Category Archives: Musings

Six California’s and What that Would Mean to Wine

There is a movement currently to break the state of California into six separate states. Read more about the plan here. I could see some positives to the plan such as bringing law creation to a smaller group of people. Let’s face it what works for Napa doesn’t always work for San Diego and bringing this hugely fragmented demographic into agreement takes equally huge amounts of negotiation.  I highly doubt that this will get much farther than it already has but it definitely got my wheels turning thinking about the consequences of such a movement on our industry.  If one only considers the ramifications to the wine industry one quickly realizes the impossibility of this plan.

1) Say goodbye to “California” Appellated wine. This is by far and away the most important issue that this plan will bring up.  Political AVAs are defined by political boundaries therefore anything grown in the Central Valley would have to be listed as “Central California”. You also can not blend wines from multiple states without losing all appellations and just calling it American. Gone would be the days of mixing Central Valley and Central Coast wines (split into two states, Silicon Valley and West California) and it probably would drive further industry out of the Central Valley.

2) What happens to regional AVAs that span multiple states? Under this plan, both the North Coast and the Central Coast will be spread over two states.  Will they end up like Carneros and be defined as the AVA only or will you have to say North Coast – Jefferson or North Coast – North California, which in a way kind of defeats the purpose of the North Coast appellation.

3) Water. Some of the most populated proposed states don’t have their own water sources. Water has already become a huge issue between counties. What would the motivation be for states with water to share it if their own people needed it?

4) Distribution. With six states brings opportunity for six new different distribution laws. Maybe one of the states decides to go to a control state like Pennsylvania.

On the positive side, maybe we can petition to change the name of the state currently suggested to be called Northern California into Wineland? It might be more appropriate considering Silicon Valley gets to keep its pop culture name.

Seriously, this is a crazy plan. Hopefully calmer heads prevail.

Life, Love, and Ceiling Fans

My husband and I met when I was really young. I was 17 when we went out on our first date. Conventional wisdom says that we never should have made it this far but never the less we have. We didn’t get married immediately although we wanted to. I graduated high school. We each went to different colleges although we were able to stay within a 2-4 hour drive of each other most of the time. We had our ups and downs like any other long distance relationship for the 5 years before we got married and finally stopped being a long distance relationship. One of our favorite pastimes on the weekend was to wander around Home Depot and talk about what our future house would look like. On one of our wanders I came across a ceiling fan, which I promptly fell in love with. For months, I would always look at that ceiling fan when we went to Home Depot but I knew it was crazy, on our limited college student budget, to buy a fan that we had absolutely no place to hang and nothing to do with. My husband, Brian, has always had a quirky sense of romance, so on one of these trips he bought my fan for me against all my protests. It was at that point, I knew we were going to make it. It was by far the most romantic thing he had done to that point. He bought me a fan for a house we hadn’t found yet and said when we did buy the house then we would put the fan up. We got married the next year and moved to California. The fan, of course, came along, still in the original box, never opened. We rented in Fresno for 3 years so the fan still sat quietly in its box. When we moved to Calistoga, we still moved the fan in the box with us to our new rental. A year later we bought our house in 2010 however there was no place to hang our ceiling fan when we arrived. We had to completely gut and renovate the house, which I may add we are still not finished with. For almost 4 years the fan sat in its box in the back of Brian’s closet waiting for the promised day that we would hang it. Finally that day arrived last week. After some concerns as to how the fan had handled 9 years in the box we went for it.

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We hung it together and once it was up it took me back to the day 9 years earlier in the ceiling fan isle of Home Depot when we made a promise to each other that one day we would have a home together in which we could hang our fan. We put it up ourselves since we are died in the wool do it yourselfers and have enjoyed its breeze ever since. There seemed to not be any ill effects from the years in the box and luckily it has a limited lifetime motor warranty since the standard warranty ran out a while ago. :) >

My Best Advice

Recently I received an email from a fellow viticulturist that I met several months ago who is just starting their career in the industry.  They had the following question…

I am currently working on a small vineyard as the vineyard manager. As much as I love being able to do my own thing, I feel like I am missing out on having a mentor guide me through my first couple years managing a vineyard. 

Since it is a small winery, I am also learning more about the winemaking process. This has been great for me and I hope to continue to learn more so I can become a better vineyard manager and hopefully make wine one day. 

I remember you telling me to contact you if I had any questions about the industry, so I thought I would call that favor in. The advice I seek from you is how you moved from viticulture to more winemaking. The vineyard will always be my first love, but I became interested in viticulture because I love science and I love wine. Is it worth going back to school for another degree in order to make wine?

 Any other tidbits of advice would be greatly appreciated.

I sat down and thought about how to respond, then sent this reply.  At the end of it, I thought that it might be advice that other people just starting their careers in the industry might like to know so I asked the person’s permission to post their question and my answer here.  I hope it helps if anyone is seeking advice to get into the wine industry.

I started at small wineries between 2,000-6,000 cases doing everything that was needed.  As someone who works at a small winery I’m sure you understand that situation.  That way I was able to apply what I was learning from my viticulture classes but also learned winemaking on the job.  I took a few wine classes in college and learned the VERY basics but it wasn’t until I started learning on the job that I really got into wine and winemaking. 

 I made wine at home to continue my learning process.  9 bottles the first time and almost 2 cases the second time and by the third round I was getting pretty good at home winemaking in carboys!  It is the most difficult and challenging to make wine in small batches so home winemaking is very important to understanding what can go wrong in the process.  I highly recommend getting 2 – 5 gallon carboys and trying it out.  Make sure you only fill one with juice though otherwise you can’t rack!   Also a cheap hand mixer makes a great destemmer!

 When I moved to California I went from a winery with a production of 6,000 cases to one with 15 million cases.  Needless to say most of my small winery skills were not needed there but I learned a lot about blending, logistics, and planning and how important those things are to the entire process regardless of the size of winery you work for.  I started as an Assistant Winemaker and moved up from there. 

 My best advice, which I myself sometimes have trouble following, is to always keep learning and never let yourself hold you back.  It is easy sometimes to talk yourself out of an opportunity because you don’t think the timing is right or you are happy where you are.  Always pursue every opportunity for growth.  Some will be dead ends but if you don’t try you’ll never know. If you do try you’ll never have to ask “what if?”.  I almost didn’t apply for this job [at Robert Mondavi Winery] because I was 5 months pregnant, it was almost harvest, and I was happy with the winery I was working for.  I had to try though and if they had said no then I wouldn’t have had to look back and wonder.  If I hadn’t applied at all, I wouldn’t be where I am now.