Dateline:   January 16, 2018

Happy New Year and Welcome 2018……..Because….. 2017 Was Not A Very Good Year For Many

Someone once told me they had a phobia about odd numbered years.  Maybe there’s some truth to that as 2017 was not a good year for many Sonoma County residents, winegrowers and wineries.  It was estimated 3 Billion dollars in property loss to some 6700 structures was incurred by ravaging wildfire fueled by high winds in Santa Rosa, Sonoma Valley and Pocket Canyon near Geyserville.  In addition, 22 people were killed by the fires and 8 wineries had damage, one was completely destroyed.   Grape growers had to deal with a week of high heat in late August which resulted in grape dehydration, shrivel and production losses.   Our property was fortunate to be spared from loss, but our harvest was impacted with 20% lost tonnage, poor air quality at the finish and reduction in visitors to our winery tasting room.   Traffic to the wine country was drastically reduced as people were reluctant to come amidst the turmoil.  Nobody was in the mood to celebrate wine country living, end of harvest parties and celebrations.   Wine events were cancelled, dinners were postponed and tasting room traffic slowed to a crawl.  This self imposed travel penance had an economic effect on Sonoma County resulting in unemployment, reduced income and hardship on the advent of what is normally a happy Holiday Season.

As a native Californian I have always been grateful our State was not subject to the hurricanes and flooding of the East and Gulf Coasts, the tornados of the Mid West and the severe polar arctic colds of the North East.  In California we only dealt with earthquake, fire, and minor flooding which I never really worried about until now.   The massive earthquake of 1989 that ruptured the Bay Bridge and toppled East Bay freeways, the brutal triple digit harvest heat in 2010 and 2017, the severe drought years of 2012-2016, the devastating fires of 2015 in Lake County, 2017 in Sonoma and Napa counties, the merciless 2018 fires in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, and the perennial mudslides and fire in Southern California, demonstrate the Golden State of California is not Shangri-La nor except from disasters.  We all need to develop a renewed awareness of how fragile our lives and environment can be.   Above all else, we need to be good custodians of our property and prepare ourselves for “the next time” because in all reality ……...there will be a “next time”.

Despite all the challenges of “the next time” we look forward to the New Year 2018 and hope it will be a better year for one and all.   

Vineyard News

The weather in December was unseasonably dry which permitted good working conditions for pruning and development projects.  We completed trellis work on two redeveloped vineyard blocks and will plant this Spring to more Pinot Noir, the grand dame varietal of Burgundy wines.  With the 4.7 inches of rain accumulated in early January, all our storage tanks of rainwater runoff are full giving us 6000 gallons reserve for landscape irrigation of winery gardens.   Improvements to our sheep husbandry quarters are being made and we expect a new crop of spring lambs starting next month.  Labor has become an issue as immigration enforcement and lack of a legal agricultural guest worker program has reduced the labor supply.  Compound this problem with the new legalization of recreational marijuana in CA has sent many vineyard workers to the cannabis industry.  We are working towards new objectives in vineyard management and trellis design that will permit mechanical harvesting options.  We are also working towards contract specifications that compensate for overripe grapes and tonnage loss resulting from customer’s decision to pick late at high sugar levels for reasons of subjective taste preferences or lack of fermenting space. 

Winery News

There are predictions 2018 will be a good year for the wine industry with continued growth albeit not at the same rate as the past.   The current strong economy is a major factor in this prediction.  There are also concerns however relating to marketing challenges, increased competition in both domestic and import wines, higher costs in direct shipping, labor, packaging materials and overhead expense that can impact sales and income.   We have a good inventory of well aged wines from 2013 to 2015 available as current release and a limited supply of Library Wines going back to 2010.  Please contact the winery if interested in Library Wines.  Club Members are given special preference on cost and availability of these special wines.   We are proud to say all our Proprietor Reserve wines have earned high awards. The 2013 & 2014 Pinot Noirs received ratings of 91 and 93 points from James Suckling, formerly with the Wine Spectator but now operating individually as JamesSuckling.com, the 2014 Cabernet and 2015 Zinfandel have both scored 93 points with  the Beverage Test Institute’s Tastings.com in Chicago and both have won additional Gold Medals in  wine competitions. 

In spite of the tremendous growth in new wineries, secondary labels and mass marketing by large distributors and retailers on value wines, we look forward to a good year.  Our objective has always been to produce a limited supply of ultra premium wines that are estate grown, produced & bottled at affordable pricing for our customers.  We hope you are…or will soon be one of those customers.  Salute!

Winemaker, Owner & Editor
Jim Forchini