Someone once wrote, “Wine improves with age. The older I get, the better I like it.” This certainly speaks to my own relationship with great wine over the years.

Welcome to NorthBay biz magazine’s 2019 Harvest issue. Sure, we call this our “Special Wine Issue,” but it’s not just about any harvest. This issue is a celebration of the North Bay’s glorious grape-growing region and all those who work to produce the world-class wine they’ve made famous. Like many wine enthusiasts, my wife and I drink great wine out of desire, not need. We love exploring how the flavor of our favorite Pinot Noir changes each vintage. We love comparing how a $40 Cabernet Sauvignon from Calistoga compares with its $100 neighbor in Oakville. But mostly, we love sharing secret finds with those I love. Each bottle reminds us of a romantic evening, a special event, or someone whose memory we treasure.

In this issue, our editorial team has provided a collection of stories that feature our rich grape-growing agricultural heritage. As you may recall from one of my earlier columns, my memory still lingers on a single bottle of Rafanelli Zinfandel served 22 years ago while on my first date with Susan Chinn. I remember that evening at a tucked-away Italian restaurant in San Francisco, as if it were just a few weeks ago. Red-and-white checkered table linens, stemless wine glasses and cheap artwork were dimly lit by dozens of votive candles. That bottle we shared is remembered almost as well as our first goodnight kiss. Susan and I married shortly thereafter and Rafanelli is part of our “story.” In this month’s issue, Karen Hart expertly profiles A. Rafanelli Winery, a fourth- generation business, and how it managed to stay afloat more than 100 years ago during Prohibition. As with so many successful, family-owned businesses, the early beginnings of A. Rafanelli Winery began with the determination and passion of one person, and evolved and expanded over the years with each generation. Every word of this profile brought a smile to my face, and no doubt will to yours, as you read their family story.

Known then as “the noble experiment,” Prohibition lasted nearly 14 years, but human nature being what it is, folks found ways around it to imbibe. During Prohibition, grape juice was sometimes sold with an often dubious warning on the label: “After dissolving the grape brick in a gallon of water, do not place the liquid in a jug in a cupboard for 20 days, because then it would turn into wine.” Judith Wilson chimes in from the Napa side of the Mayacamas Mountain Range to share the tales of a few of the wineries that closed during that era, creating “ghost wineries,” but were later revived by a new generation of vintners.

When the leaves begin to turn and the air grows brisk, chances are you’ll finding yourself reaching more often for a hearty bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. In “Cabernet Season,” Mallorie Kerrigan focuses her talents on this wine grape varietal, what makes it unique and takes a look at some of the local wineries leading the way with Cabernet.

Undoubtedly, wine is at its very best when paired with foods that serve to enhance their flavor. A little too much acidity, and the wine overwhelms a beautiful meal. But if there’s not enough acidity, the wine is prevented from revealing the quality of each bite that it surrounds. Writer Jean Doppenberg demystifies the science behind this art form by asking local celebrated chefs and wine experts to share their expertise. Every special meal should be paired with the wines that magnify its flavors, and there are some tricks to the trade. But the first, most surprising rule is: Throw out the rules! Read all about what the experts have to say on the topic.

That’s it for now! I hope you enjoy this special harvest issue. Sit back and pour a glass of a favorite varietal that you think will pair well with each of this month’s harvest stories. Be sure to share your own story with me at

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