Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Wineries quietly up for sale

Spectator reports that as many as 50% (fifty percent!!) of the west coast wineries are quietly up for sale, or should be:

8. West Coast Wineries Are Up for Sale—Quietly 
With buyers snapping up leading California wineries QupĂ©AraujoClos Pegase and Mayacamas over the year, and other players investing in Oregon and Washington, it seemed like the market for wineries is suddenly hot again on the West Coast. But it's an under-the-radar market. Plenty of wineries, faced with tough finances or generational change, are looking for buyers. But they're not advertising the fact. One of the buyers, Charles Banks, estimates that between 30 to 50 percent of California wineries are either in financial difficulty or aren’t as profitable as they could be. “And everyone is trying to be quiet because they’re not broke and their name may be on the winery.”

Monday, December 30, 2013

Champagne glass styles

As we swing towards the new year, it's a good time to talk about the popular styles of champagne glasses. Check out this photo:


The glass on the left is the coupe style, popularized in Britain and purportedly based on a mold of Marie Antoinette's breast. While that is an enchanting story, it is scientifically a poor glass style for sparkling wine, as it over-aerates the wine and allows any bouquet to escape, and dissipates the bubbles too quickly.

The glass on the right is what you want for all sparkling wines. Note that the opening is smaller than the widest diameter of the bowl; this aids in trapping and concentrating the aromatics, thereby making them more detectable by the nose. And the taller, narrower bowl shape encourages and prolongs the formation of bubbles.

And this last bit is old hat for most of you readers, but please remember than Champagne comes only from that region in France. All other wines are called "sparkling wines" or, in some cases there is a different regionally-based name, like "cava" in Spain.

Happy New Year!



Thursday, December 12, 2013

2013's triple whammy of record weather for grapes in the Pacific Northwest

What a year this 2013 has been, for grapegrowers!

1. Some sites in the PacNW saw record heat in July. Above 90 or 95F, a grapevine suspends the fruit ripening process, so very hot days are "lost time" and they can impair the production of fully ripe fruit.

2. The entire region had record rainfall in September, which had heavy impact on a small portion of regional vineyards. Ripening earlier, many of the modern varieties were harvested before the rains, but most of the vinifera had to keep hanging. Fortunately, most of those were able to "hang through" into a dry late September and October. But too much water can dilute the desired flavors in the grapes.

3. In December, we saw very frightfully cold (and suddenly cold) weather: Hermiston OR got down to -8F, Ephrata WA and Yakima WA saw -2F (breaking a record held since 1972), and even sheltered Hillsboro OR (just west of Portland) saw a low of 9F with two weeks of all-day sub-freezing temps. These sudden, extremely cold temps can kill vinifera grapevines, especially younger ones.  Modern varieties of grapes (hybrids) are fine at these temps, however--a real advantage of growing them, as they have hardier American grapes in their lineage.

Fingers crossed for milder weather in 2014!

(image credit: Kendall Jackson winery)


Monday, December 2, 2013

Why we need sustainable farming practices

Check this out.

The fabled migrations of Monarch butterflies to the central highlands of Mexico are ending, as populations of the insects dwindle. Numbers are falling because more and more farmland in the U.S. is being managed non-sustainably--factory farms that use massive quantities of inorganic chemicals to kill plants, insects, and other forms of life.

This is a global emergency, but likely very little will be done about it.

Think globally, and act locally. So: Ditch the killer sprays; compost; support local flora and fauna. Search for harmony in nature. Think like a steward.


And, if you grow grapes, grow modern varieties, which don't need any spray in drier summer areas like the PacNW, and don't need as much spray in the more-humid regions.

(Modern grape varieties are crosses between earlier-ripening, more disease-resistant American grapes and classical European grapes.)