VinoWeek Episode 15 - Is Napa Valley in a PR Hot Seat?

If it seems like the frequency of counterfeiting, embezzlement, data breaches and fraud have been increasing in the world of wine, it's because it has.  Fighting crime will be the major focus of the 24th annual Wine Industry Financial Symposium to be held Sept. 21-22 in Napa.  This Symposium will provide an excellent opportunity for individuals in the business to learn ways to avoid some of the accounting pitfalls of running a small business.  Traditionally small wineries haven't used  trust and verify style management to run the financial side of their businesses.  The Symposium will feature a panel of crime experts that can help  you start a program to better secure your business from criminals.  If you're in the wine business,  you can't afford not to be there. 

The "Sherlock Holmes of Wine", Maureen Downey has announced the launch of  It's being touted as a resource for buyers, producers and vendors of fine wines.  As such winefraud.comoffers several membership levels geared toward consumers of wine and trade professionals.  Maureen's record as a defender for consumers against wine fraud is well documented.  She was a major player in helping solve the case against Rudy Kurniawan, the notorious wine counterfeiter, now serving a ten year prison sentence in Southern California.

The incident involving eleven women belonging to the Sistahs of the Reading Edge Book Club being booted off the Napa Valley Wine Train, blew up on social media after wine train principals posted a defense of their actions on facebook.  As it turns out the ladies were more than just bookworms and their use of social media platforms facebook, periscope and twitter - #laughingwhileblack, helped fuel lively public discussions in the bay area and beyond.  Is this a case of a clash of cultures or latent racism cloaked by elitism?  We weren't there so we couldn't possibly identify the cause.   The story is multilayered and while its potential impact on tourism in Napa Valley can't be measured - it doesn't look good.  The Wine Train's CEO Anthony Giaccio, days later issued what appeared to be a genuine mea culpa to the book club members and invited them back for a do over.   He asked them to bring 39 more family members and friends, enough to fill up an entire car as his personal guests.  For now his appeal has fallen on deaf ears.  The Book Club has hired civil rights lawyer Waukeen McCoy to represent them in a five million dollar lawsuit claiming 'Malicious Oppression'.  If you've driven up Highway 29 through Napa Valley you have no doubt seen the signs that say 'no limousines or no tour buses'.  That's certainly one way to avoid the hassle of having to deal with large groups of tourist.  Companies in the hospitality business  in wine country should take notice and review your policies regarding how you deal with larger groups of people visiting your venues. 

What's the ideal temperature to serve your red wines?  Matthew DeBord pens a good article about how to get the best flavors out of your wine and Bill and I go on a rant about poor wine and food service in the restaurant business.  Vic Poulos offers some advice as well on how to care for your wines before you drink them.  The bottom line heat is the enemy, so treat your wines like your perishable groceries and you'll get the best results.

Speaking of heat, its been hot and dry in Washington this summer and wildfires throughout the state have some farmers and vintners wondering if their grapes might be smoke tainted.  Grape samples can be sent to external labs that can check for traces of smoke taint.  Getting that information before you take on the expense of processing the grapes seems like a no brainer, because wines made with smoke tainted grapes can offer some unflattering flavors, that become more pronounced as the wine ages. 

Have you ever tasted a natural wine?  Perhaps you've had one but didn't know it.  Natural Wine Bars that sport "Hippie Juice" a pejorative, have been gaining  popularity in Europe and now a few entrepreneurs are attempting to carve out a market in the U. S.   Check out this article 'You Make Me FeelLike a Natural Wine' to learn more and find a few examples of some natural wines you might try.

Thanks to all for listening and tell a fellow wino about us.  Cheers!