Friday, January 29, 2016

Wine Growing In Community

“On that day the mountains will drip with sweet wine,
and the hills will flow with milk.
All the dry stream beds of Judah will flow with water.
A spring will flow out from the temple of the Lord,
watering the Valley of Acacia Trees.”

“…the trees said to the grapevine, ‘You come and be our king!’ 13 But the grapevine said to them, ‘I am not going to stop producing my wine, which makes gods and men so happy, just to sway above the other trees!’”

Wine doesn’t flow from rivers or drip down from trees like maple syrup.  Producing good wine is an art form; an intricate process beginning with grape stock and ending in the bottle on your counter.  Wine Folly identifies five basic steps in the process: pick the grapes, crush the grapes, ferment the grapes, age the wine and bottle it.  They leave viniculture out of the picture altogether although without the vineyard these five steps won’t happen.  Beyond all this---without a gifted vintner cultivating in community---quality wine doesn’t occur.

Wine makers along California’s Central Coast continuously cite collaboration as key to the final product.  How do you do it?  My wife and I asked the same question at different wineries.  The surprising answer was that each relies on the talent and gifts of others to bring together their desired wine.

Wine producing is crazy expensive!  There’s the cost of the crop, the harvest and publicity---to simply name three.  A 2007 article “estimates are that it costs $70 to $275 per acre to machine harvestgrapes (not accounting for the cost of a machine, which can range from $150,000 to $300,000). Picking by hand, which takes much longer, can run to $750 per acre at super-premium properties.  A fascinating article on mechanical harvesting states, “For a used self-propelledmachine with gentle picking rods the unit costs are between $85,000 and$200,000.  There is a transportation cost to deliver the unit; and a trailer to transport the harvester will need to be purchased.  The height of the harvester requires a special drop trailer that can easily run $10,000.  In addition to the purchase costs, there are also annual costs.  It is assumed 300 acres would need to be harvested in order to reach a pay-back position on the unit.”

A winery owner in Avila Beach shared with us that they co-op with other wineries to pay for and use the Harvester.  Another owner (from a group of owners invested in one winery) communicated that for some of their wines they use portion of someone else’s vineyard---which they have complete control over---rather than having to own the entire vineyard.  Finally, the wineries on Highway 46 in El Paso (46 East) have banded together to promote their wines in a number of creative ways that gains exposure for all of them.

One of the most god-given drinks (We will drink it in Heaven) is often created by vintners working in tandem with so many other players in the wine-growing community.  Why do so many other businesses neglect this type of beneficial network?  And in our individual lives why are we so intent on going Lone Ranger?  Something to contemplate this winter?  Perhaps in discussion with friends over a bottle of wine.  And as you lift that cup think about what it took to bring it to you.

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