April 21, 2015
 Spring has arrived. Windrem Vineyard, Big Valley District AVA.
Photo by Nathan De Hart
A Note from the Commission President...

Happy Spring!

We hope you were able to attend Momentum 2015 last week to join the exciting discussion about market trends and future opportunities for Lake County Sauvignon Blanc. In case you missed it or want to revisit it, read on. And if you'd like to dig deeper into the content from the Water Stewardship in Drought Conditions seminar, speaker presentations are posted on our web site.

Last week, we also were thrilled to host Sonoma State University's Wine Business Institute in presenting two wine industry classes right here at our office in Kelseyville. This was the first time WBI had partnered with a wine industry group north of Napa and Sonoma counties. Both were well-attended, and we look forward to continued partnership to bring additional classes to our region next spring.

And, with a look forward to mid-May, LCWC will be hosting an exclusive group of distributors, key accounts, sommeliers, and media to showcase our region and demonstrate the breadth of quality with a new generation of Lake County wines.

The Momentum continues...

In This Issue
LCWC Chair Peter Molnar (far left) engages fellow Lake County winegrowers (pictured left to right) David Weiss, Jonathan Walters, Christian Ahlmann, Keith Brandt, and Cameron Lyeth in a dynamic panel discussion on topics ranging from water, labor, and sustainable practices to pricing, demand, and trends for Sauvignon Blanc.

Lake County Wine Industry Discusses Market Trends and Opportunities


On April 13, Momentum 2015, the region's second annual wine industry seminar presented by the Lake County Winegrape Commission (LCWC), once again attracted a wide range of growers, small and large from nearly all appellations within the county.

The seminar kicked off with an informative keynote presentation titled, "The Outlook for Lake County Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc," by Christian Miller of Full Glass Research. He shared results from a survey of grape buyers, his analysis of market trends, and specific opportunities for Lake County Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc.

Miller surveyed 64 North Coast grape buyers which, when adjusted for respondent size and grape usage, covered an estimated 55 percent of Lake County's supply to the market.

Of particular note, 70 percent of respondents rated the quality of Lake County Sauvignon Blanc as "substantially better" or "slightly better," compared to other coastal appellations.

LCWC Chair Peter Molnar expanded on Miller's analysis and shared a thought-provoking view "out over the horizon line" as to where Lake County could be as a wine region in 10 years. Discussion focused on two key points: achieving widespread vineyard sustainability certification across the region and taking a leadership position as a premier Sauvignon Blanc winegrowing region.

   Christian Miller of Full Glass Research  
   shared grape-buyer research results that
   showed approximately 70 percent of
   respondents characterized the quality of 
   Lake County Sauvignon Blanc as either
   "substantially better" or "slightly better"
   than other coastal appellations.
A panel of winegrape growers considered the future direction for the Lake County wine region and the potential for leadership with the Sauvignon Blanc varietal. Panelists included Christian Ahlmann, vice president and vineyard manager for Six Sigma Ranch; Keith Brandt, director of compliance for Shannon Ranches; Cameron Lyeth, sales manager for Beckstoffer Vineyards; Jonathan Walters, director of farming for Brassfield Estate; and David Weiss, owner of Bella Vista Farming Company.

The panel exchanged insights into current winegrape pricing and the demand for Sauvignon Blanc grapes, particularly from wineries in Napa where upper end pricing for Cabernet Sauvignon grapes at up to $6,000 per ton makes it less appealing to grow a lower-priced varietal like Sauvignon Blanc.

Lyeth emphasized that those wineries will be seeking a good alternative source for Sauvignon Blanc, with Lake County in prime position. "They're going to be looking for out-of-district supply," Lyeth said. "There's no question about that."

Walters agreed and suggested the key to avoiding becoming a commodity is to let winemakers in Napa know that "they don't need to put Sauvignon Blanc in the ground, that they can get it from here" and to encourage more small brands to put Lake County on the label.

Another theme was sustainable certification. Brandt shared his experience with third-party sustainability certification, which Shannon Ranches vineyards achieved last year, and encouraged audience members whose vineyards aren't yet certified to take a look into the program.

"It was actually a simpler process than you might think," he said. "You may be pleasantly surprised to find that probably 75 to 80 percent of your current farming practices fall into that sustainable category."

When asked about labor, panelists concurred that anywhere from 90 to 100 percent of the area's vineyard workers live in Lake County. "Approximately 100 percent of our workers are local," Weiss said. "Around harvest, you might have a few (from out of the area), but I would say it's less than 10 percent."

Ahlmann noted that his vineyard manager is currently enrolled in the Master Vigneron Academy, a professional development program presented by LCWC specifically designed for vineyard managers and supervisors. "He absolutely loves it," he said. "He's going out and seeing some of the great vineyards in Lake County and also Napa and Sonoma, and it's a great experience for him."

Molnar said, "Having an educated, really experienced workforce is the key to growing good grapes." Nearly 40 participants over four years have gone through the program, which is taught in Spanish and led by LCWC Education Director Paul Zellman. 

   LCWC President Debra Sommerfield  
   shares a "hot-off-the-presses" Lake
   County special section in the April 12 
   San Francisco Chronicle.


The panel also addressed audience questions on the topic of water by referencing the "Water Stewardship in Drought Conditions" seminar, which had been held just days earlier. Molnar referenced comments made by speakers at that seminar who indicated that Lake County is in relatively good shape because the region has a "proactive view of water management" and because it has a lot of advantages "geologically and climatically" with respect to the area's aquifers.


Following the panel, Joy Merrilees, Director of Winemaking & Production at Shannon Ridge Family of Wines, led a technical tasting of Lake County Sauvignon Blanc, discussing points of distinction, style, and price points with Jason Moulton, Winemaker at Brassfield Estate Winery, and Eric Stine, Winemaker at Langtry Estate & Vineyard.

To view a copy of Christian Miller's keynote presentation, go online to: www.lakecountywinegrape.org/momentum.


 Water Stewardship in Drought Conditions 
keynote speaker Janet Pauli, PhD,  
discusses the initiative to raise Coyote Valley Dam.
Agricultural Community Discusses Water Stewardship


On April 9, farmers, ranchers, grapegrowers, and state and county officials gathered for an in-depth discussion about the state of water in Lake County at an information-packed session that featured presentations by water experts from across the state.


The seminar, titled "Water Stewardship in Drought Conditions," was presented collaboratively by the Lake County Farm Bureau, Lake County Winegrape Commission, and UC Cooperative Extension.


Attendees listened to a range of presentations on topics such as surface water, statewide water policy, and recent groundwater legislation and local impacts, as well as weather forecasting and practical tools and new technologies useful in crop water estimation and management.


Janet Pauli, PhD, chair of Mendocino County Inland Water and Power Commission, set the stage with a keynote presentation on the advocacy efforts to increase water storage in the region by raising Lake Mendocino's Coyote Valley Dam by 36 feet, the height the dam was engineered to be. She shared the presentation given to the Army Corps of Engineers in December, which identified the list of communities (Redwood Valley, Calpella, Ukiah, Hopland, Cloverdale, Geyserville, and even Healdsburg), estimated agricultural crop value, and other economic impacts - all of which are dependent on the water stored in Lake Mendocino.


   Water Resources Director Scott De Leon

Lake County Water Resources Director Scott De Leon gave an informative update on  Lake County's water status with current and historic levels of Clear Lake and detailed charts of average monthly groundwater levels for many of the 81 wells monitored by his department - from Big Valley to Scotts Valley and Upper Lake to Coyote Valley. 


"In general, conditions look better than last year," De Leon reported. 


De Leon also discussed the state's recent groundwater legislation and indicated that two basins in Lake County - Big Valley and Scotts Valley - meet the "Medium Priority" threshold and thereby will require a 

Groundwater Sustainability Plan and the formation of a local Groundwater Sustainability Agency. 


Thomas Harter, PhD, Groundwater Hydrologist with UC Davis, provided an in-depth look at sustainable groundwater management. He shared a timeline of drought periods in California, an examination of the state's aquifers, basins, and water infrastructure, and an explanation of the process of groundwater recharge.


Harter discussed applied water uses and emphasized that while urban and agricultural users are often the focus of media reports during times of drought, those combined uses account for only 50 percent of the water used in a dry year. Environmental uses, such as required Delta outflows, instream flows, managed wetlands, and wild and scenic rivers, account for the other 50 percent, he said.

 UC Davis Groundwater Hydrologist Thomas Harter, 
 PhD, shares insights into aquifers.


With regard to Lake County's water basins, Harter indicated that, in comparison to other areas in the state, Lake County's water situation isn't dire. He cited several main reasons: a long history of proactive water management by local agencies, judicious water use by agricultural users for irrigation and frost protection, and the region's distinct climate and geology that means more rain falling on well-drained volcanic soils above deep aquifers that recharge reliably.


Other speakers and panelists included California Water Law and Conservation Attorney Tom Hicks, Justin Frederickson of the California Farm Bureau Federation, Bruce Houdesheldt of the Northern California Water Association, Don Schukraft of Western Weather Group, Tom Shapland of Tule Technology, and Bryan Rahn of Coastal Viticultural Consultants.



The seminar expanded on a previous drought-related forum held locally in February 2014 in response to the statewide drought declaration.


For more information, contact the Lake County Winegrape Commission at (707) 279-2633.

In Memoriam: Lake County Winegrower Walt Lyon


Long-time Lake County winegrape grower Walt Lyon passed away late last week. A constant supporter of Lake County's winegrape industry, Walt helped establish the Lake County Winegrape Commission in 1991 and served as one of its founding Board members. 


In the mid-1960s, Walt was one of a small group of visionary young ranchers who were among the first to re-plant winegrapes in Lake County after the repeal of Prohibition. He planted a Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard at the family ranch northeast of Kelseyville in 1966. 


Through his advocacy and persistence, Walt was instrumental in ensuring Lake County was included as part of the North Coast AVA when it was established back in 1983. Nearly 30 years later, Walt offered guidance in the establishment of Lake County's two newest appellations, Big Valley District-Lake County AVA and Kelsey Bench-Lake County AVA, both of which were approved in October 2013.


A memorial will be held Sunday, May 3, at 3:00 p.m. at Clear Lake State Park. Bring a chair and a potluck item to share.

Sustainability Education Tools and News


Wine Institute has released new tools for understanding and communicating about California sustainable wine growing.


The California Sustainable Winegrowing Ambassador Course is a new, one-hour certificate class that provides education about sustainable winegrowing practices. The free, online course helps wine professionals, such as retailers, restaurateurs, distributors, media, winery sales, marketing, public relations and hospitality staff, learn and test their understanding of sustainable practices of California wineries and vineyards. Those who successfully complete the course receive a certificate that can be downloaded and shared. 

Grape and Wine Marketplace


GRAPES WANTED: Riesling Grapes Wanted. Contact Ernie Weir, Hagafen Cellars, (707) 252-0781, ernie(at)hagafen(dot)com.

SSU's Wine Business Institute Presents Online Courses

Sonoma State University's Wine Business Institute recently presented two courses in Kelseyville and will present the following two online certificate programs with courses starting soon. 

Wine Business Management Online Certificate 
This program is taught in three consecutive levels and covers the full spectrum of business aspects influencing both domestic and global wine markets. The next Foundation level course begins May 6.

QuickBooks Certificate: 
A Comprehensive Application for Your Wine Business
This is an eight-week online certificate course that begins May 13 and is taught by Jeanette Tan, Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor. 

Vintage Nurseries Announces New

State-of-the-Art Testing Laboratory


Vintage Nurseries, in its effort to raise the bar in providing better products, better people and better service, has announced a new Materials Testing Laboratory that is scheduled to open this Spring. Featuring special virus detection and other industry advancements, the lab promises a new era in quality control. Vintage officials say that the third party-certified facility will enable the company to test plant materials more quickly, thoroughly and cost effectively for its grower partners.


"This internal lab is one more step forward for our 'growers first' approach," says Brad Kroeker, Quality Control Manager for Vintage Nurseries, based in Wasco, California. "We will provide guaranteed transparency in all testing results, while establishing a new level in supplying the cleanest vines possible. This lab represents our investment in the future, for the good of the industry."

Heading the new materials testing facility will be Dr. Tefera Mekuria, who holds a PhD in Plant Pathology from Oklahoma State University and has worked at acclaimed Washington State University (WSU) IAREC-Prosser, studying plant viruses and other grapevine pathogens, as well as tree fruits.


"We are creating a new standard," he states. "We want to be the leading resource for qualitative testing, with faster turnaround, increased sample sizes and uncompromising attention to detail. This will also include expanding collaborative relationships with universities, regulatory agencies and forward-thinking private firms, to achieve cutting edge results."

For more information about Vintage Nurseries, call toll-free at 800/499-9019, or visit www.vintagenurseries.com.


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