After talking with wine brokers and several California winemakers, it appears that 2011 was a major challenge. This year the weather was very poor during flower and and set following a mild and cool summer. As a result, crop levels will be down all over the state and production will be lower than expected. This will cause consumers to change their buying habits.
So how can you protect your dollar and continue to buy quality wine in a down year?
I recently had the opportunity of talking with Cameron Hughes who is a recognized wine broker with a large presence in major retail outlets. He sources fruit from all over the West Coast and into the Southern Hemisphere. Mr. Hughes has positioned himself with sources other than California and continues to provide consumers with very good wine from multiple appellations. He buys wine on the open market from quality producers and finishes the wine making and then hands a portion of the savings to the consumer in the price. Another wine broker such as Castle Rock offers outstanding varietals for your wine dollar. These are two examples of large names that traditionally sell high quality wine to consumers at a very good price. In a down year, such as 2011, look to quality wine brokers as a source of quality, dollar-value wine as opposed major brands.
In addition, I have always felt that there are great wines all over the world, so open your search to foreign regions. The influx of foreign capital has resulted in state of the art wineries with viticulture practices that are making world class wines. Argentina and Chile offer tremendous value in all varietals. Australia offers wonderful red and white wines at very fair prices. Broadly speaking, the Southern Hemisphere is a rich resource. And Europe has a wealth of countries which produce high quality and price-worthy wines. Italy, France, Austria, Portugal and Spain are homes to large and small growers of fine wine.
Look towards other sources when the market is not something you're familiar with - look for something from another country or find another varietal. Experiment.