Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Rose Season Is Upon Us - Horse and Plow's Newest Rose Featured in Chronicle

Roses in the Chronicle's recent tasting

Memorial Day weekend is the beginning of summer (at least in some places) and so it's official for people who need permission: it's time to drink rose!

This week the Chronicle featured top roses of the season and listed one of my perennial favorites, although it changes each year: Horse and Plow's North Coast Rose ($17 a bottle).

I had a chance to visit with winemakers Suzanne Haggins and Chris Condo at their Sebastopol home recently (the location will soon be home to their tasting room as well - in a few years time) and will feature more about that visit later. Their Horse and Plow wines consistently pair fine wine making with affordable prices - a rarity! Thus, they are frequently among my favorites.

This wine is sourced from one of my favorite organic, heritage, dry farmed vineyards - Testa in Calpella (near Ukiah in Mendocino County) from a blend of 68% Carignane, 16% Syrah, and 16% Grenache.

Horse and Plow's previous rose won a top 100 wine listing from the Chronicle's annual awards, so it's a pleasure to see what the new vintage is like, since it's a wine that changes from vintage to vintage (but is always made solely from organically grown [and certified] grapes).

To purchase, contact the winery or order online here. This wine will sell out - not much is made - only 325 cases - so time is of the essence.

Bordeaux Wines Going Organic

Perhaps French influence will help U.S. wineries follow suit? Let's hope for the best.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Sunset Wine Competition Awards: Organic Winners!

The results of Sunset Magazine's 2013 Wine Competition are in. Here are the organically grown wines and their competition scores.

It's an uneven contest - many of the best wines are not entered, but the results are still fun to evaluate.

A few of my favorites did well and I hope this brings them a wider audience - Volker Eisele Terzetto (a steal at $75 compared to other Bordeaux blends in its league). Ampelos won best in class for its Syrah.

In addition, it's always amazing to me how well Bonterra does compared to wines that are 2-5 times its price. Its Chardonnay did well as did its Pinot Noir and Zinfandel with all three winning silver medals (against stiff competition).

Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
2009 Rocca Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley, Yountville Grigsby Vineyard $80.00
2009 Grgich Hills Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Estate Grown $60.00
2009 Long Meadow Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley $47.00
2009 Rocca Family Vineyards Vespera Napa Valley $50.00
2009 V. Sattui Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Preston Vineyard $49.00

Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
2010 Signaterra Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma Valley Three Blocks $50.00
2010 Bonterra Cabernet Sauvignon California Made with Organic Grapes 87% Mendocino County/13% Lake County $15.99

Chardonnay 2010
Alma Rosa Chardonnay Sta. Rita Hills El Jabali Vineyard $28.00
Terra Savia Chardonnay Mendocino Made with Organic Grapes Sanel Valley Vineyards,
Estate Grown, Limited Release $13.50

Chardonnay 2011
2011 Bergström Wines Sigrid Chardonnay Oregon, Willamette Valley $80.00
2011 Bonterra Chardonnay Mendocino County Made with Organic Grapes $13.99

2011 Signaterra West Rows Chardonnay Carneros Made with Organically Grown Grapes Sangiacomo Vineyard $32.00

Merlot 2008
2008 Grgich Hills Estate Merlot Napa Valley Estate Grown $42.00

Pinot Noir 2009
2009 Ampelos Lambda: The Magnitude, Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills Ampelos Vineyard $35.00

Pinot Noir 2010
2010 Alma Rosa Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills La Encantada Vineyard $43.00
2011 Signaterra Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Bella Luna Vineyard $49.00
2011 Bonterra Pinot Noir Mendocino County Made with Organic Grapes $15.99
2011 Bergström Wines Pinot Noir Oregon, Dundee Hills Bergström Vineyard $80.00
2011 Bergström Wines Pinot Noir Oregon, Chehalem Mountains de Lancellotti Vineyard $65.00

Red Meritage or Bordeaux Blend
2008 Volker Eisele Family Estate Terzetto Napa Valley $75.00
2009 Terra Savia Reserve Meritage Mendocino Made with Organic
Grapes Sanel Valley Vineyards, Estate Grown, Limited Release $18.00

2012 Verdad Grenache Rose Edna Valley Demeter Certified Biodynamic® Grapes Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard $18.00

Sauvignon Blanc
2011 Bonterra Sauvignon Blanc 53% Lake County, 47% Mendocino County Made with Organic Grapes $13.99

Syrah/Shiraz, Vintage 2009
Best of Class, Gold
2009 Ampelos Syrah Sta. Rita Hills Ampelos Vineyard $35.00

2010 Bonterra Zinfandel Mendocino County Made from Organic Grapes $15.99


Pay no attention to the label on the box -
but to what's inside - VERDAD 
Just saw one of my favorite roses ON SALE and AT THE LOCAL MARKET - Verdad 2012 Rose is just $11.99 at Farmer Joe's on Fruitvale in Oakland.

This normally sells for $18 from the winery.

Grown from biodynamic grapes in San Luis Obispo County, this is a summer MUST.

At this price - and right down the street - be sure to stock up!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Philanthropy through Wine Buying: Check Out the Auction Napa Valley's Organic Vintners' E-Offerings

If you're feeling like becoming a philanthropist by buying wine, you can peruse the Auction Napa Valley online offerings, and find some fabulous Napa wineries' exciting offerings.

You can bid on these items online - or just fantasize about them. And then think about how much less wear and tear it is on you, not having to go to Meadowood for the auction, avoiding sweating it out in traffic, or the stress of finding shoes to go with your glamorous gown.

Now you can just enjoy the auction online with these offerings:

Ehlers Estate

Lunch and tour for 4, plus a bottle of wine

Frog's Leap

Large format Cabernet Sauvignon

Gamble Family Vineyards

Overnight accommodations for three nights for 8 people plus wine

Grgich Hills

Two night overnight stay for up to 6 people, tour, and wine

HALL Wines - Dinner with Kathryn

Dinner for 12 with Kathryn Hall in the HALL Wine caves

HALL Wines - Cabernet Vertical

Imperial bottles of cabernet sauvignon from a four year period

Heitz Wine Cellars 

A 12 year vertical of their Trailside Cabernet Sauvignon (some are CCOF certified years)


A magnum of 2005 Rubicon

Madonna Estates

36 bottles of wine

Neal Family Vineyards

Dinner for 12 and 12 magnums of wine

Rocca Family Estates

Overnight stay for 2 nights, plus 6 bottles of wine

Tres Sabores

Overnight stay for 2, including breakfast, lunch and dinner, and 24 bottles of wine, including 2 magnums

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Moyers: Public Health Historians Take Chemical Companies to Task over Lead Poisoning

I've just spent two days at a health technology conference in Mountain View where everyone wants to reform American's lifestyles by giving them Fitbits or BodyMedia or other wearable devices. Sadly they're not focused on environmental least not yet. (I'm fantasizing a hackathon on pesticide apps).

They think genetics is still The Next Big Thing along with Big Data which is totally taking over the town.

And yet - there's a glimmer of hope for more awareness of the toxic soup we've created. Today's latest show from Bill Moyers provides some hopeful evidence of people publicizing one major chemical that government has been totally unable to deal with, due to the strong role of chemical company lobbying - lead. This, despite years of efforts by public health officials.

The story illustrates how government fails to combat chemical companies even when the dangers are obvious.

Could this growing awareness - the new film Unacceptable Levels, this show on Moyers - be good news for organic growers who've long provided a healthy alternative to chemical farming's toxic soup?


And in case you missed it, here's a print story about this feature.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Elizabeth Spencer's Organically Grown Sauvignon Blanc Release Party - Saturday, June 29

Located in a charming brick building with a lovely courtyard for seated tastings, Elizabeth Spencer Wines will be hosting a release party with oysters, paella and its latest organically grown Sauvignon Blanc (sourced from Mendocino).

The action takes place 4-7 pm at the winery, just across from Rutherford Grill.

Tickets are $35 for wine club members and $55 for the general public.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Unacceptable Levels Film Coming to SF Green Film Festival in June

Coming soon - a new film about chemicals - including pesticides - in our bodies. Unacceptable Levels will be featured at the SF Green Film Festival Sunday June 2 at 3 pm at New People Cinema in SF.

Of course, the main reason for some people to drink organically grown wines (like I do) is that these growers aren't pouring tons of chemicals into the water, land and air, creating the toxic soup that other growers heavily contribute to.

When people start to realize that cancer and autism are caused at least in part by these chemicals, they will look back on this time as barbaric as leeching to cure illness or spraying DDT - without understanding that it causes birds and fish (and people) to die.

I don't necessarily with everything in the film, since I've read that the filmmaker is concerned about chlorine and fluoride. I am more concerned about pesticides which we KNOW are harmful.

A large number of environmental organizations partnered in sponsoring the film - I hope it will be seen by a wide audience.

A shoutout to local participants:

• Davis Baltz, Precautionary Principle Director at Commonweal in Bolinas

• U.C. Berkeley Professor Tyrone Hayes, known for his pioneering work on atrazine, the popular herbicide that makes frogs change gender - and that is now linked to breast cancer.

You can read more about it on HuffPo.

Here's the movie trailer:


For the first time, the festival will also screen some of its films in Berkeley at the Brower Center, making it easier for East Bay-ers to enjoy a screening.

Get the details here.

Memorial Day in Oregon Wine Country - Party On

Wineries with organically grown wines are part of the festivities during the Willamette Valley's Memorial Day in Wine Country weekend.

Included are:

Bethel Heights
Cooper Mountain (biodynamic)
Evesham Wood
Sokol Blosser (a few wines are organically grown on their estate)

There's also a class on enjoying wine, a mobile route, and suggested tours on their web site.

For more info, see here.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

SOMM Film - To Play Mendocino Film Festival in June

Interested in seeing the hot new film SOMM about sommeliers (wine directors) competing?

This feature doc plays June 1 and 2 at the Mendocino Film Festival.

Check out the trailer here.

For more details, check out the Wine Spectator's review here or visit the film's Facebook page here.

The Mendo screenings may also be paired with tasting events scheduled with local wineries - but none of the area's organically grown wines will be featured in these scheduled tastings. However, you could easily make your own tour of the area's top organic vintners which would include Handley Cellars and Yorkville Cellars, a lovely trip through Anderson Valley.

The film premiered at the Napa Valley Film Festival in 2012.

Yorkville Cellars: Vertical Cab Tasting Saturday May 18

Yorkville Cellars, just south of Anderson Valley in Mendocino, will be holding a vertical tasting of its Cabernets this Saturday from noon to 4 pm at the winery.

It's a beautiful site and picnicking is available in the shade of a lovely tree outside the tasting room.

Details here (scroll down to the events section on that link).

This Saturday Night: Concert at Grgich Hills with Violet Grgich and Les Violettes

Violet Grgich will play Saturday evening at 6 pm at
Grgich Hills winery
Now that Bottlerock is over, classical music can step into the spotlight. This Saturday Violet Grgich and friends will perform "Sweeter than Roses: Songs and Instrumental Music by Purcell and his French Admirers" at 6 pm at the winery in St. Helena.

"Sweeter than Roses" is the name of one of the composer's most famous songs.

Aside from Purcell, the concert will also feature cantatas by Clerambeault and Bousset as well as viol da gamba suite by Marin Marais.

Les Violettes, Violet's group, consists of soprano Corey Carleton, viola da gamba player Colin Shipman, and Violet on the harpsichord.

Wine tasting is included for the admission fee of $25.

To reserve a spot, call the winery or email them. Details here.

Friday, May 10, 2013

IN VIDEO: Biodynamic Viticulture at Grgich Hills

I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Ivo Jeramaz yesterday for my upcoming book on organically grown wines of Napa and wanted to share this video, from some hip Canadians, on Grgich Hills' biodynamic approach.

I don't think I have ever seen a marketing manager at a winery show the substances that go into biodynamic preps - it's so refreshing!

While other wineries may be practicing biodynamics (after being certified in the past - think: Quintessa, Robert Sinskey), Grgich Hills is certified biodynamic for grapes.


Thursday, May 9, 2013

In Video: Jerry Seps and Storybook Mountain Vineyards

Continuing on the theme of where to take summer visitors who may be arriving soon, the topic of my last post, let's focus on "Hidden Gems."

One of my top ten favorite organic vintners/wineries in Napa Valley has to be Jerry and Sigrid Seps and Storybook Mountain Vineyards. Organic for 36 years, using no herbicides or insecticides, and leaving the redwoods on the property in place, hear the story of Storybook from founder Jerry Seps.

Then plan a visit. And although the competition is stiff, believe me, this is one of the most beautiful sites in all of Napa.


Since the winery is at the north end of Napa Valley, just a little beyond the town of Calistoga (northwest of the town), you're likely to find a relatively quiet spot here, away from the madding crowd.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

In Photos: A Trip to Inglenook

Summer is nearly upon us and if you're anything like me, visitors have been starting to arrive. Too often their visits, accompanied by a hurried day to fit in a brief trip to Napa, lack planning. But I would like to suggest...planning.

If you have but one day to show them Napa, Inglenook is an absolute must. Try to make your time there unhurried. Best of all, book ahead for a tour which is the best way to see this historic site.

Failing that, you can drop in at the Bistro for tastes and wine by the glass. You can also wander through the museum of Inglenook's past on the first floor which is an absorbing and wonderful display of artefacts, ranging from how Niebaum, the original founder, made his fortune (in the Alaska fur trade business) and what his hopes and dreams were for creating a great winery.

He had originally intended to create a winery in France, but his wife preferred Napa. He was the first Napa vintner to commit to the highest levels of quality, imported European vines, and achieved an international reputation.

Upstairs are several collections of Coppola's including early movie memorabilia and period costumes from the Niebaum era.

You can sift through what's Coppola and what's Niebaum and enjoy what you will.

But make no mistake - this is one of our country's greatest wineries. Its heritage is incomparable. Inglenook's commitment to organic viticulture is the icing on the cake.

So be sure to get there. Is it the wine geek's equivalent of Monticello? Visit and then you can tell me what you think.

The exterior - I wonder if it was originally painted yellow...
I managed to keep the very Italian fountain (added - not original) out of the photo

Enter here

While Coppola restored many wonderful aspects of this property,
this grand staircase is not one of them. This was a plain stone working
winery. The baronial stairway is a complete fabrication,
based on Coppola's aesthetic of theatricality.

There is a very fine collection in display of the winery'
past. This is just one of the many.

The historical gem at Inglenook
Niebaum's original tasting room,
which was never destroyed or messed
with by ensuing owners (who famously did
ruin many things on the  property)

Original tasting room

This section shows Niebaum's Alaska travels - where he made his
fortune in fur trading 
Chandeliers were installed in the barrel room to make a private space
for wedddings and other grand parties.
An original
A private tasting (for me!)
What you get when you buy this estate - lots of old bottles.
I hope the dust is original and not "movie dust"
Tasting our way through the Cabernets

Friday, May 3, 2013

Video: A Conversation with Eileen Crane of Domaine Carneros

Last week I had a wonderful two or three hour coffee with a great friend and cinematographer that I sometimes work with (when I do video). We fantasized about doing some interesting videos about organically grown wine - we'll see where those thoughts take us. (He's shot more than 7 Emmy award winning docs and several PBS wine series; I used to make national PBS series and about 100 videos for Apple).

But for now...

I would like to share with you some wine videos I like. (Most of them I don't like - too banal - look like they came from the same video factory...but this one doesn't.)

I had a lovely two hour visit with Eileen Crane, the CEO and winemaker at Domaine Carneros in April and was charmed by the wines and the woman. I think this story-based video captures what she shared with me then - and can share with you now. Enjoy. Perhaps with a nice cool glass of sparkling wine - to cool down in this hot weather...

After the EU, the EPA...Feds Release Bee Report

Earlier this week, the EU banned pesticides suspected of contributing to bee colony collapse for a two year period.

Italy, Slovenia and Germany had already banned the implicated neonicotinoids. Italians reported bee populations recovered dramatically after the ban and bee colony collapse is no longer an issue.

A quarter of the American diet relies on honey bee pollination.

Now, the U.S. government has released its own report on bee strife here. See the New York Times coverage for details.

Rodale reports that Italian researchers, and peers, are linking the use of neonicotinoid on corn seed as a likely culprit.

Researchers at Purdue University also link corn seed coating with neonicotinoids as the key culprit.

With that background, it's distressing to hear that the new USDA and EPA report cites a variety of factors as responsible and refused to ban any of the 100 chemicals implicated, saying the negative effects outweighed the positive ones.

Hear more from Bill Moyers and see the short film Dance of the Bees:


Even if a variety of factors are to blame, it's hard to understand why the EPA is recommending five more years of study before it proposes to take action.

Just how the Purdue study's bees were affected is described in this article in Mother Jones:

"Now, neonic pesticides likely have two separate effects on bees: an acute one during spring corn planting, when huge clouds of neonic-infested dust rises up, at doses that kill bees that come into contact with it. Those population losses weaken hives but don't typically destroy them. And then there's a gradual effect—what scientists call "chronic"—when bees bring in pollen contaminated at low levels by neonicotinoids. Research by the USDA's Pettis suggests that even microscopic levels of exposure to neonics compromises bees' immune systems, leaving hives vulnerable to other pathogens and prone to collapse."

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

"ILUVMOM" Discount Code = $10 Shipping on Dashe Cellars Wines

In honor of Mother's Day, May 12, Dashe Cellars is having a shipping sale. Enter ILUVMOM to get $10 shipping on any quantity of wine.

The organically grown wines Dashe offers include:

• 2012 McFadden Vineyards Riesling

• 1998 Merlot, Potter Valley

• 2011 Zinfandel Les Enfants Terrible (Beaujolais Style), McFadden Vineyard

•  2011 Zinfandel Les Enfants Terrible (Beaujolais Style), Heart Arrow Ranch (Biodynamic)

For more on these individual wines, visit