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Mark, Bruce, the Napa and a convertible Mustang....

August 3rd, 2015 by

I have recently returned from a study tour of California’s Napa Valley and Oregon’s Willamette Valley.  It was supposedly work but only if you can call two forty-something winemakers driving around in a convertible Mustang wine tasting all day ‘work’. We tried awesome wines in both regions, met some great people and generally had a ball…… It’s been 15 years since I last visited Napa and the region has expanded significantly and appears to be booming.

Napa like Margaret River is famous for Cabernet Sauvignon and as you might expect excellent wine can be found throughout. What is interesting is the extreme difference in price the wines attract-Napa Cabernets are almost universally above US $100 per bottle and the most regarded are several hundred dollars. What’s more impressive is that these wines regularly sell out on release to an individual wineries mailing list. One winery we encountered sells Cabernet at $400 a bottle all to its mailing list and there is a waiting list for people to join…It’s pretty crazy stuff and that got me wondering and asking questions about what drives these prices.

Obviously it helps being in a country with 320 million people-there are lots of customers. The region itself has around 10 million people within an hour or so drive from what I am told is now the second biggest tourist destination in the U.S behind Disneyland. Silicon Valley money is also very close and this funds not only the purchase of expensive wines but the wineries themselves. Despite the prices there is a strong demand for the region’s Cabernet Sauvignon wines and has resulted in alot of other varieties being replanted to Cabernet and the once famous Napa Chardonnay’s are fast becoming extinct.

As good as the Cabernets are the Chardonnays were a disappointment and to be honest I failed to find a decent Chardonnay the entire trip. I don’t think this variety is getting the care or consideration it deserves in the U.S. Given the quality of Margaret River Cabernet and Chardonnay and the price at which we can produce them I can’t help but think there is a great opportunity for these wines and possibly Marq Wines in the U.S.