2018 is upon us – with fog in the air and some rain in the forecasts it’s already looking better than 2017. I think it’s safe to say that as the end of the year approached most of us were simply “done with it”. 2017 was a very tough year for growers on many fronts.
The long lasting winter rains delayed pruning, then fungicides applications were delayed by wet ground. The powdery mildew came as it always does, but with such furry even old timers couldn’t remember a year so rough. Several hundred acres of Northern Interior Chardonnay clusters ended their season early; cut from the vine to rot on the ground. Right after many got confident with our crop estimates, the Golden State was stuck by a series of heat events like few before. For a period, the coastal growing regions were hotter than the interior valleys – the un-acclimated, over exposed fruit shriveled fast. Some growers watched 30% of their crop weight disappear in a matter of days. As harvest approached, some nerves settled as we began to see the light at the end of the tunnel. An eerie smoothness was the theme for the first month of our harvest. Out of nowhere the North Coast erupted into flames and the following weeks became a blur of frantic phone calls and attempts at salvaging some of the most premium fruit in the world. The harvest of 2017 will be in my memory forever.
With this new year here, and the Wine and Grape symposium bringing friends and colleagues together, we can focus on bountiful season to come. The allure of beating the “post symposium rush” has kicked off grape buyer activity earlier than in years past. Our Premium Bulk wines of 2017 are exceptional and are beginning to move quickly – the rush is on to get them before market forces drive pricing as bottling comes around.
Out in the fields, labor challenges are influencing further adoption of mechanization. Growers are reporting serious issues securing skilled labor for pruning, leaf removal and harvesting. Combining this factor with the premiumization occurring in cased goods sales; many are abandoning wine grapes and replanting with nuts. This should help stabilize or even improve pricing for wine grapes in years to come. For 2018 spot markets, it’s going to come down to crop size and spring weather to drive the market. We have heard a rumor that bud dissections are indicating a smaller crop this year. Reflecting on last year’s spring weather, this would not surprise me but I’m not placing my bets until fruit set gets closer. Until the shoots start growing, and we start counting, the crop size will remain a mystery.
What isn’t a mystery at all is that the team at Agajanian Vineyards is here to serve the needs of the entire wine industry. Whether you are buying or selling grapes and premium bulk wine, or working on brand development, custom labeling and bottling we are here to help. Please take the time to speak with one of our field reps and let us know how we can help bring your operation to the next level of success.
Thank you, and good luck this year,
Director of Viticulture