June 2017

2017 CROP REPORT

A general statement appraising the 2017 crop could be “we have a good crop on the red grapes, but no bumper crop, with the white grapes especially Chardonnay are showing a lighter crop”.  There are a couple of varieties that are an exception.  One of them is Montepulciano.  Bunch count is there but the shatter is so great within bunches that it will make for an exceptionally light crop.  

A couple of conditions that have to be assessed may affect production.   One of them is powdery mildew.  We have seen it in some local vineyards on certain varieties and there are some reports that downy mildew may have affected some Coastal Vineyards.  The second issue is the effect of a substantial hail storm that came through Northern California on Sunday June 11.  There are already some published reports of damage in Napa, some talk of damage in the Western District of Lodi and we know it hailed in the Sierra Foothills.

Winery activity is quiet.  Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc are in very strong demand. Even with the projected light crop on Chardonnay, wineries are still not willing to pay more for them.  Regular Zinfandels, Merlot and Syrah appear to be weak and there are growers who are looking for homes.  Last year there were some Zinfandels that were not harvested.  Most of those were vineyards, whose grapes had previously been raised for White Zinfandel production, were not grown properly for red wine.  Contracts for good Old Vine Zinfandels are being readily renewed.

With the wet winter and cool spring we are not anticipating an early harvest.  The weather pattern for the summer is anything but predictable.  As mentioned above, it was cold and wet the weekend of June 11th and this weekend we are experiencing a triple digit heat wave that will likely extend throughout the week.  What will happen the next weekend is anybody’s guess.  With a cool summer we will have a late harvest, with a warm summer our harvest will be “Normal”.  There also appears to be an historical difference in maturity between Districts.  This is good news in that it spreads out the harvest.

The labor situation in our area does not appear to be too disparate.  The cherry harvest progressed with a sufficient labor supply.  Prices for harvest did not go up per harvested unit but last year’s cherry crop was very light and this year’s crop was very good.   The daily income for the pickers rose sharply and we anticipate that trend to continue for the grape harvest.

GOOD FRIENDS AND EXCELLENT WINE MAKERS

I have two good friends and excellent winemakers who are looking for employment.  One is located in the mid-West and the other is located in California but he has worked on the East Coast.  If you are looking for extremely competent winemakers, I would not hesitate to recommend these individuals.  Contact me if you have some interest.

ROSÉ IS A HOT TICKET

With wine sales of rosé wine rising over 50% last year, there is a tremendous interest in rosé wines.   We have tasted rosé that has been made out of almost every variety.  Years ago there was a rosé that was made out of Pinot Noir—it was called Eye of the Swan.  Until this year it was the finest I ever tasted.  Last year a customer made a rosé from our grapes that topped anything.  It was an equal blend of Merlot, Old Vine Zinfandel and Malbec.  I personally love dry rosé wines, but for me in a lot of instances, especially imports, there is a little tartness at the end.  This blend had nothing of that. It was fruity forward, clean, crisp wine.  A great wine!!!!!!! We have access to some bulk rosé wine made from Syrah. Please contact us, if you have some interest.

LOCAL PINOT NOIR AVAILABLE

This year we will be able to offer locally grown Pinot Noir together with our great Coastal Pinot Noir.  The local grapes are being raised with extremely limited production per acre to insure great flavors and color.  They are considerably less expensive than the Coastal grapes.  Please contact us, if you have some interest.

BULK WINES AVAILABLE

We have access to several bulk wines, including Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Barbera, Malbec, Red Blends, Syrah rosé, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and white blends. Bulk wines are available in shiners, tanks, and/or barrels. Please contact us, if you have some interest.

April 2017

PRODUCTION IN BALANCE WITH DEMAND

The recently released 2016 California Grape Crush Report contained no great surprises. Tonnage production was up 8.5 % from the year before and totaled over 4.2 million tons.  The largest crush in California was the 2013 crush with 4.7 million tons. However, the actual crush of wine grapes in 2016 was within 250,000 tons of the record. This is a reflection of a dramatic reduction in Thompson Seedless acreage and large increases in Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir and Petit Sirah acreage.

The average price paid for grapes increased by about $80.00/ton. That average increase was mainly due to the increase of Northern Coastal Cabernet Sauvignon (see yearly comparisons below). It is not reflective of the industry as a whole where prices were close to the 2015 season. Without any curve balls by Mother Nature, this year’s prices will be close to the 2016 season with a few exceptions. Yields will be within balance with demand for most varieties except for Zinfandel (not Old Vine), Merlot and possibly Syrah. 

CABERNET SAUVIGNON PRICING REACHES NEW HEIGHTS

The below table shows how Cabernet Sauvignon grapes have increased in price in Northern Coastal areas:

cabernet table 2016

Lodi is seeing more interest from outside buyers looking for quality grapes at more affordable prices that can not be found in the coastal regions, like Sonoma and Napa. With the trend toward premiumization, wineries will be looking to control costs while still delivering a higher-end quality product. This is especially seen, not only for Cabernet Sauvignon, but also Petit Sirah, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio grapes.

DROUGHT EFFECTIVELY OVER

Many of you must have heard about the very wet winter we have had together with some of the very high profile flood conditions around the State. It rained so much and the snowpack is so heavy in the Sierras that the drought is declared over for most parts of the State. It’s expected that the flood problems that occurred will cause no measurable damage to vineyards and production. If anything, wet winters usually influence good production.

The wet and cold winter also broke the trend towards historically early harvests that occurred the last two seasons.  We should be approaching a “normal” season as far as timing.

NO POLITICS, JUST OBSERVATIONS

Immigration is a hot potato in today’s politics. Whether you believe in a wall or not, eventually we must have a comprehensive immigration policy. We need sufficient labor to harvest our grapes and other crops. Hopefully with a safe border, the political climate will be there to pass an amicable immigration program where guest workers can come and work our fields and vineyards.

COASTAL PINOT NOIR SOURCE

Wine made by a Sonoma Winery from our San Benito County source of Coastal Pinot Noir grapes has received a 91 point rating from Wine Enthusiast Magazine. It is a truly premium source of Pinot Noir.

EXPOSITIONS & CONFERENCES

It is always a nice occasion to possibly meet new contacts at the winery shows. More rewarding, is to see our current customers and friends, both commercial winemakers or owners and home winemakers, and spend a little time together. That is true joy. Thank you to everyone for the successful Eastern and Texas show.

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December 2016

Again this year has been a very successful season and probably one of the best ever. We are overjoyed with quality of the 2016 harvest season, the expansion of our business and current weather conditions.

We are hearing from all districts that quality together with good yields will be one of the best ever. Almost all the harvest was completed before the fall rains began. Like the 2015 season, the crop matured very early. There was very good demand from the wineries and there were hardly any problems during the season. We were on top of every variety and harvested all within their prime variables. For us, the most important variable is full flavor in the grape and, of course, sugar.

Over the last several years we have expanded our distribution to wineries right here in California. Some wineries are approaching us for hard to find varieties and small lots of common varieties. We do the selection and hand harvesting for these wineries. They pick up the fruit roadside or we deliver them in bins.

Home winemaking is in a stage of evolution. The core of the business is still the ethnic European immigrant but we are seeing a lot of interest from other groups or individuals throughout the country. We ship to a tremendous number of clubs, wine schools, and individuals without local distributors in almost 30 states. There are even some individuals that order grapes from us because their local distributor does not handle the best quality available.

Since harvest, we have had rain on an almost weekly basis. If this weather continues during the winter, drought conditions here in California will definitely ease.

New Lug – Corrugated Plastic

This year most of the grapes shipped for the home winemakers were packed in a new corrugated plastic container. From the success of that container with the packers in the field, the quick cooling, stacking ability, and minimal dehydrating and no deterioration of the fruit while in storage, we have found the container of the future. Within a couple of years we will see the disappearance of grapes packed in wood.

Long Term Contracts

Even though we have had some very long relationships with a lot of growers, one as long as 25 years, we felt it was necessary for both growers and ourselves to sign 3 year contracts. This was done with some of our Cabernet Sauvignon and true Old Vine Zinfandel growers. This assures us and our customers with yearly access to prime quality grapes and growers.

Moving On

Many of you have experienced this year that my daughter Alison Colavita is assuming a lot of the responsibility of communicating with you our customers. She has been working in the vineyards the previous couple of years. This year she assumed more of the actual business of selling and logistics. Within the very near future she will assume almost all of the communication but of course I will be very involved.

Upcoming Events

This year we will be exhibiting in the 2017 TWGGA Annual Conference & Trade Show starting on February 16 2017 in San Marcos, TX and the Eastern Winery Exhibition on March 23 & 24 in Syracuse, NY. We have made no decision as yet on other shows and conferences. Of course, we will be at the Prospero AWS booth at the Unified Grape Wine and Grapes Symposium in Sacramento on January 25.

 

July 2016

EARLY AGAIN

We are early again this year. Normality is no longer a viable concept for the last four years of harvest. Two and three years ago we were very late with the crop. Last year was the earliest in history and this year may follow suit. Again we do not know if this is the same scenario throughout the State, but I hope not.

GRAPES THAT MAKE MEDAL WINNING WINES

The heading is the slogan we use in some of our advertisements. Two excellent winemakers wrote me the last two weeks about the medals that they have won. One winemaker is located in upper New York State and the other is in Georgia. Winemakers such as these, reinforce our efforts to supply the best available grapes as possible at reasonable costs.

Georgia: Three medals were won at the Winemaker Magazine Conference and Competition in May in Santa Rosa:  gold for 2013-Petit Sirah/Zinfandel blend, sliver for 2103 Cab and a bronze for 2013 Zinfandel.

New York: Received over 100 medals in the last 3 yrs. at, Wine Maker Mag., Perdue U., NY ST. Fair, South Carolina, Fla Growers Association, California St. Fair, and San Diego entering OV ZIN, Bordeaux Blend, Tuscan Blends, Grenache, Grenache/Petite Sirah blend. 

THINGS CHANGE WITH MOTHER NATURE

When the crop started to develop, it looked like there would be a normal to better than normal crop around the State. This last week after looking at several vineyards, we have come to the conclusion that we have at best a fair crop in the Lodi Appellation. Bunches did not grow after a heatwave in early May and there is considerable shatter in several varieties. We are not sure that the same conditions exist in all areas but sensing the demand for a lot of varieties, we believe that it is the case.

THINGS CHANGE IN BUSINESS

The grape buying industry has changed a lot over the last few years. At one time there were a lot of small growers in the industry. Consolidation developed with a lot of larger growers buying out the smaller growers as they aged and their children did not want to farm.

Wineries did not want to deal with a lot of small acreage. They started to rely on large grape buyers and managers where the wineries can buy significant tonnage with several varieties with one contract. Also, as the cost of planting had risen, most growers signed contracts for the grapes before planting with wineries at minimum prices. In that way, growers could easily obtain the funds necessary from lending institutions to develop their vineyard. All these developments are reflected rather dramatically this year.   A lot of small wineries are not able to source many grapes on the open market and a bidding war has arisen.

We are fortunate to have a lot of small growers that we have dealt with over the years. We also have developed relationships with large grapes buyers and several very large growers. We also contracted some grapes earlier than normal. Even with that, we may find that some varieties may prove insufficient for our needs. We are trying to contact winery customers within the next couple of weeks to try and establish what their needs may be.

 

 

May 2016

A COMMITMENT TO THE FUTURE

Within the next couple of months, the Colavita Family will conclude the purchase from the Estates of deceased partners, the Estates’ interest in The Sunniland Cold Storage in Del Rey, CA.   It has become very obvious over the last few years that the operation of the Sunniland Cold Storage is essential to deliver grapes in sound condition to our customers.  To have direct control over the refrigeration, gassing, handling, shipping and timing of the grapes can insure, regardless of weather, the best handling procedures in the industry. This gives us a big advantage over all our competitors, including direct shipment from growers.  We can time the shipments to meet our customers’ needs with minimal freight charges and deliveries.

CURRENT CONDITIONS

At this stage, we see a potential for a large crop in the Lodi area but with some talk that Zinfandels may be a little light. We are hearing similar reports for the rest of the State.  Around here, there is no question that bunches are larger. We went through bloom with good weather so there should be a good berry set.  With the beautiful spring we have been experiencing, with its occasional rain, the vines are experiencing good growth and thriving.  Even though drought conditions still exist, it is not being experienced in the vineyards.

Timing of the crop is still a question point.  A larger crop will delay maturity. Spring temperatures have been mild with no extensive heat or cold.  Bud break was early and we seem to be a little early with the first cherry harvest. As last season was ending, prices actually rose for what was left uncontracted and the eventual average price paid for grapes was higher than first thought and far above minimum contracting on a lot of varieties. That trend is continuing this year with some very good winery activity. Chardonnay, Petite Sirah, Cab, Pinot Grigio and especially Sauvignon Blanc are hot.

SATISFACTION

Attending the Winery Shows in the winter gives us a lot of pleasure to visit and say hello to our customers.  It also gives us great satisfaction when we taste some of the wines they have made over the years from our grapes.  This goes for both our commercial and retail accounts.  This last year we have tasted wines that were of such superior quality that they could easily compare with wines that were produced from areas where their grapes costs were at least double the price.  We have already barrel tasted some of the 2015 wines and they are showing a great potential.