Wine Line: Raise your glass to 2013

January 8, 2013 

At this time last year I wrote, "Twenty-twelve just sounds right. When you say it fast, it feels like you're revving your engines, ready for the year to take off." And boy did it!

Where did the year go? To me, twenty-thirteen just doesn't sound right. It sounds odd, a bit clunky and slow. Maybe that's a good thing. We all need to slow down, smell the roses, taste the wine and enjoy the good times. Here's to 2013. Cheers!

2012 grape harvest

The 2012 grape harvest was near perfect, according to a Wines and Vines report. The report quoted Nick Frey, president of the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission, who said, "We had ideal weather after two difficult years for growers. The quality was superb, the fruit was clean with great flavors and great yields." He summed up his presentation with an unexpected "Wow!" The report also included John Wilkinson, director of the Napa Valley Grapegrowers, who said growing conditions, quality and quantity were great. "2012 will be remembered as the Goldilocks growing season compared to 2010 and 2011: just right," he said. Make a note to self: the 2012 vintage, "Wow!"

2013 wine trends

• The editor and I traveled to Washington in June, just after E.&J. Gallo purchased the Columbia and Covey Run wineries. Columbia Winery, formally Associated Vintners, was founded in 1962 and Covey Run in 1982. I have been a fan of Washington red wines, choosing Columbia Crest and Chateau Ste. Michelle for the "What's on our table" section several times.

In fact, the Chateau Ste. Michelle brand is the top selling wine in the premium wine category ($8-$10.99). Ste. Michelle Estates also produces 14 Hands, Columbia Crest and Red Diamond.

I'm sure Gallo is eager to take over that top spot and I think it will. It will be interesting to watch the world's largest winery, with 60 different brands, move into the cozy Yakima Valley neighborhood.

• The sweet wine craze continues to grow. I'm not sure if the mention of moscato in a few hip-hop songs is the entire reason, but sales have gone through the roof. Just check out the labels in your supermarket. Most wine drinkers say they prefer a dry wine (no residual sugar left after fermentation), but will actually choose a sweet wine in blind tastings. Menage a Trois, Red Velvet and Apothic all have a sweet finish and are selling like crazy. That is why I prefer blind tastings. You are not influenced by prices or fancy labels. Choose the wine you like and drink it, period. I will follow this sweet wine trend and will keep you posted.

• It could be the economy or maybe the quality of the wine, but I'm seeing more box wines on supermarket shelves. Most of the world has caught on to box wines and screw caps, but Americans seem to be reluctant sippers. The wine stays fresh, takes up less space, reduces the carbon footprint, and you get four bottles from a 3-liter box. Sale priced around $16-$18, the Black Box New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, the Bota Box Old Vine zinfandel or shiraz and the Octavin Big House red or white have all made the "What's on our table" section at some time and are good value wines. Cheers!

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