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General Interest

“Strong Victory for Organic Winemakers” is a Loss for Consumers and Common Sense

Let me be clear. I have no general issues with organic foods or wines made from organically- grown grapes. In fact, I believe many of the best wines made today are derived from either organic or biodynamic grapes. But "organic wine" has been, and will unfortunately continue to be, a very different product.

The "strong victory" quote in the title of this article is the headline of a press release from Frey Vineyards of Redwood Valley in Mendocino County. Sent on behalf of “a coalition of organic winemakers and distributors,” it announced that the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) had elected to maintain the current regulations for wines labeled as “organic wine.” This NOSB vote reversed a decision made by the USDA.

Roussanne-at-Tablas-Creek-VineyardsThe core issue is sulfites, specifically sulfur dioxide or SO2. The original, and now continuing, rule is that “organic wines” may not include any added sulfites. None. This is similar to regulations for other organic products which also ban the addition of sulfite. I, the USDA and many others — including committed organic and biodynamic growers — have two problems with this. First, sulfur dioxide is important in the process of making quality wine and in having that wine remain sound in bottle. Second, unlike virtually all other produce — organic or otherwise — grapes have naturally-generated sulfites on their skin. Thus, it is almost impossible for any wine to be sulfite free, even if sulfites are not added.

The organic winemakers claim maintaining current labeling laws will prevent consumer confusion. I believe it simply confuses them in a different way. It is true that other organic products are not allowed to add sulfites. But, based on that, the few — very few — people who are sensitive to sulfites buy organic products knowing them to be free of sulfites. Consumers cannot do that with wine. Even with this NOSB ruling, “organic wines” may contain sulfites.

Winery quotes within the press release show how easily consumers can be confused by this rule. “Organic wine has always been defined as preservative-free with no added sulfites,” says Phil La Rocca, founder of La Rocca Vineyards in Forest Ranch, CA. That is true and a clear statement. However, Paul Frey, President of Frey Vineyards in Redwood Valley, CA states, “The preservative sulfite has never been allowed in any organic food that carries the USDA organic seal.” That is a confusing statement. It implies to consumers not well-versed in the law that “organic wine” does not include sulfites. The catch is the law states added sulfites are termed “a preservative.” Naturally occurring sulfites are not. Frey isn’t really saying there are no sulfites, just that there are no sulfites added.

United States’ law requires all wines with sulfites in excess of 10mg/liter (10 parts per million) to display the text “Contains Sulfites” on the label. Wines with less than that amount, as determined by analysis, may omit the warning. Wines which, by analysis, show less than 1ppm may be labeled as “No Sulfites.” These are the phrases that people with sulfite sensitivity need to look for, “Contains Sulfites” or “No Sulfites.” An “Organic Wine” may well have more than 10ppm and therefore be required to bear the “Contains Sulfites” warning.

All the NOSB ruling really did was continue a labeling policy that consumers don’t understand in order to preserve the market share of a small number of companies which elect to not add sulfites. A change in the rule would not have forced them to add sulfites, nor would it have prevented them from omitting “Contains Sulfites” warnings on eligible products, or even using “No Sulfites” labeling. What it does do is prevent hundreds of other wineries from labeling their products “organic wine,” even though they are made solely from organically-grown grapes in certified-organic vineyards.

If the USDA-recommended change had been adopted, a wine could have contained up to 100ppm of sulfites and be labeled “organic wine,” assuming all other criteria for that designation were met. In reality, the average sulfite level in wines is less than 80ppm. Many individual wines are far lower. U.S. law prohibits any wine from having more than 350ppm or 350mg of sulfites. Note that the human body produces about 1000mg of sulfites per day on its own.

Some people do have a sensitivity to sulfites. Studies suggest such sensitivity is very rare and is essentially limited to 5% to 10% of those individuals who have asthma. In those people, exposure to large doses of sulfites can bring on asthmatic reactions, nasal irritation, hives, etc. But some medical studies have shown no reaction whatsoever from sulfite-sensitive individuals when drinking a glass of wine with sulfite concentrations of 150ppm — 50% higher than the proposed rule change would have allowed. There is no confirmed medical evidence that sulfites cause headaches either, though many people have that misperception.

SO2 is SO2. The press release, and the appeals of organic winemakers and their supporters to the NOSB, repeatedly refer to added sulfites as “a synthetic preservative.” SO2 isn’t a very complicated compound. Use of the word “synthetic” makes added SO2 sound sinister. But manufactured SO2 isn’t any different from that which occurs naturally.

According to Pat Henderson, senior winemaker at Kenwood Vineyards, sulfur dioxide is “without a doubt the most important additive that is used in winemaking.” Vineyard managers use sulfur dioxide as an antioxidase, sprinkling it on the picked grapes before they are taken to the winery. This preserves the freshness and bright flavors while preventing browning of the fruit and juice by acting on the enzymes which encourage oxidation. Winemakers also use it to prevent oxidation to prevent browning, formation of acetaldehyde and limit the actions of tyrosinase.

Sulfur dioxide is also an antimicrobial agent. By using just the right amount, winemakers can kill bad microbes without affecting good ones. For some winemakers, this includes ambient yeasts that can take fermentations in the wrong direction or result in off flavors. Winemakers also use SO2 to control malolactic fermentation and sanitize barrels, corks and equipment.

There are a number of bacteria and yeasts that cause wine to spoil. They include Acetobacter (vinegar bacteria), Brettanomyces (smells of barnyard), Lactobacillus (can smell like dirty socks), and Pediococcus. Sulfur dioxide is an important part of controlling them. I suspect you and I agree that wine which smells of vinegar or dirty socks is not appealing.

Failure to add SO2 in the vineyard or winery can allow oxidation and bacteria to run amok. White wines may brown early in their lives. The off aromas and flavors noted above may occur. In extreme cases, wine can even begin to ferment again in the bottle. These are the risks taken by winemakers wishing to qualify for an “organic wine” label. But, really, the risk is taken by those consumers who buy the wine.

Excessive use of sulfur dioxide isn’t good. It can result in excessive sulfite levels in the wine. It may also cause off aromas, including smells of burnt match or even rotten eggs. Winemakers use sulfur dioxide very carefully and, usually, in as small an amount as possible to achieve the desired results. They stop using sulfur several weeks before bottling to ensure that “free SO2” dissipates and doesn’t wind up in the bottle.

I believe most people who seek “organic wines” are really looking for good wine made from organic fruit. Those people need to look for these phrases on the label: “Made from organically-grown grapes” or “biodynamic wine.” People legitimately sensitive to sulfites should seek wines that say “No Sulfites” or at least do not bear the “Contains Sulfites” warning. People who are curious or feeling lucky may want to try an “organic wine.”

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2011 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

9 Wineries that Donote Proceeds to Charity

The California wine industry is extremely philanthropic. Some wineries support charities by donating bottles or tasting experiences to benefit auctions. Others, or their owners, “give back” through generous direct donations of cash or land. A growing number of wineries make donations that are directly tied to the sale of their wine.

Sales-based donations may not be as dramatic as an auction lot which sells for tens of thousands of dollars. And the scale of the donations are a lot lower than those made by legendary winery owner/philanthropists such as Bob Trinchero and August Sebastiani. However, sales-based giving can still be significant and allows consumers to participate, knowing that their purchase of a particular wine will help somebody.

If you’d like to complement your own direct charitable donations by purchasing wine or helping charitable wineries in some way, here are nine wineries to consider supporting (in alphabetical order):

Canine Wines
Canine Wines donates $5 to animal rescue agencies for every bottle sold. The winery offers a range of wines, mostly from respected single-vineyards. I’ve not tasted any of the current releases, but have enjoyed several of their wines in the past. Each wine features an irresistibly cute picture of a rescued dog on the front label and the dog’s tale on the back label. A bottle would make a charming holiday gift for your wine-drinking, dog-loving friends.

Charity Wines
Charity Wines teams up with professional sports stars to create “collectible” wines. Think baseball cards that come with wine instead of stale bubblegum. Past wines include ZinfandEllsbury (Boston Red Sox player, Jacoby Ellsbury), Cabernet Glavingnon (Atlanta Braves pitching great, Tom Glavine), Dan Marino Vintage “13” Chardonnay and, for old-school wrestling fans, Jimmy Snuka Superfly Cabernet. Proceeds go to support charities selected by the player. I’ve not tasted any of the wines but, at the every least, they would make an amusing gift for the sports fans in your life or look good next to your bobbleheads. There are several dozen labels to choose from. Charity Wines claims to have donated more than $1.6 million dollars to charity so far.

Cleavage Creek Winery
Cleavage Creek Winery donates 10% of their gross profits to breast cancer research. To date, their contributions exceed $70,000. The wines, which range in price from $18 to $50, are made from Northern California grapes and feature attractive (but tasteful) pictures of breast cancer survivors on the front labels. Cleavage Creek Winery also has a tasting room that you can visit in Pope Valley (northeast from Calistoga in Napa Valley).

Curvature Wines
Curvature Wines is another label that donates proceeds to breast cancer research. A joint venture between LPGA golfer Christie Kerr, who focuses many of her charitable activities on breast cancer, and Suzanne Pride Bryan who is both a breast cancer survivor and one of the owners of Pride Mountain Vineyards. Their current offering is a limited-production 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. While there is just one wine, different packaging options are available including magnum and 3-liter bottles as well as a three-pack of 750ml bottles signed by Christie Kerr.

Ehlers Estate
Ehlers Estate is unique in that the winery actually belongs to a not-for-profit foundation. When founder Jean Leducq passed away in 2002, he left it in trust the the foundation that he and his wife, Sylviane, had started in 1996. As a result, 100% of the proceeds from from Ehlers Estate wine sales go to cardiovascular research. The winery, located north of downtown St. Helena, uses organic and biodynamic growing practices in growing Bordeaux grape varieties. Their tasting room is open by appointment daily and the wines are excellent.

Emtu Estate
Emtu Estate is a very small winery in Forestville (Russian River Valley) owned and operated by John and Chris Mason. The husband/wife team produce very nice Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Rosé of Merlot wine from the grapes grown in their 3 acre backyard. All the profits from sales of their wine go to charity through their Labyrinth Foundation. When the Masons aren’t busy with the winery or caring for the rescued birds of prey housed on their property, they travel around the world helping in communities of need. For more information on Emtu Estate read our detailed profile.

Humanitas
Humanitas is a Napa winery that also has a unique approach to philanthropy. Humanitas' profits all go to charity, but the charity that gets the money from your purchases is based in your own community. Humanitas works primarily with national charties that have local chapters all over the country. It gives directly to those chapters as dictated by sales. The winery also lists a large number of specific charities on its website and, if you wish, you can designate that some of the proceeds go to one of those. You do that by buying the wine from the Humanitas site and entering a specific promo code at checkout. The agencies supported include food banks, Habitat for Humanity and groups that support at-risk children.

Lookout Ridge
Lookout Ridge raises the bar on the sales-based giving. While the other wineries mentioned in this article donate some or all of their proceeds to charity, Lookout Ridge literally gives more money to charity than it takes in. For every single bottle of Lookout Ridge wine purchased, the winery gives a wheelchair to a needy individual. The buyer of the bottle (or the recipient if it's a gift) also receives a certificate and a photo of someone who has received one of the wheelchairs. Lookout Ridge relies heavily on donations of time and material from winemakers, vineyards, and other suppliers. If you can help in some way, they would love to hear from you.

Lookout Ridge offers a variety of wines produced from vineyards in Sonoma and Napa counties. Each wine is made by a high-profile winemaker such as Greg LaFollette, Andy Erickson and Cathy Corison. The wines are not cheap at $100 each. However, they are excellent (90+ points) and the cost of acquiring and distributing the wheelchairs, not to mention the wine production costs, is higher than the $100 bottle price. See our profile of Lookout Ridge which includes reviews of two of their wines.

One Hope Wine
One Hope Wine donates half of all profits to charity. Causes supported by these charities include children’s hospitals, United States military veterans and their families, and the fights against AIDs, breast cancer, autism and global warming. Specific causes are clearly identified for each wine, so you can allocate your dollars according to your preferences. The wines themselves are all varietals with general California designations except for a Pinot Noir that is from the Arroyo Seco AVA (Monterey County) specifically. To date, One Hope has contributed more than $350,000 to charity.

Just one more thing...
There's one more project I'd like to mention here, but it doesn't involve the sale of wine. Cellar Magic is a unique philanthropic wine project of Mara LaFollette (winemaker Greg LaFollette's wife). Cellar Magic wines aren’t for sale. They are all given away. Mara says, “We believe that man does not live on charity dollars alone, we want our teachers, medicos and firefighters to enjoy the fruits of our labor by having a glass of wine with their meals.” To that end, the wines are donated to community organizations such as Palmdrive Community Hospital, the Cancer Foundation, Electric Car Foundation and schools for holiday dinners, other special occasions and, occasionally, benefit auctions.

Cellar Magic still has some wine available for donation this year. There's a 2006 Semillion — I love aged Semillon! — from Amador County and Dry Creek Valley fruit and a 2005 Bordeaux-style white made from Amador County Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and a bit of Mendocino County Alvarinho. If you know of a worthy organization, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2010 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

How You Can Contribute to Earthquake Relief in Napa

It’s been easy for some people from outside the immediate area to make jokes about “free run juice” and “air-lifts of water crackers,” but last week’s earthquake in southern Napa devastated many homes and businesses. There are still people in great need of assistance.

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Give Napa Valley residents and business a hand this week.
(Photo: Jason Tinacci / Napa Valley Vintners)

Many in Napa and Sonoma will say that one of the best things you can do for them is indulge yourself and buy their wines or spend time (and money) in the area as a tourist. But there are also a number of charitable funds to which you can contribute. Some come with benefits for you beyond the warm-hearted feeling that comes from helping others. I’ve collected information on many of those here for your convenience.

How You Can Contribute to Earthquake Relief in Napa

Napa Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund of the Napa Valley Community Fund (NVCF)

This fund will allocate money to projects it feels will best help in Napa’s recovery. You can donate directly. See their dedicated web page for details.

If you prefer, or in addition, you can donate through a purchase of Matthiasson Quake Cuvée. 100% of the after-tax profits will go to NVCF. This limited release wine, made by SF Chronicle Winemaker of the Year Steve Matthiasson, will ship in Spring, 2015. This opportunity is limited in duration since there’s only so much wine available.

You may also donate through the Bank of Napa Earthquake Relief Fund. Donations via the bank can be made in person at the bank or by mail to Bank of Napa, 2007 Redwood Road, Suite 101, Napa, Calif., 94558. Make checks payable to Bank of Napa. The monies will be forwarded to NVCF.

NapaStrong

Napa winemaker Jason Moore founded NapaStrong at gofundme. The fund stands at about $13,000 right now with a target of $30,000. The money will support people working on the dangerous winery cleanup projects by providing lunches, childcare, etc. Any remaining funds will go to other residents and businesses in need. You can contribute directly at this page.

Alternatively, you can contribute through Rocca Wines. Buy some Rocca wine here, and they will give you a 10% discount and they will contribute 10–20% (depending on how many bottles you buy) of the net proceeds to NapaStrong.

Community Action Napa Valley

CANV is a non-profit that has been providing relief to needy Napa Valley residents since 1965. Their support includes emergency shelter, housing, food, coaching and financial assistance. To donate money, a vehicle or learn how to volunteer visit this page.

If you donate $50 or more to CANV in September, provide proof to Doug Wilder of purely domestic wine report. If you’ve not a subscriber, you’ll get 12 months of free online access to the reports. (If you are a subscriber, I suspect Doug would entertain allow you to gift the 12 month access to a friend.)

Foundation SAVE Cards
Napa City firefighters and the California Fire Foundation are collaborating to provide $100 SAVE cards to people needing emergency assistance. Every dollar counts for someone who has just lost their home in an earthquake or fire. You can donate to the California Fire Foundation here. They’ll allocate to your money to SAVE, or one of their other aid programs for Californian’s effected by fires or natural disasters.

Other Options

My friend Elaine Brown of Wakawkawinereviews.com, who spent a lot of time helping in the community during the aftermath, also suggests these agencies for your donations:
Aldea Children & Family Services
Red Cross Napa Valley Chapter

If you, or someone you know, is in need of assistance, please visit the Napa Valley Vintners excellent listing of community resources here.

If you know of other means of contributing, please provide details in the comments section below.

Disclaimer: Neither I nor NorCalWine.com are affiliated in any way with the people or entities listed above. I don’t endorse any one of these over the others, nor do I have any control over how or when your donations might be allocated by these parties. I, like you, am trusting that it will be done appropriately.

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for wine news, information on events and more, or friend me on Facebook. This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

Falcons are for the Birds - Of Falcons, 49ers and Vineyard Bird Abatement

This weekend, the San Francisco 49ers face Atlanta for the NFC Championship. Northern Californians are normally both good-natured and nature-loving. At the moment though, we are decidedly hostile toward Falcons. We don’t like their uniforms or the way they fly across the field. We don’t want to see Matt Ryan air one out or their defense challenge our air superiority. We’ll cheer for the 49ers to ruffle, perhaps pluck, their feathers. Falcons, boo!

But, after this week, we should go back to liking falcons. And not just for their handsome profiles and breath-taking aerobatics. Trained falcons protect vineyards from grape-stealing birds.

Falconry experts Jim and Kathleen Tigan operate Tactical Avian Predators. For ten years, Jim has used his trained raptors to rid clients of troublesome starlings. The service is used by pet food manufacturers and oil companies, blueberry farmers and golf courses, car builders and even the city of San Francisco.

The customer closest to the Tigan’s heart is Hahn Family Wines in the Santa Lucia Highlands. After nearly a decade working with them, Jim Tigan says it feels like family. The feeling is mutual. “I think the world of Jim Tigan and his falcons," Bill Leigon, president of Hahn Family Wines, told me.

jimTiganTacticalAvianPredators
Jim Tigan releases a falcon at Hahn Family Vineyards.
Photo: Tactical Avian Predators

During the most crucial part of the year — a six week or longer period beginning just before veraison — the Tigan’s essentially move their household from Reno, Nevada to the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA vineyard. “We pack up the trailer, the dogs and the cats and work the thousand-acre vineyard seven days a week, sun up to sundown,” Kathleen tells me. The Tigans keep in close touch with Hahn director of vineyard operations Andy Mitchell. He tells them when and where there will be green drops or other harvest activities and where the grapes are becoming ripe. The Tigans target falcons on those areas to ensure there are no easy meals.

Starlings will rapidly devastate a vineyard. They are very intelligent and social birds, traveling in massive flocks. Starling scouts in squadrons of ten to forty birds go in all directions looking for those feeding grounds with the sweetest grapes. The scouts report back, then tens of thousands of shiny black fruit-eaters descend into the best vineyard. A single starling can eat a full bunch of grapes in just five minutes. When a starling gets full, almost spitefully, he’ll start peeling grapes and plucking out the crunchy, nutty seeds. If one bird can ravage a cluster in minutes, what will thousands of birds do to a vineyard’s yield?

Starlings aren’t the only birds that plunder vineyards. Finches and linnets are becoming an issue. They are still much less problematic though and are also protected species, so dealings with them need to be especially gentle.

Falcons hunt small birds by nature, zooming in and striking like an air-to-air missile. But the highly-trained falcons almost never injure or eat the enemy. They clear the skies through intimidation. Super-fast and maneuverable, they dive at a flock then bank and rise only to dive again. The starlings, not aware that these falcons don’t have murderous intent, head for a safer buffet. After several days of nerve-wracking fly-bys, the grape-burglars stop coming back. The falcons have established a no-fly zone.

There’s more to pest control falconry than wearing a cool leather gauntlet and watching your birds do their thing. The hours are long and physical. Jim starts at the crack of dawn with three birds and a dog. While his falcons circle, Jim and dog constantly walk the rows, looking for birds in the canopy and flushing them out. Eventually, it gets too hot for falcons, dog and falconer. They head back to the trailer until late afternoon when it’s cooler. Then, both Jim and Kathleen go out. They’ll take two dogs and six birds. Eventually, Jim heads in, leaving Kathleen and her team to take the late shift, working until dark.

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Peregrine Falcon. Photo: Ltshears

Jim Tigan uses four types of falcons to handle the various sizes of pests and different terrains. They also vary in their tolerance to heat. Peregrine falcons are astoundingly fast and can weigh up to three pounds. Saker falcons are a desert species renowned for their heat tolerance. Their size is, on average, similar to that of the largest Peregrines. Barbary Falcons, in the Peregrine family, are medium-sized with a very broad range of tolerated temperatures. They are fast but also highly maneuverable. They like high-altitude flying and love a good chase. Whereas the Peregrine and Barbary like to dive from great heights, the Lanner Falcon prefers low-altitude, horizontal pursuits.

The Grolier Encyclopedia tells us that Peregrine Falcons are the fastest living things on earth. In a dive, they can exceed 200 miles per hour.

Of course, most growers use other means to deal with thieving birds. Some cover vines with netting. Others tie shiny mylar strips to them. “Bird cannons” can be fired off periodically, frightening birds away with booming sound. In non-food businesses, such as oil fields, poison is sometimes used. Scarecrows don’t cut it. Strips and nets are practical and cost-effective in a small vineyard but become massively labor intensive and costly over large acreage. And you never know how much mylar is enough.

One year, driving back and forth to the vineyard each day, Jim saw a small boutique vineyard become an attraction to starlings. He’d honk his horn and try to scare them off, but had to get on with his own work. In the end, birds devastated that crop. “The next year when I came back to SLH,” Jim recalls, “there was at least one mylar strip on every single vine. The vineyard was so reflective, air traffic controllers might have had to re-route planes.”

Tactical Avian Predators’ fee works out to around 60 cents-per-acre for each day of work in big vineyards. Due to fixed costs of the business, price-per-acre would much higher for a small plot. “While a bit more expensive than netting or bird cannons, the use of falcons in the vineyard maintains our commitment to the environment and our commitment to a more humane treatment of the starlings. We see Tactical Avian Predators as an integral partner in our Sustainability program.” Bill Leigon explains. “Not only is bird netting a petroleum product, it can trap birds by the neck when they try to eat the grapes. A bird trapped in the netting can easily break its neck.” Tactical Avian Predators is a certified-green wildlife control company and Hahn Family Winery is SIP-certified.

Jim Tigan’s interest in falcons started during what he calls his “senior year of 4th grade,” (made necessary by dyslexia). He discovered My Side of the Mountain a book in which a teenage boy runs away to the Catskills, lives in the wilderness and, after reading up on falconry, captures and trains a peregrine. Jim captured his first falcon while in high school. After graduation, Tigan spent 13 years in the Coast Guard. While with the Coast Guard, he founded the Alaska Raptor Rehabilitation Center in Sitka, Alaska. When an injury forced his retirement from the service, falconry became his primary focus. Falcons became his business when Pedigree Dog Food asked him to see if his birds could get starlings out of the factory.

Starling-abatement at big vineyards is all-consuming, but it’s seasonal. Companies like Tactical Avian Predators look to work for a variety of businesses with different seasons. For example, Pacific Northwest blueberry farms and Lodi grape growers would likely see peak starling activity at different times than the Santa Lucia Highlands. And not every gig is starling abatement. Tactical Avian Predators also does educational demonstrations. One of their competitors works for the Seattle Seahawks, his trained falcon serving as their mascot.

A study, reported in Science, found a falcon’s visual acuity is 2.67 times better than a human’s. We should train falcons to be referees!

That brings us back to this weekend. Who will falconers Jim and Kathleen Tigan be rooting for? The 49ers! As Reno-residents with ties to wine country, they see San Francisco as the home team.

Colin-KaepernickThey are also hugely enthusiastic fans of 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The run or gun phenom was born in Milwaukee, but his family moved to Turlock when he was four years old. He went to college at the University of Nevada, Reno and was very popular there for both his multi-sport skills and his personality. Reno residents consider him a hometown hero.

If there had been the slightest chance of the Tigan’s pulling for Atlanta due to their falcon affinity, marketers blew that. “Their mascot isn’t even a real falcon,” Kathleen exclaims in disbelief. “They’ve got some guy walking around in a stupid stuffed-bird costume.” So, go Niners!

 

Freddie Falcons
An embarrassment to falconers.

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on Facebook. Also check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2013 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

New Tasting Rooms & a Grand Opening in Lodi

I’ve written numerous times about the increasing quality of wine coming out of Lodi. What I haven’t said much about is how the tasting room scene has been improving. My bad.

There have been a number of really positive developments on that front. Below are three of the most exciting. Each is well worth your visit.

 

McCay Cellars

One of California’s leading providers of elegant Zinfandel, McCay Cellars, now has a dedicated tasting room in Lodi. It’s located in a small industrial park, but has plenty of personality. McCay previously offered tastings through a downtown tasting room that served multiple labels.

 

In addition to wine, the new site has a cooler with meats, cheeses and non-alcoholic beverages for sale. So, it’s a great stop if you love excellent wine and especially if you’re on your way to a picnic.

 

mccay pano

McCay Cellars tasting room

 

 

mccay bins

Linda Larson McCay and Michael McCay in front of the tasting rooms graffiti art-decorated macro bins.

 

McCay Cellars – 1370 E. Turner Road, Lodi 95240 – 209.368.WINE

Open Thursday through Monday, 11am to 5pm and by appointment.

 

 

m2 Wines

m2 Wines is another one of Lodi’s star Zinfandel producers. For years, m2 operated out of the same industrial park that McCay Cellars just moved into. Owner/winemaker Layne Montgomery needed more space for making the wine to entertain the growning number of m2 fans.

 

His vision has delivered a striking, statement winery. It’s minimalism meets Prairie Architecture meets industrial chic. And it stands alone in its field. Literally.

 

The long, low, rectangular structure is divided into three connected sections. On the right is the tasting room with ceiling height sliding door panels. The panels let in filtered light when closed but can also open up to wide vineyard views. The middle section is an open breezeway equipped with picnic tables, a cooling breeze and views that seem to extend for ever across the fields. The leftmost section is the winery itself, complete with tanks, barrels and, importantly for a tasting room, nice washrooms.

 

winery

 The new m2 winery and tasting room

 

m2 Wines – 2900 East Peltier Road, Acampo 95220 – 209.339.1971

Open Thursday through Monday, 11am to 5pm and by appointment

 

 

Oak Farm Vineyards

The newest destination winery in Lodi is Oak Farm Vineyards. Located on the historic Devries ranch, the property features original, restored buildings, a brand new winery, a beautiful entertainment building, a lake, 60 acres of vines and more.

The scale of the property and buildings makes it an excellent choice for large, private events. In addition the the 2,500 square foot tasting room, and a courtyard more than twice that size, there’s a 900 square foot conference room. However, the whole place has comfortable feel that’s welcoming to casual tasters. 

 

Oak Farm Vineyards is holding a grand opening next weekend October 25–26. It runs from 11am to 5pm both days. There is a $5 fee for a five-glass tasting. Club members and up to three guests taste for free. Light bites and music will be free for everyone at this event. I highly recommend you swing by if possible. You can confirm details and RSVP here.

 

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 The new entertainment center and winery at Oak Farm Vineyards. It's bigger than it looks.

 

 

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One of four fireplaces in the entertainment center.

 

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Oak Farm Vineyards managing partner Dan Panella and winemaker Chad Joseph.

 

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The new tank room at Oak Farm.

 

Oak Farm Vineyards – 23627 Devries Road, Lodi 95242 – 209.365.6565

Regular tasting hours are Friday through Monday, 11am to 5pm.

 

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for wine news, information on events and more, or friend me on Facebook. This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2014. All photos by Fred Swan except those provided by McCay Cellars. All rights reserved.