Tuesday, December 11, 2012

New Wines From McFadden: A Dessert Riesling and a SuperBrut! On Sale Friday Only!

Sneak Preview of New Wines from McFadden - And Everything Is 20% Off This Friday Night

I'm happy to pass along news of the McFadden Wines Toys for Tots event this Friday from 4-7 pm at their Hopland tasting room. The winery will be collecting toys and offering raffle tickets for toy donors for a great assortment of their wines. Best of all - they will be pouring 2011 wines not yet on the market, and two brand new wines.

The two new wines are a Late Harvest Dessert Riesling and a Reserve Brut - which differs from their regular award-winning Brut (my regular go-to bubbly! We drink it by the case here) in that it sits on yeast for 18 extra months. As a diehard sparkling lover, I am looking forward to trying it! Alas, the price is not the same incredibly affordable deal for the regular Brut. The "SuperBrut" will retail for $40 and the dessert wine for $24, with the usual wine club discounts applying for wine club members.

This is one winery where I definitely recommend becoming a wine club member. If you ask nicely, it's very likely you can pick which wines you want in your club membership if you want to opt out of the winery's picks. But the best reason to join are the fabulous price points for members on what is already very affordable wine. And you're supporting a vineyard that has been organically certified for 40 years, making it one of the oldest in the country.

Their famous grass fed beef and herb products as well as all tasting room merchandise will also be on sale during the event for 20% off. If I were you, I would hotfoot it over there or see if you can place an order on the phone.

Organics on the Wine Spectator Top 100 List

Wine Spectator has just released its list of the best wines of 2012...click here for the full list...and the organics among them include:

#14 Maysara Pinot Noir McMinnville Estate Cuvee, $32

#63 Neyers Chardonnay Carneros (in transition), $29

#80 Spottswoode Cabernet Sauvignon, $145

The list is international. I have not listed any wines from outside the U.S. as I am not familiar with the organic producers.

Wine of the Year went to a Syrah grown in Napa - Shafer Vineyard's Relentless, a $60 bottle grown just beyond the Stag's Leap boundaries.

The Shafer's story is available in a new book from U.C. Press - A Vineyard in Napa. I'm looking forward to reading it as soon as it arrives.



Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Santorini Wines Make Jancis Robinson's Top Ten Undersung Varietals List

If you're not yet ready (like me) to fork out $110 for Jancis Robinson's new wine tomb, Wine Grapes: A Complete Guide to 1,368 Vine Varieties, Including Their Origins and Flavours, you may enjoy reading her latest Decanter article on "The 10 Grapes Every Wine Love Should Try" (subscribers only - in print) which lists grapes from Europe - and surprisingly, Japan and Turkey - that are definitely in the lesser known category. Some are a little known - Vermintino, for instance - and others are obscure. 

(None are from the U.S.)

Just being back from a 10 week trip to Southern Italy, Sicily and Greece, including Santorini, I was happy to see Assyrtiko make the list. This Santorini varietal was one of the few to survive the phylloxera epidemic at the turn of the century. Grown in the volcanic soils of this island - in the deep waters of the middle of the Mediterranean - it's hardy enough to survive high winds. It's also dry farmed as there is no water source on the island.

There are only a few organic producers on the island - one of them, Hatzidakis is among the two producers Robinson features in her article, calling it "great stuff and great value."

You can find this wine for less than $20 in the U.S. from the following suppliers:
http://www.wine-searcher.com/find/hatzidakis+assyrtiko.

I had some while I was on the island - and it's a lovely white, fresh and crisp.

You can also get the Sigalas (which I dearly love now) from KLWines.com. It rated a 93 pt. rating from Robert Parker - and it's not often that that happens with a bottle that costs $19.99!


Inventing Wine - Author Paul Lukacs Featured on Fresh Air



The 8,000 year old history of wine is full of surprises, but until now, it was pretty much a necessity to slog through the brilliant but big book The Story of Wine by Hugh Johnson to get the download.

Now wine book author Paul Lukacs (author of American Vintage, and an English language professor at Loyola University) has written a new book on our favorite fascinating beverage, and tells us about it today on NPR's Fresh Air show with Terry Gross. The title is Inventing Wine: A New History of One of the World's Most Ancient Pleasures."

 Says Publisher's Weekly, "Lukacs combines an erudite, raptly appreciative connoisseurship of fine wines with lucid analyses of the prosaics of wine production, marketing, and consumption . . . His absorbing treatise shows just how much the grape’s bounty owes to human ingenuity and imagination.”

A few quotes from the show's web site give us a sense of what's in store. I ordered the book online from Amazon today, so will be diving in as soon as it arrives. It is also available in a Kindle edition for those of you who can't wait or prefer the digital version.

From the NPR web site"Pharaohs have been buried beside jugs of it. The Quran promises baths of wine in the afterlife because here on Earth, humans are too weak not to succumb to its temptations. In World War I, France sent bottles of wine to its troops to help fortify them against the horrors they were experiencing in the trenches."

Excerpt from the Interview:

"You've got to remember [that] for thousands of years, if you lived in a town or a village, the water was pretty undrinkable. ... [I]f you lived in ancient Athens or if you lived in ancient Babylon or Alexandria, you couldn't drink the water, so wine was something that people drank from morning to night. Babies drank it; old people drank it; soldiers drank it; everybody drank wine all the time, and in order for them not to be falling down drunk by 10 in the morning, they mixed it with water and used it to sanitize or purify the water."

Listen to the 45 minute audio program here.

For more about the book, see the book's web site at www.inventingwine.com - you can read a short excerpt there and see advance praise for the books.

Might just be the perfect gift for the wine lover in your life.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Santorini - An Island in the Middle of the Aegean - Grows Its Vines Close to the Ground

In Greece, and now on the island of Santorini, famous for its wines for the last thousand or so years. Here is one method of cultivation - very low to the ground - which they must use because of the winds here.

I'll be visiting the wine museum here later on - will post a few pictures from there as well.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Book Your Hotel, Empty the Trunk! Mendocino's Passport Weekend - Oct. 20-21 - Best Budget Priced Organically Grown Wine Sale! (And Free Food)

The scene at McFadden's tasting room (peak moment)
at Passport last year. You can see it's a popular event -
visit yourself to find out why (- i.e. price, quality).
As I've mentioned before, Hopland's Passport weekend is, in my mind, the best tasting AND shopping trip of the year. It's held in the spring and in the fall, and has the highest percentage of any wine event in the state of organic and biodynamically grown wines.

In general, Napa wines contain as much as 100% Mendo grapes, often unattributed to Mendo (Chateau Montelena's Chardonnay and Riesling, for example) - but the growers in Mendo have begun to bottle their own - and sometimes very, very good - wines. Vinification varies so find what you like. BUT - the wines below are all GREAT. (Or I wouldn't have listed them.)

Best of all, Mendo prices are often in the $12-20 range, making them perfect for affordable drinking year round. You cannot find these wines in supermarkets (outside of Mendo, for the most part) with a few exceptions, so find what you like and hit the sales. Markdowns during Passport are 25% or up to 40% or more.

(The most dramatic bargain I've scored - and it was highly unusual -  was $100 for a case - of organically grown Zin at Cesar Toxqui.)

Naughty Boy Cellars, newly located in downtown Hopland, will be showing the fantastic wine documentary Mondovino (Wikipedia listing). Don't miss this. (Or stream it at home online while you relax with a glass of wine.)

I'm posting the link to my 2011 post about the event here.

PAM'S SUPER QUICK GUIDE

There are 16 wineries who participate, but most are not organic.

For those who just want the organic highlights and have only one day to spend there (it's only a two hour drive door to door from Oakland, for instance), hit these high points:

Hopland Passport organizer and McFadden tasting room
manager Jon Cesano pours at McFadden
1. DOWNTOWN HOPLAND

McFadden - Buy at least a case of the sparkling wine. (Join the wine club and just tell them what you want and when -  they are flexible and will work with you on your preferences - totally).

Naughty Boy - Has a new tasting room in Hopland next to McFadden. Get a case or two of their rose. (The pinot used to win awards. The Chardonnay is not organic.) Try the Pinot Noir...it's very affordable.

Cesar Toxqui Cellars - A very good option, this winery - as the name implies - is run by a Mexican-American vintner with great talent. Some options are organically grown. (Ask which ones). Famed for Zin, but their Pinot was also highly regarded by Hugh Johnson. See what's good this year. Usually has phenomenal sales.

Nearby: Terra Savia - A great place for Chardonnay lovers. Buy a case or two. Get some of their sparkling wine, too.

Rack and Riddle - get the sparkling wine tour and see where the McFadden and Terra Savia sparkers are made. (R&R will be marketing an organically sources wine under their own brand soon but I don't think it's out quite yet. Check at the winery.)

2. ROUTE 101 (NORTH OF HOPLAND)

Saracina - Visit the cool caves, find the wine you like best. Doing the Mexican thing with a street truck and Cinco de Mayo dancers. A beautiful spot. Prices a bit on the higher end but beautifully done. Consulting winemaker is the renowned David Ramey.

Jeriko - Wines aren't great but the BBQ might be the thing.

3. A MILE AWAY

Campovida is getting more organic. Go for a stroll in their spectacular garden, the former site of a famous vegetable garden that got everyone on the organic bandwagon in the 70s and gave rise to organic wine supermarket giant Bonterra nearby (not open to the public). Today the garden is a fantastic ornamental garden. (Taste, but their prices aren't great so I don't usually buy here.)

WHERE TO STAY

If you have enough budget to stay in a nice place, the Hopland Inn is no longer an option, but I recommend booking a place on AirBNB or HomeAway.com or reserving a spot at Vichy Springs Inn in Ukiah (about 10 minutes from Hopland).

Several organic wineries offer rentals as well including Terra Savia and Testa. (I wouldn't send you to one where there were pesticides). Here's a list of more options.

DETAILS

See the official site here. Don't miss the menus posted there - lots of great free food (for Passport participants).

Local eateries: Bluebird Cafe (folksy, big breakfasts, moose on the menu at lunch and dinner, and those pies) and Campovida's Pizza joint in downtown Hopland, a really great addition to the local scene, with both brews and wines and gourmet pizzas. Sit outside if it's warm enough and enjoy the fine views across the valley from the back of the patio.

If you're up for a gourmet meal and a drive, head over to Anderson Valley (45 min. plus) for a fine meal at the Boonville Inn, or head an easy 30 minutes south on 101 to Geyserville where you can sample the wares at the Italian beauty Di Avola, where they serve organically grown Chiarito wine (Nero d'Avola or Negra Amaro are the best); you may have to ask for the wines by name as they sometimes are not on the wine menu (but they definitely have it behind the counter).

[Though uncertified, Chiarito is making some of the best organically grown wine in the hot interior Mendo region, basing his varietal selection on what's climate-appropriate - southern Italian varietals.]

Check out SIP Mendocino, the local wine bar and wine store, in downtown Hopland to find bottles from wineries that aren't open during Passport including Patianna, Chiarito and others. Wine tastings may be available, on selected bottles. The wine merchant here is intimately acquainted with area organic offerings, so ask if you want help.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Heirloom Expo Video: Carlo Petrini

Apologies for the sound, but you do get to see what it was like to be there!

This is the first of three clips I will be posting.

I am headed for Italy tonight - and planning to attend the Slow Food/Slow Wine conference at the end of October in Turin and I'll be blogging about the event. Still looking for a good place to stay in Turin!

Friday, September 21, 2012

NYTimes Wine Critic Eric Asimov Visits Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

Eric Asimov
It's nice to see Eric Asimov tasting his way through our newly crowned King-(or is it Queen, as Oregon might be the King)-of-the-Pinot regions, as he writes about in his recent New York Times article Pinot Hunting in the Anderson Valley and the list of wines entitled "A California Shangri-La for Pinot Noir." Nice title.

Alas, though, our intrepid wine critic and his two tasting buddies tasted only 20 wines from the region (he admits this was a minus) and only those available at retail. The tasting question to be answered, in part, was whether or not there was a discernible style of Anderson Pinot. Asimov's answer is no; there is a wide variety of styles.

I don't know of any of the vineyards in the list that are certified organic, but at least his article makes no pretension of having done the definitive tasting.

High on his list was Radio Coteau, which sources some of its wines from organic growers (although I don't know if this specific wine, the Savoy Vineyard, was from one - I seem to remember they might be - but again - would have to call Radio Coteau). Anthill Farms rated #1 in quality and value. I've heard that some of their vineyards are organic but I can't say, as I've never heard back from them in any emails.

I would have liked to have seen Asimov's tasting results for these organically grown beauties: Handley's estate Pinot Noir, Lutea's Anderson Valley releases, Radio Coteau's, and others.

At any rate, it's nice to see Anderson Valley getting this kind of focused attention.

In contrast to Asimov's viva la difference approach to an Anderson Valley style, the Chronicle's Jon Bonne reviews a totally different group of bottles and finds, as his headline says, "Identity issues in Anderson Valley," saying "It has been tough to get my head around Anderson Valley."

But luckily for us, Bonne's included Charlie Barra's Girasole Pinot Noir ($16) in his lineup (despite the fact that I think it is grown in hot, inland Ukiah and not in Anderson Valley but what the hey - it's all Mendocino County, I guess), giving it high marks.

"Subtle, strawberry-tinged...rises above most Pinot Noir at this price and shows a truth to itself, with its floral and birch-bark aspects," Bonne wrote. "Jason Welch has found a way to let Pinot from a relatively warm spot speak with class and without pretense."

Well said, and, of course, it's one of the wines in my forthcoming app. (And has been since Day 1). Stay tuned!

What Would Rachel Do? Drink Organically Grown Wine

Next week is the 50th anniversary of the publication of Silent Spring, Rachel Carson's groundbreaking, bestselling expose of the harm pesticides do to ecosystems. Today groups like Pesticide Action Network (PAN) are asking the question, "What Would Rachel Do?"

Succinctly put, PAN's summed up the history of the last 30 years: "Chemical Cartel + Farm Lobby = 50 yrs of Pesticide Policy Paralyisis," pointing out that the farm lobby is a key political component of getting these dangerous chemicals to market through huge loopholes in the law.


From PAN: "Fact: Of the 16,000 current product registrations, 11,000 (68%) have been brought to market through conditional registration (CR), and half (5,400) of those have been conditionally registered since 2000."

Evidence is mounting that GE crops do have health dangers, as data from the first long term study (just released) shows.

Another way to celebrate:
read this new biography of
Carson

I think the best way to honor Rachel Carson's landmark work's 50th birthday would be:

1  Have a party and stock up on organically grown wines you can drink all year long, This year and every year. take a pledge that you will try to give 80% of your wine spend to organically grown wines.


2.  Ask wine growers and vintners why they are not organic and/or certified. If they tell you its too much paperwork and it costs too much, ask them if they know how much it costs or if they know that the federal government reimburses 3/4 of the cost, making them less than 4 cents a bottle in general (or $10 an acre).


3. Ask the wine managers at the shop where you buy wine from if they could have a larger local organic selection and clearly label organic (and not throw it into the "sustainable" section - a word which in this context has no meaning other than a marketing message.). For instance:

• Mission foodie haven Bi Rite Market has hundreds of bottles of imported wine, hardly any of it organic and not a single bottle of a local, organically grown (certified grapes) wine. (They do have Unti, which says they are organic but is not certified).
• Whole Foods has the sustainable wines mixed in with the organic wines - as does Berkeley Bowl.

4. Point to good models of organic wine display at these shining paragons of virtue: Ukiah Natural Foods (great organic selection and well marked) and Ashland Coop (end cap display, prime spot, featuring local and other domestic organically grown wines.). Pictures from Ashland are posted on this blog.


5. Shop at or become a Wine Club member at wineries that make wine from organically grown grapes. Think of it as your CSA for Wine - or CSW.

• Affordable wines are easy to find for $10-15 (see companion post below on Hopland Passport). 
• Fabulous wines in higher price points are also widely available: visit and/or order from Volker Eisele, Grgich Hills, Cowhorn - just to mention a few. See the list of wineries with at least one organically grown wine on the map on the second tab of the top menu on this blog.

DO something next week to make Rachel proud!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Grape Stomp is ON! Daily at Napa's Grgich Hills

Want to get in on the grape harvest stomp? Grgich Hills in Napa offers visitors a stomping experience complete with stomping, teeshirt, and wine tasting (for $30) now through October. Offered 10-4 daily. No reservation needed.

Details here.




Sept. 21 Grenache Day!

In honor of Grenache Day, a number of U.S. wineries have organized festivities from Santa Rosa to Paso Robles.

For those of you unfamiliar with grenache, the occasion is a great time to get acquainted with the wonderful wine. A lighter red, less full bodied than a Cabernet or Pinot Noir, it's often an everyday wine in Spain and France.

In honor of this great grape, find all the best organic and biodynamic selections from California in this post from 2011 right here (under $20) and over $20.

Featured are selections from Beckmen, Qupe, Tablas Creek, Horse and Plow (old vines, dry farmed - from Testa - one of my faves). A case of the latter runs $270 (at the case price) or $25 a bottle.

[Bonny Doon, despite much ballyhoo and its position as leading the charge for Grenache Day, does not have an organically farmed Grenache, alas. (It used to, but switched sources).]

Here's more about the festivities. Of the wineries listed on the release there, only Qupe and Tablas Creek are among those offering organically grown grenache. Qupe will be having special tastings in its tasting room in Santa Barbara County and Tablas will be celebrating in Paso Robles.
Grenache is associated with the former Aragon
whose former territory is shown above

You can read more about the grape on the Tablas Creek website here.

Although the Tablas Creek history, like many, claims French or Spanish origins, many now consider that Sardinia may be the source of this varietal where it is today known as Cannonau.

It has high yields and ripens late. A surprise to me - I learned on Wikipedia - it's widely grown in the San Joaquin Valley. It's usually blended in France with Syrah and Mourvedre and it constitutes the bulk (80%) of the famed Chateauneuf de Pape.

So find a bottle - go for the Horse and Plow before it runs out (this would be the most historic old vine choice) - or the Qupe - and raise a glass to this lovely light red!


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Harvest Doc - "The Blue Collar Side of Wine"

Michoacan province
I had a chance to see the Harvest documentary last night in Sebastopol - 70 minutes of pure entertainment, which covers the Sonoma's 2011 harvest, the worst in 30 years according to all accounts, with growers and pickers racing to get the grapes off the vine before rain totally destroys destroys the hanging fruit.

The film centers on the challenges vineyard managers and owners face - getting in the grapes, getting the most out of their crop, and getting the work done for not too much money. The other half of the film focuses on the pickers - mostly Mexicans from Michoacan - including an all female crew who are the best crew for doing the most careful work (cleaning off the inferior grapes from the clusters) compared to the fast-moving men.

The men race through the fields, slashing grapes, getting paid by the box. The women get an hourly rate.

Several sequences cover the stories of the women's lives today. They openly share their border journeys and their happiness at having a job during harvest.

Both men and women make the bulk of their annual income from the pick, according to the film.

We also see the growers' challenges, and the different ways they approach the harvest.

Two young beautiful women owners, Vanessa Robledo and operation director Stacy Rafanelli, both from winery families, share their perspectives on the harvest - and we watch as Stacy loses one vineyard's yields to botrytis.

There's drama as well for grower Wayne Rogers who at first doesn't believe his daughter when she calls to tell him there are 20+ wild pigs in his vineyard. He ends up losing 80% of his crop to them.

Foppiano, a bald man with a burly beard, rarely seen without a Giants hat, represents the industrial approach to harvesting, using his mechanical harvester in the middle of the night with his small crew. You see how the grapes are jiggled off the vine; it hardly seems like these could make good wine after so much jarring.

Mexican-born winery owner Reynaldo Robledo uses them, too, saying they save him the work of 100 men.

Some sequences show the brilliant night time picking lighting that looks like a UFO landing while other shots show unsafe conditions with pickers working in near darkness.

Comic relief comes in the form of Sonoma Grape Camp tourists, middle aged Americans, who pay the Sonoma County Grape Commission $3,700 a couple to come and pick grapes. See more in their romantic promo video.

We also see happy moments of harvest at the Robledo winery, owned and run by a Mexican-American family (where the patriarch was a picker), celebrating with mariachi singing and Aztec dancers, a welcome contrast to the pseudo French/European veneer so many wineries put on today.

Organic vineyards featured in the film include (briefly) Medlock Ames and Porter Bass. I was happy to see the latter, one of the most beautiful vineyards I've seen, but hardly recognized it in the rain.

Last night's screening also offered the treat of a Q and A with John Beck, filmmaker and a great local audience familiar with many of the issues in the film who brought up issues around injured workers and the hopes of many of the workers for a better life for them and for their children. This counteracts the vineyard manager who says, early on in the film, that this is a great job for the workers - all they want.

Beck says the film has been picked up by an LA-based distributor (who also distributed the documentary Word Wars) who has succeeded in getting the local theatrical run. The film will continue to be screened on the festival circuit. Beck hopes he will be able to get a PBS broadcast. He will be cutting the film down from 72 minutes to 54.

He's now working on a new documentary with a Trappist monastery north of Chico which raises grapes and is making wine.

You can hear two audio clips with the filmmaker on the Harvest film from radio station KCRB here.

And don't miss the Bohemian's front page article about the film, although it's somewhat off balance (since the film is about more than the migrant workers).

Here's the list of upcoming local screenings - try to see this here. It may be a long time until there are other opportunities:

Sept. 14 – 20 at Rialto Cinemas, Sebastopol - Director John Beck will be doing Q&A after 7 p.m. screenings on Sept. 14, 15 and 16.
Sept. 21, 22 and 23 – Sonoma Cinemas, Director Q&A’s after Sept. 21 and 23 screenings.
Sept. 28 – Oct. 4 – Raven Film Center, 415 Centre St., Director Q&A’s after Sept. 28 and 29 screenings

The film web site is here.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Biodynamic Winemaker Philippe Corderey at Heirloom Expo

Phillipe Corderey of GrowBDC.com
Philippe Corderey spoke to a rapt audience Wednesday at the second annual Heirloom Expo, held this week at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa.

For 45 minutes, Corderey, formerly head of Bonny Doon's biodynamic program (based in Monterey County) and now a biodynamic consultant in Sonoma County, showed picture after picture of plant energies as captured by sensitive crystallization.

The photos showed a dramatic difference in self organization, in crystallizations. The impact of organic and biodynamic practices, as well as water energies (captured in the crystallizations), was clearly evident.

I'll have more on his talk later. (I captured the talk audio on my cell phone and will post some quotes later after checking with Phillipe about that).

The Heirloom Expo was a huge success and the Biodynamic Lounge area, sponsored by Demeter USA, offered many classes in a straw bale classroom which drew standing room only crowds.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Baseball and Organic Wine? The Perfect Pairing

A friend who's a total Giants fan and knows all too well how into organically grown wine I am called the other day to say he'd discovered a new winery for my list. What, say I? (I thought I had collected them all....thinking of them, as I do, as baseball cards that you collect.) A NEW winery?

"Are you sure they're organic," I said.

"Well look at their web site," my friend said, and so I did. (You can, too - it's right here.)

Sure enough, here's a great article about Simaine Cellars, the winery I never heard of, with organically grown wine, and a great story, to boot. I'll tell you more after I visit - and taste.

The good news is that not only are most of their wines organically grown, they also are mostly dry farmed.

And... they advertise on Giants games. I look forward to the day when buying organically grown wine is that mainstream....and thanks to Simaine Cellars for heading us in that direction.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Harvest Documentary Film Launches Sept. 14 in Sebastopol

When people make movies about wine, especially the promotional ones, they're very romantic, and oh so groomed. Long shots of vineyards, rustic shots of boots, guys talking about family - you might think they were running for political office. Or something.

Predictably yawnworthy.

Not so Harvest, a new documentary by John Beck filming at five wineries in Sonoma County, takes to the stage this weekend in Sebastopol (followed by more North Bay area screenings), with a very high energy look and feel.


The trailer shows the hail and hearty workers who do a lot of intense work each fall. (Question: are they listening to heavy metal like the soundtrack in the movie?)


Beck is quoted in the Press Democrat as saying he became inspired to do the film after doing a promotional video for several Sonoma County wineries on harvest in 2011:

“I had never seen a night harvest before,” Beck said. “It was 2 in the morning, and the whole vineyard was lit up like a UFO landing. It was very dramatic..."

The filmmaker will appear at the Friday and Saturday screenings in Sebastopol and at the other local screenings in Santa Rosa and Healdsburg the following weekends.

See the trailer for an inside look at a "real world" side of winemaking.

Read more in the Press Democrat article here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Highlights form the Heirloom Expo in Santa Rosa: Day 1

The second annual Heirloom Expo got off to a fine start today at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa. I took more than a hundred pictures of the fun, but decided to select just a few to share from today.

Tomorrow I'll be returning to visit more of the expo, and focus on seeing what's in the Biodynamic area. 

Lily Films was the expo - and selling swag along with THEIR NEW DVDs of SYMPHONY OF THE SOIL!
Must See! Screen Wed. at noon...or save yourself the gas money and buy the DVD.

Very funny bee teeshirts....choose from Worker, Drone or Queen Bee!

From the Sonoma State University Slow Food booth...I want this as a bumper sticker :)

That's what it's all about...


The incredible Hall of Flowers displays probably more than 1,000 kinds of heirloom varieties - a real treasure trove.
As important a collection as the Smithsonian. 
Slow Foods founder Carlo Petrini was the keynote speaker for the first of the three days of the festival.
He has humor, soul and a wonderful way with the audience which gave him a standing ovation.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Falls News Roundup

In the fall, the calendar starts to fill up with new books appearing, a last round of warm weather wine tours, and more.

Here's a roundup of what's new and notable:

1. A New Rachel Carson Biography: On a Farther Shore by William Souder

Rachel Carson is a true environmental heroine, a close tie in my mind with Huey Johnson, John Muir, and David Brower. Her life history is an amazing and little known story.

How she came to be the Queen of the Anti-Pesticide Forces is an unlikely and fascinating story. It first came to my attention on the radio, in fact, as I listened (while crossing the Bay Bridge) to the incredible play by Kaiulani Lee's Sense of Wonder (you can hear it on the Living on Earth radio show web site).

William Souder's new biography of Rachel Carson, released this week, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of her death, sounds like a winner, given the praise lauded by the back of the book jacket:

“William Souder’s On a Farther Shore is one of those rare and extraordinary biographies that are at once brilliant portraiture and important environmental history. The great Rachel Carson comes alive again in these vivid pages—honest, committed, brave." (Douglas Brinkley, professor of history at Rice University and New York Times best-selling author of Wilderness Warrior)

“Rachel Carson changed the way we live now, and in William Souder she has a biographer who has given us a powerful portrait of a woman and of her work. Anyone interested in the intellectual, political, and cultural life of the past half century should read this fine book." (Jon Meacham, New York Times best-selling author)
“Rachel Carson is the great green heroine, the first person to combine her love of the natural world with a penetrating glance at industrial modernity. William Souder captures her importance in this engaging biography.” (Bill McKibben, environmentalist, best-selling author, and journalist)

Kirkus Reviews calls it, "a poignant, galvanizing, meaningful tribute."

I've just ordered a copy. Happily it's also available in audio, for people like me who sit in a lot of traffic and love to listen.

2. Organic Viticulturist (Grower) and Vintner Charlie Barra featured in SF Chronicle's California Wine special section

I don't know why it should take a lifetime for Charlie Barra to get some recognition in our local paper, but it's great to finally see some photos of him there and some mention of his wines, too.

3. Slow Food Founder Carlo Petrini to Speak Tuesday Night in Santa Rosa

Foodie rockstar Carlo Petrini, who famously took on McDonald's and sparked a global agricultural movement, will speak Tuesday night at 7 pm in Santa Rosa at the Heirloom Expo, billed as the world's largest pure food fair. I am planning to make it to hear Petrini in person and will write more about it after the event. The expo is begins Tuesday and runs through Thursday.

If you can't make it, you might enjoy Petrini's 2011 Berkeley talk online here.

Sensitive Crystallization Workshop

I'll also be checking out the biodynamic booth, from Demeter USA (the biodynamic certification agency in the U.S.) and attending a session on Wednesday on Sensitive Crystallization at 2:15 pm. (Details here.)

Crystallization of
Conventional Wine 
Crystallization of
Biodynamic Wine
The session is with biodynamic consultant Philippe Coderey, from Provence, France. He is a partner in Grow Biodynamic Consulting. This is the technology that underlies the fascinating images you see here on the left and right, showing the energies contained in these substances. For more images, the GrowBDC.com web site gallery and click on the small images there to see the images larger.

You can also download Coderey's paper on Crystallization from the Fall 2009 Biodynamics magazine here.

He formerly worked with Bonny Doon, which is the one winery that uses the crystallization images on the wine bottle labels. Cool.

This appears to be the most wine-related event at the expo.

(You can learn more about the food goings on in the LA Times story here or visit the event website.)

Deborah Koons Garcia's Symphony of the Soil Film Screens with the Filmmaker

I also highly recommend checking out the soil film of films, Symphony of the Soil with filmmaker Deborah Garcia who will be there in person. It screens Wednesday at 12:15 with a 40 minute Q & A scheduled afterward with the filmmaker. (Disclosure: she is a friend of mine - but I can say the film is great!)

Here's a brief video of Deborah from YouTube with the Soil Association.


Let me know your feedback and thoughts if you partake!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Wine & Spirits Best Chardonnays: Organically Grown Among Them


"Chamomile and pear": Ceritas' 2010 Sonoma Coast Porter-Bass Vineyard Chardonnay ($52) topped the organically grown Chards, rating at the same level as Au Bon Climat's 2010 Santa Maria Valley Nuits-Blanches au Bouge, master Chardonnay vintner Jim Clenenden's 30th Anniversary bottling (not organic).

I can't imagine a vineyard more beautiful than Porter-Bass. Ceritas is one of the boutique star wineries, its wines selling only by allocation (or in restaurants). It specializes in single vineyard Burgundian wines, rating high marks from an inner circle of the winerati.

"Distinctive": Grgich Hills Napa Valley Chardonnay ($42), a blend of grapes from American Canyon and the winery's top quality Carneros vineyard (both biodynamic), the 2009 vintage garnered 91 points in the article. (Personally I prefer their more expensive Chardonnay, solely from the Carneros vineyard, and don't know why it wasn't included. It lists for $75).

"Perfectly poised": Bethel Heights had two Chardonnays on the list - its unoaked 2010 Eola-Amity Hills Chardonnay ($18) was rated at 93 points and designated a Best Buy. (I'll take a 93 point, $18 wine any day!) Its 2010 Estate Grown Chardonnay ranked 90 points, selling for $25, another Best Buy.

"Lavish": Bergstrom's 2010 Sigrid Chardonnay ($80) weighed in at 92 points - as usual one of the most expensive bottles on the Chardonnay list.

"Restrained": At 88 points, Matthiason's Napa Valley Linda Vista Vineyard (I believe this is organic) ($25) at a very respectable price point was also listed as a Best Buy.

I look forward to tasting the Best Buy wines on this list and adding them to my new wine app (almost done).

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Pinot Lovers, Save the Date: Sept. 13

Oregon's Pinot Noir heartland is Willamette Valley, a far drive from the Bay Area. But come Sept. 13, you'll have a great opportunity to taste the excellent wines from this rainy Northwest region, famed for its Burgundian terroir and wines, when Willamette Wines lands in SF.

The event will be at the Golden Gate Club in the Presidio, Thursday night, from 6 to 9 pm.

A trade tasting will take place from 12-4 pm.

The organically grown wines that will be available to taste include:

Brooks (Organic/Biodynamic)
Cooper Mountain (Biodynamic)
Lemelson (Biodynamic)
Montinore (Biodynamic)
Sokol Blosser (Some Organic)

For more event details, click here.

McFadden's Winning Wines

Correction: I inadvertently omitted McFadden's wines from the Mendocino Wine Competition list of winners by winery.

Here are the winning McFadden wines:


MCFADDEN
Double Gold: Brut (Sparkling)
Silver: Chardonnay, Pinot Gris (2011), Sauvignon Blanc (2009), Gewurztraminer (2009), Riesling (2010)
Bronze: Pinot Gris (2007)

The original post has been updated to include them.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Mendocino Wine Contest Winners: Listed By Winery

It might seem like I am making much ado over the Mendocino Wine Competition winners list, but, let me explain: this, folks, is one of the best shopping lists to consider when looking for affordably priced, organically grown wines (at least until my app is published).

I've taken the list of winners, and organized the organic among them by winery, so you can see which wineries won what. This can also help you organize yourself come Hopland Passport or other wine-tasting trips in Mendocino's wine regions if you want to taste or buy the wineries' top rated wines.

BARRA OF MENDOCINO (5)
Silver: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Rose (Pinot Noir)
Bronze: Cabernet, Zinfandel

BINK (1)
Silver: Sauvignon Blanc

BONTERRA (8)
Double Gold: The McNab (Bordeaux Blend), Chardonnay
Gold: Viognier
Silver: Pinot Noir, Zinfandel
Bronze: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Red Blend (Rhones: Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre)

CHIARITO VINEYARD (3)
Double Gold: Nero D'Avola
Silver: Petite Sirah, Negramoro
Bronze: Zinfandel

FREY (NAS - No Added Sulfites) (2)
Silver: Chardonnay
Bronze: Carignane

GIRASOLE (4)
Gold: Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc
Silver: Muscat
Bronze: Chardonnay

HANDLEY (2)
Double Gold: Pinot Noir (Anderson Valley)
Silver: Chardonnay
(Handley had many more entries but the others were not organically grown).

MCFADDEN
Double Gold: Brut (Sparkling)
Silver: Chardonnay, Pinot Gris (2011), Sauvignon Blanc (2009), Gewurztraminer (2009), Riesling (2010)
Bronze: Pinot Gris (2007)

NAUGHTY BOY (2)
Silver: Rose
Bronze: Pinot Noir

PATIANNA (3)
Gold: Sauvignon Blanc
Silver: Sparkling Wine, Zinfandel

PAUL DOLAN (7)
Gold: Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc
Silver: Pinot Noir (Filigreen), Pinot Noir (Potter Valley), Red Blend: Deep Red, Zinfandel
Bronze: Chardonnay

SARACINA (2)
Gold: Sauvignon Blanc
Silver: Malbec

TERRA SAVIA (1)
Bronze: Cabernet Sauvignon

TESTA (4)
Double Gold: Carignane
Gold: Charbono, Rose, Bordeaux Blend: Black

YORKVILLE CELLARS (2)
Silver: Rose (sweet), Sauvignon Blanc


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Mendo Wine Winners: Listed By Varietal

REDS

Bordeaux Blend (2)
Bonterra's flagship wine over the new/old Testa, which has been growing for decades, but bottling under their own name only recently.
Double Gold
Bonterra McNab, 2006
Bronze
Testa, Black (blend with Cabernet)

Cabernet Sauvignon (4)
Gold
Paul Dolan, 2010
Bronze
Barra, 2009
Bonterra, 2010
Terra Savia, 2009

Carignane (2)
This is an impressive debut for Testa's Carignane.
Double Gold
Testa, 2010
Bronze
Frey (NSA), NV

Charbono (1)
An old Italian varietal showcased.
Double Gold
Testa, 2010

Italian Varietals (2)
Chiarito's dry farmed, organic vineyard produced high quality deep flavors.
Double Gold
Chiarito, 2009 Nero D'Avola (not certified but organic)
Silver
Chiarito, 2009 Negramoro

Malbec (1)
A boutique, small production of 100% Malbec.
Silver
Saracina, 2010

Merlot (1)
Bronze
Bonterra, 2010

Petite Sirah (1)
Silver
Chiarito, 2009

Pinot Noir (8)
A surprising "Gold" for Girasole.
Double Gold
Handley - Anderson Valley (Estate), 2009
Gold
Girasole, 2010
Silver
Barra, 2009
Bonterra, 2010
Paul Dolan - Filigreen, 2007
Paul Dolan - Potter Valley, 2009
Bronze
McFadden, 2007
Naughty Boy, 2009

Red Blends (3)
Silver
Paul Dolan, Deep Red, 2008 (Petit Sirah, Primativo, Syrah, Grenache)
Bronze
Bonterra, The Butler, 2007 (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre)
Testa, Black, 2009

Rose (4)
Yorkville Cellars' rose is on the sweet side; the others are relatively dry.
Gold
Testa (Carignane), 2011
Silver
Barra, 2011
Naughty Boy, 2011
Yorkville Cellars, 2011

Zinfandel (3)
It's surprising that Zins haven't done better in Mendo.
Silver
Bonterra, 2009
Patianna, 2009
Paul Dolan, 2010

WHITES

Chardonnay (7)
More surprises - Bonterra's takes the top spot; and McFadden takes a silver, as high as benchmark Chardonnay producer Handley.
Double Gold
Bonterra, 2010
Silver
Barra, 2010
Frey, 2010
Handley Cellars, 2010
McFadden, 2010
Bronze
Girasole, 2010
Paul Dolan, 2010

Gewurztraminer (1)
Silver
McFadden, 2009

Muscat (1)
Warning: This one's way too sweet for my taste. (Girasole's sister wine, Barra, has a muscat that is better.)
Silver
Girasole, 2011

Pinot Blanc (1)
A notable achievement.
Gold
Girasole, 2010

Pinot Gris (1) 

Silver
McFadden, 2011

Riesling (1)
Silver
McFadden, 2010

Sauvignon Blanc (6)
All three top winners are very different - you might enjoy a taste-off comparison tasting.
Gold
Patianna, 2010
Paul Dolan, 2011
Saracina, 2011
Silver
Bink, 2011
McFadden, 2009
Yorkville Cellars, 2011

Viognier (2)
The Bonterra is a personal favorite of mine - particularly in the summer.
Gold
Bonterra
Bronze
Campovida

Sparkling (2)
My favorite go to sparkling wine is the McFadden, of course. (I have never seen the Patianna for sale anywhere, but would like to try it.)
Double Gold
McFadden Brut (NV)
Silver
Patianna, 2008

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Biggest Organically Grown Wine Competition: Mendocino Wine Competition - 2012 Winners

Though Mendocino's annual wine competition sounds like any other county competition, in fact, this county, with its large community of organic growers, is, in essence, a competition with more organically grown wine winners than any other county competition I've followed. (In contrast, Sonoma's county competition has almost no organically grown wines in it.)

So it's with great pleasure that I present to you the award-winning wines - many of which I've featured here in previous posts, but here with new competition results to re-inspire discovery and acknowledge excellence.

For a full list of winners (including the non-organically grown), see the pdf published here.

This year the competition results were published by overall ranking, not wine type. I'm going to present the organic and biodynamically grown winners both ways in two posts. This first post (of two - the latter to follow) lists the top organically or biodynamically grown wines:

DOUBLE GOLD AWARD WINNERS

REDS

Bordeaux Blends
Bonterra, 2006 McNab Red
A classic, the showcase red wine of the Bonterra brand, grown biodynamically in one of the most beautiful vineyards in California.

Carignane
Testa Vineyards, 2010
A new wine for Testa, which has grown this on wonderful, dry farmed old vines, but has sold its production to other winemakers until now. It's nice to see this wine's first bottling rate so well.

Italian Varietals
Chiarito, 2009 Nero D'Avola
A southern Italian classic, grown primarily in Sicily, this dry farmed (not certified) organically grown wine also got a gold at the Sunset magazine competition this year.

Pinot Noir
Handley Cellars, 2009 Anderson Valley (estate)
From a long time pro, Handley's Pinot Noir (be sure to look for the organic one, grown on the estate) is a perennial favorite.

WHITES

Chardonnay
Bonterra, 2010
At $14 a bottle, this wine is the best budget winner of the competition - and an award-winner in the Sunset magazine competition as well, rating as highly as $80, 94 point Parker rated wines like Bergstrom. 

Sparkling
McFadden, NV Brut
No matter what price you get it at, it's a bargain, tieing again this year with French powerhouse Roederer for top honors. If you join the McFadden Wine Club, this too can be had for $14 a bottle once or twice a year when it's on sale. 

I'll be publishing the list of wines by varietal in a future post.

Friday, August 17, 2012

BevMo 5 Cent Sale: Pacific Rim Organic Riesling Just $8 a Bottle

BevMo's running a new 5-cent sale - buy one bottle and get the second for just 5 cents.

The current special features just one organically grown wine - but it's a very good one.

If you like Riesling, hurry to snap up Pacific Rim's Organic Riesling, regularly $16 a bottle, but during the sale you can get it for basically half off. Happy Shopping!


Family Winemakers of California: Sept. 9 at Fort Mason

Do you like those crowded, mass tastings? If so, you can get hyperactive about wine tasting at the Sunday, Sept. 9 Family Winemakers of California tasting. Hundreds of wineries will be pouring, including many of the organic viticulture producers.

Info here.

Here's to the Doubters...Matt Kramer Among Them

KUDOS

Wine Spectator Matt Kramer's latest column takes doubters to task, particularly those who doubt the claims of biodynamics. Here's to the doubters who take say it ain't necessarily so.

Subscribers can read the post here.

Sunset Magazine's Organically Grown Wine Winners

Sunset Magazine's annual wine competition took  place July 9 in Menlo Park. Among the hundreds of wines submitted, the judges chose the winners; the list (available online here) will be published in the Nov. issue of Sunset magazine.

Here are the organically or biodynamically grown winners among them. I've starred my faves.


Among the highlights:

Chardonnay: you can spend $80 for a Bergstrom Chardonnay or $14 for Bonterra's Chardonnay? I'm not sure the judges got this one right. Both got gold.

Bonterra's Chardonnay is good, esp. for the price, but hasn't ranked in the wine press like Bergstrom's, which won 94 points from Robert Parker. You might try your own taste comparison...or just stick with the Bonterra, knowing it's a budget-price Gold winner.

Italian Varietals: I am a huge fan of Chiarito (organic but not certified) so I am delighted to see this Mendocino traditional grower/winemaker getting two Golds for its Nero d'Avola and Negramoro, both traditional varietals grown in southern Italy and perfectly suited to our California interior climates (much more than the international varietals - Cab and Chard).

I personally buy these two wines by the case, (If you're a Chiarito wine club member, there's a 35% off sale going on now on both of these wines.)

Bonterra: Overall this widely available (in supermarkets, even) organic powerhouse swept the awards, winning 7 prizes, the most of any organically grown brand. That's not so surprising, given that it's the biggest brand in the organically grown space, but it's reaffirming to see that its quality survives despite its high volume production.

Albarino: I was dismayed to see Verdad get only a Bronze for its Albarino. The label has been a powerhouse for this varietal, so one wonders if the judges are really familiar with this Spanish grape. It was a pick of the week from the LATimes (a previous vintage but still), so the judging seems a bit off to me.

Brut Rose: I was happy to see Handley Cellars get a Silver for its fantastic Brut Rose, which also got a Gold medal in the SF Chronicle Wine Competition and a 91 point rating from Wine Spectator. It's a lovely wine and usually flies off the shelf. It's not made every year, so grab it while you can. It tied with longtime sparkling wine producer Schramsberg (not organically grown), just one more sign of its lovely qualities.

REDS

• Bordeaux Blend
Bronze
Stone Edge, Surround ($30)

• Cabernet Sauvignon
Bronze
Stone Edge Farm, 2008

• Italian Varietals
Gold
***Chiarito Vineyard, Nero d'Avola
***Chiarito Vineyard, Negramoro

• Merlot
Silver
Bonterra, 2009 Merlot ($18)

• Pinot Noir
Bronze
Bonterra, 2010 Pinot Noir ($16)

• Rose
Silver
Ceago Vinegarden, Syrah Rose ($16)

Syrah
Silver
Bonterra, 2007 The Butler ($36)
Ceago, 2010 Syrah ($22)

WHITES
• Albarino
Bronze
***Verdad, 2010 Albarino

• Chardonnay
Gold
Bergstrom, 2010 Sigrid ($80)
Bonterra, 2010 Chardonnay ($14)

Bronze
Handley, 2010 Chardonnay ($22)

• Riesling
Bronze
Bonterra, 2010 Riesling ($14)
Pacific Rim, 2010 Riesling ($32)

• Sauvignon Blanc
Bronze
Bonterra, 2010 ($14)

• Viognier
Silver
Bonterra, 2010 Viognier ($14)

• Sparkling
Silver
***Handley, Brut Rose ($40)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Giornata Wines - Featured in Winery Finds in SG Chronicle Today

I first encountered Giornata's wines at Oakland's Boot and Shoe (a trendy restaurant that's an offshoot of Temescal favorite Pizzaiola) and wrote about them here.

Now today's Chronicle has an article featuring new wine finds across the state, and Giornata's flag is flying high.

Says Jon Bonne, "the rich calcium soils help retain freshness in their Nebbiolo, an improbable choice even for west-side Paso, but one they have made perfumed and subtle, with the tarry edge that's in classic Barbaresco."

Nuff said!

Here's their site where you can order up a bottle.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Wine Spectator Kudos to Organically Grown Sauvignon Blanc, Rose

Wine Spectator's latest issue is out, with special features on Sauvignon Blanc from California, and Roses.

ROSE - THREE WINES

Out of a field 110 roses tasted, 18 California wines made the list, tying with and/or rating higher than the large field of Tavels (from Provence).

Three of the top-rated California roses, came from organic or biodynamic sources - one from Sonoma County and two from Santa Barbara County.

The top rated California rose is Zin-maker Carol Shelton's 2011 Rendezvous Rose ($15), rated 90 pts., which is generally made from certified organically grown grapes. This year the rose is about 80% certified grapes; Shelton says she'll return to 100% next year, so keep an eye out. It's made from 70% carignane and 30% from a traditional field blend.

Here's a video on the 2009 vintage:



The 2011 rose of Syrah from Lompoc's Ampelos ($16) got an 88 pt. rating. Their estate wines are from certified biodynamic grapes - I'm not sure if this is purely estate grapes or not.

The perennially popular organic viticulture pioneer Alma Rosa with its 2010 El Jabali Vin Gris ($20) also rated 88 pts.

SAUVIGNON BLANC - TWO WINS

Out of 200 wines, 13 were rated "Top Wines" and just one is (almost) certified organically grown: the Voss Sauvignon Blanc ($18), a New Zealand style SB made by an Aussie, whose vineyards are being certified organic by their new Napa-based owner Ted Hall. The vineyards were certified in 2011.

Voss concentrates on and makes only Sauvignon Blanc. This wine was rated at 89 pts.

I was wowed when I first tasted it last year at a wine tasting at Fort Mason - it's distinctly different from the "normal" California Sauvignon Blanc - a no oak, no malo, bright fruit style SB:



In "Top Values", Quivira's 2010 Fig Tree Vineyard ($18) rated 89 pts. out of a field of 21 wines. This Dry Creek vineyard is the oldest certified vineyard on the Quivira estate.

Both of the Sauvignon Blancs are in stores in Northern California.

Of course, there are many more wonderful Roses and Sauvignon Blancs from organic producers. Here are a few more suggestions:

• Cowhorn
• Elizabeth Spencer
• Horse and Plow
• Neal Family
• Saracina
• Tablas Creek







Thursday, July 19, 2012

Give it a Whirl: David Montomgery's YouTube Video on his book "Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations"

You may think our lives depend on oil, but in reality soil is the far more fundamental essential. See why.

.

New! First Ever Coro Mendocino Farm to Table Dinner: August 18 at McFaddens in Potter Valley


Like what you see from below (from the previous post photos)? Another tour/feast will happen again - in a new way - August 18 when the Coro Mendocino gang gathers for its first annual Farm to Table dinner.

Two of the participating wineries offer organically grown Zin blends - Barra and McFadden. The event will be held at McFadden's idyllic Potter Valley paradise.

For more on the 2009 Coro Mendocino, see the article here.

Get the event details here.

Party Valley in Potter Valley: A Night to Remember

A farm tour through the "mooselike" Sauvignon Blanc vines, passing the grazing cattle, while majestic alleys of oaks beckoned, festooned with balloon like tents below for 50 of the more than 200 revelers at McFadden Wine Club's magnificent 4th wine club dinner.

The party was so everything Napa isn't any more. In Potter Valley, there IS sophistication and style - but without pretense. From the grilled Magruder pigs (the same pork Alice Waters cooks at Chez Panisse, but this time grilled by the farmer himself) to the glittering assortment of fashion from funk to glamour adorning both young and old, this party had it all.

There was the opening farm tour with grower/proprietor Guinness McFadden, a New Yorker who landed here after the Vietnam War 40 years ago, and started growing certified organic wayback then ("I was raising my kids here"). Guinness led a crowd of some 25+ tourers, showing off the solar power, water power, and human power behind McFadden's vineyards, wine, and organic herbs.

After show and tell at a number of farm machinery - some old, some new- the group strolled through the Sauvignon Blanc vines which Guinness described thusly: "These go to Diageo - they used them in their Sterling Organic brand," (alas, Sterling is ending their organic program), noting that these vines are "as big as a moose so we have to trim them back."

All around majestic oaks (mostly gone from Napa; their presence sadly recounted in Robin Grossinger's Napa Valley Historical Ecology Atlas) and beautiful mountains beckoned. Potter Valley is a paradise.

Until 2005, there wasn't even any Roundup applied to wine grapes out here (at least according to the California State Dept. of Pesticide Regulation).

The area is definitely "off the grid" for wine lovers - except for a very few days of the year when McFaddens opens its doors for this magic-and-dancing-under-the-stars event.

There really are no words to describe the sweet delight of the tour and the evening, so I'll hope these pictures can do the talking for the tour part of the program. I'll publish more photos in a separate post on the evening festivities.

Hay rides - YES!
How long has it been...
Guinness leads a tour

Where the farm and vineyard gets energy is a big part of the story
at McFaddens...solar panels, water power - it's ahead of the curve.
Guinness shows off an old water wheel.
Note the solar panels on the roof in the background.
The organic herbs and herb blends are part of the tour.
The herb business helps keep the workers busy year round.
Here you can see the solar panels again...


What's a farm tour without some dangerous machinery to gawk at?
The discer
The vineyard tour
Traipsing down the Sauvignon Blanc allee
These grapes used to go into Sterling's organic brand, but no more since
Diageo ended its organic line.   Why...? We know not.
Guinness found another buyer for more money within a day.
Getting to the party was half the fun.

If you find yourself drooling over the locale and the scenery, you can still make reservations and attend the upcoming Coro Mendocino dinner which will be held at McFaddens August 18.