Was This the Year That Disrupted San Francisco’s Taste for Abundance?

Hint: Smack dab between the dot-com bust and most recent financial crisis.

In a recent feature, the San Francisco Chronicle discusses the “age of gilded minimalism” that currently captivates the peninsula … the obsession with hard-to-get reservations, “spartan” settings, trendy menu items (think ancient grains and fermented ales) and unfussy, of-the-moment wine varieties. Recognizing the populations’ shift in luxury ambitions, the Chronicle also tries to pinpoint the exact moment indulgences went from the opulent to the obscure. Changes in California wine culture might provide a necessary clue.

“And though it might not have looked like it at the time, 2004 would turn out to be the most pivotal year in California wine of this millennium. It was the year that the movie Sideways premiered and turned a generation into Pinot Noir drinkers. The year that the California Supreme Court told Bronco Wine Co. it couldn’t put “Napa” on the labels of non-Napa wines. The year that California’s two most prominent winery IPOs — Robert Mondavi Winery and the Chalone Wine Group — came crashing down. Having gone public in the ’80s and ’90s, both of these historic wine companies ultimately were seized by larger corporate interests (Constellation and Diageo, respectively) within a two-month period.

“Most of all, 2004 was the vintage that finally fulfilled the ideal of ripeness that the California wine industry had been gradually moving toward since the late 1990s. In Napa Valley, winemakers picked grapes at higher sugar levels in 2004 than in any other vintage of the decade: Whereas most years fall closer to 14%, the average ’04 Napa Cabernet would clock in at a whopping 15.3%.

If you miss the days of a blue-chip Napa Cab paired with your decadent foie gras, take a trip down memory lane to see how 2004 impacted the San Francisco epicurean scene.

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