Improving Winegrape Quality Will Improve Prices For Growers

Improving Central SJV Winegrape Quality

By Tim Hammerich with the Ag Information Network

Frank Saviez has been growing  quality winegrapes in the Central Valley for more than 40 years. Looking ahead, though, he sees a future in which valley growers can command more of a premium for their grapes.

“The variety of grapes and the tonnages that are grown here are generally geared into the $5 to $10 bottle of wine. And when you analyze that and what the wineries want to pay for those varieties, it limits your ability to produce quality wine grapes,” said Saviez. “To do that you have to reduce the tonnage per acre to get a quality of grapes that you can make wine that would sell rather than $5 to $10, but $10 to $20.”

Saviez has worked with Fresno State and others to plant varieties that show promise for performing well under central valley conditions. He’s explored varieties such as albarino, chono, vermentino, shiraz, malbec, and teraldego. All with the goal of providing higher quality options to central valley growers in the future.

Saviez…”I have planted several varieties with the goal in mind to be in a position to influence the long term goals of grape growers in the central valley.”

Saviez hopes introducing new premium varieties will move prices up to the $400 – $600 per ton range seen in other areas.

Irrigation Strategy of J Lohr

 

Jerry Lohr Knows How to Increase Quality in the Vineyard

 

By Tim Hammerich with the the Ag Information Network

J Lohr is a world recognized brand for their high-quality California wines. Proprietor Jerry Lohr says most of the quality wine is made in the vineyard. We recently caught up with him when he shared how they continue to push the boundaries in their viticulture practices to produce award-winning wine.

“So the way to increase quality is just this constant studying, for instance, how much sun do we need on the, on the fruit? What the nourishment is – less is better in this case. Especially nitrogen. You use nitrogen for other crops, but not for grapes. The time of harvest, that pruning level, the crop level, said Lohr

“The time of watering is what we’re talking about. So, we water very little in the summer, so we water on the spring. And I didn’t want to tell people what they should do know, I just wanted to kind of tell about what our winemakers are doing,he said.

“So what we do is we make sure the soil profile is filled in the spring. We water very little in the summer. And then we water for verasion in the fall – from verasion to ripeness. So farming is about 75 to 90% of it (wine quality) Others call it a regulated deficit irrigation, he noted. “So that’s a good way of describing it. Then we just go further than other people do, putting on more in the spring and less in the summer and that have water for the fall.”

Lohr said he looks for more direct-to-consumer opportunities for the brand in the future.

New Chair Sought for Fresno State’s VERC

Viticulture Enology Research Center Seeks New Chair

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

California Ag Today met with Dave Zoldoske, director of the Center of Irrigation and Technology and California Water Institute at Fresno State, about finding a chair for the VERC, the Viticulture Enology Research Center. This single position has many titles within it.

“You’re the department chair, faculty member, research director and a researcher. You think you’re busy – try to do those four jobs,” Zoldoske said.

With all of these responsibilities, one person would get stretched too thin in some places and excel in others. Eventually, the job was split in half to lighten the load. The position is now a research director’s position in enology and viticulture and does not require a PhD.

“A master’s with obviously some extensive research experience in the industry would be necessary to lead that,” Zoldoske said.

This is an opportunity for someone that is interested particularly in San Joaquin Valley viticulture because of the different variety of grapes. Many of the trellises are different, and the level of mechanization is much higher. Everything that plays a part for the San Joaquin Valley wine growers would be a focus point for this position.

“Certainly just because of our geographic location, that would be a big part of what that research portfolio might involve,” Zoldoske said.

This prestigious position is geared for somebody who wants to work in the wine industry as a research leader. This position offers growth within its own program.

“You are sort of untethered in the sense that [you can] make it everything you can make it, and just with this regional identity, right?” Zoldoske said.

Many major wineries located in the San Joaquin Valley are supportive of the Viticulture Enology Program at Fresno State and also serve on the advisory board.

“I think there’s just a lot of ups to this job and we’re real excited that it’s been split in half, so that we’ve got a pure researcher and then we’ve got someone on the other side that’ll be more academic with the department chair position and help with the teaching and other things,” Zoldoske said.

Winegrape Grower Earns SIP Certification

Dana Merrill, Winegrape Grower Earns SIP Certification

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor

 

Dana Merrill is a seventh-generation farmer of an eighth-generation Californian farming family and president of Mesa Vineyard Management, a premium vineyard management service on the Central Coast. A graduate from Cal Poly with an Agriculture Business degree, He is a member of the Merrill Family Estates, an estate that produces premium winegrapes for its Pomar Junction Winery, and he’s extremely involved with the Paso Robles Wine Community.

Recently, his winegrape growing operation earned the Sustainability In Practice (SIP) certification.

“We worked very hard to attain this certification,” Merrill said. “Most of the changes were positive moves. It’s not meant to be a penalizing certification, but there are specific restrictions. For example, we don’t use any Class I restricted materials. If the US Environmental Protection Agency has commented about a substance, ‘Hey, that is Class I. It may be legal, but as an herbicide, it has a tendency to leach into the groundwater,’ then the SIP system won’t allow it. There are times when I’ve said, ‘Boy, I wish I could use a certain material,’ but there are some I simply cannot use in order to qualify for the certification.”SIP Certified

Merrill continues, “The SIP also takes into account how you treat your labor. For example, more ‘points’ are awarded if you offer a benefit program, continuing education support, a retirement program, or health insurance. These days, everybody has to offer health insurance, but points are awarded for that, even though some of us have offered it for over 20 years. Points are also earned for best-practice management whether it is fertility management, soil probes, or having water meters on all your wells and using the information to manage how you irrigate. The idea is to encourage folks to do more and raise the bar.”

“Being SIP-certified helps with marketing too,” noted Merrill. “If you get the SIP seal on a bottle of wine, a consumer can go be assured of the excellent quality of that product.”

“It is marketing in the sense that we are always selling ourselves to the consumer,” Merrill explained. “You know, the consumer may ask, ‘Why should I buy a bottle of SIP wine? Why should I buy California wine?’ I think that branding or labeling conveys a message to customers about what is important to them. Some consumers are very environment-oriented; others are looking primarily for quality. Your label conveys that message. There are customers to whom it is less important, but I see its significance growing. I would say 50% of the people who visit our tasting room find that label on an SIP-certified bottle of wine quite meaningful,” Merrill said.

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Links

Mesa Vineyard Management

http://www.mesavineyard.com/

Sustainability In Practice (SIP)

US Environmental Protection Agency