Monday, November 23, 2009

Vintners Hall of Fame 2010 class announced today by CIA in Napa - Zelma is a rock star!

The Culinary Institute of America (the other CIA) based in St. Helena, California today announced the Vintners Hall of Fame 2010 class. The five new members to be inducted are Randall Grahm, Andy Beckstoffer, Al Brounstein, Zelma Long and Leon Adams. When we toured the hall earlier this year (see below for video tour) Loni wondered, “where are all the women?” The long, dimly lit, barrel room on the second floor of the CIA is indeed a mostly male place with famous names and faces such as Robert Mondavi, Ernest and Julio Gallo, and Charles Krug. But there are a few woman who also adorn the hall and have left their mark on the industry. Carole Meredith pioneered the use of DNA to analyze relationships among grape varieties. Jamie Davies (along with husband Jack) forged a path of producing high quality sparkling wines. And now the hall will have its third woman, Zelma Long, who became one of the first woman to run both a the winemaking and business sides of a winery.

Wine Tube TV: The Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley from on Vimeo.
The ceremony will take place March 2010.

Vintners Hall of Fame, Class of 2010

Randall Grahm
Randall Grahm was educated at UC Santa Cruz and UC Davis, while earning a reputation as an “enfant terrible” for telling everyone he planned to make the first great American Pinot Noir. Instead, he found himself entranced by “ugly duckling grape varietals” thereby introducing American consumers to vinifera far beyond Cabernet and Chardonnay. His vintage 1984 wine “Le Cigare Volant” proved that it was possible to craft and sell great Rhône wine blends from California. His amusing marketing still defies and at times defines the pretentious approach, such as when he held a funeral for the Cork (aka Thierry Bouchon) in 2002. Grahm, a longtime proponent of biodynamic viticulture, downsized his production in 2006 to focus on small estate wines. His first book, Been Doon So Long: A Randall Grahm Vinthology, was published by U.C. Press in 2009.

Andy Beckstoffer
Andy Beckstoffer came to Napa as a corporate executive in 1969, after earning an M.B.A. from the Amos Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. Recognizing the potential for growth in premium wines, he started a farming company which he eventually purchased in 1973. Beckstoffer Vineyards has grown to be the largest vineyard owner, farming group, and winegrape seller in the Napa Valley and the North Coast, delivering grapes to more than 100 of the state’s most famous wineries. Andy Beckstoffer developed a formula for paying growers based on the finished wine value, thus reducing the incentive for excessive yield and focusing growers on quality. He has played a major role in preserving agriculture in the Napa Valley and has contributed to efforts to restore the Napa River.

Al Brounstein
Established in 1968, Al Brounstein’s Diamond Creek Vineyards was the first wine estate in California to be planted solely with Cabernet Sauvignon. Noticing three distinct soil types on his property, Brounstein became one of the first California wineries to produce different Cabernet Sauvignons from single vineyards (Red Rock Terrace, Gravelly Meadow, and Volcanic Hill) on the same estate, setting the stage for what was to become known as super-premium Cabernet Sauvignons from Napa Valley. His 1978 Lake Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon – a wine produced only in exceptional years – was the first California wine with a suggested retail price of $100 a bottle—an important milestone in the production of premium wine from California. The graceful aging of Brounstein’s wines continues to be one of his main legacies to the fervent fans of Diamond Creek wines.

Zelma Long
After studying enology and viticulture at UC Davis in the late 1960s (where she was the only woman in her class), Zelma Long became the chief enologist at Robert Mondavi Winery, while also helping to establish Long Vineyards. She spent the 1980s and 1990s breaking the glass ceiling at Simi Winery as winemaker and CEO, becoming one of the first women to run both the winemaking and business sides of a California winery. Regarded as one of the early technical leaders in winemaking, Zelma has received national and international awards, including induction into the James Beard Hall of Fame in 1996 and receiving The James Beard Wine and Spirits Professional of the Year in 1997. Today she and her husband, Phillip Freese, are producing wine in South Africa under the Vilafonte  label.

Leon Adams
Considered a seminal historian of wine in the United States, Leon Adams is best known for his 1973 book The Wines of America, a comprehensive and ground-breaking history and survey of wine and wineries throughout the country, which celebrated American regional wines and their styles. Mr. Adams was a tireless advocate of the farm winery bills passed by many states in the 1970s and 1980s which eased the way for grape growers to open wineries and sell their wines retail and wholesale. Leon Adams was also a founder of the Wine Institute, a public policy and advocacy group for California wineries.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


More than a year into the economic downturn, Napa Valley vintners are looking toward the future. “I think that we’re already starting to see a little bit of a turnaround as far as wine sales go,” St. Helena winery owner Kent Rasmussen said. Wine drinkers are buying more readily than they did a few months ago, he said, and retailers and restaurateurs are finally stocking up again. During the second quarter of 2009 — the last quarter for which information on sales tax revenue is available — winery sales in Napa County actually rose 3.9 percent over the second quarter of 2008. Spring 2008 was about the time that wine sales in Napa County first started to slip. Now, vintners are waiting on the holidays, when the bulk of their wine is sold, to see if there’s reason to be optimistic. “The fourth quarter is when the thing really crashed last year, so you better see a darn good increase this year, because a good portion of our production is sold during the holidays,” said Jack Cakebread, owner of Cakebread Cellars in Rutherford. “This is sort of the crunch time,” Napa Valley Vintners spokesman Terry Hall said, “because the fourth quarter really is the most active sales period for wine.”


The new ‘normal’

Regardless of how things go this winter, some say the Napa Valley wine industry may have changed forever. “I don’t think it can go back to normal,” Calistoga winery owner Laura Zahtila said. “I think we’ll have a new normal.” New Jersey wine merchant Gary Fisch agrees. “It will never be like it was,” he said, “and boy, did I like what it was.” Deborah Steinthal, founder of Napa-based Scion Advisors, predicts that $75 wines will move down permanently to $50, and Napa Valley wineries will be forced to reconsider their luxury-only portfolios. “I think we’ve got about three to five years to redefine our position in the world of wine,” she said, “and that means not just in terms of proving we can sell as much wine in the categories we’ve been selling in the past.” Ultra-premium wine producers could have an especially hard time if wine buyers permanently tighten their belts. “I think there’s going to be a lot less cult cab out there,” Zahtila said. “I think that wineries need to get realistic about what people should be and are willing to pay for their wine.” Bill Harlan, whose Harlan Estates wines go for up to $500 a bottle online, said he expects a shakeout in the next three to five years among cult wine producers, but he adds that those who survive will come out even stronger.

“I feel that if we stay the course and continue to work on producing better and better wines and build relationships one-by-one, then things will come back,” he said. Relationships may be the key to success, according to industry officials. As people change the way they buy wine, and as distributors change the way they sell it, wineries are beginning to focus more on selling directly to consumers than relying on other retail channels. “National distribution makes sense for some wineries, but direct is more critical to survival and growth,” Steinthal said. This may mean a new approach to marketing, one that emphasizes personal relationships with consumers. “If we just keep doing things as we have done in the past and hope things will eventually come around to the way they were 10 or 20 years ago, I think many businesses will be sadly surprised at the outcome,” said Ed Matovcik, vice president of Foster’s Wine Estates, and one of a group of wine industry representatives lobbying for fewer restrictions on local winery marketing events. Winemaker Mike Grgich said he believes that Napa Valley is entering “a new chapter of the wine industry.” “We can learn from this,” he said, “(but) we have to work hard and smart and learn new ways of marketing.” Some vintners say this means more than just changing their marketing techniques, it means changing to whom they market.

The younger generation.

Especially as Baby Boomers retire and cut back on their wine purchases, some wineries are starting to focus marketing efforts on the younger generation of wine buyers, including those born approximately from 1980 to 2000, known as the “millennials.” “The millennial category is really stepping up,” Steinthal said, “and wineries are learning how to market to millennials. Folks are really thinking through how to leverage the next generation of their family with a new category of customers, a new generation of customers.” Ceja Vineyards, for example, is one of the few wineries in Napa County that is actually expanding right now, and winery president Amelia Ceja attributes its success in large part to her children. “I have three children in their early 20s and they’re big on all the new technology and on the Internet,” Ceja said, “so that has been extremely helpful. We don’t do a lot of advertising, but our presence on online social sites has helped. We do a lot of videos and marketing on Facebook and Twitter.” Ceja said she and her children spend about an hour a day using Web 2.0 tools and social networking sites to market their wines. “It’s knowing what the customer wants and how to capture that customer’s attention,” she said, “and people are attracted to the millennials.” Ultimately, those who are quick to adapt may actually come out stronger than they were before the economic downturn. “In any kind of downtime, the industry gets stronger,” Steinthal said. “The innovators really show up, and so unfortunately, it means some folks drop out, but for the long-term health of the industry, the strong get stronger. Fisch agrees. “We’re entering a new economic age, and the people that can change and adjust will thrive,” he said. “The people that stick their head in the sand and say, ‘This is the way we’ve always done it and this is the way it will continue,’ I think will have challenges.”

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ken Forrester at the WOSA USA conference

Mike Ratcliffe
Warwick Estate & Vilafonte
P.O.Box 2 Elsenburg, 7607, South Africa


Monday, November 16, 2009


VENUE: Vilafonté Function Room, Bosman’s Crossing Stellenbosch
DATE: Tuesday, 17th November 2009 - Registration and coffee from 09h45.
Matome Mbatha: Welcome 10:10 – 10:15
Matome Mbatha is Wines of South Africa Market Manager for Americas and Africa

Zelma Long: Successful American Brands 10:15 – 10:45
Zelma Long is one of Americas well known winemakers with an enviable international reputation. One of the first women to study oenology and viticulture at U.C. Davis; she began her winemaking career at Robert Mondavi winery, rapidly becoming the chief winemaker. Zelma will share her knowledge of the American consumer and what makes a successful brand.

Panel Discussion USA Marketing 10:45 – 11:30
Mike Ratcliffe - Warwick
Ken Forrester - Ken Forrester Wines
Charles Back - Fairview
Neill Ellis - Neil Ellis wines
& Zelma Long - Vilafonte:

Ken Forrester of Ken Forrester Wines, Charles Back of Fairview, Mike Ratcliffe of Warwick Estate, Neil Ellis of Neil Ellis Wines and Zelma Long of Vilafonté Wines will discuss and share their market experiences in the USA market. There will be ample time for questions.

Wine Tasting - Zelma Long: 11:45 – 12:30
Zelma will conduct wine tasting and discuss 8 wines selected from the USA and share her views on what the US consumers preferences are at different price points.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Rootstock invites you to our last event of 2009. We explore GREEN ISSUES in the winelands, viz Organic , Biodynamic , Bio-logic  and Carbon Neutral . Join us to hear from our panel of producers how they are applying their approaches, and what they are doing to make a difference to our environment. Participate in the panel discussion which will ensue. We encourage active debate from all present. We can all learn from their experiences, and invite you to ask questions, in fact if you would like to email questions to us before the event - we will pass them on to the speakers. Emails to Our panel consists of:

- Michael Back from Backsberg on their Carbon Neutral work
- Michelle du Preez from Bon Cap on their organic production
- Johnathan Grieve from Avondale on their Bio-Logic approach
- Johan Reyneke from Reyneke Wines on his Biodynamic approach.

If you would like to contribute to the discussion - feel free to participate after they have made their 10 minute presentations.

- How do these approaches differ? How are they the same?
- What impact are they making on their environment?
- What impact are we making on the environment but not adopting similar approaches?

Bookings are essential through ONLINE only. You need to register with Rootstock to attend. Rootstock membership is free - but you pay for events attended

- Date: TUES 24th NOV 2009
- Time: 5.30pm for 6pm start until about 8.30pm
- Venue: Backsberg Estate (thanks to them for making their venue available and providing wines)
- Cost: R50 (to cover snacks) - bring cash with you

If you book and do not attend - you will still be invoiced accordingly. For any urgent matters please contact Judy Brower on 083 301 8569 or email