Dec. 17, 2021 – Anticipation is sky-high around the globe and could reach stratospheric levels as New Year’s Eve revelers plan parties to say good riddance, wish a fond farewell or combine the two to cap off the year. Whether the party will be a large raucous gathering with all of the bells, whistles and noisemakers or a more intimate, more subdued get together, millions of people will be clinking glasses in person at the stroke of midnight this year instead of clicking a computer to celebrate. Pure joy! Hope springs eternal that people will be clinking glasses in person throughout the year at venues far and wide. With its trio of deuces, 2022 might just be a lucky one in that regard!

Photo: David Ramsey Photography.

Hand in hand with looking forward as the calendar flips to a new year is also taking a brief pause to look back. The Cuvée Team appreciates the many wine and culinary professionals who allowed us to learn of their fascinating, fast-paced world through an interview for a 2021 Cuvée Spotlight.

We thought readers would enjoy an update about the vintners and wineries featured in 2021 since grapes have been harvested in the United States. The magic has begun for the 2021 vintage. But first, let’s look at a few fast facts about wine production in the United States and in Australia to wrap our arms around the scope and scale of the industry so many people closely follow and love.

Photo: David Ramsey Photography.

According to Wine America (The National Association of American Wineries):
• As of January 2019, there were 10,043 wineries in the United States.
• More than 900 million gallons of wine were produced in the U.S. in 2017.
• Wineries in California account for 85% of American wine production.

According to Wine Australia:
• There are more than 2,000 wine businesses in Australia.
• For the 2020 vintage, 1.52 million tons of grapes were crushed producing 1.2 billion litres of wine.
• About two-thirds of annual production is exported with 26% shipped to the United States.

Cuvée Spotlight Updates (Wineries)

The wineries and vintners featured in 2021 are listed in alphabetical order with a brief update and link to their Cuvée Spotlight.

Boisset Collection
Boisset Collection announced on Dec. 8, 2021 that the Elizabeth Spencer Winery in Rutherford in Napa Valley is now in its family of wineries. Boisset’s purchase includes the Elizabeth Spencer wine portfolio of small-production wines from Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino, and its location on the Rutherford Cross Road, where the historic 1872 Post Office building welcomes guests into a boutique tasting room, outdoor gardens, and studio.

Photo: Courtesy of Boisset Collection

“For more than twenty years, Elizabeth and Spencer have pursued their passion to create a community of loyal wine lovers with Elizabeth’s exquisite hospitality and generosity of spirit and Spencer’s viticultural curiosity. The destination they have created in the heart of Rutherford speaks to their vision, steeped in history with a welcoming environment at the crossroads of history. We are honored to be entrusted to carry forward with their vision and look forward to contributing our inspiration to the phenomenal journey they began,” Jean-Charles Boisset, Proprietor of Boisset Collection, said in a press release. “We are enthralled with the dynamic site they created, imbued with history at the vital crossroads of Napa Valley and their strong family culture, from growers to customers.”

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Brooks Winery – from Janie Brooks Heuck, managing director

“Vintage 2021 was stellar in the Willamette Valley. While we experienced some rain during fruit set in June that led to lower yields, the berries we did get were concentrated and full of tension and acidity. Harvest brought mild weather that allowed us to pick when the fruit was at the perfect point of flavor and sugar development. The wines are beautiful and resting in the cellar. 2022 will bring lots of new bottling including our 2019 Dry Sparkling Muscat and 2017 Dry Sparkling Riesling, both made in the traditional method.”

From left, Pascal Brooks, Janie Brooks Heuck and Chris Williams, winemaker at Brooks Winery (Photo: Courtesy of Brooks Winery)

To innovate during the pandemic, Janie and her team started “Beyond Brooks,” a monthly, educational webinar. Thinking beyond wine, each session pairs Brooks wine with a company producing a complementary product, such as cheese and chocolate, or a company with a similar mission of sustainability and environmental stewardship. Participants receive the monthly bundle before the webinar to ensure an engaging experience.

Now in Season Two, the first three sessions in 2022 are:
1. January: Brooks and Camas Country Mill (sustainably farmed grains and mill products from the heart of Willamette Valley)
2. February: Brooks and Woodblock Chocolate from Portland
3. March: Brooks and Kiss the Ground, a nonprofit devoted to regenerative agriculture

   Cuvée Spotlight: Janie Brooks Heuck Approaches Life with a Wine Glass Half Full 

Lagier Meredith Vineyard – from Carole Meredith, Ph.D., co-owner, geneticist, oenologist
“2021 has been a lovely year for us here at Lagier Meredith. The growing season went smoothly and we picked our grapes at a typical time for us. Not too early, not too late, right on time. The 2021 wines are now all in neutral oak barrels and will rest there peacefully until we bottle them in 2023. And, although it is still 2021, our vines are already working on their 2022 crop. The dormant buds already contain the tiny clusters that will become next year’s grapes. The hugely beneficial rain that we’ve already had here (more than 21 inches since late October!) will serve the vines well when they start their growing season next spring.”

Carole Meredith., left, and Steve Lagier enjoy a beer after bottling (Photo: Courtesy of Carole Meredith)

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Mollydooker Wines – from Luke Marquis, global sales manager
“G’day, Down in McLaren Vale, South Australia, the home of Mollydooker Wines, it has been a phenomenal lead up to our growing season with winter bringing great rain each month before budburst. A perfect temperature rise throughout spring with vigorous growth and fruit set on all varieties. December 1st being the first day of Summer and warmer weather really kicking in. Growth of the vines have taken off again with the warmer weather and so has flowering, leading into Christmas we are now seeing the fruit developing into well established bunches and the crop looking healthy again after a large 2021 harvest in April this year. With all this, we are excited to see version in January and the developments of intense color and flavors for another beautiful McLaren Vale harvest in Mar/April 2022.”

From left, Holly, Sarah, Mollydooker founder, and Luke Marquis are at the Mollydooker Winery in McLaren Vale, South Australia. (Photo: Courtesy of Mollydooker)

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Ramey Wines – from Claire Ramey
“Harvest 2021 was extremely satisfying, but not without challenge. We were tight on labor, as travel restrictions kept the harvest intern we were expecting in France, though lower overall yields alleviated some of the strain. A combination of drought, unusual heat and unusual cold early in the growing season resulted in highly variable bloom and set, which made accurate sampling essential before scheduling picks. Yields were also highly variable, ranging from 80% below to 140% above average. Weather leading into harvest was fairly even, leading to unhurried pick dates. We did have to push back one pick due to some isolated rain toward the coast. Wine quality appears to be exceptional this year with accentuated varietal character, and particularly deep color in the reds. Twenty-twenty-one is looking like a team favorite.”

David Ramey, then and now (Photo: Courtesy of Ramey Wines)

Cuvée Spotlight: David Ramey Offers Words of Wisdom on Wine and Life

SAMsARA – from Matt Brady, winemaker (owners, Dave and Joan Szkutak)
“2021 has been an exceptional vintage! It has all the potential to be a standout vintage of the decade. I’ve lived in Santa Barbara for 20 years now, and 2021 was the coolest year I can remember. Late bud-break, a cool spring, a very moderate summer, and a total absence of the (now normal) Labor Day heat waves. As a result, we had a very long growing season, with lots of hangtime, and pick dates that were 2-3 weeks later than ‘normal’ (particularly with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir). This extra hangtime gave us really big flavors, without the excessive sugar (ie alcohol). We also saw higher than average acidity across the board with all varietals and vineyards. Yields were balanced yet slightly below average at most sites (the lower yields are a good thing in a cold year as a higher crop level would require more heat to fully ripen).”

Matt Brady (Photo: Courtesy of SAMsARA)
Dave and Joan Szkutak (Photo: Courtesy of SAMsARA)

Dave Szkutak wrote a beautiful end of the year reflection. Below are the first three paragraphs of that reflection:
“It’s early on Sunday morning and the winery is quiet. For the first time in a great while, I am able to reflect on life over the last 2 years; my overwhelming feeling is one of gratitude. I am grateful that the entire SAMsARA Wine Co. team has been able to remain healthy and intact despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our team’s hard work and dedication has been extraordinary, and our business today is as healthy as it can be given all we’ve endured. Like most of you and the businesses you work in, we faced huge challenges and difficult questions brought on by the pandemic and we are thankful to still be here, making stellar wines for you to enjoy. Frankly, without your support we might not even still be heremaking wine this Fall!
“Joan and I are especially grateful to you, our customers! Despite the pandemic, you continued your incredible support of SAMsARA wines. Because of your patronage, we were able to keep ALL of our incredible staff and to shift our attention to finding new ways to stay “digitally connected” to our loyal customers. Many of you took advantage of our Zoom tastings, our e-mail offers, and have found the ease with which you can order wines from our website and have them delivered to your door.”

   Cuvée Spotlight: SAMsARA puts Pinot Noir and Cool Climate Chardonnay on the Map and in a Glass

It’s a Wrap!
Whether it’s raucous or reserved, the Cuvée Team wishes everyone a fantastic New Year’s Eve filled with fine wine, food, family and friends. And then 2022 is on! We look forward to another year of highlighting amazing wine and culinary professionals.

Photo: Yulia Grigoryeva, Shutterstock.
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