Dateline:   April 4, 2018

A New Vintage Year Brings New Challenges
Spring officially starts the new vintage year and as always Sonoma County growers and wineries look forward with optimism that 2018 will be a good one.  Growers seek good contracts at favorable pricing while continuing to improve upon production, quality and keep cost under control……wineries want to produce wines that will attract media attention, win medals in competition, develop new customers and increase sales.  These objectives mean huge challenges because whether you are selling wine or wine grapes, there is heavy competition.  The wine industry has attracted many new participants in recent years because the joy of owning a vineyard, whether it is one or more acres, or a private label for wine made in a custom crush facility from grapes grown in your own vineyard, all add to the market supply of either grapes for sale or wine for sale.  Add to the overall market supply wines produced by wineries from excess production bottled under secondary labels, bulk wines purchased by negotiates and sold as value wines, foreign import wine subsidized in part by their government, and wines produced from other States.…….there is a lot of wine for sale .  With the increase supply, customers can and will shop for the best wine values and value is not limited to $/bottle…..it can also mean other perks in the form of special events and entertainment provided by wineries to attract customers.   This suggests aside from being a wine producer, attracting customers to your winery, like the all girls birthday party at left,  has become an ever increasing challenge with additional overhead expense that doesn’t guarantee a recovery on the expense of the special event.   
Grape growers will face new issues relating to a reduced labor supply resulting from increased immigration enforcement, a lack of guest worker programs and losing available workers to the new permitted cannabis industry.   Talk about increasing tariffs and a potential tariff war could impact wine exports to existing trade customers and reduce demand for grapes.  To add to grower concern, Sonoma County has proposed an objective for all growers to be 100% certified sustainable by 2020 which will require new capital costs as well as higher overhead costs to maintain records and data for compliance.   

There will be a lot of challenges for growers and wineries not only this year but also in the future….but…no worry as Sonoma County winegrowers are passionate, love what they do and with resolve will face these challenges with determination.

 Spring Is Busting Out All Over
Bud break on all wine grape varieties is emerging after a prolonged winter sleep from a relatively dry winter.  December and February rainfall was hardly measurable and to date we have had only 18 inches compared to 57 inches last year at this time.  There is rain on the horizon for this weekend so hopefully by the end of June we will have accumulated a sufficient total to produce a normal crop without demands for heavy irrigation.  The dry winter has allowed for good working conditions.  New vineyard development, trellis work, grapevine replants and early tillage have been performed at an efficient pace.   Keeping our workers busy until we start suckering vines will be directed towards property management of riparian vegetation, fences and useful projects.

Winery News
Futures were sold in March on all 2016 wines that will be bottled this year.  These 2016 red wines have all developed beautifully and show rich fruitfulness and aroma combined with balance and excellent color.  They will have been well aged in oak from 18-22 months before release this year to Futures buyers only.  Our new 2017 Russian River Chardonnay will be bottled in April and is rich in flavors of pear and apricot with a perfumed honeysuckle nose.  I consider this wine which has been barrel fermented in neutral oak with partial ML to be our best produced Chardonnay to date.
We will be participating in the 29th annual PASSPORT TO DRY CREEK VALLEY on April 28 & 29.  This event is one of the ten best events each year in Sonoma County.  There are still tickets available but will sell out fast these final weeks.  Our Summer Solstice Winemaker Dinner will be June 23 and will feature a delicious outdoor all you can eat BBQ combined with fancy side dishes and all our current release wines.  Go to our Special Event link for information on ticket purchases, activities and menus for both these events. 

Want to get away?  We look forward to your visit at the winery this year.  We have lovely gardens surrounded by vineyards and sweeping views where you can sample our wines outdoors and enjoying this fabulous environment.  Bring your lunch to enjoy with your tasting and kids and dogs are always welcome.  Hope to see you soon.

Editor:  Jim Forchini, Owner & Winemaker