Say Goodbye to the Most Interesting Man in the World; New Wine Cap Takes A Nod From Beer; Plus Other News & Notes

News from your world of wine.
(Alternate headline photos: 1, 2)

Actor Jonathan Goldsmith has been known as “The Most Interesting Man In The World” in a much-loved series of ads for Dos Equis beer since 2006. But, no more. In his newest and final ad for the brand, the Most Interesting Man In The World is seen taking off in a spaceship on a one-way trip to Mars. “His only regret is not knowing what regret feels like,” the announcer says, as Goldsmith advises us one final time, “stay thirsty, my friends.”

Doing some traveling yourself? A more portable wine bottle makes its debut.

The war against TCA continues, with more and more non-cork wine closures making debuts. The latest from Humanitas Wines of Napa Valley is a swing-top cap. Swing tops, mostly seen on pricey Belgian beers, are closures with a gasket-ringed stopper, generally made of ceramic. It’s held down by a heavy wire clamp that pivots from two holes in the neck of the bottle.

Humanitas hand-bottled 46 cases of their rose Pinot Noir in the new bottles last November, which are for sale in the tasting room for $30.

This bud’s for you.

Last week (March 7) it was reported that unusually warm temperatures have brought an early start to the 2016 wine-grape season in Northern California. “Bud break,” when vines awaken from winter dormancy and shoots emerge from buds on the vine, is starting ahead of schedule in Napa, Sonoma and Lake counties according to Jennifer Putnam, CEO and executive director of Napa Valley Grapegrowers.

Bud-watchers say it’s about a week ahead of 2015, itself an early start. However, growers and vintners also comment that early bud break doesn’t predict much about the size or quality of the coming vintage.

Meanwhile, In the Trade

Opici Chairman Hubert Opici Turns 100!

Hubert OpiciRaise a glass to wine-industry legend Hubert Opici, who celebrated his 100th birthday on March 13, 2016. The chairman of Opici Wine Group, who was recently honored as an “American Wine Legend” at Wine Enthusiast’s Wine Star Awards, attributes his longevity to his family and deep passion for wine.

“I feel truly blessed to be celebrating 100 years surrounded by my daughter, grandchildren, and great grandchildren,” says Hubert. “Their love keeps my heart young. And working alongside them to build this business has been an immeasurable pleasure.”

To honor this remarkable milestone, the Opici family created a limited-edition Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon called H. The grapes are sourced from select parcels of old vines in the heart of Napa’s Oakville district. H is available in select markets around the county at a retail price of $33.

And now back to the ongoing saga of Italy v. New Zealand, grudge-match.

In the latest chapter of an ongoing feud we reported on earlier between Prosecco’s DOC Consortium and the countries of New Zealand and Australia, the Italian group has responded to recent claims by South Pacific vintners that international trade laws permit the use of the term “Prosecco” as a grape variety and not a region. Not so fast, says Luca Giavi, the director of the Prosecco DOC Consortium.

“It is true that Prosecco used to be the name of the variety,” Giavi notes, “but it is also true that in the minds of international consumers, Prosecco is a wine of Italian origin. That is precisely why we asked for and obtained the IG (geographic indication) certification in 2009.”

“The deceptive nature of the request on the part of New Zealand producers to use the name Prosecco is even more evident if we take into consideration that to this day, there are still bottlers in New Zealand who label as Prosecco wines produced from Riesling, Muller Thurgau, and Pinot Gris, with no objections from their colleagues or the authorities. Making the name of the variety an issue seems to us an excuse to exploit a success that is entirely Italian. As has been stated previously, it might be legal, but it isn’t right.”

Across the Pacific, Washington continues to have highest liquor tax in country.

Dry Fly DistillingIt’s no surprise to beleaguered consumers, but according to a study from the Washington Policy Center it appears that Washington state is going to have the highest liquor sales taxes in the nation for another year.

Nearly 40 percent of every sale on every bottle of liquor goes back to the state. Only those in border towns, such as Spokane, Walla Walla and Vancouver can escape by purchasing their booze across state lines.

Don Poffenroth, co-founder of Spokane’s Dry Fly Distilling, comments that he and other producers are surprised prices did not go down as expected when control of alcohol sales was taken away from the state government. “We thought the prices would come down,” he said. The government instead chose to raise taxes proportionally to any price drop—now more than 33 dollars per gallon of liquor. Compare that to Missouri, where the tax hovers around two dollars per gallon.

Poffenroth believes this is putting smaller businesses out, and driving more people out of state to buy their liquor, making it nearly impossible to spark competition. “Getting in the game today, the price of entry is 10-times what it used to be,” Poffenroth notes.

It’s hard to make it in the Pacific Northwest…

Good news/bad news: Oregon wine sales are up, but even healthy sales don’t always bring profitability. Despite growing demand for their wine, more than a quarter of Oregon wine producers have reported being in financial distress.

The producers were surveyed by Silicon Valley Bank, a wine industry lender. Some 28 percent claimed to be in poor financial health, compared to 16 percent for the industry overall. This is despite predictions that sales will grow 13 percent in value and 9 percent in volume this year alone.

The number of Oregon wineries has climbed about 75 percent, to 676, in just the past five years, and nearly tripled over the past decade, according to the Oregon Wine Board. In the Silicon Valley Bank’s survey, 41 percent of Oregon wine producers said a sale is likely or possible, compared to about 25 percent for the industry as a whole.

On The Scene

Here are some upcoming wine events that are likely to sell out in advance, so move fast!

Celebrate Walla Walla: The World of Cabernet Sauvignon

June 16–18, more than 60 Walla Walla Valley winemakers, two Master Sommeliers, four celebrated chefs and others come together in exploring one of the world’s most renowned grape varieties—Cabernet Sauvignon. Taste and compare local and international wines, sample rare vintage wines and join in on intimate winemaker dinners.

On May 1, for a full-bodied taste of Portland’s wine scene, PDX Urban Wineries is kicking off Oregon Wine Month with its Urban Wine Experience. 12 wineries will be offering tastings of their various bottlings with small plates for pairing and discounts on purchases.

Events For The Trade

National Grape & Wine Policy Conference: May 22-24 at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, DC

USA Trade Tasting: March 21-22 at the Metropolitan Pavilion, New York

In Pursuit of Balance In L.A.: April 18 at République Restaurant, Los Angeles

Published on March 14, 2016
Topics: Wine Trends + News
About the Author
Paul Gregutt
Contributing Editor

Reviews wines from Oregon and Canada.

Paul Gregutt is a Contributing Editor for Wine Enthusiast magazine, a founding member of the magazine’s Tasting Panel, and reviews the wines of Oregon and Canada. The author of the critically-acclaimed Washington Wines & Wineries—The Essential Guide, he consulted on the Pacific Northwest entries in current versions of The World Atlas of Wine and The Oxford Companion to Wine.

Email: paulgwine@me.com.



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