Perhaps this a bit geeky for some, but I will do my best to simplify it.
When you don’t own vineyards, you have to buy grapes from “growers.” This is a fairly common thing in the Finger Lakes and actually something I think is beneficial, as you get to know the region by being able to work with different vineyards with different micro-climates. In other words, you don’t have all your eggs in one basket when it comes to harvest. Additionally, your palette for blending is larger as each vineyard typically has a different profile. Those are the upsides and now, the downsides: The biggest issue for growers is always yields. They have to balance growing a lot of grapes (to pay the bills) with keeping the yields in check (to allow for high quality). This is a really difficult balancing act because every winery wants great quality, but they also want cheap prices, so the wines can be inexpensive for the consumer. The grower is always being pulled in two directions with this model.
Note that most growers sell their grapes by the ton. Enter the idea of purchasing by acreage instead of tonnage. What we want to do is to lessen the need to have high yields and instead focus on the quality of the fruit. It ends up being more expensive for us, Forge Cellars, to do it this way, but we feel strongly that the evolution of the kind of quality we are aiming for will lie in the potential of the vineyards. So with that long explanation, I am happy to announce we will be working “by the acre” with one of our growers for both Pinot and Riesling. We will have designated rows and will limit yields to our specifications, meeting the tonnage price the grower would have expected, even though we take less fruit from that plot. We have many, many trials planned to begin to look deeper at lower yields and the effect on quality in a systematic and very purposeful way. This is really exciting stuff because it will help us to grow our quality over the next 10 years in a BIG way. We will continue to push for this model with all of our long-term growers.
So, next time you’re cruising through a Finger Lakes vineyard and you see a tag on the end of the row that has a big FC on it, you’ll know that it is a Forge Cellars vineyard…