Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Grgich Celebrates Organic and Biodynamic Pioneer Miljenko Grgich's 100th Birthday in Grand Style Plus VIDEO EXTRA

It was a pleasure to attend two days of festivities celebrating Mike Grgich's 100th birthday, which was part epic wine tasting and part party. It was also a pleasure to write about the events for 

Read the story here.

Monday, May 15, 2023

Slow Wine Guide 2023 Book Review on YouTube: 98 Points! Thank You, James the Wine Guy

It's thrilling to see our first video book review of Slow Wine Guide 2023 from James the Wine Guy posted on YouTube.

James had so many nice things to say about the guide. Hear some of what he said. (But click above to see for yourself!)

"The Slow Food manifesto really anchors on many things that are important...which is the pillars of producing Slow Wine. and those would be say biodynamic wines, organic, as well as sustainable wine production.

"It's not just a wine guide of Slow Wine, Slow Food principles, but it's also one where wines of excellence are highlighted. It's not just a guide to find passable producers that meet a certain criteria, but it's also to look at these producers in terms of the wine excellence that they do produce on a year over year basis. 

"The icons are fantastic to help to make this a very succinct and easy to digest easy to understand...The Bottle represents above average quality, the Coin represents value, and the Snail represents Slow Food, Slow Wine principles. 

"... if you want to just quickly understand what wines are going to be reviewed, or perhaps you're looking for white wines or sparkling wines, you can see that very, very quickly and type of aging as well. So I think that's nice... 

"And then you can look at the top wine awards by state...You're going to see many producers you know, and perhaps producers you don't know. 

"I know a lot of these pretty personally, and I've been reviewing these wines for years, but  I don't have every...single data point in terms of what they are and how they produce their wines, and meeting certain criteria of say the Slow Wine manifesto. 

"So I liked that each call out each producer you're showing the region Napa... in this example...the people involved the vineyards as well as the wines being produced. 

"I also love this data point on the very bottom...each producer is highlighting what they have on planted acres, cases produced, fertilizers, plant protection, weed control, yeasts that are implemented, grapes that are purchased. 

"So you might find this surprising that some are producing all 100% estate fruit and some are doing purchasing other fruit as well...what certifications do they have as well....I think these are things that are important to call out. 

"So think of this book as a gift to yourself. And a gift to other people. So a $25 investment anything is intrinsically inexpensive. 

"It is completely concise...easy to engage with. So they're trusted reviewers, trusted editors, people that I've known for a good number of years and very much appreciate their integrity. It's lively and well written copy. It would take hundreds of hours to do this research if you were to do this on your own - relevant information of biodynamic, organic and sustainable practices, as well as a great and gentle use of icons that are meaningful to the reader. 

"So you do not have to spend a lot of time to go through this and to pull out those things that are really important to you. This is 98 points. I think it's absolutely on point and it just is so relevant and needed today."


Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Catena To Launch Its First Organic Wine Brand in U.S.

Interesting choice of words
Typically a wine would say "Made with 
Organic Grapes" in the U.S.

I was perusing the Tilia website recently (searching for brand visuals for an upcoming talk) and my ears perked up when I came across a graphic on the site that said the wine was made from a blend of organic grapes. 

Not knowing specifically what that meant (it sounded like some of the grapes were not organic?), I reached out for more details.

I've been a big fan of leading Argentinan organic and now biodynamic brands like Domaine Bousquet, for its incredible scores and quality as well as amazing price points, but I had not been aware of Tilia's new direction or that it was owned by Catena.

Victoria Capelli, Creative Office Exports Director. was kind enough to answer a few questions I sent in an email:

Is this Catena’s first organic brand? 

We don’t usually refer to Tilia as a Catena brand as it stands on its own, but to answer your question Catena has been farming the family’s vineyards organic (in part, no certification) for decades. 

We have some Catena brand certified organic wines that we sell in Europe and the Adrianna Vineyard wines have been certified organic for several years.

How many acres will be certified organic? 

The vineyards for Tilia in Mendoza have been farmed organic since 2020, and that is why the first year with an official certification will be the 2023 vintage. The 2021 and 2022 vintages do not yet have the organic certification, but 600 hectares (1,500 acres approximately) are in the process of being certified.

What is the case production of “Made with Organic Grapes” wines expected to be? 

For the US, approximately 50,000 cases.

[In comparison, Bousquet currently sells about 300,000 cases of organically grown wine in US.]

And what are the primary places it will be exported to? 

United States, Brazil, Holland, and United Kingdom.

Monday, May 8, 2023

Facing Extinction? EPA Analysis Says Imidacloprid And Other Popular Neonic Insecticides Widely Used in Wine Grapes Put Bees, Birds and Endangered Species At Risk

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued an in-depth analysis May 1 showing that three leading insecticides–all of which are neonicsnegatively impact endangered species, including bees and birds. 

That means the EPA is not complying with the Endangered Species Act.

This map, from California's Tracking California app, shows where neonics were used in 2018 on wine grape vineyards alone: 

Neonic use on wine grapes, 2018 PUR data (DPR)
Map source:

The most popular neonic, imidacloprid, was banned in the EU in 2018, but is still permitted for use in the U.S. It's also at the top of bee lovers "ban this" list, as hundreds of studies show it is quite toxic to bees and birds. It's still legal in the U.S., due to pressure from the U.S.'s corn industry lobby. Corn seeds are commonly coated with imidacloprid.

Imidacloprid use on wine grapes, 2018 PUR data (DPR)
Map source:


In California, imidacloprid is quite popular with wine grape growers who use it primarily to protect against vine mealybug. 

The data from California's Dept. of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) from 2021 shows that wine grape growers reported using 62,104 pounds of it on 161,744 acres. That's more than a quarter of the state's vineyards.

Organic growers are prohibited from neonics and do not use them, but neonic insecticides are widely used by both conventional and sustainable growers across the state, including in the high priced wine regions like Sonoma, where growers applied 2,027 pounds of it on 7,742 acres. In Napa, growers applied 253 pounds on 5,141 acres (about 1/8th of the vines).

Elsewhere, in cheap wine grape growing regions, the state reports that Madera County growers used 7,489 pounds on 18,882 acres, and in San Joaquin County (which includes Lodi), growers used 8,795 pounds on 21,176 acres.

The newly issued 2023 EPA assessment says that the three neonics are putting 200 species at risk. 

The report "predicted there is a likelihood of jeopardy for 158 [endangered] species," resulting from imidacloprid use alone. 

A May 5, 2023 CBD press release stated that the EPA's May 1 analysis:

 "...found that 166, or 9% of all endangered species, are likely to be jeopardized by clothianidin.

For imidacloprid, 199 species, or 11% of all endangered plants and animals, are likely to be jeopardized.

Thiamethoxam was found to likely jeopardize the continued existence of 204, or 11% of all endangered species."

The CBD said neonics' effectiveness stems from the fact that "these insecticides are systemic, meaning they are absorbed by plants, making the entire plant deadly toxic, including its nectar, pollen and fruit. Neonicotinoids are also highly persistent and can linger in soil for years, causing long-term harm." 

The EPA analysis says:

"..imidacloprid is characterized as highly toxic to bees, highly toxic to birds and moderately toxic to mammals on an acute exposure basis. Available data suggest potential effects to honeybee and bumble bee colonies that manifest as impacts to numbers of adults and decreases in brood. Chronic exposures to birds and mammals lead to decreases in body weight and egg production in birds.

In a press released issued a year ago, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) wrote, "The EPA’s assessments of clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam marked the first time the agency has completed biological evaluations of any neonicotinoids’ harms to the nation’s most imperiled plants and animals. Species found to be harmed by all three of the neonicotinoids include rusty patched bumblebees, whooping cranes, chinook salmon, northern long-eared bats and orcas."

The nonprofit advocacy group went on to say:

“These deeply troubling findings leave no doubt that these dangerous pesticides are silencing the songs of frogs, the flutter of butterfly wings and the buzz of bees,” said Lori Ann Burd, environmental health director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Many of the species harmed by neonicotinoids are experiencing precipitous declines, and this EPA’s choices may well determine whether or not they go extinct.”

“The EPA’s analysis shows we’ve got a five-alarm fire on our hands, and there’s now no question that neonicotinoids play an outsized role in our heartbreaking extinction crisis,” said Burd. "The EPA has to use the authority it has to take fast action to ban these pesticides so future generations don’t live in a world without bees and butterflies and the plants that depend on them.”


Map source:


Map source:

Note: California is not the only state that uses these fungicides on wine grapes. It IS the only state in which it is mandatory for growers to report their use and the only state that provides these records.

Learn more about neonics in this documentary from DW, German public television.

Friday, May 5, 2023

Wood Chips, Mushroom Extracts, and Vintner Coalitions: How the Pioneering Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians Are Restoring Burned Forests and Russian River Waters

Governments are flush with funds to handout for ecosystem restoration and resilience, environmental leader Chris Ott tells vintners at Napa Green's climate summit Rise Green.

Building community coalitions is key to success, he said. 

Read article (by yours truly) here.

Can the Wine Industry Woo Millennials and Gen Z with Better Green Messaging? Esther Mobley Says Yes

As senior wine critic at the San Francisco Chronicle. Esther Mobley is arguably California's most important wine writer, so when she speaks, the industry takes note.

Hear what she had to say to producers on how to appeal to younger generations. 

It's in my latest for Wine Business

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Groundwater Depletion Expert Jay Famiglietti Calls for Urgent Action from California on Groundwater

Speaking at Napa Green's Napa RISE event, the groundwater measurement pioneer says more should be done proactively. 

Read the story here.

Friday, April 14, 2023

Saturday, April 8, 2023

Solar Powered Microgrid Provides Healthcare System Resilience for California Farmworkers

This past week I heard the details (at Napa Green's Napa Rise climate event) about a new microgrid installation at Domaine Carneros, which I am writing about for Grape and Wine magazine's next issue. (Stay tuned. I will publish a link here when the story is published.)

But the Domaine Carneros adventures reminded me of the unpublished version of my previous October story on microgrids. The published version of the story appeared Oct. 13, 2022 in The Guardian, where it was heavily edited from the original concept as a "local" story to one with broader geographical representation about solar powered healthcare microgrids. 

The original story I pitched–and the assignment from The New Lede and The Guardianwas (solely) to profile the Hollister clinic's microgridso here is THAT story. 

This version covers much more of the clinic's unique culture and the clinic's ongoing green direction and drive. It also shows that the biggest benefits of the solar conversion became much more apparent after Covid hit. (The Covid part of the story was left out in the The Guardian version.) I loved this article, and I loved the people and clinic in it, so I am offering it here (with permission from the original commissioning editor at The New Lede, thank you very much) in the hopes that you, the audience, will enjoy it.

Solar Powered Microgrid Provides Healthcare System Resilience for California Farmworkers

When healthcare clinic CEO Rosa Vivian Fernandez (of the San Benito Health Foundation) traveled from central California to visit her family in Puerto Rico, in 2017, she was shocked to see how Hurricane Maria had devastated not just the buildings, but the healthcare system as well. 

With the electrical grid down, and no diesel available for backup generators, the Category 5 storm’s impact on the grid wiped out healthcare services. “People died,” she said.

While resources came to the east side of the island faster, Fernandez was the first to get to the west side of the island where her family is from, where her sister works in healthcare and where critical help was delayed. “I got there three weeks out, before the government got to the clinics,” she said.

“All the healthcare centers–the ones that did not get flooded or destroyed by the storm–went down,” she said. Backup diesel generators failed. Electronic payment systems could not function. “The clinics just couldn't find diesel. Even if they had the cash, they couldn't find it,” she said.

When the clinics did have power, it was so intermittent that they weren't able to keep medical supplies, she reported. “So some of them lost all medical supplies that were vulnerable, particularly vaccines, and then they were not able to keep medical supplies because of the power issue,” she said. 

“When you look at the fact that they just didn't have these resources at a critical time, when there was an even greater risk of disease, that was really sad. In some cases, there was no insulin. People died.”

Back home in Hollister, the local clinic she runs faces many natural and climate change related risks–from earthquakes to electrical outages from heat waves that take down the utility grid.

Just 43 miles south of San Jose, this farming and ranching community sits on the Calaveras fault, a branch of the more famous San Andreas fault. The last major earthquake on the Calaveras was the Morgan Hill event, a 6.2 on the Richter scale, which struck in 1984. The San Benito County region is facing huge changes, as housing shortages caused by Silicon Valley commuters moving have raised home prices to as $800,000 and created massive traffic congestion.

In the county’s largest town, Hollister, the population has doubled since 1990, from 19,212 to 41,000 in 2020. Nearly 70 percent are Mexican and Mexican-American farmworkers, paid $20-25,000 a year to work in the fields of apricots, cherries, spinach and organic salad greens.

When Fernandez returned home from Puerto Rico, she told her San Benito Health Foundation board about her Hurricane Maria experiences. 

“The board was adamant that our clinic would not face the same vulnerabilities,” she said. Founded by farmworkers in 1975, the facility serves more than 9,000 patients.

The workers, who are typically paid $20-25,000 a year, are essential to the food system. Around Hollister, they harvest mainly apricots, cherries, spinach and organic salad greens.

The clinic has a unique culture. 

It’s a population that uses Whatsapp to communicate with relatives in Mexico, so the clinic uses Whatsapp for healthcare messaging. “We text them but they don't read their text. They just see that something from the clinic came through, and they call us and say, ‘well, we got a text from you,” says Fernandez. 

When new mothers go to get a nursing bra, they get to pick one out from pullout drawers as sweetly arranged as at a Victoria’s Secret display. 

When kids go for dental care, they sit in one of eight chairs in an open environment (while their parents wait outside) with other kids, where they can see others their age who are not freaked out about seeing the dentist. 

The board did not want to see their special culture, clinic and healthcare services threatened if they did not take action.

Microgrid Power

Located across the street from the Dollar General store on Hollister’s main road, the clinic would soon become a shining example for healthcare facilities across the country as the first healthcare clinic in California to have its own solar powered microgrid. 

The San Benito Health Foundation’s grid covers roughly100 percent of the clinic’s needs and was completed in February 2019, a month before Covid hit. 

After meeting at a Rotary event, the clinic partnered with the Romero Institute’s Let’s Green California group and Mynt Systems, a solar installer in Santa Cruz, to realize their vision of energy independence. The three worked together to renovate the facility, spending $1.6 million to refresh the structure and reduce power consumption by changing lighting, heating and cooling systems and beefing up the roof to hold the new solar panels. 

San Benito Health Foundation CEO Rosa Vivian Fernandez
with battery that stores the clinic's solar power

The $1.7 million solar powered microgrid stores energy in a large battery, smaller than a shipping container, that sits unobtrusively in the parking lot. If the sun does not shine, the battery has the capacity to store power for up to 10 days and is backed up by a diesel generator. 

They also added two electric car charging stations which are available to employees and the community.

Their microgrid offsets 3.6 million pounds of coal annually, according to Mynt, and lowers costs, making more funds available for care. Their monthly power bills went from $44,000 a month to $4,000 a month, and, after a four year delay–a delay the clinic says was due to the utility company’s bureaucratic inefficiencies–they received a rebate from PG&E for $400,000 this year. 

In addition, PG&E prices have risen 15 percent this year with many future increases on the horizon from the vast undergrounding project the giant utility has planned.

Fernandez says the microgrid is not a cost saving investment overall, but is mission critical. 

When the pandemic hit, the clinic’s reliance on energy became even more dire. 

“We have very large refrigerators and freezers that are for vaccines, and they have to be at a constant temperature and running all the time” she said, “so there's no way to reduce power to them."

Fernandez and a staff physician stand next to the refrigerated storage
for Covid vaccines and other medications

"We're on electronic health records which requires all computers in the building to be on during PG&E’s peak usage time (4 to 9 pm) because, anywhere in the building, we're accessing patient care items that are very important. In a healthcare facility, we cannot reduce consumption–if anything, we need to augment consumption during those peak hours.”

During the pandemic, the clinic treated hundreds of patients and administered doses of the Covid vaccines. It was also among the first to offer drive through vaccinations. Families shared stories about relatives who died because they did not get the vaccine. In response to a southern California bishop who was making anti-vaccine statements, Fernandez quoted the Pope’s advice to get the vaccine. 

Even the Jehovah’s Witnesses came to the clinic for vaccinations. “They left messages for our staff, thanking them for their efforts,” Fernandez said.

A Literal Lifeline

Last week, when record setting heat–hitting an all time high of 109 degrees Fahrenheit in San Jose– brought down PG&E’s grid in some areas, San Jose’s Santa Clara Hospital had power blackouts. Its backup generator failed. Three buildings lost electricity. The hospital canceled elective surgeries. Without power, medical pumps, monitors and ventilators were unable to function. The hospital told local ambulances to route incoming emergency care patients to other area hospitals. A surgeon told a local reporter that the situation was “very dangerous.”

In comparison, San Benito’s clinic administrators and staff did not panic at all when the utility company’s Flex Alerts, autogenerated cell phone texts urging consumers to reduce power use as energy use peaked, came and went. 

Their community journey to a new electric powered world is just beginning. 

The clinic has already installed a model kitchen in its community room, with an induction cooktop stove, and is launching cooking classes on how to use it. 

In the past, the board was divided over buying a Prius for Fernandez, but now that one of the more conservative board members, who previously opposed a Prius purchase, works at an electric tractor company, there is support for an EV. 

The clinic has purchased a new EV cargo van to be used as a mobile clinic, and board members have visited manufacturing sites that demonstrate the new vehicles which police units in southern California are now buying.

Struggling to Find Housing and People Power 

There are still risks ahead. 

Staffing shortages led to bringing in six Mexican physicians, some of whom are faculty at the well regarded Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), because the clinic has found it nearly impossible to get bilingual American staff willing to work for nonprofit wages. When they are able to find qualified candidates, they often cannot find housing for them. 

The nonprofit has now purchased land in historic San Juan Batista (population: 2,000), “City of History”–famous for its 1812 adobe mission and fort–where Rosa Vivien and the board plan to build a teaching clinic with housing for faculty, staff and students. 

The location is seven miles away from Hollister, but conveniently located next to a major freeway, so it would enable the clinic to treat more area patients and train and house much needed bilingual staff. 

But the clinic must negotiate a plan that will satisfy current opposition from local residents, historic preservationists and the local planning commission. 

The clinic leadership is already planning for a microgrid to run the new, proposed facility, and looking into electric bikes for local transportation.

Friday, April 7, 2023

Jancis Robinson's Talk at Napa Green Climate Event Focuses on - You Guessed It - the Evil of Heavyweight Wine Bottles and What to Do About That

It was a pleasure to attend the first of Napa Green's six day Rise Green event and listen to Jancis Robinson's opening talk, which I wrote about.

Read the article here.


And for another take on Jancis' talk, see Liz Thach's story published here. Robinson covered some trends in Q and A following her talk. Thach has substantiated the themes Robinson mentioned in data Thach added in the Forbes piece.

Monday, April 3, 2023

Vineyard Management Software Article Now Out in April Issue of Wine Business Monthly | What Experts Have to Say About the Current Landscape

It wasn't easy writing an article on vineyard management software but it was extremely educational and illuminating. Many thanks to the 20+ interviewees, including 12 vendor, who contributed to my learning curve and the article and who hopefully will contribute to your learning curve, too. 

You can read the article in the April issue here.

One of my favorite quotes came from Vintel CEO Eric Jallas, who lives both in California and France. 

"The expertise of the farmer, who is doing his best today, is based on his experience in a climate that does not exist any more. He's totally lost with that. 

"He is also challenged by the economics on the changing price of fertilizer. When the fertilizer prices double or triple, it is not the same game at all. The predictive model - a tool which is based on a virtual reality twin - is in fact the technology of tomorrow." 

That speaks to the heart of the current challenges the wine industry - and indeed, all agriculture - is facing.  

Thanks to these interviewees who are also quoted in the article.

• Niki Wente, director of vineyard operations at Wente Vineyards

• Luca Brillante, assistant professor of viticulture at Fresno State University

The magazine also features a Q and A with Mason Earles of U.C. Davis, who studies solutions to the challenges agtech faces at the Plant AI and Biophysics Lab at U.C. Davis.

(And a special thanks to Eric Pooler whose input I also received.) 

Vendors Quoted

• AgCode CEO Lance Donney

• Vintel CEO Eric Jallas

Representatives from Blue Circle AI, eVineyard, Farm Q and A, Process2Wine, Sure Harvest, Terraview OS, Tiger Jill, Trellis, VineInfo, and Monarch/Windspan AI were also helpful in providing in depth product information.

For me, as a veteran of Silicon Valley tech marketing and a front row participant and observer of tech history, surveying the landscape of this software category was a wakeup call to the fact that agtech is very far beyond other sectors, but that an increasing investment by venture capitalists and government is attempting to pivot to the future. It's also fascinating to see the sector on the verge of takeoff. Will we get an "Apple version" of easy to use vineyard software? 

Just like artificial intelligence, the world of precision agriculture has a long way to go to fulfill its potential, but if successfully deployed, it could reduce or eliminate the use of dangerous pesticides and be an accelerant for organic ag's growth.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Italy's Top Organic Producers Pour at Slow Wine USA Tour in San Francisco

Slow Wine's USA Tour featured dozens of top flight Italian and U.S. producers. (I wrote about the organic American producers who poured at the San Francisco event here a few days ago.) 

Here are five of the stellar, organic Italian wineries I was able to taste with at the event. 

The Piedmontese producers had the highest rate of participation in the five city tour (which is funded by EU marketing budgets). 


Slow Wine has just published a list of the importers and distributors for the Italian and U.S. brands who participated as well as the list of wineries looking for importers. Get that list here. 

Some of these producers are organic.


San Francisco and New York had the most attendees from trade and media. 

New York: 459
San Francisco: 445
Miami: 236
Seattle: 214
Dallas: 153



I wasn't able to take down tasting notes in order to get through these major producers (time limitations), but overall, I found the quality to price ratio on these terroir driven wines extremely appealing , as compared to comparable quality from U.S. producers. 

A side note: 18 percent of Italian vineyard acreage is certified organic. That is compared to about 4 percent in the U.S. (though regions like Napa have about 11 percent certified organic acreage). 


Elvio Cogno

A classic Barolo producer in the Langhe. Elvio Cogno regularly also places in the Wine & Spirits Top 100 and is often present at that SF tasting. In the Slow Wine tour, Elvio Cogno poured in both San Francisco and Miami. The winery has converted to organic practices and is in the three year transition period required for organic certification. 

• Tech sheet for the Ravera

Daniele Conterno 

Today run by Daniele, the fourth generation of the family's vintners, the family run estate decided to become organic in 2005 and became certified in 2015.


G. D. Vajra

The first estate to farm organically in the region, in 1971, the Vajra family today continues that tradition with certified organic vines. In addition to Barolo, it produces Riesling and Barbera and recently also started to make a Langhe Nebbiolo. The winery also makes two wines from heirloom varieties including Dolcetto and the lesser known (and rarely grown) Freisa.

Good background reading on Vajra:

It poured its highest altitude Barolo - Bricco Delle Viole (DOCG) - along with its celebrated Baudana (50 year old vines from a tiny, historic vineyard at high elevation) and the Freisa Kye (DOC).



Felsina completed organic certification in 2000, among the first in Tuscany, and is a powerhouse producer in the southeast edge of Chianti Classico. The single vineyard The Rancia Reserva (DOCG) comes from a small vineyard of only 6 hectares. The Fontalloro is IGT, as it comes from vineyards in two areas: Chianti Classico and the Chianti Colli Senesi, which lie at different elevations.

Good background reading comes from my colleague and friend Monty Waldin:


Another organic pioneer, the family certified its first estate organic in 2004 and, as a biodynamic producer, is a member of the Renaissance des Appellations. It has three estates including this one in Maremma, near the sea in Tuscany. 

The wines are truly affordable, but I was unable to find them for sale online in the US. I have contacted their export manager for more details.

(Slow Wine includes both organic and non-organic wineries, but the ones featured here are organic since this blog is about organically grown wines from certified vineyards.)

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Oregon Wine Board Founders Award for Dr Robert Gross; Second Major Award Win for a Biodynamic Producer in Oregon

So happy to see Bob Gross getting his due with the announcement this week that he has received Oregon's highest award. Well deserved.

See the announcement here:

And don't think of this as simply history! The winery's wines are still among the best and more affordably priced in the U.S. I started collecting wine in 2010 with several cases of their Pinot and their LIFE Pinot (no added sulfites) still ranks among my favorites on the basis of flavor alone. And the LIFE Pinot is only $40. [Absolutely compares to wines that cost two to three to four times more.] 

Congrats to the Gross family on maintaining vineyard and wine quality for so many decades. And for expanding their vineyard holdings with their newly acquired Arborbrook. May it continue.


In 2019, Rudy Marchesi of Montinore Estate was voted Wine Person of the Year by the Oregon Wine Press. Kudos to Oregonians for recognizing these industry leaders.

Monday, March 13, 2023

Slow Wine USA Tour: Better Together - American and Italian Wineries Pour at SF Tasting

After spending three days in Bologna at the Slow Wine Fair (with 600 Italian wineries and 100 international ones) in Italy, it was a huge pleasure to taste both American and Italian wines last Monday in the spacious Metreon in San Francisco. 

Here are a few of the U.S. wineries who poured at the event. All of these photos feature certified organic estate producers who wereawarded Slow Wine's top award–the Snail.


Winery rep Mel Wong pours the Panther Ridge Pinot Noir (Petaluma Gap AVA) for Davit Evans of Foreign Cinema. 


Dan Fishman and Tony Chapman from Donum showed off the wide spectrum of their Pinot Noir ranging from their 91 acre Carneros estate to their Russian River site.


Southern Oregon's organic and biodynamic certified Troon presented a lovely sampling of their delicious, drink now wines.


Winemaker Jeronimo DaValle from newly certified Lake County organic powerhouse, Shannon Family, poured its top Ovis wines, including an impressive Nero d'Avola.



From Napa's Howell Mountain, the estate's newly hired viticulturist Giuseppe Tumbarello (formerly with Hamel Family) and general manager and winemaker Alberto Bianchi (formerly the winemaker at Newton) are refining Adamvs' estate and making only estate wines from this certified biodynamic site. 

San Francisco was just the first stop on Slow Wine USA's five city tour which went on to feature tastings in Seattle, Dallas, Miami, and New York. 

I'll post a few highlights of the certified organic Italian producers who I also tasted from.

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Get Your Ticket: April Phil’s Day Seminars and Luncheon to Honor Sonoma’s Rossi Ranch Vineyard

The Coturris and Otellini's saved one of Sonoma's great historic vineyard treasures - and now more than 10 vintners share the fruits of their labors - become wine. 

It's so cool that this asset (organic, of course) is getting its "Oscar" moment. Join us!

Legendary Sonoma Viticulturist Phil Coturri joins with other vintners to celebrate the iconic Rossi Ranch Vineyard with Seminars and Wine Tasting at April Phil’s Day, April 1, 2023 at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn

March 6, 2023 (Sonoma, CA) — Enterprise Vineyards and Winery Sixteen600 are pleased to announce the inaugural “April Phil’s Day” to be held at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn. Honoring legendary Sonoma County vineyard manager Phil Coturri, this year’s event will focus on longtime work at Rossi Ranch, a certified organic Sonoma Valley vineyard that provides grapes to some of California’s most storied wineries. 

“The grapes grown in Rossi are used in some of the most desirable and collectible wines being made in Northern California today,” Coturri noted. “The site was originally planted in 1910, and over the past 15 years Phil’s focus on certified organic farming practices have ensured that the vineyard will remain significant and relevant to the state’s wine industry.”

All events will take place on April 1st, 2023, at the Sonoma Mission Inn, 100 Boyes Blvd, Sonoma, CA 95476.

MJ Towler and Sam Coturri will lead two tasting seminars, the first focusing on Rossi Ranch white wines and the second focusing on Grenache, Syrah and other Rossi Ranch red wines. Lunch by Executive Chef Jared Reeves of the Fairmont will be accompanied by rosé wines made from Rossi Ranch and other Enterprise Vineyards farmed sites.

The winemakers and wineries participating represent an incredible mix of luminaries and industry veterans including Alejandro Zimman of Winery Sixteen 600 and Stone Edge Farm, Rosemary Cakebread of Gallica Wine, Tony Biagi presenting Mabon Wines, Danielle Langlois of Jambe de Bois and Lasseter Family Wines, Artie Johnson of Le Artishasic, Katie Bundschu from Abbot’s Passage, Scott MacFiggen of Sosie Wines, Bart Hansen of Dane Cellars, Michel Berthoud from Mayo Family Winery, and more.

Friend of the winery and star of stage and screen Jamie Kaler will emcee the day’s festivities. Special guests include Rossi Ranch’s Sandy Otellini and Chris Majerchek, Robert Kamen, winemaker emeritus Jeff Baker and MJ Towler, THE Black Wine Guy.

The cost to attend the day’s activities is $225 for general admission, and $175 for members of Winery Sixteen 600s “Phil Sent Me” wine club. There are also ten $100 scholarship seats available via application to qualified members of the trade. Attendance is limited to 100 participants. 

For tickets and further information, contact the Winery Sixteen600 Tasting House at 707.721.1805 or purchase online at Eventbrite:

Phil Coturri is a legendary viticulturalist and one of California’s pioneering organic farmers. For over 40 years he has shunned fertilizer and synthetic herbicide in favor of cover crops, integrated pest management, and paying careful attention to each grapevine’s individual needs. With almost 1000 acres of prime vineyard land under his management, Coturri’s farming practices are extremely influential throughout the state’s north coast. He manages vineyards such as Kamen, Lasseter, Rossi Ranch, Laurel Glen, Oakville Ranch, and 30 other sites at the top level of the wine industry. Harkening back to his Italian heritage, Coturri also produces olive oil from trees on his Moon Mountain relating back to his musical discernment and longtime relationship with the members of the Grateful Dead, he consults on a wide range of agricultural interests. 

Enterprise Vineyards is a vineyard management company based in Sonoma that handles farming for 30+ of Napa and Sonoma Counties’ most desired vineyards. Farming organically, their team is known for increasing the quality of the fruit while increasing the health of the vines. Their focus is on biodiversity in the vineyard, empowering the participation of their workers, and leaving a minimal environmental footprint on the planet, all while growing some of the finest grapes in the state.

Winery Sixteen600 is owned by Phi Coturri and his sons Max and Sam Coturri. Sourcing grapes from a large number of the vineyards farmed by Enterprise, they emphasize wine made from the Rhône grape varieties. The winery’s tasting house is located off the square in downtown Sonoma and features two stereo systems (with turntables, of course) and a collection of art by Stanley Mouse, longtime Grateful Dead cover artist (and designer of the Winery Sixteen600 labels).

Monday, February 27, 2023

Organic Pride Panel and Tasting at Slow Wine Fair 2023 | 19% of Italy Vines are Organic + It Has 51 Organic Districts

Slow Wine Fair is not exclusively devoted to organically grown wines, but they are a highlight of the event, and some of the most outstanding examples were on display during the Organic Pride tasting this morning. 

Vice curator and session moderator Gabriele Rosso led the Organic Pride tasting 

The lineup featured wines from a wide variety of regions, ranging from the Cilento coast in Campania to the Italian-Slovenian border.

While all six wines were outstanding, if I had to highlight three I would pick the #2 and #3 wines in the tasting and the last wine #6 - which had many many advantages, among them that it was a 2008 vintage wine. 

More to come later. For the moment I'm off to the next adventure here at Slow Wine Fair 2023.

A shoutout to my two interpreters who so graciously translated the Organic Pride
panel for me (since it was delivered only in Italian). Grazie a mille!

Monday, February 13, 2023

Slow Wine's Second International Wine Fair Opens in Bologna Feb. 26-28

As co-editor (with my wonderful colleague Deborah Parker Wong) of
Slow Wine Guide USA, I'm so looking forward to participating in this event, starting in two weeks. 

I'll be writing more about the exciting masterclasses being offered at the event–from biodynamic wines from China (where, yes, there is a Slow Wine China chapter) to sessions on the Caucasus mountains, the Abruzzo, French wines, an organic wine panel (with Federbio), Champagne from Lombardy and top 2010 vintages.

Though I've been to many other parts of Italy, this is my first trip to Bologna, the gastronomic capital of Italy–looking forward to tasting the real food of this world famous region. If you want a refresh on what makes this area so special, check out Stanley Tucci's Bologna episode here.

The second edition of the Slow Food event for good, clean and fair wine is in Bologna, Italy from February 26 to 28 with over 500 exhibitors from 26 countries

Winemakers, professionals and enthusiasts return to Bologna, Italy to continue their revolution in the wine world in late February.

Slow Wine Fair is the second international gathering of the Slow Wine Coalition, an inclusive and collaborative network that brings together the protagonists of the wine world to shape the future of wine, following in the footsteps of Terra Madre, the largest Slow Food gathering, which is organized biannually in Turin, Italy. The Slow Wine Coalition is represented by over 100 international winemakers and enthusiasts from 24 countries who come together to share their values, experiences and challenges—as well as potential solutions. Among others, the Fair hosts delegates from France, Turkey, Croatia, Chile, Georgia, Uzbekistan, the USA and Ukraine, as well all regions of Italy. Check out the exhibitor catalog:

Pressing Issues

“Climate change is an urgent issue for winemakers, as highlighted by last  summer. There are reasons for optimism, however, such as the growth of organic winemaking that restores soil fertility and plant health. These topics will be addressed during the conferences, debates and tastings at the Fair,” explains Giancarlo Gariglio, coordinator of the Slow Wine Coalition.

Through the promotion of slow wine Slow Food aims to shape the future of winemaking—a paradigm shift is necessary in a wine world still heavily reliant on the use of chemicals, where monocultures are damaging the  biodiversity of the most prestigious terroirs. Forward-thinking winemakers are well aware of the need to change course, and Slow Food is working to build a system whereby wine can become a tool for the cultural rebirth of the countryside, in which winemakers are custodians of the land and promoters of a system that protects rural landscapes, restores biodiversity and promotes the socio-cultural growth of the countryside.

“Slow Wine Fair is the only event with a Tasting Committee ( that selects the wineries in the catalog so that Italian and foreign buyers can find companies that truly reflect the philosophy of good, clean and fair,” continues Gariglio. The Commission includes editors of the Slow Wine guide and international journalists such as Deborah Parker Wong [and Pam Strayer] from the United States and Juan Gualdoni from Argentina.

Everyone can be part of the change by signing the Manifesto for Good, Clean and Fair wine, a document which aims to foster dialog among consumers, wine makers and professionals and motivate the members of the Slow Wine Coalition to take concrete, consistent actions in support of this transformation.

The program


The Slow Wine Fair starts before the end of February: in the weeks before the event, three Conferences highlight the main themes of the Fair. All will be freely available online and translated in Italian and English.

Wine and the climate crisis on February 8 at 6 p.m. CET hosts four speakers with prestigious international experiences who bring their different points of view on climate change in the vineyard: applied research, university research, technology and company experience, together with their experience on the ground.

On February 15 at 6 p.m. CET, we address Denominations: a common good? Experts discuss the positive aspects of these denominations and those to be revisited, taking into account that there have been numerous cases of winemakers choosing to leave a DOC or a DOCG, while there are consortiums who exclude producers who have every right to be part of the denomination.

Life is organic on February 22 at 6 p.m. CET gives us an opportunity to reflect on organic farming, starting with an analysis of the current situation before drawing some potential future scenarios. It is important to raise public awareness of the benefits of organic agriculture for soil fertility, for plant health, and for parsimonious resource use – above all water use – as well as a form of climate change mitigation.

Slow Wine Arena

The stories and struggles of the Slow Wine Coalition members take center stage at the Slow Wine Arena, a political space where protagonists of the wine world share experiences and solutions to ensure a future for good, clean and fair wine around the world. Speakers from France, Croatia, Ukraine, Turkey, Spain, Italy and beyond explore a range of relevant topics from the changing geography of winemaking landscapes to the challenges involved in making glass wine bottles more sustainable. A special workshop dedicated to all Slow Wine Coalition members will trace the next steps for the future. Find out more:


The five city Slow Wine US tour begins March 6 in San Francisco. See details here.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Italians Plant Geyserville Zin Clone in Puglia, Win Tre Bicchieri from Gambera Rosso

The long, tangled history of Zinfandel, aka Primitivo? is filled with yet another two worlds twist. 

Vintner Gregory Perrucci of Agricola Felline in southern Italy took cuttings from Ridge's 1880s vines in Geyserville and planted them in his vineyard in Puglia, pouring the wine he made from those vines this weekend at the ZAP tasting. (Yes, the grapes are certified organic). 

The winery has been the only non-American members of Zinfandel Advocates and Producers, since 1997.

I didn't get to meet him but did try the resulting wine - fantastico. So good in fact it won a Tre Bicchieri from Gambrel Rosso.

The winery also exhibited hard to find English language copies of the definitive Italian guide to Primitivo by noted authorities Antonio Calo and Angelo Costacurta. It was just published in 2022 by Kellermann and includes contributions from Gregory Perrucci. I can't wait to read it. (I have contacted the publisher on how one can obtain the English version. An Italian version is readily available to purchase online).

The winery is looking for an American importer. Contact:

The winery also won a Top Wine prize for a different wine, Primitivo di Manduria Giravolta, from Slow Wine in Italy, grown on limestone soils. The winery will be pouring that wine at the Slow Wine Fair in Bologna Feb. 23-26. Come join us there!

You can read more about the history of this variety in Italy on the Slow Wine website which has this excellent article on the region most devoted to this grape's revival.