Why is Oregon chardonnay so expensive?

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Why is Oregon chardonnay so expensive?

#101 Post by Travis Fantz »

When I was in the business, I used to be think that some wineries didn't need to sell wine. I'm not saying this is the case with Seth. Yet, some places will make 25-75 cases and keep it for a year. I think you see more with Pinot Noir. I drink just as much Oregon Chardonnay as I do Pinot Noir. I'm sure Alberty has tried it, maybe he will post. You cannot go wrong with Matello, Crowley, Cameron, Walter Scott and Brick House. I think the latter was mentioned, if you like that Adea is a good pick also. If Jim is coming out with one, I will buy it. The Evesham Wood LPS is always great if you can find it.

I just want to know if there is a recommendation that someone thinks is I pad with the first four I mentioned.
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#102 Post by Glenn L e v i n e »

$50/btl caused me real hesitation. I'd love to taste next to the Hanzell Estate from CA, which is a benchmark at this price.
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#103 Post by MandyC »

Travis Fantz wrote:When I was in the business, I used to be think that some wineries didn't need to sell wine. I'm not saying this is the case with Seth. Yet, some places will make 25-75 cases and keep it for a year. I think you see more with Pinot Noir. I drink just as much Oregon Chardonnay as I do Pinot Noir. I'm sure Alberty has tried it, maybe he will post. You cannot go wrong with Matello, Crowley, Cameron, Walter Scott and Brick House. I think the latter was mentioned, if you like that Adea is a good pick also. If Jim is coming out with one, I will buy it. The Evesham Wood LPS is always great if you can find it.

I just want to know if there is a recommendation that someone thinks is I pad with the first four I mentioned.
The first four you mentioned are my favorite OR chardonnays, too. I tasted at Matello, Crowley, and Walter Scott on a recent trip and loved what they're doing. The Walter Scott X Novo in particular blew me away. I'd buy that at $45 over an unknown at $50 any day.

I had a chance to barrel sample the Patricia Green Chardonnay and can't wait for the opportunity to buy some. Even better- they actually have Alabama distribution!
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#104 Post by Michae1 P0wers »

Jim Anderson wrote:
Rick Allen wrote:This is an unfortunate development in Oregon. The old model was to price the initial release at a more reasonable price to build an email list and customer recognition. Now it appears that people try to build their "story" in social media, and, if successful, price their wines at the high end. I'm not sure if that is a good strategy at $50 for a Chardonnay. When I can buy dozens of top-notch Chardonnays from proven producers for less money, why?
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I'd say I hate to sound like an old curmudgeon but jeez someone has to do it in Oregon. Rick points out an ever increasing phenomenon that is becoming ever more common. New wines from un-established wineries run by (oft times) folks with minimal or embellished credentials charging very high prices for first releases. It's not a good look for Oregon IMO. Not sure where it goes or what it leads to. Not trying to be the "get off my lawn" guy but when I know what I (and Patty) and a LOT of friends and colleagues went through to get to certain places (and prices) it is disheartening to see first vintage places doubling down right out of the gate.
Frankly I just don't know if this is a good strategy anyway. There don't seem to be too many people trying to catch the next big thing in OR Chardonnay at those prices, hence this thread. Even with pinot one has to wonder how successful that model is unless you have a known name in the region and industry, and likely an entry level wine that can serve as a calling card. Okay, maybe if you can build your model on a famous burgundy producer that helps, but even those projects (omitting DDO, who has now put in rather serious time (though I haven't had any of their wines in years)) I have to wonder if they can really sell through at the kind of prices that they're asking.

That said, to some extent newer producers with slick marketing and a decent product can introduce their product at a high price point and actually generate some interest is a credit to the work that you and so many others have done. Even so, I suspect, as has been mentioned, that a lot of the reason that they can do so is significant investor money and micro production, in great contrast to the established producers who make a decent volume of wine and manage to sell that year in and year out, good vintages and bad.

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#105 Post by Michae1 P0wers »

Glenn L e v i n e wrote:$50/btl caused me real hesitation. I'd love to taste next to the Hanzell Estate from CA, which is a benchmark at this price.
I've never loved Hanzell, always seemed to much to me, though I've only had a couple. But for about that same money you can get Mount Eden which I really like. Or some lesser PYCM...

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#106 Post by Bob Hughes »

Far Niente has been in business for decades with a "Why Pay Less" credo from day one - why would anyone be surprised that people try to emulate that model in Oregon (or any wine producing area, for that matter).

I have never had a problem paying for what I perceive as value - I have stuff like Monfortino and Giacosa in my cellar. But I do insist on the wines/producer having a track record before I buy. Still, our Board is a great example of folks eager to hop on the next "hot" producer - hell, if Antica Terra can sell Rose' for $50 a bottle, why can't Morgen Long sell Chard for the same price? Either way, I'm not buying, which means less competition for everyone else to get their full allocations [cheers.gif] .

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Why is Oregon chardonnay so expensive?

#107 Post by Nolan E »

Bob Hughes wrote:hell, if Antica Terra can sell Rose' for $90 a bottle
Fixed to match what I saw in March.
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#108 Post by Glenn L e v i n e »

Michael Powers wrote:
Glenn L e v i n e wrote:$50/btl caused me real hesitation. I'd love to taste next to the Hanzell Estate from CA, which is a benchmark at this price.
I've never loved Hanzell, always seemed to much to me, though I've only had a couple. But for about that same money you can get Mount Eden which I really like. Or some lesser PYCM...
I have never really been a big Mount Eden fan but do really like the PYCM St Aubin Chards.
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#109 Post by Michae1 P0wers »

Glenn L e v i n e wrote:
Michael Powers wrote:
Glenn L e v i n e wrote:$50/btl caused me real hesitation. I'd love to taste next to the Hanzell Estate from CA, which is a benchmark at this price.
I've never loved Hanzell, always seemed to much to me, though I've only had a couple. But for about that same money you can get Mount Eden which I really like. Or some lesser PYCM...
I have never really been a big Mount Eden fan but do really like the PYCM St Aubin Chards.

Well I admit I haven't had a Mount Eden in a couple of years but enjoyed them in the past. Also only tried examples with decent age, some of the only aged California Chards I have experience with really. I have basically given up on California Chardonnay entirely. Bought into Liquid Farm on the hype a year or so back and was disappointed. Decided ultimately that my Chardonnay should come from France, and mostly from Chablis, as that's what suits my tastes and lots of value still to be found. That said, this Oregon discussion, coupled with my feelings on Oregon's Pinots, has me thinking that it might be much more to my liking. None available locally, but I'll likely source a few bottles for evaluation next time I'm ordering from that area.

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#110 Post by Marcus Goodfellow »

Michael Powers wrote:
Glenn L e v i n e wrote:$50/btl caused me real hesitation. I'd love to taste next to the Hanzell Estate from CA, which is a benchmark at this price.
I've never loved Hanzell, always seemed to much to me, though I've only had a couple. But for about that same money you can get Mount Eden which I really like. Or some lesser PYCM...
Let's go with the PYCM, for comparisons ;)


I do have a soft spot for Mt. Eden though.
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#111 Post by Marcus Goodfellow »

I know Seth Long. He's a good guy, I haven't tried the Chardonnay, but I have never been a fan of jumping into sales at the top end of the market. I am guessing there are some reasons influencing his decision but it seems a hard way to grow.

It's generally felt that old vines make better wines, but I think old winemakers do too. That makes it challenging for me to support a new producer jumping in up top.
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#112 Post by Glenn L e v i n e »

Michael Powers wrote:Well I admit I haven't had a Mount Eden in a couple of years but enjoyed them in the past. Also only tried examples with decent age, some of the only aged California Chards I have experience with really. I have basically given up on California Chardonnay entirely. Bought into Liquid Farm on the hype a year or so back and was disappointed. Decided ultimately that my Chardonnay should come from France, and mostly from Chablis, as that's what suits my tastes and lots of value still to be found. That said, this Oregon discussion, coupled with my feelings on Oregon's Pinots, has me thinking that it might be much more to my liking. None available locally, but I'll likely source a few bottles for evaluation next time I'm ordering from that area.
Yeah, I feel ya. Hanzell, Enfield and Ceritas remain the CA Chards I can buy in volume and still find myself consistently happy after uncorking. We really do want to attend the OR Chardonnay festival one of these years.
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#113 Post by Gordon Fitz »

I'm not happy with the last couple of years of horrible price increases but Domaine Serene makes excellent OR Chards with Etoile being my favorite. I also like Brickhouse , Shea, and DDO Chards.

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#114 Post by Scott Everson »

I was at Trisaetum this weekend, and learned this is the second year they've been making chardonnay. I asked the loaded question, "Why is your chardonnay so expensive? I thought reds were always more expensive." The answer I received was that first, they use very expensive French oak barrels. Fine. Second, they looked around to see what other people were charging, and priced it accordingly. Curiously, either with this vintage or the first vintage or both, they purchased some grapes from Left Coast Cellars, since Trisaetum doesn't yet produce enough grapes from their Ribbon Ridge Estate. Left Coast chardonnay charges $24 for their oaked chardonnay, so $49 for Trisaetum chard seems a little pricey, ESPECIALLY when their so very tasty reislings can be had at nearly half the cost.

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#115 Post by Scott Tallman »

So perhaps you should have titled this thread "Why is (Some) Oregon Chardonnay So Expensive (For No Apparent Reason)?" Or "Why do some producers' Oregon Chardonnay cost as much as their Pinot Noir?"

$49 for Trisaetum Chard? Easy pass. As others noted upthread, it appears that many now want to capitalize on the increased interest in OR Chard and are charging what I'd consider unreasonable prices for nascent offerings. As this thread shows, there are plenty of producers with great track records whose Chards are not expensive or, depending on your definition of expensive, are very fairly priced for the quality of the wine.

On a side note, I've never understood the concept of pricing new offerings based on broader market trends when you don't have the track record to back it up. Cameron charges $60 for AR and CE, so I'll price my first vintages at $50. More power to them if they can command that price and perhaps the wine is quite good, but I'll stick to the tried and true. I heard through the grapevine of a fairly well known, yet relatively young, WA winery that priced its bottles based on their perceived comparability to other established new world wines with similar scores. Although I like some of the wines, I always thought their pricing was pretty aggressive for a newer winery and high for WA. They used to have a few 20%+ off sales throughout the year, which led me to believe they were priced too high.
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#116 Post by dsGriswold »

Whenever one of my favorite wines gets priced above my comfort level, I stop buying and find a new favorite. I do not begrudge a winery maximizing product, but I exercise the right to buy what I feel comfortable drinking. So far there are plenty of OR wines in the reasonable price range that get me to buy more than I really need. [cheers.gif]
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#117 Post by Marcus Goodfellow »

dsGriswold wrote:Whenever one of my favorite wines gets priced above my comfort level, I stop buying and find a new favorite. I do not begrudge a winery maximizing product, but I exercise the right to buy what I feel comfortable drinking. So far there are plenty of OR wines in the reasonable price range that get me to buy more than I really need. [cheers.gif]
I completely agree with you. That's one of the main reasons I work to keep our WV down at around $20. I have no problem having some special bottles in my cellar but I also like to be able to drink wines where the bottle cost isn't in the back of my mind while the wine is being consumed.
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#118 Post by Erica Landon »

Nolan E wrote:Greg, a big factor in price with reds vs whites is labor. Chardonnay comes in, gets pressed, maybe settled overnight then either ferments in tank or in barrel with little human effort.

Reds will get two, maybe three, pumpovers or punchdowns a day for two weeks, then maybe one a day for extended maceration for another week or two with daily dry ice application...that's when you have several interns working 14 hours a day only doing cap management.
I am so glad you all are discussing this!! BIG Disclaimer, Ken and I make 5 Chardonnays at Walter Scott. They are priced as follows... Willamette Valley @ $25, Cuvee Anne @ $40, and single Vineyards @ $45. And there are SO many things that go into that pricing...

First, lets start in the vineyard. In 2011, Chardonnay was around $1600.00 a ton. After a lot of attention was put on the grape with Dominique Lafon achieved the scores (and price point) that ELV was awarded, EVERYONE wanted chardonnay. We want the best fruit, and we now pay for it. Our Chardonnay averages about $3500 a ton, and our most expensive fruit in the winery is Chardonnay from X Novo Vineyard. We are no longer farming chardonnay like Pinot Gris in Oregon, we are farming it like Pinot Noir with great care, proper yields.

In the winery, yes it is pressed off, and settled (or not) and then goes to barrel... BUT, to achieve the quality that we are all striving for, you do not put it to tank or barrel and walk away.... We check our barrels (EVERY ONE - which equates to triple the number of fermentations in comparison to Pinot due to quantity) every day, temperature, density. we taste, smell them, we stir them if necessary, we top the barrels regularly during fermentation when necessary.. They take just as much time and attention as the Pinot Noir, if not more.

Oak is just as expensive, and many people leave the chardonnay in barrel just as long as the Pinot Noir. I will venture to say that the majority of Chardonnays in Oregon do not get put into stainless tanks to ferment, these are barrel fermented and aged, and many have 35-50% new oak, just like the Pinot Noir. And in some cases we are sourcing very expensive oak from France that is more expensive then your average French Oak barrel that is used for Pinot, with specific toast and forest selections.

As you can guess, I am a huge proponent for Oregon Chardonnay. And many of us are all in, and are working very hard to make wines that will compete on the world stage next to the best chardonnays. It is very exciting! champagne.gif champagne.gif champagne.gif
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#119 Post by dsGriswold »

Very informative, thanks. Now to get some more of your wines. [cheers.gif]
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#120 Post by Marcus Goodfellow »

Well said Erica!
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#121 Post by Todd Hamina »

$3500 a ton is pure misery. My belief is that the one good outcome of KJ coming to town is that prices go down as they lock up acre contracts and then put on the squeeze. Easy math is $3500 divided by 60 cases, so $58 a case before the lights get turned on. It's bullshit.
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#122 Post by Jim Anderson »

Todd Hamina wrote:$3500 a ton is pure misery. My belief is that the one good outcome of KJ coming to town is that prices go down as they lock up acre contracts and then put on the squeeze. Easy math is $3500 divided by 60 cases, so $58 a case before the lights get turned on. It's bullshit.
I feel like this could turn into a Four Yorkshireman skit albeit in reverse (Monty Python reference and maybe my favorite skit ever). "$3,500/ton? We longed to pay $3,500/ton. We paid $4,500/ton, had to pick the fruit ourselves with a dull spoon in the pouring rain on the hottest day of the year in the middle of the night, give the owner a foot massage with our tongues and pay three vintages in advance."

I know little about the Chardonnay market so I don't really know the landscape but given the relative paucity of higher quality Chardonnay sites (relative to Pinot Noir) and the increasing quality of the resulting wine here in Oregon along with its new found commercial acceptance means higher prices. It already exists with Pinot Noir where paying upwards of $5,000-$6,000/ton is becoming relatively common.
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Why is Oregon chardonnay so expensive?,wow,,

#123 Post by Matthew King »

!
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#124 Post by Scott Everson »

God it takes almost 120 posts to finally get my answer.

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#125 Post by Jim Anderson »

Scott Everson wrote:God it takes almost 120 posts to finally get my answer.
Time zones.
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#126 Post by Marcus Goodfellow »

...perhaps in post 1 we should have put,"because it's so damn good!".
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#127 Post by dsGriswold »

[wow.gif]
Marcus Goodfellow wrote:...perhaps in post 1 we should have put,"because it's so damn good!".
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#128 Post by G. Bienstock »

Erica Landon wrote:
Nolan E wrote:Greg, a big factor in price with reds vs whites is labor. Chardonnay comes in, gets pressed, maybe settled overnight then either ferments in tank or in barrel with little human effort.

Reds will get two, maybe three, pumpovers or punchdowns a day for two weeks, then maybe one a day for extended maceration for another week or two with daily dry ice application...that's when you have several interns working 14 hours a day only doing cap management.
I am so glad you all are discussing this!! BIG Disclaimer, Ken and I make 5 Chardonnays at Walter Scott. They are priced as follows... Willamette Valley @ $25, Cuvee Anne @ $40, and single Vineyards @ $45. And there are SO many things that go into that pricing...

First, lets start in the vineyard. In 2011, Chardonnay was around $1600.00 a ton. After a lot of attention was put on the grape with Dominique Lafon achieved the scores (and price point) that ELV was awarded, EVERYONE wanted chardonnay. We want the best fruit, and we now pay for it. Our Chardonnay averages about $3500 a ton, and our most expensive fruit in the winery is Chardonnay from X Novo Vineyard. We are no longer farming chardonnay like Pinot Gris in Oregon, we are farming it like Pinot Noir with great care, proper yields.

In the winery, yes it is pressed off, and settled (or not) and then goes to barrel... BUT, to achieve the quality that we are all striving for, you do not put it to tank or barrel and walk away.... We check our barrels (EVERY ONE - which equates to triple the number of fermentations in comparison to Pinot due to quantity) every day, temperature, density. we taste, smell them, we stir them if necessary, we top the barrels regularly during fermentation when necessary.. They take just as much time and attention as the Pinot Noir, if not more.

Oak is just as expensive, and many people leave the chardonnay in barrel just as long as the Pinot Noir. I will venture to say that the majority of Chardonnays in Oregon do not get put into stainless tanks to ferment, these are barrel fermented and aged, and many have 35-50% new oak, just like the Pinot Noir. And in some cases we are sourcing very expensive oak from France that is more expensive then your average French Oak barrel that is used for Pinot, with specific toast and forest selections.

As you can guess, I am a huge proponent for Oregon Chardonnay. And many of us are all in, and are working very hard to make wines that will compete on the world stage next to the best chardonnays. It is very exciting! champagne.gif champagne.gif champagne.gif
Thanks for the explanation Erica. Keep up the great work.
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#129 Post by Bryan Carr »

Gordon Fitz wrote:I'm not happy with the last couple of years of horrible price increases but Domaine Serene makes excellent OR Chards with Etoile being my favorite. I also like Brickhouse , Shea, and DDO Chards.
I recently tried the current release of Dom. Serene's Clos de Lune and really loved it but holy hell $70 is OUCH. They cited it at 25% new french oak and while lightly savory and nutty, it wasn't buttery and the entire package was really well balanced and complex with some fresh acidity keeping it from being too heavy. I'm just now starting to delve into Oregon wines, can you recommend a similar OR chard that is more affordable?
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#130 Post by Mel Knox »

Bryan,
I am no authority on Oregon Chardonnay but i have enjoyed Brickhouse, Hamacher, where I was financially involved, and Drouhin, where I am not financially involved but wish I were. Walter Scott has a great rep, but I have not tasted it, tho I hear great things about their Ivanhoe cuvee...ditto Lady of the Lake and Kenilworth.

About the economics of making wine in the Willamette Valley: yields are low, land is not cheap, labor is not cheap...It is very hard to make a barrel-aged wine profitably and retail it for less than $30. As Erica points out, Riesling, fermented in tank and released in Spring, is going to be cheaper than Chardonnay, fermented and aged in barrel and released more than 12 months later.
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#131 Post by Markus S »

Jim Anderson wrote:
Todd Hamina wrote:$3500 a ton is pure misery. My belief is that the one good outcome of KJ coming to town is that prices go down as they lock up acre contracts and then put on the squeeze. Easy math is $3500 divided by 60 cases, so $58 a case before the lights get turned on. It's bullshit.
I feel like this could turn into a Four Yorkshireman skit albeit in reverse (Monty Python reference and maybe my favorite skit ever). "$3,500/ton? We longed to pay $3,500/ton. We paid $4,500/ton, had to pick the fruit ourselves with a dull spoon in the pouring rain on the hottest day of the year in the middle of the night, give the owner a foot massage with our tongues and pay three vintages in advance."

I know little about the Chardonnay market so I don't really know the landscape but given the relative paucity of higher quality Chardonnay sites (relative to Pinot Noir) and the increasing quality of the resulting wine here in Oregon along with its new found commercial acceptance means higher prices. It already exists with Pinot Noir where paying upwards of $5,000-$6,000/ton is becoming relatively common.
Yet more good arguments for the European model where vintners plant and own your own grapes.
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#132 Post by Jim Anderson »

Markus S wrote:
Jim Anderson wrote:
Todd Hamina wrote:$3500 a ton is pure misery. My belief is that the one good outcome of KJ coming to town is that prices go down as they lock up acre contracts and then put on the squeeze. Easy math is $3500 divided by 60 cases, so $58 a case before the lights get turned on. It's bullshit.
I feel like this could turn into a Four Yorkshireman skit albeit in reverse (Monty Python reference and maybe my favorite skit ever). "$3,500/ton? We longed to pay $3,500/ton. We paid $4,500/ton, had to pick the fruit ourselves with a dull spoon in the pouring rain on the hottest day of the year in the middle of the night, give the owner a foot massage with our tongues and pay three vintages in advance."

I know little about the Chardonnay market so I don't really know the landscape but given the relative paucity of higher quality Chardonnay sites (relative to Pinot Noir) and the increasing quality of the resulting wine here in Oregon along with its new found commercial acceptance means higher prices. It already exists with Pinot Noir where paying upwards of $5,000-$6,000/ton is becoming relatively common.
Yet more good arguments for the European model where vintners plant and own your own grapes.
We do own a 30+ acre vineyard however that certainly wasn't passed down over generations. And we needed a business partner to make it happen because even 16 years ago it wasn't exactly cheap. It's simple to say owning your own vineyards is the best and cheapest way to go but that statement ignores multiple realities in terms of actually getting there.
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#133 Post by Saul Mutchnick »

Markus S wrote:
Jim Anderson wrote:
Todd Hamina wrote:$3500 a ton is pure misery. My belief is that the one good outcome of KJ coming to town is that prices go down as they lock up acre contracts and then put on the squeeze. Easy math is $3500 divided by 60 cases, so $58 a case before the lights get turned on. It's bullshit.
I feel like this could turn into a Four Yorkshireman skit albeit in reverse (Monty Python reference and maybe my favorite skit ever). "$3,500/ton? We longed to pay $3,500/ton. We paid $4,500/ton, had to pick the fruit ourselves with a dull spoon in the pouring rain on the hottest day of the year in the middle of the night, give the owner a foot massage with our tongues and pay three vintages in advance."

I know little about the Chardonnay market so I don't really know the landscape but given the relative paucity of higher quality Chardonnay sites (relative to Pinot Noir) and the increasing quality of the resulting wine here in Oregon along with its new found commercial acceptance means higher prices. It already exists with Pinot Noir where paying upwards of $5,000-$6,000/ton is becoming relatively common.
Yet more good arguments for the European model where vintners plant and own your own grapes.
You really mean "the European model where most vintners inherit vineyards or are able to purchase surplus stock cheaply because of the decline of the market in X region and therefore don't bear the costs for the planting and initial, non-fruit bearing maintenance. "
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#134 Post by Todd Hamina »

Markus S wrote:
Jim Anderson wrote:
Todd Hamina wrote:$3500 a ton is pure misery. My belief is that the one good outcome of KJ coming to town is that prices go down as they lock up acre contracts and then put on the squeeze. Easy math is $3500 divided by 60 cases, so $58 a case before the lights get turned on. It's bullshit.
I feel like this could turn into a Four Yorkshireman skit albeit in reverse (Monty Python reference and maybe my favorite skit ever). "$3,500/ton? We longed to pay $3,500/ton. We paid $4,500/ton, had to pick the fruit ourselves with a dull spoon in the pouring rain on the hottest day of the year in the middle of the night, give the owner a foot massage with our tongues and pay three vintages in advance."

I know little about the Chardonnay market so I don't really know the landscape but given the relative paucity of higher quality Chardonnay sites (relative to Pinot Noir) and the increasing quality of the resulting wine here in Oregon along with its new found commercial acceptance means higher prices. It already exists with Pinot Noir where paying upwards of $5,000-$6,000/ton is becoming relatively common.
Yet more good arguments for the European model where vintners plant and own your own grapes.
Super easy if money is not an option.
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#135 Post by Mel Knox »

Every time I have looked at the economics of planting a vineyard it seems like a stupid venture in which one breaks even at best. But it always seems as tho grape price inflation makes the idea work.
Nonetheless I have hung on to the adage that a vineyard is a hole in the ground you shovel money into.

$3500 a ton seems like a lot of money but in many cases it's chump change here in California.

Todd, how much would you have to sell a wine for if you paid that much? Let's say one third new French oak barrels...ageing it 18 months.,..$35 retail?? $40??
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#136 Post by Todd Hamina »

$40 at least...
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#137 Post by Markus S »

If you are only thinking about money then perhaps this isn't the job for you. I don't know what kind of salary you folks are adjusting for, but I am sure you could live on less. The lifestyle probably accounts for a good portion of psychic rewards you get from having a winery, and I am sure adds significantly to mental health (no long commutes, less crowded environment, fresh air, etc.).
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#138 Post by Saul Mutchnick »

Markus S wrote:If you are only thinking about money then perhaps this isn't the job for you. I don't know what kind of salary you folks are adjusting for, but I am sure you could live on less. The lifestyle probably accounts for a good portion of psychic rewards you get from having a winery, and I am sure adds significantly to mental health (no long commutes, less crowded environment, fresh air, etc.).
Markus,

Ignoring the potentially insulting aspect of what you said (also noting that generally the wine industry pays pretty poorly for a given level of experience and skill involved), I think you should think about the details of the problem.

First of all, the question Mel asked Todd was about what this hypothetical wine would have to retail for. This isn't the price that the winemaker/grower gets, most of the time. If he's selling through distribution, which most people do for at least part of their production, the price he's getting from a distributor is probably about ~50% of the end retail value of the product. Yes it would be great if it were easier for winemakers to just send wine wherever, but if you can fiat that, you could change a lot of other things first.

Second, to the "owning the vineyards" question, the economics are completely different in Europe vs. the US. In Europe there are a surplus of vineyards. Perhaps not in "region X", but generally speaking there are more vineyards planted then there are people willing to farm them. A lot of that has to do with globalization and the influx of inexpensive wine from other places without an increase in demand in Europe, but generally speaking, you can buy an interesting (old or oldish vines, potential appellation status) for much, much less than you could in the US. It's also much more common to inherit a vineyard in Europe, which means that the only active costs to the vigneron are upkeep and farming plus winery labor.

If you want to live in the United States and want to make fine wine (which is to say, not bulk commodity wine), on the other hand, the economics are very different. Generally speaking, there's not a surplus of vineyard supply, so generally speaking, the value of existing vineyards has their potential earning possibilities built into the price of the vineyard. In Europe, it's much easier to find a 'distressed asset,' but here, you are buying a business when you buy an established vineyard--generally assuming an appreciating market rate for grapes. Sure, you gain some value by processing those into wine, but you also spend a lot of money up front and tie up a lot of capital--which if you're trying to be a poor winemaker scraping by, you probably don't have.

Planting a vineyard, on the other hand, carries it's own problems. First, you have to buy land, which probably isn't cheap. Second, you have to plant it, which isn't cheap. Third, you don't get any usable fruit off of your vines for several years, and for the full character of the vineyard to be expressed in the fruit, you're probably waiting a while (there's a lot of debate on how long this takes--I've heard as early as 6-7 years and some pretty convincing arguments for 15+). All the while, you are not only holding on to the debt from planting the vineyard, but you're paying upkeep costs. That's a major problem from a cash-flow perspective. Even if the vineyard evens out the economics in the long run, you have to make sure that your winery survives that long, and your vineyard is an albatross for a while.

That said, if vines keep getting put in for the next 30+ years, will the economics change? Perhaps. But right now, your "European Model" is just that--a model that works in Europe, which is a major problem if you get psychic benefit from living in the US or can't get a residency visa to do something (winemaking) which major European countries often feel they have enough labor for.
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#139 Post by Jim Anderson »

Markus S wrote:If you are only thinking about money then perhaps this isn't the job for you. I don't know what kind of salary you folks are adjusting for, but I am sure you could live on less. The lifestyle probably accounts for a good portion of psychic rewards you get from having a winery, and I am sure adds significantly to mental health (no long commutes, less crowded environment, fresh air, etc.).
This is so ludicrous it almost seems like pure trolling and I would be surprised if you don't get called out for being a troll at some point down the line.

Let's put aside ignoring the historical differences where many European wineries are the product of inheritance and a scant few in the US are, the political difference between the EU (and the individual countries' politics and policies therein) and the US and the economic differences that are oft times part and parcel of the politics and policies and simply focus on the brashness of your statement.

I have seen this many, many times before. Whether it is for winemakers, writers, artists, chefs, athletes and scores of other professions that are deemed to be passion projects there is sometimes the feeling that if you are one of these people in one of these professions you should not get paid or not get paid "that" much because you are deriving all these secondary benefits (clean air, lower density populations in the country and so on) and you are "getting to do what you love." Frankly, the simple reply is F that and F you.

I have no idea what even 1 other winery owner/winemaker on this board (or even in general) makes but I can tell you that I make a salary that I am sure some people in this board would love to have and, likewise, I make one that if some people on this board woke up making what I make they would end it right there. There are few people that want to have gone through the years of making between nothing (literally) and peanuts while working an ever increasing amount of hours at a physically and psychically demanding job to get to the point I and many people like me are at.

On top of this your world view suggests that we do one of two things: 1) Work for little to nothing and figure it out. Well, I can tell you that in the US, especially on the West Coast and especially as you get into winery country the cost of living is high. Just the bare costs of rent/mortgage, food, general living expense cost real money and no amount of clean air is going to pay for them. 2) Have a day job in some non-passion project endeavor like banking (so, they get paid even if they love being a banker?) I can assure you that part-time winemakers/winery owners don't produce wines at the level of full time ones (in general, I am sure there are exceptions which which only serve to prove the rule). I have seen it many times and there is even an Oregon winery in this board that when he/they were able to transition from having a day job to working full-time at their winery the quality of their wines increased markedly to the point where they are now seen as one of the upper-tier wineries in the state. Part-time people in any endeavor are going to give you part-time quality work/services/products not because they aren't necessarily talented but because their focus lies elsewhere.

So, in summation, again screw you and your patronizing view of the monetary value of what we do for a living. I enjoy how you ignore that possibly all three sets of wine folks down the line from the winery (distributor/importer, retailer/restaurateur and even consumer) are somehow allowed to make money off of what is produced at the winery but it is somehow amoral for the person who works hard, takes the financial risk and has the experience and skill to make something sale-able to benefit, potentially at all, from their own endeavors.

Yours is not a European model (last time I was in Puligny there were plenty of nice, expensive cars that clearly did not belong to wine patrons and tourists) but a view of the world that is twisted and jaded as well as being out of touch with reality.

Maybe this will get flipped to the Politics board at some point as I am fairly certain mine will not be the only post in stark disagreement with your insufferable commentary. I am sure we would all be fascinated to know what you do to keep you in house and home and why you deserve to make any money at all.
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#140 Post by Markus S »

Saul,
thank you for your reasoned reply. This caught me a little unawares, however:
Saul Mutchnick wrote:
..Generally speaking, there's not a surplus of vineyard supply, so generally speaking, the value of existing vineyards has their potential earning possibilities built into the price of the vineyard...
Knowing that wine demand continues to keep increasing but also knowing that new vineyards (seem to be) planted at breakneck pace, I am surprised there is still this disparity.
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#141 Post by Scott Everson »

I opened a bottle of 2013 Lundeen WV Chardonnay last night. It was good. Not Cameron WV good, but $14 well spent nonetheless.

To Markus S: I think Marcus Goodfellow made a comment a while back about making enough money to help put his kid through community college. No one is wearing Gucci loafers up here.

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#142 Post by Todd Hamina »

Markus S wrote:If you are only thinking about money then perhaps this isn't the job for you. I don't know what kind of salary you folks are adjusting for, but I am sure you could live on less. The lifestyle probably accounts for a good portion of psychic rewards you get from having a winery, and I am sure adds significantly to mental health (no long commutes, less crowded environment, fresh air, etc.).
Not sure what type of business one does and doesn't worry about money.
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#143 Post by Mel Knox »

Years ago Joe Heitz put a notice in the winery's newsletter about selling the family's old Mercedes-Benz.
His daughter was doing a junior year abroad. The Heitz's were buying a new car and would anybody want to buy a ten yo car that have been well taken care of.

Well, somebody in LA wrote an article about greedy winery owners. Case #1: Joe Heitz. Evidently it was OK for hardworking movie industry lawyers in Beverly Hills to drive fancy cars but dammit, Joe got to work in the vineyards. Wasn't that reward enough??

Todd points out that if he buys Chardonnay for $3500 a ton, he would have to sell the wine for $40. He would get maybe $20 of that for a per bottle profit of maybe $8.

Some folks say, Well, Todd should sell it for $20 for five years and then we will see if it is any good. Of course, when and if that occurs somebody is going to say, What a Greedy guy Todd is ...we have supported him and now he is screwing us.
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#144 Post by Todd Hamina »

And I don't even make Chardonnay...
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#145 Post by Dennis Kanagie »

Consumers ALWAYS underestimate the cost of a product. ALWAYS. I hear it every day. "Oh, come on..... the mark-up on ___________ (fill in whatever product you fancy) is astronomical so you should give me a better price." rolleyes

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#146 Post by Marcus Goodfellow »

Markus S wrote:If you are only thinking about money then perhaps this isn't the job for you. I don't know what kind of salary you folks are adjusting for, but I am sure you could live on less. The lifestyle probably accounts for a good portion of psychic rewards you get from having a winery, and I am sure adds significantly to mental health (no long commutes, less crowded environment, fresh air, etc.).
I'm sorry Markus, you could not be more wrong. While I have "liquid assets", they are anything but liquid in the economic meaning.

Drinking wine is fun but it's very different from the cellar. Growing grapes and making wine is a war. Constant vigilance is the mantra of the quality low impact winery. And the winery itself is a sucking chest wound for cash flow. I love my work, but the pay is crap.
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#147 Post by Dennis Kanagie »

Maybe we should send Markus' boss a link to this thread so he can have his salary lowered appropriately. [wink.gif]
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#148 Post by Mel Knox »

Poor Markus will be shoppin on Last Bottle pretty soon, if he is not careful here.

I see that folks are lining up to buy Jamie Kutch's Chardonnay at $42 a pop, even tho it is his first effort in this area. When he changes his winemaking style will some of you say, Well, I need to see how this works out first??

Funny, one of my first customers bought barrels from me for a Zayante Road Chardonnay and it was great.
Unfortunately his wife divorced him and made him sell out. I think the potential for chardonnay up there
is great and I am glad that Jamie has seized the opportunity.


The opportunity for making great chardonnay in Oregon exists and I hope more people work on this.

$42 a pop for chardonnay might seem steep to some, but for those buying Meursault etc., this is not a lot of money.
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#149 Post by Dennis Kanagie »

Mel Knox wrote: $42 a pop for chardonnay might seem steep to some, but for those buying Meursault etc., this is not a lot of money.
2012 Ropiteau Meursault - $39.99 at Total Wine, and with their Mix 6 discount it's $35.99 per bottle. [cheers.gif]

Rates pretty nicely: http://www.cellartracker.com/wine.asp?iWine=2007883
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#150 Post by Michae1 P0wers »

Well, most of the direct import Total wines are not so good. That said, there are plenty of awesome French chardonnays for under $40. Chablis FTW. Even so, exploring WV chard is now on my to-do list. WV pinot is rapidly replacing a lot of my burgundy buying, no reason I shouldn't give the chards a chance.

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