Why we published a set of stories about the future of Napa wine

This week we published a collection of stories about Napa Valley wines that we have been working on for over six months. We call the collection Napa in Flux.

Publishing a collection like this is a privilege for a journalist. Throughout the year, we at The Chronicle’s Food + Wine department. tell the story of Napa Valley, its victories and its struggles, in daily stories, one short story at a time. But it’s been clear to us for some time now that these smaller stories are pixels in a much bigger picture. Decades from now, I think we’ll look back on this period in Napa’s history — as it grapples with wildfires, outsized wealth, changing consumer tastes, environmental debates and more. – like the moment when everything changed.

The Napa in Flux package is our way of stepping back, rubbing our eyes, and trying to see, and then convey, a fuller picture. And I should note: Publishing a bunch of stories like this all at once wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work and brilliant insights of our Napa-based wine journalist, Jess Lander, who lives in Napa and witnesses changes in the valley as the only local inhabitant. box.

I expect some material to be controversial, including a story in which I argue that economic factors homogenize Napa Cabernet. This is an article that I wanted to write for a long time, but the subject was difficult for me to understand. I am not the only one asking these questions. The idea that many expensive Napa wines are starting to taste the same is one I’ve heard mentioned countless times in offline conversations over the years, but rarely seen posted in a public forum. Recently, another writer, Dan Berger, expressed similar sentiments in the Napa Valley Register. And since my story was published on Wednesday, I’ve received several text messages from Napa winemakers who seem to agree. I hope this can spark a more courageous discussion about the wines of the valley.

There’s one important topic that this package doesn’t address: climate change, which is in some ways the most visible marker of Napa Valley’s state of flux. This omission is simply due to the fact that at the time we designed these other stories, we felt that five articles was enough to ask you to digest everything at once. We cover the effects of climate change on Napa Valley in our ongoing stories, including a great story from Jess this week about building new upscale resorts in wildfire areas, and we’ll continue to follow her. from close.

If you disagree with what we write in these stories, like our ratings of some of Napa’s most popular wineries as sticky tourist traps, that’s OK. For a valley that has been so successful as a wine region and tourist destination, and is a microcosm of a $40 billion statewide industry, scrutiny is not only appropriate . It is essential. We love Napa and its wines, all the more reason why they deserve to be held accountable.

You can find Napa’s five stories in Flux here.

And for more on the ideas that inspired this work, here’s how I explained it on The Chronicle’s Fifth & Mission podcast.

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