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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.