April 2011

Good morning JohnOnWine readers. Yeah, I know that it may be afternoon or night when you find your way to this post, but it is morning, and a damn fine morning at that, as I sit here poking at my keyboard, my thoughts forcing my one finger  that does all the typing work to fly – if I can type at near 40 words per minute with one finger, would I be a 400 word per minute ten finger typist? – and I am awake early enough to wish you all good morning before I head off to get coffee and go to work.

By now, if you are a regular reader, you know that I was hired to be the Tasting Room Manager and Wine Club Coordinator for McFadden Vineyard in Hopland. You would also know that all of the Hopland winery tasting rooms are gearing up for Spring Hopland Passport this weekend. If you are not a regular reader, consider yourself caught up.

When I started, I had two days with my predecessor, the previous Tasting Room Manager and Wine Club Coordinator. I was shown the big things, and I took notes like my life depended on it. At night, after work, I typed those notes into procedural checklists for those big things. I felt somewhat overwhelmed at the beginning, armed with only my notes, and was facing many days of work without relief as, coincidentally, most of the tasting room staff had also ceased employment shortly before I was hired.

Staffing was taken care of first. I inherited one incredibly capable person, Eugene, from before I took over. Eugene is my senior staffer. He knows how things were done and what worked in the past, has valuable institutional memory, and helps me determine which changes will improve revenue and aren’t made for change’s sake alone.

My first hire, Gary, was an easy hire, maybe the easiest ever. I had met Gary at a local winery event where I was invited to guest chef. I was in a conversation about the interconnectedness of Hopland area wineries, having just helped a friend with a PowerPoint presentation on the subject, when Gary joined in hitting all the key points. Over the course of the evening, I was impressed with Gary’s wine industry experience and knowledge, as it mirrored my own. Subsequently, I find that Gary I and I share almost the same social network friends. Everyone has ego. I do. I think I’m pretty hot stuff. When I say that hiring Gary was like hiring myself, although clearly full of myself, it is meant as a compliment. Gary shares my viewpoint, my fresh perspective, but was also the Tasting Room Manager for another Hopland area winery, so his perspective is especially valuable. Gary questions, respectfully, procedures that make no sense; often reinforcing my own questioning of previously established orthodoxy. Changes have been made, with more to come.

Ann is the final member of my team. Ann comes with plenty of experience, and a good palate for wine, but no previous wine industry work experience. That lack has meant nothing, as again, Ann is incredibly capable, incredibly valuable. Ann mastered the computer system quickly, and took her first solo day earlier than originally planned. Ann added yet another fresh perspective, and may have been my greatest agent for change. Ann, using her marketing education and past merchandising experience, changed the way we present items in the tasting room, making it more attractive, and making it easier for customers to find what they are looking for. Ann’s perspective and ability will lead to increased revenue.

I talk regularly with each member of my staff. I value their perspective, their input. Together, we will make our little tasting room the best it can be.

Spring Hopland Passport is coming this Saturday April 30 and Sunday May 1. Just as I felt a little overwhelmed when I started, but feel comfortable now, not knowing everything, but with time, able to do anything, quietly – maybe not as quiet as I could be – confident, and optimistic for the future; so too was I somewhat concerned about pulling off our first Passport just a month into the new job.

My predecessor told me that she did everything with Passport, and wished me luck. Others stopped in to let me know how much she did, and opined that I was in deep water.

There is another winery team member, and I work for him. Guinness McFadden has taken up all of the big work of Hopland Passport. Guinness went shopping yesterday. Guinness is bringing down picnic tables, a tent, cooking tables, cutting boards, knives, utensils, bowls, everything needed to cook up about 100 pounds of his own organic grass fed cube steak from his McFadden Farm, cooked with his organic Grilling and Lemon Pepper and Garlic Powder herbs grown on his McFadden Farm. My predecessor may have done everything in the past, but my boss, the winery owner, has my back, and I am grateful.

Ann’s husband Mark and my son Charlie will be working out back, behind the tasting room under a tent, cooking up beef, dressing Caesar salad – with our organic McFadden Salad Herb Blend, and serving up our McFadden Farm Wild Rice and artichoke heart salad. On Friday, we are heading up to Guinness’s house at the end of Powerhouse Road in Potter Valley on McFadden Farm so Guinness can show Mark and Charlie how to cook his beef, to prep romaine lettuce, and to make a super huge batch of McFadden Farm Wild Rice salad.

While Mark and Charlie are out back, Ann, Guinness, and I will be in the tasting room on Saturday and Sunday pouring wines and ringing up sales. Everyone I have talked to, without exception, has suggested I need more help, so yesterday I asked Shana and Janneé from the office at McFadden Farm if they could come in Saturday to pour, and I think they may be splitting a shift on Saturday.

Thanks to a real team effort, and a lot of work on my part over the last two days, I am feeling pretty good about Passport weekend, optimistic, excited even.

My work? I went through my computer, looked at inventory and pricing, and created new price lists for everything in the tasting room. Passport guests can enjoy savings of 15%-35% off 102 items, most everything in the tasting room, while Wine Club members will save on everything, all 120 items, at 15%-40% off regular pricing. This will be the biggest, most comprehensive, sale in the history of the McFadden Vineyard Tasting Room, so I guess I’m a change agent as well.

With Passport in front of me, I have End of Month reports to run Saturday night, I have to stay late Sunday night to take all of the special discounting out of our computer, and return Monday morning very early to run two of our Wine Club group orders, complete with shipping labels, then I will head up to McFadden Farm to meet with Shana and Janneé face to face on their turf so they can tell me what I am doing well, and what I can do better at the tasting room to help them do their jobs more easily at the Farm office. I will also take a bunch of pictures of the vineyards which will end up here and on the McFadden Vineyard Facebook page, and hopefully the McFadden Vineyard website. Oh, and I need to get out a blast email newsletter to all of our wine club members and winery friends.

I haven’t mentioned our wines, I’m not shilling for my winery, but I wanted to write to say I love my job. I get up early, excited to work. I get into work well before 9:00 AM most days, but write down 9:15 AM on my time card. I love being in my office, in the tasting room. At night, I think about changes, jobs undone, things I need to – or want to – do.

When things settle down in May, I will turn to my next big challenge, trying to increase revenue through increased sales. I may write here of my efforts, ask for your input, but I won’t ask you to buy my wine here. While everything I have in my tasting room is great, I will find other forums to say so, and limit my work talk to just that, talk of my work and not an advertisement.

Thanks for taking the time to read this morning’s sharing. I am off to get that coffee and to open up my tasting room for another great day of work. I hope you love your job too.



Local Hopland Wine Notes:

I had the opportunity to visit winery tasting rooms other than my own in the last week.

Right in Hopland, I visited SIP! Mendocino and Bernadette poured me some wines. Using a Jedi mind trick, she grabbed a bottle, and waving her hand at me said, “you’re going to like this.” Of course, I did like it, and bought a bottle of the 2008 Tahto Petite Sirah, Potter Valley. Deep rich dark berry, herb, chocolate and spice, nicely integrated.

The next day, I returned to SIP! and tasted with Angela, running into Gary Krimont and Hopland’s own Kit, co-owner of the Superette grocery store in Hopland. I tasted a couple of Rhone offerings, a Grenache and a Syrah, both were yummy, but really an appetizer for what came next.

We scooted next door to Cesar Toxqui’s tasting room. There is a big buzz surrounding Cesar and his wines. After having made wines for many local wineries, Cesar started making wines for himself as well. In a tasting room more relaxed than most, Cesar, with Gary’s help, poured his way through his wines. I tasted wines of depth, fullness, character. Starting with solid grapes, the fermenting juice is punched down twice a day by hand with extended maceration. If you don’t speak wine geek, that means Cesar wrings the grapes and skins for all the best flavor they will yield.

Everything I tasted was delicious, from Cesar’s Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to his Zinfandel and Heirloom, a wine that has a little of the previous Heirloom blended into it, which itself had a little of the previous vintage blended in, and so on, so that the wine you taste is a wine of all time, a magic representation of everything Cesar has done from day one. There is a rumor that Heirloom III will be unveiled at this weekend’s Spring Hopland Passport.

After tasting the 2009 Cesar Tozqui Cellars Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley and 2009 Cesar Tozqui Cellars Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley side by side, I was surprised to find the Anderson Valley Pinot from Mendocino County was drinking more beautifully, was more velvety, than the Russian River Valley Pinot from Sonoma County grapes. I grew up on Dry Creek Valley Cabs and Zins and Russian River Valley Pinots, and developed a “house palate,” preferring the tastes of the wines grown in the places I grew up. If I had been asked to guess which wine was which, based on taste alone, I would have guessed wrong, because I am prejudiced to prefer Russian River Valley Pinots. My second favorite AVA for Pinot Noir is the Anderson Valley, so the side by side tasting was both a treat and instructive.

I bought a bottle of Cesar’s Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, forgetting that there is a generous reciprocal inter winery discount for the tasting room staff of the Hopland wineries. I was doubly thrilled with my purchase after the discount.

The next day, after closing up my tasting room, I headed to Jaxon Keys for an inter winery mixer.

Jaxon Keys is a Wilson winery. Ken and Diane Wilson own some premier winery properties in Sonoma County, and bought and renamed the Jepson winery and distillery, hired Fred Nickel, a knowledgeable and skilled local winemaker, to increase the quality of the wines, and moved the tasting room from a low shed like building to a huge, lovely old estate house on a hill overlooking the vineyards.

Vicki Milone played host to tasting room staff from several Hopland area wineries, with folks coming from Dry Creek Valley wineries in Sonoma County as well. Everyone brought food, and wine, and shared a nice two hours of relaxed fellowship.

The yummiest food treat, which I will be stealing without reservation, was cream and blue cheese with orange marmalade infused figs and toasted pecans on a round pastry. It turns out the round pastry was from Pillsbury giant crescent rolls, sliced while and remaining rolled. Thank you Bev for bringing the taste treat – for me – of the night and sharing where the recipe came from. I will be making these for a future Second Saturday in Hopland to pair with our wines at the tasting room.

I enjoyed a number of the wines Vicki poured and am looking forward to when more of Fred’s wines come on line.

At the mixer, I met Victor Simon, winemaker at Simaine in Ukiah. I will be visiting and tasting very soon.

I also had a bottle find me, instead of me going out to find it, last week. When I returned from a three day weekend, I found my dear friend Serena Alexi had brought a bottle of 2005 Wellington Vineyards Zinfandel, Sonoma Valley. I have not opened it yet, but I am sure to write nice things here when I do.

The folks at Brown-Forman in Kentucky who own Fetzer Vineyards in Hopland sent me six bottles a couple of months ago, but only four were delivered as two were damaged in transit. Although Concha y Toro in Chile is buying Fetzer, Maria from Brown-Forman contacted me today to see about replacing the two bottles. It is a mark of class, of professionalism, that a company that has effectively sold Fetzer already is continuing their first class marketing efforts on behalf of the brand.

Parducci, located in Ukiah, is opening a satellite tasting room in Hopland at the Solar Living Center. John March, who poured the wines of Magnanimus Wine Group at Campovida in Hopland, will be the tasting room manager of the new tasting room facility. I wondered aloud how a Ukiah winery with their own Ukiah tasting room was going to be pouring at this weekend’s Spring Hopland Passport weekend, and why every Ukiah or Redwood Valley winery couldn’t pour. I thought that the collaboration between Parducci and the Solar Living Center was a weekend fling, but am thrilled to welcome Parducci, a winery I love, and John March, a terrifically talented brand ambassador, to Hopland full time.

The Solar Living Center does attract a large share of hippie, marijuana smoking, young folk, and I suggested jokingly to John that he find out which Parducci wine pairs best with weed. That said, my tasting room is the closest to the new medical marijuana dispensary opening up in Hopland, and may I suggest that the 2007 McFadden Vineyard Coro Mendocino would go wonderfully with a nice bong load of Mendocino County’s sticky icky. I have to start practicing saying that with a hand wave, in my own Jedi mind trick style.


Three Big Events:

This coming weekend, April 30 and May 1, there are two big wine events going on; Spring Hopland Passport, and Passport to Dry Creek Valley; plus Hospice du Rhone will be held April 28-30.

Although I question the sense, or dollars and cents, of spending $125 to visit 46 wineries, tickets are pretty much SOLD OUT for the Dry Creek Valley Passport. There is just no possible way to visit that many wineries. It doesn’t matter what each is offering if you can’t possibly experience it. That said, pick and choose your favorites, get swept up in the traffic and crowds, and enjoy some very delicious wines, paired with the delightful food treats.

Last year, I attended Spring Hopland Passport, took two full days, visited all the participating wineries, enjoyed some very delicious wines (100 of them) from 21 labels, paired with delightful food treats. I wrote a Spring Hopland Passport recap last year. Visit the official Hopland Passport site, where tickets can be bought for just $35, which seems a far more reasonable cost considering the number of wineries that can be visited in one or two days.

A few highlights of what a $35 Spring Hopland Passport ticket buys: Cesar Toxqui Cellars will offer authentic Filipino cuisine to pair with vertical tastings and barrel tastings. Jaxon Keys will have tri-tip sliders and live music by the Felt-Tips. Jeriko Winery will be roasting pig and chicken and have live acoustic music. McFadden Vineyard will pour all of their wines, run big two day only sales, and cook up organic grass fed cube steak from the McFadden Farm seasoned with grilling herbs, lemon pepper and garlic powder also grown organically at McFadden farm, McFadden Farm Wild Rice and artichoke heart salad, and a green salad with McFadden Farm organic salad herbs. McNab Ridge will be pouring current releases, barrel samples and a Coro vertical while offering a selection of dips and speads, marinated chicken thighs with grilled pineapple, and jumbo shrimp with a zesty horseradish cocktail sauce. Mendocino Farms wine will be poured at Campovida while Ken Boek leads garden tours and Les Boek and his band provide music. Milano Family Winery will be serving tri-tip and have live music by Marc Hansen. Nelson Vineyards will be offering up organic Mendough’s wood-fired pizza with their estate wines. Parducci’s wines will be paired with Magruder Ranch grass fed pulled pork and lamb sliders with Asian slaw while The Dirt Floor Band plays at the Real Goods Solar Living Institute. Saracina Vineyards wines will be paired with smoked chicken and porcini crepes, grilled hanger steak tartines, and beet spoons catered by Janelle Weaver, exec chef of Kuleto Estate Winery. Terra Savia will be pairing wine and olive oil tastings with Hawaiian fare while Hui Arago’s band plays Hawaiian music. Weibel Family Vineyards will be pairing wines with treats from Fork Catering. Thanks to Heidi Cusick Dickerson and Hopland Passport for pulling all of this information together. Ticket prices rise $10 on the day of the event, so pre-purchase your tickets online or at any Hopland winery tasting room.

The 19th Annual Hospice du Rhone will bring together over 1,000 Rhone wines from over 130 Rhone wine producers for three days in Paso Robles, CA. There are several events, tastings, seminars, meals, and you can pick and choose which events to buy tickets to with prices ranging from $100-$155, or you can buy a weekend package ticket for $795, getting you into most of the events.

Almost 30 years ago, I was playing Army; and by playing Army I mean that I was one of very few soldiers to spend an entire year north of the Imjim river within a stone’s throw of North Korea, artillery landing every single night, an M-16 constant company, ambush and reconnaissance patrols, firefights, bullet holes to patch in my jeep’s exterior.

An armistice was signed, but war did not end between the Koreas, merely the manner in which it is fought codified. Mostly a cease fire exists, but there are flashpoints, and some very unlucky men are chosen to stand up and try to limit the excesses.

I had the incredible opportunity to spend a 40 below zero winter in a warm bunker dug into a hillside acting as the intelligence analyst for the most forward deployed Infantry Battalion in the US Army instead of going out on patrols. I gladly took the job, and lacking formal training in Military Intelligence, I did the job needed in a common sense manner. Before I left Korea, I wrote the manual on how to do my job because it was a better way than the way it had been done previously.

10 years ago, I took on a nationwide sales territory while opening up 42 California counties to direct in person visits, selling books and wine accessories for the largest one stop distributor to the wine industry. I had thousands of items to sell, thousands of customers to sell to, and 12 hours of training before I was on my own. Once again, I weathered the seeming impossible and did the job as well as I could, using common sense as my guide.

Three weeks ago, I took over a well established winery tasting room and wine club. I have the skills to do the job, but new to the positions, I once again found myself taking over with very little guidance.

I am a big believer in not reinventing the wheel. If something works, don’t fix it, and all that. That said, fresh eyes allow a new perspective, and with input from a new and valued staff, changes are being made.

We are doing a better job of merchandising, and are constantly evaluating procedure embracing effective methods of operation while moving toward improvement.

I changed our wine tasting order – yes, I took seven paragraphs to get around to the real subject of this wine article – and it has caused some questioning of my rationale.

Many, in fact most, winery tasting rooms order their wines white before red. Similarly, many lists put young before old. Dry before sweet is also typical, and so is light before heavy.

Here’s my problem with ordinary: a mid tasting transition from a sweet old white to a dry light young red, and that means that the red is overpowered and can not be adequately tasted.

Believing dry before sweet is the most important rule, I pour red before white; I would rather transition from a top of the line stylized red blend to a stainless steel fermented, no malolactic Chardonnay than a trio of sweet whites, a Gewurtztraminer and two Rieslings, into an elegantly subtle Pinot Noir.

Many older wines change dramatically, changing color, flavors, even body. Most people are used to buying and drinking newer wines. Instead of expecting people to appreciate an older wine, saving it for after newer wines, I find old before new a superior order. Wine cognoscenti will appreciate an older wine when it is poured, while more casual wine tasters will appreciate a return to the familiar.

My current tasting order at work goes like this:

2006 Pinot Noir

2007 Pinot Noir

2007 Zinfandel

2008 Zinfandel

2007 Coro Mendocino

2009 Chardonnay

2009 Pinot Gris

2009 Sauvignon Blanc

2009 Gewurtztraminer

2006 Riesling

2009 Riesling

The departure from ordinary has been remarked upon, but I have also increased sales since the new wine tasting order has been implemented. I believe changing the tasting order has led to greater appreciation of each wine’s unique characteristics.

If you wiki Riesling, you will find that Alsace Rieslings throw a petroleum or rubber note as they age. Our 2006 Riesling is an Alsace style Riesling and definitely conforms to the varietal flavor profile. I have been bringing up the note after guests taste the wine, and they are thrilled to experience it. Where many would see it as a flaw, a little education leads to appreciation and I am moving the 2006 Riesling. Of course, I go into the newer 2009 Riesling with forward fruit for those seeking the comfort of the familiar with the delightful treat of superior quality.

I am considering reworking my list starting with my three drier whites, moving into the five reds, before finishing with our three sweeter whites.

This is just one of dozens of things that I had to consider each day as I took on my new job. I will admit that once again in my professional life felt thrown in the deep end of the pool, water way over my head, on my first day of work. I felt better, but still lacking comfort on day two. I worked 110 hours at my work in my first two weeks, now have strong confidence in my abilities, am working a little every day on new marketing initiatives, and expect to move to a place where sales are consistently increased, while working just 40 hours a week.


Today, it was suggested that I could use my blog to bring increased attention to a marketing initiative our winery is contemplating. You may notice I haven’t mentioned the name of the winery I work for. I write about wine, and I have simply written about what I was doing, what I was tasting, and about topics as they came to me. I figured that I could continue to do the same thing, and that I would simply share more experiences involving the wines of my employer as I would be consuming them more often.

At just about the time I was becoming concerned that my writing was too focused on my employer, when the conflict of interest I was trying to avoid was becoming unavoidable, I was asked to shill for my employer by someone in the office. What seems a reasonable suggestion is, for me, highly unpalatable. I started writing years ago about whatever I wanted, and found a large readership when I narrowed the focus of my writing to wine. I have to be honest, I was surprised and amazed that people would find their way to my site, led often by a google search about a wine, winery, or wine topic I wrote a piece on. Many who found their way to my site come back to read regularly.

I don’t take advertising money, although I have been approached dozens of times in the past to do so. I like being an independent, and I hope trusted, wine writer. I make mistakes of fact, Coro means Chorus not Heart, and Marshmallows have built in elasticity, but such mistakes are my own, so are my best mistake free pieces; none are influenced by outside forces or considerations of gain.

I have written professional wine content for others, my writing appears on a number of winery website blogs, shorter pieces, better edited, but recognizably mine. I may soon be writing content for another site, under my own name, expecting compensation. I want to write website pieces for my employer, and different pieces here free of influence. If I mention my job, I want it to be because I wanted to, because it illustrates a point, or is central to an experience.

If I can’t write with a firewall of separation between work and personal time, I’ll likely declare a hiatus here and start a new site writing under a pseudonym.


Last year, I wrote about the Spring Hopland Passport weekend, I urged folks to attend because it is the best, most affordable, event of it’s type. On the same weekend that Dry Creek wineries will ask $125 to taste wines, the wineries of Hopland offer an experience similar at just $35 per person for both days, April 30 and May 1.

I have no problem recommending the event again, even though I will be working it this year. I can even say, not as a shill, but as prideful fact, that McFadden Vineyard Tasting Room will have, far and away, the best food of any of the participating wineries. Tickets, info, and a lot of uncredited photographs taken from my website with permission can be found at HoplandPassport.com 

Coro Mendocino, I’ve written about it before, but with a rare tasting coming this weekend, it bears writing about again.

A group of Mendocino County winemakers create a Zinfandel based wine blend where Zinfandel accounts for between 40 and 70% of the finished wine. The remainder is limited to classic Mendocino County varietals, but a winemaker can use any varietal, traditional or not, up to 10% to create the best wine possible. The idea is to capture the heart (Coro is Italian for heart) of Mendocino County, the heart of the vintage, in a bottle.

There are 13 winemakers who take part in the Coro Mendocino cooperative association, and all the winemakers must approve a Coro in a blind group tasting prior to the blend being allowed to be called a Coro Mendocino.

Each Coro Mendocino is different. In a single vintage there could be 13 different Coro Mendocino wines, each with a different blend of grapes, each grown in a different part of the county, each blended by a different winemaker. All delicious, none closely resembling the next. Each Coro Mendocino is sold for $37, is bottled uniformly, carries matching labels, with the winery name noted but subordinate to the Coro Mendocino identification.

This Saturday, April 16, 2011 Sip! Mendocino in Hopland will be hosting a tasting of 10 different 2007 Coro Mendocino producers from 6-9 pm. Graziano, McDowell, McFadden, Fetzer, Golden, Dunnewood, Brutocao, Philo Ridge, Parducci, and McNab Ridge will be poured. The cost is only $20 for the general public, and Sip! Mendocino wine club members may take part at no charge.

Be sure to taste the McFadden Vineyard Coro, it is 60% Zinfandel, 27% Syrah, and 13% Petite Sirah; add it up and you get 100% delicious. Rich warm cherry and berry fruit, chocolate, herb, rich and full, big yet easily drinkable, with a long, lingering, tapering finish. I may be biased, I am the Tasting Room Manager and Wine Club Coordinator at McFadden Vineyard, but I think it may be the most delicious of the 2007 Coro Mendocino wines. The great news is that on Saturday you can taste them all side by side and decide for yourself which is your favorite.

Until ZAP has the sense to invite all the Coro Mendocino wines to be poured at January’s annual Grand Zinfandel Tasting in San Francisco at Ft. Mason, this is your best, least expensive opportunity to taste the line up. Call Sip! Mendocino to secure your spot at Saturday night’s tasting, (707) 744-8375.

EDITED TO ADD: Amusingly, because it demonstrates my fallibility, it turn out Coro does NOT translate as Heart going from Italian to English. Coro is Chorus. Cuore is Heart. I am not as fond of the imagery of tasting the Chorus of Mendocino County. Romantic that I am, Coro SHOULD be Heart. Thanks to Eugene Gonsalves for catching my error, allowing me to note if not correct it.


Tierra – art, garden, wine

312 N School St

Ukiah, CA 95482

(707) 468-7936



Also scheduled for Saturday, April 9, 2011, just about 15 minutes away from the Tierra event, half a dozen Hopland winery tasting rooms will be taking part in Second Saturday.

Each Second Saturday of the month, the participating Hopland winery tasting rooms have special one day one sales, prepare tasty treats to pair with their wine, and stay open an hour later.

As an example, McFadden Vineyard tasting room will be offering their stainless steel fermented, no malolactic 2009 Chardonnay, Potter Valley, made from organically grown grapes, at 35% off the regular case price which brings the per bottle price down to $10.40 each for your 12 bottles. The pairing snack will be a toothpick skewered medley of French bread, cheese, and apple – which will all show different notes in the day’s featured Chardonnay; and the tasting room will be open an extra hour, from 10:00 AM until 6:00 PM.

Other wines available for tasting include two Pinot Noirs, two Zinfandels, the Coro Mendocino, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurtztraminer, and two Rieslings. All McFadden Vineyard wines can be purchased at the tasting room or arranged to be shipped to your home or to a friend or family member as a gift.

With five different wine clubs, you can choose the perfect one for yourself or as a gift, and we will ship at special low wine club member rates either four bottles three times a year, or six bottles four times a year, with or without the addition of some of the non-wine items grown organically at McFadden Farm in nearby Potter Valley. While our shipping rates are low, local wine club members often elect to pick up their orders and save that cost.

Non-wine items like McFadden Farm Organic Herbs, Herb Blends and Dried Herb Wreaths, McFadden Farm Organic Beef, McFadden Farm Garlic and Wild Rice, Marinades, Pottery, McFadden Logo Hats and Shirts, McFadden Logo Riedel Wine Glasses, Wine Themed Shirts, and Wine Accessories are also available for purchase at the tasting room, or can be arranged to be shipped as a gift to a friend or family member.

Other Hopland winery tasting rooms taking part in April 9, 2011 Second Saturday include Cesar Toxqui Cellars, Graziano, Jaxon Keys, McNab Ridge, Milano Winery and Weibel. Other winery tasting rooms may participate as well.

DISCLOSURE: I am the tasting room manager and wine club coordinator for McFadden Vineyard which is why I was able to share so much about their Second Saturday in Hopland activities.

Today is my first day off since I last posted here.

Two Sundays ago, I wrote about being hired to be the Tasting Room Manager and Wine Club Coordinator for McFadden Vineyards, and after short deliberation, weighing the ethical considerations and potential conflicts of interest in working for one winery while writing about wines from other wineries, announced that I would continue to write about wine.

I have been so busy learning, working, tasting, living my new job – I put in nearly 60 hours of work last week; and spent considerable additional hours thinking about, obsessing about, even dreaming about my new job – that I don’t have much to write about wine this week that isn’t directly related to McFadden Vineyard.

That said, I have gone from feeling cast into the deep end of a very large pool to having a comfortable confidence, and am genuinely enjoying my job.

I have two great staff (Gary and Eugene) who have valuable insight, and experienced neighbors to ask questions of, in the nuts and bolts operation of the tasting room; I have another potential staffer training this week, and have interviewed two more. I put together an introductory newsletter, complete with a recipe featuring a made in Heaven McFadden Vineyard wine and food pairing, and e-mailed it to all of our wine club members. Our wine is easy to enjoy, delicious and approachable, very drinkable, very friendly; everybody who tastes it likes it. I have begun planning for upcoming events.

Speaking of events, the Hopland tasting room scene is very cooperative, and each month on the second Saturday we all stay open a little longer, have special one day one sales, and make food treats available to pair with our wines. I invite my readers and friends to a wine adventure; visit the tasting rooms of Hopland this Saturday, April 9, 2011, stop in to the McFadden Vineyard tasting room, say “hi” to me, taste our wines, including our stainless steel fermented 2009 Chardonnay made from grapes organically grown on our Potter Valley farm which will be available on a one day sale at just $10.40 a bottle if you buy a case, have a snack, and enjoy the beauty of Mendocino County.

I promise that not all of my future entries will lead with, or even include McFadden Vineyards, but I write about what I know and experience, and this is what I experienced last week.


The folks at V. Sattui Winery in Napa County sent some wines for me to taste and comment on, and I look forward to having my work schedule calm down soon so I can return to cooking dinners and tasting wines at home, then writing about my own food and wine adventures. I’ll get around to tasting these wines, and others previously sent by other kind wineries, plus undoubtedly some from around Hopland; my notes to follow. Thanks for being understanding about my life intruding, for the short future, on my wine tasting schedule.


One of my favorite television programs, Top Gear, features three men talking about cars with videography so slick as to make someone like me who doesn’t know or care about cars much actually covet unapproachably exotic cars, the three men along with a tame racing driver blend sophomoric humor and genuine passion delivering something akin to car porn, and it is one of the BBC’s highest rated series. All of which has absolutely nothing to do with wine.

Except that one of the Top Gear presenters, James May, has teamed up with Oz Clarke, a highly respected and knowledgeable (unlike me) wine writer and together they have turned out two great seasons of wine and travel programs. The first season featured the two tasting the wines of France; but the second season features episodes covering some of California’s grape growing wine regions. For me, the enjoyability of these shows comes from seeing the familiar through different eyes, from two wholly different perspectives; it is at once both educational and enormously entertaining. Wonderfully, just as Top Gear does not require particular car knowledge, so too is Oz and James’s Big Wine Adventure fun to watch for anyone regardless of your wine knowledge or passion.

As always, thanks for reading, and cheers!