Tag Archives: grapes

Smaller 2014 Harvest? More Barrels Available?

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.

California wine grapes on the vine

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.

Raisin crop drying

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.

More barrels?

Filling wine barrel

How many barrels will be needed this harvest?

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






Do Grapes Flower?

Never let it be said that I’m any kind of expert when it comes to the world of winemaking.  I’ve always made sure whenever possible to remind folks about my constant learning – my knowledge of vines and wines before I moved to the Central Coast was close to nil.Dork

Still, I’ve come a long ways and have had the ability to see and be apart of the entire process of grape growing and winemaking. Yet, I’ve never really thought about whether grapes pollinate because: well, I’ve never really seen anything resembling a flower on a grape vine before. So the question: Do grapes flower? Well, actual grapes don’t flower, but of course the cane’s shoots and therefore the initial buds and vines do flower … but you might never see it.

My father and I are helping a widow – and friend – care for her tiny vineyard (see more here). We had to figure out how to turn the water on for the drippers and while I was looking at the tiny clusters on the vines, I noticed they looked odd. I didn’t take a long time to study these somewhat wrinkled berries as I was busy trying to get the timer working.

Afterwards, I was back on my computer looking for answers to what might have been a problem with these little crinkled grape clusters. For mid-spring, we had an unusually hot week here in Paso Robles with temps in the 90s including one blistering 98 degree day plus, I was worried due to the fact the vines hadn’t been watered in almost two weeks.

What are those tiny things?

Maybe not watering that long did affect the vines but regardless, a long story short, the mysterious looking clusters were without a doubt flowers I was peering at. Grapes don’t have a long flowering period and in fact the whole thing can be over and done within a week’s time, however, these were flower buds, indeed readying to be grape clusters.  Yeah, I’m a dork.Grapevine flower buds

It may appear naive and somewhat silly to consider it a surprise that grapes flowered, nevertheless I had never seen them and don’t recall anybody telling me the process. I asked a couple friends here in Paso but they were not sure about flowers so I’m not the only one who is uninformed about the development of a grape.

The dilemma is the tiny grape clusters and their flowers. The understated if not downright obscure flowering of a blooming grape vine is vague and almost indistinguishable from the early grape cluster stage. It should be noted like many fruit, these tiny berry flowers usually self-pollinate and fertilize themselves. Also, bud break off the new shoots in North America usually occurs in March and takes almost two months before the flower clusters begin. Obviously, in the Southern Hemisphere, the calendar would be inverse.

There you have it. You may never see this almost minuscule process, but it is certainly not insignificant. Depending on the particular varietal and climate, this very short course of action takes place in April and May. Yes, there is a smell; so, if you ever are in a vineyard during spring, take a whiff and check out flowering on grape clusters.

And you’re now smarter than I was.

PS: Check out our May Special – Get the world’s best with an incredible value if ever there was one.


Daryle W. Hier