Rick Aldine, North Coast Grape Manager
April… always a challenging month for Growers. Tax time, contract renewals, frost watch, mildew
spraying. Most NorCal vineyards have now emerged from dormancy, some areas with late varietals are
still at pre-leaf stage, others that popped early are out 3-5”. Our season feels 2-3 weeks late in getting
started… we’ll see if this carries through to Fall and harvest. March and early April have been kind to us in
terms of Spring rains… not enough to hit our normal average but enough we think to get us through May
without much supplemental water. It’s still too early for reliable NorCal crop estimation from cluster
counts and size. We use early crop estimations from the southern districts as indicators of what NorCal
crop size could be. We’re anxious for info from Districts 13, 14 and parts of 8. Initial reports of Pinot Noir
cluster count from Santa Rita Hills forecast a lighter sized crop. I’m still sticking to my early season
prediction for a “normal to normal-minus” 2018 crop… similar or less than 2017.
Most of my current grape inquiries (in order of volume) are Russian River Chard, Napa and Sonoma Sauv
Blanc, Napa Vly Cab Franc and Cab Sauv, Napa P.Sirah and red blenders. Growers’ asking prices remain
high, especially given the continuing tight hand labor market. Russian River Chard and Napa and Sonoma
Sauv Blanc remain very difficult to find open grapes and we expect it to continue this way until our next
bumper crop season. That said, I still have 10 tons each Wente Chard and Sauv Blanc from Russian River
Vly (Westside Road). We have excellent quality Cab Sauv grape opportunities in Napa (Calistoga, Chiles
Vly, Pope Vly, Wooden Vly, Gordon Vly) and Sonoma (Alexander Vly and the hills west of Windsor). We
still have smaller grape lots of Russian River Vly and Sonoma Coast P.Noir.
The bulk market is moving stronger now with 2017 supplies of Sauv Blanc and Chard getting more
scarce. Bulk activity on the Red varietals has really ramped up with lots of calls for samples of our Napa
and Sonoma Cab Sauv. Given the likelihood of another smallish crop and higher grape costs, premium
bulk wine is a very reasonable and rational strategy. Again, I pose the question, “Given your wine
programs, is this year-on-year grape price inflation sustainable?” Have you Winemakers and Financial
Gatekeepers considered, as part of your sourcing and cost strategy, custom bulk wine contracts with
Agajanian to help blend down your high cost of grapes?
Buyers, we have grape purchase opportunities in all 5 North Coast counties that can also be structured as
custom wine contracts. Interested in long-term grape contracts?… I have 35 acres remaining of a terrific
Cab Sauv and Cab Franc planting contract opportunity in southeast Napa County. Let’s get our boots
dirty! Give me a call to get out and look at 2018 grape opportunities OR come by our Napa office to
taste through our bulk wine offerings. You can reach me at (707) 252-4800 office, (707) 287-6073 cell,
firstname.lastname@example.org. Our Napa office is located across from The Meritage Resort, 2785 Napa Valley
Corporate Drive, Napa.
Dan Garcia, Northern Interior Grape Manager
Just when I wanted to say Spring has finally arrived, Mother Nature gave us another significant rain event
over the last few days. They called this one an atmospheric river dumping 2 to 3 inches in the valley and
more snow at the higher elevations. Water releases have ramped up again on the Sacramento River with
anticipation of a warmer storm. So there goes more water down the drain.
Government officials keep harping about another drought and another below normal rainy season, and
what all of us need to do to conserve, but the big boys in Sacramento can’t seem to get any more
reservoirs built even though funds have been allocated. Typical California politics! So we can just watch
the high river flows go by and out to sea, and continue to scratch our heads as to why we can’t get any
more storage built. I don’t care what it is, a new reservoir, or raise a dam, but do something! Don’t just
talk about it.
Now to boot we have the twin tunnels shoved down our throat. Jerry got his funding from the Southern
Cal powerhouse. This is more about his legacy, than what they like to call the Water Fix. We are in the
bullseye of the intakes in the Interior, and I only hope this will get held up in the courts. This will affect
the lives of hard working farming families I have known for years. It is going to change the landscape of
this great farming region forever. Enough Politics! Sorry about that.
The growing season is underway in the Interior region. The vineyards are looking so nice this time of year,
but another mildew year is on everyone’s mind with these late rains we have been having. I have been
buying grapes consistently for the past 6 weeks in the Interior. I have a good amount of grapes and bulk
wine still available. I can also help you sell your grapes. If you are looking for grapes or bulk wine, I can be
reached on my cell at (916) 425-6656, or email@example.com
Michael Haddox-Central Coast Grape Manager
I wonder if everyone out there is as optimistic about the 2018 season as I am. From a Winemakers
perspective, I think we are looking at the potential for an amazing 2018 Vintage. The “Gas tank” (water In
the soil) in the vineyards are mostly full due to good winter, early Spring rains. Although not 100% of the
average we’re pretty good overall.
As Rick and Patrick mentioned in their recaps, the word on the street along with early bud data and
recent visual signs in the field are beginning to point to a lighter crop this year. Although Growers are
hoping for a good crop, I’m sure that everyone would agree that the market could use a smaller crop in
2018. For the larger buyers out there, this is the year to contract big tons at a very competitive price on a
multi-year contract. We made wine from some of the more production style blocks last year and the
results were fantastic with great color and weight so I know these blocks can perform for you.
I have picked up some new and exciting vineyards this year in District 7 and 8. A few really nice West Side
Paso Vineyards with a great mix of varietals like Grenache, Cab Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Cab. I’ve
also added some fantastic Italian varietals on the East Side in Creston and the El Pomar District.
I think 2018 is the year to grab some top tier fruit and test drive some blocks that are not usually on the
market. Reach out if you have specific needs or varieties that you are looking for, chances are I know
where to find them even if they don’t appear on our list.
A quick comment on bulk wine opportunities. We made some fantastic wines from the 2017 fruit on the
Central Coast with really good options to consider, specifically with Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay,
Grenache, and Cabernet. We even made a few lots from field blends that came out really nice, in
particular we did a GSM that has great density and texture with bright fruit. Again, we have a really good
cross section of wines, so reach out and request some samples! Give me a call to discuss your fruit needs
for 2018. I would be happy to walk you through the big opportunities for this vintage!
Tim Mendonca-Central and Southern Interior Grower Relations
Well, we thought we were going to get that Miracle March for rain but it looks like it was just normal,
which is disappointing. Rainfall totals for the month of March in Fresno was over 4.5 inches which
crushed last year’s March total which was only 1.07 inches. We started out March with a bang of almost
2 inches of rain. It was looking good but then nothing really happened until around the 20th
-22nd when we received almost 2.25 inches of rain with over an inch in one day. Those two rain events were basically
where we got all of our rain totals from in March. So far in April we have only seen 0.33 inches.
We have bud break in all varieties now and in some cases we can already go out and start to do some
cluster counts. As for the crop size we think it is still a little too early to tell but we should probably have a
good handle on it by the end of the month. Everyone’s early prediction for crop size seems to be that it is
going to be average to average-minus, but we will see what happens.
There is still some interest and deals done with some floral varieties. Also I have been hearing of some
French Colombard deals starting to happen. 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
A Miracle March is what we all hoped for, to a degree it was a miracle, just not as miraculous as it could
have been. The storms that came and went brought a significant amount of rainfall which definitely made
an impact on our season to date water deficit. While we are far from the drought situation we were
several years ago, growers who receive their water through the CVP are going to be stressing once again
with just 40% allocations. Thankfully, though the rains came late this year, they filled the soil profiles well
for a fairly strong and even bud break. Generally speaking, we have not seen major damage from earlier
cold events and buds have opened quite evenly across both spurs and canes.
Now that the vines are active and green tissue is out across most of the state, I will step up and begin my
annual 3-month long speech about controlling powdery mildew. Step one is treat early. Step two is use
tight intervals early in the season when susceptibility to infection is at its highest. Step three is to mix up
your chemicals — your chemical’s mode of action that is. Choose chemicals with different FRAC groups
than you used the last spray! Talk to your neighbors and work together to sync your sprays for better
regional control of the inoculum. The Lodi wine Grape Commission recently posted a great Coffee Shop
Blog about powdery mildews chemical resistance to particular FRAC groups. Click here for a link to the
article. I really encourage you to read it and reevaluate you and your neighbor’s practices.
The other topic we always get to talking about this time of year is crop size. In the San Joaquin Valley
most blocks are entering the rapid shoot growth period, clusters are out. While we are just getting
started with cluster counts, visually we have seen signs strongly pointing towards a smaller crop than the
previous year. I’ve seen very few shoots with “triples” and a fair number of singles cluster shoots. Lasts
years cold wet spring supports the idea that vines will be less fruitful this go around. If you are seeing the
same I’d enjoy hearing about it.
I hope you enjoy the beautiful spring weather and I wish you a smooth start to the season.