Wine Writer Confidential | № 4

Dear Readers:


Welcome to my latest installment of Wine Writer Confidential, where I spill, thrill and chill you with all the news unfit to print about my world of wine writing.

Nous Sommes Tous Stockholm…

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of ‘checking in’ on my wine writer and wine maker friends worldwide via social media. This week it was Sweden.

It’s always the same. News flash: “A terrorist attack in [fill in international city] has killed [fill in the number] via [fill in the method.]”

Heck, I’ve even been caught up in it myself (Paris – November 2015.)

I guess terrorism strengthens ‘virtual’ bonds in some strange way. But I’d rather ‘check in’ for a positive reason…


The Hedonistic Taster 

Yep, binNotes | redThread™ series The Hedonistic Taster is indeed back, taking samples, and kickin’ tasting notes.

My favorite part of the series? Sharing small-production, artisan wine makers often overlooked by the mainstream wine media with you.

Yes, it’s a labor of love. So why do it?

I do it for the same reason you read my notes – because we’re thirsty for authentic voices of the vine. Parched for pours  that don’t just slake our thirst, but capture our imaginations, and stir our souls.

Cheers, and thanks for your appreciation for wine as art, not just beverage.

“Wine brings to light the hidden secrets of the soul, gives being to our hopes, bids the coward flight, drives dull care away, and teaches new means for the accomplishment of our wishes.” — Horace

Copyrighted 2017 binNotes | red Thread™. All Rights Reserved.

More Wine Writer Confidential:

Wine Writer Confidential № 1

Wine Writer Confidential № 2 

Wine Writer Confidential № 3

redThread™ Taste Maker Exclusive | Amanda Barnes – #80 Harvests

redThread™ Taste Maker Exclusive | Amanda Barnes – #80 Harvests

Welcome to binNotes | redThread™

Inspired stories about artisan wine and taste makers.

by L.M. Archer FWS, Bourgogne ML

This Month’s Taste Maker Exclusive Interview:

Amanda Barnes | Around the World in 80 Harvests

Wine journalist Amanda Barnes has done a lot in her very short life. A fellow presenter at last summer’s WBC16 in Lodi, CA., Amanda dazzled us all with her compelling, multi-media global harvest project Around the World in 80 Harvests.

We cross paths again at the upcoming  Professional Wine Writers Symposium at Meadowood Napa Valley in February. In the meantime, I thought you might like to learn more about this exceptionally talented Brit with an unquenchable thirst for South America and all points vinous.

r/T™:  While studying at King’s College in London, did you always want to write about wine, or do you recall a singular, defining moment when you realized you simply must write about the topic?

AB:  There was no eureka moment, just a gradual discovery of finding what I loved. I studied Literature because I always adored reading. I was actually already working as a journalist (I started writing for local newspapers when I was 16, two years before starting University) so I knew that writing was the direction I wanted to go.

Wine came after a few years later… I decided to learn about wine to ‘join the dots’ on two of my other great passions: food and travel. But then I discovered that wine encompasses everything I enjoy most in life: travel, gastronomy, nature, culture, people… Rather than joining the dots, it became the nuclei.

r/T™:  After university, you enjoyed a successful journalism career before debarking for South America. What possessed you to leave Britain for South America? What kept you invested in the region for so many years? I understand you dance a mean tango – any other skills you picked up from your adoptive continent? Do you have any favorite memories from South America that still resonate with you?

AB:  I felt that I wasn’t learning anything new at home anymore, there was always a new story of course but I felt I was covering the same ground as such. I love to learn, so my decision to move to South America was about personal growth and moving to a wine-producing region.

As for my relationship with South America, I was already hooked before I even arrived. I had completely fallen in love with South America from afar, mainly through Literature and culture, and when I arrived I felt perfectly at home. I love living between Argentina and Chile because I am at the heart of the South American wine scene, and it is the best way to understand the terroir – by living in among everything!

As for great South American memories, I have too many to mention. And as for great South American skills, too few to mention! I love to give it my best dancing tango but I’ll always have English hips… I will never be able to move like a true Latina, so I don’t even try to pretend! It’s the same story with my gringo accent – I sound embarrassing English in Spanish.

r/T™:  Your CV reads like that of a seasoned pro, including editor & creator of Around the World in 80 Harvests, your ambitious global wine and travel documentary showcasing eighty renown and off-the-beaten-track wine regions around the world. In it, you explore  people, places and culture through blogs, videos and photography. What spurred you to develop this project? It’s not a solo endeavor – how did you choose your team? How has it met/exceeded your expectations? Any goals still unmet?

AB:  The thirst for knowledge and learning is what drives me to do 80 Harvests. The world of wine is so fascinating, so rich and so diverse. I wanted to try to communicate that, and see the world of wine through the eyes of local producers – asking them to show us all why their place in the world, and their wine, is unique.

It is a community endeavor. The ‘team’ is very much all the winemakers and producers involved. Without their generous sharing of knowledge and experience, it would be an impossible project. And without readers and a community participating, it wouldn’t exist.

Every part of the journey has exceeded my expectations because there is something unexpected in each destination. The goal unmet is obviously the number of regions visited, I still have some 60 to go! By 2018 I should have completed the mission, but it is really about the journey rather than the end-goal.

r/T™:  You’re fresh off a “Born Digital Wine Awards 2016” win for “Best Tourism Content with a Focus on Wine.” Talk about your Born Digital Wine Award winning entry, why it’s important, and what this specific award means to you as a wine journalist?

AB:  Working freelance is quite a lonely career choice. You rarely get any feedback, you don’t really have colleagues, and it is hard to know if you are doing things right! So this award means a lot to me. It feels like a comforting pat on the back, and that is really motivating.

You share your expertise on South American wines in such publications as Decanter, The Drinks Business, The Telegraph, The Guardian Feature, Fodor’s Travel Guides, Oz Clarke’s Pocket Wine Guide, and Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book Amanda the South America correspondent. Apparently, you and Hugh Johnson share an alma mater. Any mentors instrumental in helping develop your career as a wine journalist?

AB:  Do we?! I had no idea! I will google that later! I respect many writers but my mentors have really been wine producers. It is the time that winemakers and agronomists have spent with me that has provided me with the greatest growth, and inspired me to keep learning. There are numerous winemakers in Argentina and Chile who have been my greatest mentors.

r/T™:  Anything else you’d care to share with readers about Around the World in 80 Harvests specifically, or about your career as a wine journalist in general that you think is important for them to understand?

AB:  I would just like to invite readers to join me on the 80 Harvests journey. The project is about global community and meeting people and wine lovers around the world, so I would like to invite everyone to be part of it! If you love wine and want to know more about wine from around the world, it should be right up your street and I hope to you’ll join us.

r/T™:  Finally, if your experience as a wine journalist has taught you anything, it’s taught you…?

that no matter where you are, the very best wines are those shared with others.

About the Author:

©80 Harvests
©80 Harvests

Amanda Barnes is a British journalist who has been living in South America since 2009. She has tried over 700 Malbecs and eaten over 600 Chilean oysters and still has a functioning liver and kidneys (as far as she knows). When she isn’t drinking wine or sipping oysters, she writes for wine and travel publications including Decanter and Fodor’s. She is currently on a mission to discover the world of wine as she travels ‘Around the World in 80 Harvests’.All images courtesy of Amanda Barnes and Around the World in 80 Harvests.

All images copyrighted #80Harvests and reprinted by permission of wine journalist Amanda Barnes.

Copyrighted 2017 binNotes | redThread™.  All Rights Reserved.

Oregon Wine Press | Terroir, Toil, Tenacity | Lenné Estate

Oregon Wine Press | Terroir, Toil, Tenacity | Lenné Estate

Dear Readers:


I wanted to share my feature on Lenné Estate in the July 2016 issue of Oregon Wine Press with you here.

Many thanks to Steve & Karen Lutz and Carl Giavanti for helping share the story.


 ❦ ❦ ❦

Copyrighted binNotes | redThread™.  All Rights Reserved.

WITWIB? Hint: New Projects

WITWIB? Hint: New Projects

Welcome to binNotes | redThread™

Inspired stories about artisan wine and taste makers.

by L.M. Archer FWS, Bourgogne ML

“One forges one’s style on the terrible anvil of daily deadlines.” – Emile Zola


No, I haven’t forgotten about you… missed a Terroirist Tuesday this week for the first time everbut totally on track for my new Sunday feature The Hedonistic Taster (originally slated as Second Sunday Sampler).

The Hedonistic Taster pays homage to one of Burgundy’s greatest vignerons while introducing you to some gorgeous pours from artisan winemakers.

Find out more tomorrow…Santé!



Welcome to binNotes | redThread™

Inspired stories about artisan wine and taste makers.

by L.M. Archer FWS, Bourgogne ML

Ok, folks, tomorrow marks the last Saturday of February, which means it’s officially:

OTBN: Open That Bottle Night


What will you be drinking?

Do tell!

I’ll be sharing, and following along on Instagram: #OTBN.

More on OTBN here.


Copyrighted 2016 binNotes | Red Thread™. All Rights Reserved.

Red Thread™ | Sonoma Taste Maker Series: Sondra Bernstein | the girl and the fig

Red Thread™ | Sonoma Taste Maker Series: Sondra Bernstein | the girl and the fig

Welcome to binNotes | redThread™

Inspired stories about artisan wine and taste makers.

by L.M. Archer FWS, Bourgogne ML

Today’s Exclusive:

Sondra Bernstein | the girl and the fig  | sonoma

Sondra Bernstein | the girl and the fig 

“Country food with a French passion.”

by: L.M. Archer.  FWS | Bourgogne ML

Sondra Bernstein owns an enviable eatery empire in Sonoma that includes the girl and the fig and Suite D in Sonoma, the fig cafe in Glen Ellen, the fig and girl caters, and the fig store fine foods. She’s also the author of numerous cook books, an early proponent of Rhone wines, and tireless champion of Sonoma Wine Country.

Here, Bernstein opens up to Red Thread™ about her life as Sonoma’s ‘culinary diva.’


r/T™: People know you as Sonoma’s hugely successful ‘culinary  diva.’ Perhaps not so many know the backstory to your ‘overnight’ success, including a nearly-­disastrous experience at TGIF.  

Turning a potentially difficult situation around into a positive one is a necessary skill in the hospitality industry.

Talk about the most compelling challenges that you’ve faced, how you overcame them, and what you learned from them that informs how you make your business decisions today.

SB: Well, I don’t know about “diva,” but thank you! Every day is a new challenge in this business.

I suppose I would say that when you really care about your craft, and push yourself to create something you’re very proud of, and that thing isn’t received the way you’d hoped, that can be very difficult.

But we try to take those moments in stride and learn from them. We’ve had successes and failures along the way, we’ve opened and closed restaurants, and have certainly had the occasional flop, but I try to take what I can, learn from those moments, and move forward. It’s what drives us to do better.

r/T™: Talk about the first  moment you realized  you belonged in the culinary world, and what that felt like. Has that passion ever wavered  over the years? What motivates you  to keep going?

SB: Well, you might know that I began as a photographer. I waited tables through college and  intended to pursue photography – in fact, my first paid gig as a photographer was for TGI  Fridays. As far as my passion for restaurants, it didn’t happen all at once…I loved the buzz of restaurants, the  people, the pace. It’s exciting, and addicting; somewhere along the line, I realized I was hooked. I’d  fallen in love with it, and have never stopped loving it.

I’m always inspired by creativity. The world of food is constantly evolving, and we are always learning, and finding new ways to create. I’m inspired  by the incredible makers we have the privilege of working with, and by the people we are lucky enough to feed in our restaurants every day. I love touching their lives in a small way, and making people happy.

r/T™: You seem like a force of nature unto yourself. Any mentors or role models who have inspired you along the way?

SB: Definitely. When I was first getting started in the business, Richard Melman made a big impression on me.

When he launched his “Lettuce Entertain You” concept, it was something completely new and very fun. Fusing entertainment and a quirky playfulness with fresh, delicious, beautiful food appealed to me a great deal -­ it spoke to all  the senses, which  is what a dining experience should be, in my opinion.

r/T™: You  appear to be a true artisan -­ you started out studying photography in college, your venues offer sensually appealing  artwork  underscored  by great music, and you often compare running a restaurant to  theatre. Do  you  have any creative aspect of what you do that you enjoy most, e.g., creating and sourcing the food and wine, designing the spaces, choreographing events,
interacting  with  people, etc.?

SB:   I love it all!  It would  be very hard to choose just one thing. That’s  really what keeps this work compelling and always interesting. I enjoy design and photography, so it’s wonderful to be able to make that a part of what I do, I feel like food should be beautiful and delicious and so I enjoy all of the creative aspects there.

I’m passionate about wine, about stories, about people, and I do love to throw a party! In a lot  of ways, every aspect informs another and makes it impossible to separate them.

r/T™:  Take us through a typical day juggling the girl in the fig restaurant in Sonoma, pop-­up event venue Suite D, the fig cafe in Glen Ellen, plus catering, specialty foods, organic gardens, and innumerable charity and social events.

SB:  Well, my days  start  early! There are many times that I feel like I need to be in a million places at once. It can be chaotic, but it’s also exhilarating, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

In the course of one day there might be recipe or wine tastings, web design, creating promotional materials or menus, blogging, a stop at the farm, meetings  with my staff, wine tasting, photo shoots.

I learned a long time ago that I need to work with a team of people whom I really believe in and can count on that makes it manageable. That, and I have to be really good at multi-­tasking!

r/T™  Talk about your affinity for Rhone wines. How  did  it start? Any Rhone up-­and-­coming winemakers who excite you? Any modifications contemplated to the current “Rhone Alone” program?

SB:   When we opened the original restaurant back in ‘97 we were trying to decide on our wine list. We were on a budget and we were new -­ not a lot of wineries would have known us.

I was reminiscing about my time in the Rhone, dining in little  cafes on the drive from Provence to Nice, and how a tumbler of beautiful wine was always served with your meal. It was a part of the recipe, the way it’s a part of life there, and I thought to myself that that’s what I wanted -­ the wine, the food, the valley, to come together in one experience.

Back then there were not many plantings of Californian Rhones, but we set out to find them and it just worked. At the same  time, we knew we needed wines that would not overshadow the food. We have this incredible bounty of local produce, meat, seafood, dairies, and wanted a unique wine list that would enhance those items, instead of define or overpower them.

California Rhones are sophisticated but approachable, elegant but playful, everything that we wanted our wine offerings to be. And it gives us this unique opportunity to start a conversation with our guests, and maybe introduce them to something new, and also to represent these talented and innovative producers who we really believe it. It’s been a lot  of fun for us; and, no, I don’t foresee us changing it anytime soon!

r/T™ What to you consider your greatest accomplishment?

SB: I think that staying fresh and relevant in this business is the biggest
challenge. The fact that we’ve managed to do that for  eighteen-plus years, while remaining true to the hearts of our restaurants and our vision is something I’m very proud of.

r/T™: Anything you still hope to accomplish?

SB: There are  always new projects calling to me. Right now, we’re  working on a project that our management team created -­ and it is probably long overdue. They have created an idea for the girl & the fig’s “fig  rig” -­ a food truck that we can make available to events, markets, festivals. It’s been an awesome collaboration, and we’re really excited about it.

r/T™: Anything else you care to share with readers about what makes Sonoma so special for you as a culinary professional?

SB: As a place for food, I don’t know that there’s anywhere like Sonoma. The landscape is so abundant, there are such deeply committed and talented artisans, and, beyond that, there are people here who really know and appreciate good food and wine and are thoughtful in their choices.

I think that anyone involved in food appreciates what a very special place Sonoma is. I feel so fortunate to live here, to have my business here, to be a part of what makes this place what it is.

r/T™: Finally, if your experience as a ‘culinary diva’ has taught  you  anything,  it’s  taught you…?

SB: The  culinary world is constantly changing, new information is constantly coming to the forefront, and we are always learning. It’s never a static  state  of  having “figured it  out,” I don’t  think. What  I’ve learned is that  I must always be learning, and I love that!


Copyrighted 2016 binNotes | Red Thread™.  All Rights Reserved.

Thank you:

Sondra Bernstein

Durae Hardy & Team figgirl

On the Road Again…

On the Road Again…

Welcome to binNotes | redThread™

Inspired stories about artisan wine and taste makers.

by L.M. Archer FWS, Bourgogne ML

binNotes | Red Thread™ is on the road again crafting bespoke interviews with artisan wine maker and culinary luminaries worldwide.

Here’s a peek at my recent trip to Napa for the CANVAS (Concierge Alliance of Napa Valley and Sonoma) unveiling of their new consumer website


Spoiler alert: I’m a guest contributor – including my recent interview with Patz & Hall wine maker James Hall.

So many cool features on this site, including virtual tours of wineries, hotels, resorts, vineyards – plus a build-your-own-itinerary sharable on social media.

I encourage you to give it a test-drive.

Warning: Pairs well over a glass of wine….highly addictive!

Kudos to Colby Smith, tireless Queen of CANVAS, for the opportunity to collaborate with this amazing community of “professional recommenders.”