March 2010

I saw a warning on facebook this morning from the folks at Pithy Little Wine Co in San Luis Obispo; there is a petition being circulated in California, trying to qualify an initiative for the ballot of the November election in California, that would raise taxes on a bottle of wine about $5.

Link to SF Business Times article

The excise tax on a regular size 750 ml bottle of wine would increase 12,775%, from 4 cents to $5.11 if the Alcohol-Related Harm and Damage Services Act of 2010 were enacted.

Wine isn’t the only beverage being targeted, a six pack of beer will increase about $6 and and a bottles of scotch/gin/tequila/etc. would jump about $17.

In most of California, just about everyone knows someone who makes a living because of wine. Growing the grapes, making the wine, driving it to the store, creating a marketing or advertising campaign to sell it, selling it, helping you to your car with your purchase. In a time of recession, with many people unemployed and few worthwhile positions being offered, this initiative is a job crusher.

Do not be fooled into thinking that this will provide a strong and healthy revenue stream for the state, or that “sinners” should pay for the ills of society. California Secretary of State Debra Bowen’s office, tasked with analysis of the fiscal effects of ballot initiatives, forecasts a loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in California state tax revenues from alcohol if this initiative were to be put on the ballot, and then pass successfully, as consumers cut back on their purchases.

Price check on aisle one:

Fred Franzia’s Two Buck Chuck will sell for over $7.

Folie a Deux’ Menage a Trois is $7 on sale, will be $12.

Toad Hollow’s Chardonnay is $13, will be $18.

Keller Estates’ La Cruz Pinot Noir is $42, will be $47.

Parducci’s True Grit Petite Sirah is $30, will be $35.

V. Sattui’s Vittorio Sauvignon Blanc is $22, will be $27.

The tax increase, on the six wines listed above, comes to 26%. That 26% average increase in price will keep consumers from buying the wine, which will cause more people in the wine industry to lose jobs, and cause the state to lose tax revenue it previously received.

Note: smart shoppers often buy more to save; if you were able to buy the six bottles above together (you can’t, but let’s pretend) to save 10%, the punishing additional tax increase of this proposed ballot measure remains fully in effect, and your additional tax burden increases to 29%.

Wineries are already paying tons of taxes to bring you a healthful beverage that goes great with food, friends, and family; wineries pay income, payroll, and excise taxes, and increasing taxes as the percentage of alcohol inside the bottle increases.

For the non wine drinkers among you; if you like the good occasional margarita at home, a $20 bottle of 1800 tequila will cost $37. Most hootch sold is cheaper, so the price increase will be more than the 86% here.

A six pack of Budweiser beer, nothing fancy, runs about $7 right now, but will cost $13 if this initiative makes the ballot, then passes. That 85% increase will run to 100% or more, as most Bud drinkers buy larger quantity to save money – but the tax increase won’t shrink at all.

How many people will spend over $2 per Bud…at home? Not many, and the tax revenues shrink further, and more people lose their jobs.

If you live in California, when you go to the supermarket and you see people with petitions to qualify initiative measures for the ballot, check to see if this dangerous proposal is among those the folks outside your store are asking you to sign.

Step one: do not sign the petition.

Step two: engage the signature collector in a vigorous, loud, debate. Ask why they are even collecting signatures for a measure that would raise taxes on a beverage where taxes are already collected. Ask how they can justify a business crippling 12,775% tax increase on any business during a recession.  Ask if they are aware of the states impartial fiscal analysis forecasting a loss of tax revenue to the state in the hundreds of millions. Ask them if the $1 per signature they are being paid is worth the many jobs that will be lost if this initiative qualifies for the ballot and passes.

Your actions will prevent others from signing this petition as well. The initiative will not appear on the ballot if proponents fail to collect around 434,000 signatures by August 23, so any legal action that makes signature collection easy is recommended.

If wineries are forced to pay a 12,775% increase in excise tax, from 4 cents to $5.11, you will find the tax passed on to you and you will end up paying from around 26% to over 100% more for many items you now enjoy.

I urge you to send a note to the initiative’s authors Josie and Kent M Whitney at as well.

Here’s the text of the proposed initiative:

IMPOSES ADDITIONAL TAX ON ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES. INITIATIVE STATUTE. Imposes an additional excise tax on alcoholic beverages, increasing the excise tax on each six-pack of beer from 11¢ to $6.08, on each 750 ml bottle of wine from 4¢ to $5.11, and on each 750 ml bottle of distilled spirits from 65¢ to $17.57. Requires additional excise tax revenues to be deposited into a special fund appropriated to the Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs to finance programs to address alcohol-related harms as specified. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Additional state revenues of between $7 billion and $9 billion annually from an increase in state excise taxes on alcoholic beverages, with the proceeds going to support alcohol-related programs and services. A decrease in state and local revenues from existing excise and sales taxes on alcoholic beverages of several hundred million dollars annually due to a likely decline in consumption of alcoholic beverages. (10-0005.)

Part I – Introductions

Vittorio Sattui started his family’s winery in 1885 at 722 Montgomery Street in North Beach, San Francisco’s Italian neighborhood.

Yesterday, Dario Sattui, the great grandson of winery founder Vittorio, filled the Wine Cellar at the North Beach Restaurant to capacity with people to celebrate the 125th anniversary of V. Sattui Winery, as well as share some of the milestone achievements of the winery, all within the context of the enormous importance of Italian family winemaking in America.

North Beach Restaurant, site of the V. Sattui Winery 125th Anniversary celebration lunch

Owned by the effusively welcoming Lorenzo Petroni, the North Beach Restaurant has been one of the best Italian restaurants, specializing in Tuscan dishes, since the early ’70’s.  The North Beach Restaurant’s Wine Cellar dining room was the perfect place to hold the day’s affair. Heavy white tablecloths and napkins, multiple wine glasses at the ready, holding over 500 wines from the Wine Spectator Top 100 wine list, decorated with framed pictures of iconic San Francisco Italian families (including a great picture from the North Beach V. Sattui cellars), and staffed by black and white clad professional waiters; the location lent weight to the moment we had come to celebrate.

Lorenzo Petroni, owner of the North Beach Restaurant

Scheduled events included three speaker, Professor Victor W. Geraci, Ph. D., John A. Deluca, Ph. D., and Dario Sattui himself, a wine reception, and a multi course lunch with paired wines for each course, and an after lunch walk a few blocks to the site of the original winery.

I was in the presence of several notable wine writers including two 2010 Symposium for Profesional Wine Writer Fellowship recipients; as well as Carl Nolte who writes the SF Chronicle’s Native Son column and is maybe San Francisco’s journalistic soul since the passing of Herb Caen.

Arriving a little early, V. Sattui winemaker Brooks Painter, President Tom Davies, and V.P. of Sales and Public Affairs Pat Krueger each personally greeted me with warmth and genuine friendliness.

Brooks Painter, V. Sattui Winery Winemaker

V. Sattui Winery President Tom C. Davies and V.P. Sales and Public Affairs Pat Krueger

Carli Rose, V. Sattui Winery Director of Weddings and Special Events, Courtney Mitros, Asst Director of Special Events, and Claudette Shatto, Vice President of Marketing greeted me warmly as well.

Asst. Director of Special Events Courtney Mitros and Vice President of Marketing Claudette Shatto

The one person I immediately recognized was Danica Sattui who does more Social Media Marketing, and is better at it, than many professionals. Frankly, I was surprised that @DanicaSattui was not also @VSattui1885 on Twitter. It was a pleasure to finally meet Danica in person. I look forward to meeting Nicole Marino, who does handle V. Sattui Winery’s Social Media Marketing one day; V. Sattui Winery’s Social Media Marketing seems to improve in breadth and reach day by day, a genuine testament to Nicole’s dedication to learning and applying each new skill learned in this evolving field of marketing.

Yana Albert-Sattui and Danica Sattui

A glass of reception 2008 Vittorio’s Vineyard Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc in hand, I made my way to where I would be seated for lunch. I noted that I would be seated with Carl Nolte to my left, and San Francisco Chronicle Editor-in-Chief Ward Bushee to my right. Seated on the other side of Bushee was Bruce Kelley, Editor-in-Chief of the San Francisco Magazine. Seated across from us were Dario Sattui, his wife Yana Albert-Sattui, San Francisco Chronicle President Mark Adkins, and his guest Past President of the University of Southern Mississippi Foundation Melanie Hunsberger.

Yana Albert-Sattui and Dario Sattui, sitting beneath a picture of their family’s 125 year old North Beach wine cellar

Fairly amusing to me, I heard a significant accent when speaking with Melanie Hunsberger, her Mississippi accent is sweet Southern music. Dario’s wife Yana comes from a little farther away, the Ukraine, and yet I heard no accent. I only hope my nose for wine is better than my ear for accents. These two women added a healthy dose of grace and beauty to our table.

Melanie Hunsberger and Yana Albert-Sattui

This is a synthesis of the day’s menu and wine notes provided each guest:


Returns to North Beach

Celebrating Our 125th Anniversary

North Beach Restaurant

Thursday, March 25, 2010


John A. De Luca, PH.D. Former President and CEO of The Wine Institute

Professor Victor W. Geraci, Ph.D. Author, Food and Wine Historian

Dario Sattui 4th Generation Owner of V. Sattui Winery



Burrata con Pomodoro e Basilico – Burrata (Creamy Mozzarella from Puglia) with Tomatoes, Basil, and Olive Oil & Vinegar

Calamari Fritti e Prosciutto – Fried Calamari and Prosciutto

2008 Vittorio’s Vineyard Napa Valley SAUVIGNON BLANC – Layers of Honeydew, pear and citrus flavors. 773 cases produced. $22


Linguine alle Vongole e Salsa di Vino Bianco – Linguine with Baby Clams in a White Wine Sauce

2007 Reserve Stock Napa Valley CHARDONNAY – A full-bodied and exquisitely balanced blend of the very best of our Carsi and Henry Ranch vineyards, displaying excellent depth and body and toasty vanilla notes from new oak and part malolactic fermentation. 418 cases produced. $39

Spaghetti alla Carbonara con Prosciutto, Una Specialita del Ristorante North Beach – Spaghetti Carbonara with Prosciutto, A North Beach Restaurant Specialty

2007 Crow Ridge Russian River ZINFANDEL – 80-year-old Russian River vines produce this single-vineyard Zinfandel with ripe raspberry, dried plum and cherry cola flavors leading to an expansive and lingering spicy finish. 720 cases produced. $39


Osso Buco con Riso e Verdure – Baby Veal Shank braised with Tomato Sauce, served with Rice and Vegetables

2004 “Steve Lee” Reserve Stock Napa Valley CABERNET SAUVIGNON – Rutherford-bred from the finest stocks of Preston and Morisoli Vineyards, this Reserve Cabernet exhibits rich loam and currant flavors and smooth, plush tannins. 214 cases produced. $125


Zabaglione con Fragole Fresche – Cold Zabaglione (custard with V. Sattui Madeira) with Fresh Strawberries

California MADEIRA – Wood-aged, port-like wine fortified with brandy. A small amount of this solera-made Port was originally produced by Vittorio Sattui prior to 1900. Our solera is over 129 years old, one of the oldest in the U.S. Intense, nutty and luscious, with flavors of almonds, toffee and caramel. $42

I will admit that between manic note taking, camera work, information absorbing, table conversation sharing, and wine enjoying, I did have to fend the waiters off, protecting the plate I had fallen behind on from being taken away, and rushing to finish one course before the next was delivered.

My course lagging was nothing compared to the falling behind of Dario Sattui. Dario kicked off the event with introductory remarks, and acted as the Master of Ceremonies and kind host. Initially welcoming everyone, then introducing the first speaker, Professor Victor W. Geraci, Ph.D., Dario was called back to the podium immediately after to receive a proclamation from a representative of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome announcing the day was “V. Sattui Winery Day in San Francisco.” Dario then delivered his own speech, a passionate, informative, personal, and entertaining look into the history of V. Sattui Winery through Dario’s eyes. Before being able to return to the lunch table, Dario was awarded, through the offices of State Assembly Member Noreen Evans and State Senator Pat Wiggins, a resolution presentation from the California Assembly. Dario then introduced John A. De Luca, Ph.D, and was finally able to rejoin his lovely wife and enjoy some of the food that had accumulated in his absence.

The two speakers of the day not named Dario Sattui spoke about the wine industry past and future.

Part II – The Past

Professor Victor W. Geraci, Ph.D is the Food and Wine Historian at the Regional Oral History Office for the Bancroft Library at the Universiry of California at Berkeley.

Professor Victor W. Geraci, Ph.D

Professor Geraci spoke on the history of Italians in the U.S. wine industry, which is the same thing in large measure as saying he spoke about the wine industry period.

Geraci spoke of failed attempts to make wines in U.S. colonies and states, limited or qualified success in a small handful of states, and then the first real success when Northern italians settled in Northern California and started making wines.

Professor Geraci speaks on Italian family winemaking in the U.S.

Beginning with Andrea Arata who planted his grapes in Amador County in 1853, Italians and wine in the U.S. would become forever linked. By 1882, Vittorio Sattui joined a host of Italians making wine in Northern California, and opened his family winery in North Beach at 722 Montgomery Avenue. By the 1890’s, Italian families own over 100 wineries and California produces over 80% of the nation’s wine. By 1900, Italian Swiss Colony, near Cloverdale, was California’s largest producer of wine.

In 1900, prior to prohibition, dry wines were consumed over sweet wines, 2 to 1. At repeal, sweet wines were consumed 4 to 1 over dry wines. Consumer tastes had changed, and wineries were not producing the fine wines they had produced before prohibition.

Nonetheless, within three years of repeal, 1,600 wineries are operating. Within 25 years, by 1960, the number of wineries operating in the U.S. had shrunk to just 271. Italians owned a dominant percentage of these wineries.

Consolidation occurred; in 1947 the 8 largest wineries controlled 42% of the market, and by 1971 that number had risen to 68%.

In 1972, half of the wine consumed in the U.S. was considered premium, or dry, wine.

Consumption of wine in the U.S. doubled between 1963 and 1974.

In 1966, Robert Mondavi opened his Oakville winery. Mondavi goes on to create an incredibly positive perception regarding the quality of California wine.

Giuseppe Franzia, one of the original Italian winemakers of California wines has a descendent who makes enormous waves in the industry, Fred Franzia of Ceres wine giant Bronco makes 2 Buck Chuck.

Part III – The Future

John A. De Luca, Ph.D. served as Deputy Mayor of San Francisco under Mayor Joseph Alioto from 1968-1975. De Luca served nearly 28 years as President and CEO of The Wine Institute. In 2001, De Luca was named “Agriculturist of the Year” by the California State Fair. Wine Spectator gave De Luca their “Distinguished Service Award,” while Wine Enthusiast gave him a “Lifetime Achievement Award.”

John A. De Luca, Ph.D.

De Luca spoke of V. Sattui Winery generally, and Dario specifically, before moving on to more a more general discussion of the present and future environment in which wineries will compete.

De Luca said that V. Sattui Winery was, “controversial,” and recounted being warned by his staff at The Wine Institute against visiting the winery, as they had, “no finesse,” and were, “one of a kind.

De Luca also shared how when he was being considered for the top post with The Wine Institute, and many big names in the industry were displaying typical contentious behavior, Dario came into the meeting, walked to the front, turned and addressed the assembled members, “I think this is the guy we need, and I don’t want any of you to fuss around with him.” Message delivered, Dario then walked out.

John A. De Luca moves from behind the podium to the middle of the room to speak

About the present and future of wine, De Luca said, “face to face is the past, facebook is the present.” Without using the words, the change De Luca referenced is at the heart of Social Media Marketing.

Speaking to continuing challenges, De Luca said, “No one in America has to deal with States, because of the commerce clause, except wine and liquor.”

De Luca noted that last year Gallo shipped 1 million cases of wine to China.

John A. De Luca

George Tabor, the Judgement of Paris journalist, approached De Luca about Fred Franzia’s Two Buck Chuck, which has sold over 500 million bottles. De Luca countered that the larger story of family winemakers is the story of wine now, that together, “they hold the center in this economy.”

“If our wine had not gone global, we would have gone the way of Detroit.”

“Beer has been the most impacted beverage during our current recession.”

“The one product category that grows in this economy, the health care debate and diet helps, is wine.”

De Luca described a battle between the midwest and the their corn people and California and fresh vegetables, fruit, the Mediterranean diet with wine.

“There is a new period of assertion facing our industry now.”

“The one thing about the wine industry is we see change as a period of renewal, while other industries fear change.”

Coming back to V. Sattui, De Luca said, “We’re here to celebrate Sattui; there is only one. I only want one, they’ve broken the mold”.

I’ve taken things a bit out of order, saving the words of Dario for last. The food was great, the company was great. The wine was great. The other speakers, awards, proclamations, resolutions, all of it was great. I appreciate being witness to it, sharing it.

Compared to Dario’s speech, they all fade into the background, they are the oak and tannin, Dario’s speech was the forward fruit.

Part IV – Dario Sattui

Dressed in a blue seersucker suit, with a white pocket pocket kerchief, Dario Sattui is at once the handsome patriarch, the public face, the heart and soul, and the flesh and bone of V. Sattui Winery.

Dario Sattui, Owner of V. Sattui Winery

Passionate, speaking from a giant heart, hands in constant motion, Dario entertained and captivated all those present. Not a trained or polished speaker, he was incredibly effective because he spoke to, not at, his audience.

Dario told of how his great grandfather came to the U.S. from Italy, lured by stories of men becoming wealthy, “picking up gold from the streets.”

Vittorio baked bread, and made wine on the side. His wife Katerina took in washing, and cooked for single men on the side.

Together they leased the Cellar at 722 Montgomery Avenue, and by 1885 were making wine full time.

Faced with a landlord threatening to raise their rent, they moved the winery out of North Beach to 23rd Street and Bryant Avanue in the Mission district, and renamed the enterprise V. Sattui Wine Company.

All of the wine made was sold directly to consumers, delivered in barrels and demijohns by horse-drawn wagon.

In 1920, a horrible thing happened,  the country went dry.  Prohibition stopped the V. Sattui Wine Company as Vittorio said, “I’ll do nothing against the law.”

The winery remained closed until 1975 when Dario decided to restart his family’s winery.

Dario was in a perfect position to restart the winery, he was “living in a van,” had, “no knowledge, no money, ” and his experience with wine involved “cheap wine in college.”

Dario Sattui, great grandson of winery founder Vittorio Sattui

Everyone, including his future ex-wife, predicted failure for Dario, but he believed in himself.

Working as a substitute teacher, Dario became, “known as the Enforcer, because I kept the kids quiet so I could work on my business plan.”

Times were particularly difficult, fighting with his wife often, everyone predicting failure, Dario took to long walks where he worked on his plan in his head.

“If you try hard enough and long enough, you can only fail so many times.”

Dario admits in retrospect that his is an “unlikely story of success.”

The main elements of the business plan for V. Sattui Winery included selling the wine direct, and having a deli with picnic grounds.

Dario worked out precisely what he was looking for in a commercial winery property, location, location, location. In the entire Napa Valley, only 3 sites fit the bill. Choosing the ideal one, Dario obtained a lease option and lived in his VW Van on the property, with no furniture, no money, no equipment, no nothing, “you name it, we didn’t have it,” Dario bought 600 gallons of wine from Mondavi, bottled them the same day, and was selling them the next day.

The winery was reborn in 1975. The building started July 3rd, continued on the next day’s holiday, and was complete early in 1976.

Lack of funds meant hand bottling, hand labeling, and no aging; wines were sold immediately.

To survive at the beginning, Dario slept and lived in his office, with a $15 Burroughs manual calculator and $3 desk. Every call made was made collect, and Dario checked the bill each month.

Repeatedly, Dario talks of his ex wife, “that was the beginning of the end,” and I think that he brings up his ex in a negative light so often in his speech to indirectly cast a light on how much he loves his current wife, Yana, who he described as more beautiful inside than outside – which is a whole lot of beautiful.

V. Sattui Winery had $141 in receipts for day 1, and about $100 less on day two; but at the end of the first year had sold 1,800 cases of wine direct to the customer.

The entire family participated, Dario’s sister worked in the tasting room, his mother helped with the books, and his father was used outside as a picnic ground shill. Cars were parked, and people were paid to sit outside, even in bad weather, near the highway, to create traffic within the winery.

Bob Trinchero of Sutter Home acted as Dario’s personal savior, saving his rear end time after time in the early years.

Long before the Napa Valley became a foodie Mecca, Dario was using Acme bread, truffles, and aging Cheddar cheese two extra years for his deli operations.

V. Sattui Winery “sells more wine each year, and our wines are better each year.”

Dario doesn’t read the writing of any wine marketers, or attend any marketing seminars, because he doesn’t want to contaminate his “wrong” thinking. From the start, Dario “did things differently, [he] gave the average guy what he wants,” proclaiming, “V. Sattui is everyman’s winery.”

Dario Sattui speaking in North Beach on the occasion of his family winery’s 125th anniversary celebration

The marketing plan for V. Sattui Winery is simple, “a little wine education, but not too much; good wine, and a fair price.”

Dario’s marketing plan is what it is because he, “didn’t know better and couldn’t afford different.” The result is that V. Sattui Winery is on their 3rd generation of consumers buying wine directly from the winery.

Dario stressed that, “wine goes with food, without pretension.”

City people could escape to V. Sattui, for the day, “enjoy food from our deli, with our wines, on our picnic grounds in Napa County…it is not about the wine, other wineries make that mistake. It is about the entire experience. People are trying to recreate at home what they experienced at the winery.”

Dario is anti-pontificating, whether it be wine writers, wine markerters, or wineries themselves.

Other insights from Dario include:

“You don’t have to take [out] a second mortgage to buy our wine, but that doesn’t mean compromise, my name is on the bottle.”

“Some things you don’t do for money, you do because it’s right.”

“The secret is there are no secrets.”

“Family wineries are the difference, always look to the long run.”

“If you work for passion, the money is going to come. If you work for the money, well…”

Accomplishments cited by Dario include:

V. Sattui Winery has over 400,000 customers per year.

More wine is sold out of the tasting room than any other winery.

First to host weddings.

Second to have a wine club.

First to have picnic grounds.

First to sell all their wine direct.

More medals than any other winery year after year.

Profitable from first year.

Dario finished his incredible speech with two thoughts:

“V. Sattui Winery is all about family, from our family to our family of customers.”

“If V. Sattui Winery is not a success in the wine industry, I flat out don’t know what is.”

This was Dario’s day. His speech was a huge success. As a writer, I was in Heaven, every thing Dario said was quote worthy. I was taking notes as fast as I could, working to keep up with Dario, sixteen pages of my notebook filled with gems.

Dario had mentioned recycling during his speech, and promised to recycle the pages of notes he used for his speech. When he returned to our table, I asked him if I could have his notes if I promised to recycle them when i was finished, and he kindly let me take them for this piece. I have to tell you that many of the notes that weren’t included in the speech were just as great and quote worthy as the ones that were. Sadly, I will not be writing the “Dario, self edited” speech bits; I can’t use the extra gold when Dario himself chose not to share it with everyone else.

I can share the look of happiness as Dario himself helped pass out the Zabaglione and Strawberry dessert, and the sheer joy he had as he ate multiple helpings. I was happy for him, on his day.

Dario Sattui helps hand out Zabaglione with Strawberries for dessert

A wonderful surprise treat for the invited attendees was a commemorative label bottle of port to help the 125th Anniversary celebration in the minds of each invited attendee.

Jose and Danica Sattui help hand out surprise commemorative 125th Anniversary bottles

Presentation commemorative V. Sattui Winery Port, 125th Anniversary label

After lunch, I joined Dario and other lunch attendees on a three block walk to the site of the original family winery and cellar. Sometime in the last 125 years, 722 Montgomery Avenue became 722 Columbus Avenue, but it was amazing to be able to visit the place where it all started.

Dario and Danica Sattui at 722 Columbus Avenue, site of Vittorio Sattui’s original North Beach wine cellars

Each of us gathered there and then were inhabiting the same Vittario Sattui had been 125 years earlier. All in all, so many changes, but a great day sharing history, and a family’s dedication to their family of customers through direct sales of wine.

There will be more gatherings in the next year to celebrate V. Sattui Winery’s 125th Anniversary, any gatherings that allow Dario to showcase his passion are sure to be equally successful.

DISCLOSURE: I attended this event as a guest of V. Sattui Winery, largely owing to outside consultant Julie Ann Kodmur’s recommendation.

After a few years of drought, this year’s rains seemed intent on making up for past failings and every day brought torrential pouring. In between what felt like an endless succession of days with showers of felines and canines, on the one single day filled with sunshine and blue skies, I visited Parducci Wine Cellars. The abundance of photography in today’s winery feature is owing as much to the beauty of Parducci’s vineyards and winery as it is owing to an incredibly rare clear and warm day, filled with color and the promise of Spring.

Parducci Wine Cellars Sign

Parducci is at the north end of Mendocino County’s only city of size, Ukiah, and is an iconic winery in the north coast. I grew up seeing bottles of Parducci Petite Sirah on the tables of my Italian family’s other Italian friends. Parducci was a genuine touchstone winery for an Italian American growing up in the wine country of California’s north coast.

A decade ago, the reputation of Parducci was on the wane. While occasionally making wines that tasted good, most wines produced were not wines I would willingly purchase. The tasting room itself was dark, overcrowded with ill considered dusty tchochkies no one would conceivably purchase; the experience of tasting wines at Parducci felt oppressive and left me feeling depressed.

At about the same time, I was noting that the initial attempts to make Organic wines by a number of wineries were being met with dissatisfaction in the marketplace. Nearly all Organic wines faded quickly, having little to no cellaring potential. By the time an Organic wine had aged and mellowed, it wasn’t very good anymore.

After a February Petite Sirah tasting, Dark & Delicious, with 45 Petite Sirah producers pouring their wines, I wrote favorably about Parducci’s True Grit Petite Sirah, I liked it very much, it was delicious. In response, both Parducci vibe director Selina Luiz and Parducci marketing and sales coordinator Kelly Lentz invited me to visit the winery for a taste and tour.

Through the front door, tasting room on the left and divano (lounge in Italian) on the right.

When I accepted their invitation and set a date I was not expecting great things. Oh, how I revel in having my ignorance smacked out of me by great wine after great wine…but we’ll get to the wines in a moment; first, it is time for some recent Parducci history.

John Parducci left Parducci, then later started a different winery in 1999, after not seeing eye to eye with partners in an investment group. A couple more quick ownership changes led to a businessman trying to run the winery from Chicago. The timing of the changes in ownership coincides with my Parducci tasting room visits that left a negative impression.

I did not know that the winery was no longer Parducci family held, but the lack of hands-on family owners walking the vineyards and tasting the wines are likely the cause for the unfortunate fall in quality I had experienced.

Paul Dolan, Tom Thornhill Jr. and his sons Tim Thornhill and Tom Thornhill III formed Mendocino Wine Company, and in 2004 they bought Parducci. Together, the Dolan and Thornhill families are committed to operating their business in an environmentally sustainable way. Together, they have both grapegrowing and winemaking experience and are intimately tied to the land of Mendocino County.

Parducci is a completely different winery than the place I visited only 10 years earlier. There is a justified pride in virtually everyone that works there. Parducci isn’t just about making wine that tastes good, Parducci is doing it in the best possible way as stewards of the Earth.

Parducci and their Mendocino Wine Company partner brand Paul Dolan Vineyards share this dedication, bordering on religious zeal. Working with local neighbor Mendocino County farms, grapes purchased come from family owned farms. The grapes are grown in a fish friendly manner. The grapes are often CCOF certified Organic grapes. Some of the wines are even Demeter certified Biodynamic wines. Water is captured, naturally filtered and stored for reuse. Power use has been decreased and many energy needs are met through capturing and using solar energy. Packaging and labels are lighter, smarter, degradable, recyclable, and earth friendlier. Offsets have been purchased and the winery is carbon neutral. Pomace and composted waste is used in the vineyards for fertilizer. In a nutshell, Parducci and Mendocino Wine Company are the greenest wine operation in the United States.

This isn’t a northern California hippy ethic run wild, this is the cutting edge of forward thinking smart business. Mendocino Wine Company, Parducci, and Paul Dolan Vineyards aren’t just making wine for today, but creating a business that will be in place 100 years from now for future Dolan and Thornhill family members to continue to sustain profitably.

When droughts force extreme water conservation measures, and focus environmental concerns about fish deaths due to water being pumped out of rivers to protect against frost damage to crops, Parducci has created a ready reserve of usable reclaimed water. Parducci has demonstrated greater vitality in plants fertilized with free compost and pomace versus expensive synthetic chemical fertilizers. Owls living in boxes on the property naturally protect the grapes from hungry birds and replace nasty pesticides. Energy prices never go down, but Parducci is less reliant on the grid for power.

Grapes on the left with pomace and compost are more vital than grapes on right with purchased fertilizer

I was impressed beyond all expectations, beyond imagination. More than one person acknowledged that Parducci had experienced a dimming between the Parducci family ownership and the Dolan/Thornhill families’ ownership. Mendocino Wine Company, Parducci, and Paul Dolan Vineyards employees were all smiling, proud and happy. There is a palpable difference that can be felt when comparing either the general vibe or wine quality under absent owners and the family run local ownership provided by the Dolan and Thornhill families.

I had the honor of tasting wines with the winemaker, Bob Swain. Bob carved out a huge and generous chunk of his morning to taste wines with me, and the tasting was set up in the divano (lounge). First, let me say that my concerns about the quality issues of previous Organic wine attempts by other wineries were answered by the wines themselves. All 11 wines I tasted were delicious. Bob explained that dedication and commitment in place, the efforts to make sustainably responsible wines must always be viewed with making wines that are marketable.

Bob Swain, winemaker for both Parducci and Paul Dolan Vineyards

Rather than making 100% Organic wine, Parducci makes wines from 100% Organic grapes. The difference? The wines may have added sulfites, a naturally occurring wine ingredient, if needed to ensure a safe and healthy shelf life. Sustainable and green winemaking is not a business suicide pact. Making even “green”re wines that don’t taste good is not part of Parducci’s green business model.

Bob poured wines from both Parducci and Paul Dolan Vineyards from the Mendocino Wine Company.

Here’s my tasting notes:

2007 Paul Dolan Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Mendocino County $18 – 13.5% alc. 3,900 cases made. CCOF certified Organic. Citrusy. nice acid. Hella food wine. 100% stainless. Crisp rich fruit. Stone fruit.

2008 Paul Dolan Vineyards Chardonnay, Mendocino County $18 – 13.5% alc. 4,140 cases made. CCOF certified Organic. No malolactic. 20% barrel fermented oak, 80% stainless steel. Pear and apple. light cream. Nice structure. No flab.

2007 Parducci Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley $25 – 14.5% alc. Bottled exclusively for Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Warm, round, rich cherry. Light tartness balanced by dark fruit. Smooth texture. Nice spice box component.

Bob Swain in the divano, tasting room in the background

2007 Paul Dolan Vineyards Filigreen Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley $33 – 14.5% alc. 180 cases made. Filigreen Farms. 100% Organically grown grapes. CCOF Certified. Demeter Biodynamic in all but name. Our bottle was slightly, so very slightly, some people would not notice slightly, paired with food it might not matter slightly, corked. Still, the wine was tastable, nice vanilla nose. Cocoa. Dark cherry berry fruit with oak.

2007 Paul Dolan Vineyards Pinot Noir, Mendocino County $30 – 14.5% alc. Just nosing this wine made me smile, wonderful Pinot aromas. Jammy cherry and stone fruit, less wood. Fruit powered Pinot with aromas and flavors of cherry, berry, with a kiss of oak, toast, cream, and vanilla. Lush, elegant, drinkable.

2005 Parducci Grenache, Mendocino County $25 – 14.5% alc. Nice dark garnet. Berry & Cherry fruit nose. Flavors of strawberry with rose petal. Lush, yummy juice. Dense with fruit and spice flavor, with a floral fruit and spice nose. I could nose this all day long and be in ecstasy. Nice, fun, good. A Rodney Dangerfield wine; the varietal gets no respect, but we’re talking about a huge star here.

2007 Paul Dolan Vineyards Zinfandel, Mendocino County $25 – 14.5% alc. 2,925 cases made. CCOF certified Organic. Bright jammy raspberry, pepper, and spice. Straight ahead Zinfandel.

Great wine starts in the vineyard, in this case a CCOF certified Organic vineyard.

2006 Paul Dolan Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendocino County $25 – 13.5% alc. 2,950 cases made. CCOF certified Organic. “[EXPLETIVE DELETED] me, that’s good!” Nice tannin tickle. Blackberry, earthy, stone, mineral, leather. Big, round, full. Deee-lushious. Okay, I made up a word, but I had to, this wine is worthy of new descriptors.

2006 [Paul Dolan Vineyards] Deep Red, Mendocino County $45 – 14.5% alc. 770 cases made. 100% Demeter certified Biodynamic. 100% Dark Horse Vineyards; 57% Syrah, 31% Petite Sirah, 12% Grenache. Deep Red represents the winemakers attempt to best capture the best expression of the single vineyard for the vintage. Plum, blueberry. The land and varietals are both speaking with an earthiness from the vineyard and spices from the Syrah, Petite Sirah and Grenache.

2005 Parducci Coro Mendocino $35 – 55% Zinfandel, 20% Syrah, 15% Petite Sirah, 10% Grenache. A host of Mendocino County winemakers have joined together to each produce a special Zinfandel blend that sings of the Mendocino County earth it comes from, their effort’s branded individually, but each being named Coro Mendocino (Coro is chorus in Italian). Red fruit. Raspberry from the Zinfandel and strawberry from the Grenache have the loudest voices. Supporting notes of cedar and spice are carried by the Syrah and Petite Sirah. A lovely and exciting harmony.

2006 True Grit Parducci Petite Sirah, Mendocino County $30 – 14.5% alc. Big, but nicely structured integrated tannins. Beautiful berry fruit. To me, this is Parducci’s flagship varietal, and you can taste Mendocino County terroir in each sip. I love this Petite. Just an incredibly drinkable wine for a wine so big. Huge burstingly ripe blackberry, cherry and pepper notes are balanced by chocolate, vanilla and caramel. A real fruit bomb. Really long, lingering finish.

The eleven wines from Mendocino wine Company I tasted

Tasting with Bob was a huge treat. I was thrilled to find that Parducci, once the pride of Mendocino County wineries, was again making great wines – possibly the best wines they had ever made; and were doing it all in an environmentally friendly way.

Here are two important notes about prices: wine club members save about 20% off most wines, and wine shops and markets often have sale prices on wines, so shop well.

After my tasting, Selina Luiz and Kelly Lentz took me on a tour of the lower home vineyard. I already knew a lot about the things they were telling me about the basics of grape growing, but I will never pass up an opportunity to walk through a vineyard on a beautiful day.

Mendocino County beauty abounds

I did learn that Parducci manages their water flow precisely, with gauges throughout the vineyards to help determine when vines really need water. The winery has experienced both a water savings and a more deliciously “happy” grape.

These vines have been getting plenty of rain. Later in the year, they will receive water only when they really need it.

If you live in or visit wine country in February – April, you will often see cover crops grown in the area between the rows of vines. These cover crops keep the vines from growing out of control, allowing the vitality to flow to the grapes when they come later, rather than the vine when there are no grapes. The cover crops also fix nitrogen and can be turned back into the ground providing nutrition for the grapes.

Cover crops can include clover, mustard, lavender, and fava beans

The folks at Parducci are justifiably proud of co-owner Tim Thornhill’s water reclamation, cleaning and purifying system. 100% of water used at the winery is reclaimed and recycled. Initially pumped up a hill to two holding tanks where gravity and active enzyme processes begin to clean used water, gravity and mother nature take over, and the water flows down the hill, through marshes and cleaning channels, to a wetlands area, where waterfalls and pumps provide the final aeration. Think of Willy Wonka, but instead of chocolate Tim Thornhill has made dirty water clean and reusable again, and created an area of beauty in an of itself. The fresh water wetlands have brought a large variety of wild animals to add to the diversity the flora provide.

This willow tower helps filter water traveling from hillside tanks to the wetlands below.

Water is channeled slowly by plants and grasses which consume waste and leave the water cleaner for the passage

Tim’s water recycling project yields visual benefits

Kelly stands at the edge of the water filtering marsh of tall grasses and plants.

One of four Willy Wonka-esque waterfalls that aerate the water

After our vineyard and wetlands tour, Selina excused herself to attend to other tasks – that evening Parducci and Paul Dolan Wines hosted a Sauvignon Blanc tweet up and meet up – and Kelly carried on, taking me on a tour of winery grounds.

A beautiful piece of functional art. The only thing more beautiful would be a bocce court. Hint, hint.

Kelly unlocked and showed me the old cellar tasting room under the original Parducci house. The old cellar has been turned into a museum.

A 50th Anniversary commemorative large format bottle of 1980 vintage Parducci Cabernet Sauvignon

Kelly took me to the actual wine cellar, where wines are aged. Something not regularly seen at other wineries is the large collection of oak containers; not mere barrels, but enormous vessels that reach floor to very high ceiling.

More than triple my height, each of these casks is larger than the Pods contestants on Fox Reality’s Solitary live in.

These “baby” tanks are 1/5-1/4 the size of the monsters previously pictured.

A nice walk in the sun brought us back from the cellars to where the day started for me. Along the way, I had to take one more outdoor picture to show how beautiful the day was.

I am a visual person, and the day was filled with gorgeous colors popping against the greenest of greens

Back inside, we visited the tasting room which was bright and had a nice selection of items for sale than complimented the wines. Most wineries are not packed early midweek during the rainy season, so I asked Kelly to jump into a shot where there were two folks tasting. Now there are three.

A selection of wine books, food treats, vineyard clothing and other items available for purchase with wines

The tasting room crew caught between smiles

Three folks lined up at the tasting room bar. I see people are on their reds.

I had a really good time at Parducci. The wines were all great. Bob Swain was incredibly generous with his time and free with his commentary which I valued greatly. Kelly Lentz and Selina Luiz were wonderful hosts and terrific representatives. I came away impressed with the value of local family ownership of a winery, it has made such a huge difference for Parducci. I also am amazed and impressed by the Dolan/Thornhill dedication to environmental sustainability and economic success. In just six short years, they have outpaced every other winery in America and are a model for others to borrow from. If being green is the new religion in wine, they are the leaders of the church, and I am a new convert.

2007 Cleavage Creek Cellars Reserve Chardonnay Tracy Hills, 14.5% alc, $18 150 cases made. smooth floral oak, tropical citrus and melon. Used a little to help cook down onions for a savory onion and two cheese mozzarella and Parmigiano-Reggiano) pizza, then paired it with the pizza. A lovely pair.

2005 Parducci Coro Mendocino, 14.5% $35 294 cases made. 55% Zinfandel, 20% Syrah, 15% Petite Sirah, 10% Grenache. Boy, do the Zin and Grenache show nicely! Supported by the Syrah and Petite, this is a rich, lush, red, juicy blackberry, raspberry and strawberry licorice bomb. Love it in concept, love it in execution. I’ll be writing more about Coro Mendocino soon when I write a feature piece on Parducci. Served it with simple lamb chops, and oven roasted herb potatoes.

2007 Pedroncelli Zinfandel Bushnell Vineyard Dry Creek Valley, 14.9% alc, $18 1,000 cases made. With a bottle and label this attractive, it’s gotta be good, right? Right! Brambly raspberry, blackberry, cranberry, pepper spice, fruit forward, oak tannin. I say it is a fruit bomb, I say it with love. Made a quick fettucini with thinly sliced carne aside, roasted red pepper, portobello mushrooms, and a Zin cream alfredo with pine nuts and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano.

2008 Pedroncelli Pinot Noir Russian River Sonoma County, 14.2% alc, $18 5,000 cases made. Silky smooth elegant wine, loaded with full rich aroma and flavors of cherry, raspberry spice and oak. Beautifully balnced. Paired brilliantly with baked teriyaki salmon served on a Thai Som Tom shredded green papaya salads tossed in a passionfruit chili dressing.

2007 Cleavage Creek Cellars Merlot-Shiraz Tracy Hills, 14.9% alc, $18 230 cases made. 67% Syrah, 33% Merlot. What a fun wine. First, I love blends when they work, and this one does. So very drinkable. warm cedar blackberry and black cherry fruit with tons of spice and a nice tannin backbone. Went great with a grilled flank steak and garlic mashed potatoes. Helped the next day to take away the pain caused by listening to the worst season of American Idol contestants ever.

2006 Tangley Oaks Merlot Napa Valley Lot #8, 14.2% alc, $15 Warm round smooth cherry and plum notes with hints of brighter raspberry and dark floral spice. No rough edges, very approachable. Soft. Paired with a prime rib cooked in my set it and forget it rotisserie grill. So delicious.

2007 Pedroncelli Cabernet Sauvignon Block 007 Estate Vineyard Dry Creek Valley 14.4% alc, $25 1,000 cases made. Blackberry and currant fruit with rich leather coffee cocoa and spice hanging on a backdrop of oak and tannin. Big, full, rich, whole lotto wow. Much easier to make than it sounds, inspired by the first sniff of this Cab, I cooked up Steak au Poivre and created an OMG pairing of food and wine.

2006 Cleavage Creek Cellars Secret Red Tracy Hills, 14.5% alc, $18 330 cases made. Lots going on. blackberry, cranberry, cocoa, anise, spice, oak, round and complex, with a lingering finish. Delicious. A bit of a luxury with cheeseburgers, but no one complained.

2007 Tangley Oaks Chardonnay Central Coast Lot #4, 14.2% alc, $15  Apple and pear fruit, with citrus and clove, cream and vanilla oak add to mouth, crisp acid makes another sip desirable. Nicely balanced. I paired this wine with watermelon cooked chicken, the chicken is actually cooked inside the watermelon. Both are good, together they were great.


Cleavage Creek Cellars does two great things. The first is to make really drinkable wine. The second, and more impressive, thing is to donate 10% of the revenue from their sales to help fight breast cancer. Smiling women grace each label of Cleavage Creek wines, women who have fought and survived breast cancer. Socially conscious wine tastes better…or makes you feel more connected to the world at large and happier to be drinking it.

Parducci is the subject of my next featured spotlight winery piece, so I won’t go too deep here, but they may be the greenest winery anywhere. I was certainly impressed by everything I experienced on a recent visit. More socially conscious wine. Hurray.

Pedroncelli is a family winery, farming in the Dry Creek Valley for over 80 years. Pedroncelli is committed to farming in an environmentally sensitive way, and practices sustainable winegrowing. You may be sensing a trend. Pedroncelli Winery is a socially conscious winery.

Tangley Oaks is going to plant a tree for each bottle of their wine that is sold on Arbor Day, April 30, 2010. They are also going to plant a tree because of my review of their wines above. Tangley Oaks wants you to know that in 50 years, one tree generates $31,250 worth of oxygen, provides a similar dollar value worth of soil erosion control, recycles $37,500 worth of water, and provides $62,000 worth of air pollution control. The way I see it, the choice is simple. Either you must buy and plant a tree, or trees, on April 30 – or you can buy a bottle, or bottles, of Tangley Oaks wine and they’ll do the planting of trees for you. More social consciousness with wine consumption.

DISCLOSURE: I received these wines as review samples.

Over the weekend, inspired by a comment left in reply to a recent post by winery owner Ana Keller Wurtz, I visited Keller Estate, a 5,000 case (give or take) winery located just off the East side of Lakeville Highway, up Cannon Lane, outside of Petaluma.

From the bottom of Cannon Lane, I twittered, “There is no place more beautiful than Sonoma County today. Green, green, green, warm with blue skies. Visiting Keller Estate winery. #Bliss.”

I thought things were perfect until I drove up Cannon Lane, gaining elevation the entire time, and passed through the winery gates (I called from the call box at the third driveway up Cannon Lane and they were opened for me), drove up the vineyard drive, cresting a hill, and gained my first glimpse of Keller Estate’s winery.

The architectural detail was breathtakingly interesting.

Buildings that were more than functional, beyond attractive, these buildings possessed beauty.

I drove down the winery road, past the actual winery.

Keller Estate winery managed to improve what I thought was an already perfect day.

Fun, unexpected shapes, colors, and materials transform a building into functional art.

I drove past the storage buildings.

I drove past olive trees.

I felt safe parking near an antique Mercedes red firetruck.

The tasting room is centered in the back of a “U” shaped building, with a large plaza courtyard and a pergola in the foreground.

In the center of the courtyard is a sculpture of a race car with driver.

Passing inside through the tasting room doors, a bit of WOW in the form of a classic antique 1952 red luxury Bentley automobile.

Kit Cassidy, pro tasting room pour wrangler, waits to greet visitors.

At one point, Kit looked out the open tasting room door and shared that Keller Estate makes a lovely picnic spot now that glasses of wine are allowed to be sold by tasting rooms.

A picnic could be enjoyed just outside the tasting room at a table with chairs made from oak barrels.

I think a picnic lunch under the pergola with friends would be wonderful.

Mid tasting, Kit allowed me a peek into the cave that stretches from the winery to the tasting room for a photo opportunity.

My reviews, recaps, and features typically use a lot more words, but inspired by the beauty of the day I wanted to put all the pictures from Keller Estates up front. I was supremely pleased to be able to taste wines in such a setting. My pictures do not do the experience justice. The view from the Estate up the foothills of the Southern end of the Sonoma Mountain range is spectacular.

Keller Estate’s vineyards sit on 650 acres of Sonoma Coast appellation land in the Petaluma Gap of Sonoma County. Morning fog through most of the growing season allows both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to thrive, and other wine varietal grapes to be planted and tried. Grapes were first planted in 1989, and were initially sold to other winemakers. Today,  1/2 – 2/3 of the 300 tons of each year’s grapes are still sold, but wine has been made at Keller Estate since the 2000 vintage.

Here’s the notes on all five wines I tasted:

2006 Keller Estate Chardonnay, Oro De Plata, Sonoma Coast, $26  – Zero malolactic, stainless steel fermented, neutral oak held. bright. Great apple and citrus fruit expression. Apple, peach, lemon, mineral mouth. Clean, tapering finish. Good acid.

2005 Keller Estate Chardonnay, La Cruz Vineyard, Sonoma Coast, $29 – Nice, not overpowering oak. Cheesecake (oven baked cream and vanilla) light toast (graham cracker and butter?) aroma. Apple fruit, pear, spice. Creamy butterscotch. Sweet oak. Nicely balanced package. Very drinkable.

2008 Keller Estate Viognier, La Cruz Vineyard, Sonoma Coast, $30 – Only 40 cases made. I confess, I get excited, going back to the 90’s when many Chardonnays suffered from the sameness of 100 malolactic fermentation and 100% Barrel Fermentation, when I see a Viognier. This Viognier has lovely honey suckle, orange blossom floral aromas. with light peach and apricot fruit flavor. Bright, crisp, lean and clean. A real treat.

2006 Keller Estate Pinot Noir, La Cruz Vineyard, Sonoma Coast, $42 – Flagship wine, 1,200 cases made. Sweet, warm, round, full cherry pipe tobacco aroma. Strawberry, leading to cherry fruit and light earthiness. Absolutely lovely. Delicious. Elegant and restrained. Supple.

2007 Keller Estate Pinot Noir, El Coro, Sonoma Coast, $52 – 300 cases. Magic. Deeper, earthier cherry from a softer, more subtly textured wine. Nice floral and spice, woody notes. Lush cherry mouth. Good natural acidity.

2004 Keller Estate Syrah, La Cruz Vineyard, Sonoma Coast, $36 – This wine is held longer, released later, and the result is an age mellowed Syrah with round soft tannin and black fruit. Blackberry, leather, cocoa, tannin. Sweet oak. Another delight.

About an hour after I arrived at Keller estates, I twittered,”Wow, Keller Estate winery is a mindblowingly gorgeous showpiece hidden gem of a winery, and every wine I tasted was delicious.” While I expected to love the 2007 El Coro, and I did, I was surprised to love the 2006 La Cruz more – perhaps a case of age before beauty? I was thrilled to taste six wines, each different, but all thoroughly enjoyable. I would love to have these wines at hand to pair with foods.

I will return, and bring visiting friends. I am thrilled to have found Keller Estates. When I return, I would love to taste the 2006 Prescioso Pinot Noir and the Estate hand-picked, cold-pressed olive oil.

Keller Estates will be pouring their wines to pair with the slow food movement dishes of Petaluma restaurant Central Market on Tuesday, March 16 from 6-8 PM. Well worth the drive from anywhere within Sonoma County, this is a great opportunity to taste these great wines paired with good friends while sharing delicious foods.

Alternately, the Keller Estate tasting room is open Thursdays through Sundays from 11 AM – 4:30 PM. The address is 5875 Lakeville Hwy., Petaluma, CA 94954; and the phone number is (707) 765-2117.

On February 11, 2010, Sonoma County Vintners posted a job opening on the wine jobs classified section of and I submitted my resume the same day.

As I am the very best person for this job, I say this without arrogance but genuine confidence, I had hoped to hear from the folks at Sonoma County Vintners some time ago.

I resubmitted my resume on March 1, 2010. The next day, I received two emails from Sonoma County Vintners International Program & Operations Manager Tais Tillman; the first confirming receipt of the resume I had sent 19 days earlier, the second email sent 17 minutes later confirmed receipt of the resume I sent the day before. It seems that a computer glitch kept Sonoma County Vintners from seeing my resume for almost three weeks.

As my job would involve working closely with Honore Comfort, Sonoma County Vintners’ Executive Director, and the Board of Directors of the Sonoma County Vintners, representing the interests of the Sonoma County Vintners, and the 180 members of the Sonoma County Vintners, with corporate and industry partners locally, nationally, and internationally, I would like to appeal to each directly.

The position requires:

• strong verbal and written communication skills,

• the ability to manage a team and project to completion,

• experience building and managing budgets,

• analytic and results orientation.

I have maintained a well read wine blog. I have managed teams and completed projects throughout my professional life. I have built and managed budgets for employers and my own business. I am incredibly analytic and am dedicated to mission accomplishment.

In meetings with the Sonoma County Tourism Bureau and the Sonoma Count Tourism Business Improvement Area in July, 2009 the Sonoma County Vintners’ Honore Comfort reported on priorities and initiatives that included international marketing, tradeshow activities, consumer events and wine events.

The advertised position seeks someone to to meet both marketing and event needs. Marketing responsibilities include:

• Develop annual strategic plan, budget and tactics to support marketing and event activities. Work with the Executive Director and Strategic Marketing Team to ensure strategic alignment of all marketing programs with organizational long-term strategies and goals.

• Develop and manage online marketing and social networking strategies to support major initiatives and programs, and build the Sonoma County brand through consumer communications.

• Identify trade marketing opportunities and sponsorships to support consumer and trade events; work closely with Executive Director on execution. Develop sponsor materials and communication pieces.

• Develop and manage all advertising initiatives including developing co-op and advertising partner program. Manage external agencies and vendors to develop creative, buy media, and execute planned programs.

• Development and maintenance of collateral, communication materials and electronic media in collaboration with the Communications Director.

• Manage internal communications with member wineries to develop support and participation for market development goals and activities.

• Track expenses and manage budgets for all aspects of marketing programs.

When I developed and managed the tradeshow program for Windsor Vineyards, I developed a strategic plan and budget, which I submitted annually – updating constantly, for specific marketing and event activities. I worked with the winery President, Vice Presidents, and many others to ensure marketing alignment and integration with organizational long term strategies and goals.

While at Windsor Vineyards, and then with the Wine Appreciation Guild, I made use of web resources then available for marketing and sales uses. My current web 2.0 activites including my website,, as well twitter and facebook presences, provide both the experience and, within the social networking scene, the authenticity required to help achieve the goal of building the Sonoma County brand through consumer communications.

As the head of Windsor Vineyards’ tradeshow program, I worked with the winery officers on trade marketing opportunities and sponsorships to support our events, both trade and consumer. My experience working with the public, representing the winery at tradeshows, led to me being chosen again and again for consumer event activities.

While working with Sonoma County wineries, I have worked cooperatively with numerous businesses including real estate powerhouse RE/MAX, fast food giant Wendy’s, Chicago restaurant Zinfandel, chip manufacturer AMD, and communication hardware supplier Anixter.

I created and maintained the collateral communication materials necessary for the tradeshow program at Windsor Vineyards, as well as that needed for sales and marketing efforts at the Wine appreciation guild and for my own business. I have worked with others to create superior work.

I recently contacted 45 wineries participating at Dark & Delicious, a Petite Sirah tasting event produced by PSILoveYou, to ask what specific wines they would pour and the alcohol percentage of each of  those wines. When I achieved a response rate over 50%, PSILoveYou Executive Director Jo Diaz expressed surprise. Using email, phone, and networkingn tools, I ended up with a 95.56% response rate. I have demonstrated skill managing internal communications with wineries, and am the perfect person with the skills and experience to develop support and participation for market development goals and activities.

I have saved upwards of 1,000 receipts each year for my own business tax requirements. Tracking expenses and managing budgets for my activities with Windsor Vineyards and the Wine Appreciation Guild were simple by comparison. I am wholly capable of doing the same for Sonoma County Vintners.

Event responsibilities include:

• Direct national and international road shows and events; Manage event staff and coordinate with Operations and Communications teams. Provide events oversight and manage event coordinators, vendors and external consultants.

• Outline the budget, purpose, and goals of events for SCV annual event calendar.

• Coordinate with Communications and Operations teams on strategy, content, and event execution.

• Manage all aspects of event planning and execution including timeline, budget, vendors, communication, volunteer coordination, and promotion. Coordinate with SCV Communications and Operations teams.

• Develop reporting and planning tools as needed to track event development, execution, and results.

• Manage outside agencies or vendors as needed on event execution.

• Coordinate member communications and participation requirements and work with Operations Manager

• Coordinate with the Communications Director on member communications strategy and timing for all SCV events.

I have directed tradeshow and event activities in over 30 states. I have traveled for work to 8 countries, 30 states, 42 California Counties, hundreds of cities. I have managed staff and coordinated with others. I have worked side by side with others to ensure event success.

I have prepared budget, purpose and goal submissions for my tradeshow and event activities with Windsor Vineyards and the Wine Appreciation Guild.

I have coordinated with other segments of the companies I worked for to ensure alignment of marketing message and goals when working on tradeshow and event projects.

I have managed all aspects of both event planning and execution successfully and without fail. I have worked well with others.

I first developed reporting and planning tools to track event development, execution, and results as the intel analyst for the most forward deployed Infantry Battalion in the US Army. My job involved life and death situations, and I did my job so well that I was required to write a manual on how to do my job before I was allowed to come home. Developing reporting and planning tools is within my abilities.

I have regularly managed outside agencies and vendors in execution of tradeshow and event activities.

I have coordinated my efforts with the efforts of others to produce superior results, and under the direction of company officers.

I have coordinated on communication strategy and timing, then executed in almost every previous position.

I exceed the minimum requirements outlined in the job posting: I have nearly 20 years of wine marketing or wine industry marketing experience, as well as brand management experience. I have a wealth of event management and management experience. I have strong strategic thinking and analytic skills. My Top Secret Compartmentalized security clearance, though inactive, remains in effect for life, I clearly can demonstrate confidentiality and discretion abilities. My work experience demonstrates initiative and judgement. I have been on the front line of professional communications, both written and verbal, for the companies I have worked for. I have negotiated contracts and managed vendors. My organizational, time management and prioritization skills are excellent. I possess an entrepreneurial mindset, having managed my own business, and love the ever changing work environment that comes from tradeshow exhibition. I have demonstrated an ability to thrive in a multi tasking fast paced work environment and exemplify mission accomplishment in my work attitude and ethic. I have computer and web 2.0 skills. I have developed, bought and analyzed efficacy of advertising. I can lift and cary 40 pounds. I have, can, and will travel out of state and internationally. I have a Bachelors of Science in Marketing degree. I have a valid California drivers license for operation of a car or motorcycle.

When I directed tradeshow operations for Windsor Vineyards, Exhibitor Magazine awarded me the Expert Exhibitor Award over thousands of other trade show exhibitors three consecutive years. I know there is no tradeshow exhibitor more skilled, better able to craft and deliver a message.

I have a well read blog, where I write about wine, food, friends, and living in the wine country. Wine industry people who have read and responded positively to my blog include Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyard, Joel Peterson of Ravenswood Winery, Carol Shelton of Carol Shelton Wines, and Hardy Wallace of Natural Process Alliance.

Last year, I had the 8th most popular one minute video application, of the 1,993 applications submitted, for the Lifestyle Correspondent position at Murphy-Goode.

I was born in Sonoma County, raised in Sonoma County, educated in Sonoma County. I was active in my Santa Rosa high school, Piner High School; I was Senior Class President, Student Activities Director, PTA Vice President, and captained our lacrosse team. I attended Santa Rosa Junior College, and was elected Student Body Executive Vice President and served as a Student Body Commissioner at Large. I have extensive Sonoma County community theatre experience. I have worked for three wineries, all in Sonoma County. My son was born in Sonoma County. I know and love Sonoma County above all places. I am uniquely qualified to tell the story of Sonoma County.

When fellow wine writer Frank Morgan from Chesapeake, VA left a facebook message on my wall

“Hi John. Hope all is well out there. Was wondering if I could possibly shake you down for a few recommendations? I’ll be in Sonoma/Napa beginning March 6. I have a lot of places I want to visit this year, but like to solicit ideas from the locals if possible.”

My response was

“I always tell folks visiting wine country to visit Napa so you can say you did, then head over to Sonoma County and get to tasting wines. Sonoma County has only about half the wineries of Napa County, but wins about twice as many gold medals in Nat’l and Int’l wine competitions…and cost less…and are more often poured by the winemaker or winery owner in the tasting room…and the tasting fees are less (zero is less, right?). Let me know your favorite varietals, and I’ll make some recommendations.”

Business Wire reported that Sonoma County Vintners represented more than 170 member wineries in January, 2006. Today, Sonoma County Vintners lists 154 member wineries and 26 affiliate members, 180 total members, on their site. I want to work for the 180 members of the Sonoma County Vintners. I want to tell the story of Sonoma County, the wines, the river, the forests, the mountains, the food grown and raised, the coast, the people; there is no place more beautiful. I have traveled to Asia and Europe, I have travelled much of the United States; I have always loved knowing that I was returning home.

I hope that by posting this here, I can bring attention to my desire to fill this position for Sonoma County Vintners. I’m not trying for a job I am not qualified for, but the job that I am uniquely most qualified for. I want this to be my last job. I would love to use my talents, skills, education, knowledge, passion, and love of Sonoma County’s wines and wine country until I retire 20 years from now – or later.

EDITED TO UPDATE: I received a phone call from Honore Comfort of the Sonoma County Vintners who generously acknowledged my efforts and the breadth of support my campaign to bring my skills and abilities to bear on behalf of Sonoma County and the wines and wineries of the county. Honore described a desire for a more orthodox candidate for the open position, someone with a resume more closely resembling Honore’s work history. I respect her choice, and am grateful for her phone call.

A month after my campaign, I did express my opinion that the Social Media Marketing of the Sonoma County Vintners has improved in the last month both in quantity and quality, in communication I had with a Sonoma County Supervisor.

I attended Affairs of the Vine’s 8th Passion for Pinot Noir Summit on Saturday, February 27, 2010, arriving at a bit before 12:00 noon and staying through nearly all of the festivities until 8:00 pm. Barbara Drady, Affairs of the Vine CEO offered a full day ticket in a contest which I won.

Barbara Drady, Chief Wine Evangelist & Affairs of the Vine CEO

Held at the first floor of the beautiful multi floor Osher Marin Jewish Community Center, I was welcomed with an event badge bearing my name and the names of the workshops I had signed up for.  Waiting for the summit to officially begin, I mingled with other attendees, chatting with other wine writers I have met at previous wine tasting events and finding a number of people that I have worked with at wineries to play the “whatever happened to” game of catch up with.

Dave Rogers, left, and Thea Dwelle, Wine writer Luscious Lushes, center

We were ushered into a ballroom with tables set up in to create a “U” shape. On the tables were 40 different Pinot Noir. Each of the bottles was completely covered in tape secured aluminum foil, labeled with different color names running from Aqua Marine to Yellow.

Pinot Noir prepared for 3 1/2 hours of blind tasting

Prior to the actual summit, 40 judges tasted many more Pinot Noir that had been submitted to be considered for inclusion at the summit. Tasting flights of eight wines at a time, and no more than 32 wines at a sitting, scores from the judges were totaled and the top 40 Pinot Noir were now available to be tasted by the summit attendees.

Wine bloggers and twitterers were well represented, and the following is a transcript of relevant tweets from my tweeps using the hash tag #PinotSummit:

LarryTheWineGuy Arrived at the #PinotSummit. Now for 8 hours of drinking Pinot. Where to begin?

elizabethdehoff After a quick stop at Whole Foods to pick up gluten-free crackers, I’m at the #PinotSummit! Still can’t believe I did this. 😀

elizabethdehoff Just ran into @LarryTheWineGuy. #pinotsummit

LarryTheWineGuy Interesting aromas from the cafe near the #pinotsummit. Pinot and matzo ball soup?

LarryTheWineGuy thirsty crowd at the #pinotsummit. let us in already. mmmm pinot.

JohnOnWine At #PinotSummit recognizing folks from previous tastings, taken pictures, ready to blind taste and make notes.

elizabethdehoff Small world: One of today’s winemakers is Eric Luse, an AP photog I sat next to randomly on a HNL-SFO flight 3 years ago. #pinotsummit

elizabethdehoff One down, 40 to go… #pinotsummit

StevePaulo At #PinotSummit! (@ Osher Marin JCC)

SFDoug At the #PinotSummit (@ Osher Marin JCC w/ @brandyea)

elizabethdehoff No reviews yet — this tasting is blind. Plenty to come after the big reveal! #pinotsummit

elizabethdehoff Oh man. I don’t know what cheese they’re serving with the blind tasting but it’s really good! #pinotsummit

LarryTheWineGuy Half way thru tasting 40 Pinots at #pinotsummit. Very high level of quality. Wouldn’t kick these out of bed.

elizabethdehoff @LarryTheWineGuy Wow, you are way ahead of me! #pinotsummit

brandyea RT @elizabethdehoff: Oh man. I don’t know what cheese they’re serving with the blind tasting but it’s really good! #pinotsummit << Agreed!

elizabethdehoff GOD, I love Pinot Noir! #pinotsummit

brandyea Some at #pinotsummit blind tasting pondering whether wines assigned colors like gold and burgundy have leg up on pumpkin and lime green.

LarryTheWineGuy Slowly progress is made at the #pinotsummit 24 down, 16 to go. All good. some great. Arguing over which is which.

StevePaulo @elizabethdehoff @brandyea And wedgewood? Wedgewood is a color? #pinotsummit

elizabethdehoff @stevepaulo @brandyea I think it’s the color of the Wedgwood china or something? #pinotsummit

JohnOnWine 27 tasted, 13 left to taste at #PinotSummit.

elizabethdehoff @JohnOnWine I think I’ve tasted 13 and have 27 to go! Ack. #pinotsummit

JohnOnWine @elizabethdehoff clearly you have to drink faster, grab a 2nd glass and stop spitting! #PinotSummit

StevePaulo 28 Pinot Noirs. Stick a fork in this guy. #pinotsummit (and for this who think I’m insane… yes, of course I spit)

brandyea @stevepaulo @elizabethdehoff Yeah, Wedgewood’s a little lost on me, too! #pinotsummit

JohnOnWine #PinotSummit OMG, the INDIGO Pinot is the best, followed by VIOLET, then AUBERGINE. (Note: We had been tasting for over 2 hours, not everyone was spitting, and these three colors were not actual wines to be tasted)

brandyea Heard a guy compare one of the wines to Bob Ross, the guy w/ the crazy hair on PBS’ Joy of Painting. Not sure what that means. #pinotsummit

LarryTheWineGuy Approaching the final stretch at the #pinotsummit Only one clunker so far. This is Pinot heaven.

brandyea Nice try! >> RT @JohnOnWine #PinotSummit OMG, the INDIGO Pinot is the best, followed by VIOLET, then AUBERGINE.

elizabethdehoff OK, the Pinot labeled as “deep purple” is my favorite so far. #pinotsummit

LarryTheWineGuy @johnonwine #pinotsummit You had me going there for a minute. Shuffling thru my notes!

demilove @randyhall – At the #Pinotsummit in san rafael; want a report on it for @Winebizradio?

elizabethdehoff 10 Pinots to go. I’ve given up taking detailed notes, am just writing “Yum!” or “Eh” to simplify, will revisit “Yum!” wines. #pinotsummit

ShaRayRay Still gonna make it to the #pinotsummit!

vintuba At #pinotsummit tasting and taking notes. Some good, some bad, and some ugly

elizabethdehoff I got through 39 Pinots (can’t find the 40th). Lots of spitting! #pinotsummit

LarryTheWineGuy Q: Can one have too many Pinots? A: No. Just finished tasting 40 Pinots. Now ready for more. #pinotsummit

brandyea Made it through all 40. Only poured wine from bottle into spit cup instead of wineglass twice! #pinotsummit

educatedpalates Discovering new stars at #Pinotsummit

JohnOnWine RT @educatedpalates: Discovering new stars at #Pinotsummit <- All the new stars are at my table!

ShaRayRay Finally made it to #PinotSummit (@ Osher Marin JCC w/ @sfdoug)

ShaRayRay – Discovering New Stars in Pinot Noir #pinotsummit

StevePaulo Umm who farted in here! #pinotsummit /via @winebratsf Stay classy, Brat ;D

ShaRayRay Hi @jamiebakas. You look like you need a glass of wine!! #pinotsummit

educatedpalates Wine and food pairing at #pinotsummit

elizabethdehoff Attending seminar on global perspectives on Pinot. Burgundy, CA, NZ. #pinotsummit

philular Getting set up @osherjcc for #pinotsummit grand tasting! #hahnwines

elizabethdehoff Burgundy, je t’aime! #pinotsummit

elizabethdehoff @winebratsf really good so far. Which one did you end up in? #pinotsummit

demilove Enjoying the lectures at #Pinotsummit!

JohnOnWine Most important thing learned at #PinotSummit was that my palate is the best. LOL.

ShaRayRay @philular I already left! 😦 Sorry to have missed the finale of the #pinotsummit

JohnOnWine Thrilled that one of my top 3 #PinotSummit wines is from a vineyard that had not impressed me before. #BlindTastingRocks

brandyea Dark gray = Hahn SLH Estate and turquoise = Lucienne Doctor’s Vineyard. Both 2007. #hahnwines #pinotsummit

brandyea Some faves from the #pinotsummit: Pacific Coast Vineyards 2007 Babcock Estate (gray), Claiborne & Churchill 2007 Edna Valley (tan).

JohnOnWine OMG! #PinotSummit just gave me a best taster trophy! Nah, not really.

JohnOnWine @winebratsf Real #PinotSummit faves: Purple, 08 Left Edge Sonoma Coast, Gray 07 Pac Coast Babcock Vnyd, Dp Purp 07 Deaver Sierra Foothills

brandyea Two last picks from #pinotsummit: Vine Hill 2007 Santa Cruz Mountains and Exhuberance 2007 Sonoma Valley. Nice discoveries.

AnoushBotanical Enjoyed participating in Blind Tastings plus Wine Making & Organic / Sustainable Workshops at #PinotSummit thanks to @myvinespace

LarryTheWineGuy My favorites from the #PinotSummit Elk Cove, Perception, Sonoma Coast, Left Edge, Nicholson Ranch, Artesa. The others were really good too.

LarryTheWineGuy Champagne Pommery had a delicious new cuvee at the #PinotSummit 80% Pinot Noir, 20% Pinot Meunier. I like Champagne. A lot.

elizabethdehoff My favorite in the blind tasting at #PinotSummit: Deaver Vineyards Sierra Foothills Pinot Noir (2007, I think).

elizabethdehoff @winebratsf Yes! I was stunned that it came from the Sierra Foothills. Heard lots of others liked it too. #PinotSummit

The initial event was the blind tasting of 40 Pinot Noir in a comfortable 3 1/2 hours. I secured a table with Dave Rogers, a friend I worked with years before at Windsor Vineyards, and we would venture forth, find an untasted wine, bring it backk to the table, taste, write notes with a score, spit and dump the remainder into a large plastic cup, and venture forth affair. Conveniently, our table was under great lighting allowing a judgement of each wine’s color and clarity.

Dave Rogers, right, with a high school friend

Each attendee was asked to note their top three wines on a ballot, and the results of the totaled scores, broken down by gender, will be posted no later than March 15, 2010  right here.

Barbara Drady, foreground, Elizabeth DeHoff and Thea Dwelle, background

After the blind tasting, attendees split into groups to attend the workshops they signed up for.

Amy Cleary, twitter @educatedpalates

I attended Discovering New Stars – “An Introduction and tasting of wines from young wineries producing fabulous Pinot Noir,” moderated by C. Jason Mancebo of fame. The new stars were Mark Ray of Perception Wines, Bradley Brown of Big Basin Vineyards and Ken Post of Mariposa Wine Company. Tables were set with placemats prepared with three wines to be tasted.

Jason Mancebo, $20 Dollar Wine Blog

Mark Ray poured a 2007 Perception Wines Pinot Noir Orsi Vineyard. I try to find and write about delicious inexpensive easily obtainable wines, that is my wine writing goal. Having said that, this is a wine few will taste, and I have to confess a thrill hearing that production is only 48 cases (website says 43), the cost is $53 (website says $52), and the alcohol is 13.8 (website says 13.9). Remembering exact numbers aren’t important, taste is; and this beautiful Pinot Noir tasted delicious, the grapes coming from the Russian River Valley, from vineyards just across the river from William Selyem and Rochioli. It was interesting to hear Ray say he used a clone (114) that is neither his nor the consumer’s favorite when it comes to Pinot Noir, but that the varietal is so site specific that the grapes planted in Bernard Orsi’s loamy and very rocky vineyard just shine. It was a treat to taste a 2007 Russian River Valley from a single vineyard, single clone, only two barrels, and about 45 cases only.

Mark Ray, Perception Wines

Bradley Brown poured a 2008 Big Basin Pinot Noir, Woodruff Family Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountain. The grapes come from clones older than 20 years, planted where regular fog allows harvest a full month later than most other areas, and yields of only 1 ton per acre. The not yet released wine will sell in the low $40’s and runs 14.6% alcohol.

Bradley Brown, Big Basin Vineyards

Finally, Ken Post of Mariposa Wine Company talked about his 2008 CRU Pinot Noir, Santa Maria $35, about grapes from the Derbyshire  Vineyard near San Simeon yielding only 600 pounds per acre, and about grapes coming in at 29° Brix in 2008. I imagined miniscule clusters of sugar bomb raisins. At least one wine was watered back (thank you for having the balls to openly admit to what many do) to a manageable 14.7% alcohol.

Ken Post, Mariposa Wine Company

I found the seminar more interesting for the different paths to great Pinot Noir these three winemakers took, having started with significantly different starting places. Great wine is made in the vineyard, and it was interesting to hear how each of these three worked with grapes they had.

While the rooms from the first workshop were reset for the afternoon’s second workshop, attendees enjoyed a Cheese Intermezzo with bubbly in the ballroom.

The second workshop I attended was the Food and Wine Pairing – “An exploration of Pinot Noir pairings, what works with what Pinot Noir? Taste for yourself,” moderated by Rick Bakas, Director of social media at St. Supery Winery.

Rick Bakas, St. Supery Winery

The wines were a 2007 Lionheart Wines Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast, a 2006 Kendric Vineyards Pinot Noir Marin County, and a 2008 Mariposa wine Company CRU Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands Sarmento Vineyards. The foods were salmon with pickled ginger, pheasant pate with sweet chutney, and Manchego cheese. Our room wasn’t really set, and the event was a bit of a clusterfuck. Fifteen minutes into the workshop, Dave Rogers asserted some measure of control, moving up to the front table, grabbing the three wines, and announcing what we were going to be tasting. Eventually, everyone had the three wines and a too small morsel of each food to be tasted with the three wines, and tasting and note taking ensued.

Bakas then asked each table about their food and wine experiences. I found it interesting that some people could be so completely wrong. What I really found is that some people can’t break free of limitations and rules they have read or heard, while others can imagine new, possibly superior, pairings inspired by these pairings. Some could not taste the Pinot Noir for the sweetness of the chutney, while others allowed the chutney’s sweetness to compliment the Pinot Noir and create a more complete whole flavor profile. Some complained that the ginger spoiled the salmon and the Pinot Noir, while others, perhaps more used to pairing Pinot Noir with Asian cuisine, managed the whole quite well.

Second workshops finished, the summit attendees reentered the ballroom that had been reset for the Pinot Noir reception. The wine identities of the wines blind tasted at the summit’s start were revealed, medals were given out to participating wineries, tasty hors d’oeuvre were generously sampled, wineries poured their Pinot Noir and other offerings, notes were compared.

Pinot Noir Reception and Award Ceremony festivities

My top 10 Pinot Noir from the blind tasting were:

9.5/10 points – PURPLE – 2008 Left Edge Winery Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast,

9.0/10 points – GRAY – 2007 Pacific Coast Vineyards Pinot Noir Babcock Vineyards Santa Rita Hills,

9.0/10 points – DEEP PURPLE – 2007 Deaver Vineyards Pinot Noir Sierra Foothills,

9.0/10 points – BLUE – 2007 Mariposa Wine Company CRU Pinot Noir Vineyard Montage Central Coast,

8.5/10 points – AQUA MARINE – 2007 Kendric Vineyards Pinot Noir Marin County,

8.5/10 points – DUSTY ROSE – 2008 Elk Cove Vineyards Pinot Noir Williamette Valley (OR) Mount Richmond,

8.5/10 points – LIGHT BLUE – 2006 Sonoma Coast Vineyards Pinot Noir Peterson Vineyards,

8.5/10 points – TAN – 2007 Claiborne & Churchill Vintners Pinot Noir Edna Valley,

8.5/10 points – WEDGEWOOD – 2007 Vine Hill Winery Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains, and

8.5/10 points – YELLOW – 2007 David Bruce Winery Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains.

No wine pours itself, or sells itself. The best winery representative at the summit was Megan Schachern of Row Eleven Wine Company.

I tasted and enjoyed the 2006 Row Eleven Pinot Noir Santa Maria, the 2007 Row Eleven Pinot Noir Russian River Valley, and the 2007 Row Eleven Pinot Noir 100 Barrel Reserve Santa Maria (J. Torres Vineyard,  Bien Nacido Vineyard, and Sierra Madre Vineyard). All three wines were delicious, but I would like to visit Row Eleven in San Rafael and taste again at the beginning of the day instead of the end. Megan shared a wonderful note on the winemaker; Richard de los Reyes puts his phone number on every cork that goes into a bottle of Row Eleven wine.

In addition to Dave Rogers, I ran into former Windsor Vineyards team mates Gordon Harsaghy and Linda Verdone. It was a genuine pleasure reminiscing with old friends.

Linda Verdone receives a kiss from Gordon Harsaghy

My thanks go out to Barbara and John Drady, and all of the volunteers from wineries and Affairs of the Vine, the judges, panelists, and everyone else who contributed to help make this a stellar wine event.

DISCLOSURE: I attended this wine event after winning a full day ticket in an online contest.