Giving Thanks, Fall 2008
Now that the harvest is complete, we’re tucking the vines in for a winters rest, maintaining our equipment for another season and starting to reflect back over the year’s events. What a year it has been, last spring had everyone running in circles with frost, rain, heat and cold all occurring within one month. Now, as the tail end of the growing season is coming to an end and we are fairly confident most folks are glad the hard part of the year is behind us. Looking forward it is time to celebrate the holiday season with a little rest and relaxation thrown in for good measure. As always we take this time to give thanks and ponder what the next year has in store for us.
Reflecting on the past growing season, fraught with many challenges, helps us put this season in perspective with many others we have witnessed. By doing so we’re able to take the proverbial crystal ball out of storage, dust it off, and see what kind of projections we’re able to conjure up.
The Trend Is Your Friend, Or Is It?
One of the most certain trends we are going to see is the relationship between grower and winery go through yet another transition. The phrase “How do you like me now?” comes to mind when envisioning a grower and a winery (grower relations) sitting at the negotiating table. The grower is emboldened by the much known and publicized coming of what could be a massive shortage of wine grapes for the wine market, especially for premium grapes from Napa and Sonoma Counties. Once again the tide is turning and there is a silver lining for the growers. We feel that most all varietals will increase in price, even the Merlot market is starting to move in the right direction. Our crystal ball says that the end of 2009 looks to be a much better year than 2008, for most farmers. Even with the current economic crisis, we feel there will be price appreciation for most if not all varietals. Of course the depth and longevity of the downturn will remain a wildcard.
While it appears that the “sky is falling”, and the hinges are definitely a little “loose” in the overall economy, our little niche of vineyard and winery sales continues to move along albeit at a more reserved pace. Wine buyers will be more conservative in their spending, reigning in sales, but our crystal ball rightly points out that no one will stop drinking wine. Most consumers will move to lower price points and some may even buy less wine, but drink wine they will. For the consumer there’s likely to be great values and bargains, and the beat goes on. If we can collectively keep our heads and wits about us we will make it through this set back, as the great Bacchus might have once said “One bottle at a time”.
The French Are Coming!
Part of what makes this wild ride so interesting is the influx of money from abroad in the last year. We have numerous clients from Europe, mostly French Winery owners that are looking for a special opportunity. Some might call it an invasion but it is exciting to see that there is so much interest from across the pond along with what some might even call acceptance and even, dare we say, appreciation. C’est magnifique!
Did You Know?
Here’s an interesting side note…. after seeing the movie Bottle Shock which was loosely based on the tasting of Paris in 1976 (that really put Napa & Chateau Montelena Winery on the map by winning a blind tasting against numerous French wines) our curiosity was stirred. Where did the grapes come from that made the famous bottle of 1973 Chardonnay? After a bit of detective work (think Inspector Clouseau) we had heard everything from the source being Estate Grapes, to blends from Napa and Sonoma as well as several far out ideas of where they came from.
An interesting clue but somewhat misleading is that the bottle is labeled “Napa-Alex” with regards to where the grapes came from. Still, there was no clear answer and it appeared that we were going to have to dig a little deeper to solve this mystery. So, as any good detective might do, I put a call into the source, Bo Barrett at Chateau Montelena, to get the real story.
The real story is that the grapes that won the number one chardonnay in the world, tasted by all French judges in the 1976 Paris tasting came from two vineyards. Part from the Hanna Vineyards on Orchard Road, Napa, and the other part of the grapes came from Bacigalupi Vineyards in Alexander Valley. Chef d’ceuvre!
Sooooooooooooooo, one may say that Sonoma had a little to do with that Napa award as well……….. Just a little bit of trivia to ponder.
You might be asking yourself, what took the French so long to come and buy out their American competitors? If asked, the response would likely have something to do with the value of the Euro vs. the Dollar, or Napa and Sonoma are now beating them at every tasting event. Although somewhere in the message is the unquestionable quality of Napa and Sonoma wines.
Aside from the French, we are seeing buyers / investors from all over. There has been interest from Russia, China, Viet Nam, Canada and even Central America. Seems there is a world-wide thirst for our wine country.
Thanksgiving is just around the corner, between the intoxicating smell of fermentation in the air I can almost smell a freshly baked pecan pie, roasted turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes. We live in one of the most blessed areas of the world. So far, we haven’t been wiped out by tornados, hurricanes, floods or other natural disasters like many of our fellow countrymen during the past year. We are fortunate to wake up every morning and overlook our beautiful wine country and enjoy nearly perfect weather year round. We have the greatest wineries and restaurants in the world at our fingertips. Last but certainly not least this has to be one of the greatest places to raise a family and we are very grateful to be able to live in the Northern California Wine Country.
This time of year is a great time to reflect back on the years happenings, both good and bad. As long as we have our health, and are happy with our lives, success is sure to follow. We have met many new people in the last few years and learned about different cultures from around the world. We’ve made new friends, built new relationships and found exciting new opportunities. We also remember old, tried and true friends and business relationships that have allowed us to prosper in the wine country.