Category Archives: Industry News

California Wine Month

It’s California Wine Month! This marks the seventh consecutive year that the state has recognized September as the month to celebrate California wine. According to Governor Jerry Brown’s statement, “Our state’s wineries create jobs for 330,000 Californians and revenue from retail sales of $18.4 billion, including $1.14 billion in exports sales to 122 countries.”

That’s a hefty dose for the California economy!

A few other fun facts about the California wine industry:
- California is the fourth largest wine producer in the world
- The state grows grapes in 48 out of 58 counties, and has 112 declared American Viticultural Areas (AVAs)
- More than 90% of all wine produced in the U.S. comes from California

So raise a glass of California wine and toast the state that put American winemaking on the map.

Celebrating Cabernet Day!

Today is Cabernet Day, the day you are supposed to enjoy and celebrate with a glass of – you guessed it! – Cabernet!

Primarily a Twitter event, using the hashtag #cabernetday, this is the second year for the event, which spans the globe, starting in Australia and ending in California (or maybe Hawaii…). It’s pretty informal – all you have to do is drink some Cabernet and tweet about it using the hashtag. Doesn’t matter where it comes from, how old it is or who produces it – just drink some Cab!

It’s a fun opportunity to maybe open something you’ve been saving or wanted to try for a while. So drink up and share! And let us know if you have any great finds or good deals -we’re always looking to find something new.

Cheers! Nominated as Retailer of the Year by Wine Enthusiast Magazine has just been honored with a nomination for Top Retailer of the Year by Wine Enthusiast magazine. We’re quite excited by this honor, especially since we’re the only online retailer recognized. 

About the “of the year” awards:
“Each year, the editors of Wine Enthusiast Magazine honor outstanding achievement in the wine world, in that given year and over time. Here, we present the nominees in each of the categories. The winners will be announced in our December 15th issue, and the honorees will be presented their awards at a gala black-tie dinner in New York City in January 2012.”

And about, they write:
“ is the nation’s largest Internet wine retailer, and was a pioneer in that arena. In March 2011, it announced fiscal year revenues of $56 million, up 25% over the prior year.”

It’s always nice to be recognized for hard work, so we are super excited about the nomination. Thanks, Wine Enthusiast!

Virginia wines and more

One month ago, I spent 4 days in the balmy, thick air of Charlottesville, VA. The Wine Bloggers Conference of 2011 was held in this lovely city (home of my alma mater) on quite possibly the worst weekend possible.  The 110+ temperatures on Friday were the hottest in over 11 years we were later told. Sadly, that did not make up for the fact that we were there to taste and learn about wine, and being ridiculously uncomfortable and sticky makes it difficult to concentrate or learn just about anything. But determined to triumph, the bloggers mowed through tasting after tasting, thankful for air conditioning, enjoying the hospitality of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Rather than go through tasting notes and descriptions of all the wines I tried, I will instead share the nuggets of wisdom I took away from it all.

1. Virginia wine ain’t bad!
My memories of Virginia wine are actually very pleasant ones: sipping (probably more like drinking) wine at a sorority function in one of the vineyards near University of Virginia. I didn’t know much about wine back then, nor did I care. I was among friends and having a blast. But from what I’m told, Virginia wine has come a long way in the past 13 years.  One reason is that they have started to focus on varietals they do well, namely, Viognier, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. (Despite this trend, the best red wines I tried, from Keswick Vineyards, were both Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.) The Petit Verdot coming from this state is pretty cool stuff – it is distinct and different. Dense, packed with fruit and age-worthy to boot, this grape handles the humidity, which is in Virginia to stay, so has great potential. On the white side, Viognier is the grape of the moment. Ripe and rich, many of the wines are BIG, some a bit over-the-top. Granted, most I tasted were from 2010, a very hot year, so I take that into consideration. Worth seeking out to taste, if you find a bottle. Some great wineries to note are Keswick Vineyards, Jefferson Vineyards, Blenheim Winery, Virginia Wineworks, Williamsburg Winery (Chardonnay) and Veritas.

2. Alternative Packaging on the rise!
I admit it, I am a sucker for alternative packaging. I like finding new ways (greener ways!) to enclose wine rather than the standard bottle. I’m not saying I want to see Chateau Haut Brion go the way of Tetra Pak, but for my certain wines, I love to see less waste in my recycle bin. A couple I discovered this weekend include CalNaturale, who is putting some yummy organic grapes into a Tetra Pak (Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon). The Chardonnay is crisp and bright and a perfect pack to put in my stroller’s cup holder. Am I allowed to say that? The other great pick was the Climber pouch, made by those behind the Clif bar, which is already a good in a bottle, but is quite fascinating in a pouch. This particular “pouch,” which looks like a giant Capri Sun, holds  a magnum of wine, but weighs as much as a standard glass bottle. After it’s opened, it stays fresh for about 30 days and is perfect for campers or a party. Great packaging and lower footprint.

3. Heat and Humidity make enjoying wine difficult
I wish I had more wines to write about – our delightful jaunt to Monticello was dampered by 100 degree heat and the same level of  humidity. It was pretty incredible to tour Monticello again, but I do wish being outside had been more enjoyable – I would have I’m sure enjoyed many more wines. Even those pouring their wine, trying to look enthusiastic but drenched in sweat, seemed put out.

So, from my few takeaways: try a Virginia wine if you can find one, you may be surprised. Grab a tetra pack or octavin (we love these) for your fridge. And when it’s hot and humid outside, find a pool and drink an ice cold beer!

Oregon Pinot Camp 2011

I am still recovering from Oregon Pinot Camp 2011, which is the reason for my delayed blog post!  Each June, for the past eleven years, fifty wineries in the Willamette Valley host 250 “campers” for a three-day intensive on Oregon wines, particularly Pinot Noir, from dirt to glass.  The campers are trade folks from all over the world–sommeliers, retailers, and buyers of all sorts.  It was an incredibly well-organized event, with every waking (or semi-waking) moment packed with tastings, seminars, meals, tours, and in-the-vineyard education.  Not to mention late-night karaoke at the local bar befittingly named “Lumpy’s.”   

Orientation began with the story of owner/winemaker Jimi Brooks (of Brooks winery), who passed away suddenly during harvest 2004.  Many local winemakers donated their valuable and limited time during harvest to make sure the 2004 Brooks vintage was completed in the style the winery had become known for.  This is a true testament to the spirit of the wine industry in Oregon.  Of course, there is friendly competition, but they all share the same goal: to spread their passion for the exciting wines of Oregon.   

There were six different workshops, led by the winemakers from top wineries such as Chehalem, Adelsheim, Cristom, St. Innocent, and Argyle.  One of my favorites, “Multiple Personalities of Oregon Pinot Noir,” explored the influences that vintage, place, and the winemaker have on the final product. (Don’t be fooled by what the press is saying about the 2007 vintage…it was a tough vintage with lots of rain, but the wines are really showing well.)  Luckily, the blindly tasted favorite at my table was made by Greg McClellan of Trisaetum, who was seated next to me. 

Another particularly interesting workshop was the one titled, “Soil Into Wine: Digging Deeper into Pinot Noir.”  This was held at Penner-Ash winery, where there are two very different soil types– sedimentary and volcanic–100 feet from each other.  Campers were able to walk down into soil pits to get a close-up view of geological history.  Later we tried wines vinified in the same manner but from grapes grown in the different soil types.  It was fascinating to taste the difference, and really brought the idea of terroir to life.   

I was thrilled to have “Hunting the Great White: When Pinot Noir is Not Enough” as my 8 a.m. session on day two, because I like to joke that the white wines of Oregon really make for excellent “breakfast wines.”  I was blown away by the Chardonnay and Pinot Gris, and particularly by the Riesling.  This is world-class stuff, with potential to age beautifully. 

The final night ended with a classic Oregon salmon bake.  Fresh salmon fillets are strung to stakes hovering over an open fire pit and served up alongside loads of local foods. (Oregon berries this time of year are scrumptious.)  This was a real treat, not only because the food and scenery were incredible, but because the winemakers were walking around with large format older vintage bottles and pouring for any and all takers (which was anyone and everyone).  Often times compared to Burgundy, many of these wines can age very well.  One that really stood out to me was the Chehalem 1994 Reserve Pinot Noir.  The acid and fruit were still very present and balanced, but the aged characteristics were peaking through just a touch, which made for a complex and graceful wine.  

On the last day I took a ten-minute helicopter ride over the valley!  Once my heart stopped racing a million miles a minute, I was able to take in the landscape from a birds-eye view.  It’s important to the locals to ‘keep it real’ by maintaining local crops, like Filberts (hazelnuts), instead of taking over the area with vineyards. Their focus is on world-class wine-making instead of building fancy Napa-style Chateau-like wineries.   Oregon Pinot Camp made a serious impression on me.  It’s clear this region will continue to grow and make a real mark on the world of wine.