Presenting the subject of wine in a straightforward, understandable, engaging and down-to-earth manner is not relegating it to a lesser status. Rather this demystification makes wine more understandable to many consumers who have been put off by the stodgy attitude of some elitists who view it as something more to revere than enjoy.

Appreciating wine is like enjoying art, literature or music. You don't have to understand all the nuances of a symphony to delight in the music nor do you have to be familiar with the underlying psychology of a great artist to treasure the painting. Yes, understanding the background helps but not knowing all of the intricacies does not lessen the pleasure.

For many millennia, wine has been made and enjoyed by countless cultures around the globe with little fanfare and broad appeal. Although wine may be perceived as a complex subject, its role as a universal mealtime companion is simple.

On these pages we will periodically post information about wines, their production, and ones that we've tasted.

Our goal is to help you become a better informed consumer. At Highland Park Liquors we want you to get the most value for your wine purchase and to broaden your horizons so that you can fully appreciate this wonderful food.





A History of

A History of "Bubbly"

The head of one of France's most prestigious Champagne houses has weighed into the long-running debate about the origin of the sparkling wine by saying that "it was invented by the English".

Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger, head of the illustrious family-owned producer, Taittinger Champagne, made the comment in an interview with Le Figaro newspaper.

"I love England, it's a big market for bubbles. They love Champagne," said Mr Taittinger, 65, an unabashed anglophile.

"They created Champagne because of a mistake. Benedictine monks were supplying them with still wines from Champagne, red and white wines... The English left these inexpensive still white wines on the London docks and the wines got cold so they started undergoing a second fermentation [causing them to become carbonated].

"Like all great mistakes, it led to a great invention." Who knew!

What's the difference between Sancerre and Sauvignon Blanc

What's the difference between Sancerre and Sauvignon Blanc

A: Simply, all Sancerres are Sauvignon Blancs, but not all Sauvignon Blancs are Sancerres.

Sauvignon Blanc is a white wine grape, while Sancerre is the name of a wine region in France's Loire Valley where the white wines from are made exclusively from Sauvignon Blanc. White wines from Sancerre are known for their vibrant acidity and flinty notes.

It's a little complicated, because you won't see the words "Sauvignon Blanc" on a bottle of Sancerre. That's because labeling laws in Europe only require a wine's region to be listed. If you want to know what grapes are grown in what region, you're going to have to do some studying.

Industry Growth for Gen Xers

Industry Growth for Gen Xers

Wine industry growth has been a rocket for 20 years, its trend line drawn like a mountain incline on U.S. industry graphs. Since 1993, when 370 million gallons of wine were consumed in America, consumption has more than doubled - to 770 million gallons nationwide today.

That's 2.3 gallons of wine annually for every American man, woman and child. California is the major player with 3.8 million tons of grapes expected to be processed statewide this year.

Boomers and Matures are more likely to have consumed wine in any given week, while Millennials and Gen Xers are more likely to have consumed liquor or beer. But by 2021, Gen Xers are predicted to surpass Boomers to become the largest wine-consuming demographic in the U.S and, by 2026, Millennials will overtake the Gen Xers.

Are You Planning A Trip to Napa?

Are You Planning A Trip to Napa?

Are you planning a trip to "Napa," a place synonymous with the "wine country? Keep in mind that there's more to the wine country than just Napa County (Sonoma County, Central Coast, Paso Robles, etc, etc). But, let's talk about Napa.

Despite the high profile of the Napa wine economy, most people are surprised that it produces only 4% of the California wine harvest (and only 0.4% of the world's wine production). Its reputation, of course, lies in the quality of its wines, which has to do in part with natural conditions, such as the dry Mediterranean-like climate, the varied topography and the diverse soils. In greater part, it is related to choices made by the local winemakers and local officials.

According to the Napa Valley Vintners, the trade association, there are around 700 grape growers in Napa County, and 475 physical wineries. More than 90% of the wineries are family owned, with a high degree of involvement by family members.

Most of the wineries are open to the public for tours of the winemaking process. The wineries encourage visitors to research and learn about the craft of winemaking.

The sign on the main road to Napa reads, "Welcome to this World Famous Wine Growing Region ... and the Wine is Bottled Poetry."

I had the privilege of working for the legendary Beaulieu Vineyard in the heart of the Napa Valley for more than 9 years and lived in the Town of Sonoma for more than 30. The industry started in Sonoma. If you are headed to the wine country I can help you plan your visit from an "insiders" point of view. Come in a see me. Bruce-"the wine guy."

The Napa Valley

The Napa Valley

Less than an hour's drive north from San Francisco, with one end opening on to San Pablo Bay and the other running up into the Mayacamas Mountains, is a magic valley. At least it is if you are a winemaker. The climate here is perfect for growing grapes, and it is where some of America's greatest wines are produced. Just how great they could be was established in the famous Judgment of Paris in 1976, a blind tasting in which French judges rated a Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon - Stag's Leap 1973 - above the best of Bordeaux's wines. From then on, the only way for Napa was up. The number of wineries has increased nearly tenfold since 1976, turning a sleepy farming community of walnut and prune orchards into arguably the world's most glamorous wine region.

While it produces just four per cent of Californian wine, it is responsible for 25 per cent of the state's sales - and 90 per cent of its reputation.

Will the fires last Fall in California's wine country cause prices to rise?

Will the fires last Fall in California's wine country cause prices to rise?

I'm asked this question every week. My answer is "No," but other factors will. In fact, not much damage was sustained by the northern California vineyards. The fires were in the hills that were full of scrub oak, toyone, and eucalyptus and madrone trees. The vineyards, neat and well tended, served as a firebreak that kept the conflagrations from spreading.

"BUT, worldwide wine production fell by 8 percent this year (2017), culminating in the worst wine shortage in 50 years. Europe is experiencing its worst grape harvest since 1982. Extremely cold weather through the spring and droughts through the summer severely damaged much of the continent's grape supply. Furthermore, Italy, France and Spain, the world's three largest wine producers, are expected to produce just 14.5 billion liters of wine, a 14 percent drop from 2016. The shortages will be felt most in the lower-priced, "commodity" tiers.

Why Do We Focus On California Wines?

Why Do We Focus On California Wines?

Why do we focus on California wines at Highland Park Liquors? Among several reasons are two principal ones; quality and consistently. California has 358 "growing days' per year. Weather is really not an issue in California. The fruit harvest is abundant and high quality. The other factor is consistency. Predicable, high quality harvests let the winemakers routinely make high quality wine. Idle chatter about "vintages" of California wine is for the average consumer, just idle chatter and irrelevant.

In contrast, consider France in 2017. After widespread frost damage across key wine regions including Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne and Alsace this spring, France's wine harvest is expected to be its lowest since 1945. The French agriculture ministry is forecasting wine production from the 2017 harvest to be a total 17% lower than the average over the past half-decade. While the quantity of this year's French wine harvest will be limited, France's winemakers are "optimistic." They expect strong quality from the grapes that made it through the frost.

"You can make bad wine from good grapes but you can't make good wine from bad grapes."

Central Coast wine country: Underrated, top wine destination, too good to pass up

Central Coast wine country: Underrated, top wine destination, too good to pass up

"With Santa Cruz on the north end and Paso Robles on the south, California's Central Coast is one of the longest wine tour destinations in the U.S., spanning multiple counties."

With more than 200 wineries around Paso; tell us something we don't know.
Wine country is no surprise to Central Coast residents, but people around the country are slowly starting to learn their secret.

Forbes called the Central Coast of California the "most underrated wine region in the country," noting it having a better value than Napa Valley, too many wineries to choose from, and a California essence brought on by the microclimates that couple quite nicely on that cruise down the Pacific Coast Highway.

In 2016, the wine grape was the top valued crop at $242,900,000 for San Luis Obispo County, and the data didn't seem like it was going to change much for 2017. (Strawberries came in second at $241,282,000.)

Bloomberg said it straight out: "Forget Napa, book a trip to California's Central Coast." With 90,300 acres of planted wine grapes - the author noted Napa's 45,000 - the region was bound to get some traction.

I'm not sure that I agree with Bloomberg, but I know that the Central Coast is a beautiful, less traveled part of California that produces wonderful grapes...and, thus, wonderful wines. In fact my former employer, the legendary Beaulieu Vineyards, maintained a second "satellite" winery in Paicines in the heart of the area to be able to capitalize on this availability of great fruit.

Come into Highland Park Liquors to explore our selection of Central Coast- sourced wines: from the Santa Cruz mountains to south of Paso Robles. And, I'd love to chat about my adventures in the area. - Bruce, the wine guy.

Vineyard Fires

Vineyard Fires

(7/21/ 2017) The past two weeks have made California firefighters-and vintners-sweat. With at least 15 fires still burning or recently contained, temperatures regularly hitting triple digits and more than 8,000 firefighters on the job, it must be summer in the Golden State! Fire seems to be a regular event. So far, thankfully, no vineyards have been scorched, but there have been close calls up and down the Central Coast, from Bien Nacido Vineyards in the Santa Maria Valley to Mount Eden Vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

The largest of the fires, the Alamo Fire, started on July 6 in southern San Luis Obispo County, burning into northern Santa Barbara County. The fire actually singed Bien Nacido property, but buildings and vineyards escaped damage, and no one was hurt. On-shore winds pushed the smoke up the hillsides and away from the vineyards. On July 19, the fire was declared 100 percent contained-28,700 charred acres later.

If you wonder what is so special about Bien Nacido fruit come in a get a bottle of Beckon Pinot Noir from this fabled property. Only at Highland Park Liquors. Also explore out selection of wines from San Luis Obispo County.

Napa's Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is Napa's secret weapon.

The grape's success in Napa makes sense. Genetically, Sauvignon Blanc is the mother of Cabernet Sauvignon (the father is Cabernet Franc). The family of grapes often will thrive in the same region, all three flourishing in Bordeaux and many other locales around the globe.

Napa is home to the oldest known Sauvignon Blanc in the Americas. Planted in 1945, this gnarly, head-trained patch of vines stands in the middle of the historic To Kalon Vineyard. Robert Mondavi Winery owns the coveted property today, calling the seven-decade-old Sauvignon Blanc parcel their I Block.

Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc can exhibit great stylistic breadth. Some producers look to white Bordeaux as inspiration, crafting sturdy, oak-aged Sauvignon Blancs, likely blended with Sémillon. Other winemakers bottle leaner, zippier renditions à la Sancerre, and others still aim to accentuate the outrageous greener flavors you can find in New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs.

Mondavi winemaker, Geneviève Janssens, finds some unifying qualities for Sauvignon Blanc grown in the Napa Valley. "I think it's beautiful and totally unique from other regions in the world, so I think we should not be compared with any. "They're always fruity, deep, focused and stylish - everything that you are looking for in Sauvignon Blanc that can bring you pleasure.

Style aside, these Napa Sauvignon Blancs share a tangy citrus grip, complemented by a gratifyingly juicy body and nuanced by a resinous, herbal edge reminiscent of the chaparral that lines Napa's hillsides.

Excerpts from:

Makes you wonder what's in the Bottle, now.

Significant acquisitions of Northern California wine producers in 2016 have included The Prisoner Wine Co. brands, bought in April for $285 million by Constellation Brands, following on Constellation's $315 million purchase last year of the Meomi pinot noir brand, the single-largest dollar figure for a wine brand without real estate (!). Then, in May of this year Far Niente was bought by a private-equity firm, the majority owner of Duckhorn Wine Co.; and, in turn, Duckhorn was sold a few months later to a wine investment newcomer TSG Consumer Partners of San Francisco. The combined Duckhorn and Far Niente transactions are estimated at $1 billion.

2015 had its own high-profile deals, on top of what was paid for Meomi. Treasury Wine Estates, whose Americas brands are managed out of Napa, bought most of Diageo's wine portfolio, including Beaulieu Vineyards (BV) and Sterling Vineyards in Napa Valley, for $552 million.
As wine becomes more mainstream in U.S. culture, demand has put pressure on the supply of quality wine, as people trade up want "more flavorable and interesting wines." A gnawing fear is that "Branding" becomes more important than the end product; quality wine.

While merger mania continues on in 2017, at Highland Park Liquors we will always seek out the best value, high quality Estate wines available. We want to know who grew the grapes, where, when and how they were picked and then who turned them into wine: a challenging task in a world of Winery M &A.

Need a Cigarette? Maybe You Should Drink Some Wine First

New research finds that red wine can counter the short-term damage inflicted by smoking.

It's one of the few tenets the scientific community almost universally agrees on: Cigarettes are bad for you. But a new study from Germany has found that drinking a glass of wine, specifically red wine, may counteract the short-term negative effects of smoking. While the researchers are not suggesting anyone light up, their findings offer more evidence of wine's health benefits.

The scientists, whose work was published online in the American Journal of Medicine, noted that smoking's short-term effects on cardiovascular health are almost the opposite of red wine's effects. When you light up, the smoke inflames blood vessels and damages cells. Research has shown that red wine decreases blood vessel inflammation.
- Wine Spectator, 11/29/2016 Mitch Frank

Winter and the Grapevines

It seems as though post-harvest a grapegrowers' work would be done and a much-needed four-month vacation would coincide perfectly with the dormancy of the vineyards.

But, there are five distinct physiological markers that define the annual cycle of the grapevine: budbreak, bloom, veraison (the onset of maturity), full maturity, and leaf-fall.

The latter is often overlooked as an important stage, but it represents a necessary time when the grapevine turns inward to store carbohydrates and other nutrients in its roots and trunk for the beginning of the next cycle come spring.

This process triggers a yellowing in the leaves as the chlorophyll breaks down, and when the first fall frost hits the valley, the faded leaves crisp up and blanket the vineyard floor.

Months of dormancy will pass and the vines appear to be frozen in time with their leafless canes still positioned in the wires that gave shape to their canopy throughout the growing season.

During this time of dormancy, the vines are far less susceptible to pests and diseases, and they can withstand temperatures down to single digits without sustaining damage. It's an impressive change, from what seems to be complete vulnerability during the season to certain invincibility during dormancy that brings a sense of relief to growers and allows for a change of focus.

11/20/16 Napa Valley Register -Paul Goldberg; vice president of Napa Valley Grapegrowers.

White Wine Surprises

Too often people will say that they don't like White wine or simply prefer Red wines. It's better to realize that there is a time and place for every wine. I suspect the reticence about white wines comes from too many "over-oaked" Chardonnays that taste more like a can of flat vanilla soda. Or, maybe the reticence comes from too many overly acidic New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs that resemble a mouth-puckering glass of grapefruit juice.

If you think you have an issue with Whites come in and explore a bit further into the White wine universe. Have you had a un-oaked Chardonnay? My generation knows these wines as "Chablis." Light and refreshing, un-oaked Chards adhere to the Cardinal rule of wine making: "always taste the grape."

How about a delicate Falanghina; an ancient grape that traces back to the Romans? Or, try a classic Chenin Blanc from California or South Africa. It was a huge favorite of the 1960s and '70s that's making a well earned resurgence in popularity.

Vermentino? Think of the house in the charming movie "Under the Tuscan Sun." The Vermentino that we offer comes to us from the owners of that very house! Vermentino is a light-bodied white wine that grows mostly in Italy on the island of Sardinia. What's exciting about Vermentino is that it can be deliciously complex in taste in similar style to Sauvignon Blanc. Because Vermentino is so unknown, it's hard to find. We have it and ours is lovely.

Last among many options is Semillon. It's a golden-skinned grape that yields a soft white wine that is frequently blended with Sauvignon Blanc in California to take some of the flintiness out of that wine. Come in and try a Washington Semillon or a California Sauvignon Blanc. Pleasant surprises.

Bottom-line: you may prefer Reds, but, raise your horizons and do some exploring in the world of White wines. We're here to help you. - Bruce

The Napa Valley Vintners (NVV) trade association has announced that this year's auction Napa Valley raised $14.3 million for children's education and community health nonprofits during a weekend of feverish bidding at the annual celebration of the best of America's leading wine region.

Bidding for the Rutherford Dust Society lot quickly reached $100,000. It included 38 bottles of wine from it's members. It sold for $120,000.

The auctioneer kept urging the crowd: "Keep your paddles up" during bidding for a joint Chateau Montelena and Stag's Leap Wine Cellars lot that commemorated the 1976 Judgment of Paris lot. It included the opening of a 1973 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Stag's Leap Vineyards cabernet sauvignon and 1973 Chateau Montelena Winery Chardonnay and sold for $110,000.

To date, the NVV has given more that $150 million to Napa County non-profits that serve more than 100,000 clients annually.

At Highland Park Liquors, we proudly offer Chateau Montelena Winery Chardonnay and a selection of wines from Rutherford.

2016 A Difficult Year for French Champagne

"Champagne may see its smallest harvest in three decades this year owing to difficult weather conditions throughout the vintage. The region's CIVC trade group says the 2016 harvest could fall as much as 30% compared with last year, Reuters reports, as frost, rain and severe heat took their toll at various points of the growing season.*"

By contrast, California has 358 "growing days" per year and the major French champagne houses have large facilities in Napa and Sonoma.

Highland Park Liquors has a large and carefully chosen portfolio of these wonderful California "champagnes."

I'm pleased to say that I have visited each of the cellars that we offer. - Bruce

*Source: Shanken News Daily 9/25/16

A Strong Harvest in California, 2018

A Strong Harvest in California, 2018

California vintners surveyed by the Wine Institute are reporting a strong 2018 wine grape harvest in both quality and quantity, in line with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's August forecast of 4.1 million tons, up 2% from 2017 and above the historical average of 3.9 million tons. Vintners said the 2018 harvest began anywhere from 10 days to three weeks later than in 2017, and was characterized by consistent growing conditions and cooler temperatures. Producers in Napa and Sonoma in particular noted that the moderate conditions led to both higher yields and quality for this year's harvest. According to Impact Databank, California table wine volume in the U.S. was up 1% to 205 million 9-liter cases last year, representing about 71% of the total table wine market by volume. - Shanken News Daily 10/31/3018

Do White Wines Have Tannens?

Do White Wines Have Tannens?

All grapes have tannins. They are the natural preservatives in the skins and pulp. In fact, lots of foods have tannins, including cherries, persimmons, pomegranate seeds, chocolate, beans and most berries. But white wines have lower levels of tannins than red wines because in grapes, tannins come primarily from the skins, seeds and stems. To make a white wine, the juice is separated from the grape skins and seeds immediately after the grapes are crushed. Red-wine production, on the other hand, includes a great deal more contact between the juice and the crushed grape skins and seeds (through a process called maceration), causing the wine to absorb more tannins.

It's probably a good thing that white wines usually aren't tannic, because tannins can come across as bitter, and that would stick out in a delicate white wine more than a red.



Glera, also known by the name Prosecco, is a lightly aromatic white grape of Lombardy, the Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia regions. Some like to say that Prosecco's ancestor was the Pucinum wine that was much praised by the chroniclers of ancient Rome.

In fact, the reason why the Glera grape became known as Prosecco is that it was the town of Prosecco that first began producing this delightfully sparkling wine and for many years the name of the town that originated the wine was used interchangeably. Today, Prosecco refers to the growing area located in the Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia where the Glera grape grows to perfection.

Veraison: When Grapes Turn Red

Veraison: When Grapes Turn Red

One of the most important moments in a grapevine's annual lifecycle is the onset of ripening, when the grapes turn from green to red and naturally begin to sweeten. The French call this process veraison ("verr-ray-zohn"). Veraison also occurs in white grapes, but without the color changes-white grapes simply become more translucent.

Veraison is very much the tipping point in a grapevine's annual lifecycle. It's when the vine alters it's focus from energy creation (through photosynthesis) to energy consumption where it concentrates its energy into making sweet grapes. The changing color (anthocyanin) and development of other polyphenols act as protectors to the grapes from sun, wind and other stresses. Following the onset of veraison, the ripening process then takes anywhere from 30-70 days for the grapes to become fully ready to make wine!

Some grape varieties have bunches that ripen very unevenly. Some will have ready and ripe berries on the same bunch as berries that are still green. Extreme uneven ripening is called millerandage and can produce wines that may smell sweet but that taste unbalanced, unripe or, "green." Uneven ripening happens commonly in varieties like Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Malbec, Gewürztraminer, and Zinfandel; this is why they're considered some of the hardest grapes to grow in the business!

For more wonderful information about this subject and about wine I direct you to Wine Folly.Com. It is a terrific web site and source of publications.

Global Wine Production

Global Wine Production

Global wine production dropped 8.6% to 250 million hectoliters* in 2017, according to the International Organization of Vine and Wine (OIV). The OIV projects that production in Italy declined by 17% to 42.5 million hectoliters, France dropped 19% to 36.7 million hectoliters, and Spain fell 20% to 32.1 million hectoliters. Production in the new world was mixed, with the U.S. declining 1% to 23.3 million hectoliters, and Chile falling 6% to 9.5 million hectoliters. Argentina, up 25% to 11.8 million hectoliters, and Australia, up 5% to 13.7 million hectoliters, performed best among major wine producing regions in 2017. Analysts say the lower global output has the potential to strain pricing looking ahead, especially at entry-level price tiers

* (hectoliter: a unit of capacity equal to 100 liters or 26.418 U.S. gallons.) - Shanken News Daily

The Napa and Sonoma Fires October 2017

The Napa and Sonoma Fires October 2017

While tens of thousands of acres of oak wildlands as well as entire residential neighborhoods have been scorched the wine country blazes so far appear to be mainly an urban catastrophe. The toll from those losses is expected to be enormous. But so far, only a handful of winery buildings have been destroyed. The region's wine industry adds $57 billion to the state's economy.

"Vineyards save lives." Fire officials have said they considered the relatively open space of vineyards, which hold more moisture than oak forests, to be a natural firebreak that allowed their forces to concentrate on protecting populated areas and structures.

As much as 85% of the grapes had already been picked but the vines had not yet gone dormant. There also was very little cover crop between rows to burn

Vines can be heat-damaged. That's where we're really going to have to wait and see. They won't show the effects instantly. It's not like a piece of kindling that goes up. It's more like a house plant that you don't water.

At times, however, the fires proved powerful enough to turn comparatively lush vineyards into fuel. Then the fire's just so hot it mows right through it.

What's in a Name?

What's in a Name?

VARIETAL DESIGNATIONS Varietal designations are the names of the dominant grapes used in the wine. Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, and Merlot are examples of grape varieties. A varietal designation on the label requires an appellation of origin and means that at least 75 percent of the grapes used to make the wine are of that variety, and that the entire 75 percent were grown in the labeled appellation.

OTHER DESIGNATIONS Wine labels are not required to bear a varietal designation. Other designations may be used to identify the wine, such as Red Wine, Rose Wine, White Wine, Table Wine (if no more than 14% alcohol by volume) or Dessert Wine (if over 14% alcohol by volume). Some imported wines are designated with a distinctive name which is permissible only on specific wines from a particular place or region within the country of origin, for example, Asti Spumanti from Italy and Bordeaux from France.

Why are Roses in the Vineyards?

Why are Roses in the Vineyards?

"If you don't find mildew in your vineyards, you haven't looked hard enough." After years of drought conditions, California vintners are enjoying wetter conditions this year. But that means vineyards are being plagued with a new problem: mildew, including downy mildew, a form rarely seen in the Golden State. From cooler coastal regions experiencing an increase in a damp marine layer to Central Valley vineyards with more moisture than usual due to a very wet winter, growers and vineyard consultants alike are on the lookout for mildew.

San Luis Obispo and northern Santa Barbara counties, the cooler coastal areas in those counties, have been ripe for powdery mildew this year.

Warm and wet spring weather, following the earlier wet winter, has created perfect conditions for mildew in both counties. Both types of mildew are capable of damaging plants and berries and impacting quality and quantity of wine.

The conditions for mildew are simple: It loves moisture and lower temperatures, temps between 70° F to 85° F, and it stops when grapes reach about 18° Brix. The Russian River Valley and Green Valley are powdery mildew heaven because of the marine layer, which brings the moisture and the lower temperatures that mildew loves.

Prevention and early detection are the keys to any type of mildew management, with aggressive spraying of sulphur and canopy management techniques leading the fight. If you don't get on top of it from the start, you have trouble.
One way to get ahead of mildew is early detection. Roses are one way to do this. Roses are more susceptible to mildew than grapes. If rose bushes are planted among the grape vines they become a very pretty "early warning system." If mildew appears on the roses the grapes can't be far behind.

Careful canopy management has the added advantage of appealing to growers and consumers who prefer to avoid spraying the vines and grapes. Sulfur sprays can be used by organic growers as well as conventional, but no one wants to spray if they can avoid it.
Best bet: watch the roses.

The Curious World of Pinot Noir

The Pinot Noir grape has been defined as sensual and sexy. It's one of the trickiest of all wine grapes to grow, harvest and vinify due to its thin skins, tightly packed clusters, light colors and low tannins. Yet it makes the most romantic of wines, voluptuous, sweet, yet powerful with aromas and tastes that make many wine drinkers fall in love with a single sip. It's even had a popular Hollywood movie (Sideways) built around its elusive persona.

"Pinot is the wine of kings," said David Coventry, head winemaker at Talbott Vineyards in the Santa Lucia Highlands in Monterey County. "There's red wine, there's white wine and.. then there's pinot noir."

It's interesting that enough vineyards are coming from distinctive regions to develop regional identity. How are they distinctive?
The Russian River Valley is cherry like and both Santa Lucia Highlands and Santa Maria are jammy, Santa Rita Hills has raspberry character and Oregon is savage. It's a great time to be a pinot lover.

Come in and try the Talbot Pinot and the others in our carefully curated collection.

The Magic of the Large Format Bottles

The historic convention for naming wine bottle sizes is based on the names of biblical kings. Wine has long been a living part of our history and so, unsurprisingly, the bottle names are connected to one of our oldest documents.

Wine bottles come in many styles and colors. "Large format" wine bottles (larger than the common 750ml) have always been a slight curiosity, elegant, and seemingly impractical. But, there is a very real value associated with them...other than for celebrations and boat launches.

Large format bottles are used primarily for high-quality red wines. And, critically, red wines in a large format bottle have a shelf life exponentially longer than those in smaller formats. This fact makes the big bottle ideal to be used with high quality "collectible" wines which improve with age.

Come in and see our "large formats" ranging from Magnums to Jeroboams to Methuselahs (Imperials) and the awesome wines they contain: suitable for collecting and for celebrating.

The Art of Pruning Vines

February is a relatively low-stress time in the vineyards. The busy realities of cultivation, canopy management and harvest are far away. There is just the slow movement of skilled vineyard workers methodically pruning away.
The most important vineyard operation throughout the year is pruning, which, in Northern California, usually begins in earnest in February. Although the vines are content to be in a slumbering state of dormancy, they require a good haircut before bud break to make them produce high quality fruit. This is one of the most important vineyard operations of the year since it sets the stage for vine management throughout the rest of the growing season.

The purpose of pruning is to reduce the number of buds to a manageable number that will promote a balance between shoot growth (vigor) and number of grape clusters (yield). Each bud will theoretically produce one shoot that will contain two grape clusters. A well-balanced vine will produce just enough vegetation (vigor) to the fully ripen its fruit.
A vine that has been pruned too severely (not enough buds retained) will produce more vigorous shoots with fewer clusters that will develop in too much leafy shade, producing a vegetative, green taste in the wine. A vine that had been pruned very lightly (too many buds retained) will produce low vigor shoots with an excessive number of clusters for the vine to adequately ripen, producing a thinner, less-flavorful wines.

Drinking Could Bolster Good Cholesterol Levels

A preliminary study found that subjects who drank one to two servings of alcohol a day could face a lower risk of cardiovascular disease
For decades now, scientific research has found evidence that moderate alcohol consumption can lower the risks of cardiovascular disease. But how alcohol lowers the risk is still not fully understood. A preliminary study, presented at the American Heart Association's annual conference in New Orleans this week()11/16/'16), suggests a new possibility: that moderate drinking is linked with a slower decline in high-density lipoproteins (HDL)-the so-called good cholesterol-in our blood as we age.

HDL is considered "good" cholesterol because it helps remove the low-density lipoproteins (LDL)-the "bad" cholesterol that causes plaque deposits that can lead to heart disease-from the bloodstream.
- Wine Spectator. 11/16/'16, Emma Balter

California 2016 Grape Harvest: 5th exceptional year in a row

"For many Napa Valley vintners, 2016 extends a run of exceptional years for Cabernet Sauvignon to five in a row. Their only regret is that there wasn't more fruit.

The year swung from hot to cold and hot again. September was good, but as harvest wound down, Napa had one of the wettest Octobers in decades. Those abrupt rainstorms put a quick end to the harvest. Most winemakers say they harvested their crops by then and were pleased by the quality and volume, but everyone would have liked a little more juice." James Laube, Wine Spectator.

During his heavily attended"Meet the Wine Maker" visit (11/12/16) to Highland Park Liquors Charlie Tsegeletos of Cline Vineyards in Sonoma echoed these sentiments. Citing their Pinot Gris harvest, some acres produced as little as a ton and a half of grapes per acre while 4-5 tons is customary. But, stressed vines produce fruit that yield great wines. There will be less wine when it hits our shelves (around early summer 2017) but it should be awesome!
- Bruce

Millenials Are Enjoying Wine

Millennials, whose baby boomer parents were the first generation of U.S. premium wine drinkers, are consuming more and higher-value wines, driven by a thirst for quality, new experiences and information-sharing, according to wine industry leaders surveyed by UC Davis.

The wine industry has clearly been energized by the millennial generation. These are young people whose grandparents mostly drank spirits and whose parents were the first generation to regularly bring wine to the dinner table.

The millennials, many of whom are foodies, are eager for new experiences related to food and wine and to share their discoveries via social media. The wine industry has captured their attention and now must retain it by keeping wine exciting through sophisticated marketing and communications.

The results from the UC Davis survey is available at:

"Good wine"; it's all about the grapes

Highland Park Liquors 1850 59th Ave Greeley, CO 80634
In 2015 the Napa Valley saw a 24 percent drop in grape production value and 29 percent drop in grape tonnage after three very good harvests, in part, because of the weather. A cool, windy May during bloom led to grape clusters failing to develop properly, a condition called "shatter".

Still, Napa County wine grapes on average fetched a state-high $4,05 per ton. That value compares to the $670-per-ton average for all of California.

"That differential show our strength, our beautiful soils, our climate and professional farming skills in the county." say the Napa County Farm Bureau.

While the overall grape production value fell, grape prices rose. The average 2015 price per ton for red wine grape varieties was $5,181, compared to $4,867 in 2014. The average price per ton for white varieties was $2,394, compared to $2,313 in 2014.

Cabernet Souvignon was king in three major categories: with 21,376 acres planted, 53,195 tons harvested and $6,289 per ton yielded in the marketplace.

"You can make bad wine from good grapes. But you can't make good wine from bad grapes."

Bud break is early in Napa this year

Bud break is early in Napa this year

With the combination of warm temperatures and relatively little recent rain, bud break has begun in Napa Valley, marking the beginning of the wine grape growing season.

"Buds on Chardonnay have begun swelling and bursting on a few vines. With this warm weather and no real rain or cold weather in the near forecast, it shouldn't be long before everything takes off," said Brittany Pederson, viticulturist at Silverado Farming Company and a member of the Napa Valley Grape growers.

"From what we are seeing throughout the valley, in comparison to last year, we are anticipating possibly about five days to a week ahead of schedule with the bud break".

As spring approaches and mustard blooms throughout Napa Valley, grape growers have been working to prepare the vineyards for the 2016 growing season. As temperatures warm and soil becomes dryer, vines emerge from dormancy and begin to push water up from their root systems. Miniature buds on the vine, developed during the prior year, begin to swell eventually producing shoots from the bud. These shoots will then spring tiny leaves that help accelerate growth, especially as temperatures continue to increase.

With the arrival of bud break, grape growers typically keep a close eye on nighttime temperatures and prepare for the threat of frost, which could damage the delicate shoots at their most vulnerable stage. Heavy rain could also be harmful for young shoots.

More rain would be great for vineyards and the environment in general, but growers would prefer to see it after the shoots have established themselves a bit more. The long-term forecasts suggest Northern California may get rain in late March and early April. That could help keep the frost risk low.

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Definition: "Hang Time"

Definition: "Hang time" means waiting longer for grapes to reach maturity and optimal ripeness; in other words, stretching out the growing season...or, how long the grapes continue to "hang" on the vine.

Ripeness is determined by testing grapes for sugar and acid content. If maturity lags behind ripeness, grapes might need to hang on the vine longer than usual.

Wine regions with naturally long growing seasons, like California's Monterey County, benefit from longer hang time without much risk. They have consistently warm days with few heat spikes, and cool afternoons and evening. The grapes delight in the extra time basking in the sun.

Some grapes mature latter (dark reds such as cabernet) than other varieties (whites) and, therefore, need more hang time to get to optimum ripeness.