Today I saw the corner of my desk for perhaps the first time since starting at Robert Mondavi Winery. I, like most people I would assume, have a pile of things “to do” at the corner of my desk. Over the past year that pile has increased to levels where at some moments papers were falling this way and that every time I walked by. Occasionally I reduced it to one or two papers but there was always something on that corner to do. Finally, I feel I’m catching up. This time of year we are working on coaxing the last of the new wines from 2013 through Malolactic conversion. We are barreling down the last lots from tanks and getting ready to finish blending the 2012 wines some of which will be going to bottling as early as this May. We are also approaching one of my favorite times of the winemaking year, Marketing travel season! This year I have a few trips that are on the calendar including a trip to Europe during which I’ll visit London and Dusseldorf, Germany. I’m SO excited about this one because I have never spent anytime in Germany and have spent very little time in London. At the end of the trip I’m taking a few personal days to tour one of my favorite wine regions; the Mosel! I love Riesling and the Mosel is the Mecca for Riesling lovers. I’m also going to the East Coast for a little bit, hitting Tennessee, Missouri, and Georgia at different times this year. It should be lots of fun. I haven’t done any serious traveling since early 2012 and I really miss it. We’ll see how different it is now that I have a family vs when it was just my husband and I. Anyway, that cleaned off corner on my desk represents a change I the seasons of winemaking and I for one am welcoming it!
Ghosts of a bygone era move swiftly outside the window of the ferry. Stark silhouettes against the evening sky of the rusted metal and broken glass that once were the ship yards on Mare Island. I can only imagine how busy they must have been in the 1940s and 50s. The sky fades from a deep orange to indigo as I contemplate what I’ve been doing with my life over the past 7 years. In 2007, I had an idea, as I sat in my office, in a winery capable of producing 15 million cases per year, trying to figure a way to make myself a better winemaker. I decided to become a Master of Wine. Not to try to become one but to actually do it. Well, at this point I still haven’t gotten to that goal. My struggles have been well chronicled through this blog. Right now it is the night before the MW seminar. The one week per year that all the students converge on several cities around the globe together with MWs to learn, study, share ideas, and go away better prepared to attack the Master of Wine exam in June or whenever they plan to take it. I have sat the exam now four different times and in less than 5 months I’ll sit it for my fifth and final time. This makes the next week my final seminar as an MW student. I am calm and collected. I feel prepared. One can’t ask for much more than that. On Saturday morning I will take my mock practical exam which will be graded and the result will set the tone for my remaining time between now and the exam in June. For now, I’m savoring the moments before the seminar. Before the exhaustion of tasting blind almost non-stop for a week sets in. Savoring the time now, when I’m still excited about the opportunity to study alongside and learn from some of the best and brightest minds in our industry today. Tonight, staring out at the now black night blanketing the San Francisco Bay, I am savoring the possibilities. Ever the optimist, I’m looking forward to my next seminar. My next seminar won’t be as a student but will be as an MW.
We need water. We REALLY NEED it very bad! During the whole of last year we only saw around 6 inches of rain when average is around 40 inches or so. San Francisco got just over 5 inches which is getting into desert-type conditions. So far this year, the picture has not improved much. We had a sprinkle of rain (0.01 inch) a few weeks ago but that was it.
The culprit is a high pressure system that has been parked off of the Pacific coast for several months redirecting the rain we usually see down to Mexico. Time magazine recently announced they believe we are moving into an El Niño year meaning a super warm year for the west coast. While they are the only people proclaiming this so far, that on top of a drought year could mean an extremely challenging vintage for grape growers.
1) Low rain and warmer than average winter means early bud break.
2) Early bud break plus extremely dry conditions means a nasty frost season.
3) A bad frost season and low water supplies means that those growers that rely on overhead sprinklers for frost protection have to chose to protect the crop now and risk not having enough water to irrigate later when the summer comes.
4) Low water resources and a warm year means increased irrigation needs further stressing already stressed water supplies.
5) Further stress on already stressed water supplies means agriculture and urban water needs are put at odds once again. That battle is usually won by the urbanites.
6) Reduction of water for agriculture means less crops over all. Lower yields for wine grapes and food crops alike.
7) Lower yields for crops equals higher food prices to the end consumer.
When I say “we need water” I don’t just mean those of us who make our living in Agriculture. I mean ALL of us, collectively.
In all seriousness, start praying for rain. We REALLY need it!