Wine Country Towns Getting Proactive About Drought


According to statistics gathered by the National Drought Mitigation Center, drought conditions in California are ramping up:  23% of California is classified “severe”, 51% “extreme” and 24.7% “exceptional”.

In response, wine country communities are taking action.  In Sonoma County’s Healdsburg, the City Water Dept. is offering treated wastewater for free. Wineries can drive right up to the spigot and fill up to 15 private tanker trucks to replenish vineyard ponds in drip irrigation systems.

Earlier this year, the city of Paso Robles set aside $795,000 to pump and treat wastewater for agricultural use.  The plan, however, won’t be in effect for several years.  To build all necessary components will cost in the range of $10 to $14 million.

What Did They Do Before Their Winery?


It’s always fun to know the former careers of winery owners.

Match the career to the owner.

1. Tom Leonardini, Sr., Whitehall Lane

2. Tony Peju, Peju Winery

3.  Rich Frank, Frank Family Vineyards

4. Jim Dierberg, Dierberg & Star Lane, Santa Barbara

5.  Kerry Murphy, co-founder, DuMol, Sonoma

6.  Jerry Seps, Storybook Mountain Winery, Napa


a. banker

b. university professor

c. Car dealership owner

d. Hollywood film executive (still is)

e. tire business owner

f. horticulturist, nursery owner



2. f

3. d.

4. a.

5. e.

6. b.

Tons o’ Tastings


Ever consider which style of wine tasting you like most?  There are a ton of ‘em –

–Winery stand up tasting bar. If you want to try a range of wines, this is probably your best choice.

–Sit down, private room, upper level wines.  This is the full-service route, often with appetizers and can be pricey.

–Walk ‘n talk tasting, where wineries give you a glass as you take a tour.  We especially like this – it makes any tour better.  Remember though, you’ll typically only be sampling one wine.

–Barrel tasting.  Your host uses a wine “thief” (a long tube) to pull aging wine straight from the barrel.  Ever taste a very young Chard or Cab? An eye-opener!

–Wine and food events: We love regional events where many wineries get together in an outdoor venue, along with local restaurants.  Nibble great food and taste many different wines.

–Single Varietal Events:  Love these too. Want to know about Zin?  Try Z.A.P.s annual tasting in San Francisco.  The Rhone Rangers also host a San Francisco tasting.  There are many more…go explore!

Have a favorite style of wine tasting?  We’d love to hear about it.

Our Top 3 Tasting Tour DO’s!


The high season in wine country is upon us.  Before you head out for your California tasting adventure, we’d like to share our top 3 tasting DO’s.

1.  DO have munchies with you and do have lunch. Too much alcohol + not enough food = not your best day.

2.  DO visit tasting rooms in wine country towns. They are often co-ops so you can efficiently sample many wineries at one time.

3. DO research smaller wineries, make your selections then call them ahead of time (if required) to set up a tasting.

Getting to Know Your Winemakers


We have so much fun getting to know the winemakers who we partner with at The California  Wine Club.  Here are a few fun facts about some of these passionate people:

1.  Jesse and Aaron Inman, Pinot Patch, Sonoma: As kids in northern California, they lived in a bus sometimes and a log cabin as part of the gypsy lifestyle of their parents, who were gold miners.

Oh, and their uncle, Napa winemaking veteran August “Joe” Briggs, mentored them.

2.  Claus Janzen, Bacio Divino, Napa:  Claus was a passionate wine amateur when he won Canada’s most prestigious wine tasting contest.  He ended up selling his house in Canada and moving his family to Napa – before he had a job in the wine industry.  Talk about commitment!

3. Rudy von Strasser, Von Strasser Winery, Diamond Mountain, Napa:  Rudy had an ag degree from the Univ. of  New Hampshire. Intent on apple farming, he saw hard cider as his future and worked a year at Robert Mondavi’s in Napa to learn about fermentation.  He ended up in the U.C. Davis enology program and secured a first-ever U.C. Davis internship at world-class Chateau Lafite Rothschild (Rudy had actually set up that internship himself).

Know some fun facts about a winemaker? Share with us!


Heads up, A New App May be on the Way…


We’re not talking a phone app, but a wine appellation officially designated by the feds.  Throwing their hats into the ring, the Petaluma Gap Winegrowers Alliance is preparing to raise about $25,000 and begin research to create the new Petaluma Gap American Viticultural Area (AVA).

The Gap can certainly make a case for itself.  We’ve been to Petaluma just above Marin County and experienced the fog and chilly marine winds that blast in from the Sonoma coast.  This microclimate cools down the vines, stops photosynthesis and causes them to grow fewer leaves and instead to focus on intense flavors in their grapes.

Currently, no Petaluma restaurants serve wine made from Petaluma wineries.  If the new app is approved, winemakers expect this will change.  Some locals worry that Petaluma will then become nothing but vineyards – they point to the nearby Sebastopol area further north—but time will tell.

California is sunny, so “vintage” doesn’t matter…not!


Bilo Zarif, founder of Summerland Winery just south of Santa Barbara, focuses on mostly Pinot Noir produced from vineyards in the southern Central Coast, centered around Santa Barbara County.  Chatting with him, we  found his comment about vintages very interesting: “Throughout our 12 years at Summerland, we are really getting the experience we need, a feel of different years, what each year gives us,” said Bilo.  “We used to think that in California, because it is sunny, every year will be the same for the wine. That has not been the case. There is a lot of variation from year to year.”

It has often been said that because California has ample sunshine, there won’t be significant changes in the character of a wine from year to year.  The thinking goes that unlike Bordeaux, where cold weather and rain can often challenge ripening, in California we don’t have that problem.

Bilo has focused on single vineyard bottlings and has had a front row seat to watch how the wine differs from year to year.  A hot year, a cooler year, early budbreak, later budbreak, Indian summer, no Indian summer … all of these factors combine to shape the growing season and influence the wine.  The results can yield more or less fruit, changes in color, differences in texture, aroma and flavor.  Pinot Noir is especially willing to show these changes. Winemakers call it a “transparent” grape because it reveals its varietal character very readily, especially with non-interventionist winemaking techniques.

So…enjoy a vintage year!