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John On Wine – Wine Tasting in March

Originally published in the Ukiah Daily Journal newspaper on March 6, 2014 by John Cesano

This Saturday, Hopland celebrates St. Patrick’s Day a little early with participating winery tasting rooms serving up a little Irish cheer, and homemade Irish dishes, to pair with terrific wines and big savings from 11 a.m.- 5 p.m. St.Patrick’s Day is the day that Rich Parducci and Greg Graziano are as Irish as Guinness McFadden; everybody is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.

McNab Ridge will serve up Irish Stew, Irish soda bread, and Bailey’s Irish whipped cream.

McFadden will have corned beef and cabbage, cooked in McFadden Gewurztraminer and McFadden organic herbs. Ray’s Station is going with Reuben meatballs, Irish cheese, and Irish short bread. Cesar Toxqui Cellars will have Italian food. Naughty Boy and Graziano will also take part in Second Saturday fun.

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Saturday, March 8 from 1 -4 p.m. ­ Little River Whale Festival benefiting MAPA ­ the Mendocino Area Parks Association, and the Van Damme State Park. This is a passport style event over three hours with eight locations. Tickets are $25 in advance and can be purchased by calling Little River Inn at 937-5942 or $30 at the event. Specialties from eight local gourmet chefs and local wines! Participating wineries include Alder Vineyards, Edmeades Winery, Graziano Family of Wines, Handley Cellars, Lichen, Lula Cellars, and Stevenswood Wines. Dessert & locally roasted coffee by Thanksgiving Coffee at the Little River Market & Deli.

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The Wine Road is a Sonoma County winery tourism group run by Beth Costa and includes the Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley, and Alexander Valley, all of which surround the town of Healdsburg. Wine Road puts on the Barrel Tasting Weekends with more than 100 participating wineries in and around Healdsburg.

From the Wine Road website page dedicated to the Barrel Tasting Weekends: “Barrel Tasting is not a food pairing or themed event. It’s all about the wine … many wineries offer “futures” on their barrel samples. This is a chance to purchase wine now, often at a discount, then come back to the winery when the wine is bottled, typically 12-18 months from now. Many wines are so limited, buying futures is your only chance to purchase them. Attendees are encouraged to pack a picnic, as most wineries will not have food for this event. The ticket price includes the opportunity to sample wine from the barrel and in most cases also trying a limited number of current release wines.”

Did you notice that they mention that there is no food at the event and encourage folks to bring an entire picnic of food? That is to counter the only negative attached to the event: it has picked up a bit of a reputation as a drunk fest ­ but a very successful drunk fest. I remember attending more than 25 years ago. Barrel Tasting used to be just one weekend and it was free. Alexander Valley opened up Friday night and I would visit there first, with Dry Creek Valley and the Russian River Valley for Saturday and Sunday. The event was largely attended by folks in the wine industry and wine enthusiasts. The event has grown, and gone from free to $5, then $20, and now $30; and from one weekend to two. With 8,000 folks on the road, racing from winery to winery, trying to taste at over 100 and get value for their ticket price, there are horror stories of inebriation. Imagine it, and the reality is 10 times worse. That said, it really is just a few horribly bad apples gaining all of the notoriety, and the event really is otherwise spectacular. The final weekend of the 36th annual Barrel Tasting are this weekend, March 7-9, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. Advance ticket sales have ended, but wineries will sell tickets at the door. For a map of participating wineries, visit http://bit.ly/1cA956P.

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Saturday, March 22 from 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. – Saracina’s Old Soul Red Blending Party. I’ve written before about how much fun a wine blending party can be, I’ve attended the Testa Barn Blend Party two of the three years it has been held, and was able to be one of three judges to help Maria and rusty choose a winner last year. Nelson, McNab Ridge, and now Saracina also have wine blending events, and all are worth attending. Saracina winemaker Alex MacGragor will lead folks through the art and science of wine blending, and then set you loose to help fashion or inspire the next vintage of the Saracina Coro Mendocino. Oops, a rose by any other name. I should have said that you have the chance to blend your own version of the Saracina Atrea Old Soul Red.

Everyone who attends and participates is a winner, as events at Saracina are known for being memorably top notch. After the hard work (it isn’t really, it is big fun) of wine blending winds down, you get to relax and enjoy Saracina wines and a family-style lunch of wood-fired pizzas and gourmet sides prepared by farm-to-table chef Olan Cox.

Given the hands-on nature of this experience, space is very limited. Please call (707) 670-0199 to grab your ticket now. Saracina is located 1.5 miles north of Hopland at 11684 South Hwy 101.

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I fly to Phoenix for the weekend. Perhaps, I’ll review coach class airline wine and airport hotel lounge wine for next week’s column. In the meantime, why don’t you get out this weekend and taste some wine? There certainly are ample opportunities for a great wine weekend close to home. Cheers!

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John on Wine

Spotlight Winery: Rosati Family Wines

Originally published in the Ukiah Daily Journal on September 5, 2013 by John Cesano


In 1980 Mario and Danelle Rosati bought 960 acres just off Highway 101 at Comminsky Station Road, 1.7 miles south of Squaw Rock, near where Mendocino County borders Sonoma County. The ranch has grown to 1,500 acres with another 1,300 acre companion ranch, and is mostly natural and unplanted land.

Told at purchase that all of the buildings would have to be torn down, Mario completely rehabbed and restored a large red barn, which is now the nicest guest house you might imagine, filled with wood and stone, a showplace kitchen, soaring open space; both comfortable and gorgeous at once.

“Maybe one plank from the original barn is left,” Mario told me, as he welcomed me for a tasting and dinner.

A lawyer by training in Palo Alto, Mario graduated from U.C. Berkeley’s law school and joined a small firm, Wilson Sonsini, in 1971. The firm grew from nine to more than 600 lawyers, and is now global. Mario went from associate to partner in 1975, to having his name included in the firm’s name, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.

The seeds of Rosati Family Wines were planted in 1971 when Mario’s boss and firm founder John Wilson asked, “do you like to drink wine,” before assigning him a new client: Ridge Vineyards.

For those unfamiliar, Ridge is one of the most revered wineries in California, and the wines produced from their various Monte Bello Ridge vineyards are highly sought after. The 2007 Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon is currently going for $160 at the winery, as an example.

David Bennion, a founding partner at Ridge, and Mario worked together for years; and with the purchase of his Mendocino County ranch, Mario invited Dave up to hunt for mushrooms. Mushroom hunting became pig hunting too, and after having visited for years, Dave suggested that grapes might grow well on the ranch.

Using precious Monte Bello bud stock from Ridge, David helped Mario plant 10 acres to Cabernet Sauvignon on a mountain ridge with elevation ranging from 1,000 to 1,200 feet in 1987. Subsequently, vines were filled in and an additional three acres were planted with Jimsomare bud stock. Jimsomare is one of four Monte Bello ridge vineyards that Ridge considers estate vineyards. Peter Chevalier is the vineyard manager for Mario and Danelle.

Mario gave me a ride from the “barn” up to the vineyards, about 800 feet above the Russian River below. The grape set looked spectacular, but Mario told me that his winemaker, Zelma Long, would drop about half the grapes and, during sorting after harvest, Zelma and Danelle would further reduce the yield, until only about 1 ton of the best, most flavorful grapes remain to make the vintage’s wine.

Zelma Long’s Cabernet Sauvignon winemaking credentials are as solid as they come, making stellar Cab for both Robert Mondavi in the 70s and Simi in the 80s and 90s.

Zelma and Alex MacGregor work together at John and Patty Fetzer’s Saracina winery to turn Rosati’s Cabernet grapes into wine.

I tasted five vintages of Rosati Family Wines Cabernet Sauvignon, 2000, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007.

Tying each of the five vintages together was a rich earthy quality, a chewiness, firm tannins, a “dustiness” that echoes the best of Napa Cab’s “Rutherford dust” quality, and clear rich ripe fruit.

Mario said of the 2000, “when we first bottled this, it had so much tannin, but now Š” as he poured it for me. With age, this wine showed rich dark chocolate and cherry notes, and still had enough tannin left that this was a hold or drink wine.

Opening a bottle from one of the last three cases, Mario poured the 2004, which showed bright cherry berry fruit in the nose and was so enjoyably easy to drink. Perfect right now, with light tannin and oak providing a backdrop for earthy, dusty, cassis, blackberry and cherry in the mouth and a long beautiful finish.

The 2005 is classic Cabernet, all earthy dark fruit, plummy blackberry, boysenberry, and tannin. Pretty big, lay it down and hold, or drink.

2006 Rosati Family Cabernet Sauvignon is a gorgeous, food friendly, not overpowering, but bursting with candy like blackberry and black currant wine. Earthy, oaky, tooth coating chewiness upon opening gives way to rich and bright fruit, beautifully balanced and integrated, a lively and delightful wine.

The 2007 is plummy rich, dense, and packed with dark fruit. Maribeth Kelly brought an aerating decanter and this wine, which is a definite hold, a wine that can be laid down longer still to benefit, was magically turned into a drink.

Rick Berry and Maribeth were guests at a dinner Mario and Danelle kindly invited me to share, with fresh salmon caught by Rick being served. Steaks were also grilled with the most delicious rub, and were a perfect pairing for the several vintages of Rosati Cabernet at the table.

In Mendocino County both SIP! Mendocino in Hopland and the Mendocino Wine Shop in Mendocino carry Rosati Cabernet Sauvignon, and it is well worth a visit to either to try some, especially at a surprisingly affordable price of $32-$33.
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This piece was written over a month ago. This morning, I received an email announcing the release of the 2010 Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet at $160 per bottle. These Rosati wines are like those Ridge wines, but you get five bottles for the price of one.

John On Wine – Crush Italian Steakhouse kicks off special dinner series

By John Cesano

I received a media invite to the first Chef’s Wine Dinner Club event at Crush Italian Steakhouse in Ukiah at the end of May. I shared with Jen Dalton, who invited me, that I would use the experience to help me write the section on Crush in a larger column on wine-friendly restaurants I had planned to write.

That column on wine-friendly restaurants will have to wait until another day. The dinner experience at Crush was so outstanding that sharing the night’s food and wine offerings, and letting you know about future wine dinners at Crush is more than merited.

For this first Crush wine dinner, owners Doug and Debbie Guillon couldn’t have provided a better exhibition of how to put on a special wine dinner if they had planned for years.

The evening’s food was paired with three wines from Saracina, with winemaker Alex MacGregor and tasting room manager Cassandra Mortier doing the pouring.

Limited to 46 diners – the number of folks that can fit comfortably at one long table in the private dining room at Crush – the cost of $50 was a spectacular value.

It seemed like a chef’s dream night, almost as if Crush Chef Jesse had been told he had free rein with only one goal: impress.

Dinner started with two passed appetizers; giant cocktail shrimp and oysters on the half shell. I love oysters when they are good, and these were great, made even more delicious by a classic and perfect wine pairing, the 2011 Saracina Sauvignon Blanc made from old vine grapes off a 55-year-old vineyard. The bright minerally lemon-lime citrus zest notes of the Sauvignon Blanc made me want to come back to Crush and get a dozen of these oysters just for myself, they were just so good together. As it was, I skipped a taste of the shrimp for a second oyster.

Dinner was served Italian family style, with large plates of food brought out for guests to serve themselves. Each of the two courses had four different dishes. Over the next two hours there were many “oohs” and “aahs” of happy eating enjoyment as each dish hit the mark.

The first course featured Lamb Tartare, Stuffed Arancini, Lambs Leaf Salad, and Roasted Lamb Meatballs.

Years ago, I ordered the Omakase menu at Morimoto in Philadelphia and it began with Toro Tartare with crispy shallots, caviar, and dashi; melt in your mouth amazing. Chef Jesse’s Lamb Tartare with Meyer lemon aioli, feta, olive infused oil, shallot, and micro green was so good that it tied this dinner to the best I’ve ever had.

The Arancini, or risotto balls, were stuffed with lamb Bolognese, and developed a perfect shell through deep frying. Best Arancini execution ever.

The salad was very good, but it was a salad – so moving on – the Roasted Lamb Meatballs were fantastic, but the real star of this dish was the pomodoro sauce. More than one diner commented that they wanted to scrape any remaining sauce off the plates and take it home.

I enjoyed my first course quartet of dishes with a glass of 2010 Saracina Pinot Noir, Klindt Vineyard. My May 30, 2013 column was all about Saracina, and I loved all three of the Saracina wines poured at Crush as much with dinner as when I tasted them for my column. Gorgeously feminine, dry cherry noted, with soft earthy herb, this wine goes with almost anything – or I can make it go with almost anything by choice.

The second course featured Roasted Rack of Lamb, Lamb Shank “handmade” Ravioli, Creamy Mushroom polenta, and Roasted Root Vegetables.

The stars here for me were the Rack of Lamb with a sage apple gastrique and the polenta with truffle roasted mushrooms, balsamic, and chive. My wine for this course was the 2009 Saracina Old Soul Red, a blend with Zinfandel off 74-year-old vines, Petite Sirah off 75-year-old vines, and Syrah off 114-year-old vines. The lamb was delicious – exactly as it should be – simple and perfect. The polenta was so good, the earthy mushroom providing the night’s strong not-lamb note. Saracina’s Old Soul Red stood up to the big flavors, with big rich berry and cherry notes of its own.

Alex MacGregor dubbed the evening “Lambapalooza.” It certainly was a celebration of lamb.

The evening’s final course, dessert, was a Passion Fruit Panna Cotta with coconut, strawberry, and raspberry. This was a brilliant dessert, not overly sweet, with some actual tart notes to cleanse the palate after a rich and full meal.

Chef Jesse plans to “explore four to five regions of Italy” with his next Chef’s Wine Dinner Club meal, and introduce Brewmaster Dinners as well.

Doug Guillon believes “there is great opportunity (for Crush) in the Ukiah area.” He sees “a great business crowd during the week,” and evening traffic as he is “fortunate being next to two hotels”.

Crush Italian Steakhouse is located at 1180 Airport Park Blvd in Ukiah. To receive notices of future Chef’s Wine Club Dinners, call (707) 463-0700 and tell the hostess that you want to join the Chef’s Wine Dinner Club, then give her your name and email address

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John Cesano has heard that there is no such thing as a free lunch, so he feels very fortunate to have enjoyed a free wine dinner.

JOHN ON WINE

Spotlight winery: Saracina

By John Cesano

 

 

 

 

 

Visit enough wineries, and you will develop some favorites. For me, in Mendocino County, Saracina, about 1.5 miles north of downtown Hopland on the west side of Highway 101, is at the top of my personal favorites list.

I keep coming to Saracina, again and again, because owners John Fetzer and Patty Rock have built something remarkable. In a very short time, they have transformed what was the Sundial Ranch – best known as the original source of Fetzer Sundial Chardonnay (today that wine is made largely from Lodi sourced grapes, a real shame) ­ into Saracina, a source of constantly changing beauty.

John Fetzer is the consummate gentleman farmer and, on my last Saracina visit, John was busy raking the concrete walkways around his tasting room after a windy night. John’s shock of white hair moving in the continuing morning breeze, in stark contrast to his tanned skin, eyes sparkling and smile huge, he shared that he would love to be outside working constantly, and would happily if he could.

Someone once pointed out to me the huge difference between Mendocino and Napa county vineyards. Their vineyards are largely brown, but the earth between Mendocino County grapevine rows is most often green. Cover crops fixing nitrogen and providing competition for moisture so vines are challenged and yield characterful grape flavors, natural grasses and in the case of Saracina, a spring profusion of red-orange color from Italian Red Willow trees, or a summer color block of sunflowers, just lend to the beauty that visitors to our area enjoy.

The tasting room at Saracina is all clean lines – rendered in stone and glass – a lovely environment that allows the sense to focus on the wines, oil, and honey that are born on the ranch.

Cassandra Mortier is the tasting room manager, and together with Kassandra Zaminis, guests at the ranch are sure to feel welcomed and well cared for, as wines are poured and each is made more memorable by having a little story shared about it. Informative and entertaining, the passion of these two women is on constant display.

2011 Saracina Sauvignon Blanc, Mendocino County $23 ­ Bright pear fruit, hay, melon nose. Wet stone mineral crisp meets lemon orange citrus, with enough acid for a Grateful Dead show parking lot. Really like this.

2012 Saracina Unoaked Chardonnay, Mendocino County $18 ­ Delicate multi-noted, fun, orange blossom and peach. Zero malolactic, but not the aggressively lean and crisp style expected with roundness coming from a 4 percent blending of Viognier. Young. Good. Will get better with age.

2011 Atrea The Choir White Wine, Mendocino County $20 ­ 46 percent Viogner, 54 percent Rousanne. Light honey, stone fruit nectarine meets bright apple.

2010 Saracina Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Klindt Vineyard $38 ­ I love this wine! Pretty, feminine. A good, light, Pinot funk in the nose. Gorgeous cherry, strawberry, red fleshy fruit shine.

2011 Saracina Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Klindt Vineyard $38 ­ Alex, the winemaker, likes this one more than the 2010. Soft nose. Dry. Cherry cola and herb. Young.

2010 Saracina Malbec, Mendocino County, Skid Row Vineyard $28 ­ Cocoa, lush fruit, fantastic wine. Purpled burgundy color. Soft tannin. Blackberry and cassis.

2009 Atrea Old Soul Red, Mendocino County $25 ­ A Coro by any other name still tastes as sweet (but may sell for less). 59 percent Zinfandel, 20 percent Petite Sirah, 14 percent Syrah, 7 percent Malbec. Ahhhh! Best nose yet! Chocolate, rich, leathery. A basket of jammy berry fruit.

Winemaker Alex MacGregor is a superstar winemaker, showing an especially deft hand with Rhone varietals: Viognier in the Chardonnay; Viognier and Rousanne in the Atrea White; Syrah and Petite Sirah in the Atrea Red: and both Petite Sirah and Syrah held separately on limited releases.

Saracina is also where I first fell in love with premium quality olive oil. I grew up in an Italian house, and olive oil finds a place in nearly everything that comes out of my kitchen. I always bought the biggest container of Star olive oil available, when on sale, and thought it was good Š until my first taste of Saracina olive oil. John has planted hundreds of imported Italian olive trees, four different types, and blends the olives for a complex combination of flavors when they are pressed locally into oil. Lively, so much yummier than grocery store oils, I found myself purchasing it years ago, even when between jobs and on a very limited budget. It is just that good.

Saracina takes part in, or hosts, special events almost monthly. For a list of the upcoming Saracina events, contact Cassandra at (707) 670-0199 or visit http://www.Saracina.com.

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John Cesano thinks writing about himself in the third person is absurd. For more absurdity, visit his wine blog, JohnOnWine.com

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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