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Jeroboam Nebuchadnezzar

Jeroboam was a bull frog
Was a good friend of mine
I never understood a single word he said
But I helped him drink his wine
And he always had some mighty fine wine

Stop the presses! The subject of the 1970’s Three Dog Night song Joy to the World was Jeremiah. Jeroboam is the name of a particular size of wine bottle. Actually, two sizes. But let’s start from the beginning.

Most wine is sold in standard 750 milliliter bottles. There are twelve bottles in a case and a standard sized oak barrel typically yields around 300 bottles. But the 750 isn’t the only game in town. Pictured below, on the right, is a 750 ml bottle of one of my favorites: Alfaro Garys’ Vineyard Pinot Noir. The bottle in the center is a magnum: 1.5 liters, the equivalent of two standard bottles.

On the left is a 375 ml half bottle of estate Pinot. Don’t call it a split – that term is reserved for 187 ml bottles, which are usually found housing sparkling wines. The half bottle is a convenient size to share with another person at dinner or a picnic without worrying about what to do with leftovers.

The smallest bottle of good wine I’ve had in my possession is the diminutive 100 ml bottle of Leticia Vineyards Arroyo Grande Valley Pinot Noir shown below, on the left. Next to that, for reference, is a standard-sized bottle of Leticia Pinot.

The real fun for most oenophiles is in the big bottles. To paraphrase Virginia Madsen’s memorable line from the film Sideways, anytime you open a magnum is sure to be a special occasion. Large format bottles also last longer in your cellar, and putting a few on a display rack can really spice up the place. But if a mere magnum is not enough, you should proceed to the double magnum, or Jeroboam, the equivalent of four bottles in one.

By convention, at least in France, it is also permissible to call a 4.5 liter bottle of Bordeaux a Jeroboam. Next up, at six liters, the equivalent of eight ordinary bottles, is the Imperial, also known as the Methuselah. Impressive as that may be, a Methuselah is dwarfed by the extremely rare, 12 liter Nebuchadnezzar. If you have it on your bucket list to own, or at least see up close, a Nebuchadnezzar, I can recommend two establishments that have one on display. The Stephen & Walker tasting room on Healdsburg Avenue is just down the street from Willi’s Seafood and Raw Bar. Or you can take the self guided tour at St. Supery in Napa where they have a full range of large format bottles of excellent Napa Cabernet on display upstairs.


Now that we’re on the subject of Bordeaux, we offer for your consideration a modest collection of Bordeaux style bottles: a standard 750 ml on the left, magnum on the right, and a Jeroboam anchoring the line at center.

This particular Jeroboam is covered in colorful writing because it was a gift from Applied Motion Products to wine connoisseur James Chang, the president of our parent company, Shanghai Moons’. Local vintner Alfaro Family Vineyards hosted a special reception for Applied Motion and Moons’ managers last January, but James was out of the country. When he visited in August, we brought Alfaro to him in the form of a Jeroboam of Billy K Merlot, signed by the Applied Motion crew. He seems to like it.




Dry Creek Valley

If you seek unique wines, food and lodging, Sonoma County is a great place to visit. It’s vast, stretching from Napa County on the east to the Pacific Ocean on the west. It’s bordered by Marin County and the San Pablo Bay on the south and Mendocino on the north. Within these generous confines you’ll find some great towns like Sonoma and Healdsburg where you can stay near, or on, the town square, park the car and explore on foot. If you’re looking for a charming little oceanside town, you might like Bodega Bay, where Alfred Hitchcock filmed his first fright flick The Birds. We recently stayed in all three places and brought home some great wine, lasting memories and a few photos should the memories ever need a refresh.

Sonoma County is also home to many wine growing appellations, some of which you may know: Los Carneros, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma Coast, Russian River Valley and Alexander Valley. Since soil type and climate influence which grape varietals grow best, most appellations develop a specialty. The cooler climates of Sonoma Coast and Sonoma Valley are ideal for world-class Chardonnay, Russian River Valley is all about Pinot Noir, and Alexander Valley gets warm enough to produce noble Cabernet Sauvignon.

Let’s add one more appellation to the list: Dry Creek Valley, which extends northwest from Healdsburg on Dry Creek Road. This valley’s soil and microclimate have proven most suitable to Zinfandel, Cabernet and Sauvignon Blanc. But if you’re expecting the dark, jammy Zins of Paso Robles or Lodi, you might be pleasantly surprised by the lighter body and silky mouth feel of a Dry Creek Zin.

Since Dry Creek is a tributary of the Russian River, we were not surprised to find several excellent Pinot Noirs. Our first stop was Papapietro Perry, who source Pinot grapes from Peters Vineyard in the Russian River Valley. Winemakers Ben Papapietro and Bruce Perry started in a garage back in the 1980’s when Ben’s beard was still black. They’ve come a long way, and the craftsmanship still shows. We arrived early, just in time to see a delivery of new French oak barrels. The six barrels in this photo cost Ben and Bruce over $7000 and will yield around 1800 bottles of wine.

Located across the parking lot from Papapietro Perry is Kokomo Winery, named for owner and winemaker Erik Miller’s home town in Indiana. If you’ve heard of Kokomo, it is most likely because the city has been famously making auto parts for decades. They even cast engine blocks for Maserati. Kokomo Winery also uses Peters fruit (grower Randy Peters is a partner) to produce some extraordinary and affordable Pinot Noir. The Sauvignon Blanc was also exceptional. We found the tasting room to be friendly and unpretentious. I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying many tasting rooms, large and small, upscale, downscale and everything in between, but there’s always something appealing about tasting wine in the barrel room.

Continuing north on Dry Creek Road, we made our way to Fritz Underground Winery. The name sounds like something out of Prohibition, but stems from the fact that Fritz Underground is literally under the ground. Like Artesa Winery, which was featured in our Los Carneros column, Jay Arthur Fritz built a multistory reinforced concrete structure on a hilltop and buried it. Planet Earth keeps the internal temperature optimal for fermenting and aging wine. Even though Fritz built the place back in the 1970’s, his reduced “carbon footprint” and low power bill have proven visionary. If we had approached Fritz unaware of the construction, we might have asked “where the heck is the place?”

In keeping with the Dry Creek terroir, Fritz makes estate Cabernet, Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc, plus a lovely Russian River Valley Pinot employing Pommard, 113 and 115 clones. Yum!

We finished our week with an overnight in Bodega Bay, where we had some wonderful, fresh seafood at Tide’s Wharf and enjoyed some photo walks through the small town and along the coast. With that, we close with a gratuitous bird shot.












Livermore, California, located on the far eastern edge of the San Francisco Bay Area, is known in scientific circles for the famed Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where controlled nuclear fusion was recently achieved after a 40 year effort. But Livermore came into its own in the mid 1800’s as a railroad town. The Western Pacific rail line that connected the Bay Area to the transcontinental railroad passed through the Livermore Valley and over Altamont Pass on the way to Sacramento. Altamont Pass is best known these days as the home of America’s oldest wind farm.

I was surprised to learn that Livermore has a long and colorful wine history. Many wine enthusiasts are familiar with story of the 1975 Judgment of Paris, a French wine competition that made Napa wines famous and respected when Chateau Montelena and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars took first place in their respective categories. Less known is that Charles Wetmore, who had been growing French varietals in the gravelly soils of the Livermore Valley, entered the Paris Exposition of 1889 and won several gold medals. It is reported that Wetmore’s Cabernet stock was imported from the famed Chateau Margaux vineyards in Bordeaux, France. These vines eventually became the source for the popular Cabernet clones 7, 8 and 11.

Livermore has been producing excellent wines since, save for a brief hiatus during prohibition. James Concannon and the Wente family have been keeping the flame lit since the turn of the 20th century. Despite the early Cabernet fame, Livermore now specializes in Petit Sirah and Chardonnay.

Following our standard formula of visiting at least one large and widely distributed winery followed by several small, artisanal ones, we started our journey at Concannon.

Concannon has a large tasting room with a vintage tin ceiling and plenty of space for guests. Across the courtyard, you’ll find another large room dedicated to club members. There’s also a large lawn that’s popular with picnickers. We found Concannon’s service and wine to be first rate, and brought home a lovely Livermore Valley Merlot and a Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir.

We left Concannon and proceeded east on Tesla Road (named for the same inventor as the electric car company) to Greenville Road, where we found a collection of smaller wineries. Our first stop was 3 Steves Winery which we chose for no other reason than one of the three Steves is a friend of a friend. As the name implies, the winery is owned by three guys named Steve, who have nicknames printed on their business cards so you can tell them apart. Our friends’ friend Steve Ziganti is named “Gray Beard” for his full salt and pepper beard. The others are “Vertically Challenged” Steve (the other two are taller) and “He Really Exists” Steve who is less often seen at the winery than his partners.

3 Steves specializes in locally grown Chardonnay and Cabernet, but the star of our visit to their intimate tasting room was a bottle fermented brut sparkling wine made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

The remaining stop was McGrail Vineyards, also on Greenville Road. McGrail has a large and lively tasting room and a sprawling lawn with valley views. The specialties are Cabernet, Chardonnay and Petit Sirah, of course, because this is Livermore. All the wines are skillfully crafted, but I especially enjoyed the estate Cabernet, with grapes sourced from McGrail’s own 16 acre hillside vineyard, stocked with prized Clone 8 vines.

If you happen to be in the East Bay and want to try something different, with historical relevance, I recommend packing a picnic and heading to Livermore.