Posts Filed Under wine news
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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If you live in the U.S. (and chances are high that if you’re reading this, you are in the U.S.), then it’s likely that you’ve been drinking some low-priced Malbec wine lately.
Don’t take my word for it – for some hard data on Malbec drinking trends in the U.S., you can check out a recent article by Laura Saieg on WineSur.com:
“According to a report issued by Nielsen, in the last 52 weeks, the consumption of Malbec grew by 60%. This makes Malbec the best performing variety in the US market… In 2009, in spite of the pronounced decline of American economy, there was a consumption increase of 6 million cases with respect to 2008. Most of these cases were within the retail price bracket of under USD 10 per bottle. This was due to the fact that, in response to the crisis, consumers changed their habits and chose less expensive wines. Americans changed from consuming less expensive bottles to focusing on obtaining the best possible value. Restaurant wine sales fell by 6% to 9% this year as consumers, under tight budgets, stopped dining out and preferred to stay at home and buy wine at wine stores.”
Maybe you’ve had one (or several) of those extra 72 million bottles of Malbec consumed in the good ol’ U.S. of A. last year? Looks like we can’t get enough of the stuff.
What’s most interesting, from a marketing / consumption / trending standpoint, is that you probably had that bottle at home while overall you were drinking less expensive wine (in both senses of the term).
By any measure, that’s a big coop for Malbec producers during the global recession, and it will be interesting to see if the trend continues. It’s unclear from the WineSur.com article if most of the Malbec that we Americans gulped down was from Argentina, but it’s not unreasonable to conclude that.
Which might be why the French, who invented the stuff, are coming (possibly quite late) to Malbec bandwagon party…
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