Fires. Fires are raging through Napa and Sonoma and it’s devastating to say the least. As of right now, 58,880 acres have burned across both counties and we’re at 5% containment. Though the list of wineries that have been affected continues to grow, I am happy to report that as of right now the number next to “deaths” remains a big fat 0.
There are so many different reports out there on the Glass Fire, I’ve tried to include the ones with “evergreen” content, like the Press Demo’s information on how to help those impacted, the most recent news (as of this writing), as well as those pieces I think did a great job covering key aspects of what’s going on in the region(s).
I can’t deny that these fires are impacting me in many ways. But I also can’t neglect what else is going on in the industry. Like this Zimbabwe sommelier who’s making waves in the way we think about and describe wine in an effort to create a more inclusive global wine industry; China creating a new wine style, indicative of its own terroir; India, going back to its roots, crafting spirits from the Mahua plant.
And, people, let’s not forget to laugh a little. How about some Hocus Pocus wine? No? Have you tried the Jalepeño Noir? Oh, and if you don’t mind a bit of shameless self-promotion, I was this week’s guest on the We Like Drinking Podcast, talking about the current state of the wine industry, wine journalism, with a few fun shenanigans thrown in.
If I can leave you with one thought, I will steal a line from Craig Becker of Somerston Estate, who has personally and professionally been affected by the fires, and said to me in a recent interview: “The buds will break again.”
Whether you want to take that figuratively or literally, I’ll leave that up to you. But, like all bad gas, I have to think and hope and pray that this too shall pass.
Fires and the 2020 Harvest Season
Press Democrat: Here’s how to help people impacted by the Glass fire
For the second time in six weeks, large wildfires have ripped through Sonoma and Napa counties, destroying homes and forcing tens of thousands of people to evacuate. Here are some ways to help those displaced by the latest big blaze: READ MORE…
SF Chronicle: Newsom declares state of emergency in 3 counties: Napa, Sonoma and Shasta, as fires rage
Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency Monday in Napa and Sonoma and Shasta counties, and sent a letter to President Trump asking him to declare a “major disaster” that would send fire assistance grants into the state.
The federal emergency declaration would be the third this year, including one in August that provided grants for fires raging through Northern California. READ MORE…
Press Democrat: What Started the Glass Fire?
A trail of crime scene tape tied to trees leads up a narrow, winding road through a scorched oak forest and hillside vineyards toward a remote area under investigation as the origin of the massive Glass fire, the 5-day-old wildfire burning out of control in Napa and Sonoma counties.
Investigators appeared to have focused on a rural, gated property where the fire broke out at 3:48 a.m. Sunday morning on the slopes of Howell Mountain along North Fork Crystal Springs Road, located in the hills that ring the eastern side of Napa Valley, according to neighbors and workers in the area.
Cal Fire investigators will conduct separate probes into two ignition sites on the western side of Napa Valley, where fire erupted 15 hours later and spread west over Spring Mountain into Sonoma County and east Santa Rosa neighborhoods. READ MORE…
Wine Enthusiast: Battling Wildfires and the Pandemic, Some U.S. Winemakers Forgo the 2020 Vintage
“The buds will break again,” says Craig Becker, co-founder, general manager, and director of viticulture and winemaking of Somerston Estate in Napa, Calif. It’s a sunny outlook for someone who saw 1,400 acres of his 1,682-acre property burned during the August Hennessey Fire. READ MORE…
Wine Spectator: A Trail of Charred Vines and Broken Dreams: Napa Vintners Assess Damage as Glass Fire Continues to Threaten Wineries
The danger remains high in the northern valley as firefighters try to begin to contain the wildfire; Cain is the latest winery confirmed destroyed
Across northern Napa Valley, vintners are finding hope and sorrow and tales of bravery. The winds subsided for a while, allowing firefighters to try and establish containment of the sprawling Glass fire, working to keep it from destroying more homes and businesses.
Their fight is far from over. Evacuation orders were issued Tuesday evening for the towns of Calistoga and Angwin, both of which lie in the fire’s path. Today [Tuesday] orders were issued for parts of St. Helena as well. And winds are supposed to pick up again Thursday afternoon. More than 80,000 people have evacuated Napa and Sonoma counties so far. By late today, the fire had consumed more than 51,000 acres in Napa and Sonoma counties, according to Cal Fire, the state fire agency. At least 200 buildings have been destroyed.
Angwin and Calistoga made it through Tuesday night. And some vintners have been able to return to their wineries and see for the first time whether their livelihoods are still standing. Some found good news. Others did not. And many others have been unable to get back. READ MORE…
SF Chronicle: A running list of Napa Valley wineries that have been damaged or destroyed in the Glass Fire
The Glass Fire erupted on September 27 and has moved rapidly across northern Napa Valley, decimating structures at some of the region’s most celebrated wineries. Here’s a list of the wineries that have been confirmed to have sustained damage so far. We’ll be updating the list as we learn more. READ MORE…
Other Industry News
We Like Drinking Podcast: In the Valley With Stacy Louise Briscoe
This week on episode 297 of the We Like Drinking podcast we’ll be discussing the many colors of wine with Stacy Louise Briscoe…Our guest this week has joined us before, specifically on episodes 116 and 137. Back then she was a food and wine blogger on to promote her blog, now she is a professional wine journalist, editor, and WSET diploma candidate…LISTEN HERE
VinePair: How Microagressions in a Sonoma Winery Made a Black Winemaker Question Her Profession
I’ve never seen a city as monochromatic as Healdsburg in all my life. In the span of three months, I only saw 10 black people. That’s not an estimate; I counted. One was another intern, six were tourists, and three worked at the Napa tasting room of Brown Estate, one of the few Black-owned wineries in the region.
Where is everyone? Did I miss the memo?
Eater: Here’s What You Missed From the 2020 James Beard Awards ‘Ceremony’
Without any Restaurant and Chef Awards, a series of presentations hammered home the desire to keep restaurants “Open for Good”
The 2020 James Beard Awards were effectively cancelled, in that there was no gala event and not even a whittling down of the Restaurant and Chef Awards finalists to a list of winners. (For a full rundown of a truly confusing year for the James Beard Foundation, consult this timeline.) Instead, the September 25 live Twitter broadcast was held to honor the nominees and previous award winners in categories like Leadership, Lifetime Achievement, and America’s Classics. READ MORE…
Michigan Wine Country: Michigan Wine Industry Rallies Around St. Julian Winemaker
Robbie Oxley, the 6-year-old son of St. Julian winemaker Nancie Oxley and her husband, Keith, died as a result of a freak accident that happened on Sept. 19.
When some of Nancie’s wine industry colleagues and friends learned of the tragedy, they sprang into action. Emily Dockery, executive director of the Michigan Wine Collaborative (MWC); Gina Shay, MWC vice president; and Cortney Casey, co-owner of Michigan By The Bottle tasting rooms, got together (virtually) and decided to create a MI Women in Wine network to in part find a way to support the family. READ MORE…
Wine Industry Network: Grape and Bulk Market Activity Increases as Wineries Seek Ways to Supplement a Smaller, Smoke Plagued Vintage
“There are some higher end and small luxury wineries that have decided not to do some estate and vineyard designate blends,” say Brian Clement, Vice President of Turrentine Wine Brokerage. “But there are no medium-large wineries that are forgoing the entire 2020 vintage. There is no reason for consumers to worry about the quality of 2020 wines when they come to market. Wineries will make sure the expected quality is in the bottle for what they release.” READ MORE…
Robb Report: Silver Oak’s First New Brand in 20 Years Is a Wine Worth the Wait
Does the reigning king of Cab regions need another Bordeaux blend? Absolutely, if it’s from Silver Oak.
For more than a few collectors, Silver Oak comes awfully close to being a synonym for California Cabernet. Launched in the early 1970s, the producer’s two Cabs—one from Napa Valley, the other from Sonoma’s Alexander Valley—earned cellar space quickly for impressive ageability. The iconic water tower—on Silver Oak’s Oakville property and depicted on the label—is recognized world-wide. Even the smell of the wine is memorable: hints of vanilla and coconut from the American oak barrels founders Ray Duncan and Justin Meyer chose for aging their Cabernets. READ MORE…
Around the World
SevenFifty Daily: The Zimbabwean Somm Reimagining South Africa’s Wine Industry
How Tinashe Nyamudoka is creating a new model for a Black-owned wine brand in a country fraught with inequality
There is no direct English translation for the word “kumusha.” In Shona, Zimbabwe’s primary language, it means “your home, your origin, your roots.”
The term conjures the “feeling of belonging” rather than a physical place, explains Tinashe Nyamudoka, which is exactly why he christened his brand Kumusha Wines. “I want to embrace wine in my own space, within my own culture,” says Nyamudoka, the Zimbabwean native who, in the space of a decade, has become one of the most acclaimed sommeliers in South Africa.
“For Black Africans, wine is not historically part of our culture,” he says. “I wanted to create a wine to help change that.” READ MORE…
Decanter: Changyu ‘Purple Air’: A new Ningxia wine style?
The new high-end wine from Changyu’s Ningxia estate in China clearly has the top players in its sights, says Sylvia Wu, who also reports on other winemaking projects and plans at this well-known producer.
It all started as a ‘secret project’ when Lenz Moser became fully involved in winemaking at Chateau Changyu Moser XV (CCMXV) in 2015, following a decade of collaboration in sales and marketing with Changyu, China’s largest winemaking company.
The premium project only ‘got serious’ from the 2016 vintage. Moser selected grapes from a small fraction from the 250 hectares (ha) of vines managed by the producer, with the initial goal to make 12,000 bottles of premium red wine that ‘can play [in] the top league of China’. READ MORE…
wine-searcher: India’s Unique Spirit Blossoms in the Bottle
Although whiskey is by far the most popular drink in India, a unique native spirit hopes to change things.
The boot of British colonialism is finally being removed from India’s bar cabinet, more than 70 years after India gained independence. Soon, hopefully, we’ll all be able to taste one of the world’s most unique spirits.
In the 1800s, the British tried to stamp out mahua, the world’s only liquor made solely from flowers. When they ran colonial India, the Brits wanted all alcohol revenue to go their distilleries. Mahua, usually made and sold by women, was a threat to their rum sales.
Mahua is an incredible plant. The trees grow all over central and western India. The fragrant flowers have high enough sugar content to ferment by themselves. Other flower-flavored liquors add an essence of the plant to a spirit base, but mahua flowers are like grapes: left on their own, they will become alcohol. Mahua is a gift from the gods and is prevalent in Indian mythology, and no wonder, because wild animals love to eat the flowers and get intoxicated. READ MORE…
Bloomberg: Bats Are the Newest Key to Producing a Fine Bottle of Bordeaux
As vintners in the storied region face challenges from both climate change and Covid-19, studies are being undertaken to show how bats can boost harvest and quality.
Pests are what inspired Bordeaux winemakers to turn to local bats to help save the day. While studies are still determining how much the winged mammals have helped boost harvest yields and quality, the region’s winemakers have embraced them, figuratively speaking. Other renowned French wine regions are taking note. READ MORE…
CBS12: ‘Hocus Pocus’-themed wines arriving in time for Halloween
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV) — Get ready to run amok with some wine that just might put a spell on you this Halloween. That’s right: Wines themed after the 1990’s favorite “Hocus Pocus” are here. And no, this isn’t just a bunch of hocus pocus. READ MORE…
Slash Gear: Taco Bell says it has seen ‘mind-boggling’ demand for Jalapeño Noir wine
For reasons that aren’t entirely clear, fast food company Taco Bell has introduced its own wine product called Jalapeño Noir. The company describes its wine as the perfect complement to its Toasted Cheesy Chalupa, a type of taco made with fried bread instead of a soft or crunchy shell that was recently added to the company’s menu. The catch? You’ll have to visit Canada to get your hands on the bottled wine. READ MORE…
Wine Industry Network: The Biggest Self-Pour Winery in the Country Now in Texas
Wanderlust Wine Co. features a 56-tap self-serve wine beverage wall, where customers can pour their own wines themselves and pay by the ounce.
Wanderlust Wine Company offers customers the opportunity to travel to different parts of the world tasting a vast selection of wines with their 56-tap self-pour wine wall, powered by PourMyBeer technology. This self-serve wall allows them to do so in a more sustainable and eco-friendly way with a 96% reduction in their carbon footprint and 2,340 pounds of waste saved from landfills. 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.
The Wine Knitter: Celebrating Women In Wine
I was recently invited by Bethany Burke of Taub Family Selections to join a panel discussion and virtual tasting on Zoom, focusing on “The Next Generation of Women In Wine”. Dr. Laura Catena of Bodegas Catena Zapata & Bodegas CARO in Mendoza, Argentina moderated this lively discussion. She was joined by panelists Anne Trimbach, of Trimbach in Alsace, France, Laure Colombo, of Vins Jean-Luc Colombo in Cornas, Rhone Valley, France and Alessia Collauto Travaglini of Travaglini in Gattinara, Piemonte, Italy. These accomplished and talented women were all born into multi-generation family-owned wineries, but their backgrounds and the paths they took before joining the family business are diverse. However, they all share the experience “as women” of assuming an important position and role in their family wineries. READ MORE…
Jamie Goode: Crushing on Croatia: the wines, regions and grape varieties (Guest Post)
Before lock down and travel restrictions became a wine writer’s reality, I was able to wander the wine regions of Croatia and taste loads of wonderful wines. It’s still a relatively unknown region that hasn’t been visited by many international wine journalists and was a voyage of discovery to be sure: with equal measure stepping back in time as well as a glimpse into the future of winemaking in this slice of south Eastern Europe.
There’s no denying that many parts of Croatia are just jaw dropping beautiful. A country of hundreds of islands and coastal inlet villages on the Eastern Adriatic, sweeping panoramic vistas of the Slavonian plains, verdant vineyards planted on the reddest soils along with hill top and historic walled cities (Game of Thrones anyone?) that rival the best in Europe. But beauty and tourism destination potential aside, ask your average wine consumer what she or he knows about Croatian wine and you’re likely get a lot of blank stares. READ MORE…
Vino Joy News: Japan to revise alcohol tax
The Japanese government has announced they will revise liquor taxes in October. Mari Yasuda reports from Japan on the impacts, and reactions from importers and merchants.
On October 1, the liquor taxes in Japan will be revised for the first time since 2006, which will see an increase of for wine while a decrease for sake.
The purpose of this revision is to eliminate the differences in liquor taxes among similar groups of alcoholic beverages to achieve what the Japanese government calls “a balance”. READ MORE…
Tim Atkin: The Joys of Serendipity
Beauty and youth are thought to be almost synonymous these days. I believe there are few areas of culture where that is less true than wine. Young wines, though they can be utterly delectable, are seldom complex or deeply interesting. They are often tightly wound, hardly at all unfolded. Age brings unfolding, and character, and a sense of having gone through something, of having met the vicissitudes of life with something like grace. There’s a beauty in that – and that goes for people as well as wines. READ MORE…
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