Archive for the Info on Wine Category


Posted in Favorite Wines, Info on Wine, Stefania Wine Party, wine blogs with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 12, 2010 by ballymote

A year ago, I had never heard of Stefania wines. Fellow blogger, Mark Jahnke, who writes the entertaining and informative Jersey Foodies blog, along with his lovely wife, Pam (link is in the column on the right)would post glowingly on the wines whenever he opened them. After reading several of these rave reviews I signed up on the mailing list. Stefania wines are not available in the local wine shops and can be purchased only thru the mailing list, which is currently filled, but has a waiting list.

Paul Romero is shown answering questions from a couple of male wine-lovers while Stefania does the same for two interested female guests.  The Romero’s, who make both their home and their wine in San Jose, California, are both passionate about their craft. As with any daring venture, becoming successful winemakers involves overcoming a great deal of obstacles, and both Paul and Stef enjoy telling the stories that brought them to where they are today. From those first 50 vines planted next their hot tub (Haut Tubee to Stefania fans), they now have an array of wines that are priced well below wines of comparable quality. I had tried most of their varietals prior to last evening but this was my first time sampling their very tasty Pinot Noir with it’s nose of garden flowers and sweet cherry cola. Get on that waiting list!!!

In addition to the great Stefania wines, all of the guests brought a bottle from home and later in the evening, Mark generously opened some fantastic wines from his own collection. I was thrilled to once again try the 2005 Lillian, Whitehawk Vineyard, Syrah and this was followed by a 2007 Sine Qua Non, “The Raven”. So many wines that it was hard to keep track of them but I do know we started in the late afternoon with one of Mark’s magnums of 2006 Sea Smoke, Chardonnay and later I had a small glass of the wine I brought with me, a 2006 Kongsgaard, Chardonnay. Both of these whites were crisp and delicious but none could ever replace a really good red wine. I know there was a 2007 Lafond, Pinot Noir and that my last wine of the evening was a 2005 Andrew Murray, Oak Savannah Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley, Syrah.

Was there any food you ask? I’ll just say that anyone who left Mark and Pam’s charming backyard bistro hungry has no one to blame but themselves. There was a veritable orgy of food available including some the tastiest sliders with beef from Flannery’s, I believe. A terrific brisket prepared in Mark’s new smoker and rubbed with Pam’s super-secret seasonings, barbecued chicken and plate after plate of side dishes to go with the meats.

As with any party of 40 people it’s difficult to meet everyone but in addition to the guests of honor, Paul and Stefania Romero, I enjoyed having the opportunity to meet another dynamic duo of food bloggers, John and Lisa Howard-Fusco who do a fantastic job on their very popular “Eating in South Jersey.”

John and Lisa put a lot of effort into their blog and have some great interviews with chefs (i.e. Paula Dean, Ted Allen), restaurant owners and others involved in fresh food and produce throughout the area. There is always something new on their site and it’s a great way to keep up with what’s going on in the Jersey food world from the seashore to the city. It’s obviously a labor of love and I totally enjoyed having the opportunity to spend some time with both of them in a great setting.

One other couple that deserves mention, simply because they were charming, would be Tom and Denise DeBiase. These Central Jersey wine-lovers will be out in Sonoma next month at the same time as my wife and I and two other couples who will be joining us. It would be nice to meet up at some point with Tom and Denise whose son is out in California pursuing his dream of becoming the next Paul and Stefania. From what I hear, he is off to a good start.

Paul and Stefania’s east coast trip took them to Washington DC on Thursday and Friday and they will be in New York City tomorrow. They had a great dinner the other night on the banks of the Potomac and I’m certain NYC will provide another super backdrop. Last night’s garden party, hosted by Mark and Pam, was a first-class affair and hopefully will provide the Romero’s with fond memories of the new fans they have made for themselves and their wines when they return to the Santa Cruz Mountains. Thank you, Mark, for the invite.


Posted in Info on Wine, wine blogs with tags on August 8, 2010 by ballymote

Normally, a blogger replies to a comment on his/her post by adding another comment under the original. This time I am writing the comment as a post because I am so impressed with the comment and the commenter.

I do not know Patrick McKee. I do know that he works at Hops n Grapes in Glassboro, NJ and that every time I mention his place of employment, within hours, he has an intelligent response on my blog.

In my last post, prior to this one, I talked about internet marketing strategies employed by three random wine sellers. Patrick is the guy behind the marketing e-mails at Hops n Grapes.  You can see by what he writes that he takes a great deal of pride in what he does. He accepts responsibilities when it doesn’t work and keeps trying until he gets it right. It doesn’t seem to me that an employer can ask for much more than that. His comments after my post on Internet Marketing styles has more good points on the topic than does my original post.

Finally, let me say that although not everything I say about Hops n Grapes is positive, I DO like the store. It has a nice selection, reasonable prices and a group of dedicated employees who are helpful without being pushy. In short, it’s a place you can shop for wine, cheese, beer and spirits and feel comfortable.

I really enjoyed Hops n Grapes when Max and Felipe owned the place. They treated me very well. I do not know the new owner and that’s probably my fault as I never introduced myself during my many visits. I do know that every staff person I have spoken with like working for the guy so he must be doing something right.

Patrick, keep up the good work! If this doesn’t get you a raise, I give up. :)


Posted in Info on Wine, Wine Marketing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 8, 2010 by ballymote

Being the devoted oenophile that I am, it’s only natural that I receive e-mails from several different wine merchants all vying for my limited wine dollar budget. In this post I am going to examine the tactics used by three of these marketing mavens and explain why one is my clear favorite. The three wine stores approaches that will be outlined here are: HOPS  N GRAPES, GLASSBORO, NJ, MOORE BROTHERS, PENNSAUKEN, NJ, and THE WINE LIBRARY in SPRINGFIELD, NJ. All three of these stores use a different internet approach to selling wine.

HOPS N GRAPES sends a daily e-mail featuring one wine for the day. You must print out the coupon and present it in store or you can order online for in-store pick-up. Limit on their offers is 12 bottles. There are no further discounts on case purchases. My problem with this marketing strategy is in several areas. First, the wine offered is seldom of much interest to me as I would say maybe 1 in every 20 catches my eye. For instance, Friday’s offering was the 2008 Two Hands, Brilliant Disguise, Moscato, Barossa Valley, Australia. Now Two Hands makes some pretty decent juice in a number of grape varietals but a Moscato is a “bubbly” or dessert=type wine and I very seldom drink them. Secondly, it sells normally for $15.99 and their offer price is $13.98. Virtually all of their offers are for 10 to 15% off and you would expect that type of discount on any case purchase anyway so, all in all, it’s not something that is ever going to appeal to me. Additionally, there were times in the beginning when I would receive the e-mail for that day’s offering late in the evening with no time to get there had I been interested. This problem appears to now be corrected. In fairness, I have been in the store and spoke to employees who were busy filling orders on these daily specials so what do I know?

Gary Vaynerchuk runs a mega-wine operation in North Jersey called The Wine Library. His Wine Library TV has become an internet institution and his online tastings have brought him much fame and great wealth. There is little debate among his fans and critics alike that he has in the past few years displayed the talents of a marketing genius. Let me just say in reference to the internet marketing strategy employed by the folks at The Wine Library, if you are a shut-in who wished they had more e-mails to read on a daily basis, do yourself a favor and subscribe to the internet mailing list for the Wine Library. You will find yourself busy most of the day just trying to keep up with the latest, “spectacular” “better hurry while supplies last”, “you won’t believe what we are offering next” sales pitch. Again, are some of them real values? Yes they are, but the sheer volume and absurdity of their approach with three, four and five “unbelievable deals” a day just wears one out after a while. Having made a couple of 90 minute trips up to their Springfield, NJ location I am actually underwhelmed by their selection. There are a lot of choices, there are a few “hard to find” wines, on occasion, but the vast majority, in my opinion are of the not so well-known variety which leads me to believe that because the buy in such huge volume they work out “special deals” with the wineries or distributors and then market these wines as “unusual savings opportunities.” Again, they are a tremendously successful operation but although I like and admire Gary V, I seldom “bite” on the many opportunities to buy.

The third example I have chosen for this marketing comparison is Moore Brothers in Pennsauken, NJ. This unique wine selling operation has two other locations in Delaware and New York City. They sell wines from small growers (primarily) in France, Italy and Germany. Their stores are maintained at 56 degrees and they go to great lengths to see that the wines they sell are shipped and stored at the proper temperatures. They sell only wine so you have to venture elsewhere for your beer or spirits. Moore Brothers does not deluge your server with daily offers. They send an e-mail approximately once every ten days and that in itself adds a sense of importance to each one.  One of the last ones was simply titled……”a five hour dinner with Xavier Vignon” . There followed a short narrative on Greg Moore’s recent trip to the south of France, his dinner with the wine-maker and closed with this offer “

Wines like this terrific $14 blend of ripe Syrah, old-vines bush-trained Grenache, and mineral rich Mourvèdre have generated some of the most enthusiastic feedback we ever receive.

And this one could be, dollar for dollar, the wine of the vintage. Everything you expect is here: exotic black fruit, lavender and graphite, fresh white tobacco and herbes de Provence. And then there is the secret to all of Xavier Vignon’s wines: the perfect, mouthfilling seasoning of saline minerality that comes from deeply rooted old vines.

This morning there are twenty-eight cases at Moore Brothers New Jersey.

$14 per bottle on paid orders received before July 27. *
Regular price $16 per bottle. No further case discounts apply in this offer.


Ventoux Xavier Vignon 2007 (reg. $16.00)    $14.00  buy now

I bought a few. This is the type of approach that appeals to me and I discovered a great, inexpensive Cote du Ventoux wine that works exceptionally well with food. It’s more of a soft sell, the urgency is there but it almost feels like “if it sounds good, it’s here for you”. They tell you how many they have and you can decide for yourself how soon you should get there.

So there you have it. Three different approaches to selling wine on the internet. For all I know, each has been very successful for the individual operations. I just wanted to let you know the approach that works best for me. There are scores of totally different approaches. I subscribe to many of them and would have placed orders with several had it been easier to arrange wine shipments to New Jersey (that’s a story for another time)Remember, as with any opinion, your mileage may vary!


Posted in Info on Wine, Wine and Health with tags , , , , , , , , on July 28, 2010 by ballymote

The dictionary defines an oenophile as one who has a fondness and appreciation of wine. To most non-oenophiles it’s more like being a wine geek who has a tendency to bore dinner companions with TMI (too much information). If I am guilty of this discretion I’d like to point out that I am in good company as Thomas Jefferson, one of our Founding Fathers, was an early offender. John Quincy Adams, our 6th President, commented on a dinner he attended hosted by Jefferson, “there was, as usual, a dissertation upon wines; not very edifying.” This was a much nicer way of saying the words I often hear as I ramble on about wines, “Yo Dude, who really cares?”

 To say that Thomas Jefferson enjoyed wine would be an understatement. The time he spent in France as our American representative at the Court of Louis XVI from 1784 to 1790 gave him an opportunity to sample and learn about all of the great French wines. In 1787 he embarked on an extensive tour of Bordeaux and Burgundy, venturing into the great wine growing areas of Germany and Italy. He developed a taste for the very best and grew fond of many of the best wines of then and now, the Lafittes. the Margaux, the Haut Brions and the sweet elixir of the Gods, the Chateau d Y’quem. He had cases of his favorites shipped back to Washington.

 When Jefferson became President he spent much of his annual salary on the purchase of fine wines. He insisted on buying directly from the chateaus and not using the customary “negotiant” or middleman who at the time engaged in the practice of substituting lesser wines for the “first growths” that were ordered. Jefferson not only enjoyed the taste of the wines but was an ardent believer in the health aspects of wine. Several quotes on the subject of his passion for the grape are on record.

                                       “Good wine is a necessity of life for me.”

 “Wine from long habit has become an indispensable for my health.”

 Jefferson lived to the, remarkable for his time, age of 83 and there is little doubt he felt that wine played a key role in his longevity.

 “I have lived temperately . . . I double the doctor’s recommendation
of a glass and a half of wine a day and even treble it with a friend.”

 As a fellow wine-geek it is comforting to know that a man who was so instrumental in the early development of our nation probably had a nice glass of Bordeaux by his side each night as he penned the words to our Declaration of Independence.

 For a more studied and intense view of Jefferson and his wines I would recommend “Thomas Jefferson on Wine” by John Hailman or “Passion: The Wines and Travels of Thomas Jefferson” by James M. Gabler. If you are more inclined to just enjoy an interesting story of mystery and intrigue concerning Jefferson and wine I highly recommend Benjamin Wallace’s “The Billionaire’s Vinegar”.


Posted in Favorite Wines, Food and Wine Lists, Info on Wine, Tasting Notes, Wine Lists with tags , , , , , , , on July 27, 2010 by ballymote

When it comes to choosing my Top Five wines of the past year a couple come quickly to mind. A few others take some thought. After giving it that needed amount of thought I have reduced a year of joyous wine consumption down to a quintet of memorable elixirs. The first three I mention were all extremely enjoyable and helped make either a dinner or get together a special event.

Coming in at #5 of my best wines was the 2007 AUTEUR, Sonoma, Pinot Noir. I had this during a great meal at Blackbird in Collingswood, NJ back in March. Here is what I wrote in my post at that time “2007 Auteur, Sonoma, Pinot Noir. Everything I had heard about Auteur wines said they needed lots of time open to reflect their true flavors. I uncorked this bottle on Friday morning and left it in the fridge until it was time to go to dinner. The wine was a dark ruby color, much darker than most Pinots and actually drank more like a cabernet. Great, intense flavors that gave a rich mouthfeel and a lingering finish. It’s the kind of wine that you wish you had a case of in reserve.”

Checking in at #4 on my best wines list was the 2005 Larkmead, Oakville Estate, Cabernet Sauvignon. This one was enjoyed up in New York at the Marriott Hotel with Jerry and JoAnne B. prior to dinner at Tribeca Grill back in November. This is what I posted at that time “The Larkmead showed much better and although Parker gave it a 92, I think all of us thought it deserved higher. I’d give this one a 94. It’s not quite as full-bodied as the O’Shaughnessy but it felt more balanced and the flavors were crisp and precise with undertones of rich spices and blackberries. 

Numero 3 was another classic that helped make dinner at Gilmore’s in West Chester a Top 5 Dining Experience. The 2000 Phelps INSIGNIA was a first glass drinking treat that evening and prompted these words in that late March post “The  Insignia seemed to me to be underrated by the experts (94 WS, 91 Parker). It displayed class and strength and loads of smooth plum and blackberry flavors that could stand up to any steak or lamb dish. I’d compare this to any other Cabernet blend in the $100 price range.”

It was a tough decision on these next two wines because both of them were true highlights. After much soul-searching, my number 2 wine was the 2006 Mollydooker, VELVET GLOVE. This wine was so special I devoted an entire post to singing it’s praises. Here is what I wrote at that time. 

The Wine Advocate scored the 2006 Mollydooker Velvet Glove 99 points and Wine Spectator bestowed it with 97. Yesterday afternoon, with my wife Kathy and our friends Jerry B. and his wife, Joann,  we popped and poured this Aussie powerhouse. They had often teased me that I had a phobia about opening my “good stuff” and that one day, when I was gone, they would be toasting me with all of the bottles that I had never opened through the years. Well, the Velvet Glove will no longer be one of those wines.

Much too intense for even the heartiest of red meats we sipped this delicious wine with some cheese and crackers prior to going to dinner. There may not be another wine anywhere that is so appropriately named. The nose virtually filled the room with a sweet bouquet of berries and lavender before it even hit the glass. The first sip grabs you like, like…ok, I’ll say it, like a velvet glove!.  We all thought it reminded us of those 2001 and 2002 Shirvingtons which were also the handiwork of Sarah and Sparky Marquis. It should be mentioned this blockbuster wine checks in at 16.5% alcohol so be prepared.

Sweet, dark berries of all types, coated in vanilla cream and spice, fill the palate  with a liquid smorgasbord of flavors. The inky purple juice entices with a rich, smooth texture that is totally in balance and devoid of tannins. The finish lingers while you swirl and again breathe in the garden of intense scents that echo from the glass.  All  too soon the last of the magic elixir flows from the bottle and a special moment comes to an end. Mollydooker makes a great variety of wines but the Velvet Glove is their crowning jewel.

It was a great start to a wonderful evening of food and wine and very fitting that when I finally did open some of my “good stuff” that it was in the company of good friends who appreciate good wine.”

My number #1 wine of the past year, edging out the Velvet Glove only because I did not have the lofty expectations on this one, and at $75.00 a bottle it is only one-third the cost of the Velvet Glove is the 2005 Lillian, White Hawk Vineyard, Syrah. Created by winemaker, Maggie Harrison, former assistant to the legendary Manfred Krankl of cult wine SINE QUE NON, this was to me the ultimate in drinkability for the past year. Purchased from the wine list at Tribeca Grill in lower Manhattan, this wine made not only the dinner but the weekend. Here is what I posted at that time. ”  I had always wanted to try this wine having read so many rave reviews on the various wine boards. The fact that winemaker, Maggie Harrison, was the former assistant winemaker at Sine Que Non, which I have also never experienced, added to my excitement. The first taste was magical. Very seldom to you get a wine that delivers everything you are looking for in the beverage you are so passionate about. The Lillian Syrah delivers on so many different levels. It’s dark and brooding and packs so much flavor that you grasp for the right words. If Sarah and Sparky Marquis didn’t already capture the name “Velvet Glove” for their ultra-premium Mollydooker Wine, it would be perfect for the Lillian. It’s like getting hit with a velvet glove. The wine has smoothness down to a science and drinking it with my duck breast entree was like a meal designed in heaven. I’d give this one a 98 and place it #2 on my all-time list of wines. It was, as the sommelier mentioned when pouring at our table, “like drinking Sine Qua Non for one-third the price”.

Needless to say, I am looking forward to finding five more gems like these in the coming year and when I do, all of you will be the first to know.


Posted in Info on Wine, Shopping for Wine with tags , , , , on July 8, 2010 by ballymote

It may not be an officially declared full scale combat but when two business selling the same product are located so close to one another that the last digit on my odometer didn’t change driving from one to the other, it has to be some sort of undeclared conflict.

Last night I compared a few different wine prices at the two stores and made some observations. Overall, Hops n Grapes has better prices on the approximately ten wines I checked on with Monster only being less expensive on one or two of my choices. There are some other noticeable differences in the two stores and they way they promote their wines. Hops n Grapes utilizes the internet and e-mails “daily special” coupons that offer “one day only” sales of about 10 to 15% off a featured wine. Not many of the wines offered were ever of much interest. I’d say roughly every 15th offer is worth pursuing but, your mileage may vary.  They also offer buyers “credits” which appear to be about 2% when you use your Hops n Grapes card for each purchase.

Monster does not use the Internet. Their approach to wine “sales” appears to be two-fold. Many of their wines are marked with two prices. One is purported to be the retail price while the lower is the “Club” price. It appears to me that the lower or “club” price is what the wine SHOULD sell for. In many cases, Monster’s “club” price equaled Hops n Grapes regular every day price. The good folks at Circle Liquors in Somers Point use a similar pricing system. There are a few legitimate good buys at Monster, they can be identified by an orange  price tag.

Here are a few of the comparisons I made between the two stores.

2008 Tres Picos

Monster  Reg. 16.99


Hops n Grapes 13.99


2008 Can Blau

Monster 17.99

Hops n Grapes 14.99



 2006 St. Francis Napa Cab

Monster  21.99

Hops n Grapes 20.99



 2008 Panarroz

Monster 9.99

Hops n Grapes 7.99


2008 Erath Pinot Noir

Monster Reg. 18.99

                 Club 16.99

Hops n Grapes 18.99


2008 Bodegas Borsao

Monster 8.99

Hops n Grapes 6.99


On the high end wines, Monster has a glass case with about 50 top of the line wines. Hops n Grapes has an excellent premium wine selection with hundreds of good choices. In fairness, Monster has improved their selection over the past few years in response to the arrival of Hops n Grapes. They may be a little higher in price but if you have the time it’s worth checking out both places for the wine you are looking for.


Posted in Info on Wine, Napa/Sonoma Trip October 2010, Pre-Trip Update #3 with tags , , on July 1, 2010 by ballymote

In preparation for our trip I had put in a lot of time researching the hundreds of wineries and tasting rooms in Napa and Sonoma.  It was excruciatingly difficult to narrow all the stops I wanted to make down to 4 a day for six days. When at last, I had completed this herculean task of eliminating some great places and arriving at a final list of the 24 chosen ones I came to a startling conclusion…….this isn’t going to work, either. It isn’t going to work because it doesn’t allow time for spontaneity.  It precludes the spur of the moment “let’s stop here, this place looks great.” You just can’t do that when you are on a schedule and afterall, this IS a vacation and should be relaxing. Anyway, I thought I would share the Final 24 with you before it is shredded and a new Final (fewer) list evolves.




























I’ll be back in a few days with a revised final list that will probably not be the final list, either.


Posted in Info on Wine with tags , , , , on June 19, 2010 by ballymote

Back in the day when there were far fewer than the 10,000 wines that currently fight for the 200 spaces on a retailer’s shelf, Chateau St. Michelle and Columbia Crest were two Washington State wineries that you could always count on for good wines at good prices. It seems as if their popularity has dropped a bit in recent years as new QPR (Quality/Price ratio) wines from Argentina, Spain and Australia, as well as countless new California offerings have relegated them to the back-burner.

A couple of Sundays ago while visiting my son and his wife near Pottstown, PA, I made a visit to a local state store in search of a Chairman’s Selection that would go nicely with dinner. I couldn’t find much that enticed me until I came across the 2005 Chateau St. Michelle “Orphelin”, the sign claimed that it was “quoted at $30.00 NOW just $11.99 Save $18.01″. I knew from past experience that Chairman’s Selection marketing tended to over price the “quoted” dollar amount but still, this one seemed interesting. 

Once opened back at the house it went quickly and everyone who had a glass thought it was great, myself included. Some research revealed that it was a blend of leftover grapes consisting of 56% Syrah, 15% Mourvedre, 10% Cinsault, 8% Grenache, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Petit Verdot, 2% Touriga, 1% Pinot Noir and 1% Vigonier. It’s somewhat reminiscent of a Chateauneuf du Pape with earthy black and red fruits intermingled with the peppery syrah. The bottom line is that it is a great value and a small gem of a wine at $11.99. The real problem is that there is very little of this remaining in the PA State Store system and I would imagine when it is gone, that will be the end of it. I managed to  grab two more bottles the other day. You should try to do the same.


Posted in Info on Wine with tags , , , , , , , on May 23, 2010 by ballymote

House Resolution 5034, The Comprehensive Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness Act of 2010 (C.A.R.E), may just be the most cleverly named piece of political/social agenda since the pro-abortionists coined the words “Pro Choice” to describe the death of a fetus (if that line doesn’t get me “comments” then nothing will). H.R. 5034 purports to keep alcohol out of the hands of minors by excluding all wine shipments to individual states. It was concocted by the Beer and Wine Wholesalers of America in response to the increasing trend of states allowing consumers to purchase wine directly from California and have it shipped to their home states. Here is what Tom Wark, author of the #1 Wine Blog in America, Fermentation,  has to say about this onerous piece of legislation:

House Resolution 5034 is by far the most audacious attempt ever by America’s beer, wine and spirit wholesalers to takeover complete and total control of the country’s alcohol beverage market and, in the process, create circumstances in all fifty states that assure consumers only have access to the slim number of wines to which wholesalers decide consumers ought to have access. But perhaps most sinister is the fact that if H.R. 5034 passes, it will put out of business an entire swath of America’s artisan wineries.”

This bill, if passed, will allow the wholesalers to be the sole group that decides what wine will be available to you in your local stores. More importantly, not only will it reduce your choice, it will put an end to the hundreds of small family owned wineries in California who make just a few hundred cases of some great wines. The wholesalers will only be buying wines that are produced in bulk with 100’s of thousands of cases available.

In most cases a bill like this would have little chance of getting through Congress. This one is different. The 111th Congress is coming to a close, Four key sponsors of the bill have been heavily supported by contributions from this group (read that as “payback time”). This bill is complicated and difficult to understand as written. It’s being packaged as a bill to stop minors from ordering wine to be delivered to their homes. It’s hard to believe a group of 16 or 17 year olds are sitting around concocting a plan to purchase a case of Scarecrow Cabernet at $3000 a case and arrange to have an adult on hand to sign for it on delivery as currently required by law.

Perhaps, most importantly, this bill, if passed, will effectively prohibit states from even going to court to fight the legality of the issue. The lobbyists have thought of every angle on this one. It’s a horrible bill that will reduce wine selection and put small wineries, not just in California but other major wine-producing states, out of business. Below is a letter from one such small wine producer stating her concerns on H.R. 5034:

I am a small producer of about 500 cases annually of estate-grown, Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon who does not have a tasting room, can’t get a distributor to even answer the phone because I am too small for them, and sells ONLY to those states where we can ship direct-to-consumer and direct-to-trade. This bill would essentially wipe us out completely. But not only that, 70% of the wineries in Napa Valley are considered “boutique” wineries (5,000 cases and under) and a significant portion of them would also be wiped out or severely be impacted financially (on top of an already harrowing past two years!). This bill is an outright power grab by the wholesalers who do not want to see wineries controlling their own destiny (and margins) by selling direct, ultimately bypassing the distributor who barely works for the 50% margin they demand. The winery not only pays the distributor that margin, but also pays for the marketing and selling costs to get the consumer to purchase in the first place. Wineries are looking to get some of their margins back, be able to interact with the consumer directly (data that is not typically provided by the distributor) and be able to control their own destiny, rather than be controlled by a broken three-tier system.

If this bill passes, then we will have one hell of a farewell party with dozens of small wineries in Napa Valley calling it quits! As they go, so goes the passion for artisanal winemaking….

One reason this bill actually has a chance of passing is that it’s not of much importance to a large majority of the populace. It’s not sexy, it doesn’t ban wine entirely, it’s just not something that a lot of people will feel the passion to oppose. If you do feel like me, and would like to make your position known, I offer the following draft of a letter for your Congressional representative. This draft was created by a concerned wine-lover on another blog:

  Copy and paste the following letter… (remember to include your Rep’s name):

RE: House Bill HR 5034: The Comprehensive Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness Act of 2010.

Dear Congressman/Congresswoman ______________;

I am writing to urge you to oppose HR 5034.

This is a piece of anti-consumer legislation.

It only serves the wine wholesalers and wine distributors.

It will not curtail abuse, reduce underage drinking or the social and financial cost stemming from those issues.

But it will strengthen the wine distributor’s and wholesalers’ restrictive control over consumer choice.

As a responsible wine lover, I want access to and choice in wines.

HR 5034 will result in PERMANENTLY limiting my access to and choice of wine.

Please, do not support HR 5034!



Thanks for your help!


Posted in Info on Wine with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 28, 2010 by ballymote

Lots of little events to mention and it’s been awhile since I did this, so here goes. First, it was very sad to hear that Bryan Sikura and Aimee Olexy, the dynamic duo that made Talula’s Table in Kennett Square, PA, the ultimate Delaware Valley BYOB, have split up. The rumors had been prevalent for months but a front page article in this past Sunday’s Philadelphia Inquirer gave all the sordid details. In fact, I felt it may have gone a little too far. Suffice to say, recent diners are saying that Talula’s continues to shine and gives every indication it’s popularity will continue going forward. We certainly wish both Bryan and Aimee the very best and ideally, if it’s meant to be, perhaps they can find again what they once had.

Another loss, of a totally different nature took place yesterday when the Robert Parker Wine Board closed it’s internet doors to all but paid subscribers. For years it had been a source of great reading on every possible aspect of wine, food and travel. It was a place you could count on to hear first of new wines, wine regions, and opinions of all types. Henceforth, it will cost $99 a year to take part in the dialogue or even read what others have written. It feels like I have lost a friend as I spent many hours enjoying that board.

Saturday, May 8th, the Ninth Annual Philadelphia Wine Festival will take place at the Marriott Hotel. This is an excellent opportunity to sample lots of great wines and enjoy foods from local restaurants. If I were not doing a photography assignment at a friend’s wedding, I would be there myself. Tickets are $125.00 per person or $225.00 for early admittance which allows you to enter 90 minutes early when the REALLY good wines are offered. Here are the details:

Philadelphia magazine and The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board Present The 9th Annual Philadelphia Wine FestivalSaturday May 8, 2010 The Philadelphia Marriott Downtown. Over 150 of the world’s finest winemakers and winery representatives will be pouring their wine at a GrandTasting and an exclusive VIP Tasting.  At the VIP Tasting, guests will sample vintages of some of the most prestigious wineries from around the world in a more exclusive environment than the Grand Tasting. Winery representatives will include winemakers, presidents, and brand ambassadors, all available and interested in discussing your thoughts on their wines. Includes Grand Tasting Admission. $5 Processing fee per order. Admission is limited.    Philadelphia Wine Festival VIP Admission Saturday, May 08, 2010 at 5:00 PM.

Where: Philadelphia Marriott Downtown


When: 5:00pm Sat 5.08.10



The recent earthquake in Chile not only brought death and destruction to the people and structures of the country but it also proved devastating to the Chilean wine industry. The 6.9 tremblor resulted in a loss of over 100 million bottles and an estimated loss of as much as 30 BILLION to the country’s economy.

Wine from Chile has gained great acceptance in this country and despite the tremendous loss, sources say, there will be no noticeable shortage of these wines on the shelves at your local wine shop. The main wine producing region of Chile, the Casablanca Valley, was spared and only small losses were experienced there. The Maule Region was hit the hardest with an approximate 12% of their wine destroyed during the quake.


Now that I have been there and loaded up on my own supply I can tell you that the wine pictured on the right, The 2008 Pillar Box Red, one of the great QPR (Quality/Price Ratio) wines of all time, is available while supplies last at your neighborhood PA State Stores as a Chairman’s Selection at the ridiculous price of $6.99 a bottle. This wine normally sells (and currently sells in most NJ wine outlets) for $12.99 a bottle and that is not a bad buy. You can spend $12.99 for a lot of lesser wines than this one. If I were you, I’d stop reading this nonsense right now and hurry over to your nearest State Store while this yummy juice is still available.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 40 other followers