Happy weekend my friends. A brief fire update here, Glass Fire has, as of this Friday morning scorched 67,484 acres BUT we are now up to 74% containment. Woot. There have been 21 reported injuries, but I still have not read or heard of any Glass Fire-related deaths. Scroll below to see an update on the reported damaged wineries and what this will mean for the 2020 harvest and wine country business.
We’ve also got some tariff updates as well as some data around what COVID has really done to the wine industry in terms of sales volumes and value.
And definitely check out wine-searcher’s post about killing gender stereotypes in wine descriptions (think twice before describing that Pinot Noir as feminine), and Edgar Torres’s first person account about his experience as a Latino in the wine industry.
For a bit of comic relief, a must read is Wine Spectator’s tasting assessment of beer bottled in a dead squirrel, ant-infused gin, and beer brewed with whale testicles and smoked in sheep dung. Warning: Do not read while eating and wait at least 30 minutes after consuming a heavy meal.
Of course don’t forget to check out the blogs for some independent insight.
SF Chronicle: Glass Fire has now damaged 17 Napa Valley wineries as world-famous region remains under grave threat
The Glass Fire has damaged or destroyed structures on at least 17 Napa wine estates, a significantly higher figure than in 2017, when the Wine Country Fires affected six of the county’s wineries. By the weekend, with the fires still burning on both the eastern and western sides of the valley and the winds expected to rise, the danger was hardly over. Many vintners continued to fight the fire at their own properties, sometimes without firefighting aid. In some cases, they extinguished the flames, only to find the fire roaring back the next day. READ MORE…
Press Democrat: North Bay wildfires cloud wine grape harvest as total losses could approach $500 million
In all, more than a dozen wineries in the valley, where grape-planted land sells for as much as $1 million an acre, sustained property damage and singed grapevines as of Friday.
Furthermore, billowing smoke there, following the August Walbridge inferno in Sonoma County and Hennessey blaze in Napa, combined to effectively bring annual grape harvesting to a standstill for most Wine Country vintners. A few remain scrambling to do final picks in a season supposed to go through October but marred by fire.
Pat Roney, chief executive officer of Vintage Wine Estates of Santa Rosa, owner of local wineries including B.R. Cohn, Clos Pegase, Girard, Viansa and Windsor Vineyards put it bluntly: “I think harvest is largely over.” READ MORE…
wine-searcher: Wine’s Covid Winners and Losers
As the world learns to live with coronavirus, what impact has it had on wine prices?
The reality of the Covid-19 pandemic isn’t simply death, disruption and the erosion of liberty.
Only last week, the Swiss bank UBS released a report which demonstrated that the obscenely rich had profited from coronavirus; billionaires saw their fortunes climb 27.5 percent to $10.2 trillion between April and July this year, according to UBS. Global uncertainty and disarray are clearly not obstacles to advancing personal wealth – supermarkets, health contractors and Zoom all have deliriously happy shareholders.
To that list, we should add the purveyors of liquor. READ MORE…
The Hill: Alcohol industry calls for immediate end of tariffs on wine and spirits
Business groups representing the beverage alcohol industries in the U.S., Europe and the United Kingdom are urging the United States Trade Representative (USTR) and the European Commission for Trade to end the tariffs on wine, distilled spirits and beer.
Eighteen associations signed onto a letter after reports that the World Trade Organization (WTO) authorized the European Union to impose $4 billion in tariffs on goods from the U.S. in response to a dispute over Boeing. READ MORE…
Wine Enthusiast: When it Comes to Representation in Wine, Whose Stories Get Told?
I came to the United States in 1989, when I was eight years old, hidden with my sister in the back of a VW bus that drove through a hole in the border fence near Tijuana. We joined my parents and two other families who lived in a small house in Cambria, California. I grew up wanting to be a cop. But without documents, I had to choose a different path, so I wound up working in restaurants beginning when I was 14 years old. READ MORE…
SF Chronicle: Napa wineries dub a ‘true hero’ of Glass Fire: a winemaker on a stunt motorcycle
Neighbors describe El Molino Winery’s Jon Berlin as a hero and “one-man army”
Berlin was uniquely positioned to be useful in a wildfire. He served as a naval fireman in the South African military — and dealt with his share of brush fires back in South Africa.
He also owns a Vertigo Trials Motorcycle, which he describes as “a weird motorcycle that’s not about going fast, but about going slow.” A trials bike is designed to mount obstacles, and the rider’s goal is to maintain balance. Berlin has even participated in trials competitions in Scotland. It was an ideal tool for a situation where roads were often inaccessible for vehicles due to downed trees. READ MORE…
Eater: A Restaurant Made Entirely From Geodesic Domes Is a Perfect Metaphor for Dining in 2020
East Eats is now serving bao and tacos on a side lot in Detroit’s Jefferson Chalmers neighborhood
On Monday, October 5, Detroit welcomed a new Jefferson Chalmers dining addition to its ranks with the official opening of East Eats — a restaurant entirely composed of geodesic domes. Billing itself as a “COVID-safe” dining option, East Eats is seeking to provide a safer alternative for eating out and socializing during the pandemic. “East Eats is born out of COVID, and the necessity to maintain and preserve human connection in a time where we have to be socially distant,” says founding partner Lloyd Talley. READ MORE…
Wine Spectator: Squirrel Beer, Fish Whiskey, Poop Wine: ‘Disgusting Food Museum’ Opens Disgusting Drinks Exhibition
Beer bottled in a dead squirrel. Gin infused with ants. More beer, brewed with whale testicles smoked in sheep dung. And you thought you were an “adventurous” drinker.
The Disgusting Food Museum in Malmö, Sweden, delighted and repulsed us with frog juice and maggot cheese when it opened two years ago, and now comes word it’s devoting an entire new exhibition to, erm, challenging alcoholic beverages. READ MORE…
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.
Grape Collective: Cool Climate South Africa
A recent shift in economic focus has led to Elgin also becoming one of South Africa’s most unusual and successful wine regions, with the coolest climate of any region in the country. Other key geographic factors include its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, the prevailing wind directions, and its altitude. The cool temperatures and plentiful winter rainfall mean that the Elgin basin has a set of conditions for wine growing which are markedly different to those in surrounding areas. The summer cloud cover protects the grapes from sunburn and reduces the temperature. Of the many varietals grown in the region, special attention has been paid to Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir. Grapes mature well due to diurnal temperature fluctuations; the difference between daytime and nighttime temperatures can be extreme with temperatures as high as 90 degrees dropping to below 45 degrees at night. READ MORE…
Science & Wine: The importance of soil health for winegrape production
There is general consensus of the urgency to protect soils, not only as non-renewable resources but also as natural living bodies that provide essential ecosystem services to support crops and environmental health. This “continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans,” has been defined as Soil Health by the United States Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS), a term embraced by academia, industry, governmental and non-governmental organizations alike. READ MORE…
Wine Curmudgeon: Is a wine tariff solution on the horizon?
Could bourbon be the key to upending the Trump Administration’s 25 percent wine tariff?
That’s a distinct possibility after a Reuters report last week that said the European Union is considering retaliatory tariffs on U.S. wine and whiskey. The U.S. sends very little wine to Europe; in fact, U.S. wine exports overall are trivial, only about 10 percent of what we produce each year. But we sell a lot of bourbon and Tennessee whiskey to the EU, which accounted for more than half of all American whiskey exports in 2019. In this, it’s U.S. whiskey’s biggest overseas market. READ MORE…
The Wine Gourd: Wine grape varieties: where in the world are they?
We have all become aware of the changes that have been occurring within viticulture over the past few years. Grape-growing has a long tradition in many regions, often relatively unchanged over extended periods of time. However, this is now changing rapidly, in response to an obviously altered climate this century. This topic should provide the impetus for a few blog posts. READ MORE…
wine-searcher: Time to Kill Gender Stereotypes in Wine
Do you get annoyed when wines are compared to women? Or to men? If so, you’re not alone.
What do gender-specific adjectives even mean? Assuming we’re going by societal context, we’re basically implying that “feminine” wines are soft, elegant, and delicate, and that “maculine” wines are powerful, muscular, and robust. If this is indeed the case … then why not just use the other adjectives? READ MORE…
VinePair: What It’s Like to Be a Black Man Working in the Wine Industry
During my past seven years working as a sales representative for a major distributor, I’ve had plenty of great experiences. But, I’ve also missed out on trips, tastings, and supplier-related events that have been available to my white colleagues. When I think of a quote that encapsulates my experience, one from American novelist James Baldwin comes close: “I can’t trust what you say because I see what you do.” READ MORE…
Jamie Goode: In Franschhoek: Paserene, with Martin Smith
Martin Smith is the fellow behind Paserene. He’s an interesting CV: he spent 10 years making wine in Napa, which has influenced his taste of wine and also his approach to selling it. Returning to South Africa, he worked for a winery with a Californian connection, Vilafonte – a collaboration between South African Mike Ratcliffe and Americans Phil Freese and Zelma Long. Martin was there seven years, between 2010 and 2017. READ MORE…
The Wine Economist: Book Review—Wine & the White House
Wine and the White House is a big book (more than 400 pages), beautifully produced, generously illustrated, and full of information. It is not a book to read from cover to cover, but rather something to dip into and enjoy. There are wine-driven profiles of each president in one section, an examination of the White House collection of wine glasses, decanters, and other wine paraphernalia, and even surveys of the different wine regions (and some of the producers) that have featured at White House events. READ MORE…
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