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The Riddle of Ziobaffa – Wine, Surfing and Filmmaking

Ziobaffa wines

Ziobaffa wines

Ziobaffa Riddle:

  • What do  you have when you combine surfing with wine? An organic wine.
  • What do you get when you add Uncle to Baffa? Uncle Baffa
  • What do you have when you add together an Italian winemaker, a surfer and a filmmaker? Ziobaffa wine.

Ziobaffa (Uncle Baffa)  is leading the life that many people can only  pursue in their wildest dreams. Zio Baffa is a surfer and filmmaker. He travels around the surfing world with a surfboard and film camera. He seems to have two passions, surfing and wine.

Three of his short film clips can be viewed on the website Ziobaffa. The clips include: Bella Vita Trailer, Making a Wine and Ziobaffa.

Currently Ziobaffa is responsible for two Filmaker’s organic wines: Toscana Red and Pinot Grigio. Also very involved with the wine is Chris Del Moro a surfer-artist-environmentalist. Filmmaker Jason Baffa was fortunate enough to meet Chris’ good friend, surfer, winemaker & art-patron, Piergiorgio Castellani.  This fortuatist meeting resulted in the Ziobaffa wines produced with organic Italian grapes. The wines are produced by the well-known Castellani Family in Italy. Castellani has been producing wines for five generations.

Ziobaffa Wines

The Ziobaffa wines are bio-dynamic and sustainable.

When you look for a bottle the ZioBaffa wines notice the special label. The labels are the limited edition artwork of Chris Del Moro. The paper is printed on FSC certified paper and bio-friendly glue is used. The owners focus on environmentally friendly practices when bottling. They also use the Helix re-use-able cork closure.

Two Ziobaffa wines were recently sent to us for tasting. It was interesting to try the Helix® re-useable cork. After removing the see-through plastic capsule, just twist and move the cork out.  The ZioBaffa  2012 Toscana red wine was made with grapes harvested from Poggio al Cason Vineyard. The wine was a very dark red color. It was fruit forward with intense cherry notes. Suggested food pairings included roasted/grilled meats, stews, pastas with red sauces, and pizza.

The Ziobaffa Pinot Grigio 2013, crafted with organically grown grapes, was a pleasant yellow color. The wine was filled with citrusy fruit.  The wine also had some tropical notes but were dominated by the citrus. The wine is equally good as an aperitif and with food. Suggested wine pairings included fish/shellfish, poultry, pastas in cream sauce and softer cheeses. It’s also an ideal aperitif. While tasting the Ziobaffa Pinot Grigio we enjoyed it with salty potato chips!

The  Pinot Grigio back label says, “I’ve been fortunate enough  to travel the world with my friends and a film-camera creating movies about our love for surfing. In August of 2012 a new adventure began, when I left California for Italy to document my friend surfer-artist-environmentalist, Chris Del Moro on a quest to re-connect with our mutual Italian roots and prove to all the existence of world-class-surfing waves in the Mediterranean Sea. What we discovered was a beautiful community of people, celebrating old-world-tradition while simultaneously cultivating a new Italian surfing sub-culture. The film is titled BELLA Vita and within a few days of filming the locals embraced our presence by nick-naming me, Zio Baffa (Uncle Baffa.).”

The Ziobaffa wines are available on the website wine.com for $14.99.


Planning Ahead for Mother’s Day

Celebrate Mother's Day in a special way!

Celebrate Mother’s Day in a special way!

If you are planning to cook or bake to celebrate Mother’s Day, start by browsing the recipes below. These recipes have wine as one of the ingredients. I like to suggest serving any wine left after the recipe is completed with the meal.

Many moms will appreciate a homemade meal whether it is breakfast, lunch or dinner. It’s one of the ways to make your mother feel special on Mother’s Day.

Below are some ideas to add to your menu for your special mom. All of the recipes plus many more are on the Wine Trail Traveler website recipe section.

Are you planning a special Mother’s Day breakfast?

Why not add Eggs Florentine to your menu?

A special breakfast beverage? Peach Mimosa

For lunch, perhaps your mother would like one of the following salads.

  • Fruited Chicken Salad
  • Jazzed-up Salad
  • Fruit Salad in Strawberry Wine Syrup

Dinner could include one of the following entrees.

  • Cornish Hens with Merlot Glaze
  • Mill Hill Apple Pulled Pork
  • Linguine with Cherry Tomatoes & Herbed Clam Sauce
  • Shish Kabob
  • Polpette in a Red WineSauce
  • Oyster Mushroom Crèam Risotto
  • Blue Cheese-Zinfandel Burgers

Desserts are also great for moms who have a sweet tooth. Try one of these desserts.

  • Crepes
  • Peaches and Cake
  • Mixed Berries w/Caramel Ice Cream and Syrup
  • Merlot Cherries
  • Biscotti al Vino

The dessert recipe section also has easy recipes that use box cakes with a twist. The result no longer tastes like a box cake!


Mother’s Day is Coming Soon! Sunday, May 10

Celebrate Mother's Day with wine and flowers!

Celebrate Mother’s Day with wine and flowers!

Mother’s Day is quickly approaching! Sunday May 10

Have you decided how to celebrate Mother’s Day? Take time now to decide how to make Mother’s Day special. (If you have unfortunately lost your mother, why not honor her with a bouquet of flowers to remind you of her love.)

If you are fortunate to still have your mother in your life, I’ve selected a few ideas that just might please your mom this Mother’s Day! If nothing else plan to spend time with your mom.

Après Vin varietal grape seed oils

Après Vin varietal grape seed oils

Mother’s Day Wine-related Ideas/Gifts

  1. Spend time with your mom while sharing a bottle of wine and appetizers
  2. Share a visit to a winery tasting room with your mom
  3. Aprés Vin specially made varietal grape seed oils are wonderful for cooking
  4. Aprés Vin also makes special soaps made with grape seeds
  5. Consider a bottle of wine with a special Mother’s Day label.
  6. Perhaps a bottle of wine with a flower or restaurant gift certificate attached
  7. A bottle of champagne, cava or prosecco – many people enjoy sparkling wines!
  8. Dinner with your mother at a restaurant – one that specializes in a good wine selection
  9. A  set of stemware, a decanter, or a small wine rack

Your mother is special; so try to make this one day a year special for her.


1840s Champagne from Veuve Clicquot Analyzed

Caves at Veuve Clicquot champagne house

Caves at Veuve Clicquot champagne house

A few years ago there was a report of the remarkable find of bottles of champagne found in a shipwreck at the mouth of the Baltic Sea. At the time it was thought the champagnes were produced during the first half of the 1800s. The champagne bottles recovered from the shipwreck were from  Juglar (now Jacquesson), Veuve Clicquot and Heidsieck & Co. According to the Aland website, the Veuve Clicquot bottles had dates of 1841-1850.

A recent article on BBC, “Champagne from 1840s Shipwreck Analysed” by Jonathan Webb was about the Veuve Clicquot wine tested in a lab. The discovered wine was compared with todays champagnes from the same winery. The study was led by Professor Philippe Jeandet at the University of Reims. By using scientific methods the researchers found that the wine was somewhat similar to the wines produced by Veuve Clicquot today. Prof Jeandet noted that there were fewer bubbles in the older champagne but explained that it was possible the gas escaped through the corks. He found flavors of tobacco and leather that lingered.

From the research results it seems that one of the most notable differences between

Veuve Clicquot winemaker

the champagne of the 1800s and today is the sweetness. The older champagne was much sweeter than most champagnes today. The research was published in the PNAS journal.

I found the article interesting because in addition to the taste of champagne, I also find the history of wine fascinating. We also attended the International Tourism Conference in Reims this month and visited the Veuve Clicquot champagne house. The Wine Trail Traveler article about Veuve Clicquot is online.


Old riddling rack at Veuve Clicquot

Old riddling rack at Veuve Clicquot







SOMM, the Documentary Film



The documentary movie SOMM by Jason Wise provides an inside look at what candidates for the Court of Master Sommeliers Diploma go through before taking Level IV of the Master Sommelier Diploma examination. The film portrays the intensity  and time required of anyone planning to achieve the Master Sommelier Diploma.

SOMM focuses on four men intent on obtaining the elusive Court of Master Sommelier Diploma. Viewers of the film will see this small group of people interrelate as they taste wines working to identify the grape varieties, country origin, appellation and vintages. In order to successfully pass the examination, they must also know about the theory and practical side of restaurant wine service.

The beginning of the film shows images of grapes reaching a winery, pressing, barrel making, barrel filling, and bottling. Later the focus is on the four candidates tasting wines and talking about them. This emphasizes the amount of time and effort spent learning but at this point the film tends to become tedious.

The documentary mentions the tasting grid used to identify unknown wines, provides some interesting wine descriptions including “my grandmother’s closet” and working with difficult customers.

At the end of the film only two people pass the examination. Another two are invited to return the following year to retake the exam. One chose to return again and another decided not to return. According to SOMM, about 50 people took the exam and only six passed.


SOMM is likely a good film to watch if you are planning on taking the Master Sommelier Diploma examination. It will likely give you an idea of the incredible knowledge base needed and the time needed to achieve the diploma. For most people to earn this diploma would be an intense struggle. With only a little over 200 people who have received the diploma, it is a noteworthy goal to achieve.


I was surprised that the map and discussion of wine regions in the world did not include the country Georgia, now frequently referred to as the birthplace of wine. Also the map of the new world wine regions did not include Ontario that is a thriving wine region,

For those who only have a passing interest in wine or just like to make wine disappear, there are other more entertaining wine-related films to watch.

I am looking forward to watching the next film by Jason Wise, SOMM: Into the Bottle available in 2015.



Discover Texas Wine Country in 2015!


Spicewood Vineyards, TX

With more than 8,000 wineries in the US, many are springing into an array of activities to entice people to visit and try their wines. A wide range of wines and events occur throughout the year but spring is a great time to start your very own wine journey. Check out our first book, A Wine Journey.

You will find boutique and large wineries. Each winery has its own uniqueness, wines and many have special events or ongoing events.

Texas Legato

Texas Legato tasting room

Texas, with more than 200 wineries, is one of the largest wine producing states although well below the number of wineries in California, Oregon and Washington. Texas boasts many wine trails. While some of the trails have wineries close to each other, others such as the Way Out Wineries take a considerable amount of driving to reach. Each winery has its own ambiance; when traveling or vacationing in Texas be sure to check out the wineries near you.

Fredericksburg Winery

Fredericksburg Winery, Texas

The Texas Department of Agriculture has a great website: Go Texan Wine. The website includes wine trails and other important information about the Texas wine industry. It also has a fun Texas wine personality wheel to spin to find your wine personality!

We have been fortunate to visit about 50 of these Texas wineries in three regions: southeast, north and central.

Messina Hof

Messina Hof Winery & Resort

Wine Trail Traveler articles with photos are available online.

Discover Texas wine country in 2015!


Looking for an Icelandic Wine but Find Mead and Cider

Icelandic Cider

Icelandic Cider

On the way home from the International Wine Tourism Conference in France, we decided to stay in Iceland for a couple of days. Iceland Air allows travelers the opportunity to spend a few days in Iceland without an additional  airline fee.

As we always do, before leaving home, we decided to find out if any wine is made in Iceland. To our pleasant surprise we came across a fruit wine supposedly produced in Iceland.

On our second day in Reykjavik we began searching for the fruit wine. We did find out that it was a blend of rhubarb, crowberry and one other berries. Unfortunately we were not able to find this Iceland wine. At one restaurant we learned that the wine is no longer made. Production ended about six years ago, or so we were told.

At the Icelandic Bar we were quickly greeted when we arrived and soon discovered that our quest for the elusive Iceland wine was not going to happen, but rather we were introduced to a mead and cider we had not had previously.

The good news is that we discovered a mead and a cider produced in Iceland. Terry had the mead and I had the fruit cider. I discovered the cider to be awesome. The refreshing cider was a deep golden color. It had 4.5% alcohol and was very fruity with a lot of apple notes. A little lime was on the aftertaste. It also had a continuous light effervescence. If  it is available at home, it could easily become one of my favorite beverages.

The mead was a Galar Mjödur NR 29. This sparkling mead was a yellow color and had several columns of beads forming a small mouse in the center of the surface. The aroma was very floral and the taste had hints of honey suckle and daisies. The 8.8% alcohol mead had a long floral aftertaste.

Whale in a Jar!

Whale in a Jar!

Terry decided to pair the mead with a “jar” of grilled minke whale & deep fried shrimps & blueberry glaze .The Icelandic Bar serves several appetizers in what appears to be a Mason jar-style. It’s an unusual way to serve an appetizer but it looked great.

Icelandic Bar

The  Icelandic Bar is a friendly bar and restaurant – one that seems to attract the locals. The location is ideal for those visiting the main shopping street.

The original site of the bar/restaurant was also the haven for those  escaping from tear gas during the 2009 revolt. The bar/restaurant menu provides the following information.

On January 22nd 2009, The Icelandic Bar was conceived, more precisely the idea of it, and only a few days later the bar had taken form. That day was special for the fact that it was when tear gas was used to control the crowd protesting in front of the parliament building only a few steps away. Hundreds fled the gas, seeking shelter at a bar that was about to transform after this day. As staff and guests helped those fleeing the gas, an epiphany struck the bar owner, the place should be a shelter to a shocked nation. The best things that emerged out of the panic were the helpfulness and caring, it was the fake world that collapsed and what grew out of the ashes was the old way of thinking. Times do change and the Icelandic bar closed down but it never quite went away. Recently the old bar keeper passed the torch on to Veronika, who used to tend bar at the old place.

Veronika reopened in a new location and it wasn’t long until the old gang of locals started frequenting there. The Icelandic Bar is now a place to meet up, rather to plan the future than to comfort one another, and start a new era of building up and heading on.”

We have discovered the intrigue of searching for those affordable but elusive wines and learning their story. But we also discovered the joy of learning about new foods and beverages we have not encountered before.


23rd Annual Wine & Herb Festival in the Finger Lakes

Cayuga Lake, New York

Cayuga Lake, New York

Each spring the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail offers a great way to welcome spring. This year the Cayuga Wine Trail wineries are offering the 23rd Annual Wine & Herb Festival on April 24 to April 26 and May 1 to May 3.

On Fridays, April 24 and May 1, a limited number of wineries are participating in the event. However, on Saturday and Sunday 17 Cayuga Wine Trail Wineries are participating.

Start at a winery to pick up your wine glass, a garden plan and a plant carrier. At each participating winery participants will pick up a veggie plant or an herb. The wineries are also providing recipes.

At each winery you can taste herb-prepared cuisine and a wine to pair with the food. Festival participants will also be offered up to three additional tastings.

After you have completed the event, you can use your ticket to be eligible to win a Grand Prize – a beautiful blue vase from the Corning Museum of Glass.

Tickets are available online.

Below is a list of wineries participating in the Annual Wine & Herb Festival. We have visited and written about many of these wineries. Check out the Wine Trail Traveler articles online.

  • Americana Vineyards
  • Bellwether Hard Cider and Wine Cellars
  • Buttonwood Grove Winery
  • Cayuga Ridge Estate Winery
  • Goose Watch Winery
  • Hosmer Winery
  • Knapp Winery
  • Long Point Winery
  • Lucas Vineyards
  • Montezuma Winery
  • Sheldrake Point Winery
  • Six Mile Creek Vineyard
  • Swedish Hill Vineyard
  • Thirsty Owl Wine Company
  • Toro Run Winery
  • Treleaven by King Ferry Winery
  • Varick Winery & Vineyard

Enjoy a spring weekend tasting wines, collecting herbs for your garden and recipes for your kitchen.


Dunking potato chips in champagne

champagne and potato chips

champagne and potato chips

Kathy and I are leaving France for the next leg of our journey. We enjoyed several days in Champagne, tasting and writing about champagne, champagne houses and co-operatives. One experience we did not have is dunking potato chips in champagne. This is not a new idea. In the movie, The Seven Year Itch (1955) “the girl” played by Marilyn Monroe asks, ”Hey, did you ever try dunking a potato chip in Champagne? It’s real crazy!”

Finally in the ICARE lounge in Terminal 1 at CDG, I spotted a bag of potato chips. I already had a Champagne Collet Brut Art Deco champagne and thought, why not try dunking the potato chips in champagne and see if it’s crazy. Well it was more of a disappointment. The Lays potato chips did seem to match with the champagne; however, I would have preferred the potato chips to be saltier. I think the salt and fizz would play well together. Since the chips were not very salty, the combination was rather bland, detracting from both the chips and the champagne.

I’m anxious to try the pairing again, this time with saltier chips. I’m not at all certain if it is crazy. The only thing that I can think of being crazy is running out of champagne.

 ”Hey, did you ever try dunking a potato chip in Champagne? It's real crazy!"

”Hey, did you ever try dunking a potato chip in Champagne? It’s real crazy!”

The Champagne Collet Brut Art Deco  was a light yellow colored blend of 40% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Meunier. The dosage was nine grams per liter. Twenty percent of the wine was a blend of reserve wines that were several years old. The yellow colored champagne had multiple columns of beads forming a mouse around the glasses circumference. The wine offered a mineral aroma with a floral touch. The taste offered apple and pear notes.

I continued my potato chip challenge on my IcelandAir flight. For lunch, they served potato chips and a Mont Marcal Cava Reserva. The cava reacted the same as the champagne to the potato chips. One again, I think the chips needed to be saltier. Perhaps the trend of saltier potato chips was more common in the 1950’s.

The Mont Marcal winery was established in 1975 in the Penedes region of Catalonia. The yellow cava has several columns of beads forming a mousse around the circumference of the glass, a small mousse forms off center. Apple is predominant on the aroma and taste with a hint of tropical fruits. It seems fitting to depart France sipping on a cava. The 2015 International Wine Tourism Conference ended in Champagne and the conference’s sights are now set on Barcelona for 2016. The cava producers will have their task of showing off this sparkling wine and impressing the conference delegates, wine experience providers and press with cavas and tapas. Hopefully, one cava producer will pair cavas with potato chips.


Wine Tourism Statistics from Winery and Tourist Points of View

There were a few presentations that I attended that included a dose of statistics from studies. I’ll mention some of these and offer a comment or two.

Miguel Lecuona discussed the winery survey that his company, Wine Marketing Guide, developed. Winery personal completed the survey. Two hundred wineries responded. The survey was developed using Survey Monkey. Survey Monkey is a powerful tool used to create surveys on the Internet. There is both a free version, great for simple surveys and a paid version that offers more features.

Miguel mentioned some of the findings in his talk, “National Tasting Room Survey.”

82% of the wineries that responded had production of less than 10,000 cases, this is inline with the case production of wineries in the United States. Most wineries in the US are small.

78% of the responding wineries wanted more of their wines in their portfolio tasted, this is one of the reasons for wine tourism. Wineries offer the only place that wine enthusiasts can taste many of the wines in portfolios, unless a winery only produces a couple wines.

54% of the respondents indicated that the winery owner or winemaker is in the tasting room on a regular basis. We do not experience this high of a percentage even though we have appointments and the staff knows we are writers. Of course what is open to interpretation is the phrase “on a regular basis.” That could mean just a few minutes a week.

66% indicated that they have 9 to possibly more than 15 wines on the tasting menu. This is more true of the United States than Europe. That is an astonishing number of wines to pour in a tasting room. Kathy and I try to limit our taste to five wines each. Some wineries would prefer that we taste their entire portfolio.

62% indicated that they charge $5 – $10 for a tasting. In the United States, the amount charged for a tasting is based on state law and wine region. We have seen some wineries that give free tastings while others charge over $50 for a tasting. There seems to be a correlation (material for a future research study) between the amount charged for a tasting and whether a visitor will purchase wine. There appears to be more purchases when tastings are free. I would like to see if there is a true correlation in this though.

69% of the surveyed wineries indicated limo or bus tours of 10 or more people is a problem. One of the problems is that visitors in bus tours seldom make purchases. The other problem with limo and bus groups is behavior. It is illegal to serve people if they appear drunk in the United States, this then causes friction. Limo tour and bus tour operators need to work with wineries to curb unacceptable behavior. In some states we have heard wineries explain that they will call ahead to the next winery if they had trouble with a tour group. The next winery could refuse to let the limo or bus group enter. This particular concern represents the need for wine experience operators to communicate with wineries.

While the Wine Marketing Guide survey was on the winery side, Winerest developed a survey on the wine tourist side. Tatiana Livesey  delivered a talk titled, “Wine and Food Travel Is Most in Demand.” Some of the findings Winerest discovered through a survey of 500 people that they conducted included:

98% of those surveyed are wine and food lovers.

The survey indicated that of the respondents 24% had a basic knowledge of wine, 46% had an intermediate knowledge of wine while 30% had advanced in wine knowledge. This is important for wineries to understand that one size does’t fit all approach in a tasting room. It is rather alarming to have tasting room personal tell a winemaker how red wine is made as if they never knew this information before. This happens throughout the world and will continue to happen until winery personal throw out their monologue scripts and engage with wine enthusiasts through dialogue.

79% of the survey respondents indicated that they were interested in wine and food holidays. Almost half of these spend a weekend visiting wineries. Popular destinations include France, Italy and Spain. While on holiday, the respondents indicated that they spend between 75 and 100 euros per day including tasting fees, food and lodging. Of those on wine holiday, 88% purchase wine at the winery.

An important finding of the study was, once starting wine travel, 79% of the respondents indicated that they are repeat wine tourists.

Perhaps the most challenging survey data for wineries is that 76% of the respondents indicated that they want to book online. However, very few wineries provide a means to accomplish this. Perhaps wineries should review their websites and remedy this disconnect.

The wine industry should look at these survey results and begin a discussion of their practices. Are wineries throughout the world doing enough to provide outstanding experiences for wine travelers? The days of the attitude “It is a privilege for a visitor to stand in their winery” are over.


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Copyright: Terry and Kathy Sullivan 2006-2013