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Friday Fishwrap: the S.F. Chronicle, and the Petaluma Gap

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It’s really sad how the San Francisco Chronicle’s wine coverage has dropped off the cliff since the paper and Jon Bonné parted ways.

I didn’t always agree with Jon. I hated his attitude towards alcohol and thought he was unfair in his treatment of California wineries. But at least Jon was a true wine writer: passionate, opinionated and with the means to taste broadly and deeply.

Now that he’s gone, the Chron—which is not only Northern California’s largest-circulation newspaper but is based in the gateway to wine country, San Francisco—is barely covering wine at all. I’ve read the Chron for more than thirty years, and this is the worst its wine reporting has ever been. It is, to the best of my memory, the first time in decades that the paper hasn’t had a fulltime wine writer/critic.

The need for having one is obvious. Wine is huge in Northern California. Nearly everybody drinks it. Food and restaurants also are huge in Northern California; people love to eat out, or tinker in their kitchens. The Chron does a very good job of covering food and restaurants. And what beverage is more intimately connected with food than wine?

I suspect, although I can’t prove it, that the Chron canned its wine coverage because wineries don’t advertise. I understand that ads, not subscriptions, are what keep print publications afloat. I suppose it made sense, in a green eyeshades way, for the Chron’s management to ditch wine. But it doesn’t make sense from the standpoint of being a great newspaper.

* * *

I’ve been thinking of that winegrowing area east of Petaluma in Sonoma County where the Sonoma Coast, Carneros and Sonoma Valley AVAs all sort of come together. It’s a weird little place whose most significant terroir impact comes from the Petaluma Gap. Up until fairly recently, we hadn’t seen many vineyards or grapes grown there, but that’s fast changing, especially with the growing popularity of Pinot Noir. Later today, I’ll be driving up to Hartford Court Winery, where we’re doing another of our weekly tastings, this time of Sonoma Coast Pinots. Among them is DuMol’s 2012 Eoin, made from grapes grown in the Sonoma Stage Vineyard, which is right in that funny area. It’s a cool-climate region, not as cool as, say, the Santa Maria Valley, but almost. There aren’t many new Pinot-growing areas in California that are interesting these days, but this one is. Stay tuned.

Petaluma_Gap_Map_JUL15

And have a great weekend!


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