An Introduction to John on Wine

By John Cesano
Updated:   03/28/2013 10:28:30 AM PDT

Welcome to what will be a weekly column on wine that will run each Thursday here in the Ukiah Daily Journal.

I shared my disappointment with folks here at the Journal when the Wine Wednesday pages disappeared with the loss of the Mendocino Winegrape & Wine Commission last year.

Editor K.C. Meadows suggested I write a weekly wine column then, but I already had a few part time jobs to go with my full time job managing the McFadden Farm Stand & Tasting Room and didn’t want to commit to 700 words on wine each week. I had to decline.

More recently, UDJ Features Editor Kelly Hancock asked me again to consider writing a weekly wine column.

Hancock edited the piece I submitted last year in advance of the fall Hopland Passport event until it fit the space available, cutting half the words while leaving the piece intact. It was a solid piece of editing.

In addition to appreciating Hancock’s editing skills, I also liked that – in spite of having submitted 16 pictures of other winery tasting rooms – Hancock used a picture of me that she had taken from a previous Passport event and had on file. Anyone who knows me will tell you I am not immune to a kind ego stroke.

After weighing the pros and cons of writing a weekly column, I decided that, with Hancock as an editor I feel comfortable with, being allowed to write a number of columns in advance and “spiking” them, I would be free of the time pressure of a deadline.

My focus will be wine and the winery tasting rooms along the 101 corridor, from Hopland to Redwood Valley and Ukiah to Potter Valley. I’ll try to paint pictures with words and hopefully give readers reasons to visit these tasting rooms.

Some columns will look at a particular varietal like Chardonnay or Zinfandel, with descriptions of some of my favorite local examples. Other columns will feature a style or type of wine, like rosé or sparkling wines, and again I will describe some outstanding wines within the column.

I’ll write about my favorite wine books, my favorite wine accessories, and wine preservation systems.

I’m a cheerleader for the industry and for our area. You will not find me writing that a winery sucks, that their staff are rude, or that their wines are vile; I’ll stick to the places I like most, writing about the wineries that do a great job, about the things they do well, about the friendly and helpful people who are the face of the winery, and about the very yummiest wines from each winery I write about.

You’ll read pieces in advance of Taste of Redwood Valley, Taste of Downtown (Ukiah), and Hopland Passport as well as about the area’s best individual winery events from Saracina’s Pig and Pinot feast at their ranch to McFadden’s Wine Club Dinner for 225 with overnight camping on the bank of the Russian River. I’ll outline the 101 corridor participants in the county’s Crab & Wine Festival and Wine & Mushroom Fest.

I’m not Frasier Crane, I’m not a wine snob, but I picked and crushed my first wine grapes when I was 11. I worked in vineyards as a teen. I put together my first restaurant wine list in my twenties. I sold many thousands of cases of wine, and traveled the country talking about wine, in my thirties. In my forties, I visited winery tasting rooms in 42 counties selling wine books and wine accessories. Now, at 52, I manage retail sales for McFadden, and provide design and marketing services to some local tourism groups.

I’ll be writing about what I know and love. I’ll try to write without pretension, most often using first names – ­ wine is a first name industry. I’ll try to use columns to answer questions about wine. I hope you’ll read and perhaps be moved to experience some of what I share with you.

My greatest challenge will be to limit the use of words like love and adore. I love so many places and wines and adore so many people in our local wine industry that I fear sounding repetitive.

Sometimes when I have too much to say on a subject to fit the confines of this newspaper column, my extra words can overflow on the UDJ online version of my column.

John Cesano manages the McFadden Farm Stand and Tasting Room in Hopland and has a popular wine blog, also called John on Wine.