Happy weekending, all. I’ve got your weekly dose of wine-related newsy items ready for you to peruse at your pleasure. Hope everyone is staying well and healthy. I’ve definitely been keeping busy with work-school balance—but all positive things. (How can it not be when it’s wine-work and wine-school?)
Did you miss this week’s posts? Make sure to check out my latest regional deep-dives and tastings: Tasting Rosé from Puglia, Tasting Wines of Roero—Arneis & Nebbiolo, Tasting Modern Day Chardonnay from Three Sonoma County AVAs
Wine Spectator: How Did 2020’s Wildfires Impact California Wine?
“We didn’t make any red wines in 2020,” is a refrain echoed by many California winemakers these days. Perhaps no year has seen so many wine regions impacted by so many wildfires. Months after the fires ended, the impact is only just now coming into focus.
What made 2020 so difficult was that it brought multiple blazes. It often felt like the flames and smoke were never-ending. The devastating LNU Complex fires ripped through Napa, Sonoma, Solano, Yolo and Lake counties in August and September 2020 and severely impacted harvest. In Monterey and Santa Cruz, multiple fires razed land near vineyards. Then, just as the smoldering was ending in late September, the Glass fire ignited, destroying wineries and vineyards in Napa and Sonoma.
During the nearly three-month period, wildfire smoke often lingered, creating hazardous air conditions at times and threatening large portions of the state’s wine grape crop. Some winemakers refused to throw in the towel, but the smoke proved too much for many others. READ MORE…
Press Democrat: Sonoma County taps up to $4 million for wildfire prevention
With wildfire season mere months away, Sonoma County supervisors took the first steps this week toward distributing up to $4 million in PG&E settlement funds for community fuels reduction projects in high-risk areas around the county.
The money is meant for efforts including brush clearing, tree thinning, grazing, prescribed burning, roadside work and other efforts to create defensible space around homes and communities and reduce the potential for wildfire spread.
But with a half-million acres or more of the county’s land considered to be vulnerable to future fires, officials conceded the amount was marginal — “a drop in the bucket” one expert said — compared with overall need.
Walter Kieser, a member of the Geyserville/Alexander Valley Municipal Advisory Board and an urban economist by profession, told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that something closer to $250 million would be needed “to put a dent in the problem.” READ MORE…
Wine-Searcher: Climate Change Threat to Wine Regions
Even a modest change in global temperature would mean redrawing the maps of the world’s wine regions.
As most people are now aware, global warming – runaway or not – looks set to stay for the foreseeable future irrevocably changing our world. Current projections suggest rising temperatures are on track to hit two degrees.
As Gregory Gambetta, a plant biologist and Professor of Viticulture at the Bordeaux Sciences Agro Institute of Agricultural Sciences, says: “Unfortunately, I think it is now right, I think two degrees is, well you know in the climate change estimates we’re tracking, the more aggressive temperature change. So I think that two is conservative for sure.”
It is clear climate change will have wide-ranging effects on the wine world. Some will be felt earlier while others will lie dormant and unnoticed until they arrive in full force. However, one of the most obvious changes will be where grapes can be grown.
For centuries, traditional growing regions for wine have lain between 20 and 30 degrees latitude in both the northern and southern hemispheres. However, with the rise in temperatures these are inevitably set to change as some wine regions open up and others slowly migrate or even shut down. As Gambetta notes: “There are definitely regions that will become less suitable, there’s no question, and then there are regions that are becoming more suitable.”
Old wine regions that have been successfully established for hundreds of years, thanks to a once stable climate, are now facing adaptations like never before. READ MORE…
Eater: Warmer Temperatures Could Mean More Grapes for Midwest Winemakers — but Also More Bad Weather
For Midwest winemakers, higher temperatures mean more opportunities to grow different grape varieties — but bring a new slew of challenges
Michigan’s wines in general, particularly its rieslings, are garnering increasing attention and accolades: In 2019, Wine Enthusiast announced the state was “sailing toward world-class wine production,” giving 90 points-and-higher rankings to 16 affordable bottles. (The cheapest, at $13, was a 2013 riesling by Chateau Grand Traverse.) But Lefebvre and other grape growers face an overheating world that’ll eventually make their jobs much harder. That could affect the $5.4 billion Michigan wine economy that, according to a 2017 study, “directly creates nearly 28,000 jobs.” And it might also permanently alter the taste of Michigan’s wines — the bold fruit flavors — that seem on the cusp of breaking through to the big time. READ MORE…
Napa Valley Register: Napa Valley’s grape growers chart course in the face of an emerging statewide drought
There’s one thing at the forefront of the minds of many of Napa Valley’s grape growers anticipating the 2021 harvest: water.
Different regions within Napa County have received between 60% and 70% less rainfall than is average this rainy season, experts say, part of a larger drought pattern that is emerging state-wide.
The previous 2019-2020 rainy season was also a dry one for North Bay wine country, according to Kaan Kurtural, associate specialist at the University of California, Davis’ Cooperative Extension in Viticulture, and the consecutive dry years have had a “compounding” effect.
“Rainfall is a little bit better than in 2020, but we’re now in the middle of a multi-year drought again,” he said. “If you look at the snowpack at the rest of the state, last year was the eighth driest year on record since 1865, and this year is the 11th driest.” READ MORE…
Decanter: Petrus revealed as Bordeaux wine aged in space
Château Petrus wines spent 14 months orbiting the earth on the International Space Station and the first samples have been tasted in Bordeaux as part of a novel research project.
Twelve bottles of Château Petrus 2000 returned safely from their adventure via a SpaceX ‘Dragon’ cargo ship in January, before being flown to Bordeaux for analysis.
Their voyage was part of a research project led by start-up Space Cargo Unlimited and also involving the University of Bordeaux’s wine institute, the ISVV.
The identity of the bottles has been a closely guarded secret, but Space Cargo Unlimited confirmed today (24 March) that it chose Petrus 2000 for the mission.
An initial tasting hosted by the ISVV in March saw 12 tasters get 30ml samples of the space and earth wines. READ MORE…
Wine Industry Advisor: 5 Women Leaders Helping Wineries to Be Successful
The wine industry draws people passionate about their work, whether they are growing grapes, making wine or supporting those who do. These five wine industry women share that passion, providing high-quality products, equipment and services to enable wineries to do what they do best — create great wines. READ MORE…
Wine Spectator: Chasing Crush: Hollywood’s Next Great Wine Country Film?
Jersey Boys producer and Sonoma vintner Kevin Kinsella is making a Napa-set drama with winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown and Hollywood veterans Gene Kirkwood and George Gallo. And Brown made a real-life canned Cabernet to pair with it
The plot of Chasing Crush involves a canned Cabernet of the same name, and Kinsella, Kirkwood and Gallo are actually making the wine and putting it on the market. Well, they’re not making it. That job belongs to Kinsella Estates winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown, who oversaw production and also owns a share of the Chasing Crush wine brand. On top of that, Brown is making his Hollywood debut as an executive producer for Chasing Crush the movie. “It’s geeky, I know, but pulling back the curtain on production could be a great way to introduce more people to wine,” Brown told Wine Spectator via email, “while also satisfying the exacting standards of the wine aficionados.”
The IRL Chasing Crush is a non-vintage Sonoma Cabernet made from Kinsella’s Jersey Boys vineyard in Dry Creek Valley, set to launch with a production of at least 25,000 cans (size and price are still TBD) and possibly hitting shelves this summer. This marks Kinsella and Brown’s first foray into canned wines and a significant pivot for both of them—Kinsella Estates wines are typically priced in the low triple digits, and Brown is one of the most highly sought-after winemakers in Napa Valley. 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: Summiting Mount Etna—The Revitalization of a Volcano’s Ancient Viticulture
Sicily’s Mount Etna is often described as “an island on an island.” Standing at over 3,000 meters above sea level, it is one of the largest active volcanoes in Europe. As distinctive as Sicily can be from continental Italy – in culture, climate, and even dialect – Etna and those who till her slopes distinguish themselves even further with their unique and daring viticulture.
Mount Etna is ancient. Locally referred to as Mongibello, it is a product of the subduction of the African plate beneath the European plate hundreds of thousands of years ago. Violent subterranean collisions like these created our earth’s topography, opening many mouths and fissures up to its core, and also spawned some of our longest lived legends. For example, Etna is arguably one of the first sites from which the word ‘volcano’ originates, as Roman mythology suggests it was here that Vulcan, the god of fire, kept his forge. Continuing to spew lava and ash via countless vents that dot its slopes (and continue to open) to this day, it’s easy enough to imagine a fiery deity lurking beneath. With such consistent seismic activity, the landscape and subsequent terroir of Etna is constantly changing, making it a thrilling – albeit risky – place to make a living off the land. READ MORE…
Vinous: Interpreting Chenin Blanc
Chenin is one of the most versatile grape varieties making every shade of white; its personality oscillating pendulum-like depending on its site and its winemaker’s intention. From still to sparkling, dry to sweet and everything in between, the range of options available to the Chenin producer is more dizzying than a carousel. Admittedly, there is a growing thirst for drier styles, and the resulting cutback on sweetness shines a spotlight on terroir. However, with an array of soil types in the two main areas specializing in Chenin – Anjou and Touraine – nature provides many idiosyncratic expressions. Add the diversity of human personality to the mix and it’s clear that Chenin has many interpretations. For the average consumer this can make buying a bottle of Loire Chenin fraught with danger, but for the curious winelover this single variety provides layers of intrigue. READ MORE…
Washington Wine Report: Stoller winemaker Melissa Burr is making History
Old vines are one of the wine world’s most cherished possessions. They not only can bring additional nuance and complexity, they are also living pieces of history.
Stoller Family Estate vice president of winemaking Melissa Burr first became interested in working with old vine fruit when her mother-in-law purchased a piece of property in the Columbia Gorge. The land had a 12-acre vineyard, including Pinot Noir vines planted in the late 1960s. The vineyard, which has been alternately referred to as Mont Elise, Atavus, and Dragonfly, sits 1,800 feet above sea level – quite high by Pacific Northwest standards.
“I was really intrigued by it,” Burr says.
However, it wasn’t until Great Northwest Wine writer Andy Perdue encouraged Burr to look at other old vine sites that the project took shape.
“He was one of the people talking about [Monte Elise] when I was first getting going,” Burr says. “He really inspired me.” READ MORE…
Science & Wine: Is there an impact of Sound Vibration on Grape Wine?
This study was not planned; it was inspired by an extraordinary wine. At the end of a long sampling day in apple orchards in South Africa, my phD student Birgit Wassermann an me together with our colleague Lise Korsten from Pretoria University decided to finish the day with a glass of red wine. Lise was growing up in the Stellenbosch region and originate from a family who established one of the first vineyards there. It was her choice to introduce the DeMorgenzon vineyard to us. This famous mountain vineyard in the Western Cape is really extraordinary. In addition to their focus on biodiversity and sustainable management in the vineyard, they use music to enhance grape health and wine taste. DeMorgenzon believe that music can influence the growth of a vine and the fruit it bears, and they have played Baroque, and early Classical, music to vines in the vineyard, in the winery and in the cellar all day, and every day, since 2009. READ MORE…
The Wine Economist: Climate Change Risks—Reading Between the Wines
Climate change is a threat to the global wine industry — there is not much disagreement about this fact. But what are the specific risks to the wine product chain and what are wine businesses doing about them?
This is a complicated question if only because the wine product chain has so many links that are vulnerable to climate change’s direct and indirect effects. One way to begin to answer the question, I proposed in last week’s Wine Economist column, is to focus on the concept of material risk. Climate change is not just an abstract threat to wine, it poses a threat to the material operations of wine firms, which are required, therefore, to disclose and analyze them for the benefit of current and potential investors. READ MORE…
The Wine Gourd: Where on Earth does James Suckling think the best wines come from?
High-quality wine is made throughout the world. However, some places are widely recognized as being consistently better than others. There is even variation among places that regularly receive quality scores of 95+ for many of its wines. So, I though that it might be interesting to look at where the highest-scoring wines generally seem to come from.
To do this, I decided to choose a respected wine commentator, and then look at all of their high-scoring wines from 2020. James Suckling has recently released a series of reports with quality scores for last year’s wine tastings, so I thought that it would be convenient to choose him. READ MORE…
Tablas Creek Vineyard: A Sigh of Relief from the Blending Table as the 2020 Whites Are Strong and Unaffected by Smoke
This blending session was particularly interesting because it was our first time sitting down in a comprehensive way and evaluating what came out of the challenges of the 2020 vintage. When I wrote up my 2020 harvest recap, I felt pretty sure that we hadn’t seen any smoke taint, or taken any serious harm from the twin heat spikes that broke records as the grapes were ripening. Still, there’s only so much that you can tell in harvest’s immediate aftermath, when the wines are still sweet and the cellar full of fermentation aromas. So, as we sat down together, we all felt that the stakes were higher than they might be in a more normal vintage. I’m pleased to report that after four days immersed in these wines, I feel confident that 2020 will take its place proudly in our recent string of strong vintages. READ MORE…
These are some press releases I received this week that I actually thought were interesting…enjoy!
Yao Family Wines: Statement Condemning Anti-Asian Violence And Discrimination From Yao Family Wines President Jay Behmke
All of us at Yao Family Wines are deeply troubled by the recent increase in verbal and physical attacks being perpetrated against the Asian American community here in the United States. As a Napa Valley-based winery with a Chinese founder, we strongly condemn any act of harassment, verbal or physical violence, microaggressions, and hate against our fellow Asian and Asian American communities.
According to the White House Memorandum condemning these intolerable acts, an estimated 2 million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have served on the front lines of this crisis as healthcare providers, as first responders, and in other essential roles in our country. Over the last one hundred fifty years, Asian Americans have contributed to our country as scientists, entrepreneurs, political leaders, and fellow citizens, and have enriched our cultural melting pot with their contributions in art, music and cuisine.
We join the many voices calling to #StopAsianHate and stand with and in support of our partners and communities against anti-Asian discrimination. Please join us, support Asian-owned business and encourage everyone to do their part to stand with this precious community. We will only overcome this crisis together.
About Yao Family Wines
Yao Family Wines was founded in 2011 by retired NBA and China Basketball Association star and global humanitarian Yao Ming. The Napa Valley winery released its first wines that same year to critical acclaim. Each year since inception, Yao Family Wines releases have received 90+ point scores from some of the world’s most respected wine critics, are available online at the winery’s website www.yaofamilywines.com and in restaurants and retailers in select markets in the US and internationally.
Castello Di Amorosa: Castello Di Amorosa Establishes “Cavalieri Del Fuoco,” “The Knights of the Fire,” Newly Prepared to Fight Wildfires at the Estate
After experiencing the devastating effects of the Glass Fire in October 2020, the team at Dario Sattui’s Castello di Amorosa vows to be ready when the next Red Flag Warning is raised in the Napa Valley. Announced today was the formation of a newly assembled fire watch team, which will provide additional defense against fires during fire season and is equipped with fire protective gear and thousands of feet of fire hose, which attach to the Castello’s 3 fire hydrants on the property.
“The Glass Fire hit our Farmhouse so fast,” said Georg Salzner, President of Castello di Amorosa. “We were on site when it struck in the early morning hours, and we did what we could but felt like we could have done more to limit the damage. We could have been more of a resource to the firefighters who were stretched thin that night,” he added.
Salzner organized a fire defense team of 8 long-term employees who know the intricacies of the Castle, its grounds and Dario Sattui’s Victorian home just outside the main Castle gates. READ MORE…
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