Wine market in ‘transition’ for growth in 2014, experts say

North Coast crop 7% smaller in ’13 pinot planting surges

SACRAMENTO — California wine producers  shipped an estimated 3.6 percent more wine to U.S. markets last year, and higher-end wines such as those made in the North Coast could benefit from a “transition” in supply and consumer tastes that favor quality and distinctiveness, according to experts at a major wine industry conference Wednesday.

California shipments increased to 216 million 9-liter cases last year from 207.7 million in 2012, while U.S. wine shipments rose 2.7 percent last year to 370 million cases, according to estimates by Gomberg Fredrikson & Associates based on state and federal data through October or November.

“The industry is in a state of transition from a severe shortage to a more balanced market,” said industry analyst Jon Fredrikson of the Woodside-based firm to about 1,500 professionals in a Hyatt Regency ballroom during the “State of the Wine Industry” panel presentation Wednesday at the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium. More than 13,000 are expected to attend the gathering this year.

Read the full article from Business Journal

Buffett’s investment advice: Keep it simple

Warren Buffett’s annual letter to shareholders is almost always a treat to read, even if you don’t own Berkshire Hathaway shares. It’s eminently readable, and he usually throws in some evergreen personal advice. This year is no exception, based on an exclusive excerpt published by Fortune.

In the letter, Buffett tells the story of two investments made more than two decades ago: a 400-acre farm outside Omaha, Neb., and a commercial building in New York City. The farm is now worth more than five times what he paid. And he says the Manhattan investment produces annual income equal to more than a third of the initial investment.

His secret? He focused on the fundamentals of what the investments would produce, not on their fluctuating value. The real estate property, for instance, was adjacent to New York University, which he notes “wasn’t going anywhere.”

Read the full article from Express News

Close to Home: Fighting about water is just a waste of time, energy

We are all rejoicing at the rain we’re getting right now. Great as it is, make no mistake. We are still in the firm grip of our worst drought in local history.

In California, water is money, and droughts take money from our economy. For grape growers and other local farmers, rain fundamentally affects their livelihood and their ability to keep Sonoma County’s beautiful landscape in agriculture. River outfitters, landscapers, ranchers and many others will be hurting or put out of business in the drought. Homeowners end up paying more for less. Economic impacts will last much longer than the drought.

Wildlife, especially fish, will face very dire conditions. The drought has already cost us many of the juvenile salmon from 2012 and 2013, and this year looks worse. Other wildlife will have to travel farther for water, have less cover and food sources, and most wildlife and fish populations will decline.

What we really need is more rain, but we can’t make that happen despite our prayers and rain dances. The only way we “make more water” is by using less and freeing up water for another day.

Read the full article from Press Democrat

Drought conditions concern North Coast grape growers

The North Coast needs an additional foot of rain between now and May just to get back to drought conditions seen in 1977, and even then Lake Mendocino could still go bone dry by autumn for the first time in recorded history, water officials said Tuesday.

The warning stunned North Coast grape growers who packed a Cloverdale meeting hall Tuesday to discuss ways of saving their crops amid the worst drought any of them can recall.

None of the strategies, which ranged from installing more wind machines to covering ponds with plastic tarps to reduce evaporation, compared with what everyone agreed is the most pressing need: more rain and lots of it.

If Lake Mendocino runs dry, it could be disaster for growers, in particular those with vineyards along the upper Russian River. Many rely on water from Lake Mendocino for irrigation, as well as for frost protection.

Read the full article from Press Democrat

Sonoma County wine growers set goal of 100% sustainability

The Sonoma County Winegrape Commission wants every vineyard and winery in its domain to be certified sustainable in the next five years.

The plan, which will be announced Wednesday, could make Sonoma County the first wine region in the nation to be 100 percent sustainable.

It’s a tall order, given that it’s difficult to get 100 percent compliance in any voluntary program, but in particular, farmers tend to be an independent lot. Then there’s the problem that the word “sustainable” is used so often that no one really knows what it means.

Yes, the commission’s president, Karissa Kruse, acknowledges that “sustainable” has become a buzzword in the market. But to growers the tenet of sustainability is fairly simple: good farming practices and living as light on the land as possible.

Read the full article from SFGate

Healdsburg is first city to restrict water use

Healdsburg became the first city in the county to approve mandatory water conservation measures for residents on Tuesday night, following the driest year on record with not much rainfall predicted for the rest of the season.

The mandatory measures will include a limitation of outdoor irrigation based on home address and prohibit car washing at home and re-filling of swimming pools.

“Our intent immediately is to educate people,” said Mayor Jim Wood. “We understand the critical nature of the challenges we are facing. It’s an important step and I hope other cities follow suit.”

Healdsburg, as all of Sonoma County and northern California, is experiencing an unprecedented lack of winter rainfall. Just over 2 inches of rain has fallen since July of 2013. (A rainfall year is recorded from July 1 through June 30.)

Read the full article from The Healdsburg Tribune

Drought declaration underscores state’s water woes

Gov. Jerry Brown’s declaration Friday of a drought emergency in California does not immediately trigger new restrictions on water use on the North Coast, where officials already have begun asking people to voluntarily cut back their use.

Brown, speaking in San Francisco Friday, said California is in perhaps its worst drought since record-keeping began a century ago.

His proclamation states that drought and water shortage are creating “conditions of extreme peril to the safety of persons and property” in the state. The governor asked Californians to reduce their water usage voluntarily by 20 percent.

“We are in an unprecedented and very serious situation,” Brown said. “It’s important to awaken all Californians to the serious matter of drought and the lack of rain.”

State lawmakers had been urging Brown to issue the declaration, which allows California to request a broad emergency declaration from President Barack Obama. That could expedite some water transfers within the system linking the Central Valley and southern California, provide financial assistance and suspend some state and federal regulations.

Read the full article from Press Democrat

2012 Ryo-fu Chardonnay

2012 was the “return to normal” vintage in the Russian River Valley, not only for Pinot Noir, but also for Chardonnay. A gorgeous spring promised us a large crop with full clusters of Chardonnay in all three of the vineyards from which Ryo-fu is sourced. The summer and fall followed with perfect weather, and although it ended up being another late harvest all around, the fruit came in wonderfully ripe and healthy.

Read more from Freeman Vineyard & Winery

Winter in the Cellar

We had a great weekend of Winter in the Cellar, celebrating Bevill Heirloom Vineyard Zinfandel!

Our grapegrower, Duff Bevill, was on hand to pour barrel samples of the 2011 vintage and describe his vineyard, a unique blend of five heirloom clones. Guests enjoyed the explosive fruit in the 2011 and saavy shoppers bought futures to ensure that they will have Bevill in their cellar.

Read more from Passalacqua Winery