Ready for Harvest?

Rick Aldine – North Coast Grape Manager

Howdy all. The 2017 vintage is beginning to shape up. It’s been a tough 1st half of the vintage. Labor shortages combined with lingering wet weather, soggy vineyards that were too wet to ground-spray and “woolly” unleafed canopies has created a mildew and botrytis time bomb that were currently dealing with. A massive hail and rain event on June 11th as bloom and set was occurring followed by a couple of severe heat spells and temps exceeding 100F for several days. Ehhh, but this is nothing new… it’s happened on so many vintages prior to this with excellent quality results. We deal with it!

Conventional Vit wisdom was guessing 2017 to be a volume-driven vintage given the record rainfall we experienced Nov-June. We’re not seeing a huge crop. We still have a few more weeks of berry sizing but yields are sporadic and generally appear normal to perhaps slightly less than normal. Some vineyards and varietals set well, some shattered excessively. No real significant pattern to the sporadic set. Late leafing has put growers at risk for sunburn with these nasty heat spikes (BTW, we always recommend early fruit exposure via leafing pre-bloom. It makes berries naturally tolerant to sunburn). We’re seeing significant crop loss due to sunburn in VSP trellised blocks. This seems to be the worst mildew year since 2010 and perhaps in the last 15 years. And be mindful, Botrytis rot is typically bad in high mildew years like this. Clusters that set well and size up tight will be a rot worry. We’re seeing spotty mildew everywhere especially in vineyards with early season spray penetration challenges. Veraison has begun with Pinot Noir currently at 10-30%, Chard and SB at 2-5%. I saw dry-farmed old vine Zin colored 20% today.

Grape buying slowed after bloom and has slowly increased since. Many buyers are still thinking “big crop year” and I think they will be surprised come September. High-end buyers for Napa sub-AvA Cab Sauv are still very active and not letting fat pricing slow their buying down. Napa Merlot remains the value varietal and I believe we’ll see a lot of late buying activity since Merlot pricing is half that of expensive Cab Sauv. The big wine companies still have an appetite and expect them to be very aggressive. Don’t gamble and wait on your buying by thinking there will be extra tons at discounted pricing at harvest. It could be a last-minute market, an August-September feeding frenzy. Get those pre-harvest vacations done, calibrate refractometers, train your samplers, prep pesticide use reports and secure your delivery tags. Do you have your harvest labor and hauling squared away?

Please give a look to our Grapes Available list… we have excellent grape purchase opportunities available! We have Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon in quantity! Our bulk wine sales have been steady and sellers will be anxiously clearing tanks in August… those slow-to-sell bulk lots will be discounted to move. If you’re selling or buying grapes or bulk wine, please call me on my cell at (707) 287-6073 or email me at

rick@agajanian.com OR visit our Napa office to taste through our premium bulk wine offerings. Our Napa office is located across from The Meritage Resort, 2785 Napa Valley Corporate Drive, Napa.

Dan Garcia – Northern Interior Grape Manager

Where has this year gone? We are already in the middle of July, just weeks from harvest. This one has nothing to do with age and time passing by. Our nasty winter allowed what seemed to be a very short spring, and now it makes our summer even seem shorter.

So here we are, like I said, just weeks from harvest. Everyone I talk to can’t wait till this growing season is over. It has been a trying time for growers in the Interior with mildew issues. Late rains just made the problem worse, adding additional expense with additional sprays needed in the vineyard. White grapes seemed to suffer the worst with the crazy Spring we had. The results look like we will definitely be short on tonnage for Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Grigio. But if there is a silver lining to this is that pricing should remain stable into the near future. Clients are still looking for all three varieties with most already spoken for. I don’t think it will be that far off but it will be below normal. The Reds are looking more normal which is good news. But some varieties will drag that number down too.

It is anyone’s guess how this will all play out. I think we dodged a bullet. It could have been a lot worse with the crazy winter and early growing season we had. The old term goes, “It is what it Is”. So we will all make the best of it moving forward, but I am sure we will be talking about the 2017 season for years to come. If you need help moving any grapes or bulk wine I can be reached on my cell at (916)425-6656, or dan@agajanian.com. I wish everyone success for the upcoming harvest.

Michael Haddox – Central Coast Grape Manager

Hello from the Central Coast! What a year this has been, between the rain, the heat and now the fires!! Several stretches of above normal temperatures have stimulated some areas and slowed others. Of great interest are the canopies in the vineyards. I was a little concerned with all of the vigor and growth we observed from the massive rains this past winter, but they have proved to be a blessing in disguise (I know it’s not great for mildew), shielding the fruit from these heat spells in most of the vineyards I have observed.

I continue to feel that we are looking at a solid/normal crop on the coast. As usual there are plenty of vineyards above and below the average, but for the most part I like the potential quality that I have seen develop. There are still opportunities out in the field to pick up some great fruit so just give me a call and let me know what your needs are.

Last note to discuss are the fires of the past month. I have gone out to each area and feel fairly confident that they won’t affect any of the vineyards that we currently work with, and although no fire is good, the good news is that the winds have carried the smoke away from the majority of the central coast vineyard areas. I observed lots of color starting to show its face last week during my most recent round of vineyard visits, which puts us on par for an average harvest start date on the Central Coast.

Tip: Still lots of great Syrah and Merlot out there, but I also noticed lots of amazing Cab. You still have a little time to get in and grab a nice block or two!! As always, I am available any time to discuss your grape or bulk needs for 2017 and beyond!! Michael Haddox, Senior Winery Relations manager & Winemaker- Central Coast (805) 975-7001 cell or michael@agajanian.com

Tim Mendonca – Central & Southern Interior Grower Relations

This will probably be the last time we talk before harvest starts for us. We are anticipating our early floral varieties starting to come off the first or second week in August. With Fresno giving a run for the most

consecutive days in triple digits everything is slowly progressing along. You would think that we would be ahead of last year but we are seeing that we are a little behind. With the consecutive high temperatures, the grapes are shutting down earlier in the day to survive, wish I could do that sometimes.

We are still seeing some powdery mildew out there. It has been a bad season as Patrick has been saying in probably every blast. You know it is bad when you are seeing powdery in some Rubired which almost never get it. We have had a couple of growers go in and wash the fruit to help control the mildew. The last thing we need is the fruit cracking cause of the mildew.

We are still looking at an average crop for this year. We have the Cabernet Sauvignon crop down a bit here in our vineyards in the valley. We still have some available at attractive pricing. Most of the activity has been in the early floral varieties along with some Petite Sirah and Pinot Grigio as well. If you have any grapes or bulk wine for sale or are interested in any grapes and bulk wine feel free to give me a call at (559) 352-2452 or email: Tim@agajanian.com

Patrick Tachella – Director of Viticulture

Well folks, we are getting close to harvest in the central valley. Word on the street is the big boys will be opening August 7th. We are anticipating our first Muscats to come off around the 10th. Before we get to that point though, there is still room for growers take action, ensuring high quality and the highest harvestable yields. In general, we have seen good fruit set this year; tight clusters are all over the place. Compound this with a season of extreme powdery mildew damage and the recipe is ripe for summer bunch rot. Growers will need to be extra cautious in preventing over irrigated berry splitting. Finding the balance between enough and too much water has been challenging with the strong heat events of recent weeks. We have experienced severe sunburn in a few North Coast block but overall the crop is handling the heat is stride.

On the Central Coast, there have been several very large wild fires. As harvest gets closer and analysis is done we will see the real effects of the smoke. I foresee the possibility of an active but tight spot market to substitute tainted fruit in the Santa Maria and Santa Ynez areas. Hopefully this won’t be a reality.

On a side note, I want to say that the Agajanian Vineyards Team is more ready for harvest than in any year past. We have two interns fresh from Fresno State’s Viticulture program who will be assisting in maturity sampling and quality control monitoring. We hope to really increase our harvest maturity accuracy this season, hitting the Brix targets every time is our goal. If you still have fruit for sale, reach out to your local Agajanian rep to see if we can find a home for your fruit. Until next time I wish you all a smooth and successful start to the harvest season.

If you cannot take grapes, we can custom crush and make wine to your style specifications. Please call your Grower Representative listed below, or our Premium Bulk Wine Sales Manager Jennifer Hibbard at our North Coast office (707) 252-4800. For Private Label, call Shelly van Rijn at (707) 252-4800.

 

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