You guys, things have been so crazy busy lately. You may (or may not) have noticed I missed last week. I almost didn’t make this week either. But here I am with two-weeks worth of booze-news round up. Although, for some of you I’m sure a few of these are more ‘olds’ than news.
I want to, of course, call out a few projects I’ve been working on that finally got released. I’m particularly proud of this profile on dual winemaker-ICU nurse, Jane Khoury who splits her time caring for the critically ill and taking lead in her family’s wine production. As, hopefully, you all know, I’m continuing through my WSET Diploma course. I most recently completed my D3 Wines of the World exam (both theory and tasting portions) and am moving onto my D4 Sparkling Wines of the World section. It can be overwhelming, sometimes devastating. Here’s a little diddy I put together for the Napa Valley Wine Academy (where I study) about what success in wine really looks like. And here’s a brief interview I did for Wine Industry Advisor—it’s not fancy, but you can learn a bit more about me. You know, if interested.
A few other articles I want to call out: robots in the vineyard (the future is now!), a breakdown on the latest wine DtC shipping case (these can be so confusing), how and why Canada’s wine industry is struggling with sustainability (oh, Canada…), Virginia just got a new AVA (and there’s only like 5 wineries in it), and it’s officially ok to admit you like Zinfandel (within reason, I’ll add).
Oh yeah, and literally just for fun.
There’s loads more, including some interesting press releases. So scroll all the way through, whist sipping some wine of course. Read, learn, have fun. Cheers.
PIX: How One COVID Nurse Found Respite in Winemaking
In a normal year, days are long and hard for Jane Khoury who doubles as a winemaker for her family’s Elkfield Wines and as an Intensive Care Unit nurse at Adventist Health, Ukiah Valley. But life since the pandemic began has been anything but normal, with COVID-19 putting extra strain on the tight-rope she walks between two careers.
“It’s hectic with the nursing staff shortage. The rise in COVID cases has resulted in a rise in our overall patient load,” Khoury says. “Being extremely short-staffed, trying to help the nursing team out, and create this product as well — I’m juggling a lot more than usual.”
In a California ICU, a nurse can only have two patients under their watch, Khoury explains. But with the rise in more critically ill patients, the ward’s eight beds are full, with only three nurses on schedule.
“That’s when we desperately call someone to work overtime or pick up an extra shift,” she says. Because her patients are so critically ill, she’s been pushing past her typical 12-hour workday, “Sometimes I don’t get any breaks and work 14 hours straight without even a restroom break. That takes a toll on nurses and being able to safely take care of our patients.” READ MORE…
Napa Valley Wine Academy: Exam Success
Dear fellow wine students,
You are not alone. If you’re feeling “less than impressed” with your exam performance or on the nervous countdown until your next, questioning whether or not you’re good enough, why you’re here, and where you think you’re going in the world of wine—You are not alone.
I’ve been there. I’ve felt alone—felt like I’m the only person who didn’t figure out that wine, that flight, that essay question. Like I’ve spent money and hours studying and now all I can do is stew for 12 weeks thinking of all the ways I went wrong.
After my last exam, I cried. I cried from exhaustion and relief when it was over. I cried realizing how repetitive one of my essay questions turned out. I cried when they revealed the wines: I couldn’t look at a German Riesling—or any Riesling—without a sense of shame. (Is the wine judging me?)
After wiping the tears from my eyes, snot from my nose, and deciding that, no, that bottle of Riesling is not giving me the stink eye, I reached out to my advisors at the Napa Valley Wine Academy who assured me that I am not alone. That especially in wine, mistakes happen to the very best of us.
I passed my D3 exam, both theory, and tasting—with Merit in fact. But what I learned was to make sure I use that scratch piece of paper to craft a solid outline, in order to write more confidently (and less repetitively). What I learned is that—no, you don’t have to call all the wines correctly to receive a high tasting score and that the time I spent learning to write quick, accurate tasting notes and thorough arguments for my conclusions is worth more than knowing which anbaugebiete the Riesling is actually from.
So, this is for you, my downtrodden colleagues. This is the story of the best of us who have stumbled, fallen, and even failed just like the rest of us. You are not alone. READ MORE…
Turning the Tables: Stacy Louise Briscoe
How did you come to wine, and to wine writing?
A weird (wine-filled) road. In my previous life I was a full-time personal fitness trainer. I loved what I did, but I still wanted to try my hand at becoming a writer and editor (what I thought I would be ‘when I grew up.’)
With no experience in professional writing, I started my personal blog, BriscoeBites.com, so named because I thought I’d write about food, recipes, restaurants, and maybe even pull in my fitness background and speak about nutrition.
But the one thing that really captured me when writing about food, was the wine. I swear I would spend just as much time, if not longer, researching the right wine pairing as I did researching the perfect recipe. And once I started writing my own wine reviews and tasting notes, I just became so connected to and interested in the whole winemaking process. I found the more I wrote, the more curious I was, the more I would research, and the more I would write.
I started writing for other (non-paying) wine blogs as well, tried my hand at a few small freelance gigs, and finally ended up at my role as an editor with the SF Chronicle. My managing editor there, as well as the travel editor, and even Esther, all encouraged me to write a few pieces for the paper and the website. So, when my contract was up, I had a good portfolio of potential work to show.
Esther was kind enough to write my letter of recommendation into the Wine Writers Symposium, where I made even more great contacts—peers and mentors alike. From there it seems like the opportunities, along with my career, just sky-rocketed. Since then, I’ve worked as the staff writer for Wines & Vines, assistant editor of Wine Business Monthly, and now I write for a whole host of reputable publications (Wine Enthusiast, Sonoma Magazine, Pix, among several others) and have most recently taken on the role of managing editor here at Wine Industry Network. READ MORE…
North Bay Business Journal: California new laws allow wineries more flexibility in marketing, philanthrophy
Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed three bills that will relax restrictions for wineries on opening an extra tasting room, pouring wine into consumer containers and promoting charitable contributions.
These laws take effect Jan. 1, 2022.
On Sept. 23, Newsom signed Senate Bill 19, which doubles the number of off-site tasting rooms a winery can open to two, according to an announcement from his office.
Wine Industry Advisor: Vineyard Tech & The Green Cyber Revolution
The wine industry has been slower than others when it comes to normalizing the use of technology. Tech seems antithesis to the romance, poetry and culture, that’s fueled wine business for centuries. Further, mechanization—especially in terms of viticulture—is often associated by many with high-yielding, poor quality grapes producing masses of lower quality wines.
But recent innovations now allow wine growers to utilize technology without negatively affecting grape or wine quality. In fact, many result in grapes growing to full potential— despite climate-change challenges. READ MORE…
SF Chronicle: Marijuana megacampus with 45 greenhouses is going up on the Bay Area shoreline. Will it become the ‘Apple of cannabis’?
Richard Treiber had the epiphany in December 2015, while ambling down a busy road in Richmond.
Squinting at the northern shoreline, he saw a bare stretch of land and knew exactly how to fill it: with cannabis.
Sarasota Wine Market v. Schmitt—What’s the Fuss?
“You really can’t answer what the Supreme Court will do in any logical way,” says Jay Hack, a senior partner at Gallet Dreyer & Berkey in New York City, and the chair of the wine, spirits, and beer law committee for the New York State Bar Association. “It’s almost impossible to predict, because you don’t know how they’re thinking.”
But if Hack had to guess, he wagers it’s less than a fifty-fifty chance they take the case. READ MORE…
Wine Spectator: Winemakers Ask, Is China’s Market Worth It?
The worst-case scenario was a 50 percent tariff on bottled wine. That’s what most insiders in the Australian wine industry were thinking in fall 2020 after tensions spiked between the Chinese and Australian governments over the origins of COVID-19 and Australia’s ban on Huawei’s 5G network. Once again, it looked like the wine community was about to become collateral damage in a political dispute.
But when Chinese authorities announced a tariff of 218 percent? It was mind-boggling. “The tariffs were much higher than anyone anticipated,” admitted Rachel Triggs, general manager of corporate affairs and regulation for Wine Australia.
The trade fight was the latest blow to international winemakers working to build a market in China. Since Chinese Premier Li Peng praised the health benefits of wine during the National People’s Congress in 1996, the country’s growing economy and consumer population have attracted wineries from around the globe trying to gain a foothold. With 52 million wine drinkers and a total population of 1.44 billion, the growth potential is enormous. READ MORE…
Wine Industry Advisor: Canada’s Struggle with Sustainability
When it comes to wine-growing regions of the world, Canada is not the first place most people think of, let alone where one may expect leadership on sustainability.
The country sits low as the world’s 27th largest wine producer, but this has not stopped the Canadian wine industry from booming in the last 20 years, expanding its production of wine by over 75 percent, although less than 1 percent is exported, most of it to China, the US, and the UK.
“We work very hard to keep a low-carbon footprint,” says Paul Speck, co-owner of Henry of Pelham, one of the oldest wineries on Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula. Part of his sustainability effort is the use of lightweight glass bottles for the majority of his still wine production. “In a time of climate change, we need to be restrained, and mindful of waste.” READ MORE…
Wall Street Journal: Robots Take Over Italy’s Vineyards as Wineries Struggle With Covid-19 Worker Shortages
Italian winemakers have increasingly relied on migrant workers for the autumn harvest, but travel restrictions and soaring wage costs are pushing many to turn to machines
Last year’s grape harvest was a harrowing scramble at Mirko Cappelli’s Tuscan vineyard. With the Italian border closed because of the pandemic, the Eastern European workers he had come to rely on couldn’t get into the country. The company he had contracted to supply grape pickers had no one to offer him. He ultimately found just enough workers to bring the grapes in on time.
So, this year Mr. Cappelli made sure he wouldn’t face the same problem: He spent €85,000, equivalent to $98,000, on a grape-harvesting machine.
The coronavirus pandemic is pushing the wine industry toward automation.
Covid-related travel restrictions left severe shortages of agricultural workers last year, as Eastern Europeans and North Africans were unable to reach fields in Western Europe. Though the shortages have eased this year, the difficulty of finding workers has accelerated the shift, which was already under way across the agricultural sector.
While harvests of some crops, like soybeans and corn, are already heavily automated, winemakers have been slower to make the switch. Vintners debate whether automated harvesting is more likely to damage grapes, which can affect the quality of the wine. The cost is a deterrent for many small farmers. Some European regions even ban machine harvesting. READ MORE…
Op Ed: Dear Sommeliers, It’s OK to Like Zinfandel
This I can say about sommeliers: Most of them hate Zinfandel.
Putting it more gently: Of all the popular varietal categories, Zinfandel is the one that sommeliers have the hardest time drumming up enthusiasm for. Sure, the cultivar has historic connotations as “America’s” grape, even though we now know it originated in Croatia. But we still consider it historical because, in the 1800s, Californians found it to be the easiest grape to grow in the state’s climatic conditions—and it produced (the most consistently) good wine.
That is a terroir-based relationship, isn’t it? Aren’t sommeliers into terroir? READ MORE…
New York Times: The Restaurant Host Is Suddenly at the Front of the Covid Wars
Caroline Young was thrilled to be hired two years ago as a host at Café Poêtes in Houston. She was pursuing an undergraduate degree in hospitality, so she thought the experience in fine dining would be invaluable. She wanted to be the first person to greet arriving diners.
Initially, she said, most guests seemed glad to see her. Since the pandemic, not so much.
“I have been screamed at. I have had fingers in my face. I have been called names. I have had something thrown at me,” she said. One customer hurled a water glass at her feet and stormed out after she repeatedly asked him to put on a mask. “I have never been yelled at like that before in my life, until I was asking people to simply put a piece of cloth over their face that I was wearing eight to 10 hours a day.”
Once upon a time, the host, or maître d’ in formal dining rooms, held a position of some prestige and power, as the public face of the restaurant and the arbiter of who got the most coveted tables. Today, the job is often entry-level, and saddled with the difficult tasks of asking customers to don masks, maintain social distancing or present proof of vaccination. Hosts have to judge whether diners have complied, and to deal with any blowback. READ MORE…
Wine Industry Advisor: Newest Approved AVA—Virginia Peninsula
Matthew Meyer has been the winemaker at The Williamsburg Winery in Virginia for two decades, where his many accomplishments include a Governor’s Cup in 2014 for a red blend called Adagio.
By then, the discussion already was underway there to seek approval for that small section of the state, part of the Atlantic Coastal Plain, as an AVA.
“I believe what led to starting the process was to show that we do, in fact, have a unique area for growing grapes,” Meyer says. “This is not to say we are better than anywhere else, but simply different … that the wines grown in the Virginia Peninsula will show different characteristics than grapes from other areas.”
The Williamsburg Winery led that initiative, which paid off with the announcement last month that the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) had officially given its blessing to the Virginia Peninsula American Viticultural Area (AVA), which includes five wineries and 112 acres of commercial vineyards. READ MORE…
Eater: We Asked Science if Rats Can Actually Cook Like in ‘Ratatouille’ and It Said No But We Kept Pushing Anyway
When Walt Disney World officially enters its midlife crisis phase with a blowout 50th anniversary party this October, the parks will celebrate with fireworks, nighttime entertainment, and — what else? — giant rats. Yes, the anthropomorphized rodents made popular in Pixar’s 2007 film Ratatouille will be scurrying their way toward renewed relevance when their all-new themed ride debuts October 1 in the France-themed mini-land within Epcot.
In the movie, Remy, a rat who dreams of becoming a chef, pairs up with Linguini, a bumbling nepotism hire who recently landed a gig at Gusteau’s, a once-heralded French restaurant that has since slipped in the standings. Through some unconventional teamwork, Remy leads Linguini to create the most mouthwatering dishes out of Gusteau’s kitchen in years, all while trying their best to not be discovered. 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: Carbon dioxide needed
‘Are you ok?’ my partner asked me from across the table. Realising that my toast was suspended halfway between my plate and my mouth, I chomped down. ‘Fine’, I mumbled through my mouthful, unable to rip my eyes away from an article on the CO2 shortage in the UK, all related to the rise in gas prices. I abandoned my toast in favour of scrolling desperately for an answer that wasn’t there.
For weeks, since the start of harvest in northern California, wineries have been struggling to get their hands on dry ice and CO2 cylinders. (See above for the CO2 cylinder, known as a dewar in the US, in one northern California winery, and below for the winery’s almost empty container of dry ice.) Suppliers who aren’t out of CO2 are rationing their distribution to current clients and refusing to take on new ones. I imagine UK wineries are in the same boat, likely worse. READ MORE…
UC Davis: Increasing Temperatures Led to Better-Tasting Wine Grapes, but for How Long?
Warming temperatures over the past 60 years have led to increased wine quality, but a new study looking at sugar and color content in grapes indicates the industry may be facing trouble if trends continue, according to collaborative research out of the University of California, Davis, and University of Bordeaux.
“Quality has increased steadily up to now,” said lead author Kaan Kurtural, a professor of viticulture and enology and an extension specialist at UC Davis. “We just don’t know the tipping point.”
Kurtural’s research, published in the journal OENO One, focuses on two renowned wine regions — Napa Valley and Bordeaux, France.
Researchers looked at ripening, grape quality and temperature data over six decades in both regions and then confirmed the findings with a five-year trial in Napa. They also consulted wine ratings in publications like Wine Spectator to gauge consumer demand.
One key finding: As temperatures exceeded what was considered the optimal level for quality, the grapes produced better wines.
“Previous research had few field data, but a record of assumptions,” said Kurtural. READ MORE…
The Wine Economist: Thinking About Laura Catena’s Grand Cru Project
Laura Catena believes we need to think about the concept of Grand Cru vineyards and wines, so she organized a series of Zoom events for trade and media participants built around the idea of the Grand Cru.
Sue and I recently participated in one of the sessions and it provided food for thought as well as some delicious wine to sample — Catena Zapata and Winebow generously provided a line-up of wine samples to help us think about Grand Cru-class wines in practice as well as theory. I will paste our wine lineup at the end of this column.
The idea wasn’t to do a blind tasting (can you tell Old World from New World, recognized Grand Cru from an ambitious pretender?) or stage a sort of “Judgement of Tupungato” competition, but rather to appreciate some really excellent wines and use them to stimulate thought and discussion.
It took me a while to begin to figure out the point of the discussion. Why talk about Grand Cru now? According to the Oxford Companion to Wine, the concept of a Grand Cru wine is a bit of a moving target. The term, French of course, has a different meaning in Burgundy (where it applies to specific vineyards), in Alsace (where there are Grand Cru appellations), and Bordeaux (it is all about the producers). READ MORE…
Vino Joy News: Ningxia adds six more ‘second growth’ estates but top tier still vacant
Ningxia, China’s premier wine region in northwestern China, has announced the latest additions to its winery classification system, expanding its second growths but with top tier still conspicuously void of any names.
The ranking, primarily modelled after Bordeaux’s Saint Emilion winery classification, is assessed by Helan East Foothills Wine Bureau, OIV and an expert panel every two years, and each winery is scored on a 198-point scale based on criteria ranging from wine quality, vineyard management to winery reputation, hospitality capacity, vine age and among others. READ MORE…
Science & Wine: Grapes and vines of the Phoenicians: Morphometric analyses of pips from modern varieties and Iron Age archaeological sites in the Western Mediterranean
Grapevine (Vitis vinifera) is one of the most important fruit crops of the past and present world, both economically and culturally. The wild and domesticated forms, respectively Vitis vinifera subsp. sylvestris and V. vinifera subsp. vinifera, differ by an array of traits, including the form of their seeds, which may be retrieved in archaeological assemblages. These are smaller, rounder and with a shorter stalk in the case of wild grapevine, and larger, more elongated, and less sharply sculptured in the cultivated varieties . Due to these differences, morphometry – the statistical analysis of form and its (co)variation – has played a key role since the beginning of the 20th century for the study of grape pips retrieved from archaeological contexts, to distinguish wild and domesticated seeds . Such approach, initially based on linear measurements, recently refined with geometric morphometrics and outline analysis , now allows to perform morphotype prediction within the domesticated compartment, thus approaching cultivar-level distinctions. While comparison of archaeological material with modern varieties is less problematic for desiccated and waterlogged samples, recent studies have shown that this is possible also for charred samples . READ MORE…
James Suckling: New York State of Wine—Beyond World_Class Rieslings and Catchy Rosés, Bold Visions Take Root
On a crisp late summer day in New York’s Finger Lakes wine region, you’re struck more than anything by light: bright, renewing and sublime. It’s all the more beautiful refracted through the prism of the local wines. Whether pale yellow rieslings, bright deep pink, cold-soaked cabernet franc rosés, or a wide spectrum of lighter purple and ruby-colored vinifera wines, they shout “life” when we need most to hear that – and increasingly offer the consumer super quality and value.
We tasted nearly 100 New York wines in New York and Hong Kong this year, and this report includes more than 250 ratings from the last three years of tasting New York state wines. They are just the tip of a beautiful iceberg, and left us charged up to continue exploring what this state is doing. All but one of the wines was from the Finger Lakes and New York’s other iconic growing region, the consummately maritime Long Island, where slightly warmer weather is contributing to the greater finesse and concentration we see. READ MORE…
These are some press releases I received this week that I actually thought were interesting…enjoy!
The Institute of the Masters of Wine: MW students Dr Erna Blancquaert and Angela Elizabeth Scott receive 2021 Golden Vines® Diversity Scholarships
The 2021 Golden Vines® Diversity Scholarships were awarded to MW students Dr Erna Blancquaert and Angela Elizabeth Scott at a ceremony and dinner held at Annabel’s Private Members Club on 7 October 2021.
Forty-two aspiring Black and ethnic minority students from 23 countries wishing to undertake the Masters of Wine (MW) and Master Sommelier (MS) programmes applied for the two scholarships covering course and exam costs, as well as loss of earnings during their work placement internships organised by Liquid Icons with some of the world’s top wine domaines.
Erna from South Africa and Angela from the US, were announced alongside winners of the 2021 Golden Vines® Awards. The evening also featured an auction of luxury experience lots hosted by Christie’s which raised £1.2 million. READ MORE…
OIV: Organic viticulture is gaining terrain
The rate of conversion of vineyards to organic production has increased considerably since the beginning of the 21st century. Over the entire period analysed for this report (2005–2019), the certified organic vineyard surface area increased by an average of 13% per year, while the ‘non-organic’ vineyard area decreased by an average of 0.4% per year within the same timeframe. One of the factors explaining this intense growth rate is the fact that certified organic viticulture is still a recent phenomenon.
In 2019, a total of 63 countries across all continents were involved in organic viticulture and the certified organic vineyard surface area was estimated at 454 kha, representing 6.2% of the world’s total area under vines. READ MORE…
Wine Industry Network: Register for the 2021 WIN Expo
Wine Industry Network opened registration for the 9th annual North Coast Wine Industry Trade Show & Conference (WIN Expo), scheduled for Thursday, December 2nd, 2021, at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds and Event Center in Santa Rosa, CA. WIN Expo is both a buying show and educational conference. READ MORE…
BriscoeBites officially accepts samples as well as conducts on-site and online interviews. Want to have your wine, winery or tasting room featured? Please visit the Sample Policy page where you can contact me directly. Cheers!