John On Wine – Nodding to Cliché

Originally published on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2014, in the Ukiah Daily Journal newspaper.

New Year’s Eve. Which cliché should I bow to? Should I write about sparkling wines to enjoy tonight? Should I offer up a list of New Year’s resolutions? Why choose? I’ll touch on both, and more, this week.

Graziano, Handley, McFadden, Nelson, Paul Dolan, Roederer Estate, Scharffenberger, Signal Ridge, Terra Savia, and Yorkville Cellars all poured bubblies at last year’s Celebration of Mendocino County Sparkling Wines.

Opening a bottle from any of these producers should be a cause for celebration, rather than a response to a celebration, as they are delightful sparkling wines and merit being opened and enjoyed on a more regular basis than only for special occasions.

I believe that it is better to open a bottle of sparkling wine to make an occasion special than to wait for a special occasion to open a bottle of sparkling wine. Make your days better; drink wine with meals, celebrate the ordinary, create your own extraordinary reality.


I reviewed many of the county’s sparkling wines here: https://johnonwine.com/2014/04/10/a-mendo-bubbly-fest-recap/ and I would encourage you to read those reviews online, or simply visit a winery tasting room to taste bubblies for yourself.

Many of the county’s best sparkling wines are also available at the Ukiah Co-op.

Two small updates on the county’s sparkling wines since I wrote the reviews in April: Graziano’s 2010 Cuvee #10 Sparkling Brut was judged Best of Show at the 2014 Mendocino County Fair Wine Competition and McFadden’s NV Sparkling Cuvee Brut was judged Best of Show at the 2014 California State Fair Wine Competition. Conveniently, Graziano and McFadden are open daily for tasting, and have neighboring tasting rooms less than ten steps apart in downtown Hopland.

This year’s Mendo Bubbly Fest event will return to Terra Savia on Saturday, April 11, 2015; look to this column for more news, including where to get tickets, as the event nears.

Resolutions. Ugh. Does anyone really stick to these things?

Each year, I promise to get out and taste more wine, and farther afield, but work and home conspire to keep me from traveling far or often, at least as far or often as I would like.

I did make a couple of trips over the hill to visit the wineries of Hwy 128 here in Mendocino County, largely in response to invitations by the Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association to their Pinot Noir Festival and Barrel Tasting Weekends. This year, I would like to return for those events, for the Alsace festival, and for visits to individual wineries for spotlight winery pieces. Let’s see how we do with that desire.

I’ve lost some weight, over a case of sparkling wine worth of weight, and I will lose more weight this year. This has meant more cooking at home, where I control the calories going into the food I consume. I resolve to continue to find wine friendly recipes that pack a ton of flavor into as few calories as possible.

When I attended the mushroom dinners at Crush Italian Steakhouse and Barra of Mendocino last month during the Mendocino County Mushroom, Wine & Beer Fest, I was dieting. I will continue to attend the best wine dinners that I am invited to, and write them up here for you, this year. Not diet friendly, I’ve learned a little portion control, so these dinners are both deliciously wonderful and not disastrously destructive to my dietary goal of continued weight loss.


For me, wine is food, one more dish among many in a larger meal, and makes that meal better. I often exhort or encourage you, my readers, to try a particular wine with food, because I believe that sublime wine and food pairings are the path to greater wine enjoyment (and consumption).

I also think that these special food and wine dinners are the best opportunity for you to get out and experience several wines and several dishes to find out for yourself what pairing is all about, and hopefully inspire you to do more at home for yourself, your friends, and your family.

That possibility means that I will try to attend a few extra wine dinners, and at more restaurants, in 2015.

Anyway, I would like you to make a resolution for me, if you can. Please resolve to enjoy at least one more bottle of Mendocino County wine in 2015 than you did in 2014. Thanks and cheers!


One more thing: Thank you to the many people who donated new unwrapped toys or cash – which I bought more toys with – in support of the Toys For Tots efforts at McFadden. After a storm impacted kick off, you stepped up and brought more toys than we had previously collected. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Edited to add for online archived version of column:

On New Year’s Eve, I joined Leo Laporte, Mike Elgan, and Tonya Hall in Petaluma at TWiT.tv’s Brick House for an online streaming 24 hour charity fundraiser for UNICEF, and I poured some sparkling wines and mentioned both JohnOnWine.com and McFaddenFarm.com during the segment.

Most people watching do not then go to a website when it is mentioned, so the numbers watching must be incredible, because within an hour I had 800 folks visit here and 32 orders for sparkling wine were placed through McFaddenFarm.com or Amazon.com.


I had a great time, and was even segment-crashed by Marilyn Monroe, so the event was a touch disjointed but fun nonetheless.

Here’s a link to view an archived copy of the segment: http://youtu.be/VG9nhLiTT30?t=11m55s


John On Wine – TOYS FOR TOTS Toy Drive at McFadden tomorrow, Friday, December 12 from 4-7pm

Originally published in the Ukiah Daily Journal newspaper on December 11, 2014

It is December and the holidays are coming. Like my friend Chuck, the first person to invite me to a dinner of Jewish food, you may celebrate Hanukah, or like my friend Susan, a Jehovah’s Witness, you may not celebrate the holidays at all, but they are coming just the same.

My last name is Cesano, which is Italian, and it would be a pretty easy pair of guesses to come up with my being raised Catholic and celebrating Christmas.

I love Christmas. I love the decorations. I love the sentimental magic of the best Christmas movies, old and new: It’s a Wonderful Life to Elf and Miracle on 34th Street to The Polar Express, and I often find a tear or stream of tears rolling down my cheeks with the best as the wonderful magical Spirit of Christmas is captured.

As a child, I loved Christmas; the putting out cookies and milk for Santa and celery for his reindeer and, of course, the opening of packages on Christmas morning. Every child should know that joy.

I moved north to Ukiah to be closer to my son, leaving a salaried marketing position in the wine industry only to find that there was no such position waiting for me in this county. I was unemployed for two years before falling into my job as the manager at the McFadden Farm Stand & Tasting Room in Hopland. While unemployed, things got tighter and tighter financially, as I ran through savings and then survived by going into credit card debt. That last Christmas before starting work was pretty slim for my son.

As dire as my situation was, there are people who have things tougher, and some children do not get to experience the joy of Christmas. Given the opportunity, I decided to do something to help change that in some small measure.

I asked my boss, Guinness McFadden, in 2012 if I could use our tasting room to host a TOYS FOR TOTS event, giving away a bunch of his stuff to get people to bring toy donations; not a giant sales revenue producing event, but more a charitable event, and he gave me permission to do so.

That first year, KOZT mentioned our event many times each day and the Ukiah daily Journal gave it a nice push, and we ended up with a donation box overflowing with new unwrapped toy donations. Last year, I wrote about the event here in my column and we saw a doubling of donations. This year, I would love to double last year’s donations but, really, any number is helpful, welcome, and enormously appreciated.

Tomorrow, Friday, December 12, 2014, after work from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm, you are invited to the 3rd annual McFadden TOYS FOR TOTS Toy Drive and Wine Tasting event at our McFadden Farm Stand & tasting Room, located at 13275 South Highway 101 #5, Hopland, CA 95449.

Bring a new unwrapped toy donation and you’ll receive a drawing entry for an assortment basket (over $200 value) of assorted McFadden Farm retail goods, and raffle win or not everone with a donation will receive a box of McFadden Farm Wild Rice. There will also be a tasting of all our current release wines and we’ll offer up a food pairing taste of a McFadden Wild Rice stuffing. During the event, our California State Fair Wine Competition Best of Show awarded sparkling wine and our almost sold out Pinot Noir, both available only to our wine club members will – with a toy donation – be available to all during the event. We will also discount everything in the tasting room 20%, all wine, all food, all glassware, everything – and wine club members will get 25% off – during this special three hour event.


We are thrilled to partner with the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, even though I was Army and Guinness was Navy, in putting on our 3rd annual McFadden TOYS FOR TOTS Toy Drive and Wine Tasting event, and equally thrilled to bring all of the collected toys to the Hopland Volunteer Fire Department so the men can help Santa bring some very much needed Christmas cheer to some local boys and girls who need your help and charity.

I want to thank KOZT for the many mentions this year, and the Ukiah Daily Journal for allowing me to turn my wine column into a plea for your help once each year, but most of all I want to thank you in advance for the donations of unwrapped toys (or cash which I use to buy shopping carts full of toys with) that you will bring to McFadden tomorrow during our toy drive & wine tasting event, or after if you can’t make it tomorrow.

Everyone from every religion can get behind smiling Children so, wine drinker or not (yes, I’m looking at you, my Adventist neighbors), I hope to see you tomorrow, Friday December 12 between 4 and 7 pm, with a new unwrapped toy or cash (minimum $10 recommended) donation. Our raffle assortment basket has no wine in it, so there is no barrier to charity for anyone.


Again, thanks in advance for your help bringing Christmas cheer into a needful child’s life, and I hope you can handle the feeling when your heart grows three sizes this holiday season.


TOYS FOR TOTS Toy Drive & Wine Tasting on Friday, 12/13. Please Come.

Toys For Tots, started in 1947 by Major Bill Hendricks with help from his Marine Corps Reserve unit in Los Angeles, and expanded nationwide in 1948 as the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys For Tots Program, has collected and distributed over 400,000 toys to less fortunate children.

The Hopland Volunteer Fire Department helps Santa each Christmas Eve by delivering toys collected to children who could use a little extra Christmas cheer.

The McFadden Farm Stand & Tasting Room in Hopland acts as a bridge between the two organizations, by hosting a combination Toys For Tots toy drive and wine tasting each year.

Please come to McFadden in Hopland this Friday, December 13, after work, between 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. and bring a new unwrapped toy donation.

In exchange for your donation, as a thank you for your kindness and generosity of Christmas spirit, each person, 21 or over, bringing a donation will enjoy a complimentary tasting of the best of McFadden’s wines. Enjoy the Double (unanimous) Gold Medal winning McFadden Chardonnay from this year’s San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition – the highest awarded unoaked Chardonnay at the largest judging of American wines in the world;  the Gold, Double Gold, Wine Enthusiast Editor’s Pick, and 97 point rated Sparkling Brut from McFadden;  the only Zinfandel-centric blend Coro Mendocino from the 2010 vintage – there were ten made – at a pleasurably drinkable under-14% alcohol; and the Best of Class Late Harvest Riesling, that’s the nation’s best dessert Riesling of any sort, from this year’s San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

In addition to a complimentary wine tasting, while it lasts, there will be taste pairings, a bite of a homemade gourmet mac and cheese.

Every person donating a new and unwrapped toy will also get a box of 100% pure McFadden Wild Rice.

There will also be a raffle drawing for a gift basket with an assortment of food goodies from McFadden Farm: boxes of Wild Rice, jars of Herbs and Herb Blends, braids of Premium Garlic, and more. The gift basket has a retail value of over $200 and someone who donates a new unwrapped toy will win the prize. The odds are far better than winning the lottery, and entry comes with a toy donation for a child’s Christmas. The winning ticket will be drawn at 7:00 p.m. and the winner need not be present to win.

After work Friday. You can make it. Even if you do not drink wine, come to the McFadden Farm Stand & Tasting Room with your toy donation and you’ll get a box of Wild Rice and a raffle prize entry.

For those who need to pick up some tasty holiday gifts, a new unwrapped toy donation will earn a 20% one-night-only discount off everything in the shop, including the amazing Holiday Herb Wreaths,  culinary pottery, and organic food that come from McFadden Farm.

Don’t have time to shop for a toy between now and tomorrow? Feel free to donate a $20 bill, and you get all the fun: the complimentary wine tasting, mac and cheese bite (while it lasts), box of wild rice, and raffle ticket for the assortment gift basket worth over $200. We went shopping for toys, bought on sale, last year with cash donations, and we will gladly do the same this year.

I can’t think of much that would be worse than to be a child without a toy on Christmas morning. I am grateful to the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, and to the Hopland Volunteer Fire Department. I am also incredibly grateful to all of the people who brought toys to last year’s inaugural Toys For Tots toy drive and wine tasting event at McFadden. We ended up bringing one overflowing box of toys to the firehouse thanks to the generosity of our community, and I would love to collect at least as many…okay, I would really love to see two overflowing boxes before tomorrow night is done.

Please, please, please, I hope you will come join us tomorrow. You do not have to stay long. The McFadden tasting room isn’t really large, and last year folks were great about coming with toy donations, enjoying a tasting, filling out a raffle ticket, and leaving to make room for the next wave of holiday helpers.

Every year, Christmas is just a thing for me, a noisy and crass commercial endeavor, and then something happens, it is different each year, that unlocks the Christmas spirit in my heart. The smile of a child visiting Santa, a beautifully decorated tree, making a donation, whatever it is that does the trick is magic, because I am able to enjoy the season more wholly, and holy, from then on for the year. I hope this event can free your Christmas spirit.

The McFadden Farm Stand & Tasting Room is located at 13275 S. Highway 101, Suite 5, in Hopland’s Vintage Marketplace building – next to Graziano, Naughty Boy, and Ray’s Station. Bring yourself and a new unwrapped toy after work between 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m., this Friday 13, 2013.

Thank you, in advance, for the smile you will help put on a child’s face this Christmas.

Note: This online post precedes the column publication in the Ukiah Daily Journal by one day.