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Friday, December 29, 2017

Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, late December (photos)

Photos taken December 28, 2017, the closing days of the year in Sonoma County's Dry Creek Valley.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

What People Look for When Going Wine Tasting

Wine County visitation is big business, really big business, as in billions of dollars spent in wineries, hotels, restaurants, etc. in Sonoma and Napa. A key element of this is how visitors select what wineries to visit. Much of this info comes from a wine marketing article, How Consumers Choose Wine Tasting Experiences.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Hard Cider

What bridges the gap between wine and beer?

What beverage is seeing double-digit growth?

Though cider is small-time compared to beer and wine it is growing fast. It's where the craft beer industry was about 15 years ago. Craft cider is a thing.

Sonoma County has a history as a major apple-growing area (until grapes moved in and displaced many orchards). There are ten hard cider makers in the county with Ace Cider representing "big cider." They've been around since the 1990s and opened the first American cider-only pub in 1999.

Sonoma Cider has a tap room and restaurant in the town of Healdsburg.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Monday, December 18, 2017

Sonoma Sparklers for the Holidays

First, let me say it's a crying shame most people only drink sparkling wines over the winter holidays. What's a better wine to put you in a great mood on a Thursday? What's a great wine with so many different foods? What's a better breakfast ...  Well, you know.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Petaluma Gap AVA

The federal government organization known as the TTB, part of the Treasury Dept., regulates wine. One thing they decide on is the appellations, or American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), you see on the label. Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley, for instance, were proposed to and approved by the gov't regulators.

The 18th AVA in Sonoma County, the Petaluma Gap, was recently approved. The Petaluma Gap Winegrowers Alliance has been at this for awhile and now it's official.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Exercise Your Brain -- Have a Glass of Wine

Okay, it's another study on a benefit of wine consumption. There are so many of these you might wonder which ones are legit. This one comes from a Yale neuroscientist so I think he might be kinda smart. Basically he says the act of smelling, sipping, swishing, and deciphering everything you're experiencing with wine exercises the ol' gray matter quite a bit.

Drink up, get smarter

Monday, December 11, 2017

Update: A Couple Months After the Fires

It's been about two months since the destructive Wine County fires. Currently the damages are estimated at a staggering $9 billion. Destroyed or damaged were thousands of homes and hundreds of businesses. About two dozen wineries had damage with a handful having significant or total destruction.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Best of Sonoma County

The local paper, the Press Democrat, does a yearly poll of readers to select everything from the best winery tasting room to the best dog park in Sonoma County. The 2017 list is out.

The Best of Sonoma County

Because of the October fires some of the winners no longer exist (until rebuilt):
restaurants Sweet T's and Willie's Wine Bar, Paradise Ridge Winery (they still have a tasting room in Kenwood), and part of Annadel State Park is still closed. As an aside, my doctor was voted #2 best family doctor in the county. He's retiring next month. Doh.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Wine in Cans: Is it Coming? (finally)

Alternative wine packaging has been talked about for several years. From boxes like Tetra-Paks to cans there's been a largely unsuccessful push to get away from the 750 ml glass bottle. But maybe canned wine is about to take off.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Top 100 Wines of Sonoma

This is a list from a writer at using results from one local wine judging plus her own tastings. I've only sampled a small fraction of those on the list though I'm familiar with many of the wineries. It's one data point you can use when you go shopping for a nice bottle of wine.

100 Best Wines of Sonoma 2017

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Where Chardonnay's Characteristics Come From

You've got the natural flavors of the grapes along with where they're grown, you throw in some oak maybe and you've got the characteristics for the finished wine. That's kind of close for most wines, but not for Chardonnay. Chard is, I can't say this gently, a little bland without some help.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Pinot Noir Clones

Grape varieties have genetic mutations called clones. Pinot Noir has hundreds of clones with a few dozen being commercially popular. Other grape varieties have only a few clones. Why is this? First, Pinot Noir is a very ancient grape variety and has changed through generations of growing in different places. Second, it's thought to be more genetically unstable than other varieties.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Shame on You. Give Us Back Our Holidays

In the last few years a few retail big box stores have started opening on Thanksgiving Day trying to get a jump on Christmas dollars. Not everyone has been in favor of this as traditionally Thanksgiving has been a family day, not a shopping day.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Getting Out of Your Wine Comfort Zone

Most of us have a level of complacency  with our wine choices. I expect very few wine drinkers are true experimenters.

Getting out of your comfort zone usually means trial and error and that can be expensive. Who wants to spend fifty bucks on a wine they hate? Or even fifteen?

Monday, November 20, 2017

Ten Places to Visit in Sonoma County

I was reading a Wine Enthusiast article about 10 Places to Visit in Napa Valley and thought Sonoma needs one of those lists! Okay, there are probably a few of those out there already. Here's another.

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Stages of Drinking

Happy holidays! It's that time of year. Here's a little something to help you recognize your current state while you're yucking it up with family, friends, and coworkers.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Wine is Not About How Much You Know

It's easy to be intimidated by someone who knows more about wine than you. But you know what? In any area of life there will be people who know more than you -- even in your own profession, right? So don't worry about not knowing how to read a French wine label or the difference between Russian River Valley and Dry Creek Valley. Relax. Enjoy.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Legends of Sonoma County Winemaking

A nice article on the current whereabouts of Dick Arrowood (Chateau St. Jean), Brice Jones (Sonoma-Cutrer), and Joel Peterson (Ravenswood). These three gentlemen had a lot to do with putting Sonoma County on the wine map. All are 70 years old or so and should be retired, but can't quite let go of the grape.

Article from Palate Press

Friday, November 10, 2017

Sonoma County Red Wines for Winter Meals

It's getting to be that time of year when you can put away those rosés, Sauvingnon Blancs, and Pinot Noirs  and break out the heavy-duty wines. Not that there's anything bad about drinking Sauv Blanc in cold weather. I mean it's not like wearing white pants after Labor Day...

Usually foods get a bit heavier in winter and so can the wines.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Wine Marketing Buzzwords

Wine is a jargon-rich world. Maybe not as bad as the high-tech biz, but it can still be pretty intimidating.

There are lots of terms used to help sell wine. Some are a bit geeky and might actually scare off  people. What these all have in common is that none are any sort of guarantee of wine quality and whether you'll actually like it. Some of these might be on the bottle's label; others are thrown around by the folks who sell wine.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Cannabis and Constellation Brands

  Constellation Brands, a wine, beer, and spirits conglomerate based in NY State, owns the likes of Corona beer, Casa Noble tequila, and many wine brands including Ravenswood and Robert Mondavi. They are now in the cannabis business.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Post-Fire Sonoma: Economic Impact

You saw the devastation on TV. It looked as if most of Sonoma and Napa counties were burning. Unhealthy smoke filled the air. That part is over, but thousands of homes were lost, tens of thousands of people displaced, billions of dollars will be needed to rebuild. Of the hundreds of wineries a couple were lost and another couple dozen had some, mostly minor, damage.

The fires affected not only Sonoma and Napa, but adjacent Mendocino, Lake and Solano counties though Sonoma took the biggest hit, more specifically Santa Rosa and parts of Sonoma Valley. Most of Sonoma County is untouched by the fires.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Post-Fire Sonoma: When Should You Visit?

After the horrendous fires and the news coverage it seemed like Sonoma County pretty much burnt to the ground. It is currently estimated about 170 square miles burned, or about ten percent of the county's land area. The most damaging was in the northern part of Santa Rosa. Most of the acreage burned were steep, remote hillsides where the fire could not be easily controlled.

That leaves 90% of the county untouched, including most of the wine areas. As it turns out vineyards make a pretty good fire block.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Sonoma Post-Fire: Rebuilding the Tourism Industry

As cataclysmic as the last couple weeks have been you can see a return to normalcy beginning. Maybe not so much for those that lost their home, business, or a loved one, but in an economic sense.

Restaurants and other businesses are reopening. The big question is, "Have we scared away too many visitors?" Even though the destruction was only a small part of Sonoma County, people may be staying away in droves. Tourism is a really big piece of the local economy.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Post-Fire Sonoma County FAQs

An almost unimaginable disaster struck several counties, including Sonoma and Napa, with the bulk of the damage and loss of life in Sonoma's largest city, Santa Rosa. People will have questions about the wine and about visiting the area. Here's the information and speculation we have now.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Zinfandel Confuses a Lot of People

Many folks aren't really sure what Zinfandel is supposed to be. It's certainly had its share of mystery, changes, and ups and downs in the marketplace.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Wine, From Grape to Glass, by the Numbers

When folks see a vineyard or even a single vine they often wonder, "How many grapes does it take ...?"

Using some averages here are ways to understand the process of the grapes in the field to your glass of wine. Hopefully, you are currently holding a glass of Sonoma County wine to help with that visualization.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Sonoma County by the Numbers

Sonoma County is a major premium wine-producing area in California. The growth started in the 1970s and hasn't slowed down.

There are 425 wineries in the county or about 17% of the state's total. There are about 60,000 acres of vineyards with 10% growth in the last ten years. Almost 10% of the state's wine grapes are grown in Sonoma County ranking second in the state behind San Joaquin County in the Central Valley.

Monday, September 25, 2017

California Wine by the Numbers

The Golden State is #1 in wine produced and in the number of wineries in the U.S. It's been that way and isn't really news. What is news is the growth.

Just over ten years ago, in 2006, there were 2,447 wineries in California. In 2016 there were 4,653. Even during the Great Recession of 2008-09 the number increased, just at a slower rate. About 475 of those wineries are in Napa and about 425 in Sonoma. Next on the list, Washington, has experienced a high growth rate, but is still a distant second at 1,019 wineries.

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Crazy Weather and Wine

Worldwide this was a wacky season for wine grapes with crops affected in many places.

A world view from Bloomberg

A local view from Jordan Winery's blog

Monday, September 18, 2017

Yes, Expensive Wine Does Taste Better

Actually it appears to taste better or so our brain tells us. A study showed that the price label on the bottle changed the perception of the quality of the wine. Though this scientific study dove into why this happens it's something wine marketing folks have known for awhile. Not just wine, but car manufacturers, clothing retailers, etc.

The study

Friday, September 15, 2017

You Can Tell It's Harvest Season in Sonoma County

image from
The wine grape harvest changes many things with the Sonoma County landscape. Peg Melnik from
the local paper tells you all about it in great detail:

Press Democrat article

But if you only want the short summary:

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

It's a Hell of a Grape Harvest

Remembering back to that record rainfall last winter and the delayed spring it seemed we were looking at a fairly normal harvest. Then there was the record hot summer. The kicker was the near all-time record heat for several days around Labor Day.

What you get are raisined grapes as the moisture is pulled out to protect the plant. Just add water? A couple issues there: 1) Some vineyards are dry farmed so that's not a choice, 2) Watering close to harvest can dilute the concentrated flavors you're looking for in premium wines.

Monday, September 11, 2017

A New Wine Tasting Room

And it's run by students! Bet you didn't expect that. And it's situated a few minutes from Lake Michigan. Bet you didn't expect that either.

A local college has a wine and viticulture program. Students make and sell their wines. It's a chance to mingle directly with the consumer, something that not enough winemakers do. 

Article from Wines & Vines

Friday, September 8, 2017

California's Hottest Summer on Record

June, July, and August 2017 are going down as the warmest summer on record for California. With records going back to the 1890s the state has mostly been running warmer than average since 2000. This summer is more than three degrees above the statewide average--and the hottest ever.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Reviewing the Popular Inexpensive Wines

Dave McIntyre, a writer for the Washington Post, takes a sometimes humorous look at the cheap wine world and reviews the biggest sellers. Some appear to be good deals, others seem like pure hangover juice.

America's Favorite Cheap Wines

Monday, September 4, 2017

Autumn 2017 Events in Sonoma County

It's grape picking season and there's lots to see. You can even smell the harvest! There's usually great weather, but you can always count on great wine and great food.

There are many events going on between September and November. Enjoy the bounty of Sonoma County.

Friday, September 1, 2017

September is California Wine Month

As California is the country's largest wine producer and receives millions of visitors each year someone decided we should have a wine month! There are quite a few events going on statewide to help you celebrate.

In Sonoma County the largest event is the Wine Country Weekend followed by our Harvest Fair the first weekend of October (we just can't stop celebrating).

See the full list here.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Want to Work a Grape Harvest?

  Ah, the romance of the wine country. Imagine being right in the middle of it and actually contributing to the making of the wines you love. Well, hold on there. Working a wine grape harvest ain't exactly like that.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Preventing Dehydration From Alcohol

Yeah, first the article says to drink less. Ha ha, like that's an option. The other thing mentioned is to drink lots of water before and while you're consuming alcohol. This, of course, is the way to prevent dehydration and this is one component of a hangover. Other contributors to a hangover are effects on your immune system, your stomach, your circulatory system, and your blood sugar.

Other than water drinking Gatorade, eating fruit, and salty foods all help. This, of course, is why they invented pretzels.

Preventing dehydration from alcoho

On a related note for folks who get red wine headaches (it's usually from histamines) here's the new miracle cure

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Sonoma or Napa, Which is Better?

There's a question that's been asked a few times. There is no right answer, but a reporter from Business Insider thinks she's found it. No, I don't know why a financial writer is doing this piece.

Napa vs. Sonoma

Read through the article, paying close attention to the pros and cons at the end. I can tell you what she did wrong.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Where to get a burger in Sonoma County

So you visit for some wine tasting and think you are supposed to have some sort of fancy pants $200 dinner at the end of the day? Maybe. Or sometimes you just want a burger. Just asking you do yourself a favor and don't look for McDonald's or BK even if you have kids along.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Welcome to Planet of the Grapes

As it happens only six percent of Sonoma County is planted in vineyards. Next door, Napa County is nine percent for a total area of 45,000 acres--or about 70 square miles. Sonoma County is much larger in area than Napa, even bigger than the state of Rhode Island, and has 60,000 acres planted to wine grapes.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Wine Tweets

Wine-related words of wisdom from the twittersphere. I saved my favorite until last. These were collected by

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Wine Tasting in Santa Rosa, Sonoma County

The largest city in Sonoma County has a few wine tasting opportunities right in town. If you are staying in Santa Rosa during your visit you don't have far to drive or Uber. The tasting venues range from vineyard and valley views to urban settings to light industrial locations.

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Sideways Effect

In late 2004 a small comedy/drama film about two middle-aged men with somewhat disappointing lives spend a weekend in the wine country. Sideways went on to be a cult classic among wine drinkers. The opinions of Miles, played by Paul Giamatti, still linger in California.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

N California summer weather

2017 has been a remarkable year for weather so far. Record rains and snow over the 2016-17 winter followed by a somewhat delayed spring. Now that summer is here it can be summed up for much of the state with one word -- hot. I'm speaking to the Sonoma County area, but much of this is happening to the entire state.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Appointment-only Tasting Rooms

Two things have really increased the foot traffic in Sonoma County wine tasting rooms over the past few years:
  • The economy is in high gear, especially in the Bay Area where most of the visitors come from
  • The Sonoma County Tourism office has done a great job of promoting Sonoma County
There have been some expected changes with this like increased weekend traffic on the roads and higher hotel costs. One change maybe wasn't expected.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Santa Rosa's Wine & Weed Symposium

Beginning in 2018 the new gold rush is on in California as weed becomes legal.

On August 3rd in Santa Rosa a meeting of wine and cannabis folks will take place hosted by a wine marketing outfit. The event is sold out with most attendees coming from the wine biz. The two are looking for what the corporate folks might call common synergies. That is, how can they work together for the good of both. This is interesting as the two would seem to be in conflict in many areas.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Best Sonoma County Restaurant Wine Lists

Wine Spectator magazine has an annual competition for best restaurant wine lists. For 2017 here are the restaurants in Sonoma County. There are many more nearby in Napa and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Monday, July 24, 2017

It had to happen: Well Hung Vineyard

Low-hanging fruit. Well-formed grape bunches hanging heavily from the vine. So someone named a wine label after what grape bunches do--hang from the vine. A double meaning? No way! They plan to offer stiff competition. But they are up to the task.  Just wait, I've got more!

How the Well Hung Vineyard came to be

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Hosemaster is Done!

The who? His full blog name is The HoseMaster of Wine. It is satire on the usually too serious premium wine world. He was an insider, you know, one of "them." At some point he realized how unimportant the whole thing was and let the wine world have it with both barrels.

If you think many wine folks are dorky, or you regularly read wine mags, or you are a wine nerd you should read through some of his posts from the nine years he's been doing this. Many are laugh out loud funny.

The Hoser will be missed.


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Monday, July 17, 2017

Hooker's House -- and Wine

Yeah, I thought that would get your attention.

Between stints in the army during the Mexican-American War and later in the Civil War Joseph Hooker settled in Sonoma for a time. His Hooker House was built in the 1850s and since the 1970s has been used by various commercial establishments. There was even a Hooker House tea room and I'm sure the ladies giggled occasionally over the name. Yes, there are stories of prostitutes following Hooker's army around and that may be where the name hooker came from to mean prostitute.

The highly-regarded Bedrock Wine Company recently leased the building for a tasting room. Interestingly, Bedrock farms grapes grown on what was Hooker's ranch in nearby Glen Ellen. I'm sure the tasting room will be very popular and I expect some giggles over the name as they promise to call it something like, "Bedrock Wines at Hooker House." I don't know if they will charge by the wine flight or by the hour.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Sonoma County Restaurants -- For Beer

So yeah, all of your meals don't have to be wine-centric especially if you've spent a good part of the day tasting wine. Why not eat somewhere with good food and an excellent beer selection?

Some of these are restaurants that just happen to have great beer. A few are pub operations that happen to have good food.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Sonoma County's Best Winery Experiences

  From Wine Enthusiast magazine a list of what one writer considers our best "experiences" (whatever that means exactly). Anyway, it's a good list of some of our finest wineries. Most of these places require an appointment. While making and keeping appointments can be a bit of a pain it's a great way to visit on busy summer and autumn weekends. You'll get a better experience when not having to deal with people standing two-deep at the tasting bar.

Another lousy day at Iron Horse Vineyards  :)
  If you go with tasting appointments ask the winery how long their tasting will take then allow for travel and lunch break time between appointments. You should not commit to more than three in a day.

Sonoma's Best Winery Experiences

Friday, June 30, 2017

Wine & Cheese Pairings in Sonoma County

Wine and cheese go together like ... birds & bees or cops & donuts. Anyway, wine and cheese pairings have gotten to be quite the thing. Some wineries offer other accompaniments like nuts or meats. It's always better to have something to eat with your wine plus a seated wine and cheese pairing is nice and relaxing. 

Here is a list of twenty wineries in Sonoma County that put together a paring for you. Generally they run $30 and up and most places require an advance reservation. Give it a try!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Everything You Wanted to Know About Yeast

What is yeast? How does it work to make wine? And what other characteristics can it add to wine?

All you need to know from Wine Enthusiast magazine.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Fourth of July 2017 Weekend in Sonoma County

It's time to officially kick off the summer with a four day weekend! Following are events happening around Sonoma County. Lots of live entertainment and things going boom.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Friday Wine Jokes

Starting the weekend off right.

How to properly enjoy a bottle of wine.
Open it ahead of time to allow the wine to breathe. If it appears that it's not breathing properly then give it mouth-to-mouth.

You say you have problems?
It's scientifically proven there are no problems four glasses of wine can't solve.

Add "Drink wine" to your to-do list for today.
That way by the end of the day you'll feel you've accomplished something.

Wine improves with age.
Just like your dancing improves with wine.

Yesterday I told my wife that I was like a fine wine.
Today I find myself locked in the cellar.

Everything happens for a Riesling.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

California's Climate and Agriculture

California has weather in extremes. Most of the state has a cool-to-cold wet-to-snowy winter and a warm-to-hot dry summer. It's really a two season climate. Premium wine grapes require a warm, sunny growing season, but with a cooling influence as coastal California gets from the Pacific Ocean.

Most of the state went from the driest period in its recorded history to the wettest year ever. The swing from almost nothing to too much is phenomenal. If you look back to find the state's wettest seasons the top ones are all in the last 25 years. The three driest years for snowpack in the mountains have all been in the last 40 years. Of course, we haven't been recording the weather for too long in climate terms. However, according to NOAA this was the worst drought since the 1500s.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Don't Like Crowds? Head to West County

Summertime weekends, Saturday afternoons especially, are busy times at many winery tasting rooms in Sonoma County. Like to avoid some of the crowds? The short answer is to get as far away from the main arteries, Highway 101 and Highway 12, as possible. One area is what the locals call West County.

Friday, June 16, 2017

What About Lodi?

  Pronounced low-die as in "Stuck in Lodi Again" by John Fogerty. Most wine shoppers have run across Lodi on wine labels at some point. Lodi is a Central Valley town about 80 miles from the Pacific and 35 miles south of Sacramento. This inland area of the state is known for farming, but not for quality wines. So what's the deal with Lodi?

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Twenty Wines Under $20 from Sonoma County

A recent article from Wine Enthusiast magazine talks about several nice Sonoma County wines that cost twenty bucks or less. It takes a bit of searching to find quality wines under $20.
Most of their wines are under $20

Bargain Wines from Sonoma by Wine Enthusiast

I've certainly not tried all of them, but have had several. I've had different wines from others on the list and know their quality so I believe this is a pretty good group. I'll add that if you're looking for Sauvignon Blanc or rosé you can find quite a few more bargains of excellent quality. Often you can find red blends, Merlot, plus the occasional Cabernet or Zinfandel for under $20, too.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Wine Advice for the Young 'uns

You know how old people think they know everything because they've been around so long and have life experiences? You know how the younger ones think they know everything for no apparent reason? I don't know why it's this way. Following is wine advice for young folks from someone probably older than you and has maybe made a few wine-related mistakes.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Buying an Inexpensive Bottle of Wine

Shopping the under $15 area of a wine shop can have about the same odds as a roulette table. As prices go down the chance of getting a crappy wine increase. Some tips on how to buy:

Friday, June 2, 2017

Your Wine Collection

Even if you don't have what you'd call a wine collection, but just a few bottles you're saving for awhile this can apply. Wine is perishable. You could even call it a bit fragile.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Another Fermented Beverage for Sonoma County

And this one is non-alcoholic! It appears Sonoma County won't be known just for wine, beer, cider (and probably cannabis).

Monday, May 29, 2017

Price of California Cabernet Grapes

The part of wine production that varies most is the cost of the grapes. This is also the single biggest expense in a bottle of wine. Some grape varieties are more expensive to purchase (like Cabernet) and some are relatively cheap. Looking at Cabernet Sauvignon the price of the fruit varies widely across the state.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Eating Cheaply in Sonoma County

When you visit you've got your travel expenses, accommodations, and all that wonderful wine you're taking home. You also have to eat. Sonoma County has many excellent restaurants and part of the trip is experiencing some of the fabulous food offered. Visitors from most parts of the country will find Sonoma County restaurant prices higher than they're used to. What can you do to cut this cost and still eat better than Denny's? (My gawd, don't come all the way here and eat Denny's).

Friday, May 19, 2017

What to Drink This Summer

As the warm weather approaches your taste in wine may change. It's natural to find yourself wanting something lighter and refreshing. Does this mean you're putting away the Cabernet until October? No, but probably drinking fewer big reds.

As the weather warms wine consumers generally look for wines that are more refreshing, crisp, and fruity. In white wines look for higher acidity, in reds look for higher acidity and lower tannins.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Future of Wine in America

The American wine market is humming along right now. There have been a few bumps in the road in the past. There have certainly been changes. What about the next 25 years? It's safe to say there a lot more unknowns then things you can make educated guesses on. Climate change, technology, politics, and finicky consumers are are going to alter what we now consider the norm.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Sonoma County's Future

Extrapolating from the past is fairly easy. Figuring out the unknown changes is more difficult. I've been around Sonoma County for a few decades and have seen the changes. So looking at where we were is one way to predict the next couple decades. The other is to look at our neighbor, Napa Valley, as they may already be where Sonoma is going. Or, as Yogi once said, "The future ain't what it used to be." Can't argue with that.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Sonoma County Summer 2017 Events

Following are major wine and non-wine events in Sonoma County for the months of June through Labor Day weekend. Lots of stuff happening and it's going to be a fun summer. Come say hi!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Restaurant Ploys

Like any business restaurant studies are done to figure out how to better separate you from your money. Some restaurant tricks from food&wine.

More on the second cheapest bottle of wine strategy.

Monday, May 8, 2017

U.S. Wine Consumption

It's been reported the U.S. now consumes more wine in total than any other country. We drink more wine than France! Big time, right?

We are lightweights, actually. If you look at per capita we are way down the list. From the International Organization of Vine and Wine in Paris the sad news is Portugal and France drink over four times as much as Americans. Heck, Holland, UK,and Australia drink more than twice as much as we do. Even with their high excise taxes Canada drinks more!

Time to pick up the pace kids!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Tourism Dollars in Napa

Napa Valley isn't just about selling you wine you see at your local retailer. People visiting for the whole wine experience is big business. Per Visit Napa Valley, their tourism agency, last year 3.5 million visitors spent an estimated $1.92 billion dollars on wine, hotels, meals, etc.

Napa County has 136,000 residents so the tourist spending comes out to over $14,000 per person. That ain't hay. Thousands of jobs and millions in tax revenue are generated by folks coming to the valley.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Sustainable Tourism vs. Napafication

Sonoma County has a wealth of wineries, tourism, natural beauty, agriculture, and small towns. The tourism part is the double-edged sword. Napafication is a word used locally that means residents pushed out of their neighborhoods, usually by real estate prices. It can also mean for the residents left there they'll find no local services as the commercial establishments appeal to visitors instead. In Napa Valley, the towns of Yountville and St. Helena are prime examples. In Sonoma County, the towns of Healdsburg and Sonoma are going that way.

So that question is, how do you balance the benefit of money brought in by visitors with keeping it "local?" Ask any Hawaiian about that struggle. An article from the Press Democrat exploring the issue.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Relaxing in Sonoma County

A day of wine tasting or even brewpub crawling can get you relaxed, but there are other ways to let go of that job and/or family stress while in Sonoma County.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Serving Wine in California

California is fairly liberal when it comes to alcohol laws, but being booze it still has its quirky moments.

For instance, you can buy alcohol at your local grocery store beginning at 6 am every morning. Yes, even Sunday. As a bit of trivia the Sonoma town plaza is the only public gathering place of its kind in the state that allows open containers. You don't need a license to serve in a hot air balloon or limousine.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Wine Marketing - The Ignored Generation

Gen-X: Stuck in the middle.

Yep, when it comes to marketing, wine included, it appears you can't talk enough about the Millennials and their influence. This is also the relatively poorest generation as they are still young, early in their careers, buying they first house, etc. So, yes, they buy lots of electronics and certain clothing, but what about luxury goods like wine?

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 in the area. 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?