The wine regions of Sonoma County don't play well together.
It has been that way since I can remember and I've lived there for 25 years. Being a stubborn bastard is a rich tradition in Sonoma County for some reason. I think it dates to those grumpy old Italian farmers who spawned the local wine industry. Everything had to be their way, even if they didn't know what the hell they were talking about.
Sonoma County's American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) aren't much different. Each region has been so busy promoting itself that the big picture is fuzzy. What brings this up is a new effort by Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers Alliance (SVVGA) to rebrand Sonoma Valley—the area in the southeastern part of the county.
The list of California wineries that reliably produce a good range of tasty values has been growing short for years, but there's a new player now. Well, "new" is misleading since the producer in question is Buena Vista, the oldest commercial winery in the state.
Yet in nearly every sense Buena Vista is a new player, and is now releasing a promising lineup of very good wines selling for $25 and less. For those of us who have watched what the historic Sonoma winery has gone through during the past 25 years, it's a welcome development.
Since 2001 alone Buena Vista has been through five owners. That's right, five. That's a recipe for wine disaster, but the owner now is Boisset Family Estates, a major wine player in Burgundy that's reinvigorating a number of California wineries.
We get so caught up in chasing the hottest new thing that we forget sometimes to recognize the modest heroes, those unsung and unfussy souls who have quietly gone about the business of making good wines year after year.
Charlie Barra is one of those people. At age 86, Barra is the dean of Mendocino County wine and one of the last of a breed. Born during Prohibition and just at the dawn of the Great Depression, Barra is a part of California's wine history, having worked with some of the key players while leaving his own mark along the way. He's a character worth knowing.
The wine world reminds me of high school sometimes. The cast of characters and social structure is really not all that different.
Why do people bother with New Year's resolutions? The first of January at the gym, for example, brings a blitzkrieg of the hopeful, the annual posers and Pollyannas of fitness who occupy every damn machine for weeks. But by February they abandoned their resolutions and inevitably return to their couches and Cheetos.
But since I don't want to come off as an absolute cynic, I do have a few goals. (Isn't "goal" a synonym for "resolution," you ask? Semantics shemantics! Google it yourself.) Here are a few of my goals for 2013.
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