California winemakers toast to strong demand, growth

FRESNO, Calif. -- California winemakers are offering a toast to a record year in 2016. Retail sales in the U.S. reached $34 billion -- up 4.6 percent.

At Total Wine in North Fresno, store manager Chad Powell said he was not surprised by the steady growth in California wine sales.

"Just the quality of California wines are unsurpassed," he said. "Some are the best wines in the world actually come from California, and then the taste."

Powell said wineries in the Paso Robles area have enjoyed explosive growth.

"Justin (label) cabernet out of Paso Robles is one of the best-selling wines we have in the area," Powell said. "Fresno loves Paso wines because of our proximity to Paso Robles."

Truth and Valor and J. Lohr are also popular labels.

Nat Dibuduo of Allied Grape Growers recently asked a couple of millennials at a deli what kind of wine they preferred.

"Wanted to know what label they were going to buy, thinking they were going to ask for Kendall Jackson or Mondavi or something like that," he said. "No, they wanted to look for that cutesy, artsy kind of label."

Many young wine drinkers seek something different so winemakers are marketing towards them.

"I think a lot of the wineries are developing new labels, new exciting labels that are tapping into the millennial generation," Dibuduo said.

California wines enjoyed a boost in both domestic and foreign sales. Chardonnays have been the most popular.

"One of our biggest sellers since we opened," Powell said. "It's really taken off and exploded is the buttercream chardonnay. So really vanilla-y, oak-y, buttery chardonnay."

Powell adds many people come in to specifically ask about locally made wines, including those produced at Fresno State.
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