I have worked in the wine industry for many years, always in sales and/or marketing in support of sales.
As a wine salesman, I can tell you about the weather in 2011, 2004, 1997, 1992, and the years in between.
Heavy rains at budbreak that knock flowering buds off the vines, reducing yields as grapes come from those buds. The warm weather that followed that gave incredible richness of flavor to the remaining grapes, or the cold weather with harvest ruining rains that kept sugars low and decreased flavor development. Years of fire with smoke and ash. Years of flood.
I remembered the events of a vintage and a few years later when wines from that vintage were released I would share information about the vintage’s weather when describing and selling those vintage’s wines.
In spite of an awareness, remembering, my connection as a salesperson, a marketer, was always abstract.
Since March of last year, my job is managing a tasting room selling wines, but where I work is more about the vineyard than the wine, and really more about the farm than the vineyard.
McFadden Farm is a 500 acre organic farm with organic herbs, organic grass fed beef, and 160 acres of organic vineyards – McFadden Vineyard.
McFadden Vineyard produces 750 tons of grapes. After we make our Chardonnay, we sell the rest. Mondavi is a buyer of our organic Chardonnay grapes. After we make our Sauvignon Blanc, we sell our Sauvignon Blanc grapes to sterling. Chateau Montelena buys our Riesling grapes after we make our Riesling.
We make more money as growers of grapes than we likely ever will from our wines. We make very little wine, but sell a lot of grapes.
What wine we do make is sold to stores and restaurants in Mendocino county by one single distributer. The rest is sold through our tasting room, or shipped to faraway wine club customers from our farm – along with herbs, wreaths, garlic, and wild rice which we ship all over the country.
I used to sell a quarter to a half million dollars in wine every year. I knew about weather, but was very removed from it.
I now am a small seller for a tiny winery, but an employee of a pretty big farmer and my awareness of the weather is no longer abstract.
I can see how a vintage is going by the look on the face of my boss, Guinness McFadden. Last year, there were a host of “issues”, from a loss of 100 tons of grapes to rain at budbreak to unrelentingly too cool summer and from sugar plummeting rains early in October to mold and rot inducing continuing rain through that month. There was very little smiling, but quite a bit of grim resignedness, to be read on Guinness’s face last year.
The miracle of having the best year financially ever because as bad as things were, they were so much worse for everybody else that our grapes and juice commanded a premium was thoroughly unexpected.
Which saw a smile mixed with relief to be seen on Guinness’s face.
It is remarkable to realize how little real connection I had to a vintage’s weather expression in the past, and how much greater. how much more personal, it is now.
The subject of weather came to mind because the first rain of the season, and possibly snow up at McFadden Farm in Potter Valley, is due anytime now…Looks like rain.
I don’t like rain; travelers are more likely to pull over, park, and come in to my tasting room when it is sunny than when it is pouring rain.
I hate snow. I “played” Army, and “camped” outside in Korea for one Winter exercise when temperatures reached 40 below zero. I have done forced 25 mile road marches in full gear in ice and snow. I will likely hate both snow and camping forevermore.
Guinness likes rain and, living at McFadden Farm, he has to be at least tolerant of snow as it is a yearly occurrence. Guinness told me this week that our vineyard needs 20 inches of rain to be the best, happiest vineyard it can be. While the rains are late this year, he remains hopeful, and is looking forward to the impending inclement weather.
It is unique in my experience as a salesperson to hope for rain, especially as it will depress my tasting room’s revenue, but my evolving awareness and changed perspective – working for what is primarily a farm and not a winery – has me counterintuitively wishing for a solid 20″ season of rain.
Do me a favor, contact your congressperson and tell them to leave the internet alone, that you oppose censorship and restrictions on your freedom. Thanks.