Friday, June 24, 2011

The Dating Game: Mendo Grape Growers Get Their Game On

The Mendocino Wine Grape Commission's 7th annual Growers Showcase moved up a notch this year with lunch and a trade show at the elegant Vintners Inn in Santa Rosa. "We're trying to make the event more appealing," Mendocino Winegrape and Wine Commission PR manager Mark Stern said.

More than two dozen growers showed up for the pre-game warmup - a marketing how to session with self-made marketing dynamo and vineyard manager Jennifer Thomson, who Tweets from her tractor (more on her story in a separate post) and a presentation from broker Fred Buonanno's on selling to home winemakers and the more than 3,000+ small U.S. wineries outside of California. (The presentation will be available on his broker web site).

Mark Stern, Senior Project Manager of PR and Events
(in green shirt) speaks at the luncheon
Over lunch, growers had a chance to mingle with buyers from Bonterra, Duckhorn, Constellation and other wineries. According to Kim Dennison, growers rep for Constellation, Constellation typically buys between 10,000 to 15,000 tons a year from Mendo growers.

More than 20 growers had exhibits in the showcase hall, with bulk wine available for tasting.

Roughly 70 percent of Mendocino County's wine grapes is crushed outside of the county. The average price per ton in 2010 was around $1,300.

About half of the growers at the showcase had organically grown grapes for sale. More than one third of California's organic wine grapes come from Mendocino.

Featured here are some of the organic growers from Mendo:

Saracina, Testa and Upton were some of the growers on hand for the showcase.

Anderson Valley broker Fred Buonanno samples wine from Upton Vineyards
Saracina winemaker Alex MacGregor (right) and friend
Ricetti Vineyard
Norma Gibson had the most visual booth
Bells Echo Vineyard had organic Petit Verdot and Merlot for sale
Rich Shaefers of Beckstoffer Vineyards
Rich Shaefers of Beckstoffer, the largest vineyard owner in the county said it had not found a price premium for growing organic grapes. "Andy Beckstoffer decided we should try growing some vineyards organically to see if we could adjust some of our conventional practices. It was a way to evaluate ourselves."

Beckstoffer owns about 3,000 acres of vineyards in Napa, Mendocino and Lake Counties with roughly 1,000 acres in each county. 

"We found that in some years, it is cheaper to farm organically, but in a bad year, it's riskier to reverse course if things get started in a bad direction," Shaefers said. "In organic farming, you have to get out there early and if something you don't want starts happening [insects, bugs], you can't just pull the trigger later on. You've got gamble. It's more risk. But the grape quality is there with organic. But we haven't found higher prices or demand for it recently."

In Mendocino, Beckstoffer grows mostly cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, and zinfandel, he said. "There is a price difference between counties, so if Mendocino chardonnay grapes sell for $1,000 a ton, Sonoma's go for maybe $1,300 and Napa's for $1,600 - but the quality of the grapes has little to do with the price." 

Shaefers, who also serves as the interim president of the MWWC, hopes one day to see a "Judgment of Paris" style blind tasting pitting wines from Mendocino grapes against those from higher priced neighboring counties.

No comments:

Post a Comment