Russ Winton: Millennials boost wine sales 12, 2013 

Can you remember drinking Wente's Grey Riesling or Charles Krug's Chenin Blanc or Weibel's Green Hungarian? If you can, congratulations. You still have your memory and that's a good thing. According to the Wine Market Council and the Nielsen Co., we baby boomers make up the largest demographic of wine consumers.

However, wine sales' growth in 2012 was not because of us old-timers. The millennials, age 21 to 36, were responsible for the increase, according to the report. So what do these young bucks drink? From my highly scientific survey -- a trip to the supermarket -- the answer is muscato (any color), anything with "sweet" on the label and red blends (read "sweet"). Not that there's anything wrong with that. I remember during my college years drinking a mixture of sweet Rhinegarten white wine and 7Up. My first red was a jug wine called Red Mountain. So yes, there still is hope for these young millennials.

Merced County winemakers

The 2013 Merced County Fair has expanded its home winemakers categories, including a Best Wine Label award. The Exhibitor's Book is available at Entry forms are due May 9 and are available to download at the end of the handbook. For some reason, entries dropped off last year compared to 2011. These new categories should offer more areas of competition, and this year the wines will be judged by a student team from California State University, Stanislaus.

Are you interested in learning how to make your own wine? Vino Tabi, a winery in Santa Cruz, has a program called Barrel Buddies. No, this is not one of those weekend classes where you stumble around the vineyard and then return in a few months to pick up your wine. This is the real deal. Classes are held on Sunday afternoons and cover everything from the vineyard to bottling your own wine. Vino Tabi has been doing this for five years and has had more than 150 budding winemakers finish the program. You can go to for more information.

Readers contribute

Butch, from Atwater, suggested I try the 2010 Smoking Loon Cabernet. I did. It's a great buy for around $6. Smoking Loon wines are vinted by Don Sebastiani and Sons. They're actually negociants who source wines from all the major regions and blend the final product.

They are consistently solid wines at very fair prices; good tip. Greg, also from Atwater, mentioned Ficklin's Tappit-Hen bottle. You buy the 1000-milliliter bottle and return it for refills for $25. The current release (#3) is the 2006 Tinta Madeira Port, and no one makes better California port than Ficklin Vineyards.

If beer is your thing, I'm sure you're aware of the 64-ounce Growler sold by Dust Bowl Brewery in Turlock. Refills are $11.

In my last column, I mentioned Francis Ford Coppola's Diamond Label Claret, Best of Class winner in the SF Chronicle tasting.

The editor and I agree. It lists for $18, and Costco has it for $13. It's a terrific Bordeaux blend, and you should buy it. Heck no, at that price, you should buy all of it. Cheers!

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