That Sucking Sound in Napa is Sonoma & Mendocino

Today, in his absurdly good weekly newsletter "Vintage Experiences" (subscription only), Dan Berger has some very interesting thoughts on Napa Valley and the idea of "Wine Country."

In short, Dan suggests that Napa Valley, with its informally high prices for wine and the "wine country" lifestyle, is becoming less and less and true wine country where consumers and visitors can count on an authentic, and affordable, experience.

But deeper into his article he makes the most important point: Napa Valley’s national fame as "America’s Wine Country" is being diluted as other regions become better known among serious and more casual wine drinkers.

He’s right. But it’s not completely a function of Napa pricing itself out of most peoples range. It’s more about inevitability. As time marches on, other wine regions like Sonoma, Mendocino, Lodi, Santa Barbara, Monterey, Washington, Oregon and New York are given more and more space in the consciousness of American wine drinkers. As this happens the "metafocus" that has been concentrated on Napa Valley as THE wine region is drained as focus slowly gets distributed to wines from other regions.

The most obvious consequences of this trend have already occurred. No one thinks of Napa any more when they actually think about Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Gewurztraminer, and, more and more, Chardonnay. Napa, if it hasn’t already, is quickly become "America’s Cabernet Country", rather than "America’s Wine Country."

This is not to say that fine Chards and Zins don’t originate from Napa Valley. However, it does mean that will eventually become the equivalent of "Burgundy" where you can only expect a single type of wine to be produces. The rest of the country will be the source for all the "other" wines as well as an equal partner with Napa Valley as the location of "America’s Wine Country".

3 Responses

  1. Outdoorgrrl - March 16, 2006

    Oooh! Shame on you! California’s wine regions are broken out, so why did you lump Yakima, Columbia Valley, Walla Walla, Red Mountain, Rattlesnake Hills, Horse Heaven Hills, etc. under “Washington”? (Same goes for Oregon and New York, I’m sure.) Do these regions not hold any meaning outside the Northwest? Or is this a sneaky CA bias showing through?

  2. tom - March 16, 2006

    It’s the (no so) sneaky CAlifornia Bias. However, good call.

  3. Doug - March 16, 2006

    Worth a mention – one can have quite a fine wine experience in the County of San Luis Obispo as well the others mentioned. Much like Sonoma County was back in the day.

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