Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Mario Bazán Cellars

A Tasting With a CDABC Type 17 & 20 License Holder

By John Olney, February 11, 2009

Copyright February, 16, 2009, all rights reserved by Wine Country Marketing and Promotions,
1325 Imola West, #409, Napa, CA Web site: Phone: 707-299-9548 E-mail:

CDABC License Allowances and Restrictions
Before going any further, let me explain what CDABC stands for - it’s the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. Their website is /. “The mission of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control is to administer the provisions of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act in a manner that fosters and protects the health, safety, welfare, and economic well being of the people of the State.”

The federal agency, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (referred to as “TTB”), issues licenses for facilities to be bonded wineries. Their web site is . Then CDABC applies additional rules and regulations to these facilities. In simplistic terms, a Type 17& 20 license holder means that a facility has no winemaking equipment and thus uses the services of an individual winery or the services of what is a relatively new entity called a “Custom Crush House” to process grapes and/or its juice into a finished wine product for the client.

A CDABC Type 17 license is called a “Beer and Wine Wholesaler.” A CDABC Type 20 license is called an “Off sale Beer and Wine License.” This licensing combination comes with a number of curious restrictions, the most disturbing of which is that possessors CANNOT have direct, face-to-face contact, or sell their wine directly to the wine consumer EXCEPT if contact with the wine consumer is transacted via the Internet, telephone or fax. They can, however, have direct, face-to-face contact with representatives “in the trade,” such as brokers, wholesalers, retailers, media (which is where I come into play), etc. Because of this restriction from the wine consumer, the CDABC Type 17 & 20 license holders became known as “Virtual Wineries.” They are only wineries in terms of cyberspace!

There is another important exception to the wine consumer contact restriction. CDABC 17 & 20 license holders were just recently approved by the state legislative bodies to be allowed to contribute their wine to qualified charity events and they can even pour their wines at such events directly to the wine consumer in attendance at such events.

Tasting Bazán Wine and the Owners & Winemaker Backgrounds
But I don’t want to go any further about this licensing process and its restrictions before informing you of the wine tasting experience I had with growers, Mario and Gloria Bazán, ( ) who came to Napa in 1973 from Oaxaca, México. After I report on our tasting meeting, I will fill you in on the licensing plight of this lovely winegrowing couple and their consulting winemaker, Ms Victoria Coleman, a complete new and fresh discovery for the future of Napa wines.

Upon his arrival in Napa, Mario first worked for Joseph Phelps Vineyards and then Vyborny Vineyard Management Co. He then moved on to the Robert Mondavi Winery Company where, in in 1982, he was placed in charge of outside vineyard management for Opus One, Sonapa and To-kalon Vineyards. After 16 years at Mondavi, he moved to Stag's Leap Wine Cellars where he meet and worked with Michael Silacci, winemaker, and Julia Winiarski, owner. It is also during this timeframe when he met his winemaker-to-be. He remained with Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars until 1997 at which time he started his own business, “Mario Bazán Vineyard Management.”

Victoria Coleman is the winemaker. She began working with Mario Bazán in 2004 at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars where she received her initial winemaking training under the supervision of winemaker Michael Silacci. Victoria graduated UC Davis in June, 2008.

The 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon is the first vintage of this winemaking venture. They produced 250 cases from grapes picked on the 1.25 acre vineyard of the Bazán’s located near the intersection of Monticello and Atlas Peak in the eastern hills of Napa.

On Wednesday afternoon, February 11, the Bazán’s, Victoria and I met to experience their first vintage Cab at the very comfortable downtown Cuvee Napa Restaurant lounge ( . Cuvee waives corkage fees on Wednesday so it was a great way to meet and taste a small winery’s product. Victoria insisted that we decant the bottle to bring up its fruit and smoothness. She’s the winemaker, so who was I to disagree with her? About 10 to 15 minutes passed after the bottle was transferred when she allowed me to start my tasting process. The nose proved to be delightful and the color deep cab red. I took a very small taste just, wetting my pallet waiting to see how it would hold up and finish, as I pushed the wine back in my mouth. I liked it right away as the tannin was not overwhelming and neither was the oak influence (55% new/45% used French).

I like a Cab that is still on the back of my pallet when I go to try a second taste and this wine had that as I started swirling the wine to try and drive even more of the 14.6 alcohol off to see if the fruit would come up yet more. The alcohol went down and the fruit came up! I truly enjoy wines in which I can taste the fruit and not just oak and tannins. The Bazán Cab did just that!

Victoria and I discussed the opium date for this wine to be at it its best. Although very drinkable now we basically agreed that about five maybe eight years out might really bring out the quality of the fruit.

Now, regarding my recommendation to the consumer, here is where we run into a problem: the consumer cannot taste the wine unless it is presented by a broker/wholesaler/retailer before buying it. Mario Bazán Cellars is offering the 2005 Cab at the hefty price of $72/btl retail. None of the normal wine writer’s - all of which conduct many more tasting events than I - have tasted the wine and compared it to other Cabs similarly priced to measure up it‘s value. It’s all right that it suits my pallet just fine l but I am not every consumer.

So what is the consumer to do? For now, I recommend the consumer watch the Bazán web site and look for a charity event at which they may be pouring and then go to that event to experience this very pleasing wine. Also watch the Bazán web site to read any new reviews they may have received on their wine from other wine writers. Meanwhile, I’m going to e-mail my wine writer contacts and request that they review Mario’s wine and add their report to their own web site readers with copy to Mario.

The Future for Mario Bazán Cellars
While we were tasting I sought information about how they were marketing their product. Probably the greatest concern was the number of trade tasting events in which they could possibly participate given a production output of only 250 cases. At this production level, there will be few distributors interested in representing their wine as there will be little commission for the salesperson or profit to be gained for the company. Obviously they cannot conduct too many charity donation events and have much product remaining to sell.

So, the optimum marketing tool is the Internet where they can legally reach out to the consumer and sell their product directly at full retail price. Under this marketing strategy they could thus save money to eventually build their own winery facility. We then discussed how they were going to be identified and found among the over 5,000 winery Web sites on the Internet in just the USA. As I explained to them, there are a number of varietal advocacy groups and appellation advocacy associations that they should attempt to join and cross link with so that both the winery member and the advocacy agency can receive expanded exposure.

As Mario Bazán Cellars is located in Napa County, it has significant advocacy group possibilities to consider but some of the most important groups will not let a CDABC License Type 17 & 20 join them, or their membership fees are too great an amount for such a small operation to absorb.

Sadly, the CDABC License Type 17 & 20 are not known among themselves as evidenced by the fact they have not formed their own advocacy group to lobby for CABC Act and CDABC Rules & Regulations changes to allow them to compete on a level playing field basis with all the other winery/cellar license types.

For Mario Bazán Cellars I see only two ways to truly market their wine: first and foremost is that they bite the wholesale versus retail dollar bullet and hit the restaurant circuit to get their wine placed in front of the consumer and second that they start contacting the other CDABC License Type 17 & 20 wine producers and convince them to join forces as their own advocacy group. Neither one of these are going to be easy tasks!

I am in the process of drafting a point paper on the subject of CABC Type 17 & 20 license holders and how they are being unfairly discriminated against. I will also address the fact that they are suffering from restraint of trade conditions legislated against them by governmental agencies that, knowingly or unknowingly, are possibly being influenced by others in the commercial wine production industry of California.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The CIA funding of Glomar Explorer salvage attempt of a sunken Soviet Submarine, K-129

Well. it is begunnung,  The article below is going to be just the first of many.  I'm just glad I was able to play a tiny role in the whole operation as we detected the sub just outside Petropavlvsk harbor as she began her mission

I just received my copy of the newly released documentatary film about a Soviet Submarine operation in which I was involved in the first detection of the boat after it started its patrol from the Soviet submarine port of Petropavlask, Kamchatca Pennisula, in late February 1968.  At the time,  I was the Evaluation Cemter Officer at the headquarters of a system known by the acronym "SOSUS."  It stands for SOund SUrvellience System, which back then was a super secret  land based Anti Submarine Warfare platform providing frontline early warning to Washington D.C. military leaders of  Soviet missile launching capable submarine threats on both coasts.  

This Soviet submarine threat  is one of the five Soviet submarine transit operations that I use in my novel,The SOSUS Man.”  You can read my synopsis and first couple chapters of my book by clicking here:  

This is a system which, at the real time in 1968,  we thought it had detected the explosion or implosion of this submarine in March 1968 but as I learned through the discovery and release of information by Michael’s work, which was previously unknown to me and my command senior officers, indicates we were incorrect in our real time post- analysis re-examination and reporting of a possible detection.

The documentary film is described below:

Produced, written and directed by Michael White Films, Vienna Austria;(please scroll down for purchasing information)

“AZORIAN - The raising of the K-129 

A mysterious CIA cold war operation.
A secret journey into the oceans depths
A challenge of ingenuity and imagination
A story of man’s unprecedented resolve"
Michael’s work, through his team of consulting experts, information data collection and verification technical advisor and meticulous computer animation and graphics by his production staff, have woven a factual visual presentation and story about one of the most controversial events undertaken by our CIA.

This is a spectacular documentary film which finally appears to have revealed all of the highly classified sensors, intelligence, detection and tracking, sinking, search & localization and ultimate salvage attempt of a Soviet diesel-electric ballistic missile launching capable submarine during the height of the cold war period of 1968-1973 in the middle of the North Pacific Ocean.

Purchasing information follows: (extracted from Web-site of Michael White Films)

"Please help DVD copyright protection. This DVD can only be purchased new via this website  [    ]. If you purchase this DVD new elsewhere, you are buying an illegal copy that is not authorised by the Producer of this film. Title: Azorian The Raising of the K-129 (Region 0/PAL - DVD)
Language: English
Run Time: 104 minutes
Sound: Dolby 5.1
Rating: NR
Format: 16:9 PAL
Please note: You are buying a PAL/DVD. Please check your DVD Players compatibility.Price: € 33.00 Applicable taxes included. Without shipping.
To see total price please choose your country, quantity and shipping speed."

Monday, February 09, 2009


By John Olney

Baron’s Ball,September 20, 2008

I find disturbing that on September 20, 2008, COPIA conducted the “Baron’s Ball at the St. Regis Hotel, San Francisco” which a November 1, 2008 article by the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the 25 lots auctioned off “…raised $922,000, placing it among the nation’s top fundraising wine auctions. Ticket sales also contributed to the total.”

The COPIA Web site for this event states the following: “Proceeds will benefit COPIA’s children’s education programs and environmental and sustainability programs.”

And yet only six (6) days later, on Friday September 26, Napa COPIA announced:

24 of its 84 employees were laid off

It would be closed Monday through Thursday, each week until the spring of 2009

Its new plan to open a satellite for-profit COPIA in San Francisco

But, Napa COPIA had yet another profound announcement; on Friday, November 21, just a little over two months after the announcements of cut backs, lay-offs and possibilities of opening for-profit satellite branches, it announced it was terminating all operations, effective that very day, with no advance word to:

Contracted performers

Prepaid ticket holders

COPIA’s own
Then just 13 days later, on December 1st, at the end of the day, Napa COPIA shut down totally with the filing of Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. And once again there was no advanced warning to the remaining employees of Napa COPIA.

What I don’t understand is how Napa Copia managed to spend an average of about $461,000 per month from the end of September through the end of November, about a two-month period, expending all the Baron’s Ball auction proceeds (AKA donations) made at the September 20 function at the exclusive St Regis Hotel, and not have made the following payments:

Interest payment on the about $78 million in outstanding bonds obligations

Employee payroll & accrued vacation time, and employer deposits of
employee payroll deductions along with employer’s required matching

Payment on some 380 plus separate vendor invoices.

So, where did the almost $1 million in Baron’s Ball donations go? By the way, I can find nothing on the COPIA web site that spells out what the children’s education fund does in terms of programs.

$1 million State Grant

Interestingly enough, and as reported previously by the SACBEE, COPIA received a $1 million grant from the state Department of Parks and Recreation, The grant was made because of a 2002 bill which created the Historical and Cultural Resources Preservation Opportunity Fund. The grant program has the goal of pursuing the "preservation or interpretation of buildings, structures, sites, places, or artifacts, or any combination thereof, that preserve and demonstrate culturally significant aspects of California history." There is very important catch to the grant which the SACBEE article pointed out, and I quote the article: “Copia's potential troubles with the grant stem from a requirement that projects funded by the money stay open to the public for a minimum of 20 years.”

The SACBEE article goes on to describe the potential mess this $1 million grant can represent to the marketability of the COPIA land:

“But even before it filed for Chapter 11, Copia wanted to sell its south garden property and use the $10 million it hoped to get to reduce debt, documents show.

Parks department officials told Copia, however, that if it sold the land and did not relocate state-funded items to public access areas, it would have to refund at least part of the grant, letters show.

Copia said it would relocate the children's garden and planned to refund money for the dais after the land sale.

The parks department, though, is not listed as a Copia creditor in the bankruptcy filing. A Copia spokeswoman declined to comment on how Monday's filing affects its pledge to relocate the garden and pay back the money.”

So, why isn’t this liability listed?

I should think that just these two above incidents should require the bankruptcy court to order a special third party audit of COPIA’s books.

"A magnificent emporium from Copia's ashes"

Friday, January 02, 2009
(Opinion page of the Napa Valley Register)
By John Olney

     The entire corridor from Napa River Terrace Street, going along McKinstry to First Street, and then running west and east between Soscol and Silverado Trail, ceased to be an area designed for the vast majority of Napa County residents the day construction began on the redevelopment of the Napa River Oxbow shoreline and properties.With the opening of the Napa River Terrace Inn, Oxbow Public Market, and most recently the Westin Verasa hotel and apartments, this eastern subdivision is becoming the Boardwalk and Park Place of Napa. It should be named “The Copia Oxbow Riverwalk & Drive of Napa Valley.” None of the aforementioned facilities, including the defunct Copia complex, could have been constructed north of Napa because of the land-use constraints of the Agricultural Preserve codes and regulations. These restrictions drove these enterprises to the Oxbow District.
     Clearly, all the existing commercial properties described here, and what could be envisioned to be coming in the near future, will mark this highly valuable property as equal to Rodeo Drive of Beverly Hills, South of Market in San Francisco, downtown Walnut Creek’s redevelopment district and the Santana Row complex of downtown San Jose.The Napa River Oxbow area already represents large tourist room tax, employment salary tax, sales and property tax revenues to the city. As such, you will not see the property under-utilized economically for such noble social benefits — but unprofitable ventures — as teen clubs, skating rinks, farmers markets, jails, homeless shelters and similar projects that could never produce the revenues that such valuable property does and will represent in the near future under development by commercial, for-profit ventures.
     Any realistic market assessment plan for this Boardwalk and Park Place property must not only analyze the product that developer and merchant interests plan to offer, but it must also consider the consumer who is most likely to visit the area. Copia leaders offered the concept of their products of wine, food and art, and then searched for a consumer market that they thought was just sitting around waiting for them. Their assessment was wrong!
     Realistically, the visitor to a tourism area such as Napa has five goals in mind: wine, food, shopping, entertainment and lodging. Developers and merchants should plan to cater to those who stay at the expensive existing lodging facilities both adjacent to and located just short distances away from the Copia complex, as well as future luxury facilities planned for and developed in the Napa River Oxbow area.
     Thus, any concepts for the property must consider the marketable consumer already being attracted to the area because of the lodging facilities, the excursion train and the public marketplace, and package those with fresh marketing concepts that could attract additional consumers to the area.
     They should plan stores, shops and entertainment products attractive not only to the business visitor and tourist but also to the more affluent residents, part-time residents and absentee property/business owners associated with Napa County. These same facilities will also occasionally attract the other residents of Napa County looking for unique jewelry, clothes or gifts for a lover or mate, a night out of celebration and other special events in their lives.
     Specifically, the defunct Copia complex, rising in the middle of the Napa River Oxbow Redevelopment Area, could be transformed into a magnificent emporium offering business travelers, tourists and more affluent locals the upscale facilities they routinely desire, while also offering the remaining locals shopping, dining and entertainment facilities they would no longer have to travel out of town to find in order to satisfy their special occasion needs. As envisioned, Copia would contain art studios, jewelry studios, brand-name men’s and women’s clothing shops, coffee shops, wine tasting rooms, specialty delis, small upscale restaurants and other, similar merchant offerings.
     They should plan facilities to attract the guests from the Meritage Resort, Napa River Inn, the Riverfront complex, Silverado Resort, Auberge Du Soleil, Meadowood Resort, Calistoga Ranch, Solage and other similar upscale facilities catering to those desiring the wine country lifestyle. These are the consumers who also travel to Auction Napa Valley, the Mustard Festival, Robert Mondavi Winery concerts, harvest parties, golf courses and the many membership club events held at more than 200 wineries within Napa County. They fly in, take a limo in or drive themselves in for the amenities that Napa now offers and will expand in the future.