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Friday Fishwrap


Do you care which wines Obama served British Prime Minister Cameron at the White House? I don’t. But some muckraking journalists do. They’re making a big fuss over the secrecy because the President’s staff is all mum’s the word. Even BloombergBusinessWeek has waded into the pseudo-controversy, as if this were another “Gate” scandal akin to Watergate. People, get a grip. We have more important things to worry about than which wine was poured and how much it cost.

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In a related absurdity, the inevitable has finally occurred in China, as concerns over fake Bordeaux mount following the bubble-like price explosion of Lafite, etc. Why nobody saw this coming is beyond me. China bootlegs everything else of value; why not fine wine? When I was at Screaming Eagle on Wednesday we had a long talk about counterfeit wine. The management of Screaming Eagle, understandably concerned (the wine sells for $750 a bottle on the mailing list), described to me in some detail the steps they go through to avoid it. I’ll skip some of the details, but let’s just say that every bottle is “tagged” in the same way my dog, Gus, has a microchip in him that’s exclusive to him.

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I’m seeing a lot of mold on the 2010 Pinot Noirs, which are now rushing in for me to review. In my Vintage Diary that year, I quoted, on Oct. 28, an article from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat that said “Last weekend’s rain added to an already miserable season. It spawned mold…Damaged fruit was left hanging on the vine.” I’ve encountered it particularly in Sonoma Coast and Carneros Pinots.

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Yes, the price on California wine is going up. We all know that. It’s due to several factors: light crops due to the weather, a lack of new plantings due, in part, to the recession, and increased demand. This article describes how it’s playing out in the Central Coast, but the same is true of the North Coast. That doesn’t mean consumers won’t be able to find inexpensive California wine. They will, but it will increasingly come from Central Valley grapes. Central Valley grapegrowers are aware of this, and are reacting accordingly. They’re planting new vineyards, improving quality and are no longer content with being known as a source of inferior jug wine. As a result, “the wine grape industry in the Central Valley has strengthened,” according to the Porterville Recorder.

Don’t forget, the Feds require only 75% of a varietal wine to be made from the named variety. That means 24.9% can come from someplace else. Next time you drink a nice coastal California wine, remember that factoid.

  1. Mike Officer/Carlisle Winery says:

    In 2010, to the best of my knowledge most (like 99+%) of Pinot noir was picked well before October 21st. In fact, most was probably picked in September with the bulk of the remainder being picked in the first two weeks of October. Given the weather and pick dates, hard to imagine mold being an issue.

    And regarding your factoid on labeling, perhaps you meant “That means 24.9% can come from other varieties.” As it reads now you’re mixing up laws for stated variety with laws for appellation of origin.

  2. James McCann says:

    I for one am very glad that wine is now a state secret. If I had to hear one more winery brag about the great honor of being served at the White House… we can all rest easy now.

  3. I am in agreement with Mike concerning the mold (non)issue for 2010. I spoke to growers in the North Coast and virtually everyone who wanted to make a quality wine lost 35 to 40% of their fruit due to the heat spike yet harvest was uneventful. In tastings of nearly a hundred $40+ 2010 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir over the last month for the most part they are fine (88 – 92 range). What are the markers for mold in Pinot Noir and are you detecting it in a wide spectrum of price points?

  4. Let them eat cake, Steve – I believe that is the concern re: wines at the WH. While, I may start a firestorm, I believe it was all a big Republican conspiracy – in the recent past, the WH served an approximate $28 Chardonnay and a $49 Cabernet (I won’t mention the name) and the Republican outcry was that Obama was drinking expensive wine while the US populace suffered – and besides, Obama is a wine snob.

    This time, I believe the Republicans thought Obama was serving French wine (oh, horrors!) because it was British PM Cameron (and we all know those snooty Brits love le vin Francais) and thus the Republicans would have critiqued the WH for serving “feren” (foreign) wine and not US wine. If Obama had served US wine that was deemed exepnsive (anything over $10 a bottle unless the Republican is drinking it and then any price is OK), then the Reps would have critiqued the WH for it’s “let them eat cake” attitude of serving expensive wine while Americans suffer. If the WH had served $10 wine, the Reps would have critiqued them for serving cheap wine to a Head of State…

    So, you see, it’s a win, win situation… BTW: I used to be a Republican, but am now in the nebulous “independent” realm. So, for all of you (the millions who read Steve’s blog) who are going to say I’m some left winger, you’re wrong…

  5. James McCann says:

    Dear Left-Winger,

    Yes, the new Social Director is actually a Republican plant and he is paid by both the Catholic Church and Haliburton to leave wines off of the official menu. I can’t believe you already discovered the Great Republican Wine List Scandal To Win Back The White House Conspiracy! Woodward couldn’t have done better!

  6. Doug, the marker for me is the smell of mold. Hard to describe.

  7. James McCann says:

    Looks like Doug is trying to build a business on the back of someone else’s blog. Interesting.

  8. Regarding appellations varieties, 85% of grapes must to come from the appellation on the label. So while some may be mixing Central Valley grapes into their Central Coast wines, they would have to keep it at 14.9% or less.

  9. Unless the origin is a generic California, then 100% of the grapes must be from the state. If it says Napa (or any other AVA), 14.9% can come from Argentina… If it is most other state or county designations, the minimum is only 75%…

  10. Steve, thanks.

  11. If you’re not interested in what wine people are drinking, any and all people, then maybe you could start blogging about the “more important things to worry about”…Education, or green energy perhaps? Me, I just love wine.

  12. Vinogirl, I do a lot of online writing about other topics on my Facebook page, which is usually a pretty lively place!

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