Monday, March 23, 2015




The San Luis Obispo (SLO) Wine Country Association is charging into its 25th anniversary year with fresh energy, reinventing its signature “Roll Out The Barrels” event as a month-long celebration of immersive wine adventures at various wineries throughout April.

“This is a time to not only celebrate our roots, but also to change things up and build upon our momentum as an up-and-coming wine region,” said Heather Muran, executive director of SLO Wine Country, the intimate coastal winegrowing region in southern San Luis Obispo County on California’s Central Coast.

The new Roll Out The Barrels experience begins on the week of April 6, and concludes at the end of the week of April 27. The entire month will offer a variety of winery adventures and activities on an a la carte basis, organized by weekly themes such as “Taste The Coast,” “Farm to Fork” and “Sustainability & Heritage.” Examples of these adventures include:

  • Comparative barrel tastings with Winemaker Stephen Dooley at Stephen Ross Wine Cellars, allowing guests to experience the differences between newer and older barrels, different types of French oak and more. 
  • A ranch hike with Winemaker Peter Cron of Filipponi Ranch Cellars, to conclude with wine tasting, artisan cheeses and local barbecued sausage. 
  • A hands-on tour of Talley Farms followed by a gourmet lunch at Talley Vineyards, with Chef Dave Schmit featuring seasonal Talley Fresh Harvest vegetables paired with Talley’s newly released Chardonnays.

The final week of Roll Out The Barrels will feature the “Barrels in The Plaza” wine and food pairing event at Mission Plaza in San Luis Obispo on Thursday, April 30. A full schedule of adventures and events is forthcoming.

While commercial wine was first produced in SLO Wine Country in the late 19th century, it wasn’t until the 1970s that the modern wine industry began to emerge locally. The formation of the SLO Wine Country Association in 1990 marked a turning point, with local wineries banding together to create a unified organization dedicated to serving and promoting the region. This year, the association is not only celebrating its 25th anniversary, but also embarking on a new five-year strategic plan.
“The history of SLO Wine Country is very deep and diverse,” Muran said. “At the same time, we feel like we are really hitting our stride right now. The reinvented Roll Out The Barrels celebration is an example of how we are staying true to our roots while embracing a fresh direction.”



There is so much more to Dawn Wells than Mary Ann of GILLIGAN’S ISLAND (the longest running sitcom still showing worldwide in over 30 languages!)

She’s an actress, producer, author, spokesperson, journalist, motivational speaker, teacher, and chairwoman of the Terry Lee Wells Foundation--focusing on women and children in Northern Nevada.

She has starred in over 150 tv shows, and 7 motion pictures, including WINTERHAWK (which she also narrated), THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN (with Andrew Prine), SUPER SUCKER (with Jeff Daniels), THE NEW INTERNS, IT’S OUR TIME, and most recently, SILENT BUT DEADLY.

She has starred in 60+ theatrical productions from Noel Coward to Neil Simon, as well as the National Tours of CHAPTER TWO and THEY’RE PLAYING OUR SONG.  Favorite productions include FATAL ATTRACTION with Ken Howard, THE ODD COUPLE with Marcia Wallace, THE ALLERGIST’S WIFE, STEEL MAGNOLIAS (Ouiser), and THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES.

Dawn has starred as Gingy in LOVE. LOSS AND WHAT I WORE (by Nora and Delia Ephron) in New York, Chicago, Delaware, Scottsdale, and San Jose.

She was the “castaway correspondent” for Channel 9 (Sydney, Australia) interviewing such actors and directors as Robin Williams, Eddie Murphy, Julia Roberts, Rene Russo, Mel Gibson, Ron Howard, and Richard Donner.

And recently just presented Sandra Bullock with a Coconut Cream Pie, as the two women both knew what it’s like to be stranded, for the premiere of GRAVITY.

As a producer, she brought two Movies of the Week to CBS:  SURVIVING GILLIGAN’S ISLAND, and RETURN TO THE BAT CAVE, with Adam West.  She ran her Film Actors Boot Camp for 7 years in Idaho.

In connection with the 50th anniversary of the unexpected hit series "Gilligan's Island," Dawn (who portrayed the lovable farm girl next door, Mary Ann Sommers), has released "A Guide To Life: What Would Mary Ann Do?" through Taylor Trade Publishing and Rowman and Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc.

Dawn has just completed three stage productions in 2013 including "Love Letters," "Steel Magnolias" and off Broadway in "Love, Loss & What I Wore."  She is currently working on the idea of a new reality show "Hunter History" as well as a new book entitled "A Guide To Life: Why We Love Mary" to be released this year.


Monday, March 16, 2015




Lester and Linda met when they were both students at the University of Cape Town, South Africa in the 1960s. Lester, the son of a lawyer and a farmer, was studying geology at the time while Linda, a pianist and composer, was studying music. They spent their limited budget and leisure hours eating at restaurants and drinking the local wine. Subsequently, Lester graduated as an attorney and Linda completed her degree in music composition and music theory. They were married in 1967. Nine years later the couple moved to California where Lester practiced law as an attorney in San Francisco and Linda studied Arts Administration and soon joined her professor's arts oriented consulting group that advised non-profit arts organizations.

In 1988, Lester, longing for the country life he had experienced as a young boy, found a large acreage of virgin property in the high coastal ridges overlooking the Pacific Ocean, above the old Russian Settlement of Fort Ross. He and Linda purchased the land and built an African inspired home, featuring the round and oval rooms common in tribal architecture that offered dramatic views of the surrounding terrain.

The vineyard project began in 1991 with Lester ordering two dozen dormant rootstocks. When these initial plantings proved successful, Linda enrolled in the Viticulture Program at Santa Rosa Junior College in Sonoma County and attended classes at U.C. Davis. Linda discovered she had a green thumb and an affinity for heavy machinery. She bought an old backhoe, a bulldozer and other heavy equipment and, with Lester as the operator, they decided to plant a test vineyard with 16 different varieties, three different trellis systems, assorted clones and different rootstocks. After four years, they concluded that the area was ideal for growing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and in 1994 began installing the first seven vineyard blocks.

Over the next ten years, with the help of their small crew, they installed sub-surface drainage systems, built a reservoir and drip irrigation system, designed and erected a trellis system with additional foliage wires to minimize unwanted shade from the vines, constructed seven miles of fencing to keep out the deer and wild boar and finally, after planting selected rootstocks, field grafted scion budwood of those field selections and clones that they had carefully chosen to best reflect the terroir of each vineyard block. Lester and Linda remembered the Pinotage from their early years in South Africa. They sourced bud wood from two of the best blocks in South Africa and were the first private growers to import grapevine cuttings through the Foundation Plant Services that operates alongside the U.C. Davis School of Viticulture and Enology.

In 2009, Lester and Linda were introduced to Jeff Pisoni, the gifted winemaker of Pisoni Vineyards in the Santa Lucia Highlands, who is known for his extraordinary wines produced from the family’s estate property. According to Jeff, “I tasted the Fort Ross Vineyard Pinot Noir and Chardonnay at the Ritz Carlton and was struck by the luscious fruit, fine minerality and crisp acidity in each wine. The cool climate and the strong character of the vineyard were clearly evident from wine to wine and vintage to vintage. My goal is to continue to express the personality of the vineyard and the wonderful style the winery has worked so hard to establish over the last decade.” In 2009, the first vintage that Fort Ross and Jeff Pisoni worked together, the 2009 Fort Ross Vineyard Chardonnay was chosen as one of the TOP 100 WINES of 2011 by the Wine Enthusiast. Under Jeff's winemaking helm Fort Ross wines have continued to receive many favorable reviews and accolades.


Fort Ross Vineyard strives to produce wine of purity and elegance that reflects the cool maritime climate and challenging terroir of the steep Sonoma Coast Ridges.

WINEMAKING: Winemaking begins in the vineyard. To produce truly outstanding wines farming practices must enhance the winemaking. All Fort Ross Vineyard wines are made exclusively with Estate-grown grapes from the Fort Ross Vineyard on the Sonoma Coast. No grapes from other vineyards are brought in even if the yields are greatly lower than usual. There is a constant flow of information between Winemaker, Jeff Pisoni, and Owners/Vineyard Managers, Lester and Linda Schwartz. Each harvest, the three repeatedly walk the vineyard, carefully taste the grapes from each block and harvest the fruit based upon flavor development. Single blocks are often picked several times to guarantee grapes with the desired acid balance and flavor components. To maintain the integrity of the fruit and avoid bruising or oxidation, all bunches are harvested into small picking trays during the cool of the night and then gently transported to the winery in partially filled 1/2 ton macro bins.

WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Winemaker, Jeff Pisoni, seeks to achieve a sense of balance between concentration and elegance. “The fruit lends a certain weight and depth to the wine while the cool climate produces the beauty and elegance”. With minimal winemaking intervention Jeff strives to give the wine a sense of place. “I like to use native yeast for fermentation. Native yeast is from both the vineyard and the winery. The fermentation is slower but the results are more distinctive”. Jeff is very careful in his punch down regimen, constantly monitoring the developing flavors. “Early in the fermentation I punch down more to extract gentle tannins. Later in the fermentation you need to avoid extracting the harder seed tannins”.

FARMING CHALLENGES: Fort Ross Vineyard is the closest vineyard to the Pacific Ocean in California and gets more rain than the Amazon Jungle. The average rainfall is 75” but can reach 125” per year. If it rains before we have finished harvesting we have to abandon the grapes in our steepest blocks. The summers are dry and considered water scarce. Our only source of water is our vineyard pond. We maintain a cover crop of native grasses between the vine rows that helps us gain access into the vineyard in the spring. Each year as the grapes begin to ripen we need to cover each vine with netting to protect the fruit from the flocks of birds as the vineyard is planted in a series of meadows surrounded by thick forests. Farming on the steep coastal ridges requires a great deal of skill. We use wheel tractors in the flatter areas, crawlers on the steeper slopes and walk where it is not safe to use machinery. All harvesting is done by hand.

CHALLENGING TRADITIONAL PROCEDURES: Lester and Linda Schwartz seized the chance of developing a vineyard site less than a mile from the Pacific Ocean despite being mocked by academics who believed that the harsh coastal climate would not ripen grapes while the fog and rain would make the crop constantly vulnerable. To test their theories, they first installed a small trial vineyard with eighteen different varieties of grapes and three different trellis systems. Then they began preparing the first blocks of the main vineyard that took them four years to be ready for planting. They chose rootstock suitable for the soil variations in the vineyard and two years later, when the rootstock was well established, they field grafted the budwood. In the cool coastal climate it took three more years before all the vines in each block were successfully grafted as the grafts need hot weather to callous and grow.

PRUNING: The vineyard was first trained to cane pruning which is more traditional in cool climates. It allows more ‘fruiting potential’ on the vine during pruning by leaving more buds and canes as an insurance against a small crop. Then block by block we began converting the vineyard to cordon pruning in an effort to elevate the wine quality through better fruit balance and more even ripening even though this meant accepting an even lighter crop.



The Czech Republic is a modern and dynamic destination with a rich history and unique natural beauty.  The CzechTourism agency, along with its offices abroad, ensures its successful presentation on the domestic and foreign markets. The Czech Tourism Authority - CzechTourism is a contributory organization of the Ministry for Regional Development and was established in 1993. Its significant partner agencies include domestic tourist regions, cities, municipalities and businesses.

Wine in the Czech Republic is produced mainly in southern Moravia, although a few vineyards are located in Bohemia. However, Moravia accounts for around 96%[1] of the country's vineyards, which is why Czech wine is more often referred to as Moravian wine . Production centers on local grape varieties, but there has been an increase in the production of established international strains such as Cabernet Sauvignon.

Czech wine law (2004) defines two wine-growing regions (Czech: Vinařská oblast). These are Moravia (Vinařská oblast Morava) and Bohemia (Vinařská oblast Čechy).


Monday, March 9, 2015



STARS of Napa Valley | March 26th, 2015 | THE SHADE HOTEL Manhattan Beach

After nine years of hosting its annual Ultimate Wine Festival, Manhattan Beach’s only luxury boutique hotel, Shade, today announced plans to partner with wineLA to host the area’s first annual Stars of Napa Valley Wine Festival on Thursday, March 26. With 40 notable wineries set to participate in the festivities, Shade Hotel will expect to welcome hundreds of wine enthusiasts in celebration of Napa Valley’s most coveted wines.

General Admission: 7pm Admission (event ends at 9:30)
In addition to unlimited wine tasting of The Stars of Napa Valley wine (hosted by winemakers, owners, winery executives); General Admission will include an elegant assortment of tray-passed hors d’oeuvres a and a chance to mingle with the who’s who of Manhattan Beach. Dress code is resort casual, DJ music will fill the air, a great celebration of Napa Valley Wine. A selection number of auction items will be available to bid on;  auction items will range from $250 to $2,000; One hundred percent of silent auction dollars will benefit Manhattan Beach Middle School. Click here if you are interested in donating an auction item.

VIP Admission: 6:15 Admission (event ends at 9:30) - VIP benefits end at 7pm (please arrive on time) 6:15 early admission, special wines available to taste, enhanced tray passed appetizers for a small and limited audience;  Legendary winemakers will be hosting a Panel tasting from 6;30 to 7:00pm exclusively for the vip, showing rare wines from older vintages and discussing topical issues important to the Napa Valley wine lover. All VIPS will also benefit from a nice VIP gift bag.
This event is limited to 350 total guests and, similar to Shade’s past wine events, is expected to sell out immediately.

Master of Wine Student and innovative wine industry spokesperson, Ian Blackburn drinks wine for a living. Since it was established in 1995, Ian Blackburn has worked on building Learn About Wine into the leading source for wine education and events in Southern California. LearnAboutWine was the first business of its kind: a wine education and event website dedicated to the education, service, and enjoyment of wine.

Today LearnAboutWine has developed into Southern California’s premier company for wine education and events. Ian continues to innovate and focus on demystifying wine for everyone from the casual drinker to the potential collector. LearnAboutWine events include the wildly successful, monthly “TASTE” Series, a large-scale wine social; “PALATE BUILDER” Sensory evaluation class, VINTAGE – High end collectables tastings and LAW SCHOOL – the four week credential program that concludes with the BAR exam (Beverage Aptitude Review). Over 30,000 students in Southern California have participated in LearnAboutWine’s core class “Wine Camp,” an introduction into wine, and it is considered one of the top introduction courses in the region.

With a database of over 18,000 subscribers, Ian’s following and notoriety has grown with the popularity of wine. He has taught classes at Cordon Bleu, Cal Poly Pomona, UCLA, The Learning Annex, and other prestigious universities. LearnAboutWine maintains an active calendar of classes and events offered to the public, but thrive as a source of private and corporate events. Ian’s clients range from small social clubs and church organizations, to Fortune Five Hundred companies like Amgen, Pfizer, Disney, Nestle, Deloitte, Latham Watkins, Ernest and Young, Bank of America/US Trust/Countrywide, Paul Hastings, Quinn Emanuel and KPMG.

Ian’s passion for wine and entertaining makes him one of the top spokespersons in the United States; he was trained as an educational Ambassador for the Napa Valley Vintners and the Region of Champagne, France. Ian’s expertise and entertaining ways can be heard regularly on Los Angeles radio airwaves likeKCRW, KLOS, KROQ, INDIE 103.1, 98.7 and Ian even appeared as an expert on ABC’s “The Bachelor.” Creating wine lifestyle events in order to get more people involved in the enjoyment and appreciation of wine is Ian’s forte. Commissioned by Wiley Publications to write The Pleasure of Wine in 2004, Ian is currently studying for his Masters of Wine and working on his second book at his home office in Downtown Los Angeles.



Some dream of spending the rest of their lives on golf courses and cruise ships, but with a taste for business and a love of Santa Barbara wine country, we chose a different retirement plan.

In 1999 we purchased 82 acres in what would later become the Sta. Rita Hills appellation, and named it “Ampelos”, which is the Greek word for vine. The name has a two-fold purpose. First, we believe that all great wines start in the vineyard.

Secondly, we have close-ties with Greece; we were married there and own a small bed and breakfast, called Ampelos Resort, on the island of Folegandros. We bought the land with dreams of someday watching the nightly sunset over the hills and our dogs running through the vines.

At the time we were still working long hours in corporate America, and delegated our son Don (now winemaker at Sea Smoke) to get the vineyard started. Our vineyard consultant assured us that the land could produce a great vineyard with patience and care, but we had little time to focus on the vineyard with non-stop business travel, meetings and conferences.

In 2001, the first 15 acres were planted in the Ampelos vineyard. That same year, we landed in Newark on the morning of September 11th. Peter had a meeting in the first tower of the World Trade Center, and interrupted his plan to board Path 1 of the New York Subway when his meeting was canceled. If he had gotten on the train, 8:45 am would have found him under the towers as the first plane hit.

When we finally got out of the city five days later, we went straight to our safe place—the Ampelos vineyard. That is when we made the life-changing decision to quit our corporate jobs and focus all our effort into pursuing our dream of full-time viticulture. “Someday” was no longer part of our vocabulary.

We moved to the Santa Ynez Valley in January of 2002. We began to learn to nurture the soil and prune the vines to prepare for the first harvest, and purchased one ton of Pinot Noir and two tons of Syrah in order to learn winemaking as we waited for the vines to mature. We toiled under the tutelage of our son Don and several expert consultants.

2004 marked the inaugural Ampelos vineyard harvest. The first harvest yielded 15 tons of Pinot Noir and 6 tons of Syrah. In 2005, we planted 10 acres on top of the original 15, totaling 25 acres. Pinot Noir and Syrah remain our primary varietals, with a line of Viognier and just under two acres of Grenache—the unsung hero of the Sta. Rita Hills. We persist in experimenting with different grapes and winemaking styles, as we are major believers in the journey being the destination.

With the efforts of family and friends, wise guides, and a twist of fate, we have come to create our small, sustainable vineyard and winery. We have gone from expanding big businesses to focusing on creating a limited release of high-quality product that people can afford to share with friends and loved ones. For us, sharing those gifts is what makes it all worthwhile.

You can depend on Ampelos wine to present the essence of each varietal in its purest form. Our winemaking processes are minimalist, meaning no added yeast, no artificial tannins, no artificial malolactic bacteria, and no artificial coloring. Every sip evokes cool ocean breezes and sunny afternoons wondering at the beauty of the rolling Sta. Rita Hills.

We experiment with both old and new winemaking processes, with eyes always fixed on eco-friendly, natural winemaking. With respect to longstanding winemaking traditions coupled with flexibility, we believe our results will be improvements to the cellar resulting in intriguing and complex wines.