StateWays - July/August 2015

StateWays is the only magazine exclusively covering the control state system within the beverage alcohol industry, with annual updates from liquor control commissions and alcohol control boards and yearly fiscal reporting from control jurisdictions

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43 StateWays n n July/August 2015 around bottles from such small wineries, so DiDomizio says hand selling remains an important approach for the shop. "We sell a good deal from Matthiasson, Red Car, Robert Sinskey, Banshee and Rivers Marie," she says. "Red blends are exceedingly popular right now, from Rhone and Cabernet to 'kitchen sink' blends that include more than a handful of grape varieties. People don't seem to care about the specific grapes, as long as the wine tastes good. Otherwise, Pinot Noir remains a great seller and Syrah is making a bit of a comeback." Although California Wine Merchants' customers are knowl- edgeable and seek out the unconventional, DiDomizio says tast- ings, and specific tasting notes drafted for each bottle, are a vital part of educating all those curious folks who wander inside. "The point-of-sale notes convey the story behind the win- ery and include our impressions of the wine when we tasted it," she adds. "We provide our comments in lieu of critics' notes or scores. Sharing with our customers which wines and producers we are excited about gets them excited, too." Emerging AVAs Propelling this interest is the advent of AVAs beyond the North Coast's most-celebrated winemaking regions. There are over 200 of them spread throughout California. One by one, we've seen offbeat locales like Paso Robles, Lodi, Monterey and Santa Cruz get the limelight for their less-famous-but-stellar wines, often made on family-owned estates. Dennis Carroll, CEO of Wine Hooligans, a brand develop- ment company that works with such California wineries as Cy- cles Gladiator, Broadside, Robert Goyette, Stephen Vincent and Sea Monster, says that "the awareness of upcoming AVAs always creates excitement at the distributor and trade levels. This makes telling your story easier to a receptive audience." One caveat he warns of, however: "As popularity increases, wine becomes harder to source and typically more expensive. Keeping your cost and quality consistent becomes a challenge." DiDomizio says her customers are increasingly growing fa- miliar with these different AVAs, especially cool-climate ones like Sta. Rita Hills and Anderson Valley. These areas, along with Sonoma Mountain and Sonoma Coast, are also popular at Red- wood City, CA-based K&L Wine Merchants. "Customers are definitely seeking out wines which are not of the old norm," explains K&L's proprietor, Eric Story. "They are looking for varietals that come from growing zones, which benefit and produce wines with better balance and character. Customers have become very savvy and are very interested in terroir and microclimates. There is a shift away from the 'corpo- rate' style to more of a demand for wines of individuality." "Pinot Noir, I think, is the leader of this movement with Char- donnay right behind," Story adds. "But varietals like Semillon, Mouverdre, Carignan and even Sauvignon Blanc are being pro- duced with this same mindset, and some really fun wines are out there." Interest in wines from the Anderson Valley AVA — the northernmost and coolest-climate winegrowing region in the state — has significantly spiked, as in the case of FEL Wines' Savoy Vineyard. "It is a new frontier for California Pinot Noir winemaking. People who grow Pinot Noir are attracted to planting vines on the edge of where you can farm successfully, and the Anderson Valley is pushing that to the limit," says FEL's winemaker, Ryan Hodgins. "With the risk of early harvest and lots of rain comes the benefit of being able to produce Pinot Noir that is reflective of its climate in an elegant style." "My goal as a winemaker is to make wines that are reflective of a place and vintage," Hodgins adds. "In more recent years, people have embraced elegance and subtlety in winemaking, which is well-suited to the Anderson Valley, and is one of the reasons the AVA is considered to be on the rise." With an SRP of $38, it's clear that FEL Anderson Valley Pinot Noir is not intended as an everyday table wine. Instead, it connotes a certain quality attached to special occasions, in turn adding value to the AVA's overall burgeoning reputation. Obscure No More Hodgins' dedication to capturing locality bodes well for even-more obscure AVAs, like Coombsville, which was first established in 2011. It is home to the Nathan Coombs Es- tate, the former Tourmaline Vineyard that has since been "CUSTOMERS ARE DEFINITELY SEEKING OUT WINES WHICH ARE NOT OF THE OLD NORM." - K&L'S PROPRIETOR, ERIC STORY

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