May 2011

All Things To All People

by Stuart Harrison on May 8, 2011

All things to all people:

Trivium is one of a growing number of labels in the Napa Valley which reflect an encouraging trend in California wine… the increasing importance of the single wine winery.

Back in the 60’s and 70’s, the notion of a California producer specializing in just one product (or variety) was almost unheard of. In fact, just the opposite was true. Producers, from the ordinary to the extraordinary, rarely produced anything less than a dozen different wines, often from a score of different varieties. In the 70’s Almaden Vineyards (which incidentally was one of the pioneers of California’s varietal movement in the 50’s!) was a good example of the early mindset. At the time, they offered no less than 50 different wines. They produced every variety ‘under the sun’, literally.

The reason was simple. Back in those days, the more wines you produced, the more presence you could command on a retail shelf or a wine list. Even the top producers in the 70’s adopted that shotgun mentality. Both consumers and producers were new enough that the underlying tendency for wineries was to be all things to all people. It wasn’t important back then to be known for something in particular. The priority was simply to be known.

Today, as our industry has matured, quality producers are learning the importance of specialization and focus. Product lines are shrinking, and many new producers like Trivium (and Opus, Dominus, Continuum, etc) are narrowly defining to the consumer who and what they are. Geographic areas are more specific, product lines are smaller and vineyard designations are increasingly important.

Sometimes, if you want to hit the mark, a shotgun is not always your best weapon.