Mar 202012
 
Source: Disney-Clipart.com

Source: Disney-Clipart.com

Give us more grapes, more wine!  That seems to be the new M.O. for the wine industry this year. The “sky is falling” types even talk about grape shortages to the point where wine brokers and wine shops could replace the Black Friday Walmart stampedes in the news. That seems a little dramatic to us.

There certainly is increased demand for grapes and wine though.  Brokers are reporting in on it; The Wine Market Council says people are drinking more wine: over 291 million cases were consumed in 2011. Winery cellars are finally emptying of the stock built up over the last three tough years.  (And grape prices, by the way,  are subsequently going up to boot, says the 2011 California Grape Crush Report. )

Could a larger 2012 harvest help supplies at all?  To some extent, sure.  Just how is the 2012 growing season looking in its infancy?  TTB took a look around Napa Valley to see ….

John Williams at Frog’s Leap weighed in regarding their fruit in the Rutherford region:  “We have not yet had sauvignon blanc bud break (as of March 15th) although it looks like it’s just around the corner.  We are scurrying to get all the canes tied. Our observation is that we will be just about normal on timing. At one point given the dry fairly cold winter we thought we were going to be late but with recent warm rains the schedule appears to have advanced to normal. It should be pointed out that the decision to break bud is determined by the hormonal system of the grapevines roots which are less likely to be fooled by the variable temperature above the ground where we humans make our observations!”

In the Spring Mountain District appellation, up in the western hills of the Mayacamas mountain range in St. Helena, Francois Bugue of Cain Vineyard & Winery states that there is no sign of bud break. This is typical, though, for the sub-region, sitting at 2,000 feet above sea level.

Remi Cohen, the Viticulturist for Saintsbury Winery provided an in-depth look at the growing season in Carneros  (as of March 14th):   “With buds swelling all over Carneros, and some Chardonnay vines just beginning to grow, vineyard managers prepare themselves for another growing season. ….

Most of Saintsbury’s vineyards have not quite experienced budbreak yet, but will experience budbreak within the next week or so.  I have seen a little bit of Chardonnay that has started to grow in some of the earliest blocks.  This season is starting out a little bit early compared to ‘average,’ and significantly earlier than the two prior late years of 2011 and 2010…”

Time will certainly tell. We hope all the Chicken Littles of the industry will settle down until we can really tell how things will play out.

Mar 022012
 

Great news out of the state of California this week: that four more counties have been removed from the European Grapevine Moth quarantine.

That may not seem like a big deal to you, but this moth is a deadly pest, and does millions and millions of euros of damage in France, Italy and Spain.  And somehow, probably via some dirty farm equipment or smuggled budwood, it got introduced into the Napa Valley and other parts of California.   With no native natural predators, and a state full of luscious grapevines, the genie got out of the bottle.  We know about this, because we’ve been working with the Napa County Ag Commissioner  on a campaign to beat this thing.

And it’s no joke.  When the full infestations became known, there were hundreds of thousands of these things, and they’d been found in a whole bunch of counties in California.  If you ever hear or see someone who thinks it’s fun or cute to sneak agricultural material into California, you just might want to smack them soundly on the mouth, and then report them to the nearest authority.  That kind of stupidity went out of style a hundred years ago.  And yes, we’re talking about those idiots who bring in “suitcase” clones of budwood.  You know who you are.

But the program to eliminate the EGVM has been stunningly effective.   It’s a result of a combination of the quarantine to limit expansion, pheromones to confuse mating, spraying areas of heavy infestation, grape removal in extreme cases, and a massive trapping program to make sure that we’re getting it done.  And a whole lot of support from the local community, including growers, neighbors, gardeners, and nurserymen.

So far, so good.  And at least in this case, we just might be able to get the genie back inside the bottle.