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Global warming, Dungeness crab and congratulations to Lodi!

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It’s really shocking that State officials here in California have postponed the start of Dungeness crab season, and may have to cancel it altogether, due to the presence in the crabs of a neurotoxin, apparently as a result of the warm ocean temperatures offshore in advance of the coming El Nino.

Dungeness crab is not only a San Francisco tradition, it’s a multi-million dollar industry that employs, directly and indirectly, thousands of people. I can remember my first taste of the sweet crustacean. It must have been the late 1970s, maybe 1980. I’d invited an old college buddy over to my place. I had the crab (and sourdough bread and butter). He brought a split of Meursault. That was one of those wine-and-food pairings that lives on in my memory.

This whole climate change phenomenon is really gathering force. I’m still reading—slowly and delightedly—Benjamin Lewin MW’s new book, Wines of France, where it seems as if every section on regions mentions “global warming” that is heating up Europe’s vineyards and has made England a wine-producing country. Without wading politically into the global warming mire, it does seem odd to me that in Europe the concept of man-made global warming has more or less been accepted by everyone, as opposed to this country, where—well, you know.

Other than warmer oceans, what have been the effects of climate change on the land and the vineyards? Dramatically warmer nights (not necessarily warmer days) are leading to earlier and earlier harvests. (I don’t know if the drought is a result of climate change. California has periodic droughts; when I moved here, in 1978, we were in the middle of a huge one.)

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Moving right along: I did a little tasting yesterday of inexpensive, supermarket Cabernet Sauvignon from California, and was pleasantly surprised. It seems to be a lot easier to make a good $10 or $12 Cabernet than it is to make a good Merlot or Chardonnay at the same price. What is it about Cabernet Sauvignon that lets that be so? Is that why they call it a “noble” variety? But they say Pinot Noir also is noble, and you know that there is no good $10 California Pinot Noir out there. Cabernet ripens easily, is pretty resistant to mold, produces in good quantities, and can grow well even in the Central Valley (hence all the “California” appellations on these bottlings). Speaking of which, I was surprised, but kind of happy, to see Wine Enthusiast choose Lodi as their Wine Region of the Year (not that I’m saying Lodi is in the Central Valley. But it’s close).

I haven’t tasted much Lodi wine over the last 8 years or so, ever since Virginie Boone came to Wine Enthusiast and took over that territory, but it’s safe to say I hadn’t been much of a fan up to then, anyhow. The wines always seemed boring to me—industrial wines, sound, varietally proper, but blah. But that was years ago, and I’m prepared to believe they’re doing good, artisanal things in that complicated, fairly large AVA-in-the-Delta. Way to go, Lodi.

  1. Lodi is in the Central Valley. It just happens to be a section that gets cooling delta breezes in the summer.

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