Good Times in 2012 – From the Vineyard to the Ballpark

Great article in last week’s North Bay Business Journal regarding the 2012 wine grape harvest: “Postseason glow of the Super World Bowl grape harvest.”

As you might have already guessed from the title, author Brian Clements compares the abundance  of 2012 grapes with the athletic success enjoyed last year by the 49ers and the San Francisco Giants:

All in all, harvest in the North Coast of California was like getting a field goal, touchdown, home run and grand slam all in one play.

Given that my two great passions are wine and sports, I was loving the article, right up until the point that I realized there was absolutely no mention of the Oakland A’s. Hellooooo? Historic run to first place?  Clinching the division title on the final day after not leading the division even once during the entire season? And let’s not forget the way that Oakland A’s outfielder and designated hitter Jonny Gomes championed the success of the Petaluma Little League.

The 2012 A’s were considered  to be one of the greatest comeback stories in all of sports, particularly the way they won the Division by sweeping the Rangers in that final series. That’s right, the Oakland A’s, a team  “assembled on the fly from spare parts, held together by bubble gum and pine tar,” swept the Texas Rangers, a team with triple the payroll. You’d think that the A’s 2012 season would be rich with opportunity for analogies, and therefore get plenty of coverage in Brian’s column. Go figure. Sometimes Oakland just doesn’t get the same love and attention as its neighbor across the Bay. Sound familiar to any of you Sonoma County winegrape growers or winemakers?

So consider this my P.S. to Brian’s article – and from now on, let’s refer to the 2012 harvest to the “Super Division-Winning Comeback World Bowl” grape harvest.” Yeah, you’re right, it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, does it? But the main point being that there is a lot to celebrate – and a lot to love – about the 2012 Bay Area sports scene and the 2012 winegrape harvest.

In particular, I’d like to acknowledge the amazing accomplishments of Sonoma County winegrape growers. In Brian’s article, he has a great graphic illustrating the upward trend in Sonoma County production of pinot noir, and he clearly explains that

Sonoma County pinot noir won the prize for the most remarkable jump in production, up 85 percent over 2011 and 52 percent over the five-year average. The total of 52,000 tons accounts for over 20 percent of the California pinot noir harvest and will produce nearly 42 million bottles of 2012 Sonoma County pinot noir.

Glad to see that Sonoma County is really establishing itself on the big stage.

Of course, a big difference in applauding the 2012 A’s and celebrating Sonoma County is that nobody really expected the A’s to do so well last season, whereas Sonoma County winegrapes (and Sonoma County tourism) have been experiencing a steady rise in popularity. In fact, just as the A’s were celebrating their Division Title last October, Sonoma County was being voted the “top wine destination in the U.S.” by TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Awards.

One of the things us fans love about A’s baseball is the respect for tradition coupled with an appreciation of individual quirkiness, along with the capacity to stay loose and have fun, even in the midst of a long, grueling season.  I’ve been delighted to find this same down-home spirit and “love of the game” right here in the  Sonoma County wine world. The willingness to let vineyard blocks express their unique character,  a commitment to making interesting wines, and the dedication to hard work while keeping it low-key and real – these are all qualities that I’ve encountered again and again in my wine tasting travels throughout Sonoma County.

I got to experience this same commitment to authenticity up-close last fall, when I spent the 2012 harvest hand-sorting grapes at Vinify Wine Services in Santa Rosa. Crush 2012_Vinify grape sortingThe abundant harvest allowed us to be super picky in vetting grapes to the exact preference of our winemaking clients, and you couldn’t get any more “hands on.” (Not to mention all those grape parts and ear wigs that ended up in my hair during the sorting! ) I can’t wait to start tasting those fruits of our labor, and my first opportunity to imbibe 2012 is going to be the bottle of Vaughn Duffy rosé  recently gifted to me by my Vinify boss, Matt Duffy.

Vaugh_Duffy_2012_rose Thanks, Matt!

And thanks again for giving me that day off from sorting last October, so I could attend the final A’s game of the season – and witness first-hand their amazing comeback victoOakland A's 2012 champs6ry.Oakland A's 2012 champs4




Now it’s time to move forward and celebrate some things that we can all agree on: Spring is in the air, bud break is starting to unfurl, and baseball games are back on the radio. Looking forward to see what 2013 has in store for us!

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