Taking my #wine kung fu to the next level: #WSET II & Napa Valley Wine Academy

October 10, 2015

406064_562298363799327_175257724_nI have been immersing myself in the study of #wine in a semi-systematic manner for much of the last 8 years.  Indeed, #Vinopanion‘s 8 year anniversary with @WineLog is approaching in the middle of this month. Yet I have slowly realized that something is lacking in my devotion to the knowledge of the vinous delights: focus, structure and external credibility. You’d think that a trained scientist would have recognized this long ago and I did notice these thoughts in the back of my mind a few years back.  But they were always battered back by “where’s the time?” and “I’m still receiving plenty of media travel & event invites,” along with “my wine consulting services continue to expand.” Then I reached last year and I started to recognize some clear patterns in my wine work. While I had plenty of media opportunities and my fellow wine colleagues were continuing to get work, I could see that the pace of my own trade offers beginning to slow down. It was then that I noticed that most of my colleagues began to sport letters after their names on their business cards: they were taking certified educational courses to formalize their wine training. I needed to set up my wine game. It was then that I contacted the good people at Napa Valley Wine Academy (FB, Tw): “help!”

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#NapaQuake: A harvest of recovery

September 11, 2014

Over two weeks have passed since a significant earthquake hit Napa and the surrounding cities, at 3:20am Sunday morning 08/24/14. Named the South Napa earthquake by USGS, the 6.0 quake hit Napa particularly hard, despite what could be considered a quake of intermediate intensity.  Due to the east-west nature of the quake movement, “river valley sediments,” and the fact that the rupture “propagated NNW” in direction, the bulk of the quake’s energy was sent “NNW towards Napa,” according to USGS scientists.  All of these factors resulted in very significant damage that was almost entirely localized to the city of Napa, especially to its historic downtown and to the southwest neighborhood of Browns Valley, my childhood neighborhood and still where my parents reside (ShakeMap copyright USGS).  The Lady and I live about 1 mile NE of Browns Valley, on aforementioned river valley sediment/silt, in fact. It is for these reasons that it can be hard for even other Bay Area residents to understand just how much this earthquake has affected our dear valley. Perhaps the most difficult aspect of this natural disaster is that has hit in the middle of an early harvest, so the Valley must recover while still going through its annual vinous renewal.

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#Napa: Back to home and #wine

December 22, 2013

I’m never one to make big leaps in my life.  Yes, about every ten years or so, the lady Beth Fontaine (Tw) and I seem to subconsciously start the process to evaluate our future in the context of our present. Yet, I can’t say that I have ever just done something on a leap of faith, staring at nothing but risk and hoped for reward, but that is the only way that I can explain our rather sudden move back home to Napa Valley.  And so we’re both happy to say that now after a month+ into our new lives back in wine country, that we’ve made a fantastic decision:

Thank you Napa, for welcoming us with open arms, wine bottles, and tasty menus. 🙂

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Air Cork Pumps Up the Holidays

December 4, 2012

Wine gadgets are the perennial gift for the wine lover that we all know in our lives.  Let’s be pretty honest with ourselves, however: most wine gadgets are crap.  They are the easy gift to give to someone, but the vast majority of wine wingdings out there just do not work, or are just too darn tricky to work to really matter.  The preceding reasons are why I usually have an internal sigh when I open a package and see a new wine thingamajig inside.  A perfect wine gadget needs to easily and quickly, accomplish what it promises to perform.  Lo and behold, a recent sample that came my way from Steinreich Communications actually checks off all three of these boxes.  And thus, I’m happy to recommend it’s services as true contendor for a holiday wine gadget gift.  I present to you, loyal reader, the Air Cork wine preserver (TwitterFacebookYoutube).

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#MFITV: 2011 Harvest Thoughts & the Quiet Winery

December 31, 2011

The 2011 Harvest is done. It has actually been done for the Northern California wine industry for a few weeks, but I needed those weeks to digest all that I have experienced (and re-acclimate to my previous life), before I was ready to write this final post for Man Falls in the Vines#MFITV. Harvest is such a compressed, intense experience. It has proven to be hard for me to sum up in a somewhat, year-end post. Despite such difficulties, I was able to complete my harvest insider feature article for the January edition of Mutineer Magazine, as well as their brand new Mutineer Magazine Beverage Trade Edition, also debuting in January. All of this experience, hard work, and camaraderie demand applause and to be forever thanked for, however. And after the jump, you will see all of the new (and one old) vinopanions that I made during those six weeks in Stags Leap, Napa at Chimney Rock Winery (Twitter, Facebook, WineLog).

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#MFITV: Draining, Digging, & Barreling Down

December 5, 2011

The heart of the Harvest season can be a surreal and crazy time. Yes, of course I guess, it’s crazy when you have a ton of things going on at once, including actual tons of ripe fruit to process and 15+ hour days dragging down your health. Indeed, I was sick twice during weeks 4 through 6 at the Rock for Man Falls in the Vines#MFITV, with the entire Chimney Rock Winery (Twitter, Facebook, WineLog) crew coming down with something, at some point. Crush isn’t easy, that is known the industry over, but I was happy to see that I persevered along with everyone else (who are all harvest veterans) and learned quite a bit about what it was to work some of the most taxing parts of the harvest: digging out the fermentation tanks after barreling off our new free-run wine.

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#MFITV – The Fruit Gets Done

November 9, 2011

Weeks 2 and 3 of Man Falls in the Vines began super busy at the winery, but finished with the quietness of fermenting tanks. I have already talked of the craziness of Week 1 for #MFITV, when we brought in a good 150 tons of super premium Stags Leap District Bordeaux varieties. The last two weeks saw all of the rest of that fruit come in, all of it Cabernet Sauvignon, the heart blood of the Chimney Rock Winery (Twitter, Facebook, WineLog) wines. Our days were definitely long, particularly the last two, where we had two more days of bringing in at least 70 tons of fruit. The last of the lots of Cabernet were completed on 10/27/11 with a healthy roar of relief by the vineyard and cellar crews, and capped off by a raucous bin dive by Jeff in the last ton of fruit. I was in the north barrel room doing my morning ferm monitoring, so I’m still bitter that I missed his swan dive. My bitterness was sweetened however, when Jeff discovered that grapes can really go everywhere and anywhere, when hit at high speed!

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Man Falls in the Vines – #MFITV

October 25, 2011

I’m delirious to announce a new project that I’ve stumbled into, courtesy of my fantastic sabbatical, rather sabbradical, from my work at Genentech: I am working the 2011 wine harvest (#Harvest2001) at Chimney Rock Winery (Twitter, Facebook, WineLog) in the Stags Leap District (WineLog) of Napa Valley, CA. I will be the harvest intern and cellar worker of which I’ve always dreamed…and basically working my ass off helping to produce fine Cabernet, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, rosé, (Fiano), and Meritage wines.

My participation in the controlled chaos of crush at the Rock comes courtesy of Terlato Wine Group (WineLog), my best friend Jeff van de Pol, Assistant Winemaker; and Elizabeth Vianna (Twitter), Winemaker and General Manager.

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Palate Press Article: 2009 NorCal Harvest Report

December 23, 2009

Palate Press - The Online Wine MagazineThis past week saw another article of mine published at Palate Press: The Online Wine Magazine. I first mentioned Palate Press when it had its very successful launch earlier this year, as well as when my first article debuted, a comparison of crystal stemware. My second article is now posted, a wide-ranging review of the 2009 harvest across many of the appellations in Northern California.

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