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John on Wine – Hooking up

 

Originally published in the Ukiah Daily Journal today, Thursday, July 31, 2014
By John Cesano

John Cesano of John On Wine

John Cesano of John On Wine

The new format for the Ukiah Daily Journal, color splashed throughout, looks great but comes with a cost; deadlines for columns are earlier, much earlier. I used to enjoy the incredible luxury of being able to attend a weekend wine event, write a recap draft for a column on Monday, brush it up and submit it on Tuesday, and see it run on Thursday, which was great. Now, I have to submit my column by noon on Friday, before the weekend’s events, for this Thursday wine column. I attended the Second annual Anderson Valley Barrel Tasting weekend last weekend, but with a deadline before the event, I’ll have to write about last weekend this week to send by tomorrow, so you can read about it all next week. The column used to feel fresh; now it feels like some columns are about things nearly two weeks old.

 

I received a big “thank you” from someone who sells wine for a piece I wrote recently. I couldn’t remember the piece, even when reminded what it was about. I write pieces, turn them in, and move on, but the longer time between turn in and reader reaction means I may seriously have forgotten what I wrote, so please be patient as I ask you to remind me.

 

I’m writing this not as complaint, but explanation. I receive invitations to wine events, and I like to recap them. My hope is that if I describe something well enough then a reader will want to attend an annual event the following year. I have seen posters advertising events with my own quoted words, and I am heartened; I would love more folks to benefit from a bump in event ticket sales because of something I have written – even something written in recap the year before. I’ll still do recaps of events I attend, but they will come out a little later than they used to. What my column can continue to do well, and in a timely manner, is promote events before they happen, offered up in a calendar of upcoming events or featured in a section of a column. I would like to do that better, and for that I am using this week’s column to ask for help. I’ve got to ask folks in the wine industry to help me out getting the great events in front of readers. I won’t be mentioning every anniversary, wine club pick up party, or sale, but if the wineries in Redwood Valley, Anderson Valley, Yorkville Highlands, greater Hopland, or throughout the county are having a major collaborative event, Passport, barrel tasting, or other big festival, please reach out to me at least one month in advance so I can get a good mention. A press invite is always appreciated as well, so I can attend and write up the event – hopefully, you’ll save the write up and use it the following year in your marketing efforts to bring more people to visit and taste your wines. WineSong, Mushroom Train, Mendo Crab & Wine or Mushroom & Wine Fest events … you too. Let me know well in advance, so I can let my column readers, both in the paper and online, know about your event so they can buy tickets and come to your events. I can’t come to every winery dinner, I have to pick and choose. With almost 100 wineries hosting wine club events, picnics or dinners, and every wine friendly restaurant putting on a version of a chef’s wine dinner, I can’t possibly afford either the time or money that attending all would entail. That said, if your event is amazing (I’m looking at you, Testa, with your blending party, with dinner, and McKenna Faith playing live, and fantastic blend judges; and you, Crush Ukiah – when are we going to do a McFadden dinner?), then reach out to me and I’ll try to promote your event. Coro Mendocino, I’ve written about you about 205 times and moderated a TV shoot with your winemakers; keep me in mind when you send your press releases and when you make your press invitations for future events.

 

Visit Ukiah, Visit Mendocino, Mendocino Winegrowers Inc.; I need your help to help broadcast the best wine news. You know how to reach me, please do, again with both news in advance of your events, and an invite to those you would like me to cover.

 

Owners and winemakers, send me an email and let’s taste through your wines one fine weekend day, we can do it in an hour, and then you can show me your vineyard, winery, tasting room, whatever you are proud of, with the result being a spotlight winery feature. Bob, Hoss, Rich, and Greg – you’ve each offered up a taste, let’s set up a date. Everyone else, just reach out. I’m a cheerleader for the industry. I haven’t written harshly of any wines in this column. That is easy when there are always so many great things to write about. Bottom line: if you are involved in wine events, please let me know about your events; JohnOnWine@gmail.com is the email to use. Want to send wine or something else through the mail? John Cesano, 13275 S Hwy 101 #5, PO Box 624, Hopland, CA 95449 works great.

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Tomorrow, is the Mendocino County Fair Wine Competition. The judges will gather and taste through the morning and afternoon, deciding on Bronze, silver, and Gold medals for wines. The rare wine to take unanimous Gold votes from the judges will get Double Gold medals. Top medal winners will be tasted again for Best of Class, Best Red, Best White, Best Sparkling, and Best Dessert honors. The best part of it all is the award ceremony and dinner that will follow the judging at the Mendocino College Student Plaza from 6-9 p.m. I love it and attend every year. Enjoy a delicious three course dinner prepared by the Mendocino College Culinary Arts program led by Chef Nicholas Petti of Mendo Bistro, while sampling award winning wines from the competition.

 

Tickets are just $55 and available at www.mendowine.com; get your tickets before they stop sales.

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John Cesano writes the popular wine blog John On Wine at www.johnonwine.com

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Editor’s note:

 

We really appreciate all of our unpaid columnists and the work they put in so that we may meet out deadlines. Our roster of local writers have done a great job submitted timely, relevant and informative articles for our readers to enjoy, and they deserve a big tip-of-the-hat for their efforts.

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EDITED TO ADD: I love my editor, Kelly Hancock, and I must have seemed grudgey, or just outright bitchy, for her to have come in to add her note. I am touched by her sweetness, and apologize for any bitchiness on my part.

My intent was to say, “Hey, I’ve got this deadline, and it lends itself to promotion of future events, so you wine area tourism groups, or county tourism groups, or wine groups, or restaurants, or wineries – send me a heads up if you have something truly noteworthy for me to mention, and extending an invite might get the event written up some time after.”  Of course, that isn’t enough words to fill a column, so I may have chosen an intemperate word or set a tone not really intended, with the extra words I did use.

 

01

Most days, I drive to Hopland to open my tasting room for Guinness McFadden. Yesterday, I drove to the California State Capitol to see Guinness receive a Best of Show Golden Bear trophy for his sparkling brut, the best of the best at the California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition.

02

Each county in the state has a window box to promote their county. I saw that our county promotes Anderson Valley’s Pinot Noir Festival, a great event, but doesn’t mention Hopland Passport, inland Mendocino’s biggest wine event. It is hard to get folks outside the county to visit Hopland when the folks who do the tourism marketing do not tell folks about us.

03

I met Guinness McFadden and Judith Bailey inside the state capitol. The rotunda is beautiful and gold gilt is everywhere to be seen.

04

At 9:00 a.m., we moved into the Governor’s office.

05

Navarro winemaker Jim Klein called everyone he knew to say, “Guess where I am calling you from. I’m calling you from the Governor’s office.” He also protected the pastries from me.

06

Ted Bennett, owner of Navarro in Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley relaxes before the day’s award ceremony.

07

Harry Hansen of Sterling Vineyards in Napa County – the folks with the tram – converses with Guinness McFadden about grapes Sterling buys from McFadden Farm and about people they know in common. Meanwhile, Judith keeps up with social media.

08

California State Fair Commercial Wine competition co-Head Judge and Sacramento Bee wine writer Mike Dunne talks with Mitch – Mr. Carol Shelton.

09

Carol Shelton in animated conversation. I had the great pleasure and honor to work with Carol for eight years and together we won a lot of awards; Carol won a Golden State Winery of the Year bear trophy for being the top awarded winemaker at the CA State Fair, and I won three consecutive Expert exhibitor awards from Exhibitor Magazine for marketing and selling her wine. We also had a great time working together at a Meet the Winemaker Dinner at Zinfandel in Chicago. I adore Carol!

10

Guinness chatted with Rick Pickering, CEO of the CA State Fair.

10a

At 9:45 a.m., we moved outside to the east steps of the Capitol. City folks stood in the sun, country folks had the sense to find shade from a tree.

11

Bears, lots of bears; maybe more bears that at the Russian River on a three day weekend. I see bears!

12

Words that should be, but likely won’t be, written by Wine Spectator and Connoisseurs’ Guide to California Wines: “The best wines in California are coming from Mendocino County.” Fully half of the Best of the Best wines were made by Mendocino County wineries; Navarro, McFadden, and Fetzer. Sterling and Carol Shelton buy Mendocino County fruit to make some of their wines too. The biggest winner of the CA State Fair Wine Competition, as I see it, is Mendocino County!

13

I don’t know whether I wanted to see Guinness get his bear or whether I wanted to display the bear in our tasting room more.

L-R, Navarro Best of Show Dessert, Pedroncelli Best of Show Pink, Carol Shelton Best of Show White, Sterling Best of Show Red, McFadden Best of Show Sparkling, and Fetzer Best Value.

14a

While waiting until 10:00 a.m., Guinness and Judith chatted with Seana Doughty and Dave Dalton of Bleating Heart Cheese.

14b

That big blue ribbon is nice, but folks came today for bear trophies. This year, there were 2,829 wine entries from 746 winery brands. Seventy-four judges on 18 panels awarded 2,068 medals, including 52 Double Gold, 217 Gold, 1,085 Silver, and 714 Bronze.

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No award was ever given at the capitol without a speech, or speeches. Awards were presented by Jim Houston, deputy secretary, California Department of Food and Agriculture, Paul Martin, deputy Director, Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, Rick Pickering, CEO, California Exposition & State Fair, Sonney Chong, board chair, California Exposition & State Fair, and Rick Kushman and Mike Dunne, California State Fair chief wine judges. On the far left is CA Assemblyman, the Honorable Wesley Chesbro, who would make a very special presentation.

15a

Dave Dalton and Seana Doughty of Bleating Heart Cheese in Tomales won two Golden Bear trophies. Best of Show Cow Cheese for Moolicious Blue and Best of Show other udder (sheep) for Fat Bottom Girl.

15b

Jim and Ted received the first wine award of the day for the 2013 Navarro Vineyards Late Harvest Riesling, the 2014 California State Fair Best of Show Dessert winner.

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Navarro’s 2013 Late Harvest Riesling also took a Double Gold Medal.

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Navarro’s 2013 Late Harvest Riesling was rated 98 points.

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The longest presentation of the day was for Guinness McFadden. Get ready for many pictures.

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As Assemblyman Chesbro spoke, a framed resolution appeared, and Guinness began to suspect that he wasn’t getting only a bear.

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Don’t get me wrong, a bear as recognition for producing the Best of Show Sparkling would be great, Guinness was pleased as punch to be invited to the Capitol to receive it, but at this point he is getting quite a surprise.

15f

Guinness received a Joint Resolution from the CA Assembly and Senate in recognition of his over 40 years of organic growing and eco-friendliness.

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Again, a Golden Bear trophy is going on my bar in the tasting room, but this beautiful framed resolution is going on the wall as soon as I can get Guinness to give it up.

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The wine that Guinness earned his Best of Show Sparkling bear trophy with is the NV McFadden Vineyard Cuvée Brut

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The NV McFadden Cuvée Brut also took a Double Gold Medal.

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The NV McFadden Cuvée Brut was rated 98 points.

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CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE Assembly RESOLUTION By the Honorable Wesley Chesbro, 2nd Assembly District; and the Honorable Noreen Evans, 2nd Senatorial District; Relative to commending GUINNESS McFADDEN WHEREAS, On June 24, 2014, NV McFadden Sparkling Brut, a wine produced by McFadden Vineyard, will receive the California State Fair Best of Show Sparkling Award, and upon this occasion, the owner of McFadden Vineyard, Guinness McFadden, is deserving of special public recognition; and WHEREAS, Growing up the oldest of five children in the upper west side of New York City, New York, Guinness McFadden turned down an Ivy League scholarship in 1956 to attend the University of Notre Dame, where he received his Bachelor’s degree in History and participated on the varsity wrestling team; and WHEREAS, After graduating, Guinness enlisted with the United States Navy; serving for nine years,his notable activities during this time included serving a tour in the Mediterranean, where he developed his love for wine; captaining a river boat in Vietnam, where he learned fluent Vietnamese and earned a Bronze Star medal; and serving as an admiral’s aid in Lisbon, Portugal, where he again acquired the native tongue; and WHEREAS, After leaving the Navy, Guinness returned to the United States in 1969 and enrolled at Stanford Business School; after a brief period, he realized that his interests would be best served elsewhere, and he ultimately settled down in a Potter Valley, Mendocino County, California; and WHEREAS, McFadden Vineyard originated in Potter Valley as nothing more than two small vineyards that were each no larger than 15 acres; today, Guinness’ business encompasses some of the oldest vines of the nearly 1,500 acres of vineyards in Potter Valley, and his grapes have represented a significant portion of many award-winning wines in Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino counties; and WHEREAS, A community leader whose unwavering dedication to organic farming has continued for over 40 years, Guinness supplemented his Eco-friendly vision of sustainable agriculture in 1983 by building a hydroelectric power plant capable of powering 100 homes, and in 2005, he installed 300 solar panels to make the farm completely energy independent; McFadden Farm now produces energy far beyond its own needs and provides enough extra to power over half of Potter Valley’s businesses and residences; and WHEREAS, The contributions Guinness McFadden has made to the welfare and improvement of the local agricultural community have been invaluable, and he has served as a worthy model for all public-spirited people of the State; now, therefore, be it RESOLVED BY ASSEMBLY MEMBER WESLEY CHESBRO AND SENATOR NOREEN EVANS, That Guinness McFadden be commended for the significant contributions he has made to the people of the local community and throughout California, and extended sincere best wishes for continued success in the future. Members Resolution No. 1464 Dated this 24th day of June, 2014 Honorable Wesley Chesbro 2nd Assembly District Honorable Noreen Evans 2nd Senatorial District

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Huge thanks to Honorable Wesley Chesbro 2nd Assembly District and Honorable Noreen Evans 2nd Senatorial District, and the folks in their offices, who made this happen, and helped surprise Guinness McFadden, a man richly deserving of your kind recognition

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Guinness will have a big party at McFadden Farm on Saturday, July 12 from 5:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. and will release his newest bubbly, a Brut Rosé. BBQ Dinner, wine, bubbly, live music, D.J., dancing, camping overnight if you wish. $60, or $50 for McFadden wine club members. For more info or tickets, visit http://www.mcfaddenfarm.com/Annual-Wine-Club-Dinner-_p_73.html

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Guinness flew in for this award from Kentucky where he saw his newest grandchild for the first time, and to celebrate the third, and littlest, Guinness McFadden

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Wine Spectator magazine published a list of 150 Summer Sparkling Wines, but didn’t include McFadden Brut, even though 20 of the 23 included bubblies were beat by two, not one but two, McFadden Sparkling Bruts at the 2014 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. One of the 23 tied our Bruts with a Double Gold. Two bubblies beat our Bruts, taking co-Best of Sparkling awards. The other 127 bubblies didn’t compete, maybe because they already get listed in magazines instead. Did I mention that a McFadden Brut was judged Best of Show at the 2014 California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition, beating all competition? We would love to be considered by Wine Spectator magazine in the future. What’s a guy got to do, send an invite to our annual wine club dinner to the guy making the lists? Already done, still waiting for a response.

15p

If you visit the McFadden Farm Stand & Tasting Room in Hopland, the highest rated tasting room in over five years of San Francisco Chronicle tasting room reviews, you’ll find more than  highly rated, award winning wines and bubblies; McFadden has organic grass fed beef, organic air dried herbs and herb blends, and so much more seasonal goodness from organic and family owned McFadden Farm.

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A man and his bear trophy, and his resolution.

15s

Ed St. John collects his Golden Bear Trophy for the 2013 Pedroncelli Signature Selection Dry Creek Valley Dry Rosé of Zinfandel, winner of Best of Show Pink, a Double Gold, and a 98 Point Rating from the 2014 CA State Fair Wine Competition

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Carol Shelton has won many awards over the years from the California State Fair, and has judged at the competition – and others – as well.

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I first met Carol at Windsor Vineyards, where she made wine and I developed a successful tradeshow program. Maya’s monologue in the middle of the movie Sideways could have been inspired by Carol describing her wines to folks new to them, the passion and love are palpable, her energy infectious.

15t2

Everyone, upon hearing that Carol won a CA State Fair Best of Show award assumes it is for her Zinfandel, but are pleasantly surprised to find she is back to making white wine…huge medal white wine

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There is a chance, my fingers are crossed, that Carol may make a Wild Thing White to go with her Mendocentric Wild Thing Zin (red) and Wild Thing Rosé. If things work out, it could be based on McFadden Farm Sauvignon Blanc grapes.

15t3

Best of Show White goes to the 2012 Carol Shelton Wines Coquille Blanc, a Rhone style white blend. Deservedly, it also took a Double Gold Medal and a 98 point rating at the 2014 California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition

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Harry Hansen of Sterling Vineyards receiving his Golden Bear trophy.

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Sterling Vineyards has made both Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling from McFadden Farm grapes.

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The 2010 Sterling Vineyards Platinum Napa Valley Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon earned 98 points, a Double gold Medal, and the Best of Show Red Golden Bear trophy

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Navarro Vineyards of Mendocino County was called back up the steps to receive another Golden Bear award trophy, having earned the title “Golden State Winery of the Year”

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Fetzer of Hopland in Mendocino County did not show up to pick up their Golden Bear trophy for their 2011 Fetzer Valley Oaks Moscato, judged Best Value Wine at the competition, at $7.99 for a Double Gold & 98 Pointer. If Jim and Ted were to pick it up and take it to them on the way back home, they could have practiced juggling three Golden Bear trophies.

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Navarro richly earned the Golden State Winery of the Year award with three, count ‘em, I said three wines scoring 98 Points and taking Double Gold Medals. Congratulations to our friends from the Anderson Valley.

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Mendocino County wineries earned 4 of the 7 Golden Bear Trophies awarded from the California State Fair for wine: Navarro – Golden State Winery of the Year, Navarro – Best of Show Dessert, McFadden – Best of Show Sparkling, and Fetzer – Best Value; 98 points and Double Gold, each and every one of them. When will the wine press begin to report regularly on the supreme quality of Mendocino grapes, county wide? Perhaps when our county tourism groups and grape promotion groups get the budget to market the news. The wineries are doing their part.

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Jim Klein, winemaker, and Ted Bennett, owner, Navarro Vineyards, California State Fair Golden State Winery of the Year and Best of Show Dessert award recipients.

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Cameras were present to record the Mendo magic in Sacramento

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Jim, you described step by step how you make your Dry Rosé of Pinot Noir at this year’s Pinot Noir fest in Anderson Valley. It is amazing, and I would love Guinness to make something like your rosé from his Potter Valley grapes. My notes are woefully incomplete. Would you consider sharing again?

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Seana and Dave with their dual Golden Bear trophies

16a

Guinness McFadden reads his resolution

17

Ted and Jim answer questions from the collected press

18

Mitch and Carol enjoy their wonderful white wine win

19

Shelton, McFadden, St. John…Hey, where’s the Italian names?

20

The Golden Bear recipients from this year’s CA State Fair Wine Competition

21

Ted, Jim, Carol, Guinness, Ed, Seana, Dave, and Harry

22

Congratulations to Bleating Heart Cheese of Tomales. It’s official, you’re winners, hard or soft.

23

Bennett, Klein, Shelton, McFadden, St. John, Doughty, Dalton, and Hansen

24

Harry Hansen, Best of Show Red, Sterling Vineyards

25

Ted and Jim’s Excellent Adventure

25a

Guinness McFadden, Golden Bear Trophy Winner and Joint Legislature Resolution Presentee

25b

Bronze Star, Bear, Resolution; it’s got to be Guinness

25d

It was nice to see Guinness moved by the presentation, and I am genuinely grateful to everyone who helped pull it together in the very limited time we had

25e

Guinness was floored at the depth of research that went into the resolution.

26

No more ribbons, McFadden wants Golden Bears from now on. Okay, seriously, everyone here was humbled, honored, moved by the ceremony and incredibly thankful to everyone who made it possible

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John On Wine – ­ A Mendo bubbly fest recap

Originally published in the Ukiah Daily Journal newspaper on April 10, 2014
Written by John Cesano

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Last Saturday, April 5th, I attended the inaugural Celebration of Mendocino County Sparkling Wines. I was not alone, more than 150 people showed up at Terra Savia in Hopland. Many were readers of this column who were kind enough to say hello, some were wine club members of the tasting room I manage, and some were brand new to me ­ but not brand new to having fun as they clearly knew what they were doing.

Alison de Grassi and Gracia Brown, the wonder twins from Visit Mendocino responsible for events and marketing, attended as did Mendocino County District Attorney David Eyster. The support for this great event was really impressive. The day was beautiful; I parked a short walk away from the site, and saw workers raking muddy leaves into a pile, the scent earthy, almost mushroomy, and wonderful.

A Gathering of friends

Birds were chirping many different songs in the trees around. The sky could not have been more blue or clear. Terra Savia operates from a large yellow metal building filled with art and custom handcrafted furniture of immense proportion. Within the space, a dozen tables were set up in a circle, each table a microburst of activity, color, and energy as each participating winery created their own presentation space.

Here are a few definitions for bubbly-centric wine terms that may prove useful as you read on: Brut means dry. Cuvee means blend. En tirage means time yeast and lees spend in the bottle before disgorgement. Lees are spent yeast, yeast that converted sugar into alcohol, heat, and carbon dioxide during fermentation. Blanc de Blanc means white of white and suggests that Chardonnay is the grape the wine is made from; as opposed to Blanc de Noir, a white wine made from red wine grapes, typically Pinot Noir, but given no time on skin after crush, so no color. A magnum is a bottle twice as large as normal, 1.5 L. vs, 750 ml.

Bubbly Gathering

Graziano poured their Cuvee #10 Sparkling Brut, a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Blanc from the 2010 vintage that spent three full years en tirage. This bubbly had the most clear lemon note of the sparkling wines being poured at the event, balanced by a rich yeastiness. Both Greg Graziano and Bobby Meadows poured for the assembled crowd.

Handley poured a 2003 Brut, made from 60 percent Pinot Noir and 40 percent Chardonnay, with flavors of steely mineral lemon and vanilla apple.

Guinness McFadden and Judith Bailey poured the 2014 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition double gold medal winning 2009 McFadden Reserve Sparkling Brut, a blend of 50 percent Chardonnay and 50 percent Pinot Noir that spent more than two-and-a-half-years on yeast and lees in the bottle before disgorgement. The flavors are bright, showing apple and grapefruit tempered by brioche and nut.

Nelson poured a nice NV Blanc de Blanc with bright lemon, pear, and apple notes.

I really liked the Paul Dolan NV Brut, a cuvee of 45 percent Chardonnay and 55 percent Pinot Noir, with 100 percent of the grapes from McFadden Farm. Bright, unapologetically crisp, with green apple, grapefruit, and pineapple.

Rack and Riddle poured for sparkling wines. I tasted their NV Brut, showing orange, cream, apple, and lemon; and a Brut Rose that was dry, dry, dry with strawberry over ice crispness.

Ray’s Station’s NV Brut offering was 65 percent Chardonnay and 35 percent Pinot Noir and was fairly broad and round with apple, pear, and bready notes. Although Brut suggests dryness, this seemed a touch sweeter ­ at least in comparison with the wine tasted just before this one. Margaret Pedroni captivated attendees as she described the wine she poured.

Roederer Estate poured from 1.5 liter magnums, which is nicely showy. Their NV Brut tasted of pear, green apple, nut, and lemon; the NV Brut Rose showed lovely balance and flavors of apple and strawberry.

Scharffenberger’s NV Brut tasted of dry yeasty ginger, citrus, and apple.

Signal Ridge garnered a lot of buzz from attendees, with tasters elevating the apple, almond and mineral flavored Brut into their top three tastes.

Terra Savia, the host for the event, poured their lovely 2009 Blanc de Blanc, showing bright apple and lemony citrus notes.

Yorkville Cellars doesn’t grow Chardonnay or Pinot Noir, the grapes typically found in sparkling wines, but Bordeaux varietals instead. Previously, Yorkville made a Sparkling Rose of Malbec, the only one I had ever tasted, and it was good. The current release I jokingly refer to as the cuvee of crazy, because the blend was unimaginable prior to it being poured for me: 51 percent Semillion, 24 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, and 25 percent Sauvignon Blanc. The result isn’t crazy at all, but rounder than is typical with the Bordeaux varietal fruit offering up flavors of grapefruit and cranberry.

Bubbly Feast

The food for this event was spectacular, and one of the most enjoyable aspects of the event was random pairings of different foods and sparkling wines. Some pairings elevated both the food and beverage, while other pairings oddly diminished the wine being tasted. There will be a Mendo Bubbly Fest next year, and I’ll attend again, but get out of your house and into the tasting rooms of these wineries to taste their sparkling wines this weekend, or soon, and bring a bottle or two home ­ not to serve on a special day, but to make a day special by serving them.

 

Every wine region that wants to successfully compete for the public’s attention and good prices for grapes and wines has an organization tasked with promoting the quality of the grapes grown and the wines made in their area.

Lodi uses the Lodi Winegrape Commision to do effective work convincing buyers that their central valley grapes are being grown in a green fashion. Sonoma County is represented by Sonoma County Vintners and the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission (these two share the same physical address). Napa has the Napa Valley Vintners Association. Paso Robles has the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance.

As a peripheral member of the local wine industry, I am thankful that Mendocino County has the current incarnation of the Mendocino Winegrape & Wine Commission (MWWC).

MWWC represents 343 winegrape growers and 91 wineries in Mendocino County.

Megan Metz is MWWC’s Executive Director, having been promoted to the position in October, 2011 after a successful turn as MWWC’s Director of Marketing and Communications beginning February of 2011.

Megan and her incredible staff including Gracia, Courtney, and Jen, assisted by Josh and Jan, help Mendocino County’s winegrape growers through an ongoing series of viticulture educational forums aimed at helping growers increase the quality and value of their grapes, by acting as co-hosts of  eco-wine symposiums, and working with growers to contain and eradicate the European Grapevine Moth (EGVM) in the county.

MWWC is instrumental in collecting and making available information vital to the county’s winegrape growers like the recent water updates concerning Russian River frost regulations.

Hosting an online grape marketplace, MWWC helps our winegrape growers sell their fruit and, through focused marketing events that focus on the county’s vineyards and growing areas, MWWC works to maintain the price that Mendocino County fruit commands in hard times and help that fruit increase in price in good times.

I know Megan and her crew at MWWC professionally through my dual roles as tasting room manager for McFadden Vineyard and Secretary of the Board of Destination Hopland.

At last year’s incredibly successful Taste of Mendocino event in San Francisco, MWWC brought Mendocino County’s bounty to San Francisco and played host first to trade and media and then the general public for tastings that saw winery tasting rooms grouped by the AVA, growing area, their wines predominately came from.

My boss, Guinness McFadden, was proud to pour his wines ordinarily tasted in our Hopland tasting room under a banner for Potter Valley. As the first grower to plant grapes in Potter Valley, growing organically from day one, that Potter Valley sign flying in San Francisco was enormously important to Guinness.

Social media savvy, MWWC had trade and media guests tweeting using the #TOM12 hashtag. From my tasting room over 100 miles away, I was able to steer attendees directly to Guinness using those same tools.

Destination Hopland is charged with hosting two major events each year, a Spring and a Fall passport event for our area’s 16 member wineries, our Hopland Passport. We are fortunate that under Megan, MWWC partners directly with Mendocino County’s various wine region organizations. In addition to Destination Hopland, MWWC also directly helps A Taste of Redwood Valley, Yorkville Highlands Growers & Vintners Association, and the Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association.

MWWC has helped Destination Hopland improve our website, making Jen available to provide the text on each page. MWWC has also helped with advertising and marketing, aiding with ad placement in upscale glossy publications, while tasking Jan with disseminating effective press releases to help Hopland achieve the media notice we wish to gain for our local winery members.

Megan also stepped in to host a winemaker dinner for visiting press members to Hopland Passport last year, leading directly to beneficial media attention.

Last November, at the Mendocino County Wine & Mushroom Fest event Wine and Mushroom Train that MWWC and Visit Mendocino jointly hosted at Camp Mendocino, Megan appeared at my side as I poured wines for an exuberant crowd. Megan calmly told me that she needed my help, that a speaker came down ill, and that I would need to give a talk to assembled media including writers from Sunset Magazine, Edible Marin & Wine Country, O – The Oprah Magazine, Taste of Home, Vegetarian Times, Popular Plates, Intermezzo, Newsweek, and Cooking Light.

Megan made clear that as an emergency guest speaker, I wasn’t to be wearing my McFadden hat, or my Hopland hat, but that she wanted me to speak about all of Mendocino County’s wines, focusing as much as possible on the different growing regions throughout the county.

Megan and MWWC saw that every wine growing region in Mendocino County enjoyed press attention from the gathered media, that the focus was on the winegrape growers as much as it was on the wines of the county.

I started at McFadden in March last year, and joined the Destination Hopland Board in July last year. For me, Megan and her crew are the only MWWC I have ever known.

MWWC became effective in 2006, and late in 2011 the California Department of Food & Agriculture announced a February 1, 2012 hearing in Ukiah to consider the continuation or suspension of MWWC.

I attended the hearing and spoke in support of MWWC, of Megan, and of the incredibly effective crew that has been assembled to help market the winegrapes and wines of Mendocino County.

Let me be blunt, not only is MWWC doing a great job but with even the central valley wine organizations engaging in what appears to be a bit of greenwashing, without MWWC the other wine areas are poised to eat Mendocino County’s lunch.

I was surprised to find semi organized opposition by some growers at the meeting, with a saddening lack of civility, cogency, or willingness to acknowledge any of the positive works MWWC has accomplished for growers and wineries under Megan. Some of the speakers were unpleasantly ugly, repeatedly interrupting testimony in support of MWWC’s continuance and spewing vitriolic comments tinged with a paranoiac worldview that I don’t share.

I am grateful to one grower who would not want to be identified, who I know to be intelligent through our shared involvement in Hopland wine industry events, who explained that the opposition by some growers stems from the notion that MWWC was forced into existence at the insistence of a major buyer of fruit within the county, under threat of blackballing the county’s growers if MWWC was not voted for back in 2006. My serious thanks to you for sharing your passionately held view, you provide a much needed perspective lacking in the presentations made during the hearing.

MWWC during the first four years of existence, prior to Megan and her crew taking charge, is not the Commission I know, it was explained to me. Malfeasance bordering on criminal and ineptitude bordering on tragic were common, I was told.

I came to understand some of the opposition to the continuance of MWWC, but I think that such a stance is both myopic and irresponsible.

Getting rid of MWWC just as it is well formed and ready to build on the last year’s marketing successes seems nearly stupid, akin to cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. Myopic, because growers can expect to see their grapes valued less, and prices remain flat or decrease, if their opposition is the majority view, as other areas continue to successfully market their grapes to buyers through their commissions, organizations, alliances, and associations. In the ‘bad’ past, MWWC’s director and staff operated under the guidance of a board made up of member growers. If malfeasance and ineptitude were the order of the day, then it seems to me that those board members – and those Commission members who didn’t bother to join the board or a committee – are the people ultimately responsible for the first four years of Commission failure. Every person who spoke against MWWC’s continuance spoke of the past; not one spoke of the present.

I’m the new guy. I don’t see the past. I don’t know the politics. I judge things on their face. MWWC under Megan Metz and the crew she has assembled are doing a fantastic job, and they want to improve their efforts on behalf of Mendocino County’s winegrape growers and wineries.

I respect a difference of opinion, and am able to place disagreement in context thanks to the perspective shared by others who have been active locally in this industry for decades. I know that the opposition by growers is not monolithic, and the vote will be close. I also find that those who spoke in support of MWWC’s continuance spoke intelligently, citing specific events and results, mostly from prepared statements, while opposition was offered in incoherent and angry rants. I am heartened that most growers I know are not like the speakers I described, but instead are intelligent, thoughtful, friendly, and open to fair consideration of a reasonable proposition. I believe that this is true of most of Mendocino County’s growers.

I’m a tasting room manager, not a vineyard or winery owner, so I don’t have a vote, but I urge the voting Commission members to return a favorable vote when a referendum is called. According to MWWC’s twitter page, “MWWC renewal ballots to be sent out within 60 days from 2/23″

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