Hello everybody. Did you miss me? I feel like it’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything. Thanksgiving was a fun and relaxing week for me. Then the next week was a bit crazy-go-nuts prepping for and then presenting my panel on regenerative agriculture for the WINExpo. What a great event—it was so nice to finally see my fellow wine industry folks in person for the first time in like 2 years. Kind of makes me excited for Unified in January, where I’m sure I’ll see even more of you.
This week has been jam-packed with wine news—local, national, and international. Wow, there’s so much here, I don’t think I can sum it up in brevity. A few pieces I’d like to call out, though, as I found them particularly interesting, insightful, and/or helpful:
- Robin and Andrea McBride—Committed to Innovation and Accessibility
And there’s loads, loads more. So, sit back, relax, have a sip of this, that, and the other (because, heck, it’s the holidays and the list really is that long), and enjoy. Hope everyone out there is having a great start to their Holiday Season. Cheers my friends!
SF Chronicle: Wine and NHL mogul Bill Foley buys Sonoma’s Chateau St. Jean with plans to restore its former glory
A famous Wine Country landmark has changed hands in an effort to restore it to its former glory.
Foley Family Wines, a fast-growing conglomerate that owns more than two dozen high-end wineries around the world, has purchased Chateau St. Jean from Australian wine giant Treasury Wine Estates. Foley hopes to reestablish Chateau St. Jean’s reputation for upscale wines, as opposed to the lower-tier bottlings that Treasury had promoted in recent years. That approach fits with trends in the wine market, which has seen sales of more expensive wines grow faster than sales of less expensive wines during the last decade. READ MORE…
Wine-Searcher: No Christmas Wine Bargains This Year
An industry expo reveals that US wine prices will remain high until the next harvest.
We root for farmers. But occasionally good news for farmers is bad news for consumers, and that is the case with bulk wine prices in Napa and Sonoma County.
Also, it’s time for wine people to stop bitching about Millennials and start bitching about Gen Z – and for wineries to reach out to more non-white people. More on that later.
In the beginning of the pandemic, according to grape broker Brian Clements, bulk wine prices cratered. Napa Cabernet could be had for $10 a gallon – about $2 per 750 ml bottle! If a bold company had bought up that wine, it could have put Napa Cabernet in stores for $15 a bottle and reaped a healthy profit. And not just Napa Cab – bulk Sonoma Chardonnay was $5 a gallon. North Coast Cabernet (generally from Lake and Mendocino counties) was just $2.50 a gallon.
Wines could have been cheaper in 2020 than they were in 1999. READ MORE…
Advisor: Robin and Andrea McBride—Committed to Innovation and Accessibility
You’ve more than likely learned of their story reading one of their many news features, or perhaps listening to their two-part episode on Guy Raz’s How I Built This podcast: two sisters who grew up on opposite sides of the globe find each other and then go into the business of making wine together. Since its inception in 2005, Robin and Andrea McBride have built a business that is now the largest Black-owned wine company in the United States. The McBride Sisters Collection currently consists of four styles of wines: the inaugural Reserve Wines, SHE CAN, Black Girl Magic Wines, and their name’s sake collection—each with their own unique characteristics that showcase the sisters’ personal story and passion for wine. READ MORE…
North Bay Business Journal: Mendocino Coast vineyard pilots regenerative ag certification
While the concepts behind regenerative agriculture are ancient, the effort to plant verifiable industry standards for such farm practices has been growing rapidly in recent years. And a Mendocino County wine grape grower and vintner is at the forefront of one such global effort to expand into the wine business.
In the Mendocino Ridge appellation overlooking California’s North Coast, Mariah Vineyards has become part of pilot project by Savory Institute to adapt its Land to Market third-party certification program to viticulture. The certification was received in June, and in October the winery released its first wine with that verification mark on the label. READ MORE…
Wine Enthusiast: ‘The Virus is Still Out There’—How Restaurant Kitchens Became Covid Battlegrounds
Marcus Hartford’s first symptom was exhaustion. It was April 2021 and the 24-year-old executive chef at Bar 145, a gastropub in Toledo, Ohio, was logging 50–60 hours at the restaurant each week. He initially chalked up his symptoms to these long hours plus the stress of directing a kitchen during a pandemic.
Then, he began to have trouble breathing. READ MORE…
VinePair: No Longer Interested in Restaurant Work, Enterprising Somms (and Others) Opt for the Bottle Shop
Nestled inside a century-old former train station in the quaint hamlet of Croton Falls in New York State’s lush Hudson Valley, the newly opened Folkways envisions itself as a new sort of wine and spirits shop. Here, alcoholic offerings tend toward the lesser known and the up and coming: a hard-to-find white Bordeaux, bottlings of the fruity red grape Grolleau from the Loire Valley, artisanal liqueurs from Lombardy, and so forth. There’s also handcrafted ceramic vessels and delicate modern stemware that wouldn’t look out of place in the pages of Vogue. But in at least one respect, the shop feels downright retro. This is a good old-fashioned mom-and-pop operation. READ MORE…
North Bay Business Journal: US wine direct-to-consumer sales continue to climb even as pandemic lessens
Changes in the wine industry ushered in as a result of the pandemic are here to stay, especially the trend of consumers ordering more wine online, according to an industry panel assembled Thursday at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds.
Direct-to-consumer wine shipments in the United States reached a record high of more than $600 million in October at almost 1 million cases sold, said Danny Brager, a longtime alcohol beverage consultant who was part of panel at the North Coast Wine Industry Trade Show and Conference. READ MORE…
Decanter: ‘Historical Super Tuscan’ producers unite under new association
A new committee for ‘historical Super Tuscans’ has been created by a group of wine producers in Tuscany, with plans to hold an inaugural event in the US in 2022.
‘Initially, I just meant to organise an event to celebrate the 50th anniversary of our Vigorello, which was the first wine produced only from red grapes in the Chianti Classico area, at a time when the regulations required the use of white grapes,’ said vice-president Profeti, explaining how the idea of creating the new group came about.
‘Then I began to look at who, in the Chianti Classico, had released wines according to a similar philosophy in the following years… and the idea of doing more than just a single event began to take shape.’
Wine Industry Advisor: Old & Obscure Is New & Cool in Wine Country
Old, rare grape varieties are trending in New World wine countries. The reason? That old bugaboo, climate change.
Grapes are delicate, and a change in temperature of a few degrees can turn one capable of producing a robust, bright and complex wine into a purveyor of something flat, flabby and insipid.
According to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a temperature rise of 2°C could shrink regions suitable for winegrowing by 56 percent; at a rise of 4°C, 85 percent of regions would become unproductive. That same study also finds that adjusting the varieties of grapes grown could reduce losses by half and one-third respectively in those same warming scenarios. On our current path, the United Nation projects that temperatures could increase by as much as 4.4°C by the end of the century. READ MORE…
Napa Valley Register: Local women in wine group looking to “Pass the Baton-nage”
Established as a one-time, one-day forum back in 2017, Bâtonnage has grown far beyond the initial idea brought to life by founders Stevie Stacionis and Sarah Bray. What started as a way to connect women in wine to discuss the industry’s gendered challenges has since grown into a community of badass people, a tradition of conversation-starting, and even a mentorship program.
However, after fielding proposals and applications for the 2022 and 2023 forums, Bâtonnage will be passing their baton-nage to a new leadership team in early January. READ MORE…
Eater: Black Farmers Still Await Debt Relief as Lawsuits Block Promised Aid
Lawsuits filed by white farmers have blocked $4 billion in debt relief to Black farmers. Congress and the Biden administration might have a path forward.
It was supposed to be the beginning of a new era for Black farmers. After the 2020 election, the Biden administration and a new Democratic majority in Congress promised to rectify the results of years of discrimination and systemic racism, and incoming Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and House Agriculture Committee Chair David Scott identified justice for Black farmers as a top priority. But their biggest push to correct historic wrongs — $4 billion in direct debt relief payments authorized in the American Rescue Plan — was stymied by lawsuits from white farmers before any checks were cut. READ MORE…
Wine Industry Advisor: Wildfires Threaten to Upend Crop Insurance
When fire damages a vineyard, it can take up to five years for a vine to become fully productive again. But a fire doesn’t even have to touch the vineyard to have a devastating impact on the crop.
The smoke and soot from wildfires can cause an unpredictable effect on the taste of the grapes, commonly referred to as “smoke taint.” The effects of smoke taint can have a severe financial impact on vineyards. In 2020, Sonoma County, California wine grape growers alone expected to lose at least $152 million due to smoke-damaged products, leaving an estimated 30% of the crop unpicked. READ MORE…
Blogs Worth a Read
Taken from the list of Blogs and other media outlets 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 independent media to follow or want your outlet included on that list.
Jancis Robinson: Taking responsibility for artistry in the vineyard
Bill Harlan is known for playing a long game. His 200-year plan is longer than the recorded history of the Napa Valley wine industry. While it may seem preposterous to plan that far out, it needs to be understood that the plan is not 200 years’ worth of winemaking projections. It is a declaration that in a country where everything seems built for acquisition, the Harlan family did not build to sell. Their aim is to build to nurture a unique relationship between land and people with the goal of creating wines at Harlan Estate, Promontory and BOND that transcend craftsmanship into the realm of art. READ MORE…
Grape Collective: Here Are the Names and Words You Will be Hearing in 2022
Some parts of the wine world move slowly, but there are new trends and buzzwords every year. We remember visiting a cute little place called Sutter Home Winery in Napa where the tasting room manager told us, “There’s this new thing called White Zinfandel.” We were in the audience for a pre-release showing of a movie titled “Sideways.” Laura Catena credits a column we wrote about an interesting red we had at a restaurant with jump-starting the rise of Argentina’s Malbec in the U.S.
What should you be prepared to hear in the coming year? Here’s a list from A to Z. We’ll run through these quickly, so beware that each is a brief summary. READ MORE…
The Wine Economist: Gearing Up for the 2022 Unified Wine & Grape Symposium
The Unified Wine & Grape Symposium is North America’s largest wine industry gathering — a vast trade show and ambitious collection of seminars and presentations with something new and useful for every wine professional.
The 2020 Unified was the last in-person wine conference that Sue and I attended before the pandemic closures and protocols hit. So we are looking forward with more than the usual amount of excitement to the 2022 Unified, which is scheduled for January 25-27 in Sacramento. READ MORE…
The Wine Gourd: The pandemic will not be over for a while yet
For the wine industry, the current pandemic has had serious financial consequences since February 2020; and these consequences are on-going even now, in December 2021. Well, the pandemic is not going to go away any time soon. So, as a biologist, I thought that I might try to clear up a whole series of issues that the general media seem to often get wrong. There is no further mention of wine in this post; but you will learn a lot, anyway. READ MORE…
Word on the Grapevine: Beyond mysticism and shibboleth: embracing wine’s practical allure
My grandparents were impoverished; as was commonplace in Northern England, all had pursued physical labour. Aspirations notwithstanding, my parents were working-class too—culturally and economically, my father had been the first from either family to attend university, albeit as an adult. My own upbringing was profoundly industrious. Though both my parents valued education, there was no place for romanticism, myth or fanciful thought. Unsurprisingly, I grew to be a fiercely objective adult, a tenacious learner concerned with understanding the physical world. READ MORE…
WSET: Inside story: from student to educator, Richard Lane DipWSET
An optimistic barbecue on a chilly May evening in Belfast in 2015 sounds like an unlikely starting point for my wine journey, but the memory is clearly etched in my mind.
Our host, a member of the UK Wine Society, presented me with four glasses, two white, two red, and asked me what I thought. I considered myself an experienced consumer, if not anything resembling a connoisseur of wine.
I can almost taste those wines now; a crisp Sancerre, tingling my mouth with its vibrant acidity and fresh grass and gooseberry; another white, less acidic, with vanilla and spice notes – what turned out to be a new world Chardonnay.
One of the reds tasted all plump ripe plums with something resembling roses or violets on the nose- a Malbec from Argentina. At the same time, the last wine seemed to somehow miraculously blend delicious red and black fruit with notes of cedar and smoke while also reminding me of an old leather armchair and the smell of an autumn forest – a 10-year-old Haut Médoc. READ MORE…
Grape Wall of China: Wang Fang on Kanaan Riesling, dogs vs horses & her new winery
Wang Fang returned to her home region of Ningxia from Germany about a dozen years ago and founded the winery Kanaan, now among China’s best-known operations. In this Q&8, she discusses her wine, including Riesling, the 2021 vintage, dogs versus horses, the German foods she misses most and her new and bigger wine project. READ MORE…
Australian Wine Review: A Chat With Great Southern Riesling Legend Rob Diletti
It seems fitting that the steep hike up to Western Australia’s famed Castle Rock Granite Skywalk is considered one of the state’s best day walks.
That’s because, as you stand atop the giant rock domes, with the rugged Stirling Ranges on one side and the sparkling Albany Coast on the other, just 300m below lies one of the country’s top riesling icons, Castle Rock Estate. READ MORE…
Great British Wine: All I Want for Christmas…Is English Sparkling Wine
It’s become something of a tradition for me to cast aside my monthly round-up in December in favour of some sort of festive-themed round-up. I had originally planned to look at some of my favourite wines, still and sparkling from throughout the year, and how they could pair with festive food. However, I kept coming back to English Sparkling specifically. While it’s been a tremendous year for English wines in general, I feel the consistency and breadth of English Sparkling Wine styles have really taken another big step forward this year. READ MORE…
Julia Harding: How sweet is that Alsace wine?
Alsace wine producers are to be legally obliged, from the 2021 harvest, to indicate on the label the sweetness level of their wines using a ‘standardised sweetness indicator’.
How many times have you hesitated about buying a bottle of Alsace wine because you weren’t sure how dry or sweet it would be, or whether it would go with what you were planning to eat? If you are like me, then you’ll have lost count. Surely sales of Alsace wines have suffered because of this? READ MORE…
bw116: Beer, Spirits, & Wine – Packaged Imports Grow +20% By Value L12M through October 2021, Packaged Exports Grow +8%
- Imported packaged wine for the last twelve months grew +16% by volume and grew +24% by value. Over the last three months, volumes grew +8% and grew +23% by value.
- Imported bulk wine for the last twelve months grew +16% by volume and grew +19% by value. Over the last three months, volumes grew +10% and grew +3% by value.
- 35% of all imported packaged wine by value arrived from Italy while 21% of all imported bulk wine by value arrived from France.
- Exported packaged wine for the last twelve months grew +15% by volume and grew +19% by value. Over the last three months, volumes grew +14% and grew +20% by value.
- Exported bulk wine for the last twelve months declined -22% by volume and declined -25% by value. Over the last three months, volumes declined -35% and declined -46% by value.
- 40% of all exported packaged wine by value is destined for Canada while 56% of all exported bulk wine by value is destined for the United Kingdom.
Dame Wine: Two Great Wine Estates That Are Part Of Portugal’s Wine History
In 1882, when Andrew James Symington first traveled from Scotland to Porto, the second largest city in Portugal, it would not only become a new adventurous chapter in his life but it would be the beginning of the legacy of one of the greatest Port wine families in Portugal. Andrew initially joined the Port house Graham’s which was owned by a Scottish family before going off on his own. It would be a lesson in perseverance because although sweet fortified Port wines would have bouts of extreme popularity with the British, as England had on and off economic wars with the French – their main supplier of wine, the steep slopes of the Douro Valley in northern Portugal, where the vineyards for Port are located, were treacherous to work as well as treacherous to travel to and from as there was no infrastructure built and so getting the barrels of wine to the main port cities such as Porto, so they could be shipped to England, became a momentous achievement each time the barrels made it unscathed. READ MORE…
BK Wine Magazine: World wine export grows in 2021-H1, trading pattern changes
The international trade in wine grew a lot in the first half of 2021, the latest numbers from the OIV reveal. This was expected, considering the difficulties of world trade in 2020. But even compared to pre-covid 2019, world trade in wine increased. The details of wine export and import numbers also show that politics is having a significant impact on the wine trade, in particular Chinese actions and Brexit.
If 2021 was very difficult for wine production (see our recent report on 2021 wine production here), the situation is quite different for the world trade in wine. The very first numbers on international trade are rosy, released recently by the OIV (International Organisation of Vine and Wine).
The international trade in wine, measured in value, in the first semester of 2021 increased by an impressive 21% compared to the year before, 2020. However, this number can be a bit misleading, since in 2020, the first year of covid, international trade in general, and in wine in particular, was depressed due to the world crisis. READ MORE…
These are some press releases I received this week that I actually thought were interesting…enjoy!
Foley Family Wines Acquires Chateau St. Jean in Kenwood
Foley Family Wines today announced the acquisition of Chateau St. Jean winery from Treasury Wine Estates. Chateau St. Jean is located in Kenwood, California, which lies along Highway 12 within the picturesque Valley of the Moon. Founded in 1973, the winery is widely known as a pioneer in the production of single-vineyard Chardonnay wines from Sonoma County, as well as for its flagship Bordeaux blend, Cinq Cépages—the first Sonoma wine ever to win “Wine of the Year” from Wine Spectator. READ MORE…
Boisset Adds Rutherford’s Elizabeth Spencer Winery to Its Family-Owned Collection
The Boisset family today announces the addition of Elizabeth Spencer Winery in Rutherford in Napa Valley to its collection of wineries and destinations. Boisset’s purchase includes the Elizabeth Spencer wine portfolio of small-production wines from Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino, and its location on the Rutherford Cross Road, where the historic 1872 Post Office building welcomes guests into a boutique tasting room, outdoor gardens, and studio. READ MORE…
Save the Date – Enoforum USA’s Inaugural 2022 In-Person Event
Wine Industry Network (WIN) and Vinidea are pleased to announce that Enoforum USA will be held May 11 & 12, 2022 in Santa Rosa, CA at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds.
ENOFORUM, the largest winemaking & production focused technical wine industry event in Europe, takes place every other year, and is the only event that gathers together producers, technicians, oenologists, agronomists, researchers, and technology suppliers, to stimulate the creation and development of innovation in the wine sector. READ MORE…
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