Hello and happy weekend—and happy long weekend for those who get Memorial Day off. I, for one, am taking off early this week, shutting down the home office early Friday afternoon to enjoy the start to the summer season and—oh yeah—my anniversary. ❤️
So, in that spirit, I’ll keep this quite short and leave it to you to scroll through this week’s wine news. Looking ahead, I’ve got quite a few tours and tastings booked, so be on the lookout for fresh content both here and around the globe in traditional media outlets.
Stay safe, stay healthy, and have some good wine. Cheers.
Wine Spectator: Sonoma Winemaker Dies in Car Crash
Following a vehicle crash on May 12 on a back road near the town Sebastopol, Calif., in Sonoma County wine country, a winemaker is dead and a young vineyard manager is facing DUI and possible manslaughter charges.
Mark Osborne, 53, an enologist at Gary Farrell Winery in the Russian River Valley, was riding his bicycle when a pickup truck driven by Ulises Valdez Jr. of Valdez & Sons Vineyard Management struck him, according to the California Highway Patrol.
Valdez was driving his pickup when he allegedly veered onto the shoulder and hit and seriously injured a 12-year-old cyclist. He allegedly swerved back onto the road and then veered onto the shoulder again, hitting Osborne before careening off the road and crashing into a utility pole and a tree. Valdez was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol and remains in the hospital with significant injuries. Osborne died Thursday, May 20, as a result of his injuries. The younger cyclist remains hospitalized. READ MORE…
Hot Air: It begins. Chicago restaurants launching “vaccinated only” sections
We’ve been told this was coming for some time now, but it happened even faster than I would have imagined. Chicago is lifting many of its pandemic restrictions along with many other cities, attempting to get the economy back into gear. But not all business owners, particularly in the food and beverage industry, are feeling the love. Just the other day we discussed some shops on the South Side that are still requiring patrons to wear masks now that they’re open again. But another group of eateries are taking a different approach. You can come to dine without a mask, but you’ll be seated in a “special section” that is reserved for vaccinated diners. You can just feel the equality in the air, citizens. (CBS Chicago)
The restaurant will be issuing brightly colored wristbands to people who produce proof that they are vaccinated. The section of the restaurant reserved for them has normal spacing between tables plenty of seats at the bar. Those unable to provide their immunity passport will be sent to a section with fewer available seats and partitions between all of the diners and staff. READ MORE…
Eater: Starting May 27, Portland Restaurants Can Waive Capacity Limits in ‘Vaccinated Sections’
On May 27, Multnomah County will enter the state’s “lower risk” category, in which businesses can create “vaccinated sections” where customers with proof of vaccination don’t have to socially distance
Earlier this month, Gov. Kate Brown announced that Oregon counties could enter the “lower risk” category as soon as it vaccinates 65 percent of residents 16 years old or older and the state approves its plan to address vaccination equity gaps. The lower risk category is the lowest risk level in the state’s COVID-19 safety protocol framework; it allows groups of 10 to gather indoors at parties, and it lets restaurants serve up to 300 people outside and at 50 percent capacity inside.
But this week, Gov. Brown adjusted the lower risk category’s restrictions a bit more: Starting May 27, businesses, venues, and faith institutions like churches can start checking vaccination status to allow for vaccination sections, which can exceed the state-mandated capacity limits and ignore the physical distancing requirement. Businesses can require distancing or masks in those sections if they choose, while customers need to show proof of vaccination status before entry to a vaccination section. READ MORE…
Wine-Searcher: Tasting Fees Skyrocket in Wine Country
The price of a tasting has almost doubled in Napa and Sonoma in the past five years.
If you haven’t been to a California winery for a tasting visit in a while, you might experience sticker shock. The average price for a standard tasting fee has almost doubled in five years and is now $58 in Napa County and $30 in Sonoma County.
This was one of the most striking figures released today from Silicon Valley Bank’s 2021 Direct-to-Consumer Wine Survey Report. The report is based on self-reported data from 460 US wineries. The majority (69 percent) are in California; only 35 (7.6 percent) are outside the West Coast.
The survey lists the average standard tasting fee in the US as $25, but that is brought up by Napa and Sonoma, as only those regions average more than that. Paso Robles, Oregon and Santa Barbara have average tasting fees between $21 and $24. Washington state is the bargain region for tasting: high-quality wines with an average fee of $15.
Many wineries also reported having a higher “reserve tasting” fee, which averages $90 in Napa and $50 in Sonoma. Once again, Washington state is the value play, with average reserve tasting fees of just $20. READ MORE…
Wine Spectator: How Good Are ‘Better for You’ Wines?
The emerging category of wines is marketed as a healthier option; we subjected them to blind tasting
Heidi Scheid enjoys a glass of wine every night. “Wine is just a part of everyday living, the perfect way to segue from a busy schedule to a relaxed evening,” says Scheid, who is the executive vice president of Scheid Family Wines in Monterey, Calif. “But I also like to get up early, exercise and get a lot accomplished.” For her, drinking a few glasses of wine at night isn’t conducive to waking up at the crack of dawn the next day, and limiting herself to a single glass of wine makes her feel deprived.
Scheid created the brand Sunny with a Chance of Flowers, joining the growing ranks of brands marketing themselves as “Better for You” (BFY). There’s no legal or agreed-upon definition of wines in this category, but they’re generally lower in alcohol, sugar and calories and and stress sustainability and/or transparency in ingredient labeling. In the case of Sunny with a Chance of Flowers, the wine is marketed as sustainably grown, with no added sugar, 85 calories per 5-ounce glass and 9 percent alcohol. READ MORE…
VinePair: Love Gamay? Here’s Why You Should Be Paying Attention to Carignan
Certain wine grape varieties come onto the scene and strike international gold (think: your Cabernets, Merlots, and Chardonnays). Others, such as Carignan, have had a bit of a tougher time. Despite its longstanding history in France’s soils, this hearty grape had garnered itself a pretty bad rep among industry folk and vignerons alike. High yields, low- quality fruit, and a reputation for astringency caused it to be ripped out and replaced with easier-to-farm varieties, as well as those that could garner a heftier price on the international market.
However, reputations come and go, and Carignan is finally beginning to get the love and recognition it deserves. After a long history spent in the shadows of Grenache, Syrah, and other regional grapes, this “workhorse grape” is finding its moment in the spotlight among winemakers, industry professionals, and consumers alike. So what’s changed? VinePair spoke with six growers, distributors, and other industry folks to get some answers. READ MORE…
Press Democrat: State orders halt to hundreds of Russian River diversions in Sonoma, Mendocino counties as drought imperils supplies
State regulators have begun notifying more than 900 water rightS holders in Sonoma and Mendocino counties that they must stop drawing from the upper Russian River, where drought-shriveled flows are unable to sustain those diversions for irrigation and household use, according to the state.
The crackdown affects grape growers and other farm producers, as well as rural residents and several communities along the upper river — from Healdburg north to Ukiah — where groundwater and other rights are likely to be used more heavily in the coming months to keep crops alive and taps flowing. Those who don’t comply could face fines of up to $1,000 a day.
It is the strongest action yet by regulators in response to dwindling supplies in the sprawling Russian River watershed and its two receding reservoirs. Lake Mendocino, which sits at the top of the basin and helps sustain flows in the upper river through the dry months, holds less than 41% of its capacity for this time of year. READ MORE…
Napa Valley Register: Denied property insurance, Napa Valley wineries ‘extremely vulnerable’ this fire season
The notice came to Green and Red Vineyard in early spring: its insurer had declined to renew the winery’s property insurance policy, citing the high risk of wildfire.
“It flipped us out, not having insurance — especially going into harvest this year,” Ray Hannigan, the winery’s general counsel and husband of owner Tobin Heminway, told California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara at Castello di Amorosa on Monday. Hannigan and his wife had subsequently cobbled together “a patchwork” of insurance, he told Lara, but the winery and its tanks remain uninsured.
“The question is whether anything can be done to expedite (help) for us as we’re awaiting harvest, about to fill our tanks with wine,” Hannigan said.
His question is a pressing one for a slew of wineries and farmers in the North Bay whose property insurers have declined to renew their policies in the wake of last season’s devastating wildfires. As the risk of wildfire becomes more pressing, insurers say, it does not make financial sense for them to insure homes or businesses located in areas at high risk of burning. READ MORE…
Question What is the association between the bitter taste receptor phenotype and outcomes after infection with SARS-CoV-2?
Findings In this cohort study of 1935 adults, 266 tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, and those who experienced low intensity of bitter tastes or no bitter tastes (nontasters) were significantly more likely to test positive for SARS-CoV-2, to be hospitalized, and to be symptomatic for a longer duration. Conversely, those who experienced greater intensity of bitter tastes (supertasters) represented 5.6% of patients infected with SARS-CoV-2, suggesting enhanced innate immune protection.
Meaning This study suggests that bitter taste receptor allelic variants are associated with innate immune fitness toward SARS-CoV-2 and can be used to correlate with clinical course and prognosis of COVID-19.
We find out the story behind why a famously unchanging winery splashed out on a new vineyard.
Some years ago Rob Davis convinced John Jordan that Alexander Valley isn’t right for Chardonnay; now all of the winery’s Chardonnay is made from purchased fruit from vineyards in Russian River Valley.
An even bigger change is that right now, the Cabernet Sauvignon isn’t being made from estate fruit either, and speaking strictly of Cabernet the grape, it may never be again.
John Jordan said that nearly the entire ranch has recently been replanted, and the focus now is on Merlot, which plays an important role in Jordan’s Cabernet (US label laws allow up to 25 percent of other grapes in a varietally labeled wine, and many Cabernets include the traditional Bordeaux partner, Merlot.) The estate also has plantings of other Bordeaux varieties Petit Verdot and Malbec, but not Cabernet Franc, which Jordan says doesn’t grow well there. There is some Cabernet Sauvignon planted but it’s the minority.
Instead of estate fruit, Jordan Cabernet is currently made from purchased fruit from vineyards in the benchlands of Alexander Valley, most of which Jordan has long-term contracts with. READ MORE…
Chenin blanc is one of my favorite grapes, with a singular texture and a rare versatility. It’s capable not only of transparently expressing the qualities of different terroirs but of making bone-dry wines, succulently sweet wines and a whole range in between.
For all its abilities, chenin has not spread through the world like, say, riesling, its peer in versatility among white grapes. Is this because, like nebbiolo, the great red grape of northern Italy, chenin blanc simply does best in its home territory? Or is it an issue of marketing? READ MORE…
While it had to all be virtual last year, several Gay Wine Weekends will be in-person this year right here in Sonoma and in San Francisco, thanks to organizer Gary Saperstein. Almost every weekend offers a gay weekend throughout this summer.
Saperstein says, “We have a lot of catching up to do” in sipping great wines, eating yummy food, and seeing old and new friends, while he offers something of a calmer approach so no one overdoes celebrating liberation from the pandemic.
If you’re not inclined to attend, but want to help an dshow Sonoma is a place of “equity, diversity, and inclusivity,” get one of the yard or window signs that says those things and support Sonoma Valley Pride. Signs are $20. All proceeds go to nonprofit Face to Face to eliminate HIV/AIDS in Sonoma County and help LGBTQ youth around the county. Info at outinthevineyard.com.
Saperstein is creating some new events and engaging new, interesting venues as well. Here is Out in the Vineyards Gay Wine Weekend schedule in brief. It all begins on Father’s Day weekend.
Blogs Worth a Read
Taken from the list of Blogs I follow regularly, here are just a few posts from this past week I think are worth a read. Shoot me a note if you have suggestions of blogs to follow or want your blog included on that list.
Tim Atkin: The Whisper Of Umami
Rancio in wine is a somewhat slippery concept; it’s the slightly sour dried fig and hazelnut funk of long-aged Tawny Ports and old Madeiras. It’s delicious: one of those complex flavours that you can never quite put your finger on, yet seems to taunt you to come back and have another go at understanding.
I think of rancio as being the taste of decay done well, the taste of buried things lingering alive but fundamentally changed. Getting it to work requires an almost ritualistic approach, like some ancient pagan rite. The wine has to be just so: fortified correctly and laid down in cool cellars at the start of winter. Then, if the Gods are smiling on your cask, its slow death will be magnificent. READ MORE…
Jancis Robinson: A US Mystery—Australia
Adelaide to Southampton and Bristol are the dominant shipping routes, flexitank the dominant shipping format. Accolade, the company that sends more Australian wine to Britain than any other, sends 93% of it in bulk. This makes huge sense in terms of carbon footprint, but it does suggest, correctly, that the British like their Australian wine cheap. (Mind you, they like wine in general to be budget-priced; the average retail price of a bottle of wine sold in the UK is just £6.16, with duty and VAT accounting for £3.26 of that.)
In the US, however, after an all-too-brief love affair with more expensive Australian wine in the early years of this century, American wine buyers are still less than rapturous about Australia, even though a third of the Australian government’s AU$50 million wine export support programme has been targeted at the US market. READ MORE…
The Wine Gourd: Is big data always needed in the wine industry?
Given my advanced age, obviously data analysis has changed a lot during my professional career, not least because computers became prevalent (yes, I just manage to pre-date personal computers), and their computational power began to be appreciated. So, a lot of new-fangled computational ideas were developed during my life-time, some of which I learned about, and used. One or two of them have appeared in this blog, as I have applied them to wine-industry data (eg. The study of grape-vine leaves is harder than you might think).
However, there are others that seemed to me to border on nonsense, in the sense that they applied very complicated mathematical ideas in ways that seemed to produce little of practical value. Looking at data analysis in the wine industry leads me to a similar feeling. So, I thought that I might mention it here. READ MORE…
Fermentation: Banning the Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines
The Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of the Year is among the most anticipated announcements in the wine world every December. The wineries on the list promote their place on the list and consumers comb through the list to see which they’d like to try. It’s an important list.
If HB 210, Delaware’s proposed wine shipping law, is passed, fully 71 of the 100 wines on the 2020 list will be banned from shipment into the state of Delaware.
You can click here for a list of the Wine Spectator Top 100 Wines that would be banned from shipment. READ MORE…
Sovos ShipComplaint: Oregon and Wyoming to Increase Permitted Volume for DtC Wine Shippers
Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed SB 206 into law on May 21, 2021, more than doubling the amount of wine a holder of a Direct Shipper Permit may ship to an Oregon resident per month.
Going forward, licensed direct-to-consumer (DtC) shippers of beverage alcohol may ship up to five (5) cases of wine per Oregon resident per month, with a case not to exceed nine liters of wine. The previous limit was only two nine-liter cases. However, that applied to all shipments of any alcohol, Oregon being one of the few states that currently permits DtC shipping of malt beverages along with wine and cider.
SB 206 establishes separate per-customer volume limits for different classes of beverage alcohol. While a Direct Shipper Permittee will be able to ship up to five cases of wine per resident per month, they will also be restricted to shipping no more than two nine-liter cases of malt beverages or cider per resident per month (cider defined as an apple or pear-based beverage alcohol with an ABV not greater than 8.5%).
Oregon is one of the leading destination states for DtC shipments of wine, so it is heartening to see that Oregon residents will be able to receive more of their favorite wine at a time, though the different treatment of other types of alcoholic beverages is notable. READ MORE…
BK Wine Magazine: US summit on sustainable winegrowing: Is sustainability confusing to the consumers?
As I said, the definition of sustainability is vague. According to California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, it is “a holistic approach that conserves natural resources, protects the environment, enhances wine quality, enriches the lives of employees and communities, and safeguards family farms and businesses — today and for generations to come.”
This is something to strive for rather than something that happens as soon as you get your certification. In practice, it means thinking about the environment all through the production process, from work in the vineyards to when the bottle is standing on the customer’s dinner table. You think long-term because you cannot change everything at once. Unlike organic growers, sustainable growers are allowed to use synthetic products to control diseases and pests. But they should try to prioritize the products that have the least impact on the environment. READ MORE…
These are some press releases I received this week that I actually thought were interesting…enjoy!
Jamie Goode: The third edition of Wine Science, launches next week
Wine Science first came out in 2005, and was a big moment for my fledgling wine writing career. I’d started wineanorak (originally as a hobby site on GeoCities) in 1997, but it became a stand-alone site with its own domain in November 1999 – and everything that has been published on the site is still up there, dating back to a report on my first vineyard visits in 1996.
I still had a day job, but wine was beginning to pay. I started taking advertising on wineanorak in 2000, I got my first writing commission that year, and then I picked up a couple of Harpers commissions from the then editor Tim Atkin in 2001. But I knew I had a book in me. I actually had a book proposal for a very different topic, and I pitched it to Mitchell-Beazley editor Hilary Lumsden. She politely said no, but suggested I should write another book – on Wine Science, given that I was a scientist with an interest in wine. Of course, she was right, and she commissioned me. READ MORE…
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