Snow Covered Wineries

The Central Coast of California received SNOW in February! One of our wine tours photographed their day of wine tasting amidst snow covered vineyards. She and her group had a “blast” and says, “the snow only made it more special.”

Russian billionaire lands in San Luis Obispo County for tour of Hearst Castle

Striking luxury ship — called ‘one of the finest yachts on the water’ — is an unusual sight waiting outside the breakwater

It was an odd sight, to put it mildly: A 390-foot super yacht with the look of a submarine parked outside the Morro Bay breakwater.

Central Coast Yacht

No, it wasn’t the Morro Bay City Council’s purchase of an offshore gambling facility; it was the $350 million runabout of 38-year-old Russian multibillionaire Andrey Melnichenko. He and his wife, Serbian supermodel Aleksandra Melnichenko, came ashore Tuesday to take a private tour of Hearst Castle.

According to their driver, Eric John Reynolds of Stagecoach Wine Tours of Santa Ynez, the couple is heading north from San Diego — with a stop offshore at Malibu on Monday — en route to San Francisco.
Click image to see caption

The yacht ‘A’ — named for Andrey Melnichenko and his wife, Aleksandra’s, first names — is anchored Tuesday outside the Morro Bay harbor, with a door on the side open to allow access to one of the vessel’s two tenders.
By Tribune photo by Joe Johnston

Elegant Image: Kramer Entertainment’s Featured Wedding Vendor of the Month!

The staff at Kramer Entertainment are great, and their blog is worth following.  Great lighting ideas by amazing people…with a fun DJ line up too!  The owners of Kramer Entertainment, Beau and Melissa, recently treated their staff to a Wine Tour with us….what a great group of people to work with!


Shipping: Potentially TERRIBLE for our local Wine Industry!

It’s a rather innocuous federal bill — H.R. 5034 — “The CARE Act.” But we care about it, and so could other businesses in the area. This rather minor bill could affect some of our area businesses.

The bill, called “The Comprehensive Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness Act,” seems like it’s performing a few legislative housekeeping duties, when, in reality, it could cripple some smaller businesses.

To understand the bill, folks should know that several years ago the Supreme Court cleared the way for smaller winemakers to directly ship to customers in states which allowed it, including Minnesota, Wisconsin and 35 others.

That has allowed smaller vineyards to be able to market directly to consumers. Previously, a distributor or wholesaler was necessary and many small vintners — many of whom provide the finest examples of American wine — could not compete on volume or price, and could not afford the middleman’s cut.

It’s probably not coincidental that many smaller vineyards started to pop up after the Supreme Court ruling.

We’re also seeing our own region become a home for more and more vineyards as Americans’ palates turn increasingly toward vino.

This area in Minnesota and Wisconsin is a leader in agriculture, and it’s wonderful to see new vineyards sprout up. We cannot help but think that as they grow, so too will their customer base and their reliance on direct shipping.

And that’s where HR 5034 comes in.

That’s why it’s surprising that Reps. Tim Walz, D-Minn., and Ron Kind, D-Wis., our two local representatives in Congress would back such poor legislation. They’re both signed on as co-sponsors of the bill.

Staff from both Walz and Kind’s offices are framing the issue as one of reaffirming state’s rights.

But for four years since the Supreme Court’s ruling, the states have been as able to control liquor as they have been since the end of Prohibition.

This legislation has the power to hurt small businesses right in their own region.

Walz and Kind insist the legislation merely lets states make their own decision about direct-shipping.

Yet, this might be a case where the federal government through the Supreme Court

was right to strike down some states which had erected unnecessary and backwards laws that didn’t allow business and commerce.

Instead, we’d suggest there’s something more going on here.

Look who has ponied up to support the bill, the National Beer Wholesalers Association and the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America.

On the other side, the opposition are the brewers and vintners.

It appears the wholesalers are getting what they’re paying for, at least in Kind’s case.

In the 2010 cycle, Kind has reported receiving $20,000 from the National Beer Wholesalers and $16,000 from the Wine and Spirit Wholesalers.

That’s $26,000 more than he made from the wholesalers two years ago.

Walz hasn’t reported any campaign contributions from either group.

To see both men listed as co-sponsors of such bad legislation is disappointing.

It’s a bad bill that aims to squash the little guy. What’s even worse is that it’s being done in the name of state’s rights instead of what it really is, special interest.

By Darrell Ehrlick, editor, on behalf of the Winona Daily News editorial board, which also includes publisher Rusty Cunningham and deputy editor Jerome Christenson. To comment, call 453-3507 or send e-mail to

Here we are!

….and so the blogging begins. With the start of a new blog is our improved website! Check it out!

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