Archive for the 'American wine' Category

TTB shutdown means wine label slowdown

ttb_shutdownThe federal government has shut down “nonessential” services as of today. Surprisingly, that means that the federal agency that regulates the wine industry is also largely shut down. This is surprising because the agency collected $26 billion in revenues for the government–you’d think they would want to keep that flowing.

I spoke with a staffer at the TTB a few weeks ago while I was writing a story about wine label art. In the course of our conversation, he told me that the agency has experienced a surge in requests for label approvals. When they were formed ten years ago, they received 89,000 requests for label approvals whereas today they get 152,000 label requests. A 40% growth in wineries and a 60% rise in brewers have driven the surge. (Meanwhile, because of budget cuts, their headcount has been reduced from 520 to 471 over the same period.) I also spoke with some vintners who complained that the label approval process had slowed this year in the wake of the sequester. And now with the shutdown it will have ground to a halt.

Whenever TTB officials return to work they will have a ton of wine labels awaiting their review. The whole situation is enough to drive one to drink…

Before the shutdown occurred, the TTB did take a preliminary step to approving 11 new AVAs within the existing Paso Robles AVA.

Chart of the day: soda down, wine up


Americans love soda so much that we drink 44 gallons a head last year. But soda sales have slowed, as Americans drank 52 gallons of soda in 1998. So that’s a decline of 18%. Even though that change hasn’t been reflected entirely in America’s waistlines, the secular decline has led to some to argue that “peak soda” is over.

Of course, we’re drinking a lot of other things such as bottled water, coconut water (!), and the juice of pomegranates and acai berries. For beer, the consumption arrow is pointed down (and sentiment is in free-fall). But wine consumption per capita has risen every year since 1993.

So there you have the current score: soda, 44 gallons, red arrow; wine, 3 gallons, green arrow.

Oh, and for a bonus chart of the day, check out the latest poll data from Gallup. They show that Americans of all ages are more into wine than 20 years ago. Only 14 percent of the youngest drinkers then liked wine as their preferred drink (compared to 71 percent who like beer); 29 percent of that cohort now says wine is their preferred drink (with only 43 percent liking beer the most). Young people today like wine twice as much as they did then. And people over 50 don’t really like beer.

Francois Pinault buys Araujo Estate #billionaire #napa


The famed Eisele vineyard of Napa Valley has a new owner: Francois Pinault, number 74 on the Forbes billionaires list. Pinault’s Artemis Group, which owns Chateau Latour among other wine properties, has agreed to purchase Araujo Estate Wines from Bart and Daphne Araujo. The price for the 162 acres, including the 38-acre Eisele vineyard, was not disclosed in this statement.

“Araujo Estate and its jewel, the unique Eisele Vineyard, have been producing consistently one of the very best wines of Napa Valley,” Frédéric Engerer, CEO of Chateau Latour, said Read more…

Nude art labels from Jolie-Laide get approval


Jolie-Laide, a micro-wine label by Scott Schultz, has attracted out-sized attention for what’s in the bottles: Trousseau Gris, Pinot Gris, and Syrah, all from single-vineyards in California. But with the current vintage, the outside of the bottles have also been turning heads since the labels depict nude line drawings.

Schultz says he varies the labels of the Jolie-Laide (translated as “pretty-ugly”) wines every year. Last year, a calligrapher designed the labels. This year, it is tattoo artist Kapten Hanna who sketched the art for the 280-case production.

John Trinidad posted the above picture to Instagram with the comment, “This wine label is HAWT! And the wine is gorgeous, too.”

Schultz, a former sommelier who currently works at Wind Gap wines, said “We were hoping because it’s just black and grey sketch art, it would remove the sexuality and evoke more a simplistic, old-school approach to the wines.”

Apparently the TTB thought the labels were HAWT too–but not too HAWT to handle. The Pinot Gris (left above) and the syrah (not pictured) passed in the first go-round but the Trousseau Gris needed a second review before getting the green light on July 15. Interestingly, small wines can apply to the TTB for a “certificate of exemption from label approval” and sell their wines only in-state, bypassing the need for federal approval. But with the TTB’s stamp of approval, these wines can now be sold in markets such as New York City, where Shultz says the wines have some fans already.

What do you think — if you were an administrator, would you give these labels a thumbs up? Or, as a consumer, does it pique your interest in the wine?

Wine infographic of the day: the 7%

We flagged the 7% tasting in Sonoma last month for you. But the folks over at Chow Studios have had even more fun with the event, making your Wine Infographic of the Day about it.

While I have some quibbles with it (why call it a 7% “majority”? Why is Merlot mentioned in the middle graphic?), it nonetheless provides some good information at a glance. Check it out in reduced size here or in full res over at the Chow Studio site (or a KCET story about the tasting). It might even make you want to seek out something new–or even try for an uber-difficult domestic version of the Wine Century Club. Read more…

Rupert Murdoch buys LA vineyard


Rupert Murdoch, vintner? It’s true. Unlike fellow billionaire Warren Buffett who has invested on the less glamorous (but more profitable?) distribution side of the wine biz, the media magnate is going for the glitz–near Hollywood, no less. He’s buying what may well be the only commercial vineyard in LA, the 16-acre Moraga Estate in Bel Air that was listed for $29.5 million. Murdoch broke the story on Twitter of all places; now the story has been picked up real estate blogs, which have abundant photos. The seller is Tom Jones, former CEO of Northrop Grumman.

I wonder if the wine will now have a certain, er, foxiness to it? If he were to rename it, what would it be called?

Moraga Vineyards

Cicadas reemerge to a changed wine world


From North Carolina to Connecticut, billions of creatures with eyes the color of blood and bodies the color of coal are crawling out of the earth. Periodical cicadas are emerging en masse, clambering into trees and singing a shivering chorus that can be heard for miles.

What makes this emergence truly remarkable, however, is how long it’s been in the making. This month’s army of periodical cicadas was born in 1996. Their mothers laid their eggs in the branches of trees, where they developed for a few weeks before hatching and heading for the ground. “They just jumped out and rained down out of the trees,” said Chris Simon, a cicada biologist at the University of Connecticut.

Those Clinton-era larvae then squirmed into the dirt and spent the next 17 years sucking fluid from tree roots. NYT

Dear cicadas,

Welcome back! I’m sure after 17 years of sucking fluid from tree roots–as sweet as that is–you’re probably read for something a little stiffer, like a good glass of wine.

A lot has changed in the wine world since you were born in 1996 and then stumbled into your Rumpelstiltskin impression. Let’s start with that Bordeaux Read more…

Finger Lakes Riesling: what’s all the fuss?

ravines_rieslingFinger Lakes wines, particularly Rieslings, have gotten a lot of recent attention. So I thought I would check in with them for a piece currently on

One wine that came up repeatedly was the Ravines Dry Riesling (as well as their Argentsinger Vineyard one). I picked up two bottles of the 2012 for $14.99 each and poured them for discerning audiences. First, my wife, who is not generally a huge Riesling fan but she gave this one a thumbs up. I rated it a leading patio pounder for Summer of Riesling 2013. Then I opened the second bottle for my NYU class and poured it blind. Before revealing what it was, I asked them how many of them liked it. All hands went up. When the bag came off the bottle, they were all surprised and doubly impressed.

It seems to be a common reaction with the best Finger Lakes wines, as Thomas Pastuszak from NoMad shares in the piece.

Which are your favorite Finger Lakes wines? Do you think the region is overrated or underrated?


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