The “Less is More” Era Arrives in 2009
This is not so much an event as it is a pervasive feeling that I think is the biggest factor of the year affecting the wineries and related businesses in California and Napa Valley wine country. I hear about it from my friends, my adult children, financial wizards, etc. Our spending habits were out of control and the recession rocked us back to sensible saving and spending behaviors. The recovery may be underway, but this feeling is likely to stay a long while. It is why people are buying wines under $20 or ordering a glass of wine for dinner rather than a full bottle. It is why folks decide to stay at a budget motel instead of an expensive B&B or why they decide on a day trip to the Napa Valley rather than a weekend visit. It means dropping out of that wine club that sends out those expensive wines every four months.
Grapes go unsold
Just a month before harvest we saw something that we have never seen before in the Napa Valley, a “Grapes for Sale” sign. It was posted on Highway 29 near St. Helena for all to see. More than anything, that sign symbolized the woes of the Napa Valley.
Great harvest ends in a question mark with the big rains of October 12
Just when things were going smoothly with a great harvest, the Napa Valley and Northern California was drenched by some 4 inches of rain. Most of the harvest had been completed with everyone excited about the prospects for this vintage. Late-harvest varietals, especially Cabernet Sauvignon, remained on the vines when the rains approached. Some decided not to risk the rain and harvested grapes a tad before they were ready, and others chose to ignore the rain. There were said to be winners and losers among both of these groups.
Napa Valley cozies up to wine bloggers
In 2008, the Napa Valley seemed to ignore wine bloggers but not in 2009. At the second annual Wine Bloggers conference, the Napa Vintners’ Association rolled out the old red carpet. They hosted a wonderful day of touring of the Napa Valley that included lunch and dinner at wineries and, of course, tasting lots of good Napa Valley wine. Throughout the year, several wineries hosted small groups of bloggers for tours and tastings. Wine bloggers’ status has arrived.
Wineries adopt social media
“You snooze, you lose.” Should we or shouldn’t we get into the social media scene? Who will blog, tweat, or Facebook for us? Some wineries went to the max and hired a full-time social media director. Others tiptoed, assigning various staff to blog, join Twitter, and start a Facebook page. No one really knows if this will pay off, but if you’re late to the partyâ€¦
More greening of Napa Valley — Solar Panel Problems
2008 was the start of wineries going green and this continued throughout 2009. Most wineries did this because it was the smart thing to do. Save your land, the environment, and perhaps save on operating expenses by installing solar. Unexpectedly, solar panels provided a boon for thieves, as many panels were stolen at night.
Calistoga finally gets their AVA
After a five-year battle, the TTB approved the Calistoga AVA. The big winners were the wineries in Calistoga that have vineyards in the Calistoga AVA. Biggest losers: Calistoga Cellars and Calistoga Estates who get their grapes from the Central Valley.
A few wineries close shop
Sad to say, these are the wineries that I know that closed shop in 2009: Havens, Diamond Oaks, and Lorca.