It's the dead of winter here in Sonoma, which usually means overcast with temperatures in the 40's to 50's Fahrenheit -- which it is today (with a tip of the chapeau
to my friends in the Northeast, frolicking in another
18" of new snow). We have had a relatively wet season so far; not yet enough to fill the State's reservoirs, but enough that 2010 won't be a "drought year."
It's the slowest time of the year for us. We are moving a few lots at the winery. The crew has started pruning and cover crop management at the Estate vineyard. And I am putting 2009 behind me and planning for 2010. In fact, thinking about 2010 has me awake early this morning, when I really wish I was hibernating like a bear.
Planning 2010: Getting the vineyard in shape. Working hard to get contracts early to sell excess fruit, mostly Syrah -- until the market for these spectacular wines improves, we grow more than we want to bottle. Moving the winery -- just across the parking lot, but there is much to do. Bottling 2007 Rhône wines, 2008 Pinot and 2009 Rosé. SELLING more wine -- much more.
And there's the five-million-dollar question: are we going to be able to sell enough wine this year to stay afloat? A couple weeks ago in his blog Steve Heimhoff asked the questions: Who's Making Money? Who Isn't? Like so many others who are pouring their souls into making high-quality artisanal wines, frankly in 2009 Westwood was among the "isn'ts." In 2010 we need to put more resources into marketing -- money and time -- and the economy needs to improve or all my planning will be for naught and I will need to be doing some planning of a different sort.
And then there is my own personal two-million-dollar question: am I going to have the strength to make 2010 work for us? I have a PET scan coming up in a couple of weeks that is going to go a long way toward answering that one.
OK maybe it's the gloomy weather affecting my outlook. On the brightside, we have some bee-yoo-tee-ful wines coming on the market just now, such as the brooding 2005 Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir and the sprightly 2006 redFOUR. I have wines from three of the best vintages in memory in barrel. Our Estate vineyard continues to surprise and impress as it matures. And I have wonderful family, friends and business partners.
All in all, life is good.
Blog Changes Coming
Yep, I have to find another way to publish this little project. Google is about to pull Blogger's support for ftp, which is how I've been maintaining this blog. A couple years back I attempted to migrate the template and content to Wordpress, but it did not go well and I lost interest in bird-dogging it to get it to work. Maybe the migration tools are better now. Maybe I need to try something else. Anyone out there want to trade some wine for help in migrating this blog to another platform?
Our Grapes And Climate Change
Last December Pinotblogger (Josh Hermsmeyer) put up a post titled: "Climate Change and Wine Growing: One Farmer’s Opinion
" that caught my interest enough to comment on it. I have been thinking about the exchange since then.
So here is another farmer's opinion, and why I ultimately don't lose much sleep over what any governmental agencies adopt as policy toward climate change.
It seems to me that one would have to be willfully ingorant not to see that the climate is changing, and getting hotter. Regardless of short term and local low temperatures, in the broader scheme glaciers and the ice caps are melting at a rate unprecedented in geologic history. And weather events are becoming more extreme.
Whether these changes have an anthropogenic component may or may not be proven, but the coincidence is striking. Whether or not we as a society or as a species can do anything to alter the rate of climate change, much less reverse its trajectory, remains to be seen. I'm not optimistic. I don't believe the will is there.
So what's one farmer to do? In a word, hedge. I have done what I can to hedge aganst the risks of climate change. First, I chose a very cool site for our vineyard. Not the coolest, but cool enough that we can produce very high quality Pinot Noir at low yields. Cool enough that every year we are usually the last vineyard to harvest Pinot in the Sonoma Valley appellation. Cool enough that the final ripening of our Rhône grapes is dictated by the shortening day length rather than heat summation.
Second, we are fortunate that our vineyard is sited at the confluence of two marine mesoclimates, poised between the Sonoma Valley adjacent to San Pablo Bay, and the Santa Rosa Plain opposite the Russian River gap. Every day as the air heats up and rises over Kenwood, air is pulled up-valley from the Bay (cooling Carneros) and off the cold waters of the Pacific through the gap, over a temperature inversion in the Plain and directly to our site. The hotter it gets in Kenwood, the windier and cooler it gets at our vineyard.
Third, we have a great water source -- a highly-productive well, drilled so deep that it is drawing from an aquifer that is likely to recharge for centuries. If the world heats up and our evapotranspiration requirement goes up, we should still be able to farm.
Finally, we have are successfully farming both early- and late-ripening varieties for high quality. If it gets warmer we bud over the Pinot Noir to Mourvedre and Grenache. If all the science is actually wrong, and it gets colder we will bud all the Rhône varieties to Pinot Noir. Either way, we win.
As a citizen I believe there may be good reasons to make burning carbon more expensive well before it becomes more expensive due to scarcity. As a parent I would like my children to live in a world more benign than the one I grew up in; a world of rising sea level and harsher weather does not seem more benign, so if there is even a chance that this change could be delayed or averted, the conservative in me wants to grab that chance. But as a farmer on our vineyard? I think I and at least several generations after me are covered.