My First Tour, Thought I’d Gotten A Fish Sandwich, Half a Glass and More in This Edition of Woody’s Whine

Writing from the edge of the Russian River in Sonoma County…obviously with no help from AI

My First Tour

So of course we’ve taken friends on little wine cruises as they come to visit us but this was my first experience as a “compensated guide” – it was quite exciting.

Peggy became part of a ladies dining group back in Chicago some years ago.  “The Women Who Dine” an august and diverse group of women involved in government, politics and lobbying at various levels from both sides of the aisle yet who could meet over food and wine for civil conversation and some laughs on a monthly basis.

So long story short, several of them finally figured out a schedule that would get them out here over the Valentine’s Day week. The group of six or seven turned out to be only two with travel conflicts and an unfortunate late illness, but the two who showed up were experienced travelers and tasters and I couldn’t have asked for better clients.

I booked us into our membership wineries to save the clients tasting fees and the wineries offered them our member discount for purchases. I spenta number of hours booking appointments with the wineries for tastings and with restaurants for lunch, along with setting a great schedule it was my job to make sure we stayed on time, which took a bit of doing but became quite fun, “time to go ladies”.

We started Valentine’s Day early at Pedroncelli up in Dry Creek where tasting room manager Lizzie was our host and guide. I had offered to amalgamate purchases at the end of the tour and have them shipped to one address to cut down on the time spent doing bookkeeping at the end of our visits. In this case we couldn’t turn down the heavily member discounted $10 cost to ship bottles back to Chicago. All good here.

We’re right on time for our noon reservation at the delicious Catelli Italian restaurant in downtown Geyserville and on our way back up and intoAlexander Valley to see our friends at J.Rickards.

Our host for the early afternoon was Christine who by chance is originally from Chicago but has served for some time as the tasting room associate and unofficial head chef for J. Rickard’s events as she is a culinary school graduate.


All of the ladies had a great time together.

We then headed down and around to the Dry Creek AVA District and sampled a number of high end Pinot Noirs at Papapietro, friends of our late scratch from the tour.

Early Thursday morning found us out in the Russian River AVA District with our friends from Moondance Cellars. David was born and raised on the north side of Chicago and by sheer coincidence our two travelers are also from the north side of Chicago, so it was fun to listen them discuss which side of the street some hot dog stand was on.

I had promised the tour members good wine, great company, horses, a friendly dog and fast cars, David and his lovely wife Priscilla produced all of the advertised along with grazing dear in the vineyards directly behind their farm.

Along with making good wine David has restored several cars that the ladies got to see, the Cohen’s two horses and Mickey the dog.

Then we were off for a lovely drive out to the coast at Bodega Bay for a crab sandwich, clam chowder, fish tacos and chocolate chip cookies at Fisherman’s Cove and then to a windy view from the edge of the earth.

Quite a day and quite a trip, both of my clients left happy and I’m told that all of the wines have arrived safely back in Chicago.

I’d be more than happy to discuss a similar trip for you and yours or to other winery destinations in Sonoma and if necessary Napa County. I do strongly suggest avoiding weekends and visiting on a Monday-Thursday calendar, easier to book wineries and restaurants with less people to deal with.


“Thought I Had Gotten the Fish Sandwich by Mistake”

So starts the review of the new Chick-fil-A Cauliflower Sandwich being test marketed in limited locations in the Greensboro, North Carolina area – of course I have people on the ground nearby, if a two hour drive from South Carolina is considered nearby.

It took my friend Pat, who I met 40 years ago in Springfield, Illinois where he managed the convention center, 14 tries to find a Chick-fil-A in Greensboro that was selling the cauliflower test sandwich. He even waited in line behind a huge group of parochial high school students to order his sandwich and sandwiches to take home for his lovely wife Kathy to sample.

Needless to say, I certainly appreciate his dedication to the cause.

The Chick-fil-A folks say, “The Cauliflower Sandwich may look like a chicken sandwich – down to the same seasoned breading, two pickle slices and toasted bun – but one bite and its clear the star of this sandwich is the cauliflower, which is fileted and marinated in a mild buffalo-style sauce, before being hand-breaded and pressure cooked to a crispy finish.”

The sandwich was created as a result of customers’ requests in focus groups who resoundingly asked for a product that was identifiable as a vegetable.

The sandwich was created as a result of customers’ requests in focus groups who resoundingly asked for a product that was identifiable as a vegetable.

As to Pat’s first statement regards the “fish” taste of the sandwich he offered that it was a Friday in Lent and that the number of fish sandwiches possibly ordered by the high school kids in front of him may have added flavor to the frying oil that his cauliflower sandwich was cooked in.

I should share a production note here in that Chick-fil-A notes that this is not a vegetarian sandwich as it’s battered and fried in the same oil along with their chicken and fish sandwiches.

“My sandwich had a nice spice to it and tasted similar to their breaded chicken sandwich, surprise!” He satirically says. “The consistency of the cauliflower actually reminded me of a fish sandwich and was moderately breaded and the bun was a normal white chicken sandwich bun.”

“I like cauliflower in general and for most parts I enjoyed the sandwich.”

Kathy’s comments started with a note on price, $6.65 that is $2 more than other chicken sandwich entrées, but she also liked the pleasant surprise of the spicy taste but disappointed in the small chunk of cauliflower that was on her sandwich and didn’t feel it was it all worth the additional price.

So a deep fried cauliflower sandwich from a chicken provider has come between husband and wives, you both have my apologies.


Half A Glass


Lette Teague the wine writer for the Wall Street Journal, recently had a front of section feature on Merlot and how even with the “Sideways” movie factor it really never went away but got worse as it was not handled very well but it’s recovering nicely thank you, here’s some of her observations;

“Sideways” (the movie) was the best thing to happen to Merlot, said Alex Ryan president, CEO and chairman of the Duckhorn portfolios. “We took it as a shot across the bow and stepped up our efforts to make better Merlot.”

Duckhorn is one of the rare Napa wineries better known for its Merlot rather than its Cabernet.

2021 Duckhorn Limited Alexander Valley Merlot $30 – nice price coming from a first class winery.

2019 Duckhorn Decoy California Merlot $18 normally coming only from Sonoma but they found better fruit in other parts of California including Sonoma and Napa which led to using the broader “California” designation.

Washington state winemaker Mike Jamuik aka “Mr. Merlot” regards Merlot as one of Washington states great success stories and is currently pursuing Merlot grapes from the highly regarded Horse Heaven Hills region and who told you about this region before….

2019 Columbia Valley Merlot $30

2019 Kendall-Jackson Merlot Sonoma County Vintner’s Reserve

90 points • $24 A generous red, fruit-forward yet well-structured, offering cherry and red currant flavors accented by toasty oak and espresso. Drink now through 2028. From California, Wine Spectator.

2019 Château Milcon Caprica Saint-Emilion $20 – a bargain coming from S-E and Pomerol vineyards home to some of the priciest wines in France.


The Number of U.S. Wineries Grew by 3% in 2022

According to the Wines Vines Analytics Winery Database, the United States is now home to 11,691 wineries, which is nearly 400 more than in 2021 and 1,215 more than in 2020. Since 2019, the number of U.S. wineries has grown at a rate of 4 percent, which matches the growth rate since 2010.

In 2022, the lobbying group Wine America released a report that stated the industry generates $276 billion in total economic activity by employing more than 1 million people, generating more than $95 billion in direct and indirect wages and nearly $23 billion in tax revenue. The Wine Institute released a similar report that pegged the national impact of just California’s wine industry at $170.5 billion.


Apparently You Have Discovered Sauvignon Blanc

As recently as the 2019 vintage, Dry Creeks Ferrari-Carano’s Fumé Blanc (Fumé Blanc is a marketing name for Sauvignon Blanc coined by the late wine pioneer Robert Mondavi in the late 1960s.) had been labeled with a North Coast appellation. Federal law requires at least 85% of the grapes have to be grown in an approved American Vinicultural Area. The North Coast AVA includes all or substantial portions of Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, Lake and Marin counties.

According to Shawn Schiffer, Foley president, “For 2022, our demand exceeded our Sonoma County capacity as consumer demand, and sales of this wine continue to accelerate, as a result, we are moving back to a North Coast appellation. We are fortunate that we have access to excellent quality North Coast fruit which allows us to continue to grow without diminishing quality. It is important for us to overdeliver on the quality vs. price ratio.”

“The Sauvignon Blanc boom caught the industry by surprise,” said Zach Rasmuson at The Duckhorn Portfolio, a Napa Valley-based wine group. “We started seeing it 24 months ago. We thought Sauvignon Blanc sales were seasonal — picked up in the summer and slowed down in the fall – but then we started seeing double-digit growth throughout the year.”

The other member of the tasting panel is an ABCer, anything but Chardonnay, so we buy Sauv Blanc by the assorted case on a regular basis and have seen bottle prices jump from the $9-11 range to $13-15 range for the same wine over the past eight or nine months. I may have to start charging for the “Whine”!


A Light Grape Crush

The California Grape Crush report was released early in February and as expected, the crop was relatively light, maybe even lighter than expected. It was the third light crop in a row; Napa Cabernet prices rose 11.6 percent reaching $8,947 per ton; Chardonnay tonnage fell and there’s now more tons of Cabernet than Chardonnay statewide. Sonoma pricing was up 6.89 percent.

More than likely this will bring some pressure to raise prices with the shorter supply on top of increase cost for bottles and transportation.

Wine Business Monthly


That’s My Whine and I could me wrong…

My recipes for Reuben Soup with Sauerkraut, Corn Beef and Swiss Cheese and Adult Grilled Cheese with Cheddar, Brie and Shallot are in fact right here. Enjoy!

Woody Mosgers, cooks, caters, writes, drinks, matches wine and food and offers wine country tour information and planning in Santa Rosa Sonoma, CA.