All posts filed under: California

For Natural Cork, Form Follows Function

For wine, as with most consumer goods, packaging is an obsession, and rightly so; its role in the commercial success of a product is undeniable. Packaging is usually the consumer’s first impression of a brand and it contributes greatly to the experience of enjoying wine. We touch a wine bottle repeatedly, often read and record the label in its entirety, gaze at it while we’re drinking and we may even save it for posterity. Considering the time, effort and resources that companies devote to wine packaging, labels seem to get the lion’s share of the attention. But that’s not always the case for products such as the cork which actually come in contact with the wine. “Cork tends to be treated like a commodity,” said Vance Rose, director of sales and marketing at Amorim, “and wineries often buy cork based upon price alone.” Read full article For Natural Cork, Form Follows Function here.

Tools of the Trade

Consumer acceptance of wine packaging other than glass is growing, but fine glassware remains the undisputed tool of choice for presenting, evaluating and fully appreciating wine. While both crystal and glass stemware share space on winery tasting bars, the move by wineries to upscale glassware frequently coincides with the addition of luxury tasting experiences designed to showcase top-tier wines. “We’ re seeing wineries choosing the best,” said Sylvie Laly, director of U.S. winery sales for Riedel, Spiegelau and Nachtmann. “When a winery using our non-varietal specific Riedel glass trades up to the varietal-specific series, tasting room managers can see that their consumers’ experience is being significantly enhanced, and that translates directly to increased sales for the winery.” For Riedel customers, that choice means a baseline increase in cost by about 30%. From the entrylevel Degustazione series, nonvarietal- specific glasses designed for basic wine styles, a 19.75 ounce red wine glass runs $2.99 per stem whereas a varietal-specific 21.5 ounce cabernet/merlot glass from Riedel’s Restaurant series runs $5.95 per stem. Read the full article Tools of …

Anderson Valley’s Pinot

Many Anderson Valley Pinot Noir producers time the commercial release of their wines around the annual Pinot Noir Festival and technical seminar, now in its sixteenth year. This year’s event took place in May, and some 40 producers poured their wines at Goldeneye Winery in Philo. As vintages go, 2010 and 2011 challenged producers in more ways than one. Yields were down in 2010 by as much as 30 percent due to a blast of heat in August. Fruit that wasn’t scorched that year ripened, but not overly, resulting in wines with good acidity and flavors. A wet 2011 had many producers scrambling to pick before October rains intensified pressure from botrytis. While Anderson Valley Pinot Noirs can be roughly sorted as one of two broadly-defined wine styles we’ll call “fragrant and sleek” and “bold and deep,” the string of cooler La Niña vintages that started in 2009 and continued through 2011 has closed the gap somewhat on that divide. With more generous vintages such as 2012 and 2013, which is shaping as warm and …

Rutherford Dust 2010

We’re kicking up the dust once again with the 2010 vintage presented by the Rutherford Dust Society at a blind tasting held at Beaulieu Vineyards’ Rutherford House in July. According to President Davie Piña, the Society is in the last stages of their watershed restoration project which has lessened erosion and reduced disease pressure along the 4.5 miles of riverbank that bisect the AVA. “Rutherford growers have given up eight acres of vineyard to restore the river,” said Piña who was met with a round of much-deserved applause for his pivotal role in managing the project. Across the 18 red wines shown that morning, vintage events in 2010 including cool, grey La Niña conditions punctuated by a severe heat spike and untimely rain during harvest produced a narrower range of styles. The tasting was organized moving clockwise around the AVA from west to east and conditions at Rutherford House were ideal with the wines being given time to aerate prior to the tasting. Read the full article at Rutherford Dust 2010.

Labor Crunch

Early responses to the California Farm Bureau Federation’s 2013 agricultural workforce survey point to labor shortages in excess of 30% and far more unmet demand for labor than in previous years. With the 2013 wine grape harvest beginning two weeks earlier than normal in California, at a time when the table grape harvest is peaking and berry crops are still in full swing, labor shortages were undeniable. According to Nat DiBuduo, president of Allied Grape Growers in Fresno, competition for seasonal employees is stiff as workers follow the highest-paying jobs. He cited instances of strawberry growers hiring vineyard workers, only to have raspberry growers step in and offer those workers higher wages. From all accounts, the money follows the most perishable crops. “There’s no question that wages are escalating and growers are stretching out the timing of their harvests,” DiBuduo said. “They are not getting as much fruiton the market as fast as they would like.” Fifth-generation Lodi grower Kyle Lerner was pressing chardonnay when he gave Vineyard & Winery Management an account of the …

Long-lived Lake County

Wine quality has been on the rise in Lake County and winegrowers there have their sights set determinedly on the future—and it’s a very bright one at that. Driven by increased demand for high-quality Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Sauvignon Blanc, the value of the region’s wine grapes climbed by 20 percent in 2012, reaching a ten-year high, while yields inched up by just three percent. Here at THE TASTING PANEl, we’ve been following winegrowing in Lake County closely for the last five years. When questions arose about the age ability of the region’s wines, we were quick to take up the challenge. More often than not, exposure to Lake County wines is limited to the supporting role they play in blends from nearby appellations. When this point was raised during a technical seminar hosted in June at MacMurray Ranch by the appellation’s winegrowers, Steele Wines’ Joy Merrilees had answers at the ready but no proof positive that the region’s high-elevation wines can withstand the test of time. Read the complete article here…Long-lived Lake …

Animated labels woo wine shoppers

It’s a common sight in any grocery store, perplexed shoppers surveying a wall of wine labels looking for visual clues that will help guide their choices.  While sale signs and shelf talkers are sure to draw the attention of some, an animated label with an image that has motion and depth is very likely to stop a shopper in their tracks.  That’s just what the makers of Spin the Bottle, a new wine brand by Buellton, Calif.-based Terravant Wine Company, are betting on. Terravant has packaged three wines – Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and a Red Blend –  priced at $11.99 under their own Spin the Bottle label.  With the tongue-in-cheek name and eye-catching label guaranteed to attract attention, the wines offer varietal, fruit-forward flavors without any distracting oak and should be hitting store shelves in the San Francisco Bay Area after July 1st.    Terravant crafts these and dozens of private label wines at the company’s custom service winery in Santa Ynez Valley.  Eric Guerra who is senior vice president of sales marketing for the …

Blind Wine Review: Premiere Napa Valley’s 2013 Multi-Vintage Perspective Tasting

While it’s possible to barrel taste recent vintages at many of the preview parties that take place around Premiere, the Napa Valley Vintners’ annual tasting and live barrel auction, a three-vintage, blind perspective tasting of ’08, ’09 and ’10 Cabernet Sauvignons and ’09, ’10 and ’11Chardonnays from 24 Napa Valley wineries was made to order for this column. Designed to demonstrate how Napa Valley vintages unfold over the short term, the multi-vintage tasting of 72 wines was held at the CIA’s Rudd Center on Friday, February 22. The wines presented were whittled down from more than 90 submissions in each category by a jury of local winemakers, buyers and educators including the CIA’s own Traci Dutton and Bob Bath, MS. Release dates are still in the works for many of the ’11 Chardonnays and the majority of ’09 and ’10 Cabernets. It’s worth noting that all of the wines were decanted into hourglass-shaped carafes which tended to work against the Chardonnays when they were poured through the necks of decanters being gripped by warm hands. …

Blind Wine Review: That Rutherford Dust

For this inaugural Blind Tasting, I delved into my notebook for highlights of ten wines that came out on top during an August 2012 presentation of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons from Napa Valley’s Rutherford AVA. The Rutherford Dust Society tasting presented 27 wines from the 2009 vintage—in reverse order from tastings held in prior years. Three flights of nine wines began with those from Rutherford’s most southwesterly sites and moved north and across the AVA, concluding with wines from the most southeasterly sites.   1. Savory roasted nuts, cinnamon and black plum notes with dark berry flavors and silky, medium-weight tannins. $100 2. Earth and charred oak notes with bright, focused red fruit that deepens towards the finish. $65 3. Ripe, jammy blackberry complemented by toast and sweet vanilla with a generous structure that closes softly. $185 4. Floral, high-toned notes of lavender and blue fruit with bright plum and a savory, granular texture. $65 5. Anise and complex umami aromas; lean, intense dark fruit and leather finishing with notes of toasty caramel. $45 6. Bright, …

Eyes on the prize

Once you’ve made the decision to pursue a professional certification, there’s more to making the grade than meets the eye. For anyone considering, or already pursuing,one of the beverage industry’s most rigorous professional certifications — the Wine & Spirit Education Trust(WSET) Diploma—aligning your expectations and adopting strategies will make navigating the program easier and significantly more rewarding. With only 36 Diplomas awarded in the U.S. by the London-based WSET in 2008 (WSET now lists awards by year and Approved Program Provider), the benefits of sticking out this program, which can be completed in as little as two years or self-paced over a longer period, are many. WSET certification is a proven way to differentiate yourself in any job market. Diploma candidate William Emile Bond III recently accepted a position as a Northern Wildman and Sons, where his WSET status helped him connect. “As far as credentials go, it’s a valuable thing to have on your resume,” Bond says. “The hiring manager at Wildman earned his Diploma in New York, and it definitely caught his eye …