By: George Balling
A few subjects we recently covered here have garnered some questions, and we have also received additional “intel” on some others. It seems like a good time to cover some of your questions and comments this week.
We had a visit this past week from one of our favorite winemakers from Walla Walla. Like with any old friend our discussion was wide ranging and covered a number of subjects. We were thrilled to hear that Washington Wine Country is fully opened and returning to its pre-pandemic form. Our guest shared with us that Walla Walla is again vibrant and humming with wine tourists. Tasting rooms are almost universally fully open, and wine enthusiasts are visiting again in large numbers. This is a good development for Walla Walla specifically and great news for the industry to have things returning to normal.
The most interesting and enlightening part of our conversation centered around the start of the 2022 growing year across the vineyards of the Northwest. I had commented on this very subject a couple of weeks back, but received even more “color” on the state of the crop. As we had reported the vines are in good shape from all the precipitation we have received to date. While there has been rain, and even some hail the newly forming grape bundles have not had any damage, mostly due to how far behind the crop is.
This is the end of the good news so far though. The 2011 vintage was the coldest on record for Washington, and what we learned this week is that so far in 2022 the vines are about 15 days behind where they were in that very chilly year. A pretty fascinating picture of just how cold this spring has been! This is no small matter for Northwest wine grape growers. While the long days of summer in a typical year provide the heat units needed to get the grapes ripe, those same long days shorten very quickly as fall approaches snatching those all-important heat units away. Unlike California it doesn’t stay warm enough here to stretch harvest all the way out to Thanksgiving if need be. The first killing frost in the vineyards of the Northwest typically arrives in mid-October, ending the viable harvest window.
The punchline is simple. If we don’t start seeing some warmer temperatures this spring along with some clear blue skies we could end up with an under-ripe crop and a vintage that will be challenging and perhaps not all that great. We will wait and see and keep everyone up to date.
Our most popular dry rosé every year as most of you know is the Skylark Pink Belly. We had expected to have our wine by now, but as is only fitting the all to prevalent “trucking gremlins” have cast their evil spell on us once again. We are now expecting our allocation to arrive between the end of this week and the beginning of the following week around June 7. About half of the wine, we are receiving this year has already been purchased. The remaining wine is available to all of you though. Like every year it will go very quickly, we encourage you if you would like some of the 2021 Pink Belly, which is delicious again, to call us here at the shop 208-765-5653 and reserve your bottles now. You can also email your order to [email protected] and we will get it all set up. The wine is the same price again this year $25, $22.50 if you are in our wine club.
Many of you have asked about what is happening with wine prices? We have chronicled the many challenges from glass bottle shortages, to labor costs and the cost of transporting wine to our market. They are not insignificant and in general prices are marching steadily higher. There are some inconsistencies though. Occasionally, we do receive a wine that has gone down in price. In the majority of cases price increases have been modest, meaning under 10%. Where prices have really gone up drastically is with new vintages of wine especially from overseas that have just been imported. These are the cases where you see the perfect storm of raw material price increases and the cost of transport converging to drive prices up significantly. We had one winemaker who explained that they are receiving “ocean freight surcharges” for the empty glass bottle that they import for their wine. Since most glass is manufactured in the far east this is likely to affect all wineries at some level.
Stay tuned or stop in the shop with your questions and we will follow up on all that is new in the wine world.