Sacramento, Here We Come!

Where has the time gone?  I can’t believe that we are upon yet another year and the 2012 Unified Wine and Grape Symposium!

We are very excited to exhibit again at this fabulous and productive event.  We will be on the first floor, right by the front doors at Booth 1916.  Please stop by to say “hello” to Patrick and me.  We will be giving out bags, hats and other goodies.

Looking forward to reconnecting with our EnVino community live in Sacramento next week!

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First Class Mail Follow-up

So, I got a phone call from one of our blog followers.  They asked me to write a follow-up to the entry entitled, “First Class Mail,” posted on July 15th.  Thanks for reading.  I am happy to oblige!

First of all, the arrival of the bottles to their prospective destinations took longer than we anticipated.  But, everyone received our messages in a bottle within fifteen business days from being mailed.

Of the contacts that emailed us photos, the best image was sent by Richard Blanchard, the Principal Packaging Scientist for Diageo.  In case you don’t know Diageo, Morningstar.com explains,

Diageo is the world’s leading producer of branded premium spirits. It also produces and markets beer and wine. Brands include Guinness stout, Smirnoff vodka, Tanqueray and Gordon’s gins, Captain Morgan rum, Baileys Irish Cream, and Johnnie Walker scotch. Diageo also owns 34% of premium champagne and cognac maker Moet Hennessy, a subsidiary of French luxury goods maker Moet Hennessy-Louis Vuitton.

Yep, they are kind of a big deal.  Even more fascinating is that Richard’s team also won an award from the Ameristar Packaging Competition for the Moon Mountain Vodka bottle.  (Click here to see the results, http://www.omnicontests3.com/lfa/omnigallery/search/oc/results.cfm?ORGANIZATION_NAME_SEARCH_TYPE=contains&DATE_INACTIVE_START=&GROUP_BY=category&CATEGORY_ID_LIST=&COMPETITION_ID_LIST=&DATE_ACTIVE_SEARCH_TYPE=&COMPETITION_ID_SEARCH_TYPE=contains&ORGAN)

I’d like to thank Richard, or Dick, for sending us this photo.  He is obviously passionate, talented and inspired by his work.  We appreciate his commitment to continuously improving the look, feel and level of interaction between Diageo’s products and its international consumers.  Santé to excellent design!

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Family Winemakers Tasting at Fort Mason

The Family Winemakers Tasting at Fort Mason August 21st and 22nd this year was fun and exciting. It seemed a bit more reserved, shall we say, “focused,” than previous years.  Gone were the grilled lamb skewers and roast duck biscuits from last year’s celebration.  All that remained were paltry cheese stations serving, you guessed it, Wisconsin Cheese (?).

Nonetheless, there were some truly stand out wines.  I was fortunate to taste not only some of the best wines that California has to offer, but to do so with Marc Kauffman, distinguished sommelier and creator of Restaurant Radar.com.  Here’s a list of the wines we found particularly inspiring.

Loyal Companion Red Wine– This wine was great for the $12 price point and I loved the label!  In fact, all the labels feature different breeds of dogs.  The company name is Cru Vin Dogs and is based in Sonoma.  You can see all their products at www.cruvindogs.com.

Another stand out was Conway Family Wines.  Based in Rancho Arroyo Grande, they had nice fossils, an interesting terrior and great wine.   Try the 2008 Viognier.  You can learn more at http://www.conwayfamilywines.com/.

Martian Ranch and Vineyards is based in Los Alamos and specializes in Rhone varietals.  The name “Martian” is the blending of the names of the winemaker’s sons, Martin and Ian.  Don’t miss the 2009 Grenache Blanc, Grenache Rose and 2008 Syrah, all priced under $24.  Check them out at http://martianvineyard.com/.

Saddleback Cellars is a Napa standard producing real value wines. The 2010 Napa Valley Chardonnay is selling for $24, as are the delicious Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon. According to Marc, Nils Venge has been doing this for years and has stayed true to the craft.  Visit them online at http://www.saddlebackcellars.com/.

Here are a few other wines not to miss:

Darms Lane Napa Chardonnay @$28 per bottle from Trefethen fruit had a long finish and great oak overtones.

Lavender Blue wines are showing an unusual concentration of fruit.

Demetria had a standout ’08 Syrah and a delicious blend 2009 Cuvee Papou in the Rhone style at $28.

Sentall Napa Valley 2009 Chardonnay at $14 is a steal.

Terroir Napa Valley Cabernet 2007 at $20.  Buy all you can!

Pope Valley Zinfandel Port.  We heart it.

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Defining California Cult Wines

While attending an event at Techmart the other evening, I met a gentleman and we began the typical “what do you do” conversation.  When I told him that I work in the wine industry, he smiled broadly and began to tell me that he is a wine lover.  When I asked him what type of wines he preferred, he replied, “California cult wines.”  I laughed and asked him what methodology he uses to distinguish particular wines as “cult wines.”

For those fluent in wine-speak, this is an ubiquitous statement.  It usually applies to a certain subset of wines that are expensive, scarce and have a loyal following of brand enthusiasts.  The top twelve cult wines from Napa Valley include:

  1. Screaming Eagle
  2. Scarecrow
  3. Harlan Estate
  4. Bryant Family
  5. Colgin
  6. Switchback Ridge
  7. Sloan
  8. Araujo Estate
  9. Schrader
  10. Abreu
  11. Marcassin
  12. Hourglass

So, how was the “cult wine” distinction created and how does a wine achieve cult status?  The answer begins with, none other the premier wine critic of all time, Robert Parker. Maryland-born Robert Parker began exploiting the term around the Millennium.  The wines that fit into this category tend to be full, lush, highly concentrated cabernet sauvignons.  Not all cult wines are cabs, but the pinots and syrahs are few and far between.  Other factors that contribute to a wine reaching epic “cult” status include a score of 95 or above from Parker, the degree of quality and scarcity, the winemaker and vineyard manager, and finally, the appellation.

Although he is now retired, Robert Parker’s influence is all encompassing to the wine industry and this subset of wines.  If he gave one of these beauties a score of 100 points, it would be an overnight success and unavailable to commoners for years.   In other words, you could get on the waiting list to be on the waiting list.  If he rated an established cult wine with a score of less than 95 points, that winery will quickly lose its sacred cult status (and could actually shrivel up and die like a lonely star in our vast solar system.)

If you are interested in purchasing a few cult wines for your collection, you must first get on “the list.”  Second, be prepared to spend from $250 and up per bottle.  And remember, cult wines are ready to be consumed now, so don’t plan on saving them in your cellar.  Cheers!

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CornerStone Sonoma Canvas Connect event

Last night, I attended the Canvas Connect event at CornerStone in Sonoma.  “Canvas” stands for the Concierge Alliance of Napa Valley and Sonoma.  This association organizes the hospitality community of Wine Country.  The goal is to make resources easily accessible while supporting relationship building and networking.

CornerStone Sonoma is an eclectic collection of shops, wineries and a gourmet cafe set amidst nine acres of garden installations created by the world’s leading landscape architects.  You can see my photos of the gardens here.

Several caterers and food vendors were offering samples at the event.  For me, the Sweet Lauren Cakes were truly exceptional.  Based in Bernal Heights, these are delicious bites of cake on a stick.  The chocolate flavor was very moist and tasted like fudge dipped in a mildly sweet, pleasing frosting.  Absolutely delicious and so very cute!  Check out her blog here.

Other culinary indulgences were Pisco cocktails, chicken empanadas, gourmet rice and beans, beef nachos with chipotle salsa and organic lemon sorbetto from Noci Gelato in Marin County.  Finally, there were complimentary hand-rolled cigars for event guests.  This was a perfect accoutrement to a stroll in the elaborate and contemporary gardens.  This is could be a great place to take your kids on a weekend.  Parents can check out the little shops while kids explore the expansive gardens.

All in all, I really enjoyed the evening.  It was very well organized, well attended and offered exceptional food in a charming venue with an easy going live salsa band.  The complimentary transportation to and from San Francisco to the event made it very convenient and relaxing, despite rush hour traffic.  I’ll definitely attend another Canvas Connect event soon.

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First Class Mail

Today, we sent 25 bottles with messages inside.  We labeled them, put stamps on and dropped them in a public mailbox in Burlingame.  Our messages are going out to colleagues and associates all over the country.  We are excited to see how our bottles survive the US Postal Service.  A postal worker literally asked me if they were made out of glass, while she was selling me stamps.  I think she might be due for a little vacation. : )

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Field Vineyards featured on KSRO Wine Wednesday

Patrick Field, founder of EnVino Bottles, has a lot going on lately.  In addition to acting as managing partner for EnVino, he also actively works with his family’s winery, Field Vineyards.  Nina Field, Patrick’s mother, founded Field Vineyards in 1996.  It is located along the beautiful Russian River in Alexander Valley in Sonoma County.

Distinguished for providing high quality fruit to wineries such as Beringer, St. Francis, Korbel and Silver Oak, Field Vineyards is also known for producing award-winning wines.  Winemaker Chris Mills applies his twenty years of wine making experience to crafting Katarina Wines.  The 2003 Katarina Cabernet Sauvignon won a Silver Medal at the prestigious 2009 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and the 2004 Katarina Cabernet Sauvignon won the coveted Gold Medal at the same competition in 2010.

Nina Field took time out yesterday to talk with Steve Jaxon from KSRO 1350AM radio in Sonoma.  Field Vineyards was featured on the Wine Wednesday segment of  “The Drive” show.  We are delighted to celebrate Katarina’s success and look forward to many more celebrations with the Field family.

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Naked’s Outdoor Wino opens Tasting Room


We at EnVino Bottles are thrilled to partner with Naked Winery’s Outdoor Wino brand in Hood River, Oregon.  Recently dubbed the wind surfing capital of the world, Hood River is also well known for growing scrumptious apples, pears, peaches and cherries.  A stunning destination spot for locals and tourists, Naked Winery boasts the only outdoor tasting room in the area.  Outdoor Wino is designed for a wide range of active enthusiasts, including wind surfers, cyclists, picnickers and campers.

The tasting room is currently offering three varieties, Wanderlust White, Picnic Table Pink and Rambling Red.  All three wines are bottled in EnVino PET Bottles.  Our shatterproof, recyclable, reusable, light-weight bottles are the perfect packaging to help wine lovers “take it outside.”

For more information, check out http://outdoorwino.com/.

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La Cocina SF

Recently, I had the chance to meet with Matt Skov from La Cocina, a cooperative, commercial kitchen in the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco.  La Cocina offers a business incubator program for food entrepreneurs.  These entrepreneurs, primarily women and immigrants from communities of color, can use the commercial kitchen at subsidized rates.  In addition, they also receive help from volunteers and mentors. Volunteers provide technical assistance including tax preparation, recipe costing and branding.  Mentors provide strategical insight with marketing and business planning.

Here’s how the program works.  After applicants are accepted, they begin a six month pre-incubation period.  During this time, participants receive assistance with every aspect of their business.  If their concept is successful, participants then enter the incubation period of the program.  This entails access to affordable kitchen space and further business development.  This phase can last a few months or up to a year, depending on the amount of capital that must be raised in order to support the business concept.  Upon securing funding, participants graduate and are prepared to launch their food businesses to the mass market.

La Cocina provides a wealth of resources to aspiring food entrepreneurs that face high barriers to entry and extremely high rates of failure.  Currently, they have twenty businesses in their program.  The kitchen also offers catering and group team building events centered around cooking.  Check their calendar for upcoming events.

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Leapin’ Louie Western Comedy Shows

Leapin’ Louie Comedy Productions will be using EnVino Bottles for his upcoming performances.  This world renowned comedian is known for vaudeville and alternative circus acts which include whip cracking, juggling and unicycling.  Leapin’ Louie, or David Lichtenstein, is also involved with the organization, Clowns Without Borders.  He and other comedians traveled to Haiti last year to do free shows for children after the devastating earthquake. You can read about it here, http://www.comedytricks.com/ct/cwb.php.  We are thrilled to work with Leapin’ Louie and wish him continued success with his shows!

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