When I call up The Old Farmer on Cuttings Wharf and ask what he’s doing his typical answer is, “Wrestlin’ alligators.” That’s Farmer speak for one of a few things:
A) “My irrigation pump went out and I’m standing in the middle of the reservoir with waders on wrenching on the damn thing.” or
B) “The Kubota Tractor aint nothin’ like a Ford and the headlights stopped working the other night three-quarters of the way through my spray rotation, so I had to drive blind that night, and now I’m re-wiring the damn thing.” or
C) “I already punched a shark in the nose, so wrestlin’ an alligator seemed like the next best damn thing.”
If you haven’t checked your local Comcast listing, set your DVR or bought the weekly edition of TV Guide at the grocery store checkout stand yet it’s Shark Week on the Discovery Channel. At Thomson Vineyards we’ll be pairing great wines with great whites all week-long beginning Wednesday. For now though, here is a list of the top three alligators we’re wrestlin’ in the vineyard and one shark we punched out:
1) Weather. Over 100 degree days behind where we were this time last year, there’s nothing really to wrestle, it’s just something we’re living with. We use several weather forecasting websites but you can get a good look at the degree day model at winebusiness.com or the agriculture forecast and degree day calculator on weather.com.
2) Water. Lot of chatter out there about delta water, water for farms, wells, run-off. Fortunately we’ve got water at Thomson Vineyards, we don’t need it this year to irrigate, but we sure got it and it’s certainly nice to have in the years the vineyard does need it! The Carneros Water District is wrestling with daunting cost estimates to get recycled water out to the south county. Land owners and farmers are being asked to put up a portion of the cost. You can get more of the details here. But in the end of the day, growers don’t dry farm in Carneros because they want to, it’s because the have no choice. Wrestle on!
3) Economy. The Farmer predicts a double dip. Sure, sure listen to Mad Money with Jim Cramer or maybe you’re a fan of Bulls & Bears on Fox News. But this week when I got an email from another Old Farming Uncle and the subject line read, “WHAT STOCKS IS YOUR FATHER WATCHING?” (Yes, all caps, email etiquette is beneath the Thomson men) and The Farmer is doing shots of Tequila at Compadres Rio Grille saying, “I’ve been waiting for this market MY ENTIRE LIFE” quickly followed by, “We’re not getting out of this, this is gonna’ go on for at least another 18 months.” You can pay your financial advisors to tell you for $350/hr what The Farmer will tell you for free. Don’t quit your day job and you better prepare yourself to get paid $500/ton for Cabernet this year folks…if you’re THAT lucky.
Brass Knuckles: We gave the grape market a good swift punch in the nose this year when we followed our own advice and sourced several good wineries and winemakers to build solid foundations and relationships with. For all of you on the flip side though the message is still the same, find a good grower and sign a long-term contract. Don’t invest capital in a winery when there’s plenty of tank space at custom crush facilities from Washington to Santa Barbara. Don’t plant vineyards unless it truly makes sense with your business model – when there are growers out there who do this for a living and there’s fruit out there yet to find a home.
We’re still looking for a few more of you straight shooters to make Napa Los Carneros Chardonnay from our triple gold star fruit. But in the meantime, enjoy Shark Week. Let us know what wine you’re pairing with the hammer head or great white; or better yet your thoughts on wrestlin’ alligators. The Farmer will be farming all week long!