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There is some kismet in that the co-founders of the San Francisco biotech company, which has done groundbreaking work in identifying the microbiome fingerprint of vineyard soil are part of families that have deep roots in wine.
Mazza Vineyards several months ago hired Ana Trigo, a winemaker from Portugal. That in itself is a story, given the track record that the winery aside Lake Erie has established going back to the early 1970s.
The $220 billion economic impact of the U.S. wine industry revealed in WineAmerica’s recent study has grabbed headlines in the media, but the target audience for the information is much narrower, it’s the lawmakers in Congress and state legislatures across the nation who preside over the arcane and fragmented regulations of the alcohol industry.
Back in 2015, four New Jersey wineries decided to pool their resources and create a consortium that would push them toward improving their wines and increasing their national recognition.
The release, the Wine Enthusiast 40 Under 40 Tastemakers, is a one-day event. But the collection of rising superstars in the beverage industry that’s assembled annually encompasses months of conversation before the list is completed and announced. That alone, says executive editor Susan Krostrzewa, produces this ongoing talent search that sharpens the radar of her staff to the diversity of talent that’s bubbling up around them nationally.
Blame it on the scuppernong. A variety of the Muscadine, it’s not only the official fruit of North Carolina but the first grape cultivated in the United States. Indeed, the Mothervine in Manteo on Roanoke Island, a nearly 500-year-old scuppernong vine, is the oldest-known cultivated grapevine in the nation. No state makes more Muscadine, a unique and often sweet wine.
Denise Gardner tells the story of waiting to check out recently at the neighborhood grocery store in suburban Philadelphia, watching those in line ahead of her pick up and purchase local wines. “I’ve never had that experience in Pennsylvania before,” she says, “and I was just standing there thinking, 'wow, this is really a change, this is really something different.'"
Numbers reflect the improvements – with New Jersey having now increased to 50 wineries and more than 1,000 acres of wine – as do the recent awards – Sharrott’s port-style red called Wicked, made from Chambourcin grapes, won the state’s Governor’s Cup and a double gold in the San Francisco Wine Competition this year. That’s just one example.
Still, getting noticed by the state’s consumers remains a work in progress, said Kevin Atticks, longtime executive director of the Maryland Wineries Association and founder of the Baltimore-area management firm called Grow & Fortify. That company also represents the state’s craft brewers and distillers.
The reality is that the clientele remains largely in the dark about what to expect, despite a significant uptick since 2010 in the number of producers making premium wines. While the industry itself grapples with its direction: largely sweet wines vs. dry wines and a focus on events vs. a priority on the wines.