Today was Very Special, Sonoma Yes! Bud Light No, Modelo SI! Bacon @ Number 5, What to Read and What to Drink and of Course More in This Edition of Woody’s Whine

Writing from the edge of the Russian River in Sonoma County

“Today Was Very Special”

We’ve been drinking wine from the Dry Creek valley for years as David Stare’s Dry Creek label and the Pedroncelli Mother Clone Zinfandel were available in Chicago and elsewhere and we often toured the region on our many visits. We have been members of Pedroncelli’s wine club since we got here six years ago.

So with great interest I attended a recent tasting hosted by the Wine Growers of Dry Creek Valley in celebration of their 40th anniversary and presented by our wine friend, Chris Sawyer.

“You just can’t try to define Dry Creek Valley with a couple of producers,” states Sawyer, “It’s defined by the valley created by nature and the 10 wines we tasted today are classic examples from the long time Italian heritage family wineries whose owners and wine makers spoke to us about them today – it was very special – a very, very special experience (Sawyer).”

Sawyer appeared emotionally affected by the event’s experiences as he shared that he was a kid in 1983 during the construction of the dam that created Sonoma Lake at the western boundary of the valley and shared he had many wonderful memories growing up in the valley.

At only 16 miles long and two miles wide the valley can experience a 10° variance in the temperature from the east at the Russian River boundary and then heading out to the west end at Lake Sonoma, it’s 10° warmer.

“The area is like a mini Mediterranean situation where you can put in cab and Merlot and Barbera and Sangiovese and they all work!” explained Sawyer. “Zinfandel was long the trademark grape of Dry Creek resulting from the number of Italian families who settled and still remain in Dry Creek to this day. Much of the production of Gallo Hearty Burgundy came from Dry Creek grapes with Zin being the foremost grape in that blend,” he offered.

I should mention loyal readers that I began my wine discovery many, many years ago with Hearty Burgundy and have come a long way from there, so it was kind of a special day for me also.

Dry Creek is not only known historically for its reds but also for its whites that were brought to the forefront in the 1970s by well-known winemaker David Stare, famous for his Dry Creek brand of wines. His Fume’ and Sauvignon Blanc have been featured in these very pages on many occasions and we drink it weekly.

Sawyer finished his observations with this thought; “The Zinfandel vines you see growing along the valley highway have outlived generations of people and events; prohibition, World War II, space flight and other great events of our day, but the vines remain successful here because of the many different soils in the valley are good for them and that the weather conditions are also good for them.”

If you’re keeping score the last wine of the tasting was my favorite; the Rafanelli 2019 Estate Blend – 60% Cabernet and 40% Merlot – $70, small production – only at the winery. It’s a fine example of the valley’s move to go beyond simply being known as a Zinfandel producer.

“This relatively small area has helped put Sonoma County on the map with its Zinfandel flavors that are just so good as a result of the multiple soil types like nowhere else and the unique climate conditions all their own.” So echoes Lauren Fremont, Director of Operations for the Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley.

When asked what makes Dry Creek special she responds, “To me this valley is magical; it gives you a little hug as you drive through our two mile wide local because it’s so intimate. It’s feels cozy and when you learn of the heritage of the families, being so humble and down-to-earth, to me it’s part of why their wines are so amazing.”

“Two things make Dry Creek unique,” Fremont shares – “The temperature extremes from one end of the valley to the other and the love and passion as our people are making what they want to make, no matter what type or scale of wine, they’re really doing what they love.”


The Case for Sonoma County

Five years ago Vince Anter posted an episode on his website about Napa Valley – he still gets requests for tips on visiting the region and says that his first piece of advice is almost always: “Go to Sonoma too – it’s right next door:”

It’s not that I don’t like Napa wine. But for your average consumer; I think Sonoma County offers a better experience, both as a place to visit and as a source of wines for drinking at home or in restaurants.

I wholeheartedly second his declaration and that’s the reason why we’re celebrating our 6th anniversary in Santa Rosa, Sonoma County.

Napa is similar to Burgundy in that it’s expensive; the price-to-quality ratio can be hit or miss; and because it focuses primarily on one grape (Cabernet), the differences between cuvees from different producers or vineyards can only really be appreciated by more experienced tasters. But Sonoma County is more like the entire country of Spain, established in its own right but diverse in terroirs, varieties, and styles. With 19 AVA’s-from the cool Sonoma Coast and Carneros to the warmer Russian River and Dry Creek Valley to the downright hot Alexander Valley and Knights Valley, not to mention little boutique AVAs like the Fountaingrove District, there’s a climate for every grape.

And sure, the big-name grapes dominate production, but there’s still so much space for experimentation and surprise in Sonoma County, where more than 60 varieties are grown – it’s a breath of fresh air.

Sonoma’s much higher volume of wine production relative to Napa also means more variety and often, greater affordability. And there’s a massive commitment to sustainability here; 99% of the vineyards are certified sustainable.

Meanwhile, about 85% of the region’s wineries are family-owned and operated. The reason lots of old-vine Zins come from Sonoma? A handful of those families didn’t rip out Zinfandel vines when it became more lucrative to plant Cabernet Sauvignon.

As a travel destination, Sonoma County is a no-brainer: The diverse landscape en-compasses beaches, mountains, and plains. You can bounce from one cute town to another cute town, hitting restaurants in each. And the wineries tend to be less crowded than Napa’s if you know where to look and they’re more than excited to have you visit.

SOMM Journal


Half a Glass

Bacon Joints Most Popular Pizza Toppings List!

The most popular pizza toppings vary by region and even individual pizzerias. There are some universal pizza toppings that are popular across the U.S and Pepperoni is No. 1 but in areas of Illinois, sausage beats out pepperoni for the top spot.

The most popular pizza toppings vary by region and even individual pizzerias. There are some universal pizza toppings that are popular across the U.S and Pepperoni is No. 1 but in areas of Illinois, sausage beats out pepperoni for the top spot.

To find a definitive answer we went straight to pizzeria operators to find out what you’re ordering as the most popular toppings as part of our State of the Pizzeria Industry Report 2023.

The Top 5 Pizza Toppings in the US are:

  1. Pepperoni
  2. Sausage
  3. Mushroom
  4. Extra Cheese
  5. Bacon – This brings us to the newbie on the list. It was no surprise to us that bacon broke into the Top 5 Pizza Toppings. The mantra “everything is better with bacon” works on pizza as well.

Pizza Today


Perdón Bud Light, Modelo Especial Takes Over Top Beer Spot

The brand took over the top-selling U.S. beer spot in May, punctuating a month’s long boycott of Bud Light that has reshuffled the beer industry.

Modelo represented 8.4% of U.S. retail-store beer sales in the four weeks ended June 3, compared with 7.3% for Bud Light, according to an analysis of Nielsen data by consulting firm Bump Williams.

Bud Light’s sales have tanked since April, when transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney posted an image on Instagram of a personalized Bud Light can that the brand had sent her as a gift. The Instagram post sparked an uproar  and Anheuser-Busch’s response to the boycott angered even more people.

Bud Light’s sales were down about 24% in the week ended June 3 compared with the same week last year; other Anheuser-Busch brands also have taken a hit, including Budweiser and Michelob Ultra.

The continued decline through May is an ominous sign for Bud Light distributors during what they say is a make-or-break stretch between Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. Most Anheuser-Busch distributors are independently owned, many of them by families who have sold Budweiser for generations. Bud Light’s total sales over the first five months of the year are still higher than any other beer, the company said. Anheuser-Busch also remains the largest brewer in the country. But some Bud Light distributors said that they believe Bud Light may be permanently dethroned.

“Our year is screwed,” said an Anheuser-Busch distributor who doesn’t also carry Modelo.



Dog Toys and Whiskey

 “This case is about dog toys and whiskey, two items seldom appearing in the same sentence.” Those words don’t often appear together in Supreme Court opinions either, but here we are.

A quick case summary: Famed Tennessee whiskey distiller Jack Daniel’s took issue with dog toy manufacturer, VIP Products over one of the novelty chew toys in its “Silly Squeakers” line of booze-themed parodies. “The Old No. 2 on Your Tennessee Carpet” that bears a resemblance to a bottle of Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey. The verdict? The court unanimously agreed: “The Old No. 2 on Your Tennessee Carpet” is not necessarily protected speech.

Rather, the court holds that the First Amendment might not protect the squeaky chewable because VIP used Bad Spaniels as a trademark, identifying a commercial source (“a trademark as a trademark”), thereby possibly negating fair-use claims and opening the door to infringement and “consumer confusion” over the brands in question.

So…what now? Well, the case is headed back to the lower courts for more deliberation, so we’ll just have to wait for the next update.


If you have anywhere close to the love of cheese that I do you may want to look into spending $20 for a subscription to culture.

“culture: the word on cheese is America’s first and best magazine devoted to the love of cheese. Explore our website for stunning photos, cheesemaker profiles, recipes, wine, beer, and a community of readers always willing to help and chat.”

It’s the best $20 I’ve spent in a long time…you can thank me later.


Mac & Cheese in a Box

The Wall Street Journal of all places ran a piece in their Saturday weekend edition about Mac & Cheese noting that Kraft still sells about 1 million blue boxes a day calling it the “true crowd pleaser.”  $.94 at Amazon.

Many brands offer a more-expensive version that comes with cheese in sauce form rather than powdered. Calling it the “Deluxe Model” The Cracker Barrel line, not to be confused with the restaurant chain of the same name, stood out and produces plump elbows enveloped in a rich cheese sauce. $5.99 for 14 ounces,

I have my own “deluxe model” that I’m sharing in my recipe selections – Mac & Three Cheeses with Ham and Whipping cream.


Vin Chicago’s Mid-Year Tasting Report

I’ve known these folks since the late 70’s. Bud Schwarzbach and his son Peter still run the family business and I’m happy to say we’re still in touch some 45 years later.

The wines are selected by Bud, Peter and other staff members and are all reasonably priced and a great value. If you’re anywhere near a Vin Chicago store it’s worth the trip, fabulous selection.

2021 Bedrock “Old Vine Zinfandel, California Wine Spectator 94 points $23.99

2021 Ghiomo “Lavai” Barbera d’Alba, 91 points $16.95

2021 Patricia Green “Reserve” Pinot Noir Willamette Valley, Oregon $26.79

2022 Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc + Viognier California Bud’s pick “good wine does not need to be expensive to be delicious, fresh, fun and vibrant, this is simply the perfect white wine”. $11.95.


And a last minute tasting note comes from our friends Priscilla and David at small production Moon Dance Cellars in rural Sebastopol. David doesn’t like Chardonnay and only makes an Orchard Station Winery Cuvee of Chardonnay as Priscilla enjoys it. Apparently he found some great fruit in 2019 and released the wine this spring just in time to win The North Coast “Best of Class” Press Democrat (newspaper) annual judging. That means he beat the Kendall Jackson folks and everybody else. The wine has tremendous fruit and balance and is one of the best I’ve ever tasted. Bad news is there’s not much and it’s only at the winery so you folks from Petaluma better get up here before it’s gone.


That’s My Whine …..and I could be wrong

Here are a couple of recipes as promised; my Mac & Three Cheeses with Whipping Cream and Ham and Spaghetti with Baked Goat Brie, Pancetta, Toasted Garlic, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, and Basil are in fact right here. Enjoy!

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