The year 2017 saw new wine apps, new gadgets, and lots of consolidation. One of the most far-reaching trends is that baby boomers are finally being surpassed by millennials in terms of annual wine consumption. In fact, older boomers are starting to sell off their cellars, creating opportunity for those who want to go back in time and relive the ’60s in a whole new way. But 2017 held many other stories, too. Here are 10 deserving of mention.
Milla Handley retires. When I read the press release announcing the official baton-passing of Handley Cellars to Milla’s daughter, Lulu, and to winemaker Randy Schoch, I shed a tear. A farmer, mentor, and trailblazer to her core, Milla helped put Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, Calif.) on the map with her love of Alsatian whites and magical Pinots. To me, she will always be “The Maypole of Anderson Valley.”
Calera purchased by Duckhorn. This was a sucker punch in the stomach for me. Calera winemaker Josh Jensen is one of my top heroes in the wine world: his Pinots, eccentricity and work ethic blew my mind. He’s the reason I got into this crazy business. I once named a company after his winery. A visit to Calera (in Hollister, Calif.) should be on your bucket list.
Gallo buys Germain Robin. When the country’s largest winery snatches up iconic brands, as it did with Talbott two years ago, it means to play in the upper echelons. Germain Robin, California’s original premium brandy, made in Ukiah, Calif., is top drawer.
Chateau Ste. Michelle celebrates 50 years. This ubiquitous mainstay brand can be found on wine lists nationwide, and its Rieslings are a standard of measure. At nearly 3 million cases annually, this Washington state winery still makes wines that taste anything but mass-produced. Here’s to another 50 years.
Wine and weed. Although the two entities have co-existed (somewhat contentiously) for years in California’s Mendocino County, legalization of recreational cannabis has everyone statewide wondering how they’ll duke it out. The conversation has gone from the speculative to the inevitable.
Charles Smith creates “Wines of Substance.” Cunning move by this Washington-based rock-turned-wine-star: Sell off your core darlings to Constellation Brands to fund the production of exceptional wines at price points affordable to everyone around the globe. If anyone can do it, Smith can. He could succeed in a way Franzia cannot.
Premium wine in cans. Winemaker Allan Green (founder of Greenwood Ridge in Philo, Calif.) has been collecting wine cans for decades. This year, he’s added more to his collection than ever, including AL, a premium Monterey County (Calif.) Sauvignon Blanc from high-end producer Wrath Wines.
Rosé on fire. It’s not just for breakfast or summer sipping anymore. In fact, it’s the perfect holiday go-to wine. Two wine competitions I judged this year were won by rosés, while others added a Best Rosé category for the first time.
Chilling Pinots and lighter reds. With the earth having one giant hot flash after another, the concept of “cellar temperature” has gone the way of, well, the cellar (or, more to the point, the cave). I’ve always chilled Pinot, Grenache, and even Sangiovese before serving, and the trend is catching on.
Drinking Champagne from a white wine glass. Despite violating every somm service protocol, you will not be struck dead for using improper stemware. A white wine glass can accentuate sparkling’s depth, especially with pet nat, another “on fire” category. But, come the holidays, give me a hollow-stemmed crystal coupe so I can watch the bubbles roar up and down like snowflakes in a downdraft. Prosit!