Apr 26, 2022Liked by Tom Wark

Never! Snobby Snobby Napa? Never!

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Can't get with you on this one, my dear friend. Your supply and demand argument is spot on until you consider where the demand is coming from, i.e. rich people who buy on extrinsics rather than what's in the bottle, about which they either know not or care not. The result is that the majority of Napa Cab is made as impact wine for the wealthy unwashed - high tannin, high sugar, high alcohol, and low in the distintive character that made the region famous in the first place.

The reaction of Southern Californians, who care a lot more about movies and trend-watching than wine, to the movie Sideways is a cautionary tale of what can happen if your scenario of driving this disruptive element into other regions is fully realized. Prior to its release, SoCalians were drinking a lot of Merlot because it was rich and softer than Cab Sauv and also because it was what their friends were drinking. When the movie declared Merlot unfashionable and extolled the ethereal virtues of Pinot Noir, they switched en-mass. But they didn't like the thin, watery PNs Milo was describing. They wanted Merlot in a bottle labelled as Pinot. So many vintners were persuaded to extend hangtime into the raisin phase, resulting in - you guessed it -- impact wine with high tannin, high sugar, high alcohol, and low in the distintive character that made the region famous in the first place.

To quote from Lawrence of Arabia, "May God save you from your vision." Sure, the Central Coast bagged a lot of cash in exchange for its soul, but like Napa, its fame transformed it from a sleepy, bucolic landscape into a nightmare of pop culture, though not yet as bad as Napa's Highway 29, which is pretty much unlivable on summer weekends and whose grapes are coated with diesel exhaust.

Fortunately, one can still experience the Napa of old if you're willing to drive a little to places like Suisun Vally, Lake County, Humboldt County and the Santa Cruz Mountains, where the air is still clean, the traffic is light, and the wines are good values -- in some cases, just as good as Napa of old for a fraction of the price. Thank heaven for car sickness -- it's what's keeping out the rich riff-raff and preserving these regions for the truly dedicated.

As an aside, you are almost right to peg the 1960s - actually it was originally popularized in the 1956 Broadway musical Most Happy Fella, whose audiences danced out of the theatre whistling the title tune ("In the whole Napa Valley!"). I have often contended that if Sonoma had two syllables, it might as easily have been chosen, as it dominated 19th Century California wine. It should also be observed that Missouri made some of the most famous wines in the world in 1850s. There wsn't a single grape in Napa Valley in 1850, it was hardly first.

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Very clever, my friend. I didn't know where you were going with this. One of the biggest issues, actually, is that Lettie Teague wrote the article. We are already having a hell of a time convincing young consumers that they should get on board and explore wine. Wine is terrible at bringing people into the fold. Every time something like this gets published, it pushes more people to the beer and cocktail side of the ledger. It wasn't a story until she made it one and I guarantee more than one person saw it, shook their head and said "And that's why I don't drink wine!"

Miss you, friend!

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The primary take that I've seen in relation to Lettie's article is along the lines of, "Well, if NV is too expensive for the WALL STREET JOURNAL...." I Napa wasn't "aspirational" for younger folks before, it certainly is now. Be well Ms. Schneider.

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