Tuesday, April 19, 2011

2011 SF Vintners Market

This past weekend, wine lovers took over the vast Festival Pavilion at Fort Mason in San Francisco to attend the Bounty Hunter sponsored SF Vintner’s Market. Over 200 wineries came together to show off their latest collections. The banners were raised, the glasses engraved…and the customers came!

As Bounty Hunter now produces 14 different brands of our own wine, it was tough to decide what to showcase. We didn’t want to bring too many, but we didn’t want to leave anyone’s favorites left behind – ultimately deciding on 10 of our “children.” While a daunting line up for anyone’s palate, for those lucky folks who tasted their way through all of them – a bright Sauvignon Blanc to a righteous Zin blend – it was a beautiful thing. We had 3 “booths” set up throughout the room – there was no way around it, our wines would be tasted by the masses and hopefully, adored. Our main booth was front and center, so guests arrived with a clean glass and fresh palate. It was a great way to start our weekend.

Once the guests had experienced the fun our first table had to offer, they roamed free and had the chance to taste, learn and enjoy from quite a few other well-respected vintners. As they moved towards the back of the building, they came upon the “Reserve Room.” To access this magical area, one had had to ante up a bit more. Many did, and all found it was worth it. And I don’t just say that because we had our delicious Waypoint Pinots available, or because we had the entire back wall lined with more spirits than you often see on the top shelf of your favorite watering hole, but because this was where all the big dogs came to play – from small production wines blowing your mind to high-octane spirit houses – all represented by friendly and knowledgable staff.

Over the course of this 2-day event, I was able to meet great people and really put a face to our loyal customers. The toast of the weekend was seeing the pure excitement of the visitors when they saw the “Spirits Wall” in the Reserve Room containing Johnny Walker Blue bottles receiving custom etching designs, 209 Gin serving up refreshing Basil Gimlets, Tequila Ocho tasting through 3 different types of Tequila and Diageo sampling some of their finest Classic Malt Whiskies. It was a playground for the senses!

If any of you were there, I’d love to hear what you thought of the event.  If you missed this one and would like to know about our other events, just drop me an email, and I will keep you in the loop.

Until our next great event!
--Summer Olson, Event & PR Manager

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Outlook from Europe

Every March, I head overseas to get a read on the previous vintage from the two regions most important to our clients: Burgundy and Tuscany. We sell a good deal of wine from across France and Italy, but those two appellations are clearly the show ponies of our international portfolio. Visiting the producers in the spring following harvest is far from an exact science, however, as many of the wines are going through various stages of malolactic fermentation and maturity in general. A taster basically has to look at the wines in barrel like a photograph that’s in the initial moments of development in its chemical wash. You can see the vague outline of the image, but the details are certainly blurry. That said, one can get a pretty good sense of the overall character of the vintage by conducting due diligence in the cellar as the young wines evolve in tank and barrel.

Burgundy dodged a serious bullet early in the year as an unusually severe frost settled into the region for several days following budbreak. A significant amount of emerging growth was irreparably damaged, effectively acting as a natural “green harvest” by limiting yields. The result was that most domaines were down around 30%-40% in production (though the quality is significantly above average and then some). In a few instances, the vines themselves froze to death. As we drove north through Vosne-RomanĂ©e on the N74, I asked about two barren plots next to the highway that I assumed had been replanted by design. It turns out that the 2010 frost had settled heavily into the gentle swale next to the highway and laid waste to several acres of prime vineyards. Forget the loss of crop for 2010 and the cost of replanting for that house… it’ll be at least three years before that grower’s vines show a harvestable yield. It was a grim reminder that grape growing is a high-stakes game of poker with Mother Nature. As a result of this icy hand, we’re unlikely to see any downward price pressure. There just wasn’t enough wine made to create anything resembling a glut, nor would the quality warrant a fire sale mentality. Our enduring dream of Burgundy as a bargain remains fleeting.

The vines surrounding the village of Montalcino
The weather didn’t have such a significant impact in Tuscany, and the quality looks to be high across the board for the bellweather varietals. My visits were concentrated in and around Chianti and Montalcino, so the jury’s still out on the coastal homes to the “aia’s” and other big name super-Tuscans. The young Sangiovese samples I tried from barrel were impressive – 2010 should be a banner year for labels bearing Chianti, Rosso and Brunello di Montalcino by the time everything comes to market. It’s very early in the game to declare a final score for these wines given their infancy, but I suspect it’s going to hold up as a very solid vintage.

More thoughts to come as we see these wines land on American soil... let us raise a glass to research!

--Rhett Gadke, Wine Director