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mcdonaldsI recently was a wine judge at an event featuring California wines. Most of the Napa wineries were promoting  Cabernet Sauvignon as their top wine. Really, I have to say I was bored. All competently produced, all tasting pretty much the same. If I were a customer looking to fall in love with something, there was nothing to attract my attention. Everyone is making the same wine.

So I was thrilled to see this article in Modern Farmer featuring novice winemaker Meagan Bell:

The wine market, according to Bell, is, if not stagnant, kind of boring. “Napa,” says the Bay Area native, “is a very cool region, but we’ve seen the same things from it over and over again.”

It’s about time someone noticed.

Cabernet, Chardonnay, and Pinot Grigio make up 50% of the U.S. wine market. Yet there are thousands of different grape varieties used to make wine. And Bell wants you to taste some of them.

“I want to look at things that people haven’t looked at before,” she says. “For me, that’s always more interesting.” Margins Wine will, she hopes, find grapes that are grown on the margins: varietals you’ve never or barely heard of, from vineyards you’ve certainly never heard of, grown in places you might be surprised that grapes can even be grown, including deserts and cold mountains…Bell sees a possible market for these more unusual wines. Just as coffee drinkers have begun to embrace single-origin coffee (coffee from a specific place), or as eaters countrywide have begun learning about heirloom fruit varieties or more exotic produce, why not wine? Why not tap into a market that could be primed to introduce and educate? And Bell’s wine will, because it will be made from the cast-offs of the wine world, be very inexpensive as a final product, and she says making organic and biodynamic wine is a priority.

Currently the Assistant Winemaker at Beauregard Winery in Santa Cruz, Bell has launched a Kickstarter campaign to get funds to promote her own company, Margin wines. It’s a risky venture and it will be a challenge to get people out of their comfort zone.

But I sure hope she succeeds. We need more young people trying to shake up the industry.

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