I’m trying to tell my inner CA winemaker to shut up. It’s raining and it’s going to be raining for 5 days. Then we have 3 days of warm and sun and then more rain. Do I pick everything in the window or do I hold out that we might get an Indian Summer mid October. Such is the life of an East Coast winemaker. We, like the folks on the west coast have a general guarantee of weather. Usually it will be less than ideal for harvesting so we all turn into gamblers. Some pick early, some pick later but we all get to compare results at the end which is what makes it fun.
This summer has been amazing for the vinifera grapes. The severe drought has made berry sizes almost 25% smaller which should make for very concentrated flavor however acids have been dropping rapidly. I’m off to cruise through the Riesling and some of the Cab Franc this morning. Hopefully they will hold up through the next few days of rain in order to fully realize the gift that nature has given us as a vintage this year.
There is so much to talk about from the past few weeks while my family and I have been relocating across the country! I decided to break them down into small bites…
Bite 1: Arsenic Anyone?
I really don’t want to give this story any more time than it takes for me to acknowledge it however Alder Yarrow from Vinography.com did an amazing post telling you why exactly you shouldn’t be worried about this and instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, please read his post here.
Bite 2: WE’RE HERE!!!!!
We arrived into the beautiful and chilly state of New York last weekend and are now settling into our new house. Currently one entire room is devoted to unpacked, empty boxes but once those get hauled away tomorrow we should be in fairly good shape as far as moving in is concerned.
I started my new job last week and while it is a dramatic change from Robert Mondavi, it should present a good challenge. Back in January, we closed on 12 acres on the shores of Seneca lake and I went out that day to put “Posted” signs up. Upon our return last weekend all but 1 of the 6 signs were torn down. I’m hoping it is just a combination of wind and extreme cold but I can’t help but be worried that the former owner of a nice deer stand on our land may have had something to do with it. Our goal is to clear much of the land this summer once the soil dries out some from all the snow this winter. That way we can start to see where our future house and vineyards will go! We are very excited about this new phase of our lives.
Bite 3: Vintage 2015 Update
New York: It’s cold. It has been VERY, VERY cold this winter. I’m a little concerned that we may not have many grapes to make wine with from the western side of the state. Even though we got another 3 inches of snow this morning, signs of spring are everywhere. Those 3 inches were mostly melted away by mid afternoon. Robins are showing up and Canadian Geese can be heard flying overhead, heading North. Maybe we’ll be close to budbreak around the middle of May.
Napa: Budbreak is everywhere and frost season is in full swing according to a friend of mine. There has still been very little rain so the area is poised for a 3rd consecutive drought season. Again, I wouldn’t want the be the grower that has to choose between protecting what crop they may have this year and saving water so that they can ripen that crop.
Those are the bites for the week! Happy growing season everyone!
This Tuesday, the world of wine in the US all converges on Sacramento, CA for the annual Unified Wine and Grape Symposium. I haven’t personally been to Unified in several years. It, for some reason, ended up conflicting directly with the Master of Wine Residential seminar and (for those of you who have followed my journey through the MW) I’m sure you can guess what won. That being said if you plan to attend Unified this year, even if it is just the trade show portion I recommend coming with a strategy for navigating the show. It’s all about strategy.
I’m excited about this year’s programming. I’ve signed up for the entire show starting with the Keynote Speaker Luncheon on Tuesday given by the President of Jackson Family Wines, Rick Tigner. It looks like an incredibly fun talk going over important issues such as constraints of label growth, foreign market opportunities, and sustainability challenges and costs. After that I am torn between a Marketing/ PR session entitled “Content is King” and a Winemaking session focused on achieving quality in “Lower-Brix” wines. I sense that will be a game day decision.
Tuesday is the easy day to plan since the talks are not competing with the trade show. This by itself would take up the entirety of the remaining two days if you really needed to talk to a lot of the vendors who come to pedal there wares. It’s very much like an industry Bazar with unexpected treasures lurking around every corner. Need a new barrel washer? Why yes, maybe I do? A discounted subscription to Wine Business Monthly? Sign me up! A T-shirt that proclaims “I like to Wine” in sparkly rhinestones that would make any 80s bedazzler fan proud? They have that too. Tackling the trade show is all about strategy. Who do you want to see really? What are your top 2 things you need to look for? Add at least an hour and a half for talking with people you randomly run into and haven’t seen in years because that WILL happen.
Wednesday morning is dominated by the State of the Industry address. It is a not to be missed panel featuring what’s hot and what’s not in the industry right now. The afternoon is broken up into a series of very tempting talks and the ever present hum of the Trade Show ( You know, I really would like to see that Shaker Table!) after which comes a Regional Wine tasting because up until this point there really hasn’t been enough wine at this wine industry event. After that, of course, comes the ever popular Alumni and “Friends” gatherings of Fresno State and UC Davis. Oh, Cal Poly has joined the party as well! (Mental note to see if we can organize something for Cornell next year…)
Thursday tends to be more low key. Many of the suppliers start packing up early so if you want to go check out the latest in Stainless contraptions it’s best to go early but if you got all that done yesterday perhaps you want to listen to how to “Future Proof” your buisness. With a great panel of speakers covering a dire set of predictions (no water, no labor, high energy costs, earthquakes, fires, floods, freezes, locusts, plagues… Ok I added those last two) this could be very interesting.
After lunch I’m torn again between another marketing session focused on “Craft” and opportunities for the wine industry ( I sense an MW exam question in the making here) and Sustainability Certifications in a Global Market. (Darn you organizers! Why must you put so many intriguing topics all at the same time!!! Oh look, a new optical sorter! Shiny!!!)
You get the picture. It’s madness. It’s crowded. It’s fun. It’s educational. It’s where anyone remotely interested in wine should be this week. Just make sure you have a game plan, bring a back pack for all the random papers and pamphlets you’ll pick up and don’t get distracted by the shiny objects.
See you there!