Rick Aldine — North Coast Grape Manager
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a happier New Year to all. My sincerest thoughts to all who are
affected by the October and December firestorms.
2017 definitely goes down in my history book as the most difficult growing season in history, starting wet
and ending on fire. Our challenges: record rains late into the Spring growing season; wet soils preventing
equipment and labor access; vigorous canopies; heavy mildew pressure; two sunburn events in June & July
and record heat on Labor Day; then season-ending wildfire on October 9. Hang time weather was so perfect
through most of October, it’s tragic that the best winegrapes in the State went unharvested.
Pre-fire yields were short, trending 15-20% below normal. I think the State’s crop report will come in less
than 4 million tons, I’m guessing 3.8MM tons. The 2017 bulk market fired up early, brought on by the
anticipated shortage of premium quality bulk reds. We’re getting lots of requests for 2017 Napa & Sonoma
Cabernet already and wines are barely finished with ML. We expect there to be a “pre-fire” and “post-fire”
market with bottom-feeders trying to leverage post-fire wines as inferior. That is truly an unfair play on the
2017 vintage. We have certainly seen some very smoke-tainted reds, mostly from the sub-AvA’s significantly
burned. Nearly all of the wines from areas that experienced incidental smoke are excellent so far and the lab
numbers from ETS & Enartis demonstrate a low taint risk post-bottling. I believe most of the truly smoketainted
NorCoast wines won’t see the US market and will get bulked off to China.
2018 Grape buying activity has already begun with savvy Buyers chasing the usual suspects… Russian River
Chard, NorCoast Sauv Blanc, sub-AvA Cab Sauv, Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. We’re guessing that Napa’s
District 4 Average for Cab Sauv will touch $7500/ton. Is this ballistic trend in price sustainable? Will a 2018
bumper crop soften prices? I continue to beat the drum for Napa Merlot as the best value red varietal,
reminding everyone that Merlot prices are half that of Cabernet!
Please give a look to our Grapes Available list when it comes out in January 2018. We have excellent grape
purchase opportunities available! If you’re selling or buying grapes or bulk wine, please call me on my cell at
(707) 287-6073 or email me at email@example.com OR visit our Napa office to taste through our premium
bulk wine offerings. Our Napa office is located across from The Meritage Resort at 2785 Napa Valley
Corporate Drive, Napa.
Dan Garcia — Northern Interior Grape Manager
Happy Holiday’s Everyone!!! I plan on keeping this real short because I’m pretty sure everyone is still trying
to recover from one of the most difficult and unusual growing seasons we have ever experienced in the
Northern Interior. I know I am. It was a doozy. Our total crop estimates came up short just like all other
areas in the state which I am sure you are already aware of. I am going to leave it at that. I will start bugging
you again after the Holidays. I just want to say what I think is most important this time of year. That we want
to be thankful for what we have, and to enjoy what is most important to all of us, our family and friends.
Thank You for your continued business, and I want to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy
and Prosperous New Year.
Michael Haddox — Central Coast Grape Manager
As the dust settles and the feedback starts to come in, it looks to be another great year on the Central Coast
overall even with the crazy challenges we faced. I am truly amazed at the resilient wine community in
California and am humbled by the overwhelming support that my fellow colleagues showed during times of
need. This will truly be a year to remember for more reasons than I can count.
On the Central Coast, one of the biggest challenges we faced was the large amount of uncontracted fruit still
available in mid-October, thankfully we were able to find a home for a good amount of it. Keep in mind our
vast network of over 7000 subscribers to our e-Blast, and the more than 300 wineries that we help source
grapes and bulk for as you begin planning for the 2018 season. I think that most growers would agree that
yields for the most part were average to maybe slightly above for reds and down a little for whites. If I had
to guess, I would say that the CC was a little above average overall due to the large number of requests we
received looking for help to move the excess fruit in mid-October.
I’ve had a chance to taste through the lots we made in 2017 and I couldn’t be happier with the quality, and
to be honest, I like the 2017 vintage better than the 2016. I see more uniformity in quality across the CC
then I did last year. Varietal typicity is great along with fantastic color, structure and weight. For those that
are looking or thinking about supplementing with AG bulk should get samples quickly as there are some
amazing wines available in our lineup this year. Also, if you have requests for certain varietals or AVA’s that
you need help finding, it’s never too early to reach out and see what we have. Our team can provide you an
amazing angle with the search for high quality fruit at any price point. We scour the land on a daily basis and
are constantly adding new vineyards to our list. If you want it, I can find it!!
Happy Holidays and cheers to a new and prosperous year!!!
Tim Mendonca — Central & Southern Interior Grower Relations
If you are reading this, then you have survived harvest. Congratulations!!! This harvest is going to be one
that everyone is going to talk about for a long time. Between the record breaking rains we had to start the
season to the fires that swept across the state, it was a tough growing season for everyone.
As vines were starting to wake up there were some vineyards that were still too wet to get into and spray
for mildew. This became a season long problem trying to battle and stay on top of new growth. This
presented a problem later on in the season when berries were scared and started to crack. Once the berries
were cracking we now have rot developing in the fields. With the increase of buying activity on Chardonnay
this year it was hard to find a decent vineyard that didn’t have any rot or mildew since Chardonnay is very
susceptible to powdery mildew. There were some deals out there that we heard of that the client didn’t
care what the field looked like they just wanted the fruit. After most of the Chardonnay was bought up there
was a slight uptake in French Colombard to supplement the short-comings of Chardonnay.
Once we got through most of the whites then the reds started to come off. Again this year we had reds
coming off when whites were still being harvested. We did see a little bit of an uptake in Rosé varietals in
early to mid-August but by the end of August that had died off. For the Cabernet Sauvignon crop, it was light
this year, which we had anticipated, but for how light it was we underestimated it. With that being said
there was an uptake in buying once the bigger wineries figured out about the light crop. This helped speed
up the end of harvest which was greatly appreciated.
If you are in search for some premium bulk wine for your program, please give Jennifer a call at the Napa
office at (707) 252-4800. Lastly, don’t forget to stop by our booth #1328 at the annual Unified Wine and
Grape Symposium in Sacramento January 24th and 25th. We will be releasing our 2018 grapes available list at
the Unified Wine and Grape Symposium. Stop by and pick up the list or if you have some grapes available let
us know so we can add them to the list.
Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Patrick Tachella – Director of Viticulture
This is one year we will never forget. The 2017 vintage was certainly one for the memory books. With
harvest well behind us now I enjoy taking some time to reflect on how it all went down. The good the bad
and the ugly are all things we can learn from.
From early spring we knew the winter rains could be a blessing in disguise. In most of the state the
excessively wet spring squashed the multi-year drought. For the first time in memory the growers reliant on
surface irrigation water deliveries actually received 100% allocations. Many water districts scrambled to
send water anywhere and everywhere they could because the reservoirs were full and the levees were
being pushed to their brinks. Some gave the water away for free.
Wet years like this mean a few things: mildew, hedging, rot and yield swings. Growers got all that and more
this year. The late rain kept people from being able to spray for mildew. The wet grounds provide more than
enough vigor for most. Hedging, leaf pulling and shoot thinning to manage the strong canopies was needed
in many places where it isn’t generally a standard practice. Yields swung both up and down (depending on
variety and region of course). Clarksburg and Lodi Chardonnay was light. Significant mildew added to the
problem and we saw a flurry of buying activity across the state to shore up wineries sourcing to replace
rejected fields and dropped crop. While Chardonnay had its time in the spotlight, the bigger focus came
later in the season.
Oct 8th – an evening that will be remembered by generations of North Coast Families to come. The
Napa/Sonoma fire complex took us all by surprise. The speed and ferociousness of the destruction was
simply unimaginable. We are thankful to say all our staff made it through without injury or losing their
homes. We were lucky. Our hearts go out to those who were not so fortunate. Many of our growers were
seriously affected. Much of our most premium Cabernet Sauvignon was still on the vine when the fires
started. Some was salvaged, some written off with crop insurance. Nearly all the fruit that hadn’t been
picked across Napa and Sonoma Counties was testing positive for smoke taint precursors… Soon we will
have a good idea just how much smoke taint is too much. One thing is certain, as an industry, we have
learned from this disaster and we will learn much more as the wines develop. We should all hope our
government learns from this disaster and improves forest management with increased grazing and selective
Towards the end of the fires, many people were proclaiming “worst vintage ever”. Though it was a phenomenally tough growing year there are gems out there. We just tasted through the Premium Bulk Wines we made this year and it sure made me proud. The Agajanian Vineyards
team did its thing – we found the right grapes for the right program and the wines are tasting simply awesome because of it. Please think of Agajanian when it comes time to secure fruit sourcing for your next vintage, or to fill in for your 2017 lots.
I wish you all wonderful Christmas and a successful New Year. I hope the world treats you and your family well. See you at Symposium in 2018!