How to assess your grape and bottling needs for OND and beyond
By Penny Gadd-Coster
With the 2015 vintage tucked away, buds breaking and harvest 2016 looming, now is the ideal time to get prepped for OND, the famous acronym for October, November and December that we in the wine industry have come to recognize as our key selling opportunity. I’d like to outline some processes that small or large winemaking operations can put in place to be ready for the rush—both end-of-year and in future years to come.
Know your grape needs
Get your grape contracts in order; they should be finalized at this point, along with projections. Are you increasing your production or decreasing production? If it’s a bumper crop what will you do with the excess juice if you haven’t planned for it in your program? Contingencies for adding an extra project or bolstering a current one are great to have in place in the unpredictable world of grape growing. Last year was the perfect example—a lot of wineries didn’t have enough grapes, and some wineries had no grapes. If your sales projections hinge on a certain tonnage, a contingency plan and relationships allowing you to go on the bulk market are crucial. Having a conversation early in the year with a wine broker like Turrentine—even if it’s just a backup plan—is ideal.
Craft a plan with short-term and long-term projections
While you adjust your plan for this year’s OND period, always be thinking three and four years down the line to determine your growth and projections; ensure your winemaking team works hand-in-hand with your sales department so you can manage your grape expectations. No pun intended. Populate a spreadsheet with metrics that the whole team shares, with blue sky and black sky scenarios. A simple spreadsheet or project portfolio management program works well. Track and measure how quickly you’re selling products, what the qualities of the wines were, tonnage and juice projections, and compare with past years’ sales and outcomes to make the best predictions, then adjust your bottling schedules accordingly.
As winemakers, we sometimes focus in on our grapes, not always keeping in mind that there are other teams who have to be involved in decisions. If sales and marketing wants to grow by 10 percent, and winemaking is on the other side saying, “hmm, we’re not going to make that,” it’s integral to do away with these separate silos of information, make everything transparent and schedule periodic meetings to keep all teams informed.
Here’s a snapshot of a great example spreadsheet that we use at Rack & Riddle, the idea courtesy of Charlie Tsegeletos of Cline Cellars and Jacuzzi Family Vineyards’ Director of Winemaking:
Gauging your needs, measuring your outcomes, and having contingencies in place—while keeping your winemaking operations swift and unfettered by meaningless data or meetings—will save you from feeling flat-footed once harvest is said and done. So, let’s raise a glass to getting more organized and prepared in 2016!
P.S. If you’re looking for a home for your grapes this year, remember we offer full-service custom crush for both sparkling and still wines. We also offer a wide selection of varietals in our sparkling private label wine program. The beauty of the sparkling shiner program is turn-around from order to finished case goods is an average of just three months. Give me a call anytime to discuss your needs, we’d be happy to help! 707-433-8400