Category Archives: Industry News

Women in Wine: Joy Sterling

Joy Sterling, the beautiful mind and soul currently running Iron Horse Vineyards, is one of our favorite women in wine. Her parents, Barry and Audrey Sterling, built this amazing property and winery decades ago, and it continues to flourish under Joy’s leadership.

Name: Joy Sterling

Role/Position: Partner/CEO of Iron Horse Vineyards

How did you get into wine? Thanks to my family.

What is your favorite part about working in the wine industry?  The people! The wine world is wonderfully generous. Iron Horse is my passport. It takes me to many exciting places and is my introduction. Everyone is fascinated about wine. If you want to make friends, bring the wine. I also love that we are fundamentally farmers. That’s what keep us real.

Who is your role model?  My mother, Audrey Sterling, who co-founded Iron Horse with my father, Barry Sterling. She is so elegant, gracious, strong, bold and accomplished, warm and welcoming, fun and funny. Every day, I look in the mirror and wish that I will “grow up” to be just like her.

What is your best wine story?  One of my favorites dates back to the 1960s when my parents, my brother and I were living in Paris. My father became a Chevallier du Tastevin and at a black tie dinner at Taillevent, he shocked the French by winning the blind tasting. It was written up in The Herald Tribune. It was “news” that an American could be so knowledgeable and discerning. That was a turning point, when my parents first started thinking, “Hmm, this is something we could possibly do.”

Favorite Restaurant:  I can’t name just one. I have so many!

Favorite wine region to visit:  We are so lucky. We are so beautifully welcomed all over the world.

Favorite wine (other than yours) to drink:  I admit it. I have a cellar palate. If I had my druthers, I would only drink bubbles. I am lovingly known in my family as a bubble head. And I have to say, I think Iron Horse sits at the same table as the best in the world.

Advice for women going into the wine industry?  Dive right in. The wine world is a real meritocracy. You can start in a tasting room and become president of a winery. There is a long history of women who have succeeded in wine … especially in Champagne. Think of all those widows.

Iron Horse Vineyards

 

 

Women in Wine: Alisa Jacobson

Welcome to the Wine.com Women in Wine Series! Each week this month we will feature a woman in the wine industry and a bit more about her!

First, Alisa Jacobson, winemaker at Joel Gott Wines, shares her remarks.

LIsaJacobsonName: Alisa Jacobson

Role/Position: Winemaker, Joel Gott Wines

How did you get into wine?  I grew up in Agriculture and enjoyed the farming lifestyle

What is your favorite part about working in the wine industry?  I like how every day is different due to the seasonal aspect of the industry

Who is your role model?  Sarah and Joel Gott have been my mentors for 14 years now – I have learned a lot from both of them.

Favorite Restaurant:  Cook in St Helena

Favorite wine region to visit:  The Rhone region of France

Favorite wine (other than yours) to drink:  Sancerre in the Summer, Rosé in the spring, Grenache in the Winter and Beer during harvest!

Advice for women going into the wine industry?   Its important to share your opinion and have confidence in your abilities.

National Drink Wine Day: who’s drinking wine?

Yes, of course EVERY day is Drink Wine Day, we know this, but just like every day should be mother’s day, or father’s day, or be nice to people day, we do have that ONE day to officially celebrate drinking wine. And that date is February 18th.

Here at Wine.com, we find it slightly coincidental that National Drink Wine Day should fall on the birthday of Wine.com’s founder. Fate? Perhaps.

So how much wine are we drinking when it’s not drink wine day? How about some fun stats (courtesy of the Wine Market Council):

- In 2014, 302 million cases of wine were consumed in the U.S.

- 40%  of Americans drink wine

- 30% of them drink wine more than once a week

- That 30% drinks over 80% of the wine consumed in the US

So here’s to the 30% of the 40% who drink the 80% – I think we all deserve a toast! Cheers :)

The Wayward Zin has come home…

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What did Zinfandel really want to be? Before the late 1960’s, California was all about cheap dessert wines- White Port, Tokay, Sauternes (skid road sweet wines). Only a handful of producers made varietal wines and they were largely limited to Chardonnay (then called Pinot Chardonnay) and Cabernet Sauvignon. When the first varietal revolution began in the late 1960’s, Zinfandel was in the mix. Ridge Vineyards produced their first Geyserville in 1966. Then Zinfandel took a strange turn and White Zinfandel, a semi-sweet blush wine took center stage. In the next varietal revolution (circa 1973), Zinfandel regained its position as an ultra-premium varietal and high quality producers introduced some of America’s greatest Zinfandels ever. The class of 1973 was remarkable and clearly put the varietal on the map. But its place in the world marketplace was met with mixed results. Old World fans and many in the restaurant trade decried the high alcohol of the wines (pushing 16%) and the world returned to the tried and true: Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. These were classic red wine varietals that would never become high octane monsters. Zinfandel was pushing its power and ripeness and bringing in a little heat along with it.

At the most recent ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers) week, this past January, the organization put on the Zinfandel Experience to show the world Zinfandel as it is today and where it is going in the future. I participated in a trade/media and consumer event at ZAP, tasted over 120 wines (many more than once), spoke with vintners and consumers. The playing field has changed. The wines, though high in alcohol, were balanced and delicious. Vintners were passionate about producing wines that tasted great and were true to their AVA’s (American Viticultural Area). Upscale consumers were excited and enjoying the wines. On the trade/media panel I commented that alcohol should not influence you either way on how you will or not like a wine, it is all about balance and how it tastes. As I talked with the public, they were passionate, coherent and thrilled at the state of Zinfandel today.

I enjoyed so many wines at the tastings. Here are three in my top group that are available at Wine.com. The easy and super-rich ’12 Cline Ancient Vines is a perfect match with grilled pork ribs – but make sure the sauce is not too spicy. The sophisticated and red-fruited ’12 Ravenswood Dickerson calls for oven baked roast pork, with a savory red wine reduction sauce. The classic and brambly ’12 Dry Creek Vineyard Old Vine will pair well with a rosemary-accented leg of lamb. It is time to recognize that Zinfandel has come home and is waiting to pair with a fine meal with family and friends.

What is it with these wine competitions anyway?

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In the wine business, we all talk about O-N-D (October-November-December). Success or failure, the fourth quarter is a deciding factor, as we move wine fast. Yet like grape growing, business begins at the start of the New Year. Last week I participated in one of the largest wine competitions in the world- the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. With over 6,300 wines entered and more than 50 judges, divided into 19 panels, this event officially rang the bell for the beginning of the wine judging season. In the United States there are around 30 significant competitions and internationally there are at least half as much. Yet there is much confusion about wine competitions and if they really have an effect on the fortunes of wineries.

Over the last two decades, publications like Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, the Wine Advocate and Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar (now Vinous), have become the gold standard. Consumers have become confident and accustomed to these publications, and rightly so; those magazines have done an excellent job in representing their genre. But what about wine competitions, do they offering anything to the consumer? Gold, Silver and Bronze Medals – what do those all mean?

Since the mid-1980’s I have judged in as many as 15 competitions in a year. I even ran one (Executive Director of the San Francisco Fair National Wine Competition 1987-1989). As a judge, we often taste as many as 200 wines in a given day and at the conclusion of all competitions, we anoint winners (typically with medals). In the marketplace, this sometimes plays very big and the winning wines see more sales.

This year, when I sat in my chair on panel #4 on the first work day of 2015, I was thinking, wow, we are already here judging wines. Welcome to 2015. I was joined by long time professionals Dr. Richard Peterson and John Schumacher. We had a blast judging together as we agreed to disagree. Our panel was nicely balanced with a wide variety of wine experiences between the three of us.

What is it with wine competitions anyway?
The industry recognizes the value of wine competitions on many fronts, the most important being that hundreds of thousands of wines get tasted blind by qualified wine professionals and that those awards get entered a the large pool called: Wine Marketing. For me, blind tastings keep my palate fresh and honest. Additionally, tasting with other professionals and networking with even more allows me to keep up to speed in the world of wine. Yes, wine competitions are important to all of us who love wine.  I’ll be sharing some of my favorite finds through our facebook and twitter pages, so stay tuned!