|Cruise ship Old World wine selections|
|Grape flowering promotes Fruit set|
It is not surprising that in our absence our garden and in the surrounding vineyards things continued to grow in the Spring sunshine. Premium grape growing is farming, and as such is subject to many of the same factors and influences as those shouldered by apple or soybean growers. Here in California's North Coast, over the last 50 years premium grape growers have endured many cycles of supply and demand, threatening vineyard pests, and flavor-of-the-week consumer trends. In Sonoma County, every harvest following 2007 has been smaller than the one before, with harvest wild fires, critically wet Springs and irregular growing seasons thrown in along the way. With the nation's economy in recovery mode, wine bottle pricing at retail has for consumers has fortunately remained generally stable, if not stagnant. But now the winds of change are blowing across these vineyard lands.
Recent surveys from wineries and grapegrowers offered stark indications of what consumers should expect in the years ahead. Can you say 'domestic wine price increases'? My overview understanding is that the California bulk wine market(they buy unsold left-overs & lower end fruit) has very shallow inventories currently, and that grapevine nurseries have very little inventory for needed replanting or vineyard expansion. Industry symposiums in this part of the state have reported that wineries are working hard to secure long term grower contracts now after a succession of marginal volume harvests. To confirm, recent reports have indicated that many Lake County Sauvignon Blanc contracts have increased by as much as 50% for premium fruit that only last year could not find buyers. Here in Sonoma County we are seeing premium Cabernet Sauvignon fruit contracts now approaching double what they were just last year at this time!
Domestic wine consumers do have, of course, domestic options. In a recent addition of Wine Spectator (April 30 '12) more than 100 West Coast value wines were reviewed and rated. Noted were more than 25 Sonoma County wines, and another 20 Central Coast wines rated very good to excellent at $20, or less. Widely distributed California brands like Estancia, Dry Creek and Kenwood made the annual value list. Not to be outdone, Washington State offered more than 20 value wines in this review, anchored by venerable Chateau Ste. Michelle and Columbia Crest wineries, contributing to the sub-$20 'Smart Buy' parade. For my part, I'll continue to pursue certification as a Wine Educator and continue to search out these and other quality international/domestic wine values.
The Society of Wine Educators annual conference in July will be yet another opportunity for me to measure my wine knowledge. One of the last hurdles in my quest, the Faults and Imbalances Wine Identification has always been a big challenge for me. But, with a new perspective after my re-set, I look forward to re-focusing my attentions once again to the wines of the world. It is just another reminder that this is globally thirsty work!