Sunday, March 25, 2007

Winegrower Dinner at Restaurant Cuvee Napa

I recently attended the Cuvee-Napa Restaurant Winegrower Dinner series event, which featured Roessler winery out of Sonoma County. Roger Roessler is also the principal owner in Cuvee Napa restaurant located on Soscol Avenue near the Napa Valley Wine Train station. His winemaker, Nils Venge (owner: Saddleback Cellars and Venge Vineyards) was also in attendance. Later on I found Napa Valley Vintners Gary Luchtel, owner-winemaker, Surh Luchtel Cellars and Stan Boyd, owner of Boyd Family Wines were in attendance of the event.

The food selections and wines served were:

Aperitif: 2005 Saddleback Cellars, Viognier, Clarksburg AVA. The wine was absolutely elegant. Checking the Web site I found that only 423 cases were produced.

1st Course: Warm Spinach Salad (Roasted beet, goat cheese, bacon, sherry vinaigrettes) - 2005 Roessler Cellars, Dutton Ranch Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley AVA. This was a very smooth wine with hints to me of chocolate, fruits and soft spice flavors. It was well matched to what I would probably say is the best warm spinach salad I have tasted in very long time.

Pasta Course: Campanelli (Duck and Porcini mushroom sugo) - 2004 Roessler Cellars, Savoy Vineyard Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley AVA. Just about everybody seating around me thought they could just have easily made the whole meal on this course only. It received the most raves during the evening. Again, Roessler’s Pinot was a perfect match to the course. It grabbed my palate and held it but did not overpower my taste buds.

Main Course: Grilled Leg of Lamb (Broccoli rabe, roasted potatoes_ - 2003 Saddleback Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley AVA. Wow! Venge’s Cab. Just cut right through the very rich and delicious lamb and made a most enjoyable combination. The Cab had a very long finish remaining on the back of my palate all the way until the next sip.

Unfortunately the attendees didn’t get a chance to mill around, meet the winemakers/owners and each other before we were ushered into our seats, but wine buyer and assistant manager, Lucas Henning, assured me that his Wine Dinner Events do include such but there were timing conflicts that prevented such an opportunity at this event.

I met so many wonderful people that night but I can’t remember all their names and businesses. I wonder if Cuvee Napa might not want to consider a card basket or plate for guests to leave their contact information and Cuvee Napa publish an attendee list to all who were there the night of their events?

Saturday, March 03, 2007

A maze of winery licensing and charity events

By JOHN OLNEY. Published in "Your Turn," Napa Valley Register Newspaper, Sunday, February 18, 2007

I attended the Feb. 9 informational meeting focusing on charitable wine donations and pouring called by Assemblywoman Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, held in Napa.

One of the central points of the meeting was the way California Department of Alcohol Beverage Control handles "virtual wineries." These are the wine producers who do not possess on-site crushing facilities and can only sell their wines on a wholesale basis, or to the retail buyer by phone, fax or Internet. These wineries were formerly prohibited from donating wine to non-profits for fundraising events; however, ABC reinterpreted the law and now allows such donations.

I have identified more than 400 "virtual wineries" to date between Napa and Sonoma counties. As a group, they are usually the least sought-after producers because they are hardly known by the majority of both charities and consumers, and thus will not produce the high-revenue donated dollars at the auction.

ABC did not reinterpret the rules against these "virtual wineries" pouring their own wines or even being able to describe their own wines to attendees. If these wine producers attend the function, they better not discuss the wine they produce or, if caught, they will face serious fines and possible loss of licenses.

My listings also include more than 600 wineries between the two counties that fall under the ABC license Type 02, which is a winery that makes its own wine at its own site. They can both donate and pour at charity events. Most of the charities go after these highly visible wineries because of the amount of auction dollars they know their wines will draw. However, they are inundated with requests for wine donations, which often far exceed the budget on how much wine they are going to provide to charity.

The other central point of the meeting was the current ABC rules that only allow a charitable organization to apply for an event license 30 days in advance of that event. A number of attendees commented about the timing problems this causes when trying to solicit wine donations. The Catch-22 situation is that a winery cannot risk being cited for donating to a group that does not yet have a valid ABC license. Wineries will commit to charities with which they have had a record of having no event licensing problems. Any new charity is going to have a problems gaining donated wines unless they have "an in" with wineries where unwritten mutual trust in each other is clearly established.

Wineries cannot release the wine until three days prior to the event. The only way around this for the charity and the winery is again, "the good ole boy" approach of mutual trust or for the charity to obtain the much more expensive ABC event licenses. Obviously, the former option risks ABC discipline and the latter move cuts into the purpose of acquiring the wine in the first place.

The ABC representatives in attendance appeared to be genuinely sympathetic to many of the comments made by the attendees but as they frequently reiterated, they do not write the rules and regulations. Rather, they enforce the intent of the state legislative acts.

Assemblywoman Evans has submitted preliminary changes to existing laws. Even if her proposals become law, they would not take effect for quite some time. Optimistically, one should anticipate that there could be a battle over any changes that involve the political and economic well-being of the relationship between producer, wholesaler/distributor and consumer, which could delay enactment.

At a minimum, the "virtual wineries" need to come together to form their own advocacy group and put their money and mouths behind Assemblywoman Evans and her efforts. I wonder how many of them even know much about each other or where and how many of them they are?

At the Napa meeting I suggested that ABC allow the charitable groups to go out with their solicitation letter indicating "ABC Event License Pending" within the text of their letters. The ABC representative kind of excused this approach as not workable because they may not grant the license to the charity.

To this I say, why doesn't ABC publish a list of charitable organizations to which it will no longer issue a permit, and a list that shows which charitable organizations are on suspension from gaining an event license and the period that suspension is to remain in effect?

One can currently visit the ABC web site and obtain such information on each license to a winery, merchant, distributor, etc. anywhere in California.

Doing something like I suggest just might make the whole process a bit more palatable!

Friday, February 23, 2007


By John Olney, Feb. 23, 07

If you were at UVA Trattori, restaurant last Saturday, Feb. 17, you heard a “gentleman of Brass” who could belt out the classic jazz style. I was reminded of a hint of Miles Davies, a touch of Dave Brubeck and the great players in the Count Basie band. Backed with bass and guitar players, David Rocha was a refreshing mix of sounds that played well in the background to the room full of diners.

It took awhile, maybe about six pieces, into the first set before the audience realized what they were enjoying and then finally they applauded the talents of this trio. The music took me back in time to when I was a young Navy Ensign Officer passing through New Orleans on my way to Adak, Alaska, in 1965 and walking the alley ways seeking the sounds of the “Big Easy.”

My dinner was Risotto Braised Niman Ranch Pork Osso Buco over caramelized leek Risotto, and candied Kumquats, all very reasonably priced at $18.00. The meat fell off the bone it was tender. A delicious diner but, I’ve never been disappointed at UVA!

I added a glass of Trinchero Pinot Noir. The fruit was so pleasantly present; not hidden by man’s mad rush to think he/she can do better than nature. The wine stayed on the tip of my tongue until the next sip. It spread to the sides of my palette but never finished anything but softly and full of fruit, the way I like a Pinot wine to be.

Go to the very well done UVA Trattori, Web site where you’ll find their menu’s for lunch and dinner and their live jazz schedule of groups and dates. Fri. and Sat. are normally very busy so make the reservations or expect to wait, but they’ll get you fed.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


By John Olney, Feb 21, 2007

On February 13, 2007, Brunton Vineyards announced that it had purchased “VinoVenue” a wine tasting lounge, which operates in San Francisco. The company claims that it has the economic resources to take the concepts developed by VinoVenue to 90 locations planned for some 60-plus cities throughout the USA. The unique feature of VinoVenue is that it utilizes mechanized methods of pouring one-ounce tastes to the patron who simple inserts a pre-paid card plastic card into the machine.

But guess what, folks? You can experience this Big City sophistication and technological wonder right here in Napa Valley. Just head for downtown Napa and on the Southern side of First Street on the corner with Coombs, you’ll find Stave Wine Lounge where owner Eric Gordon offers 32 different wines for your automatic tasting pleasure. And, if you like the wine, you can also purchase it on-site. Stave offers special events in its pleasant lounge and Eric is contemplating adding appetizers to his offerings. Make sure you visit their Website and you might stop by and tell him you discovered him through my blog.

Then there is Cuvee Napa restaurant! located on the corner of River Terrace and Soscol, Napa, Cuvee is pouring wine from the “Barrel.” Owner Roger Roessler (also an owner in Roessler Cellars , Sonoma County) has installed “tap” machines on the back wall and top of the back bar at the very attractive and comfortable “San Francisco’ish” lounge. Some 12 spouts connect to perfectly maintained stainless steel canisters (or “barrels” as they are generally referred to as) dispensing wines offered from four oz. pours to whole carafes. Aaron Diaz, who just might be the Best Manager in all of Napa, oversees the facility. If you are there in the evening, you’ll probably find me and my friends there too. You really should visit their Website and you might stop by and tell them you discovered their lounge and restaurant through my blog.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

A Blow away nite of R&B at UVA's Downtown Napa

Copyright by John M. Olney February 5, 2007

Well, all I can say is that Sean Pramuk Owner/Manager and Giovanni Guerrera Owner/Chef of Uva Trattoria & Bar have struck Platinum once again. Last Saturday, February 3rd, they presented “The Smoking’ Jaze,” a fantastic R&B group consisting of the following musicians: Smokin Joe Herrschaft: Harmonica & Vocals (If you happen to recognize “Smokin’ Joe, that’s because he is also one of the very popular host/servers at Uva Trattoria) and Danny Hukill: Guitar & Vocals also plays drums with the rocking blues group VOODOO Cats. Both of these have collaborated on writing a number of pieces, which they played on this the first night I experienced their music. Other members of the group include: Dave Duport: Bass, Malcolm Granger: Keyboards, and TracyRose: Drums

I arrived at UVA’s in time to watch them set up. I swear I thought they were going to blow a fuse box. I counted three (3) mixer/amplifiers, eight (8) speakers and all the wires running to mic’s and instruments. They completely filled the small stage such that they literally had to crawl over each other to move around. And as is usual when I go there about 8:30 pm, there was standing room only in the bar and dining waiting area for both bar bibbers and restaurant diners. The wonderful staff kept them happy and all gladly waited to be seated which the staff always seems to be able to accomplish.

Included in the trade dignitaries I found in the restaurant were Bartender extraordinaire, Mason and his party, off duty from Cole’s Chop House, Napa and a later in the evening in came Cuvee Napa Restaurant General Manager, Aaron and his party.

Just listening to the warm-up music of these band members, it was easy to see that attendees were in for a roof rising, foot stomping R&B experience. Once they began, you would think that B.B. King, Johnny Ace, Elvis, Barry White, and so many others had blown into the place! They played three sets with the first featuring acoustic emphasis in their selections and the other two featuring an electric influence. They played a number of the original pieces written by Joe and Danny, the hottest of which I simply believe is a winner was titled, “Blues in Santa Cruz.” Another original I definitely liked was “Wakin’ Up With The Blues.” In the category of just plain Hot were “Little Red Rooster" sung by Joe, “T-Bone Shuffle,” “Mailman,” and “Linda Lu.” Probably the most sensual tune was “The Wrong Track.” The keyboard was especially will featured with the piece titled, “Killing Floor.”

“The Smokin’ Jaze” will be playing at Uva Trattoria & Bar Uva Trattoria & Bar on the first Saturday of each month. Their schedule, along with other groups/soloists to be playing in the future months can be reviewed on the UVA Web site (Click above).

Monday, February 05, 2007

Trade-Only Tasting in the Cave of Frazier Winery

On Wednesday, January 21, 2007, Frazier Winery (<- Click here for web site) held a tasting event for “Trade-Only” in their gorgeous caves located on the dead-end part of Second Avenue, accessible via First Avenue by taking North Avenue to reach Second. Don’t try to do it via Hagen as Second doesn’t go through to connect there. By the way, tasting can only be made by appointment. Drop-ins are not allowed by their County operating .permit.

I’ve known Bill Frazier, owner, for about 15 years having first meet him in the social environment of Napa businesses. I’ve followed the development of his winegrowing venture over the years, so I was very pleased to be invited to this tasting event. Bill started the whole wine thing back in 1990 when he made his first land purchase specific to winegrowing in the eastern foothills of Napa Town. He picked-up 21 plus acres located between Hagen Road and Coombsville; An area now under consideration for American Viticultural Appellation approval as the “Tulocay “ District. He planted 9 plus acres in Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

His original plan was to sell his grapes to others, but in 1995 he changed his mind and started production using custom crush houses. In 1998 he purchased another 46 acres and planted 11 plus to grapes and then in 2001 he converted an old hay barn on the property into his winery operation. His permit allows him to produce up to 50,000 gallons of wine. His production is currently hovering around 5,000 cases per year.

The most magnificent addition to his winegrowing facilities is the caves he started in 2002 and completed in 2003. In 2006 bottling facilities were the final addition. WOW!! Spectacular and many other descriptors are needed in attempt to verbalize how neat it is “In the Caves!” While digging the caves, the contractor ran into a solid rock wall extending for quite some distance. The rock wall was not covered over as is the usual process because of the beautiful mineral colors weaving in flowing patterns throughout the exposed rock. The contractor wisely shaped the wall such that at about 12 feet from it, smack dab in the center of the cave, is that perfect parabolic sound point where as you speak, you are instantaneously treated to “surround sound” like you’ve never heard before. Bill’s daughter , Kim, informed me that they have had opera singers and jazz groups play at this exact point and on a clear day even those playing golf on the 12th hole of the adjacent Napa Valley Country Club were experiencing the beautiful sounds.

But enough of the physical plant description -- although I do believe that wine tasting is an experience that involves the surroundings and how they influence our wine tasting interpretations. I started with the Lupine Hill (name of the area on which Bill built his home) 2003 Merlot and then the Lupine Hill 2003 Cab. Sauv. These were very good wines. They were followed by the 2003 Family Estate Merlot and Cab. Sauv. The Family Estate Merlot tannin was a little high for my tastes so I would need to lay it away for a period of time in hopes to reduce its influence. The Family Estate Cab was simply marvelous, well rounded and easy to drink with balance between tannin, oak and plenty of fruit, and finishing with caramel and chocolate hints. My final wine was the Frazier Family 2003 Memento Cab. Sauv. This latter wine - only about 200 cases produced - was created in memory of Bill’s oldest son who he lost in 2002. The 2003 Memento with its long, long finish, grabbed my palate and tingled it from the first contact. The tannic acids in the Memento did not dominate nor did the oak; a well structured wine. I wanted to drink more of this wine.

Throughout the tasting I kept noticing how many guests were drinking the wine. and devouring the well laid out cheeses, crackers and other trappings of an open house social. Only a few us were truly tasting and spitting. I think I was the only one taking pictures and writing notes on my wine tasting experience.

Bill, his daughter Kim, son Kevin, and Adam were gracious hosts. I did not get a chance to meet winemaker John Gibson but hopefully I will the next time I go back. Besides visiting the winery, here are a few spots that Frazier Winery will be visiting during the next couple months and you can possibly get a tast of these fine wines.

Feb. 11, , 2-5pm, Loyola Marymount Wine Classic, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, CA
Feb. 16, 5-7pm, JV Wine & Spirits Tasting, Napa, CA. Come to taste our current vintages and a preview of our 2004 vintage!
Feb. 24, NVV Premier Napa Valley (Trade Only Event)at CIA, St. Helena, CA
Mar. 10, 5-8pm, Wheelchair Foundation Charity Event, "Mobility for Latin America" in Blackhawk, CA
Mar 20, Family Winemaker's Tasting (Trade Only Event) Pasadena, CA
May 19, 1-4:30 pm, 24th Annual Tiburon Wine Festival, Tiburon, CA

Monday, January 29, 2007

My 1/29/07 e-mail to Matthew Levy, Balzac Communications,

1/29 Balzac/CIA e-mail to me:
Good morning John-...Sorry for the confusion. I misunderstood the attachment, thinking it was the same ballot that I had already received..........Thank you for all of the feedback on the voting structure. I will forward it to the committee for future consideration........Best regards,.....Matthew Levy......Balzac Communications

My 1/29 e-mail to Balzac/CIA
Matthew: ...... Thanks for you quick response. I just rechecked my e-mail to you and confirmed that I had attached the document which contained my recommendations for the future nominating process. Just in case your copy of the e-mail did not include the attachment I have cut and pasted it below ......Again, thanks so much for including me in the process.... Best regards, John Olney

1/29 Balzac/CIA e-mail to me:
Hello there John- I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed being part of the voting process. To answer your question on how I got your name, and why you were selected, I can provide you with some information – and hopefully answer your question. A panel of people from the CIA and Balzac Communications was put together to identify the top 70 wine journalists. I believe your name was submitted by Reuben Katz – though I could be mistaken. No matter who submitted your name, you were approved as one of the voters – which I take as the committees knowledge of your background of being a student of the history of Napa Valley.......Reading through your letter below, I don’t immediately see the suggestions that you have for the future nominations. Would you mind redirecting me to the nominations you refer to? Once I have the names, I’ll forward them to the committee members for consideration for next year’s induction.....Thank you for taking the time to vote for this year’s induction......Regards, Matthew Levy, Balzac Communications, 1200 Jefferson St., Napa, CA 94559, Ph: (707) 255-7667,

My Jan 29 e-mail to Balzac Comm./CIA:
Dear Mr. Matthew Levy: My name is John Olney, owner of The Wine Country Club, and I was most pleased and honored that I was invited to participate along with the others in voting for the first inductees to the Vintner’s Hall Of Fame. How you got my name and why I was selected I have yet to figure out but I most enjoyed being a part of this program.........I provided my completed ballot by e-mail in the morning of January 29. I hope you received, if not, the attached document also contains my vote casting. Now I am writing to you to offer some suggestions for future nominations.........But before going forward here is a little bit about my background: I am a student of the history of Napa Valley wine production and I write about many of the early characters on my blog site ( ) as well as for other publications. My personal library includes over 250 book featuring Napa Valley in part or in whole. To understand NV and its history is to also familiarize oneself with all the other players in what I call “Wine World USA.”.........I am currently drafting a novel tentatively titled, “Entwined Vines.” You can read the Prelude in this book at I am also working on a draft of my non fiction book titled “The Gentlemen Winegrowers of San Francisco - The Men who truly established Napa Valley winegrowing.” Bits and pieces of this book can be read by clicking on my “Histories” subblog on the main page of my blog site. (URL above in prev. para.) .........It is within the context of the above background that I feel qualified to offer my comments and suggestions. I hope you and the CIA organization will not take offense to my boldness. I firmly believe in what you/CIA is doing and I offer my thoughts only in the hopes to contribute and improve the process.........Warm regards,John M. Olney, The Wine Country Club, 1325 Imola West, #409, Napa, CA 94559, Ph: 707-299-9548.

January 17, 2007, Dear John Olney, On Friday, March 9, 2007 The Culinary Institute of America will honor Robert Mondavi as the first Pioneer to be inducted into the Vintners Hall of Fame during the first annual induction dinner at Greystone, our Napa Valley campus..........The reception and dinner ceremony will honor Robert Mondavi’s pioneering efforts on behalf of the California wine industry. A sculpture created by artist Larry Nolan, of LJN Sculpture in Windsor, Vermont, will be unveiled as the first of many to be on display to the public in the Vintners Hall of Fame at Greystone..........In addition, fifteen wine industry Founders (vintners whose early ventures planted the roots of the present-day California wine industry), and seven Icons (those whose achievements have contributed to the establishment, nourishment and future of the California wine industry) have been nominated to be inducted in this year’s ceremonies..........I am writing to invite you to join a panel of American wine journalists to vote for six Founders and two Icons to join Robert Mondavi in the 2007 induction ceremonies......Please open the attached document and send the completed ballot via email, fax or mail by February 1, 2007 to: Balzac Communications, c/o Matthew Levy, 1200 Jefferson St. , Napa, CA 94590, 707-255-1119 (fax).........Thank you for honoring us with your time and your vote. I hope that you will consider joining me in the Napa Valley for this exciting event. Please contact Balzac Communications for more information.....Cordially,Tim Ryan, President.

1 st Annual Vintner's Hall of Fame Nominations


By John M. Olney, The Wine Country Club, January 29, 2007

Based on the letter and ballot I received, I can only hope that all the others selected to cast a vote have a deep knowledge of the past players, the era’s they played in, and not only a current understanding of the industry. What I’m saying is, most think that the 1976 taste-off produced by Spurrier was such a groundbreaking move. In my opinion, that’s only true if you don’t count the 1890-1910 period. The publicity generated by Time Magazine article on the taste-off seems to make people forget history. I suggest that future ballots contain an abstract about the background and accomplishments of each nominee. In this manner those who vote but don’t have a strong history background will be given food for thought to ensure they are not picking just “more modern” people because they no nothing of the other names.

I believe that the category “Winemakers” should be considered as those who are employees of wineries either directly or through consulting services. These individuals should be recognized under the category of “ICON.”
Owner-winemakers fall under the category “Winegrowers.” in Founders.

Finally there are some important distinctions between nominees in both the FOUNDER and ICON Categories and my input about those differences follow.

I believe there multiple categories for which nominees can be qualified for consideration. I suggest the following:

Merchants, Distributors & Marketers:
By not including these very important businesses the Hall of Fame is ignoring a significant part of how wine from California, and other growing regions, ever got to the East Coast in the formative years and the vast markets around the world as we operate today. It would be like not recognizing coaches, radio/TV announcers, franchise owners, etc. in sports that can make and break a team. These wine merchants, distributors and marketers were the greatest movers of California wines for the longest time.

This is category for those who provided the monetary means to build and operate a winery but did not individually grow the grapes or make the wine. These are very important people to the success of winemaking in America and as such should be recognized for their contributions.

Remains as already organized. These are the guys and gals that did it all. They purchased/leased land, planted vineyards, built wineries, and made the wine.

These are the people who reached the masses and carried the message that wine was good and could be made in the USA equal to any in the world. Without these enthusiasts the growth of winemaking and winery tourism would have been slowed immensely. This category should include individuals as well as publications. I think this category should be divided into two groups that represent completely different inputs.
* Technical/Institutional/Historical
* Business Promotion/Journalists/Critics

Honorable Mention
There are those who made significant contribution to the wine industry of the USA but do not deserve full “Founder” status if we are to make such an honor to represent a cherished tribute.

I envision three categories.

Large Operations
Convene a panel of winemakers to establish the best division point.
Small Operations

Honorable Mention.
There are those who made significant contribution to the wine industry of the USA but do not deserve full “ICON” status if we are to make such an honor represent a cherished tribute.

This is a category designed recognize those who are not from/in the USA but have made a major impact on what has /is happening in USA wine.

If I haven’t bored and lost you yet, I offer my rationale on how I voted as indicted below. I have included names not on the original ballot but I consider deeming of consideration for future years. There are more but I don’t want to take up too much more of your time now.
Vintners Hall of Fame - FOUNDERS CATEGORY (6)

Brother Timothy – Winemaker for Christian Brothers Winery, which began in Martinez in 1882. Brother Timothy helped found the Napa Valley Vintners and served three terms as president.

NO VOTE - I’d rather vote for him as an “ICON,” which he was, than as a “Founder.”

My research to date does not show the presence of the name of Brother Timothy in the initial make up of what is now known as the Napa Valley Vintners. Here is what my research revealed:

“When the idea of a Napa Valley Vintners Association (NVVA) was conceived back in the 1943/44 timeframe, it arouse from a meeting of four men: Louis M. Martini, Inglenook's John Daniel, Jr., Napa Wine Co.’s Louis Stralla, and Napa Valley Co-op lead by Charles Forni. These men soon added more colleagues to their ranks and the NVVA was formed: Elmer Salmina of Larkmead Cellars, Robert Mondavi then of C. Mondavi & Sons, Charles Beringer and Roy Raymond from Beringer, and Mrs. Georges de Latour of Beaulieu Vineyards.”

One must also consider it was their Brandy more than their wine that kept them so famous, particularly the classic shape of their bottle. They made very good wines but that job was the task of other Brothers of the order.

Brother Timothy was such a delightful gentleman that often the enthusiasm for his personality and charm were misconstrued into an interpretation that he was a great master of wine growing and technology, he was not. His forte was marketing, and management, and oh yes, and his famous corkscrew collection. He is every bit an ICON in the wine world.

Andre Tchelistcheff – Winemaker at Beaulieu Vineyard, credited with identifying Cabernet Sauvignon as the most suitable variety for the Napa Valley and the first person to grow Pinot Noir in Carneros.

NO VOTE - I’d rather vote for him as an “ICON,” which he was, than as a “Founder.”

In the book, “Great Winemakers of California, - Conversations with Robert Benson,” Carpa Press, 1977. Andre says that the idea of growing PN in Carneros was his and that of Louis Martini. Louis purchased his Carneros property in 1942.

His long and most distinguished career both at BV and consulting to so many others sets the standard for what constitutes an ICON of winemaking.

Captain Gustave Niebaum – Founded Inglenook Winery in Rutherford in 1879.

NO VOTE - He should be listed under “Founders - Honorable Mention”

He is not in the same category as most of the other gentlemen in your “Founder” list. I’ve listed points below to illustrate why he is valued but not as a Founder.

Niebaum was the “Admiral” of the Alaskan Commercial Company fleet of ships that hunted seal hides the sale of which made him and six other San Franciscan businessmen extremely rich. These men included Capt. John Miller (not related to the golfer of the same name), who purchased the land on which sits present day Silverado CC & Resort.

He came to Napa Valley and bought the property from existing farmers and growers most prominent of which included William Campbell Watson (his wife’s grandfather was George C. Yount) who owned the original property named “Inglenook” and Serranus Clinton Hastings, the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of California and founder of Hastings Law School in SF.

Niebaum oversaw the construction of the winery facility and its subsequent operation in the same way he ran his ships, down to the white glove inspection check for improper dusting. He was a “clean and neat” gentleman.

He amassed a very large and valuable library on wine and wine production, but Gustave is what I call “A Gentle Winegrower of San Francisco,” one of a number who provided the capital but not the individual hands on experience nor expertise to directly contribute to the winegrowing industry; rather he was one that bought the needed talent and knowledge which he found in others.

Gustave’s widow brought Carl Bundschu on following Repeal to reopen Inglenook. The nephew Gustave nurtured, John Daniel, Jr., took over Inglenook just about 1940. Daniel is a better candidate for a “Founder” title. Personally, I do not feel Niebaum is either an ICON or a Founder. He is a man whose history should be preserved and it would be when and if John Daniel, Jr., is voted into Founder/ICON status. Why? Because one will have to talk about how Daniel got there and that‘s because of Niebaum‘s wealth and social status.

Louis M. Martini –Founded the L. M. Martini Grape Products Co. in Kingsburg in 1922.

NO VOTE - Later after clearly more deserving candidate from same timeframe or earlier.

A truly important figure to the resurrection of the wine industry following Repeal of Prohibition, but also a very clever gentleman who horded wine late in the Prohibition years realizing that Repeal was near and many consumers would be very thirsty for his wines, He was also an innovator in the type of containers he used for fermenting and storing large volumes of wine, He should definitely be inducted into the Founders Hall Of Fame but there are others I would vote for first. Nomination and selection process should be kind of like that used in sports programs.

Jacob Beringer – Founded the Beringer Winery in 1876 with his brother Fredrick.

YES VOTE - Truly a “Founder” both as grower and winemaker creating a very long-lived dynasty of consistent and quality wines.

Agoston Haraszthy – Founded Buena Vista Winery and imported cuttings from 165 of the greatest European vineyards to California

NO VOTE - He should be listed under “Founders - Honorable Mention”

One must remember that the cuttings were not properly categorized and labeled. There was mass confusing when his sons took over and the great Buena Vista Society collapsed. Agoston’s rapid raise in the wine world was as rapid as his slide away from it.

George de Latour – Founded Beaulieu Vineyard in 1899 and was the first to import phylloxera resistant rootstock from France.

NO VOTE - Later after clearly more deserving candidate from same timeframe or earlier.

Georges purchased an orchard and wheat field just north of Inglenook in 1899 and across road from the Seneca Ewer winery, which LaTour bought in1915 and expanded to become know as the BV winery. It can still be viewed but only from inside the now very large winemaking facilities.

James Concannon – Founded Concannon Vineyard in the Livermore Valley in 1883.

NO VOTE - Wente justified before Concannon. Later consideration, after clearly more deserving candidates from same timeframe or earlier.

Carl Wente – Founded Wente Brothers Winery in Livermore in 1883

YES VOTE - Trained under Krug and saw the value of wine production in other areas.

Pietro and Giuseppe Simi -- Founded Montepulciano Winery in 1876 that was re-named Simi Winery for Isabelle Simi after Prohibition.

NO VOTE - Questionable - maybe later after clearly more deserving candidate from same timeframe or earlier.

Charles Le Franc – Founded Almaden Vineyards in 1852.

YES VOTE - not even a question.

Francis, Anton and Joseph Korbel – Founded F. Korbel & Brothers in 1882.

NO VOTE - Questionable - maybe later after clearly more deserving candidate from same timeframe or earlier.

Charles Krug – Founded Charles Krug Winery, Napa Valley's first commercial winery in 1861.

YES VOTE, but not for 1st winery but rather for first commercial-consulting winemaker and what he accomplished before going bankrupt.

I believe that you’ll find many historians still disputing statement that he built the first commercial winery. Krug made the first known wine from Napa County to be sold into a commercial operation in San Francisco. He made the wine using a cider press but at production and storage facilities in the City of Napa owned by John Patchett. He followed that production by making wine for a number of others before actually building his own first winery.

Pierre Pellier – Founded Mirassou Vineyards in 1854.

NO VOTE - MORE RESEARCH REQUIRED - maybe later after clearly more deserving candidate from same timeframe or earlier.

Other (fill in name)

Surprisingly missing form your list are the founders of the following once great wine houses of California, indeed the USA itself. If one is going to consider Gustave Niebaum/Inglenook, then one must immediately add the following great names.

William Bourn, Sr. & Jr., Bourn & Wise Winery, builders of the “Greystone” complex in St. Helena in which CIA is now housed. The Bourn’s owned ALL the water supply to San Francisco county, the Empire Gold Mine (the richest strike) among other prosperous businesses. William is the one who provided the capital but not the individual hands on experience nor expertise to directly contribute to the winegrowing industry; rather he was one that purchased the needed talent and knowledge which he found in others.

Alfred Loving Tubbs, Chateau Montelena /Hillcrest Estate, Calistoga. Along with his brother Hiram, who lived in Oakland, they were extremely wealthy from their Tubbs Cordage Company where they sold rope to all the sailing ship business around the world. With the discovery of gold outside of Sacramento they sold even more rope for use by the miners and tunnel owners. They build their own hotel by Lake Merritt including their own electric train system to carry lodgers to and from downtown to their hotel. Hiram was considered the wealthiest man in the East bay Area at the time. Alfred, meanwhile, came to Napa and built his winery estate. He was a founder along with Krug and others of the Napa Valley Wine Company (NVWC). Tubbs is the one who provided the capital but not the individual hands on experience nor expertise to directly contribute to the winegrowing industry; rather he was one that purchased the needed talent and knowledge which he found in others.

However, I really don’t think these are true candidates for either “Founder” or “ICON” nominations. They are most worthy of “Honorable Mention” status and should have pieces about them among the literature of the Hall of fame.

Some of the other major players that are missing from your list are:

Kohler and Frohling


By not including the two owners of this great wine merchant business (and some other notable wine merchants), the Hall of Fame is ignoring a significant part of how wine from California ever got to the East Coast and the vast markets around the world. It would be like not recognizing coaches, radio/TV announcers, etc. in sports that can make and break a team. These wine merchants were the largest movers of California wines for the longest time. There are others who operated in San Francisco and then those in the East should also be considered.

Louis Petri of United Vintners/ (Marketing)/ Allied Grape Growers (producers).
I can only speculate as to why this name does not appear in your nominations. Purchased Italian Swiss Colony in 1953. Built the wine ship. He was the mover behind the sale of Inglenook and BV wineries from family operations. He should be a Nominee in the near future

Ernest Gallo of E & J Gallo


I can only speculate as to why this name does not appear in your nominations.

Both the authorized and the unauthorized books about the Gallo Brothers certify their importance to the wine industry of California, the USA and indeed, today even the entire world. You can only justify the absence of their name if you qualify the Hall of Fame as limited to “Premium,” fine wine production.

One must remember that the vast majority of wine made in NV during the late 1930s through 1970s, was made at the NV Co-op (Now Hall Winery) consisting of over 230 NV growers who contracted all their wine to E & J Gallo. Contrary to popular belief, the Gallo’s were blending premium and valley juice for years. That just might be why so many people enjoyed it and bought it.

They have one of the largest and most significant laboratories in the world. They were innovators of technology and process management of wine that is produced on a very large scale. Screw caps are nothing new to them - they invented it along with a number of other innovative techniques and processes.
I can see no reason why they are not included on the nomination lists as either “Founder” or “ICON.”

Percy Morgan and Isaias Hellman of California Wine Association (aka “Winehaven”) fame
I can only speculate as to why this name does not appear in your nominations. This became the biggest operation owning and/or controlling most of NV’s wines. They all should be a Nominee in the near future.

Sebastian & Sons - I can only speculate as to why this name does not appear in your nominations. What can I say, that isn’t already known about this great family. They should be a Nominee in the near future.

Gundlach-Bundschu - A heck of a lot of input to the industry. They should be a Nominee in the near future.

Trinchero Family - Sutter Home & the White Zin Phenomenon.
I can only speculate as to why this name does not appear in your nominations. White Zin was to NV fame what Thunderbird was to Gallo. They should be a Nominee in the near future.

Vintners Hall of Fame - ICONS CATEGORY (2)

Harold P. Olmo - Renowned viticulturist who played a key role in shaping California's wine industry.

NO VOTE - Questionable - maybe later after clearly more deserving candidate from same timeframe or earlier.

George C. Yount – Planted first grapevine in Napa Valley after arriving in the area in 1836.

NO VOTE - He should be listed under “Founders - Honorable Mention”

Jean-Louis Vignes – Planted California's first documented imported European wine vines in Los Angeles in 1833.

NO VOTE - He should be listed under “Founders - Honorable Mention”

Maynard Amerine – Chairman of the UC Davis Viticulture and Enology Department from 1957-1962 who focused on ways to improve quality and standards for individual styles of wine from different regions in the state.

YES VOTE - Clearly qualifying

If Amerine then also his co-worker Albert J. Winkler, Amerine developed the system of classifying wine regions using heat days. He should be a Nominee in the near future

Another is Eugene W Hilgard, the 1st Prof. of Ag. at UCB who most assuredly was the embodiment of the cause for quality wine production from California. He sensed that California (particularly Napa/Sonoma) could and would match the best made in the world. A 19th Century scholar. He should be a Nominee in the near future

And another is George Husmann, a transplanted Missourian who started in Carneros and expanded from there. He is considered the original “hawker “of California (particularly Napa/Sonoma) as the best place to make wine in America. A wine man of the 19th Century. He should be a Nominee in the near future

Father Junipero Serra – Planted the first Californian vineyard at Mission San Diego de Alcala in 1769.

NO VOTE - He should be listed under “Founders - Honorable Mention”

Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo – A Californian military commander, politician, and rancher who, as an officer of Mexico, shaped the transition of California from a Mexican district to an American state.

NO VOTE - He should be listed under “Founders - Honorable Mention”

Robert Balzer – One of the first serious wine journalists in the United States. He wrote a regular wine column beginning in 1937 and published “The Pleasures of Wine” in 1964.

NO VOTE - Questionable - maybe later after clearly more deserving candidate from same timeframe or earlier

If you are going to nominate writers, then your list is missing a few of the most brilliant observers of the resurrected wine world following Prohibition. Personally, I think your writing category should be separated into two categories as shown below:

William Heintz - Probably the most prolific writer about the history of wine in and about wine country. The list of documents he has authorized as the historical basis of Appellation/sub-appellation applications and individual winery backgrounds are unbelievable. He should be a Nominee in the near future

Business Promotion/Journalists/Critics
Frank Schoonmaker (often with Tom Marvel) should be a Nominee in the near future.

William S. Leedom should be a Nominee in the near future.

John Melville should be a Nominee in the near future.

Bob Thompson & Sunset Magazine Series (from 1968 and into the 1980s), Research and Text for “Guide to California ’Wine Country” and other wine-related publications. He and his series probably had more to do with the establishment of winery tourism in wine country than even Robert Mondavi himself. He should be a Nominee in the near future

Leon D. Adams should be a Nominee in the near future.


Hugh Johnson should be a Nominee in the near future.

Andre Simon should be a Nominee in the near future.