Amy Hoopes on How California Wine is a Brand

By Laurie Greene, Editor

The creation of Californian wines led to the realization of a new flavor profile; California Wine is a brand.

Amy Hoopes, chief marketing officer and executive vice president of global sales for Wente Family Estates in Livermore, Calif., said when Californian winemakers developed a new flavor style for wines, they hit home with the youthful American consumer palate. “I think the taste profile for California wines for a long time has been a product that offered more,” Hoopes said.

“It was more fruit forward,” Hoopes explained. “It was bigger. It was bolder. It appealed to the young American palate which had previously had access only to high-end European wines and a confusing French classification, which at that point caused a lot of anxiety,” she noted.

Hoopes said the California brand was able to build upon a flavor profile that matched the grapes grown in the state, “to make styles of wines that just clicked. Consumers say, ‘Wow I feel confident now. This is comfortable. I know what it is; I understand where this is going.’”

“I believe having that kind of focus again is the renewal we’re looking for in the California brand—to reconnect with what more means and to make sure that we’re consistently delivering that taste experience to increase the value behind the brand.”

Founded 130 years ago, Wente Vineyards is the country’s oldest, continuously operated family-owned winery.

Appellations Beyond Napa . . .

Grower Andy Beckstoffer on Lake and Mendocino County Appellations

By Charmayne Hefly, Associate Editor

When people discuss California wine, they most commonly associate it as having been grown and produced in Napa. However, Napa isn’t the only northern county to grow grapes that become iconic California wines.Lake County Winegrape Commission

Andy Beckstoffer, owner of Rutherford-based Beckstoffer Vineyards, owns more than 3,000 acres of premium winegrapes. He began his own vineyard in the 1970s in Mendocino and Napa counties before expanding into Lake County as well.

Beckstoffer said that Lake and Mendocino counties were some of the most promising new wine districts in the new world of wine. He ought to know; the California Association of Winegrape Growers named Beckstoffer 2015 Grower of the Year last month.

“Mendocino County has consistently produced some of the best Chardonnay for years,” Beckstoffer said. “We started back in the 1970s, and they continue to do it in the Red Hills of Lake County. The appellation, Red Hills Lake County AVAis where we’re producing Cabernet at a reasonable price–North Coast Cabernet. It’s really the most promising new wine district in the new world of wine because it is encompassed by the vast North Coast AVA,” Beckstoffer said, “and the quality has been proven to be excellent.”

The North Coast AVA encompasses smaller appellations in six counties north of San Francisco: Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Napa, Sonoma, and Solano. Lake County AVAs


El Capitan Achievement Celebrated with California Sparkling Wine

Iron Horse Vineyards 2010 Ocean Reserve Blanc de Blancs
Iron Horse Vineyards 2010 Ocean Reserve Blanc de Blancs

Sonoma County native Kevin Jorgeson and his climbing partner Tommy Caldwell celebrated their achievement of scaling the Dawn Wall of El Capitan with California sparkling wine. Their feat has earned them admiration and cheers from all over the world, so it was only natural that they celebrate with a local delicious beverage.

The featured wine is the Ocean Reserve Blanc de Blanc from Iron Horse Vineyards – whose sales help promote the National Geographic’s Ocean Initiative. Joy Sterling, CEO of Iron Horse Vineyards, is also a member of the California State Board of Food and Agriculture.

According to the winery, in the spirit of supporting ocean conservancy, best food pairings focus on seafood, the beverage was deemed a “best choice” on the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch® program. Iron Horse Vineyards is located in the gentle rolling hills of the Green Valley appellation within the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County, California.

U.S. Will be first Country of Honor for Wine in Vinexpo 2015

U.S. is Largest Wine Consumer – Both in Volume and Value

The world’s leading show for wine and spirits professionals, Vinexpo 2015 has designated the U.S. as its first-ever Country of Honor – a distinction that will give the American wine industry maximum exposure throughout the show. Of course California will be prominently featured.

The Theme “Taste the Unexpected,” Vinexpo 2015 will be held June 14-18 2015 in Bordeaux, France.VineExpo 2015

The Country of Honor designation acknowledges the U.S.’s ascendancy as the world’s top wine-consuming nation. A 2014 Vinexpo-commissioned study by International Wine and Spirit Research revealed that in 2011, the U.S. surpassed France and Italy to lead the world in wine consumption in both volume and value.

Between 2012 and 2016, American annual wine consumption is projected to grow by more than 12 percent, or 40.5 million cases, again mostly from wine produced in California.


California expects more competition for wine market

Source: Steve Adler; Ag Alert

A new report showing that the United States continues to lead the world in wine consumption is viewed as good news for the California wine sector—but it shouldn’t lead to complacency, according to three experts.

This country’s No. 1 ranking in total consumption in 2013 marked the third consecutive year of that achievement. U.S. wine consumption topped 3.3 billion liters, an increase of 5.4 percent compared to the previous year. France retained its hold on second place, with 2.8 billion liters—but that represented a 6.9 percent decrease in consumption.

California’s share of U.S. wine production is about 90 percent, although there are wineries in every state.

“Our consumption is growing in this country, but everyone realizes that the U.S. is the largest wine market in the world because we have such a large population base. Everybody in the world wants to sell their wines here, so there is a lot of foreign competition,” said Gladys Horiuchi of the Wine Institute in San Francisco.

Mendocino County grape grower and winery owner Bill Pauli said last week’s report on wine consumption underscores the importance of the U.S. market not only to California producers, but to producers around the world.

“With America’s expanding growth and improved economic times, consumption has improved and people are drinking better wines. But we still have to compete, not only amongst ourselves, but with all of the foreign competition. And that foreign competition is really the challenge in not only flavors, but price,” Pauli said.

The challenge comes not only in finished products, but from the foreign producers who sell bulk wines into California to be blended or bottled here, competing directly with California grape growers, he said.

Horiuchi said lighter crops produced in California prior to 2012 allowed foreign producers of bulk wines to make inroads. But because of the large crops in 2012 and 2013, the availability of California grapes has eased that threat, she said.

“The good news now is that the wineries are brimming with California wine of excellent vintages, so naturally the wineries have gone back to their local sources. But in order to maintain their shelf space, when the production in California is down, they will import wine from other countries,” Horiuchi said.

Competition from foreign producers was also noted by Glenn Proctor of the Ciatti Co. in San Rafael, who cautioned the state’s growers and wineries not to become complacent.

“When you are No. 1 in the world, it is not just California wines and U.S. wines that consumers are buying, but other countries are trying to get their wines into the U.S. market too,” he said. “So I think we will continue to see a very competitive environment.”

Proctor said it is important for California wineries to continue producing wines that U.S. consumers want, at prices that allow them to purchase more.

“We have to be on our game and remain competitive. The opportunities continue to grow, but we have to be ahead; we cannot be behind,” he said. “We’ve seen countries like Australia, Chile, Argentina and South Africa do a pretty good job of bringing bottled product into this country.”

While this year’s winegrape crop in California is projected to be normal in size, it follows two years of record production, resulting in large inventories in most of the state’s wineries. Proctor said that will allow California wineries to hold onto highly competitive shelf space.

“We have had two bumper crops in a row and this year looks to be a healthy crop, but not large per se. But we do have some excess of wine, especially in the Central Valley. I think we will work through the excess, and it is helpful that we don’t have a big crop this year. But we do need to increase our sales and grow. Any kind of stagnation in case-good sales would not be a good thing for the industry,” he said.

Proctor predicted that in the near term, there could be some “corrections” in prices that wineries pay to growers.

“Prices received by growers are healthy right now and some wineries may think they are too high,” he said. “We may see some correction in the marketplace in the Central Valley in the next year or two, to get inventory costs back in line.”

In the long term, he said, wineries will need a steady supply of grapes coming from California, “and you want to have new and efficient vineyards so growers and wineries can continue to be profitable.”

Proctor said some older and less-productive vineyards in the Central Valley will probably be removed and replanted, either with better-producing grape varieties or other commodities such as almonds or pistachios.

On the marketing side, Horiuchi said wineries continue to target baby boomers, people ages 50 to 68.

“The baby boomers are the ones who have the income and the ones who are dining in restaurants. But at the same time, there is a transition taking place as wineries are starting to market to the next generation, where the consumers are more involved with social media, taking pictures of wine labels and so on. They are willing to try a lot of different things,” she said.


CAWG Annual Meeting July 23-25

The Sacramento-based California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG) Annual Meeting is July 23-25, in Carmel Valley, Monterey County. “It’s even more exciting because this is our 40th anniversary!” said Ron Lopp, communications manager for CAWG. “Forty years ago, CAWG was founded by a small number of winegrape growers,”

The event kicks off with a golf event on the 23rd, followed by a speaker program on the 24th and the CAWG Board of Directors meeting on the 25th.

“An important part of the event is recognizing the winegrower and the wine leader of the year,” noted Lopp. “This year, the grower of the year recipient is the Ledbetter Family, owners and operators of Vino Farms in Lodi. The Grower of the Year Award—an individual, family or company—represents an outstanding example of excellence in viticulture management, recognized by others for innovation and leadership in the industry. We are recognizing the main family members of the Ledbetters,” said Lopp.

The CAWG Leadership Award recipient,” Lopp stated, “is actually one of the founding members of CAWG, Richard Keene, a Mendocino winegrape grower and winemaker. He is the third recipient of the award,” said Lopp.