Class Recap: Welcome Back Wine Class, July 14 2021

Thank you everyone for an amazing evening back to live wine classes! Big thanks to the Campus Club for being an awesome host location as well.

Many of you asked about the cheese plates. Three of the four cheeses were made at the University of Minnesota (herbed havarti, cheddar, and fontina), and the blue cheese (“Ama Blue”) came from the Fairbault caves. Many of you asked about buying the cheese and I’m happy to report that for the next class the Campus Club will have cheese for sale on the way out!

We’d love to have you at the Euro Pass class on July 24th. More info and registration.

This Welcome Back Wine Class meant so much to me. As I mentioned a couple of times, I was nervous. After over two decades of standing up in front of a crowd, the 15 month break during the pandemic knocked me out of form, or at least I thought it did. Many thanks to all who came up to me and said I did a good job — I needed that! I know the nervousness showed but thanks for being a great crowd.

About that boxed wine, and the region it’s from

This is the best boxed wine around, in my opinion. Like I said in the class, I’ve been leaning more and more toward these uplifting and brighter styles of wine, especially in the summertime. Partially this is just the trend of the moment, but here’s the real reason I like this wine: it tastes pure. What I mean by that is a lack of manipulations. It reminds me of a great bistro wine enjoyed in Paris, or something cheerful in a backyard in Italy.

It’s 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Gamay from the region of Bourgogne Passe-Tout-Grains. Learn everything you need to know about this under-the-radar area in this great article in Punch: A Wine With the Rhythm of Beaujolais and the Soul of Burgundy. And take note of the prices of their suggested wines … that’s what wine from this area normally costs, so you can see why I keep a box of this wine in the fridge at all times.

About the region of Red Mountain, Lemberger, and the Kiona Winery

Red Mountain is my favorite Washington region at the moment. I find it fascinating that this perfect place for grapes and wine is such a recent discovery. There is a ton of great info on the Red Mountain Vineyard Alliance website. Two hints: be sure to check out the video on the site (really awesome, 21 minutes long, enjoy with a glass of wine), and also on the menu bar click on the ‘Trade’ section for tons of goodies including maps.

The Kiona Lemberger, AKA Blaufrankisch, was the star of the show for many people. Learn more about this wonderful grape variety on the Winesearcher page on Blaufrankisch. 

Kiona is very neat winery. Super low key, not seeking the spotlight, multi-generational, and really part of the founding fabric of the Washington wine industry. Their Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the best wines I had in 2020. More info on the Kiona Winery website.

About that Douro Valley wine, and how to get it

Wow this was showing great! I first learned about this wine in a New York Times article, and when I found out one of my favorite importers, Olé and Obrigato, represented it I was so happy. When I procured the wine for the class, when everything was printed and there was no turning back, I was informed this was the last case in the market.

However, I’ve discovered that five stores in town purchased it in the last 12 months. Check these retailers and see if you can find it! North Loop, 1010 Washington, and all three of the Edina Municipal stores. Those are the only retailers to buy that wine in the last 12 months.

Here is the tech sheet on the wine from the importer, and The NY Times article that lead me to this wine (possible paywall).

Onward to many follow up links based on some topics we covered:

Napa Valley fires of 2020
This was a low point for me during 2020. Watching the moment-by-moment destruction of beloved wineries, trying to contact friends in the valley, and knowing that it was a losing battle against the fire was horrible to see. Unfortunately, this is becoming a new reality for wine country. Smoke-infected grapes became a major problem for farmers in not only California but Oregon and Washington as well. Now, pouring salt in the wound, most wineries are unable to buy fire insurance in California due to the regularity of the destruction.

And if you haven’t yet seen this, it’s a video made the morning after the fires hit Spring Mountain, made by the son of one of the winery owners as he drove from the top of the mountain down to St. Helena. If you’ve ever driven this road, you know how beautiful and special it normally is. This video for me captures the horror of that week in Napa Valley.

Import taxes of 2020
The 25% tariff on French, German, and Spanish wines under 14%ABV, non-sparkling, and under 1L in packaging, hit four months ahead of the pandemic. The price increases were mostly absorbed by a combination of the wineries, importers, and wholesalers. As the tariffs have released, it seems that each of these channels is not rolling back their prices the way we might expect, possibly holding back in case the tariff war erupts again.
Pandemic impact on wine industry
Lots of interesting stuff in these two articles, especially the second one that compares the 2008 situation to the 2020 situation. “In 2008, restaurants did not have customers. In 2020, customers did not have restaurants.”
Wine industry trends
The first link is to the Silicon Valley Bank, who is the main lender for wineries in California and is great at doing an annual report on the state of the wine industry. All the information is public, and it’s fascinating to read. The other links hit on other trends that are totally reshaping the wine scene around the world.

Thanks again, everyone! Hope to see you at the next class!

Jason Kallsen