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John On Wine ­ – Four “must do” wine events

Originally published in the Ukiah Daily Journal newspaper on Thursday, April 3, 2014
By John Cesano
John Cesano of John On Wine

John Cesano of John On Wine

The best wine events I attend are those where an area wants to impress you with what they do. Individual winery events are nice, but they rarely rise to the level of “wow” that an area-wide event reaches. There are several area-wide events that I hope you will consider attending.

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First, there is this weekend’s Celebration of Mendocino Sparkling Wines at Terra Savia in Hopland on Saturday, April 5, from noon to 4 p.m.

An even dozen local producers will pour their bubblies, paired with perfect food bites, to the accompaniment of music, and attendees will walk away impressed as heck with how good Mendocino County sparkling wine is. I know, and if you read enough of my writing then you know too, that Wine Enthusiast Magazine put one Mendocino County sparkling wine on their top 100 list of 2013 ­ in the #1 position, and that another producer is the only one in America to take a pair of Double (unanimous) Gold Medals at this year’s San Francisco Chronicle Wine competition for sparkling wines ­ and they only make two.

It is reasonable to say that the best American sparkling wines are made in Mendocino County, but it is another thing entirely to taste them all together in one place and have it made crystal clear. Participants include Graziano Family of Wines, Handley Cellars, McFadden Vineyards, Nelson Family Vineyards, Paul Dolan Vineyards, Rack & Riddle, Ray’s Station, Roederer Estate, Scharffenberger Cellars, Signal Ridge, Terra Savia, and Yorkville Cellars.

Tickets are $55 and available online at http://mendocinosparkling.brownpapertickets.com.

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Saturday April 26 and Sunday, April 27, are the dates for the 25th Passport to Dry Creek Valley.

50 wineries, two days, each pouring their best wines, and pairing them with show-off amazing taste treats, and live music at many stops; these are some reasons to attend.

I was born in Sonoma County and grew up drinking Dry Creek Zinfandel. I attended the monthly party at the Dry Creek General Store and have enjoyed salami and cheese sandwiches from the DCV Store going back to childhood. Some of my favorite memories are of friends and family at the bocce courts at Preston. For me, this event is a touch of home.

I love Passport to Dry Creek Valley. I have shamelessly taken from what some of the best stops offer to make events I help manage better.

The food offerings: oysters, pork, lamb, fresh baked bread, cannoli, chocolate, pancetta, roast beef, spit roasted pig, pork ribs, black eyed peas, seafood cake, fried chicken, cheddar and garlic mac and cheese, hot cinnamon rolls, creamy mushroom lasagna, guacamole (and so much more!) will pair with wines: Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Viognier, Rose, Barbera, Grenache, Sauvignon Blanc, Sangiovese, Petite Sirah, Chardonnay, Cabernet franc, Pinot Noir, Charbono (and, again, so much more!).

It is impossible to oversell the event, so instead I will undersell it: simply, this is the most amazing annual area-wide wine event that you might attend. Attend it if you can. Tickets are $120 and available at http://arestravel.com/6406_attraction-tickets_a882_r140776.html.
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Hopland Passport is another passport event, closer to home, a little bit less expensive and held twice each year.

The 23rd annual Spring Hopland Passport will be Saturday, May 3 and Sunday, May 4, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, at 17 wineries in and around Hopland; $45 in advance at http://www.destinationhopland.com/store or $10 more for procrastinators who wait to buy at the event from a participating winery.

I am undoubtedly biased, but I think this is the best wine event value in the entire California wine industry. With wine and food at each of 17 stops, to me a perfect number of wineries to visit over two full days, and music, tours, contests, sales, bottle signings and more at various individual wineries, $45 is a terrific bargain.

Less than $2.65 per winery visit ­ what does that get you? At McFadden, where I work, we’ll pour every wine released. There will be none of the restricted reserve nonsense. We’ll pour a Double Gold Medal sparkling wine, and a dozen wines rated 90 or above. We’ll serve up organic, grass fed, beef, grilled to perfection, and a 100 percent pure wild rice and artichoke heart salad. We’ll offer a 40 percent discount on cases to wine club members, old and new. We’ll have Guinness McFadden signing bottles as they are purchased.

Multiply that visit by 17, as each winery demonstrates they care about guests just as much as McFadden does.

For you, that makes this an absolute “must attend” event.

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The Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival is another perfect example of an area showcasing what they do well.

Anderson Valley is famous for Pinot Noir. Wine magazines devote covers and feature story pages to Anderson Valley Pinot Noir. This is better than good stuff, this is great stuff. Friday, May 16 ­ Sunday, May 18.

The Festival is a weekend affair with technical conferences on Friday, a kick-off barbecue dinner at Foursight Wines on Friday night, Grand Tastings of 45 producers at Goldeneye in Philo on Saturday and more dinners Saturday night, and less structured winery tasting room visits on Sunday.

Ticket prices vary by event, $50-$125, and are available at http://www.avwines.com/anderson-valley-pinot-noir-festival/.

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I get to attend the Celebration of Mendocino County Sparkling Wines, Passport to Dry Creek Valley, and Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival and I am enormously grateful to each area association for the invitation. I am working at Hopland Passport and if you pick up a ticket for that event then you will see me when you visit the McFadden Farm Stand & Tasting Room that weekend. Be sure to say “hi” to me at any of these four amazing events.

 

 

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John On Wine ­- Swine Flu vs. Wine Fever

Originally published in the Ukiah Daily Journal on February 20, 2014 by John Cesano

Swine flu is bad, even though it sounds similar to wine fever, which is good.

Wine fever is an enjoyment of wines strong enough to make regular wine tasting a priority, wine event tickets are secured, and people start recognizing you in winery tasting rooms near and far.

Twelve days ago, the International Alsace Varietals Festival in nearby Anderson Valley was a celebration of Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Riesling, and more. I was going, and I was going to write it up here, but my wine fever was replaced by swine flu and I had to miss it this year.

Swine flu felt like someone wearing big heavy boots had kicked me all over my body; my head, neck, ribs ­ especially my ribs – arms, hips, everywhere. Combined with a fever bringing alternating sweats and chills, I spent a bad four days in unrelenting pain.

Last weekend, I was headed to taste Gold Medal winning wines from the recent San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, but I was down again and spent the weekend on the couch trying to get better.

I have seven wines at work, newly bottled, and haven’t been able to taste them to help set release dates, or write tasting notes, for each.

This weekend, I’m going to miss Dark & Delicious, an exploration of Petite Sirah held at Rockwall Wine Company in Alameda. I’m staying close to home, not traveling, but resting and trying to get strong again.

The major symptoms of the swine flu have been gone, but I’ve been suffering an incredibly tight chest, scratchy throat, and limited lung capacity. Breathing deep or talking triggers a bout of painful coughing.

To taste wine for me involves “nosing” the wine, inhaling deeply, and I have been incapable of that simple but important part of wine tasting.

I visited my doctor at the VA clinic and he diagnosed me with bronchitis and prescribed antibiotics to clean up my chest.

I’m looking forward to getting my health and ability to taste wines back, because until then you’re reading a wine column from a guy who can’t taste wines.

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I’m a big fan of Hopland Passport. I work for a participating winery, so I can’t attend, but I would encourage you to.

This year 17 wineries will roll out the red carpet, put their best foot forward; pick your favorite cliché metaphor for trying to impress you and that is what each winery will be doing.

Novice wine taster or rival to Fraser Crane in experience, Hopland Passport has something for everybody and may be one of the most enjoyable, best value, wine events existing. It costs $45, if you are smart, and gets you a collectable loco emblazoned glass, a wristband, and a physical passport to collect stamps in.

Each of the 17 participating winery tasting rooms will pour their wines, offer up food pairings, and Passport attendees can often find some great, best of the year, sales at many of the spots.

In addition to food and wine, a number of the places attendees visit offer vineyard or farm tours, act as a location for local craft vendors to display their goods, or bring in live musical entertainment.

In the past, a year and more ago, the folks at Destination Hopland, the local tourism group that puts on the Hopland Passport events, used to arrange to have public shuttles on Saturday.

A nice idea, the shuttles, but they led to complaints as people got stuck at some of the more remote Hopland area wineries and waited for space on a subsequent shuttle to leave and visit the next winery.

In addition to spending up to half of Saturday waiting in line for a bus or van, visitors to Hopland complained about an inability to make purchases, taking advantage of the big discounts offered at many participating winery tasting rooms, because they would be forced to load and unload wine at each stop, and there was not room on the shuttles for cases. The calls and emails from unhappy shuttle riders followed every Hopland Passport event.

As the public shuttles were the only part of Hopland Passport that people complained about, they were eliminated, but not until a terrific alternative was found.

Terrific Tours ­- www.TerrificTours.com ­- is a private, not public, shuttle option. Book a shuttle and be sure to ask For “Hopland Passport Discounted Pricing” and you’ll ride in luxury SUV or passenger vans, and whether you have a group taking an entire shuttle, or you book space on a shuttle you’ll share with others, this private shuttle option will take your group where you want to go, wait while you taste, hold your wine purchases securely, and take you to your next stop on your schedule. These private shuttles were hugely popular with riders who afforded themselves of the opportunity last fall, and can operate both days of the event.

If you are going to attend spring Hopland Passport on Saturday, May 3, 2014 and Sunday, May 4 this year, then buying your tickets early and online at www.destinationhopland.com/store for $45 saves you $10 per ticket off the $55 ticket price you will pay if you procrastinate. You can use the $10 you save toward a spot on a private shuttle.

I hope to see each of you during Hopland Passport this year. If you don’t already have it, perhaps you’ll catch a case of wine fever.

John On Wine – Hopland Passport is October 19 & 20 this Fall

This piece originally ran in the Ukiah Daily Journal on October 10, 2013

Hopland Passport is coming up in just nine days, on Saturday, October 19th and Sunday, October 20th, 2013, from 11:00am to 5:00pm each day.

With fifteen participating wineries pouring their best wines, incredible food pairings at each stop, and opportunities to experience tours, art, and live music, Hopland is the place to be for wine lovers next weekend.

Weekend passes include a collectable logo glass, a wristband, and a real Passport to collect stamps in, and are just $45 online at http://www.DestinationHopland.com/store, or $55 at the event. The online store CLOSES on Thursday, October 17th at noon, so purchase your tickets early to get the discounted price.

Here is some of the fun you can expect if you attend:

Brutocao Cellars plans a football themed weekend with great tailgate food to pair with their award winning Estate wines. The Blues Pirates will perform a “half time” show. Do not miss the annual grape stomp competition!

Campovida will serve organic fare from their gardens, prepared by chef Adam Weiss from their sister property, Piazza de Campovida. Enjoy light bites with the wonderfully expanded line up of wines. Taking the time for a guided tour of the property’s gardens is a must do part of Passport.

Cesar Toxqui Cellars is all about food and wine pairings. Start on the porch with fruit infused cheeses paired with Chardonnay and Viognier, then move inside for BBQ tri tip and sausage with Zinfandels, before finishing your visit with a dessert of dark chocolate cake and Port.

Frey Vineyards pours their organic wines in the Real Goods Store at the Solar Living Center. On the menu, to pair with Frey’s no sulfite added wines, is curried chicken with fall chutney, a biodynamic cheese platter with fresh baguettes, marinated goat cheese, and roasted organic vegetables in a Frey Chardonnay marinade. Explore the grounds, celebrate sustainability, and catch local musicians performing.

Graziano Family of Wines offers up over thirty wines, mostly Italian varietals, and all but a few at under $20. Enjoy aged cheese, homemade tapenade, country pate, seasonal fruit, and an assortment of imported sausages, served with wines ranging from Anglianico to Zinfandel.

Jaxon Keys Winery & Distillery invites folks to sit on the covered veranda of their farmhouse tasting room and enjoy their wines with seasonal Mendo-sourced foods prepared by local chef Ellery Clark.

Jeriko Estate smartly offers up a classic pairing: pigs and Pinot. Enjoy three 2012 Pinot Noir wines; the Pommard clone, the Dijon clone, and a blend – the upper Russian River Pinot Noir, paired with wood roasted pork. Live music, tastes of the Gold Medal 2010 Sangiovese and barrel tastes of the 2012 Sangiovese, and San Greal Don 48 Chardonnay Vodka specialty cocktail recipe sharing round out a visit to this certified Biodynamic vineyard and cellar.

The McFadden Farm Stand & Tasting Room will show off the bounty of their bio-diverse, certified organic, family farm. Take a taste of any of over a dozen 90 point, or higher, rated wines and pair them with grilled organic grass fed beef from McFadden Farm. Enjoy the farm fresh goodness of their wild rice & artichoke heart salad. Guinness McFadden will visit both days and sign bottles of his wines as they are purchased..

McNab Ridge Winery will offer up a pirate themed Passport weekend, decked out in pirate garb, serving up Caribbean roasted pork tenderloin with a pineapple & apricot chutney over wild rice, paired with a gold medal winning dry Gewurztraminer. Over a dozen gormet dips & spreads, barrel tasting of a 2012 Pinot Noir, and bottle painting by Leslie Bartlomei are also on the menu, matey.

Milano Family Winery offers up smoked marinated Tri-Tip, veggies and dips, and aged Cabot Creamery cheeses, live music on both Saturday and Sunday, clothing and craft vendors, and a wide ranging line up of wines, from young sweet whites to aged dry reds.

Nelson Family Vineyards will pair their Estate wines with slices from Mendough’s Wood-Fired Pizza, including chevre and sun dried tomatoes, prosciutto and arugula, Gorgonzola and artickoke. Finish your tasting with their Ice Riesling.

Ray’s Station is pairing with Fork Catering again for some great taste combos; Korean Short Rib Sliders Creamy Slaw with Sriracha mayonnaise paired with 2011 Zinfandel; Grilled Cheese with Gruyère, caramelized onions and tomato jam paired with 2011 Ray’s Red Blend; Crispy Pork Skewers with cilantro, jalapeno and lime paired with 2011 Merlot; and Seven Layer Bars with coconut, butterscotch-chocolate chips, pecans and graham cracker crust paired with NV Brut.

Rivino Winery will be putting on a Canadian themed Passport this fall, with poutine paired with Chardon’eh. Music from the Barenaked Ladies, Neil Young, Bryan Adams and other Canadian artists will fill the air. Listen for owner’s Jason and Suzanne to lose their American accents as the weekend rolls on, slipping back into their Canadian accents.

Saracina will be hosting a squash party this year, featuring gourmet squash and pulled pork tacos to pair with some seriously delicious reds and whites. Live music will fill the air. Complimentary cave tours will be offered at 12:30, 2:30 and 4:00 p.m..

Terra Savia invites visitors to “laissez les bon temps roulez” – let the good times roll, with rich red, white, and bubbly wines paired with stuffed mushrooms and remoulade sauce, chicken and Andouille jambalaya, red beans and rice, couvillion – the fish stew, fried green tomatoes, and New Orleans bread pudding with rum sauce/lemon sauce. Beads, and music from Coffee Zombie Collective, will leave you feeling the joie de vivre – joy of life!

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John on Wine ­ – Power of the Press

Originally published in the Ukiah Daily Journal on October 3, 2013 by John Cesano

 

“You know, I’ve been parking right there, in front of your shop, a couple of dozen times, to go across the street to eat, and I never even knew there were tasting rooms here,” Gabe said when I asked him what brought him in today, “but I read about you in the paper, and so here I am.”

I would love to tell you that something I wrote here in the Daily Journal brought Gabe in. In July, when I wrote about the McFadden Wine Club Dinner, I had folks come in and buy tickets. When I wrote about my neighbors at Naughty Boy, I had folks visit there. Not record revenue days, but a column can inspire a few folks to visit the subject of a piece I write.

Monday morning, I had three couples and several individuals come in to taste, because a very complimentary piece ran in the San Francisco Chronicle on Sunday. Carey Sweet reviews winery tasting rooms, has for more than five years, has over 100 under her belt and rarely – maybe half a dozen times at most – gives out three and a half stars. Most tasting rooms earn two to three stars, and are great. McFadden is the first tasting room to take three and a half stars in over a year.

Monday mornings are often slow, but not this Monday morning. Monday ended up being busier, before noon, than both of the last entire weekend days.

That is the power of a good, and well read, review. Thanks to Carey Sweet of the Chronicle.

Sweet wrote, “Before I leave, Cesano pulls out a Destination Hopland map and offers suggestions on other tasting rooms I might enjoy checking out, plus tips on what’s most interesting to sample at each. He marks his favorite restaurants nearby.”

While there was plenty of cool stuff written about me, and McFadden, I am incredibly pleased that it was noted that I recommended other winery tasting rooms to visit, and local places to eat.

I do not see other winery tasting rooms as competition. I see the opportunity to work cooperatively with all of my neighbors along Hwy 101, from Hopland up to Redwood Valley and beyond. The more time folks stay in the area, the more they experience, the better impression we can all make.

Sure, I could focus on McFadden only. There are some winery tasting rooms that do focus only on themselves. They aren’t much fun to visit.

I volunteered to work with Destination Hopland and then took over some marketing tasks, because I believe that the wineries in the area make great wines, but the word just wasn’t getting out widely enough.

Did you know that the wineries of Hwy 128 took 82 medals at the recent Mendocino County Wine Competition, while the inland Mendocino wineries along the 101 and upper Russian River corridor took 100 medals? Wine Spectator wouldn’t tell you, they largely ignore Hopland, Ukiah, and Redwood Valley and to read their magazine or online output, you would think that Mendocino County was comprised of just Anderson Valley and the coast.

Virginie Boone writes about wine for Wine Enthusiast magazine, and the Press Democrat. Boone visits all of Mendocino County, not just the Anderson Valley; she judges at our wine competitions, attends our events, visits our tasting rooms, tours our vineyards, and as a result has a broader, better educated palate than her counterparts at other publications.

Trying to get media to visit Hopland has been a challenge. Jen Felice of Visit Mendocino told me that all of the writers who look to visit Mendocino County want to visit only Anderson Valley and the coast.

With a three star review for Campovida and a three and a half star review for McFadden, Carey Sweet of the Chronicle is helping people find their way to Hopland. With wine recommendations for a number of the area’s wineries in Wine Enthusiast, Virginie Boone is bringing folks to come and visit, or buy our wines.

I wanted to bring attention to the wines and wineries, the too often unmentioned or ignored wineries of inland Mendocino. That is why, beyond working to help Destination Hopland promote our wines, I reach a little farther and write about vineyards and wineries up to Redwood and Potter Valleys and down to Comminsky Station Road, just off Hwy 101, near the border with Sonoma County. I am grateful to be able to invite readers here in The Ukiah Daily Journal to come and taste our wines on a near weekly basis.

I also wanted to take the time to thank the wine writers from larger publications who do visit and write, writers like Carey sweet and Virginie Boone. Thank you!

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Hopland Passport is coming up soon, on Oct. 19 & 20, 2013; I hope you can go. Next week, I’ll write about the participating wineries and what treats each will share with folks who buy a weekend passport.

This week, I’m giving away a free ticket to Hopland Passport.

Send me an email to JohnOnWine@gmail.com and tell me why I should give you a free ticket. I’ll pick a winner sometime tomorrow and post the winner’s name online at JohnOnWine.com at the end of the reposting of this column.

Good luck!

When you have to eat your words, use a Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel to wash them down.

Recently, I wrote that while the Passport to Dry Creek Valley is the big daddy of wine events, Hopland Passport is the better value.

I’m a little jaded, I work for what I think is the best tasting room in Hopland; the wines we pour and the food we serve with them are unmatched in quality, so I allowed my pride for what we do half an hour north of Healdsburg with our wine and food at our event to color my writing.

I write about wine while running a tasting room; and in the past I used to sit on the board of, and then did marketing for, Destination Hopland – the folks who put on Hopland Passport. Perhaps, I was a touch biased in my piece for the local paper.

I received a media invite to Passport to Dry Creek Valley from Anne Alderette and Melissa McAvoy, two superstars of media outreach hired by the Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley (WDCV) to make magic happen.

Passport to Dry Creek Valley

Passport to Dry Creek Valley


I have shared my opinion, long held, that Hopland Passport is the better event value for some time now, and in email exchanges I included a past piece where I wrote as much along with several other wine event recap pieces when corresponding with Anne and Melissa before Passport to Dry Creek Valley.

On the last Saturday in April, I drove to Seghesio Family Vineyards in Healdsburg proper, and was allowed to check in a little early. I am glad that media check in was at Seghesio because the food and wine served up set the tone for much of what would follow.

Seghesio Gamberi e Fregola

Seghesio Gamberi e Fregola


Gambero e Fregola (the most deliciously fried shrimp ever, covered in a romesco, served on a bed of lemon zest cous cous), Penne Bolognese, and homemade Seghesio Italian Sausage were paired up with reds of wonderful body and flavor. With a terrific band laying down great electric jazz jams, I enjoyed one perfect Italian varietal wine after another, with my favorite two being the 2010 Sangiovese and the 2010 San Lorenzo Estate wines.

Next great stop: Amphora Winery, where my high school classmate Karen Mishler Torgrimson works. Amphora is one of over a half dozen wineries that operate in a winery complex just off of Dry Creek Road. Previously, I had focused on Amphora’s Zinfandel, after all, when in Rome and all of that. This time, I tasted Chardonnay to pair with both fresh shucked oysters and a tuna croquette. The oysters were delicious, and the tuna croquette tasted exactly like a good tuna melt tastes – which is a compliment because I love tuna melts on toast. The Chardonnay pushed the limits of tropicality (yeah, I make up words when they don’t but should exist), also a good thing. I also tasted a 2007 Amphora Cabernet Franc, Pedroni Vineyard that showed great fruit and body.

Amphora

Amphora

In the same complex of wineries as Amphora is Dashe. Mike Dashe buys grapes from my boss for his wines (and gets huge acclaim), so I always look in when I’m in the area. Dashe shares a tasting room with Collier Falls and it was actually Collier Falls that was on the passport for this tasting room, although all of the family wineries were pouring.

Collier Falls at Family Wineries

Collier Falls at Family Wineries


One of our wine club members, Jenny Candeleria, was greeting folks at Collier Falls and she pointed me to some wines to taste and made sure I got a plate of food. Lots of red and white country western check and hay bales, and the Steve Pile Band laying down bluesy country music. I enjoyed Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel and a country cover I heard cowboy Bob Weir also cover countless times in concert. The food was simple hearty fare with a terrific sandwich of pulled bbq smoked meat and slaw and the chocolatiest chocolate brownie anywhere.

Truett Hurst. I do not know what caused me to stop in, but I am so glad I did. Preston has been my longtime favorite place to spend an afternoon in the dry creek Valley, with their great wines, arbor shaded picnic tables, and bocce courts. Before my visit to Truett Hurst was done, I had a new favorite Dry Creek Valley stop, or a tie between two favorites, one old, one new.

Me at Truett Hurst

Me at Truett Hurst


I was greeted at the door by a lovely schoolteacher from Ukiah, where I live, who works some weekends at the winery. Upon check in, she told me that after getting some wine, I needed to head out back for some food and then, if I could make the time for a short walk, I had to go sit in a chair beside the river. Best advice all weekend!

Herb gardens at Truett Hurst

Herb gardens at Truett Hurst

The tasting room building is comfortable, well laid out, features two tasting bars, upright refrigerators filled with yummy picnic provisions, and spectacular photographic art that let me know immediately: I was in a winery with biodynamic wines. The animal photos told of wines made from grapes grown in a biodiverse and organic manner, with a touch of ritualistic magic on the side.

The River at Truett Hurst

The River at Truett Hurst


The tasting room staff at Truett Hurst Winery confirmed that they had recently received their Demeter Biodynamic Certification, a many year process, and then listing the owner partners they surprised me: Paul Dolan, iconic Mendocino County grower, winemaker, and a past guest at our Wine Club Dinner, was one of the owners. I like Paul Dolan a ton, and was now, perhaps, predisposed to like Truett Hurst.

Okay, a quick review of biodynamic growing practices: start with organic growing; no synthetic pesticides, insecticides or fertilizers – No Monsanto RoundUp! Next, grow beneficial cover crops to fix nitrogen, attract beneficial insects, and possibly provide some food (fava beans do go great with a nice Chianti). Now bring in some happy animals; chickens to eat less than beneficial insects, sheep to mow the covercrops down, and of course the animals leave behind a natural and unmanipulated fertilizer for the grapevines. Okay, now comes the magic: take a cow horn, fill it with cow poo, and bury it by the light of the moon on one solstice. Near six months later, unbury the cow poo filled cow horn on the next solstice and place it in a barrel full of collected rainwater, or virgin tears, to steep, making a cow poo horn tea. Do not drink the tea, but instead use the liquid preparation to spray the vines. Seriously, you have to do this if you want Demeter Certification. I don’t know if the ritual magic has any real benefit, but I know that time spent in the vineyard with the grapevines is never bad, so while maybe not any better than simply growing organically with maybe some biodiversity in the mix, it isn’t a bad thing. Heck, maybe the magic does great things, I don’t know, but I do know the practice has passionate adherents, like Paul Dolan. Cesar Toxqui, another winemaker from my area is another true believer and he, like Paul, makes great juice.

Anyway, back to the juice. I tasted the 2011 Red Rooster Old Vine Zinfandel, a solid offering made even more solid when I stepped into the large back yard and found three delicious treats to pair it with served up by Peter Brown, the chef at the Jimtown Store: Pork Rillettes (think phenomenally flavorful pork pate), deliciously light slaw with lots of nice acid and herb, and possibly the weekend’s best bite, a mascarpone and pistachio stuffed date. The pourers were generous with pours, and I took a decent 4 oz of the 2011 White sheep Pinot Noir with me as I walked through flower and herb gardens, planted to attract beneficial insects but also offering up the most intensely pungent natural perfume, and on a short distance to where I found groupings of red Adirondack chairs arranged under tree shade on the bank of a calming babbling river – it looked more like a creek, but why quibble?

The peacefulness, sitting comfortably in a chair, glass of delicious Pinot Noir at hand, the lovely earthy dried cherry aromas and flavors, everything at Truett Hurst made me happy.

Who has the biggest balls in wine country? The folks at Malm Cellars, that’s who. Enormous cajones, I tell you. Words I thought I would never write: “and I poured out the Chateau d’Yquem,” but the folks at Malm had me writing it before I was done visiting them.

Malm Cellars

Malm Cellars


I had friends in the Dry Creek Valley, tasting wines, but had no idea where they were; my phone and mobile internet coverage were non-existent for most of the day throughout the valley. At one point, I headed back to Hwy 101, for a wi-fi connect, and in checking out #dcvpassport tweets, I got into an exchange with Lori Malm, no relation, about Malm Cellars, and decided to visit them.

Hardest to find winery of Passport to Dry Creek Valley may go to Malm Cellars. Like many of my favorite adult juice makers, Malm makes their wines in an industrial park. Down a dead end (W. North) street,  behind a row of buildings, I found them at last.

The food was flavorful, from butter drenched scampi shrimp to simple but perfectly executed bbq, and the wines were delicious from a 2012 Sauvignon Blanc through a 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, but if I had any criticism it would be that the food flavors were a bit intense, overpowering the wines a bit. I just took them separately, along with lots of water in between.

A major highlight of the entire Passport to Dry Creek Valley weekend event came when I tasted, side by side, a 2005 Chateau d’Yquem (rated 97 points by Wine enthusiast, 97 points by Wine Spectator, and 92 points by Robert Parker’s wine advocate) at $429 for a 375 ml half bottle up against a 2010 Malm Cellars Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc at $97 for a 375 ml half bottle.

At $429 for a half bottle, I do not taste a lot of Chateau d’Yquem, a late harvest, botrytis blessed Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc blend, usually 80%/20%. This was a terrific wine, as you would expect, but I liked the 2010 Malm Cellars Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc more. It wasn’t even close.

I will forever be impressed with Malm’s courage to compare themselves with the best, and prove they are better.

I will also be picking up a bottle to pair with foie gras, ordered in from outside the state, because a wine this good demands a pairing this great. Malm Cellars is located at 119 W. North Street near Moore Lane in Healdsburg.

I finished day one on Westside Road, near West Dry Creek Road, at DaVero Farms & Winery, but I would recommend starting there instead of finishing there. It was hot Saturday afternoon, and most of DaVero’s offerings were arrayed outdoors among the organic and Biodynamic fields, where shade was short.

Salmon at DaVero

Salmon at DaVero


A welcome bite of skewered salmon, with a very little farm olive oil, lemon, and salt, reminded me why I consider salmon a perfect food. Paired with Malvasia Bianca, a varietal I first fell in love with years ago when Bonny Doon’s Randall Grahm was introducing many of America’s wine lovers to it, I was pretty happy. The DaVero Sagrantino, a rose berry Italian red varietal, went great with bites of grilled lamb and rustic pizza slices.

One of the things that impressed me about Passport to Dry Creek Valley was that each of the participating wineries had a 5 gallon thermos cooler for water, each with a matching “hydration station” sign. I took advantage of the offered water at every stop, consuming far more water than the amount of wine I tasted. Kudos to the folks at WDCV for the thoughtful and caring touch. Hey, Destination Hopland, I’m looking at you, follow suit, okay?

Meyer Lemonade at DaVero

Meyer Lemonade at DaVero


DaVero went one step further. In addition to the hydration station water, DaVero provided Meyer lemonade. Thank you, thank you, thank you. In the heat of the afternoon, this was a most appreciated touch. You are the bomb!

Day two, I was joined by my good friend Serena Alexi. Serena has joined me for other tastings, and has helped me by making sure I get the good picture, or taste the yummy wine, or pick up my notebook when I leave. That, and she knows more folks in Sonoma County’s wine industry than I do these days.

Serena Alexi at Passport to Dry Creek Valley

Serena Alexi at Passport to Dry Creek Valley


Our first great stop was Ridge Vineyards. Everything, as expected, tasted great, but my favorite was the 2011 Zinfandel, made from Benito Dusi’s grapes in Paso Robles. Paired with the Sonoma duck mole and corn spoon bread prepared by feast catering, this was a great start to our day.

Under the shade at Ridge

Under the shade at Ridge


Kachina Vineyards is off Dry Creek Road about as far as any winery has ever been off any road. It is way the hell back off the road, a decent drive. The location is worth the travel. Remote, quiet, and bucolic, Kachina welcomed guests with a quiet and relaxed greeting…and homemade corn nuts. Kachina is off the grid, relying on solar energy to power their endeavors. The sun was out and Serena and I found a couple of comfortable wooden chairs at a table in the shade and set up base camp, leaving only to try a new wine and quickly return to the comfort of our camp.

A paper bowl of yum at Kachina

A paper bowl of yum at Kachina


I found myself favoring a Sangiovese Rose at Kachina, and a terrific simple rustic grilled meat, onion, potato and tomato dish.

Back to the road, we made our way next to Unti Vineyards. I think Unti Vineyards was the favorite stop on day two for both Serena and me. 

Everything Unti did at Passport, and they did a lot, worked effortlessly. Okay, that isn’t fair, there was obviously a lot of work that went into everything, but it was presented so well as to seem effortless.

Oysters at Unti, fresh from Tomales Bay

Oysters at Unti, fresh from Tomales Bay


The wines, from a 2012 Rose, through Grenache, Segromigno, Montepulciano, and Zinfandel were all excellent. The food, from the best guacamole ever (www.poormansbutter.com) and the tastiest oysters from the famed Tomales Bay Oyster girls (you’ve got to try the sassy pink horseradish sauce) outdoors, to the indoor food: truffled duck liver terrina with grilled bread and truffled salt, meatballs “dabe glace” with roasted red pepper salad, and eggplant caponata bruschetta, was varied and uniformly outstanding. The music, when we were visiting, was provided by the local high school’s jazz combo, and they were great.

Proof for the existence of a loving God: Truffled Duck Liver at Unti

Proof for the existence of a loving God: Truffled Duck Liver at Unti

The reds at Unti Vineyards were excellent, but Sunday was a scorcher, hotter than Saturday, which made me really appreciate the 2012 Rose, a Grenache/Mourvedre blend, so juicy crushed berry over ice yummy, and the 2012 Cuvee Blanc, a blend of Vermiento, Grenache Blanc, and Picpoul, that paired perfectly with the oysters.

Because, I was so impressed with Truett Hurst the day before, I returned to share my find with Serena. We have often visited Preston before, and she could see easily why I loved this spot as much. Serena also liked the wines, the herb and flower gardens, the food from Jimtown store, and the comfy chairs by the river.

The final stop for this year’s Passport to Dry Creek Valley was at Michel-Schlumberger. I decided to visit, finally, because the winery fields two teams that I golf against each year in a wine country invitational tournament at the nearby Windsor Golf Course each year, and because they put up fellow wine blogger Hardy Wallace as he transitioned from a Really Goode Job to a great one.

The courtyard at Michel-Schlumberger

The courtyard at Michel-Schlumberger

What a lovely spot, again a bit of a drive off a main road, off West Dry Creek and up Wine Country Road, Michel-Schlumberger offered up a gorgeous courtyard, shaded places to sit and enjoy their wines and food offerings, and a very skilled Spanish flamenco styled guitarist.

I had a delightful Pinot Blanc paired with a cucumber and grape gazpacho, served in the cool cellar, that made me glad we were finishing our weekend at Michel-Schlumberger, a perfect last taste on a hot day.

I wrote, perhaps foolishly that, at $45, Hopland Passport was a better value than the $120 Passport to Dry Creek Valley. I visited the same number of wineries that participate at Hopland Passport, 17, and wrote up the 9 I loved when visiting Dry Creek Valley. I expect the experiences would be the same at either event, visit 8-9 each day, and absolutely love a little over half.

That said, next year, I could visit a completely different 17 wineries at Dry Creek Valley, and a completely different 17 the year after. With a greater number of tickets sold, and at the higher price, participating wineries can spend more and offer more, knowing they will see substantial reimbursement checks. Every Dry Creek Valley winery treats folks like McFadden does in Hopland -or better, with the crazy large reimbursement money to do it. The signage, the hydration station water coolers, comfort stations, spectacular food, live music, the appreciation of marketing, the emphasis on quality media outreach; we in Hopland could learn a lot more from our friends to the south.

Passport to Dry Creek Valley rocked my socks off, and is the undisputed heavyweight wine weekend event champion of the world. The preceding words were washed down with a glass of 2010 Seghesio Cortina Zinfandel from a bottle I bought shortly after checking in.

The folks in Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley asked me to let you know that limited ticket sales will begin this Friday, February 1, 2013 at 10:00 a.m. for Passport to Dry Creek Valley.

PassportLogo2012Ivory-K

The 24th Annual Passport to Dry Creek Valley will run Saturday & Sunday, April 27 & 28 at the 50+ wineries directly west and northwest of Healdsburg, roughly an hour north of San Francisco on Hwy 101.

Tickets are $120 each for a Two-Day Passport or $70 each for Sunday only and can be purchased at www.wdcv.com.

Here’s what the Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley website says:

“Passport to Dry Creek Valley was introduced in 1990, by the Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley, as a time every year when the winegrowing community could come together to celebrate the generations of farmers, vintners and families that are the roots of the Dry Creek Valley wine region. Over the 24 years since, the event has become a beloved tradition among wine lovers who enjoy a world-class tasting experience with a festive twist, all within the idyllic Dry Creek Valley.

Over one weekend, Passport guests are welcomed into 50+ wineries throughout Dry Creek Valley, each offering a unique pairing of premium wine, gourmet food and entertainment. Take a vineyard tour for a grape-to-glass look at Dry Creek Valley wine. Sample exclusive vintages, rarely available to taste. Meet winemakers and grapegrowers – the generations of people behind the wine and magical ‘Dry Creek Valley spirit’. Savor exquisite food and wine pairings from acclaimed chefs.  Delight in discovering each winery’s unique Passport “theme,” a tradition of the event. The possibilities are as varied as the wineries themselves and promise a fun, unforgettable weekend. Enjoy!”

Here’s my take: The event rocks. Any Passport event does. The opportunity to pay one price and then visit and taste wines at several winery tasting rooms with special food pairings created to make the wines taste even better – well, you’ve got to love that. Many of the winery stops have live entertainment and offer up a theme experience.

I grew up in Sonoma County. I crushed Dry Creek Valley grapes for family wine when I was twelve. I worked a Dry Creek vineyard as a teen. Some of my favorite wineries are in the Dry Creek Valley. A friend from high school, Karen, works at Amphora Winery (who is serving up Cioppino on Saturday, February 16) in Dry Creek Valley.

I’m now a Mendocino County guy, a Hopland guy, a McFadden Farm guy. We have our own Passport; Hopland Passport is the weekend following Passport to Dry Creek Valley, May 4 & 5, 2013. Hopland Passport is only $45 for a two day ticket, or $55 if you procrastinate. Hopland Passport has 16 or 17 participants, which is the perfect number of winery tasting rooms to visit without rushing or courting gross inebriation – there is no Earthly way to visit all of the Dry Creek Valley participants enjoyably. Hopland Passport is by far the better value for a nearly identical experience. In fairness, Hopland Passport owes much of its’ success to being modeled on the brilliantly spectacular Passport to Dry Creek Valley event.

Okay, duty to where I live done, here’s a dose of reality: Passport to Dry Creek Valley is an event that sells out quickly every year. People in San Francisco and the bay area are willing and able to drive an hour north of the Golden Gate to attend Passport to Dry Creek Valley. There are numerous lodging and dining options available in and around Healdsburg. By picking 6-10 wineries to visit each day and taking the time to fully experience the offerings at each stop, wine tasting (not drinking, but tasting please – buy and drink later), listening and dancing to great music, enjoying tours and special presentations, and partaking of outrageously delicious food at each stop, you will have an absolutely great time and enjoy one of the best wine country experiences available at any price. I love this event, you will too.

This is the hottest ticket in wine country. Tickets go on sale Friday at 10:00 a.m. and if you want a ticket then you should get it early.

You are also free to delay until they are sold out; I honestly hope they sell out faster than ever! For everyone that ignores my message about getting your tickets early and misses out, we would love to see you the following weekend, up the road just another half hour, in Hopland for our Passport event.

The 21st annual fall Hopland Passport wine weekend, on Saturday, October 20 and Sunday, October 21, from 11:00 am until 5:00 pm each day, offers something for everybody, whether a first time wine event goer or a veteran of many Hopland Passport wine weekends.

Hopland Passport tickets are available online through noon on Thursday, October 18 at just $45 each. Tickets are available at any of the participating winery tasting rooms during the weekend for $55 each. Recommendation: don’t procrastinate, save $10 per ticket, go online and buy them early.

To fully and safely enjoy your Hopland Passport experience, with roughly 150 wines being poured by the sixteen Hopland Passport wineries, it is a great idea to use both full days for tasting. Enjoy the food offered by each tasting room. Listen to music, take tours, absorb the information that pourers give you. After nosing and tasting a wine, use the dump buckets provided to empty your glass of wine left from tasting, and take notes of your favorite wines so you can purchase those wines during the weekend’s sale prices. You will have a much better time trying to taste dozens of wines than trying to drink dozens of wines. Many wineries offer larger discounts to wine club members, so if you enjoy several wines poured at one tasting room, consider joining their wine club and enjoying bigger savings both during Hopland Passport and beyond.

New attendees will find a remarkably enjoyable opportunity to enjoy wine tasting at sixteen participating Hopland area tasting rooms, along with terrific food pairings chosen to highlight the flavors of the wines being poured, with each tasting room putting a unique spin on the weekend’s festivities with vineyard and garden tours, fun themed events, live music, contests, and special event specific discounts. Quite simply, Hopland Passport is the best wine tasting event value anywhere.

Veteran attendees will find many of their favorite winery tasting rooms doing what they do best, but will also find two brand new Hopland Passport tasting rooms to visit this time around.

Rivino Winery is one of the two newcomers pouring this fall. Closer to Ukiah than Hopland, off Hwy 101 on Cox Schrader Road, Rivino is no stranger to events, having hosted a long running and  well-attended weekly Friday Happy Hour wine and music gathering. Enjoy a Caddyshack themed Hopland Passport weekend in Rivino’s vineyard with live music by Nahara Ange and food inspired by the classic golf comedy. Be sure to taste the gold medal winning estate wines Rivino will be pouring.

New Kids on the Block, RIVINO will be doing it up right out of the blocks

New Kids on the Block, RIVINO will be doing it up right out of the blocks

The other new addition to the lineup of Hopland Passport winery tasting rooms is Naughty Boy Vineyards. Naughty Boy Vineyards pours from a new shop, WAA WAA, in downtown Hopland’s Vintage Marketplace building.  WAA WAA is short for Wine, Art, and Antiques x 2, as delightful collectible affordable vintage goods and inspired artwork share a retail location with wine made from grapes grown by Potter Valley’s Naughty Boy Vineyards.

Naughty Boy Vineyards at WAA WAA in Hopland's Vintage Marketplace

Naughty Boy Vineyards at WAA WAA in Hopland’s Vintage Marketplace

Naughty Boy will bring live music by Redbud to Hopland’s Vintage Marketplace, and will offer homemade Scottish Lox and other Hors d’Ouerves created to pair perfectly their wines. In addition to wine sales, antiques will be on sale at 30 percent off.

Sharing the Vintage Marketplace building in Hopland are three more winery tasting rooms, the McFadden Farm Stand & Tasting Room, Graziano Family of Wines, and Weibel Family Vineyards & Winery.

Vintage Marketplace, home to Naughty Boy, McFadden, Graziano, and Weibel

Vintage Marketplace, home to Naughty Boy, McFadden, Graziano, and Weibel

McFadden Farm Stand & Tasting Room, which I manage, will feature all the best from our own certified organic and biodiverse farm.  We’ll  grill up steaks from McFadden Farm’s own organic grass fed beef, seasoned with McFadden Farm organic herbs and herb blends, and a McFadden Farm wild rice salad, and offering the ingredients for sale so visitors can recreate the Passport offerings is what Guinness McFadden has been doing for years. This fall, there will be a big pot of farm fresh beans to go with all of the other great farm food.

In the back yard at McFadden Farm Stand & Tasting Room

In the back yard at McFadden Farm Stand & Tasting Room

Enjoy big discounts on everything in the Farm Stand & Tasting Room, with Guinness McFadden signing bottles of his award winning wines as they are purchased, including his double gold medal winning Sparkling Brut.

Graziano Family of Wines offers over thirty delicious reds, whites, roses and blends for you to enjoy, from Aglianico to Zinfandel, many at special Passport sale prices. Graziano will offer up imported meats and cheeses, homemade tapenade, and estate-grown olive oils to pair with their wines being poured.

Inside the Graziano tasting room

Inside the Graziano tasting room

Weibel welcomes back Fork Catering for a delectable array of appetizers including Grilled Tomatillo Cilantro Chicken Tacos, Heirloom Tomato Bruschetta, and Mini Grilled Cheese sandwiches with local artisan cheeses. Weibel will feature both their popular fruit and nut infused bubblies, as well as their handcrafted wines made from Redwood Valley grapes.

Yummy treats at Weibel

Yummy treats at Weibel

Three more winery tasting rooms are located in downtown Hopland, Cesar Toxqui Cellars, McNab Ridge Winery, and Brutocao Cellars.

Cesar Toxqui Cellars will be greeting guests on the porch with fruit infused cheeses and a wonderfully brisk new Chardonnay release. Once inside, you’ll enjoy delicious chicken curry, southern fried fish, homemade ceviche, and fried rice, and a new release 2007 Immigrant Zinfandel.

Cesar Toxqui Cellars tasting room

Cesar Toxqui Cellars tasting room

There will be barrel tasting at McNab Ranch Winery, with the opportunity to buy futures of their 2010 Cononiah Zinfandel. Be sure to try spicy Asian peanut pasta salad paired with McNab’s French Colombard. Traditional favorites, the spreads/dips and bottle painting by local artist Leslie Bartolomei, will return.

A little something to enjoy with McNab Zin barrel samples

A little something to enjoy with McNab Zin barrel samples

Brutocao promises a Wine Zombie Apocalypse: “serving some finger lickin’ good treats paired with award winning Estate Wines. Go out on a limb and be the best dressed zombie and win a prize. It will be a horrific good time with grape stomps, bocce ball and un-dead music by “Third Party”.  Wines to die for!”

Bocce at Brutocao

Bocce at Brutocao

Just west of downtown Hopland, on Mountain House Road, you’ll find both Rack & Riddle and Terra Sávia.

Rack & Riddle is a custom sparkling wine house. Many of the area’s best bubblies are made at Rack & Riddle, including double gold medal winners for both McFadden and Terra Savia. Rack & Riddle also produces both sparkling and still wines of their own – all delicious. Enjoy them with Rack & Riddle’s lime & shrimp ceviche, warm tri-tip sliders, chips & guacamole.

It's not a real wine event without a working tractor - at Rack & Riddle

It’s not a real wine event without a working tractor – at Rack & Riddle

Terra Sávia offers not just delicious wines and a terrific bubbly rouge, but fantastic olive oil. A tasting of Olivino’s quality olive oils will likely make you regret a lifetime’s use of a previously favored store brand. Always a great stop, enjoy wine, food, art, music, and olive oil.

Relax at Terra Savia, a lovely Passport stop

Relax at Terra Savia, a lovely Passport stop

Just south of downtown Hopland is Milano Family Winery. Enjoy Milano’s scrumptious smoked & marinated Tri-Tip, an abundance of fresh veggies and dips, as well as delicious, aged to perfection Cabot Creamery Cheeses. On Saturday, “Headband” will play rock & roll, blues, jazz.  On Sunday, “Frankie J” will play. Don’t miss the clothing & craft vendors that always set up at Milano during Hopland Passport.

Milano is a great stop with wine, food, crafts, and music, a festival within a festival

Milano is a great stop with wine, food, crafts, and music, a festival within a festival

East of downtown Hopland, on Old River Road, you’ll find Campovida. No Hopland Passport wine weekend is complete without a tour of Campovida’s gardens, led by master gardener Ken Boek. Campovida is another amazing, only in Hopland, blend of wine, food, art, music, and heartfelt hospitality.

Take a taste of Campovida's wines from their tasting room into their gardens

Take a taste of Campovida’s wines from their tasting room into their gardens

North of downtown Hopland, heading back toward Rivino on Hwy 101, Hopland Passport stops include Jeriko Estate, Saracina, Jaxon Keys, and Nelson Family Vineyards.

Jeriko Estate features biodynamically grown hand crafted Pinot Noir, and often serves up pork -  which goes great with Pinot.

Jeriko will be pouring Pinot, perhaps paired with pork

Jeriko will be pouring Pinot, perhaps paired with pork

Saracina is deservedly famous for the Rhone varietal wines and Rhone inspired twists that winemaker Alex MacGregor brings to Saracina. Try a Chardonnay with a touch of Viognier, enjoy a Rhone red blend, tour real wine caves, enjoy the peaceful setting designed to make you relaxed and more open to all that the wines, food pairings, and music are trying to convey.

Saracina is a series of paintings just waiting to happen, absolutely beautiful

Saracina is a series of paintings just waiting to happen, absolutely beautiful

Jaxon Keys Winery & Distillery offers a prohibition era themed weekend, “our Speakeasy will be open for business, serving bootleg wine to all who dare break the law of Prohibition. We will have barrels of wine, gallons of contraband brandy and vodka all for the asking. No G-Men to worry about! We’ve paid them to look the other way for the weekend. Live music on the deck, awesome food prepared by Taste of Perfection Catering, and all our wines flowing freely, experience the Prohibition era for yourself!”

Just Kicking it at Jaxon Keys

Just Kicking it at Jaxon Keys

Exactly half way between Hopland and Ukiah, Nelson Family Vineyards invites crowd pleaser Mendough’s Wood-Fired Pizza back.  Enjoy Nelson’s 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. Nelson’s Ice Riesling is a perfect way to end your visit to Nelson, and your Hopland Passport wine weekend.

Pizza and wine in the grove at Nelson

Pizza and wine in the grove at Nelson

Coming to Hopland too late to officially participate in the fall Hopland Passport, Frey from Redwood Valley will be having a Grand Opening of their new tasting room in the Real Goods store at the Solar Living Institute in Hopland. This 17th Hopland tasting room may not be in the passport, but they will be offering up delicious food pairings to go with their sulfite free, vegan, wines.

Frey will be opening their new tasting room during Passport in Hopland

Frey will be opening their new tasting room during Passport in Hopland

In addition to Piazza de Campovida which opened in time for last spring’s Hopland Passport, this fall’s event will see the new Hopland Ale House opening; both spots will offer beer and food for sale during and after Passport hours. An 18th tasting room, SIP! Mendocino, will be open for tastings of Mendocino County wines from outside the area as well.

For more information, or to purchase tickets, please visit www.DestinationHopland.com

Okay, if you’ve read this far, and I expect that few will, here’s your reward. If you simply leave a comment about any one of the wineries that will participate at this year’s fall Hopland Passport between now and noon on Friday, October 12, you will be entered into a random drawing for two tickets ($110 value) for Hopland Passport. If you want to double your drawing entries from one to two, make the comment about the tasting room I manage. I’ll add an announcement of the winner here, to this post and on the facebook page of Hopland Passport on or before Monday, October 15, 2012. Good luck!

Photo credits: If the photo looks great, it came from Diane Davis Photography. If the photo is okay, I yoinked from the winery’s website. If the photo is meh, then I took it.

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.

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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