Holy frijoles there’s a lot that went on this past week. So much so that I had to break this little newsletter into sections. We start with a little COVID round up of what’s going on here in wine country. Yes, businesses are attempting to reopen, but it’s not as glamorous as all that. There’s confusion about county regulations in Napa, and Sonoma’s health advisor is putting the breaks on California’s “Phase 3.” And she’s not wrong to do so: The Sonoma Index Tribune reports that 134 new cases were uncovered in Sonoma County the week between May 19 and May 26 – rising from 390 cases to 524. The outbreak was traced back to workplace outbreaks, one of which was a winery.
In Food news, Eater asks who are restaurants really opening for? As eateries attempt to service guests on decks, patios, and other outdoor areas, there aren’t a whole lot of folks interested in dining out at the moment. Understandable.
The L.A. Times reports about Vernon meatpacking plant where at least 153 have come down with COVID-19. The facility has been shutdown for now. But if you’re thinking, “Well, I’m better off with seafood anyway,” the S.F. Chronicle discusses how last weekend’s fire at Fisherman’s Wharf is effecting the seafood industry.
A few other anecdotes from around the world: It seems like Scotland’s wine drinking culture may date back even further than originally thought. British Columbia is considering Pinot Noir as its regional grape. Italy finally created a DOC for rosé Prosecco. And the U.S. may follow the E.U.’s footsteps in ingredient labeling on wine bottles.
Of course don’t forget to scroll down to the Blogs where Mike Veseth discusses the trend away from premiumization in the wine industry, while Tim Atkins features a piece by Christy Canterbury, MW about how to define and buy “fine wine.” There’s a few other goodies in the blogs for you as well that I’ll let you discover on your own. And do NOT miss Eric Asimov‘s piece about a wine lover’s battle with the olfactory-inhibiting coronavirus.
KEEPING UP WITH COVID-19
Napa Valley Register: State efforts to ease restrictions on to-go wine clash with Napa County regulations
In Napa County, the relaxation of regulations only contributed to confusion around mixed messages from state officials, according to David Morrison, the county’s director of Planning, Building and Environmental Services.
State guidance has been “somewhat contradictory,” Morrison said Tuesday. While Stage 2 reopening says that wineries, following appropriate precautions, may reopen to serve alcohol with a sit-down meal, the state’s COVID-19 website says wineries are not permitted to operate now. […]
Further complicating things are individual winery use permits – the majority of which expressly disallow meal service, and many of which do not allow for any kind of food service on winery premises. READ MORE…
The Press Democrat: Sonoma County health officer declares no more businesses reopening for two weeks
The day after revealing her intention to slow reopening of local businesses because of a recent spike in coronavirus cases, Sonoma County Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase said Wednesday there will be no more advances in resuming economic activity during the next two weeks.
Mase attributed the need to apply the brakes to a doubling of new cases in the past two weeks, including a few patients needing intensive care at local hospitals, the first viral outbreak at a senior residential care facility and a number of infections now involving people getting the virus from transmission in their workplaces. READ MORE…
Sonoma Index Tribune: Sonoma Valley possible location of new workplace outbreaks
Eater Chicago: Illinois Gov. Pritzker Says He’ll Make To-Go Cocktails Legal
Late Saturday night, the Illinois House joined the Senate and overwhelmingly voted in favor of allowing bars and restaurants to sell to-go cocktails, a measure that could enable bars to survive until the state lifts the COVID-19 closures. While some bars have quietly sold margaritas in plastic carafes and cocktails in disposable cups for carryout, that comes with the risk of fines. Bars in high-profile locations already struggling due to state-mandated closures worried they couldn’t be discrete and would trigger enforcement.
Now restaurant and bars won’t have to worry about fines, as long as the drinks are in sealed, tamper-resistant containers and are continued to be stored in a vehicle’s trunk during delivery. The bill still needs Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s signature, and it’s unclear when that will happen. During his Tuesday COVID-19 briefing, Pritzker said he was “so glad that that passed.” READ MORE…
Eater: Who Are We Reopening For?
These reopenings are based on the acceptance of unnecessary sickness and death. An internal report from the Trump administration, which is pressuring states to “reopen” businesses, projects a steady rise in the death toll from COVID-19, resulting in 3,000 deaths a day by June 1. In a leaked phone call, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who recently allowed restaurants to reopen their dining rooms, admitted “the fact of the matter is pretty much every scientific and medical report shows that when you have a reopening… it actually will lead to an increase and spread” of the new coronavirus.
Abbott was correct. Cases are climbing in most states that have allowed for reopening. READ MORE…
SF Chronicle: Fisherman’s Wharf fire may impact San Francisco’s seafood industry
Sarah Bates could still see debris smoldering on Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco on Tuesday, nearly 72 hours after a massive blaze sent flames higher than 100 feet and destroyed a processing and storage warehouse at the waterfront property.
Bates, who fishes out of San Francisco, is one of dozens of local fishers who had equipment in the building at the time of Saturday’s inferno. And like the others, everything she had was destroyed. READ MORE…
(If you can’t get through the paywall, here’s a similar story from CBS SF Bay Area.)
L.A. Times: Farmer John meatpackers demand closing of Vernon plant struck by COVID-19 outbreak
The union that represents workers at a Vernon meatpacking plant where at least 153 have come down with COVID-19 called Monday for the immediate closure of the facility, saying there was no evidence measures taken to control the coronavirus were working.
The outbreak at the Farmer John plant, a division of Smithfield Foods that produces Dodger Dogs and other pork products, is by far the largest in Los Angeles County to occur outside of a nursing home, prison or other residential setting, according to data from the county’s Public Health Department.
The union that represents most of the plant’s 1,800 employees alleges that the company delayed rolling out protective measures until workers were sick and has not been transparent about what it knows about how and to whom the virus is spreading within the facility. READ MORE…
Wine Spectator: Surprising Find Suggests Medieval Scotland Actually Land of Wine-Sipping Big-City Folk
A recent excavation has found a massive 6th-century settlement in Scotland—by far the largest of its kind—where urban inhabitants may have clinked glasses of imported Mediterranean vintages. READ MORE…
The Globe and Mail: British Columbia is auditioning pinot noir as its signature grape
With more than 80 grape varieties planted and less than 25 years since its wine industry kicked into high gear, it’s too soon to anoint a signature grape for British Columbia’s wine regions. But early signs point to pinot noir as the frontrunner for red wine varieties. READ MORE…
wine-searcher: Time for US Wine to Follow the EU
I am like a Millennial consumer. I care about what I put in my body. The one grocery store item that gets away with revealing nothing about its contents is wine. Food products are required by law in most countries to reveal everything in them. But wine has always gotten a pass.
The EU is moving to change that. Wine-Searcher ran a story this week that the European Commission is drafting legislation to require ingredients in wine to be listed on the label. Hurray for the EU! It’s about time.
The US will fight this. Our wine politics are dominated by our biggest wine companies. They don’t want people knowing what goes into supermarket wine, because they fear, correctly, that consumers will gravitate toward wines with fewer additives. READ MORE…
Napa Valley Register: Napa County’s Chappellet winery secures visitor, wine production boosts
Chappellet winery is looking forward to a post-COVID-19 crisis world when it makes even more wine and entertains even more guests. Despite the tourism ban under the state shelter-at-home order, the winery located in hills near Lake Hennessey went to the county Planning Commission on Wednesday with growth requests for the future. It got what it wanted. The winery can increase annual wine production from 150,000 gallons to 250,000 gallons. It can increase total annual visitation for tastings and for marketing events from 15,145 to 38,810.
Cyril Chappellet told commissioners he and his mother live on the property and the winery is the family’s primary source of business. They don’t have six other businesses standing behind them. “Right now, with 60 percent of our market gone completely because there’s no restaurants, I need every single person, when it’s available, when it’s safe, to be able to start buying wine directly from us,” he said. READ MORE…
The Italian government has finally approved the production of a rosé Prosecco and it is expected to hit our shelves as early as January 2021. The Prosecco DOC Rosé has been in the pipeline for some time and has now been approved by Italy’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.
The arrival of rosé Prosecco – which can be made from the Glera and Pinot Noir grapes – comes at a good time for the Prosecco DOC Consortium as sales of Prosecco have dipped in recent months due to the COVID-19 pandemic twinned with a cap on production in 2020 at 15 tonnes/ha for Prosecco DOC and 12 tonnes/ha for Prosecco Superiore DOCG. 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 or want your blog included.
Eric Asimov: Rediscovering Wine After Covid-19
This is a story about what happens when one of life’s joys is taken away, perhaps forever. In this case it’s wine, but it could as easily have been painting, cooking, dancing, or playing golf or tennis.
The potential loss of these pleasures, of course, is trivial compared with the social and personal catastrophes the coronavirus pandemic has inflicted. It has taken friends and loved ones, destroyed jobs and businesses, and shaken up lives. The human cost has been immense.
Yet people still want to savor what they love, what has shaped their personalities and lives. They want to return to bars and restaurants, to date and find romance, to play softball on the weekends and dive once more into the wild surf. READ MORE…
The Wine Economist: Wine Goes Up the Down Staircase (Coronavirus Recession Edition)
Recent consumer trend data from Nielsen and Wines & Vines Analytics present a complicated picture of off-premise wine consumer behavior for March and April 2020. Wine sales at supermarkets and other retail outlets have boomed, as you know. The initial pantry stocking frenzy was followed by a growth plateau, but high growth rates have returned in recent weeks.
The dollar value of off-premise wine sales in the Nielsen-measured channels has risen at a 30% rate since the COVID-19 crisis began compared to the same period last year. Wine sales in the week ending March 21 surged to 66% more than the previous, year which is amazing.
The rise in off-premise sales is partially offset by the collapse of the on-premise (bars, restaurants) channel. Net sales are up, but not by as much as you might imagine. Nielsen estimates that off-premise sales need to rise by roughly 22% (by volume) to offset the falling on-premise sales. Wine volumes are up 27.7% since March 7, so that’s a 5% net volume gain. READ MORE…
Tim Atkin: #WTFWines: from reflections to resolutions
For many of us staying at home full-time, what we eat and drink has taken on more importance than ever. Dinner is the social event of the day.While honing our cooking skills, many of us are also spending a lot more time buying and drinking wine. I’ve never been asked so many questions about where to buy wine or which wines to buy! Two friends (different households) just purchased wine fridges. For those lucky enough to be able to do so, it’s not just time to buy more wine. It’s time to do it right. READ MORE…
The Wine Gourd: Sicily is deservedly in the wine spotlight these days
I noted a few weeks ago that most of the vineyard regions in the European Union have been slowly decreasing in size since 2007 (How well do you know the common European wine-making regions?). One of the bigger reductions has been on the island of Sicily, whose warm and dry Mediterranean climate has traditionally allowed it to be a large producer of bulk wine (as also is the nearby mainland region of Puglia).
Along with this reduction in grape-growing, however, there has been a move towards premium wine-making. This implies that the Sicilians are now focusing on growing grapes that allow them to make wines with a recognized provenance; and this has garnered increasing attention form the wine media. This is the subject of this post, based on information from the official Instituto Regionale Vino e dell’Olio, and their data for Superfici ed Uve a DO e IG rivendicate (2011-2019). READ MORE…
Tablas Creek: Does a great vintage like 2019 make blending easier… or harder?
Our blending process is one we’ve developed over the decades, built on how they work at Beaucastel. Of course, with Coronavirus mitigating against international travel, we had to make a few changes this year. But it’s still the same process of building consensus around a table of participants, starting from individual fermentation lots and moving through our hierarchy of wines. READ MORE…
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