How a Winery Nearly Destroyed By Wildfires and Ravaged by COVID Still Manages to Enchant Visitors

(Contributed by Avery Shive) I’ll never forget my first visit to Soda Rock Winery, located in Sonoma County outside the town of Healdsburg. My mother, two sisters and I had planned a glamorous girls weekend visiting top tier wineries in California Wine Country towards the end of November 2019. Our goal was to have fun, but to also support the wineries by visiting after the devastating fires that swept Sonoma County in October.

Avery
Avery and her sisters at Soda Rock Winery after Wildfires

Wildfires Rage Over Soda Rock Winery

When we heard about the affect the fires had on Soda Rock Winery, we planned on visiting to merely show our support but once we arrived, this winery became so much more than that. Upon arrival we saw that the historic winery, originally established in the 1880s, was almost burnt to the ground from the fires, but still parts of it had survived. The firefighters had managed to salvage some of the main rock wall, the barn, and the grapevines in the back of the winery. Following is a news video depicting the fire at Soda Rock:

A Humble Tasting Room in a Barn with Impeccable Service

When discovered that Soda Rock employees had set up a tasting room in a humble barn with a dirt floor. But from the ceiling there was a grand chandelier covered in crystals hanging over the tables and chairs which overlooked the vineyard. The service at the winery was impeccable, and we were given free tastes of as many wines as they had. I remember falling in love with a crisp chardonnay and a flavorful pinot noir. We were excited to purchase several bottles of wine to take home with us.

This experience was so memorable for me, because it was shortly after Soda Rock was nearly destroyed by the fires. However, not only did they continue to stay open, but all of the tasting room employees had smiles on their faces and were giving out discounts and free tastings. I was so inspired by the large number of people gathered to support such a historic winery, plus the positive and hopeful feeling in the air. It was a very beautiful wine experience, and I will always remember it.

Soda Rock
Soda Rock Winery Re-Opened After Wildfires

Soda Rock Winery Reopens After COVID Shut-Down

Even though Soda Rock winery was able to reopen after the devastating October wildfires of 2019, it was forced to shut down its tasting rooms in March of 2020 due to the COVID pandemic. However, this winery seems destined to rise from the ashes, because, in June 2020, it was able to re-open its tasting room in the vineyards outside the humble barn.

Currently they are offering a by appointment only tasting at a 6-foot segregated tables overlooking the vineyards. It includes 5 wines and a picnic lunch box prepared by Coyote Sonoma Chef Christopher for only $40 per person. For more information and/or to reserve a table, click HERE.

BRAND Napa Valley Launches #FromBRANDwithLove Giveback Sharing Package

Pritchard Hill winery, BRAND Napa Valley is running a giveback program, #FromBRANDwithLove for customers and Covid-19 first responders around the nation. Sharing the gift of wine, the “BRAND Care Package” is essentially a buy-1-get-1 for customers to spread the love with a distinguished bottle of wine and send another to a first responder as a token of appreciation for their selfless service.

Credit: BRAND Napa Valley, at Harvest 2019

BRAND Care Package

With the purchase of a $150 “BRAND Care Package”, worth $300 in value, customers receive a bottle of the prestigious 2016 BRAND Napa Valley BRIO Red Blend—an estate produced Bordeaux-style Red Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot—for the customer and for a first responder of their choice, who will receive an identical bottle at no cost to them. Customers can purchase the “BRAND Care Package” online, nominate their first responder, include a personalized note, provide shipping information.

Frank Family Vineyards Welcomes You Back to Napa with “Sweet Caroline” Parody

Frank Family Vineyards reopened for in-person, by-appointment tastings on June 10th. The entire Frank Family team celebrated the winery reopening with a music video parody of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline”, featuring Patrick Davis of Songwriters in Paradise on guitar and vocals. Frank Family’s Marketing Manager Marisa McCann wrote the lyrics, covering their new safety protocols in light of COVID-19 regulations, such as limited party sizes, outdoor seating, and requirement of personal face coverings.  

A Snapshot of the Welcome Back “Sweet Caroline” Parody. Credit: Frank Family Vineyards

Welcome Message From Owner Rich Frank

“While the world has changed, our passion for sharing wine and memories with our guests has not,” says Owner Rich Frank who plays the role of Welcome Crew, Dancer and Sign Holder in the video. “We are so grateful to welcome guests back to Frank Family. In addition to our patio seating, we’ve set up tables outside in our front courtyard so that guests may sit with proper distance between them, and also enjoy our beautiful surroundings.”  

Two Reservation-only Premium Tastings

Frank Family Vineyards is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., offering two tastings by reservation only: the “Estate Tasting” ($50) on the back patio, estate courtyard and on the front lawn, and the “Wines of Winston Hill Reserve Tasting” ($70) held only in the courtyard.

About Frank Family Vineyards
Frank Family Vineyards was founded in 1992 by former Disney Studios president Rich Frank. First constructed as the Historic Larkmead Winery in 1884, the stone building on property is the third oldest in Napa and appears on the national Register of Historical Places. Today, Frank Family owns over 380 acres of vineyards in the Napa Valley, and in 2015 received Napa Green certifications for both the land and winery. Frank Family’s reputation for having the friendliest hospitality in Napa Valley has fans flocking to the tasting room on Larkmead Lane, which was named “Best Napa Winery” by the Bay Area A-List for eight years in a row, making it one of the most popular tasting rooms in wine country. The Patriarch was recently ranked #5 in California Cabernet by Vivino and the 2016 Lewis Vineyard Chardonnay Reserve as one of the Top 30 White Wines of 2020 and awarded it the #2 best Chardonnay in Napa for 2020. Frank Family’s Napa Valley Chardonnay ($38), Pinot Noir ($38), Zinfandel ($38) and Cabernet Sauvignon ($58) are distributed nationally.

Historic St. Helena Winery Charles Krug is Now Ropened For In-Person Tastings

On June 9th, Napa’s oldest winery, Charles Krug reopened its St. Helena estate adhering to local guidelines, after being closed since March 16th in compliance with California’s statewide Shelter-in-Place order. The reopening comes with a variety of new protocols that go above and beyond county and state recommendations to ensure health and safety for everyone.

Charles Krug Winery, Napa Valley
The New Cabana at Charles Krug for Safe Wine Tasting.

A Pleasant Physically-Distanced Wine Experience

5 new WiFi-enabled cabanas within the winery’s Picnic Grounds will be unveiled with the reopening. Although the cabanas were already under construction before the Pandemic, they are particularly timely to facilitate efficient physically-distanced wine experiences. The winery’s diverse culinary offerings will still be available on a modified schedule: artisan pizzas from Charles Krug’s wood-fired Mugnaini oven will be available Friday through Sunday, while local culinary partner, Tre Posti, will offer both cheese and charcuterie plates, as well as grab-and-go items.

Additional Winery Safety Measures

On top of meeting Napa County’s official safety guidelines including face masks worn by employees, extra hygiene protocol and more, Charles Krug’s tasting room consulted with Winery Safety Officer AJ Perez to implement stricter standards:

  • Comprehensive “Deep Clean” disinfecting, misting of general and targeted touchpoints in all areas of the winery before Grand Opening
  • Appointment-only booking to limit occupancy within winery
  • Outdoor-only tasting, with wine delivered in pre-poured glasses. Wine service will be guided by a masked Wine Ambassador from a safe distance
  • All tables, furnishings, and flat surfaces will be sanitized after each guest visit
  • A concierge will manage customer flow and monitor physical distancing while guests are waiting to be seated, entering or leaving the property 
  • Touch-free transactions, with goods being placed directly in the guest’s car or carried out by customers as they prefer
  • Water will be served in single-serve recyclable containers
  • Restrooms are cleaned every 30-60 minutes

About Charles Krug:
In 1943, Italian immigrants Cesare and Rosa Mondavi purchased the historic Charles Krug property, the oldest winery in the Napa Valley and longest-running tasting room in California. The brand was built on a foundation of family values, hard work and a European winemaking tradition; it remains a family-owned winery today, producing estate-driven, top of the line Napa Valley wines. The wineries are under the direction of Peter Mondavi Jr. and Marc Mondavi, who steward the family business passed to them by their father, legendary Napa Valley wine icon Peter Mondavi Sr.  The family is now proudly welcoming members of the fourth generation to the business, continuing a legacy started over 70 years ago and setting a foundation for generations to come.

Hike, Picnic and Taste Wine at La Crema Winery’s New Outdoor Tasting Experience

As wineries slowly start re-opening in California, many are getting creative in the types of experiences they offer, because currently most tastings must be outdoors and include food. With this in mind, La Crema Winery took advantage of their beautiful Saralee’s Vineyard property to offer walking tours and picnics in the relaxing gardens surrounded by rolling vineyards.

Guests must make a reservation online in advance. When they arrive, they are provided with a map of suggested walking trails to explore the vineyards and take in the beautiful vistas of the Russian River Valley. Upon conclusion of the walking tour, they receive a pre-packed cheese and charcuterie picnic box with an estate wine to continue the La Crema outdoor experience at home or on the Estate, including at Richard’s Grove, the beautiful, expansive great lawn adjacent to the vineyards.

La Crema has prioritized safety by conducting training with its tasting room and culinary staff. All employees must wear facial coverings, conduct pre-shift health screenings, and thoroughly sanitize surfaces prior to and following all visits. Hand sanitizer stations are also available for guests. La Crema is following all the hygiene and health requirements consistent with CDC guidelines.

Reservations are available daily at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., and can be booked online  HERE. The experience, which includes the walking tour, lunch, and a bottle of wine is $100 per couple.

Photos courtesy of La Crema.com

 

 

Innovative Winery Launches Nature Hikes and Wine-Tasting Picnics with Social Distancing

American wineries have shown much innovation in reaching out to wine consumers via virtual tastings, tours, and other online methods due to the closing of tasting rooms with COVID19. However, one winery has found a very unusual means of connecting with consumers again by scheduling educational nature hikes in Sonoma County.

2017-4-28 Jordan Winery Spring Vineyard Hike Sonoma Hiking Drone 1 WEB SIZE

Hiking at Jordan Winery, Sonoma County, California

This weekend, Jordan Winery is set to become the first winery to reopen in Napa and Sonoma, using the Sonoma County park/trail reopening health order (effective on May 13) as its path. These educational nature hike packages for two include a  guided hike across our 1,200-acre ranch, and a charcuterie picnic and wine to-go to enjoy at home. (No food and wine can be consumed on the property to keep in compliance with the governor’s current mandate.) Social distancing rules are respected, so that visitors have plenty of space as they hike past vineyards and magnificent oak trees.

Nature hike tickets are now on sale for $110 per person/$220 per couple.  All details (pricing, available dates, times, picnic menu):
https://www.jordanwinery.com/visit/tours-and-tastings/nature-hike

Jordan will be offering nature hikes on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from May 23 to June 7. Each week, they will evaluate the county health order updates to decide if they need to open up more hikes.

Prosecco Production Keeps Up With Growth Projections Amid Covid-19 Concerns

According to the Prosecco DOC Consortium, data from end of March showed that Prosecco DOC production quantities continue to meet expected demand to meet growth projections at least until the next harvest, despite current supply chain impacts of Covid-19. Available quantities ending April 1 amounted to at least 2,217,000 hectoliters, with an extra 550,000 hl in reserves from the 2019 vintage if demand increases.

Vineyard in Prosecco Region

Ongoing Challenges

However, multiple challenges remain which the Consortium is closely monitoring. According to Stefano Zanette, President of Prosecco DOC Consortium, the 2020 harvest is expected to have lower than average fertility. Additionally, producers with a short supply chain and those who do not operate with mass retailers are said to need greater financial and operational support. Overall wine consumption may decline as a direct result of Covid-19.

Supportive Measures

The Consortium Prosecco DOC emphasized their priority in maintaining market stability and preventing speculative actions, help producers increase liquidity for investment, and focus on producing higher value wines on a regional basis. The Consortium is prepared to implement legal and financial measures to support if the need arises.

About The Prosecco DOC Consortium

Prosecco

Prosecco was granted the Controlled Designation of Origin status on July 17th, 2009, and the Prosecco DOC Consortium (Consorzio di Tutela della Denominazione di Origine Controllata Prosecco) was created on November 19th of the same year to coordinate and manage the Prosecco DOC. The organization unites the different groups of manufacturers—wineries, individual and associated vine-growers, still wine and sparkling wine producers—to ensure the designation continues to grow and that the production regulations are complied with.

About Prosecco DOC

Prosecco DOC wines come in Spumante (sparkling), Frizzante (semi-sparkling) and Tranquillo (still) varieties. The wines are made from mainly the Glera grape, native to North East Italy for thousands of years, and can be combined with a maximum of 15% of the following grapes: Verdiso, Bianchetta Trevigiana, Perera, Glera lunga, Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio and Pinot Nero. Prosecco Frizzante and Spumante varieties get their famous bubbles using the Secondary Fermentation production method, bottled under high pressure after fermentation in bulk tanks called autoclaves, as opposed to the traditional method, which bypasses the autoclaves and is used for other sparkling wine varieties. The end result is a brilliant straw yellow wine with fine, persistent perlage and aromas of white flowers, apple and pear. It is fresh and elegant on the palate with moderate alcoholic strength. For more information regarding Prosecco DOC, visit www.casaprosecco.com.–

South African Wines Now Shipping Again After COVID Halt

During the middle of harvest season for South African vintners in March, business activity was ordered to stop by their Government to mitigate the spread of Covid-19. Alcohol production, national sales and tasting rooms were prohibited, followed by an export ban on April 16th, grinding the entire industry ­(except sanitizing alcohol) to a halt. 

Vineyard in South Africa

Wines of South Africa

Wines of South Africa, the organization representing all exporting South African wine producers, has been actively lobbying to lift restrictions. Their efforts were successful when Minister Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma announced permission of packaged and bulk wine export activities, including procurement, transport, manufacturing and related services to resume starting May 1st.   

Economic value 

According to Wines of South Africa, wine is their nation’s second largest agricultural export, amounting to $500 million in foreign revenue annually. The wine industry contributes $2.6 billion USD to national GDP and creates 290,000 jobs annually.

This several-week ban has lasting implications: apart from estimated $53 million lost revenue, Wines of South Africa estimates at least 3 months but likely longer for an average order to be fulfilled, as the entire supply chain gradually resumes with continuing restrictions, strict safety protocols, and new rules to be followed.     

New Relief Fund to Pay Restaurants to Cook for Those in Need – Jordan Winery Donates $150,000

Sonoma Family Meal, a disaster-focused non-profit providing chef-made meals to those in need, announces the creation of the Restaurant Disaster Relief Fund—a new initiative to help restaurants remain open for disaster-relief cooking by providing healthy, chef-made meals to those in desperate need of food. John Jordan, the owner of Jordan Winery, and the John Jordan Foundation have made a $150,000 investment in the fund, and the non-profits are teaming up for a match drive to raise an additional $150,000.

Jordan-Winery-Events-Healdsburg-FOOTER-Z7A3446
“With many businesses shuttered, demand for prepared meals is at an all-time high due to the Coronavirus pandemic,” said Heather Irwin, founder of Sonoma Family Meal. “If we reach our goal of $300,000 to fully fund this program, we will be able to pay at least 20 restaurants and caterers to produce up to 100,000 meals for thousands of seniors and families facing food scarcity over the next four months.” SFM hopes to put at least 100 restaurant workers back on the payroll, keep restaurants operational, support hard costs and create income to reopen in the future.

Gerard’s Paella in Santa Rosa, the Girl & the Fig in Sonoma, Chacho’s Catering in Windsor and Preferred Sonoma Catering in Petaluma are the first four restaurants operating as relief kitchens for the new disaster relief fund.“These meals mean that our staff will have hours and normalcy in their lives right now,” said Petaluma caterer Amber Balshaw of Preferred Sonoma Catering. Her company is producing more than 600 meals per week for Sonoma Family Meal’s clients. The initiative also helps support small family farms and local food producers by purchasing their products for use in restaurants.

To make a donation, visit https://sonomafamilymeal.networkforgood.com/projects/96348-jordan-foundation.

To apply as a restaurant, visit https://www.sonomafamilymeal.org/for-restaurants/.

The $150,000 investment from Jordan will allow SFM to keep the doors open at least 12 struggling restaurants and caterers throughout the county currently providing meals, purchase 42,000 to-go containers (compostable or reusable) and provide 65,000 meals. Irwin estimates that SFM needs $300,000 to add at least 20 restaurants and food purveyors, expand our relief network and continue to provide services until mid-June, the projected time frame of increased need during this crisis.

“The owners of successful businesses have a responsibility to help those less fortunate throughout the years,” said John Jordan, who started his foundation in 2012. “But during times of crisis, we have to lean in and find ways to do even more.”

The Jordan $150,000 donation is not contingent upon reaching the match drive goal and has already been received by Sonoma Family Meal. According to Irwin, the idea for the Restaurant Disaster Relief Fund was born from the work with chef Kyle Connaughton of SingleThread Farms in Healdsburg, the Michelin-starred restaurant that piloted the Sonoma Family Meal program in mid-March and has been cooking 200 meals a day since then, each meant to feed four people. SingleThread began raising money from investors, wineries, and restaurant guests to fund their production of donation meals for Sonoma Family Meal. SingleThread and two other Healdsburg restaurants—Mateo’s Cocina Latina and PizZando—are continuing to cook meals for Sonoma Family Meal and are raising money through their own network of donors to fund their operations. Guests who order takeout from SingleThread through Tock also have the option to donate meals to their Sonoma Family Meal program.

“It’s absolutely incredible how John and the John Jordan Foundation have stepped up to support Sonoma Family Meal and the community here,” Connaughton said. “Not only does it get more meals out to those in need locally, it supports our Sonoma County chefs and restaurants to produce these meals and use local products from our farms and artisans.”

About Sonoma Family Meal

Founded in 2017, Sonoma Family Meal is a disaster-focused, 501c3 non-profit that provides safe, chef-made meals to those who need it most. Working with established non-profits, meals will go to seniors in peril, families, women’s emergency shelters and to underserved communities who are struggling through tragic and unprecedented emergencies. Learn more at sonomafamilymeal.org.

About the John Jordan Foundation

Founded in 2012, the John Jordan Foundation was created to provide under-resourced children and families with the tools needed to succeed educationally and professionally, from cradle to career. Proceeds from Jordan Winery, owned by John Jordan, fund the foundation, which has invested in thousands of families through education, after-school enrichment, financial stability and health programs. To date, the foundation has supported more than 220 partner organizations by direct investment, coalition building and capacity building for non-profits. Learn more at johnjordanfoundation.org or www.jordanwinery.com.