When you travel around Napa and Sonoma, if you pay attention, you will notice that other than the tourists, there are very few Asian faces. It wasn't always that way, the first ship arrived in San Francisco from China in 1850 and many of the original vineyards and caves in Sonoma and Napa were planted and dug by Chinese laborers.
Considering that Asians are the largest ethnic group in the Bay Area, there are very few Chinese families in Wine Country, probably because this area is geared to European style wine traditions.
The fact that large numbers of Asian tourists come to enjoy the wine and the beauty of the area speaks to the growing popularity of western style wines in Asia. There are a small number of significant vineyards and wineries owned primarily by Chinese and Japanese families. For example, it was a Chinese family (the second owners?) that built the beautiful Jake Lake garden complex at Chateau Montelena. Of course, just like their western counterparts, Asian beverage corporations have owned wineries here for many years.
I am thinking about this more these days because we just finished touring for three days with a returning industry group from China looking at winery hospitality in both Sonoma and Napa. They have built a winery about sixty miles from Bejing and their first harvest is coming in. Now they need to plan their tasting room and tours.
The region they are planting has a climate very similar to Bordeaux, so the big reds will rule. Of course being Chinese they are going in their own direction, which is a good thing. The last thing we need in the wine tourism industry is generic style and hospitality. You see this in companies that own multiple wineries nearby, they use the economy of scale to completely erase any individuality from the tasting room experience.
This kind of standardization is great in airplanes and buses, but not in tasting rooms. It is the unique experience in each tasting room that keeps visitors going from winery to winery.
To build the wineries of China they have depended on architects and engineers from the west who understand the demands of this type of food factory. It is always good when friendships are made across oceans, between countries that compete in the same international markets. Of course, a love and interest in fine wine is a wonderful way to find common ground when you are sitting on opposite sides of the table. Let's take the advent of fine Chinese wines as a sign that we have much more in common than we might think, and it is much harder to disagree when the wine is so good.
Call 707-235-2648 for Tours, Books & Seminars Copyright Ralph & Lahni de Amicis 2013 All tasting fees, hours, wine lists, etc are subject to change.