John On Wine – ­ Welcome to 2014

Originally published in the Ukiah Daily Journal on Thursday, January 2, 2014 by John Cesano


Welcome to the new year. For me, that means looking back at last year while also looking forward to the year ahead.

First, last year. It was a great year for wine. I tasted so many delicious wines. Red, white, and rosé; dry, sweet, and super sweet dessert; still and bubbly ­ I enjoyed wines of every description.

There are so many great wines being made here, it is a testament to the fantastic growers and their vineyards, the winemakers and their wineries, and the tasting room folks and their shops throughout the county. From grape to glass, Mendocino County is the best value for wine in California.

Thanks to two folks who accompanied me on tastings, or invited me to accompany them; Gracia Brown and Serena Alexi. Tasting wine with you two gals is always fun, and I genuinely benefit from the unique and different perspective each of you share with me. My boss asked me to ask our newsletter subscribers to pray for rain. Last year was the driest year, going back 120 recorded years, in Mendocino County, with less than 8 inches for the year.

Guinness told me a couple of years back that 20 inches during the winter works out perfect for him, the farm, and our grapes. If you’ve taken a look at the Lake Mendocino reservoir, then you know we could use those 20 inches and a more than a few more inches on top of those.

Whether you pray, or are more inclined to send good thoughts, please direct some mental attention to asking for some rain for our county’s farmers. I have promises from Bob Swain at Parducci, Hoss Milone at Brutocao, Rich Parducci at McNab Ridge, and Greg Graziano of Graziano to sit down and taste me through the wines they make.

Occasionally, I hear a grumble about not having covered a particular winery here in the column. Look at these amazing winemakers, I haven’t got to them yet, trust me, I’ll get to your favorite too. Mostly, the fault is mine; I work during the week, and asking a winemaker to meet on a weekend is tough.


New Year’s resolutions

Most people set them and then break them shortly after. I’ll set some for me and the column, and hopefully I can keep most if not all of them.

Okay, here are my resolutions for the new year: First, I resolve to taste more wines in 2014 than I did in 2013. Second, I resolve to write more notes on the wines I taste. I cook with wine, and have a glass of what I cooked with at dinner. While delicious, there isn’t enough to make a column out of a night’s wine pairing. Still, through social media, Facebook and Twitter, I can give a tip of the cap to wine pairings that work particularly well. I resolve to do just that, and after writing enough of them, cobble several into a column here.

Third, I resolve to reduce the number of times my boss has to call with the “John, you know I don’t control what you write, or censor you in any way, but I got this call…” request that I be more mindful of the sensibilities of those I write about.

Fourth, I resolve to eclipse by dedicated tasting the best taste of 2013. In 2013, I tasted a rare and special 1973 Westcott Cabernet. Some would say it was old, but I’m 52, so at just 40 the Westcott was just a young girl to me. One of the most enjoyable nights spent in 2013, I explored with all my senses, delighting in the aroma, taste, body, balance, and finish. I hope to be able to repeat the experience one day, and uncork another in the future. To enjoy a wine fully, you need to do more than simply taste it in the tasting room. Wine needs to be brought home, and given your full attention. Between loads of laundry and other household chores, I resolve to do this more.

Fifth, I have concentrated on the wineries of inland Mendocino County, the folks along Highway 101 and the Russian River from Hopland to Redwood Valley and Ukiah to Potter Valley. I’ll continue to spend most of my time here, because this area receives far too little attention from most wine writers.

That said, this year, I resolve to begin taking in the wineries along Highway 128, as well. There are just too many gems there to not mention.

Finally, inspired by my good friend Margaret Pedroni, I will endeavor to make inclusiveness my focus in 2014. Bigger events with more participants, starting fresh and tasting at places previously not loved, heading over the hill to taste outside the Highway 101 corridor ­ or even outside the county, and never forgetting that this column is a terrific opportunity to share wine enjoyment with folks who aren’t that into wine, including everyone in my writing and demystifying wine, making it more accessible and desirable.

That’s it, my New Year’s resolutions. It will be fun to look back at year’s end and see how many I kept. I wish you all a great 2014, made more delicious by wine.

2 Responses to “Welcome to 2014”

  1. June Says:

    my new years resolution is to have good wine with old friends. I would also like to have old wine with good friends.

    1. John Cesano Says:

      A lovely sentiment, and a resolution that I imagine will be an enjoyable one to keep.

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