All posts by Wilfred Wong

Working Moms in the Wine Industry: Happy Mother’s Day to all of you!

Moms deserve so much credit. In most cases they are the ones who spend endless hours raising the next generation and with working moms the load becomes increasingly strenuous. But how about working moms in the wine industry? Does the industry that provides the adult population with some of the greatest libations on earth serve up additional challenges? Alison Crowe, winemaker for Garnet Vineyards and consulting winemaker for additional projects, explains, “The uncertain hours of Mother Nature can wreak havoc on a family’s schedule. Harvest is usually quite unpredictable and everyone has to be extra flexible, kids and parents alike. Since my two boys are so small, I sometimes can take them with me to the vineyards to teach them about the growing season and the natural world, but the daily reality is that it’s tough to juggle activities, to get them ready for daycare, and to get them fed and put to bed.”

Wine industry professionals are also called upon to host winery events, dinners and trade sales calls, which sometimes happen at night and on weekends. Crowe says, “The late nights are definitely an extra challenge of the job and means sometimes I don’t see the kids until they wake up the next day. I’m lucky I have a very supportive spouse as well as in-laws who live nearby; we’ve pieced together a system that seems to work.”

Though “wine country living” may seem like a fantasy to many of us, the reality is perhaps different for the working moms of the wine business. Crowe admits, “Living in Napa you are surrounded by an incredible array of some of the finest food in the world. Just like any parent, however, you have to model the balanced food choices you want your kids to make. Juice is watered down, sweets are limited, but great organic produce, cheese and wine (for the grown-ups) are definitely part of the “treats” that bring a lot of pleasure and enjoyment to gatherings. Lessons about wine, history and cooking are just as important to teach and model for our kids as the numbers around nutrition.” Children often emulate their parents and wine adds another twist to busy career moms. It is not just about having a busy mom, but one who deals in a beverage with and health and social ramifications.

One of the busiest and respected working moms in the wine biz is Dr. Valery Uhl. Besides growing grapes and being a serious student of the industry, she is knee deep in the wine judging circuit as an accomplished wine taster and the Director of the North of the Gate Wine Competition (NOTG). Valery, a physician and surgeon since 1985, gave birth to her son Tristan in 1997 while obtaining her Viticulture Management degree at Santa Rosa Junior College. She took one day off a week from her thriving oncology (cancer) practice  San Francisco bay area and drove 60 miles north to take classes from 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM. Recounting the dual career journey, Valery included her son in her global wine travels. Tristan has been to every continent, except Antarctica. Over the years, both mom and son enjoyed working together in the family’s wine business ventures, including their prized T n T Vineyards in the Russian River Valley. As a mom, Valery’s top priority has been to include her son in her wine adventures whenever possible.

I first met Michaela Rodeno at Domaine Chandon when we were both young, and I was so impressed by her kindness and professionalism. She carried herself with great ease and she still managed take excellent care of her family. Michaela, a winery professional of 40 years, comments, “Our children were born in the 1980′s in a time where there were growing social concerns about alcohol. So being in the wine industry, it was important that our son, John, and daughter, Kate, were not excluded from our world. We taught out kids to be our wine waiters (at age 5). Dinner was our only time to be together, so the kids would open and pour the wine, then decamp after eating to leave Gregory and me alone (in peace) to finish the wine and catch up, talk, relax. They were very proud of their skills with corkscrew and pouring adeptness. As a result, they both enjoy a healthy attitude towards wine.” Michaela spent 15 years at Domaine Chandon as Vice President of Marketing and 21 years as CEO at Saint Supery. Please check out her newly published book, From Bubbles to Boardrooms in two volumes. The link is amzn.to/16eT6Xv. She is now running the family winery Villa Ragazzi.

The challenges of any industry can be incredible. In the wine industry, working moms have the added burden that centers on the subject at hand: “Wine.” What say you? Let us salute all the working moms in the wine industry.

Wine should not be so difficult: A trio of great values!

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Wine should not be so difficult; we professionals sometimes take the subject a little too far. We go into acidity, pH and alcohol. Some of us even talk about volatile acidity and brettanomyces. Certainly, these are subjects we can get into, if anyone wants to learn more. But wine is about enjoyment. When I started drinking wines at age 21 (or maybe a bit earlier when I took a sip of some Beaulieu Vineyards Private Reserve Cabernet out of my dad’s glass when he wasn’t looking) it tasted good to me. I was just mimicking what the French did with their children to get them acclimated to the world of food and wine. Tasting.

One of my wine missions in life is to bring good values to the wine-drinking public. Heck, anyone can buy the most expensive wine in the world, with a reasonable expectation that it may be pretty good. But to find bona fide values in the marketplace takes more than just knowing brands. So I want to share with you three delicious wines that most of us can afford. This trio hovers in the $10.00 to $15.00 range – what we call great values.

The Hess Select brand is one of the wine world’s hottest and recognized values and the Chardonnay, from Monterey County, drinks exceptional well.  Ripe fruit abounds, and its easiness on the palate puts it a cut above the rest. I can see this one as a superior cocktail party wine and one that a working chef can enjoy before the meal is served.

Over the last few years, Red Diamond has become a great American standard for good wine. My favorite of the line is the Cabernet Sauvignon. Smooth and delectable, could be a treat for the backyard cook at the grilling station.

Loosen is an extraordinary international name and the Loosen Bros. Riesling Dr. L from the Mosel drinks with grace and style. A well-defined Riesling, this wine shows telltale apple and flowers in its flavors, and is elegant on the palate. For those fearful of Riesling, this one will take you to the head of the class.

Wine does not have to be complicated.  Don’t fret if you are not following the right protocols – just enjoy!

Celebrating Caymus Vineyards 40th Anniversary Cabernet Sauvignon

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Good morning from beautiful downtown San Francisco, this is Chief Storyteller of Wine.com speaking to you from the heart of the city’s financial district on the eve of one of California wine’s greatest moments. Today we announce the release of the 2012 Caymus Vineyards 40 Anniversary Cabernet Sauvignon.

Looking back over 40 years of incredible history, Caymus produced its first vintage in 1972, a rain-soaked year in which so many Napa Valley Cabernets went to the wayside. Yet the Wagner family succeeded in bringing to market a wine of great depth and richness that became a benchmark for California Cabernet. Now fast forward to the present and we find the wonderfully rich and opulent 2012 available for our collections.

From my notes, the 40th Anniversary Cabernet once again stands tall as wine that will ultimately represent one of the vintage’s best efforts. In a staff tasting, we found the wine opulent and long lasting. Dancing on edge of overt black fruit, the wine stays close to home with its unmistakable dustiness.

I first met Chuck Wagner around 1975, when I tasted the legendary 1973 Caymus Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon. I have had the pleasure of tasting nearly every one of the winery’s 40 vintages and was so happy to experience the 2012. Happy 40th to the Wagner Family and all that you have done for the California wine industry.

A delicious no-nonsense Rioja

14_04_16 1130 Rioja at The Wine Bar_1600_BlogLife does not have to be over-complicated, instead of fretting over every little thing that we are planning to do, we should just enjoy. The 2010 CVNE Crianza affords this possibility. So full of fruit and vitalilty, this one simply goes down easily. Made from 80% Tempranillo, 20% Garnacha tinta and Mazuelo (now say that three times or more), this wine is so Spanish. Yet it maintains an almost New World spin. This is Rioja of great pleasure. Tell the chef in the house to grill some lamb and get ready to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. #cvne #cune #rioja #crianza #spanishwines #tinto #grilled lamb

A serious pink that is a lot of fun!

11_09_13 Billecart-Salmon@Aleander's_640_BlogIn the world of pink (wines) no one can deny that Billecart-Salmon Champagne Rose is one of the kings of the wine world. Elegant, stylish and more fun, this serious wine is one of the world’s most renowned Champagnes. Made from Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir, the winery actually positions this as a red wine. So don’t call it pink to their face, you may be the one who ends up blushing. An incredible food-pairing wine, I have often chosen this one with sashimi (yellow tail, red tuna, tuna belly…way yum).

The house of Billecart-Salmon goes back seven generations and is situated in the charming village of Mareuil-sur-Ay. Currently represented by the 6th generation, Francois and Antoine Roland-Billecart, this independent house seems to be in excellent hands. Chief winemaker, Francois Domi has been at the helm for nearly 30 years; the man has a great track record. Denis Blee, Director of the vineyard, has 20 years under his belt. With such a great production team, the vines cared for and respected. #champage #champagnerose #Billecartsalmon