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Tuesday Twaddle

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It was nice to see my blog listed the other day as one of seven “Must-Read Wine Blogs” on Forbes.com. Also on the list were Tyler Colman (Dr. Vino), Alice Feiring, Alder Yarrow (Vinography), Tom Wark (Fermentation), Wineanorak, and Eric Asimov’s The Pour.

Not bad company for a little blog!

Everybody’s doing the Millennial Stomp

Meininger’s Wine Business International headlines “How the Millennials think” and writes an analysis of how the wine industry can capture the their interest. I was reading it (“To communicate better to young people, we also use the Internet”) when an email came in from the Wine Institute. In conjunction with the California Association of Winegrape Growers, they’re having a “dialogue session” where we will “hear young California vintners and growers” talk about such things as “Hip and Trendy Marketing” and “The Next Generation: Passing the Torch.” An interesting move for these two old organizations — both fairly stodgy and not known for being “hip and trendy.”

So did the rains hurt, or not?

We won’t actually know for a while if the October rains harmed the grapes still on the vine (mainly Cabernet and Syrah) in the North Coast. Common sense suggests they did, along with the humid days that followed. I’ve gotten emails in the last 24 hours saying, in essence, no harm done. For example, the Russian River Valley Winegrowers put this out yesterday: “Contrary to popular belief, recent rains haven’t been the worst case scenario for most of the growers in the Russian River Valley.” And today’s Santa Rosa Press Democrat quotes Bob Anderson, executive director of the United Winegrowers for Sonoma County, as saying, “I think it has been a mad scramble ever since that big rain, but it looks in pretty good order now.”

True, the weather for the last week has been pretty spectacular: warm, dry days, gentle breezes, just about perfect. My concern, though, is whether the damage was already done, with botrytis in those bunches, especially in the cooler areas. Anderson’s money quote cuts to the heart of the matter: “Growers and wineries are still looking at some of the ‘cab’ and the debate is whether there are going to be some warming up days ahead of them this week…The problem is that the sugar levels have not changed much over the last couple weeks, so time is running out.” Yes, time is running out, and more rain is coming in. Unripe Cabernet is not good, especially if it’s infected with botrytis, although the “noble mold” may make for some spectacular dessert wines.

* * *

I am off this morning to an Appellation St. Helena tasting at the Rudd Center. This is always a fun, instructive event at which I try, and usually fail, to find something truly “St. Helena-esque” in the Cabernets and Bordeaux blends. I think I “get” Oakville (blackcurrants) and Rutherford (sour cherrry), but St. Helena confounds me. Is it possible to isolate a flavor or textural particularity, or is that paradigm a dated, 19th century one appropriated from the Médoc? I’m more inclined toward the latter explanation, although I’m sure some of the speakers will describe for us some St. Helena attributes that, once we hear them, we will instantly find in the wines.

  1. Except the world has changed from “marketing at people” to “engaging with your current and potential customers”. And it’s not just about Millennials…

  2. Re: St. Helena–

    This will probably not get posted until Steve gets back from the tasting. I usually go but this year has had interruptions and so I am not attending.

    But, last year’s speaker essentially told us why St. Helena is not as easily pigeon-holed as Rutherford or Oakville–although there are major differences from one side to the valley to the other in those appellations as well.

    St. Helena sits at what has been described as the belt line of the Napa Valley. The valley narrows right at St. Helena and there are changes in climate because of the that narrowing from the north end of the belt line to the south end. Morevoer, and this is something I hope they discuss in greater detail, there are six distinct alluvial fans in the St. Helena appellation, and these fans (think of the westside of the Valley from Oakville north to St. Helena as one giant fan providing many of the definitive Napa Valley Cabs, have their own contributions to character regardless of where the sit north or south of the St. Helena beltline.

    That is why we all have trouble defining a precise St. Helena style–because land mass, soil type, exposure, etc, vary so distinctly from place to place to place within St. Helena.

    In time, it is my hope that “commune” style appellations like St. Helena, Rutherford, Oakville and others will be augmented by smaller distinctions that are more given to wine-style similarity rather than geographic proximity.

    Apologies to Steve for reporting on something I am not attending this year, but I am looking forward to his report on this year’s tasting.

  3. We were fortunate enough to join the ranks of properties unscathed by the rain. I received the numbers from the president of our team and apparently it had rained a whopping 4 inches in 36 hours during that first big storm. California offers such interesting extremes; months of unfettered sun, hours of down-pouring rain.

  4. Charlie, I’ll have some comments on the tasting tomorrow.

  5. Congrats on the (well-deserved) nod in the Forbes piece!

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