Hello, happy weekend, and thank you for being patient with me while I went on a brief hiatus. I am back, and whoa what a week to come back to. If you haven’t seen my latest articles come out, this week I had my Biodynamics 101 published through the Napa Valley Wine Academy (where I study for my WSET Diploma) as well as a piece asking the age old question “What Does ‘Minerality’ Mean in Wine?” for Wine Enthusiast. So be sure to check those out.
I also participated in an Instagram Live chat with Jason Haas, proprietor of Tablas Creek Vineyard. If you missed the live version, be sure to watch the recording on the Tablas IGTV channel.
And if that wasn’t enough Wine Business Monthly also repurposed my 2019 article “Is Your Winery Website ADA Compliant,” given all the new lawsuits that are coming to the forefront. (PS If you winery website is not ADA compliant, you’re definitely limiting your customer base. So make sure your space, whether virtual or IRL is a welcoming environment for all wine lovers.)
Last but not least—I actually posted a recipe this week! Hah! Yes, now that I have *some* space to breathe, I’m able to pick up a few hobbies again. You know, like reading a book and baking. So, if you like cookies definitely check this double dose of cookie awesomeness—I’ve one for the healthy eaters and one for the indulgent. Either way they’re tasty.
I think that’s it from me at the moment. As always, scroll through some of the latest wine news at your leisure. Enjoy and thanks for popping by.
Wine Enthusiast: What Does ‘Minerality’ Mean in Wine?
“Minerality is difficult to fully explain,” says Evan Goldstein, MS, president and chief education officer of Full Circle Wine Solutions. “There is no accepted definition of minerality in wine, no complete consensus on the characteristics that are associated with it, nor even whether it is perceived primarily as a smell, a taste or a mouthfeel sensation.”
Indeed, Jancis Robinson, MW, calls the term “imprecise” and an “elusive wine characteristic” in The Oxford Companion to Wine. READ MORE…
SF Chronicle: Indigenous North American grapevines, not the standard European varieties, may be California wine’s answer to climate change
A handful of California winemakers are convinced that long-maligned hybrid grape varieties are the future
Matthew Niess believes the future of California wine lies with native California grapes.
This might sound self-evident, but for the $40 billion wine industry, Niess’ idea is a serious provocation. Grapes native to California, or to any part of North America, are unheard of here. Virtually all of our vineyards are planted with European imports, specifically the grapevine species Vitis vinifera. Name a wine grape — Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, even something obscure like Trousseau Gris — and it’s certain to be a member of the vinifera species, European by parentage.
Wine-Searcher: Lawsuits Looming for Online Wine Retailers
Not providing online access for the visually impaired could see stores end up in court.
Retail shop owners beware: if blind people can’t read your website, you could be sued.
This is not a joke. A lawsuit was filed earlier this month in New York against retailer Wine Chateau, claiming the site is not fully accessible to blind and visually impaired customers as is required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). That lawsuit got coverage in Wine Business.
But apparently no media organization has yet put together the fact that the same plaintiff, Michelle Tenzer-Fuchs of Nassau County, NY, has worked with Forest Hills, NY attorney Jonathan Shalom to file lawsuits against a wide range of companies with the same allegation.
In the past few months, Fuchs has sued Disney, Proctor & Gamble and Mattel as well as smaller companies including Instacart, Oddity Mall, Vita-Mix and Baggallini.
“Retailers should be worried,” said beverage law attorney Barbara Snider, senior counsel with Hinman & Carmichael in San Francisco. “The problem is, it’s a strict liability. You don’t get a grace period to fix it.” READ MORE…
Wine Business Monthly: Is Your Winery’s Website ADA Compliant?
As a series of lawsuits hit East Coast wineries, the industry pushes for best practices and education on accessible sites.
The last few years have seen a severe increase in Americans with Disability Act (ADA) web accessibility claims—lawsuits that allege certain websites are unusable by those with disabilities because said sites are not coded to work with assistive technology, such as screen readers. According to the Seyfarth ADA Title III News & Insights Blog (adatitleiii.com), written by ADA Title III specialty team attorneys, the number of suits filed in federal court under Title III of the ADA in 2018 numbered 2,258 cases nationwide, up 177 percent from 814 lawsuits filed the year before.
The Seyfarth ADA blog also states that the vast majority of these suits have originated, and continue to occur, in New York, with a total of 1,564 suits that make up nearly 70 percent of the total web-compliant suits in 2018.
The trend continues into 2019. UsableNet, a web and app accessibility consulting site, has been tracking the latest numbers on ADA website suits around the country. According to their report, lawsuits have increased 31 percent within the first quarter (Q1) of 2019, compared to the same quarter last year. Once again, New York takes the biggest hit, with 396 cases thus far in Q1 2019.
Why New York? The Seyfarth ADA blog points to the ruling in the 2017 case Blick Art and Five Guys, in which New York federal judges ruled that the rules outlined in the ADA cover websites—even those not associated with a brick-and-mortar establishment. Since that ruling, a flurry of suits from New York-based law firms and lawyers (which the blog lists by name) have been after companies whose websites also fail to accommodate the needs of the disabled.
Though businesses of all sizes have been affected (including big names like Apple and Harvard), the bulk of the suits seem to go to smaller establishments—such as wineries. READ MORE…
Eater: You Should Absolutely Age Your Own Wine. Here’s How to Do It
Whether you want to commemorate a big day or just have a hankering for a different taste, vintage wines are delicious to explore
Vintage wine is nothing new. The practice of aging wine dates back thousands of years, from the ancient catacombs of Rome to the royal courts of Europe, where aged sweet wines like Sauternes and Tokaji reigned. During the Age of Exploration, fortified wine styles like madeira and port became popular for their ability to stand up to long ocean voyages. The modern wine bottle as we know it today was developed in the 18th century in part to promote aging, designed to be laid on its side with a stout cork sealing out the oxygen.
In modern times, vintage wines have become synonymous with wealth and status, the domain of the wealthy collector with a vast cellar of sought-after wines from famous wine regions like Burgundy, Bordeaux, and Napa. But this is just one facet of vintage wine enjoyment; the market for vintage wine is becoming increasingly democratized and accessible as more people, especially newer wine drinkers, get turned on to the remarkable flavors and emotional resonance of drinking wines from yesteryear.
But vintage wine — by which I generally mean wine that is around 20 years old, and sometimes much older — is something anyone can enjoy, and it doesn’t have to cost you thousands of dollars to get started. The most important moments of your life (the birth of your kid, your wedding, a big life change) can be remembered for years to come by setting aside a well-chosen bottle or three. READ MORE…
Drinks Business: Shifting consumer behaviour as a result of the pandemic has opened up opportunies
A series of major shifts in consumer behaviour in the last 12 months have opened up a series of opportunities and challenges for the industry, according to data from Wine Intelligence presented at the London Wine Fair.
Speaking at the virtual London Wine Fair this week, Lulie Halstead outlined the key consumer trends that have emerged as a result of the pandemic world and how the industry can rebuilt its resilience.
One of the most positive trends is that wine drinkers have maintain their relationship with wine and there are some strong areas that wine brands and reatil can explore further. READ MORE…
Trink: New German Wine Law Winners and Losers
Roughly once a generation, the German government pops the hood on Germany’s wine law for a tune up. 2021 is one such year, with a new set of revisions taking effect in early May. On the surface, the changes appear more incremental than revolutionary. Yet controversy has followed as various stakeholders realize that some new wrinkles may have unexpectedly far-reaching consequences. So let’s pour ourselves a glass of dry wine (law) and savor some juicy power dynamics. Here are the early winners and losers of the 2021 German Wine Act. READ MORE…
Wine Enthusiast: The Filipino-American Sommeliers Changing the Narrative
For many who grew up in the Philippines or in a Filipino household, alcohol meant beer and spirits. Wines were often considered inaccessible and expensive. Plus, there’s a misconception that Filipino food doesn’t go well with wine.
These five Filipino and Filipino-American sommeliers are helping to change that narrative in the United States. While there are challenges to being in a Western-leaning industry, these professionals also appreciate the opportunities to share their culture and heritage. READ MORE…
VinePair: Sweeping Accusations of Sexism, Assault Rock The Craft Beer Industry
Content warning: This story describes instances of sexual harassment and abuse.
What started last week on Tuesday, May 11 as an offhand request for women’s stories about experiencing sexism in the beer industry on a personal Instagram page has escalated into a mass callout of craft beer industry members across the world, sending shockwaves across the industry.
Thousands of messages — and counting — sent to brewer Brienne Allan (who goes by the Instagram handle @ratmagnet) include accusations against some of the beer world’s most lauded brewers and breweries: Shaun Hill, founder and brewer of Hill Farmstead; Jean Broillet, co-founder of Tired Hands Brewing; Jacob McKean, founder of Modern Times Beer, as well as Lord Hobo Brewing Company, Union Beer Distributors, BrewDog, and many others. Some allegations accuse brewery owners of complacency toward a toxic work culture under the shroud of progressivism; while others directly accuse individuals in the industry of sexual harassment, assault, and more. READ MORE…
Press Democrat: A Kenwood vineyard that can stand its ground with climate change
With red flag warnings in May coupled with a deepening drought, many winemakers and growers are filled with a sense of foreboding. Will their vines survive yet another year of extreme weather?
But a bit of hope is embodied in a small vineyard in Kenwood, one that has remained resilient — for the most part — to climate change for more than a decade.
Located in the foothills of the Mayacamas Mountains, the sun-kissed Rhone varietals at Landmark Vineyards are thriving once again this year after last year’s setback. The 2020 vintage suffered from smoke taint when the Glass fire blazed through the region just a couple miles north of the vineyard. READ MORE…
Santa Barbara Independent: Weed and Wine Come Together in Santa Ynez Valley
Sunstone Winery Will Grow Commercial Cannabis Alongside Grapes for First Time Ever in Santa Barbara County
For 30 years now, Sunstone Winery has provided the Santa Ynez Valley one of its more famously photographed touchstones, shifting from “Tuscan-inspired” villa in wedding albums to “futuristic French chateau,” at least for purposes of one recent Star Trek show.
This week, the new owners of Sunstone took it to the next level of improbability, announcing they’d secured the necessary planning permits to cultivate cannabis where for 30 years organic wine grapes have been grown. This marks the first-time cannabis and viniculture — often presented as intractable foes — will coexist in peaceful commercial cultivation at the same time and the same place in Santa Barbara County. READ MORE…
New York Times: No Longer the ‘Devil’s Lettuce’: How the Town of Weed Embraced Weed
When they see the signs for Weed, carloads of curious travelers veer off the freeway to stop and gawk. They file into gift shops that sell “Weed Is So Dope” refrigerator magnets and sweatshirts advertising a fictional University of Weed: “A Place of Higher Learning.”
For decades, the residents of Weed, a California lumber town an hour from the Oregon border, have felt like the butt of jokes, exasperated from the repetition of the Daily Explanation: No, the town is not named for marijuana but a local 19th-century timber baron, Abner Weed. For years, the town rejected proposals to leverage the name and allow the sale of marijuana.
“I did not want a bunch of potheads sitting out in front of the store smoking doobies on a bench,” said Sue Tavalero, a former hairdresser who is now mayor.
But Weed’s leaders, including Ms. Tavalero, have since had a change of heart. The City Council cracked open the door to the pot industry three years ago, allowing a medical marijuana dispensary to open on Main Street. READ MORE…
Drinks Business: Bar apologises for Britney Spears-themed drink with offensive name
A bar in America has apologised after a flyer posted on social media promoting a Britney Spears appreciation night drew backlash due to an insensitively named drink.
In order to promote a Britney Spears-themed night at the venue, Baxter’s 942 Bar & Grill in Louisville had released the names of five special cocktails.
Unfortunately, one of the names caused offence.
“They couldn’t use actual Britney song titles so the titles were condensed,” General Manager Jessica Coleman told WAVE 3, adding that the names were selected by the venue’s alcohol distributor, Brown-Forman.
One drink on the flyer was called ‘The Slave’, an apparent abbreviation for Spears’ hit ‘I’m a Slave for You’. READ MORE…
VinePair: The Story of the OG Celebrity Tequila, Sammy Hagar’s Cabo Wabo
The world’s first celebrity tequila begins with a People spread from December 1983 showing the nuptials of rocker Keith Richards and model Patti Hansen at the Finisterra Hotel in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Back in Southern California, a Richards worshipper and growing rock star himself, Sammy Hagar, saw the magazine and thought the luxury resort looked pretty spectacular; he immediately booked a trip down with his wife. In those days, there was only one flight per day and, even if there were then mostly dirt roads leading from Los Cabos International Airport to the Twin Dolphin resort, Hagar still thought it was heaven on earth.
Hagar would become a regular visitor to the town of 6,000 on the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula, visiting roadside taco shacks, basking in the sun and surf with some grilled fish and a local brew, and enjoying glasses of real tequila, which he quickly fell for on a day trip to Jalisco while shopping for furniture. READ MORE…
Wine Enthusiast: Blockchain Technology, Fraud Prevention and the Future of Wine
Imagine if the wine business could digitally eliminate fraud. Or if winemakers could geolocate precisely when and where their wines are being enjoyed, or whether bottles were tainted or tampered with during shipment?
These are some of the transformative possibilities of technologies like blockchain, says Jeffrey Grosset, founder/owner of Grosset Wines in Clare Valley, Australia.
In its simplest definition, blockchain is a digital ledger of transactions. When a transaction occurs, a record of it is added to every participant’s ledger, or block in the chain, across a network of computer systems. This decentralized form of recordkeeping makes it difficult for individual parties to manipulate the results. 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.
Napa Valley Wine Academy: Biodynamic Viticulture in the Heart of Napa Valley
It’s rare I come back from a winery sans wine. Rarer still: come back with a basket of eggs and a rock—sans wine. But my purpose for visiting Quintessa in Napa Valley’s Rutherford AVA was to experience biodynamic viticulture in practice.
The estate vineyard has been farmed organically since 1989, biodynamically since 1996, and is officially certifying Demeter Biodynamic this year, 2021.
“I think Napa is well-suited to biodynamic practices,” says Quintessa viticulturist and winemaker Rebekah Wineburg. “Our combination of low disease pressure and high-value crop makes it a no-brainer in my opinion. At the minimum, it encourages winegrowers to sever the reliance on herbicides and start working with compost and the goal of balance in the vineyard.” READ MORE…
Tablas Creek: Conversation with Jason—Wine Writer and Editor Stacy Briscoe
This week on Conversation with Jason, we had the pleasure of speaking with Stacy Briscoe, wine industry journalist and editor for publications like Wine Enthusiast, Napa Valley Wine Academy, Wine Industry Network, and more.
In their conversation, Jason and Stacy discuss how Stacy came to wine via Lambrusco and Oregon Pinot Noir, how her writing path began as an editor, why writing about wine is such a good way to learn about it, how the pandemic made writing harder (and easier), and how re-entry into the world of 1000-person wine events is going to take some reconditioning.
All that and more in this week’s conversation with one of wine writing’s most exciting new voices. WATCH HERE…
Napa Fire Department: “Don’t Burn Down Your House”
Jamie Goode: Personal preferences versus professional evaluation—why we need to distinguish them
A frequent online discussion about wine goes like this. Someone relatively inexperienced about wine gives a big thumbs up to a simple, rather obvious big brand wine. Say, a mass market Australian Chardonnay brand that we’ll call wine X.
A discussion ensues, and at one point a more experienced drinker – maybe a wine trade person – steps in and says why don’t you try wine Y instead of this – it costs about the same, or maybe just a little more, and it’s a much better wine. You might like it more.
Then there’s a reposte, perhaps from another wine trade person, criticising this intervention. If this person likes wine X, then who’s to say they are wrong? Why is wine Y ‘better’: after all, wine is subjective. Like what you like, and don’t you dare tell anyone their taste is wrong – that’s why the wine trade is in trouble, because we keep telling consumers that they’ve got it wrong. READ MORE…
Jancis Robinson: Jim Clendenen 1953–2021
There is news that will send shockwaves throughout the wine world. Jim Clendenen, ‘the mind behind’ Au Bon Climat in Santa Barbara County as he took to describing himself, died in his sleep on Saturday night. He was only 68 but, after a truly hectic life of drinking, making, promoting and thinking about wine, he had become increasingly aware of his age. In an excellent hour-long Wine Institute webinar hosted last August by our Elaine Chukan Brown, he lamented the restrictions imposed on his life by the pandemic. This quintessentially sociable, hugely distinctive wine producer observed ruefully, ‘it’s a nightmare to be spending the last years of your life trapped in your own home in your own company. In a schizophrenic sense I wish I were a better person.’
His many friends around the world had doubtless increasingly urged him to ‘take care of yourself’ (his father had suffered heart problems) but that was not in the noisy spirit of Jim Clendenen, whom I christened Wild Boy decades ago. READ MORE…
Eric Asimov: Jim Clendenen, Santa Barbara Winemaking Pioneer, Dies at 68
With exuberant charisma and relentless traveling, he promoted his label, Au Bon Climat, and the region as a wine hub.
Jim Clendenen, a larger than life, globe-trotting winemaker who through the force of his flamboyant personality and the understated beauty of his wines helped put the Santa Barbara region on the map, died on Saturday at his home in Buellton, Calif. He was 68.
His daughter, Isabelle Clendenen, said the cause had not been determined.
Mr. Clendenen and a partner, Adam Tolmach, founded their winery, Au Bon Climat, in 1982 in an old dairy barn outside of Los Alamos, Calif., about 50 miles northwest of Santa Barbara.
The region was home to barely a dozen producers back then. Santa Barbara County had thrived as a viticultural area in the 19th century, but that ended in 1920 with the enactment of Prohibition. Not until the 1960s would vineyards again be planted. Today, almost 300 wineries operate there. READ MORE…
The Wine Gourd: Where China get its wine, these days
Last week I looked at the declining wine market in China (So, why has China gone off the boil?). This week, I thought that I might look at where China gets its wine — has that changed recently, as well?
In one sense, China is no different to other Asian countries, in that wine is increasing in the mix of alcohol beverages, and beverage production has not kept up with the increase in demand, so that imports are needed to fill the gap (Asia’s emergence in global beverage markets: the rise of wine).
Bottled wines dominate China’s imports, making up more than 90% of the value each year; so, we are talking about a fine-wine market. As such, we would expect the wines to be sourced from well-known fine-wine regions, from around the globe. The first graph shows the top eight importers by value, for the past five years. [The data were compiled from various online reports, but the origin in all cases was from the Chinese Custom’s Office.] READ MORE…
Tablas Creek Vineyard: A Winery Carbon Footprint Self-Assessment: Why I Can’t Give Us an “A” Despite All Our Progress
When you consider a winery’s environmental footprint, what do you think of? Their vineyard certifications? Whether they’re using recycled materials? How well insulated their winery building is? If so, you might be surprised to learn that the largest contributors to a winery’s carbon footprint1 are the source of their energy, the weight of their bottles, the production of fertilizers and other inputs that go onto the vineyard, the transportation of the bottled wine, and the cover cropping and tillage decisions the vineyard makes.
This fact was driven home to me by a series of really interesting conversations about wine and sustainability over on Twitter recently which barely touched on wineries’ vineyard practices. READ MORE…
Jancis Robinson: The end of the Grosslage
On 27 January 2021 the German parliament passed the tenth amendment of the German Wine Law of 1971. There are some relevant changes but as always there’s a long period of grace for even the most reluctant of slowcoaches to mend their ways. The new regulations become binding only with the 2026 vintage. Until then, Qualitätsweine (quality wines) and Qualitätsweine mit Prädikat (quality wines with distinction) may still be labelled and marketed as before.
The most important point of the new legislation is that, with regard to what constitutes quality, the emphasis has been shifted from the sugar level of grapes measured in degrees Oechsle (‘the sweeter the grapes the better the wine’) to the provenance of the wine and how narrowly it is defined. The concept is based on the principle of terroir, ie that the character of a wine is determined by the soil, exposure, gradient and mesoclimate of an individual site. READ MORE…
BK Wine Magazine: Cold April nights with frost caused great havoc in the vineyards
Wine producers in France and other parts of Europe were hit hard by several cold nights in April with temperatures far below zero. The warm temperatures earlier this spring had led to early budding in many places, and when the frost hit (unusually severe frost), the devastation was significant, despite the measures taken. The financial losses will be considerable, although it is impossible at the moment to say exactly how much of the future harvest is lost. READ MORE…
Sovos ShipCompliant: Alabama Is Latest State to Permit Direct-to-Consumer Shipping of Wine
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed HB 437 into law on May 13, 2021, making Alabama the latest state to legalize direct-to-consumer (DtC) shipping of wine. With this step, only Delaware, Mississippi and Utah continue to prohibit this popular and valuable means of selling wine.
Alabama’s new DtC law will not become effective until August 1, 2021. Before then, wineries looking to engage the Alabama market can familiarize themselves with the regulations and requirements that are in place. READ MORE…
Vinography: Book Review—The New Wines of Mount Etna by Benjamin North Spencer
Let’s get the disclaimer right out of the way, shall we? I positively adore the wines of Mount Etna, the very active volcano that occupies the northeast corner of Sicily. I have rarely met a Nerello Mascalese or Carricante that I didn’t like. I have made but a single visit to the island of Sicily, and merely one week’s pilgrimage to Etna, but the volcano and its wines hold a very special place in my heart.
That’s why I was particularly excited to check out Benjamin North Spencer’s new book, The New Wines of Mount Etna: An Insider’s Guide to the History and Rebirth of a Wine Region. I only scratched the surface when I was there in 2013, and in the past 7 years, dozens of new producers have come out of the
woodwork lava as both locals and transplants eager to be a part of one of the hottest (as in trendy, not as in magma) wine regions on the planet opened up wineries. READ MORE…
These are some press releases I received this week that I actually thought were interesting…enjoy!
Wines of British Columbia: Wine Growers British Columbia Launch New Topographic Maps for the Wine Regions of British Columbia
Wine Growers British Columbia is thrilled to release a new set of ten topographic wine maps showing the dramatic landscape of the province and its nine diverse wine regions in detail, now available at WineBC.com.
During the last year, Wine Growers British Columbia worked with consulting soil scientist Scott Smith and Linda Decker of Geo Earth Mapping, on the cartographic development of these high-resolution topographic maps. For the purposes of wine labelling, these regions are referred to as Geographical Indications (GIs) and divisions of these as sub-Geographical Indications (sub-GIs). These are formal designations of the place of origin of the fruit that goes into B.C. VQA Wine.
“The topographic cartography combines simple design incorporating the Wines of British Columbia new brand elements, with the GI and sub-GI boundaries as regulated by the British Columbia Wine Authority, to construct a detailed look at B.C.’s diverse winegrowing regions,” says Laura Kittmer, Communications Director, Wine Growers British Columbia. READ MORE…
Napa Valley Pride: Napa Valley LGBTQ Pride Scheduled for the Month of June
Napa Pride Month returns in June 2021, featuring a variety of events scheduled with proceeds to benefit local LGBTQ organizations. Napa Valley LGBTQ Pride offers events all month long including the Second Annual Pride Cruise Night on Saturday, June 5, an LGBT q+a Panel for parents and teens on Friday, June 11, the Annual Rainbow Play Date for families with littles on Saturday, June 12, the annual Dining Out at the Q on Thursday, June 17 and the American Canyon Pride Pop Up on Sunday, June 27, with more events being added soon.
After being limited to the inaugural Pride Cruise Night and Pride is a Protest March in June 2020, event organizers are thrilled to be able to gather – safely – together again in 2021. READ MORE…
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