July in the Vineyard: Veraision– When Grapes Get Their Color On!

Veraision on the Clos des Amis Pinot Noir, South Mountain Vineyard, Santa Paula, CA; photo by Gwendolyn Alley

I’m in Tanzania with The Roof of Africa Adventures  preparing to climb Mt Kilimanjaro, go on safari, visit a coffee plantation, and maybe even stop by a vineyard and tastes some wines. I might even attend the “International Conference on Energy, Aquatech and Sustainability” organized by The Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology which is happening in Arusha, where I have been staying, Monday August 12.

I may be on vacation, but back home in southern California, it’s full speed ahead toward harvest as grapes go through VERAISION.

Yep, just like everyone else, summertime is sun time, and sun time means getting some color on your skin!

While June’s vineyard report and vocabulary word was ETIOLATION — and something you DON’T want happening in your vineyard, you DO want verasion because this is the word that signifies that the grapes are turning from GREEN to RED and they are ripening up!

That’s right– all red wines start out looking like green grapes.

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Comparing 3 Cabernet Franc: 1 from Chinon, France and 2 from California

How is it that Sue and I came in second place in the US Wine Tasting Open Championships sponsored by Wine Acuity?

I suspect it is tastings like this one where we compared four cabernet franc, two from France (one I wrote about here for #Winophiles) and two from California.

Cabernet Franc as a varietal speaks loud and clear to both Sue and I Continue reading

Off to Loire: Saumur-Champigny and Tritip Summer Salad #Winophiles

On Bastille Day, July 14, Sue Hill and I competed in a battle of palates in the US Open Wine Tasting Championship. Much to our surprise, we won second place and the opportunity to travel and compete in the World Championships which this year will be held in the Loire (more here). As you can imagine, we are VERY excited! While the Championships take place on Oct 12 , we are a planning on spending almost two weeks in France, with at least several days exploring the Loire and staying near the Château de Chambord where the World Wine Tasting Championships are slated to take place.

Known as the heart of France and as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Loire Valley provides visitors experiences rich in culture and history, natural beauty, magnificent châteaux, great wine.

The Loire Valley is France’s third largest wine-producing region: Continue reading

Summer in a Glass: Sauv Blanc from Touraine, Sancerre, Santa Paula CA

3 Sauvignon Blanc from Loire and Ventura County, CA

So how did we really win a spot on the US Open Wine Tasting Team AND a trip to Loire, France in October, where, with ay luck, we will taste sauvignon blanc to our hearts content for at least a day or two?

Credit in part goes to a Loire tasting we did a week or so ago Continue reading

We Made The US Wine Tasting Team! We’re Going to Loire, France!

that moment when we found out we’d won second place and be going to France to compete in the World Wine Tasting Championships … photo by Heber Pelayo


We can hardly believe it. We beat out three members of last year’s winning team, and we came close to scoring enough points to be in first place.

It wasn’t easy, but we never felt pressured or overwhelmed.

How did we do it? Continue reading

How to Compete in a Blind Tasting Competition: US Open in Ventura TODAY July 14– wish us luck!

This was from a large group tasting of older reds, mostly Pinot Noir and Syrah, from Ojai Vineyards, I think we tasted about 30 wines that night…

“I am writing to you regarding the upcoming Wine Tasting US Open on July 14, 2019 at the historic Pierpont Inn in Ventura, CA. The Wine Tasting US Open is an annual blind wine tasting event, with teams of two each tasting 12 wines (6 white and 6 red) from around the world.”

Very interesting! The Pierpont Inn is only a block away from my house! The US Open Wine Tasting Competition is practically coming to me this Sunday July 14 from 1-4pm!

The pitch explained that for each wine each team works together to figure out in a timed contest

  • varietal
  • country
  • region
  • producer
  • vintage

Each correct answer earns the team points; points aren’t taken away for incorrect answers, and points are awarded by the following criteria:

  1. Identification of the predominant grape varietal will be awarded one point for each 10 percent that the main varietal comprises the wine.
    > For example, a wine that consists of seventy percent of a grape varietal will receive seven points for a correct identification.
    > No points will be awarded for identification of lesser varietals in a wine.
    > No points will be awarded if two wine varietals are provided.
  2. Five points will be awarded for identification of the country of origin of the grapes.
  3. Five points will be awarded for identification of the main wine region where the grapes originated.
    > For example, Bourdeaux. In the case where a team enters a specific sub-region, such as Margaux, rather than the main region, full points will be awarded if the sub-region is correct.
    > However, no points will be awarded for incorrect sub-region identification, even if the incorrect sub-region is within the correct main region.
    > It is safer to identify the main wine region rather than a sub-region.
  4. Correct identification of the vintage, the year that the grapes were harvested, scores 3 points if the country of origin was also correct. Only 1 point will be awarded for a correct year but with a wrong country of origin identified.
  5. Identification of the wine producer is awarded 2 points.
  6. In cases where spelling is incorrect or writing is not legible, the judges have sole discretion whether to award or not award points, if the intent of the answer is not clear to them. There will be no attempt to gain clarification from the contestants once the scoring process has begun.

The two top scoring teams then represent the US at the World Wine Tasting Championships (WWTC), held in October in France. Here’s the part that really got my attention:

“Wine Acuity, the organizing body of the US Open, pays for the airfare and accommodations for TEAM USA to go to the event in France” which takes place on October 12, 2019 in Chateau de Chambord in the Loire Valley.

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