February 2015

All that Glitters

by Stuart Harrison on February 25, 2015

The wine business has changed significantly since the days my partners and I launched our careers. For one thing, back in the early 70’s, Napa Valley had less than three or four dozen wineries. Today there are over 650 licensed entities.

Back in the early 70’s, the notion of a ‘showplace’ winery was virtually unheard of. The reality was that wineries, 40 years ago, were production facilities first and foremost. Robert Mondavi Winery was the first to break out of that mold, although in a modest way by today’s standards.

Then along came Jordan Vineyards. The winery opened its doors in the mid seventies. It’s striking ‘Chateau’ design, and lavish appointments set the tone for a new generation of facilities. Consequently, as the number of wineries grew, and investors poured in from around the world, so the bar was raised.

Today, Napa Valley sports an impressive array of superbly designed and handsome wine making facilities. These have certainly enhanced the image of Napa, which has been good for all of us. Not surprisingly, this movement toward more grandiose wineries has mirrored the stylistic evolution of many of our wines. It is no coincidence that the trend toward opulence and extravagant enhancements in our wine, mirror the facilities in which they are being made.

If you’ve read our cabernet manifesto, you know we are ‘old school’. We think there is something to be said for a less extravagant style of wine. I guess we have a similar feeling about the changing landscape of the Napa Valley. The ‘ante’ has definitely been raised, with spectacular results. But the Napa Valley of the early 70’s was something special. Wines were as natural and uncluttered as the buildings in which they were made. The playing field was level, and the end product was all that mattered.

Whatever the allure the ‘glitter’ brings, it’s safe to say we have lost something of our golden age. All that glitters apparently… is not gold.

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