Magpies Safeguarding Vineyards from Grape-Eating Birds

Scientists at Charles Stuart University in Australia have devised an environmentally friendly alternative to keep bird pests off vineyard grapes: magpies! Across Victoria, several wineries have installed wooden perches that by design will attract magpies and other aggressive birds (like falcons) to scare off smaller birds. Read more about this fantastic idea that will benefit both grape growers and hungry birds.


The Toughest Market for Champagne?

China has proven to be a tough market for the champagne industry to break into, simply because the customers in the massive country generally don’t like sparkling wines. The Drinks Business magazine takes a look at this business challenge and sits down with the suits from Bollinger. Read more about the difficulties wineries are prepared to face in the country.

Is Priority Wine Pass Worth Buying?

You’ve probably seen ads touting the Priority Wine Pass, a “discount” card that you flash at “participating wineries” to score “special savings.” Groupon often runs deals on this item as well as other independent bloggers. I am in no way affiliated with the Priority Wine Pass, but I’ve been asked so many times about it that I thought I’d share my thoughts.

I travel to the Napa Valley about 6 times per year and all it comes down to is this: it really depends on what type of wine taster you are. Are you wanting to hit the big name wineries whose wine you enjoy and buy in stores? Are you hoping to discover a new gem? How many wineries do you visit per day? Are you going with friends for a leisurely trip or a quick buying trip?

My husband and I are collectors so we usually share a tasting (and spit at that). It amazes me how many folks don’t know that you can share one tasting (and save on the exorbitant Napa wine tasting fees) with no weird looks from the tasting room staff! Most of these Passport offers are useless to us since they are heavy on the “buy 1 tasting get 1 free” type deals. If you are a sharer, it doesn’t make sense.

My opinion is that these “discount” cards seem like a device to trick you into visiting wineries you’d normally ignore and trick you into spending more money than you’d otherwise spend. The participating wineries, as a whole, leave a lot to be desired in terms of customer service as well as product quality. Some of these “discounts” that the card supposedly affords requires you to make a certain purchase in order to get something for “free.” You can see every single offer online (I highly recommend you carefully review  the list before buying; this is why I have never purchased one of these cards).

Other ways to score free tastings are by joining a winery’s wine club (if you love the wine and commit to winery direct shipments — a great way to effortlessly stock your cellar) or by simply buying a bottle or two of a wine you enjoy after your tasting (I’ve found that 9 times out of 10 if you are friendly, show a serious interest in the wine you are tasting, and purchase wine(s) on the spot, the staff will waive your tasting fee). One of my favorite small wineries charges a $25 per person tasting fee but they’ll waive it with a one bottle purchase. Their least expensive wine costs only $28, so it makes sense (just one example but there are many others). Wine also makes incredible gifts so even if you aren’t a huge fan of the wine, you can buy a bottle for a friend or colleague back home.

If you have a Visa Signature card, one of the most AMAZING perks is that you get loads of 2-for-1 tastings in Sonoma just by showing your card at the tasting rooms (with no faux “discount” card to buy). Just a thought if you want to head out that way too. And of course hotel concierges are a great source for tasting pass hookups. Check the local free tourist publications in town as you can sometimes find good tasting discounts and freebies.

Do your research and pay close attention to the complaints from consumers who have actually purchased the Priority Wine Pass. Ignore the hucksters touting how great the product is. If you do your research, you’ll come to the same conclusion as I have: the Priority Wine Pass is a waste of money.


How to Spot Counterfeit Wine

It’s every wine lover’s worst nightmare: you drop hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a special collectible bottle at auction only to learn that your Haut Brion is really a bottle refilled with “Two Buck Chuck” from Trader Joe’s. Con artists are flooding the fine wine market with fakes, and here are a few signs to look for before shelling out big bucks for a rare wine. Read more.

Uncovering Temecula’s Wine Identity

It’s a small wine country vibe in Temecula, California, one of the lesser known (but fast growing) wine regions of Southern California. The area doesn’t yet have a flagship varietal, but does it really need one? This piece in Wines & Vines takes a look at this budding newcomer. Read more.

Yes, Orange Wine is Becoming a Thing

I guess you can say orange is the new white! Get out your glasses for a new color of vino: orange (or amber, as some vintners prefer to call it). Orange wine is very common in Georgia, often found in eastern Italy, Slovenia and Croatia, and now made by winemakers as far apart as South Africa and Spain. The Guardian examines this new and upcoming star in the wine world. Read more.


The Ultimate Guide to Oak in Winemaking

Wine Searcher has a great write-up about the important relationship between wine and oak, an accord that is only partly understood. Read more about the complex interaction between barrels and grapes.