The 2012 and 2013 grape crop production was huge and this year, many thought 2014 would bring yet an unusual third straight big vineyard haul. This is still possible but several factors that have changed the harvest process this year may reduce the tonnage for producing wine. And that may increase the likelihood of more used barrels becoming available.
Wishful thinking on our part? Yes, I’m hoping for this potential bonanza of unneeded barrels, but it appears those hopes have some facts to back them up.
Leading up to
To back up a moment, the season began with ideas of yet another larger than normal crop year. The combination of some spring rains just at the right time after another relatively dry winter, gave an early indication that production could be big again. After an earlier than normal bud break, early veraison happened in July and although that didn’t necessarily mean more and/or bigger grapes, it did offer an earlier timetable that for one, would mean earlier harvest and less chance of freezes or early Autumn rains that might create mildew.
Winemakers told us at Paso Wine Barrels that they were holding on to their neutral and used barrels in case a third-in-a-row big harvest occurred. With an earlier than normal picking period, wineries were busily processing their grapes – so we waited.
At that same time, in the Central Valley, the raisin crop was off the vine. However, a smaller than expected yield – attributed mostly to drought and government induced water shortages – gave pause to the rest of the industry. It should be noted that farmers have been hit hard by the state and federal water regulations that have forced vintners in particular to use less water or just plain not grow some of their crops. Catch more of this insidious man-made disaster here.
Some farmers had a compressed harvest but one good spell of cooler than normal weather in August slowed harvest down for others, giving several winemakers a little break while allowing the grapes to mature, improving the quality. The little bit of rain that vineyards in the northern part of California received in mid-September was nowhere near enough or even on time to help improve growing conditions.
Now it appears that a lighter than normal crop set up, but with good quality grapes. Smaller berries are being reported and from a personal standpoint, I too have seen grapes from different vineyards and they appear smaller than normal. This decrease in grape crop tonnage from the past two years seems to becoming more obvious, which leads us to, well, us.
Barrels have been much harder to come by with vintners essentially hoarding them until harvest came through. I haven’t seen an abundance yet of request from winemakers to come pick up their barrels, but from all the current signs, it points to the possibility that more of the wonderful wooden casks that make our business possible, could be available soon.
I’ll let folks know as time goes on, but if we are right and a cornucopia of barrels flows our way, this will be good news for everyone who follows our little family-run company.
Daryle W. Hier