"It's Friday evening," Karen MacNeil turned the clock back to 1985. "The TV is tuned to CBS. Fade to the Napa Valley vineyards, where the Channings and Giobertis are at it again. Will Melissa ensnare Cole for the umpteenth time? Will Angela finally put Chase out of the wine business? Will Lance have a fatal encounter with a 100-pound cask of Chardonnay? For those answers, you'll have to stay tuned to the popular prime-time soap, 'Falcon Crest'.

"But one question was more urgent. Could the clan stop fighting long enough to put 10 California wines to the taste test? Yes, replied 8 members of the cast and crew who popularized the wine-rich Napa Valley. Their tasting coincides with the 'California Wine Experience' in San Francisco, where wine experts from all over the globe including the makers of some of our selections have gathered this weekend (back in October 1985). Billed as the nation's most razzle-dazzle wine event it has been sold out for months, and the tasters wear black-tie as they sample the best bottles around. Pretty heady stuff. Often pretty expensive and rare stuff, wines beyond many folks' tastes and wallets."

In March 2015, Jane Hodges Young reported, "When the first issue of 'Sonoma Business' hit the newsstands in 1976, California’s wine industry was just starting to take off. Undeniably, life was different then. Fine wine was made in France. One year later, two Napa Valley wineries bested all French competitors in the now-famous 'Judgment of Paris' wine tasting. The contest was a game changer for California wine and the epicenter for the revolution was the North Bay counties of Napa and Sonoma.

"The Sebastiani family has been in the wine business for more than 115 years (since 1900). Looking back on the good old days, patriarch Don Sebastiani remembers, 'It was a lot more fun in the '70s. We could get on TV just by picking up the phone and calling a reporter to tell them about grape harvests. It used to be there was a lot of passion about wine at all different price categories.

"'Clearly, the last 5 years or so (since around 2010), that's started to level off and wane. It's no question that, while our passion and family spirit hasn't changed, the consumer and wine consuming marketplace view is different. For several decades, wine was continually growing and there was always something new. It was a hot property. Now, with the exception of certain high-end sectors, wine is levelling off.'

"Peter Mondavi Jr. says being in the wine industry 40 to 50 years ago (around 1976) was comparable to 'living in a bubble. Life was somewhat sheltered. We were pretty innocent. Everything revolved around the wine business and we really never envisioned where it would be today.' Napa Valley 'has come a long way since then. There are still a lot of families in business, but there's also a tremendous mix and diversity, from family-owned startups to corporate owners to venture capital firms and partnerships,' he explains.

"'And back in the early days, the concept of a virtual winery (versus bricks and mortar) didn't exist. Negociants hadn't made their way to California. Today (in 2015), there's every form of winery and lots of businesses that support those models as well. Consultants weren't the norm. I'm not sure if there actually were any! Everyone gathered at the coffee table to share ideas. Now, today (in 2015), it's so far advanced.

"'Consultants have proliferated immensely and the knowledge base is so much richer and deeper,' he continues. 'I ran across one of our wine cards from the 1960s the other day,' Mondavi laughs. 'We made 27 wines. Today (in 2015), we have 8. And selling back then was about educating consumers. Today (in 2015), wine is mainstream. There's a large core base that's well educated and understands wine. Our struggle now is to differentiate our wines from those of our neighbors—and from those of other continents.'"

"Over the last 4 decades (or since the 1970s), perhaps one of the biggest paradigm shifts is women 'coming of age' in the wine industry. Carol Shelton, graduated with a bachelors in enology from UC Davis in 1978, in an era 'when winemaking was considered to be an art and you had this very romantic image of winemaking magic - with a strong bias against women in the business.' After graduating from college, she 'couldn't even get a job in the cellar. It was the lab or sales.' In the winter, Shelton went to Australia, where the seasons were opposite, and worked as a lab tech for Peter Lehmann at Saltram's Winery.

"'He was like the Robert Mondavi and Joe Heitz of Australia,' she explains. Women weren't accepted much there, either. 'Only guys worked in the cellar, and they were union. I learned that unions and artists don't work together. Those guys saw it as a job, not a romantic avocation. And it revised my concept of winemaking so that I began to view it as a business and not just an art.'

"'Winemaking is much different than it used to be,' she says. 'Technology has allowed us to take marginal grapes and do things that are so much more remarkable. If you have excess sulfur or alcohol, you can remove it. You can correct acid and pH levels.' Some of the young winemakers coming into the business 'still think wines should make themselves,' Shelton says, which she finds frustrating. With so many tools available to improve wines these days, she doesn't understand why new winemakers don't take more advantage of them. 'Letting wines make themselves doesn't result in the best wine. If the pH is too high, they oxidize fast—they fall apart and don't last. Why not fix it?'"

"Wine and cheese parties were the way to entertain a crowd," it had been said. "Cheese debuts at the dinner table back in the good old '60s and '70s. You couldn't squeeze through a fund-raiser or college happy hour without running into a wedge of Jarlsberg or brie. Cheese is moving from the coffee table to the dinner table. It's showing up as a cheese-and-salad course following the main attraction or as dessert with fresh fruit.

"It's a time-honored practice in Europe, where many of the world's finest cheeses are made. And it's catching on here, both at home and in fine restaurants. First, a few rules: The cheeses should be of impeccable quality and fully ripe of the soft-ripening variety (such as Camembert). Plan on 2 to 4 ounces per person. They should be served at room temperature to enjoy the flavor fully.

"Remove hard varieties (Romano) from the refrigerator 2 hours in advance, soft cheeses (double-crimes) about 40 minutes in advance. If serving with a simple green salad and-crusty bread, pass a wedge or two of: Brie, Camembert, chhres (Bou-cheron or Montrachet, which are often rolled in vine ash or herbes des Provence) or any of the great blues (Stilton, Gorgonzola, Roquefort and Maytag). If serving with pears, apples or grapes, most of the above but chevres will work. Also try a young Romano."

"Financially, the Falcon Crest winery is oozing red ink, the result of misdirected expansion plans and takeover plots," it was noted. "In script-writing terms, this means that this fall (the 1985-86) could be the start of a vintage year for Chase Gioberti." However Robert Foxworth as Chase lamented, "The writing … it's a kind of Murphy's Law of television. Anything that can go wrong will." As director, "this show is so stylized that you can't get real artsy. The difference is felt by people on the show, not by the people watching it. I like actors to dig a little deeper, reach for more, not settle for the easy thing. I nudge and we rehearse a little more."

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