Friday, April 24, 2009

Sunshine on my shoulder

Now we have had a piece of summer dropped on us, at least a few days. This can really help with grapes; a warm, early spring with lots of sun and warmth. Of course, a day of frost and a drop below freezing can smack the buds hard enough to kill a huge share of the crop.

A comon question in the tasting room is "Do you grow your own grapes?" and we do not. What suprises most people just how many wineries do not grow their own fruit or, those who do have some vineyards, grow a very small percentage.

Is this a good or bad thing? There is a preference among many winemakers I have talked to to use local fruit, but using out-of-state suppliers is not just an economic decision. Indiana's vineyards cannot produce more then about 200,000 gallons of juice a year, well under the one million-plus gallons of wine produced in-state.

But for myself, it comes down not to just the dollars, the land, equipment, labor, etc. I am no farmer and I know enough about grape growing to talk about it, but not enough to actually do it, beyond the few vines we have in our yard. Vines are very labor intensive, with little mechanization possible, so alot of stoop work is called for beyond the knowledge and assoicated costs.

It is an interesting fact that while California has over 1/2 million acres of grapes (Indiana under 500 acres), less then ten percent of California wineries are 100% estate grown. Estate grown means they grow their own grape and make their own wine from those same grapes. Of the 90 percent remaining, less then 50% have producing commercial vineyards, the grapes they grow around the place are just for ambience.

When you consider that about 45% of all US wineries are located in California (2700 of 6000 in 2008), that speaks to the fact that all winemakers are not farmers and not all farmers, or winegrape growers, are not winemakers; at least commercially.

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