July 2019

Another Great Grower

Brad Goehring has been elected by the California Winegrape Grower’s Association the 2019 Leader of the Year. Brad is a fourth generation grape grower. Last year we purchased some Petit Sirah and Old Vine Zinfandels from some of the Goehring Vineyards Inc. They were excellent grapes and we hope to continue this relation for years to come and with additional varieties. 

Timing Assesment 

 Throughout the month of July, we disciplined ourselves not to go out and look at the potential crop. We were convinced that the crop was much later than previous years and we could not come up with an accurate assessment as to maturity. Earlier this week we broke that discipline. Full blown anxiety took over. 

There is no question here in Northern California that we are at least two weeks behind “normal maturity”. Veraison in the early variety of Zinfandel is only about 15% to 50%. This puts us out at least 4 to 6 weeks.  Tempranillo color change is much higher. Many years ago a lot of Tempranillo was shipped in the beginning of the season by its old name of Valdepina when the Zinfandels were very late. We do not see any harvest before September 1st.

What confirms our assessment is, naturally, visual inspection and talking with growers, but the fact is that wineries and harvesters are delaying the hiring of sugar tester inspectors by at least two weeks.

Winery Activity

At this particular time there is NO winery activity. Part of the lack of activity can be a relation to the late timing of the harvest but most blogs are blaming the delay of government ruling on the E & J Gallo Winery’s purchase of a lot of the facilities and labels from Constellation Brands, Inc. No one knows if the deal will be approved, who is going to buy and/or crush the grapes. This needs to be resolved in the next few weeks for us to have a coherent season. We made reference to this issue in our April Newsletter.

Regardless of the result of the above issue we do expect a drop in price for some varieties especially Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandels. We may see a slight drop in other varieties including some Italian varieties.

Grape Crop Size

There is generally a good grape crop. There are some varieties and or locations that are showing a little lighter set but there is no generalization to expound at all. Almost all varieties are available, so please contact us with your needs for this upcoming season.

June 2019

Current Crop News

There is the potential for a very large grape crop this season. There is a good count of large bunches in most varieties. There does not appear to be any shattering. With the cold and wet spring, we anticipate this season we will be 2-3 weeks later than last year depending on the weather this summer. Prices probably will drop dramatically later in the season for some Cabernet Sauvignon in Coastal areas. Locally we are anticipating a slight drop in the price of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Great Merlot

Starting 5 years ago, we purchased and starting shipping Merlot from a ranch on the East Side of Lodi. It was love at first sight. It took quite a while for the grower to convince us to come out and look at the grapes. Upon inspecting the grapes and the vineyard, we instantly decided to buy the grapes. Over the years, they have not disappointed. Last season, the Merlot at this ranch was harvested at an ideal 25 Brix, 3.5 pH. Finally this year we are hearing about the correctness of our decision. Many wineries have complimented us on the quality of these grapes and the wine these grapes have made. One of our home winemakers, Joe DiPonzio Jr., won a Double Gold Medal at the Finger Lakes International Pro competition with his 2017 vintage. I was given a bottle and it was truly one of the best wines I have ever had. 

Last year we found another Merlot vineyard with almost the same quality located close to the original ranch. This second ranch for years was sold to Napa wineries. With our Merlot sales so strong we harvested close to a total of 200 tons of Merlot last year. We highly recommend you add some of these Merlot grapes to your 2019 crush.

Updating our Cold Storage Facility

Over the last couple of years, we have been updating our cold storage facility in Del Rey, CA.  The large facility was built in 1973 and over the years there were several expansions. It was specifically designed for grape storage and it has gained a reputation of being one of the best storage for grapes in the industry. We consider the facility an important factor in the success of our business. We are in the process of reassuring that all Federal, State, County and FSMA food safety rules and regulations are aligned with our Ag Food Safety Program.

Another Daughter Joining the Team

Many of you have become accustomed to communicating with my daughter Ally over the last few years. She has assumed a lot of the responsibilities of running the company. Now, my other daughter, Anna Colavita Solari, will be assuming other responsibilities. Hopefully next year, I will have them attend local winery shows around the country so everyone gets an opportunity to meet them.

April 2019

We hope everyone had a great Easter Holiday or Passover Celebration.

The timing of the arrival of these holidays in California has finally solidified the fact that winter is over and spring is here. Hopefully, the rains are over. We had the second best year for rainfall all over California. Officially, the drought is over. We do not need any more rain this year or mildew problems may develop. It also has been one of the coolest March’s and early-April in a long time. This contrasts with the warm springs of the last few years. We are anticipating that, in general, agriculture in California is two weeks later than last year.

California Final 2018 Grape Crush Report

The California Final 2018 Grape Crush Report was released a few days ago. The crush was the second highest ever reported. There were slightly over 2,500,000 tons of grapes crushed. The report showed good prices with the increased volume, however, there is a general consensus that prices for some varieties will fall in 2019. Wine sales have increased but at a much smaller percentage compared to the growth of production. Of course, the size of the 2019 crop will have a great influence on the extent of that fall. It will be about three to four weeks before any credible assessment of crop can be made. 

Gallo

Another unknown factor in the potential market for wine grapes this coming year will be the effect of Gallo’s purchase of a lot of Constellation’s brands and facilities. In the long run, this should help the wine industry and growers. Gallo’s marketing is phenomenal. Gallo has doubled in size between 1994 and 2005 and then doubled again between 2005 and 2016. It will be interesting what Gallo now does with these brands and facilities.

Finished Wine

We are happy to see a lot of our winery customers are looking for some finished wine. We have samples of wine going all over the country from various sources. The rise in our wine sales reflects, in a lot of instances, that wineries are selling out of the wine made with our grapes and want to make sure they have enough wine on hand to fulfill there needs. Please contact us, if you have some need for finished wines.

Coastal Pinot Noir

We noticed in the March 2019 WINE ENTHUSIAST issue that a 2016 Pinot Noir wine made by Williams Selyem winery received a 95 point rating (link to review here). What makes that great news for us is the source vineyard is the same vineyard where we source our Coastal Pinot Noir grapes. The vineyard is located in District 7, San Benito County.

Old Vine Carignane

Enclosed is a picture of our Mixed Black and Carignane vines. Starting this year we are going to classified these grapes as OLD VINE. They are from a vineyard that was planted in 1954 &1955.  We have been dealing with this grower and buying these grapes for over 20 years. They are some of the best Carignanes grown in the State. In all the years we have been harvesting these Carignane grapes, there has never was there ever a hint of mildew (which is common in the variety).

December 2018

We hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and we want wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Season!

RELIEF FROM THE FIRES

The fires in California have been devastating. With the loss of life and property so wide spread, it is a true disaster. In California the fires earlier in the year were in sections of California that didn’t affect a large segment of the population and there was a certain amount of complacency. But, the most recent fires in Malibu and especially Paradise have embedded a large part of the population with haze and smoke. For over a week, the entire San Francisco Bay area and the Northern Central Valley dealt with the smoke pollution. 

Thankfully, these fires did not occur during the growing or harvest season and will hardly affect agriculture. The rains are now upon us. It has cleared the air and relieved the potential of more fires in the near future. Hopefully, the rains will continue through the winter and prevent drought conditions.

WINE SALES INCREASING

From a Forbes article by Thomas Pellechia, the wine business market research and consulting firm BW166, LLC  recently reported that in the twelve month period ending in October 2018, total wine sales in the U.S. rose nearly 5%, of which almost $48 billion accounted for domestic wine sales, an increase of 4%.  What is even more important for wineries throughout the country is that DtC (Direct to Customer) shows significant growth. In that growth, second place are red blends that sell between $30-$59.99/bottle. Most of the upward wine buying trend had been in the under $20/bottle for quite some time, but this latest report indicates that steady economic growth over the past few years may be behind the development of wine buyers with more disposable income willing to spend up. In fact, red wines priced $30/bottle and up account for 80% of DtC blended red wine shipments. 

MARKETING IS CHANGING

For more than twenty years, we have been attending Winery Conferences all over the country. As yet, we have not made any plans for the 2019 year, other than attending for a day to the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium here in California. Over the last few years, new business at these conferences has diminished. It is always a great pleasure to see our customers at these shows, but it is just too early in the year to discuss their upcoming needs. Also, we find that most of our new business comes from word of mouth, the internet through our website, and winemakers who move to new positions and their wineries are growing or they move to a new winery. 

Last year we visited a lot of customers in a trip to the Mid-West. It was a wonderful and joyful trip that let us visit a customer’s place of business and discuss their individual needs. We like this scenario very much. Maybe a trip to another part of the Country could be panned this year. Please let us now your opinions.

ANOTHER SUCCESSFUL YEAR

2018 proved to be the biggest shipment year to wineries all over the Country. This increase is to tonnage, number of wineries, and dollar volume. Even though shipments for home winemakers decreased, our total volume increased in all categories. 

Most grapes ripened later than normal during the 2018 season. We had cool weather in late August and most of September. Sugar levels actually went down for a few weeks or remained the same. This delayed sugar development but had a wonderful consequence-- the grapes developed beautiful flavors and colors. 

We kept pushing harvesting as maturity developed and were lucky to have picked most grapes before the rain in early October. There were some days that harvest lasted into early evening but it proved to be an excellent strategy. This allowed us to store “delicate” grapes without any difficulty and create efficient shipments with the later Cabernets. Cabernets were almost the only grapes we had to pick after the rain. We waited a week after the rain to harvest them and they proved to be outstanding. 

CONTINUITY A GREAT ADVANTAGE

As many of you have experienced this year, Ally is becoming the primary coordinator and communications person for the company. I could not be more pleased with this development. I could sense it in the attitude of the customers who now realize that the business has great future. We can grow together.  Thanks, Mike and Ally

August 2018

This week we are going to start harvesting grapes for the 2018 season. It will be a slow start with some Orange Muscats, Verdelho, and Chardonnay. The following week we will continue with some local (Lodi area) Pinot Noir and a few other black grapes. Old Vine Zinfandels harvest will probably commence on or about August 29-30. Sugars are moving about 2 points per week. The whole scenario (harvest) is at least a week later than last year.

One terrific quality that is starting to show up in this year's crop is the development of some potential excellent color in the grapes. The days are warm to hot, but the evenings are cool in Northern California. With the development of 2 brix points per week in the grapes, we have an ideal situation.

Chardonnay 

Last year we changed the source of our Chardonnay. We started picking a vineyard where the Chardonnay is thinned to a limited amount of bunches per vine. The vine was still grown with a good canopy. We ended up with sweet solid bunches with distinctive flavor and condition. We had such great success with the grapes that most wineries who bought the grapes last year doubled their order this year. Upon investigation this year, we found out they were Robert Young Clone and Doctor Olmo's Clone 4.

The Known Unknown

As we mentioned in the last Newsletter, the known unknown this year was freight costs. Freight rates are always based on spot market conditions. If a lot of product needing refrigeration is going east from California, rates are higher. This can be usually weekly situation but it also can be daily fluctuation. At this time rates are about 25% higher than last year. One thing for sure, it is going to take at least another day to delivery of the fruit.

California Fires

There was a time during the last few weeks that it sounded and looked like the entire State was on fire.  Around most of our grape growing areas that was not the case. One must remember these fires are in mountainous forest areas where population is minimal. They did create haze on some days that gave one an ominous feeling but there was no smoke or ash in the vicinity of the grapes that we pick.

Orders

For the very first time we are on the way to receive orders from over 30 wineries from all over the country. With all the competition that there is in the industry from finished wine, juices and competitors here in California and from the Northwest, we consider our buyer base one of the strongest in the industry. Thank You!!!

July 2018

Hallelujah! Hallelujah!! We finally have our website back up again! It is redesigned and very mobile phone friendly. 

If you are in business, please make routine backups of your website and keep it safe. Hackers can easily corrupt code and destroy your website.

Crop Assessment

It is predicated that we will have a large crop probably approaching 4.25 million tons. If so, it will be a record. This estimate is projected by Allied Grape Growers. However, bunch count and observations in the vineyards show an average crop. The record crop will be due to recently planted vineyards coming in to production especially for Cabernet Sauvignon. The demand by the public for Cabernet Sauvignon wine would appear to be insatiable—there are some cracks starting to show in that appearance. Record prices for Napa and Sonoma Cabs appear to be softening a little but still at outlandish prices.

After visiting most of our vineyards, there is a general opinion that harvest will be later than last year, probably at least one week. This is good because last year we were very early with some varieties. We are currently having a heat wave, but it is cool in the evenings. Technically, it is ideal conditions for good grape quality. Veraison (color change) at this stage is very spotty and varies between vineyards. 

Sangiovese - Tracy Foothills 07-18-18

Sangiovese - Tracy Foothills 07-18-18

Currently, winery activity for those grapes that have no contract for the upcoming season is almost nonexistent. It probably represents less than 10% of the crop. This of course will change as the harvest approaches. Wineries are currently scrambling to empty tanks to make room for the new crop. 

Transportation Issues

Labor has been one of the biggest variables that affect pricing. It will also be a factor this year but transportation (freight) might be a bigger factor. Last year, shipping costs varied quite a bit during the season. An unofficial freight “no strike” period occurred during the middle of last season. Truckers were unofficially striking in response to the impending Electronic Logging Device (ELD) Federal requirements. This unofficial strike was a serious slowdown and drove freight rates higher than ever, as well as, increased shipping time. This spring refrigerated rates for 2018 were at times 50% higher than 2017. Those rates are now abating and hopefully will return to more acceptable levels. One thing for sure, with the ELDs now being used, deliveries will take longer.

Midwest Visit

My wife and I enjoyed our most recent trip to Illinois, Iowa and Michigan. It is such a pleasure to visit customers and getting a certain amount of pride in the wines they are making from our grapes. I have tasted some excellent wines and am convinced that Eastern winemakers are making better “California” wines than their counterparts in California. We thank everyone for their hospitality that we visited. Hopefully, we would like to do this in the future for different parts of the country. 

Orders

We are in the process of starting to contact wineries to see what their needs may be for the upcoming season.  We thank you, who have already placed their orders.  It makes our job a lot easier to get your orders in as soon as possible, but we know a lot of you have to assess your own crop before making a decision.

June 2018

Currently the California grape crop looks average, with Chardonnay, however, showing a potential for a light crop. One thing for sure, it is not a bumper crop. Where it is appropriate, we are making sure our growers are shoot thinning. We are not seeing any mildew problem that was rampant at this time last year. This season has the potential for a good quality year. 

 

Shoot thinning of Cabernet Sauvignon in Lodi, CA on June 5, 2018

Shoot thinning of Cabernet Sauvignon in Lodi, CA on June 5, 2018

Rosé

From the Wine Industry Network "ADVISOR", domestic Rosé is gaining market share from the French. For the third year in a row, all Rosé sales are increasing by 50%. According to Nielsen retail outlet data, the Rosé category grew 64% over the last twelve months. We consider Rosé a great potential source for growth for all wineries across the country. We have a wonderful source of "Old Vine Grenache" and other varieties for a basis of your Rosé.

San Diego, CA and Davenport, Iowa

Last weekend we were in San Diego for the annual Wine Maker's Conference. We had a nice time and we always enjoy the Winemaker Tasting & Wine Sharing Party. At this year's event, there were new wineries from the Ramona Valley (east of San Diego) pouring wine. We tasted a lot of great wines from this new area, especially Grenache. Another one was a Falanghina wine made from Falanghina grapes (a white grape from the Campania area of Italy). It has great potential in this particular valley.

On June 19th, we will be in Davenport, Iowa for The GrapevineMidwest Viniculture Expo. We will be in booth 521. We are looking forward to the Captain's Riverboat Cruise on the 20thand other events during the Expo. We hope to see a lot of our customers from the Midwest at this convention. Later in the week, we will be heading to Chicago for a little sightseeing and meeting other customers in the area. The Detroit area will be our last stay where we plan to spend a little time with family and again customers.

New Variety

Last year we successfully shipped Tannat grapes for the first time. This year we may have the ability to get some Teroldego grapes. This variety originates from the Italian red grape grown primarily in the northeastern region of Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, Italy. The grapes produce deeply pigmented red wines with an intensely fruity character and relatively low tannins for early drinking. 

Weather

In our last Newsletter, we expressed a concern with a potential return of drought conditions and a very early maturing crop. Following that Newsletter, we have had several good rain storms. We escaped drought conditions but we did not get sufficient snow cover in the Sierras and total rain was below average.

After the couple weeks of heat in February, we have had nothing but cool weather. This is delaying the maturity of all crops and the general opinion is we are two weeks later than "normal" with the grape crop.

Market Condition

General activity for those grapes without contractsis slow. There was some early activity for all varieties but that disappeared. The varieties where there is still good demand are Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Petit Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon. As the crop develops, we will hopefully see more activity. I am hearing that Zinfandel sales are starting to improve and we may see some strength in that variety.