Posted: September 27, 2012 By Mitch Frank
Fall tends to be my favorite time of year, a sentiment many wine lovers apparently share. After a long, hot summer, temperatures are finally dipping—and lower temperatures bring happy boxes to my door. When the weather cools off, wineries I order from can ship bottles to my New Orleans home without fretting that summer heat will turn their Merlot into Madeira. A new study finds that October is the busiest month for direct shipping orders from U.S. wineries.
More than seven years have passed since the Supreme Court's Granholm decision, which said that state governments cannot prohibit out-of-state wineries from shipping to residents while allowing in-state wineries to do so. Today, 39 states allow some form of direct shipping, up from 27 before the 2005 ruling.
The new report, authored by Ship Compliant, measured the direct shipping market from August 2011 to July 2012, surveying every U.S. winery in Wines & Vines' comprehensive directory about their direct shipping sales. They found that consumers ordered 2.98 million cases of wine in that time. With a value of $1.35 billion, that wine represents 8.6 percent of the total wine market in the United States by value. (Tasting room sales that were shipped to customers' homes were not included, which would make the growth even bigger.)
Posted: September 13, 2012 By Mitch Frank
It was 87 degrees inside my house. The doors, which we had opened in a futile effort to circulate the stagnant air, were now too swollen from the humidity to shut properly. The power had been down for about 48 hours.
"Honey, I'm opening the Mouton-Rothschild 2000. Grab a glass," I said.
I knew when I moved to New Orleans that hurricane season was a fact of life. After Katrina, my wife's parents came home to find that 3 feet of floodwater had ruined much of their ground floor. Thankfully, Hurricane Isaac did not severely challenge New Orleans' newly strengthened levees. Neighboring parishes outside the levees suffered far more and need our help and prayers.
Still, the local utility spent days after the storm trying to bring New Orleans back to the 21st century. (We spent 60 hours without power; other neighborhoods were out for nearly five more days.) Residents could decide quickly what in the fridge needed to be eaten or tossed, but for restaurants, retailers and collectors around the city, wine was a bit of a concern. The experience prompted me to open a few of my best bottles rather than risk letting them spoil.
Posted: August 31, 2012 By Mitch Frank
Posted: August 31, 2012 By Mitch Frank
Posted: August 30, 2012 By Mitch Frank
When Telmo Rodriguez and Pablo Eguzkiza saw the big, juicy clusters of Garnacha grapes hanging on the vines in their Las Beatas vineyard, they were tempted to kill their vineyard manager. Except he was already dead.
Rodriguez is one of Spain's best known winemakers today. He grew up at the historic winery Remelluri in Rioja, but left in 1994 when his father refused to let him innovate. He partnered with Eguzkiza, a fellow Basque he had met while studying enology in Bordeaux. Together they began searching for old forgotten vineyards no one had bothered to tear up in under-appreciated regions of Spain—and in the 1990s, Spain had a lot of under-appreciated regions.
Today they make wine in nine appellations. When they expand to a new place, they always hire a young enologist to help them make the wine and an old grower to manage the vineyards. "These old guys, they remember how things were done before viticulture became industrial," says Rodriguez.
"The problem is, there aren't many of them left," adds Eguzkiza. "And you have to keep an eye on them." Old guys, it seems, often think they know better than hotshot winemakers. That was the problem with the Garnacha in Las Beatas.
Posted: August 16, 2012 By Mitch Frank
My job doesn't hinge much on nature, and I'm grateful for that. Two years ago, Sonoma winegrowers weathered unseasonably cool weather for much of the summer. With the fruit not getting any riper, some opted to pluck leaves, exposing the grapes to more sunlight. A random heat wave then cooked their grapes on the vine. Who says Mother Nature doesn't have a sense of humor? It's a cruel one.
Wine producers are always boxing a far, bigger, faster opponent. They have to think fast, ready to change course if necessary. They always have to be prepared for the worst. Sometimes, nature is a partner. Other times, she just hits them with a sucker punch.
Posted: August 2, 2012 By Mitch Frank
When I moved to New Orleans in 2010, I was curious where the city's wine programs would be five years after Hurricane Katrina. While the city had always had stars like Brennan's and Emeril's, a lot of restaurants were happy to have average programs, with maybe a little extra French depth. People visited New Orleans for the food.
But I have found a generation of young sommeliers here who reject that idea-and like so much down here now, pre-storm complacency has been rejected in favor of creative wine programs. Commander's Palace has been at the forefront.
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