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Pfendler – On the Roof of Petaluma

September 8, 2011 Fifty-Two Weeks 1 Comment
Pfendler – On the Roof of Petaluma

Two months earlier it seemed like a good idea. Now, it was our honeymoon.

When I agreed to visit a winery for a future story in the middle of this once in a lifetime event, I thought it a rather cleaver scheme. “She won’t mind going, she has fun at these things too,” I reasoned with myself as I emailed our confirmation. I had even scheduled the appointment for mid-afternoon so we wouldn’t be needlessly rushed early in the day. I was, I thought, a rather considerate guy, and after all, it would probably be romantic, a cute story we would one day tell our children or our Beagle at least.

As the clock closed in on departure time and we reluctantly started to get ready, I began to rethink the brilliance of my plan. After we both agreed that we “shouldn’t stay overly long (it was our honeymoon after all),” we left our cozy vineyard cottage and fireplace in Kenwood, just off of Highway 12 and headed east.

It was a crisp and beautiful January day as we headed the back way into Petaluma. … Continue Reading

The Ojai Vineyard – Part II

The Ojai Vineyard – Part II

Two weeks ago I wrote about The Ojai Vineyard and my time with Adam Tolmach and Fabien Castel. Much of the story centered on Adam’s decision to tone back the amount of alcohol in some of his wines over the past several years. At the outset, I did not intend to write a story that focused so heavily on the controversy that came along with his decision. Nor did I plan on writing so extensively about his relationship with wine critics (one in particular). These topics just became a big part of our conversation that day.

Yet, I am pleased I wrote it. In preparing for my interview with Adam, I came across much chatter about him. Some was in praise of the winemaker and some was not. A small portion of it was borderline character assassination. Therefore, I was happy to present Adam’s fair and balanced side of the story.

Read the original interview here: The Ojai Vineyard: “Legends, Myths, and Fantastic Chardonnay”. … Continue Reading

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

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

Harvesting the Wind, Anaba Wines

Harvesting the Wind, Anaba Wines

Green isn’t always a bad thing as it relates to wine. While a “green” or young wine, maybe unappealing to the palate, a “GREEN” or Eco-friendly wine may even taste better according to some enthusiasts. But what does it mean to be “GREEN” in the wine industry today? The sustainability movement in vineyard management is it’s self a green or young development. Regulators are still wrestling with “organic” and “sustainable” classifications. What makes a vineyard “organic” or “sustainable”? The movement is still in barrel, waiting to be bottled, and consumed by the masses so to speak. Yet, winery after winery marches forward into the green frontier. But, are they not really marching backwards, rediscovering the roots of their trade?

Wine is one of man’s oldest carnal pleasures and passions. From Bible times until present, a good glass of wine has brought joy to the soul and even health benefits. In comparison to the centuries of wine cultivation by organic means, modern farming techniques such as tractors, the use of chemicals to control pests, and even bioengineering, have played a small role. The Israelites of ye’ olde were not exactly rolling around in a King David 4000 (patent pending) spraying for mealy bugs. They were by default “organic” and therefore “green” operations. So it should be no surprise that wine can be made and in fact very good wine, with a much smaller impact on the environment around it. … Continue Reading

Michael David Winery

January 9, 2010 Fifty-Two Weeks, Other Counties Comments Off
Michael David Winery

From its earliest days, the trademark has played an integral part in both the market-place and in pop culture. With their red triangle, The British brewery Bass & Company, claim title to the oldest registered trademark dating back to the late 1800’s. From McDonald’s golden arches to the double tail of the Starbucks mermaid, trademarks shape how we think and respond to merchandise. A well designed logo or trademark can mean the difference between a sale and a missed opportunity. This fact drives brand managers to change and adapt with the times and market-place.

Lately, I have thought about brand images a lot. … Continue Reading

River Run – The Start

River Run  – The Start

If you read Wine Spectator, you are familiar with the last page, “Wine Talk”. Here, you may find an interview with a race car driver, an 80’s hair metal legend, or my recent favorite, Sean Connery. Often, in these short profiles, you will read a sentence something like this: “I remember when I had my wine revelation, it was… (insert memorable wine moment here)”. Wine has a gift, older than Bob Barker himself , of grabbing a person and often in a dramatic and lasting way. I was no different.

I had always wanted to like wine, but wanting to like wine and liking it are two different things. I collected a few bottles as a teenager, not to drink, just to have them. However, I had a hard time really enjoying what I drank when I first started trying wine. At the time, I thought I simply did not have the “acquired taste” for wine that I had heard about and I figured I would need to work hard to build an appreciation of wine over time. In retrospect, there is only so much quality in a $5 to $7 wine from the local super market, no offense Sutter Home … 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
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