Things Change ....or surprising news in the wine industry

I found this tidbit on WineBusiness.com this morning. Normally, I check in with Wine Business for the industry news at work M-F, but don't spend too much time there on weekends. I popped in randomly today after scanning the job board and - woah! Saturday headline- Sebastiani Winery sold to Foley Group. That wasn't there on Friday afternoon.

In case you were wondering, I don't work for Sebastiani. But I do work for a winery that was sold by the founding family to a corporation about a year and a half ago. The day they announced the sale was quite shocking to the employees. Despite a lot lip service from upper management in the first few weeks saying "nothing is going to change," lots of things changed. Some good and some not so good. Many months later I still have to remind myself that change in the business world is inevitable. Change can be good. "Hang on Viva," 'cause things will probably change again in the near future.

Unfortunately this is the future for the US wine industry for the next decade. I think we will continue to see a lot of consolidation as founding families decide to move on rather build a business that lasts more than one or two generations. This seems to be a rather American trait. We like to think of ourselves as individuals and as such, our cultural need for individualism pushes us to leave the past behind and strike out for new horizons. Compare these US family wineries, which have been sold, to the Antinori family, members of the Italian aristocracy who have been making wine for over 600 years.

My heart goes out to the Sebastiani employees. I know how it feels. Some of you will loose your jobs and some of you won't. About the only thing I can guarantee, no matter what the higher ups are saying, is that things WILL change.

A selection of white wines from around the world

2007 Foppoli Russian River Valley Chardonnay Sonoma. Clear and light with grapefruit and a bit of grass. Citrus flavors in the mouth. No oak or ML. Medium acids. Medium-long finish, nice intensity and balance. Nice with sweet/spicy Thai dishes or something heavy in basil.

2005 Fillaboa Albarino Rias Biaxas. Yellow-gold in tone with stone fruits and citrus in the first aromas. Honey, and a touch of jasmine follow. Lemon, apples and flint, with a hint of zested citrus. Medium bodied, with some oak, on the tongue and in the finish. High acids and a 12% aftertaste. Medium finish, and a nice complexity. Drink this with seafood and pasta dishes or creamy sauces.

2006 El Bully Albarino El Bino Rias Biaxas. Pale straw, with a touch of green. Citrus and apples; flinty edge with floral notes. More green apple in the flavor. Light body, no oak or tannins. Medium finish, and moderate in balance and complexity. Nice 12.5% alcohol content. I’m thinking shellfish with this one.

2005 Marques Casa Concha Chardonnay Chile. Clear yellow gold in tone; Aromas of honey, cream with straw and minerals. Touch of creaminess and spice. Tannins leave a bitter aftertaste. Medium bodied and on oak for 9 months, and surprisingly high in acid, this wine was a mouthful. Intense with a medium finish, but an unfocused complexity of flavors that leaves the taster vaguely unsatisfied, despite the intensity.

2005 Premier Cru Les Fourneaux Chablis. Pale straw color. First impression is tropical flavors with some minerality and floral notes. Apple and citrus flavors with a flinty edge and a bit of cream; light body without much oak; Medium-high acids. Medium-long finish, with good intensity and complexity. This would go well with a wide variety of meals.


I finished this post. Can I have my cookie now?

First of all- sorry to my (nonexistant) readers for not finishing that last post on Albarino. I know how disapointed you all were (not). I was overtaken by a cold virus, and may be on the verge of another one again. Crap.

But there is good news. Despite my unfinished post and new round of virus (viruses, virusii?) I did finish the presentation for class. It went over well, according to the professor. I also just finished a shit-ton of new wine reviews for that same class that I'm ready to post for your reading pleasure.

Next I'm about to bury my procrastinating self in writing a paper about email campaigns for the wine industry, then its finals, so I might not come up for air for a couple of weeks. But ya' never know.

A little bit of everything from the red wine category

2006 Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel, Lodi – Fruit driven, medium bodied, with just a hint of oak. Jammy black fruits with raspberry and boysenberry notes and soft floral aromas. Dense ruby red to purple color. This wine grabs the palate with it’s fruity intensity, but lacks the complexity. Medium finish. Drink now due to the lack of tannins, hint of residual sugars and intense fruit qualities. Would pair well with barbequed ribs or a spice rubbed flank steak.

2005 Forchini Cabernet Sauvignon Dry Creek Valley Proprietor’s Reserve Sonoma- A dense dark purple with ruby tones. Aromas of cherries and blackberries with touch of creamy vanilla. The fruits go nicely on the palate but do not dominate the wine; herbal notes and a touch of bitterness give it balance. Medium-high tannins. The denseness of color belies the medium intensity and finish in this wine. The high alcohol – 14.7% gives it a bit of bite that contributes to its complexity. Would pair nicely with a ribeye steak with gorgonzola and frites.

2007 Gascon Malbec Argentina. Black berries, plum on the nose with a bit of barnyard; some oak on the nose. Dense colors of dark purplish ruby with moderate intense flavors to match. Jammy fruit, and a touch of pepper; heavy oak; low acid and high alcohol; medium-long finish, with a nice balance and complexity.

2005 Terrazas de los Andes Reserva Malbec Argentina. A dense, purplish-black, boysenberry like color. Plum, blackberries, cherry jam on the nose with a bit of spice and a hint of earthy funkiness. More impact on the nose than on the palate, with a taste that called out dark cherries and tannins. The denseness of the color is followed through in the heavy body of this wine. I felt let down by the flavor after the symphony of aromas, but the 14.% alcohol content is sure to take care of that by the second glass.

2004 Casa La Postelle Cuvee Alexander Alpalto Vineyard Cabernet, Chile. Dense red with a touch of garnet around the edges. Tight on the nose in the beginning; berries, cedar, herbs, followed by a hint of leather. Opens up in the mouth with berries and spice. A heavy bodied wine, medium oak, and just enough acid to add complexity. Long finish and good intensity and complexity. May last another 5-8 years. Try this with tapas like lamb chop in a sweet/smokey marinade, or a garlicky steak.


Albarino and the region of Rias Biaxas, Spain

Or a post only a wine geek could love.

At last some writing about wine. I have been busy with school, tests, a paper, and presentation due soon, work drama- maybe another post, a partner being laid off - saving that one for later, too, and a cold *sniffle*. You are much better off just reading the blog than actually spending time with my sniffling, sneezing, cranky self these days. Since I've spent so much time putting together a powerpoint presentation about Rias Biaxas and Albarino, I thought I would share it with you.

Albarino is a one of the aromatic whites. Created in a tiny corner of Northwest Spain known as Riax Baixas (pronounced Re-as Bishus) it is known for high acids, delicate aromas and fruit components such as apple, peach and citrus. Similar to a dry riesling but with a touch more minerality, this is a wonderful food paring wine and mighty nice to sip on a warm day.

The Riax Baixas region of Spain is part of the province of Galicia. It was settled by Gaelic ancestors and has its own language- Gallego, a blend of Portuguese and Spanish. It has a long history of wine stretching back to the Roman Empire as early as 2nd century A.D. Historical references mention that the province was part of an extensive trade network of wine exporting to England and Northern Europe between the 15th and 18th centuries when trade restrictions and politics put an end to the exports. These days Albarino is the main grape grown, but tantalizing historical tidbits suggest Riax Biaxas also produced a great deal of light bodied red wines from possibly indigenous grapes before the Phloxera epidemic hit the European vineyards in the mid 19th century. (Have I bored you completely yet?)

The end of the Franco years and Spain's admittance to the EU has brought about a resurgence of the wine industry in Spain in general. In the late 1980's quality standards were implemented and the area went through a massive replanting focusing its vineyards on producing Albarino, a signature wine from the area.

These days, Albarino accounts for 90% of the grapes grown. There are 7500 acres under vine in 5 sub-regions. A charming factiod- those 7500 acres are owned by 6500 growers, which makes the average size for a vineyard 1/2 acre.

The weather isAtlantic coastal, with grey skies and fog at least 1/2 the year. The average temperature ranges from 55-60 degrees.

more to come...



Have you googled yourself lately? I have a doppelganger, more than one in fact. I thought I had (brilliantly) come up with a new word, "Googleganger", but googling the word showed me that it was already listed in the Urban Dictonary. Darn.

Someone else out there is using the name VivaELvino. He, I think it’s a he”, registered the domain name. This must be fairly recent, because I googled it a ways back while thinking of a business idea and he did not came up in the search. There is also a Spanish web site about wine using the name. Sounds good to me. I love Spanish wines.

Mr. Vivaelvino beat me to the Facebook page. I bet he has a Myspace page, too. Well crap. Or maybe not. I’m not really motivated to do Facebook or Myspace. I’m not part of that generation. I can hardly keep up with Linkedin and I see a point to participating in that. I got to Twitter first though. Neener neener.

Should I go to all the blog sites and register myself first? Maybe we could have a spectacular legal battle over who has the right to use the name ala Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and Stags’ Leap Winery. We could spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and eventually settle on me using the capped “EL” and him using “el” lower case. Nah, I suggest we sit down over a glass of wine and swap stories about how brilliant we both are (or not, see above) to think it up spontaneously but separately. Great minds think alike, eh?

Even more unsettling is the reality that there is someone out there with the same given name as me. I guess if you are named after a family member like Desi and Lucy Arnez, Jr., or if you have a combination of a fairly common first and last name, like Mike Jones you are probably used to it. (Based on my unofficial observation, "Mike Jones" is the name that occurs most frequently on our mailing list at work.) But this is about me.

I have a less common first name and less common last name. Out of curiosity I looked up my first name popularity stats on the US Social Security Department baby name web site. The name has increased in popularity since I was born. Not surprising, as most of the people I meet with the same first name are younger. I was born in the 1960’s. The site says my name ranked at number 245 in that decade. Now ranks at 75. A pretty impressive jump if I may say so, as we move into the twenty-first century. We’re moving up in popularity gals. Not to digress too much here, but the names on the list and the way the order changes over the years could be an entirely different posting. Go check it out for yourself and see where your name ranks (and how many ways there are to spell "Destiny" as a first name.)

I do occasionally come across people with the same surname or the same first name as me, but never both. From my google research, it looks like my googleganger lives in the UK, which makes the surname thing more likely. I also think we both use a similar email address which is a bit unsettling. which is why sometimes my favorite username is taken. She has a Facebook page, too.

I wonder how much else we are alike or not alike. Do we both like wine? How did she get named the same first name as me? Does her family come from the same area of Ireland that mind did? My mother tells me she picked my given name based on a character from a book she read, The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck. Read the summary of the book and tell me if you can figure out what inspired Mom. Who picked my googleganger's name? I bet we don’t have the same middle name. Crap- I googled my first & middle combination- there’s several listings with that combination. Time to stop googling and have a glass of wine. Cheers to my googlegangers.

The Sauvignon Blanc Continues to flow.October 20-26, 2008The temperature dropped temporarily a couple of weeks ago and things seemed down right Fallish in Northern California. I was starting to think about red wines when Indian Summer swooped down and nestled itself into the last two weeks of October. It's been in the 80's during the day all week long and perfect for the whites. This, plus random luck, and a presentation on New Zealand and the Mosel Valley in Germany by two of my MBA compatriots gave me the opportunity to taste a good spectrum of Sauvignon Blanc styles this week along with a couple of Rieslings.

Villa Maria Private Bin 2008 Sauvignon Blanc New Zealand. A pale straw color with the characteristic New Zealand civit (ok - musky for sure, but cat pee, really?), bell pepper and minerality on the nose, followed flavors of pineapple and grapefruit offsetting the flinty qualities. No noticeable oak or tannins, but lots of acid as it should be for this varietal.

Sauvignon Republic 2007 Russian River Sauvignon Blanc. I'm delighted to say that this wine turned up again on the wine list at Celadon. Our interest was piqued at the Thai restaurant in Santa Rosa last weekend so we sprung for a bottle at dinner. Spare minerality and grass on the nose, (I think it was served a bit too cold to start) with flavors of citrus, apples and hay that opened up as the wine warmed a bit.Snoqualamie Vineyards 2007 Sauvignon Blanc Columbia Valley (check back later for this one. Still working on my notes.)

Kim Crawford 2007 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.These guys are rocking the on premise category. I see this wine in restaurants everywhere. I tasted this particular bottle a few weeks back and thought I should throw it in along with the rest of the SBs. Light straw in color, with tropical notes, melon, and bell pepper on the nose. Citrus fruits, especially lemon with a bit of grass. No oak or tannin. Nice acids with moderate complexity and an acceptable mid length finish.

Dry Creek Vineyard 2007 Fume Blanc. Did you know that Robert Mondavi made up the name Fume Blanc? Legend has it he thought Sauvignon Blanc would be too hard for the American public to pronounce. This wine was citrus and melon on the nose, with a bit of greenness and creamy tropical tones. Grapefruit with hints of peach, a bit of bell pepper on the tongue. No oak here; steel fermented to bring out the acids. Nice balance, with concentrated flavors.Did I mention the Rieslings? I’m not a Riesling fan, but I’ve tried to be objective here. I didn’t love them, but hopefully I was fair in describing the qualities.

SA Prum 2007 Sonnenuhr Wehlener Riesling Kabinette. This wine came out of the bottle with a yellow straw color. Jasmine and honeysuckle florals and a noticeable minerality on the nose. The flavor was sweet with honey and peaches, and a touch of diesel; Medium bodied, low oak, and high acid with a bit of residual sugar and good intensity.

SA Prum 2006 Sonnenuhr Wehlener Riesling Spatlase. Spatlese is a higher designation for Rieslings. As a classification, they have more residual sugar and indicate a warmer growing year for the Mosel Valley. This one was all honey and stone fruits in the nose; delicate florals on the tongue, and a syrupy quality reminiscent of canned peaches- in a good way. With 3% residual sugar and low alcohol, it’s not surprising. This wine had nice acids hidden in the flavors, with solid complexity that develops in the mouth and a long finish.


Chapter One in which our heroine gives the cats a bath ...or ...what wine goes with wet cats?

humorous pictures

Normally I rely on the self cleaning feature that comes standard with the model, but occasionally excessive dirt wallowing or flea buildup requires an actual bath for the cat(s). Of course, if you are going to the trouble to wash one of them, you might as well wash the other one, too. I now present to you a bit of light comedy from my Sunday morning adventure.

Step 1. Clear everything away from the counter surrounding the sink. Desperate kitties will reach out claws at anything they think might be able to save them from the dreaded bath. See photo above.

Step 2. Fill the sink with luke-warm water and a bit of pet shampoo.

Step 3. Find the cat. Luckily fatcat was lolling on the bed and cat #2 magically appeared from her hidey-hole outside when called.

Step 4. Pick up cat and deposit it in the bathwater. This can be tricky. My cats aren't particularly fond of being carried around. I have to cajole them with sweet nothings and caresses to keep them from getting suspicious. Careful- many models have a self eject feature that may spontaneously trigger. Keep one hand on the neck (gently) at all times during bathing process.

Step 5. Wash the cat. In the first attempt, crafty fatcat lulled me into complacency by appearing to submit. When I relaxed my grip, he ejected himself from the sink streaming soap and water and proceeded to make a dash into the living room. I quickly followed with a towel praying he didn't jump onto the white furniture. I managed to pull him out from underneath the chair and return his wet soggy, soapy ass to the sink to finish the bath. Rinse, repeat with the firm grip in place. Ok- I didn't repeat, but the shampoo bottle reference made me smile. Sorry, no photos available. Both my hands were busy with the cat.

Step 6. Dry off the cat. Again, a good grip of the wet animal is important. I recommend wrapping the cat in a towel and rubbing (gently, but) vigorously to remove as much excess water as possible, because you know the wet cat will make a bee-line to his favorite spot such as the white living room furniture or the bed.

Step 7. Clean up trail of water leading out of kitchen, through family room, down hallway, into living room and under the chair.

Step 8. Repeat with second cat.

Step 9. Clean up second puddle of water. Cat #2 didn't actually escape, but her futile attempts did cause me to spray water around the kitchen by accident with the sink sprayer.

Results: Two damp cats, one damp person (yours truly) covered in cat hair. One of us needs a shower.

Oh yeah- about the wine. Sauvignon Blanc is my choice for the best wine to drink while bathing cats. I'm not crazy about the "cat pee" descriptor. I think if I actually smelled cat pee in a wine I would turn and run the other way. I usually notice bell pepper or herbaceous overtones, but maybe that's because I have a good idea of what cat pee really smells like. We like SB a lot at my house and I'm not afraid to buy and try them since they are so affordable.

Unfortunately dinner last night was rushed and I couldn't make any notes to give my impression of the Sauvignon Republic Russian River SB. This wasn't the restaurant's fault. We arrived in Santa Rosa, not having had dinner at 7:30 pm and the play started at 8 pm. The folks at a Thai restaurant on 4th street were kind enough to rush out a couple of entrees and a couple of glasses of wine for us. It was so fast that I'm not even sure of the name of the restaurant. A scan of Google maps suggests it might have been Khoom Lanna. The food was good, my apologies and thanks to the restaurant. We just made the curtain call. I was intrigued by the wine and will try it again the next time we cross paths.

I did try another SB this afternoon- Miner Family 2007 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc. It had quite a bit of pineapple and grass overtones. No cat pee. The nice tasting room server, Rachel, brought it out from the back for me to try. It was overpowered by the tempranillo. I will have to try it again some time to give a fair reveiw.

Wines I've been drinking

October 13-19, 2008

Sauvignon Republic 2007 Russian River Sauvignon Blanc- had this while eating a really fast meal at a Thai restaurant in Santa Rosa last night. Had potential, but the wine was room temperature, served in a chilled glass. Unclear on the concept....

Ravenswood Old Vine Zinfandel- drank this from a plastic cup during the intermission of Death of a Salesman last night. No comment, cause it was wine served at a performing arts event (need I say more?) and 'ya just can't judge a wine out of a plastic cocktail cup.

Miner Family 2007 Sierra Foothills Tempranillo. M. had this with lunch at Barber's Q in Napa. A delightful california version of tempranillo- more fruit forward and dense than a Spanish tempranillo might be, but with delightful cherry overtones, nice acids and medium tannins. It inspired us to drive out to Miner and do some tasting and buy a couple of bottles.

Ancien 2007 Pinot Gris Carneros Sangiocomo Vineyard. This was my selection to go with the Barber's Q pulled pork sandwich. A beautiful wine with citrus flavors; a hint of minerality good acids to compliment the sweetness of barbeque. It had that nice fizz that pinot gris should have to compliment the acidic bite.

Blackbird Vineyards 2007 Napa Valley Arriviste Rose of Merlot and Cab Franc. Hints of strawberry in the nose, with citrus fruit and berries on the palate. Dry, but with a bit of cotton candy in the finish. It didn't knock me out, but there was nothing wrong with it. I'm not a fan of the strawberry quality that roses tend to have.