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If You Read Anything This Week: Wine News 3.9.2018

Vines vs. trees in Napa: Napa Valley is debating the Napa County Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative of 2018, or Measure C, which will be voted on in June. It aims to adjust zoning rules to further protect Napa’s streams, watersheds, wetlands, and forests. But opponents say it will restrict hillside development, too. [Wine Spectator]

Napa book focuses on conflict: Debates like the one over Measure C are covered in James Conaway’s new book, Napa at Last Light: America’s Eden in an Age of Calamity. In it, he paints a picture of the conflict between the forces of development and those concerned about the environment—with what seems to be a fairly pessimistic outlook. [Bloomberg]

Wine studies donation in Oregon: Grace and Ken Evenstead, owners of Domaine Serene in Oregon and Château de la Cree in Burgundy, have donated six million dollars to Oregon’s Linfield College. The donation will fund a faculty position for Greg Jones as well as other projects to improve and expand the college’s wine studies program. [Decanter]

Considering wine retail: Megan Krigbaum takes stock of wine retail today. With more wine available than ever, stores are becoming increasingly curated, and some adept at sourcing older wines. Innovative shops are opening beyond big cities. And the line between restaurant and retail is blurring. [PUNCH]

The case for wine on tap: Kegged wine has been praised as economical, consistent, and sustainable. The greatest challenge is the cost of the equipment to launch a tapped wine program. Further, kegs are unsuitable for aged wine. Nonetheless, the category is on the rise, and with it, the quality of the wine being put in keg. [Wine Enthusiast]

Wine in China’s countryside: The astonishing increase in demand for wine in China has prompted interest in domestic production. Ningxia, a rural and historically impoverished region, has become the most significant in terms of wine, with about 100 wineries that produced 120 million bottles in 2016. State-backed enterprises lead production, but privately owned operations drive the reputation. The New Yorker reports on the vast divide that remains as China transforms. [The New Yorker]

Remembering Nicky Hahn: Nicky Hahn, founder of Hahn Family Wines and pioneer of the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA, has died at age 81. He arrived in Monterey County in the 1970s and, in the following decades, rallied support for the appellation until its 1991 approval. He transitioned his vineyards from Cabernet Sauvignon to Pinot Noir in the early 2000s, to great success. [Wine Industry Advisor]

Our favorite SevenFifty Daily article this week

An MW at the TTB: SevenFifty Daily profiles new MW Caroline Hermann, the import-export program manager for wine, beer, and spirits at the TTB. Hermann started her career as an environmental lawyer, though she was curious about wine all along. At the TTB, she combines her expertise in law and wine. [SevenFifty Daily]

What do you think?

Especially if you’re in Napa, what can you share about this complicated conversation on Measure C? Is anything missing from the articles being published for a national/international audience?

Has anyone read Napa at Last Light? If so, what’s your take on Conaway’s perspective?

How else has wine retail changed? Do you see a bright future for wine shops? What’s ahead?

Share your thoughts on wine on tap. If you run a program using wine in keg, what do you see as the benefits and drawbacks?

What else have you been reading this week?

  • Wow, 10 million cases in Ningxia, China. Is anyone noticing US distribution of these wines?

  • James Conway was recently on the "I'll drink to that" podcast as well. It was a very interesting program.

  • It's hard to make a blanket statement about the state of retail due to the veritable patchwork quilt of different laws and regulations.  Over all it's a really good time to be in wine retail, though I predict that a period of consolidation/corporatization is coming..  Service is increasingly important, yes, but pricing will always be more important and big companies are always going to have more capital.  The product availibility also demands a skilled hand at management and selection curating.  Much like the restaurant trade, a solid wine merchant must be multitasking in areas like computer/POS operation, digital marketing, graphic design, product merchandising, a little HVAC sometimes, and dealing with a rapidly-multiplying number of vendors.  With the increasing quality of the available product, the market has generally risen to gobble up the supply, which is great news for all of us.