California Reference Wines and Global Trade

As we move further into the holiday season, it is clear that we have avoided a double-dip recession in the U.S., which was on everyones mind this spring, but the global economy remains under pressure, particularly in the Eurozone where long-term solutions remain elusive. It will be difficult to avoid a European recession in 2012. I sense that we will still be looking at various solutions in January, but that France and Germany, together, will finally find a way to bridge their different views and move to save the Euro. A recession in the largest European countries should not be too prolonged and the U.K. economy should manage to avoid the collateral damage and show moderate growth.

I have not written much this year on wine, but sense that we could all use some holiday cheer as we look toward the New Year! One aspect of the wine trade that has not escaped the global economic forces is that the auction market, based on demand for first-growth French wines, in particular, has shifted from New York to Hong Kong to serve the growing market in China. Over the years, I have been both a buyer and a seller at Acker Auctions,, in New York City. Today it is clear that their largest volume auctions, in terms of dollar volume, all take place in Hong Kong where they established an office several years ago. (Two new auctions in Hong Kong will take place this week and you can bid via the Internet at This trend will continue as we embark on 2012.

As Mary Claire and I prepare to head back to the Bay Area for the holidays, I thought an update on two longtime California reference wines might prove valuable.

Williams Selyem
For many years, this Sonoma-based winery set the standard for California Pinot Noir. When the ownership changed hands in the late 90s from the founders to the Dyson family, a number of new challengers emerged. At this point, though, with Kathe and John as proprietors and Bob Cabral serving as Director of Winemaking and General Manager, Williams Selyem is clearly the reference standard for outstanding California Pinot Noir. This is a mailing list that you want to be on for their twice a year releases. Their limited Chardonnay releases are truly hidden gems, as well.

Turley Wine Cellars
I have been a fan of Turley Zinfandels for years, going back to the early 90s. They continue to impress me with their releases, which are also twice a year. This is another mailing list that you should get on. Proprietor Larry Turley and winemaker Ehren Jordan continue to be an unbeatable team.

Start building your Williams Selyem Pinot Noir and Turley Zinfandel collections in the New Year. Your wine collection and your companion dinners will truly be enhanced.

Happy Holidays!