Hello my friends and happy Valentine’s Day weekend—and/or President’s Day weekend for those of you who may be celebrating with a day off. I’ve got loads of news for you below, so much so I had to categorize it between local (California), international, pandemic-related stuff, and a section I like to call ‘just for fun.’ Of course, keep scrolling to get to the Blogs, lots of great independent inside and fun educational posts this week as well.
For those keeping an eye out for my WSET posts, I assure you they’re coming. It’s a fine line between writing about my studies and, well, actually studying. A quick sneak peek to where we’ll be headed next: Italy, Greece, and Portugal. So get your palates ready.
Stay safe and healthy out there and don’t hesitate to connect with me directly, or of course on any of my social channels. Cheers.
Wine Industry Network: Largest European Wine Technology Conference Comes to Sonoma, Calif.
Enoforum, the European wine industry’s largest technical-scientific conference is coming to the US for the first time this May. The event, scheduled for May 5 and 6, 2021 at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, focuses on bringing the latest research on the newest innovations to the modern wine producer. From vineyard and cellar equipment, to winemaking trials, and even tasting room technology, there’s something for all sectors of the wine industry to learn at Enoforum.
In this brief video, Wine Industry Network speaks with Gianni Trioli, president of Vinidea and creator of Enoforum. Trioli speaks about the evolution of Enoforum, how it became the EU’s largest innovation and technology conference, and the value the event will bring to the US wine industry. READ MORE AND WATCH…
SF Gate: Server at acclaimed Bay Area restaurant loses job after wearing Black Lives Matter mask to work
On September 3, 2020, Kimi Stout showed up to her server job at The Girl & The Fig, a popular French-inspired restaurant in Sonoma, wearing a Black Lives Matter mask. By the end of her shift, she no longer had a job.
For a while, Stout kept what had led to her departure from the highly acclaimed 24-year-old restaurant — which has served esteemed guests including Lady Gaga and some ‘Bachelor’ contestants — mostly private. But on January 1, 2021, she decided to post a video on her Instagram. Filmed on her last day at the restaurant, she is seen taking off her The Girl & The Fig T-shirt, throwing it in a garbage can, and raising two middle fingers to the sky, with the words “Black Lives Matter” superimposed over the screen.
“On September 3rd, 2020, I was forced out of my position as a server at The Girl and the Fig restaurant in Sonoma, CA for refusing to remove my ‘Black Lives Matter’ mask after a new mask policy was put into place. … Happy New Year, friends. Spend your money selectively,” she wrote in the caption. READ MORE…
Sonoma Index Tribune: The Girl & The Fig in Sonoma faces backlash over face-mask policy
The Girl & the Fig restaurant in Sonoma closed abruptly this week amid furor over allegations by a former server who says she left her job at the restaurant after being told she could no longer wear a Black Lives Matter face covering.
Restaurant co-owner John Toulze said Thursday that management and staff have received physical threats in the wake of the allegation and that social media comments have suggested the restaurant be “burned to the ground.”
“The effects of this have been devastating,” Toulze said in an online media press conference Thursday morning, regarding the charges by the former employee. READ MORE…
Wine Spectator: Constellation Brands Prevails in To Kalon Dispute
Federal judge rejects The Vineyard House owner’s efforts to use famed Napa vineyard name and terminate trademark established by Robert Mondavi
Can you trademark terroir? In the case of Napa’s most famous vineyard, a federal court has ruled yes. U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers has ruled in favor of Constellation Brands in a suit filed by Jeremy Nickel, owner of The Vineyard House, dismissing his claim that he is entitled to use the To Kalon Vineyard name on his wines based on the location of his Oakville winery and vineyards.
Following a virtual trial, Gonzalez Rogers issued a ruling Jan. 26 that Nickel did not paint a clear picture of whether his land was once used by Hamilton Walker Crabb for grapegrowing and was considered part of the original To Kalon Vineyard. She found that evidence was weak that Nickel’s land, once called “the Baldridge Property,” had been planted with vines during Crabb’s lifetime.
Reviewing probate records from just after Crabb’s death, the judge wrote, “The evidence overwhelmingly confirms that [Crabb] did not [plant a vineyard on the Baldridge property], at least not with any commercial value.” READ MORE…
Decanter: Screaming Eagle, Harlan, Opus One feature as rare Napa auction begins
Bidding has started in an all-star online auction of ‘extremely rare’ Napa Valley library wines, including six-litre bottles of Opus One spanning five decades and magnums of Screaming Eagle.
Some of the region’s best-known names have supplied rare bottles direct from their cellars for the Napa Valley Library Wine Auction, hosted by Zachys.
A ‘flurry’ of bids kick-started the online auction yesterday (11 February), said organiser Napa Valley Vintners (NVV).
Lots include six decades of Charles Krug dating back to 1964, five vintages of top-scoring Harlan Estate in magnum, a collection of five, six-litre ‘imperials’ from Opus One and three magnums of Screaming Eagle, one for each of its wines from the 2015 vintage.
The 96 lots will also include a 12-litre ‘balthazar’ bottle of Sloan Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2012; only three bottles of this size are made by Sloan in each vintage. They are normally never released to the market, according to the auction catalogue, published by Zachys. READ MORE…
SF Chronicle: California liquor bill aims to make restaurant parklets permanent, plus zones for open containers
A post-pandemic California could potentially feature permanent restaurant parklets, open-container zones in cities. and an easier road for opening pop-up restaurants, if a new bill introduced Friday is passed by the Legislature.
Sponsored by Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, the Bar and Restaurant Recovery Act, or SB314, would loosen certain alcohol laws throughout the state. The goal, Wiener said, is to give more flexibility to bars, restaurants and music venues in order to help them stay afloat. READ MORE…
Sonoma County Gazette: Virtual town hall on Sonoma County winery events Feb. 18
Permit Sonoma is presenting an opportunity for the public to provide input at a virtual public workshop on Feb. 18, 2021 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. regarding the development of the draft County Winery Events Policy. This effort is a countywide initiative related to agricultural zoning districts outside of the Coastal Zone.
Members of the public can join the Zoom meeting from their computer, tablet or smartphone. The link for attending the meeting will be posted one week prior to the workshop on the project website. Participants are encouraged to register in advance for the workshop here. READ MORE…
North Bay Business Journal: California enters legal fight over massive Lake County resort, housing project
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and his office are challenging plans for a massive luxury resort and mixed-use project on 25 square miles of fire-prone landscape in hard-hit southern Lake County.
In a legal motion filed this month, Becerra unexpectedly announced an effort to join an existing lawsuit against the Guenoc Valley Project. He argued the project’s environmental impact report, approved last year by the Lake County Board of Supervisors, did not sufficiently address the increased risk of wildfire that would result from the development, as well as the limited capacity for evacuation from the community should a fire occur. READ MORE…
Napa Valley Register: Small Shanti winery secures easy Napa County OK
Shanti Wines found a way to easily secure Napa County Planning Commission approval for a new winery — make it small and use an existing building in Napa Valley Business Park.
The winery will produce 12,500 gallons of wine annually and have up to 4,464 guests annually. It will be located at 194 Camino Oruga unit 9 between Camino Oruga and North Kelly Road, in an industrial condominium building.
“It’s a way to start a wine business without having to go out in the ag preserve and build an expensive winery,” Planning Commission Chairperson Andrew Mazotti said at Wednesday’s meeting.
Commissioners approved the Shanti Wines project by unanimous vote. They spent only about 20 minutes on the matter, which is about as quick as Planning Commission hearings get.
“Finding ways to do a small-scale winery in Napa County is really challenging,” Commissioner Anne Cottrell said. “And so to use a site that is already developed and built out I think is pretty creative.” Owner Ray Sharma briefly addressed the commission. “We’re a family-owned business,” he said. “The project will serve as a boutique winery and tasting room.” READ MORE…
Around the World
The Drinks Business: Conflicting Reports About April No Alcohol Pub Reopening
There have been conflicting reports as to whether the UK government is considering allowing pubs in England to reopen without alcohol in April.
On Saturday, The Telegraph reported that the government was considering reopening pubs and restaurants in April, but only if they agreed not to sell alcohol.
The paper said the government was considering allowing ‘dry’ pubs as part of its roadmap for lifting lockdown, due to be published on 22 February. It noted that the measures were being discussed as the chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, and others had expressed concern about the effect of drinking on people’s ability to respect social distancing guidelines.
CEO British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) Emma McClarkin said reopening pubs as dry venues did not constitute a proper reopening. READ MORE…
The Buyer: Daniel Lambert—‘Catastrophic’ impact of Brexit on small wine suppliers
Daniel Lambert has been quietly running his own successful wine importer business in Wales since 1992. Not that things are quiet any more…
It was a couple of months ago when we first talked about having a chat with Daniel Lambert and his wine wholesale business that he has built from scratch to become a multi-million turnover business over nearly the last 20 years. But when we finally found the time to do so, in mid January, the world had moved on at a pace. Particularly Daniel Lambert’s.
In fact even during the hour or so of our conversation he was constantly being phoned and contacted by officials in the House of Commons who were preparing MPs for a select committee hearing with Defra’s Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Victoria Prentice, on the so called “teething problems” of dealing with Brexit. READ MORE…
Decanter: Vineyard planted on Easter Island
Winemakers explore the potential for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in Chilean Polynesia – and research wild vines discovered growing in a volcano
A new wine frontier is being explored in Chile, thanks to a 2ha vineyard established on Easter Island. Also known by its native name, Rapa Nui, the island lies in the middle of the Pacific Ocean in Chilean Polynesia, 3,540km from the coast of Valparaíso and 4,231km from Tahiti.
The vineyard, planted with 3,500 Chardonnay vines and 3,500 Pinot Noir vines, was set up by a group of entrepreneurs, led by agricultural engineer and winemaker Alvaro Arriagada. Other partners in the project are Poki Tane Hao Hey and wine consultant Fernando Almeda, with support from Cristián Moreno Pakarati, a historian from Universidad Católica.
‘Rapa Nui has a subtropical climate, volcanic soils and is strongly influenced by the cold Humboldt current, which differs from the islands located in French Polynesia,’ says Arriagada. ‘With colder waters and less extreme temperatures with lower levels of humidity, it indicates that the growth of the vines for winemaking purposes could develop successfully.’ READ MORE…
Trink Magazine: In Alto Adige Cooperation is Key
The 12 winegrower cooperatives of Alto Adige produce some of the finest wines in Italy, if not the world, a fact usually explained in terms of necessity (many, many, many very small plots) and innovative structures (members paid based on quality instead of quantity). But there is another, less grape-y reason for the widespread working together in this borderland of northeasternmost Italy. “It’s in our DNA,” says Andreas Kofler, who leads the co-operative of winegrowers in the Kurtatsch area and for the past three years had also been president of the Consorzio of Cooperative Wineries of Alto Adige*.
The prototype of modern European cooperative thinking is generally traced to 1844, when low-wage weavers at cotton mills in northern England formed the English Rochdale Equitable Pioneers Society, with a member-owned, values-driven shop of everyday goods. READ MORE…
The Drinks Business: Champagne Embraces Direct-to-Consumer Sales
A growing number of Champagne producers are launching direct-to-consumer portals in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic in a bid to increase their online sales.
Traditionally, Champagne brands have almost exclusively relied on distributors and retailers to sell their wines, but as the hospitality sector continues to struggle, direct to consumer (DTC) channels have become an attractive way for producers to recuperate lost revenue.
“The Covid pandemic will undoubtedly change how we do business; our team created an e-commerce portal in September 2020, exclusively for the French market,” said Anne Malassagne, co-owner of boutique Champagne house AR Lenoble.” READ MORE…
Fighting the Pandemic
Wine-Searcher: Wine Could Help You Fight Covid
It’s possible that the tannins in red wine, and tea, could inhibit Covid-19. A prominent cancer researcher in Taiwan is investigating the theory right now.
Dr. Mien-Chie Hung is president of China Medical University in Taiwan. He spent 40 years in the US and for many years was chair of the department of molecular and cellular oncology at University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston before moving home to Taiwan in 2019.
His theory is based on Taiwanese research from 2003 into SARS, which like Covid-19 is caused by a coronavirus. SARS appeared in China in 2002 and killed 774 people in 11 countries before disappearing. There has not been a case of SARS reported since 2004, although a team at a different Houston research hospital developed a prototype vaccine in 2016 in the event of a re-emergence. That vaccine has never been tested. READ MORE…
The Drinks Business: Student Shares Mother’s Childhood Recipe that He Says Helps Regain Sense of Smell from COVID
A student who hails from Toronto in Canada has shared his mother’s childhood recipe that he says helped him to regain his sense of taste and smell after COVID-19.
23-year-old Kemar Gary Lalor, a Canadian architecture student who is based in Toronto, recently spoke to Buzzfeed News about how his family’s experience with COVID-19 lead him to discover his mother’s remedy, one that she herself was given as a child in Jamaica.
Lalor’s mother, Trudy-Ann Lalor tested positive for COVID-19 and lost both her sense of taste and smell, while 23-year-old Lalor also lost both senses but was never tested for the respiratory illness.
Lalor’s mother told him that she had recovered her sense of taste and smell within days. He asked her how she had done it, and thus she shared with him the remedy that she was given as a child.
It involves cooking an orange over an open flame until it is entirely blackened on the outside. After peeling the burned skin off the orange, one mixes the cooked fruit in a cup or bowl with brown sugar and eats it.
Lalor said that he too regained both senses after trying out the concoction. He has since created a TikTok video explaining how to create the remedy, which has gone swiftly and remarkably viral, accruing more than 3.8 million likes and 250,000 shares on the video sharing platform since it was posted. READ MORE…
Eater: We Asked People Who Lost Their Taste to COVID: What Do You Eat in a Day?
Losing the ability to smell as before presents practical dangers; after all, that is the sense we use to tell if something’s burning, or if there’s a gas leak nearby. But there’s also the more mundane question of how to get through each day, each meal, each bite without quite knowing how food will taste. For anosmia and parosmia long-haulers, particularly people who love to cook or eat, an act that once brought joy is now, at best, a flavorless chore, or at worst, a gag-worthy gamble. When things no longer taste like they used to — or like anything at all — how does one recalibrate eating and drinking? READ MORE…
Just for Fun
Wine Enthusiast: How Saint Valentine (Sort of) Saved French Wine
Many people associate wine with romance. But the residents of Roquemaure, a small town just north of Avignon in France, link Rhône wine and a kissing free-for-all with a devastating blight and a pilgrimage to a saint.
La Festo de Poutoun, or the “Feast of Kisses,” is less than 35 years old. The festival’s inspiration, however, goes back to 1866, when phylloxera decimated French vineyards. As a consequence, Roquemaure’s shipping trade dried up, once among the busiest ports on the Rhône river.
Panic spread faster than the pest. With nothing left to try, Maximilien Pichaud, who owned Château de Clary in Roquemaure, traveled to Rome to bring back relics of any patron saint that could provide protection and health.
Legends start to spin from here. READ MORE…
Eater: You Should Be Drinking Grower Champagne
“Grower Champagne” generally refers to wines from the Champagne region of France that are made and bottled by the same person who grew the grapes. This is different from wines produced by Champagne houses — think Veuve Clicquot or Pol Roger — which typically (but not always!) blend together grapes grown by dozens, or sometimes even hundreds, of individual grape growers from across the region.
For hundreds of years, that was more or less the order of things: Farmers farmed, houses did the rest, with very occasional exceptions made by the odd grower who undertook their own bottling for personal consumption, or who made at most a few hundred cases a year for the wine bars in Paris, perhaps. But then a major moment for change began in 1994, when the influential Gault Millau guide declared an independent grower Champagne maker, Anselme Selosse, to be the finest winemaker in France. Selosse in turn inspired a whole new generation of independent Champagne winemakers — many of whom are second-, third-, or fourth-generations inheritors of family vines — to begin bottling and selling for themselves, in addition to the ongoing practice of selling fruit to the big houses. Consumer interest soon followed, and today there are many excellent grower Champagne options available to drinkers in the United States. 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.
Tim Atkin: The Trouble With China
“Don’t trust them,” says Leon Panetta, a rueful former US Defense Secretary interviewed in the BBC’s three-part documentary China: A New World Order, “that’s the bottom line.” Its advice that the Australian wine industry and now, apparently, the Wine and Spirit Education Trust would have done well to heed. […]
[T]he body has suspended its courses and examinations in the very lucrative Chinese market. The reasons for doing so are unclear, however. According to the Hong-Kong based vino-joy.com website, mainland Chinese media sources have alleged that the NGO had not secured approval from the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Culture or the Ministry of Civil Affairs to operate in China.
In a tight-lipped press release earlier this week, the WSET said the decision to “put our activities temporarily on hold” was due to “administrative issues” and that it remains “committed to the Chinese market.” READ MORE…
Grape Collective: Moonstruck in Alsace—How Biodynamic Winemakers are Connecting the Dots Between Soil and Sky
Fourth Century Chinese philosopher Zhuang Zhou once said, “Knowing that knowledge cannot know, remains the highest knowledge.”
When I asked Alsace biodynamic wine producer André Ostertag how he responds to those who say that the spiritual and astrological aspects of biodynamics is pseudo-scientific nonsense, he shared Zhou’s quote with me. For Ostertag, it’s the understanding that lies in what it does not understand that is the finest. In other words, not everything can be understood by us mere mortals, and to know that is the greatest knowlege of all.
And just because something is not visible to the human eye doesn’t mean it’s not a real phenomenon to be addressed, in this case, during the agricultural process. “Biodynamic farming is a wonderful mix of art and science,” says Ostertag, “feeling and thinking, meditation and action.” READ MORE…
Jancis Robinson: Rías Baixas reinvented
It is well known that Rías Baixas offers the world one of the most exciting and vibrant still white wines: Albariño. Its position in Galicia in the north-west of the country, the oceanic influence, and its deeply traditional character give all of the region’s wines a unique profile.
However, it has not always been this way in Galicia. At the beginning of the 1980s, among the 33,000 hectares (81,500 acres) of vines planted, 75% were the sherry grape Palomino or the red-fleshed Garnacha Tintorera. Furthermore, the Rías Baixas was dominated by low-quality hybrid varieties (that are today used exclusively for local distillation).
This situation was actually the consequence of a long decline due to political, economic and vineyard health issues (as Rías Baixas is especially prone to mildew). However, this started to change…READ MORE…
The Wine Gourd: Australian bulk wine exports are economically inefficient
As many of you will know, the Australian wine industry is in big financial trouble at the moment, because the Australian federal government has decided to antagonize the national government of one of its biggest trade partners, China. The source of the underlying dispute is somewhat beside the point, as it has nothing to do with the wine industry, although that industry is being targeted in retaliation.* In a similar manner, the US government is currently targeting parts of the European wine industry, with penalties for things that have nothing whatever to do with the EU wine industry.
In Australia’s case, the export of wine is now being seriously compromised (Australian wine exports to China fall by 98 per cent). As a result, wine producers are being encouraged to return to traditional markets including the United Kingdom, the USA, Canada, and Germany. There is also likely to be a drop in grape and wine prices (Red wine prices tipped to plummet as exports to China trickle to a halt). It is therefore instructive to look at the sort of price that the Australians currently get for their exported wines. In this post, I will look at bulk wine exports. READ MORE…
BK Wine Magazine: A vaccine also for vines, against the dreaded grapevine fanleaf virus
Vines are also affected by viruses. The most difficult one in France since several decades back is court-noué, which is also found in other countries. In English, it is called grapevine fanleaf virus. It is spread by nematodes (a kind of worm) in the soil.
Champagne, Burgundy and Sancerre are among the regions hardest hit. But the disease is found in many more places around the world. Its effect is that quantity is reduced and sometimes also the quality of the grapes. There is no cure or way to fight it.
The only thing you can do today is pull up the infected vineyards and let the soil lie dormant, preferably for seven years, the time it takes for the nematodes to disappear. It is a long time that in practice will be ten years or more before you can get grapes from that vineyard again.
However, new solutions are getting closer. READ MORE…
Vinous: The Vast Bounty of Central Spain
Central Spain really does offer something for every wine lover, from easy-drinking, inexpensive bottlings to some of the country’s most famous, sought-after and pricey vinous offerings. Most serious wine drinkers have long been familiar with Central Spain’s most esteemed regions, particularly Ribera del Duero and also Toro and Rueda, which are where most of the region’s best wines are produced, but up-and-coming areas like Campo de Borja, Vinos de Madrid, Carineña and Calatayud are producing an increasing number of serious wines, with prices still lagging behind quality. This truly is a happy hunting for intrepid consumers. The sheer amount of wine coming from here makes for a lengthy shopping list. READ MORE…
Great British Wine: New Hall Vineyard
Established over 50 years ago, Essex’s New Hall is one of England’s longest established commercial wineries. But the reality is that you are unlikely to have heard of them unless you are either local or an avid English wine follower. This is particularly surprising given New Hall’s size and influence over the industry. READ MORE…
These are some press releases I received this week that I actually thought were interesting…enjoy!
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Educational posts are in no way intended as official WSET study materials. I am not an official WSET educator nor do I work for a WSET Approved Program Provider. Study at your own risk. Read the full disclaimer.
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