With grape tonnage of key grape varieties down by as much as 30 percent, Central Coast winemakers are making adjustments. They’re bottling wine from previous vintages, purchasing bulk wine (although the market for bulk wine is tight), and in certain cases they anticipate raising prices. Central Coast growers, meanwhile, are focusing on vineyard redevelopment, and despite recent wet weather, winemakers and growers alike are concerned about water, or about the lack thereof.
Those are some of the key themes that emerged in the 2016 Central Coast Insights Survey.
Results of the survey are to be presented during the 22nd annual Central Coast Insights Event Thursday in Paso Robles.
Water availabilty was cited as the greatest concern for Central Coast winemakers.
Concerns about costs are second only to water, and that includes grape prices. Grape prices are going up but bottle prices – that’s harder to say.
Distributor consolidation is one of the themes to be discussed and it arguably has a disproportionate effect on the Central Coast’s small and medium sized producers. For a number of years the Central Coast Insights program has included some discussion of direct to consumer wine sales.
That said, if one looks at recent mergers and acquisitions activity on the Central Coast, one can see that the big have been getting bigger during the past five years.
The symposium focusses on the financial side of the business so the survey asks about lenders. The survey seems to indicate that there is capital available and that wineries and growers are relatively happy with their lenders.
During the Regional IPM Centers' multi-speaker webinar on red blotch disease, organized by regional IPM centers last Friday, UCD and USDA-ARS Researchers Dr. Brian Bahder, Dr. Mysore "Sudhi" Sudarshana and Dr. Frank Zalom reported their discovery of three-cornered alfalfa treehopper as a likely vector to transmit red blotch associated virus (GRBaV).
There are still many questions, as to for instance, whether other insects are involved in spreading Red Blotch and as to what growers should do to manage the vector in their vineyards?
Red Blotch and these new findings will be one of the topics discussed during tomorrow's Wine Business Innovation and Quality symposium in Napa Valley. IQ 2016 takes place at Charles Krug Winery in Napa Valley.
Dr. Alan Wei, owner and president of Agri-Analysis and leading expert on Red Blotch, will speak about the different strains of the virus, what that means for your vineyard's yield and quality, and the most practical way to deal with it. You can read some of his research in the August 2014 issue of Wine Business Monthly.
Halter Ranch Winery winemaker Kevin Sass will lead attendees through a comparative tasting, pouring wines made from infected and non-infected vines to demonstrate that Red Blotch does affect quality.
I finally had a chance to check out the new JCB tasting salon, retail destination and gourmet deli Jean-Charles Boisset opened across from Bistro Jeanty in Yountville. It really is a must-see destination for tourists, locals and the trade. This is going to be huge.
So many tasting rooms in Napa these days look like they came right out of a Pottery Barn or Restoration Hardware catalogue. The whole modern farmhouse thing is way overdone. Not here. This destination brings Fifth Avenue and the Champs-Elysees together. First and foremost it’s about the wine tasting but picture a little mini-Neiman Marcus paired with a deli stocked with heretofore impossible-to-find delicacies and sandwiches.
A retail boutique showcases candles, perfumes, and a curated collection of luxury goods such as Lalique crystal, Baccarat crystal, Christofle silver, and Bernardaud porcelain. A separate space, the “Surrealist Boutique,” features Jean-Charles’s personally-designed jewelry and Surrealist wines: Each bottle is adorned with jewelry.
One of the highlights is a first-of-its-kind interactive wine tasting experience at a digital touch table created exclusively for the tasting salon. It’s the first interactive wine tasting table in the wine industry, created by Ideum. The table guides the curious through a tasting enabling the guests to interact with each other. It is touch interactive with tech sheets tasting notes, and so forth. Once everyone is seated coasters are set along the corners of the table. Tasters are alerted to the wines they’ll be trying and are propelled to the town of Yountville and a recording of Jean-Charles talking. There are descriptor words on the back of each wine. Tasters are asked to answer the question, what’s your style? They have the opportunity to assign their own descriptor words to drag and drop for each wine. At the end of the tasting, a dashboard confirms their style and the words they assigned to it. Boisset says another table in development will handle eight people and will be all about food, wine, fashion and music.
Check out the painted ceilings and chandeliers.
Jean-Charles Boisset likes to use mirrors at his properties and there are many, even on the ceiling. “We love mirrors because they allow you to see things in multiple ways, see yourself in multiple ways, and – on top of that it makes the room bigger,” he says.
As for the food, Atelier by JCB, the gourmet deli adjacent to the tasting salon, includes products sourced locally in Napa and Sonoma alongside producers from France, Italy, Spain and more: salts, peppers and spices, mustards, honey, olive oil and vinegar from Boisset’s winery estates, smoked salmon, caviar, anchovies, truffles, foie gras, terrines, charcuterie, more than 120 cheeses, chocolate, specialty teas and coffees. A great place for a sandwich too.
Locals get a flat 10 percent discount.
“We want this place to really celebrate the senses,” Boisset says. We don’t want to just be a tasting room where you sit, and you’ve been hit by five wines and we want you to join the club and that’s it. We are of course interested in bringing more members into our collection of wines, but we want people to be inspired by the books, by the fabrics, by the arts.”
There’s a little bondage display in the Surrealist Boutique too, though you have to look for it. Boisset said it’s the only piece not for sale though he could have sold it numerous times already, a little item he picked up during a morning jog through Beverly Hills
Cookies from Paris.
“We aren’t interested in doing anything average,” Boisset said.
The "second phase" in Domaine Drouhin's Oregon legacy is about to launch: The first wines from the company's 2013 purchase of the Roserock vineyard will be released this week.
Winemaker Veronique Drouhin, who accepted the Founders Award (which honors people whose longtime work in and for the industry has positively affected the direction and accomplishments of Oregon wine) on behalf of her family last week at the Oregon Wine Symposium, was excited about the future of the brand.
The Drouhin family purchased the Roserock vineyard in 2013, inheriting 279 acres, 122 of which were planted to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, though Veronique had purchased fruit from the estate in prior vintages.
"We knew the Eola-Amity Hills AVA makes delicious wines and knew the vineyard was well-planted, had high quality and produced excellent wines," said Drouhin. "We were lucky we were chosen as the buyers."
Drouhin said that after a long discussion process, the team decided that the wines needed their own label separate from Domaine Drouhin's. Drawing on the name of the vineyard and the flavors of the wines themselves, the new label incorporates a rose for the 2014 Pinot Noir and a rock for the 2014 Chardonnay. A small amount of a reserve Pinot Noir, named Zephirine after the Zephirine Drouhin rose which grows on the property, will be available.
The California Agricultural Statistics Service released the preliminary 2015 crop report today, confirming that yields fell in 2015 after the record harvests of 2012, 2013 and 2014. CASS said the 2015 wine grape crush totaled 3.7 million tons, down 5 percent from 2014 – the lightest crop since 2011. The overall figure was right in line with industry estimates.
Here are ten takeaways from the preliminary report:
1) It was a tale of two markets: Prices rose in the Coastal areas, as expected, but average prices fell state-wide
CASS said the average price for all varieties was $667.31, down ten percent from 2014, even if prices were higher in Coastal areas, The decrease in overall price was driven by lower demand for grapes from the Central Valley, where 79 percent of California’s wine grapes were crushed in 2015.
“We thought (pricing) would be off 5 percent overall, but being off 10 percent from last year was disappointing,” Allied Grape Growers President Nat Dibuduo said.
2) The above $10 category is growing, yet that’s where yields were short
With Coastal Cabernet and Pinot Noir yields down, wineries could find themselves scrambling to keep up with price increases.
“The real story from the 2015 winegrape crush remains the shortness of the coastal crop and respective varieties grown heavily in those regions, such as Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon,” Allied Grape Growers said in a statement.
Because of poor weather during bloom, grape cluster weights were down in Sonoma County, adversely affecting Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in particular. Brian Clements from Turrentine Brokerage noted that Sonoma County Pinot Noir was down 36 percent off of the five year average, and that Sonoma Chardonnay down 27 percent.
“We had a light crop where we needed it most,” Steve Dorfman of the Ciatti Company said. “It’s like the old Randy VanWarmer song, Just when I Needed you Most. Where we needed the volume was on the Coast and we didn’t get it.”
3) Premium brands May see Challenges Meeting Supply Requirements
Premium brands that were built on larger harvests, 12, 13, 14, with coastal appellations were sometimes challenged to secure supply during the 2014 harvest. “We feel this harvest is a bellwether event to determine how and where these brands go forward from here,” Dorfman said.
4) The Lighter Crop is Helping Balance the Market
Industry observers expected to see a lighter crop in Coastal areas and a more “normal” sized crop in the interior and the report confirms that’s what happened.
“We knew the lighter crop had balanced people’s inventories out because of the way they came back to the market in the second half of the year,” Turrentine Brokerage president Steve Fredricks said. “The bulk wine market picked up for the varieties that were most in demand: Cabernet Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir in Coastal areas.”
5) Chardonnay Down by 6 Million Cases
On a negative or positive note, depending on one’s perspective, 2015 brought the lightest crop of Chardonnay since 2011, down 11.8 percent – equivalent to six million cases. “This is helping to erase the last few years of surplus, especially in the coastal regions, so it really brings Chardonnay back into balance,” Ciatti’s Dorfman noted.
6) Napa is its Own Thing
Napa is really its own thing, driven by Cabernet Sauvignon, where the district average price rose to a whopping $6,244 a ton – a $400 per ton, or 7.5 percent increase while overall Cab tonnage in Napa fell by 29.8 percent (Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon tonnage fell down 29.1 percent while prices rose 4.9 percent, averaging $2,642 per ton).
7) Sauvignon Blanc is Tight
Sauvignon Blanc is in demand, though the overall volume crushed fell by 20 percent. In Napa and Sonoma Sauvignon Blanc was down 28 and 30 percent respectively. Wineries in those regions have been sourcing additional grapes from Lake County and Mendocino, where demand also outstrips supply.
8) More Pinot Grigio Coming Online
The most recent Allied Grapegrowers nursery survey found that Pinot grigio was the white grape that was most planted last year.
Pinot Grigio yields increased by about two percent statewide with new acreage coming online. Additional plantings may be needed: imports continue to come from Australia, Italy and Chile.
9) Tonnage was flat in the northern interior part of the state.
“Northern Interior production was 2 percent down from last year, bolstered by new acres and a better Chardonnay crop than 2014,” Erica Moyer, with Turrentine Brokerage said.
10) The short harvest wasn’t drought related
When people talk about the crop being down in coastal areas such as Paso Robles, there may be concerns about drought. “Our feeling in looking at the harvest and the season leading up to it is that it was probably more set-related than drought-related,” Dorfman said.
Wine Business Monthly's February 2016 digital edition is now available.
Inside February 2016 you will find:
A Review of the Industry from the WBM 30
Cyril Penn talks with executives from the largest wineries in the U.S.
Click here to subscribe to WBM
This guy attempted the same thing from me, but I didn't bite. Also, just today, I received a very similar offer from email@example.com with the subject line:
MAIL ORDER TO TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
Looks like the same scam.
Wine Industry Symposium Group, creator of the Wine Industry Financial Symposium, the Vineyard Economics Symposium, the Central Coast Insights conference, and the recently launched Lodi Vineyard and Wine Economic Symposium, announced this week that it plans to transition its management to Wine Communications Group, publisher of Wine Business Monthly and winebusiness.com, and producer of industry conferences and tradeshows.
Wine Industry Symposium Group was founded in 1992 by a group from the wine community interested in improving communications with the financial community. David Freed and Kathy Archer continue to offer a forum for members of both communities to share their views on a range of wine and financial topics. The Financial Symposium celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2016.
Freed is chairman of Silverado Wine Growers and Silverado Premium Properties, privately held real estate investment funds with more than 10,000 acres of vineyard holdings in California, selling grapes to more than 100 wineries.
WBM: How did you start the Wine Industry Financial Symposium?
DF: We had attended a CPA wine industry conference and didn’t feel it really got to the depth of some – actually Jim Verhey and myself – we were driving back from Santa Rosa, and thought – we should do a conference that focusses more on the wine industry:
At that time, the savings and loan crisis was in full bloom and the regulators were running around to all the banks, checking the files and forms and whatnot – and a couple of wineries had their lines of credit yanked. Richard Arrowood was one – and the gentleman behind the winery at that time called Grand Cru in Kenwood. It was sort of a pattern with the larger banks at the time. They had personal relationships with wineries and maybe the documentation wasn’t all that it should have been, and, all of a sudden, lines came up for renewal, and they said, ‘No.’” You’re an operating winery and you just assume that if you pay your payments, everything’s fine: well, it got pretty nasty with the banks saying, you didn’t comply with the banking regulations and the wineries saying, “Hello, I’m in the wine business – I leave that stuff to you.”
That was the impetus. It was a reaction to a breakdown in communication between the banks, and our industry – mostly the wineries.
The goal was to create an environment where the bankers could express their needs and their views while the folks in the wine industry could express their needs. At that time, in the early 1990s, they didn’t have computers, they didn’t have spreadsheets, and they didn’t have payables and receivables. It was pretty primitive and a lot of players came in through the wine side or came in through the grape side. It wasn’t like there were a bunch of CFOs – a lot of it was family operations.
Our industry at that time had a LOT to learn financially and in terms of how to run our businesses, and we had enough credibility that we were able year one to get Bank of America – to get Wells Fargo – and to get Farm Credit. The financial symposium was sponsored by the major banks and the major financial institutions. For the most part those early sponsors have continued to this day.
That was the philosophy and is the focus - something Kathy and I hope can be maintained – an opportunity for the bankers to come and catch up and find out what’s going on in the wine industry; and for wine industry people to talk to bankers and have an array of bankers to talk to, to get their feedback and council on how to run their businesses better.
For the most part we’ve really accomplished that. By having a financial forum, a lot of deals have gotten done, a lot of bankers have met clients, and a lot of wineries have met bankers, and a certain amount of M&A has evolved – where people once a year come together and have a chance to meet and to talk. We have people that come year-after-year-after-year – and some have been coming for 25 years.
WBM: What are bankers thinking right now?
DF: There’s competition for our business. Rates, even though there’s been one bump from the feds, are relatively low. It’s been 3 or 4 very good years with good harvest and good demand in our part of the market, so things are very, very, good right now. A lot of people have lines of credit and cash, and they’re not anywhere near fully borrowed. A lot of grape growers and property owners have been acquiring new properties – with wineries tying up new properties to assure their supply and assure they can control their grape costs. It’s a pretty good time for the industry.
WBM: Has credit loosened up? If you need it it’s harder than if you don’t need it.
DF: That’s the golden rule in any industry. One measure: you don’t read a lot about Chaper 11’s or foreclosed properties – except for the aberrations. Vineyard prices are at all-time highs and the larger wineries – starting with Gallo have been on an acquisition tear. I don’t know what this blip in the stock market is going to do but we’ve had some pretty good times.
WBM. Can you tell us about the new Lodi event?
DF: Some good people there have been supporters over the years and are looking for more communication among themselves. It’s a chance for the region to get together with financial and other service providers.
WBM: And you’re staying involved with the Financial Symposium?
Kathy and I are committed to be involved for the next three years and hope to provide commentary and guidance. We feel very good about it. We had a meeting in Napa with 20 members of our advisory board and presented them with a memorandum about what we were attempting to do (with Wine Communications Group), put it to a vote, and got a unanimous yes. That was important to us.
WBM: It’s hard to imagine the show without you
(Laughter). That’s kind. What I’m most proud of is that this has all been with volunteers. We’ve had some great speakers and some great panels, and the advisory board of 20 people that comes to these meetings. It doesn’t happen too often that you can have that continuity.
WBM: Where are you focusing your energy?
We are putting energy into a scholarship fund based in Napa to help young people access a four-year university education, with some preference – it’s not required -- to people whose parents work in the wine industry. We call it Fruit of the Vine, and it’s administered by the Napa Valley Community Foundation.
My wife and I went to Berkeley in the 1960s. Tuition was like $47. I went on to law school at Berkeley for another three years: tuition was $75. That’s how we think it should be - college education for people who are deserving. You give back to your community. We've stayed local and think we’ve given back.
The Fruit of the Vine Scholarship Fund benefits graduating Napa County high school seniors who plan to attend a four-year college/university and will find the cost of higher education a financial hardship. Previous recipients who are currently attending college are eligible to apply again in subsequent years. The application deadline is March 1. Click here for more information, including guidelines.
Jon Fredrikson addresses the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium Wednesday. Fredrickson reported that table wine shipments rose 2 percent during 2015. He also warned the craft beers are cutting into wine consumption. Fredrickson named Michael-David Winery the Winery of the Year.
Every year, when Wine Business Monthly creates our annual list of Top 10 Hot Brands, we look for vintners, growers, wineries and wines that are making a statement in our industry. Quality is always an important consideration, but Hot Brands is more than a list of the “best” or most interesting wines we’ve tasted during the year. Some of the common threads with this year’s list: people who had an idea, went for it and made it happen; industry veterans with vast experience doing something extra special on the side; and though this isn’t usually a drum we typically beat, some of the winemakers on this year’s list are proponents of what one might call “non-interventionist winemaking.”
Ultimately, this list is comprised of wines that we here at Wine Business Monthly would serve to winemakers. Indeed, that’s exactly what we do, as each of these wineries was on-hand to serve their wines to winemakers, grape growers and industry members at our annual Bottle Bash party at the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium in January.
We are releasing the Top 10 Hot Brands in alphabetical order, one per day, leading up to the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium (the first Hot Brand was released January 13). Wine Business Monthly will be serving these wines to winemakers, grape growers and industry members at our annual gathering Bottle Bash during Unified on Tuesday, Jan. 26 at cafeteria 15L.
White Girl Rosé 2014
Making Sure the Hamptons Never Run out of Rosé
Whether it’s a fad or an outright trend still isn’t clear, but Rosé is definitely seeing increased popularity. Big time. Sales are up. Big wineries have been starting new Rosé programs and looking to bring in Rosé from France. We continue to see coverage of Rosé in the popular press and are now regularly reminded that Rosé isn’t just for women—men drink Rosé, too. In fact, in the summer of 2015, it was reported that restaurants and wine shops on Long Island were dangerously low on local favorite Wölffer Estate and were short on the imports too. As the New York Post put it at the time,
“The summering hordes have been tirelessly swilling all season long.” Josh Ostrovsky (known as “The Fat Jew” to his 7 million followers on Instagram), David Oliver Cohen and Tanner Cohen got together and declared that never again would the Hamptons run out of Rosé. Really. They’ve embraced the Brosé movement.
The full story on White Girl Rosé ~ and all our Hot Brands ~ will be available in our February 2016 issue of Wine Business Monthly. You can come by our booth (#1620) at Unified and pick up a copy or click here to subscribe to WBM.