August 26, 2010

Stu’s view from the road

Filed under: News — burke @ 1:37 pm
Continuum Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

Continuum Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

Bucking the trend
It’s not news to anyone. It’s a challenging time in the fine wine business today. The upper tier, even here in Napa Valley, is under considerable pressure.

There are exceptions, of course. I’m delighted to report that Continuum is one of those. In markets like New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, Continuum sold out of available wine this year in less than a month. One factor certainly is that our production is still very small. As strange as it may sound, our production in our first three vintages was restrained by our ability to source grapes of the quality we require. Our production was also held back by the very rigorous selection process we use in making our final blends. Using the 2007 vintage as an example, over 30% of everything we made was ultimately eliminated from the final blend. It did wonders for the distinctiveness of that wine. There are times, however, when I wish we could have made more!

There are a number of other reasons why Continuum continues to flourish in these difficult economic times. The first, no doubt, has to do with the quality of the wine itself. The 35 years that Tim Mondavi devoted to making wine at the highest level (in Napa and around the world) has been a huge benefit. In addition, there seems to exist at every level the unspoken notion that the Mondavi’s family’s legacy and reputation are riding on the success of their new project. There has been a ‘spare-no-expense’ philosophy in creating Continuum’s first proprietary blends that I have not witnessed in my 35 years in the wine business. The response to our first wines, as a result, has been encouraging. At the base of Continuum’s early success, therefore, has been the quality of the wine itself.

There is another major factor impacting Continuum’s early success. The fact is that Continuum Estate ushers-in the long awaited return of the Mondavi family to great California wine. As one individual put it… “This is the return to the fine wine business… and of the family who put that business on the map!” Ever since Continuum emerged onto the scene in 2008 (with the release of the 2005 vintage) there has been an outpouring of this kind of support. It’s come from writers, restaurateurs and consumers alike. This “welcome back” has impacted greatly what we’ve been able to achieve in a relatively short period of time.

Stu Harrison

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