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Tag Archives: drink local

Helping The Daily Meal understand local and the best U.S. wineries

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best U.S. wineriesHow do we know that regional wine is firmly part of the wine mainstream? When a hip and with it on-line magazine, edited by Colman Andrews — one of the most influential people in the food world — lists the 101 best U.S. wineries and 13 are from The Other 47. And, even more impressively, the editors knew so much about drinking local that they don’t even need to ask the most qualified regional wine experts in the country for their input.

Call it just another day at the office for the Winestream Media.

Do not take this as poor mouthing on my part. I’m more grateful than I can write that our work with Drink Local Wine made a difference, whether it’s Eric Asimov’s endorsement of New York wine or Food & Wine’s Ray Isle, who is as open minded about regional wine as he is about cheap wine. And when local gets the kind of play it did from something as high profile and as 21st century as The Daly Meal, I know how far we’ve come.

Or think that I need to rant about the regional wineries on the list. Like all such efforts, it’s perfectly imperfect. Yes, it’s missing a couple of Texas producers, including Brennan and Pedernales, who should be there, and that no one from Missouri made it speaks to the list’s shortcomings. (Full disclosure: One of the Texas producers in the top 101 is owned by someone who criticizes me regularly for my lack of wine knowledge, and has done it in a comment on the blog, and one of the writers who helped pick the list recently told a Texas winery official that the next time I got my facts right about Texas wine, it would be the first time I did so.)

Rather, it’s the frustration that once the Winestream Media gets hold of something, there’s only one way of doing things, and that’s its way. In the end, that becomes self-defeating, as anyone who has ever read the Wine Spectator knows. “Scores are good because they are, and everyone we know agrees with me. So how dare you question us? Because we don’t know you and we don’t want to know you.”

Hence the need to consult people who understand what’s going on with regional wine from a national perspective, which is mostly lacking with the people who helped pick this list.

That no one asked for my opinion is one thing. I’m in the middle of the country, and, as several of my pals have pointed out more than once, my location and my inability to play nicely with the other children works against me when important people on either coast need experting. But that isn’t the case with Doug Frost, MS, MW, and maybe the smartest regional wine person in the world. No one called Doug, and that’s like writing about baseball and not understanding that the game is nine innings long. And how about Linda Murphy, who wrote the book about the subject? Or Dave McIntyre of the Washington Post, who co-founded DLW and is the country’s leading authority on Virginia wine. Or Andrew Stover, who owns a distributor that imports regional wine to the East Coast and has probably more wine from the Other 47 as anyone in the world.

I emailed Andrews at the Daily Meal to ask him about this, but never heard back. Hopefully, he and I can talk soon, and I’ll update the post. Until then, check the list out, look for wineries in your area, and give them a try. Drinking local is what matters, a lesson I hope the Daily Meal keeps in mind when it does the list next year.

More about regional wine:
Texas wine at the crossroads, one year later

One more sign local wine has made the mainstream
Drink Local Wine, regional wine, and the growth of local

The Washington state lesson in drinking local

winetrends

local wine trendsToday’s riddle: Which local wine was ignored, overlooked, and regarded as not real wine? The answer: Washington state wine, which got so little respect that a bartender at a Pasco restaurant once told me there was no such thing as Washington wine.

Hence the story I wrote for the Beverage Media trade magazine — that today’s best regional wine states are in much the same position that Washington was in two decades ago. Which means that retailers and restaurateurs who aren’t paying attention are missing a good thing (right, Texas?). The story’s highlights:

• Too many still don’t understand how popular local is. It has been a “hot topic” in the National Restaurant Association’s annual chef’s survey since at least 2010, and local wine was the second biggest alcohol trend.

• It’s just not that wine is made in all 50 states, but the Wine America trade group reports that the number of regional wineries in the United States increased almost 12 percent between 2011 and 2014 — in the aftermath of the recession — and almost doubled since 2005 — during the recession.

• The business types who are part of the three-tier system have figured it out, which kind of surprised me. The biggest regional producers are distributed by the biggest companies in the country; in Texas, for example, the two biggest distributors in the state handle most of the state’s best-selling wineries. It used to be almost impossible, even just 10 years ago, for a local producer to get a distributor.

• Retailers who support local make money off of local. Marketview Liquor in Rochester, N.Y., carries some 800 New York wines, and that’s not a new thing—the store has invested in local since it opened 33 years ago. How long ago was that? Not even I was writing about regional wine then.

• Quality has improved, too, even if no one wants to believe it. Washington’s wines are among the best in the world, and so are New York rieslings, Texas viogniers, and Virginia red blends.

One more sign local wine has made the mainstream

If this wasn’t enough, or even this, there’s this – that 11 regional winemakers made Michael Cervin’s list of the 100 most influential winemakers in the United States.

Frankly, I was shocked, and had not even looked at the list when it came out. Cervin is a California wine writer who didn’t ask me for recommendations, so I figured this would be another Winestream Media glorification of California cult wine.

Shows how much I know, and that I always end up breaking the first rule of wine writing, no matter how hard I try not to – taste the wine before you judge it. Or, in this case, read the list before you judge it.

“We have to stop being so myopic in our choices about where wine comes from,” says Cervin. “This is a big deal that there are so many regional winemakers on the list. There’s a paradigm shift underway, and it has been going on for a while.”

The top-ranked regional winemaker was Texas’ Kim McPherson of McPherson Cellars at No. 20, and other notables included Andrew Meggitt of Missouri’s St. James Winery at 64 and Fred Frank of New York’s Konstantin Frank at 52.

Two things impressed me about the list – that Cervin had done his homework, and knew who people like Missouri’s Tony Kooyumjian of Augusta Cellars (89) and Kris Kane of Brix 21 in New York (88) were, and that his methodology was sound. Cervin just didn’t rank winemakers based on his opinion, but got suggestions from retailers, sommeliers, and other wine professionals. This included Doug Frost, who knows more about regional wine than almost anyone else in the country, myself included. Cervin’s standard for ranking: The winemaker had to make a range of great wine, and had changed the perception of wine made in his or her region.

“It’s important that every state is given its due,” says Cervin. “If you dismiss them because of what they are, you’re doing a complete disservice to wine as a whole.”

Hear that, Winestream Media?

In fact, the list was so well done that it invites comment. Noticeably missing were Colorado’s Guy Drew (and no one from Colorado made the list) as well as Luca Paschina of Barboursville Vineyards in Virginia. I was also surprised that one of New York’s top riesling winemakers, like Fox Run’s Peter Bell, wasn’t included. And yes, Cervin said with a sigh, he had heard about names left out, and especially Paschina.

Which is just one more example of how many people care about regional wine. Why else would they complain?

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