August 29, 2023 | POSTED IN

Grape Expectations: Should Livermore Valley Pin Hopes on One Variety?

red grape clusters on the vine

The question of whether Livermore Valley needs a signature grape varietal to increase its reputation has sparked ongoing debate among our valley’s winegrowers, with valid points on both sides that I’ve explored previously. However, wine writer Paul Gregutt’s recent commentary, “Does Washington State Wine Have an Identity Problem?”, sheds new light on this complex issue facing emerging wine regions like Livermore.

Gregutt thoughtfully analyzes Washington’s struggles to define itself against entrenched regions, despite its diverse, high-quality wine production. His observations provoke deeper reflection on how Livermore can best distinguish itself in California and globally. While a signature varietal can help initially gain consumer mindshare, Gregutt’s article underscores that consistent quality across varieties may prove more advantageous in the long run. His perspective offers a nuanced take on Livermore’s positioning that furthers this multi-faceted conversation.

If you don’t have time for the full article, here is my brief summary of his perspectives.

Gregutt’s article discusses the challenges Washington State faces in establishing a clear identity in the wine world. With recent news of a major producer cutting grape purchases, theories abound about Washington’s lack of focus compared to renowned regions like Napa and Oregon. Gregutt reflects on his earlier observations that Washington State must consistently demonstrate quality across varieties and better promote itself, issues that are still relevant today.

Progress has been made in areas like wine tourism and distribution laws. However, Washington State still lacks a “handle” like Pinot Noir for Oregon or Cabernet Sauvignon for Napa Valley. Past efforts to promote Riesling and Merlot as signature grapes fell short.

Gregutt concludes that Washington’s ‘handle’ might be found in promoting Bordeaux blends. Still, the state needs a compelling identity to open doors beyond the Pacific Northwest. His balanced perspective enlightens the debate around signature varietals versus consistent quality across the board. Clearly, food for thought as Livermore seeks to regain its former stature.