Thursday, September 28, 2023

Reader's Comments

Dear Readers,

Writing a blog can be challenging. When you finish writing and click on Publish, you put yourself out there for sharpshotters and readers who disagree with what you've written. As a writer, though, you have to own what you write, good, bad or neutral.

No whining here, just a statement of fact that every blogger (and writer) knows all too well.

In early 2019, I had pretty much retired from active wine writing, but a few friends and colleagues suggested I stay in the game and write a blog. My first blog was published in July 2019 with this introduction:

"I don't enter the blogosphere often, but on a recent foray, I noticed that few wine bloggers actually were writing about wine. Most wine blogs seem to step around the essential information about the vast world of wine. 

With that in mind, I am introducing Gerald D Boyd on Wine, a  wine primer for newcomers to wine and those fans of wine wanting more background information.  No wine politics, wine gossip, wine technology and other assorted topics that are covered by other wine bloggers and wine publications."

Throughout, I've tried to stay close to that statement, with the occasional sidetrack. But, I encountered a problem that has built up over the years: How to reply to "Comments" from readers? It's a technical issue that I haven't (yet) been able to resolve.

My apologies to those of you that sent a "Comment" and never got a reply. It wasn't intentional.  I appreciate the feedback and am working on fixing the problem of answering reader comments. 

Until I get it fixed, here are a few replies to select "Comments":

To those readers wondering why my writing seems to linger in the past, I can only say that I am old and no longer actively traveling and visiting wine regions and wineries.  As I've said numerous times, Gerald D Boyd on Wine posts are a re-telling of my wine experiences and adventures and not a commentary on the state of the wine business today.  The posts are a series of recollections gathered from many years of writing about wine and spirits.  

To those readers that think some of the subjects I write about are too basic and sometimes not current (see above), I would say that Gerald D Boyd on Wine is intended as general knowledge about wine and not detailed specifics.  There are hundreds of wine reference books, wine courses and wine classes for those thirsting for more detailed knowledge. 

Finally, for those few readers who left snarky comments about my Copy Editor and what they see as a lack of professional copy editing, I will just say that my Copy Editor is my wife Janet, a good reader but not a professional editor.  Gerald D Boyd on Wine is meant as informative and educational writing and not a scholarly tract.

Well, I feel better now and I hope you do too.  This is not the end of Gerald D Boyd on Wine, because after only 214 blogs, I'm just getting started.

Thanks for reading this blog,

Gerald D. Boyd


Thursday, September 21, 2023

My California Wine Adventures 5

"My California Wine Adventures 4" told of my visits to Heitz Wine Cellars and Joseph Phelps Vineyards, neighboring wineries along Taplin Road in the Napa Valley.  Closing out my first trip to California as a wine writer is my tasting and conversation with the godfather of Mendocino wine. 

John Parducci                    Ukiah Daily Journal

With the Phelps interview now in the bank, Jack and I got back on the road early the following morning, for the drive from the Napa Valley across the western hills that divide Napa and Sonoma, to Santa Rosa and then north to Ukiah. In a day or two, we would retrace part of that route on our return to San Francisco for flights to San Diego for Jack and Denver for me.  

Parducci Wine Cellars is a few miles north of Ukiah, off highway 101. The winery was founded by Adolph Parducci in 1932, making it the oldest Mendocino winery in continuous operation. John and his brother George were in charge of wine making and marketing when we arrived in the late 1970s. But the controlling interest of Parducci Wine Cellars was no longer in Parducci hands. 

In 1973, the brothers Parducci needed operating cash, so they sold majority ownership of the family business to a California teachers investment firm.  It was a decision that didn't sit well with John, and his wife, Margarett, and he grumbled about the issue as we tasted some of the many Parducci wines.  Brother George was at the winery the day we were there but he left meetings with visiting writers up to his brother.  

Understanding John Parducci

I mention this division of responsibilities because it helps to explain John Parducci, a farmer at heart, who always wore his emotions on his sleeve.  John was cranky but sympathetic, angry but gentle and always generous with his time, experience and knowledge.  He was an outspoken seat-of-the-pants winemaker.

Still, he raged at what he saw as the marketing take over of wine making. He was also angry about the lack of recognition for Mendocino as a wine region, the attention to high-priced wine at the expense of affordable wine and he sadly complained about the loss of the old world practice of a glass of wine with a meal.

Parducci's idea of a wine and food event was sitting around the kitchen table enjoying Margarett's cooking with a glass or two of Parducci wine.

Parducci Wine Cellars in Transition

The ownership arrangement with Teacher's Management Institute eventually collapsed, and management of Parducci Wine Cellars temporarily returned to the Parducci family.  Eventually, Parducci Wine Cellars became a brand of Mendocino Wine Company. 

John Parducci passed away in 2014, at the age of 96. In the late 1970s, he was still active at the winery, although John suffered from a bad back.  "When we were planting the first vineyards, I drove the tractor, bouncing around all day and it jarred my lower back," Parducci told me with the look of a man accepting his fate but still complaining about it. 

Over the years, John Parducci fought a number of battles; he opposed the advocates of only bulk wine and won the distinction of being the first person in Mendocino County to bottle a varietal wine. And, he was always looking to the future. 

In the early days of quality Mendocino wine, there was only Parducci Wine Cellars and Fetzer Vineyards and a small number of wineries in Anderson Valley.  John Parducci was a pioneer and the last of the Prohibition era winemakers. He knew what the people wanted and worked his entire life to give it to them.

 A Parducci Wine Tasting

Tasting wine with John Parducci on his home turf was an experience I recall as, "If you like that wine, wait 'till you taste this one."  The tasting took place in a space under the front porch of a house on the property. There was a long bar, dirt floors and a cooler box for the white wines. 


Parducci served as bartender, pulling red wines from a shelf under the bar, or reaching behind him to grab a white wine from the cooler. He seemed to have an endless supply of current vintage and aged wines in this makeshift tasting room.  And, every wine he opened jogged his memory about growing up in the wine business. 

When Parducci was 14 years old, his father sent him east by train to sell grapes to home winemakers during Prohibition.  He stayed with distant relatives in Brooklyn and every day went to the rail yards to sell grapes out of a boxcar.  

"You were just a kid," I said, astonished.  "Were you scared to be on your own that far from home?"

"I was too afraid that I would do something wrong, to be scared," Parducci looked at me and grinned, then he opened a bottle of red wine without a label, poured me and himself some and waited while I took a sip. 

"What is it," he asked, taking a long pull of the wine in his glass?

I wasn't sure, so I said, "It's not Cabernet or Pinot Noir," so my guess is Petite Sirah."  It was one of the first varietal Syrahs in Mendocino. 

John Parducci said the one thing he wanted to see happen, was to put affordable wine in the hands of more people...and he did. 

Full Disclosure: The trip to Ukiah, as well as other California wine adventures, took place more than 40 years ago, so these remembrances are based on interview notes and bits and pieces from my memory, such as it is.


Next blog: Reader's Comments

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Thursday, September 14, 2023

Remembering Mel & Janie

 The other day, I was scrolling through a recent edition of "Wine Industry Network" and stopped at the shocking news of the passing of Melvyn (Mel) and Jane (Janie) Masters, both at the age of 79. I knew the Masters, as colleagues and friends, when we both lived in Colorado and latter in California.

Mel and Janie were born and raised in England and became prominent members of the Denver wine and food scene in the 1980s and later, they helped build the reputation of Jordan Vineyard and Winery.

Jordan Vineyard & Winery

The Masters were an inseparable team: Mel an erudite wine man and Janie a talented chef.  Among his many achievements in wine, Mel Master worked in Portugal in the Port trade, in Burgundy and Bordeaux and in the Rhone Valley. He and Janie then came to Colorado and later moved to California.  Mel was also co-author of a comprehensive book on Rhone wines. Janie had a cooking school in Denver and was a private chef at the Jordan winery.

After California, the Masters set their sights on Manhattan, joining noted New York chef Jonathan Waxman to open Jams (Jonathan + Mel) to wide acclaim.  Then, it was back to Denver, where Mel and Janie opened Mel's Bar and Grill and founded the wine brand, Les Jamelles and Master Wines. Throughout, Mel worked the wine angle and Janie cooked and lent her expertise to successful kitchen crews.

There is so much more to say about Mel and Janie Masters and their contributions to the American wine and food scene, but two personal anecdotes, recalled from a brief visit to Healdsburg and an evening in Littleton, Colorado, will provide a small  glimpse at Masters personal approach to telling the story of wine and food. 

Denver to Healdsburg and Back

Rumors had been circulating for months that Tom Jordan, a Denver oilman, and his wife, Sally, were about to open a new winery, on a hill outside Healdsburg.  The Jordans were Francophiles and it was a French esthetic they brought to Sonoma County, in the form of an elegant chateau-style winery, set in a grove of California valley oak trees. 

As a Colorado based wine and spirits writer, I was about to find out how different the Jordan concept was. One afternoon, my phone rang and it was Mel Master with an invitation.  "Tom Jordan would like to invite you to lunch at the winery," said Mel in his familiar English baritone.  

"That's very nice, but I have no plans to be in California soon," I said a little amused at the idea. 

"A few Jordan oil exploration engineers are flying to Healdsburg for a meeting with Tom on Sunday, so if you're free, we'll leave from the commercial side of Stapleton at 9 am and return that evening in time for dinner."  Jordan moved his oil company employees around the world in two private jets, known in the company as Jordan Air.

"There's only one caveat," Mel added, "Because the wine (1976 Jordan Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon) hasn't been released yet, you can't write anything about the wine.  But Tom would like to discuss the wine with you and he's not going to be in Denver anytime soon, so he thought you wouldn't mind this idea."

The next  thing I knew, we were landing at Sonoma County Airport, and heading for the winery. Jordan is open only by appointment, so the long road that winds up the hill is not marked.   

Vineyard manager and interim winemaker, Mike Rowan, was there to show me around the winery and then we were to join Jordan and Master in the dining room, for the tasting and a light lunch and some conversation.  But we would have to wait, because Tom Jordan was upstairs in one of the luxury apartments watching the Denver Broncos on television. A little odd, I thought, but then it was Sunday.

My memory of the 1976 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon was that it wasn't like other California Cabernets.  The fruit was more subdued, the alcohol a little lower and the tannins finer and more integrated. Tom Jordan wanted to make a Bordeaux-style wine in California and he got his wish.   It was a wine sure to get the wine crowd talking.

As we headed back to Denver, I thought about how the release of the Jordan Cabernet would impact the market, and then we were there...just in time for dinner.

An Evening at the Masters

On another occasion, Janet and I were at the Masters for dinner in the Denver suburb of Littleton.  Janie was in the kitchen and Mel was holding court, pouring wine and chatting up the guests. 

Denver at the foot of the Rockies

One guest, a flamboyant Frenchman, was unforgettable, not because he was a great conversationalist, but because, in a way, he became the evening's entertainment.  His name is lost to me, but the impression he left remains clear. Throughout the meal, at the end of each course, he would disappear and then reappear in a different outfit. His one-man fashion show was unexpected, and after the first course, everyone quietly anticipated the next change.

An impromptu wine tasting, by an unexpected person,was the other memorable part of the evening.  The post-dinner conversation had turned to wine tasting when Mel left the room and returned with his young son, Charlie. 

Mel sat down, poured some wine into a clean glass and set it near where Charlie was standing, leaning with one arm resting on the top of the dining room table. 

"Charlie," Mel said, cuing his son. 

The boy, who was probably eight or nine, raised the glass, put it to his nose, swirled, took a long sniff, sipped a little wine, sloshed it around in his mouth, spit the wine in to an ice bucket and quietly described the wine to the amused guests. 

"Thank you, Charlie," Mel proudly said. "You were close."  Charlie smiled shyly and left the room.  

The little parlor game, played by father and son was a clear indication that, for the Masters, the grape didn't fall far from the vine. Today, Charlie Masters carries on Master Wines, in partnership with Winesellers, Ltd. 

Next blog: My California Wine Adventures 5

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Thursday, September 7, 2023



Soave was the first Italian white wine to attain international recognition, and today it is Italy's best known white wine. That achievement, however, was gained under a cloud of public misunderstanding and internal squabbling. 

Some say the misunderstanding and squabbling are the same problem.  Soave producers disagree on the definition of Soave and what part of the DOC region makes "true" Soave.  Thus, a handful of producers, led by Roberto Anselmi, has gone off on their own, while the bulk of the wineries continue under DOC Soave.

Anselmi, and his fellow objectors, believe that the best Soave comes from a hilly area near Verona. Rather then comply with what they see as unreasonable rules  required by the official DOC, they have opted for the broader Veneto IGT.  Established in 1992, Indicazione Geografica Tipica, roughly translates to  "wines typical of the area," and is equivalent to the French Vin de Pays.

On the surface the disagreement may seem to the wine consumer as an internal problem. But anyone interested in Soave would make a better buying decision by knowing the positions of both sides.

Defining Soave 

Named for Suavia, an area near Verona, Soave might, arguably, be seen as the white equivalent of Chianti, since the annual output of both regions is close. Chianti produces the most wine in Italy, Soave is second.  

Italian wine was first regulated in 1963, then updated in 1992, and controversy has dogged it ever since.  Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) was modeled by the Italian government to mirror France's Appellation Controlee (AOC), while coming into compliance with EU regulations. And, like Chianti, Soave is a mass-produced wine that also has a "classico" level. 

Soave was granted DOC status in 1968 and it took another 30 years before Recioto di Soave was elevated to DOCG in 1998 and then three more years for Soave Superiore to move up to DOCG in 2001.  Bureaucracy moves slowly in Italy.

And bureaucracy seems to be behind the confusion with DOC Soave and DOCG Soave Superiore.  In 1927, a classico zone was defined, an area where superior Soave is produced.  Confusing matters, there are four official Soave DOC appellations: Soave Classico DOC, Soave Colli Scaligeri DOC, Soave Superiore DOCG and Soave DOC. All may officially appear on labels. 

Then, with the rising interest in single vineyard wines, while hopefully boosting Soave's reputation, it was decided to subdivide the entire Soave zone into 47 subzones, wherein various single vineyards were identified. 

But, across the board, high yields continued to affect the quality and reputation of Soave, with producers in the hills, where higher quality wines are made, complaining about being lumped in with quantity producers.  

Garganega, a native grape of the Veneto region is, say its supporters, best on its own.  Soave DOC, however, requires at least 70% Garganega, with up to 30% Trebbiano di Soave, Pinot Bianco, Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc. Most high-end producers prefer 100% Garganega.

On its own, and from the best vineyards, Garganega is redolent of lemons and almonds; and what could be more Italian than that? 

The Sweeter Side of Soave

In Italian, ricioto, denotes a category of dried grape wines.  For Soave, that means Ricoto di Soave, a sweet white wine made from dried grapes. 


The word ricoto comes from the Italian for ear, or orecchio, and it's also the name of a small ear-shaped pasta. The wine connection comes from the original practice of selecting only the lobes or "ears" on a cluster of grapes to make the sweet wine.  Today, most producers of Recioto di Soave use whole clusters of Garganega for recioto wines such as Anselmi I Capitelli.

Other recioto Italian wines include the red Recioto della Valpolicella and the highly prized Amarone. Like Valpolicella, Amarone is based mainly on Corvina. Rounding out the trio of Veneto sweet wines is Recioto di Gambellara, made mainly from the Garganega grape. 

There are scores of Soave on the market.  Here are a few to look for: Pieropan "Calvarino" Soave Classico, Bola, Anselmi Capitel Foscarino and Capitel Croce, Cantina Pra, Inama, Brognoligo, Gini.  Most Soave is priced at about $20 to $25, with single vineyard wines like Capitel Croce, and Pieropan Recioto di Soave, close to $50.


Next blog: Remembering Mel & Janie

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