Tag Archives: harvest

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.

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

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California Wine Month

Everything and everybody has a month nowadays but certainly wine should have at least one month in California considering the growth of the industry here in the Golden State. September has been Wine Month in California for 10 years now and here are some reasons to celebrate aged and fermented grape juice.

Harvest

Indeed this time of year is the most active along with being the most important season when it comes to wineries. This is harvest season and vineyard and facilities don’t have a busier time than the picking, destemming, crushing, pressing, fermentation and finally storage period of the year. This is immediately followed by harvest festivals and dinners.

It’s a great time of year for customers or fans of wines to meet the winemakers while having a little fun either helping with harvest and wine processes or enjoying the beautiful view of a vineyard with vines full and lush. The saying goes: ‘Come for the view, Stay for the wine‘. Often wineries will have special events including concerts and of course, who can go to wine country without wine tasting.

Commemorating the states huge investment in the wine industry with its own month is the perfect example of just how important vinification is in California. Producing upwards of 90% of the United States wine production is impressive in itself.

As a major food supplier to the U.S., California also is one of the food destination regions in all the world. A signature example of that is the just concluded Savor The Central Coast in Santa Margarita. The event celebrates food and wine merging two activities that are a huge draw to the area.

Paso Robles, on the California Central Coast, was named the world’s number one wine region. Like the Savor event with food, entertainment is becoming more and more the norm in wine country. For instance Crosby Stills and Nash are performing September 30th at the Vina Robles Amphitheater. The spectacular center is in its second season.

Number 1

As the number one agriculture in the state, viticulture brings in over $50 billion a year from nearly half a million acres. $3 billion in taxes are generated and the wine business has created well over 300,000 full-time California jobs (source: PRWCA).

From the North Coast highlighting Napa and Sonoma, out to the Sierras, down through the Central Valley and across to the Central Coast and beyond, the array and variety of grapes and wines from California is unmatched in the world.

If you missed it, you don’t have to only come here in September and in fact, once Harvest is done, as briefly mentioned before, festival and dinners, mostly in October, adorn hillsides after valleys after hillsides throughout the state. And the change of colors starts to appear in fall giving the countryside, in almost any wine region in the state, a golden glow, showing once again why California is such a special place … and surely offers another reason to call it the Golden State.

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

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Napa Earthquake And Wine Barrels

*Update at bottom

I’ve received some inquires regarding the Napa Earthquake and whether it was affecting us here at Paso Wine Barrels. The short answer is no.

Napa Earthquake wine barrels

The fallout from the damage which is over a billion dollars so far – mainly concentrated in the south end of Napa County – is still not known, but so far, the Central Coast of California has not been largely affected by the seismic activity north of the Bay Area.

With the damage to so many wine barrels, it has been wondered if there might be a shortage. However, many of the wineries had just recently done bottling to get ready for 2014’s vintage, so they had emptied the wine and most of those empty barrels, don’t appear to be damaged.

Again, reports are all still preliminary and much of what has been reported, doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of what real harm has been done both physically as well as monetarily.

Damage was very localized 

Also, those in other parts of the country or overseas speculated as to how the big tremor affected all our wine regions. To be clear, there was significant damage near or at where the epicenter (was not far from the Napa County Airport), but it shook only in the immediate area and was not widely felt. Being just north of San Pablo Bay, except for Vallejo, Sonoma and obviously Napa, not much in the way of damage was incurred. The Central Coast didn’t feel even the slightest whiff of a quake.

Napa Valley Grape - Ready For Harvest

Although harvest started early this season, percentage-wise, much of the berries have not been picked yet and that is some consolation for those in Napa. Luckily, a cooler than normal summer helped slow ripening … or we may have had a different story.

We will keep monitoring barrel needs, but it seems for now, there doesn’t appear to be much or any problem. Paso Wine Barrels will keep barreling away. 🙂

*UPDATE: As some had thought, once the devastation could be viewed more clearly, damage is not as bad as it originally was reported. Obviously there’s destruction, but as this story offers, things aren’t as bad as news services first noted.

Cheers,

Daryle Hier

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