Thursday, October 31, 2013

Best Halloween Costume EVER!

Thanks to Babes Against Biotech with Lauryn Rego and Nicholas Efremov-Kendall at Alantown

Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Big Decanter Win for Porter-Bass: A Biodynamic Vineyard in Sonoma's Russian River AVA

Porter-Bass is one of the most beautiful vineyards in California - one of those dreamscapes which, once visited, is not forgotten.

I posted this video from Porter Bass last night because I just liked it.

Imagine my surprise this morning then to read in the latest  news from Decanter online that the Littorai Chardonnay Luke grows in his vineyard (Littorai calls it Mays Canyon) just won Decanter's top pick in the list of the top 10 California Chardonnays with a 93 point rating. Huzzah!

If you're lucky enough to get a bottle of this very "inobtainium" wine, enjoy. Otherwise, head out to see this beautiful clearing in the woods of Guerneville and imbibe the atmosphere - along with Luke Bass' own Chardonnay made from this same vineyard.


Both the Littorai Mays Canyon Chard and Pinot and the three Porter-Bass wines from this vineyard are all featured in my forthcoming (next month!) Biodynamic Wine Finder apps - in the Biodynamic Vines Finder app (wines from certified vineyards) and in the Biodynamic Wines: Tasting and Touring.

(To be notified when the app launches, sign up for the emails from this blog (see signup on top right of page).

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A Shoutout to Tres Sabores for the Fab NYTimes Coverage

Thank you New York Times for bringing attention - of any kind - to one of my favorite Napa wineries - a long time organic vineyard pioneer, and producer of wonderful Zin and Cab - Tres Sabores.

Tres Sabores proprietor Julie Johnson showing tourists punchdown.

Best 2013 Harvest Picture Yet

Kudos to Beckmen Vineyards for posting this one which just kind of says it all:

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Cost of Carbon: Oct. 22-23

Al Gore's latest project - 24 Hours of Reality - is a powerful broadcast (online on Ustream) showing us the way we could do better when it
comes to discussing environmental topics.

The basic format is sort of like Fox News - i.e. hot looking news people - coupled with powerful guests - and disaster weather footage that made the Weather Chanel what it is today.

Tune in to see what I'm talking about:

It's got everything that makes TV so compelling: great guests (World Bank president, a NJ housewife) and international appeal, along with international show hosts from Asia, Europe, Africa, North and South America, and more. The footage is undeniable. And the calls to action compelling. See what you think.

Along with this comes the news today from CalCAN (California Climate and Agriculture Network) that is has new fact sheets on its web site showing the impact various agricultural approaches have on climate change. Of course organic is best - no nitrogen fertilizers from fossil fuels. See the fact sheets here.

New York Times Sings Praises of Film Symphony of the Soil

A spectacular review for the film Symphony of the Soil came out this month from the New York Times. Read it here.

Upcoming screenings with filmmaker Deborah Koons Garcia:

TONIGHT - Oct. 22, 7 pm - Oakland, Parkway Theater with Q and A with filmmaker

SATURDAY - Oct. 26, 1 pm - Summerfield Cinemas, Santa Rosa with Q and A with filmmaker

The film was a hit this past weekend at Bioneers.

DVDs are now on sale.

The film will screen in LA in early Nov. For more screenings and dates, see the web site.

From Staid to Studs: Envolve Winery's Think Pink-Breast Cancer Fundraiser Photos

Sometimes it's nice to see a fresh approach to women primarily - and young women especially. Here's how the three groovy guys (do they remind you of The Monkees?) promote their rose - in support of breast cancer prevention and free mammograms for under or uninsured women with their local hospital in October.

Tickets to their big fundraising party - Real Men Drink Pink - in Sonoma Oct. 26 ($60) are available online.

Their 2011 rose is made from a certified biodynamic vineyard; the 2012 is organic.

Envolve is a new brand that opened its door in 2012 formed by three childhood friends (L to R) - Mike Benziger of the Benziger wine clan, British born Danny Fay, and Ben Flajnik, reality TV star on the 2012 season of The Bachelor - who all grew up together in Sonoma.

For more details, check out the Press Democrat article about Envolve's founding here.

Friday, October 18, 2013

McFadden Wine Sale This Weekend - Join the Wine Club OVER THE PHONE - 40% Off

I know that there is one winery whose wares I have touted over the years more than others - but that's because they make wonderful everyday wines (and a few special bottles, too) at sale prices that can't be beat.

THIS WEEKEND the twice a year rock-bottom sale prices are on again at McFadden's (vineyard in Potter Valley; tasting room in Hopland), which should make you pay attention and get on the phone. Prices are 40% off.

You must be a wine club member to get this incredible prices, but there's basically no commitment if you're buying a case a year - which is pretty easy to do when the sale price of a bottle of Double Gold winning (SF Chronicle Wine Competition, not some unknown county fair) Chardonnay is $9.60 - i.e. $115 a case.  (And remember - wine is a great holiday or hostess gift.)

My friends have already learned to ask me to get them a case or two. But you don't need me to be your intermediary. I am just the messenger. You can go direct.

Here are some of the deals I think warrant your attention:

• Chardonnay, $9.60 a bottle, $115 a case (regularly $16 a bottle)

Unoaked, food friendly and the perfect weekday wine.

Riesling, $10.80 a bottle, $129 a case (regularly $18 a bottle)

These are the same grapes that go into rieslings from Dashe and Chateau Montelena. Again another great weekday wine.

NV Brut, $15 a bottle, $180 a case (regularly $24 a bottle)

I am a regular drinker of the McFadden Brut which to my knowledge is the cheapest (when on sale like this) and best organic sparkling wine in this price range as it's made (unlike other sparklers in the price category - like Korbel Organic, for instance) with the grape varietals that go into French champagne: 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir. Forgo the TJ's Prosecco (imported from Italy) or Spanish Cava and get into the real deal - organic is good for our ecosystem right here - and good for you to serve at your table. (And save 50% of the wine's carbon footprint - which comes from shipping across the Atlantic).

At this price, you can haz bubbles all the time. Sparkling wine always makes a great gift and is the most versatile food-friendly wine - it pairs with so many different dishes from quiche to salmon to sushi. One famous wine writer (Jay McInerny who writes about wine for the Wall Street Journal without endorsing its editorial views) likes it with popcorn. (Ok, since it's sparkling, it is sort of more like soda - perhaps.) One of my friends sent a friend of hers who was turning 60 six bottles - one for every decade.

This Brut won a gold medal in the Mendocino Wine Competition (which features a lot of sparkling wines now that Rack and Riddle, a sparkling wine facility, is located in Hopland). I think I have about 5 cases of it in my cellar. It's always a big hit during the holidays - and you can bring along more than just one bottle to your hostess at these prices (which might make you look like a properly appreciative friend to your hostess who has gone to the effort of cooking for you). Of course, sparkling wine is great in the winter - and great in hot weather.

You can also think about the European tradition of having aperitifs made from sparkling wine mixed with a little juice...most cultures over the pond have come up with a wide variety of sparkling wine cocktails of one sort or another. (Good stress reliever after you get home from a huge Bay Area traffic jam from the BART strike - like I did today). I make little wine cocktails with peach juice or a little swirl of mango juice in summer. For a Valentine's Day party last year, I made sparkling wine cocktails with St. Germain, soda water and sparkling wine. They were very well received and could hardly be simpler to make.

2009 Reserve Brut, $24 a bottle, $288 a case (regularly $40 a bottle)

Stepping up a notch, the Reserve Brut spends 18 month on the lees, making it richer in flavors than the regular Brut.

Moving on to the reds:

2009 and 2010 Coro Mendocino-McFadden wines, $22.20 a bottle, $266 a case (regularly $37 a bottle)

Zin-based blends with Syrah and Petite Sirah - of course these are wonderful paired with meats, pizza, pasta with red sauce, etc. etc. Or cheese and crackers. Another great gift, too, or nice to have on hand for the holidays when everyone is sitting around the fire place sipping hearty soup.

Enough said. Get on the phone and talk to John Cesano, the friendliest tasting room manager in the world. Think of him - and Guinness McFadden and gang, on their 200+ acres of organic vineyard up there at the source of the Russian River - as your personal wine pit crew, at the ready with your everyday vino - and then some. This is wine as it was in the old days - organic, local and grown with pride and without pesticides in your own ecosystem, a place you might call home.

McFadden Vineyard web site
Tasting room phone: 707.744.VINE

Sale ends Sunday.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Oregon Wine Documentary - FREE Online

The history of wine isn't often the subject of a documentary, so it's quite a treat to when these stories are told. On my recent trip to Oregon, I picked up a DVD copy of Oregon Public Broadcasting's hour long program Oregon Wine: A Sense of Place, which was for sale in the Eyrie tasting room (fitting indeed as Eyrie started the whole Willamette Pinot thing).

David Lett of Eyrie in the early days
What I just discovered today is that the whole show is online for FREE. So you can enjoy this history from the comfort of your Apple TV (or whatever).

It's interesting to note that many of the Oregon originals, particularly observant of the soil and terroir, now have certified organic vineyards for at least some of their wines - Eyrie, Sokol Blosser. Long may they live.

To see the hour long show (which, sorry, I cannot embed here due to OPB coding of their Vimeo player), go here:

Monday, October 14, 2013

Reinvention: Randall Grahm's Latest Quest to Succeed with Pinot Noir

Pinot has been the sought after, elusive grape that has caught so many. Its finicky grapes make wines filled with finesse. Most famously most recently Randall Grahm, of Bonny Doon Vineyard has been the California winemaker's whose quest to grow and make the Great American Pinot Noir has been thwarted, by fire, by finances, by fate. (It's all been written about spectacularly, scribed by the subject hisself.) But watch as the Phoenix rises - again.

Here is Grahm's newest vineyard - Popelouchum (it's a native American word meaning "Paradise") - a 280 acre property in San Juan Batista, of which 80 acres has been planted - some to Pinot Noir grown from seed.

He is with the new Pinot Noir seedlings here.

Planting Pinot Noir at Popelouchum
Is this a sign? It seems to me that the stage right now is set for massive reinvention - as the government is shutdown, the economy still in a ditch, and - most importantly - ecosystems are more at risk than in the entire history of the planet. And that means going to the root of things - the origins, which is what growing grapes from seeds is.

It's nice to see a sign like this - of trying to replant, of trying to get it right, of not giving up on worthy ambitions.

To see a photo gallery of the 2011 blessing and celebration at Popelouchum with Ohlone leaders and the Bonny Doon wine club, click here.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

K & L Wines - Insider Deals on Organic and BD Wines

Join the mailing list for "Insider's Advantage" and get these great deals:

AmByth Estate

Natural wines from the only biodynamic Paso Robles winery:
Priscus White Rhone Blend - $45/$39 on sale for $28
Syrah, $45/$39 on sale for $28

Grgich Hills

The classic from Napa Valley (also biodynamic):
2009 Napa Valley Chardonnay - $38 on sale for $28 (that's less than at Costco)

Rocca Family

A unique Cabernet flavor profile from Napa (organically farmed)
2008 Grigsby Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon - $75 on sale for $56

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Dooniverse Moves to Davenport

Until last year, a highlight for Santa Cruz wine tourists was to visit the Bonny Doon tasting room and restaurant in Santa Cruz's mini wine ghetto. Until last year. The tasting room closed. The restaurant closed. And Dooniversians were left adrift with no experience to share with the world of Randall Grahm.

That's all changed with the opening Thursday of the new Bonny Doon tasting room - in Davenport. Davenport? The trendy Davenport Roadhouse, a restaurant and inn north of Santa Cruz, with a commanding view of the ocean from this village on a bluff overlooking the Pacific is in Davenport. Bonny Doon's new spot is conveniently located across the street from the roadhouse. It's open Thursday through Monday from 11-5.

So if you need to buy a pumpkin down there (there are lots of pumpkin farms in the area), you could definitely make a detour...

Bonny Doon no longer farms as much organic or biodynamic vineyards as it once did. Though most of the 35,000 case production is now devoted to purchased (and chemically grown) grapes, you can still find a few good bottles from vineyards the winery once farmed biodynamically - Syrah from Chequera, the Ca' del Solo Nebbiolos, Le Cigare Blancs from Beeswax, the Ca' del Solo Muscat (dry not sweet and only $120 for a case in the closeout special), the sparkling wine Riesling to Live, the Picpoul, the Banana Slug Roussanne (named for the UCSC mascot - the banana slug), and the Viognier. Enjoy.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Find Your Everyday Wine - Occupy Hopland!

The annual Hopland Passport weekend is coming up Oct. 19 and 20th.

This is the single most concentrated and cheapest way to buy affordable, organically grown wine!

For event details see here.

Among the tasting rooms where wine will be on sale (below already affordable prices) are McFadden, Saracina, Golden Vineyards, Naughty Boy, Jeriko, Frey and Terra Savia.

Here are some top picks to look out for:

In downtown Hopland

McFadden - Chardonnay, Brut
Naughty Boy - Pinot Noir, Rose
SIP Mendocino - Golden Vineyards - Coro (Zin blend)
Terra Savia - Chardonnay, Sparkling Rose (of Malbec)

In the area

Saracina - Sauvignon Blanc

Discounted wine prices often range during the sale weekend between $12-20 a bottle. These are the wines that should be in Bay Area food markets - but somehow aren't (unless you live in Mendocino).

Monday, October 7, 2013

IN PHOTOS: Montinore Estate, Willamette Valley, Oregon

On my visit last week to Oregon wineries, I had a first hand look at the deluge that interrupted the 2013 Willamette Valley harvest for a few days, but the harvest appears to be a good vintage. Grapes were picked all over after I left.

Here are some photos from my trip to Montinore Estate on a rainy Sunday (a week ago). Montinore figures prominently in my new Biodynamic® Wine Finder app, with lots of affordable Alsatian and Pinot Noir wines, along with high end, small lots of Pinot Noir from Montinore's best vineyard blocks.

Enjoy this virtual visit. Many thanks to the tasting room staff for their hospitality and to Ben Thomas, Montinore's red wine winemaker, who took me on a brief tour.

On a very rainy day last week
With 240 acres in vine, Montinore is the largest Oregon producer
of wines made from Biodynamic® estate vineyards (roughly 40,000 cases)
and the second largest biodynamic producer in the U.S.
(after Grgich Hills in Napa) - it's an ocean of grapes

Arrive at harvest time and you can take home
a bottle of fresh, biodynamic wine grape juice - a real treat
Ben Thomas makes Montinore's red wines (including four single vineyard
designate Pinot Noirs and two other estate Pinot Noirs) - here he
shows his collection of native yeasts from different vineyard blocks;
each yeast will be paired with the grapes from those blocks -or perhaps he'll pick
a few favorites - the things a Biodynamic winemaker thinks about! (*Because they
primarily use native yeasts)
Where wine starts - with freshly picked grapes!
The cellar at Montinore: originally it was created to hold sparkling wine.
 Today it houses a wide variety of white Alsatians and red Pinot Noirs
On a day when it's raining cats and dogs outside, the tasting room sofa
looks like a good place to sip and stay awhile. It also has great views.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Brooks Wines' Inaugural Vintage of 2012 Estate Riesling

Janie Brooks Heuck with inaugural
2012 Brooks Estate Riesling
Brooks Wines has a new riesling release - its 2012 Estate Riesling ($22). I try not to buy wine on the road any more - I have too much - but I was too intrigued and delighted to go away empty-handed, so I came home with a case.

I will write more about Brooks Wines later, but for now, suffice it to say, this is the first vintage of this wine, and only 100 cases are made.

It's the fruit, in part, of vines planted in 1974 - and if you know about Riesling, you know Oregon used to grow a lot of it - as much of 23% of Oregon's wine production 30 years ago was Riesling (before it was thrown over by Pinot Noir).

It's just about to hit the wine press so look for ratings for it in the near future. (Or just go wild and order a case now before it gets discovered.)

There are only a few organic or Biodynamically farmed rieslings. Bonterra makes a widely available one; Buty makes a barely obtainable one as does Montinore Estate (106 cases); Pacific Rim makes some organic and one rare and pricey Biodynamic one; and McFadden makes one under its own label while Chateau Montelena makes one sourced from McFadden fruit under the Chateau Montelena label. So it's nice to see the club grow. Brooks is one of only three wineries making riesling from a Demeter-certified Biodynamic vineyard (the others being Pacific Rim's Wallula Vineyard Riesling and Montinore Estate's Riesling).

In the riesling department, Brooks also makes a Sweet P Riesling (sweeter, as you might imagine) and a lovely late harvest dessert riesling called Tethys.
Brooks Riesling on the vine

In addition, its Willamette Valley Riesling was just a wine pick of the week in the LA Times and its Ara Riesling was served at the White House. (Both are blends of non-estate wines - i.e. not organic). Their reputation for fine riesling is bound to grow with this new estate wine.

Aside from Randall Grahm, founder Jimi Brooks was one of the biggest fans of both Riesling and biodynamic farming. The estate vineyard doesn't produce much riesling, so it's really a treat to get this wine that is made 100% from certified Biodynamically farmed grapes.

The winery is also growing. According to general manager Janie Brooks Heuck, Brooks has submitted plans for a new winery and tasting room down the road to local authorities, and if all goes well, the new facilities would be open in 2014.

Maysara's New Sparkling Wine Debuts at Wine Club Party

On my recent trip to Oregon, I happened to stop in at one of the state's largest Biodynamic vineyards - Maysara Winery and Momtazi Family vineyard. It was raining heavily, but the wine club pickup party (scheduled for what would usually have been a good weather day) was in full swing.

On hand was a new sparkling wine ($35) - made from 100% Pinot Noir.

It was only available for wine club members this past weekend, but the Momtazis said it will also be for sale to the public at the winery.

Just a note: more Pinot Noir in France is grown for sparkling wine than is bottled as Pinot Noir. Just so you know.

It's nice to see more vintners here making sparkling wine - one of my favorites.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Another Oregon Star - Soter - Pursues Organic Certification

It's no secret that Tony Soter was one of the first Napa evangelists for organic grape growing. In 1985 he converted Spottswoode's estate to organic farming.

Nadine Basile, the new vineyard manager
at Soter Vineyards in Oregon
So I wandered into his Oregon winery, Soter Vineyards, last week for a morning tasting (they are also one of the few Willamette Valley wineries open before noon or 11 am) just to see what was up with his now famous Pinot Noir winery in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA.

I was surprised and delighted to hear from the tasting room staff that Soter Vineyards is now in year one of their three year transition process to organic certification.

Soter's hired Nadile Basile, a former Demeter Biodynamic inspector, as its new vineyard manager.

A U.C. Davis viticulture grad, Basile started her organic and biodynamic viticultural career at Napa's Robert Sinskey Vineyards (a 200+ acre Carneros vineyard planted largely to Pinot Noir) in the mid 2000's when Sinskey was in the process of getting biodynamic certification. (In 2012 Robert Sinskey Vineyards ended its participation in Demeter certification but says it will continue farming in the same manner, citing certification fees cost as the issue - of that, more later).

So it was exciting news to hear that Soter Vineyards intends to pursue Biodynamic certification as soon as possible (Biodynamic certification requires organic certification as a requirement).

May it continue.

I was struck on my trip by how many Oregon vintners go straight for the Biodynamic certification, instead of plain old organic. I don't know what to make of it just yet, but there it is.

It could have something to do with the nuances of Pinot Noir and the Willamette Valley's close ties with Burgundy, where experienced vintners have embraced biodynamic farming both as a way to replenish spent soils and as a way to get the more expressive qualities from their vines.

In my own stumble-and-bumble personal tasting journey, I'm recognizing more and more how biodynamic farming does truly allow for more expressive fruit, but that it puts more pressure on having the right terroir to begin with. Biodynamic farming can help winemakers get the best fruit, and the most resilient vines, but it can't make great wine unless the soils, exposure and winemaking are first rate. But when it sings, it sings.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Biodynamic Wine Finder Web Site Launches!

My three apps on Biodynamic® wines are set to launch later this month. In preparation, has launched with a few details about the three apps. Have a look!

Two of the three apps are wine-buying guides. The third is a tasting and touring guide.

1. Biodynamic® Wine Finder - covers 150 Demeter certified wines (Biodynamic® Wine or Made with Biodynamic® Grapes)

2. Biodynamic® Vine Finder - covers 125 wines from Demeter certified vineyards (Biodynamic® vineyards, organically certified wines)

3. Biodynamic Wineries: A Tasting and Touring Guide - a wine visitor's guide to 40 wineries that offer wines from certified vineyards.

Each app includes detailed filters to let you select wines and wineries by a variety of key criteria. More details to come when the apps go live in the Apple App Store and Google Play. Stay tuned - get on the app launch email invite list by subscribing to this blog's email (see upper right) or sending an email to

Oregon's Star - Eyrie Vineyards - Goes Organic - PHOTOS

I've just returned from a whistle stop winery tour in Oregon, arriving in the heart of what's a raining-cat-and-dogs harvest season up north.

Out of nostalgia for my last trip up north (2010) to Eyrie and environs, I decided to drop in and see what was new at Eyrie. It was a delight to discover a sign on the way saying the vines are organically farmed - and now certified, according to the tasting room staff. Although the winery's farmed organically, it says, for 48 years, the vines were officially certified in 2013.

This covers all the wines from the Eyrie estate vineyard - all of which are located in the Dundee Hills AVA. Eyrie, famously, was the first Pinot Noir winery in the Willamette Valley and won against the French in an early days blind tasting.

Eyrie's known for its estate blend Pinot Noir. (I have three cases from 2008 aging in the cellar - acquired in the 2010 trip - that I am just starting to enjoy).

Tasting room treats - a Melon de Bourgogne and the reserve Chardonnay. The winery's 2012 Chardonnay is just being released; I took home the last 6 bottles of the 2011 (which were on sale for 30% off).

Enjoy this virtual visit in photos.

Eyrie Vineyards tasting room in downtown McMinnville
The humble entrance in downtown McMinnville (the building was once a turkey processing plant)
The founders - the Letts - were the first to plant Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley
Lobby photo
A complete vertical - of empty bottles (alas) greet you in the lobby
area - but you can get tastes of some of them in the tasting room
Uniquely Eyrie offers library tastings of vintages from 10-20+ years ago
The extremely helpful and knowledgeable tasting room staff stand
in front of a vineyard map of the four estate vineyards
Eyrie's modern classic - its estate Pinot Noir - from vines planted in the 1980's