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Charles Shaw – What The Chuck?

April 21, 2010 Fifty-Two Weeks Comments Off
Charles Shaw – What The Chuck?

If there ever was a film made about Fred Franzia’s life, and I hope there is, Brian Cox would my choice to play the role of the foul mouthed, stout figured king of the bargain grape.

Fred is the nephew of California wine legend Ernest Gallo. It is his Family’s name “Franzia” that dominates boxed wines across the Country. In addition, he is also the man behind another name: Charles Shaw, AKA Two-Buck Chuck.

Fred Franzia is CEO of Bronco Wine Company, who has caused a huge stir in the wine community over the past several decades. There have been lawsuits stemming from accusations of fraudulent labeling practices, to labor complaints resulting from the tragic death of a young female farm worker who was employed by Bronco Wines. Yet, it is neither of these affairs that have earned Bronco Wines the most attention. Make a $1.99 wine and other vintners may chuckle and dismiss you as fiscally negligent. Make a $1.99 wine and sell it by the millions of cases exclusively at Trader Joes, and everyone will take notice. So it is, that a massive empire was forged, two dollars at a time. … Continue Reading

Clos Pepe – Battle For the Soul of Pinot

April 14, 2010 Fifty-Two Weeks 6 Comments
Clos Pepe – Battle For the Soul of Pinot

Wes Hagen makes it easy for one to get excited about visiting him at the Sta. Rita Hills vineyard he manages. “Put your thinking cap on,” he told me, “this place may blow your mind,” Sta. Rita Hills has certainly blown his.

The guy is nuts about his little slice of pinot paradise called Clos Pepe, and rightfully so. The Sta. Rita Hills is a special part of the Central Coast, and Wes appreciates the piece of land he farms maybe more than any other winemaker I have met. He talks fast and colorfully often using wild hand gestures, like a magician crafting an illusion.

When we first spoke over email, he encouraged me to visit him at Clos Pepe (pronounced clo, with a long O and no S, and peppy), because as he said, “you have to kick the dirt and breathe the air to get this place.” Wes gets it. … Continue Reading

Dierberg & Star Lane – The Knight of Happy Canyon

Dierberg & Star Lane – The Knight of Happy Canyon

“For what it’s worth, we call our place the “Wine Castle.” Complete with secret passages, orcs, and knights in shining armor (well, rain suits, actually).”

Two weeks ago I wrote about Dave Potter of Municipal Winemakers. A day after I published it, I got the above email from Dave’s friend and fellow winemaker Nick de Luca of Dierberg & Star Lane. He went on to write, “I’m going to have to work really hard to elevate myself from the traditional “marble-halled-chateau” look that Dave so deridingly speaks of.”

Originally, I was scheduled to meet with Nick two weeks earlier, but he had to reschedule on account of the birth of his new baby girl. Her name is Gracie and she is an angel! I know, because the proud father sent me pictures of her, adorable pictures! Gracie is not Nick’s first daughter, just the first human one. The award of the de Luca’s firstborn goes to an eight-year old Coonhound named Bella, who although incredibly lick-happy, recently fought a coyote to the death. Seriously, she did. … Continue Reading

Joe Roberts – 1WineDude

April 6, 2010 The Press 2 Comments
Joe Roberts – 1WineDude

Recently Steve Heimoff wrote a piece on his blog called, “Wine Blogs: An Endangered Species?” In his critique of wine blogs, good and bad, he encouraged supporting fellow wine bloggers through interlinking, or citing other bloggers work. In fact, he cited his own need to reach out in this way for the benefit of the community as a whole. If the wine blogging culture is to thrive, there should be more support amongst the individual bloggers. Steve is passionate about wine writing and wants to leave it in good hands, whenever he moves on down the road. “I want to hand it off, to whoever it may be, to people who believe in wine passionately, sincerely, with every ounce of their being. To people who are willing to live wine 24/7 — not just blog about the free sample somebody sent them yesterday,” he said.

When I started A Long Pour, the goal was not to promote my own ego or opinions, which I have too much of both. I remain a young wine drinker, new in my experience. Frankly, I don’t care to be a critic. I want to have fun learning about wine and promoting the people who live it everyday. I want to build a community, a place for winemakers and enthusiasts alike to learn about their colleagues and the people who craft the wines we love. I also want to provide an outlet for other talent, photographers, graphic artists, and bloggers. … Continue Reading

Claiborne & Churchill – Vikings, Riesling, and Crossword Puzzles

April 1, 2010 Fifty-Two Weeks 2 Comments
Claiborne & Churchill – Vikings, Riesling, and Crossword Puzzles

The road into wine is a varied path. Some are born into it and it is only a matter of time before they take the wheel. Some buy their way in, successful tycoons with enough personal drive and ego to play the high-risk game of world class wine production; often hiring others to do the driving for them. Still, others are drawn away from entirely different careers and career paths by the siren call of the fermented grape. Tragically, some are dashed against the rocks of reality even as others slip past the dangers to collect their reward. Milla Handley gave up a potential career in commercial real-estate, Paul Clifton was a firemen, Dave Potter was on his way to becoming a lawyer, Ryan Carr a graphic designer.

Of the people I have met over the past five months, Claiborne “Clay” Thompson has one of the more interesting paths into wine. Before he made a name producing Alsace wines of balance and charm, before he was a cellar rat at Edna Valley Winery for $6 an hour, Clay earned his Ph.D. from Harvard. So how did Clay and his wife go from Professors at Michigan State (he being a Professor of Medieval Literature and Languages and she of German) to producing award-wining wines on the Central Coast of California? … Continue Reading

Municipal Winemakers – And the Man Who Is Better than You

March 24, 2010 Fifty-Two Weeks 6 Comments
Municipal Winemakers – And the Man Who Is Better than You

“I am pretty sure that most of you reading this are in fact not good enough to buy our wine.”

Dave Potter made the above statement in response to a Wine Spectator article calling his 2008 Bright White Riesling “A California White With No Need for Pretense”.  “Au contraire!” Dave fired back, “I would like to point out that the Municipal Winemakers do have a great disdain for all that are beneath us (aka not Awesome).”

After just a few moments on Municipal Winemakers’ website, you realize that it isn’t business as usual for the Santa Barbara winemaker. There is not a Chateau to be found, neither oak tree, or regal men smoking pipes. There are however, pigs in uniform and Tom Cruise adorned in 80’s shades. The site includes a few professional reviews, well…sort of. Tron Guy, who found his own Internet fame after fashioning himself an outfit modeled after the 80′s sci-fi cult classic: Tron (which is being re-released this December by Disney), was approached by Dave to review a few of the Municipal Winemakers’ wines. See Tron Guy here. … Continue Reading

Hahn Wines – Sustainability in the Highlands

Hahn Wines – Sustainability in the Highlands

Born out of the decrepit and vile heart of Los Angeles near Hollywood, where stars are born and even occasionally meet their destruction, the 101 marches north, passing through some of the most fantastic regions of California, Oregon, and Washington. Away from The City of Angel’s congestion, violence, and vanity. Along sun bathed beaches and into the rolling hills of the Central Coast it roams. Through vineyards and ranches, farm towns, and military bases. Through the land of John Steinbeck novels and across the Golden Gate Bridge. It winds through the rugged coastline and massive redwoods before it leads you away from its birth state, imploring you to discover the unknown that lies ahead in Oregon and later Washington.

On drives to the Bay Area, there is a stretch of the 101 freeway that always catches my attention; it is about an hour north of Paso Robles. Here the landscape is open and desolate. Although desolate really isn’t the right word, since it is a vibrant farming region. None-the-less, I have always been intimidated and enticed by desolate places, whether they are actual or imaginary. As I drove through here a few weeks ago, it felt particularly desolate and enchanting. I watched rays of sunshine burst through the patchwork of somber clouds, illuminating the green of the hills with vibrant bursts of color. It was a perfect day, the sky was unsettled and moody and there were little man-made distractions around to take away from its beauty. … Continue Reading

Wolff Vineyards, A Study in Sustainability

Wolff Vineyards, A Study in Sustainability

He once created a world-class wine from a bottle of Welch’s grape juice simply by looking at it; Robert Parker scored it 94 points. He can sign fluently in American Sign Language using only his feet. He once met the Prince of Belgium and sold him wine. For fun, he sometimes blows-up hotdogs using either electrical current or his charming smile. He protects threatened California Pacific Pond Turtles and restores native streams, all while sleepwalking. He won a world championship in water skiing, without skis, or a boat. He started the California Gold Rush. His wine mentor invented a special alloy for NASA and taught him how to break dance. He is the most interesting man in Central Coast wine.

After a little over an hour of conversation, I jokingly told Jean-Pierre last week that he reminded me of those Dos XX commercials. He laughed and said, “Yeah, yeah, that’s me!” While not all the statements above are true or fully accurate, Jean-Pierre, a vintner and owner of Wolff Vineyards in Edna Valley, is a remarkably interesting person. To illustrate my point, the following statements ARE all true. … Continue Reading

Chatom Vineyards

Chatom Vineyards

As a boy I spent a lot of time in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. My Grandma, an aunt, and uncle called it home. The Aunt and Uncle still do, Columbia and Oakhurst respectively. My roots are in the Southern California coastal town of Ventura, but when I was five I my family and I moved to a sleepy agricultural town in the Central San Joaquin Valley. The valley is a hell of a place, literally. Hot and dry in the summer, cold and foggy in the winter. I remember playing hide and go seek in open fields using only the blanket of fog for cover. But the mountains on the other hand were glorious. With my sisters, we could pan for fools-gold, fish for small-mouth bass, or feed raccoons grapes. We played in the creeks of my Aunt and Grandmother’s place, marveled at large group of deer, and on evening walks with my father and uncle, I would watch enthralled as a family of quail dashed across the roads and into Manzanita bushes. I played in the snow for the first time, caught my first fish, rode a bike with no hands, and ate my first rattlesnake (long story). The Sierras are a part of who I am and they will always be a second home.

When I was 13, I returned to my coastal home. Once regular visits became infrequent, then stopped. Mid-last year, after an absence of ten years, I returned with my father to visit my aunt. … Continue Reading

Santa Barbara Winery, The Fight For A Name

Santa Barbara Winery, The Fight For A Name

For the first time in 16 years, sales of California wine were down in 2009. It would be easy to assume the economic downturn was to blame, but sales of wine across the US were up 2.1%. On the other hand, sales of wines produced in California were down 4%. There have been similar trends in liquor sales across the US, with bargain brands up and luxury brands down in sales. The furloughed and unemployed masses are reaching for a different kind of stimulus package, and a cheaper one at that. In California, many wines at the high end suffered losses while bargain brands and cheap imports soared. Americans are drinking more wine, just not more of their own.

In wine shops all over the world, the rally cry is “bargain, Bargain, BARGAIN”! Consumers are demanding more for less and getting it. It could be argued that many California wineries have backed themselves into a corner, enjoying year after year of success selling the kingly-wines of Napa Valley and elsewhere for kingly-prices. February’s Wine Spectator offered their annual overview of wine pricing. The average price of a California Cabernet sampled in 2009 out of some 585 was $119.00, even though 66% of those wines scored 89 points or less (just over a quarter scored 84 points or less) on the Wine Spectator 100 point scale. The market is adjusting itself as other industries like housing have. Personally, I would say: serves them right. … Continue Reading

{Archives}

Bonny Doon: Day of the Doon IX {Photo Essay}

September 22, 2011

Bonny Doon: Day of the Doon IX {Photo Essay}

We have grown rather accustomed to long trips for short stays, so much so that a 500 mile weekend is not such a big deal anymore. There are a lot of events we are invited to and we can only attend a few of them. But when Randall Graham asks you to attend, you attend. [...]

Secret Project {the reveal}

August 17, 2011

Secret Project {the reveal}

A few weeks ago I posted the “Secret Project” with some shots of  a friend’s new winery taking shape. At the time, the space was still in a raw state, holes in the ground, bare walls, cut concrete. In terms of photographing a new winery, one might say there was not much to see, no [...]

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Studio Holladay
Municipal Winemakers
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