Monday, April 25, 2011

Is it over? Or is Napa Valley simply helping to sell publications?

In the recent issue of Wine Business Insider, (April 21) there were a lot of charts and graphs and some sensational headlines that looked to tell a story of the challenges to Napa Valley from competing wine markets here in the US and from around the world.

“Wine Spectator 2010 Top 100 Wines Reflects Increased Competition for Napa” - The premise was to look at wine scores and wine pricing from Wine Spectator comparing the year 1988 to 2010 in the “Top 100 Wines of the Year.” For example the Napa Valley appellation had 14 wines in Spectator’s Top 100 in 1988 and only 11 in 2010—down by three. All other California appellations which include Sonoma, Paso Robles, Santa Barbara, Mendocino among others, had 19 in the flight in 1988 and now 13 in 2010—off by a third.

Additionally, Bordeaux had 18 wines in the Top 100 in 1988 and only 1 in 2010, yes one—yikes, apparently not so good for Bordeaux. Burgundy had 17 in 1988 and 5 in 2010. Italy took a hit from ’88 as well. Take a look at the chart to see what wine regions of the world placed in the Top 100 in 1988—many had no placement where today they have one or more.

Additionally have a look at the point scores and pricing and one will see that Napa Valley is the only region to have its point scores actually increase over the past 22 years, again, poor France. Also have a look at the value of Napa Valley wine and again, note the high value of the region’s wines—a direct correlation to demand in the market…and not to beat the horse, but poor France.

So what does all of this mean to the reader, the consumer and to those of us in Napa Valley who scratch our heads and wonder why the story looks to be about poor Napa being cut off at the knees by world-wide competition. Not much really, since the numbers are anecdotal, one list of wines from one year and another list of wines from another. It may give us some trends to follow and that’s helpful, but the idea that this is a cloud over the Napa Valley is simply titillating journalism. If the reader really wanted to look for the wam-bam of the story, the numbers don’t serve France, Italy or the other appellations of California well at all. Given the point and placement spreads for these regions, the headline would more appropriately read, “OMG--What happened to France.”

The real story is that we live in a global market and wine drinkers have a lot more choice. The Napa Valley is just 4% of California’s wine grape harvest and just 4/1000th of the world’s wine production—a small player with a large reputation for quality and innovation and obvious consumer demand. Perhaps the reason for the 2010 list’s wines might have something to do with the depressed economy and Wine Spectator looking to review value wines from around the world in response to that. Dunno.

Ultimately, two pages of discussion on the demise of Napa Valley that has no basis in fact and the reader is left wondering what it all means—I agree, pull a cork on a great Napa Valley wine and enjoy the afternoon.

Terry Hall
Napa Valley Vintners

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wine, Guns & The Mythbusters Converge at Martin Estate

This Spring, Mythbusters’ Grant Imahara, Kari Byron and Tory Belleci joined renowned antique arms expert Greg Martin to see how centuries old firearms fared against the crew’s replication of ancient Chinese paper armor. We turned the winery lawn into a battlefield, cracked open a few bottles of Martin Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, and let the sword-wielding robot "take a whack" at the replication armor. Despite pouring rain, it was a fascinating day…and, we anticipate, an equally enthralling episode featuring wine and guns.

“Earliest references to paper armor date back to the Tang Dynasty, about 600 years BCE,” Martin says. Made from the bark of a mulberry tree, this paper, he adds, provided several tactical advantages to metal armors, including a resistance to rust and increased mobility. “In addition, it was extremely flexible as well as cheap to produce.”

But could a fragile material like paper be as effective as steel against spears, arrows and guns? According to Martin, the armor’s flexible, layered lamellar construction actually gave paper armor a leg up on the competition. “Armor with a single sheet of material is compromised by a single crack. But with layers and pieces, any damage on one layer doesn’t compromise the other. Plus, the softer materials yield and neutralize much of the impact energy before they damage.” According to Martin, armor of this type would not be pierced by arrows or spear thrusts and could withstand a musket shot from 100 yards away.

The Discovery Channel team decided to test these claims. After constructing their own armor by cutting paper into strips and folding them back and forth into multiple layers to create protective scales, Imahara, Byron and Belleci packed up their new suit and traveled to Martin’s Napa Valley winery, which also houses extensive antique arms and medieval armor.

Martin pulled some of his ancient flintlock firearms from their cases, and the Mythbusters team went into town to arm themselves with bow and arrow. Then, the quartet set up the “battlefield” outside on the estate lawn. Two dummies, one outfitted with a steel suit and the second with the Mythbusters’ paper armor, served as sacrificial lambs.

Just how well did the armor fare against the arrow deluge and ancient Chinese firearms, not to mention the robot swordsman? Stay tuned for the episode air date to find out.

For more information, please contact Brooke Gadke, or 479.414.3951.

Forty Napa Valley Vintners Head to China for Trade Mission

The Napa Valley Vintners (NVV), the 67-year-old non-profit trade association charged with promoting and protecting America's most renowned wine growing region will once again lead a multi-faceted, week-long trade mission to the Republic of China beginning April 25 with stops in both Shanghai and Beijing.

"This will be our eighth official visit to China and Hong Kong since 1998 and this year we have vintners from 40 Napa Valley wineries, the most robust participation in this market to date," said NVV Executive Director Linda Reiff.

"China is an incredibly strategic market from a number of perspectives, including its steadily growing economy that finds more and more of its people with income to purchase fine wines from around the world. For this reason, it's important for Napa Valley wineries to be in the market and on the world stage representing the best from the United States."

Some 40 vintners will meet with wine trade, media, targeted consumers and political leaders at a variety of tasting venues in both cities throughout the week. Exposing these key audiences to the innovative, quality-driven wines of Napa Valley, educating on the unique attributes of the appellation and meeting the people behind these iconic brands will be top of the agenda as vintners look to open trade or enhance their shares in the import market.

Creating and reinforcing positive relations with key importers is critical to the success of the market. Ensuring a proper "route to market," whereby product is shipped, warehoused and transported in-market with appropriate handling at proper temperature that is vital, and integral to expanding the export of wine from Napa Valley to China.

Reiff continued, "We use these market visits as an opportunity to work on important industry issues as well. In China we have been working diligently with the Chinese government to protect the Napa name in wine branding. As we do around the world, in China we have had issues with some of their domestic wine brands using the name Napa on wine labels. As consumers become more savvy, more aware of world wines, their demand for truth in wine labeling is coming to light--just as it has in the U.S., as consumers understand the distinction of wine place names of origin."

"It is critical from our perspective that wine brands, no matter where they originate, if not from Napa Valley, should never lead a consumer to believe the wine in that bottle is from this unique California wine region. As we build our appellation's presence in China, we must work on trademark protection of our region and its wines. Through trade and consumer education and awareness and working with government leaders and influencers we hope to set a solid foundation for Napa Valley wines as the market expands going forward," said Reiff.

Working the market will be vintners from, Amuse Bouche Winery; Cakebread Cellars; Coup De Foudre Winery; Cuvaison Estate Wines; Dalle Valle Vineyards; Duckhorn Vineyards; Franciscan Estate; Grgich Hills Estate; HALL; Heitz Wine Cellars; Helena View Johnston Vineyards; Hestan Vineyards; Honig Vineyard and Winery; Howell at the Moon; John Anthony Vineyards; Jones Family Vineyards; Larkin Wines; Long Meadow Ranch; Luna Vineyards; Miner Family Wines; Moone-Tsai Vineyards; Peju, Realm Cellars; Robert Mondavi Winery; Rocca Family Vineyards, Rubicon Estate; Saintsbury; Salvestrin; Schramsberg Vineyards; Signorello Estate; Silver Oak Cellars; Silverado Vineyards; St Supery Vineyards and Winery; Somerston; Stag's Leap Wine Cellars; Viader Vineyards and Winery; and Waterstone.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Knock, knock. Hoo's there?

Mr. Owl joined us a few years ago, and has a hoot in his little box. We invited him to watch over the vineyards throughout the evening and keep the vermin population down. Occasionally we catch him in flight, and spot his massive wing span against the backdrop of the twilight sky. He feasts on those pesky ground squirrels, gophers and moles - the same pests that ruin your home garden. A vineyard is just a massive garden after all.

My brother Alan has been carefully tending to the vines, which are just starting to wake up from their deep winter hibernation. We've got fuzzy little bumps on the vine canes, which were pruned down to a few inches at the end of January. Budbreak is coming very very soon. Right now they're just soaking up the delicious composting material we applied, and enjoying the warm Spring weather that has graced us this past week, with summer-like temperatures.

All the excitement is really happening inside the cellar, with Alan and Delia finalizing the blends for our 2009 DARE by Viader Cabernet Franc, which can't be bottled soon enough to meet the demand! We also racked the 2009 VIADER Proprietary Red Blend (Cab/Cab Franc) to clean out any sediment from the barrels. Our mother-son winemaking team is closely watching the development of our 2009 vintage, and are super pleased with the results. Bottling may occur sometime in the summer, if not post-harvest. TBD!

Warm regards,
Janet Viader, sales & marketing at VIADER