Let’s make a plan!

By Doug Fabbioli

Let’s make a plan

As a grape grower, I have to have some long range vision. The decision on “what grapes to grow where” is decided 4 years before any crop is harvested from those vines. If the vines don’t grow well in that location, or if the vines you planted were not healthy to begin with, or if the market on your wines shifted in those four years where the grapes you planted are not desired, you will be taking a financial hit to your business plan. The business plan we put together as farmers is usually based on a “good” case scenario. Best case is something that we rarely see and never plan for and worst case is something that we choose not to imagine but have to accept and work through in order to survive.

Now is the time when I am evaluating crop loads in the vineyard, inventory in the cellar, and demand for specific wines in the marketplace so I can build a production plan. Other factors that are in play are that I am looking years out on when these wines will sell and I have new distributor that I hope can sell more of my wine to retail shops and restaurants. This plan will help me match up numbers on what grapes are coming in from which vineyards, the style of which those grapes will be turned into wine and roughly what wines they will be turned into down the road based on the needs from the future market. I will try to sell off any excess grapes I will have and do it fairly soon as other winemakers are going through the same process. They want to have their plan built ahead of time and want to know what grapes are coming in as well.

For a number of years, the restrictive factor on this process was grapes available from Virginia. Sometimes the restriction is tank space and where to put the wines. Currently, my challenge is to make the right amount of wine for our shifting market. Our wine sales have leveled off somewhat over the past year so making too much wine and having it sit for a longer period of time than desired is a real possibility. As with any business, time is money and I need to keep the flow moving in a positive direction. We live and die with cash flow, so having a cellar and a warehouse full of wine is not always our desire.

So if Mother Nature gives us a reasonable rest of the season, we will make some great wines, we will sell some grapes to our neighbors who need them, and we may buy a bit to fill in the holes of where we could use more. This process is relatable with many other businesses and critical to the financial health of the operation. I can’t say it’s sexy, but it gives me the tools to make better wine and make of it for you to enjoy!

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