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Monday, April 24, 2017

The REAL Benefit of Red Wine

Various studies over the years have hinted at red wine's health benefits ranging from curing cancer to lowering cholesterol to helping keep your memory sharp in old age. Well, that's great and all, but most people probably don't reach for a bottle of wine thinking of these things. 

Now there is a meaningful reason that will get people to drink more red wine. Something everybody is concerned about.  

Red wine boosts your sex drive

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Winery Goes to Pot

  The well-known Fetzer Vineyards of Redwood Valley in Mendocino County has changed hands. The Fetzer family actually sold their namesake property 25 years ago. The current foreign owners sold to a San Francisco investor-funded business speculating on rapid growth. Instead of processing grapes it'll be processing the other local cash crop, marijuana. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Material Other Than Grapes in Your Wine

There are been various scares about weird stuff in your wine from birds to arsenic. As per usual when the Internet gets hold of a great headline it can't let go and by the time a story has been shared a few hundred times it becomes The Truth.

Article from the San Francisco Chronicle on trying to dispel some of the wild stories.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Traditions Die Hard in the Wine Industry

Many industries are tied to traditions, not just wine. Perhaps living near where so much technology innovation takes place it's sometimes difficult to understand why so many of these things persist. Wine making has actually progressed significantly in the past 50 years. The packaging of wine hasn't.

Friday, April 14, 2017

That's a Lot of Wine!

In 2016 Americans drank 4.24 billion bottles of wine. That's 13.3 bottles for every man, woman, and child. I'm assuming some of those folks, especially the children, don't drink wine. That makes us #1 in total wine consumption, but not per capita.

I hope you did your part!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

19th Century Sonoma County Restaurants

Here's something different to do when visiting: Check out an old, historic eatery while visiting. Sonoma County has a few that have been operating since the 19th century.

Monday, April 10, 2017

It's just planting grapes, then pick 'em and add yeast, right?

 You think growing wine grapes and making wine is pretty simple and still like it was hundreds of years ago? I mean, you stick some vines in the ground, they grow grapes over the summer, you pick the grapes, squeeze them a bit, add yeast, and voila it's world-class wine!

There are already satellite imagery and drones used in vineyards, but it gets more technical. Following are a few excerpts from the recent Sonoma Vintage Report Conference.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Premium Wine vs Value Wine

  In the last five years the California wine grape market has increased a half-billion dollars to three billion total. There are two distinct wine grower groups. You could call them the haves and the have nots.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Important Brews to the Craft Beer Scene

In the U.S. craft beer sales by volume went from 5.7% of the beer market in 2011 to 12.3% in 2016 -- five short years later. In dollars craft beer is now 22% of the market.

It all started in Sonoma County with the first microbrewery in the country, New Albion Brewery (see previous post on Sonoma County's beer history).

Some of the most important beers have come from the Bay Area, including Sonoma County.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Big Wine

Big Wine controls what wines you drink. This is especially true if you're buying off the retail shelf. Big Wine is comprised of 30 wine companies that control 90% of the U.S. market. The three largest control more than half.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Innovation in Oaky, Buttery Chardonnay

Lots of people like this style of Chardonnay. Those sweet oak and buttery popcorn flavors are a favorite. Some have mocked this wine and call it Cougar Juice.

Well, there's been a new innovation that will make Chard an even better deal at the local store. Since it's oak and butter (from something called malolactic fermentation) they want that's what they'll get without the cost of purchasing expensive Chardonnay grapes.

Rahmbower Winery has figured you can just use tap water, or in their case, Napa River water, aged in new oak barrels, then add that butter flavor and voila -- it's the dream beverage -- cheap and no nasty hangover! You're still getting those flavors you want. Said the winemaker, "We decided to go with unfiltered Napa River water to give the product a minerality component. I hope the ladies don't mind."

Friday, March 31, 2017

Cool Things to do in Sonoma County

You can't be drinking wine all the time, right? This isn't a list of the "regular" stuff, but cool things to do in Sonoma County.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Changing U.S. Wine Market

Business is booming in the domestic wine market. Sales are up, exports are up, people are moving up to more expensive wines. There may be a few gray clouds on the horizon, however.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Unique Santa Rosa Restaurants

You're in Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, and want something a little different for your next meal. Would you like to light up your taste buds with great flavor? None of these restaurants are fancy or in a fancy neighborhood or look like much from the outside. That's the beauty of them--it's all inside. If you're looking for fancy check out this blog post. If flavor and reasonable prices are key then read on.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Paid Experts vs Your Peers

Traditionally we have relied on experts to tell us where we should go on vacation, what hotel we should stay in, where we should eat, and what wines we should drink. The articles by these critics were printed in magazines.

With the growth of social media everyone can publish their views on any subject. As we saw with the last election a lot of what gets put out there isn't even true. Still, a certain part of the readers will believe it because it's in print.

Friday, March 17, 2017

French Imports Growing

French wine imports into the U.S. have grown significantly over the past twelve months even though imports overall were flat.

Champagne is showing faster growth than domestic sparkling wine, but Prosecco leads with an increase of over 20%. The average price for a bottle of Prosecco is about $12 (that's why it's so popular) while it's over $50 for a bottle of Champagne.

Rosé from France is hot. The American rosé market grew by over 50% each of the last two years with the bulk of that coming from France. Merlot and Syrah from France are declining in sales, but are more than being made up for by other wines.

Info from Wine Industry Advisor

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Sonoma Plaza

The cute, historic little town of Sonoma has become quite a wine destination. It's fairly close to the Bay Area and its airports. It's also convenient in that eating, drinking and lodging can all be within walking distance. This might all be great for visitors, but sometimes the locals are less amused.

The business district is centered around a large plaza with the commercial district going maybe a block past that in any direction.

From the Sonoma Index-Tribune, a recent article on drinking establishments in that small area.

Summary: There are 28 winery tasting rooms on or near the town square plus about 20 restaurants, many having full bars.Plus there's "historic" Steiner's Tavern, the local dive bar, right there on the square!
image from

Monday, March 13, 2017

Wine Industry Myths & Secrets

Every industry has some little things they would prefer the consumer didn't know. Or maybe folks outside of the industry make assumptions and those get passed along and eventually become "facts."

Ask someone who works for an airline if they would ever drink the coffee or eat the food served on a plane. Have you seen the movie Waiting about the restaurant biz?

Some wine industry myths and secrets follow. Some people in the industry might not agree with all of these.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Spring 2017 Events in Sonoma County

Listed below are major wine and non-wine events in Sonoma County for March into June 2017.

It's a perfect time in the wine country with warming temperatures, vines starting the new year's growth, wildflowers, and lots of exciting events to tempt you.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Drink up. It's in our genes.

Why do we like wine, beer, and spirits so much? Even during America's Prohibition people risked jail for a drink. It turns out we can't help it. Our prehistoric ancestors first developed the desire for alcohol.

The scientists who study this call it Drunken Monkeys.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Step Aside Coffee ...

Maybe you've seen one of these funny sayings:

Is this you? Well, a Marin County coffee roaster and the Napa Valley Vintners got together and created your dream beverage. The Molinari Caffe in downtown Napa (where else?) has come up with wine-infused coffee. The beans are soaked in wine, dried, then roasted.

Now you can combine the stimulant of coffee with the relaxing qualities of a glass of wine in one beverage. No, I don't know why someone hadn't thought of this earlier.

The coffee is available at a few Napa Valley wineries and is sold online, but is apparently sold out right now. As you can guess, everybody wants some.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Top-Notch Dining in Sonoma County

Besides an abundance of premium wine Sonoma County offers lots of great restaurants. I mean dozens and dozens. But if you want to get a world-class meal where should you go? You won't find a lot of pretense, but you will find great food and a great experience.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Fountaingrove District AVA

The Fountaingrove District became an official appellation, or AVA, about two years ago in March 2015. An American Viticultural Area is a federally approved name for a specific grape-growing region. Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley are well-known AVAs. There are almost 200 of them in California and now there are 17 in Sonoma County.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Barrel Tasting Tips

It's coming! The 40th annual Wine Road Barrel Tasting in northern Sonoma County on the first two weekends in March. That's followed by Sonoma Valley's version the third weekend of the month.

The Wine Road Barrel Tasting has turned into a huge event. It's best to know a few things before you go.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Rich Guys Gone Wild

A wealthy couple with high government connections start up a winery in Napa Valley. This is really nothing new. A number of rich folks have done the same.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Record U.S. Wine Exports

In 2016 the U.S. exported $1.62 billion worth of wine, or about 46 million cases. This compares to $1.60 bn in 2015 and $1.49 bn in 2014. California is responsible for 90% of wine made in the U.S. and also 90% of the export market.

The largest importer of American wine is the European Union with the UK being the biggest segment by far within the EU. Following is Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, and China. $1.12 bn of the $1.62 bn total is to the EU and Canada.

Dear Canadian friends, what wine do you serve with Poutine?

Thursday, February 16, 2017

International Syrah Day

Feb 16th is Syrah Day begging the question, "Where can you go for great Syrah in Sonoma County?"  I knew you were gonna ask.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Visiting the Wine Country on the Cheap

It's easy enough for a couple to spend over $100/day on tasting, plus wine purchases on top of that. Then there's over $150/night for a hotel, $75 for dinner and pretty soon it's real money!  How can you do it for less? This is written for Sonoma County, but much of the following will work anywhere.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Good News/Bad News for Napa Wines

After a smaller crop in 2015 there was a much larger grape crop in 2016 for Napa Valley. The good news is there will be more wine available from the '16 vintage. The bad news is the price of grapes keeps going up. This means your favorite Napa Valley wines will cost more.

2016 Harvest Report from the Napa Valley Register

Friday, February 10, 2017

Who Imports / Exports the Most Wine

Countries that import the most wine:

The U.S. is by far the largest importer with over $3 billion in bottled wine.
Second is the UK with $1.75 bn. 
A close third is China at $1.65 bn in imports.

Largest exporters:

Italy and France kind of share the top spot as exporters.
Italy exports the most bottled wine at a value of $3.2 billion.
Though France exports only 87% as much wine as Italy its total value is $4 bn.
Spain is third with $1.4 bn in wine.

And it just so happens Italy, France and Spain and the biggest producers of wine (followed by the U.S.).

These are Jan-Sep 2016 numbers

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Wine Professionals' Disconnect with Consumers

The wine professional: owners, wine makers, judges, writers, and many other wine advocates sit in the small area of premium wines. That is, most of their time seems to be spent with the $30-up bottles.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Good Times for the American Wine Industry

It's good times for the American economy overall and that includes the wine biz. Pretty much all of the indicators are looking up.

Friday, February 3, 2017

History of Beer in Sonoma County

If you go back to the olden days before Prohibition Sonoma County had breweries just like many other parts of the country. What was unique during this time was the county was home to a thriving hop industry. But what we're going to talk about here is the resurrection of the craft beer industry and it's beginnings right here in Sonoma.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Think Geting Rid of Illegals Won't Have an Impact?

Lets just talk about agriculture. Do you think we can send all illegals home and have Americans take those jobs?

Read this

The summary:
  • There are about 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. Half of them are Mexican. About 16% of these illegals work in ag.
  • In North Carolina in 2011 during the depths of the recession the local fruit industry offered their 6,500 jobs to the locals. 268 people applied, 240 were hired, 163 actually showed up for work, and seven of them made it all the way through the harvest.
  • If these immigrants aren't here to work these fruit harvests it's estimated the crops may be cut in half, this includes wine grapes.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

What They're Planting

What varieties of grapes are being planted in California vineyards? This is the forecast by growers of what will be popular in a few years. Yeah, it's an expensive guessing game. It is for all of California, the premium regions and the less expensive Central Valley where the vast majority of the vineyard acreage is planted.

In 2016 it was 71% red varietals with Cabernet Sauvignon leading them all with 35% of all grape vines sold by nurseries. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are both at 16%.

By contrast, just five years ago in 2011, it was only 44% red grapes because Muscat was about 25% of vines sold. Cab Sauv was at 13%. Muscat in 2016? Doesn't even register. 

What a difference a few years makes.

This information is from Allied Grape Growers.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Nearing Ten Thousand Wineries

At the end of 2016 there were 9,872 wineries in North America per Rounding off a bit, there are 700 in Canada and 90 in Mexico leaving 9,100 in the U.S. This is a 5% growth from a year ago. The growth rate has been the same for the past couple years.

California accounts for 46% of American wineries, or 4,200. Next are Washington and Oregon each with over 700. New York and British Columbia have over 300 a piece.

BTW, there are over 5,000 breweries in the U.S. That's up from 1,500 in 2008. There's a growth rate for you! California also ranks first in the number of breweries with over 500. Personally, I haven't been to one since... last night.   lol

Monday, January 23, 2017

California Rains & the Vineyards

You've likely heard that most of California is experiencing a very wet winter so far. Lots of rain filling the reservoirs, lots of snow in the mountains to top off those lakes later in the spring. All seems well. Maybe you've also seen pictures of flooded vineyards and wonder what affect that has on the vines and your wine for next year.

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Wine Industry in 2017

It's a new year so here is a new look at the state of the wine biz. Silicon Valley Bank works with many wineries. They put out a yearly report with predictions for the coming year. The following info is based on that report.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Agriculture in Sonoma County

For being only a few dozen miles from the Golden Gate Sonoma County is heavily agricultural. It's been this way since the Gold Rush times when it help feed San Francisco and the Bay Area.

Monday, January 16, 2017

A Romantic Trip to Sonoma County

Wine Country is a bit of an aphrodisiac to many -- I'm guessing it's the alcohol.  :)  People get engaged while visiting, get married in Wine Country, and a few babies are probably conceived here.

Friday, January 13, 2017

How to Drink Your Wine

You would think drinking a glass of wine would be easy, but noooo. Here are a few tidbits to help you get the most out of your wine.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Wine Advertising Blows

I don't think the people who market wine have changed any more over the past several decades than automobile marketers. Hey, times and people have changed. You should want people to see wine as an everyday beverage, not something to aspire to. Get rid of the hoity-toity advertisements and take a lesson from beer.

I want to barf when I see these ads:

Saturday, January 7, 2017

About Cabernet Franc

Cabernet Franc isn't a well-known wine. However, over the past 12 months it's been the fastest growing wine based on direct-to-consumer shipments from wineries (info from

Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are the big two from the Bordeaux region of France. Cab Franc is one of the lesser known grape varieties and is often blended with Cab Sauv and Merlot. What about Cabernet Franc on its own?