The good, the bad and the ugly of wine trends

Carlo Fortino, left, and Mario Fortino are owners of Hecker Pass

The new year is ushering in the good, the bad and the ugly of wine trends. Some of the following will no doubt fall into more than one category.

Food & Wine magazine says that “Lightly sweet red wines have been gaining popularity among wine consumers.” These sweet wines seem to appeal to younger people who are acquiring a taste for wine and to those of us who just like our wines this way.

Other big trends are in wine packaging. The newest is wine on tap. Keeping wine in kegs and pouring it out of a tap reduces packaging and keeps wine at its freshest.

Borrowing from the beer industry, again, a Denver wine company has been selling out their Sparkling Black Muscat in a 250ml can. For its label, the company reworked the iconic Barack Obama blue-and-red “Hope” poster and added a tag line: “Yes, we canned.”

Starbucks plans to open seven stores that sell wine in Chicago by the end of 2012. And, White Castle – the fast-food hamburger chain – is testing wine sales in Indiana. If sales are successful it won’t be long before Californians are dunking biscotti in cabernet and pairing French fries with chardonnay.

Now the “Ugly.” Wine prices may be going up. California grapes, which drive most of the nation’s wine industry, have been plentiful the last couple of years but not over-abundant. This means higher grape prices and higher wine prices. And as the economy improves, consumer demand for more expensive wine will probably increase – sending prices higher. Wine deals will still be around, but we’ll have to look harder to find them.

Local Winery Buzz

In 1959, Mario Fortino and his father sailed from Calabria, Italy to New York to follow other relatives and pursue the American dream. In 1972, Mario and his wife settled in Gilroy, established a winery and started their family. As soon as they were old enough, Mario’s three sons helped tend the vines and harvest the grapes.

Hecker Pass Winery is celebrating 40 years of producing fabulous wines with true Italian character. Mario learned the art of winemaking from his great-grandfather and carried the ideals of the “old country” to California. Now in its fourth generation of winemaking, Hecker Pass Winery is committed to the practices and customs of its wine-making ancestry; combining a respect for the environment with a passion for quality.

Their wine is made from estate grown grapes from dry-farmed, 65-year-old vines brought in from Italy. Hecker Pass was environmentally friendly from the beginning – even before it became politically correct. Only natural wild yeast is used to ferment the grapes. As Carlo, Mario’s son explains, their natural methods of winemaking are “100 percent old school.” They don’t use herbicides or pesticides and use biodegradable and recycled products wherever possible.

Hecker Pass Winery specializes in rich red wine including Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Carignane and Chianti. There are 17 different wines on their wine-tasting menu, organized according to white, medium-dry, dry, sweet and dessert. Their best-seller – Uva Nera – is a black grape wine that is smooth, intense and has a long finish. This wine is excellent with a juicy rib-eye steak. Multiple case discounts up to 50 percent are offered.

With Mario and Carlo pouring wine, they have a way of making visitors feel special and like a part of the family. In fact, they now have second generation customers – grown children of customers are coming on their own to experience the familial warmth and wonderful wines.

Carlo is committed to carrying on the traditions of 150 years of quality wine-making and at the same time, brings innovative ideas, including their beautiful event venue, La Vigna (The Vineyard).

La Vigna is open year-round for weddings and other celebrations. An indoor banquet room leads to an expansive covered outdoor patio and open dance floor. Views of the 11-acre vineyard and surrounding hills, along with a private Bridal Room, makes La Vigna a spectacular venue for a most memorable event.


Mario’s marinated olives: Drain two cans of black olives, spreadin single layer on baking sheet. Bake at 425 for 25 minutes oruntil olives become soft and dry. Mix with extra-virgin olive oil,freshly ground pepper and lots of fresh, crushed garlic.