New Harvest: Anderson Valley on the Mind

(Above: Anderson Valley as seen from Handley Vineyards, spring 2005.)

California’s Anderson Valley has always had a special place in my heart, ever since I first drove through on highway 128 during a road trip from San Diego to northern Vancouver Island in 1996. I make it back to Anderson Valley once every year or so, and each trip is inspiring. From the awesome beauty of the place and the sense of community that exists there, to the wines — among the most honest wines made in California — it’s hard not to say I *Heart* Anderson Valley.

As it turns out, there’s a lot more going on in the local community these days than my short visits have allowed me to witness. Thankfully, the California Report recently posted an excellent radio segment about life in Boonville, the area’s main town. It’s a quick yet fairly thorough look at the region’s current social, economic and environmental situation, and includes a substantial amount of reporting on the local wine industry.

Listen – New Harvest: The Future of Small Town, CA: Boonville & Anderson Valley

(NB: The Boonville segment is the second part of series on the California called “New Harvest: The Future of Small Town, CA”. You can learn more about this promising series, view slideshows and listen to additional broadcasts, at the project’s website.)

Plenty of things in the Anderson Valley broadcast caught my attention, but of note was local David Severn’s mention of regional water issues with regards to the wine industry, such as the affects of grape-growing and vineyard development on the local watershed. This is an important issue throughout California, and certainly well-reported, but I’m glad to see the it raised in this radio piece. It’s something the wine industry should be talking about as often as possible, and in a way that’s completely public and transparent.

Cougar Beat: More From the Field at WSWA

It’s not all speeches and booze bottles shaped like weapons for Cougar Beat at the annual WSWA convention in Las Vegas. This time, our intrepid reporter sends word direct from the exhibition floor:

Highlights from the exhibition floor: Jello shots that require no refrigeration, 30 proof whipping cream in five flavors, a caffeinated RTD branded “Jakk’d” and the delightful lady hawking a ‘purple hooter’ in packaging akin to a large mustard packet. She said that the product retails for 99 cents beacuse “you gotta keep it cheap for the kids.”

At last, five flavors of 30 proof whipping cream!

Luckily, Cougar Beat stumbled on something that was more to her taste:

On a serious note, Leblon Cachaca is making a drink in their suite with said cachaca, lemongrass, cucumber, lime and coconut foam. Outstanding cocktail. Not to be missed!

Coconut foam? We here at Spume HQ love our foams.

Guns, Knives and Tequila at WSWA: Cougar Beat’s New Favorite Booze

Feeling charged after Sarah Palin’s speech this morning, Cougar Beat hit the floor at WSWA, where there can be exciting intersections of violence and alcohol.

The Beat reports: “Yes, the bottle is shaped like an AK-47. And that’s machete of tequila next to it.”

Be careful: Mention direct shipping here and someone will whack you with their tequila machete!

Cougar Beat: On the Prowl Live at WSWA

As some of you may know, the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America is having its annual gathering in Las Vegas this week. This is where the distributor types come together for a series of meetings, tastings, back-room deals and good ol’ fashioned fun, Vegas style. Notable this year, of course, is the presence of Sarah Palin as the keynote speaker. Why Palin? Beats me because the whole organization is rather dude-heavy. But Mike Steinberger wrote an intelligent piece at Slate about the topic that’s worth a read.

Anyway, back to the point of this post. We here at Spume HQ, though we’ve never been to WSWA ourselves, have a plant at the convention. That’s right, we’ve embedded Cougar Beat our, erm, Vegas lifestyle correspondent. So, without further ado, we go to Cougar Beat’s live SMS dispatches from the conference: Continue reading

Real Live Wine Fraud

Not quite on the scale of the Jefferson bottles, but funnily enough the comment below appeared the other day on my earlier post about Nigerian Wine Spam.

Let’s see what “Julia” has to say:

Dear Wolfgang,
My name is Julia. I am from Moscow, Russia. I work for wine company. I have recieved a call from a man in London, who was seaking for Petrus wines for “VIP Party”. I did all the operation. I found the wines for him in France, the man from London  had sent the swift in order to confirm the payment.The french supplier had shipped 18 bottles of Petrus to London. Now the bank in France confirmed that the SWIFT is faked, the french supplier hasn`t got the money, the bastards had got the wines. I don`t know what to do….Could you advise me smth…. where to go…where do they usually resell the wines ? In London? To wine boutiques, restaurants…Any help would be appreciated. I am ready to pay the money for the help. The proforma was for 53000 euros. Julia

Interesting on many levels.

I wonder if it’s the same scammers, and this is their response to the original post? Do they like to target bloggers? Surly this is a person and not some web-crawling spam spider?

Anyway, as always folks, make sure to read through your comments. And anything about unloading some Petrus in London, Moscow, New York or anywhere else is 100% fake.

Side note: I guess this confirms that VIPs like to roll with Petrus.

Humboldt County Looks to Napa Valley for Inspiration

Hard times may be around the corner for marijuana growers in Humboldt County. It seems folks up there are concerned that legalization of marijuana in California — or some form of broad decriminalization of it at any rate — will cut into their bread and butter industry and their profits would, erm, go up in smoke.

(Sorry, couldn’t resist that one)

Interestingly, one of the proposed responses to this potential new reality is to turn the area into a playground for pot tourists, an idea that seems to borrow heavily from the model used by Napa Valley and California wine country. Presumably the folks in Humboldt are after a similarly well-heeled demographic. From today’s SF Chronicle:

Meeting organizer Anna Hamilton of Shelter Cove said she believes legalization could be “devastating” to the region and that Humboldt County should plan ahead by capitalizing on its name recognition as a marijuana destination.

“We have to embrace marijuana tourism, marijuana products and services — and marijuana has to become a part of the Humboldt County brand,” said Hamilton, who describes herself as “intimately involved” with the marijuana industry.

“Brand Humboldt County” sounds a lot like “Brand Napa Valley” to me. But then maybe I just smoked too much cabernet?

Authenticity in Italian Wine: Notes from My Panel at VINO 2010

As I mentioned earlier, I was in New York for much of last week at the Italian wine extravaganza, VINO 2010. While it was great to attend seminars, meet new producers and taste their wines, the reason I was there was to speak as part of a panel (full disclosure: I was paid to participate). Our session was titled Transparency, Traceability, and Wine: the Italian Appellation of Origin System, and it certainly inspired a lively round of discussion.

I don’t have full notes on what was said, but I thought I would post the written text of what I’d prepared for the session. Feel free to chime in with discussion, comments, etc.

Note: Riccardo Ricci Curbastro, a Franciacorta producer and a representative of FederDOC, the body that oversees the Italian appellation system, pointed out that the rules for each appellation are agreed upon from the bottom up; in other words, the producers of a particular region determine the appellation rules amongst themselves. I overlooked this point but it did come rushing back when I recalled that members of the Brunello Consortium voted to not change the rules of the appellation and allow grapes other than sangiovese in the production of Brunello di Montalcino.

Anyway, here’s the text I prepared (after the jump):

Continue reading

Nigerian Wine Spam?

A friend forwarded me this email, which might just be the work of Nigerian email scammers. Evidently the turmoil in the financial world — and perhaps an increased awareness of both personal finances and email scams — has forced the scammers into a new game. Either that, or this whole wine fraud thing is really getting out of hand.

Wow, who knew the international wine trade could be so much fun?

And remember, kids: Be careful when playing with the internet. Watch those credit card numbers. And POS machines (for routing purposes?).

God bless him

> From: Tim Mccarron
> Date: October 2, 2009 5:36:05 PM PDT
> Subject: Wine Booking.
> Reply-To:
>
> Hello,
>
> I want to make the reservation for 10 guests who are coming to your country for a meeting of private meeting.The group would need your wine services in your place,from 27th to 30th October of 2009.The Guests are 10 in number and we want to make a deposit of $3,000 USD in advance before their arrival. All the checks and balances will be made with you the 30th of October 2009.
>
> 1) you have a POS machine to charge credit cards?
>
> Contact me please back with your answer. God bless him.
>
> Regards,
>
> Mr. Tim McCarron.
>
> Mobile: xxxxxxx*

*Note: Phone number removed just to keep y’all from getting in trouble.

Che, Syrah?

jose_feliciano_chesara_03

California syrah is in a strange place these days, and it’s no secret in the trade that the wine remains a difficult item to sell. With a few exceptions, this is generally true for both spicy, vibrant syrah from California’s cooler coastal climates, as it is for the jammy, sweeter versions grown in warmer spots.

Yet syrah has its partisans and admirers, people attracted to a wine that at its best is seductive, savage and fraught with tension. And what’s not to love about that?

So what gives? Some people point to an identity crisis in American syrah, which in turn has confused consumers (to say nothing of winemakers). I recently wrote a short overview of syrah (and some of the California Rhône movement) for the San Francisco Chronicle. It’s a light read but features pithy commentary from some of California’s most accomplished producers of Rhône varieties. Here’s a bit with comments from Bob Lindquist (Qupé) and Sashi Moorman (Stolpman and Piedrasassi, among others):

“Too many people jumped on the bandwagon,” says Syrah pioneer Bob Lindquist of Qupé in Santa Maria (Santa Barbara County). The wine industry’s initial enthusiasm for Syrah led to overplanting, whether that meant too much or just simply in the wrong place. But equally, Lindquist says, winemakers tended to ignore what wine lovers were buying. “There was too much coming on without the market being ready for it.”

That the market was unprepared seems almost like an understatement. Drinkers reached for Australian Shiraz but that enthusiasm stopped short of Syrah from these shores.

“As a domestic wine, you can’t really expect consumers to understand Syrah,” says Sashi Moorman of Stolpman Vineyards and Piedrasassi, both located in Santa Barbara County. “It will never be Chardonnay or Cabernet.”