Editor's Letter


Economic Picture Bright for Wineries

January 2014
by Jim Gordon

This issue begins Wines & Vines’ 95th year of publishing. It also marks the 15th year that we’ve produced a special edition for the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium, which takes place Jan. 28-30 in Sacramento, Calif. “The Unified” is the biggest and most important conference and trade show for the North American wine industry.

One reason we value the Unified is that it seems to set the tone for the year ahead. Every vintner, winemaker, grower, expert speaker and supplier brings his or her own state of mind and business forecast to this show, but then somehow—between the conference sessions, the sales pitches on the trade show floor and the drinks with old friends—a consensus emerges about the health of the wine industry.

Without going too far out on a limb, we predict that the tone this year will be extremely positive. Two large and nearly trouble-free West Coast vintages in 2012 and 2013, steadily increasing wine consumption and a growing (if too slowly) U.S. economy all point toward prosperity in 2014.

Quite possibly the economic outlook for wine producers is even better than most realize. Telling statistics come from the Index of Winery Job Postings produced by Winejobs.com. These are explained in more detail in our Wine Industry Metrics coverage (page 12) and Top Stories section (pages 16-17). Winery hiring activity was high throughout 2013, and it stayed high through November, even after the harvest and peak tourism period ended. Wineries are hiring with confidence, and they are doing it because they see more growth and profits ahead.

McGourty and Patterson
One factor vital to wineries’ long-term success is water. Vineyards and wineries want more of it, but so do residents, other industries and wildlife. In his Grounded Grapegrowing column (page 42), Glenn McGourty studies how these stakeholders are vying for water in two vital watersheds of California’s Mendocino County.

The ability to taste is their most valuable equipment, according to several respected winemakers that Tim Patterson interviewed for his Inquiring Winemaker column. “The reason wine is made by people and not computers or 3D printers is that some human has to taste and sniff the stuff all the way along the line and make dozens of decisions based on the mental readouts from these tiny little organs. It’s the place where art meets science in winemaking,” writes Patterson (page 36).

Mondavi and Hobbs
We have published in almost every issue since June 2011 a Technical Review of a new or notable winery, with information about how each was designed and equipped. Now, for the first time we are publishing two Technical Reviews. The cover story is Paul Franson’s account (page 58) of the building and equipping of Continuum Estate in Napa Valley. While much has been written about the highly rated wines from Continuum since they were introduced with the 2005 vintage by siblings Tim Mondavi and Marcia Mondavi Borger, this is the first detailed look inside the thoughtfully designed 3,000-case estate winery.

The second Technical Review shows the 20,000-case Paul Hobbs winery in Sonoma County (page 68). Staff writer Andrew Adams interviews the globe-trotting winemaker about the equipment he chose and the processes he devised for handling fruit and aging wine at his own home base in Sebastopol, Calif.

Central and Eastern winemaking
Adams also reports from Missouri wine country (page 90) on a dilemma some of the 122 wineries there face: how to please potential tasting room customers with sweet wines while striving for classic-style dry wines for restaurants and other distribution.

A well-researched article about Vitis hybrids in the Wine East section (page 135) is the first of a two-parter by G. Stanley Howell and Paolo Sabbatini. You could say that Howell, an emeritus viticulture professor at Michigan State University, has been working on this report for his whole career.

Vintage 2013
A Wines & Vines tradition is the annual Vintage Report beginning on page 108. It includes summaries of the growing season and harvest from 32 regional correspondents across North America.

Practical Winery & Vineyard
There is no Practical Winery & Vineyard section in this issue because PWV is being distributed this month as a stand-alone magazine. Look for the return of the PWV section in our February issue.

Thanks very much for reading Wines & Vines. Please stop by our booths in the Unified Symposium trade show: Nos. 428-430 and 118. We hope your business prospers in 2014!

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