Wednesday, October 26, 2016


Press Release

The Wine Scholar Guild’s Italian Wine Scholar Program received official endorsement from the Italian Trade Commission (ITA).

The Italian Trade Commission is a governmental body whose role is to promote the internationalization of Italian companies in line with the strategies of the Italian Ministry for Economic Development. It identifies and connects Italian and foreign businesses and provides support and advice to both.

Wine Scholar Guild President, Julian Camus, stated, “The Italian Trade Commission works to position Italy in a bestfoot-forward framework and we are proud that our Italian wine education program has made the cut. Having an official endorsement from this governmental organization is a wonderful reward for all of the hard work we have put into this program.”

Maurizio Forte, Trade Commissioner and Executive Director for the ITA in the USA stated, “We are delighted to support the educational program dedicated to the wines of Italy whose study manual, reviewed by industry leaders and wine professionals, was praised for its comprehensive coverage of the diverse wines and wine regions of Italy, its well thought out structure and its easy-to-follow format.”

“To show our support for this endeavor,” continues Forte, “the Wine Scholar Guild is authorized to proudly display the Italian Trade Commission logo (ITA) on all materials relating to the promotional and educational activities that will be carried out by the Wine Scholar Guild in connection with the Italian Wine Scholar program.”

This endorsement follows the official support and endorsement of three wine consorzi: Consorzio Vini Alto Adige, Consorzio di tutela vini del Trentino, and Consorzio Barbera d'Asti e Vini del Monferrato.

The Italian Wine Scholar: Wines of Northern Italy program launched in May of 2016 to the Wine Scholar Guild program provider network around the globe. Unit Two, Italian Wine Scholar: Wines of Central/Southern Italy will launch early in 2017. 

The Wine Scholar Guild offers wine study and certification programs for serious students of wine. These programs are offered by 50 program providers in 15 countries on 5 continents. Educational programing is also available in distance learning formats. 

About the Wine Scholar Guild: The Wine Scholar Guild ( provides outstanding educational programming for the professional development of wine industry members and committed students of wine. It offers innovative and multi-faceted instruction through print, webinars, study trips and classes with tutored tastings.

To learn more about Italian wines to try, check out our Planet Grape Wine Reviews here:

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


Hotelie Magazine, Fall 2016
By Sherry Negrea
Read this interview with Planet Grape's trailblazing Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis here:

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


bay-area-women-in-wine-media-boarding-the-eldoradoLast Thursday a small group of wine merchants, wine writers and wine bloggers was invited aboard the Eldorado, a luxury yacht belonging to the Ferrari-Carano winery in Sonoma, to celebrate the winery’s 35th anniversary. We set sail for a two-hour tour from Schoonmaker Marina in Sausalito, and made our way into the San Francisco Bay under sunny skies.
blue-angels-practice-run-in-sf-bayAs it was Fleet Week in San Francisco, the Blue Angels, the United States Navy’s flight demonstration squadron, soared overhead, cavorting and frolicking dangerously to the delight of us all. It was hard to concentrate on the bevy of beautiful wines being served, or the lavish array of appetizers, with so many distractions, not the least of which was quality conversations across the diverse
Planet Grape Wine Review panelist Deborah Parker Wong, @winesavyy, brought her husband Robert along to help celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. I had the pleasure of seeing my former student Emily the Jetsetting Fashionista, @JSFashionista, and Ziggy the Wine Gal, @ZiggyTheWineGal, and meeting Amy Lieberfarb, @amylieberfarb, who hosts #SonomaChat on Twitter and Instagram and blogs at Sip On This

Here are reviews of the wines I actually took notes on, a major coup in that setting:
2015 Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc Sonoma

2014 Ferrari-Carano Chardonnay Sonoma

2013 Ferrari-Carano Chardonnay Reserve Napa Valley-Carneros

2014 Ferrari-Carano Pinot Noir Anderson Valley

2013 Ferrari-Carano Siena Red Wine Sonoma

2013 Ferrari-Carano Merlot Sonoma

2013 Ferrari-Carano Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley

Thank you so much to Chelsea Kurnick, Account Specialist, McCue Marketing, to Cheryl McMillan, Director Marketing Communications, Ferrari-Carano, and to the crew and Captain of the Eldorado, who didn’t toss me overboard after I was double-dared to toot the ship’s horn.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016


Press Release
Charles Communications Associates San Francisco
Wednesday October 5, 2016

Taste 26 wines representing each letter of the alphabet from A-Z at Bonny Doon’s
Popelouchum Estate Vineyard in San Juan Bautista

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Swirl, Sniff, Savor. Repeat x 26.

Bonny Doon proprietor Randall Grahm invites you to stroll the vineyards, enjoy a harvest feast and taste the world via 26 wines representing each letter of the alphabet from A to Z – most of which you’ve never tasted before and might never taste again.

Oenophiles are eager to explore not only what’s new, but what’s rare, obscure or well under the radar. Bonny Doon Vineyard’s founder, winemaker and resident philosopher, Randall Grahm, and his very special guests will guide you from Albariño to Zibibbo in a sumptuous afternoon of sipping, feasting and vitaceous fellowship.

Featuring Master of Ceremonies, acclaimed epicurean author Jason Tesauro (bio below), and Dr. José Vouillamoz, the internationally renowned Swiss botanist, grape geneticist and co-author of Wine Grapes: A Complete Guide to 1,368 Vine Varieties, Including Their Origins and Flavours, who is traveling from his home in Sion, Switzerland for this exclusive event (which is based on his monumental tome).

Grapetionary is equal parts discovery and decadence, a bucket list event for every level, from novice to Master Sommelier. Paired with this eclectic assemblage of wines is a multi-course farm-to-table feast prepared by Chef Alexander Ong (of San Francisco’s acclaimed Betelnut), according to seasonal bounty and the sun-kissed gardens at Popelouchum.

Forbes called Grapetionary “The Most Unique Wine Event I’ve Ever Experienced.”  Jancis Robinson, Master of Wine said of this event: “Looking at the list of wines Jason has assembled, I’m hugely impressed by the breadth of the selection.”


Dr. José Vouillamoz trained in grape DNA profiling and parentage analyses in the world-famous laboratory of Professor Carole Meredith at the University of California at Davis. Since 2004 he has been an independent researcher at the University of Neuchâtel in Switzerland. He was the first to establish the DNA profiles of Near East grape varieties and to tackle grape domestication from a genetic point of view.

Randall Grahm is the founder, chief-winemaker and “philosopher king” of Bonny Doon Vineyard. He is perhaps best known for his pioneering work with Rhone varietals in California as the original “The Rhône Ranger,” and for his award-winning book, “Been Doon So Long: A Randall Grahm Vinthology.” Grahm was an early proponent of transparent ingredient labeling on bottled wines, and has been a prominent advocate of terroir-driven wines and biodynamic practices. Most recently Grahm has focused on his project at Popelouchum Estate Vineyard to discover a new world Grand Cru.

Jason Tesauro is an author/sommelier/raconteur. He’s the recipient of two national writing awards, author of three books and father of five children. Tesauro co-authored The MODERN GENTLEMAN series and currently contributes booze / food/  culture journalism to The New York Times, Travel+Leisure, Men’s Journal and others. His latest feature was selected for Best Food Writing 2016.


Saturday, October 29, 2016, 12:00 – 5:00pm

Popelouchum Estate Vineyard
543 Mission Vineyard Rd., San Juan Bautista, CA
(90 minutes from San Francisco or Oakland; 45 minutes from Santa Cruz, California)


Tickets are $250 per person (Inclusive of sales tax & gratuity). 21+ years old only, please. To purchase tickets, please visit the Bonny Doon Vineyard store HERE.
(Wine club members receive 15% off the ticket price). Email or call 888-819-6789 and select option #3 for any questions.

Full details at
Read our reviews of Bonny Doon Vineyard wines here:

Thursday, September 29, 2016


San Francisco, September 2016

At a tasting recently organized by the Barossa Grape & Wine Association we had the opportunity to learn more about this high-powered Australia appellation and it’s wines, especially those savory signature Shiraz reds. According to the group:

“Geographical Indication (GI) is an official description of an Australian wine zone, region or sub-region. The GI system is designed to protect the use of the regional name under international law and is governed by the Geographical Indications Committee, overseen by Wine Australia. The Barossa (zone) is located north of the city of Adelaide in South Australia. It comprises two distinct and complementary regions, Barossa Valley and Eden Valley, which were formalised in 1997. High Eden is the only officially declared sub-region. The GI is purely geographic in concept, similar to the European Designation of Origin system.
The Barossa Zone has 13,634 hectares under vine.
  • Barossa Valley = 11,370 hectares under vine.
  • Eden Valley = 2,264 hectares under vine.

Barossa Old Vine Charter

Barossa is home to some of the oldest continuously producing vineyards in the world.
In 2009, the Barossa Old Vine Charter was instituted to register vineyards by age, so that older vines could be preserved, retained and promoted. Under the Charter, vines are grouped into four categories by age: (in ascendant order) Old; Survivor; Centenarian and Ancestor.
The Barossa Old Vine Charter makes a strong stand about protecting these gnarled old vines so that no one considers pulling this priceless treasury of viticultural heritage from the ground again.

Barossa Old Vine

Barossa Old Vine – Equal or greater than 35 years of age

These old vines have grown beyond adolescence and are now fully mature. They have a root structure and trunk thickness that encourages diversity of flavour and character. Their worthiness has been proven over many vintages, consistently producing the highest quality fruit for Barossa wines of distinction and longevity.

Barossa Survivor VineBarossa Survivor Vine -Equal or greater than 70 years of age

These very old vines are a living symbol of traditional values in a modern environment and signal a renewed respect for Barossa old vine material. They have weathered the worst of many storms, both man-made and naturally occurring, including the infamous 1980s Vine Pull scheme. A Barossa Survivor vine has reached a significant milestone, and pays homage to the resolute commitment of those growers and winemakers who value the quality and structure of old vine wines.

Barossa Old Vine Charter - Centenarian Vine

Barossa Centenarian Vine – Equal or greater than 100 years of age

These exceptionally old vines serve as a witness to Barossa’s resilience in the face of adversity. Barossa, unlike many other of the world’s great wine regions, is phylloxera-free, which allowed these vines to mature into their thick, gnarly trunks and naturally-sculptured forms without interference.
Noted for their low yields and intensity of flavour. Planted generations ago – when dry-farming techniques demanded careful site selection – Centenarian Vines have truly withstood the test of time.

Barossa Ancestor Vine

Barossa Ancestor Vine – Equal or greater than 125+ years of age

An Ancestor vine has stood strong and proud for at least one hundred and twenty five years – a living tribute to the early European settlers of Barossa. Their genetic material has helped to populate this region with irreplaceable old stocks that underpin the viticultural tradition. Tend to be dry-grown, low-yielding vines of great flavour and intensity, and are believed to be among the oldest producing vines in the world.”

Read our reviews of Barossa GI wines here  –
2013 John Duval Wines Entity Shiraz Barossa

2013 Robert Oatley Signature Series Shiraz Barossa Valley

Read more about Barossa GI – visit Wine Australia website.

Friday, September 23, 2016

LABOR OF LOVE - Wine Family Women of Piemonte

Photo credits: Elisabetta Vacchetto, Pierangelo Vacchetto Designer: Cindi Yaklich, Epicenter Creative
Photo credits: Elisabetta Vacchetto, Pierangelo Vacchetto
Designer: Cindi Yaklich, Epicenter Creative


Suzanne Hoffman first visited the northern Italian region of Piemonte with her second-generation Sicilian mother, Frances Castrogiovanni Manale, in 1999 while her husband was away in China. Upon arrival, they found it cold, wet, foggy and not very inviting. At table, however, the real pleasures of this region unfolded, with the discovery of local specialties  vitello tonnato (poached veal with tuna sauce), carne cruda (raw chopped Fassone veal) and tajarin (thin, egg-rich ribbons of pasta) with brown butter and sage, all paired with Barbera and Nebbiolo-based wines.

On a visit in 2000 with her husband Dani she had the good fortune of being advised to visit Jeffrey Chilcott, the English speaking winemaker at Marchesi di Gresy. Not only did he educate the couple on the local wines, he set in motion the 14-year exploration and discovery of 22 local families who are featured in this book.

The emphasis is on the local women, much admired by Alberto di Gresy, who says, “I believe greatly in women; they know how to be tough and gentle, and when they want to, they have more insight and are more quick-thinking than we men.”

Aside from the gritty and heartwarming stories, the lavish artwork and photography makes this a must have coffee table book as well.

Labor of Love, Wine Family Women of Piemonte by Suzanne Hoffman, with forward by Maurizio Rosso, Under Discovered Press, Vail, Colorado, Hardcover, 298 pages, $55

Read our reviews of Piemontese wines here:

and our grape profiles of Barbera and Nebbiolo here:


Wednesday, September 14, 2016


Kick starting the week was a delicious and informative tasting with Chateau la Nerthe Export Manager Christophe Bristiel and Pasternak Wine Imports West Division Manager Ben Cuaresma at the San Francisco home of Planet Grape Wine Review co-panelist Deborah Parker Wong.

Christophe explained that Chateau la Nerthe owns Prieure de Montezargues and Domaine de la Renjarde as well, and that all three wineries produce Certified Organic wines now. Wines tasted included a Tavel Rose, a Cotes-du-Rhone Villages, and several Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines, both red and white, including a stunning 2006 Chateau la Nerthe Chateauneuf-du-Pape which was so beautifully open, expressive and seamless with its ten years of bottle age.

I asked if I could enjoy the leftovers with the 49ers vs Dodgers football game that night but unfortunately was turned down. What is one to drink after tasting something so lovely first thing in the morning? I suppose its like the restaurant guest who after ordering Rombauer Chardonnay and being told there wasn't any decided to have Jack Daniels instead.
Bristiel explained the different grapes used so often in Rhone wines, Grenache being the easiest to grow and transform into delicious wine, adding, "Where olive trees stop, Grenache stops." Tavel AOP only produces Rose, with 8 grapes allowed, while Chateauneuf-du-Pape AOP allows 13 grapes and can be red or white. Chateau la Nerthe works with Grenache vines that are up to 120 years old, giving incredibly expressive wines at below-market pricing. Other grapes used include Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault, and Carignan, and for whites, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Clairette and Bourbolenc.

Read our reviews of these wines here: