Wednesday, February 16, 2005

A good California Whine

Last weekend, the San Jose Mercury News ran an article in the Food and Wine section on the end of cheap California wines: Buyer's market for wine may be ending. Before coming to California, my knowledge of wine was limited to a few white wines from the Mozel area in Germany, where my family had vacationed for almost ten years in a row. Auslese, Trockenbere-Auslese, even Icewine, were all quality terms I was familiar with and had tasted. I knew even some Mozel-slang: schorle-morle for the refreshing drink of white wine mixed with sparkling water. Red wines were unknown to me. I had never heard of Carbenet Sauvignon. Red ment Bordeaux to me. Don't ask me about the grape variatle.

California has introduced me to the wine culture. On my first weekend in California, we visited the Savannah-Chanelle winery in the Saratoga Mountains. And not much later, we made our first of several visits to Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley. I learned to appreciate a Cab and Merlot and learned about the Zinfandel, Pinot Noir and the Syrah (Shiraz). What I did not appreciated were the prices of the wines. I thought you would be able to buy the wine much cheaper at the vineyard. In Zeltingen-am-Mozel, my parents always got a great deal on the cases of wine they purchased: 3 or 4 Euros it was in the time. I am not sure what they pay currently for Auslese. And after tasting a few interesting wines, such as the Provence from the Peju winery - a red wine which one needs to chill - Napa Valley will sober you up instantly with the $18 or more price tags. The coastal wineries are a little less pricey but you still pay $12 or so for a bottle. If you wanted a better quality wine, you are looking at $30 and up. .. upUpUP to $150. And here we were in the heart of the California wine country.

On my last visit to Argentina, we conquered Mendoza, during the wine festival: a couple of pesos buys you a good wine. A couple of dollars buys you an excellent wine. For a long time, the only wine we bought in California were the Latin American or Australian wines at Trader Joe's supermarket. The average price for a good wine was $6. (Currently, a tight wallet has put us in the Charles Shaw, two-buck-chuck, $2 category.)

I'll end with this whine: when a good wine costs you elsewhere in the world, between $4-$6, don't tell me that $20 a bottle for California wine is a buyers' market. Give me a break!

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