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John On Wine – Drought

Originally published in the Ukiah Daily Journal newspaper on March 27, 2014
By John Cesano

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Brave the storm to come, for it surely looks like rain.” ­ – 1972, Look Like Rain, Grateful Dead

Rain, water, drought, shortage, rationing, voluntary reductions, mandatory reductions; Thoughts of our current situation swirl like water about a drain. I’m a winery tasting room guy. I know finished wine, whether it is good, what notes it has and how to describe it. I know a little bit about growing and winemaking, but really just the basics.

When it comes to the crisis facing everyone in Mendocino County, not just the vineyards and wineries, I had to reach out and talk with some folks more knowledgeable than I am on the subject. I spoke with Zac Robinson, President of the Mendocino WineGrowers, Inc., the voluntary coalition of growers and producers working to promote Mendocino County grape grower and wine interests to the general public. Robinson grows grapes both inland, on the Russian River between Ukiah and Hopland, and in the Anderson Valley, and then turns them into wine for his winery, Husch Vineyard.

Robinson described the problems facing the entire community as stemming from a two year drought, stating “the Navarro River is at the lowest level ever for this date, and “things are pretty dire.” Robinson outlined measures that vineyards and wineries are taking in the face of water shortages including adding nearly 50 new wind machines, installing double drip irrigation lines, and installing soil moisture monitoring probes. This is on top of water use reductions of approximately 67 percent since the previous drought of record, 1976-77.

The fans minimize the use of sprinkler water for frost protection and later to mitigate the highest heat of summer, but at a cost as the fans are pretty noisy for residential neighbors to endure. Soil moisture monitoring probes allow more intelligent application of moisture as needed, and double drip lines involve a second irrigation drip line with emitters tasked only to the weakest vines in a vineyard. Double drip lines allow about a 30 percent reduction in water as regular summer drip irrigation can be delayed for weeks as only the vines most in need are taken care of earlier. Later pruning also reduces water demands, as it leads to later bud break and decreases the period when frost protection water use might occur.

In spite of all of the efforts by growers, Robinson shared that “holding ponds aren’t full, the watershed is bone dry, and there will be August decisions (as) we’re not going to have enough water to get the crop through the year (and) we’ll have to choose which vineyards get less water.”

All this, while most of Mendocino County’s vineyards face 50 percent mandatory reductions in water use from various governing boards and agencies.

Not to demonize the “demon weed,” but marijuana accounts for nearly the same water use amount of all of the family farmed multi-generational vineyards in the county, with marijuana acreage just a small fraction of the legal and regulated agricultural vineyards. A walk in a vineyard is a joy; a walk in much of the county a danger due to illegal growth, armed guards, booby-trapped paths, and poisoned lands.

I’m not anti-marijuana, but I support legalizing and taxing it, as well as subjecting growers to the same water restrictions grape growers face. I do oppose illegal grows on public land, diverting water, and ruining existing ecosystems. While vineyards may be the most visible sector of the agricultural community, non-vineyard agriculture (irrigated pastures and orchards) are the largest user of water in the county, using water at much greater rates per acre.

This piece isn’t meant to be an “us vs. them” piece, but a look at where we all are at, together, now and where we all should be looking to go to decrease the severity of drought consequences as a community in the future. Janet Pauli, Chair of the Mendocino County Inland Water & Power Commission, was able to provide a pretty good map for the future.

Pauli first made clear the severity of our current drought, based on insufficient rain October to present, “this is the new drought of record’ and may be a level of severity that hasn’t occurred in over 400 years based on tree ring data.” This surpasses the often recounted 1976-77 drought of record. Pauli said the path forward required progress on two tracks. The first is reoperation and the second is increased storage at Lake Mendocino.

Reoperation involves support of Congressman Jared Huffman’s Fixing Operations of Reservoirs to Encompass Climatic and Atmospheric Science Trends Act (FORECAST) so we can conserve water in our biggest pond, Lake Mendocino. Currently, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers follow required water control instructions from a manual dating back to the 50s, which saw them release water in the spring of 2013 without any evidence of a storm coming in after. Assuming weather prediction is better now than in the 50s, sensible on-the-ground decisions could be made saving unnecessary future water releases from occurring.

Lake Mendocino exists as part of a larger U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood control project, authorized by Congress in the 50s, and intended to proceed in three stages. Stage one was the building of the Coyote Valley Dam, completed in 1959, creating the current Lake Mendocino. Stage two involved the building of the Warm Springs Dam, completed in 1982, creating Lake Sonoma. Stage three involves coming back to raise the Coyote Valley Dam 36 vertical feet, doubling the water storage capacity of Lake Mendocino. Stage three has not happened. Pauli said that feasibility studies are costly, but needed to move forward and while $1.2 million has been brought to bear, $4 million more is needed to see the study through to completion. Funding comes from the Federal government, matched by a local coalition including Potter Valley, Redwood Valley, Mendocino County, City of Ukiah, and Russian River Flood Control groups. Next congressional action is required, and Pauli said that in the past U.S. Senator (CA) Diane Feinstein “has helped us with funding for the Feasibility Study. We believe that the project is feasible and should be championed by our elected representatives as nearly “shovel ready”. We are hoping that raising Coyote Dam might become the “water supply poster child” for increasing storage in the State of California.”

If feasible, the current estimate of enlarging Lake Mendocino is $300 million, with perhaps 25 percent local funding needed, and would require a year for authorization plus whatever time the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would need to enlarge the existing dam. Similarly, Congressman Huffman’s FORECAST Act requires successful passage into law, a couple of years of studies, and another couple of years before implementation. The greatest problem about droughts is that with their end, so too ends the quest for solutions to drought conditions.

Everyone in Mendocino, Sonoma Counties face drought conditions now and should come together to act now and continue to act together in the future as a community to address ways to minimize the impacts of future droughts. According to Mendocino WineGrowers, Inc., farmers in the wine industry and wineries relying on grapes anticipate losses of up to $100 million this year due to the drought and a combination of mandatory and self-imposed responsible water reduction measures. Grapes just won’t be as plump, there will be fewer and this will lead to less wine made. Do whatever you can to conserve water now. I remember the conservation measures that existed in 1976-77 that are not in effect in homes now.

Support your local, legal, agriculture; help them through this drought by taking on extra water conservation measures at your home and business, and contact Congressman Jared Huffman and voice your support for his FORECAST Act, and contact Senator Diane Feinstein and let her know you would really love to see the Coyote Valley Dam raised 36 vertical feet as soon as practical. Consider your local city councilmember’s and county supervisor’s support for these needed protections of our beautiful county as well. As Mendocino County residents, we’re really in this together.

 

The San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition is the big daddy of wine competitions, the largest judging of American wines in the world. This year’s competition started on Tuesday and finished today. There were 5,825 wine entries for the judges to taste. The very best wines earned a Gold Medal, a Double (unanimous) Gold Medal, or Best of Class award. There were also Sweepstakes awards for Best red, white, bubbly, dessert, etc.

These best of the best wines will be poured at Ft. Mason in San Francisco at a Public Tasting on Saturday, February 15, 2014 from 1:30-5:00pm. Tickets regularly sell out, click HERE to buy your tickets.

I’ve pulled together a list of all of the wines made from Mendocino County grapes that won a Gold Medal or higher at the 2014 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition – I wonder which of the two Double Gold Medal Dry Sparkling wines from Mendocino County I’ll toast the winners with…maybe both!

Best of Class Chardonnay $15.00-$19.99
2012 Husch Vineyards Chardonnay, Estate Bottled, Mendocino $15.00

Best of Class Grenache
2012 Campovida Grenache, Dark Horse, Mendocino County $36.00

Double Gold Medal Dry Sparkling
NV McFadden Vineyard Cuvée Brut, McFadden Farm, Potter Valley $25.00

Double Gold Medal Dry Sparkling
2009 McFadden Vineyard Special Reserve Brut, McFadden Farm, Potter Valley       $40.00

Double Gold Medal All Other White Varietals
2012 Campovida Roussanne, Bonofiglio, Mendocino County $32.00

Double Gold Medal Pinot Noir Up to $19.99
2012 Navarro Vineyards Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley $19.50

Double Gold Medal Pinot Noir $30.00-$34.99
2010 Handley Cellars Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley $32.00

Double Gold Medal Pinot Noir $50.00 and over
2011 Cakebread Cellars Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley $50.00

Double Gold Medal Pinot Noir $50.00 and over
2010 Handley Cellars Pinot Noir, RSM Vineyard, Anderson Valley $56.00

Double Gold Medal Zinfandel Up to $19.99
2012 Navarro Vineyards Zinfandel, Mendocino $19.50

Double Gold Medal Zinfandel $25.00-$29.99
2012 Husch Vineyards Zinfandel, Old Vines, Mendocino $25.00

Double Gold Medal Merlot $10.00-$14.99
2011 Bliss Family Vineyards Merlot, Estate, Mendocino $13.95

Double Gold Medal Cabernet Sauvignon $30.00-$34.99
2011 Moniker Wine Estates  Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendocino County $30.00

Double Gold Medal All Red Blends $25.00-$34.99
2012 Husch Vineyards Heritage, Old Vines, Mendocino $28.00

Gold Medal Sauvignon Blanc $14.00-$19.99
2012 Husch Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Mendocino $14.00

Gold Medal Sauvignon Blanc $14.00-$19.99
2012 Husch Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Renegade, Mendocino $18.00

Gold Medal Chardonnay $10.00-$14.99
2012 Kimmel Vineyards Chardonnay, Kimmel Vineyards, Potter Valley $14.99

Gold Medal Chardonnay $10.00-$14.99
2012 Parducci Wine Cellars Chardonnay, Small Lot Blend, Mendocino County $13.00

Gold Medal Chardonnay $15.00-$19.99
2012 Naughty Boy Vineyards Chardonnay, Thornton Ranch, Potter Valley $15.50

Gold Medal Chardonnay $25.00-$29.99
2011 Husch Vineyards Chardonnay , Special Reserve, Mendocino $26.00

Gold Medal Chardonnay $25.00-$29.99
2012 Navarro Vineyards Chardonnay, Premier Reserve, Anderson Valley $25.00

Gold Medal Chardonnay $25.00-$29.99
2012 Seebass Family Wines Chardonnay, Seebass Vineyards, Mendocino     $29.99

Gold Medal Chardonnay $25.00-$29.99
2012 Wattle Creek Winery Chardonnay, Yorkville Highlands $25.00

Gold Medal Chardonnay $40.00 and over
2011 La Follette Wines Chardonnay, Mendocino Ridge $48.00

Gold Medal Chardonnay $40.00 and over
2012 Tom Eddy Wines Chardonnay, Manchester, Mendocino $55.00

Gold Medal Gewurztraminer
2012 Highway 253 Gewurztraminer, Mendocino County $16.99

Gold Medal Riesling RS<1.49
2012 Handley Cellars Riesling, Anderson Valley $22.00

Gold Medal Riesling RS<1.49
2012 Navarro Vineyards Riesling, Anderson Valley $19.50

Gold Medal Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio $15.00 and over
2012 Handley Cellars Pinot Gris, Anderson Valley $20.00

Gold Medal Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio $15.00 and over
2012 Navarro Vineyards Pinot Gris, Anderson Valley $19.50

Gold Medal Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio $15.00 and over
2012 Philo Ridge Vineyards Pinot Gris, Marguerite Vineyard, Anderson Valley $21.00

Gold Medal Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio $15.00 and over
2012 Philo Ridge Vineyards Pinot Gris, Klindt Vineyard, Anderson Valley $20.00

Gold Medal All Other White Varietals
2012 Campovida Arneis, Spirit Canyon, Mendocino County $36.00

Gold Medal Dry Rose RS<1
2012 Campovida Rose di Grenache, Riserva, Mendocino County $34.00

Gold Medal Grenache
2012 Navarro Vineyards Grenache, Mendocino $29.00

Gold Medal Pinot Noir Up to $19.99
2011 Bliss Family Vineyards Pinot Noir, Estate, Mendocino $14.99

Gold Medal Pinot Noir $50.00 and over
2011 Tom Eddy Wines Pinot Noir, Manchester, Mendocino $60.00

Gold Medal Zinfandel $20.00-$24.99
2010 Brutocao Cellars Zinfandel, Hopland Estate, Mendocino $22.00

Gold Medal Merlot $15.00-$19.99
2011 Bonterra Vineyards Merlot, Mendocino County $15.99

Gold Medal Merlot $25.00-$29.99
2010 Byrd Vineyard Merlot, Byrd Vineyard, Mendocino County $29.00

Gold Medal Cabernet Sauvignon $30.00-$34.99
2010 Parducci Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, True Grit Reserve, Mendocino County $30.00

Gold Medal Bordeaux Blends $30.00-$39.99
2009 Alder Springs Vineyard Estate 13 Tasks, Alder Springs Vineyard, Mendocino $39.00

Gold Medal All Other Red Varietals
2012 Campovida Negroamaro, Chiarito, Mendocino County $36.00

Gold Medal All Red Blends Up to $14.99
2012 Kimmel Vineyards Redessence, Kimmel Vineyards, Potter Valley $14.99

Gold Medal All Red Blends $15.00-$24.99
NV Cesar Toxqui Cellars Heirloom IV, Mendocino $24.99

Gold Medal White Dessert RS>4
2011 McFadden Vineyard Late Harvest Riesling, McFadden Farm, Potter Valley $18.00

Gold Medal White Dessert RS>4
2012 Stephen & Walker Chardonnay Botrytis, Mendocino Ridge $65.00

Mendocino County is a farm county. We grow grapes that are often sold and blended into Sonoma and Napa county wines to make them better. It is really nice to see so many wines held separate, made from Mendocino County grapes, and recognized for their excellence. Congratulations to the grape growers, winemakers, winery owners who made these wines possible; and thanks to the terrific crew of judges at this year’s San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. We consumers, tasters, and folks working in the tasting rooms are grateful to you all.

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John on Wine – Flotsam and Jetsam

By John Cesano

Originally published in the Ukiah Daily Journal on July 25, 2013

Flotsam and Jetsam refers to a ship’s wreckage and parts thrown overboard, and as today’s column deals with some instances where I have run aground or left pieces out of past columns, the title seems apt.

First, a couple of weeks ago, I wrote that Guinness McFadden planted the first grapes in Potter Valley at his McFadden Farm, about 43 years ago.

Iceberg ahead, and…crash! The day the piece ran, Guinness called me to tell me I was incorrect and that a couple of folks had planted grapevines in Potter Valley before he showed up on the scene.

I had read about McFadden Farm when I came on board as Guinness’ tasting room manager in Hopland and a wine writer with decades of experience wrote about Guinness planting the first grapes in Potter Valley, even adding that others thought he would fail because Potter Valley was too cold for grape vines.

At a wine event later that evening, Barra winemaker Owen Smith, after I shared my chagrin at having perpetuated an inaccuracy, told me that “when faced with fact and legend, print the legend,” paraphrasing the movie quote from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

Turns out I did, but I really try to get it right each week.

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Last week, I wrote about Seebass Family Wines, “Seebass is open by appointment, please call (707) 467-9463 to arrange a visit,” but since my visit they have changed things a bit and, at least through July, the Seebass tasting room and organic produce stand is now open daily from 11 a.m. 5 p.m., no appointment needed.

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I wrote about the first Chef’s Wine Dinner Club event at Crush Italian Steakhouse in Ukiah held back in May. More recently, the second Chef’s Brewmaster Dinner Club event, pairing food with brew was held last week and next on the list is a Chef’s Wine Dinner Club featuring Italian varietals produced by some local wineries. So many possibilities come to mind: Barra, Testa, Chiarito, Graziano, and more; I’ve got to get my ticket. To get on the Chef’s Wine Dinner Club list with Crush, call (707) 463-0700.

EDITED TO ADD: A change since I first wrote the preceding bit, the next Chef’s Winemaster Dinner Club event will be August 21 and feature the Wines of Barra of Mendocino. I’ll be buying my ticket as soon as they become available. – JC 7/25

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I’m going to my second Testa Wine Club Dinner this year, missing last year’s only because of a calendar conflict. Like more than half of the attendees, I am going because I adore Maria; that Maria’s wines are so good makes the night all the better. Officially called the 3rd annual Barn Blending BBQ, it will take place on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013 from 5 to 10 p.m.

From TestaWines.com: “This is a fun event! Your table works together, blending our three varietal components of our Black “Cinque” ­ To find your tables favorite blend percentages. Then, for the first time, we will then offer for your table to enter your blend in a blind tasting by our wine judges to have a winner!”

Last year, while blending the Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Carignane that goes into the Black blend, a few folks took some of the Zinfandel provided to drink while blending ­- blending is hard work ­- and used it as a fourth component in their blends. Maria was so impressed with the result of some of the blends using Zinfandel that she may add it as a blending component at this year’s event.

Two years ago, when I last blended, at Maria’s first barn party, I was at a table with Kelly Lentz and we found it impossible to make a bad blend with Maria’s wines.

Maria is also talking about letting folks choose whether they want to blend a Black (red) or White wine. Grapes available for white wine blending would include Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Gris, Muscat Canelli, and Viognier.

Maria got two great judges, John Buechsenstein and Rosemary Eddy, and one okay judge, me. We’ll taste the blends each table decides upon and choose our favorites. Maria will use the winning blends for guidance as to what people like when making her next Black and White wines.

Appetizers will be served -­ my fingers are crossed for some of Rusty’s barbecued oysters, then a barbecue dinner with Italian pasta, followed by dessert and dancing. Ukiah’s own Nashville recording artist McKenna Faith will be performing.

Tickets are $55 for Testa wine club members, $70 for the public, and you can call (707) 391-7273 to get yours.

Gold medals are rare, and are rarely repeated in back to back wine competitions. Double Golds, unanimous agreement for Gold by a competition’s judges is rarer still. Maria’s 2010 Testa Carignane has taken Consecutive Double Gold Medals! You might like this wine. Visit Testa at 6400 North State Street in Calpella.

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Martha Barra dropped off a couple of bottles for me to taste, including the 2010 Girasole Vineyards Hybrid Red Wine, Mendocino, a Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot blend that just took a Gold Medal after the previous vintage took back to back Gold Medals. Two vintages of the same wine, rolling up three consecutive Gold Medals suggests this just might please your palate as well. Visit Barra/Girasole at 7051 North State Street in Redwood Valley.

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John Cesano writes about wine and reposts his weekly wine column at JohnOnWine.com

John on Wine

Spotlight Winery: McFadden Vineyard

John Cesano of John On Wine

John Cesano of John On Wine

By John Cesano

Originally Published in the Ukiah Daily Journal on June 27, 2013

Guinness McFadden planted the first wine grapes in Potter Valley more than 40 years ago, in 1970, and has grown organically from day one. In a perfect example of doing well by doing right, Guinness has grown bio-diversely, raising grass fed beef and culinary herbs, braiding premium garlic bulbs, boxing 100 percent pure wild rice, fashioning herbs into holiday wreaths (sold by Williams-Sonoma for the last 38 years), and, of course, growing some of the county’s most sought after grapes.

The grapes from McFadden Farm have been sold to Robert Mondavi, Sterling, Chateau Montelena, Navarro, Piper Sonoma, Paul Dolan, and Dashe, among many others, and the wines made from McFadden Farm grapes have been tasted by the nation’s top reviewers: Robert Parker, James Laube, Virginie Boone, Charlie Olken, and Stephen Tanzer.

In 2003, Guinness saved some of his grapes and released his first wines under the McFadden Vineyard label in 2005.

In 2008, Guinness opened the McFadden Farm Stand & Tasting Room in Hopland and, in 2011, he asked me to manage it.

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Guinness McFadden in 1970 at McFadden Farm in Potter Valley

McFadden Farm is 500 acres, at the north end of Potter Valley, up against the mountains, and is where the famed Russian River springs to life before flowing from the river’s highest elevation. The mountains throw shade and collect wind and, with the elevation and the river itself, these cooling influences make McFadden Farm the coolest property in the valley with the largest nightly temperature drop.

The cool climate allows a little extra hang time for grapes, leading to fuller flavor development, where the same grapes grown elsewhere would have to be picked sooner or suffer the burnt fig and prune notes of raisining. The nightly temperatures that plummet through the summer bring high acid, which provides structure for the wines and balance for their prevalent fruit notes.

Experimenting with growing, Guinness found the best ways to grow his grapes. Some varietals are head pruned while others are trellised, some grow on the bank of the river in loamy soil while others grow on rocky hillside slopes, and some are dry farmed while others are irrigated. These different methods lead to grapes that allow the winemakers, Bob Swain at the Mendocino Wine Company and Raphael Brisbois at Rack & Riddle, to make top quality wines.

The 2013 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition awarded the 2011 McFadden Chardonnay, $16, a Double Gold Medal, making it both the highest awarded Chardonnay in Mendocino County at the largest judging of American wines in the nation, and the highest awarded unoaked Chardonnay in the country.

A first ever Dessert White entry – McFadden Farm is famous for dry Alsatian styled Gewurztraminer and Riesling – ­ the sublimely sweet 2011 McFadden Late Harvest Riesling was judged Best of Class (the best Late Harvest Riesling in the nation) at the same competition.

Virginie Boone, wine writer and reviewer of Mendocino County wines for Wine Enthusiast Magazine wrote, “A Mendocino County pioneer, McFadden Farm continues to impress with its cool-climate whites, sparkling and dessert wines, and is well-deserved in receiving both a Best of Class and Double Gold in the Chronicle’s recent wine competition. Their wines just keep getting better and these recent awards nicely reflect that.”

Just Wine Points, an extension of Wine X Magazine, rated 13 McFadden Vineyard wines 94 Points or above in the last year. The Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Coro Mendocino, and Sparkling Cuvee Brut wines of McFadden Vineyard are uniformly excellent.

There are two ways to taste the wines of McFadden Vineyard.

The easiest way is to visit the McFadden Farm Stand & Tasting Room at 13275 S Hwy 101 #5 in Hopland, in the same building that houses the tasting rooms of Graziano, Naughty Boy, and Ray’s Station. If you visit during the week, I’ll pour for you and tell you about each wine. If you visit on the weekend, another happy McFadden pourer will welcome you gladly. While visiting, you will also find a freezer filled with grass fed beef, jars of air dried herbs and herb blends, honey, boxes of wild rice, braids of garlic, and holiday wreaths, ­ some items seasonally, ­ grown organically at McFadden Farm and available along with bottles or cases of top quality wines for purchase.

The most fun way to taste McFadden wines is to attend the Wine Club Dinner at the Farm on Saturday, July 13 from 5-11p.m. Open to the public, but limited to the first 225 tickets sold, this is our biggest and most fun event each year. The fun begins with a wine and appetizer reception at 5 p.m., while some take a walking tour of the farm with Guinness. Dinner is prepared by Chef Fontaine McFadden and features locally raised grilled pork and lamb, vegetable dishes, salads and desserts. McFadden wines and sparkling Brut will flow, including saved library wines and new releases. Dancing goes late into the night. Of the 225 who will attend, we expect 100, or more, will come early, set up a tent, and then stay overnight for camping.

The entire night’s fun takes place on the bank of the Russian River at McFadden Farm, 16000 Powerhouse Road, Potter Valley.

Tickets are $60 each. McFadden Wine Club members can purchase two tickets at $50 each. Children 12 and under are just $20 each. Tickets sell out, but can be purchased in advance by calling the McFadden Farm Stand & Tasting Room at (707) 744-8463.

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John Cesano manages the McFadden Farm Stand & Tasting Room in Hopland and had to cut about 2,500 words to make this – the easiest column to write so far – fit in the space allowed (and still went long).

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Ukiah Daily Journal weekly wine column for June 27, 2013

Ukiah Daily Journal weekly wine column for June 27, 2013

Okay, that was the piece than ran in the journal. Here’s a little more:

So, the morning this ran, I spoke with Guinness and he let me know that I had a couple of facts wrong in the piece. In my defense, these “facts” that were wrong have been widely reported by others before me, and I assumed them to be true.

I shared later that night, at a wine gathering, how humbling it is to report something incorrectly and how, when writing a column about another winery, there is almost an assumption by the folks I visit that errors will creep in to any story written about their winery; Jason McConnell at Rivino winery once told me that he was happy when something written about his winery was 90% accurate.

I do not shoot for 90% accuracy in my writing. I really want to hit 100% every time, so it was especially bothersome to see inaccuracies in a piece about the place I’ve worked the last few years. If I don’t know the story, who does?

Owen Smith, my friend and the interim winemaker for Barra and Girasole, made me smile when he referenced what might be the best line in the movie The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, “This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” I think Owen was telling me that the Universe would forgive my errors as, ironically, they helped tell the story more truly.

When dealing with a character as legendary as Guinness McFadden, when I read that Guinness planted the first grapes in Potter Valley, I believed it, and I have passed on that “fact”.

Turns out that Thornton planted grapes in Potter Valley before Guinness did, but why let that truth get in the way of the legend?

John on Wine

Winery spotlight: Naughty Boy Vineyards

By John Cesano

 

 

The Naughty Boy Vineyards tasting room, open from noon until 5:00 p.m. every day, except Monday and Tuesday, is located in the Vintage Marketplace building, along with McFadden, Graziano, and Ray’s Station, in downtown Hopland.

Owners Jim Scott and Emjay Wilson-Scott named their retail space WaaWaa ­ – wine, art, and antiques x 2, and once the name is explained, the presence of a cornucopia of collectable antiques and memorabilia becomes instantly understandable.

“I can’t stop myself from collecting,” explained Emjay, when I asked her why she chose to include antiques in her tasting room, “I like old things. You touch a bit of the past with them.”

Emjay’s father was a collector, and she said she comes by the collector gene naturally. As she talked of her father, and their mutual passion for antique hunting, the items on display became more than mere objects, but took on some of the magic of memory, as I imagined Emjay and her dad purchasing a found treasure, storing it, and now, finally, it was in my hands, an echo from the past.

With a display constantly changing, I looked at small groupings of collectable antiques, including books, cameras, taxidermy, bronzes, antlers, glassware, kitchen items, paper kites, cigarette lighters, and much, much more. Everywhere were things to marvel at, things previously unseen.

Of note is an amazing piece of display furniture, originally found at a San Francisco jeweler’s shop. The piece is amazing for its enormous size. I do not envy anyone who was ever involved in moving this giant, even more amazing is that this is just one of a twin pair of gargantuan display furniture pieces. Filling one wall, it is perfect for the WaaWaa space.

Many items are priced much lower than they would sell for online, but Emjay explained that if something sold for more than her dad originally paid for it, then everyone is a winner.

An artists’s soul is evidenced by Emjay’s unexpected mixing of seemingly disparate elements into a more pleasing, previously unimaginable, whole.

The wines of Naughty Boy Vineyards, poured amidst the profusion of sensory stimulating collectables, are named for “little Ricky.” Jim and Emjay have always had boxers, one of whom was named little Ricky. Little Ricky loved Potter Valley, and would become joyfully excited each time he recognized that he was nearing the vineyard Jim and Emjay own. Little Ricky used to run, and play, as he walked the vineyard as Jim worked it. After passing, after a heartbreaking battle with cancer, little Ricky was laid to rest on the vineyard property, which was named for him. The Naughty Boy was little Ricky, not Jim as many might guess, and his spirit lives on as the tale of little Ricky is shared.

The wines are labeled Naughty Boy Vineyards, complete with a picture of little Ricky, or more simply NBV, with a crown over the letters. Emjay described the NBV label as the “Marin retail” label , for restaurants that don’t embrace the Naughty Boy dog.

Naughty Boy Vineyards was planted to Pinot Noir in 1996. Jim farms the five acres organically.

2010 Naughty Boy Chardonnay, Thornton Ranch, $16. Thornton Ranch in Potter Valley is known for great Chardonnay grapes, with many finding their way into bottles of Kendall-Jackson Grand reserve Chardonnay. The Naughty Boy Chardonnay spends 18 months to 2 years in mostly French and some Hungarian oak barrels. The wine has a really light vanilla and pear nose, leading to light vanilla cream, apple and pear in the moth. Round and delicious.

2011 Naughty Boy Dry Rose of Pinot Noir, Potter Valley, $16. Made with organically estate grown grapes. Smooth, round, and accessible. Delicious fruit, but not fruity. This is a terrific wine, and drinks like crushed strawberry cream over ice.

2007 NBV Pinot Noir, Mendocino $17. Made with organically estate grown grapes. This is a lovely wine, my favorite in the line up. Plummy cherry and cola. I wrote the word “Love” in my notes, and then underlined it, so I might have liked it a bit. I also wrote drinkable and accessible again.

I have found much of Potter Valley’s Pinot Noir to be really accessible. Where there is often a funky edge, love it or not, to many Pinot Noir wines, nearly every Potter Valley Pinot I have tasted is soft, approachable, and accessible because they are free of the funk.

2009 Naughty Boy Pinot Noir, Potter Valley $26. Made with organically estate grown grapes. Herb, loamy forest, mushroom, dry warm cherry, and spice make up this easily drinkable wine.

2008 NBV Dolcetto. Mendocino, Fewer than 100 acres of Dolcetto are planted in California, and Jim and Emjay source their grapes from Pete Chevalier in Talmage. $12. Dry, earthy wine, showing tannin, berry fruit, with very little smoke.

Naughty Boy Vineyards at WaaWaa is not your regular tasting room. A look around the room is sure to spark memories from your youth, as you see collectable antiques that take you right back in time. The ever changing art installations and lovely wines will bring you right back to the yummy present.

John Cesano doesn’t look forward to the drive into Potter Valley ever, but is always happy he made the drive each time he visits. Definitely worth a Sunday drive.
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Note: The day after this piece ran in the Ukiah Daily Journal, I was visited by a Potter Valley couple who took issue with my suggestion that Potter Valley is a distant travel, and were concerned that I might single-handedly ruin the area’s precarious economy by scaring away the enormous tourist trade Potter Valley is known to exist upon.

The alarm siren and flashing lights you are experiencing may be your sarcasm detector going off right about now. Seriously folks, stop reacting to fragments of sentences and embrace the columns as they were intended. I’ve stopped writing about forced alcohol consumption by pregnant women and ritual animal sacrifice among the townspeople of Calpella, I promise. Just chill, okay?

Usually, when I go to Potter Valley, I am driving from the McFadden tasting room in Hopland to McFadden Farm at the very north end of Potter Valley, where Powerhouse Road ends, a 46 minute drive. That said, there are many places in Potter Valley only 15-20 minutes from Ukiah. Everyone cool now?

Oh, and the Potter Valley couple were kind enough to read my article and visit the Naughty Boy tasting room as a result of my recommendation, so they did show that Potter Valley to Hopland isn’t that long a drive really…and they tasted through our wines with me so now we are all married by wine sharing. That’s how it is done in Potter Valley – or was that Willits?

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I really do love Mendocino County, and the area of inland Mendocino I travel around constantly, very much. Last weekend, I visited 8 wineries and 1 distiller during A Taste of Redwood Valley. I loved my visit with Crispin Cain of Greenway Distillers during my visit to Germain-Robin. I know so little about distilling, but more for having talked with Crispin, with more to come when we can get together again for a tour. With love and respect to everyone on the ATORV circuit, best stop of the day for me, because I got to learn stuff, a whole encyclopedia of stuff, I didn’t know before.

And the juice was awesome. I took some home (after paying for it ’cause the bottle was too big to hide under my shirt).

 

Inland Mendocino County Wineries, from Hopland to Ukiah and Calpella to Potter Valley, won 20 GOLD Medals, 7 DOUBLE GOLD MEDALS, 4 of the 5 BEST OF CLASS awards, and 1 SWEEPSTAKES Award on August 3, 2012 at Friday night’s 36th Annual Mendocino County Wine Competition Awards Dinner.
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BELLS ECHO VINEYARD
3580 Feliz Creek Road, HOPLAND, CA
GOLD – 2009 Syrah, Mendocino County $24
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BLISS FAMILY VINEYARDS
13500 S Hwy 101, HOPLAND, CA
GOLD – NV Schoolhouse Red Blend, Mendocino County $12
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BONTERRA VINEYARDS
2231 McNab Ridge Road, HOPLAND, CA
DOUBLE GOLD and SWEEPSTAKES RED – 2009 The McNab Red Blend, Mendocino County $36
DOUBLE GOLD and BEST OF CLASS CHARDONNAY – 2010 Chardonnay, Mendocino County $14
GOLD – 2010 Viognier, Mendocino County $14
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CHIARITO VINEYARD
2651 Mill Creek Rd, UKIAH, CA
DOUBLE GOLD – 2009 Nero D’Avola, Mendocino County $32
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GIRASOLE VINEYARDS
7051 N. State Street,  REDWOOD VALLEY, CA
GOLD – 2011 Pinot Blanc, Mendocino County $13
GOLD – 2010 Pinot Noir, Mendocino County $16
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GRAZIANO FAMILY OF WINES
13275 Hwy 101 Suite 3, HOPLAND, CA
DOUBLE GOLD – 2010 Graziano Chenin Blanc, Mendocino County $15
GOLD – 2009 Monte Volpe Sangiovese, Mendocino County $18
GOLD – 2009 Saint Gregory Pinotage, Mendocino County $18
GOLD – 2011 Saint Gregory Pinot Blanc, Mendocino County $15
GOLD – 2009 Saint Gregory Pinot Noir, Mendocino County $19
GOLD – 2010 Saint Gregory Pinot Meunier, Mendocino County $20
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JAXON KEYS WINERY
10400 Hwy 101, HOPLAND, CA
GOLD and BEST OF CLASS ZINFANDEL 2010 Mae’s Block Zinfandel, Mendocino County, Ravazzi Vineyard $24
GOLD- 2009 Petite Sirah Mendocino County, Allie Keys Vineyard $24
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McFADDEN VINEYARD
13275 Hwy 101 Suite 5, HOPLAND, CA
DOUBLE GOLD- NV Sparkling Brut, Potter Valley, McFadden Farm $25
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PARDUCCI WINE CELLARS

501 Parducci Road, UKIAH, CA
and the Solar Living Center, 13771 S Hwy 101, HOPLAND, CA
DOUBLE GOLD – 2009 Petite Sirah, Mendico County $11
GOLD and BEST OF CLASS CABERNET SAUVIGNON – 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendocino County $11
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PATIANNA ORGANIC VINEYARDS
Old River Road, HOPLAND, CA
GOLD- 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, Mendocino County $17
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PAUL DOLAN VINEYARDS
501 Parducci Road, UKIAH, CA
and the Solar Living Center, 13771 S Hwy 101, HOPLAND, CA
GOLD and BEST OF CLASS SAUVIGNON BLANC – 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, Potter Valley $18
GOLD – 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendocino County, $25
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SARACINA
11684 S Hwy 101, HOPLAND, CA
GOLD – 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, Mendocino County $22
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TESTA VINEYARDS
6400 North State Steet, CALPELLA, CA
DOUBLE GOLD – 2010 Carignane, Mendocino County $25
GOLD – 2011 Rose of Carignane, Mendocino County $18
GOLD – 2010 Charbono, Mendocino County $40
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WEIBEL FAMILY VINEYARDS
13275 S Hwy 101 Suite 1, HOPLAND, CA
GOLD – 2010 Orange Muscat, Mendocino County $15
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Mendocino County’s HIGHWAY 101 Wineries – EASY TO VISIT, EASY TO LOVE.

I have worked in the wine industry for many years, always in sales and/or marketing in support of sales.

As a wine salesman, I can tell you about the weather in 2011, 2004, 1997, 1992, and the years in between.

Heavy rains at budbreak that knock flowering buds off the vines, reducing yields as grapes come from those buds. The warm weather that followed that gave incredible richness of flavor to the remaining grapes, or the cold weather with harvest ruining rains that kept sugars low and decreased flavor development. Years of fire with smoke and ash. Years of flood.

I remembered the events of a vintage and a few years later when wines from that vintage were released I would share information about the vintage’s weather when describing and selling those vintage’s wines.

In spite of an awareness, remembering, my connection as a salesperson, a marketer, was always abstract.

Since March of last year, my job is managing a tasting room selling wines, but where I work is more about the vineyard than the wine, and really more about the farm than the vineyard.

McFadden Farm is a 500 acre organic farm with organic herbs, organic grass fed beef, and 160 acres of organic vineyards – McFadden Vineyard.

McFadden Vineyard produces 750 tons of grapes. After we make our Chardonnay, we sell the rest. Mondavi is a buyer of our organic Chardonnay grapes. After we make our Sauvignon Blanc, we sell our Sauvignon Blanc grapes to sterling. Chateau Montelena buys our Riesling grapes after we make our Riesling.

We make more money as growers of grapes than we likely ever will from our wines. We make very little wine, but sell a lot of grapes.

What wine we do make is sold to stores and restaurants in Mendocino county by one single distributer. The rest is sold through our tasting room, or shipped to faraway wine club customers from our farm – along with herbs, wreaths, garlic, and wild rice which we ship all over the country.

I used to sell a quarter to a half million dollars in wine every year. I knew about weather, but was very removed from it.

I now am a small seller for a tiny winery, but an employee of a pretty big farmer and my awareness of the weather is no longer abstract.

I can see how a vintage is going by the look on the face of my boss, Guinness McFadden. Last year, there were a host of “issues”, from a loss of 100 tons of grapes to rain at budbreak to unrelentingly too cool summer and from sugar plummeting rains early in October to mold and rot inducing continuing rain through that month. There was very little smiling, but quite a bit of grim resignedness, to be read on Guinness’s face last year.

The miracle of having the best year financially ever because as bad as things were, they were so much worse for everybody else that our grapes and juice commanded a premium was thoroughly unexpected.

Which saw a smile mixed with relief to be seen on Guinness’s face.

It is remarkable to realize how little real connection I had to a vintage’s weather expression in the past, and how much greater. how much more personal, it is now.

The subject of weather came to mind because the first rain of the season, and possibly snow up at McFadden Farm in Potter Valley, is due anytime now…Looks like rain.

I don’t like rain; travelers are more likely to pull over, park, and come in to my tasting room when it is sunny  than when it is pouring rain.

I hate snow. I “played” Army, and “camped” outside in Korea for one Winter exercise when temperatures reached 40 below zero. I have done forced 25 mile road marches in full gear in ice and snow. I will likely hate both snow and camping forevermore.

Guinness likes rain and, living at McFadden Farm, he has to be at least tolerant of snow as it is a yearly occurrence. Guinness told me this week that our vineyard needs 20 inches of rain to be the best, happiest vineyard it can be. While the rains are late this year, he remains hopeful, and is looking forward to the impending inclement weather.

It is unique in my experience as a salesperson to hope for rain, especially as it will depress my tasting room’s revenue, but my evolving awareness and changed perspective – working for what is primarily a farm and not a winery – has me counterintuitively wishing for a solid 20″ season of rain.
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Do me a favor, contact your congressperson and tell them to leave the internet alone, that you oppose censorship and restrictions on your freedom. Thanks.

Tomorrow, I start a new job. I have been hired by Guinness McFadden to be the Tasting Room Manager and Wine Club Coordinator for McFadden Vineyards in Mendocino County’s town of Hopland, right on Highway 101.

Guinness McFadden has been organically farming in Potter Valley since 1970. The land, the climate, and the choices McFadden makes allow deliciously distinct wines to be made from the high quality, sweet, flavorful grapes he grows. Many other wineries choose McFadden’s grapes to help make their wines.

I have tasted McFadden’s wines and liked them, without exception, each time I have tasted them. I am happy to come to work for a winery I like.

I had been invited come to work in a similar position for a winery that produced wines I didn’t really like, and I politely declined the offer because I can’t market or sell something I don’t believe in.

Almost twenty years ago, I was asked to work for a winery. My opinion, formed several years earlier, was that they were a gimmick winery, featuring custom labels, but producing barely drinkable plonk wine. I shared my perception with the friend that had invited me to consider working at that winery, and she arranged a tasting of over 20 wines, all current releases at the time. Each wine was more than just drinkable, they were all good, some very good, a couple were unreservedly great. I ended up working for Windsor Vineyards for the next eight years, focusing on sales to larger corporate clients, creating and managing a highly successful trade show program, meeting more of my clients at the tasting room for private tastings – and having the highest average sale for those tastings – each year I was with the winery.

My job was easy, I grew with it, I enjoyed it, but it all started with the wine. If the wine wasn’t good, I could not have taken the job.

I have a strong sense of ethics. I love to use my sales and marketing skills, putting wine into the cupboards and cellars of the people I come into contact with, but it has to be good wine. I sell what I know, what I believe in. I work words around in my head until I can tell the most persuasive story. Sales come as a natural consequence of people sensing earnest honest happiness in the person sharing information.

Last week, after hiring me, Guinness McFadden asked me what my intentions were with respect to my wine blog.

Ethics. Conflict of interest. Believability. Would I continue to write on my own time about wines that aren’t from McFadden Vineyards when I am taking a paycheck for selling McFadden Vineyards wines? If I tasted a Napa bubbly, would a less than glowing review be seen as one more effort to steer people away from Napa or Sonoma County and toward Mendocino County wine, part of a long term strategic campaign perhaps? Would my shared thoughts be viewed with skepticism by readers, if they were aware of my professional relationship, my employment by McFadden Vineyards?

I have a great friend, Nancy Iannios, who as the Tasting Room Manager and Wine Club Coordinator for Schmidt Family Vineyard in Oregon’s Applegate Valley near Grants Pass chose to never be seen in public drinking any wine but those of her employer. Nancy chose to eat at restaurants that had her employer’s wines on their wine list, or drank iced tea or micro beer when visiting eateries that did not carry SFV wines. Her community was small, tight knit, and she had developed a strong thriving wine club and wanted to do nothing to jeopardize her hard earned successes.

Tamara Belgard, another wine blogger, ceased her wine blogging when hired as Marketing Director for Cana’s Feast Winery, perceiving both the conflict of interest and demands on her time too great.

My situation is different. I have given disproportionate attention to the wines and wineries of Mendocino County, and made clear my desire to focus even more on local wines, in my writing over the last two years.

Mendocino County is the number three wine grape growing county in California, behind Napa and Sonoma counties, same goes for wine tourism.

As a Hopland tasting room manager, my first thought should be how to get wine lovers to come to Mendocino County on their next visit, either in addition to or instead of the expected trip to Napa or Sonoma County.

Once people decide to come to Mendocino County, the choice comes down to Anderson Valley or Hopland corridor.

I do not believe that a McFadden Vineyards wine sale is threatened by saying that I love a Saracina Syrah. I think it more likely that someone passing the Hopland tasting room of McFadden Vineyards to Saracina and then again returning home might just stop at our tasting room, conveniently situated on Highway 101, not far from the Bluebird Café.

I think I can sell more wine increasing traffic for all, than fighting for each sale with my neighbors. Nancy at SFV had a much more limited population to draw from in Grants Pass. In addition to welcoming local Mendocino County residents to our tasting room, I see everything to the south, from San Jose to Sonoma County as my target audience.

After establishing myself at McFadden Vineyards, I want to become involved, using my marketing background, helping with the Destination Hopland and Hopland Passport promotional initiatives, and perhaps become involved with the Mendocino Winegrape and Wine Commission as well.

Wine is, at it’s best, cooperative, that is something I have always liked about our industry. When I sold Windsor Vineyards, I was selling Sonoma County and every grape grower that helped make our wines. In selling McFadden Vineyards wines, I will be selling Mendocino County, Hopland, organic farming, a culture of green growing.

I will undoubtedly write more about local events, or about future meals that incorporate McFadden Farms organic wild rice or organic herbs with a McFadden Vineyards wine, but that will not be so much marketing as it is sharing my personal experiences. I have always written about what I’ve drank and tasted, I will continue to do so, but it is foreseeable that I will be drinking more of what I sell and writing about it.

Last year, I was invited to guest chef at a special evening event at Parducci Wine Cellars in my Mendocino County hometown of Ukiah. Tasting room and wine club staff from both Jeriko Estate and Milano Family Winery in Hopland came to the event to support me. Similarly, I would like to support other local wineries whenever I can. I believe that what goes around comes around, and that a rising tide lifts all boats.

Will my wine blog become a forum for shilling, for uncompensated advertising, for undeserved glowing reviews of all things local? No.

I have four of six bottles sent from local wine powerhouse Fetzer Vineyards to review, need to replace the two bottles broken in transit, and want to tour with Ann Thrupp as soon as things settle down after the Concha y Toro takeover announcement. I have a standing invitation and overdue to tour and taste with Jimmy and Lillian Kimmel of Kimmel Vineyards in Potter Valley.

I will try to visit and taste, in most cases retaste, the wines of every Hopland Passport member winery. The Hopland Passport wineries are Brutocao Cellars, Campovida, Cesar Toxqui Cellars, Graziano Family of Wines, Jaxon Keys Winery, Jeriko Estate, McDowell Valley Vineyards, McFadden Vineyards, McNab Ridge Winery, Milano Family Winery, Nelson Family Vineyard, Parducci Wine Cellars, Patianna Vineyards, Rack & Riddle, Saracina, Terra Savia and Weibel Family Vineyards.

I will also continue to taste wine samples that are sent from wherever. Last year, I tasted and reviewed some really delicious wines from Bollinger Champagne, Cleavage Creek Winery, Olson Ogden Wines, Pedroncelli Winery, Pepperwood Grove, Petroni Vineyards, Sonoma-Cutrer Wines, Swanson Vineyards, Tangley Oaks, Toad Hollow Vineyards, V. Sattui Winery, Willamette Valley Vineyards and Wine Guerilla because they sent sample wines or because they extended an event invitation.

Last year, I tasted and wrote about the wines of Carol Shelton Wines, Dunnewood/Mendocino Vineyards, Jacuzzi Family Vineyard, J. Lohr Vineyards and Wines, Keller Estate, Mendocino Farms, the NPA, Preston Vineyards, Rodney Strong Vineyards, Schmidt Family Vineyards, Sokol Blosser, Topel Winery, and Trinchero Napa Valley simply because I like them or because I visited their tasting room and was impressed.

At varietal specific tasting events, often at Ft Mason in San Francisco, I have tasted hundreds of different wines in the last year.

I have been part of organized tastings for wines from Virginia to Bordeaux.

While it is my stated focus, I am not likely to be able to contain my writing to just Mendocino County wines, or Hopland winery wines, or McFadden Vineyards wines. I love wine from different areas. Pour me a glass, I’ll taste it; send me a bottle, I’ll write about it.

I use my blog to write about what I like, it is usually about wine; but I have written about everything from travel to Pokémon. I am not a hardcore journalist, and would write about the wines of Burgundy if it gave me a shot at traveling to Burgundy to taste wines that I could then come back home and write about having tasted. I try to disclose sample wines or contest entry inspired entries within such a post.

I will continue to review wines fairly. I don’t believe I have written a negative review, trashed a wine or winery, in two years. I am a cheerleader for the industry, and if I don’t have anything nice to say about a wine  then I will look for something nice to say or simply refrain from writing anything at all.

Anyway, that is my long-winded way of saying congratulate me on my new job, and I’ll keep on writing here as time allows.

I am leaving home today, traveling to Miami for a weekend gig at an art festival in South Miami.

On my way, I’m picking up a six pack box of wonderful Ultima Burgundy wine glasses won in an internet giveaway promoting the Pinot Noir Summit in San Francisco this Saturday, Feb 26. I figure it is easier, and greener, for me to jump off the freeway and pick up my glasses than to see them packed and shipped.

When I return from Florida next week, I will be picking up two bottles at Hopland to replace two bottles that were broken in shipping from Louisville, Kentucky. Fetzer wines are made nearby, but Fetzer is owned, marketed, and distributed by Brown-Forman in Louisville. Again, rather than repackage and ship two bottles across most of the continent, I offered to stop in and pick up two bottles at the winery.

As a huge bonus, I will also be touring Fetzer in Hopland. I am pretty excited. A goal of my wine blog when I started writing was to illuminate good wines to pair with meals, that are affordable. Wines with a good QPR, or quality/price ratio. A New Year’s writing resolution for 2011, I decided to focus more of my attention on the wines of my home county, Mendocino County.

Fetzer is the biggest winery in Mendocino County, and their economy of scale allows them to keep their costs low, which makes for widely available, good tasting, affordable wines – exactly what I want to write about. Touring is great, because the winery has no tasting room, or organized tours, and I am pleased to receive this kind accommodation. I will also post, at a minimum, tasting notes on Fetzer’s Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay, Riesling and Gewurtztraminer.

I will also be able to visit, tour and taste wines from Bonterra, Fetzer’s sister winery under Brown-Forman, located off Hwy 101 near Hopland.

Home from Florida, when the weather is nice enough to take some outdoor blue sky, green grass pictures, I will also be visiting Kimmel Vineyards in Mendocino County’s Potter Valley. The Kimmel family offered to drop wine samples off at my home for taste and review, but once again I can save them a little gas and hassle by visiting with the intention of writing a winery visit feature piece in the future.

I have a 13 year old son, turning 14 next month, that played on three basketball teams this year. Charlie is just over six feet tall, and was the starting Center for his 8th grade school team, the Pomolita Panthers. Charlie also played as the tallest Center for St. Mary’s of Ukiah 8th grade boy’s CYO team, and a Ukiah City League team. Three teams has meant practices nearly every day, and three to five games most weeks for several months. Many days involved two practices, or a practice and a game. After months of happily being my son’s chauffeur to practices and games – these experiences only come around once – I will soon be free to visit more wineries more often.

Although I wish I could have been more wine busy the last few months, I have to say that watching my son practice, play, and grow has been terrific. His teams were good, but not great. They could have been great, but something got away from them. Charlie’s teammates are incredibly talented, each differently talented, and when they play together at their best they are amazing, unbeatable. Unfortunately, they got off track, not running plays crisply, losing focus, failing to execute in games what they mastered in practices.

I hope we find a good AAU, or other summer basketball program for Charlie, and next year he will try out for the Ukiah High School Freshman Wildcat team where rival middle school basketball team players will compete to make the squad. If Charlie plays for Ukiah High School next year, that will be the only team he plays on during the season.

Okay, I am out of here. I’ll write more when I’m back, early in March.

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