Drought Report – On the Frontlines with CWC winemakers

vineyardWherever your vineyard is located in California this year, you’re thinking about water.  Drought conditions have affected every corner of the state, one way or the other.  Northern California growers are generally in fairly good shape, given that there were helpful spring rains and ground water is typically available.  Those in the south aren’t so lucky.  For example, the Paso Robles water table is Continue Reading >

Wine Can Tell a Story — Are you listening?


There are plenty of people who enjoy wine without fanfare.  They uncork the wine, pour it and are happy if it tastes good. They’re even happy if it’s “not too bad”! Then, there’s the rest of us.  We like to know where the wine came from. Who made it?  Is it a family?  How many generations?  Why do they make wine? Did they grow the grapes themselves, or buy them?  Where are those vineyards, anyway?  In an appellation we’ve heard of?  Have they made this wine before?  Did they add other varietals to the wine, or is it a stand-alone 100% varietal?

These are stories wine tells us.  Continue Reading >

What do you get when you pay more for wine?


Well, that depends on the wine. But in an ideal world–and at The California Wine Club — our more expensive wines are handcrafted in every sense of the word. So, what do you get? Continue Reading >

What Makes A Great Sparkling Wine?


That’s easy.  Methode champenoise, the incredibly labor intensive, time-consuming, traditional French technique for making fine Champagne.  Among many other steps, this involves a second fermentation and at least three to five years aging in the bottle before the final steps of wine making. Continue Reading >

A Coming Drought? A Winery Strategy…

Drought will be part of the pour in California wine country this year, and wineries are preparing.

Don Sodaro, founder of Sodaro Esate Winery in southern Napa’s Coombsville appellation, shared how his winery is approaching the water situation:

“We monitor water. We have three meters: one for the whole property, one for the vineyard and one for the winery. We keep an Excel spread sheet on how much water we use. Our strategy with less water available is this: the vines get everything, and the landscaping will sacrifice. We’ve got too much invested in those vines, so we’re protecting them at all costs. We just had a good soaking rain, and that’s a good turn of events, so we are keeping our fingers crossed.”


IT Happened Again…


We were in a restaurant recently, a nice Italian place, not real pricey, and we chose a glass of Italian Montepulciano (made from the Montepulciano grape, from Italy’s Abruzzo region – not Tuscany).  Price: $7.50 per glass. Waiting for our dinner, we took a sip or two.  We weren’t impressed.

Then the Ravioli with Butternut squash and Pine Nuts arrived.  And over the next half hour, that Montepulciano came into its own. It became soft and velvety, and merged with the ravioli flavors so beautifully.

So, IT happened again…that we started with a wine we didn’t care for, but when we tried it with food, during a leisurely meal, different story.

If you’ve never had this experience … well, you need to! Because it’s one of the most fun things about wine.  Given the right food match, some wimpy little wine with no character will stand up and be noticed.

Often, this extra wine pizzazz has to do with both the food and allowing the wine to “breathe” in the glass.  During your meal, it starts to open up and show its true self, just like a person who might be a bit shy.  If you’re considerate and give that person some time, they might start to share who they really are.

Did you know marketers estimate that a whopping 70% of wine today is consumed without food?   Too bad!

Has this ever happened to you? What was the wine? What was the food that brought it out of its shell?

To Breathe or Not to Breathe

We’re talking wine of course.  When do you need to let it breathe, or decant before pouring?


Here are a few tips:

1.  Decanting an old wine (15-20 years old) for too long can ruin it. Old wines are quite delicate and should be opened just before the meal.  Otherwise, oxidation spurs rapid changes in the wine leaving it “dead” by the time you drink it.

2.  Young wines often need to breathe—with gusto!  Most often, this would be the case with big, tannic reds.  Pouring such a wine back and forth several times from decanter to decanter will aerate it and give it a chance to open up and reveal its complex flavors and aromas.

3.  Typically, a red wine 7-8 years old is a good candidate for breathing.

4.  A wonderful way to allow a wine to open up is during a leisurely dinner.  How many big, brash reds have we disliked on first sip, only to have them become our favorite wine by the end of the meal.  The changes in the wine can be fascinating and fantastic.

Wine Is Farming Is … Water…


Two big storms that reached California last week were a good start to ease the worries of grapegrowers – but not enough.  According to the state’s Drought Task Force, much more rain is needed.  In fact, Secretary John Laird of the California Natural Resources Agency believes California  requires a storm every other day through May to bring water up to near normal levels.

As we said last week…think rain…or better yet…how about a rain dance? 


Drought Relief


February rains have given Napa and Sonoma some relief from drought worries.  A mid-February storm dumped an average of eight inches in those two counties.  In some places, more than 12 inches were recorded.  Hillsides are greening up and winemakers are a bit more optimistic than before.  If more storms arrive, their mood will be even brighter.  Think rain.

The Benefits of Lifetime Wine Learning


Many studies point to the benefits of lifetime learning on healthy aging.  Researchers seem to agree that keeping both mind and body active is key to the golden years.

We’d add that learning about wine can be part of a healthy lifestyle.

There are so many aspects of wine to explore and investigate.  What an endless and endlessly enjoyable pursuit!  Wine history, wine evolution, winemakers, wine controversies, winemaking, wines from around the world…from California to Croatia, there is always something new to learn.

Learning about wine is a multi-dimensional adventure.  It’s not just the written word but also the wine in the glass that instructs; not only the curious mind, but also the nose and taste buds that experience. Our interest in wine can introduce us to new friends who share our passion for it, whether it be a wine and food group, wine club, wine touring excursion or online correspondence.  Learning about wine is something we can all look forward to, no matter what our age.

What are your thoughts on learning about wine and wine education?