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Editor's Letter


Bottles, Labels and Winemaking

October 2013
by Jim Gordon
As I write this letter in mid-September, harvest and crush activities have slowly ramped up in the North Coast counties of California, where our magazine is based. Trucks and trailers stacked ridiculously high with half-ton bins—most of them still empty—criss-cross the areas I see on a weekly basis in Sonoma, Napa and Marin counties. Rigs of vineyard lighting for night harvesting are making their annual appearances. Spotting a polished Land Rover along with dusty white pickup trucks and worn 1980s sedans among the vines indicates that everyone from cult winery owners to vineyard foremen to seasonal laborers are paying close attention to the ripening grapes.

Wines & Vines already has published several reports online at about the harvest across North America, and we will continue that coverage through early November. The January 2014 issue of the print magazine will devote a large section to a final wrap-up about vintage 2013, with reports from more than 25 regions written by careful local observers. Right now, here in Northern California, it looks like an almost trouble-free harvest!

New issue theme
The October issue theme is a new one for us: bottles and labels. And rather than being a harvest theme—which is such a moving target right now—it deals with the other end of the production cycle, that of bottling, packaging and selling.

Here is what our bottles and labels articles cover: On page 32, contributing editor Jane Firstenfeld examines the “Best of the Bottles” to see what elements comprise them. She bases her story on wine packaging singled out by the Beverage Testing Institute as outstanding.

“Message on a Bottle” is the title of a piece beginning on page 38, which advises how to maximize the interactive marketing value of a wine label. Author Toni Hamilton-Edwards is a former Diageo and Constellation marketing pro who now works for a major label-printing company, so her advice is well tested.

Two other articles concerning bottles and labels originated this summer during conferences, held for wineries, in which Wines & Vines was a participant. Firstenfeld wrote the first one, “Experts Dissect Effective Labels.” It concerns making brands stand out as discussed during a digital conference in July conducted in partnership with Labels & Labeling magazine. The second conference was a live one, the Wine Anti-Counterfeiting Seminar, co-hosted by the Napa Valley Vintners and Wines & Vines. See page 44 for managing editor Kate Lavin’s summary of the information shared there.

Winemaking focus
There isn’t enough room on this page to mention everything in this issue, but I do want to point out five articles that winemakers will find especially interesting. Two of them are by Tim Patterson, otherwise known as the Inquiring Winemaker. Tim reported the monthly Technical Review, which has all the details about construction and equipment for the new Margerum winery in Buellton, Calif. His second story is the monthly Inquiring Winemaker column, in which he addresses the topic of fermenting white wines on their skins.

Talented Pinot Noir winemaker Ross Cobb from California’s Sonoma Coast shared winemaking details with interviewer Laurie Daniel that were unusually frank and helpful. Also on this winemaking list is a thorough technical article about the effects of aeration on must and wine in the Practical Winery & Vineyard section. Dr. Linda Bisson, microbiologist at the University of California, Davis, wrote this one with two co-authors.

Finally, on page 90 in the Wine East section, Cornell University associate professor Justine E. Vanden Heuvel shares the results of an extensive vineyard trial. She gives winemakers valuable information about the quality parameters that Noiret grapes have yielded under different viticultural conditions.

Good luck with harvest
I hope your harvest will be well under way by the time you read this. All of us at Wines & Vines wish you good luck during this most important time of the year in winemaking. We would love to hear from you during or after the crush about any unusual challenges you faced this season, and how you met them. As you all know, it’s never the same and there is always something else to learn. If you are open to sharing your own solutions—as the writers, researchers and winemakers mentioned above have—please give me a call at (415) 453-9700, ext. 108, or email me at

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