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Monday Meanderings: the Central Valley, Siduri, rainless January and more good news about red wine



One of the themes making the rounds at the recent Unified Wine & Grape Symposium was how poorly the Central Valley winegrape industry is faring.

You heard talk of it everywhere. As the Napa Valley Register reported, “In the San Joaquin Valley…bulk imports, costs, growing labor issues, water shortages and especially competition from beer and spirits are causing a market decline.”

The sad, bad news from the Central Valley contrasts with generally upraised spirits in California’s finer winegrowing regions along the coast. Yes, wineries are concerned with imports and the drought [see below]. But they’re also feeling upbeat about the future due to America’s rising economic conditions and the fact that the U.S. is now the world’s biggest wine market, and we’re apparently more willing to “buy more expensive wines.”

We premium wine drinkers have made fun of the Central Valley for years, but really, the valley has served a most useful purpose. Its grapes went into all those jug and boxed wines on the bottom shelf of the supermarket, which is where millions of Americans turn for their everyday wine; and, as Thomas Jefferson noted more than 200 years ago, “No nation is drunken where wine is cheap.” Of course, he added, “and none sober where the dearness of wine substitutes ardent spirits as the common beverage.” It seems that our Founding Fathers had a rather negative view of spirits. Imagine how they would react if they came back today and could see what superstars our mixologists have become!

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I obviously couldn’t be more pleased that Jackson Family Wines has purchased Siduri Wines. I’ve known Adam and Dianna Lee for a long time, profiled them in my second book, “New Classic Winemakers of California,” been a fan of their Siduri and Novy wines, and have valued Adam’s always insightful comments on this blog. So it’s an absolute pleasure for me to be able to call Adam and Dianna my professional colleagues. Welcome to the Family!

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You’ve probably heard the startling news: San Francisco in had its first rainless January ever in 165 years of weather-keeping, after one of the wettest Decembers in history.

No wonder we Northern Californians are feeling a little whiplashed. The general feeling among growers is that, if February and March are rainy, we’ll be okay despite this arid January. If not, then things could get quite serious in California. (As I write this, the forecast is calling for rain this Friday and Saturday, but it doesn’t look like a soaker.) Along with competition from imports and the battle over immigration, water (or the lack of it) has emerged to the forefront as a chief concern of wineries. Everybody is going to be carefully watching the skies over the next three months.


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By the way, it’s not “Cabernet over cardio,” as the writer of this article says, it’s Cabernet and cardio! A perfect pairing.

  1. Concerning the Central Valley: it has always been a puzzle to me why inexpensive wines in California don’t match the quality of similarly priced European wines. When I have traveled in France or Germany I have enjoyed modestly priced wines from grocery stores for picnic lunches, but I have been often disappointed by the equivalent California wines, which are often sweet and lacking in character. Part of the story seems to be poor matches of variety to climate. For example, instead of choosing a white variety that retains acidity in a hot climate, like Verdelho, Central Valley producers tend to give us flabby Chardonnays with a sweet finish. In recent years Languedoc producers have found their groove–Central Valley producers could benefit by making a similar effort to find the high road.

  2. Bob Henry says:


    Consumers don’t like to be put in the position of appearing to be “stoopid.”

    So they shy away from asking for a glass of (say) Gewurztraminer or Verdelho or Verdicchio because they don’t know how to pronounce the grape variety’s name.

    Imagine them trying to pronounce Greek grape varieties.

    (And after all these decades, consumers still ask: “What’s a Meritage white and red wine — and how do you pronounce that word?”)

    “White Zin” and “Chard” and “Cab” and “Merlot” (remember: don’t pronounce the silent “t” — those silly Frogs!) are easy to say, and easy to drink for the 84% of “noncore” wine drinkers who consume 4% of the wine.

    As distinct from the “16% of core wine drinkers [who] consume wine once a week or more frequently . . . [accounting] for around 96% of consumption” who know grape variety names.

    ~~ Bob

  3. Bob Henry says:

    “Ripped from the headlines . . .”

    Another Pinot Noir producer in the news:

    “The Inside Story Of Wagner’s $315 Million Sale Of Meiomi”


    A shout-out to Brian Loring: hey bud, are you next?

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