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Red wine acreage grows along with news of its health benefits

Last year, another batch of reports said red wine could improve people's health.

This month, still another report, on the planting of vineyards in California, showed growers are eager to meet the red demand.

Red wine varieties grew on 294,063 acres last year, up from 204,286 in 1998, the National Agricultural Statistics Service reported.

The 44 percent jump compares with a 30 percent increase in white wine acreage, from 139,851 in 1998 to 181,219 last year.

Red wine acreage grew within the Northern San Joaquin Valley, especially in the Lodi area, but the growth was not as pronounced as in the Napa, Sonoma and Central Coast regions.

All that merlot and cab and zin probably will find its way to customers, judging from a survey by The Nielsen Co., a market research company. It reported that U.S. sales of red wine from midOctober to mid-March were up 8.5 percent compared with the same period a year earlier. White wine sales rose 4.8percent.

Nielsen attributed the bump to media coverage in November of a study suggesting that resveratrol, a molecule in red wine, might slow the aging of human cells.

"As consumers search for products that promise better health and guard against aging, it would be reasonable to assume that recent favorable press has tipped some decisions towards red wine," said Danny Brager, a Nielsen vice president, in a news release.

Nielsen also cited a February 2006 cover story in Fortune Magazine on the possible link between red wine and longevity. Another study last year said it could help prevent Alzheimer's disease.

These reports continue a trend that got its first big boost in 1991 when a "60 Minutes" segment linked the low rate of heart attacks among the French to their penchant for red wine.

Diablo Grande resort west of Patterson has closed its upscale wine tasting room in San Francisco.

The tasting room, near Moscone Center, opened in late 2003, offered wine and food pairings, winemaker dinners and weddings. It was used to promote the Diablo Grande wines and the golf-oriented resort and residential development to San Francisco visitors and residents.

Closing the tasting room was a business decision, said Diablo Grande vice president of development Dwain Sanders.

The resort has been on the market for about three years.

A wine industry leader will talk about California farming in general at an event Thursday evening at California State University, Stanislaus.

Paul Dolan, chairman of the Wine Institute, will speak about how to create a sustainable future for agriculture. Dolan was president of Fetzer Vineyards in Mendocino County and now is a partner at Mendocino Wine Co.

The talk, free and open to the public, will be at 6:30 p.m. in Room 167 of Demergasso-Bava Hall. Free parking will be available in the lot on the Crowell Road side of the Turlock campus.

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