The party’s over, or soon will be as stragglers finish this year’s harvest.
But unlike professional athletes who get to enjoy rest and relaxation, some serious play time, during the off-season, there is no true off-season for grape growers.
“After the grapes are harvested,” reports the Grapes From California webpage, “the vine continues the process of photosynthesis, creating carbohydrate reserves to store in the vine’s roots, trunks and cordons until an appropriate level of reserves has been stored.
“At that point, the chlorophyll in the leaves begins to break down and leaves change color from green to yellow until the first frost when leaves begin to fall as the vine starts to enter its winter dormancy period. The stored carbohydrate reserves will be used the following spring to support the initial growth.”
So do growers get to enjoy the fruits of their labor? Not generally as they’re too busy cleaning up and getting ready for the next season.
At least one user of grapes, the wine industry, remains optimistic despite multiple challenges — flattening overall growth; changing generational preferences; a diminished labor market; climate change and wildfires complicating winemaking; and cannabis becoming increasingly competitive.
The Wine Industry Network works on industry challenges of both today and tomorrow where its President and CEO George Christie admits: “Every professional I know is predicting tough times ahead.”
Hence, the eighth year of the North Coast Wine Industry Expo is slated for the Sonoma County Fairgrounds on Dec. 5, when 300 of the industry’s top suppliers will showcase their products, services, and innovations along with some promised end-of-the-year deals.
“Wine industry suppliers are in some ways, the unsung heroes of this industry,” says Christie. “They are the experts and innovators that bring their highly-specialized knowledge and capabilities for us to learn from.”
Another highlight of the annual event is the unveiling of the WINnovation Awards where five of the year’s most innovative wine industry suppliers get recognized for their contributions. “The WINnovation Awards alert the industry that there’s something new here that can help improve their business.”
The conference component of the expo has separate tracks that cover sales, marketing, business strategy and winemaking.
“We monitor industry trends and listen to the experts so we can put together sessions that speak to the challenges the industry is working through now while looking ahead to arm our attendees for the future,” Christie says.
Session topics this year will range from smoke taint to smart packaging; perspectives on industry challenges and inconsistencies; the legal landscape of wine; and preparing for changes expected in 2020. “The wine industry is a community. We may be competitors, but we’re also colleagues and there’s a great deal of knowledge-sharing going on.”
So, while it might be enjoyable to put your feet up and kick back a bit, there’s stuff to be learned that will help next year’s harvest. Previous attendees have noted “The event presents the newest, most dynamic, most innovative and most superior things that will affect us right in the heart of the most developed part of the industry it serves, right here in Sonoma County. It’s a great lineup of sessions, a great use of time, and a great way to end the year.” Registration is now underway at wineindustryexpo.com/.
And a final post-harvest season thought as grape growers exhale a collective sigh of relief and catch their breath, next year could be a bit different as it pertains to seasonal workers as the Department of Labor has owned up to inefficiencies in the H2A temporary agricultural labor visa program and is working to change the rules. Some changes will reflect what is already happening, others will involve modifications of the program’s overall scope.
Like the fortune cookie says — “More Will Be Revealed”.
For more news on pests, disease management and other issues affecting vineyards, subscribe to the bi-monthly newsletter The Grape Line.