Posts Filed Under wine news
The topic is old news now, and while revisiting it runs the risk of sounding a late-to-the-party bell with overtones of “me, too!,” I do think I can offer you something new on the latest (and largest) piece of wine biz news.
I’m speaking of the news last week of uber-wine-critic Robert Parker passing on tasting/reviewing responsibilities for California wine to Antonio Galloni at The Wine Advocate. There have already been several takes on the news in blogosphere, with my faves coming from W. Blake Gray and Jeff Lefevere (both of whom do a stellar job of covering the big and small of the wine industry and provide thoughtful commentary on the potential ripple effects).
When the news broke, I was in Portugal where the Parker news wasn’t even news, presumably because The Wine Advocate doesn’t pay much attention to Portuguese table wines (or so it might be argued by the Portuguese table wine industry, anyway). So I was totally unaware of the announcement from Parker, or the ensuing coverage in the wine media, until I returned at the close of that work week.
Now, what’s to be said about Parker no longer covering CA wines that hasn’t already been said?
Well, as most of you out there will recall, I interviewed Parker not too long ago, and while that hardly qualifies as having a window into his soul, it might be just enough access to have formulated a different – and more cautionary – viewpoint into his recent decision…
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Remember how the Northern California 2010 vintage was kind of “difficult?”
Oh, right, it’s impossible to avoid that news lately… not that I’m complaining, mind you (it’s better to have a bit too much wine coverage than too little!), nor am I trying to minimize or make light of the plight and hardship faced by those in N. CA whose grapes didn’t fare the strange growing season well.
Further developments on the harvest have been trickling into my (poor, overworked and overburdened) e-mail Inbox,and one note in particular regarding the 2010 vintage situation caught my eye: that at Hidden Ridge, whose wines, you may remember, I quite enjoy.
The title of the email was “Sonoma County’s Hidden Ridge Vineyard Will Not Harvest This Year Due to Inconsistent Growing Season” which I suppose just about sums it up, but here’s an excerpt from the dispatch for the curious:
“Hidden Ridge Vineyard Proprietors Casidy Ward and Lynn Hofacket, along with Winemaking Team Marco DiGiulio and Timothy Milos, today announced that they will not harvest any fruit from the Hidden Ridge Vineyard in 2010 season because of this year’s inconsistent growing season… This year’s late season, followed by recent rains in Northern California, resulted in fruit that was not up to Ward and Hofacket’s standards for their vineyard’s eponymous wine label. While it was difficult decision to go without a 2010 vintage wine for Hidden Ridge Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, which retails for $40, the choice is in keeping with the proprietors’ commitment to produce only the best wines possible from their vineyard.”
This got me wondering… since Hidden Ridge recently took the bold (but successful) maneuver of reducing their prices (without impacting quality one iota), are they in a good position to weather (sorry…) the financial storm of not producing a 2010 bottling? Given the limping state of the economy, is anyone?
I, for one, sure hope so.
But there’s a more insidious side to this crazy vintage coin. Actually, there’s three other sides (this is a very oddly-shaped coin):
- It’s a chilling indicator of the areas that didn’t fare well over the past growing season in Northern CA.
- It’s an obnoxiously powerful reminder from Mother Nature that she still rules the roost, and when she wants to take her ball and go home, well, dammit, she’s just gonna take her f*cking ball and go the f*ck home.
- It’s a timely warning to us consumers that while it’s very likely that there will be other N. CA producers who come to similar conclusions as HR about the state of their fruit, they just might decide to bottle it anyway…
In the immortal words of Mr. Mike Brady, “Caveat emptor…”
That’s the (apt) summary that winemaker and grower Steve Matthiasson gave me when I asked him how things were looking in Napa as they approached harvest of what has been one of the craziest growing seasons in recent memory.
There’s been much speculation in the wine press as to the impact that the bizarre Summer weather patterns would have on the quality of the fruit that will shortly be going into Napa’s wines, so I reached out to Steve for an update, because he’s probably the most passionate person I know when it comes to making great wine and growing great fruit in the Valley (since he does both, and does them both very well). A somewhat narrow view, arguably, but I’ll take a dispatch from the field over speculation, any day.
The short version of the Napa 2010 story is that it’s not all gloom-and-doom, but it does seem to be a case of feast-or-famine and a potential study in extremes.
While some varieties in particular, and some pockets of the Valley in general, are taking a nasty hit, others have fared pretty well – and some growers may actually be onto fruit that could result in extremely high-quality wines, despite the atypical weather…
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I don’t normally read press releases that are e-mailed to me (usually they are destined for the Delete key), but this one hit my (perpetually overflowing, groaning from the strain and taxed beyond all logical, sane measure) Inbox last night and it caught my eye for reasons that will appear obvious in just a minute.
First a bit of background: A few days ago, the Mutineer Magazine blog pointed out a unique contest being held by Washington producer Hedges Family Estates, in which they (HFE, not Mutineer) were offering magnums of HFE wine and other culturally-minded prizes to seven contest winners who would be chosen after submitting mission statements for the terroir of the Red Mountain AVA on Hedges’ Facebook page.
Oh, yeah – and also agreeing to tattoo the Red Mountain AVA symbol (a red triangle with sunbursts surrounding it) somewhere on their bodies.
No, I am not making this up.
In any case, it was substantiated by the press release that I received last night. What really struck me, though, was not the call to ink (I’ve certainly got nothing against tattoos, and in fact have been waffling on getting my own for about, oh, four or five years now), but that the AVA tattoo itself was being proffered as an act of rebellious defiance. Against the 100 point wine scoring system…
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