Some wise words from a man by the name of Justin Meyer that were passed on to my dad who then passed them on to me: “Stay small.”
There are a few of you who know that name very well; most of you probably do not. Justin was one of the partners who founded Silver Oak. Say what you will about Silver Oak, they are still one of the iconic producers in the Napa Valley and some of their Cabs from the mind 90s back through the 80s taste fantastic (#truestory). In fact some of the inspiration for this post came from a 1984 Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon that I had recently; because it was really good.
The theory behind staying small came from this notion: if you had to bring in all of your grapes at the same time you should have enough room to handle it. If not, you’re too big.
This means a couple things as a wine producer:
1st – if you are too big you have to play with a law of averages. You are probably going to start harvesting earlier than you want because if you don’t you won’t be able to bring in all of the fruit at its peak OR you do the opposite and start at its peak and end up with some later harvest stuff. In essence you are diluting the good stuff however you could always save face by offering a “reserve” bottling” from said good stuff and throw the rest into your “everyday” bottling.
A third option is that you have so many grapes that you have to start your harvest early and finish your harvest late.
2nd – if you are “small” you can be picky. You don’t have to deal with averages. You deal with the best day in and out. When a lot doesn’t meet expectations it simply doesn’t make the cut.
To be fair you can, in general, schedule your harvest out in a way to get what you want out of the vineyard at an optimum time because it is rare that everything has to come in at once. This is because different grapes ripen at different rates. Grapes used for sparkling wine come in first, followed by your still white wines and then red wine grapes (of course there are always exceptions and there are large grey areas in between).
I do like “what ifs” though. They tend to bring interesting points to light. What if, at random, certain producer in the world had to bring in all of their fruit at one time?
I will tell you the answer: shit would hit the fan. Forget the amount of people you would need to make it happen. The shear amount of volume would drown some, probably many, producers.
Think about that for a minute.
You are a winemaker and there is NO WAY you can bring in all your fruit at the most opportune time.