Monday, June 26, 2017



I’VE BEEN MAKING WINE SINCE THE 70'S. In that time, I’ve worked for some of the most iconic brands, won a bunch of awards, and made fantastic friends who continue to fill my soul with joy. Why, then, would I start my own wine label at this point in life?

To get back to basics: Growing grapes, making wine, and being creative along the way. I also want to use the wine as a way to give back to the community, and support charities in my adopted hometown of Healdsburg, Sonoma County, and beyond.

A funny thing happens in the wine industry—the more success you have as a winemaker, the less independent you become. Sure, the process is always challenging, but with accolades come expectations, and with expectations come a host of responsibilities that are only peripherally connected to the craft. Managing people. Running companies. Marketing the brand all over the world. Don’t get me wrong—I understand these things are important to the bottom line, recognize the value they bring to a winery operation, and appreciate the unique opportunities I had to be that guy. For me, however, it was time to return to the grassroots approach that got me excited about winemaking in the first place.

IT’S BEEN ALMOST 40 YEARS SINCE MY FIRST VINTAGE. In that time, I’ve made wines for several of the biggest big-name wineries, and in general, crafted them the way other people have wanted them made. Now I see this as my turn to make wine the way I believe it should be made, without apologies, no holds barred.

Another way I like to think of it is “full-throttle” Bob Cabral winemaking. This means the wines are the result of the best of everything I have access to, no considerations for anything less. I’m trying to find the best vineyards to work with; I don’t really care what the grapes cost. I want the best barrels available, and I’m using some custom-toasted barrels for a lot of these wines. The best isn’t always the most expensive, by the way. Really, it’s just that the handcuffs are off. It’s all about my winemaking thought process. I’m trying to make the best wines I think I can craft on a given vintage from the sources that I’ve chosen to use as raw materials. It’s about vision and individual interpretation.

I envisioned these wines having a high yum factor with little winemaking intervention. They’ll go great with food. They have long, full finishes. And they’ll age well. I really don’t want these to be trophy wines. I would like to have people drink them and enjoy them. When people do taste these wines, I hope the experience goes beyond the cranberry, cherry, clove, earthiness, tartness, and other descriptors we’ve come to accept as typical. I want people to feel them, go back to memories of another time, and get caught up in creating new memories, right then and there.

I’m launching with three wines blended by geographical region. You’ll notice that I’m not doing any single-vineyard wines yet, and that’s purposeful. I believe there’s this myth that blended wines are of lesser quality than single-vineyard wines. I completely disagree with that way of thinking about wine. I’ve spent much more time and thought with my blended wines—when I’m making them, I can blend away defects and almost craft the perfect wine. This project is about that passion, and these are the types of wines I love crafting.



Since its premier vintage of Pinot Noir in 2001, Duckhorn Wine Company’s Migration has earned acclaim for a refined and compelling style of winemaking that seamlessly balances vibrancy and finesse.

Embodying the lush elegance of cool-climate California winegrowing, Migration’s exploration of the great Burgundian varietals began in the Anderson Valley, where Duckhorn Wine Company cultivates four estate Pinot Noir vineyards, spanning 207 vine acres. Shaped by the valley’s cool nights, fog-shrouded mornings and mild, sunny afternoons, this world-class fruit established Migration’s stylistic identity—producing sophisticated wines with abundant fruit and bright acidity.

Building on what Migration had already achieved with Pinot Noir,making Chardonnay in a similar style became a natural next step. In 2008, Migration produced its first Chardonnay, using fruit from elite vineyard sources in the Russian River Valley. Representing the first Chardonnay in Duckhorn Wine Company's 30-year history, this highly anticipated wine was released in the spring of 2010. Beginning in 2011, Migration also began making a Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, and together, these two exceptional wines form the cornerstone of the Migration portfolio.

Today, guided by winemaker Dana Epperson — a cool-climate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay specialist — Migration has taken flight. Defined by the idea of movement, Migration is dedicated to going beyond its original home and exploring Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from California's finest cool-climate appellations. "Traditionally at Duckhorn Wine Company," says Dana, "the character of a particular wine is deeply connected to a specific place or region. Migration offers a different paradigm. We are starting with a clearly defined style and exploring how that style can be expressed in different winegrowing regions, which is a fascinating prospect."

A third generation Sonoman, Dana Epperson is the gifted winemaker who guides Migration’s exploration of world-class, Burgundian-varietal winemaking. Combining her extensive viticultural background with winemaking experience gained working in several top California wine regions, Dana practices a vineyard-driven approach to winemaking that accentuates the character and complexity of the renowned winegrowing sites Migration partners with.


Monday, June 19, 2017



In 1999, Steve Cass retired from his career of twenty years at Charles Schwab.   Forty-eight at the time, Steve had planned a sailing trip around the world with his wife Alice in order to give some thought as to what to do with their retirement years. After a few weeks on a boat with Steve in the Mediterranean on a stormy test sailing trip, Alice informed Steve that there was no way she was going to participate in this trip!

Thinking about what to do now, Steve knew he wanted to move out of the San Francisco Bay Area. He had visited Paso Robles a few years before and really liked the area and also subsequently heard it was quite the burgeoning wine country.  A great place to start a vineyard.  He then took on an exploratory trip to find a potential home and vineyard site.  He was with a real estate agent and Paso Robles pioneer grape grower Jim Smoot when they came upon the then pastureland of Cass Vineyard.  A year later in 2000 the 145 acre Cass Vineyard was established with twelve varieties to be planted. The barn to house all the farming equipment was built at roughly the same time.

In 2002, the man that built the new Cass residence and barn, Ted Plemons, and Steve Cass took a golfing/wine-tasting trip to Stellenbosch, South Africa to celebrate the completion of the residence and the establishment of the vineyard. During this trip they fell in love with the South African wine style and the ambiance of the tasting rooms there.

One night during this trip they sat down for dinner at a fancy South African restaurant and were amazed to see how inexpensive their bill was due to the value of the South African rand being so low. So, they ordered another bottle of wine, or two… During the consumption of these Syrahs Steve and Ted agreed to become business partners in starting a winery. Ted is a builder and knew how tough building permits could be to come by in regards to starting a tasting room. He had seen multiple year waiting periods with some Santa Ynez wineries at the time. So they decided to jump at the opportunity because at the time building permits for wineries in Paso Robles were relatively easy to come by.

The next day, they took a trip to the local University of Stellenbosch in Cape Town, South Africa, and put up a job wanted sign for an assistant winemaker.  After a short interview process, Cass found winemaker Lood Kotze who ended up being head winemaker at Cass up until 2014.  Once the vineyard began to bear fruit in 2003, the first vintage began. Two years later when the barn was finished being converted into a tasting room and the reds had aged a few years in the barrel, the Cass Winery tasting room opened its doors in May 2005.



Happy Canyon Vineyard is a family owned and operated estate vineyard and boutique winery on the central coast of California that has gained esteem with our award winning Bordeaux varietal wines. Our vineyard is nestled into the undulating hills of the beautiful Piocho Ranch at the eastern most edge of the Santa Ynez Valley. The ranch and vineyard is where we, the Barrack family, call home. We have taken great pride over the years in being stewards of the land and created wines that are unique to the beauty, richness, and heritage of the “terroir”. On our ranch we have two regulation sized Polo fields and many powerful Polo ponies where we blend our commitment to excellence in wine with a passion for Polo.

As Executive Winemaker and Managing Director of Happy Canyon Vineyard, Sean Pitts is responsible for all operations of the vineyard and winery including overseeing winemaking, partner contracts and personnel management. Sean oversees the sales and marketing programs, distribution, financial management, wine tasting room and day to day functions. Sean is responsible for inventory control, as well as meeting financial and strategic goals of the winery. Sean currently holds all fiscal management duties, including financial analysis; budget creation, forecasting, managing labor cost and P&L oversight. As part of the Happy Canyon Vineyard family, Sean ensures ongoing performance of the business by facilitating decisions on strategy, long and short term objectives, determining wine styles, managing vineyards and bulk wine production.

Sean holds a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Colorado and an MBA from Pepperdine’s Graziadio School of Business and Management. Prior to working for Happy Canyon Vineyard Sean worked for over 14 years in the pharmaceutical industry working for companies such as Amgen, Genentech and Novartis

Happy Canyon Vineyard is nestled into the undulating hills of the beautiful Piocho Ranch, home to the Barrack family. The Barracks have taken great pride over the years in being stewards of the land and have created something that is unique to the beauty and richness of the place. Piocho, is a Native American Indian word meaning “where the two rivers meet and go to heaven”. The ranch is also home to the “Piocho” polo team.

There are the two top wines called Brand and Ten–Goal and two companion wines; PIOCHO is the champion wine which is a classic Bordeaux style. There is also a nouveau styled Bordeaux blend released each Easter (perfect with Spring Lamb) called CHUKKER.

The Cabernet Sauvignon Block 8 is a truly special vineyard; head trained vines planted to the steep hillside adjacent to the road. No tractor works here as the terrain has been untouched by machine.


Monday, June 12, 2017



wineLA is about enhancing the wine culture of Los Angeles. To do so, wine must be in rhythm with fashion, music, food and other beverages.  It must take advantage of the geography, the architecture and the centers of interest. Los Angeles is a giant playground with an amazing array of venues, spaces, wine bars, restaurants, beaches, roof tops, gardens, and magical views. We want to be a part of the LA lifestyle, the wine lifestyle, and celebrate the people, the place and the passion.

wineLA will promote significant events, occasional classes, and tastings of merit. This is phase two of what we started 20 years ago at - America’s first wine education website and first in wine event creation. LearnAboutWine will now evolve onto a digital platform; the transformation will take some time; so we will slowly rebrand our event efforts onto wineLA, reduce the number of activities we focus on, and elevate our efforts to focus on the next big thing… Doing what is best for the wine industry and the communities we serve.  Edicts:  innovate, evolve and excite.

We thank you for joining our newsletter, we will be sending fewer emails and packing them with amazing content. We want to be your wine content provider and would love to hear about your favorite places, your music, your locations - we want to be under the influence of what ignites your passion for Los Angeles.

Ian drinks wine for a living and plans 50-100 public and private events a year. Ian stays busy buying collectible wines for high profile clients, planning luxury wine  trips  for  his  audience,  hosting  corporate  events,  and  studying  for  his  Master of Wine. Since  1995,  LearnAboutWine  has  done  the  hard  work  of  building  a  better  culture for fine wine, opening the doors for more quality products to enter the  marketplace  and  has  taught  over  800,000  students.     With  a  reach  of  over 80,000  current  subscribers  and  followers,  LearnAboutWine  now  focuses  on  the  best  quality  events and classes, and wine credential programs which have graduated over 1000 wine students in the last 9 years with a Junior Wine Executive credential (JWE).

Beekeeper Cellars is the vision of best friends and co-winemakers Ian Blackburn and Clay Mauritson. The two collaborated after adventurous individual careers in the wine business, and at last, decided to work together on a project of their own.

Clay, a 7th generation grape grower, and his family found themselves the owners of a significant slice of the Rockpile Appellation, through an amazing set of historical land transactions. The Mauritson family realized the potential and parented the creation of the ROCKPILE AVA. In 1998, Ian and Clay climbed the hill and watched the Madrone Spring Vineyard get planted, while discussing the future of Rockpile and the dream it represented.

In 2008, Clay saw the fruits of his family's labor taking shape and came to Ian with a unique opportunity to source some of the Rockpile fruit. He told Ian in the difficult days of 2008, “now is the time to get in and build the business and have it take shape as the market improves, and to not wait until business is strong as you will have a hard time getting access to the right quality assets.” Ian took heed of Clay’s wise comment and said "When your best friend is Clay Mauritson and he offers Rockpile fruit and to assist with winemaking…... you make Zinfandel.”

In Los Angeles, Ian operates a specialty wine marketing organization known as wineLA and has pioneered wine education for the past 20 years (since 1995) through and  Beekeeper Cellars is also involved in Ian’s Masters of Wine Thesis project and provides him the winemaking training he requires to help pass the difficult Masters of Wine ongoing pursuit.



The idea for tercero wines surfaced a number of years back. Larry Schaffer had been in the educational and trade publishing industry for a number of years and had achieved all he had set out to do. It was time for a change . . . . but to what? Larry’s dreams of becoming a professional volleyball player were never going to happen, so he looked towards something he had always been interested in but never understood completely – winemaking. One thing that really interested him was the ‘why’ involved – how in the heck do you start with a grape and end up with this wine? Or that one? He needed to know more – and he needed to challenge his brain.

Fast forward four years . . . and Larry begins his new career in earnest as the Enologist for Fess Parker Winery, a well-respected winery in the Santa Ynez Valley. Why Santa Barbara County? The winemaking community is willing and wanting to help each other, but more importantly, it is simply an incredible place to raise children!

Fast forward another year, and Larry is ready to ‘take the plunge’ and start buying grapes to make his own wines! It’s scary and challenging at the same time – no matter how much you read about it or do it for others, it’s quite different when it’s ‘your own baby’ . . . But it’s also a way for Larry to ‘marry’ his past with his present – to use his sales/marketing skills along with his technical winemaking skills to see what he can produce . . .


Monday, June 5, 2017



Howard Price joins the show to chat wine trends and his most recent and upcoming food and wine experiences.


Calla Lily Vineyards & Winery 
6307 Pope Valley Road, Pope Valley CA 94567

In 2013 Anthony Fung and Andy Chui, Hong Kong-based entrepreneurs, came to ‘winemaker extraordinaire’ Cary Gott for his help in finding a vineyard-winery to buy in the Napa Valley. They subsequently acquired the former Budge Brown Winery in Pope Valley. The winery was built in 2010 and is a handsome example of a fully equipped and modern Napa Valley winery. Today this spot is the home for Calla Lily Estate & Winery, a line of wines which Messrs. Fung and Chui market in Asia.

Messrs. Anthony Fung and Andy Chui are creating an elegant portfolio of wines around the imagery of the calla lily, a flower of enormous beauty and refinement—attributes which the winery’s wines will strive to express. They chose the calla lily as the symbol for their project: in China calla lilies are considered to be the quintessential flower of elegance, beauty and purity, and are the flower of choice to send when you are in love. The winery proudly displays a scroll of a calla lily created by a calligrapher in Changli, in the Hebei province of China, created as a gift for the winery.

The 95 acre Calla Lily estate vineyard sits in the heart of Pope Valley, on the eastern hillside of Napa County. The first vines were planted in 1995. The estate vineyard consists of 12 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, 5 acres of Petite Sirah and 1 acre each of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petite Verdot. The gently contoured vineyard slopes provide ideal conditions for the grapes. The contours also serve as natural protection for frost in winter and extreme heat in summer. The soils predominantly belong to the Bressa-Dibble complex—well-drained, composed of fine-grained sandstone and shale.

There are two natural reservoirs, a graceful garden and a number of historic buildings which give the property a unique personality.

Cary is a fourth generation winemaker with over 40 years of experience in making world class wines in the Napa Valley. He has created and managed multiple ultra-premium vineyards; he was the Senior Vice President of Seagram Classics, the President of Sterling Vineyards and the Winemaster of Mumm Napa Valley.