#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

First Palate Press Article: The Eisch-off!

Palate Press - The Online Wine Magazine As I mentioned in my last post, the new online wine magazine Palate Press has launched and with it today, my first article hits the virtual presses!

There’s already been a tremendous response to the magazine’s first couple weeks and I’m thrilled to be adding my vinorary contribution to the mix: Eisch Breathable Crystal…is it real or just another wine gimmick?  Find out at Palate Press!

Palate Press – The Online Wine Magazine

Palate Press - The Online Wine MagazineSome of you delicious readers may already know that I have become one of the founding contributing writers to  a new wine magazine called Palate Press (Twitter). It’s tagline is “The Online Wine Magazine” and indeed, it is!

Founded by David Honig (Twitter) of 2 Days per Bottle and The 89 Project, it stridently aims to be The Huffington Post or TechCrunch of the online wine world. He’s brought together many of the leading wine bloggers from around the world to participate and site drops today!! Look for my first article on a stemware showdown the week of September 26th.

Now go check it out!

WBC09: Twisted Wine Bloggers' Conference Rundown

2009 North American Wine Bloggers' ConferenceThe recovery is almost over…I have managed to survive another incredibly awesome North American Wine Bloggers’ Conference, once again headquartered at the Flamingo in Santa Rosa (Sonoma Valley). The 4 days of vino-frenzy began with a trek out to Murphys in the longtime wine region of Calaveras County, where some Twisted wine fun was had by a few  lucky bloggers who made the trek.  Hosted by El Jefe (Twitter) & Scott (Twitter) of Twisted Oak & Newsome-Harlow, we visited the tasting rooms of Hatcher, Newsome-Harlow, Tanner and finished up at the TO tasting room with some Renner wines.

Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers AllianceThe next day we awoke to more perfect weather, some sleepy eyes and a large interest in hitting the road, as my fellow vinopanions and myself had a 3 hour drive to Sonoma.  We made it in the nick of time, registered very smoothly and got a great goody bag of fun before the 2nd annual Live Wine Blogging (Speed Blogging, Wine Speed Dating, etc) got rolling.  It was here that the conference hit a major snag…imminently crashable wifi.  We were only able to get about 2 minutes of connectivity before we lost our connection…after finding out that it was partly due to a DNoS attack, the joke was that Parker was on the offensive again! After the American Wine Blogger Awards ceremony, we rebooted the Live Blogging and had another blast of a time.  Wines from Snows Lake and Tandem kicked my booty for wines of the session.  Following that was a the Grand Tasting of Sonoma Wines, a very tasty dinner courtesy of Sonoma County Tourism & Sonoma Valley Vintners and the official afterparty tasting by the Russian River Valley Winegrowers.  Wow and that was just Day 1!

I began Day two in surprisingly better shape than the last two…go vino-power!  Sleepy wine bloggers dragged their butts into shuttles and headed over to Napa for a full day and evening of wine events, powered by Napa Valley Vintners. First stop was the iconic CIA at Greystone for a few keynotes talks, including a fantastic one by Barry Schuler (Twitter) of AOL fame and current Meteor vintner in Napa.  We piled back in the shuttles and mine ended up at one of my favorites, Cuvaison, in their newly finished facility in Carneros.  There we had lunch and a great discussion about Napa Green with President, Jay Schuppert.  We then headed to Staglin for a Vintners’ Panel, followed by the Napa Grand Tasting at Quintessa.  We finished off the our time in Napa having a great meal and blending session at Conn Creek.  Kept warm on the way home courtesy of some Mutineer Obsello Green Fairy, we finished the whole day with an outstanding tasting of Portuguese wine, courtesy of ViniPortugal (Twitter).

Winegrowers of Dry Creek ValleyDay 3 started with some educational breakout sessions, including a good one by newly crowned Murphy-Goode Job winner, Hardy Wallace (Twitter) and Lisa de Bruin (Twitter)and co., talking about video blogging. We bid farewell to the conference as we darted out for the last event(s) of the day, but man, were they good final events!  We dined under the trees and umbrellas with an outstanding meal at Dry Creek Vineyard, which also featured some fine wines from Gustafson and Rued.  The lunch and subsequent goodie bags and treats were courtesy of the Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley.  Following that, I chose to attend the vineyard walk at Michel Schlumberger (Twitter), courtesy of Sonoma Vineyard Walks.  It was led by the inimitable Judd Wallenbrock (Twitter) and Jim Morris (Twitter) and company…very good times and good wines!

Open Wine ConsortiumExhausted, we headed back to our less vinous lives and left the wonderful Sonoma Valley.  What an incredible time and I don’t think that I can thank organizers Joel Vincent (Twitter) of Open Wine Consortium and Allan Wright of Zephyr Wine Adventures nearly enough for such a great weekend.  Another big thank you goes out to the conference sponsors, without which this conference would not only be incredibly expensive, but actually lack existence!

Look for more posts from the WBC09 (Twitter Search) in the weeks to come, as I go into more detail about certain wine adventures that I had throughout the weekend.  Right now however, I’m headed out on vacation for a week+ from the day and night job with the Lady, relaxing at Sanctuary Camelback Mountain in the Arizona desert.  I’m greatly looking forward to (almost) completely disconnecting and enjoying fine food, workouts, cigars and of course, *wine*.Woot!


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WBC09: Live Wine Blogging!

It’s baaaaackkkkk!  Today on this first day at the 2nd Annual Wine Bloggers’ Conference in Santa Rosa, we’re revisiting one of the most popular events…live wine blogging or speed-dating for lushes!  20 wineries/wines/winemakers, 6 minutes, 20+ tables of thirsty wine bloggers…GO!!

’08 Fisheye California Pinot Grigio $7

(Premium 3L cask box as well $15)

C: Lightest yellow

N: Lighter lemon and tropical fruits on the nose, very bright

P: Offdry, with a fuller mouth from that RS, but god yellow apple and pineapple, particularly in the finish.  Good quaffer for spicy fish or Thai.

NV Pinot Evil Vin de Pays de l’ìle de Beaute Pinot Noir

3L, $20

C: Medium Ruby

N: Very candied, almost artificial sweet cherry scents, whoa.  Not my thing.

P: Very plasticy candied cherry and blueberry.  Not my thing.

’07 Cupcake Vineyard Central Coast Cabernet Sauvignon

Adam Richardson, Winemaker

C: dark ruby

N: Good plush black cherry with some earthiness underneath and cassis

P: Also good cherry here, but more juicy Bing cherry with a round tannin and easy good finish.

‘o5 Snows Lake Vineyard Red Hills Two

72% Cab Sauv, 28% Cab Franc, $45

C: Very dark, almost inky garnet

N: Very good here, with dusty red fruit of cherry and juicy raspberry, then also some mint, new leather and cardamon, quite good.

P: Full, very nicely balanced, with wonderful red/black fruit, some slight fresh earth and that good leather starting to come through in the finish.  Quite good, great round tannin and good acid.  Best so far!

’07 Line 39 Lake County Petite Sirah

$10, all wines from portfolio are $10, at BevMo 5c sale right now!

C:  Inky violet, violet edges

N: Good blue fruit here, also with some black underneath with a slight bramble and some lighter saddle soap

P: Good coating mouthfeel here, with more chalky feel on the backend, that same great blue and black fruit is here as well, with more of a black cherry finish.  Very good value and QPR!

’07 Cline Contra Costa County Ancient Vines Mourvèdre

25% new oak, $16, recipe from The Girl & The Fig on the peel-out back label!

C: Medium dark ruby

N: Some sulfur here, but blows off.  Then good black fruit, very dark, with some more savory herbs.

P: Coating, mouthfeel here too, with great pepper and some blue, almost more cobbler type finish that goes for quite some time and finishes with good acidity.  Nice.

’07 Tandem Medocino Ridge Manchester Ridge Vineyard Chardonnay

Winemaker/owner Greg La Follette from Flowers, etc

C: Medium golden yellow

N: Huge bouquet here of great lemon bar, great florals here as well, great tropical fruit of melon, pineapple and kiwi. Great.

P: Creamy, yet crisp mouthfeel here, showing a very tight balance between having an ML-driven, barrel-fermented styled Chard, yet still with great acid that makes this have tremendous complexity.  Good tropical fruit here with tons of pear and yellow apple.  Outstanding, long finish with a lemon twist.  Best white so far!

’07 Foggy Ridge San Francisco Bay Chardonnay

Farmed organic, certified, hopefully next year, 100% barrel-fermented, glass stopper instead of cork. $18

C: lighter yellow

N: Kiwi, melon here, with a bit of a sweeter cream, underneath

P: Big juicy pear here, with good acid, but creaminess is driving a bit more of the balance right now, finishing more of a yellow apple.

’06 Clif Family Napa Valley Gary’s Improv Syrah

300 cs, Sarah Gott winemaker, $35,

C: Inky violet

N: Blue/black fruit with some charr and rosemary here, as well as some flint, interestingly. More austere style.

P: Very cool black fruit here, continuing with some of that char here as well, followed by great fresh garden herbs of that rosemary and others and very long black fruited finish with some charred earth, continuing to be austere yet balanced here too.  Good!

’07 Benovia Anderson Valley Savoy Vineyard Pinot Noir

$55, second vintage

C: Medium ruby

N: Outstanding nose here, of bright red fruit, but then a deep underlay of good fresh earth, a little bit of spice and mushroom quality

P: Fuller mouth than expected with a sweeter quality to the plush plush red and blue fruit, with that same good earth, but the fruit is sweeter than I like.

’07 El Molino High School Lions Pride Pinot Noir

Only HS in the world with a winery permit, in Forestville, 1ac planted by RRVW and guest winemakers come in such as Merry Edwards, Lee Martinelli, Bob Cabral WHOA! 100% of the proceeds go back to the HS. 100 cs. $35, obviously SingleVineyard.

C: light ruby, slightly cloudy

N: Good earthy red fruit here, with plenty of dust and good complexity.

P: Good tarter cherry and dusty, slightly sweeter rhubarb here as well, followed by baking spice.  Good.

’05 Rodney Strong Alexander Valley Rockaway Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

Allocation, $75, almost all gone, David Ramey

C: Very dark, inky garnet, dark ruby edges

N: Good menthol here and garden herbs of tarragon and black fruit, but the fruit here seems a bit overripe or even stewed on top.

P: Great mouthfeel, solid tannins, but while the menthol is here too, the stewed fruit comes out even stronger here.  Unfortunate.


C: Same inkiness

N: Much better chalky, dusty black and blue fruit here now, with that same menthol and tarragon.

P: Same good mouthfeel, but much darker more very ripe, but not overripe fruit with great balance of acid, big, round tannin.  Good.