April 2012


Last weekend, The Solar Living Institute campus was the place to be on Saturday for Earth Day Festival 2012.

Organizers Spencer Brewer, Vicki Milone, and Ross Beck put on a terrific event, with an estimated attendance of over 1,500 to taste organic, made with organically grown, biodynamic, and sustainable wines, along with many certified organic food products.

Live music, vendors, and exhibits – along with perfect Summer like weather – rounded out the incredible inaugural FREE festival event.

Having worked the event, I appreciate all the work put in by Spencer, Vicki and Ross that allowed so many folks to highlight an important aspect of the area we live in – our everyday care for the Earth.

Mendocino County has the highest concentration of green vineyards and wineries anywhere in America, and for the campus of the Solar Living Institute to play host to many of them on a site dedicated to responsible eco balanced living, in Hopland, was a powerful example of cohesive messaging through thoughtful event management.

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Piazza de Campovida had a soft opening last weekend in Hopland at the location previously known as Lawson’s Station, the former home of the McNab Ridge Winery tasting room.

Piazza de Campovida is home to an Inn, a Taverna, and a Pizzeria. The Inn is open now. The Taverna and Pizzeria were open only for the weekend to work out any wrinkles.

The second soft opening will be next Friday through Sunday to serve the visitors for the Hopland Passport wine weekend, in the Taverna and outside on the patio.

Soon after, the restaurant remodel will be finished, and both the Taverna and Pizzeria de Campovida will open for regular service at the Piazza.

This summer, another tap room and restaurant is supposed to open in Hopland where the old Hopland Brewery was located.

Together with Burgers My Way, Jalos Taco Truck, Blue Bird Café, Subway, and both the Hawk’s Nest Bar & Grill and Pepperwood Steakhouse at Hopland’s Sho-Ka-Wah casino, these new Hopland restaurants will provide a more complete Hopland destination experience for visitors who come for wine tasting at our 17 tasting rooms or a weekend getaway.

While there are 16 winery tasting rooms in the Hopland area, don’t forget SIP! Mendocino, a tasting room serving many hard to find Mendocino county wine labels, and look for new winery tasting rooms to open in the not too distant future.

Both Campovida on Old River Road and Piazza de Campovida on Highway 101 provide lodging, and it is the sincere wish that needed renovation, repair, and reopening of the historic Hopland Inn may occur some day in the future. There are also many hotels in nearby Ukiah for visitors to our area.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again and again in the future, but things are hopping in Hopland.
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On Thursday, I had the good fortune to return to The Drive With Steve Jaxon on KSRO 1350 AM to talk about Hopland Passport, coming up next weekend on May 5 & 6 from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm each day.

One dozen wineries made a bottle of wine available for possible tasting on air. Here’s a list of the wines:

2006 Milano Echo, Bells Echo Vineyard

NV (2009) McFadden Sparkling Brut, McFadden Farm

2009 Jaxon Keys Estate Primitivo, Michael’s Reserve, Norma’s Vineyard

NV Rack & Riddle Blanc de Noirs, Sonoma County

2009 Atrea Old Soul Red by Saracina

2009 Weibel Merlot, Mendocino County

2009 Enotria Barbera, Mendocino County

2010 Parducci Small Lot Blend Pinot Noir, North Coast

2010 Jeriko Estate Pinot Noir, Dijon Clone

2010 Cesar Toxqui Cellars Grenache, Mendocino

2009 McNab Ridge Pinotage, Napoli Vineyard

2010 Campovida Viognier Estate Grown

A bit limited by time, we tasted just five of these delicious wines, but they were a great representation of what Hopland will be offering wine quality wise during Hopland Passport.

Steve Jaxon’s favorite winery name was Jaxon Keys, which he remembered as Jepson, before the purchase and changes made by Ken and Diane Wilson.

In spite of time limits, I managed to compare the best attributes of Hopland Passport, value and accessibility, with the least favorable attributes of a larger event, price and unavailability. Subsequently, it was pointed out that my comparison was less than deft and I apologize to anyone listening Thursday afternoon that took umbrage. I tend to toil away well and then once a year I do something stupid, hopefully this was it for 2012. My only consolation is that my words will have as little negative effect on a perpetually sold out world class event as the effect of saying I prefer stainless steel Chardonnay would have on the sales of millions of cases of Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay…none.

Just like my last visit to KSRO, the boards lit up like a Christmas tree when we announced that there were some tickets to Hopland Passport available to be won.

I did manage to say a lot of good, smart, things too and we had a great time. I love seeing Mike DeWald dissolve into laughter as he works the board for Steve Jaxon. I am always heartened to see others who get to do jobs they love too. My thanks again to Steve and Mike for being such great hosts, I hope to see each of you if you do make it up to Hopland next weekend.

Another recent guest, Jason Stanford wrote on his blog, “A couple of days ago I got to go on what might be the best radio show in America not named Fresh Air, Radio Lab or This American Life: The Drive with Steve Jaxon on KSRO. Steve and his producer Mike DeWald get ridiculous guests. When I was on Wednesday, I followed someone from The Daily Show, and the Sklar Brothers came on after me. I felt like the comedian at the strip joint.”

I totally felt what Jason wrote, with a previous visit sandwiched in between days featuring Lily Tomlin and Andy Dick, I wonder at my great good fortune and the fun oddities that life sometimes presents.

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Herb Crust Pizza with Shamrock Goat Cheese from Willits

With Pizza on my mind last weekend because of the opening of Pizzeria de Campovida, and set up for the McFadden Farm Stand & Tasting Room with the folks from Shamrock Artisan Goat Cheese as my neighbors at the Earth Day Festival, I was reminded of a terrific pizza recipe that owes much to a good friend Nancy Cameron Iannios and much to Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten, but a whole lot to organic and delicious local ingredients.

Ina Garten made some savory onion tarts that I stole the topping recipe for and used with pizzas. When I complained about my terrible pizza crust in conversation, Nancy shared her herb crust recipe.

The things that I do that make the recipe pop: After cooking down sliced onions, I revive them using organically grown stainless steel held McFadden Chardonnay and cook them down again. I use organically grown air-dried McFadden Farm herbs for the dough that makes the crust. I use Shamrock goat cheese. These three seemingly small choices make a huge difference; quality ingredients increase the finished pizza flavor tremendously.

Like any pizza, the additional toppings can be changed to suit your mood and what’s tasting great seasonally, but in addition to the onions and goat cheese, for those that don’t read Ina’s recipe, I add tomato slices, Parmigiano-Reggiano, basil and olive oil.

There are many terrific herb crust dough recipes online, again the key is to use organic air dried herbs. Many commercial herbs are irradiated which boils off volatile oils resulting in weak flavored herbs; find a local organic grower that air dries their herbs. Visit your local healthy co-op market.

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That’s it. Have a pizza. With wine. In an eco-friendly way. And thanks again Steve and Mike.

 

The 21st annual spring Hopland Passport wine weekend will be celebrated on Saturday, May 5 and Sunday, May 6, from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm each day. Guests may buy a ticket for $55 at any of the 16 participating Hopland Passport wineries, or for $45 when purchased online at www.DestinationHopland.com by noon Thursday, May 3, 2012.  Upon check in at any winery, you’ll receive a commemorative glass, a wristband, and a new-this-year multi-page passport to collect stamps from each winery and make note of favorite wines for later purchase.

Each winery will pour delicious wines served up with amazing foods; plus many will offer tours, host live music, or other entertainment.

Each Passport has a tear out page for entering a drawing where over 30 fantastic prizes will be awarded.

A Shuttle Pass, good for Saturday only, is available for $20.  Shuttles will pick up and return guests from designated Ukiah hotels.

Designated driver tickets are available at no cost online.

Heading south from Ukiah, the first winery stop is at Nelson Family Vineyards, located almost midway between Ukiah and Hopland, a good half mile west of Hwy 101 down Nelson Ranch Road.

Nelson Family Vineyards will be serving up estate wines paired with delicious pizzas made with fresh and local ingredients including chevre and sun dried tomatoes, prosciutto and arugula, Gorgonzola and artichoke all atop the most incredible crust you’ve ever had from Mendough’s Wood-Fired Pizza. Enjoy frangipane (almond custard tart) by Cousteaux Bakery paired with a delectable dessert wine to finish your tasting.

A short drive north, a big old farmhouse sits on a hill overlooking the highway. You’ve reached Jaxon Keys Winery, where “I Wanna be a Rock Star” is the theme. You might run into Jimi Hendricks, Jim Morrison, or Elvis; with live music provided by The Felt-Tips. Forget the rock ’n roll lifestyle of “we’ll all stay skinny ‘cause we just won’t eat” as the “green room” at Jaxon Keys will be fully stocked with delicious wine and food pairings fit for a star.

Up next is Saracina Vineyards, offering gourmet carne asada “blossoms” in celebration of Cinco de Mayo from food truck Street-eatz to accompany award-winning Saracina and Atrea wines. Resident crooner, Ramon will serenade guests with festive Cinco de Mayo music, and Saracina tasting room hosts will offer wine cave tours on Saturday.

Neighboring vineyard and winery Jeriko Estate will be serving Mexican inspired pizzas along with chips and homemade salsa in honor of Cinco de Mayo. Daniel Fries and Trio Paz will be providing live musical entertainment. Guests may also enjoy barrel tastings, current releases, library wines and special deals on case sales.

When you first hit town, you’ll find three tasting rooms in the big two story yellow Vintage Marketplace building on the left side of the road.

First up, Weibel Family will offer Korean braised pork belly tacos, lamb and pinenut meatballs, hanger steak on crostini and Mexican chocolate brownies by Sarah Piccolo and her fabulous Fork Catering food truck to pair with delicious wine and bubbly offerings including the release of our inaugural Mendocino Brut – a limited production sparkler composed of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from our estate vineyards. Club Weibel members will enjoy a 30% discount on cases.

Mere steps away, Graziano Family of Wines will pair their Italian and old world-style wines with imported Italian cheeses, including Reggiano and Pecorino, and imported sausages, as well as pate, Trudi Graziano’s famous tapenade, pork tenderloin marinated in and served with Stroh’s Ranch Marinade and fresh strawberries.

McFadden Farm Stand & Tasting Room is the last of the three Vintage Marketplace stops.

McFadden will pour all their wines, made from organically grown grapes, and owner Guinness McFadden will be signing bottles as they are purchased.

Out the back door, McFadden will be cooking up grass fed beef steaks, served up with 100% pure wild rice & artichoke heart salad, and a delicious green salad, with local Schat’s Bakery sourdough  – everything seasoned with herbs and herb blends – all family farmed and organically grown at McFadden Farm.

Everything at McFadden will be discounted with McFadden Wine Club Members enjoying an enormous 40% discount on cases of wine at the McFadden Farm Stand & Tasting Room.

Across the street and half a block down in a rustic barn wood sided, metal roofed building, McDowell Valley Vineyards will have music and the delicious Mexican food that has become a much treasured tradition for Passport weekend visitors, prepared by friend of McDowell Leticia Gonzalez, spilling out of the tasting room and onto the side street.

Cesar Toxqui Cellars is three buildings down, on the next block. Asia meets Mexico with delicious tacos filled with roasted pig meat, served with a side of classic Filipino lumpia, and a traditional dessert of flan. New releases include a new wine, the 2010 Viognier; a new label, the 2010 Immigrant Zinfandel; and a Barrel Tasting of a new Dolce Paloma Port. Cesar and his wife Ruth recommend pairing Zinfandel with pork, Viognier with lumpia, and Port with flan.

McNab Ridge Winery is in a new location, the bright yellow former schoolhouse right next to Cesar Toxqui Cellars. Savory pork spareribs, so tender they fall off the bone, served with delicious homemade red potato salad, over a dozen of our gourmet dips and spreads, and fine handmade truffles by Mike Miller of Decadence; all served to showcase different wines being poured.

Bottle Painting by local artist Leslie Bartolomei, and much, much more will be sure to captivate at McNab Ridge.

Across the street in the building McNab Ridge used to pour from, the new Piazza de Campovida will offer visitors an Inn, a Taverna, and Pizzeria de Campovida – a thin crust wood fired handmade pizza experience. Pizza and porter at the Piazza, plus a place to spend the weekend right in town! If you want a room, call (707) 744-1977 for reservations.

Brutocao Cellars will be pairing wines with different exotic wood fired pizzas. Fun is guaranteed with bocce ball, other games, and contests to participate in. Live music is also a much loved Brutocao tradition at Hopland Passport, so bring your boogie shoes.

Parducci Wine Cellars’ Hopland tasting room at the Real Goods & Solar Living Institute campus is where you’ll find fresh succulent oysters paired with Sauvignon Blanc and Sustainable White. Red wine lovers will enjoy gold medal winning small lot blend Pinot Noir paired with pork medallions with a raspberry balsamic glaze over creamy polenta. Wine and oysters, wine and pork…..who could pass this up?

The southernmost winery on Highway 101, operating out of a hop kiln, Milano Family Winery will be serving scrumptious tri-tip marinated and smoked over red wine barrel staves & mesquite with rolls, an abundance of yummy vegetables and dips, and aged to perfection, delicious Cabot Creamery cheeses.

Performing Saturday at Milano Family Winery is the rockin’ band BLIND SPOT – a group of friends who enjoy playing rock & roll, blues and pop. On Sunday, Oscar Calderon will be singing and strumming on his guitar.

Milano Family Winery is always busy with fabulous wines, delicious food, art & craft vendors, and terrific music.

To the west of Hopland, up Mountain House road, you’ll find two wineries. The first, Rack & Riddle, is a large facility set back off the road a bit. Rack & Riddle is home to many of the great bubblies poured in Hopland and beyond. During Passport, Rack & Riddle will feature festive, gourmet Mexican cuisine, serving lime & shrimp ceviche, warm tri-tip sliders, and chips & guacamole, pairing perfectly with their award-winning sparkling wines and newly released still wines! Celebrate Cinco de Mayo in style with Rack & Riddle!

Terra Savia will pair medal winning wines and bubbly with Papa Darrell’s deliciously scrumptious tri-tip with bordelaise sauce, mushroom caps stuffed with walnuts and herbs, Candida DeLorenzo’s baguette pudding with fresh spring cherries, orange infused olive tapenade on crostini, and honey & lavender baked walnuts. Music by the highly entertaining and original local brother & sister duo, The Avery’s, will have you swinging your hips and stomping your feet.

To the east of Hwy 101, on Old River Road, lies Campovida, a gorgeously peaceful retreat that you have to set aside some time to explore. Campovida will be serving up authentic Mexican street faire – soft, warm corn tortillas topped with your choice of steak, chicken or vegetables, with a splash of spicy salsa, and a shower of sweet onion and fresh cilantro, which will accompany a lineup of sustainable, organic and biodynamic wines. A tour with master gardener Ken Boek of the famous Campovida gardens is an absolute must.

For more information, or to purchase Hopland Passport tickets and/or Shuttle passes, visit online at www.DestinationHopland.com

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Okay, I’ll be honest, this was a piece written by committee with owners and managers  from each of the 16 wineries providing a blurb for the “wineries and menus” page under the Hopland Passport tab on the Destination Hopland website, then me taking those blurbs and stringing them together with edits as needed into a single post…not my best but the piece above will appear next week with a photo or two in the Ukiah paper and will serve both to remind folks to pick up last minute tickets and to provide a possible order for winery visits.

Anyway, I promised tickets, and I’ve got a pair of tickets to Hopland Passport to giveaway. Leave a comment before midnight on Thursday, April 26, not on facebook or twitter, but to this post on my blog and show me that you’ve read my post – or found the poorly hidden answer to the following question: which winery owner will be signing bottles during Hopland Passport? I’ll pick a winner and contact them on Friday, April 28.

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Tune in to KSRO 1350 AM in Santa Rosa on Thursday, April 26 from 5:00pm to 6:00 pm – or go to KSRO.com and click the “Listen Live” button to listen online – when I join my good friend Steve Jaxon on his best-show-north-of-the-bay The Drive With Steve Jaxon to talk about Hopland Passport. We will taste wines from up to a dozen Hopland wineries live on air, talk about the offerings from each of the 16 participating wineries, and we’ll likely give away a pair of tickets (or maybe two pair) toward the end of the show. Steve will be attending Hopland Passport this year, and you’ll hear plenty of reasons to get your own tickets and join us all.
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Disclosure: I manage the McFadden Farm Stand & Tasting Room and provide marketing services to Destination Hopland.

This Saturday, Earth Day, April 21, 2012, is going to be crazy busy in Hopland, the wine area I work in. Check it out:

EARTH DAY CALENDAR OF EVENTS FOR APRIL 21 IN HOPLAND

EARTH DAY FESTIVAL 2012 at the SOLAR LIVING INSTITUTE; join Hopland Passport participating wineries BRUTOCAO, GRAZIANO, JAXON KEYS, MCFADDEN, MCNAB RIDGE, MILANO, PARDUCCI, SARACINA, TERRA SAVIA, and WEIBEL plus other eco conscious wineries and food providers from 11:00 am – 5:00 pm for this FREE celebration of sustainability.

Dog Hike, box lunch, and wine tasting at SARACINA with winery owner John Fetzer. 10:00am – 1:00pm, $25 person or $45 couple.

NELSON FAMILY VINEYARDS wine club blending party with a catered lunch. 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm, $35 person – wine club only.

SIP! MENDOCINO tasting of all ten 2008 Coro Mendocino wines, including Hopland Passport participating wineries BRUTOCAO, MCFADDEN, MCNAB RIDGE, PARDUCCI, and WEIBEL. 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm, $20 person or FREE with a SIP! MENDOCINO wine club membership.

MCNAB RIDGE WINERY Wine Club Winemaker’s Dinner with Rich Parducci at the North Street Cafe in Ukiah, 6:30 pm reception, 7:00 pm dinner, $75 person.

PIZZERIA de CAMPOVIDA, grand opening weekend, wood-fired pizza and hand crafted brews at the TAVERNA, at PIAZZA de CAMPOVIDA.

Pick and choose and you really can’t go wrong. I’m going to be working the rare weekend day. While Gary holds down the fort at the McFadden Farm Stand & Tasting Room, I will be at the Earth Day Festival at the Solar Living Institute in Hopland. I’ll be pouring and selling McFadden wines and offering jars of organic and air dried herbs and herb blends, and boxes of 100% pure wild rice, from McFadden Farm for sale from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm.

The entire McFadden crew will be in Hopland. Ann will be taking her dog for a walk at Saracina, then coming to the Festival. Eugene will be working at Graziano, next door to McFadden where Gary will be. Guinness McFadden will be coming to Hopland to pour his 2008 Coro Mendocino at SIP! Mendocino that evening.

I hope to be able to get a table for Ann, Eugene, Gary, and myself – plus Guinness if he’ll join us – at the new pizza and pint place in town between shutting down our tasting rooms and events, and heading over to SIP! to try some Coro wines.

You know where I’m going to be, maybe I’ll see you this Saturday.

KSRO 1350AM’s The Drive with Steve Jaxon is the top listened to drive time radio show north of the San Francisco Bay and every Wednesday they give up the last hour of their three hour show, from 5:00 PM to 6:00 PM, to Wine Wednesday when different Sonoma County wine industry guests visit; wine is poured and tasted on air, and listeners get a chance to learn about new wines or be reminded about favorite producers.

Steve Jaxon Vicario

Steve Jaxon is a Sonoma County radio institution, and I first met him in 1987 when we both worked at Studio KAFE and KAFE FM96 in Santa Rosa. The KAFE was a restaurant, bar, radio station and nightclub; I was hired to work on the restaurant side of KAFE and Steve was the Program Director for the radio station. In April of 1988, Steve put me on the air, and increased my shifts until I was a regular and had a special weekend show, “Dead Air” dedicated to the Grateful Dead, that lead to an invite to work a national simulcast of a Dead New Year’s Eve show.

Steve played Percy Sledge’s “When A Man Loves A Woman” as the first song on KAFE when we opened. Over the years Steve moved stations, while I became a manager, putting together the restaurant’s wine list. I saw the restaurant close, and was invited to be there for the last radio program. Kindly, the last evening’s air jocks let me take the KAFE out as I was the only person there from the beginning and I played the station off with the same song that Steve had played to start it all.

I contacted Steve through his producer Mike DeWald, asking if I could join them for a Wine Wednesday, representing McFadden, and was given a date I could join them late in March.

Mike DeWald and Steve Jaxon taking over The Late Show with Davis Letterman

I was contacted the morning of the show, asked if I would mind being bumped to the 4:00PM hour. A little disappointed that the after work drive time listeners would not hear about McFadden, I didn’t want to be seen as difficult, and grateful for any time given our Mendocino County wine, I said that there would be no problem with the time change.

Wine Wednesdays on The Drive with Steve Jaxon are sponsored by Santa Rosa’s Bottle Barn, boasting the largest selection of Sonoma County wines anywhere, and until recently the Sonoma County Vintners also sponsored Steve’s show.

There had never been an all Mendocino County – vineyard to winery to tasting room – visitor on Steve’s show and I wanted to make a good impression.

McFadden sells most of the 750 tons of grapes grown on McFadden Farm in Mendocino County’s Potter Valley, only needing to keep a small portion for our smaller production wines. I got to Santa Rosa early so I could spend over an hour finding wines sold at Bottle Barn made from our grapes. I found and mentioned on air wines made by Chateau Montelena, Dashe, and Sterling among others.

Knowing I would also mention Hopland Passport, I also found and mentioned wines sold at Bottle Barn made by some of the 16 wineries that participate in Hopland Passport.

I showed up at KSRO early too, and after greeting Steve with a hug, got a couple of wines into a fridge to cool down a little.

Around 4:00PM, Steve introduced me and I shared the story of McFadden with his listeners. I talked about my boss, Guinness McFadden, decorated war hero and leader in Mendocino County’s organic farming community. I talked about McFadden Farm, organic from day one over 40 years ago, bio diverse, expanding from 40 to 500 acres, CCOF certified organic family farmers of wine grapes, grass fed beef, 100% pure wild rice, air dried herbs and herb blends. I talked about the hydroelectric plant and solar panel arrays that allow us to put carbon neutral in the rear view mirror.

The Hydroelectric Plant on McFadden Farm

I talked about the McFadden Farm Stand & Tasting Room in Hopland and all the good things we sell there. We tasted four wines, our 2010 Chardonnay – stainless steel held with no malolactic, showing off what great grapes grown right can become; our 2009 Old Vine Zinfandel – a wine Steve was amazed by; our 2007 Coro Mendocino – and then I explained the entire Coro Mendocino program; and our 2010 Riesling – probably our most famous grape having been tasted by Boone, Tanzer, Parker and Galloni over the years in wines made by top producers.

McFadden Coro Mendocino, Steve liked the solid “BF” rating

I mentioned that the 2009 Old Vine Zinfandel had been pulled from sales and that I was going to use the last of it to make our April Wine Club orders more special and, if any was left,  pull it out for our Wine Club Dinner at McFadden Farm on Saturday, July 14, 2012 from 5:00PM to 11:00PM. I did say there was still an opportunity to join a McFadden Wine Club to get one bottle in your first order.

We also tasted a steak and wild rice salad, made with organic ingredients and herbs from McFadden Farm. I know I’m the first visitor to Steve’s show with both wine and food from their farm, and a tale of a war hero turned organic farmer with his own hydroelectric plant on the Russian River producing half the energy for the residents and businesses of the valley he lives and grows food in. The stories I tell are amazing because there are so many amazing stories to tell about where I live and work.

I talked about how we cook our organic grass fed beef in organic olive oil and organic herbs right out the back door of our McFadden Farm Stand & Tasting Room every Hopland Passport, and serve it up with a wild rice salad, to go with our incredibly food friendly wines. I talked about how all 16 Hopland area tasting rooms do amazing things during Hopland Passport and what a vastly better value Hopland Passport at $55 is ($45 if buying early) than $120 Passport tickets for other areas out there.

 Hopland Passport guests eating organic McFadden grass fed beef, wild rice and artichoke heart salad, and green salad

Steve asked me to stay over and join his guests in the 5:00PM hour, William Allen of Two Shepherds and the Rhone Rangers, and Lise Ciolino of Montemaggiore. Both had spectacularly delicious wines to taste. Steve and I largely passed on the available dump bucket between wines.

Lise Ciolino of Montemaggiore

William had $150 tickets to a Rhone Rangers tasting to give away and I had some $45 tickets to Hopland Passport to give away. With apologies to William and everyone at Rhone Rangers, I am thrilled to report that the board melted with the volume of calls from people who wanted to go to Hopland Passport. Perhaps owing to the lack of dump bucket, I was possibly less than elegant, or tactful, in my exuburent elation as I thrust my arms up in a touchdown or victory gesture when Mike typed “Hopland… Hopland… Hopland, OMG ALL HOPLAND!” for Steve to see on a video monitor. After we gave away all the Hopland Passport tickets, I used my powers for good and described how great Rhone wines generally and this tasting specifically were, and we got a caller to take the remaining tickets. I wasn’t kidding, Randall Grahm is a hero to me, I would love to make an all Mendocino County barrel of Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre, and a grand tasting of Rhone wines would seriously rock. When I have a day off, I return to Hopland’s Saracina often because of winemaker Alex MacGregor’s deftness with Rhone varietals.

William Allen, Rhone Ranger extraordinaire

William is a better wine writer than I am, he writes more often and likely reads his own posts with an eye to editing. I write infrequently and post it as I write it, warts and all. I am a better entertainer, with past theater experience, years of radio shows, and a daily opportunity to talk about wines face to face and in person to folks who visit McFadden. I do on air pretty well, I’m not shy, nor hampered by humility. I believe that when painting with words, the big sweeping broad brush is the best brush. I have years of talking about wine at tradeshows across the country. I can be pretty compelling.

In the aftermath of my radio visit, several folks drove from Santa Rosa and points further south up to Hopland just to join a McFadden Wine Club so they could get one bottle of the 2009 Old Vine Zinfandel they heard described.

Let me repeat that: we had people, several sets of people, drive at least 45 minutes and up to two hours to join a wine club – agreeing to take at least a dozen bottles of wine in the next year – so that they could buy a single bottle of wine they only heard described on air.

Wow, just wow, that is seriously powerful radio! I can not begin to imagine how much wine is sold after a Wine Wednesday radio visit by a local winery like Mayo Family Winery, between the increased visits to a winery tasting room local to Steve’s listeners and end shelf placement at Bottle Barn. If our sales took a boost, the fortune for Sonoma County wine industry guests of The Drive with Steve Jaxon must be dramatic.

In spite of the fact that my visit was sandwiched between visits with Lily Tomlin and Andy Dick (possibly bigger stars both) that week, Steve and Mike replayed my first hour on a “best of” show the following week, and again we had people come up to Hopland to visit the McFadden Farm Stand & Tasting Room because of my visit with Steve Jaxon on his KSRO The Drive show.

I am returning to The Drive with Steve Jaxon later this month or very early in May, in advance of the May 5 & 6, 2012 spring Hopland Passport wine weekend. I will be bearing incredible wines from participating wineries and some more Hopland Passport tickets to give away to listeners.

Late June, or early July, I will return again to talk about the McFadden Wine Club Dinner at the Farm set for Bastille Day, Saturday, July 14, 2012, and the Mendocino Winegrape and Wine Commission has asked me to talk about the Mendocino County Wine Competition farm to table awards dinner on July 28th, 2012.

I know that with an emphasis on Sonoma County wines, I am lucky that Steve and I are long time friends, and am thrilled our friendship allows a little light to shine on the wine industry one county north of Sonoma. I will always come with homework done, sharing news helpful to the show’s sponsors, and am proud to be the unofficial voice of Mendocino County wine on Steve’s show. To listen to The Drive with Steve Jaxon online any day, not just Wine Wednesdays, from 3:00PM to 6:00PM, go to the KSRO website, and click the area on the right that says. “Listen Live.”

The coolest part of the entire experience was not selling more wine for McFadden, although my boss probably liked that part plenty. The coolest part of my visit was hooking up with Steve again. Frankly, we had as much – or more – fun in the breaks off air sharing memories of events over 20 years past as we did on air. When we parted, Steve gave me another hug, and called me “brother.” Steve is coming to the McFadden Wine Club Dinner, and it will be a blast to share a meal, wines, a night of fun off air with my brother Steve Jaxon.

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