Frost Threatens Wine Grapes in California I leave the country and all hell breaks out in
Northern California. The worst frost season in thirty years struck Sonoma County in April. The estimated
countywide damage is 10-15 percent of the crop, but is higher for certain vineyards. Dennis De
La Montanya said that his large Petaluma vineyard lost practically all of its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay
vines.. Some vintners used up the water in their collection ponds to prevent frost damage, leaving
them with no water for irrigation later in the season. The flow of the Russian River was noticeably reduced.
The frosts also hit Mendocino, Lake, and Napa counties in Northern California and parts of the
Central Coast of California. Pinot Noir is particularly susceptible to the damaging effects of frost since
it is an early flowering variety.
Paradise Ridge Winery Re-Opens Paradise Ridge Winery is celebrating
its grand re-opening and 14th anniversary with a celebration on May
18 at the winery. The fete marks the completion of an extensive contemporary
renovation of the property and the opening of a sculpture exhibit at
Marijke’s Grove titled “Encore” on Sunday, May 19. With one of the most spectacular views of any
winery in Sonoma County and a portfolio of outstanding wines, Paradise Ridge has plenty to celebrate.
The winery’s Pinot Noirs of late are highly recommendable.
Green Truck Becomes Road 31 I loved Kent Fortner’s Green Truck
theme for his Pinot Noir label and the story of his aged green truck. His Pinot
Noir inside the bottle was memorable as well. With the current 2006 vintage,
Kent has changed the name of his wine to Road 31 Wine Co.. It seems that
there were just too many colored vehicles on wine bottles, so when visiting
his family in Kansas last fall, he saw a sign that read, “Road 31,” heralding a
gravel road which runs past his grandparents’ homesteads in Kansas. The truck still adorns the label
and the wine is the same inside. The 2006 vintage of Napa Valley Pinot Noir has been released and I
will be reviewing the wine in a coming issue. Visit www.road31.com.
Vinquire Local Wine Search The free internet search site for wine now has a “local wine
search” feature. When you are seeking a special bottle and need the bottle soon, you can enter your
zip code and the wine name and quickly find a source in your neighborhood. You can even find driving
directions to the retail source of the wine. I find the site extremely useful and it is updated constantly.
Winemaker Changes Winemakers are similar to chefs in that they frequently change jobs, many
times to gain new experience or move in another direction. Tony Rynders has departed Domaine
Serene and the search for a new winemaker is ongoing. Christina Pallmann has been hired as the
winemaker for Twomey Cellars (Calistoga and Healdsburg). She had previously been at Fritz Winery
in Cloverdale. Greg La Follette is now less involved with De Loach in the Russian River Valley, focusing
on his own label, Tandem, and a new project in the Anderson Valley financed by Chicago attorney
Jim Ball. Ball is building a new winery and two vineyard sites are being developed by biodynamic
viticulturalist Ginny Lambrix.
De Villaine Bourgogne Aubert de Villaine (owner of Domaine de la Romainee-Conti) planted
Pinot Noir on a steep hillside property in the Cote Challonaise a few years ago. The 2005 vintage is
the first release of Domaine A. et P. de Villaine La Digoine Bourgogne ($32). The wine is imported by
Kermit Lynch (www.kermitlynch.com). Available also at www.storytellerwine.com in Oregon.
Full Scoop on Davis Bynum Winery Retailer Paul Root is currently
selling some recent close-out stock of Davis Bynum Pinot Noirs.
Paul is a noted historian of the Russian River Valley and he related the
full story of the sale of Davis Bynum Winery (photo right) recently in his
online newsletter. Davis Bynum was a home winemaker in Berkeley and
worked as a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper in the
early 1950s. In 1965, he started a small winery in a warehouse in Albany, in the East Bay Area and
crafted his first commercial wine here. In 1973, Bynum purchased 84 acres of land in the Russian River
Valley and started Davis Bynum Wines. His winemaker was Gary Farrell who also made his own wines
for many years at Davis Bynum. The label from Davis Bynum 1978 Westside Road Pinot Noir (made
primarily from Rochioli Vineyard grapes) is pictured below. In 2000, Farrell left to start his own winery,
and David Georges took over the winemaking duties. The Davis Bynum winery and vineyards
were purchased in March of this year by the Baker family of Canada. Jeremy Baker will continue to
produce wines from the property under a different name. The Klein family purchased the Davis
Bynum brand and inventory in August of 2007. The Bynum wines will take on a new label and packaging
and will be produced at a new small winery on Westside Road by Gary Patzwald (formerly Conn
Creek in Napa. Paul Root is offering a mixed case of both the 2004 and 2005 vintages at a drastically
(less than half) price. Phone Paul at Root’s Cellar, 707-433-4937.
New Restaurant Guide Steve Pietnicki has published a dining guide by Opinionated
About Fine Dining titled The 100 Best Restaurants in North America and Europe. Like
the Zagat guide, it is compiled from diners and includes a numerical rating, a short description
of the restaurant, quotes from survey participants and two to three special
dishes. Unlike the Zagat guides, this book rates each restaurant’s wine list and describes
the BYOB policy. The guide (a steal at $6.95) is available through retail channels or
online at www.opinionatedabout.com.
Wine Certification Course Noted wine educator, Kevin Zraly (Windows of the World Complete
Wine Course) and Robert Parker, Jr., offer a Wine Certification Course to subscribers at
www.eRobertParker.com. Beginning next year, the course will be offered to the general public as
well. The current major wine certifications (Master of Wine, Master Sommelier and Society of Wine
Educators) are for the trade but this course is intended for the consumer. There are three levels, each
level having a test to achieve certification. Think of it as a wine SAT or wine aptitude test. The highest
level (not yet available) will include a blind wine tasting and an oral exam with Kevin Zraly and/or
Robert Parker, Jr..