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In the future, everyplace will be “the next Napa” for 15 minutes

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It’s a slow news day, it’s been a long week, so you’ll have to cut me some slack here with this rather tongue-in-cheek post that actually does contain a kernel of observational sanity. An online news site, Uncover California, has a story today that claims Many people believe the promising wine region of the Valle de Guadalupe in Baja California, Mexico, has the potential to become ‘the next Napa Valley’…”.

I did a quick Google search on “the next Napa” and it resulted in 9,170 hits. The first was called “5 Reasons why Lodi, California is the Next Napa Valley.”

Another is headlined “Texas Hill Country: The Next Napa?” (I like the way it hedges its bets with that strategic little question mark, rather like the fig leaf that Renaissance painters used to discretely place over Adam’s private parts.)

Then there’s good ole Fox News, which doesn’t exactly call New Mexico, Virginia and Ohio “the next Napa” but but implies they could be: “Look out Napa: 5 up and coming wine regions.” (Hey Rupert Murdoch, tell your writers not to forget the proper use of the hyphen.)

Finally, “Is the North Fork the Next Napa Valley?” asks Hamptons, an online zine.

Some of this is crass promotional over-zeal. Some of it may actually be believed by the people claiming it. But it’s an interesting angle on the hold that Napa Valley has on our collective imagination.

That there currently is only one Napa Valley is indisputable, the way there is only one Pope or one World Series champ. But speculation over who the next one will be is one of the delights of the media, and especially of headline writers, a breed unto themselves whose role in formulating the template of the day has never been properly analyzed. (My favorite headline of all time goes all the way back to 1975: FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD.” That would be President Gerald Ford and New York City, respectively.)

Sorry to end the fun, kids, but there won’t be a “next Napa Valley.” The time is gone when an American wine region can leap to the top of the charts and fire everybody up. That train left the station in the 1990s and isn’t coming back. The public is too smart to fall again for such an anointing by the media, especially the wine media, whom it doesn’t much trust these days.

Have a great weekend!

  1. If I see “The Next Napa Valley” as the title I most likely skip it altogether. Not because it offends my sensibilities but because the writer has most likely written a shallow piece about the area (Sunset Magazine is guilty of this), with little real content and no sense of history.
    In speaking with a variety of Lodi area growers and winemakers I found a healthy respect for Napa but no desire to emulate it. Amador Wineries don’t want to be the “Next” anything. They have vineyards as old as California itself and have no need to jump anyone else’s train.
    And as to Paso Robles, Santa Barbara, Willamette, etc.., They are more likely to say they are “Nothing Like” Napa as a selling point, and I agree.
    I don’t hate Napa like some. I appreciate it for what it is. And if it weren’t the benchmark for American wine nobody would be constantly (rabidly) taking pot-shots at it.

    Or comparing themselves to it

  2. Ian Burrows says:

    I catch myself giggling internally every time a guest in the restaurant from “insert obscure wine growing region here” claims that I should come and visit because 10 years from now it’ll be over-run with tourists searching for wines because there’s real potential….

  3. Kind of like the headlines that read ‘The Next Great Variety’, eh?!?!?

  4. Hey Ian, hope you’re well!

  5. Bob Henry says:

    Quoting the opening two paragraphs of last Saturday’s “On Wine” column in The Wall Street Journal by Lettie Teague:

    “Why is it that every obscure but promising wine region is inevitably touted as ‘the next Napa Valley’? As someone who recently visited one such location, I can attest that this predictive moniker isn’t always totally accurate.

    “For years I’d read accounts of the great potential of the Valle de Guadalupe in Baja California, Mexico, an up-and-coming wine destination full of talented winemakers, ambitious restaurants and boutique hotels. Recently I set off to see the place for myself.”

    Link: http://online.wsj.com/articles/the-best-wines-of-mexicos-burgeoning-baja-region-1405697468

    Speaking as a Californian with “a few” years of wine drinking experience, allow me to opine that Baja can aspire — at best — to be the “next” Temecula.

  6. You are all wrong, I just bought 50 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon Land (with Bob Foley’s Money)in Anchorage Alaska, the TRUE next Napa! Don’t you read the news anymore?

  7. Alaskan Cabernet is too tannic. Truly supple, world-class Cabs will be made in Iceland, which already is warm enough for the production of sparkling wine.

  8. Bob Henry says:

    The dark side of the moon is “warm enough” for the production of sparkling wine.

  9. I like the article. I wouldn’t bet on your last paragraph being true though.

    “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.” H. L. Mencken

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