Here are just a few things TB has observed since the last missive:
BPA’s – no longer a health hazard in wine due to the amount you would have to consume to have a negative health effect, this from the FDA. BUT TB advises those of you who drink from box wine encased in plastic to observe expiration dates, they are there for a reason, and if you see a lot of boxes with them, find another wine merchant as it shows their lack of inventory control and attention to wine products.
Corks – a lab has been able to isolate different phenol’s in corks. IF they can nail this down and why not? They did it with gene’s afterall. It would then be possible for a winemaker to isolate and use corks that would enhance the taste of their wine but also to make that taste more consistent in both the same and subsequent vintages.
Wine Theft – Having lived for nearly 30 years in the S.F. Bay Area, I have visited many of the wine shops around San Francisco, and weeded out the ones that did not meet my expectations. The main one I eliminated was Premier Cru in Oakland, but on the basis of snobbery prior to their arrest on multiple criminal charges that has not been adjudicated yet, but a lot of customer money was lost and will not likely be recovered – they better watch their backs though because one group they preyed on was Chinese wine buyers of Bordeaux futures and California wines for export to China…one never knows.
One I respected was Beltramo’s in Palo Alto, which sadly is going out of business after more than 50 years. Just before the last day theives broke in and stole $55,000 worth of wine in a case similar to last year’s French Laundry winery (not the same perps as they were caught and the wine recovered although the condition will only be known by tasting it). Foe their closing sale the owners had brought their library wines out and put them on display making the theft a ‘piece of cake’. Let’s hope they catch them and throw the proverbial book at them!
WTSO – in No. 19 I talked about www.winetillsoldout.com. I have now made two purchase from them. I wrote to customer service on both issues. The first was on the retail price shown first. I asked this because I was seeing prices well below that. It was explained that they use the one provided by the winery at time of release, but also list the ‘best’ online price, so you can compare. This satisfied me fully! The second was on a delivery problem that I won’t mention because they handled it ethically and I don’t want anyone to get the idea and try to get wine for free. I will only say it was a slipup that they stood up for and offered me a full refund or more of the same order. That was very responsible and I don’t know many online companies that would do the same. The point is: if you have a complaint write to them immediately. I was amazed at how fast they responded allowing us to resolve the problem to my, the customer’s satisfaction.
Meiomi Pinot Noir – originally, it was an extremely good value and available at Costco and other retailers who stocked it after tasting it and noting the quality. I wasn’t aware of this but it was owned by the Wagner family who makes Caymus, Conundrum, and other brands. This is from the Wine Spectator and is shocking but not surprising to me:
“Aiming to become an even bigger player in the California wine business, Joe Wagner has agreed to sell his Meiomi brand to Constellation Brands for $315 million. The 33-year-old Wagner told Shanken News Daily that he’s selling Meiomi—one of the U.S. wine market’s hottest brands—because the deal will give him the liquidity necessary to become a much larger landowner. Wagner says he hopes to amass 2,000-3,000 acres of California vineyards over the next five years.
“Constellation is paying a hefty price for Meiomi. Wagner told SND, a sister publication of Wine Spectator, that the deal price was roughly a 24 times multiple against the brand’s present and future earnings.
In striking the deal, Constellation adds a brand whose recent performance has been nothing short of astonishing. Wagner developed Meiomi in 2006 while he was a winemaker at Caymus, which is headed by his father, Chuck, and the wine was released in 2009. In 2010, the brand sold 90,000 cases. Last year, the California wine brand won Impact “Hot Brand” honors after advancing by 41 percent to 550,000 cases and was named Wine Brand Of The Year by Impact sister publication Market Watch magazine. Wagner told SND that Meiomi, which retails for around $25 a 750-ml., is on pace to sell more than 700,000 cases in 2015.
In other words, it went from a limited production wine to a mega under Constellation which nobody even heard of (unless you were a wino who drank Wild Irish Rose), and only gained ‘credibility’ by buying the Mondavi brand then going on a shopping spree which has made them one of the top three wine companies in the world. Wagner noted that “no vineyards were included in the sale.” It’s cheaper now…and now YOU, the consumer know why. What next? Boost production to 1 million cases to compete with Fred Franzia’s ‘Two Buck Chuck’? For those not aware his company is Bronco Wines, which owns 40,000 acres of vineyards in California, and bottles as Charles Shaw (an interesting story in itself), and is sold almost (?) exclusively through Trader Joe’s. For the record, Franzia is a convicted felon for using inferior grapes and bottling them as varietals. He didn’t go to jail but instead paid a several million dollar fine (the prosecutor said not sending him to prison like the others involved was the biggest mistake of his career…why didn’t he? Franzia convinced him that the town where it is located, Ceres, Ca., would suffer economic disaster without him). Oh, and about those 40k acres: the longest rows of any winery. Why? So the ‘tractor’, not hand pickers, doesn’t have to waste time turning around, but note you get unripe grapes, stems, and an occasional poor rodent in the mix, but hey at $2.99 or so, who cares? Not the people, mostly seniors, that drink it. There have been efforts made to elect him to the California Winemakers Hall of Fame, which will lose all credibility if it does and shame those who deserve it. Franzia is not a winemaker, but he isa a marketing genius whose only claim to fame is getting rich…but isn’t that what Constellation Brands as done off Mondavi’s reputation? Wonder what’s in the Woodbridge these days?
Last week I attended a telecast with the Wagner Family at Total Wines, discussing their brands followed by a tasting of their full line, sans Meiomi obviously and all were great.
Sorry for the rant, but TB is about people with passion who make REAL contributions to the wine industry and are not in it merely to enrich themselves or use their fortunes to bid up Napa Valley land (and other places..including Bordeaux), to make small lots of wine with a flying winemaker, get a 90 point rating and sell it at absurd prices due to the small volume. That is wine snobbery at its worst. Not saying these wines aren’t good, just ridiculously priced!
If you are still with TB…thanks for reading…I know I feel better now!