February 2009 Archives

bottle_yourex.jpegBy Courtney Cochran

Husband-and-wife team Paul and Kacky Chamberlain of San Diego-based Cerebral Itch, Inc. not only have a knack for snarky jargon, they've been able to channel their self-described "wicked sense of humor" into a remarkably successful line of greeting cards, e-cards, t-shirts and self-adhesive wine labels. And while some of their more racy material isn't fit to print here, much of the wine label stuff is sufficiently PG.

A sampling:

Breakup & Divorce
Front label:  "I saw your ex the other day and I might add, he looked like hell."
Back label:  "You on the other hand, look fabulous.  Let's celebrate!"

Everyday
Front label:  "Don't waste this wine on the uncultured palates of other guests."
Back label:  "FROM:..." (space to write your name)

Obligatory
Front label:  "Obligatory Hostess Gift (We bought it on the way here)"
Back label: "FROM:..." (space to write your name)

Korbel Says "No Thanks" To Internet Trashing

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Korbel-sign.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

At first glance, Korbel Champagne Cellar's new legal action aiming to "out" an unidentified Internet user who posted negative remarks about the winery on Craigslist.org seems like an assault on free speech. But, examined more closely, the 100+-year-old Sonoma sparkling producer's aggressive stance on the issue seems more than a little justified - especially considering the allegedly untrue nature of the targeted user's remarks.

Randy Ullom - Takes It One Barrel At A Time

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RandyUllom5[1].JPGWinemaster & Chief Operating Officer
Kendall-Jackson Vineyards & Winery

A native of Ann Arbor, Michigan, Randy Ullom became interested in wine during a three-year stay in Chile, while on sabbatical from college in the early 1970s. His stay inspired a cross-country trek through Chile's vast wine-growing regions. It was an education in various climates and soils that has proved invaluable throughout Ullom's winemaking career. On his return to the United States, Ullom entered Ohio State University to study Viticulture and Enology. He received his degree in 1975.

Foster's Spends Millions to Split Divisions, Keep Wine Assets

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FostersProductsLineup.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

Foster's Group spent nearly a year debating whether to sell off its troubled wine assets - valued at some $4.4 billion - before announcing this week that it will keep its wine division intact but make significant organizational adjustments in the coming years in an effort to cut costs and improve performance. To that end, significant changes new chief Ian Johnston has pledged to enact include separating Foster's beer and wine businesses, cutting some 300 jobs and eliminating 37 brands from the business' troubled Australian portfolio.

Twisted Chicken

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rubberchicken.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

In the ever-evolving world of online wine marketing, there are a number of fascinating trends that have lately caught my eye. Among them, I've noted in this blog many wineries' recent embrace of social networking tools such as online networks, Twitter and Facebook to connect with customers. And while these methods are certainly novel, they can't touch Sierra Foothills-based Twisted Oak Winery's recent use of the Web along with a small army of rubber chickens for sheer outrageousness where contemporary wine marketing is concerned.
By Courtney Cochran

Come February 22, many of us - film and wine buffs alike - will find ourselves settling in to enjoy the time-honored tradition of watching Hollywood's annual version of an all-you-can-eat buffet with extra helpings of couture, paparazzi and bawdy political jokes thrown in for good measure.  That's right: it's Oscar time!  And, to further enhance your viewing pleasure, this year we're pleased to present our second-annual Academy Awards tasting lineup, complete with frank and - hopefully - amusing commentary on nominated films and personalities.  

So whether your star picks turn out to be winners or just plain winers, you'll be guaranteed a good laugh along with a good glass as you take it all in - the most winning combination we can think of. 

Early Blooms Unwelcome in Wine Country

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By Courtney Cochran

With record temperatures that have sailed north of 70 degrees in some parts of the state, grape growers as far south as San Diego County and as far north as Sonoma are reporting signs of early bud break on vines.  Bud break - which usually doesn't occur until mid March - is apparently being stoked by the unseasonably balmy weather that has also encouraged such cold weather-shy flora as magnolia and almond trees to bloom early.  

Aussies Fight Fires, Other Woes

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aussiefire.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

Clearly, this is not the year for the Australian wine industry. With exports sagging as a result of the global financial crisis, unfavorable exchange rates and increased competition in the value sector, Australian winemakers are facing serious challenges - not the least of which is picking up the pieces from a deadly blaze that whipped through Victoria Saturday, decimating vineyards and winery buildings and killing more than 100 people across the state.

Steve Leveque: Inside the Mind of a Winemaker

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HallWinesSteve.jpgAnytime you have an opportunity to talk with a winemaker it's a special experience.  Here is "The" person directly responsible for making the wines you love to drink. And . . .you can now ask them any question imaginable...

I had such a moment at the HALL Rutherford Release Party for their wine Excellenz.  Their new winemaker Steve Leveque answered every standard and zany question I asked.  Steve has been making wine for about 16 years. He began his career at Robert Mondavi Winery under the tutelage of Tim Mondavi for close to 11 years.  Eventually, he spread his wings and flew to Chalk Hill Estate Winery in Sonoma Wine Country where he served as Executive Vice President and Winemaker.

New to the HALL Wines family starting summer of 2008, Steve says he's found a place he's proud to call home. It sounds cliché, but Steve relates that Hall Wines is dedicated to making great wine. "The owners are committed to the winemaking process, passionate about the wine experience, and they have one of the best vineyards - Sacrashe - to produce from."  With all the right components in place, you might say the only thing missing was Steve Leveque as winemaker....

HALL Rutherford: Wine As It Was Meant to be Enjoyed

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HallWinesVineyard.jpgRUTHERFORD, CA - A visit to HALL Wines in Rutherford is truly a heavenly experience.  Most tourists may be  familiar with the HALL St. Helena location next to Dean & DeLuca on Highway 29.   Unknown to many is their second location off the Silverado Trail and in the same area as Auberge du Solelil.

One wonders if this is done on purpose considering the exclusivity of the Rutherford location. With winding, twisting roads up a grand mountain,  at several different points you will question if you are going in the right direction.

Eventually, you will reach your destination and be utterly amazed. HALL Rutherford is literally perched on the top of the mountain with a spectacular view of the valley.  It's almost as if you've been transferred to another time and place.

BYO Wine Do's & Don'ts

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By Courtney Cochran

As the economy continues its sobering slide, there are a few things in which we can all take comfort.  First, the obvious: we have a new president in office who has vowed to tackle the faltering economy head-on.  Second: the crisis is bringing friends and families together like never before for mutual comfort and support.  And third, cha ching!: we can all look forward to saving a little cash during these tough times by bringing our own wine to restaurants.  

Read on for some of our top tips on how to BYO in style, as well as hints on what not to do when you decide to bring you own.  Because in times like these, who wouldn't want to drink great wine while paying less?

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