Thursday, December 27, 2007

A Tasting at Swanson Vineyard

Rutherford, California
4:00 PM, Sunday, December 22, 2007

Copyright all rights and privileges reserved
By John M. Olney, December 27, 2007
1325 Imola West, #409, Napa, CA 94559

Swanson Winery ( ) is located on a narrow side road to the west of Hwy 29. The site was originally occupied by the Cassayre-Forni Winery. Owners W. Clarke Swanson, Jr. and wife Elizabeth Pipes Swanson reopened the winery site in the year 2000 but have owned vineyards in the Oakville area since the mid-1980s.

In the 1950s, Mr. Swanson’s father and uncle developed the innovative “Swanson TV Dinners” (for some history click here: ) which revolutionized how American families could meet the time required to work, raise the family juggled with meal preparation, and watch a relatively new media called “Television,” which in those early days was mostly only available during the late afternoon and evening hours. Swanson's TV dinners were first advertised in 1954 and were immediately a hit with consumers who were just beginning to afford and appreciate Television (or simply, “TV“). Swanson was eventually acquired by the Campbell Soup Company which ranks fourth behind Nestle (makers of Stouffer's and Lean Cuisine brands) in a $4 billion industry today.

First the Swanson’s acquired 100 acres located along Oakville Cross Road (runs between Hwy 29 to the west and Silverado Trail to the east) and it is sandwiched between Opus One and Groth vineyards and wineries. The second purchase was the 40 acre vineyards formerly known as “Schmidt Ranch,” located against the Mayacaymas Mountain range to the west of Hwy 29 and between the famous Napanook vineyards of Dominus winery, and Far Niente and Harlan vineyards and wineries.

The tasting experience was held at 4 PM in what the Swanson’s refer to as “The House of Swanson,” which was “…Inspired by the great literary, political and culinary salons…” (From their website) in the tradition of 18th century Parisian style living. The salon features a lovely round table designed to seat eight guests but in our case we snuggled in 11 which our “salonnier,” Shawn la Rue organized on an impromptu basis with ease and without missing a beat in his excellent host style while making everyone feel most welcome and special.

The Salon Tasting Table

Shawn, our "Salonnist"

Shawn opened up the tasting session by informing us that: 1) this was the largest group that he has poured to since he started with Swanson, and 2) it was the final tasting session for the year 2007. We all then went around introducing ourselves while Shawn and his assistant (Pictured below) added more glasses and condiments for the six wines we would be tasting.

I was a guest of Cliff (pictured below right) who also brought his girlfriend Tony. That’s me to the right of Tony.

Others attending the session are shown the two pictures below.

Shawn started us off with a 2006 Rosato (Italian for Rose’) for which about 8-9 barrels (about 59 gallons/barrel) are produced per year which represents approximately 200 plus cases.

We them moved to the 2006 Pinot Grigio for which about 7,000 cases were produced. Shawn called this their “core white wine” representing about 12 percent of the total wine production at Swanson (about 25,000 cases plus). It was paired with crackers and a delicious cave-aged gruyere cheese from Switzerland. (If you would like to know more about this cheese, click here: The Swanson Pinot Grigio opened up well as I continued to swirl it and force off the alcohol and bring up the flavor of the fruit. I am particularly fond of Pinot Grigio’s and Sauvignon Blanc’s over Chardonnay’s every since so many wine producers moved into massive malalactic fermentation and heavy oak aging of Chards..

Next we tried the Swanson 2006 Chardonnay which was not listed on the little menu we were provided containing the wine and food pairings that we would be experiencing. This wine is only available at the winery and to its wine club members. It is estate wine - as are all the others - and only about an acre is grown, thus rhe production is very small; in the order of six or less barrels. To my surprise this Chardonnay was particularly refreshing to my palate as NO malalactic fermentation NOR oaking is applied to this wine. This was a very good tasting wine and one I would go back for more. My God, I could actually taste the fruit; how novel these days!

Now we moved on to the reds and their Merlot was first. This varietal represents about 80 percent of the annual Swanson output. We were offered their 2004 vintage with some Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon blended in. On their website, Swanson claims that they are “… Napa Valley’s largest producer of estate-grown merlot…” They produce approximately 15,000 cases of Merlot per year. The Merlot was paired with Mimolette Vieux of Lille, France. (If you would like to know more about this particular cheese click here: ). The wine had a nice rounded finish starting on the tip of my tongue and moving out to both sides. I found spices and coffee beans as I swirled and retasted. It totally opened into quite a fine wine.

We were then poured the 2004 Alexis, a Cabernet Sauvignon, named after their daughter Alexis Swanson Traina who is Creative Director at Swanson. I found this wine pleasant, but to my palette I preferred their Merlot. The Cab. was paired with Alexis Estate bonbons which were rich with a pleasant powdery curry sprinkled on to provide a nice contrast to the sweetness. I will have to try this Cab again before I make my final determination about how much I care for their Cab.

The above wines were produced under the winemaking talents of Chris Phelps who joined Swanson in 2003 (click here for more on Mr. Phelps: )

Our final pouring was the 2004 Minuit Black Muscat (pronounced like “men wee“) which is French for “midnight.” It is a fortified wine and thus falls into the “dessert wines” categories.. The winemaker for the Swanson dessert wines is Marco Capelli who was hired by the Swanson’s in 1987 to make all their wines. (click here for more on Mr. Capelli: ). It was as would be expected sweet and easy to sip.

Shawn thanked us for our attention to his presentation and reminded us that Swanson makes an additional 12 wines all of about one two six barrels each and that we should explore their website ( ) and to sign-up for their free mailing list to keep up with Swanson news.

(John M. Olney is our founder. You can examine his biography by clicking here: Biography To read his other articles, click here: Olney Articles You can e-mail him at

Friday, November 02, 2007



To: , Rueben Katz, Director of Strategic Initiatives and Development, CIA-Greystone, St. Helena, CA, W. Blake Gray, Writer, San Francisco Chronicle,

Info: Charles Henning, Managing Director, CIA-Greystone, St. Helena, CA, Paul Wagner, Owner/President, Balzac Communications, Napa, CA, Alder Yallow, Writer/Blogger Vinography, San Francisco, CA,

From: John Olney, Writer/Blogger, The Wine Country Club, Napa, CA


I thoroughly enjoyed participating in the November 9 committee meeting. As I drove back to Napa I couldn't help but recycle my recollection of the points made by all those in the discussions and I would like to make a few comments which might be considered for future review and possible incorporation.

Historical Nominations
As you know, I am a student of the histories behind wineries. Most of the people who made the initial headway in the development of California wine were located in counties surrounding the Bay Area and within those counties Napa and Sonoma became the areas where the vast majority was producing wine.

In order to recognize the immense contributions of the more recent wine industry greats we must first recognize those who initiated the reasons that others came west to participate in the fantastic growth of this wine industry. At the rate of nominating only two candidates in the “historical” group we would be, in my opinion, over emphasizing the more recent/modern wine industry greats without fairly establishing the basis for why they are so worthy of such honor.
I would therefore ask that we all consider presenting a ballot nomination slate that will result in the selection distributed into six historical and six general inductees. I suggest that we might need as many as three to five years to catch up with those most deserving forefather/mothers who made it all possible for today’s greats to be recognized. After the three to five year period we might consider a ratio of 4-to-6 for a period of time and then finally change to 2-to-6 in the out years.

The reason I believe this would not significantly impact the Induction Dinner timing requirements is that many of the inductees will not require that a family member be present; if one could even be found. There is no real reason why there has to be a great-great-great grandson/daughter there as their lives have moved on into different careers. However, if there is a relation that is today in the wine industry then one could have them present to make comment.

We don't to want select all of the historical characters/businesses right away but we do want to establish a strong historical base where tourists can see why we are where we are today. This is the same philosophy used in other HOF operations. People come to visit and to learn about the past greats they never heard of or knew; that is the one of the major attractions for having a Hall of Fame. Thus, the HOF is a source of educating the wine consuming public.

I am a practical businessman at the same time. It will be important in the long run if the CIA-HOF organization recognizes the contributions of major media resources (i.e., Sunset, Wine Spectator, etc.) that focus on the wine industry of America and most importantly if they feature California. Why? So they will reciprocate by publishing/broadcasting feature articles and stories about the CIA-HOF located at Greystone. That brings tourism and reservation revenues.
I believe it is the obligation of each member of the nominating committee to “defend” his/her nominations. If a committee member does not have the time or inclination to do so then I respectfully suggest that member should resign the seat. This would allow somebody else who deems this to be a very important obligation to those who will ultimately vote on the nominations contained on the final ballot as well as to the wine consuming public who will only attend if we give the inductees a proper review that the consumer can respect.

of the above criteria require publication to the general population unless some crazy investigative reporter and/or PR firm starts demanding to know details of the nomination and selection process. Instead, it is internal SOP known to CIA and the nominating committee members.

I would however consider publishing the divisional line between the “historical” and the “general” periods with something like the following.

I suggest that the date of Repeal of Prohibition (1933) be the division point between “The Historical Wine Industry of California” (those before 1933) and the period to be called “The Renaissance of the Wine Industry of California,” (those after 1933)

Companies & Their Founders
I believe that business entities should be considered for nomination along with the key individuals in those organizations that made the business worthy of HOF acknowledgement. These are the entities and personalities that moved California wine to the forefront. Listed under my nominations in the “Historic” grouping I have the California Wine Association and Professors Husmann & Hilgard, and under “general,” Bob Thompson & Sunset Magazine, which are multi names for one HOF induction position. Other good examples are marketing and distribution companies such as House of Seagram, Daniel Wilson, Kohler & Frohling, wineries like Franzia Brothers, Gundlach-Bundachu, etc. These examples are a combination of talents that produced/moved/wrote about the wine industry and made it what it is today.

Here are my nominations per the meeting of Nov. 9
Historic (2)
California Wine Association-Winehaven
Professors George Husmann and Eugene W. Hilgard
Hamden W. McIntyre
Alfred Loving Tubbs of Chateau Montelena
William Bourn, Jr. of Bourn & Wise Winery

General (6)
Ernest and Julio Gallo
William Heintz
Robert Trinchero of Sutter Home
Myron Nightengale
Louis Petri of United Vintners/Allied Grape Growers
Bob Thompson & Sunset Magazine/Lane Publishing CO.
Leon D. Adams
Francis Mahoney of Carneros Creek Winery
Frank Schoonmaker
Samuel Bronfman, House of Seagram
Dr. Albert J. Winkler

For those of you interested, abstracts for these nominees follows

Bibliography used to develop info:
Wines of America, Leon D. Adams, 2nd Ed., 1978, McGraw Hill
Great Winemakers of America, Robert Benson, 1st Ed., 1977, Capra Press
California Wine, James Laube, 2nd Ed., 1999, Wine Spectator Press
Wine Country - A history of Napa Valley, William F. Heintz, 1st Ed., 1990, Capra Press
Mr. Sam - The Life and Times of Samuel Bronfman, Michael Marrus, 1st Ed. 1991, Viking

Historic (2)
California Wine Association; Percy T. Morgan
and Isaias Hellman, principals. (The busts of both gentlemen would be contained at the CWA assigned location in the Hall.) It was formed in 1894 in San Francisco and at its height before Prohibition was enacted in 1920, it had control of over 60 California wineries thus controlling most of the state’s wine production.

Morgan was the mastermind behind the conceptualization and operation of the CWA and Hellman was the Capitalist who financed it. CWA came about at a time when grape production and bulk wine supplies were causing disastrous economic ramifications in the California wine industry. Morgan and Hellman set about to create a legal monopoly that would stabilize the industry.

During the 1906 San Francisco earthquake the CWA lost over 15 million gallons of stored wine. To avoid any future chance of such a large loss, Morgan ordered the construction of what was then called “the largest winery in the world” on Point Richmond and named it “Winehaven” and can be easily seen when driving east on the Richmond Bridge. It still stands today as a ghost winery.

Professors George Husmann and Eugene W. Hilgard: The men credited with recognizing the ways to understand, control and limit effects of phylloxera. (The busts of both gentlemen would be contained at the same assigned location in the Hall)

Hilgard was the 1st Prof. of Ag. at UC Berkeley 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.

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

Alternates to consider if too many also mention the same above nominees

Hamden W. McIntyre: Designer of some of the greatest still standing wineries of California, including Inglenook (built by Gustave Niebaum and now known as Rubicon and owned by Francis Ford Coppola), Hedgeside (built by Morris Estees near Silverado Resort and now occupied by Del Dotto), Chateau Montelena built by Alfred Loving Tubbs), Ewer & Atkinson (now the inner core of Beaulieu Vineyards), Eschol (built by the Goodman Brothers and now known as Trefethen), Far Niente (Built by Capt. John Benson), and the Vina located in Tehama County (Built by Leland Stanford).

Alfred Loving Tubbs: He created Chateau Montelena /Hillcrest Estate, Calistoga.
Along with his brother Hiram, who lived in Oakland, they were extremely wealthy from their cordage business 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 in Oakland 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 which quickly became one of the largest in the county and indeed California. He joined Napa Valley Wine Company, founded by Charles Krug, the Beringers and one M. G. Ritchie and became its President even before his vineyards and winery were in production.

William Bourn, Jr. of Bourn & Wise Winery, builders of the “Greystone” complex in St. Helena. The site has been home to many great winery operations over the history of the Napa Valley wine industry. It is now the site of CIA.

The Bourn’s owned all the water supply to San Francisco County, the Empire Gold Mine (the richest strike) among other prosperous business. His father had previously built a winegrowing business to the south of St. Helena. After his father passed away there came about a period when grape production and bulk wine supplies were causing disastrous economic ramifications in the Napa Valley wine industry.

He and is partner conceived the idea of building a winery in which financially strapped winegrowers could bring their crops to their winery and they would sell them or the wine made from them when prices were acceptable to the winegrower, or Bourn and Wise would go ahead and buy the crop upon delivery and they would sell it later for themselves. They did this with the feeling that they could use their vast staying power wealth to help those in the industry without deep pockets.

The winegrowers were leery of their plans and intentions. Few joined and meanwhile, the California Wine Association was formed which greatly undermined the intent of Bourne and Wise. They struggled and Wise wanted out a year after the start up. Bourne too tired of the politics and two years after building the $2 million dollar (late 1800s dollar), largest stone winery in the world, he sold it off at a great loss. He retained the winery operation south of St. Helena.

General (6)
Ernest and Julio Gallo, the largest wine producer in the USA according to the 2006 list released by Wine Business Monthly. It is the producer of pop wines as well as premium wines to match the full range of palettes of the nation as well indeed in the export of USA wines to foreign countries. Initiators of screw caps, developer of the most advanced quality control laboratories in the wine industry and creators of innovative wine marketing and sales techniques, strategies and promotional campaigns. (The busts of both gentlemen would be contained at the Gallo assigned location in the Hall.)

One must remember that the vast majority of wine made in NV during the late 1930s through 1970s, was made at and by the NV Co-op (Now Hall Winery) consisting of over 230 NV growers who contracted all their wine to E & J Gallo. This was also true of co-ops in other wine producing counties. 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.

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.

William Heintz: Probably one of the truly great California history writers. His list of published books and newspaper/magazine articles is most impressive. But, he was also the single most dominate researcher & writer sought for the development of the qualifying histories required for the applications of the formation of a new Appellation area. He did the work for most of Napa and other county applications.

Robert Trinchero of Sutter Home: The “accidental creator” of “White Zin,” one of the most popular and best selling wine styles to the American palette. This discovery also started a resurge in the production and consumption of red zinfandel. The Trinchero Family operations have risen to the rank of the 6th largest wine producer in the USA according to the 2006 list released by Wine Business Monthly.

Myron Nightengale: Creator of ‘Premier Seimillon” styles first at Cresta Blanca (Livermore), then Roma (Fresno), followed by Guild Wines (Lodi) and finally at Beringer (Napa Valley)

Louis Petri of United Vintners (Marketing) & Allied Grape Growers (producers). Starting in the early 1940s, Petri commenced buying wineries and in 1953 he acquired Italian Swiss Colony (ISC) in Asti and Fresno as well as some other smaller winery operations. The purchase of ISC pitted him against the Gallo Brothers in a bidding war labeled by the media as “the battle of the giants” that endured over almost a ten year period before Petri won.

He saw more opportunity in selling wine than in just producing it so he organized the Allied Grape Growers co-op. He then sold his wineries to the co-op while maintaining the facilities and marketing rights contracts under United Vintners. Using 12 different labels he was selling almost one of every four bottles of wine consumed in the USA.

He had constructed the wine ship “SS Angelo Petri “ (named after his father) to transport wine from the inland California port of Stockton through the Panama Canal to the East Coast, in the late 1950 into the 1970s.

In the mid 1960s, Petri engineered then the biggest shock wave in the wine industry of California, indeed, all of America, when he managed to purchase the great Gustave Niebaum Inglenook Napa Valley Estate owned and operated by John Daniel, Jr., and started production of both generic and premium wines. It can be said that he was the forerunner of the corporate take over binge of large family-owned winery estates in wine country California that soon followed his innovative marketing-driven purchase.

Bob Thompson & Sunset Magazine: A prolific wine writer with numerous books and articles of his own as well as co-authoring with other noted food and wine writers. He was the driving editorial force behind Lane Publishing Co. and its three multiple editions under the Sunset magazine/periodical series during the 1968 through 1984 timeframe focusing on tourism opportunities in California’s Wine Country.

Alternates to consider if too many also mention the same above nominees

Leon D. Adams: A premiere writer on the history of wine in America with major contributions to elaborating on the production, quality of California wines as well as the beauty of the buildings and setting surrounding the wineries.

Francis Mahoney: A self-educated vintner who was formerly in the wine retailer business in San Francisco, Mahoney (along with investor partners) undertook in 1973 the first winery operation in the Carneros Appellation to be built following Repeal. His passion was Pinot Noir which he was convinced could be produced in this cool region of southern Napa and Sonoma counties. So convinced about the possibilities of Pinot Noir in this climate he embarked on a mission in cooperation with the UC Davis to develop a clone most suited to the area. His study plan included testing approximately 20 some clones.
Today, everybody wants a piece of Carneros and Mahoney should be credited with showing the California wine industry the value of this area as a Pinot Noir producing zone.

Frank Schoonmaker: A wine writer who also became a wine importer following Repeal. His greatest accomplishment is that he is credited with the introduction of varietals labels associated to the grapes used to produce a wine. Names such as Chablis, Burgundy, Sauterne ,Cabernet,, etc. were in use when started marketing his wine labeled with new names to American wine producers such as Gamay, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Semillon, etc. He is also credited, therefore with the establishment of a sense of quality- a premium wine- about the wine to be found in such labeled bottles. These names would be of great significance to the wines that would be produced in wine country California in the 1950s and 1960s as wine production slowly started shifting from sweet and bulk wines to premium varietals.

Samuel Bronfman, House of Seagram: Around 1912, Samuel Bronfrom entered the successful family inn keeping business. By 1916 he desired to expand the family operations and even though Prohibitionists were making great strides to stop alcohol production and consumption in Canada, his home country, and the USA, he moved forward to enter the spirits import business. With the coming of the 1st world war, he saw opportunity to move liquor around the prohibitions that had been installed; he used the “medicinal purposes” only clause to circumvent the Canadian law. He was now well on his way to becoming a giant in the industry.
In 1942 Bronfrom saw opportunity abounding in the California wine industry. Along with Franz Sichel and Alfred Fromm he started Fromm and Sichel. Who was there major client? None other than The Christian Brothers, located in Napa. To this was soon added the large and famous Paul Masson operations located near Saratoga which grew into a $100 million a year operation by the mid 1960s. His son would continue to contract marketing and distribution rights for wines in eight different countries including the USA.

Dr. Albert J. Winkler: Professor Maynard Amerine is already inducted into the HOF, but the work for which he was solely credited was actually developed in cooperation with Dr. Winkler. They developed the much used climate regions of California in terms of “degree days” measured as days with a temperature exceeding 50 degrees F.(Suggestion: Place the bust of both gentlemen at the same space area)

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Vienna Wine Country

Copyright all rights and privileges reserved
By John M. Olney, October 22, 2007
1325 Imola West, #409, Napa, CA 94559

On September 27, 2007 I received an E-named from a gentleman who wondered if he could talk with me about my military service days Wow, that was almost 40 long years ago My thoughts went racing; who was this guy, how did he even find me and most importantly, why? I was obviously very curious about this newest twist in my life! I responded by E-mail that I would speak to him. Our next contact was by direct telephonic communications. He proceeded to quiz me about that past timeframe and then he asked if I would be interested in consulting his client. I obviously was so inclined. Shortly thereafter he asked if I would be willing to travel to Vienna, Austria on October 17, 2007.

Whao, wait a minute, wow; this is all happening so very fast! In about three weeks I would have to complete a lot. I did not have a passport so I’d have to rush that up and I had all my Wine Country Club project work to attend to also. After a few more exchanges it was agreed that I should participate and we got the ball rolling to get me airline and hotel reservations while I sought an accelerated passport

To protect the interests of the client I will not delve into the business details of this trip other than to say it provided me the opportunity to visit the wine country located just outside Vienna. The focus of this visit would be the LOISUM Wein and & SPA Resort complex (,id,1,nodeid,1,_language,en.html ). This is an extremely modernistic complex constructed atop wine caves built over 500 years ago and nestled in the beautiful rolling hills area of a traditional grape vineyards one normally sees traveling anywhere there are a concentration of winegrowers. To see the map where the LOISUIM is located in the Langenlois Kamptal area about 50 miles outside Vienna. click here >>>







The winegrower of this complex is the Steininger Family ( ). Five wines are presented: Gruner Veltliner, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Burgunder, Muskateller, and Cabernet Sauvignon Rose’ and Zweigelt. An excellent Web site that will provide you much information about Austrian wines is found at this URL: >>>>

I walked from the main building to the elevator entry that would take me down into the wine caves. You can see the control board behind the Receptionist in the left hand picture below. I picked up my English language telephone receiver which I would be using to dial in code numbers and then would listen to an explanation of the events/processes that occurred at each significant area of the underground winery operation.







The diagram in the center of the control board shows you the extent of these underground caves. To the right is provided a photograph showing the cave walls and just a few of the significant number of aging/storage barrels located in these magnificent old tunnels.

The winegrowers occupying these caves and their vineyards over the centuries actually lived their lives underground. There is a typical family kitchen, bedrooms, meeting places, etc. as well as wine production rooms. During World War II, these caves were used by the locals to hide the Jews from the Nazi regime.

As many of you know, I love to read and write about our old 1860s winegrowing families and their estates in Napa, but I was struck by the fact that I was walking around vineyards, buildings and tunnels that go back to about 1000 AD making what I read and write about barely even child’s play.

Just one more comment about the tour. It starts off with a stop inside the elevator reception room with a truly awesome water fountain and pool centerpiece. Once everybody is gathered around the pond, the lights dim, classical music fades in and the water fountains start dancing. We were told to try to imagine ourselves as a grape about to be born and growing all the way to maturity, then being picked, crushed, fermented, bottled and finally consumed by a wine patron. Wow! I’ve never thought quite this way about the process before. The fountains were gorgeous to watch as they rose and fell and colored lights shown through bringing out a site for the eyes and pleasant music establishing a mood in the mind. But at the end, there was a very sudden stoppage of the fountains and Bacchus rose from the pond and spat a large volume of water (representing wine) to a hole (representing a mouth) high up the wall and the show came to end.! Well, Disneyland might want such a display. By the way, I really couldn’t get into making my into self a grape and thinking about this entire process. Interesting but just a gimmick!

Following the self-guided tour, one rises back to the surface inside the LOISUM which contains full food service, gigantic gift shop and massive tasting bar/room facilities as shown below:






I tried the Sauvignon Blanc which is probably my favorite white. It were quite enjoyable and a wonderful way to finish off my visit to Vienna Wine Country.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Our continued call for a change to the CA Laws applied to wine producers

Subject: Our continued call for a change to the CA Laws applied to wine producers
Date: 9/28/2007 10:34:42 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time
From: Thewinecntryclb2
Reply To:

(CC: sent to the Wine Institute under separate cover)

Many CABC Type 17/20 AND Type 2 operate illegally

My name is John Olney. I have sent you two previous e-mails on this subject (8/29 and 9/16). I have been contacting both wine producers and consumers (over 550 have read my on-line articles on this specific subject between 10 am, 9/24 and 5 pm, 9/26) and much to my surprise I am finding out that apparently quite a few CABC Type 17/20 license holders are completely ignoring the rules & regulations under which they are suppose to be operating. It is no wonder they do not surface in response to our call for change or will not let us use their names.

I received replies from consumers that they are indeed buying directly face-to-face from the Type 17/20 producer who talks about his/her wine while the representative of the Type 2 license holder who actually processed the grapes into wine completes the pouring at the site of the Type 2 holder. At the Assemblywoman Evans sponsored meeting in Napa in 2006, the CABC representative said that such a face-to-face discussion is not permitted and could result in suspension or even revocation of the Type 17/20 license. I guess this type of collusion could also represent the same problem for the Type 2 license holder.

I have found Type 17/20 Web sites making invitation to their readers of willingness to find a meeting place to taste and talk about the wine and even inviting them to dinners at their homes. There probably are not enough agents to monitor all the Internet Web sites of these Type 17/20’s to catch those breaking the rules.

Many of those making comment seem to be saying that it is a matter of calculated risk that CABC agents are too busy elsewhere to worry about this infraction and thus they aren't going to get caught. Why have unenforceable laws on the books? The last attempt at legislating the production, distribution and consumption of alcoholic beverages by the consumers -Prohibition - failed miserably.

We do not condone operating outside the CABC Rule & Regulations and the spirit of the Calif. Legislatives laws. We do not want to start up, do like other Type 17/20 licenses, with the cooperation of a Type 2 license, only to get caught and have our license suspended or worse, and revoked. Thus we must pursue every channel available to us to get the existing laws changed.


I heard from Type 2 license holders complaining once again that the problem with the Type 17/20 holders is that he/she doesn't have to buy land, equipment, pay taxes, etc as do the Type 2 so therefore the Type 17/20 shouldn't be allowed the right to the marketplace the same as the Type 2. This is simply economics!

If this is the reason to deny Type 17/20 marketing and sales opportunities on a level playing field, then it can be said that the CABC licensing structure must be changed to reflect the difference between the amounts of money that each production size increment represents from the giant 20 million cases per year CABC Type 2 producer manufactures and markets as compared to a 200 cases per year Type 17/20 wine producer who buys grapes and has them crushed and processed by a bonded custom crush house, and the levels in between. All have paid money for the use of bonded wine production facilities to create, in an environment protecting the safety, health and welfare of the people, a product that the consumer wants.

With the above in mind, we then looked at the licensing restrictions on the alcoholic beverage manufacturing of beer and distilled spirits. We did not find any evidence of restrictions being placed on how these beverage producers are allowed to market and sell their products based on the type of ownership of the beverage production facilities. SO WHY ONLY WINE?


The Governor recently signed changes to the wine laws which now allows both the Type 17/20 and Type 2 license holders to donate and pour wine at charity events. To me this is precedent setting.

1. How can one segment of the wine consumer be disallowed the opportunity to taste a legally produced wine just because that consumer did not or could not attend the charity function? That’s discrimination among wine consumers!

2. If it’s ok for the Type 17/20 to pour at charity why it isn't also true it should be allowed to pour at non-charity events. How can you call the two licenses alike for charity but not alike for non-charity? That's discrimination among wine producers!

Our objective is that we want to produce wine, but can't afford land and equipment yet, so Type 17/20 offers us a chance to be a start-up and grow into an Alternate Proprietorship-Type 2 and finally into a full fledged Type 2 license. Just like the CABC says on its Web site, and I quote, CABC “…is pleased to do our part to promote small business growth, expansion and productivity within the State. ….. We hope the following information will be helpful in developing a productive and profitable relationship with the ABC.” We hope this is true but it does not appear to be so.

The existing CABC licensing rules & regulations are unfair business and probably restraint of trade practices against differing wine consumer segments as well as the Type 17/20 wine producers.


Written by John Olney, September 11, 2007

Jon Bonné, Chronicle Wine Editor, with his article of September 7, 2007, titled: “Napa off the map Beyond the corporate players and cult hits is a side of the valley few people know,” brings forward the very interesting subject of the lesser known wine producers in California’s wine industry.

What the vast majority of wine consumers and writer's do not know is that there are 100’s of wine producers dispersed throughout the 23 producing areas of the State, that fall into the California Alcoholic Beverage Control (CABC) Type 17/20 license. These are wine producers from whom they could be tasting and buying wine except these wine producers DO NOT own or SHARE their own grape-into-wine processing equipment. Thus, their CABC license 17/20 restrictions prevent them from direct face-to-face contact with the wine consumer, including their own wine club members! You CANNOT visit them at their site nor can they visit you at your home, favorite restaurant or elsewhere. They can ONLY sell their wine directly to the wine consumer via the Internet; not even by phone call or fax.

Meanwhile, the CABC also issues another license type (CABC 2) and it is for those wine producers that own and/or share ownership/use of grape-to-wine production equipment. Holders of this type of license allow the wine producer to market and sell his/her wine directly, face-to-face, to the wine consumer, and/or through the use of phone, fax and the Internet.

The underlying problem is that many wine producers with a CABC Type 2 license (own/share grape processing equipment) feel that the Type 17/20 (do not own/share grape processing equipment) would be allowed to sell its wine without having to expend sufficient sums of money, such as the Type 2 have spent, yet the Type 17/20 can sell its wine at the same price as the Type 2. Thus the Type 2 feels that the Type 17/20 makes more off its wines! This simply is not the case!

From the standpoint of the wine consumer, they could be tasting and buying from the CABC Type 17/20 license holder if they knew about them except it is too difficult for the consumer to search and find them in cyberspace - the Internet.

Because of the Type 17/20 marketing and sales restrictions imposed on this license type these wine producers do not generally know of each other on any significant scale, thus they do not have their own trade association to advocate for them or to collectively and mutually market their products like the Type 2 have.

We are trying to organize Napa/Sonoma Type 17/20 into a cohesive body with the power to sway public opinion and change unfair laws while also exposing the consumer to their fabulous products and thus them to the consumer. We selected these two counties because they represent the largest number in the 23 State wine producing regions.

Our intentions are to produce and sell wine to the consumer primarily through our own wine club membership but also to others. However, since we cannot yet afford to own our own processing equipment, we will have to utilize the “for hire” services of a custom crush house. We reviewed CABC rules & regulations and find we will be seriously hampered in our efforts to sell our wine product. Thus, we went out to other similarly desirous wine producers and asked them to join us in getting the existing laws changed and in forming our own trade association to advocate our interests and mutually market our products. We have also gone to select state lawmakers representing the wine country.

We received a response from one of the wine producers who recently received a citation for illegally donating and pouring at a charity event. We also heard from a major wine trade association to our call for change. Both responses warned us that we should expect to receive strong resistance to our efforts from two sources - the Wine Institute and the Napa Valley Vintners.

Type 2 buy their equipment individually or pay for it on a lease-rent basis and share its use. For example, Napa Wine Company in Oakville owns equipment and produces their own wines, and they have 25 other small wine producers who pay them to use that equipment to make and store their own wine. These 25 are labeled "Alternative Proprietorship Type 2."

CABC Type 17 license holders use “for hire” operations to make their product. They pay a per-case or per-barrel price. Unless the Type 17/20 know how to make wine, they hire consulting winemakers. Many hire artists and marketing/promotions consultants to design and produce their label and their sales & distribution plans.

Based on all of the above, it can be seen that all wine producers, whether Type 2 or Type 17/20, expend money to process their grapes into wine. Some own, some lease, some rent and some contract out to a bonded facility to produce a wine product. But, they all spend money to derive essentially the same end product - wine - for sale to the consumer: the only difference being the stylistic approaches applied to each varietal by each wine producer.

To distinguish between the types of title on the equipment is simply an economic issue. Some can afford it all by themselves, some can only produce on shared bases and others must simply use “for hire” services. But it is all still just an economic issue. This being the case, then it can be said that the CABC licensing structure (and therefore the legislative acts that create it) must be changed to reflect the difference between the amounts of money that:

(1.) A giant 20 million cases per year CABC Type 2 producer manufactures and markets as compared to,

(2) a mid- sized Type 2 wine producer at 2 million cases per year,

(3) versus a small sized Type 2 wine producer at 20,000 cases per year,

(4) then all the above compared to the capital outlay that is made by a small Alternative Proprietorship Type 2 operation at 2,000 cases per year, and finally,

(5) all of the preceding levels of CABC Type 2 License holders need to be compared to a 200 cases per year Type 17/20 wine producer who buys grapes and has them crushed and processed by a bonded custom crush house.

All produce a wine product designed for sale to the wine consumer, but one segment of the wine producers are disallowed marketing and sales opportunities to the favor of the other segment that has almost no limits on reaching the end user- the wine consumer. Yet all have paid money for the use of bonded wine production facilities to create, in an environment protecting the safety, health and welfare of the people, a product that the consumer wants.

With the above in mind, we then looked at the licensing restrictions on the alcoholic beverage manufacturing of beer and distilled spirits. We did not find any evidence of restrictions being placed on how these beverage producers are allowed to market and sell their products based on the type of ownership of the beverage production facilities.

Unknowingly or knowingly, state legislators have denied a segment of the wine producers to market and sell their product on a level playing field with another segment of the wine producers. This is at least a case of lassie-faire or at worst, clearly consists of unfair business practices and restraint of trade by one market segment over another, as supported by state laws, in the same end product industry.

We looked at the statement by the 2006 ABC Director which was published on their Web site as quoted here. CABC “…is pleased to do our part to promote small business growth, expansion and productivity within the State. ….. We hope the following information will be helpful in developing a productive and profitable relationship with the ABC.” Added to this statement is the following quoted from the CABC on its Web site: “OUR BASIC PRINCIPLE …… we will meet our licensing, enforcement and regulatory mandates with honesty, impartiality, and the highest degree of concern for the people of the State....."

In light of all of the above, we feel that CABC has missed its mark in assisting the small wine producer while also denying the consumer equitable access to all legally produced wines!

The California wine production laws and CABC Rules & Regulations require revision to create a level playing field among all wine producers.

If you would like to read a complete report on our extensive analysis of the CABC licensing differences please feel free to reach Internet Web site postings listed below:


We have also prepared a possible structure for a CABC Type 17/20 Trade Association. Click here>>

Finally, we have designed proposed initial funding events. Click here:>>


Date: 8/29/2007 12:34:13 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time
From: Thewinecntryclb2
Reply To:

TO: California State Senator Pat Wiggins, California State Assemblywoman Noreen Evans, Ms Laurie Puzo, Napa Representative (for Evans) and Consultant To Assembly Select Committee On Wine, and Mr. Paul Kronenberg, President, Family Winemakers of California


My name is John Olney, founder of The Wine Country Club ( } which has been designing plans to eventually sell wine under its own label to its wine club members (in development) and the wine consumer in general.

I am writing to you to seek your opinion about, and possible support for, changing the California legislative acts that limit the marketing and sales opportunities of CABC Type 17/20 licenses holders to reaching the consumer by Internet only while allowing CABC Type 2 licenses holder’s almost unlimited access to the consumer.

We have written select Type 17/20 license holders and asked for their support to advocate for changes to the existing laws and subsequent rules & regulations. We received one response that suggested we contact you as it was mentioned that you might be in favor of seeing changes made to these laws, etc. We would welcome the opportunity to meet with you and discuss our issues.

We have also asked these Type 17/20 license holders to consider joining with us in forming a trade association (TA) which will hopefully include all CABC Type 17/20 wine producers, customer crush houses and the general wine consumers. This trade association would advocate for a change to the existing legislation, and rules & regulations. Additionally this TA would represent a collective platform by which to market all CABC Type 17/20 license holder members in a fashion similar to other existing wine-related trade associations featuring the CABC Type 2 license holders.

You can review our research and conclusions by opening our blog site at under the first narrative comments.

If you wish to read a summary overview of the issues and findings please click here>>>, It is titled: “A CALL TO CHANGE CALIFORNIA ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE CONTROL RULES & REGULATIONS FOR CABC TYPE 17/20 WINE PRODUCERS.”

If you would like to read a complete report on our extensive analysis of the CABC licensing differences please feel free to search through the postings listed below:
(This is a rather lengthy detailed examination of the issues as we see them)

We have also prepared a possible structure for a CABC Type 17/20 Trade Association. Click here>>

Finally, we have designed proposed initial funding events. Click here:>>

Please let us know your thoughts. Communications channels are shown below. Thanks for your time and we hope that we will hear from you.

John M. Olney, Founder
E-Mail: or
1325 Imola West, #409, Napa CA 94559 Phone: 707-299-9548

Maze of winery licensing & charity events

I attended the information meeting sponored by Assemblywaoman Evans and held at the Napa Librarary in February of 2007. At this meeting there was much discussion about the CA laws and subsequent CABC rules & regulations that limit donation and pouring of wine to Type 2 license holders only. As I disagree with this policy, I wrote the paper contained in the URL below:

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Draft books, published articles and comments

Draft books by John Olney
ABOUT WINE - Chapter 1: The Falling Leafs and Growing Seeds of Changing Times
“Entwined Vines” A novel about the changing wine production and politics of Napa Valley wine growers.

ABOUT SOSUS AND SOVIET SUBS IN THE PACIFIC - Synopsis and Chapter 1 - Chapters 2 through Four
“The SOSUS Man” A novel about Soviet submarine operations in the Pacific Ocean based on actual experience of Mr. Olney. Includes the detection and initial localization of the Soviet submarime that sank off of Hawaii and for which the USA used CIA funds to build the Glomar Explorer an the Howard Hughes Barge 1 which retrieved the submarine (or parts thereof) from over 16,000 feet depth. There are 16 chapters in draft form totaling 400 plus pages.

Articles and Comments written by

John Olney

Our Founder’s general comments about the Web sites of the pre-Prohibition Era wine producers. April 10, 2007

Our continued call for a change to the CA Laws applied to wine producers, September 28, 2007
Wine Tasting With Bardessono Vineyards, June 17, 2007
General Erasmus Darwin Keyes - Creator of the Edge Hill Estate. April 30, 2007 [Now owned by Leslie Rudd] Historical Site
THE AMERICAN WINE INDUSTRY HALL OF FAME - Initialization and Migration - This period is defined as the time from the first arrival of foreigners to the new world up to year about 1825, with the start of America’s great period when it was declared that it “was our manifest destiny to make the United States, one country reaching from coast to coast.” This became part of what is known as "The Monroe Doctrine." Includes Thomas Jefferson - Third President of the United States [1801-1809] (American Wine Industry contributions: 1773-1826).
THE AMERICAN WINE INDUSTRY HALL OF FAME - Expansionism & Refinement - The period starts from about 1825 and lasts through the enactment of Prohibition against the commercial production of alcoholic beverages in 1920 and up to Repeal of Prohibition in 1933. This is the period when grape wine moved from American varietals and their "foxy" taste to the palette on the East Coast to the pioneers moving to the West Coast and into production using European varietals with a much more refined after-taste.
Captain Paul Garrett -Virginia Dare Wine & Vine-Glo. (American Wine Industry contributions: 1900-1940) April 27, 2007
George Husmann (1827-1902) - A Wine Writer, Vineyard Manager and Wine Producer Extraordinaire. Candidate for Hall of Fame Induction. April 27, 2007 THE AMERICAN WINE INDUSTRY HALL OF FAME - Resurrection & Perfection - This period commences with Repeal of Prohibition in 1933 and goes to the present. This period constitutes when winemaking retreated from sweet, fortified wines and moved back to premium varietals and excellent generic wines produced in mass quantities. (This period of time is in development)
A West Coaster’s Look at New England Winegrowing Operations, March 28, 2007
Winegrower Dinner at Restaurant Cuvee Napa, March 25, 2007
A Francis Ford Coppola Movie Contest, February 27, 2007
Brass Sounds a at UVA’s, Februaray 23, 2007
A maze of winery licensing and charity events . Published in "Your Turn," Napa Valley Register Newspaper, Sunday, February 18, 2007
Voting for First Class of Vintner's Hall of Fame, February 12, 2007
R&B at UVA's in Downtown Napa, February 6, 2007
THE REZONING OF NAPA COUNTY - A Hypothetical Myth or could it Become a Reality? January 29, 2007
Collection of e-mails about voting for Vintner’s Hall of Fame, January 29, 2007
1st Annual Vintner's Hall of Fame Nominations - VINTNER’S HALL OF FAME - THOUGHTS AND SUGGESTIONS FOR POSSIBLE CONSIDERATION, January 29, 2007
A trade-Only Tasting at Frazier Winery - Napa , January 21, 2007
Jazz in Napa - OUT AND ABOUT NAPA, January 21, 2007
Tasting of VIE Wines - A Wine and Food Tasting, November 15, 2006
Tasting with Cuvée Napa and Modus Operandi, October 19, 2006
Alfred Loving Tubbs and the birth of Chateau Montelena, Published inThe St. Helena Star Newspaper, Thursday, August 3, 2006

A series on Judd’s Hill Winery of Napa
A VISIT TO JUDD’S HILL VINEYARDS AND WINERY IN CONN VALLEY, Part 2 of 3, “A Conversation with Holly -- The Mysterious Miss Mauna Loa -- of Judd’s Hill,” May 13, 2005.
A VISIT TO JUDD’S HILL VINEYARDS AND WINERY IN CONN VALLEY, Tasting Judd’s Hill a 1,000 feet up,” Part 3 of 3, June 22005.
The Stories Underlying The Niebaum-Coppola Estate - The Real Origins of Inglenook Vineyards, , June 20, 2005 [Now owned by Movie Mogul Francis Ford Coppola and renamed “Rubicon“] Historical Site
Festival in Clayton, CA - ART & WINE or ART & BEER ? May 3, 2005
Two-Part Article Historical Site - THE KRUG ESTATE - PART 1 -THE CHARLES KRUG ERA (Duration: 1860-1892) , April 5, 2005 [Now owned and operated by the Peter Mondavi Family]
Part 2 -- 2nd Krug Ranch Owner: James Kennedy Moffitt (Duration: 1892-1943), April 5, 2005 [Now owned and operated by the Peter Mondavi Family] Historical Site] Two-Part Article -

The following historical reviews was first published under the purview of Suite,
in its History Category under Elegant Old Wineries.
Morris M. Estee Creates Hedgeside Winery & Distillery - . May 9, 2005 [Now occupied by Del Dotto Vineyards] Historical Site
Bouchaine Vineyards - Progression of ownership: Boone (a.k.a. Boon) Fly, Johnny Garetto, Beringer Brothers. March 11, 2005 [Now owned by Gerret & Tatiana Van S. Copeland, a du Pont heir] Historical Site
CHATEAU MONTELENA - Alfred Lovering Tubbs: (1827 - 1896). The Major Business Enterprises: Tubbs Cordage Company, San Francisco; Tubbs Hotel, Oakland; Hillcrest Estate & Chateau Montelena Winery. March 11, 2005. Historical Site