Thursday, February 27, 2014

Shop the Sales: Sonoma's Barrel Tasting Weekends - Demeter Certified (Biodynamic) Wine Futures at Up To 30% Off

There's Napa style futures - up to $4,333 a bottle, in record making headlines. And then there's Sonoma style. This weekend's barrel tasting could net Sonoma vintners millions of dollars of sales, but from much broader base of patrons.

For consumers, the barrel tasting weekend - a chance to save big money on wine futures - is a popular draw. More than 16,000 people flocked to the event last year - that's 8,000 per weekend. As in previous years, large bus parties are no longer invited to participate (due to the fact that their patrons had an above average rate of becoming rowdy and drunk).

This year's 36th annual barrel tasting takes place this weekend and the following weekend and features seven wineries with wines from certified organic or Biodynamic vineyards. To taste at multiple wineries, purchase a ticket for $50 for a weekend or $40 for one day. For details, click here.

The Biodynamic producers happen to be the only ones open with a large number of estate grown wines.

A Gift from Me

In addition, you can read detailed descriptions of the wineries and the certified wines each offers. See below for details.

A LIST BIODYNAMIC WINERIES

Porter Creek Vineyards

Porter Creek Vineyards, in the Russian River Valley AVA, is the winery of Alex Davis, grower and maker of coveted Pinot Noirs. The winery's offering 30% off on futures by the case. The wines will be released 10-18 months from now.

For A Limited Time Only (through March 9, the end of Barrel Tasting):

I'm offering a Free Winery Listing for Porter Creek Vineyards (in .pdf format) from my app Biodynamic® Wines and Vines: Tasting and Touring Guide which lists all the Biodynamic vintners in Sonoma (8) and the rest of the country that visitors can tour. Click here to download the .pdf.

Quivira Vineyards & Winery


In Dry Creek Valley, find certified Biodynamically grown Rhone wines and Sauvignon Blanc at Quivira on Dry Creek Road. The winery's offering 20% off on futures of their Petite Sirah and Quest Zinfandel (40% off to wine club members).

 For A Limited Time Only (through March 9, the end of Barrel Tasting):

Get the Free Winery Listing for Quivira Vineyards & Winery (in .pdf format) from my app Biodynamic® Wines and Vines: Tasting and Touring Guide which lists all the Biodynamic vintners in Sonoma (8) and the rest of the country that visitors can tour. Click here to download the .pdf.

Happy touring.

And of course, if you wish to purchase the full app - Biodynamic Wines & Vines: Tasting and Touring Guide - don't hold back. This $9.99 app features all the wineries in the U.S. that you can tour that offer wines from certified Biodynamic vineyards, including 7 wineries in Sonoma alone.

While we're still in the process of changing the cover art of the three apps, everything inside is final copy. And the interactive maps are really awesome. (I didn't make them, but some good programmers did.) For info on all three apps, see here. Or to receive a launch invite for our new site BiodynamicWineFinder.com, click here.

ORGANICALLY GROWN WINES

You can also score a few bottles of organically grown wines from other wineries participating in the barrel tasting weekends. While most of the following produce mainly chemically farmed wines, they also have a few bottles that come from certified organic vineyards.

Carol Shelton

• Monga Zin (Cucamonga Valley grapes)
• Wild Thing Zin (Mendocino County grapes)

DeLoach

DeLoach makes about 500 cases of estate sourced wines from its certified Biodynamic vineyard and one additional Pinot sourced from a Biodynamic certified grower. These wines are not easily obtained, due to their limited production.

• Chardonnay-Estate
• Pinot Noir-Estate
• Pinot Noir-Maboroshi
• Rosé-Estate

Korbel 

Almost all of its production is from chemically farmed vineyards - except for one.

• Brut-Organic

Old World Winery

• Sauvignon Blanc, Elk Mountain (Lake County)

All these and more than a 100 more will be included in the new app Organically Sonoma: Wine Finder, coming in April 2014.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

FUN STUFF TO WATCH: Drone Cam Aerials of Napa

From the ground, we don't always see the Big Picture…or at least that's how life was until DRONE CAM came along.

Here's a video from a pair of Napa videographers who are perfecting their rig and showing us some of what it sees.

 You get a sense of the truly vast scale of grape growing in the Napa Valley. Check it out:

 

I have to say I am more than a little jealous. My cinematographer friend and I have been itching to do something along these lines, too; so I'll just toast these guys for getting it done!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Sparkling Wines, Mendo Style: Hopland Tasting to Feature 5+ Organically Grown Sparklers

I'm grateful to the sparkling wine Rack and Riddle facility for locating for a time in Mendocino County. This single incident gave rise to a new generation of organically grown sparkling wines. 

When French Champagne house Louis Roederer came to Califorina, it didn't mess around with the Carneros or Sonoma. It went right to the cool climate Mendocino region, which it deemed perfect for growing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the varietals Champagne is made from. And many critics, including the New York Times Eric Asimov, have applauded Roederer's wines.

While Roederer is partially growing organically (about 100+ out of 580 acres are organically farmed but not certified, according to the winery), other producers in the county, located in the warmer interior in the Sanel Valley or in coolish Potter Valley, have 7+ sparkling releases.

Now Mendocino's sparkling winemakers are putting on a joint tasting featuring a total of ten sparkling wines on Sat. April 5 from 12-4 in Hopland at Terra Savia. The tasting will include 5 wines from certified organic vines.

You can buy tickets online here.

The wines will be paired with smoked salmon, local oysters, pate, canapés, fresh strawberries and a lavender infused sponge cake.

The organically grown wines to be featured include:

POTTER VALLEY


MCFADDEN VINEYARDS

Both of these wines scored highly at the 2014 San Francisco Chronicle's Wine Competition, placing second only to Domaine Carneros' 2009 Brut ($32) and, somewhat shockingly, above Domaine Carneros' 2007 Le Reve ($100).

Nonvintage Cuvee Brut ($25)

• Made from 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir
• Double Gold Medal, SF Chronicle Wine Competition

Special Reserve Brut ($40)

• Higher end version of the Cuvee, this wine spends an extra 18 months on the lees
• Double Gold Medal, SF Chronicle Wine Competition

SANEL VALLEY

PAUL DOLAN VINEYARDS

Nonvintage Brut ($27)

• Made from Chardonnay

TERRA SAVIA

Blanc de Blancs ($30)
• 100% Chardonnay
• Aged for 36 months

Brut Rouge ($25)
• An unusual sparkler - made from 100% Merlot
• Gold Medal, SF Chronicle Wine Competition (2012)

Tickets are $55 and available online here. For more information, contact Terra Savia at 707-744-1114 or emailinfo@terrasavia.com.

Moms for Sustainability - New Napa Chapter to Meet With Government Officials

A new Napa chapter of MOMS Advocating Sustainability, led by Napa County school board trustee Lisa Lindsey, will meet March 12 with elected officials and agency leaders to talk about the effects on pesticides on children’s health.

The workshop will feature Dr. Myrto Ashe, M.D., and Kristin S. Schafer, policy director for Pesticide Action Network and author of articles on pesticides and health.

The event will be 9:45 - 11 a.m. at Yountville Community Hall.

MOMS Advocating Sustainability (MOMAS) is a Bay Area based organization committed to creating healthy communities for children by reducing their exposure to household and environmental toxins. For more information, visit www.momsadvocatingsustainability.org.

If you're interested in background, see this report.

Update: Feb. 27, 2014

The Napa Valley Register did a followup on the organizer. You can read it here.

Looking for a Good Time This Weekend? Napa Valley CabFestNV Kicks Off in Yountville

This weekend the first CabFest NV kicks off, a three day event devoted to Napa's favorite grape. A benefit for the Napa Valley Performing Arts Center at Lincoln Theater in Yountville, the three day event promises to be both educational and entertaining.

On the education front, Karen MacNeil, one of America's favorite wine experts, will present two workshops including What Makes Great Cabernet Great on Saturday and a session called Cab on the Couch on Sunday featuring MacNeil in conversation with noted Cabernet makers.

Philippe Bascaules of Inglenook

Saturday's also the day of a session on the 1976 Paris Tasting, which put Napa Cabernet on the world stage, when French wine judges in a blind tasting rated Napa's wines higher than the best French Bordeaux.

Among the four panelists scheduled to speak at this session are two noted winemakers whose estate vineyards are certified organic - Chappellet (unnamed attendee) and Philippe Bascaules, winemaker for Inglenook.

On Sunday, prominent Napa wine makers (many of them women) will discuss blending. Participants include Heidi Peterson Barrett, Celia Welch, and others.

Grand tastings take place on both days. Organically grown wines include estate grown Cabernets from Chappellet and Spottswoode.

The entertainment and festivities include Jeff Bridges band, gourmet food, and much more. See the CabFestNV site for details.

Monday, February 24, 2014

VIDEO: Premiere Napa Valley 2014

I put together a little sizzle reel from Premiere Napa Valley featuring the wineries in the forthcoming Organically Napa apps (and site).

Featured are the 15 vintners with wine from organic vines at this prestigious auction.

The first half of the video shows vintners during the barrel tasting in the morning. The second half shows the auction.

Paddle #107 is a Chinese wine buyer I met over lunch. Paddle #169 is Sasha Vaynerchuk of the Wine Library, a NJ wine merchant, who just happened to sit near me in the front row. (Neither buyer is associated with the featured wines). Wine Library was famous for Gary Vaynerchuk's YouTube channel on wine tasting.

For info on the wines and the overall prices paid for them, see the post lower on this page.

 

PREMIERE NAPA VALLEY: Or How The Best Wine Marketers in America Sell The Most Exclusive and Expensive Futures in California


Premiere Napa Valley features the poshest of the posh - one of a kind wines in a category that can only be described as "super, super, super premium"  - in a triumph of wine marketing in America, commanding prices that soar above rival regions.

Cult wines like Continuum and Scarecrow and established brands from To Kalon fruit - including Mondavi and more - all sold here for generally north of $8,000 a case. In fact, the Scarecrow, sourced from a vineyard on what was once the Inglenook estate, took the lead at $260,000 for 5 cases (or $4,333 a bottle), bought by an LA buyer (in a bidding contest with a Japanese gentleman) who wanted to "keep the wine in America."

At this year's event sales were double last year's prices with $6.9 million in sales. Does that tell you something about the market for luxury goods? Premiere Napa Valley should be one of the economic indicators tracked by the Davos attendees at the World Economic Forum.

There were more than 225 lots ranging from 60 bottles to 240 bottles (5-20 cases) from many of Napa's finest producers. As interesting as the wines were, I was personally captivated by the vastly more diverse community of buyers - from the  big boys of Texas oil and the frackers of Oklahoma (the auctioneer got into fracking jokes) to Korean wine powerhouse NaraCellars (owned by Napa vintner Hi Sang Lee, proprietor at Napa's DANA) and an independent Chinese buyer I met at lunch (Paddle #107).

Premiere Napa Valley takes place over several days and includes opportunities for buyers to peruse the wares widely one day and to do a comprehensive, intense but complete sampling of the wines for sale on the following morning before the afternoon auction. Here's what the schedule looks like:

DAY ONE (FRIDAY)


20+ wines were available to taste
with 2009, 2010, and 2011 vintages side by side
• MORNING

Tastings that focus on the quality of past vintages

--A recent vintages tasting focuses on the last 3 years (i.e. retrospective of 2009, 2010 and 2011)

--A more historic tasting focuses on vintages in 10 and 20 year intervals, showcasing the ageability of these wines

This demonstrates to buyers that there is stylistic continuity over time from 2009-2011 wines and depth and complexity (let's hope) achieved by the older wines.

My personal favorite (as well as the favorite of several other wine writers) was the 1984 vintage Brut from Schramsberg. (Yes, I am prejudiced for personal reasons - but it was hard for the Cabs to compete with the singular sparkler in the house and such an old, beautifully complex one at that).




• AFTERNOON

Tastings by AVA

--The AVAs, scattered throughout the valley, put on group tastings, usually with a beguiling assortment of wine bites, from prosciutto to triple creme cheese from Burgundy.

Tasters would be hard pressed to get to all of these geographically disperse gatherings, so some AVAs put on their tastings in rented halls in downtown St. Helena to consolidate the rounds.

With my posse of new friends from the Wine Writers Symposium, I visited the Pritchard Hill tasting (with gorgeous views of Napa Valley) and back in town hit the Spring Mountain and Oak Knoll tastings. The more prepared would be bidders hit the Oakville and Rutherford tastings held in their own districts.

DAY TWO (SATURDAY)

• MORNING

Tasting of all the wines for sale


-- 225 wines are available to try, all from individual vintner stands.

Can you drink 225 wines in 2 hours? Probably not. I heard of people who made it through 75 - that would be around 1.5 minutes per wine?

The best part of Saturday's tasting is that vintners and winemakers man (or woman) the booths so you can get the info - and the wine - straight from the horse's mouth. I dare say most of the serious buyers already know which wines they're going for, well before the barrel tasting morning, so this is last call for many.

The tasting is held at Greystone, the CIA, and features a buffet lunch from their gourmet team - foie gras, and all the Continuum-Shafer-Cakebread-Keever et al you can drink. The vintners have got to get these paddle holders ready for The Big Buy.

• AFTERNOON

The auction

With rousing hard rock music cranked up, the games begin. A screaming Premiere Napa Valley committee chairman (this year it was Hugh Davies of Schramsberg) incites the crowd. I feel as if I am in ancient Rome.

The auctioneers appear - two rotate. A short, leaning-toward-stout guy is up first, followed by a classy lady who's almost a dead ringer for Grace Kelly in a form fitting black dress that is unmistakeably classic Kelly, worn with petite diamond earrings. The pair present an amusing contrast in appearance, but perform equally when it comes to brass tacks - the bidding is fair, spirited and one of the greatest shows in town.

It seems they might know these buyers…from the fracking versus petroleum jokes (two bidders, one from Oklahoma and one from Texas) or the references to various towns or countries. Perhaps this is an annual migration for all of these players.

I sat dead center in the front row, just in front of my new friend Paul Franson (a prolific Napa wine writer) and his friend James Conaway (author of the definitive nonfiction narrative of Napa called Napa: An American Eden.)

To my left was a dashingly handsome fellow who bore a striking resemblance to George Clooney. He was a salesman from Massachusetts, who was madly texting through the first 70 or so lots until the lot his buyer wanted came up for sale. He didn't even get a bid in as his limit was below the first price. Later he bid on another wine - and at least got a first bid in, although that was quickly the end of that as the bidding escalated to heights beyond his buyer's reach.

Sasha Vaynerchuk of Wine Library 
To my right was a threesome from Wine Library, New Jersey's most famous wine seller, thanks in part to the YouTube and social media marketing moxie of founder Sasha Vaynerchuk's son - Gary - who had the biggest YouTube following in recorded history for his wine tasting show, featuring his trusted football team helmet (the Jets, baby) and all star guest lineup.

It was good to be reminded that the family's real business is wine, not YouTube videos.

I watched Sasha (paddle #169) throughout the proceedings as he defeated rivals in the early bidding for Lot #13,  20 cases of Robert Mondavi's To Kalon Cabernet Sauvignon (2012). Vaynerchuk dropped out on a few other lots, bidding $40,000 for lots that eventually went for $90,000. He rebounded to get one of the finest lots for sale - Lot #150, the Bevan Cellars & Chateau Boswell Cab blend, from two mountain vineyards, paying twice as much for it as he had for the Mondavi - $85,000 for 10 cases. (That works out to $708 a bottle versus $354 for the To Kalon).

The guy on my left leaned across me to congratulate him, saying he thought that was one of the best wines on offer.

At the end, I had a quick word - very quick - with Sasha. He said it had been his first year at the event. "No bargains here," he said.

Maybe last year - but that was all from the 2011 vintage, an admittedly difficult year, which no one was particularly enthusiastic about.

The 2012s have put The Valley - Cab City - back on track.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Tasting Notes Were Flowing - Napa Wine Writers Symposium - 2014

No one knows how to seduce the press like the Napa Valley Vintners, who hosted 60 or so wine writers (including yours truly) for the past week at the luxurious Meadowood of Napa resort.

Robert Parker keynoted, Eric Asimov of the New York Times spoke, Jay McInerny offered up novel metaphors and similes, and Columbia University Journalism School professor Michael Shapiro inspired with advice from the heart and road tested techniques. Also appearing: Karen MacNeil of CIA, Jon Bonné of SF Chronicle, Sara Schneider of Sunset, and more.

I'll be posting my photos from the week here soon; in the meantime, enjoy this video…which strangely enough features my hands in the shot below taking a photo of the man of the bon mot - Msr. La McInerny.

 

If you want to catch up with what happened at the conference, consult the symposium's Twitter stream; the hashtag is #wws14.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Premiere Napa Valley: Quick Peek - How Organic Vintners Fared

I'll be posting more coverage of Premiere Napa Valley here soon. In the meantime here's how Napa's organically grown wines fared at the 2014 luxury auction.

They're listed in order of price within each varietal.

CABERNET FRANC

1. Caspar Estate, 2012 Cabernet Franc, Rutherford, 60 bottles, $12,000
Julien Fayard, winemaker
Uniquely: the only Cab Franc from Caspar

2. Long Meadow Ranch, 2012 Cabernet Franc, 60 bottles, $10,000
Ashley Helsey, winemaker
Uniquely: the only Cab Franc from Long Meadow Ranch

3. Oakville Ranch Vineyard, 2012 Cabernet Franc, 60 bottles, $10,000
Ann Vawter, winemaker
Uniquely: best blocks

4. Lateral, 2012 Cabernet Franc, 60 bottles, $6,000
Chris Condos, winemaker
Uniquely: the only Cabernet Franc Lateral makes

CABERNET SAUVIGNON

$50-60,000

1. Ovid Napa Valley, 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, 60 bottles, $60,000
Austin Peterson, winemaker
Uniquely: barrel fermented

2. Spottswoode Estate, 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, 60 bottles, $55,000
Aron Weinkauf, winemaker
Uniquely: barrel selection

$20-50,000

1. Gallica, 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, 60 bottles, $28,000
Rosemary Cakebread, winemaker
Uniquely: Gallica's only single vineyard designate (sourced from Oakville Ranch Vineyard)

2. Chappellet Vineyard, 2012 Red Wine, 120 bottles, $26,000 ($216/bottle)
Phillip Corallo-Titus, winemaker
Uniquely: barrel selection

$10-20,000

1. Ehlers Estate, 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena, 60 bottles, $16,000
Kevin Morrisey, winemaker
Uniquely: best block

2. Inglenook, 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford, 60 bottles, $16,000
Philippe Bascaules, winemaker
Uniquely: barrel selection

3. Pavi Wines, 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon ($16,000)
Rob Lawson, winemaker
Uniquely: Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (92%) and Montepulciano (8%)

4. Rocca Family Vineyards, 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Row 57 Old Vines, 60 bottles, $16,000
Paul Colantuoni, winemaker
Uniquely: a best block bottling from vines planted in 1989

5. Volker Eisele Family Estate, 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, 60 bottles, $12,000
Jordan McKay, winemaker 
Uniquely: best block

CHARDONNAY

1. Grgich Hills Estate, 2012 Miljenko's Old Vine, Carneros, 120 bottles ($12,000)
Miljenko Grgich, winemaker
Uniquely: Old Wente clones

*Neal Family Vineyards, 2013 Chardonnay, Rutherford, 120 bottles (price pending)
Winemaker: Gove Celio 
Uniquely: Neal Family's only Chardonnay

PINOT NOIR

1. Madonna Estate, 2013 Pinot Noir, 120 bottles, $8,000
Andrea, Brette and Taylor Bartolucci, partners
Uniquely: best block

COMING SOON: Photos and videos from the event.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

In Memoriam: Vintners Mourn Death of Biodynamic Consultant Alan York

Alan York
(photo courtesy of Benziger)
Biodynamic vintners around the world are mourning the passing  of a renowned consultant and beloved friend, Alan York, 62, who died last week of pancreatic and liver cancer.

The Louisiana native was the Biodynamic consultant who helped the first wave of vintners in America adopt Biodynamic practices in the 1990s and aided subsequent waves of Biodynamic farmers and vineyardists around the world. His most famous client was the English rock star Sting who brought York in to establish his winery in Tuscany.

Alan Chadwick at Covelo
Originally an apprentice to horticultural legend Alan Chadwick at his renowned Round Valley Institute for the Study of Man and Nature in Covelo, York worked as a garden manager in the Mendocino County project,  then the country's largest Biodynamic center.

Later, contact with this community inspired both the Freys and the Fetzers to grow organically and then to certify the first Biodynamic vineyards in America in 1996. Both engaged him as their Biodynamic consultant.

After his apprenticeship under Chadwick in the 1970s, York taught horticulture at Mercy College in Michigan and then moved to Missouri where he managed a 1,000 acre farm. When the Missouri farm's owner established an apple farm in Boonesville in Mendocino County, Chadwick returned to California to work there.

He became president of the Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association of North America in the late 1990s.

After successfully converting hundreds of acres of vineyards in Mendocino to Demeter certification for the Freys and Jim Fetzer at Ceago, in 1997, the Benzigers hired him to help them adopt biodynamic practices in their estate vineyards in Sonoma. Their first Biodynamic vineyard was certified in 2000.

Other U.S. clients certified throughout the decade of the 2000's include (among others):

• Bonterra, the largest Biodynamic vineyard owner in Mendocino

• Cowhorn, boutique, southern Oregon Rhone wine producers

• Montemaggiore, a premium Syrah producer in Sonoma's Dry Creek Valley

• Quivira, a noted Rhone producer in Dry Creek Valley

• Robert Sinskey Vineyard in Napa's Carneros region

York also worked with vintners in Chile and Israel. Here's a 2012 video in which he explains the principles of biodynamics at Altos Las Hormigas in Chile.


A memorial service will be held in March for friends and clients to honor his memory.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Biodynamic and Organic Winners at SF Chronicle Wine Competition

The most decorated sparkling
wine nobody knows…
McFadden's NV Brut
Heading to the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Tasting this weekend at Fort Mason? Here's a list at all of the winning wines from certified biodynamic or organic vineyards.

Congratulations to all of the winners.

Among them are a few upstarts, including one of my perennial favorites - the McFadden sparkling wines ($25-40) which surprisingly scored higher than Domaine Carneros' top of the line Le Reve ($99).  (McFadden wine club members can score the $25 NV Brut for about $15 during the winery's 40% off sales.)

It was nice to see 8 of the wines from my new biodynamic wine apps taking home awards. There were 7 wines from certified organic vineyards who scored medals, as well, including two from Napa - the Domaine Carneros Estate Pinot Noir and the Rocca Family Cabernet (from Coombsville).

The event is the largest competition of American wines in the world, with more than 5,800 entries from 25 states.

The public tasting takes place Saturday, Feb. 15, from 1:30-5 pm at Fort Mason. Get tickets and details at www.winejudging.com.

Biodynamically Grown Wines


Bordeaux Blends
Gold Medal
• Imagery Estate Winery, Pallas Estate (2011), $65

Cabernet Sauvignon ($40-49.99)

Gold Medal
• Hawk and Horse, Block 3 (2009), $45

Cabernet Sauvignon ($60 and Over)

Double Gold Me
• Benziger Family Winery, Signaterra, Sunny Slope (2011), $66
Gold Medal
• Benziger Family Winery, Signaterra, Three Blocks (2010), $60

Grenache 

Best of Class
• Campovida, Dark Horse (2012), $36

Merlot ($40 and Over)

Best of Class
• Imagery Estate Winery, Pallas (2011), $65

Pinot Noir ($50 and Over)

Double Gold
• Benziger Family Winery, de Coelo, Quintus (2011), $75
Gold
• Benziger Family Winery, Signaterra, Bella Luna (2011), $50

Organically Grown Wines

Cabernet Sauvignon ($60 and Over)
Double Gold Medal
• Rocca Family Vineyards, Collinetta Vineyard (2010), $85

Dessert (RS>4.0)
Gold Medal
• McFadden Late Harvest Riesling (2011), $18

Merlot ($15-19.99)

Gold Medal
• Bonterra (2011), $15.99

Pinot Noir
Gold Medal
• Domaine Carneros, Estate, 2011 - $35

Sauvignon Blanc ($20 and Over)

Gold Medal
• Medlock Ames (2012), $27

Sparkling Wine
Double Gold Medal
• McFaddenVineyard, Brut NV, $25
• McFadden Vineyard, Reserve Brut, $40

Note: In comparison, Napa's Domaine Carneros, scored both above and below Mendocino's McFadden, winning Best of Class for its 2009 Brut, but scoring below McFadden with its most expensive sparkling wine, the 2007 Le Reve, winning a gold medal. (These particular Domaine Carneros vintages were not organically sourced, but future vintages will be).

Zinfandel ($35-40)
Gold Medal
• Lucas Winery (2010), $39.99

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Organic Wines and Vines: Gains in the New Farm Bill - Regaining Lost Ground and Not Much More

California farmers overall got a lot of bennies from the new farm bill passed several days ago but while it might seem like ground is being gained, in most respects, it was more a matter of lost ground being regained for organic farmers.

The subsidy to offset the costs of organic certification is back, after having been taken away in recent years. This enables farmers to get a rebate of 75% of the costs of certification up to $750 per producer. This makes the number of these subsidies available increase tenfold to $11.5 million. But that's small potatoes for the organic food industry, which generates $35 billion in sales. 

Meanwhile most of the crop subsidies continue to go to commodity crop producers and not fruit and vegetable producers.

On the good news front, there is continued $20 million in funding for the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative, a competitive grantmaking program that funds organic research - not exactly a win since it's already in operation with $18-19 million a year budgets.

The bill also allots $5 million for the Organic Data Initiative that gathers statistical data on organic production. 

According to the Wine Institute, the wine industry in California alone has a $34 billion economic impact. 

With organic vineyards being 3% of the state's vineyards - or 3% of the $34 billion - organic vineyard owners and vintners contribute $1 billion in economic impact - at a minimum, as most of their wines are in the higher echelon wines. 

Why aren't they being better looked after in our farm bill?

Sunday, February 2, 2014

This Looks Like Fun: American Wine Movie - The Trailer

I was tipped off by the Brooks wine web site about the promising new documentary American Wine which is coming soon (2014). It takes a new angle on the age old story of falling in love with wine and becoming a winemaker. "Would you have the courage?" is one of the hooks. The film looks very appealing.

Brooks Wine is featured (you see long shots of Janie Brooks Heuck and her nephew Pascal Brooks in their vineyard)…because it has one of the most dramatic wine stories around.

Jimi Brooks, an Orgeon vineyard manager (Maysara was his biggest client) and Biodynamic evangelist (from his time in Burgundy) started his own winery more than a decade ago. During harvest, he had a heart attack in 2004 and died at the age of only 38, leaving behind his young son Pascal, age 9, to whom he also bequeathed his winery. Jimi's sister Janie stepped in to become general manager of the winery until Pascal comes of age.

The documentary has had some pre-release screenings in Oregon.

Janie reports on the Brooks web site that the heart of the film, about 30 minutes, tells the story of Brooks.

Can't wait to see it!

Here's the trailer. Enjoy:

 

Kudos to Qupé! Syrah Ranked Tops in New York Times

I've always been a huge fan of Qupé - who wouldn't be? Bob Lindquist is the all American guy - AND Biodynamic. In the pursuit of great flavor in wine, he bought into the whole Biodynamic approach and makes his wine in the purest possible way - it's certified Biodynamic® Wine, which means nothing (except a sulfites) is added - the wine is fermented on native yeasts only.


So it's very nice to see him getting recognized by Eric Asimov and his New York Times tasting panel in an article this week on California Syrahs.

"Our top wine, the 2010 Qupé, was from Bob Lindquist, one of California’s syrah pioneers. The wine, from the Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard in Edna Valley, was beautifully balanced and already complex with gorgeous flavors of flowers, olives, smoked meat and minerals…"

Nice!

In honor of this recognition, Qupé's put this Syrah on sale - 10% off for the month of February.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Decanter's 90+ Pt. California Cab Picks - Rocca, Spottswoode and Oavkille Ranch



Decanter's just released its panel tasting scores on Top California Cabernets. Three winners came from certified organic vineyards. Kudos to them! All are featured in my forthcoming app Organically Napa: The Wine Finder.

1. Rocca Family, Grigsby Vineyard, Yountville, 91 pts. ($85)

"
Dense black cherry nose with a hint of iron filings and some eucalyptus. Velvety fruit yet has grip and intensity too. This is balanced, sumptuous and rich." 

2. Spottswoode, St. Helena, 91 pts. ($145)

"Sweet, intense blackcurrant nose of great purity and charm. The palate has bright forest fruits and a lively minty edge, with rounded tannins. A sensuous style and a powerful finish."

3. Oakville Ranch, Napa Valley, 90 pts. ($82)

"Smoky blackcurrant nose, which is quite stylish. Glamorous, opulent, sweet fruit with supporting tannins and a pure blackcurrant finish. An elegant wine that is finely tuned with lots of charm."