Well there was mutiny in Lagos, aboard the mean ship Skondi

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I did a lot of work for these guys in Oakland. They made a positive difference in some very rough neighborhoods. The talking heads at Fox disgust me. I just want to grab them by the scruff of their necks and rub their noses in it. Turn off Fox. I don’t watch their news, I don’t watch their shows and I don’t watch their football games. Just because you say the same thing over and over again doesn’t make it true. It just makes you a moron.

Did you know Rachel Maddow was from Castro Valley? Yup.

billandted460

Check out this blow by blow coverage of the Bill and Ted’s Excellent Ponzi Scheme. I’ve read some very interesting stuff about how Paulson handled the distribution of the TARP money. Here’s Teddy’s letter to Paulson. Asshat. And now all that’s left is a bitter pill.  I’m shocked that anyone associated with LandAmerica would name a company BackInTheBlack.  Seriously.  It ought to be called BetterDeadThanRed.  So whoever UnitedTech is, they just got the Default Services and BackInTheBlack.  I call bullshit.

There is a lot of speculation about the shadow inventory. Some folks don’t even believe it exists. Here’s some helpful hints:

  1. You can’t modify a loan if there isn’t enough income to qualify for it
  2. The banks aren’t taking property back right now
  3. Foreclosureradar.com is wrong.

Why aren’t the banks taking property back? Simple. They can’t post a loss and keep the Federal Government off their asses. So they don’t take back the properties. If they don’t take it back they don’t have to post the loss on that asset. No loss equals no loss. Equals big bonuses can flow to executives, the Government leaves them alone and it’s business as usual. Keep in mind, Paulson forced nine banks to take TARP money. Those guys paid it back as quickly as they could because no one wanted to end up like Rick Wagoner. It has nothing to do with anything more than a bunch of spoiled brats trying to hang on to the corporate teat that they suckle from. Showing any more loss this year will send up the red flags, so these guys are leaving these assets out there. Every day I hear another story about a guy who’s been living in a house and hasn’t made a payment in a year, two years, 18 months. There’s a ton of them. In the last two days I heard about two in Alamo. One each day. Really. It’s that bad.

What’s that smell?  Dinty Moore.  Holy crap they stunk up the place.  How much longer can they bleed money like this?  $23.7 million dollar loss.  Ouch mon.  Over at the Bloodless Empire, they posted profits of $.59 per share.  Nice work if you can get it.  Poor Parker Kennedy had to deal with those pesky employee separation and lease termination costs of $4 million.  Yup.  One made money the other didn’t.

But we all live with the scars we choose

We’re all singing “Happy Days are here again” right? Everyone has had their salaries restored to pre-mortgage meltdown rates, right? Your bonuses and commissions have all been restored by Mr. Foley right? Everybody is holding hands and singing “We are the World” at the Evil Empire, right? Oh let’s just quote the earnings call. During the earnings call Al Stinson said:

Open order counts continue to accelerate in October, as we averaged nearly 10,000 open orders for the first two weeks of October. We focused on moderate head count reductions during much of the third quarter eliminating about 850 positions. Despite a 16% sequential drop in closed orders and $101 million or 7% reduction in total title revenue, we were still able to generate pretax title profits that only decline about $13 million and an 8.9% pretax margin that was only a 30 basis points or 3% sequential decline from the second quarter.

Yep, Bill lopped off another 850 heads and turned in Q3 EPS of .32 per share to the Captains of Industry. Nice job asshat.

The Evil Empire continues to balance the books and bring profits to his Wall Street lords on the backs of the employees. Splendid. Restore your staff’s salaries, commissions and bonuses and THEN post profits for Wall Street. Any question that Bill Foley is a reprehensible character? Any question about his morally bankrupt business practices? Ask one of his employees, they’ll tell you.

You see a little bit of a food fight broke out when my pals over at AWB picked up on my pounding of the drums. They get why I have called for a boycott of Foley Wine Group. But they took it on the chin because the wine consuming public, or maybe it’s just a couple of morons that commented over there, don’t get why Bill Foley must be stopped. The thing in the Wine Spectator article that just jumps out at me is how Bill never said “I bought Sebastiani because I wanted to preserve a 104 year old tradition.” Nothing like that. He bought Sebastiani so that he would have more control over distribution. He never said and doesn’t give a crap about what kind of wine they make or the people who make it. It’s about distribution. So when some little wanker says “Oh he saved Sebastiani”, I say get a clue. Sebastiani’s time had run. Businesses have a life, and maybe Sebastiani was at the end of it’s life and needed to be laid to rest. Not to be further bastardized by a corporate raider. Mark my words, if he’s not stopped by the consumers, he will irrevocably change the wine industry forever, but not for the better.

Old Repulsive released earnings last week too. Well, earnings isn’t really the right word. The loss per share after an accounting adjustment was .20. They paid a .17 cent dividend per share so essentially they’re pretty close to stopping the bleeding. More importantly, they laid off less staff and retained more long term employees than any of the other title companies. They acted as if they knew business was cyclical and they had saved for that rainy day. They continue to behave in a much more admirable manner than any of their competitors. They have their problems, that’s for sure, but they don’t seem to bow to their Wall Street gods like Bill and Parker Kennedy do and here at PBE that’s a good thing.

The Bloodless Empire and Dinty Moore will be reporting on Thursday of this week. I will guess that one posts earnings the other doesn’t. Anyone want to venture a guess? I know, that was a softball. Speaking of softballs, this guy was truly the diameter of a softball. I saw him walking across the street, couldn’t believe it so I pulled over and snapped a picture, since I was up in Round Hill Country Club checking on one of our listings anyway and had the camera.

10-26tarantula

Do me a favor and pass me the Jaeger

I’ve been busy, so let’s do a before and after.

Before:

house-before

House taped up waiting for paint:

house-taped-up

House done.

house-done

Yeah, I painted the front door red.

house-done2

Bubba relaxing after a long day of watching me work.

10-26-bubba-repose

Yes, I have very similar pictures of a black and tan boy, who I still miss terribly.

Foolish pride, that’s all I have left

A little housekeeping.  As for the sidebars, I know.  I’ll fix it.  As a matter of fact I’m working on an overhaul, but apparently my meager coding skills are not as enhanced by wine as I thought they were.  So if you stop by and things look ridiculous, not to worry, I’m working on it and probably testing it.

Let’s see, since these are big questions, Rita’s leg is getting better slowly.  Vet didn’t even take Xrays.  She didn’t think it was the ACL.  I don’t think we’re out of the woods on this one, but that’s where we’re at.  I’m supposed to keep her quiet.  It’s possible when I’m not here, not possible when I am.  That dog just wants to run and run and run.  She’s a lot like Xica in that her motor never stops.  Bubba’s tummy settled down and we’re back to where we were.  Not great, not terrible.

It’s earnings season again and I will have my comments up in the next couple of days.  You know I have something to say.

I gave up and went down to Wally’s and rented an airless yesterday.  Now the last time I was at Wally’s I had also rented an airless.  I painted the interior of the house before I moved in.  It was 100 degrees that day and the paint dried on the machine.  After two hours of cleaning it I gave up and took it back intending on paying the cleaning charge.  The asshat behind the counter bitched me out about the whole situations.  I was exhausted and more than willing to pay the cleaning charge.  I didn’t like some counter jockey at a rental place bitching me out.  It has been over two years since I went back.  Message:  1) your counter guy represents your company good or bad 2) Use google traps. If they had, they would have known exactly when it happened and been able to fix the problem.  Of course, it never should have been a problem.  He should have said “Hey, we’re going to jack you for $200 to clean this.  Do you want to go back home and try to get it clean yourself?”  My answer was no, I’ll pay the $200.  That should have been the end of it but the asshat treated me like I was an idiot.  Trust me, he was the dumber of the two people in that conversation.  He lectured me and was demeaning and condescending.   Here’s the original story.  I’ve been doing business with Cresco ever since.  Yesterday I knew I didn’t have time to get to Cresco and get the job done so I bit the bullet.  I went in with a bad attitude expecting the worse.  I found two great guys who were very helpful.  I knew from last time that I needed to have lacquer thinner at the house to clean it and I do have some.  I finished the whole process with 10 minutes to spare.  The guy at the counter last night said “Now that’s how we like to see them come back”.  Nice.  Friendly.  Exactly how you’re supposed to do business.

Now I know you’re all going “Ok but what color is it?”  Well, I was a little concerned yesterday when I opened up the paint and it was the color of dog diarrhea.  Luckily it dried a lot better than that.  Hopefully I’ll get it trimmed out tomorrow and get some pictures up.  It does look good.  The color is Kelly Moore Villita.  It’s a stock color.  Sort of a green with a lot of gray in it.  If you see me today it’s all over the back of my right arm.

I killed the Czar and his ministers

PBE is like the Post Office. “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night…” PBE delivers.  Just the other day Doctor Capone asked about the Mercury/Alliance debacle.  This morning, I look in my inbox and POOF!

10-20-09mercury letter

The operative word in the letter is “might”.  Most of the Alliance, Mercury, and Financial folks will remember that David Balter is the attorney for the State of California Labor Commission.  He was on this like a duck on a junebug back in 2007.  Mr. Balter really cares about the folks who got caught in Jerry & Patty’s scheme.  This is about recovering the lost wages, vacation pay stolen by Jerry Hauptman and Patty Hauptman when the companies failed. You know, 10 minutes after they both took their own salaries and skulked off to their mountain home.  Apparently these days Patty Hauptman is billing herself as an “Independent Management Consulting Professional“.  Apparently because she did such a professional job of managing Mercury Companies…nevermind.  You’ll be pleased to know that Jerry Hauptman is a “Management Consultant” at…yep, the Evil Empire.  I’m going to change my LinkedIn profile to simply read “Her Satanic Majesty”.

And remember, don’t buy Bill’s plonk.  The wine industry needs to say “no” to Bill Foley.  Leave it on the shelf.  The title insurance community has learned the hard way why Bill Foley is bad for business, and we all know why he’s bad for the consumer.  Don’t let the Burgermeister do to the wine industry what he did to the title industry.

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I bet a fiddle of gold against your soul

We all know I love sports analogies, most are baseball centric. My clients get to hear them all the time. You can’t hit the ball if you don’t get into the batter’s box. They all know that one. Another one I was using just yesterday was “Don’t serve up a steaming hot meat pie if you don’t want me to hit it over the fence”. Right now I feel a little bit like Carney Lansford in Angels in the Outfield. Carney played the grizzled nemesis who dug deep into the batters box intent on hitting the ball out of the park.

carney

He was big and strong and very serious about knocking the snot out of the baseball. Well, I’m big and strong and very serious about knocking the snot out of this story. The November 15, 2009 Wine Spectator will feature a story entitled “Growth and Acquisition”. It’s a piece about Bill Foley and his foray into the wine business. It talks about his background and his building of what is quickly becoming a wine empire. Unfortunately, Wine Spectator misses the mark, because while all the PR folks and Wall Street like to focus on the money he makes, they always ignore the corpses and destruction left in his wake. If anyone who reads this blog has any question, when I refer to the Evil Empire, I am talking about Fidelity National Financial. I’m talking about Bill Foley’s flagship. I’m talking about the company he built and then used to change an industry. Not for the better. I have heard more stories of homeowners or borrowers with issues after a transaction with a Fidelity company than any other company. There’s a reason I hate them. And I’ve got the background to support it. The author of the Wine Spectator piece, MaryAnn Worobiec writes:

In 1984 he organized a group of investors and led a leveraged buyout of a small company called Fidelity National Title Insurance, which would turn out to be one of the defining moments of his career.

Mine too, because in 1984 I worked for that little tiny title company. I was sitting in the office in Santa Barbara, California when he walked in with his henchmen. Anyone who follows the history at all knows that not only did he have his office in Santa Barbara, up until he decided he didn’t want to pay taxes or California salaries any more, the entire company was based in Santa Barbara. And if anyone listens to the Gubernatorial debates, Tom McClintock actually mentioned Fidelity National Financial in those debates, saying that FNF was moving their offices to Jacksonville Florida because they were tired of paying California State taxes. They were also tired of California salaries but they couldn’t say that one out loud.

That was only one of Foley’s reprehensible business practices. He is well known in the title industry for paying ridiculous salaries, bringing people in from other companies where they had stable jobs, giving them 60 days to perform and then capping them immediately when they didn’t. There has been much speculation that the purpose of this practice was to steal their book of business. Quite honestly if a title rep or an Escrow Officer moves from one company to another there is attrition in their book of business. Some clients will stay and try out the new team, some don’t like the drama and will give their business to a completely different company and some will come to the new company. There is never 100% capture. For Fidelity it has always been about numbers: market share and making money. It has never been about quality or service. That’s not to say that the rank and file don’t care about quality or service, it just means the executive team doesn’t care about quality or service. The only service they care about is lip service. The rest is all numbers. They have a strict formula and when the orders and closings drop below a certain number heads roll. How many? Thousands. FNF continued to post positive EPS throughout the mortgage crisis. They did it on the backs of their staff. October 2007, FNF lays off 1700 people. July 2008, FNF lays off 1600 workers. February 2009, Fidelity lays off 1500 workers. 18,000 jobs lost since 2003? There’s a number.  This is a company that traditionally balances the books on the backs of the employees.  When you’re in the service providing business, this is always fraught with peril.  When I was laid off at Alliance, I managed to get off an email to the entire company before the IT department had to shut down the mail servers.  I simply quoted Howard Schultz, Starbuck’s founder and CEO.

A company that is managed only for the benefit of shareholders treats it’s employees as a line item, a cost to be contained. Executives who cut jobs aggressively are often rewarded with a temporary run-up in their stock price. But in the long run they are not only undermining morale but sacrificing the innovation, the entrepreneurial spirit, and the heartfelt commitment of the very people who could elevated the company to greater heights.

Yet, that’s the Fidelity business model.

What those numbers won’t tell you is that the remaining staff took it up the ass. The minimum reduction in salary is over 20% and those salary cuts remain in place today in spite of the fact that the company has turned around and is posting huge profits again. There are two ways that FNF cuts your salary. One is an across the border slashing. Most employees gratefully accept this because they still have a job. The corporate culture leads them to believe that there is no where else to go for a job. The second way they cut salaries is to lay people off and then bring them back a month or two later as either a temp with no benefits or at a greatly reduced salary. Once again the employees gratefully accept it because it beats the crap out of $1800 a month from the State. I would venture to guess that every single individual currently employed by the Fidelity “family of companies” has taken a huge reduction in pay since 2006. If you haven’t, I’d love to hear from you. And the Easter Bunny. And Santa Claus. Because none of you exist.

Bill Foley’s business practices took an industry that used to take pride in accuracy and reduced that to acceptable risk. In other words, we can afford to do our jobs with X amount of half-assedness. He created a culture where people were so overworked that the probability for them getting their jobs accomplished correctly was in the single digits. As a client of mine used to say “He squeezed people’s eyeballs” in business transactions. And it’s made him a very rich man. It has not made him an honorable man and it has not made him a good man.

So now he’s taking his business “acumen” into the wine business. He’s buying up vulnerable wineries and vineyards and creating another empire. And the wine industry is wetting themselves trying to saddle up to him. Well, you know what? It’s all fun and games until 18,000 people lose their jobs. It’s all bread and roses until he doesn’t want to pay the salaries of a qualified winemaker. It’s his MO, like the scorpion, it’s in his nature. I’ve seen it. Twenty five years of it. This is your future wine industry. You can choose to do business with this man and embrace these business practices or you can choose to opt out. As consumers, we can speak with our wallets. As business people we can choose to not do business with a morally reprehensible character. As employees, we can seek work elsewhere. This man must not be allowed to do to the wine business what he did to the title business.

On October 15, Bill sent out an email to all of the employees of FNF. Here’s a direct quote, because that’s how we roll here at PBE:

Firestone Vineyard has put together a great consumer promotion that I want you to know about.  The Winery is sending one lucky consumer to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru, accompanied by a personal chef and plenty of Firestone wine.

Scroll down to read the latest Newsletter from Firestone. To enter the contest, click here.

Good luck!
Bill

It certainly not the first time Bill has sat out at his ranch in Montana and told his staff “Good luck”.  Good luck making your mortgage, good luck keeping your job because I’m going to try my best to steal your book of business.  Good luck paying your bills.  Good luck getting overtime out of me.  I know all of the FNF employees are ready to run down to Machu Picchu right now because not a one of them has had an issue with their 20-30-40% reduction in their pay.  Attached to that is the Firestone Vineyards newsletter.  Now I can assure you that there are a few FNF employees who are staying drunk through this whole thing, but they aren’t drinking Firestone.

I’m not a big believer in boycotts, but there are a few companies I do boycott.  Boycott is different than just not doing business with them.  I try to not do business with any of the First American companies.  I hate the company but in this business sometimes I don’t have a choice.  I try not to allow my transactions to go to a Fidelity company but sometimes you don’t have a choice and they do have some good employees.  Those folks need to buy groceries too.  I try not to buy goods made in China, but sometimes that’s nearly impossible.  I try not to ever watch anything on a Fox station.  That includes the news and football games.  If there’s a game on another channel, I watch the other game.  But I boycott Foley Family Wines.  From Ms Worobiec’s article:

From the outside, it doesn’t appear that anything has changed at Kuleto. Founder Pat Kuleto is still the face of the winery, and the winemaker is still David Lattin. But Foley’s management, financial backing and increasing leverage with distributors will keep the brand alive, and likely expand it. “What doesn’t fit in [the portfolio] right now are small niche, cult brands that are too complicated to bring into the portfolio and tough for the sales team to sell,” he says.

If it appears that Foley is focused on the distribution chain, it’s because he is. His original goal-before the buying spree-was to create a multibrand portfolio totaling about 500,000 cases, to get more leverage with distributors. He sees the distribution chain as one of the biggest obstacles in the wine industry. “You need mass. I see that more clearly now [after purchasing Sebastiani] than ever.” He wants to model Foley Family Wines after Jess Jackson’s multibrand Jackson Family Wines. “I really believe that if you get to be a certain size, you get to be more influential with vendors,” he says.

Currently Foley Family Wines owns more than 1,000 acres of vineyards in the United States, 700 of them in Santa Barbara, making Foley the single-largest vineyard owner in the Sta. Rita Hills appellation. With the purchase of Sebastiani, Foley has reached his initial 500,000 case goal, and laughs, saying that he actually “overachieved.” “My interim goal is 750,000 [cases]. I’m trying to be careful,” says Foley. “There are some great opportunities out there. I’m going to run out of money before I run out of wineries to buy.”

Look out.  He’s told us what he’s going to do.  Don’t let him.  Boycott Foley Family Wines.  Do it for the future of the industry.

Foley Family Wines brands:

Altvs
Curtis
Firestone Vineyard
Foley Estates
Kuleto
Lincourt Vineyards
Merus
Sebastiani
Three Rivers Winery

Howling at all this corrosion

The best part about this website to me is the input I get from y’all. I get emails with subject suggestions and as I’ve mentioned before, I love the peanut gallery (comment section). And no, I’m not painting the house fire engine red. The front door, yes. The house no.

My inbox has been hammered on this subject and I just haven’t had a moment to read through everything and put together a thoughtful rant post. It’s time.

AB957 passed. It passed in spite of Ticor’s attempting to black ball Property ID. It passed in spite of all the opposition from the banking industry. It passed because it was good and right. Unfortunately, it got neutered along the way. Some of the well written articles in support of AB957 can be found here and here. And of course in the PBE archives.

Like anything else, if people would act right there would be no need for legislation. But when an industry bullies the consuming public, they get the white hot light of the legislature shining up their ass. And in this case, rightly so. This is the same industry who has been foreclosing on peoples homes while simultaneously doing a “work out” in their short sale or loan mod department. An industry so out of control and morally reprehensible that they can’t even bother to properly staff these departments to assure some sort of communication between the two divisions, and ultimately ensure that they’ve done the best job that they could for their customers. They deserve the white hot light of the legislature up their ass. Actually they deserve a red hot poker up their ass.

Unfortunately some wording was added to Ms Galgiani’s bill that will allow the slippery snake oil salesman of the title and banking industries to worm their way around AB957. Now buyers are required to fill out this form with every offer:

NOTICE REGARDING BUYER’S RIGHT TO SELECT ESCROW AGENT AND/OR TITLE INSURER.

The Buyer has the right to make an independent selection of the entity that will provide the title insurance covering the property and/or escrow agent used in connection with the sale of the property.

Buyer also has the right to agree to accept the services of a title insurer and/or an escrow agent recommended by the seller, if written notice of the right to make an independent selection of those services is provided by the seller to the buyer.

Buyer acknowledges he/she received prior notice of his/her right to make an independent selection of the entity that will provide the title insurance covering the property and/or escrow agent used in connection with the property sale.

Buyer: ___________________________ Date: _____________

Buyer: ___________________________ Date: _____________

That ought to do it eh? Not so fast Sparky. That has to be filled out and submitted with the offer.  Because the seller can choose any offer they want, they’ll just choose the offer that allows them to drive the title and escrow while making the buyer’s pay that company’s exorbitant fees.  Yeah, exorbitant.  I’ve heard a ton of arguments about these so called “deep discounts” and “bulk pricing” that are supposedly being offered by these REO units.  Bullshit.  The last one I priced out was over $500 more at the Evil Empire than if I had sent the same transaction to Old Repulsive.  On a $120k condo.  That’s obscene.  I’m sure the moment it was clear that Schwarzenegger was going to sign that bitch the title companies and the banks were on the phone to each other trying to work out a way to get around it.  Shame on both of you.  If you would act honorably none of this would be necessary in the first place.

Speaking of doing business in an honorable way, Schwarenegger signed a total seven bills into law the other day.  All aimed directly at the banking, mortgage and title industry.  Knowing what a lot of us know about how those industries behaved in the last 10 years, they deserve every one of them.  AB 260 says that mortgage brokers can’t steer borrowers to risky, high interest rate loans when they qualify for better loans.  You’d think that it would be a simple matter of morals, you put your borrower in the best product for them, but not the slimeballs who were in the mortgage industry in the last 10 years, they steered their client towards the product with the highest rip.  That practice has been illegal in the securities industry for years.  It’s about time the mortgage industry caught up.  Kudos to Ted Lieu for bringing it to the legislature and kudos to the Govenator for signing it.  AB 260 also outlaws neg-am loans, essentially the product that Herb Sandler made his fortune on.  Now let’s get after Herb with a red hot poker.

SB 36 (Calderon) says that all residential loan originators have to be licensed.  We all know what was happening and what this now means.  Thanks to Mike Feuer, it’s now a felony to commit fraud on a residential loan application. (AB239) The most bizarre is AB1160 requiring mortgage loan documents to be written in the same language that the verbal negotiations were conducted in.  So are we now printing loan docs in Farsi, Mandarin, Hindi, Khmer, Vietnamese and Tagalog?  Or does it mean that the negotiations will now all occur in English?  I understand the need, I just question how well thought out this one was.  Still Schwarenegger stood up for the people of the State of California, and that’s his job.  And while he gets a lot of well deserved criticism, he does try to do what’s best for the State.  And at PBE, that’s worth something.

There behind a glass stands a real blade of grass

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Nothing but quality from PBE.

Last night was Pick Up night at Pleasant Hill Wine Merchants. There was a gathering of the Usual Suspects. PHWM tends to get on a jag and the jag this month was Roessler. Not a bad jag to be on. And a little wine company named R&B. Audelssa and Trinitas were also heavy in the mix. Generally the mix is affected by who was there for an in-store recently. All three had been there recently. I missed them all. As usual, I run through all three club levels before I make my call. I’m in the mid level club since I have so much premium wine shipped to my house, I use PHWM for finding new Sunday through Thursday wines. We ran through the Smart Buy club and the only one that was moderately drinkable was the Masi white and the Bogle Petite Syrah. And that was a stretch. The Masi was a little oaky for an Italian and the Bogle was pretty flat, but it’s Bogle, so there you have it. But those two didn’t hurt my tongue and some of the others did. Then we moved up to the Estate level, which is my club. We opened with a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc from Fairhill Downs. It was a typical New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, crisp, lively. Very acidic with lots of citrus. It was okay but quite honestly I couldn’t figure out what to pair it with and it was too much to drink by itself. I read the winemakers accompaniments and it would be a stretch. It really needs something to calm it down, you could almost taste the stainless steel in it, but he says he uses barriques. The next wine the 42 degree S. Chardonnay had a nose of cat piss. Really. I couldn’t get past that. The wine itself was minerally with a bit of grapefruit, but the nose was brutal. Then I got to the Roessler Chardonnay -Alder Springs Mendocino. This was a pretty oaky Chardonnay. It was creamy, well balanced with a very nice mouthfeel. By far the best one yet, but I don’t know at retail $35 a bottle that I had that much love for it. It was $20 for club members and it was a serviceable Chardonnay at that price. I moved to the reds and then things got a little difficult. The Roessler 2007 La Brisa Pinot Noir ended up coming home with me. It had all of the components I expect in a good pinot. Ever since Sideways Pinot has been the “it” wine. So there’s tons of them around and really they’re starting to bore me. But I liked this one. It had that earthiness that a pinot is supposed to have, nice plums on the front and a chocolaty vanilla-y finish. For it’s light color it really had a darkness to it that was very interesting. We’ll be hanging out together again some time very soon. They also had the Roessler Brosseau, La Encantada, the Clos Pepe, and Widdoe open. All were very nice offerings. The Brosseau and the La Encantada were in the level above me. Both very similar except there was a bit of smoke on the end of the La Encantada. Audelssa had the Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and the Tephra Red blend open. The Tephra was a very serviceable red blend. It was gentle, spicy and full of red fruit. A very decent offering. The Cab was surprisingly good. I’m not that big of a fan of Sonoma Cabs. There I said it. I think Cabs need to be grown in the mountains above Napa and Sonoma needs to grow Pinots and Chards and other grapes that require more moisture in the air. Good Cabernet Sauvignon grapes need to fight for their little grape lives. That’s what makes the fruit powerful and the wines interesting. But that’s just the world according to me. Audelssa thought it was okay to grow Cabernet Sauvignon grapes in Sonoma and, well, they were right. It’s a pretty hot cab, in looking it up the alcohol is at 14.6%. It’s well balanced with a lot of red fruit on this one too. I think time in the bottle will soften this up a little and it will grow nicely into itself. I like vanilla finishes and this one’s got it. I don’t love it at $36 retail but at $25 for the wine club, I got some love for it.

Finally, Best of Show. The Lucia 2006 Gary’s Vineyard Syrah. Generally if Parker gives it a 93 I’m not going to be thrilled with it. His ratings have all to do with that big fruit shit that I have never liked. You know when you walk into the tasting room and they say “This is a big jammy fruit forward…” and all I hear is blah blah blah Ginger. The Lucia Vineyards Santa Lucia Highlands Syrah is a different story. The wine is a deep purple in color letting you know the goodness that is to come. It’s got some dark earthiness too it, almost like wet ground. The wine has the lushness of a forest as it delivers multi-layers of flavors. There is ripe blackberries and blueberries on the palate with spice and a hint of charcoal in the finish. I should have brought home a bottle of this one, but my wallet was out in the car and I was too lazy at this point to go get it. There is so much going on with this wine that I just want to sit and enjoy it and let it tell it’s own story. Quite an interesting little wine from the Santa Lucia Highlands and most definitely the Best of Show last night.