Happy weekend my friends. I’m going to keep my intro here pretty short because, as you may or may not know, tomorrow is my birthday. My birthday present: sitting my first WSET Diploma Exam. Wish me luck.

For those of you following along on my WSET Exam-Type Questions series, never fear. These will continue for a few more weeks, as I’ve written out several that still need to be posted.

Regarding current events, the food and wine industry (like so many others) continues to be in a state of flux. COVID cases continue to rise here in wine country, as with the rest of the country. Tariff drama remains. US alcohol shipping laws seem to be going sideways. And the fight to create and celebrate a more diverse professional food and wine industry continues.

Scroll through. There’s some fun stuff too. Veraison in Lodi’s looking good. There’s some new wine literature for your fellow wine geeks. Take a photo tour of Sicily. And anybody want some tennis shoes made from wine? Here yah go.

Enjoy your weekend reads. Stay safe, stay healthy, and be kind.


Press Democrat: Foley Johnson winery in Napa Valley closes after worker tests positive for coronavirus

Bill Foley of Foley Family Wines (Brent Winebrenner)
Bill Foley of Foley Family Wines (Brent Winebrenner)

New York Times: Of Wine, Hand Sanitizer and Heartbreak

Between the coronavirus and the Trump tariffs, the French wine market has collapsed. So winemakers are — sadly — sending their excess product off to another life as hand sanitizer.

A tanker-truck arriving to pick up Jérôme Mader’s wine to bring it over to a distillery where it will be transformed into hand gel.Credit...Dmitry Kostyukov for The New York Times
A tanker-truck arriving to pick up Jérôme Mader’s wine to bring it over to a distillery where it will be transformed into hand gel.Credit…Dmitry Kostyukov for The New York Times

Across the emerald Alsace wine country, now carpeted in deep-green vines — and across France’s other wine regions as well — thousands of winemakers, famous and obscure, are facing similar moments of heartbreak. READ MORE…

Drinks Business: Researchers Decipher Phylloxera Genome

A study has revealed the genome sequence for phylloxera and records how the aphid-like insect, which caused widespread devastation in vineyards in the 19th century, spread from the US to Europe and further afield.

Grape phylloxera disease. Grape phylloxera (Phylloxera vastatrix) is a pest of commercial grapevines worldwide.
Grape phylloxera disease. Grape phylloxera (Phylloxera vastatrix) is a pest of commercial grapevines worldwide.

A new study, published in the BMC Biology journal, sheds light on the origins and spread of phylloxera, and provides a detailed analysis of the insect’s genome sequence, which could have wider implications on its management in the vineyard going forward.

The study notes that phylloxera found in the upper Mississippi River basin feeding on wild vitis riparia vines is “likely to be the principal source of the invasion to Europe”. READ MORE…

Eater: James Beard Employees Demand More Diversity in Leadership, Salary Transparency in Internal Letter

Among other demands, the letter calls to diversify the board of trustees, and make events more equitable

James Beard Foundation
James Beard Foundation

On July 16, a large group of James Beard Foundation employees sent a letter to the foundation’s senior leadership team, outlining a list of demands for the future of the organization. The anonymous employees describe themselves in the letter, which was shared with Eater, as a group that has “dedicated years of their lives to the work of the James Beard Foundation despite pay disparity, inadequate benefits, long hours, and challenging working conditions.” READ MORE…

Decanter: Amsterdam company creates new vegan trainers from ‘wine leather’

A trainer company in Amsterdam has announced its new vegan-friendly trainers made from ‘wine leather’, to be launched later this year.

Credit: Mercer Amsterdam
Credit: Mercer Amsterdam

Dutch shoe company, Mercer Amsterdam, produced the trainers in collaboration with Vegea, an Italian company producing leather from the leftover waste of wine production – in particular, the grape seeds and fibres – which first launched in Milan in 2017. READ MORE…

Wine Enthusiast: Barry Sterling, Cofounder of Iron Horse Vineyards, Dies at 90

Courtesy Joy Sterling
Courtesy Joy Sterling

A pioneer of sparkling wine in Sonoma County, Barry Sterling, the cofounder of Iron Horse Vineyards, died Sunday, July 26, 2020, at the age of 90. His family was by his side. READ MORE…

Press Democrat: Fred Cline steps down as CEO from family’s Sonoma winery

John Grant, CEO of Cline Family Cellars
John Grant, CEO of Cline Family Cellars

Fred Cline, founder of Cline Family Cellars, has stepped down from his leadership position of almost 40 years and has appointed industry veteran John Grant as the new chief executive officer of the Sonoma winery. READ MORE…

Drinks Business: 17 Associations Demand End to Wine and Spirits Tariffs

17 associations representing both the US and European wine and spirit trades have submitted comments opposing proposals for further US tariffs on wine, beer and spirits.

European Union and United States cargo containers reflecting trade war and restrictions in export and import

The industry bodies have submitted comments to the United States Trade Representative (USTR) after news of another tariff review last month.

In addition to existing tariffs on still wine, Scotch whisky and liqueurs, the US said it was considering further levies of up to 100% on beer, gin and vodka made in France, Germany, Spain, and the UK.

The dispute relates to EU subsides given to aviation company Airbus over US-based rival Boeing. READ MORE…

Blogs Worth a Read

Taken from the list of Blogs I follow regularly, here are just a few posts from this past week I think are worth a read. Shoot me a note if you have suggestions of blogs to follow or want your blog included on that list.

Wine Curmudgeon: The sham and hypocrisy behind the three-tier system

The Wine Curmudgeon buys wine from an out-of-state retailer – even though it’s illegal

“Quick — get the wine unloaded before anyone spots us.”
“Quick — get the wine unloaded before anyone spots us.”

A case of Domaine Tariquet was delivered via Fed Ex to Wine Curmudgeon international headquarters in Dallas this week. The shipment violated the laws of two states – that of the retailer who sold me the wine, and Texas, which forbids shipments from out-of-state wine retailers. Welcome to the sham and hypocrisy that is the three-tier system.

Why a sham? Because the liquor cops in Texas and in the retailer’s state both know I bought the wine, since Fed Ex and UPS send so-called common carrier reports to the agencies. The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission received the electronic paperwork saying the order was shipped to my house; the retailer’s state alcoholic enforcement agency got the same thing when the order was shipped. READ MORE…

Deborah Parker Wong: Valentina Cubi’s Decade of Organic Winegrowing in Valpolicella

Cubi began converting the estate to organic viticulture in 2007 and conducted her initial trials in the Casterna vineyard, a lower-elevation site behind the winery. This vineyard is Guyot trained and planted to permanent cover crops.

Prior to the initial conversion to organic which has occurred in two phases, the estate had been farmed conventionally in a way that Cubi describes as being “environmentally friendly.” She credits this with significantly reducing the stress on the vineyards during conversion something that has enabled them to preserve even their oldest vines planted in 1973 in the higher-elevation Monte Tenda cru. READ MORE…

Wine Curmudgeon: Wine tariff update—Has Europe made the U.S. an offer to end the tariff that it can’t refuse?

European officials say illegal aircraft subsidies will be re-paid, so there’s no need for the U.S. wine tariff

The European airplane manufacturer at the center of the U.S. wine tariff controversy says it will increase loan repayments to France and Spain to convince the United States to settle a 16-year-old dispute over billions of dollars of aircraft subsidies.

The news couldn’t get much better than that, could it? READ MORE…

Letters from Lodi: July veraison and the ultimate beauty of old to ancient vines

Mid-July 2020 veraison in Manassero Vineyard's old vine Grenache block, planted in the 1940s on the west side of Lodi's Mokelumne River appellation
Mid-July 2020 veraison in Manassero Vineyard’s old vine Grenache block, planted in the 1940s on the west side of Lodi’s Mokelumne River appellation

As we’ve reached the middle and end of July, Lodi wine country has been experiencing a period of time known in wine lingo as veraison: a word derived from the French term véraison, referring to the “change of color of grape berries.” Call it the annual coming of age for grapevines, or a vinous bar mitzvah for grapes.

For black skinned grapes grown for red wines, veraison usually happens in a spectacular blaze of colors, from greens and yellows to reds and purplish blues and blacks. But it’s not just the transitioning of hues that farmers see in their vineyards during this time of year. It is also a signal that grapes have reached a mid-point of maturation. READ MORE…

Jancis Robinson: Visit Sicily with Us

Fancy a bit of escapism? Jonathan Reeve, who inspired our first escapist photo-portrait of a wine destination, Chambolle-Musigny, contributes his own pictorial account of the south and east of Sicily.

Palm trees, sandy soils, bright heat, and colourful, weathered paintwork characterise Planeta’s Buonivini estate (above). Tunisia is only 100 miles (160 km) away, south-west across the Strait of Sicily, but you could believe you’re right there. READ MORE…

Young Gun of Wine: Max Allen’s new book, Intoxicating—Ten Drinks that Shaped Australia

Max Allen. Photo by Adrian Lander.
Max Allen. Photo by Adrian Lander.

Last week saw the release of Max Allen’s new book, Intoxicating: Ten Drinks that Shaped Australia. It’s a fascinating and surprisingly revealing portrait of this country, capturing the unexpected and reframing the familiar through just ten liquid lenses. We managed to corner Max to discuss the book, his dream of making a uniquely Australian cider and the future of the Australian wine industry, amongst other things…READ MORE…

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**Please note: all reviews and opinions are my own and are not associated with any of my places of business. I will always state when a wine has been sent as a sample for review. Sending samples for review on my personal website in no way guarantees coverage in any other media outlet I may be currently associated with.**

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