John Cesano of John On Wine

John Cesano of John On Wine

John On Wine – All Treats, No Tricks; or Time to Mark your Calendars


This column was first published in the Ukiah Daily Journal on Thursday, October 30, 2014

Fall is supposed to be about slowing down and winter about rest, but for wine tasters there is no shortage of events to put on your calendar.

Friday, November 7, 2014 to Sunday, November 16, 2014 brings ten days of Mendocino County’s Mushroom, Wine & Beer Fest and there are too many wine tasting opportunities throughout the festival’s ten days to fit in this column, but stop by just about any winery and ask for your own over 40 page festival event brochure.

On Saturday, November 8, 2014 from 10:00am to 5:00pm, there will be a very mushroomy Second Saturday in Hopland, with many winery tasting rooms offering up complimentary wine tasting and mushroom food pairings for their wines, with terrific sales prices for those wines.

On Wednesday, November 12, 2014, from 6:00pm-9:00pm, I will be at the Rivino Winemaker Dinner at Crush in Ukiah. I’ve written about the Chef’s Winemaker Dinners at Crush where Chef Jesse Elhardt has prepared dishes to showcase the wines of Saracina, Barra of Mendocino and Girasole Vineyards, Bonterra, Coro Mendocino, and Yorkville Cellars. You want to attend this one, held during Mendocino County’s Mushroom, Wine & Beer Fest, when the dishes will be inspired by Chef Jesse’s love for mushrooms. Tickets are $65, in advance, include tax and tip, and are a steal at that price. Look to see a $10 increase if any tickets remain at the door. Call 707.463.0700 for reservations.
Crush Logo
For those on the Mendocino coast, instead of inland, on Thursday, November 13, 2014, you can enjoy the Foursight Winemaker Dinner at Ravens in the Stanford Inn. Organic cuisine will be featured with a menu of Amuse Buche crostini with mushroom pate, Appetizer with mini porcini quiche, Salad Umbrian salad with lentil and oyster mushrooms, Entrée wild mushroom risotto with tempura and grilled mushrooms served with truffled cauliflower, Dessert candy cap crème brule with a huckleberry Pinot Noir reduction and macerated seasonal fruit. Four courses, $85, call 800.331.8884 for reservations.

Another favorite event of mine is on Saturday, November 22, 2014 and Sunday, November 23, 2014 from 11:00am-5:00pm, the 12th annual A Taste of Redwood Valley Holiday Wine Sale and Artisan Faire. Informal, bring your own glass to participating wineries and distilleries for complimentary tastings and take advantage of huge sale prices, often 40% off regular prices, when purchasing your holiday wine and spirits. Frey Vineyards, Giuseppe Wines / Neese Vineyards, Silversmith Vineyards, Brown Family Wines, Barra of Mendocino / Girasole Vineyards, and Testa Vineyards will pour both days, while Graziano Family of Wines and Germain-Robin/Craft Distillers will only participate on Saturday – which pretty much guarantees I will be in Redwood Valley on Saturday to pick up Cognac quality Alambic Brandy and Brandy Infusions from Germain-Robin, and the highest quality artisan Vodka, Gin, and Whiskey I have ever tasted from Jack Crispin Cain and Tamar Kaye at Craft Distillers, which is co-located with Germain-Robin.
I have to ask you to circle, and underline, and highlight Friday, December 12, 2014 from 4:00pm-7:00pm on your calendar, enter the date into your phone and set an alarm, do whatever it takes, but please join me for McFadden’s 3rd annual TOYS FOR TOTS Toy Drive & Wine Tasting in Hopland. Together with the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, and with the Hopland Volunteer Fire Department helping Santa out, toys are collected and given to local children who need a little Christmas cheer on Christmas eve. Come in after work on Friday, bring a toy or a cash donation – which we’ll use to shop for more toys, and we’ll serve up a special wine tasting, food pairing, enter you in a raffle for a basket with over $200 in McFadden Farm goodies, offer up event exclusive sale prices for December gift and holiday table needs, and even reward each donation with a “thank you” box of McFadden Farm wild rice. Last year, we doubled the number of toys we collected over the first year, and we would like to double our toy haul again this year. Please help us.
2014 Toys For Tots Flyer Jpg

There is a 100% chance I will be at the McFadden Farm Winemaker Dinner at Crush in Ukiah on Wednesday, January 21, 2015 from 6:00pm-9:00pm during the Mendocino County Crab, Wine & Beer Fest. Care to guess what ingredient will be featured in Chef Jesse’s dishes that night? You can count on more words here about this event as we get closer to the date.

Finally, the 24th annual Zinfandel Advocates & Producers (ZAP) Zinfandel Experience Tasting Event will spread over two San Francisco locations, three days, and four events from Thursday, January 29, 2015 through Saturday, January 31, 2015. Thursday is the “Epicuria Food & Zin Pairing” event at the Presidio; Friday features “Flights! Forum of Flavor” a daytime seated panel tasting of exceptional Old Vine Zinfandels, and “Zin State of Mind – a Benefit with Taste” a nighttime Winemaker’s Reception and Dinner with Live Auction, both held at the Four Seasons Hotel; and Saturday is “The Tasting” the grand tasting at the Presidio. For more information, visit I have attended numerous ZAP events, love Epicuria, Flights, and the Grand Tasting; I have not attended the big dinner, but am sure it is spectacular – as is everything ZAP does.

I’m sure I missed some important local wine events, but I will be attending – or would love to attend – each of these and felt comfortable suggesting that you put these on your calendar, each and every one promises an unqualified great time to be had.


JOHN ON WINE – Spotlight Winery: RIVINO

By John Cesano

Originally published in the Ukiah Daily Journal on April 11, 2013

“Welcome to RIVINO,” owner Suzanne Jahnke-McConnell greeted me on my recent visit. Together with her winemaker husband Jason McConnell, Suzanne runs the winery at the vineyard Suzanne’s dad has been growing grapes at for the last 20 years.

RIVINO is a made up word, a portmanteau, a combination or joining of two words, River and Vino. Vino is, of course, Italian for wine, and the grapes for these wines are grown in vineyards alongside the Russian River.

RIVINO winery on Cox Schrader Road in Ukiah, east adjacent to Highway 101, is an Estate winery, meaning that the wines are made from grapes grown, crushed, and fermented on site. Estate wines often exhibit vineyard specific characteristics. All of RIVINO’s wines come from their own Schrader Ranch vineyard.

With redwood trees lining the entrance drive, oak trees growing in the vineyard, and the Russian River bordering the vineyard, Schrader Ranch is as picturesque a winery location as visitors could wish for.

All of the vines are both trellised and drip line irrigated. In addition to providing water to the grape vines, the drip line irrigation allows for application of fertilizers and nutrients.

The nominal $5 wine tasting fee is refunded with any wine purchase. Wines are available both by the bottle and by the glass, wine by the glass being a nice option at RIVINO because many people choose to sit at an outdoor table in the summer or beside the fire during the winter and enjoy the surrounding beauty of the estate vineyard.

RIVINO has an incredibly popular summer Friday Happy Hour from 4-7 p.m. featuring a different local musician each week. Last summer’s entertainment included Sheridan Malone & John Morris, Will Siegel & Friends, Monty & Jay, T.J. Elton of the Felt-tips, Scott Shaver and Ray Harrison, and McKenna Faith, among other performers.

RIVINO’s wine club members enjoy complimentary wine tastings and wine discounts from 15-25 percent.

The wines of RIVINO are enjoyable because they are largely unmanipulated. Tasting them is tasting the grape, the specific vineyard, and the vintage.

RIVINO’s 2010 Chardonnay is unoaked, held in stainless steel for clear fruit expression, and does not go through malolactic fermentation.

Malolactic fermentation (ML) is a secondary fermentation that converts the green apple flavors and malic acid of Chardonnay fruit to the butter flavors of lactic acid. Some look upon ML as unnecessary laboratory manipulation, while others see it as one more choice a winemaker has when crafting a Chardonnay.

White peach, pear and apple notes highlight this food friendly 2010 Chardonnay.

The 2010 Viognier is sweet mouthed and was awarded a north coast best of class designation at the California State Fair. Tropical, floral, citrus meets orange blossom with notes of apricot and pineapple.

My favorite wine of the day’s visit was a 2010 Sangiovese, a light garnet colored wine with a gorgeous spice nose that follows right through the mouth, with great blackberry fruit balanced by acid and wrapped in oak.

Sedulous can be defined as “a product of diligent and assiduous workmanship” and RIVINO has a Bordeaux blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc with a tiny bit of Rhone Viognier that they’ve named Sedulous.

The 2008 Sedulous is a wine with vintage correctness, and might be paired with barbecued meats where the smoke aroma and flavor from the wine can find a match in food.

2008 was a year when fires from summer lightning strikes left much of the county under smoke and ash for weeks.

I was actually a little charmed that this smoky wine was poured unapologetically. I will not be upset when my days of tasting 2008 Mendocino County wines has passed and, while the vintage has fans precisely for the barbecue smoke note I do not love, I am nonetheless pleased to find Jason’s light touch with the grapes in his winemaking evidenced. Jason let the 2008 vintage smoke be tasted in his dark noted 2008 Sedulous.

The 2007 Sedulous with brighter nose and flavors of rhubarb and strawberry with a nice lingering finish is more to my taste.

Another 2008 vintage wine, with a lighter touch of smoke and bright acid is the 2008 Cabernet Franc, with pepper, herb, and red fruit notes.

I like RIVINO. Suzanne and Jason are forward thinking, energetic, and friendly. They have created the perfect environment to enjoy their deliciously enjoyable wines, and provide ample event opportunities to do so.

John Cesano doesn’t know when it will happen, but will be happy when he tastes his last 2008 vintage Mendocino County wine.