The wine business is not easy! It’s a capital-intensive business that is subject to the whims of Mother Nature. Its products (wines) have a long lead time requiring vintners to carry a lot of inventory. In some cases, you have produced 2-3 vintages of a new wine before you’ve even sold a single bottle and have any sense of whether the customer likes it. And there are plenty of charlatans circling the industry whose best skill is their inability to pay their bills.
This past year has reminded us of how challenging the business can be. On April 12 we saw the worst frost in 20 years in our Amador County vineyard leaving some varieties with a 50-70% loss (Verdelho and Tempranillo). Farming a “frosted” vineyard required a significant investment of time, labor, and money, much more than normal, to get a small and somewhat irregular crop. The spring freeze was balanced out by an epic heat wave in early September that saw record temperatures across California. This heat left afternoon-facing exposed fruit (not covered by leaves) sun-bleached and shriveled, and many vines struggling to recover. Our team worked frantically to get fruit picked and suffered through intense heat on the crush pad (the concrete was 140 degrees).
To complement Mother Nature, we have seen unprecedented cost increases as inflation has rolled through the economy. Bottles are up 24% from last year, corks 15%, tin capsules 35%, labels 17%, sulfur dust 40%, diesel and gas 40%, utilities 30%. The only thing to come in cheaper has been French Oak barrels due to the strong dollar and weak Euro. But any savings, has been offset by freight/ocean surcharges in getting us the barrels.
And despite these challenges we continue to invest and focus on doing better…making better wines and providing better customer experiences. We are striving to go deeper with each wine we make and each variety we farm. Each step, each process, each moment is given thoughtful intent with a holistic view of the vineyard and the final wine we strive to craft. This clearly is not always easy, but we persist, and I fully believe we are making some of our best wines.
And thankfully we are supported by you, a loyal customer base that appreciates and supports our efforts to craft delicious wines. Your fall shipment includes four wines that represents the journey we are on to make distinct, delicious wines that speak of a time, a people, and a place.