Michael David Winery

Bare Ranch, my home for five days
Bare Ranch, my home for five days

I’m taking a wine marketing class this fall and on the first night of class, my instructor reminded me of something very important: only 20% of the United States population purchases wine and those customers are often drawn to wine brands based on an emotional connection or experience with the wine. Perhaps it was a dinner with friends or family, a visit to a winery made special by the tasting host, or a friend’s recommendation. Generally, most wine consumers don’t want to know what the percentages of blends are, how the wine is fermented and aged, or the vineyard management details. They want what tastes good and brings back memories of a great experience. When we meet someone, we don’t want to know their genetics or their chemical composition, we want a human connection. When I heard this, it hit me that maybe I am doing an injustice to the wines and wineries I review by sharing technical details that only wine geeks want to read. In light of this revelation, I am making a conscious change to the way I write. It should be fairly easy since this is who I am. I crave emotional connections to people, places, and things. I want to feel something inside after winery visit or a wine dinner. I want to feel inspired. Therefore, I’m bringing back storytelling, fun, passion, and emotion.

Three weeks ago, I arrived in Lodi, California, for the Wine Bloggers Conference. Unlike many of my peers, I had just visited Lodi in June and had already fallen in love with the wines and the people. Before that June visit, I harbored no preconceived notions about Lodi. If there’s anything I’ve learned after five years of wine and travel writing, it’s to visit wine regions with open mind, heart, and eyes, without reservation or hesitation.

A beautiful evening at Bare Ranch
A beautiful evening at Bare Ranch

I was especially lucky this fifth conference that my friend, Jeff Kralik (The Drunken Cyclist), had included me as one of the wine writers who would be staying at Michael David Winery’s Bare Ranch as a guest of the Phillips family. The first night I was there, I had the opportunity to share wine and dinner with David Phillips. Like my earlier trip to Lodi, I was taken aback by the kindness of David and his family to share their event property with a few crazy writers. Thank you again, David and Jeff, for including me in the Bare Ranch experience. I spent five nights there and it was at Bare Ranch that I had the lengthiest exposure to Lodi wine during the conference. The ranch was well supplied with Michael David wines and I had the opportunity to taste a few of them.

2012 Bare Ranch Sparkling
2012 Bare Ranch Sparkling

One of my favorites was the 2012 Bare Ranch Sparkling ($35), which is a small-production, traditional method sparkling wine crafted from Bare Ranch estate chardonnay (and a little pinot noir), located just over the fence from where I stayed, in honor of and especially for Bare Ranch guests and events. Its fresh and fruity fizziness with just a touch of yeast was the perfect accompaniment to starry Lodi nights by the pool, unspoken shenanigans, camaraderie, and lots of laughter. I am certain that I am not the only one who loved it, as somehow, over the course of five nights, a case of it mysteriously disappeared.

2013 Inkblot Cabernet Franc
2013 Inkblot Cabernet Franc

The second day in Lodi, Alison Marriott (Bon Vivant DC) and I visited Michael David’s tasting room and café. I knew I wasn’t in the Napa Valley any more when the freshly made burgers we ate were fewer than $10 each with the most AMAZING fries I’ve ever eaten. Since we were stocked up on wines at the ranch (understatement!), we decided to have a glass of the 2013 Inkblot Cabernet Franc ($35). The polar opposite of the delicate sparkling wine, this bold cabernet franc comes from a single, nine-acre vineyard near the winery. If a wine could be described as tall, dark, and handsome, this would be it. Opulent and juicy, spicy and smoky, this cabernet franc is seductive, the wine I wanted to take home with me after frolicking at the pool with the Bare Ranch Sparkling (wink, wink).

2014 Ancient Vine Cinsault
2014 Ancient Vine Cinsault (photo credit: Jon Bjork)

Not to be outdone by the sparkling or the cabernet franc, the 2014 Ancient Vine Cinsault ($25), sourced from the famed, 130-year-old Bechthold Vineyard, found its way into my heart one evening. More of a refined gentleman, this wine was indeed a smooth operator, with delectable red berry fruit flavors and tannins that gently caressed my palate. I had discovered a holy grail of Lodi wine.

2015 Sauvignon Blanc
2015 Sauvignon Blanc

Last, but certainly not least, was the comfortable, uncomplicated wine, the 2015 Sauvignon Blanc ($16). The first wine I shared with David Phillips and Jeff Kralik by the pool, it’s easy to drink, clean, and crisp, with loads of zingy citrus and tropical fruit flavors. Like a good friend, this is the reliable, go-to wine for hot, summer days in Lodi or wherever your travels might take you. It’s possible we may have consumed a case of this wine, too, but I’ll never tell. After all, what happens at Bare Ranch stays at Bare Ranch.


  1. I am aware most people don’t care about how a wine is made, brix, fermentation, etc. As a wine geek I love that stuff, I bet you do too. It helps me better understand the wine. I add a bit to my articles but not too much. I don’t think your writing style is bad b/c when I read your articles I like that info and you don’t write so much that it gets bogged down. I guess it depends on your overall audience. I think MD has done an amazing job marketing their wine. But it helps tremendously that they are also very good! Wish we spent more time together at WBC but it was a pleasure meeting you. I look forward to learning more from you about wine marketing. Cheers!

    1. Yes, I understand more about the wine, too, when I learn how it’s made. I’m just not sure everyone wants to know. The example our teacher gave in class kind of slapped me in the face. MD does do a good job of marketing and making a lasting impression. I’m glad we met at WBC. Maybe next year, there will be more time to chat.

  2. Oh geesh, Michael David folks just get it, don’t they? Thanks for sharing the details and moments of this lovely stay…

    You nailed it, we love to feel good, don’t we?


  3. I too enjoyed the Inkblot wine…but I can’t remember which Inkblot it was without my notes! Ha ha. As for writing style, I do think people connect more with reviews/tasting notes that evoke images and experiences rather than simple recitation of facts and flavors. But we also shouldn’t underestimate how much of a wine blogger’s audience, versus people going to aggregator sites, is composed of enthusiasts who want to dig in a little deeper. I’m constantly balancing it myself, though I’m not personal drawn to the specs of a wine, so I tend to go very soft on those.

  4. Hi,

    I agree with your instructor. Wine is so emotional and if you need proof, how many times have you enjoyed an amazing glass of wine with friends and then had the same wine by yourself at home or maybe at a hotel bar? Yeah it usually doesn’t taste quite as nice! I really believe more of us need to focus on the vast majority. I just launched my site on August 24th and I am all about the wine drinkers who are not Sommeliers and don’t want to be wine experts. They are looking for a good recommendation and appreciate some basic info on the wine. I have always believed some of the best times I have experienced in my life have been when I had a glass of wine in my hand! Wine drinking should be fun and easy not snooty or high brow and certainly not complicated. I add humor and try to keep it light, some will say too light. I say just right! Lets keep it simple! Thanks!


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