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The Tale Of One Vineyard

By Charles Olken

The reference to A Tale of Two Cities is intentional. The application of Dickens’ words at the opening of the book (“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times”, etc) to the situation up in wine country has been rattling around in my head for weeks now, and when one of CGCW’s longest-standing friends in wine country sent a personal note about his vineyard and property, it sad and worrisome and personal. Admittedly, our friends were lucky having suffered less damage than so many others.

I have, with their permission, included the applicable portions of their note here as a further reminder of the disappointment and dignity that exist side-by-side in wine country at this point. They are still without power but are functioning by hook and by crook as so many others are also doing. Soldiering on because there is no quit in the human spirit.

Looking out, our wide-spreading oak tree has brown leaves on one side and there is a yellowed vineyard below it. The blackened burned area goes right up to the vineyard, then stops.

Damage on Soda Canyon Road was extensive. Sadly, some of our winery neighbors suffered total losses. It is just heartbreaking.

Our vineyard provided an excellent fire break but did sustain a bit of damage. Brown and yellow leaves and a few burnt vines. We will know more when the viticulturists have done a thorough analysis. But overall, we were lucky relative to many others.

90% of our Cabernet Sauvignon grapes were harvested in advance of the fire. The rest was picked about a week after the fire and is being kept separate in an experimental lot by our winemaker. We have no idea what will happen with the post-fire lot but it won’t be going into our wine.


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No Subject
by Anonymous
Posted on:11/15/2017 9:18:50 PM

Just tasted the 2014 Cab of the vineyard in this story. It is a deep, rich wine and will be reviewed very enthusiastically in our December coverage of Cabernets of significance. 

My Ideas
by Bob
Posted on:11/16/2017 1:40:14 PM

The best approach vintners should take is to embrace the advice of behavioral economists about "the fallacy of sunk costs."

Walk away from the smoke taint susceptible grapes that were still on the vine during or after the wildfires, and file a business interruption or other insurance claim for that lost potential revenue.

And go to market with the 70% to 90% of the grapes picked before the wildfires.

As Warren Buffett has observed, "It takes years to build a reputation and about five minutes to destroy it".

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