Pendulum is swinging back to California

14th March, 2013 by Rupert Millar

A new “vibe” around the US could be beneficial for Californian wines thinks Silverado’s general manager, Russell Weis.

james-stevenson-if-it-s-a-california-wine-you-wish-mr-larry-will-assist-you-new-yorker-cartoon

The New Yorker‘s take on Californian wine’s image

Speaking to the drinks business, Weis said that it was still relatively difficult to find shops and restaurants that really promoted Californian wine but added that he thought there was a “new energy around California and Napa.”

Addressing the oft-stated comment that California is too polarised in the UK, he said: “It’s going to be difficult for us to make a Wednesday night spaghetti wine. We know they’re not cheap but you can still afford them.”

One of the problems is the preconceived notions concerning price and style that many hold about Napa and Californian wines in general.

Riki Hutchinson of online merchant The Drinks Lover admitted that, “there is still the perception that US wine is expensive”, but added he believed that “the US movement can expand as long as restaurateurs and merchants feel they can get what they need across various price points.”

He also added that looking across a wide variety of portfolios would reveal a far greater spread of Californian wines than was generally assumed to be.

Questioning the idea that an impassioned on- and off-trade was the only key to success, Weis added that it was “on us to explain ourselves,” and conceded that producers “could be over here more to energise the market”.

“You can’t say that all French wines are alike and it’s the same with Napa. Although we’re still relatively nascent with sub-appellations and where things belong, we are able to talk about soil and climate, why Russian River is good for Chardonnay and so on and that is good for us.”

Although it is a serious investment of time, energy and money, he said it was important if you don’t want to get “wrapped up in your own little cocoon.”

“The fine wine world is at people’s feet in New York, London, Tokyo and Hong Kong,” he continued, “and it’s great for Napa to be out there in that hurly burly.”

He added that California was used to fighting image battles (see above) but added that it was striking California’s marketing board (aside from marketing the state in the first place) had included wine.

“Thirty years ago it wouldn’t have occurred to the marketing board to include wines in the advert,” he said. “It shows you how far we’ve come. If you hang around long enough the pendulum always swings back.”

The Wines of California annual tasting is taking place on Monday 18th March.

For more information click here, there will be a focus on Pinot Noir and the drinks business in association with the Wine Institute of California, will be hosting a seminar on cool climate Pinot Noir. For more information please contact marinel@thedrinksbusiness.com

2 Responses to “Pendulum is swinging back to California”

  1. We are certainly sensing a renewed interest and energy about Californian wines, particularly amongst our independent retail customers! But what really makes the difference is when our producers like Russ come over to spend time in the market and help us create that excitement. Thanks for all your hard work this week Russ!
    Nicky

  2. Christine Humphrey says:

    As a Californian who loves Old World wines, especially French, you need to step out of Napa to appreciate other and in my opinion better, more affordable wines in California. Sonoma Coast, Anderson Valley and the Russian River Valley are just a few spots in Sonoma County. But look down to Paso Robles for wonderful Rhône blends and other interesting varietals and further south to Santa Barbara County to see some really good stuff coming out of Santa Maria and the Santa Rita Hills, just to name a few. Lodi is another appellation also showing some nice stuff. To see California wines just as Napa is doing the Golden State’s diverse wine industry a disservice. Think outside the “bottle” to get the whole picture.

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