Download &
print (pdf)

Newsworthy Headlines & Trends About Pinot Noir in 2009



Wineries in the News

Kosta Browne Winery was sold for a reported $40 million to Vincraft, an investment group headed by former Beringer executives Wal Klenz and Pete Scott and Bill Price, the owner of Durell Vineyard in Sonoma. Dan Kosta, Chris Costello and Michael Browne continue as minority partners and will remain at the winery in their respective sales and marketing, management and winemaker roles. Total annual production is expected to remain at 10,500 cases, which is currently comfortable and quite manageable for them.

Calera was in the news on several fronts. (1) Josh Jensen reported that because of all the paperwork and license fees required to sell wines to other states, it was much easier and cheaper to sell wine to foreign countries than to sell it within the United States. For example, it is simpler for Calera to sell wine to Japan which requires no permits, licenses or fees, than to any number of states here. In 2009, Calera exported wine to twenty different countries which represented 45% of total sales. (2) Calera is the biggest United States customer for Vino-Seal glass closures which are used on the Calera Central Coast Pinot Noirs and Mt. Harlan Cuvee Pinot Noir. The closure is more expensive than cork, but there is zero chance of cork taint in any bottle closed with it. (3) For reasons that are unclear, many people have started ordering only one Calera wine - the Jensen Vineyard Pinot Noir which represents only 5% of Calera’s production. Calera has taken the step to refuse to fill such orders.



People in the News

• Willamette Valley wine industry pioneers Richard Sommer, Cal Knudsen and Gary Andrus passed away in 2009. Sommer was one of the founders of Oregon’s vinifera industry. He planted the first post Prohibition vinifera vines including Pinot Noir and Riesling on a former turkey farm in Roseburg, Oregon in 1961. Sommer later founded HillCrest Vineyard Winery which is Oregon’s oldest continuously operating vinifera winery. Calvert “Cal” Knudsen was a former CEO of MacMillan Bloedel, a large forest products company, who bought a 200-acre walnut orchard in the Dundee Hills region of the Willamette Valley in 1971 and planted a vineyard which eventually grew to 120 acres at a time when there were only few others such as David Lett, Dick Erath and Dick Ponzi in the region growing wine grapes. Knudsen had become a wine buff after touring Europe with his wife in 1954. In 1975, he partnered with Dick Erath to form Knudsen-Erath Winery which lasted until the late 1980s when Erath bought out Knudsen. Knudsen then became an investor in Argyle Winery in Dundee which used grapes from Knudsen’s vineyards. Knudsen died in 2009 at the age of 85. Gary Andrus had a successful 30-year career in the wine industry in California, New Zealand and Oregon. He founded Pine Ridge Winery in the Napa Valley in 1978 and several years later acquired land in the Dundee Hills and founded Archery Summit. At Archery Summit, he introduced Oregon to a modern approach and style and offered his wines at the then unheard of price of $60 and more per bottle. His message was that Oregon was producing Pinot Noir that could rival any made in the world and many wineries followed suit with their pricing. In 2001, a divorce forced the sell of both Pine Ridge and Archery Summit. He and his second spouse, Christine, then founded Gypsy Dancer in the Chehalem Mountains after purchasing Lion Valley Vineyard. Andrus had a brief interest in New Zealand’s Central Otago (Gypsy Dancer Christine Lorrane Cellars), but this venture never was successful. His legacy is carried on by a daughter, Danielle Andrus Montalieu, who with her husband, Laurent Montalieu, owns Soléna Cellars, and co-owns NW Wine Company, Hyland Vineyards and Grand Cru Estates.



Vintage Reports

• Many of the 2007 vintage California Pinot Noirs were released with much fanfare in 2009. Wine writers hailed the California 2007 Pinot Noir vintage as “the best ever” and “an important step forward in California Pinot Noir.” The growing season was unremarkable except for low rainfall early in the season and winemakers found their task simplified as the wines made themselves without the necessity of additions and/ or manipulations. Phenolic ripeness was achieved at moderate sugar levels and many of the resulting wines showed alcohols in the 13.6% to 14.4% range, generous but ripe tannins, and up front drinkability with a moderately long aging potential of 5 to 10 years. I believe it is safe to say that no other vintage in this decade surpasses 2007 for breadth of quality Pinot Noir throughout California. Oregon’s 2007 vintage was unfairly panned by many wine writers. Wedged between the fruity and flashy California type 2006 vintage, and the model 2008 vintage, 2007 was fraught with challenges. The “roller coaster” weather in the spring was followed by rain at harvest. Some wines ended up showing green characters and dilute flavors due to unripeness. The Pinot Noirs that were successful, and there were many adroit winemakers who crafted superb wines, tended to be more classic in style, with lower alcohols, higher acidities, and charming but delicate fruit flavors without being spectacularly endowed. I have found many Oregon Pinot Noirs from the 2007 vintage to like and prefer it over the 2006 vintage where many wines suffered from overripe flavors and high alcohol percentages.

• The 2009 vintage for Pinot Noir was very successful in California for those wineries who picked before the heavy storms that arrived on October 13. Most regions reported picking at optimal ripening levels. The year was cool overall which allowed time for sugars to develop while acidity was retained. Gary Farrell, for example, called 2009 the most enjoyable harvest of his career. He said, “Cool, dry conditions prevailed throughout our entire harvest of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. Yields were modest but quality was universally high with exceptionally clean fruit exhibiting optimum structure and flavor profiles.” The Preliminary Crush Report from the California Department of Food and Agriculture noted that 3.7 million tons of grapes were harvested in 2009, an increase of 20% over 2008s’ small crop and close to the record harvest of 2005. Much of this production increase came from vineyards in the Central Valley and Lodi areas, although the harvest in Sonoma County was up 25% over 2008. Oregon had a relatively dry, cold winter and early spring followed by a mostly warmer and drier than normal May through September, with average to above average heat accumulations producing good ripening conditions. Unexpected rain in September brought threats of mold, but subsequent hot weather dried the grapes. Warm days in late September and October rewarded those who picked before over ripeness ensued. Steve Lutz of Lenné Estate in the Yamhill-Carlton District of the Willamette Valley reported the following. “The great thing about an Oregon vintage is that no two are alike. We had a warm growing season with the most consecutive days above 90 degrees in July. The heat stress shut down the vines and many cooler, high altitude vineyards were ahead of warmer sites like ours. A potential issue with heat is shriveling that potentially contributes raisin-like flavors in the resulting wine. Fortunately, the heat was followed by a cooling period avoiding excess ripeness for the most part.” At the Oregon Wine Symposium in February 2010, and reported by Wines & Vines online, Chris Welch, a grape broker and trader of bulk wine for Ciatti Co., estimated that Oregon’s crush in 2009 amounted to 28,000 tons, a noticeably large increase over the 17,500 tons in 2008. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the state now faces a large surplus of wine. The 2009 vintage was very good for Pinot Noir in New Zealand. The summer was warm and dry and conditions were moderate throughout harvest. Yields were generous, in line with 2008, despite extensive crop thinning.



Popularity of Pinot Noir

• Pinot Noir is now the most popular variety in America’s restaurants according to the 2008Wine & Spirits Restaurant Poll reported in April 2009. The top five Pinot Noirs served at the restaurants polled were in order of popularity, Merry Edwards, Flowers, Adelsheim Vineyard, Hirsch Vineyards, and La Crema. Among the top fifty wines served at restaurants, Willakenzie, Adelsheim and Bethel Heights Pinot Noirs were new additions in 2008. 38% of restaurants said that wine sales had decreased.

• According to the Nielsen Co., United States table wine sales ending July 25, 2009, indicated that Pinot Noir showed the highest percentage change from a year earlier (10.1%) of any variety except Sauvignon Blanc (10.9%). Sales were $452 million.

• The cost of Pinot Noir continues to rise. The average price among my top rated Pinot Noirs was $51 in 2008 and $55.50 in 2009. The annual Wine & Spirits Restaurant Poll for 2008 published in April 2009 indicated the average Pinot Noir price in restaurants rose from $45 in 1995 to $73 in 2008.

• Writer Jordan Mackay quipped, “There are certain phrases that you rarely, if ever, hear in wine circles. One is good, cheap Pinot Noir.”

• Crushpad’s success led to expansion in 2009 to serve larger numbers of commercial clients. Established in 2004 by Michael Brill, Crushpad was initially aimed at wine lovers who wanted to make small lots of quality wine from top vineyards for personal consumption. Many of these enthusiasts were Pinot Noir devotees. The company grew rapidly, reportedly producing 40,000 cases in 2009 and the number of commercial wineries making wine at Crushpad tripled. Crushpad moved to a large winemaking facility in southern San Francisco and partnered with Napa’s Bin to Bottle custom crush facility to serve clients who have outgrown the relatively small San Francisco location.

• Continued research supports the association between moderate wine consumption and decreased risk of heart disease and remains a key driver of wine’s popularity among an increasingly health-conscious society.



Roughing it During the Recession

• Wine consumption in the United States continued its upward growth in 2009 for the 16th consecutive year, but sales of high-end Pinot Noir dropped significantly in 2009, leaving many wineries scrambling to offer discounts on both multiple bottle purchases and shipping to stimulate sales. Vintners referred to sales of over $50 Pinot Noir as the “dead zone,” and vintners who were willing to admit it reported that sales were down 10% to 30%. Consumers were trading down to cheaper wines. Some wineries were either on the brink or went out of business already. B Vineyards and Habitat in Green Valley (Bpinot owned by Gerald Bybee) was founded on the premise of high-end premium organic Pinot Noir sales in the $55 to $70 range, but could not survive the economy’s downturn, although the wines are among my favorites and in the top tier as far as quality in California. The vineyards are now for sale, which is unfortunate timing because values of wineries have fallen 20% to 50% compared to a few years ago. The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported that Manchester Ridge Vineyards, a 30-acre source of high-end Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, which was getting $4,000 per ton for Pinot Noir and $3,900 per ton for Chardonnay, was facing expired winery contracts and was auctioning off the remaining 25-year lease on the property for $1.4 million. More than $6 million was invested to develop the property. Astonishingly, many still want to play the premium Pinot Noir game and small producers continue to enter the market, frequently offering their initial Pinot Noir releases in the $40 range, undaunted by the competition and current economic doldrums. Many of these so-called “lifestyle” wineries will not survive this period of economic recession.

• Impact Databank reported that inexpensive Pinot Noir brands priced below the industry average are now outselling the higher-end of the spectrum at twice the rate for both domestic and imported brands. Many premium Pinot Noir wineries held prices the same as the year before, but very few lowered their prices. Some predict that prices will have to come down in 2010 as many wineries are pressured to reduce their unsold inventory to stay in business. Some wineries may sell their inventory on the bulk market, even at a loss and these wines will turn up in negociant bottlings like Castle Rock, though it will be difficult to identify exactly where the premium wine goes. Allocations are becoming a thing of the past for all but the most prestigious producers, and Pinot Noirs that in previous years were only sold to mailing list members are now available for sale to anyone for the asking. Growers have been sympathetic to the vintners’ plight and have offered reduction in crop prices in 2009, even though contracts were in place. One example was Peter Cargasacci, a grower in the Sta. Rita Hills appellation, who cut his price by 10 percent.

• Many premium Pinot Noir producers are now offering two price points that include their top end line of Pinot Noir and a second lower-priced brand or bottling that offers both affordability and good quality. Some of these more affordable wines are regional appellation bottlings that sell for half the cost of the winery’s single vineyard Pinot Noirs. Wine consumers rarely drink a $60 Pinot Noir nightly with dinner, preferring to pop open a “daily drinker” in the under $25 price range. Consumers have confidence in these second tier value-priced wines since they have had experience with the quality of the higher priced wines from the same winery. Wineries hope to make up in sales of the lower-priced wines for the sales they are losing in this economy with the premium wines. One example is Guy Davis at Davis Family Vineyards who recently launched the valuepriced Two Sons label, named after his two sons, Cole and Cooper. Peay Vineyards has a second brand, Cep, Chasseur has Cazar, Radio-Coteau has County Line, and Belle Glos has the popular Meiomi brand. The second brands can often be successful as restaurant wines as well.

• The prices of grapes on the spot market dropped significantly in 2009 with the average selling price of Pinot Noir down about 43% from $2,800 to $4,500 a ton in 2008 to $1,800 to $2,800 a ton in 2009. Some growers were forced to harvest their own grapes, have wine made using a custom crush facility, and sell it on the bulk market to avoid taking a low offer on the grapes. Glenn Proctor quipped, “This isn’t a year to cut a fat hog.”

• The problem of smoke taint in 2008 in many vineyards in Mendocino and western Sonoma County added to Pinot Noir producers’ woes. There were 2,000 wildfires in 17 counties across Northern California. Some producers, like Larry Londer, of Londer Vineyards in the Anderson Valley, is holding back most of his 2008 production, planning to bottle about 25% of the winery’s usual yearly output. WesMar declassified all of its 2008 Hellenthal Vineyard wine, despite this vineyard being the winery’s largest source of grapes. Some notable Anderson Valley vineyards like Savoy Vineyard and Demuth Vineyard will have no vineyard designate Pinot Noirs from the 2008 vintage. Most North Coast wineries are being very cautious with the 2008 wines, avoiding the release of any questionable wines to preserve brand integrity. Smoke taint was a topic of much discussion among California winemakers. Australian researchers presented their experience and research on smoke taint at a University of California at Davis seminar in 2009. In 2007, Australians Kristen Kennison and Mark Gibberd published a research paper in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry that was the first to link smoke in the vineyard with tainted wine. Several facts are evident from this publication and seminar: (1) smoke taint in wine creates aromas and flavors that are described as gamy, spicy, smoky, charred, ash, cigar box, charcoal, bacon, truffle, coffee, barbecue, campfire, medicinal, woody and burnt rubber, (2) grapevines absorb volatile phenolic compounds such as guaiacol and 4-methyl guaiacol through the leaves, store it in the stems and leaves and transport the compounds to the skin of grapes (there are no smoke compounds contained within the pulp), (3) smoke taint presents no threat to health, (4) longer macerations increase smoke taint, (5) fermentation and aging of wine can increase concentrations of smoke taint compounds in wine, (6) small amounts of smoke taint are tolerable, similar to the effects created by oak aging, (7) the vulnerability of grapevines to smoke taint is highest in the period from seven days after veraison to harvest, (8) repeat exposure to smoke during the growing season has a cumulative effect, (9) growth and yields of vines decreases in the year following heavy exposure to smoke, (10) there appears to be no carryover effect on the grapes from vines exposed to heavy smoke from the previous year, (11) fining and filtration may lead to some resolution of smoke taint, but do not eliminate smoke taint compounds completely and may strip the wine of desirable aromatic and flavor features, (12) Pinot Noir is more susceptible to smoke taint than Chardonnay or Syrah, and (13) possibly the biggest concern of winemakers is that high-end vineyard designated wines may seem fine when bottled, but may develop smoke taint characters as aging goes on.



Styling Pinot Noir

• Is the trend to pick Pinot Noir at lower Brix levels a reality or a perception? In truth, the trend is toward picking at balance, most feasible in very cool climates where ripe fruit flavors can be obtained at modest Brix levels when acidity is still relatively high. There are a number of producers who have been doing this for years such as Lane Tanner, Au Bon Climat and Littorai, and several newer wineries are following in step such as Rhys Vineyards, Ambullneo Vineyards, Copain and LIOCO.

• The term “natural wine” is being bantered about as a badge of quality. This term has no official definition, but is loosely defined as wine made from grapes that are sustainably, organically or biodynamically grown, and fermented with natural or indigenous yeasts. Some would also only include wines fermented in natural materials like oak, and exclude those fermented in stainless steel. The idea of natural wines dates back over twenty years when Frenchman Jules Chauvet, a negociant in Beaujolais, suggested the term. Another term that has been adopted by many wineries is “green,” which has many meanings from “organic” to “sustainably farmed,” to “carbon neutral,” leaving the consumer understandably confused. The California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, has sponsored a self-assessment program for several years to assist wineries in following green farming practices. Jointly established by the California Wine Institute and the California Association of Winegrape Growers, the Alliance announced in early January 2010 that an extension of the original voluntary program has been initiated that sets minimum standards for third-party certification of vineyards and wineries, allowing those properly certified to advertise that they are “green.” Wineries can use the certification on their marketing materials and websites, but not yet on labels.

• Controversy about the ‘sameness’ of American Pinot Noirs has been in the news. Allen Meadows wrote an open letter to U.S. Pinot Noir producers that was published in his Burghound newsletter. “The problem as I see it is the lack of genetic diversity in the vineyards.......I’m referring to increasing and troubling emphasis of most new plantings to focus on just a few clones......115, 667, 777 and 828 dominate......these clones tend to taste more of themselves than reflect the site specific characteristics of where they’re planted.” Nick Peay of Peay Vineyards wrote an articulate rebuttal disagreeing with Meadow’s assertions as to the cause of homogeneity in domestic Pinot Noirs. Peay replied, “The ‘sameness’ is due to late-picking harvest decisions and the non traditional vinification protocols that many of the producers of same-tasting Pinot employ. When Pinot is picked overripe, the wines tend to taste the same regardless of clone or site.......the blame lies in a desire by a growing number of producers to impress critics and consumers with big, rich and juicy wines that have little to do with the charm, elegance and power of varietally-correct Pinot Noir.” Wine writer Jordan Mackay alluded to this as well when he commented, “The West Coast wines that tend not to look and taste like Pinot Noir are often the high-dollar wines, many from single vineyards, the ones ostensibly meant to show terroir.”



Marketing

• The Millennial generation (ages 15 to 32 in 2009) is estimated at 70 million and wine consumption continues to grow among this group. Wineries are reaching out to this large potential customer base through social networking which appeals to the tech-savvy Millennials. Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are powerful tools that essentially cost nothing and are becoming a preferred source of information over traditional sources of wines ratings such as Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate which the Millennials rarely use. Joe Dobbes, a prominent Oregon winemaker, said, “The idea of absolutely relying on some guy in a back room to taste our wines and write up a review are long gone.” Over 10 million people are using Twitter, and if a winery is looking to recruit the young and educated, they are finding that these people are interested in Tweets. The young crowd is also interested in the other related applications such as Twitpic.com where you can send a photo of the winery you are visiting, or Tastelive.com where they can share a glass of wine over Twitter with other “twine” lovers. The most current updates about all the wine news that is fit to tweet is available from winetwits.com and winetweets.com.



Closures and Enclosures

• More wineries were using a variety of closures in 2009. According to Wine Business Monthly, screw caps were used by just 5% of wineries in 2004, but in 2009, 26% of wineries were using them. Some wineries, notably Buena Vista Carneros, converted completely to screw caps for all of their white and red wines. Natural cork still dominates among California and Oregon Pinot Noir priced over $25. Technical corks, such as Diam (agglomerated natural cork granules) are gaining rapidly in popularity because there is no risk of cork taint. Diam offers the same level of oxygen transmission as good natural corks and produces different corks that can offer varying levels of oxygen transmission. Synthetic closures are almost exclusively reserved for inexpensive wines. Synthetics have several drawbacks including high oxygen-transmission, difficult extraction, and lack of biodegradability. Zork closures, an alternative to cork developed in Australia, are mainly used on novelty wines. Vino-Seal or Vino-Lok closure is made of plastic and glass. The closure uses a glass stopper with an inert o-ring to seal the wine. A bottle can be resealed easily with this closure and there is no risk of cork taint. The biggest drawback is the high cost and increased cost of bottling. Josh Jensen at Calera has taken an interest in this closure and uses it for all of his lower-priced bottlings. In my tastings, I still run across a corked wine in about one in fifty bottles (2%) of recent vintages, but I am not extremely sensitive to TCA, and there are probably another 1% of wines that have flat fruit and are probably tainted, but I cannot detect the smell of TCA. Despite the low percentage of cork taint, its occurrence is a huge disappointment, and in some cases a costly one.

• In 1652, an Englishman by the name of Sir Kenelm Digby produced the first wine bottles that were suited to storage and transport of wine, but the invention was patented nine years later by another Englishmen, John Corlett. The English are credited with standardizing the size and volume of wine bottles. In 1979, the United States set a requirement that all bottles be of a set size of 750 milliliters as part of the national drive at the time to adopt the metric system. Winemakers in Europe adopted the same wine bottle size shortly thereafter. Wine bottles are very expensive to produce, they are heavy and fragile and their shape and size makes shipping inefficient. Producers of inexpensive mass-market wines are now turning to more environmentally friendly packaging such as airtight cardboard boxes and plastic containers. With high-end wines, there is a trend toward lighter-weight bottles. Benziger Family Winery in Glen Ellen, California, is buying bottles that are 10 percent to 20 percent lighter than previously used bottles, decreasing the winery’s footprint and supporting their goal of sustainability. Glass manufacturers such as Saint-Gobain Containers, Owens-Illinois Inc., and Saverglass are producing less weighty versions of wine bottles, despite the fact that developing new bottle molds can be very costly.

Recycling wine bottles makes sense but has not been accomplished on a large scale in this country. Cyrill Penn, writing in Wine Business Monthly, estimates that more than 300 million cases of wine are sold each year and virtually none of the bottles are reused. An increasing number are being recycled, but it has been estimated that 70% end up in landfills in the United States. Practically every nation besides the United States has a large-scale functioning bottle collection and reuse system. In the European Union, a wine bottle is used eight times before it is discarded. There have been a handful of bottle recycling companies in the United States, but they all have failed due to the lack of proper mechanization to perform the task. Home winemaker Bruce Stephens, former bottle-washing plant owner Chris Ronson and Napa supervisor Bill Dodd have refurbished a former Del Monte fruit-canning plant in Stockton, California and named the enterprise, not surprisingly, Wine Bottle Recycling. According to an article by Alastair Bland in The Bohemian (January 6, 33 2010), this new company plans to collect and redistribute 3 million to 5 million case’s worth of used wine bottles each year by sometime in 2010. The hope is that the company will be recirculating 2 percent of the wine industry’s bottles. Modern machinery is now available such as a computerized optical sorting machine that can distinguish between the roughly 400 bottle molds in use today and a washing machine that can de-label and process over 70,000 wine bottles per hour. Until now, de-labeling has been a challenge due to the strong label adhesives introduced in the late 1990s. The owners of Wine Bottle Recycling plan to establish “bottle shacks” around Northern California where wine bottle donators will receive a cash refund (currently California Redemption Value does not apply to wine bottles). The recycled bottles will be sold to wineries at 20 to 50 percent less than new ones and will be cleaner. Several wineries, including Husch, Folio, Frey, Kendall-Jackson, and Sutter Home have shown a sincere interest in buying the recycled bottles.



Controversy

• In early 2009, the European Union announced a proposal to allow European wineries to produce cheap rosé wine by blending red and white wines. This was immediately met with resistance from the French wine industry who claimed this was sacrilegious and threatened the current popularity of traditionally vinified French rosé. The European Union backed off by June 2009 and finally abandoned the proposal. Curiously, the blending of red and white wine is commonplace in Champagne. Mixing red and white wines to make rosé is permitted in the United States and Australia.

• Two papers published in 2009 in the Journal of Wine Economics by retired professor of statistics and current proprietor of Fieldbrook Winery, Thomas Hodgson, cast serious doubt on the validity of wine competitions and wine-rating systems. Hodgson found that when the same wine was presented blind three separate times from the same bottle to qualified wine judges, the judges’ ratings varied by + or - 4 points on the standard 100 point rating scale. Only one in ten judges regularly rated the same wine within a range of + or - 2 points. In another study, Hodgson found that a wine which won a gold medal in one competition would have a high probability of winning none in others. The probability of a wine winning a gold medal in several competitions was what might be expected should a gold medal be awarded by chance alone. The conclusion some have drawn from these studies is that ratings of wines and the results of wine competitions are nearly worthless. Despite this, ratings are so ingrained in the expectations and beliefs of consumers, it is unlikely that ratings will lose any significance or credibility despite the widespread publicity generated by Hodgson’s studies.



Pinot and the City: Urban Wineries

Urban wineries sprouted up in the San Francisco Bay area and began to appear in unlikely cities like New York, Cincinnati and San Diego. The San Francisco Wine Association (SFWA) consists of 20 vintners who produce small amounts of hand-crafted wine in the city of San Francisco. The boutique winery members of SFWA craft their wine at Crushpad and a majority produce some Pinot Noir including Bartz-Allen Winery, Connor Brennan Cellars, Due Cani Cellars, Joelle Wine Company, Kindred Wines, Mark Moretti Winery, Millarium Cellars, PerryMoore Wine, Pug Wine, Seawind Wines, Think Tank Wine Company, Townley Wines, and Wait Cellars. All the wines produced by members of SFWA may be purchased through the SFWA website at www.sfwineassociation.com. Other wineries have found homes in industrial spaces in San Francisco where leases are reasonable and permits are easy to obtain. These vintners can spend their money on quality grape sources and equipment, rather than fancy tasting rooms or guest centers. Notable San Francisco urban Pinot Noir wineries include A.P. Vin, August West and Harrington Wines. The East Bay Vintner’s Alliance (EBVA) consists of 19 urban wineries located in the cities of Emeryville, Oakland and Alameda. Prominent Pinot Noir producers who make their home in the East Bay include Aubin Cellars, Eno Wines and Tayerle Wines. The 3rd Annual Passport to the East Bay Trail will be held April 10, 2010. Visit www.eastbayvintners.com for information. Urban wineries in New York City may seem a bit out of place, but they have become quite successful. City Winery consists of 21,000 square feet of space and a wine bar located in the Tribeca section of Manhattan. Winemaker David Lecomte hails from California’s Herzog Wine Cellars and makes wines with purchased grapes from California, New York, Argentina and Chile. Two Pinot Noirs are offered in 2008: City Winery Olsen Family Vineyards Willamette Valley Kosher Pinot Noir and City Winery Spring St. Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. Check out www.citywine.com. Red Hook Winery opened with much fanfare in 2009. Located in the hip Brooklyn neighborhood of Red Hook, this winery has several high-profile owners that include Abe Schoener of Scholium Project in Napa, Robert Foley of Robert Foley Vineyards in Napa, Mark Snyder of Angel’s Share Wines, and Christopher Nicolson, formerly of Littorai and the on site winemaker. The team sources grapes from Long Island’s North Fork, but alias no Pinot Noir.

Expected production is about 500 cases from the 2008 vintage. Red Hook has no tasting room but tasting can be arranged by appointment (347-689-2432). Other New York urban wineries include Brooklyn Oenology which sources grapes from Long Island’s North Fork (www.brooklynenology.com), and Queens Farm, which is actually an urban vineyard that grows its own wine grapes in a 1.5-acre vineyard amidst a 47-acre farm in Floral Park, Queens and makes the wines at Premium Wine Group in Mattituck on the North Fork of Long Island (www.queensfarm.org).



By the Numbers

Wine Business Monthly reported in February 2009 that there were 2,219 bonded and 786 virtual wineries for a total of 3,005 wineries in California at the end of 2008. Washington was second with 539 wineries and Oregon third with 398. The largest California producers of Pinot Noir: E.&J. Gallo, 67,000,000 annual cases, Rodney Strong, 800,000 annual cases, Purple Wine Co., 515,000 annual cases, Castle Rock Winery, 450,000 annual cases, and Hahn Family Wines, 400,000 annual cases.

• More than 110 varieties of wine grapes are grown in California and 48 out of 58 counties grow wine grapes. Wine creates 820,000 jobs and 20.7 million people visit California wine regions each year.

Share