Alice Feiring has a piece on thedailybeast.com entitled “Big? Jammy? Not Anymore!” about the much-discussed turn in California winemaking toward lower-alcohol, higher-acidity wines. While she rightfully highlights a merry band of winemakers daring to be different, including Nathan Roberts (above) of Arnot-Roberts, she neglects to mention just how hard that alternate path is from a sales perspective. For decades, the basic sales model of California wine has been to make a wine, get a high score, then use that score to sell the wine through a distributor or a mailing list.
These nouvelle vague producers in the Sierra foothills and the outer reaches of Sonoma are not point chasers, by and large. Instead, they have emphasized the food-friendliness of this style of wine, cultivating relationships with sommeliers and using plum placements on restaurant wine lists to serve as a proxy for quality. They have gotten into key wine shops too and have a lot of buzz on them there Internets. Forging a new sales model is both risky and hard work. But it could be an even more important development for the American wine industry than the stylistic change.