Writing from the edge of the Russian River in Sonoma County
Two of the world’s most respected wine publications have chosen Cabernets from NorCal as their “Wine of the Year” and it cost one winery $700,000 to make it happen. You wine drinkers out there are getting older and aren’t drinking as much and the youngsters aren’t replacing you. And working with a new right hip and a failed turkey recipe made preparing for Thanksgiving meal a tad difficult and of course there’s more and a meatball recipe from Pizza Today magazine and a simple and tasty way to do your beef roast for Xmas and NYE.
How Schrader Cellars 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville Double Diamond Became the Wine Spectator’s “Wine of the Year”
Our (Wine Spectator) Wine of the Year provides an emphatic answer to the Napa Cabernet value question, punching above its weight while costing well below the triple-digit entry point for top-flight Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. And it comes from Schrader Cellars, one of those wineries whose top bottlings check in at $475 and whose winemaker, Thomas Rivers Brown, is acknowledged as one of the valley’s best.
The Schrader Cellars Double Diamond bottling follows the Bordeaux tradition of a second wine coming from the same vineyard and made with the same expertise. The end result is a wine that mirrors the grand vin in style but is more accessible when young and comes at a more modest price point, in this case $80.
Most notable, though, is that in the case of Double Diamond, the vineyard source is To Kalon. Located on the western flank of Oakville, To Kalon is arguably Napa Valley’s most famous vineyard—the filet mignon of Cabernet Sauvignon production.
So how does Brown, while sourcing fruit from such a famous vineyard, produce a Cab at this price? It’s that second wine thing borrowed from Bordeaux. Most of the vineyard blocks Brown uses are young-vine parcels from recent replants. They don’t make the cut for the Schrader vineyard-designated wines; as young vines, they tend to produce a more precocious and fruit-forward profile, while leaning to the redder side of the flavor spectrum as well.
Vinification is the same as with the flagship wines, though the barrel regimen employs just 50 percent new oak. That young-vine fruit profile and the light-handed élevage combine to produce a wine that is more accessible out of the gate. There’s no rush though—this is a wine that will drink just fine for a decade.
With the pedigree of a great vineyard under the hand of a great winemaker, a second wine should never be overlooked. For its compelling combination of quality and price in a category that is awash in expense-account bottlings, the Schrader Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville Double Diamond 2019 is our Wine of the Year for 2022.
Packs in generous steeped plum, boysenberry and mulberry flavors backed by a broad swath of roasted alder and bittersweet cocoa. Brimming with dense fruit, and is squarely in the not-shy style. The long finish has a serious loamy tug, too. Score 94, Price $80, Cases Made 10,000 – Best from 2023 through 2035.—James Molesworth
So by coincidence a recent in-depth story by the wine writer at the San Francisco Chronicle featured our “Wine of the Year” wine maker Mr. Brown.
I offer you an edited version I think you may find interesting as to the cost of wine making in Napa County and how it’s a contributor to what has made Napa an expensive place to visit.
Napa Valley has Perfected One Type of Wine – But is it Starting to All Taste the Same?
Thomas Rivers Brown is arguably Napa’s most in-demand winemaking consultant. He’s the mastermind behind some of the valley’s most highly regarded boutique brands, like Schrader (our winner) and Outpost. How many wineries does Brown have his hands in? Even he has lost count. “Maybe 45,” he ventures.
Among the wine cognoscenti, it’s a widely accepted tenet that anything Brown touches turns to gold. The critics fawn: He’s received over 50 perfect 100-point scores from publications including the Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator. Ardent fans will buy any wine made by “TRB,” sight unseen.
Because real estate costs so much here, because of rigorous restrictions on development, because demand is higher than supply — for these and many other reasons, Napa Valley wines tend to be expensive. How expensive? By one conventional measurement — the price of grapes as tracked by the USDA — the average price of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon this year should be $80 per bottle. (What a coincidence that our winning wine costs $80).
That’s a costly bottle for most people, and yet it still belies the pricing that’s become commonplace in Napa’s uppermost echelon. Of the 46 Napa Cabernets rated 96 points or higher by Wine Spectator within the last year, the average price is $345. Only seven cost under $200.
Brown came to Napa in 1996, in his early 20s, and the next year got a job at Turley, which was creating a sensation with its lush, muscular Zinfandels.
At first, Brown’s name grew because of his talents as a winemaker, over time it took on greater meaning. Today, his mere initials lend automatic publicity to wineries he works with, and confer credibility with critics who assign scores. The success of any TRB wine is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Brown’s consulting fee generally starts around $60,000 per year, he says, and can reach $700,000 in the case of wineries like Schrader. “I like to start a little lower and then work higher as the project gains traction,” Brown explains.
The reporter sampled 12 of Brown’s; we tasted the 2019 Matthew Wallace Regusci Vineyard Cabernet, which has the smooth quality of milk chocolate. The 2019 Caterwaul Cemetery Vineyard Cabernet, bursting with flavors of blackberries and roses. The 2019 Schrader To Kalon Vineyard Cabernet, (our subject wine) a heady, fragrant wine that feels like velvet on my tongue.
Brown’s creations are always impeccable. They taste ripe but never pruney, fruity but never outright sweet. There’s not a tannin out of place. For what they are — expensive Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon — they are perfection.
Winemakers like Brown are quick to deflect the now familiar jab that all their wines taste alike. “If I had a formula, you’d be able to tell,” Brown says.
Brown is right. His wines do not all taste the same. Still, there is an overarching style, a mood, to his Cabernets. If Brown’s wines bear a signature, it might be described as silkiness. The prototypical TRB Cab has seamless, lustrous tannins that often seem to melt irresistibly into the surrounding wine.
After all, Brown’s anecdotal example of a $100 million winery investment is not hyperbole. For those who have spent that money, the stakes are restrictively high. They can’t alienate the existing Napa Valley customer base. They can’t eschew the prototypically luxurious style of Napa wine. Most of all, they can’t afford to hire an unproven winemaker who could turn out to be mediocre.
The wine can’t just be good. It has to be perfect.
And speaking of number ones
JamesSuckling.com Selects a California Cabernet as Top Wine of 2022
I hope you’ll recall that Mr. Suckling was a featured story in the Whine not long ago and that he trapes all over the world tasting wine, in fact he and his staff sampled 32,000 wines during the past year to winnow down the top prospects and finally came to the conclusion that top laurels should go to an offering from Napa’s sterling 2019 vintage: the Beaulieu Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Georges de Latour Private Reserve 2019. James said that “not only it is a perfect wine, but it is also a wine that highlights the greatness of so many wines from Napa Valley and the United States from the 2019 vintage.”
Just to note that Suckling was a long time feature writer for…you guessed it, the Wine Spectator magazine.
Average retail for the wine – $150
So both of the of the top rated red wines in 2022 are Cabernets from Napa and while they are a tad pricey, they fall way under the high price range of most Napa cabs and reaffirms my contention that you don’t have to spend a zillion dollars to get the good stuff.
Wines Core Consumer Base is Dwindling
Lovers of fine wine in the U.S. are buying more of it, but there are fewer such drinkers to go around. And producers of the higher end beverage should be paying closer attention to changing consumer demographics.
That was the sobering message beverage alcohol business analyst Danny Brager delivered Nov. 16 to wine industry professionals gathered in the heart of the country’s top-end region for a two-day conference.
“The core and marginal wine consumer base is shrinking. There’s not as many now as there were,” said Brager, citing Wine Market Council research during his keynote talk at the recent Wine Industry Financial Symposium.
But the good news, Brager said, for the “premiumization” movement of the wine business — toward higher prices and margins — is the core and marginal groups are drinking higher-priced selections.
Core and marginal wine drinkers are a key market for producers of higher-end wine, which is the focus of wineries in Napa and Sonoma counties. Bottle prices there commonly top $20 or $30. The two regions have an outsized effect on the U.S. wine business. The Golden State produces 90% of the nation’s wine and half the industry’s U.S. economic benefit (50.6% of $114 billion), institute data show.
“Core” wine consumers are those who drink at least a glass of wine a week. They are deemed such because they buy much of the wine. So what are you called if you drink two glasses a day, super core? But they are estimated to account for only 18%, or about 44 million wine drinkers. “Marginal” wine drinkers raise a glass at least once a quarter, and they make up 15% of adults in the country 21 or older, or 35 million.
Problem is, the share these core and marginal wine drinkers is highest for the oldest segments (19% for ages 60-69 and 23% for age 70-plus) then mostly tapers off in younger generations (to 16% core and 13% marginal for ages 20-29).
While the wine business has been looking toward growing its consumer base in younger generations, it should also be looking to expanding its reach culturally, Brager said.
“The high-end consumer, the high-frequency wine consumer is decidedly non-multicultural,” he said.
Beer and spirits are beating wine in reaching younger, Black and Hispanic consumers, according to data Brager cited from NielsenIQ, which tracks sales in stores and establishments such as bars and restaurants.
Those statistics should be a wake-up call for the wine business, Brager said “We need to do a better job of competing in a society that is becoming increasingly larger in terms of its diversity,” he said.
NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL
I got my right hip replaced the first week of November so walking and getting around is less painful but it’s still a bit of a challenge, as a result the Thanksgiving meal had to be down sized and the Saturday edition of the Wall Street Journal came to the rescue with a recipe for a butterflied and rolled turkey breast.
The recipe billed itself as a “Juicier, Tastier, Italian Style Turkey”. “This ingenious recipe gives turkey breast the Porchetta treatment; stuffed with Parmesan, prosciutto, garlic and herbs, rolled and roasted until the skin browns and crackles, this is a quicker-cooking alternative to the standard Thanksgiving bird.”
Sounds perfect I thought and they even coined a new name for it, a “Truchetta” that used a boneless half turkey breast, 9 garlic cloves, fennel seeds, Parmesan cheese, 20 leaves from our sage plant on the deck, prosciutto, a sprig of rosemary from our bush and 2 cups of red wine.
The assembly went fine with the prepping of the breast and the pounding flat and the layering of the sage leaves and garlic and cheese and prosciutto and the fingers of Peg’s cousin to help tie the rolled up breast all seemed fine. I did question as to where the fat was coming from as I pointed out last month that turkey is a lean meat and you have to introduce fat somewhere to keep things juicy and I thought, “It’s a WSJ recipe, what could go wrong?”
The result was a nice looking roast with little or no flavor much less anything close to Italian or otherwise. The roast was rather dry and over cooked. Fortunately I had made a pan of gravy but of course had no drippings from a Webered turkey to flavor it. Fortunately I had made my famous dressing and cranberries – so all was not lost.
Half a glass
California Wines Pour Jobs and Dollars into Economy
The California wine and wine grape sector and allied businesses deliver a total economic contribution of $73 billion annually to the state’s economy and $170.5 billion annually to the U.S. economy, according to a report commissioned by Wine Institute and the California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG). California wineries and vineyards also directly and indirectly generate 422,000 jobs in California and 1.1 million jobs across the nation. “The Economic Impact of California Wine” was prepared by John Dunham & Associates.
The report shows 27% growth in statewide impact (from $57.6 to $73 billion) and 49% in national impact (from $114.1 to $170.5 billion) over the past six years. This robust expansion — during a challenging period that included a devastating pandemic — shows the strength and resiliency of the nation’s top wine-producing state as an economic engine.
Wine Industry Network
Subway Moves to New Curated Sandwiches
The infinite customization that has been its hallmark is being de-emphasized to improve throughput and guest satisfaction.
Subway, which arguably created the infinitely customizable assembly-line model that dominates fast-casual dining, is de-emphasizing that service style with the launch of a dozen curated sandwiches that are now front-and-center on the quick-service sandwich chain’s menu.
Developed by the chain’s senior vice president of culinary and innovation, Paul Fabre, and his team, the new Subway Series line of sandwiches is intended to streamline production and improve guest satisfaction by offering sandwiches with broad appeal that require minimal decision-making on the part of customers. The company says it’s the biggest menu change in its more than 60-year history.
“We’ve been testing this extensively and we’re very excited by what this represents for our brand, and our franchisees are really motivated and excited by what they see,” Subway North American president Trevor Haynes said.
To promote the new menu, subway gave away a reported one million 6-inch subs earlier this summer, did you get one?
That’s My Whine and I could me wrong…
My recipes for Meatballs from Pizza Today Magazine and Beef Sirloin Roast with Mayo Mustard Sauce are in fact right here. Enjoy!
Woody Mosgers, cooks, caters, writes, drinks, matches wine and food and offers wine country tour information and planning in Santa Rosa Sonoma, CA. at Woodywine@aol.com