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John On Wine – Kicking 2015 off with wine events

Originally published in the Ukiah Daily Journal newspaper on Thursday, January 8, 2014

John Cesano of John On Wine

John Cesano of John On Wine

Here are some events I’ll be attending; I hope to see you at one or more.

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Saturday, Jan. 10 – Second Saturday in Hopland >> A half dozen Hopland area winery tasting rooms offer up food pairings to go with wines, and usually have at least one wine on a significantly discounted sale price. McNab Ridge Winery has been inviting folks to their Second Saturday festivities since wine was invented it seems, the series has been going on for a long time, and with that kind of commitment they have created a loyal following of wine and free food lovers who make the trip to Hopland a monthly event. The McNab Ridge Winery gathering is so popular that many wine lovers and visitors have no idea that several other winery tasting rooms also offer up food and wine pairings with wine sales each and every Second Saturday throughout the year. Be sure to also visit Cesar Toxqui Cellars, Graziano Family of Wines, Jaxon Keys, and the McFadden Farm Stand & Tasting Room in Hopland as they participate each month. Brutocao, Campovida, and Milano Family Winery often have something going on for visitors during second Saturday in Hopland as well. For more information, visit www.destinationhopland.com

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Jan. 16-25 – Mendocino County Crab, Wine & Beer Fest >> Dungeness crab. Wine. Beer. Okay, you had me a Dungeness crab and wine. Wineries along Hwy. 128 and the coast, and inland along Hwy.101, have a brochure for you to pick up. The brochure is filled with events for you to attend, describes special offerings at different wineries, and has two pages to collect stamps with the opportunity to enter a drawing for great prizes of event tickets, lodging stays, wine, and painting classes for the lucky winners. For more information, visit www.visitmendocino.com/crab-wine-and-beer-festival-0.

Crush McFadden MashUp

Jan. 21 – Chef’s Wine Dinner >> Featuring Dungeness crab and McFadden wine at Crush Italian Steakhouse in Ukiah . This baby is sold out. Seventy very lucky attendees will sit down for a multi-course meal featuring Dungeness crab, paired with a half dozen wines from McFadden. I will write a recap of this dinner, with pictures, for the many who didn’t get to attend … Crush never even had a chance to contact their regular email attendee subscriber list from past Chef’s wine dinner series events. Definitely, the premier inland Mendo event of this year’s Crab, Wine & Beer Fest. For more information, visit www.mcfaddenfarm.com

Jan. 22-24 – Lots of Crab on the Coast >> On Jan. 22, Trillium Café in Mendocino will have a crab wine dinner with Navarro Vineyards’ wines and, also in Mendocino, Café Beaujolais will create a crab dinner around the sparkling and still wines of Roederer Estate. On January 23, there will be three seatings for a Cioppino dinner at the Pentecost Hall in Fort Bragg and an All-You-Can-Eat crab feed at the Crown Hall on Mendocino. After the 16th annual crab cake cook off & wine tasting event in Ft Bragg on January 24, the folks at the Crown Hall in Mendocino will have a second day of all-you-can-eat crab dining. For more information, visit www.visitmendocino.com/crab-wine-and-beer-festival-0

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Jan. 24 & 25 – Barrel Tasting 101 >> Buy a ticket online in advance for $15, or at a participating winery during the event for $30, and taste wine from the barrel, before it is bottled or aged, at Barra of Mendocino, Brutocao Cellars, Campovida, Cesar Toxqui Cellars, Graziano Family of wines, Jaxon Keys Winery, Jeriko Estate, McNab Ridge, Milano Family Winery, Nelson Family Winery, Rivino, Saracina, Seebass Vineyards, Simaine Cellars, Terra Savia, and Testa Ranch. For more information, visit www.destinationhopland.com

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Jan. 29-31 – ZAP’s Zinfandel Experience >> Zinfandel Advocates & Producers (ZAP) will celebrate their 24th annual Zinfandel Experience with three days of events in San Francisco. Epicuria is a food and Zin pairing evening on Jan. 29 at the Presidio. Flights is a seated panel tasting at the Four Seasons Hotel on Jan. 30, moderated by one of my idols, Joel Peterson, and will look at three distinctly different growing areas with 15 winemakers; later that evening at the hotel is the Winemaker’s Reception, Dinner & Auction. Finally, The Tasting with over 100 Zinfandels at the Presidio on Jan. 31. I have attended previous ZAP events, and if you love Zinfandel, then this is a must event to attend. For more information, visit www.zinfandelexperience.com
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Feb. 7 – 10th annual
International Alsace Varietals Festival >> There is a full day of events in the Anderson Valley, with many Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, and Riesling wines, starting with an educational session in the morning, the big grand tasting in the afternoon, and a winemakers’ dinner in the evening. For more information, visit www.avwines.com/alsace-festival.

 

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For my 300th post to John on Wine, I find it fitting that I am posting a list of the medal winning wines, each proudly sporting a Mendocino County AVA on the label, recently earning honors at the 2015 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, the largest judging of American wines in the world with 6,417 entries this year.

While you might be tempted to print this list and taste the top awarded, Best of Class and Double Gold, then Gold medal winning wines, there are several wines that took Bronze medals that are delicious enough that I have purchased them. What may drink like a Bronze on one day, may show Gold quality on another. Pretty much, just about every wine on this list merits a taste.

I have written for years about the quality of Mendocino County winegrapes, and the delicious wines they make. This list is filled with example after example of what I have written about, in newspaper column after newspaper column, and the additional posts that find their way online.

All of the Gold medal winning wines will be poured at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition Public Tasting on Valentine’s Day, Saturday, February 14, 2015 from 1:30pm-5:00pm at the Festival Pavilion at Fort Mason Center in san Francisco. Advance tickets are $65, and available online now. Tickets at the door are $80, but will probably be unavailable…get your tickets now.

2014 SFCWC Public Tasting Guinness some more

I’m posting this list while it is still news, although a version will also run in the Ukiah Daily Journal newspaper on Thursday, January 22, 2015, but may have the Bronze medal winners edited out due to space restrictions. Fortunately, online, no such restrictions exist.

Congratulations to all of the wineries, winemakers, and grape growers responsible for these excellent Mendocino County wines:

BEST OF CLASS
2013 Balo Vineyards Pinot Gris, Anderson Valley, $24.00; and
2013 Castello di Amorosa Late Harvest Gewurztraminer, Anderson Valley, $39.00.

DOUBLE GOLD MEDAL
NV McFadden Farm Sparkling Cuvee Brut Rose, Potter Valley, $32.00;
2012 Seebass Family Wines Grand Reserve Chardonnay, Mendocino, $34.00;
2013 Angeline Winery Reserve Pinot Noir, Sonoma-Mendocino, $18.00;
2013 Greenwood Ridge Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir, Mendocino Ridge, $30.00;
2012 Campovida Pinot Noir, Oppenlander Vineyard, Mendocino County, $45.00;
2012 Roadhouse Winery Platinum Label Pinot Noir, Weir Vineyard, Yorkville Highlands, $79.00;
2010 Ledson Winery & Vineyards Estate Petite Sirah, Redwood Valley, $42.00; and
2012 Navarro Vineyards Mourvedre, Mendocino, $20.00.

GOLD MEDAL
2013 Bink Wines Randle Hill Sauvignon Blanc, Yorkville Highlands, $22.00;
2013 Navarro Vineyards Chardonnay, Mendocino, $19.00;
2012 Husch Vineyards Special Reserve Chardonnay, Mendocino, $26.00;
2013 Navarro Vineyards Premiere Reserve Chardonnay, Anderson Valley, $25.00;
2013 Seebass Family Wines Family Chardonnay, Mendocino, $30.00;
2012 Artevino Chardonnay, Maple Creek Estate, Yorkville Highlands, $36.00;
2013 V. Sattui Winery Riesling, Anderson Valley, $25.00;
2013 Rivino Winery Estate Viognier, Mendocino, $25.00;
2013 Handley Cellars Pinot Gris, Anderson Valley, $20.00;
2013 Navarro Vineyards Pinot Gris, Anderson Valley, $19.50;
2011 Handley Cellars Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, $32.00;
2013 Paul Dolan Pinot Noir, Potter Valley, Mendocino County, $30.00;
2012 Balo Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, $45.00;
2012 Bink Wines Pinot Noir, Thomas Vineyard, Anderson Valley, $45.00;
2012 McNab Ridge Winery Zinfandel, B Var X Talmage, Mendocino County, $26.00;
2012 St. Anne’s Crossing, Zinfandel, Mendocino, $28.00;
2012 Trinitas Cellars Zinfandel, Mendocino, $28.00;
2011 Sanctuary Wines Zinfandel, Butler Ranch, Mendocino, $39.99;
2012 Graft Wines Conviction, Mendocino, $36.00;
2012 Bonterra Vineyards, Merlot, Mendocino County, $13.99;
2012 McNab Ridge Winery, Merlot, Mendocino County, $16.00;
2012 Seebass Family Wines Grand Reserve Merlot, Mendocino, $38.00;
2013 Kimmel Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Potter Valley, $13.99;
2013 Lucinda & Millie Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendocino County, $14.99;
2012 Brutocao Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Hopland Contento Estate, $19.99;
2012 Urban Legend Cabernet Sauvignon, Gusto Vineyard, Mendocino, $34.00;
2012 Topel Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendocino, $38.00;
2012 Sunce Winery & Vineyard Alicante Bouschet, Dempel Vineyard, Mendocino County, $28.00; and
2013 Husch Vineyards Old Vines Heritage, Mendocino, $30.00.

SILVER MEDAL
NV McFadden Farm Sparkling Cuvee Brut, Potter Valley, Mendocino, $40.00;
2013 Yorkville Cellars Sparkling Malbec Brut Rose, Rennie Vineyard, Yorkville Highlands, $36.00;
2013 Jaxon Keys Winery & Distillery Sauvignon Blanc, Mendocino, $18.00;
2013 McFadden Farm Sauvignon Blanc, Potter Valley, Mendocino County, $16.00;
2013 Paul Dolan, Sauvignon Blanc, Potter Valley, Mendocino County, $18.00;
2013 Campovida Reserva Campo di Stelle, Mendocino County, $36.00;
2013 Yorkville Cellars Eleanor of Aquitaine, Randle Hill Vineyard, Yorkville Highlands, $28.00;
2013 Kimmel Vineyards Illuminate Chardonnay, Potter Valley, $9.99;
2013 Girasole Vineyards Estate Grown Chardonnay, Mendocino, $13.00;
2013 Toad Hollow Francines’s Selection Unoaked Chardonnay, Mendocino, $14.99;
2013 Brutocao Cellars Chardonnay, Hopland Estate, $17.00;
2013 McFadden Farm Chardonnay, Potter Valley, Mendocino County, $16.00;
2013 Rivino Winery Estate Chardonnay, Mendocino, $22.00;
2013 Handley Cellars Estate Chardonnay, Anderson Valley, $25.00;
2013 Navarro Vineyards Estate Bottled Gewurztraminer, Anderson Valley, $19.50;
2013 Handley Cellars Riesling, Anderson Valley, $22.00;
2013 V. Sattui Winery Dancing Egg Riesling, Anderson Valley, $24.00;
2013 Bonterra Vineyards, Viognier, Mendocino County, $12.99;
2013 Campovida Campo Dos Roble Viognier, Mendocino County, $34.00;
2013 McFadden Farm Pinot Gris, Potter Valley, Mendocino County, $16.00;
2013 Philo Ridge Vineyards Pinot Gris, Nelson Ranch, Mendocino, $20.00;
2013 Campovida Rose di Grenache, Trails End Vineyard, Mendocino County, $34.00;
2012 Brutocao Cellars Estate Slow Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, $28.00;
2012 Husch Vineyards Estate Bottled Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, $25.00;
2013 Navarro Vineyards Methode a’l Anciene Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, $29.00;
2010 Panthea Winery & Vineyard Siren Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, $32.00;
2012 Calista Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, $40.00;
2013 Castello di Amorosa Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, $49.00;
2012 Handley Cellars Pinot Noir, Hellava Vineyard, Anderson Valley, $42.00;
2012 Handley Cellars Reserve Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, $42.00;
2011 Husch Vineyards Knoll Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, $40.00;
2010 Nelson Hill Pinot Noir, Deep End Vineyard, Anderson Valley, $42.00;
2010 Panthea Winery & Vineyard Estate Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, $42.00;
2013 V. Sattui Winery Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, $42.00;
2010 Woodenhead Pinot Noir, Wiley Vineyard, Anderson Valley, $60.00;
2013 Navarro Vineyards Zinfandel, Mendocino, $19.50;
2013 The Organic Wine Works Zenful Zin Zinfandel, Mendocino, $14.95;
2012 Paul Dolan Zinfandel, Mendocino County, $25.00;
2012 Cesar Toxqui Cellars Split Rock Zinfandel, Mendocino, $30.00;
2011 Seebass Family Wines Old Vine Zinfandel, Mendocino, $37.00;
2012 Campovida Primitivo, Dark Horse Vineyard, Mendocino County, $36.00;
2012 Wattle Creek Winery, Primitivo, Yorkville Highlands, $30.00;
2012 BARRA of Mendocino Estate Grown Sangiovese, Mendocino, $18.00;
2013 Sottomarino Winery Sangiovese, Mendocino County, $28.00;
2012 Jaxon Keys Winery & Distillery Anna Mac Syrah, Mendocino, $19.99;
2009 Bink Wines Hawks Butte Syrah, Bink Estate Vineyard, Yorkville Highlands, $30.00;
2012 Seebass Family Wines Grand Reserve Syrah, Mendocino, $38.00;
2011 Seebass Family Wines Syrah, Mendocino; $43.00;
2012 McNab Ridge Winery Petite Sirah, Mendocino County, $18.00;
2012 Jaxon Keys Winery & Distillery Jon Vincent Grenache, Mendocino, $22.00;
2013 Navarro Vineyards Grenache, Mendocino, $27.00;
2012 Greenwood Ridge Vineyards Estate Merlot, Mendocino Ridge, $27.00;
2011 Albertina Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Zmarzly Vineyards, Mendocino, $28.00;
2010 Rivino Winery Estate Cabernet Franc, Mendocino, $36.00;
2009 Terra Savia Meritage, Sanel Valley Vineyards, $22.00;
NV Bliss Family Vineyards Estate Blissful Red, Mendocino, $9.99;
2012 Jaxon Keys Winery & Distillery Farmhouse Red, Mendocino, $14.99;
2013 Navarro Vineyards Navarrouge, Mendocino, $16.00;
2012 Post & Vine Old Vine Field Blend, Testa Vineyards, Mendocino, $28.00;
2011 Soda Rock Winery Entourage Red Blend, Mendocino County, $26.00;
2009 Bonterra Vineyards The McNabb, McNabb Ranch, Mendocino County, $49.99;
NV Cesar Toxqui Cellars Multiple Vintages Heirloom Cinco, Mendocino, $35.00;
2011 McFadden Farm Coro Mendocino  Mendocino, $37.00;
2012 Topel Estate Blend, Mendocino, $38.00;
2012 Stephen & Walker , Chardonnay Botrytis, Mendocino Ridge, $65.00; and
2013 Jaxon Keys Winery & Distillery Elle Port, Mendocino, $35.00.

BRONZE MEDAL                                                        
2013 Bonterra Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Mendocino/Lake, $12.99;
2013 Husch Vineyards Renegade Sauvignon Blanc, Mendocino, $18.00;
2013 Navarro Vineyards, Sauvignon Blanc, Mendocino, $18.00;
2013 Bliss Family Vineyards Chardonnay, Hopland Estate, $9.99;
2013 Bonterra Vineyards Chardonnay, Mendocino County, $12.99;
2013 Naughty Boy Vineyards Chardonnay, Thorton Ranch, Potter Valley, $14.00;
2013 Parducci Wine Cellars Small Lot Blend Chardonnay, Mendocino County, $13.00;
2012 Shooting Star Chardonnay, Mendocino County, $13.00;
2013 Husch Vineyards Estate Bottled Chardonnay, Mendocino, $15.00;
2013 Husch Vineyards Vine One Chardonnay, Anderson Valley, $18.00;
2013 Seebass Family Wines, Grand Reserve Chardonnay, Mendocino, $32.00;
2013 Jim Ball Vineyards Chardonnay; Mendocino Ridge, $35.00;
2012 Bonterra Vineyards Chardonnay, Blue Herron Vineyard, Mendocino County, $49.99;
2012 La Follette Wines Chardonnay, Manchester Ridge Vineyard, Mendocino Ridge, $47.99;
2013 Castello di Amorosa Gewurztraminer, Anderson Valley, $25.00;
2013 Handley Cellars Gewurztraminer, Anderson Valley, $20.00;
2013 McFadden Farm Gewurztraminer, Potter Valley, Mendocino County, $16.00;
2013 Philo Ridge Vineyards Gewurztraminer, Ferrington Vineyard, Anderson Valley, $20.00;
2013 Greenwood Ridge Vineyards Estate Riesling, Mendocino Ridge, $18.00;
2013 McFadden Farm Riesling, Potter Valley, Mendocino County, $18.00;
2013 Route 128 Winery  , Viognier, Opatz Family Vineyards, Yorkville Cellars, $19.00;
2013 Philo Ridge Vineyards Viognier, Nelson Ranch, Mendocino, $20.00;
2013 Campovida Marsanne, Bonofiglio Vineyard, Mendocino County, $32.00;
2013 Via Cellars Tocai Friulano, Fox Hill Vineyard, Mendocino County, $25.00;
2013 Seebass Family Wines Fantasi Rose of Grenache, Mendocino, $16.00;
2013 Bonterra Vineyards Pinot Noir, Mendocino County, $13.99;
2013 Navarro Vineyards Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, $19.50;
2012 Parducci Wine Cellars Small Lot Blend Pinot Noir, Mendocino, $14.00;
2011 Naughty Boy Vineyards Organic Grown Pinot Noir, Potter Valley, $23.00;
2010 Naughty Boy Vineyards Organic Grown Pinot Noir, Potter Valley, $23.00;
2013 Jaxon Keys Winery & Distillery Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, $34.00;
2012 Balo Vineyards Suitcase 828 Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, $38.00;
2009 Harmonique The Noble One Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, $39.00;
2009 Nelson Hill Pinot Noir, Deep End Vineyard, Anderson Valley, $36.00;
2011 Philo Ridge Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, $36.00;
2012 Artevino Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, $40.00;
2010 Panthea Winery & Vineyard Pinot Noir, Londer Vineyard, Anderson Valley, $42.00;
2011 Handley Cellars Pinot Noir, RSM Vineyard, Anderson Valley, $52.00;
2010 Philo Ridge Vineyards Pinot Noir, Marguerite Vineyard, Anderson Valley, $50.00;
2012 Bliss Family Vineyards Estate Zinfandel, Mendocino, $9.99;
2012 Bonterra Vineyards Zinfandel, Mendocino County, $13.99;
2011 Brutocao Cellars Zinfandel , Hopland Estate, $19.99;
2012 Carol Shelton Wines Old Vines Wild Thing Zinfandel, Mendocino County, $19.00;
2012 Weibel Family Vineyards & Winery Zinfandel, Mendocino County, $16.95;
2012 Jaxon Keys Winery & Distillery Mae’s Block  Zinfandel, Mendocino, $24.00;
2012 Jaxon Keys Winery & Distillery Etta’s Block Zinfandel, Mendocino, $22.00;
2013 Husch Vineyards Old Vines Zinfandel, Mendocino, $25.00;
2013 Navarro Vineyards Old Vine Zinfandel, Mendocino, $27.00;
2012 Philo Ridge Vineyards Zinfandel, Firebrick Vineyard, Mendocino, $26.00;
2012 Oak Cliff Cellars Zinfandel, Firebrick Hill, Redwood Valley, $35.00;
2012 Woodenhead Zinfandel, Mariah Vineyard, Mendocino Ridge, $46.00;
2011 Brutocao Cellars Primitivo, Hopland Contento Estate, $19.99;
2013 Sottomarino Winery Primitivo, Mendocino County, $32.00;
2011 Muscardini Cellars Barbera, Pauli Ranch, Mendocino County, $38.00;
2013 Navarro Vineyards Barbera, Mendocino, $27.00;
2011 Brutocao Cellars Quadriga, Hopland Estate, $19.99;
2012 Route 128 Winery  Syrah, Opatz Family Vineyard, Yorkville Highlands, $24.00;
2012 Greenwood Ridge Vineyards Estate Syrah, Mendocino Ridge, $27.00;
2013 Navarro Vineyards Syrah, Mendocino, $27.00;
2010 Simaine Cellars Syrah, Venturi Vineyards, Mendocino, $25.00;
2009 BARRA of Mendocino Estate Grown Petite Sirah, Mendocino, $22.00;
2012 Navarro Vineyards Petite Sirah, Mendocino, $27.00;
2010 Notarius Petite Sirah, Heart Arrow Ranch, Mendocino, $24.00;
2012 Parducci Wine Cellars True Grit Reserve Petite Sirah, Mendocino County, $29.00;
2012 Theopolis Vineyards Petite Sirah, Yorkville Highlands, $36.00;
2012 Graft Wines Grenache, Dark Horse Vineyard, Mendocino County, $32.00;
2012 Bliss Family Vineyards Estate Merlot $9.99;
2012 Brutocao Cellars Merlot, Hopland Bliss Estate, $19.99;
2011 Terra Savia Merlot , Sanel Valley Vineyards, Mendocino County, $15.00;
2012 Weibel Family Vineyards & Winery Merlot, Mendocino County, $16.95;
2009 Artevino Merlot, Maple Creek Estate, Yorkville Highlands, $40.00;
2013 Bliss Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Hopland Estate, $9.99;
2012 Bonterra Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendocino/Lake, $13.99;
2012 Husch Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendocino, $23.00;
2010 Terra Savia Cabernet Sauvignon, Sanel Valley Vineyards, Mendocino County, $22.00;
2012 Navarro Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendocino, $29.00;
2011 Paul Dolan Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendocino County, $25.00;
2012 Greenwood Ridge Vineyards Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendocino Ridge, $35.00;
2013 The Organic Wine Works Organic A’Notre Terre, Mendocino, $14.95;
2012 Jaxon Keys Winery & Distillery Assemblage, Mendocino, $24.00;
2012 Yorkville Cellars HI-Roller Red, Mendocino, $19.00; and
2011 McFadden Farm Late Harvest Riesling, Potter Valley, Mendocino County, $18.00.

John On Wine – The Spirits of Christmas

This piece was originally published in the Ukiah Daily Journal newspaper on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2014

If Santa needed any additional Christmas cheer this Christmas Eve, he would have to look no farther than Redwood Valley.

Here in Mendocino County’s Redwood Valley, Jack Crispin Cain is distilling some of the best spirits I have ever tasted, with his wife and partner Tamar Kaye. and sons, Devin Cain and Crispin D. Cain, under a variety of names for their various products; Greenway Distillers, American Craft Whiskey Distillers, and Tamar Distillery.

Founders of Greenway Distillery, Crispin Cain and Tamar Kaye. (Photo courtesy of Greenway Distillery)

Founders of Greenway Distillery, Crispin Cain and Tamar Kaye. (Photo courtesy of Greenway Distillery)

F. Paul Pacult’s Spirits Journal Magazine came out with their “Top 75 5-Star Spirits” list, and Jack Crispin Cain’s Absinthe made the list.

Earlier this year, in Emma Janzen’s piece for Serious Eats, 10 Absinthes You Should Be Drinking, Janzen wrote, “Some scholars say absinthe made with a wine or grape base will taste naturally superior to those made with neutral grains or beets, and … Germain-Robin Absinthe Superieure from Greenway Distillers ($50 for 375 mL) makes a strong case for the argument.

The producers start by making a house wine from honey and apples from an old family recipe, which they then distill into the base for the blanche absinthe. Botanical-wise, they replaced many of the usual woody and earthy herbs with “sweet, friendly flavors” like lavender, lemon verbena, and lemon balm. The final results are outside the box in the best of ways; heavy pear brandy aromas introduce the flavor, which ends up tasting effortlessly light-bodied. An opening of subtle wood and tobacco shift into a breezy, bright smack of mint at mid-palate, then cools off into a clean, fresh finish.”

St. John Frizel wrote up the Low Gap Wheat Whiskey that Crispin crafts at his American Craft Whiskey Distillery for Men’s Journal magazine, describing the flavors as smooth and round, having been crafted using cognac pot stills.

In a tasting of spirits at the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America gathering this year, Double Gold medals were awarded to both Crispin’s Russell Henry London Dry Gin and his DSP CA 162 Straight Vodka.

My friend Margaret Pedroni described Crispin’s Rose Liqueur best, “sex in a glass.” The floral rose aromas and flavors are rich yet lively.

This summer, I enjoyed both the best martinis and the best gin and tonics made with Russell Henry Gin. An exciting new addition to the line-up is Russell Henry Dark Gin, a barrel aged gin that spent its time in two new bourbon barrels and a 350 liter Cognac barrel.

Whiskey, whiskey, whiskey. Low Gap 100 Proof Bavarian Wheat Whiskey, Low Gap Single Barrel #1, and Low Gap Malted Rye (Clear) Whiskey. Knocking back a shot of this would be such a waste, when sipping and savoring each delicious drop of liquid is called for.

Crispin started with DSP CA 162 “Straight” Vodka and it is perfect. Then, when it seemed the last thing the world needed was another flavored vodka, he offered up DSP CA 162 Vodka Citrus Reticulata var. Sunshine (tangerines and tangelos), DSP CA 162 Vodka Citrus Medica var. Sarcodactylis (Buddha’s-hand citrons), and DSP CA 162 Vodka Citrus Hystrix (Malaysian limes and their leaves), and, lo and behold, it turns out that the world is a better place for these three gorgeous flavored vodkas.

Each of Crispin’s spirited offerings is like candy; clean, specific, clear, flavor notes. There is a joy, a delightful happiness, that cuts through the mundane and ordinary, and makes you be still, appreciating the extraordinary brilliance of the art of distillation done spectacularly.

Germain-Robin Brandy is at the heart of Crispin’s spirit distillations. I first tasted Germain-Robin Brandy, which is really a cognac, but has to be called brandy as it is made in Mendocino county and not Cognac, France, in a head to head to head blind taste off with Hennessy XO and Courvoisier XO back in 1997 or so, and was blown away by how much better the Germain-Robin was at $100 than a pair of famous $200 Cognacs.

Hubert Germain-Robin and Ansley Coale started Germain-Robin, crafted and sold several brandies, including their top of the line XO, and were quickly heralded as one of the top cognac producers in the world by several publications. Today, in addition to cognac styled brandy, Germain-Robin produces Grappa, an apple brandy reminiscent of a Calvados, an eau de vie-esque brandy of pears, and a solera blending of infusions and exotica called Crème de Poette.

Crispin worked with Germain-Robin’s brandy makers and benefited from their knowledge. Today, co-located with the Germain-Robin brandy distillery, Crispin has access to the finest cognac pot stills and other craft method tools and takes advantage of the opportunity to use them. The result is sublime.

To purchase the best cognac quality brandy, whiskey, vodka, gin, absinthe, and assorted concoctions, visit the distilleries’ storeroom at 3001 S. State #35 in Ukiah, but be sure to call (707) 486-7899 for a reservation.

John Cesano of John On Wine

John Cesano of John On Wine

20080421_011535_ukiahLogo
John On Wine – Wine Tasting 101

Originally published in the Ukiah Daily Journal newspaper on Thursday, November 6, 2014; written by John Cesano

Wine tasting is daunting for some folks. If you have never gone to a winery tasting room, for a wine tasting, the uncertainty of what to expect, can be a little scary, even intimidating.

Beer is simple, you go to the corner store, grab an ice cold six-pack out of the cooler, pay for it, take it home, open a bottle, and drink it. No one is judging you. It is just beer in a bottle, and then in your belly. Food pairings are not much of a concern with beer; chips, nuts, pretzels will all do just fine.

If you watch Frasier and his brother Niles in reruns, then you might think wine is pretentious and that the little rituals might trip you up and make you look foolish. Put any such concerns out of your mind.

For the most part, wine – to me, and to many Italian Americans in northern California – is food. Wine is just one more ingredient, or dish, among many, in a larger meal, and wine should complement your food and make it taste better.

One of my favorite things about a Chef’s Wine Dinner at a good restaurant, like Crush or Patrona here in Ukiah, is that perhaps six wines will be poured and perhaps ten food dishes will be served, and you are afforded the opportunity to try sips of different wines with different foods to see what pairings work for you, a wonderfully playful experiment of trial and error, or better yet trial and delicious success, over an entire evening…well, that is a great way to be awakened to the wonder of food and wine pairings, surrounded by 70 other people having the same sensory overloading experience, oohs and ahhs, and, as the evening goes on, groans of delighted contentment, everywhere.

The next of these opportunities is next Wednesday, November 12, 2014, when Chef Jesse Elhardt and his team at Crush pair mushroom dishes with the wines of Cesar Toxqui Cellars, at what I consider the premier event of the entire 2014 Mendocino County Mushroom, Wine & Beer Festival. Surprising no one, I have my ticket already. Tickets are $65 in advance, or $75 at the door, and include food, wine, tax & tip.

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Cesar Toxqui will have his Cesar Toxqui Cellars wines featured at the Chef’s Wine Dinner at Crush in Ukiah on Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Similarly, the premier event of the 2015 Mendocino County Crab, Wine & Beer Festival will be the McFadden Farm Winemaker Dinner at Crush on Wednesday, January 21, 2015. This dinner will be a crabapalooza, and as crab costs more than mushrooms, tickets are $75 in advance, and also includes food, wine, tax & tip. There will be no tickets at the door, as this event will sell out.

Contact Crush by calling (707) 463-0700 to make reservations for either of these two great opportunities to play with food and wine!

Visits to winery tasting rooms should be as much fun, or certainly more fun than they too often are, I’ll admit. If you are a novice, and want to feel comfortable, come and visit me at the McFadden Farm Stand & Tasting Room in Hopland. I’m in most every Tuesday through Friday from 10-5 each day, and my incredible team handles most of the other days. We’re the top rated tasting room in California by the San Francisco Chronicle, because we want you to enjoy yourself, because we give you an experience, and because we treat you with respect.

First things first, wine tasting should be complimentary. This isn’t liquid gold and rubies, it is fermented grape juice, and I am thrilled to do away with the pretension of Napa County for visitors to our humble tasting room. If you value your juice too greatly to pour a taste of it, or don’t know how to add the cost of samples to your cost of goods when setting prices, then Napa County is one county south, then another east. That said, while wine tasting is complimentary, tossing a bill or two in the jar is never frowned upon.

Next thing, and perhaps the most important thing to know: the dump bucket is your friend. I like to pour through all available wines, usually about a dozen, give or take, and if you try to drink a dozen pours then you will be drunk. I pour an ounce of wine in a nice big glass, and if you swirl the wine then you can break free some of the aroma molecules, and put your nose into the glass, and slowly sniff in all the smells. Then take a little sip, and see what flavors the wine has. The wine flavor will taper away, sometimes slowly, sometimes abruptly, and more flavor notes may be found here on the finish. Finally, dump the remaining wine from the glass into the bucket.

I let people experience the wine before I share the notes that the wines present to me. I also tell a little story about each wine, and put our wines in context by describing our farm, our growing choices, the winemaking styles, and much more. A visit with me can often last an hour, and involve a dozen wines, but a mere sip of each wine means less than an ounce consumed and critical judgment is still intact, so wine buying or wine club joining decisions are about the wine and not the result of alcohol making your decisions for you.

Here’s another thing that is important to own: you are the boss of you, you are the ultimate judge of what you like and do not like. I pour Gold medal, Double Gold medal, Best of Class and Best of Show wines. I have wines that professional judges unanimously voted Gold, in competition after competition after competition. I pour great wines, AND YOU ARE FREE TO NOT LIKE THEM. Not everyone likes everything, and with 12 wines to pour, there is a great chance you’ll find one or two, or all 12, to like or not like.

As I pour, I do mention foods that each of the wines I pour pair well with, often sharing recipes, because a wine at first taste that was just good can be the best wine you’ve ever tasted when it accompanies   the right dish.

After running through all of my wines, with the nosing, sipping, and dumping, I always ask visitors if they would like to revisit any wines, because sometimes one sip just isn’t enough. I also like to recommend other wineries to visit based on what my visitors liked most, and perhaps a local place to eat between wine tasting visits.

I write about wine because I do not want anyone to be intimidated by it. I pour wine in much the same way. Nicely enough, there are many other incredibly friendly and fun folks pouring wine throughout Mendocino County, and every one of us would love to pour wine for you. We’re gentle with first-timers; if you haven’t been wine tasting yet, give it a try.

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John On Wine – Age vs. Vintage

By John Cesano

Originally published in the Ukiah Daily Journal newspaper on Thursday, October 23, 2014

“I don’t drink young wines, I only drink older wines, and I always decant them,” is what someone told Eugene Gonsalves when Eugene tried to gift him a bottle of local Mendocino County wine while on a European vacation.

First things first: if someone tries to gift a bottle of wine to you, then turning your nose up, untasted, is boorish at least.

Age is not as important as vintage; 2008 is older than 2012, but few in Mendocino County would choose a local 2008 wine over a wine from 2012. 2008 was the year of fires when ash and smoke sat on top of grapes in the vineyard and yielded horribly flawed wines. 2011 is older than 2012, but 2011 was a very cool year, and some wine magazine writers cried about what a horrible vintage it was for California wine, when really it was Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon that took the biggest hit, while 2012 has been heralded as a stellar vintage.

Age does some things to all wines, but age is not always beneficial for all wines.

Red wines are wines that have juice in contact with skins after press, and the skins impart tannins along with color. Tannins give wine firmness, and react with flavors – at first masking them and later joining with them to produce a supple leathery quality.

Red wines are typically sealed with a cork, a semi-permeable closure that allows incredibly small amounts of oxygen to pass through itself and allow the tannins to soften and mellow over time, usually years.

Of course, the reality is that Americans are impatient and do not – for the most part – lay any wine, red or white, down for any appreciable amount of time. I think the average cellaring time for a wine purchased in California is the time it takes to get it home from the store.

Our winemakers know this and make wines to be enjoyed young, decreasing tannins where possible. I will often open a young bottle of bottle, pour a half a glass, and swirl the wine and niff, put it down, then after a little time I will swirl and sniff again, and continue to do this until the alcohol flush blows off, the tannins dissipate, and the fruit comes forward. Too soon, and the fruit is either masked or too tart, but with a little air contact the wine opens up and becomes more enjoyable than when first opened.

Some winemakers, wanting their wines to be aged, will hold on to them and release them later than other wineries. Locally, Rosati Family Winery and Milano Family Winery both recently released their 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, while other wineries are pushing their 2012 Cabernets out the door. I actually go through the same open, pour, swirl, and sip ritual with an older wine, and for the same reasons, so the wine shows better, is more enjoyable.

White wines do not spend time with skins and do not have the same tannin load. These wines are fruitier when held in stainless steel, although that may be muted by oak or other winemaking choices. You will see many white wines sealed with screw caps instead of corks because there is no need to soften or change the largely nonexistent tannins, and white wines are generally consumed at a younger age than red wines. Of course, there are exceptions and several white wines that can benefit from age and are sealed with a cork, like Chateau d’Yquem and other late harvest botrytised dessert wines.

I am a patient man, about wine anyway. I love the swirl and sniff ritual. Decanters allow a wine to aerate more quickly, as the entire bottle is upended and poured into the decanter, falling through air and splashing, which is great if you are going to finish the entire bottle but not great if you only want a glass or two.

Decanters also allowed wines to be poured slowly and sediment to be collected in the shoulder of Bordeaux bottles, but with most California wines being fined and filtered they are pretty much sediment free,

I will admit to being a fan of Vinturi and other glass specific aerators. Pouring a wine through these devices, it burbles, and air is force blended with the wine, causing it to taste like it has been breathing for a significant amount of time.

White wines, largely, do not need to be decanted, or run through an aerator, and tend to be better in youth. For me, open, pour, swirl, sniff, swirl and sniff again, taste, taste again – that works pretty well.

After opening a bottle, red or white, and enjoying a bottle or two, I like to spray some argon gas into the bottle to prevent the wine from additional oxidation, to stop it from breathing, so I can enjoy it again the next day, or later that week.

So, here’s my take: find a wine variety you like, from a producer you trust, and of a vintage that is good, try it, and if you like it then go back and buy some more because vintage is more important than age, and when the wine you love is gone then you’ll have to begin your search anew…but that’s not really a bad thing, that’s part of the magic of wine.

 

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John On Wine – Spotlight Winery: Parducci

Originally posted in the Ukiah Daily Journal newspaper on September 11, 2014

I was invited to taste with winemaker Bob Swain at Parducci in March 2010 after writing glowingly about a Parducci True Grit Petite Sirah that I tasted at a Petite Sirah festival in Alameda the month before.

I wrote up my visit with Bob, with tasting notes, for what would be my first Mendocino County wine piece. I have visited and tasted Parducci wines regularly in the intervening four and a half years between then and now, but recently I returned with notebook and camera to taste for a new piece, as my writing in 2010 wasn’t for the local paper yet.

Parducci wines are made by winemakers Bob Swain and Mark Beamon. I got to see Bob again, when I visited this time. He was at work on a weekend, for “the earliest year of [grape] picking in 17 years.”

Tricia Griffin and Bob Swain

Tricia Griffin and Bob Swain

Tricia Griffin, who has been with Parducci for 15 years, poured wines for me. Angelica Jessica Morris was also in the tasting room pouring for a growing number of tasters. As I tasted, there were visitors who bought some simple picnic provisions and a glass of wine to enjoy, picnic style, outdoors, while others were either picking up wine club orders or joining a wine club. Both gals are terrifically talented.

Tricia Griffin and Angelica Jessica Morris

Tricia Griffin and Angelica Jessica Morris

Tasters are invited to taste any four wines for a nominal $5 tasting fee, which is waived with wine club membership or bottle purchase. Picnic friendly glasses are available for purchase at $3 for a small lot blend wine or $5 for a reserve wine.
Here were my tastes:

2013 Small Lot Blend Parducci Sauvignon Blanc, Mendocino County, $13, 13.5% – Pear and apple, lemon, melon, cream. 3 ½% Viognier give this wine a kiss of interesting.

2013 Small Lot Blend Parducci Pinot Gris, Mendocino County, $14, 1.5% – A subdued wine, lighter, not bursting, but inviting. Pear and tropical fruit.

2013 Small Lot Blend Parducci Chardonnay, Mendocino County, $13, 13.5% – Lovely nose, light oak, cream, vanilla, ripe green apple, pear.

2013 Small Lot Blend Parducci Rose, Mendocino County, $14, 13.5% – This dry rose of Syrah is showing delightful crushed strawberry over ice and peach notes.

2012 Small Lot Blend Parducci Pinot Noir, Mendocino County, $14, 13.5% – Dark dry cherry, chocolate, strawberry, raspberry, fabulous funk mushroom, loam and earth.

2011 Small Lot Blend Parducci Merlot, Mendocino County, $13, 13.5% – Lighter, plum, dark cherry.

2012 Small Lot Blend Parducci Zinfandel, Mendocino County, $13, 14.5% – Lighter style, food friendly, drinkable. Chocolate covered cherry with black pepper and dried herb.

2011 Small Lot Blend Parducci Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendocino County, $14, 13.5% – Dark earthy cocoa, blackberry, cassis. Lovely. This vintage got knocked by many writers, especially for Cabernet, but I ended up buying this wine. I really thought it was elegant and would do well with other dishes in a meal.

2010 Small Lot Blend Parducci Petite Sirah, Mendocino County, $14, 13.5% – This is Parducci’s flagship wine variety. Peppery, plummy blackberry, meaty, cocoa.

Double Gold Medal

Best of Class

2010 Reserve Parducci Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, $33, 13% – Super supple, drinkable, funky. Dry candied cherry and berry.

2010 Reserve Parducci Grenache, Estate, $27, 14.8% – Strawberry jam. Soft and supple. Sexy wine.

2007 Reserve Parducci Syrah, Mendocino County, $35, 14.5% – This is a library wine. Rich, smooth, a beautifully balanced wine from a wonderful vintage that is drinking great. Meaty cherry, violet, oak, and vanilla.

2010 Reserve Parducci Cabernet Franc, Estate, $32, 13.5% – Just 13 barrels produced. Soft, woody, remarkably soft tannin. Spiced red berry.

2009 Parducci Coro, Mendocino County, $38, 14.5% – 45% Zinfandel, 30% Syrah, 20% Petite Sirah, 5% Grenache. Soft. Bright cherry, raspberry, and plum.

2007 Parducci Coro, Mendocino County, $38, 14.5% – 47% Zinfandel, 45% Syrah, 8% Petite Sirah. Pungent whiff of prune, blackberry, black licorice.

2010 True Grit Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, $30, 13.5% – Gorgeously rich, lush and lovely, supple blackberry and dusty currant.

2011 True Grit Reserve Petite Sirah, $29, 14.5% – Black pepper spice, violet, blackberry. Big.

I might have gone past the standard four wines, but I did use the dump bucket. I also thought that ending my tasting with the first wine that brought Parducci and me together was fitting. I did not taste a Brut, Port, or Muscat that were available.

Nicely displayed shopping opportunities

Nicely displayed shopping opportunities

Parducci is pretty, the tasting room is well appointed with many smartly displayed shopping options available, and the property beckons for a walk or tour. Special events are held throughout the year, but the Acoustic Café summer concert series is a standout music event that brings people flocking to Parducci.

Parducci Cellars is located at 501 Parducci Road, Ukiah, CA 95401, and the tasting room is open daily from 10-5. For more information, visit http://www.parducci.com.

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John on Wine- Coro Mendocino

Originally published in the Ukiah Daily Journal newspaper on July 17, 2014
Written by John Cesano

John Cesano of John On Wine

John Cesano of John On Wine

 

So, you want to be a winemaker and you want to be old school about it? You buy an airline ticket and fly to Bordeaux France. When you get there, you find that there is a protocol for making wine in this geographically identifiable area, and that if you make your wine in Bordeaux using any varietal grapes other than those on a very short list of approved grape varietals for Bordeaux wines, then you’ll be with Luca Brasi, “swimming with the fishes”. Get caught dropping a single Pinot Noir grape into a barrel of Bordeaux wine and life as you knew it is forever changed for the worse.

It is the same in Burgundy, Tuscany, pretty much everywhere throughout Europe. Every geographically identifiable area has a protocol, a list of allowed grapes that can be used to make wine.

Here in the United States, things are different. Winemakers can make wine with much greater freedom, in a near willy-nilly manner. There is no geographically identifiable area making wine following a protocol — except Mendocino County, and the Coro Mendocino wines.

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For a short time, it could have been argued that California had the Meritage program, but the association did a poor job of protecting the name and protocol established, and now there are wines called Meritage made outside of the state, and even outside the country.

Back to Coro; unique in the United States, a group of Mendocino County winemakers got together a dozen years ago and decided to cooperatively and collaboratively make a wine representative of the county. They chose the name Coro, because Coro is Italian (and Spanish, Latin, and Portuguese) for Chorus. Where a chorus is a blending of voices into a harmonious whole that is greater than the individual voices, Coro wines would be blends of grapes made better than the individual varietals, and with multiple Mendocino County wineries producing their own Coro each year, the program would be greater than the individual efforts of any one winery.

There are wine regions that are famous for particular grapes; Napa is known for Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley is known for Pinot Noir. Sadly, the wine buying public did not similarly know what Mendocino County grew (other than Marijuana). The reason is that roughly 75 percent of the grapes grown in Mendocino County are bought and used by Napa and Sonoma County wineries to make their wines. Mendocino County was more of a grape farm county than a grape wine county.

The initial task for the first Coro winemakers, when creating a protocol for the wines to be made, was to make Zinfandel, Mendocino County’s most planted grape, the heart of every Coro wine. Every Coro would contain no less than 40 percent and no more than 70 percent Zinfandel. The blending grapes would be grapes that have historically grown alongside Zinfandel in the county, grapes that might have been harvested and co-fermented in the field blend wines of the past; typically Italian or Rhone varietals. There was also a 10 percent “free play” allowance established, so each participating winery could put their own flavor stamp on their Coro.

Other rules were established, barrel and bottle aging minimums, specified use of oak, chemistry limits to ensure a general uniformity with no outliers.

Recently, the 11th vintage was released, at a five course meal at the Little River Inn. The participating wineries were Barra, Brutocao, Clos du Bois, Fetzer, Golden, McFadden, Parducci, and Testa. The new Coro wines will be available at each winery’s tasting room. Golden promises a tasting room in Hopland before year’s end. For convenience, all new Coro wines are also sold at SIP! Mendocino in Hopland, for folks who want to pick up a vintage set.

Just before the dinner, I had an opportunity to gather with five Coro winemakers at Parducci for a television shoot. The CORO show is part of a three-part segment on the Mendocino County wine industry. The other shows are Women in Wine and Next-Gen in Wine. All three should air and be available for viewing by September at the latest, back to back, on public access channels and online. Look for “Spotlight on Mendocino County!” by Out & About Media in a couple of months.

Coro Winemakers

Coro winemakers, (l-r) Dennis Patton, George Phelan, Maria Testa Martinson, Bob Swain, and Hoss Milone. Photographic credit: Larry Wagner

I got to be the moderator, but the show could have self-moderated around a pouring of the Coro Mendocino wines poured that day by Bob Swain of Parducci Wine Cellars, Maria Martinson of Testa Family Winery, Hoss Milone of Brutocao Family Vineyards, George Phelan of Clod du Bois, and Dennis Patton of Golden Vineyards.

Photographic credit: Larry Wagner

Photographic credit: Larry Wagner

We tasted wines, each different, yet related by protocol, from five producers and three vintages. They were uniformly delicious, but Dennis stole the show by bringing a Golden Coro from the classic 2007 vintage. The answers from the five winemakers, their conversations, were probably better than my questions.

Line up of Coro

Photographic credit: Larry Wagner

Most striking was how every answer seemed to touch upon the collaborative aspects of the program, how winemakers blind taste barrel samples of each vintage several times, making and then sharing notes, all in an effort to produce the very best wines possible. The camaraderie among the winemakers was palpable.

Salute

Photographic credit: Larry Wagner

Huge thanks to the crew; producer Leigh Anne Lindsey from Out & About Media, director Steve Yoakum of MediaVectors Group, photographer Larry Wagner, and production assistants Marilyn Wagner and Mary Fairbanks.

Get out to a Coro member winery tasting room, and taste Mendocino County’s flagship wine. For more information about Coro Mendocino, visit their website at www.CoroMendocino.com.

EDITED TO ADD: For the archived copy of this column, I went back to the working title “Coro Mendocino #205″ which I came up with because it felt like I had written about Coro at least 204 times previously, sometimes a mere mention, sometimes a section in a column, while other times I use a whole column to spread the word of Coro. I’ve written pieces for 101 Things to do in Mendocino County and I wrote full page pieces for the Ukiah Daily Journal before I decided to take on a weekly column. By a wide margin of words, I have written more about Coro Mendocino than any other writer, so now you know why this piece was titled as it was. Oh, here’s a few archived Coro mentions: here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

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