Finally, a Good Corrugated Shipper

Hats off to Gundlach Bundschu for its role in the development of a corrugated shipper that eliminates the need for Styrofoam.

“We could not find a reliable, environmentally-friendly alternative to the 12-pack Styrofoam shipper,” said Chris Holman, operations manager for Gundlach Bundschu. He adds, “We partnered with Unisource Worldwide, Inc., and are pleased to have been part of a solution to help remove Styrofoam from land fills.”

As a result, Unisource is now producing a shipper that is made of 100% corrugated material with 20 to 40% post-consumer recycled content; 100% biodegradable and recyclable, has a minimal increase in weight over Styrofoam and a decrease from other cardboard designs, and meets United Parcel Service standards.

A recent press release noted that this was an element in Gundlach Bundschu's work to earn the distinguished Green Business Certification from Sonoma County. Gundlach Bundschu began to work towards certification shortly after the pilot program was launched just over a year ago and received its certification this summer. California’s oldest family-owned winery, it is one of only 12 wineries to earn the certification from Sonoma County.

Green Business Certification requires adhering to a strict set of standards in four areas, including water conservation, energy conservation, solid waste reduction and recycling, and pollution prevention. Certification requires inspection by a committee of local government and municipal utilities, including Sonoma County Water Agency, Pacific Gas & Electric, Sonoma County Waste Management Agency and Department of Emergency Services.


Hospitality Galore, Good Wines, Great Food: TRIO in Truckee

Brickelltown, as the west end of historic downtown Truckee is known, has a new attraction that’s very worthy of a visit or five. The new TRIO Wine Bar and Bistro at 10292 Old Donner Pass Road is in a restored Victorian mansion that dates from 1874. The hospitality of manager Allen Wicks, sommelier Dawn Bertsch, and headwaiter Lou Phillips is unparalleled. Dine in the restored and plush Kruger-White House, or outdoors on an appealing deck. Wherever you decide to sit, spend a few minutes inside appreciating the carved Victorian rosewood bar.

You can choose from an interesting and affordable wine list, organized in a way that many wine aficionados will appreciate: from light-bodied to full-bodied. Each wine on the list can be purchased by the glass, or you can purchase a full bottle. Under development is TRIO’s Captain’s List, which features allocated wines, higher-pedigree wines that are expensive and much sought after but hard to find.

The Bistro food is exquisite too. Small plates range from$4 to $24. The full menu is available until 11 p.m. daily. All food and wine are available TO GO too.

Starting with the bubbles, the Gruet NV Blanc de Noir, New Mexico, is a Methode Champagnoise that is rich and toasty and yet very balances. Aged for two-years minimum, you’ll love the complexity of this bubbly with its berry aroma and creamy texture. Don’t be fooled by the pale salmon color, as it explodes on the palate with a juice flavor of raspberry. A wonderful aperitif. 12.0 alcohol. $10/glass or $20 for 750 ml bottle.

The Talbot 06 “Sleepy Hollow” Chardonnay, Santa Lucia, has a minerally backbone, and is a lovely and oaky fruit-forward Chardonnay. According to the winery website, the minerality comes from their 450-acre hillside vineyard that’s divided into two separate vineyard parcels, both Arroyo Seco gravelly loam soil, which allows excellent root penetration, enabling the vines to pick up subsoil minerals that increase flavor complexity. These grapes for this wine come from the Sleepy Hollow A plot, and are Wente clones that were planted 32 to 35-years ago on their own roots. This is a quintessential Burgundian style Chardonnay, medium straw in color, with aroma of honeysuckle, melon, peach, pear and vanilla. There’s a touch of French oak, and it is creamy with a long clean finish. 14.5% alcohol. $12/glass, $36/bottle. TRIO paired this with lovely and light shrimp spring rolls, house made, with an Asian peanut dipping sauce.

A lovely Ceasar salad goes well with Dr. Loosen’s 08 “Dr. L” QBA Riesling, Mosel, Germany. A wonderfully aromatic yet light Riesling, with a sweetness that conveys grapefruit and citrus throughout the taste and finish. A nice bit of racy acidity, and a characteristic minerality. 8.5% alcohol. $6/glass, $18/bottle.

The best wine-food pairing of the evening was the lamb lollipops grilled with a touch of balsamic & olive oil marinade, served with a cilantro pesto dip. Fantastic with the Cristom 07 “Mt Jefferson” Cuvee Pinot Noir Willamette Valley (Oregon). This Pinot Noir is Burgundian in style, light ruby in color, with blackberry on the front of the palate, overtures of tobacco and cinnamon on the nose. 13.5% alcohol. $14.50/glass, $40/bottle.

With the lamb, also try a taste of the Vino Noceto 06 Sangiovese Shenandoah Valley, California. A classic Italian wine, flavors of cotton candy, and fantastically food compatible. 14 % alcohol. $8.50/glass, $23/bottle.

And then try one of my personal favorites, Orin Swift’s 07 “THE PRISONER”, a Napa red blend that is really wonderful. It was just delightful with a cheese plate and warm olives at the end of the meal. The Prisoner is high in alcohol so beware! Go slow, enjoy the food with this one. 15.2% alcohol. $13/glass, $36/bottle.

And then, finally finish the evening off with a Smith Woodhouse 10 yr Tawny Port, Douro, Portugal. It is a good as any 20-year port I’ve tasted. $5.50 for 2 oz, $44 the bottle.

TRIO Wine Bar and Bistro, 10292 Old Donner Pass Road, Truckee. Open daily 4-midnight. 530 582 2323.
For more information on dining and the wide range of activities around Lake Tahoe, see the online version of The Tahoe Weekly. This article appeared in my column "It's Grape" in August 2009.

Plumpjack Café, where Wine is One of Life’s Great Pleasures

Plumpjack Café Squaw Valley began its wine program with the premise that “wine is one of life’s great pleasures and should be enjoyed as often as possible as part of a complete dining experience”.

Value is a cornerstone of their wine pricing policy, and the café carries that through to their excellent winemaker’s dinner series. Every day, Plumpjack Café offers a great selection of hard-to-find Californian wines, and collectible greats from Europe and the rest of the New World. They have an extensive wines-by- the- glass program.

The winemaker dinner featuring the wines of Flowers Winery, located in Cazadero, CA on the rugged Sonoma Coast, was perfection in both food and wine. Flowers wines are cool-climate wines that authentically express the unique character of the coolest areas of the Sonoma Coast appellation.

Flowers has a long standing reputation for its pinot noir, but we tasted some spectacular chardonnays also. They produce 15,000 cases of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

The winemaker dinner was beautifully crafted by Rick Edge, Executive Chef. It started with tartare of Angus tenderloin with capers, lime and fresh herbs. It was well paired with the Flowers 2007 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay. In color, light straw to golden. Layers of aroma include lemon drop, pear, and apricot. A nice finish, light oak, with a roundness in the mouth. A bit of minerality also made it a perfect pairing for a vegetarian dish prepared for my vegetarian friend, a flavorful risotto. 14.1% alcohol. 3 oz glass $6, 6 oz glass $12

Next course was a sweet corn soup with a warm mushroom salad, summer truffle and house cured lardo. Plumpjack makes this last ingredient themselves; it’s a fatback cured in lemon zest for more than four months. The dish was paired with Flowers 2006 Andreen-Gale Chardonnay, which has a richness and acidity that leads to a long and complex finish. On the nose, lemon and floral, and on the palate, a minerality that’s integrated with vanilla tones. Tom Hinde, CEO of Flowers, poured the wine, and called it a “feisty chardonnay.” 14.1% alcohol. 3 oz glass, $8. 6 oz glass, $16.

The seared Ahi Tuna main course featured a spiced heirloom tomato compote, Beluga lentils, and a pinot noir reduction. Our vegetarian friend had a lovely mushroom ragout for this course. Both dishes were perfect with the Flowers 2007 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, with its crispness and fruit-forward acidity. Aroma of cherry, raspberry, and plum are followed by hints of violet, spice, mineral, and pepper. A lovely juicy pinot noir, with strawberry, raspberry, black fruits and even a bit of leather. Nicely tannic for a lingering finish. Flowers tasting notes state that “The full spectrum of Pinot Noir clones is represented in this wine. Older traditional California heirloom selections such as Martini, 2A, and Pommard are complemented by the more recently available Dijon clones (115, 828, 667, 777), as well as low vigor selections from the Swan and Calera vineyards. “ 13.4% alcohol. 3 oz glass, $7. 6 oz glass, $14

The final course, desert , was an espresso panna cotta, with fresh cherries, chocolate soil, and a French macaroon. Perfectly paired with Flowers 2007 Perennial “Pinot Noir, Syrah” Sonoma Coast. The wine greets the nose with fruit aromas of plums, strawberry, blackberry, and raspberry, and on the palate, there is a lovely jamminess with hints of coffee, mineral and chocolate. You’ll find some tones of cranberries and cherry in the taste too, and a smooth texture made it a perfect end-of-the-meal wine. It’s a blend of 74% Pinot Noir, 16% Syrah, 8% Pinot Meunier, and 2% Chardonnay . 13.8% alcohol. 3 oz glass $5, 6 oz glass $10.

PlumpJack Cafe Squaw Valley is located at 1920 Squaw Valley Road in Olympic Valley. Dinner Thursday through Sunday . Reservations recommended; 530-583-1578.

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© 2009 Barbara Keck

For more information on dining and the wide range of activities around Lake Tahoe, see the online version of
The Tahoe Weekly. This article appeared in my column "It's Grape" in the issue that bridges the end of August, beginning of September 2009.


“Come, come, good wine is a good familiar creature if it be well used; exclaim no more against it.”

“Come, come, good wine is a good familiar creature if it be well used; exclaim no more against it.”

Thus spake the bard, and of course we are referring to William Shakespeare. And, forsooth, no one could exclaim against the many interesting wines that you can sample at the wine tastings that are offered at the Shakespeare on the Lake performances in Sand Harbor. It’s a fact that not only great drama, but also good wines, are part of these unforgettable evenings under the Tahoe skies.

For $25 you can enjoy three exquisite samples of a dozen or more wines, and a lovely Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival souvenir wine glass to take home. If you enjoy one of the wines enough to want a bottle to complement your picnic dinner, the wine tasting staff will oblige you.

Foster’s Wine Estates Americas is a sponsor of the 2009 Shakespeare Festival. Many of the wines from their far-flung empire are featured at the wine tasting. Below are a few that you can sample and enjoy at the Festival, and a note about average retail price for a full bottle purchased at large wine shops and supermarkets.

Chateau St. Jean 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a delicious Bordeaux-style wine, very fruit-forward with a taste that makes you think: berry, berry, berry. There’s a bit of spice from oak, and the finish is smooth and elegant. 13.8% alcohol. Average retail price: $13-15/bottle.

Greg Norman Estates 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, North Coast, California. The North Coast appellation covers Napa, Sonoma and Lake counties. This appellation is renowned for the depth and richness of its Cabernet Sauvignon. With access to grapes from a larger region, the winemaker has the luxury to choose the best fruit in order to create a balanced wine with lushness and firm tannins. On the nose, tobacco and chocolate. Deep and rich flavors of blueberry, cassis, mint; velvety mouthfeel. 14.4% alcohol. Average retail price: $15/bottle.

Tunnel of Elms (Beringer) 2007 Merlot, California. A soft merlot, with aroma of with ripe plum, cherry and raspberry. Delicious flavor, with a bit of oak. 13% alcohol. Average retail price: $7/bottle.

Two Tone Farm 2004 Merlot. This is a nice drinkable merlot, not too tannic on the front, but the merlot fullness persists through the back palette. 13.9% alcohol. Average retail price: $8/bottle.

Beringer California Collection 2008 Pinot Noir. This pinot has a love rose color, caramel at the side, and is only slightly peppery on the nose; there is also an oakiness in aroma. Nice tannins mid-palate, and berry, cherry, blackcurrant, raspberry fruitness that almost explodes in your mouth. One reviewer called it “simply the BEST inexpensive Pinot Noir I've ever tried!” 13.0% alcohol. Retail prices range from $5-8/ bottle.

Annie’s Lane 2006 Clare Valley (Australia) Riesling. On the nose, a fresh lily-of-the-valley aroma. In the mouth, peach and citrus flavors, a bit tart, with a balanced dryness. On the finish, a hint of sweet fruit and lime. Lovely as an appertif or with food. 12.5% alcohol. Retail prices from $10-15/bottle.

Beringer California Collection 2008 Pinot Grigio. Vanilla aroma, lots of oakiness and floral notes. Clean on the palate, flavors of white peach and citrus. The finish is flinty-minerality. 13% alcohol. Average retail price $8/bottle.

Tunnel of Elms 2005 Chardonnay. Aroma and flavor of citrus, tropical fruits, light oakiness. Light finish, rich and creamy texture throughout. . An easy drinking table chardonnay. 13% alcohol. Average retail price $7/bottle.

Matua Valley 2008 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough New Zealand. A bouquet of flowers on the nose, and overtones of citrus. Fruit-driven on the palate, with classic Marlborough acidity. Nicely structured, with a long finish. 13% alcohol. Average retail price, $12/bottle.

About the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival:

One visit to the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival and the reason that more than 30,000 attendees travel from across the United States to attend each summer is crystal clear. Nestled between the pristine Sand Harbor State Park beach and the towering pines, The Warren Edward Trepp Stage, built at a cost of nearly two million dollars, provides a first class performance venue with breathtaking views of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding basin. At Reno-Tahoe’s premier summer event, Shakespeare’s works come alive outdoors, just as they were meant to. The Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival at Sand Harbor is a fun, casual evening on the beach, that has become one of the outstanding outdoor cultural events in the United States.

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© 2009 Barbara Keck

For more information on dining and the wide range of activities around Lake Tahoe, see the online version of The Tahoe Weekly. This article appeared in my column "It's Grape" in August 2009.


DEVELOP A LONG TERM RELATIONSHIP: This is the key to marketing to Hispanics

“DEVELOP A LONG TERM RELATIONSHIP: This is the key to marketing to Hispanics,” says bicultural marketing expert Sofia E Keck.

"Realizing the opportunities in the Hispanic market takes much more than translating existing campaigns into Spanish; it means integrating Hispanic culture into the heart of your business and becoming a part of the Hispanic community."

“The Hispanic market is growing faster than any other in the U.S.A,” noted Ms Keck. “It’s going to be worth more than $1.3 Trillion by 2015.” To reach this market requires thoughtful marketing.

Hispanic marketing needs to go far beyond language translation services -- brands need to speak authentically to the desires of Hispanic customers and create an emotional bond with them.

“There are many examples all around us of Hispanic marketing that is not culturally relevant and misses the mark with Hispanic consumers,” stated Ms Keck. “In order to effectively market to Hispanics, you must connect with your audience, and this means fostering the long-term loyal customer relationships which drive Hispanic purchasing patterns.”

“Smart Branding is the key to success with these consumers,” says Ms Keck. “Hispanic customers prefer to do business with friends. You must create an inviting brand that Hispanic customers will integrate into their lifestyle. Your brand must inspire a sense of familiarity.”

Sell It in Spanish, a consulting firm owned by Ms Keck, assists in reaching Hispanic consumers by increasing the cultural sensitivities of US businesses and enhancing the knowledge of Hispanic values and understanding the considerations that Hispanic customers when purchasing a product.


Please Muddle Responsibly: Perfect Viral Marketing!

It's always a wonderment to know how viral marketing efforts hit my email in-box, but this one is a nice surprise. It could also serve as an almost perfect case history of how wineries could market their products.

First, I receive an email that DOES NOT hit my spam filter. This means that the marketers are using a service like Constant Contact or Vertical Response that requires its clients to get opt-ins somehow from its target customers. Bravo!

Secondly, the email subject header is brief but compelling: "Recipes of Rio - Leblon Cachaça"

The email text is interesting:

Bom Dia,

As a Brazilian living in Rio, with a passion for spirits, I have been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work at some of the top hotel bars in Rio (I am currently the head bartender at Hotel Fasano-Rio). In my search for inspiration of new cocktail creations, I enjoy spending time visiting and trying out what some of the top bartenders are making throughout the city.

I have taken the opportunity to explore a few of my favorite cocktail bars with Steve Luttmann, of Leblon Cachaça. There are so many great places to visit that I couldn’t take you everywhere, but I wanted to share some of my journeys through Leblon, Ipanema, and Copacabana and introduce you to some of my friends and colleagues.So, I share with you some of my Favorite Recipes of Rio!


Next, when I do the display-images thing on my email, the photos at the top of the email (see above) are varied, vibrant, and it doesn't hurt that they include some good-looking bartenders.

After a few seconds, the YouTube video magically opens when you click on ANY image or recipe. The soundtrack is terrific, the movie a watchable 3 minutes. Try it yourself:

Then, reverting to the email again, the recipes are clearly posted and printable.

What could be more perfect? Hats off to Leblon!


New World and Old World: Expect it all at Corkscrews in Tahoe City

Bright and shiny, modern and edgey, enticing and welcoming … this describes the ambiance at Tahoe City’s new wine bar, Corkscrews. Located in the Cobblestone Center, this well-stocked wine shop and tasting bar is just what’s been needed in Tahoe City. Owner Elgin Marsted and her husband Brooks Marsted escaped from the stress of the Denver financial world to pursue their dream of promoting exceptional wines from small boutique wineries. Tahoe City was the location that resonated with them both!

“ We want our customers to feel like they are part of the secret of these winemakers and their art,” said Elgin. They’ve initiated a series called “Wind Down Wednesdays”: beginning at 5 p.m. , every wine-by-the-glass selection is half off. The offerings change weekly. It’s a great opportunity to sample several boutique wines before you decide what bottle must go home with you. And you might want to pair that with cheeses from Cowgirl Creamery, also on offer at Corkscrews.

Every Saturday from 4 to 7, different winemakers are featured. The tasting we went to featured wines from Redemption Wines, Venge Vineyard, and Macauley Winery.

Chris Cutler, proprietor of Redemption Wines is an old friend of the Marsted’s. Chris has been involved in wines since his years at Stanford’s MBA program, where he started Canvas Wines, a wine company that showcased the work of artists on custom labels; the company was self-funded with student loans. Chris grew up in an artistic family and art, as well as wine, is integral to his vision. He went on to found Redemption Wines, determined to focus on the finest quality wines and promotion of up-and-coming artists via the labels.

“I work with my heroes in winemaking – Emmanuel Kemiji, Byron Kosuge and Pat Knittel – to bottle balanced, age-worthy Pinot Noir. And I work with some of the best new artists in the world, like Gary Taxali and Thomas Campbell,” Chris said. “Together, we are bottling Redemption, which will always be as profound on the inside as it is on the surface.”

The Redemption 2007 Monterey County Pinot Noir is a Burgundian style pinot, characterized by acidity, age-ability, food-friendliness and finesse. In the glass, a delightful deep ruby color. Aroma of cherry and cocoa-powder. Flavors of strawberry and redolent black cherry, a toasty vanilla spice from barreling in 15% new oak, soft tannins, and not too much pepper; really yummy! Grapes are sourced from the Mission Ranch Vineyard of Arroyo Seco, a site which borders the Santa Lucia Highlands and shares its terroir and climate of hot days and cool foggy nights. Pair with lamb shanks, barbeque ribs, pastas with red sauce, or favorite pizza. 14.5% alcohol, 392 cases produced. $38/bottle.

Venge Champs de Fleur White Meritage, from Venge Vineyards is a delight to the nose. Many Venge wines are often available only on allocation. Fresh lemon grass scents of Sauvignon Blanc, with passion fruit, lemon drop and hints of white peach aromas from the Chardonnay and Viognier components. 60% Sauvignon Blanc; 30% Chardonnay, and 10% Viognier. Kirk Venge, winemaker. 14.5% alcohol, only 489 cases produced. $26/bottle.

Macauley Napa Valley Zinfandel is crafted by Kirk Venge, winemaker. It’s a beautiful deep purple in the glass. Aroma of raspberry, cherry vanilla and clove, followed by blackberry, spice and pepper. On the palate, a full tannin and a fine acidity results in a nicely structured wine. The Zin is blended with 16.6% Petite Sirah. Enjoy for 5 to 7 years! 14.8% alcohol. $35/bottle.

Visit Corkscrews at 475 North Lake Boulevard (Cobblestone Center), Tahoe City. They are open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m or later, every day. Be sure to order a cheese plate with your wines-by-the-glass, too! 530 581 1106.

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© 2009 Barbara Keck

For more information on dining and the wide range of activities around Lake Tahoe, see the online version of The Tahoe Weekly. This article appeared in my column "It's Grape" in August 2009.


Cape Dreams Brand Promotion leads with Water Conservation Notes

The Cape Dreams brand (to be launched in October by Heritage Link Brands) will be promoting the Rooiberg Winery Area's water conservation practices as part of the launch. What a smart thing for this group to do -- to attract US consumers to whom not only good wines, but sustainable practices, are important.

"Produced by: Rooiberg Winery Area, South Africa
Conserved: 6343 ha
Wine District: Robertson
Biodiversity highlights: Area conserved – 6343ha.

The natural area represents some 57.3% of the total land belonging to Rooiberg. An endangered, indigenous fish called the Breede River Redfin was discovered on one of the members farms, and a number of rare succulents and other plant species have been identified on some of the others.

First co-operative cellar to become a member of BWI in South Africa!
Rooiberg Winery near Robertson has made history by becoming the first co-operative winery in South Africa to achieve membership status with the Biodiversity and Wine Initiative (BWI).

They have achieved this by conserving valuable natural habitats on their member’s farms within an important succulent karoo region, and by embracing the principles of sustainable production.

Eight out of the 18 farms belonging to Rooiberg were selected as having the most conservation-worthy land and a letter of commitment was signed by each of the respective property owners and Rooiberg’s CEO, agreeing to not develop new vineyards on the pristine areas identified.

The 8 farms collectively contain some 6343 hectares of unploughed, natural land which represents 57.3% of the total area belonging to co-op (11 069ha). These are areas that have pristine lowland vegetation, wetlands, rivers or mountain regions.

The Breede River valley between Worcester and Ashton provides a remarkable meeting place for 3 major vegetation types namely Succulent Karoo, Renosterveld and Fynbos. This explains why the number of plant species found here is exceptionally higher than in other areas and cannot be matched anywhere in the world for a comparable arid region of the same size.

Preliminary surveys were made of flora, fauna and bird species on Rooiberg’s farms. One exciting finding was an endangered, indigenous fish called the Breede River Redfin (previously called Burchells Redfin), which is found only in a few, untouched Western Cape Rivers and is a superb indicator of river health. This special fish was discovered in the deeper pools of the upper Noree River in the Vinkrivier area."

This note was submitted by Selena Cuffe
Selena Cuffe is the President and CEO of Heritage Link Brands, LLC. She presides over the company's strategic and operational direction. With over 10 years of general management experience, she has served in key roles for United Airlines, Procter & Gamble, and the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE), overseeing initiatives for over 20 countries.


Developing a Consistent Format for Newspaper Columns

This is a challenge for any writer -- developing a consistent format -- and an absolute necessity. I learned this the hard way as an entrepreneur who started up a marketing consultancy in order to spend time with my toddlers and not have to bow to the inflexible schedules of Corporate America in the 70's. When I developed a standard format for my proposals -- the business took off!

It took about three columns before my format blossomed. I am limited to 600 words plus 1-2 pix, so that is a challenge too. My format is pretty simple:

1) Find an angle for the headline and first paragraph: something that is genuinely unique to the place where the wine tasting is taking place.

2) Get a quote in the second paragraph that sums up the mission statement of the winery/winebar/wineshop/restaurant. Sometimes for newly-opened venues, that's difficult -- because they don't always understand what their mission is quite yet!

3) Take a deep breath and start right in with the tasting notes. Don't be afraid to use the tools of the internet to see what other writers have said. Visit the websites of each winery too.

4) Find the "special wine" that has something unique about it. This goes beyond your tasting notes: it can be the unique vineyards from which grapes are sourced, the history of the founders of the winery, the difficulty of growing grapes in the mountains (my column focusses on venues/wineries near Lake Tahoe), etc. Once you've found this point of interest, give it a very full paragraph.

5) Soldier on with the tasting notes.

6) No false or fancy wrap-ups. I came, I saw, I tasted, I noted, and here's where and when you can go to do the same.

Working with owners, managers, and PR folks to set up tastings.


So You Want to Write about Wine for a Newspaper?

I've been writing a wine column for a weekly newspaper that covers Lake Tahoe, The Tahoe Weekly. Started this in April 2009 when the editor, an acquaintance from a sailing event, called me and said "yer on".

This is a labor of love (read: unpaid except a small fee that really just covers mileage) and it has been a challenge to figure out a cogent editorial calendar that gives justice to all the places around the Lake that are involved with wine: wineries in Placer-Nevada-El Dorado-Amador counties; wine shops; wine bars/bistros; and great restaurants with sommeliers and world-class wine lists.

It has been fun -- but each column takes 8-10 hours to do, between drive time, interviews, writing, getting photos. No room for deadline slippage either -- it's a small staff at the newspaper and they run a tight ship. What have I learned from this experience? Stay tuned.

FRESH REPORT FROM HONG KONG… Guest Blogpost from Amy Hanson

"In China and Hong Kong, general consumer knowledge of wine, especially Californian, has much room to grow. While the days of mixing wine with soft drinks to combat a perceived bitter taste are all but gone, the average consumer still gravitates toward European wines because of prestige and reputation. "

"I’ve been to Hong Kong many times over the last 15 years, and it was interesting to view it this time through the lens of the wine market. Hong Kong is, as anyone who has visited knows, a very international city: while I was there, I attended a tasting of Italian wines at The China Club hosted by the Berkeley Alumni Association!

The Hong Kong government has made a goal to be Asia’s wine hub and made the market duty-free in 2008; a U.S. Commercial Service officer in Hong Kong told me that U.S. wine exports to Hong Kong increased by over 250% in the last year.

I met with some very impressive wine experts during my trip. Iin Hong Kong there is a small but growing population of more adventurous and educated wine drinkers who seek out boutique, high-value, quality wines – a great sign for companies like ours!"


Amy just returned from a trip to Hong Kong in her new role as VP of Marketing for California Grapes International, a value-added distributor of boutique California wines in Hong Kong. She has been a high-tech consultant for much of her time since graduating from Harvard in 1992. More Reports to Come in the Future!

You can read more about Amy at Barbara Keck's new website, Harvard-in-Wine.blogspot