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Sunday, 04 August 2013 13:45

The Barefoot Spirit

by Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harveybarefoot bookpage Picmonkey

with Rick Kushman


Evolve Publishing, 2013

ISBN 978-0-9882245-4-4

Softcover, 272 pages $15.95


The Barefoot Spirit succeeds on several levels.

Those in or around the wine business will enjoy some of the inside scoop on how a young couple naively entered their industry, made predictable mistakes and yet survived. And eventually prospered. Actually, though the product was wine, their journey might serve as a blueprint smart people with boundless energy and dogged persistence could apply to any business. There's also a “feel good” element to the Barefoot story. Houlihan and Harvey found ways to “do well by doing good.” when they applied their social consciousness in helping causes they thought worthy—and did it in ways that helped build their brand.

When a winemaker friend was owed money by a bankrupt Sonoma County winery in 1985, the couple came up with a novel way to make him whole. They convinced the winery, which was cash poor, but did have a couple of unrealized assets—unbottled wine in tanks and a functional bottling line—to resolve their debt in wine and bottling services. They would help their friend out by selling the wine. After all, it was good wine. How difficult could it be?

Well, 20 years later the Barefoot Brand was acquired by Gallo, so readers can presume that Harvey and Houlihan triumphed in the end. Beginning with a bare footprint-on-a-beach logo, they marketed their product as unpretentious and fun, creating a different audience for wine. Over those two decades they made every mistake possible. But they tried not to repeat any of them. Much of their difficulties were caused by their own ignorance of the ways things were done in the wine industry. But they listened to their clients and attempted to satisfy every request and overcome every rejection. They learned how the game was played, but they continued to apply common sense and creativity—qualities often lacking in an industry often convinced of its own wonderfulness.

The Barefoot Spirit is the story of the creators of the Barefoot brand. The fact that it is so readable is likely due to the skill of co-author Rick Kushman, a former daily newspaper journalist. His style is anecdotal and, though dialogue from conversations many years ago can't be repeated verbatim, they read easily and sound authentic. An unusual technique is employed with “Conversations with Bonnie and Michael” that conclude many chapters. These follow a simple Q and A format with Kushman posing questions and transcribing the answers.

The Barefoot Spirit is a window on the journey of two remarkable entrepreneurs as they progressed from tyros dismissed by most of the wine industry to innovators embraced by it. It's a quick read and has an upbeat message that is deftly delivered.


--reviewed by Dan Clarke

laughren - book cover Picmonkey 

A Beer Drinker's Guide to Knowing and Enjoying Fine Wine

by Jim Laughren, CWE


Crosstown Publishing 2012

ISBN 978-0-9855336-1-8

203 pages, soft cover, $16.95


The best teachers are always the ones secure enough in their knowledge that they convey the message in simple and un-pedantic style. Such is the case with Jim Laughren. Obviously deeply knowledgeable about wine (he's a Certified Wine Educator), Laughren is similarly familiar with beer.

It's surprising that so many of today's craft beer devotees are clueless when it comes to wine. After all, both beer and wine are fermented beverages and have been around for a long, long time. Maybe searching for the latest variations on the pervasive India Pale Ale theme doesn't leave room for exploring other drinks. If so, that's unfortunate because in discovering wine, these beer drinkers might be doubling their pleasures. A Beer Drinker's Guide to Fine Wine makes the case for doing just that.

In early chapters, Laughren explains similarities of the brewing and vinification processes, the physiology of tasting and the steps taken to analyze a wine. He also makes sense of some of the arcane winespeak, or argot of the “wine geek.” Beer drinkers who chat about IBUs and ABVs (International Bittering Units and Alcohol by Volume) shouldn't find daunting their vinous counterparts' discussions of degrees Brix at harvest (a measure of sugar or ripeness) or the different French oaks used in barrel construction. Knowing the jargon may help one understand a subject, a good thing if it leads to enjoyment of it. Laughren also takes his readers through a world tour of wine producing regions, providing helpful background additional to the geography lesson.

Throughout, Jim Laughren conveys a lot of basic (and not so basic) information and does it in a straight-forward and good humored manner. A Beer Drinker's Guide to Knowing and Enjoying Fine Wines is a product of substantial scholarship. It does a great job of explaining wine in clean and simple fashion. And it's fun to read.


Reviewer Dan Clarke was fortunate to be introduced to the pleasures of both beer and wine in childhood (sips from Dad's paper cup at a ball game and Wente Grey Riesling with Mom's oven-fried chicken). 

Tuesday, 11 June 2013 15:36

Visitors Find Temecula Valley Horse Friendly

Both horse owners and riders-to-be are making the Temecula Valley a popular destination these days. Kimberly Adams, president and CEO of the Temecula Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau, has suggested 10 ways to enjoy the region in equestrian fashion. Horse in Corral next to Temecula Vnyd PicmonkeyOld Temecula and new in side by side scene.

“Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country is horse-friendly with guided rides, picturesque trails, equestrian events (dressage, show jumping, polo), and popular dining, dancing, and accommodations,” she says. Horse-friendly stays are ideal for midweek visits when trails are less crowded, Adams advises and rates for lodging are often less than those on the weekends.

Home to more than 1500 acres of winegrape vineyards and 35 wineries, Temecula is a popular destination for visitors from the population centers of San Diego and Orange County that are an hour away. The city of Los Angeles is not much further, being just an hour-and-a-half distant.

From the 1800s until the 1960s, Temecula Valley was predominantly grazing land for cattle. The Vail Ranch spanned more than 87,500 acres and Temecula’s Old West lifestyle flourished. When the Vails sold their ranch, the valley transitioned to a pastoral, master planned community that would incorporate equestrian ranches and agriculture including wine grapes. Today the valley is widely recognized as Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country and for its vineyards and wineries producing quality wines. The valley is also noted for its equestrian ranches, equestrian center, and equestrian trails.

Ideas for a horse-friendly stay

1-Gaits In the Grapes Guided Trail Rides

Equestrian trail guides Gaits In the Grapes (GIG) provides the opportunity for visiting horse owners to ride some of Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country’s beautiful, private vineyards as well as the larger Wine Country trails network. Less-busy weekdays are optimum for these rides. GIG strives to ensure safe, quality time “in and out of the saddle.” Guides attend to owners’ horses while visitors enjoy winery tours, wine tasting and restaurant dining or enjoying a picnic with vineyard views. GIG is also a resource for overnight, horse boarding suggestions.

2-Saddle Up Wine Tours on Horseback

Saddle Up Wine Tours provides gentle horses and guides for rides like the Historical Wine Tour. Guests ride alongside vineyards, ranches, and wineries along the De Portola Wine Trail. En route to wine tastings, riders learn of historical wine country anecdotes. Wine-tasting destinations include wineries such as Oak Mountain with wine tasting in the mountaintop veranda with valley views; Keyways Vineyard & Winery, one of Temecula Valley’s original wine estates with Early California ambiance; and Robert Renzoni Vineyards, recognized for its production of premium, Italian varietals. Saddle Up also offers basic, 1-hour-or-more, trail rides daily with horses provided.

3-Horse Drawn Carriage Rides through The Vineyards

Temecula Carriage Company provides wine tasting tours. In a horse-drawn carriage drawn, passengers travel leisurely along a scenic route through the vineyards. Along the way wineries are visited such as Leoness Cellars, Wilson Creek Winery, Lorimar Vineyards & Winery, and Ponte Family Estate, to taste award-winning wines. Guests also enjoy a gourmet, wine country picnic.

4-Equestrian Trails at the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve

Once part of the vast Vail cattle ranch, the 8,300-acre Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve offers visiting horse owners nearly seven miles of multi-use trails in the Sylvan Meadows area. Open sunrise to sunset and popular with local equestrians, trails include Sylvan Meadows, Cajalco Trail, Tovashol Trail, Shivela Trail, and Stevenson Canyon. The terrain is open, rolling hills with some oak woodlands and areas of chaparral. Riders-in-the-know get picnic fare to-go in advance (Campini’s just south of Downtown Old Town Temecula; E.A.T. Marketplace in Uptown Temecula), and enjoy dining al fresco under the oaks at the Sylvan Meadows picnic tables.

5-Equestrian Events at Galway Downs Equestrian Center

The 240-acre Galway Downs Equestrian Center is the site of shows like International Horse Trials where attendees enjoy gourmet food and drink, music, and the excitement of as many as 100 riders on horses galloping over imposing cross-country jumps. Throughout the year Galway Downs hosts eventing (“equestrian triathlons” that include dressage, cross-country, and show jumping). Galway Downs is also home to the new Temecula Valley Polo Club showcasing local and internationally renowned players. Companion to polo matches are exclusive charity events where attendees witness the grace of polo at catered luncheons.

6-Steakhouse Dining in Old Town Temecula and Uptown Temecula

In Old Town Temecula, the atmosphere and prime-beef fare at The Gambling Cowboy and Texas Lil’s Mesquite Grill recall Old West glory days when hitching posts lined Old Town streets and cattlemen, ranchers, and cowboys walked the boardwalks. The Gambling Cowboy features an elegant, late-19th century setting, and classic, fine steak and seafood. Texas Lil’s is Temecula Valley’s original ranch-style steakhouse with a menu that includes Angus choice rib eye steaks.

North of Old Town in Uptown Temecula within Temecula Hotel Row is innovative Vail Ranch Steakhouse. With the specialty of dry-aged prime steaks, an on-site dry-age process enhances steaks’ tenderness, moisture, and flavor. The dry aged Angus beef includes New York strip and rib eye.

7-Get Country Western at Temecula Stampede

Adjacent the southern Old Town Temecula gateway arch is the expansive country-western music venue and dance hall, the Temecula Stampede. The music, lyrics, two-step, line dancing, and bull riding make this a popular outpost for equestrian enthusiasts who love to dance.

8-Horseback Trail Rides and Wine Trail Rides at Vail Lake

Vail Lake was the eastern boundary of Temecula Valley’s historic Vail Cattle Ranch; which extended to the west as far as the Santa Rosa Plateau. Guided horseback trail rides are offered on-site at the 9,000 acre property, some of which combine scenic lake-view riding and a canyon ride to one of the De Portola Wine Trail’s wineries. Included are wine tasting, wine country meal, and entertainment.

9-Temecula Equestrians in the 4th of July Parade in Old Town Temecula

With untouched chaparral-covered hills as backdrop to the west, and the Mission-revival style Temecula Civic Center to the east, the Star-Spangled 4th of July Parade along Old Town Front Street is a festive, annual tradition. Among the parade’s most popular entries are the patriotic equestrian riders and horses accessorized in red-white-and-blue.

10-Supplies for Visiting Horse Owners in Temecula

Because Temecula Valley is a burgeoning equestrian area, the valley is also horse-friendly for visiting horse owners to find supplies. Dan’s Feed & Seed, just south of Old Town Temecula, carries horse feed, tack, and other supplies as well as western wear. Nearby Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country and Valle de Los Caballos is Big Horse Feed & Mercantile with a variety of feed, tack, and equestrian-friendly apparel.

Editor's note: More information about things to do in the Temecula Valley can be found at . Links to the websites of all the wineries, as well as links to hundreds of nearby Lodging and Dining options can be found in Taste California Travel's Resource Directory.    

Saturday, 08 June 2013 19:49

Tasting in Classic Circumstances

by Dan Clarke

Sometimes I have to work on the weekends. Sometimes this is not such a bad thing.

Editing a publication that covers both wines and cars, I couldn't pass up Wine, Tunes & Classics. The wineries of Lake County had put together this event, which was to be held at the California Automobile Museum in Sacramento. The museum is open year-round and has a fine permanent collection of cars. They also feature rotating exhibits and on this day they were to be celebrating the opening of Elegance in Motion: Cars of the Golden Age. Lake County wineries would be pouring. There would be some food and a live band, too. I had not visited a vineyard or winery in Lake County in a couple of years and it had been even longer since I'd been to the museum. It was time.Cad V16 nose iewCadillac elegance on a massive scale.

Entering the museum I hear music coming from an adjacent room. The band isn't playing the music of the age of elegance defined by the automobiles featured, but it s playing music I remember—tunes from the 50s and 60s. Happy music.

Winery pouring tables are arrayed against the walls of the main hall around the centerpiece exhibit, the roped-off display of these gorgeous cars that were joining the museum's ongoing collection through October 13th. When I get to the rope I am nose-to-nose with a Cadillac. It is a blue four-door convertible, a 1939 model, I think. It seems as big as a float in the Rose Parade. Years earlier when I acquired a pre-owned Coupe de Ville with a 500-cubic inch V8 engine, I thought I was really styling. This blue beauty is a V16 and way cooler.

Pierce Arrow front PicmonkeyArcher on radiator cap and headlamps springing from fenders are distinctive Pierce Arrow features.Inside the ropes there are other examples of this Golden Age of motoring, many whose names might be unfamiliar these days: Stutz, Deusenberg, Hispano-Suiza, Cord, Auburn, La Salle, Pierce Arrow, Packard—they might not be in motion, but they are undeniably elegant.

Driving down to this event I was thinking about Lake County. My first awareness of the wines was probably the Kendall Jackson Chardonnay that made such a spectacular debut 30 years ago. In those days the winery was in Lakeport. K-J has since become hugely successful, moved to Sonoma County and now sources grapes from all over the state. A few years later I was attending a dinner at the Buena Vista . Their Sauvignon Blanc was wonderful. Winemaker Jill Davis said that the grapes came not from the winery's own estate in Sonoma, but from Lake County. The wine had a purer expression of fruit than I had ever experienced with this variety. So I began paying more attention to Lake County.

When compared to the wine experience in neighboring Napa and Sonoma, Lake County has always been sort of a stepchild. It doesn't have the cachet of these regions, but important things are going on there. If those bent on making a lifestyle statements aren't developing vineyards and wineries in Lake County, savvy professionals in the wine business are.

I thought of Lake County people I had met over the years. I knew that some, like the late Bob Romougiere, wouldn't be in attendance. Orville and Karen McGoon had sold their Guenoc property a few years ago and presumably were living in happy retirement. The Holdenreids of Wildhurst Winery were among the first Lake County vintners I had met years ago. Might they be here? How about Jerry Brassfield and Kaj Ahlmann? They own neighboring properties (Brassfield Estates and Six Sigma) and Don Neal, another writer, and I had enjoyed an overhead tour of their vineyards in Jerry's helicopter a few years ago. As it turns out, many of the people in my Lake County memories aren't at this tasting. But most are still alive, at least, and still in the wine business. If I won't be renewing old acquaintances, I'll enjoy making new ones.

I see a name I recognize, if not a face. The sign says Rosa d'Oro Vineyards and I remember that they had sent wine samples for review a few years ago. The recollection is less than vivid, but I'm pretty sure that I liked their wines. I meet owner Nick Buttitta, who is pouring several of his wines, one of which is a Barbera, a variety that appeals to both of us. After some talk about farming and food-friendly wines, we realize that we'll both be at the upcoming Barbera Festival in Amador County and decide to continue our conversation there.

Jed Steele is likely the longest-serving and best-known Lake County winemaker. One of the bottles on the table under the sign reading Steele Wines is a Zinfandel labeled “Writer's Block.” Of course I want to know more, but Jed isn't here and the women pouring, while very attractive, are considerably less knowledgeable than he is. The wine is tasty, but since it takes me two weeks to begin this article, a sip of Writer's Block doesn't appear to be an antidote for the condition.

At the Alienor table I meet owners Bonnie and David Weiss. David explains that they are involved primarily in the grape farming part of the operation. They are pouring a nice Sauvignon Blanc and their 2008 Grand Vin, an excellent proprietary blend, which seems very right bankish to me. Bonnie seems pleased that I have noticed and says that it is mostly Merlot and Cabernet Franc and that a St. Emilion style is the intention of the winemaker.Tasters at Obsidian Ridge tableTasters get perspective from Clark Smith of Diamond Ridge.

In the two to three hours available to me I try to hit every one of the 19 winery tables. This would be difficult enough to accomplish, even without the distractions of the band and all those beautiful cars. As I appear in front of one table, the pourer and I do double takes, both thinking something like, “Don't I know you?” We share similar handles, his a first name and mine a surname. Clark Smith is a triple-threat performer in the wine game—a winemaker, an adjunct professor and an author (his Postmodern Winemaking is being published this summer) . We talk about the Diamond Ridge Vineyards Cabernet Franc and the composition of the 2008 “Aspects” he is pouring and the advantages of Lake County vineyards. He's damned knowledgeable about the winemaking process and often looks at issues in ways that fascinate me, yet seem to be just slightly beyond my ability to fully understand. Sometimes I feel that if I have one more glass of wine, I'll get it. On the other hand, maybe one less would clear the path to my enlightenment.

At another table I make the acquaintance of Bill Brunetti, and though he doesn't seem to have any direct connection to the winery for which he is pouring, he really knows about vineyards and wineries in the area and knows most of the people I mention having met from earlier visits. Turns out he is a Member of the Board of the Lake County Wine Grape Commission.

Couple Tasting by DeusenbergEven if it's not Jay and Daisy, the Deusenberg sets a Gatsbyesque toneBullion Creek Vineyards is another operation unfamiliar to me, but at their table I meet proprietor Richard Brand. He and his wife Gail grow Cabernet Sauvignon grapes on the north side of Mount St. Helena in the Middletown area. He pours me a taste of their estate-bottled Cab and we spend some time discussing grape growing. Since his property is in the southern part of the county and not too far from Guenoc, I ask if he knew Orville and Karen, the former owners. He did and says to the best of his knowledge they are fully retired and living in Hawaii. Richard concurs when I say they were nice people. He tells me that in addition to their public involvement in ways civic and philanthropic, Orville contributed anonymously to many families in the area when they were in need.

Part of me thinks it would be just fine to stick around. The winery folks are convivial people and the tasters are becoming ever more so as the afternoon moves into evening. The band still sounds good. The finger food served to pair with some of the wines has been excellent and there may yet be some more of it. A few of the docents from the museum are here and could answer my questions about the cars. But timing an exit can be tricky business. I decide to leave on a high note and know that I'll return to both the California Automobile Museum and to the wine country of Lake County.

Thursday, 25 April 2013 21:11

April 26, 2013 Wine Pick of the Wine

Quinta das Amoras Vinho Tinto Picmonkey 

2010 Vinho Tinto


Quinta das Amoras

 Appellation: Vinho Regional Estramadura (Portugal)

 Alcohol: 13.%

 Suggested Retail: $7.99


“This wine was found in the wine department of Corti Brothers in Sacramento. Eric, one of the store's wine stewards, suggested it when we asked for a lighter red table wine to accompany a main course of chicken thighs. We found the wine delightful and a reasonable companion to the chicken, which was prepared with some carmelized onions and garlic. The 'Vinho Tinto' on the label is Portugese for 'red wine,' which in this case probably means a modest wine appropriate to the price asked. It is better than that.

“A blend of four grape varieties unfamiliar to most American consumers (Castelão-55%, Touriga Nacional-20%, Camarate-15% and Tinta Miúda-10%) grown just north of Lisbon provide a positive experience for American palates habituated to Cabernet, Merlot and Zinfandel. Aromas of dark cherry and dried herbs and flowers precede berry and cassis flavors. There's some intriguing return of that dried herb quality found in the first whiff, and maybe soft white pepper or Rutherford-like dust in the taste. There's a perception of just a little vanilla sweetness that may be the product some time the wine spent in oak.”

Food Affinity: While this Vinho Tinto from Quinta das Amoras was light enough to work with chicken thighs, it has enough substance to work with many red meat dishes. Liver and onions (or bacon), comes to mind, as does thinly-sliced beef with bell pepper in a black bean sauce.


Friday, 19 April 2013 20:43

April 19, 2013 Wine Pick of the Week


Rex Goliath Shiraz 2 Picmonkey


N/V Shiraz



 Appellation: California

 Alcohol: 13.5%

 Suggested Retail: $8.99


“This is a popular wine and for many reasons. In a world of too-cute names and labels, the Rex Goliath line is fun without being cloying. It celebrates the memory of a 47-pound rooster (Rex Goliath), alleged to be an attraction of a Texas Circus over a century ago. The non-vintage Rex Goliath Shiraz is big, too, showcasing gobs of fruit. It is comprised of 76% Syrah (same grape defined as 'Shiraz' in Australia, and occasionally in the U.S.), with the balance coming from grapes loosely defined as 'mixed reds.'

"We reassure readers, this wine is made only from grapes, but sometimes winegrapes manifest their personalities in ways that evoke aromas and flavors of other elements. There's a subtle hint of white pepper in the aroma of this wine, followed by tastes of blackberry, raspberry and maybe some Santa Rosa plum. Also included in that taste is some more pepper. Not the burn-your-mouth kind, but like finely ground white or black pepper. The Rex Goliath Shiraz get some aging in oak barrels which sometimes imparts a bit of spiciness and a perception of sweetness. While not a 'sweet wine,' it's not as dry as some would like. However, this hint of sweetness in the finish will make it easy to enjoy for many folks who've never had Shiraz/Syrah, yet not put off more sophisticated palates. The Rex Goliath Shiraz has some personality. The suggested retail price is $8.99 and fair deal at that number. However, it can often be found at a dollar or two less."

Food Affinity: Barbecued ribs, grilled hamburgers, beef stew or short ribs, slow-cooked in a sauce that includes some tomato.

California Wine Delegation in Shanghai PicmonkeySteve Burns (left), Wine Institute Director of International Marketing Linsey Gallagher, and Pete Hou of AVIAREPS Marketing Garden, Wine Institute’s China trade representative, visit wine display in Shanghai store.

California wines, a key element of the state’s culinary lifestyle that draws visitors from around the world, were presented at a series of events during Governor Brown’s Trade Mission to China April 9 – 12, paving the way for vintner delegations heading to the country later this spring. As part of Wine Institute’s partnership with Visit California, the state’s tourism organization, Golden State wines will be featured at an event billed, “California Winemaker’s Dinner Meets Chinese Banquet” in Shanghai, as well as a VIP reception at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.

Sales to China helped grow California wine exports to a record $1.4 billion in sales last year. China is the state’s fifth largest export market with $74 million in wine sales in 2012, up nearly 20 percent from the previous year, with a growth trend that has grabbed the attention of vintners throughout the state.

“Wine is a signature industry for California and one of our state’s top agricultural exports,” said Robert P. Koch, President and CEO of Wine Institute, who is part of the Governor’s delegation in China. “Our exports to China have nearly doubled in the past two years and the country represents a great opportunity for California wineries.”

Two California wine delegations responding to that potential will be heading to cities in China in April and May. Napa Valley Vintners will present “Taste Napa Valley” April 12 – 20 in Shanghai, Beijing, Hanghzhou and Xi’an. Wine Institute will travel with a delegation of 50 vintners from regions around the state May 20 – 27 with stops in Shanghai, Beijing, Ningbo and Hong Kong for consumer events, tastings and educational seminars for trade and media.

These activities support California wines awareness-building campaign in China which is now in its third year and includes advertising, point of sale and educational materials, a dedicated website and social media. “California Wines Master Class” is a new initiative for trade and media covering history, climate, regions, varietals and food pairing, which debuted in cities throughout the country during the Governor’s visit in April.

Chinese consumers are learning quickly about the connection between California as a world-class travel destination and California as a source of world-class wines,” said Linsey Gallagher, Director of International Marketing for Wine Institute. “As they grow in their understanding of the quality and diversity of California wines, so will our sales.”

Wine Institute is the trade association representing 1,000 California wineries and affiliated businesses. Since 1985 Wine Institute’s International Department has served as administrator of California wine export programs by the United States Department of Agriculture's Foreign Agricultural Service. Wine Institute headquarters are in in San Francisco with trade representatives in 15 countries, including China. About 150 California wineries participate in the Wine Institute's international program.

Jon Fredrikson at Unified 2013 PicmonkeyJon Fredrikson addresses wine industry leaders at 2013 Unified Symposium

Wine sales in the U.S. from all prouction sources—California, other U.S. states and foreign countries—increased 2% from the previous year to a new record of 360.1 million 9-liter cases with an estimated retail value of $34.6 billion,” according to wine industry consultant Jon Fredrikson of Gomberg, Fredrikson & Associates in Woodside. Of the total, almost two-thirds or 207.7 million cases of California wine account for a 58% share of U.S. wine sales with an estimated retail value of $22 billion. Including exports, 2012 California wine shipments to all markets in the U.S. and abroad reached 250.2 million cases.

“The U.S. is the largest wine market in the world with 19 consecutive years of volume growth,” said Wine Institute President and CEO Robert P. (Bobby) Koch. “Competition for retail shelf space and consumer attention is intense, so California’s high quality, record winegrape harvest in 2012 could not have come at a better time. California vintners continue to respond to growing worldwide demand with a wide array of outstanding wines from regions throughout the state and Wine Institute is supporting the effort by opening markets and eliminating trade barriers in the U.S. and abroad.”

“Wine shipments to the U.S. market climbed by nearly 50% since 2001 and it is likely that American consumption will continue to expand over the next decade as wine continues to gain traction among American adult consumers,” said Fredrikson. “The amazing diversity of choices and exciting new offerings are attracting new consumers and boosting consumption. Among the key growth drivers are favorable demographics, a widening consumer base and increasing points of distribution in both on- and off-sale outlets. For example, Starbucks is now serving wine in some key markets and and Facebook Gifts both sell wine online.”

Varietal Trends in Chain Retail Outlets

Wine sales in U.S. food stores and other off-premise measured channels from all domestic and foreign producers grew 2% by volume and 6% by value, according to Nielsen, a global provider of information and insights into what consumers buy. California wines grew faster than the overall category by a full percentage point. By varietal in the table wine category, Chardonnay remained the most popular varietal with a 21% share of volume, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% volume share; Merlot, 9% share, and Pinot Grigio/Gris, 8% share. The largest percentage gains were Muscat/Moscato, up 33% in volume with 6% market share, and domestic red blends/sweet red wines, up 22% in volume with 5% share of market. Also of note was Malbec, up 21% by volume with a 1% share.

“Consumers have more access to wine throughout the country with wine-selling locations expanding by well over 50,000 from five years ago. Off-premise retail outlets grew 15% to almost 175,000 outlets, while restaurants and other on-premise outlets increased 12% to 332,000 locations in the U.S.,” said Danny Brager, vice president of the beverage alcohol practice at Nielsen. “Retailers recognize that wine is a large and growing category, even in economically challenging times, and tends to attract upper income consumers, and all legal drinking age groups. Wine also pairs well with food, leading to larger, more profitable shopping baskets.”

Sparkling Wine and Champagne

Shipments of sparkling wine and champagne reached 17.7 million cases in 2012, up 2% over the previous year. California sparkling wine grew 3% with Moscato based sparklers driving the growth. While overall total 2012 volume slowed after a major surge in 2011, sparkling wine shipments to the U.S. in 2012 were at their highest level since 1987.

U.S. Wine Exports

U.S. wine exports, 90 percent from California, reached $1.43 billion in winery revenues in 2012, an increase of 2.6% compared to 2011. Volume shipments reached 424.6 million liters or 47.2 million cases. Of the top markets for California Wines, the European Union's 27-member countries are the largest accounting for $485 million, up 1.7%; followed by Canada, $434 million, up 14%; Hong Kong, $115 million, down 30%; Japan, $111 million, up 6%; China, $74 million, up 18%; Vietnam, $27 million, up 22%; Mexico, $20 million, up 4%; South Korea, $16 million, up 26%.


Thursday, 14 February 2013 16:37

February 15, 2013 Wine Pick of the Week

Grgich Hills Cab S bottle shot  Picmonkey

2009 Cabernet Sauvignon


Producer: Grgich Hills Estate

Appellation: Napa Valley

Alcohol: 14.6%

Retail Price: $60


“Another fine effort from one of the Napa Valley's most reliable producers. Legendary winemaker Mike Grgich--though nearly 90 years of age--is still involved, but the day-to-day winemaking chores are now handled by his nephew, Ivo Jeramaz, who has overseen the move toward use of only organic and biodynamicly-grown grapes.”

“Aromas of blackberry and dark cherry most obvious, but a little spice and powdered chocolate touches become apparent after wine's been in glass for a while. There's a plush feeling in the mouth as flavors of blackberry and black cherry come immediately to the forefront. Later, a hint of spice shows and wine finishes long with subtle influences of the oak.”

Food Affinity: If the reviewer knew more about Croatian cuisine, one of that culture's favorites would be suggested to honor Mike and Ivo. Failing that, a rich and slowly-cooked dish like osso bucco or roasted lamb shank would do nicely.

Sunday, 06 January 2013 15:50

July 13-15, 2017 California Wine Festival

Region: Central Coast     City: Santa Barbara     Contact:

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