Market guessing game continues

The only thing more fickle than a wine connoisseur is a wine grape grower. But, it’s not the producer’s fault — he or she is only trying to project where the next wind will blow and capitalize on that whim with quality fruit balanced with good yields.

“This is not ‘The Field of Dreams’”, says Leigh McDaniel, owner of Highland Vineyard at Orland. “Just because you grow it doesn’t mean they will come.”

McDaniel has been considering putting in Syrah due to current and possibly future demand, but is questioning the alternatives.

“On the one hand, I think a lot of varietals in California have been force-fitted into various growing areas where they were not necessarily the best choice. On the other hand, it’s difficult to make a decision to switch over to something else when you never really know where the market is headed.”

Even though yields were mostly down this year across the state, optimism runs high when it comes to quality and future demand.

“Yields were about average across the board, running about 10 percent to 15 percent off 2006,” says Mark Chandler, executive director of the Lodi-Woodbridge Winegrape Commission.

“While lower yields are not as financially rewarding to individual producers, at this point in the supply/demand cycle they are actually a good thing to get us back in balance so prices can recover.”

Quality is excellent, especially in Zinfandel, according to Chandler. Overall, the picture looks promising.

“Market conditions are stable-to-rising for white varieties, especially Pinot Grigio. It’s stable for most red varieties, except for Merlot, which was hard to sell, and much of it was left on the vine.

“There is much optimism that prices will improve next season,” Chandler says. “The surpluses generated by the large 2005 and 2006 crops are moving through the system, consumption is rising steadily, and wineries are already out chatting with growers about 2008.”

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