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Tidbits from the world of wine

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Two strikes, you're out

Wineries in New York's Finger Lakes region have had enough of the drunks who pass their way. They've established a program that issues red or yellow cards to visitors who have seen the bottom of too many glasses. Officials for the Cayuga, Keuka and Seneca wine trails have been trying to find the best way to manage the inebriated, who have been, ahem, exposing themselves fairly frequently. Although one incident didn't inspire the new program, several incidents of nudity, urinating in the parking lot and a hammered college student almost drowning in the shallow pond at one winery led them down this restrictive path. The shaming, socceresque program works by the issuing winery alerting the next few wineries on the trail of their impending drunken crew. One positive lining -- this proves wine has reached the unruly, lowbrow masses. Move over, Bud.

The French are being lapped

Yes, we will soon have something to deride the French with: We're about to surpass them in total volume wine consumption. A study commissioned by the VinExpo wine fair in Bordeaux, France, determined that by 2010, U.S. consumption will rise to roughly 721 gallons vs. 658 in France. Of course, France has 61 million people and the United States weighs in around 300 million, but still, does this crack anyone else up? The bastions of grape, the fundamentalists of fomented wine fervor -- well, hell, they're the French -- they practically invented the stuff, or at least perfected it. It's almost sad that we're lapping them in this race. And, adding insult to injury, France's new president, Nicolas Sarkozy, is a teetotaler.

Workplace woes

And speaking of population, not counted among our 300 million are the illegal immigrants in the United States. The winery industry, which counts on Mexican workers to maintain and harvest their grapes, is watching the debate and proposed legislation on Capitol Hill closely. At stake for California's grapegrowers are hopes to secure a stable vineyard work force, as well as the lives of the more than 2.5 million illegals in California, who for now continue to live in fear of deportation.

Rosé rising

After pushing the point until our pens went dry, the wine press/marketers/retailers, etc., have seen fruition of their efforts for rosé consumption. AC Nielson recently reported that sales of rosé wine are on the rise, jumping 45 percent in the last year in the $6-plus bracket. Apparently, 28 new brands of the pink stuff were introduced this past year, making the decision a bit easier for consumers. And apparently, everyone on their soapbox, including myself, is making a difference.

Update on wine shipping

After many years of work, wineries can now direct-ship their product to 35 states, or 78 percent of all retail wine consumers. According to the VinQuest U.S. Consumer Direct Wine Sales Report for 2006, total direct sales by U.S. wineries amounted to $2.4 billion. Although the wholesalers, who serve as the agent to deliver the bottles from the winery to the retailers/restaurants in many states, are vehemently fighting any loosening of the current alcohol restrictions, several active lawsuits and pieces of legislation are paving new direct avenues in many states. As recently as the late 1990s, only 13 states allowed reciprocal direct shipping, so the expansion to 35 states bodes well for wineries.

Recommended wines

Stags Leap 2005 Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley Crisp and bracing, yet smooth grapefruit and citrus. Wet slate and an amazing finish that lasts on and on. Worth the extra cash. Sw = 2. $20. **** 1/2

Laetitia 2005 Pinot Noir Arroyo Seco Bright, fruity cherry cola flavor that's so easy to drink, it's scary. Nothing complicated but it's delicious. Sw = 2. $13. *** 1/2

Sweetness (Sw) rating is out of 10, 10 being pure sugar. Star (*) rating is out of 5, 5 being wine nirvana.

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