, we have been said: “The role of the négoçiant is scarcely understood in Italy (…). Yet the activity needs to be done well. And a family interpreting this job with ability is Masi of Rufina, with the father Renzo and the son Paolo, graduated agronomist in Florence.” (Daniel Thomases, I VINI DI TOSCANA).

At present, we produce two white wines, a rosé, three red wines, a Chianti Riserva and a blend between Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon, aged in oak barrels, all by using grapes and wines coming from the area of Rufina and its surroundings (except for the Valdichiana Bianco Vergine).

Based in the Rufino region, here’s a flavor of their terroir’s culture…


SAMPLE: H.B. Wine Merchants


Public Relations,Public Service Announcement,Wine,Wine Business,Women in Wine

In the Wine Business, Can Women Easily Find Their Place?

It’s not always easy, and may even be more challenging, once we all get back to work… if the work is even there. I can give you that.

Knowing how to play the “A-type Woman Brings Around the A-Type Man” isn’t always a cakewalk, either. A lot of it has to do with the emotional maturity of both parties. So, what if an A-Type man hasn’t reached that peak of, “I’m okay, you’re okay,” yet?

I’m going to give you the following example, and in it you’ll find the answer.

Years ago, when women broke the glass ceiling for joining all male civic groups, in this case it was Rotary International for me, I joined. I was a PR rep for Fuller-Jeffrey Broadcasting. I was my job to fulfill the FCC licensing requirements of serving the community. So, I had a radio talk program called “The Pubic Ear,” discussing community issues. It was fascinating. I was also on committees with the Chamber of Commerce, United Way, helping with Red Cross, etc.. In these capacities, I was no threat. I was a (paid) public servant, following the lead of others.

But, the Rotary gig… I was one of the first women to break that glass ceiling, and not every gentleman within the group was thrilled that their all male bastion had been invaded. This was all while living in Maine, mind you. I had come to California to see if I’d like to live here. Meanwhile, I was devoted to my perfect attendance record, so I drove out to Sebastopol, to attend their meeting. At the time, there were no women in Rotary in California, but I didn’t know it. So, imagine when I showed up to do a “make up meeting.” The gentleman sitting outside with a card table, handing out tickets to men (weekly raffle), and men entering the building, simply handed me the make-up card and said, “Our meeting has been cancelled for today.” It didn’t hit me until I was well on my way back to Santa Rosa that I had been played. And so my Rotary career had begun.

I attended board of director meetings in my Lewiston Maine Club. I listened to their struggles, and began to offer advice. Solutions all seemed so simple, and I was willing to even help them get things done. There really was no resistance in these meetings. At one point, Dominique Tardiff, the patriarch of the club, said in one of those meeting, “Boy, if we knew how much a woman is willing to do, we would have let you all in years ago.” Laughter…

The guys were all very friendly, and that went along smoothly for a year.

It was my mouth that got me into trouble in the group setting of a meeting, during our incoming president leading his first meeting. He asked a question, “What would you like to see happen this year?”

Well, since I had first joined, more women had come into the club and I had done the math: 100 members ~ 90 men and 10 women (approximately). I was ready with my question, but I wasn’t going to be the first person to put up my hand. I knew the treachery of that move. But, I felt safe being the second person. “Yes, Jo?” he called to me.

“Since women are now 10 percent of the population, I’d like to see a woman represented on the Board of Directors.”

Without hesitation, he shot back,

“Women will N-E-V-E-R be on my board!”

Okay, I shrunk into my seat and he just moved on. I had thought it was reasonable, but like the guys in Petaluma, men “had” to have female members, and the sore was still too fresh.

A few weeks later, the Dom Tardiff came to me, “Jo, we have a position on our board.” God only knows what went on behind closed doors, but someone gave up his position, and I was being asked to take it… Sergeant at Arms.

Oh my gawd, he wasn’t joking. I was to become the greeter, the same job the guy in Petaluma had, who had turned me away; but, I wasn’t sure I wanted it. Dom told me that it would be okay, so I agreed. So, my A-Type was squarely up against the president’s A-Type, and what would happen next I never saw coming. I had been told that there was one seat at the head table that was deliberately left open. It was my job to find someone to fill it each week. I did that for months. The day arrived that I had been too busy to find someone for that seat, so I did what I was told. I took the seat. It also felt pretty good to sit there and get that perspective during the meeting. As soon as the room had all but cleared, our president came up to me and said,

“Don’t you E-V-E-R sit in that seat again.”

The gentleman who owned the Ramada Hotel (also a club member, where our meeting was held) was right there and caught it all. He said, “Yeah, we don’t want anyone pretty at the head table.” He made me chuckle, and the president stormed off.

The following week, I discouragedly told Dom Tardiff what had happened the week before. I also told him I was wasn’t up to the job anymore. Dom said, and this was such a powerful message, “Jo, you can’t quit. That’s what he wants you to do, so he can say, ‘See, they can’t take it.'”

Aha… I was in a pickle. So, I just fulfilled my duties and really made sure that seat was covered, for the rest of this man’s term. On his last day as president, he again called for thoughts from the members. Again, I waited. Again, he called on me.

“Bob (not his real name), I’d like to thank you for having the foresight to invite the first woman to be on your board of directors. Your judgement is so appreciated.”

Yeah… I did it. I’m not going to tell you what was going through my mind, but I had to thank him.

But wait, this story isn’t over, until…

Later, Bob became president of our local country club. When his term was up, it was he who appointed one of my female friends, also a member of the country club, to be their incoming president. Yes, he did. I’m just going to leave this right here, by saying, we A-Type women – have to first give to get in the business world, when men aren’t as emotionally developed.  We have to be more clever and patient. Baby steps forward may seem inconsequential at the time, when hit head-on like I was. But, at the time, I couldn’t foresee that turn around. When I learned of my friend’s sponsor, I knew I had fulfilled a calling.

Special thank you to Wine Business for publishing this story.

Special thank you to Wine Industry Insight for publishing this story.


Law,Marketing,PR Advice,Promotions,Public Service Announcement,Wine

I hate to be the party pooper, but… The Legality of Involving “Free” Wine

Heads up if you don’t know the laws about giving away “free” wine. I can hardly believe how many wine companies are trying to keep their businesses afloat with enticements, now, given the pandemic, and free wine seems to be one of the top motivations.

I learned the laws a long time ago, because my fingerprints were all over a case of wine confiscated that I had packaged, in a Florida state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control sting. That fine resulted in $10,000 the company had to pay to Florida. They didn’t come to me; I was just doing my job.  Still, I was traumatized.

So, today: from an older article entitled: Void in California no more: Alcohol beverage producers free to market sweepstakes…

From Thompson Coburn LLP: There are some conditions, however. And, some of these conditions include:

  1. Entrants must be 21 years of age or older to participate.
  2. The contest cannot involve the consumption of alcoholic beverages.
  3. Caps, corks, labels, etc. cannot be used as an entry.
  4. Alcohol beverages cannot be awarded as prizes.
  5. Entry or extra chances cannot be awarded for the purchase of alcoholic beverages.

With wine companies trying to reinvent themselves, one very important consideration has not yet been researched by most wineries. Big companies with a legal department are well in-the-know.  New, small emerging companies trying to save the dream they’ve finally established, this one is for you… Head’s up.

Anyone coming into wine from the early 2000’s onward probably hasn’t ever had to ask this question before, nor do they have a historic memory or the curiosity – especially since they’re treading water to stay alive. And, it’s not easy to navigate the ABC Websites for the answers. It’s a lengthy adventure just to find an email address, but I found one. I wanted an update and who knows if anyone is working there right now. Research departments aren’t as essential as busting someone’s chops. It’s been two weeks since I sent an email to them. Crickets.

As a wine publisher, I got a query to write this “feel good” story.” I responded:

Hi, Brenda (not real name),

I only write this to you, because in the early 1990’s, I packed a shipment of wines sold through the tasting room, where I was working. Even though it was illegal – we all knew it was, and yet we shipped – so I did my job. That box was then shipped to Florida.

HEADLINE: “Illegal shipment of a dozen bottles of wine was stopped in Florida by the ABC. The winery [the one I was working for at the time] was fined $10,000.”

An article giving more details.

“The Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 came into force, bringing into effect significant changes to the rules relating to the promotion of alcohol. There are two  really significant changes:

“Perhaps the most significant is that alcohol can no longer be advertised off the premises in a way which leads people to believe that the price is 25 percent or more below the price at which alcohol is ordinarily sold.

“and… Providing free wine as a competition prize or as part of a loyalty programme is now illegal.

“Offers made outside licensed premises for any goods or services, or the opportunity to win a prize, on the condition that alcohol is bought are now also not permitted. If a business runs a competition where alcohol forms part of the prize, the promotion may not be advertised anywhere people could see or hear it outside of licensed premises. This will include promotions where people subscribe to a newsletter to go into the draw to win a prize, where the competition is a game of skill, and any ‘lucky dip’ competitions. ‘Seen or heard’ from outside licensed premises will include advertising that is conducted via email, print, broadcast, or social media, including Facebook.”

During this Covid-19 days, I’m seeing wine companies trying to creatively pitching “buy wine and we’ll give complimentary wines to your favorite first responder,” for instance.

When I responded to Brenda, the company promptly dropped their promotion. Very sensible move. And, I’ve also let another company know recently. So, I decided it’s time to just remind the wine industry. Sorry to break the bad news, but I don’t want to see some well-intentioned winery have to go under. That still was in the 1990’s. Based on inflation, let’s not find out what a $10,000 fine could be today.

Special thank you to Wine Industry Insight for publishing this story.
Special thank you to Wine Business for publishing this story.


Interview,Santa Barbara,Santa Barbara County,Wine,Wine Business,Wine Country,Wine Culture,Wine Making,Wine Marketing,Wine Samples,Winemaker,Winemaking,Winery,Women in Wine

Lucas & Lewellen Sustainably Crafted is Just So Fine ~ An Interview with Mike Lewellen

Lucas & Lewellen sustainably crafted is just so fine is not an overstatement, it’s what I’ve experienced and happy to write about it.

First, I got the wine. Next, I tasted it, and found it to be really lovely. The elements of femininity really shined through. Then I discovered Lucas & Lewellen has a female winemaker. No shock for me, based on the silky, alluring flavors. While some may argue with this, please don’t. It’s scientifically documented. I’ve always believe this, as a mother who nursed all three of her daughters for extended times, with each one. Women are more astute wine tasters. Our sense of smell allows us to be able to blindfoldedly pick our babies out from a crowd of them. Why?

From the article: The female nose always knows: Do women have more olfactory neurons? From Science Daily.com

By calculating the number of cells in the olfactory bulbs of these individuals, the group (that also included researchers from the University of São Paulo, the University of California, San Francisco, and the Albert Einstein Hospital in São Paulo) discovered that women have on average 43% more cells than men in this brain structure. Counting neurons specifically, the difference reached almost 50% more in women than men.

FROM THEIR WEBSITE: Megan McGrath Gates has been the winemaker for the Lucas & Lewellen Estate Vineyards since 2007….Megan’s love of soil gives her a ground-up perspective on winegrowing. “We make many decisions during the growing, fermenting and aging stages, but ultimately the grape has to express itself and that starts in the soil.” She considers her style of winemaking to be neither Old World nor New World, but believes in “balanced wines with all components married together so that layers of complexity are allowed to unfold.”

Winemaking takes an exceptional soul. There has to be a core union from within that says, “You are not only going to shine in the sciences, but you’re also going to be exception in the arts.” Bam, another winemaker is born…Jack of all trades, Master of All… Megan McGrath Gates

I was offered to conduct an interview with Mike Lewellen, son of Judge Royce Lewellen, who was originally from St. Louis, Missouri.

The Lucas, in Lucas & Lewellen is Louis Lucas: Louis is from the Central Valley of California, and is one of the first commercial grape growers in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. Solid viticultural background as a base, began their adventure that grew from being friends into the trifecta of owning and operating Lucas and Lewellen Vineyards.

Mike’s Lewellen’s background perfectly fits for his position within the winery group.

FROM THEIR SITE: Royce Lewellen’s son Mike Lewellen became a minority owner of the company in 1999 and joined the company full-time in 2009. As a Managing Partner, Mike works with all departments; Marketing & Sales, Finance, Tasting Room and, of course, the winery.

Interview with Mike Lewellen

Jo: Tell us about your childhood, as you watched an impending wine career take shape before your very eyes, as Lucas and Lewellen evolved.

  • MIKE: I really didn’t see it that way, at all. It was taking shape, but I didn’t see it coming. My father [Royce] met Louis Lucas through the Santa Maria Food and Wine Society. Over the next 25 years, our family bonds developed a deep history. This became our families’ foundation, for creating Lucas & Lewellen.

Jo: Founded in 1996, you came to work for the winery in 1999. Did you already have a successful career?

  • MIKE: I worked for 16 years before the winery took shape, with The Territory Ahead. It’s a multi-channel, apparel retailer, where I managed marketing, circulation, and was an inventory planner. All of these tasks prepared me for helping with sales management of our winery. Coming to Lucas & Lewellen happened when my two brothers and I were offer a small investment opportunity, in 1999. I decided to go for it, and began working at the winery in my spare time. It wasn’t until 2009 that I decided to work at the winery full-time.

Jo: I asked about the favorite part of his job, he reminded me of when I was asked what was my favorite subject in school? I knew it was “English, but I’d always say “recess.” Why? Because it was social. Asking anyone the question of “what’s the favorite part your job” in the wine business, the art and the sciences pour forth, but they eventually settle on the social aspects.

  • MIKE: I like to turn people onto the wines that I love, to learn about their balance and flavors. And then to share them with family and friends, enjoying them with foods, having good times… It’s a lifestyle.

Jo: What is the winery’s style of wines?

  • MIKE: I have to go back to our winemaker and credit her. Megan McGrath Gates has been with us since 2007. She’s the embodiment of what we know the potential of our vineyards bring forth, in the best possible light and flavors. And, she’s humble, with a love for soil as part of terroir. Quoting her, “We make many decisions during the growing, fermenting, and aging stages, but ultimately the grape has to express itself and that starts in the soil.”

MIKE, then, with great admiration, listed all of the following qualifications on Megan’s bio:

  • Having graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a degree in Soil Sciences, she earned her Certificate in Winemaking at U.C. Davis before working as an enologist for Flowers Vineyard & Winery on the Sonoma Coast, crafting Burgundy-style Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. As winemaker for Cahill Winery in Sebastopol, she had the opportunity to work with Sonoma, Mendocino and Napa Valley grapes, specializing in small lots of Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Bordeaux varieties, and Syrah.

Jo: If you could drink a bottle of wine with anyone in the world, who would it be, and what wine would you choose?

  • MIKE: I have to think about this one. [He chuckles at the thought of this British historical writer.] Bernard Cromwell, he said.  We talked about how fascinating he found this author and spent a lot of his time engrossed in the tales.
  • WIKI BIO: Bernard Cornwell, Order of the British Empire (born 23 February 1944) is an English author of historical novels and a history of the Waterloo Campaign. He is best known for his novels about Napoleonic War’s rifleman Richard Sharpe. He has also written the Saxon / Last Kingdom stories, about King Alfred and the making of England.

Jo: What wine would you like to drink with him?

  • MIKE: I’d say our Cabernet Franc. It shows best and is delicious. [When I told him that I started to open his bottles, with their Lucas & Lewellen Cabernet Franc, he said to me, “Ah, you started with the good one.” Then he said, “I also really love our Pinot Noir.” I told him that I did, too.

Jo: All of your wines are very special. When I tasted your Cabernet Sauvignon I knew it was made by a female winemaker. The emphasis was on the fruit, not the tannins. It was so smooth and inviting. And, their Pinot Noir is really outstanding with its velvety smooth roundness and silky, elegant finish.

There is so much more to Lucas & Lewellen. After I enjoyed my first taste of their excellent, terroir driven, sustainably crafted wines, I knew I’d be happy to share what I’ve learned. I do highly recommend these wines. Every one of the wines in the set was so satisfying and had true to varietal character. And, Mike’s got the passion to match it all. This company is doing everything right. Now it’s your turn to taste Santa Barbara County and enjoy the fruits of Lucas & Lewellen’s labor.

Special thank you to Wine Business for also publishing this story.

Special thank you to Wine Industry Insight for also publishing this story.


Costa Rica,Global Winemaker,India,Wine,Wine Making,Wine Marketing,Winemaker

Episode 4 – Kerry Damskey – Winemaking in Costa Rica

[PHOTO: Kerry Damskey’s image of the Costa Rica property.]

Kerry Damskey is the proprietor of Terriors, Inc., which couldn’t be a more appropriate name for what he’s doing. From his Website declaration:

With over 30 years experience, Kerry Damskey has created the first fully integrated and holistic wine consulting team in the wine business, applying the concept of terroir to his all-inclusive, artful approach to winemaking.

Episode 1 ~ Who is that Global Winemaker Kerry Damskey?

Episode 2 ~ Kerry Damskey Talks About Making Wine in India

Episode 3 ~ Kerry Damskey – Winemaking in Bulgaria And China

Now we have Episode 4 – Kerry Damskey – Winemaking in Costa Rica

In his arm chair setting and with his jovial voice, Kerry Damskey continues to take us on another segment of his winemaking career. India had a very unusual way of seguing right into Costa Rica. Yes, Central America’s Costa Rica, where no grape vines had ever been planted before. It reminds us that this was the same scenario in India… Kerry mentions that he’s a Go-To consultant for – quoting him – “weird ass places, making wine where no one has ever made wine” before.

He brings an important partner, and now good friend, Niv Benyehuda into the picture, calling him the mastermind of this project in Costa Rica. Nana Beny became the on-site winemaker in Costa Rica, with Kerry being the consultant for making this all happen. Niv Ben-Yehuda has a tremendous business background and the resources to make his dreams a reality… Including viticulture and winemaking in Costa Rica.

As it happened and out of the blue, Niv just gave Kerry a call, they met a few days later. Kerry Damskey decided he’d love to help him make his dream a reality. Within two months, Kerry was on his way to Costa Rica. He found a couple of unusual feature (for him) of being so close to the equator with grape vines:

  • They’re invigorating (they don’t go dormant, presenting challenges that had to be overcome
  • And, it rains 120 inches of rain a year, which is a tremendous amount of moisture to work with


He’ll tell you all about it in another interesting quick video, in this latest Episode of Kerry Damskey’s exciting career, when you listen to this frontier man of winemaking talking candidly about his next adventure… Going from working in India to working in Costa Rica…

Special thank you to Wine Business for also publishing this story.

Special thank you to Wine Industry Insight for also publishing this story.


Art in Wine,Beaujolais,Contest,France,Wine

The Fourth Annual Beaujolais Nouveau Artist Label Contest is Underway

I love art. Wine is art, music is art, paintings and sculptures are art. Put them all together and you have a perfect day. Place them all in France’s wine country, and you have utopia, at least in my humble opinion. World renown artists have long graced wine bottles. Those images attract us right to the bottle, by something visceral from deep within.  Let’s say, you’re standing in front of a wine shop’s display racks, you’re not quite sure which wine to choose, since you didn’t go in the store with a specific brand in mind. As you stand there, you’re taken in by all of the labels. If you don’t see a wine you recognize, you’re not driven by the left side of your brain (logical). You’re driven by the right side, the artistic side. [I always remember Left = Logical, two “L” words. That makes Right = aRtistic.]

So, all of these labels in the Beaujolais Nouveau Artist Label Contest are going to be ones that you’ve never seen before, because they’ve all just been created for this contest. That means it’s going to be a visceral experience, and you’re invited! (Best way to judge art, right?)

I found one that reminds me of my trip to the Golden Stone Village of Oingt, when Lorraine Raguseo and I were exploring and we turned a corner. I saw art, just standing right there and it was so “wine country.” Of course, it brought me right back and it’s my choice. The following images below are from 14 artists, from 1,000 entries. Imagine… 1,000 entries. This has become a coveted art contest over the past four years, as the Duboeuf family continues to look for label art to grace this upcoming 2020 vintage of Nouveau Beaujolais.

I voted and if my choice has been created by my lucky artist, it will be a bottle that I will hang onto, long after the wine is enjoyed.

I suggest you vote fairly quickly. Voting ends on May 1 The artist who created the label that receives the most votes within this period will receive a $3,500 grant and will have their artwork turned into a label that will be printed on more than a million bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau.

Just in from Georges Duboeuf…


After an intense two weeks spent evaluating all of the incredible artwork we received in our 4th Annual Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau Artist Label Competition, the finalists have been selected! With over 1,000 submissions reviewed by our judging panel, selecting the top 14 was not an easy task. We’d like to thank all of you for submitting, voting and supporting the contest this year.

We hope you’ll join with us in congratulating the artists who have made it to this next round of the competition. Cast your vote for your favorite by leaving a comment on this post (one per user, please) and by voting on our website (www.nouveaulabelcontest.com).

ON THEIR SITE: Below are the 14 finalists for this year’s contest! Please vote for your favorite at the bottom of this page. Voting is open through May 1st, 2020.


Nouveau Label Contest


Beaujolais Nouveau is a young, fruity, and fresh red wine that is made and released every year on the third Thursday of November only 6-8 weeks after the grapes are harvested. The annual release of Beaujolais Nouveau has its roots in a regional celebration of the end of harvest that has happened in Beaujolais for generations. Beaujolais Nouveau is a festive and fun wine – what the French call “vin de soif” – that is, thirst-quenching and easy to drink.

Over 35 years ago, Georges Duboeuf decided to share that tradition and celebration with wine lovers around the world and released his first Beaujolais Nouveau in markets across the globe. Since then, the annual release of Beaujolais Nouveau has grown into the world’s largest annual wine celebration.

In the U.S., Beaujolais Nouveau’s release the week before Thanksgiving marks the unofficial beginning of the holiday season. And what perfect timing – you won’t find a better turkey wine!

For many years, the wine was released every year with a different artist-designed label and the annual reveal of the label and design was almost as exciting as the wine itself. The different label designs reflected the fact that every year, Beaujolais Nouveau is a new and different wine – each bottling a unique expression of that vintage and a preview of what is to come.

It was in this spirit that, in 2017, Les Vins Georges Duboeuf held the first annual Nouveau Artist Label Competition.  We continue this tradition and are again inviting artists from all over the U.S. to submit their own design that captures the joyous and exuberant qualities of Beaujolais Nouveau – all of the things that make it the perfect wine to share with friends, family, and loved ones.  It is a celebration unto itself!

Special thank you to Wine Business for publishing this story.


Ecology,Education,Entertainment,Event,Wine Country

Earth Day in Wine Country… One Child at a Time

EARTH DAY began as a concept in the 1960s. By 1970, it was official.

While living across from a school, in Windsor, CA, our house was the first place the kids leaving school would pass. For a few years, they’d come out, unwrap their candy, and throw the paper on our lawn. When Jose would mow the lawn each Saturday, it began with him bent over, picking up their trash.

IDEA, teach the kids about the environment and how trash mounts up: For the next year, I collected ever bit of trash that landed on our lawn. I filled a disgusting 24″ x 36″ poster, and on the next Earth Day I brought to the principal. I also had the movie “Wally” attached to it, so kids could watch the movie.

YEAR #2 – same poster, except, it was 11″ x 17.” This one had the Bee movie attached.

YEAR # 3 – “8” x 11″. ” x 17″. Another Wally movie, on a very small paper

YEAR #4, A thank you letter – only three small pieces of junk, so no poster… just the note.

For the next 15 years of living there, no trash.

Not only did it teach the school’s population at the time, but the ideology had sunk in throughout all of Windsor. (Schools are segmented by classes, not by neighborhoods, so my kids had all learned a life lesson of littering.)

This is one of my favorite achievements in life… my small contribution to Earth Day.

Our jobs are not yet done, but the pandemic has taken over for a while, and the environment is benefiting this year. Let’s all continue to enjoy our earth. It’s all we’ve got. Give a HOOT, don’t pollute.