Thursday, April 28, 2016


Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis Sabering Champagne for IfOnly

IfOnly, a San Francisco start up founded by Trevor Traina, is a marketplace for incredible experiences. From unique everyday offerings with local experts to once-in-a-lifetime connections with lauded luminaries, IfOnly provides access to a curated selection of extraordinary experiences that benefit worthy causes around the world.

Members enjoy amazing experiences that help them do something incredible every weekend. Engage with athletes, epicureans, artists, musicians, designers, and others who inspire shared interests, foster lasting memories, and benefit impactful causes.

IfOnly recently welcomed Planet Grape's Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis a Luminary and invited her to their offices to speak about and pour Champagne and perform her signature Champagne Sabering on the deck (see picture above). Other luminaries on hand were Chef Eric Miller of Mission Cheese and, and sisters Petra and Saskia Bergstein of The Caviar Company,
Mission Cheese Caviar Company
Catherine's experiences include the Champagne sabering and tasting as well as informative tasting workshops:

She is currently preparing a selection of curated wine collections in collaboration with Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant so look for those shortly. Her selected charity is Meals on Wheels San Francisco.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Women for WineSense Winemaking Roundtable Hosts Sommelier and Buyer Relations Expert Catherine Fallis, April 20th at Chimney Rock

NAPA, CALIFORNIA: The Napa | Sonoma chapter of Women for WineSense’s (WWS) Winemaking & Viticultural roundtable welcomes Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis, with a long industry history as a salesperson, sommelier, distributor, critic and supplier to discuss how winemakers and viticulturists can best relate to and communicate effectively with sommeliers and wine buyers.   The roundtable will be Wednesday, April 20th, 2016, from 2:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Stag’s Leap District’s renowned Chimney Rock Winery located at 5350 Silverado Trail Napa, CA 94558.   The event host is Elizabeth Vianna, Chimney Rock’s Head Winemaker and General Manager.

Elizabeth Vianna first came to Chimney Rock as a harvest intern in 1999, while completing her Master’s degree in enology at U.C. Davis. Upon graduation, she worked directly with many of the region’s top winemakers including Heidi Barrett, Erin Green, Pam Starr, and Celia Masyczek.  She was named to the position of assistant winemaker at Chimney Rock in January 2002 and advanced to the position of winemaker in 2005. She was promoted to General Manager of Chimney Rock Winery in 2011 while continuing in her role as head winemaker at the Stags Leap District estate winery. During her tenure she has consistently produced wines that have been highly rated among critics and highly valued among consumers.

Catherine Fallis (pronounced “FAH-lis”) is a Master Sommelier and Proprietor at Planet Grape® LLC,  a wine consulting firm providing content, reviews, corporate & private tastings, restaurant wine program development and speaking services.  She created her alter-ego, grape goddess®, to help bring wine down to earth for consumers as well as those entering the industry. She is one of a handful of female professional sabreurs in the world. Catherine was recently inducted into Les Dames d’Escoffier and is a Board Member of The American Institute of Wine & Food.
Her diverse wine background as a salesperson, sommelier, distributor, and supplier helped Catherine become a well-rounded and thorough industry expert.  She understands numerous facets of the wine business, and is a frequent speaker, event host, educator, and consultant for corporations, consumers and the wine trade.

The roundtable will open at 2:30 p.m. with wines, fellowship and networking followed by a 3:00 p.m. behind-the-scenes winemaker tour with Elizabeth Vianna.   At 3:30 p.m., the group will gather for announcements and Catherine Fallis’ discussion, followed by an additional question and answer session.  All attendees are encouraged to bring a bottle or two of wine for the host and speaker panel.
Roundtable chair Julie Hagler Lumgair noted, “One expectation of successful winemakers is to effectively serve as a brand ambassador and strongly support sales.   However, that’s not one of the daily skills we practice in the cellar or vineyards.  This is an exceptional opportunity for attendees to speak directly with an industry expert that will help us understand how some critical facets of the industry really work.  Then we’ll explore how to communicate our wine stories and sell more effectively to sommeliers, wine buyers and sales people.  It will be an interactive presentation with time for candid questions in a very friendly, relaxed environment.”

WWS is the premier wine education and networking organization for industry professionals and wine aficionados.   The professional Winemaking & Viticultural Roundtable meets approximately five to six times a year, taking a harvest break.  It is a great time to expand skills while reconnecting and meeting new industry professionals.

The free roundtable meeting is open to WWS Winemaking & Viticultural Roundtable members and interested women winemakers and viticulturists who have emailed and received RSVP guest confirmations through the roundtable chair.  Guests may attend up to two roundtables before deciding to join.

Please, all attendees must be pre-approved; no walk-ins.  To RSVP, or for any questions on this event or future WWS Winemaking Roundtable events, please
contact the Chair, Julie Hagler Lumgair (| 415-786-3415).

Ms. Lumgair continued, “Our roundtable’s past meeting topics have focused upon the skills women winemakers and viticultural professionals need but aren’t always easy to get in their daily environment.  Held at some of the region’s finest host wineries, these programs are a unique opportunity for women winemakers and viticultural professionals to connect directly, in a welcoming forum, with experts that they otherwise wouldn’t get to meet for personal advice and questions.  Recent speakers have included a leadership development panel of wine industry women general managers, Wine Enthusiast’s critic and writer, Virginie Boone, global consultant and olfactory expert, Alexandre Schmitt, Wine & Spirits’ senior editor, Luke Sykora, personal brand development with Dr. Liz Thach, media training with Sonoma County Tourism’s CMO, Tim Zahner, winemaker’s C-level financial finesse, and exclusive members’ holiday bottle exchanges at Schramsberg and HALL.”

ABOUT WWS ROUNDTABLES:  WWS’ eight current professional roundtables serve to provide a welcoming and confidential environment to meet in small peer groups on a bi-monthly or quarterly basis. Members network, provide advice and support for one another, as well as foster educational occasions by inviting guest speakers in their fields and discussing “hot issues” facing members in their day-to-day work. Multiple roundtables have developed for WWS industry members in finance, accounting, human resources, winemaking/viticulture and marketing/direct-to-consumer fields.
The Napa |Sonoma Chapter currently has more than 350 members of which 70% are wine industry professionals. For inquiries about  other WWS roundtables for additional functions besides winemaking and viticulture, contact the Napa| Sonoma Chapter’s Roundtables Director, Lisa Bishop Forbes,

ABOUT WOMEN FOR WINESENSE:  WWS is a not-for-profit organization 501(c)6.   The Napa| Sonoma Chapter founded in 1990 is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.  It is the founding chapter of this national organization.  WWS provides outstanding educational and networking opportunities to both wine industry professionals and wine enthusiasts by presenting educational, insightful and stimulating events in a non-intimidating and fun environment.  Both men and women of legal drinking age are welcome to join.  There is an exciting line-up of events planned for 2016.  To join or learn more about the various  WWS’ roundtables and general events, please visit

Thursday, April 14, 2016


I love former West End actor Oz Clarke's description of New Zealand's brash, pungent Sauvignon Blanc, an iconic style created by Cloudy Bay winemaker Kevin Judd. He calls it a“cloudburst, thrilling, shocking, lime zest, capsicum, love me or leave me” style of Sauvignon Blanc.

Kevin Judd, who produced the winery's first 25 vintages and who now has his own winery, Greywacke, had no idea this blend of green and tropical flavors would take the world by storm. He had the idea of blending in the green, tart early picked wine his crew loved so much to with fruit picked just ripe as well as some that was overripe and tropical.

Now some winemakers are dialing back on these opulent flavors, both the thiols, tropical passion fruit and pineapple, and methoxypyrazines, Sauvignon Blancs's signature zesty green and herbaceous notes. These days quality conscious producers are focusing on textural elements they can manipulate using winemaking techniques such as stirring the lees/yeast sediment, and ageing in barrel. Most of the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc on the market never sees an oak barrel. Pyrazines and oak are very antagonistic - the oak elevates the pungent greenness to a point where flavors clash. They are looking to barrel age wines with good fruit weight - for example Giesen's The Fuder series named in honor of the German beer barrel and from selected single vineyard sites (see our reviews here: ).

Single vineyard sites along with specific soil types and clones are being more closely explored as well. A new Bordeaux clone that ripens earlier, allowing for full flavor development at lower alcohol level is on the rise. Winemakers are also picking early in warmer vintages such as 2015 because they don't want acid to blow out. Concern for the environment is growing. But the most surprising trend was showcased in San Francisco last month, an exploration of the ageability of their Sauvignon Blancs.

The result results were mixed. Read our reviews here:
The clear winner was the oldest in the flight, the Staete Landt. I hope you enjoy the ever shifting landscape of beautiful New Zealand wines.

Thursday, April 7, 2016


On February 23, 2016 the Santa Lucia Highlands Wine Artisans presented a tasting of their appellation’s wines at Fort Mason in San Francisco. This trade tasting is one of the highlights of the year, with principles and winemakers pouring their rare Santa Lucia Highlands appellated Pinot Noirs alongside the more widely available Chardonnays and Syrahs.

This small wine region, tucked alongside the rolling hills at the base of the Santa Lucia range and hovering just above the Salinas Valley in Monterey, is on the map in a big way thanks in large part to the pioneering efforts and larger-than-life personality of Gary Pisoni  – see my interview with Gary here

Gary had the brilliant idea of letting other winemakers make wine from his namesake vineyard, and so instead of one man building a brand, he had over two dozen. The region is known mostly for Pinot Noir in a big, ripe, luscious and full-bodied style that even at high alcohol levels retains beautifully balancing natural acidity, but the Syrahs and Chardonnays are worth checking out as well.

Peruse our reviews of Santa Lucia Highlands wines here