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Monday, May 7, 2018
by Kerana Todorov | May 7, 2018 | 2:00 PM

Napa County residents and other visitors on Saturday headed to vineyards they see every day but do not stop by. They were invited to take part in “Afternoon in the Vineyards,” an event Napa Valley Vintners and Napa Valley Grapegrowers sponsor every year.

One such stops was Starmont, a Merryvale Family of Wines property visible from Highway 29 off Stanly Lane in Carneros. About 50 acres of planted vineyards surround the winery.

While the winery was built in 2006, its tasting room only opened in July 2015.

“It’s an opportunity to extend a little extra for our local people so that they know more about us and try the wines,” said Toni Hunt, of Merryvale, at Starmont.

Starmont is a little off the beaten path, she said. “We try to get local people here.”

“Afternoon in the Vineyards” is also a way to advertise the Napa Green, an environmental program for wineries and vineyards.

Michael Costley, viticulturist and vineyard operations at Merryvale Family of Wines, led tours to the sustainable vineyard behind Starmont, pointing to owl boxes, the weather station he routinely repairs and the solar panels visible on the winery’s roof. There is no Roundup use at Starmont, he said.

Other vineyards on the “Afternoon in the Vineyards” tour were: Luna Vineyards; Baldacci Family Vineyards; Alpha Omega; Clos Pegase and Duckhorn Vineyards’ Three Palms Vineyard off the Silverado Trail near Calistoga.

“it’s an incredible site,” said Duckhorn viticulturist Courtney Preston after leading the last tour of the vineyard planted in 73.66 acres of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc. “I love showing this vineyard to people,” Preston said.

Duckhorn Wine Co. in 2015 purchased the 83-acre vineyard which brothers Sloan and John Upton had planted in 1967.

Preston focused Saturday’s conversations on viticulture. The visitors were engaged. Questions ranged from the physiology of the vine to watering, nutrition, soil and vineyard health. “I just love having the community come out here,” Preston said.

Among the visitors at Three Palms Vineyard were Chaz and Tonya Lemmon of American Canyon in south Napa County.

The Lemmons take part in “Afternoon in the Vineyards” and other community events sponsored by the Napa Valley Vintners, including “Morning in the Winery.” The last “Morning in the Winery” was in January.
On Saturday, the Lemmons said they enjoy learning about the wine industry.

“It’s fun because every time you go you learn something new,” said Chaz Lemmon, a chemical engineer.

Michael Costley, viticulturist and vineyard operations at Merryvale Family of Wines, second from left, leads visitors to tour Starmont in Carneros during "Afternoon in the Vineyards." The event invites members of the community to visit vineyards close to home.
by Kerana Todorov | May 7, 2018 | 7:09 AM

Jackson Family Wines’ owner Barbara Banke said she was a little disappointed but proud this weekend after her horse, Good Magic, crossed the finish line at the 2018 Kentucky Derby in second place.

Her horse had created a buzz among the horse racing writers for days ahead of the race. But in the end, Justify, a colt with three straight wins this year, crossed the finish line 2 ½ lengths ahead of Good Magic to win the 144th Kentucky Derby as rains drenched Churchill Downs. Banke was rooting for Good Magic from the owners’ box.

“We were jumping up and down,” Banke said Sunday. “I was a little disappointed not to win.”
Still, Banke said, she is very proud of Good Magic. “He’s a very good horse.”

Good Magic has been on a stride. He won the 2017 Breeder’s Cup Juvenile at Del mar after finishing second in the Champagne Stakes at Belmont.

He will now rest until he’s ready for the next race. The Kentucky Derby is only open to 3-year-old horses.

Good Magic was bred and raised at Banke’s Stonestreet Farms in Kentucky before the horse was sold at auction. Banke, who maintained 50 percent ownership, co-owns Good Magic with E Five Racing Thoroughbreds.

Good Magic was following in his father’s footsteps Saturday when jockey Jose Ortiz led him out of the gates at Churchill Downs.

Banke has had three horses at the Kentucky Derby, including Good Magic’s father, Curlin. A two-time Horse of the Year, Curlin finished in third place at the Kentucky Derby in 2007. Curlin also won the Preakness and the Breeder’s Cup Classic that year and was second in the Belmont Stakes.

As it turns out, Curlin also sired two other horses that competed in the 144th Kentucky Derby – Vino Rosso and Solomini.

Banke, who was scheduled to fly home to California Monday after a week in Kentucky, enjoys the Kentucky Derby’s weeklong activities. “You see a lot of friends,” Banke said Sunday before hosting a party for 50 guests at Stonestreet Farms.

While Kentucky is bourbon country, Banke did bring her own wines, including Stonestreet and Jackson Estate wines.


May 7, 2018 | 7:00 AM

Rod Smith, one of the first American newspaper and magazine writers specializing in fine wine, passed away on May 3.

Smith wrote for publications such as the the San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, and Wine & Spirits. He won two James Beard Awards for wine writing.

The following announcement was sent out by his family over the weekend: 

With heavy hearts, the family of Rod Smith announce his sudden passing on May 3, 2018.

A noted wine and travel writer, Rod was born in Portland, Oregon and grew up around the country with his family. He graduated from Pomona College and moved to San Francisco intent on becoming a writer. He became interested in wine just as Northern California wines were becoming world famous, and wrote about vintages and varietals for the San Francisco Chronicle, the Los Angeles Times, Wine & Spirits and other publications.

He published two books: Private Reserve: Beaulieu Vineyard and the Rise of the Napa Valley and The Art of Terroir: A Portrait of California Vineyards. He was also the recipient of a James Beard award for magazine writing in 2000.

Rod loved literature, art, music, nature and Giants baseball. He will be truly missed. He is survived by his wife Catherine, children Helen and Rocco, mother Anona, sister Terri, brother Brad and numerous nieces, nephews and friends.

A memorial service will be held Wednesday, May 9 at 2:00 at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 209 Matheson St., Healdsburg. Reception to follow at the Bartolomei Ranch, 7000 Giovanetti Road, Forestville.

Thursday, April 19, 2018
April 19, 2018 | 7:43 AM

The Supreme Court of Canada issued its ruling this morning in a case challenging restrictions on interprovincial trade and declined to remove barriers to allow winery direct shipping to customers across Canada. In a case that was specific to beer, the court said provinces have the right to restrict trade for a number of reasons. 

Miles Prodan, President & CEO of the British Columbia Wine Institute, told Wine Business Monthly the industry will continue negotiating with individual provinces, saying, "We’ve been fighting this for a number of years and will continue. ... We find it ironic that we are one of the only wine producing countries in the world where we can’t sell wine directly to our countrymen."

The British Columbia Wine Institute expressed it's dissappointment in a news release, saying:

The British Columbia Wine Institute and its members today expressed disappointment with the Supreme Court of Canada's ruling on Her Majesty the Queen v. Gerard Comeau. The case challenged restrictions on interprovincial trade, an issue the BCWI and the Canadian Vintners Association (CVA) has been working on for over a decade.

This morning at 9:45 a.m. (EST) the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled on Her Majesty the Queen v. Gerard Comeau. The ruling states the following: Section 121 does not impose absolute free trade across Canada.

"The Court's ruling today is disappointing for the BC wine industry." Said Miles Prodan President & CEO of the BCWI. "We will continue our work both directly and through the CVA with the federal / provincial / territorial governments' Alcoholic Beverages Working Group, industry, governments and the provinces to remove the barriers and allow winery direct shipping to customers across Canada." 

"We respect the Court's rulng but are disappointed at this missed opportunity to remove interprovincial trade restrictions," said Dan Paszkowski, President & CEO of the CVA. "Removing restrictions would have opened the door to allowing consumers to order wine for direct delivery to their home from any Canadian winery located in any province. We call that Direct-to-Consumer, it is something nine out of 10 Canadians believe should be permitted, and we now eagerly await the provinces making this choice available to their citizens."

In October 2012, Gerard Comeau of New Brunswick purchased beer and spirits in Quebec and drove back to New Brunswick. He was charged with possessing liquor purchased from outside the province in quantities that exceeded the province's prescribed limit, an offence under section 134 of the New Brunswick Liquor Control Act. The trial judge held that section 134(b) of the Liquor Control Act constitutes a trade barrier (violating section 121 of the Constitution Act, 1867) and dismissed the charge against Mr. Comeau. The case subsequently made its way to the Supreme Court.

"It's important to recognize that interprovincial trade barriers affect a range of industries, including wine." Says Paszkowski

Unfair interprovincial trade barriers have impeded Canada's wine industry growth and prevented consumers from purchasing the Canadian wines of their choice.

"This morning's ruling is disappointing for our industry. Every wine producing nation in the world has direct sales within its own country" said Tony Stewart, Proprietor & CEO of Quails' Gate Winery. "Canada needs to correct this so that we can start to create a level playing field with the rest of the world."

Canada's wine industry had seen the ruling as a way to open the doors to direct-to-consumer wine purchases across the country, something consumers believe should be done.

Direct-to-Consumer wouldlead to important growth for the country's highest value agricultural industry. Indeed, free interprovincial trade would positively impact the economy across the country. Industry research shows that for every $1.00 spent on Canadian wine in Canada, $3.42 in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is generated across the country.

Monday, April 16, 2018
April 16, 2018 | 6:45 AM

Recipients of the 2018 Green Medal Awards - Bogle Vineyards, St. Supéry, KG Vineyard Management, Cakebread Cellars - were honored at a ceremony at the California State Capitol last Wednesday.

Monday, April 2, 2018
April 2, 2018 | 11:04 AM

Sunset Magazine will not be hosting the Sunset International Wine Competition this year.

In an email to wine judges, marketing director Heather Bowden said: 

Sunset has gone through a lot of changes in the past few months; a private equity firm in Los Angeles bought Sunset last November, and we are in a phase of reimagining, rebuilding, and strategizing. At this time we’ve made the difficult decision to take a temporary pause on our International Wine Competition. Wine is still very much at the core of Sunset, we will continue to highlight it this year and possibly debut a consumer wine experience, and hope to revisit and reimagine a brand-new slate of wine programming next year.



Thursday, March 29, 2018
by David Furer | March 29, 2018 | 10:57 AM

The first International Volcanic Wine Conference was held at New York City's Metropolitan Pavilion this week. Following two staged over the past few years in Soave on a more domestic platform, and another all-encompassing iteration scheduled next month in Hungary, Master Sommelier John Szabo spoke to the standing room only trade/press event joined by Drs. Georges Vougioukalakis and Kevin Pogue.

"The intention for these conferences are too learn the links between wines and their soil profiles...the unique and singular wines," he exclaimed recalling the challenging topography volcanic soils typically possess claiming that "many of these vines are phylloxera-free even today. Dirt matters, terroir matters. These wines are different and often particularly good and, like the effects of climate change cannot be linked to only one type of impact yet between them possess commonalities." Szabo pointed out that some of these are density and extract from poor, often low pH soils which give a sense of minerality--"an amazingly ambiguous term"--he associates with a sense of 'salinity' attributable to a range of mineral salts other than merely table salt (sodium chloride).

Szabo's book, Volcanic Wines: Salt, Grit and Power, came out last year 

Volcanologist Vougioukalakis provided a primer on volcanoes and their rocks beginning with hot and fluid magma venting to become lava flows and explosions with fragmented magma creating basalt formations.

Whitman College geology professor Pogue said iron content in soils can also be transmitted into vines therefore finding its way into grapes.

The afternoon continued with workshops focusing upon Italy's Aglianico & Garganega varieties (Winebow's Jesse Becker MS), Santorini (Drs. Georges Vougioukalakis and Yiannis Paraskevopoulos), Soave (Roberto Zorzin, Chiara Mattiello), and Lake County's Cabernets (Paul Skinner, Peter Molnar).

left to right - Pogue, Vougioukalakis, Szabo

Wednesday, March 28, 2018
March 28, 2018 | 4:00 PM

Charles Shaw Winery, producer of Charles Shaw Wines, aka "Two Buck Chuck," launched Charles Shaw Wines made with Organic Grapes. 

As readers will recall, Two Buck Chuck has sold many millions of cases

The local Trader Joe's wine guy said they'll arrive in about a week, possibly priced for $3.99. 

The Shaw Organic wines will be available in Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Rosé - with other varieties to follow.

Shaw Organic Wines will be sealed with Helix, developed by Amorim and O-I. Bronco started using Helix with Red Truck. Helix delivers the pop of the cork and is easy to reseal.




"Our Customers have been asking for more options in the “wines made with organic grapes” category. We’ve heard you. We’ve actually been working on this for quite some time – because grapes are crops and crops take time to cultivate, bringing more of these options to our shelves doesn’t happen overnight. But when it finally does happen, it happens in a big way. Big as in Charles Shaw big." 


Monday, March 26, 2018
by Kerana Todorov | March 26, 2018 | 3:00 PM

Ron Rubin is a vintner on a mission – supplying wineries with life-saving portable devices that send electrical shocks through the chest cavity to hearts in distress.

Rubin, of Ron Rubin Winery in Green Valley whose family also owns The Republic of Tea, began distributing free automated external defibrillators to wineries in Sonoma County last fall. Last week Rubin expanded the program to include wineries in Napa, Solano, Lake, Marin and Mendocino counties.

Participating wineries agree to pay the costs of training their employees on how to use the AEDs and how to administer CPR and first-aid. The American Red Cross charges $60 per employee for the training – a discounted rate.

Rubin’s “Trained for ‘Saving Lines’” program initially set out to distribute the $1,700 AEDs at no charge to Sonoma County’s 450 wineries.

So far, 89 wineries have received the AEDs. All but two are in Sonoma County.

“I think 89 is a pretty good number,” Rubin said.

Rubin knows first-hand what it is like to have a cardiac emergency. In 2009, Rubin was rushed to Marin General Hospital after Rubin suffered an onset of ventricular tachycardia – a condition that causes the heart beat faster than normal. Rubin’s son, Todd, called 911.

Ron Rubin recalled he had run 20 miles the day before to prepare for the Twin Cities Marathon in St. Paul, Minn.

Rubin was administered shocks in the emergency room. Todd, who is now president of The Republic of Tea, saved his life, Rubin said.

An implantable defibrillator was later implanted in his chest. Rubin, who no longer runs marathons, created “Trained for ‘Saving Lines’” to make sure all wineries in Sonoma County have access to an AED.

“I wanted to give back to Sonoma County,” said Rubin, 68.

He decided to expand the program to other counties after receiving requests from wineries outside Sonoma County.

Rubin has been able to spread the word in part thanks to wine trade associations.

The Napa Valley Vintners, for instance, in April plan to inform its members about Rubin’s AED program.

Mark Miranda, strategic account executive at the American Red Cross – Northern California/Bay Area, said the program was all Rubin’s idea. “This is completely unique,” Miranda said.

He estimated about 300 people have received AED/CPR/first-aid training through the program.

“He spared no expense,” said Miranda, referring to the $1,700 AEDs.

Wineries interested in participating in the AED program should contact Ron Rubin at


Thursday, March 22, 2018
March 22, 2018 | 7:57 AM

Jake Lorenzo, aka, Lance Cutler, kicks off the Rhône-style blends tasting at the WiVi Central Coast Conference and Trade Show with Carl Bowker of Caliza, Joe Barton with Grey Wolf Cellars, and Claire Silver of Tobin James Cellars.

For more on how winemakers craft Rhône-style blends, see the January 2018 Wine Business Monthly 

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