Wine Country – Sonoma Coastal Region

When you’re thinking about wine country in California, you are apt to miss the Sonoma Coast, often considered Sonoma’s most enigmatic wine region. From San Pablo Bay, to Mendocino, this AVA gets a direct influence from the Pacific Ocean’s cool, often cold climate.


Known for creating some of Sonoma Wine Country’s best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the Sonoma Coastal AVA is a contradiction in itself, creating twice the rainfall of any other region, some areas that sit above blankets of fog twice a day, and yet still has enough heat to ripen the grapes to perfection.

Some of my favorite Chardonnay and Pinot from this region are from Patz and Hall as well as Lombardi. Each one has it’s own vibrant, racy and elegant personality that denotes the region within which it was created.

Explore the Sonoma Coastal AVA!



Five Minutes On the Vine : Winery Passport

We’ve decided to start a new series around here, Five Minutes On the Vine. Once a month I will showcase an amazing winery, winemaker or wine innovator and ask them a series of questions.

Our inaugural feature is Scott Stanchak and his incredible app Winery Passport. Named Food and Wine magazine’s Top Travel Wine App, Winery Passport is a “mobile wine concierge for discovering local wines and wineries…”, allowing you to write tasting notes, stamp your “passport” for every winery you visit and share those experiences online with your friends and fellow wine drinkers!

We reached out to Scott to ask him a few questions about the app and most important of all, what he’s been drinking these days…


What was the impetus for creating Winery Passport? 

My wife and I were at a wine tasting in New Jersey when it was time to stamp our paper passport books that the Garden State Growers Association provide. The problem was we had forgotten our passports at home. The winery owner offered us new ones, but then we’d have to carry two identical books since we already had stamps in our other ones. At the time, I had released a popular word game (LetterSlider) on the App Store and been looking for my next app idea. I thought, why not put the passport on your most personal device? Winery Passport launched a few months later in August 2013.

What was the process like, getting it from idea to actual app?

The process took a tremendous amount of time and patience. My goal was, and still is, to build a product that is both valuable for users and wineries. Thankfully, having developed mobile apps before, I knew how to design the requirements and hire developers to make everything happen. I also have a background in marketing and understand what it takes to build brand awareness and return-on-investment for wineries.

The hardest part of building Winery Passport, however, was also the most critical: compiling the most complete and accurate list of wineries available. Initially, we did a lot of research to gather winery listing information across the U.S. and Canada. From there, we’ve continued to refine our database through user feedback, conversations with wineries and other ways. Today, I believe we have close to 100% of all wineries (as many as we know about) in those countries, as well as a tremendous amount of data related to each. Let us know if we’re missing any!

How has your response been from wineries and users? 

I think the wine industry is still trying to make sense of mobile, and really digital marketing as whole. When we first launched, Winery Passport only offered increased exposure for wineries in front of our audience,‹ sort of like appearing at the top of Google search. But we knew that was only one dimensional.

Capturing customer information is a major problem for wineries: a poll puts it that about 25% ever leave an email address when visiting a tasting room. We have 100% though, which is why in April we released the ability for our recommended winery partners to directly message all users who have stamped at a specific winery or have it on a wish list.

Then, in July, we unveiled leads. Now users can request to buy wine, book tastings or join a wine club directly from the app. These request forms pre-populate the user’s information automatically and are completely mobile optimized, making the process only a few seconds. Now we hit on all the major direct-to-consumer touch points for wineries: tastings, wine clubs, wine purchases.

When wineries understand the value of these tools, they absolutely love them. There is definitely still an education process related to what is possible in mobile and why it’s worth embracing. With 60% of all digital time spent there, it shouldn’t be optional. 

As for our users, they’re absolutely the best. I get emails every day telling me that they were looking for an app like this. They’ve helped us build a better app by using it, spreading the word and sending me feedback. A message from the winery or ability to request a tasting isn’t just beneficial for the winery. Our users have a relationship at this point with the winery and hope to draw more value out of it. We’re helping make that connection and they love it.


How do you think it enhances the overall wine-tasting experience?

Here’s the idea path for a user’s Winery Passport experience:

1. User finds a winery near their location, on a map, by country/state/province or by name. 

2. User requests tasting and sends their information to the winery. 

3. User stamps their Winery Passport at the tasting, enters their wines tasted and rates the experience in their journal.

4. User shares stamp on Facebook and Twitter. 

5. Winery messages user post-tasting with an offer to expand the relationship. 

6. User visits winery’s Winery Passport listing and taps Buy Wine to purchase a case of the latest vintage release.

What’s next for Winery Passport? Any changes you’d like to see made to the app to enhance the experience even more? 

I’m really excited about the progress that was made in 2015 and that has set the foundation for what should be an amazing year. The biggest thing on our roadmap is international expansion (I’ll touch on more in a bit.) I also would like to open up the ability to stamp at a winery more than once. That means also revising how the journal functions. This is an area I’ve given a lot of thought to and haven’t quite nailed down the perfect way to execute without detracting from the user experience.

Any chance Winery Passport will make the leap across the pond? 

Winery Passport expansion is absolutely on our roadmap this year. Initially, we rolled out to 13 states. The goal was to refine the app before we made our way across the U.S. to California — the mecca of wine. The response was so great, we were in all 50 states and all Canadian provinces within two months. In the two-plus years we’ve been live, those have been the only two countries we’ve focused on. But you’ll start to see changes in the app soon preparing for expansion, including a new country structure when you click on Location. I’m definitely open to suggestions where to go next!

What is your favorite wine you’re drinking now? 

I love a glass of Pinot Noir. I post a weekly bottle “Friday Wine of the Week” on my Twitter feed (@ScottStanchak). I feel bad for my followers because 80% of the time it’s been a new Pinot Noir. I just am such a fan right now.


Download the Winery Passport for Apple or Android users and share with us where you’ve been stamping!


Heritage Radio | All In the Industry

I recently had a chance to speak with Shari Bayer of All In the Industry, a podcast dedicated to the behind-the-scenes of the hospitality industry. We chatted about the 10th Season of Check, Please! Bay Area, why I travel around the world to taste and experience wine, the Boston Wine Expo and all of the amazing events that I’m planning throughout the course of the year!

Check it out and I hope to see you at the Boston Wine Expo this weekend.




Wine Wisdom | The Today Show

I was recently on NBC’s Today Show with Kathie and Hoda, answering questions from readers like YOU. Thank you for all of your curiosity and, as always, you can submit those to me here and I’m happy to answer them.



Wine Wisdom: Wine to please all palates

2014 Montes “Cherub” Rosé of Syrah, Colchagua Valley, Chile $15 

If you can only choose one wine for a crowd, make it pink. Rose wines are made with red grapes but in a white wine style, which makes them easy to please drinkers of red or white wines and sweet or dry. This appealing, garnet-hued wine is dry in style but sports succulent red berry freshness. Crafted from Syrah in Chile’s sunny Colchagua Valley, it’s a wine to stock up on for year-round sipping. 

Wine Wisdom: All-purpose wine glass

Nachtmann Vivendi, White Wine Glass (Set of 4) $30

Even though it says it’s for white wine, this 16 oz. lead crystal glass is an ideal all-purpose version to use for white, red, and even sparkling wine.  What I like about Nachtmann is the high quality at an affordable price. 

Wine Wisdom: Pairing wine and cheese

Though I’m a firm believer in the idea of drinking what you like and eating what you like, my approach to pairing wine and cheese is to either contrast or complement.

Taylor Fladgate 10 Year Old Tawny Port, Portugal $30 

One of the world’s top producers of Tawny Port this lightly sweet fortified wine sports aromas of caramel and orange zest. It’s a dessert wine with class. 

Pairing Tip: The sweetness of the Port is a counterpoint to the saltiness of an aged cheese such as Asiago. 

2013 Acquiesce “Belle Blanc” Lodi, California $23 

Hailing from the up-and-coming region of Lodi, this beautiful blend of white grapes including Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and Viognier is made by Lodi’s only winery devoted to white wine. It is compellingly creamy and smooth but with a core of freshness. The packaging is eye-catching, too, making it a gift option for the upcoming Valentine’s Day. 

Pairing Tip: Creamy cheeses like brie complement the smoothness of the wine 

Wine Wisdom: low-calorie wine 

Most dry wines have around 125 calories per 5 oz. glass with calories coming primarily from the alcohol content. These two wines are made by the same winery, Brancott, using the same grape variety and planted in the same area of New Zealand but offer two caloric versions: 

2013 Brancott “Flight Song” Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand ($15) 

A crisp, clean, lemon-scented white that tips the scales at a mere 90 calories. Made by harvesting the grapes earlier, which leads to a lower alcohol content of only 9 percent, the wine is packs a flavor punch while still saving on calories. 

2014 Brancott Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand ($13) 

One of New Zealand’s classic producers, Brancott is known for their signature Sauvignon Blanc. With aromatic notes of citrus fruit and fresh herbs, it showcases the uniqueness of Marlborough’s sunny yet cool growing region. A delicious value ringing in at around 125 calories a glass.

Sparkling Wines Wisdom: Champagne, Prosecco, and Cava

Sparkling wine is the overall category of wines. Champagne hails from France, Prosecco from Italy and Cava is from Spain. Champagne is made with grape varieties Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. Prosecco is made with the grape Glera grown in northern Italy, and Cava is the unique sparkler from northeastern Spain using native grapes such as Macabeo, Xarel-lo, and Parellada. 

Pol Roger, Brut Reserve “White Foil” Champagne, France $50

Pure beauty in a bottle. Pol Roger, a family-owned winery that has been producing world-famous bubbly for more than 160 years, still crafts many of the best Champagnes. This non-vintage bottling is made from the three grapes of Champagne and reflects the elegant style Pol Roger is known for producing. Want to sip like royalty? You can since this sparkling was served at Prince William’s wedding reception. 

Villa Sandi “Vigna La Rivetta” Cartizze Prosecco, Valdobbiadene, Italy $40  

This is my favorite Prosecco on the market and ranks among the best sparkling wines in the world in my opinion. Classy and complex, it’s also so deliciously easy to sip. Made with grapes grown in a single vineyard on the steep slopes of the hill of Cartizze in the area of  Valdobbiadene, this wine reflects its birthplace. The sign of a classic. Add it to your list of must-try sparklers. 

Codorniu “Anna de Codorniu” Brut Cava, Spain $15  

This historic property dates to 1551 and the name pays homage to one of the family members, Anna, who helped create the Codorniu legend. This cuvée blends Chardonnay with the native varieties to add a modern twist to classic Cava. 

Wine Wisdom: Points 

2012 Esporao “Assobio”, Douro, Portugal $13 

A great value that you’ll want to stock up on by the case. Hearty, spicy, and full bodied, this red is made from the grape varieties that are famed for Port production including Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Tinta Roriz. Perfect for pairing with braised meats, soups, and rich winter dishes.