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So You Think You Know Pacific Coast Wines? (2017-18)
Demystifying the Caliornia, Washington and Oregon Wine Industry

“So You Think You Know Pacific Coast Wines?” is designed to simplify your understanding by identifying growing trends, grape descriptions, the histories and future direction of the California, Washington and Oregon wine industry. This book concisely profiles each state’s leading growing regions, rainfall statistics and prominent grapes based on the most recent available harvest data.

The 2017-18 edition is ideal for wine collectors, winemakers and anyone who appreciates a world class Pacific Coast grown vintage. The following facts are just ten from hundreds of little known essentials included in the book:

1. California is the top producing state, Washington second and Oregon fourth (behind New York) in American wine grape production. California harvested 4 million tons and Washington 270 thousand tons during the 2016 harvest. Oregon harvested 84.9 tons during the 2015 harvest. Washington’s harvest is only 6.7% and Oregon’s 2.1% of California’s overall production.

2. Cabernet Sauvignon is California’s second most popular and second highest priced red wine grape. It is Washington’s most popular and fifth highest priced. The average Napa Valley grown grape is priced between five and fifteen times more than competing states and regions within California. Napa grown Cabernet Sauvignon traditionally sells out before picking even commences.

3. California increased wine grape production by 8.1% and Washington by 21.6% during 2016. Both harvests established new state records.

4. California has 4,200+, Washington 900+, and Oregon 700+ wineries. California has seventeen designated growing regions. Washington has fourteen and Oregon five.

5. With Washington’s red grape harvest at 157.3 thousand tons, the closest California equivalent is the San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura County growing region (164 thousand tons). The growing regions of San Luis Obispo County, Yakima Valley and Walla Walla Valley share numerous similarities. Their topographies feature expansive arid flatlands surrounded by hilly terrain. Each region has a long historical agricultural tradition.

6. Pinot Noir is Oregon’s largest harvested grape accounting for 59.7% of the state’s wine grape production and is the second highest priced. It is California’s sixth most popular and sixteenth highest priced red wine grape.

7. Oregon’s wine grape production (84,9 thousand tons in 2015) most closely compares with the Mendocino County growing region of California (77,9 thousand tons in 2016).

8. Chardonnay is California’s largest harvested grape accounting for 38% of the white wine grapes and 16.8% of the state’s overall yield. It is the twenty-fourth highest priced white wine grape.  It is Washington’s third largest wine grape, most popular white wine grape, and the second highest priced. It is Oregon’s third largest produced, second highest white wine grape and second highest priced.

9. California’s wines were considered the equal to European’s elite vintages in 1890. Following the phylloxera pest and Prohibition, the state would not regain their global reputation until the mid-1970s. Washington’s international reputation began during the 1990s and Oregon’s during the 1980s.

10. Real Estate valuation remains the most important financial consideration influencing the value of varietal grapes. Top-tiered Washington vineyards have commanded pricing between $75,000-$80,000 per acre. Large established vineyards have been documented to sell for $25,000-$30,000 and bare unplanted terrain often averages $10,000-$15,000 per acre. In Napa County, secondary vineyard lands begin at $90,000-$165,000 an acre. Prime vineyards range between $225,000-$300,000 and upwards per acre.


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"So You Think You Know Washington State Wines? (2016-17) Demystifying the Economics of Wine"

“So You Think You Know Washington State Wines?” is designed to simplify your understanding by identifying growing trends, grape descriptions and the history of Washington wine production. The edition profiles the 15 top wine grapes and the unique aspects of the state’s growing sectors. The 62-page edition is idea for wine collectors, winemakers and anyone who appreciates a world class Washington vintage. The following are just seventeen from hundreds of little known facts about Washington wines and the 2015 grape harvest.

“So You Think You Know Washington State Wines?” is designed to simplify your understanding by identifying growing trends, grape descriptions and the history of Washington wine production. The edition profiles the 15 top wine grapes and the unique aspects of the state’s growing sectors. The 65-page edition is idea for wine collectors, winemakers and anyone who appreciates a world class Washington vintage. The following are just fourteen from hundreds of little known facts about Washington wines and the 2015 grape harvest.

1. Washington is the second largest producer of premium table wine in the United States behind California. Washington’s harvest comparatively represents only 6% of the overall California production levels.

2. Washington’s red grape varietals harvested 112.8 thousand tons in 2015. The closest California equivalent was the San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura County growing region (104 thousand tons, 7.8% less).

3. The State of Washington harvested 222 thousand tons of wine grapes during the 2015 harvest, down 2.2% overall from the previous year. The deficit was attributed to the excessive heat conditions and a reduced Cascade Mountain snowpack.

4. Red varietal grapes account for 51% of the total production and actually increased yields by 5% during the 2015 harvest.

5. Cabernet Sauvignon was the top-producing grape during 2015 with 47,400 tons, representing 21% of the overall harvest. Cabernet Sauvignon had the largest growth rate with a 5,200 ton increase.

6. White Riesling was the top white wine and second most overall produced grape with 44,100 tons, accounting for 20% of the total. Washington produces more White Riesling than any other state including California.

7. Chardonnay was the third most produced grape with 42,000 tons, Merlot fourth with 35,200 tons and Syrah fifth with 16,000 tons.

8. Grenache Noir is the most lucratively priced wine grape in Washington and sold for $1,722 per ton. Cabernet Sauvignon averaged $1,527 per ton, an increase of 5.5% from 2014. Cabernet Sauvignon is the most lucratively priced wine grape in the Napa Valley, selling in excess of $6,000 per ton.

9. The growing regions of San Luis Obispo County, Yakima Valley and Walla Walla Valley share numerous similarities. Their topographies feature expansive arid flatlands surrounded by hilly terrain. Each region has a long historical agricultural tradition.

10. Real Estate valuation remains the most important financial consideration influencing the value of varietal grapes. Top-tiered Washington vineyards have commanded pricing between $75,000-$80,000 per acre. Large established vineyards have been documented to sell for $25,000-$30,000 and bare unplanted terrain often averages $10,000-$15,000 per acre.

11. Washington has fourteen American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) recognized and defined by the United States Treasury Department. Seven have only been established within the last ten years and three stretch across the Oregon border.

12. The primary growth advantage Washington offers over neighboring Oregon and California is the capacity to expand wine grape cultivation. Washington has twice as much plantable acreage as Oregon currently available.

13. Today, 98% of the wine grapes grown are east of the Cascade Mountains. In 1970, there were only ten official wineries in all of Washington. By 2000, that figure had expanded to 163 and by 2010, more than 700 wineries. Currently it is estimated that there are over 900 wineries.

14. The two largest Washington growing regions, the Yakima and Walla Walla Valleys share the topography of a desert landscape and the tributary waters of the Columbia River branching out via the Yakima and Walla Walla Rivers.

15. The Walla Walla Valley averages approximately the same annual rainfall levels as the Napa Valley (21 inches). The Yakima Valley received even less rainfall (8 inches), but is supplemented by a snowfall level of 23 inches.

16. The Yakima Valley profits from the accumulating rains and snows of Mount Ranier and Mount Adams, part of the Cascade Mountain Range. The melting Spring snowpack results in substantial volumes of water that are channeled into the region and directed by canals and aqueducts into the agricultural basins and hillsides.

17. Production statistics become significant since growing decisions are oriented around evolving consumer tastes. Immediate cultivation adjustments are impossible. Grapevines require three years after planting before yielding fruit and have an average lifespan of 27 years. Many vines are replaced after this period due to declining production yields and financial depreciation considerations.


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"So You Think You Know California Wines? (2016) The Grape Divide: Demystifying the Economics of Wine"

“So You Think You Know California Wines” is designed to simplify your understanding by identifying growing trends, grape descriptions and the history of California wine production. The edition profiles the 27 top wine grapes and principal growing regions. The 81-page edition is idea for wine collectors, winemakers and anyone who appreciates a world class California vintage. The following are just twenty from hundreds of little known facts about California wines and the 2015 grape harvest.

1. The State of California cultivated 3.7 million tons of wine grapes during the 2015 harvest, down 9% overall from the previous year. The state’s Central Valley Region (San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno and Tulare Counties) accounted for 73% of the red wine grapes and 70% of the white wine grapes. California grows 17% more red wine grapes than white.

2. The two highest prestige growing regions are the Napa Valley and Sonoma/Marin County. The Napa Valley accounted for only 4.5% of the red wine grapes and 2% of the white. The Sonoma/Marin region accounted for 5% of the red wine grapes and 4.7% of the white.

3. The average value of Napa red wine grapes was $4646 per ton and $2,405 per ton for white grapes. In the Sonoma/Marin region, red wine grapes averaged $2,820 per ton and white grapes $2,010 per ton. In the Central Valley growing region, red wine grapes average $435 per ton and $370 per ton for white grapes. The value for Napa Valley’s red grapes is over ten and a half times and for white grapes, six and a half times more than the Central Valley. The value of the Sonoma/Marin’s regional red grapes is over six and a half times and for white grapes, five and a half times more than the Central Valley.

4. The California drought had a negligible effect on the Central Valley’s 2015 grape yields, as production nearly equaled their 2014 figures.

5. Wine grape production yields declined dramatically in the drought affected state premium wine regions. Napa Valley yields were down 29.4%, the Sonoma/Marin County region down 28.8%, the San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura County region down 29.6 and Monterey and San Benito County region down 37.8%.

6. Cabernet Sauvignon is the most lucratively priced wine grape in California and the second most cultivated. Napa Valley grape growers concentrated 59% of their red grape production into Cabernet Sauvignon, making it dangerously dependent on a single variety. The average Napa Valley ton is valued at nearly fourteen times the price of a Central Valley grown equivalent. Despite its dominance, 2015 yields were down 23-37% throughout premium wine regions. However, the value levels increased. Productions levels increased throughout most of the Central Valley with an accompanying drop in value.

7. During the 1976 harvest, Chardonnay represented less than 2% of California’s white wine grape production. In the 2015 harvest, Chardonnay was the state’s largest grown grape accounting for 38% of the white wine grapes and over 16% of the overall harvest production. Despite its dominance, 2015 yields were down 25-32% throughout premium wine regions. Productions levels increased throughout most of the Central Valley.

8. Real Estate property values are the number one price determinant in the valuation of a grape’s price. Poor or mediocre quality grapes grown on exorbitantly valued land is economic suicide for a winery. Elevated land values in Napa and Sonoma County directly reflect the significantly appreciated grape values.

9. Juice Valuation is the elemental cost of grape juice contained in a bottle of wine excluding any related post-harvest production expenses, financing costs, marketing expenses and/or retail mark-up. The 2015 juice price on a bottle of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon was $8.42, Zinfandel ($4.71), Merlot ($4.35), Pinot Noir ($3.76) and Chardonnay ($3.60). Within the Central Valley region, the comparable juice prices average between 40 and 75 cents per bottle.

10. Two different topographies define the Napa Valley growing region. The Oakville flatland terrain traditionally receives more rain than the hillier Carneros sector. Napa County averages 20 inches of rainfall per year and Sonoma County approximately 31.49 inches.

11. The three-year drought conditions are far from concluded in the Napa and Sonoma County wine regions. 2016 is on track to be an above average rainfall year in the Oakville valley region, but only average so far in the Carneros region and Sonoma County.

12. During the 2015 harvest, the wine grapes that experienced the greatest production increase from 2014 included Symphony (27.2%), Barbera (13.4%), Rubired (13.4%), Pinot Gris (12%), Muscat of Alexandria (12%), Burger (10.3%) and Petite Sirah (9.2%).

13. During the 2015 harvest, the wine grapes that experienced the greatest production decrease from 2014 included Muscat Blanc (41.9%), Triplett Blanc (21%), Sauvignon Blanc (20.6%), Cabernet Franc (20.5%), Viognier (20.5%), Grenache (20.1%), Chenin Blanc (19.4%) and Syrah (18%).

14. Three of over thirty hybrid cross bred grape creations introduced by University of California, Davis viticulturist Dr. Harold Olmo represent 17% of the red wine grape and 2.3% of white wine production. Rubired, Ruby Cabernet and Symphony are used primarily as blending or bulk wines and grown almost exclusively in the Central Valley regions.

Historically

15. During the 1976 California grape harvest, nearly twice as many red grapes were harvested than white.

16. During the 1976 harvest Carignan, Grenache, Barbera and Ruby Cabernet were amongst California’s most popular red grapes. Carignane accounted for 19.7% of the red wine grapes and 13% of the overall harvest. Grenache accounted for 15% of the red wine grapes and 10% of the overall harvest. Barbera and Ruby Cabernet accounted for 12% of the red wine grapes and 7.9% of the overall harvest.

17. By 2015, Ruby Cabernet’s ranking had dropped to eighth, Barbera to ninth, Grenache to tenth and Carignan to thirteenth among red wine grapes.

18. During the 1976 California wine harvest, the French Colombard grape accounted for 45% of the white wine grapes and15% of the overall harvest. Chenin blanc accounted for 24% of the white wine grapes and 8% of the overall harvest.

19. In 2015, French Colombard’s ranking dropped to second in white wine production but still comprised 20% of the white grapes. Chenin blanc ranked ninth and only 2% of the white grape harvest. Both grapes combined account for less than 1% of the Napa Valley and Sonoma/Marin County output. In most growing regions, both grapes are used primarily for bulk wines or blending.

Chasing Trends

20. Production statistics become significant since growing decisions are oriented around evolving consumer tastes. Immediate cultivation adjustments are impossible. Grapevines require three years after planting before yielding fruit and have an average lifespan of 27 years. Many vines are replaced after this period due to declining production yields and financial depreciation considerations. If the production of a specific grape begins a steady decline, it is likely to continue so for an extended period. They are incrementally replaced by more lucrative or drought resistant grape varieties.



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Drink Like A Wine Collector, Think Like A Winemaker
TIME: 8 Minutes 24 Seconds









"SO YOU THINK YOU KNOW CALIFORNIA WINE? Demystifying the California Wine Industry and Coming Economic Decline (2015)"

“So You Think You Know California Wine? Demystifying the California Wine Industry and Coming Economic Decline” is a photographic edition portraying the beauty and landscape of the northern California wine region during each stage of the annual wine harvest. Photographer Marques Vickers 80+ images captures the diversity of the vineyard terrain and majesty of the individual vines from his artist perspective.

The photography is supplemented by his observations and projections regarding the 2014 final grape crush report released on March 10, 2015 by the United States Department of Agriculture, Pacific Field Office. Vickers addresses the three most strident issues: water, real estate value levering and overproduction that peril the continued stability of the industry.

The 2014 Napa Valley harvest may ultimately prove a benchmark before the reality of the California drought radically affects the region’s yields. The harvest was the second largest and most lucrative in the history of the Napa Valley region bringing in a 9% value increase from 2013. By contrast, the state of California’s overall production shrunk 8.3% and valuation rose less than 1%.

Vickers elaborates on what is going on within Napa that is eluding the majority of the State’s wine regions.

Despite the continued effects of severe drought conditions, the 2014 harvest may ultimately emerge as the finest year of the decade due to the smaller and more concentrated berry sizes, creating greater flavor complexity. What distinguished 2014 from the current year conditions has been the timely rains and seasonal heat spikes.

As water sourcing becomes the new alchemy within the Napa Valley and throughout California, aggressive deep water well drilling for underground sources is creating a potential for economic, liability and ecological catastrophe. The depletion of underground sources and storage reserves may prove necessary for short-term coverage caused by the continuing drought and overproduction. Longer-term implications such as stricter water rationing and production moratoriums may inhibit continued growth and elevate pricing.

Will fine wine palettes and consumers foot the bill at the marketplace?

Vickers writings elaborate beyond the traditional marketing rhetoric and hype both Napa’s production success and California’s decline during 2014. More poignantly, the results from the grape crush report identify significant production trends taking shape regarding emerging drought resilient grapes and increasingly out-of-favor Zinfandel and Merlot varietals. Based on the immediate economic threats and absence of nimbostratus (rain) clouds, a major financial correction appears eminent.

Vickers’ “So You Think You Know California Wine? Demystifying the California Wine Industry and Coming Economic Decline” edition is a straightforward guide for wine enthusiasts to understand the complexities of a wine harvest and outstanding visual overview of one of the most renown wine regions internationally.



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So You Think You Know California Wine?
Time: 7 Minutes 2 Seconds