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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

America's Adult Beverage of Choice

Beer is #1 in America though wine has closed the gap in the last few years.

Per an article in The Drinks Business the popularity of beer is at its highest level in a decade. However, men over 55 years old prefer wine as do women.

Gallup has an interesting poll showing the popularity of beer, wine, and spirits for the past couple of decades. There is a slow, but steady increase in the popularity of spirits over that time. Wine shows a bigger increase while beer has been up and down, but mostly down. Interestingly, it appears that during the recession wine decreased and beer increased in popularity as folks were probably looking for something less expensive.


Friday, July 25, 2014

Wine and Food Pairing--It can be Simple

Some People Want to Make it Complicated

Remember how you used to think sex was complicated? Later you figured out it's really pretty simple. When it comes to wine & food matching there's not really that much you need to know. Oh, there's been billions of words written on food/wine pairing by gobs of experts. (This post is not written by an expert, btw). Is there really any way to know the nuances of every wine you might buy and know exactly how to prepare a certain meal to match it? I mean, do I need a different wine for the meat, the potatoes, and the vegetable? Well, I'm not going to do that and neither is anyone else I know. Life's already too complicated!

The Basic Law of Wine and Food Pairing

If you take a great meal and have a mediocre wine with it, overall you have a mediocre meal. If you take an average meal and add a great wine you have a great meal.

Extreme Examples

Let's say you go out to the nicest restaurant in town. You order their fresh seafood of the day, their best steak, or maybe a nice pork tenderloin. Pair that with White Zinfandel and see how the meal works out.

Or let's say you grill up some Safeway hamburger and put it on you basic white bun with your basic condiments. Now open up a ten year old notable Cabernet you've been saving. You've just created that special event! And those burgers will taste pretty good.

Pairing by Quality

Okay, you're not likely to do either, but you get the idea. Always upgrade the wine. If you've got $60 to spend on the meal don't spend $50 on food and $10 on the wine. Make it more like $30 each.

Notice there's been no mention of, "Serve white wine with this and red wine with that." It's not as important to having a quality wine. Not saying you can't have an inexpensive bottle of wine; just saying it won't be as memorable of a meal.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Gallo -- All you need is money and lawyers

Gallo has never been what you'd call a friend of other wineries or grape growers. Most wineries and growers, especially the smaller ones, get along just fine and will help each other out. Gallo is not a friend of wine wholesalers either as they've been really good at muscling the smaller guys out. Yeah, it's supposed to be a dog-eat-dog business, but when you find restaurants in Sonoma County that only carry Gallo brands you have to wonder.

The Jackson Family (Kendall-Jackson, La Crema, etc) and Gallo (Frei Brothers, Rancho Zabaco, etc) are the largest vineyard owners in Sonoma County.

Gallo is the largest winemaker in the world. One of every three bottles of wine made in America is from one of Gallo's brands. You often don't even know you're drinking Gallo as they have over 50 labels. They made their money initially off the cheap rotgut stuff like Thunderbird, Ripple, and Night Train. These wines sold well in the slums and to poor drunks as the "wine" was cheap and high in alcohol. Gallo received a lot of public pressure concerning this so in a bit of civic responsibility they removed their name from the label. If you look at the Gallo web site for a list of their wine labels you won't see these listed.

In the past Gallo employees voted to kick out the United Farm Workers labor union. That vote was overturned when it was found Gallo management pressured people to vote their way.

Gallo's latest act? There is a small shop in North Carolina that sells pizza kits. It's run by a husband and wife, Tom Gallo and Susan Devitt. They call their company GalloLea Pizza Kits (like Galileo, cute, huh)?  Well, Gallo Wines was sure people would confuse their wine empire with this pizza outfit. After $140,000 is legal fees and new marketing costs to change their name this ma-and-pa shop is ready to go again.


Really, Gallo?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

What Wine with Ice Cream?

The third Sunday in July is National Ice Cream Day as signed into law by none other than President Ronald Reagan. The first ice cream cone was served at the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904.

So, what wine should you have with your ice cream? There are some basic wines that will cover most flavors: sweet to slightly sweet Sparkling wines, Ruby (red) Port-style wines, and late harvest whites, especially Sauterne-style wines. 
Mmmm, homemade ice cream

Wine / ice cream pairing suggestions:

A Sauterne-type wine works. This is usually a sweet Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon wine with apricot and honey flavors. Also, Trentadue Winery in Sonoma County makes a late harvest wine called Chocolate Amore with actual chocolate in the wine--maybe you could just pour some of this on top.
A chocolate stout beer makes an excellent vanilla ice cream float.

This is where the red Port-style wine works (not the Tawny style). This is a rich, sweet, heavy wine. In California you'll find Zinfandel and Petite Sirah-based port-style wines.

Chocolate Mint
You can use the Ruby Port or maybe a Zinfandel, especially one of the more fruit-forward styles of Zin from a producer such as Mazzocco or a region like Lodi, CA. Or have the best of both and get a Zinfandel made as a port-style wine.

With the fruit-flavored ice creams I'll go for a slightly sweet sparkling wine. A rosé would be great.

Go with the slightly sweet sparkler here, too.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Reasons NOT to Visit Sonoma County

Come to California's wine country? What were you thinking? Don't do it! Here's why:

You'll eat too well and put on a little weight

image from

You'll also drink too much

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All the restaurants are too fancy to be affordable

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 Wine, wine, wine. You'd better like wine. There's nothing else to drink.

The roads are terribly crowded

If you get lost there will be nothing to do

Okay, wine and food, but there's nothing else to do or see

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

U.S. Brewery Count = 3,000

  According to the Brewers Association there were 3,040 breweries operating in the country in June 2014, the highest number since the late 19th century. California has over 500 breweries. Sonoma County is home to 23 craft breweries at last count.

  One-third of all breweries are located in four states: California, Oregon, Washington, and Colorado.

  Maybe a better stat is from Vermont with just 29 breweries, but the volume of beer produced puts them at 15 gallons annually per adult (ranked 1st in the country). In case you were wondering Mississippi comes in last with only four craft breweries.

  You just have to go back to the early 1980s to find that there were only about 90 breweries in the whole country (aka, the bad ol' days). At that time small breweries were considered operations like Anchor Steam, Hamm's and Yuengling. Boy, things have gotten better!


One of the little guys in Sonoma
They're expanding!
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Friday, July 11, 2014

Summer in Alexander Valley

July 11, 2014 from Hanna Winery in Alexander Valley, Sonoma County
 Click on photos to enlarge

Looking down the rows of vines

Grape clusters

Looking west towards some coastal clouds

Vineyards and dry, brown hillsides

Vineyards to the south

Winery entrance

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Summer in Sonoma Valley (photos)

July 10th from the Kenwood Vineyards property.
Click on photos to enlarge

Grapes are still green, but color should start to show soon

Down the rows

Looking south to the Kunde property

North to Hood Mountain

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The hard cider market in Sonoma County

Wine is what Sonoma County is all about though the craft beer market is expanding rapidly, too. Alcoholic cider is a fast growing market in the U.S. (and in other places). Even MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch have jumped into the cider market.

The biggest and best-known hard cider maker in Sonoma County is ACE. They've been in the business for 15 years operating in what once was a large apple-producing area near the town of Sebastopol. The lesser known micro-cideries are Devoto, Murray's Cyder, Sonoma Cider, and Tilted Shed. Most seem to be back-to-the-land folks using organic fruit. None have tasting rooms, but they are available at local retail stores.

Cider's boom in popularity can be traced to it being a light, refreshing, slightly sweet drink--just what a lot of folks are looking for, especially during the warmth of summer. Cider started its rise in popularity in the UK several years ago. In the U.S. Portland, OR seems to be the epicenter.  You could say cider is piggybacking off the growth in craft beer. The hard cider industry expects rapid expansion to continue for the next several years and seems to be aiming towards a younger, affluent, mostly female crowd--a good place to attract advertising dollars. We'll see if some of these small micro-cider makers get swallowed up by larger companies as has happened in the wine biz.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

You know you're in Sonoma County ...

... when you see stuff like this!

Does it run? Doesn't look like it.

This passes for fall colors

You get vistas like this

Summer looks like this

You know what this is  (answer below)

Answer: Annual line outside Russian River Brewery for the Pliny the Younger release

Saturday, July 5, 2014

What wine for Bikini Day, July 5th?

Who cares?      :)


The bikini was first introduced in Paris on July, 5, 1946. Happy anniversary!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Why beer is better than wine

Sonoma County is wine and beer country. There are hundreds of wineries compared to a couple dozen breweries in the county. Still, even when you live in the wine country it's easy to admit that beer is better.

Beer is better than wine because:
  • You can open a 12 oz beer without it being a big deal because;  1) it won't get you drunk, 2) it doesn't cost as much, and 3) it's a whole lot easier to open.
  • Corked wines are a problem you don't get with beer unless you're drinking one of those fancy schmancy beers that come with a cork. Then you're just like the wine people because you probably paid a lot of money for that corked beer.  Ha ha.
  • Beer commercials on TV are great. Only caveat is it seems the worst the beer the better the commercial. 
  • George Thorogood sung about, "One bourbon, one scotch, one beer." Nobody ever asks a bartender for a glass of Merlot and a shot of Jack. At least I hope not.
  • Beer is better with all the basic food groups: BBQ, potato chips, nachos, and hot links. Ever try chips and salsa with Cabernet?  Yuck.
  • Wine drinkers worry too much about the vintage and the vineyard. Beer drinkers mostly care if the brewmaster is chubby because that means he likes his own product. All real beer makers have a beard and wear flannel shirts. Real winemakers wear shorts and rubber boots. If you see either one in a suit be wary.
  • Wine makes you want to listen to classical music, or worse, smooth jazz. Beer makes you want to crank up The Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers LP. Nuff said.
Beer maker at Rogue is famous 
for having made a special beer from 
the yeast living in his beard. 
You'll never see that from a  winemaker!
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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

July 4th weekend in Sonoma County

Planning on spending the Fourth of July weekend in Sonoma County? Fireworks, music and parades everywhere! Here's what's happening.

Fireworks over Bodega Bay
photo from

July 3rd

Barlow Street Fair in Sebastopol. A weekly event with music and vendors.

Broadway Under the Stars at Jack London State Park in Glen Ellen. Info

Guerneville fireworks. Get there early--Commander Cody rocks out the town at 6pm. Free.

Sebastopol music and fireworks at Analy High School. Admission charge.

Windsor fireworks at Keiser Park next to the high school. Begins mid-afternoon with music and things for the kids. Admission charge.

July 4th

Some wineries will be closed all day or will close early so their employees can enjoy a family BBQ, too.  

Beatles tribute band at Montgomery Village, Santa Rosa, noon to 3pm. Free. Food & drinks available.

Kenwood parade in the plaza park.

Cloverdale plaza has evening music and a farmers market (a weekly event).

Judy Collins performs at the Green Music Center in Rohnert Park. Info

Healdsburg fireworks at the high school.

Petaluma fireworks at the Sonoma-Marin fairgrounds. Events, including music, starts mid-afternoon. Small admission charge.

Santa Rosa fireworks at the Sonoma County fairgrounds. Sort of a mini-fair day beginning mid-afternoon. Parking and admission charges. Or just show up about an hour early and find free nearby parking and watch from there. Biggest fireworks display in the area. Info

Sonoma has a parade, music, then fireworks at Vallejo Field. Travel and Leisure recently named the town of Sonoma as one of the top ten places to spend the Fourth of July.  Info

July 5th

All American Zin Day. A special ticketed event at several Dry Creek Valley wineries. Expect fried chicken, hot dogs, and ice cream.  Info

An '80s dance band at Montgomery Village, Santa Rosa, noon to 3pm. Free. 

Broadway Under the Stars at Jack London State Park in Glen Ellen. Info

Bodega Bay fireworks at Westside Park, but you can see it from all around the bay. It will be chilly, probably foggy, so dress accordingly.

Monte Rio fireworks at the beach.

July 6th

An oldies band at Montgomery Village, Santa Rosa, 1-4pm. Free.

Petaluma Summer Music Series. Free concert downtown 3:30-6pm.

Julliard Park in Santa Rosa has free music 5-7pm.

It's an old-fashioned 4th of July parade in Sonoma
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