#NapaFire: Devastation & Community

The Judge breathes safely during the #NapaFire. #Yountville

The Judge breathes safely during the #NapaFire. #Yountville

The week of October 8th, 2017 was the most bizarre week of my entire life to this point.  The fires that struck the NorCal counties of Napa, Sonoma, Lake, Mendocino and Solano wreaked an incredible amount of devastation, yet as many disasters have shown around the world, it also taught the Lady and myself a beautiful lesson about community. While the #NapaFire flames destroyed much of our beautiful eastern and western hillsides in Napa along with homes, wineries, businesses and farms, it did not destroy the love that binds our Valley together, despite danger and distress.

Smoky sunset over The French Laundry Garden & Mayacamas. #Napafire

Smoky sunset over The French Laundry Garden & Mayacamas. #Napafire

We first sighted the #AtlasFire a little after midnight.  We were celebrating our move with brand new neighbors who happened to have a third story window facing east.  We all saw the flames coming over the Vacas Mountains, but I assured everyone that I had seen many fires during my life in the Valley and never had seen much destruction, much less see it make it down to the valley floor…this was obviously wildly optimistic about the final outcome. The Lady and woke up the next morning with the sun…with no power, cell phone service, internet (not that we had it anyway due to the move) or landline service, we had no idea how badly the fires had already spread.  They were fanned by up to hurricane-level winds (clocked at 55 to 80 mph down the mountain ridges).  Powerlines and transformers were quickly toppled, possible sparking the original fires, but definitely spreading those fires extremely quickly, at times faster than a human can run.  We became worried once we saw the thick, smoky air outside and could not use any powered device or phone at our new home.

Air Support filling up with water at Yount Mill Rd & 29. #Napafire

Air Support filling up with water at Yount Mill Rd & 29. #Napafire

What followed was over a week of incredibly anxious and yet hazy stretches of time where we spent our days and nights pinning down fire updates by our own eye, and updating our friends & family by SM.  We were briefly evacuated in our new home of Yountville, my parents were evacuated for ~3 days from their home in southwest Napa (Browns Valley), while our family HQ was at my sister and brother in-law’s home near my alma mater, Vintage High School.  Our cousins’ home SW of Fountaingrove in Santa Rosa survived with minimal damage, though not all of their neighbors were quite as fortunate.  All in all, we ended up being quite safe and very lucky as a family…the flames came about ~1.5mi at their closest, but were seemingly always threatening one home or another, all dependent upon the winds.  The first, second, third, fifteenth responders that poured their entire, danger-wrought lives into saving people, animals and homes were brilliant and we will never be able to thank them enough for their hardest work and sacrifices.  They came from all over the world in fact, Australia had a corp of firefighters fighting the #TubbsFire, as did Mexico and Canada.

It is in this spirit of support that the Lady and I quickly came to know our new community of Yountville in a very warm and loving light.  Our new neighbors were constantly asking if they could help us move, as the flames and smoke would allow. Bardessono Hotel and Spa was one of the only businesses that stayed open all week, supported by their own generator and with cell and internet service the whole time.  They graciously gave free coffee, power, internet and local news on tv to all locals and emergency personnel. Ranch Market Too stayed open by candlelight to provide goods for sale for locals. Bouchon Bakery provided free coffee and pastries to anyone in town. R+D Kitchen, also on a generator along with neighbor Kelly’s Filling Station & Wine Shop also stayed open and acted as a central hub to exchange news. Lastly, Pancha’s of Yountville, as always, was HQ for locals to gather, blow of stress and steam and find out the latest information from those of us that work for the city and county. Pancha’s, Bardessono, Kelly’s and all of these businesses kept our little village in a tight embrace and worked hard to take care of all of us, as they could.  We can’t thank them enough during that first crazy week.

#Yountville is open! #Napa #wine #food #art

#Yountville is open! #Napa #wine #food #art

And it’s here in Yountville that I think I will finish…feeling so fortunate to be a part of a community of quirky, yes, but loving and fully supportive neighbors; blessed with wine, food, art and fun. Come support the valleys, virtually all of us are open, despite incorrect news reports that abound.  You will find grateful independent business owners and industry workers, happy to serve you during what is typically the highest season of the year.  If you would like to donate more directly, please click on the link below to be taken to the Napa Valley Community Foundation’s Fire Donation site. These funds go *directly* to those in need in Napa County.  Thank you and I hope that all of you are safe and happy, around the world, as your read this post.

     – Ward Kadel@drXeNo#Vinopanion

5 Questions with Aron Ezra of MacroView Labs

MacroView LabsThere are many a wine app for iOS and (growing) on Android.  Wine+Tech wünderkinds VinTank, have done extensive research on iOS apps (iPhone) over the last few years with the most recent count at 450+, as of 04/14/2011.  Indeed, my own content is distributed on two mobile apps, Hello Vino and Wine by the Bar.  With that many apps out there for a very specific genre, you can imagine that there is a lot of noise and a lot of well, mediocre (at best) apps for wine.  So, it is a refreshingly rare circumstance when one comes across an app that kicks some serious vinous booty.  And the new app (iPhone, Android) from Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery (Twitter, WineLog) by MacroView Labs (Twitter) gets my vote for kickin’ that booty.

Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and WineryThe app, co-launched with the nearby Vintners Inn (Twitter) does so many things right for a focused topic like a single winery and inn: a great usable design that actually works with no bugs.  High-res imagery abounds, with fully integrated social channels, live location-based maps and all of the information found on the full website including in-app purchasing of wine, via a wrapped browser functionality.  MacroView Labs has created an app that is dynamic, full of complementary information such as unique wine pairings and recipes and  designed all of this with a highly intuitive and beautiful design.  The app was launched in May of 2011 and by the publish date of this article, had already reached 3,100 downloads. I was so impressed that I requested an interview with MacroView Labs CEO, Aron Ezra (Twitter) for my 5 Questions series…and included a bonus 6th question, to boot.  Enjoy!

1. Ward (Twitter)/VinopanionWineLog (Twitter): First off, I’d just like the compliment the thoroughness of your app for Ferrari-Carano and the Vintners Inn, well played! When a new winery or wine website approaches you about a possible app, what is the single most important piece of information that you need to start the development process? Who are some of your more recent clients besides F-C and VI?

Aron Ezra, CEO - MacroView Labs Aron Ezra (Twitter): Thank you for the kind words! When we start working with a new client, the most important step for them to take is to determine their goals and objectives in entering the mobile space. Some clients are most focused on improving the guest experience, others want to generate more revenue, others want to make their staff more efficient, and so on. Once the client decides what they want their mobile apps and mobile website to accomplish, we partner with them to build a mobile strategy that suits their needs, and we then begin developing the technology.

2. Ward (Twitter)/VinopanionWineLog (Twitter): In line with the previous question, what are some things that a prospective wine app client can do to get things rolling pretty quickly after contacting MacroView?

Aron Ezra (Twitter): Once we settle on desired functionality and sign a contact, we can get started with working with a client immediately. We can launch the first version of the apps and the mobile site a few weeks later.

3. Ward (Twitter)/VinopanionWineLog (Twitter): After the initial meeting, how is the development process taken forward for a new app?

Aron Ezra (Twitter): After our kickoff meeting, we work with the client to create the right structure for the app, the right aesthetic, and the right functionality. We use our content management system to accomplish this — this is the same system that our clients can use to make any changes they want. We meet with our new clients regularly to show them our progress and make any changes they suggest. After a few weeks, once everyone is happy, we submit the app to the app stores, and then focus on getting the word out about the solution and continually making enhancements to allow the apps to evolve and improve.

Ferrari-Carano Mobile App4. Ward (Twitter)/VinopanionWineLog (Twitter): Also, do you tend to work with entirely new designs each time or do you have a store of app templates that clients can chose from to get their app up and running quickly?

Aron Ezra (Twitter): We provide our clients with a variety of options for creating an app structure. We can create entirely custom apps, or we have app template structures that clients can choose from. Either way, we can work with our clients to create the right design to fit their branding.

5. Ward (Twitter)/VinopanionWineLog (Twitter): I see on your site that you also promise to follow the client after the app is launched, including help for promoting their app across their various social channels. What sorts of activities are included in this follow-on service?

Aron Ezra (Twitter): We provide ongoing strategic mobile consulting around setting business goals and identifying how best to use mobile to achieve those goals. We improve our client’s deployed mobile software every day to make sure it is helping them achieve their business goals. We also have a powerful proprietary data analytics engine that highlight things like: how customers are using the deployed mobile software, what features are generating revenue, and how we can improve the results.

For instance, if we notice that people in one part of the country tend to delete the app after viewing a specific page or feature, we change that page/feature. If we notice that a certain offer or social media feature tends to generate more interest or revenue, we expand upon that, often within hours of noticing the pattern.

We also help with generating positive buzz for the solutions through (1) internal training, (2) external promotions, and (3) word of mouth. First, we put together an app FAQ for internal staff to ensure all employees know about and can talk about the app to customers. Then, we work with our clients to make sure marketing collateral – from on-site signage, to employee email signatures, to direct marketing catalogues – mention the app. Finally, we help implement a public relations outreach alongside a social media push. We help create tools and campaigns to inspire the app users to tell their friends about it.

Ferrari-Carano App6. Ward (Twitter)/VinopanionWineLog (Twitter): You’ve made a large number of original, user-friendly and engaging apps over the life of the company. What’s next for MacroView Labs and how do you intend to continue to innovate?

Aron Ezra (Twitter): Our clients depend on us to keep them up-to-date and keep them profitable in the mobile world. Mobile moves incredibly fast, so we’ll be working hard to keep innovating on the countless new hardware and software releases on the horizon. In short, our focus will remain on delivering outstanding service and outstanding new features that generate bottom-line results.

Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery (Twitter, WineLog)

[winelist query=”Ferrari-Carano” num=”100″]

Jordan Winery: A 2010 Harvest Estate Stay

DSC06300Two weekends back, the Lady and I had the very fortunate experience of a tour, a tasting and an overnight stay at the breath-snatching estate of Jordan Vineyard & Winery (Twitter, WineLog) in Alexander Valley.  Blessed with a perfect harvest weekend of weather, we we able to visit courtesy of Communications Director (and photographer/videographer extraordinaire) Lisa Mattson.  After dropping off the Pug with the parents in Napa, we headed across the valleys in the brilliant morning sunshine.  The weather really was tremendous that weekend, sunny, a few puffy clouds and about 80 degrees at its peak.  I really had no idea what to expect for the next couple of days however, since the Jordan site didn’t really have a whole lot of information about the four suites or homes that were available for overnight visits.

Jordan Vineyard & WineryJordan Winery is a storied name in Alexander Valley, one of the best known areas for Cab in Sonoma County. Mr. Tom Jordan, a petroleum geologist, happened to make a significant amount of money in the 60’s and found the means to pursue another of his passions namely, fine French wines such as Bordeaux.  He spent a few years searching the whole of NorCal to find the perfect conditions for his own new world chateau.  in 1972 he found his ideal in the sleepy Alexander Valley, founding Jordan Vineyard on 275 acres with his wife Sally.  This founders’ day was rather auspicious as their son John Jordan was born the same day, who’s now the CEO! Two years later the winery was founded on a new plot of 1300 acres, nearby.  Not one to skimp on the details, Mr. Jordan hired the legend known as André Tchelistcheff as a consulting winemaker.  He quickly recommended a young scrub fresh out of UC Davis, my alma mater, to begin as the head winemaker for the young winery.  Then twenty-two year old Rob Davis has been the winemaker ever since, allowing Jordan the unusual luxury of all 34 years of their vintages to be contained within a single, jovial brain.

Jordan Estate SuiteJordan Estate SuiteWhile the Lady and I stayed as trade guests, the winery is actually a rather secluded estate with some unusually cool parts to their wine club.  One can only visit the winery by appointment, limited to a small number per day, up to a maximum of 12 guests per appointment.  The wine club is very innovative and works by a points system, almost like a credit card.  Jordan Estate Rewards (reward point levels are currently being re-evaluated and lowerd) points are granted with every purchase and once you save enough points, you can stay overnight at the estate, just like a trade guest. The rooms (and house!) are simply stunning…so much so that when Beth and I entered our suite, I let out an accidental “holy crap!”  It was easily 600+ sq ft, with the most amazing bronze bathtub, for which I will be ever tortured to find and buy for the Lady.  We were happy guests.

Taking in the Dilworth Cab - Jordan WineryClaire Holloway was our host and tour guide for the day and we met her along with two other trade guests from Benny’s Chop House in Chicago.  R Dilworth Vineyard delivery (by Dick, himself) - Jordan WineryWe got a great history lesson about the vineyard and winery underneath the slightly swaying trees, then headed off to the winery, all of which is contained within the original 5800 sq ft winery, built over 9 months back in 1976. Indeed, our rooms were attached to the side of that same building, which we could look up and see when we entered the barrel room.  Rob Davis, Jordan Winery harvest 2010Harvest was in full swing, with Rob and assistant winemakers Ronald Du Preez and Maggie Kruse taking in the last of the Cabernet Sauvignon for the day from grower (and delivery man, apparently) Dick Dillworth.  Dick had a great compliment for Rob, saying “one thing I like about Rob: he’s hands-on. That shows a good winemaker.”  We saw just as much ourselves, especially during a very interesting and long chat with Rob while we relaxed on the expansive patio in the evening sunshine after the tour.  He had all of the vineyard maps still in his pocket from his early morning visits, many hours previous.  Despite this hands-on approach, all of the staff were more than happy to stop their activities and talk with us about their work and answer my copious questions.  It was a very unique experience…we’re usually kept far away from the working winery during the craziness of harvest.

Jordan Winery barrel roomFollowing a barrel room tour (hello up there, room!), we headed back into the inner part of the winery for sit down tasting and amuse-bouche pairing, courtesy of estate Executive Chef, Todd Knoll.  After examining the many finds in the sitting room, we headed through a secret door (seriously!) into the wine cellar to taste the vino.  Jordan makes only a Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon each year, preferring the perfect the fruit and resulting wines continuously each year, rather than branch out with a number of different wines.  We tasted the latest releases, the ’08 Russian River Valley Chardonnay and the ’06 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.  In addition, we were able to try a back vintage just now coming into its own, the ’03 Alexander Valley Cab.

All of the wines displayed a very distinct house style of elegance, balance and restrained power.  These were not huge California wines, but had more of an Old World beauty to them, yet still contained ample fruit to counter the fine tannin and juicy acidity and minerality that I tasted.  The ’08 Chardonnay was particularly good, forcing me to slap a AwesomeWK badge on it and proclaim amazing.  It was filled with great citrus fruit and acidity, slight cream and a very cool salty finish; I loved this wine.  To my relief and excitement, these wines are also very reasonably priced for their quality: $29 for the Chard and $52 for the Cab, upon release.

The rest of the evening and night was filled with relaxation, good wine courtesy of our new friends from Chicago in the Jordan guest house and an outstanding meal in downtown Healdsburg at Barndiva (recommended by Jordan security wiz, Rob).  The locavore menu there features a number of tasty and innovative dishes alongside some outstanding service.  They’re wine list is very reasonable with pricing and featured quite a few tasty selections that I wish I’d had more time to explore.  We enjoyed a very interesting sparkler from German house Solter (called a Sekt) and a not so memorable bottle of bubbly from Iron Horse Vineyard. Check out a video of our delicious peacefulness that evening, below!

[flickrvideo]http://www.flickr.com/photos/drxeno/5112999705/in/set-72157625111232415/[/flickrvideo]

A very big thank you must go out to Lisa, Claire, Rob, Todd and all of the wonderful staff at Jordan.  Their hospitality was very generous and the tour was one of the best and most educational experiences that I’ve yet had a winery.  All of the pictures and videos from our visit are found on my Flickr.  The wines from that weekend have been tagged with “JordanEstate2010” so that you can list them in your own WineLog.  Some of these wines even grabbed a vaunted WKBadge.  Cheers!

Jordan Vineyard & Winery:

#WKBadges - AwesomeWKJordan Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2008

Color: Medium gold, very clear

Nose: Great lemon zest, with an underlay of slightest brioche, slight salt and a more minor citrus to add complexity.

Palate: Zesty and yet very silky mouthfeel. A wonderful lasting finish, with some great minerality and more of that light salt. Extremely good.

#WKBadges - OldWorldWKJordan Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2003

Color: medium garnet, garnet edges

Nose: Juicy black cherry, fresh anise, cardamon, earth, wet, savory herbs. Wonderful complexity, along with slight new leather on the rim.

Palate: Medium full, with wonderful power-silk tannins, great acidity. Black and Bing cherry, alongside darkest chocolate. Anise here but more dried, raspberry and chocolate, dried blackberry, good long and smooth finish.

Jordan Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Barndiva:

#WKBadges - QPRWKSolter Rheingeau Spätburgunder Sekt Brut Rosé NV

Color: Golden, with a very fine bead and robust mousse

Nose: Very raisined, with some slight brighter citrus trying to poke through, but the fruit tastes like it was picked way too late.

Palate: Very overripe, with middling acidity and dried lemon and white raisins.  Unsure if this was actually a bad bottle, just tastes like very overripe fruit.

Iron Horse Green Valley Estate Bottled Wedding Cuvee 2004

5 Questions with Jake Lorenzo

Cold Surveillance by Jake LorenzoI solved a wine mystery recently, one that had been bothering me for years.  Around the time that The Lady and I bought our home in the Bay Area, I was allowed able to buy a decent wine fridge, my Danby 75/100 bottle.  Just as I was headed out the door from Wine Hardware with my affordable new wine storage, I spotted an interesting book on their shelves entitled, Cold Surveillance.  It was interesting not that it was a set of wine memoir columns (right up my alley), but that it was written by a Wine Country private eye…¿que?  I turned back to the counter and added the book to day’s purchases!

Further Suveillance by Jake LorenzoAfter safely storing my wine, I dived right into the book.  It was fantastic.  Great, seedy storytelling about the dark side of wine country folk, along with some crazy adventures with now-infamous sidekicks and good wine knowledge to mortar in the plotlines.  I finished the book pretty rapidly and then promptly lent it out to a good vinopanion of mine…and then he lost it and I lost the name of both the author and the book!!

Wine Business Monthly, 08/15/08Fast-forward 5+ years later and I’m lying in bed on a Sunday, reading through one of the only wine print mags that I enjoy, Wine Business Monthly.  Appropriately for this time of year, I had picked the issue up after registering at the inaugural Wine Bloggers’ Conference in Santa Rosa (WBC09 drops next week, woot!!).  The last page featured a column that read with that same jaded, cynical view of a man who could only be a P.I. in the breadbasket of wine in Sonoma…yep, it was Jake Lorenzo!  As it turns out, Jake has been writing a column for WBM for the last few years and I was thrilled to finally rediscover one of my favorite wine writers.  I went online and purchased his first two books and re-read all of my favorite adventures of his, including “Freeway Painting” and the now infamous NVWT highjacking with Richard Branson aboard!

And with that, let’s move on to 5 Questions with the great Jake Lorenzo, head of Wine Patrol and defender of good, unpretentious Sonoma wine, burritos and creative mischief.  If you would like to purchase any of Jake’s books or videos, visit the Wine Patrol Press store and stock up!

Jake Lorenzo1. Ward/WineLog (Twitter): You’ve been fighting bad wine and greedy vermin for a number of years now.  What keeps a veteran private eye and wine writer going after a long, tough career?

Jake Lorenzo: Wine at lunch and dinner and late night tequila does wonders for my disposition.

2. Ward/WineLog (Twitter): When was the first time that it hit you..that wine was something important and should be a major (and better) part of your life rather than just chasing down scum?

Jake Lorenzo: It wasn’t so much discovering that wine was something important, it was more that wine was just part of my life. I no longer make a big deal about it. It’s just something that is always around like salt and pepper, except that wine gets you high. Given the stress and information overload of today’s daily grind, I find a little wine each day is good for my soul.

Wine Patrol3. Ward/WineLog (Twitter): You’ve had a number of crazy adventures in and around Sonoma over the years, alongside Chuy, Paraquat and various other wine compadres.  My favorite happens to be the “Freeway Painting.”  What are some your favorite escapades?

Jake Lorenzo: Hijacking the Napa Wine Train is the most famous thing we’ve done. We kidnapped Richard Branson and two busloads of European writers and took them to a Sonoma winery to cleanse their souls after they had been poisoned by spending a whole day in Napa. Anytime I’m in New Orleans is cause for celebration, and our most recent invention/sport is window diving. We run into the street in front of the Swiss Hotel Bar and dive in through open passenger side windows and introduce ourselves. Window diving requires at least 3 hours of heavy drinking before the first leap.

Become a Wine Pal Deputy!4. Ward/WineLog (Twitter): You’re a fervent supporter of the smaller producer, the family producer and Sonoma producers, in general.  Do you have any producers out of state that taste great after a long night stalking some unsavory character?

Jake Lorenzo: There is great wine to be had from all over the world. Argentina has Altocedro Malbec and Tempus Alba Preludio Malbec. I’m really enjoying the 2007 Côtes du Rhône. Washington and Oregon have great wines. I’ve had decent Riesling from Michigan and passable red wine from New York. The key, given my current financial situation is that the wine be less than $15 per bottle.

5. Ward/WineLog (Twitter): You currently write a column for one of the few wine print mags that I actually enjoy, Wine Business Monthly.  Do you have any other books, writings or private eye gigs in the works?

Jake Lorenzo: My biggest success has been The Tequila Lover’s Guide to Mexico and Mezcal. After more than two years of being out of print I hope to have more copies available by August 1. Jake Lorenzo has Cold Surveillance and Further Surveillance available now. I hope to have a new collection called Continued Surveillance out by October.

Be Goode, but Vote Dirty!

A Really Goode Job - Murphy-GoodeMaking perhaps, one of the biggest viral marketing coups in the nascent wine social mediasphere, Murphy-Goode Winery in Healdsburg has blown up the interwebs with its A Really Goode Job search and marketing campaign.  The basics are these:

– Live near the property in northern Sonoma Valley, right off the square in Healdsburg in a furnished private home.

– Work by using all means of social media to promote Murphy-Goode and its wine and the whole of Sonoma County with the provided camera video camera, handheld device and/or smartphone.  You’ll “need” to taste hundreds of wines for free and eat all over the Valley, as well…shucks.

– Get paid 10K/month for a 6 month contract.

– Flexible working hours (though I imagine you’d WANT to be “always on”).

– Learn all that you can from the winemaker David Ready Jr. and the rest of the staff at Murphy-Goode about their winemaking and vineyard practices.

Hardy Wallace - Goode to be First– Work with David to create a special wine to commemorate your time there!

Holy crap, *I’d* love this job, but I’m afraid that I am unable to apply.  What’s the next best thing, however?  It’s voting for my personal favorite and one that you should vote for too!

I met Hardy Wallace (Twitter) of Dirty South Wine and now Goode to be First on Twitter last year and then had a blast hanging out with him and learning from him at last year’s WBC.  He’s extremely knowledgeable about wine, can deliver in a very accessible manner to both millennials as well as older peeps and is just plain fun to be with as well as quite charismatic.  Evidence of his social media skills are present all over the web, in tons of blogs and all over Twitter and Facebook, and even Blip.fm! He’s currently in a solid second in the public voting at the website!

With all that said, I sayVOTE FOR DIRTY!!