Thursday, March 29, 2018

BRAMBLES: Changes to Spring

Morning breaks over vineyards, Margaret River, Western Australia
Budbreak, the annual growth cycle re-birth of the European grapevine, vitis vinifera, is awakening our North Coast vineyards and gardens.  Just as the chard wildfire area's landscape recovers, springtime flowers that abound can renew our hope for the future of not only our local communities, but our area wine industry, as well.  Wine and its commonwealth throughout its long human history has continued to be truly uplifting, an annual reflection of the best of our human spirit and our artistic creativity, in the vineyard, in the cellar and around the global table.  This then demonstrates the annual fertility of our spirit, the awaking of Mother Earth, and the changes ready to spring.
Spring vineyards of Sonoma 
Old is New Again. Back in 2008,  Ehren Jordan, having gone from Turley Wine Cellars, to his  vineyard-select Fallia wines, and then to his Day zinfandel's, was SF Chronicles 'winemaker of the year'.  Now, he is also making wines at Zenith Vineyards of the cool Willamette Valley, exploring its silty-clay soils for award-winning pinot noirs and other intriguing non-mainstream varietals.  Another former 'winemaker of the year' at Stagling Family, Celia Masyczek, has also broadened her ambitions, and today is another widely respected consultant for many boutique, emerging North Coast labels. A generation of contemporary artisans such as these, scores of them, continue to re-new us, while locally, creatively exploring new wine industry frontiers. These then are the complex building blocks of regional vineyard growth and marketplace evolution for today's renewing industry.

Back in 1998, Wine Spectator selections for top-rated wines of the year had 7 of the top 9 that were French(red & white). By 2008, their top rated wine of the year(#1) was produced in Chile, Casa Lapostolle's Clos Apalta. Similarly, Wine Enthusiast opted for another top southern hemisphere selection that very same year.  Over the last generation of vintages, more & more top rated wines are today coming from emerging, diverse and non-traditional global locations.  As an international market continues to emerge, this global recognition reflects the wider propagation of the quality standards for wine for consumers, especially for those in the value marketplace.
Sonoma now has 18 AVAs, adding Petaluma Gap
Notable growth continues to renew interest. Up north, the Oregon Wine Board reported recently that economic impact of its wines in the Beaver State has increased by as much as 67% from three years ago, totaling today more than $5.6 billion.  As you may expect, similar growth is reviving an expanding industry for their related employment, investment and wine tourism.  Conversely, recently the winemag, Decanter reported that US exports fell sharply in 2017(20%), supported mostly by a fall in the value of the dollar against the Euro.  So somewhere the market grows, while simultaneously other, sometimes traditional consumer habits wane.

Closer to home, a flowering of  diverse wine events also introduces our annual springtime revival. Nearby Sonoma Valley Vintners organize our invitation to hold their annual Visa - Signature weekend, April 6-8. Bringing its creative happiness to the masses, more than thirty members of the Mendocino Winegrowers Alliance sets up April 07 in San Francisco's Fort Mason Center, for the annual Taste of Mendocino. Locally. it is the intimate, A Taste of Olivet, April 14, that shares the fertile heart of the historic Russian River Valley. Beyond, wine enthusiasts can get further out and head northeast for a beautifully bucolic El Dorado Passport, the annual Sierra Foothills adventure, which begins April 21 thru April 29.  Spring showers bring more than just flowers for wine lovers.

Industry growers, producers, and its changing marketplace are just like wine consumers: the environment continually evolves.  From increased national wine sales to our Sonoma's growers cultivating towards an ever evolving commitment to 100% sustainability(a national first),  we all benefit from a fertile, living  industry that enjoys an annual renewal.  Constant in change, it is the sure sign of a growing spring in our wine country.


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