The Grape Harvest and Margarita Day

California Breaks the Record

After two years of difficult and challenging conditions, California’s grape harvest of 2012 was the real deal. The largest ever. It was big, 4.4 million tons big, over 11 percent larger than 2011.


What it really demonstrates is that the grape farmers are not so good at predicting outcome volumes. Throughout the season, which runs from about early to May to about early November, depending on the grape varietal, farmers and winegrowers were using language like, “looks to be a bit bigger,” “might be a good one,” and “we are seeing a little more fruit.”


Masters of the understatement those guys.


Three-quarters of a million tons of Chardonnay were crushed, an incredible 31 percent increase over 2011. Cabernet Sauvignon volumes were up 20 percent. Pinot Noir, that fickle lady of the vineyards, was up a dramatic 45 percent, with the largest area producing pinot being Monterey, reporting 54,000 tons, double the 2011 harvest.


The largest producer of Cabernet Sauvignon in the state was, big surprise, Napa Valley at 71,000 tons. On all counts, the accompanying dollar value of those tons was also up, and again at record levels.


How did all of this occur? Well, it was the result of nothing. Nothing out of the ordinary happened. No rain, no chilly temperatures, no frost, no damaging heat waves or smoke taint from wildfires. The temperatures were moderate throughout the growing season and then, at the end, a bit of a heat spike that raised sugar levels as if on cue.


And to you this means, well, at this point no one is quite sure. Since 2010 and 2011 were such challenging years, we could in the short-term see wine prices rise to some extent. It may not be much as consumer purchasing demand is more price-sensitive due to the recession. Winemakers may hold the line on price increases for these two vintages knowing full well that there is considerable relief just down the road with the 2012 crop now vinifying in tanks and barrels in the winery.


On a side note, I recently tasted the 2012 Sauvignon Blanc from Starmont Winery in Napa Valley, sister winery to Merryvale. The wine was really something to enjoy. Quite fresh, of course, with bright tropical fruit, excellent palate-feel, solid acids and a long pleasant finish. Perfect for our fresh seafood, like crab.


If this wine is an indicator of things to come, we are all in for many treats.


On the other hand, Europe did not have such good fortune as California. To tell the truth, you would have thought the winemakers throughout Europe really hacked off someone important.


Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Hail, cold weather during prime growing season, too much rain, and we’ll just throw in Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicking over a lantern and starting a fire (yes, I know that story belongs to Chicago but I’m making a point here. Cut me some slack.)


Looks like there will be as many as 50 winegrowers and winemakers in Beaujolais who will be closing their doors permanently. Champagne prices are set to increase 35 percent to 40 percent.


Here’s the end result: When things are bad, like they are in Europe, consumer prices will rise to offset the lack of product, therefore lack of a nice bottom line. When things are good, like they are in California, consumer prices will rise because the quality is present.


See? That’s wine economics in a nutshell. Hope that clarifies it for you.


National Margarita Day

In a town where we celebrate just about any ole’ thing (oh, yes we do, and you know it), Friday, February 22, has been declared National Margarita Day.


Who declared it? Who knows? Who cares?


The origins of the margarita are subject to some discussion, and even then nothing will be resolved. It was created in Mexico, or San Diego, or Galveston. We do know that it first made an appearance in the 1940’s and today is the most popular tequila-based drink in the U.S.


To assist in your massive and obviously well-planned celebration of National Margarita Day, the nice folks at Sauza Tequila offer this close-to-classic recipe:


Sauza Gold Margarita, serves 1

1 1/2 parts Sauza Reposado 100% Agave Tequila
1/2 part John Dekuyper & Sons O3 Premium Orange Liqueur
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
Ice, salt and orange for serving 

In a shaker filled with ice, combine lime juice, Sauza Reposado 100% Agave Tequila, and liqueur. Shake vigorously. Strain into a glass filled with ice and rimmed with salt (optional). Garnish with an orange wedge.


If you are like me, and don’t like your margaritas so sweet but more citrus-y, I would reduce the amount of fresh orange juice and increase the amount of lime juice. But that’s personal taste. Go with your own pleasures.


And have a happy National Margarita Day! Maybe you can convince your boss that it really is a holiday and you should be over at the cantina.





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