Hello my people and happy weekend—happy long weekend for those who may have the three-day due to President’s Day on Monday. What is up with me, you ask? Well this weekend, I’ll be moderating the Rhone Rangers Experience in Paso Robles. Looking forward to seeing folks I haven’t seen in awhile, making some new friends, and of course tasting some fabulous wines.

What else? Oh yes, I’ve started teaching WSET classes, most recently at the newly created Odyssey Wine Academy. It’s so wonderful to share the knowledge and passion I’ve acquired over the years through my studies with fellow wine enthusiasts.

Alright, that’s all of my selfish news. You can find the real news below. Enjoy!



Wine Enthusiast: A Global Guide to Black-Owned Wine Labels

From a family-run Champagne house to a Chicago négociant, Black-owned wine labels abound. Here, a list of companies to seek out from the U.S., France, South Africa and beyond.

To share additional assets to include in this list, please email editor@wineenthusiast.netREAD MORE

Korea Herald: Shinsegae acquires Napa Valley winery for W299.6b

Shinsegae Property, the property development arm of Korea’s retail giant Shinsegae, said Wednesday it has acquired US winery Shafer Vineyards for 299.6 billion won ($250.3 million) to boost the group’s wine business.

“With the acquisition, we plan to further expand the group’s wine business by creating synergy with its Shinsegae L&B that is in charge of the wholesale distribution of wine and liquor,” a Shinsegae Property official said.

Industry sources say since Shinsegae L&B already has its own wine shop brand Wine and More, the company could expand its share in the local wine market by adding premium wine lineups produced in Shafer Vineyards in California’s Napa Valley. READ MORE

New Times: Local vintners rack up awards and help establish Paso as the capital of American Rhones 

There was a time when drinking a syrah—flagship wine of the Rhone Valley in France—was a distinctly French experience. However, the dense, dark grape now grows around the world, with particularly potent varieties hailing from the Central Coast.

Today, many consider Paso Robles to be the capital of New World Rhone.

Several wine-industry luminaries helped propel the predominantly cabernet sauvignon Bordeaux-focused region into the Rhone spotlight starting in the late 1970s. READ MORE

Wine Industry Advisor: Wine Label Color Drives Sales and Communicates Brand Values

The decision to buy one product over another often seems mysterious—whether analyzing broad purchasing data patterns, or considering why you decided to grab one can of beans over the other while grocery shopping.

Indeed, many of these decisions are subconscious and not completely rational.

About 95 percent of all purchasing decisions are completely subconscious, according Harvard professor Gerald Zaltman, who wrote the book, How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market. Around 93 percent of buyers say they rely on visual appearance when considering new products, with 85 percent saying color alone is the primary reason for buying a product. In fact, color alone can increase brand recognition by up to 80 percent, according to studiesREAD MORE

VinePair: Can Better Branding Boost Boxed Wine’s Reputation?

Much has been said about the merits of alternative packaging for wine, from longer shelf lives to a lower carbon footprint. Yet getting a dedicated wine drinker to shift away from a bottle-centric mindset remains tough, in part because of the widely held conception that the wine itself must be inferior. But in the wake of a recent “VinePair Podcast” episode, another thought struck me: Could the actual look and design of the boxes be part of the problem? READ MORE

Wine Industry Advisor: Wine Closures—An Open Discussion

There are a plethora of closure options for producers—all of which have different strengths and weaknesses in terms of the ability to preserve wine for long or short periods, consumer perception, and environmental impact. We spoke to vintners to find out which closures they favor, and why. READ MORE

EcoWatch: ‘Natural Wine’ Brings Artistic Sensibility to American Viticulture

The idea of winemaking may evoke an image of a hilly, sun-blanketed vineyard; a vision of humans working with nature to produce something blissful and decadent. What could be more natural than crushing grapes so that their skins naturally ferment, creating a beverage with a taste that represents the personality of the region where it was grown?

So all wine is natural, right? READ MORE

New York Times: 12 Natural Wines to Drink Now

For 20 years, natural wine has been dismissed as a fad or a fraud. Yet more people make it, more drink it and good bottles are easier to find.

As polarizing as natural wine has been, as heated and contentious as the arguments have gotten over its name and its reasons for being, its audience continues to expand, as do the number of producers.

Recently, I went shopping online for natural wines and found a dozen that are a pleasure to recommend. I might have included twice that many as I found bottles everywhere and from all over. The 12 I recommend are from New York, California, Australia, Chile, the Czech Republic, Spain, Germany, Austria, Italy and France. READ MORE

Drinks Business: Amendments made to alcohol and health recommendations in Europe

The European Parliament has acknowledged a difference between harmful and moderate alcohol consumption as it makes a final vote today on the adoption of a beating cancer report.

As db has written about extensively over recent weeks, the European Commission has approved the conclusion of a report from BECA – the European Parliament’s Special Committee on Beating Cancer – which stated that any amount of alcohol consumption carries a health risk; there is “no safe level”.

And, it is feared that such a report will lead to recommendations that EU member states impose a number of harsh measures on alcoholic drinks producers, from warning labels on bottles to bans on advertising and promoting drinks. READ MORE

Sonoma Index Tribune: County teams up with Mattsons to build Springs Plaza

Sonoma County has finalized a draft development agreement with Ken and Stacy Mattson, investors who have bought up dozens of properties throughout Sonoma Valley, to create a community plaza at the Post Office building in Boyes Hot Springs.

The project would convert the Post Office building at 22 Boyes Blvd. and its adjacent parking lot into a community plaza, according to documents of preliminary plans introduced in October at a Springs Municipal Advisory Council meeting. But the Mattson’s history of stalled projects has caused some apprehension among the members of the advisory council. READ MORE

Sonoma Index Tribune: Cheese Factory lawsuit rejected

A lawsuit challenging the City of Sonoma’s upholding an 18-year-old use permit for the Sonoma Cheese Factory was rejected this month in Sonoma County Superior Court, which described the legal rationale behind the suit as “flawed and unpersuasive.”

The decision by Superior Court Judge Arthur A. Wick paves the way for owners Sonoma’s Best Hospitality Group to operate under a 2004 use permit granted by the City, which allows the building to operate as a “shopping center” with up to nine retail tenants, including a delicatessen/restaurant in the 11,420-square-foot building on Spain Street. READ MORE

Press Democrat: Mask mandates lift Wednesday. What that means for Sonoma County

Wednesday morning marks the end of mask mandates in Sonoma County and the rest of California. Nevertheless, there are still scenarios where face coverings will be necessary.

Sonoma County officials are deferring to state guidelines, which still require anyone who isn’t vaccinated from COVID-19 to wear a mask in indoor public settings.

Mask restrictions across California and other parts of the country are being toned down as the latest data indicates significant declines in COVID-19 cases. But locally, there may still be places where you’ll have to don a face covering.

As of Tuesday, there were 8,996 active cases in Sonoma County, which was a decrease of 809 cases from the previous 24 hours.

There have been 464 deaths in Sonoma County since the pandemic began. READ MORE

Napa Valley Register: California adopts nation’s first ‘endemic’ virus policy

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday announced the first shift by a state to an “endemic” approach to the coronavirus pandemic that emphasizes prevention and quick reactions to outbreaks over mandates, a milestone nearly two years in the making that harkens to a return to a more normal existence.

Newsom said the approach — which includes pushing back against false claims and other misinformation — means maintaining a wary watchfulness attuned to warning signs of the next deadly new surge or variant.

“This disease is not going away,” he told The Associated Press in advance of his formal announcement. “It’s not the end of the quote, unquote, war.” 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.

Randy Caparoso: The Enduring Mythos of Wine

The wine world has always been full of myths—mystique and imagination play as big a part in our enjoyment of wines as facts and figures.

People like mystique.

Yet, almost all myths are eventually dispelled; at which point they become more like inconvenient truths, things that many cannot or will not accept. READ MORE…

Jancis Robinson: Vine-growing in Alaska and other points north

Over the summer last year I took several trips to Alaska to help family. I’d heard someone was growing vines in a greenhouse somewhere in Anchorage but didn’t take the idea that seriously. I’d assumed the vines were planted in pots, and surely that would never produce interesting wine. Besides the rumours of greenhouse vines, Alaska (like many other parts of the world) has also sold fruit-based wines. In Alaska’s case, most have been made from locally grown berries and are generally sweet. I question the stability of a few of them as there seems to be little concern for pH levels. But one evening I took my mom to dinner at her favourite restaurant, Southside Bistro on the south side of Anchorage. It’s a place my nieces essentially grew up in as it’s been my parents’ favourite place to eat for decades, and they prided themselves on teaching their grandkids how to behave when dining in public. I’m the only one of my siblings who lives outside the state, and my mom tells everyone I write about wine, so any visit I make to the restaurant includes talking with the staff about new wines that finally got to Alaska.

This summer the server brought me a total surprise. Bell’s Nursery had released its first commercial vintage of both a white and a red wine from Vitis vinifera they grew under a greenhouse in Anchorage. Tasting the white that evening, I was excited to find an entirely drinkable wine made in my home town. It was made from a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling and a splash of Sauvignon Blanc. The acidity was fresh and vibrant, the flavours clean. It was racy, aromatic, bright, and entirely unexpected. No, I would not compare it to white burgundy, nor the other great whites of the world, but that seemed to me entirely beside the point. READ MORE

Dame Wine: Top Wine Industry Leader Worked From The Bottom-Up

A woman could feel her palms sweat as she entered the traditional fine wine store filled with dark, beautifully carved wood shelves that contained expensive wine bottles from all over the world. She had been reading about one particular bottle from Burgundy, France that she wanted to purchase but she was new to wine and the anxiety of having to ask for the bottle was starting to build. As one of the staff members decked out with a jacket and tie approached her, she began to question her apparel in jeans and a t-shirt. “May I help you ma’am?” asked the man, and instantly the woman shouted, “I’m sorry, I am in the wrong store!” as she stormed out and caught her breath on the street corner. It was a moment that many, whether male or female, have lived through themselves when it has come to either visiting a high-end wine store or having to deal with an overwhelming wine list at a restaurant.

But interestingly enough, one of the top wine industry leaders in the U.S. breaks many stereotypes of how the traditional wine expert should look or what path she would have to take to achieve such status. READ MORE

The Wine Economist: Lessons from Catena & the Argentina Wine Miracle

Dr. Catena’s life in wine is indeed worth celebrating. He was a leading protagonist in what I call the Argentina wine miracle. An economist by training, Dr. Catena was a visiting professor at UC Berkeley in the early 1980s when he was inspired by what he saw happening in California. These were the exciting days that followed the 1976 Judgement of Paris, so there was energy and confidence in the air. READ MORE

Tablas Creek: Why Annual Rainfall Is the Wrong Metric to Understand California Weather

After our lovely, wet December, the last six weeks have been almost completely dry. The last week has seen headlines that feel like flashbacks to 2015 or 2016, including Brush fires rage in Southern California amid record heat, worsening drought (Washington Post), California’s Drought-Relief Dreams Are Quickly Drying Up (Bloomberg), and As drought continues, Southern California offers millions to buy Sacramento Valley water (Sacramento Bee). And yet, here at Tablas Creek, 2021 finished with above-average rainfall at nearly 30 inches.

Although we do get more rainfall than most of the Central Coast, we’re not alone in having 2021 be an above-average rainfall year. The city of Paso Robles recorded 16.75″, about 119% of their 75-year average. Downtown Los Angeles saw 14.27″ of rain, which was 98% of their 60-year average. So why are climatologists and reporters so downbeat about our current totals? READ MORE

Sovos ShipCompliant: Retention Pays Off Big in DtC Wine Shipping

This year’s annual Direct-to-Consumer Wine Shipping Report featured an additional set of data to help put the past two years of unprecedented winery shipment growth in context. Since the surge of shipment volume in March and April 2020, there has been sustained interest in trying to understand just how much of the increase in DtC shipping can be attributed to new consumers.

Based on internal Sovos ShipCompliant data on consumers who purchase for the first time from one of the company’s winery clients, these new buyers did have a larger than normal impact in 2020, but it was balanced out in 2021 as the channel reverted to a fairly pre-pandemic normal.

In 2019, the share of first-time buyers of all purchases was at nearly 56%. In 2020, that share jumped to 65%, yet by the end of 2021 it had fallen back to 57%. While the data relate only to Sovos ShipCompliant clients and not the entire DtC channel, these figures confirm that some of the DtC surge in 2020 was a short-term effect of the early months of the pandemic. READ MORE

Dame Wine: Champagne House That Saved A Town During WWI Is Now Saving Environment

Another blast sets a young woman’s nerves on edge as she whispers to herself, “I don’t think I can take much more.” The walls vibrated continuously, bringing anxious thoughts of whether the integrity of the building could hold and each hit triggered the battle she was fighting within herself; was it better to live above ground taking her chances of being bombed? Or was it better to resign herself to live underground with the possibility of being buried alive? During World War I, she was temporarily living in Champagne Lanson’s cellar, deep within the earth, among her family and neighbors in their beloved city of Reims, in the Champagne wine region of France.

Today it is much more common to focus on “the Greatest Generation” during WWII as it was a glorified time in history that shaped the future in ways that are still evident today, but another generation is often times not talked about… the “Lost Generation”. READ MORE

Press Releases

These are some press releases I received this week that I actually thought were interesting…enjoy!

Ciatti: Global Market Report

The first few weeks of 2022 on the bulk wine market can generally be characterised as hesitant, as last year’s OND sales and the coming crops in the Southern Hemisphere were assessed. The retail sales picture is difficult to generalise, but it looks like sales in those markets that received a pandemic bump are pulling back, while those that took a pandemic dip are recovering, so that – from a global perspective – sales volumes and patterns are evening back out to the pre-pandemic normal. COVID-19 is being referred to in the past tense in some markets – such as the UK and Scandinavia – and the WHO has said that, while the pandemic is not over, the world is now in a “ceasefire” with the virus “that could bring us enduring peace.” READ MORE


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Educational posts are in no way intended as official WSET study materials. I am not an official WSET educator nor do I work for a WSET Approved Program Provider. Study at your own risk. Read the full disclaimer.
**Please note: all reviews and opinions are my own and are not associated with any of my places of business. I will always state when a wine has been sent as a sample for review. Sending samples for review on my personal website in no way guarantees coverage in any other media outlet I may be currently associated with.**

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