Higher prices, fewer tons keep North Coast winegrape value unchanged at $1.4B...

The value of the 2014 winegrape crop in most of the North Coast region was virtually unchanged from the record level of last year, as a nearly 7 percent drop in tonnage from the record-setting 2013 crop was offset by a grape-price increases in Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino and Lake counties, according to preliminary official figures released Tuesday.

Read the full article from the North Bay Business Journal

Upper Russian River water rights cut...

State authorities Thursday began notifying hundreds of water rights holders on the upper Russian River to stop diverting water from the drought-stricken watershed because there isn’t enough supply to go around.

The unprecedented step affects 652 water rights issued after Feb. 19, 1954, held by dozens of growers and local water agencies, some of which rely on the river for their main supply. Many have other sources, however, that could help protect them through the dry season.

The order, which was dated Wednesday and takes effect immediately, was issued in letters sent out by the state Water Resources Control Board.

Read the full article from the Press Democrat

North Coast vineyards going strong, but drought raises worry...

NAPA — North Coast wineries and growers remain optimistic following a second consecutive year of record-setting harvests and strong consumer demand for grape varietals that thrive in the region, particularly pinot noir.

“You have to be really screwed up to be a grower in Napa or Sonoma and not be making money,” Joe Ciatti, a mergers and acquisitions consultant with Zepponi & Company of Santa Rosa, said Wednesday at the annual Vineyard Economics Seminar.

Wineries continue to plant new vineyards and sign long-term contracts with growers to ensure access to grapes. Crop yield is increasing statewide, despite no significant increase in acreage along California’s coast. If anything, wineries are facing the unintended problem of having too many grapes coming in and not enough capacity to contain them all.

Read the full article from the Press Democrat

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