Monday Meander: Hackers, Sauvignon Blanc, and Curious Somms


You wouldn’t believe the number of log-in attempts this blog gets from hackers. There’s always been a little activity, but in recent weeks it’s spiked, to dozens a day. And they’re from all over the world: various U.S. states, Russia, China, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, France, Romania, Kazakhstan, Tokyo, Singapore, Norway…a veritable atlas of the globe.

Who are these people? Why would they want to hack into a little blog like mine???

Of course they’re unsuccessful (knock on wood) because they don’t have my password, which I change with some frequency. But still, I wonder what their purpose is? If somebody could explain that to me, I’ll be grateful. I suppose their motive ultimately is to somehow make money (by stealing it from others), but how exactly would breaking into the back end of my blog make them money? If they did, could they get into the computers of people who comment on my blog—and then, from there, creep into somebody’s bank account? I don’t really understand how these things work. I suppose they’re controlled by bots or spiders or whatever they’re called, automated software that crawls through the Internet looking for weak spots. I could see why somebody might want to invade, say, Goldman Sachs (they could wire money to their account in a place like the Caymans), but

Anyhow, we are entering, or have already entered, a Brave New World. I was listening to an NPR program yesterday about how computer graphics can completely alter a movie star’s onscreen look: take away eye wrinkles, reduce weight, even change the shape of a smile or add life to the eyes. In fact, the report said, the only reason why real, live human beings continue to be hired is because they’re cheaper, even at their inflated salaries! I wonder how long it will be before human wine critics will be replaced by some kind of computerized version. And, given how little money most wine critics make, you can’t argue that the human kind is cheaper!

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And on another topic, I’ve been doing a little research into marketing and sales data form places like IRI, and must admit how surprised, and delighted, I am that Sauvignon Blanc is in some respects the hottest wine in America. Case sales up year-to-date over all other varieties…dollar sales up more than any other California table wine…incredible. It wasn’t that long ago that Sauvignon Blanc was an afterthought: it wasn’t Chardonnay, and wines like Pinot Gris were stealing its thunder.

But, you know, there’s a reason why Sauvignon Blanc has been one of the world’s great wines for hundreds of years. It’s noble, meaning it has the structure to maintain its flavors. Grown in Sancerre, New Zealand, California or any number of other places, its profile differs depending on location, but it’s always a savory, mouthwatering wine, with enough austerity to let it be an ideal partner to food. Happy to say that Sauvignon Blanc finally is getting the credit it deserves.

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Nice article in this month’s issue of San Francisco Magazine by W. Blake Grey, whose title says it all: It’s No Longer Enough for Wine to Be Delicious. Now It Has to Be ‘Interesting’

His thesis: “Most San Francisco somms” have caused a “paradigm shift” whereby, for example, Provence rosé no longer is “hip” but Canary Islands rosé is. Blake doesn’t quite know what to make of this “preference for curiosities”; indeed, neither do I. I was talking about this yesterday with Josiah Baldivino, over at Bay Grape, and we both agreed that, as weird as this pheonomenon is (and it is weird), it’s at least a good conversation to be having.

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While I am affiliated with Jackson Family Wines, the postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily represent the postings, strategies or opinions of Jackson Family Wines.

French wine month names, the California drought, and growing weed in Napa Valley


Here’s how a wine-crazed country thinks: On Sept. 22, 1792, the First French Republic was born, amidst the fiery pangs of the French Revolution.

It was a good day for the middle class of Paris, not so good for Louis XVI and his Queen, Marie-Antoinette, both of whom who already had been deposed and imprisoned (and would shortly be killed). The people were in such a radical mood that when deputies to the Convention gathered to draw up a new constitution for France, they even changed the names of the months. Instead of Roman-derived names usually dedicated to gods (i.e. January/Janus, the god of sunset and sunrise), the Convention created a calendar that began with the current revolutionary Year I and, starting with that dramatic Autumn month of “September,” redubbed the months this way:

Vendemiaire (Vintage)

Brumaire (Mist)

Frimaire (Frost)

Nivose (Snow)

Pluviose (Rain)

Ventose (Wind)

Germinal (Budding)

Floreal (Flowering)

Prairial (Meadows)

Messidor (Harvest)

Thermidor (Warmth)

Fructidor (Fruit)

The new month-naming scheme, as it turned out, didn’t last; Napoleon abolished it in 1805 (although it was briefly resurrected in 1871, when for two months a radical-socialist government took over Paris). But see how much the month-names of the Revolutionary Calendar reflected the annual cycle of the vineyard. How wonderful it was for France to consecrate their calendar to wine and other treasures of the harvest! Vintage-budding-flowering-fruit—these remain the annual stages of the grapevine around the world, but alas, no government any longer names months after them.

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The Press-Democrat reports that, thanks to El Nino, January was “the wettest since the drought began” in 2012, with more than 10 inches of rain falling in Santa Rosa. That has brought North Coast reservoirs up quite a bit, and the Sierra snowpack hit a five-year high last month, but “California is Still in Drought,” Scientific American says, adding, “It will take many more storms and almost assuredly more than a single winter—even one with a strong El Niño—to erase” the historic dry spell. Bring on the storms!

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It looks like Napa city may be poised to allow medical marijuana dispensaries, including the possibility of “cultivation,” although both practices currently are outlawed. It’s likely that California will soon legalize even recreational use, not just medical use, giving a new state agency, the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation, authority over growing it. No doubt the best pot farms will be located in precisely the kind of climate central and northern Napa Valley possesses: hot, sunny and dry in the summertime. Given the vast amounts of money that can be made in the pot business in California alone–$31 billion a year—why would a vineyard owner, given the legal ability to do so, waste his time on Cabernet Sauvignon when he could grow weed instead? Maybe not on those prime hillside and benchland vineyards, but in terroirs less suited to Cab, like the fertile flatlands along the Napa River? Hmm. Would you? I would. I’d find a consulting farmer who specialized in weed—kind of like the David Abreu of marijuana (and you know there are folks setting themselves up for it) and grow, baby, grow.