Reply From Senator Feinstein:RE: HR5034


I thought I’d share this with you, I’m sure all of you Cali folks received the same form letter, but I thought it might be worth posting:


Dear Mr. Wing:

Thank you for writing to express your opposition to H.R. 5034, the “Comprehensive Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness Act.”  I appreciate hearing from you and welcome the opportunity to respond.

Congress is expressly granted the power under the Constitution to enact federal laws that supersede state laws.  While sometimes it is necessary to preempt state law for the sake of uniformity, Congress should only do so with careful consideration of the effects on state laws and protection of consumers.  With these goals in mind, Congress has long sought to ensure that states can regulate the sale of alcoholic beverages consistent with their public policy but cannot discriminate against out-of-state shippers.  In the 2005 case of Granholm v. Heald, the Supreme Court held that state schemes that allow in-state, but not out-of-state, wineries to make direct sales to consumers discriminate against interstate commerce and unconstitutionally limit direct-sale shipments.

I have long supported the ability of wineries to ship directly to consumers.  Direct shipping enhances consumer choice and can be an important market for small, niche wineries – many of which are located in California.

On April 15, 2010, Representative Bill Delahunt (D-MA) introduced H.R. 5034, the “Comprehensive Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness Act.”  This legislation would declare that it is the policy of Congress that each State or territory shall have the primary authority to regulate alcoholic beverages and that state alcohol regulations shall be accorded a strong presumption of validity when they are challenged in court.  I understand your concern that this bill could allow states to discriminate against or otherwise limit direct-to-consumer shipments from local wineries in California to out-of-state customers.

H.R. 5034 has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary, and companion legislation has not been introduced in the Senate.  Please be assured that I will keep your concerns in mind should this bill or related legislation be considered by the Senate

Again, thank you for writing.  I hope you will continue to keep in touch with me on issues of importance to you.  If you should have any further questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact my office in Washington, D.C. at (202) 224-3841.  Best regards.
Sincerely yours,
Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

What happens when grapes get wet feet.

After three years of very dry winters in Sonoma County, the rain has returned.  This is all good to a certain extent, lord knows we need the water.  The reservoirs are full and some are even over 100% of “normal” capacity.  However, there may be a big downside, at least as far as us winos are concerned.  By now the skies of Sonoma County should be blue and the weather should be warm.  Alas, it’s another gray, wet day here in Northern California.

Okay, so what?

Chardonay Vines
Wet Rows

These vineyard rows are in Windsor, California, in the Russian River Valley.  In an effort to help with the saturated ground the vineyard manager and viticulturist decided to have the rows rotor-tilled to try and dry out some of the water.  Of course we’ve had nothing but rain, rain and more rain, so now there’s just a big sloppy mess!

So grapevine biology is, well, just like anyone else.  They are here to procreate.  Yeah, grapevines need to get busy just like the rest of you.  Pollination of grapes is a little different than your average fruit tree or flower.  Grapevines are self-pollinating.    They have both the boy parts and girl parts (no snickering in the back!).  They pollinate them selves via the air that blows across the baby clusters when they “Flower.”  Here’s the rub, it’s been raining like crazy and the rain is washing the pollen off and it’s quite possible that a good deal of grapes will not be fertilized and therefore will not seed.

Okay, still… So what?

Flowering Grape Clusters
Clusters are Flowering

Grapes that don’t produce seeds never make into full fledged berries.  The grapevine doesn’t want to waste energy into grapes that bear no seed.  So that berry-to-be shrivels up dies, this is called shatter.  Multiply this effect because of the rain and you can see what kind of effect this could have on a growing season.

Oh NO!

Chardonay Vines
Chardonnay Vines

Compound this shattering effect with additional water on fruit and you get mildew.  Yuck!  This is a tenuous situation at best, and there’s little we can do but hope for better weather (no more rain please Mom).

So, what’s up Doc?

I checked in with local expert, Dr. Marilark Padgett-Johnson, an instructor in the wine program at Santa Rosa Junior College (you can find her here:  By the way Santa Rosa Junior College is a great resource for any folks who are local to Sonoma County. They offer classes from Viticulture to Oenology, and from Wine Judging to Component Tasting.  If you can I highly recommend taking advantage of this outstanding resource… Okay, enough of a plug for SRJC, on with the schooling.

image from SRJC website

She says that the PM (powdery mildew) is the greatest concern at this point.

“More of an issue are the threats of powdery mildew (PM), spring time Botryis Cinerea hits on shoot tips and foliage, and phomopsis.”

I had to look up phomopsis, here’s a good article I found from Michigan State Extension, Van Buren County

“PM an issue because it’s challenging to get into the vineyards and spray fungicides when the soil is wet, and the rain potentially washes off the spray material if applied.   Botryis Cinerea, and phomopsis are fungal diseases that flourish during wet springtimes.”

It is what it is!

Yeah, still.  Grape farming is just that, it’s taking what mother nature deals you and doing the best you can.  There have been many previous rainy seasons that have turned out some fabulous crops and excellent wines.  Here’s an excerpt from 2005, a great wine year:

High Temp: 84F
Low Temp: 48F
Average Temp: 67.2F
Dewpoint: 56.2F
Wind Speed: 4.4 Knots
Precipitation Amount: 0 Inches

Source :

As you can see in 2005 on this day it was 84, now that’s what I call great Spring weather, instead today we have

Lt Rain, Fog


Humidity: 96 %
Wind Speed: S 6 MPH
Barometer: 29.95 in (1013.70 mb)
Dewpoint: 52°F (11°C)
Wind Chill: 51°F (11°C)
Visibility: 5.00 Miles


A few more days of rain are in the forecast and we here in Sonoma County are all crossing our fingers and hoping that we’ll get some more seasonable weather.

I hope this is some good information for you all and that you send some sunny wishes our way, we could sure use them!


Toad Hollow – Risque – Sparkling Wine

To start off, a continued apology for being absent for almost two weeks now.  I just finished my last final of the semester and thought a sparkling wine to celebrate the completion of this semester was only appropriate, don’t you?

So on our last wine tasting excursion we had a lovely day tasting our way through Dry Creek Valley and our last “mad dash” stop was at Toad Hollow’s tasting room.  A truly impulsive buy was a bottle of their sparkling wine Risque.

Risque is a French made wine from Limoux, produced and bottled by Les Vignerons du Sieur d’Arques and imported by Toad Hollow.  This sparkling is a sweet wine made in the Blanquette Methode Ancestrale, although it does not specify I’m assuming that the varietal is Mauzac Blanc.

The Nose: It’s hard to tease much out of the nose, there’s a yeasty character hiding behind some apple and bubbles.

The Taste: Wow, creamy bubbles!  Huge sweet apples that reminds me a lot like Martinelli’s Sparkling Cider, slight tart granny smith follows the big red delicious, there’s a taste of bitter apple peal.  It finishes out with yeasty bread.

The Mouth Feel: This is definitely more full bodied than any Champagne (or dry sparkling) I’ve ever had, the bubbles diminish and shrink in size as the wine coats your tongue.  Great follow through on this wine too, it lingers on the cheeks and leaves you wanting another sip.

The Color: Faint, very faint tint of palest of yellow, really looks almost like San Peligrino sparkling water.

The Nitty Gritty:
6% ABV
Definite Residual Sugar (sorry no specifics)
The Methode Ancestral is fermented without dosage
The bottle is a cool Grolsh style with closure
Retail online is between $11 – $17

The Verdict:

Yummy!  This would be a great summer sipper, serve it cold and enjoy.  And at $11 a good option if you want some bubbles in your vino.

85 Points, or B- (no stars, asterisks or quid-pro-quos).

PS.  Any wine glass companies reading this, I need some flutes!  My wife gets mad at me when I use the wedding china to taste 😉

A Thursday Night Apology


Just a quick note tonight and an apology of sorts.  I did not do dinner tonight, I took the day off to go play a round of golf!  I saw many of Livermore’s fabulous grapevines basking in the sun and enjoying a light breeze as I hacked my way around Poppy Ridge Golf Course.

Image from

I found a cool recipe, or recommendation for a balsamic glaze, so I will be adding that to spruce up next week’s dinner.

I’m almost done with my second semester in school, all of my prerequisite classes will be complete and I’ll really start getting into the MBA weeds  (kind of like I was today).

Anyhow, I’m really exited to be swapping blog posts with Tim Hilcove of next week, watch for it!  I should be reviewing two or three wines this week to, so that should be fun (at least for me).

Talk to you all soon!



Make-A-Wish @ Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards – Croquet Invitational

5/21/2010 Just a quick update, I received a thank you letter today from Make-A-Wish, they raised over $760,000 in cash and “in-kind” donations.  Wow!

Once in a while a convergence of powers come together and amazing things happen.

Last weekend was one of these occasions.  Wine and Wishes, the Make A Wish Foundation holds an annual event at Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards, this coincides with the ” US Open”of Croquet, it is an invitational event where the best Croquet players get together and compete on the amazing courts of Sonoma-Cutrer.

In conjunction with this event Make-A-Wish holds one of their fundraisers.  An auction based on wine and wishes, they gather donations from local Sonoma and Napa County wineries and business and the attendees bid on these great items which benefit the children of Make-A-Wish.  These children are all afflicted with some fashion of terminal disease or condition and they are granted one amazing wish.  The proceeds of events like this allow them myriad possibilities.  We were graced by one such individual who’s wish was to visit Egypt and see the Great Pyramids of Giza.  His story was told and it’s nearly impossible to not hear this and have a dry eye.

This year Make-A-Wish raised over $200,000 at this event alone!  (I’ll see if I can get the final number but the executive director Patricia Wilson said it would be well over that number)

Wine has some amazing pull.  The folks attending this event paid $200 per seat with about 600 attendees, this was just the beginning.  There were 31 live auction lots and many more silent auction lots.  The auctions ranged from collections of wines to a Safari in Africa and a seven night adventure in a Scottish castle.

waiting to bid

I was fortunate to win lot 21, wine education seminar with Tom Simoneau (local wine radio host, and winemaker) with dinner at Girl & the Fig in Sonoma, CA.  (watch for a post on that one!)

Tom Simoneau, Michelle, Me

I got to do some pouring of my own.  My wife put me to work!  Oh well, work like this ain’t bad.  I was pouring some 2003 Sonoma-Cutrer, Founders Reserve Pinot and some just released 2007 Russian River Pinot (Big Bottle 3L Jeroboams).

My Boss, my Wife!

By the way, opening up these big bottles is really challenging 😉

Pouring is hard work!

Along with all of the charity at this event there were some great wines to be had.  I was lucky enough to get a couple of tastes of the oldest white wines I will likely ever have!  Retiring Sonoma-Cutrer winemaker Terry Adams showed us how to properly open a few Jeroboams.

A master at work
Me with Terry Adams

Some 1986 and 1988 Chardonnays…  Yeah, that’s a 24 year old white wine!  These were awesome.  I could hardly believe, not only how well these wines stood up to time, but how amazing they tasted.  The finish on the ’86 was longer than any wine in recent memory.


There were some great people at this event.  The winemaking crew up at Sonoma-Cutrer are awesome!  Michelle McLendon and Cara Morrison, the Pinot and Chardonnay Assistant winemakers.

Cara and Michelle

The latest addition to the Sonoma-Cutrer is winemaker Michael (Mick) Schroeter and his lovely wife Linda.

Mick and Linda Schroeter

This was a truly amazing event supporting a truly amazing cause.  I can’t wait until next year, I need to practice my Croquet so I can get an invite to the “Open.”

I need more practice.

If you enjoy wine and have the wherewithal, please take a moment and hop over to Make-A-Wish and donate to their cause.  They provide an outstanding service to children who are in need of a break from the pain and suffering of terminal illness, every little bit helps.

Brian Wing

2007 De La Montanya Russian River Valley Pinot Noir – Tina’s Vineyard

So some friends of ours are wine club members at De La Montanya and they took us out for the annual BBQ and party they have at the small winery in RRV, although it’s really close to being Dry Creek.  I’ll have to double-check my GPS next time we’re there…  I digress, so we joined the club.  Alas, my lovely bride became pregnant (no coincidence to this party I assure you).  Anyhow, we called up to cancel our club membership to save up some cake for the impending child and they allowed us to reduce our membership to a “once a year” deal.  Thankfully we agreed to this.  We have since received a six-pack of yummy treats on a yearly basis.  Oh, and by the way, the scantily clad “clubmembers” on the labels of their Pin-up wines had nothing to do with this! 😉

Anyhow, here’s one of their awesome wines:

The nose: The first act to this nose is Cherry, fresh ripe Bing, second stage is spice a mix between Clove and allspice, to round out the show there is just a tease of vanilla.

The Taste: Oh yeah, this is exactly what I was craving.  Cherry, fruit is exceptionally predominant, with a quick flash of earth, tart fruit comes through with the spicy notes that are present on the nose.  The taste lingers fresh for a very long (exceptional) finish.

The Mouth Feel: Light and supple but not wimpy, this is a mid to light body Pinot but has enough backbone to stand up and let itself be known.  Really great viscous mouth feel lingers and replays tastes all over your tongue.  This thing begs to be consumed!

The Color: Lighter brick red with a touch of ruby, thinning at the edges.  I’d call this standard Russian River Pinot Color.

The Nitty Gritty:

14.4% ABV (wow! not even noticeable)
75 % Pommard Clonal
25% Dijon Clonal
“Southern Facing Vines”
Russian River AVA
Aged 11 months in French Oak
307 Cases Produced
$40 Retail

The Verdict:

Man this is some damned good Pinot Noir.  At $40 bucks it’s not the worlds least expensive RRV Pinot, but it does show some value.  I am far from a Pinot lover, but this is really freakin’ good.  It’s been a couple of minutes since my last sip and the flavors are still  playing around all over my palate.  Go get some of this wine!

92 Pts.  A-

Not Bad for a Thursday Night Dinner – #10 – Time to Kick it up a Notch!

Springtime has sprung in Sonoma County and I’ve done too much Chicken and Beef lately.  Barbecue was certainly an option, but I’ve done a fair amount of that too so I really wanted to do something that was a game changer.  I wanted to challenge myself while sticking with the spirit of the season.  I have been on a bit of a Pinot Noir kick lately, so I was thinking of something that would pair up really well with that.  Something that some fresh ripe cherries would grab onto and say… “I just kicked your tongues ass!”  So, for whatever reason, I had a thought that some duck confit would fit the bill.  Thanks to a quick search on the interweb, I found myself checking out some UK style recipes for confit with some side dishes that I’d never tried (or really heard of).

So here we go, Not Bad for a Thursday Night Dinner –  #10

I had no idea, but apparently confit was a way for people to preserve their meat for long periods of time.  Who knew that storing cooked meat in its own fat was a preservation method?  I sure as hell didn’t.  After a cursory search of the local markets, and not finding “jarred confit” as my first recipe suggested, I found a recipe that just cooks the duck in its own fat (thank you NY

So here’s the recipe for “Really Easy Duck Confit”  modified by me.

1 Whole Fresh Duck
3 Tablespoons Kosher Salt
2 Tablespoons Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
3 Tablespoons of Herb Mixture (bay leaves, oregano, thyme, tarragon, crushed red pepper, dried onion)

The duck I bought was from a Chinese owned family market so it was still walking and smiling at me when I brought it home.  No, it wasn’t alive, but like that Christmas Story movie, still had it’s feet and head attached.  I chopped those off and removed the guts.

Season the duck with the above mentioned ingredients and place in the fridge for 24 Hours.  When you’re ready to start, preheat your oven to 325 F.  Quarter duck, split in half, top to bottom then split front and back halves.  Place into large skillet skin side down, and begin cooking over medium-high heat.

Now I had no idea, but Duck has some seriously fat content.  Your bird will start rendering fat almost immediately.  Continue cooking on the stove-top until approximately 1/4 inch of fat is in the skillet, about 20 min, then turn duck skin side up, remove from heat, cover with foil and place into oven.

Roast duck for 2 hours covered, after which you will remove cover  and return to oven for another 30-45 min until skin is golden brown.

Side Dish:

Celeriac Mash

I had never heard of this side dish before, I had only ever seen celery root in the store in the produce section and always wondered to myself… “self, who the hell buys this sh*t?”  Well yesterday that person was me.  Apparently it mashes up well just like mashed potatoes.  I found several recipes that call for half celery root half potato.

1 Lb Celery Root
2 Yukon Gold potatoes
2 Oz Heavy Whipping Cream
3 Oz Butter
salt & pepper to taste

So here’s how I did it.  I washed the root to get most of the dirt off, chopped off most of the straggly roots with a knife and used a peeler to remove the exterior layer.

Once cleaned, chop into cubes.  Peel and chop up potatoes.  Boil both in salted water until tender.  Blend using hand blender  adding butter and cream.  Blend until smooth.

So here’s the deal.  I don’t know jack about celery root, but there is some chunky bits that I didn’t get rid of by peeling and the side had some seriously tough bits of stuff in it, which was unfortunate.  Perhaps I needed to peel deeper or something but, if you make this side, do some more research to find out just how to cook it.  The flavor was really tasty, it had a touch of celery character with the consistency of mashed potatoes (except for the tough bits of course).

The first recipe I found also had a recipe for a cherry glaze/sauce for the duck.  I modified this a bit too.

4 oz Cherry Preserves
1 Shallot
3 Oz Port (I used 2007 Sobon Estate, Amador County Zinfandel Port, certified Organic)
1 Oz Red wine Vinegar
2 Oz Butter
10-12 Fresh Bing Cherries, halved and pitted

In a skillet or sauce pan melt butter, finely chop shallot and cook until tender.  Add preserves, port, vinegar, and cherries.  Cook over low heat and reduce to thicken sauce

I cooked some fresh green beans for the veggie side dish, sauteed in some olive oil with salt and pepper.

This dinner was like getting away with sin.  With the amount of fat in it I may pay for it later, but it was soooo worth it.  The cherry sauce on the crispy duck was heaven.  I paired this dinner with a 2007 De La Montanya Pinot Noir, Tina’s Vineyard.  The cherry notes and great acidity of this wine matched the richness of the duck to perfection.  My mouth is watering again just writing this, goddamn it was definitely Not Bad for a Thursday Night Dinner!

Okay, I hope you try this recipe.  The duck was just awesome, I’m not sure the wifey liked it as much as I did, and the Celeriac mash was a bit of a FAIL but it still tasted really good.

Until next week, Cheers!



Does the “Marketing Concept” work in International Markets?

Do you believe that adherence to the “marketing concept” is the right way to approach international markets? Why, or why not?

Here is what defines as the marketing concept “The marketing concept is the philosophy that firms should analyze the needs of their customers and then make decisions to satisfy those needs, better than the competition.”[1] For US companies venturing into international markets, following this rule is absolutely critical if they want any sort of success.  International markets are so diverse that reuse of existing market strategies may not be effective in delivering results that have been achieved in domestic strategies.

Asia is considered by many companies to be an opportunity market.  However, aggregating the most populous region of the globe into one segment is a grave error.  The diversity of each country, and even the cultural differences within regions and sub-regions of countries can demand a different marketing strategy to connect with that area’s consumer.  Although the name of the article suggests otherwise,[2] “In Asia Marketing 101 Doesn’t Work,” it talks about getting to know the consumers in differing areas “better than the locals.”  This is psychographic marketing if I’ve ever heard of it.  Just as stated in the AE Article “Three Dimensional” each country has nuances that are unique to itself.  For example, Samsung, understanding that due to the small living quarters in Japan, small, multi-function devices garner higher value to the Japanese consumer.

In addition to physical constraints of each of these countries, political and social differences permeate differently.  China has had a long history of Communism and therefore has a much more communal sense of each other rather than an individualistic approach that would be commonly used in a western marketing strategy.  The HBR article refers to this effect as “Tapping the communal mindset.”  To market effectively companies should start with a clean slate and build a strategy from the ground up.  This does not mean ignore principals of demographics and segmentation, it does however, mean that this is an entirely new game and the rules are very different.  In an article from the Association for Consumer Research I found a prime example of specific segmentation for a single city in China.  The abstract is a psychographic segmentation of Beijing Adults and Food Consumption[3].  Here is an excerpt:

“The people of the PRC have been through considerable and rapid social, political, and economic changes during the last 50 years, They have experienced changes from Confucianism to Communism and then Consumerism. These rapid and enforced changes (by the government) have had substantial impact upon the values system and lifestyles of the people in the PRC. Some of these changes have caused alterations to the basic structure of the PRC society.”

The article continues into great detail on the Beijing consumer.  It is uses Beijing as an analogue for the rest of the country’s larger cities because it is the capital city.  Even this may be to generalized to hold up over time.

In conclusion, the “Marketing Concept” should be followed.  The basic principals it drives at are crucial to any successful foray into marketing to any consumer.  The catch is that every market is different and a savvy marketer should not underestimate the minute differences in geographic regions.  Asia is, or could certainly be the economic engine for the next century, but if you fail to understand the uniqueness of its various pieces you will most certainly fail.




McGraw-Hill Companies, Annual Editions, Marketing 09/10

2008 Big House Red – Box Wine Breaks Out!

I haven’t had the pleasure, or displeasure, of pouring box wine since I don’t know when.  I guess when I was a waiter our red and white house wines were big boxes that were served from a bar gun, so that’s probably the last time I ever cracked open a box of wine…  But all of that aside, I’ve been reading and viewing a bunch of reviews of new higher quality “box wines,” so I have high hopes for this one.  Get out your waiter’s box cutter and let’s go!

The Nose: The nose on this wine is not quite like the bent nose of some mook just busted out of prison, it’s actually pleasing for a red blend.  Hints of berry and red cherry.  There is something reminiscent of wood and smoke, like a dried out cigar box.
The Taste: Supple fruits come out to play immediately, spicy black pepper is predominant, there may be just a touch of medicinal or band-aid (just super slight), the finish has a touch of bitterness.
The Mouth Feel: There is a touch of tannins on the front palate that fades away into the mid palate, mid to late palate is reasonably structured and the finish is long and has a nice minerality to it.
The Color: Ruby red to purple throughout, very pretty IMHO.
The Nitty Gritty:
13.5% ABV
3 Litre Box w/spigot
The blend includes:
Syrah, Petite Sirah, Granache, Montepulciano, Mouvedre, Sangiovese, Tannat, Aglianico, Nero d’Avola, Sagrantino, Barbera, and Tourigo.  I always thought Montepulciano was Sangiovese, but perhaps they sourced some juice from Montepulciano!?
I found an online retailer selling 3L for $16.99

The Verdict:
After a hiatus of drinking box wine, since I stole sips from my grandmothers cup of Franzia, I was pleasantly surprised.  This wine has character and structure comparable to a $6-$9 bottle of any other Red Table Wine, like Bob’s Spaghetti or something like that.  So for your $/yumminess ratio, this should fit the bill for any party of average Joe/Jane winedrinkers.  I believe this would make an exceptional BBQ wine, the smokey and spicy character would pair up decently with any red meat slathered in Sweet Baby Rays!

80 pts, C+ to B-

NOTE:  This wine was provided to me as a professional sample.

Addendum: 05/12

Great News!  This wine is great with spicy pepperoni pizza!  Two days after cracking the seal and still tastes the same, nice spicy character an excellent companion to leftover pizza!

When should you decant a wine?

I had a great wine that got better as it opened up, sadly I reviewed it before it really opened up to me to show its true character.  Over the last glass of it, a day later, my wife and I discussed the topic of decanting and when and why you should/shouldn’t decant.  She mentioned that a co-worker (also a winemaker) said she will only decant a bottle after tasting it.  The reason being is that some wines may actually “fall apart” if decanted, for example a properly aged bottle of wine may not need to be decanted to “open” it up and could be damaged by the extra exposure to air.

Interestingly, in a quick twitter poll, I received a couple of answers from the wine bloggoshpere.

From:@Whoreplied: @norcalwingman— tweet  (Their Blog URL — Give them a click!)

@blogyourwine: @norcalwingman I say old, bold or both! Some whites benefit, and I’ve even seen Champagne decanted!  (their blog

@LarryTheWineGuy @norcalwingman I like to decant older wines with sediment and younger tannic wines. It always looks nice tho. #wine #wineblog #winereview (

@stevepaulo @norcalwingman If I decant or aerate, I will mention it. My reviews are basically bottle open, pour, maybe a little time (10 mins) in glass. (

…I just asked earlier today, so I may post some more replies as they roll in…

When do you decant a wine?  Please leave me comments, I’m trying to figure this one out!


[poll id=”2“]