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Renee Dee's Publisher Letter on Fall, Holidays, and More

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Publisher’s Letter | Wines to Fall in Love With

photography by PHYLLIS LERNER

PHYLLIS LERNER

Publisher Renee Dee shares what goes into an excellent wine.

This time of the year, wine country is abuzz with the ICONIC fall crush from Napa to Sonoma to the Willamette Valley, with other viticultural areas sprinkled across the country like Walla Walla and Finger Lakes, NY.

I love wine and have enjoyed many winery tours throughout my travels. I so enjoy learning about these, essentially, small businesses, oftentimes family businesses, that produce fine wine with great pride. It seems each winery has its own story of how they got started, and it’s amazing to think that there are more than 7,000 in the United States.   

So, it is during this time of year that the wineries are racing to harvest their grapes at their peak of ripeness, starting with grapes for the sparkling wines first, which can start as early as August. The grapes for white wines are picked next, and the harvest continues through late October for the varietals that make red wine.

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The conclusion of harvest leads into what Napa Valley calls Cabernet Season, where the winemakers can finally take a moment to relax and appreciate the literal fruits of their labor. These are the days when the stories of struggle and triumph from the season are shared. (If you like a slower pace and fewer crowds, that’s also the best time to travel wine country as well.)

One great storyteller is Tor Kenward, who wrote Reflections of a Vintner, stories and seasonal wisdom from a lifetime in Napa Valley. I read his book and was fortunate to talk with Tor, who also founded and owns TOR vineyards, on my podcast ICONIC HOUR with Renee Dee.

Renee Dee

On the podcast, Tor shared amazing stories that had me captivated to hear of the life he has lived and his five decades in Napa Valley. He was in the early days, before it became a culinary mecca. He and his dear friend Thomas Keller had a vision to put Napa on the map for food and indeed, they did just that, with the help of another good friend Julia Child. These two culinary icons, alongside Kenward, created a movement that made Napa the world-class food and wine destination it is today. 

One great storyteller is Tor Kenward, who wrote Reflections of a Vintner, stories and seasonal wisdom from a lifetime in Napa Valley. I read his book and was fortunate to talk with Tor, who also founded and owns TOR vineyards, on my podcast ICONIC HOUR with Renee Dee.

Other friends, like Robert Mondavi and Robert Parker, who created the 100-point wine rating system all collaborated to make this region a magical place to experience pleasures of the palette.

After a full career at Beringer, Tor had an exit that helped fund his Napa winery today, and he is a literal icon of the Valley. Kenward was there during the announcement of the now-famous 1976 Judgement of Paris, a story told in “Bottle Shock.” In a Paris tasting, Chateau Montelena’s 1973 Chardonnay and Stag’s Leap’s 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon beat out the French wines, stunning the world and putting Napa on the map with newfound respect from the wine world.

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Fast-forward to 2021 and guess who won the Judgement of Napa Valley Tasting, an event that repeated that earlier contest? TOR wines recently took first place, beating out both domestic and international peers.

If these words get you in the mood to read his book this fall, listen to our podcast or simply open a bottle of wine, cheers to you! And, cheers to Tor for inspiring a movement that allows us to all Live Beautifully in Napa Valley today.

With Gratitude,

Renee M. Dee
Publisher

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