Saturday, January 1, 2011

2010 Was A Good Year For Wine

I can’t believe it. I just wrote this article what seems like yesterday. Has another year really gone by this quickly again? I think that overall, 2010 was a pretty good year in the wine world. It had its ups and downs. Here is my very brief review, and guesses for what 2011 brings.

In the vineyards we started off with a huge bud break in the spring, turned into a beautiful summer, and ended with a cool and wet fall harvest. By and large, the vineyards produced some really nice juice this year, which we will be enjoying for years to come.

Because of the strange growing conditions I know that we got better juice in some places, and worse in others. Expect your white wines to cost a little more, and expect more ice wine from this vintage at a lower than ever cost.

Speaking of lower than ever cost, 2010 cinched a case for lower priced wines from our region and the world in general. You can get a pretty good bottle for between $5 and $10. It won’t be awesomely stupendous, but it won’t be rot-gut either.

The reason for this is that the economy has forced winemakers to really look at cost in the bottle and not at the artistic side of the winemaking business. Wine has become seen as a farming commodity rather than a piece of art in the consumer’s eyes. This is both good for the consumer and bad for mid-sized wineries trying to get ahead.

Don’t get me wrong. Competition in the market place, and a few less micro wineries will shake out those who are just trying to get rich quick. Only really serious winemakers are going to shake out in the next few years.

In 2010 the world got a little bit smaller. Changes in distribution regulations and shipping are bringing more of the world’s wines to even the northwest. Here in the Eastern Oregon and Eastern Washington region we saw a huge increase in imported wines and beers.

As we celebrate new wineries and winemakers joining the ranks, we also said goodbye to some of our great local pioneers of the industry. Bud Mercer from Prosser, Eugene Foote, a Seattle winemaking pioneer, and Prosser wine pioneer Jerry Hinzerling all left us this year to go to better vineyards beyond. I wish their families well.

While I’m on the subject of wine pioneering, I want to mention a trend that is really picking up in our region. In 2010 and beyond I think we’re going to see a dramatic increase in niche varietals. This year brought a huge increase in Mourvedre, Counoise, Sinsault, and other rare varietals that have been just grown experimentally up to now. You, the consumers are starting to enjoy the new flavors and exotic names that are becoming available on the market. Look to see more in 2011.

What were my favorite wines of 2010? This year I tasted some amazing wines from different producers all over the world. Next week I’ll pull out my notes and give you some opinions on what I think was truly superior. I’ll also give you my winemaker of the year, as well as the up and coming winemaker to watch for.

Until then…Enjoy!

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