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.


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.


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 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. 

Cabot Vineyard's Syrah: High on Praise from Hospice du Rhone Tasting

Jennings' rate the Cabot Syrah 91-94 pts.
It sells for $28.

Humboldt's Cabot Vineyard, one of the northernmost vintners in the state, is happy to pass along the word that Richard Jennings, voted one of the 100 Most Influential People in Wine, rated their wines 91 to 94 points at the recent Hospice du Rhone in Paso Robles.

Wrote Jennings, "John Cabot continues to do a great job with his flavorful, cooler climate Syrahs. The prices are very reasonable, too." Read the full review here.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Naughty Boy WInery to Double Hopland's Organic Row

Naughty Boy has two
organically grown wines:
a rose and a Pinot
I passed through downtown Hopland this weekend en route to the McFadden Wine Club party up in Potter Valley only to discover that on the site where the latte shop used to be, there were brown-paper covered windows and a legal notice saying that Naughty Boy Winery had applied for a permit here.

Naughty Boy is a tiny winery with reasonably priced organically grown Pinot Noir. One year they took a big prize, winning a top 100 wine in the SF Chronicle's annual selections. 

They also have an organically grown rose (and a not organic Chardonnay). 

Here are some photos from a visit to the winery last summer, when the Scotts graciously hosted a friend and I for a creekside tasting at their five acre place on the Russian River (although it's just a creek here). At that point grower/proprietors Jim and Emjay Scott told me of their plans to open a spot in Hopland - so it's good news to know that it is getting closer to reality.

Naughty Boy vineyard in Potter Valley
Naughty Boy's organically grown offerings come in
two labels - the one for dog lovers and the royal look
Jim leads us to the tasting room ("before" photo) - on the Russian River
Tasting rose on one of the hottest days of the year
Vineyard entrance
Jim and Emjay with The Naughty Boy
(on the site of their facility for making white wine - located on their vineyard/home property)
So now downtown Hopland will have not one but two organically grown wine tasting rooms from little known Potter Valley - and that's a good thing. 

Until the new Naughty Boy tasting room opens up, you can most likely find their wines (in that area) at the Ukiah Natural Foods store. 

The legal notice says Naughty Boy winery has applied
for a permit to sell wine here.
Naughty Boy (organically grown Pinot and Rose)
will be right next door to McFadden's (all organic)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Hopland's Newest Hot Spot: Piazza de Campovida


Right on Route 101 in
downtown Hopland
The best, new hot spot for wine country dining in Mendocino has got to be Hopland's Piazza de Campovida, a classy yet casual pizza place with a Grade A view from the veranda of mountain ranges and a chef who makes food you'll come back again and again for.

And why, you may ask, is this important? Because Hopland is ground zero (along with Ukiah and nearby Potter Valley) for organic viticulture and when in wine country, where the wine prices are right, a girl still has to eat. Before the Piazza came along, there was only the Bluebird cafe, a place famous for pie and burgers. So in this case, more is better...Piazza de Campovida has definitely raised the bar.

The veranda has lovely mountain views
I've been there twice now. It's the basic gourmet pizza and handcrafted beer theme, but the execution is flawless. It's a classic Italian theme, yet with that hops twist - so Hopland, don't you think?

Piazza de Campovida specializes in
handcrafted beers made in Oakland

The summer squash salad, a unique seasonal specialty,
was beautiful and flavorful with corn, herbs, and pine nuts -
hurry it won't be on the menu for long
The seating inside is spacious and casual
Super casual, but those hefty cloth napkins come in handy
Best bets are the pizzas (sorry, we ate ours before I thought of photographing it) and the salads. This weekend my friend and I sampled a special summer squash and white corn salad - to die for. 

The panna cotta is one sexy dessert.

I also love love love the panna cotta.

The wines aren't organic (and there are only two of them - house wines), but the beer is - and down the side road there, you'll find Campovida's winery and retreat center (less than a mile away), where some of the wines are organically grown, if a bit on the pricey side.

Read more about Piazza de Campovida and customer reviews on their Yelp page.


Piazza de Campovida doesn't try to compete with the nearby winery tasting bars so it's the perfect place to eat between wine tastings at downtown Hopland's two organic wine mainstays - the McFadden Vineyards tasting room and the tasting room at Cesar Toxqui (the latter where you'll find a few organically grown wines mixed in with mostly not organic). There's also a good selection of organically grown wines at SIP Mendocino in downtown Hopland as well. 

Further north on Route 101, stop in a Saracina for a lovely cave tour, tasting bar and picnicking. The wines there are made under the supervision of wine rock star David Ramey.

All in all, Piazza de Campovida adds a lot to Hopland as a destination, both for Route 101 visitors passing through - and for us organic wine tourists.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Quote of the Day: Wallace Fuller on Soil and Lifelessness

"A cloak of loose, soft material, held to the earth’s hard surface by gravity, is all that lies between life and lifelessness.” --- Wallace H. Fuller, Soils of the Desert Southwest, 1975

For more soil quotes, visit

Monday, July 9, 2012

Symphony of the Soil Debuts: New Film by Deborah Garcia ("Future of Food")

"A nation that destroys its soil destroys itself," says Franklin D. Roosevelt - a quote that graces the web site of the new documentary film about soil from filmmaker Deborah Koons Garcia. (Her previous ag film was The Future of Food, about the dangers of GMOs).

Garcia's new film is a head-turning story that will totally change the way you think about "dirt." It should help a wide audience understand just what is happening to our soil (from chemicals that are hardly "conventional" agriculture) and how important it is for our civilization to focus on organic agriculture and soil health. It's all about the microorganisms, bebe!

The film shys away from being anti-Monsanto and goes towards being more pro-soil, a long overdue messaging strategy that is good to put into play.

On June 18, following successful screenings at the DC-based Environmental Film Festival, London's Curzon Theater and New York's Stone Barns, the film debuted in the Bay Area for a friends and family screening (which I attended). Here is a little scrapbook of photos from that event for your enjoyment.

For more about the film, visit its web site here. The site's blog has a good continuous feed as well.

Filmmaker Deborah Garcia at the film's debut party for friends and family June 18 at Fort Mason's Cowell Theater

A dear friend, plant lover and incredible editor Vivien Hillgrove pieced together film shot on several continents over years of shooting
Cinematography Nancy Schiesari (a close friend of mine) shot UK portions of the film. A former UK resident, she teaches cinematography at UT Austin when she isn't making films.

Nancy enjoys a drink at the after party celebrating with John Chader , who shot most of the film - which was filmed everywhere from China to India to Norway

Publisher Malcolm Margolin of Heyday Books was among the many who celebrated at the generous after screening party at the nearby General's House looking out over the bay

For more on the star-studded group of participants in the making of the film, see here. And take a look at the incredible lineup of experts who participated here.


The film will screen Monday, July 30 at 7 pm in Sonoma at Sonoma State as part of the Biochar conference. For details and an excellent synopsis of the film, click here. 

You can also subscribe to the film's email list to be emailed about future events and screenings. DVDs will be for sale in the fall.

Quote of the Day: Alan York Quoted in Gerald Asher's New Book A Carafe of Red

Gerald Asher's latest collection of articles is just out - I saw it reviewed in the SF Chronicle wine section recently and ordered a copy which arrived today. Asher will be reading from the book this Wednesday July 11 at Corte Madera. 

It's a compendium of various magazine pieces taken from over a decade and spanning European and Californian wines, mostly.

Inside there's one little piece (from 2000) on organically grown wine entitled A Silent Revolution, which includes a fair amount of misinformation (Asher quotes data to the effect that organic viticulture costs 50% more than "conventional," which is not true), but did contain this one pithy gem I'd like to share on the way biodynamic viticulture puts plants in harmony with the cosmos faster than other methods.

Says Alan York (viticulturist to the star celebs like Sting, and before that Ceago, Joseph Phelps and Benziger, among others):

"We don't know why or how the plant responds to the changing positions of the planets. It's like surfing. There's this force and you try to ride it."