Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Part 7 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas”: Book Review/Recommendation: The New Connoisseurs’ Guidebook to California Wine and Wineries

As someone deeply immersed in Wine Country, I am a big fan and reader  of books on Wine History, Viticulture, and all things wine. I  have been meaning to do book reviews for some time, so I was pleased to receive a Media sample Charles E. Olken’s successor to his best-selling guide to California wine.

I have found a lack of  true insider wine region guides for the more experienced wine aficionado. As of 2009, California  had amost three thousand wineries. Indeed, within a 30 mile radius of where I live in Russian River, there are almost two hundred in the three closest AVAs. No matter how much you travel, taste, explore, there is always unexplored territory.

I try to venture to Paso Robles regularly these days, and am eager to re-explore the Santa Ynez region, and am also wanting to delve more into Lodi and Livermore, and in a few weeks making my first sojourn to the Sierra’s so this book presented a real world case to explore for usefulness, thus I was excited to take the time to review and use it.

A Great California Wine Primer

Before getting into specifics on each wine region and winery, the first 6o pages are a very informative background on California Wine, with excellent reading on History, Wine Making, and a commentary and background of the many wine varietals in California. I read a lot of wine books, and still gleaned a lot new tidbits.

A table of acres planted by varietal, from 1970 to 2010 was especially fascinating, and enlightening. (I had no idea Carignane, a great Rhone varietal being rediscovered, had 27,000 acres planted in 1970, and is now down to 3600 acres.)

The last 30 pages also has excellent reference material: suggested reading, suggested wine blogs (I didn’t make the list, maybe next edition) and an excellent section on the ‘Language of Wine.’

Getting to The Meat

The majority of the book is devoted to wine regions, maps, and descriptions of wineries. I find many winery guides to be poor in this area, and no more useful than if I just went to the website for that AVA (wine region.)

The summaries of each region are excellent, and the short paragraph on each winery is customized and personal, not regurgitated from a brochure. It does a good job covering wineries of all shapes and sizes. It is not 100% complete, as no guide likely ever will be. Many of the small cult wineries are covered, although a few like Wind Gap were missing. I found descriptions and tips to be quite accurate.

It’s still worthwhile looking up website information for a complete list of varietals. Quivira Vineyards for example, is lauded for their Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc, but no mention of their Rhone varietals program, (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, and a GSM) which is the main reason I personally frequent them. I do like the personal mention and customized highlights of each winery, rather than the usual generic rattling off of what they make.

But Wait, There’s More: Online Support & Updates

Monthly updates to the book are provided via registration. Subscribers are emailed when an update is posted. Embracing social media, the website also publishes a daily blog, with a recurring theme each week. (Monday is ‘Monday Manifestos’, Rants and Opinions, Friday is ‘Friday Getaway Day, Wine Country Destinations, etc etc)

Where to Buy

The book is published by the University of California Press. It’s also available on, as well as local booksellers.

An enjoyable read and invaluable resource for any wine lover, of any experience level.

Highly Recommend – cheers!

The 12 Days of Wine Christmas

Part 1 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas”: Wine Road Winter Wineland, Redwood Foodbank Raffle.
Part 2: “12 Days of Wine Christmas” – Gadget Review of the VinniBag
Part 3 of “The 12 Wine Days of Christmas” – The Wine Check (no, its not money!)
Part 4 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas” Wine Clubs – A Review of Different Types and Benefits
Part 5 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas” The Wine Soirée aerator & Limited Edition L/S
Part 6 of “The 12 Wine Days of Christmas” Lookout Ridge Winery & Wines for Wheelchairs

Part 5 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas” The Wine Soirée aerator & Limited Edition L/S

Ten days until Christmas for that hard to shop wine lover. (Or if your like me, a wee present for myself too! )

Wine aerators are popular items these days, and not uncommon to see being used in a Tasting Room. (more restaurants should consider this, although with the new Wine Soiree L/S you can bring your own!

Why Aerate Wine?

First, aeration is generally for reds. There are some whites that improve with oxidation, but usually for most whites I recommend leaving alone, white wine is generally much more sensitive to oxidation.

The whole concept of letting wine breathe, or aerate, is simply maximizing your wine’s exposure to the surrounding air. By allowing wine exposure to air, it will often open up, the flavor profile will soften and mellow out a bit and the overall flavor characteristics should improve. This is often true in younger, and/or bigger more tannic wines.

How NOT To Aerate

The practice in my parents day was to pull the cork and leave the bottle. Aeration is about surface area exposure of liquid to air, and this method accomplishes nothing. A study I read years ago showed a bottle opened and left for 24 hours (nothing poured out) experienced minimal oxidation.

Why Not Just  Dump it In A Decanter?

Lot of reasons; I generally only decant if I have a group of people, or I am committed to the whole bottle that night, and even then I may not, as I may not want it to aerate THAT fast.  Thus enter a wine aerator, where I can do this by the glass.

What is a Wine Soirée?

It sounds like a party in your glass, and while it can be, its certainly more. Soirée fits securely into any wine bottle allowing you to pour, without dripping, directly through the Soirée. While going through the Soirée, the wine gently is exposed to air. Their website has an excellent post on the Soirée Science

Is it Hard to Use?

Open bottle, stick in Soirée, pour, upright. Seriously its about that easy, but for those of you who want proof, click here for a pictorial tutorial.

Where Can I Get One?

Lots of places. Wine Soiree is sold by many wineries, as well as specialty retail stores, and Whole Foods. A complete list is available here. You can also buy it online, for $25, OR $30 giftwrapped, ready to go, perfect!

What is the Wine Soirée L/S?

Wine Industry people travel a fair amount, as do many wine enthusiasts, and we like our wine gadgets with us. (I was given a hard time once on an American Airlines flight for having brought my own Riedel O glass on board.) The standard Wine Soirée isn’t well suited for travel.

Voila – the new L/S was introduced to enable you to take it on flights, to your local restaurant, dinner party or your friends house that buys low end young plonk Cabernet that desperately needs some aeration.

This is an awesome stocking stuffer or gift. Available only online,  in limited quantities for 49.99.

Enjoy, and cheers!

The 12 Days of Wine Christmas

Part 1 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas”: Wine Road Winter Wineland, Redwood Foodbank Raffle.

Part 2: “12 Days of Wine Christmas” – Gadget Review of the VinniBag

Part 3 of “The 12 Wine Days of Christmas” – The Wine Check (no, its not money!)

Part 4 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas” Wine Clubs – A Review of Different Types and Benefits

Part 4 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas” Wine Clubs – A Review of Different Types and Benefits

Are wine clubs a good value? Do they make good gifts? I will explore the various benefits, but in a short answer,  for the wine aficionado there are a number of reasons to consider. These  make an excellent gift for parents, kids over 21, people in far reaches of the country, as a way to expand their horizons, and get them off of ‘plonk’.

There are a variety of types of wine clubs; generally you can categorize them into Three:

  • Wineries Clubs that are Direct to Consumer (DTC)
  • Wine Shop Wine Clubs
  • 3rd Party or Aggregator like Wine Clubs.

Winery Wine Clubs

The most common of wine clubs; these can vary significantly by winery, but have numerous advantages.

  • Club members get discounts. Wine Clubs often have multiple tiers, and the higher the commitment, generally the larger the discount. (This is less of a benefit if you are already receiving Industry discount; although I have one wine club that doesn’t give Industry, a bit irksome, but love the wines.)   If you aren’t Industry, and buy a case or more a year of wine from a winery; consider joining the club if for no other reason  to save money. Wine Clubs like Quivira offer a large discount, on par with Industry, for the First 30 days of a new Wine Club release.
  • Access to Releases for Wine Club Only. Many of my clubs will do very small releases, perhaps 25-50 cases. These wines maybe reserved for Wine Club only and not for sale. Often this is a compelling reason why I join; lesser know varietals like Cinsault, a Rhone red varietal I am fond of; is the only way I can get it from Preston Vineyards.  Similar with Paso Robles Rhone producer Tablas Creek. Even very large producers like Kendall Jackson, who ship hundreds of thousands of cases a year; have wine clubs that offer small, under 20k case a year productions, available only in the tasting room and/or to Club members.
  • For Locals: Wine Clubs offer pickup events with music, food, and of course wine, often free pour. Sometimes these are free, or at very low cost. At a recent Wine Club event at Longboard, for $25  the event offered a band, an awesome pulled catered pork feast, free pour of new releases, and a bottle of Sauv Blanc to take home…find entertainment like this for that kind of money! Plus as a local you get to interact with the winemaker and the hospitality staff. Wine is as much about the experience and artisanship as it is the beverage.
  • For Non-Locals: Many great small wineries can’t find distribution as you go East. Why buy only mass produced wines, or be limited to what your local wine shop has, when 2-4 times a year you can receive a few bottles (or more) from your favorite producer.  If you are having your wine shipped, look at shipping costs and see if a larger membership makes sense.
  • Other benefits. Occasionally something very unique is offered. Rotie Cellars, one of my favorite Walla Walla Rhone producers is offering, until end of year only, Lifetime Pricing.  New members signing on by 12/31/10 get fixed pricing for the duration of their membership. FYI, Rotie Cellars is a highly rated, sought after producer, and the wine club list is nearing full and will close soon to allocation only.

Wine Shop Wine Clubs

No matter if you live in Wine Country, or in Wisconsin, I always encourage finding a good local wine ship to frequent. Here in Wine Country, its generally how we get wine from outside the area. In much of the US, this is your best bet to get small producers you can not find via retail. Mounts Family awesome Malbec or Grenache, or Cartograph Wines Pinot or Gewürztraminer isn’t going to be on your local Safeway, but your local wine shop may have it, or could order it if asked.

My favorite wine shop and wine shop club, is K&L Wines, also known as ‘my dealer.’ Why?

First their selections of wine, especially International, is amazing. They send buyers out all over the world to buy direct, so their prices are great. (Takes the sting out of not getting industry discount!)

Second, you can order quickly online, and WillCall your orders for 2 months. I order a bottle here, a bottle there, and then pick up my few cases when I swing through San Fran. (Other options are Redwood City, and Hollywood, CA.) They will also accumulate and ship; I used K&L regularly when I lived in Denver after I left the Bay area in 2002 .

Third, K&L has a number of wine clubs, but their most unique is the Personal Sommelier Service. You literally create your own wine club, picking price range, wine type, region. You can also pick from their extensive list of buyers, who makes your selections.So for example,  each month I have Mulan Chan-Randal pick for me a Rhone Red blend, from the Rhone Valley of France, for $20-$40. I have additional club picks where I have her select a Gigondas, and a Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Then I have a West Coast Red Rhone club, picking from CA, OR, WA. If I wanted I could make that as specific as Paso Robles, or Sonoma, only. If your selection is too narrow, the system will advise you perhaps you should widen your selection. You can revise any of the many variables each month if you like, or suspend one. You can have your monthly selection shipped, or held for Will Call. Highly Recommend.

3rd Party Wine Clubs

Lastly, there are ‘aggregator’ like wine clubs, like the International Wine of the Month Club, whose Chianti I reviewed recently. California Wine Club is one I belonged to many moons ago when living in Texas. Many lifestyle publications, like Sunset Magazine also have one. These can vary widely in focus and benefits, but typically they source wines from many producers, and include educational material, food pairings, winery information. These can be a great way to get diverse exposure of wines, domestic and International.  If you live in an area where unique, interesting wines are hard to get, this is a great way to get a regular supply of something new and different.

A Gift For Others, Or Yourself

Many wine clubs are available in a giftable, pre-paid fashion. Buy your parents, adult children, or your boss, a 3, 6, or 12 month pre-paid  membership, and let them enjoy your present throughout the year, as well as perhaps broaden their horizons and palate.


The 12 Days of Wine Christmas

Part 1 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas”: Wine Road Winter Wineland, Redwood Foodbank Raffle.

Part 2: “12 Days of Wine Christmas” – Gadget Review of the VinniBag

Part 3 of “The 12 Wine Days of Christmas” – The Wine Check (no, its not money!)

Part 3 of “The 12 Wine Days of Christmas” – The Wine Check (no, its not money!)

Hmmm 11 days until Christmas, look for a few double posts per day soon!

Continuing on our series of gifts for wine lovers, today we look at a very cool, reasonably priced item; ‘The Wine Check.’

Checking a case of wine is more and more common these days, given FAA carry-on restrictions. Both industry and consumer do it; and some airlines like Horizon Air don’t even charge a fee to check on its Santa Rosa to Portland route.
I checking shipping wine; in summer months especially; stay away from the hot Brown UPS truck!

As someone who has toted a shipper box quite a few times; it’s a hassle! Shippers are heavy, and don’t play well with other luggage, especially if you are solo, checking in a rental car, etc.

The Wine Check is perfect, it has double layers of insulation and padding; one from the case Styrofoam insert, and one from the padded, insulated case. Best of all, it has a handle and wheels! When you and your wine get safely home, it collapses and can be stored until the next trip.

The Wine Check can be ordered online at and is only $49 without shipper box, $54 with. (Suggest latter.)

It can also be picked up at a number of Napa & Sonoma hotels, check a list here, or call 707-343-9463.

Get your wine home, faster, safer and easier – love it!

Cheers and come back tomorrow for more of the Series!

The 12 Days of Wine Christmas:

Part 1 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas”: Wine Road Winter Wineland, Redwood Foodbank Raffle.

Part 2: “12 Days of Wine Christmas” – Gadget Review of the VinniBag

Part 2: “12 Days of Wine Christmas” – Gadget Review of the VinniBag

As someone who travels a fair amount for work (the ‘other’ job) I was delighted to get a sample of VinniBag to test out. Given you can’t take bottles through security anymore, checking a bottle of wine, isn’t uncommon for me. Wine bottles are fairly sturdy, but luggage takes some serious abuse in handling, and just tossing a bottle into the bag, risks breakage and ruining everything.

Actually they point out on their website quite accurately, one need not limit it to wine. Almost any glass container would travel more safely in this.

The geek in me loves the technical details:

“VinniBag was engineered specifically to withstand air travel and high altitudes. The design and materials allow for significant changes in air pressure and temperatures. Sophisticated testing was done at an independent test lab using altitude chambers that surpass normal conditions in aircraft cargo holds.VinniBag can also handle some pretty tough temperatures. The important part is to load, inflate & deflate VinniBag in normal temperatures for proper performance.”

Deflated, the bag is small, as you can see, sitting next to a Riedel O glass.

This is a very easy product to use, nonetheless instructions are provided on a leaflet with picture, and simple ones are also on the bag.

1. Insert the Wine Bottle, to where it says ‘Stop Here’. Partially inflate, flatten the bottom seal.

2. Roll bottom portion up and buckle. Finish inflation. Voila.

Check out a funny, great video of Vinnibag in action.

When you get your bottle home, simply de-inflate, open and enjoy. This sturdy item is re-usable.

Vinnibag is available online, or at these retail stores and wineries.

Under $30 is a great, inexpensive gift any wine aficionado will find useful.

Cheers, and come back soon for Part 3!

Part 1 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas”: Wine Road Winter Wineland, Redwood Foodbank Raffle.

Seasons Greetings to the fine readers of Simple Hedonisms! This article is the first of twelve (I hope!) on the ’12 Days of Wine Christmas.’

We will be exploring an array of Wine and Wine Country related gifts each article, ranging from a few events, gadgets and books, and more, as well as the occasional philanthropic touch, which the Wine Country is renowned for, especially this time of year.

The First Day of Christmas: Tickets to The Winter Wineland, and Redwood Food Bank Raffle Tickets

Winter Wineland is a special event for me;  I can remember it, 2 years ago as the event that made me decide it was time to stop driving up here every month, and move here, and by July, voila I had. (Even when my relationship partner at that time got cold feet at the very last minute. ) My life has changed 100x for the better, and my only regret was I didn’t commit and move back in 1999 when I was first working/commuting to Petaluma.

What is Winter Wineland?

This is the 19th year of the event, organized by the Wine Road – the amazing organization that does events and marketing for Russian River Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Alexander Valley, Sonoma Coast AVAs.

This year 125 wineries (wow!) are participating, Jan. 15th and 16th. Each winery will have something special and unique; food pairings, art, library wine pourings, tours, and more. The complete program is here. (Note this is still being updated, final completion is Jan. 7th.) Last year I wrote a series of 4 articles for the event, feel free to peruse.

Tickets are $45 for both days, or $35 for Sunday. That’s a great  entertainment value, and gift for the wine lover in your circle of loved ones.

Beef Up Your Gift with a Raffle Ticket for a $2600 Prize, And Help fight Hunger!

For only $10, you can purchase a raffle ticket to win one of three amazing packages, each worth $2600. The packages are here, I will tease you with the first one:

Package 1

• 2 nights Farmhouse Inn – the new “barn” suites ($1400 value) exp. 5/11/2011
• 2 nights Fountaingrove Inn – includes breakfast for 2 people ($400 value) exp. 10/11/2011
• Dinner for two – at Farmhouse Inn ($200 value) exp. 5/11/2011
• West Sonoma Inn – spa treatment ($100 value) exp. 8/20/2011
• Arista Winery – Hummer vineyard tour and tasting for two ($100 value) exp. 11/01/2011
• Rustic at Francis Ford Coppola Winery – lunch or dinner ($100 value) exp. 11/01/2011
• Healdsburg Bar & Grill – lunch or dinner ($40 value)
• 2 tickets – Wine & Food Affair, Winter Wineland & Barrel Tasting ($260 value)

You can purchase tickets here. A single ticket is $10, three are $25, and ten are only $50 ($5 each!)

Add it to your Winter Wineland ticket gift, or buy this is a standalone. Or just donate and do some good for fighting Hunger in Sonoma County. Think we don’t have hunger here amidst our bounty? Take a second to read the 2010, detailed report. (I teared up reading this and bought a $50 ticket.) Help the Redwood Food Bank help those in need.

Hunger In Sonoma County Study Facts

  • up to 35% were forced to choose between paying for food and paying for other basic necessities
  • 33.3% had to choose between payingfor food or gas for their car
  • 35.2% had to choose between paying for food or paying for utilities
  • 32.5% had to choose between paying for food or medicine and medical care
  • 32.4% had to choose between paying for food or their rent/mortgage
  • 30% do not have access to a working car limiting their ability to seek food, services and employment
  • 21.1% have a hard time paying their rent and were late paying it in the previous month thus jeopardizing theirliving situation
  • 16.9% said their children were hungry the previous year.
  • 9.9% have no place to live

None of the people interviewed in this Hunger Study ever imagined they would be seeking food assistance.
Each person had a story to tell which included fortune and misfortune, as well as decisions made and circumstances beyond their control.

Raffle Ticket Sales end Dec 15th!!

More to Come

Come back each day for another suggestion. (Or sign up for email updates.) Feel free to email or post, comments, suggestions, questions, I love to hear from readers.

A very warm, cheers!

Artisan Wines, Traditions of Italy found in a new Sonoma Tasting Room – Portalupi 2008 Barbera

Winemaker Tim Borges greets guests daily

There’s a new tasting room off the Plaza in downtown Healdsburg, California: Portalupi Wine. Healdsburg lies at the convergence of 3 renowned Sonoma county wine-growing regions: Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley, and Alexander Valley – also known as the Wine Road. The Plaza is host to a number of tasting rooms, dining and lodging establishments. Here Jane Portalupi and Tim Borges have created an engaging oasis where you can experience the full portfolio of Portalupi wines, learn about wine, and recharge. Tim has been making wine and building winery businesses in Napa and Russian River Valley since the 1980s. Over the years, he developed relationships with the vintners he now sources grapes from. Many are highly-sought-after grapes from proven vineyards. This allows Portalupi to craft their distinctive artisan wines.

Jane and Tim began Portalupi in 2002, with the name and wines inspired by their rich Italian heritage. Jane’s family came from the Piemonte region of Northern Italy, known as the birthplace of the Barbera grape. Jane’s grandmother Marina began making wine in the late 1800’s in Piemonte. She later became a successful entrepreneur retailing Italian food and wine in California.

A Focus on Learning about Wine

Tim is in the tasting room every day, pouring and sharing his wine knowledge with guests. He offers daily sensory seminars including basics such as “understanding wine varietals” and “how to read a label.” If you are new to wine, or just enjoy talking wine with winemakers, this is a great opportunity to immerse yourself right in the center of Healdsburg.

Recharging in the Portalupi Tasting Room

Tech-Savvy Tasting and a “Non-Club”

In addition to free high-speed Wi-Fi, Portalupi’s tasting room is equipped with charging and docking equipment for every variety of device. Apple iPads are used on the tasting bar and Portalupi will even loan you one to use while you are there! Also in the neuvo spirit, Portalupi’s wine club requires no advance purchase commitment. Dubbed Appassionato, “non-club” membership benefits include 10% wine discounts, complimentary tastings and wine classes, and free case shipping.

The Wines

Portalupi’s grapes come from vineyards in Napa, Sonoma, Monterey and Nevada counties and the Central California coast — including Russian River Valley, Dry Creek Valley and Santa Lucia Highlands. This access to fruit is reflected in a diverse portfolio of varietals and packages – from the new 1.89 Liter Red Wine packaged in a real milk jug (equivalent to 2-1/2 bottles of wine), to the petite 500 ml Dessert Wine made in the Porto style.  Portalupi also produces white wine and red wine blends, a Paso Robles Pinot Noir and 3 Zinfandels. In keeping with the food wine theme they also offer a selection of branded olive oils and balsamics.

We tasted through the list, from the white wine blend to the Port, savoring each stop and bottle shape along the way. With the family’s Italian heritage, it’s no surprise to find Barbera on the list.  Below we review the current vintage of Barbera — Nevada County 2008.

Jane Portalupi and Wine Family

“Sip and Fit” January Restorative Event

The Tasting Room is available for corporate parties, birthdays, and tours with customized wine education and fun, personalized wine gifts. To help wine country dwellers and visitors recover from holiday excesses, Portalupi is hosting “Sip and Fit,”  a wine country revival weekend with Live Fit  and Healdsburg’s Camillia Inn, January 21-23.  Contact the Camillia Inn for details — ask about special rates for locals to participate without lodging.

Portalupi Tasting Room is open daily, 10:30 am to 7:00 pm and online. Located 1 block off the plaza at 107 North Street, Healdsburg CA, 707.395.0690.


Wine: 2008 Portalupi Barbera — Penn Valley, Nevada County

Color:  Deep, inky purple

Aromas: Sea salt, pepper, wet slate.

In the Mouth: Layers of fig, plum, and licorice. Pleasant heat at the back of the mouth with a long finish. The wine doesn’t come across as high-alcohol despite it’s 15.3% content. Rustic and bold — a food wine.

Pairing: Taste with Fig Newtons. For fine dining, pair this Barbera with braised lamb shanks or wild boar carpaccio.

Price: $36

Portalupi 2008 Barbera

Wine Geek Details:

Alcohol: 15.3%

Harvest: 10/07/08, hand picked

Brix = 25.8

TA = 0.77

pH = 3.23

Vineyard: Pendagio Vineyard

Acreage:  3 acres Prunato clone

Cases Produced: 350

AVA: Nevada County, CA

Aging:  18 months in Slovakian medium plus toasted red oak barrels, 1/3 new; 1/3 1 year old; 1/3 2 year old

Winemaker: Tim Borges

Portalupi Website


A Few Examples of Wine Cellar Art

Murals, carvings and mosaics are some of the artistic creations that can add beauty and glamour to your wine cellars, making it more pleasant to the eyes and defies dullness. Doing it yourself is always an option but selecting art from an artist can give your wine cellar a certain flair. There are many resources on-line but it takes an intense look to see the difference in their outcome.

Hand Painted MuralsPainting and Murals

Traditionally, painting has been a great way to make something looks better! What is nice about it is it can be originally designed according to your taste and the dimension of the area. All murals are handmade and painted on canvas using oil or acrylic. This can brighten your storage room and could be the center of attraction.

Stained GlassStained Glass

Another excellent way to brighten up your cellar with uniqueness and beauty is the use of stained glass. It is very innovative as it can be used on archways or glass rack openings. Using a fluorescent slim-lites at its back can be very tantalizing and can produce rich and colourful light reflection. There are two types of glass that can be used for this, the  art glass or standard industry stained glass.

Etched Mirrors

Another creative way to beautify your cellar is by using mirrors. It can make the looks spacious and brightens up the room. Modifying this precious reflector can also enhance looks and more personalized. You can have your name or initials painted on it or may have your own design that reflects your personality. It could be put at the center, between your wine racks, or on the walls with lightings to emphasize its beauty!

Mosaic Art

Composed of tiny materials like broken tiles, porcelains and stained glass put together to create and image soothing to the eyes, mosaic art is impressive and unique. It is handmade and sealed with outer covering for protection and assurance to stay long. With the reflection of light striking the little granules of glasses used as material, it can radiates glittering lights that are pleasant and making the room lively. Not only at the sides, but it can also be used on table and tops.

These are fabulous creation to make you feel the satisfaction as you visit your wine cellar and choose your favourite wine. Aside from these, you can also use hand painted tiles and tumbled stones.

What is your favorite piece of art that you have seen in a wine cellar?

Author: Kristi Davis is the Interactive Marketing Manager at Wine Cellar Innovations.  She loves working with wine lovers to be able to successfully create beautiful wine storage.  Follow her on Twitter or ‘like’ them on Facebook to win a free metal wine rack. Cheers!

Chapter Six: Garagiste Rhone Adventure Continues: 4 in One Day; & The Crush Facility Revealed

Finally, a quiet afternoon emerges (Thanks to a cancelled Viticulture class) to continue the 2010 Garagiste Saga. Picking up where we left off was my flurry of a weekend, getting my beloved Grenache Blanc up from Santa Ynez, neutral white barrels strapped in tow.  (As told in Sonoma Rhone Garagiste Part 5 – Grenache Blanc Road Trip, and a new Test of Endurance.)

The weekend went mostly as planned, albeit with less sleep planned Friday and Saturday night. The Bonny Doon Cigare Volante Retrospective dinner was incredible, and a thrill. Beside’s getting some chat time with icon Randall Grahm, I managed to sneak in some tastings, served personally by GM, Heather who was a friendly wealth of knowledge. The Bonny Doon team is genuinely enthusiastic about what they do – and who could blame them.The dinner meant to end at 9ish went nearly til Midnight.

Saturday cellar work and tasting with Anthony Yount of Denner, and his own label Kinero, as well as Amy of Ranchero Cellars, (former winemaker at Edward Sellers) who makes an amazing Carignan, was a blast, and I stayed up too late having dinner with friends, cutting short the sleep for Sunday’s long day….but sleep is replaceable; time shared with special people isn’t.

Sunday went mostly to plan, with a minor trailer mishap. It was a 16 hour day; exhausting, but incredibly gratifying.

The Next Marathon Begins

The following week brought a new set of challenges. I still had Syrah, Grenache, Marsanne, and Roussanne to pick at Saralee’s Vineyard. Two were about ready, two needed a tad more hang time. Murphy’s Law rose its head; Mother Nature flexed her biceps, we had rain, coming, lots of it. Then that thing called work (my real job) reared it’s head with an emergency trip 3 timezones away AND With more behind it. ALL of the fruit would have to come in and I was gone part of the week. After suppressing some panic, I mapped out the plan.

It worked out, despite almost no margin for error. Up early Monday morning (right after the Grenache Blanc journey), blaze to SFO, travel East, full day of meetings, race back.

Russian River Madness

Thursday morning at Saralee’s it was a like a battlefield; every Vintner wanted their fruit off, many thousands of tons. Unruffled, Saralee sat amidst it all, phone in hand, never terse, always calm and friendly, marshalling troops like a General, as trucks rolled in and out. “This one to Napa” “That one to

Saralee Kunde

Crushpad” “The next to San Fran”. I sat in awe and renewed admiration that my 4 half ton lots even registered, but she treated me as if I was some major label driving off with a semi truck load, not a trailer behind my Toyota FJ.

Where Are You Doing All This AnywayCrushing at Old World Winery

Technically, most of my harvest this year isn’t really “garagiste” depending on your definition. I have a crusher/destemmer and a basket press at home; but it simply wasn’t practical for this scale, nor do I (yet) have a forklift, and I needed a better press to whole cluster press the whites. I have small lots of each fermenting in the garage, and I did 1/4 ton of Sangiovese again this year by hand; but I decided at the beginning of Harvest, given I was paying 2k/ton for high quality fruit, a better facility was needed.

I lucked out in that I had friended Steven Washuta, a bright young gentleman, and recent graduate of Oenology from Walla Walla, who  relocated here this summer to start as an Assistant Winemaker at a nearby, small winery, below radar to many, called Old World Winery. Darek Trowbridge is the winemaker and proprietor. Darek is an affable, hard working, passionate wine maker; we hit it off right away, and he agreed to let me to the bulk of my project at his facility.

Darek is a huge proponent of Natural Wine Making, long before it became the cool thing to do. This meant I had to jump more quickly dainto things I had planned, like native yeast fermentation, but I am glad I did. Darek has been supportive, patient, and he (and Steve) have been a Godsend. As blessed as I am to live in this wonderful region surrounded by wines; its in many ways the people here that enrich and fulfill my life, and I have been blessed, via the wine industry, to make the friendships of many great people, such as these too. (I have more to thank as well…next post.)

More on Old World Winery in a future post;  now that Darek is focused on making them no longer a secret, the word is already spreading quickly, as popular wine writer and reviewer  Steve Heimoff wrote about Darek and Old World this week.

Back To Harvest

Thursday was a busy day, but went quite well. My biggest disappoint of the day was I got a good bit less grenache than hoped, the oneRaining Grenache I actually wanted more of. Nothing could be done, and I was damn lucky I got what I got. (I am looking for more still, realizing at this point its going to be already fermenting or done. Will gladly pay for 200-500 pounds of crushed or pressed if know if any excess.)

We whole cluster pressed the Marsanne and Roussanne. For experimentation  I kept a small portion of each aside and did some skin contact for 24 hours. The Grenache and Syrah were destemmed (a small amount of whole cluster with stems went into the bottom of each bin) lightly crushed to break the skins, and briefly cold soaked. I took a small amount of Syrah and Grenache must (grapes and juice) home and pressed it for a 5 cases of a blended Rose.

The next day the rain began, and didn’t end for days. The cold temps and native yeast took a while for fermentation to kick off, but all are happily fizzing and bubbling away, and I beam over them like a proud expecting father.

The Quest for M – Mourvedre

One dilemma loomed…as I have shared, one of the main reasons I did so many varietals was for blending…and I really wanted to make a GSM. (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre.) I thought I had lots of time…Mother Nature was throwing me curve balls. I had banked on Paso, as they usually harvest right before Thanksgiving. Rarely seen frost, and rain blew this. I knew I had  to drive elsewhere, little exists (for sale) in Sonoma County…but more widely grown in Paso Robles, Santa Ynez, Lake County and Livermore. Calls everywhere were coming up empty. The GSM was going to be a bit lopsided without any ‘M’ and I was already short on Grenache which I had hoped to be a dominate varietal. What would this hopeful Rhone Ranger wannabe do? Stay tuned!

The Garagiste Series (click to read):

My 2010 Rhone Harvest – Garagiste or Passion Gone Runaway?
Part Two of My 2010 Rhone Garagiste Project: It’s All about the Vineyard (my source revealed)
Sonoma Rhone Garagiste Part 3: Where to Crush?
Sonoma Rhone Garagiste Part 4: First Crush aka No Plan Survives Battle
Sonoma Rhone Garagiste Part 5 – Grenache Blanc Road Trip, and a new Test of Endurance
Chapter Six: Garagiste Rhone Adventure Continues: 4 in One Day; & The Crush Facility Revealed

Announcing Simple Hedonisms New Writers; additional AVA Coverage Expansion, Apply Within

One of the beauties of the ever expanding wine industry (new wineries  continue to open despite the downturn) is the never ending source of wineries, new releases, winemakers, wine venues, and events to explore.

Frankly it’s downright daunting…I can’t get to all of the 180+ wineries in a 30 mile radius of where I live, let alone get deep into Napa, an hour away, all of Sonoma Valley 45 minutes away, and remote areas I love including Paso Robles, 3.5 hours away, Willamette Valley…and so many more. (Not too mention my full time VP of Sales/Marketing job, the social media assistance I offer, and my runaway garagiste project.

Simple Hedonisms, due to time constraints, has yet to fully evolve into what I want to write; which is the stories of artisans producers, and consumer wine education. It does to some extent achieve it’s goal of “connecting enthusiastic consumers to passionate artisans” via event coverage, and wine reviews, but it is still my desire to go much deeper.  By adding more writers, and AVA (wine region) specialists, I hope to be able to capture more individual focus on AVA’s, and free me up to broader focus, as well as add more local insider views and expertise.

Are we trying to become Palate Press…not even close, completely different intents and focus. Simple Hedonisms is a non-monetized blog (we attempt to cover costs is all, not that anything is wrong with monetizaton!) designed to assist the wine industry and associated local businesses.

Two New Writers

A few months ago we announced the addition of Katherine Parker, a resident of Sonoma Valley. Today I am pleased to announce the addition of new writers Deborah Kravitz (who’s guest articles have been a big hit) and Tracy Logan-Immordino.

Deborah brings a great perspective of both avid consumer and now some hospitality experience. She is my personal go to person for California Pinot, and tips on Mendocino County. Tracy is a long time employee of the Wine Road, representing the AVA’s of the Alexander, Dry Creek and Russian River Valleys.  You can read more about them in the new Writer’s Bio tab.

What Simple Hedonisms is Looking For

  • People with decent writing skills and a passion for wine, and the industry.
  • Living in or close to,  a key area or AVA: Napa, Mendocino, Paso Robles, Monterrey/Carmel, Santa Cruz, Willamette, Walla Walla, etc. and the desire to make that a focus.
  • Ability to write two (minimum) – four  short articles a month on local events, wineries, related topics. People generally write best about what excites them, so I to embrace each writer’s personal focus and passion.

What Do I Get out of This, Why Not just Start, (or Continue) my Own Blog

  • If you think starting a blog presence and getting a following is easy in today’s crowded world, guess again. It takes substantial persistence to get momentum underway, and then maintain it. Not to mention design, creation, maintenance and regular content. The Simple Hedonisms brand is already well established, with a good following, and one that can be easily expanded.
  • Training and assistance on using WordPress.
  • Readership and traffic grows steadily each month; as of Sept 2010 averaging around 3,000 unique readers and 200,000 hits. It’s not Vinography, but for 12 months that’s respectable, and the wider focus will grow readers.
  • If you publish your own blog, with some discussion, content is open to re-use.
  • After a successful trial period, you will be provided with business cards, and occasional wine samples and event tickets. This is not the main incentive for coming on board, but an additional perk.
  • This format is open, with possibilities for future evolution, growth and ideas.
  • You will be part of a collaborative team and benefit from idea sharing, knowledge growth, and exposure.

What Simple Hedonisms Isn’t

  • We aren’t sample or ticket whores, are fully against bloggers that are, and any discovery of aggressive solicitation, or behaviors will result in parting ways.
  • We aren’t argumentative (when writing), engage in ‘blogger wars’, or drama. Our focus is consumers and the wine industry.


If you, or someone you know would be interested, contact me and we can discuss live. We will start with several new writers, then possibly phase a few more in.  A sample of writing is request, if available.

What do Readers Think?

Ultimately this is for you. Additional writers means more regular articles, broader coverage, and view points. Would 4-5 short pieces a week be too much? Do you like, or dislike covering more AVA’s?

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