The Passing of a Legend — Robert Mondavi
I couldn't call myself a wine writer if I didn't honor the passing of Robert Mondavi on May 16, a month short of his 95th birthday. The industry is abuzz about this relentless, wildly charismatic man, affectionately calling him "the patriarch", "the godfather" and "the ambassador" of wine. To me, he was more than that; he single-handedly and unarguably founded everything wine in California. Mondavi believed in creating a wine community, unselfishly sharing his vinification research and vineyard knowledge with competitors to nurture a fledgling industry. When he set up Robert Mondavi Winery in 1966 — after being ousted from his family's Charles Krug project — California's wine industry wallowed in cheap jug juice, unheard of at the average American dinner table. Mondavi spun America 180. His gritty determination to make California a quality wine producer sealed the fate of many careers, wineries and the industry as a whole. Simply put, if you have California wine in your glass right now, you have Robert Mondavi to thank for it. Toast to him, and hope that we all live to 94 by drinking wine.
Pretty in Pink
I harp about rosé wines constantly. In an attempt to convert everyone I know, I pour pink proudly and often, hoping my enthusiasm will rub off. According to Nielsen Ratings, sales of rosé wines priced above $8 surged 53.2 percent from February 2007 to February 2008, 17 times faster by volume than table wine sales. Hey, I'll take as much of the credit as you want to give me. Although still a drop in the glass of total sales — less than 1 percent — at least the numbers are rising. The biggest markets for rosé growth are Miami, Seattle and New York. Maybe the Southeast can aspire to be as pretty in pink.
Florida Avoids a Swipe
Despite tenacious lobbying by wholesalers, you can still have your wine shipped from your favorite producer to your doorstep. This session, Florida's legislature considered severe limitations on interstate wine shipping by way of SB 1096. Wholesalers have fought stridently to regain the turf lost when, in 2005, the Supreme Court loosened interstate wine regulations and opened new options for Florida oenophiles. And you know why? According to FreeTheGrape.com, consumers ordered 30,000 cases of wine directly from out-of-state producers (cutting out the middleman wholesaler), generating $157,000 for the Florida coffers in the six months between July 2006 and January 2007. Drink up Florida.
We're Partying, Dude
In 2007, Americans drank more California wine than ever before — 457 million gallons, up 2 percent from 2006, according the Gomberg-Fredrikson Report. This is the 14th year in a row that we've filled our glasses with more wine. According to Nielsen, by volume, chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and white zinfandel accounted for a 48 percent market share in U.S. food stores, with gains for pinot noir, zinfandel, sauvignon blanc, riesling and pinot grigio. Different year, same fantastic growth. Go us.
Masi 2006 Masianco Venezie (Italy) A crisp, herb-infused white blend of pinot grigio and the Italian verduzzo grape. Has soft, approachable acidity, lime rind and white grapefruit flavors, with a lasting lemon-y finish. Would be great as an aperitif or served with light seafood dishes. Sw = 1. $15. 3.5 stars
Tir na N'Og 2005 Old Vines Grenache McLaren Vale(Australia) You might think this hails from a Gaelic land, but no red grape as good as this grows there. McLaren Vale, a region in Southeast Australia, is producing some outstanding grenache wines, including this hedonistic and decadent example. It's soft textured and delicious, bursting with ripe raspberries, blueberry and red apple peelings. The finish is kissed with smoky cedar and richly concentrated black cherries. Sw = 1. $25. 4.5 stars
Sweetness (Sw) rating is out of 10, 10 being pure sugar. 1 (star) rating is out of 5, 5 being wine nirvana.