Posted by: Thomson Vineyards | December 29, 2010

12 Grapes For Twenty Eleven

L-I-V-I-N in Twenty Eleven

The Farmer refuses to eat pears to this very day. A tantrum ensues at the sight of them. In the grocery store he steers clear of the produce section in an effort to remain calm. Whole, canned, dried, compote don’t you dare try to get him to eat one. The way The Farmer feels about pears, is the way I’m beginning to feel about grapes.

I recently heard about a tradition that began in the early part of the twentieth century where people actually eat 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight on New Years Eve, each grape representing a month of the coming year. The first thought that went through my head was that it would be one tradition Thomson Vineyards will not be observing. I don’t care how lucky it is.

Apparently the tradition began in Spain because of a grape surplus, but people kept doing it and it spread to Portugal, Peru, Venezuela, Mexico, and Cuba. The sweeter the grape, the better the month will be that it represents. If you get a sour grape, it may be that the month it represents could be difficult for you. Spaniards are darn resourceful is all I have to say. Maybe you guys can adopt the tradition and let me know how it goes to decrease our current grape surplus.

Rather than eat 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight here are 12 “grapes” a little sweet and a little sour as we embark on the 2011 vintage:

1) The Thomson Vineyards blog post that received 1,250 hits in just 6 hours was supposed to be a post detailing the wine grape sales Thomson Vineyards has made via Twitter. Putting an end to all the marketers and wine industry social media experts running around shouting at one another about ROI. Instead 7 Eleven struck and The Millennials became the great white hope of an industry paralyzed by its own segmented, old school antics. I was forced to shift gears and wrote the Millennials Would Rather Die post; in the aftermath one respected and knowledgeable wine publication editor remarked “well, I think you got their attention now.” Having since thought better of detailing which wineries bought what from us in 2010 or are going to buy what blocks from us in 2011, I will merely say that three Twitter DMs have resulted in 20 tons of wine grape sales for Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet. Tweeting once a day is the benchmark for that part of our marketing strategy. You do the math. And to the unnamed wine brokerage who had me on conference call last March, chuckling about just how much I’d sold via Twitter, I’ll buy you guys a beer the next time I see you and we can talk about how much you sold via new social media channels.

2) Thomson Vineyards Dirty Little Secret. We’re the only wine growers out there Tweeting and blogging consistently and we have one purpose and one purpose only, to sell the fruit that we are farming by telling our story thus driving our ranking higher in the search engines and ensuring Thomson Vineyards remains top of mind when a winemaker goes to source fruit. At the time of this post, I have successfully dethroned Thompson Vineyards of Santa Barbara County in Google search and I feel fine about it.  If having an outspoken voice in the industry – where we are the very first link in the supply chain, furthest from the finished product, making the least amount of profit results in just one more grape sale because I wear patent leather stilettos and telling tales of The Farmer’s vineyard antics sells more wine grapes at a premium, not bulk, price then so be it. Selling fruit, driving SEO, I promise you that is our only agenda. Blogging once a week is the benchmark. In 2010 – 52 posts were written, 47 published, and just one that I know of pirated.

3) If you think our blog is good, you should try our fruit. No lie, it disappoints me that we garnish attention for writing some of the ballsiest posts in the wine industry, but I’ve still got fruit uncontracted in 2011. It’s early, but I’ve got two blocks of clone 76 Chardonnay, a vineyard full of Cabernet, maybe some Merlot that is hand farmed by The Farmer and yields perfectly formed clusters, demonstrates even ripening, exhibits desirable site specific characteristics like high acids, and includes free delivery within in The Valley. In addition to all of that – artisan producers get white glove treatment you won’t get from vineyard management companies farming and selling hundreds of acres of fruit but will let you select your very own, “2 ton lot.” The Farmer’s fruit is what Thomson Vineyards should be known for first, then our blog.

4) The Pinot Noir is pretty much spoken for in 2011. Unfortunately it hasn’t rebounded to the price per ton it once commanded in 2008. That is until several winemakers have recently put two and two together and raised their eyebrows highlighting the twinkle in their eye whilst discovering that 35-50 year old vines planted in Swan, Pommard, Martini and others between the two properties at Los Carneros Avenue and Cuttings Wharf really do still exist. Bulldozing is up, the little guys are out. Except for us. If you’re on the market for heritage clones give me a call. I’m in the process of selecting a field blend to plant our final 6-acre block where Thomson Martini Clone Pinot once lived and will live once again. If you’re a winemaker who’s “spoken” for Thomson Martini fruit, and want to have a say in the next 6 acres, you know where to find us. Pruning. Wine afterall is made in the vineyard and the season starts in January not September.

5) In just under 30 days The Farmer will be cruising the tradeshow floor, “window shopping” and building relationships at the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium. He enjoyed “looking and not buying” and socializing so much so last year – afterwards spending his evening at the Cal Poly Alumni mixer that he will be making an appearance once again; except I’ve requested that he fly his own school colors and quit posing with mine. You can read up on my 2010 thoughts related to the conference – I assure you they’re the same in 2011.

6) It’s not a Shur Frost it’s called a Wing & Prayer Son. We’re pendelbogen pruning more than just the Creek Block 10 in 2011. Blocks 5, 7 and 8 will get the more labor-intensive pruning method bringing canes and buds 6 more inches up off the wires and 6 more inches above the frost line. If you think winery capital costs are overwhelming, take a look at the investment required on the farming side. $7-15k is what one Shur Frost will set you back. Once you’re done here you can learn more about The Farmer’s pendelbogen pruning method in our Livin’ On A Prayer frost protection post.

7) To Do List: Licensing and Permitting. The only reason I’m re examining these action items is because there is a barrel of 2010 Cabernet in production under an alternative APN number, that will eventually need to be transferred to me. The plan was to make one barrel of each varietal in 2010, instead I sold every last berry of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Please defer to grape number 2 above. Mike Koroson of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control district office in Santa Rosa – I’ll see you next week.

8)This was supposed to be the grape that noted my favorite wine of 2010, my favorite event, my favorite things. Instead I’ll share with you one of my most recent favorite ideas. Two Buck Chuck started it, Oak Leaf has become mainstream, I consistently rave about the Target Wine Cube, and now the upscale Three Wishes is on the scene courtesy of Whole Foods. Consider ringing in the New Year with your closest comrades, four carafes, a couple bottles of each of the aforementioned and a good old fashioned blind wine tasting. Throw an expensive ringer in the mix and you’ve got a party. Just a thought. Discuss.

9) Speaking of discussions, wine industry association fees, is a constant discussion among us at Thomson Vineyard meetings. Well, I’m putting an end to the discussing. You could talk about it or you could do it right? I’ve already sent a note to Accounts Payable. Thomson Vineyards is suspending all association fees and membership until we begin seeing real value out of Napa Valley wine industry associations. Paid workshops in addition to annual membership fees and spam like email blasts don’t cut it in 2011.

10) Diversification is the name of the game and we’re in it. Predicting a wet winter and spring, have you seen the snow reports from the Sierras!?! We’re at 200%+ average. Thomson Vineyards may just solve the water crisis in Carneros and sell water to its neighbors. I’ve been asked about it several times. If you can figure how to do it, I’ll deliver it.

11) Among the posts that were written and never published was one questioning if  “Winemaker” is the new “MBA” Again, having thought better of posting it, instead I’ll go ahead and say I studied for the GMAT not the LSAT. But, here I am writing contracts. Sourcing California lien law clauses so that we can get paid, and if we don’t – hire henchmen to pick that product up out of wine warehouses until we do get paid. There is just one winery on my UNPAID list from 2009 who still has not paid, but whose website notes “2009 Chardonnay releasing soon!” Cute explanation mark, we’ll see how cute you look when I show up to taste that Carneros juice in your tasting room and buy a bottle for $40…soon. Anyhow, please see grape number 9 and let your local association presidents, CEOs or Executive Directors that would be a good use of annual membership dollars, once annual contract review for its members.

12) And finally, every year since college I’ve developed a tagline associated with the upcoming year. This year’s is an extension of 2010 because all in all 2010 was a pretty good year. I defined myself as a wine grower, not a blogger. I quit my job working for The Man to work for The Farmer. Every berry The Farmer farmed was harvested with one exception. Bygones. I live in the greatest city on earth and work in the most beautiful AVA on the planet. And I’ve managed to strike a balance between mud boots and fishnets! I suppose that last point could use a little extra work and effort…

Anyhow, I hope that you all adopt your own motto, mantra, slogan, or tagline in time for the clock to strike 12. While you’re downing surplus grapes I’ll be L-I-V-I-N in Twenty Eleven. As always, send me your comments – better yet, post your 2011 tagline.


  1. I think you mean ‘pendelbogen’

    • Thanks Mark for the technical correction, The Farmer went to Los Carneros Elementary School and always struggled in the Spelling Bee!

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