August 16, 2008
Dog Day Doggerel

A poet I'm not, but inspired by The Bee's State Fair poetry contest, I went to Cal Expo last night in search of my muse (though tempted, I won't stoop to milking the shallow poet's weakness for limp puns by suggesting I was grasping for moo's).

At the Wine Garden, the most relaxing and convivial place on the fairgrounds, inspiration struck:

Red wine too hot
So white we bought
Silver it got
In State Fair lot

Its place was sought
On label spot
And there learned what
Chile had wrought

Because I'm about to leave for New York's Hudson Valley, I won't immediately have a chance to ask State Fair officials what a Chilean wine was doing in the commercial wine competition, which at least in the past has been limited to California wines. I have a hunch, however, about what happened. This Chilean chardonnay is imported by Don Sebastiani & Sons of Sonoma and is bottled under the brand of Pepperewood Grove, a label long associated with California wine. As I've written in the past, the rising popularity of wine in the United States has prompted many American wineries to look abroad for wine to market here. Sometimes the wine they find is marketed under new brand names, but often it's bottled under an existing label long used for domestic releases. That's what Sebastiani & Sons is doing. There's nothing especially duplicitous about the practice, as long as the source of the grapes is spelled out on the label, however small. The first clue we had that last night's chardonnay wasn't from California was the appellation on the label, Valle Central, which could suggest "Central Valley" of California, only Sebastiani & Sons hasn't begun to sell wines with bilingual labels, as far as I know. More to the point, Valle Central is an appellation long associated with Chile, as finer print on the back label verifies.

As a measure of the wine garden's popularity, incidentally, it's again been enlarged, providing much more seating at tables both to the back and front. The biggest change we experienced, however, was the eager persistence of pourers to give visitors small sample tastes of whatever wines intrigued them before they popped for an entire glass. Given the steep prices of many of the wines at the garden, this generous hospitality is especially welcome.

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