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It’s crazy to think we’re in 2024. With the vines dormant and the 2023 wines resting, I thought I’d take the time to share some reflections on the past year.
2023 started off a little chaotic with relentless rain, wind, flooding, etc. We even had to close the tasting room a few times due to safety concerns for our staff. In 2021 I started collecting data sets of vintage weather which came in handy this year. So how much rain did we get? 2021 saw 10 inches of rain, 2022 received 16 inches, and 2023 saw 32 inches. That’s triple that of 2021 and double what we got in 2022! According to U.S. Climate Data, the annual average precipitation in Acampo, CA is 14 inches. We don’t need these data points to know that we got a lot of rain, but seeing the numbers puts the year in perspective. Once the sky started to clear in Spring (although we did get 4-6 inches of rain in March), the benefits of a wet winter began to show. Our cover crop was lush and pushing 7 feet tall in some areas which drew in troves of wildlife. Not only was it wetter, but it stayed cooler for longer. We typically see bud break right around St. Patrick’s Day, but this year it didn’t happen until the beginning of April when we started to see temperatures break into the 70s. We kept waiting for the triple digit days to knock us out of our bliss, but we only saw one of those days in June. In fact, we only saw 24 days of 95°+ in 2023 with zero of these days occurring in September. In 2021, there were 45 days above 95° with 20 of those occurring in September. These cooler temperatures provided optimal growing conditions with physiological ripeness occurring at lower Brix and perfect chemistry at harvest. I think this is a vintage California winemakers will be raving about for years to come, going in the books as one of the greats. I expect 2023 California wines to have more restraint, elegance, finesse, and balance.
2023 marked the first year of our regenerative journey. The first year of anything new and progressive comes with its ups and downs. We learned a lot about our vineyard that will allow us to make applicable improvements to our strategy going forward. Meaningful quantitative data is tough to collect as nature takes time to build and when you’re looking at soil samples, you’re only getting a snapshot in time. An example of this is organic matter which we saw no increase of this year, but we also didn’t see a decrease which is good news regardless. We instead noted as many physical observations as possible. As mentioned previously, the abundance of diverse wildlife was something I hadn’t seen previously in the 2.5 short years I’ve been here. We had healthy grapes, which is one of, if not thee most important metric. We didn’t see any yield loss to weed competition though we realize 2024 will be a more representative sample of this. Yields were down in grenache blanc and grenache noir, but that was due to weather conditions at bloom. The weeds did provide us with more work, especially in the new vineyard, though I do believe we saw weeds at their worst this year with all the winter rainfall. We definitely learned the most about weed management this year, which was admittedly rough, but will only benefit us in the future.
Glass was a repeat offender this year, I’m even tempted to say it’s an issue every year. We love our custom glass and I know customers do too, but unfortunately, it’s no longer available to us. Between shipping delays, small custom runs being thrown to the back of the line at the glass factory, and the general “will we get it on time or not” game, we decided it was time to search for a new mold. We wanted something more accessible year in and year out; something more reliable and environmentally friendly which we were successfully able to do. The new mold may not be as pretty as the custom mold, but it does the job and the product inside is the same, which is what matters most. Though, there is an upside to this. Our custom glass weighed in at 680 g which is on the heavier side, but it’s not rare to see 900+ g glass in the marketplace. Looking at total case weight, 680 g per container contributes 18 lbs to a case just in glass. If you’ve ever lifted one of our cases, they’re pushing 55 lbs. The glass in 2023 will be 500 g, which will take 5 lbs off the case weight. As a 4,000 case winery, that’s a 10 ton overall difference! Not only does that reduce our carbon footprint, but that’s 20,000 lbs our staff and customers don’t have to lug around.
Like a hurricane barreling over warm ocean waters, inflation only seemed to gain strength throughout the year. Gas was a rollercoaster, we saw staples like milk, eggs, and butter soar. This was a human challenge in 2023 and wineries were not immune. Little things like paper stock for labels all the way to winery insurance went up. Things may be cooling off, but we’ll see what 2024 brings.
Speaking of 2024, we have a lot to look forward to. We have 2 new wines coming out, some more regenerative projects in the works, and a few “deliveries” that will further strengthen our sustainable program. Stay tuned….