In a year-end check-in with the Napa Valley Vintners to see what the year brought the industry in the valley, communications director Terry Hall noted, “For the first time in recorded history, America bought (and presumably drank) more wine than any other country in the world.
“Even with the global economy melting down every few months, wine sales in the United States rose by 14 percent in 2011, proving at the very least that everyone needs a drink.”
Here are some more highlights from the wine year in the valley:
• A new appellation, the Coombsville AVA was recognized by the Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau in November, bringing the number to 16. The east Napa AVA totals 11,075 acres, 1,360 of which are within commercial vineyards. It has 26 wineries and 13 additional growers.
• Although it might be hard to remember June’s rain in this dry December, for the first time in the 31-year history of Auction Napa Valley, the suggested attire was rainboots and slickers, as the Napa Valley Vintners swiftly transformed the greenway at Meadowood into an elegant tent city.
The annual charity auction marked another milestone, too, as Auction Napa Valley 2011 pushed the total funds raised since 1981 past the $100 million mark. With $6.85 million from the 2011 event given to scores of nonprofit programs countywide, the 2011 grants bring the total 31 year giving total to nearly $104 million.
• Premier Napa Valley, the Napa Valley Vintners’ annual wine futures auction for trade held Feb. 26 at the Culinary Institute of America, broke records finishing at nearly $2.4 million in sales. A crowd of 1,000 vintners, retailers, restaurateurs, distributors, brokers topped last year’s take by more than 23 percent during the three-hour live auction, statistics show.
• The cool summer led to “the latest start to harvest that any vintner or grower can remember,” according to the Napa Valley Vintners (NVV). The first grapes for the sparkling harvest were brought in on Aug. 29.
As the valley experienced another cooler than average growing season — a decade-long trend — according to the Napa Valley Vintners — the NVV released of a Napa Valley-specific climate study titled “Climate and Phenology in Napa Valley: A Compilation and Analysis of Historical Data by Dr. Daniel R. Cayan, Dr. Kimberly Nicholas, Mary Tyree, and Dr. Michael Dettinger.”
The Napa-specific study scrutinized weather and phenology (the growing cycle of grapevines) records from geographically diverse sites stations within Napa Valley over four years of the study, along with historic records.
“In brief, it finds that the region has experienced some warming, approximately 1 to 2 degrees Fahrenheit over the past several decades, but considerably less warming than would be inferred from the standard cooperative observer weather stations in Napa Valley,” it reported. “The warming has been primarily in winter, spring and summer, and it has concentrated during nighttime rather than daytime. Over the last several decades in growing season temperatures, there has been little warming in the daytime, and the available observations provide little evidence that the growing cycle of the grapevines has changed substantially.
“The results, overall, provide good short-term news that consumers are not “tasting” climate change in Napa Valley wines. It reinforces the firmly held belief among growers and winemakers that the taste profile of Napa Valley’s wines is driven by its place of origin, as well as by the solid direction of the in-field practices related to viticulture (clonal and rootstock selection, canopy management, irrigation, crop load and hang time, among others) along with stylistic preferences in winemaking.
• The Napa Valley was also announced as official wine region for the America’s Cup, and a delegation of 21 representatives from China’s wine trada and media visited the valley, after a delegation of Napa Valley Vintners went to China.
• The Vintners continued to strengthen the brand protection for the Napa Valley label, adding an agreement with Thailand to its achievements.
• Total Napa County acreage enrolled in Napa Green tops 47,000.