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Red blends: Greater than the sum of their parts

While researching the current popularity of blended wines in preparation for a talk at the 2017 International Bulk Wine and Spirits Show about blends that begin life as bulk wine, I discovered white blends emerged as the exception rather than the rule. Consumer preferences for monovarietal white wines—Sauvignon Blanc is currently the fastest-growing white variety—are the likely drivers there, but that doesn’t stop winemakers from creating successful proprietary blends.

In 2014, blended wines accounted for more than 40 percent of new entries to the U.S. market, with the lion’s share going to reds (29.3 percent) and whites accounting for just 1.9 percent. When surveyed, domestic consumers said they liked blended wines because they are experimental, interesting and trendy with better value.

But it’s not the classic blends from regions like Bordeaux, the Southern Rhône, Valpolicella and Rioja they’re referring to; it’s the under-$25 blends that are marketed as nothing more than just that—blends. One striking example of success with modern blends is Dave Phinney’s Locations Wine portfolio, which goes even further by eliminating vintage and relying on branding that’s almost cryptic in its simplicity.

Through a partnership with Cordorníu Raventós, Phinney has assembled a portfolio of wines blended from across single countries. For example, his non-vintage wine labelled “E” (the international circulation mark for Spain) is a blend of Garnacha, Tempranillo, Monastrell and Cariñena that’s dry in style and sourced fro fie reions of pain ioa, Priorat, Jumilla, Toro and Ribera del Duero. Read the article here –SAOctNov2017

Edetària: Benchmark wines of Catalonia’s Terra Alta DO

As a winegrower, Joan Lliberia is only interested in producing wines that reflect a place.   His estate – Edetària – lies southwest of Barcelona and just inland from the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in Terra Alta, one of ten sub regions with Denominación de Origen (DO) quality status in the Catalonia winegrowing region of Spain. Wine has been cultivated here for a millennium and Lliberia continues this long tradition by producing wines that express a deep connection to the soils.

Terra Alta is the most westerly of Catalonia’s DOs which are clustered around Barcelona and include Alella, Conca de Barberá, Costers del Segre, Empordà (on the border of France), Montsant, Penedés, Plà de Bagés, Priorat (DOPQ) and Tarragona. Both Cataluña and Cava are broader designations that also apply to the Catalonia region.

The DO has two clearly defined growing regions: the valley floor and the high plateau. Edetària is sited on 38 hectares in the La Plana de Gandesa Valley and the high, limestone plateaus of the surrounding Pàndols-Cavalls and Els Ports mountain ranges.

The lower regions of the Gandesa Valley are composed of younger top soils deposited over a base of marl and sandstone, at mid-level there are fossilized dunes of fine, wind-blown soils and the higher elevations are characterized by older layers of marl, sandstone and calcareous (limey, chalky) terroir.

The complex marl soil types found here are a key factor in wine quality at Edetària. Marl is a chalky, clay-based soil that contributes acidity to wine and its presence throughout the region helps winegrowers like Lliberia maintain acidity in the warm, dry growing conditions. Humid off-shore winds called the “Garbinades” provide some additional moisture that brings relief to the vines during the height of summer.

The unique geology of the valley and Terra Alta’s dry, mild climate produce distinct, crisp white wines that show plenty of dry extract, a quality exhibited by many of the finest white wines around the world, and spicy reds with varietal typicity and vibrant Old World character.

With 24 hectares under vine, the majority of Lliberia’s indigenous grape varieties exceed 50 years of age and the indigenous red varieties like Garnacha and Carignan which are planted to south and southeasterly slopes of sandy “Tapàs” soils comprise the youngest sites averaging 25 years old.

Lliberia produces two brands, his flagship label, Edetària, and the winery’s largest production label, Edetana, that takes its name from an ancient Roman trade route, the via Edetana, that traversed Terra Alta’s vineyards centuries ago.

At Edetària, both international and indigenous varieties are carefully matched to the estate’s five distinct soil types. Garnacha, Carignan and Viognier perform well on “Tapàs” and “Tapàs Blanc,” porous, infertile soils over marl. The rare Garnacha Peluda clone is matched to deep, quick-draining, pebbly “Còdols” soils and Syrah to the estate’s deepest alluvial “Vall” soils over marl. The white varieties of Garnacha Blanca and Macabeu are planted on steep sites with deep, sandy, wind-blown soils known as “Panal” which are fossilized sand dunes.

With vision and a determined pursuit of quality, Joan Lliberia is producing wines of distinction from Terra Alta. In 2003, he built a modern winemaking facility and cellar where estate fruit is crafted into wines that reflect both the terrior and the intention of the winemaker.

His approach is one that respects each plot on the estate. He strives to make wines that are elegant and achieve a maximum expression of minerality and freshness. In doing so, each wine has a unique “personality” which Lliberia credits to the interaction of the different grape varieties and soil types, the microclimate of Terra Alta and precisely-timed harvesting.

Tasting notes for the winery’s current releases reveal both the finesse and the power of Lliberia’s blends and the potential for fresh whites and crisp reds being realized at Edetària.

Deborah Parker Wong’s Tasting Notes:

Edetana Blanc 2010 – 70% Garnacha Blanc, 30% Viognier

Sandy Tapàs soils layered with lime. Grenache is barrel fermented and aged for four months, Viognier is held on the lees. White flower and lime aromas with expressive, crisp minerality on the mid-palate, medium+ intensity and a pristine finish.

Edetana Negre 2009 – 60% Garnacha, 30% Garnacha Peluda clone, 10% Carignan grown on several distinct soils types. Lengthy skin contact and 12 months in new French Oak. Expressive mineral and clove aromas, darker black fruit flavors and fine, ripe tannins with sweeter grape tannins and flourish of cedar on the finish.

Edetària Blanc 2010 – 85% Garnacha Blanc, 15% Macabeu

Low-yielding 60-year old vines on sandy, wind-blown “Panal” soils. Barrel-fermented and aged for eight months in new French oak. Creamy oak aromas, lots of dry extract showing on a driving mid-palate and lengthy, focused finish.

Edetària Negre 2008 – 60% Garnacha Peluda, 30% Syrah, 5% Carignan, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon from their respective terroirs. Lengthy skin contact and gentle extraction produce a contemporary style with plenty of Syrah fruit up front and structure from Cabernet Sauvignon on the mid palate. 80-year old Carginan vines add considerable lift and complexity to the blend.

Sicily’s native grapes and the dawn of Italian wine culture

Archeologists researching the dietary habits of prehistoric Sicilians have discovered that wine was on the menu 6,500 years ago. The discovery made by a team of archeologists led by Dr. Davide Tanasi of the University of South Florida pushes the timeline for established viticulture in Italy back from the latter part of the Bronze Age (1600–1100 BCE) to the Copper Age (4500–3500 BCE).

While excavating a site on Monte Kronio in the Agrigento province in southwest Sicily, Tanasi found tartaric acid and its salts both of which are natural by-products of winemaking on unglazed pottery dating to 4500 BCE. It’s believed that the Mycenaean Greeks established viticulture in Sicily during the Bronze Age but the discovery has unearthed a much earlier point of origin for Italian wine culture.

Native varieties being trailed in the experimental vineyards at
Donnafugata’s estate in Contessa Entellina.

As the history of winegrowing in Sicily continues to evolve so do the efforts of forward-thinking producers who are working to preserve the island’s native grape varieties. Sicily’s indigenous grape varieties differentiate its wines from those in the rest of Italy and the Iberian Peninsula and, based on Tanasi’s findings, they are likely the very origin of Italy’s wine culture. The grape varieties indigenous to the island many of which were originally used to produce Marsala are gaining a new lease on life as delicious, light, dry wines.

Monte Kronio is located in the modern-day winegrowing region of Sciacca which along with the communes of Contessa Entellina, Menfi, Montevago, Santa Margherita and Belice comprise the Terre Sicane sub region. Research projects are being undertaken here and across Sicily to identify clonal material and insure the diversity of the island’s native vitis vinifera is both preserved and celebrated.  While Tanasi and his team are determining if the wine of the ancients was white or red, we can enjoy their modern-day equivalents.

At their familial estate in Contessa Entellina, Antonio and José Rallo, the brother and sister team of Donnafugata, are cultivating and vinifying 30 biotypes of 19 different grape varieties as part of a study designed to identify clones that are best suited to the region. Massal selection vines were planted in 2009 and the winery has been analyzing the flavor profiles of the grapes including the varieties Nocera, Vitarolo and Alzano which are described by the project as “relics” to validate their potential.

As winemaker and agronomist of his family winery and President of Sicily DOC,
Donnafugata’s Antonio Rallo is an advocate for Sicily’s native varieties.

According to agronomist and winemaker Antonio Rallo, the varieties Cataratto, Damaschino, Grecanico, Grillo, Inzolia and Periccone are those most likely to be indigenous to the Terre Sicane sub region.  “From the experimental vineyard at Contessa Entellina we’ve propagated Cataratto biotype A and Nero D’Avola biotype A and will begin production with these grapes in a few years,” he said.  “We’ve also propagated Nocera, an ancient red variety with deep, stable color, which we believe has great potential.”

Sicily’s native varieties are well represented in this clonal study that includes
30 biotypes of 19 different grape varieties.

The trial at Donnafugata includes two biotypes of the white variety Inzolia which is the Sicilian name for Ansonica, a variety according to author and Italian native grape expert Ian D’Agata very likely to be indigenous to the coastal region of Sciacca.  It’s closely related to other Sicilian varieties including Grillo, Frappato and Nerello Mascalese which are all known to be native to the island.  Widely appreciated as a table grape, Inzolia is naturally tannic and lower in acidity.  The variety was most commonly used in the Marsala blend as the grape is well-suited to this oxidative wine style.

Inzolia grown at Donnafugata’s Contessa Entellina estate plays a role in characterful white blends including Damarino and Vigna di Gabri, named for founder Gabriella Rallo, where it’s blended with a small percentage of the indigenous Cataratto and Chardonnay.

Sicily’s dozens of native varieties are showcased at the annual Sicilian en primeur tasting hosted by Assovini Sicilia, as association of 70 winery members founded in 1998 upon the inspiration of Diego Planeta (Planeta Estates), Giacomo Rallo (Tenuta di Donnafugata) and Lucio Tasca d’Almerita (Conte Tasca d’Almerita).

In 2016, more than 800 wines were presented among them several notable monovarietal and Inzolia-dominant blends.  Cusumano’s Cubia Tenuta Ficuzza, a richly–textured standout with bright, flinty lemon, and an Angimbé Chardonnay blend, Zonin’s Feudo Principi di Butera Inzolia, Donnafugata’s eponymous Vigna de Gabri, Baglio di Pianetto’s Ficiligno, a minerally Viognier blend, and Principe di Corleone Pollara’s Bianca de Corte Chardonnay blend.

Rallo’s commitment to the research and preservation of native varieties includes Zibibbo or Muscat di Alexandria which is grown under extremely harsh conditions at the winery’s estate on the island of Pantelleria.

Through the efforts of Rallo and the Assovini Sicilia, the production of Zibibbo on Pantelleria gained UNESCO heritage status in 2014.  Vineyard architecture on the wind-battered island demands albarello pantesco, the use of low, head-trained vines, a system of terrezzai muretti or dry stacked terraces and the use of windbreaks known as franzi vento.

Ungrafted, old vine Zibibbo thrives in the extreme conditions at the
Donnafugata’s estate on Pantelleria.

From its estate vineyards which are planted to ungrafted, centenary Zibibbo vines, Donnafugata produces two signature wines: Ben Ryé, a world-class Passito di Pantelleria sweet wine made from macerating a ratio of four kilos of raisined Zibibbo berries to one liter of fresh must, and a superb light, dry wine, Lighea (mermaid) with pronounced jasmine, green tea and ripe green fruit flavors.

The winery is conducting a clonal research project of 33 biotypes of Zibibbo collected by massal selection from Spain, France, Greece and the Italian mainland which is being supervised by Professor Atilio Scienza.  “These experimental vineyards were planted in 2010 and we think it’s too early to begin evaluating the potential of each biotype,” said Rallo.

View from the vineyard behind the Donnafugata winery on the island of Pantelleria.
On a clear day the coast of Tunisia can be seen on the horizon.

Varieties currently being trialed by Donnafugata:


Malvasia della Liparia
Minnella Nera
Moscato Bianco
Nero d’Avola
Nerello Mascalese
Nerello Cappuccino

Rioja’s Enotourism Ready

Interested in exploring the Spanish wine region of Rioja?  I’ve got some firsthand, no-fail recommendations for tasting, dining, accommodations and cultural enrichment.

If you begin your stay in Haro, there’s really no need to drive if you want to visit the eight wineries clustered around the historic Haro train station. They’re all within comfortable walking distance of the town center although most of the Spanish tourists I spotted were driving and taking advantage of the ample parking.

The winery tasting rooms that I visited in Haro – La Rioja Alta, Muga, CVNE and Bodegas Bilbainas – and those at outlying wineries – Marqués de Riscal, Bodega Dinastia Vivanco, Torre de Ona – are all stylish, comfortably appointed and well equipped for English speaking guests. Muga’s tasting room was stocked with high-quality goods and teaming with eager shoppers who were offered gracious and informed hospitality. Walk-in tasting fees at CVNE were very modest and I had a quiet table to taste all eight wines on offer at my own pace.

Lunch time, however, can pose a challenge as all the restaurants are located in Haro which requires a hike back to the center of town. The private dining room at La Rioja Alta is the solution and I can recommend their delicious cuisine but take note that reservations are required in advance.  You won’t find Uber or taxi service readily available so visits to outlying wineries do require driving.

Where to stay

Considered by locals as the best hotel in Haro, Los Agustinos Hotel is located in the center of town in an historic building dating from 1373.  The four-star hotel once housed an Augustinian monastery, convent, military garrison, jail and hospital and is just steps from the winery quarter.  Built around a light-filled courtyard, the hotel’s restaurant served excellent local fare.

Wines of note

La Rioja Alta

IMG_7155Vina Arana Reserva 2008 – This seamless blend of Tempranillo and Mazuelo spends three years in American oak resulting in an elegant, ferrous wine with dark cherry, black currant and tobacco.

La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 890 2004 – Orange zest, chocolate, balsamic and black tea with great purity of fruit that extends through the finish, a rare occurrence in a Gran Reserva.

Torre de Ona, sister winery to La Rioja Alta, is located in LaGuardia in the Alava province of Rioja Alavesa.


The dormant estate vineyards and view of the Pyrenees mountains at Torre de Ona.


Torre de Ona 2012 – Tempranillo and Mazuelo blend aged in Russian and French oak. Ferrous and mineral with black tea, black cherry and raspberry on a charming mid palate with cedar and brown spice apparent on the finish.

Bodegas Bilbainas


Bodegas Bilbainis winemaker Alejandro Lopez Garcia at the winery’s heralded single vineyard, Vina Pomal.

Tempranillo Blanco Reserva 2013 – Fumé-style with ripe Meyer lemon, chalk and saline mineral notes that’s a benchmark for Rioja.


Alto de la Casetta Viña Pomal 2012 – A blockbuster with deep, dark black fruit and restrained use of oak.

Viña Pomal Vinos Singulares Graciano 2012 – Lively aromas of camphor, cherry and ripe cranberry with resolved tannins and delicate finish.

Bodegas Muga


Muga’s Juan Muga.


Muga Selection Especial 2011 – Graphite, mulberry, chocolate, monolithic black core with coffee and tarry notes on the finish.

Muga Gran Reserva 2009 – Bordeaux-like with toast, black currant, black pepper, licorice, camphor and clove with notable fruit purity and balance.

Torre Muga 2011 – Blackberry, mulberry, fig and prune with very resolved m+ to high tannins and seamless amplification of fruit without overbearing oak influence.

Elciego: Where to stay and what to taste


Marqués de Riscal’s Jose Luis Muguiro.

The stunning Frank Gehry-designed Marqués de Riscal hotel and spa built in 2006 on the grounds of the original Herederos del Marqués de Riscal winery which was founded in 1858 is a juxtaposition of old and new.  The hotel and winery which comprise the Marqués de Riscal City of Wine are located in Elciego, a southern village in the Rioja Alavesa province of Alava. The hotel’s breathtaking architecture houses both a Spa Vinothérapie Caudalie and the Michelin-starred Marqués de Riscal and Bistro 1860 restaurants.

Riojan Chef Francis Paniego creates locally-inspired haute cuisine at Marques de Riscal and showcases traditional dishes and ingredients at the less formal bistro. There’s a charming wine bar off the hotel lobby with an expansive outdoor terrace and dramatic views of the medieval town of Elciego. The winery which marked its 150th anniversary in 2008 offers several different tours by reservation with a 90-minute tour and tasting of two wines starts at 12 €.


Wines of note

Barón de Chirel 2012 – A 70% Tempranillo-dominate blend that includes Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from the three-hectare Las Tapias vineyard and produced only in the best years. Deeply black-fruited with chocolate on the nose and plummy, earthy notes of Cabernet Sauvignon making an appearance on the mid palate.

Frank Gehry Selection 2012 – Only 5,000 bottles of this 100% old vine Tempranillo were made so the wine isn’t readily available in the United States.  Without question, one of the best Tempranillo wines that I’ve ever tasted with a rush of black tea, orange zest, balsamic, earth, umami and dark fruits like mulberry and plum.  According to Riscal Technical Manager Luis Hurtado, “It only compares with 1945.”

Briones: What to see and what to taste


Vivanco Winemaker Rafael Vivanco Saenz.


For a one-stop cultural immersion, you’ll want to devote most of a day exploring Vivanco’s state-of-the-art underground winery and barrel cellar and world-class Museum of Wine Culture.  The 4,000-m2 museum, educational center, tasting room and restaurant were built over the original winery in 2004. Founded by Pedro Vivanco, one of Spain’s first credentialed winemakers, the estate is now managed by his sons Rafael who is the winemaker and Santiago who oversees the museum and foundation.

Winemaker Rafael Vivanco Sáenz works with indigenous varieties from the 440-hectare estate vineyards in Rioja Alta and makes a full range of wines from blanco to late harvest.  The winery offers docent-led winery and museum tours starting at 21€, tastings and a fine dining restaurant with stunning views of the estate vineyards and nearby town of Briones.


A must-visit in nearby Briones is the Church of Our Lady of Assumption (Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción).  This Isabelline Gothic style church dates from 1521 and houses an altarpiece of incredible beauty.


IBWSS Recap: a first for California

The IBWSS was the first-ever bulk and private label wine and spirits event in California

Close to 1500 wineries, distilleries, importers, distributors and retailers met in San Francisco for the debut of the highly anticipated International Bulk Wine & Spirits Show on July 26 & 27. At the event, suppliers and buyers traded and attendees learned about the latest trends in bulk wine and spirits, including methods to use private labels as a way to win over customers, boost loyalty and drive new sources of revenue.

The event saw unprecedented success with most exhibitors walking away with deals or potential contacts with buyers. Exhibitors had the chance to meet buyers from Gallo wines, Trader Joe’s, Kroger’s, Bevmo amongst many others.  Buyers came from all over the United States and were not limited to the vicinity of the Californian wine industry.

In the post-event survey, 80% of the exhibitors reported a high level of satisfaction with the show quoting that they were pleased with the number and the quality of buyers that they met at the show. 60% of the exhibitors mentioned that they were likely or very likely to exhibit again with 30% signing up on the spot to exhibit at IBWSS 2018! Read full recap here – IBWSS.PR

The trilemma of primary, secondary and tertiary aromas

It’s generally accepted that we have three choices when defining wine aromas, they are categorized as primary, secondary or tertiary. Yet in practice, many common aromas can be attributed to two of these categories.

Primary wine flavors (the combination of aromas and tastes) come from the grape variety itself and are almost always fruity except when they’re not. Secondary aromas are those associated with post-fermentation winemaking and include yeast, lees, yogurt, cream, butter or cheese and a full spectrum of flavors derived from oak. Tertiary flavors are defined as deliberate oxidation, fruit development, bottle age or any combination thereof.

Petrol, for example, which is most commonly detected in Riesling and attributed to the compound 1, 1, 6, -trimethyl-1,2-dihydronapthalene (TDN), can be present in new made Riesling and in increasingly higher amounts in bottle-aged wine due to the hydrolysis and rearrangement of TDN precursors over time.

The conundrum or trilemma that students of wine encounter when using a tasting rubric like the Systematic Approach to Tasting developed by the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) or the Court of Master Sommeliers’ Deductive Tasting Grid becomes apparent when defining petrol. The WSET categorizes it as a tertiary flavor attributed to bottle age in white wines and the Court as inorganic earth/mineral.  Read the full article The Trilemma of Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Aromas

Campania Update: Focus on Falanghina del Sannio DOP

If you’re keeping tabs on wine quality in Southern Italy with its myriad indigenous grape varieties and oftentimes limited access to distribution, this update on the Sannio DOP should prove to be useful. Through a combination of research trips to Campania and the opportunity to judge the Radici del Sud “Roots of the South” wine competition which has been held in different venues in the town of Bari, Puglia since 2006, it provides a look at the key factors for the region and a snapshot of wine quality.

The Radici competition uses a unique format of two different juries, one composed of international experts and another of Italian experts, both of which taste all of the wines that have been submitted.  When a wine captures the attention of both juries, they’ve succeeded in pointing you to a grape, a place and a producer that are worth investigating. The preliminary results from this year’s Radici competition which narrowed 350 entries down to 70 were released this week and among them the 2016 Fontanavecchia Campania Falanghina Taburno was singled out by both juries as one of the first or second wines in its class. The winery’s 2009 Vigna Cataratte Aglianico also scored a first.

Falanghina del Sannio

In fewer than 40 years, Falanghina has emerged as a signature grape for Campania’s Sannio DOP.  Although Falanghina is grown across Southern Italy with DOC regions found in Campania, Molise, Puglia and Abruzzo, 80 percent of its hectares lie in Sannio which covers the entire province of Benevento.   Falanghina’s point of origin is attributed to the Bonea commune in Benevento which lies at the southern foot of Monte Taburno, an isolated massif that is part of the Campania Apennine Mountain chain. The indigenous grape owes its name to the Latin “falangae,” the poles that were traditionally used to support the vigorous canopy of this ancient Greek-Balkan variety.

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Day 1 of the IBWSS

By Dominic Basulto & Malvika Patel

The International Bulk Wine & Spirits Show (IBWSS) kicked off in San Francisco on July 26 with a packed exhibition hall and a keynote address from Bobby Koch, President and CEO of the Wine Institute. That led to a full day of presentations, workshops and master classes from some of the top names in the bulk wine and spirits industry.

The question on everyone’s mind at the event, of course, was: “How can my business make the most out of being involved with the bulk wine and spirits industry?” For some participants, it meant mingling on the showroom floor with the 80 international and domestic exhibitors, who were ready and willing to share their advice on how to take advantage of opportunities in the bulk wine and spirits industry offering trade prospects and private label services. These exhibitors included some from nearby California wine-growing regions as well as some foreign exhibitors from as far away as Chile and Australia.

Visitors shifted their focus between the Tasting Floor and the series of presentations and workshops at the South San Francisco Conference Center designed to give participants a deep-dive into the world of bulk wine and spirits. Deborah Parker Wong, a wine industry journalist and judge, set the tone for the day with a presentation on “How to deliver successful bulk wine programs.” As she noted, the global bulk market is becoming more fluid, and that’s changing the go-to-market strategies for many wineries.

That was followed up with presentations designed to cover specialized issues related to the bulk wine industry – everything from marketing to legal issues to pricing. The final presentation of the day came from Nat DiBuduo, President of Allied Grape Growers, who went into detail on how current grape supply and demand impacts the industry, using the example of Pinot Grigio. As he suggested, many wineries get involved in the bulk wine industry because the shifting conditions of supply and demand make it imperative to explore new market approaches.

Day 1 of the IBWSS also included three workshops designed to help wineries and winemakers already involved in the bulk wine industry to develop their expertise even further. For example, winemaker Clark Smith led a master class on postmodern winemaking, in which he described why values like openness, mutual respect and authentic dialogue are so important for today’s winemakers to reach consumers. Steve Burch of Radoux USA followed up with a workshop on how spirits brand owners and distilleries can take advantage of opportunities within the bulk spirits industry, including learning how to make their own apertif for the consumer market.

And, for winemakers trying to negotiate the intricacies of shipping their bulk wines across national borders, Gordon Burns of ETS Laboratories led a workshop on how to use certificates of analysis (COAs) in international trade. As Burns pointed out, wine is an inherently safe product, so many of the COAs now required as part of international trade deals might not really be needed. The goal should be cutting down on the number of certificates required, not demanding more of them. However, when COAs are required, it’s paramount to ensure quality results, usually by having the certificates of analysis done by an accredited laboratory.

As the final workshop came to a close, participants milled back out on the exhibition floor of the South San Francisco Conference Center, eager to put their new knowledge to work. Join us on Day 2 of the IBWSS as we hear from another full slate of speakers and workshop participants on topics related to the world of bulk wine and spirits.

Horizons left to chase: Q & A with One Mind Institute’s Brandon Staglin

Brandon Staglin, recipient of the Mental Health Association’s 2017 Clifford W. Beers Award, has been recognized as the nation’s leading consumer advocate for improving treatment and attitudes toward people who live with mental health conditions.

Having recovered from schizophrenia, an illness that affects two million people living in the United States, Staglin is both a role model and an inspiration. He is the Board Director for the One Mind Institute, a non-profit dedicated to funding brain health research founded by Shari and Garen Staglin in 1995, and Director of Marketing and Communications for the Staglin Family Vineyard. In the below interview he talks candidly about his work and life experiences.

What would you say to someone who has a family or community member who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia to help them understand that it’s possible to manage and overcome the disorder?

Managing schizophrenia can be a challenge, but one that I have been able to meet and succeed at. One of the most helpful things I’ve done toward returning to wellness has been to consciously accept that I have a brain health condition that will stay with me for the foreseeable future. When I was able to accept this, I stopped fighting that idea and began to allocate more energy to pursuing meaningful parts of life, like relationships, career, hobbies, and advocacy. Now, managing my condition has become routine and consumes much less attention and concern. And these meaningful life pursuits have strongly developed my resilience and stability.

Other super-helpful factors in my recovery have been early and consistent access to quality psychiatric care, including medication; the loving support of my family, and my participation in a 1998 clinical trial for an experimental form of treatment called cognitive training.

Today, I work at a job that I care about, own a home, and am happily married for over eight years to my wife, Nancy. She and I take care of our dog, Cooper. Nancy and Cooper have taught me so much about unconditional love, which has been my life’s greatest reward.

I define recovery as the ability to transcend the confines (some physical, some conceptual) of patient life and to pursue the things that matter to you. It may or may not entail being symptom-free or treatment-free. I consider myself recovered although I still take medication and see my psychiatrist regularly. And I would not want to have never developed schizophrenia, because dealing with it for myself and as an advocate has taught me valuable lessons in wellness, responsibility, and compassion.

In addition to the medical, social, and motivational factors I describe above, I also make it a point to exercise every day, to eat mindfully, to meditate regularly, and to get a sensible amount of sleep each night. All these help to keep me steady and strong.

You haven’t let this disorder define who you are but how important is it for family members and caregivers to separate the person from the illness? 

There were a couple of months shortly after my initial episode in 1990 when my recovery was not progressing well, and I experienced deep depression and suicidal ideation. The most impactful thing my Dad has ever said to me was during that time: “There’s a lot of love coming from here, Brandon.” Although I was too sick at the time to feel or return that love, his words reached me, and inspired me to want to get well, to share in the love of my family again. It was a major boost toward recovery. It worked because, deep within, I was still the person I had been, and my capacity to love was intact; it was just obscured temporarily.

I also retained the capacity to dream. At one moment when I was seriously considering suicide, what brought me back was the memory of the chimpanzee behavior research I had been assisting at the Oakland Zoo, once a week, and the lifelong fascination I felt for the type of scientific learning that entailed. Because I wanted to continue to learn, I decided then to keep on keeping on. I am very glad to still be here, in part because I have since learned a great deal more about the science of behavior!

I believe it is important for families and clinicians to help patients reconnect with their loves and their dreams, for these can motivate patients to work toward recovery.

Can you tell us what the One Mind Institute is doing in terms of research towards finding a cure?

One Mind operates several programs to find better treatments, preventions and cures for schizophrenia and other brain disorders. Focusing on schizophrenia, our most important work has been in the realm of early detection and intervention. As with any other disease, evidence indicates that the earlier someone at risk for (or newly experiencing) psychosis can access treatment, the better their potential for recovery. Since the early 2000s, One Mind Institute has seed-funded and supported the research of the North American Prodrome Longitudinal Study (NAPLS), a nine-university consortium investigating the means to detect and treat psychosis even before a first episode occurs.

Today, I am co-leading a program of One Mind to form a learning healthcare network among community early psychosis treatment centers throughout California, with the intent to enable this network to participate in similar collaborative research. It is my hope that we can develop a way for this network to pool their data with that of the NAPLS to make statistically significant breakthroughs faster, for validate ways to prevent schizophrenia and other serious mental illnesses on a societal scale.

You’ve written about the NIMH’s RAISE project.  Have you benefited from this type of early intervention and holistic treatment?

The RAISE study’s discoveries have formed the foundation for federal funding that has enabled over 100 more early psychosis clinics to open nationwide, which is awesome for public health.

During my first episode in 1990, RAISE-model treatment (called Coordinated Specialty Care, or CSC) was not generally used for schizophrenia. However, with the help of my family, I engaged in a comprehensive care “program” of our own invention which combined medical treatment, volunteering (at the Oakland Zoo and the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito) and continuing education (auditing classes at UC Berkeley). This combination of traditional treatment with community involvement and responsibility provided me with weekly structure, and kept me learning and growing as I stabilized. In many respects, this combination was similar to RAISE treatment.

About two million people in the U.S. are diagnosed as schizophrenic while an estimated 5.5 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s disease.  Alzheimer’s seems to get the lion’s share of media attention and research dollars.  What is One Mind doing to raise awareness and dispel stigma around schizophrenia?

One of our programs, Care Connect, operates a campaign called Strong365 ( that educates youth about what psychosis is, about the availability of early care, and about the fact that seeking help is a sign of strength. This campaign provides digital ads to youth who search on the web for terms related to psychosis, which send them to the Strong365 website to learn more and to connect with peer chat or with a treatment center if desired.

In 2009, One Mind Institute co-founded Bring Change to Mind, a leading national organization raising awareness and fighting stigma around mental health conditions. I continue to speak, blog, and participate in interviews about my experience, which I hope educates many.

In a recent study of genetic factors that put people at risk of developing mental illnesses, scientists have found a new gene linked to psychosis.  You’ve described this as “following the pathways” research. Can you tell us more?

Studies like this one are important in that they can provide clues to the biological processes that can lead to schizophrenia. Once scientists know of a gene or network of genes that contributes robustly to risk for the disease, as in this family, they can investigate the biological pathways that develop from the activity of these genes and that can bring on the symptoms, and from this knowledge, find biological targets for the development of more focused treatments.

This “following the pathways” type of research has recently started to succeed. Steven McCarroll, of the Broad Institute at Harvard and MIT, spoke at our 2016 Music Festival about how his lab elucidated the biological mechanism behind how a specific mutation in the C4 gene can strongly increase risk for schizophrenia. This was tremendously exciting news.

In a very personal expression of hope and inspiration, Brandon Staglin has written and publicly performed an original song titled “Horizons Left to Chase” that explores the possibilities that exist despite having a schizophrenia diagnosis.  He encourages everyone to watch the performance on One Mind Institute’s YouTube Channel.



Q & A with CEO Sid Patel, The International Bulk Wine and Spirits Show

San Francisco continues to be one of the world’s most important destinations for leading players in the wine industry, so it’s no surprise that a major conference dedicated to the private label and bulk trade is making its way to the city on July 26-27.

In the short Q&A below, Sid Patel, CEO of the Beverage Trade Network (BTN), explains why his organization is bringing the event to San Francisco for the first time and why the private label and bulk trade has become such an important market segment in the United States.


Why did you decide to bring the International Bulk Wine & Spirits (IBWS) Show to San Francisco?

On a global basis, and in the United States the private label and bulk trade market are growing in importance. We’ve already seen a lot of enthusiasm by supermarkets, restaurants and hospitality businesses to create their own private label brands, as well as by smaller wineries to get into the bulk trade.

San Francisco was a natural choice for us when we were thinking about where to host the conference. The city has geographical access to some of the most important wineries and wine-growing regions in the country, including many wineries that are major players in the private label and bulk trade market.

We’ve already had a phenomenal response to other events that we’ve hosted for the wine industry, so expanding our presence to San Francisco just made a lot of sense. When we first came up with the concept for the IBWS Show, we wanted it to be a place where buyers and sellers could meet and do deals. We’ve seen that buyers want to explore as many options as possible when they select their private label and bulk supply partners.

California is one of the leading private label markets, so it made sense that we could provide the platform to connect these buyers to top class suppliers from all over the world.

What can exhibitors and visitors expect this summer in San Francisco?

Visitors will get a chance to meet wineries and distilleries who offer private label and contract manufacturing options, bulk wine suppliers from all over the world, bulk spirits suppliers and contract bottlers.

The idea of the show is that a visitor can walk in with an idea or a concept and can meet all the parties involved in developing a private label brand from scratch.

You will literally be able to set up a private label business with the contacts, information, and education that you will get at the show. So, for example, you will meet contract bottlers, you will meet wine and spirits suppliers and you will meet legal experts who can guide you with any questions you might have.

Exhibitors will get a chance to meet buyers looking to develop private label brands. Exhibitors will also meet wineries and distilleries looking to meet their demand for bulk wine and spirits.

What’s the target audience for the IBWS show?

The show is relevant to custom crush suppliers, distilleries, and wineries who could branch into providing these facilities in addition to bulk wine and spirits and buyers from every tier of business who want to explore these services. We’re really looking to show people how the private label and bulk trade business is starting to become a bigger and bigger component of the U.S. wine industry.

It is important to educate suppliers about the advantages of offering such services and how it helps distilleries and wineries grow their bottom line and build relationships. It is the time we accepted this new trend, which is really influencing the future of the wine industry.

Why did you come up with the concept of a conference around the bulk wine market?

The show is the only one of its kind where bulk wine, bulk spirits, and private label businesses can meet and do business in the same place. We wanted to create a show that encourages bulk providers to do business openly. For many reasons, the bulk trade has been flying under the radar of many wine industry participants.

We want to clarify a lot of myths, we want to share case studies of wineries that have their own brands and at the same time develop private label brands for their own customers.

The conference topics will help wineries and distilleries understand how they can optimize their wineries by offering such services, it will also show buyers what to look for in their supply partners and it will educate the trade on myths about bulk wine and spirits.

What issues will be covered at the IBWSS in San Francisco?

We have an exciting agenda lined up in San Francisco. To offer a really broad view of the industry, one of our speakers will be covering the major trends that are shaping the global bulk wine, spirits and private label market. And, for participants who really want to drill down on the specifics, we’ll have lawyers talking about the major points that need to be included in any private label or bulk wine agreement.

We’ve really tried to cover all the different angles. For example, one session hosted by Nat DiBuduo will focus on how current grape demand and supply affects market participants. And we’ll have a noted wine industry judge talk about blending bulk wines to create a quality blend. And, of course, we’ll cover how retailers and restaurants can grow their private label brands.

Why do you think the bulk wine will have such a big impact in the coming years?

Retailers, importers, distributors and buyers want to sell brands that they can control. There are obvious reasons (profit, the stability of supply, brand equity) for this. This means they have started doing backward supply management where they plan their inventories and work with contract bottlers in a much more efficient way. This also means buying in bulk and bottling it locally.

Any particular examples of how bulk wine is already being used effectively?

So far we have seen wineries using bulk wine that is in excess used in such channels where wineries can offer one-time deals to restaurant chains and similar businesses. Some good quality wineries are also creating blends by getting involved in buying bulk wine and blending.

What can you tell us about Beverage Trade Network?

Beverage Trade Network was founded as a response to the underlying challenges that face beverage industry professionals on a daily basis. With our integrated set of tools and services for wineries, breweries, distilleries and brand owners, our members can easily attract and engage with potential business partners from around the world.

About The International Bulk Wine and Spirits Show:  The International Bulk Wine and Spirits Show (IBWSS) is an annual trade show and conference, open to trade professionals only, which takes place in San Francisco, CA. IBWSS exhibitors are wineries and distilleries looking to sell bulk wine and spirits, producers and negociants who offer contract manufacturing / private label programs and wineries / distilleries / importers who have one time excess stock to clear. IBWSS buyers are other wineries and distilleries looking to meet up their demand, Importers, Retailers and Distributors looking for private label programs, negociants who are looking to meet the growers and producers. Learn more at on how you can get involved.